Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Secret Ingredient

My kiddos are pretty good veggie eaters.  However, I am always aiming to make the food they eat even healthier, to make up for the times when the most nutritious option is a hot dog and fries. 

I especially hold onto this notion when we bake something not so healthy, like brownies or cookies.

Taking a page from Jerry Seinfled's wife and a website called, I recently transformed my cooking a bit.

We all know the trick of adding applesauce or pumpkin in place of oil, but that usually changes the texture and flavor of the food, so in my book, that is a fail.  My goal is to make the food healthier, but keeping the healthy part a secret.

I have hidden cauliflower in chicken and cheese quesadillas, peas in brownies, butternut squash (and or) carrots in cake and brussel sprouts in lasagna.  All with 100% success, meaning no one knew (until I told them) and the kids came back for round two and three, willingly.

Here are the basics behind what I do:
Step 1: Boil whatever veggie you have until it is soft.  A fork should easily push thru the food.  I know you hear about boiling out the vitamins, but you will need the water to help blend the veggie into a smooth substance.  Win-win!

Step 2: Blend the veggie.  I use a Ninja upright blender.

I have found the broccoli, spinach and peas all sort of stay lumpy. They will also change the color of whatever you are making.  To mask these issues, I only put these veggies in brownies or something chocolate and add a handful of chopped chocolate chips.  They really help disguise the texture.

Step 3: Once the veggie is blended to as smooth a consistence as possible, scoop out the puree in half cup or one cup proportions into a freezer bag.  I do it in one cup proportions so they take up less space, but I break it in half before I use it, so I only use a half cup at a time.

This is a messy process, but you really only have to do it about once every 4-6 weeks.

Step 4: Once you have a freezer full or puree, dig out your favorite bread, muffin, cookie, brownie (bakables) recipe and get cooking.

What I have learned:
1. When adding pureed veggies to a bakable you can eliminate the oil and even, usually, cut down on the butter required.  However, I do not recommend taking these ingredients out altogether.  That will alter the flavor and texture of the final result too much.  I usually still add a tablespoon or so of oil if the original recipe calls for some.

2. For every wet ingredient you add, you need to add a dry.  So if you put 1/2 a cup of butternut squash puree in your cinnamon muffins, you will also need to add a bit more *oat flour, or wheat germ or flax seed.  If you want to add in all three of those dries, you need to add in some more wet, like an extra egg white or two.
Too much wet= dense, wet-like, final product
Too much dry= crumbly, messy, final product
The batter of what you are making should look about the same as it usually does.  Add new ingredients in a bit at a time until you get what you are looking for consistency-wise.

3. Almond flour is great (buy a big bag of dry roasted, no salt, raw almonds and throw them in the blender).  What you are left with is sort of a malleable flour.  So it is a wet/dry that never really gets completely smooth, but adds great flavor, texture, and protein.

4. *To make oat flour, it is the same process, buy oatmeal, the kind in the cardboard container, and pour it into your blender.  You will end up with something very similar to wheat flour.  I have found oat flour to be a little more absorbante than regular flour, but more or less it is the same.

5. Pureed beans can also be hidden in half cup portions in many foods to add protein or richness to otherwise brothy soups.

I have used these techniques in "from scratch" recipes and in box mixes with pretty much similar success.

Even if your kids are great veggie eaters, why not sneak in a few extras?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Scientific Theory vs. Dr. Seuss

The other day The P's and I were watching "Wall-E".

Out of no where Pman says, "We aren't real."

Lately he has been asking about what is real and what is not.  We have had lots of conversations about fiction and nonfiction books and stories.

About how some authors use things that really happen, like an event in history, but blend it with something that did not actually happen.

So when he said, "We aren't real." I thought he was talking about the movie were were watching with begins with the destruction of Earth, sort of in a junk yard like state.

I explained that we are real.  I am really here.  He was really eating a snack.  BL was really picking her nose.

He kind of dropped it, but I could tell he was still thinking. He is always still thinking.  I asked him what he meant exactly.

This is what he said, "We aren't real.  We are just part of a show.  When one persons turns off the show, we just pop up somewhere else. On a different TV."

For the record he says" the show" is funny, BL says it is scary.

After this epiphany, he directed his attention back to the robot on the movie, and I sat on the couch across from him. Stunned.

I sent a group message to two people; my sister who is a research junkie and my sister in law who is an high school science teacher.  Both of them immediately responded by telling me there is a theory that supports what he, my FIVE YEAR OLD, said.  It's called Multiverse Superstring Theory.  There several are TED talks that explain what it's all about- the continuum of existence and our place on the spectrum.

Here I was flashing to "Horton Hears a Who", which he has never read either, so still pretty remarkable.

What is in store for you Pman?  I hope I can keep up.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


When I was pregnant the second time and found out I was having a girl, I figured the beginning of a gender identification/difference conversation was right around the corner. 

I figured Pman was going to wonder why she looked different than him.

My parents were very honest about all thing sex and gender with us.  Nothing inapproriate, but they were not cutesy or coy.  If we had a question, they gave us the answer without making us feel ashamed or embarrassed.

When my mom was pregnant with my younger sister, she bought us a "How Babies are Born" type of book, complete with graphics of various stages of puberty.

My older brother, sister and I LOVED that book.

I have taken the same approach to educating my children about sex and the like. I answer questions honestly and appropriately for their age.  No need to discuss fallopian tubes with a 3 year old.

Surprisingly, it never happened.  All he wanted to know is when she was going to grow hair/stop crying/ be able to play/ talk.

Every time I changed BL's diaper or gave her a bath with Pman around, I would sort brace myself and watch him.  I was sure the questions were on the tip of his tongue.


I always joked that he must of thought her penis had not grown yet or something.

Eventually they started taking baths together, something they still love to do.  BL was the first one to acknowledge the outward biological difference.  She would scrutanize poor Pman like his body was some sort of UFO (unidentified floating object).

We had several quick, but serious conversation about what a private area is and that you can touch your own body, but you cannot touch someone else's and they cannot touch you.  I did not get into technical names and they did not really ask.  "Private area" seemed to satisfy their minimal curosity.

On Sunday I was getting BL dressed and Pman was hanging out in her room.  She patted her Pull- Up (we are in semi-potty training mode) and said, "This is mine.  It's private."

I told her she was right and "it" was actually called a vagina, then keeping all things equal, told them both that boys have a penis.

I started in on my whole lecture about private area, no touching or looking and telling mommy or daddy if someone makes them do something uncomfortable. The usual, but important, aspects of private areas.

Pman sat in the rocking chair.  I could see him thinking.

I asked him if he had any questions and he said, "What is BL penis called again?"

Back to the drawing board...hey a drawing board....

Monday, December 23, 2013

One Good Turn

This Christmas I wanted to do a little experiment and once again, Pman was my unknowing guinea pig.

I recently listened to an audio book called, "The Secrets of a Happy Families" by Bruce Feiler.  I was hoping to find some....things...I could use in my classes since some chapters center around family dymanics.

In the book, Feiler mentioned children and money.  Mostly in relation to helping them figure out how to save, spend and donate what they earn.  Along with this was a bit about holiday spending and shopping- yes for kids, which inspired my latest idea.

Near my parents house there is a huge, and I mean huge, craft show the week after Thanksgiving.  It's pretty much the same stuff every year.  Melted down, flattened wine bottles to serve as a cheese plate.  Handmade tutus. Any kind of wood craft you could ever want (or not want).  Sparkly beaded jewelry on stretchy string. Decorative toilet paper roll holders. Cute, but generally useless, junk.

So the day after Thanksgiving, I sent Pman, armed with my mom and $20 to the Craft Fair to buy gifts for J, BL and me.  I told him he was allowed to keep whatever money was left over.

After purchasing all three gifts he had $2 left. 

The gifts are safely hidden at my parents house and he will wrap them we we go there to celebrate Christmas.

I have no idea what he bought any of us.

Last week, when I was changing the sheets on the beds, I noticed something was off about our bed.  It was dippier and curvier than usual.  I sat on it and I sunk more than I ever have before.

As I lifted the box spring I saw the cause. All three horizontal slats on our king sized bed were cracked as a result of two little children jumping on the bed.

Cracked is perhaps a bit understated. There were all bend like accordions.  They were so misshaped that J did not even need a screwdriver, or any tool really to remove them.  We were able to just pick them up and take them out.

Our mattress is still resting on the box spring, which is nestled between the head and foot boards.  We are sort of sleeping on a cot.  When I swing my legs over to get out of bed, my knees are actually level with my chest (or at least it feels that way). 

What are the chances Pman either bought us a new bed from the craft fair or at the very least three long 2x4's?

Answer: Pman got BL a very cool puzzle thing and spend half his lot on her alone.  Truth be told, he can totally "share" this with her.  I got cupcake dangle earrings.  J got a pack of dog themed air fresheners.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Toeing the Line

Today I went to the doctor.

My goal was to get him to tell me that the break is not that bad and I should be up and running in about two weeks.

Before the appointment I even worked out in the basement for an hour- weight lifting, no cardio.  I did not even sweat.  The workout was good, but I definitely was missing that post run burn/high.

By the time I was in the office and filling out the paperwork,  I had almost convinced myself that the initial X-ray must have been wrong.  No way was my toe actually broken.  And even it was, so what, it's just a toe.

My name was called and I made my way down the hall to the exam room.  On the walls lining the hall were ribbons, awards and metals indicating that the doctor was a fellow runner.

Ha! This is in the bag,  He will see we are kindred spirits and say, "Broken toe? Pashaw. Run Nikki. Run!"

Instead, when I told him I too am a runner he responded by saying, "Pashaw. Not for the next 6 to 8 weeks you aren't."

He said not only did I have a transverse fracture, but the one side was compacted leaving my big toe pointing at a 15 to 20 degree angle.

"We can put a pin it in to straighten it out." He tells me.

"No.  No surgery for a toe, unless it is to replace one that has been severed or something." I explained.

He informed me that my toe could not remain in it's current condition and needed to be straightened.  My other option was Novocaine (3 shots) and then he would manually reposition the toe.  Right there.  At that very minute.


I screamed, loudly for the first shot that burned like hell.  Seriously like the fiery pits of hell. The doc encouraged me to, "Let it all out."  Thankfully, I did not actually scream any more.  The nurse was very nice and started telling me some story about her 3 month old son.

My toe is now straight.  Perhaps straighter than it was before I fell.

However, I left the office in a boot that comes half way up my calf and a prescription for a fistful of painkillers, maybe two fistfuls.

I am not allowed to run anytime in the near future.  He said he did not want to even see me on a bike for 3 weeks.  Finally, almost as an after thought he said, "You may want to head straight home because when that numbness wears off, that toe is going to really hurt...See you next week!"

Truth be told he was super nice.  The entire staff was super nice, friendly and gentle.

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go look up low impact, geriatric chair work outs from the early 1970's.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Nuggets of Evil

The two worst foods ever are raisins and cole slaw.  I have even seen the two mixed together, which is beyond the boundaries of vile.

I am convinced these are the worst two foods because every time I say this to someone, they will always agree that at least one of them is gross.

BL does not like slaw, but does love a good raisin.  Yogurt covered or  otherwise. 

Monday night she was sitting at the bottom of the steps [some how] enjoying a bowl of raisins from her travel, no spill bowl.  We were trying to make our way out the door for Pman's Taw Kwon Do lesson.

While I was putting on my boots, I noticed I was not wearing my wedding rings, so I ran upstairs to get them.  As I ascended the steps I shouted to the kiddos to put on their shoes and jackets.

On my trip back down the steps to the foyer, I fell.
As I was falling, I thought, "Whhaaa?"  and "How is this happening?"

I never actually fell down, but instead seemingly skated down the last four steps via my big toe. 

I saw white heat in front of my eye.  Blinding, aching pain. After the forward motion stopped, I slid down the wall and sat in a heap at the bottom of the steps. I could hear Pman ask, "Are you okay, Mommy?

As I put my hand up in the air to signal, "I'm fine.  I just need a second." I glanced up the steps and what was there, but the travel bowl of BL's raisins. 

Raisins, nuggets of pure evil.

In order to see what damage was done, I pulled off my sock.  My big toe, which usually is straight in line with all the others, was  now hiding behind my second toe. 

Bend in such a way that I was instantly woozy and had to put my sock back on immediately and quick!

I sat there still silent, trying to breath. 
BL started to cry. 
Pman started to cry. 

I realized I needed to let them know I was actually okay.  So I called Josh, told him to meet us at Tae Kwon Do.  Then I slipped everyone into their jackets, grabbed my keys and drove to practice.

Finally around 9:15 in the evening, I went to Urgent Care to confirm what I knew to be true.

Transverse fracture of the big toe. Meaning I broke the bone all the way across, one clean cut.  I could not have done it better if I had used a knife (or some other medical instrument they use to cut bone evenly).
 Now, I need to go see an Orthopedic doc and not run for quite some time.  I fear I may become meatball sized since the holidays are upon us.

In related news, raisins are now banned from the house, for all time.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Crabbies For Sure

I hate baseball.
I find it mind-numbingly boring.

I have gone to baseball games all my life. 
I can remember going to the Memorial Stadium in Baltimore before it was torn down. 
I have sat on front porches on a hot summer evening, sipping sweet tea listening to a game on the radio. 
I attending a game with someone who caught a foul ball. 
I have eaten soft serve ice cream with sprinkle out of a miniature baseball helmet.
I have had peanuts and cracker jacks and I don't care if I never go back.

In the 5th grade I played softball and I ended up playing in the way (way) outfield because if I was close to any other players, my team, visiting team, did not matter.  I would engage them in conversation usually involving how hot I was and, "What inning is this?"

This past Wednesday, I got an email in my work in-box for free tickets to a local minor league baseball game. In a fit of sheer stupidity,  I reserved 4.  I may hate baseball, but it's hard to pass up free family time.

Game day came.  The kids were pumped.  Pman got off the bus at 4:15, we were eating dinner by 4:45.  About 2 hours before our usual dining time.

We loaded in the car, ran a quick errand and headed down the road. 

As we got closer to the town where the stadium was located we realized we did not have printed directions to the actual stadium.  J had been to the stadium before (before Pman was born).  No matter, he knew how to get to the road before the stadium.  We figured from there, surely there would be signs directing us toward the stadium.


If you take the main roads, which we didn't, there are such signs.  Since we took the back roads, not only were there not any signs, the GPS on my phone could not locate us in any way. 

If my phone had independent speaking abilities it would have said, "Are you lost in a cabin in the woods?" Or maybe, "Do I need to establish some sort of search party?" And, "Who is your next of kin?"

We drove up and down the 10 mile stretch of road 4 times.  We asked for directions from people who worked at stores and gas stations at either end of the road.  Apparently no one on that side of the stadium knows exactly where the stadium was located.

Finally, a toothless, drunk woman told J to go, "Up this road and make a left onto Piney Church Road. "

Turns out she was mostly right.  However, it was a right turn onto Piney Church as left wasn't even an option, but still we got there.
The first pitch was thrown at 7:05p.m.
We arrived promptly at 8:40p.m.- top of the 5th inning.

Pman was starving.  BL was passed out in her carseat. J was inventing new curse words and I had a major headache.

We were destined for a memorable night.

We did have very good seats though, right behind first base, row M.  The seats were also right in front of the ridiculously overpriced playground.  That's right a playground with a $10 cover charge.

Pman dropped the standard kid line to gauge his parent's willingness to enter said oasis of greatness, "Wow, that playground looks fun."

wait. wait. wait.

J finally replied, "We are here to watch baseball.  We are watching baseball."

So we did.
J and I got beers and shared popcorn.
The P's got cotton candy and ring pops.

Four innings later, it was clear "our team" was not going to reign victorious.  So, as we headed back to the car, a mere hour and ten minutes after our arrival, I stole two balloons from the popcorn vendor as we staggered past.

My children left with a sugar high, balloons tied to their wrists, and a optimistically neutral opinion of baseball. J handed me the keys and we made it home in record time.

Then Sunday, we took them on a pirate ship cruise.  It was fun, but a lot less eventful.
Selfie or Family Portrait?