Healthy In Candy Land

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

   Sep 20 2012

Healthier Emergencies

As much as we don’t like to think about it, disasters do happen, and while we may think one will never happen to us, it is a good idea to be prepared just in case.

One of my biggest fears is that something like a major earthquake will strike our area while my kids are at school, making it impossible for me or Erik to get to them right away. It totally could happen. In fact, chances are pretty good that something will happen before they graduate. It freaks me out, but it is out of my hands. The best thing I can do is to make sure we are prepared for such an event, whatever it may be and however bad it may end up. And then we just hope like crazy that somehow we luck out and nothing ever happens.

Every fall, my sons’ school asks parents to send in an ‘Emergency Preparedness Kit’ (or ‘Comfort Kit’) that is kept at the school all year so that in the event that something happens during school hours and they have to stay at school for an extended time, the school will be prepared to care for our kids. I think it is an excellent idea.

The information sheet that comes home along with the one-gallon zip-lock style bag for us to fill includes directions as well as a list of items to pack in the bag. I’ve always felt like such a rule breaker because I never pack everything on the list and I add a few different items that are not on the list. While easy and convenient, the items on the list are not the healthiest choices. I would feel very sorry for a teacher having to care for an entire class of children who just consumed that much sugar! When I was asked by our PTA if I had any ideas for making the list a bit better, maybe a little healthier, I was happy to help. (Hello to any Beluga parents reading this!)

First, I should note, the foods in a child’s kit should be foods they will actually eat. It won’t do any good to pack healthier options if the child won’t eat them. Second, while I would love nothing more than to pack a bunch of fresh fruits and veggies for my kids, the foods have to be shelf-stable and last for at least eight months. So even though we have to rely on prepackaged and processed foods in times of emergency, there are some better options than the primarily high-sugar, low-nutrition foods that are on the original list. 

The original list:

  • 2-3 boxes of juice
  • 1 small applesauce
  • 1 small box of cereal
  • 1 small pudding cup
  • 2 small packages fruit snacks
  • 1 granola type bar
  • 1 candy bar
  • 3 plastic spoons
  • 2 large heavy duty garbage bags
  • 1 small package disposable towelette
  • optional: a note from home and/or a family photo

The list analysis and healthier alternatives:

  • Juice: If you do pack juice, choose 100% pure juice with no sugar or artificial ingredients added. Other (better) ideas: small bottled water, individual servings of shelf stable (plain!) milk–dairy, almond or coconut are available. Coconut water is a good choice as well.
  • Applesauce: Applesauce is a great addition, as long as it has no added sugar or artificial colors. Other ideas: fruit cups in fruit juice (not syrup and with no high fructose corn syrup added).
  • Cereal: The only small boxes of cereal I could ever find are the kinds loaded with sugar. I choose to omit this item. Another idea: a small package of granola.
  • Pudding Cup: I choose to omit this item as well. Not a whole lot of nutrition but a ton of sugar and weird chemicals.
  • Fruit Snacks: These are mostly sugar with a little fruit juice added–they are basically candy. Instead, opt for 100% pure fruit strips, or freeze dried fruit (they even make freeze dried veggies!).
  • Granola type bar: Some have as much sugar and artificial ingredients as candy bars. Read ingredient labels and make sure you can recognize everything listed. Choose low sugar varieties.
  • Candy bar: If all the other items are low sugar and healthier options, I don’t mind if there is a candy bar included. I’m sure the kids would appreciate a special treat in such an uncertain situation, but this item could be omitted just the same.

Additional ideas:

  • Nuts and seeds (Unless there is a known allergy in your child’s class)
  • Trail mix
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Protein bar
  • Popcorn (natural)

Here is what I put together for my kids:

  • 2 juice boxes–100% orange juice
  • 2 applesauce cups–no sugar added
  • Pure bar–made of fruit and nuts, nothing more
  • Z-Bar–real ingredients granola-type bar
  • small package of cashews–found at Trader Joe’s
  • small package of peanut-free trail mix–also from Trader Joe’s
  • 2 Fruit strips–100% fruit, purchased from Costco
  • Candy bar–each of my boys picked out a treat candy bar
  • I also included a notecard with a family photo tucked inside

Our kits may not perfect, but there are a lot fewer chemicals and much less sugar than suggested in the original list, which makes me feel better.

I can only hope these items will provide our kids a little comfort and some (healthier) sustenance during an emergency while at school.

But even more, I can only (really) hope they won’t end up needing them and they’ll be returned on the last day of school again this year.

Question: Do you have any other healthy packaged snack ideas that I didn’t think of? Do you think your child would be accepting of healthier snack alternatives if they are not already?

   Sep 17 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Dip

Every once in a while I have these profound moments of realization about something really amazing in my life.

And in that solitary moment, it is as if someone hands me a printed photograph of the “big picture” of my life, and I get to glimpse at it’s entirety, just for a moment, before it vanishes into thin air.

It might show something I see every day, or experience on a regular basis. But that glimpse–a culmination of several soft whisper reminders that only I can hear, a number of them over a short period of time–illustrates how truly incredible it is, and it makes me stop short in my tracks as I feel my heart overflowing with gratitude as it floods into my soul.

My most recent experience with receiving one of these “big pictures” made me realize how lucky I am to get to be a mom to my two sons.

Cameron and Jace, they are my heart. They are growing up so fast and are becoming these incredible human beings that I honestly don’t feel like I can take credit for, even though they are exactly what I work toward fostering every single day. But what and who they are becoming seem so much bigger than anything I could have done.

It is truly my honor to get to call myself their mom.

We had a really great time this summer and the start of school has made me realize how much I truly enjoy spending time with them. The start of school has made me realize how responsible they have become, what good people they are, and oh, how much they have grown. Sure they’ve grown taller, but mostly, they’ve grown up.

And, of course, they challenge me, they argue with each other, they are boys through and through, and by no means are they perfect. But in “the big picture”, and when it truly matters, they amaze me to no end. They keep getting faced with new challenges and we keep raising our standards and they keep rising up to meet them, as if there were no other option.

These big picture moments may not come often, but they come often enough. And when they do, my perspective is restored, my heart swells with pride and the gratitude I feel brings me to my knees.

Last Friday afternoon brought their first full week of school to a close. At school, at home, at soccer, they have worked really hard. They have overcome and outshined in so many new ways, and I wanted to celebrate with them. I wanted to celebrate them.

I knew they would appreciate something extra to go along with their usual piece of fruit as their after school snack when they got home. I created a new twist on an old favorite of theirs. As most things are, it was made infinitely better by adding chocolate.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Dip

by Candy

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time:

Ingredients (Makes about 1 cup)

  • 1 cup non-fat organic cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup peanut flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 5 T pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


Combine all ingredients in a food processor until mixed well, scraping down the sides as needed.

Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Use to dip fruit slices, celery sticks, graham crackers, brown rice cakes, pretzels, etc. (or just a spoon!) Also delicious as a topping on oatmeal.

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They say this is their new favorite.

They also say, “it’s okay if I run out of banana slices because then I’ll just use my finger.”

(Or, you could use apples or any other fruit slices, graham crackers, pretzels, celery sticks, brown rice cakes, pretty much anything else you have on hand, including a plain spoon!)

It’s that good.

It’s also a sneaky source of protein disguised as a treat without any refined sugar–if the chocoate-peanut butter combo wasn’t enough for you.



Sometimes these after-school snack times are my favorite part of the day. And it’s not just because they occasionally involve chocolate and peanut butter.

Recently I had a dream where I got to see my boys as grown, young adult men. At the rate they are going, I have no doubt that they will grow up to be just as beautiful, inside and out, as they were in that dream. But if they could take a little more time getting to that point, I’d really appreciate it.

[Sidenote: Speaking of something amazing in my life, I am wishing my husband, Erik, a ginormously Happy Birthday today! It's going to be a fun day!]

   Sep 13 2012

Cream of Coconut Awesomesauce

I’m not sure why, but I rarely make sauces.

In fact, other than the occasional spaghetti and enchilada sauce I can’t think of any others off the top of my head (except for dipping sauces). I even have an entire cookbook just on sauces that Erik gave me for Christmas one year.

I don’t think I have made a single recipe from it. Sauces just never occur to me, I guess. Maybe it’s because I always think of them as being rich, heavy calorie bombs like my German mom used to make when I was a kid, full of meat fat, butter and/or heavy cream. I still have nightmares about her mustard sauce on halibut.

But whatever, my sauce repertoire needs some work. And just as many new creations are made when a new ingredient is tinkered around with, I created an amazing sauce the other night that I am pretty excited about.

Erik, a man of few words, took his first bite and said, “This is an awesome sauce!” (The overuse of the word ‘awesome’ is a family epidemic, apparently.)

I had most of a can of coconut cream sitting in the refrigerator from when I made that Painkiller Smoothie, and I was trying to think of a way to use the rest of it up. I didn’t want anything sweet, even though there are lots of sweet things I could think up by going that route. Instead I decided to play around and see what happened when coconut cream meets savory and slightly spicy.

(Coconut cream is similar to coconut milk, but has less water and thus, a thicker, paste-like consistency. Both are made by mixing coconut and water, blending them together and straining out the pulp. Coconut cream is strained more than coconut milk.)

Cream of Coconut Awesomesauce

by Candy

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Keywords: saute side entree appetizer gluten-free vegan coconut cream

Ingredients (Makes 4 servings)

  • 1/2 T coconut oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 (15 oz.) can coconut cream (you can also use coconut milk but will have to let it reduce down longer)
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt


In a medium saucepan, melt the coconut oil over medium-low heat.

Add the onions and saute, stirring occasionally until softened, 5-7 minutes.

Add the jalapeno and garlic and cook another 2-3 minutes, continuing to stir occasionally to prevent burning.

Add the coconut cream and the spices, stirring well to combine.

Bring to a simmer for several minutes (10-15 or longer) to let everything reduce down, allow the flavors to meld and the sauce to thicken.

Serve warm.

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I literally could not keep my tasting spoon out of this pan! It is slightly sweet from the coconut, slightly spicy from the jalapeno, and the two are happily married with the other savory flavors going on.

Amazing, I tell you.

I served it over crispy tofu that I baked with a little Jalapeno Flavor Doctor sprinkled on top. Such a delicious combination!

This sauce was amazing on the roasted veggies too, and would be great paired with just about any whole grain–I am thinking quinoa, or brown rice especially, as well as over tempeh, used as a dipping sauce for spring rolls, drizzled into a wrap, I could go on and on.

It has plenty of creaminess to make it seem very rich, but is not heavy at all. It is completely vegan and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise–coconut is good for you, even though it does contain saturate fat (I explain this in further detail on my post on coconut flour a while back, if you’re interested.)

I am thinking it’s high time I crack open that Sauces cookbook and see what else is out there that I’ve been missing out on. Sauce is gooood!

   Sep 11 2012

Sauteed Apple and Oat Crumble

Want to hear a funny story?

The other day I was at the gym, on my way to spinning class and I said hello to a woman I know. We chatted briefly and then as we were parting ways she commented on how great I looked. I thanked her and then she commented how nice it must be to have a fast metabolism.


I am pretty sure I simultaneously snorted, rolled my eyes, choked on my own saliva and let out quite a loud guffaw. That was the funniest thing I’d heard all day! It was a nice sentiment, and I appreciate what she was saying very much, but man, it couldn’t be further from the truth.

I love the way I feel after a good workout, but honestly? I don’t think I would be at the gym 5+ days a week if I had a fast metabolism. (I’d probably only be there 3 or 4.)

I love the way eating well makes me feel (and look) but honestly? I don’t think I would pass up waffles smothered in peanut butter and maple syrup with my kids most mornings if I had a fast metabolism.

In case you think otherwise, I so do not have a fast metabolism. In fact, I can gain weight quite easily.

Instead, I work at it on a daily basis. This summer I worked very hard to get to where I was in time for our vacation, and let me tell you, if I had a fast metabolism a good majorityof that hard work wouldn’t have been undone in just a few weeks of “a little too much fun”. A little too much sugar, a little alcohol, not as many vegetables, and a few too many meals involving tortilla chips and salsa and bam, my pants don’t fit quite as well. Ugh.

It was fun and all, but I don’t feel my best when I eat that way–I get sluggish, I don’t sleep well and I get cranky. Once I clean up my food choices and return to my regular way of eating things turn around and I am back to my usual self and feeling much better.

But eating clean doesn’t have to mean boring, by any means.  This morning I woke up to a chilly house, even though the sun was shining and the day was gorgeous. I wanted something healthy for breakfast, but also something warm-ish and comforting. It wasn’t waffles with peanut butter and maple syrup, but it was delicious, healthy and a better choice, for me and my metabolism.

We brought home a grocery bag of apples from Erik’s parents’ apple tree this weekend (Papa’s apples!), and I have been excited to dig into them since. These aren’t the greatest apples for eating plain–they are very hard and a bit tart, but I knew just  how to fix that problem.

Sauteed Apples and Oat Crumble

by Candy

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Keywords: saute breakfast dessert snack gluten-free vegetarian apple oats greek yogurt fall winter

Ingredients (Makes 1 serving)

  • —–For the apples:
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 apple, cored and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • —–For the crumble:
  • 3 T old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 T unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp maple extract


Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.

Add apples and stir to combine then sprinkle on cinnamon and stir occasionally while cooking until apples are softened, about 3-4 minutes.

While apples cook, mix together the oats, cinnamon, applesauce and maple extract in a microwave-safe bowl. Warm in microwave for about 30 seconds.

Spoon cooked apples over plain greek yogurt (if desired) and top with oat crumble mixture.

Serve and enjoy immediately.

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There isn’t a much better way to start the day than with the smell of apples and cinnamon filling the house.

Until you take the first bite.

That is the best way to start the day. 

This was made even more decadent by pouring on a little peanut butter sauce made from:

One tablespoon of Better ‘N Peanut Butter (I found this at Trader Joe’s) and one tablespoon unsweetened almond milk mixed together and warmed in the microwave for a few seconds.

So let’s review:

Healthy carbs and fiber from oats and apples? Check. Good source of protein from the greek yogurt? Check. Vitamins and minerals from fresh fruit? Check. Healthy fats for satiety and decadence from the PB sauce? Check. Blood sugar stabilized with help from the cinnamon? Check. No added sugar for maintaining current pants size? Check.

It’s confirmed:

Breakfast = served.

Fall = quickly approaching.

Tummy = happy.

Metabolism = revved. (But by no means fast!)

Next up? Fall Cleanup on my house.

What about you? Have you had your first apple of the season yet?

Do you have a fast or slow metabolism? If you had (or have) a fast one, would you still exercise and eat well?

   Sep 07 2012

Mini Mexi-Quinoa Cakes

I’d like to take a moment today to give props to the modern-day tooth fairy.

In this day and age of computers, cell phones and texting, she is so much more easily accessible than when I was a kid. She already has a lot on her plate with having to collect all those lost teeth and leaving something in return as her job 365 days a year, and then add on top of that all the texts, emails, and phone calls she gets? It’s amazing that she can ever get anything done.

Jace lost his very first tooth a few weeks ago as we were driving to my sister-in-law’s where he and Cameron were going to stay for the following eight days while Erik and I went to St. Thomas.

I told him I would text the tooth fairy to make sure she could come to Aunt Shannon’s house if he decided to put it under his pillow that night. But he told me it would be fine to wait until we got back so we could do it at our own house and so that the tooth fairy wouldn’t have to be bothered. Since she has such a busy schedule already. Such a thoughtful kid he is.

A few days after we returned home from our trip he lost his second tooth. He was at a friend’s house for dinner which included corn on the cob. He enjoyed it so much so that he didn’t even notice that his second loose tooth fell out, and he ended up swallowing it along with a mouthful of corn kernels. When he got home he was playing it pretty cool, but I could tell he was a little concerned about the situation. When he asked, “How will the tooth fairy know I lost another tooth?”, I suggested that he write her a note explaining what happened and he could leave the note under his pillow in lieu of the lost tooth. “I’m sure she will understand, I bet this sort of thing happens all the time,” I told him.

And so, he sat down and wrote a note.

The front:

The back:

That’s my boy, concise and straight to the point. No more, no less.

When we had corn on the cob a few nights ago at our house, (for the first time this summer, what the heck?), Jace said he didn’t want any. I think he was afraid he would swallow another tooth! He doesn’t have any loose right now, but I suppose there is a slight chance it could’ve happened. He wasn’t taking the risk, however small it might’ve been.

So last night, I had his back. We were having corn off the cob.

Mini Mexi-Quinoa Cakes

by Candy

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Keywords: bake appetizer entree snack side gluten-free vegetarian black beans quinoa cilantro Mexican

Ingredients (Serves 3-4)

  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, finely diced, seeds and membranes removed
  • 3/4 cup diced zucchini (about 1/2 of a med-large)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 3/4 cup corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated white cheddar cheese (regular cheddar, Pepper Jack, or Monterey Jack would also be great), plus more for topping, optional
  • 1 cup cooked black beans
  • 5 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tsp taco seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp salt


Preheat oven to 350.

Grease a 12-cup muffin tin with grapeseed oil and set aside.

Saute the bell pepper and jalapeno in a small amount of grapeseed oil over medium heat for a few minutes until starting to soften. Add zucchini and cook another 3-4 minutes until just tender.

Transfer to a mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

Spoon mixture into muffin tin, filling each to the top.

Sprinkle a little more cheese on top, if desired.

Bake for 20 minutes or until set all the way through.

Cool in pan for 5-10 minutes then run a knife around the edge of each to release.

Serve warm or store in the fridge for on-the-go meals or snacks.

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I love how quickly these came together which was perfect for a soccer practice night.

I also love how great they taste, how small and cute they are, and how Cameron called them “healthy cupcakes with cheese frosting”.

Both kids loved eating with their hands. I love that there were some left for lunchboxes today.

Jace also loved that he didn’t lose any teeth.

Tooth fairy, I hope you appreciated the lighter load last night. I got your back too.

   Sep 05 2012

Pain Killer Smoothie

I have a special treat for you today.

I am going to sing for you.

Ready? Get your best reggae, calypso beat going and if you want, sing along with me.

Don’t worry, about a thing,

‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”

(You know the song, right?)

You see, I needed this little bit of encouragement today, and maybe you do too.

Today is the first day of a new school year.

Summer break is officially over and it is back to the daily grind. Back to the routine of getting two kids to bed on time, getting up early, getting lunches packed, getting homework completed, getting two kids to and from soccer practice, etc….

Singing: Don’t worry, about a thing,

‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”

The weather is changing too. It is still sunny during the day but it cools down at night to where we have to close some of the windows and I no longer wake up to the sound of chirping birds. Instead I wake up to a stupid alarm clock. Soon enough the gray skies and rain will descend upon us where they will stay for much, much too long…

Rise up this mornin’,
Smiled with the risin’ sun, (Ha!)

The spiders have returned from wherever they go during the warmer months and have begun conspiring against me. They build their webs everywhere, right at face level so that I walk into them every time I set foot outside my house. Yesterday when I opened our front door one jumped from it’s web (built in the doorway, of course), landed on the wood floor inside my house, and then proceded to come at me in that skitterish, jerky motion they do, as if  we were long lost friends about to embrace one another with welcoming arms. Um, no. Sorry Mr. Spider, but you were not invited in. And, sorry but I’m not sorry about the 2-inch thick Kindergarten activity book that sort of fell on top of you…

Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep…”


You know what this makes me think about and long for? A vacation on a tropical island. Specifically, this recently-visited tropical island.

It also makes me think of cocktails. Specifically, the official cocktail of the Virgin Islands, the Pain Killer.

EDITPainKiller1 Summer drinks from around the world(source)

A Pain Killer is made with rum, pineapple juice, cream of coconut, orange juice and garnished with grated nutmeg or cinnamon.

I drank a few of these while we were there, and they are delicious. In fact, here I am on board the Daydreamer, a 55-foot catamaran during our day-long snorkeling cruise, enjoying a Pain Killer.

(Don’t worry, I didn’t start drinking until after we were done snorkeling.)

Singin’ sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin’, “This is my message to you-ou-ou:”

While certainly, I could pull out my cocktail shaker and mix one up right now in attempt to revisit the fun and flavor of the fantastic time we had there, but, seeing as how it is 11 am and I haven’t eaten any solid food yet, that could spell trouble.

Don’t worry about a thing,

‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”

Pain Killer Smoothie

by Candy

Prep Time: 3 minutes

Cook Time:

Keywords: beverage breakfast snack gluten-free vegan pineapple coconut cream orange Caribbean summer

Ingredients (Makes 1 serving)

  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk (from a carton)
  • 1 orange, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple tidbits
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder (I use Sun Warrior), optional
  • 1 T coconut cream
  • pinch of cinnamon


All all of the ingredients except the cinnamon to a blender, and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and sprinkle cinnamon on top.

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On a recent trip to Trader Joe’s I happened upon this lovely find that brought a giant grin to my face.

I knew exactly what I would do with it. (The only question is, what do I do with the rest of the can?)

So listen up Fall. You can keep your leather boots and scarves, I am still wearing skirts and sandals.

And, you can keep your pumpkin lattes too. I am squeezing out every last drop of summer, and while I may not be lounging on a boat feeling a warm tropical breeze run through my hair as I sip a real Pain Killer, I am most definitely sitting on my back patio in the sunshine and sipping a Pain Killer Smoothie.

This is my message to you-ou-ou.”

What about you? Have you ever tried a Pain Killer?

Have you accepted (and embraced) the fact that fall is upon us? Or are you in denial, like me?

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