Diet and nutrition, Uncategorized

Chopped Salads… 

I try my very hardest to eat healthy and cleanly as much as I can, of course it’s more difficult when you are out or busy but on the whole we eat a good healthy diet… this is a difficult thing to do when you have a large family of picky eaters.  Getting my two youngest children to eat well is a challenge, I believe in never forcing them to eat, but I do try and encourage them to try something, sometimes they love it, like Florrie with fresh peas at the farm when we were picking them,  she took one taste and loved them, but when I was spiralizing the carrots she asked to taste them and hated them straight away, the face she pulled was quite funny.  I have discovered recently that their best meal of the day is breakfast, they love fresh eggs fried with coconut oil every morning, and now we get freshly laid eggs from our neighbor next door, they are delicious, they love strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and watermelon, they love smoothies and homemade pancakes, Jamie Oliver’s one cup recipe, so simple and quick, they will eat these until the cows come home, they are also delicious when you swap the flour out for a gluten free flour too. I try most days to make breakfast their most important meal of the day as they eat really well, then I feel there  is not so much pressure for the rest of the day as I know they have eaten one good meal that day.


Lunch is another meal I kind of miss with,  it’s usually just me I’m making lunch for, my babies are happy to graze after a large breakfast, I kind of always fail for myself.  I make fresh salads for Paul and Mabel, but I always forget myself… I’ve come up with a new plan, Salad lunch prep for the week, I will make enough basic salad for a week, lettuce, tomato, cucumber and scallions,  a tip I have just learnt is to line your containers with kitchen roll paper to absorb the moisture, then daily using leftovers from dinner change each salad up daily, today we will be having a lemon rosemary roasted chicken, I’m having shrimp, with a kale Cesar salad and tortilla wraps, so I’ll shred some chicken, or add shrimp and add it to the salad and bake a couple of wraps to crisp them up to add to the salad… I’m hoping this will keep me on track instead of snacking with my children.  

I have recently discovered I absolutely love chopped salad, we have had it before a few years ago, recipes from Jamie Oliver again, but I really hadn’t thought about chopping every salad we have until I visited a new salad place that has just opened in a local town, in Chopt you pick your salad then they ask if you want it chopped up, Kale Cesar salad with tofu totally chopped up and it was totally delicious.  I thought I’d try it out on my family… huge success, they prefer their salad ingredients chopped up, but as you can imagine chopping 8 salads is very time consuming, each person likes certain things in their salads, so I’ve been tossing salad ingredients into separate bowls then emptying the bowls onto a board and finely chopping them… until last night when I came up with the genius idea of the food processor, you can start with the harder veggies like carrot and broccoli, pulse them a couple of times then add the rest of the salad ingredients, it worked perfectly, and it was a lot quicker, you just have to clean up the food processor bowl and blade, but not too bad.  So my chopped salads have been a huge success, my family are enjoying them so much they are saying they do not need the carbs along with their protein just the salad it’s so filling… My only problem now is how much Salad veggies I am getting through, but at least everyone is eating their greens, well except for one extremely picky eater, who likes everything as plain as it can be.


I’ll leave you on a sweet note… I was visiting friends for lunch yesterday, I usually take desert with us, but I’ve been in search for healthier sweet treats, some I’ve made have been ok, but just not quite right, yesterday I came across this recipe for Lemon coconut muffins, they were healthier because the sugar was very low, and could easily be swapped out for honey, or some other healthy substitute, they contained coconut oil and yogurt, I think they would even be good with gluten free flour instead of all purpose flour… they were a huge success both at lunch and at home, but be warned if you try these at home, the batter is extremely thick, she does say that on the recipe, but I was surprised at just how thick it was, I added a little more coconut milk just to loosen it a little… but despite that they will definitely be something I will be making again and again.


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Naturally delicious…

Is it just me or has this world become just a little bit crazier than when we were children? It’s getting back to our roots that is important… Do we really need all the convenience of modern living… I think not in many cases!

Don’t get me wrong there are many modern conveniences I could not live without… the internet, what would we do without that these days, my trusty Kitchen-aid mixer, a must have in my kitchen and air conditioning, on those hot, hot humid days when you need to just cool off, but the convenience of pre packed food is fast becoming a nightmare, why oh why do companies feel it is perfectly ok to fill our food with chemicals and dyes! What happened to good old fashioned healthy food products? Farmed salmon is full of horrible dyes and chemicals, simple products like a loaf of bread has potential cancer producing chemicals added, canola oil is advertised as a healthy oil… Well guess what? it really is not, I try to avoid this oil at all costs, I always like to use an oil that is actually derived from a plant not something that is man made… It’s all a horrible maze that has become very scarey!

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In our house I have stepped up home baking, Bread making, muffins, cookies and my ultimate favorite, Brownies all get baked and disappear as fast as they come out of the oven.
My favorite recipes…
chocolate chip muffins
This is my go to muffin recipe, I adjust it to the muffins I want to make, strawberry, apple, coconut… The options are endless!
brownies
This is my ultimate brownie recipe… To this I add whatever I feel like I fancy, a caramel swirl topping, chunks of chocolate and crispy salt… Or just as they come… Delicious!
the Pioneer Woman’s brown sugar oatmeal cookies
I recently found this recipe… Now my favorite cookie recipe ever!
Ina Garten’s shortbread cookies
With or without the chocolate these cookies are oh so good, they don’t usually make it into the tin in our house!

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I want to thank another Mom of a large family of 7 children for my new found love of easy bread baking, I do not personally know her but I follow her on Instagram and she has her own blog that I have been using for my bread recipes… A Farmhouse full … She has made me realize how easy bread making really is, especially with my Kitchen Aid mixer! Her pizza dough recipe is not only easy but delicious too!

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With Fall just around the corner, the long summer days are now numbered, I really need to get back to menu planning too, these days I seem to buy less and less pre-packaged foods and when I do just for convenience I try to buy the more natural options when I can! Yesterday I planned my menu for the week and shopped too, so here is what we are having for dinner this week, bare in mind I have two Birthdays next week, so Mabel has asked for a Pioneer Woman’s Pasta bar and Blu can’t decide between steak or ribs on the grill…

Flatbread sandwiches … This turned into chicken curry, rice and naan bread
Homemade pizzas
Pasta bar and grilled lemon chicken
Ribs… Garlic bread sticks and wedges (or steak)
Polenta brats and salad
Cous cous chicken salad
Left overs

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Whatever you are cooking this week… Have fun!

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Rambling on…

Is it me or does everything in the winter seem far worse than when Spring arrives… Is the corporate world taking advantage of it’s employees, is there real justification behind cutting salaries 2 years in a row and absolutely no pay rises in 6 years now, is all the bank bashing having detrimental effects on hard working individuals… In a world where everything has rising costs almost daily, companies feel it is ok to reduce incomes for hardworking individuals… In my book, it all seems wrong that in this day and age it’s not how hard you work, it seems to be if you are in favor with your boss, has all the fairness gone out of pay rises and bonuses, it seems to me some people do well year after year, whilst others suffer because of the unfairness created by corporate greed!

Moan over… Back to menu planning again, it’s been a while, but this time I’m planning a baking day, breakfast, lunch and dinner… My iron levels are still low, so I want to make my life easier by keeping everything easy and simple. My Ninja super cooker is the key to simplicity, pasta cooks perfectly in it, dinners can easily be switched from slow cook to oven for finishing off, it’s even great if you don’t have time or have forgotten to set your slowcooker, just add the ingredients as you would have to slow cook, set to stove top and cook in no time at all… I can honestly say I’m in love!

Here is my budget friendly menu plan and baking day recipes…

Breakfast

Yoghurt with fruit x2
Oatmeal x2
Eggs with toast x2

Lunches

Pasta salad x2
Soup x2
Grilled panini sandwiches

Dinner

Pasta bolognese
Chili with roasted veggies
Pasta with winter pesto and chicken
Cobb salad
Baked penne with ricotta
Meatball noodle soup

Leftover night

Baking day

Brownies

Coconut tea loaf

Chocolate chip muffins

Banana bread

Easy quick oatmeal breakfast bars

I feel I am missing something after watching Extreme Couponing… Wow how do they save so much money, on one episode I watched this week, one woman spent $2700 on groceries, after swiping her store card the total was $1700, then after using her many, many, MANY coupons the total was $187… Crazy! Granted I do not need 100 bottles of gatoraid, although I am sure my children would love them, and I do not want 100 bottles of coke, but I am sure I could incorporate this into my grocery shopping, so after a little bit of research, I kind of get how it works, you collect the manufacturers coupons, they are worth double in most grocery stores up to 99c, then you wait for that item to go on sale, there is a schedule by all accounts in each grocery store and they rotate the discounts, then you use your coupon, giving you not only the stores savings but double the manufacturers discount too, sometimes the item can be free or an extremely low price, you don’t just buy one item you buy enough to see you through until the next rotation of the sale… Very clever, so although you will never see me on the next episode of Extreme Couponing, I think I could give it a try on a much smaller scale… Why give your money to these over priced grocery stores when you could save just a little bit!

This is the link for a fabulous Coupon website that makes it easy to save on your shopping!

Like menu planning, I think couponing takes time to organize too, but in the end being smart and organized is the key to making your money work for you, and true happiness, it’s only taken me 46 years to realize any of this, but we only grow as people when we learn new things and change is good, so this year I plan on lots of change, living healthier, lots of exercise and being just a little bit cleverer with our finances, you cannot rely on companies to help you out, the only way forward is to make your money work for you, I honestly believe the key to true happiness lies behind true organization and the true love you hold within…

Happy Weekend to everyone, let’s hope all this freaky weather we all seem to be having goes away soon, leaving us with a happy, sunny Spring!

I will leave you with my little miracle, kicking and wiggling inside me this week at my amazing ultrasound…

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A quiet life… At last!

Life has been kind of quiet recently… Thankfully! I have been concentrating on learning to not spend money, all of my life I have been reckless with money and it’s just not a good thing, so right now I’m learning how to spend our money wisely… What that means for me is a lot more days at home not cruising the aisles in Target… Ha, ha! I have been completing projects that needed doing like hats for Florrie’s Attic, replacing all my cushion covers and a lot more home baking and cooking, which really gives me a sense of achievement when I feed my family wisely! My life is usually so busy and hectic I have really enjoyed some down time to get on with things I’ve wanted to do for a while!

After months of morning sickness we are finally back on track for a healthier diet, Mabel is very happy about this… I have been kind of menu planning, but not strictly, I have ideas of what our menu will be for the week and then I shop the basics and plan each day as I go. My favorite place for recipes at the moment is the whole foods app on my iPad, everything tends to be healthy and is easy to adapt to ingredients you have in. I am trying to bake sweet treats every day to help fill the gap with so many hungry children…

What we ate yesterday…

For breakfast Florrie and I had cereal, after that I prepared the pioneer woman’s pizza dough recipe, I had run out of olive oil so I substituted it with melted coconut oil, I wasn’t sure how it would work but I preferred it. I also put pumpkin chili in the crockpot, now this is a favorite of mine, but not such a favorite for my children, so the pizza was for them, I am loving homemade pizza at the moment, so easy and very tasty! My children are all so very fussy so I am now making very basic pizzas, last night was cheese and a chicken pizza, then I make up a salad and top mine with it, so good, last night I chopped some cherry tomatoes and shredded some baby spinach leaves, to that I added a tablespoon of red wine vinegar and salt and pepper, so yummy on the pizza! Finally I made some pumpkin oatmeal muffins, now I told my children they were apple as they think they do not like pumpkin, instead of sour cream I did add apple sauce, so I was not lying and they loved them, see they do like pumpkin, they just don’t know it!

Pumpkin chili in the crock pot

1 pack of ground turkey ( I used Costco fresh meat)
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 can of pumpkin purée ( I used Trader Joes organic)
1 sliced red bell pepper (I used 1/2 packet of Trader Joes frozen bell pepper slices)
1/2 pack of frozen artichoke hearts (I used trader joes)
2 cloves of finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons of chili flakes
1 tablespoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of paprika
1 can of drained black beans (or any beans you have to hand)
1 cup of red lentils 1 1/2 cups of water
1/4 cup of flour
2 handfuls of baby spinach leaves

Lightly brown the ground turkey with the oil and then add to the crock pot, then add the can of tomatoes, the pumpkin purée, the pepper, artichokes, garlic, chili flakes, cumin, paprika, red lentils and water, mix thoroughly and cook on low for 5 hours. After 5 hours whisk in the flour to thicken, and then add the beans and spinach, mix again and let this cook for another hour… Serve and enjoy with the topping of your choice… I like grated cheddar cheese, slices of avocado and sour cream!

Pumpkin oatmeal muffins

1/2 cup oatmeal
1 egg
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup fat free milk
(1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup canned pumpkin
2/3 cup of brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place paper liners in a 12-cup muffin pan.
In your mixer whisk together egg, apple sauce, milk, butter, pumpkin, brown sugar, then add flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and oatmeal and gently fold into egg mixture until just combined. Spoon batter into lined muffin tins and bake for 22 to 25 minutes. I then decided to melt 1/2 cup of semi sweet chocolate chips and 1 teaspoon of coconut oils and then drizzled it over the muffins!

Both of these recipes are adapted from the Wholefoods app… Very healthy and extremely tasty!

With the clocks going back last weekend and the evenings getting darker so much earlier, my evenings seem so much longer… How does that work, more hours in one day, more time to knit or crochet… Florrie’s Attic has some new things arriving very soon!

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Product reviews

… My Vitamix!

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I have often stood in Costco and watched the Vitamix demonstration, wow, that is a fabulous blender, so many appliances in one machine… Hot soup, cold sorbets, thick smoothies, milkshakes, pizza dough and so much more! I could never justify the amount of money it cost though, instead I bought several blenders, each one returned because it did not live up to a great blender, I have bought a juicer, which is great but very time consuming making the juice then clean up is even more time consuming, and a food processor which sits unloved on my kitchen side… paul told me long ago to invest in the vitamix, you always pay for what you get, would I buy a cheap mixer instead of my beloved kitchen aid mixer… No, I most certainly would not, I love that machine and use it almost every day, so why is this vitamix any different, so after many hours of reading reviews and watching yet again another Costco roadshow demonstration I bit the bullet, what did I have to lose, with Costco’s fabulous return policy… Take it home and try it, if I don’t love it my money back in full!

So far so good, I have used this machine every day since the weekend, the soups are delicious and hot, if you don’t like smooth soups, save some of your ingredients and pulse at the end of the cycle for texture. I have also made fruit smoothies, this was a little more challenging as I have a freezer full of frozen fruit, I added the ingredients in the order their cookbook stated, but some of my fruit was frozen, I added carrots and kale, two vegetables I had in, switched my vitamix on, but I did have to use the muddler a few times to get my frozen products moving, I also then added a small amount of orange juice just to thin it out slightly, but my overall smoothie was delicious, packed with nutrients and went down well with my little 2 year old, who would never eat carrots or kale… So success, I am loving this vitamix!

I have not tried other features of the vitamix yet, the list is endless, pizza dough, muffins, cake breads, sorbets, ice cream, frozen cocktails… But so far for this season of warming soups I have a huge thumbs up, easy lunch time tomato soup in minutes is always a plus in my book, add a nutritious grilled cheese and avocado sandwich and then any leftovers can be used as a pizza topping later on for hungry children!

My lunchtime super easy tomato soup recipe… Courtesy of the Vitamix!
(Then use as a pizza sauce later… It worked well with no complaints)

1 can of organic chopped tomatoes
1/2 can of organic tomato purée
3/4 cup of vegetable stock/broth
1/2 chopped onion
Salt and pepper to taste
A small handful of fresh basil leaves sliced

Place the vegetable broth, followed by the tomatoes, purée and then onion into the vitamix set to the soup setting press start and let it run it’s cycle, when finished add salt, pepper and basil leaves, pulse several times… Then serve with whatever you fancy… Hot, yummy and nutritious!

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My first freezer baking day…

I have just found pure joy in filling my freezer to the brim, not with store bought boxed produce, well there is a little of that in there, but with home cooking trays of yummy goodies! I have always been someone who freezes leftovers, freezes excess bread, well I love to freeze anything for later really, but having a freezer baking day was something I had never thought of until recently when I started reading blogs about preparing ahead of time, so after watching another episode of the Pioneer Woman, yes I am addicted to her show, I decided it was time to fill my freezer with goodies so that my children cannot utter those famous words ever again, well just until next time my freezer looks bare… ‘There is nothing good into eat!’

I decided baked goods would be my freezer products this time around, with 5 more weeks of summer recess still on the horizon, sweet baked products are something I never have time to do along with cooking dinners, so why not fill my freezer with yummy gooey easy peasy baked goods that just need throwing into the oven, and then just for good measure I threw in some pizza dough for the odd pizza or flatbread side and two pasta tray bakes for those nights when you just need a quick dinner that’s made and ready to heat!

Here is a list in order of how I made them ready for my freezer, complete with links to the recipes…

The great British Flapjack … Melt 8oz of butter in a skillet, add 4oz of sugar and 4oz of golden syrup mix together then toss in 12oz of oats stir until combined, pack down into foil dish cover with foil and freeze. Defrost when ready to use, heat your oven to 300f and bake for 40 minutes!

Oatmeal breakfast bake … I froze this oatmeal unbaked, it is then ready to defrost then bake so it will be fresh and hot when we eat it!

Easy Brownies … I did some research and found that brownie batter does not freeze well, the butter separates when thawing, so it will not make a good brownie when baked, so for these I pre cooked them before freezing, then I will top with a chocolatey butter icing and chill before serving!

chocolate chip cookies … These I took the dough formed into balls using a small ice cream scoop and then placed each ball on a cookie sheet with parchment paper then flash froze them before placing the cookie dough balls into bags in the freezer… Add approximately 5 minutes cooking time to bake frozen cookie dough!

Chocolate, chocolate chip muffins … This is by far my most favorite muffin recipe from the great Nigella Lawson, I have made these with and without the cocoa powder and they are delicious every time! I baked these muffins before freezing in ziplock bags!

Easy, no knead cinnamon rolls … These were so good, be warned there is a lot of dough, I made three trays of gorgeous rolls, which is a good because one tray was so good it did not last in my house! I made these up to the point the rolls were made and risen in the trays, then I covered them with cling wrap and then froze them! I did cook up one tray and I changed the glaze to a more traditional cinnamon roll glaze… I added one cup of powdered sugar with 2 tablespoons of cubed room temperature butter, then add one teaspoon of vanilla essence with 3-6 tablespoons of boiling water mix until you get the desired consistency… Then pour over your lovely buns, serve and enjoy!

Easy, no knead pizza dough … This is an excellent, easy, delicious pizza dough, I made it to the point before it was risen, divided it into two balls, put them into ziplock bags and froze them, ready to defrost, then let rise in an oiled clingwrap covered bowl, roll out then bake. I have made this crust many times, it not only easy but once the dough is risen it keeps in the refrigerator for up to three days!

If you do try to fill your freezer in one day, be warned it is messy, something I don’t usually cope well with, time consuming… But totally worth doing, now I can sit back, relax and enjoy the fruits of my labor… Well for a couple of days at least, until my hungry children get their hands on all that delicious food!

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Freezer love

I love my freezer, I love to freeze leftovers, I love to freeze an abundance of fruit and vegetables… I just love to have a freezer full of produce, but of course the trick is not to overfill your freezer so much that you never get to use the produce at the back or stored deeply below the current food in there, I love to virtually empty my freezer before restocking it, it gives me real pleasure to see an empty freezer just before I do my weekly grocery trip, of course my children are never too thrilled by this, but personally I love that feeling that I have used wisely all of my groceries before I restock… I just hate waste!

So, on the subject of freezers, I was thrilled this week whilst I was on my weekly trip to Costco, the fruit and vegetables in there looked so enticing and abundant I had to stock up, now I know everything in Costco comes in huge sizes and even for our larger than average family, when it comes to fruit and vegetables, we cannot get through the package sizes either, so with that in mind I still filled my cart with cherries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, asparagus and so on, I think my cart was mainly healthy fruit and vegetables this week, but I had a plan… Now this is where my freezer comes in, I bagged half of each container into ziplock bags and placed them into my freezer… Genius, right? I can hear you all saying but the fruit just does not taste the same after it is frozen and you are right, but it is perfect for smoothies, homemade ice cream, muffins, cheesecake, sauces, juicing, the list is endless… Of course it is great for adding to cocktails too! So now I not only have a refrigerator full of healthy fruit and vegetables but a freezer well stocked for all our summer favorites too… Not only healthy but budget friendly too!

Still on the subject of freezers, my new plan is to cook and freeze batches of beans, pulses and lentils… I love, love, love these ingredients but more often than not I find I just don’t have the time to cook them along with dinner or I just simply forget to, so after a little research I have discovered that all of these ingredients freeze and reheat well… So batch cooking these ingredients will mean I can always have them on hand in my beloved freezer, meaning that we will be eating much healthier too!

Recipe for chocolate covered strawberries

1 1/2 cup of chocolate chips (I used Kirkland semi sweet)
1 1/2tablespoon of coconut oil ( I used Trader Joes)
20 fresh strawberries

There are two ways of melting your chocolate with the coconut oil, the first is taking a great amount of care in your microwave, they burn easily so melt them in 30 second bursts until they are smooth and melted, the other way, which is the method I used is to take about an inch of boiling water in a pan, place your bowl of chocolate and coconut oil over the water, making sure the bowl does not touch the water and then let your boiling water slowly melt your chocolate for a few minutes, once it is smooth and melted take it off the heat and wash and pat dry your strawberries, then coat each strawberry with the chocolate mixture, taking care not to cover the green leafy part, place on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper, then place in refrigerator to chill then serve with anything you like… Delicious!

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