My Daughter’s 1st Slumber Party

Boy was it fun!

No, I’m not joking, we had a blast. The guests seemed to have a great time, as well. The slumber party was originally the idea of my newly 5-year-old daughter. At first I thought, HELL NO, but after a few days to think about it and inquiring with other parents, I realized we could be smart about this and make it the best party ever.

We completed ALL the slumber party things.

We completed ALL the slumber party things.

Slumber parties, to a 5-year-old, mean lots of snacks and movies and makeup and ALL THE FUN! My 5-year-old invited 2 friends and her sister (wasn’t that kind of her?) and I extended the invite to one of the guest’s big sister to even out the ages. My sister wished me luck getting through the night without belly aches but I was already ahead of the game on that one. Just like thinking ahead at the holidays, I wanted to do this party right by these little girls and give them a great experience, not an unhealthy one.

I decided to start the party off with cake and presents and get the biggest unhealthy obstacle out-of-the-way. This year, I allowed each of my daughters to pick out a decorated cake from the grocery store. It wasn’t gluten-free, sugar-free, or paleo… it was a conventional, decorated, birthday cake. The only thing I decided on was a whipped topping instead of the super-sugar-heavy icing, but it is what it is: a quarter sheet of junk. We sang Happy Birthday, blew out as many candles as I could find, had cake, opened presents and moved onto all the fun things the girls thought a slumber party should include.

Snacks included a tray of popcorn, grapes, Stretch Island Fruit Snacks, UNREAL 41 (M&Ms) & a 77 (peanut butter cups) for each girl, a bowl of apples, a dish of sunflower seeds and glasses of ice-cold water! The girls were so happy and excited. It was a joy to see their sweet faces smiling as we jumped from activity to activity all while enjoying good choices and special treats! Yes, they even ate the apples. They didn’t hesitate to help themselves throughout the evening to more popcorn, seeds, juicy grapes or more water. The best part: their manners were IMPECCABLE. “Please” and “thank you” and “excuse me”s all night long. Good job mom & dad!

  • Stretch Island is a special treat in our house. 1: They are a NON-GMO verified company; 2: No artificial additives; 3: REAL fruit puree; and 3: I get coupons for $.75-$1 off at my local grocery store; plus they taste great!
  • UNREAL candy is made with REAL ingredients and NO GMOs. They taste amazing and are available locally at CVS, Rite Aid, and Target. Though their peanut butter cups have half  the sugar content of Reese’s, I still limited the girls to 1 cup each since they were enjoying their candy coated chocolates (40% less sugar then M&Ms) at will AND they just had cake.

After choosing their desired sleep location, 2 in the top bunk and 3 on the floor, I read the girls a story and closed the door at midnight. They weren’t up much later than that and I made sure to eavesdrop for a bit at the door. Their conversations were to die for! I awoke this morning at 8:07am and heard them chatting in the room still, door closed. GOOD GIRLS.

74413_10200353214824650_1170600616_nAs soon as they heard me in the kitchen, the girls all scurried out in their pj’s and I quickly began preparing breakfast-to-order as they dove right into playing with LEGOS and art supplies. The initial order doesn’t reflect all that the girls ended up eating, as most had a 2nd serving of a different choice, but pastured local eggs, uncured bacon, gluten-free waffles and cereal, fresh fruit, grass-fed butter and dark syrup were among the options. I figured if I’m sending home tired kids, I may as well pump them full of premium fuel.

  • Van’s Natural Food is a GMO free company plus they have gluten AND wheat free options. This is a special treat in our house as I rarely buy frozen waffles/pancakes since I have a great coconut flour recipe I like to make and freeze the leftovers for a quick morning meal. But there is something to be said for the convenience of Van’s.
  • Barbara Bakery products are also GMO and gluten-free. My husband and kids enjoy the Peanut Butter and Cinnamon Puffins. This particular morning, the ladies requested cinnamon (40% less sugar then Cinnamon Toast Crunch) and one guest mentioned “I really like dat cereal” when she was all done.

I didn’t plan this party to be a ‘healthy’ sleepover, but I decided to share our celebration to inspire others to offer good choices, mixed with special treats, that aren’t all that bad. Especially when it comes to children, who typically have a special menu of crap at restaurants and an array of junk fed to them at parties. Life is meant to be lived and I indulge, as do my children, from time to time but control is taught through repetition. My daughters had a wonderful 1st slumber party filled with activities and movies and fun! I can only hope they are learning about food choice and control through example and experience. They are currently napping.

What do you typically serve to kid-guests during parties, playdates or special occasions?

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Week 7: Menu & Receipt

Lately, I’ve been able to stretch my 7 day meal plan and shopping to 8 or 9 days. Whether it’s because I just don’t have the time or I’m force-feeding leftovers to the family, I’m grateful since we’re still in a tight financial spot, as so many of us are, and need to conserve every penny.

That being said, the 4-year-old who named this blog, turned SIX on February 23rd and her younger sister turned 5 yesterday. We aren’t outrageous with gift-giving but when the yearly “Birthday Extravaganza” comes around we celebrate our daughters from one birthday to the next, as any proper celebration should play out. 30(ish) days of extraordinary fun! The little extras add up fast and I’m honestly looking forward to re-tightening our pocket.

photoThis week’s menu was thrown together just for the blog. I went shopping Tuesday morning while my little one was at preschool. Upon my husband’s request, I picked up a roast, I also went for the organic chicken club pack which cuts the cost per lbs from $7.99 to $6.99 and includes portions for 2 dinners instead of one. Chicken thighs and wings seem to be a staple these days because 1) they’re a cheap option, 2) my family devours them and 3) they’re easy to make, bake and the leftovers are bangin!

Incidentally, a friend recently suggested a way to save money was to skip the organic chicken breast and go conventional. I won’t argue a monetary savings here and have typically suggested the same.  He added “Almost every article I read says that the nutritional benefit over regular chicken breasts is negligible. Most impurities and toxins are stored in fat and chicken is so lean that only trace amounts would even exist”.  He is an intelligent and trusted friend, with killer hair, so I stored this info in the ole’ brain and went for a sale on conventionally raised chicken drumsticks a few weeks ago, not breast meat, I realize. I roasted and served them to my girls for dinner. They didn’t gobble them up, as usual, but I didn’t give it much thought as appetite has ebbs and flows. The following day, I served myself a few for breakfast and nearly spit it out before I could get a napkin. The taste was so obviously inferior, it made me feel sick. Bad batch? I don’t know but it reminded me that choice does matter and organic chickens always taste better! I threw the rest away.

You’ll notice Tuesday starts off with chicken (cooked with onions and peppers) and noodles. I finally found a gluten-free, GMO-free noodle option at my local grocery store: TruRoots. After reading the website, I see they claim an ‘al dente’ texture after cooking. My husband, however, says he over cooked his first batch and they were a little mushy, but decent enough to eat. I didn’t warn him they were ‘different’ then his regular noodle variety so it doesn’t’ surprise me that it overcooked. Regular noodles could boil for much longer then required and still not become mushy. Imagine that sitting in your gut… just chillin. Despite over-cooking, he said he’d eat them again and that’s a win for me since we rarely have noodles and now we have some in stock.

photo-2Another exciting find I made was on thursday morning when I stopped by the grocery to pick up some taco shells for my now-5 year old’s requested birthday dinner: Bearitos. This little gem of a company is also non-GMO (found through my non-GMO app) and for a corn meal/chip company it was thrilling discovery since 85% of the corn in our country is genetically modified and that creeps me out. I suspect it’s mostly gluten-free as well, but they do not follow the testing practices for gluten so they do not claim it. They were delicious and had a more authentic taste then the cheaper, standard taco shells. I will now only buy GMO-free tortilla chips, as well. We’ve found and tried 1 or 2 other brands at my local store, my husband says they’re good but aren’t salty enough and I’m okay with that.

During this quick trip to the store, I decided to check the organic meat section for sales while I was there. Often you can find a few items marked down in yellow to add to your freezer and low and behold, I DID! 1 package of organic pork sausage (I often cut up and use sausage in my soups along with another protein) and 2 lbs of organic ground turkey breast were marked 50% off, so I snatched them up. That means you’ll have to add $4 for the taco shells and $12 for the extra organic sale-meat to my receipt for the week. Worth it!

I think I’ve covered everything from this week. My last request: Your favorite recipes including chicken thighs and ground turkey. Please comment here or add them to our Facebook page and you may see them on next week’s menu! Also, I added the spice combination I used for our taco seasoning to the Facebook timeline. Check it out & share with friends!


Basic Recipes & Local Treats

I often turn my nose at the idea of “paleo-izing” items from modern food culture. Bread, brownies, pancakes, noodles… attempting to recreate these items doesn’t allow you to fully change your habits. One of the first rules of new habits: Set yourself up for success. Not failure.

In my head, I either change or don’t change. Eating paleo bread makes me want to choose regular bread when there isn’t a paleo option. While I’m pretty black and white for myself, I understand folks may be easing their way into this lifestyle change or, perhaps, look to such food items for comfort or tradition.

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

That said, I’ve been known to bake chocolate chip cookies from time to time. You can find my Famous Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe in Paleo Parent‘s first book “Eat Like A Dinosaur” along with an arsenal of approachable go-to’s for families or people with a traditional palate including freezable chicken nuggets, fruit roll ups, waffles and more. I respect their copyright and would encourage you to check out the book for yourself, it’s been one of the most used recipe books in our house! Not to mention, there is a children’s book, their familiar back story of (un)health and an easy-to-read allergy index included on every single page.

Now that I got you all amped up on the idea of a delicious chocolate chip cookie, I’ve got great news for my local friends! Betsy’s Bakery created their first prototype! As soon as I saw their Facebook post about Paleo cookies, I grabbed a kid and headed right over. As the story goes, Betsy has Celiac disease and her bakery is entirely gluten-free! She also has dairy free, vegan and now (the most healthy of all) paleo options!

Betsy's Bakery in Mechanicsburg, PA has recently added a delicious PALEO cookie to their gluten free repertoire.

Betsy’s Bakery in Mechanicsburg, PA has recently added a delicious PALEO cookie to their gluten-free repertoire. Remember to support local commerce for the things you want in your life or don’t complain when it’s lacking.

When we chatted briefly about her chocolate chip cookies, future recipes and marketing to the audience of these sweet morsels, she thought Fridays would be a great day to offer fresh Paleo items. I agreed! As a used-to-be Crossfit’er I know how focused I was during the week, but by Friday it was definitely time for a reward. What better way to celebrate then with a naturally sweetened, protein and (good) fat packed dessert that tastes like a cheat, but isn’t! Remember to refrigerate paleo baked goods – fresh ingredients stay fresher when chilled.

ROASTED VEGETABLES

Paleo eating is easy and shouldn’t overwhelm anyone with ‘how to cook’. I am not, repeat, AM NOT a ‘good cook’. In fact, I didn’t begin really cooking, or understanding how to cook, until I decided to eat paleo. Plants and protein, so EASY. I typically roast or crock pot large proteins, I’ll pan cook smaller portions of proteins, and sauté or roast veggies. The creativity comes in the spice blends, medleys and pairings.

Roasted-Brussels-Sprouts-Carrots-and-Leeks-1.jJPG_.jJPG_-1000x288
To roast veggies:

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Add a dollop of coconut oil or grass-fed butter to a baking sheet
  3. Place in oven till oil is melted
  4. Toss chopped veggies onto sheet
  5. Season to taste (salt, pepper and garlic are my go-to’s, be as simple or creative as you’d like with your spice)
  6. Toss veggies every 10-15 minutes until desired  – typically around 25-30 minutes for most of my vegetables – the softer the veggie the faster it cooks so I may wait to add onions to a sheet until half way through, etc
After greasing the pan, dip your veggie fries in egg then a blend of coconut & almond flours with preferred seasonings.

After greasing the pan, dip your fry-cut veggies in egg then a blend of coconut & almond flours and preferred seasonings. It’s definitely a special treat in our house. Who has time for dredging?

Alternatively – and a great way to cook ‘fries’ (sweet potato, carrot, zucchini, etc):

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Chop vegetables to even sizing, add to bowl
  3. Pour melted coconut oil or grass-fed butter on top
  4. Season with preferred blend
  5. Mix
  6. Add to baking sheet
  7. Toss every 10-15 minutes until cooked

CHICKEN on the bone

I get asked how I roast my chicken a lot. I forget how something so simple can feel so scary for a new cook. It wasn’t 3 years ago that I cooked less than 10% of the time and now I do most of the cooking/preparing. Paleo food is EASY and that’s the whole point. While I roast/bake most of my chicken the same way (350 and flip/marinate every 20 minutes till cooked – whole birds I flip every 40 minutes) the wings I made for dinner tonight were too good not to share. I only regret I didn’t take a snapshot, but they were gone before I gave it a thought. Moist and crispy. They were a flavor so delicious the whole family enjoyed them.

I bake my wings and other chicken parts atop a cookie cooling rack, over tin foil on a baking sheet. Sophisticated.

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Place wings on rack apparatus mentioned above, or something similar
  3. Brush with coconut oil or grass-fed butter
  4. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and Savory Spice Shop‘s Red Rocks Hickory Smoke Seasoning: Hickory smoke salt, Hungarian and California paprika, roasted garlic, toasted onion, black pepper, hickory smoke flavoring and oregano OR ANY OTHER SPICE/MARINADE YOU CONJURE UP
  5. Bake for 20 minutes
  6. Flip wings and repeat steps 3, 4 then 5
  7. When timer goes off the 2nd time, flip wings as you place them onto the tin foil covered baking sheet
  8. Wrap wings – I use an additional piece of foil for leaking and insulation – place in oven
  9. Turn heat up to 450
  10. Bake for 10 minutes
  11. Flip foil package and turn off oven – this is when I make salads, get the table set, etc.
  12. ENJOY!
A friend recently tried my Cookie Bar recipe and was delighted! I haven't made them since I originally posted this photo, perhaps I'll make a batch for an impending slumber party.

A friend recently tried my Cookie Bar recipe and was delighted! It’s been some time since I made a batch, perhaps I’ll whip some up for a certain (about-to-be) 5 year old’s slumber party. A special treat packed with protein!


Week 6: Menu & Receipt

I don’t have a lot of time today so let’s keep this short and sweet, I hit a total of $109.06. If I were shopping at one store, I would have put back a pack of wings or thighs, or perhaps a bag of apples. Instead I put back my baking essentials of honey, vanilla and something else at the 2nd store, in order to stay closer to the budget of $100. It’s not a hardship to be without stock for cookies or muffins. Choice!

It's a learning curve shopping at 2 stores with this budget so bare with me while I work out the kinks!

It’s a learning curve shopping at 2 stores with this budget so bear with me while I work out the kinks!

This week’s menu was made after I went shopping based on the available funds, sales and meat choices that were in the stores. If you noticed, I used a $1 off coupon for some nitrate free pepperoni – just check Applegate’s website!

Our fries are fresh cut from sweet potatoes and/or organic white potatoes. My sandwiches are on lettuce. And real chili doesn't have beans! Ask a Texan.

Our fries are fresh-cut from sweet potatoes and/or organic white potatoes. My sandwiches are on lettuce… And real chili doesn’t have beans! Ask a Texan.

What are you having for dinner this week? Leave a comment or join us on Facebook to chime in on another topic.

To check out previous $100/week budget Menu & Receipt posts click below.


What’s for Lunch?

I had a follower on Twitter recently ask “what are you eating for lunches??? I read your menu and see leftovers on the menu for dinner. Just curious.” GREAT QUESTION.

@evroman
I was posting my lunches to our Facebook page pretty regularly while I was in Barber School and I think people enjoyed that. It allowed them to see, I really AM eating a lot of leftovers and salads with a side of carrots and guac or a banana, as I say, “ALWAYS MAKE EXTRA”. A few other things as my lunch go-tos are:

  • (Grass-fed from a local market) Hotdogs & kraut
  • Mixed greens, sliced veggies, hard-boiled eggs and leftover protein (salad, duh) sprinkled with Annie’s Oil & Vinegar, the brand is nonGMO and also has a great taste to it, unlike a few other organic O/Vs I’ve tried
  • Scrambled eggs, onions, & cayenne paper, sometimes I’ll add Boar’s Head lunch meat to the scramble or leftover protein
  • Leftover protein (think meatloaf) with a dippy egg on top – YUM
  • Boar’s Head sliced turkey/chicken/roast beef/London broil (or other nitrate free, gluten-free lunch meats) rolled up with any medley of cucumbers, carrots, apples, grapes, etc dipped in mustard

I follow my hunger cues and usually don’t eat the standard 3 meals a day, instead I eat when I need to fuel up or replenish my fuel. Breakfast has never been my forte and after reading a nice article on How To Start Your Day by Mark Sisson, I first drink a giant glass of water, followed by my morning coffee (I usually have another cup when I get to work around 3pm). I tend to eat before heading into work (think, filling my gas tank) and that could range between 11am and 3pm. This is what I call Lunch.

Real food gives you real energy.

Real food gives you real energy.

Now that I’m finished with school (daytime) and moved onto my new career in hair (a lot of evenings), I continue to plan out our Dinner menus that I usually prep for my husband who finishes cooking for himself and the girls. I tend to bring leftovers for my work-Dinner (think, gas station pit stop on your way to the beach) from the day before. When I get home from work, I always eat again. This is my after-work Dinner (think, filling tank after a long trip). While I am on my feet and hustling at the salon, I use and maintain a balanced level of energy which is so very important in customer service. I can thank my diet for that! Energy is VITAL in this industry but really it is vital to my life in general; mother, wife, household, preschool, kindergarten, career, it gets intense. I’m certain you have a similar story.

In short, I pick my food based on the fuel I’ll need for the day. A slow day like today? A sunday where I’m going to be prepping food, hanging with kids, attending a birthday party and having dinner with the fam – I won’t need as much fat/protein as I do on, say, a Tuesday when I am running back and forth all morning between preschool and kindergarten, cleaning house, doing laundry, prepping meals, working 6-9 hours on my feet, calculating, thinking, planning, etc. This is something I’ve learned over the years and after paying close attention to how my body feels with the fuel/food I’m choosing.

What do you typically have for lunch? Leave a comment of add to the conversation on Facebook!

 


Week 5: Menu & Receipt

Today was also prep day, which means I’ve been in the kitchen getting meals and food ready for both dinner and the week to come since I got home from the grocery. While one daughter laid down for a while then enjoyed a bath, the other played Operation and Clue Jr. with her daddy at the kitchen table. It was a lovely day.

Now, for this week’s menu.

There's nothing on here that isn't Paleo and it's all grass fed meats. $100 budget.

There’s nothing on here that isn’t Paleo. $100 budget.

And now for the receipt.

Notice I entertained two grocery markets today… a sunday… what was I thinking? However, I wanted to give Wegman’s a chance. Local friends are typically split between the two largest competitors in the area and I have to say, I’m sticking with GIANT for the majority of my shopping. I will continue to use Wegman’s to stock up on grass-fed proteins though. Their variety is to-die-for compared to what GIANT is currently offering and their prices are not insane. I was also a bit blown away by the Gluten Free section, although as I perused, I realized it was just more processed crap that I’d rather not eat. They had a few lower prices on certain items like Almond Flour, but their Coconut Flour inflation made up for it. Also, their gluten-free, non gmo cereals were priced at or higher than GIANT. Since I knew GIANT had Barbara’s brand on sale, and their organic apples (#1 on the Dirty Dozen) were dollars cheaper, I made up my mind that I would stop by on my way home… since it is on my way home.

Kudos to Wegman's for their compact receipt. I spent 70% of my budget there and got 30% less paper.

Kudos to Wegman’s for their compact receipt. I spent 70% of my budget there and got 30% less paper.

I went over budget by $10.61 today, the most I’ve ever gone over. I only have myself to blame, of course, deciding to ask my husband if he wanted lunch meat when I got to GIANT. His response was “No. Bread, soda and chips.” DARN!  The soda and chips alone were $8.19 and I bought my daughter a new pack of hair bands for $2.96. Without these items I would have spent $99.46 between 2 stores.

From the meats I purchased, all were Wegman’s Organic Brand . I also made sure to buy meats that would prepare well for more than one meal. For example, I knew I could use the leftover chicken quarters for a salad addition, we’d have roast beef for lunch and/or a leftovers dinner as well, OR I could use it in a stew. Always make leftovers!

Prep day went something like this:

  1. Chicken wings marinated in Frank’s Hot Sauce, onions, bell peppers, butter, salt and pepper. Baked for dinner at 350 for 45 minutes, turned and brushed twice. 
  2. Chicken quarters baked at 350 for 70 minutes with butter, salt and pepper. Turned and brushed twice.
  3. 4 large meatballs, 8 medium meatballs and a heart-shaped meatloaf made from 2lbs of ground beef and 1lb of ground lamb. Added to the mixture: 2 eggs; 1/4(ish) cup of coconut flour; (in the food processor) carrots, onions, celery, dates;  salt, pepper, thyme and savory seasoning. All sprinkled with garlic salt.
  4. A salad for my work-dinner tomorrow night was prepared while I made dinner salads. I added some of the extra roasted chicken to it after dinner was complete.
  5. Mashed white (for husband) and sweet potatoes.
I shaped my meatloaf into a heart to send my love to the fam while I am working. Thanks to Liz for the idea!

I shaped my meatloaf into a heart to send my love to the fam while I am working. Thanks to Liz for the idea! It’s her Valentine tradition.

After making a whole lot of dinner to satisfy each of our cravings (not my typical m.o.), we have half a dozen wings, 1 quartered chicken plus part of a quarter, and extra mashed potatoes for daytime meals and/or leftover night. Tomorrow, while I am enjoying my protein packed salad, my family will enjoy a meatloaf. I hope to have some leftover meatloaf with an egg Tuesday morning!

I forgot to boil eggs. They are such an important addition to my work-meals because of the protein and fat content. They fill me up and keep me going while on my feet. So, I’ll make time in the morning to boil a few.

What is on your menu this week? Leave a comment and let us know, or join us on our Facebook page to further the conversation.

To check out our other $100/week budget Menu & Receipt posts click below: