Apples Galore!

Since I started eating cleaner, I’ve developed a bit of an addiction.

Honeycrisp apples.

I love these gigantic, sweet, crunchy orbs. They’re better than bread in the morning, but still give me the sugar kick that I love at the start of the day.

So, when apple season hit New England, our family took to the local orchard, ready to fill our bags.

Patrick rolled his eyes at the enormous bag I purchased, assuring me that we wouldn’t eat them all before they spoiled.

(Ha! Little did he know they wouldn’t last two weeks!)

The day was perfection- sun, smiles, apples… What more could a girl ask for?

 

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Blueberries for Independence

Sawyer and I love blueberries.

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So, when I found out that Harvey’s Farm was open despite the national holiday, I announced that our family would be there at opening.

Before we left, Jasper proudly announced that he didn’t like blueberries. With an eye roll, I assured him that he wouldn’t have to eat any.

We crunched down the gravel at 9:32, I was thrilled to find Jess at the register, smiling as always.

She handed us our buckets and directed us towards the sweetest parts of the patch. Fortunately, Jasper’s excitement was mounting.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t that interested in taking a family photo.

Photo Jul 04, 9 43 34 AM (1)

We wove our way through the rows, sampling a bite here and there and singing “curplink, curplank, curplunk!” in our best Blueberries for Sal interpretation.

We spent half an hour in the bushes, gleefully calling to one another.

Sawyer was a wonderful taste tester.

I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate our Nation’s Independence; we were supporting a local family business while having buckets of fun. (Sorry guys, I couldn’t resist that pun…)

Putting My Kids First- How We Changed Our Eating on Play Dates

While taking the boys on play dates and field trips, it can be hard to eat healthy. We have loads of day trips planned this summer, but the menus at places like Story Land and the Children’s Museum cater to the chicken nugget crowd.

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Play dates can be equally challenging. We don’t do fruit snacks or Lunchables… we’re working our way towards a sugar free diet, at the recommendation of our pediatrician.

The answer is the Isagenix smoothie.

We started this nutrition system over a year ago, and I’ve become a little obsessed. I make us each a smoothie with kefir, some fruit, veggies and Isagenix protein.  I blend them up and load them into a Yeti cup and they stay ice cold for the entire day.

Sawyer is sticking to pouches for now, as he hasn’t exactly mastered the art of the spoon.

I usually pack some veggie chips or crackers for the boys to share, just in case they want to snack later on in the day.

The difference that this has made in our lives is hard to explain. I’m filled with more energy, and just feel… better! I had no idea how indulging in pizza or burgers during a  play date was fueling my brain fog. Now, I’m able to stay happier throughout the day; my gut and my head are in a better place.

When I’m able to take the kids out for a day, I want to be able to enjoy them. Not just the pizza.

 

All. The. Grocery. Stores.

 

When I first graduated from college, we lived in Richfield Springs, New York. This was considered a happening town in Central New York; there were 3 restaurants (diner, Chinese, Pizza), a Price Chopper in town and Walmart was a short 20 minutes away; the movie theater was about a 70 minute drive.

Patrick loved it, but frankly, this was just too rural for me to handle.

While Westborough isn’t exactly a metropolis, we certainly are blessed with plenty of food options- over 80 restaurants, and a dozen grocery stores within 15 minutes of our house.

Stop & Shop

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There are literally 5 Stop & Shops within 15 minutes of our house. Honestly, they aren’t the cheapest, they don’t always have great customer service. But Stop & Shop has basically everything anyone could ever want- organic everything, weird fruit, 6 kinds of Kefir, baby diapers, local veggies… It is a suburban mom’s companion. (or nemesis…) Their hours are great- they open at 6, and close at 11, making those days when I run out of baby Tylenol much less painful.

Roche Brothers

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This place feels a bit more friendly, but some of the aisles are narrower, and their selection isn’t quite as big as Stop & Shop’s. They have a great prepared foods section, and there’s a Starbucks. Located right at the rotary, Roche Brothers has terrific customer service. I’ve had more than a couple of offers to help load the groceries into my car!

Wegmans

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This place is… epic. Originating in New York, Wegmans has a terrific selection of organic, unique, and basic food staples. They have an olive bar and cheese selection that literally makes me drool; their meat and fish counters are at least three times the size of the ones found at Roche Brothers. My favorite part of Wegmans (besides their caramelized onion hummus) is the huge wine and beer selection. The prices and quality of the booze is fantastic. The biggest drawback of Wegmans is that it is almost always packed on the weekends, and parking can be tricky. So- treat yourself to something from the cafeteria while you’re there.

Price Chopper

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Sometimes, they’ve got bargains. Their organics selection leaves a bit to be desired, but in general they are a bit cheaper than then others. This is the place to go for “salt potatoes” and a few other items that Stop & Shop refuses to stock. Located on Route 9, just before 140, this place is often skipped by Westborough residents, despite being about 10 minutes from home.

Hannaford

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This is my second choice for shopping. It is small, and located in Hudson, is a 15 minute drive from our house. Their organics selection is small, but the guy at the deli counter is friendly, and prices on everything are reasonable. If I’m in town, and need to grab something quickly, this place is much easier to get through than Stop & Shop.

Market Basket

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Renowned for having great customer service and ultra-low prices, I have found Market Basket to have some pretty great deals on the basics. (Tomato Sauce for $1! Bananas for 25 cents!) But they don’t sell big boxes of diapers, and their organic fruit selection can be low. If you’ve got time to drive and are ready to hunt for a deal, this is the place to go! It is a 12 minute drive from Westborough.

BJ’s

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The wholesale club is rumored to have awesome deals when you buy in bulk. Honestly, when I do a true price shop, the prices aren’t significantly different from those at Stop & Shop. Their diapers and paper goods are priced very competitively, but Amazon auto delivery sells them at a similar price. They do have a great wine & beer selection, but Wegmans is cheaper. At the end of the day, I’m not a huge fan. They do have the benefit of super cheap gas,but after the cost of a club membership, it doesn’t seem like such a deal. Still, some people swear by it! Plus, it is only about 10 minutes from anywhere in Westborough.

Walmart/Target

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They’re there, right at the west end of Westborough’s town line. They have just about everything that you could want. They even stock that soy cheese loved by vegans, and their frozen pizza selection is unrivaled. Honestly, their prices aren’t that much better than the other stores, but sometimes, it is nice to be able to buy bananas and towels in the same store.

Westborough residents often balk at driving 10 minutes north to Market Basket, but don’t hesitate to drive 10 minutes to BJ’s. Honestly, the parking at Market Basket is better- and so is the customer service. We’re spoiled with choices. So how come no one has found me a food that can erase the calories from the glass of Pinot Noir that I need after my shopping trip?

Balls

Right now, Jasper’s favorite food is a meatball sub.

Fortunately, he’s not too picky about the meatballs, the bread, or the sauce. I usually throw it together on a piece of wheat bread with some Stop & Shop bottled organic tomato sauce.

I make huge batches of meatballs at a time, and freeze them in family size portions. This way, if I ever forget to thaw something, or we’re running short on time, I can just grab a bag from the freezer and heat them up.

Since we started our health journey, I stopped eating store made meatballs, and returned to the recipe that my mother taught me when I was in middle school.

 

Maura’s Meatballs

Preheat oven to 350

Line Sheets with Foil

 

2lbs of ground beef (I like 80/20 Lilac Hedge)

1lb of ground turkey

 

2 eggs

½- 3/4c of A1 or BBQ sauce

1/4c milk (sometimes I swap this out for cheddar, just to keep things exciting)

1/4c parmesan cheese

1T garlic

2T onion powder

1t salt

2T Italian Seasoning

½ c breadcrumbs (my mom likes Italian breadcrumbs- I like Panco)

 

I start with the wet ingredients, and mix them all together. If your family likes onions, adding a bit of shaved onion using the cheese shaver is good, but Sawyer’s tummy doesn’t tolerate them. Then, I add in the dry ingredients and use a fork to stir them up.

Next, I add in the ground beef and turkey. I use my hands to mix them up, and then make the meatballs. My dad likes to make meatballs the size of baseballs, but I keep mine closer to golf ball sized. I throw them on pans that have been lined with foil, making sure that the balls don’t touch one another. (Patrick is laughing at the amount of times that I said “balls.” Because really, he is still a 7th grader at heart.)

I set the timer for 20 minutes, and flip them halfway through. After the second 20 minutes, I pull them out and let them rest for a few minutes before serving them up.

Wings in Westborough?

One of Patrick’s favorite foods is chicken wings. This might be because he was raised in an area close to Buffalo, or because he has fond memories of his days as a bachelor- eating whatever he pleased, or because there really isn’t anything much better than sweet, spicy and salty all in one bite.

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Unfortunately, Westborough doesn’t have much to offer right in town for chicken wings.

So, we end up driving ALMOST 10 MINUTES. Options are:

Buffalo Wild Wings– They do a great take-out business, and truly feel like a sports bar. They have high tables and booths, tons of TVs blaring games and the menu has loads of spice options. These guys are on Route 9 in Shrewsbury, about 10 minutes from Westborough.

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Hooters– This place is certainly well known for their waitresses, but let’s be honest, their wings aren’t bad. While it isn’t necessarily the first place I’d think of bringing our toddler, the atmosphere is actually very friendly and the service is great. They’re close to Wild Wings, about a 15 minute drive from Westborough on Route 9 in Shrewsbury.

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Hudson Wings– They are relatively new to the hopping food scene in Hudson. Their spice options mirror Buffalo Wild Wings, and they also have fried pickles and Oreos. This place is better for take-out, as the booths aren’t as cozy as Wild Wings. It feels a bit more sterile, but Jasper loves their food. It is about 15 minutes from our house, up 495.

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Wegmans– While primarily a grocery store, they have a prepared foods section that rivals any food court. They have wings of the barbeque, buffalo and Chinese food variety. I like that I can grab some sushi, Jasper can have some meatballs, and Patrick can grab his wings. The prices are reasonable, considering their convenience. They’re at the junction of Route 9 & 20- a short 10 minutes from Westborough.

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The Best Way to Enjoy a Guinness

While I am an Irish American, I have to be honest. Guinness is not my favorite.

To be fair, I’m not really one for any type of beer. But this new recipe has quickly become one of my favorites.

I peel and rough chop a punch of carrots and parsnips. (Parsnips are those “white carrots.” They’re a bit spicy, but I love them!)

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Then, I braise a couple of pounds of stew meat.

I toss them in the crock pot with a can of tomato paste and a couple of cans of Guinness. No other spices, no salt- nothing.

I just let it stew.

 

 

Pumpkins Are Vegetables.

“Food comes from farms! Apples grow on trees, and pumpkins grow on….” Jasper can rattle off some good facts that he’s learned at preschool about where his food comes from.

We’re also big fans of country music, so he’s been known to spout, “Rain makes corn.. Corn makes whisky, and whisky makes my baby… feel a little frisky!”

He gets it.

Kind of.

I mean, what does a farm look like? And where are these farms?

One great local farm in Westborough is Nourse Farm. As I’ve written before, this farm is a few centuries old, and has some  amazing family history. (Any American is sure to appreciate a connection to the Salem Witch Trials!) I try to take our boys to farms as much as possible, so that they can truly understand what it takes to make food, and what it is that we’re eating.

But that’s not why I’m writing today.

In an effort to support local businesses, we buy our pies from Nourse Farm instead of Stop & Shop. This family is working to cultivate the earth and help local families have access to real, local, food.

How cool is that?

The night before  Thanksgiving, we trucked through town, ready to pick up our pies. Three generations of Nourse Family smiled at my eager and earnest toddler, and made polite noises about how cute Sawyer’s toes were.

“I want Pumpkin Pie!” Jasper shouted gleefully, gawking at the pumpkins littering the entrance.

“Would you like there to be pumpkin pie?” Marsha asked, glancing at me above Jasper’s head.

She couldn’t have had a better response.

“Sure,” I said, pulling forward memories of Bill Cosby’s bit about chocolate cake.

Our banter continued as we both recounted our past visits, and Marsha’s son helped me safely tote our bounty back to the minivan.

That night, we had pie for dinner. Jasper loved his special treat- we spent the night talking about how cool it was to know where his dinner came from.

 

Wait… What Does That Label Say?!

I often joke that the best thing about Girl Scout cookies is that the Thin Mints come in those awesome single serving sleeves… because you’re supposed to eat 15 per sitting, right?

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As our health journey continues, I’m becoming an obsessive reader of labels.

It is fascinating.

Did you know that the tiny can of Mandarin Oranges is 2.5 servings?

Seirously.

My eight month-old eats an entire can at once, and then looks around for some more. Are you telling me that you expect an adult to eat less than half of this can per sitting?

Sawyer’s got stuff to say about this. “50 Calories Per Seving” is a joke.

 

 

Thanks for Changing Our Minds. Seriously.

I stood in the entrance of Stop & Shop, my nemesis, determined to play nice.

Scanning the faces of everyone who entered, I was hopeful that this would be the moment when everything would change.

Matt came through the doors, excited and full of energy. He walked me around the store and took an hour to help me find ways to win more battles in my war on Stop & Shop.

“That’s it right there! What you just did is the most powerful thing that anyone can do!” he exclaimed as I replaced the apples I had first grabbed with the organic, pricey ones we had been discussing.

For the first time, I felt like I was winning the war.

That day,  Matt began empowering my family in making healthier choices. We joined his gym. Throughout  the next year, he coached us on our eating practices; he spent hours talking to us about life, work, and health.

More than once, Matt coached me off of the ledge.

“Kate. You’re pregnant. You need to cut yourself some slack- everyday is an uphill battle.”

He was right. Here I am, eight months postpartum, and 3 pounds away from my wedding weight.

But that’s not the real victory.

Patrick and I have enjoyed being a part of Athletic Revolution’s community for the last year. We learned how to exercise, what we like in a trainer, and countless things about eating better.

Most importantly, our time with Matt has changed our mindset. We both look at the world in a new way. Our lives are better, thanks to his coaching.

It’s been an empowering  year, and we’re both grateful. Good luck on your next adventure, Matt. No excuses!

 

-The Tobiasson Family