Thursday, February 28, 2013

Food, food, and more food

 Over the last two years, Jason and I have made significant changes in our diets. First, because we stumbled upon the documentary Food Inc. Oh my, what an eye opening experience that was! Second, because I was pregnant and wanted to ensure I had optimal nutrition. Third, because we now have a sweet little girl for which we want to role model healthy eating habits.

We have successfully converted to about an 80% organic diet.  I know, most people don't find "going organic" a realistic option, but educating ourselves and smart shopping have made the switch easy.  We shop based on the EWG's "Dirty Dozen", saving money by purchasing the "Clean 15" non-organic.  We have also cut out most processed/convenience foods which is easy to do with only shopping the perimeter of the store where the fresh foods are located.  It is only for the rare treat or for condiments I have not mastered the making of that we will venture down the center aisles.

With the several snow days we've been blessed with over the last couple of weeks, I really buckled down and made a meal plan (and stuck to it!) to ensure we didn't starve while we were snowed in :) We had so much fun getting creative and trying out new recipes. Here are links to a few of our favorites :)

For breakfast, we have been doing a lot of pancakes and waffles with this wonderful mix!
It is very smooth in texture and even picky Jason prefers it over its frozen counterparts.  We love to mix in cinnamon and sugar, fresh blueberries, or dark chocolate chips.
We have also been on a french toast kick! We have been topping all of the above with REAL maple syrup (farewell high fructose corn syrup, you have not been missed!) or, my favorite, a puree of strawberries, honey, and a touch of water.
Another must try (that is unfortunately not organic, but considered a treat) is
It is ahhmazing- so smooth and creamy. Try the strawberry rhubarb, you will not be disappointed :)

For lunch, we have been enjoying a lot of grilled sandwiches. We found a delicious organic lunch meat option as well as a great organic sliced cheddar cheese
We have also been making grilled cheese sandwiches to dunk in this wonderful organic creamy tomato basil soup. 
Our other go to lunch, especially when we have left over ground beef or chicken, is quesidillas. We use a single tortilla, folded in half, stuffed with meat, cheese, chili seasoning, and salsa.

For dinner, we have enjoyed several hearty meals perfect to cozy up with. We made a delicious beef stew, following this recipe with the exception of using Spice Hunter organic poultry seasoning in place of the listed spices.
We were inspired by this recipe to make our pork chop dish-
Instead of the crockpot (due to a time crunch), we baked our pork chops (covered with cream of chicken soup and sprinkled with ranch seasoning) on a bed of homemade scalloped potatoes. It turned out great, but next time I will let the potatoes bake a little before adding the pork chops to the top due to the different cook times. For this recipe, I made the cream of chicken soup following this recipe. It turned out just as good as any from a can.
We also made our first attempt at roasting a whole organic chicken.  We dressed it in butter and our beloved poultry seasoning, stuffed it with apple slices, and surrounded it with diced carrots, celery, and potatoes. We cooked it in our 3 qt. Romertopt clay baker for an hour. It was perfection! Now I just need a larger clay baker for entertaining and as our family grows- birthday gift idea anyone? ;)
I then used the left over chicken to make a delicious chicken noodle soup.

For dessert, I have really been wanting to try out one of the very popular banana recipes on Pinterest, so Claire and I gave this one a shot.
We added 1 tsp. of cinnamon and 1/4 c. dark chocolate chips.  They were so yummy, and best of all, I didn't have to feel guilty for allowing Claire to indulge in dessert.

Hopefully we can keep up with our positive changes and continue to convert them into habits. Next week, I am planning to attempt homemade organic cheddar cheese crackers, baking our sandwich bread (I have yet to master a recipe soft enough for Jason's liking), and implementing a meatless night.

One of Jason's favorite quotes:

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Claire's First Birthday

It is official, Jason and I survived our first year of parenting! Even more importantly, Claire did ;) This year has been absolutely incredible, far more than I could have ever dreamed it would/could be. The three of us have played, laughed, loved, and grown together. If it is true that "you are only given as much as you can handle", someone must not have had much faith in us because we were truly blessed with an angel of a daughter!

Claire is such a sweet heart! She loves to cuddle, give kisses, and come in for a "bear hug" during which she will often sweetly pat you on the back.  She is an incredible mommy to her baby Grandma Kent gave her for Christmas- toting her everywhere we go and treating her to the same snuggles and back pats. Claire absolutely adores other children, always greeting them with babbles and smiles.  Her best bud these days is her cousin, Asher, to which she lights up with delight and offers sweet hugs.  Claire is pure joy from the moment she wakes to, literally, the moment she goes to bed- she fell asleep giggling a few nights this week :)

Claire is quite social, never allowing for a dull moment! She now shakes her head no and yes, responds to her name being called with "huh", says dad, mama, "bou, bou" for bounce, "aww" to any snuggle, "ah" and a mouth pat to ask for a drink or bite, uses "what" & "this", and knows what many objects are when we say their name.  Claire is still a hard sell to get to giggle, but she is quite the ham when she has an audience! I apologize to her future teachers, as I am sure we have an up and coming class clown on our hands- she just loves to get a rise out of people. The bigger the crowd, the better :) Along with her pure joy, she has also begun finding new ways to express her frustrations- yes, we are talking temper tantrums... Luckily, they are usually very easy to diffuse.

Claire is quite the dare devil climber these days.  She climbs up on the couch and (luckily) has figured out how to climb back down with ease.  She loves climbing up onto, then over, and all around her rocker (she got for her birthday). Other favorites are the clothes hamper, Mom and Dad's bed, any chair, and her toy boxes. Claire is still apprehensive on the walking front, cruising the full perimeter of the house so long as she has at least one hand on the wall :) She has begun standing on her own when she has adequate motivation.  She is a speed crawler, and with the aforementioned climbing, is happily getting around just fine :)

Claire is still just as tiny as anticipated.  She is weighing in at 16 pounds 4 ounces, 27 inches tall.  She continues to ride the 3rd percentile of the growth chart, which seems to be her permanent residence :) 

We threw a party in honor of Claire's birthday last weekend, using the theme "One Upon A Time". Jason and I had a blast planning the fairytale theme, spending months focusing on every detail.  
We went with an "anitque/woodland" feel, searching thrift stores (wonderful for books! and the treasure of our gift table cover), Cargo Largo (the bearer of our Libbey drinking jars, Carlisle plates, green vases, napkins, Rachel Ray cake plate, and snack table curtains), Old Time Pottery (for our antique feel glassware), Birthday Express (paper straws, crepe paper, paper table cloth, and tissue paper decor), Michael's (Brides cake stand and timeline clothes pins), Sam's Club (flowers), Dainty Cake's (guest's cupcakes), and Nature's Pantry (Honest Kid's pouches and Annie's cheddar bunnies; organic cake, cookies, tortillas, grape jelly, apples, juice for lemonade, and cream cheese; also beet powder for food coloring)
It was so much fun to see everything come together and become the vision we had worked so hard to create.  Claire was an absolute doll the whole time- opening her gifts like a pro, diving right into her smash cake, and socializing with all of her guests :)
Here are a few pictures of the details:

Here is a link to a full album of images: 

 We are very excited as we enter this new phase with Claire, as she has become a sponge for knowledge! We spend countless hours reading every book in her library, pointing out the objects while she attempts to repeat their names. She has a fascination for tiny objects, often finding  little bits of paper or other random objects and holding on to them like treasure.  Claire is so wonderful to play with and has been very happy to share all her new toys with us this week :)

We hope everyone has a wonderful February! We are counting down the days until spring and can't wait to tell you all about our projects we plan to launch.

Crystal, Jason, and Claire