Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Dinnertime Challenge

The dinnertime challenge: How to please all six of our palates. I've reverted to: You can't please everyone all of the time, only some people some of the time. The ones you don't please at the dinner table have not learned to keep their distaste to themselves and suffer through the meal politely. So far, that includes all of my children.

Despite the dinnertime challenge I haven't given up on our family meal. I try mightily to win these young taste buds over, but the fact remains there are few meals that create an air of excitement for all.

But there are those few that earn a four thumbs-up rating (as in they all eat them willingly and speak positively about what's on their plate). I am grateful to fall back on those few meals as often as I can, and I'm happy to share these recipes knowing full-well they may or may not bring you the same relief at the dinner table.

Chicken Pasta Salad (Deconstructed)

This recipe is derived from a deli recipe sold at a popular Twin Cities grocery store. I have perverted the recipe so badly, I don't think it's wise to give credit to the original. What's more, I have borrowed from a tactic used by Jenny Rosenstrach, author of the book and blog, Dinner: A Love Story (anyone suffering through the dinnertime challenge will appreciate her book), which is the "deconstructed" method of serving dinner to kids with picky palates. In this way, grown ups can have their meal all mixed up, and the kids can choose those ingredients they find less offensive and then have the satisfaction of keeping all food items on their plate from touching, or worse mixing together. But here's the real reason why I recently needed to deconstruct this meal: Because what children like one week doesn't mean they will like it the next. A few years ago I could always count on my kids to eat this pasta salad as is, all mixed up, but recently one child has denounced the celery, another the cherries, and yet another the nuts. Instead of dropping the meal entirely I salvaged it but letting them add what they DO want in their pasta salad.

One box of medium shell noodles (can use gluten-free if you can get away with it), cooked according to directions.
1 1/2-2 cups cooked shredded chicken
Dressing: 1 to 1 1/2 cup mixture of equal parts mayo and poppyseed dressing
Salt and pepper to taste.

Add ins:
2 stalks celery sliced
1 apple peeled, sliced and diced
1-1 1/2 cups dried cherries, cranberries, raisins or whatever dried fruit your kids like
1-1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, walnuts or almonds nuts or whatever nuts your kids like

Breakfast Pizza

The newest addition to my dinner-time dilemma is something I call breakfast pizza. Breakfast for dinner is always a hit. Kids know pizza is a safe meal for them. Why not combine? I got the idea when I saw ideas for dough-free crusts. One included a crust made from thinly sliced potatoes. I tried this with left-over roasted potatoes and think it will work just as well with a bag of frozen hashbrowns. 

One bag of frozen hashbrowns, cooked according to directions (or leftover cooked, sliced potatoes)
Shredded cheese
Cooked sausage (I typically buy the pre-cooked frozen sausage that's easy to microwave)

Spread the cooked potatoes on top of a sheet of greased parchment paper. Make the crust thin like a pizza crust but thick enough that it will stay together. Bake at 400 degrees until crisp. Add cheese over top and continue baking until cheese melts. Meanwhile cook, crumble or slice the sausage and cook the eggs to your children's liking (my kids like them over easy and runny, go figure). Add the sausage and eggs, then cut into slices and serve.

Jalapeno Cheeseburger Quesadillas

This is the meal I might be remembered for at the end of life. This is thee meal my kids will come home from college asking for; the meal that gets a "Yeah!" when I tell them what's for dinner. Created out of a necessity to use ground beef before it turned green, my very own, West Texas influenced, jalapeno cheeseburger quesadillas (just drop the jalapeno if that scares you or the kiddos).

Cooked ground beef (I often use left over ground beef that didn't make it in the meat loaf, spaghetti, etc.)
Shredded cheese
Sliced red onion (three out of six in my family skip the onions)
Shredded lettuce

We use a panini machine to cook the quesadillas. I cook the onions for those who want them.

 The Boy wants only ketchup with pickles on the side.

This is a traditional cheeseburger option with lettuce, pickles and ketchup.

 Here is the I-Miss-Sonic's-Jalapeno-Cheeseburger version, with lettuce, jalapeno, and mustard.

Normally I make them all then keep them warm in the oven until we're ready to eat. Normally I don't serve a side with this, but on this particular night I cooked half a bag of frozen corn until charred, then sauteed it with diced zuchini, a little garlic and salt and pepper. Not a fan favorite with the kids, but a easy southwestern side for those who need and/or want a serving of vegetables.

More recipes and stories about overcoming the dinnertime challenge are available in my eBook, Feeding the Fit Family.

Monday, November 10, 2014

5K Training Tips

Me with my first borns at the 5K start.
The 5K for our girls fitness program is in the books. Everyone in this 3rd-5th grade program to empower girls to be strong inside and out (with the exception of two who had strep throat) finished a 5K. Some had run a 5K before, but most had not. For a young girl, 3.1 miles is a long way to go, especially so when it's cold and blustery out. But they were ready and finished with big smiles. Here's a page from our 5K training playbook:

1) Make sure you can walk 3.1 miles first. One of the first workouts we did was a nature hike. We brought along a list of 20 things we needed to find. We had so much fun looking for the items and were thrilled about what we saw: the snowy egret, the frogs, snakes, turtles, that it wasn't until mile two that they started asking, "Hey, how far are we going?" When we made it back to school and I announced they had just finished 3.1 miles they were surprised and convinced they could also finish their race.

2) Find support and be supportive. I have witnessed some special interactions watching these girls extend themselves to help each other. On our very first training run, the girls--without any prompting from the adult coaches--made a tunnel out of their arms as they finished and cheered for the girls who finished after them. At the end of our class sessions the girls had the opportunity to write something they needed to let go or something they wanted to share with the group. Most of these slips of paper included pats on the back and positive shout-outs for their fellow team members. Some people say that women don't support each other enough, especially in a professional environment. I hope these girls take this camaraderie with them into adulthood.

3) Work your way up. Most of the girls had already run a mile in gym class so we knew that was our base. We set out to cover one mile, then a mile-and-a-half. We did a mile-and-a-half again, then two miles. We did two miles again, then two-and-a-half miles. We did two-and-a-half miles again, then 3.1 miles. As Dori says: Just keep swimmin' (or running, in this case).

4) Shake it up (because girls ages 8-11 love that song). In between those running workouts we explored other routes to fitness: a yoga class, hula hoop class and sessions with the high school dance, softball and basketball teams. Even if you love running, your body benefits from moving in new and different ways. I love running, but I don't love only running all the time.

5) Challenge yourself. One of our favorite workouts was a game called Train. We had groups of 4-5 girls run in a line around the soccer field. When we blew the whistle, the girl in back would run to the front of the line and set the pace. Someone from each group wore a pedometer and the group that took the most steps was the winner (of bragging rights). This was one of our most challenging workouts, but also a lot of fun; a speed workout dressed up as a game (and one that would be fun for the family too, hint hint).

6) Write down your goal and share it. Before the race everyone wrote down their goal on a piece of poster board. The girls made their goals public, which has the effect of making them come to life. Plus, when your support system knows what you want to accomplish, they can help you get there or remind you of what you want if it becomes less important to you (say when you don't feel like training or when you feel too tired to go for it).

7) Race. That's all. This part is easy. Just show up at the starting line. Do your thing and then own your finish.

This particular 5K was far from my fastest, but will be memorable and gratifying for different reasons, namely that I helped usher girls across a finish line that really is so much more than a 5K. It was a doorway into world where they believe in their aspirations, hard work, and capable bodies.

Want more information about 5K training? You'll find a six-step training guide in the Ways to Get Moving section on my website, www.lifeasafitmom.com.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Life Cycle of a Running Stroller

Since The Boy turned five, I don't think we've used his stroller once. Is five the official graduation age out of a stroller? Now the stroller sits in our garage where we trip over it often to get to bikes, roller skates, and scooters. We had a good run with our Bob revolution stroller, and I can't help but look back fondly over the good years we had together.
Sure I used the stroller for exercise, but it was an excellent restraint system, too.
As kids get older, they need a few distractions like snacks and toys to go the distance.

Strollers are also rolling cribs. If toddlers fight naptime, like this one did,
the stroller is a great tool to induce sleep. Plan workouts accordingly.
When does a stroller become obsolete? Slowly the kid will spend more time out of it than in,
and as you push the empty stroller you will wonder why you didn't just leave it (the stroller, not the kid) at home. 
Strollers are for babies.
FOR SALE: Gently used orange Bob Revolution stroller. 

Read more about balancing motherhood and fitness on my website, www.lifeasafitmom.com.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Golden Girl Fitness Mentor

A while ago I went to one of my favorite yoga classes and found there would be a substitute teacher. As usually happens when I walk into a class with a sub, I start wondering if this teacher will give me what I need or at least what I have come to expect from the usual teacher.

We always get what we need, don't we?

As she made introductions and we sat for the invocation I felt the presence of a great woman. I was charmed by her Texas accent (go figure), her silver pixie haircut, and especially her complete lack of attempt to appear younger. She was a "senior citizen," and she owned it.

Add to that she was a competent yoga instructor with a capable, athletic body. She was mesmerizing, I tell you. I left that class fulfilled by her teaching and getting something I didn't expect: another fitness mentor.

With each passing year I find I'm looking out for the those women who are pursuing active lives when their contemporaries are choosing to move less, not more. (One happens to be my own mother.)

Becoming a certified yoga instructor has been on my bucket list for some time, but I never seem to get around to it.  With this yoga teacher's inspiration I know that life goal can remain on my list for as long as it needs to be.

Have you got a "Golden Girl" fitness mentor? If you need some inspiration, check out this movie trailer about Mary Stroebe, who competed in the Life Time Fitness Triathlon in her 90s. And read more about finding fitness in the chaos of motherhood on my website, www.lifeasafitmom.com.

Mary and Bill Trailer from Andrew Napier on Vimeo.