Diet and nutrition, Kitchen renovation, Kitchen renovation

No kitchen, eight children and trying to eat healthy. 

What do you do when your kitchen is demolished and awaiting renovation, you have eight children who need to eat, your Mum is staying with you and you still want to eat healthily… You change up your menu planning and cheat just a little bit! 

As you all know I love to eat healthily and having a limited, very limited kitchen does not mean I want to eat out all the time, I’m useless when we dine out, I always feel it’s like a treat and eat the worst foods, I can’t justify a salad as I could easily make that myself at home and sometimes I wonder if salads are as full of calories as some of the other dishes… I love me some dressing.

So that’s when my menu plan idea struck me, why not cheat a little… And Costco is the best place for that, they make great ready cooked meals that I could add a simple healthy side to.  So with my limited cooking aids I set about a healthy’ish menu plan for this week…

Today… Chicken curry, jasmine rice and naan bread

Costco have a great chicken curry dish, I add a little more rotisserie chicken breast and some frozen organic veggies into the slow cooker to heat through slowly, I can then warm the naan breads on the grill and serve with a simple green salad of spring mix and cucumber sticks.

Monday… Chicken and cheese quesadilla with healthy hemp and sweet potato chips, guacamole and organic fresh salsa

Costco’s are now selling a pack of fresh rotisserie chicken breast, it’s not organic but it’s fresh, lean and moist chicken breast that is easy to use in many dishes, we will chop up the chicken, add ready shredded Mexican cheese blends, again from Costco, place into warm flour and corn tortillas for the gluten free people in my house, I will then add the fresh organic salsa and warm on the grill until the cheese is nice and melted.  This will be served with ready made guacamole and my new favorite from Costco sweet potato and hemp chips, also add a bowl of salsa into the mix too.

Tuesday… Chicken, kale and mozzarella burgers, green salad and salsa

Costco has a good choice of fresh burgers, these are new, organic and gluten free, these go on the grill, served with a green salad, cucumber sticks and fresh salsa… So easy.

Wednesday… Chicken kebabs and salad

This one is quite possibly the easiest meal of the week, ready cooked chicken kebabs, again Costco’s finest, served with a green salad, more chips and salsa… Easy Peasy and very healthy.

Thursday… Turkey burgers served in rolls with grilled corn on the Cobb.

Costco sells a pretty good frozen turkey patty, cooked on the grill together with cheese and salad, and also some grilled corn on the Cobb… Lean, delicious and healthy.

Friday… Meatball subs and salad

Have you tried Costco’s fresh organic chicken, basil meatballs, if you haven’t you should, they are yummy and make delicious sub sandwiches, just heat and add your favorite jarred marinara sauce, warm your rolls on the grill… Then add saucy meatballs,top with shredded cheese and serve with a fresh green salad and some salsa… A favorite in my house!

Saturday… Tortellini and fresh pesto with grilled chicken

I always like to keep a jar of Costco fresh pesto in my refrigerator, it tastes so fresh, it’s a lovely bright green color and adds flavor to so many dishes and sandwiches, I have bought fresh tortellini from Costco, and for those of us that are GF, plain pasta is a good alternative with the pesto and grilled ready cooked chicken, throw in some organic peas and top with a little shredded cheese… Another healthy easy dish.

I have to add I hate disposable plates and cutlery, but needs must when you don’t have a sink in your kitchen and washing up space is at a minimum, it makes life so much easier, so I have relented and bought disposable everything.  

Living through a kitchen renovation is never easy, especially when you have a large family who all need feeding but I feel my foolproof plan for continuing to eat healthily is working, it may be difficult on the days we have the floors refinished and the cabinets go in, but for now it’s working, we are still healthy and it’s making me happy 😍

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This and that…

Routine makes the world a more organized place… I’ve always fought against routine, but I am discovering the older I get that having a routine is the way to live, of course there is always room for something you don’t normally do, but you need routine for an organized life!

Back to school for me means setting a new routine for myself and my little ones, keeping the house clean and tidy with only an hours worth of housework a day, doing some yoga and getting some homeschooling schedule set in place for Florrie… These are just a few things I have been gradually working on, taking my time to work out the best schedule around Tate’s nap times!

As you all know I am also a huge fan of healthy home cooking and menu planning, I have been working on improving and incorporating this full time into our lives… My older children frequently look in the pantry and fridge and declare we have nothing in, I have finally worked out why… Because I do not buy junk food at all anymore, my grocery list is made up of healthy fruit and veggies, grains and protein, I also include lots of home baking ingredients, so I guess our cupboards are bare… Of junk food!

This week I bought two cast iron skillets from Costco, these are something I have been looking at for a while, they are a chemical free way to cook, which I really like, hopefully they will last me for years to come and they were cheap $36 for two… A bargain! Of course I had to try them out so I decided to make homemade flour tortillas… They were a huge success and so were my skillets for making them in! I don’t think I will ever buy flour tortillas again, they were so easy to make with very few ingredients and they tasted delicious!

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Smoothies have become an almost every day way of life, you could say we are addicted… my freezer is filled with frozen fruit… Freezing bananas is a perfect way to keep bananas ready for smoothies, I’ve bought flax seed, chia seeds and wheat germ to add in for extra nutrients and I always try to add coconut water, so good for digestion and your stomach! When I make smoothies for just Florrie and I, I add lots of fresh spinach and veggies, unfortunately when I make them for my older children they can detect the slightest amount of non fruit products and then they protest… Best to keep to fruit… At least they drink them that way!

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MIA…

The summer used to signify rest and relaxation for me, when my older boys were young the start of the summer holidays/recess meant long lazy days, no alarms meant laying in bed all morning watching tv and on those days we planned an outing we would be up extra early visiting places before the crowds arrived… The beach trips meant leaving the house at 6am and getting to the beach with a breakfast picnic and a flask of coffee, just as the crowds arrived at lunch time we would pack up and leave… I thank my very good friend for showing me this way of summer beaching… Such fond memories!

Now these past two weeks of summer have not been like that, it’s been go, go, go… We have left too late for trips to the beach, meaning we have arrived at the beach to find crowds of people and then have sat in hours of traffic on our way home. When we have been at home all I have heard is I’m bored, I’m hungry and what are we doing tomorrow?

With the weeks of the summer flying by I want to bring back rest and relaxation with a healthy mix of days out and chores around the house… I need to get organized right now!

We got together one evening and for the first time ever we planned a summer list of want to do’s…

Morristown… Cake boss shop… Completed
Dingmans Falls walk
Flea market
Beach… Completed
Water play park
Dorney Park/water park
LBI
Arboretum… Completed
Mall… Completed
Read a book… Completed by Mabel
Concerts in the park… Completed one movie in the park
Bowling
Arts and crafts projects
Hyline NY
Zoo
Go carting
Mini golf

As you can see we have completed a lot of our list in just two weeks, in between all that fun we have also had a lot of excitement with some relaxing pool time courtesy of our friends beautiful pool, and also Mabel has had a wonderful sleepover and a two day community pool play date… All this water fun led to us purchasing an adventure waterproof camera… The underwater photos are amazing and not worrying about sand in my camera on the beach is so good!

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If you love taking your camera everywhere you go… Then I would recommend an all adventure camera, taking photos in the pool is amazing and beach photos become worry free… Sand in the camera is no longer a worry… Our camera was on offer in Costco $149.99, $50 off and included a float handle, so when your not using your camera it can just Bob around in the pool, waiting for the next time you want to snap away… Mabel has taken selfies to a new level… Underwater… So much fun!

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As always I must mention food… My summer favorite at the moment is salad with fresh figs, a suggestion from Rachael Ray, yesterday I bought some beautiful fresh figs from Trader Joes, I quartered them and added them to my green salad, drizzled balsamic glaze over and it was sooooo good! Tonight I am making a variation of the Pioneer Woman’s Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches with a nice fruity green salad again…. Happy summer cooking!

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Allergies and a pain in the neck!

Having a baby with allergies is proving a challenge…but a challenge this mommy is willing to take on! We visited a gastric pediatric doctor recently as there were concerns about Tate’s liver and his bilirubin levels… Thankfully his liver seems fine, but he does have a jaundice that is linked to breastfeeding, no big deal, or so I thought, but after several repeat blood tests we are now going to have several more tests done in the coming weeks… hopefully in time his bilirubin levels will drop as he begins to eat solid foods and less breast milk… What also came out of this visit though was his milk allergy, she took one look at his mucus poohy diaper and told me that he most definitely had a milk allergy, she explained how my reducing or eliminating milk proteins from my diet would help my baby if he was fussy, so after many sleepless nights I thought it would be worth a try and it worked… A solid 6 hours of sleep… BLISS!

It was lovely getting some sleep, well that was until Memorial Day Monday when we sat Tate in the shade on a friends deck whilst we had a swim, after a nap I noticed how snuffly he was, as the day went on he seemed to struggle with breathing slightly, this had happened the previous week too when we had done the same thing, there was a lot of pollen everywhere so it leads me to think there may be a link. It has taken several days of very limited outdoor exposure but Tate is definitely less snuffy, for the past two nights he has slept a full 6-7 hours before waking and he seems much more content!

After a week of being very careful with the dairy in my diet and limited pollen exposure I have a beautiful happy baby… Fingers crossed it continues, but who knows, each day is very different with a newborn baby!

Having a young baby means organization is important, so now that my Mum has gone home and salad season is upon us, I am implementing a new healthy eating campaign in our house and to do that I need a system of chopping all fruit and veggies when I get home from grocery shopping, that way salads and smoothies are so quick and easy, with a young baby and a three year old in the house who knows how much time I will have available for meal prep from day to day, and after some of the articles I have read recently eating cleanly and healthily, real food is important because who knows what secret ingredients lie in processed every day foods we buy from the grocery store!

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Kitchen prep has been a life saver this week, I woke up on Wednesday morning with an extremely painful neck, after a doctors appointment yesterday it appears to be a swollen disc that is pinching a nerve… Great, the doctor says it can take anything from one week to several weeks to heal! All my well thought ahead chopped fruit and veggies have meant that we still can eat healthily without doing too much! Lean green smoothies for breakfast are proving to be a healthy favorite for Florence, with hidden ingredients like carrots and spinach, she actually asks for a smoothie every morning! We have been having salad with everything this week, lots of healthy greens and chopped mushrooms make up a filling salad bowl each day, all completely dairy free and no gluten in sight!

On the subject of gluten, Costco’s are once again proving to be the best place for gluten free products, ranging from cereal for breakfast to burgers for the grill later in the day, all are very reasonably priced and taste delicious! Their huge box of spring mix salad leaves are organic, naturally gluten free and a bargain price for the amount you get! Another great shop for gluten and dairy free products is surprisingly Shop Rite, a large selection of everything dairy free from milk to yogurts to ice cream products, again all were very reasonably priced… I managed to get a large tub of vanilla coconut milk yogurt for adding to a big bowl of strawberries, a vegan mayonnaise and delicious coconut milk ice cream! My dairy free milk of choice this week was rice milk, so far I am liking it, but the true test will be when I add it to my new gluten free organic cereal I purchased from Costco this week!

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Gestational diabetes? Maybe…

I have to say this pregnancy has not been one of my best, I don’t think it’s my age because when I had Farrel at 27, I remember feeling the same… I blame those boys, I seemed to sail through both of my girls pregnancies! I have been waiting patiently for my pregnancy bloom, but it just hasn’t happened, so at 30 weeks I am resigned to 9 more weeks (c section at 39 weeks) of just making the best of how I feel!

Last week after taking the glucose test I was urgently called into my doctors office… Low iron and a high sugar in my blood… Alarm bells… Gestational diabetes… That explains exactly how I have been feeling and looking! Thankfully my OB wanted me to try the diet route first, I was happy about that… High protein, low sugar, low carbs… Basically limited whole wheat carbs or gluten free, lots of protein and very little sugar, fruit included! Now I thought this would be easy, but the first few days were tough… It is surprising how many things we buy and eat that are bad carbs and very sugary, but thankfully we have the internet and Pinterest these days… Life on a special diet does not have to boring, the recipes are endless, and as I am making everyone in my house eat these foods, for ease of planning and cooking, I am getting into full swing… Tonight we have a delicious egg and baked tomato with pesto with a spinach salad and quinoa mix… Lots of protein and iron rich spinach!

After a lot of research over the weekend I have bought blue agave as a sweetener, tofu, I love tofu, very low sugar nut bars for a snack, blue corn chips are meant to be good for blood sugar levels as long as they are not fried, but baked… It has been very interesting to understand how the body works… Protein seems to be a key ingredient along with lots of veggies in most special diets, so this is my thoughts on planning my diet over the coming weeks!

Breakfast seems to be the most difficult to plan and eat well, as I am usually rushing out somewhere, so with this in my mind I have researched one of my favorites baked oatmeal, I can place all the ingredients for a pumpkin baked oatmeal into the Ninja and just switch it on in the morning! Pumpkin is meant to be a super food for diabetics, along with cinnamon and nutmeg, of course we all know that oatmeal is a very slow release complex carb that is good for all diets, making this a perfect breakfast, full of energy and nutrition, it can be made dairy free by using coconut or almond milk and by simply using gluten free oats it becomes gluten free!

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My changes to this recipe are… instead of the brown sugar I will add only 1/4 cup of blue agave sweetener, and to replace the pumpkin pie spices I will add cinnamon and nutmeg. Also an addition of a tablespoon of non fat Greek yoghurt adds much needed protein to your nutritious breakfast too!

The moral of this story is when you are feeling very sorry for yourself, as I was last week and finding it difficult to cope with diet changes… Positive thinking and lots of research can make you feel much better, after not eating well on Saturday and feeling dreadful and ending up in bed early on Saturday evening, I am determined to get my blood sugars reduced by just diet alone, I hate taking medication and feel it should definitely be used after trying natural methods for most things… On the plus side we are eating really well now, lots of raw vegetables and complex carbs, paired with lean proteins… Delicious!

On a quick side note… If you are trying to live your life more healthier, or have been diagnosed with a disease that requires a special diet… Go grocery shopping in Costco, over the past few months they have introduced so many new organic healthy choices, all at good competitive prices. Over the past few weeks the new items I have bought are, freekah, a healthy grain like quinoa, very low sugar snacking nut bites, ancient grain spelt flour pretzels, a quinoa and healthy rice mix… Everything has been organic too, which is a big plus in my book! My other faves are their baby kale mixed salad, their own fat free Greek yoghurt, full of protein and now they actually have a very reasonably priced large bottle of avocado oil! There is so much more organic choices to choose from… It’s well worth a visit!

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Recipes to try…
Black and wild rice salad with roasted squash
Olive rosemary bread

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Boosting our immune systems to get through the winter months…

Back in my twenties I would run to the doctors office at any sign of a cough or sniffles for either my children or myself, these days I am a firm believer in trying natural remedies and you are what you put into your body! I do believe there is a time and a place for medicines, but I also believe in the power of human nature and we are all too quick to pop pills for an instant magic cure! My Dad is. very good example of this, for years and years now he pops magic pills to help his high blood pressure, and maybe at the end of the day that is the answer for him, but on closer inspection there are many many things he could try to help himself more naturally, but he is a stubborn man, well that is an understatement and thinks he knows better, but just a simple de-stressing could help, he is one of the most stressed people I know, the way he speaks is so stressed, he never looks happy, if he could just learn to chill out , I’m sure it would help! Another thing that would definitely help is drinking water, back to the stubbornness, he drinks barely two cups of coffee a day, that is his only hydration, now we all know that water is the key to life, it leads to a lot of medical problems, problems in your urinary tract, blood issues, headaches, digestive problems, the list is endless, as I said water is the key to life, and I firmly believe this! He also chooses bad food choices, high blood pressure can be helped with diet, like adding a rich nutrient food like spinach to your plain chicken sandwich, an easy fix to helping yourself… I often use my Dad as an example of what not to do, to my children when I want to encourage them into a healthy diet!

So with that said I have been in full research mode, each morning I am waking up with a sore throat and ear ache, in the next two months of bitterly cold weather I want to boost our immune systems by adding foods that will help with that… So far so good, everything I have read seems simple enough to add into our meals… Honey is a natural antibiotic, easy to add to breakfast oatmeal, casseroles, warm drinks… Something we can all be deficient in according to my research is zinc, this is a powerful booster for our immune system, pumpkin seeds are rich in this and again are easy to incorporate into meals, casseroles, breakfast, warm winter salads or just as a snack! Turmeric, ginger and garlic are all powerful immune boosters and extremely easily incorporated into warm comforting winter meals! Vitamin c is a major factor to helping us fight those winter germs, but what I did not know was, that just one kiwi fruit a day gives us our daily allowance and help keep those bugs at bay! These things were all added to my shopping list and menu for this week!

Another thing I have to take into account with diet is my flare ups of IBS, anyone suffering from any Gastro tract disease will know how painful flare ups can be, so I am much more aware and careful of my diet than I used to be! I am a huge fan of baked oatmeal for breakfast these days and for people with Gastro tract disease oatmeal is the perfect carb, slow releasing and the easiest of carbs to digest… According to my research it can be a good food for people suffering from IBS, colitis, crohns and much more… (But of course each individual is different and can tolerate different food items). Here is today’s breakfast recipe of pear and cranberry baked oatmeal, easy and made in 20 minutes in my new Ninja cooker!

1 cup of steel cut oatmeal
4 cups of any milk you would like (I used non fat organic and water, but coconut or almond milk would work fine too)
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
A sprinkling of grated nutmeg
1/2 cup of fresh cranberries (mine were organic left over from Christmas)
1 fresh pear, cubed
3-4 tablespoons of honey (my husband moaned it wasn’t sweet enough, so feel free to add more honey, after all it is good as a boost for your immune system)

Add all the ingredients into your Ninja, stir, turn to stove top medium setting, place the lid on and cook for 20 minutes… Mix in thoroughly and serve… Healthy and nutritious!

Alternatively add all the ingredients into a pan, bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, stirring occasionally, cook until oats and fruit are softened!

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A very quick side note, Costco is becoming the ultimate place for healthy organic ingredients, today was a bitterly cold after the snow storm day and perfect to go shopping in day, the roads were clear and Costco was unusually quiet… Perfect for browsing and discovering new items… Here is one I discovered today

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This product is organic, high in fibre, protein and iron… It was a huge success with my fussy family, some said it tasted like rice others likened it to cous cous or quinoa, but it was definitely a success I even managed to get ultra fussy Blu to eat it, in my book that makes it a good buy! It would also be good to add to the baked oatmeal too!