Midweek Mashup

How are the first few days of fall treating you? I’m always so surprised by how quickly summer turns to fall here in the north. Thoughts turn to soups and roasts and brisk walks with the dog while bundled up.

Fall can bring about new stressors. Back-to-school, changing weather patterns, and a suddenly full calendar all seem to conspire to make us frazzled and frenzied. The impending holiday season will only make things more hectic, so now is a great time to check in with yourself and make any adjustments. I loved this article about how even the best nutrition can’t always counteract the inflammation that chronic stress creates. But don’t fret, there are so many ways to deal with stress. Mindful meditation is one of my favorite ways to quickly feel better. In fact, I have the Headspace app on my phone and use it regularly. Regular exercise is always a great bet. It releases endorphins that boost your mood.

And when all else fails, sometimes a hot bowl of comforting soup is just what you need.  Here’s one of our favorites, tried and true. This hearty lentil soup is full of flavor, has great nutrition, and is vegan. Sure, you can add some chicken if you’d like. Whatever makes you happy.

Stay tuned for this week’s Friday Cocktails!

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Chicken Apple Sausage and Sage Pasta

BBQ Chicken Spanish Style

Let’s Get  Out Of Here!

 

 

Midweek Mashup

MIDWEEK MASHUP

Happy Wednesday. It’s a short week! For that let’s celebrate. Surely all the kids are back in school and this week is probably hectic for many. Here’s some good information and a quick recipe to get you through to Friday.

I’ve always believed that if more people got in the kitchen and cooked meals for themselves and their families, they would be healthier overall. An acquaintance once lamented that she felt like there were so many nutrition rules that it felt impossible to feed herself and her daughter “the right way”, so she gives up and resorts to takeout. I say that the nutrition and wellness community has failed her if that’s what she (and likely so many others) feel. The truth is, a jar of decent quality pasta sauce and a box of whole wheat noodles with a bagged salad on the side is vastly healthier than a drive-thru burger and fries. So, if that’s where you are starting, that’s ok. Trust me, you will progressively become more confident in your cooking and before you know it you will have a repertoire of healthy and delicious meals that don’t feel overwhelming to make on a weeknight. I loved Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl’s take on this in her article “The Cure Is in the Kitchen” in  Experience Life’s recent issue. Take a look.

Speaking of making things easier in the kitchen, one approach that I’ve always practiced is to make extra for the freezer or fridge. When making soup, I often double the recipe and fill up Ziploc gallon bags with the excess. Lay them flat in the freezer for easy stacking. On busy nights just pull out a bag and reheat. Sides like roasted veggies are delicious warmed up or cold from the fridge all week long. In fact, I just bought another rimmed roasting sheet on Monday so I can easily make even more.  After this hectic week of back-to-school and houseguest coming on Friday,  I will also start using my weekends or Mondays to make a big batch of quinoa or other healthy salad that I can eat throughout the week for lunch. 

And finally, here’s a simple and delicious looking recipe for your next Meatless Monday or whenever you want to load up on veggies. These Vegan Thai Curry Vegetables look fantastic for a cool fall day, and the gentle spice should be well tolerated by all in your house. I would serve them over brown rice and fruit on the side and call it a day. In fact, it’s what’s for dinner tonight.

That’s it for this week. I hope you enjoyed reading. As always, please pass it along, post it to your pages, and subscribe if you did! And I would love to hear what you think in the comments.

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Midweek Mashup

Hearty Lentil Soup

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Oat Muffins

Midweek Mashup

MIDWEEK MASHUP

Happy Wednesday.

This week I bring you a delicious cookie recipe that happens to be vegan and wheat free (whaaaat?!) and some information that will hopefully enrich your life a little and maybe even make it better.

Do you eat granola?  And if so, do you consider it a healthier option than other popular breakfast foods? Nutritionist have long known that most commercial granola is chock full of sugar and consider it a dessert. I suppose that rings true with many of the granolas you’ll find on the shelves. I have found one I love with only good ingredients like oats, dried fruit, millet and quinoa. Purely Elizabeth has an ancient grain line that I love, with my fave being cranberry pecan. It has 6 grams of sugar per 1/3 cup. Ok, yes, 1/3 cup is a very small serving. I pour that much into my bowl and add slivered almonds, fresh blueberries and chia seeds. So, then I’ve got good proteins and fat and it isn’t overwhelmingly sweet. You can also use it to sprinkle on unsweetened yogurt. The thing about granola is that it isn’t meant to be eaten in large quantities. Think of it as an addition to your breakfast rather than the main event. 

As you might have read in previous posts, my 11 year old is in the middle of an elimination diet. She’s about halfway through. It’s been a challenge, to say the least. But she’s getting used to it. Yesterday she told me she thought giving up wheat and dairy would be the hardest but actually it’s corn and nightshades, because potato starch and/or corn derivatives are in most packaged foods. Most gluten-free products contain one or both. Almost all candy has corn syrup (yes, candy isn’t healthy, we know that). It’s hard to avoid corn, no matter how much you might try, unless everything you eat is prepared at home from scratch (hello, unrealistic for most).One thing that she has missed is a good chocolate chip cookie. Most chocolate chips have dairy, but I found a brand called Enjoy Life that are vegan and also free of almost all allergens. Yesterday she made a batch of spelt chocolate chip cookies that were to die for. I’m not kidding, they are so good. She found the recipe here: Chocolate Chip Cookies. The only thing I did to help was put the cookies in the oven and take them out at the end. Don’t these look amazing?


And finally, if you’re like me and try to make meals using up your pantry items a few times a year, here’s a great list of things you can cook. My husband gets super excited when I do this because it means I’m being economical and there’s nothing sexy than being economical!

Here’s to a great rest of your week. As always, please share this post with someone you think might enjoy it. Even better, click to subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss any great tidbits!

 

 

 

New Recipe: Easy Peanut Butter Balls (and an update on the elimination diet).


Today is day 10 of my daughter’s modified elimination diet. Tomorrow is the first day that we start adding foods back in. She gets to eat 5-6 servings of one of the food groups that we’ve been avoiding, followed by two days of “watch and wait”. She has chosen nightshades  because she really misses tomatoes, peppers and potatoes.

I’ll be honest: neither one of us has seen or noticed any changes since starting the elimination protocol. Maybe when we introduce things back into her diet she’ll notice something. Hopefully there won’t be a big reaction which would indicate a sensitivity and a need to avoid.

The last 10 days have been trying for her. I get it. When you’re told you can’t have something it only makes you want it more, right? But she is still being a trooper and I commend her for it. There has been no whining, no tantrums, no pushback. She’s stoic (like her dad) and while she really has disliked this experience intensely, she’s persevered.

We just took a three day girls’ trip and I packed much of our food. Eating out was a challenge but we found some places willing to work with us. Two of the restaurants specialized in vegan and gluten-free which usually means that they are more open to special requests. And both happened to be featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, so that was cool. Shout outs go to At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe and Duluth Grill!

Now on to the new recipe I promised. These Easy Peanut Butter Balls are full of protein, healthy fats, and healthy whole grains. They really couldn’t be easier to make and they are guaranteed to please just about anyone. Make a double batch and keep them in your fridge for an easy grab-and-go breakfast for busy mornings and after school snacks.

EASY PEANUT BUTTER BALLS

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup natural peanut butter (I really like the no-stir Whole Foods creamy)

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup vanilla protein powder (I couldn’t get by without Orgain, which happens to be vegan)

1/2 cup honey (use local if you have seasonal allergies, as it’s thought to help with symptoms)

Optional: chocolate chips

METHOD:

Stir all the ingredients together, then form into balls the size of a golf ball. If they are too sticky, add a bit more protein powder or oats. Likewise, if they are too dry, add a bit of honey or peanut butter. Keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

Will you try these? Do you have a variation you like?  Tell me in the comments!

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NEW RECIPE! Spelt Pancakes: better than you’d imagine!

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NEW RECIPE! Spelt Pancakes: better than you’d imagine!

If you’ve read my blog recently, you know my daughter is currently doing a modified elimination diet. Even though not one person has made a disparaging comment, I feel a little defensive about this decision. I don’t take drastic dietary changes lightly, even as a holistic nutrition student. Making big diet adjustments can be really hard on anyone, and for kids even more so. But, here we are, and on day 5 no less.  It has not been fun for her, but I’m doing my best to make foods for her that are similar to what she already loves.  Yesterday I made a quesadilla using brown rice tortillas and goat’s milk cheddar.  Let’s just say that wasn’t a home run.

But on Saturday morning, I made chocolate pancakes using the spelt flour that was recommended by our nutritionist. They were delicious and she asked for them again yesterday. SUCCESS! Sadly I forgot to snap a photo for the blog, but rest assured they looked fantastic.

They aren’t gluten-free, but rather wheat-free which is part of our protocol. They were fluffy (but also dense, if that makes any sense?!). And the taste was on par with traditional pancakes. Here’s how I made them:

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups spelt flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups milk (we used Ripple milk, a new milk made from green peas)

A generous sprinkling of dark chocolate chips or blueberries

Butter (we used Earth Balance vegan butter)

METHOD:

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

Mix the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl.

Slowly fold in the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing thoroughly.

Add in chocolate chips (you can also use blueberries or whatever add-ins you prefer). I didn’t measure the chips, but rather eyeballed to our preference.

Melt a little butter in the skillet and add a mixing-spoonful of batter to the hot surface.

Cook, checking for doneness frequently. When the pancake is firm enough to flip, turn over and cook until done.

ENJOY! Please let me know what you think of these pancakes if you make them at home! I always love comments and shares. 

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THANKSGIVING

thanksgiving table

It’s Monday, and for Americans it’s also the week of Thanksgiving.  This is usually the week where we think and talk about food nonstop.  What will we make?  What will we eat?  What will we have for leftovers?  Pie. Casserole.  Marshmallows on top of sweet potatoes.  Stuffing (my FAVORITE).  It’s a bit overwhelming.

Many fitness and diet experts will give you all kinds of rules and tips to navigate the holidays.  And many of those tips and tricks sap all the fun out of everything.  Don’t eat carbs.  Don’t have gravy.  Skip the dinner roll.  Only have one glass of wine.  Calories in/calories out.

I say, forget that.  Remember that quote I posted last week about how it’s what you eat on a regular basis that counts?  

It's fine to socializeoccasionally with special food and drink.-2

It’s true.  Do you nourish your body with the good stuff more often than not?  Do you give yourself ample opportunities to eat fruits and veggies and drink lots of water?  Even if you answered no, are you really going to start doing this on THANKSGIVING?

Stressing yourself out and feeling anxious and guilty about what you eat messes with your stress hormones, which release into your body, flooding it with chemicals that will inhibit your digestion.  The stress hormone Cortisol is to blame for excess belly fat in many people.  So do me a favor (heck, do yourself the favor) and relax.  If you’re going to eat something decadent, do it with joy and happiness.  Don’t sneak it.  Don’t chew it up quickly and swallow the evidence before anyone has a chance to “catch” you.  Savor it. Enjoy every bite.  AND MOST OF ALL, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. When it’s had enough, respect that and put the fork down. And for goodness sake, never, ever comment on how much someone else is eating, what their body looks like, or how it’s now time to “work off all those calories”. 

And the next day, enjoy a green smoothie as part of my Green Smoothie Challenge, a bit of exercise, some fresh air, and the company of the people around you.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Artificial Sweeteners

artificial sweetener

I wanted to check in with a quick nutritional tidbit for this week.  As you have probably read and heard thousands of times by now, artificial sweeteners aren’t good for us.  We know this because the nutritional and wellness experts have said so.  But do you really understand the *why* behind it?

There are a few key reasons, and I will quickly outline them for you here.

  1. All non-caloric sweeteners, even Stevia, require commercial processing.  Some use less toxic chemicals and some use organic processes.  But, they all go through processing.  If your goal is to eat as close to “natural” as possible, then a highly processed artificial sweetener probably doesn’t fit into your plan.
  2. All that processing and artificial ingredients tax your body’s detoxification system.  Our bodies are made to handle toxins, and our livers and kidneys are hard at work every day to get rid of substances we can’t use.  When we burden our detox systems with unnecessary substances, it means that they have to work even harder.  (Some studies have found a correlation with artificial sweeteners to kidney disease.  Correlation does not equal causation, and more research needs to be done. Still, with my family’s kidney disease genes, it’s a good enough reason for me to keep my artificial sweeteners to a minimum. For more on this topic, click here and here.)
  3. Somehow, even with the prevalence of zero-calorie artificial sweetener consumption, the U.S. population has continued to gain weight and fall prey to Type 2 Diabetes.  While researchers try to figure out the reasons why, some have started to wonder if consuming too much artificial sweeteners tampers with our gut microflora, which in turn makes us more susceptible to maladies like glucose intolerance (a precursor to diabetes).  Studies have both proven and disproven this theory, so obviously a lot more research needs to be done.  Read more about it here.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a proponent on “moderation”.  I am not perfect, nor do I try to be.  I enjoy a Diet Coke from time to time because it makes me happy.  Just the way I will eat a few gummy bears (or whatever) if I feel like it.  If I am following the 80/20 rule of nutrition, then I let the rest go.  Life, in my opinion, is to be enjoyed.  If eating a completely organic, whole foods diet is what makes you happy, then go for it!  But for me, I find having a little wiggle room works best.

*Check with your trusted physician or practitioner before you make any major dietary changes, especially if you are being treated for illness or disease.*

As always, I would love to hear what you have to say!

White Beans, French Style

white beans french style

It’s been a busy day so far! I just finished my next module for my Nutrition Consultant program which focused on digestion and the digestive organs.  I created two handouts focusing on liver health (eat your fiber, fruits and veggies, and be careful of the medications you take!). I ate a quick lunch of leftovers from the recipe I’m about to give you, as well as a Dr. Praegers Kale Veggie Burger.  I’d say my morning has been pretty productive.  Just don’t pay attention to my poor yellow lab Sammy, who has been literally giving me puppy dog eyes as she sits at the door waiting for a walk.  I’ll get to it, I promise.

Sammy smiling
How can you say ‘no” to this girl when she wants a walk?

On to the white beans! I chose this recipe because it had simple ingredients that I love (garlic, beans, shallots, red wine, thyme) and I figured not only could I serve it to my family as a dinner side dish, but I could also have it for lunch.  Usually my dinner side dishes consist of roasted veggies, brown rice, stuff like that.  I prefer to use my energy on the main dish (i.e.: I’m lazy).  But this recipe looked so easy I decided to try it. As much as I want to despise Gwyneth Paltrow, with her smugness and natural makeup-free beauty and her ability to wear the most ridiculous hats and still look cool, I just can’t hate her recipes.  Not yet, anyway. The beans were yummy and filling.  Full of protein and fiber. And I decided I should use shallots a lot more.  I love the way they take the place of onion while being a little more subtle. NOTE: I doubled the recipe to have leftovers.

WHITE BEANS, FRENCH STYLE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (add more if you love garlic)
  • Leaves from 4 sprigs of thyme (I used about 1 tsp dried instead)
  • 1 large shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • A 14 oz. can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. red wine vinegar

METHOD

Slice the garlic and shallots thinly.

shallots and garlic chopped
Sliced shallots and garlic. Don’t dice them. You want the shallots to remain intact a bit.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pan or skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and let cook for a few minutes or until a light golden brown.  Stir occasionally.  Add the thyme and shallot, and cook for a minute or two.

shallots and garlic sauteeing
The smell of shallots or onions and garlic sautéing is one of the best smells I can imagine!

Add the beans and cook, stirring once or twice, for about 5 minutes. Add the salt and pepper to taste, along with the vinegar, and cook for another 5 minutes.

white beans french style
It’s such a pretty photo I put it in twice!

If you reheat the beans, expect them to dry out a bit.  You can add some chicken stock or water to rehydrate.  My husband was a huge fan of these and gave me an actual thumbs up.  The kiddo, who will try anything once but has some texture aversions, didn’t finish hers.

ENJOY!

NEW RECIPE! Chicken & White Bean Chili

chicken chili

I continued to test the recipes from Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook It’s All Good this week, landing on the Chicken & White Bean Chili recipe because it seemed simple, approachable, and really tasty.  I make a lot of soups and chilis once the weather starts to cool down.  I usually double the recipe and put some in the freezer (lay flat in a freezer baggie) for a night when I’m too busy or lazy to cook.

Whenever I make a soup or chili recipe, I tend to double the vegetables called for.  It’s such an easy way to get more vitamins, antioxidants and fiber into yours and your family’s tummies.  

The alterations I made to this recipe were:

  1. Add a can of kidney beans to the can of white beans called for.
  2. Use chicken thighs instead of breasts (I find them less dry and more flavorful).
  3. Use a teaspoon of Better Than Bouillon (the vegetable flavor). The recipe calls for the normal chili spices plus salt and pepper.  I found when I tasted the chili it was a bit bland.  Better Than Bouillon is a favorite of mine.  I usually by the organic version and love that I don’t have to keep cans of chicken stock around in my pantry.  It stays good forever and, unlike a half-used container of chicken stock, won’t make you feel guilty every time you see it in the fridge.
  4. Add some of the chicken juice from cooking into the pot with the simmering beans and vegetables. It adds nutrients from the chicken, some depth to the mouth feel (I really hate that term, can we come up with something else collectively?  Comment below with any suggestions!) and adds some yummy chicken flavor.

INGREDIENTS:

1.5 lbs of whatever chicken parts you want (I used thighs, and doubled the amount so I would have leftover roasted chicken to use later in the week)

3 Tablespoons olive oil

Salt (I prefer sea salt but any will do)

Black pepper

2 small yellow onions, diced (about 2 cups)

1 red bell pepper, seeds and stem discarded, diced (about 1 cup)

3 garlic cloves, minced (add more if you love garlic)

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon paprika (the recipe calls for smoked paprika, but either variety is fine)

1 28 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes with their juice

1 14 oz can cannellini or navy beans, rinsed and drained (I added a second can of kidney beans)

Whatever toppings sound good to you (sour cream, cheese, cilantro, diced onion, etc)

METHOD:

  1. Rub chicken with about 1 Tablespoon of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Roast for about 25 minutes at 425 degrees, until just cooked through.
  2. When meat is cooked and cooled a bit, shred the meet with two forks
  3. Measure the spices and combine in a small bowl to add during the next step.
chili spices
Chili powder, smoked paprika, and cumin
  1. Meanwhile, heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a stock pot on medium and sauté the onions, bell pepper, garlic, cumin, chili powder, paprika and a large pinch of salt.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until veggies are softened, about 10 minutes.
chili vegetables
Garlic, red bell pepper and onion waiting for to be sautéed.
  1. Add tomatoes and another pinch of salt and turn up the heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for about 30 minutes.  Break up tomatoes with a spoon.
  2. Add beans and chicken to the pot (use bouillon now if you wish).  Add about 1/3 cup water or more depending on how thick you want your soup.
  3. Simmer another 15 or 20 minutes before tasting to determine the spices or salt and pepper you want to add.
  4. Serve with toppings

My husband said the chili was “good, but not like oh my God I absolutely love this chili!”.  He thought it needed a bit more chili powder and cumin to make it a true chili flavor and tasted more like a stew than a chili.  My 10 year old daughter told me she likes my ground beef chili more.  That being said, I really thought it was a solid recipe that I would go back to again if I wanted a variation from my ground beef chili that I usually make.

Enjoy!  I can’t wait to hear what you think!

NEW RECIPE and review! Healthy Fruit Crisp

Fruit crisp Gwyneth

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I’m cooking my way through Gwyneth Paltrow’s latest book It’s All Good. It’s full of super healthy recipes that look amazing.  I’m approaching my project as a busy mom on a budget who loves to cook.  I sort of feel like Gwyneth doesn’t understand the “on a budget” part of life, so my goal is to determine how approachable her recipes truly are.

Two days ago, I had my next Gwyneth Paltrow recipe lined up to test. It’s her “Flourless Anything Crumble” which consists of 4 cups of any type of fruit, some maple syrup, olive oil, lemon juice, and cinnamon (all things that are affordable and easy to procure). It also called for almond meal and quinoa flakes for the topping rather than the standard oats and flour. I set off for the grocery store and that’s when the wheels came off of this plan. The almond meal flour was $12.00 and the quinoa flakes were $10. There was a time when I would have guiltily spent $22 on ingredients that would have languished in my cupboard long after using them *one time*. Today, however, I decided that Gwyneth Paltrow could take a seat. I decided to still make the crumble because it sounds good and I had the other ingredients. However, I amended the recipe to use oats and flour because a $22 homemade fruit crumble does not figure into my plans or budget. I can imagine the typical household in this country probably feels the same way.

I thought the resulting recipe with my changes was quite good, although much less sweet than a typical crumble.  I used a mixture of frozen peaches and blueberries.  I would highly recommend setting your expectations a little bit low for this and approach it as you would when you eat a piece of fresh fruit with maybe a little added *extra*.  It was indeed quite healthy, tasted yummy, and I even had it the next morning for breakfast.  My 10 year old ate her whole serving with gusto and my husband had two servings and then asked if I could make it sweeter next time.  This isn’t necessarily a dish you would make as a dessert for a special occasion, but perhaps a healthy dessert alternative for a weeknight.

Here’s the recipe, adapted from the original featured in It’s All Good.

Fruit Crumble

Ingredients:

4 cups fruit of your choice (apples, peaches, berries, etc)

4 tablespoons real maple syrup (or more to taste)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 cup white whole wheat flour or gluten free flour of your choice

1 cup oats (old fashioned or rolled)

pinch of salt (I use sea salt)

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter (or dairy free butter like Earth Balance), cut up into small pieces

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Toss the fruit with 2 tablespoons (or more to taste) of the maple syrup and lemon juice.  Spread out into an 8×8 baking dish.  Mix the flour, salt, cinnamon and oats in a large bowl.  Stir in remaining maple syrup and the 2 Tablespoons of olive oil.  Spread the topping on top of the fruit.  Scatter the butter pieces on the top.  Bake until the topping is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Serve with homemade whipped cream or ice cream for an extra treat.  Or, heat up leftovers in the morning and eat for breakfast with yogurt.