29 February 2012


Even as an adult, I still find Leap Day thrilling. We get ONE EXTRA DAY this year. For some reason, that seems pretty special. And it only happens once every four years. So cool.

So today I'm leaping (metaphorically only, of course, because I'm actually sitting at work until 6). Although we've had a rough couple of weeks in terms of sickness and sleep, I've been pretty copacetic with everything. The kids, despite feeling icky and worn down, have been amazing this week. We spent the day on Monday at the mall - a seemingly insignificant stop. But the kids played at the play area after I replaced my phone. We walked around, ate a snack and made it home before lunch. Then we took a long walk - Benny on his balance bike, Lila in her stroller. And the day made me happy and thankful, once again, that I took the leap of faith to switch career tracks.

Nate and I finally feel like we're financially stable and we're ready to make some more improvements to the house this spring. New windows, new doors and a minor basement remodel. It's exciting to see the house transform into a comfortable, nice place to live. It's been a slow progression and frustrating at times.

There are so many other things to be leaping about on this Leap Day. Benny is starting kindergarten in the fall. He's well on his way to reading. His little spongy mind picks up so much stuff now, it's hard to keep up. Lila is starting to talk. She identifies all of her body parts (and can say most of them). She's an inquisitive, happy little girl. And while Nate and I are busy with work and home life, we seem to have settled into a nice routine of allowing each other to have a small social life. I am incredibly thankful that he was willing to take a leap of faith on me too.

Have a great Leap Day. And remember, it's not every year that you get an extra day to enjoy!

27 February 2012

Preservative-Free Pancakes

I know, I know, I haven't posted to Green Means Go(od) with the most regularity lately. Life: sometimes it gets in the way of blogging. But, I'm back today with a great preservative-free recipe. I'm going to continue the No Preservative theme into March since I'm planning on making my own bread starting very soon. Watch for reports on the successes and setbacks of that adventure! Today, however, I'm providing another great, easy way to cut a few preservatives from your diet: Homemade pancakes!

Raise your hand if you make pancakes from a box. Go ahead, don't be bashful. I was raised on Bisquick pancakes (and waffles and biscuits). And, I have to admit, they were delicious. My mom was a big proponent of breakfast and woke up nearly morning to cook all five of us breakfast. It never really occurred to me to make my own batter as a result. That is until we had Benny and decided that once a week we'd make a nice, big family breakfast (since we don't go to church and all).

It took a few tries to find the right recipe, but we did. This is, hands down, the best pancake recipe you'll find anywhere. And the best thing about it? It's low on sugar and full of whole grains. Delicious and nutritious.

Preservative-Free Pancakes

1 cup whole wheat flour (or any flour will work)
1 tbsp. sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1 tbsp. olive oil

Mix solids. Mix liquids. Mix together and cook on a skillet. Add things like blueberries, walnuts, bananas, etc. for an extra special treat!

26 February 2012

Life, According to Benny

All photos courtesy of Benjamin Jasper Brown.

Cookie Monsters

Changing my work situation has led to countless improvements in my life: Teaching at the University of Denver, being able to set my own hours as a consultant, making more money. One of the biggest benefits has been staying at home with Benny and Lila two days a week. When I hatched this crazy plan, spending more time with my kids was one of the biggest motivators.

Being at home with both kids has been such a great experience. They play together now and make each other laugh. We get to do fun stuff and I can actually clean and cook and do things around the house. Benny and I now make cookies together every Friday. He gets to pick the recipe from his cookie cookbook and then we spend Friday afternoon making the cookies. As a result, I have created two cookie monsters! Lila is especially fond of our Friday afternoon activities and how they benefit her.

Cocoa Crackles (aka Our Current Favorite Recipe)

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir together wet ingredients and sugars in large bowl. Beat wet ingredients until mixed then gradually add dry ingredients.

Form small balls of cookie dough and then coat with powdered sugar. Bake for about 11 minutes.

17 February 2012

Book Review: An Object of Beauty

I'm striking out on book selections for book club. I'm pretty sure I suggested this book, or strongly supported its selection. I was really excited to read Steve Martin's newish book, An Object of Beauty. I loved his first book, Shopgirl. I have never read a man writing in a woman's voice so accurately captures a feminine character. It was a breathtaking book.

Martin tries, sort of, to do it again. He writes about Lacey Yeager, an art broker, salesperson, gallery owner, etc. She rises to fame, so to speak, in the New York City art world through her charm, cunning and attractiveness. To be honest, I disliked the character, the narrator, and the story. I was never really sure if the book was about the narrator, or Lacey, or was commentary on something larger.

The book did include over 20 reproductions of art and some great art discussion and history. The art reproductions were an asset to the book. And although the discussions of art were sometimes forced, I learned a lot about classic and modern art. I also learned a bit about how the art world works.

Apparently, the book is becoming a movie starring Amy Adams. I'm not sure she'll be able to make Lacey a worthwhile character or not.

14 February 2012

All You Need Is Love

Ugh! It's Valentine's Day and Lila and I are both getting over a nasty bug. We had to ask our favorite babysitter to come over and watch her so I can get some work done today. The whole day of love thing kind of got lost in the shuffle with all of that.

Although Lila cuddled with me for approximately 8.5 of her 9 waking hours yesterday, Benny and I did manage to make some homemade Valentine's for his classmates. I didn't get any pictures. Shocking.

As a parent, I find there's a lot of pressure to give "stuff" on these relatively insignificant holidays (not that love is insignificant). Nate and I are trying really, really hard to provide the guidance for our kids to appreciate experiences and small symbols of love rather than to expect gifts. I also hope my kids understand that I love them EVERY minute of EVERY day without the influence of gifts and other stuff. I'd rather give them an extra hug or read them an extra book or take them to see a cool exhibit or help them make homemade Valentine's.

Although it's not technically a Green Means Go(od) day (totally missed it yesterday - see the reference to being sick), here's a great homemade double chocolate cookie recipe. It's completely sans preservatives. Benny and I have started a ritual of making cookies together every Friday. It's one of my ways of showing a bit of love without buying stuff.

All You Need is Love (and Chocolate) Cookies

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup wheat flour
1.5 tsp. baking powder
.5 tsp. salt
1.5 cups packed brown sugar
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup applesauce (trust me)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
8 oz. chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350. Melt the unsweetened chocolate on low, cool slightly.

Sitr together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Beat in the sugar, olive oil, apple sauce and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Add the eggs; beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the melted chocolate and then gradually add the flour mixture, beating well after each addition. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.

Drop onto ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 11-12 minutes or just until set. Cool cookies on wire rack.

09 February 2012

Life Around Here

Confession time: I have been about the worst mom in the world when it comes to pictures. I never have a camera out. And when I do, pictures never turn out well. As a result, all we have of the kids are lame-o posed pictures during events and outings. Gotta change that. (By the way, apparently I use this space as a sort of cathartic confessional. Strange.)

Even though I don't have pictures to prove it, we've been busy busy busy around here. Work life has slowed down a bit and I'm getting into a groove with my new schedule. I haven't had one ounce of time to develop anything (website, relationships, a PLAN), but I'm working on that.

Nate has been super motivated to get the house more furnished - after over three years of living here. In the past two weeks, we've acquired curtains and new bedding for our room, a comforter for Benny's room, a mirror for the living room and a breakfast nook for the kitchen. If I could keep my house clean for more than five minutes (and actually take pictures, see above), I'd post some pictures. Soon, I promise.

The kids have been busy too. After the foot and a half of soon last weekend, we were out on the sledding hill twice. Benny loves to sled. And so does Lila. She sits down and says "Alright!" as she waits for take off. Since I've adopted my new schedule we've visited the Botanic Center (twice), the Nature & Science Museum and the downtown library. We're also averaging one birthday party every two weeks or so.

Life around here is busy, but so good. And it's only going to get better once this snow melts and visions of spring start appearing (blossoms - can't wait!).

06 February 2012

No Preservatives

Welcome back to Green Means Go(od)! I know I said that I was going to write about winter running in February, but after the massive snow storm we just received (over a foot of snow!), I'm guessing running outside won't be happening in the next week or so. Couple that with catching my heel on a step and nearly dropping Lila on her head and screwing up my foot, I'm not sure I'll be running in February at all.

So, using my Quality Comfort Food as an inspiration, I'll focus February's topic on eating preservative free. And, as luck would have it, NPR's All Things Considered just reported on the fall of lard and the subsequent rise of Crisco.

By no means have we cut all preservatives from our diet. We still eat crackers, cereal, boxed mac and cheese and canned tomato sauce. However, I try to make as much from scratch as I can. For example, I refuse to make cakes or brownies from a box. I make my own pizza crust and my own pie crust (using vegetable shortening, which I'll have to reconsider). We don't buy processed dinners and we try to steer clear of processed snacks. We almost never have soda or juice that isn't fresh squeezed. I realize that I have a long way to go to ensure that my family is eating preservative free, but I do feel like we're getting there.

Because the goal of these posts is supposed to provide small, easy changes in lifestyle, I thought I'd focus on a small, easy change that everyone can make to both cut preservatives from their diets as well as reduce the use of packaging: Popping popcorn on the stove.

Nate and I have never owned a popcorn popper. We have never purchased microwave popcorn either. Rather, we buy popcorn seeds and pop them in olive oil in a regular old pan on the stove. With a dash of sea salt, it's just about the best popcorn ever - and so much healthier for us. It's not just about health in terms of calories and fat either. Check out all the stuff that comes with microwave popcorn.

I am hoping to incorporate at least one guest post this month, so stay tuned! Happy popping!

05 February 2012

Supper Bowl II

It's no secret that the Brown-Struckman household doesn't have a TV. Perhaps it's not a terribly surprising conclusion that we don't really care about professional sports either (since no TV is a serious impediment to keeping up with professional sports). Last year I didn't even realize it was Super Bowl Sunday until we sat down at a local restaurant for dinner and found the restaurant completely diner deserted. Aha! Light bulb.

Since we had such a nice experience in sparse-diner dining last year, we decided to do it again this year. We visited Watercourse, a great vegetarian restaurant near our house (and the inspiration for Smashing Tomato Soup). It's just about the most anti-Super Bowl restaurant there is in town. And it was perfect...

Despite looking rather annoyed, Benny had a great meal. He even got hot cocoa and red velvet cake. Lila, who just learned to drink from a straw, impressed us with her skills. Then we realized that she was actually tipping her cup back and spilling all of the water on herself and the floor.

Happy Supper Bowl Sunday!

01 February 2012

Quality Comfort Food

Quality comfort food. Sounds a bit redundant, right? Comfort food is sometimes less about quality and more about the food we ate as kids. I'm thinking about mac and cheese from the blue box, Velveeta cheese, which never goes bad, cinnamon toast with margarine and super processed sugar.

Nate and I have been making a delicious potato corn chowder for nearly our entire marriage. I'm fairly certain that we got the recipe from a flyer at Whole Foods; I wouldn't know. I make the recipe from memory now. Side note: Making recipes from memory is a GREAT way to save time!

On with the potato corn chowder - it has a total of seven ingredients - all but one of them processed (the cheese). We make it so much that Benny considers it comfort food now. I do have a warning: Because this is from memory, the amounts are just guestimates. Enjoy!

Potato Corn Chowder from Memory


1 large yellow onion, diced
 6-7 large potatoes, cubed
6-8 cups of water
2 veggie bouillon cubes
1 cup milk
1 cup cheddar cheese
1 cup frozen or fresh sweet corn
S&P to taste


Saute the onion in olive oil for about five minutes. Add the potatoes, water and bouillon cubes, bring to boil and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Mash the potatoes, add the milk, cheese and sweet corn and simmer for about five minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

If we have leftover bacon from a weekend brunch, we'll add some bacon bits to make this comfort food even more comforting.