Monthly Archives: April 2013

Grilled Veggie Sammich

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Sometimes you’re not in the mood for a delicate salad. You need something more. You’re thinking of the soup that you eat with a fork, right? Or a manwich. Today I busted my tush working on something that I left till the last minute waited to do until inspiration struck. So by the time lunch rolled around, I was hungry. Like big sandwich hungry.

I haven’t been eating bread that often since I started Eat to Live. I mean really, without the butter, what’s the point? And I want to save up those carbs for when I really need them–usually super time. But I do have a stash of organic super whole grain bread that I keep in the freezer. Sometimes you just need some toast, topped with peanut butter. Or even plain. Just a little something extra.

So today I needed that toast, and some. I toasted up two pieces of whole grain bread. Topped one with about a tablespoon of hummus. Added about two romaine leaves. Then piled on a bunch of grilled veggies. We cooked them on the grill over the weekend in a grill basket, but you could easily cook them in a grill pan on the stove. Our blend contained mushrooms, eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini, red onions, and red bell peppers. The grill basket/pan that we have has fairly small holes in it so we can chop things down to a manageable sandwich filling size, but you could always grill large pieces and chop them later. On top of the pile of grilled veggies, I added some lentil sprouts (more on those later! you can make them yourself, I promise!) and then my second slice of toast.

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Picture doesn’t do it any justice. But it was yummy, trust me.

What healthy food fills you up when you need a little more?

Al Fresco Simplified

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crudite

Isn’t that a thing of beauty? Tonight we had our first al fresco meal of the season. It was snowing, pretty heavily, just 3 days ago, but today and yesterday have been glorious spring days so all of that snow is a now a distant memory and the grass is greening up. The hubs in his infinite wisdom grabbed some quick dinner making ingredients from the store last night, with plans for a “snacky” super tonight of veggies, hummus, fruit, crackers, and for those who eat it, cheese. It was a smashing success, made all the better by eating it outside. My kids were in shorts and t-shirts. I was in a sweater, jeans, and ran inside for a down vest right after we sat down. Ok, May is around the corner and it is glorious at midday, but it is still a bit chilly in the evenings!

munchies

Here’s the spread–fresh veggies, pre-packaged hummus, fresh fruits, tortilla chips and mango salsa, crackers and cheese. And wine for us big people. The kids were over the moon happy with this dinner. Not a single complaint. Unheard of! They ate vegetables! And liked them!

Can you tell that is not an everyday occurrence in our house?

The other thing I need to remember from a meal like this is that simple is often best. I *could* have made the hummus from scratch. And the salsa. Oh, and you know there’s this guacamole recipe I love… But the point is, you don’t have to do it all. You can have a great, healthy meal with minimal effort. This just involved chopping a few veggies and fruits, gathering up serving dishes, and carrying stuff outside. I cleaned the kitchen this afternoon and miraculously as I sit here at the breakfast counter and type, my kitchen IS STILL CLEAN. Another festivus miracle. Usually my made-from-scratch adventures result in me exhausted and kitchen trashed. Next time I’m up to my ears in blenders and pressure cookers, someone needs to remind me of tonight’s dinner and my happy kiddos. Kiddo #1 pronounced this one of his all time favorite summer meals (with hot dogs, bratwurst, and pizza also on the list. So easily his healthiest favorite summer meal!).

What healthy meal means summer to you?

You Do(n’t) Win Friends with Salad!

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It has been busy around here.  I may have already mentioned that.  I am trying to be present and mindful, but for the past two weeks or so I’ve been saying life will be easier for me after next week is over.  Now that next week is (gulp) almost here… I’m not all that concerned.  I have a presentation I need to complete, and present, and I’ve procrastinated for the better part of 3 months.  But that’s ok.  I put in some serious work on it this morning and I feel much better about it.  I still have some work to do on it, but it is more manageable now.

In the meantime, I’ve made friends with salad.  You may remember the Simpson’s episode, where Lisa goes vegetarian (yeah Lisa!) but is taunted by her family with the “you don’t win friends with sa-LAD!” cha-cha number.  Don’t remember it?  Don’t say I never done nuttin for you.

My small one is now asking me to keep playing the don’t make friends with salad song. It will be in your head all night. You’re welcome.

But back to my point. I’ve made friends with salad. Salad is easy when you’re busy. The key is to be prepared. Get all your ingredients washed, prepped, and ready to go in the fridge. Then making a salad is not a big event involving salad spinners and vegetable peelers. I have a shallow plastic basket in the fridge (dollar tree!) that fits nicely on one of the shelves. It is loaded up with salad stuff bagged or tupper-wared up and ready to use. I can pull out the whole basket, make my salad, and throw the whole thing back in the fridge. I have thought it would be a good idea to throw a small cutting board and knife in the basket as well, but I’m not quite that prepared. If you are, go for it. Again, you’re welcome.

I will share a great salad greens prepping tip. I got this from the book The Fresh Green Table by Susie Middleton (is she related to Kate and Pippa? Maybe she was one of the chicks wearing a funky hat at the royal to-do. But I digress.) My lovely husband brought this book home from the library cause he knew it would be full of veggie-goodness. He is a peach. I found a great salad green storage suggestion. Take your head of lettuce–romaine, red leaf, butter, what-ev-ah– and pull the leaves off from the base, keeping the leaves as whole as possible. Put them in a bowl of tepid water to soak for a little bit (I think she says 5 minutes, I probably only do one or two b/c I’m impatient). Drain. Now rinse in cold water and let them soak a bit again, swish them around, and spin them dry. Since you are keeping the leaves whole, you may need to do a couple of spin cycles to get through the whole batch. Now take a large zipper storage bag and line it with a cotton dish towel (not a terry cloth one, but a cotton or linen tea towel. You know, the ones that really, well, suck at absorbing water (pun not intended). You’ve been holding on to them not knowing what to do with them, since they don’t function the way a towel should function, but now you know. Salad.) Line the zipper bag with your cotton pseudo-towel, and then place the whole leaves inside of the towel. The towel will absorb the little moisture from the leaves (I know, weird, it won’t soak up water on the counter, but it works for lettuce. The mysteries of the universe are not ours to know, grasshopper.). Seal up the bag. Put it in the fridge. This will keep the lettuce fresh for quite a while. I used to chop it all up ahead of time, but this way it works better and lasts longer. The lettuce stays crisp without brown edges. It only takes a minute or two to rip up a couple of leaves for your salad.

The other thing that got me back into salads was trying more homemade oil free dressings. I’ve shared a link already with a lot of recipes, and I’ve tweaked a few to make my own. I’ll share those later. In the meantime, go win some friends with salad.

Crispy Orange Cauliflower

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The food thing has reached mission critical in my house. I’m getting tired of coming up with meals. I’m getting tired of complaints from small people about eating vegetables. (Tonight I got “we’re not poor… why do we have to eat vegetables as a main course, they are supposed to be a side dish!” Clearly the meat lobby has gotten to my 11 year old.) I’m way over trying to cook two separate meals, something I swore off after weaning my oldest child as a toddler off of a steady diet of chicken fingers, grilled cheese, and strawberry yogurt. We generally do pretty well–or I should say, did pretty well–at family dinners. There would be the occasional clunker but more often than not the kids would eat what we ate for dinner.

And then came the plants.

Us grown up converted easily, the kids… not so much. My middle child is my best veggie eater and always has been, so it has been easiest for him. My oldest has felt this change in our diets as a personal affront. My youngest is still at the age when any unusual, non-carbohydrate food is given the stink eye and may result in cat-with-a-hairball style gagging.

Sigh.

We did get rid of dairy as a family and now only have almond or soy milk in the house. That transition was not without friction but we made it through. So tonight I decided to fall back on what Dr. Fuhrman says in his books about getting kids on a plant based diet–to paraphrase, if they are hungry, they will eat. If you only provide healthy food, and they are hungry, they will eat it. Eventually.

Tonight it was just me and the kiddos at home, and I was inspired (actually, I was pin-spired) to try out this crispy orange cauliflower recipe. You can find it here:
http://www.veganricha.com/2013/04/caras-crispy-orange-cauliflower-vegan.html

Where would I be without the internet? Such great inspiration! I love using cauliflower as a meaty main dish–something you can sink your teeth into. This recipe is a little heavier in oil than I would like, but I figured by frying the cauliflower I would be more apt to get my kids to eat it. Cause really, you could fry a shoe and it would taste good, right?

I did change it up a bit. I eliminated the oil from the batter (you don’t need it), and I just lightly misted my skillet to saute the green onions and garlic. You don’t need a whole teaspoon full or whatever it says. I did fry the cauliflower in vegetable oil. If I make this again, I will try baking it instead. I know that can be done as I’ve made a similar recipe where the cauliflower was baked. If you want to find a good substitute, google around for baked buffalo chicken cauliflower and I bet you’ll find it. I also got kind of tired of cooking–this was a bit labor intensive for me on a weeknight and took a little under an hour from start to finish. So I left off the very last sauce step. I also substituted orange juice–probably about a half cup–for the zest and juice of an orange. I added a little cornstarch to the sauce to thicken it. My final dish looked kind of blah so I added a couple of clementines, peeled and segmented, for color and a little pop of sweet. Here’s how mine turned out:

crispy orange cauliflower

The verdict? I loved it. This is a dish I would order in a restaurant. The combination of sweet from the orange and tang from the vinegar is perfect. If you like extra sauce for your rice, then don’t skip that last step like I did. I served this with brown rice and cantaloupe. Me, I had two decent size servings and now feel kind of eh from the oil I think. I will definitely make this again, but will be baking it. But I wouldn’t hesitate to make it again, fried even, for carnivorous guests or as an appetizer for a party.

The kids reactions? Kid #2 ate two servings and said it was really good, “just like chicken.” (I had said it tasted kind of like Chinese style chicken… something they can relate to.) Kid #1 ate a small serving and declined seconds, saying that it tasted nothing like chicken, and that it was too spicy. Kid #3, predictably, made cat-with-a-hairball gagging faces, complained it was too hot (it wasn’t) and too spicy. He had a mouse sized nibble. But he asked for some brown rice and ate all his cantaloupe.

Hey, I’m calling it a successful family meal. I take what I can get.

How do you get your kids to eat healthier foods and minimize the dinner table tantrums?

As Promised… Carrot Cake Cookies

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I promised to share the recipe, and here it is.  These cookies are divine.  I have made them several times now and they have always come out just right.  The taste of carrot cake, in a cookie form, full of good stuff like carrots, raisins, walnuts, and oats.  And none of the bad stuff–no oil, eggs, butter–the only fat I can find in them is from the walnuts, which of course is good fat.  There are a lot of ingredients but don’t let that part intimidate you.  If you gather up all your spices and dry goods ahead of time the batter will come together quickly. This recipe was inspired by the Carrot Cake Bars recipe at Fat Free Vegan. My spice profile is virtually identical, I just changed it up a bit to make a dryer cookie and not a moist bar. You can find her recipe here: http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2012/07/carrot-cake-bars.html

carrot cake cookies

Carrot Cake Cookies
2 C shredded carrots (my tip… use the smaller grating side of a box grater to make finely grated carrots)
1/2 C raisins
1/4 C chopped walnuts
3/4 C whole wheat pastry flour (also called “white whole wheat”–I found this at the regular grocery store, King Arthur brand)
2 t baking powder
1 C whole oats
3/4 C unsweetened applesauce
1&1/4 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1 t ginger (powdered, I didn’t use fresh though I’m sure you could…)
1/4 t allspice
1/8 t cloves
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 C sugar equivalent (I used stevia in the raw, 1/2 C)

Heat oven to 375F. Combine all ingredients. This won’t be a real doughy cookie dough, but blend it together the best you can. Scoop onto baking sheets–I used a cookie scoop and got about 18 cookies. If you scoop them, you will have little balls of dough. Flatten them slightly with your hand or the back of a spoon to make them more of a cookie shape. They won’t really spread out on their own, so what they look like going into the oven is more or less what they look like coming out. Bake 20 minutes at 375–though keep an eye on them and check at 15-18 or so minutes. These don’t really “brown” like a cookie with butter so you just have to check that they are cooked through, hold together, a bit puffed, and dry on the bottom.

Carrot cake cookies.

Total awesomeness.

You’re welcome.

Forgive my Absence with these Carrot Cake Cookies!

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Seems life has gotten busy suddenly. Ok, not really suddenly. But busy, yes. Seems April is the new May. May used to be the time when end of school year projects and celebrations, spring sports, choir concerts and musical recitals all collided. Now it’s happening in May. Two of my kids are in soccer–translation, four practices and two games a week. Plus choir practice, piano and guitar lessons, cub scouts and boy scouts. And for me, getting healthier this winter/spring translates into more time out running and playing tennis. Instead of continuing to whine about being busy, I’m going to take a moment and be so GRATEFUL that we have these opportunities–healthy children, a fabulous fun community to live in, options for how we spend our free time, great adults volunteering their time as soccer coaches and scout leaders, and financial resources to enable us to participate. Life is truly good!

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But of course there are limits on my time, and in fact right now I am realizing that I only have 40 minutes to get ready for a rare night on the town and here I am, sitting on my butt in sweaty work out clothes, typing away to all of you. While I love you all, I am not going to have time to post this delicious carrot cake cookie recipe. It is one of my favorites. So I’ll share a picture as a tease and I PROMISE to post the recipe very soon, hopefully tomorrow! Here it is. While you drool over it (be sure to wipe your keyboard clean when you’re done), think about all the things you have to be grateful for!
carrot cake cookies
Don’t they look delicious?