Forcing the Bloom

Happy, Healthy Mommy Blog


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One Pot Meal: Couscous, Bulgur and Peas

What’s for dinner?  My go-to dinner is a one pot meal of couscous and bulgur with peas.  Both these grains are fast cooking and healthy.  Boil about 4 cups of veggie or chicken broth, reduce to a simmer and add 1 cup of couscous and 1 cup of bulgur.  Couscous is a light, fluffy grain when cooked and bulgur is dark and heavy, so they work well together.  It only takes about 10 minutes of simmering before the grains have absorbed all the broth.  I usually have to add another 1/2 cup of broth to make it moist and fluffy.

I usually add about 1 to 1.5 cups of frozen peas after the grains are cooked.  I detest overcooked, discolored peas.  Mixing in the frozen peas at the end to sit in the pot with the lid on (burner off) is usually enough to warm up the frozen peas sufficiently.  If you so choose, you can add in some leftover meat.  Here I added some chopped up rotisserie chicken from the night before.  This is a picture I posted on Instagram last week.  I stirred in the chopped chicken at the end along with the frozen peas.

This meal is very simple, cheap and toddler approved.  Worst case, they pull out the chicken and peas!  This meal was also hubby approved and I think he’s more picky than my toddler.  The next morning, I heated the mixture up with a few scrambled eggs and parmesan cheese in the frying pan.  You can also add a few tablespoons of olive oil, patty the mixture into couscous cakes and pan fry them.  Keep it simple my friends.

ONE POT MEAL: Couscous, Bulgur and Peas

4.5 cups of broth (veggie or chicken)

1 cup of bulgur

1 cup of couscous

1 to 1.5 cups frozen peas

*chopped cooked chicken (or any cooked leftovers)

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Healthy Toddler Breakfast

What is your typically breakfast?  For me, breakfast is the most challenging meal of the today.  My toddler (21 months) has inspired me to rethink breakfast.  B does not like to eat first thing in the morning and he can often eat slowly.  This means it’s better if we get up early and don’t rush breakfast – NOT EASY!  I also want to make sure he gets protein in the morning to last him until lunchtime at school.  My little guy goes to a Montessori school three days a week.  I have more flexibility when he’s home with me because I can give him snacks and we don’t need to get to school on time.  I say all that to show, as most parents know, that breakfast is the most challenging and important meal of the day.

My goal for the New Year is to make more hot, healthy breakfast meals!  To me this means the breakfast must contain: 1) protein 2) a green veggie 3) whole grains and 4) fruit.  This does not happen every day but I’m getting better!  Here is B’s favorite breakfast so far that meets all my requirements and is pretty quick to prepare.  Oh yeah, it’s good for me too!

B’s favorite hot, healthy breakfast:

Scrambled eggs with cheese and chopped up kale;

almond/wheat bread with PB;

smoothie with variety of frozen fruits and either spinach or kale;

although not in the picture we almost always have berries or banana in the morning (B loves blueberries!)

and I always serve water with meals too.

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We don’t usually serve B juice but I will give him smoothies sometimes.  I use about 1:4 ratio of smoothie with water.  It’s really all about getting him more greens.

Since B was born and even during pregnancy, I have determined that diets don’t work.  It’s much for effective for me to focus on what I can and want to eat instead of what I can’t eat.  I try to eat at least one green veggie a day (kale, spinach, brussels sprouts, parsley, etc.) and two veggie at dinner.  I also try to drink as much water as I can.  Sticking to just a few goals makes things much easy.  And these goals fit perfectly with my hot, healthy breakfast goal!

Do you have food goals for 2014?  What is your toddler’s favorite, healthy breakfast?  How do you manage the stress of the morning rush to school?


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Butternut Squash Pasta with Pine Nuts and Kale

We love butternut squash pasta!  Last night I combined the pasta with kale, squash, beets, and pine nuts!  The only seasoning was a salt and sage.  DO NOT dump in the entire sage bottle as my little toddler did when he was “helping.”  Sage is actually spicy in large quantities.  Otherwise, very yummy and healthy.  I first boiled the beet in a pot of water for about an hour (I had a large beet).  You can do that the day before.  After the beet is soft, leave it in the refrigerator to cool.  Then the skin will come right off.  I used an orange-colored beet.  After cooking the pasta and setting aside to drain, I used the same large pot and added some olive oil, sage and pine nuts.  (This is the point at which you DO NOT add the entire bottle of sage – only a pinch.)  Ounce the pine nuts were lightly toasted, I added sliced squash and cut up kale leaves.  After the kale and squash were hot, I added the diced beet.  Then I threw the pasta back in and mixed it together.  Very easy and healthy.  Cheers!

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Homemade Bread for the Holidays Starts with Yeast Starter!

I’ve always wanted to know how to make homemade bread!  It’s healthier, cheaper and it tastes better than store bought bread.  Plus, it’s oh so good when it comes out of the oven hot!  When I visited my Aunt Karen (queen of all things homemade) she gave me some yeast starter.  She has cultivated this yeast starter for more than 20 years!  Needless to say, I handled it with care!  I carried a 1/4 cup of yeast starter in a plastic dish on the plane home and grew it into 1 1/2 cups by slowing adding more whole wheat and water.  I left the glass dish of yeast starter on the counter and added the wheat and water in the same ratio that was in the dish.  So, if you have a 1/4 cup of yeast starter you add 1/4 cup of dry wheat and 1/4 cup of water.  When the starter begins to bubble, you add more.  It took me a couple of days to go from 1/4 cup of yeast starter to 1 1/2 cups.  If you are interested in making your own starter, check out http://allrecipes.com/recipe/no-commercial-yeast-starter/.  It’s basically just flour and water!  The benefits of using the yeast starter is that it’s MUCH easier to make the bread!  Ounce I had 1 1/2 cups of yeast starter, I was ready to make 2 loaves of bread.  Imagine, you grow the yeast starter during the week and then ounce a week you make 2 loaves of healthy, hot, homemade bread!  And you know there are no chemicals or weird stuff in there.  Plus, it tastes better!  And you can experiment with different type os dough.  I also find it very therapeutic to kneed dough.  A little added benefit.  Make sure to reserve about 1/4 cup of starter for next time!  You MUST keep feeding the starter to keep it active.  It will keep inactive (without you adding more) for about 1 week in the refrigerator or about 1 day on the counter.

Here is the recipe for homemade bread with yeast starter (it’s easier with the yeast starter!):

1 to 1 1/2 cups of starter

3 cups of water (room temp.)

1/2 cup gluten or a cup of white flour

1 TB maple syrup (optional)

add enough flour to make an elastic dough ball (several cups) (I use whole wheat, but you can use white, or part white)

you can also add a 1/3 cup ground flax seed or chia seeds

Then, place the dough ball in a bowl on the counter covered with a towel for two to four hours (it can be flexible depending on your schedule).  Next, kneed the dough for about 5 min., divide in half and put into two loaf pans.  Slash the top of the loaves to encourage rising.  Allow dough to rise until doubled in size (usually two hours at the room temp.).  Then, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and carefully put raised loaves in the oven.  Cook for 40 min.  Enjoy!

Another option:  Roll out dough and top with cinnamon, brown sugar, nuts and re roll.  Then cut into cinnamon rolls!  Let them rise like bread and cook 25 min at 350.

Another option:  If you want to make crackers, roll the bread dough out as thin as you can and bake it at 350 till crisp (15 min.).  You can roll other spices into the crackers or sweeten.

 

Homemade Wheat Bread


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Great Veggie Chili Recipe

We enjoyed this hearty chili recipe tonight: “The Best Vegetarian Chili in the World” from allrecipes.com.  I had four hungry family members visiting from out of town and I thought chili would be great to feed a crowd.  Except, I also wanted something healthy.  I found this recipe while searching online and it seemed pretty manageable.  I didn’t have any jalapeno peppers or green chile peppers but I added some red peppers and carrots instead.  I don’t like very spicy meals and this one was just right for me.  I served the chili with naan and grated cheese.  Baby B loved the grated cheese 🙂  And I love one pot meals!  This recipe fed six people and there were leftovers!  Also, no one was vegetarian and they still liked it!  You could tell you weren’t eating beef but the vegetarian burger crumbles were pretty good in the chili.  I had not cooked with them before and I was pleasantly surprised.


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Yummy Toddler Snacks: Veggie Nuggets and Date Bars

Whew!  Summertime and we hit the ground running.  Two weekends ago we visited the North Carolina Transportation Continue reading


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Try Some Teff

Teff is my new favorite whole grain.  It is the smallest grain in the world!  It’s highly nutritious since the germ and bran account for a larger volume of the seed compared with other grains.  It looks like brown, coarse sand.  I have enjoyed having it for breakfast, but you can really eat it anytime.  I usually toast the seeds with some butter until they pop.  Then I simmer it with some cloves or cinnamon and a touch of salt.  After it’s cooked, I add some honey to taste.  You can also add fruit or other spices.  Husband tested and approved!  A 1/4 cup has 180 calories and 7 grams of protein.  And it’s yummy!