Friday, December 5, 2014

Immunity Boosting

Cold and Flu Season.  It has to be the 'least wonderful' time of the year!  It is an annoyance and can be down right nasty.




There is a lot of debate surrounding the flu vaccine.  Should you or should you not get a flu shot?  Each decision is a personal one. Neither decision is right or wrong, each person must do what's right for them and their family.  Personally, my family and I choose not to get the flu shot.  Have we ever had the flu?  Yes.  Does this change our minds about our decision?  No.  It's just not what's right for our family.  Instead we nourish ourselves with nutritious food, lots of water and comforts such as rest when needed and exercise when ready.



 Here are just a few tips on ways you can boost your immune system daily and especially during the cold and flu season.




* Drinking lots of water.  Our bodies are made primarily of water.  When we are sick it is very easy for us to become dehydrated; depleting ourselves of proper hydration.  Electrolyte drinks are loaded with sugar; as well as some electrolytes our bodies lose during illness.  Your best defense is drinking fresh water.  I also enjoy hot water with lemon daily before drinking anything else when I wake up.
This tea is wonderful for a cold.


*Herbal tea


*Eating whole foods such as fruits and veggies.
*Exercise.  You may not be up for a long run or strenuous workout.  A walk in the fresh air and sunshine can help.  Listen to your body.


*Antioxidant rich smoothies.  Smoothies are very popular in our house; especially green ones!
This one is full of red berries, cherries, spinach and chia seeds to keep you healthy before illness and helps you recover after.


1 cup mixed frozen fruit: blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and cherries
1/2 cup plain, non-fat greek yogurt
2 large handfuls of spinach
1-2 tablespoons of Very Green  powder
tablespoon chia seeds
water - enough to keep the blender moving.
Blend



Thursday, October 16, 2014

Candy as rewards?

Recently I've experienced candy and other unhealthy foods are being given to students as rewards for good behavior and class work.  Am I the only one who sees what's wrong with this?

In an attempt to keep a positive environment in the classroom, educators are contributing to an epidemic. 

In 2012, the percentage of children aged 6-11 years old in the US who are obese is nearly 18%. This is an increase from 7% in 1980. Pediatricians report that children as young as 6 are being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. 

  • Four out of five children are not eating the minimum recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables. Instead, they are consuming foods of low nutrient density such as candy, cookies, chips and doughnuts.
  • Children spend an average of 4 hours a day watching TV or other electronics. 
  • Less than half of children are physically active for an hour everyday. 
  • Approximately 11% of children 4-17 years of age (6.4 million) have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011.
Research shows candy “rewards” become more desirable to children than if they had not been used as rewards in the first place. We were all born with a natural preference to sweet tastes.  These preferences should be sated with natural fruits and veggies. 

Offering an unhealthy food to a child for doing a 'good' job sends mixed messages. How can you back up teaching wellness if you're promoting unhealthy eating? 

I applaud the parents who take responsibility for their children's health and promote heathy eating habits and lifestyle.  I also applaud educators who have a 'zero candy policy' in their schools.  That's a true investment into their students future!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Be Mindful

Mindfulness is "the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one's attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment"

As the school year begins, I'm aware of the need to be mindful.

Mindful of rest.
Mindful of play. 
Mindful of nutrition.

The academic demands of our children are many; and increasing each year.  The length of time asked of them to sit (still) and focus on lessons are long.  Recess time is short and lunch is not always nutrient rich. 

We can do better than this. We must do better for our children.  

Children should play as children do.  Run, jump, roll, climb; for long periods of time. Inhaling the fresh air. Feeling the warm sun or cold wind on their face.  Be Mindful.

What we put into our children's bodies is just as important as the lessons they learn in class. How do we expect a child to be still and focus when they've started their day eating a bowl of sugary cereal or pastry?  How do we expect them to continue to learn in the afternoon after a carbohydrate loaded lunch will little protein, vegetables or fruit? Be Mindful.

Knowing when our children need rest is important. An overloaded schedule can burn out children. Don't get me wrong; I support extra activities. Be it sports, dance or art classes all are important. So is rest. Be Mindful.

I will strive to Be Mindful everyday, because my children deserve it. 




Thursday, May 22, 2014

Snack recipes

I've been asked to share my recipes I've made with many of you.  I am always flattered by the love many of you show me and requests I receive for my recipes.  Makes me think.... Healthy Appetites Menu Plan??  Hmmm...... an idea that has been going around this noggin of mine.  Keep posted.

Carob Chip Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter ( I use Earth's Balance to keep mine dairy free)
3/4 cup rice milk (feel free to use buttermilk or cows milk)
3/4 carob chips
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Coat a 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray of line with paper baking cups.
2. In a large mixing bowl beat the brown sugar and butter until creamy.  Stir in the milk, carob chips, egg and vanilla.
3.Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, and stir until just combined; do not over mix.  There should be lumps in the batter.
5. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Bake until the tops of the muffins are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean,  about 20-25 minutes.  Turn on to a rack to cool.
6.Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days, or wrap individually and freeze up to one month.



Apple Cinnamon Muffins

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup rice milk (feel free to use cow's milk)
1/2 cup sugar or honey
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup canola oil
2 cups peeled and chopped apples ( I used gala)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a muffin tin with paper baking cups
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon
3.In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, sugar (or honey), eggs, vanilla and oil
4.Stir in the dry ingredients into the wet and mix until just combined.
5.Fold in the apples
6.Pour the batter into the prepared muffin cups and bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
7.Transfer to a rack to cool.



Blueberry Oat Muffins

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups old fashioned oats (not quick or steele cut)
2tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup rice milk (feel free to use cow's milk)
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup canola oil
1 cup fresh or frozen (not thawed) blueberries

1.Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a muffin with paper baking cups
2.In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder, salt and sugar
3.In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, vanilla and oil.
4.Stir the dry ingredients into the wet and mix until just combined.
5. Gently fold in the blueberries.
6.Pour the batter into the cups and bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
7. Transfer to cooking rack.


I hope you enjoy baking these as much as I have and that you and your family enjoy eating them!

Alyssa

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Healthy Snacks for Healthy Kids Part 2

Last Friday afternoon, the school nurse handed me my plastic bags, once containing my healthy snacks, now empty. "The kids loved these! I let them choose what they wanted and they went so fast!" What happened next was me grinning, jumping up and down, clapping like a giddy school girl. A sight I am sure!

You see, I was nervous as to the response my healthy snacks would have with the kids. Would they like them? Would their taste buds be accepting to these healthy ingredients? To my surprise they were a yummy success!

To top it off, the nurse shared with me this story. A student came into her office carrying a store bought cupcake, topped with a large mound of frosting and sprinkled with candy. He asked her; "Could I please trade this in for a healthy snack? My mom sent me to school with this and I don't want it!" Yes another round of jumping and clapping from me followed. This is it! THIS is why I do this! To teach kids about good, real food and to ask for it! We MUST continue this project. I quickly replied with; "I'll be in on Monday with more snacks!"

Back to my kitchen I went. Over the weekend I made 3 varieties of muffins; Apple Cinnamon, Blueberry Oat and Carob Whole Wheat. Muffins are a great snack that freeze well and a quick, healthy snack to have on hand.




It only takes on act of kindness to effect the lives of many. This is why I do what I do.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Healthy Snacks for Healthy Kids




Many children start their day without much, if anything at all, to eat before heading off to school.  Schools offer breakfast to students but much of this is sugar laden cereals, muffins or other unhealthy options.  To add to the already nutrtient lacking morning, some families are not sending (or are not able to send) their child with a snack to eat.

Educational standards are set extremely high for children.  Some children can not think past their growling stomachs, never mind focus on the demands of their teachers and peers.  However, if you feed a brain with junk but expect excellence, you are going to receive the opposite result.

The school nurse at our local school tries her best to provide a snack for students who need it.  This is done voluntarily and with her own money.  Unfortunately, snacks such as crackers and pretzels are not ones that will fill little bellies with foods that will power their brains, keep their blood sugars at an optimum level and supply the nutrients that their bodies so desperately need.  




I've decided to make and bake snacks such as trail mix, granola and healthy muffins to be given to children who do not have a snack to eat.  These snacks will be full of protein, grains, fruits and/or veggies while being mindful of food allergies and sensitivities. These snacks will not contain any additives or preservatives, just real food!  Each snack will be packaged and labeled.




It's a small step toward what I believe to be a necessity. If healthy foods are not provided to them now, how do we expect them to excel later? Or, more likely, even function? All children deserve a healthy meal. At least a healthy snack to help. It has been my pleasure to provide this benefit to those who need it. 

Thank you for listening!

Alyssa

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Apple Crumb Muffins

I recently came across a recipe for Apple Muffins. Delicious, tart Granny Smith apples, cinnamon, and a pumpkin seed topping are just a few favorite ingredients. I knew I wanted to make these for my kids but also new I had to modify it to suit our dietary needs. 

This is what I love about cooking. Seeing a recipe and changing it to make it my own! Whether it's sweet or savory you can personalize any recipe. Adding a bit of this, a touch of that or changing and/or eliminating an ingredient, the possibilities are endless!

As in the case with these heavenly muffins. Instead of buttermilk I used rice milk. I substituted butter for vegan butter. And wheat flour for gluten free all purpose flour. I also added the local honey for a bit of natural sweetness. The muffins are delicious and were a big hit with the kids at snack time!

Apple Crumb Muffins
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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups gluten free flour ( I used Bob's Red Mills)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup rice milk ( I used Trader Joe's brand)
  • 1/4 cup local honey
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup vegan butter, melted (I used Earth's Balance)
  • 2 large granny smith apples, peeled and chopped into 1/4 inch cubes, about 2 cups
  • crumble topping:
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegan butter, chilled and chopped
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds

Preparation

  1. 1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. 2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and brown sugar.
  3. 3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the rice milk,egg,honey vanilla, and melted butter.
  4. 4. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
  5. 5. Fold in the apples.
  6. 6. In a food processor, combine the oats, brown sugar, chilled butter, and pumpkin seeds. Pulse to combine and chop the pumpkin seeds.
  7. 7. Pour batter into greased mini-muffin cups, top each with 1 teaspoon of the pumpkin seed mixture, and bake 15 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.





My daughter said these muffins are like eating apple pie! She loved the texture of the muffin; gooey with big chunks of apple and the crunchy topping was perfect. 

So next time you come upon a recipe you find enticing but doesn't quite "fit", change it! Throw your inhibitions out the window. Pour a glass of wine if you have to and just go for it! There's nothing stopping you. There is no food police. 

Just keep in mind baking is like math so make sure you follow the measurements.  Cooking on the other hand, go wild! Be creative! You can do it!

Happy Creating!
Alyssa

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Silky Tomato Soup

My daughter LOVES tomato soup.  It's rich, velvety texture is hard to resist.  However, many store bought brands, boxes or cans contain dairy - milk or cream based. Often she is disappointed not being able to have it due to her dairy allergy. 

I was so excited when I found this recipe from Weelicious Lunches.  Not a touch of dairy and the soup is silky just like it's name!


Silky Tomato Soup by Weelicious Lunches
makes 4 cups
2 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
2 large tomatos, diced (about 2 cups)
2 cup vegetable or chicken stock (I used organic, gluten free vegetable broth)
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1tsp paprika
1 tsp salt

1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add the onions and sauté for 2 minutes, or until translucent.  Add the carrots and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes more.
2. Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and stir to combine
3. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes
4. Carefully move the soup to a blender and blend until smooth.  You can also use an immersion blender to blend the soup in the pot (this is what I did)

NOTE: If you don't have fresh tomatoes, you can use 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes and decrease the stock to 1 cup.

 
I think this soup will taste fabulous made with fresh tomatoes from the garden!
I know what you're thinking, "Soup in summer?"  I didn't think I'd be making hot soup for a frigid end of March day either!
 
 
This soup was so quick to make! Having the ingredients as staples in your pantry makes it easy!
 
Rich, velvety, beautiful and so good for you!
This would go excellent with a grilled cheese too!
Even a vegan grilled cheese! ;)
 
 
 
 
I plan on packing Sophia this soup in a thermos for school lunches.  It would also be great for a quick weekend lunch, dinner or even snack!
I hope you and your family enjoys this as much as we do.
 
 
 
Alyssa :)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Zucchini Bread

I'm a believer that positive thoughts bring positive results.  Whatever you say, feel or think and put out into the universe comes back to be true.  Well here it goes....I am positively over winter! I'm ready for warm sunshine and green grass.  Birds singing and the smell of spring in the breeze!  Come one Mother Nature I'm yelling Uncle!

With that said, I decided to bake a Zucchini bread with some left over zucchini I had in the fridge.  This squash reminds me of warmer times.  It's dark green skin, so beautiful.   Ugh, I think I'm going loopy.  Or maybe my brain has froze.  Along with my appendages....  If my husband hears me say "I'm cold" one more time, it may be the end!

1 1/2 cups of Gluten Free flour.( Again I used this blend. I really do like this.  Bob's Red Mills is a great brand to use as well.)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 tbsp. honey
1 cup shredded, unpeeled zucchini
1/4 cup canola oil
1 egg ( I use, omega enriched organic)
2 tbsp. Flaxseed ( this is a wonderful source of omega 3 as well)

Grease the bottom and sides of a loaf pan, set aside.  In a medium bowl combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and flaxseed.  Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the syrup, zucchini, cooking oil and egg.  Add the dry mixture to the wet and stir until just combined. 

Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan and bake in a 350 degree oven for 50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan and let cool completely on the wire rack.

Enjoy!




 
 
 
Although the bread didn't rise like wheat quick breads, it was still incredibly moist!

 
Packed and ready for the kids snack tomorrow!  I know I'll enjoy mine with a hot cup of coffee!
 
 
I know that Spring will soon be here.  I has to come!  Until then I will continue to be positive and think happy thoughts! :)
 
 
 
Alyssa

Monday, March 3, 2014

Corporate America Vs. Food

I recently read this article about Trader Joe's and "What are they hiding?"  I encourage you to read this before reading my take on it.  (I'll wait.....)




 
 
So to recap the article, it basically talks of how Trader Joe's claims to be a 'healthier' choice for food shopping compared to other stores.  However some of their processed foods contain non-GMO ingredients and they do not monitor the GMO content of their foods on a regular basis.  (GMO stands for genetically modified organisms. In other words "genetically manipulated, altered or engineered". Cloning anyone?!?)
 
After reading this I felt really annoyed.  Not so much about Trader Joe's but for the misconception that many people have regarding food and where they get it.  The idea that if the store, label or manufacturer claim their food is "healthy", "natural", or "good for you" it MUST be.
The act of leaving the education and knowledge to the companies and not doing the work ourselves.
 
Don't get me wrong, I think it stinks that Corporate America is driven by the dollar and not by health.  But really, this what it comes down to.  Money over health. 
 
 
 
 
 Whether it's TJ's or Whole Foods. Even manufacturers who claim they are healthy or all natural have 'sold themselves out' to Corporate America.  Companies such as Kashi, Barbara's and Morningstar Farms. They are all motivated by the mighty dollar.
  WE, the common people, are in charge of our own health.
 
And did any of you pick up on the fact that the article was primarily talking about processed foods?  What has happened to simple food?  Whole food? (and I don't mean the retailer).  Whole food by definition :
  • whole food
  • [ hṓl foòd ]
  1. unprocessed food: food that has undergone very little processing and has been grown or produced without the use of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers
Whole food doesn't come in a box or plastic package.  Really, it has it's own packaging such as a peel.  This may lead you to question the non-GMO growth of fruits and veggies.  True!  Again, we need to take control and educate ourselves.  How do we do this?  Here are a few of my suggestions:


1. Here's the list of the "Dirty Dozen".  Fruits and veggies that contain the highest level of pesticides.  When buying these foods, buy organic!

  • celery
  • peaches
  • strawberries
  • apples
  • domestic blueberries
  • nectarines
  • sweet bell peppers
  • spinach, kale and collard greens
  • cherries
  • potatoes
  • imported grapes
  • lettuce
2. Here's the list of the "Clean 15".  These foods have little to no traces of pesticides and are ok to purchase non organic.
  • avocados
  • sweet corn
  • pineapples
  • mango
  • sweet peas
  • asparagus
  • kiwi fruit
  • cabbage
  • eggplant
  • cantaloupe
  • watermelon
  • grapefruit
  • sweet potatoes
  • sweet onions.

  • READ LABLES!  Avoid food additives, as much as possible, such as: partially hydrogenated oils, aspartame, MSG (monosodium glutamate), hydrolyzed vegetable protein, BHA (butylated hydroxytoluene), Acesulfame potassium, BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), potassium bromate, sodium nitrate and nitrite, propyl gallate, sodium benzoate, artificial colors.
    (MSG is most commonly found in jarred spaghetti sauce, soy sauce, canned soups and teriyaki sauce, just to name a few. and Sodium nitrates/nitrites are found it curred meats such as bacon.  Purchase meats that are free of these.  It will contain natural nitrates/nitrites from celery root.)

    Holy moly that's quite the list isn't it.  Basically if you can't pronounce it, don't eat it!

    SHOP THE PERIMETER OF FOOD STORES. This is the produce, dairy, deli and seafood sections.  When you have to shop the middle, make sure you READ THE LABLES! ;)

    GROW YOUR OWN FOOD if you are able to.  You don't need a lot of space to grow some of your favorites, many can be grown in containers on a patio or deck!  However, if you feel the task is too daunting, consider supporting a CSA (community supported agriculture) or shop your local farmers market.


    I personally like shopping at TJ's! But I'm not naïve. You can buy or eat healthy anywhere.  You just need to be in charge of what you're eating and buying.  To do this is to educate yourself and never, ever settle mediocrity.  You're health and family deserve it!
     
     
    


    Alyssa

    Tuesday, February 25, 2014

    Bee Update

    It has been quiet concerning the bees since the last Bee incident.  Remember that one?  We sure do! The obstacles a newbie beekeeper can come up against....

    After merging the hives into one it has been a bit of a nerve racking winter of wondering if the hive would survive. Dan worked really hard through out the summer feeding them in preparation for the bees to make enough honey to get them through the winter.  Not to mention this winter has been cold!  Brutally cold at times.



    That's A LOT of snow!


    Then this past weekend the temperatures warmed up, and it was safe to open the hive to check on them.  And we were happy with our findings!  The hive is alive and well!  Of course some bees die off during the winter but the majority are still huddling together in their hive that is a warm, on average, 55 degrees even during the coldest of days and nights.  *As it gets colder, the worker bees actively generate heat within the hive. First, they feed on honey for energy. Then, the honey bees shiver. They vibrate their flight muscles but keep their wings still, raising their body temperatures. With thousands of bees shivering constantly, the temperature at the center of the cluster will warm up considerably, to about 93° F! When the workers on the outer edge of the cluster get cold, they push to the center of the group, and other bees take a turn shielding the group from the winter weather.
    


    
     
    There are two bees at the top of the hive.
     
     

    I tried to get a shot of the grouping of bees deep near their cache of honey in the hive but the photo doesn't show this.





    These bees simply amaze me! Honey bees remain active all winter long, despite the freezing temperatures and lack of flowers on which to forage. The honey bee colony's ability to survive the winter depends on their food stores. Keeping warm takes energy in the form of honey. If the colony runs short of honey, it will freeze to death before spring. Dan's estimation of honey stored was approximately 40 lbs.

    Soon Dan will start feeding the bees fondant, a sugar paste, until the spring flowers and other means of forage bloom.



    We are very happy with how things are going right now. We are looking forward to an active bee season starting this spring!





     Alyssa



    *All Bee info was taken from my husband, Dan and from Bee info sources such as About.com












    


    Thursday, February 20, 2014

    Tip of the Week - Happiness

     
     
     
     
    It becomes easy to forget to make time for ourselves.  We are so often busy taking care of others; children, family, friends.
     
    And then we stumble upon motivation like this that reminds us to make the time for ourselves.  To do what makes us smile.  Makes our hearts fuller.  Makes our bodies sing.  Makes us feel alive.
     
    So we must always find the time.
     
    May you do something to make you feel Happy To Be Alive today!
     
    Alyssa

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

    Amazing Chili!

    Last night I made an amazing Chili that I just had to share with you!  Seriously, it is probably the best chili I've ever made and will now be my go to Chili recipe.  I made ours vegetarian but feel free to use organic beef or chicken if you prefer. 

    1 tbsp. canola oil
    1 onion, chopped
    1 garlic clove, minced
    16 oz vegetarian crumble (soy protein) such as Lightlife Smart Ground, original OR 1 pound Organic ground beef or boneless chicken breast, chopped
    1 15 oz can kidney beans, drained
    1 15 oz can pinto beans, drained
    1 15 oz can garbanzo beans, drained
    1 tbsp. chili powder
    1 tbsp. sea salt
    1 tsp ground cumin
    20 oz tomato sauce
    1 tbsp. molasses
    2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

    Sauté onions and garlic in the oil on medium heat.  Add the protein of choice and sauté until cooked or heated through.  Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for two hours.  Enjoy!

    My son, our pickier eater, LOVED this!  He ate and entire bowl. :)  Ahhhh.....proud mommy moment.

    I served this with some Gluten Free drop biscuits I had made earlier in the week and put in the freezer.  It would also go great with corn bread.

    This winter has been brutal but Chili always warms up the home and your belly!

    PS.  I apologize for no picture but we ate up the pot so fast I forgot to take a snapshot!  Next batch I promise!

    Alyssa

    Monday, February 17, 2014

    Carrot Cake Cookies - Gluten and Dairy Free.

    Lately I've been craving Carrot Cake.  Dreaming about it actually.  Maybe it's because I'm done with winter and ready for spring.  Carrot cake makes me think of spring time and Easter holiday.  It's absolutely delicious.  What's not to love? Carrots, walnuts, raisins combined with sugar and spices....a cream cheese frosting.  Ahhh....

    However, in my family, we're not really sweets people.  Don't get me wrong we like sweets but in moderation.  Without fail every birthday or other reason for a cake to be baked four pieces will be cut and more than half of a cake will be left over.  So to bake a cake for a simple craving seems to be a bit over kill.

    So I came up with a Carrot Cake in the form of a cookie.  Keeping it Gluten and Dairy Free makes it allergy friendly for my family's needs.  It's also nutritious; filled with vitamin rich carrots, omega 3 walnuts, and oats.  These are a snack I feel good about packing in the kids lunch box for a tasty after lunch treat.

     
    Gluten and Dairy Free Carrot Cake Cookies
    Makes 3 dozen
     
    1 1/2 cups of Gluten Free all purpose flour (Bob Mills is a great brand.  I make this blend)
    1/2 cup Gluten Free old fashioned rolled oats. (not instant or quick)
    1 tsp ground cinnamon
    1 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/2 cup (1 stick) vegan butter, softened.  (I use Earth Balance)
    3/4 cup packed brown sugar
    1 large egg - omega 3 enriched, cage free
    1 tsp pure vanilla extract
    1 cup finely shredded carrots (2 large carrots)\
    1/2 cup chopped walnuts
     
    Preheat oven 350 degrees
    *combine the flour, oats, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl
    *beat the butter and sugar in a stand mixer or hand mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes
    *add the egg and vanilla and beat for another 1 minute or until smooth
    *add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until combined
    *mix in the carrots and walnuts into the batter
    *drop the cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet and flatten a bit with the back of a spoon.
    *bake for 12 minutes or until golden
    *cool on a rack and serve
     
    Be creative and add:
    Raisins
    Currents
    Unsweetened coconut
    if you so desire!
     

     
     
     
     
     




    So until Old Man Winter has had had his fill, think spring and bake something yummy!

    Thursday, February 13, 2014

    Tip of the Week! - Giving your brain an oil change

    I thought it would be a good idea to bring back Tip of the Week!  Each week I will provide a food or health-based tip that I have found either useful, interesting or fun. As always, please read my disclaimer located in the top right-hand section of my blog. Thank you!

    I would really enjoy to read any tip that you may have so feel free to leave one in the comment section!


    Our brains are 60% fat.  Therefore it needs healthy fat.   Healthy fats are essential fats such as Omega 3.  The best source of Omega 3s are Fish Oil supplements, seafood and fish oil. Nuts, olive oil, flaxseed oil and ground flaxseed are other good sources.

    Many children are deficient in Omega 3 oils due to, most often, food preferences and exposure to unhealthy foods.  Luckily the imbalance is easy to correct by feeding your child/ren seafood, fresh 'pure' food and fewer prepackaged foods.

    A few signs that your child may need an "oil change":
    > Poor school performance
    >misbehavior
    >mood swings
    >skin: dry, flaky, scaly
    >allergies: asthma, hay fever
    **

    Give your family an oil change by eating pure foods filled with Omega 3.  It's easier than you think!

    **Information read from The NDD Book by William Sears, MD



    Wednesday, February 12, 2014

    The creation of Healthy Appetites

    I've been doing a lot of reading lately about nutrition and it's effects on children's learning, behavior and health.  It brought me back to why I created Healthy Appetites in the first place.

    When my daughter was in Kindergarten, I volunteered in the classroom quite frequently.  Spending a lot of time there, I noticed the types of snacks that children were being sent to school with.  I was deeply saddened by what I saw.  Candy, drinks loaded with sugar, chips, cookies.  So little fruit, veggies, proteins or even water.  I wondered...Why?  Why would a parent send their child off on their day with food that does so little for them?  I've come to understand that we all are doing the best we can with the knowledge that we have.  We all believe we are doing the right thing.  It's as basic as that.

    This understanding had lead me to believe that if we started with educating the children than maybe we could make a change to healthier eating.  If we educate the children on how to eat healthy, how to cook healthy, what healthy really means; maybe in turn the children will educate the adults in their lives.  I honestly believe that we only know what we know.  We will never know all we can or even need to; but we must continue to educate ourselves.

    And so Healthy Appetites began.  I'm not a health expert.  I'm not a nutritionist or dietitian.  I am a mom who, like any mom, loves her children.  Who wants the very best for them. I want to fill their bodies with all the nutritious food they need to become strong and healthy. I love to cook and want to share that passion with my children in hopes that someday they will love to cook too.

    Thank you for taking time to read my blog, to make the recipes I share so you can share them with your family.  I'm very grateful to you.  May we all continue to strive to do better.  To make a difference.  To keep learning and sharing.

    Thank you!

    Alyssa

    Tuesday, February 11, 2014

    Lemon Rainbow Chicken

    Recently I've been trying a couple new recipes with the family.  Trying to "mix things up".  I for one get bored with the same old thing.  I don't like feeling stuck in a rut about meal time...though I do feel that way sometimes.

    This recipe I made last night was a success and I'd like to share it with you.

    Lemon Rainbow Chicken is a one-pot meal that is jam packed with nutrition.  A rainbow of your family's veggies, quinoa and chicken.  It can also be custom-fitted to your family's nutritional needs such as vegan, gluten- or dairy-free. 

    Besides it being extremely good for you, I love the fact it's a one-pot meal.  This helps during those busy week nights when getting a healthy meal on the table can be a challenge.  Less fuss, clutter and my husband appreciates the less dishes to wash!

     
    Ingredients
     
    2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
    1 onion, chopped
    3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed
    2 cups dry quinoa
    4 cups organic vegetable broth or free range organic chicken broth
    3 chicken breasts or tofu cut into 1" pieces
    1/2 cup lemon juice (juice of 3 lemons)
    sea salt and pepper to taste
    Rainbow of veggies: 3-4 cups of your family's favorite, chopped.
    I used:
    Red: red bell pepper
    Orange: shredded carrot
    Yellow: yellow bell pepper
    Green: zucchini
     
     
    In a large pot, heat the oil and sauté the onion and garlic.  Add the quinoa, broth and chicken (or tofu).  Bring to a boil and cover.  Reduce to low and simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the lemon juice and salt and pepper.  Stir in your veggies, replace the cover and cook a couple minutes more.
     
    Sprinkle with cheese, slivered almonds and/or red pepper flakes if you'd like.
     
    Enjoy!
     
     
     





    I absolutely love sitting down with my family every night for dinner.  We talk about our day, sharing our favorite and not so favorite parts.  Just reconnecting and enjoying each others company.  Such a special time....I hope you all enjoy your family dinners too!

    Friday, February 7, 2014

    Thursday, February 6, 2014

    Ginger-lemon-honey tea

    Let's be honest, the common cold it is one big pain in the neck (literally).  It's nagging, lingering and just not fun to have around.  It stops activities, school, work and from just plain having fun. 

    Thankfully I came upon a homeopathic recipe for a honey, lemon and ginger tea.  It's full of Vitamin C from the lemon,  antibacterial properties from the ginger and the honey helps soothe your throat.

    Via Weelicious

    Makes 2 servings

    1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
    juice of 1 lemon
    1 to 2 tablespoons of honey, or to taste (I used 1 tbsp.)

    Cut the ginger into several thin disks

    Bring 2 cups of water and the ginger to a coil in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Cover and reduce the heat to low, and cook for 5 to 10 minutes

    Remove the ginger from the water, add the lemon juice and honey, and stir to dissolve the honey.

    Cool as needed for young children then serve tea mugs.

     
      Wishing you well!
     
    Alyssa

    Wednesday, February 5, 2014

    Winter Wonderland

    A snow day.  How can you resist it?  I mean, I really am looking forward to spring.... and summer for that matter.  But when the snow flies and the kids and I get to stay home together, I say bring it on!

    Roman has been outside since 7:30 this morning.  A bit later than he had hoped since he was ready by 6:45!  He loves the snow.  Shoveling the entire neighborhood really is his dream day off from school. Come spring he'll rake leaves.  Summer, he'll be searching for bugs, cutting wood and whatever else he comes up with.

    Sophia is usually content building a snowman or playing house outside. Or taking a walking adventure with me.  With many breaks built in for warm up time.  Soon it will be time for fairy house making in the gardens.  Bike riding with friends.  Oh how wonderful the seasons are!

    I also enjoyed our snow day by baking up some of their favorite treats.  Treats to tempt them inside to sit by the fire with a mug of hot cocoa and a snuggle with me.


    Oatmeal Raisin for Roman and Oatmeal Cranberry for Sophia.  Both I think are equally delicious, and these bake up beautifully.  Soft, slightly sweet, and tart with the cranberries.  Both are gluten free using my favorite flour, which I needed to make more because I use it for everything I bake!


    Ingredients

    1 1/2 cups gluten free flour
    3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
    1 cup certified gluten free oat flour (I processed my own in a food processor from old fashioned whole grain oats)
    3/4 teaspoon baking soda
    1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    1/4 cup certified gluten free old fashioned rolled oats
    1/4 cup granulated sugar
    3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
    4 tablespoons coconut oil, melted and cooled
    5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature I use Earth's Balance Vegan Butter
    2 eggs at room temperature, beaten
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1 tablespoon honey
    1 tablespoon unsulphured molasses
    6 ounces dried sweetened cranberries or raisins (or bake a batch of each.)


     
    Directions

    • Preheat your oven to 325°F. Line rimmed baking sheets with unbleached parchment paper and set them aside.
    • In a large bowl or standing mixer, place the flour blend, xanthan gum, oat flour, baking soda and salt, and whisk to combine well. Add the oats, granulated sugar and brown sugar, and whisk to combine again, working to break up any lumps in the brown sugar. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the coconut oil, butter, eggs, vanilla, honey and molasses, mixing to combine after each addition. The dough will be thick and should come together easily.  If it doesn’t come together, the ingredients specified to be at room temperature were likely not at room temperature. Toss the cranberries and/or raisins and add them to the dough. Mix until the dried fruit is evenly distributed throughout the dough.
    • With wet hands, shape the dough into 1 1/4-inch round balls, and then press flat into disks about 1/4 inch thick. Place about 1 1/2-inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Place in the center of the preheated oven and bake or until lightly golden brown all over and set in the center (about 12 minutes). Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet until set (about 5 minutes) before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
    This is the second time I've made these cookies.  A "please momma, you must make more of these!" means it's a winner and will be my go to cookie for special treats.

    Of course I must balance out even a healthy cookie with more healthy snacks for all the kids to snack on when they come to visit on this snow day.



     I hope you're enjoying your day, no matter what the weather is. 

    Alyssa

    Tuesday, February 4, 2014

    Gluten Free and Dairy Free Blueberry Muffin

    I absolutely love finding a recipe and changing it up.  Whether to fit my family's needs or just to have fun and get creative!  I recently came across a recipe for Blueberry Muffins and thought I could change it up and still have it be healthy and something my kids will want to eat.

    Gluten Free and Dairy Free Blueberry Muffins
    makes 12 muffins

    Ingredients

    1 3/4 cups gluten free flour.  I use this blend.
    3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
    4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature.  I use Earth's Balance Vegan Butter
    3/4 cup sugar
    1/2 cup vanilla coconut milk yogurt
    1 egg + 1 egg white at room temperature, beaten
    1/2 cup rice milk
    2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
    Coarse sugar, for sprinkling
     
    Directions

    • Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease or line a standard 12-cup muffin tin, and set it aside.
    • In a medium-size bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and whisk to combine well. Transfer 1 tablespoon of the dry ingredients to a small bowl, add the blueberries and toss to coat the blueberries in the dry ingredients. Set both bowls aside.
    • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or a large bowl with a hand mixer), beat the butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the sugar, yogurt, egg and egg white, and beat until smooth. Add the bowl of dry ingredients to the bowl of the mixer, and beat until just combined. Add the rice milk and lemon juice, and beat until combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer, and add the blueberries and reserved dry ingredients in 3 parts, gently folding the blueberries into the batter after each addition until they are evenly distributed throughout. The batter will be thick.
    • Divide the batter evenly between the 12 prepared muffin wells, and smooth the tops with wet fingers. Sprinkle the top of each cup of batter lightly with coarse sugar. Place in the center of the preheated oven and bake for 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center (and not in a blueberry) comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the muffin tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely




    These muffins are light and slightly sweet with a tang of lemon.  Delicious!  I've packed them in the kids lunch box for their morning snack along with apples and a yogurt.  A filling, well rounded snack to keep their bellies full and happy!

    Enjoy,

    Alyssa

    Monday, February 3, 2014

    Happy Monday

    Weekends always seem to go by so fast!

    I love our time together as a family. Whether we're busy doing activities or spending time at home, these times are so precious to me. 

    Then Monday comes and the pace speeds up. Between school, work and after school activities, sometimes it's hard to catch your breath! 

    No matter what the day is, we must cherish each and every one. Embrace them no matter how hectic or laid back they may be. Everyday is special!

    Wishing you all a great week!

    Sunday, February 2, 2014

    Game Day Eats!

    While I'm not of fan of either team (sorry to those who are) in the Super Bowl,  I still like to make something good to eat!  And watch the commercials of course.  Those are the best part, I think.

    Foods that you can eat with your hands are always fun.  Pizza is always a kid favorite.  So I've come up with a Gluten Free Pizza Pocket.  I made a batch with a regular cheese blend as well as a dairy free batch.  Both came out delicious!

    There are several Gluten Free all purpose flours on the market, like Bob's Red Mill.  You can also make your own.  I've been using this recipe in cupcakes, cookies and in this recipe all with great success.

    Gluten Free Pizza Pockets
    makes 24 pockets

    1 cup of water
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter ( I used Earth's Balance Vegan butter)
    2 tablespoons nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening
    2 cups Gluten Free all purpose flour
    1 teaspoon Xanthan Gum (omit if your flour already contains this)
    3 to 4 tablespoons milk or cream (I used Rice Milk)

    Pizza Sauce

    Cheese of your choice.  I used both a pizza blend as well as a vegan cheese.  I just eye balled the amount.


    1. In a medium saucepan, place the water, butter and shortening and stir to combine. Heat over medium heat until the butter is melted and the mixture is simmering (about 3 to 4 minutes), stirring occasionally. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and add in the flour and xanthan gum (if using). Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together. Add the milk/cream by the tablespoonful, and knead into the dough until it is smooth.
    2. Turn the dough out onto a smooth surface and knead until fairly smooth. Do NOT flour the kneading surface.
    3. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and allow it to rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
    4. After the dough has rest, roll it out into a large rectangle that is about 1/4-inch thick. You may find that it useful to roll out the dough between two sheets of unbleached parchment paper, or you may find that the parchment paper simply gets in the way.  I didn't use any parchment. With a pizza cutter, cut the rolled-out dough into 24 rectangles about 3-inches long x 1 1/2-inches wide. On a clean surface, roll each rectangle out again along its length until it is the size of a standard 3-inch x 5-inch index card. This helps you get a smooth and pliable dough.
    5. Preheat your oven to 375°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper and set it aside..
    6.  Place about 1 teaspoon of tomato sauce on one half of each rectangle, leaving at least a 3 cm of the edge of the dough bare. Place 3 to 4 pieces of chopped cheese (less if the cheese is cut into a larger dice) on top of the sauce. Do not overfill. Fold the clean half of the rectangle over the sauce and cheese, and press the edges together firmly to seal. Transfer to baking sheet.
    7. Place the baking sheet in the center of the preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, then quickly and carefully turn over each of the pizza bites. Return the baking sheet to the oven, and bake for another 7 minutes, or until  the cheese is bubbling and the pizza bites are uniformly golden brown all over.
    8. Enjoy!
     

    Friday, January 3, 2014

    Welcome 2014!

    Happy New Year friends.  Much of the Northeast is shoveling out this morning.  I have no idea exactly how much snow we have here in NH, but it looks like a lot!  The wind is whipping the white stuff around and new snow continues to fall.  This sounds heavenly to me.  My children and I got an extended Holiday from school...a full 2 weeks!  Come Monday it will be hard to face the music, but for now we will enjoy these days.

    The start of the new year always brings promise doesn't it.  The feeling and wanting to start anew.  Outlooks are brighter, smiles are wider, a warmth in the heart.....ahhhh.  Let it last all year.
    With this start of the new year, I can't stop thinking about smoothies!  Of all things.  Maybe it's because of the eating, drinking, and being merry for over the past few weeks.  Yes, most liking this is the reason.  Ahem.... 

    I've decided to make a Green Monster Smoothie.  Packed with spinach, bananas and chia seeds it's incredibly healthy for you.  A great way to counter the effects of figgy pudding and holiday punch!
    Not to mention how delicious it is and the kids love it!

    Green Monster Smoothie
    makes 4 servings

    2 cups vanilla soy milk
    4 cups of packed baby spinach
    2 ripe bananas
    2 tbsp. chia seeds

    Blend all ingredients.
    Enjoy!

    How easy it that?!





                                                                    Now that's a picture!