Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year's-- 2010 here we come!

Wow, 2009 came and now it is gone already... in a flash!  As I look back on the year and think about food, I feel like I have come a long way.  Sure, I have always aimed for whole, natural foods, but I DO admit those times (many times) where I could not resist a sugary treat (white, at that) and could eat a whole batch of brownies in one sitting.  I ponder about my motives for over indulging and I must confess, that I think it was a depression issue.  Being a new mom is not easy and not having the body I wanted immediately after having my son... was not easy either.  On top of that, motherhood and being a housewife at the same time--was a huge adjustment!  I never made my own bed and was never really around babies.  Now, I have to say I  love my role and the idea of my role, but it was and IS just plain hard! :)   I need daily encouragement...

In the summer, I joined the YMCA... and the endorphins released by excersizing was just what I needed in the midst of my storm.  I dabbled on the elliptical machine and treadmills.  While those were helpful, I really found myself having a good time and burning calories in taking classes.  Cardio kickboxing, Cardio Pump, Step Interval--even Cycling (or spinning) a few times here in there are great classes to take.  I highly encourage you join.  If you have a budget issue, the Y has a great financial scholarship program... look into it!  Replace those daily lunch outings with a Y membership and bag those lunches!  It has been so fun being a part of the Y... and when friends join too, it has made the experience so much sweeter!  We carpool to classes together---it keeps us motivated and accountable.

So, this may sound cliche.  While you are re-evaluating the way you eat... make a New Year's Resolution to be healthy!  Join the YMCA or gym near you.  And hey, start with a class-- try not to be embarrassed.  Trust me, this is coming from a girl who hated the attention of walking down the aisle at her own wedding...  Stand in the back and after a while, you will get the hang of the moves and lingo.

In short, 2010--the year of healthy eating and exercising.  Below is a picture of my son and I on Christmas Day.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Eve Baked Black Beans

1/2 cup mild salsa
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp. of fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tsp. of dried sage
2 cans of black beans (15 oz each)
1/2 strip of kombu, cut into small pieces (optional)
6-8 sun-dried tomatoes (pre-soaked in boiling water for about 10 minutes and then chopped)
2 tbsp. agave syrup
1/4 cup shredded cheese (white cheddar)

Preheat oven to 375.  In a saucepan on medium heat, combine the salsa, garlic, cilantro,and sage for about 3-5 minutes (to allow flavors to come together).  Then add in the rest of the ingredients (minus the cheese) and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, remove from heat and in a 8 x 8 casserole dish, poor in mixture and top with cheese.  Bake for about 25-30 minutes.  Serve as a side dish with either fresh sprinkled feta cheese or more white cheddar.  Would also serve as a great dip with tortilla chips.

I made this for our Christmas dinner.  I was trying to look for a protein and iron alternative for my son and I.  Along with this dish, the menu included (between myself and our friends that joined us): Sunflower and Honey Bread (made with buckwheat, almond, & quinoa flours), Bulgur Waldorf Raisin Salad, Roasted Sweet and Red Potatoes, Slow-cooked Apple Citrus Chicken, Green Beans with a hint of lemon, Flaxbread Stuffing and a Lemon flavored Cheescake--with a Granola crust.  Guys---the food was great!  Below is a picture if half of the food on the table... I wish I had a photo with all of the food, but I guess I was just too focused on eating!  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sugar (said in the Edgar accent from Men in Black II)

Please watch this little scene!  I always think of it when I think of the word sugar!   It always makes me laugh:

Sugar is bad. Sugar is evil... etc... Let's just talk sugar here, and the things that make life sweet.  I am personally blessed with liking coffee with a splash of milk or a non-fat cafe au lait--both no sugar... in fact, aside from the 1 (or 2) Starbucks Peppermint Mocha's to help kick off the Christmas season, I really prefer coffee plain and unsweet--I hate the after taste and the feeling after drinking it sweetened. 

I do however, have a sweet tooth.  I am not talking hard candies or Sweet-tarts here, I mean rich, dark chocolaty treats or pumpkin pie... or peanut butter cups... (but now with whole, organic ingredients of course!).  Despite feeling crappy and low after eating these kinds of sweets, my taste buds are in heaven and can't resist seconds!  Sugar is a drug, an addictive drug.  I wish I could break the habit.  The worst is when you do really well and not eat white sugar stuff... and then there is just this one time you will take just one bite---downhill... I mean, DOWNHILL from there!  Aside from making you high one moment and then low the next, consider that white sugar is highly processed sugar cane, stripped from all its natural minerals and vitamins.  Your body goes crazy when you eat it, trying to metabolize it.  I know, I always get that feeling after eating a yummy cookie, but I hate that post-pardom feeling. :)  I've read it is not good for your immune system either--I've been telling my husband that for years and his 20 colds a year have dropped to almost none once he cut back (ok, maybe not 20, but he had them all the time!). Anyway, we also can't ignore the fact that white sugar is not good for the rolls... I mean love-handle rolls  :).

While on this topic on white sugar, we all know that high fructose corn syrup is bad for you, too.  I am not sure if you are familiar with GMO's (genetically modified organisms), but yep, you guessed it.  High fructose corn syrup is "GMO'd".  Also, according to the research found in the The Kind Diet, high fructose corn syrup is thought to contribute to insulin resistance, making people who eat it in their foods, obese.  Yuck. Avoid it!

Fake Sweeteners
I have been exploring for the past few years sugar substitutes--what is good, what is bad, what is healthy, what is chemically-detrimental...  One thing is for sure... aspartame, nutrasweet, pink, blue, yellow-sucralose (whatever)...all of them are scary.  Yeah, maybe once, or twice, or thrice--I did give into the still sweet-but-sugar-free tempations, but regretful every time!!! First of all, who wants to drink something like a sugar-free hot chocolate that tastes like cough medicine?  And let's just talk about these guys for a second.  They are man-made in a lab!  How can the body, your body, take that?  Apparently they were not even intentioned to be a sweetener.  There have been claims that these guys can cause cancer, though there may not be evidence, yet.  It just makes you ponder on why there is such a huge epidemic on cancers, autism and others out there.  We are what we eat... consider enviromental, food factor people! I think we  have come down a scary road and need to acknowledge what God intended us to eat.  Natural, whole foods... not a cell here and a plastic molecule there... boom, bam, here is your pink packet sugar... I'm sure it doesn't happen that way... but I picture it that way! :)

The exception:  Then there is the Stevia Leaf sweetener, which is a natural sweetener from a the stevia plant that naturally has no calories or carbs.  I would think it is a better alternative than artificial sweeteners for people, but it seems that it just hasn't gotten enough attention until recently.  Stevia hasn't really been give much support from the FDA as a sweetener, but as a supplement--though some people think it is a lobbying/money issue in DC from the "bad fake sugar people" (Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health). I personally am not down with the taste of Stevia, but I do offer it to guests if they are looking for that  "fake sugar" option in their coffee or tea.  I cannot, in good conscience, offer pink-blue-yellow packets to my friends or family or even my worst enemy!  Just go for the green ones! 

Liquid Alternatives
I am so down with these! 
First of all, there is honey.  Now, the best kind of honey I have heard (from a Bee-keeper friend), is local honey.  In fact, there is a medicinal aspect to local honey--if you are in the habit of consuming local honey, it can help in minimizing your allergies.  Isn't that cool?  Also, we can't forget those nights we were sick and coughing and mom made you eat a teaspoon of honey to just straight-up swallow... or even better, hot water/tea with honey and lemon.  The only downside to honey is the fact that its GI levels are not too far from white sugar... so remember, moderation!

Agave Syrup
This is made from the agave nectar plant.  Actually, on the bottle of Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Blue Agave Nectar Syrup there is a claim that it is has a low GI.  It is about half the amount lower than honey!  This means that it doesn't make your blood sugar and insulin go crazy.  Your body can metabolize it all better.  I have been really using this sweetener in our household.  I have made pumpkin bread, cookies, peanut butter and agave sandwiches... we have used it as a topping on our homemade pancakes... etc.  You can much pretty find it in health food stores and more than likely in your grocery's organic/natural foods section.  If not, be resourceful and look for it online!  If you live here in Lynchburg, I have gotten agave at Kroger and the Health Nut.  I have seen it at Fresh Air as well.

Brown Rice Syrup
I must admit, this one is new for me.  It is not as sweet at Agave, so you would need a little more in your recipes.  Brown rice syrup is made from.... you guessed it, brown rice!  How natural can we get here people? :)  Like agave, it has a lower GI, so it is just such a great alternative.  I made some Brown Rice Crispy Treats (recipe on blog) with brown rice syrup... so yummy and perfect in meeting your sweet craving without being too sweet.

There are other recommended, safe and natural sweeteners out there that you should explore.  I am on that journey and I encourage you to do the same.  Keep your eye out for barley malt, molasses, pure maple syrup as those that are better alternatives to sugar and artificial sweeteners.  Keep in mind that these liquid alernatives are not calorie free, but way better for you.  Experiment and try them in your next cake or muffin recipe... and pass it on!

PS.  Need help in subbing with these liquid sweeteners... check this site out for help:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Buckwheat and Honey Nut Muffins or Biscotti

4 oz. of butter (about 4 tablespoons) ( I used Earth Balance Butter)
3/4 cup of brown rice syrup (Eden)
1/4 cup agave
1/2 raw honey (local)
1 organic (free-range) egg
1 egg replacement (made of potato starch and tapioca starch--Ener G is the brand I used)
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup whole wheat
1/4 ground flax
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp of ground sea salt (salt mill or use a suribachi-motar/pestal)
1 1/2 dark chocolate chips (or carob chips--the grocery store was out)
1/2 walnuts (whatever you have)
1/4 dried apricots, chopped (just for fun)

Preheat your oven to 375.  Mix-cream the wet in separate bowl.  Then mix the dry in a separate bowl.  Slowly combine the two along with the chips, nuts & fruit. Fill each muffin to about 3/4 quarters.... bake for 23-25 minutes.

I originally created this recipe to make cookies.  I made 9 cookies intially and cooked them for 10 minutes--they were too flat!  I think there was too much liquid-part... so I filled my muffin cups and went a different route.  They are very tasty but did not rise like I wanted them to; however, when they cooled, they were so creamy--my little toddler son loved them!

Also, this is the first time I have used an egg replacer, Ener-G (found in health food section), so that is why I used one real egg--just in case.  Use this site for helpful tips on using egg replacements: -especially if you are a vegan or vegetarian.  In fact, expore this site for great ideas.  For Christmas I plan on making a cheescake made from a soft tofu... interesting, but worth a try!

With the first batch of attempted cookies, while they were still warm, I scraped them up and made them into one big mound... and cut them long-wise--my goal biscotti.  I baked them for about 10 minutes at 375...  When the muffins came out, I let them cool and I still have batter leftover, I am going to aim to make biscotti out of them and see how it works...stay tuned... 

3rd round: To make the biscotti, I made one huge cookie-baked it for 20 minutes.  I let it cool for about 10 minutes, I then cut them long-wise and then in half (to make them as long as a finger), and baked them again for about 15 minutes.  I let them cool... they were definitely crunchy!

So this "game" is fun, coming up with recipes using different ingredients... experiment and see what comes out..don't throw out... just be creative!  In making this again, I think I would tone down on the liquid sweeteners... the dough was definitely too runny... I would also consider adding a tsp of baking powder (aluminum free, of course!).

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Crispy Brown Rice Treats

1/2 a box of Crisp Brown Rice Cereal -I used Erewhon
1 cup of brown rice syrup or 3/4 agave syrup
a pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup of natural, unsalted, no sugar-added peanut butter (as mentioned before, Arrowheads Mills is my fav currently)
2-3 tablespoons of ground flax
1/2 cup of chopped walnuts, carob/choco chips... chopped dried apricots, figs... (whatever little nut/seed/unsweetened dried fruit you like)
cinnamon-to taste:)

Heat the syrup in a small saucepan with salt on medium heat until the liquid thins out, then add the peanut butter, and stir until  evenly combined.  In a separate large bowl (glass or stainless), fill it with the 1/2 box of cereal and ground flax--mix in together.  Then take the peanut butter mixture and pour onto the cereal and then while mixing, add walnuts.  Pour into an 8x8 glass or stoneware square baking dish and mold and press with your spatula.  Sprinkle cinnamon on top and put in refrigerator for about an hour.  Once cooled... cut and share!  Yummy with a cup of Ginger-Yogi tea.

This recipe was inspired by the The Kind Diet recipe and Erewhon's recipe posted on the back of the cereal box!  My new favorite sweetener is brown rice syrup (well agave, too).  They both are really low in the Gl department so you don't have that sugar crash after eating these treats.  And the peanut butter--- we have already talked about this... so good!  In fact, these crispy treats are such a light treat--you may want to eat the whole pan! Make sure you make this when friends are over to help with the self-control...LOL!  :) Also, peanut butter is my thing... but almond butter is really good for you too and would taste great in this treat!  Cinnamon--is my most favorite spice--I tend to put it on most everything!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

PS. On the veg or not issue  Now I am not in the business of getting political here... so this is NOT my intention.  I just want you to see a little of my thought process... again, the cruelty issue is big, but the Biblical issue is bigger--keep that in mind!  The clip shows how "meat" is treated and filled with yucky stuff...  if you are pro meat--it's still good to watch.  Keep an open mind!

Organic Groceries--the way I tackle the budget issue...

As mentioned before, I have been on the "health-green kick" for many years...  It is so great to see this green movement really push people to be healthy from a holistic perspective.  It has also really made shopping a lot easier!  The purpose for me to start this blog is to share the recipes that I manipulated into a healthier version or just share a healthy recipe I came across OR just something I made up! Eating clean is something that we should all strive to do, especially during these economic times.  I challenge you all to find ways to buy organic, buy local, and cut back!  Friends (and family) often ask me how can our family afford to eat this way---simple... it is so important to me that we eat clean, that we cut back in other areas and reuse... Below are some helpful tips that our family considers:

1.  Cut back on buying your daily coffee.  Make it at home.  If you know me, I LOVE coffee, but drinking more than the recommended amount (usually about no more than 2 cups) can cause an array of issues--gas, bloating, sleep deprivation, heartburn, sugar cravings--to name a few.  And, I am no saint here... I LOVE to go out for coffee--but I am getting better!
2.  Recycle your food!  Use leftovers and re-invent another dish.  For example, with leftover couscous, fill a wrap or pita with a little cheese, tomato, spinach (and a dash of ground flax, of course!), and grill each side on medium heat for about 3-5 minutes.  My husband love this! 
3.  When in the organic section, see what's on sale...  I once bought  5 bags of organic frozen sweet potato fries because they were on a  $.99 special.  I would rather make them from scratch--but hey, when you have a baby... and a hungry husband that demands food when he walks in the door--it is so easy!
4.  Look for coupons in your magazines.  Since organic eating is a trend right now, there are so many ads in magazines that come in the mail.  I often see Stonyfield coupons with their ads in "Parents" magazine.  Also, sign up for rewards with your favorite brands--they sometimes email you coupons that you can print out.  The best are the free magazines in health food stores--they have coupons in there!  Use 'em!
5.  The best, is sharing.  My dear friend Sara has passed on some coupons to me for food/items she doesn't use.  Rather than throwing those coupons you don't use out, share 'em!  Sometimes, if I have them on me and I have an coupon for an item the person in front of me does--I give it to them.
7.  Online, online, online coupons.  You can print them off or load them onto your loyalty card. My current fav site is:
8.  Eat out less often.  This really should be a treat--we over indulge ourselves way too much (I include myself in this group).   Let's face it, going out is SO fun... and convenient...  try to cut back.  It's so hard, I know, but have fun creating recipes and entertaining at home.  I get my "going out fix" on Thursday nights with our potluck style Bible study group, so this helps!  Now, I am to the point where I would rather eat at home (and at friends's homes) than eat out.  I mean, I buy the good-for-you kind of food... most places buy chemical-filled ingredients and sell it for a high dollar anyway.  Use your high dollars for organics and locals!
9.  Be open to ideas from others---so if you have a tip to add, please comment!

Squash and Bean Soup

1 tbsp. unrefined sesame oil (or any heart healthy oil)
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
2 stalks celery
3-4 cloves garlic
1 ½ tsp grated fresh ginger
2 apples, chopped (whatever you have on hand)
2 ½ cups butternut squash
5 cups vegetable broth (low sodium-I like Imagine brand)
2 cups black beans, presoaked
½ stick of kombu (a sea vegetable)
1 ½ tsp. cumin
¾ tsp. cinnamon
¾ tsp. sea salt
3 cups water

Bring a large skillet to medium heat. Sautte in olive oil, the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and ginger for about 2-3 minutes—enough to let them sweat-do not let the garlic burn!:) Then in a crock-pot (or very large pot), add the remaining ingredients for about 8 hrs (not 5). Serve with a dollop of goat cheese, a whole grain roll with a salad.

I made this soup for our Small Group's Progressive Dinner.  I was in charge of soup and salad.  When in the crock-pot, the aromas were sooo calming!  I do not know that it was popular... for one thing, most people aren't on the healthy train (especially men in general, but mostly, the soup flavors just didn't seem to come together just yet.  I originally said 4-5 hours in the crockpot, but I think 8 hours would be better.  I came home after the last house and for one thing my house smelled AMAZING... anyway, I took a peek at the soup and it was darker, taking on the color of the black beans... then I took a sip--then a bowl.  It was just so good.  Perfect with that whole grain harvest roll and goat cheese! Boy--I have eaten way too much tonight...YMCA, here I come!

Yum Fact: Kombu is a sea vegetable that helps to tenderize cooking dried beans (in liquid of course). This helps the beans release their gas while cooking so that when you eat them, you aren’t gassy!  Aside from that benefit, Kombu is loaded with Iodine, minerals, and protein. The Japanese really use this vegetable in their cooking (stews, soups, stir-fries…etc). Kombu and other sea vegetables like Wakame could be considered as “tumor inhibitors”. Per the FDA, the minerals in these vegetables have been known to rid your body of radioactive materials (i.e. strontium 90 and cadmium). They are also anti-inflammatory, antiviral, reduce blood pressure… the list goes on. I ordered Kombu from Eden Foods, but I did see them in our local health food store, the Health Nut. (kombu info taken from and The Kind Diet, by Silverstone).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Natural Peanut Butter

Can I just say I have an addiction to peanut butter?  I mean, I am not talking about that Jiffy-Peter Pan kind with loads of sugar, sodium, and hydro oils.  I am talking about the "stir kind", unsalted without sugar kind.  Krema is a great brand and one of my favorites, but I don't see it at Kroger anymore.  In Canada, I was really into their Kraft version... but now, my new favorite is Arrowhead Mills...  I mean I opened up the stinkin' jar yesterday and let me just say, the jar is about 1/4 full... as of right now.   It is only 10:00 pm and I am about to watch a movie with my husband... and I just  do not think I will have any leftover for tomorrow.  Seriously.  Help me! :) 

Peanut Butter is good...
-melted for about 20 seconds and tossed in popcorn.
-stirred in ice cream (Purely Decadent is my fav:
-with waffles, pancakes
-with veggies and fruits
-in between my sons Snackimal Wheat-free Oatmeal cookies
-in salad--seriously Thai-ish!
-on a spoon with a dash of cinnamon, and a cup of ginger tea--this is my favorite

Please tell me how you take your peanut butter... And don't get me started on other nuts... I am nuts over nuts (and seeds alike!)

Flour Sub Guide

I am always looking for new ways to perk up a recipe--especially when it comes to changing up the flours. When it calls for white, I like to try whole wheat, soy, oat...etc, or just a plain mixture of a few. With that said, I have made some crazy concoctions that have turned out tasty and others that... hmmm, were not so much!:) Different flours have different consistencies and some stick better than others, so you really need to make sure you mix up the right flours to avoid a super dense bread (I actually love dense bread) or avoid a muffin that falls apart (soy). Per Clean Eating issue, Jan/Feb 2010 issue, the guide below is great.

So if your recipe calls for 1 cup whole wheat, do this...
1 cup of spelt
Quick breads: ½ cup of oat flour + ½ cup of whole wheat
Biscuits & Yeast Rolls: ¼ cup oat flour + ¾ cup whole wheat
Non-yeast recipes: 1 cup quinoa flour
Yeast breads: ½ cup quinoa flour + ½ cup whole wheat
Cornbread, cookies, flatbreads, & pancakes: ½ millet four + ½ cup whole wheat
Biscuits and yeast rolls: ¼ cup millet flour + ¾ cup wheat flour
1 cup Kamut flour
½ cup Buckwheat flour + ½ cup whole wheat
Yeast breads: 1/3 cup buckwheat flour + 2/3 cup whole wheat
Brown Rice:
¼ cup brown rice flour + ¾ cup whole wheat
¼ cup almond flour/meal + ¾ wheat flour

If you have an allergy to wheat, I encourage you to experiment with the flours that can sub fully with whole wheat. For example, if you want to try almond flour and don’t want to use the whole wheat portion, try ¼ almond flour as the above guide indicates and then add ¾ cup of Kamut…. I hope that makes sense! Anyhow, please let me know if you try any of these subs… and pass on the recipe!  Experiment and have fun! :)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Breakfast Vegan Cookies

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 ½ cups muesli (Bob’s Red Mill my fav)
1/2 cup millet
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, (or walnuts)
1/2 cup dried figs, chopped
1 tablespoon cinnamon
A pinch sea salt
1/2 cup olive oil
2/3 cup agave
2/3 cup brown rice syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Using a coffee grinder, blend the millet and pumpkin seeds until it is a powdery texture. In a large mixing bowl, add flour, oatmeal, ground millet and ground pumpkin seeds. Add figs, cinnamon and salt. Mix well.
In a second bowl, combine the oil, agave, brown rice syrup, and vanilla extract. Stir to blend together and then add to the wet ingredients. Stir all the ingredients together until it is all well incorporated. Add additional flour if you feel it’s runny. Use a tablespoon to scoop and drop dough a lined parchment paper cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until a golden brown on top. Once cookies are done, let cool for 10 minutes and ENJOY! They make around 30 cookies.

Note: About 1/2 cup of Chocolate Chips, Carob Chips, or unsweetened shredded coconut would be a nice addition!  This recipe was inspired by:  My son LOVES these.  My husband, whom I have hard time shoving healthy treats down his throat, actually liked them...  When I make them again, I think I may add about 1/4-1/2 cup of whole wheat flour (or some fun other flour like spelt).  Enjoy!

Friday, December 11, 2009

List of Produce-Dirty Dozen to the Clean 15-thanks EWG

The Enviromental Working Group is a GREAT organization that fights for our health and enviroment--especially when it comes to chemicals in our foods, cell phones... just all around us.  You would be surprised!  I encourage you to look at their site.  In the meantime, check out this very handy list of produce you should buy organic and produce you can get by without buying organic.  I am a big proponent of going organic all the way, but if your budget does not allow for this, at least there are "lesser evils" to choose from.  Check it out:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bok Choy and Collard Greens Miso Soup

1/4 cup of red onion, cut into large dice
1 whole scallion (with roots), sliced thinly on a diagonal
1 tsp. of shoyu (Nama Shoyu is what I used)--or to taste
1/2 of cubed sweet potatoes (with skin)
2 collard green leaves, chopped (about 1/4 cup or so)
2 large bok choy leaves and the white part, chopped
1 tsp of good miso (Eden is a great brand)

Bring 2 1/2 cups of water to boil in a medium pot, then lower the heat, and add the onions and scallions.  Let this simmer while you wash and cut up the other veggies.  Add the shoyu.  Then, first add the sweet potatoes, let this simmer for 5 minutes.  Then add the rest of the veggies.  While keeping the soup on a simmer mode, in a separate cup,  stir the miso with a little bit of the broth from the soup so it dissolves--and then add it all to the soup.  Stir and let it simmer a little more so that the miso flavor takes over... and then remove it from the heat  (the Miso enzymes will be "killed" if you boil it).

-This soup was inspired by a Clean Eating Magazine recipe with sweet potatoes and kale along with Alicia Silverstone's Dandelion, Bok Choy Miso soup.  It is REALLY good.  I made it and served an oven-toasted piece of sprouted grain tortilla (Ezekiel) with a drizzle of olive oil for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees.    So yummy... a nice light lunch to cozy me up on a cold winter's day!

Yum Fact:  Miso is fermented soy or barley (and other grains) that is made into a paste.  It is high in sodium, so you really got "measure" your taste buds when using it.  Usually, a teaspoon is used per cup of water.  Since it is unpasteurized, it has good bacteria-live enzymes that help with digestion.  As Sliverstone compares, "miso is like the yogurt without the dairy."  Keep in mind that miso in most restaurants  and pre-packaged packets of miso have pasteurized versions that are not as beneficial to you. (miso info taken from, The Kind Diet-Alicia Silverstone)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Vegetarian or not...

I consider 2001 being the year where my eyes opened to food--and my love for GOOD, natural foods was really born. I attribute this wake-up call to Prevention magazine... At that time, I cut out simple carbs-sugar and white flours and meat. I did not really know it back then, but I was pretty much on a plant-based diet--again, unintentionally. Though, back then, I wasn't doing it for the animals... I was doing it for myself--keep reading:).

Anyhow, I moved to the U.S. from Panama back in 1999 to attend university and was introduced to colorful, sweet, fried foods I had never really had. I was even introduced to sweet mocha lattes (thank you Drowsy Poet!). The cafeteria and the grocery store had HUGE, bright colored fruits. One day during my sophomore year in college, I saw a picture of my fat self and wondered what happened to me. I was never into weighing myself or trying to be skinny-- I looked horrible and chubby. It is hard to say how much weight I had gained, but I would guess it was 25-35 pounds. It just did not look natural on me. I was eating way to many processed foods! Well, once my eyes were opened, I began on the quest on seeking natural, organic ways of eating... Well, when I got pregnant, I gained whopping 60 pounds (I cheated a little), but I can say I HATED the texture and taste of all meats! My son is now 17 mos and I am still working it off, and I tell ya, it's been a long, on-going journey. I must say there was one occasion when I was pregnant where I craved a big juicy burger and caved in, to not feel good later! Anyhow, I have eaten and not eaten meat for many years and now---really, in the past, not for any grand reason. Meat was always expensive, especially organic meats--at least this was the major reason when I got married in 2007.

Now, this past year, I have had some more time to read on health and food (my favorite thing to do). I was exposed to Tosca Reno's Eat Clean diet book, to the magazine Clean Eating. In the past few months, I have read The Skinny B___ and Skinny B___ in the Kitch (lack of manners in these books, but good info), The Flexetarian Diet, The Kind Diet, Crazy Makers, saw Food, Inc. and the list goes on. In those readings, I was exposed to the cruel conditions of our livestock (for feed) and read gory stories on how they are killed and/or injected with not-so-good for ya kind of shots. Now, I am all about the dominion over animals--certainly and in the book of Luke, Jesus calls for a fat calf to be killed for feed to celebrate a special moment, but I can't look at eating meat the same way again with the way our meat is handled in these modern times. In fact, it seems that Americans eat meat way too much. Shouldn't it be for special occasions, like in the NT? Maybe our created need for meat all the time has caused the government to subsidize our meat and farming industries because of our demand for grilled steaks, pot roasts and roasted chickens every day... maybe why that's why the demand for bigger and better chicken breasts is out there--injected with hormones, crammed in a cage sitting in poop! SICK--I know, I have such a sensitive mind! It makes me not want to eat meat... And, really don't get me started on the diseases related to a heavy hormone-induced meat diet!

With that said, I am not sure were I stand on the "veg" issue, but I do know that I want to trust my food and know where it comes from. If you see me not eating meat when I am out, it's because I don't trust it. If you see me not eating meat in my home, it's because the organic chicken was expensive. If you see me not eating meat when the organic option is available, it's because I can't get those images of killing out of my head... yet? Where do I stand... not sure just yet, but I will say, it has been an enlightening experiencing reading about a topic, that I never thought would interest me--especially since I stupidly believed that this lifestyle typically fell on people who do not share the same worldview as me. Stupid me.

PS.  Did you know that a pig has an IQ of a 3 year old kid--cool AND SO cute, huh!?... I want one now, as a pet, not as a grilled loin! :)  My husband is not on board with that, LOL!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

  • 2 large sweet potatoes (or 3 medium) scrubbed and cut into wedges (keep peel)
  • 1-2 Tbsp. safflower oil or coconut oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 to 1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh minced basil or rosemary
  • 2 tbsps of ground flax
  • Sea salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Toss the sweet potatoes in a large bowl with the oil, basil or rosemary, flax, salt, and pepper to coat. Spread onto a large baking sheet. Drizzle with any remaining oil from the bowl. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until tender, flipping halfway through.

*I used to hate sweet potatoes, with their marshmallow topping...  Loving sweets myself, I found this version, so gross!  Knowing how good sweet potatoes are for you (great source of Vitamin A), I was bound and determined to try them in a way I would eat a "regular" potato... and I am impressed!  I love sweet potatoes the "salty" way.  I also throw them diced up in soups, make them into mash potatoes, bake them like fries... the list goes on.  If you like them sweet, try  sweetening them up with fruits, honey, agave or maple syrups... those with a lower GI.  My uncle actually makes baked sweet potatoes with oranges (I will have to get this recipe for you all!).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Salade Tiède de Lentilles (French Lentil Salad)

For the lentils:

  • 1 cup small green lentils (Lentilles de Puy)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed (used 4 cloves of garlic)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped (I chopped 1 medium tomato instead).
  • 2 teaspoons mixed dried herbs (used herbes de provence)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup wine (used red wine)
  • 2 cups water
For the vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard (used 1/2 tsp of dry mustard and 1/2 reg mustard)
  • 1 teaspoon mixed dried herbs
  • salt and pepper (also added a spritz of lemon juice)
For the finish
  • mixed salad greens
  • 4 ounces goat cheese (used swiss cheese since I forgot to get the goat cheese!)
  • 2 tablespoons of ground flax

In a saucepan, cook the onions and garlic in the olive oil for about 5 minutes or until soft. Stir in herbs, salt and pepper. Add wine, water and lentils and bring to a boil.

Turn down heat and cover tightly with a lid. Cook for 30 - 40 minutes, until lentils are done. You may need to drain some water off after cooking.


Prepare the vinaigrette by mixing all of the ingredients and shaking vigorously. Pour the vinegarette on top of the warm lentils. Serve on a bed of mixed greens (a mesclun mix would be perfect) and top with crumbled goat's cheese. Sprinkle about the ground flax on top!

* Taken from ( and changed a little.  I made this for small group as well.  Actually, Emily a friend from small group, made this for her and her husband had said this made for great leftovers. I remember the flavors this dish gave off---hmmm.  The herbes de provence really make this dish come together.

Green-Feta No Crust Quiche

  • 3 cups shredded cheddar and moz.cheese
  • 1/2-3/4 cup of feta cheese in small chunks 4 cups fresh spinach (or baby springs--also (if frozen be sure to defrost and drain water)
  • 6-8 cherry tomatoes quartered (or 1 large tomato cut 3-4 thin slices), divided: some for the top cut the rest in chunks for inside
  • 2 tbs whole wheat and oat flour
  • 1-2 tbs ground flax--to taste :)
  • 4-5 eggs
  • 3/4 cups skim milk
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbs of minced garlic (or to taste)
1. Mix cheese, onion, and flour in a bowl. Spread in a pie dish.

 2. Beat eggs slightly and add milk, Worcestershire sauce, chunks of tomatoes and spinach in bowl. Pour over cheese mixture in pie plate. Mix ingredients carefully in pie dish.

3. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 40 mins. Add the remaining tomato to the top, if you desire.

* As I like to always say--use organic ingredients.  I made this for our small group and it was a hit.  I would make it again.  If anyone tries this with just egg whites, let me know.  I think I aim to do that the next time I make this...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Carol’s Lentil Chili

· 1 cup dry lentils, cleaned
· ¾ to1 lb of ground beef, cook w/ garlic, pepper-salt to taste, drain fat (optional)*
· 2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
· 1 16 oz. can of unsalted crushed tomatoes
· 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
· 1 large onion, chopped
· 3 garlic cloves, crushed-the more the better!
· ¼ cup of ground flax
· 2 tablespoons chili powder
· ½ teaspoon cumin
· ¼ teaspoon allspice
· ¼ teaspoon of Mrs. Dash or some no-salt blend of spices--Bragg makes a good one.
· 1 jar of tomato sauce (about 20-24 oz)
· 2 cups whole kernel corn
Combine everything--except tomato sauce and corn--in a crockpot (at least 2 ½ qt.). Let it simmer all day 6-8- hours. When you have about 30 minutes left, add and stir in the tomato sauce and corn. Once it's done, serve with organic shredded cheese on top, low-fat sour cream and/or organic corn chips. I used all organic ingredients in this recipe (aside for the spices). I hope you like it!!!

*If you don’t want to use beef, I think ground turkey or chicken would be good… if you prefer no meat, I think I would either throw in another ¾ to 1 cup of lentils (or other bean) or 1 cup of another vegetable like peas, red peppers or some sort of squash—have fun with it!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pumpkin Spice No-Bake Cookies

  • 7 cups of Erhorn Corn Flakes and Heritage Heirloom Whole Grain Cereal (found in organic sections at the grocery store)
  • 1/2 cup of walnuts (optional)
  • 1/2 cup ground flax
  • 1/4 tsp of All-spice
  • 1/4 tsp of cinnamon
  •  1 bag of butterscotch chips
  • 1 cup of pumpkin (not the pie filling kind)
  • 1tbsp of almond butter

Crush the cereal, walnuts, flax, and spices (I used a large freezer bag), set aside.  Melt the butterscotch in a medium to large pot, add the pumpkin and almond butter.  Stir until smooth, take off the heat.  Fold in the cereal mixture.  Spoon into cookies onto parchment/wax paper and refigerate until they cool/harden.

* I took an old Corn Flake Cookie No-Bake cookie recipe that calls for 1 cup of peanut butter, I changed it up... obviously, and used pumpkin instead.  Thinking that these cookies may need a little fat, I added the tablespoon of almond butter--peanut butter has a stronger taste... so I didn't want it to take away from the pumpkin.  Anyhow, I added the flax and spices for a change.  They were yummy!  I served them to our church small group Halloween game night get-together. I think this method would work with the oatmeal version as well.*

Healthier Version of Sweet Apple Pie

The Pie Crust
4 oz. soft cream cheese
1/4 cup. smart balance butter (the omega 3's kind)
1/4 cup. canola oil
1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup. whole wheat flour
1 cup. oat flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
Blend cream cheese,butter, oil, and vanilla together. Mix in flours, cinnamon, and salt until you have a smooth pastry (you may have to use your hands here!). Roll out on parchment paper. Makes about two 8 inch pie crusts.

5 unpeeled apples (quartered)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/4 dark molasses
2 tbsp. oat flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. lime (or lemon) Juice

Throw in the cut up apples in the tablespoon of lime/lemon juice in a bowl. In another bowl, quickly stir or blend the brown sugar, honey, molasses, oat flour, cinnamon, salt, and vinegar. Toss the apples in this mixtures. You could probably even do less of the honey....

Fill the mixture into the pie (bottom crust) and the lay the top crust over the apples. Be sure to pierce holes in the top (easier if done before laying it on the apples). Bake at 400 degrees for about 50-55 minutes.

I hope I remembered everything! I think it would be yummy if walnuts were thrown into the filling... or even ground flax!

* I made this pie for our small group church family on Halloween night.  We had our friends over and had a great time with food being the center of our gathering.  I made Pumpkin No-Bake Cookies (to be posted later), apple cider with wine, served coffee and offered hot chocolate.  The pie was a HIT!  I was so excited because the past few times I have attempted making a pastry---let's just say it was OVERLY flaky.  I would totally add ground flax to the crust next time I make this pie--or even in the filling.  I had already manipulated a recipe, so I had to take it easy! *