Sunday, December 20, 2015

Vegan and MSPI-safe Puppy Chow

Disclaimer: this is not healthy but it is darn good.

I didn't grow up eating rice cereal coated in peanut butter, chocolate and powdered sugar but this is something that my husband remembers having at the holidays.

In the past, I have made it traditionally with the real butter and milk or dark chocolate chips. This year with baby number three on the way and the MSPI diet underway, I modified it a bit. I made notes about the brands that I used but make sure to read labels!

Vegan/MSPI Puppy Chow

1/2 cup Soy Free Earth Balance
1/2 cup peanut butter creamy - I made my own peanut butter but you could use a "safe" store bought variety
1 cup MSPI chocolate - I used organic dark chocolate chunks that I bought in bulk at HyVee but Enjoy Life also makes chocolate that would work
6 cups Rice Chex - I used the HyVee brand
2-3 cups powdered sugar

In a small sauce pan on medium heat, combine the Earth Balance, peanut butter, and chocolate. Stir until melted and combined.

Add 6 cups Rice Chex cereal and gently stir until coated.

Pour 1 cup powdered sugar in the bottom of a large Tupperware container, add the cereal mixture, pour the second cup of powdered sugar on top and replace lid. Gently shake to distribute the powdered sugar.  Open the container and break apart any large clumps. Add more powdered sugar if necessary and shake one last time. Spread on wax paper to cool. Store in airtight container. 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Holiday Meal - MSPI and Plant Based

We ended up with a change of plans for Thanksgiving this year due to weather. Our little family stayed in town and went to a movie. It was the boys first movie experience and they didn't move a muscle during the movie but weren't all that eager to go again. (Bonus, since it is so much more expensive than I remembered.)

Anywho, I had planned on taking several side dishes to our family gathering before plans changed so I had some items in the fridge that I don't always keep on hand. This week, we had a belated plant based, holiday meal. It also had to be devoid of soy as I am now in the final stretch before this little baby arrives at our house. The 5 year old had requested Brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes and I had fresh cranberries that needed to be used as well.

What we ended up with was a roasted vegetable medley with mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. I also made a vegan gravy as well but the flavors were quite good without it.

Holiday Plate

Roasted Carrots
  • 1 cup baby carrots
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • black pepper, to taste
Roasted Broccoli
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • pinch salt
  • black pepper, to taste
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
  • 1½ cups Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • pinch salt
  • black pepper, to taste
Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes
  • 3 pounds Yukon Gold or Red potatoes, roughly chopped into 1-inch pieces and peeled if desired
  • 1 cup vegetable stock (check ingredient list for soy)
  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance - soy free, cut into small cubes
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup plain hummus
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/3 - 1/2 cup unsweetened almond or oat milk, warmed
Vegan Gravy
  • 1 tbsp Earth Balance (or olive oil)
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • ¼ tsp each of onion powder, thyme, and oregano
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • Powdered vegan no-beef bouillon to taste
Cranberry Sauce
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • the juice of 2-3 oranges
  • 12-ounces fresh cranberrie
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Slow cooker mashed potatoes
  1. Early in the day, add potatoes and stock to the bowl of a slow cooker, and place butter cubes and minced garlic on top. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours, or on low for 7-8 hours, or until the potatoes are cooked and soft.
  2. Just prior to the meal, while the veggies are roasting, use a potato masher or an electric mixer to mash the potatoes to your desired consistency.  Stir in the hummus, salt, and black pepper.  And add your desired amount of warm milk, until the potatoes reach your desired level of creaminess.  Stir in any other add-ins if desired.
Roasted Veggies
  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Prepare a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. In a bowl, mix carrots with olive oil, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Spread the carrots on your baking sheet.
  2. Mix halved Brussels sprouts in the same mixing bowl with brown sugar, olive oil, salt and pepper, and spread them out on the same baking sheet. 
  3. Mix the broccoli with olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Spread the broccoli on the baking sheet as well. Bake for 15-20 minutes. About halfway through the cooking time give everything a good stir to evenly roast. 
Cranberry Sauce
  1. Bring sugar, water and orange juice to a boil in a medium saucepan.
  2. Add cranberries and cinnamon. Bring to a simmer and cook stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes, until sauce thickens.
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Vegan Gravy
  1. In a small saucepan heat Earth Balance or olive oil over medium to low heat. 
  2. Begin to whisk in the flour, salt, thyme, and oregano, and mix well. 
  3. Cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute before slowly whisking in the broth. 
  4. Add bouillon and stir. 
  5. Simmer for 8-10 minutes until thick, adjusting the consistency with extra broth as needed.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Lessons at Bathtime

I am not a yeller. I don't yell at sporting events or concerts, on roller coasters, or in traffic at other drivers. I don't yell at friends across the room to get their attention. I don't even often holler for the dog to come. I didn't grow up with yelling or conflict. I don't remember my mom or dad ever once yelling at me and without exception, never at each other. Not one time.

So.... when this happened the other day, I was taken aback.

It went like this. I was trying to get the four year old and the just barely turned two year old through the bath and bedtime routine. The first step is getting to the bathroom. The second step is taking off clothes. I had the two year old in the tub and had asked the older one to get undressed approximately 1,682 times, calmly and nicely. Finely I yelled, "just do it!" at him. One look at his face and teary eyes and I knew I had made a mistake. Now don't get me wrong. Everyone loses their patience sometimes. I wasn't ridiculing him. We were all tired from a long day of work and play and no naps. Being pregnant makes me even more tired and I just wanted to lay down. I quickly apologized for raising my voice. I explained that was not the right thing for me to do and that I should have used my words in a nice way (this is something that we tell both boys to do regularly). His eyes welled up and his lip trembled and he said, "It cracks my heart open when you yell at me." And my mind flashed to an image that I had seen not long ago on social media.

I apologize for not knowing where this originally came from in order to give them credit for the photo.
This picture makes my stomach drop. That is exactly the look I got from my little boy and I hate that I made him feel that way. The only thing I can do now is try my best to maintain my patience and to remember this moment. To understand that he's four. He can follow instructions but he also gets distracted. He isn't doing it to be naughty, something else just catches his attention. This is a kid who likes to please, for better or for worse. He was in his own little Hot Wheel world and not in a hurry to get in the bathtub. He is also sensitive to emotions. He does not want people to be sad, or angry, or hurt and he takes every little thing personally, which we are working on slowly.

The next thing he said was, "momma, who did you yell at today?" My stomach dropped even further when I sat and thought to myself that the answer was "only you". I couldn't even answer him. That  question made me realize in a split second that I would never yell at a friend, coworker, patient, sibling, parent, my husband, or a stranger. I would never yell at them to "hurry up", "knock it off", or "pay attention".

So why would I do this to my child?

The answer is, I won't. I am certain that I won't resort to this again. It helps that it is not in my nature but it is not what I want them to learn. I don't want the boys yelling at each other or at their parents when they are upset. I don't want them to yell at their future wives or kids. I want them to begin to learn other techniques for dealing with stress, agitation, annoyance, frustration, and anger now.  That starts with me, with what they see and hear every day and their observations of how I dealt with issues. 

Parenting is certainly not easy and it doesn't come with a manual. Each day is a new lesson, both for the little boys and for their mom.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Showing Compassion on the First Day of School

Kids are headed back to school. First day of school pictures are plastered all over Facebook and everyone looks so cute. It's fun to see my friends children grow each year. My oldest is headed back to preschool this year for the four year old class and he is so excited. Three half days seems to be about perfect for him (and me) right now.

This week, I was talking to someone whose little one was off to 1st grade this year. She was mocking the Kindergarten parents for the tears and the emotion as they sent their babies into a big new school on a new adventure. She was talking about how "the first grade parents were laughing and rolling our eyes". She talked about a first grader who was crying about leaving her dad to go into the school building on the first day and that this child was "too old for this" behavior.

I don't know. I guess because I haven't sent my babies to Kindergarten I may not be qualified to say. I just think it is OK to be in the moment, both for kids and parents, at any grade. First graders are just 5 or 6 years old. If the child has been home with a parent on a babysitter they really love, it can be overwhelming to go back to school. There might be something at school that they remember from last year that scares them, or it might be hard, or they might just be nervous about something new.

Here is the thing, parents of Kindergartners have always had big emotions around the first day of school including trepidation, anxiety, excitement, love, hope, joy, sadness.

 It is always OK for you to feel your emotions. 
Experience them fully, this is what living is supposed to be. 

What I would then hope, is that each one of us shows some compassion for these parents and kids while they work through these feelings and big life events without mocking or bullying, or making them feel less than. Yes, when you can see it from the other side, it seems so much more manageable, maybe even less important. Maybe you weren't a parent who cried on the first day of school and sat in the parking lot for an hour. Maybe your child turned and waved goodbye and skipped through the front door with confidence. Maybe you had to pry your sweet baby off your leg and guiltily race to the car so they could get their day started. Each of these situations is personality, family, and situation dependent but the similarity is that everyone had a first day experience. No two were alike. No two family situations are the same and most importantly no two parents or children are the same.
So cherish your experience as your own with your child. Cry, hug, smile, act brave... whatever you feel like doing and do it with Love, deep love. And don't worry what the first grade parents think, they were just there a year ago.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Sick kids

Warning: Very large soapbox ahead

Let’s get right to the center of the argument.  

If your kids are sick, keep them home. I’m talking home from day care, home from school, home from the grocery store, church, family functions, play dates, birthday parties, and restaurants.

There are several reasons this will benefit everyone… 

1.       Kids that are sick are more likely to misbehave because they feel crappy. 

It is hard enough to “be good” sitting at a table in a restaurant when everyone feels well and happy. I don’t know about you, but eating out at this point is an adventure. I never know quite what will happen next. However, when my 21 month old has a headache that he can’t tell me about, a nose that won’t stop running or is so red and sore that it hurts to wipe it gently, or is tired from being up in the night because he can’t breathe, he is bound to act… well… sick. He is more grumpy, less patient, and less tolerant of the little things that might happen when we are out of our routine. When adults don’t feel well, they don’t perform as well in life roles. We all get crabby from time to time and being sick magnifies this. It is unfair to children to expect them to behave in situations that are a bit tricky anyway when they don’t feel good.

2.       Sharing germs isn’t kind.

I am NOT on the “come on over for a chicken pox play date” bandwagon. In fact, I have barricaded my door to that theory. My kids will get sick and that is all normal. I’ve read the information and I work in the medical field. I realize illness builds immunity but I will not purposefully expose my children to disease. If your child is sick, give me a heads up. I will politely reschedule, decline the play date, drop off the birthday present or excuse my sons and myself from the situation. I don’t think less of you or your child because you can’t attend the party or the get together. I appreciate and respect your honesty and compassion for myself, my children and your own family. In the same way, know that my declining your invitation if I have a sick little boy is not meant to be hurtful, my baby just needs to rest up and get well.

3.       Having sick kids is exhausting… for the grownups and the child.

You may have a 13 year old who can wipe their own nose and cover their own cough and make it to the bathroom every time. I do not. I would bet that you can remember the days of having a baby or toddler who was up all night every time they had a bug. When my child catches your child’s cold, I am up all night rocking, snuggling, and comforting. I will never turn down cuddles, not even in the middle of the night, but there is something about having a sick child that is exhausting, on top of the typical exhaustion of parenting. I know you remember it. And then the second baby gets it. Rinse and repeat.

4.       Not all children have a strong immunity.

I am blessed with two healthy boys. I am lucky. There are families who have children with compromised immune systems and they take every precaution to protect their children while still allowing them to be kids. Cancer treatments, syndromes, and limited mobility and/or respiratory function, among others, can cause decreased immunity. The world will expose us to bacteria, viruses, infections, and diseases daily, just by stepping outside, no need to add to the list.

I get it. It isn’t always easy. Parent’s employers often don’t allow for time off for illness, let alone to take care of sick children. Children can be “sick” before the symptoms show up. I am simply pointing out that kids act like kids. They have little to no personal bubble, they wipe noses on the backs of their hands, they share toys and snacks and play closely together. They will get colds and stomach bugs and they will recover. Allowing children time to heal in a safe, comfortable place for them is kind and compassionate. They need the rest and the care and the downtime so they can be back out in the yard and at school playing with voracity. So stay home and enjoy the snuggles and the naps when necessary.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Green Pancakes

At our house, we don't believe in hiding foods such as vegetables in other more kid friendly foods. We do believe in letting kids help and taste and create the food for the family. It is no secret that spinach is what makes these pancakes green! E watched me rinse and dry the spinach leaves, pack them into the measuring cup and whir them into a green liquid with the other ingredients in the  blender.

These are a bit more savory that traditional pancakes but were quite good with a bit of Earth Balance spread and a squeeze of honey.

Green Pancakes

Spinach Pancakes? I'm kinda worried that you're going to want to skip this recipe based on the name, but I beg you to give these pancakes a try. I originally made them as a St. Patrick's Day-themed recipe for my monthly "Snack Mom" column in the...

Spinach Pancakes? I'm kinda worried that you're going to want to skip this recipe based on the name, but I beg you to give these pancakes a try. I originally made them as a St. Patrick's Day-themed recipe for my monthly "Snack Mom" column in the...


  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil + 2 Tbsp water + 2 tsp baking powder
  •  1 cup packed fresh spinach
  • 1 cup original unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon refined coconut oil
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. In a small bowl combine 1 Tbsp coconut oil + 2 Tbsp water + 2 tsp baking powder and let sit for one to two minutes.
  2.  In a blender, combine the spinach, almond milk, and oil and the above mixture and blend until smooth.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients.
  4. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined.
  5. Heat a large pan over medium heat and grease. 
  6. Pour about 2 tablespoons of the pancake mixture onto the griddle, making as many pancakes as will fit and cook for 2-4 minutes depending on the heat of your stove.
  7. Flip the pancakes when bubbles begin to appear and cook or 2 minutes or until cooked through.
  8. Serve with Earth Balance spread and Agave or Maple syrup or honey.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Vegan "Meatball" Subs

First of all.. I just want to say that as soon as my brother sees this post (providing he ever reads my blog, wink wink) he will send me a text that says, "those are not meatballs. They cannot be called meatballs." Semantics. Anywho, these came about because I had an abundance of leftover marinara that I had pulled from the freezer. I didn't think it would be wise to freeze it... again. I asked P what he could think of to use it for. This is a bit funny because usually he looks at me and says something like, "can't you find something on Pinterest?"Ahaha. This time he said (without hesitation) "Meatball Subs". Well, ok then.  Excellent idea, except that I don't think I have ever had a meatball sub... in any form. Hmmmm. Despite this fact as well as the extra toasty buns, I thought these were quite good.

Meatball Sandwich

For the tomato sauce
  •  1 medium onions, peeled and minced 
  •  vegetable broth for sauteing
  • 1 cloves garlic, peeled and minced 
  •  2 cups canned crushed or diced tomatoes, along with their juice
  • 3/4 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoons dried oregano 
  •  1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • one bay leaf 
  • 1/4 teaspoon brown sugar 

For the Lentil "Meatballs"
        This made enough for 5 sandwiches and then freezing an entire second meals worth

  • 2 cups cooked lentils (I used one package of Melissa's brand precooked because I had them in the fridge
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Vegetable Broth for sauteing
  • 1/3 Red Onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp Minced Garlic (or one clove)
  • 1/2 Zucchini, finely chopped
  • 12 Baby carrots finely chopped
  • 1 Celery Stalk, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp Dried Parsley
  • 1/2 cup Bread Crumbs
  • 1 T Ground Flax Seed
  • 2 T Vegan Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/2 tsp each Paprika, garlic powder, Italian Seasoning
  • 1 T Garbanzo flour (or regular if not gluten free) plus 1 T water

Additional Ingredients
Daiya Cheese
Gluten Free Vegan Hoagie Buns

For the tomato sauce
- Sauté the onions in vegetable broth in large saucepan. Season them with salt and black pepper, stir frequently, until the onions start to become translucent. Add the garlic and cook until the onions are completely soft
- Add the canned tomatoes, the tomato paste, salt, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, the bay leaf and the sugar, and let simmer for 10 to 12 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
- Heat the sauce with the meatballs in it until everything is warmed through. If the sauce is very thick, it can be thinned with a bit of warm water.

For the Lentil “Meatballs”
- Place the lentils to a large mixing bowl. Mash them with a fork, potato masher or your hands until they are completely mashed.
- Heat a large skillet and add the vegetable broth. Sauté the onions for about 5 minutes until translucent.
- Add the rest of the vegetables and the garlic, salt and pepper. Sauté about 6 minutes until the veggies are soft.
- Add the veggies to the mixing bowl with the lentils.
- Add the parsley, bread crumbs, flaxseed, Worcestershire sauce, and spices.
- In a small bowl, put garbanzo flour. Add 1 Tbs. of water and mix into a loose paste. This will help to hold the mixture together. Add to the bowl.
- Mix everything well. I used clean hands, which seemed to be the best option. If the texture seems too wet, add more bread crumbs. If it feels too dry add water.
- Wet your hands, scoop up about 2 Tbs. worth of the mixture (more or less depending what size you like your meatballs) and shape into a ball.
- Place them in a casserole dish or on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Cook for 20 minutes at 375 degrees watching closely and turning halfway through.
- Turn on broiler after 20 minutes and broil for a minute or two to get a bit more browned. WATCH CLOSELY.
- Pull from the oven and cut one open to check for doneness. Meatballs should be well heated all the way through.

To make sandwiches, take hoagie buns, cut open almost all the way through. Slice some of the meatballs in half and put them between the bread, pressing down with a fork a bit. Top with a small amount of  shredded Daiya and heat in 400º oven or under the broiler, until the cheese melts. WATCH CLOSELY (I only know this from experience. See photo.)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Round and Round

I get so tired of the working parent vs stay at home parent debate. Stay at home mom's work hard, all day long. There is no debate. Working mom's work hard too, all day long. The argument that stay at home mom's are "on" and "giving" all day long is true but the insinuation that working mom's aren't and don't is gut wrenching to me.

My family is blessed to be in a position for one parent to be home with our boys all the time. My husband has taken over that role with grace. He never complains and he spends every waking moment each day "on call". He plays, and plays, and plays, changes messy diapers, builds ramps and train tracks, reads stories, makes breakfast and lunches and keeps the peace (mostly). I am sure he is tired and there are days where I know he watches the clock so that he can hand over the baby and pass on the 4 year old "baton" as soon as I pull in the driveway. I certainly can't blame him.

We are lucky, but we also make sacrifices, just like other families. We don't drive fancy new cars. In fact, I am pretty sure the "check-engine" light has been on in at least one of our cars without exception for over 10 years. Ha. We don't take grandiose vacations. We moved into a less expensive house. We eat out very rarely, and it is certainly a treat. We really are fortunate to make it work because there are certainly those who cannot.

These thoughts and feelings stemmed from a blog post I recently read from a mom about "taking a break". Actually, I read half of it and then I got frustrated and quit reading. Her point was that when she asks for a "break", it doesn't mean margaritas by the pool and the latest issue of Cosmo magazine. It means 30 minutes of time where nobody needs anything and she can get something done (a quick workout, a load of laundry, a chapter in a book)... in peace. Oh, how I understand that. I am not looking for a day at a spa or a weekend with the girls in a hotel. I am honestly, not even sure this would be possible for me, at this point. I would feel pretty guilty about spending the time and money but that is a whole different issue for another day.

I feel pulled in every direction all the time, to work, to earn a paycheck, to keep our health insurance, to make a half-hearted attempt to keep the house clean, dishes, laundry, groceries. I work so hard at work, where patients, families, coworkers, suppliers, and insurance companies need something all the time. When I come home, the little boys needs are hungry and tired and grumpy and both want to be held while I make dinner (if only I had 4 arms and bigger biceps). I certainly also owe it to my marriage to give my time, efforts, and attention to my husband as well.

There are so many things that I day dream of...
I really want to pick up my 4 year old at preschool at noon each day. I want to see the sleepy smiles in the mornings and feed them their breakfasts. I want to take them to the park, watch them play in the sandbox, create little crafts with them and read their stories over and over. Instead, I cram those things in on Saturday and Sunday between getting groceries and doing laundry and nap time. I relish the snuggles I get on those weekend days.... but I can't help dream of adding more time with them.

Sunday, January 11, 2015


I am not a New Years person. I never go out on New Years Eve. I never raise a glass to another new year. I never even see the clock flip to midnight. In fact, I pray fervently that my kiddos will be soundly, safely sleeping in their beds come the middle of the night. I realized that P and I have never seen the New Year in together in the time we have known each other. Some may say that is boring. I prefer to think of it as refreshing. I have no desire to see January 1st in with a hangover.

I also don't make New Years resolutions. I have always thought that if you want or need to make a change, it doesn't matter if it is Sunday or October. Just start right now. This year, however, I decided to try something a bit different. I will be setting mini goals each month. Resolutions, challenges, goals, however you would like to say it for 30 days. These will be driven by what I hear from my body. January is 30 days of no refined sugar. This has really good quite well, considering my sweet tooth. I am 11 days in and feeling good. Ironically, someone told me yesterday that he read that if a person drinks one can of soda per day that adds up to 60 lbs of sugar a year. Wow. It is in everything, ketchup, bread, pickles, pizza sauce, peanut butter. On the upside, I can make all of those things myself without sugar and they taste great. Phew.

I haven't decided if I will continue with each month's challenge after the month is over just adding the subsequent challenge or if I will replace it but that really isn't the point.

Looks to me like it is going to be an exciting year.