Wednesday, January 30, 2013

And Yet More Talk of Pancakes

I never tire of pancakes. There are so many ways one can make them, and some days I like to give the kids a few different choices simply by sprinkling different toppings on my traditonal blender pancakes after I do the first flip.

For a recent breakfast, I made a few plain pancakes, then sprinkled the next batch with cinnamon and sugar, and called them cinnamon toast pancakes, and ended by sprinkling my seed mix on the remaining batch. I call these birdseed pancakes....


My mixture is made of equal parts chia, flax and sesame seeds, which I mixed in a jar. For easy sprinkling, I stabbed holes in the lid with a pair of kitchen scissors...


My all-time favorite pancakes, thus far in my existence, are the birdseed blender pancakes. I try to limit myself to 2 pancakes, 2 teaspoons of butter, and 1 tablespoon of syrup, which adds up to about 340 calories. For the complete nutrition data, go HERE.


So have fun with your pancakes! Add struessel, sprinkles, pecans, thinly sliced apples, or anything else that might come to mind. Leave your ideas in the comment section, and as always, thanks for listening! :)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

10 Ways I Avoid Deliciously Tempting Unhealthy Foods


One of the things I love about being the mom of a large family is that our home is always full of visitors and friends. And my kids' friends know there is always going to be something good to eat on the stove or the island. One of my favorite compliments ever, granted by one of my daughter's friends, was, "Mom (what he calls me), your house always smells good.

I admit it. Even though I am trying to subsist on a "clean" diet, I love to bake, and most of the time I try to sneak in things like zucchini, spinach or black beans. But sometimes I love to bake things that don't have one single healthy ingredient in them, except for maybe dark cocoa powder. And this is wherein my weakness lies; in snacking on dough balls, or spoonfulls of brownie batter, in testing my creations when they are hot out of the oven, in taking a little cutting of cake, pie or brownies every time I walk by the island. And since I started diligently counting and logging my daily calorie intake, I've realized that these little endevours, though small, add up, and can actually double my daily caloric allowance if I'm not careful. No wonder I've been at a plateau for so long!

So here are ten things I do to avoid reaching for my delicious baked goods or other unhealthy foods that may have made their way into my home.

1. Exercise: This is the single most important motivational change I have made when it comes to eating healthy. If I get up at 5:10 in the morning, drive in the frigid temperatures to our school gym, then sweat and pant for 45 minutes, I had better be getting something out of it. And I do... I can feel it all start to harden and tone.... underneath this layer of fat. I want my hard work to show! So whenever I think about eating something unhealthy, I think of how unsupportive of my fitness goals it will be.

2. Drink Water: Sometimes the body's hunger and thirst signals can become confused, and thinking you are hungry can really just mean you are thirsty. If I feel the urge to start snacking on those chocolate chip cookies, I first go drink a big glass of water.

3. Put the unhealthy food away: As I mentioned before, my kids' friends know that there is usually going to be something delicious out on the counter, but I've learned that this tempts me beyond that which I can bear. So after everyone has had their fill, I wrap things up in foil or plastic, and put it up high in the pantry or behind something. Since my memory is so far gone, I actually forget it's there, until someone asks for it. Then I tell them that I hid it from myself. They say, "Mom, how can you hide something from yourself?" I tell them when you have a memory problem like I do, it's easy. Even if you do remember where they are, which most of you will, it will be a lot of trouble to get to them, and you'll have time to talk yourself out of it.

4. Make Salads in Jars: I elluded to this in one of my posts last week, and I'll ellaborate a little bit here. I've taken to making 6 salads in jars at a time (the black bean variety shown above), which last me about 3 days. Just put the wettest stuff on the buttom and layer everything else in like manner. This is so handy, because when you feel like taking your brownies out of the hiding place you suddenly remembered, you can tell yourself, "Okay, if I eat this entire jar of salad, I can have one small brownie". But usually, by the time you eat the salad, you feel so full and also filled with pride for eating right, that you don't even wan't the brownie.

5. Reach for something healthy instead: Similar to the previous tip, if I'm really wanting something unhealthy, I often say, again, "Okay, if I eat half a pound of raw vegetables right now, I can have a small amount of the other." Again, by the time I'm done, I am no long in a a physical or emotional position to crave that unhealthy food. However, if I do end up eating it, it's only a small piece.

6. Try essential oils: Taking certain essentials oils can decrease your appetite or leave a taste in your mouth not conducive to snacking. My favorite oil to use, right before I start cooking or baking, to avoid piecing as I go, is DoTerra's "Slim and Sassy". It's a blend which includes citrus oils, peppermint, cinnamon and ginger, which leaves a minty, cinnamonny, refreshing taste in your mouth that doesn't go well with tortilla chips and cheese sauce. If you'd like more info on DoTerra oils, you can go to my consultant site HERE.

7. Keep something in your mouth: Another way I avoid picking and piecing as I'm cooking is to suck on a cough drop or starlight mint type of candy. This also makes snacking, especially on savory foods, unappetizing.

8. Watch a youtube video: Go run and watch a youtube video about how to make a delcious healthy recipe, or learn about clean diets, or watch inspiring weight-loss videos. Today I watched one on how to make chia pudding, and I made it this very evening! I'll post the recipe here soon.

9. Call a friend: Or in my case, a sister. If I'm having a bad day as far as sticking to my diet, a call to my sister always does the trick. She's a genius, you know, and always has an idea to help me solve my problem, whatever it may be. Your friend doesn't have to be a genius, just someone who is supportive of your goals and encourages you to make healthy choices.

10. Pray: Every morning I thank God that He gave me the will to get up at 5:10 and go exercise, and I ask Him to help me make good food choices for the rest of the day. He wants us to be healthy and to feel good, and with His help, we can do hard things, like getting into shape.

Speaking of which, in closing, let me just share a quote I read a few weeks ago that really struck me...

Losing weight is hard.
Being overweight is hard.
Pick your hard.

As an entertaining anecdote, the 12-year-old boy's response? "Just don't gain weight and you're good." Truer words were never spoken. So, best of luck with your fitness goals this week, and thanks for listening! :)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

More Twin Talk


The last time I did a post on twin talk, they were only speaking in short phrases. Now they speak in complete sentences, but are still similarly difficult to understand. What is fascinating to me, however, is that Baby Hippo, who grew up learning both regular human English and Twin Talk, has become a convenient translator. He's bilingual. For instance, the other day in the kitchen, Twin B said this to me: "Mom, tan you tut dis in too-aires?" I asked him to say it to me over and over again, but I just couldn't get it. Baby Hippo was sitting right next to him, so I said, "Baby Hippo, what does Twin B want?" And he said, "He said he wants you to cut it in stu-aires! Oh, I can't say it ee-doh!" But as he said the word "stu-aires", he made the shape of a square with his fingers, thus communicating with me that Twin B wanted his sandwich cut into squares.

Here are just a few more phrases you might need to learn if you ever come to visit.....

1. Tan we payla peelah? Can we play the computer?

2. Tan we pay wit pah-lay dough? Can we play with play dough?

3. Ih Daddy doe-ing to da toe? Is Daddy going to the store?

4. Tan we det some upteem? Can we get some ice cream?

5. Tan we wats deSPITaboh me? Can we watch Despicable Me?

6. Dat's a Chinchmitch tee! That's a Christmas tree!

7. Dear Hebney fah-der, Tane dee Daddy doe tah wort. Dear Heavenly Father, we're thankful Daddy goes to work.

8. I'm feeling a li-loh bit tit. I'm feeling a little bit sick.

9. Luwt I tuh-low! Look what I colored!

10. Mom, dis is weally duwt. Mom, this is really good. 

11. Mom, he not lelling me pah-lay wit him! Mom, he's not letting me play with him!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Potato and Corn Chowder


This is just an easy, hearty soup that even the teen-age carnivore boy loved. And instead of dicing the potatoes, I just scalloped them in the food processor really quick, and in order to better disguise the celery and onions, I grated them in the food processor. Also, I completely forgot to add the corn, which, for the amount I made, was about a gallon... of corn. Rather strange that that happened. That is why the photo of the soup lacks color and character. Some kids were glad, some were sad, but no problem, I just added it later. Oh, and of course, I didn't add the bacon. Had the teenage boy but known that it was supposed to have bacon, but didn't, he would have hung his head low. Better to leave some things unsaid.

And from now on, unless I completely change up a recipe, I'm just going to give you the link. It's just as easy for you to click as to scroll right? Okay, good. So HERE is the link. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Black Bean Boyfriend Brownies


This recipe is a modification of the original "Boyfriend Brownies" at, my all-time favorite recipe site. For some reason I was really attracted to the name. It's just cute. Turns out that the author's brother's girlfriend used to make these for him, or something like that. Thus the name.

When I posted this recipe to facebook, the first question that was asked was, "Why add black beans?" Well. Let me tell you why. Black beans benefit the digestive tract, help regulate blood sugar, improve cardiovascular health, decrease cancer risk, improve nervous system health, and are rich in molybdenum, a detoxifier, and a potential reducer of impotence in older men. To read the details of all these benefits, you can go HERE if you want.

There are TONS of black bean brownie recipes out there, and I think my mother and I have tried them all. None to our satisfaction. Most of the time the kids wouldn't even eat them... sometimes not even the dog..... Wait, no. We didn't feed our dogs brownies. Dogs can die of chocolate. Anyway, these black bean brownie recipes were also health recipes, with no sugar, or flour, or butter usually. So that's why they were nasty, obviously.

What I wanted to create was a black bean brownie recipe that my kids would love, and not realize that they were ingesting black beans. So no, this is not a health-food brownie, but it's a healthier brownie than it would have been otherwise. Why not have your kids eat a tablespoon of black beans every time they snack on one of your brownies?

So what I did was take my favorite brownie recipe in the world, cut some of the flour, and add a cup of pureed black beans. The problem with my original attempt was that the only black beans I had were the ones I had made for dinner the night before, which I had seasoned with onions, bell peppers, salt and pepper. I really didn't think it would make a huge difference though. It turned out that anyone who didn't know they were eating the previous night's bean soup couldn't detect anything wrong, but the ever-discerning taste-buds of the 17-year-old girl claimed to have sensed a slight onion taste in the brownies. I think she was just being a little bit delusional and dramatic. But who cares anyway. The other 7 kids liked them, so that's all that matters.

Here's the recipe. Enjoy!


½cups all-purpose flour
½teaspoon baking soda
½teaspoon salt
¾cups white sugar
2T water
cup butter
1cup semisweet chocolate
2teaspoons vanilla extract
1cup pureed black beans
1cup semisweet chocolate
½cup coarsely chopped walnuts


1. Preheat an oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl; set aside. Grease and flour a 9×9-inch baking dish.
2. Combine the sugar, water, and butter in a saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in one bag of chocolate chips and the vanilla extract until the chocolate has melted. Pour the mixture into a mixing bowl, add black beans, and beat in the eggs one at a time until smooth. Fold in the flour mixture until incorporated, then fold in the remaining bag of chocolate chips along with the walnuts. Pour into prepared pan.
3. Bake in the preheated oven until the top is dry and the edges have started to pull away from the sides of the pan and knife inserted into center comes out with a small amount of bownie on it, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into squares to serve.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Being Vegan: Questions answered in pictures

I adopted the vegan lifestyle for about 6 months back in 2009. I lost 12 pounds within those few months and the improvement in my health was able to be measured medically through blood testing. You can see the before and after comparisons HERE.


(Me, a few months ago, just because there were too many words without pictures) 

That being said, once I became pregnant with Baby Hippo, I started to seriously crave McDonald's hamburgers in my first trimester. Some said that that was proof that my body wasn't getting what it needed. I say that it was my body going back to what it had known through the previous eight pregnancies to combat nausea.... hamburgers, french fries, and sickly sweet vanilla shakes. Those are some of the foods I used to ease my morning sickness when I was 18 and pregnant for the first time, and since then, when I get morning sickness, those are my go-to foods. But do you really think that was what my body needed? I think not.

After I delivered Baby Hippo, I immediately went back to a vegetarian diet, which is different from a vegan diet in that I added eggs and diary. The change was that I again removed meat from my diet.

Currently I'm mostly vegetarian. If I go out to eat, and nothing looks good on the vegetarian menu, I'll order some seafood, or if someone brings our family a meal which includes meat, or, if I attend a party, I'll eat some meat, but in my home, I still don't purchase or prepare meat. If the older kids want it, they can ask John to buy it and cook it themselves.

During my vegan months, I was inundated with questions and concerns about the vegan diet. Some wondered where I would get my protein, calcium, and iron, even though they themselves never pulled open a produce drawer, drank 6 sodas a day, and never stepped foot outside to exercise. I wasn't sure why my health had become such a concern to them all of a sudden. Even so, I armed myself with enough information to answer people's questions, that is if they weren't interrupting me, and hopefully I eased their minds as to the status of my health. Although I'm not vegan anymore, I still think it's a great way to live a long healthy life, and since my daughter, who introduced me to the vegan lifestyle, recently shared this very simple and informative graphic with me, one of the best I've seen, I'd like to share it with you.

Thanks for listening and enjoy.

Friday, January 11, 2013

My Cardio Station.... How I try to make it interesting....

I don't know why, but my family members thought this graphic was funny. I'm trying to be serious. And inspiring. Maybe they're making fun of me because I have asthma.


Anyway, here is my cardio station. Like most normal humans, I loathe doing cardio. They say to make it fun. Go hiking! Biking! Swimming in a lake! Skiing! That's all good and great for those, well, shall we say, unlike me. I've got a tight driving schedule to stick to with one to eight children at home at any given time during the day. So, for me, it's an indoor machine that supplies my cardio needs, and the one I use is an elliptical John bought for me about seven years ago. For the first 7 years I had it, I never used it. Okay, maybe once. So I gave it to my mother for her birthday a year after I got it. And she never used it. Okay, maybe once. Then, again, about a year ago, I told my mother I was taking it back, because she never used it. She said she was about to start. I didn't believe her and she admitted that she was lying.

So I took it home, and I used it THREE times! But I hated it! I was always so bored! The time seemed to creep by at a sloth's speed, so I gave up. Again.

However, with my new-found enthusiasm for getting into shape, I've come to realize that lifting weights, eating a healthy diet, AND doing cardio are all part of the program. So I moved my elliptical out into the living room, so I could use it while Baby Hippo is watching videos on the computer in the kitchen, and got set up.

So that you completely understand the photo, I'll explain. I have my kindle set up as my timer, my current issue of Shape open to a special elliptical workout that mixes things up a bit, thus reducing the boredom factor, my inhaler, in case asthma strikes, which it rarely does, but just in case, my poly-carbonate cup of water, which is ridiculous because I really should have a water bottle. I spill all over myself when I try to drink and elliptisize. But most important is my laptop. I watch youtube videos while I go, and this helps the time go a little faster than at a sloth's speed. And I mostly watch videos about fitness or healthy recipes, to help me remember why I'm doing this. It works. Really.

I really don't know why I shared this. My oldest daughter did tell me I'm an inspiration today and that she has gotten three of her friends to work out with her, which made me so happy. So, maybe someone out there reading this will get on their treadmill and start moving.

Thanks for listening! :)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Microwave Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins


Okay. Many of you asked about the photo with the blueberries in my last post. Some wanted the recipe, so here you go...

To give credit where credit is due, I found this recipe on the blogilates channel on youtube. It features the cutest girl named Cassie Ho, a very popular fitness guru. If you want to try some great workouts, go see her.

Anyway, I love this recipe, because it's easy, filling, nutritious, and warm, which I love, because it seems I can never get warm enough these days. Hope you enjoy!


¼cup oatmeal
¼teaspoon baking powder
Pinch salt
1T sweetener of your choice
¼cup blueberries


1. Lightly grease or spray a mug.
2. Combine oatmeal, egg, baking powder and salt in mug and stir.
3. Add blueberries, but it’s not necessary to stir them in.
4. Microwave for 1½ to 2 minutes.
5. Turn out onto a plate and serve.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Summary in Pictures of Our Holiday Season

Note.... I'm currently working on the picture-sizing problem. Hopefully I'll get it corrected soon. Thanks for coming! ;)

So.... probably another reason I haven't blogged is because I was swamped with Christmas activities during November and December. Try as I may to simplify, it never seems to happen during the holidays, especially for us musicians.

Anyway, here is a summary in pictures of our goings-on. Hope you enjoy. And guess what? I would love some feedback besides from random people from Slovenia trying to inform me in broken English about debt consolidation and penis enhancement. I'm only human :) Thanks for coming. :)

Let's start with a photo shoot I was asked to do of a beautiful and precious girl riding her adored horse. The four little ones got to tag along and had the time of their lives. Here she is...


And here is a friend of ours who happened to be in the arena practicing his roping who I couldn't resist shooting...


And here are the littles...


Next, we have a photo of the 10-year-old girl winning the regional 100-meter dash... fun times...


 Then there were all of the kids' school programs and dance recitals....


 There were visits to great-grandma, as depicted in this four-generation photo...

And bowling....

And 3D movies...

And then there was my first dog photo shoot. I couldn't resist my sister's little friend...


And of course, once Christmas rolled around, there were the downtown lights...

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(My cute brother and sister)

 ...trying new healthy recipes, which I'll blog about later, unless you want the recipes now, in which case just leave me a comment....
  a27921_10151223593809753_934703302_n1DSC_0034 making Christmas presents, like this copper and gem tree the 12-year-old boy made. He's selling these by the way. You can like or contact him HERE.... :)


 ...playing in the 6 hours of snow we received in the border town where my mother lives...

(Twin A simply watched all the fun through the pictures window in the warmth of my mother's den, which I thought was a smart idea) 

 ....snacking in our favorite spot in Grandma's living room...

....and of course, opening presents on Christmas morning...


But by far, the most rewarding moments of our Christmas vacation were those spent helping my mother stucco and paint her house. We were a team of mostly child-laborer novices, my sister with the Ph.D. using only google as our guide, but we did it, and I can't think of a better way to have spent the time between Christmas and New Years....


 Of course we needed a treat when we were finished...

Yes, saying goodbye to family is hard....

....but we treasure the memories that were created over this holiday season. Thanks so much for listening. :)