Archive | September, 2010

Burned out on packing lunches yet?

29 Sep

So I’ve got about a month of packing lunches under my belt for this school year. Am I running out of ideas yet? Nope. I’m still packing. But, I’m sure you’ve already guessed, I don’t pack your typical sack lunch.

When I was in grade school, my parents had begun to fully embrace the natural foods approach to eating. We ate primarily homemade meals, we had a huge garden where we grew wonderful vegetables that we canned for use throughout the winter, and we raised *happy* chickens for stocking the freezer. As an adult, I’m now embracing this way of eating, but as an adolescent, I didn’t understand it. My packed lunches were different than everyone else’s. Sometimes I felt out of place eating my sandwich on homemade wheat bread when everyone else had Wonder bread with Jif peanut butter and Smucker’s grape jelly. And sometimes I got teased about the contents of my lunch.

Did I lose any friends over it? No. Did I learn anything from it? Absolutely.

My parents are very smart. They knew — long before it became “popular” — that whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and chemical-free foods were what our bodies needed. I wish I had understood that better when I was a child.

Kids can be cruel. They tease about every little thing that makes someone “different” than they are. Two of my kids were teased last year for bringing Activia yogurt cups in their lunches. I bought it because it was strawberry flavored and on sale that week. Why did they get teased? Because the TV ads promote it as a “digestive aid” rather than something fun for kids to eat. Well, here’s a news flash, kids — ALL yogurt is a digestive aid. Yogurt contains live and active cultures. These cultures are probiotics that promote a healthy digestive tract. Even lunchbox favorites like Gogurt and Crush Cups have live and active cultures. (They also have artificial colors and flavors, so don’t buy them.)

I can provide my kids with a packed lunch that isn’t different enough from everyone else’s to cause them to get teased. I learned a lesson from the Activia incident. I pack healthy lunches that look similar to every other kid’s lunch. (See below for my kids’ favorites.)

I can give my kids a response to “why don’t you ever bring Doritos in your lunch?”
“Because I don’t eat garbage.”
“Because chemicals are for cleaning toilets, not for eating.”
“Because I’m smart.”

I want my kids to understand the choices I make for my family so when they go off to college, they are able to make healthy food choices on their own, and to defend their choices with facts.

As I mentioned above, sack lunches in the 70’s generally contained a sandwich made of peanut butter and jelly or bologna and catsup on white bread, some kind of chips or Cheetos, and a Little Debbie snack cake or Ho-Ho. I don’t remember anyone having fresh fruit (besides me), but I do remember kids bringing in “fruit cocktail” in a little metal can with a pull-tab lid. Based on what I witnessed at Logan’s field trip last spring, sack lunches haven’t changed too much since the 70’s, except for the number of overly-processed options available to kids these days.

Luckily, there are a lot of healthful options today — such as whole wheat bread that’s as soft as Wonder, for making a healthier PB&J sandwich. Now that she’s in 6th grade, Madison’s tastes have matured a little. She’s not really into PB&J anymore so she often chooses a wrap or more adult-like sandwich. (You can put just about anything in a wrap and get a smile from your kids!)

As for drinks, I was sending 100% juice boxes, but my kids had a better idea. Logan said, “Mom, all these juice boxes are filling up the landfills.” So we bought reusable water bottles that fit in their lunch boxes. The night before, I fill them about halfway with either water, juice or Kool-Aid made with stevia, and stick them in the freezer. In the morning, I fill it the rest of the way and it stays cold all day, plus acts as an icepack for their food.

Here are some of my kids’ favorite packed lunch items:

PB&J — soft whole wheat bread + Skippy Natural peanut butter + All-Fruit Jelly
Sub Sandwich — whole wheat hamburger bun + mayo + nitrate/nitrite free lunchmeat + cheddar cheese + lettuce
Lunchmeat Roll-up — whole wheat tortilla + light cream cheese + nitrate/nitrite free ham + lettuce
Bagel + light cream cheese or Skippy Natural peanut butter
PB Roll-up — whole wheat tortilla + Skippy Natural peanut butter + sliced banana or diced apple + raisins
Strawberry Roll-up — whole wheat tortilla + light cream cheese + sliced fresh strawberries
Mediterranean Wrap ( for Madison) — whole wheat tortilla spread with hummus + lettuce, cucumber slices and shredded carrots

Sun Chips, Baked Veggie Chips, Pretzels
Baby Carrots with Hummus


Apple, Banana, Orange Slices, Grapes, Strawberries, Raisins, Pineapple Chunks

Pretzels with small container of peanut butter
100% Fruit Leather
Granola Bar (Kashi or Nature Valley crunchy, Trader Joe’s bars, etc)
Homemade Chex Mix


Goodbye, stuff. Goodbye, stress.

22 Sep

One of the “things” that can raise your blood pressure is stress. Reduced stress leads to reduced blood pressure. I think I have a lot of stress — most of it probably my own doing. I have three kids, all with different activities. Stress. I own my own business and work crazy hours so I can get to all my kids’ activities while staying on schedule with client deadlines. Stress. I volunteer my time. A lot. Probably more than I should. Stress. And I attempt to maintain a household while dealing with high blood pressure. Stress.

One of the things that has been stressing me out the most lately is the lack of organization in my house. You move into a new house and everything has a place and things are good. Then you have a child. And things have to be shifted to make room for all their stuff. And then you have more kids and more stuff and they get older and outgrow stuff and they get new age-appropriate stuff and before you know it, your house has stuff tucked in every possible place and nothing make sense anymore. That’s where I’m at right now. Too much stuff in too little space.

I don’t think my house is too small. It’s certainly no mansion and it’s older than I am, but it has just about everything we need — it sits on two beautiful acres, has a big family room with a fireplace, a decent kitchen and office, a huge garage, a swimming pool, and an awesome new screened in patio. It has doodly-squat for storage. I’m not exaggerating. There are very few closets, and the ones we do have are very small with nothing but a clothes-hanging bar. And every closet is jam-packed. Like I said, too much stuff in too little space. My house is in dire need of reducing and reorganizing. It has been stressing me for quite a while. Last month, I made a big, bad list of every nook and cranny I wanted to clean out and re-organize. I was ready to get started on it, but I knew it would be easier to accomplish once the kids were back in school.

About a week after school started, I was at my friend Lisa’s house. She was showing me some recent redecorating they had done in various rooms. As we walked from room to room, I could feel my heart start to race. Her house was immaculate. Her closets were neat and orderly. Her rooms were organized and everything seemed to be in its place. I wanted it. I wanted it bad. I wanted that organization. I wanted everything to have a place and everything in its place.

It made me even more motivated than I already was. (Thank you, Lisa!)

My mom and dad left this morning after spending a long weekend with us. They were in town for our annual family reunion on my mom’s side. In the three days they were here, they helped me reduce some serious stress. After explaining what I wanted to do, and brainstorming storage solutions, my mom and I spent all day Saturday shopping. Mission: Organization had begun. We went to Lowe’s, Home Depot, Target, Menard’s and back to Lowe’s (plus lunch at J. Alexander’s!). I bought shelving for my (teeny, tiny) bedroom closet. I bought canvas bins for kids shoes and hats/mittens, and I bought roll-outs for inside some of my kitchen cabinets. Oh yeah, we shopped. Goodbye, stress. (Thanks, Mom!)

In the meantime, my dad and Jason emptied one of my biggest cabinets. Brady helped my dad install the roll-outs. I threw out some old kitchen things I didn’t need, boxed up all my cake pans to go to the attic, re-vamped my pantry so more could fit in there and filled the new roll-outs. Goodbye, stress.

On Monday, I emptied my bedroom closet and my dad installed my new shelving. I LOVE IT! Jason and I have very little space to put our clothes and I think this is finally the solution. (Thanks, Dad!) Goodbye, stress.

Yesterday I ran to Meijer and bought an inexpensive shelving unit for the hallway closet upstairs, plus three large storage tubs with lids. I’m pitching 90% of what’s in that closet (it’s junk we haven’t even seen since the day we moved in!) and then I’m moving a bunch of kids toys into that closet. Goodbye, stress.

Tomorrow, Mission: Organization continues. Goodbye, stuff. Goodbye, stress.

It’s Football Season!

13 Sep

The Bedford Hornets youth football teams played their first games of the season yesterday, and the weather couldn’t have been more appropriate. Sunny, yet crisp, with the smell of fall in the air. It was a perfect football-watching day. Brady plays for the Mods team and Madison is a cheerleader for the Senior team. Brady played a great game, and his team came home with a win! Madison had a good time cheering her heart out and dancing at halftime.

Since we left the house at 9:30 in the morning and wouldn’t be returning until close to dinner time, I pulled together a batch of vegan chili before we left and let it simmer in the Crockpot all afternoon. I think chili is the ultimate fall meal — meaty, warm and filling. When I was in college, I worked at Wendy’s flipping burgers. I loved taking home a container of warm, spicy chili after work on a fall day. It was made with cooked burgers leftover from the day before. They took the burgers and simmered them in water until they became soft and broke apart. If I remember correctly, the crumbled beef was drained then mixed with tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, dried vegetables and some kind of seasoning packet. It’s still my favorite item on their menu, although I haven’t had any for a very long time because I no longer eat meat (and it’s probably outrageously high in sodium!).

The chili I made for dinner  last night is a veganized version that I think comes pretty darn close to the taste of Wendy’s chili. I replaced the beef with meat-free ground “burger” crumbles and packed it with two kinds of beans, green chilies, tomatoes and a nice mix of spices. Topped with diced onions and cheddar cheese (vegan or regular), this is a great substitute for Wendy’s chili. I served it with a tossed salad and cornbread muffins. It was just the right ending to a day of football.

makes 14 cups

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
12 ounce package meat-free burger crumbles such as Yves or LightLife
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
2 teaspoons salt or salt substitute
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 28-ounce can tomato sauce
2 14-ounce cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 14-ounce cans no-salt-added black beans, drained and rinsed
2 14-ounce cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes
1 4-ounce can diced green chilies
1 cup water

In a large stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, celery and garlic. Saute until starting to soften, 3-4 minutes. Stir in burger crumbles and all seasonings. Cook for 2-3 more minutes. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. At this point you can transfer mixture to a slow cooker and cook on the Low setting for 6 to 8 hours. Or, cover the stockpot and continue to simmer over medium heat for 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Adjust seasonings to your liking. Serve with toppings such as diced onions, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, hot sauce or crushed tortilla chips. Enjoy!

Here are some pictures from the Hornets season opener…

Brady (#66) taking down his opponent.

Stopping the ball carrier!

Doing some serious blocking.

Madison rocking it out during the halftime show.

Welcome to my world!

9 Sep

And welcome to my new blog site. If you’ve been a visitor to my Vox blog, you’ll see I have a new name and new look for my blog. What started as a way to document my journey to normal blood pressure became a great outlet for me to share all kinds of interesting things I had discovered along the way, relating to blood pressure, cooking, kids, health, the environment and many other things, too. This new name and look really sums up what my life is all about and what types of information I want to share with you.

My new blog design is still under construction, so bear with me as I continue to figure it all out. If everything goes well, Full Plate Planet will offer many more features than Vox did. For example, I want you to be able to use a Search box to easily locate a previous post, recipe or photo. And I want you to be able to leave me comments without “joining” the site that holds my blog.

I promise you my blog will continue as it has been — a full plate of delicious recipes, health updates, photos, and interesting bits of information I discover on this journey we call life. So please check back often!

Vox blog update

3 Sep

As you can see, Vox is no longer my blog site. They are shutting down their service. Therefore, I’ve moved my blog here and revamped!

Please note that all posts prior to this one were imported here from the Vox blog. Some of the photos are a little out of whack and most of my line breaks did not import correctly. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be correcting the old blog posts for readability. Please note, though, that if you want to leave a comment on a post written pre-September 3, 2010, you may be taken back to the Vox website and asked to “register.” For some reason, that’s what it’s going to do to my posts that were imported from the Vox website. Since Vox is shutting down, you won’t be able to register anyway! Just part of this crazy online world, I guess…

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