Smart Mamas

Carrot/Grapefruit Juice

Today our morning juice was packed with antioxidants and vitamin C.  Perfect for cold and flu season.

Carrot/Grapefruit Juice

8 carrots

2 stalks of celery

1 cucumber

1 ruby red grapefruit (sweet)

I like to add a chunk of frozen acai to our cups.  My boys call it the purple ice cube.  My favorite brand is Amazon Planet because they do not add any additives, colors, flavors or preservatives of any kind.  Just acai and acerola, which is an amazon cherry loaded with vitamin C.  Thirty times more than oranges.  I highly recommend stashing a bag in the freezer.  Provides a nice energy boost, too.

A bit of info about acai:

Contains 80 mg of anthocyanins (a powerful antioxidant)

3g of omega 6 & 9 fatty acids

2g of dietary fibers and over 10 vitamins and minerals

Grapefruit contains a ton of good stuff.  packed with potassium, vitamin C, folic acid, and pectin ( soluble fiber).  Ruby reds are especially loaded with antioxidants and lycopene (chemical that prevents bad cholesterol from damaging artery walls).  Drinking grapefruit juice also slows the activity of an enzyme that activates cancer causing chemicals found in tobacco smoke.

A lot of people associate grapefruit with weight loss.  That is because it contains naringin, a flavanoid compound that blocks the uptake of fatty acids into cells to prevent our bodies from effectively using carbohydrates.  Naringin is what gives it a bitter taste.

In other words, a lot of punch in one little cup.

Cheers!

 

 

 

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Kids and Veggies. How to Foster a Love Affair (3)

Grow something small.

When I was very young we lived on a farm in Fox Lake, Illinois.  My mother grew an impressive organic garden and my two brothers and I had the opportunity to help tend our food.  I have fond memories of keeping the animals out of the garden and running outside to pick veggies for our meals.  I remember taking the colander with me and filling it to the brim then immediately rinsing the greens in the sink.  On the weekends we would pick all we could and sell our produce at a nearby farmer’s market.  I thought all families ate the same way.  Perhaps many did in the 70s.

My parents separated when I was a toddler, but they shared similar food values.  My father has never eaten at a fast food restaurant.  He was raised in Greece and that was not part of his culture.  His comfort foods consist of whole foods, rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  Meat was a side in some meals, hardly a main attraction.  Vegetables abundant and fruit sweeter than anything I have ever tasted in the States.  My father lives in Arizona and he grows an impressive garden, year-round.  When we visit, my boys run to the citrus trees in the morning to pick fresh oranges and then devour them at the kitchen table.  They associate his home with family and good food, often asking if we will ever have trees they can eat from.

Here are some photographs my father took of his garden:

Zucchini

Watermelon

Broccoli

Artichoke

Lettuce

Carrots

Assorted onions

Radishes

Tomatoes

Spinach rinsed and ready for a salad

We do not all have the luxury of a large outdoor space to grow such an abundant garden.  Many of us do not have the spare time.  But, we can all grow a few herbs indoors.  Large grocery chains like Sprouts and Whole Foods sell living basil in water.  It couldn’t be easier to keep alive.  The only task is to set it near a window and keep the roots covered with water.  I kept one alive for 6 months and my boys would pluck the leaves off and toss them into the pots as I cooked.  It cost less than $3 and I never used or bought dried basil.  In the spring my boys each have their own cherry tomato plant and they are completely responsible for it.  I love to watch them decide when the tomato is ripe enough to pluck.  Their tiny fingers breaking it free from the stem, their eyes close as they place the precious piece of fruit in their mouth.  Each time I hope it leaves enough of an impression to form a memory.  A positive memory of vegetables.  Something more than a food that has to be finished in order to enjoy dessert or leave the table.

There are a ton of resources online for growing fruits and veggies in containers.  This spring consider growing something small and involve your children.  You may be surprised how many things you can grow right inside your house.  Check out this site, they sell indoor starter kits for growing your own colony of mushrooms.  There are many companies that sell similar products.  This site teaches you how to grow them on your own.

My father started by growing herbs in containers.  There are a ton of fruits and vegetables that can be grown this way.

The New Dirty Dozen: 12 Foods to Eat Organic

Most people have heard of the dirty dozen.  The 12 fruits and veggies that have  high levels of pesticides.  Well, a new list was made in 2010.  Here are the new dirty:

The New Dirty Dozen: 12 Foods to Eat Organic.

Be sure to check out the clean 15, too. These foods you do not have to buy organic.

The Clean 15

I like to make a list of the dirty dozen and keep them on my fridge as a reminder.  Great way to keep your family safe and reduce the amount of pesticides in your diet.

Good Morning Chunky Monkey Milkshakes

My boys love this quick morning breakfast and it is loaded with potassium, iron, and protein.  When I introduce new foods to my children I start with something fail-proof.  The first time they tried this shake it had these ingredients:

1 cup of unsweetened almond milk

2 bananas (I like to use my freezer bananas)

2 teaspoons of blackstrap molasses or 1 tablespoon of maple syrup

3 ice cubes

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend till smooth.

Serves 1

In time I added other ingredients:

1/4 cup of organic, fresh roasted peanut butter or 1/4 cup of tofu

1 teaspoon of ground flax seeds

Flax seed is a wonder grain. Stocked full of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants, high in most B vitamins, and magnesium.  It’s easy to sneak into meals, just don’t overdo it.  I don’t use more than a tablespoon per kid a day.

They love this breakfast and think it’s a big treat.  Milkshakes for breakfast, what beats that?  I know it’s healthier than cereal or any other processed breakfast.  A good start of the day for all of us.

Easy Bread Machine Pita Bread

It is absolutely necessary that we have a quick and easy pita bread recipe on hand.  I am a Greek American.  We eat a lot of pita bread.  This is a solid recipe.  I have tasted better, but it takes much longer to make.  With this recipe you can dip fresh pita into hummus 30 mins after it mixes in the machine.

Recipe from, Bread Machine: How to Prepare and Bake the Perfect Loaf, by Jennie Shapter.  My bread machine works overtime, often the dough kneading around is from this book.  Very easy instructions and a wide variety of breads.  This is my bread machine bible.

Ingredients
scant 1 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups unbleached white bread flour
plus extra for sprinkling
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon rapid-rise dry yeast

Makes 6-10

1.  Pour the water and oil into the bread machine pan.  If your instructions specify that the yeast is to be placed in the pan first, reverse the order in which you add the liquid and dry ingredients.  Add the flour, ensuring it covers the water.

2.  Add the salt and sugar in separate corners of the pan.  Make a shallow indentation in the center of the flour and add the yeast.  Set the bread machine to the dough setting; use basic or pizza dough setting (if available).  Press Start.

3.  When the dough cycle has finished remove the dough from the machine.  Place it on a lightly floured surface and punch in down gently.

4.  Divide the dough into six or ten equal size pieces, depending on whether you want large or small pita breads.  Shape each piece into a ball.

5.  Cover the balls of dough with oiled plastic wrap and let them rest for about 10 minutes.  Preheat he oven to 450 degrees F.  Then place three baking sheets in the oven to heat.

6.  Flatten each piece of dough slightly, and then roll out into an oval or round, about 1/4 inch thick.  

7.  Lightly sprinkle each pita with flour.  Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes.

8.  Place the pitas on the baking sheets and bake for 5-6 minutes, or until they are puffed up and lightly browned.  Transfer the pita breads on to wire racks to cool.

I like to make them small if we use them for dipping and large if we eat falafels.

I found this fantastic White Bean Dip on The Reluctant Vegetarian blog.  It is a recipe by Giada De Laurenentiis.

So tangy and zesty.  I made a batch prior without lemon and parsley and it was rich and creamy.  Fantastic both ways.

I also made hummus.

I haven’t measured and perfected my recipe, but I am working on it and will post ASAP.  I do like to add fresh basil and top with sundried tomatoes.

All recipes are vegan and kid approved.

Kids and Veggies. How to Foster a Love Affair (2)

This post is the second in a series.  I am sharing different ways we have kept our kids excited and interested in fruits and vegetables.

What is it?

The boys LOVE this.  We do, too.  Whenever my boys accompany me to the grocery store they pick out a new fruit or veggie they would like to taste.

This is a very serious process.

They scour each bin in search for the strangest, most unique produce.  Once they locate it they treat it as if it were a precious gem carefully carrying it back to the cart.  “What about this one, mommy?”  Both proud and curious.

As soon as we get home they are relentless in asking, “When do we get to eat it?”  It’s usually soon.

Yesterday this is what they chose…

The bin labeled it dragon fruit.  Good choice.

I told them we could eat it after dinner.  Dinner came and went and they asked if they could have a piece of Halloween candy.  I told them they could after we tried our dragon fruit.  They accepted this as a good deal on their end.

Typically we wikipedia the new item and learn a bit about it before we eat it.

This is what we learned:

It is actually called a pitaya and it is a fruit of several cacti species.  It is commonly known as a dragon fruit in Chinese.  There are 3 varieties, 2 red and 1 yellow.  They are native to Mexico, South America and Central America.  They are also cultivated in many Asian countries, Hawaii, Australia and Israel.  It is compared to a kiwi because the inside has many small edible black seeds.

Usually after viewing several pictures and learning about it the boys can’t wait to dig into it.  The sit in anticipation as the knife meets the flesh.

It is a big moment.  We dip four spoons into the soft innards and we all taste it at the same time.

It was a hit.  Not overly sweet. Kind of a cross between a kiwi and a pear.

They never did ask for a piece of Halloween candy.  Instead they went to bed with bellies full of dragon fruit.

Win for mom.

Note ~ you can buy dragon fruit at a local Asian market for half the price of a commercial grocery store.

Update: I almost forget to add the nutritional info. Here it is from this source:

Dragon fruits are high in antioxidants, which help to fight carcinogenic free-radicals from forming in the body. In addition, they are a good source of Vitamin C, and are rich in minerals, especially calcium and phosphorus. They are also low in calories and high in fiber, while the seeds are have high polyunsaturated fatty acids. Aside from its nutritional content, the fruit is also said to help excrete heavy metal toxins from the body and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Dragon fruits are also known to be a natural laxative.

Click here to learn more about dragon fruit.

Kids and Veggies. How to Foster a Love Affair

Getting kids to eat veggies can be challenging and frustrating.  Cooking a healthy meal only to have the whole family throw it away and order pizza is defeating.  I’ve been there.  Sometimes it’s easy to throw in the apron and stick to processed, cheesy, gooey foods that everyone raves about.  Why not?  It’s a quick meal and everyone is happy.

Unfortunately, happy doesn’t mean healthy.  I would rather have a healthy, happy family.  This path takes some work, but it is possible for your kids to be as excited about a glass of carrot juice as they are about a milk shake.  It doesn’t happen over night, but if you are committed to teaching your children how to make healthy choices and eat a wide variety of wholesome foods, the reward is huge. Imagine your child not having food issues, eating disorders, diabetes, and living a long healthy life as an adult.  That is what motivates me.  It has been a process and I have tried many different tactics over the years.  Some were successful, others complete fails.  I know many people have a resolution to start eating more healthy and when you have children this is a good time to include the whole family.

I plan to keep this section running as part of a series and share the things that have worked for us.

Juicing

I have juiced for awhile and every time I juice without my kids help they take a sip and say, yuck!  However, when they do all the juicing on their own something magical happens.  They not only LOVE the juice, they talk about it all day.  Yesterday my 3 year old made juice all by  himself.  The only thing I did was cut the apple.  He even washed the veggies and fruit on his own.

I selected these ingredients for the first day; carrots, celery, apples, mini cucumbers and acai.  He will choose today.

Sneaking a peek at his hard work.

He did a fantastic job and the juice was very tasty.  He sat with his cup of juice cradled in both hand, slurping through a crazy straw, singing, “Delicious, delicious, so so nutritious.”  It doesn’t get better than that.

He hunted around the kitchen for ingredients for his next juice and decided to add pears to the list.

He was so excited to wake up today and show his dad and brother his new skill.  He wouldn’t even let them see these pics yesterday because he wanted to surprise them.

I love his enthusiasm.

My tiny little juicer.

New Year’s Tradition: Family Bucket List

On New Year’s Eve we started a new family tradition.  We filled up a bucket with all the things we want to do this year.  We each took turns so everyone would have the same amount of to-dos for the year.  I was most surprised by how serious my boys (ages 3 and 6) were in choosing their contributions.  I was certain they would write things like, I want more legos or buy more toys.  But, they never once mentioned anything material.  Each time their turn came around they sat quietly pondering all the possibilities.  My husband and I enjoyed listening to all their wishes for the year and it was a nice reminder that children are full of hopes and dreams, too.  Sometimes all we have to do is ask.  If you do this activity with your children, you may be surprised by what memories and activities they hold sacred.

We placed our bucket on our mantel.  A daily reminder that we are accountable for all it’s contents.  The boys are eager to pull the pieces of paper out after each recreation.

Here is our 2011 bucket list:

  1. Vacation in Arkansas
  2. Go camping
  3. Play with friend, Seven (our old neighbor’s son)
  4. Have a family dinner while camping
  5. Go fishing
  6. Find a new place to hike with family
  7. Eat blueberries (my youngest is devastated they are not in season)
  8. Go disc golfing with the family
  9. Play with Riley
  10. Go snowboarding
  11. Collect seashells
  12. Visit the Grand Canyon
  13. Visit Grandma in Sacramento
  14. Learn how to ride a horse
  15. Go to the beach
  16. Go to Black Beauty Ranch Animal Sanctuary
  17. Travel around the world and collect coins
  18. Stay in a cabin
  19. Move to Arizona

2011 will be a busy year.  Better get started!

If you decide to make a family bucket list, I would love to hear your list.

Happy 2011!

Resolutions: The Good, The Bad and The Life Changing

I love this time of year.  The collective conscious desire to strive and renew is so uplifting.  How fortunate we are to have a cyclical calendar that allows us this opportunity to begin anew.  Sure, we have the opportunity to start again on any day, but today it is universal, that is powerful.

The Good

Often times when we think about our resolutions, we focus on what we want to change about ourselves.  Our “bad” habits or the parts of us we want to “fix” stand out.  I challenge you to think about all the good things that happened this year, your growth and accomplishments.  Write them down so you have a tangible list.  This will be far more motivating that focusing on the negative.  If you accomplished all those things, what else can you do?  Empower yourself rather than tear yourself down.

The Bad

Choose resolutions that are motivating, fun, something on your bucket list.  Any resolution can be made this way.  Here are some examples of bad resolutions and how you can turn them into something more motivating:

I want to lose weight.  There is a reason why this one is automatically recycled every year.  There is nothing inspiring about it and it offers no real solution.  What else do you want to change besides your weight?  Do you want to eat healthier, be stronger, or feel better about your physical body?  Where does the issue lie?  If you want to eat healthier, consider something like; I want to nourish my body, I want to learn how to cook with more vegetables and grains, I want to take a few cooking classes that emphasize fresh ingredients, I want to learn where my food comes from and how to buy it locally.  These goals involve discovering and learning something new, a way to replace old habits that may have led to being overweight, initially.  They empower you and provide direction.  The resolution of wanting to lose weight is too ambiguous.  Try to avoid fad diets and products, they offer no long term solution.

I want to be fit or exercise more. Another popular recycled resolution, ditch it.  This is a fantastic way to cross something off your bucket list or an opportunity to discover something you are passionate about.  Use it.  We all have to live our lives in motion if we want to be healthy, this is a reality.  It does not mean that we have to go to the gym 3-5 times a week and do the same weightlifting routine and cardio via stationary equipment.

Boring.

Exactly why it doesn’t stick, too.  Seize this chance to do something new or something you have always wanted to accomplish.  Take up belly dancing, ice skating, rowing, fencing or archery.  Be creative.  You can take lessons for anything.  Do something new and give yourself the opportunity to meet new people and become part of a new community.

Another option is to train for a fitness goal.  Join a running club and train for a marathon.  You can do the same for mountain biking, trail running, swimming, or a triathlon.  Get out there and cross a finish line.  Compete with yourself.  Be an athlete and train.  This will motivate you to be your best fit self.

Plan a fitness vacation with a group and motivate each other.  Book a reservation for a yoga retreat with your girlfriends and find a local studio where you can meet for classes.  Check out Backroads and book a biking vacation in a city you have always wanted to visit, recruit your friends.  Hike the Grand Canyon, the Inca Trails, or through the Appalachian.  Put it on the calendar and start training.

You will never be younger than you are today.  Do it this year.

I want to quit smoking, or another vice. Addiction is best conquered when replaced with another healthier habit.  If your vice is a stress reliever, replace it with a new habit that releases endorphins.  If you want to kick caffeine, think of a healthy way to energize yourself.  Instead of focusing on the habit you want to stop, think about the new healthy habit you want to incorporate into your routine.

I want to spend less time on the computer, Facebook, or watching TV. Think about what void these habits fill.  If you are bored, discover a new passion.  Enroll in a painting, photography, or writing class.  Enrich your life by learning something new.  Rotate dinner parties with friends, set a weekly coffee date, or meet friends at a live music venue.  Think about how you can fill your life up with real connections and find the courage to discover a new passion.

I’m sure you get the idea.  You can turn any “bad” resolution into one that nourishes you.  The bolder you are, the sweeter the reward.

The Life Changing

I made a resolution this same day in 2008 that changed the course of my life.  I have always chased my dreams, no matter how foolish or daunting.  I opened a coffee shop with just over $200 in my bank account.  Learned to scuba dive and went to Hawaii to reef dive on my own.  Backpacked Europe on a whim with no preparation and drove across America with a good friend as soon as we graduated high school.  I faced my biggest fears by swimming far out into the ocean on the blackest of nights, went skydiving, and hiked deep into caves (I am extremely claustrophobic).  I refused to let negative thoughts creep in and bring me down. Nothing is impossible.  Live without regrets.  Seize any and all opportunities.  Dream.  Do.  Grow.

My philosophy, my motto, my mantra.

I lost it.  Somewhere along my path it left me.  This day in 2008 my boys were ages 1 and 3.  I had stayed home and focused on their well-being since the beginning of my first pregnancy.  I have no regrets and would not change a single thing.  What happened along the way happens to many moms.

I lost myself.  I was free floating without a sense of purpose.  Stagnant.   I carried the false belief that being a good mother meant tucking away my desires for a later time.

That had to change.  My resolution was simple.  Anytime I have a thought that starts with

I wish I could…

I want to….

I will promptly change it to

I will…

That was it.  A change in semantics changed my attitude.    

In 2009 I started graduate school to become a counselor.  I ran a half marathon.  I ran a marathon.  I raised money for the fight against Leukemia.  I went to Puerto Vallarta with my husband, our first vacation without our children.  We sold our house on the very last day of the year in a terrible real estate market.  I discovered new passions and started to live a purpose driven life, all the while being a good mother to my boys.

I found myself.

1.1.11 is the perfect opportunity for a new start.  Seize it!

I would love to hear your good resolutions.

Happy New Year!

Finally, A Little Sugar

Hectic.  December.  Why does it have to be that way?

Actually, my entire year was hectic.  Managing graduate school, an internship, a stay-at-home toddler, a kindergartener’s schedule, laundry… it has not been easy.  Errors were made.  Assignments were late.  Nothing worse than forgetting Polar Express night at my son’s school.  A special ticket was sent home for an evening of holiday movie magic while dressed in pjs.  My little one kept saying it was his special movie night and I had no idea what he was talking about.  He cried himself to sleep.  The next day he talked about his plans to share a pillow with his good friend and promises of bracelet exchanges.  Bad mommy moment.  Oh, the guilt.

Throw in a couple of half marathons and I am exhausted.  Depleted.

Now, the time has arrived.  The light at the end of a long tunnel.  I counted down the months, days with fellow classmates.  Ah, holiday break.  So many things to catch-up on and long awaited time with my family.

Oh yeah, Christmas.  Eek.  So much to do.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Christmas time and all the festivities that go along with it.  BUT, this year I really need a break and I want to spend every moment with my kids and husband.  I miss my little guy who started school this year.  When I stayed home with my kids there was endless time with them, those days are long gone.  Time with them is precious and I look forward to it.

Something’s got to give.  And so it did.  Christmas cards fell by the wayside.  Early shopping, negative.  Thoughtful gifts for out of state relatives, fail.  Fresh baked goodies for friends, next year.  My first day off of school and internship was Friday.  Friday and Saturday I was in bed sick.  Yesterday was the first real day off and we did something I have looked forward to…baking and decorating sugar cookies with my sweet boys.

I loved having the entire day to spend at leisure.  Every time I bake or cook with my sons, memories flood in from my childhood.  My maternal grandparents owned a bakery.  My paternal grandparents owned a cafe in Greece.  My father owned a restaurant for 25 years.  Most of my fondest memories are standing on a stool side-by-side a beloved family member stirring, mixing, beating eggs.  We made homemade breads for dinner and dessert was NEVER bought from a store.  Fast food was a rare occasion.  I recall less than five happy meals before my fifteenth birthday.

My grandparents have all passed on.  My mother, too.  All of my family lives in Arizona and Greece.  Texas is home to my husband, my children and myself.  Christmas never feels right.  This year I want to focus on our small family, while recharging my batteries.

We enjoyed our cookie day.  We listened to music and danced while we pressed cookie cutters into soft dough.  We giggled and ate colored sugar with our fingers. We iced cookies and decorated broken cookies sending them to the “boneyard.”

I watched their busy, little hands at work and it warmed my heart.  My 3 year-old would make my grandma proud ~ with the way he managed a rolling pin.  My big kid firmly pressing the cookie cutter with both hands to form a well-shaped cookie ~ my grandpa would smile.

Yesterday felt like Christmas.  I may be selfish, but I want a few more of those days before the holiday ends.  Next year I’ll have the shopping done early and cards mailed the weekend after Thanksgiving.  This year we will focus on our time together and I plan to savor every moment.

Do you ever take a break from any of your holiday obligations?

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