Tuesday, May 21, 2013

3rd Birthday Fun

Her coming home outfit, the shirt from her 1st birthday, from her
2nd birthday, and this year.
Yesterday our littlest one turned 3- where has the time gone? It seems like just yesterday we were bringing her home from the hospital! Now she's a funny, sweet, mischievous little monkey who keeps us laughing, and is always on the go.  She was definitely all the 2 year old she could be, but not in a bad way.  She's very inquisitive about everything, has a wildly active imagination, and loves to be outside.  She's very different than her sisters in every way possible.

We just had a simple party on Sunday afternoon with close friends and family. Saturday I was camping with my oldest one's Girl Scout troop, so while I was gone, my husband took care of some of the party prep. He cleaned the house (yes, you read that right), ordered balloons, wrapped presents, and took care of a few other chores.  We got home Sunday morning, and started in with all the prep for her party. Abby had decided she wanted cupcakes, so I made her vanilla bean cupcakes, and for the adults I made an orange cake. We kept it simple with all of Abby's favorite foods:  fruit and veggie platters, chips and salsa, and pizza - she LOVES pizza!  She had a blast being the center of attention-as usual.
She had the sweetest look on her face as we sang to her. 

Make a wish Abby!
After the candles were blown out (it took a couple tries of course!) and she had gotten the first cupcake, she got right down to business opening her gifts.  We had a hard time shopping for her because she doesn't actually play with toys.  She has so many toys and she just doesn't play with them.  And she is not a fan of stuffed animals.  She would rather play games, do puzzles, draw, or go outside than play with toys.  
We decided to get her a tricycle, since she is still a bit young for a bike, but wants to be big like her biggest sister.  We got her a good old fashioned Radio Flyer- the one she picked in the toy store last month actually.  Good thing Mommy has a great memory! ( It does have a handle on the back for parents to hold on to, but that will be coming off very, very soon I am sure.)  Although she loves to have her sisters push her around- she thinks it's "Awesome".  Of course, we got her a few other things too.

My parents got her the coolest bubble machine (my Dad picked it out).  It's a leaf blower shaped bubble blower.  The kid was in HEAVEN!  So was our friend Chad- it was the first gift out of the package, and the first one played with... by the adults of course! They also got her a picnic table, earrings, and outfits, but the bubble blower was the coolest thing ever.  

Abby absolutely loves "Uncle Chad":-)

Our friends also definitely spoiled her rotten with all of her favorite things and they all know her well- everyone included bubbles in their gifts.  She loved having them here, getting to play with the kids, getting her birthday hugs, and just being the center of attention.  She's a very lucky little girl to have such wonderful people in her life.  

Luckily the rain held off so we could get in some outside time as well.

I'm pretty sure this was her favorite gift!

She has grown and changed so much in the past year- from a toddler into a preschooler. She can count to 20, knows all her colors, her alphabet, her animals. She has opinions, likes and dislikes, and a hilarious sense of humor. While I am sad that my last baby is growing so fast, I am excited to see how much she will change and grow in her 3rd year. Happy 3rd  Birthday to our sweet baby girl.  

Monday, May 20, 2013

New Pescatarian Lifestyle, New Weekly Menu Plans

For Lent I gave up meat- beef, pork,and  poultry, and I haven't gone back to eating it yet. We had watched "Forks Over Knives" in February and the information in the documentary really struck a cord with me.  We had already gone to 3 meatless meals a week, but I found that certain kinds of meat were upsetting my stomach again. I also wanted to see if cleaning up my diet even more and going more plant based would help with my asthma, which was TERRIBLE during the end of summer last year.  I did decide to keep eating seafood since we get such great seafood where I live, and shrimp and salmon are two of my favorite foods.  That makes me a Pescatarian at this point in time.  I do still cook meat for my husband and kids- we grill burgers often and I'll have a veggie burger instead.  If we do chicken, I'll just make extra veggies, or baked buffalo or BBQ tofu (It's really good!) When we make our buffalo chicken dip, I'll make a small one for myself without chicken, and a large one for my family, and so on. We  try to do fish a couple times a week since we have a the best fresh fish market right down the road.  I also make a lot of vegetarian or vegan dishes that my family loves, so we have a huge menu to choose from. It's not been too much of an adjustment to be honest.
 My oldest daughter has asked me if I'll ever eat meat again, and my answer is yes, most likely I will. Life is a really long time and I can't imagine never having a steak again.  I have explained to her that everyone goes through dietary changes or phases in their lifetime, and that at this point meat doesn't really appeal to me.  (Although I do take Trader Joes turkey jerky on camping trips. Since we are so active I need the quick protein, and peanut butter just doesn't always do the trick. )   I will never go back to eating the same amount of meat as before, but I will reincorporate it in small quantities at some point, except pork.

This new way to eat has meant some changes in the way we meal plan and grocery shop.  We used to grocery shop twice a month- huge shopping trips on the Saturday of payday.  We would sit down together and make a huge list before heading out for a marathon shopping trip.  We would hit up BJ's, Trader Joes, and Kroger.  It did help us budget, and I never had to run out and buy anything during the week- which saved tons of money.  But it was tedious, and we couldn't get as many fresh fruits and veggies since A. my fridge isn't that big, and B. they wouldn't last a full 10 days.
We now eat at least twice as many fresh veggies as we used to so we have decided to shop once a week, and cut our BJ's trips down to once a month or less. Since we no longer need diapers or wipes in bulk, we don't need to go bulk shopping as often. It has actually cut our bill even more, and we waste far less than we used to.  We still don't have to make daily visits to the store because we plan ALL our meals- breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  My husband will stop at Whole Foods when he commutes to his office since there is one nearby (which is an hour from where we live.) He commutes once a week on average, and will take a short  list with him about twice a month- usually for bulk grains, dried beans, granola, GMO free oils, and a few treats we can only get there.

We get our beef fresh from a farm twice a year, and we have a plentiful garden in the backyard to pick from so this week's menu required 1 short trip to Trader Joes, and a very small grocery bill.

Monday: Baked chicken ( I'll have Gardein chicken strips), fresh fruits and veggies.
Tuesday: Stuffed Shells, baked fried zucchini,  fruit for dessert
Wednesday: French Bread pizza and mixed  veggies
Thursday: Burgers on the grill (Dr. Praegers for me), homemade mac and "cheese",  kale chips, sriracha baked beans.
Friday: Grilled Salmon, shrimp skewers, stir fried veggies, Asian pasta salad (recipe to come)
Saturday: We will put together next week's menu and grocery shop for the next week so dinner will be planned that day.

For lunches: I'll make up a Lemony Quinoa Salad, and have leftovers.  The girls have "snack plates"- fruits, veggies, cheese stick, tortilla chips. We also have peanut butter and jelly, or leftovers.
Breakfast: I made an orange cake yesterday that is good for breakfast or dessert, I'll make a banana bread today, and we have cereal. On the weekends Daddy make pancakes or Belgian waffles, or we have biscuits and gravy. 
Snacks: Cheese sticks, homemade granola bars, fruit- we have grapes, strawberries, pineapple, apples, and oranges, fresh cut up veggies, ants on a log, or chips and salsa.

So there you have it- our super easy meal plan that incorporates two different diets into one easy plan.  Next weekend we get to go to the Farmer's Market, and I can't wait to share that menu with you!

Lemony Quinoa Salad

 Quinoa has become one of our favorite grains to use- my daughters especially love it.  I keep a jar full in my cabinet at all times for lunchtime salads, casseroles, and quick side dishes. I've even started taking this salad on camping trips because it's a great source of protein and energy. It keeps well in a cooler, and a little goes a long way.  Needless to say I get a lot of questions whenever I break out the container of this "funny looking" food!  I also keep a bowl of this in the fridge during the week for quick lunches or a snack.  It's really good as a dip with tortilla chips, or in a wrap with baby spinach. The possibilities are endless with this simple salad.
 I change around the veggies each time I make it depending on what I have on hand, but the dressing remains the same. It has a summery, lemony flavor that goes with just about any veggies. So we'll call it Lemony Quinoa Salad

 Quinoa Salad:
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • handful tomatoes, chopped ( I use grape tomatoes, cut in quarters)
  • Pepper (your choice of color), chopped
  • 1/4 of a red onion finely diced
  • 1 cup white corn
  • handful Cilantro, chopped finely
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • Rice Vinegar- add to the oil in the measuring cup - enough to get to the 1/3 line.
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • teaspoon Sriracha

1. Cook quinoa according to package directions.  1 cup of quinoa cooks in 2 cups of water. Bring to a light boil and simmer until done.  Once cooked set aside to let cool.
2.Measure your olive oil in a measuring cup, then add the rice vinegar to that to get to the 1/3 line.  Add the juice from 1 lemon ( I microwave it first for 10 seconds to get the juice flowing), and add the teaspoon of Sriracha.  Whisk it all together so it is well mixed.
3. Once the Quinoa is cooled, add the veggies,  pour the dressing mix over it and mix well.  The dressing won't make it wet or oily- just give it a nice flavor.  If you can, make this ahead and let the flavors mingle for at least a couple hours in the fridge before eating.

This past weekend I made this same salad for a camping trip, but with diced carrots, English cucumber, corn, and tomatoes.  (Since I was camping I didn't want the onions to smell in the cooler).  I've also done shallots, corn, black beans, red peppers, and tomatoes.  

This has definitely become our go-to summer salad. What is one of your go-to summer salads?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Nacho Pizza

If you've been following this blog for a while you will have noticed that we love pizza in this house.  I mean, what kid doesn't?  Since we can't just order a pizza, we tend to get creative when we decide to have pizza nights.  We've had stromboli, buffalo chicken pizza (I should probably share that one!), flat bread pizza, pizza bake, bagel pizzas, good old fashioned pizzas.  My oldest has been asking me to make a taco pizza for some time now.  We had a sort of taco pizza casserole a while back- with prepackaged dough and ground beef.  But since we no longer eat prepackaged foods, and I don't eat red meat, I had to come up with something new. So we hunted through the cabinets and fridge to see what we had on hand and this is what we came up with: A vegan Nacho Pizza.
This took about an hour to make, start to finish. And that was with help from my 9 year old, wrangling a toddler, and chasing down a puppy who stole a few toys and shoes while I was trying to make dinner. You know, just a typical evening with kids.  On my own it would have taken about 45 minutes.

Nacho Pizza:

  •  Pizza Crust ( the recipe for my homemade crust )
  • 1 tsp cooking oil
  • 1 can vegan refried beans (I used Trader Joes)
  • 1 can organic red kidney beans
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1/4 onion, diced finely
  • 1/2 package taco seasoning ( I used Trader Joes)
  • Dairy free/lactose free cheese of your choice 
  • 2-3 green onions, diced
  • handful cherry tomatoes, chopped.

1. Make your crust. I leave this totally up to you. This recipe can easily be made gluten free if you make a gluten free crust.  You could also use a store bought crust if you are crunched for time.  We have a tried and true recipe we use each time we make pizza- it takes about 10 minutes and is so much better than store bought.  Once your crust is ready press it out on a pizza pan and set it aside.

 2. Dice the onions, chop your peppers and tomatoes.  Preheat a skillet and add a teaspoon of cooking oil of your choice.  (I used GMO free canola oil).  Once the skillet is heated add the onions and peppers. Cook over medium heat until the onions start to become translucent.   Add the chopped tomatoes.  Drain and rinse the beans, and add them to the pan.  Let this mixture cook on low-medium heat until the tomatoes cook down.

3. Add a handful of taco seasoning to the veggie and bean mixture. The seasoning I use is spicy so I don't add a lot because of the kids.  You can add more or less depending on your preference.  Let simmer until the tomatoes have cooked down to make a sauce.

4. Spread the pizza crust with refried beans.  Top that with the bean and tomato mixture, and then top with cheese. Sprinkle with a little extra taco seasoning (about a teaspoon).

5. Bake according to directions for the crust-mine baked at 425F- until the cheese is melted and the crust is done. About 2 minute before it is done, pull it out, sprinkle with chopped grape tomatoes and diced green onion.  Put back in the oven to warm the topping. 

This tasted just like nachos on a pizza crust. The beans take the place of meat nicely- it is very filling. You could use black beans instead of kidney- it really is your preference.  Topped with a little homemade guacamole, or just left as is, it was a great, easy weeknight dinner.  Kid tested and approved. 

We also had Kale chips on the side.

*Thanks to my husband for grabbing the camera and taking pictures while I made this. Otherwise there wouldn't have been a post today.
*This recipe is Vegan and can be made Gluten Free.

Monday, May 13, 2013

A New Journey

For several years I have been wanting to go back to school, either furthering my degree in History, or pursuing another field of study. I have flip-flopped between a Masters in Education, getting my MBA, finding a Registered Dietitian program, and at one point I even toyed with the idea of becoming a NICU nurse.  I was actually just a few steps from signing up for a Masters of Public Health program when we found out we were pregnant with our third daughter. 
I always knew I wanted to go into a field that helped people, either teaching or health related services, but nothing felt RIGHT.  Then a couple months ago a dear friend of mine pointed me in the direction of a holistic nutrition and health coach program and offered me an amazing career opportunity that I would have been crazy to pass up.  After looking into the program it was clear that this is exactly what I have been looking for.  Twelve years ago this week I graduated from college, and now here I am on my first day of school over a decade later.
My days as a SAHM are numbered and to be honest this terrifies me.  Six months from now I will go back to work officially for the first time in 9 years.(The program is a year long, with a 2nd year continuing ed option, but we can start working after 6 months.)  Some work will be done from home, some from an office (I'll have my own office!!).  I will still do the online schooling with my girls but my schedule won't be as free as it has been for these past 9 years. I have been looking into how  professional parents work and still home school so I am confident it can be done.   I won't be a full time SAHM like I have been for the past nine years and 6 months.  The practice I am joining is very family oriented so I am not worried about my girls.  I know I will have a little less time with them, but I think that is going to be a good thing.  Sometimes I take for granted the time I have  so I don't use it wisely.  Now I am making more time to go outside and push my toddler on the swings, build train sets with them, kick the soccer ball around, blow bubbles, or just enjoy being with them.

Even though I am scared, apprehensive (slightly terrified), it is time do something for ME.  I am extraordinarily blessed by the fact that I don't have to work.  We have made one income work for many years so we are pretty good at it. My husband has always supported my decision to stay home with our girls and has not once made me feel as though it was a burden. I've watched him become extremely successful in his career, and while I am so proud of him, it has been hard to feel as though I am standing still.  So now it is my turn- and I can't wait.  All of the fear aside, I am beyond excited to start this new journey. 

What does this mean for Dairyfree Omnivore?
The break is officially over! Most exciting of all- the blog is getting a professional makeover! I will be posting many recipes and other health and food related posts.  I took a large portion of this past year as a break for many reasons- lack of time, chasing around a toddler, and prioritizing aspects of my life.  We also started volunteering as fosters for dogs and puppies rescued from high kill shelters-and that requires a lot of time. (More on that in a future post.) For now, it's time to get back into the habit of blogging.

I have already met some amazing people through my new school program, and many have blogs.  I can't wait to share their blogs with you too!

For now, let's get back into the swing of things.  Keep an eye out this week for a product review, a kitchen tour, and at least 2 new recipes!