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Wednesday, March 14, 2018


My big accomplishment so far this week? Finishing the babies' room. 

The decor I did five years ago- before we'd even started the IVF process- was a stencil I lovingly referred to as BIRDS BIRDS BIRDS!

As much as I love the sunny and busy BIRDS BIRDS BIRDS I figured a change is due. And YES I went with what is apparently known to the internet as "millennial pink." 

This ceramic lamb was handmade by my super crafty great Grandma DenBoer when I was born. How sweet is that?

One giant thing off our checklist. And yes, I totally get that BABIES DO NOT CARE about decor, but shoot, I thiiiiiiiink I might be spending a lot of time in this room over the next few weeks...months...YEARS. 

In food news, going through my pantry today led me to discover three overripe avocados I'd *meant* to add to the corn salad I made two nights ago. When life gives you overripe avocados, you can pretty much go ahead and make chocolate chip quick bread. Say whaaaaa?

Dark Chocolate Bread
-3 ripe/overripe avocados (should have browned outer skin and be slightly soft to the touch), skin and pits removed
-1 cup white sugar
-3 eggs
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-2 1/2 cups white or white whole grain flour
-1/2 cup dark cocoa powder (could sub regular cocoa powder)
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional but I sure did)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9x5 loaf pan with nonstick baking spray. 

In a large bowl, beat avocados until smooth-ish. Beat in sugar, and then eggs. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients (except for chips). Blend in dry ingredients to avocado mixture. Stir in chips if using. Spread batter evenly in the loaf pan and bake 60-70 minutes, or until knife inserted in the middle comes out cleanly. 

Makes 12 super rich slices. Per slice: 230 calories. This definitely falls into the category of a treat, but it's a good way to use up avocados and sub in heart healthy fats instead of the usual butter or vegetable oil that these types of recipes often call for. 

I may just go enjoy a slice in "my" new room!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Ready to tap out

As of Monday I am no longer employed.

Er, voluntarily.

And unemployed in the stay-at-home-mom sense. 


So far I've been doing lots of super important things, like...

making homemade chocolate sprinkle donuts, and...

...taking naps on the couch, and...

...struggling to take my socks off.



I'm still a-cookin' though! I made a recipe that I kinda half payed attention to on Facebook. Like, I saw the concept and thought "I don't have 30 seconds to watch this video recipe! There's drool to leak onto my nice pillow!" 

Sloppy Cheesesteaks
-1 tablespoon olive oil + 1 tbsp butter
-2 large yellow onions, diced
-2-3 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
-1 lb extra lean ground beef
-2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
-1 tablespoon dried parsley
-1 teaspoon ground black pepper
-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (or 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic)
-1/2 teaspoon onion powder
-7 slices provolone cheese
-6 whole wheat sandwich thin type "buns"
-Olive oil mayo (optional)

In a large saute pan over medium high heat, add oil and butter. Add onions and peppers. Stir and saute until tender and lightly browned. Pour in a container and set aside. Add beef to the pan. Cook until no longer pink- breaking up chunks well. Add seasonings. Stir onion/pepper mixture back into beef. Turn off heat. Top with slices of provolone. Cover and let cheese melt for about 5 minutes. Stir in now-melted cheese. 

Spread optional mayo on each side of the sandwich thin and top with a scoop of meat mixture. I like to eat mine open faced.

Per sandwich: 375 calories.

Now if you don't mind, I have some feet that need extrication from their socks. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

If the shoe fits... my life is IF the shoe fits.

 The cankles are beyond intense. There's so much fluid in my feet I can feel them jiggle like water balloons when I walk. Still so worth it to get to have two babes in me, but if this keeps up I will be wearing flip flops to work.

Speaking of fluid, I made some soup last night! (Uh yeah, weirdest/grossest/lamest transition ever). I've said this before, but I'm really not a huge soup girl. Nor am I a huge kale girl. So why would I make kale soup? Guess it's the dietitian in me. You know what though? This stuff turned out excellent and is a total breeze to make.

Smoky White Bean and Kale Soup
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-1 large sweet onion, finely diced
-2 boxes low sodium vegetable broth
-1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
-1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
-1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
-1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
-1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke (you'll find this by the ketchup and barbecue sauce...or on Amazon, if you're lazy like me)
-2 cups cooked chicken (I had some leftover roasted chicken), shredded/diced/whatever
-2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
-2-3 cups loosely packed shredded kale

In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, saute onion in the olive oil until lightly browned. Add remaining ingredients, stopping at the kale. Cover and let simmer on low for at least 10 minutes. Add kale about 5 minutes before serving.

Makes four generous servings.

Per serving: 275 calories, 35 grams carbohydrates, 2.5 grams fat, 33 grams protein

Gotta love a quick meal that doesn't require a lot of time standing on these tree trunks of mine.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Trend of the moment

We did a fun experiment at home over the weekend.

I made a 30 pound “empathy belly” for my husband to wear! So I guess fun for me- not so fun for him. That is not a genuine smile on his face. 

I strapped him in and he mistakenly thought it was “just for a minute to see how it feels.” Nah, I figured he could wear it for at least an hour.

I kept reassuring him that the purpose is not for me to get revenge, but more to enliiiiiiiighten him on it feels.

Ah, fun social experiments aside, I hopped on the cauliflower train this weekend. You’ve probably noticed how cauliflower is having quite the moment. Cauliflower rice, cauliflower mashed potatoes, cauliflower crust pizza, etc. It’s become the go-to sub for carbs. I should explain that carbs are not inherently bad- our brains rely on glucose (what you get when you break down carbs) for a primary source of fuel. I do endorse a food choice that’s not going to leave you feeling that carb-coma after effect- you know what I’m talking about- the glorious plate of hot pasta that tasted so good doing into your mouth but leaves you feeling like you ate a bowling ball. Not fun. Let’s check it out- Italian Baked Cauliflower.

Italian Baked Cauliflower
For sauce
-1 lb 93% or 96% lean ground beef
-1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
-1/3 cup red wine vinegar or actual red wine
-1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
-1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
-1 tablespoon dried basil (I used basil paste)
-1 tablespoon dried oregano
-2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian flat leaf parsley (or you could sub dried here too)
-2 teaspoons ground black pepper
-2 teaspoons salt
-1 tablespoon sugar
-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

In a Dutch oven saute beef until no longer pink. Add minced garlic. Stir around for a minute or two. Add red wine vinegar to deglaze the pan- scraping up any bits of meat that may have stuck. Reduce heat to low and add remaining ingredients. Cover and let simmer at least 20 minutes.
I personally love making homemade marinara sauce, however if you’re in a pinch, you could absolutely sub in ~32 oz jarred tomato sauce. Just saute the meat, add the garlic, then add the sauce. Continue from there.

In the meantime, preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Ricotta Filling
-1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
-1 block frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed to eliminate excess water
-1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Combine all ingredients. Set aside.

-3 heads raw cauliflower, cored and roughly chopped (we want more the outer florets/”trees”)
-1 8 oz ball fresh mozzarella, cut into ~8 slices

Stir cauliflower florets into the simmering meat sauce. Using a large spoon, create ~6-8 pockets of space and drop a dollop of the spinach-ricotta mix. Cover back with cauliflower. Layer mozzarella slices on top of cauliflower mixture. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender but not mushy. I then cranked up my oven to broil for just a few minutes to get the mozzarella a smidge roasty browned and bubbling. Serve!

(Embarrassingly low quality photo alert!)

Makes six generous servings. Per serving: 390 calories, 32 grams carbs, 14 grams fat, 36 grams protein, and 10 grams fiber. Compare that with a box of pasta, which would bump it up to 580 calories and 73 grams carbs per serving.

When the noodle is simply the vehicle for delicious cheesy meaty sauce, might as well use cauliflower as a swap!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

How I get my kids to kinda-sorta-mostly be non-picky eaters

Eating healthy can be tricky in our world. Some of the most common barriers I've seen my patients struggle with is lack of time, lack of knowledge, aaaaaand picky family members. Who wants to go to the effort to roast some Brussels sprouts if it’s only going to be met with a chorus of “EWs?”

Having been a dietitian for so long, I had a vision of how I hoped it would go when I had kids of my own. I knew that I did not want to be the frazzled short-order cook making nuggets for this kid, macaroni and cheese for that kid, while trying to fit in a healthy meal for myself. Who has time and energy for that?

It is a pretty big deal to shape a baby/toddler/young child into a “good eater”- not just for nutrition status and proper growth, but also from a social standpoint. How might a picky eater fare when they are given set snacks at preschool? Or elementary school lunch? 

Here are a few strategies that I (and other dietitians) use when it comes to feeding children*:

1.       Aim to consume a wide arrange of healthy foods during pregnancy. Exposing the fetus to broccoli, whole grains, and a range of spices and seasonings can give them a leg up on food tolerance as they grow. It’s not like the broccoli goes directly to the fetus of course, but baby will pick up on hints of these flavors.

2.       Consider giving baby a variety of baby foods. It’s tempting to go for the peaches and the applesauces, but balancing these with the pureed chicken and vegetables or plain yogurt instead of sweetened again helps shape their tastes and tolerances. With both my boys I ended up doing a mix of homemade baby foods and store bought jars. No shame in that. MMM, pureed avocado and tofu!

3.       Resist the temptation to serve fruit as a dessert. I used to give my toddlers their dinners, but then if they wouldn’t eat it, I’d give them the berries or applesauce that they preferred. What did this do? Teach them to neglect their proteins and veggies and grains for the sweet stuff! I learned that by putting all their food on their plate, it makes it a level playing field. As I started to do that, I noticed that yes- they’d go for some bits of fruit first, but then they would hop around their plate and sample bits of everything.

4.       Try to serve the same meal to everyone in the family. That means if mom and dad get turkey meatballs, green beans, and brown rice- the kiddos should get that too- even if they think meatballs “look super DUPER yucky.” I hear that about once a week from my 3 year old. More than half the time though after he sees me, my husband, and my toddler eat, he’ll take a bite on his own. Trust me- it might not happen right away- but after your kid sees you eat your food, he or she will eventually follow suit. That doesn't mean that our kiddos are forced to eat spicy foods- I'll usually portion out their plate partway through the cooking process so it's the more kid-friendly version of what my husband and I eat. 

5.       No clean plate club! It is SO tempting to pull the old “finish your plate! There are starving kids in ____.” I get it- you spent time, money, and energy to prepare a meal and it’s super aggravating when a kid eats only a few bites and declares him or herself full. Our expectation at the table is that you don’t have to finish anything, but you do have to try it. If you are hungry later, your plate is waiting for you in the fridge. Again, this is one I learned the hard way. 3 year old says he’s full (umm, like 3 bites into his meal), and then 20 minutes later declares he’s hungry and needs a banana. YEAH NO. I have to remind myself that my three year old is NOT IN CHARGE OF ME. 

6.       Recruit kids to help with shopping lists and help with meal prep. I am SO hoping that once my boys leave the house they will be totally self sufficient in the kitchen. Little kids can observe cutting up vegetables, seasoning meat, grilling- at a safe distance of course. Here’s a good website that lays out what kitchen tasks are appropriate for each developmental age: When it comes time to make the grocery list, ask them what vegetables and fruits they might want for the week. Knowing that they were the ones who picked out the carrots will make them more likely to eat them!

Helping me make some Instant Pot Greek yogurt.

Eating their ribs, broccoli, and cheesy potatoes. 

Both boys finished their plates! Definitely not always the case. 

Bonus if your kids can pitch in with the cleaning. We call it "playing sink." SUCKERS!

*A big disclaimer with the above is that often times kids on the autism spectrum will have legitimate texture/sensory issues. A tough love approach is not going to be effective for this situation. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Quick Eats

I bet if I did a post about gingerbread men, sugar cookies, or peanut butter blossoms you'd want to punch me where it hurts.

I mean, I can't be the only one who grows SO TIRED OF SWEETS during the holidays.

Image result for gingerbread man barfing

Now that we're in the new year I've been focusing on trying to have more veggies. Yes, for a dietitian, I'm not all that great at getting in produce (fruit included). One of my favorite meals for spring/summer/fall/winter is bruschetta pasta. Yeah we got some pasta here but it's a super balanced meal with the 2+ servings of veggies that go along with it and a heap of lean protein.

Bruschetta Pasta
-1 box whole wheat rotini or penne
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-1 teaspoon minced garlic
-4 cups cooked chicken, cut/torn into smallish pieces (often I'll use rotisserie chicken or chicken I've roasted and frozen)
-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
-4 cups (or more!) fresh baby spinach
-2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
-8 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into smallish pieces
-1-2 teaspoons fresh basil paste (or could sub 4-5 fresh basil leaves, minced) I only bought the basil paste because the grocery store did not have fresh basil. 
-Pinch of salt and pepper each

Get your water boiling in a large stockpot. Meanwhile in another large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and stir constantly, getting it to golden brown. Add cooked chicken and stir. Add balsamic vinegar and spinach. Cover and remove from heat.

Cook pasta to package directions. Drain when done and add to spinach mixture. Stir in tomatoes, mozzarella, basil paste, salt and pepper. Serve warm or cold.

Recipe makes 6 servings. Per serving: 370 calories, 34 grams carbs, 11 grams fat, 30 grams protein.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

How to not suck at resolutions

I hope you had a lovely snuggly good-gifty tasty-meals Christmas weekends. Does anyone else feel like it’s TOO SOON to now have New Year’s Day upon us? That only gives us one week to take down alllllllll the holiday decorations and get my shyou-know-what together before it’s 2018. I refuse to start the new year with 2017’s leftovers.

A major component of what I do in my job role as a dietitian is help patients set health and wellness goals. Consider this post a tune-up on how we tend to set our goals, and how we SHOULD be setting our goals.

An acronym that I (and all my friendly fellow RDs use) is SMART.
Image result for homer simpson i am so smart

S: specific
M: measurable
A: attainable
R: relevant
T: timely

This acronym’s components can help guide us to making the best constructed goal possible. Let’s check it out.

These would be examples of poor goals:
I want to be healthier
I want to lose weight
I want to eat a better diet.

Not that the sentiment behind the goals is bad, but they’re just way too vague. Good luck tackling them, and good luck knowing when you’ve reached success. Applying the SMART model would look like:

S (specific): “I want to lose ten pounds.”

M (measurable): “I will buy a home scale to use every Monday morning after I shower.” If you never weigh yourself, how are you going to know if you are moving towards meeting your goal? Resist the urge to be spontaneous with measuring- pick a timeframe and do your best to not stray.

A (attainable): Ten pounds is likely a lot more realistic than say 30 pounds. It’s ok to revisit a goal throughout the year, so let’s set up this goal to be non-intimidating.

R (relevant): “Losing weight would help me fit in my clothes better. It could also help lower my cholesterol which my doctor told me was creeping up.” It has to be something that you care about, right? What drives you to strive toward this goal?

T (timely): “I want to accomplish this by June 30th.” Put a time frame parameter to your goal. If it’s left open ended, you may find yourself more likely to blow off all the actions that lead up to the goal.

Making sense? Let’s try another one.

S (specific): “I want to eat at least one serving of fruit AND veggie per day.”

M (measurable): What to you is a serving? I often counsel patients to not really even worry about servings with veggies- a slice of a tomato on a sandwich can count! Some low sodium crunchy pickle spears can count! If you add some finely diced carrots to your chili, it counts! Try keeping a tally sheet or notes page on your phone to jot down the fruit and veggie that you did manage to get in.

A (attainable): With this goal, you’re going to have to be ok with frozen, and even maybe canned options. If the goal were to have fresh or raw, well, January is not exactly the time of year to be rocking fresh produce- at least in Minnesota where I am. Aiming on the low side of intake can be helpful too- maybe there are days where you get in a few different veggies and fruits- that’s awesome! It’s ok to aim realistic and exceed that goal. Better that then to aim high and fall short.

R (relevant): “Increasing my veggies and fruits would help give me more dietary fiber, which might help me make better food choicse all throughout the day.”

T (timely): “I want to have this goal turn into a habit within 30 days.” The actions we do, day in day out, eventually lead to a habit. Habits are maintainable. Remember that when you hit road blocks- maybe some days it’s just a few handfuls of spinach tossed into your turkey wrap, and maybe other days it’s a big beautiful salad. The key is that no matter how much or how little you still got in your veggie.

Set yourself up for success in 2018. And of course, have a happy New Year!