Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Healthy Holiday Choices

I can't look at this picture and not be happy. I love the holidays! I love having my great big family and extended family and friends that are family surround me. I love making things for them, and being with them. I love making sure we do the things that we always do, and I love finding new traditions to start (or never ever do again)

We love these people in our lives - We need to take care of them in the best way possible. Give ourselves healthy habits and make being healthy a positive way of life and not something that everyone dreads. 

It doesn't have to start all at once. Make one little choice each day (or each week, or each month). Every little bit of positive action adds good to your life and good to the world as we teach our children and influence others. 

Here are a few ideas of little steps that you can start. Don't look at this as a list that you have to complete the entire thing, but maybe as a spark of ideas that will inspire you to make that first (or Next) step that will be best for you.

Create Makeovers
Makeover your favorite holiday dishes. The internet is full of ideas on how to change favorite dishes to make them healthier. Perhaps don't start with changing Great Great Granny's Corn Souffle', but maybe try a healthier sweet potato recipe.

Enjoy All the Food Groups
Prepare whole-grain crackers with hummus as an appetizer; add unsalted nuts and black beans to a green-leaf salad; use low-fat milk instead of heavy cream in your casseroles. Always always have a veggie tray for healthy snacking. Enjoy fruit-infused water with your meal instead of soda.

Make Sure Your Protein is Lean
Turkey, roast beef, fresh ham, beans, and some types of fish, are lean protein choices. When serving meats, trim away any fat before cooking. This can be an easy choice that you make while you are grocery shopping and so you aren't "tempted" to make unhealthy choices when you are at the table. The people that you love will also appreciate you taking better care of their health too. Remember: Go easy on the sauces and gravies ― they can be high in fat and sodium.

Bake Healthier
Use recipes with unsweetened applesauce or mashed ripe bananas instead of butter. Try cutting the amount of sugar listed in recipes in half. Use spices to add flavor such as cinnamon, allspice, or nutmeg instead of salt. I highly recommend doing a Test-Bake before you present your finished product as the Grand Finale of your Holiday meal, but you'll be Very pleasantly surprised at how delicious and easy healthy baking is.

Savor the Sweet
Cut pieces of cake and pies smaller - offering smaller serving sizes automatically helps you eat less dessert. For a healthy dessert, try baked apples with cinnamon and a sprinkle of sugar instead of apple pie. Invite your guests to make their own parfait with colorful sliced fruit and low-fat yogurt.

Be the Life of the Party
You love these people, you want to be with these people. Turn off the TVs, put down your phones and make some memories. Laugh, mingle, dance, and play games. Focus on fun and enjoy the company of others.

Make Movement a Part of the Fun 
Make being active part of your holiday tradition. Start Thanksgiving with a neighborhood (or family) football game. Have fun walking and talking with family and friends after a holiday meal. Give gifts that encourage others to practice healthy habits. Bust out some classic fun with a game of charades, blind man's bluff, or if you have a really close family - play some Twister.

Enjoy Leftovers
Create delicious new meals with your leftovers. Add turkey to soups or salads. Use extra veggies in omelets, sandwiches, or stews. The possibilities are endless! - And delicious!!

Give to Others
Spend time providing foods or preparing meals for those who may need a little help. Give food to a local food bank or volunteer to serve meals at a shelter during the holiday season.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Spiced Applesauce Bread

This bread is so spicy and flavorful - It makes your house smell amazing while baking. And if you ask me, it just tastes like Fall. 

The Applesauce makes it so moist and so it is wonderful for breakfasts or lunch boxes - I think it is amazing toasted with some peanut butter. 

It makes for a wonderful grab-and-go snack and because the bread is so filled with spices you can interchange your flours to whole grain ones without anyone "tasting" the difference.

1 1/4 cups applesauce
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
3 tablespoons milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, combine the applesauce, sugar, oil, eggs and milk; beat well. 

Sift in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and salt; stir until smooth. 

Fold in the pecans. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Don't Just Count the Wins

My sister Kasidy told me the other day, "you are a really good cook Ker, but when you fail, you do it spectacularly"  -- Do I Ever!

I don't take it too personally anymore. You learn more from the times that you fail than the times that you succeed. 

I had a birthday failure when I tried to make a huge layered cake for my mom. 

I had forgotten about this casserole failure until I reread about it. I am sure glad I thought to share it with you. 

So last week,, I was reading a very popular food blog than I follow. It is published by two women who are very good friends (and very good cooks). They have a super successful blog, they also have several published cookbooks and their own line of products. You would find it very easy to assume that they were past the stage of having kitchen fails - Especially with recipes that they were famous for!!

But one of the women posted that she recently discovered that her partner had never successfully made their famous dinner rolls, she in turn confessed that she had never been able to prepare her friends chicken taquitos. 

Here they were, two very famous cooks, and each of them was still unable to prepare to their satisfaction a recipe that they were known for. I  sat at my computer screen and grinned and grinned. I most probably looked really silly - but I felt so vindicated! Someone else was imperfect in their kitchen!!! 

In the days of pinterest and food blogs and tv networks dedicated wholly to cooking, it is really hard at times to keep a realistic perspective.  That every cupcake does not need to be involved in a war. That every dish does not need to be make with 27 ingredients. And sometimes dinner is just dinner - it might even be on paper plates... or plastic Ikea (kid) dishes!

Take Heart, Budding Chefs! Sometimes we will succeed and everyone will declare it the best thing they have ever eaten and leftovers will be gobbled up before you can count the minutes. And other times, we will fail, and our families will choke it down and say, "no thanks" to seconds and it will languish in the fridge until you finally kill it the day before the garbage man comes. 

But most of all, We will keep trying. We will keep learning and growing and we'll win some and we'll lose some - and pretty soon we might even start to think of ourselves as Pretty Good Cooks. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Healthy Ways to Survive Sleepless Nights

We have been battling a nasty bout with the flu here for the last 2 weeks! Both of the little ones have had it and I got it worst of all.  I looked like every single parent you have ever seen in a cold medicine commercial - with the 14 layers of pajamas, the grey skin, droopy eyes and a house coming down around them in chaos. And all I wanted was to sleep - actually, all I wanted was for my kids to sleep - so that I could sleep. 

I think we have the worst part of the sickness behind us, we seem to be much much better and no one else has come down with it yet. 

But poor Charlie is getting two teeth - On the Same side... and one is a molar.  He the most miserable that I have ever seen him. It is such a terrible cycle... teeth hurt, sad baby, baby hurts, won't sleep, tired parents. Last night my husband and I took shifts walking him and trying to comfort him so the other one could sleep for a few hours. It looks to be a long day ahead. 

This happens to all of us, more than we would like it too - sick kids, job worries, heavy responsibilities at work, not feeling well yourself. Sleep is something we all run short on sometimes. 

Of course the magic solution is to try and get some more - I think we would all be doing that... If we were able, most times we're not.  So how do we pick up and carry on without doubling our caffeine and eating straight sugar. Sure a double sized coffee drink or an x-tra large soda from the gas station chased with a chocolate bar might get you jump started - but they are doing to send you crashing - and most likely you will be even More tired than you were before, and probably feel cruddy to boot. 

Start with some Sunshine - That bright beautiful light is meant to wake us up. Try and get as much as you can. Even better, if you are able, take a few minutes to step outside during a break and smell the fresh air and let your whole body soak it in. You'll feel refreshed and not only will your body feel more awake, but your mind will as well. 

Get Moving - Even though you may be tempted to skip your exercise because you are "to tired" sticking to your normal routine will benefit your body / mind and movement will get all those good endorphins and adrenaline pumping through your body. If you aren't able to do that - take short breaks through out the day to get your body up and active - Stretch your whole self, take a quick walk around the block, go up and down the stairs a few times. Shake those cobwebs out of your mind and the blood circulating through your body. 

Eat a Good Breakfast - Stay clear of sugar cereals and simple carbohydrates. Eat some protein like an omelet or slow release carbohydrates like oatmeal. 

Stay Hydrated - Drink lots and lots of water. The effects of dehydration can be as bad as sleep deprivation. Nobody wants a double dose of not being able to focus - who can afford that?! **PLUS, all those trips to the bathroom can get you up and moving - Yeah activity**

Keep your Meals Balanced - eating smalls meals through out the day will keep you more alert and feeling better than having a huge lunch which will make you have that stuffed feeling that makes you just want to sleep it off. 

Try and stick with your healthy eating habits and snack on fruit, nuts and veggies. 

Share the Load - Don't try and make up for it all in one day - Prioritize your day and the things that have to be done, If something can wait until tomorrow or next week - let it.  If something can be done by someone who is willing to help you, Let them. 

It happens to all of us, Nothing is more universal than saying to a friend, " I did not sleep at ALL last night" -  You can't change the way that last night went down - you most likely won't have much control of what is required of you today. But don't make things harder (or nearly impossible) for yourself, but not giving your body the food / fuel to accomplish the things you are asking of it. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Splurge on yourself - you are worth it!

One of the most indulgent things we can do for ourselves it cook at home. The advertising world has tried to fool us into thinking that dinner out, fast food and convenience items are where it is at. That these things mean we are wealthy, well-cared-for and are living the "good life". The truth is, cooking for ourselves is really all of those things.

When we cook for ourselves we get to make things the most "selfish" way of all. Just the way we like it. Do you like your spaghetti noodles thick or thin, do you like shaped pasta instead, guess what?! you can have it exactly the way you want it when you make it yourself. Do you like your noodles al dente or perhaps a little softer, guess what?! you can cook them exactly the way you want them again. It is all about what YOU want, and how you want. There are restaurants that have made millions trying to make it exactly how you want it, but really you are the only person that can do that.

We can learn to really thrive as we are cooking for ourselves. We can learn to Eat to Live not just live to eat. We can buy beautiful, fresh seasonal ingredients, we can make things from scratch, we can not just put things in our body, but we can put the very best things into our bodies to make them healthy and happy and strong. Have you ever had beans made "from scratch", taken from dried beans, rinsed, soaked and cooked - oh My Goodness they are delicious! Or a fresh slice of warm homemade bread fresh from your very own oven. It doesn't get much better than that. How luxurious, how delightful, how indulgent, cooking for ourselves is something that we can have become a part of our lives that makes our lives something we enjoy living.

Do you have memories of a parent or grandparent humming in the kitchen while cooking something delicious. Did you have a special seat that you sat on while you talked to them and watched them at work? We can create those moment and memories for the people that we love. But we can also have those moments for Ourselves! Buy yourself a beautiful apron, put on some music that you like, put some comfortable shoes on or take your shoes off - what speaks relaxation to you. Snip the ends off those green beans or get your hands into some dough and let the sensual moment be a part of your day that makes you happy. Relax, take the pressure off yourself, you are doing this for yourself and people you love, let it be a moment of blissful joy.

You are taking care of the most important person in your life - You, and nourishing those you love the most both physically and emotionally. Family dinner does lots more than just feed bodies and family cooking does more than just make a meal. But do things your way, remember this is your show - the ultimate way you want things to be. If you want help, then get the kids and your spouse to help you, if you feel more relaxed doing it yourself and having some time to unwind do things that way. Let this be something that blesses your life instead of hinders it.

Take back your control and take back your mind from the advertisers and giant companies of the world - they don't have your best interest in mind. Cook a meal at home for yourself and the people that you love the most - make a memory, take a moment and take a look around and a deep breath - you are doing this!  YOU are amazing! 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Applesauce Glazed Pork Chops

Pork and apples is a classic combination. I absolutely love it - classic pairings are that way for a reason, but they are universally so darn good together. 

I like to cook my pork chops in a sauce, because I think pork chops can get really dry really easily and that just makes them not good at all. Moist tender pork chops are sublime, dry powdery pork chops are enough to make you not want to eat them ever again. 

I made this with a thin-cut bone-in pork chop and that is a cut of meat that can be lean and very inexpensive.  They also cook really quickly because they are thin and so they are great for a quick dinner. Put your chops in the oven, make a salad and you are ready to go! 

4 bone-in pork loin chops (1/2 inch thick and 7 ounces each)
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon barbecue sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350°. 

Place pork chops in a 13x9-in. baking dish coated with cooking spray. 

In a small bowl, mix remaining ingredients; spoon over chops.

Bake, uncovered, 20-25 minutes or until a thermometer reads 145°. 

Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Friday, November 6, 2015


There is something about comfort food that makes all of us just sigh with relief and have our spirits fed as well as our bodies. 

I have some very dear cousins that have Polish heritage. They have always celebrated their heritage and shared lots of it with us as an extended family. This is where I come by my deep love for Pierogies. yum yum yum!!

This dish is called Haluski - says it just like it looks, kinda like Hallelujah. It couldn't be simpler to make, it is just cabbage, onions, egg noodles and butter. I top mine off with black pepper, but you don't need to. 

It is so homey and creamy! I made it for my family, and I didn't think the kids were going to like it too much, so I invited my parents down, because I know they love it. We actually went through 2 9x13 baking dishes of it and the kids were asking for more the next day after school. 

If you feel like onions and cabbage are perhaps a bit too strong of flavors for you, this is a beautiful dish to try them in - cooked as long as they are, they both soften and sweeten and it actually becomes like three different types of noodles all snuggled together. 

This recipe Does make 2 9x13 baking dish pans. You will need to either 1/2 the recipe... OR take one to a friend. They'll be a really really good friend after this. 

1 (16 ounce) package medium-wide egg noodles
1 cup butter, divided
2 large onions, chopped
2 small heads cabbage, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon water, or as needed (optional)


Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Fill a large pot with lightly salted water and bring to a rolling boil. Stir in egg noodles and return to a boil. Cook noodles uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tender but still slightly firm, about 5 minutes. Drain well.

Melt 1/2 cup butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat; cook and stir onions until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes.

Cook and stir remaining butter and cabbage into onions until cabbage is softened but not browned, 5 to 8 more minutes. Season with salt and black pepper.

Place cooked noodles and cabbage mixture in a large roasting pan and stir gently to combine.

Sprinkle with more salt and black pepper if desired.

Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown on top, 30 to 40 minutes.

At times, I have seen Bacon, Pancetta and Ham added to the noodles and cabbage. I think those ingredients change the flavor a lot - while they are all delicious, and added to the Halusky they are very very good. Try this once just as the recipe states and see if it doesn't become one of your family favorites too.