Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Chocolate Pancakes

Well, three weeks into the new year and I am already behind on my self-imposed goal of weekly updates. . .I did a fair amount of cooking over the long weekend and was planning a post with a fun quesadilla I made on Saturday, but as fate would have it, we were snowed in this morning and sometimes being stuck in the house, unable to go to work can prompt me to try something new.

While I may not have been able to physically drive to work today, I still had a number of calls I needed to attend to, so in effort to keep the kiddies entertained and semi-quiet I decided to make a dark chocolate pancake.

I guess I should back up a little more. . . a few weeks ago, when I was updating my Amazon subscriptions I stumbled upon Hershey's Special Dark coco powder. After doing some reading, I found that its a fairly scarce product that a number of home cooks have had trouble finding. At the time, the only option I could find was a 6-pack. So, as you may guess, I have been making a lot with dark chocolate lately since I have plenty handy.

I don't know about you, but I get asked all the time to make pancakes by the little girl, typically I can only make them on the weekend, but she was eager to take advantage of an extra morning of me being at home.

What you'll need:
1 c flour
1/3 c Hershey's Special Dark powder
1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp s  alt
1 cup milk
1 TBSP flax seed + 3 TBSP water (OR 1 egg)
1 tsp vanilla
2 TBSP olive oil + more for pan
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Step 1 -Start by combining the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, powder, coco powder, salt)
Step 2 - Combine the rest of the ingredients
Step 3 - Combine dry and wet, add mini chocolate chips
Step 4 - Heat oil in pan, let mix sit for 10 minute to thicken, cook 3 - 4 minutes per side

YUM! These were so good the kids didn't even want anything else on top. And in case you were wondering, having a 4 year old babysit her two brothers only goes smoothly for a few minutes. Sh

How could I say no to this face asking for pancakes???

Saturday, January 11, 2014


I don’t know about you, but grazing between meals helps me make it through the day. My family can attest that you do not want to see me hungry!!! I’ve tried a variety of bars and trail mixes but some bars can be quite high in calories and fat and trail mixes taste great, but I find myself mindlessly pouring out a little more and then over eating instead of just getting a quick snack.
Enter Graze. Several months ago I stumbled upon an ad for Graze.com, a subscription snack service. Normally this type of thing wouldn’t appeal to me, but the first month was free with a promo code, so I figured I could give it a try and then cancel if I didn’t like it. Fast forward several months, and I am completely hooked. Graze does several things right, first, they have a large variety of snacks/bars/mixes of both the sweet and savory varieties and while they allow you to offer some input to what you’ll receive through rankings, each box is a fun surprise of tasty snacks.
I have gone with the four snack box, so I receive four portion controlled snacks, they come with a sheet that includes nutrition facts and ingredient lists are available on their website. All the snacks are preservative and color free, so I don’t have to worry about chemicals making their way into any of these products. And, best of all, each box is only $6 (including shipping!). So far, I have found haven’t found a snack that I haven’t liked. Here’s a rundown of some of my most recent treats:
Olive and Rosemary Bruschetta -  I knew from the name alone this would be a hit, there was a mix of mini cracker type items wonderfully flavored
Fruit and Seed Flapjack – Flapjack = bar, I was very surprised by this one, instead of being hard and over processed, it had a softer texture even with a dense oat, fruit and seed appearance, this bar was amazing. I have a Summer Berry Flapjack in my most  recent box that I am anxious to try as well.
Dark Rocky Road – For those of you with a sweet tooth, there are plenty of options with chocolate, this snack is a mix of dark chocolate buttons, cranberries and pecans. Sticking with the health conscience vision of the company, I have never received more than one snack at a time with chocolate in it, which I think it good.
Tomato and Basil Pizza – This one had a bit of a powdery residue, similar to what you may see cheese flavored chips, I was pleasantly surprised though that it didn’t make a bit mess. I thought I was going to hate eating it at work, but it really wasn’t bad. It tasted great, still wanted to wash my hands afterwards, but it wasn’t a big mess.
Texan Corn Salsa – This was another pleasant surprise. The name would lead you to believe it is a salsa, but in fact, it’s a salsa flavored trail mix. The dried corn was really hard, but it had a great flavor. Not one I would want on a frequent basis, but I wouldn’t mind getting it once or twice over the year.
Poached Pear – I’m not a big pear fan, but in a dried state, I actually liked it, there were lemon raisins included with it. I raised my eyebrows at first, not sure I would like that, but with the pear and pumpkin seeds it was a nice flavor. I never would have but those things together, but I am already making plans for new ways to use my pumpkin seeds next fall.
After eating each snack, I can go in and update my thoughts on the snack on their sight so they can factor that into my future orders. They try to provide a mix of things they know you’ll love, as well as some items designed to stretch your pallet. I definitely don’t find myself getting bored with the graze boxes.
This review was my personal opinion, I have no connection to Graze other than being a customer since the fall. If you are interested though, I have a invitation code that is sent with each order, if you enter this,  you will receive your first and fifth boxes free! Happy grazing J
Invitation code: YHKXZ95KB

Friday, January 3, 2014

Happy 2014!

Happy 2014! While I am not usually one for resolutions, I am going to make it a goal to get back to posting in this space on a more frequent basis. A lot happened in 2013 that I'm sad I didn't post more for future reference, so, I'm going to try to cram the last 4 months highlights into one post, then we'll get back to normal food posts. . .

Thinking about having teeth someday. . .

In September, I returned to work from maternity leave, which meant in addition to the cooking, hugs, cleaning and laundry that is necessary to keep a family of 5 operational, I was also out of the house for 9 - 10 hours each day. The RLG (Really Little Guy) was very predictable with his night time sleep pattern, so while I was still waking up each night, my body was use to it. I did a great job working out in September, dragging myself out of bed at least 4 mornings a week before work to do P90X, followed by green smoothie when I was done. Surprisingly, Little Girl loves green smoothies too, so I would make  little extra for her. As long as there is some peanut butter in there, she's happy.

Also in September our county hosted a farm day. I believe they have been doing this for some time, but I hadn't heard of it before this year. The two older kids, their grandma and I visited 3 of 14 farms that were hosting events one Saturday. We started off at a Pumpkin Patch going on what could be the saddest hay ride ever. We went about 100 yards and ended up a ground plot not any larger than my garage with the pumpkins pre-picked, placed around the edge of the plot. . .At this point I was thinking I should have just bought the pumpkins from the bins in front of Kroger. . . The second farm was much better, it was a dairy farm, we were able to visit with the cows, learned about every step of the process and even sample ice cream made in an old fashioned wooden ice cream maker. We even say some baby cows, come to find out, they like sucking on fingers just like human babies. Our final stop was at a horse farm. It was quite far away, but worth the extra driving. They had an arena where we could watch demonstrations of different types of show horses and their resident vet would answer questions specific to each horse. I can't wait until next year to visit some more farms, apparently our neighboring county has a similar type of farm day, so I may check that out in 2014 as well.

In October, my Chief Food Critic traveled quite a bit for work, so my work-outs started to struggle a bit, and I didn't have a chance to make many new recipes. I did manage to make the same 3 dishes several times. . .pumpkin soup (I don't know how to survived without a Vitamix before, it makes the soup SOOOOO much better than using the immersion blender), eggplant parmesan (baked not fried), and a vegetable macaroni and cheese. I have made a number of varieties of the vegetable mac and cheese, it's usually quite light on the cheese, very heavy on the veggies, and overall a delicious dish. The month finished with a stormy Halloween, due to the impending fright of a horrible thunder storm, all the kids came to our house in a 40 minute window. It was kinda nice having them all together. The next day we headed to Indianapolis for the Monumental Marathon.

My Chief Food Critic was making his valiant return to marathoning, he's battled a number of injuries that have kept him out of marathoning for a few years. My brother and sister in law were running as well, so I had their daughter, along with our three for spectating. It was chilly, but the we bundled up, packed lots of goodies and found a coffee shop around the 8 mile mark to enjoy some hot chocolate while we waited. I think having good spectators can really help runners make it through, our runners were happy to see us, we saw everyone at least once, with a couple people twice. I had the RLG strapped to me in a bjorn and three toddlers in a wagon, so I was restricted in the speed at which I could get from spot to spot, cow bell, glittery signs and all.

Following the race, we had so much fun swimming in the hotel pool, we decided to take advantage of a free rewards night in Louisville to visit some relatives while partaking in another weekend of swimming. Ultimately, all of the swimming weekends helped get us ready for our 10 day Orlando vacation in December.

Flying with three kids was an adventure, luckily the kiddies were all good flying down there and everyone around us seemed to be "kid people", on the flight back though. . .well first my Chief Food Critic was upgraded, so him and RLG sat in first class, while the other two and I sat in "normal" seats. The flight staff seemed appalled that he would leave me behind, but he ended up with a crying child half the flight and the extra room in the seats and the ability to lounge back more helped out, I didn't mind. We both noticed the flight crew leaving Orlando was not nearly as kid friendly though. I don't have any facts on this, but I would have to think that Orlando sees more kids going in and out than most airports in the country, wouldn't you think the flight crews that go there would be warmer towards kids?

Here they are going on a ride together (without parents!!!), so they held on to each other to make sure they didn't get lost.
Anyway. . .we went SeaWorld, Disney's Magic Kingdom and the Orlando Science Center while we were there. If you go to Orlando with younger kids, I highly recommend the Orlando Science Center for a break from the parks, they have a ton of hands on activities so the kids can play. I was actually looking for more of a museum, but as it turns out, it was  a great fit for what the kiddies needed. They even had a traveling Sesame Street display there, where they could actually play aside statues and pictures of some of their favorite monster friends. We ended up with season passes to SeaWorld, so we went three times! There Christmas shows were a lot of fun, if you have the chance to go there during December, make sure you go one of the days they have their special shows.

One of the many neat things at the Orlando Science Center. . .this area is an Orange production. . .the kids can pick the oranges, put them in the carts, then put them through the packaging machine. ..and then magically the orange tree grows more, even I had more fun with this one.
RLG and me enjoying the beach at the Grand Flordian. . .what a view!
We came back from Orlando and had only a handful of days before Santa arrived at our house. We had a great Christmas, seeing our family, but it was really nice to come home on December 26 to be able to start putting things away and cleaning up from both trips and Christmas. It took a few days of solid effort, but we got there and the house if finally clean!!!

Now, we are hoping to get back on track for 2014. . .this guy found his first tooth on New Years Eve. . .and then had his first cereal on New Years Day. So far, it's been a great year!