Soup Swap

So I’ve been invited to a Soup Swap tomorrow.  I’m very excited about this for two reasons.

1.  I love soup.

2.  The host is serving wine.

Oh and there is a third reason.

3.  I’m going without my kids.

So I have three fantastic reasons to get together with five other awesome women and swap soups.   It’s a very simple concept.  Each woman prepares a big vat of a soup of their choice.  We make enough soup to provide one Mason jar of soup to each of the other woman in attendance.  Essentially I bring five litres of soup and I leave with five litres of soup.  But I get to bring home five different types of soup.  Fun, right?

[Side Note: I now totally get why my brother guffawed – yes GUFFAWED – when I mentioned that I was going to a soup swap….yes, Chris, it does sound like a “classic cliche mom thing to do”.]

Fun Fact:  January 25, 2014 is the National Soup Swap Day.  

So I made a Coconut Curry Vegetable soup that is awesome.  It was pretty basic, I just went into our crisper and found some vegetables that would work well together.  This recipe makes just over 5 litres (to be exact, it made 5 litres and 2 bowl-fuls).

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Total Prep Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

3 litres chicken stock

1 litre coconut milk, full fat

2 zucchinis, med size

1 large yellow onion

2 carrots

1 butternut squash, med size

1 bell pepper, your colour of choice

6 cloves garlic

1/4 c honey

Spices:  curry (3 tbsp), onion powder (3 tbsp) garlic powder (2 tbsp), salt, pepper.  Or just add as much of each as you like.

Directions

1.  Put oven on broil.

2.  Skin and chop all vegetables into small pieces.

3.  Place vegetables and fresh garlic on cooking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.

4.  Broil vegetables on high for 10 minutes, or until roasted.

5.  Heat chicken stock and coconut milk in large soup pot, bringing to boil.

6.  Once vegetables are roasted, add them to the soup broth.

7.  Bring to boil and then reduce to simmer for 15 minutes.

8.  Blend soup with immersion blender until smooth.

9.  Add spices and honey as well as salt and pepper to taste.  Stir well.

10.  Divide into Mason jars and enjoy the remainder.  🙂

Ready for the soup swap!

Ready for the soup swap!

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BBQ Chicken Skewers

Yesterday was a huge day in our home.  Maggie, at 7 months, pulled herself from the seated to standing position.  She won’t crawl yet (she army crawls along the floor but doesn’t get up on all fours) but she loves to stand, jump, bounce, etc.  For a while she has depended on us but now she’s taken matters into her own hands and is pulling herself up.  It’s crazy scary and makes me wonder where our gates are for the top of staircases.

Also, Caleigh lost her first tooth.  For months I’ve been hearing that EVERY OTHER KID IN HER CLASS has lost her tooth (usually spoken in an exaggerated tone and with a pout).  Well, she joined the thrones of other children and is now a toothless wonder.

The Toothless Wonder

The Toothless Wonder

Blake had a normal day but was super excited for his sisters, who had stellar days.  Poor middle child, I get it now.

Alas, it is (was) Wednesday.  And for the first time in weeks, I’m posting what we ate for dinner!  Mmmm.  Grilling season is back.  You wouldn’t know it, walking outdoors, but it’s here.  At least standing next to the BBQ, the heat keeps you warm.

Last night for dinner, I was all over the BBQ.  Chicken skewers, which are so easy to make and so easy to grill up.

BBQ Chicken Skewers

BBQ Chicken Skewers

Ingredients

Wooden skewers

Chicken thighs (each one diced in thirds)

Red/yellow/orange peppers

Red onion

Mushrooms

Zucchini

Grape Tomatoes

Homemade BBQ sauce

  • 1 onion minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced;
  • 1 can (6 oz) tomato paste;
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar;
  • 1/2 cup water;
  • 1/4 cup homemade ketchup;
  • 3 tbsp homemade mustard;
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce;
  • 1 pinch ground cloves;
  • 1 pinch cinnamon;
  • Smoked paprika to taste;
  • Hot sauce to taste, optional (check the ingredients and chose a high-quality sauce);
    • In a large frying pan, with a bit of cooking fat, brown the onion for about 4 minutes.
    • Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
    • Add all the other ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes.
    • Taste the sauce and adjust with more smoked paprika, vinegar or hot sauce to the desired taste.
    • Cool and store in the refrigerator.

Homemade Ketchup

Ingredients

  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste;
  • 2 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice;
  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard;
  • 1/3 cup water;
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon;
  • 1/4 tsp salt;
  • 1 pinch ground cloves;
  • 1 pinch ground allspice;
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, optional;

Preparation

  1. Simply combine all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk well to combine. Refrigerate overnight to let the flavors develop and enjoy!

Homemade Mustard Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup mustard powder;
  • 1/2 cup water;
  • Sea salt to taste;
Preparation
  1. Combine the mustard powder and water in a bowl and mix well.
  2. Optionally, add a bit of chopped fresh parsley or basil, lemon or lime zest and a tablespoon or two of your favorite vinegar.
  3. Let the mustard stand for about 15 minutes before enjoying.

Method

1.  Dice up chicken thighs and vegetables into slightly larger than bite size pieces.  They can’t be too small so that they fall off the skewer when grilling.

2.  Skewer the chicken thighs and vegetables in whatever order you like.

3.  Baste with BBQ sauce recipe.

4.  Place right on grill, and cook about 5 minutes on each side, flipping once.  The vegetables will cook easily, even char a little.  It’s obviously the chicken you want to make sure is cooked through.

5.  I take it all off the skewers and serve in a dish.  Much easier with kids, who have trouble taking it off the skewer.

the magic of girlfriends

Ack.  It’s Thursday after lunch and I’m only just writing about what was for dinner on Wednesday now.  I have a good reason though.

Last night I had an awesome date night with seven amazing ladies. We went out for sushi, which is totally NOT by design but is totally delicious.  I needed this ladies night.  It was the first time I’d been out with girlfriends in a long time and it was just good to have a laugh.  And lots of laughs we had.  About our relationships, our kids, and our lives.  I realized how grateful I am to have amazing female relationships.

Looking around the table, I realized that I was surrounded by fantastic women.  Intelligent, funny, interesting, and insightful women.  Collectively, we are a force to be reckoned with (apparently a loud force…we may have drowned out the nearby diners with our laughter).  All incredible leaders in our chosen professions and many of us being moms, we all bring fascinating back stories to the table.  I enjoy getting to know more about them, what makes them “them”.

So, while I was enjoying sushi with the girls, my family was eating a meal I put together earlier in the afternoon.

Roasted Pepper & Tomato Soup

Ingredients

5 peppers (red, orange, or yellow), cut in half w/ seeds removed

10-12 roma tomatoes, halved

2 c chicken stock

8 cloves of garlic

1/2 c heavy cream

oregano

basil

s&p

olive oil

Method

1.  Preheat oven to Broil.

2.  Put tomatoes and peppers on cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

3.  Place in oven for about 20 minutes, keeping an eye to see when they look “roasted”.  Add garlic cloves with five minutes to go.

4.  Heat chicken stock while veggies and garlic are in oven.

5.  Add veggies and garlic to chicken stock and bring to boil.  Boil for 5 minutes.

6.  Using immersion blender, blend until smooth.  (add more liquid to desired consistency)

7.  Add in herbs and s&p (to liking) and heavy cream.  Reduce to simmer.  Serve when ready.

Roasted Pepper & Tomato Soup

Roasted Pepper & Tomato Soup

Potato Salad

Ingredients

4 c small potatoes, halved

12 slices bacon, cooked

3 stalks celery, diced

1/2 red onion, diced thinly

8 hardboiled eggs, diced

dill

homemade mayonnaise

 

Method

1.  Boil potatoes 10 minutes until able to be pierced easily with knife.

2.  Drain and let cool.

3.  Add celery, onion, bacon, eggs, and dill together in bowl.

4.  Halve potatoes and add into bowl.

5.  Mix together with mayonnaise.  Serve immediately.

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30 Second Parenting Vacations

I love my job.  I get to work with the best people.  Not only the people who work IN our office but also the people who I get to work with, helping them express a greater life potential through chiropractic care and living their life by design. In fact, the people that come into our office to get adjusted are seriously awesome.  We share stories, share successes, share in heartache, and are often laughing at some point during each visit.  Case in point with Dave this morning.

Dave is about to become a dad for the first time.  We were talking about all of the adventures he will have with his new baby (who I believe, for the record, will be a girl….I have a keen ability to determine the sex of babies before they are born.  Seriously.  I have like a 92% success rate which considering there is a 50/50 chance of me guessing correctly, I’m way ahead of the average).  How his life would change in so many wonderful ways.  How there will be so many lessons, so many responsibilities, so many emotions, and so many experiences.  Being a parent is seriously the best job in the world and it comes with the best paycheque – unconditional love.

I was sharing with him that regardless of how much being a parent rocks, there are days that I look at a glass (okay, sometimes a bottle) of wine and think “yes”.  I never used to understand why some parents would tell me they would relish the times they could lock themselves in the bathroom just to get a moment or two of silence.  Now I understand that feeling.  Because when I lock myself in the bathroom (whether or not I have to go), within 22 seconds I often have little hands knocking on the door and little voices asking why I locked the door.  Then the fingers appear in the crack beneath the door.  And all I need and want is a couple of minutes to just breathe. In peace and quiet.

He shared with me a story from his friend’s idea of a thirty second parenting vacation.  It’s the thirty seconds of quiet from when you secure your child in their carseat, close the passenger side door, and slowly walk around the car to the drivers side door.  You breathe in a long deep breath.  You appreciate the view of wherever you are (even if it’s the garage).  You relish in the silence.  And then you open your door and your 30 second parenting vacation is over.

Oh, how I laughed. Because I know that feeling.

Anyhow, onto my Wednesday night ritual.  Tonight’s dish is directly from one of my favourite paleo/by design websites, Health Bent.  I actually tried two recipes from them this evening but the first was a disaster.  A disaster because I tried substituting thickened coconut milk for coconut cream.  In other recipes, this has worked.  In this one it did not.  Sooooo, with high hopes of trying the gingerbread squares again, I will continue my search for coconut cream in Ontario.

The second recipe, and my official dinner recipe for tonight, rocked my world.  Pork Fried Rice and in lieu of rice, the recipe calls for cauliflower.  Delicious!  The only challenge is that it was spicy and when the kids tongue hit their spoonfuls of goodness, I got violent reactions to the level of spiciness.  So, they had scrambled eggs in the end and I get pork fried rice leftovers for lunch tomorrow.  (double bonus)

Pork Fried "Rice"

Pork Fried “Rice”

This picture, by the way, doesn’t do it justice.  It looks blah.  The dish is the bomb.  And while I like spice myself, I would suggest that if it is a family meal, that instead of two tablespoons of the chili sauce, you use one.  🙂  Get the recipe here at Health-Bent!

Teething Baby, Tired Mama

Somehow we managed to avoid painful teething with both Caleigh and Blake.  They would open their mouths and it was a shock to see a tooth.  Or another.  Or another.  Maggie is a whole other story.  She’s drooling.  She’s crying.  She’s gnawing on everything.  Her bum is red and raw.  I feel terrible because she has got to be in a lot of pain.  I don’t remember what it feels like to have teeth break through my gums but I imagine it doesn’t feel great. Her fist or thumb or hand (or sometimes both hands) is in her mouth at all times.  Oh yes, and she’s not sleeping.  My sleeper.  My perfectly amazing fantastic sleeper is no longer sleeping.  Or at least not well.  She goes down at about 5:30 and then wakes up 3 hours later.  Usually for a short bout at 2AM and then again at 4AM at which point she is up for a good hour before finally drifting back while nursing.  I used to be able to put her down at 5:30 and she would sleep until 7:30.  In the morning.  Yes, since about 8 or 9 weeks, she slept through the night for a 14 hour stretch.  So while she’s still getting good sleep at night, the whole 4AM wake up call has me all out of sorts.

We had a deal, Mags and I.  She sleeps 14 hours.  I sleep 8 hours.  I get up at 5 for my morning power hour.  All is good.  The sudden glitch in our schedule the last three nights has really thrown me for a loop.  I’m not getting enough sleep nor am I getting my morning routine.  I don’t know about you but I find that when thing is out of routine, it really throws off the rest of my day.  I don’t feel as productive at home or at the office.  I don’t commit as much to the things I committed to back in January (my reading and my nightly walks are two examples).  I really have to focus to get the best out of my day.

Which also explains why my Wednesday night dinner was a total failure tonight.  Well, it wasn’t a total failure, I suppose.  My family did eat.  But it was a repeat of a meal from a few weeks ago.  The original plan had been to make a roasted tomato and red pepper soup (which will probably be on the docket for next Wednesday because in my head, it will look and taste really awesome).  That meal went in the garbage (literally) when the tomatoes I picked up on Monday were turning green and fuzzy.  No penicillin for us, thanks.

So while the soup was a repeat, I did mange to whip together a breakfast for tomorrow morning of banana bread and a broccoli salad for the rest of the week.

By Design Banana Bread courtesy of Civilized Caveman Cooking

By Design Banana Bread courtesy of Civilized Caveman Cooking

This banana bread is the bomb, and I give a big shout out to my friend & colleague, Dr. Karen Osburn for putting me onto it.  And so easy & quick to prepare.  10 minutes max and then in the oven for 55.  You won’t be disappointed and so easy to get the kids involved with measuring and stirring.  I’m all for incorporating kids into the kitchen.  It not only instills a sense of responsibility but I also find they are more likely to eat what is put in front of them if they played a part.

By Design Broccoli Salad courtesy of Health Bent

By Design Broccoli Salad courtesy of Health Bent

Then there was this delicious broccoli salad from Health-Bent.  Broccoli + Bacon = Awesome.

Anyhow, so while the It’s What’s For Dinner Wednesday was kind of a bust, do enjoy the other recipes!  Totally tasty and totally by design.  And the BIG WIN for tonight was that both Caleigh and Blake actually ate the vegetables in the soup.  Ate the peppers.  Ate the onions.  Ate the tomatoes.  Victory!

March Madness

Basketball?  No way.  March Madness should truly be described as the feeling any mom has with three kids at home over March Break.  I can’t imagine what it will feel like after all three of them are at school and then at home for the week (or summer) but right now to have three at home during the week is crazy hectic.  I go between loving it and getting overwhelmed.  Loving the opportunities to be with all three of them, going on adventures each day, and spending quality time together.  Feeling overwhelmed at the insane energy of the two older ones (Maggie is pretty chill for the most part) who are off-the-wall excited over March Break.  I don’t even think Blake knows what March Break is but many a time I’ve heard the chant of “March Break!  March Break!  March Break!” wafting up from the basement as the two are playing tag.  Yikes.

So, for dinner tonight (because it’s Wednesday), I had this:

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Just kidding.  Kind of.  I did have a glass as I prepared dinner (after taking 45 minutes to put Maggie down…totally unlike her but likely due to two 5 minute naps today).  And now I’m enjoying a second glass as I am writing this post.  🙂

But in all honesty, what was for dinner was something much more filling.  An incredible grilled steak (with a dry rub of salt, pepper, parsley, cumin, cayenne pepper, chill pepper, & tumeric – Tom’s amazing concoction that we use regularly), sweet potato fries (tossed in olive oil, salt, & fresh garlic), and a fresh salad topped with avocado, red onion, tomato, and roasted slivered almonds.  I made a really light homemade salad dressing of 2 parts olive oil and 1 part rice vinegar with a sprinkling of spices – oregano and basil.  Really simple because the steak was unbelievable and I didn’t want to take anything away from it.  This is the final dish and it was awesome!

Love BBQing in the winter.

Love BBQing in the winter.

This week had some amazing plusses.  I was back at CrossFit on Monday for the first time in three weeks.  I’ve had some really angry trap muscles that were overworked 3 weeks ago.  As a result, spasm.  And lots of them which kept me out of the gym and working on strictly mobility and restoring the brain body connection with chiropractic.  Adjust, adjust, adjust.  🙂

Being back at the gym on Monday and Tuesday was hands down awesome.  I MISSED feeling strong.  This is something I’m not willing to compromise on with my health, up there with all of Life by Design.  I find that if I drop out of my routine of working out, eating well, my morning power hour, or getting adjusted – the rest of it all unravels.  I truly do have to do all the right things at the same time in order to see the benefits.  My psyche just tanks.  And for the last three weeks, even though I’ve been uber careful with how I eat and how I think, my physical health was making me frustrated.

If you remember from a previous post, I am not a lover of sit ups.  I think it’s probably because my basic core strength is building back up after having Maggie.  She was born as a gentle cesarean but being it my third cesarean birth, it did take a toll on my body.  I’m happy to have that toll – it’s an amazing reminder of the incredible kids I have.  And while I can sometimes feel anxious of the lack of core strength I have NOW, I realize that it will build back up and I need to be patient and supportive of my body in getting back into shape.  Tuesday’s workout included 100 sit-ups (between double unders – jumping once but bringing the skipping rope over your head twice- and push jerks – basically taking a 40 lb bar and lift it over your head multiple, multiple times) and when I sneezed earlier this afternoon,  I winced from the strain on my abs.  Grrrrrr.  Must.  Work.  On.  Sit-Ups.

Prior to those bloody sit-ups, we had some walking lunges to get through.  Have baby?  Must train.

Me & Mags.  Working the "walking lunge".

Me & Mags. Working the “walking lunge”.

To all the moms and dads out there who think that their health isn’t a priority.  Please think again.  You are enough of a reason to put a priority on working out, eating well, and focusing on your purpose in life.  I love this picture.  It’s a picture of a strong mom who is doing her absolute best to be healthy for not just herself but also her kids.  I’m proud of this picture.  Because it represents the vision of a mom I want my kids to be proud of.  A healthy, energetic, fun, inspired, and awesome mom.  And each day I make choices to create that vision I have for myself.  It’s coming along….slowly but surely.  But that’s the fun part of goals.  It’s a constant, never-ending process that will always be in a state of evolution.

Kitchen Love

One of my good friends and fellow chiropractors, Dr. Amy Gillespie-Robinson, has written many a time about how one of her joys is being able to provide good meals for her family.  I feel the same way.  There is something about creating an amazing meal to bring a family together that makes me feel like a good mom.  Also, knowing what goes into those meals (from scratch) is a good feeling.  I feel that for IWFDW, I have to put on a good show (I can’t very well put up some mangy looking food on my blog!) but this week I’ve been feeling very inspired in my kitchen.  The inspiration has overfloweth and I have been creating some really tasty dinners for my family to enjoy PLUS lots of leftovers to choose from throughout the rest of the week.  Family is happy because they are full and I’m happy because they are happy.  This may backfire on me when my inspiration runs dry but in the meantime, we’re all sopping it up.  It all started on Sunday night….

I had been frustrated over an injury that has kept me from working out (to any extent) for two weeks.  While it was healing, I knew that it would need another good week of rest before I could jump back in at the gym.  Other than going for walks around my neighbourhood, I had not been able to be that active.  So, I was being extra careful with what I was eating as I didn’t my  “no workout depression” to sideline my eating habits at all.

Sunday night we came home from an amazing weekend with friends down in Toronto.  I had been starstruck over meeting Fred Penner at Young People’ s Theatre in Toronto.  I know, I know…FRED PENNER!  The well-loved Canadian children’s performer that any kid from the Great White North grew up on.    Chime in when you’re ready: “The cat came back the very next day, the cat came back…they thought he was a goner, but the cat came back, he just couldn’t stay away!”  I’m such a fan, I wanted my picture taken with him and I haven’t washed Maggie since.

The Amazing Fred Penner with the equally Amazing Ryan Family (minus Tom who took the picture...xo)

The Amazing Fred Penner with the equally Amazing Ryan Family (minus Tom who took the picture…xo)

Anyhow, the weekend put things in perspective for me.  I had a great time with my family and my attitude prior to the weekend had been pretty pathetic.  Basically it was a slap across the face to say “get out of your funk, you whiner!”.  Just because I can’t be as active as I want to be doesn’t mean I can’t throw the energy I have for working out into other areas of my life.

So Monday morning I hit the grocery store.  I stocked up on foods to create some exceptional meals this week.  New foods, fun foods, interesting foods….just stepping enough out of my comfort zone as a cook to make things exciting.  Here’s what I came up with:

Mini Morning Glory Muffins

Mini Morning Glory Muffins

These have been delicious and a perfect addition to both breakfast and lunch.  They are nut-free so perfect to send to school!  Got them from www.paleomg.com!

HM Chicken & Veggie Soup with little carrot hearts. :)

HM Chicken & Veggie Soup with little carrot hearts. 🙂

This was my own inspiration and really nothing that took a lot of thought.  I simmered a whole chicken for about 45 minutes and then while letting the chicken cool on a rack, I added in some veggies (carrots, peas, onions) and spices (bay leaves, oregano, basil, parsley, s&p).  Cut up the chicken and Bob’s your uncle.

Turkey & Beef meatballs with Zucchini in a Marinara Sauce

Turkey & Beef meatballs with Zucchini in a Marinara Sauce

Really, again…not so difficult.  Mashed together beef & turkey (about 2 lbs in total) and then added in onion, garlic, s&p, basil, oregano, egg whites (3), and some almond flour (in lieu of bread crumbs).  Moulded them into balls and threw them into a HM marinara sauce made of diced tomatoes, tomato paste, s&p, garlic, onions, oregano & parsley.  Saute them for about 30 minutes and dinner is served!

So we have been enjoying these creations all week.  And then Wednesday came along and I’m trying very hard to keep up with the good meals I’ve been creating so I put together a version of Butter Chicken.  Actually, I can’t lie…the “butter” part was previously made a couple of weeks ago and I threw it in with some chicken tonight.  I got the basic recipe from Everyday Paleo but played with it a bit as I don’t know what fenugreek powder is, didn’t have time to make ghee,  and we love garlic so I upped it a bit (check out their site if you want their specific recipe)

Ingredients:

4 chicken breasts

1 red onion diced

3 tbsp coconut oil

6 oz can tomato paste

½ can coconut milk

1 tbsp crushed garlic

½ tsp cardamom powder

½ tsp coriander powder

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp sea salt

4 tbsp butter

 

Details

Butterfly the chicken breasts.  In a large skillet or soup pot, heat the coconut oil over medium heat and add the diced onion and saute until translucent.  Turn your heat down to low and to the onion and oil mixture, add the crushed garlic, cardamom, coriander, paprika, and chili powder and stir well to make a paste.  Add the tomato paste to the onions and spices and stir, this mixture will be very thick.  Turn your heat back up to medium and add the coconut milk and salt.  Use a whisk to blend the tomato paste spice mixture and coconut milk together into a thick sauce.  Bring the sauce to a simmer and add the chicken.  Return the sauce and chicken to a simmer, turn down to medium low, cover and cook for approximately 15 minutes or until the chicken is done all the way through – make sure you stir occasionally during the cooking process. After the chicken is cooked, add the butter and mix into the sauce until melted.

We served ours with a side salad of spinach, peas, red onion, feta, and a homemade vinaigrette of olive oil, rice vinegar, and grainy mustard.  The kids had peas as they won’t touch salad (yet).  The result:

Butter Chicken w/ Side Salad

Butter Chicken w/ Side Salad

For the rest of the week I have a few fun things planned – Chicken Drumsticks (I’m going out on a limb with this one – Tom isn’t a chicken fan so twice in one week is pushing it…they better be spectacular!), Sausage & Spinach stuffed Peppers, and for the first time in our house Cauliflower Crust Pizza (don’t laugh…apparently it’s amazing and I’m trying it out at our place this weekend….).  If you want updated pictures along the way, you can follow me on Instagram as I post daily there.

Eat on, my friends.  It’s a ton of fun creating new things in the kitchen.  Admittedly, they aren’t always met with rave reviews from my family.  Doesn’t mean I stop trying though.  The payback for me is a healthier family and there is no greater gift I can give to them.