Friday, November 30, 2012

Healthy Meal Plan: Let December Begin!

I can hardly believe that it is still November!  Sure, December begins in less than 10 hours, but with Thanksgiving so early this year, I keep having this conversation with myself:

"I need to finish decorating for Christmas...oh yeah, it is still only November."

"Should I start addressing the Christmas cards?  No, it's not even December yet!"

"What cookies should I bake?  None's November."

I have been trying to stay low key, but when the calendar turns over to December tomorrow, I think it is time to get into gear.

What to do when the Christmas season is upon us?  Keep the cooking simple, since we're all so over-extended this time of the year!

Here's next week's Healthy Meal Plan:

Meatless Monday:  Slow Cooker Italian Bean and Artichoke Soup, Crusty Bread, Tossed Salad

Asian Tuna Noodles, (when you boil the noodles for this dish, boil extra for the Chicken Tetrazini later this week--it will save you time!), Pomegranate Seeds

Chicken and Vegetable Tetrazzini*, Clementine and Apple Slices, sprinkled with coconut

*This is a great recipe to use frozen leftover turkey, if you happen to have any in your freezer!

Slow Cooker Pork Loin with Apple and Sage,  Quinoa with Almonds, Green Beans

Seared Flounder with a Blood Orange Drizzle, Sauteed Greens, Roasted Potatoes

Rainbow Quinoa, Tortilla Chips, Guacamole 

Have a great weekend!

Life is sweet,

Monday, November 26, 2012

Homemade Pad Thai

I've been working on a good Pad Thai recipe for years.  Trouble is, when I was young, though I don't really remember it, I lived in Thailand so my flavor expectations are high.  My mom cooked in our Thai kitchen and in my opinion, has one heck of a good palate for Asian food, particularly Thai.

So here's the challenge for living up to high Pad Thai expectations:  real, authentic, Thai style Pad Thai is complex, and often uses ingredients such as tamarind paste, palm sugar, garlic chives and sweet radish...not exactly items in the typical pantry or fridge.

But I think I've found a simple flavor combination that mimics much of what I love about Pad Thai:  the salty, yet somewhat sweet, full flavors of noodles, vegetables and herbs in a tangy sauce.

I think this Pad Thai rocks, yet doesn't require anything too hard to find at your local well-stocked grocery store.

Homemade Pad Thai

12 ounces thick rice noodles
boiling water
2 tablespoons fish sauce*
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 pound extra firm tofu, cut into small cubes
1 cup broccoli, cut into very small florets
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 - 15 ounce can baby corn, drained
1 cup bean sprouts
3 green onions, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound shrimp, chicken or any protein you choose (optional)
1 egg (optional)
crushed peanuts (optional)
fresh chopped cilantro

Prepare the noodles:  Place the noodles in a large bowl.  Pour enough boiling water over the noodles to cover them.  Let the noodles sit for about 10 minutes, or until they have softened, but are not yet al dente or cooked as full as you would cook pasta (you need to have them less than fully softened, so they can finish in the stir-fry pan without falling apart).  Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce:  mix the fish sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, lime zest, lime juice and red pepper flakes in a jar with a lid.  Close tightly and shake well.

Next, in a large skillet or stir-fry pan, add the oil and heat to medium high.  Add the tofu and brown, cooking 2-3 minutes and flipping to brown the other sides.  Once cooked, remove from heat.

Add the broccoli, carrots, baby corn, bean sprouts, green onions and garlic to the pan.  Stir-fry for 3-5 minutes, or until the vegetables are slightly tender.  Reduce the heat to medium, if necessary.  Remove from the pan.

**If using another protein, add a touch more oil and cook now in the pan and remove from the pan.  If using the egg, cook now in the pan, but do not remove from the pan.**

Add the tofu, vegetables and noodles to the pan.  Shake the sauce and pour over everything.  Stir-fry for another minute or two or until all the ingredients have been incorporated with the sauce and the items are all heated through.

Top with crushed peanuts and cilantro, if using.

Serves 4.

*If you want to keep this recipe vegan, use additional soy sauce in lieu of the fish sauce.  Fish sauce is very pungent, but tastes deliciously tangy in recipes!

Life is sweet,

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Healthy Meal Plan: Post-Turkey Round-Up

 Hope your Thanksgiving was full of food and fun and lots of friends and family.  Ours was delicious:

And the fact that the weather was sunny and in the 60s didn't hurt either!

Have you used any of the Turkey Leftover Makeover Ideas?  We sure have, but we're also ready for something different this week!  Here are some healthy recipes for your week!

Meatless Monday:  Black Bean and Avocado Tostadas, Diced Mango

Best Barbecue Veggie Burgers
, Sweet Potato Fries, Pear


Slow Cooker Corned Beef, Bread, Apple Slices

Easy Tofu and Veggie Stir-fry, Brown Rice, Kiwi

Homemade Pizza, Mixed Green Salad, Pineapple

Fresh Lemon and Herb Tuna Salad, Naan, Clementines

Enjoy the rest of your Thanksgiving weekend!

Life is sweet,

Monday, November 19, 2012

Top Ten Turkey Leftovers Make-Overs

I was making out a list of things I need to pick up Tuesday as my (hopefully) last run the grocery before Thanksgiving, when I thought "sandwich bread!"  My dad loves a good turkey sandwich and since he and my mom will be staying with us, I'll need to pick up some bread for turkey sandwiches.

Regular turkey leftovers are great, but usually after 1 plate, I'm ready to call it quits.  Here are some other ways to use your leftover turkey in a more novel, make-over sort of way. 

**One important note**:  check out the USDA Guidelines on Leftovers, since no one wants to offer their family turkey leftovers past their prime!

Top Ten Turkey Leftovers Make-Overs:

1.  Enchiladas:  We have several different variations, but these Olive and Turkey (or Chicken) Enchiladas are a family favorite.  Feel free to mix up the recipe with your favorite flavors!

2.  Thai Wraps:  Use turkey in this Thai Peanut Wrap recipe in lieu of tofu, and taste your turkey completely transformed by a delicious Thai peanut sauce.

3.  Peppadew and Feta Pasta:  Turkey tastes great with Italian flavors, which are bold and zesty in this recipe.  Replace 1/2 or all of the sausage with turkey.


4.  Slow Cooker White ChiliOur favorite white chili recipe couldn't be easier to make!  Omit the chicken and add cooked turkey!

5.  Curried Turkey SaladJust like a chicken salad recipe, but with turkey...and the rich, bold and vibrant flavors of curry.  

6.  Quiche:  Yes everyone, even real men, will eat *this* quiche.  It is delicious with ham, but try it with your turkey leftovers for a new twist!


7.  Taqueria TacosCook your turkey leftovers in the same marinade that is used in this Carnitas recipe, and serve with corn tortillas and toppings.  

8.  Unique Paninis:  Sure, a panini is still a sandwich, but to me it is a sandwich elevated, not just a typical turkey leftovers type of sandwich.  


9.  Slow Cooker Lightened Gumbo:  Add turkey to this recipe and start feeling Cajun! 

10.  Barbecue Turkey Pizza:  Why don't I have a picture for this dish on my blog?  This is the boys' favorite way to use leftover chicken or turkey.  Use barbecue sauce instead of pizza sauce, and then layer with shredded turkey, a little corn, bell peppers and red onion.  Top with cheese and once cooked, sprinkle with cilantro.  Yum.

Any of these recipes will transport your turkey leftovers way beyond just regular ole' turkey and stuffing leftovers.  Now my only question is:  which one will you choose first?

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Life is sweet,

Friday, November 16, 2012

Healthy Meal Plan Friday: A Poultry-Free Zone

With next week bringing:


eating...a lot...

the beginning of the holiday season...

hopefully lots of fun and...

family and friends.

I keep it easy with the meals leading up to the big Turkey Day.

Think: frozen leftovers, pantry dives (ie, pasta and jarred sauce) and easy peasy lemon squeeze-y meals.

Need a few ideas?  Here's what I am serving other than Thanksgiving supper and leftovers for next week's Healthy Meal Plan:

Meatless Monday:  Grilled Tofu and Spinach Sesame Salad, Grilled Pita, Pear Slices

Zucchini Alfredo, Whole Wheat Bread, Fresh Pineapple


Baked Penne, Make it your Own
, Steamed Green Beans, Applesauce 


Have a sweet weekend,

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Brazilian Garlicky Collard Greens (Couve a Miniera)

SPH grew up eating collards, especially on Thanksgiving and other holidays.  I never tasted a collard green until I was in my 20s.  It's been a journey for me to come to love collard greens, but when SPH made this recipe for me, I thought to myself, "where have you been all my life?"

Turns out, Brazil.

Collards are traditionally cooked low and slow, with some sort of pork.  SPH brought this recipe back from a recent business trip to Brazil.  Unlike any collard I'd ever eaten, they are ridiculously simple (about 10 minutes from start to finish) to prepare and super healthful...and vegan.

Even sweet R loves these collards, so perhaps they'll score a home run in your home!  Why not mix things up and try these for Thanksgiving next week?

Brazilian Garlicky Collard Greens (Couve a Miniera)

2 pounds collards (about 2 large bunches)
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 teaspoons salt
ground pepper to taste, additional salt to taste

Remove the stems of the collards, rinse well.  Roll the leaves and slice into thins strips.  Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet to medium.  Add the garlic.  Cook for 1 minute.  Be careful that the garlic does not burn, as it will turn bitter.

Add the collards.

You may have to let the collards cook down a bit before you can fit them all in the pan, but they will wilt quickly, allowing you to add the rest.  Add the 1-2 teaspoons salt and cook for 4-5 minutes.

Remove from heat and add pepper and salt to taste.

Serves 6-8 as a side.

Life is sweet,

Monday, November 12, 2012

Baked Sweet Potato Chips (A Thanksgiving Twist)

Holy cow, Thanksgiving is next week!

If you're looking for a couple ways to add a fun twist to your Thanksgiving dinner, I have two recipes this week using traditional Thanksgiving foods but in a new way.  Then, early next week, a unique way to use Thanksgiving leftovers.

Let's start with the humble sweet potato.  We heart sweet potatoes in our home, especially since they are full of rich vitamins, minerals and other good stuff.  If you're looking for a fun new way to serve them, try my super-easy Baked Sweet Potato Chips!

All you need is a vegetable peeler to make the chip slices, but if you have a mandolin, that would make quick work of the slicing.  Either way, the whole Sweet Pea family gobbled these up!

Baked Sweet Potato Chips

2 long, thin sweet potatoes*
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place a baking sheet in the oven while it is preheating.

Using a vegetable peeler (*I suggest long, thin sweet potatoes because then the peeler can easily slice the entire cross-section of the sweet potato.  If using a mandolin, use any size or shape your little heart desires!), begin "peeling" one end of the sweet potato and keep going until both sweet potatoes are cut into thin slices.

 Add the remaining ingredients and stir well.

Place the slices on the preheated cookie sheet and spread out as much as possible.  (Note:  placing the slices on a hot tray will allow the sweet potato to crisp up much more nicely.  Spreading out the slices as best you can will allow the water that is released from the sweet potatoes while cooking to "escape" rather than making the sweet potatoes mushy).

Bake 10 minutes.

Using a spatula, flip the chips quickly and return to the oven.

Bake another 8-10 minutes or until browned.  Sprinkle with a pinch more salt, if desired. 

Let cool a bit and serve. 

Oh my.  These were so tasty and pretty guilt-less too!

Serves 4.

We served these with dinner, but they'd make a pretty awesome snack too!!

Life is sweet,

Friday, November 9, 2012

Healthy Meal Plan: Ready for the Weekend!

It's been one heck of a week here for a variety of reasons.  My brain is on over-load, our schedule has been a bit hectic and well, the weekend is sounding really, really good right about now.

I am going to take a breather before I think about next week, but when I do, I have my Healthy Weekly Meal Plan to guide my grocery store run: 

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili, Cornbread, Plums

Lemon Pepper Flounder, Garlicky Green Beans, Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Blackberries

Pug in the Kitchen's Apple Cider Meatballs, Autumnal Orzo and Apple Slices

Photo from

Hard Shell Tacos with all the Toppings, Refried Beans, Fresh Pinapple

Balsamic Glazed Herb Chicken, Steamed Broccoli, Wild Rice, Clementines

Slow Cooker Lentil Soup, Bread, Applesauce

Have you tried this soup yet?  It's one of my very easiest to prepare slow cooker recipes!

Enjoy your weekend!  I know I will...

Life is sweet (even when it is hectic),


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Kids and Elections

Today's a busy day, full of things scheduled on my calendar and a special house guest arriving this afternoon.  But the biggest thing on my calendar today says,


No matter what your day brings, if you haven't already, please make sure you take time today to do what many across the world are begging to do, and vote. 

Feeling fed up, discouraged, or otherwise down on the whole election process?  Here's an election piece I recently did for  Hope it helps bring things into an uplifting perspective!


Living in the perennial "battleground state" of Ohio, our family finds it nearly impossible to escape the upcoming presidential election. So it wasn't a surprise when my third-grade son came home from school and declared, "I was talking with some friends, and I've decided you should support the other candidate." He then proceeded to spout lines from the most frequently aired campaign commercials. Instead of immediately engaging my son in a point-by-point discussion of different policy issues, I took a broader perspective: his interest was a good launching point for a civics lesson. 

The election process, especially in modern history, can make even the most devoted citizen feel a bit jaded or discouraged. But when you consider the election cycle as a learning opportunity for your family, it takes on a new purpose. Through presenting the election process as a fundamental exercise in freedom and democracy, you are building the foundation for a lifetime of civic participation and awareness for your child. This election year, try these easy ways to engage and interest your child in government and civics.

Discuss the upcoming election and why we vote. While voting may seem like a fairly common exercise we (hopefully) do every election, to a child the idea of each adult having a say in our leadership is inspiring. Darby Kennedy, former government teacher and homeschooling mom to two, maintains, "I think it is important to help children understand that not everyone around the world has the same rights that we do." Although your preschooler might not be ready for a discussion of the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship, young elementary-aged children can grasp the contrast.

Focus on a local issue or a specific contest. To make an election more meaningful, choose something that interests your child. Kennedy contends, "Parents should talk to their kids about local political issues that might affect them—maybe an environmental issue or something about education. Children want to know that they can have an impact on something, and they need to see that voting (as an adult) is one way to make an impact."

If there is no pertinent local issue on your ballot, you can explain why you are choosing to support a particular local, state or federal candidate, and focus on what makes you favor that candidate, using simple, age-appropriate terms such as "We support this candidate because we agree with her position on ___________."

Explain that reasonable people can disagree on issues and candidates. Wittenberg University political science professor Ed Hasecke, father of three school-age children, shares, "We [take] the approach of explaining what we believe and acknowledging that others have different views." Hasecke continues, "I think it is important to make sure that parents model that people can disagree about things like politics without hating those with different views. Showing that honest disagreement is a part of life ... is an important civic lesson that is essential for a healthy democracy."

Vote! When Election Day arrives (or prior to Election Day, if you have an absentee ballot), involve your children in the voting process. Hasecke says, "We have always taken the kids to vote with us." Kennedy agrees. "I think that parents have to show kids that voting is one of those things you 'just do.'"
Don't underestimate the power of your child being with you when you press buttons or pull a lever to vote. And of course, be sure to pick up an "I Voted!" sticker (if available) for you and your child on the way out of the polls.

Share the election results. Let your child know the election results the following day, using words of grace if the other candidate wins or the issue you supported fails to pass. In fact, if your vote falls on the losing side, it is an opportunity to show how democracy continues, even if your favorite candidate did not prevail. Explain to your child that the newly elected official still represents the entire population and that you can maintain your freedom of expression through writing letters and communicating your views.

While the ultimate goal of the election is choosing leaders and deciding issues, as a parent you can also view it as a great series of "teachable moments," leading your child toward civic participation.

As for my eight-year-old son, I am encouraged by his interest in this election, which he must be considering again, since he just told me he has changed his position on the presidential candidates again! I hope it is a sign of his future as an avid civic participant. For now, I revel in guiding him and his younger brother through this election process and viewing it all from a child's perspective.


Life is sweet...and so is freedom and democracy!


Monday, November 5, 2012

Eggs + Tea = A very good toothbrushing lesson!

R and G aren't always the most, uh-hum, thorough, teeth brushers.  So I used this experiment from G's former preschool to help demonstrate how to brush a little better.

Do you need a "case in point" as to why kids need to brush their teeth well?  Especially while the Halloween Candy eating is at its peak?

All you need is a hard-boiled egg for each child and a black tea bag or two.

First, brew some strong black tea:

Once the tea is steeped, add an egg or two:

Let the eggs soak for at least 30 minutes or even a few hours:

 Using old toothbrushes and some real toothpaste, let them start brushing:

They'll soon discover than a quick, cursory brush won't fully clean the egg:

 That they have to brush well to remove the brown color:

Let them observe how much "gunk" brushing removes from their egg:

And hopefully they'll put two and two together and brush well to clean their teeth!

Life is sweet,

Friday, November 2, 2012

Healthy Meal Plan: Candy Hang-over Cures

Yesterday morning R came down for breakfast saying, "I don't feel very well, I don't have any energy..."

Hmm?  Could it have been the late night with friends?  Or was it the amount of candy he had eaten, along with very little dinner? Whatever the reason, after some Baked Oatmeal and Kiwi for breakfast, he was up and at 'em and never looking back.

But the whole scenario reminded me how much nutrition plays a role in how we feel!  What you eat matters!

Eat well = feel well.

How about a week's worth of  "eat well" meals?

Here's next week's Healthy Meal Plan:

Meatless Monday:  Vegetarian Moussaka Pasta, Clementines

Olive Bar Fish, Grits, Sauteed Kale, Pear Slices

Baked Couscous , Steamed Broccoli, Applesauce 

Lightened Gumbo, Brown Rice, Blackberries

 Paninis, Two Ways, Spinach Salad, (frozen) Peaches with Cinnamon

Indian Roast Chicken,
Green Beans, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Mango

Have a sweet weekend!