Fail Cukes For The Win!

Over the summer I planted a little garden (aka “a test plot”) to see if I could grow anything successfully. Although I had mixed results, I’m hooked. It is so fun to go into your garden and pick random delicious tidbits whenever you want. The boys just loved picking carrots and mint and gnawing on them while they hung out in the backyard. Here’s how the veggies (and fruit) grew:

Successes (I got a lot of these veggies and they were delicious):

  • Carrots
  • Parsley
  • Mint
  • Brussel Sprouts

Failures (None of the below grew and the plants died):

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Zucchini
  • Spinach

Mixed results:

  • Strawberries – The plants did fine, but didn’t provide any fruit.
  • Cilantro – Some grew, but it didn’t thrive.
  • Broccoli – A couple plants survived so I had enough broccoli to nibble on for a snack.
  • Cucumbers – I planted them late so they only grew a little bit….

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Little cucumber balls! Could they be any cuter? Chefs, take notice. Plant late and you’ll have the cutest little garnishes!

I’m definitely planting again in the spring — and I’m going to expand my garden too! Any suggestions about what I should plant next year?

5 Ways to Reduce Chemicals in Packed Lunches for Grown Ups!

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 One of my husband’s favorite gluten breads

Lunch is such a pain of a meal to plan. I think it’s actually worse to pack my own lunch than Charlie’s. I do my best to make a good one for myself, but I still slip up. I went through a phase that I bought several gluten free microwave meals because it was so hard to find time to make my lunch in addition to the kids’ in the morning. When my tummy wasn’t happy with those meals, I had to revise my time-saving strategy.

Here are my top tips for rehabing your packed lunch:

1) Stop Eating Canned Soup

One of the principals I worked with would have a large can of soup everyday for lunch. He had bright red, flushed cheeks and I couldn’t help but wonder if he really should have been eating the much sodium and BPA every single day. Especially after reading BPA in Cans and Plastic Linked to Quick Rise in Blood Pressure in the New York Times, it made me  think canned soup should definitely not be part of a daily routine.

2) Stick with a Basic Sandwich

I’ve been packing myself a sandwich for lunch now for a couple months. I usually relied on leftovers from dinner, but I have been trying to lose weight and I’ve realized that I eat fewer calories when I pack a sandwich. I eat gluten free so I have gluten free bread, mayo, ham or turkey with a slice of swiss with a handful of spinach. Couple it with an apple and gluten free pretzels and I’m done.

3) Choose the Right Bread

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My husband is not gluten free, but he has learned about the value of eating whole foods. He no longer eats regular bread like the Roman Meal I grew up eating or the Wonder bread he ate. A paragraph of ingredients including chemicals, fillers, and preservatives are not good for people. My husband likes the bread he gets at a store called Garden Fresh. The ingredients are few and the taste is great (according to him of course!).

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4) Don’t Microwave Plastic Containers

Every day I see coworkers shove random plastic containers in the microwave. Some look kinda old and I wonder if plastics are leaching into their food. I use Pyrex containers when I do come to work with leftovers. Here’s what Harvard has to say about microwaving food in plastic.

5) Ditch the Microwave Meals

While my husband does choose a better bread for himself, I cringe that he still buys microwave meals. I know, just a few months ago I was doing it too, but he gets the really lousy cheap meals sometimes I wish he wouldn’t. I don’t belabor the point — I’ve learned to pick my battles, but I think for optimal health we need to avoid eating food made with chemicals in a factory.

What are your tips for better lunches for adults? Thanks for reading!

November Book Giveaway: Weelicious and Weelicious Lunches (Two Books!!)

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For the last book giveaway in November, I’m going big: two cookbooks from Weelicious!! I’m so excited to share these books with you! I think that they are perfect for a family that is struggling with picky eaters as well as a family that has great eaters, but is ready to try some new recipes!

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I blogged about the first book back in 2012. The second book came out last year and I never blogged about it. I think I’ve already explained that last year was a very rough year for me. If you didn’t hear about this book last year, well here’s your chance to win it!

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I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to find inspiration to pack school lunches every single day. My current lunch-packing situation is tough because his lunches have to be nut free with the added complication of every packaged product has to be made in a nut-free facility. Charlie’s gluten free so I pretty much have to stick with the Enjoy Life brand. But it’s really a challenge because now he’s sick of everything I’ve been sending him! I’m cracking open this book again — I know it will save me!

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Let’s cut to the chase — to enter into the drawing for TWO Weelicious cookbooks, please comment below on or before Sunday November 30th. I’ll generate a random number and announce the winner the first week of December! Good luck!!

 I received copies of these books to review (awhile ago!). Regardless, opinions expressed in this review are my own.

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The winner of Paleo Cooking from Elana’s Pantry is #3:

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Congrats Aaron!

November Book Giveaway: Paleo Cooking from Elana’s Pantry

Next up for November is: “Paleo Cooking from Elana’s Pantry: Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Dairy-Free Recipes.

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I received a copy of this book over a year ago and I didn’t blog about it. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to share it with you. Instead, I was overwhelmed by family stuff last year. Then my step-mom saw that I had the book on my shelves and asked to have it! So with the book no longer in my possession, I couldn’t give it away to a reader, which is what I really like to do. I kind of stalled out at that point.

I contacted Elana and explained things, and she said she would have no trouble sending a copy to a reader of the blog! How wonderful is she to do that?

What I like about this book is that Elana starts out giving the reader an idea about what the “paleo diet” is all about. This was the first book I ever owned devoted to Paleo eating and I still felt nebulous about the concept of eating grain free. Elana describes it well and then she goes on to share what basic ingredients you need to have on-hand to cook the Paleo way straight from your own cupboard.

Paleo Cooking from Elana’s Pantry shares some terrific staple recipes that people can rely on to create some of their favorite comfort foods (chicken, pancakes, and brownies to name a few). But then she also reaches to create some things that I had never heard of before including Paleo sesame noodles. I liked that it is a slim book, which is easier to cook from than a heavy tome.

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Please comment below to enter (and if you have been trying all month to win a book, please continue to enter each week!) and I will choose a winner on 11/22!

I received a copy of this book to review. Regardless, opinions expressed in this review are my own.

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Without further adieu, the winner of Slim By Design is Comment #13:

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Comment #13 was created by Carole! I’ll be emailing you shortly!!!!

November Book Giveaway: Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life

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Dr. Brian Wansink is at it again with some more amazing research. When I last heard about him, he was researching school lunch lines. He found that when chocolate milk was placed in the back of the cooler instead of the front, more children took white milk without complaining. He also found that if a fruit was offered in a pretty bowl (nothing fancy, just a decorative bowl — could be from the dollar store potentially) that students were more likely to take fruit. Furthermore, if that pretty bowl was lit up with a small lamp (reading size), fruit consumption increased even more.

The human brain is fascinating, isn’t it? After reading about his research, I feel like Harvard MBAs are tricking me to overspend in all the different places I visit when I shop.

But Dr. Brian Wansink wrote this book so that we can learn those same tricks so that we consume and spend less. Slim by Design is a wonderfully insightful book that just came out in September! I think you will really enjoy it — please comment below by 11/14/14 to enter the giveaway! I will announce a winner on 11/15!

I received a copy of this book to review (which is the copy I’m giving away). Regardless, opinions expressed in this review are my own.

**Last week’s winner of the cookie cutter book was comment #14**

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Sarah (sarah-m email acct) — I’ll be emailing you!

I considered not voting…

– I considered not voting on Tuesday.

– I considered not voting because I don’t relate with anyone running.

– I considered not voting because I’m not a white male.

– I considered not voting because I’m exhausted.

– I considered not voting because I don’t have a lot of money and I have an ordinary job.

– I considered not voting because I don’t feel very important or powerful.

– I considered not voting because I’m confused about who really means what they say.

– I considered not voting because I’m really depressed about where I think this country is headed.

– I considered not voting because I think the rich control everything anyway.

– I considered not voting because I stopped watching TV since there was no viewpoint that didn’t have an agenda.

– I considered not voting because I’m just a mom.

– I considered not voting because I know that on Tuesday I’m going to have to rush home to get something on the table to feed my hungry boys.

– I considered not voting because I don’t think my voice matters.

Then I read that 36% of people don’t vote. Those people don’t vote even though our ancestors fought and died for this right.

So on Tuesday I’m going to make time to vote.

– I’m voting because I don’t relate with anyone running — my voice matters.

– I’m voting because I’m not a white male — my voice matters.

– I’m voting because I’m exhausted — my voice matters.

– I’m voting because I don’t have a lot of money and I have an ordinary job — my voice matters.

– I’m voting because I don’t feel very important or powerful — my voice matters.

– I’m voting because I’m confused about politicians and their messages — my voice matters.

– I’m voting because I’m depressed about where I think this country is headed — my voice matters.

– I’m voting because I think the rich control everything — my voice matters.

– I’m voting because I stopped watching TV — my voice matters.

– I’m voting because I’m just a mom — my voice matters.

– I’m voting because even though I have to rush home and feed the family, my voice matters!

Dinner can wait!

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Charlie, 6 weeks old, when I voted in 2008! 

November Book Giveaway: You Can’t Judge a Cookie by Its Cutter

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, but winter is my least favorite season. To keep myself going, each week I’m going to be giving away several interesting books that have come my way over the past months as well as some books I’ve received over a year ago.

First up, this delightful cookie book:

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It’s brand new and being released next week!

I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity and bringing that into my work with students. How does someone take a shape and think of it in new way? This book is about cookies, but I think it’s also about taking an ordinary object like a cookie cutter, twisting and turning it, and imagining other possibilities.

Patti Paige is the author and chef behind the cookies and she runs a website called Baked Ideas.

Not only does the book contain the author’s exquisitely designed cookies, but she include her seven favorite cookie recipes, which include a whole wheat, vegan, and gluten free recipes.

Definitely a fun addition to your cookbook collection. Comment below by midnight 11/7 to enter in my giveaway. I will chose a name on Saturday 11/8. You Can’t Judge a Cookie by Its Cutter is available wherever books are sold on Tuesday November 4th.

I received a copy of this book to review (which is the copy I’m giving away). Regardless, opinions expressed in this review are my own.