Food Insights

make your own "to-go" snack packs

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IMG_9781 We try to eat real food.  That means a bit more prep cooking, baking, and planning ahead.  But like anything, the more you do it, the better you plan and execute, the more creative you become, and the more it becomes second nature.

When I go to the grocery store I stare at all of the pre-packaged snacks that are oh-so colorful, and enticing in their crinkly wrapping.  (Ever notice that most of the grocery store is filled with "non-refrigerated" items that, for the most part, have been adapted enough to not need to be refrigerated like most real foods?  Definitely some food science engineering there.)

It doesn't even matter what is in the enticing crinkly snack packages for my kids: it looks so enticing.

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(These cute little packaged mini blueberry muffin's first ingredient is sugar, followed by a variety of corn syrups and a long list of ingredients.  There's a better way to let your kids snack while recharging their mind and body--and keep it portable and exciting!)

 

I want there still to be fun and excitement for my children when we pack up a field trip lunch or pool-side snack that is better than the looks of the individual mini muffin pouches.

 

Enter DIY "to-go" snack packs. 

 

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The concept is pretty simple: skip buying the pre-packed (and less filling/nourishing) snacks and make your own.  Get into the habit of always having an at-home, pre-packed snack pack for refrigerator pick up all week.  Package them at the beginning of the week and be done!

 

What you'll need to make your own "to-go" snack packs:

  1. Cute containers.  You can use:
  • Plastic chinese take-out boxes (and reuse)
  • Treat paper boxes (I like grabbing these from clearance bins at Michaels or Target)
  • Small plastic or glass containers
  • Bento boxes
  • Cleaned out individual yogurt containers + lid
  • Any small container with lid

 

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2.  Choose healthy finger food snacks.  

  • You can make a ton of "to-go" snack packs and store them in the refrigerator for the week.
  • You can also choose to put one item or many in a snack pack.
  • Train your kids to return the snack pack container each day to reuse.
  • Choose snack pack foods that won't be messy.
  • Look for foods from different food groups: fruits, vegetables, dairy, nuts, etc.

 

"To-Go' Snack Pack food ideas:

  • Fruit: a handful of blueberries, strawberries, a clementine, or grapes are mess free and portable
  • Cheese: choose a hard cheese cut into cubes or triangles (we love Dubliner) or a pre-wrapped soft cheese (mozzarella sticks, Baby Bel, etc.)
  • Protein-packed nuts: grab a handful of your favorite roasted nuts or mixed nuts + coconut shreds + dried fruit
  • A quick homemade treat: some of our favorites are No-Bake Chocolate Cookie Balls, Coconut Larabar, Chocolate Brownie Larabar, 3 Seed Coconut Berry Energy Bites, and Honey Nut Granola Bars.
  • Baby carrots + celery sticks 
  • Roasted sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds ([amazon_link id="B000CSKKG4" target="_blank" ]these small packets[/amazon_link] are awesome to throw inside the snack pack)
  • Beef jerky strips

 

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3. Simply create an assembly line on your counter and fill your snack pack containers with snacks!  Refrigerate snack packs if not using right away.  Let your family know where they can find the snack packs in the fridge for easy access on the way to a sports activity, after school snack, or long car ride.  

You'll be amazed at how excited you and your kids will be to have ready-made snack packs that are thrilling to open and better yet, nourishing to their growing bodies and your!

 

the sleepy time gal

4 ingredient cheese sandwich buns

These cheese sandwich buns have been a revolution for our family.

These buns are light, airy, and hold up like a traditional bun for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.   Although Bobby and I don't need/miss carriers like bread and buns in our daily eating, these are fun to bake up for a change.  And boy, do the kids love them as well.

These cheese sandwich buns are great for:

  • breakfast sandwiches
  • buttered toast topped with your favorite spread
  • sandwiches for lunch
  • buns for burgers
  • bread for mini grilled cheese
  • grilled as a panini

The idea behind these cheese buns are a familiar bun concept in the low carb world.  You may see them labeled "cloud bread" or "oopsie bread" online but the recipe comes down to the same thing.  Equal part eggs to soft cheese.

They are less than 1 carb per bun which is pretty incredible when you compare it to a traditional hamburger bun with a whopping 21 net carbs per two-piece bun.

4 Ingredient Cheese Sandwich Buns

Makes 10 buns

Ingredients:

3 eggs, separated

3 TBSP of cream cheese, cottage cheese, or ricotta cheese

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

a pinch of salt

pinch of stevia, natural sugar-free sweetener (optional)

Optional toppings:

fresh chives

sesame seeds

poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dried minced onion for the "everything" bun

cinnamon + granulated sweetener

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Whisk the yolks, cheese, and sweetener in a mixer until light yellow in color.  In another clean mixer bowl, whisk the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt on high to form stiff peaks, around 5 minutes based on your mixer.  (If you're using the bowl the yolks were in, make sure the bowl is completely washed out because the whites won't whisk just right if there are traces of yolk in the bowl.)  You should be able to turn the bowl with the egg whites upside down with the egg whites not moving a smidgen.

Carefully fold the yolk mixture into the egg whites trying not to break down the egg whites.

Scoop out 1/4 cup of the egg/cheese mixture onto parchment paper or buttered baking sheets.  This is simple to create a nice round mound.  (Or, you can use these perfect [amazon_link id="B003YKGRBY" target="_blank" ]muffin top pans[/amazon_link] that we bought specifically for this bread.  Just butter or spray each individual pan, scoop 1/4 cup of mixture, and you'll have even sandwich buns.)

Bake for 20-30 minutes based on your oven.  They should be lightly golden brown on the top.   Let buns cool before enjoying.

I like to make a ton of these buns and use some for lunch that day and store the rest in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.  They last up to a week in the fridge.

I think these are best eaten on the same day.  But for the buns that are saved in the fridge, I like to pop them in the toaster throughout the week before using them.  It firms them up a bit more.

{Another great way to eat these cheese buns is toasted, opened faced, and loaded with leftovers or any other favorite combination.

Above is fried eggs, leftover curried beef, and sour cream. Yum.}

Today I promised Johanna peanut butter and raspberry jelly sandwiches.  I think I'll try adding a little dusting of cinnamon to the tops of the cheese buns before baking them today for her lunch request.  I'll take a peanut butter, cream cheese, and shaved dark chocolate grilled sandwich for dessert tonight.  Sounds pretty amazing right about now...

I'd love to hear if you try making it!

 

how intermittent fasting changed my life

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You've heard me speak about Intermittent Fast in the past.  It is such an incredible facet of my life now that I've really wanted to share with you the hows and whys.

Essentially, Intermittent fasting is having a "fasting" window and a "feeding" window.  You can fast for a shorter period daily or a longer period once or twice a week.  I fast most days (which really means I go without breakfast).

Here's how it all started...

1. To lose weight.

I actually started Intermittent Fasting (IF) back in the fall when I had hit a plateau with losing fat.  I had heard of IF but it definitely didn't sound like something I wanted to implement.  Skipping food?  Really??

But the more I researched it, the more the science made absolute sense.  Here's how it works. When you're in a fasting state (everyone enters this state from sleeping all night) and then you maintain that state beyond waking up and eating right away, your body can continue to burn your own fat stores as energy instead of using your breakfast as energy.  Your body would rather use up fat stores than glucose in your bloodstream or glycogen in your muscles.  It's a win/win situation.

Surprisingly, to lose weight with IF you don't have to limit your current caloric intake.  Sounds crazy, doesn't it?  But it's true.  You can eat the exact same amount of calories and by fasting (really just skipping breakfast), lose weight.  Staying in that fasting state allows your body to remain in ketosis from your night/morning of not eating and your body can burn up fat stores seamlessly even when you consume the exact same amount of food.  No limiting your calories excessively.  (And if you're wondering how to live without eggs and bacon--don't worry--you can still eat your favorite healthy breakfasts for lunch or dinner.)

Another phenomenon with losing weight with IF is leptin.  Leptin, the hunger suppressor, is increased during IF.  This is incredible to witness when I fast.   Because your body has been able to work, burn, and not constantly digest, the hormone leptin becomes a constant companion when it's your "feeding window".  I actually feel less hungry on the days when I've fasted all morning then on a regular day of eating all day long.  I eat a big lunch, usually have a late snack, dinner, and maybe a protein shake or a few pieces of dark chocolate late evening.  Yes, with tracking my calories I eat plenty in that 8 hour window (usually around 1700 calories) but I don't feel ravenous or out of control with food like I'm more likely to feel on  a non-fasting day.  It is pretty amazing.

And for the record IF jump kicked my metabolism back into fat burning mode, especially with the difficult last pounds I had been trying to lose.

 

Note: for maximum fat loss, reduce your carbohydrate intake for the fastest, best results.

 

2. To heal my body. 

As you already know, my chronic stomach issues have gotten better since getting rid of grain and starches in my diet.  My body (like many bodies) doesn't like to digest them.  I still suffer from slow digestion if I fill my stomach beyond what my stomach can handle.   It's frustrating but I've learned to live with it.  Interestingly though, IF has actually aided my digestion quite a bit.  My stomach is 100% more peaceful and calm when I can go a long duration with it empty before eating.  It used to be that I hurt after eating really anything if I ate too much.  Now, when I break my fast around noon with a large 700 calorie lunch, the calm my stomach enjoyed from the fasting window translates to my stomach handling food incredibly well for the remainder of the day, even with larger portions.  The healing from IF means that on the occasional 1-2 days a week that I might eat breakfast in the morning with the family, my stomach is so much stronger from the many periods of healing during fasting throughout the week that it performs 10x better than it used to.  It is absolutely phenomenal.

Beyond my stomach issues, IF is prescribed by many physicians because it can heal at a molecular level for many ailments.

 I've read so many cases of individuals regaining their health from regular or somewhat regular IF.  The genetic repair that goes on cranks up the growth hormone (which prefers fat burning and muscle sparing) to heal while burning fat.

 Some of the many health benefits:

  • Improvement in insulin sensitivity
  • Intermittent fasting reduces oxidative stress, enhances cellular repair processes and appears to be a key strategy for anti-aging and longevity. (source)
  • The proteins and amino acids are utilized to repair tissue collagen which improves the functionality and strength of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones. HGH also improves skin function, reduces wrinkles & heals cuts and burns faster.  (source)
  • Reduces inflammation biomarkers
  •  Autophagy begins--where your cells begin to repair themselves and remove waste


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How to Intermittent Fast:

There are traditionally two ways to IF: daily (shorter more frequent) or a few times weekly (longer) fasts.

I do a typical 16/8 fast which is fast for 16 hours and feed for 8 hours.  I usually stop eating at night between 7-8pm which means I'll break my fast at lunchtime. It pretty much means you just skip breakfast but the benefits are astounding.  And you can totally tailor it to your lifestyle.  Some people eat two huge meals in their feeding window.  Some graze throughout the feeding window.  Research shows it makes no difference in affecting fat loss or healing because your body is getting everything it needs from the fasting window itself.

It's not hard.  Really.

You may be imagining me starving, watching the clock go by until I can "break my fast".  Not so.  As long as your body can stay in a fasting state many people enjoy a nourishing drink during your fast (which should be relatively calorie free so you're still in a fasting state).

  • The key is not to go above 50 calories while you're in a fasting state to still reap the benefits of the fast.  Many people enjoy water, coffee, or tea with a little coconut oil (it will continue rebooting your metabolism all day and fill that hunger) in the morning.  For me, I usually have my morning fasting version of hot cocoa (recipe below) or sip [amazon_link id="B0000IJYL8" target="_blank" ]my favorite beef broth[/amazon_link] with a little coconut oil.  (I have to make a conscious effort to get more sodium in for my kidneys since I eat very few carbohydrates--this is a perfect and enjoyable way to do it.)

It is a great morning ritual.  While the family eats breakfast or an hour or so later I make my cocoa and sip it and feel very satisfied.  There is this amazing calm and quiet to my whole body the mornings I fast.  Not only do I feel in control of my day, my life, and my body just from choosing to "skip breakfast", but I am way more in tune to listening to my body the whole remainder of the day.  (I'm telling you--it is that Leptin that naturally supresses your appetite and keeps you mindful of what you eat all day.)

By the time I can break my fast I don't feel out of control and ravenous.  I feel controlled and actually make much better choices with what I eat compared to days I don't fast.  You have to try it to believe it.

In conclusion, I can see how making one big change in my routine has had such an enormous impact to my life and body.  I'd say if you're curious about it to try it.  If you have any ailments, health issues, weight issues, or are an obsessive eater, just try intermittent fasting and see what happens.  Your body will get used to it and begin to find a very, very happy place.

Note to women:

While the 16/8 fast is most common, research shows that woman still benefit from a 14/10 fast.  If you're interested in the benefits of IF but are intimidated, I'd say start off with a 14/10 fast.  Think about it: you finish eating for the night say, 8pm, and can eat food again at 10am.  You could look at it as a late breakfast.  It's so worth it.

 

Other perks: 

  • IF can help you gain muscle (so no need to worry that your hard work will be in vein.).  Lots of lifters and women that strength train do IF and see awesome results because, once again, your body has more time to repair and build upwards in terms of muscles.  Read here about IF and gaining muscle.  It has definitely worked for me!
  • Exercising while in a fasted state accelerates fat loss

 

My IF morning cocoa recipe:

- 1 TBSP of my cinnamon cocoa mix or (1 TBSP unsweetened cocoa with a pinch of your favorite sugar-free sweetener)

-tsp of coconut oil (or 1-2 tsps of heavy cream)

-splash of vanilla

-pinch of salt

Add to mug of hot water and stir.  Sip and enjoy!

 

OR morning broth drink:

-2 tsp of [amazon_link id="B0000IJYL8" target="_blank" ]beef bouillon with chives[/amazon_link]

-1 tsp coconut oil

Add to mug of hot water and stir.

 

Excellent reads on IF:

 

Interested in the variety of ways to fast to fit your life?  Here's a great article that breaks down the different ways.

 

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

the sleepy time gal

creating a (lunch) tapas party

low carb/paleo kids: creating a (lunch) tapas party
low carb/paleo kids: creating a (lunch) tapas party

{Low carb/paleo kids is an on-going series of grain-free, low sugar/carbohydrate snacks.}

My girls and I have been having "tapas" parties for lunch for years now.  (Tapas are snacks and finger foods that originated in Spain.)  Because of our shift in eating and avoiding grains and high carbohydrate foods, we've just switched up what we serve for our lunchtime tapas party to make them healthy, fun, and kid friendly.

Tapas parties are so much fun for kids.  It means 100% finger foods, a variety of fun/unique foods, and being able to pick and choose your favorites to fill your plate.  I'd say as a mother that no longer bakes with grain (which means the kids eat fewer sandwiches in general for lunch) I love the idea of creating an enticing and fun spread for my kids that they can get excited about.  No two tapas parties are ever the same.  And that's why we love them.

low carb/paleo kids: creating a (lunch) tapas party
low carb/paleo kids: creating a (lunch) tapas party

Here are some of my tips for creating a (lunch) tapas party for your kids:

  1. Involve your kids in the prep.  Some elements you may choose for a particular tapas party may take extra prep time.  Enlist your kids.  Let them learn a new skill in the kitchen.  They'll not only gain confidence and feel independent but they'll also more than likely be excited to try it if it is something new.
low carb/paleo kids: creating a (lunch) tapas party
low carb/paleo kids: creating a (lunch) tapas party

{softened cream cheese with a pinch of onion powder and dill weed with Caroline piping the mixture onto cucumber rounds}

low carb/paleo kids: creating a (lunch) tapas party
low carb/paleo kids: creating a (lunch) tapas party
low carb/paleo kids: creating a (lunch) tapas party
low carb/paleo kids: creating a (lunch) tapas party
low carb/paleo kids: creating a (lunch) tapas party
low carb/paleo kids: creating a (lunch) tapas party

{super simple mini pizzas: pepperoni, tsp of marinara sauce, topped with mozzarella cheese and baked till browned and crispy}

2. Try something new.  Try a recipe you've pinned that may just be as simple as assembling but would totally excite your kids.  I try to pull something new out of my hat of tricks for our tapas parties: a new dip, new cracker, or new way of eating the same thing (like bear shaped hard boiled eggs).

low carb/paleo kids: creating a (lunch) tapas party
low carb/paleo kids: creating a (lunch) tapas party
low carb/paleo kids: creating a (lunch) tapas party
low carb/paleo kids: creating a (lunch) tapas party

3.  As always, make it pretty.  Seriously friends, I don't just say this because we live in a "Pinterest" world of perfectly plated food.  I like to make things pretty for my family (specifically my children) because it makes a huge difference in their thoughts and feelings about food and trying new things.  Cubed cheeses and berries piled on a white platter looks so appetizing and inviting.  Piping deviled egg filling into the egg white is way more enticing than when I try to just spoon it back into the white.  Trust me.

There is something psychological about food presentation and children that I find fascinating.  My children respond incredibly well when I make something special.  When I let them use the fancy little china dishes for a tapas party.  When I put one of our few tablecloths out.  And when all of my little details and care in using special servingware heightens their enthusiasm and excitement for a meal enjoyed together, it is well worth the extra steps.

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{awesome (grain-free) sour cream + chive crackers--my kids love the job of breaking them up off the baking sheet to store}

4. Get creative with slicing, cubing, cutting, and toothpicks.  Seriously, you could take your typical lunches you serve and, with a few new skills, transform their lunch into something they'd imagine at a fancy party.  Just the simple addition of toothpicks makes my kids go crazy.  Cutting a treat into triangles instead of squares, slicing bananas on a diagonal instead of perpendicular, and letting kids be architects with cubed cheese and toothpicks.

Some tapas parties are more special than others.  The available time put into the assembly and presentation of the food decides how grand ours will be.  Other tapas parties happen because I can't think up an interesting lunch and so I bring a variety of random ingredients together, cut, cube, slice, and present as a "tapas party".

Sample foods served for an impromptu "quick" tapas party:

  • cubed cheese
  • rolled deli meat with a tooth pick
  • cut up homemade or store bought Larabars into cubes with a tooth pick
  • sliced fruit
  • dried fruit + nut cups

Have you ever created a tapas party for your kids?  What do you like to serve up for finger foods?

Looking for other low carb/paleo snacks for kids?  Check out these:

low carb/paleo kids: 3-seed coconut berry energy bites (nut free, grain free, dairy free)

low carb/paleo kids: pb & banana sandwiches

low carb/paleo kids: strawberry banana yogurt & chocolate yogurt

low carb/paleo kids: creating a yogurt bar and more

low carb/paleo kids: vegetable dip & sticks in a cup

low carb/paleo kids

 

this week's menu

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Good morning friends.

How is it that April is already moving so speedily along?  There is so much to plan and anticipate, so much to take off my plate, and other tasks to put on it.  It's the twins birthday month which, in the past, has meant sewing and planning for celebrations.  This year we are simply planning a special family activity for each birthday without a gathering.  And I'm pretty excited about that.  New memories and new adventures await the birthday girls.

I do already know that at least for my Annabelle, jelly beans will be making an appearance on her birthday cake.  I've known about this request for about 9 months.  And every breakfast I make that she likes is added to her list of "birthday breakfast" requests.

And with food in mind (which is always on my mind these days) here is this week's menu:

Tuesday:

Breakfast- Sauteed veggie, cheese, and sausage omelets

Lunch- Grilled ham + cheese sandwiches (on Paleo Sandwich Bread), yogurt bar, bananas + cantaloupe

Dinner- Homemade pizza night (try a new grain-free crust) + Pesto Avocado Salad (w/o chickpeas)

 

Wednesday:

Breakfast-  cocoa peanut butter cereal

Lunch- packed lunch on our hike: our coconut larabars, apples, cheese sticks, beef jerky, celery + peanut butter

Dinner- "Rice" bowls: crockpot pork carnitas, avocado, fresh tomato, and sour cream topped cauliflower "rice" + creamy avocado ranch salad

 

Thursday:

Breakfast- Chocolate banana smoothies on-the-go (vanilla protein powder, cocoa powder, bananas, ice, vanilla extract, pinch of cinnamon and salt)

Lunch- Help Bobby at his food show

Dinner- Grilled Rueben sandwiches (deli corned beef, swiss cheese, sauerkraut, homemade thousand island dressing) on remaining bread, sliced pickle, + Crispy Baked Parmesan Green Bean Fries

 

Friday:

Breakfast- Scrambled eggs (made by Caroline) + bacon

Lunch- At Grandma's

Dinner- Date night for Thai/Indian food? (Fish sticks, homemade tartar sauce + buttered broccoli for the kiddos)

 

Saturday:

Breakfast- Peanut Flour Pancakes topped with whipped cream, maple syrup, and chopped peanuts +bacon

Lunch- Leftovers

Dinner- Chicken Zoodle Soup + buttered (Paleo sandwich) bread + Mozzarella, Tomato, Avocado Salad

 

Sunday:

Breakfast- Strawberry Almond chia seed pudding

Lunch- Tuna salad + pear, apple, cantaloupe, banana fruit salad, cubed cheddar cheese

Dinner- At the Shiffler's

 

Baking Prep:

  • 2 loaves of Paleo Sandwich bread
  • Coconut Larabars
  • Cocoa Peanut Butter Cereal (doubled)

 

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 (Clementine creamsicle smoothies: juiced clementines, banana for sweetness, splash of milk, splash of cream, vanilla extract, pinch of salt and ice.  Blend and serve.} 

 the sleepy time gal

breakfast cookies and this week's menu

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Good morning.  Here's the new week's three-meals-a-day meal plan for our week.  Hope it gives you a starting point and inspiration for your weekly menu.

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Monday:

Breakfast: oranges and cream smoothie

Lunch: egg salad, veggie tray + dip (baby carrots, baby cucumbers), cubed cheese

Dinner: chicken fajitas: avocado, peppers, and all the fix-ins, homemade creamy tomatillo dressing + salad, and homemade tortillas 

 

Tuesday:

Breakfast: breakfast cookies (my modified version, see below)

Lunch: ham + muenster broiled roll-up skewers, peanut muffins, yogurt + orange slices

Dinner: cheese soufflé (mom's recipe), sweet potatoes and cinnamon butter, broccoli

 

Wednesday:

Breakfast: scrambled eggs + bacon

Lunch: tomato-basil parmesan soupgrain-free white rolls, fruit salad

Dinner: spaghetti squash carbonara, roasted asparagus, grain-free white rolls

 

Thursday:

Breakfast:  grain-free dutch babies (with [amazon_link id="B004X73DAU" target="_blank" ]powdered Swerve[/amazon_link] and fruit)

Lunch: kids at Grandma's

Dinner: leftovers (Relief Society birthday dinner at church for me and Caroline)

 

Friday:

Breakfast: "no-oat" oatmeal (recipe from [amazon_link id="031623480X" target="_blank" ]Grain Brain[/amazon_link])

Lunch: ham and cheese quesadilla (with leftover homemade tortillas from the fridge), apples, pecan brittle (recipe to come)

Dinner: Bobby cooks!

 

Saturday:

Breakfast:  grab-and-go (leftover freezer) peanut muffins + with milk, banana

Lunch:  pack a lunch for D.C.

Dinner:  dinner in D.C. with family

 

Sunday:

Breakfast: yogurt parfaits

Lunch: turkey and cream cheese pinwheels, sides

Dinner: dinner at Tracy's (bring a side)

 

(In case you're wondering, I usually eat a different lunch from the kids.  Anywhere from a loaded salad, to a "lettuce" meat and cheese sandwich, to leftovers, loaded protein shake, or breakfast for lunch since I intermittent fast.)

 

Week's "baking prep" items:

Pecan brittle

Breakfast cookies*

Rolls (make day of)*

Peanut muffins

Tortillas (to freeze)*

Frozen strawberry treat (for company coming over)*

 

*Make day of

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If you're interested in making breakfast cookies, they're great to grab and go, freeze, and for something fun for breakfast.  I modified the breakfast cookie recipe by using 1/3 cup applesauce, dried blueberries and cherries instead of currants, and topping each cookie with chopped peanuts before baking.  Try it out!

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What's on your menu this week?  Do share!

the sleepy time gal

prep day

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I was thrilled with yesterday's response to our weekly meal menu.   I thought you'd like to see how I do it.  Yes, there is the regular meal prep before a meal but every week there's the little list of snacks and the likes to be made for that upcoming week.

As you saw yesterday on our menu for the week there were a few things to bake.  I like having a set, untouched portion of one day each week for our family's "baking prep".  Monday morning works great because we're all needing a slower morning after the weekend.  So after I've put together my week's full menu Sunday night I simply plug in what needs to be baked/made for Monday morning's "baking prep" on my calendar.  Each week the list is different which keeps life with kids and snacking exciting and always changing.

Yesterday's "baking prep" morning:

I try to make some sort of homemade grain-free cereal for the girls each week.  Yes, it takes more time than 99% of the snacks we make (those actually rarely require baking) but they love the cereal, love the process, and feel loved when I make it for them.  I've learned that the more I make the same recipe, the easier and faster I can make it which means this somewhat weekly ritual of homemade cereal becomes second nature.  (Seriously friends, its a handful of stuff processed into a flour consistency for a few seconds then rolled out onto parchment paper, scored, and baked.)

And we're always trying different "nut clusters" for snacks in our week.  (Or energy bites.)  Some recipes we make up, other times we try a new recipe I've pinned.  These chocolate dipped nut bites turned out awesome, especially with a little dipping of some[amazon_link id="B004N5FR1U" target="_blank" ]bittersweet (70%) chocolate[/amazon_link].  We switched up the nut ratio a bit to my kids' liking (added pecans and cashews, reduced the pumpkin seeds) and filled little paper liners for easy grabbing (and late night snacking...ahem.)

So here are my rules for "baking prep" day:

  1. I try to follow a recipe more closely than usual the first time I make it.
  2. Once I've made a recipe and like it, always double, triple, or quadruple the recipe.  Make the recipe worth my efforts in the kitchen, especially for a large family.  Refrigerate, individually wrap, or freeze extra batches for additional snacks, desserts, grab-and-go, pre/post workout snacks, etc.
  3. I have the kids help in the kitchen especially for those cross-your-fingers-and-hope-they-like-it recipes.  My kids are 80% more likely to enjoy a new experimental snack if they help, watch the process, see the ingredients, and help make the decisions along the way.
  4. I streamline my baking by making a huge mess and using up all of the measuring cups and bowls at one baking session.  Then I do all of the handwashing, loading the dishwasher, and cleaning counters.  (Unless it's something that can cross contaminate, etc.  You already know that.)

 

Do you have a set time when you prep meals/snacks for your week? 

If you're looking for ideas to fill your weekly menu check out my Pinterest food board Good Eats: Low Carb/Paleo.  It is overflowing with entree ideas, salads, desserts (grain-free, fruit based, dairy based, and so on), bars, smoothies, shakes, baked goods, and so forth.  I'm pretty proud of it because I'm super selective about what I pin (based on ingredients, carbs, ease, etc.) since I use it everyday for my family.  That one board is actually growing a ton with almost 100-200 new followers a day!  Check it out--I think you'll be inspired in your eating! 

 

the sleepy time gal

 

choosing healthy sweeteners

IMG_6495.jpg

IMG_6495

One of the most frequently asked questions I've received over the past few months is which sweeteners to use.  The topic was so overwhelming and confusing to me a year ago.  Now I feel fully confident with our new way of sweetening that lets us still enjoy "sweet" while being totally aware of how that sweet is affecting or not affecting our health. I hope I can clear up some of your questions and that you'll confidently go bake something after this post!

 All sweeteners sweeten, yes, but there are definitely some that are hurting you while others aren't.  This is a good place to begin.

Why are some sweeteners better for you than others?

It has to do with how much they raise your blood sugar (glycemic index).  The bottom line is this: the more your blood sugar is elevated, the more insulin your body produces.  This is bad.  Very bad.

 Why elevated insulin is hurting you:

  1. Makes you fat (The more insulin in your bloodstream, as a result of eating sugar, the less likely your body is to burn fat.)
  2. Leads to major health issues like diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, stroke, alzheimers, depression, and ADHD to name some.
  3. Keeps you addicted to sugar (If your body is accustomed to burning sugar (glucose), then it constantly needs more sugar to burn so that you have energy.  Sucrose (table sugar) and HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) are bad for you because they cause your blood sugar to rise dramatically.)
  4. You're never satisfied (the more sugar you consume, the more hungry you'll be soon after eating.  It's a vicious cycle.)

Ok.  So which sweeteners raises your insulin the most (have a higher glycemic index rating) to avoid or minimize?

GLYCEMIC-INDEX-NATURAL-SWEETENERS

In our home, we've gone through many sweetener transitions in the past year.  There was the replacing all white sugar with coconut sugar phase.  Great.  Then experimenting with dates and bananas (processed through a food processor) to sweeten.  Awesome.  Then introducing our family to natural sugar free sweeteners like stevia, ZSweet, and erythritol.  Even better.

Currently, I use dates, fruits, and small amounts of honey/maple syrup in recipes for the kids along with natural sugar free sweeteners as well.  (See list below.) It all depends on the recipe.  If Bobby and I plan to eat what I bake (pancakes, cocoa, cookies) then I primarily only use one of our natural sugar free sweeteners.  These are by far the best options for weight loss and overall health since sweeter fruits (ripe bananas and apples) and honey are still high in carbs and raise your insulin.  As a mom, I definitely still use these specifically with the kids but berries are best overall.

 

Why natural sugar free sweeteners are the best sweetening option:

  1. I can still bake, enjoy chocolate whipped cream, cocoa, cookies, and any other sweet treat.  I don't have to go through life never having another cookie.
  2. I don't have to worry about it raising my insulin.  That's pretty incredible when you begin to look at carbs and want to keep them under control to stay lean, healthy, have a clear mind, and high functioning body.
  3. Natural sugar free sweeteners are, well, totally natural.  These aren't the "artificial sugar free" sweeteners that can hurt your body.  Yes, there are many names of sweeteners out there but do your research to know which stem from either stevia, erythritol or xylitol.   These are natural.
  4. I definitely enjoy sweetened things but don't feel addicted.  I'm not addicted anymore.  This is the first time in my life I feel like I have control over "sweet things".  

 

 

Here are some of the best natural sugar-free (0 glycemic index rating) sweeteners we've tried:

  • [amazon_link id="B000E8WIAS" target="_blank" ]Stevia[/amazon_link] (It is an herbal, liquid sweetener that comes in a dropper. Truvia is stevia with an artificial ingredient that makes it granulated.)
  • [amazon_link id="B00F56BOB8" target="_blank" ]Erythritol [/amazon_link](A natural plant-derived sweetener that tastes like sugar but has a zero glycemic index--it doesn't raise your insulin)
  • *[amazon_link id="B0046IISFG" target="_blank" ]ZSweet[/amazon_link] (It is erythritol with a little stevia.)
  • [amazon_link id="B004X71550" target="_blank" ]Swerve[/amazon_link] (It is also erythritol with a little stevia.  They also offer [amazon_link id="B004X73DAU" target="_blank" ]powdered Swerve[/amazon_link] which I'd like to try dusting on our breakfast Dutch Babies.)
  • [amazon_link id="B00EJXPB3U" target="_blank" ]Xylitol[/amazon_link] (A natural sweetener made from American birch trees)

 

*Our favorite, least expensive, and most like table sugar in taste sugar free sweetener.  All of these sweeteners can be pricey.  We buy them through Amazon's subscribe and save because you get an even better discount when ordering regularly.  The way I look at it is when we use a TBSP of sweetener here or 1/4 cup there, we are doing something substantially better for our family's health.  When I think back to the huge container of cheap white sugar that sat on my counter for all those years, I've been paying, health-wise and weight-wise, for that "cheap" sweetener through my health.  The switch has been incredible.  

Read more about erythritol here and why it is considered superior to the others.

 IMG_6510

How I choose a recipe (in terms of sweeteners):

  1. I naturally gravitate to recipes that call for a "natural sugar free sweetener".   If you search online or on Pinterest for any treat (say chocolate chip cookies, lemon tart, berry smoothie) and then add "low carb" on your search you'll find some wonderful recipes that won't raise your insulin. There are some amazing recipes out there that will not leave you missing white sugar.  I guarantee it.
  2. If a recipe does calls for honey or maple syrup instead, I want it to be a small amount.  (That is one of my pet peeves with the Paleo diet.  Many recipes in my Paleo cookbooks call for 1 cup of honey here or 1 cup of maple syrup there.  That's a ton of sweetener and still really raises your insulin although it may be natural.)  Energy bites and nut clusters are great examples of recipes that may only call for a little honey to help with binding and adding a little sweetness as well.
  3. If I really like the rest of the ingredients in a recipe but it doesn't call for a sugar free sweetener, I decide if adding one of my natural sugar free sweeteners would affect the consistency.
  4. I experiment.  A lot.  With some of my sweeteners, like erythritol (which is 70% as sweet as sugar), I'll add a little sweetener, taste it, and decide if I like the sweetness.  My family is accustom to less sweeter things (I used to half the sugar when I baked with white sugar) so they are still happy with a baked good that is just sweet, not super sweet.

Since the natural sugar free sweeteners are pricey, I've naturally learned to ignore the quantity of sweetener in many recipes.  I may look at it as a guide but try putting in less and taste testing.  I actually bake like this all the time now and sweeten more intuitively.  Plus it means I use my precious sugar free sweeteners sparingly.

IMG_6499

{This "snack" cheesecake recipe I've been working on is almost ready to share!  I think you'll love it, the ingredients, and that it can be enjoyed as a snack, not just for dessert.  Recipe to come.}

Ready to get baking??

  1. Start experimenting with a lower glycemic sweetener.  Maybe that will be going from using all white sugar to trying recipes that use apple sauce or dates.
  2. Decide what your end goal is: Not having a sugar hangover? Losing weight?  Cutting the addiction? Improving your total health??  Use your goal as motivation to make small changes in your diet in terms of sweeteners.  (I lost the most consistent weight last year when I severely restricted most sweeteners and made my own exciting indulgences with my sugar free sweeteners.  It was a win win situation.)
  3. Be patient with yourself.  You can make changes for you and your family a little at a time if needed.  The effort will pay off.  You will  notice it in your health and your children's health.  The sugar rush won't be there.

For sweet treats, I mostly follow low carb food blogs vs. Paleo food blogs because I can count on the low carb blogs using very low or 0 glycemic sweeteners.

Favorite Food Blogs for sweet treats:

I Breathe I'm Hungry

All Day I Dream About Food

 

And yes, every once in a while Bobby and I might have a traditional sugary milkshake for a date night or something.  It tastes good in the moment, yes.  But honestly, the rare times I do eat white sugar I usually regret it.  My body isn't used to so much sweet anymore and so Bobby and I usually get an intense head ache or I feel nauseous.  On the contrary, we do enjoy a few squares of dark (85% or more) chocolate at night.  It's interesting, there is so little sugar in the really dark chocolate bars that I'm totally satisfied after a few squares.  (We buy [amazon_link id="B000EUF9CK" target="_blank" ]these bars[/amazon_link] also from Amazon's subscribe and save.  These are cheapest by far then anywhere else.)  I've learned to keep a few dark chocolates in my purse so if I'm in public or at a party and my only options are sickening sweet treats, I'll be prepared.

 

I'd love to hear your questions and hope this was helpful.  I'm off to make myself some morning cocoa.

 

the sleepy time gal

 

ultimate roast beef "lettuce sandwich"

ultimate roast beef sandwich (bunless)
ultimate roast beef sandwich (bunless)

One of Bobby and my favorites lunches are what we call "lettuce sandwiches."  It's not rocket science but pretty dang tasty.  I remark to Bobby all the time how much I don't miss the bread.  A regular bread sandwich fills your mouth with lots of bread and very little filling.  Our lettuce sandwiches are loads of flavor wrapped in crispness.

ultimate roast beef sandwich (bunless)
ultimate roast beef sandwich (bunless)

the ultimate roast beef "lettuce sandwich" (bunless)

Ingredients per roast beef lettuce sandwich:

2 romaine heart (Check out baby romaine hearts too--we prefer those over regular romaine hearts because they are less long carriers.  Both work well though.)

2 slices good quality deli roast beef

1 slice Swiss cheese

2 slices Claussen sandwich pickles

2 tsp mayonaise

1/2 tsp dijon mustard

1 TBSP chives

salt and pepper to taste

Spread mayo and mustard onto 1 romaine leaf.  Sprinkle chives.  Layer sliced cheese (halved to fit the length of the leaf) and roast beef.  Now for the surprisingly incredible-flavor ingredient: pickles.  Layer them lengthwise as well.  Season with salt and pepper.  Top your sandwich with the remaining romaine leaf.

Slice in half and enjoy.  I like to eat two of these.

Nutrition per sandwich:

Calories: 204

Carbs: 2

Fat: 14 g

Protein: 14 g

Compared to the same sandwich with 2 slices of Pepperidge Farm 100% whole wheat bread:

Calories: 404

Carbs: 34

Fat: 17 g

Protein:  24 g

This sandwich works as well without the top romaine leaf.  Two leaves do add twice the crunch and makes it easier to hold and insert into mouth.

ultimate roast beef sandwich (bunless)
ultimate roast beef sandwich (bunless)

Happy crunching and lunching.

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:2]

 

pb & banana sandwiches

low carb/paleo kids: banana sandwiches
low carb/paleo kids: banana sandwiches

{Low carb/paleo kids is an on-going series of grain-free, low sugar/carbohydrate snacks.}

A few years ago I could definitely say that we had a sandwich every single day for lunch.  It was usually deli meat and cheese, tuna or egg salad, but occasionally it was PB & J.  Now we eat a variety of lunches that taste like those lunches of the past, just usually without the "carrier".  But what about peanut butter and jelly??  How do you pull that one off without the bread?

Our pb & banana sandwiches did the trick.  They are bite size little morsels that remind me of the fun of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with half of the sugar/carbs of a traditional bread sandwich.  (See numbers below.)

low carb/paleo kids: banana sandwiches
low carb/paleo kids: banana sandwiches

These banana sandwich snacks or lunch sides take only a few minutes to assemble.  And yes, they are documented in my family food log under the "easy to assemble" category because there is so baking, cooking, or prepping.  So easy.  

pb & banana sandwiches

Makes 8-10 banana sandwiches per banana

1-2 ripe but firm bananas

1/4 cup your favorite nut butter (we use peanut butter or almond butter)

small offset spatula

low carb/paleo kids: banana sandwiches
low carb/paleo kids: banana sandwiches

Slice bananas into 1/4-1/2 inch slices.

Using your offset spatula, spread about  1/2-3/4 of a tsp of nut butter onto one banana round.

low carb/paleo kids: banana sandwiches
low carb/paleo kids: banana sandwiches

Top the round with another banana round.

Fill a tray with your banana sandwiches or kids' plates with a few.

low carb/paleo kids: banana sandwiches
low carb/paleo kids: banana sandwiches

Presentation:

  • Stack these banana sandwiches on a small cake pedestal for a fun snack and serve with mini tongs for your kids to serve themselves.
  • Dust the banana sandwiches with shredded coconut before serving.

Variations of banana sandwiches:

  • Add cream cheese onto one round of banana to make cream cheese & pb & banana sandwich
  • Add a bit of fruit preserves to one round to make a pb & jelly banana sandwich
  • Switch out the nut butter with just cream cheese (softened) for cream cheese banana sandwiches
  • For dessert, let the kids help you layer nut butter, shredded coconut, dark chocolate shavings, then top with a banana round.

Banana sandwiches on-the-go:

  • Toss extra banana sandwiches that you don't eat into a freezer bag to freeze.  You can then pull them out, as needed, for a quick, chilled snack on-the-go.
  • Keep an extra batch of banana sandwiches frozen for a go-to, bite-size cool summer snack or pack them up to take to the pool.  They will begin to defrost and be ready to eat within an hour.
low carb/paleo kids: banana sandwiches
low carb/paleo kids: banana sandwiches

These really are a great grain-free, high energy (natural sugar carbs in the banana) and high protein (nut butter) snack for pre-sport/activities or post-sport/activities for your kids.   A few of these banana sandwiches will fill them up and give them energy (or replenish energy) much better than their sugary, grain counterpart:

Let's compare:

1/2 banana: 12 net carbs

1 piece of bread: roughly 35 net carbs!

(Yes, if you are an adult watching your carbs then bananas are up there, in terms of fruits.  But for children, they are a much better alternative to that PB and J on toast.  Remember, one slice of white bread raises your blood sugar more than a Snicker's bar!)

low carb/paleo kids: banana sandwiches
low carb/paleo kids: banana sandwiches