Category Archives: Food

A fun dinner menu for your family’s meal planning

Every week, we take the guesswork out of dinner planning by putting together a menu for the entire week. I’m lucky to have married a man who cooks, so he and I switch off weeks for cooking. On Saturdays, he or I will create the dinner plan for the week, creating our shopping list from that menu plan.

Btw, I talk a lot about time saving tips like meal planning in my book, Reclaim Your Creative Soul, a guide to organizing your full-time life to make room for your craft. I even include a 30-day meal guide and coordinating shopping list! Find out more about it here.

Back to the meal plan…. Usually we just jot it down on binder paper and pin it to the refrigerator. The kids appreciate knowing what we’re eating each day (although, sometimes it dictates whether they’ll be home for dinner or not), and we never stand in front of the refrigerator feeling lost because the plan is already created.

Lately, though, I’ve been playing around with creative menus, putting together fun templates through Word as if I was creating an actual restaurant menu. Here’s the latest:



We usually have the more involved meals on the weekends (though tonight I’m going out, so the rest of the family gets pizza). During the week, I make meals that take very little prep time and are 30 minutes or less to make. By midweek, we generally have a lot of leftovers, so I always incorporate a make-your-own meal night (plus, the teens really should make their own food at least once a week). And Fridays we either go out or have breakfast, because by the end of the week, I’m so over cooking.

This template I used isn’t anything fancy. I just took an already created Word template for a menu, but tweaked the background and the wording.

Would you like to download it for yourself? CLICK HERE for a word doc you can easily edit.

P.S. The photo I have above is not on this week’s menu, but one you may want to try. It’s Honey Ginger Soy Chicken from the Mom 100 Cookbook. Find the recipe here, along with information on the great cookbook it came from.

What are your family’s favorite dinner ideas?

Good friends and Prosecco

Jonathon, Soskia and Gina, chowing down on Mexican food and Prosecco.
Jonathon, Saskia and Gina, chowing down on Mexican food and Prosecco.

Every Tuesday, a group of friends and I hang out, taking part in a shared meal before settling in with a video series by Rob Bell, an emergent pastor with some simple, yet huge, ideas. Two months ago, many of the people in this group were strangers to me. But something happens when you spend week after week with a group of people, breaking bread with delicious food, revealing your struggles and passions through whatever that week’s topic is….you become friends.

This was definitely true last night. We gathered around the island in Gina’s kitchen, talking about our highs and lows of the week over burritos and bubbly. Usually we drink wine with our dinner. But I had a bottle of Prosecco from Barefoot Wines I was dying to try. So we paired our Mexican meal with a glass of sparkling wine.

Prosecco1Let me pause here to rave about this Prosecco*. I had never tried it before, so I had no idea what I was in for. Gina popped the bottle and I poured us each a glass. The first thing we noticed was how light and refreshing it was. It has just a hint of sweetness, but leans more toward the dry side. We all agreed how good it was. Jonathon, who admitted to not being much of a champagne fan, even said that Prosecco was the way to go when it came to sparkling wine. And while I’m sure it would be a great accompaniment to a meal with light flavors, like seasoned veggies or salmon, I was quite impressed with how it tasted with our burritos. 😉 I will most definitely be drinking this wine again.

At any rate, Gina mentioned how this was the second to last week our group will be meeting – all the more reason to break out the bubbly. But it was also a bittersweet bit of news. It’s been so short since we started hanging out together, learning more about our faith, as well as who we are as human beings. However, this group seems to have melded together really well, celebrating in each other’s milestones and happenings. At one point, we all sat in the living room, admitting our most awkward times in our youth, realizing how unoriginal each of our childhoods really were. And I looked around the room and saw good friends, people I knew would drop everything for any of us.

All in two months.

My friend Gina (left) and me.
My friend Gina (left) and me.

I owe this, first, that we’re just awesome people. 😉 But I think there’s a little more to it. Any time you pair good people with excellent food and something delicious in your glass, you’ve got the first few ingredients of a promising friendship. Week after week, this has proven true. Tonight’s burritos and Prosecco just happened to be another one of these magic combinations.

*Barefoot Wines sent me a bottle of Prosecco to review. However, these views are completely my own.

Vegan avocado mayonnaise

When I was a kid, I loved my mayonnaise. Loved it. I mean, I would actually lick the spoon when I was done adding a ton of it to my tuna. It’s not so bad when you’re an active kid (sort of), but when you are an adult with slow metabolism, licking the mayo spoon is probably not a good idea.

Plus, it’s kind of gross.

One of my friends recently posted how she just made avocado mayonnaise and posted it to Facebook. She also mentioned that next she’ll try bacon mayonnaise, which probably means her soon-to-be hubby is thanking his lucky stars he found a girl like her to marry. But the avocado mayo had me so intrigued, I had to look up the recipe and try my hand at it.

If you’ve ever made mayonnaise before, you know how finicky it can be. Not only are you dealingwith raw egg yolk and possible salmonella poisoning, but you have to combine the ingredients just so, and then whisk vigorously until your arm is about to fall off while dripping in the oil one drop at a time.

This recipe I found was way easier than that (though you still have to drip in the oil). There are no foods that could potentially harm you by being raw, and you use a blender instead of a whisk.

I found this recipe at, submitted by Sharon123.  The total calorie count for the whole recipe is 1072 calories, which figures out to be 67 calories per tablespoon.

Avocado Mayonnaise

Vegan Avocado Mayonnaise
makes 3/4 cup

1 avocado (medium to large)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1. Scoop out the flesh of one avocado and put it into the blender.
2. Add lemon juice, salt, and cayenne pepper, then blend together.
3. With blender running, add olive oil slowly.Stop it periodically to ensure all ingredients are blending properly.  Puree to a smooth creamy mixture.
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Chocolate covered strawberry hangover

Yesterday, I made it very clear that all I wanted to do for Mother’s Day (in between going to church in the morning and serving at church at night) was to sit by the pool with a book in one hand and a margarita in the other.

I totally got my wish. And it was fabulous.

I also treated my mom to chocolate covered strawberries and to lunch at our favorite little cafe. My kids spoiled me with some new jewelry and a heavenly chocolate mousse that has become somewhat of a tradition. My stepson gave me a sweet origami flower he made (you stepmoms probably understand how huge it is to receive any kind of gift from your stepchild!  I almost cried!). And I replenished the chocolate covered strawberries we’d been snacking on all day with new ones because they were just so dang good.


By the end of the day, I was full of chocolate, kissed with a sunburn, and happy as a clam.

This morning I woke up totally dehydrated and feeling like I wanted to die. Seems I kind of forgot about drinking water yesterday.

It was almost noon when I started to feel somewhat human again. Before then, I was haunted by images of chocolate covered strawberries, and I swore I would never eat one again, so help me God. Instead, I sipped on my coconut water in a furtive effort to rehydrate with the nasty tasting liquid. One can later, and I think I’m going to survive.

And I’m dreaming, once again, of chocolate covered strawberries….

P.S. The above strawberries are super easy to make. Melt some chocolate chips (the darker, the better, IMO) for 1 minute in the microwave, stir, then for 30 seconds more. Dip washed (and dried!) strawberries in the chocolate and then rest on a covered baking sheet (parchment or wax paper works best. We were out of both, and foil worked just fine too). Melt white chocolate according to the package – careful not to overheat because it gets gross. Dip your spoon in, let a bit drizzle down, and then whip it back and forth over the strawberries (I whip my spoon back and forth!) to create the desired effect. Refrigerate strawberries until chocolate hardens, about 15-30 minutes or so.

In the meantime, find various other items to stick in the leftover chocolate – bananas, peanut butter, your finger… The kids and I hate to see good chocolate go to waste, so this is probably our favorite part. 🙂

Hope your Mother’s Day was fantastic….and that you remembered to drink plenty of water!

Healthy & quick ideas for kids’ snacks

This post will be published on Friday, January 25th in the Press Democrat.

“There’s nothing to eat!” my son lamented as he stood in front of the open refrigerator door. This was, of course, a lie. We had just gone shopping and the refrigerator was packed full of all kinds of food. What my son probably meant, however, was that there were no foods he could easily grab and go. He wanted something like a handful of chips, a granola bar, those conveniently wrapped fun-size snacks with artificial colors and flavors, or anything that had lots of sugar or fat that took no effort at all.

But if that food were in the house, my son would eat way too much of it. I know this about him. I also know this about me. If convenient foods are sitting around the house, we’ll both end up eating those before the healthier choices, and eat way more calories in the process.

However, the fact remains that snacks are meant to be a quick bite in between meals. They SHOULD be convenient. Here are some ideas for grab-and-go snack without sacrificing the healthfulness.

Celery and peanut butter. This has become one of our favorite snacks ever. I usually spread peanut butter in more celery than I need, and then store it in several serving size containers so that my son can just grab one and start snacking away. That satisfying crunch makes this a fun snack to have, and the peanut butter helps to take away the bitterness of the celery. If the celery is just too “icky” to your child, just substitute apple slices with peanut butter on it. If your child is allergic to or doesn’t like peanut butter, swap out cream cheese or sunflower seed spread.

Plain yogurt and toppings. My kid has discovered Greek yogurt. What a wonderful thing to discover! It’s so full of protein and goodness, it keeps him full for much longer than the ice cream he thought he was craving. Keep it healthy and fun by getting a large container of plain Greek yogurt and separating it into smaller containers. Add a small dollop of jam or honey, and a choice of toppings nearby. Good ideas for toppings include chopped up nuts, a handful of granola, or some fresh fruit.

Green smoothies. I’ll admit that my kids turned their noses up at these drinks at first look. But at first taste? They are hooked! And these snacks are super easy to make and very healthy. Our favorite is to take a bunch of kale and some frozen mango and mix it thoroughly in the blender with coconut water. There is no sugar in this at all! The ratio of kale and fruit can vary depending on taste, but the point is to get a good amount of greens in them. My kids now request these healthy drinks often, and they are filling enough to even use as their breakfast.

quichemuffinsQuiche muffins. One of the things I’m trying to limit in our house is the amount of empty carbs we eat. Muffins were always one of my favorite go-to snacks to bake up for the kids. But they just aren’t as filling or nutritious as I’d like them to be. So when I came across muffins made mostly from eggs at the blog, I was delighted! And it’s very easy. (*See recipe below)

Make healthy substitutions. Did you know that one flour tortilla has more calories than a slice of bread? By switching to corn tortillas or small wheat tortillas, you can actually cut your calories in half. A glass of juice can hold as much sugar as a can of soda. But eating a piece of fruit can still give the same sweet taste without being artificially sweetened. A handful of chips can add lots of fat, salt, and empty carbs to your kids diet, and only leave them craving more afterwards. If your child is looking for a salty snack fix, consider lightly salted roasted pumpkin seeds instead. You can even pop your own popcorn with light oil instead of the highly buttered version popped in a microwave.

Make healthy food convenient. If you keep carrots or celery cut up in the fridge, it makes it easier for your kid to grab it for a snack. Always keep a healthy supply of fruit within their reach, and include a few fun choices around when in season, like cherries of cut up strawberries.

Want more ideas for healthy snacks? Visit the healthy snack topic going on at

Crustless Mini Quiches
Makes 12

1/2 head broccoli, cut into stems and florets
2/3 cup spinach leaves, roughly chopped
2/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar
6 eggs
1.5 cups milk
Salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 375°. Grease a regular muffin tin with cooking spray.
Blanch the broccoli, then drain very thoroughly.
Layer the broccoli, chopped spinach, and cheese into the muffin cups. Cups should be nearly full with veggies and cheese.
Whisk together the eggs, milk and seasonings until smooth and slightly frothy. Pour over the vegetables, filling the muffin cups about 3/4 full.
Bake for 25–30 minutes, until the tops are slightly puffed and golden.

Recipes for a lazy autumnish Sunday

With the start of November brings along the coziness of autumn with a whiff of smoke rising from fireplaces and leaves blowing in the wind. The official start of autumn isn’t for a few more weeks, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to celebrate it on the first weekend of November. Today’s extra hour thanks to daylight savings has inspired a day of lounging in our pajamas and snoozing to whatever sports game is on TV (soccer, in our case).

And it has also inspired a day of preparing a batch of homemade butternut squash soup and homemade oatmeal bread.

Of course, I planned out our meal yesterday when I created our full meal plan. But this autumn dinner for a lazy Sunday evening was just what we needed on a day when we recover from time changes and a kicking our ass work week. It was also perfect for a Sunday at home because, while fairly easy to create, I’ve been cooking and baking for several hours.

The soup is not my own recipe, so I’ll link to it from here. It’s by Hank Shaw who blogs over at all of his food adventures that include hunting, gathering, angling, and cooking. It’s like the manliest food blog you could come across.  He also just came out with a pretty kickass cookbook with all the recipes he’s blogged about along with some pretty snazzy photos.  He always comes up with something droolworthy that has me wishing I could be close enough to smell his kitchen, maybe even taste a few dishes. So when he posted a Squash Soup recipe on his blog that called for bacon to give it a bit of fatty pizazz, I was sold.

Plus, it gave me a chance to try out my new immersion blender, something I asked for on my wedding registry and was one of the items I hoped to get above everything else. The blender didn’t disappoint, and neither did the soup. Find the recipe HERE, and start making some of your own.

The bread is from my most used cookbook in my whole cookbook library, the Better Homes & Garden cookbook, you know, the one with the red and white checkered cover. Almost every kitchen I’ve been in has this book, and if you don’t, you should stop what you’re doing right now and order it. Mine is so well used it has food sticking the pages together, and you can totally tell which pages are my most used recipes.  It has the best selection of no-frills, cook it like you say it, recipes. It’s the perfect gift for your kid who’s leaving for college, or for the family just starting out on their own. And it has every average recipe you need that comes out tasting exactly as you want it too, from meat loaf to apple pie and everything in between.

This afternoon I made Oatmeal Bread, one of my favorites when it comes to homemade yeast breads. Something about it reminds me of when I was a kid and my mom used to bake us bread. This was the bread she made often, and the one I couldn’t get enough of. I’m not sure if this is the same recipe she used, but you can’t really go wrong with Oatmeal Bread recipes. They don’t have a ton of ingredients, and the majority of the time spent on making bread is in the rising time alone. If you’ve ever been afraid to try making yeast breads from scratch, don’t be. They’re really easy, and you’ll feel like Susie Homemaker when you’re done. Plus, your kitchen will smell amazing!

Note: This recipe skips proofing your yeast, which is totally fine by me. After all, if your yeast isn’t past its expiration date and has been stored in a cool, dry place, it shouldn’t require proofing.

Oatmeal Bread
found in the Better Homes & Garden cookbook

3-3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 package active dry yeast
1 ¾ cup water
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 Tbl butter
1 ¼ tsp salt
2 cups rolled oats

1. In large mixing bowl, stir together 2 cups of the all-purpose flour and yeast, set aside. IN a medium saucepan heat and stir water, brown sugar, butter, and salt till just warm (120-130 degrees F) and butter almost melts. Add water mixture to flour mixture. Beat with an electric mixture on low-medium speed for 30 seconds, scraping sides of bowl constantly. Beat on high for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in oats and as much of the remaining flour as you can.

2. Turn dough out on lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic (6-8 minutes total). Shape dough into a ball. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl (use Crisco), turning once to grease surface of dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place till doubled in size, about 1- 1 ½ hours. (I generally turn on the oven while making the bread, then turn it off an place the rising bread on top of the oven-warmed stove (not in!) to keep it warm.

3. Punch dough down. Turn dough out on lightly floured surface, divide in half. Cover, let rest for 10 minutes. Grease two 8X4X2 inch loaf pans.

4. Shape each portion of dough into a loaf patting into a loaf shape and tucking edges underneath.

5. Place shaped dough in prepared pans. Cover and let rise in warm place till nearly doubled in size (45-60 minutes).

6. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 40-45 minutes, or till bread sounds hollow when tapped on top with your fingers. You may need to cover loosely with foil in the last 10 minutes of baking to prevent it from getting too brown. Immediately remove bread from pans. Cool on wire racks. Makes 2 loaves (32 servings).

Distractions, determinations, and that magical fruit.

I’ve been making a lot of progress in the novel I’m writing, about to hit the 10,000 word mark (woohoo!).  It’s starting to not be so much of a challenge to write, as I have finally reached the point in the story where something happens to change everything, and the main character will now spend the rest of the novel coping with this new reality.

I am really giving my main character a run for her money.

However, I keep getting distracted.  I’ll go to find another word for ‘noise’ or ‘crash’ or ‘whisper’ (seriously, what would I do without, and get stuck in the vortex of finding just the right word to convey the image in my head.  And all that thinking makes me hungry so I grab the box of Mini Wheats and start eating them, so amazed at how bad they taste I have to keep eating them to make sure I’m right.  I totally am every time.  Of course, eating always brings me to Facebook, since Facebook is the perfect place to post photos of what you’re eating.  But before I can snap a photo of the crumbled up wheat at the bottom of the box, someone will post something about Honey Boo Boo, and I have to give my two cents about why our civilization is going backwards when families like that get their own TV Show.  But before I can think of something truly witty, someone posts a video like this:

And seriously, how can you not watch a video like that at least a dozen times without smiling?  I can only do one thing about that.

Blog it.

So here I am, writing about my procrastination on writing my super fun and interesting novel while it’s still stuck under 10,000 words.  That’s ok though.  I think I needed a break after those first really thoughtful 10 minutes of writing it.

P.S. on that thought:  My friend Bert gave me a serious form of inspiration regarding publishing through this article, an argument for self-publishing that is pretty convincing.  I’d toyed with the idea, and even had several people mention it to me.  But I think this was the straw that broke the typewriter’s ribbon when it comes to a multitude of rejection letters vs. having a book published as soon as I deem it finished.  It makes the finish line suddenly a million times closer.  And getting a finished product out there suddenly doesn’t seem like that daunting of a task.

In other news, today is the last day of eating beans and rice.  YAY!  (You can read about why I’m eating beans and rice HERE)  To celebrate, I ate a veggie Marsala burger that has beans in it with a fried egg on top.  It’s actually really delicious.  But I don’t think I’m going to eat beans again for a couple of weeks at least.  I had to spend all day today tight-cheeked – not because I was smiling too much, but because if I didn’t, I was going to kill someone with an odor that really shouldn’t come out of any human being.  It was probably the Mexican casserole that we had last night, a mixture of beef and several different kinds of beans and topped with cheese – the lethal combination for making a really potent stink bomb.  I managed to hold it together all day long, just taking lots of breaks to spare my neighbors.  But this evening I had to stop at the store and had no choice but to find a vacant aisle and drop a bomb.  I then hightailed it to several aisles away.  But I swear I heard someone fall to the ground gagging in the same vicinity as a mysterious mushroom cloud that appeared out of nowhere.

This week we ate bean tacos, curried lentil and yam soup (seriously delicious), eggs and beans, chicken and rice, and I even ordered a side of beans to go with my Rubio’s street tacos. 🙂  Today we had so many leftovers that I told Mr. W to take the night off cooking and we’d just finish off the remains in stinky bliss.

I wouldn’t say we suffered this week, not like 3rd world countries who are forced to eat nothing but beans and rice all day every day in severely small portions.  No, we ate some pretty good meals.  However, that first day when we started this challenge, I got a small taste of what it was like to eat so little.  I couldn’t think, speak, and had no energy.  We really have it good and honestly have nothing to complain about.

And in even more news, Taz is on the path to a healthier lifestyle.  Last night we came to an agreement that we’d work together to get him to eat healthier and get more exercise.  Moving around is the most important part, so I am attaching video game privileges to the deal as motivation.  If he doesn’t exercise, he only gets one hour of video games.  If he does a 30 minute exercise routine or a one-mile run/walk, he can have 3 hours.  It’s a decent compromise – especially since he’s been known to spend 14 hours in his room playing video games and all I’ve been doing about it is nagging to deaf ears.

Last night we worked out in the living room, doing a series of one-minute exercises from an app that’s on my phone.  Those exercises are seriously kickbutt.  He worked up a serious sweat by about 10 minutes in.  But he looked at me like I was crazy when the girl went into a side plank.  Tonight we did our mile.  He ran almost half of it through a series of running and walking.  I gave him short running goals, like running to a certain tree, then walking to a mailbox, then running to the fire hydrant, etc.  There were a little bit of tears by the end of it, but he made it.  Our goal is to run every other day, and do the exercise app on non-running days.  My goal is to continue supporting him and not leave him to his own devices – especially since I promised him he’d see some serious results in only a couple of months if he kept this up.

At any rate, it’s time to get back to that book.  My other goal is to make it to 15,000 words by the end of this 3-day weekend.  And if I keep at it, I know I can get there…and maybe a little beyond.

Here’s to being determined to anything we set our minds to.  And to know when it’s time to lay off the beans.  Whewie!

Beans and rice


Our church is challenging the congregation to take part in a Beans and Rice Challenge on Monday through Friday of this week.  Basically that means to make beans and rice the main course for every meal of the day. There are two purposes to this challenge. The first is to give us a taste of what it’s like in other countries who have no choice but to eat beans and rice for every meal.  Of course, we are still spoiled in this challenge since we can also add different things like spices, vegetables, meat, tortillas, etc.  Other countries have only beans and rice, no seasonings, and definitely no meat. In fact, many times they don’t even have clean water to cook their beans and rice in.  The second purpose of this challenge is to save the money we would have spent on groceries for the week and donate it to help build a church in India.  The goal is $10,000.  Before the challenge started, two families pledged to give $500 each, one family pledged $2,000, and a local business donated $1,000.  We are only on day 1 and already 40% to our goal!

Our family admittedly hemmed and hawed about the beans and rice challenge a little bit. Or should I say, Mr. W and I were hesitant.  He was concerned about being hungry all the time, an understandable concern since the boys in our family tend to be hypoglycemic without enough food.  I was vainly concerned because I’ve lost all this weight avoiding things like rice and too many beans.  But when the challenge got closer and we talked about it with the family, it was the Taz who was instantly intrigued.

Ask the Taz what his favorite dish in the whole world is, and he’ll tell you ‘burritos’.  The kid lives for them.  If we have refried beans in the fridge, he’s good for lunch.  He’ll even pack burritos in a brown bag for school, not even caring that they’re cold by the time lunch rolls around.  And rice?  Probably in his top 5 of favorite foods.  So a week of beans and rice sounded like heaven to him.

I went about packing mine and the Taz’ lunches last night just to set us on a good start for the first day of beans and rice.  For me, I packed a breakfast of red beans, rice, and yams.  For lunch it was red beans, rice, and avocado.  I added a little salt to each for flavor, and had an orange for lunch.  For Taz, I gave him red beans and rice for breakfast.  For lunch he had red beans, rice, and avocado in two tortillas.

I brought all my food to work, and immediately ate my breakfast.  It was a little bland, but not that bad.  But having avoided rice for so long, I felt really bloated when I was done – almost too full.  “This is going to be easy,” I thought.

An hour later I was starving.

I spent the next three hours until lunch time drinking tons of water to keep me filled, as well as half of my orange.  When lunchtime came I nonchalantly heated up my beans and rice and brought them to my desk where I proceeded to devour them.  They were even plainer than before, though the avocado gave it a nice texture.  I was full and hungry at the same time.  I ate the rest of my orange, drank a boatload of water, went pee about 50 times, and then waited till it was time to get home.

Once home, I could barely function.  I was in one of those places where it was best if I just avoided everyone altogether.  It’s luckily Mr. W’s turn to make dinner, so I sat outside and read a magazine until dinner.

For dinner we had…..wait for it….beans and rice.  But we also had all the fixings for tacos, including chicken.  I made sure to put a good amount of chicken and beans on my plate, but I avoided the rice like the plague.  Still counting calories, I couldn’t fathom filling up on something that was so lacking in nutrients when what I really needed was a proper amount of protein.

“Thanks God,” I said, when I saw everyone was waiting for a prayer before beginning to eat.  And then I bit into my first bite of dinner as if I were coming up for air.

“I find it strange that you’re doing all this challenge for a Godly reason, and can’t even pray before we eat,” DQ said with her nose up in the air.  I was just about to hit her over the head with my taco and a flurry of unGodly words when Mr. W interrupted with a much more proper prayer.  I decided it was better to be holy in my discontent at my self-righteous daughter than to say something that might make me slightly less holy in my sacrifices.  Besides, it took about two tacos worth for anything that made sense to come out of my mouth and be able to look people in the eye again.

The Taz admitted that he, too, suffered adverse effects from a day of beans and rice.  He had no energy when it came to playing with his friends during recess.  And in class, his teacher had to kept reminding him not to lay his head on his desk.  And then there were all the times he kept sneaking a left-cheek sneak, and then looking at the person next to him so that everyone in class thought it was the other guy and not Taz.

Day 1 down and I’m already sick of beans and rice.

I am re-evaluating the whole challenge for my diet by nixing the rice.  I just can’t eat it.  I hate the way it felt to feel that full and then that empty soon after.  I know, I know, there are starving children in India who are forced to eat this way daily, and I can’t handle even one day of it.  But hey, those starving children aren’t going to be fitting into a wedding gown in a month and a half, either.  Besides, this whole stomach-eating-brain-because-I’m-so-hungry thing just doesn’t bode well for being able to work properly, and especially for keeping the peace in the household.  It’s only been one day, and I feel like we’re all ready to bite each other’s heads off.

Only 4 more days.

Here’s a cool recipe I found for Bean Cookies that I plan on trying out this week just for the fun of it:

Breakfast Bean Cookies

2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup all-purpose flour (or half all-purpose, half whole wheat)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda (I’m guessing, since the original omitted this step)
1/4 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 – 19 oz. (540 mL) can white kidney or navy beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips, the darker the better
1/2 cup raisins, dried cranberries, chopped dried apricots, or a combination of dried fruits
1/4-1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
2 Tbsp. ground flaxseed

Preheat oven to 350° F.

1. In a food processor, Pulse the oats until it resembles coarse flour. Add in flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt, and process until it’s combined.  Transfer to a large bowl.

2. In the food processor, add in beans, butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla, pulsing till smooth.

3. Combine bean and oat mixture in bowl and stir by hand until combined.  Add in chocolate, raisins, nuts, and flaxseed.  Stir till just blended.

4. Place large spoonfuls of dough on a greased (or parchment papered) sheet, and flatten each one slightly.  (The blog I borrowed this from suggests dampening your hand first to keep it from sticking).

5. Bake for 14-16 minutes, until slightly browned on edges but soft in middle.  Cool on wire rack.

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Per cookie: 138 calories, 3.5 g total fat (1.4 g saturated fat, 1 g monounsaturated fat, 0.8 g polyunsaturated fat), 3.4 g protein, 23 g carbohydrate, 14.2 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber. 22% calories from fat.

Summertime Dinner Menu

Grilled Mediterranean Vegetable Panini (Photo: Alex Farnum/Sunset Magazine)

This week I’m feeling like I need to be on vacation, or at least pretend like I am.  The weather is in the 90s, the kids are at their dad’s house all week long, and I plan on wearing dresses and flowers in my hair every day I can.

This week, I am celebrating summertime!

Of course, hot summer nights means the oven needs to be used as minimally as possible.  So I have planned items I can cook ahead of time during cooler hours, or that require the BBQ or stove top.  This week I am adamant about not being heated out of my house by cooking.  And I also don’t want to be stuck at the stove for a really long time.  This week’s menu takes all of that in account, and just radiates all I love about summertime.

Inspired by Sunset Magazine’s Quick & Easy Summer Dinner Recipes (though not all menu recipes come from Sunset).


– BBQ Chicken
– Baked Potato
– Bush’s Baked Beans
– BBQ Corn


– Cod Tostadas: fried tortillas with a thin layer of refried beans, top it with cod, avocado, Trader Joe’s mango salsa, thinly sliced cabbage, minced radish, cilantro, and sour cream.  Whether it all stays on top is another story….
– Trader Joe’s Corn Salsa (so good, it should be a side dish)
– Spanish Rice


– Falafels: Halved pita pocket, Trader Joe’s Tahini Sauce, feta, lettuce, tomato, baked falafels
Tabouli Salad


– Veggie Panini: grilled eggplant slice, grilled portabello mushroom, mozzarella cheese, roasted red pepper, arugula salad, ciabatta bread brushed with balsamic vinegar and lightly grilled before assembling.
– Polenta


– Turkey burger and sweet potato fries for me.
– Manly beef burger with regular fries for the Mr.
I’m trying out kimchi (pickled cabbage) on my burger to give it a little low-calorie zing.  Mr. W won’t touch it.


Chinese Chicken Salad
– Baguette & Brie
Who says you can’t mix up your cultures in one meal?


– Mahi Mahi with Trader Joes Thai Green Curry
– White Rice
– Grilled Peppers & Onions

Microwave Chocolate Cake

The other night, Mr. W had a hankering for some chocolate cake.  Chocolate cake and me do not get along.  Or rather, chocolate cake loves me so much it wants to stay on my thighs forever despite how many lunges I put them through.  So the idea of a whole chocolate cake in the house was not exactly my favorite.  Plus it was 9pm, and the stores were closing.

However, I did remember coming across a recipe for a single cup of chocolate cake that could be made in the microwave.  This seemed like a worthy challenge to undertake, so I set to perusing the world wide web of Google and came across a promising one.  The result was about 3 minutes of mixing and 2 minutes of microwaving to come up with a spongy version of moist cake.  It wasn’t like a traditional piece of cake, but it put to rest the Mr’s chocolate craving. And he may have been slightly impressed by my “baking” skills, being that I had this in front of him within 5 minutes.

I gave Mr. W and plain piece of cake, but I bet this would taste fantastic with a little caramel drizzled over the top, or a Hershey’s Kiss placed on it to melt.  But be warned, while delicious, this dessert is extremely hot when it first comes out of the microwave.  Let it sit for a bit before diving in.

P.S. The cooler the cup, the better this tastes. That’s why we chose the stylish mug motifs of ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ and some brilliant red hearts. 😛

Microwaveable Chocolate Cake
recipe from The Food Network

1/4 cup flour
2 Tbl sugar
2 Tbl cocoa powder
1 egg
3 Tbl milk
3 Tbl veg oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
dash salt

Directions: Whisk all ingredients together in a microwaveable mug until smooth, then microwave until puffed – about 2 minutes.