Monday, October 21, 2013

Mason Jar Salads

I posted a pic last night of 12 Mason jar salads ready to go for the week and the response was "tell me more."

I've experimented with this over the past few weeks and here's what I've found...

Dressing first- put your salad dressing in the bottom of a clean (I ran them through the sanitize cycle in the dishwasher first) quart-size Mason jar. I used three different dressings this week.
1. Homemade Lemon/Italian (olive oil, lemon juice from 1 small lemon, 2 cloves pressed garlic, italian herbs- whisk together.
2. Homemade Creamy Cilantro-Lime (found here)
3. Annie's Green Goddess (store-bought)

"Chunky Stuff" next
On top of the dressing, I placed chunkier items, or items that I wanted to marinate in the dressing.

Keep layering
I layered from most durable foods to most delicate at the top, ending with my greens at the top of the jar, far away from the dressing at the bottom. In cases where I added cheese, that was at the top as well. Push down lid to hand-seal, and screw on the top. I use a removeable glass marker (Vis a Vis) to write the salad name on the lid- it washes off easily.

So, what did I make? In layered order:

2 Lemon/Italian dressing, chopped artichokes, walnuts, whole grain brown rice (cooked/cooled), arugula, spinach, Gruyere blend of cheese (shredded)

4 Southwest- Creamy Cilantro-Lime dressing, shredded carrots and broccoli, cherry tomatoes, kidney beans, black beans, corn, zuchinni, avocado, red peper, green onion, arugula, baby romaine, pepper-jack cheese

2 more Southwest, with shredded pork on top (leftover from weekend pork roast)

4 Green Goddess dressing, shredded carrots and broccoli, cherry tomaotoes, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, zuchinni, green pepper, power to the greens mix, arugula, shredded parmesan

The combinations you can make are endless.
We really enjoy the SW style salad, so I make the most of that style. The Hubs has asked me to start putting more grilled chicken into these, which can be done.

I've found prep goes fastest when all ingredients are cleaned, chopped, and placed in separate bowls- it makes it go much faster when filling. Other variations I've included in past weeks are chia seeds, flax seeds, pepitas, cashews, and sundried tomatoes.

When you are ready to have the salad, it's really grab and go. I take my mine, shake to distribute the dressing, and pour onto a plate.

If you give this a try, be sure to comment and let me know how it goes!

Note, I use organic/non-GMO whenever possible, I just don't note it in the layers.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Back on Track

April was my last post? Chalk it up to a busy and fun-filled spring and summer- more on that later. While we were out enjoying it, we certainly did not stay on track with clean eating. As we fall back into a school year routine, I knew I needed to get a handle on meal planning, as church, school, work and soccer leave precious little time for anything else. The solution for us? This is our first week prepping meals ahead of time- take a look:

So, this took some prepping (a lot more than I liked), but it IS saving me time this week. I made 12 jar salads. If this is going to be an every-week thing though, the Hubs has got to help with the weekend prep. The good news is that he's liking the salads, I am liking them along with the ease and convenience and dinner prep is going quickly each night.
Sitting on the soccer field talking with another friend, we were discussing the "rut" we all get into. So, what's cooking with us this week?
Breakfast- choice of egg, steel cut oats with fruit, protein smoothie, or peanut butter on a banana
Lunch- grab a jar salad (Fudge still gets a school lunch packed.) I made southwest, ranch, and greek, all with homemade dressings. Thank you Pinterest.
M- Mahi Mahi burgers and I cannot remember what veggies I served.
T-  Tequila lime shrimp over quinoa, peppers, greens
W- BBQ chicken breast, broccoli, cowboy caviar
R-  Grilled apple-gouda chicken sausage, tomato-eggplant-feta stacks
F-  French onion soup (no bread/no croutons), baked potatoes
S-  Fresh catch and veggies from farmer's market
S-  Balsamic-glazed pork roast, grilled zucchini
I switched to gluten-free early summer and I feel great, but it's not easy. My doc thinks I may have a gluten intolerance, so I'm trying to stick with GF. Since it is restrictive of the things I love (oh bread, how I miss thee), I'm treating myself to a GF cupcake from the farmer's market on Saturday.
Your turn? How are you shaking up the menu these days?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Kickin' Barrett's ***

We've lost count, but we think this is surgery #10 for the Hubs since he was diagnosed with "Barrett's Esophagus with High Dysplasia" a few years ago, coded as "carcinoma in situ". Fun times. Through all this though, we are thankful. Thankful the Barrett's was diagnosed vs. moving forward as a silent killer, thankful the leader in treating this was just up the road at VCU, and thankful that something is working.

We returned to VCU earlier than planned since the Hubs was having some flare ups/complications and his surgeon wanted to figure out what was going on. We arrived to our FAVORITE pre-op nurse, Emily, who makes the day brighter and much easier- she was excited to see us as well (and gave me a tip on 1/2 price Danskos :) It is definitely a comfort to know a friendly face.

The time in surgery was longer than expected, but went well. The Hubs was injected with dye that fluoresces and allows for micro-cell examination while M was under. He did not have RFA (Radio Frequency Ablation) today but rather multiple biopsies. Here is what we learned (beyond the fact that he's going to have neon urine for 24 hours):

M failed as a RFA (Radio Frequency Ablation) candidate because it did not eradicate the dysplastic cells, HOWEVER he was included in the clinical
trial for "cryo"- freezing the cells and that did seem to have had the intended effect over the last two visits. VCU is still one of the only centers in the nation to use cryo for Barrett's. While this was surprising news, it was good to know something appeared to be working.

What's next? This is the FIRST time we've left the hospital with papers that did NOT state "carcinoma in situ"! M's doc is cautiously optimistic. What we are hoping to hear is no dysplasia, no carcinoma. We know he still has Barrett's and that will require close monitoring and medication the rest of M's life. However, if it's come down from dysplasia, that is a big victory!

M's doc thinks the flare up and issues may just mean an adjustment in his proton pump inhibitor meds, which he adjusted today. IF clear pathology reports come back next week, M wins a whole year before he has to return! We're hoping and praying for clear reports next week.

We are so thankful for the support and care of our friends. Your calls, texts, and emails were greatly appreciated throughout the day, as were your prayers and positivity. We are blessed beyond measure, and a shout out to my parents for helping with Fudge and getting him to soccer.

M won't let me post a hospital pic of himself (wouldn't even let me push him in the wheelchair), so I've included a pic of his awesome surgeon, Dr. Z... who recently had a wing of the hospital named after him- love this guy and his bow ties. We're home, M is sleeping, I'm exhausted. Good night all!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

If You're Going to Be A Bear...

That's Fudge above, at LEGO KidFest, "eating" at the Krusty Krab. MmmmmMmmm! Fast food, even with LEGO. A couple of years before I was pregnant with Fudge we moved to a more organic, less processed food approach and literally changed our selection of many of the basics we realized were not good for us environmentally, moving to an organic version- cleaners, soaps, personal care products, cosmetics, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, etc. Ooh, about that deodorant, don't ask my friend April about our trip to FL and the only one I packed was my natural mineral salt rock. Score: Florida in August- 1, my pits -9 zillion. Ripe is the only word to describe that nastiness! After Fudge joined us, we were still consistent with our approach but I've noticed over the past year or so that we've slipped away from our roots. And my parents, well, here's how it goes down...go to Nonna's and have a cookie, have some pudding, have some BooBerry cereal. Not all on the same day necessarily, but go to Nonna and Poppy's and sneak in the crap food. Yes Mama, if you are reading this, he has crap food here at my house too. Yes, I know you fed him a chicken breast sandwich afterschool today :)

And it's right around the same time that I am thinking to myself that I have got to do something to lose this weight. I'm a go big or go home type of girl; our saying around here is "If you're going to be a bear, be a Grizzly!" Well, it's Grizzly time.

I shared with the hubs and Fudge I've been really thinking about this and I'd like for us all to recommit- and I found just the tool to do it. We're taking the 100 Days of Real Food pledge. Ok, ok, I positioned it as 100 days with Fudge and the hubs, but really, it's a permanent lifestyle change I want us to get back to. Fudge's response was "No more Trader Joe's Fiber Bars?" And the hubs response was, "can I just start it in 100 days?"

We don't have an offical start date yet; negotiating that around here takes more skill than the Treaty of Versailles, but let me just tell you what the hubs did this evening. He came home with 2 liter of Coca Cola, a bag of fried chicken tenders, pepperoni, sausage crumbles and a bunch of other crap. WTH? "Well, we haven't started yet!" No we haven't, but how are we ever going to start if he keeps bringing crap like this into the house??? So I said, ONE WEEK, and if it's not gone in one week it's in the trash can. The man cannot stand for ANYTHING to go to waste, so I see a lot of junk food in his future.

So come, follow us on this's sure to be an entertaining one and this is a wonderful way to stay accountable to our pledge. The clock is ticking to his one week deadline! Anyone else want to join us?

Sleepover Follow-Up

I've received a few questions- what did you do about the sleepover? How did things go? Hell was going to freeze over before Fudge was sleeping over; I think that much was clear. I put the hubs up to calling the parents to share that Fudge would not be able to sleep over, but he'd still like to help [name] celebrate his birthday. Per the hubs, the mom seemed a little bristly about it, but agreed.

The big day arrived (two days after the invitation was sent home) and the hubs took Fudge over to the house with strict instructions- DO NOT LEAVE HIM. The poor birthday boy- only Fudge and one other little boy showed for the party. What happened next is truth is stranger than fiction. As one of my girlfriends would say "you can't make this shit up!"

I'll leave you with the short and edited version: Fudge came home later in the evening, the hubs in tow, to tell me, "MAMA, YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BELIEVE THIS!" They had SNAKES, and GUNS (Airsoft rifles, per the hubs, that looked just like an assault rifle and a sniper rifle) , and LIZARDS! I looked at the hubs with the "are you kidding me look" and he just shook his head and said, "you were right." And that it was a good thing he stayed because he knew as soon as they took the first of three pythons out of a plastic container in the laundry room that the Pilot would have left track marks in the driveway.

In the spirit of really trying to be nice, and being totally speechless, I eeked out a "go wash your hands Fudge. NOW."

Oh, and I take no issue with the Airsoft rifles- we let Fudge shoot one in a very controlled environment in a riflery course at summer camp last year, but adults shooting them off in front of kids at a birthday party? I don't get it.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

What Would You Do?

This parenting thing is ever-rewarding but rarely easy...more like figure it out as you go, use common sense, give unconditional love, inspire wonder, pray and repeat, repeat, repeat.

Fudge came home today with an invitation for a birthday sleepover this weekend...for a kid we barely know and parents we've never yet. My girls reading this who know me well know exactly what went through my head when Fudge beamed at the invitation ("Not only no, but oh-hell-no!"). Of course I couldn't say that, so I was much more sedate with "let's take a look at what you have there." Fudge does sleepovers with a couple of best buddies and family- we don't have issues with separation, bed wetting, etc, so the experience for him has been positive so far. I fully recognize each kid develops differently and not all on the cusp of 8 are ready for a sleepover- totally respect that. But what about this sleepover party business?

I took the direct and rational approach: I'm sure so and so is a very nice boy and has nice parents, but we don't know them and we're not comfortable with a sleepover. Part of the party is being held at a local event site and I told Fudge we would take him and stay so he could participate there and wish his friend a happy birthday, but that's about all. His response shocked me..."ok Mama." No pleading his case, only one alternative suggestion ("you could call and introduce yourself and meet them"), but then Fudge said, "Yeah, I really only stay with like-a-family or best friends." I certainly don't think I'd handle it as well at almost 8 years old. As a parent I'm challenged with how to communicate that yes, we should be making new friends (and not being exclusive or "cliquish") and at the same time denying participation in another kid's party as visions of sleepover disasters and news clips run through my mind.

I'm confortable with my decision, discussed it with the hubs when he got home, and we're all on the same page. Poor hubs- I told him he was the lucky winner of calling the parents and letting them know how Fudge would like to participate in celebrating his friend.

Back to the title of the post- what would you do? Have you been in a similar situation? What was the outcome?

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Fudge has the sniffles and woke up grumpy since he couldn't breathe through his nose.

Fudge: "Mama, I need an inhaler!"

Me: "Oh, where did you learn about inhalers?"

Fudge: "GOONIES!"

Ah, that explains it.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

"The Yolk's on You!"

Fudge has this shirt I'm not crazy about (no, I did not buy it for him). It has a picture of two stick figures, one with egg on him, and the shirt says "The Yolk's on You!" Really, I hate the stupid shirt so it's usually "lost" or still in the dirty clothes, etc. Well, this time, the "yolk's" on Fudge.

We've struggled to find a breakfast he likes but we've landed on a homemade smoothie which I've slyly been making with almond milk...and his Ovaltine last night was with almond milk...and tonight, when I was out of regular milk, he got a cup of straight up almond milk. Drumroll please, HE LIKES IT! We are using Silk Original Almond Milk with 50% more calcium.

The smoothie? 1 cup almond milk, one fresh banana, one scoop Designer Whey vanilla protein powder, 2 Tbsp. peanut butter. Blend and serve- well over 20 grams of protein and almost 50% of calcium for the day.

Healthy, quick breakfast ideas from your home?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Little Change Goes a Long Way

Someone, ahem, recently reminded me that is has been "ages" since I've blogged...and for me, I guess it has- LAST MAY! As you can imagine, there is quite a bit of living and adventure packed into the last eight months. Brief highlights include a new job (same company), a Disney cruise (divine), a visit to Universal Studios/Resort, turning 37, adventures in Lancaster, PA, Fudge starting 2nd grade, my brother moving to Florida, hosting Thanksgiving, Christmas with the family, and soccer, soccer, and more soccer. Oh, and basketball too. Whew!

So why the photo of a bucket of money? We have an old water cooler bottle that sits in our living room, somewhat hidden behind a chair. The hubs and I throw spare change in there and when we're really living on the edge, paper currency too. I'd say that Fudge throws money in there too, but who are we kidding? He hoards in his piggy bank, which is fine by me. We recently took advantage of Fudge's late January semester break, combined with a wicked good offer from Disney, to head down to see the Mouse and friends for about a week. I decided it was time to trade in the water cooler funds, so I transferred it to a beach bucket and off Fudge and Poppy went to the bank.

Any guesses? Once we weeded out the Mexican pesos and Kuwaiti paper currency (I can explain Mexico but Kuwait? I have no idea.) we had over 36 POUNDS of coins in that beach bucket. Fudge came home from his trip to the bank looking like a little mobster fanning out his cash- about $300! Not a bad jump on spending money for the week, and now the cooler sits empty waiting to be filled up again to put a financial dent in a future adventure.

Where else can a little change go a long way? I've got two major challenges before me this year- getting my home/schedule organized and getting the # on the scale down. Both are really posts of their own, but I've asked myself, what small steps, when added up, make a big contribution? For my JMU grad school buddies "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts!"

On the homefront, OCD me is excited that my dad has agreed to build a closet in some wasted space in our master bedroom, which will mean "his" and "hers" in not-sharing-a-closet-with-the-hubs-anymore! Really, is it Christmas already? Now I just need to get the room cleaned up enough that this work can be planned and started. I also had my favorite bubba cabinet maker out to draw up some sketches for cabinets/shelves flanking the fireplace, and I just anted up the bucks (ouch) for my first Erin Condren Life Planner. I thought my level of anticipation for this planner was just not normal, but I've found online I'm in very good company as I wait for this beauty to arrive. The tipping point for me being willing to give it a try, beyond the rave reviews, was the offer for $20 OFF through February 28th- just use promo code XOXO20.

What changes are you hoping will go a long way in 2013?