I think my husband really liked the minimal choices, because he was getting pretty hungry as we'd had a late breakfast and skipped lunch except for a quick snack mid-afternoon. Sometimes, we girls can take quite a while to make our meal choices at restaurants, so he was glad to see us quickly decide what we wanted to eat.
In cafeteria style, we watched the employees build our fresh fajita-style burritos: fresh cilantro rice, choice of pinto or black beans, choice of salsas and pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole, and more.
Foolishly, we ordered two sides of chips and fresh tomato salsa...we ate very little of those. The burritos were HUMONGOUS and we could hardly eat those!
The flavors were fresh and inviting, quick and delicious. We didn't mind the stark decor, because we were there...for the healthy food!
It was excellent – not overly salty, not too spicy (at least, with the mild salsa versions we ordered), and the price was just right.
Good thing, because we almost ended up washing dishes at Olive Garden the night before, when we realized how much our bill was going to be.
Guess we haven't eaten there in quite some time, and although the food was excellent, we've never paid that much money for Italian food! Maybe it's less expensive at the more local Olive Garden about an hour away from our town. I'm thinking that it hopefully doesn't cost $16-$18 at our nearest Olive Garden, but I could be wrong.
We try to eat around three-fourths of our meals from unprocessed foods, and we are just finding that our stomachs are more sensitive to either poorly prepared foods, or those that are overprocessed. We have found that our family can eat “safely” at Subway, Taco Bell, and Chipotle, and nicer restaurants, as long as we choose the right food options.
Overall, if you have a Chipotle restaurant near your home, and you haven't tried it yet and are fine with eating more of a fast-food style meal, I think you'll like it.
Of course, guys, you probably don't want to propose to your wife-to-be in a Chipotle restaurant, unless she's really into spartan-clean living-fast food types of things and that would impress her.
Or else, you'll receive a resounding “no!” and you'll end up washing dishes to help pay for the broken window she attempted to shove you through.
Don't you just LOVE strawberry shortcake?
My mom has been making this a few times each year since as far back as I can remember. Yum! She has always used a regular homemade biscuit recipe, and I have followed in her footsteps.
We recently picked up a large order of sliced strawberries, so we had to figure out what to make out of the berries. We froze most of them, but also wanted to make strawberry shortcake, a favorite of all of ours.
I was interested in making this a healthier dessert than in the past.
Here's what I figured out to improve the health and nutrition of our strawberry shortcake. Lest you think I am an excellent experimenter with foods, I'll be truthful to say that I simply substituted the coconut oil for the shortening, the whole wheat pastry flour for the regular flour, and the organic evaporated cane juice sugar for the regular sugar. See, I'm not that much of a food genius. Sorry to disappoint you!
Healthier Strawberry Shortcake Makeover
Heat oven to 450° F. If your coconut oil is in liquid form due to a warm kitchen or hot weather, place the container into the freezer for a few minutes so it will set up a little bit more firmly. In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut coconut oil or natural into mixture using a pastry blender or stirring well, until mixture resembles fine crumbs.
Stir in milk until dough leaves sides of bowl. The dough will be soft and sticky.
Turn dough on to lightly floured surface. Knead dough lightly 10 times. Pat into a slightly greased 8x8" baking pan. Bake until golden brown, 12-14 minutes. Remove from oven to cool.
Slice warm or cooled shortcake into squares. Slice open each square and place face up onto bowls or plates. Serve sliced strawberries on top, along with a dollop or two of whipped cream. Serve and enJOY!
Here's your printable PDF version of Strawberry Shortcake Makeover!
"Well, Mom, I think that since I don't like to work all that much, but I want to earn some money this summer, I'd like to pick blueberries at the big local blueberry farm."
"Oh, you would, would you?"
After talking about picking blueberries several more times during the spring, I agreed to allow her to pick blueberries. This meant that Mom and older sis would be coming along, too, and earning money picking berries. Many other families we know have had their children work in the blueberry fields near our community, so we knew that this was a possibility.
This morning, we went down to the bank and opened up the safe deposit box to get the girls' social security cards and their photo ID. We drove out to the blueberry farm, which is about 20 minutes away from our house.
We found the office (very nice, by the way!) and began filling out the forms. As the office worker processed the family ahead of us, we heard her say to the younger boy in the family, "Oh, you aren't 12 years old? I'm sorry, you won't be able to pick this summer."
Of course, my younger daughter's ears pricked up. We had noticed that on the farm's answering machine, it stated that to pick out in the field, the workers must be at least 12 years old. Normally, I would have believed this and would have not gone to the trouble of driving out there to fill out a job application. But, everyone we knew who had picked out in their fields before told us that as long as I was there with the girls, they could still pick berries, that their berries would just go "on my card."
Ah, but the child labor laws changed last year, and now children really do need to be 12 years old to legally pick for pay out on a farm.
Oh, but the disappointment of a child who had been looking forward to spiritually developing an area in which she knew she was weak! Brittany held her composure (thankfully!) until we got into the car and rolled up the windows. Then, the tears let loose.
She wears her heart on her sleeve, but has matured so much with this in the last couple of years. After a couple of minutes of crying quietly, she began to ask me questions and then accept what had happened. Instead of dwelling on the problem for the next 10 hours, she talked it out and decided that "His ways are not our ways."
I have a lot to learn from her maturity about this: dashed dreams and honorable hopes that have fallen to the wayside. But instead of throwing a fit or moping around for two days, she pulled herself together and learned another life lesson: we don't always get what we hope and long for in life.
After lunch and a couple of cups of coffee, Elmer and the girls went off to go disc golfing. Being that it is free except for the gas to drive to the disc golf course, it is a great summer activity. I wasn't invited to come, mainly because I needed to prepare a few things for our Father's Day dinner this evening, but also because I am TERRIBLE at disc golf or any other sport or activity that requires a person to throw something accurately.
I attribute this to not having glasses when I was younger...and I really DID need them back then. We just didn't know it!
While the cats were away, the mice did play. I made a healthy version of Rice-A-Roni using brown rice, whole wheat spaghetti noodles, pine nuts, and butter.
My mom had already cooked a turkey, made gravy, and prepared some fresh snow peas from her garden, along with some carrot sticks.
The girls had planned to serve brownie cupcakes for dessert - decorated in a way that made them look like round BBQ grills - so cute!
Okay, so we went from a very healthy dinner, to a very unhealthy dessert, but we all had fun with it.
While Elmer and the girls were away on Saturday evening at the local auto races (for Father's Day it cost them only $4 altogether for all of them to get in!), I grocery shopped for the "junk food" that the girls would need for their BBQ Grill Brownies. I came home and baked the brownies, knowing they would arrive back home too late from the races to bake the brownies and let them cool completely.
The girls frosted the brownie cupcakes with homemade chocolate frosting. Hey, if you're gonna be bad, you might as well be really bad.
Then, they began making tiny "food" out of candy. Kelsi is working on a miniature pork chop or grilled chicken.
Brittany is making tiny, cute candy shishkabobs that look realistic!
But there was one disadvantage to eating these treats...besides the calories...
Looks like meth mouth.
This clever trio is a tasty way to honor the King of the Grill on Father's Day (from www.FamilyFun.com):
- Brownie batter
- Black food coloring
- White frosting
- Orange sugar
- Caramel creams (try to find the soft caramels - the only ones we could find in the store were a sugar-free version. Most of us didn't eat them anyway; we used them only for decoration. What we REALLY wanted was the brownie - LOL!)
- Red, yellow, and green candy fruit slices
- Hot Tamales candies
- To make a batch of 12, place liners in a muffin pan, oil them, and fill them two thirds full of your favorite brownie batter, then bake according to the recipe directions. Let the brownies cool. (If you choose to use large-sized muffin tins, then your children won't have quite so many brownie muffins to decorate...we just made six, since there were only six of us today.)
- In a small bowl, mix one or two drops of black food coloring with 1/4 cup white or chocolate frosting. Transfer the frosting to a ziplock bag and snip a small section from the corner. Or, use an icing decorating bag with icing tip to pipe grate lines onto each brownie. Let them set for 20 minutes. Add embers with a sprinkle of orange sugar. (To make orange sugar, put 1-2 Tbsp. sugar into a small cup; add 1-3 drops of orange food coloring and stir well for a couple of minutes with a spoon. We prefer Wilton cream food coloring to liquid drops, but use what you prefer.)
- Prepare the grill food as instructed below and press it in place atop each brownie.
A caramel cream
and red, yellow, and green candy fruit slices, cut into small pieces
+ toothpick skewers
two thirds of a caramel cream, molded with fingers
+ black food coloring, applied with a toothpick
Hot Tamales candies
+ black food coloring, applied with a toothpick
Have you ever done some wild and wacky food like this before? What was it?
Let me introduce you to one of my daughters, Brittany. She is gifted with a very quick and funny humorous personality, with a keen sense of timing. After all, timing is everything, right?
(I rarely have the timing correct when I'm attempting to be humorous...sigh.)
For those of you who know my husband, Elmer, she takes after him in the humor department!
This morning, while she was preparing to brush her teeth, I noticed that she quickly grabbed the bathroom mirror door without being careful where she placed her hands. (It's quite a large bathroom mirror, larger than most, and I've taught the girls to open it with their fingers underneath, so they don't constantly get new fingerprints onto the mirror. Then, they don't have to clean the mirror as often. You may think that is very Type A of me, but they usually seem to appreciate not having to clean things as often compared to if they were careless all of the time.)
I mentioned this to her, showing her again how by opening the large mirror door from underneath, she will rarely get fingerprints on the mirror itself.
She said, "Mom, I really don't think it's me that's getting the dirty fingerprints on the mirror."
Me: "Oh, really?"
Brittany: "No, I think it's always Kelsi getting it dirty."
Me: "Why do you think that, Brittany?" as she starts putting toothpaste onto her toothbrush.
Brittany: "Well, Mom, one day I was in here, and Kelsi came in to brush her teeth. Her hands were dirty, and she grabbed the mirror and opened it carelessly with her dirty hands. It made a big hand print on the mirror."
Brittany: "Well, when I mentioned it to her, that she was getting the mirror all dirty, Kelsi said, 'Who cares? It's no big deal!' "
Brittany, with her mouth now full of toothpaste, pauses for 15 seconds or so while brushing her teeth and then looks at me with raised eyebrows and says, "Based on a true story."
She rolls her eyes and giggles, while I laugh so hard I'm thankful that I wasn't in the middle of brushing MY teeth...the mirror would have really been dirty when I finished laughing!
Me: "Based on a true story, huh? So, what part of this is made up?"
Brittany, as she giggles and rinses out her mouth: "Uh, well, I don't remember. Some of it, I guess!"
So...what's happenin' in your neck of the woods these days, that is based on a REAL story?
Or would you rather have a bowl of cookie dough in the fridge, that you all can take a spoonful whenever you want, and purposefully forget about baking the cookies?
My mom taught us early on in life that homemade cookie dough was a very good thing...something to look forward to when we heard the mixer being turned on. However, we did talk occasionally about the dangers of eating foods with raw eggs because of the potential of getting salmonella or some type of food poisoning.
My sister sent this recipe down to my parents a couple of years ago, and we have made it a few times when we are "hungry" for cookie dough but maybe it's too hot outside to turn on the oven...or maybe we just want to eat cookie DOUGH for a change!
Anyway, here's a safe cookie dough recipe that is completely fine to eat raw, because it contains no eggs at all. EnJOY! It is very, very simple to make!
Eggless Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
Combine sugars and butter; beat until light and fluffy. Add milk and vanilla; blend. Add flour; mix well. Add 1 cup chocolate chips, if desired. Store in refrigerator...and eat raw as desired!
Okay - now it's confession time! How many of you enJOY eating raw cookie dough? ☺
In the past, I've been hesitant to read or recommend "mom" or "motherhood" types of books. Many books about motherhood follow philosophical reasoning that I don't agree with. Other parenting and "mom" books go against biblical principles.
Sometimes, I've even decided not to read Christian parenting magazines or books because I realized that their philosophies and methods go against biblical principles.
Most moms work hard to figure out their basic philosophies of motherhood, discipline, and parenting.
I'm no different. Sometimes, I find it hard to keep some of my own "rules" for parenting and motherhood to myself. I'm so far from perfect, and I have to rely on the Lord Jesus to keep me in check and remind me to "hush up for a minute" and be a better and more respectful listener.
At the same time, I've been a careful observer over the last twenty years to watch other moms and silently learn from them what I call "great practices" that bring about excellent results in their parenting efforts. There are many choices I've made in my parenting that I could point directly to a verse in Scripture, or to a mom friend of mine, or something my pastor mentioned, etc., that I specifically use in my parenting with my children...and those things are having great results. On the flip side, there are some techniques and methods I've used over the years that don't produce fruit, so those have been tossed by the wayside, or my view about them has changed.
Because I've enjoyed learning about motherhood from the Bible and many mom friends, I agreed to read and review Momology: A Mom's Guide to Shaping Great Kids by Shelly Radic, published by Revell. Radic is chief of staff at MOPS International. I had attended MOPS gatherings (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) for a couple of years starting when my oldest daughter was a few months old. I met a few women there who were kind and helpful, and I enjoyed attending MOPS.
I figured that if one of the MOPS' "main gals" was writing a book about motherhood, I'd be interested in reading it...so here is my review.
Momology: A Mom's Guide to Shaping Great Kids isn't as much of a parenting book as I thought it would be. Mrs. Radic's goal is to directly show moms how their opinions, views, life practices, and habits can shape them as mothers, which in turn will shape their children.
Momology is based on research from:
1. SEARCH Institute
3. Barna Group
4. Parenting experts
5. Government agencies and their reports
6. Major universities
7. 1,800 moms who participated in in-depth surveys
There are four main areas of motherhood that Mrs. Radic believes contribute to shaping great kids:
1. Knowing who we are: building a healthy, resilient mom CORE
2. Knowing what we're capable of: developing FINESSE in the ways we daily interact with our kids
3. Knowing who we can count on: interacting within a CIRCLE of relationships that support us and our kids
4. Knowing who God is: Engaging with Him in His GRANDSCAPE
Radic provides excellent research, personal surveys and interviews, personal stories, and Scripture verses that explain each of these four main areas of successful motherhood.
While you won't find tons of specific parenting techniques in this book, you will find clear evidence of what differentiates successful mothering from unsuccessful mothering. Little snippets of information, ideas, suggestions, and honest confession all work together to help each reader get started on the pathway to becoming a stronger mother in the four areas.
I found that the chapters in Momology provided a lot of food for thought. This would be an excellent book to be shared and used as a weekly Bible study with other moms. I would caution, however, that a leader would want to be selected who would be strong enough in her Christian faith to ultimately bring group discussions back to the Holy Scriptures in a way that would enable other attending moms to feel respected and honored if they were either very young in their Christian faith or weren't yet believers.
I really liked the long-term view that Mrs. Radic takes in her concepts about parenting. She frequently suggests that mothers look ahead to the future when making decisions or parenting in a certain style...and ask themselves, "How is this going to affect my child in the future?"
I also enjoyed reading this quote about how quickly the childhood years fly by:
"When an older mom asked [a younger mom] what the family did on weekends, the young mom shared, 'Errands and housework.' The older mom gently informed her friend that every childhood holds only 936 weekends, asking her to estimate how many weekends had been spent so far on errands and housework. Since the little guy was almost four, it turned out to be just over two hundred. Shocked by how many precious weekends were already gone, the young mom reevaluated, choosing to spend a higher percentage of weekend time on activities that would build the childhood memories she wanted to shape her son's life." (Momology, pg. 95)
Isn't that powerful?
There were so many things in this book that caused me to ponder. That is always a good thing!
This book is unusual among "mom" books and "women" books, because it doesn't allow the reader to have a pity party for herself, while at the same time it also helps remove some of the false guilt mothers struggle with for this or that.
What are some ways you've found to capitalize on your children's precious weekend time as a family?
How have your views of motherhood changed over the years since you became a mother?
A free copy of Momology was provided to me for the purpose of providing my opinion of this book in a written review. No other compensation was provided.
My family LOVES to eat lamb...in every recipe we've tried. I'm so thankful, because the first five years of my life were spent in New Zealand, where lamb is the least expensive meat found in the grocery stores or meat markets.
Here's a new lamb recipe we tried recently and enJOYed!
Slow-Roasted Shoulder of Lamb
Place a little coconut oil into the base of a high-sided (2-3” deep) roasting pan and add half of the rosemary sprigs to the coconut oil. Scatter half of the unpeeled garlic cloves (or minced garlic) over the oil and rosemary. Place the lamb roast on top of the rosemary. Coat the lamb with melted coconut oil and rub it in with your hands. Sprinkle the roast with sea salt and black pepper. Rub it into the lamb.
Push garlic cloves or minced garlic into the slits you made earlier with the sharp knife. Scatter the rest of the rosemary on top of the lamb.
Cover the roasting pan tightly with its lid or with several layers of aluminum foil to make sure that it is tightly covered. Place the roasting pan on the center rack of the pre-heated oven.
Immediately turn the heat down to 325° F (170° C) or slightly lower if you are using a convection oven. Cook for four hours (or 2 hours if half-sized roast) or until meat is at the temperature or level of doneness that you prefer.
When the lamb has cooked, the large bone will simply pull away clean from the meat. Separate the meat from any bones, and set the meat aside on a serving platter or plate. Cover cooked meat with foil to keep it warm before serving.
Do you enjoy eating lamb, or is it hard for you to give it a try?
I've wanted to try making my own gluten-free vanilla at home for years. My friend, Wardeh, from www.GNOWFLINS.com, has recently inspired me to start doing this! After doing some other research on the internet, here is what I've come up with to make my own gluten-free vanilla, a never-ending supply to have on hand at all times. All you will need are two simple ingredients: vanilla beans, and bourbon or potato vodka.
Since I don't prefer the taste of alcohol, I'm pretty naive about varieties of liquors and alcoholic beverages. I did learn recently that vodka is usually made from grain, so that isn't gluten-free. However, most liquor stores also sell "potato mash vodka", which, simply put, is vodka made from potatoes. The local liquor store I went into had at least six different brands of potato vodka. The clerk told me that if alcohol is made from something other than grains, the bottles are required to state from what the mash is made - potato, corn, barley, etc.
Pure Mexican vanilla is amazing, but it is difficult to know whether it is pure or not. When our family was in Mexico a few years ago on a family missions trip with other families from our church, we were very excited to buy Mexican vanilla inexpensively - a large bottle for only $5. However, we couldn't guarantee what was in it, besides alcohol that had soaked vanilla beans. We had no way to know if we were getting a product that was "watered down" or contained something harmful.
If you purchase Mexican vanilla and can learn more about it, be careful not to buy any that contains tonka bean extract, which contains coumarin; this is often used because it has a similar taste to real vanilla extract. Coumarin has caused liver damage in lab animals and is banned in foods in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration.
I did learn a few years ago even Trader Joe's brand of vanilla contains glycerin as a filler. While the glycerin isn't harmful, it is an unnecessary ingredient for which you will be paying, making the vanilla more costly per ounce. Vanilla from the U.S. can also contain undesirable chemicals, so making your own vanilla is a great idea!
You may use vanilla beans leftover from recipes that you've made, by simply rinsing them off and adding them to the bourbon or potato vodka. You can also use a new bean, in order to add the fragrant vanilla seeds. Whenever your vanilla starts to gets low, just top off the bottle with a little bourbon and add fresh vanilla beans about once every year or two. I've been using these vanilla beans from Amazon.com.
Using a sharp paring knife or clean kitchen scissors, cut lengthwise down three vanilla beans, splitting them in half, leaving an inch at the end connected. You can scrape out the seeds or leave them there for stronger vanilla flavor.
Place the vanilla beans in a clean glass jar or bottle with a tight-fitting lid. Mason canning jars work well for this, or an empty jar from the grocery store - a jar that contained olives, pickles, marshmallow creme, although it would be better to have a jar that has not contained any strong-smelling foods.
Cover the beans completely with bourbon or vodka, at least 1 cup. Shake the sealed jar and store it in a dark, cool place, away from sunlight, for two months or longer. Every few days, give it a good shake. After two weeks, you will have a mild vanilla extract and the flavor will continue to get stronger the longer it sits. It may take as long as four months to turn dark and have a rich flavor. Continue to add more vanilla beans and bourbon so that you have a never-ending supply.
Commercial vanilla extract usually has simple syrup (sugar water) added to the extract to give it a sweet aftertaste. You can do this if you want, but there really is no need to add the extra sugar to your diet.
You can also make vanilla sugar by putting a split vanilla bean into a jar of white, granulated sugar. This is a great way to infuse the sugar with vanilla flavor for baking, as long as you aren't in weight-loss mode or struggle with diabetes.
If you are planning on giving away bottles of homemade vanilla for Christmas gifts, you should probably plan on starting them no later than August or September, to give them plenty of time to get ready.
Other extracts I enJOY making:
For my own family in our home, none of us appear to have wheat, dairy, gluten, or casein allergies. Maybe it would be better if we did...we wouldn't eat as many carbs!
However, we do have one relative and several friends who can't tolerate gluten and dairy. When people who have these kinds of food allergies come over for a visit or to stay the night, I am usually making various different foods in larger quantities. I don't feel like I can take extra time to figure out how to accommodate my Gluten Free, Casein Free, Dairy Free, Wheat Free guests with homemade recipes.
In the past, what I've done is to purchase a GFCF mix from the store which I can use to make muffins (for breakfast) and another gluten-free mix for making an additional smaller, gluten-free, dairy-free cake, if we are having a birthday party.
While I don't mind making something extra to help out with the needs of our guests, I always feel badly if the end result is something that tastes like cornbread stuffing. Sigh.
She recently found out about Inspiration Mixes, which is a small business/company that began in our area. You can watch the video below to learn more about why they started their business, and how it is different from most gluten-free, dairy-free mixes on the store shelves these days.
Last weekend, she made a gluten-free, dairy-free birthday cake for one of her sons. Her mother-in-law is a professional cake baker and decorator, so Jayne didn't tell her that the cake was a "special" mix. My aunt has been pretty skeptical about gluten-free mixes, as her experience has been like mine...not so appealing to the tastebuds.
However, when my aunt tasted this new Inspiration Mixes cake mix, she couldn't believe that it was a gluten-free, dairy-free cake mix! That speaks volumes to me.
From now on, when I know that I'll be spending time in our home with guests who have special dietary requirements like this, I now know where to turn: Inspiration Mixes.
Here are the mixes currently available:
If you've tried any of the Inspiration Mixes, what did you think?
Hi! I'm Julieanne!
You'll find me in the kitchen
trying new Trim Healthy Mama recipes, loving God, and carrying out that love as I bless my husband and teen daughters.
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