Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Secret Weapon in the Arsenal of Healthy Eating

by Allyson Haas

Sometimes you have the kind of weekend so jam-packed full of celebrations and festivities that you relax the rules of your otherwise healthy eating. With too much ice cream, cookies and cupcakes to coo to, C's intake was in need of a healthy boost. Unfortunately for me, C is not generally a fan of anything in the vegetable family unless it's combined with a sugary fruit.  This surprises no one, said every mom of a toddler, EVER. Thankfully, at the ripe old age of 2.5, ignorance is bliss. I feel zero guilt about whipping up some of these beauties and serving one with a cold glass of almond milk. 

Packed with protein and all the other good things that beans provide (folate, fiber, iron, vitamin b1, copper, magnesium, boost in production of butyric acid which aids in lower digestive tract function) these flourless bits of heaven fool pretty much everyone into thinking they're the real thing. These are super easy to put together with staples you probably already have in your pantry: a can of black beans, chocolate chips, cocoa powder, coconut sugar, eggs, olive oil, baking powder, vanilla and salt. A couple of minutes in the food processor + 25 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven = your toddler no longer whining for cookies.  And extra bonus points for the fact that you've given them something remotely nutritious. 
Flourless Black Bean Brownies
1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
1/2 cup dark choc chips
4 tbsp olive oil
3 eggs
1/2 cup cocoa powder 
2/3 cup coconut sugar ( note: you can use whichever type of sugar you prefer, but I'm partial to coconut sugar because it doesn't cause a spike in blood sugar levels. Sometimes I use 1/3 cup each of coconut and raw sugars)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt (I recommend sea salt - any color -I used pink because that's what I had on hand)

Preheat oven to 350. 

Grease square baking pan (I use coconut oil spray for this). 

In food processor, mix 1/4 cup choc chips, beans and olive oil. Pulse until well blended. 

Add cocoa powder, eggs, vanilla, baking powder, salt and sugar (this will be everything except the remaining choc chips) and process until well blended. You may need to scrape the sides of the processor. Once it resembles traditional brownie mix (about 1-2 min of processing), pour into baking pan. 

Top with remaining choc chips. Bake until toothpick comes out clean (generally about 25 min). 

To make these vegan: substitute carob chips for the choc chips, carob powder for the cocoa powder (is cocoa powder vegan?! It might be?!) and chia seeds for the eggs. 1 tbsp chia seeds + 3 tbsp water is the equivalent of one egg. (For the mathematically challenged - 3 tbsp chia seeds, 9 tbsp water)

Come on over Charlie because our house now smells like a chocolate factory - total WIN! Though in hindsight, I probably shouldn't have made something with beans the same day I started potty training.  TMI?

Wish me luck...I promise to give a full report.
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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Preschool Panic: You're In, Kid

You know that old saying, "everything happens for a reason?"  That was pretty much my mantra a few months ago, in the hopes that chanting it repeatedly would help alleviate the sting of the Muffin Man not having been accepted to preschool.  It was the only logical reason I could come up with for why my perfectly adorable son was one of the few kids without a school to attend in the fall. I suppose the Admissions Directors could've searched online and found my blog and decided that I'm a somewhat insane, totally negligent parent and that they in no way want me joining the ranks of the school, but I really don't think these people have time to Google every prospective family.  Anyway, this is Los Angeles, there is no way that I'm the craziest parent they met this year. 
But I digress.

At the point a few months ago when we were school-less, and I was spending my evenings crying over my wine at the thought of another year trying to juggle two children every day, I was having a really hard time convincing myself that everything does happen for a reason.  I mostly just felt like a big failure raising a little loser who was bound to have a childhood and adolescence full of rejections and life on the unpopular list.  In hindsight I see that this was a bit of a dramatic reaction to my kid not getting into preschool, but I'm still working through my PTSD brought on by all those formative years spent as a theater nerd/ugly duckling, so it's possible that I tend to blow things out of proportion just a tiny bit. 

It turns out that you can only cry in your wine so long before your spouse threatens to have you committed, so I figured a few more school tours were far less traumatizing than a 72 hour stay in the local psych ward.  I'm so glad that I managed to pull myself together, because we really did find the perfect school for Noah... and they actually accepted us.

I never would've known that this adorable institute of lower learning existed if we'd gotten into our first choice school, but here's the funniest part: it pretty much has everything we've been looking for in a preschool all along.  

It's close to our house.  In other places this probably wouldn't matter, but traffic in LA is so unbearably bad, that driving to a school even five miles away can take forty five minutes.  The school is close enough that I can actually walk, assuming I ever get my sh*t together early enough to leave the house on time.

They offer a full day program (9am-3pm). This is surprisingly unusual for preschools. Many of them are only a few hours, or just three days a week, and they charge lots of extra money if you need to keep your kiddo there after the regular school day is over.  If I want to, I can choose to pick Noah up at 12:30 or he can nap at school and spend more time with his little friends instead of at home abusing his sister.

It's affordable.  We aren't going to be bankrupted by the tuition! And I love that the school doesn't seem to have a hand out for money every few weeks. I respect that these places have to raise cash for more crayons or whatever, but when tuition is in the neighborhood of $14k a year, it would really piss me off to have the school be hitting me up for extra money every few months.  We're not exactly rolling in dough, so while I'm more than happy to volunteer my time or my writing skills, we can't be throwing extra Benjamins around because the preschool claims to need new nap mats. 

It's small and cute.  One of my biggest concerns with a few of the other schools we looked at was the size of the places. Everything was so big - the classrooms, the playground, the campus - and I worried that it would be overwhelming for Noah. I know that seems like rather an overprotective sentiment for a negligent mother like myself, but two-and-a-half year old kids are little, and that's really brought home when you see a tiny human standing next to a giant play structure. Noah's school is in a converted craftsman house, and the playground is perfectly sized for little kids.  There's even a sandbox, because nothing says "developmental play" quite like throwing sand at one's peers.    

Honestly, I'm actually really happy with where Noah ended up.  I know it's rather out of character for me to be such a glass half full kind of gal, but I think in the end it has worked out for the best.  I just hope the place isn't all rainbows and sunshine, or I won't have anything to complain about next year, and that would never do.

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