Peanut Butter cookies, just a little healthier

Once upon a time this was the recipe from the back of the Skippy Peanut butter jar…
And it was my favourite peanut butter cookie recipe ever. Going back to my early teenage years (so 1984-ish), when someone gave my step mum an early version of the Best Recipes from the backs of boxes and labels. With peanut allergies making nuts a no-no in so many places, this recipe doesn’t come out very often in our house. That combined with the 1 cup of margarine and 1 cup of white sugar as well as 2 1/2 cups of white flour.
Yesterday morning, I woke up craving peanut butter cookies. (Maybe because I have been training for my first 1/2 Marathon coming up this Sunday? so my caloric intake isn’t what it needs to be? lol). But hmm, no white sugar in the house, and no white flour… So I started to play around a little bit. And here is what we ended up with… Something so so yummy, that my husband (who has been known to point out that it would be great if I could just “leave a recipe along sometimes, and just make plain old Chocolate chip cookies?”), ate four!
“New” Classic Peanut Butter Cookies (makes 4 dozen yummy snack size cookies)
1 1/4 cup natural peanut butter (I like Maranatha Smooth)
1 cup coconut oil
11/2 cups coconut palm sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 eggs, beaten
1-2 tsp real Vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups Whole grain flour (I used Spelt, but Oat flour would be so yummy too)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
Heat oven to 350F. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or other large bowl), cream PB and coconut oil until smooth and combined. Add sugar and molasses and mix until well combined. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until a bit fluffy (about 2-3 minutes).
In smaller bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Add to wet mixture in mixer. Mix well until a nice dough is formed (It will be a bit gooey). Measure out with a small food scoop onto parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 10-11 minutes, starting to turn brown on edges. Remove from oven and let stand on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before removing to waiting cooling rack. Store in airtight container for up to 5 days (you think they will last that long?). Or freeze cooled cookies for up to 6 mos.


When you go out in the world today…

I know you expect a food post from me, but this is something that has been rolling around in my universe for sometime now, so I thought I would share these words here.

Treat each other gently…
“We need to use a gentle voice” I often say to the children I spend my days with. We learn about what gentle feels like, and what gentle words are: “Hi”; “Please, and Thank you”; “Yes,”; “friend”; “Why?”; “What are you doing?”; “Can I play too?”; “I like you”, are just some of those words we use every day when talking to the people around us. In fact, I think about 80% of my day is spent helping them be gentle with each other. When we learn to be gentle and open, we attract others and others also welcome us.
It occurred to me that as adults perhaps we should practice this more with each other. If you think about greeting your partner at the end of a long and difficult day, what is the first thing you say? “Ugh! I’m exhausted – what a day!” and then perhaps launch into a rant about a boss/co-worker/client. But what if instead you looked at that person with love and said, “It was a long, hard day, but it is so much better now that I get to see you (or hear your voice if they are far away).
At other times, gentle words can diffuse a stressful situation for everyone. The other day, in the school parking lot, I was backing up in my van. A smaller car started moving forward at the same time, not realizing I was backing up, and our bumpers hit. We both got out. The gentleman went right to inspect his bumper. I said, “Oh my goodness, are you okay?” He continued inspecting his bumper, but the realized what I had said, “Oh yes.” he replied, and then looked at me, “Are you okay?” Gentle words remind us to see the other person.
Gentle words allow us to feel valued and to give value, love and trust. When we use gentle words with ourselves and each other, we model a truly accepting world for our children and provide them with loving, strong, empathetic role models to look up to. When we always act from a place of love, our gentle words are giving everyone around us a safe place to be; a loving connection and the tools to go out and create a more welcoming and accepting world.

Beans Beans Beans!

We are up to our elbows in dried beans, and watching our pennies because of the teachers’ strike here in BC.  So! Today’s Food Prep day was all about the Bean. 


First, though, you have to cook the dried beans! So it isn’t like you can just get up in the morning and say, “Okay, let’s make chili today! Or Turkey enchilada filling… Or bean salad.  Nope, unless you are using canned beans (I love canned beans, they are my busy week go-to).  But this is an “Eat what you own” week for Menu planning, which meant we had to cook those darn beans first!  And rather than me spending all kinds of time explaining how to cook those beans, I am just going to refer you to Kalyn and her blog.   I use both methods, stove top and  the slow cooker.  I soak mine before as well, for a few hours. 

One of our favourite recipes for beans is Santa Fe salad, an old Best of Bridge classic.  It used to be available online, but they have removed it.  So I will share.  The kids also really like Classic Bean salad (the kind you can get at the Deli counter in the grocery store), so I improvised and made a smaller version of Anne Lindsay’s Bermuda Bean Salad.  I still use the basic recipe for dressing from that recipe, but the ingredients are totally different.  And mine is quite a bit smaller.  I think the Bermuda Bean salad was made with gigantic Family reunions in mind. 

Another favourite Bean recipe is Turkey Enchilada filing (for lack of a better name).  It started out as me making Enchilada filling one day, and not having everything the recipe called for, so I improvised and it was a hit.  Really all I did was clean out the fridge, and add a little bit of grated cheese.

Santa Fe Salad

  • Dressing:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Salad:
  • 19- oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained; sometimes I add a 19 oz can of chickpeas as well.
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 12 -oz. can kernel corn, drained (I use fresh or frozen, about 1.5 cups)
  • 1/3 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

Directions: Mix dressing in large bowl.  Add beans, peppers, corn and red onion.  Mix to combine.  Serve at room temperature. 

Classic 3 Bean Salad:

Dressing: 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 4 TBSP brown sugar or honey, 1/3 cup olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Ingredients for Salad:

  • 1 bell pepper diced (you choose the colour, we like red or orange)
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 1 can baby corn
  • 2 cups red kidney beans; 2 cups green beans; 2 cups chick peas

Combine ingredients, add dressing, and let sit for at least 1 hour before serving. 

Ground Turkey Enchilada filling:

  • 1lb ground turkey
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper and 1 orange pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 tsp chili powder; 1 tsp cumin; 1 tsp ground coriander; 1 tsp Maldon salt flakes, crumbled
  • 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup black beans; 1 cup kidney beans; 1 cup fresh or frozen corn
  • 1-2 cups salsa (we like Kirkland Organic Medium from Costco)
  • 1/2 cup salsa verde or enchilada sauce
  • 1 cup grated cheese.  You can use any combination of mild cheddar, mozzarella; Monteray Jack.  You will want more for serving.

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add turkey.  Brown until cooked through.  Add onion and peppers, and season with chili powder, cumin and coriander.  Cook until veggies are soft and all is fragrant. Add salt to taste.  Add tomatoes, beans and corn, salsa and enchilada sauce.  Stir until well combined.  Simmer over medium low heat for about 20-25 minutes.  Add cheese, stir well, until cheese is all melted. 

We like ours served like sloppy joes, only with a wrap instead of a bun.  Garnish with greek yogurt, avocado, salsa, and more grated cheese if you like.  This also makes a great base for taco salad.





Powerhouse Muffins (your kids will eat)

How often do you make muffins full of healthy stuff, and the kids go, “Meh…” and you end up freezing them and sending them in lunches, and day after day, they come back half eaten, with the “Well, we didn’t have enough time…” (insert trailing off voice here).
Well, these ones started out with a request from my daughter for something other than “blueberry spelt muffins”. So, I went looking for a banana muffin recipe, “With chocolate chips, please”. I found a basic one in a Dieticians of Canada cookbook “Great food fast”. However, 3 bananas, plus 3/4 cup sugar, white flour and chocolate chips? Well, let’s just call them cupcakes. So, I played with the recipe. The first go meant, whole spelt flour and 1/3 cup sugar. Little soggy lumps. A waste of good chocolate chips. A few more tries to get the recipe you see below. But boy are they good!

Powerhouse Banana Muffins

1 1/4 cup whole grain flour (I use spelt or organic whole wheat, you could mix in some oat flour here too)

1/3 cup ground flaxseed

1tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 scoops Vanilla Isapro protein powder

3 medium bananas, that are all yellow (but not super ripe), mashed

1/3-1/2 cup coconut palm sugar (or brown sugar)  (the amount will depend on whether you are using chocolate chips or not as well as whether your bananas are really ripe or not).

1/3 cup 0% plain Greek yogurt

1/4 cup olive oil

1 egg + 1 egg white

3/4 cup organic rolled oats

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 handfull of chocolate chips

1 hand full of raw sunflower seeds.

Preheat oven to 375F and line muffin tins with papers.

Combine flour, flaxseed, Isapro protein powder, baking powder, salt, baking soda and set aside.  In bowl of standing mixer, beat bananas until very mushy and almost smooth.  Add sugar and continue until well blended.  Add egg and egg white and beat until well blended.  Add yogurt, and olive oil an vanilla extract and beat well on medium until smooth.  Add rolled oats, and mix in well.  Then let the wet mixture sit for 5 minutes (this is to soften the oats).  After 5 minutes, remove bowl from mixer and with a fork, blend in dry ingredients, followed by chocolate chips and sunflower seeds.

Measure using a large food scoop into prepared muffin tins and bake for 22-24 minutes.  Let cool on rack 5 minutes before serving.  Yum!  Eat right away or freeze as soon as they have reached room temperature.






The Power of the Menu

The Power of the Menu

Creating a weekly menu for 6 people that everyone is going to eat (happily) can seem overwhelming.  Especially if there are picky eaters or special diets to contend with.

For picky eaters, and children in general, it is helpful to create a menu that can be posted.  This sends a different message to the household, and it also gives away some power, meaning that rather than think, “Why isn’t Mum home yet? I wonder what’s for supper?”, they can simply check out the menu and say, “Oh, I guess this is what we are having” and the argument just doesn’t happen.  It also  removes the “We never have anything good” from the equation, because everyone can see that we are having spaghetti on Wednesday and pizza on Friday (yes, there will be spinach salad with the spaghetti and Greek salad with the pizza).  

When deciding what we are going to eat, I often start with “Meatless” Monday, Turkey on Tuesdays and then Fish on Fridays.  I also make Saturday or Sunday a bigger meal, with a roast that will be used for another meal, or for lunches.  Other ideas are to offer one day a week to the kids to plan.  When it is my husband’s turn to cook, I usually plan for chicken breast or boneless pork chops on the BBQ with salad and potatoes (he decides how to cook them).  The person assigned to making the salad, gets to decide what goes into the salad, as well as what dressing they are going to make.  Unless it says Greek salad, of course, which is a favourite in our house, so there are never any arguments about what to put into it.

Yes, there is repetition, but that is okay.  Everyone likes predictability, especially kids.  If you have a few healthy meals that everyone likes, include most of them in your weekly menu.  Maybe agree to try one new meal a week.  Recently, we added No Weigh Jose Mexican Lasagne to our rotation and it is a huge hit.  We also enjoy a baked veggie casserole (no pasta) and roasted vegetable pasta, that includes eggplant, zucchini and mushrooms, and I catch the kids stealing mushrooms off of each others plates.

I also include who is making salad for each day, who is setting the table and who is clearing and cleaning up.  Yes, it takes some planning, but if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.

One last thing, I always include dessert options on the menu.  Typically it is fruit and yogurt, but I like to make sure there is something there.  It is another way to make sure everyone is getting their 5-10 servings of fruit and vegetables in the day.  One of the faves in our house is a leftover protein pancake with warmed berries and Greek yogurt, or a Flax seed Energy bar, made with peanut butter and dates.  When the weather is warm, I use leftover fruit and yogurt and make frozen yogurt popsicles, with chunks of fruit in them. Just a little something sweet to end the meal. 

This week’s Supper Menu:

Sunday: Roast Chicken (2, one for supper and one for lunches); spinach salad with Balsamic Dijon dressing, baked Yam slices and raw veggies (sliced cukes and tomato; carrot and celery sticks – make enough for lunches and snacks during the week).  For dessert: Strawberry-Rhubarb crumble with lemon yogurt drizzle

Monday: Vegetable soup and Cheesy Quinoa Bites.  For dessert: warmed berries with leftover protein pancake and yogurt

Tuesday: Turkey Hamburger soup with leftover salad (by the way, any leftover yams from Sunday supper went into the soup).  For dessert: fresh berries

Wednesday: Spaghetti and Green Salad.  For dessert: Flaxseed energy bars.

Thursday: BBQ chicken pieces, green salad and Simple Quinoa.  For dessert: fruit salad (made by the kids, with whatever fruit is left)

Friday: Pizza and Greek salad.  For dessert: Dessert pizza with fruit and yogurt. (Make chicken for wraps for Saturday)

Saturday: My son’s class campout!  So I guess it is Hot dogs and Hamburgers for supper (Any Moms attending this weekend, if you want Greek chicken wraps, email me, that is what I am bringing for me!)



Mother’s Day Menu

I know there are folks out there who love the treat of going out for supper.  There is no planning, no prep work, no cooking and no clean up.  Yes, it all sounds great.  A lovely relaxing evening out with the family, it is going to be wonderful.  Pile everyone into the car, drive 10-15-20 minutes.  “Mum, D keeps digging his elbow into my side.”  “But Mum, she keeps bumping my arm, and I miss my shot.”  Me: “I told you to leave the DS at home.”  Big sisters are both staring at the screen on one phone, and smirking.  Now to  find parking.  Oh yes, it is Mother’s day.  Guess we are not the only ones with this idea…  Finally, hubby drops everyone off at the door, and goes up the street to find parking.  By the time he meets us in the entrance way, we are in the waiting-for-a-table line… The wait time is 15 minutes.  “Mum, I’m starving!”  “Me too!”

When we finally get to a table, (remember we are 6), we are wedged between a family of 4 (2 teens and 2 adults), who are all “plugged in” to various handheld electronic devices, and a family of 5 plus Grandma.  At their table, the youngest is hauling on the loose belt of the high chair, the middle one is crawling under the table, Dad is staring at his phone and Mum and Grandma are trying to have a conversation about a Sister who opted not to join them, again, and haul the middle child out from under the table.  The oldest child (who looks to be about 6) is standing on the bench in their booth, and gazing over the table behind them.

At our table, my son has managed to bring the DS in from the car with him, and the one of the big girls has passed her phone to my 9 year old.  I glance around the table, and catch my husband’s eye.  He gives me his “Well, here goes nothing!” smile and then returns to looking over my son’s shoulder at the DS.  Well, at least there won’t be any complaining about how long it takes for our food to come….

This is NOT my idea of a pleasant way to spend Mother’s Day.  Sharing a meal with my family?  Yes, but I would much prefer to spend a few hours in the kitchen preparing something healthy and delicious for them (and me!), than the restaurant experience.  Then afterwards, I can enjoy their daily gift to me, of clearing the table and doing up the dishes and tidying the kitchen, while I enjoy a glass of wine on the deck, or a cup of tea in the living room.  And this year, I get to share that with my Mum who is visiting us over Mother’s Day.

So, my Mother’s Day gift to you is this delicious Menu that will be gracing our table tonight, as we sit down together, without DS’s or iphones or rogue children crawling under tables (we had an under-the-table crawler, who has since learned to enjoy the above the table experience, so I can say that!).

Mother’s Day Menu

To start:

Strawberry-Watermelon Lemon Crush

from One Perfect Bite.  However, we added one cup of watermelon in with the strawberries, and subbed 1/8 cup of Agave nectar for the 1/2 cup of sugar (watermelon is quite sweet on its own).  Then, we doubled the whole thing to make enough for everyone.

Crunch Cashew Thai Quinoa Salad

from the Ambitious Kitchen.

Sweet Chili Lime Turkey Burgers

from The Inspired Housewife

Roasted Asparagus with Garlic and Olive oil

Spinach and Kale salad with Balsamic Dijon Vinaigrette

Dressing recipe from CD Kitchen

Avocado Salad

from The Clean Lunchbox

Thai Sweet Chili Noodles

from One Perfect Bite (make these with Buckwheat noodles, and sliced red peppers)

And for dessert:

Fresh Strawberries and Lemon chocolate tart

from Anne Lindsay’s New Light Cooking.  We subbed Coconut oil for the butter and honey for the corn syrup.


Happy Mother’s Day!



Mother’s day traditions

Ah, Mother’s day.  What do you love to plan or do to celebrate?  If you are a mother, do you like to be pampered and spoiled?  Or spend an uninterrupted day with your family?  If you plan Mother’s day (for your mother or your spouse), what do you like to plan for them?  Taking them to a restaurant?  Out for a treat?

Something that has become a bit of a treat in our house is going out for Ice cream on Mother’s day.  If the weather co-operates, which it normally does, here on Vancouver Island, we plan a walk as a family, and it almost always includes a stop for ice cream.  I remember my first Mother’s day, when my son was just six and a half months old, we took a walk on the seawall as a family, including my brother-in-law and (now) sister-in-law.  The weather was beautiful and warm, and we stopped for ice cream.  The flavour in my cone was Vanilla Cherry Custard.  Of course (but don’t tell the Public Health nurses!), I shared a taste with my baby.  Well, it was so cute to see his already big brown eyes grow round, and his little tongue reach out for more.  That was it, he was in love.  Ice cream is still his favourite treat.  Our dear next door neighbours love to spoil him on his birthday with an ice cream cake.  He anticipates it every year, “do you think they will?”  and of course, they never disappoint.  This year, however, we will be postponing our Ice cream treat by a week.  I have discovered a real gem right here on the Island.  Cold Comfort Ice Cream in Victoria.  Oh my goodness, what a treat! Pure homemade Ice cream, made right here on Vancouver Island.   And the flavours: How about Triple Berry Cream Cheese Ice Cream sandwiches with graham cracker butter cookies?  Or Dairy free chocolate with Mango? My favourite: Vanilla with cherries and chocolate.  If you are going to be in Victoria, check them out for some incredible homemade treats.  You can visit their HQ at 809 Craigflower Road or visit their website for other locations around town that carry their ice cream.  So worth it!  We will be making a special trip next weekend as part of our day trip to the Capital city.

As a good friend says, “If you are going to have a treat, make it worth while.”  This is definitely worthwhile!

Happy Mother’s Day!