valentine’s day

I’ve never really appreciated or enjoyed Valentine’s Day until I became a parent. As a single girl, my gal pals and I would head out on the town and dance the night away; as a coupled girl, flowers are always welcome but phony gifts and pre-fixe menus never really enticed me. As a mom, though, it’s a fun way to celebrate with little gifts and themed meals.

So, what’s the plan for the day —

I found myself at Target a few weeks back and raided the $1 section — I found a few coloring posters, which seemed like a nice little February vacation activity, emoticon chocolates, and “punny” valentines. What a fun little treat to arrive home to at the end of the week.

Then, there’s the dinner — the dinner is the best part. I am going to do lasagna roll-ups. We made them a few weeks ago (maybe I will post a recipe if I can remember to do things like write down measurements and take pictures) because a friend from high school has posted pics many times of her rolls on social media. They are really good and a lot prettier than my messy lasagna pans.

I am going to arrange two rolls on each plate in the shape of a heart.

I know, I know.

It gets better, though. 4 and I are going to bake chickpea blondies tomorrow and zucchini brownies. He wanted to do heart cookies, so we are going to use the cut-outs once the desserts have cooled. We are also going to make some blueberry muffins for Saturday morning breakfast. He is the little baker of the household — 13, our other resident baker, will be dazzling us with some scratch-made peanut butter-chocolate cupcakes during the break.

Gifts, lasagna, and healthy treats for this Valentine’s Day win!

veganuary, part 1

So, my husband and I are smack dab in the middle of Veganuary; typically, we start the year doing a Whole30 and I know many who do ‘dry January’. W30 is our usual way to kick off the year by nourishing our body and lessening the sugar intake after the holiday season where my favorite breakfast/lunch/snack/dessert involves my mom’s peanut butter Hershey Kiss cookies. They are amazing.

Usually, by week 2.5, I’ve stopped eating on the W30 because I am not a big meat eater. This year, I’d read about Veganuary and this seemed more up my alley because I love carbs and I love vegetables. So far, it has been great. Unlike W30, if you slip up, you do not have to start from the beginning; with the exception of two incidents (pizza and carrot cake), I have remained 100% vegan.

I am doing a lot of cooking but not any more than usual — one thing that I’ve been more mindful of is lunch. I am typically awful about making and eating lunch. I’ve been doing a lot of pb&j on sprouted bread and also, baked potatoes. They’re not the most exciting lunches but I’m actually eating lunch daily and not waiting until 3PM to do it. I’ve also been having dessert oranges after nearly every meal. It’s my favorite thing about winter — I just love oranges and I have the kids hooked on dessert oranges too.

Dinners feel really nutritious. I’ve been using mirepoix that I buy precut from the grocery store. I NEVER use onions in my cooking because I don’t like them but these are diced in small pieces and I’ve been reading about health benefits, so I’ve been using this in pretty much every meal. The kids don’t seem to notice. I’ve kept at not eating beans more than a couple of times a week; I’ve been trying to keep soy products to once a week; and buns (veggie burgers are delicious) and pasta, once or twice a week; and then soup. It’s a pretty well-balanced offering, I think and isn’t much different than how we’d typically eat except there are is not meat or cheese.

Last weekend, my husband wanted football food for the playoffs. We made our usual lineup of buffalo (chicken-less) dip where we used cashews, artichokes, and hot sauce. I was skeptical but this dip was outstanding and literally tasted like the chicken and cheese laden dip does. SO GOOD. We also made a spinach-artichoke dip; we use the recipe from TrueRoots and just had to make a couple tweaks (almond yogurt; vegan mayo). These dips were fantastic and I think we may make them again this weekend.

So, the food piece has been good. A few other benefits we’ve noticed — better sleep, more energy, less anxiety, and something my husband brought up at dinner tonight: nail health. He’s noticing his recovery time is better and I’m noticing that exercise is easier for me as well.

Overall, we are both pleased with the first half of this month and I’m looking forward to reporting on the second half. I hope it continues just as well.

happy new year

It is officially 2020 — I don’t know about you, but the idea of staying up until the ball drops is not particularly appealing to me at this age. I was asleep before 10PM and I have no regrets.

Today marks the first of the year and with the first, a lovely dietary challenge. Typically, my husband and I do the Whole30 in January and it’s something we look forward to. What’s not to appreciate about loading up your body with nutrients and nourishing what was is left behind of a month of sugary, boozy indulgences?! This year, though, we are trying something different: Veganuary.

I almost can’t believe this myself except that aside from our Whole30 rounds, I lean more toward vegetarianism than that carnivore life. I do like steak but easily pass on chicken and do not eat pork. This seemed like a good way to test out this lifestyle and see how it makes us feel. I’ve done a ton of reading on it and spoke with my doctor at my last physical. I am to follow up with her after our month to make whatever adjustments may be needed if we choose to adopt this long-term (figuring out B12 basically).

I am at the point in my life where I need to be making my physical health more of a priority. We don’t eat a lot of junk foods and I rarely drink — I consume plenty of water and exercise (though not as regularly as I should), so I really want to be more intentional with this in the coming year. In some of the books I’ve read, they talk about how diet is more responsible than heredity for things like heart disease and this is the primary driver of our vegan test. We really want to see if we can live a more plant-based life because we don’t want to struggle with some of the health issues our parents have.

My other January challenge is going to be to get back more in the swing of yoga. I’d like to challenge myself to set aside even just 10 minutes to reset each day. I also want to get back to taking classes during the week and plan to use my ClassPass for studios closer to my house than my typical place in Boston (though I will be heading there on weekends to practice). For me, practicing yoga definitely makes me a better wife, mother, and overall person. I need to keep this in mind when I am feeling frazzled and am fighting the reset my body so clearly needs.

For the first time on a vacation, I went to yoga. We spent the last few days of the year in DC and it’s always something I’ve talked about but this trip, I did it. I walked a mile to a POWER yoga class and IT.WAS.AWESOME. The class only had two other attendees because it was just days after Christmas, so I basically had a private class. It felt great to sweat it out on the mat and then take a leisurely stroll back to the hotel before heading to the National Zoo. This is something I’d like to keep striving for — at least one or two yoga classes a trip to keep me centered and reflective of my gratitude.

I’m hopeful that a few trips are in the cards for this year: Another DC adventure (with a side of yoga and my cousin’s college graduation), a trip to PA with the kids where they get to run around my parents’ farmette and head into Pittsburgh for a Pirates’ game, and hopefully a trip to Florida or some other place in south when the weather starts to change next fall. Travel is something super important to me and I’m fortunate to do a fair bit of it. I’d like to keep that momentum moving forward this year because it is something that allows me to feel like me as a person, not just me as a mom.

I don’t tend to make resolutions or set too many goals for myself for the coming year. Last year, I established a great routine with diet and exercise. I was able to keep that routine going until our Disney vacation and then getting back into the swing of things with yoga became increasingly difficult — there was always something going on in Boston that I had to plan around: races, wedding, and summer traffic in general. I’m hoping that with ClassPass, I’ll be able to maintain that schedule closer to home.

The last piece and, possibly the most challenging, is to figure out what I want to do when my son starts school. I started in a library program and while I did enjoy one of the classes I took, I am not certain that librarians’ roles in schools is what I am really looking to do. I feel like my career life is at a standstill and I’m not certain how to really navigate it. I am scheduled to take two classes in the spring but may cut that back to one only. I am really at a crossroads here… Aside from this piece, I look forward to moving through the year with intention, purpose, and kindness leading the way.

 

meal of the week

I have been trying to think about how I could blog about our meals — I enjoy keeping a running record of our favorite things and always enjoy reading other people’s favorite meals. This week, I am going to showcase my favorite breakfast: Stuffed Acorn Squash.

This recipe is from True Roots (P11) and always feels like such a decadent choice for Sunday brunch — there are only four ingredients and with sugar-free sausage, it can be Whole30 & Paleo. Sausage, Celery, Egg, and Acorn Squash complete this dish — we always sprinkle with hot sauce too.

Bonus: You get to eat out of an acorn squash!

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This is one of those meals that you eat for brunch and you’re full throughout the way but there’s no guilt with any side dishes, be them fruit or mimosas because you’re putting so many nutrients in your system to start the day.

We will probably make these again this coming weekend because we enjoy them so much and we know the kids will have a nice, healthy filling meal before our family date date takes over and everyone is filled to the brim with sugar.

What are some of your favorite breakfasts?

meals, sept 13-19

This weekend is starting off with a surprise little trip for the kids! My husband and the kids are going camping — so fun! I am going to head over during the day but return home each day. I know what you’re thinking: It’s a bummer someone has to stay back to keep the dog company 😉

Honestly, though, I am really looking forward to the weekend. We are going to make s’mores and it’s just going to be a blast. A nice little break in the back-to-school routine. My husband and I packed the kids each a book to read with some downtime, a horse-shoe game, a frisbee, and a football.

Last week’s rogue supermarket trip was really nice. I like the calmness of not having to plan everything. I did have to run to the store a few times this week to pick up a thing or two, but overall, I think I’m going to try to shop like this more often. I typically do my shopping on Thursdays, so that gives me Friday morning to look at my haul and figure out what we are going to eat for the week. It’s been nice cooking off the top of my head without following tons of recipes (though, we did get back to True Roots and Cravings last week).

We are going to keep things super simple for the weekend, since everything will be cooked either over a campfire or at the site (they have charcoal grills).

Friday: Hot dogs, carrots, and fruit. I figured that we’d want something simple while we set up the tent and we want to make sure we have time for a campfire and the s’mores that go along with it.

Saturday: For breakfast, we are going to do sausage, egg & cheese English muffins. We are testing out the dutch oven cooker we bought for camping this weekend and will use it for dinner when we make a batch of vegetable chili with s’mores to follow, of course.

Sunday: Same breakfast as the day before. We will be home by lunch and will do a fun little lineup for Sunday football of chips and salsa, homemade pizza, buffalo chicken dip and spinach-artichoke dip. I can’t wait!

Monday: We are back in the grind of life and work and school. I wanted to keep things easy so we are going to do pasta & zucchini with sauce and chicken sausage and salads.

Tuesday: Taco night with crunchy tacos, ground beef, refried beans, and beets. This is probably our favorite dinner of the week, honestly.

Wednesday: My husband is going to make his family favorite and ever so famous buffalo chicken salads (Pittsburgh style, with fries, cheese, and hard-boiled eggs). These are amazing.

Thursday: Black bean tacos with salad.

Having the kids make their own lunches and breakfasts has turned into, to put it ever so lightly, a nightmare. They ‘forget’ to eat breakfast most days and 11 literally packed himself a container of lettuce and nothing else one day; the next day, followed it up with a meat stick and popcorn… only. In an effort to make things super easy on everyone; lunches are going to be largely pre-made or sandwiches until 11 & 13 are better able to get themselves set up — this week, I grabbed meatballs, breakfast sausage (so they can finish the french toast bites), and things to make sunbutter sandwiches. I also grabbed two boxes of cereal bars and a box of applesauce, so there is something for my husband to keep in the car in case they forget breakfast.

My husband is going to try a new breakfast idea for the week with getting bell peppers, slicing them in half, and using the pepper to hold an egg, some quinoa, and ham. Hopefully, he likes this; we are always trying to find things that will work as a post-run breakfast after school drop-off. Lunches will be cauliflower and rice or quinoa bowls with chicken sausage, peppers.

My meals aren’t really planned during the week. I typically eat eggs for breakfast and salads for lunch but sometimes I grab something while out and about with 3, so we don’t really plan anything. This is something that’s nice about being home and not having to think about what we will have because we can always go to the store if we want something specific.

meals, sept 6-12

Well, it’s official: We are finally entering our first full week of school. 3 starts preK-3 on Monday and I’m sure someone will shed a few tears about it. (It’s me. I’m the someone.) We went today to pick out a new backpack. I wish Pottery Barn Kids didn’t carry such cute things, but they do and thus they can take all of my money. He picked out a camo blue small backpack, which will fit his school folder in it. 3 is really anxious about starting school but I think it’s going to be great for him. There are only a dozen children in his class and his teacher is straight out of college, so I’m hopeful that he will have the energy required to keep up with my child. I can’t wait for him to make some friends and talk about his days; I’m truly looking forward to it.

After our trip to PBK, we walked to Whole Foods and did our grocery shopping for the week. There I was, a typeA, overbearing, over-planned mom without a list or idea of what to make next week. The two of us basically grabbed all of the fruits and vegetables that sounded good to us at the time, swung by dairy for some kefir and nutpods, and then hit the meat counter. I have a free trial of Amazon Prime that I used to get my textbooks, so I got the discount for that at WF. I saved nearly $20 and now I get to struggle with figuring out if it’s worth getting Prime or not — I rarely shop on Amazon except to buy meat sticks and, in this case, textbooks (thanks to the free 2-day delivery). I am happily accepting any weigh-ins around Amazon Prime and whether or not its worth it…

Until then, I looked at my meats and vegetables and came up with this loose plan for the week (Who even am I right now?!):

Friday: I have a dentist appointment in the afternoon, so I wanted something quick and easy. We are doing kraut and kielbasa with mashed potatoes. I can’t wait.

Saturday: It is unofficially fall and I am eager to make Chrissy Teigan’s Cheeseless Eggs (Cravings). The Defined Dish posted a soup recipe this past week on Instagram and noted that Nutpods can be used in place of heavy cream; so, I grabbed some and will test this out over the weekend. We will also add the blistered tomatoes and possibly the garlic bacon to this ensemble. I have no idea what we will have for dinner — maybe we will try blackened grouper and have it with leftover potatoes and sautéed spinach. Sounds good to me!

Sunday: I bought leeks and we have some Italian sausage, so I may want to do a frittata of some sort, but we will see what we are in the mood for when Sunday AM rolls around. Sunday being the first full day of football, we are going to really dig in and enjoy — my husband is going to make buffalo wings and we are going to try our hand at making blistered shishito peppers; we will keep things simple and serve this with carrots.

Monday: We are going to do roasted chicken (True Roots), roasted potatoes, and roasted beets. Everything in the oven at once!

Tuesday: I am thinking that mushroom, pepper, zucchini, and spinach fajitas will be in order; simple and quick. Plus, if we have any leftover chicken, we can toss it in with them. I bought the Siete cashew queso to go along with this.

Wednesday: I am thinking a sheet pan meal of chicken thighs, potatoes, and carrots with a stone-ground mustard. I saw the recipe online but will probably just toss some mustard and spices on everything and back it until it’s done. I’m so savvy in the kitchen; what can I say.

Thursday: I grabbed a flank steak at the meat counter and plan to marinate and grill it and serve it with some sautéed spinach and roasted potatoes.

I bought a gigantic tub of spinach (can you believe that TWO POUNDS of spinach is only $1.50 more than 10oz?! Me neither.), so I will be eating this for lunch most of the week. I will probably thaw and cook shrimp to go with it — now that the dinners are going to get increasingly heavier, I’d like to keep my lunches a little on the lighter side and loaded with nutrients. I also will likely bust out the Vitamix this week and get back to making my cinnamon smoothies or match smoothies that I enjoy so much!

meals, sept 1-5

Our new schedule is under way and we are trying to adjust. Typically, I make the kids breakfasts and lunches and have everything queued up for them to pack in the mornings. This year, they are responsible for making their own breakfasts and lunches; they can write out their lists of what they want and if they forget, then they’ll just take when I grab.

This week, their lists are as follows:
13 — Breakfast, french toast sticks – grapes – cheese stick; Lunch, salads – berries – cukes – kettle corn; Afternoon Snack is a meat stick.

11 — Breakfast, chia pudding – grapes – cheese stick; Lunch, dumplings – berries – yogurt – peppers – kettle corn; Afternoon snack, almonds.

I love that 11 has the palate of a 95 year old. Perhaps this is where 3 gets it… 3 doesn’t start preK until next week but since he is typically with me when I shop, he can pick out his snacks for the week.

My in-laws were in town the beginning part of the weekend and are leaving on Tuesday after dropping 13 & 11 off at school. I will also head to campus on Tuesday to make sure everything is set up and I can access my course info without issue. I am looking forward to getting back into the swing of things and have a few meals planned:

Monday — marinated, grilled chicken; grilled potatoes with cheese & Greek yogurt; and a tossed salad.

Taco Tuesday — chicken soft tacos with the usual goodies: jalapeños, Greek yogurt, cheese, and hot sauce; we will probably do beets and Spanish rice to round it out.

Wednesday — The Defined Dish’s crispy salmon sticks (or haddock if S&S doesn’t have salmon) with Alexia fries and a Greek salad with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and a lemon vinaigrette.

Thursday — grouper; grilled potatoes with cheese & Greek yogurt; and leftover salad/beets.

Friday, I will probably head up to Trader Joe’s and load up on some things for the coming week and we will likely order Thai food or something so we can kick off our weekend in a relaxing way.