family dinner dynamics

We’ve had a recent change of routines with me returning to work.

I had taken {a very blessed} 5 months off since we moved from NOLA to St. Louis.

This happens a lot in life – things change – and we need to allow ourselves some time to adjust. But instead we are self-critical, impatient, perfectionists and just want things to settle soon so we can get used to the new process. When I say “we” I’m really meaning ME.

I feel like we have been pretty successful about keeping the house picked up, staying on top of the dishes & laundry, even working in cleaning the house. Apparently, you can see that for me to function well I need to have an organized and cleanly home. Truth.

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But one area I feel the pressure to get better at is dinner time.

As a dietitian I know what the recommendations are. I know why MY recommendations are- if they happen to be any different than the standards. And when I don’t meet these, while I may have gotten over the momentary hyper-criticalness, I still have this goal in the back of my mind of where I still think we need to be.

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For example, there have been some dinners over the last couple weeks that have consisted of just pizza; once a homemade pizza and last night a frozen pizza. I have one girl that is in a phase of food selectivity and is “learning to try and like ‘new’ things.  So she gets a fruit & veggie combo that she will take a few bites of.  My little one eats anything- for the most part – so I can heat up some frozen veggies and she is good. Sometimes she doesn’t eat them, but that’s ok with me. {As long as she is offered it, she can choose how much to eat. But it is our job to offer a variety of nutrient-rich foods, and that is a big, heavy, burdensome load to carry. And sometimes I drop that ball. But I’m trying to practice grace for myself there.}

But when it comes to something for my husband and myself in terms of a veggie side, we had stuff for a salad in the fridge actually, but I never made it. And neither did he. So we skipped it. And that really bothers me because I know the value and importance of veggies, but for some reason we can’t get it together.

How do we fix it?

I don’t know. Everyone gets pizza and a salad, and that’s it?!?

Easier said than done.

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That’s the ultimate goal. Maybe one day. Maybe my girls are too little for that right now and I just have to keep doing what I’m doing and work towards contentment and satisfaction with the work in progress rather than the perfect goal in my head.

I share this because as a dietitian and a mom doesn’t mean I have it all worked out when it come to balanced family dinners. We all have phases of life where we have a nice routine going and then life happens and we have to reassess and make changes. The adjustment period can throw us off for longer than we wish. I think it’s an important reminder that we all need to evaluate our nutrition and see where we need some variety or make some amendments. Sometimes it happens naturally without our need to intervene, other times we have to make the push to challenge ourselves.

To get me back on track, I’m pulling up an “old” meal plan template. I’m going to see if it can work with our current life or if I can at least start with it and modify it.

What are your goal and strategies when life happens? Any family-friendly meals you go to for weeknight survival?

I think for any of us it’s important to highlight the positive points that arise from a situation. No matter what we feel that we ‘failed’ at, there’s likely some pros to the situation even though all we may be focusing on are the cons. So while we only had pizza for dinner and I’m feeling down about not having a vegetable in this scenario, the homemade pizza that Lillian is making in these photos, was eaten by everyone. That’s an accomplishment- everyone eating the exact same thing! And that’s not it, Lillian practically made this entire pizza herself! You can see her rolling out the dough, sprinkling on the corn meal, spreading the sauce, and she topped it off with cheese. What an accomplishment for a 4 year old, not only helping make dinner to nourish the whole family, but doing it almost fully by herself and loving every minute of it! I hope this is what I remember most and not that it wasn’t completely nutritionally sound all the time.

xo,

Becca

Green Tea Popsicles

One of the new things my 4 year old likes to help with these days is making iced tea. It’s fun to watch her select the tea, open each bag, and place them in our pitcher. I prep and pour in the piping hot water and then she eagerly stirs while the tea & water are steeping – while I’m also reminder her to be gentle so she doesn’t splash and burn herself. She’ll then sip the spoon and say, “Delicious!” One day this summer we even made sun tea as a “vintage” summer activity together.

I like to buy green tea varieties that have additional fruity flavors like passion fruit, peach, or white mangosteen. We love to get unsweet tea when we are at Panera (now St. Louis Bread Co for us) or McAlister’s so the whole goal is to bring these flavors and memories home with us. Not to mention green tea is packed with antioxidants, more so than black and herbal teas, which can benefit heart disease (and prevention) among many other chronic conditions.

During the recent summer heat wave we turned some simple brewed tea into popsicles and truly the hardest part of the whole process is answering the continuous, “Are the popsicles done yet?”

I’m questioning whether I can actually call this a recipe because it is as easy as brewing homemade tea. That process can be a little tricky to get the right boldness of flavor without being too bitter or too dilute. Depending on your size of pitcher at home, you may have to do some adjusting and personalizing.

It’d be great to add fresh, frozen, or dehydrated fruit in the steeping process to boost the flavor and antioxidants even further. I haven’t progressed to this yet with her, as she is still learning to try foods that she thinks she doesn’t like.

Green Tea Popsicles

Makes: about 8 cups of tea {only a portion is used for popsicles}

Ingredients:

4 cups water

8 tea bags

4 cups ice

Directions:

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil or heat in microwave for about 4 minutes.

Pour hot water over tea bags and allow to steep for about 3-5 minutes, until the water darkens from the tea leaves diffusing into the water. Discard the tea bags.

Carefully, add the ice to the hot tea mixture. Stir to combine and chill until needed.

Serve over ice or pour into popsicle mold/s {which will need time to freeze – approx 4 hours minimum}.

Even little sister gets in on the action

Enjoy on a hot summer day or night!

xo,

Becca

Basic Whole Grain Waffles & Pancakes

Each weekend I typically want something a bit different from my go-to weekly breakfasts.

Waffles + pancakes often pop into my head because they feel like a treat, like I’m back in college heading to brunch or it’s the early days in our relationship (mine and Andrew’s) and he’s courting me to brunch. That didn’t actually happen, so I don’t know why that that occurs.

Weekend breakfasts for us are a bit all over the place. Andrew has never been a big breakfast person and often skips it hence the pretending that I do where I wish he’d take me to brunch. And, I know, I know – he doesn’t listen about the importance of breakfast, I stopped trying years ago to lecture him! Lillian tends to want something easy like cereal and Savannah – Thank the LORD, at least temporarily, will eat whatever I’m eating.

I hadn’t made them in a few months, but this past weekend I was reminded of my love of waffles! I have a basic recipe that I use that I love. It’s 100% whole grains with the added benefits of protein from the Greek yogurt and extra fiber and nutrients from the fruit.

Basic Whole Grain Waffles and Pancakes

Makes 12-16 waffles or standard-sized pancakes

Ingredients

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

dash of cinnamon

dash of nutmeg

1/2 cup pureed fruit

1 cup plain 2% Greek yogurt

1 cup milk of choice

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

For the syrup:

1 tablespoon all fruit spread

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon syrup of choice

Directions

Preheat a non stick skillet to medium heat (If using a waffle iron, turn onto desired setting- I use #3 or #4 on mine).

In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (flour through nutmeg). In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients (fruit through vanilla).

Pour the wet into the dry and gently combine.

Spray heated pan or waffle iron with non-stick spray or use a small amount of oil or butter to grease the pan, if desired.

Pour desired amount of batter into prepared skillet. I usually use about 1/3 cup as my scoop.

For pancakes, when bubbles start to form (after a couple minutes), flip the pancakes and cook on the remaining side for about half the time. For the waffles, no need to do this step; the waffle iron does it for you, simply pop out when it beeps that they’re done! Pretty fool-proof for those like me who are afraid to under cook things- even pancakes!

Serve with warmed syrup by either combining the ingredients in a small stock pot and warming through or using the microwave in a microwave safe dish.

These waffles include my base recipe but I swapped in extra yogurt for the typical fruit ingredients as I had some of Lillian’s extra yogurt in the fridge, because you know this week her 4 year old self doesn’t like that particular kind anymore…

I typically leave the yogurt alone and adjust the fruit depending on what I have on hand or what time of year it is. If I have bananas going extra ripe, I’ll mash those up. If it’s fall, I’ll toss in some pumpkin or sweet potato puree. I usually have some flavor of unsweetened applesauce on hand that I can use too when needed. Baby food puree would work too.

I hope your weekend allows you some time to enjoy and do something you love. For me, that’s playing in the kitchen and with my girls. We’ll see what kind of recipe we come up with next time!

TGIF!

Becca

 

 

 

Meal Plan Template

Gosh it’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post – my intentions just don’t meet my realistic time availability sometimes- and it’s really been a while since I’ve shared a meal plan!

So with the New Year, our focus on wellness goals, and all of us needing some ideas for meal planning, here is a new template I’m planning to use to help keep me out of the- I don’t know what to make or what I even want to eat this week- mindset.

A skillet meal is a 5 ingredient, relatively one-pan saute meal. Thinking my chicken sausage, pesto, pasta dish or shrimp, spinach & artichoke dish here.

The staple meal is a family favorite. tacos & spaghetti are our go-tos.

The sheet pan dinner is just that, everything on the sheet pan, especially lots of veggies + lean protein. As pictured above I have a pre-seasoned pork loin + brussels + broccoli.

Something grilled could be turkey burgers, lean sliders, grilled chicken turned into caesar salads or tex mex bowls, or it could be a sirloin steak with sides.

The soup or stew could be something like a chili or pot roast, something maybe in the slow cooker which is perfect for these chillier days. In the summer, I might change that part of the menu to be a lighter dish for the warmer weather.

If you’re deciding to do something similar- consider rearranging the days to fit your schedule. For example, if you need a middle-of-the week relief night, make that your night to go out. If you have a longer day or day that tends to be busier than others, make that the night that you have leftovers.

I may get to the point – or at least try it out- where on Sundays we sort of cook for most of the week. Thinking like make some type of soup or stew in the slow cooker, meanwhile put the sheet pan dinner together, and have the hubs grill some lean protein. So it’s sticking to the template but 3 of the meals are made in one day. We have a neighbor who shared this with us and while I’m not traditionally a fan of “meal prepping” and devoting hours and hours on Sunday Funday, it might be worth trying. They call it “movie day” where the kids pick out a movie and the adults cook together. I think if both of us do it together rather than one person taking the responsibility, it may be more feasible. That leaves only the skillet + staple meal to cook during the week and both of those are designed to be 20-30 minute one-pan type dishes.

Happy meal planning!

~Becca~

 

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Truffles

For holiday gift giving or giving yourself a more healthful treat this time of year, these dark chocolate peppermint truffles provide holiday flavor with rich antioxidants, low added sugar plus filling fiber + fats.

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Truffles

Makes ~24 servings

2 cups cocoa powder, sifted

1/2 cup avocado oil

1/2 cup honey or Madhava Agave 5 liquid sweetener

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

drop of peppermint oil (optional)

pinch (1/16 teaspoon) sea salt

2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut flakes

Directions:

In a food processor, add the cocoa powder, avocado oil, sweetener, vanilla, sea salt and peppermint. Blend until well mixed. Add the coconut flakes and pulse to combine everything.

Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Using a tablespoon or cookie scoop, spoon the chilled truffle mixture and shape into a ball in your hand. Roll into shredded coconut & chopped peppermint to garnish. Store in an airtight container in the fridge until needed.

Per serving: 140 calories, 11 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 15 milligrams sodium, 10 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 6 grams sugar, 2 grams protein

Halloween Favorites

Meal planning can help keep your week running smoothly, and since it’s Halloween this week, here are some of my favorite recipes that can be made ahead of time and also make great leftovers!

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Butternut Squash Soup

I love this soup not only because it is festive, but also because nutritionally-speaking, it incorporates veggies and pairs so nicely with a grilled cheese or quesadilla making it a family-friendly meal- at least in our household.

 

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Beer braised Pot Roast

A family favorite that will last you well even throughout the winter. Made from an eye of round for a heart-healthier classic.

 

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Classic Chili

Nothing fancy here, just a blend of homemade spices with my favorite bean combos! Versatile enough to make vegetarian or vegan if you’d like.

 

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Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Tenderloin

Pulled pork doesn’t have to be unhealthy, especially when you use a lean pork tenderloin.

 

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Slow Cooker Steak Fajitas

Any time you’re craving a favorite dish you’d normally order out, try to pick a simple way to incorporate it at home. Slow cooker or one-pan sautes are often on my go-to list.

 

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Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos

For those that need other ways to prepare chicken because there are infinite ways to cook chicken.

 

I hope everyone has a fun, safe, & memorable trick or treating!

Happy Halloween!

xo,

Becca

Halloween Strategies {Fox 8 segment, recipes, & tips + tricks}

Halloween is next week! Eek!

If you’re planning your menu & plans out this weekend, here’s a recap of my segment with Fox 8 along with the recipes and tips! More tricks & recs are here than on air because there’s only so much you can talk about in 3 minutes =)

Nutritious snack: homemade popcorn

Heat a large skillet to medium heat. Add 1-2 tablespoons oil of choice, I used avocado oil since it can take higher heats and can help to prevent burning – speaking from experience here…

Add one popcorn kernel to the heated oil. When it pops, the oil is ready. Add 1/4-1/2 cup kernels {depending on how much oil used above and how much you want to make}. Cover and agitate the skillet while the kernels are heating and popping.

Sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice for that fall festive flavor!

  • Crunchy, snack-like option that’s a good fiber source (whole grain)
  • you control the ingredients when making it at home
    • air popped or type & amount of oil used, amount of salt- if any
  • Allergy friendly {gluten free, nut free,…}

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Homemade dinner: pot roast

  • Fill up and satisfy with a nutritious dinner (lean protein, fiber + veggie-rich) before heading out
    • Lower saturated fat {better for cardiovascular health} protein- eye of round
    • Veggie loaded – carrots, tomato paste, onions, garlic
    • Salt mindful – you control how much, again if any, is used
  • can be made ahead of time (i.e. Sunday dinner & planned for leftovers for Halloween night)
  • can be done all in the slow cooker if desired
  • pair with stone ground (whole grain) grits
    • add in cauliflower for those with selective taste buds {i.e. picky kids} – same color, yet flavor from grits can mask the veggie flavor
  • family friendly {easy, tastes good, but also good for you} + gluten free
  • can be made vegetarian by replacing the meat with black beans + lentils and using vegetable bases + stocks

Tips + Tricks for Trick or Treats

mix of tricks AND treats {including more-nutritious options to help add variety + options}

  • ** bubbles, stickers, stamps, snap bracelets, glow sticks, yoyos, etc…  {check party-favor sections} **

  • individually wrapped {** are allergy friendly **}
    • **popcorn single serve bags**
    • ** Simply Balanced all fruit ‘snacks’ – twists, bars, bites**
    • bars
      • Rx bar kids + larabars – no added sugars
      • KIND kids- lower sugar – teaspoon =5 grams added sugar
      • Nature’s Bakery Fig Bars – also has brownie version- whole grains

For more tips & tricks, my article this month in Health and Fitness magazine {link included} has some strategies about what to do after Halloween with all the candy.

 

 

Happy Trick or Treating!

xo,

Becca