Healthy In Candy Land

Caring for our health & our planet one meal at a time

   Nov 08 2012


Later this month I will have been writing here on this blog for two years. Two years!

It has been two years of sharing my thoughts, my views, my family, my experiences and my food. It has provided me with a space in which to express myself and to interact with others. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the opportunities I’ve had and the connections I’ve made with others and everything I have learned along the way. And I am continuously humbled by the fact that all of you are out there, reading the things I have to say. I appreciate each and every one of you so very much.

But, you know what? I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately.

And after several years of wanting to, but never finding the time, I finally started meditating.

You see, over the past several months I have found myself rushing around every single day with an overwhelming sense of anxiousness and urgency. Like, no matter what I do, I can’t catch up. There’s always something I need to be doing.

It is exhausting.

And I’ve realized that while I am the type of person that likes to be busy, I just don’t want to be this busy anymore.

Life is way to short to be this busy. I have an incredibly awesome family with two sons that are at this really fun age that I want to be present for before they are way too cool for their mom. I have an amazing husband who always seems to get whatever time is leftover, if there is any. Why should the most important things in my life become less of a priority because there is too much other “stuff” to do? Why should I feel like I never have time to do all (or even just some!) of the things I want to do? Why can’t I ever just be?

Something’s gotta give.

As much as I love blogging and sharing my ideas and knowledge in an attempt to make a difference, no matter how small, I have decided to take a break from blogging. I’ve noticed a severe decline in the quality of my posts lately, and with it some of the enjoyment I previously experienced in creating them. I’ve never been good at finding the middle ground between all or nothing, so for now, I am giving myself the gift of time by freeing up a lot of my “spare” time formerly spent on blogging. It may not seem like it, but I put a lot of time into this thing. From creating recipes, photographing them, editing photos, writing and sometimes researching, it has been almost a full time job for me. A full time job that I am not getting paid for. (It is SO not about the money though.)

I don’t quite know yet if this will be a permanent pause or a temporary one. But I do know that it is the right decision for me. Once I made the decision in my mind several days ago, I felt like a heavy load was lifted from my shoulders.

Yesterday I met Erik for lunch. And we talked. And I was totally present and enjoyed every second. And every bite.

The night before I got up from the dinner table and sat on the family room floor to play Uno with my boys. And we laughed. And they ganged up on me and I lost.

I want more of these experiences.

I want to cook from and delight in the thousands of beautiful recipes in the cookbooks lining my shelves and the many I have bookmarked on my computer.

I want to explore other creative outlets and different types of photography, different types of learning.

I want to actually do some of the projects I have pinned on Pinterest.

I want less time sitting at the computer.

I want to read more books.

I want to dedicate more energy to my sons’ school and help make it a better place for our kids.

I want to enjoy the holidays without a sense of urgency. Without the rush.

I want to give back to my community.

I want to sometimes just sit and be still and enjoy the calm. I want to be present and not always thinking about what’s next.

I want to drink a full cup of tea before it gets cold.

I want to be spontaneous.

I want to do so many things. So many other things. Things that don’t always involve food or physical health.

Who knows, I may find myself missing it terribly in a few weeks or months, and may resume blogging at some point, eventually. So, I am not saying goodbye forever.

I am merely pressing pause.

For now.

   Oct 29 2012

Chores, Charts and Children

I was recently asked about our family’s current chore chart system and how it works, and when there was a bribe offer involved to get me to write a post on it, I thought it might be something others might like to hear about as well. (No bribe necessary!)

Like so many things with raising kids, our reward system has evolved as our needs have changed over the years. When my boys (now ages 9 and 6) were younger, we were working very hard on teaching them basic life skills and especially good behavior. While we don’t necessarily believe in rewarding our kids for completing basic life skill tasks, I did need help in the behavior department. They seemed to go through phases of mostly good behavior, and then phases of what seemed like mostly bad behavior. During the bad behavior times I felt overwhelmed and frustrated. We needed something that would focus on positive reinforcement instead of always harping on the (seemingly plentiful) negative behavior. We needed consequences for negative behavior as our old favorite technique, the time out, had been outgrown. It is exhausting and not much fun sounding like a broken record repeatedly telling one kid or the other to stop doing this or that or the other thing.

In my desperate search for something–anything that would help, I stumbled upon the Behavior Bucks system online. There are many different kinds, and you can even purchase an entire system that explains in detail how to use it to it’s full potential. I simply printed out some ‘behavior bucks’ from a template at on two different colors of paper, letting my kids choose their color.

I decorated a recycled glass jar to hold the earned ‘bucks’ and kept it on the kitchen counter where they would be able to see their progress (or lack thereof as the case may have been) as often as possible.

Back then our focus was on behavior. I listed out exactly which behaviors would earn ‘bucks’  and which behaviors would cost them and posted them on the refrigerator at their eye level so they could refer to it often.

And they did.

I included a large range of redemption values so that they could have a more immediate payoff if they so desired, or they could save up and work towards something bigger and better.

I have to say–this system worked very well. It was so much less stressful for us parents! I spent more time noticing the positives and got to reward for them, and I could tell them to refer to the chart when they committed a negative offense for which they would have to remove a ‘buck’ from the jar themself. They were much more motivated to do something positive and the negative behavior eventually became less and less frequent.

Fast forward almost two years and we seem to be (mostly) past the behavior issues. (Thank goodness!) Our needs for this system had changed, so we changed the system accordingly.

Now, our focus is on self-motivation, independence and responsibility.

We still use the behavior bucks as payment, but the earning requirements look much different.

On our refrigerator is a chore chart for each kid:

I created them as a Word document, printed them out and put them in a plastic sheet protector. The boys use a dry-erase marker to check off their chores as they do them each day.

For each column that is completely filled with check marks they earn one behavior buck, for a possible seven ‘bucks’ each week. I pay up on Sunday evenings and they put their bucks in the same jar.

Just as the system has changed, so have the rewards. These rewards are all things they came up with on their own:

Now that they are older, the rewards don’t have to be quite as immediate, and they enjoy saving up for ‘big’ rewards. We have tried to focus on rewarding with fun experiences instead of “stuff” as my kids aren’t very motivated by material objects.

This new system is working out very well too, and we have had some fun times from them cashing in their ‘bucks’.

They are also rewarded for any extra chores they do around the house, and exceptional behavior and/or thoughtfulness is also handsomely rewarded. Just yesterday Cameron earned two extra bucks for volunteering to help us get ready for a party at our house. He vacuumed, helped in the kitchen, and cleaned up the play room, without being asked to do so! Yes!

There have been days when not all the check marks were earned, but for the most part, I don’t even have to ask them to do their chores anymore. We still take away ‘bucks’ for severe negative behavior, but it rarely happens.

One thing I was asked about and I was all,”well, uh, hmmm,” was, what if a child refuses to do a chore because they don’t feel like it, and willingly accepts the fact that they won’t earn their checkmark, or whatever other designated reward they usually earn?  It has never happened to us (quick, someone knock on some wood or something!), and frankly I’d never thought about the possibility before. While I sit here scratching my head, does anyone else have an idea? I guess you could take away previously earned ‘bucks’ for refusal to do set chores? Or something?

So then, what about real money? We’ve never given an allowance to our kids, but whenever they had a desire to earn money we set up opportunities for them to do so (like a specific job around the house, at Erik’s office, etc.), but since they are not very motivated by material things, they aren’t all that interested in earning money either. I would like them to learn money management though so I am thinking eventually we will introduce the idea, and maybe use real money instead of behavior bucks. But for now, things are working well as is, and the phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” comes to mind.

How do you feel about rewarding kids? If you have kids, do you have a reward system in place? Do you have another system that works? What do you think about allowances? What age is the best time to start? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

   Oct 28 2012

What’s For Dinner 5.0

 Here we are at a full month of weekly menu plans. I committed to the challenge and was able to get one done each week, even though some weeks I was tempted to skip it. I was always so glad I did it after it was done though!

Last week was a weird week, thrown off by a sick kiddo at home on Monday so I didn’t get all of my shopping done that day. One planned meal never happened at all in favor of leftovers and it being too late to cook. Some weeks happen that way.

While sitting at the table after dinner on Friday night, (just after reading and talking about at a Time For Kids article about insects becoming the new meat–yum, right?), I asked my family what they would like for dinner this week and I was surprised shocked at some of the responses. Erik requested pizza (gee, thanks hon. We have pizza every Friday.) Cameron requested veggie tacos (In chant form: Tac-os! Tac-os! Tac-os!) and, get this, Jace (the picky one) requested vegetarian sushi (!) and (?), and baked stuffed sweet potatoes. With broccoli.

What the… what?! Jace was requesting veggies?

First, I didn’t know he even knew what sushi was, and second he seemed to know enough that we would have to substitute the crab for veggies or tofu, and instead of a seaweed wrapper he “would like a rice paper wrapper like we use on fresh rolls.”


So, here is the plan:

Monday: Quick and easy Veggie Tacos with refried beans, romaine, purple cabbage, red bell peppers and some apple salsa on top:

Tuesday: Baked Tofu and Roasted VeggiesThursday was the last day of our farmers market and Erik went a little crazy. I can barely close our fridge door so we need to use up some of that produce!

Wednesday: Halloween! Veggie Chili in the crockpot, Cornbread Muffins, and salad with pumpkin cider vinaigrette. We have a few friends coming over and vegetarian chili is a hearty meal that easily feeds a crowd, even non-vegetarians.

Thursday: Baked, Stuffed Sweet Potatoes–per Jace’s request. I’ll stuff them with broccoli and a little cheese, and for the grownups maybe some jalapenos as well.

Friday: Homemade Pizza, of course. Pizza Friday!

Saturday: We are hosting a party for everyone that went on the trip to St. Thomas. Everyone is bringing something tropical and Erik will probably make his signature appetizer: Thai Pineapple Bites

We’ll also be making Pain Killers (the real version this time, not the smoothie!)

Sunday: Vegetarian Sushi–I made it once before, many years ago for a dinner party and I remember it taking me a looooong time. We’ll see if a few more years experience in the kitchen will speed up the process. Also, we’ll experiment with how well rice paper wrappers will hold together and slice and how sticky I can get brown rice. I’m not very optimistic but it is worth a try. Anything for my kids requesting a healthy meal!

I wish you a wonderful week full of healthy meals!

Be sure to check out all the other plans linked up at Mommy Run Fast and  Fitness, Health & Happiness, and link up your own, if you are so inclined.

I’m curious, is our weekly menu plan something that you like seeing? Should I keep posting it every week, or do you find it a total snoozefest? 

   Oct 25 2012

Gluten Free Corn Bread Muffins

My son’s (advanced) reading class recently finished reading Barn Dance! and to celebrate they had their own Barn Dance Hoe-Down this morning at school.

Jace’s teacher invited me to come help and as I am never one to miss a hoe-down, I packed up a bag of apples, put on my only flannel shirt and the closest thing I have to cowboy boots and I went and do si doe’d with some first graders!

Oh man, cowboy hats, bandanas, and little kids dancing–it just don’t get any cuter ‘an that, y’all!

After they were done circling to the left and did their final curtsy they snacked on apple slices and apple juice and posed for photos. It was such a good time!

By the time I got home I was getting hungry for lunch and suddenly had a hankering for the last of the chili in the fridge. Nothing says barn dance and hoe down better than a big bowl o’ chili, except if you have some cornbread to go with it!

Since giving up wheat about a year and a half ago, I have had many, many failed attempts at gluten free corn bread.  The term hockey puck comes to mind when I think back to those sad days. But since I have seen almond meal showing up in nearly every gluten free baked good I come across, I thought maybe that could be the missing link.

And I’ll be darned if it wasnt’!

Gluten Free Corn Bread Muffins

by Candy

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 17 minutes

Keywords: bake side snack bread gluten-free cornmeal masa harina Super Bowl

Ingredients (Makes 12 muffins)

  • 2/3 cup cornmeal
  • 1/3 cup oat flour
  • 3 T brown rice flour
  • 2 T almond meal
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (or milk of choice)
  • 3 T unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 T honey
  • 2 T coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 of a 4 oz. can green chilies


Preheat oven to 350*.

Line muffin pan with liners or grease very well.

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients and mix well.

Whisk eggs in a medium bowl and add the remaining wet ingredients.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until just combined.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin tin, filling to about 1/4″ from the top.

Bake for about 17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Allow to cool slightly in the pan then remove.

Serve warm or store in an airtight container.

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These are nice and fluffy with awesome corn flavor, but the addition of corn kernels and green chilies give them some extra gumption, if ya know what I mean?

There is a hint of sweetness from the honey, but it is nicely balanced with the savory chili powder and the green chilies.

These would be awesome on their own, with a little drizzle of honey,

but after all that barn dancin’ I needed a hot bowl of chili to go with it.


   Oct 22 2012

Boo to You Too!

Besides being my favorite day of the year, our neighborhood is a lot of fun at Halloween. Many houses get serious about decorating–this was ours last year:

(Visit here to see last year’s recap.) This year we’ve added even more decorations, both inside and out!

Hundreds of people flood our streets for trick-or-treating on Halloween night. I stockpile candy all month long.

But in the weeks before Halloween, it is a tradition for lot’s of Boo-ing to take place.

I wrote about our experience last year and how much the kids loved coming home to find a Halloween treat on the front porch, but even more they loved ‘booing’ other people. The thrill of sneaking up to a house, leaving a goodie bag, ringing the doorbell and running away is beyond exciting fun for them!

So instead of just two like last year, we put together five goodie bags a few days ago.

They were for families we know with kids so we included stickers, glow sticks, pencils, bubbles, reusable straws, a stamp pad, flashlight and of course, some small bags of candy.

And then, under the cover of darkness, two very giddy boys set off like stealth ninjas in the night, with giggly parents in tow.

Have you ever been Boo-ed or Boo-ed someone else?

If you’d like to start this fun tradition in your own neighborhood (or with co-workers!) go to BeenBooed, print out your own “You’ve Been Boo-ed!” sheet, fill a bag or bucket with treats and watch the fun spread.

I have to admit, I had just as much fun as the kids did!

   Oct 21 2012

What’s For Dinner 4.0

I think my kids like our weekly menu plan just as much as I do. Almost every morning or afternoon I see them go into the kitchen and look at the list on the bulletin board to see what is for dinner that night. Most of the time (but not always) they walk away saying, “Yesssssss!”

Last week they got particularly excited about Breakfast For Dinner. We’ll have to do that more often!

This week when I asked everyone for their ideas I got “Paninis?” from Erik, “Pasta!” from Jace, and “Salad! Omg, salad sounds so good right now!” from Cameron.

Ask and you shall receive, my loves!

Monday: Veggie & Cheese Paninis with Salad and Roasted Veggies–I have some delicata squash, beets, and carrots I am itching to roast up. I also might try my hand at making gluten free bread so I can have a panini too.

Tuesday: Leftover Apple Chili–A busy night with soccer practice and an event at school will make it a perfect night for leftovers from Sunday’s dinner. I will make some pasta for Jace because he doesn’t like beans.

Wednesday: Vegetarian Phở–Last night we were walking in to a Halloween store and as we passed a Phở restaurant in the parking lot, Cameron said, “Mom, you should make yours again–that was so good!”

Thursday: Quinoa & White Bean Stuffed Acorn Squash with Roasted Brussels Sprouts–I am a week late for adding acorn squash to the menu (per last week’s challenge) but here it is. I can’t wait!

Friday: Homemade Pizza Friday!–It never gets old, I swear.

Saturday: We have tickets to The Haunted Theater (a local ballet performance where they decorate the theater and backstage and everyone wears costumes–it’s so fun and one of our Halloween traditions) and then we will probably go out for dinner afterwards. I’m thinking Thai food.

Sunday: We are hosting our annual pumpkin carving party with our extended families during the afternoon/evening so we’ll munch on the plentitude of snacks I will prepare. One of which will be this:

As well as these Healthy Halloween No Bake Balls Pumpkins:

For more  menu plans and dinner ideas be sure to check out Mommy Run Fast and/or Fitness, Health & Happiness, and if you are so inclined, link up your own menu plan while you are there! We’d love for you to join us.

 What’s for dinner at your house?

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