Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sprouted Grain & Hummus Pizza. (Vegan)

I will admit when I was introduced to cold veggie pizza last year I fell in love.  Absolutely in love.  All the delicious fresh veggies on top are deceiving, however, and they do very little to balance out the junk food underneath.  I’m talking about Pillsbury croissants rolled into a pizza crust and topped with cream cheese.  It’s delicious.  Just not I need to run 10k to balance out this one slice delicious.  So, as with all things delicious - I tried putting a healthier spin on it.  It’s not so healthy you can eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day - but it’s pretty derned healthy.  

Sprouted grain crust, hummus as the “sauce” and fresh veg toppings made for a flavourful and DELISH version of…

Cold Veggie Pizza

This recipe is so relaxed and versatile.  I keep my crust separate from the toppings and sauce until I'm ready to sit down and eat.  I'm sure it could be packed in a lunch, but I think the sooner you eat it after put together - the better. 


1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tsp sugar (you can use any kind - honey, agave, something to feed the yeast)
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast

Mix water and sugar in a large bowl and sprinkle yeast on top.  Let sit for five minutes to make sure yeast isn’t “dead”.  It will look bubbly.  

1 tsp salt
2 tbsp seasoning (I used Costco’s organic no-salt seasoning) 
2 tbsp oil (olive oil works best, but you can use anything)
1 1/2 cups sprouted grain kamut flour
1 1/2 cups sprouted grain spelt flour
Up to 1 1/2 cups additional flour

Add salt, seasoning and oil to water and yeast mixture.  Add flour and use a large wooden spoon to mix.  You will quickly see how much more flour you need.  Depending on what climate you live in and what flour you use will greatly vary how much you need.  Regular all purpose flour is about 4 cups.  Spelt is only 3.  Don’t use a gluten free all purpose mix in this recipe, I’ve tried - it was terrible.  If you want to go the GF route, use Bob's Redmill Pizza dough mix.  It's badass.  

Knead your dough in the bowl a few times until it’s well blended and begins to spring back once you knead it.  You want your dough to be a little sticky but not cling to the sides of your bowl.  You may have read my tip in a previous post, but with breads the rule is “the wetter the better” so don’t add too much flour.  Cover the bowl with a wet dishcloth or saran wrap and leave for 30 minutes to an hour, until it’s doubled in size.  This depends on the temperature of your house of course. 

Preheat oven to 425.  This recipe will make two large 12-14 inch pizzas (depending on how thick you want your crust).  I like a very thin crust. I pressed mine down into a square shape because I wanted to cut the pieces into squares and not triangles.  If you don't use parchment paper - you should.  I just plop mine out of the bowl onto parchment paper and I'm ready to go.  If you refuse to use parchment, go ahead and grease & flour the cookie sheet.   When dough is ready bake for 10-12 minutes.  You can tell the bread is done as it will brown slightly and the edges will crisp up.  

Store bread in a large dishtowel once it's cool.  If you put it in a bag or tupperware it will lose some of its crunch.  


I washed and cut romaine nice and small (you could also use a cheese grater).  I chopped up some green onions and cucumber and sliced tomatoes.  If it wasn’t the end of the week I would have liked to put on fresh mushrooms and peppers - but my little 3 year old is obsessed with both and eats them like they’re candy.  Anyways - put on whatever you have!  

Suggestions: baby kale, sprouts, broccoli, roasted garlic.....  

If you want to make your own hummus, it’s SUPER easy.   Super-duper easy.  


1 can chickpeas, rinsed
1-2 lemons, juiced
Tahini (sesame seeds ground into a paste)

Optional add ins
- roasted garlic (the more the better)
- roasted red pepper
- salsa (oooh la la)
- cumin
- roasted jalepeno peppers (when I do this I sub lime juice for lemon juice)

Simply place your chickpeas, and roughly 1/4 cup Tahini in a food processor with the juice from one lemon.  Pulse for a while.  You are the boss of your own hummus so if you like it chunky so be it - but I like it smooth.  If you find you need more lemon juice, add as much as you’d like.  You can also add olive oil to get it smooth and keep the food processor from getting gunked up - I just prefer to keep mine oil free.  That’s it - definitely not worth paying $6.00 at the grocery store!  Ok, when I get store bought hummus I pay way less than that and buy what seems like an uneatable amount at Costco - but we eat it.  Every time.  No such thing as an uneatable amount of hummus at this house.

I'm not sure why I insist on embarrassing myself publicly ALL THE TIME but something about it makes me think it's endearing?  You'll like me because you KNOW you're better than me.  My lovely husband took these of me enjoying the pizza, and I kid you not - they are the best shots.  

Bonus Story:  I sat down with my second slice of pizza and said to my husband - "hey, we should get a pic of me eating them since I have a bra on and your'e home."  Those are real reasons.  He said "yeah".  So, I got the camera - sat down and handed it to him and got my pizza ready.  I sat and waited for a minute (or more) and then said, "Ron!"  He looked at me, dumbfounded, with the camera in his hands and said - "what do you want me to do with this thing?"
Yes, he really had no idea why he was holding a camera and why I was facing him holding (and not eating) my pizza.  Husbands!  

Friday, March 21, 2014

8 1/2 Tips for Raising Creative Kids

 I saw this blog post shared a few times on my Facebook and it was titled "20 Ways to Keep Toddlers Busy".  I clicked on it because I have a toddler who makes schooling the older ones IMPOSSIBLE!   Some of the suggestions were decent, although I haven't tried any.  Nothing seems to keep my youngest happier than the food processor or blender.   What shocked me and actually made me sad was this suggestion: "Tape off a section of the floor for them to sit in. Also tape a spot where you place a bucket of toys. Have them stay in the taped off section for play time. This may take some training, so start off trying this for a few minutes at a time." The taped off section looks like it's 
3ft X 4ft, but I'm being honest when I say it could be smaller.  I'm not sure what this world has come to when we tape off sections on a floor for our children to be "trained" to stay in - but that's NOT childhood, and that's not what creates a healthy mind & body.  My toddlers are wonderful creative little people, and even when they are being horrific I still couldn't imagine "training" them to stay still.  Yikes!  I'm not trying to bash this blog (although it seems that's what I'm doing), but why bother having kids if you aren't going to enjoy the hee-haw out of them?  Have fun, be light, and love your creative little people like no one else can!
One of our creative breakfasts!  I give the kids a heap of fresh fruit on a plate and they arrange it on wooden skewers.  It's great occupational therapy for my son with cerebral palsy, and my kindergarten aged littles LOVE making patterns and designs with the fruit.  

8 1/2 Tips for Raising Creative Kids

1. Turn off the tv (and other electronic devices).  Make sure they know it's not an option until a set time.  Ours is right after lunch for 40 minutes (I feel that's too long and we skip it a lot), and one before bed - usually 40 minutes again, but sometimes I let them watch a full movie which can be over an hour.  It depends on how much laundry I'm folding.  

2.  Let them be bored!  Unless your house is nothing but four walls - they won't be "bored" for long.  When buying toys for your little ones - try to find ones that demand creativity.  Toys that don't move on their own, have flashy lights and songs, and do all the thinking for them.  If you hate the thought of glue and construction paper all over your house - have a craft bag or box and designated area for them to do arts in.  Sometimes the two worlds overlap… like when the boys made guns out of construction paper and chased each other around the house, but that didn't make too big of a mess.  I also like to send my kids outside and let them know they won’t be coming in for a certain amount of time (usually a 2 hour minimum).  Play.  Climb.  Fight.  Get filthy.  Eat worms.  Be kids.  

3. Require more.  Little people have great ideas if you give them the chance to need to be resourceful.  All my children have chores - and their creativity in executing them is astounding at times.  Yes, sometimes it leads to me finding things out of place - like a certain someone's book collection under the bear claw tub - but, really, it was a pretty good idea (just don't tell him that).  The point is, if you don't ask your children to do anything challenging they won't need to creatively problem solve.  This doesn’t just mean assigning chores - it means, let them figure stuff out!  You don’t have to read their instruction manual and put their Lego together perfectly.  Let them make a mess of it, or read the manual and do it perfectly.  The point is, let THEM.  

4. Be an example!  Don't be afraid for your kids to catch you boogieing down in the kitchen when a great song comes on the radio, (or Songza these days).  You'll also have to turn off the tv, allow yourself to "be bored" (i.e. put down the cell!), and find ways to incorporate creativity into your every day life.  A few of my personal rules are:  1.  No “grown up” tv until everyone is in bed, not even the news.  2. “Forget” your cell.  A lot.  Don’t take it on walks.  Don’t take it for hikes.  Definitely forget it on dates or special trips.  I know you hate people who look at their screens when you’re talking to them - don’t do it to your kids.  3. Remember who you love and treat them accordingly.  Don’t put on nice faces for strangers and let your kids get the ugliest version of you.  Let your kids get the fun, loving, patient, generous self and if there’s nothing left - the strangers, coworkers, and acquaintances can suffer - not your kids.  The thing is, if you live a true life with your children and don’t “fake it” when you’re out, you will have more than enough happiness to share with non-family.  Trust me.  Love and happiness multiply.

5. Encourage, compliment and criticize (constructively).  My son loves to sit and plunk at the piano.  He creates songs from his head that are beautiful and are actually acoustically pleasing.  I compliment his playing, but also encourage him to do his scales, try new songs, and to try to create different sounding songs.  Creativity doesn't have to be expressed in the arts.  My 5 year old is the most imaginative kid I have ever met.  He wears costumes for days.  Not costumes you'd find in a store or on tv either.  Costumes he's created, and corresponds with the superhero (or super villain) he's also dreamt up.  He will tell me so many details (too many details) about his character's home, family, motives, powers, weaknesses, etc. and it's all from HIM.  If he creates a feature that doesn't quite make sense, I challenge him on it.  Sometimes he comes up with a good explanation but other times, my asking questions helps him see that it doesn't work and he needs to figure something else out.  Our culture seems to praise kids without adding the constructive criticism part.  Yes, your child did a great job - but there is always room for improvement, and let them know that… gently. 

6. Unschedule.  Just do it.  Let your kids find THEIR own interests.  Your child may love math, chess, dancing, reading - but you will never know if you let them waste their youth on video games, YTV and schedule every last minute of their day.  Children join and quit activities and parents shell out hundreds of dollars hoping their child will find their niche.  Stop signing them up for stuff, give them actual FREE time (for a long time too) and see what they naturally like and are good at.  

PS - Don't make being a professional, or a star the objective.  Just because your son started hockey doesn't mean his goal should be to play in the NHL.  Your daughter can sing, that's great - but being famous should never be the goal.  You get the picture - just let your children be children for goodness' sake and stop making money and fame the goal for everything!

7. They aren't you.  I have never seen a kid in public wearing something ridiculous and thought the parent was to blame.  If your child is wearing a costume mid-June - AWESOME!  And way to go for not making them wear what YOU think is trendy and acceptable.  Obviously we have to draw lines at certain times, but your child is not YOU.  Kids look like mini adults most of the time, but where is the fun in that?  I can't hang out with my friends with a fake sword shoved down a belt that isn't even looped in to pants - but my kids can.  This carefree part of life is so short.  Messy hair, mismatched clothes, the same backpack for a few years..... let them decide, creatively, for themselves, how they want to present themselves.  Personally, I spent a good year or more wearing the SAME white sweatshirt with pink and purple triangles and pandas on the front.  I loved that sweatshirt.  It made me feel empowered because I loved pandas and wanted the world to know.  Our kids reflect us - they do, you can hear it in the way the talk to others or how they tackle goals, but they aren't mini versions of us.  Let your kid wear their panda sweatshirt.  

8. Just say no to branding.  Seriously!  What the heck are we doing plastering a kids room in Winnie the Pooh or Tinkerbell before they're even born?  We have lost our ever-loving minds.  Globally, we are facing issues with our youth and their feelings of entitlement.  What could make someone feel more entitled than attaching their entire personality to a BRAND!?!  This isn't just about entitlement - it's about developing a personality that is authentic.  Cornering our young people into the mainstream personality types are not only stifling their creativity, but it's creating masses of depressed and drugged children.  Yes, trends won't last forever BUT the entitlement to "things" just changes brands, it doesn't go away once you've embedded it.   I've seen kid after kid have their every whim indulged based on the newest trend.  Hannah Montana and Justin Bieber bed sheets didn't create themselves - WE created a demand for them.  Please, oh please just neutralize the branding and buy plain t-shirts* and plain sheets and backpacks without a TM.   

1/2.  STOP LISTENING TO OTHER PEOPLE.  Yes, I know how ironic that is.  What I really mean is stop listening to the wrong people.  Every family is different.  Something that works for my family won’t always work for yours.  If you have someone telling you what you “should” be doing with or for your children and it does not sit well with you, or you don’t want it for your child - just don’t do it.  For a family to be healthy, it needs to work for the family -  not for everyone outside of it.  If you don’t like condoning violence, don’t put your child in karate just because all your friend’s kids are.  If you hated piano lessons more than ANYTHING don’t enrol your child just because your parents insist you continue the tradition of music.  Keep them home, put them in after school activities, do what works for your family - BUT, and this is a big but (haha, big butt)…. it needs to be right for you AND your child.  I hear/read parents supporting other parents by spitting out the painfully common phrase “do what's best for you” or "do what works for you".  Well, that’s why we have so many darned issues folks.  You had kids, and while they shouldn’t rule the roost they certainly can’t be ignored.  Do what’s best for your whole family - parents AND children.  

This isn't one of the tips, but we need to really focus on WHO we are raising.  Are you raising a consumer?  Someone who gets every new trendy thing?  Are you raising a competitor?  Someone who will put others down so he can be the very best?  Are you raising someone who feels unimportant and small?  Someone who has never had anyone have a REAL relationship with them?  Yup, there are lots of days where we parents just try to eek by and make it to the next day, and that might include hilarious amounts of extra iPad time - but every day can't be like that.  
We have to invest in these people we brought into this world.  Invest time and relationship.  

Do it.  Just do it. 
 Or don't. 
 Get angry and write a mean response to my stupidly innocent blog post and waste precious time you could be hanging' with your littles.  
Oh man, that was a joke.  I hope you aren't writing angrily now.... 

PS All my kids are in bed.  So don't even try flipping that on me.  

Guess what?  That's all I've got.  

*I have definitely indulged my boys in second hand t-shirts when they are mental for something.  I justify it by saying I get it AFTER they've already liked something, but it's really the same thing as what I'm suggesting we stop doing.  I didn't say I was perfect, but I still stand by the principle.  I actually did stop buying any brands or logos on shirts (Mario, Superman, etc) a little over a year ago, and they haven't even noticed yet.*

My delightful husband and proofreader said I need to add an extra tip, so if you're still reading here's Ron's Bonus Tip: Yell at your kids.  A lot.  Having a healthy fear forces creativity.  The child needs to be creative for several survival reasons.  1. They can creatively dance around your intense mood swings so as not to disturb the dragon.  2. They are so miserable they create a fantasy life that is based entirely in the land of make believe.  3. Being afraid will encourage a quiet creativity that doesn't disturb the perfect life you had before all these little people started pooping, crying and making messes in your house 24 hours a day.  So.... don't forget the bonus tip; yell at your kids!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Double Chocolate Brownie Cookies (gluten free, vegan, low sugar)

Every Friday night my family enjoys what we call "treat night".  
We eat our dinner in front of the tv (horrific I know), and enjoy the treats we have been longing for ALL week!  
As you may or may not know, it is Lent for some of us - which means abstaining from certain chosen things for a period of 40 days before Easter.  Some people choose to abstain from things like Facebook, or television, and chocolate seems to be popular.  
Our family enjoys choosing extreme challenges during Lent - like the three years we cut our grocery allowance to $2.00/day per person.  
Well, Friday night treat night is not exempt from Lent.  I was worried the kids would be sad and not have motivation to achieve the goals I've set for them to be able to participate in treat night, but after our first successful week with these cookies I KNOW they are motivated to make it to next Friday. 
They know the leftovers are in the freezer and are counting down the days
until Friday.  
Who could blame them?

Double Chocolate Brownie Cookies

Preheat oven to 350 and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. 

2 tablespoon ground flax mixed with 6 tablespoons water
1/2 cup virgin coconut oil (do not melt)
1/2 cup almond butter (natural)
1/3 cup unpacked brown sugar
1/3 cup natural cane sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a small dish mix together the flax and water and set aside for a few minutes so it can thicken up. Whisk the flax again once thickened.
In a large mixing bowl (preferably stand mixer) cream your coconut oil until light and fluffy. Continue to add the wet ingredients - sugars, applesauce, vanilla and flax mixture. 

Baking with my little "helpers".  Matilda turned the mixer on high after adding the oat flour and we had an explosion of flour in the kitchen.  Fun times.  
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 cups gluten-free rolled oats, processed into flour (just pulse in your blender for flour)
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (dairy free)

Add dry ingredients one at a time.  If your dough is a bit dry, add a little more applesauce. The dough should be moist enough to form balls without cracking, but not super sticky.  Lastly, add the chocolate chips.  

I used my ice cream scoop to measure out my cookies (I use it for everything, I wish I had all the sizes).  I filled it half way each time and that gave me roughly 2tbsp sized balls.  Place on the cookie sheet 2-3 inches apart and press down just a bit so it's more of a disc and not a ball.  Bake for 12 minutes.  

Makes roughly 2 dozen large cookies.  It's hard to say - my little helpers ate a LOT of the dough before I had a chance to put it in the oven.  
No raw eggs = cookie dough pig out.  

These are excellent when slightly warm or when completely cooled.  They are not fragile or difficult to handle like some gluten free cookies, so feel free to handle them like a "normal" cookie.  

Happy Baking!

*This is an adaptation of a DELICIOUS cookie from Oh She Glows.  The original recipe uses more sugar than I'd like, so I doubled the batch and kept the sugar the same adding applesauce to sweeten and moisten.  If you'd like to give the original a try, visit her site and try the other recipes she has - it's a new favourite of mine!*

Monday, March 3, 2014

Poop Cookies

You are what you Eat!

Actually, that saying does ring true for a lot of people. 
Every time I sneak a Tunnock Snowball - standing face-to-wall in the corner of the kitchen, I look at the fluffy little treat and sadly think to myself "you are what you eat". 
It's basically marshmallow if you've never had one.  
Then I look at the snowball again and eat it quickly because I can hear tiny feet running towards me. 

I digress. 
 Today's recipe may have you scratching your head at my parenting sensibilities - but let me tell you something… we had so much fun.  
Making the cookies, laughing hysterically at what great poop shapes we could make, deciding what poop shape each of us should go with, deciding how to play the prank out, actually playing the prank out, and eating it still under the pretence that it was real poop.  Really - so much fun!  
The cookies taste great too, so it was a win-win-win.

My lovely boy found a practical joke book at the library (3 of them actually) and plotted how to use the pranks on his older sister.  
We agreed on one, and incorporated it into our "treat night".  

Poop Cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
2tbsp cocoa 

Preheat oven to 375

Melt butter, sugar and cocoa on medium heat until sugar is dissolved.  Set aside. 

1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
green food colouring
1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 cup flour
1/2 cup oats
1 cup corn flakes, rice krispies, or other cereal (we used rice krispies)

Mix egg, vanilla and 5-8 drops of green food colouring.  Add the brown sugar to the eggs, and mix thoroughly.  Add 1/2 cup flour and mix.  Add cocoa/butter mixture, mix.  Add remaining 1/2 cup flour and make sure it's mixed thoroughly. Add the oats and cereal.  

Line a baking sheet with parchment and place cookies or logs (wink wink) two inches apart.  If your dough is quite warm or you do not want your cookie to spread - pop it in the fridge or freezer for 10-30 minutes before baking.  I did not do this.  The kids couldn't wait that long.  Bake 10-12 minutes.  If you want a truly convincing cookie, set the timer for the 9 minute mark - take the cookies out and with two heat proof spatulas (or butter knives) squish the edges in.  This will stop and repair any spreading the cookie did while baking and add cracks that make it more realistic.  The cracks are also helpful for sticking peanuts or candy corn in, if you are so inclined.  

I lined a baking tray with parchment paper and wrote each child's name on the sheet in pencil (except the older sister we were pranking).  I gave each child an ice cream scoop of batter to create their own "poo" shape and place on the baking tray under/on their name.  Scooping dough ensured everyone had the same amount of dough (no fighting) and labelling the tray meant we didn't have to try to remember the details of each poop for later identification.    

We had a few extra cookies that were in the house for 3 days and were still really fresh after that time.  Just pop any leftovers in a sealed container and you can have fresh poop for days!  

I think this would be a GREAT treat to send in a school lunch! 

Happy Baking!

If you're still reading, I have a funny little story to share.  As you can see, some of the cookies were eaten outside.  I was out with the kids for a while, but the youngest was fussy and we went in leaving the older ones to play.  After a short while my 3 year old daughter came to the back door saying she lost her cookie somewhere in the snow.  
Well, we have a dog.  A dog with similar sized poop. 
 The boys were buckled over with laughter as I begged her not to search for her cookie in the snow, and DEFINITELY not to eat any suspected cookies until I confirmed if it was indeed a cookie or not. 
 I guess this is a warning - if you make these, maybe get your kids to eat them somewhere your doggie doesn't do his business.  

Just say Yes

Utilizing a budget means making small choices that add up to big numbers.  No impulse buys (even when it’s only a dollar or two) , and n...