{Healthy} Brownie Recluse Spiders

{Healthy} Brownie Recluse Spiders

I’ll be honest, as a mom of a picky eater, there are lots of times I just want to throw in the towel and feed my child M&Ms and cupcakes all day. I trick myself into thinking she’d be happier, and I would be too. Recently I was listening to a  webinar about picky eating by a couple of other dietitians. I walked away from that webinar with a renewed sense of direction for helping my picky eater. They said the goal should be to get your child to eat an orange and green fruit or vegetable most days. This goal provides adequate nutrition for growing bodies, even if your picky eater’s palate is limited. After a couple of failed attempts, we resorted to a few favorites, like my sweet potato waffles and then I went back to my original thought, that maybe feeding my child M&M’s and cupcakes didn’t have to be a bad idea.

When I first pulled these out of the oven my little picky eater didn’t want anything to do with them. So, I asked her if she wanted a cupcake, and in true picky eater fashion, she told me, “no, she didn’t like them”. UGH! They are chocolate, I thought, WHOSE child are you?!?

Putting my best Halloween-loving mom brain on, I decided to make my little “cupcake” (they really are more of a brownie, but my daughter doesn’t know what a brownie is yet) into spiders. I grabbed her favorite candy, M&Ms of course, and another favorite snack, pretzels, and made these fun, Brownie Recluse Spiders. Adding a little spider frenzy was all that it took to make my little picky eater into a believer.

Note: While I love the curled legs of the pretzels I have to admit they did take a few extra minutes to make, so if you are trying to make these quickly, grab pretzel sticks instead.  I have also made this recipe with bananas instead of pumpkin. You can sub it out one-for-one but as you’d probably expect they are a little bit sweeter, not a bad thing for most people. I would also recommend using dark cocoa powder if you are using banana to minimize the strong taste of banana.

 

Check out the full video on how to make these fun treats. 

{Healthy} Brownie Recluse Spiders
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{Healthy} Brownie Recluse Spiders
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare mini muffin tins with non-stick spray.
  2. Add peanut butter to a sauce pan and melt over medium heat.
  3. Add ingredients to a large bowl and mix until combined.
  4. Spoon batter into muffin tins. (Unlike, typical muffins and cakes the batter will not smooth out as it bakes, so try to smooth the tops before baking). Bake for 20 minutes or until baked through.
  5. Allow brownies to cool and add 8 pretzel "legs" and 2 chocolate candy eyes to each brownie.
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Inspiring Independence in Picky Eaters: {Free Printable}

Inspiring Independence in Picky Eaters: {Free Printable}

Lately, we’ve been struggling with the eating habits of my 3-year-old picky eater.  Maybe, it’s because my almost one-year-old is just experiencing all these new foods for the first time, and I am comparing his food acceptance to her pickiness;  maybe it’s a little burnout; maybe it’s a little bit of my own  health problems with my thyroid that I have been dealing with for the last several weeks. Whatever it is, I had hit my mommy and dietitian breaking point.

My daughter is extremely independent, and has been very capable of selecting her foods and feeding herself for quite sometime. That means when she requests a snack, she isn’t really requesting it, she is demanding it. Even when she says it with the sweetest voice, you know what is going to happen when you say no. Rather than having to tell her no all the time, which I felt like I was, I decided to try a little bit of a positive approach. She has just started being really interested in crafts and coloring and creating things that are “fridge-worthy.” Taking this into consideration, I decided to create a coloring sheet to be a fun backdrop for my little experiment. I helped her select the right color to go on the right fruit and vegetable which she colored meticulously. Then we colored strips with the names of colors on them. She knows a few letters so I explained each word to her and had her color them so she could remember which color was which word. Then I laminated the coloring sheet and the word colors sheet because I had the intention to use them over and over. (I actually might frame it to make it an even more permanent fixture). Then I attached a clothes pin to the paper (you could also use velcro strips), so we could swap out the color of the day. I hung it on the wall and we selected a color of the day which I incorporated into our dinner that evening.

As you can see she was really into coloring this printable.

Nutritionally, eating a wide variety of colors helps maximize the antioxidants and phytonutrients that these foods provide. Each color provides a unique blend. Grouping fruits and vegetables into colors is something that I do with my adult clients as well. I usually use the acronym BROG (Blue/Purple, Red, Orange, Green) to hit all the highlights. You can read more about BROGing for adults here.  I decided from a color matching standpoint to increase the number of colors for this activity to 6 (Blue, Purple, Green, Yellow, Orange, Red). While ideally, she would be eating from multiple of these groups each day, we have to start somewhere.

So far, this is has been going surprisingly well, like Christmas morning well! The day after we created it, she ran excitedly into my room asking what today was, I responded, Friday. She said, no, and repeated, “what day is today?”, clearly irritated I didn’t understand her nuance. Oh, I realized, today is RED day.

If you are ready to up your picky eater game, or just want a fun activity to get the whole family involved in meal planning check out my free printable.

Supplies:

  • Free Printable
  • Crayons or Markers
  • Clothes pin or velcro strips
  • Laminating Sheets (optional but this will make it last much longer)
What I Didn’t Expect: My Thyroid Surgery Journey

What I Didn’t Expect: My Thyroid Surgery Journey

Back in January, for about 2 weeks I had the reoccurring feeling of a lump, like I had swallowed a large pill, in the back of my throat. It would get better and worse and change with different positions. As a mom, of a then 4-month-old and a 3-year-old, I was a little surprised to find myself making a doctor’s appointment.  With young kids, and just coming out of intense prenatal care, most mom’s know that if your arm isn’t falling off you don’t make time to see the doctor. My doctor performed a physical exam and found nothing, she suspected reflux, but I told her that I had a family history of thyroid cancer. My doctor suggested we do an ultrasound to just rule out any physiological abnormalities. That ultrasound showed a large  mass on my right thyorid. This of course was not the news that I wanted to hear. The next step was a biopsy that came back benign, and a follow up ultrasound. I met with the surgeon as the mass showed slight but definite growth. He said that I could wait until my baby was a year since it may interfere with breastfeeding. 

If you have been following me or reading my posts for any length of time you know that this is not my typical post, but as I’ve shared my story with others, I have found so many with similar stories.  I am writing this to encourage and help others who may have this journey in their future. Now, my outcome in no way is reflective of what your outcome could or will be, but I think there are a few unknowns that I had, that may help others navigating this journey.

 

  1. Breastfeeding

This was probably the biggest unknown for me, and truthfully one of my biggest concerns. At this point, I hadn’t been away from my baby for more than about 6 hours at a time since he was an infant. I had stopped supplementing with bottles, since he was eating real food so well.  When I met with the surgeon he said to expect that I will likely not be able to nurse for 24-hours, and warned that there is a chance with any surgery that my milk supply could dry up all-together. When I arrived for my surgery, my doctor advised me that as soon as I felt “normal,” I could return to breastfeeding. I am the type of person that doesn’t tolerate NyQuil so I was prepared for the worst.  The type of anesthetic that my doctor used didn’t make me loopy or really even drowsy. I had my surgery in the morning at 7:30 am, so I nursed my baby before I left for the hospital and then was able to nurse him again when I was upright later that afternoon.

 

  1. Pain

 My pain was very minimal, in fact I didn’t take any pain meds. I don’t share this to say how amazingly tough I am, but to show that my doctor was right.  Back when I had the breastfeeding discussion with my doctor he had told me that I would likely be able to stick with over-the-counter breastfeeding-safe medications like Tylenol to manage my pain. When he told me this I didn’t believe him, but it turns out his 20+ years of surgical experience were far more reliable than my fear of pain. I think the stiffness was probably more pronouced than the pain.

 

  1. Swallowing

Probably my worst symptom came from my unability to swallow. During the prodcedure my uvula (you know, that little thing that hangs down in the back of your throat), got nicked.  In the process of healing it swelled up and made swallowing and carrying on a conversation very difficult.  As a dietitian, I definitely know about the swallowing process, but I got to experience it firsthand. From a dietary standpoint,  I learned that there are very few nourishing and satisfying foods that are easy to swallow. Sure, pudding, ice cream, and beverages are great for a few meals,  but I got a little burned out, and in general wanted something savory. There are also few quick options. Several times I opened my pantry or fridge scanning for something to put in my mouth and ended up back on the couch before I could find anything. 

A dietitian’s firsthand experience with dysphagia.

Just for fun, I wanted to share a few of my favorite post-surgery eats.

On day 1, I ate pizza! It’s a little crazy to think that, but my throat had not swollen yet, and truthfully I only ate about half of a slice. By day 2 I tried to eat it again and couldn’t swallow it.

On day 2, I ate eggs and soft sautéed veggies

On day 3, I ate mac and cheese

To fill in the gaps I ate some pudding, ice cream, and drank a lot of water.  Two convenience foods that I found I could surprisingly tolerate well were peanut butter M&M’s and graham crackers. As I got a little better later in the week, it wasn’t as much that I couldn’t swallow a larger variety of foods, but when I tried to eat my normal portion of most foods my swallowing became fatigued. I am writing this 7 days post-op and still struggling with some swallowing difficulties. My pathology came back benign, but the mass they pulled was almost 5 cm. I am still on the road to recovery. Have you been through something similar, or know someone who has? I’d love to hear your experiences.

 

Is Turmeric all it’s cracked up to be?

Is Turmeric all it’s cracked up to be?

Disclosure: I received this product complimentary for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

There’s been a lot of experimenting with new flavors and spices (hello, lavender donuts!!) going on around here. Some special spices go beyond just adding flavor to your palate. Turmeric is just one of those special spices, the “anti-inflama-everything” spice, as we like to call it.  A compound in turmeric called curcumin is responsible for much of it’s helpful properties. 

Let’s talk about some of the benefits packed into this bright little spice….

  1. Antioxidants and Anti-aging 

Turmeric increases the body’s antioxidant capacity. Just by living we are all creating free-radicals (some of us more than others).  Oxidative stress is caused by dangerous free radicals floating around in the body, which can interfere with chemical reactions the body needs to perform. The effect of the body not being able to perform certain reactions can cause disease, quicken the aging process, and in some cases lead to more serious chronic conditions. Turmeric, an anti-oxidant, neutralizes these free-radicals preventing the oxidative damage that causes inflammation. 

2. Fighting Rheumatoid Arthritis 

Curcumin (the active component in turmeric) has been studied for it’s ability to fight rheumatoid arthritis (RA). A study was done on 45 patients following two groups of people. One group was taking a curcumin supplement and one group was taking NSAID. The conclusion of this showed that the group taking the turmeric supplement showed more improvement in the movements of their joints, rather than the group taking the NSAIDS, without having any adverse side effects  (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3766928/).

3. Gut Function

It is estimated that between 10-15% of the adult population in the US has IBS. For those suffering with nagging IBS symptoms, turmeric may do just the trick. As a food based addition, having 1/2-1 1/2 teaspoons per day (with black pepper of course) helps with gut motility (or the muscle contractions of the GI tract), and can stimulate the activity of digestive enzymes which help break down foods that may be giving you tummy troubles.

To Supplement or not to Supplement?

With all of these curcumin benefits- and many more- it seems like this little compound may just be the “magical spice of life”! However, the one recurring problem with this antioxidant is that it’s absorption rate is extremely low. In fact, only a small portion of this spice is actually absorbed by the small intestines with the rest being excreted out of the body. That means to experience some of these studied benefits of turmeric, you have to significantly increase your intake which may require a supplement.

Before considering a supplement, ask what you are hoping to accomplish by incorporating turmeric? If you are looking for general long-term health benefits, consider adding it as a food-based spice first. Finding a reliable supplement in any category can by tricky, but because the absorption is so low, finding a good curcumin supplement adds another layer of difficulty. One of the curcumin supplements I trust is CardioTabs.  Their formulation provides a much smaller particle size (sub-micron), resulting in the same benefits and a higher absorption rate. When comparing their supplement with standard curcumin powder, there’s performed 280 times better in absorption rate. CardioTabs is offering my readers 20% off any of their products including the Curcumin with the code: MPR17414 at cardiotabs.com.

Cooking with Turmeric

 Turmeric is a mild spice, and when used as an additive to a meal, you may not even notice it, other than the color.  I like to add a dash to my smoothies or a pinch to my eggs. Here are a few other great foods that you can incorporate it into: Stir-fry, oatmeal, cookies, mashed potatoes, or veggies. Be sure to add a pinch of black pepper to help with the absorption. 

Still need a little inspiration? These are my two favorite turmeric recipes:

Who Should Use Caution With Turmeric?

If you decide to take a supplement be sure to talk with your healthcare provider as any supplement can interfere with medications. Extra caution should be used for those taking Warfarin or other blood thinners. Curcumin can also cause increased stomach acid, causing extra reflux. Lastly, those who are pregnant should not take a supplement because it can stimulate contractions. For most of these instances it is likely ok to include turmeric on a regular basis as a food, but not as a higher dose supplement.

Protein Donuts with Chocolate Lavender Ganache

Protein Donuts with Chocolate Lavender Ganache

If you read my last post, you know that my life lately has been all about Magnolia, with my trip to Waco, the silo’s half marathon, and getting the Joanna Gaines’ cookbook for my birthday.  I decided to follow up that post with one along the same theme.  During my Waco trip we visited the Magnolia Table restaurant, and tried Joanna’s Lemon Lavender Donuts. Let’s just say I wasn’t disappointed.  I already knew that I loved lavender for it’s therapeutic aroma, but didn’t have a lot of experience with it’s culinary uses.

Lavender seems to be just the thing to, with one simple ingredient, elevate a food from something you’d get at a gas station to a culinary delight. Or to put it another way it takes your 99 cent donut experience to 5 dollars a pop. I couldn’t imagine a better way to celebrate National Donut Day then with a lavender infused donut delicacy. Unlike it’s “typical” donut counterpart this recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free,  low in sugar, and high in protein. With almost 10 grams of protein per donut, you are sure to find it satisfying, and as you can see, picky-eater approved.

A few notes about baking with lavender

Lavender (at least in Kansas) is typically found in specialty foods stores like Whole Food’s in the dried spices and herbs section. You may also find fresh lavender at a farmers market, that you can dry and then use. Make sure to buy culinary lavender. Culinary lavender is a particular species of lavender that has the sweetest and most fragrant aroma making it great for use as a cooking herb. Lavender, used as a herb, is similar to rosemary, in fact it is often paired in seasoning blends with rosemary. I LOVE the flavor of rosemary but unless it is brushed on top of bread or chicken, I want to taste it, not see it. Lavender has a leaf structure similar to rosemary, that is best ground down either with a food processor or mortar and pedestal. A little of it goes a long way, and helps to bring out the rich flavors of the ganache and the subtle sweetness of the donut. If you don’t have a donut pan you can easily make this yummy recipe into cupcakes, you will just want to watch the baking time depending on the size of cupcake tin that you use.

Protein Donut

Healthy Chocolate Frosting
Protein Donuts with Chocolate Lavender Ganache
Print Recipe
1-step rich and decadent chocolate lavender ganache perfectly complementing these slightly sweet protein donuts.
Servings
8 Donuts
Cook Time
15-20 minutes
Servings
8 Donuts
Cook Time
15-20 minutes
Healthy Chocolate Frosting
Protein Donuts with Chocolate Lavender Ganache
Print Recipe
1-step rich and decadent chocolate lavender ganache perfectly complementing these slightly sweet protein donuts.
Servings
8 Donuts
Cook Time
15-20 minutes
Servings
8 Donuts
Cook Time
15-20 minutes
Ingredients
Protein Donut
Chocolate Lavender Ganache
Servings: Donuts
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add eggs to a large bowl and beat well with a stand mixer or hand mixer.
  2. Add in coconut butter, coconut oil, vanilla and maple syrup and beat together.
  3. In a separate bowl whisk together both flours, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon.
  4. Slowly add flour mixture into wet ingredients and mix just until combined.
  5. Spray donut pan with non-stick spray. For best results, spoon batter into pan, or place batter in a large ziplock bag and snip off a corner to pipe batter into the donut pan.
  6. Place pan in oven and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before removing from pan.
  7. Meanwhile, in a small pan add ingredients for ganache. Wish together over low heat until melted. Top donuts immediately. Note: If ganache is too thick, it has been cooked at too high of heat.
  8. Top with optional ingredients such as sprinkles, or coconut flakes.
Recipe Notes

Coconut Butter: Coconut butter is more similar to peanut butter than real butter. You can purchase coconut butter pre-made, or you can easily make it, but adding unsweetened coconut flakes to a food processor. Process the flakes until a butter-like texture begins to form. You may need to scrape down the sides as this texture change takes place, this will take approximately 3 minutes.

Lavender: Dried lavender needs to be ground down to a powder before incorporating into ganache, this can be done with a coffee grinder or other small processor.

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I Tried Joanna Gaines Bulgogi Recipe and Here’s What Happened: Plus a Recap of Silo’s District Inaugural Race

I Tried Joanna Gaines Bulgogi Recipe and Here’s What Happened: Plus a Recap of Silo’s District Inaugural Race

My birthday was a few weeks ago, so my mom got me the Magnolia Table cookbook. The cookbook was actually released ON my birthday. (Thanks Joanna for releasing it on my special day.) I definitely can’t keep up with Joanna Gaines in home decorating, but once I heard she was coming out with a cookbook I had high hopes I cook keep up with her in the kitchen. On the day it arrived, I flipped through it and for the most part the recipes looked pretty simple and delicious.

If you have been following along, you know that I write a lot about my picky eaters. On most evenings, I attempt to have a vegetable as part of dinner. I had been feeling a little bored with our current dinner veggie go-to’s, so I asked my husband for a suggestion. He reminded me of the Bulgogi, that a friend brought to us after bringing our daughter home from the hospital. She served this traditional Korean dish in lettuce wraps. I told him, he was in luck because my new cookbook had the perfect recipe.

I won’t give away all Joanna’s secrets but basically you marinade beef in soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, onions and Joanna’s secret ingredient, it doesn’t really matter what it is, because I didn’t have it. So I subbed in pomegranate juice, (I’m always up for a little more antioxidants). I also added some shredded carrots for a little more color. We marinaded it for a few hours and then we grilled it on our charcoal grill. Joanna’s recipe just suggests serving it over rice, but let me tell you, having it in the romaine wrap is the best way, to serve it. We all gave this recipe high praise for being easy to prepare, and delicious for the whole family. I can’t wait to try more recipes out of the cookbook.

Magnolia Table

Speaking of recipes out of the cookbook. We went to Magnolia Table, the Gaines’ new restaurant, in Waco, which features a few of Joanna’s recipes. It took almost 2 hours of standing in line just to put your name on the list, and then once on the list, our reservation wasn’t for another 4 hours. In all this was more than a 5 hour ordeal, what do you think the verdict was among our crew? Would you be surprised to hear that we gave it a thumbs up and said we definitely would do it all over again?! Our favorite dish was Joanna’s famous buttermilk biscuits. If you go, you MUST have them.

Silo’s District Half Marathon

I have one word to recap the Inaugural Silo’s District race… HOT! Since we raced in snow just 3 weeks ago, my body was definitely not acclimated to the hot temperatures of Waco in May. Talking to a few of the locals this was one of the hottest days they had experienced as well, so I wasn’t alone. It was a nice flat course, and lots of great sights, we ran through Baylor’s campus and over the Brazos bridge, starting and finishing at the Silo’s. We got to see Chip start his race and we watched him and his entourage come through around mile 24.