Archive - January 2017

Could election stress be damaging your health?

This is what stress can feel like

Stress! Everyone experiences it sometimes. During the lead up to the election and in the few days since President Trump came into office, stress levels have been sky high for many people. Could that stress be damaging your health?

Absolutely!

Quick summary of what happens when you are stressed

When you feel threatened (from actual physical danger, a looming deadline, fear of the unknown, etc) your body goes into the flight or fight response. As a result, your body is flooded with hormones, particularly adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones cause many physical changes in your body which can include:

  • increased heart rate
  • a rise in blood pressure
  • headaches
  • increased inflammation

Green with sickness

None of these are good for your health! And these are just the physical issues. Stress can also lead to depression, anxiety, lack of focus and motivation, anger, drug and alcohol abuse, and social withdrawal.

Some data that suggests that acute, or short term, stress can have a positive effect on your immune system, and therefore your health. It is the chronic, long term, stress that you really have to worry about. Your body is not designed to be in flight or fight mode constantly and this is very detrimental to your health. Find more information here.

If you spend any time on social media, you can clearly see that chronic stress is a big problem in our country right now. People are constantly trying to push their point of view and fight against those who disagree, friends and family are attacking each other over the direction our country is heading, and many have given up trying to understand the “other side’s” point of view.

What to do about it

Friends on the beach

You can reduce stress in many ways. Some of the most effective methods are:

  • meditation
  • exercise
  • deep breathing
  • socializing (not arguing) with friends and family
  • setting aside time to do things you enjoy.

I am going to add another one that is specific to this post-election period we are in but can also be used anytime:

...try to understand how they feel

When you listen and truly want to understand another person’s point of view amazing things can happen. Are you willing to step outside your comfort zone and make it happen? Let me know the results in the comments!

Empathy is not agreement...

5 healthy meals you can make in 30 minutes or less

What keeps you from making healthy meals for your family? 2 things hold me back:

  • having to come up with the idea of what to make
  • recipes that take too long to put together

So today I am helping you out by providing links to 5 recipes that I have made repeatedly for my family. To get made repeatedly in this house they must be kid friendly, budget friendly, healthy and quick! Sounds pretty good right? So here we go!

5 Healthy Recipes

  1. Slow Cooker Taco Chicken Bowls: this recipe takes less than 10 minutes to throw in the slow cooker in the morning. About 20 minutes before dinner, you  cook the rice, cut up a few accompaniments and shred the chicken.  My kids also like to add a few tortilla chips for some extra crunch! Chicken Taco Bowl
  2. Linguine with White Clam Sauce: I always have minced clams on hand so I use those in place of the whole clams the recipe calls for. I also eliminate the anchovies if I don’t have them. The recipe is delicious either way! Add a salad on the side and you have a quick, healthy dinner! Linguine with white clam sauce
  3. Fried Rice Restaurant Style: this recipe is very fast once the rice is cooked. I usually cook extra rice when I am making it for another recipe and then use it in this recipe a few days later. The rice works better in fried rice when it is a little dried out. I also double the carrots and peas to up the veggies. This is a meal by itself or you can serve it with pot stickers you can buy in the frozen food section.
  4. Mexican Bean Salad: if your kids don’t eat beans this will be a hard sell:( Lots of kids do, though, so I wanted to throw this in! On nights you don’t want to cook, nothing is easier than this. Here it is with a side of shrimp. Mexican Bean Salad with shrimp
  5. Spaghetti with Oil and Garlic: Delicious and oh so simple! You can serve with a salad or green beans.

So there you go! 5 recipes that are kid-tested, delicious, healthy and budget friendly – which one of these healthy meals will you try first?

Sleep: 5 signs you (or your child) may not be getting enough

Sleep! Most adults can’t get enough of it! Many children also need more of it!

A little sleep makes everything better

We are all so busy that sleep is often the first thing to go when we can’t fit it all in. That is a big mistake! Sleep affects so many aspects of our life that if we aren’t getting enough it will show up in often unexpected ways.

5 somewhat surprising ways a lack of sleep will present itself

  1. Memory: It seems obvious that when we are sleep-deprived we are less focused and have a hard time paying attention. What may not be as clear is that inadequate rest also makes it difficult to pull up previously learned information. So although you may have been driving for years, exhaustion makes it difficult to access that knowledge and can result in bad decisions on the road.
  2. Hyperactivity: Surprised? This one is actually specific to kids. A 2009 study showed that children who don’t get enough shuteye are more likely to be hyperactive and impulsive. If you want your kids to be successful in their day to day lives – from school, to sports, to friendships – make sure they are getting plenty of sleep every night.
  3. Hunger: Sleep and metabolism are connected. Studies have shown that when we don’t get enough sleep, ghrelin (a hormone that increases appetite) levels increase. When we feel hungry we often eat more, potentially leading to weight gain.
  4. Clumsiness: So we all have our moments of being a klutz. If it’s happening more than occasionally it could very well be a sign of sleep deprivation.
  5. ADHD: No I’m not saying that lack of zzz’s causes ADHD! What I am saying is that many of the signs of sleep deprivation in children mimic those of ADHD: lack of focus, memory problems, hyperactivity, impulsiveness, lack of social skills, procrastination, and depression. This list could apply to a child with ADHD or a chronically sleep-deprived child. If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD it may be worth considering the impact their nightime routine has.
  6. 5 signs your child may not be getting enough sleep

Family motto: should you have one?

Kind, Brave and Curious word art

Those four simple words represent our family motto. Do you have one? Let me tell you why we do.

All parents want their kids to be happy, healthy, successful (whatever that means), and loved. If only wanting made things so, parenting would be so easy. The reality is that parenting is hard! There are so many lessons we have to teach our kids; so many things we want them to know that sometimes it feels like all we do is talk at them about their choices and actions. We hope that all of these lessons stick but often we’re unsure. Have we done enough to prepare our kids for the real world? What kind of choices will they make as they gain independence and don’t come to us to help them solve all their problems?

The family motto to the rescue! Our kids know that we expect them to live their lives with our family motto as their guiding principle. When they are faced with a decision about what to do, we suggest they lean on these words to see where they direct them.

The word KindIs it kind to…

  • exclude people?
  • help someone who is struggling?
  • throw garbage on the ground?
  • pick up after yourself?
  • keep everything for yourself?
  • share what you have?
  • not keep a secret?

I love how if each of these situations is thought of in terms of being kind, the solution presents itself quite easily.

The word BRAVE

Is it brave to…

  • follow the crowd when you know what they are doing is wrong?
  • go outside your comfort zone?
  • pick on others?
  • wear the clothes you like regardless of what others think?
  • smoke, drink or do drugs?
  • say no when everyone expects you say yes?

Being brave can be challenging but it is about doing the things you don’t think you can do!

The word Curious

Are you being curious when you…

  • do the minimum amount of work you can to get by?
  • don’t try new things?
  • make new friends?
  • don’t listen to someone else’s point of view?
  • take a new class?
  • insist that you are right?
  • ask someone what they think?

Bring curious is how you expand your horizons. That can mean opening your mind, learning more about your world or getting to know people better.

I’m not naive enough to think that just thinking about these 3 words will be ebough to solve any problem. What I do think is that they can be a guiding compass when the going gets tough.

When I think about what I want my kids to be when they grow up, these are the words that come to mind. If they live their lives being kind, brave and curious, I believe everything else will fall into place.

What is (or would be) your family motto?

Crockpot taco stoup

crockpot taco soup closeup in bowl

How often do you need to throw together a quick, healthy meal? Everyday? It feels that way sometimes! With 3 kids our schedule is pretty packed. 2 nights in particular are especially challenging and I have resorted to only cooking crockpot meals on those days. It has been a perfect solution for us! I put the meal together in the morning and then it is ready when we are. This Crockpot Taco Stoup is on the menu at least once every other week from about November till March.

crockpot taco stoup ingredients crockpot taco stoup ingredients in pot

I know for working moms in particular, mornings can be crazy trying to get everyone ready and out the door. I promise you that you can fit this recipe into your morning, especially if you make the vegetarian option! You literally are opening cans and packets and tossing them in the crockpot. If you really can’t fit one more thing into your morning, this recipe could easily be thrown together the night before and then just put in the crockpot and turned on in the morning.

crockpot taco stoup rinsing beans and corn

Although this is almost as easy as opening cans and dumping the contents into the crockpot, there is one step I don’t recommend skipping – rinsing your beans and corn. I love the convenience of canned foods. Although we don’t use them all the time, there are times when the convenience can’t be beat. However, canned food can be very high is sodium and this is true of beans! So please take the time to rinse. This article from Cooking Light talks about the benefits and if it really helps (spoiler: it does)!

crockpot taco stoup in bowl with toppings

So will your kids eat this? To be honest I can’t answer that for you. My kids enjoy beans and this is one of our family favorites. When I first started making it I always made it with meat. For some reason I thought it was necessary to sell my kids on it. Now I rarely add the meat and they love it just as much! If you’re nervous about it, use the meat, lessen the beans and serve it with tortilla chips. Most kids love foods they can eat with chips! You could even try it as a nacho topping – mmm – just thought of that… May be a little soggy though so dipping may work better.


Whatever you decide, let me know how it goes. I hope this becomes a go to meal for your family!

Print Recipe
Crockpot Taco Stoup
A hearty soup/stew (stoup) which takes minutes to make and will become a healthy staple for your family/
crockpot taco soup closeup in bowl
Course Dinner
Cuisine Mexican, Vegetarian
Servings
Ingredients
Course Dinner
Cuisine Mexican, Vegetarian
Servings
Ingredients
crockpot taco soup closeup in bowl
Instructions
  1. If using, brown the ground turkey in a pan, drain the fat, and pour the meat into the bottom of a large crockpot (at least 6 quarts).
  2. Rinse the black beans, corn and 1 can of chili beans in a colander. This will remove a good bit of the sodium. Then throw the beans, corn and all the remaining ingredients into the crockpot.
  3. Stir well and cook on low for 6-10 hours (very forgiving recipe in terms of time) or on high for 3-5 hours.
  4. Serve with any or all of the optional toppings.
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Healthy whole grain pancakes

Pancakes cooking with blurry foreground

My family loves pancakes! The funny thing is we rarely have them for breakfast. At our house, pancakes are more a dinner thing. I think it may be because these healthy whole grain pancakes are so substantial that they really can be enough for dinner. Your basic pancake is full of white flour, lots of sugar and very little in the way of “good for you” ingredients. These are very different! How about oats, whole wheat flour, bananas, almond milk and flaxmeal? Sounds pretty healthy right?

Pile of healthy pancakes

But more importantly, how do they taste? You’ll have to ask my kids – I make a double batch and we’re lucky if there’s a serving left when dinner is over! Can’t fool kids right? And in my book, healthy and delicious have to go hand-in-hand. There’s no point in eating healthy food if you aren’t going to get joy from eating it! Food is not only feeding your body but your soul as well. The experience of eating is just as important as the food itself.

Our favorite toppings for pancakes are real maple syrup, some fruit (applesauce, strawberries, blueberries, etc) with a sprinkle of powdered sugar or simply a little butter. If you really want to make them extra special, serve them with some of this amazing dulce de leche!

These pancakes do freeze well so don’t be afraid to make a lot! I never make less than a double batch. When we do have some left, I just lay them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze. Once they are solid, I transfer them to ziploc bags. The kids can pull them out of the freezer for breakfast. A little time in the toaster oven or microwave and breakfast is ready.

Pancakes cooking on the griddle

Give these a try and you won’t be disappointed! As a result, you may even find that you’re making and eating pancakes a little more often – guilt free!

Print Recipe
Healthy Whole Grain Pancakes
The most delicious, healthy pancakes ever! Heavier than your typical pancake with amazing flavor!
Pancakes cooking with blurry foreground
Course Breakfast
Servings
Ingredients
Course Breakfast
Servings
Ingredients
Pancakes cooking with blurry foreground
Instructions
  1. Use a hand blender or small food processor to blend the oats until the texture is flour like
  2. In a large bowl mix the oats through the nutmeg (10 ingredients).
  3. In a smaller bowl, whisk the egg, almond milk,oil and vanilla. Stir in the mashed bananas. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until combined.
  4. Let the batter rest while you heat a non-stick griddle over medium high heat (about 300-325 if using an electric griddle). Drop the batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto the hot griddle and cook until the edges start to dry, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side until browned. Repeat with remaining batter.
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A little new year indulgence – dulce de leche

Happy New Year! OK, maybe I’m a little late with my wishes but that’s what happens sometimes. Life can be crazy!

So I love my kids – I mean totally, completely, insanely! But being a Mom can also be totally, completely, insanely overwhelming at times! Do you agree? And you know those long periods of time when your kids are home with you? School breaks, vacations, summer?! I love those times – until I don’t. So we have a bit of a unique school schedule here in North Carolina. My kids are on a year round school schedule. What that basically means is that they go to school year-round (duh!). The schedule is typically 9 weeks on, 3 weeks off. We love it! The breaks always seem to come when they are most needed and they aren’t so long that the kids are going stir crazy. I’m actually dreading switching back to a traditional schedule in a couple of years when my son goes to high school.

With all the advantages of the schedule, sometimes there can be disadvantages. For example, my kids were on break from mid-November till early December. Then they went back to school for 2+ weeks until Christmas break. Break ended on 1/3 and back to school they went – for 4 days. Then the big freeze with plenty of ice showed up. And so today they are home again with a snow day. It’s unlikely they will go back to school till at least Wednesday, maybe Thursday. Are you seeing an issue here? Too much kid time and not enough me time! How to get anything done? I know, do something they will also enjoy, like bake!

Although this time of year there are stories and blog posts everywhere about eating healthy and losing weight and cutting back on sugar and exercising till you drop and…well, you get the idea. We eat pretty healthy most of the time so the new year is not a flip the switch time for us. So instead of providing one more post with a healthy recipe, I want to give you an indulgence. And make no mistake this is an indulgence. Are you ready for it?

So once I made this amazing dulce de leche we had to come up with ways to use it! The first use was the Cinnamon-Spiced Hot Chocolate Cookies you see in the video (OK, in reality the first use was eating it by the spoonful!). Then the next morning we needed to figure out how we could eat it for breakfast so we made Apple Crepes (and a few banana ones as well)!

Since we were snowed/iced in, I had to find recipes that we had all the ingredients for. When I found the Hot Chocolate cookies I knew we had a winner. The problem was the dulce de leche. I didn’t have any! I also didn’t have any sweetened condensed milk to make some out of. So that left me with trying to make it from scratch. One last problem – the recipe called for whole milk and I only had 1%! Maybe this wouldn’t happen after all:( So I started searching for information on making dulce de leche from lowfat milk. I couldn’t really find a definitive answer. Lots of people said the fat was necessary so it wasn’t a good idea. But I didn’t find anyone who had actually DONE IT! So I decided I would be the one.

As you can see, the result was amazing! No problem whatsoever using 1% milk – look at that color!

So go ahead and indulge for the new year! You only need this amazing “caramel milk” in small quantities to make a big impact. Just make sure you have plenty of time before you start. It took about 2.5 hours from start to finish but only a small portion of that was hands on. If you find yourself stuck at home for a few hours, definitely give it a try!

What is your favorite thing to do with dulce de leche? Please share in the comments!