kefir and chia breakfast parfaits


Once I turned 30, I began to get a bit more health conscious. Less sugar, more fiber. Small changes. Then at 31, I really pushed the fruits and veggies. But at 32, I found I could no longer eat a slice of chocolate cake and feel decent afterwards. My metabolism slowed and it took more and more effort to maintain my ideal weight. Today I turn 33, and I sometimes feel like my body is just no longer cooperative. I’m on a range of (unavoidable) medications that make me tired, grumpy, and basically feel like a slug. To counteract all those crappy side-effects I need to pour in a really balanced diet to make me feel my best (which still, even on days when my diet is perfect, doesn’t always work). But I’m determined not to feel 33 going on 66, so I push on just trying to eat my best and exercise as much as I can.

For being a “grown up,” I don’t feel very grown up. I would still rather eat Cinnamon Toast Crunch for breakfast than eggs and avocados. But I know if I do eat that sugary cereal I will crash 1.5 hours later and feel even hungrier. The angel on my shoulder says, “Eat balanced! Protein in the morning!” while the sugar devil calls for “Cinnamon Toast Crunch! Cookie Crisp! Chocolate nom nom nom nom!”  Luckily, I can bop the sugar devil over the head with this healthy concoction that leaves me sated until lunchtime, and just not, you know, purchase the sugary cereals in the first place.

To make my daily breakfast, I start a day ahead. Prepping 3 of these at a time means there are 3 mornings where I don’t have to think about what’s for breakfast or be tempted by the kid’s leftover pancakes. I just grab a chia parfait out of the fridge, a spoon, and dig in before my stomach gets the best of me. Then on day 3, I make 3 more.


What is kefir? It’s a fermented milk drink, sort of like a liquid yogurt. But unlike sugary yogurt, it packs 10.5 grams of protein per cup without the extra fat and calories. Plus it has more of the good probiotics to aid in digestion (and maintain healthy bowels….yeah I’m talking about that) than yogurt does. If you’re here in the UK, I like Bio-tiful Dairy Kefir that you can purchase on Ocado. In the US there are a ton more choices in the kefir department, from flavors like vanilla to cherry pomegranate. Just watch the sugar on the label–you don’t want to start your morning with a blood sugar blast-off.


Pour 1 cup of kefir into a glass or resealable container (glass jars work great, too).


Add some chia seeds. These pack a wallop of protein, Omega-3’s, and a ton of vitamins and minerals. Adding them to the kefir will give you your entire day’s worth of calcium in one serving.


Next, add oats. Not quick-cook oats that will become mushy, but nice, thick old fashioned oats. Organic and gluten-free, if possible.


Next, add a little bit of fruit compote or fruit jam for flavoring. You can omit this step, but I find that just a touch of sweetness and flavor really makes this breakfast shine. Look for no-added-sugar jams (if you’re using a flavored kefir omit this step).


Stir it all together (or shake, if you’re using a lidded container)…


…until everything is well combined. The mixture will be thin; don’t worry. It will thicken overnight in the fridge as the chia seeds and oats soak up the kefir. Cover and store in the refrigerator overnight and up to 3 days.


In the morning toss on some fresh berries, or if you need to use frozen you can add them before refrigerating the night before.


See how the chia seeds have expanded? Those will help fill you up and keep you going all morning. The oats, too!


What a perfect start to the day. Play with different flavors of jam and/or kefir until you find something that suits you just right. My absolute favorite is plain kefir with strawberry rhubarb jam–it tastes like pie!

Cheers to 33 years, my friends. *Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me…I look like I’m 32 28, but I act like I’m 12.*



Kefir and Chia Breakfast Parfaits 

  • 1 cup kefir
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats (not quick-cooking)
  • 1 tsp whole chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp no-added-sugar jam for flavor (omit if you’re using a flavored kefir)

Combine all ingredients in a resealable container or small bowl. Stir well. Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 3 days. Top with fresh fruit before devouring!

chicken soup (a.k.a. flu season soup)


When my mom was very, very sick from surgeries and chemo, my Aunt Johanna would make her this tummy-warming, cure-all soup. Most days it was the only thing my mom wanted, and the only thing she could keep down. Now that she is a stage 4 cancer survivor (!!!), we still make this soup when anyone is ailing. A cold, the flu, even the slightest sniffle is enough excuse for me to whip up a huge batch of this comforting soup.

In part, that’s where my belief in food as comfort came from (no, I’m not talking about emotional eating…though I have been known to make these cookies at the end of a bad day!) Watching my mom perk up when she ate something she liked (and at that point, eating anything at all) was a beautiful moment to witness. Food was just as healing as medicine. And nowadays, if someone is sick, or has had a new baby, or has suffered a loss, I firmly believe that bringing them a hot meal can make all the difference. If not the food itself, it’s the thought. A Pyrex full of warm soup says I’m thinking about you more than a card or a gift ever could.


When my little girls have stuffy noses and don’t have much appetite, they’ll still inhale steaming bowls of this soup. But best of all, it takes very little time to make. When you’re caring for someone else, you don’t have time to make everything (or anything!) from scratch. But this soup begins with a store-bought mix, a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, and fresh veggies. All you need to do is throw everything in the pot and let it simmer. It’s not some secret brilliant recipe. But the results taste like it.

Another thing: it isn’t a brothy soup like something from a can. It’s thick and rich, chock-full of egg noodles, chunks of chicken, carrots and celery. If your patient needs nourishment, it’s all inside the bowl. You can tweak it as you like, adding different vegetables, more or less noodles, a bit of extra chicken stock. Make it the way your family likes it. And then sit back, turn on a movie, and settle in with your sick little patients and a warm bowl of homemade chicken soup.


Chicken Soup (a.k.a. flu season soup)                                   Printable Chicken Soup

This soup is a creation of my Aunt Johanna. She’s a wonderful cook, and is quick to whip up a batch whenever someone is sick. To double the batch, use 2 packages of soup mix and more stock as needed. Freezes beautifully in Ziploc bags!  

Serves 8-12

  • 1 package Mrs. Grass Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup mix (available at Kroger stores or online at Amazon)
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 package (6 oz.) egg noodles (add the full package if you like thicker soup with lots of noodles…I do!)
  • 1 pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, skin discarded, shredded or chopped
  • 1 package baby carrots
  • 6 stalks celery, rinsed and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • fresh ground pepper to taste

1. Bring soup mix, water (Mrs. Grass mix calls for 8 cups), and chicken broth to a boil in a large pot. Add noodles and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until noodles are cooked, 10-12 minutes or according to the time instructed on your package of noodles.

2. Add chicken, celery, carrots, salts and pepper. Stir and let simmer (covered) an additional 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Serve with a hunk of crusty bread for dipping.

kalua pork sliders

I was having one of those days where I wanted to buy a whole pig, dig a pit in my backyard, and just roast the crap out of the damn thing Luau-style. But a couple of things stood in my way: 1) I don’t actually know where to get an entire pig at the drop of a hat. Head? Sure. Feet? No problem. But the whole beast? I think I’d have to order it. Or drive outside the city. Which I don’t like to do on the weekends (Seattle traffic is a bitch).

2) If I came home with a pig carcass my animal-loving 3 year-old would name it, put a leash on it, and try to walk it around the yard. Mommy, why are you burying Puffaluff? Over a bed of hot coals? Oh, Mommy whyyyyyy????!!!!!! I can’t afford the therapy. 3) I live adjacent to the fire department. Quite literally. And with my luck, the boys (and girl–there is one) would be lured over the fence by the smell of roasting swine and write me some sort of citation for, I don’t know, an illegal animal roast.

So I nixed the whole pig idea and settled for a 4-pound roast and this lovely recipe from La Fuji Mama. It has all the flavor of that slow-roasted Hawaiian pork, but you don’t have to locate a whole swine, scar your daughter for life, or burn your house down to get it.

Hawaiian red and black sea salts (available at better grocers or spice markets; I bought mine in bulk for about $1.25 total) lend an earthy flavor, while liquid smoke (usually on the aisle near the BBQ sauce) substitues for the pit and charcoal. I downsized to a 4-pound roast (the recipe calls for 5-6), and it fed six of us with lots of leftovers.

Prick the roast all over with the tip of a sharp knife…

…and rub with the red and black sea salts. It will look super attractive.

Cook on low for 10 hours with a dash of liquid smoke, and that’s it!


Take a picture of Charlie, because she spies the camera and is saying “cheeeeeeeese!”

Take a better picture of Charlie.

For a casual dinner party we piled the pork on soft slider buns with good coleslaw. Everyone went back for seconds. And thirds. And the best part? The pork took no time at all to make, so I could sit back, relax, and plot where to dig my pig-roasting hole.




Kalua Pork Sliders quantities and times adjusted from La Fuji Mama’s fabulous recipe 

Serves 8

  •  4 lb pork shoulder (butt) roast
  • 1 tbsp red hawaiian sea salt
  • 1 tbsp black hawaiian sea salt
  • 1 tbsp liquid smoke
  • slider buns (I like King’s Hawaiian)
  • good slaw, for topping
1. Rinse pork roast and pat dry. Prick all over with the tip of a sharp knife. Rub with salts.
2. Place roast in slow cooker , pour liquid smoke over the meat, cover and cook on low for 10 hours (you may be able to cook it longer, depending on how “low” your lowest setting is on your slow cooker).
3. Discard 1/3 to 1/2 the juices and shred the meat with two forks, tossing with the rest of the juices (if you later chill the shredded meat without discarding some of the fat, you’ll find the solidified fat hard to pick around).
4. Pile slider buns high with pork and top with slaw. Enjoy!



cookie dough truffles, and a giveaway!

One of my favorite bloggers, Lindsay Landis of Love and Olive Oil, has come out with a gorgeous cookbook.

It’s entirely about cookie dough! No more sneaking naughty tastes of raw egg dough straight from the bowl: Lindsay’s recipes are egg-free, so there’s no guilt.

You can make dreamy concoctions like cookie dough cheesecake…

Mexican chocolate cookie dough tartlets…

Cookie dough ice cream sandwiches…

And cookie dough layer cake, for a special someone’s birthday.

I was most intrigued by her recipe for chocolate chip cookie dough truffles, so I gave them a go. All you do is mix up a quick, egg-free chocolate chip cookie dough…

Form into balls and dip in chocolate (I decided to make them into pops–it made them easier to dip and fun to eat)…

And swoon. Cookie dough wrapped in chocolate? Dude. This lady is genius.

The best part about her new cookbook? You can win it. Right here, right now.

To enter, just leave me a confession in the comments: do you eat raw cookie dough? Me: yes. Always. With a spoon. Or a finger. Or a spoon and a finger. And the winner is: MeganM . Congrats, Megan! I’ll be emailing you for your address soon.

The fine print: U.S. Addresses only. One entry per person. I’ll announce the winner a week from today (monday, June 11). Good luck! 


Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles from The Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook by Lindsay Landis

Makes: 30 to 40 truffles  Active Time: 1 hour   Total Time: 2 hours

For Cookie Dough:

  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons milk or cream
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

For Chocolate Coating:

  • 8 ounces dark-chocolate candy coating

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in milk and vanilla. Stir in flour and salt and mix on low speed (or by hand) until incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips. Cover and chill dough for 30 minutes or until firm enough to handle.

Form dough into 1-inch balls and arrange them on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Place sheets in freezer for at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile, melt chocolate candy coating in a double boiler or microwave according to package directions, being careful not to overheat it. Using a fork or dipping tool, dip truffles one at a time in candy coating to cover. Tap fork on the edge of the bowl to shake off excess coating, and return truffles to baking sheets to set. If you have any leftover coating, transfer it to a piping bag or squeeze bottle fitted with a small round tip and pipe decorative lines over top of truffles—or simply drizzle coating with a fork for an abstract finish.

Refrigerated in airtight container, truffles will keep for up to 1 week, though I dare you to make them last that long.

the organic dilemma

Probably like many of you, I shop according to sales. Buy one get one free? Sign me up. Grapes for $0.99/lb? Heck yes. 10 for $10? I just peed myself a little bit.

But that being said, I won’t buy just anything. I stay mostly away from pre-packaged stuff, unless it’s healthy-ish snacks for the kids to stash in my purse on the go. There are items where I go full-hippie: cage-free, hormone-free eggs, humanely-raised, organic meat and poultry, wild-caught seafood, milk, etc. There are foods where I’m willing to compromise and go non-organic when the price is right (strawberries, grapes, certain new-crop apples, and some other fruits and veggies, but not all).

At certain points in my life when I’ve insisted on walking to the grocery store and wearing crystal deodorant (which does in no way, shape or form deodorize anything, in case you were wondering. I’m sorry if you were in my company during that phase.), I’ve splurged and gone full organic on everything. And what I’ve found, I’m sorry to say, is that it’s not always worth it. I don’t know the science behind organic farming, but I’m fairly sure that the chemicals that could scare a Deadhead away from a reunion show are there partially for pest control and partially to preserve produce from farm to table. I can count on five hands the number of times I’ve spent double digits on organic fruits and vegetables only to find them spoiled the very next day in my crisper.

This blog post began seeding in my brain when I was out in the garden planting grape starts. Once I had them in the ground, surrounded by organic compost and ready to grow away on their hand built trellis, I needed a way to feed them. The only thing I had in the garage was scary-looking Miracle Grow crystalized all-purpose plant food, which is dyed a shocking electric blue. I use it to feed my potted flowers. Although the package insisted it could be used for fruits and vegetables, there was no way I was going to put that stuff on grapes I was eventually going to eat.

But the very same day I went to the market and purchased a package of non-organic strawberries (on a great sale), which had probably been fed with something akin to the electric-blue Miracle Grow.

Why am I a hypocrite?

It’s partially the distance; I don’t see the pesticides on the strawberry farm. I just know that the berries are sweet and pretty and two pounds for $5.99. Moreover, they won’t go bad in two days, giving my family more time to eat them. The organic ones are not as pretty and maybe as sweet, but twice (or three times) the price, and will go bad if I don’t use them in a very short window, wasting their expensive juiciness.

I suppose we all have choices to make when it comes to quality and budget. Sometimes our values of one override the other, and sometimes the two intermingle, as in my case. In an ideal word I’d shop for everything at the farmer’s market and not have to think twice about paying $15 for apples. But the reality is that our family goes through an enormous amount of food and we’re enormously busy. I make the best choices I can and try to keep the credit card in check.

Tell me in the comments: What do you absolutely buy organic? What do you compromise on?