Get On The Veggie Train With Your Lollipop

My kids love walking to the mailbox for one reason. It comes in the form of a brightly colored magazine called Clubhouse Jr. Within the pages are stories, life lessons, jokes and activities. They pour over every amazing detail together on the couch and then inevitably have some craft request from within. I am decidedly un-crafty. This month, the “craft” they were interested in was a fun food activity. Whew. Food crafty-ness I can handle. If you are looking to make vegetables incredibly delightful for your kids, or simply enjoy throwing some fun into lunchtime, try out these veggie train and lunchtime lollipop recipes, courtesy of Clubhouse Jr.

Veggie Train and Lunchtime Lollipops - Bakerlady

I went with the hummus version for the trains and added an olive for my smokestack on the engine. You can fill those little celery cars with peanut butter, cream cheese or whatever your kids love instead. And I’m sure there are much more creative veggie toppers than I used. Let your (or your kid’s) imagination run wild! My kids have officially reached the “awkward-never-a-good-picture” age. Notice my son’s olive engine is already gone. He loves olives with the passion of a thousand suns.

Veggie Train and Lunchtime Lollipops - Bakerlady

Print Recipe for Veggie Train and Lunchtime Lollipops

Veggie Train
adapted from Clubhouse Jr.

Ingredients

Celery stalks, washed
Cream cheese, hummus or peanut butter
Carrots
Toothpicks
Olives or cherry tomatoes
Bits of veggies, fruit or nuts (optional)

Directions

Cut celery into 2 1/2 inch stalks.
Spread one teaspoon of cream cheese, hummus or peanut butter in each stalk.
Cut a carrot into circles about 1/4 inch thick to make the wheels.
Push a toothpick into the center of a carrot wheel. Add a wheel to the other end. Repeat to make 2 sets of wheels.
On a plate, arrange the wheels 1 1/2 inches apart.
Place the filled celery between the wheels to rest on the toothpicks.
Repeat as neccessary for more train cars.
Place an olive (or cherry tomato) with a piece of green pepper (or broccoli) in the top on the front of on of the cars for an engine stack.
Add a piece of carrot (or a baby carrot) for the engine body.
If desired, load your train cars with raisins, craisins, peas, broccoli or nuts.

Lunchtime Lollipops
adapted from Clubhouse Jr.

Ingredients

cream cheese, softened
tortillas
lunch meat, sliced
lettuce
toothpicks

Directions

1. Spread thin layer of cream cheese on tortilla.
2. Cover tortilla with lunch meat.
3. Add lettuce, if desired.
4. Roll up tortilla tightly.
5. Poke in toothpicks, 1 inch apart.
6. Cut between toothpicks to make 1-inch pieces.

If desired, slip a 2-inch piece of straw over the toothpick. Wrap each lollipop in a 5-inch square of plastic wrap. Tie with curling ribbon at the top of the toothpick stick.

Gobble-Berry Lollipops: Fill tortilla with cream cheese, cranberry sauce and sliced turkey.

BLT Lollipops: Fill tortillas with herb cream cheese, bacon bits, thinly sliced tomato and lettuce. Eat right away—tomatoes can make the lollipops soggy.

Rainbow Fruit Lollipops: Fill tortilla with cream cheese and fruit leather or jam. Make several lollipops, using a rainbow of colors.

Pizza Pops: Fill tortilla with cream cheese, pepperoni, mozzarella and sliced black olives (optional). Dip in tomato sauce.

Sunny Hawaiian Lollipops: Mix 2 tablespoons of cream cheese with 1 tablespoon of well-drained, crushed pineapple. Fill tortilla with cream cheese mixture, shredded carrot and a thin layer of ham.

Black Bean Vegetable Soup

Do you ever come back from a few days away and just want a homey, simple meal? I always seem to need a food break after a trip. I spent last weekend camping at my Nanny’s cabin. It is my favorite place on earth because there’s no cell service, no tv, no internet and a huge field to play in with a creek to cool off in. My kids burst out of the car like rockets when we arrive and run around all day every day. The cousins build forts and mud pies and memories together. They sleep like rocks while we’re there, usually drifting off on the deck trying to spy shooting stars in the mountain skies.

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Perfect Roast Chicken and Vegetables

This recipe has been shared before, but it is absolutely one of my FAVORITE dinners to make.  I love roasting chickens. They are so easy. Yes, easy. If you’ve never roasted a chicken for dinner you are missing out! If the picture in your head requires you to slave over a hot stove, basting and fretting over your bird, you need a reality check. A few minutes of prep and then into the oven it goes. No work required for an hour and a half while it cooks. When it’s done, it looks like Norman Rockwell came and painted dinner on your table. Gorgeous!

This chicken is well-flavored with butter, lemon and garlic. Stuffed inside the chicken roughly chopped, the flavor makers require almost zero prep. As far as the veggies around the chicken go, feel free to use baby carrots if you want to cut out the step of cutting up whole ones. Sometimes, I add a little poultry seasoning to the butter that gets rubbed under the skin. Sometimes not. Either way it’s delectable.

The veggies actually are my favorite part of this meal. My husband says as delicious as the chicken is, it’s really just a side dish to the perfection of the roasted vegetables. Just look at that amazing golden color. Ah-mazing.

Perfect Roast Chicken & Vegetables
(adapted from Ina Garten)

1 (5 to 6 pound) roasting chicken
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme, plus 20 sprigs (dried thyme can be substituted)
1 lemon, halved
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter (melt 2 tablespoons)
1 large yellow onion, cut into 8 chunks
4 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks
3 russet potatoes (or 5 red/baby potatoes)
Olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pin feathers and pat the outside dry. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of lemon, and all the garlic.

Poke one finger under the breast skin at opening of the chicken. Wiggle around until the skin is separated from the meat. Repeat on other breast. Rub 1 T of butter underneath the skin on each side of the chicken breast. Brush the outside of the chicken with the melted butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Place the onions, carrots, and potatoes in a roasting pan. Toss with salt, pepper, 20 sprigs of thyme, and olive oil. Spread around the bottom of the roasting pan and place the chicken on top.

Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 10-15 minutes. Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve it with the vegetables.

Chicken Pot Pie

Homemade chicken pot pie rocks my world. It shouldn’t even be called the same food as those store bought frozen bricks masquerading as pot pies. You know the ones I’m talking about. Green box. Frozen food aisle. If you think those are tasty, it’s because you have never had the pleasure of a real food version. This pot pie is full of delicious vegetables smothered in a rich sauce wrapped in a flaky crust. It is home cooking at its finest. Warming right down to your toes on a cold winter night. It is perfection.

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Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cookies

For over a week I’ve been craving chocolate and zucchini. Yes together. No kidding. It’s good. Really! I mentioned my mom’s chocolate chip zucchini cake in a post just before Easter and I’ve had a hankerin’ for it ever since. Today I realized that I had a lone leftover zucchini hanging in my crisper drawer just begging to be used. Alas, when I checked the chocolate cake recipe I realized I would need 2 zucchinis to make it. Sad day. I could have popped out to the store to fix my dire need for more of the green courgette (go ahead…click on it…it means zucchini I promise) – but I wasn’t in the mood to make a special trip. Instead, I looked for recipes that would utilize my measly 1 zucchini and still give me my chocolate fix as well. Bingo! Chocolate chip cookies with zucchini in them. I know how amazingly moist cakes and breads are when zucchini is added to the mix and I couldn’t wait to imbibe that same quality into a classic cookie.
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Zucchini “Crab” Cakes

I made these delightful “crab” cakes for my kids tonight so that my hubby and I could have Baked Salmon Cakes without worrying about my daughter’s seafood allergy. Worked like a charm. Our dinner looked enough like theirs that there was no arguing or whining, and my 4 & 2-year-old chowed down on these cakes made of (gasp!) a vegetable. I think they actually thought it was cake. Or at least the name fooled them into eating enough that they realized it was good. My husband actually couldn’t decide which of the cakes he liked better. I agree, these fake crab cakes were almost as good as the real deal. These would be great as appetizers as well, just shape into smaller patties. [Read more…]

Cabbage Soup Diet – Recap

Ah, the wedding is over and it was a great party. Wonderful celebration with family and friends. The bride was GORGEOUS! And I fit into my dress perfectly!

Day 6

Beef and Veggies day. As much beef (or chicken) and vegetables as you want along with the soup.

I was down 12 pounds the morning of day 6. Which was more than I wanted to lose, and (I think) an absurd amount of weight to lose in only 6 days. So, instead of following the diet plan, I had a huge container of chopped up fruit that I snacked on all morning, had a bowl of soup for lunch (which was the last bowl of my batch) and went to dinner and ate pollo asada, beans, chips and some grilled veggies for dinner. I didn’t drink, while out with the gals because I knew I’d be doing that the next day at the wedding, and drinking basically makes my self-control with food go out the window.

Day 7 – Wedding Day

I knew I was not going to follow the cabbage soup diet plan on this day. I didn’t even try. Was down exactly my goal of 10 pounds in the morning (actually, 10 1/2) when I weighed myself before our 7:30am hair and makeup appointment. The day was filled with wedding festivities. Photos, dresses, makeup, hairspray, high heels, music, dancing, food (the reception food was AH-MAZING), drinks and more dancing. It was a great day.

Recap

So, here are my thoughts on the whole cabbage soup diet thing. It works. You follow the eating plan (which I did…to the letter) and you WILL lose weight. I started at 147.8 pounds. By the morning of the 6th day I was down to 135.7. I have no idea what I would have lost the last two days if I’d continued on the plan. As it is, after a wedding day and night of frivolity (aka: drinking), dancing, and eating (including wedding cake at 11pm and a McDonalds stop on the way home), I was still down over 9 pounds.

However, this diet is not a long-term solution at all. I was so happy to eat real food yesterday. I overindulged.  In just about everything. Today, I’m having huge cravings for all my favorite “bad foods” and it’s taking lot of self-control not to continue pigging out. I can totally see how this diet might actually be counter productive in the long run since after a week of fruit and veggies along with cabbage soup, absolutely every single other food sounds like 5 star cuisine. I want to eat cheese and bread by the bucketful today. Instead, I went to the gym this morning and am eating a healthy, well-balanced lunch (the best sandwich ever!) and dinner. My toe is totally healed so it’s back to my normal routine of weight maintenance – working out (hard) and eating right. Another drawback of this diet is that after dropping so much weight so fast, doing it the right way is going to seem even harder than it was before.  Switching back to maintaining my weight or maybe losing a pound or so is going to seem so lame coming off dropping 10 pounds in a week. I will say though. My lunch today was the best, most amazing turkey sandwich I’ve ever had.

 

"Real" Food - Turkey Sanny, Raspberries/Apple, Pretzels

 

I can’t say that I would recommend this diet really. You absolutely should not workout at all when doing it and probably should take a multivitamin while on it as well. I actually tried to do a vitamin the first day, but there was so little food in my stomach that the vitamin hit it like a piece of lead and it made me feel nauseated. I’m sure that’s not a good sign. I do see why people get so excited about this diet though. I felt incredibly skinny yesterday. I felt great and there’s no other way I can think of – not even with workouts and a low-calorie eating plan – I could have lost 12 pounds in 6 days.  I’ll have to wait a few days of normal eating and workouts to see how much of the weight I put back on as my muscle mass builds back up. Then I’ll know if this is a good plan for “jump starting” a diet/exercise regime, or if it truly is only useful to lose weight quickly for a specific event…expecting to put the pounds back on as soon as you’re done with your cabbage soup.

Cabbage Soup Diet – Day 3

Day Three
Mix one and two: Incorporate the essentials found in the 1st and 2nd day, dropping the baked potato. Eat as much fruits and vegetables that you want to on this day together with your cabbage soup.

Hooray!! Fruit! First thing this morning I had a giant bowl filled with delicious berries of all kinds. Then I plowed thru half a cantaloupe. It was awesome. I was so craving the sweets — managing to get thru yesterday without anything sugary at all was pretty torturous.

Had a snack of an orange and some more cantaloupe. Lunchtime, I grilled up some zucchini with some salt and pepper and added it to a bowl of cabbage soup. I took the suggestion of a friend and added some fresh basil. It worked wonders! I think I enjoyed lunch’s bowl of soup more than I have any of them. Which is great because last night’s dinner bowl I had to choke down.

Additional Snacks: Bowl of pineapple, kiwi, strawberries and blueberries. Bag of carrots. More cantaloupe (it was soooo good…I couldn’t stop eating it).

Enjoyed dinner of another bowl of soup, with the basil and zucchini again. It was really good. Not sure what it is about the basil that makes it so much easier to eat, but I’m diggin it big time.

Bible study tonight while my Maddie girl was at Cubbies (Awanas for little kids) – had some apple slices while hanging with my gals.

Tomorrow is bananas and skim milk – not sure how that’s gonna play out. Thankfully, bananas are a perfect on-the-go food, because I have MOPS, preschool and a wedding rehearsal tomorrow. Totally motivated to stick with it though, as of this morning I’m down almost 8 pounds. Two days and that much weight lost — no wonder people like this plan. I keep having to remind myself that I’m going to gain it all back once I start eating normally again.

Cabbage Soup Diet – Day 2

Day 2

Make vegetables a big part of day two: You can eat any kind of cooked or raw vegetable as much as you like along with your soup. Try to pile up on leafy dark vegetables while avoiding those dry peas, beans and corn. During supper, a large potato that has been baked in the oven and lightly touched with butter may be consumed. Refrain from fruits on this day.

Breakfast: A bunch of oven roasted asparagus. Sprayed them with PAM, seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic. Baked @ 425° for about 10 minutes.

Lunch: Bowl of soup and three carrots (raw) cut up into spears

Snack: Took a nap — my head was KILLING me. Probably because I haven’t had any caffeine in the past two days.

Dinner: Baked potato (horrible irony, I could have butter on it, but I used the last butter in the house to make my daughter’s chocolate cake/frosting), sautéed mushrooms, bowl of soup

The bowl of soup with dinner did not taste good to me at all. I actually didn’t finish it. Partly because I had so many mushrooms that I was stuffed full, but also because I just didn’t want to eat the rest of it. I’m so thankful I get to eat fruit again tomorrow. The lack of sugar today was pretty rough. Especially when watching the rest of my family down a four layer chocolate/raspberry cake. I kept hold of my willpower by reminding myself that when I stepped on the scale this morning I was down FIVE pounds. I know I’ll put it all back on when I start eating “real” foods again. But that amount of weight loss in one day will (I’m sure) be my happy thought as I choke down cabbage soup the next 5 days.

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