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Now that cold temps and snow have finally arrived, soups, stews, and chili call like sirens from the kitchen.  I’ve shared my turkey chili recipe before, and it’s one that we always enjoy. I typically make a double batch, freeze half for the future, and all’s well.  I came across a different recipe this week that looked delicious, and decided to try it.  My family was surprised when they heard what I was making, “Chicken chili?  Why chicken?”  Yet afterwards, we were all glad I tried something new.

Southwest Chicken Chili

Crockpot cooking offers a great opportunity for kids to help with meal preparation. Especially in a recipe as simple as this one, ingredients are measured, poured, and mixed. Kids can help with every step, and other than using a can opener, there’s nothing sharp or tricky involved.  As always, the beauty of slow cooking becomes evident when you return home from a busy day to find dinner waiting, without the mess of last minute prep.

Creamy Chicken Chili

The biggest difference between this recipe and the one I usually make (other than the chicken) was the addition of the ranch powder and cream cheese.  We make our own ranch powder and keep a jar of it in the refrigerator (using this great recipe), and it worked beautifully.  The only change I made to the chili was to use salsa in place of the diced tomatoes, and I omitted the chili powder as a result.  I used two frozen chicken breasts, and cooked it on low for eight hours.  We ate it with shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and some crumbled tortilla chips, and it was delicious.  Really, really good. I will most definitely make this again.

Share your favorite crockpot recipe with our readers, especially ones suitable for kids in the kitchen.  Keep warm! Snow’s on its way.

Diabetes is directly related to weight gain.

Milky Way, Mounds Bar and Snickers are my favorite comfort food

We see all the studies that report about the rise of diabetes in our communities. Kids and adults alike. According to the American Diabetes Association over 29 million children and adults have diabetes. I am one of them.

Several years ago, I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes.  Not the end of the world, but it did require attention. Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States.  In 2016, I experienced a year of good health and better blood results, but I wonder if I can continue on this path. The jury is still out.

Follow me on this journey and share your thoughts on what helps you lead a better, healthier life.

Sugar was my comfort food

As a child I always loved sugar. My mom would buy a six-pack of Milky Ways, Mounds Bars or Snickers for my brother and I to have as snacks. Within a day, or maybe two, all six of the chocolate bars would be gone.

“Did you eat them?” my mom asked. “Not me! Must have been my brother,” I insisted.  It was the same script week after week. I love most foods but especially cookies, candy, cake and ice cream. The more the better.

When I was in college, my diet consisted of the “wonderful” choices in the college dining hall: pasta and more pasta,  sandwiches and tuna casseroles. You get the picture.  (This was back in the 60s before food vendors were required to provide healthy options.) I attended SUNY at Albany which was in downtown Albany at the time. And they did not serve dinners on Sunday night. The kitchen staff were off, and we were on our own. With little money to spend my roommate and I would head over to Stewarts. They served ice cream sundaes with all you can eat toppings. Dinner ended up being 3 scoops of ice cream and heaps of hot fudge, marshmallow sauce and sprinkles.

But all this crazy eating style never daunted me. When I choose to wear a fitted dress or tight pants for an upcoming date, I would begin an exercise regimen . You’d be surprised how sit-ups and side bends tighten your waist as well as your stomach muscles…and in a short period of time.

Then I got married and at 24 and 27 I became pregnant. Who worried about anything other than getting through those nine months. I was sick most of the time and actually lost weight while continuing to satisfy my sugar cravings. After all, I was pregnant and felt I was entitled to give in to every food urge you could imagine.

Running gave me a false sense of security

Now I’m in my 30s and my kids are growing up. I became a running nut. Six days a week you could find me out on the roads.  That lasted about eight years, until my knees gave out. During those eight years I could eat anything and everything and still maintain a slim figure. That was a period of pure delight because I could give in to my sugar cravings and not feel the weight gain consequences.

Why the emphasis on weight? According to my endocrinologist, there is a direct correlation between weight and Type 2 Diabetes.

40 pounds later I am a diabetic

It is now 40 years later and I have permanently added 20 pounds, hence the diabetes. At the beginning of the year it was 40 pounds but I lost 30 pounds over the last 12 months.

You may wonder what I think the problem is.

The problem is simple. In five months I gained back 10 of the 30 pounds I lost. So the real question is, ‘what does it take for a Sugarholic to change her spots?’ After all, I could just take medication to “cure” the effects of diabetes. Or could I?

Follow me on this journey and let’s see where it leads.

If you’re frugal like I am, you’re always looking for ways to cut costs on household bills. We want to feed our families good, healthful meals, but organic food can be costly. Starting a garden is a great way to save money, but not everyone has the space. Fortunately, you can grow many vegetables indoors. Better yet, you can regrow them from organic veggies you already bought. Regrowing vegetables is incredibly easy and a wonderful project to undertake with your children.

In this video, I’ll show you some celery, scallions and romaine lettuce I’m regrowing. Here’s how:

  1. Slice off the vegetable base.
  2. Place the base in water in a transparent container where it will get sunlight. Don’t submerge it.
  3. Change the water at least every other day.
  4. After you see significant root growth in about 3-4 weeks, transfer to soil in a pot.

Good luck growing your indoor garden!

Somehow, we always end up with too many over-ripe bananas. In the summer, they’re easy to toss into smoothies, yet this time of year, they pile up. Eventually, I peel and store them in a Ziploc bag in the freezer, but who needs 100 bananas in the freezer?

I’m a recent Instagram convert (don’t ask what took me so long, but now I love it) and discovered the videos on there.  The time lapse videos, to be exact.  In one minute or less, you can learn how to glam up your eyeshadow, upcycle random household stuff into crafts, and cook.  I scrolled across a video that started with two bananas, and had to learn more. Forty-three seconds later, I was copying down the recipe and excited to try it out.

Banana Oat Muffins

Banana Oat Muffins

These muffins came together so quickly (my daughter did most of it herself) and we had fun deciding what toppings to try out.  We settled on blueberries, chocolate chips, and diced apple.  The recipe yielded 18 muffins rather than the dozen shown in the video, so we made six of each kind.  Since oats are used instead of flour, these muffins can easily be made gluten free by using gluten free oats.  With a short ingredient list and no need for even a butter knife, this recipe can be made entirely by kids.  Leftovers warmed up nicely in the toaster oven, making them perfect for a busy school morning.

Now that I’ve discovered the wonder that is time-lapse cooking, I’m excited to see what is out there.  It’s fascinating to watch new dishes come together right before your eyes, and copying down the ingredients as they flash across the screen offers a fun challenge.  What are your favorite video recipes?  Share with our readers, below.

My girls had a friend sleepover the other day, and they woke up hungry and wanting a breakfast that was “not cereal.”  Fortunately we’re on holiday break, so I could indulge their wishes and save cold cereal for a busy school morning.  I had some other tasks on the agenda, so I looked for something that would come together quickly.  I found potatoes that looked great and would go well with eggs and fruit, so I decided to give the recipe a try.

Breakfast Potatoes

Breakfast Potatoes

The most time consuming part of preparing this recipe was dicing the potatoes. They didn’t need to be peeled, which was awesome.  I always skip peeling unless absolutely necessary.  There are great nutrients in the skin, plus, who wants to peel potatoes?  I expected the recipe to call for browning in a frying pan, but they were able to go in the oven, which saved me the time of standing in front of the stove.  The recipe indicated that they may stick to the pan, and recommended lining the pan with parchment paper.  I think this was key to the success of the recipe, so I definitely recommend following this tip.  The only two changes I made  (of course) were to use fresh rosemary instead of parsley, and I browned them under twice under the broiler instead of once, stirring halfway through.

Breakfast with Potatoes

They were quickly gobbled, with many compliments about their crunchy outside, fluffy inside, and flavor. Definitely kid friendly.  They were simple enough to go with any kind of main dish.  The recipe has been pinned on my Pinterest Breakfast board, and will definitely have a recurring role in our repertoire. Share your favorite breakfast recipes with out readers, below.  Happy New  Year!

It’s no secret that I love a) my crockpot and b) soup.  Combine a + b and I’m one happy mama.  With the busy holiday season and cold days, coming home to a warm, healthy meal that was prepped in the morning is a gift in and of itself.  I was looking to make something different the other day, and had frozen chicken breasts and a bag of potatoes that I wanted to use.  I couldn’t think of anything offhand, so I did some Googling.  The search resulted in a plethora of options, so I read through them until I found one that looked good.  Hearty potatoes, chicken, carrots and celery, some turkey bacon to add flavor-depth… yum. Thanks to a well-stocked pantry, I was able to make a decent meal without a trip to the store.  This recipe also had a few steps that could easily be assisted by my kids, which is always a bonus.

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Healthy Slow Cooker Chicken Potato Soup

I followed the recipe almost exactly.  (Anyone who knows me just fell over in shock). There wasn’t anything I needed to omit or modify in order to make it gluten-free, which is awesome.  I used turkey bacon, which I had in the freezer but thawed really quickly by running the edge of the package under warm water in order to separate four slices. After these were crisped in a frying pan, I put the remaining ingredients into the crockpot.  I don’t always like crockpot recipes that require pre-cooking some ingredients as that kind of defeats the purpose, but for certain ingredients, like bacon, I get it. The chicken breasts were frozen (not shredded like shown in the recipe photo), but I knew that’d be fine since ultimately it would break up in the liquid.  Most soup recipes cook all day on low, so I was surprised to see this one call for cooking on high.  Since my crockpot is newer and cooks quickly, I was able to cook it for six hours rather than a whole day, and it was fully cooked.  My kids helped peel and slice the potatoes, carrots, and celery, so I count that as cooking with kids.

After about four hours of cooking on high,  I could tell the chicken breasts had softened up.  I gently shredded them with two meat forks, so that they would absorb the broth. After two more hours, the liquid was bubbly.  I tested the potatoes and carrots, which were fork-tender and ready to eat.  In order to give the soup some depth and creaminess, I ran the immersion blender through it just a little.  I made sure to break up the chunks of chicken and some of the vegetables, but left it very chunky. The soup was extremely hot due to being cooked on high, so it required scooping into bowls for a good cooling period before it was ready to serve.  The recipe photo showed shredded cheese on top, but it didn’t appear to need it, so I skipped it.  I could put cheese on most anything, so that says a lot about the flavor of the soup.  With the diced turkey bacon, it had a richness that seemed complete on its own.

This was a big hit.  My husband can be really picky about soup (he prefers dinner on a plate, not in a bowl) but the turkey bacon seemed to sway him into concluding that the soup was enough to be “dinner.”  My kids loved it, as it wasn’t too spicy and contained nothing that needed to be eaten around (like zucchini, whose presence always offends them when it’s in soup).  It made a wonderful amount- plenty for dinner with enough left over for another night.  That’s always a huge bonus, as another dinner that can just be heated and eaten makes me really happy.  I guess it doesn’t take much to win me over.

Overall, A+.  Easy to make without any fussy ingredients, unique soup (no beans or pasta, as so many tend to have), healthy, gluten-free without any substitutions, and one simple enough for the kids to help prep.  I’m looking forward to eating it again tonight.  My husband would like to add that “pork bacon would bring out a whole different flavor.” I don’t eat or cook with pork, though, so he’ll have to make it himself if he’d like to test that out. Share your favorite soup recipes with our readers below, or your feedback on this one. Happy (almost) Holidays!

Another busy time of year is here again.  That hectic time leading up to the holidays that can overwhelm even the most organized, Zen parent.  School parties, work parties, family parties.  Shopping, decorating, wrapping.  Helping the less fortunate by participating in clothing, gift, or food drives.  All of this, on top of the regular daily responsibilities of being a parent and an adult.  About now, I find myself craving ease in the kitchen, as well as something comforting, but healthy.  I have a love affair with my crockpot, as do so many busy parents.  This baby allows me to make dinner in the morning when I’m cozy in my pajamas, and feed my family at night when I’m frazzled and tired from a busy day.

Chicken and Rice Soup

Chicken and Rice ranks among my favorite soups.  My family loves it, it tastes pure and simple, and it’s super-duper easy to make. In fact, it offers yet another opportunity for kids to help with chopping and measuring.  This recipe from crockpot goddess Stephanie O’Dea is an oldie but a goodie, and customizable as your own.  She encourages any vegetable combination that tickles your fancy.  I typically stick to the very traditional chicken soup veggies (carrots and celery) but this time I also had three zucchinis needing to be used, so in they went.  My kids aren’t zucchini fans (unless it’s inside of bread) so they ate around it, but gobbled up the rest.  It made enough for dinner and two days of lunches, which rocked!

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I make a few changes to the recipe.  I skip pureeing the vegetables, leaving them in chunks since we enjoy them as they are.  I cook the rice separately, scoop it into individual bowls before serving, and store leftovers separately, so that the rice doesn’t get mushy.  Rather than cooked chicken, I put in two raw chicken breasts (often frozen) and shred them before serving.  After 8-10 hours of cooking, the chicken is perfectly tender and shreds easily, as I find that precooked chicken gets rubbery.

No matter how you make this simple soup, I can almost promise your family will enjoy it. Naturally gluten-free, filled with your favorite veggies, warm and relaxing, delicious… the list goes on and on!  Give it a go, share your results with our readers, below, and keep warm.  Chicken and rice soup is perfect for a chilly Fall day.  Before you know it, you’ll be baking holiday cookies!

My daughter Jenny loves whipped cream, but when we made the decision to eat cleaner, store-bought whipped topping made with polysorbate 60 and sorbitan monostearate had to go. Then I discovered how easy it is to make our own whipped cream, and it became a staple, something she & I like to make together. Here’s how simple it is to make:

  1. Place a metal bowl and beaters in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
  2. In this bowl, whip together 1 cup heavy cream and 2 tablespoons sugar until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes (these peaks will stand up without folding over).
  3. Spoon over fresh berries or your favorite dessert.

Jenny loves this so much, she wants to bring it to school for her birthday.  Please enjoy!

BBQ season has arrived.  My husband is delighted with the possibilities– ribs, and burgers, and steak, oh my!  Personally, I’m not such a huge BBQ fan, especially since I only eat poultry (and grilled salmon- but it has to be marinated just right first).  This weekend my husband had meat cooking in the smoker, and we decided to give the grill a break.  We were in the mood for pulled chicken, as it’s got that BBQ flavor without having to heat up the flames.  I sifted through lots of recipes before finding one that looked good (and didn’t call for vinegar- so many do).  I love that we could enjoy a delicious BBQ-type dish without having to stand in front of the heat (or warm up the kitchen) on a hot day.

Pulled Chicken

Slow Cooked Pulled Chicken

This recipe combined a few choice ingredients and looked like something the family would enjoy.  I used Sweet Baby Ray’s Hickory and Brown Sugar BBQ sauce as the base, adding the extra ingredients as called for in the recipe.  For future reference, an 18 oz bottle is just the right amount.  I doubled everything since we were having company.  We ate it for lunch three additional days, and I have to say, I was sad to see it gone.  I love leftovers, especially when everyone enjoyed the meal and looked forward to eating it again.  Such an easy meal- the crockpot really does all of the work.  It can be served in a sandwich, but being gluten free, we enjoyed it without bread, and didn’t miss it a bit.  This is definitely a recipe to hold onto for the dinner rotation!

Share your summertime favorites (below) with our readers.  To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy beginning of summer!

A staffer at Hudson Valley Parent recently asked me to blog about a “recipe for someone who doesn’t cook.”  I’ve spent some time thinking about it (A smoothie prepared in a blender?  A sandwich?) and decided to share a meal that I often enjoy in summer, on hot days when no one is in the mood to cook.  I began making this for lunch during the first summer when we grew our own grape tomatoes and basil.  It’s such a favorite that we start making it as soon as the basil leaves come in, and enjoy it all summer long.  Even though my kids aren’t the biggest tomato fans, something about the presentation and colors in this dish gets them to always eat a few bites.

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This is probably the easiest summer lunch you’ll ever make.  Begin with a ball of fresh mozzarella cheese. Slice into bite-sized pieces, and put in a bowl.  Wash about a dozen grape tomatoes, slice in halves, add to bowl.  Using a kitchen scissor, snip a handful of basil leaves over the bowl.  Drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil, and toss. Grab your fork, and enjoy.  It’s that quick and simple, but so delicious!

Sometimes, meals just need to come together quickly and not stress you out.  This is one of those dishes.  Share your favorite easy, summery, make-in-a-snap meals that delight your family.  To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.

 

 

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