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Our plant-strong journey as a family continues and can I tell you a secret? David is now completely on board. It took a few weeks but now he’s game. He’s lost a few pounds and overall is feeling good. He had meat recently while we were out and he didn’t love the way it made him feel. He says I’ve officially ruined him now, but I’m pretty sure that’s just his way of saying thank you for all the delicious plant-based food you’re preparing for us, dear.

Here’s a peek at our menu this week, plus our overall thoughts on each meal. I am experimenting a lot more in the kitchen now, which is taking more time, but is also a lot of fun. I see playing with new flavors and ingredients as a challenge!

Saturday: Veggie Fajitas

I can never go wrong with Mexican-inspired dishes. I simply sauteed onions, peppers, zucchini, and mushroom with taco seasoning and added pinto beans with a squeeze of lime. Then I doctored mine up with sour cream (I’m trying to decrease dairy but I LOVE sour cream), guacamole, cilantro, and diced red onions.

Family feedback: Everyone loves this and eats it happily. Always a win!

Sunday: Pasta with a Chunky Vegetable Marinara

This was my “wiggle meal” for the week and I’m glad we planned one because we ended up going over to a friend’s house to enjoy the warm weather and sunshine. I cut up all the vegetables that were supposed to go in the marinara and brought it for snacking instead. I also brought my own veggie burgers. I tried Bubba Burgers because it’s all my store had, and they were good!, but of course anything is good with lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado, and mustard.

Monday: Baked Potatoes with Thug Kitchen Bean and Beer Chili

Family feedback: it was fine, but I won’t make it again. I felt the chili lacked flavor and it felt like eating a bunch of beans of a potato, which, again, was fine but nothing exciting or worth repeating in all of our opinions.

Tuesday: Vegetarian Lasagna Roll-Ups with Butternut Squash, Mushrooms, and Spinach

Family feedback: big hit. We all like them so much that I doubled the recipe and the girls and I ate the leftovers for breakfast the next morning. They are like me in the fact that there is a never a bad time for marinara sauce!

Wednesday: Slow Cooker Lentil Tacos

Family feedback: again, it’s Mexican-inspired which means everyone is a fan. The girls love anything they can roll up in a tortilla and secure with a toothpick.

Thursday: Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

Family feedback: This was my second time making this recipe. The first time David and I LOVED it and the girls ate it well enough. The second time, though, I tried to double it because it wasn’t enough for our family the first time (despite it saying it feeds 8…) and I totally screwed up the mashed potatoes somehow (whipped them too much?) and made them gluey. The flavors were a little off too and I learned the hard way that you can’t just double every recipe right out. Still, I recommend making this dish- just stick to the original recipe and add some sides, like salad and bread.

Breakfast and Lunch

I am baking sourdough (using this recipe) weekly now and I probably need to step it up to twice a week because we go through it! So good. It’s been my go-to breakfast. Toasted sourdough, avocado, a squeeze of lemon, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Berries on the side.

I never made the curried chickpea salad I had planned (food prep fail!) so lunches were all whatever I felt like throwing together: salads, peanut butter and jelly, lentil soup leftovers from the freezer, etc. The weather was so nice we even had a picnic one day. It was glorious!

I can’t believe I made it through an entire week without a curry dish! Also, if the warmer weather sticks around I want to start making more bean burgers too. Maybe I’ll make a batch of bread machine buns too. I really am having fun eating this way and it’s becoming easier each week.

What was your favorite recipe you ate this past week?

I’m considering trying one of the more plant-based meal deliveries for inspiration. Do you have a favorite you’d recommend?

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How to handle differences in parenting philosophies is one of the most requested topics I’ve received and with good reason. Even if you’ve discussed how you’ll raise your child until you are blue in the face, somehow when you are there, staring at the little miracle in your hands, things change. Maybe you realize you are a more uptight mom than you imagined or maybe you are much more relaxed than you thought you’d be. While I believe it’s crucial to discuss the kind of parent you want to be before a child arrives, the rubber really meets the road when you’re suddenly in the thick of it.

I know this because David and I have worked our way through differences in parenting philosophies over the past 6 years ourselves. I remember being told by mothering veterans when Hailey was born that if I wanted David to change her diaper, I’d better stop critiquing his method- a tough thing for a new, slightly overwhelmed mom to do, but important nonetheless. That incident, among others, sharpened our communication skills and moved us both closer to being the mom and dad we want to be. There are a few advice tidbits that have helped us overcome those differences in parenting opinion obstacles.

Be respectful to each other; parenting is a learning process. We were all raised differently. Even if you discussed it beforehand, when a child arrives it’s common to default back to what we saw when we were growing up. It doesn’t mean we are stuck emulating it forever, but know that it takes a little time for each of us to become comfortable in our new roles and to be clear on what kind of parent we want to be.

Discuss the issue when it’s not happening. Bite your tongue and let the scenario at hand play out. Then, later, in private, discuss the incident. Beyond handling single issues, it’s also important to find a time to go over specific aspects of parenting: discipline, like decision making, nurturing, show of love and affection, discipline, participation in extra curricular activities, etc. Let each partner explain their perspective and desired approach. Talk through and resolve any areas of conflict, and together create a game plan so when that specific situation arises, you both know how it will be handled.

Whoever gives the consequence is the one that sees it through. This one is important because it means it is less likely for one parent to become the disciplinarian (the bad guy) while the other one may be seen as the more fun, or nice guy, parent. Parents should present a united front and both parties need to be on board with the consequence that was given, but the follow-through should usually come from the parent that gave the punishment.

Switch your thinking and consider how it is advantageous that your partner has a different view point. I coddle; David pushes. I can get emotionally worked up; David is as steady as they come. We bring different strengths to parenting and together they create the balanced approach we both strive for.

Be a united front to the kids. It’s important to me that David and I are a single parenting unit. Even if we might initially react differently to a situation, the kids know we support each other and are a team, which doesn’t allow them to play us against each other.

Know that how you parent together will constantly change as children reach new ages and stages. Be flexible. New challenges (tantrums, backtalk, lying, etc) arise all the time, so just know that the “how do we want to parent this situation” talks will be ongoing.

Understand you will both make mistakes. There have been times I’ve handled a situation and almost immediately think to myself “I’m not proud of how I handled that.” For example, yelling. I really don’t like yelling, but it has happened. David? He will never yell. It just isn’t in him. I’m grateful he hasn’t made me feel guilty for those moments that I’ve lost my cool and I keep that in mind if he handles a situation in a way I wouldn’t choose to do myself. We’re all going to slip up, but we don’t need to be reminded of it everyday.

These have helped us create a pretty solid parenting plan in our house. While we aren’t perfect parents, we are intentional with the methods we choose to implement and ensure that we are both on the same page. Now if someone could just help me figure out how to tackle Kaitlyn’s ability to lie straight-faced, that’d be great!

Tell me about parenting in your house-

what are your struggles?

your strengths?

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I still haven’t finished A Simplified Life because I’m still working my way through the first round of home organization tasks. I’m about halfway through them at this point, having completed our shoe closet (see below) on Sunday afternoon. Though I still have a ways to go, I can confirm that the joy I feel as I check each task off the list only snowballs. It’s so easy to focus on more, but embracing less is freeing. Less clutter. Fewer choices. Decreased stress. I’ve been bitten by the bug and I see it sticking around for a while because having less is making me feel so much lighter.

I’ve shared our master closet makeover with you, as well as my pantry, and I’m pleased to announce that they have both maintained their new functional layout. In konmari terms, they both still spark so much freaking joy in me. Now I’d love to share with you a couple more recent spaces we’ve tackled.

The Kitchen Desk

I might have already shared this one, but it’s worth sharing again because it is one of the areas I’m most proud of. It’s a space we use everyday for pens, paper, essential oils, and cookbooks, so it’s one of the projects I’ve gotten to enjoy the most. I donated roughly half my cookbooks which was hard at the time but now I love opening the cabinet and seeing only the ones I use and love the most in front of me.

My Bathroom Vanity

It was basically a dumping ground for all things beauty/hair/makeup whether I used them or not. I had no idea until I pulled EVERYTHING out just how many little junkie samples I owned. Now everything has a purpose and a place. I’ve pushed myself to take the extra two seconds to put an item back where it belongs rather than to leave it on the counter top and it’s made a surprising difference. I wish I took a better picture of the drawers before and after because there is a huge change for the better there. I found several old make-up bags in the process and re-purposed them to hold samples worth keeping, tampons, etc.

The Master Shoe Closet

I think our closets are supposed to be his/hers, but we’ve always shared the big one and used the smaller one for shoes and towels… and apparently a million other junk items. I never realized how many shoes I had that I never (ever) wore and I finally took the necessary step to throw out our old, beat-up pool towels that needed to be replaced. Our medicine cabinet was overflowing with expired and repeated medicines and now everything is back where it belongs so we can easily find it if needed. Now we have a couple of empty shelves which are quickly becoming my new love language.

The Hall Coat Closet

I call this “how many random items can we shove in a closet.” Thank goodness it is now just back to coats and our craft table cloth.

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We are a whopping six months into our first year of homeschooling! Overall, I am loving it, even if it looks very different than what I originally imagined. Over the past few months, I’ve received a lot of questions about homeschooling from some of you that are homeschooling yourself, thinking about homeschooling, or just think it’s all kind of crazy but are interested the details of the day to day nonetheless. Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions. I’m an open book so if you are curious about anything homeschool related, please ask away in the comments and I’ll be sure to answer!

What curriculum do you use?

I opted to piece our curriculum together. I chose to put MathUSee, Bravewriter, Whistlefritz, and themed units together for us originally, but now that we are five months in, things have switched up a little. We are still using MathUSee, but I’ve slowed down the pace of our Bravewriter lessons to give us more time to soak in the grammar rules. We added in Handwriting without Tears. We’ve focused more on reading (both Hailey reading aloud to me and me reading aloud to her).

I think this will get us through the next couple of months. When we start our next year, I am looking into adding somethings in from The Good and The Beautiful, which I keep hearing people rave about. Going into first grade, I want more guidance in science and history and think TGATB lessons look visually stimulating.

What has been a challenge you didn’t anticipate?

Keeping up with everything I planned out! I thought I had our schedule firmly planned, but life happens: fun homeschool events sometimes take place in the mornings, Kaitlyn has preschool events that we attend, sometimes we are out of food and have to go to the grocery store. The flexibility of homeschool is one of its best attributes, but it’s taken a little while for me to get comfortable with it.

Now that I am seeing how much learning happens at the grocery store (people skills, price comparisons, percentages, etc) and that it’s OK to do math or science experiments in the afternoon rather than first thing in the morning, I feel more at ease. I also understand that some days learning can’t be forced and it’s better to play some board games than to trudge through the math just because it what was on the schedule. Some weeks we knock out everything and more, and other weeks we do a single math lesson because we are busy exploring outside or going to other events.

How old were your kids when you started?

I count our official start to be in September of 2017, just as Hailey turned 6 years old.

What are your favorite non-school ways to get your kids out playing with other kids?

Extra curricular activities certainly help! Right now Hailey is in music, basketball, and Girl Scouts. In March she’ll pick up tennis and soon after that, swim team. Girls Scouts has been especially great for her and she loves it! Other than that, we get together with other friends that homeschool (it’s a goal of mine to do better at this for next year) and see our friends that go to school on the weekends or school holidays. We also go to homeschool specific offerings, like Discovery Place science classes, and we just joined Wild and Free group that I’m really excited about!

Any hard parts that people don’t talk about that’s you’d tell someone about to embark on the journey?

For me, there have been many more pros than cons. However, there are some tough parts. Some days we just don’t click and everything feels forced. Those days are hard, but they are bound to happen. Also, for me, the ever-changing schedule has taken some getting used to. I’m a routine person, so it’s been an adjustment for me to see that each week looks really different. Having friends that also homeschool makes a big difference because as homeschoolers you have more time to do things outside the home and having people to do those things with makes it so much more fun!

How do you make sure you are covering everything they need to learn?

I’ve realized “covering everything” is an illusion. I probably won’t cover it all, and neither will the public school. Also, what a child “should be” learning is completely subjective and if you asked different teachers (Waldorf style, Montessori, unschool, classical approach, etc), you’d get very different answers of what a child should be learning when. Realizing that, I’m slowly embracing the outlook that if we are constantly learning and progressing, then we are doing just fine.

That being said, I have certainly been guilty of googling “what does my child need to know by 1st grade” and have come across multiple lists outlining specifics skill and knowledge they should have. I have found that we check most of those off with ease, which relieves my self doubt, but I’m trying to let go of this method of comparison.

Now that you are a few months in, do you with you would have homeschooled preschool too?

I honestly don’t know. I love our preschool and Hailey enjoyed her experience there, and it gave me time to weigh our options and figure out our path. I don’t think I would have done anything differently in our case, but if I had known for sure that I was going to homeschool, I might have skipped it. I am glad we only did three mornings a week at preschool though because I think it would have been more of an adjustment socially to go from five days a week to zero.

Do the girls ever seem jealous over each others’ different situations?

Sometimes! Hailey isn’t really jealous that Kaitlyn goes to preschool, but she does like to talk about the fun she had while she was there. She realizes her friends don’t go there anymore either, so she doesn’t feel left out. Kaitlyn however, though she loves her preschool class, will often ask to stay home with us. She’s faked a cough before to try and stay with us, so I think sometimes she is jealous, but she always enjoys school once she is there.

Where have you seen Hailey thrive most as a homeschooler this year?

For me the biggest leap has been in her people skills. She’s a naturally shy kid around strangers, but over the past six months she’s gotten more confident in speaking to adults and meeting new kids. Now at the grocery store she will walk right up to an adult and ask “excuse me, where can I find the XYZ.” She’ll order her own meal at restaurants. It may sound like a small thing, but it’s really cool for me to see. Now at at a playground (when she used to just stick with the one person she knew) she will walk up to a new kid, introduce herself, and ask if they want to play. It’s not an academically-focused answer, but it’s really been an amazing transformation to watch and I fully credit the fact that we are always out and about, meeting new people, and putting her in situations where she has to get outside her comfort zone and speak up for herself.

Do you think you’ll homeschool throughout their education?

We are keeping this completely open. As long as it’s working and providing more benefit than cost, we’ll stick with it. If it stops working for us, we’ll look into other options.

How is focusing on literature that is not twaddle going? Have you seen a difference with their book choices?

“Twaddle” is a Charlotte-Mason term without a solid definition, but when referring to books, it roughly refers to books that are of low literature quality, predictable, or insignificant. Basically, dumbed-down literature. An example would be a Disney princess board book about getting ready for a ball. I feel perfectly comfortable with that example because it’s a book we own, despite my best efforts to relocate it to the trash. I really try to focus on non-twaddle books (here is a list of non-twaddle literature by grade level).

I feel like I still control most of the book choices in the house, so most fit under non-twaddle. We are reading The Little House series, Anne of Green Gables, old fashion fairy tales, and I just picked up the Boxcar Children. If we go to Barnes and Noble, they are drawn to twaddle like a moth to flame. I’m fine watching Hailey read Bubble Guppy books to Kaitlyn there, but as far as what we buy and borrow, we stick to the more quality stuff and they both really seem to enjoy those a lot! Even if they initial cover art wouldn’t have attracted them initially (like Stone Soup, which they both loved).

I don’t have it all figured out at six months in and I am realizing I may never feel like I have it all figured out. I am thoroughly enjoying this journey though and every time we spend 30 minutes snuggled up together reading Little House, then researching more about how to tap maple trees and make maple cakes like Laura and Mary ate, it all just feels right.

I have received so much encouragement and support from other homeschool moms. None of them feel like they have it all figured out either, but just talking or emailing with each other has been so helpful, so if you have any questions to ask or advice to share, please do!

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Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends! I’m not particularly hooked into celebrating this holiday (though I did grab the girls a few goodies at Target- books, beach towel, new notepads), but I love any excuse to look back through pictures. In fact, recently David successfully hacked into our college computers and retrieved all the pictures from a few years in the early 2000’s that we thought had been lost. They are not all fit for viewing (thank GOODNESS Instagram wasn’t a thing in my early college years), but there are some gems hidden among the crazy. I enjoyed sorting them so much that I figured it would be fun to walk down memory lane of how we met and our dating saga, in the spirit of the day, and hope you don’t mind being subjected to it. So here it is, volume one in the story of us!

Let’s start in the beginning.

The date was November 29, 2003. The place? Georgia Tech campus. The Sigma Chi fraternity house to be exact. My friend (shout out to you, Hew!) had dragged me out of bed that morning, forcing me to get dressed and come with her to the tailgate our sorority sisters had set up with a fraternity at GT. I had recently broken up with my boyfriend of the past year and so, begrudgingly, I agreed to go along.  College girls in the south dress up like it’s prom for football games, so our feet were hurting in our heels and we were looking for a place to sit. We wandered right into a room in the fraternity house with a couch, sat down, and when we looked up, a young gentleman was just getting out of the shower, towel around his waist. He laughed and waved at us and joined us shortly after (with clothes) for some old fashion tailgating fun. That gentleman was David and though we officially met that day and he asked for my number, we didn’t hang out for long, as Kristin and I ran off later to meet friends for the game and despite his attempts, he couldn’t track me down afterwards.

It could have all ended there (with a winning Georgia of 34-17, might I add), but a week later I received a phone call from David inviting me to his Christmas Party Date Night. Truth be told I wasn’t going to go. Athens is about 1.5 hours from Atlanta and I was rather “eh” about the whole situation, but I talked a friend into coming with me and so we went and there, David and I had our first “date.”

The night was chaos, as most college parties are, but I remember vividly how attentive David was to making sure I had a fun time. I also remember his good friend telling me all the wonderful things about David (should we call you his wing-woman, Jordan?!). Whatever it was, something clicked that night and I fell completely head over heels. I called my parents the next day and told them I had met the guy I was going to marry. Six short years later (lol), that vision came to fruition!

So after that first date night, we started dating. He’d come to Athens, he took me out in Atlanta. One of the more memorable date nights was when we took me to the The Sundial Restaurant (a restaurant in Atlanta that rotates at the top of a building). I wasn’t 21 yet, but they didn’t check my ID, so we got a drink, had a meal, and the night ended with David playing the piano IN the restaurant! For Valentine’s day he surprised me with a trip to the mountains. Later in February we went to his fraternity formal (in Charlotte funny enough). I was smitten.

I was a sophomore in college during all of this and David was, shall we call it, a “super senior” (5th year). As his graduation approached, his mind got set on job searching and the real world. Shortly after graduation, he literally fell off the face of the map. I don’t remember all the details, but he graduated, took a job in Florida, and was gone.

2004 was a tough summer for me. I was sad and confused as to what the heck had happened, so imagine my shock when in late August I got a call from David, just to catch up. Me now (in my 30’s) would have said “what the heck dude?!” but me then (21) was so excited to hear from him that we chatted for hours. We continued to do so on the regular and in December he flew me down to visit him in Fort Myers. The weekend was a blast, but the reality was we were still a plane ride away from each other, him in the real world and me, a junior in college. So though we talked often and a strong spark remained, we were “just friends.”

Things remained that way for months, we’d talk by phone every week and my friends and I had nicknamed him my “ultimate” (lol) but we stayed just friends.

By early fall 2005, David had moved to Memphis. I was now a senior at UGA. He came into town for alumni weekend at GT and invited me to join him. You know I liked him because I wore GOLD for him, which is basically a crime within Athens city limits.

As always, we had a blast together at the football game and at the dinner event.

note to self: never attempt bangs again

After that, our phone call frequency increased and in December, David invited me to visit him in Memphis. I met his brother and sister-in-law during that trip (introduced only as David’s friend, which we all now laugh about). We visited Graceland and ate ribs at Rendezvous.

We never defined the relationship, but it was so obvious that we weren’t just friends. In early 2006 I joined him on a work trip to Whistler, then he came to Athens to be my date for my senior KD formal.

Around this time, March-ish 2006, I got the urge to define the relationship. I was head over heels. I knew he felt the same, yet I hesitated to call him my boyfriend. So I demanded clarity and definition, and when I didn’t get it, a late night phone call between Athens and Memphis resulted in me telling him I couldn’t do it anymore and to please never call me again. I meant it too. If we couldn’t officially be together then I had to be done. He reached out a time or two, but I never responded. I graduated, moved to Atlanta, and got on living life in the big city.

This was when MySpace was a thing and though I had called it quits and refused to touch base with him, I still checked in on his MySpace page every so often because that’s what girls do. Though I had decided to move on, I was never quite able to let go.

Then in late July 2006, he called. I answered. He asked to come visit me. I said yes.

It was during that visit that we made amends and he made it clear he was serious about dating me seriously. I knew he was sincere because he let me take him to Six Flags, a place I love and he despises.

My outfit though…

From right then and there, I could tell things were different. We picked up right where we left off and started dating seriously. He had moved to Charlotte by this point and every weekend either I would drive the four hours there or he would make the trek to Atlanta.

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These vegetarian Butternut Squash, Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna Roll-Ups are delicious, hearty, and comforting. Plus they can be made ahead and put in the freezer for quick weeknight meals!

Ever since we’ve been eating more plant-based meals, we’ve eaten plenty of dinners that we file under “pretty good for a vegetarian meal.” However, there are a few that deserve just to be in the “dang that’s good” category and are meals I’d feel perfectly comfortable serving even my most meat-loving friends. For example, this sweet potato chili, spiced lentil soup, and vegetable bolognese are all repeat-worthy dinners, and now these vegetarian lasagna roll-ups have secured their own position on the list!

I think the secret to the heartiness is the chopped mushrooms which give the dish a satisfying texture, but what really gives this dish the flavor pop it will be remembered for is the lemon zest. So despite it being tempting to leave out small amounts of seemingly unimportant ingredients, don’t skip it!

My final brag on this dish before imploring you to add it to your family’s weekly rotation is that that it can be made ahead of time and frozen. Certainly you can make and freeze the whole dish together, but the lasagna roll-ups can also be frozen in smaller batches of two or three, making it a perfect single-serve meal for busy nights or when your spouse is traveling.

The extra nutritional power of the butternut squash puree gives a slight sweetness to the dish that balances out the savory sauteed vegetables. Long story short- this dish is a keeper. The kids loved it (being covered in cheese certainly didn’t hurt), but I even made it once with only a slight sprinkle of the mozzarella topping and it STILL was incredibly flavorful. I’m so excited to finally share this roll-up recipe with you and can’t wait to hear what you think!

Print
Vegetarian Lasagna Roll-Ups With Butternut Squash, Spinach and Mushroom
  • Author: Brittany Dixon
  • Prep Time: 20
  • Cook Time: 40
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 9 Roll-Ups
Description

These vegetarian Butternut, Spinach Squash and Mushroom Lasagna Roll-Ups are delicious, hearty, comforting and can be made ahead and put in the freezer for quick weeknight meals!

Ingredients

9 lasagna noodles

For the sauce:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, peeled and diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

8 ounces baby Portobello mushrooms, diced

17 ounces tomato sauce

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup packed pureed Butternut squash*

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon pepper

For the filling:

5 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

8 ounces ricotta cheese

1 large egg

1 teaspoon organic lemon zest

Shredded Mozzarella cheese

Garnish

extra chopped fresh basil

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°.

Cook lasagna noodles according to package instructions, or just until tender. Do not overcook. Drain and place cooked lasagna noodles individually on a clean surface. (Spray surface with a little cooking spray if noodles seem to stick.)

To prepare the Sauce:

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic: cook, stirring occasionally, 5-10 minutes or until onions are softened. Add mushrooms; cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until mushrooms are softened and tender. Stir in tomato sauce, tomato paste, and Butternut squash; cook until heated through. Stir in basil, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Keep warm.

To prepare the Filling:

Combine spinach, ricotta cheese, egg, lemon zest, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.

To assemble:

Divide ricotta mixture evenly among 9 lasagna noodles (about 2-3 tablespoons each). Spread evenly along noodle. Place about 2-3 tablespoons tomato sauce on each noodle on top of ricotta filling; spread evenly along noodle. Sprinkle about 3 tablespoons of Mozzarella cheese on top of tomato mixture.

Starting at one short end, roll noodle up, being sure filling doesn’t leak out of the side of the roll. Continue rolling each noodle.

Place half of remaining tomato sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish. Place lasagna roll ups on top of tomato sauce, seam side down. Top with remainder of tomato sauce. Sprinkle evenly with cheese. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Remove foil and cook for an additional 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Sprinkle with additional chopped fresh basil, if desired. Serve immediately.

Notes

The easiest way to get a quick cup of Butternut squash puree if there is none on hand is to buy a 10-ounce package of frozen Butternut squash chunks. Microwave them according to package instructions, drain, and pulse quickly in a blender or food processor. Those 10 ounces will equal 1 cup packed puree.

To portion out lasagna roll-ups for a quick pre-made vegetarian dinner, cover bottoms of 8-inch aluminum loaf pans with tomato sauce. Place 2-3 lasagna roll-ups on top of sauce, top with more tomato sauce and cheese, and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Place in freezer. You can bake these directly from frozen at 350° for 1 hour covered, remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes uncovered or until cheese is melted. Keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Did you make this recipe?

Tag @ahealthyslice on Instagram and hashtag it #AHSinthekitchen

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It’s been a week around here. Not a bad one, but for a week that on paper looked like it was going to be packed full, we ended up doing a lot more just hanging out at home because of a cough Kaitlyn developed last Sunday. Because of the cough and the low-grade fever (100.5), I cancelled my sitter and kept her out of school. That made it a far less productive week than I originally had planned, but once I accepted that, the extra downtime became a welcomed change.

Long story short, the recipe I wanted to share with y’all today will have to wait until next week, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to sit down, sip something warm (currently I’m trying a new matcha latte), and chat with y’all for a bit.

So, if we were meeting for coffee…

I’d first tell you about my dad. I know I haven’t talked about it much, but my mind is always with my family right now. This experience has given me a new level of compassion. I have such a heightened sense of how much may be going on under someone’s surface because the world doesn’t stop even when you sometimes feel like it should. So we keep going because there is no other option. My dad is a man with an innate ability to help others. Through his profession and in his personal life, it’s just what he does, which is lighting a fire in me to try and do more of the same- to love (sometimes he doles out the tough love though, don’t ya dad ), help, spread kindness, etc.

So many of you have reached out via instagram and email to ask how things are going. The love and support mean SO much. Overall, we are doing OK. I keep meaning to try and come up with a better answer but the reality is right now we’re just in it. We’re going through it and trying to do the next right thing. Dad started chemo. Mom is juicing and together they are implementing a lot of varied natural approaches in conjunction with the chemo. We are researching and staying up to date on all the incredible advancements that are happening all the time. We are throwing everything we can at this cancer, including love. And love sometimes means you have to chill out, laugh, and let some normalcy creep in for everyone’s sanity. It’s a new road for me (for all of us) and I’m learning to navigate it as I go. Some days I feel like I’m doing a pretty terrible job, but then I remind myself that all I can do is show up and to love my family.

There is no way to gently transition from cancer to any other topic, so just turn sharply with me and go with it.

If we were having coffee…

I’d admit I’m not quite sure what to do with Kaitlyn next year. As of right now I have her signed up for 2 mornings a week in our beloved preschool. I feel like still have some one on time with Hailey for homeschool would be good, but having Kaitlyn home all this week makes me wonder if it might actually be easier to just start homeschooling her too?

The girls generally enjoy being together and the flexibility is really nice. Just yesterday for example, we (yes all three of us, haha) met Julie and Jen for coffee/tea at Summit Coffee in Davidson. We get together every couple of months and I can’t tell you how much I thoroughly enjoy spending a couple hours with these ladies. If you read their blogs, I can assure you they are as thoughtful, compassionate, and loving in real life as they are online and I’m grateful for their friendship. Since my two girls were tagalongs, they spent the coffee date as screen zombies, much to their delight.

Since we didn’t have to rush afterwards to pick anyone up from preschool, we stayed out, enjoyed the gorgeous weather, climbed trees, and took our time getting back home. It was a lovely, relaxed rhythm to the day and it has me wondering if we should just transition into homeschooling both of them?

If we were having coffee…

I’d share that I’m really into self-care/health-care things lately. First of all, I’ve become a bath addict. It’s almost a nightly ritual now that I’ve discovered bath bombs. I’ve tried bath bombs from Thrive, Sky Organics, and was recently sent a lovely bath box to try from Zayith (use the code DIXON20 for 20% off your first order) and I am HOOKED. I just think these would make such a fabulous gift for a mom, sister, gal pal, etc.

Though I wouldn’t call my exercise schedule steady by any means, I’ve fallen into a nice combination of Burn Boot Camp (I hit up the 5AM today!) and yoga. I’ve taken some classes at a local yoga studio, which have been OK, but I am looking online for some good options too. I’ve done several of Yoga with Adriene– are there any others you’d recommend?

I rejoined Thrive Market (affiliate link) after a hiatus because it’s really such a convenient resource for finding new health products.

Bath soap for kids, vitamin B12 (a good vitamin for anyone eating less/no meat), organic coffee, some new warm drinks to try- so much good stuff! I tried these Snacklins for fun, which are made of mushrooms and yuca but resemble pork rinds. So random! But the girls liked the BBQ flavor a lot.

I’m also dry brushing, making tofu breakfast burritos, diffusing oils daily, eating garlic, drinking tonic, and making lentil soups, like this one from Cookie+Kate which is a good, and even better the second day!

I think that about covers life at the moment. Hailey has her rock concert tonight (she’s playing the drums!) and a basketball game tomorrow. Kaitlyn’s cough seems to keep fading more everyday so I’m hoping the trend continues. David, though not mentioned much in this update, is good too He recently hacked into our old college computers and recovered all the pictures from those years. We’ve had a lot of good laughs over them though I wish a few would have remained unable to be recovered!

Stay well, my friends, I know the flu is everywhere right now! And I hope you all have a wonderful weekend <3

Fill me in- what is the latest with you?

Have you had an off week? It seems quite a few people have!

What healthy living habits/foods are you into right now?

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Feeding my family is something that has brought me more joy than I ever imagined it would. Not always the act itself (I could do without the squabbles over cup color and the rice confetti that covers my floor after curry night), but each time I make my family a meal that is nourishing their growing bodies, I feel a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. When we bake birthday cakes and dig into thick slices covered with cream cheese icing I commit the mmms and smiles to memory. Scoff if you must, but the food aspect of motherhood speaks to me.

On my recent reader survey, I received a request that asked how to teach kids to eat healthy foods without making them feel like certain foods are good or bad. I thought it was a great question and something I’ve thought about a lot over the past six years of feeding the girls. Here are my thoughts:

ONE: I have to truly believe myself that there are no good and bad foods.

With kids, more is caught than taught, meaning they are going to soak up and take on our actions and beliefs, even if what is coming out of our mouths is saying the opposite. This is where a parent dieting can get a a little hairy. Not that it can’t be done, but if I child constantly hears “I can’t eat that” or “that will go straight to my thighs,” it will get in their heads that certain foods are bad. Read more on raising a girl to have a healthy body image here

TWO: We focus on how different foods makes us feel.

But shouldn’t we be teaching them that vegetables are better than cake? Yes, I think so! At a certain age, probably around 4 years old in my experience, it’s a good idea to start a conversation about why we eat some foods more often than others. Some people really like the traffic light method of feeding children, but for my kids, it has worked to just talk about the food as we eat. We talk about how our bodies work and how certain foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, and whole grains fill our bodies with fuel that allows us to run, think, create, and play at our maximum ability. Other foods like candy, cookies, and cake don’t offer the same fueling power. We keep the explanation simple, short, and sweet (no pun intended).

THREE: I relish in the control I have at these young ages.

As a mom (that thrives on power mwahaha), I love that I control what fills our fridge and pantry. I love being the one to choose what is for dinner. I believe that once it’s in the house, it’s fair game, so I keep that in mind when I’m at the store.  I don’t buy junk food or many snacks because I don’t want us to eat it and snacking isn’t something that works well in my family (it results in picky eating at meal time). However, if cookies are being handed out after a basketball game, my girls can go for it! I don’t often restrict what they have when we are out because I know that 90% of the time we are eating at home, so the 10% can be a little loose.

FOUR: Don’t use food as a reward.

I know this is so tempting because I’ve fallen victim to it before myself, BUT kids need to learn to deal with all their emotions and I believe consistently offering a sweet treat to calm them down, for example, could be setting up for an unhealthy dependency on food as a fix as they get older. Offering a treat for them eating a vegetable just reinforces the idea that sweet is good and vegetables are a necessary evil you have to choke down to get to the good stuff. It can also mess with their ability to internal hunger cues and regulate their own eating. Overall, I think it’s just better to pick a non-food reward like extra books, a trip to the zoo, or a special craft instead of food.

FIVE: Keep emotions neutral whether serving cake or curry.

I don’t bite my lip and beg my kids to just give dinner a chance if it’s something I’m unsure they will enjoy. I also don’t give  lecture on how we don’t do this everyday if I let them eat leftover birthday cake for breakfast. It’s just food! They know we don’t have birthday cake for breakfast everyday because we don’t have it in our house except on birthdays, so if they want it for breakfast, I let them! And then I don’t flinch when I serve them a salad and falafel for dinner.

SIX: We eat together (if possible) and we all eat the same thing.

It may be easy to make the adults a meal and the toddler something else at first, but it gets harder as the kids get older and are eating more. Because of this, I believe it’s best to make a single meal for dinner and all eat the same thing. We sometimes separate the components for Kaitlyn (3) or leave off a sauce if it’s spicy, but I believe all eating the same basic meal helps enforce healthy eating habits. It makes things easier, ensures that everyone is eating a healthy meal, and kids are more likely to try something if they see everyone else eating it too (monkey see monkey do).

It’s no secret I love food, but the way I talk about it here on the blog, using words like plant-based, paleo, intuitive eating, etc, only really happens on here. In our house, food is food is food. I buy and serve the good stuff, but don’t stress about when we get in and bake cookies either.

Feeding kids can really be frustrating, especially when they are very young and communication is limited. But now that we are a little further along (ages 6 and 3), I can attest that starting early with serving quality food and being consistent in your approach will pay off. My kids are still kids and squeal with delight with they get to lick the cookie batter bowl and would probably request mac ‘n cheese if you asked them, but I don’t believe that you have to cater to their preferences in order for them to actually eat and grow.

Some of the best things I’ve learned about feeding kids over the past six years has come from experience and from YOU, so please share with me-

What is meal time like in your house?

What are your habits/rules that work for feeding your family?

What are your challenges?

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Plant-based is a popular term right now, isn’t it? Much like “self-care” I see it getting thrown around a lot and eliciting some eye rolls. Personally though, I am digging the term because it’s a health-focused way of eating that does not feel restrictive.

For example, at last night’s Super Bowl Party, my friend Danielle served her husband’s authentic Italian meatballs as part of the spread. If I had been labeling my diet “vegan” or “vegetarian,” I would have felt compelled to pass. But y’all- authentic Italian meatballs?! I couldn’t say no to that and I’m so glad I didn’t- they were delicious! It was probably the only meat I’ve eaten in over two weeks, but that didn’t bother me a bit. I’m a rule follower by nature and if I had been focused on eating vegetarian or vegan, my mind would have been questioning whether I “could have” one or not. But plant-based? Plant-based to me is a simple, healthy-eating guideline without the restriction, much like Michael Pollan’s advice: eat food, not too much, mostly plants (still one of my favorite books).

It’s been a fun switch up to my eating habits and I’ve gained some knowledge along the way. Here are the top five thing I’ve learned while eating more plant-based.

ONE: Plant-based is not the same as vegetarian.

Eating plant-based does not necessarily mean you are a vegetarian and being a vegetarian does not necessarily mean you are eating plant-based. Plant-based refers to a diet that focuses around eating whole foods derived from plants such as fruits, veggies, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds. I use this definition to guide my food choices because vegetarian could also mean eating chips, pasta, and bread for every meal, which really doesn’t fit the definition or goal of a plant-based diet.

TWO: It can take your body time to adjust.

I made the mistake of eating too many beans one day and man, my stomach hurt. David felt like he could eat a ton at meals and still felt hungry with meat. Now, I am in a rhythm and know how many beans is too many, and I’m feeling great (not-bloated, energetic kind of great). And David said to me last week that his body must have adjusted somehow because now he’s satisfied from the meals and feeling good, too.

THREE: Plant-based eating is less expensive.

Sure, if you’re buying all the super food powders and such, it’s going to add up, but generally speaking, beans and rice are cheaper than meat, especially if you’re buying the high-quality, local, pasture-raised stuff. This was not an initial reason for me to focus on more plant-based eating, but it’s been a welcomed side effect. I’d say on average we’ve seen a $30-$40 reduction in our weekly grocery bill.

FOUR: Menu planning and meal prep is essential.

Veggies dipped in hummus is a quick and easy snack, but for the most, I find that I have to plan and prep to avoid spending an hour or two in the kitchen every day. Plant-based meals take time to, well, prep the plants, which often means washing, chopping, roasting, etc. It’s taken a little adjusting and I’ve learned a few shortcuts along the way (make spice mixes ahead of time, make a big batch of grains to use all week, blend up a dressing or sauce to use all week long to make almost any food combo into a meal, etc). If you have other tips, please send them to me!

FIVE: Eating more plants is always a good thing.

I think experimenting with your eating habits is smart. I probably won’t ever do the whole30, but for those that do, I think it’s awesome! How are we supposed to know what makes us feel our best unless we try new things? I’m also a firm believer that all bodies are different and people can thrive on different diets. I may be eating more vegetarian/plant-based meals, but I don’t have a strong opinion on what YOU should be eating. I am happy to share my journey and experience and I do believe that however you define your diet, eating more plants is almost always a good thing.

Recources

I’m finding a lot of recipes I like online through Minimalist Baker, Cookie + Kate, Oh She Glows, and Pinch of Yum. My go-to cookbooks at the moment are Oh She Glows Everyday and How Not to Die Cookbook. I like both (though How Not to Die is salt-free and I find I have to add a sprinkle of salt or a splash of hot sauce to many of the recipes). I also want to check out Thug Kitchen Cookbook from the library because I’ve heard good things about!

I’m on the lookout for more plant-based recipes and cookbooks- which are you favorites?

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I always wonder what we’ll do during January each year, but somehow it always fills itself up. We went snow skiing, the girls and I made a quick trip down to visit my family in Georgia, we celebrated David’s birthday, and we’ve been busy with the regular basketball practices, music class, homeschooling, etc.

I’d like to say we’ve settled into a rhythm, but every week seems different and busy in a new way, plus Kaitlyn has been hit hard with a case of “being three” lately and it is wearing me out. She’s one of the few that hasn’t come down with the flu or stomach bug in her preschool class (knock, knock, knock), so I’m wondering if her body is just extra tired from fighting off germs? Or maybe we’re just solidly in that threenager phase? Either way, mom’ing has really taken a lot of focused effort for me recently.

A few things I have been loving lately include bath bombs, audio books (I just finished You Are A Badass and enjoyed it- I’m also listening to The Best Yes for my Women’s Life Group), experimenting with more vegetarian/vegan recipes, yoga, a focus on self care (minus the guilt), and kombucha. I want to start brewing again, but need to find a local SCOBY. Anyone know where I can get one? Until then, this Tribucha (that I found at Lowe’s Foods for locals!) will hit the spot. The ginger, cayenne, and turmeric variety is seriously spicy (and that’s saying a lot coming from me) and I love the way it burns! I also love that it comes in a can.

Ever since we were ruthless on our master closet clean out, I’ve been able to clearly see how I use my clothes and what I need. I feel I’m actually pretty set for the rest of winter, but I’ll need a couple items for spring/summer. I also am currently searching for a new sports bra (I am considering this Moving Comfort Juno Bra) and a tank with built-in support that is relaxed and comfortable for yoga (like this True Tank). Any suggestions on either of these categories? I’m OK spending a little more on a quality item that will last me a while.

Encouraged by the results of our master closet, I’ve been slowly working my way through our list of our other home organization tasks. I’m still only a chapter or two into A Simplified Life because I’m waiting until I get through all these items before moving on. Not only is clearing out these spaces cathartic, it has surprisingly made me think longer and harder about buying anything new to bring into our house. I’m enjoying the simplicity so much that I find myself asking Emily’s question (is this an absolute favorite?) before I put anything into my cart (in case you were curious, chips and salsa always get an enthusiastic YES). It’s empowering to have a more discerning system in place for deciding what to buy.

Now for some links I’ve enjoyed lately that I want to share with you:

Come Out of Your Corner Sermon from Pastor Steven Furtick: This was so powerful. I felt it hit the nail on the head when he says that no growth is happening because we aren’t allowing any space for dumb questions. We are so quick to be offended and fear offending others that we all stay quiet in our own corners instead of engaging in a conversation and learning from each other and our different view points.

Why My Toddler Doesn’t Always Eat What I Eat from The Lean Green Bean: I found this a fun read because just reading the title, it sounded like we have opposite philosophies (which is fine!). However, reading through the post, we actually overlap in agreement in most areas, not differ. As a family, we eat all the same components, but sometimes in different ways (I may layer it all in a bowl, but Kaitlyn may have the same rice, beans, and vegetables deconstructed on a plate). Either way, some great tips on feeding kids!

Jen’s recipes never let me down, so I’m super excited to try out these Sweet Potato Noodle Bowls with Coconut Curry.

A few homeschool-related links I’ve discovered lately include: This Diverse Book Finder, Movie Master List of Discussion Questions, and Scholastic’s List of 100 Best Read Aloud Books. I have a FAQ homeschool post brewing, so if you have any questions about what we’re doing, send them to me! I’ll say my philosophy has really shifted over past month or so and I’m enjoying learning what works best for us along this journey.

Vice Special Report: Killing Cancer. This video is just incredible. I lean “crunchy” in that I love chewing garlic for sore throats and think ACV can help with nearly everything, but that doesn’t mean I have any disrespect for western medicine. In fact, I’m quite in awe of it. This special report shows doctors CURING leukemia with altered HIV viruses and it’s just incredible.

Tasty recipe alert! I made the Peanut Soup with Sweet Potato and Kale this week and served it over brown rice. The whole family gobbled this one (I added a plash of hot sauce). I also made this curried chickpea salad from the Oh She Glows cookbook and LOVED it. I can’t wait to make it again!

I also wanted to share my A Healthy Slice of LOVE Instagram challenge with you again! Today’s prompt is to post a picture of someone or something in your life that always cheers you up. I really enjoyed going through the #AHealthySliceOfLOVE hashtag and seeing which rooms you love most in your homes and can’t wait to see what today’s prompt will bring!

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, full of laughter. It’s been on my mind lately how important laughter is so watch a funny movie, share a glass of wine with a good friend, or if you really need a boost, I’ll send you my middle school yearbook pictures. In all seriousness, have a great weekend my friends!

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