It Is My Duty

I keep waiting for the watermelon to stop tasting so good –

Watermelon

but alas, that time has yet to come. I guess I’ll just have to keep testing the watermelons until I’m sure watermelon season is over. It is my duty.

So as luck would have it my mom had a technological snow day of sorts and was able to leave work early – thus I was able to get my run checked off the to-do list much earlier than I anticipated.

Midday sun + warm but not too hot air + slight breeze = perfect running weather.  It was my duty to run.

I did my 4.76 mile loop in about 39 minutes. Home to change and throw together a quick Ezekiel bread veggie filled sandwich, we then whisked away to a play date with Ava’s future classmates and a little “getting to know you” meet up.

Light and Dark Sandwich

After our meet up, I got to know this beauty.

Red Delicious

I introduced myself to a new Larabar too.

New Larabar

It is my duty to report the facts.  If you like Pistachio nuts (I do! I do!) then this Larabar is for you. It’s like eating a giant, soft, slightly sweet pistachio nut.

I was slightly amused at how GREEN it was. I’m hoping this is just fluorescent green because it’s made from pistachios and not because the ingredients were grown near Chernobyl.

Green Larabar

I dawdled getting dinner ready tonight and before I knew it was dinner time, I was starving and annoyed that dinner did not magically appear before me.  This calls for fast and easy – i.e., the food processor.

Homemade garlic hummus and cut up vegetables sticks for a little tasting plate.

Veggie Tasting Plate

See that zucchini in the bowl of the background there? Take note of that. It’s a bit of foreshadowing.

As I’ve been reading Thrive I keep peeking at the recipes in the back and have been drooling into the binding over Brendan Brazier’s large collection of raw and veggie centered recipes. I decided to try his zucchini chips tonight.

Before I made hummus I used my slicer attachment to let my food processor do some slicey dicey magic.

Sliced Zucchini Chips

I misto‘d a cookie sheet with olive oil and spread the nicest slices out on and sprayed with more olive oil and a little salt. Preheated the oven to 300 and baked for about 40 minutes before I decided I was too hungry to let them cook any longer.

Zucchini Chips

Some were crispy. And some were not.

Not Crispy

For Round 2 I used up the less-than-perfect mixed thickness zucchini slices. This is where those slices pictured in the bowl above come into play.

Round 2

Round 2?  FAIL.

FAIL

I can’t say I’m surprised they turned out this way, Round 2 was more of an experiment to see if the paper thin ones would crisp up perfectly.  Maybe they did but I didn’t keep a close eye on them so it’s my fault.  But don’t get me wrong, these tasted great! Especially the few chips I got to crisp up perfectly. Even the mushy limp ones were good.  (Yikes, don’t read that sentence out of context.) I just need to find the perfect chip width to hit the zucchini chip sweet spot.

To fail or not to fail, there is no question.  I will attempt these zucchini chips again!  It is my duty.

To Do Lists

Maxine woke me up in the middle of the night last night to accompany her on a trip to the bathroom and for some water.  Instead of falling back to sleep after I got back into bed, I laid awake for well over an hour while my mind went around and around with all the things that have been accumulating on my mental to-do list.

I remembered something I heard Jillian Michaels talk about on her radio show once, that when she can’t sleep she gets up and writes down everything she has to do and then she feels like once it’s written down, she can rest.

Normally a to-do list in my head is all I need, but sometimes it does get too long and I start to feel overwhelmed, so writing it all down can be one way to alleviate some stress. Around 4am I finally got up and put it all on paper, scribbling every task and item that came to mind – even down to the most mundane things like “fold laundry”.

And it worked! I fell back to sleep almost immediately and then next thing I knew it was 8:45! It helped knowing my morning work out has been pushed back to later in the day when my mom comes out to visit with the girls this afternoon.

First thing on my to do list for today?

Make GREEN JUICE.

I’m down to my last two cucumbers from the garden. Being the last two, they are of course the black sheep of cucumbers.

Meet Shorty and his brother Albino.

Black Sheep Cucumbers

Fortunately their stature and color of their skin make no difference to me or the juicer.

Monday Green Juice

Today’s juice contained romaine, cucumbers, an apple, a lemon and some ginger.

We’ve got a couple things going on after lunch but have the morning free to play and work on this to-do list of mine.

Got any good tips or tricks for falling back to sleep?

It Was Ladies Night

Blog: And just where have you been, young lady?

Me: Um, err… I was out.

Blog: out? OUT!? Where exactly is OUT?

Me: Well, let me start at the beginning.

A long, long time ago, on a Sassy Saturday afternoon…

I ate a salad.

Saturday Salad

A salad filled with red leaf lettuce, spinach, carrots, tomatoes, sprouts, cucumbers and green peppers. It was a lovely salad indeed.

After lunch I packed my bags for an old fashioned, get out your dancing shoes, life before kids, girls night out and sleepover to boot.

Bags Packed

What, you don’t take breakfast cookie ingredients with you to a sleepover? Breakfast rookie.

Waiting for my (big) girls to come pick me up, I had a little snack. This was a snack with a purpose, you see. This snack was meant to serve as a REMINDER that I did NOT want to wake up with a tongue feeling like the outside of a kiwi tomorrow morning.

Reminder

Yes, Blog, last night was Ladies Night you see. Oy what a night. Oh yes, I shirked my parental responsibilities in lieu of a good cause: Food, friends, fun and freedom.

One of my oldest and best girlfriend’s is in town for about a week. My former high school clique turned fellow 30 year old’s circled round to paint the town red. Or whatever it is you kids are calling it these days.

First up, girlfriends Missy, Sharon and yours truly headed out to dinner at a happening little bistro while we waited for gal pal #4 to get out of work.

This would be an attempt to look sassy, wind blown and sexy.

Sexy and Windblown

Meh. Two outta three ain’t bad.

The scene.

the_scene

The menu.

Pinball Whiz Tangled

The beverage.

Don't Mind if I Do!

Oooo don’t mind if I do…

The food.

I let this Pinball Panini bounce all around between my teeth.

Pinball Panini

I was more than happy to get all tied up in my Tangled Up and Bleu Salad.

I'm Tangled

After dinner and tons catching up and girl talk, we blew that pop stand and moved on to meet up with Tara.

But first, an emergency stop for caffeine and a little something sweet.

Emergency Starbucks

Yes, that’s right. Starbucks. A pecan toffee bar and a little insurance policy to insure I wouldn’t fall asleep in my chardonnay.

Coffee with a time check to make sure I wasn’t dreaming because I was definitely feeling sleepy as well as feeling like a I needed a little pinch that I was out with my gals on a Saturday night!

The Time

Three hip chicks, hanging out like this is standard operating procedure and pretending our sweatpants never see a Saturday night.

Three Happening Chicks

With our coffee buzz well underway, we headed downtown to meet up with Tara and make our move for some more “we do this all the time” action.

The scene.

bar

The company.

Hi Girls

The beverages.

only_4

Wait, how many of us are there again? Head Count! 1, 2, 3, 4… Drink Count! 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6…

Interesting.

That might explain why the scene started to look a little like this. I think it’s time we move on.

Time to Go

Hmmm, spelling the name of the bar with our arms?

LUX

Yeah. Definitely time to move on. And just about time to remember back to that fuzzy kiwi snack this afternoon too.

We danced, laughed, talked and walked our way through a club and back to Tara’s house to do what any group of fun loving girls would do at this hour of the night. Err… hour of the morning.

Another Clock

A late night lesson on how to make a breakfast cookie, as requested.

Time for Breakfast Cookies

Operation Avoid Fuzzy Tongue was a rousing success this morning, as were our breakfast cookies.

Breakfast Cookies

The chatting continued this morning and we enjoyed a late morning walk together to the local co-op to refill my stash of Larabars and nut butters before the journey home. A girl’s gotta have priorities.

Home again and caught up on the events of the 18 hours I was able to escape, I’ve already managed to consume my weight in vegetables.

Given all the clocks I studied yesterday, you think I might have made at least once glance at a calendar?

Holiday Tea

I needed a cup of tea to weave my tale. You just can’t wrong with a box you dig out of the cupboard that has Gingerbread Men on it. August Schmaugust.

So you see Blog, that’s where I’ve been…

A Juice Refresher

I belly flopped into bed last night as soon as Zak walked through the door. When I woke a little while later as he was getting the girls ready for bed I realized it probably wasn’t just lack of sleep that had me feeling puny. I think I was probably fighting off that odd 12 hour bug Ava seemed to have on Wednesday too.

A 12 hour bug indeed I woke up this morning after 10 hours of sleep feeling almost normal. Nothing a run and some green juice couldn’t fix to get me all the way there. Although who am I kidding? I don’t think any amount of green juice is going to take me all the way to “normal”. Green juice in and of itself has me shooting well past the normal mark.

Instead of a usual Saturday long run I opted for a very nice and easy jaunt around the neighborhood. I did my 4.2 mile loop in 36 minutes. I heard the juicer already whirring as I ascended the porch steps and walked into the house to find my mind reading husband not only making juice but taking pictures too!

He was fully embracing the juicing process, taking an approach I’ve yet to take – a scientific one.

Juice from a large head of romaine:

Romaine Juice

1 1/2 cups.

Still left to be juiced at that point; two apples, two carrots, a lemon, a beet, a cucumber and some ginger.

His Spread

Juice from two apples:

Juice of Two Apples and One Carrot

1 cup.

Juice from all fruits and vegetables combined:

4 Cups

A grand total of 4 cups!

The pulp left behind.

What Comes Out

My glass held some ice and about 1 cup of vegetable juice this morning – I went back for a refill after this was polished off and we each enjoyed 2 cups of juice this morning.

Saturday Juice

Natalia Rose talks about vegetable juicing in her Raw Food Detox Diet book, which thus far has been my only juicing reference with the exception of some blogs and a few online resources. Natalia’s book is where I’ve learned most everything I know about juicing at this point. On the days I drink green juice I try to follow her advice and have it be the first thing I consume that day or at the very least on an empty stomach if it’s later in the day. I aim to give it a half hour or so before moving on to something more solid.

Homemade Cereal

And by something more solid I of course mean something like 2% Fage, homemade cereal, 1/2 a sliced banana and a scoop of almond butter topped off with a splash of hemp milk.

Close Up Cereal

If yesterday was Friday Funk I’ve since turned it around to Saturday Sass! Sleep, run, green juice? A perfect recipe for sassiness.

Friday Funk

I don’t know whose brilliant idea it was that I get up 5am this morning but I have been walking around feeling like a zombie all day today. I. Am. Tired. I’d love to take a nap but I think at this point I’ve crossed the line from “taking a nap” to just “going to bed”. Do I know how to have a rockin’ good time on a Friday night or what?

For lunch I reheated some lasagna. That’s it. No salad, no side of steamed veggies. Just lasagna.

Just Lasagna

I finished up some things around here and then decided to eschew yoga this afternoon in favor of an impromptu shopping trip. I did that “swipe the debit card” pose. You know the one.

I was starving when I got home and dove promptly into the bag of carrots.

Carrots

That carrot + about five others. I’d wished it was a piece of cake slathered with frosting but alas, it was just a carrot. Gotta love those didn’t-get-enough-sleep sugar cravings.

So it was just me and my carrot. I did however remember dark chocolate a short while later. Chocolate makes me happy. The fact that it was the end of the bar is the only reason that wasn’t a picture of 24 squares instead of just 6.

Chocolate makes me happy

And for dinner tonight? Hold on to your hats.

Popcorn

I feel like that I’m in one of those a bad commercials for Healthy Choice frozen dinners and I’m them chick who says “I had popcorn for dinner last night” and the other chick smirks and rattles on about her fabulous sounding Healthy Choice meal. What a bitch.

Why aren’t these kids tired yet? Don’t they know it’s 6:30? Why isn’t Zak home from work yet? Doesn’t he know it’s 6:30? Why aren’t I in bed yet? Look at the time! It’s 6:30!

Hurry home honey! It’s popcorn for dinner tonight!

Make Your Own Cereal

I got up with Zak this morning when the alarm went off at 5. He headed out to go swimming and I headed down to the kitchen. Feeling hungry already, today would have been a perfect morning for some green lemonade, except for one problem. I’m out a romaine. I’ve got spinach but spinach doesn’t have a lot of water and I’ve come to find that it takes A LOT of spinach to get a decent amount of liquid from it.

What’s that saying? If life hands you lemons, make lemonade? Well then, if life hands you spinach, make a green smoothie.

Hmmm, my modified version of that saying doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as easily but I’m sticking with it.

Today’s concoction was 1 banana, slightly frozen. 1 apple, peeled and sliced. A couple handfuls of spinach and a few splashes of unsweetened vanilla hemp milk.

Green Smoothie

I’ve got yoga planned for today but made the executive decision to move it back to this afternoon. The girls are spending the day with Aunt Ellen and I always enjoy yoga more in the middle of the day after I’m loosened up from moving around with normal activity.

With my exercise postponed I had time to experiment in the kitchen this morning. I knew my green smoothie wasn’t going to hold me over long so I got a jump start on Breakfast Part II knowing it was going to be at least an hour in the making.

I love cereal. Especially cereals like Kashi Heart to Heart and Peanut Butter Puffins. I’ve come to realize though that eating boxed cereal makes me crave MORE MORE MORE cereal and it’s easy for me to go overboard with it if I don’t try hard to exercise some restraint. I therefore prefer to leave cereal on the grocery store shelves with the exception of what I buy for the girls. (i.e., “safe” cereals that aren’t as titillating as H2H or PB Puffins.  I can safely buy Cheerios with no fear of diving head first into the box.)

I’m quite experienced now in making my own granola, and its had me thinking for a while now that making my own cereal couldn’t be a big stretch from granola. I wanted something slightly different than granola though because I don’t want a “cereal” full of nuts and dried fruit. I like to add fresh banana and almond butter to cereal and make a big ol’ cereal mess!

With that introduction, let me proudly present you with my very own breakfast cereal recipe created this morning.

Mama’s Bunches of Oats

1 cup of rolled oats
1/4 c ground flax
1/4 c canola oil
1/4 c grade A maple syrup

Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients in one bowl and combine wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Mix dry ingredients with wet ingredients and flatten mixture on a large cookie sheet but be careful not to spread too thin.

Rolled Oats and Ground Flax Unbaked cereal

Bake at 250 for about an hour. No flipping or stirring necessary while it bakes. Remove after an hour and allow to cool. Break into clusters.

Mama's Bunches of Oats

Makes about 3 servings. I didn’t figure out calorie content but I’d put a rough guesstimation at about 300 calories per serving. My typical breakfast cookie or bowl of overnight oats easily runs me 500 calories so this is about par and fits neatly in to my usual complete breakfast. But there no doubt about it, this is calorie dense.

Store in an air tight container to enjoy another day.

Store in an air tight container

“Another day” for me will most likely be tomorrow. This turned out better than I ever expected! I’m already looking forward to experimenting with this further. I’d like try some different spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla… maybe even some nuts if I feel like I can bear to be without my beloved almond butter for breakfast one morning. The possible combos are endless!

Time to eat! Served still warm this morning on top of 1/2 container of 2% Fage, 1/2 a sliced banana and a spoonful of almond butter, topped with unsweetened vanilla hemp milk.

Time to Eat

This was crunchy and very satisfying.  More importantly it didn’t leave me wanting to sneak back into the container for a little more. In addition, there are no added preservatives, chemicals, high fructose corn goodness or partially hydrogenated surprises. I’m excited to call this a breakfast success!

A Lesson in Vegetarian Lasagna

I had lunch today with a childhood friend. Someone I haven’t seen in years and years.

Alfalfa

Ummm, close. But not exactly.

Alfalfa

Alfalfa! I swear the last time I had alfalfa sprouts was in 1987 when my mom was into sprouting her own. It’s been a long time. Welcome back my friend, looking forward to visiting with you more regularly.

Soup and sandwich for lunch today – left over Curried Carrot Cauliflower Lentil Soup and a veggie sandwich with Sesame Ezekiel, mustard, red leaf, tomatoes and as I mentioned, alfalfa.

Super Sandwich

The girls busied themselves around the house and outside today while I putzed around doing housework sprinkled with a little playing as needed.

We broke for snacks some time mid afternoon. Fage and granola for me – so happy together.

2% Fage and Homemade Granola

But now, the reason we’re all here tonight. A Lesson in Vegetarian Lasagna.

Maybe you’re a pro and have made lasagna 1000 times before and you’re already yawning and scrolling through this part wondering when it’s going to be over. If that’s the case – run along and make me something to eat.

If you’ve never made lasagna and are either:

a. intimidated
b. curious
c. intrigued
d. hungry

then please, walk with me.

This is actually one of the first vegetarian dishes I ever made. No, wait. This is actually one the first dishes I ever made – period! It is very near and dear to my heart and is probably why I’m dedicating nearly an entire post to it. I made veggie lasagna years before we were actually vegetarians and were just looking for more meatless dishes to enjoy. This was also something I made early on in our marriage and first had my own kitchen and started making dinner like a grown up. I’ve made this dish many, many times and if I may be so bold I’m going to go ahead and say that I am a VLE. Vegetarian Lasagna Expert. Both in the eating and preparing sense of the term that I made up just now. This is an time intensive dish to prepare but it is honestly not very difficult. I usually only make this for dinner parties or if I’m in the mood to really COOK. Tonight happened to be the latter.

For the sauce you’ll need:

extra virgin olive oil
1 zucchini, shredded
1 carrot, shredded
1/2 cup of mushrooms, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
(the vegetable used in this dish are very flexible and veggies can be left out or included as desired)
15 oz can of diced tomatoes
4 oz can of tomato paste
1 cup of water
oregano
basil
S&P

For the cheese layer:

1 egg, scrambled
2 cups ricotta (or cottage cheese)
8 oz of mozzarella
1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese

9 – 11 lasagna noodles – I use uncooked. I’ve never used pre-cooked so I’m not exactly sure how they work. If you’ve ever use pre-cooked noodles for lasagna, do you think it’s a big savings in time/energy?

You should only need 9 noodles but I make a couple extra so I’ve got a few “backups” in case one or two rip or I need to patch up a spot if the noodles are a little short. Plus I’ve got two children who are happy to eat left over, slightly undercooked, plain lasagna noodles.

A spread of everything you’ll need:

Oops forgot parm for the pic!

Well, everything minus the Parmesan that I didn’t remember to add to the picture until I was up to my elbows in vegetables, sauce, cheese and noodle madness.

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large pan, saute veggies of your choice in EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) on medium heat until soft. While this veggies are cooking, fill and begin heating a large pan with water for cooking lasagna noodles.

Veggies for sauce

Add tomatoes, tomato paste, water and stir. Add herbs and S&P.

Veggie Sauce

Oh! And this is an important step. Take an extra carrot and slice it up to enjoy with salsa to snack on and enjoy while cooking. (OK that’s probably not very sanitary so skip that step if you are a food inspector or making this meal for a lot of people.)

Important Step

While sauce is cooking and water for noodles is heating up, prepare cheese mixture. Scramble egg in a large bowl. Stir in ricotta, mozzarella and parm. Add a few splashes of milk if needed to make it a little thinner and easier to spread.

Cheese

Cook noodles until they are Al Dante. (i.e., still a little bit firm) They’ll finish cooking as it bakes.

In a 9 x 13 inch baking dish, spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the dish.

Layer 1

Lay three noodles on top of sauce layer.

Layer 2

With a spatula, spread cheese layer on top of noodles. If it’s really thick a little milk can help thin it out and make it easier to spread.

Layer 3

One more time: a layer of sauce, noodles, cheese. Then a layer of sauce, noodles and sauce again. Sprinkle with parm and it’s ready for the oven!

A quick review on the layers, from the bottom up:

sauce, noodles, cheese, sauce, noodles, cheese, sauce, noodles, sauce, parm

Ready!

In it goes!

Going In

You did pre-heat the oven, right?

Temp and Time

Bake at 375 for about 35 minutes. I keep an eye on it and if I start to really smell it and see that it’s bubbling nicely, it’s done.

Take it out and let it sit for about 10 minutes to cool slighty and set. Slice and enjoy! Makes about 12 servings.

For dinner tonight, with a side salad. (And lunch tomorrow and the next day too probably!)

Lasagna and salad for dinner tonight

When I make this for a dinner party I usually make garlic bread too, but since it’s just us tonight I skipped any bread and just went with salad.

So there ya go – Veggie Lasagna a la Alison. Manga!