Monday, April 28, 2014

Latest and Greatest Quinoa Recipe

If you thought the Black Bean and Tomato Quinoa recipe was good, hear me out.  Tim changed a few things and it turned out even BETTER!

If you've never tried quinoa and if you still need convincing, here are some amazing benefits:
- Quinoa is a complete protein with all of the 9 essential amino acids that your body needs.
- Quinoa contains more vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants than any other grain.
- Quinoa contains almost twice as much fiber as most other grains.
- Quinoa is high in protein, comparable to the protein levels in milk.
- Quinoa promotes healthy blood sugar levels.
- Quinoa is high in riboflavin, which promotes blood vessel expansion in the brain and reduces instances of migraine headaches.

Now that you're hooked {Chris Timpone}, let's get started!

1 1/2 cups quinoa
1 cup sprouted mung beans (You can buy these at Whole Foods or a specialty food store)
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans, rinsed if canned
1 1/2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar (We use white wine vinegar because we have it on hand.)
1/2 cups cooked corn (cut from about 2 large ears), rinsed if canned
3/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
2 pickled jalapeƱo chilies, seeded and minced (wear rubber gloves)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

For dressing:
5 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste (fresh limes are preferred, but they are out of season right now so I bought a bottle of lime juice instead)
1 teaspoon salt
Ground pepper, to taste
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin, or to taste
1/3 cup olive oil

Sliced avocado
Cherry tomatoes, quartered
Cucumber, diced

1.  In a bowl wash quinoa in at least 5 changes cold water, rubbing grains and letting them settle before pouring off most of water, until water runs clear and drain in a large fine sieve. The quinoa has a coating on the outside of it that tastes bitter if not washed. If you bought pre-washed quinoa you can skip this step. 

2.  Cooking the quinoa is easy to do, but requires a few steps.  I'll try to illustrate with photos. First, bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil and cook quinoa for 10 minutes. Drain quinoa in sieve and rinse under cold water. 

Second, cover the quinoa in the sieve with a kitchen towel.

Third, set sieve over a saucepan of boiling water (quinoa should not touch water) and steam quinoa, covered with a kitchen towel and lid (doesn't have to be a tight fit), until fluffy and dry, about 10 minutes (check water level occasionally, adding water if necessary).  

Lastly, remove pot from heat and remove lid (not towel), letting quinoa steam for a few minutes to remove excess water and dry out quinoa.

3.  In a separate saucepan, cook sprouted mungbeans according to package directions.

4.  While quinoa and mungbeans are cooking, in a small bowl toss beans with vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.  Add corn, bell pepper, jalapeƱos and cilantro and toss well.

5.  Transfer quinoa and mungbeans to large bowl and combine.

6.  Make dressing: In a small bowl add lime juice, salt, and cumin.  Slowly add olive oil in a stream, whisking continuously to combine with lime juice.  Drizzle dressing over quinoa in large bowl and toss well.  Taste and add more vinegar, salt and/or lime juice if needed

7.  Serve quinoa with toppings listed above.

8.  Quinoa may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Serves: 4-6 as an entree or 8 as a side dish.  Enjoy!

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

St. Louis Community Gardens

For the past two years, we had a garden plot in our community garden.  It was fun meeting new people and seeing what everyone grew in their gardens.  Gardening also has some great benefits for kids.  I found a great non-profit in St. Louis, Gateway Greening, that provides resources for starting and maintaining community gardens.  If you want to find a community garden in your area, click here.

This past year, my brother and his family moved into a house in our neighborhood and their house has a garden! They weren't interested in gardening but were happy to let us borrow it in exchange for some homegrown produce.  Deal!

Tim is REALLY into this.  REEEEEALLY.  He checked out at least 5 gardening books from the library, used some crazy gardening program to design the garden, bought a whole bunch of lumber and piping to make sub-plots and a trellis-y contraption. The next thing I know, I've got this in my bathroom:
Our tiny greenhouse

It still remains to be seen if any of these little guys will make it through the transplant process, but it was a fun experiment and much less expensive route than buying everything as seedlings.

Now we have to get the garden in shape.  Here's what we have to work with:

Tim's got his work cut out for him!

Good thing he has some help!

Check back in May to see the finished garden and whether or not our gardening skills pan out!

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Ava, my first baby, my "tax day baby".  So appropriate for two CPA parents.  The day I met you I was forever changed.  My priorities, my obligations, my responsibilities all became focused on you.  Six whole years is so many yet so few at the same time.  You've changed so much in six years, especially over this past year, and I am so proud of the girl you are becoming.  A wonderful big sister, always ready to organize an activity.  A responsible and reliable daughter, such a big help around the house.  A great friend, someone who can be silly and compassionate.  Nothing makes me happier than to see you run towards school in the morning, so excited for the day.  But I have to admit that I'm pretty excited to have you all to myself this summer!  Love you my Nooch!

Happy 6th Birthday!

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Eggstravaganza at the Missouri Botanical Garden

Days like this past Saturday are hard to come by lately in St. Louis.  It was sunny and warm. No coats, no umbrellas, all you needed was an Easter basket.

We spent the morning at Eggstravaganza at the Missouri Botanical Garden.  If you're a member of the Garden and you have little ones, you can't miss this event.  Not only do you get to attend a great Easter egg hunt, but the Children's Garden is open (and free for egg hunters)!  This is our second year attending and our girls have the best time. Here are some pictures from our day:

Pics with the Easter Bunny

Pics with real bunnies!

Each child got to find 10 eggs.

There were plenty of eggs to chose from...

... or you could find leaves instead.

Most eggs had candy inside but some had a ticket that could be redeemed for a prize.

And now we're ready to play in the Children's Garden for the first time this year.

Clara multi-tasking

Happy Easter!

If you're still looking for Easter activities, here is a list events in St. Louis on 
Saturday, April 19th:

- St. Mark Presbyterian Church Bunny Breakfast & Egg Hunt @ 9am - 11:30am in Ballwin ($4/child; $6/adult)
- Salem Church Breakfast with the Bunny @ 9am - 10:30am in Ladue ($3/child; $5/adult)
Eckert's Annual Egg Hunt @ 10am - 2pm in Belleville ($10/child)
- Easter Eggstravaganza @ 10am - 11am in Hazelwood (FREE)
- Get Hopping Easter Egg Hunt @ 10am in Des Peres Park (FREE)
- Six Flags Egg-cellent Easter Egg Hunt @ 10am - 10:30am in Eureka (Free with admission)
- YMCA Easter Egg Hunt & Activities @ 10:30am - 1pm in Ferguson (FREE)
- Left Bank Books Storytime Easter Egg Hunt @ 10:30am - 12pm in Downtown (FREE)
- Visit with the Easter Bunny at Whole Foods Market @ 12pm - 2pm in Town & Country (FREE) 
Gold Farm 1st Annual Egg Hunt @ 1:30pm - 6pm in Wildwood (FREE)
- Meet and Eat with the Easter Bunny @2pm - 5pm in Forest Park ($7-$10/child; adults free with paid child)
- Egg Drop STL @ 3pm in Chesterfield (FREE)

Also, this is the last day to visit the Easter Bunny at the malls around St. Louis.  

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Friday, April 11, 2014

The Results of my "Day of No Sugar" Challenge

When I was a kid I remember my mom saying she couldn't drink caffeine except in the morning or it would keep her up all night.  She also couldn't eat a big dessert in the daytime or she'd feel tired all day.  {I wonder what would happen if she ate a big dessert in the middle of the day with a big can of soda?}  As a kid, I didn't understand.  I could eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and it didn't affect my energy.

Now that I'm old-er, I feel the effects of what I consume daily.  At first I thought I was tired all the time because I had little ones to care for all day and night.  My day-to-day activities as a stay at home mom are much more labor intensive than my previous desk job. While this probably does contribute to my tired state, I now realize that my eating habits, which changed after I had kids, are probably also to blame.

Before I had kids I was very conscious of what I ate.  I had a quick, healthy breakfast in the morning before I headed out to work.  I generally packed a healthy lunch that I brought to work.  And for dinner I'd either get take outs (not particularly healthy), eat cereal (not great but better than take outs), or my husband cooked a healthy meal (a BIG thank you goes out to my father-in-law for being the cook in their family and setting a good example for my husband!).  I was always aware of my calories - even if I was blowing it - and tried to make good choices when it came to meals.

Then I had kids and became a stay at home mom.  If I'm not in my car, I'm in the kitchen. That's pretty much what I do all day.  Go from my car to the kitchen over and over and over again.  You'd think that with all that time in the kitchen I'd make myself a decent meal.  But it hasn't worked like that.  I find myself eating bits of food here and there as I prepare a meal for my kids - staving off the hunger until I can find time to eat again. I've become less conscious of what I eat day-to-day. My gauge for how I'm doing is how tight jeans fit.

The truth is that my kids are healthier eaters than I am because I still control what they eat. I hold them to a higher standard of healthy eating than I hold myself.  Very hypocritical.  I always tell my husband that it would be great if one of our girls ended world hunger, but at the end of the day I just want them to be healthy.  For me, healthy = happy.

When I read about the "Day of No Sugar" challenge I knew that I needed to make changes in my eating habits and I was ready.  This was a great opportunity to say "today is the day". While I may make it sound easy, it wasn't.  I was very nervous.  No sugar?  What will I eat all day?  As I looked through my fridge and pantry, I was amazed at how much stuff (especially the pantry stuff) contained sugar.  I was not well prepared and I was being tempted everywhere I went.  I honestly saw this car on the day I couldn't eat sugar!

But I made it through the day and was very surprised to find that I was never very hungry or tired!  Here's what I ate:

- Banana
- 1/2 apple (left over from making Ava's school lunch)
Larabar (Chocolate Coconut Chew)
- water

Lunch-ish: (I ate these things over the course of a few hours)
- Bowl of Fiber One cereal (I actually like this stuff!) and skim milk
- Cracked Pepper and Olive Oil Triscuits (yum! these are good!)
- Cantaloupe
- Mixed nuts
- water

- Omelette with onions, peppers, tomatoes and avocado
- Banana
- water

I normally drink coffee but I didn't have the chance to make it so I didn't have any caffeine all day and I still felt great; never tired!  It helped that the weather yesterday was BEAUTIFUL which meant I was outside with my kids most of the day (and not in the kitchen tempted by food).

While I don't plan to give up sugar entirely (I'm doing major research on how to re-create the Levain Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie), I do plan to make some healthy changes to my diet and be more aware of the foods I eat.  I owe to myself and my family to take care of myself and I'm so thankful for the "Day of No Sugar" challenge.  It has been a great kick-start for me.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Easter Tree Salt Dough Ornaments

With Sidney's birthday in March and Ava's in April, I'm usually too burned out to decorate for Easter.  But the girls insist that there be some decorative acknowledgment that Easter is coming.  They love to party.

My bare minimum decorations seem to satisfy their needs.

There's this:

And this:

Mixed with a few leftover birthday party decorations, this should be enough, right?

During one of the many thunderstorms that we had recently, I caved and did an Easter craft with the girls.

The girls really liked making salt dough ornaments at Christmas so I dug through my cookie cutters and found some Easter-y ones we could use.

I didn't have an oval cookie cutter.  So instead I used the round plastic cup that measures out laundry detergent and squeezed it into an oval shape to make Easter eggs.

Here's what you need to make Easter ornaments:
1 cup flour
1/4 cup table salt
7 Tbsp water
Parchment paper
Cookie cutters
Rolling pin
Drinking straw
Twine or ribbon

Yield: ~20 ornaments

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2. Mix together flour, salt and water and knead with your hands until combined, about 2 minutes.
3. Roll out the dough on parchment paper to ~ 1/4 inch thick and press cookie cutters into dough.
4. Use a drinking straw to poke holes in the ornaments (this is where the twine or ribbon will go).

5. Place the ornaments on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 25 - 30 minutes, until golden.

6. Wait for the ornaments to cool and then paint as desired.  We painted both sides of the ornaments using outdoor paint or washable glitter paint.

7.  The outdoor paint coated the ornaments better (see pink egg below right) but the girls love their glitter paint and didn't seem to mind how it turned out (see green glitter cross below left).

7. When dry, thread twine or ribbon through the hole and hang on your Easter tree. 

The girls' Easter trees have not moved from their spots at the kitchen table (where Clara cannot reach them!).  They are so proud of their Easter decorations!
PS - If you need a good Easter treat, try these:

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Challenge Accepted

Are you ready for a challenge?

On April 9th, Eve O. Schaub, author of Year of No Sugar: A Memoir, is challenging others to take the "Day of No Sugar" Challenge. That means not consuming any foods or drinks that contain any additive sweeteners such as table sugar, honey, molasses, maple syrup, agave, fruit juice, fake sugar or sugar alcohols.

I read an article about her experience and I have to say I'm curious.  I feel tired all the time and I've come with a lot of excuses:
- I have 3 young kids.
- Taking care of kids all day is pretty labor intensive.
- I need to go to bed earlier at night.
- I could afford to eat more healthy.
- I don't exercise like I should.

I like to think that I am health-conscious and make efforts to eat healthy foods.  But I certainly enjoy treats!  I don't think I could deprive myself of sugary treats forever, but I'm curious if I'd see changes if I reduced my sugar intake.  If Eve O. Schaub and her family could do this for A YEAR, I can certainly do this for a day, right?  We'll see I guess!

I just found out about this challenge as I type this so I don't have a well thought-out food plan for April 9th. But I thought I'd share it with you in case anyone else wants to take the "Day of No Sugar" challenge with me.  And if you have any food suggestions, please share!  Otherwise, I'll be eating omelettes and fruit all day!

Update: See my results here!

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