Friday, January 13, 2017

Food Allergies

During part of my withdrawal from blogging, I had a baby. I now have 3 adorable boys. Here's the most recent photo I have of them - taken last fall.
I mean really, though aren't they adorable?! I may be a bit biased though ;). Thinking about them made me get sidetracked though...

When the youngest was an infant he had neo-natal colitis. It took me 8 months to get a diagnosis and then he had it for 3 more months after that (luckily babies grow out of it). The GI doctor said that it was like eczema in his guts - except a different type (4 vs 2) and some more stuff that went over my head or I forgot. During this time I removed over 13 foods from my diet because they would affect him through me breastfeeding him. (Complete list for all of you who are wondering: Dairy, Soy, Wheat, Rye, Barley, Rice, Chicken, Beef, Black Beans - really most beans except chick peas, Sweet Potatoes, Peas, Peanuts, and Fish are the ones I'm remembering right now. I could eat some Pork but only about an ounce or two every few days, which held true of most proteins I had to eat them in moderation. If I ate these foods he'd get blood in his stool and pretty much be miserable with stomach pain. I was so good at not eating these foods because I didn't want to cause him pain. There was no cheating, but I did manage to find some things that I could still eat... Coconut Ice-Cream is delicious. 

When the wonderful time came that he outgrew this condition - which can I say I'm so grateful that he did, I really do feel for all you Mom's out there who deal with food allergies with your children! Late February last year I started eating a normal diet again. And for a week I felt slightly nauseous. After it went away I decided to wait to get tested for a food allergy (I was sure that's what the nausea was being caused by) because I really couldn't handle eating a special diet again. The frustration from figuring out what to eat was not fun, in fact I would break down crying over the knowledge I had to eat but not knowing what to eat (because let's face it you can only have vegetable soup and salad so much before going crazy - or maybe that's just me.) 

One thing I learned - if you want to avoid most processed foods, remove Soy, Dairy, Wheat, and Rice from your diet. It's really hard to find foods without those in them (Rice mainly because most gluten free processed foods have rice in them.)

I finally got up enough courage to get my food allergies tested last month. However there was a preliminary appointment before the testing appointment so I didn't actually get tested until this month, earlier this week even on Monday. I tested positive for 2 foods. And let's just say that removing 2 foods will be easier than 13+ foods, but I'm allergic to Soy and Barley. I just have to say that soy is in pretty much everything. It's a good thing I know how to make my own vinaigrette, because most that are sold in stores have soy in them (sometimes just listed as vegetable oil...) My personal pet peeve is when something lists it as Canola Oil OR Soy Oil, can't you just say which one so I know if I can eat it or not?!? Barley sneaks in a lot too, most malt is made from barley (I like malt but it's not something we have frequently.) 

So starting next week I'm avoiding all things with soy and barley. Funny thing is before my crazy diet with my son's colitis I would avoid most soy (I did have some soy sauce for when I made Asian foods). I've rebelled at reading labels in the past few months and because of such I have let a lot of it into my house. I was semi-surprised how much I have because I do try to avoid it since it can make PCOS symptoms worse. So here's to going back to reading labels again. I really don't mind except how much longer I'm in the grocery store!

My shout out to all those that have food allergies or kids with them. It can be hard! 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Kitchen Basics: Vinaigrette

Welcome 2017. I hope this year is so much better for many people than last year was. With the coming of a New Year, comes the setting of goals by many people. One of those goals typically includes eating healthier... Last year I fell off the eating healthy bandwagon, although in my defense I had just eaten a super crazy diet for about a year... that ended in Feb/March of 2016. I had been nursing a baby with neo-natal colitis and couldn't eat about 20 different foods which made eating unhealthy quite difficult. So I regressed to bad eating habits :(.

One thing that I am trying to do is to enjoy more salads. In doing so I've decided that I only enjoy salads IF I have multiple options for salad dressings. I get bored with food easily and if I'm bored with salad I tend to not eat it. At All. Unfortunately. I also have an issue throwing away food and buying multiple salad dressings typically leads me to not use them all before they expire. So homemade salad dressing to the rescue. 

Making a vinaigrette is actually pretty easy and inexpensive - you can make a lot for the cost of a pre-made bottle at the store (and you'll be avoiding all those added ingredients!) The most basic vinaigrette only has two ingredients (but I highly suggest adding some salt and pepper as well.)


and Vinegar

The ratio of these two is the important thing. The most common ratio is 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil. If you want a more vinegar flavor you can increase it to 2 parts vinegar.

The type of Vinegar you use will depend on the flavor you want the vinaigrette to have. The most common types of vinegar to use are Balsamic Vinegar, Apple Cider Vinegar, Raspberry Vinegar, Red Wine Vinegar, and Rice Vinegar. White Vinegar does not have much flavor and is not typically used in a vinaigrette.  Balsamic Vinegar has a very distinct flavor and is often the feature flavor of the vinaigrette. Apple Cider Vinegar has a more mild flavor and can be used as a base for many different types of vinaigrette. I tend to use Raspberry Vinegar to make a simple vinaigrette when I have fruit on my salads (like spinach and nectarine, etc.) Rice Vinegar also has a more mild flavor. It is also a great choice when making Asian inspired vinaigrette. 

The type of Oil used also matters. If you want an Olive Oil flavor you'll need to use Extra Virgin Olive Oil. If you want other flavors to stand out more, you'll want to use a lighter oil. You can use a light Olive Oil, or any other Vegetable Oil. There are many different types of oil available in most supermarkets so the different combinations are numerous. I like to try different oils to see which I like most. However the two I use most are Olive Oil - light and extra virgin. 

Juices are also sometimes added to vinaigrettes. The most common type of juice added is Lemon. Lemon juice can take the place of the vinegar or be added in addition. Citrus juices (lemon, lime, orange, etc.) are the most popular in vinaigrette, but not the only options. Again the options are really limitless when mixing all the different combinations. When making a vinaigrette, be sure the acids (vinegar and citrus juice) do not ever exceed a ratio of 2 acid to 3 oil. 

Seasonings are the last aspect of vinaigrette I'm going to discuss today. When making a very simple vinaigrette it is wise to add a little salt and some pepper for a bit more flavor pop. Garlic is also another great addition. As are onions, shallots, herbs (fresh or dried), spices (paprika, nutmeg, etc). Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce can also be added. 

Next Kitchen Basics post I'll be discussing making a creamy vinaigrette. But first, what's your favorite vinaigrette - I'd love to hear what you put on your salads so I can use some of the ideas and be more excited to eat mine ;). 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Dear readers

Wow, it's amazing how much you can forget in a few years... I forgot how much time I actually put into this when I was posting every week. This fall unfortunately I had some things come up, health issues and other things that made me super busy. I also re-learned that when I get overwhelmed with everything I withdraw. From Everything. So while I had such good intentions on blogging all last fall and through last month, I did not. I disappeared again and that's not fair to you dear reader. I do apologize for that, sincerely. I am going to do better this year. I do hope you forgive me for leaving you hanging yet again.
I hope you had a great New Year's Day and here's to an amazing 2017!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Breakfast for Dinner? Yes, Please!

I know some people eat breakfast for dinner without thinking about it, but I have met some people who think it's an odd concept. However as a Mom I LOVE making breakfast for dinner because it means my kids will actually eat a meal without complaining about how they don't like anything on their plate! I honestly think my middle child would not be as picky if it weren't for his older brother. My youngest is just starting to pick up on the peer pressure with eating :(.

Today I'll be discussing my top 3 pancake recipes, but before I do that I want to say that I discovered that baby food is a great addition in pancakes. Yes I did discover this after I got a few cases off Amazon and my youngest child refused to eat it. But it is a great way to add fruits and vegetables into the pancakes without your kiddos really knowing! (And a good way to get slightly green pancakes on St Patty's day - green peas...) I just add the contents of the jar to the bowl and use powdered milk. Just in case any of you have left over baby food that you don't know what to do with!

Here are my top 3 PANCAKE recipes: 

Whole Grain Peanut Butter Pancakes - I love these because they also have protein inside them, one less thing to have to worry about! Perfect for a busy night, especially those nights when I don't really feel like cooking.

Whole Wheat Pancakes (Adapted from waffle recipe) - this one is made from whole wheat berries - not flour and has a more nutty taste. The waffle version has sweet memories but right now I don't have a waffle iron so pancakes it is!

Carrot Cake Pancakes - What's not to love about hiding vegetables in  your kids food?! The Vanilla Sauce really makes these super tasty! Plus isn't it great to basically eat dessert for dinner? ;)

What is your favorite pancake?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

How to talk yourself out of buying "the best deal"...

A while ago I was at the store and an announcement came over the speaker that I could get a free pairing knife just by going to a certain area of the store. Since I was pretty much in that area and only had to walk 10 feet, I figured I'd get a free knife... Of course you are all smarter than me and know that it wasn't going to be that easy! First we had to listen to a sales pitch on why we should buy this whole boxed knife set. 

The salesperson starts discussing the knife that everybody has which is incredibly dull and won't slice bread without mashing it. Um. Yeah. I didn't agree with that and actually had to stop myself from giving tips on how to correctly slice bread so it doesn't get smooshed. I could do a whole tutorial on how to slice bread... but I'm sure the salesman wouldn't have appreciated me doing that there.

A little later the salesperson was explaining how their fillet knife was so great and showed he could cut the skin off the tomato. At which point in my head I was like, "Man you have impressive knifing skills, how much did you practice to get that good?" I almost said that as well. I actually had to bite my lip to not say that out loud. I'm sure that is not what was going through the head of the guy next to me who was asked if he liked fish... he was probably thinking, "I want a knife that could skin a fish that well." Now I'm not saying that a fillet knife won't make it easier to skin a fish, but it does take practice to use it as well as that salesperson!

I am probably the only person who was in that group that walked away with a free knife and did not buy the whole set. Honestly I don't believe the knives were anything special but that salesman was really good!

So lesson I learned that day - if you know your stuff you aren't as likely to buy an impulse purchase in the moment. Plus bonus lesson - it's only free if you don't make a purchase!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Sanity Saving Puff Quilt Tutorial (no sewing individual 'pillows')!

I decided to try to make a puff quilt. I had heard that many people only make one because they are a headache to make. But I decided to do it anyway... I  read a bunch of tutorials on how to make one and I could see why people would say one was enough, but once I get an idea I have to run with it. However, as I made my puff quilt I realized there was an easier way to make it than ALL of the tutorials I had read! So I decided I had to share how to make it because I'm all about helping make life easier for everybody!

This tutorial does not include making individual pillows or hand sewing the backs of each pillow closed! It involves sewing each square into rows and then two rows together before stuffing, so you only have to deal with the bulk of the stuffed pillows for 8 seams - plus adding the border (and they're long so you have plenty of quilt to help guide it through)! That's why I call this the Sanity Saving Puff Quilt Tutorial.


Sanity Saving Puff Quilt Tutorial (How to make a Puff Quilt)

Materials Needed (toddler size):
30-8 inch squares coordinating fabric (I used minky and it is super soft!)
30-6 inch squares any fabric (this will be on the inside of the quilt so you can use anything - muslin, etc. Just make sure that if it is colored it doesn't show through the top fabric!)
Extra coordinating fabric for the border - 4 strips 30 x 9 and 4 - 9 inch squares.
Extra fabric for underside of border - 2 strips about 8x26 inches (you'll want to measure the finished middle to be sure of the exact size) and 2 strips about 8x42 (again you'll measure during the process to make sure it's the right size)
1.5 yards for the back (will have a bit left over)
And thread, sewing machine, etc.

We'll start with the 8 inch squares and the 6.5 inch squares.
 Match them together on one corner with the smaller square on the wrong side of the 8 inch fabric. 
 At the sewing machine, start sewing, but about half way through, make a bunch. I used a 3/8 inch seam allowance for these.
 Make sure the bunch is large enough that the bottom ends of the squares are now even. 
 Repeat on 2 more sides. Be sure to leave one side open. 
 Repeat for each of the 30 squares.
 As I got going I made sure to put a pin in the middle of the fabric so I would remember to bunch them up.
 I won't say how many seams I had to rip before I decided this was a good idea.
 Once you get to the pin, just remove and make the bunch. 
You'll thank me for this tip when you're not ripping seams because you're so into sewing that you forget what you're suppose to be doing ;).
 Because I used minky fabric, I left a bit of a gap at the end and as I sewed it stretched to become even at the end. If you are using all cotton you won't have to make that adjustment, just line them up so the squares match perfectly.
 Look at how great those squares matched up!
 Once you have sewn all three edges on all 30 squares, lay them out in the pattern you want for the end quilt.
 Then turn the openings so the first row points out, then the second row the openings face opposite. The first two rows should have the seams opposite the openings touching along the whole row.
 Then the next two rows should look exactly like the first. The 3rd row the openings will face Row 2 and the 4th row openings will face row 5. If you're confused, keep reading - it should make sense in a minute!
 Sew all the rows together. When sewing the rows together I used a 1/2 inch seam allowance so as not to show the original seam.
 Then sew row 1 with row 2. Row 3 with row 4, and then row 5 with row 6. 
 What you'll have is 3 sewn strips that look like these with the openings facing out on either side. 
 Every tutorial I read before making this had you sew individual pillows (stuffed) together. This is so much easier. I had the idea after I'd laid them out before stuffing them and trust me - you'll thank me so much for this time saver!

 As you're sewing the rows together, be sure to pin so you can nest the seams better, if not you'll get a lot of off-set seams! 
 Once you've sewn the 3 sets, stuff them, then sew the open ends closed.

 Then this is the hardest part - sewing the stuffed rows together. Be sure to pin the squares so the seams nest and make sharp corners. 
 I had to pull this through my sewing machine and my hands were sore afterward - just a warning!
 Once all the rows are sewn together, it's time to add the border! And I somehow missed making the border so hopefully the description makes sense, if not please ask for clarification. 

Start by measuring the dimensions of the finished rows. Cut 2 strips of the underside fabric to equal the length (these will be the shorter measurement). Then sew them to 2 of the strips of coordinating fabric, making 4 bunches along the way - it does help to pin to have even spacing. Sew along the ends as well. Then sew 3 dividing seams down it. Stuff with fiberfil and sew closed. Add to opposite ends of the quilt.

Next, sew a 9 inch square onto each end of 2 of the strips of coordinating fabric. Measure the quilt and cut the 2 longer strips to equal the measurement. Sew the coordinating fabric to the underside fabric and repeat steps from above, making an additional poof square where the ends squares are. Sew finished border to the quilt.

 To sew the backing on, measure quilt dimensions again. Cut backing fabric to meet it. Sew inside out leaving an opening to turn (about 1 foot or a bit larger, remember you're pulling all the stuffed quilt through it!) 

Once flipped, pin opening closed and pin on either side of the border seam. Sew closed.
To sew together, we'll be stitching in the ditch, between the pins. 
Here you can see the pins on the top side, where we'll be stitching. Stitch in the ditch to quilt the two layers together. 
 Here's what the seam looks like on the back. 
 And you're done!  
 Step back and admire the finished product. 
 And be thankful that you saved a bit of sanity by not sewing 30 individual pillows together and then sewing them into rows!
 One bonus item you can do is sew a matching pillow. It's super easy - you'll just need 4 extra squares. I sewed all 4 together and then stuffed them and then sewed closed. Then I put the back on the same way as the quilt, but it was much easier since it was smaller!
 I think it would be super cute with button in the middle!
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial on how to make an easier, sanity saving Puff Quilt.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Fresh Salsa using a Food Processor

One of my favorite snacks is chips and salsa. I've already shown a version of fresh salsa where you chop them by hand. This version uses a food processor which greatly reduces the time making them (and with three kids now I am all about saving time in the kitchen). 

The main problem I have when making salsa in the food processor is that it seems to be very liquidy when it is done. So spell check told me that liquidy isn't a word but I choose to believe that spell check is wrong not me ;). Actually the nerd in me had to look it up and it is a word - but not as accepted as other synonyms, however, I'm keeping it because I think it's the best of the synonyms to describe what I'm writing. But getting back to the salsa - I've recently found a way to counter the extra liquid problem and this salsa is pretty close to perfect, without the time commitment! Extra bonus!

Fresh Salsa
First you'll need tomatoes, I actually grew these in my garden. I'm pretty impressed with myself since I don't have a green thumb! They aren't very large so I needed a few of them. You'll want about 4-5 normal sized tomatoes.

Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the stem area and the seeds.
Place the tomatoes in a food processor.
You'll also need a green bell pepper and a jalapeno.  
Remove the seeds and stems of those and put them in with the tomatoes. (Be careful when handling jalapenos - use gloves or be super careful not to get the insides on you... it can be irritating and painful!)
Pulse them until you've reached the desired choppedness. 
Place into a bowl.
Add 1 Tbsp lemon juice, 1 Tbsp lime Juice, 1 tsp Salt (or a bit less if you like to use less salt) and 1 cup Freeze Dried Chopped Onions
I honestly love that I don't have to chop the onions and they soak up all the extra liquid, it's totally win-win!
Mix them all together. At this point you can also add some cilantro, I don't because my husband doesn't really like it but it does make me a little sad that I don't! Okay sometimes I do add it to make me happy...
Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour (or longer).
We ate these with some delicious Shredded Pork Quesadillas! YUM.