Raspberry Almond Truffles

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and everybody loves chocolates. If you don’t love chocolates, I don’t know why and I don’t want to know you*. If you’d like to add a special homemade touch instead of getting the same gold Godiva box or heart shaped Whitman’s Sampler this year, try out these raspberry almond truffles.

They’re delicious with or without the chocolate, but I would refer you back to the first paragraph, wherein we established how everybody feels about chocolate. These are a nice sweet treat that are easy to make and show your special someone that you care enough to do a bit more than just dropping some cash.

*Actually, I would love to know you, you seem lovely, please come over to our house sometime for dinner.

Raspberry Almond Truffles

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups pitted dates
2/3 cup almonds
2/3 cup freeze dried raspberries
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/3 cup chocolate chips
2-4 Tbsp water
Optional: 1/2 cup chocolate chips, melted

Directions:

Blend all ingredients except water and chocolate chips until finely chopped. Add water 1 Tbsp at a time until mixture is a good consistency for rolling. Roll into balls and dip in chocolate if you would like. They’re delicious either way!

Practicing Kindness in Parenting

It’s really easy to get frustrated with kids. They scream, yell, don’t eat their food, don’t put away toys, don’t listen when you talk, talk back, etc. They’re adorable tiny blessings, but they’re also monsters. It’s tempting to let that behavior turn us into bigger monsters to scare them into submission. Sometimes circumstances conspire to make us give into that temptation.  I’ve found myself snapping and shouting more than my fair share. But after the shouting is done, I always feel bad for having done it, and usually the kid in question hasn’t stopped the behavior that prompted the shouting in the first place.

I want to try harder to intentionally center kindness and gentleness in my parenting. That starts by curtailing the shouting, which is harder than it feels like it should be. I’ve tried to realize two things:

  1. Shouting doesn’t work.
  2. Shouting isn’t for them; it’s for me.

It’s especially tempting to shout when the kids aren’t listening. I think to myself, well, they’re not listening when I’m speaking normally, so maybe I have to just get louder. But that’s a rationalization. Getting louder is just giving voice to my frustration at not being heard. In doing that, I’m just being a child myself. If I can look at their misbehavior and try to understand where it’s coming from (maybe, hint hint, sometimes it’s coming from frustration at not being heard), then I can better devise a kind, compassionate strategy for dealing with it. Plus, if I shout more often than I should, it blunts the impact of those times when I really should be shouting, like when one of the kids might hurt themselves or each other.

Shouting isn’t easy to fix, but it’s probably the behavior that’s easiest to fix. There are other, more subtle behaviors that I need to work on in being a kind and compassionate parent. Things like being annoyed or dismissive at a request. Kids can be silly, but they can also pick up on social cues. If I’m rolling my eyes at something they say, they can see that. I want to work on getting eye-rolling out of my repertoire entirely. There’s also half-listening, which is something I do more often than I should. There are times when it’s inevitable, like in the car, at the store, etc. But if I’m with them, I should be with them. When they want my attention, I should strive to give it to them, whole and undivided.

This is a work in progress. I have a lot to do to become more the parent I’d like to be. For now I think I’m doing a pretty good job, but there’s room for improvement. I want my kids to grow up to be kind and caring, and the best way for me to do that is with my example.

Tropical Baked Oatmeal

Tropical Baked Oatmeal: A Taste of Summer in the Bleak Midwinter

We love this tropical baked oatmeal when we’re in the mood for something sweet. It makes 6 portions at a time, so it gives us breakfast for a few days. It’s delicious, but also pretty healthy since most of the sweetness comes from fruit.

Planning Breakfasts: The Most Important Meal Plan of the Day

When meal planning, we usually run into the most trouble with breakfasts. Unfortunately it’s one of the easiest meals to cheat on. It’s so easy to run out for a donut on the way to work, pretend you don’t know how horrible it is for you, and then get three donuts, a bagel with cream cheese, and a hash brown. Planning helps make sure the easiest choice and the healthiest choice are one and the same.

Tropical Baked Oatmeal

Ingredients:

3 bananas
2 cup rolled oats
1 Tsp baking powder
1 Tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1 1/2 cup chopped pineapple
1 medium mango, cubed
1 can coconut milk (I used full-fat, but you could certainly try light)
3 Tbsp maple syrup
3/4 cup shredded coconut

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F. Slice bananas and place in an even layer on the bottom of a baking dish (I used an 8×8, but I’ve also done 9×13 before and it works just fine). Mix together oats, baking powder, cinnamon and chia seeds and spread over the bananas. Sprinkle fruit on top. In the same bowl you mixed the dry ingredients (you can use another bowl, but why do the extra dishes?) mix the coconut milk and maple syrup. Pour over the oats and fruit. Sprinkle the coconut on top and bake for 45 minutes. Enjoy!

Roasted Acorn Squash Soup

When the temperature starts reading in the single digits, there’s no doubt that it’s soup weather. This roasted acorn squash soup is great because it makes use of winter squash, of which we have an abundance. But winter squash is also great because it keeps forever, so we don’t feel a whole lot of time pressure to use it.

Will the Kids Eat It?

One of them will! Our youngest really loves just about any soup we make him, and we’re thankful for that. The other two are at least very creative with their soups, as our tablecloths will attest. It’s a losing battle to get them to not make a mess with the soup they’re not eating, but it’s one I still can’t help but fight. One of these days I’m going to get them to try soup, any soup, and they’re going to apologize for the years of resistance. I swear this will happen.

Roasted Acorn Squash Soup

Ingredients:

1 large acorn squash
2 Tbsp vegan butter (or regular butter, if that’s your thing)
1 red onion, sliced
1 large apple, cored and sliced
2-3 cups vegetable stock

Preparation Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until nice and soft. Set aside to cool. Melt the vegan butter and sauté the onion until starting to turn brown. Add in the apple and cook until the outside of the slices are starting to caramelize. Add in the squash flesh and stock and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the flavors are blended. Puree. (If you have a vitamix, just stick everything in there and throw it on the soup setting.)

Packaging Directions:

We like to use Mason jars to package leftovers as much as possible. They’re the workhorses of our kitchen. We split the soup up into 16-oz pint jars and refrigerate. When packing for lunch, we put one serving of soup with one quarter cup serving of sweet and spicy pumpkin seeds.

Meal Planning – Write It Down

At the beginning of the year you may see journals and planners in the aisles of Target. You may wonder, ‘In this age of digital wonders, who on earth is still buying a paper journal?’. The answer, for the purpose of meal planning, is me. On a related note, before Christmas we saw some Teletubbies merchandise at Target and wondered who was still buying that. The answer is my mother-in-law, as I am now painfully aware from the sounds coming from the kids’ room. They got four talking Teletubby dolls for Christmas and our son decides nightly that he actually hates them and wants them out of his room.

Journals: Your Best Friend for Meal Planning

Anyway, back to this whole journal thing. Every year I buy a planner because the day I don’t write down what we’re supposed to eat is the day I decide we have nothing in the kitchen and stuff my face with every kind of junk. We’re more lenient on the weekends, but during the week our meal planning falls apart if we don’t write it down. I write down everything we should have with us in our lunch bags, everything we should eat at home, and what the kids should have. A typical day might look like:

Us: Breakfast: Oatmeal

Lunchbag:  crackers and hummus, leftover chili, apple, pear, energy ball

Dinner: Stir fry (Vegetables, tofu, noodles, peanut sauce)

Kids: Breakfast: Oatmeal or frozen waffles

Lunch: Peanut butter sandwiches, apple sauce, pretzels

Dinner: Stir fry, grapes

Meal Planning Journal

If the kids don’t eat what we send them, daycare will give them chicken nuggets, so we try to send something they’ll eat. For dinner, however, they have to have some of what we’re having. The only exception is if I’ve made something spicy, in which case we make a modified version. Like on taco night, they still get a tortilla and a less spicy taco filling. We always give them fruit at dinner and they can have seconds of that.

Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

These sweet and spicy pumpkin seeds are a favorite in our house. They can be sprinkled on soups and salads or just eaten as a snack. A lot of times I make them as a garnish and end up eating at least half as a snack while cooking. They’re that good. Double or even triple the recipe for extra deliciousness.

Most of the time we wind up buying pre-made snacks at the store and portioning them out ourselves. This works pretty well for the most part, and we wind up with tasty stuff like granola and dried chickpeas and crackers. But we’ve also started making a bigger push to make our own snacks. These sweet and spicy pumpkin seeds are healthy and delicious and quite unlike most of the snacks we can get at the store.

Sweet and spicy pumpkin seeds

Ingredients:

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 Tsp ras al hanout
1/4-1/2 Tsp salt, depending on how salty you like them

Preparation Directions:

Toast the seeds in a dry pan for about a minute, then add the rest of the ingredients. Stir to mix and stir occasionally. Once the sugar is melted, pop seeds in a bowl lined with wax paper. Try not to eat all of them immediately.

Packaging Directions:

If you’re making these for snacks through the week, you’ll probably want to at least triple the recipe. Once they’re done, split them up into small snack cups or sandwich bags in quarter cup servings. If you’re like me, you’ll end up with fewer servings than you expect because you’ll be unable to resist snacking as you pack.

Creamy Roasted Mushroom and Eggplant Risotto

If given the choice, I would probably never voluntarily opt to eat mushrooms or eggplant. Neither has ever been a favorite of mine. Jocelyn, however, is a big fan of both, so we’ve had to learn to compromise. In practice, that compromise looks a lot like me eating a bunch of mushrooms and eggplant. When I heard that she was planning to make an eggplant risotto topped with roasted mushrooms, I adopted my bravest fake smile and nodded in what I fear was not a very convincing manner.

But guys, get this: eggplant risotto with roasted mushrooms is good. Like, super good. The mushrooms are crispy and the eggplant puree is mixed in with the risotto and it’s creamy and delicious. Some nutritional yeast gives the whole dish an umami kick. I suppose I should really rethink that aversion to mushrooms and eggplant, because this dish is one of my favorites now.

Creamy Mushroom Eggplant Risotto

Ingredients:

1 medium eggplant
1 head of garlic
6 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
5-6 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup white wine
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast

Preparation Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450° F. Lightly score the eggplant and pop in the oven along with the garlic. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until everything is nice and soft. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, toss the mushroom slices in 1 Tbsp of the olive oil and a little salt and roast while you make the risotto.

Heat the stock in a small saucepan on medium high heat. Once the eggplant and garlic are cooled, peel and puree with a couple ladlefuls of stock. Heat the other Tbsp of olive oil in a heavy pan and sauté the shallots until golden. Add the rice and toast for about a minute. Pour in the wine and cook until absorbed. Add the stock a little at a time and stir as the rice absorbs it. Stir in the veggie puree and once the rice is cooked through and creamy, toss in the nutritional yeast. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Packaging Directions:

This one’s pretty easy. The only trick is to pack the mushrooms separately to preserve maximum crispiness. Pack the leftover risotto into 1 cup containers and split the remaining mushrooms into the same number of containers. Take and enjoy!

Meal Planning and a Fool-Proof Make-Ahead Breakfast

January 2018: Meal Planning Month

This year instead of making a long list of resolutions at the beginning of the year, we’re sharing a different goal each month. Each month we’ll share the tips and tricks we learn on the way as well as some recipes to go with each theme. This month we’re going to get better about meal planning. Our meal planning game has definitely improved a lot since last year, but there’s still room to get even better. We want to eat better to keep up the health goals we’ve achieved over the last year. We also want to save money. Meal planning helps with both of these things.

This month we’ll be posting recipes as usual, with ingredients and directions for making the dish. We’ll also be posting directions showing how we pack up leftovers to make healthy meals a snap throughout the week.

One of our favorite breakfasts to make ahead, especially in the winter, is slow-cooker oatmeal. It’s super easy, fast, and lasts for 2-3 days depending on how many children are in the mood to eat it.

Meal planning - Slow cooker oatmeal

Ingredients:

1 cup steel-cut oats
4 cups water
1/3 cup almond milk (coconut milk is also delicious)
1 Tbsp nut butter (we used cashew)
Chopped fruit (this time we’re using kiwi; you can do one kind or a combo of different fruits)

Preparation Directions:

Pop the oats, water, and almond milk in the slow cooker. Set on low for 8 hours. Go to sleep. Wake up and top your delicious oatmeal with nut butter, fruit, and anything else you want, with kiwi and cashew butter we added a little maple syrup. In the summer we love to do berries, almond butter, and granola.

Packaging Directions:

For later in the week, package the leftover oatmeal in 1 cup or 1/2 cup portions. Place a tablespoon or two of nut butter in another small container and some chopped fruit in one more container. Pack a portion of oatmeal, a portion of nut butter, and a container of fruit into a freezer bag until you’ve portioned out all of the oatmeal. Then you have all the components for a delicious breakfast whenever you want it.

Keeping as Healthy as Possible Through the Holidays

This is undoubtedly the hardest time of year to keep up a healthy diet. It would be that way no matter what, with foods getting heavier in the winter, holidays coming up, people dropping baked goods in the work break room, etc. We’ve also got three birthdays in the span of a week and a half in December, so we’ve got to throw birthday cakes and special meals (read: pizza, always pizza) into the mix. When it comes to staying healthy, we’re starting from a pretty huge deficit. Here’s some things we try to do to stay as healthy as possible.

1) Don’t sweat it too much

This may seem counterintuitive, but I think the more you worry about whether you’re doing it all right, the better chance you have of doing it all wrong. Accepting that there are going to be some slips gives us license to focus on the things we can do better at going forward, rather than beating ourselves up for having slipped up in the past. I know I’m going to have a cupcake and some pizza at my son’s birthday party, and that’s ok. It’s a special occasion, and I don’t have to officiously refrain from treats to prove my commitment to health.

2) Don’t let occasional slips justify further slips

We’ve all been here, right? Maybe we’re having a busy morning and we run to the drive through instead of making a healthy breakfast. After that, the decision to have gotten an unhealthy breakfast means the day’s already written off, so why not grab some fast food for lunch and take out for dinner? Maybe we haven’t all been there. But I know I go there sometimes. My mind is always looking for excuses to get treats. These excuses seem reasonable to a mind that’s just looking for any reason to get some unhealthy food in me, but seem laughable afterwards. So we try to make sure to pack lunches in advance, have easy on the go breakfast options available at home, etc. We want to let ourselves know that there is always an easier option than forgetting all of our own rules.

3) Keep eating a ton of vegetables

Whatever else, just keep putting a ton of vegetables in everything. If nothing else, they’re super good for you, and you’ll feel better about yourself for having eaten them. Even if we’re making a heavier dish, we’ll usually try to load it up with some extra veggies. It helps make more servings of the meal, and each serving is a bit healthier than it would otherwise be.

4) Be that guy: leave cupcakes in the work break room

Don’t be afraid to leave sweet treats in the work break room. Turnabout is fair play. If Kevin from Accounts Receivable can leave a whole damn box of truffles on the table where you have to prepare your lunch, taunting you, mocking you, then you can bring some pirate cupcakes from your son’s birthday party to sing their siren song to Kevin.

Pumpkin Donut Holes

The other day made pumpkin bread, and we had some leftover batter. We decided to experiment a bit and make some pumpkin bread bites. Once we tasted them, we realized quickly that they were actually more like pumpkin donut holes. Also our very pedantic daughter told us they were donuts, and who can argue with a stubborn two year old who is busy licking chocolate off as many treats as she can get her hands on?

Pumpkin Donut Holes: A Treat Whose Time Has Come

It’s pumpkin season, as we all know. I’ve heard that being into pumpkin stuff is “basic,” but those scare quotes should tell you that I’m old enough to not fully understand what basic means. Also, I don’t care because pumpkin stuff is delicious. Please also hold off on criticizing yoga pants and scarves and whatever else you might feel other people are enjoying too much.

Where was I? Oh, right: pumpkin donut holes. If the name isn’t enough to convince you that you want these, then just look at a picture of Jocelyn putting some chocolate on them.

Pumpkin Donut Holes

These came out great. They’re soft and crumbly and delicious. If you like pumpkins or chocolate or things shaped like acorns (note: do not eat actual acorns, they’re pretty gross), then these are for you.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup pumpkin purée
1 cup coconut sugar
1 Tsp vanilla
1 Tsp pumpkin pie spice
2/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1 Tbsp chia seeds mixed with 3 Tbsp water
1 1/2 Tsp baking powder
1/2 Tsp baking soda
1/2 Tsp salt
2 1/2 cup spelt flour

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F. Mix all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl. Place into a prepared tray (ours was a fall-themed cakelet/mini-muffin pan). Bake for 30 minutes.