It’s Rhubarb Season Y’all! Healthier Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

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I love spring!  This year I have been super excited to see all of my flowering bulbs arrive.  The first crocuses were up amid the snowflakes in February, quickly followed by grape hyacinth, regular hyacinth, daffodils, and tulips.  I didn’t put in any new ones last fall, but the bulbs that were already in the ground must have multiplied like crazy last summer because I have a profusion of flowers.  And I’m certainly not complaining!

Not quite so pretty but equally prolific is my rhubarb plant.  It has burst forth from the ground with ruby stalks and enormous leaves.  I shied away from cooking with it last summer because it takes a fair bit of sweetener to offset the sour-tart acid of rhubarb.  But rhubarb is also full of good for you fiber and vitamins, so this spring I’m working hard to find healthy ways to use it.

The simplest way is to throw a few chopped up stalks into a smoothie, along with some other fruit for sweetness. But when you’re in the mood for a little baking, try my healthy strawberry-rhubarb muffins on for size. Not only are they packed with fruit, but I’ve also eliminated the added fats and the majority of the added sugar.  By swapping out refined white flour for garbanzo bean flour, these treats stay grain-free and pack an extra punch of protein.  Since they are made for beans, I ate them for dinner.  What, that’s not a good idea?  ;)

Vegan Strawberry-Rhubarb Muffins

1 3/4 C garbanzo bean flour (look for it with the Bob’s Red Mill products at a larger grocery store or at your favorite health food store)–or use white whole wheat flour if you prefer

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3T stevia (check your package… you want the equivalent to 1/2 C sugar)

1/2 t salt

1 T ground flax seed plus warm water to equal 1/3 of a cup

1/2 C applesauce (natural/sugar-free preferred)

1/3 C nondairy milk or juice of choice (I was out of milk and used cran-apple juice… )

3/4 C minced rhubarb

1/2 C sliced strawberries

6 small strawberries sliced in half vertically

about 3T flaked coconut (I used sweetened because it’s what I had, but unsweetened would be better)

Heat oven to 400.  Mix dry ingredients together.  Add in wet ingredients and stir.  Add a little more liquid if needed to create a batter.  Don’t overstir.  Fold in rhubarb and strawberries.  Fill 12 paper lined muffin tins about 2/3 full.  Top each with a strawberry half and a sprinkle of coconut.  Bake until golden about 20-25 minutes and until a knife inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean.

Enjoy!

Clean out the Pantry Chili

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cans
(image credit Keerati, freedigitalphotos.net)

I am on vacation. Woot-woot! I needed one bad this year. Seems like the stretch from Christmas to end of school year was super busy, and the little half week trip over spring break that we took wasn’t enough to de-stress. So I’m at the beach with my boys, the hubs arrives tomorrow, and we have had plenty of down time to chillax. Unfortunately my boys got a little too much sun, so we’ve been trying to find a few more indoor activities than typical.

We are staying with my mom and have had lots of great meals with my mom and sisters. The other night my mom proclaimed there was nothing to eat and we needed to stop at the grocery store. Anyone who has seen my mom’s pantry can attest to the fact that there could be a nuclear holocaust and you’d still eat pretty well at mom’s house. Seriously. So I pulled out some cans of veggies, a box of quinoa, chopped a few veggies, and made a delicious, easy, and very healthy chili. Recruit a sous chef to open your cans and your wrist will thank you. All cans in this recipe are 15/16 oz (i.e. regular size cans, not big ones). And you may think it odd that I found a can of pumpkin in my mom’s pantry in June. Really, it’s not. My mom makes a mean pumpkin pie and she’ll make you one for the fourth of July if you’d like. Cause really, what’s more American than that?

Pumpkin, Sweet Potato, and Quinoa Chili

Serves a lot… probably 12?

1 T olive oil (or skip and water sauté the veggies)
2 vidallia onions or other sweet/mild onion
3 stalks celery, diced
1 C diced carrots
1/2 to 1 jalapeño pepper, minced (amount to taste)
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
3/4 C uncooked quinoa
3 cans of beans (I used one each black beans, red kidney, and cannelleni beans), drained and rinsed
1 can corn including liquid
2 cans diced tomatoes including liquid
1 can pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling, just plain pumpkin)
2 T chili powder
1/2 T cumin
1/2 T corriander

Directions: Rinse quinoa and place in a lidded saucepan with 1.5 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Heat olive oil or a small amount of water in a large stock pot over med-high heat. Add chopped onions, celery, carrot, and pepper and sauté until soft, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, place the diced sweet potatoes in a microwave safe cooking vessel with water to cover and microwave until crisp-tender, around 10 minutes. Drain sweet potatoes. To the stock pot with the sautéd veggies, add the beans, corn including liquid, and tomatoes including liquid. Stir in the pumpkin, quinoa, sweet potatoes, and spices. Bring to a boil, reduce and simmer about 10 minutes (or longer, this is a pretty forgiving recipe).

If the idea of canned corn liquid skeeves you out, add a small amount of veggie broth or water. Or get over it–it’s just water that tastes like corn. Sheesh.

This recipe stores wonderfully in the fridge, and we packed up a lot to put in the freezer. You could serve it over greens for a little more of a nutritional whallop, or chop up and stir in some added kale or spinach if that sounds good. Or serve on top of spaghetti squash, or over split baked potatoes, or stuff it into whole wheat tortillas. Lots of possibilities!

What’s your favorite healthy pantry meal?

Super Bowl! Super Chili! Super Sous-Chef!

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Total Coloradan moment here… go Broncos!  One of my children currently has his face painted half blue and half orange.  He looks like he belongs in a Scottish rebellion, screaming and weilding a mace (I’m not sure what that is, but it sounds “period”).  And somehow he thinks this face paint is going to make it through a night’s sleep, through church (!), and until tomorrow evening for the big game.  We shall see.  I’ll fight the good fight over a clean face for church in the morning–though quite honestly, I’m not sure I have it in me.

The small one and I have been busy cooking up massive amounts of chili to donate for fund raising, of course saving enough for our own super.  This small child was up out of bed before anyone today and promptly plunked his butt in front of the tv where he has been playing Wii Lego Star Wars as much as we will allow him.  In his defense, it is snowing out, very cold, and his brothers are off doing other things.  I have made it somewhat of a mission to get him away from the Wii because the mom-guilt sector of my brain is envisioning large chunks of his brain turning into mush from the lack of frontal lobe use.  

I did get him away to clean up his room, with some help from me, which was quite productive.  Then we went to the kitchen to get cooking.  On a whim, I decided to see if he can peel carrots.  Success!  I never expected him to be able to wield a vegetable peeler, but it worked.  In full disclosure, my older two have never peeled a vegetable, but their 5 year old brother can now whoop them in a veggie peeling showdown (should that ever occur).  Other great jobs for my small one included rinsing quinoa, rinsing beans, stirring the stock pots, and chopping small amounts of veggies (we have a safety knife, it is basically totally dull and I’m not real sure how it is able to chop anything).

This is my favorite chili recipe, and I may have already linked to it but if so who cares, it bears repeating.  If you double it, be warned, it makes A LOT.  When I double it, I use my two largest stock pots and cook it separately, because to put it all in one pot probably wouldn’t fit unless you have a REALLY large stock pot, and I think it would splatter everywhere.

Two Peas and Their Pod’s Quinoa Chili Recipe (Vegan)

http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/vegetarian-quinoa-chili/

Eating Healthy on a Time Crunch

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Busy, busy, busy.  It seems to be the theme of our first-world existence.  When talking with people about nutrition, exercise, and even reading books, I often hear “oh I just don’t have time to (cook from scratch, fit in exercise, finish a novel…).”  I get it.  We are busy.  But I think it is about priorities. I could blather on about how upside down priorities seem to be in our lives, but I’ll spare you the diatribe.  Instead, I’ll just say this… “The key is not to prioritize your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”  Ok, I didn’t say that, Stephen Covey said that.  If you make something a priority in your life, boom, suddenly you have time for it.  Unfortunately I think we often dole out our time like it’s a super size free-refill tumbler of pop from 7-11, not thinking that ultimately it will run out, and if we fill that tumbler with things that don’t really enrich our life, we will be left at the end of the day with hiccups and a belly ache (did you follow that metaphor?  Cause I admit it was kind of a strange one…)  Anywho, figure out your priorities, schedule them into your life, and somehow the kids still make it to soccer on time and eventually you’ll still get that kitchen floor cleaned.  And if you miss a few facebook posts, you’re not any poorer for it.

There are some ways though to save a little time and still cook healthy.  The key is planning.  Figure out the best time of week for you to cook ahead–for many of us it is on the weekend, but for some it may be a weekday morning when the house is quiet.  Gather your supplies ahead of time–at least for me, doing a big shopping trip and then coming home to cook multiple dishes is a recipe for disaster.  Optimally, I like to shop the day before I do a big cooking marathon.  You can also take some time to plan around what’s on sale, who’s home for dinner on what nights, and what food is already in the house that you need to use up.  

Before you jump in to cooking, line up your meals for the week and figure out what can be prepped ahead of time.  Pull out your food processor, knives, and cutting board.  Prep veggies for recipes and salads.  You can chop up salad fixings and store them in plastic containers for the week to make it easy to reach into the fridge and have a salad on the table quickly.  Wash greens for salads and store in zip top bags to have those ready to go.  Make a batch of homemade salad dressing–double it if you need to–and have it on hand for the week.  Trying out different dressings and having colorful salad ingredients at your fingertips can really make it easier to stick to healthy nutrition.

Beans fill your tummy when you are on a plant-based diet, giving you protein and fiber, and giving a meal “staying power.”  You have a couple of options for beans.  You can certainly buy canned, in which case I would recommend looking for the low sodium beans.  Better yet, you can cook dry beans from scratch.  This will save you cash–they are about 1/3 of the price–and you get to control exactly what goes into them.  Plus some recipes may call for beans that are a bit firmer, and you really can’t control that from a can.  Beans are actually super easy to cook, they just take some time.  If you plan ahead, you can make a big batch of them on a day when you have time, then portion them into containers (1.5 cups plus some of the cooking liquid works well, that is about the same as what is in a can and most recipes follow “can” amounts).  Those cooked beans will keep several days in the fridge, or can be frozen for use later.

If you’ll be using beans on salad, you may want to mince some onion and pepper, add it to about a can’s worth of any kind of bean, and throw in some vinegar.  This will make a nice marinated bean salad to throw on top of greens.  

If breakfast means smoothies, plan to have frozen fruit on hand.  You can buy frozen fruit, but don’t forget that you can freeze your own when items are in season and on sale.  Right now I have 5 pineapples sitting on my counter waiting to be sliced up and frozen.  They were a buck a piece.  Strawberries, blueberries, and sliced peaches are all easy to freeze flat on a cookie sheet and then throw into a ziplock bag for storage.  Prep greens for smoothies ahead of time–wash them and bag them up, and if you don’t have a high power blender take out the center “vein” of kale or other tougher greens.  You can even make smoothies the night before and then give them a good shake in the morning–I don’t like to do this as I like to add a lot of ice to mine and the water tends to then separate–but if you don’t ice them down, try it.  I know other people who make them ahead, store them in a “drink and pour” type container, and then just grab them on the way out the door in the morning.  

Soups?  Make them ahead and store them in the fridge–better yet, double or triple the recipe and store servings in the freezer (this works well with everything except cream-based soups, and you’re not eating those anymore, right?).  If you are making soup with rice or pasta in it ahead of time and storing in the fridge, keep the grains/pasta to the side, otherwise they tend to soak up too much of the broth.  You can cook those and keep them separate, then stir them in before heating and serving.  Keep homemade veggie stock in the freezer and you can put together soups in no time flat.

Try to think about other dishes that freeze well.  Casseroles, curries, pasta sauces, bean burger patties, nut-based cheeses, and homemade baked goods all freeze and re-heat well.  It is often not much more work to double or triple a recipe and put some away in the freezer.  Be sure to mark your freezer containers with contents and date (yes, I know we all have some mysterious items lurking in the back of the freezer… that is not a good use of your cooking time!).  And most foods are best if eaten in the not-too-distant future, so be sure to plan to rotate your frozen meals into your menu plan.  

These are just a few tips and tricks to getting nutritious meals on the table faster with a little advance effort.  I’m sure you have your own tips… please share them below!

Getting Started on Eat to Live

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I’ve had a number of people ask me for the details of Eat to Live, so this post is an attempt to consolidate the info I have.  I am by no means a medical doctor or a nutritionist, so certainly read up and determine what is right for your body by consulting with your own professionals.  I will say that it has worked well for me and for a couple of people I know who follow it.  

Eat to Live is the nutrition brain-child of Dr. Joel Fuhrman.  It is an eating plan–or perhaps an even better way to think about it, is that it is an intentional way of thinking about food and how it helps or hinders our health.  At it’s most basic, it can be boiled down to a whole foods, no processed foods, no animal products, low fat and no-added sugar diet.  That sounds intimidating, but it is totally do-able.  If you’ve made any of the recipes on my blog, you can follow this.  Whether or not you call yourself a vegan is a whole ‘nuther thing. (FYI I don’t refer to myself that way b/c I think it has bigger socio-political meanings… and I occasionally make an intentional choice to eat something with an animal product in it… however my kids love to call me vegan and at times use it in a derogatory fashion.  Like when my 5 year old called me “you big vegan.”  Really?  Oh, digression noted, returning to the featured presentation)

Fuhrman’s philosophy is outlined in the book Eat to Live.  Grab a copy or get it from the library.  There’s nothing to buy–no shakes, meal plans, supplements, or packets of powder.  In fact you can probably cobble together enough info about Eat to Live off of the interwebs so that you don’t need to get the book.  However, the book explains the whole program and the very compelling research behind it so I wouldn’t skip it.  

Rather than re-hash all the info that is already out here, I’m just going to point you towards some of the blogs and websites that I’ve found the most helpful.  

Dr. Fuhrman’s website: http://www.drfuhrman.com

this link is basically a summary of the 6 week plan, and the fat free vegan blog has lots of recipes too that work with Eat to Live
 
this blog is also basically eat to live, and I’ve enjoyed several of her recipes
 
another great blog and series of cookbooks, plus lots of support and inspiration 
 
And of course, there’s, well, this here little blog… mine.  My recipes all fit with Eat to Live.  
 
As far as how it works, I just wrote and deleted a lengthy paragraph detailing how great it has been for me. I censored myself and decided it was TMI for the intertubes. I’ll just say I’m happy, it works, I feel healthy, and I’ve got the lab reports to prove that it changed my health. Give it a try! If you’re interested or at all curious, I would urge you to try the program for six weeks–follow it as strictly as you can–and then make up your mind. I think you’ll be sold!

Creamy Sweet Potato and Kale Pasta

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I’ve been walking around with a mug of chai tea in my hands perpetually, periodically sashaying to the microwave for a blast of heat. It’s cold here! I know, I know, it’s cold just about everywhere. Like polar vortex cold. Thankful for my warm home, electric blanket, and plentiful tea supply. And for this pasta dish. It will warm you up and stick to your ribs, without tons of artery clogging fat.

I started with a fairly healthy recipe I found on line, but even still it had butter and cheese in it. Not anymore. Here’s my veganized version to heat you up from the inside out.

***a special word on nutritional yeast. What the heck is that, you ask? No, it is not the yeast you put in bread so put down the little packet and walk away from the baking aisle! Nutritional yeast is a yeast grown on molasses and the dry flakes give a wallop of vitamin B12 and impart an earthy, cheesy taste to dishes. My original recipe called for parmesan cheese, so I used nutritional yeast instead. You can find it in whole paycheck type stores or in the nutrition or crunchy-hippie section of larger grocery stores. I buy mine at Sprouts, and it is with the vitamins. Sometimes you will hear very hippie-crunchy types call it Nooch. Please don’t call it nooch. That makes me throw up in my mouth just a little. People shouldn’t eat things that sound like vomit. Makes me think of the following scene: “dude, we were doing keg stands, and it was so awesome, we were like trashed, but then I nooched all over the fraternity stairs.”

The defense rests. I dare you to even think of it as notch again.

Creamy Sweet Potato and Kale Pasta (serves 6-8 depending on portion size)

1 T olive oil
1 shallot, minced (you could sub onion if you don’t have a shallot, I actually used leek but I think shallot would taste better)
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 T whole wheat pastry flour (or any flour, it just is used as a thickener)
1.5 C almond milk
1.5 C mashed sweet potato (about 2 small or one really big one)
1/2 C nutritional yeast
1/2 of a really big bunch of lacinato kale… or use the whole bunch if it is scrawny (can sub regular kale), cut into about 1.2 inch by 2 inch strips
3/4 pound box of whole wheat spiral pasta

In a large skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat and then brown the garlic and shallot. When the have turned golden, add in the flour and stir until the flour is also golden. In a separate container/bowl, whisk the sweet potato and milk together (this would be a smart use of your blender). Add the mixture to the skillet, bring to a simmer and then reduce heat and cook until slightly thickened. Stir in the nutritional yeast till combined, and season with salt/pepper as desired. Meanwhile, cook the pasta per package directions. Add the kale to the pasta water when there are two minutes left of boiling time, then drain the pasta and kale. Mix with the sweet potato sauce. Enjoy! Try not to lick your bowl.

Gotta Get Get–Black Eyed Peas

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Get it? Ha ha ha I crack myself up.

But seriously folks… black eyed peas, and the luck they portend for the New Year, are no joking matter. Run, RUN I tell you and make some black eyed peas in order to ascertain that the fates will smile kindly upon your face in 2014.

Of course, you purchased a bag of black eyed peas several weeks ago because you are smart like that. However, if it is 4pm and you have just realized that the bag of dried black eyed peas you have sitting in the pantry isn’t going to soak and cook itself, you might be thinking you are out of luck. Well you’re not. Because you wisely listened to me and got a pressure cooker from the jolly fat man in red, right? Right? If not, borrow, beg, or steal one from a friend and make these delicious and super fast black eyed peas (and when the stores open tomorrow, buy a pressure cooker with your Christmas cash).
black eyed peas

I know, they aren’t a whole lot to look at, but black eyed peas are super good for you and will fill you up with healthy stuff (hey, go google it, don’t make me do all your nutritional research for you). Plus, they have this nice almost meaty-earthy-smokey flavor. They remind me of the taste of roasted chestnuts. Minus the standing on a corner in Manhattan in the freezing cold aspect of roasted chestnuts. In this savory dish, they pair with spices and fresh peppers and onions to fill up your belly and give you your fair share of the new year’s luck. Serve with brown rice and a side of greens (traditionally, you are supposed to eat greens with the black eyed peas to get luck, so please proceed with caution if you opt out of the greens). Or serve them on top of a bed of greens and keep the fates happy. Cause seriously, I’m not looking to piss off the fates on January 1. Just sayin’.

Savory Black Eyed Peas and Peppers

1/2 of a yellow onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced or pressed (about 1 teaspoon)
1 red and 1 green bell pepper, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 carrots, sliced into small circles
1-2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
a few spritzes of olive oil from a spray pump (or omit and add water to sauté your veggies)
16 oz dried black eyed peas, rinsed and sorted (or don’t sort them but you might break a tooth on a rock and that would NOT be good luck)
4 cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions: Heat your pressure cooker over medium heat and spritz with olive oil (or a thin coat of water). Sauté all of the veggies until slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Add beans, stock, and spices. Cover and seal pressure cooker to high pressure, raise heat to high until pressure is reached, decrease heat slightly and cook for 13 minutes. Quick release pressure. Taste to make sure the beans are cooked to your liking (I cooked for 11 minutes, but they weren’t quite done, resealed and cooked another 2 minutes at high pressure, and they were fine… but I’m at high altitude so you may have different results elsewhere).

If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you could probably easily make this on the stove top but you’ll need to presoak your black eyed peas and cook a lot longer–60 to 90 minutes I would guess, and probably will need to increase the liquid significantly.

Enjoy, happy new year, and good luck to all!