Surviving the Insanity of Spring Sports: A Clean Eating Family Adventure

That which does not kill me makes me stronger. (Nietzsche)

A little bit of try goes a long way. (Becker)

Our mottos for this spring.

Check out our April …

april calendar

Isn’t it grand? And May …

may calendar

Oh-my-goodness-how-did-we-get-ourselves-into-this-oh-right-because-we-have-three-kids-and-how-ever-are-we-going-to-manage-all-of-this-and-still-eat-dinner-oh-and-why-is-everything-on-Tuesdays-and-Thursdays.

Phew.

Perhaps this is the norm for you, but it is certainly not for us. We have always had a marginal level of busy, but this is the first time that all 3 boys have wanted to participate in something of their own. On top of that, I am knee-deep in helping with the planning and preparation for our elementary school’s 5K fundraiser. Oh. My. Busy.

How ever is a clean eating family going to manage this … without going nuts or more so than we already are)?

I look at this and I do see lots of work. And lots of compromises. With food. Which means I also see some happy boys. (They love food compromises because it means that they get to eat things that are usually on the list-of-no-no’s.)

I also see late dinners, long weekends, beautiful weather, and good company.

Also, a messy house, dirty floors and disgusting toilets.

Most of all … I see smiles. Which is, in fact, the point, right?

If you stare at it long enough, you’ll see all of this too. Like one of those pictures that looks like blue dots but there’s really a bouquet of flowers hidden somewhere in it.

Despite the seeming enormity of the task, I have resolved myself to try … to the best that I can, with the understanding that it likely won’t be as perfect as I’d like but I’m okay with that. We are, after all, an imperfect clean eating family.

In the words of the classic clay-mation character Bob the Builder, “Can we do it?”

“Yes, we can.”

I also decided that I would share our clean eating family adventure here, so that all of you fine readers can benefit from our success and our … ahem … compromises.

Because misery loves company, right?

Or rather, adventures are meant to be shared.

The Best Breakfast for Dinner Whole Meal Plan

the best breakfast for dinner from change of platesOccasionally one my crazy dinner ideas comes together and is magical.

Emphasis on occasionally.

And to be honest, crazy and magical are probably a gross bit of an overstatement.

I Pocket-ed this homemade sausage recipe from PaleOMG last week, and in a moment of wild abandon, I decided to add it to our menu for the week.

I planned an entire breakfast for dinner around this sausage. My original thinking was sausage biscuits, knowing full well that no one would eat it like that.  But truthfully, not caring.

Throw in some hash browns and some quick fruit and fruit dip and voila … breakfast for dinner! Like magic.

Except my wand wasn’t working so I actually had to prepare it all. Need to remember to get that wand to the shop.

I wasn’t sure how anyone (including myself) would like the sausage, and surprisingly, I even made the recipe exactly as it was written. Clearly I wasn’t feeling myself. That never happens.

You should know that I had no intention of sharing this experience, but the reception to this dinner was so overwhelmingly, astoundingly, bowl-me-over-ingly fantastic that I had to pass along the good news.

“You’re not kidding me, ma, these are good.”

“This is the best breakfast for dinner, ever!”

“Can you make this all the time?”

My favorite, though, came from me to Mr. Selective: “You may not eat all the hash browns. You have to save some for those who haven’t eaten yet.”

Say what? To the child who doesn’t eat potatoes … go figure.

The sausage was good but would have been better if I had made it the day before. We all had fennel burps for the rest of the night. Which made for a wonderfully delightful evening.

And the fruit dip was off the hook.

Notice the complete and total lack of colorful veggies? You didn’t but now you do because I pointed it out? Well, guess what? I’m not stressing over it. I thought about throwing some carrots in there, but no one would have eaten them and it just really didn’t go with the breakfast for dinner meal plan. Plus, I did make everything else from scratch which counts for something right? Let’s face it, even I can’t do it all all the time.

At least not until I get that wand fixed.

What kind of crazy dinner ideas do you have? Do they ever inspire magic with your kids?

“with spinach” – Picky Eaters Can Learn to Eat New Things

picky eaters can learn to eat new things(Shameless mom moment-of-gush … isn’t he the cutest, especially with that little dimple? Notice The Bread Guy hiding in the background?)

Mr. Selective decided he was going to make a strawberry smoothie for breakfast.

Let me interrupt your thoughts with this preface …

He had asked for oatmeal, which I made, which he then decided – after it was completely cooked – that he didn’t want.

And I was so pleased with this turn of events that I offered him the opportunity to make his own breakfast. An opportunity that he whole-heartedly embraced while dancing through the kitchen singing his song of gratitude.

Sorry. Sometimes my sarcastic imagination runs away with itself.

Truthfully, he didn’t miss a beat when I told him I wasn’t making anything else. He dutifully gathered all of his ingredients: homemade Greek yogurt (unsweetened), frozen strawberries, maple syrup, and spinach.

At the time, none of this struck me as anything out of the ordinary, but then I realized …

Mr. Selective made a smoothie with spinach.

Don’t get it? Not to worry … I didn’t at first either. Let me explain … he made a smoothie with S.P.I.N.A.C.H. … on his own, without my saying a word.

Perhaps that seems insignificant to you, a mere voyeur into our little lives, but for me, this is huge.

You see … or read as I begin to explain … once upon a time, when we first ditched the overly sugary yogurt confections (you know the ones), I would make strawberry smoothies and sneak spinach in them. But I could only put a little because if he caught sight of even the slightest fleck of green – he would not eat it. Even if tasted like strawberry, still wouldn’t eat it. And if he saw me put spinach in it, fuhget about it. Would. Not. Eat. It.

Fond memories. Fun times.

Fast forward to this morning. (Did you just hear the sound of a tape fast forwarding in your mind, too?)

I watched him put spinach in his own smoothie. And not just a little bit of spinach, a giant handful. And the thing was as green as a green smoothie that is also pink can be. Frankly, I think it’s a putrid color and looks completely undesirable, but he ate it.

And then, just like a good little brother lemming … Big Britches made one too.

kid making a smoothie

Now, if I can get the most particular “picky eater” that I have ever met to eat spinach, then you can too. Hope for picky eaters everywhere.

Next stop … avocado.

Do you have a picky eater? What have they learned to eat? Any great tips or advice you can pass along?

Breakfast. It’s What’s for Dinner.

breakfast for dinnerThanks to Mother Nature and some more snow (yay!), school was canceled yesterday.

Which meant that Big Britches’ play also was rescheduled.

Which meant that we didn’t need to have quick and easy for dinner.

Which meant that since we were unexpectedly home for the day, I had time to make the Split Pea Soup that I had planned for today.

Which meant that I had to rethink the plan for dinner tonight.

The thought of which filled me with so much excitement, I could hardly contain myself.

I wasn’t really in the mood for anything fancy or extravagant (because that meant defrosting something … not happening) … thank goodness I had bacon in the fridge.

Because … well … we can always plan a meal around bacon.

And Mr. Selective and Big Britches had been begging for Strawberry Muffins.

Add some scrambled egg cups, sweet potato hash browns, cinnamon apples and clementines and you’ve got breakfast for dinner. Always a crowd-pleaser.

The kids (and a friend) declared it the best dinner ever.

Sadly, I took no pictures of any part of this meal or the meal itself. The picture above looks nothing like what we actually ate. (My deepest apologies if you feel duped or deceived.)

And at some point, you’ll find to get these recipes on the blog.

How to Get Multiple Meals out of a Chicken – For Real

IMG_3837.JPGThere are posts all over the blogosphere about how to stretch a chicken.

You know, grab it by its legs and pull really hard … bwhahaha! Right, stick to the day job.

Stretching a chicken to make like 17 different meals.

Seriously?

Because when I make a chicken, it’s gone in like 17.2 seconds. Definitely no room for 16 more meals after my family is finished with it.

My boys like their chicken.

I do save the bones to make bone broth but that’s as far as it goes.

I can however, combine a whole chicken with a package of legs and thighs and make something usable beyond just one dinner. Not necessarily something that they will all eat because that might very well be deemed impossible, even in a world where everything is possible.

On this particular Sunday, with a whole chicken and a package of 8 chicken thighs and 6 legs in the fridge begging to be used and Brunswick Stew on the menu, I started with some basic broth with the whole chicken. I always make broth with Brunswick Stew because the chicken shreds in the stew anyway so I can overcook the chicken to get a good broth without having to worry about it.

I only use about half the broth for the stew, so I took out the chicken and scooped out the broth that I needed then added the legs …

… which I had warmed first. Never put cold items into a hot crock pot – the ceramic doesn’t prefer it … not that I would know ..

… and some water to make up for what I took out. Kept it cooking until the legs were done. I pulled out the chicken legs, strained the broth, and shoved it all in the fridge for chicken noodle soup later in the week.

At the same time, I roasted the chicken thighs in the oven for my children who have an innate inability to recognize good food and would not eat the stew. Since they only ate a couple of the thighs, I saved the meat for the soup.

And I saved all of the bones to make bone broth after I make the soup.

So much multi-tasking and productivity without much actual effort beyond making dinner. Awe. Some.

Even better … dinner for Tuesday night is mostly already made. Bonus!

So, if you consider that the stew makes 8 servings for us (12 if you don’t have The Man eating it), the thighs make a dinner for the kids, and the soup is at least 8 servings. That’s 23 servings in total. For our alternate-universe family of five, in which the children eat stew and soup happily and in volume, that would be 4 meals plus some.

One Chicken. Some Parts. 4 Meals.

That’s as far as I can stretch a chicken.

Inspired By Hunger

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“Delicious.”

“Spectacular.”

“This is soooo good.”

If you’re thinking you’re going to score a great new recipe that was boy-pleaser, then let me bear the burden of your disappointment. They were marveling at their own creations… none of which had anything to do with my cooking.

Sigh.

The Man spent the day fulfilling baseball-head-coach, testosterone-filled, heavy-lifting duties while I got the short-end-of-the-stick, run-of-the-mill referee, maid, disciplinarian duties. Who’s the lucky one in this scenario???

And when it’s Sunday and The Man isn’t home – Mama doesn’t cook. I can’t give a good reason for this – I can give a reason, but definitely not a good one.

On this particular Sunday, I was also trying to rally the children to get ready for our upcoming ski trip. Which means laundry. Winter creates a never-ending laundry abyss anyway, but trying to get it all washed and folded and packed in the same day with no husband to help … you’re feelin’ me, right?

And I had to take them to the grocery store. The fun overfloweth!

The Bread Guy was grumping and pitched an eleven-year-old fit about something (you all know what I mean) so I left him home. Which left me with the 2 goofs. In the store. On a Sunday. Oh. My.

They decided on french bread pizzas for dinner. Super easy. More time for the other things that we needed to accomplish.

But wait!

No lunch. No laundry done. And computer games when we got home.

I decided that since they were going to do whatever they felt like, then I was, too. So, I made some delicious hazelnut snack bars (recipe forthcoming) and did a few other things in the kitchen before I was ready for a quick workout.

Yes, I deliberately set them up for failure. Because I am such an awesome mom.

You can imagine the rest of this little tale.

Hunger really is the Mother of Motivation.

They did everything to make their own dinners – unseasoned tomato puree and everything.

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If I would have made this, they would have complained about something: the way the bread was cut, the bland tomato sauce, the cheese that spilled over the edge and got crispy … but because they made, they loved it.

A secret was revealed to all of us this fine evening … when they help with MAKING food, they are more likely to EAT it.

“Awesome.”

Our Accidental, On-Purpose, Record-Setting Dining Out Weekend

experiment
I like to think I can do it all. And most of the time, I can.

Go me. Kickin’ it with the humility today.

Fortunately, though, I do know when something is just not achievable. (Not really, okay. Everything is achievable –  except for, you know, Hulk Mommy.)

Last weekend was like a black cloud of Oh-My-Gosh-We’ll-Never-Get-This-Done. So, I knew something had to give. And I really had no choice but for that thing to be food.

I spent Friday working on the elementary school race preparation and then we went out with friends for dinner and Bingo, in which The horseshoe-up-his-backside Bread Guy and his buddy split the largest take of the night to the tune of $250. (They weren’t really supposed to be playing because, you know, underage gambling and all. But since they didn’t actually pay for it and the folks at the fire hall are super cool, they let it slide.)

Then Saturday we had to run loads of errands to get ready for Sunday and Monday, clean the kitchen that hadn’t been really cleaned in days, finish the laundry, practice baseball, and pack for skiing. We did not eat out but only because I was insistent that we’d eat at home.

Sunday was a fundraiser for The Bread Guy’s travel baseball team. A Cornhole Tournament. Yes… cornhole.

Cornhole. When did this become so popular anyway? It seems to be eerily similar to horseshoes. You know the game that was hugely popular when I was a kid in the ’80s (you know, way back in the 20th century) where people threw giant horseshoes at a stake in the ground. Now the game has progressed to the 21st century where people throw a beanbag at a hole in a sloped board. Yep. A beanbag. Because that’s so much more advanced than a horseshoe. Boggles the mind.

And don’t even get me started on the name.

Anyway, they were selling all sorts of things to raise money: crappy chips, prepackaged cookies, soda, and who-knows-what-kind of hot dogs and hamburgers. (I do realize that I could have inserted myself in the planning here and lobbied for fruit cups or something but I can’t volunteer for everything. Because, you know, Hulk Mommy.) And my kids ate it all. In volume. Mr. Selective doesn’t like hot dogs or hamburgers, so he ate nothing but processed crap.

We left from there to go skiing. When we got there it was late, the first restaurant we went to was packed, so we ended up at Pizzeria Uno’s. $85 later …

We got up the next morning and had the breakfast that I had packed (there was only a fridge and a microwave in our room): cereal, granola, frozen fruit, and homemade yogurt.

We had lunch at the lodge – overpriced, cafeteria-style crap food. We drove home in the snow and stopped at Chick-Fil-A for dinner. (Yes. Yes, we did.)

I think we may have set some sort of personal record.

We ate out more times in those 4 days that we usually do in a month. (5 – in case you weren’t counting) At places that we rarely, if ever, go to.

Big Britches definitely set some sort of record for most chicken tenders consumed over the course of a 4-day period. (4 orders)

Somehow the parentheses helps it to feel less painful. And less disgusting.

I do my best to bring and make food as much as possible, but this time I just couldn’t feasibly accomplish it. (Well, I could have, except for, you know, Hulk Mommy.)

Unfortunately, bad food is how the rest of the world operates, and sometimes it’s the choice between the processed food or the not-doing. And the reality is that the kids had so much fun that what they ate was {mostly} insignificant. Unless you consider the face break-outs and the general look of unhealthy that came over them for the next few days.

Does my seeming complacency indicate that I am okay with this state of things? Absolutely, most certainly not. We do the best we can to fight the battle. And I think we come out on the winning side most of the time.

It’s just that sometimes, you have to forgo the battle in favor of the fun.

Otherwise, you know, Hulk Boys.

When the Boys Plan Breakfast

As we were heading out to the grocery store on Saturday, I casually asked for suggestions for Sunday’s breakfast.  Here are the immediate answers:

Mr. Selective, “Sausage.”

The Bread Guy, “Bacon.”

Big Britches, “Scrapple.”

Mr. Selective, “And hash browns.”

My boys like their breakfast meat.  And clearly they each have their own preferences.

I decided to just go with it.  And so this was our breakfast table on Sunday.

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I added the fruit and the blueberry muffins.  Notice the distinct lack of vegetables?  My kids are not fond of veggies in general, and the notion of even putting something green in their eggs inspires so much … well, you fill in the blank.

Now, they planned it, but I cooked it. And let me tell you that cooking all that meat is a lot of work. The oven cooked the bacon, but I did the scrapple and the sausage. By the time I was finished, I could probably have eaten most of what you see on the table.

And of all mornings to be ravenous, this was not a good one to pick. By the time I sat down to make my plate, there wasn’t a whole lot left except muffins and fruit.  I did dictate to the Scrapple King (Big Britches can literally eat a half pound of scrapple in one sitting) to save me some and there was some bacon, but I can tell you that I walked away from this meal thoroughly unsatisfied. And so did The Man.

At least when they plan the menu, they actually eat – in volume and without complaint. Too bad I can’t get them to plan every meal … with more than just meat … a dream … a fantasy … maybe someday.

Ha! Who am I kidding?!?

I Don’t Like Protein

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Packing real food lunch boxes is flat out unglamorous.

And loads of work.

And straight-up, down right stressful.

And when your kid doesn’t like protein, it is very frustrating. Like banging-your-head-against-a-wall frustrating.

Today’s worthy opponent?  Mr. Selective.

When I asked what he wanted for lunch, he started with applesauce, added some carrots and threw in a jelly sandwich.

I should have not bothered with anything more because (spoiler alert!), that is, in fact, all that he ate.

We got into our 357th discussion about why that’s not enough lunch and the importance of balance and protein and I gave my 700th explanation of protein.

He ran off to do some more messing around with Big Britches and I decided to simply take it upon myself to include some blueberries and my homemade yogurt with maple syrup.  Because I love wasting my time.  And the food that I worked so hard to plan and make.

Five steps in the door after school and he’s begging for something to eat.  Because (in case you skipped over the spoiler alert two paragraphs ago), he only ate carrots, applesauce and half of a jelly sandwich for lunch.

I suppose I should be grateful that he actually ate the fruit and veg, but that doesn’t get a growing boy through the day!

Just to add to the fun, we had our 701st rant discussion about protein, in which he loudly and perhaps obnoxiously declared “I just don’t like protein.”  And stormed off to his room.

But since he was starving, he came back after not very long and said he was going to make eggs. Nothing like some real anger at me to get my kids to take some initiative in the kitchen.

And that, friends, is what real lunches are all about!

 

Movies, Popcorn, and Perspective

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

alexander

We laughed. Hard. All of us. And we all loved it (especially The Man, who has a long-time, one-sided love affair with Jennifer Garner).

Our first real movie experience as a family. We’d tried before with Cars 2, mind you, but Big Britches didn’t make it to the second half. The Man had to take him out of the theater and sit in the lobby while we finished. The scary/sad potential was more than he could handle. (Yes, this is how we roll in our house.)

We don’t usually waste our dimes, nickels, or dollars on movie theater concessions. We’re that “bring your own” family. But I was busting my hump to get the house in order (which actually means that I had to crack the whip at my darling yet uncooperative children to clean up their weeks-long-in-the-making mess) before we left for the movie that I didn’t have time to pop our usual corn.

No sooner did we sit down, and the man asked about it. Friends, he is not a popcorn eater. Something about it always getting stuck in his teeth. Apparently, this time the desire was deep. We were into the third preview and he got up and marched right out of the theater, clearly  on a mission. Several suspense-filled (for the kids anyway) minutes later, he returned with one medium-sized bag of salty, hold-the-extra-butter goodness (to the tune of $7!).

movie popcorn

This is what I know about Regal Cinemas popcorn. It’s full of GMOs, artificial flavors, artificial colors and loads of wasted, useless calories. Supposedly, they do use coconut oil; hopefully this is somewhat redeeming. On the whole, it is really quite terrible for you.

I also know that we shared one bag, and the kids passed it back and forth without trying to hog it or complain. That a little bit of garbage isn’t going to harm them. And that movies and popcorn are like Tom and Jerry, ketchup and burgers, Danny and Sandy. Together forever. Like rama lamma lamma ka dinga da dinga dong.

And that it made for a spectacular, enjoyable, lovely, very good afternoon.