Will Your Kids Eat Healthy Asian Peanut Lettuce Wraps?

Okay, this is for my own benefit, but I just want to clear the air.  We are not crazy.  We do not have a crazy diet.  We do eat green and healthy and actually really enjoy it.  I do not feel deprived and don't crave meat.  So often I hear people say, "so I hear you are on a crazy diet?"  No, we're not on a diet, but we have changed our diet.  Phew...now that's done.

This being said, last night we were invited to Tyler's co-worker's house for dinner.  This friend's family has two kids and another couple that came had three kids.  Did they serve bbq chicken and chocolate peanut butter salted caramel pretzel bars (yum)?  Yes, I did have some of each.  That's how we do it.  We eat a certain way at home, but do not expect others to cook they way we do. We happily enjoy whatever food is served graciously.

The point here though, is my kids.  The table had bbq chicken, salad, a sauteed snap peas, edamame, mushrooms, and roasted red peppers side, and guacamole with chips.  I hadn't realized how far we'd come with having our kids eat healthy.  The other children at the table were told "you won't like this, let me get something you like."  I used to do that.  Maybe you find yourself doing the same.

I was the person who would make separate or just slightly different dinners for adults and kids.  I wouldn't offer them new things, because I knew they weren't going to like it.  I would bring mac and cheese to other people's house, just to make sure my kids would have something to eat.  If they wanted a snack, I went straight to something from a box or package.  Veggies, well, we would encourage, but not require.

Last night, my kids ate all the food served and enjoyed it.  The other children at the table were given granola bars, yogurt, and sliced grapes (which they didn't eat).  I'm writing this to not pat myself on the back...quite the contrary...but to give you a new perspective of eating for your children.  And all of this goes in baby steps.

We realized that we were helping our kids be picky.  We catered to our now 6-year-old and his aversion for trying anything new or retrying something he didn't like the time before.  When we realized that our other child actually liked things he didn't, which I did not offer either of them, we knew we needed to change.

So if you are finding yourself saying "my kids will never do that" or feeling frustrated about the eating habits in your house, here's what we did.

We began with making one dinner.

And at dinner, everyone must have some of everything, including parents.  Even if it's something someone has decided they don't like, they have to try one bite again.  Explain that sometimes it can take 20 or more tries to like something!  The key is, you have to make it fun.  As adults, we are the example for our children.  Even if it is just a teaspoon of a taste, it counts as trying something new. As adults, we do have some things that we don't like very much, but does my husband still try an olive every time they are offered, swallow a spoonful of sweet potatoes, and silently palate other creations...yes.  His willingness to try something new/again is a huge example for our kids.

It was amazing how fast the excitement of this experiment unified us.  It gave us something to talk about.  We talked about "sometimes foods" and "always foods."  Sometimes we make weird faces when we try things, that makes it funny!

This didn't mean I was cooking crazy recipes just to make everyone try something.  You'd be surprised what can be new or repeated every day.  In my recipe searching, I just make what looks good, so we often have new meals.  The kids don't throw fits.  And if it's really something they don't want, which has happened before, then they are free to not eat it.  The stipulation is that there will be no other eating afterwards. (Keeping in mind there is the required 1 bite.)

Before this, I was afraid of sending my precious babies to bed without a full tummy.  They can handle it and pick up in the morning like it didn't happen.  I would suggest not bringing it back up either.  Let it stay in the moment it happened.  It's important to know that it's not a punishment to not get more food.  They were given food and they choose not to eat it.  We have to give them some power.

Gradually, your family will be excited about this and it becomes the game of dinner.  I attribute our kids' adjustment to our eating style now, to us having made dinner fun previously.  There isn't anything I won't try to cook that I would be afraid to feed my kids now.  It has been a long process getting here, having started off on the wrong foot, but it's here now.

This doesn't mean we're perfect and all we eat are carrot sticks.  But we aim high and if we hit just below, we're still doing good.  Saying all this, we need to be patient with each other.  We are all dealing with our own battles and are at different places on this life ladder.  It's okay.  We're here to help each other.  No one is here to judge anyone else.

I hope this has inspired someone. It's tricky and a lot of work. I know I still have more work to do. If you have a story to share, then feel free to comment below. As parents, we're in the business of trial and error.

And now for the recipe.

I saw the baby lettuce heads at costco and knew that this recipe was calling to me (please ignore awful pictures).  So I worked some "healthy" magic on it and came up with a killer recipe that has to be a new staple.  The original recipe comes from A Feathered Nest.  The kids loved it!  It was a new way to eat with the little lettuce boats.
Asian Peanut Lettuce Wraps

2 large carrots, shredded
32 ounces mushrooms, small dice
3 green onions, small dice
2 red bell peppers, small dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 zucchini, small dice
1-2 tsp sesame oil (add to taste)
1 head butter lettuce, leaves washed, separated, and dried (or the cute mini from costco)

For sauce:
1/4 - 1/2 bottle Bangkok Padang Peanut Sauce (This is spicy!  Add to taste for kids.  We set on the table to add more for adults.)
1/3 cup Asian Toasted Sesame dressing (I used the lite version)
3-4 dashes soy sauce
1 tsp dried ginger
1 Tbsp rice vinegar

Add finely diced mushrooms, onions, peppers, garlic, and zucchini to pan.  Add 8-16 ounces of water to cook.  (We don't use oil).  If you find yourself needing more water, add more.  After about 5 minutes, add sauce ingredients.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes until liquid is reduced and is almost gone and vegetables are soft and well blended.  Stir in grated carrot.  Salt to taste if needed.

You could add sunflower seeds on top if you want.  Serve with brown rice and lettuce leaves.

Bean Guacamole

Today was a busy day!  Phew.  It's almost over now (after I type this up for you).  :)  I was finishing the last couple things for a care package for my MIL.  She is having neck surgery, for the 2nd time, and is super nervous about it.  I think/hope everything will go smoothly.  But on the happy note, I don't know if I've ever been so excited to send someone a package before!  (This is where I do the happy clapping...I'm a dork).

Back to beans: this is one of my new favorites!  Make your favorite recipe (or mine below) for guacamole and add a can of beans (your personal choice) to the mixture.  I've used white beans and garbanzo beans and both taste great.  I'm sure black would be good too, but they would make your mixture not quite as bright green.

Bean Guacamole
1 Avocado
1/4 - 1/2 cup cilantro (I like a lot)
1 can of white or garbanzo beans
salt and pepper to taste
garlic powder to taste
1 tsp of lime or lemon juice (adjust to taste)
water, if needed

I LOVE my food processor!  Have I said I love my food processor yet?  I recently got this and don't know what I did before.  Anyway, mix these together.  If the mixture is too thick, add a little water.  It's nice to have a dip with your veggies or salad that actually feels like it fills you at the same time as tasting good.

Whole Wheat Pancakes

Breakfast is the hardest meal of the day for me.  Anyone else??  I never know what to eat.  Tyler is on a soymilk and grapenuts kick right now.  I think it's good, especially with cut up banana and peaches in it.  He also eats oatmeal.  For me, between getting the kids off to school, getting the morning dishes rolling, etc, etc, etc, I just would rather skip breakfast and get to brunch.

However, when my mill is full of flour (yes, I've been grinding my wheat in my blendtec flour mill and quite enjoying it), I'll make some whole wheat pancakes.  Honey flavors them just enough, but putting on some natural peanut butter is good too.  Albiet a carby (is that a word?) breakfast, they are healthy for you.
Whole Wheat Pancakes

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 flax egg (1 Tbsp flax mixed with 3 Tbsp water)
2 cups water
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 banana
Honey to taste

Mix all ingredients together.  Make sure the banana gets mixed well by your beaters into the batter, no chunks remaining.  Cook on your favorite pancake pan.  Eat and feel good.  :)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

What, I'm making cookies??  Yes, and you'll never guess what these have in them.  Wait for it...wait for it...garbanzo beans!!  After making my Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Hummus, I went for the cookies. Personally, I like the cookie version better.  The difference in textures hits it right for me.  Thanks to Texanerin Baking, I found this recipe.

While I was wary of the taste, they are delicious and you would never guess the secret ingredient.  It's a cookie that gives some protein with less sugar, carbs, and oil!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
from Texanerin Baking

1 1/4 cups canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp natural peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine everything but chocolate chips in food processor until smooth.  Scrape the sides of the food processor as you go.  Add chocolate chips and pulse a couple times or stir in.  The mixture will be thick and sticky.  Make balls (I used my cookie scoop) and press down to resemble cookie form.  They will not spread or rise upon baking.  I found them easier to form, and less sticky, if they were slightly chilled.  Bake 10-14 minutes, depending on your desired outside texture.  Personally, I cooked mine about 14 minutes.  Best if eaten the day of cooking, the outside texture goes soft if stored longer.

DIY I-Beam Dining Table: Rustic and Industrial

It's here.  The day finally arrived when the table we envisioned, is now sitting in our house.  It was worth every the hour it took to build and is exactly what we were hoping for in the outcome!  It has a steel I-beam base and wood plank top, all weighing about 500 lbs. together.  Yes, it is a beast.  Final measurements are 8.5 ft long and 45 inches wide.  The top is 3 inches thick.

There is a story behind this table.  

About 3 months ago when my parents were visiting, we watched an episode of The Kitchen Cousins, one of my favorite HGTV shows.  In that episode, they made a table (the Steel City Table) from reclaimed barn wood and metal.  It was gorgeous and we watched the table building part probably 5 times (thank to DVR). I've always wanted to try our hand at making a table, that episode sent us into it for real...getting my husband on board as well.  Now he can't walk by the table without touching it; he might be more excited about the table than buying our house!

The other inspiration for this table came from our google search for "cool table legs."  Or whatever we put in the search bar.  :)  I came across Brandner Design and loved their I-Beam table.  They are based in Montana (home of my childhood), but we weren't able to purchase a table from them...there's no shipping this thing across the country!  But after showing the picture to my Dad, he responded that we could make one like it.  So thank you to Brandner Design for inspiring the design of this table.  They have amazing things and just knowing what went into this table, they do awesome work.  

So yes, thanks goes to Kitchen Cousins for kicking our butts in gear, Brandner Design for inspiring the base, and then my Dad and Uncle who spent countless hours on the base, making everything work together just right!  Oh, yah, and my hubby for being so muscular.  I was kinda weak for the lifting involved in this project.  :)

I had posted about our table progress a couple of weeks ago, you can find that post HERE

In our garage, we continued to work on the table top.  Thanks to friends and neighbors, we had the tools to complete it.  Ty is about to do the first cut in making it the correct length.  It was fun to see the raw edge of the wood.  We knew this was going to look good.  

After we coated the ENTIRE garage with layers of sawdust (now we have another project to do), I began staining.  I stained the entire table in the Natural stain color and then went back over it with Dark Walnut.

When I did the Dark Walnut, I used a rag in one hand for putting the color on and a rag in the other hand for wiping in quickly off.  We wanted the veins to stand out, but didn't want the entire table to be too dark.  It took a little while, but turned out like we wanted.

In my Uncle Beau's garage, they were also having a party.  This really was a family table and we could not be enjoying the table now without them!  (Some of these picture are from our time in Montana a month ago, but were never posted).

 This machine drills the holes for the thread.

My parents came to visit and brought the I-beam base with them.  All Saturday was spent making last tweeks, metal grinding, spray painting, adhering felt to the bottom, leveling, and in general, carrying lots of heavy things.

And I debated, should I really post this crazy garage picture.  Well, here it is.  If you too have sawdust covering your garage from your most recent project, maybe we should be friends.  :)  The table top is finished with 5 coats of water-based polyurethane.  I've used the water-based before and it works well.  Oil-based would have worked just as well.  Really, I haven't done enough projects for multiple uses to recommend one over the other.

Once the base was inside the house, it was time to put it together.  The cool thing about the table is that it works like a puzzle.  The bottom is held by the huge threads and bolts.  Then the table is attached to the base by screws on the bottom.

This was attaching some of the last screws.  Exciting moment!

We love it!  Seriously.  The 2nd board in from the right is my favorite one.  I think it calls out to my love of animal print (zebra anyone?).  It looks rustic, which makes any and all imperfections work quite well.  Our whole great room atmosphere feels more put together with this.

I love the look of the bolts!  If you notice from Brandner Design, we have a couple extra bolts than they do.  After placing the very heavy top (about 350 lbs.), even with the steel plates that had been welded to the middle I-beam, there was some wiggling movement.  Tyler's brillant idea was to get some large bolts and nuts to add under the table top to stabilize it.  I think they work perfect and add to the design.

The chairs.  We still need 2 more to match these ones (which I will continue to scour craigslist for...or eventually go to ikea to collect).  For everyday use, there will be 4 chairs to a side, none on the ends.  With the current 6, it looks better this way.  I'm on the prowl for end chairs, but I'm still debating their design and color.

We choose these chairs because, "wait, are there chairs in this picture?"  Yes, they are see-through.  We want the table to be the highlight and if the chairs are solid, it would take away from the legs.  At least for now that's what I think.

And in case you were wondering how it looked from other parts of our space, this is the view from the office.

And this is the view from the entry.

In the end we loved the project.  It was fun to build something with Tyler that we were so excited about.  And it was also fun to have the input and help from so many friends and family.  It's beautiful!

I think my salad for lunch today looked even tastier while sitting on the table!

Friday Night Raw Salted Brownies

I don't care what your eating habits are, these are awesome for anyone!  Seriously, we could not stop eating them last night.  It was a typical lazy Friday night where we just wanted to lounge in front of the TV (we watched So You Think You Can Dance and White Collar) and we were craving something sweet.  

With my new Cuisinart (okay, I might not be able to stop talking about it...I love it!) I whipped these up from The Wannabe Chef.  They have all raw ingredients in them and can be made in about 5 minutes.
Raw Salted Brownies

16 oz pitted dates
1/4 cup raw almond or peanut butter
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup nuts, I did have peanuts & half almonds
1/2 tsp salt

Chop the dates in your food processor until they come together in a ball.  If they are not sticking well enough together, add a little bit of water.  Add in the almond or peanut butter and cocoa and blend.  Add in the nuts and salt, pulse until they are chopped.  Take out of the bowl and kneed a couple of times to make sure everything is mixed.  Spread into a 9x9 square on parchment and cut into 16 squares.  I topped some with peanut butter as an extra layer.  All good!!

*I might have eaten one for breakfast this morning!  
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