Friday, October 28, 2011

Smoked Clam Chowder (dairy and corn free)

I had some tins of smoked clams hanging out in my pantry so I decided to put them to use! I always love clam chowder but I don't cook with much dairy or corn at home since it does not seem to agree well with some of the  members of our family so I needed to come up with some new ideas. I found some canned coconut milk and a sweet potato in the pantry too and decided to use these. Then I looked in my Abundant Harvest Organics box and found some zuchinni, carrots, and onions. I always have homemade chicken broth on hand in my deep freezer and while I was getting that I found a bag of frozen chopped kale. I am in love with kale so I decided that was going in too! I did not have celery like you find in some clam chowders so I put in extra zucchini.

The results were pretty tasty! I think the smokiness of the clams gave it a really good twist. Jad ate it for dinner the first night and then breakfast, lunch, and dinner the next day. He would close his mouth to other things, he only wanted the tasty chowder! I wasn't complaining since all the ingredients were organic and full of fiber and vitamins and the clams are a great source of iron and protein too.

Fresh or dried thyme
1 can coconut milk (or you can use 2 cans if you want it extra creamy)
2 cups chicken broth (homemade is best!)
3 cans of smoked clams
1 big sweet potato
zucchini and or summer squash 
celery (or bok choy or extra zucchini or other summer squash)
expeller pressed coconut oil
salt and lemon pepper for seasoning

Chop up the onion and saute it in your soup pot in the coconut oil

While the onion is cooking chop up the rest of your veggies. If you are using bok choy save the leaves on the side with your Kale an just add the chopped stem to the pile of chopped veggies.

When the onions are soft and a little caramelized add the rest of the veggies (except the kale) and the Thyme to the pot. Then pour in the coconut milk and the chicken broth.

Bring everything to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add in the kale (and bok choy leaves if you are using those) and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Then add in the smoked clams and all the oil in the can with them. Simmer for 5 minutes more.

If you have an immersion hand blender use it to puree just some of the soup to thicken it. Alternatively you can pour some of the soup in a blender and puree it and then pour that back into the pot.If you want to eat the clams whole in the soup add them after the puree step.

Crack some fresh sea salt and lemon pepper on top when you serve it into bowls.


I am going to make this again tomorrow but this time I am going to use yu choy and summer squash because that is what I got in my recent Abundant Harvest Organics box along with some kale I ordered as an add-on.

Ma would have always used what was on hand and what she had growing in the garden. I am trying to make things simpler for myself by doing the same. My garden just happens to be what I get from many different farmers in California who put things in my weekly Abundant Harvest Organics box!

If you try this with any variations please share your results in a comment!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Parenting Tip: Do Yourself a Favor and Get Over Not Having Enough "Me" Time

Let's face it, when you are a parent "me" time is pretty non-existent when you are raising young children. ESPECIALLY if you work full time, which is the case for me and my husband.

Over the years I really have come to accept this as a fact; so has my husband. I honestly wish more people would do the same, I think they would be more at peace if they did.

When I think about Ma and Pa raising their family, I realize they probably never once had an argument about needing more "me" time. They worked hard every day living off the land and taking care of their family. Most days they had some time to do the things they loved like playing the fiddle or carving for Pa  and sewing or writing a letter to far away family for Ma. I am pretty sure they just enjoyed the small bits of "me" time they were able to get and they probably never even thought about it as "me" time or worried about trying to get "enough" of it.

I think part of the reason is the fact that they lived a more balanced life than most of us do in these hectic modern times. But I also think a lot of it has to do with attitude and values. Ma and Pa valued family above all else as far as I can tell from reading about their lives. For any of you reading this who have raised a family or are in the process of raising a family, I am sure you can agree that things go a lot smoother when all family members feel equally valued and loved. This helps everyone want to work together and be a part of the family team. I think you will also agree that getting this to happen takes A LOT of quality time and there is only so much time in a day.

If you are a couple raising a family there is barely any time left for you to focus on each other and your relationship. Making time for this is VERY important! The 2nd highest time for divorce is when all the kids grow up and leave the house. Don't make it all about the kids, you need to make sure there is time for you and your partner!

Now let's get back to the "me" time thing. The reality of the situation is that after you are done  spending the quality time it takes to have a happy stable family and marriage there really just isn't much time left for "me" time. I am not saying  that you have to sacrifice all "me" time to have a happy family and marriage, I am just saying we all need to be more realistic about how much time we really can have to do things just for ourselves and still have a happy family and marriage. I also think we need to be a little more creative about what we classify as "me" time and find ways to see the "me" time in the little daily routines and surprises. Look for more posts on how to do just that coming soon!

My overall advice is to not really put too much focus on getting enough of this revered "me" time. Just live your life like Ma and Pa; enjoy the little bits of "me" time that naturally fit into any given day. Don't try to force it, or schedule it, or agonize over it. When your kids are grown and gone and you retire you are going to find you have a lot more "me" time than you ever wanted. Go visit any lonely person in a retirement home if you don't believe me.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Poem: Son for Sale

This poem was written over 5 years ago. It was written about my middle son Jonathan who is now 6.
I would say it could now apply to my son Jad too but Jad is a Daddy's boy so he is always looking for Daddy. Jonathan was a Mommy's boy from day 1, we share a special bond.

Son for Sale

Son for sale!
Son for sale!
Who will buy my son for sale?
He doesn't sleep,
all he does is weep.
This is why my son is for sale!
But...he is also sweet,
even when tears stain his cheek
and his wiggly little body can't find peace.
he calls "Ma! Ma!" for his mom alone
to come to him,
to be with him,
and come to him I do,
Even though sleep calls me too.
Hold him near, cuddled in close.
The tears will calm but for now
I listen...
just listen and love.
When his cries awaken me I myself want to weep
over my lack of solid sleep.
This is when I want to put my son up for sale!
But in each others arms we eventually both sleep,
he is mine, and mine alone to keep so
No son for sale.
No son for sale.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Real Story: Why I gave up the Gym

 Why did I give up the gym? Short answer: I gave up going to the gym for my 3 kids and our dog.



This is one of those things that makes me wish I could be Ma because she wouldn't even have to worry about such things. There was no "gym", living her daily life was a good work out! Sadly most of my daily life involves sitting in a chair in front of a computer because I work remotely from my home as an Instructional Designer, full time, some time over time.

So...I need to get off my tush and do SOMETHING! Enter the whole gym dilemma. I use to do hard core CrossFit 5 days a week for about two years during the time when my two older kids were 2-4 and 4-6. That was before the dog and baby number 3. That was a lot of fun and I was in great shape. Then I got too busy with work and then I moved and became pregnant and it was "bye bye CrossFit."

When baby number 3 was about 6 or 7 months I got a YMCA gym membership because they provide free daycare for as many kids as you have up to 2 hours each time you come work out. I tried taking some yoga, zumba, and pilates classes. Most of the time I had to leave early because the child care people would come and get me because the baby was crying non-stop so that never really took off.

Then this past August I did a CrossFit Women's boot camp and got my butt back in gear. The only downside was that the kids HATED going with me and waiting in the little kid pit while I worked out for 1 hour+ The baby was in there with them too and that always made me nervous when other big kids were in there and it was so dirty in there too that it kind grossed me out seeing him crawl around and put the icky toys in his mouth. BUT I was still all geared up to sign up for the regular classes anyway starting in September.

Then school started and in came the attack of the homework! Natalie started 4th Grade this year and the homework has doubled. Jonathan goes to a full Spanish Immersion school and I do not speak Spanish so his homework is always a challenge even though he is only in 1st Grade.

The reality is that there just isn't enough time to get all the homework done and try to fit in the gym too because I do want to actually have some fun with my kids and interact with them beyond homework time and other daily routines and chores.Let's not forget how expensive the gym is too right? That never comes cheap, especially when we are talking about CrossFit! One other big thing is the fact that I am already inside all day working or I am driving in a car taking my kids two and from school or activities, why in the heck do I want to then go back inside building so I can work out inside? Fresh air anyone? Maybe a little dose of vitamin D from the sun? I live in San Diego so I can go outside every day of the year, even if it rains there is always at least some part of the day where the rain stops and if it doesn't I do have an umbrella and some rain boots!

So taking all that into consideration I decided to ditch the whole "going to work out at the gym" thing and just get my booty outside at least once a day doing something active with my kids and/or my dog. And you wanna know what? Since I have changed gears towards this I actually DO get my booty outside and do something active once a day, even if it is only a 10 minute power walk with my dog. And you know what else? Being outside is AWESOME! I never realized how little time I was actually getting outside and what a difference getting outside more often could make.

Now instead of dragging my 3 grumpy kids to the gym daycare and leaving my dog home alone depressed in her doggy bed, we all go outside together and have some fun! I usually walk briskly and push Jad in his car or a stroller and Jonathan always rides a bike or scooter. Natalie will ride her scooter or just walk with me and talk or she will take turns walking the dog or pushing the baby. We even went on a hike a few weekends ago and I wore Jad on my back in the Ergo and that was great. I really miss going on hikes so I plan to start going on more of them!

Maybe I will go back to the gym one day but I don't see that happening any time soon and I am finally actually ok with that. Gym guilt trip be gone! I am too busy outside playing with my kids and my pup exploring our hood.

Monday, October 17, 2011

List: What I love about Fall

1. Pumpkins!
2. Going out to the big pumpkin patch to pick out and buy pumpkins
3. Decorating the yard with fresh pumpkins
4. Baking grain free pumpkin muffins
5. Sipping hot mugs of pumpkin spice tea (yes, I am a little pumpkin obsessed!) or hot spiced apple cider.
6. The plethora of hearty fall squashes to roast and bake with. Butternut, delicata, red kuri, and acorn are my favorites.
7. The changing colors of the leaves (even if this is only minimal on a few trees in San Diego).
8. The hot sun going away so I can wear my favorite jeans and comfy long sleeved T-shirts (yes I may be one of the few San Diego natives who does not love summer)
9. Daylight starts to disappear earlier, forcing me to wind down earlier and get to bed at a decent hour.
10. Halloween fun with friends and family and then Thanksgiving deliousness with family and friends.

I would like to think that Ma probably loved many of these same things about fall. I imagine her baking some yummy squash for dinner as the sun went down and the night air turned chilly.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

What would Ma do? She would wear a dress!

What would Ma do? She would wear a dress ladies, that is exactly what she would do!. She wouldn't feel bad about it either, she wouldn't have to because all she owned were dresses. She would have been wearing a dress the day she gave birth and she would have been wearing a dress the day after she gave birth and all the days after that if you are counting. Ma wouldn't have to worry about any "skinny jeans" or any of the other small outfits all of us mom's are always agonizing over.

So ladies, please give yourself a break if you have recently birthed a child. I am not saying you should let yourself go and wear a burlap sack or one piece romper for the rest of your journey through motherhood but please just relax and enjoy your baby for the first year ok? It somehow magically gets easier after you hit the year mark, I promise, and you can trust me because I have done this 3 times.

Here is a picture of me in a comfy dress getting ready to go home from the hospital with baby number 3 about 1 year ago. Ma would be so proud!

Easy & Delicious: Hand Dipped Coconut Cinnamon Apples on a Stick

Ma would have used real homemade caramel but she didn't worry about things like too much sugar. For those of us looking for a dairy-free, sugar-free (well the apple has sugar ;0) ), alternative these coconut apples on a stick hit the spot!

Hand Dipped Coconut Cinnamon Apples on a Stick

small or mini sized apples
coconut butter
coconut oil
lolly pop sticks or wood skewers

Scoop coconut butter into a small prep bowl, custard cup, or small ramekin. The size depends on the size of your apples. You should be able to fit your apple all the way inside the bowl. Scoop enough coconut butter to fill the bowl as high as your apple will be when you are dipping it in the bowl.

Melt the coconut butter in the microwave. Start with a low power and only 20 seconds at a time, stirring it each time until you have the creamy consistency.

Add a little coconut oil to the mix to thin it out.

Sprinkle your desired amount of cinnamon into the coconut butter and mix well.

Pierce your apples with your stick of choice and get ready to dunk them in your mix! Coat them well and lay them on a plate or tray lined with wax paper. Put them in the refrigerator to let the mix harden. This usually only takes about 15 minutes.