> hey what's for dinner mom?


We Tried--New Lunch Box Favorite NorPro Ice Pop Maker

Or as my kids call it the Gogurt Maker! Feel free to add in the unspoken words, "the gogurts that mom will let us have" because you know that's what they're thinking. We LOVE these little gadgets by Norpro (not an affiliate link) because they make cheap squeezable yogurt, they're refillable/recyclable, and we completely control the ingredients but best of all they make lunches fun. And fun lunches means my kids are 100% MORE likely to eat them. 

Our school doesn't have a hot lunch program and I'm totally ok with that, better than ok with it really because I don't have to wage a daily war against deep fried beef tenders, tater tots and corn as a 'healthy' lunch. But it does mean that every single school day out of the year, we need to have lunch makings in the house, whether it's leftovers or sandwiches or bento box style lunches, it has to happen every day. I'm not alone in the lunch box dread, I know a lot of moms face it too. These make ahead yogurt squeeze tubes make lunches a wee bit easier, just toss one in on the way out the door and by lunchtime it's soft enough to eat. Do they leak? Well my boys have put them through the paces in lunch boxes and we haven't had one explosion yet, although I do make sure they are packed upright in the lunch box to avoid any unnecessary pressure on the top. I even let one defrost upside down in the sun and the only wet from it was condensation from the tube itself. 

They cost less to make than pre filled tubes. Each tube holds a half a cup of whatever your putting in it, so in our case yogurt mixed with berries and a little honey if needed. A HUGE tub of organic Nancy's Yogurt is 6 bucks and that has 16 half cups in it. A couple cups of frozen berries cost us nothing if we grow it ourselves and 3-4 dollars in the store. A bit of honey to sweeten if needed, we'll say 1 dollars worth just make sure it's in there. So around 11 dollars and because we're adding fruit to the yogurt we actually get about 20 squeezable yogurt tubes for that price, or around .55¢ apiece. The average pre made squeeze yogurt runs about .80¢ apiece, that's not organic, that's regular yogurt and that's an average price. 

No trash! These things are refillable and add nothing to the landfill. Those little plastic pouches are not recyclable and somehow they never actually make it into the garbage cans but seem to litter the parking lot at school. They're so insidious in their ability to avoid the trash can, my son's teacher jokingly said he was going to call the yogurt factory and tell them his class was no longer allowed to have them in their lunches.

I really like that we can make whatever flavor yogurt we want too. I can whip up blueberry smoothies for kids and pour a bit in the bottom of a couple of tubes and then top it off later with raspberry yogurt if I want. We can also put pudding in them and have homemade pudding pops or even applesauce. They hold pickles if we need them to, or trail mix or I suppose even a cheese spread for crackers or bread, all those would go in NOT frozen of course. 

And again, squeezable yogurt makes homemade lunches seem more fun, more fun means more lunch gets eaten. And as long as lunches are going to the boys, and not the school chickens, I am A-OK with that. Last year my kids had pretty much quit eating lunches and came home starving. I started making them eat the things they didn't eat in their lunches for snack and I suspect some of the lunch, they didn't bring back home, may have made it out to the chickens at school. This is only a suspicion and I never confirmed it. 

I bought our NorPro Ice Pop Makers off of Amazon, that is an affiliate link, if you click through and buy it, I make a few pennies. I used our prime account, got free shipping and they arrived at our house in under a week, pretty good for Alaska. 

This was not a paid or sponsored post. I bought these with our money but we like them so much I wanted to share them. If you have kids in school and need a fun, budget friendly lunch box addition these are great!

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Single Crust Cherry Slab Pie

My family always cheers for pie, I don't like pie so I rarely make pie and when I do they're exceedingly happy. This simple little one crust slab pie is so quick and easy to make I find myself making pie more often that I ever have. The ultimate summer dessert is a crunch or a cobbler, exactly because they ARE so quick and easy but I've discovered pie can be just as quick and easy, even more so, if you start with pre-made pie dough, yours or store bought, it doesn't matter too much, both will work. The secret to using a store bought crust is chilling it well before baking it so it has a chance to set up before melting into a mush puddle. (shhhh insider secret!) 

And how awesome is it that you can make one pie dough recipe and get two family pleasing desserts out it? COMPLETELY awesome is the answer you're looking for. When you bring pie to people who are hardly expecting it you will be heralded for your ingenuity and your kitchen prowess, you've been warned! 

Single Crust Cherry Slab Pie
oven 350˚
1/2 a batch of pie dough or use 1/2 a store bought pie dough
2 cups pitted cherries, I used Bing because they were in my freezer and already pitted1/4 cup of sugar

on a rimmed baking sheet rolled chilled pie dough to a rough rectangle/oval about 11x8 inches
lift each side up using a cookie spatula to carefully loosen them from the baking sheet
fold over a 1/2 or so and pinch up to form the crust, use your fingers to crimp the edge
when all four sides are crimped make sure the corners are sealed well
lay the cherries in a single layer on the crust, arranging them as needed to fit
you may have a few too many cherries to fit or they may all fit right in, depends on your expertise at folding the crust, not to worry any passing child will happily eat them or you can save them for a later use
sprinkle the sugar over the cherries making sure each one gets enough sugar to juice once it starts baking
firm your corners again, this is where they will leak when baking so you want them nice and set
chill for half an hour 
bake in a 350˚ oven for 30 minutes until the fruit is cooked through and the cherries have filled the crust with their juices 
cool slightly before serving and serve with ice cream or whipped cream

You can make any fruit into a slab pie, it's not difficult, it just takes the knowledge that if it's not perfect you'll have to eat it, learn from your mistakes and try again. You can also use BOTH pie crusts and cut the second crust into lattice work, or cut decorative pieces out of the crust, just have fun! 

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Fresh Nectarine Salsa

This quick to make nectarine salsa makes the perfect topping for fish tacos, sweet and light with a gentle kick from sweet onions. 

I buy in bulk, no lie right now my fridge is home to 90 peaches and nectarines, or it was anyway, we've been chugging through them. We're eating them whole or in Any Fruit Cobbler, which is popular around here, and I'm currently making a batch of fruit leather in the dehydrator. We've got to eat them up because the next truck load comes in to town in a week. We buy our fruit from Tree Things whenever we can, they make several fruit runs to Alaska each summer delivering fresh fruit straight (or close to it!) off the farm. If you're local check them out, in my opinion it's one of the best ways to get buy bulk fruit in your life.

When I made fresh spicy salmon tacos last night I KNEW I wanted a fruity salsa to top them off, so turned to nectarines. I figured nectarines were sure to be as tasty as peaches but because they don't need to be peeled they'd be quicker and easier to use, I was right! The salsa took less than 5 minutes to whip up, it went in the fridge to chill while the salmon grilled and everything came together in the end, whew. The finished tacos were a put-it-together-yourself sort of affair, I just laid out the ingredients and everyone helped themselves. The salsa was met with disapproval at first, after one bite by the pickiest of my boys it was deemed edible and promptly gobbled up along with every bit of everything else. 

Nectarine Salsa

3 nectarines-you don't want them to be too ripe so look for slightly firm fruits
1/4 cup chopped sweet onion
1/4 cup chopped sweet yellow pepper
2 TBSP chopped cilantro
juice from half a lemon

wash the nectarines and slice the fruit off of the pit
cut it into slices and place in the bowl of a food processor
pulse to chop, you don't want it to be a puree just pulse to chop
then add the sweet onions, peppers and cilantro
squeeze the lemon juice over everything
pulse to chop and combine, making sure everything is chopped small enough to fit nicely on a taco 
pulse again if needed
once it's chopped fine enough transfer to a bowl and chill
if you're not using it within an hour or so cover it tightly
stir to combine before serving

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Lemon Parmesan Kale

If you're looking for a way to make kale tempting for a certain someone, who thinks they suddenly don't like kale, try adding cheese. A tiny sprinkle of dry grated Parmesan, I used Kraft for this type of light dusting, made all the difference in the "I will eat your three bites" rule we have established around here. And it can lead a certain someone, smallest child I am looking at you, down the path towards actually remembering they like kale and asking for more. 

Why do we go on with the kale? Haven't we all just had enough of kale? As with many fads foods in America, it seems that it's popular and then it's done and anyone still eating it is ridiculous. Let me equate it to bell bottoms, all the rage for years and then dead, anyone wearing them after they died out was lame. I think our dear friend kale is going that way and I fear I will be that one sad sorry person still wearing bell bottoms in 1988 and thinking they are so awesome. I still like kale, maybe I'll just go buy some vintage bell bottoms and call it good.

Kale is hearty crop in Alaska, it will grow and grow and grow and then when it gets frosted it will still grow. In fact it takes a hard frost to kill kale and once it's been hit hard by a frost it can still be eaten, if eaten that day. You can freeze it too for adding to soup later on in the winter. I can pick a market size bunch of kale from 3-4 plants, go out the next day and the next 3-4 plants are ready to pick, repeat that one more time and then the original 3-4 plants are ready for harvesting again, it's like a never ending cycle. It grows well, it keeps well and it's beautiful to look at too, what's not to like? 

Lemon Parmesan Kale
oven 350˚
1 market size bunch of kale-I like Russian Red or Lacinato 
1 TBSP oil
half a lemon
good dash of salt
1 TBSP grated Parmesan-I used Kraft for it's crumbly texture
preheat the oven 
wash the kale pat dry and remove the center stem-I usually slide my hand down the stem stripping the leaves off of it
tear and huge pieces into smaller manageable bite sized pieces 
toss with the oil and place on a baking sheet
squeeze about 1/2 of the lemon juice over the kale, save the lemon for another use 
sprinkle with a good dash of salt
and bake at 350˚ for 8-9 minutes
then sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the top and bake for 3-4 minutes more
watch it carefully you want the cheese to just start to melt but you don't want the kale on fire--(you are walking a fine line here)
remove from the oven and serve hot

We like our kale mostly soft with a few crispy pieces, the 11-12 minutes in the oven gives us that. If you prefer it all crispy without the fear of flame-age drop the temperature down and cook it longer. I personally don't have any desire to heat the oven up any longer than I absolutely need to, but maybe you have air conditioning? 

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Red White and Blue Wedge Salad

If you're looking for something fun to make for a Fourth of July picnic or party, that's patriotic themed but not loaded with sugar, make a tray of Red White and Blue Wedge Salads to share with friends. This is simply a pretty typical wedge salad, topped with blue cheese dressing, red peppers and chopped tomatoes, so if you have a salad you like add a little red, white and blue toppings for a patriotic touch and call it good. 
I love salad, a year ago this was not the case, but as I've lost weight, I've discovered that a salad is truly one of my favorite foods. Crisp, fresh ingredients tossed together in a multitude of combinations  and finished off with a good homemade dressing makes every meal healthier, more delicious and surely provides ample opportunity for our kids to eat more vegetables. Making and serving a fresh salad every night has become second hand to me now and a very expected part of our dinner. Every night. I've been trying to change it up to make sure we don't get bored or tired of the same old thing, new to the family rotation is the wedge salad, which has become one of my favorites of late. 
A crispy wedge of lettuce, drizzled with blue cheese dressing, sprinkled with crispy toppings served ice cold and ready to refresh even the most bedraggled summer reveler. This version is a bit smaller than the traditional 1/4 of a head of lettuce version I've been served in restaurants. The slightly smaller size means we can get six servings from a single head of iceberg and it's more manageable for kids still working on knife skills. And by the way, a knife and fork salad is how I presented this salad the very first time I served it, figuring that anything requiring knife skills to eat, would be very interesting for my maker/fixer boys. Worked like a charm! 
Red White and Blue Wedge Salad
make six servings
1 head of iceberg lettuce, cored
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
1/2 a red pepper, chopped
1 batch Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing
1/4 cup of toasted sunflower seeds--to toast gently cook in a small frying pan until browned 
1-2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled for garnish
slice the lettuce into 6 equal wedges
place on a chilled serving platter or individual plates
sprinkle with chopped peppers and tomatoes, reserving some for garnish as desired
pour buttermilk blue cheese  dressing over wedges, reserving some to serve with the salads
sprinkle on sunflower seeds, crumbled blue cheese and any reserved peppers and tomatoes
serve with extra buttermilk blue cheese dressing 
if taking to a party assemble upon arrival for best results

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Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing

Looking for a creamy tangy salad dressing recipe? If you like blue cheese (or bleu cheese!) you'll love this easy to prepare salad dressing.
My father loved blue cheese dressing, I was the only one in our family who loved it too. And I still do. When I started this weight loss journey I knew I wanted to avoid pre made dressings and even the packets of dressing mix when I was enjoying fresh salads. The chemical cocktail in the mixes and bottled dressings tend to give me whopping headache (msg probably) and they're expensive too! I also knew I could do better and I have. I make a buttermilk ranch style dressing that is just so easy to make and delicious to eat that my kids eat salad first before main course with nary a blink of an eye. I never mind when they take seconds on salads either because I know they're eating primarily fresh whole foods and ingredients. Truth be told I only mind when I don't get a second helping too.
Making your own salad dressing is extremely easy to do, seriously it is, when you try it and it becomes second hand to you, you'll wonder why you ever bought that bottled stuff to begin with. You will need a blender for this blue cheese dressing but for making any other dressings you simply need a jar that seals tightly so you can shake it really well. I have and love the Tupperware Salad Dressing Shaker (affiliate link, if you click on it and buy a salad dressing shaker I make a little cash, a LITTLE cash!) mine looks a lot like that one except it's the mid 90s version. Tupperware has a lifetime guarantee so it's worth the investment BUT a good tight sealing jar will serve you well too, no need to buy anything expensive. I would recommend making salad dressing in the morning so it has time to let the flavors mingle, but 10-15 minutes of mingling will work in a pinch.
Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing
3 ounces blue cheese divided
3 TBSP buttermilk-more if you like a thinner dressing
3 TBSP sour cream
2 TBSP mayonnaise
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar-any will work this one just blends seamlessly in the dressing
salt and pepper to taste
place half of the blue cheese in the jar of a blender
add the buttermilk, sour cream, mayonnaise and vinegar
put the top on the blender jar-sure you're thinking I'm silly to tell you this but it's from experience
blend until smooth
pour out the dressing scraping out all the last bits
gently stir in the last of the blue cheese 
taste for salt and pepper add as needed
store in jar in the refrigerator until ready to use
If you prefer you can add ALL the blue cheese to the blender and make a super smooth dressing but I really prefer it with big chunks of cheese. 
See? EASY. TASTY. QUICK. I could go on and on but I won't because you just need to try it for yourself. 

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My Eating Plan for Losing Weight

I've been working pretty steadily at losing weight, almost 60 pounds down, more to go until I'm as healthy as I want to be. I keep getting asked a lot of questions like: what do you eat? what do you not eat? how do you exercise? when do you exercise? how many calories do you eat in a day?  I thought I'd take a moment and answer a few questions here.

It's important to share what works for you, in case it works for someone else too, right? Or inspires them. I want to stress STRESS STRESS that this plan is what worked only for me. Take it. Leave it. Manipulate it. Make it yours. Or ignore it. And before you ever follow ANY diet/exercise advice always check in with your doctor. Mine was invaluable to me on this journey. 

So after checking with the doctor last fall she told me I needed to do five things to get healthy
  1. eat less
  2. drink more water
  3. move a lot
  4. track what I eat
  5. keep my determination 
I wrote about that list, in this post titled The True Secret to Losing Weight, it's good reading, I just went back and read it again. From that post sprang the question? what do you eat, specifically, day by day what is going in your mouth? Can you please write it down. And I didn't want to because opening up about what you eat to lose weight feels like I might be opening myself up to some pretty heavy criticism. Or skepticism. Or negative comments about not eating enough. Or that I should go vegan/vegetarian/paleo/grain free/raw/insert-newest-diet-rage-here and it will solve my problems, no matter the problem the suggested diet will solve them. 

I was told to lose weight I needed to consume 1200-1500 calories a day. On a typical day I shoot for 1200 calories, unless I get a good sweat going via cardio and then I add 200-300 calories to that total. My food intake looks like this:
2 quarts of water
morning cup of coffee
roughly 100 calories worth of almonds
300 calorie salad consisting of 
3-4 cups of greens-kale/lettuce/coleslaw
various raw veggies tossed in
2 oz tuna
1 TBSP dressing mayo/ranch(homemade)/blue cheese
1/2 cup of fermented cabbage
sprinkle of chopped walnuts
roughly 150-200 calories
piece of fruit
small piece of cheese
OR homemade frappe in the VitaMix
roughly 600 calories
4-6 ounces of protein--lean, not lean, I eat what we eat and adjust my consumption
as many vegetables as I want, usually enough to round myself up to 600 calories 
these include: roasted broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, cauliflower with oil
steamed veggies: cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, brussels sprouts
fresh salad: always every single night no matter what with homemade dressings
fresh chopped vegetables: carrots, celery, green peppers, cucumbers, turnips
last cup of water

So that is my BASIC meal plan. I do vary it, I add more protein and fat, like nuts and cheese, if I exercise more. I eat popcorn a couple nights a week so I skip morning snack if I want to do that. If  eat more at one meal or go out for greasy burgers or something else fairly delicious, I move more for a few days afterwards. I try NOT to punish myself for living a real life, why should I give up food because I ate something not on my diet plan? I don't want to live like, I've beat myself up enough in this lifetime. So instead of negative head talk/food with holding I just drink a lot of water to flush the salt out, get back to regular eating and move more, that's punishing enough, HA! No seriously, I don't think we gain anything worthwhile if we continually punish ourselves 

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