Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pinday: Stop What You're Doing And Make This!

Oh my stars in heaven above.  I had other recipes I was going to feature for this week's Pinday, but as soon as I tried this one, it jumped to the front of the line!  Let me preface this by saying that I have a serious sweet tooth, especially for rich, chewy things, and cookie dough may be my all-time biggest weakness.  However, because of my personal struggles with food and weight, cookie dough is just never a good choice for me.  Ever.  But then this week I saw a friend pin this recipe with the caption "Tastes like cookie dough, but it's HEALTHY???"  I just had to click, and I couldn't believe what I was seeing!

Back in my South Beach Diet days, I sometimes would make black bean brownies, which would fool lots of people who would never have guessed they were made with beans instead of flour.  So I cracked up to find a cookie dough recipe made with beans!!!  Ha!  Why had I never thought of this before?!!?!

Now the original pin linked to one recipe, but then in that recipe, she also linked to an even healthier version that wasn't quite as good.  I thought I'd try the healthier one first, though, because if I liked it, then I wouldn't know what I was missing with the less-healthy one.  And it was AWESOME!  The first one uses peanut butter, where the second one uses applesauce, so the second is much lower fat.  So here's the lower-fat recipe and my photo:
Blondie Batter Dip
  • 1 1/2 cups chickpeas (1 can, drained) (250g)
  • heaping 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1-2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup plus 3T nondairy milk (or more or less, as needed… start out with less)
  • Sweetener (see note below, for amount)
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips
  • Optional: I add 1/4 cup flaxmeal for omega 3s and a fun texture
Add all ingredients (except for chocolate chips) to a blender or food processor, and blend until very smooth. Then mix in the chocolate chips.
Sweetener Notes: I used 2/3 cup brown sugar when I made this for the party (*but I also used the higher-fat version). I’ve also used stevia before. And liquid sweeteners (agave, maple, etc.) are fine as well.
In my recipe, I used regular skim milk, splenda for sweetener (I used 1/4 cup, but it was too much.), and I didn't have chocolate chips, so I chopped up some truffle candy I had on hand.  I did add the flaxmeal, too.  It was absolutely delicious, and Justin tried it and thought it was excellent too.  I was surprised to discover that I couldn't eat the whole thing in one sitting - half was plenty, and the rest kept just fine in the fridge.

One thing I will do differently next time (besides having real chocolate chips!) is I'll use my stick blender to blend it well.  It was too thick for my Magic Bullet to process well, so I had too many whole chickpeas left in there.

I was curious about how this recipe would follow the guidelines of certain diets.  As long as you use a calorie-free sweetener and 60% dark cocoa chocolate chips, it would be South Beach Diet friendly for phase 2, and half of the recipe would be 8 Weight Watchers Plus Points.  I think that's definitely ok for an occasional treat!!!!!  So maybe I don't have to say goodbye to cookie dough forever after all!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fieth Family Farm

This weekend we visited Fieth Family Farm, just a few miles down the highway.  We were wanting to visit some kind of autumn-activity place like a pumpkin patch or something, and we found this was the closest place.  This was their opening weekend, and we were very surprised to be the only people there for the whole 2 hours we spent there on Saturday morning!  Well, at least we didn't have to wait in any lines!

We got there just after they opened, so they were still getting everything set up.  We explored the tent with displays of pumpkins and gourds, and a straw horse that Elias refused to sit on!
It's really hard to balance the color inside a yellow and red tent!
Then outside the tent they had a little tunnel made of corn stalks that Elias had a great time running through over and over again!
Then we explored a small maze of hay bales.
Which way???
Then we checked out the pigs!
Elias wasn't very impressed.
Apparently there were also supposed to be calves in the petting zoo, but they were on the wrong side of the farm and hadn't been brought over for the display yet.  Ah well.
Then the farmer drove in the tractor for the hayride, and Elias was VERY excited to get on it!  We were even accompanied on our ride by the farm dog, Duke, which Elias thought was great.

In my mind, I hadn't intended on us trying to do the corn maze with Elias, but apparently that's what the hayride was for - to take you to the entrance of the maze.  So he dropped us off there, and so... uh... I guess we'll do the maze!  Thankfully the lady in the tent had mentioned that you should take all right turns in the maze, so we didn't have much trouble finding our way out.  It was a LONG maze, though, so Elias pooped out, but Justin and I took turns carrying him piggyback, and we got there. 
What an adventure!  It was the first corn maze for any of us, and I guess that's one thing I can cross of my list of things I've never done!

After enjoying the hayride back, again with Duke, we pulled out our snacks and enjoyed relaxing in the shade of some trees.  As we were sitting there, we saw a couple pickup trucks pull up and empty big tubs of corn into some bins.  We had no idea what they were doing, so we went to check it out, and it turns out that they have cornboxes for kids to play in - like a sandbox, but filled with corn!  Elias LOOOOOOVED this!

The only way we could get Elias out of the cornbox was by telling him it was time to ride the train!  We thought it was nice of them to fire up the train ride just for us!  So that took them on a nice tour of the backwoods of the farm, while I enjoyed chatting with the farmer.
Finally, Elias enjoyed one more romp in the cornbox before we called it a day.  Fun fall farm adventures in rural Missouri!

Friday, September 23, 2011


Elias got this adorable outfit as a gift from his Nana quite a while ago, and it was too big then.  But I just pulled it out yesterday to see if it fits now, and it does!  How adorable is this kid?  He's got "Future Basketball Star" written all over him!  ;)  Thank you, Nana!!!
When trying to get a nice picture of Elias, I have to take about 10 and hope that a good one comes out.  When I don't have a single one that's good, I just post them all and hope that everyone gets the idea.  :)
At one point in our photo shoot, he decided to suddenly sprint toward the camera. I have no idea why, but he looks like he's got some good basketball moves!
Had to take one without the jacket too, since the undershirt is so cute.  Elias was excited about the basketball player on his shirt!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Polk County Picnic

Last weekend, the annual county-wide picnic was held in our town square, and the newspaper said there were plenty of fun things for kiddos, so we decided to stop by.  The first thing we did was tour the local artisans craft fair, which was neat.  There was a lady spinning yarn from llama wool, which I thought was awesome, but Elias absolutely panicked when she offered to give him a little bit of it.  Ok, no llama wool for this guy - got it.  Soooo, we moved on.

At the picnic, there were more booths of local businesses, and LOTS of people selling food.  There was one booth selling homemade pork rinds of various flavors.  Ew.  Justin and Elias sampled their fare, though, and E absolutely chowed down on the cinnamon sugar pork rind.  Mommy will pass - Gag.  Ugh, let's move on again.

Then Elias rode the free train - Woo hoo!!!  He really enjoyed it!
Enjoying the last bite of his pork rind while boarding the train.  Life doesn't get much better than that.
Then he also took a romp in the free bounce house.

So we enjoyed taking advantage of our small community and enjoying the fun things they do!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pinday: Ham & Pineapple Fried Rice

This week's Pinday recipe was quick, easy, and delicious!  It stood out to me because Elias loves both ham and pineapple, so I thought this would be a great one for him...  But we all loved it!  I unfortunately didn't have enough ham when I was making it (DUH!), so I just sauteed some bite-sized pieces of chicken breasts, and those were delicious too.  Can't wait to try it again with HAM.  (Rolling eyes.)  The only other thing I did differently from the recipe below was that I used minute brown rice instead of white.

Pin here, original recipe here.
This is my Chicken & Pineapple Rice.  Still tasty!
Ham & Pineapple Fried Rice
  • 2 cups white rice
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
  • vegetable oil
  • 2 cups diced ham
  • 2 Tbs. soy sauce, plus extra to taste
  • 20 oz can pineapple tidbits, drained and reserve juice
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1-2 cups frozen peas and carrots
  • salt and pepper to taste
Cook the rice according to the package directions.
Cook the onion and garlic in oil  in a large skillet till soft.  Add the ham, 2 Tbs. soy sauce, 1 Tbs. pineapple juice.  Cook for several minutes till the ham is hot.  Pour the eggs into the skillet and cook, stirring frequently.  Add the peas and carrots and heat through.  Stir in the drained pineapple.  Add the cooked rice, stirring to combine.  Add soy sauce, pineapple juice, salt and pepper to taste.  I added about 2 Tbs. each of soy sauce and pineapple juice.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Rollin' on the Trike

We had a brief week of really great weather between the HOT of summer and the COLD of fall.  (It's supposed to warm up again next week, but this week it's been dang cold and I'm a huge weather whiner.)  During that brief idyllic time, though, we played outside as much as we could to take advantage of it!  One thing Elias has really gotten into recently is actually riding his tricycle instead of just pushing the buttons the way he has always done.  Justin will often take him out and go rollin' with him.  He does great with the pedals, but as you'll see, he's still getting the hang of steering...

It's long, but I kept the very end because you can see where I tell him to turn right, and instead of physically turning the wheel, he pushes the right turn signal.  Ha!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Spanish Colors - ¡Aquí!

Elias has a subscription to Highlights High Five magazine, which he absolutely loves.  (Thanks, Nana!)  Each month, there is a story that features some Spanish phrases, and last month's used Spanish colors.  It was about a girl named Isabel picking out colorful clothes to wear to school.  By reading this over and over, Elias learned several Spanish colors, and he really likes using them around the house.  So I started playing a game with him where I ask him in Spanish, "Where is the blue one?" and he'll point to it and say, "¡Aquí!" which means "Here!"  He thinks it is so much fun, and I'm glad he loves learning languages - he'll need that skill!  :)
Disclaimer:  I haven't had a Spanish class since 6th grade, so I'm sure my grammar and pronunciation aren't good.  I also know I'm wonky with the genders, but I just used the genders that are in Isabel's story.  I figure he's learning something even if it's not exactly right!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

HI, KITTY!!!!!

As I mentioned in the previous post, Elias is REALLY HAPPY to see his kitty, Mrs. B, when he gets home from school.  He's only been apart from her for 3 hours, but it must feel like a lifetime considering how extreme his joy is at their reunion!  He spend the entire rest of the day holding her, and occasionally shouting "HI, KITTY!!!!" accompanied with a huge cuddle.  Here he is diving onto the couch to cuddle her and say hi yet again.  :)  (The white paw scrunched under his face belongs to her.  He's also happy to see his Pound Puppy, Buster, but Mrs. B always comes first.)
Reunited and it feels so good...

Starting "School"

I was going through pictures to see if I had any that hadn't been posted on my blog yet, and I realized that although I put it on Twitter & Facebook, I didn't put Elias' first-day-of-school photo on here!  How's this for an adorable big boy?!!?!
Look at me with my big kid backpack!
Dropping him off on the first day
He's been at school for two weeks now, which means he's been 4 times.  It seems to be going well!  He never fusses to be dropped off, although he usually is very glad to see me (and his favorite stuffed cat!) at the end of the day!  His teacher has confirmed that he does have trouble following directions or staying on the right task, but we knew that would be the case, and it's part of why we have him in school!  He really seems to enjoy it, though, and he is definitely learning things...  All the time we hear him talk about things that they must be doing at school because we have no idea where it came from!  Proud of this fella.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pinday: Rachel Ray's Parmesan-Crusted Tilapia

This week's Pinday post will be very simple, because it was a very simple recipe that turned out DELICIOUS!!!  The pin on Pinterest is here, and the recipe is here.  I'm always looking for good fish recipes, because both my boys love fish, and I love the IDEA of fish, but haven't been able to eat it since I was pregnant with Elias.  (The texture makes me gag.)  I discovered last summer at a restaurant that I enjoyed fish on a salad, but that's still a pretty limited way to eat it.  So I saw this recipe for Rachel Ray's Parmesan-Crusted Tilapia and thought it showed promise for allowing me to finally be able to eat fish OFF a salad.  I followed the recipe exactly (except I forgot the lemon wedges to serve with it), and it turned out great!  Victory!  Here's my photo and the recipe:
Parmesan-Crusted Tilapia 
4 Servings, Prep 10 min, Cook 10 min
10 10 20


  • ¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 tilapia fillets (about 1 pound total)
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. In a shallow dish, combine the cheese with the paprika and parsley and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle the fish with olive oil and dredge in the cheese mixture. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake until the fish is opaque in the thickest part, 10 to 12 minutes. Serve the fish with the lemon wedges.
I served it with this baked tomato recipe, and brown rice with chicken bouillion and peas.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Pinday: Tomato Paella Recipe

Unfortunately, for this week's episode of Pinday, I'm posting a Pinterest recipe that didn't quite work.  It did end up being delicious, but it didn't happen the way the recipe said.  Before we go there, here's the link from Pinterest, and here's the recipe and image from the original blog:
Tomato Paella
1. Preheat oven to 450. Warm 3 cups of water or broth in a saucepan. Slice 1 pound of tomatoes into wedges and toss with plenty of salt and pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.
2. In a cast iron skillet, sauté one sliced onion and a tablespoon of minced garlic in some olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add a tablespoon of tomato paste, a pinch of saffron threads, and 1-2 teaspoons of smoked paprika. Add 2 cups short grain rice (I use arborio) and stir for a minute or two until shiny. Add 1/2 cup white wine until it is absorbed, then add the water or broth, and stir.
3. Arrange the tomatoes on top and drizzle with the juices from the bowl. Put the pan in the oven and let roast for about 15 minutes. Check to see that the rice is tender and dry; if not, let it roast for another 5-10 minutes, or until done, adding a small amount of water, broth, or wine if needed. When done, turn off the oven and let sit for 10 minutes or so.
4. On the stovetop, cook the paella over high for a few minutes to develop a tasty crust. Sprinkle with basil and/or parsley, if desired. Enjoy!
Way yum, right?  We're eating a lot more vegetarian these days, and so I'm always looking for new meatless recipes.  Plus, this used saffron, which Justin brought some of back from Turkey because it's WAY cheaper there.  So I jumped all over this when I found it on Pinterest!

Alas, it once again confirms the conclusion I've come to before in my cooking life: I CAN'T COOK RICE.  I am a master at minute rice, but any "real" rice recipe I've EVER tried NEVER works.  The rice just doesn't cook.  I can't tell you how many recipes I've fed my poor guys with crunchy rice, which is edible, but doesn't leave your tummy feeling all that great later.

I've never used arborio rice, so I thought that might be one that would cook properly according to directions.  No, it didn't.  If you look in step 3 of the recipe, you'll see the rice is supposed to be "tender and dry" after roasting in the oven for 15 minutes.  NOT!  I don't think it had soaked up ANY of the liquid at all!  It was crunchy rice soup.  So at that point, I just put a lid on it and simmered it on the stovetop at medium for about 8 minutes.  That DID cook it, and it ended up being delicious, but it's always a bummer to ONCE AGAIN not have a recipe work.  Here's what mine looked like:
So it may have been my fault for using a stainless skillet instead of a cast iron one - but I don't HAVE a cast iron skillet, and they're both oven safe!  Sheesh.  (I didn't take the time for a pretty foodie pic since I was already running behind due to the unforeseen recipe alterations!)

It was very tasty, though, and I probably will make it again.  Next time I imagine I'll just do it all on the stovetop.  My step 3 will be: "Arrange the tomatoes on top and drizzle with the juices from the bowl.  Turn heat to high until mixture is boiling.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer on medium low for 20 minutes."  I'll just cut out step 4, which I didn't do this time either.  The saffron and white wine gave it fantastic flavor, although if you're not into cooking with wine, I'm sure you could substitute with broth and still get a very tasty dish.

So there's my dubious Pinterest story for the week.  Happy Pinday!

Monday, September 05, 2011

Labor Day Adventures at Lake Pomme de Terre

Since Justin had the day off from work today, and since the weather was ABSOLUTELY PERFECT, we decided to take an adventure to Lake Pomme de Terre, about 30 minutes from home.  Although we've lived here for 3 years, we've never visited this recreational area, and we've been missing out!  It's beautiful with lots of picnic areas, hiking trails, playgrounds, and even a nice sandy beach!  We made the beach our first stop.
It was a little too chilly for all-out swimming, but we did wade in the water and Elias had a great time throwing rocks and sand.
Justin also spotted a bald eagle flying over us, which was awesome because we didn't know to expect bald eagles there.
Then we hiked a 1/2-mile trail to Indian Point Lookout, which was gorgeous.
I was too nervous about Elias being near the open cliffs that drop down to the rocks below to enjoy myself too much, but I'm just an overprotective worrier.
In this picture, Elias is throwing a walnut off the cliff into the water.  He LOVES seeing things splash!
We did see another bald eagle flying here too, so that was neato.

Then we found a picnic shelter with a beautiful view and ate our packed lunch overlooking the lake.  There was also a playground next to the shelter, so we hit that up for a while after lunch.
Finally, we drove by the marina on our way out of the park, and discovered that they have a floating ice cream shop out on the dock!  Can't pass that up!  So we stopped for a little more sunshine, lake view, and a tasty treat!
You'll notice that Justin & I are smiling at the camera, but Elias is not to be distracted from his ice cream. If I can say one thing about this kid, he's got focus!

It was such a neat time, and I'm so thankful Justin had the idea to take us there today!  If the weather holds, we just might go back again this fall!