Blueberry Muffins

Blueberries are not normally eaten in our house fresh, I enjoy the taste of blueberry but whenever we buy a package they tend to be pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten. We’ve decided to start buying frozen blueberries and we keep throwing them into our smoothies, and bake with them…my favorite fruits to bake with. I love the sweet taste that comes out of the berries when cooked and I love that the flavour spreads perfectly and pairs well with many other flavours.

With the decision to try and not buy many (if any) pre packaged foods, I decided to try and test out some muffins this week that can be used as a quick snack. after looking through other recipes so that I could get the basics down, I decided to make a few changes, using only brown sugar, and my favorite healthy swap of using yogurt instead of buttermilk and I was very happy of how the muffins turned out and Lily (who does not really enjoy blueberries) gobbled them up!IMG_2975

Blueberry Muffins 

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup yogurt*
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup blueberries
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. Grease, or line a muffin baking pan (12)
  2. In a large bowl, sift the flour, add the brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix well.
  3. In a medium bowl, with a whisk or fork mix the egg, yogurt, melted butter and vanilla.
  4. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until combined (the mixture will be lumpy) add the blueberries and mix well.
  5. Spoon the batter into muffin tin 2/3 full
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes depending on your oven.

*For added flavour, use a flavoured yogurt, vanilla or blueberry or mix it up and use strawberry or even peach.

*Don’t forget to go like my facebook page @ahappinesshomemade 

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Crunchy Mom, My Badge Of Honour

 A “crunchy mom” is a woman on a quest for more information.  A mom who is environmentally, health, and socially conscious.

 I was called a “Crunchy Mom” a few weeks ago, and from the rest of the comment, it was definitely meant to be an insult. I’ve heard of the term, but have never thought of myself of being one, I definitely though never thought of it as a bad thing, it was one of those mom things that seemed like a good thing to aspire too. I mean look at the definition!  Coming from a girl that was in the environmental club through my school years, volunteered at the food bank, and even tried to start my own charity to give your old sleeping bags that just take up space in your closet that you never use to the homeless during the winter so that had a chance to stay warm in a freezing Canadian winter where shelters were packed full I think that looks like a real honour to be called a “Crunchy mom” but was I one really? 

First, I went to my boyfriend and our best friend Dave, I mentioned the comment and wondered what they thought. Obviously I had to kind of explain what the term exactly meant, but once I got the jist of the definition out I was promptly told “well of course someone said it, you are one!” It wasn’t one second of mulling it over, not one brief pause. So the two people I spend talk to the most and spend my weekends with believe I’m a “Crunchy mom” but I still questioned myself, that seems like such an honour to be called ( in my opinion) and I didn’t just want to take that label and run with it, I wanted to make sure I’ve earned it.

Where else to turn to? Well I don’t have many mom friends (social anxiety at its finest, I really have to just push myself and find more mom friends) and went to Facebook groups, one I had been invited to was a natural parenting group and I went there, as I read through these moms comments and questions I felt even more like I wasn’t one of them.  These were moms that went all vegan, moms that travel the world with there children, moms that bathe in the lakes they find while there road tripping through life in there mini buses there family lives in (ok not all, but I did find one mom that was doing just that!) I was nothing like that, I’m flexitarian, my kid bathes in a bathtub and my kid isn’t travelling mingle with different cultures on there natural land.

But was that what I had to do to be a crunchy mom? Or are there levels of “crunchiness” ?

I decided to open up, went to the post section and wrote how I had been deemed a “Crunchy mom” as an insult and felt like I wasn’t really doing enough to be “crunchy” so asked, am I really a crunchy mom? I couldn’t just ask a bunch of strangers and get a proper response so I decided to explain a bit about what I do, that I think is a bit “crunchy” but I still don’t think is enough.

  • Uses coconut oil religiously as moisturizer,  and make my own body scrubs with coconut oil
  • Lily and I have a minimum of one hour of nature time a day
  • I buy most of my cheeses, vegetables and meat from local farmers
  • All our sweet treats and desserts are home made
  • I’m attempting to make as much ourselves, soups, marinades, condiments and my quest to make our own breads is ongoing (see mu last post) and I hope to one day make all our sandwich breads, buns and such from scratch.
  • Instead of turning up the heat I try to use blankets and layers, or in the heat flowing clothes instead of turning on the air conditioner
  • I do yoga with Lily as much as I can to teach her how to calm her mind and body down.
  • I try to limit Lily’s tv time to one movie a day  (when she gets bored of the movie and runs off to play, the movie is paused and when her interest comes back to the movie the tv turns back on until she loses interest again.
  • I use essential oils for everything from making sure I have a good night’s rest ( chamomile and lavander) to muscles pains and growing pains for Lily.
  • I’m trying to cut down on processed foods, and snacks are only whole foods versus pre packaged snacks.
  • we are flexitarian,  we do eat meat but we don’t make it the only way we get our protein.
  • Lily and I still cosleep, even though she’s starting to move around more during the night and prefers my side of the bed, after almost four years were still comfortable. 

After writing the comment and posting it I had had revelation. Why do I need these mothers to approve that I am a crunchy mom? Why do I need to be approved to have this title?  I’m trying my hardest to be eco conscious, trying hard to make sure my daughter understands where her food came from, and how it’s made versus that it’s just something you buy in a store. I’m teaching my daughter to be aware of the world around her, and to not harm anything even as little as an ant and I’m teaching her that there are other ways to get rid of anxiety, pain and other ways to deal with sickness then popping a pill.

So yes, I’m a crunchy mom, and I wear that title as a badge of honor.

Check out the Facebook page for this blog @ahappinesshomemade 

Strawberry Cake Loaf

When asked as a young girl what my favorite food was I would never have said brownies, no chips were the best flavour, no Mcdonalds chicken nugget invoked true happiness for me to be my favorite food, the food I loved to eat by itself, with a tiny sprinkle of sugar, cut up into pancakes or with a dollop of whip cream for dessert like my grandmother would give us, it was the perfectly red strawberry.

To this day I will tell you I love my strawberries, I don’t often eat them by themselves sadly but I love when they are in something, cut up into yogurt, in a smoothie, cooked into pancakes or waffles and of course baked into delicious treats like this amazing strawberry cake loaf, its baked into a bread pan and is a moist and delicious cake reminiscent of a pound cake. IMG_2921

Strawberry Cake Loaf 

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese
  • 6 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup strawberry yogurt *
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped strawberries
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit
  2. Line a 9×5 loaf pan with parchment paper
  3. Cream butter, cream cheese, sugar, and salt in large bowl until fluffy (about 2 minutes)
  4.  Beat in eggs and vanilla extract until combined
  5.  Add flour, baking powder and baking soda to the mixture
  6. Add strawberries and stir until just combined
  7. Pour batter in prepared pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes. If top browing to quickly tent aluminum foil over bread.
  8. Cool in pan for 10 minutes remove and cool completely on wire wrack, serve with whip cream. Perfect for dessert or to eat alone for breakfast.

* Try to find a strawberry yogurt that is flavoured with real strawberry pieces rather then an artificial flavouring or the taste will be a little off in the end.

Eat Local

We are lucky to live in a society that still believes in fresh farmers markets each weekend, we’re lucky to have farmers open their fields for families to go anywhere from apple, pumpkin picking to strawberry picking. Kathleen Wynne

But we won’t be for long.

If we don’t continue to purchase from our local farmers, our local cheese makers, the farmers that surprise us not only by growing wheat, but grinding it down into a flour and baking with it and having that all done in time to sell at the local farmer’s market, if we don’t continue to support our local food growers one day will not have enough money to support not only themselves but also their homestead which means no more local food.

When we purchase our foods from farmers markets and directly from the people that are making and producing the product then we have so much more information available. We are able to learn information like the positives of drinking milks and eating cheeses from other animals not just from cows, which I learned about last weekend at the farmers market. I’ve been loving Brie in this one sandwich I’ve been buying premade at a indoor market grocery store and decided to buy my own brie, when I asked for some from the man at the market he asked which one I wanted, cows milk or buffolo. Know I like to think I’ve tried more foods then most and I’m to trying most things once, but I have never heard of local buffolo milk, luckily when asked which he recommended he went into an amazingly informative conversation that I was happy to listen to and discuss. I would have never gotten anything similar to that from a grocery store. 

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I’m committing myself to eating locally as much as I possibly can. I’m going to find a farmers market that I can find most of what I need, my cheese and dairy needs, my jam needs, produce needs and pre-made but locally made foods (like the gorgeous pizzas at our market). I mostly shop at the London’s Western Fair Market which has all of this and more, but now that the spring is here and more produce and outdoor markets are beginning to pop up and I’m going to be as happy as can be to try every single new market that pops up in our area.

I’m proud to eat in season, I’m proud to support local food, and I’m proud to eat local!

Grow Your Own Food

I want my daughter to learn where food comes from.

I want her to know chicken doesn’t just naturally come in nugget form, that seeds that you find in your fruit actually can grow an entire new plant, I want her to know that milk comes from a cow, I even want her to learn what she can forage from a field or forest and what is edible and what is not (which I will be learning along with her) 18193096_1367245056704513_8455789411148102898_o

The past few days I have been reading The 100 Mile Diet by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon and it has opened my eyes to plenty of new information, shocking statistics and how much I really should be doing to make not only my life a healthier life for me but for my daughter and the planet that my daughter will grow up on.

This week I have decided to make some changes in my life and my daughters, we will be starting to compost so that we have healthy compost to sprinkle over our new garden we will be planting shortly that will be full of vegetables and berries. I will be planning on growing green beans and tomatoes and Lily wishes that we could plant carrots which I will be looking into. Yesterday I spent quite some time picking the tiny seeds off of strawberries so that I could rinse them off, then dry them and plant them in a tiny area so they can begin regrowing inside our home. IMG_2773.JPG

I’m hoping in the next few months that Lily and I will be able to travel to a few different farms around us and pick some fruit and learn some new things about farm animals and we will be going to try some different farmers markets now that the warmer weather markets begin this weekend in our city.

Through all of this I hope my daughter learns to try new foods because shes comfortable that they are safe, because she feels proud to eat them because shes helped grow them with her own hands. This is going to be a change for us, but one I believe is needed to teach my daughter to be grateful for the food that she eats, to be grateful for our earth and that we are still able to grow our own food.

 

Strawberry Green Smoothie

I began this month with the goal of bringing nutrient dense smoothies into my daily life. Where I have not had a smoothie every day I am falling in love with the drink that you can pack so many health benefits into. I have found a few quick recipes for smoothies that I have tried and a few I have yet to try, but I would like to share my go-to smoothie seeing as most of the ingredients I always have on hand. 2015 spring 141 2015 spring 142 2015 spring 143

Strawberry Green Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of vanilla flax milk
  • 1 cup of spinach
  • 1 (or 2) cups of strawberries
  • 1 cup of strawberry yogurt
  • 1 tsp of instant coffee

Directions 

  1. Chop or rip the spinach into smaller pieces, and slice up the strawberries into smaller pieces (to make it easier to blend)
  2. Mix the instant coffee into the flax milk
  3. Add all ingredients into the blender and blend.
  4. Enjoy the smoothie!

    My favorite cup that says
    My favorite cup that says “Raise a glass to planet Earth”

Vegetarian Black Bean Burritos

One of my favorite kitchen appliances is my panini press, it was a Christmas gift quite a few years ago, and it has been well used since. It’s a versatile appliance, I often use it as an indoor grill when we are going through cold Canadian winters, I love using it to cook zucchini and of course it has been well used for sandwiches. I believe any sandwich is made better by adding a few grill marks and warming it up by a press.

Shrimp skewers and summer squash grilling.
Using the panini press as an indoor grill – Shrimp skewers and summer squash

One day I decided to try and see what other types of sandwiches I could put into the panini press and that is when I first made my heavenly vegetarian black bean burritos. I added a few things I normally keep on hand, cheese that has the best melt, black beans that add plenty of protein for a vegetarian diet, and perfect for southwestern flavors, spinach my favorite green and nutrient dense brown rice. tumblr_m72j7lp9uz1rx9tr8o1_500Black Bean Burritos

Ingredients

  • 2 large whole wheat tortillas
  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1/2 cup black beans
  • chopped spinach
  • 1/3 cup Monterrey jack cheese

Directions 

  1. Place down spinach leaves, black beans, rice and sprinkle with cheese in middle of tortilla.
  2. Tuck in ends of tortilla and roll into burrito form
  3. Use an indoor grill or panini press to heat burrito through and melting the cheese until it browns on each side.003

Whole Wheat Yogurt Blueberry Doughnuts

Yogurt was never a staple in my home growing up, everyone other then me disliked the taste (even frozen yogurt!) so we had it sometimes while I was a young child but as I became a pre-teen we found out that I was lactose intolerant. Back then groceries stores were not as friendly to those with lactose intolerance, there was only two flavors of lactose free ice cream, and it was difficult for my parents to find milk that I was able to drink. Recently I began wanting to bring yogurt back in my life, and tried to bring it into my daughters meals seeing as she dislikes the taste of milk and needs her calcium somehow. Luckily for me I’ve been able to find a couple of lactose free yogurts available, also lucky for Lily also since she seems to be lactose intolerant also.

With a tub of vanilla lactose free yogurt in my fridge I went on a quest to bake something using yogurt. I’ve been wanting to try and make a baked doughnut recipe since I’ve had a doughnut pan for almost two years and still had yet to use it. I found whole wheat yogurt in my cupboard and frozen blueberries so that was my decision, whole wheat blueberry doughnuts. I just had to figure out how to incorporate the yogurt, I looked up a few recipes and saw most people using buttermilk, I decided to swap out that ingredient for the yogurt. I understand this could be given more nutrients if Greek yogurt was used but have been unable to find lactose free Greek yogurt in my grocery stores, if you wish to use that instead be my guest and let me know if it works out! 2015 spring 202 2015 spring 207

Whole Wheat Yogurt Blueberry Doughnuts 

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup blueberries

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar. Then add the egg, yogurt and vanilla and combine.
  3. Add the flour, baking powder and salt into the sugar mixture and combine.
  4. Fold into the mixture the blueberries.
  5. Spoon the mixture into a greased donut pan about 3/4ths full.
  6. Bake for 14 minutes. 2015 spring 206

Cucumber and Bulgur Wheat Salad

When warmer weather comes my search through cookbooks begin to change, were during the cold months I would look for casseroles, stews and soups during the warmer weather of spring and summer I look for marinades and side dishes mostly. I love putting anything on the grill, chicken, tofu, portobello mushrooms and burgers. Instead of spending my time cooking a  full out meal on hot days I prefer to make a simple marinade and let my protein just soak in it all day, then pick a recipe for a side dish and prepare that. If you have a couple of side dish recipes in your back pocket summers meals can be simple and quick.

When looking through one of my vegetarian cookbooks I came across a photo of a delicious salad, an apple and bulgur wheat salad to be exact. Though I find it hard to enjoy a more savory dish with fruit (I look at fruit as a dessert so it is hard to wrap my mind around savory fruit) I liked the idea of the salad, I omitted the apples and a few other ingredients, added my own preferences and then switched up some of the dressing to make it to my liking, and that is when this delicious and fiber rich Cucumber and Bulgur wheat salad was born.2015 spring 152

Cucumber And Bulgur Wheat Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Bulgur Wheat
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup cubed cucumber pieces
  • 1 bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrot coins

Dressing ingredients

  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise (or vegannaise)
  • black pepper

Directions

  1. to rehydrate the bulgur wheat stir the bulgur wheat into boiling water, simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and cover until all of the water is absorbed, it will take around 15-20 minutes.
  2. In a salad bowl mix together the bulgur wheat, cucumber, carrots and bell pepper
  3. To make the dressing whisk together the mustard, honey, vinegar and mayonnaise, sprinkle with pepper to taste. Add the dressing to the bulgur wheat mixture, cover and refrigerate until needed.

 

Only A Few Changes At A Time

Here is a surprise for all of you (I can tell you it was quite the surprise for me also!) I lost a total of ten pounds in the month of April. I can not begin to tell you how shocked I was when I finally came back from moving all of my things from my old apartment on the second last day of April, unpacked my scale that I had not used since moving out the last week of March and looked down to see I was ten pounds lighter.

It was not the simple fact that I lost weight that shocked me, what shocked me was that I had not gone diet crazy and I didn’t exercise like mad to loose this weight which is what I use to do when I had such self destructive behaviors that dealt with my weight; I only changed a few slight things this past month

  • Snacking – I never really did eat anything other then a small lunch and dinner before which after researching I found out slows down one’s metabolism so adding snacks to my diet will not only speed up my metabolism if I made healthier choices for my snacks it could help boost my energy instead of drinking so much coffee. I found the best snacks are fruits, a piece of cheese and some lean chicken slices for protein.
  • Eating at an appropriate time – I would always eat dinner after Lily went to bed at night, and I have been doing this since Lily was 3 months old, which would end up being only a two hours before I myself would crawl into bed leaving not much time for my body to properly digest my food and because I was already so exhausted by the time Lily went to bed I did not always choose the healthiest foods to eat, just the quickest to prepare. Once I switched to eating dinner around 6pm I still have energy to cook a healthy meal and enjoy it.
  • Cutting out pop – I tried to cut out pop altogether this past month but that goal did not last long. I did cut down a massive amount though and I have begun to drink more water and tea rather then just coffee and soda like I would usually.
  • Adding more water –  Like I said above I would only drink soda or coffee the entire day, I would only rarely drink a glass of juice and I only recently returned to my obsession with tea. I began only bringing a water bottle when I went out so that I would not be tempted to purchase pop while out which worked. I have had some difficulty with water once I am home but I’m slowly adding more water to my drinks to water them down.
  • Exercise – Any exercise is good exercise I once heard. I’m not doing anything like weightlifting or running but I began to go on more walks, and even quite a few hour long walks. It gets your muscles moving, it releases enough endorphin’s to boost your mood and it does not always have to be much every single day.

I believe what helped with the goals I set for myself to become healthier was that I didn’t bombard myself with too much, if I had I might have easily given up. It’s like when people set outlandish New Years resolutions they tell themselves “I’m going to loose 50 pounds this year” or they extend themselves to much to prepare for a big marathon at the beginning of the year while the marathon is near the end of the year and they wear themselves out before it comes time; if you put to much on yourself you can feel overwhelmed with to much work that has to be done and stressed by the timeline you have given yourself.

9b16f45bc2cc97c25b9e6128205bb61dIt worked because I didn’t try to do to much at once, I was able to put my concentration and energy into the things that were most important to change in the beginning. If I didn’t try to break the habit of not eating snacks or only eating unhealthy snacks I would not have enough energy to reach my goals of spending time outside running around with my daughter, I won’t have energy to do yoga, heck I wont have enough energy to get through the day. If I didn’t start eating dinner at a better time I would not have been able to make recipes that are to be posted to the blog soon, which would have made my goal of what I wish my blog to become not come true. Without trying to take more walks on a day to day basis I would not have as much stamina once I get to a place that I can try to achieve my fitness goals, letting go of the daily can of Root Beer I would not have started to drink almond milk, real fruit juices and I would have been stuck in a rut of boring drinks instead of trying new things. Starting with only a small amount of goals – but goals that create a basis for my bigger goals allowed me to spend time on what matters most and kept me on track instead of filling my plate with breaking habits and making new ones that would drain all of my energy and leave me unmotivated to continue on.

These goals were not for weight-loss exclusively, these goals were for a healthier life, so that I have more energy, so I can feel proud of what I put into my body, and so that I can set a good example of eating habits for my daughter, That is what is important to remember; the reason you began, if that gets hidden behind all of your tasks then there is nothing left to remind you of a reason to go on. So don’t put to much on your plate sit down and decide what is most important and start with that, once you have reached those goals replace it with another on the list.

Fun Fact: It takes 45 days to learn a new habit, and another 45 days to have it ingrained into your life.