Archive | January 2013

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Apple Muffins

 

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I have, finally, found a cure for what is known around here as the bewitching hour. You know what I mean… that time of day when tears are flowing (mostly yours), dinner is but a wish and a dream, husband is miles away, and house looks like a daycare threw up. Yes, I have found a solution for this trying time. What is it?

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Muffins!!!

I lamented a while ago how hard it was to make dinner with a screaming toddler thrashing around my ankles. A friend remarked, “I give mine a muffin! He’s happy!” {thanks, Megan!}

Not one to believe in magical cures, I delayed in trying this. But when I did…WOWZAS!! It works! I make mine into “mini” muffins, which, along with the purpose of tantrum-squashing, can be used for the following:

  • pleasantly easy breakfast, with a scrambled egg on the side
  • small snack with coffee
  • breakfast for the hubby on the road
  • dessert for kiddos after meals!

I have tweaked my recipe from the cookbook “Food Allergy Mama’s Baking Book.” This book has been really helpful for me, although it’s not very “healthy,” so I have adapted it a bit. (Where she uses margarine, I use palm oil shortening or coconut oil; I use whole-wheat flour in place of white, and coconut milk in place of place of soy…)

But I really loved her recipe for “Apple Muffins,” which advertised chunky apple texture in the muffin tops so I tweaked it a bit to get the following. They’re really hearty, and so yummy!

Ingredients:

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  • 4T palm shortening, dairy-free butter, or coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 c unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 c coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c regular oats (sorry…not pictured!)
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups diced, peeled apples (about 2 apples…I have used green Granny Smith and sweeter red apples, and I actually prefer the green apples!)
  • Topping: cinnamon and sugar

Instructions:

In mixer, combine melted oil, applesauce and coconut milk. In separate bowl, combine remaining dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones, and stir by hand just until combined. Then add the chopped apples, being careful not to overmix.

I made mini-muffins, so I made sure to dice the apples pretty finely:

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Grease your muffin tins (or use liners) and scoop batter into the cups. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture and bake at 375 degrees. For mini-muffins, bake for 10-12 minutes. For regular, test at 20 minutes for doneness.

I cool mine completely and put them directly in the freezer, then take one out to thaw before I want to use it. (Or, if I’m feeling like a really bad girl, I zap em in that cancer-radiating microwave for 10 seconds each. 🙂

Enjoy!

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How to Introduce Your Child To Jesus (easy steps that a still-learning mommy can do)

One time when I was a middle-school teacher (a pregnant and grumpy one, this particular day), I tallied the number of questions I was asked in a 60-minute period. I wish I could remember how many it was, because I am 90% sure that this was a mere warm-up for the pure inquisition I have been experiencing at the hands of a bright-eyed, way-too-smartt and abundantly curious little boy who lives here.

I am questioned out.

I think I know what the Apostle Peter was talking about when he said we needed to be ready “in season and out of season” and “to have an answer for everyone who asks you…” Pretty sure he was talking to moms of toddlers. (He just didn’t want to come out and say it.)

In the last 48 hours, these are just a mere sampling of the questions I have been asked.

  • How do ears hear, eyes see, and boogers get in our noses?
  • Why do the trees stand up straight and tall?
  • Why do football players line up in a line?
  • How do they make the animal chicken into the food chicken? (That one was tough.)
  • What kind of animal is a Hokie bird? (“I have been instructed to respond, ‘a ferocious, fighting turkey,’ in case anyone else is curious.)
  • How do you keep the car in the lane?
  • What makes it snow?
  • Is there snacks in heaven?
  • Why do boys not wear makeup?
  • Why do men not have big tummies with babies in them?
  • Do scorpions swim in the water?
  • Do germs look like dirt?
  • How is a fire hot?
  • How do they make jelly beans?
  • What happens if girls play football?

And again, this is just a sampling, limited by a mom’s tired memory or failure to find a pencil at the right time.

This is just a beautiful, exhausting age.

I feel like a failure sometimes. I don’t have the right answers. I’m too tired, or too distracted to answer sufficiently. I don’t seize each chance, and once-in-a-childhood moments ripen and rot away.

And it’s fine if I don’t succinctly describe a twelve-man offensive rotation (which, trust me, is probably what’s happening. I’m not even sure that is a thing. Is an offensive rotation a thing? Anyways.) Likewise, it’s not the end of the world if I can’t remember how exactly it snows.

But Jesus, and heaven, and God and all that?

Yikes, I don’t want to be sleeping on the job for those questions.

I’ve thought of a few ways to intentionally teach Sam about Jesus. These are not rocket science, and I’m sure there are a bazillion books that say it better. But here are my thoughts.

  • Pray out loud, regularly. Relax, though. I don’t mean long-winded advanced churchy prayers. I am talking here about verbalizing those quick God-directed thoughts you have anyway. God, please help us find our car keys. God, I’m frustrated – help me to be patient with Ty. God, help us find our car keys. God, please help us not get lost. God, Tommy is sick. Help him feel better. God, please help us find our car keys. (I am pretty sure Sam is going to think “please help us find our car keys” is a verse in the actual Bible. But there is nothing I can do about that right now.)

And a really cool thing has happened since I’ve prayed out loud to find my car keys.

Sam, too, asks God for help.

In the past few days, he’s asked God to help him find his stuffed animals, to help him be a good football player, and to please make it snow (a particular prayer that is echoed by all members of this household). Now, of course prayer isn’t all about making God give you everything you want. But I am thrilled beyond thrilled that he thinks knows God is listening to what he needs.

  • Pray with him. Todd is way better at this than I am, so I am just going to tell you what he does. At night, they say prayers. Todd has Sam repeat after him. It is very basic stuff. “Thank you for Mommy.” Thank you for Mommy. “Help me to have a good attitude.” Help me to have a good attitude. etc. etc.

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Todd is showing Sam that he prays, teaching him how, and making it a positive experience. It is often not long, and that’s okay.

  • Throughout your day, talk about two things:
  1. God made everything.
  2. God loves them.

This is directly copied from my mother, when I watched her teach two-year-olds Sunday school. I love it because it is so do-able. I tried to teach Sam the story of Joseph and the coat today while I was making turkey tettrazini…I’m pretty sure I lost brain cells and mixed up a good portion of the details. But I can usually get “God made everything” right. even on a few hours of sleep.

  • This next one also helps when you’re tired and brain-fogged. Get a good children’s Bible and good children’s devotional. Reading a story at night as part of a routine is an easy way to teach, without exerting energy that you do not have, or explaining topics that you do not fully understand. See the links above for my two favorite choices.

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  • Music. Why re-invent the wheel, ya know? Jesus Loves Me was already written! Play it! This CD (Cedarmont Kids Bible Songs) is worth it’s weight in gold. I know there are other terrific kids CDs…any favorites you have? We listen to the Pandora station “Jesus Loves Me” radio, also. Added plus of this is that it teaches you verses to all those songs you kind of know and kind of forget.
  • Ask God to help me teach my kids about Him. I hesitate to even say this, because it is so obvious. But if I need help, I should ask for it. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. {James 1:5}

What helps your kids learn about Jesus? Does your family have favorite books or music?

 

 

feeling overwhelmed? 10 ways to beat no good, horrible days of motherhood

I’m wondering if the January pits have gotten to us over here at Smartter Each Day. {ps. there is only one of us. but it sounds better if there are plural of us in the grumpy-pits.}

A brief scan of the last few posts and you’d never guess we’ve had ten days of rainy, post-Christmas January bleakness (read with sarcasm) 🙂

I’m thrilled to have a guest post today at the beautiful “A Delightful Home” blog on “Help for a Horrible, No Good Day of Motherhood.” Read the full post here and let me know what you think!

5 good things about days when you feel like a useless blob

Well, I guess I’m not totally a useless blob, since I bet there are no other works of literature with that creative title. So ten points for originality.

Do you ever have unproductive days? Do you ever have days where your brain feels like mush, your tummy feels like mush, all the food you make looks like mush? Just a useless, useless blob of female. (I think I’ve officially turned my husband off as he’s reading this.)

But for real.I think it’s January. Have I mentioned that I hate January? The only thing worse than January is muddy, rainy, specifically NOT SNOWING wetness in January.

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I am just so blah in January.

And this un-productivity is especially troublesome for us Germans. Here are a few random things about Germans.

  • We LOOOOOVE casseroles.
  • We hate crying in front of people.
  • And, we love hard work ethic and productivity. This was instilled in me way back in the day, and has stuck with me ever since. Therefore, I hate naps. Therefore, just today when I was folding the laundry, the haunting scolding of my mother, “Don’t sit down and fold the laundry! Stand up!” came back to me, and so (a grown adult in the privacy of my own kitchen) I stood up to fold the towels. Are you happy, Mom?

Even though it can be cold, this German temperament does have its perks. For just one example: if you combine #1 and #3 above (hard work and casseroles), you get one HECK of a thanksgiving meal. Mashed potato stuffing?? Eight pounds of macaroni and cheese?? Need I say more??

Anyway. The downside to it, though, is that on the bad days, you feel an extra layer of patheticness. You’re mushy, you’ve made no casseroles, scrubbed no floors and have nothing to show for the day, AND to top it off, you’re a failure to your ancestors. or something along those lines.

But I was thinking today. I’m on this new kick: I think positively. At least once a day, I have a positive thought. It has revolutionized our household.

So my positive thought for today was, I wonder what I’m accomplishing when I’m accomplishing nothing? And you know what? I actually came up with some answers! Curious? Here they are:

  • On days when you’re not superwoman, you realize how annoying superwoman is. (and resolve to be at least a silent superwoman next time, bragging only to your husband, subtly, with hints.)
  • On unproductive days, you can spend more time with your kids (or people you like in general) and not feel guilty. No use tackling the world with a mushy brain. Just play Go Fish. You know?
  • You can vacuum. Hear me out here. Vacuuming is actually the perfect stay-at-home-mom activity. Kids being loud? Vacuum! Need a workout? Vacuum? Feeling chilly? Vacuum? Baby crying? Vacuum! AND, feel like you’ve done nothing all day? Vacuum! Takes no brain power at all, and always needs to be done! Viola! You’ve been productive!
  • You need God. When I am weak, then I am strong. This is the official verse of motherhood, did you know that?
  • You have something to look forward to. His mercies are new every morning, and (like my husband always reminds me, knowing my seasonal affective disorder tendencies) the sun will come out tomorrow. If you just think I’m being cliche, think about this: which is more fun, Christmas Eve or Jan. 2? Hello? Christmas Eve, with all the good stuff coming, is awesome, January second 2 is horrible!!! (With my apologies to anyone with that birthday.)

Point being, there are good days ahead. There are half marathons yet to be run. There are scrapbooks yet to be glittered and glued (not by me, but in general). There are closets that will be real-simple-quality organized. Supermom is just … well, probably, a few months away. But she lives! She will come back! So for now, enjoy the blah! It’s okay to be a useless blob every once in a while! (Right? Anyone?) 🙂

Giveaway Winner!

I’ve been thinking all day about who gets to be the lucky winner of these prizes….And we have one!

congratulations….

Rachel!

You’re the winner of a week of Absolute Organic Produce delivered to your doorstep, and a roast, two steaks, and a pound of burger from Grass Fed Moo! I hope you enjoy!

Please email me at jessicasmartt (at) gmail.com for instructions on claiming your prize! You have 48 hours, or I’ll select another winner 😉

In case anyone is curious how I selected the winner, here it is. My blog is not formatted to run Rafflecopter, the popular giveaway system (Although, sidenote…In the next few months the blog will get a new look and I will be able to! ;).

So instead I used Random Line Picker to select a winner. (This was a step up from last giveaway, where I put the names in a hat and asked Todd to pick one. 🙂

Thanks to all who entered, and all who have given these great companies some new business!

ps. If you’re bummed you didn’t win, you’ll get another chance soon…I also have some local produce baskets! So stay tuned for that!

 

Giveaway for Locals: Grass-fed Meat and Organic Produce, Delivered!

Hey local readers! It’s somebody’s lucky day! I have two awesome prizes to give away.

  • A pound of t-bone steaks, a roast, and pound of hamburger from local, grass-fed cows, courtesy of Grass Fed Moo
  • One week of organic produce delivered to your doorstep, courtesy of Absolute Organics

We’ve been eating Grass Fed Moo and Absolute Organics around here for a while, and we love them!

Grass Fed Moo

I discovered Grass Fed Moo through my local Mommies Network. The local moms raved about this delicious, grass fed meat. The cows are given no steroids, eat grass without pesticides, and are given no hormones or antibiotics. I had known that conventional meat can be dangerous for our family, and this gave me a wonderful, reasonably-priced alternative. You can order a 1/32 of a cow, up to a whole cow, with obviously a variety of cuts. Here are the things I love:

  • Reasonably priced – it costs about $5 per “meal.” I feel like this is pretty reasonable, considering it is such high quality, and some of these meals are several steaks or a large roast.
  • You get to try a variety of cuts. I’ve wowed guests with the short ribs, my husband LOVES his steak (go figure), and I love making homemade beef broth from the bones. (Really. It’s delicious!)
  • I’m supporting a local farm with good farming practices.

I’m excited to share this absolutely delicious meat with a reader!

Absolute Organics Delivered Produce

I was never a crazy-organic fan before having kids. But once I had little babies – and I’m sure many a parent identifies – the idea of feeding that precious untainted little bundle a serving-full of pesticides and dangerous chemicals…well, it all become more relevant.

Organic produce was often out of my budget and hard to find, until I began using Absolute Organics. Here’s a sample basket I got recently. (This is the $30 basket.)

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If I had bought the above this week at Harris Teeter, it would have cost $27.12, AND it wouldn’t have been delivered, AND, that’s not even for organic. Organic, it would have been much, much more expensive.

I love the idea that I’m feeding my family healthier produce, and it might just be my imagination, but it seems to taste better?!?!

Here is how Absolute Organics works. You order online (please mention my name if you place an order!), selecting the fruits/vegetables that you do and do not like. You can choose from three different sized baskets and weekly or bi-weekly delivery, to your home. (You can cancel at any time.) You leave out a cooler and get your produce! I’ve been really pleased with the owner, Vonda, on her level of communication and service. And also the quality of produce. It’s always been extremely fresh.)

The winner of this giveaway gets, in addition to the steaks, a $30 basket of your selected produce, delivered to your door. (They deliver to Charlotte, Concord, Mooresville, Huntersville, Davidson, Cornelius, and Gastonia and also to the Hickory, NC area including Conover, Newton, Lincolnton, and Denver.)

To enter to win the steak and produce, all you have to do is:

  1. “Like” Smartter Each Day on facebook, or follow blog via email if you haven’t.
  2. Comment below with your favorite vegetable. I’ll even be liberal with the term “vegetable.” Like when my sister’s high school boyfriend said, “macaroni and cheese” because it was on the Cracker Barrel “vegetable” list. You can even answer macaroni and cheese if you want, and no judging here! 🙂

I’ll announce the winner here Monday, at 8pm and the winner has 24 hours to claim her/her prize. Good luck!

** Special thanks to Eileen from Grass Fed Moo, and Vonda from Absolute Organics for helping me host this giveaway!

Priscilla’s True Life Story: Gluten-free by choice!

I met Priscilla years ago, before she had three kids and a husband! Here they all are now:

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Aren’t they cute?🙂 I knew that Priscilla and her family had made some radical changes in their diet, and I asked her to share her story about eliminating wheat and GMOs (genetically-modified organisms) from her family’s eating. I haven’t hopped on the gluten-free bandwagon totally yet (mostly because I feel like we have eliminated enough foods with Sam’s allergies!) but I sure see the merits of a diet with healthy proteins and produce at the center.

What I admire most about Priscilla is her passionate determination to make her family healthy! Gotta love that. Hope you enjoy her story! You can find Priscilla blogging here. Thanks for sharing, Priscilla!

Priscilla’s story:

Around this time last year, I was introduced to a book entitled Wheat Belly by William Davis. Dr. Davis is a cardiologist who has done a tremendous job shedding light on the history and effects of modern wheat, or as he calls it, “Frankenwheat.”

He explains why this wheat has gotten to be very poisonous and dangerous for us all. The day I started reading the book, I stopped serving “Frankenwheat” to my children and stopped eating it myself. It took a few more weeks to get my husband to understand and read the book and then he was on board too.

What I learned was so disturbing that I couldn’t in good conscience serve my children bread the next morning.

The book basically explains that the original wheat (Einkorn wheat) has been hybridized and crossbred to make the wheat plant resistant to environmental conditions, such as drought and pathogens. These dramatic and detrimental genetic changes have occurred for monetary reasons including yield-per-acre. This is the wheat that we all can find on the shelves in the supermarket in hundreds and thousands of products. Even “organic” whole wheat bread is still made from this horrible hybridized wheat. What was very troubling for me was the fact that it affects virtually all systems of the body from the brain to the skin to the intestines and the whole nervous system. Dr. Davis links it to autism, ADHD, various cancers, diseases, and even depression.

It’s been nearly a year since we decided to go gluten free. We are not perfect, but I have noticed big differences in my husband the most. He lost 30 lbs, feels more alert and actually has stomach pains when he accidentally has food with wheat in it. My three boys don’t really remember even eating wheat before! Cannon, my three year old, poked at a roll at the Thanksgiving table and asked, “What’s that?!” Since they are not allergic, it’s harder to say, “no,” but I know it’s important to us to eat healthy.

We don’t do a lot of “gluten-free” products, since we are also GMO free. Dr. Davis says that many substitutions for wheat are not good for us either, since they raise blood sugar just as high as wheat. In the book, he goes into depth on why sharp spikes in blood sugar are really detrimental to everyone’s long-term health. We have bought gluten free bread, but usually we just don’t do bread at all.

Breakfast usually consists of buckwheat pancakes with pure maple syrup (which the kids prefer over the old wheat pancakes), eggs with sausage or bacon with avocado, smoothies, or baked oatmeal. For lunch, we usually have left over dinner or do grass-fed beef hotdogs with sweet potato or rice with an egg on top with veggies.

I finally have a really great list for dinner options that everyone enjoys that don’t include wheat. It took a while of trial and error, but glad that we now have a go-to list instead of always searching and wondering if it’ll work.

Some favorites are brown rice pasta with meat sauce, stuffed peppers, meatloaf, honey-spiced chicken with mashed sweet potatoes, pot roast, chicken roast, and shepherd’s pie. Snacks typically consist of apples with peanut butter, fruit cup, cheese sticks, raisins, popcorn, bag of chips, cucumbers with hummus, homemade applesauce or some sort of homemade GF baked good. Check out my pinterest page for more ideas!

priscilla fam

 My boys have been doing great with the gluten free meals. The hardest part is when we to go to someone’s home or a birthday party. They are allowed birthday cake, but I do notice they get more hyper after they eat the wheat!

As for me, I lost about twenty pounds, but I also gave birth four months before I started the whole gluten free diet and was already losing weight slowly. It definitely accelerated the weight loss though! Overall I feel great with our diet and the changes that we’ve made.

I’m in the kitchen a lot, but we’re making it work. The kids always love to “help” with the food preparations. I enjoy teaching them what ingredients are in the foods that they are eating, just to give them an awareness of where their food originated from and the process it has taken to get to the kitchen table.

We hope to one day have our own farm with cows, pigs and chickens and grow a vegetable garden to really know and be in control of what’s in our food! Who would have thought this Puerto Rican princess from Long Island would one day want to be a farmer? LOL. Crazier things have happened, I guess…

*I highly recommend reading Wheat Belly by William Davis and also checking out westonaprice.org for additional information concerning the other changes we’ve made in our diet besides being gluten-free. I also highly recommend watching Genetic Roulette- a documentary shedding light on the GMO controversy.