Monthly Archives: May 2013

Gardening, and A Kid Homerun! Woot-woot!

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It is now officially spring. Though where I live, we’ve been flipping from winter to summer for the past month or so. But this past week has been perfectly spring like, with today being the most glorious weather day of all. I was fortunate to have the day off and joined some lovely ladies to play tennis this morning. I couldn’t get over the weather–just cool enough with sunshine, a little breeze, the air even had that fresh spring smell. Spring means planting and I am SO EXCITED this summer for our garden! Here’s the backstory: we move in to our current home 6 years ago. We have rather odd landscaping but to make this succinct and not give you all the history, we put in a raised bed in an area that seemed like a good garden spot. It wasn’t. Way too shaded, nothing grew, and I’m sure I spent more on tomato plants than I ever would have spent on the equivalent 3.5 tomatoes they yielded. Combined. Fast forward a year. I planted shade perennials. They looked nice for a bit in the raised bed. The next year… nuttin. Apparently they didn’t get the message that perennial means you come back up each year. Another huge cash drain. So last year, my big plan was to move my herb garden to the raised bed. Herbs are a little hardier and seem more tolerant of crappy soil and low water conditions. This spring, my sage, mint, thyme, and chives came back up. I’m convinced that if there were a nuclear holocaust, in addition to cockroaches and velvetta cheese (cheez if ever there was a cheese with a “z”, velvetta has about as much in common with real food as a rock), there would be mint. So you may want to google recipes including velvetta, cockroach, and mint if you are a doomsday fanatic.

Wow, that was a big digression. I didn’t see that one coming.

Anywho, the garden. Here’s our great plan for this year and why I’m so excited. I decided to add some cooler weather crops (which makes it sound like I am planting acres, not a 4×8 ft bed) to my raised bed. Radishes, spinach, lettuces, kale, and chard. Those we planted on mother’s day. The radishes are popping up, I see recognizable lettuce leaves in the mesclun area, and some other thing is sprouting. It could be kale. See I didn’t mark what I planted where, and my kids were helping me, so we kind of used a scatter planting method. Ha! It should be a pleasant surprise. I’m not positive the bed will get enough sunlight once the tree over head fully leaves-out, but my fingers are crossed. In the meantime, we converted an area of grass surrounding our back patio to a garden area. We put down lots of layers of newspaper over the grass, wet it down, and covered in glorious mulch. I am not a big fan of grass where we live–high dessert–grass just shouldn’t be growing here and you have to dump a lot of water and fertilizer on it, not to mention get it aerated like crazy, to get it to grow. The front lawn came out last year in favor of pretty flowers, and if I get my way the back lawn will continue to shrink each year. Did I also mention I’m allergic to grass? Don’t get me wrong, I love a beautiful patch of sink-your-toes-in-it lawn, but it just isn’t in the cards for us at this point in life given our busy lives and what we are willing to do and not do for a lush lawn. Surrounding the patio we now have tomatoes, basil, peppers, strawberries, a few marigolds for a pop of color, and I’ve planted several kinds of squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, pole beans, wax beans, and more of the lettuces, kale, and chard as an insurance policy in case the shaded bed is too shaded.

Until our fresh veggies are up, I am still searching for some great meals that the kids love. Here is one that I stumbled upon. It sounded a little too good to be true.

http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2013/05/06/creamy-cauliflower-alfredo-sauce/

Yes, cauliflower masquerading as alfredo sauce. Now you know how I feel about calling foods what they aren’t. If you don’t go back and read my prior posts about cheese with a Z. But my kids don’t know Alfredo from Adam, so calling this Alfredo sauce worked ok. I blended the daylights out of the sauce so there were no identifiable cauliflower chunks. All three kids ate it up. Kid one only had one serving (he had to leave for soccer) but said he liked it, and he is my pickiest eater. He also had some as leftovers. Kid two had three helpings. On the third helping he complained that he was so full he was going to explode. I told him to stop eating. He said he couldn’t because it was just so good. Seriously, I’m not making this up. (I’m not THAT creative.) Kid three had two helpings. He is fairly picky as well. So I call this one an out of the park home run! Woot-woot!

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As for me, I liked it, though it was heavier than what I would like to eat so I wouldn’t personally have it very frequently. It definitely did not taste like alfredo sauce to me. It was good though, but more like a mac-n-cheese than an alfredo.

I doubled the recipe and served it on whole-wheat rotini. Another big bonus–the kids didn’t even notice I used whole-wheat pasta. Usually whole-wheat pasta is the dinner time kiss of death. This is what I’m up against. Now you understand why I am over the moon happy to have a kid ask for thirds!

A winner and an Awesome Potato Salad Link!

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Judy B you are my happy starbucks gift card winner!  I will get it to you in person some time soon (maybe I will take you out for coffee instead). I am so glad you won!  Thanks to everyone who entered!  Wish I had lots of gift cards to give to everyone!

I have been cracking up lately over Thug Kitchen.  My husband is quite amused that I am so easily amused by potty mouthed cooking.  So be warned, if you are easily offended by colorful language, don’t go following my links.  If you find the idea of someone getting all up in your grill with vegan food and a mouth to make a sailor blush, then click away.

Tonight I made his Fresh Herb Potato Salad (aka Badass Potato Salad).  It was delish!  I made a few changes.  The 1/4 cup of olive oil was a bit more than I wanted.  I left it out, threw the dressing ingredients in my blender, and subbed in cashews and water for the oil.  I took a 1/3 C measuring cup, filled it with raw cashews, then filled it up with water if that makes sense.  I don’t know how much water it was, but together it was 1/3 cup nuts and water.  This made a nice creamy dressing without adding straight out oil.  I also used some parsley instead of dill, but fortunately it is chive season and I had lots of fresh chives in my garden that took on a starring role in this salad.  I also bought some organic fingerling potatoes on sale (score!) that were a mix of red, white, and yellow, which made for a pretty salad.  I would easily make this again, but I think if I brought it to a potluck I would opt for the olive oil instead of the cashews because so many people seem to have nut allergies these days.  😦 

Here’s the recipe and don’t get all touchy with me if you don’t like the language.  And don’t dis your tubers, please stay away from that nasty jarred mayo.  Ick.  We’ve had an ongoing debate about that in my house–I think mayo is disgusting and always have, I am a Miracle Whip girl (or at least I was… no idea if that is vegan but can’t imagine it is good for you), while my hubby prefers real “mayo.”  Ick ick ick.  Nasty.

http://thugkitchen.com/post/50736583660/you-cant-have-a-legit-bbq-without-a-badass-potato

Dark Chocolate-Coconut Banana (NOT) Ice Cream

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What’s up with fake food? Or is it faux food? Or faux füd? Like if we spell it wrong, it’s ok. Like cheez. I don’t want to eat cheez. I want to eat CHEESE. I want it to taste like CHEESE. I don’t want you throwing a different letter in and expecting it to be ok (no offense, z, you are the most short changed letter in the English alphabet and perhaps the cutest of the bunch). I read an interesting article at some point along this nutritional journey that pushed readers not to think of non-meat protein as “fake meat”, vegetarian burgers as “meat substitute”, non dairy milk as “fake milk”, and forget about the cheez. Cheez is just blasphemous. So call it what it is. Doesn’t burger refer to a shape of some kind of compacted food–not necessarily meat–so call it a bean burger or a veggie burger, not fake meat. Milk is generally thought of as a whitish colored creamy beverage that is expressed from something else. So almond milk… that works for me. Cheese seems to deal with the consistency of the food and that it is creamy. Cashew cheese is great. Cashew Cheez, not so great. And that goes double for Bloo Cheez.

Do I actually have a point here and where is the recipe? Well, my point is don’t call foods what they are not in hopes that they will be better accepted. Case in point, frozen banana dessert. Should it be called ice cream? My ice cream loving friend who shall go nameless says no way. When you call it ice cream, you set up an expectation, and frozen bananas–which may be great FROZEN BANANAS–are not ice cream. Like the vegan “cheesecake” I made for Christmas this year. It was made from cashews and tofu. I decorated it beautifully with tropical fruits and berries. It was festive. It was tasty. It was healthy. It was not cheesecake. To call it cheesecake missed the boat on so many levels–took away from what it was, and set up an expectation for what it was not.

So I don’t know what to call this recipe. It isn’t ice cream. It is frozen banana dessert that you’ve probably seen a dozen times plus on pinterest labeled as healthy ice cream or two ingredient ice cream. If you haven’t tried it, try it. Don’t expect ice cream. Make your mind a blank slate and be open to a new taste. It is definitely banana flavored. If you don’t like banana, you probably won’t like it.

    It’s not ice cream.

Have I made that point? Well here’s the recipe.

Take two very ripe bananas, slice them into circles, and freeze in a ziptop bag or other container until frozen solid. Place the banana pieces into the bowl of your food processor and process until they are a chunky gravel consistency. Slowly add your favorite non-dairy milk (I used coconut for this one) until the mixture is creamy and resembles soft serve ice cream. I probably used about 3 tablespoons. Then you can either stir in (for bigger chunks) or process in (for smaller bits) 1/4 cup each dark chocolate chips and unsweetened coconut. Eat it as is for a soft dessert, or freeze it solid for a scoopable not-ice cream.

What should it be called? That’s what I’m struggling with. Ideas?

Who’s in the Mood for Free Starbucks?

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Did I have you at free, or at Starbucks?

No joking around, I have a $5 gift card that could soon be on it’s way to you. 

I’ve been enjoying writing this blog and hearing the supportive feedback from folks.  I’d love to spread the word farther.  While my blog has focused mostly on recipes up to this point, I have lots of more philosophical ramblings and helpful stress reducing ideas that I would like to share.  Sharing the recipes I make is easy peasy.  Sharing more in depth matters takes more time and emotional energy, and I know having a larger readership would help to motivate me to put the work in.

So here’s where you (and that free coffee) come in.  Spread the word, share the love, drink the coffee.  You can get your name entered multiple times.  Use the handy dandy tool below and enter away as you dream of that creamy decaf soy latte (don’t worry, I won’t order for you so if you get a mochacino with extra whipped cream, I won’t tell, but your arteries will know!). This giveaway is being handled automatically through Giveaway Tools… their winner selection is final. I will contact the winner to request a snail-mail address to mail your gift card, so no need to leave your address now. Click on the Entry-form link below to get started! Good luck and thanks for sharing the love!

Dark Chocolate Coconut (skinny!) Cookies

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Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t.

Do you love mounds bars as much as I do? I haven’t had once since raiding the kids’ halloween candy bags last October (it is a right that we earn by being mom’s… they have to tithe some of their halloween candy in exchange for our many sacrifices… but I digress…). I’m sure they are full of all kinds of icky fat and sugar that none of us need. But they do taste good.

I was shopping and became transfixed by the chocolate chip section of the baking aisle. There are vegan chips. They are generally expensive but guaranteed free of milk products. Semi-sweet chips generally do not have milk in them and I have read that certain brands are naturally vegan, but most of the bags I picked up had allergy warnings about milk. Investigating the ingredient list, many had butter fat in them. I was getting ready to lay out some serious cashola when I came upon dark chocolate chips. These were my local grocery stores higher-end store brand, and labelled 62% cacao. They are also not the traditional chip shape but chunks–probably 1/3 inch square flat chunks of chocolate. And they cost $3 a bag. Score! They made it into my cart and I needed to find a great way to use them.

I doctored up my skinny oatmeal raisin cookie recipe and came up with a dark chocolate coconut cookie recipe, inspired by the mounds candy bar. They are divine.

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Mix together:
2 C. rolled oats
1/4 C unsweetened (natural) applesauce
3 bananas, very ripe, mashed
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 C peanut butter
1/3 to 1/2 C unsweetened coconut (I used the wide shredded flakes)
1/2 to 1/2 C dark chocolate chunks

Measurement disclosure: I used a 1/3 C measure for my coconut and chocolate, but heaped it up b/c those two ingredients looked really good and I was hungry while baking (a deadly combination). Use your discretion.

I used a cookie scoop (approx. 2 tablespoon size) to drop the batter on my cookie sheet. I then flattened each ball slightly with the back of the scoop. Since these don’t have butter in them, they won’t “spread” while baking like many cookies will. I was able to make 20 cookies with this mixture. I baked them at 350 for about 20 minutes. I find with these no oil recipes, the moisture content can vary depending on your fruit, so watch them carefully as they set up. You may need more or less time. Let cool and enjoy!

And stop eating after two or three. They are yummy and pretty healthy but still nuts and chocolate have fat and sugar in them, respectively. Just b/c they are skinny and healthy doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to eat the entire batch. If this is hard to resist, try bagging them up in little zipper top bags and freezing them. Or put them on a high shelf. Or portion them out in labeled baggies for the week. Or let your kids and spouse go to town on them (I don’t recommend this). In any event, enjoy them and even if you do overeat, they are better for you than a regular butter, egg, and added sugar cookie any day of the week!

Green Elephant Smoothie!

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How’s that for a plant based elephant? Don’t worry, no elephants were harmed in the making of this smoothie.

My typical smoothie is almond milk, kale, a banana, chia seeds, and some other assortment of fruits and berries depending on what we have. I wanted to try a smoothie that would be a little bit different and be super filling. It had gotten later than usual in the morning, I didn’t have breakfast, and it was too early for lunch. I had a work commitment at 1pm and knew that I wouldn’t have a proper lunch until much later, if at all (I’m not advocating skipping meals… but sometimes life gets busy…). So I overhauled my smoothie to give it a little more staying power. Elephants love peanuts, right?

Green Elephant Smoothie
1 C almond milk or nondairy milk of choice
about 2-3 C kale, roughly chopped
1 banana
1.5 T all natural peanut butter
1 T cocoa powder
1 T chia seeds
1/4 C oatmeal (rolled oats or “old fashioned” oats, uncooked)

The peanut butter definitely makes this a higher calorie smoothie, but it filled me up and tasted good, with enough “staying power” to hold me through until I got home in the mid afternoon. I think it would be a great pre-exercise breakfast, too! Enjoy!

Lentil Sprouts: Grow Sprouts Grow!

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There’s nothing new about sprouts. I can remember making them in the 70s with my grandmother. We actually got this little kit at the museum of natural history gift shop that had special strainer-type lids that screwed on to a mason jar. We put the seeds into the jar, gave them some water, and then put them in a dark cabinet to grow… and voilà, sprouts!

Sprouts are really easy to grow in your own kitchen, and you probably have a bag of lentils in your pantry, so go ahead and get sprouting! All you need is seeds to sprout (try lentils for an easy one), a strainer, and some kind of container to soak and grow the sprouts in. I used a quart mason jar. I grabbed a piece of cheesecloth (left over from an unfortunate almond milk experiment… don’t try to make your own nut milk bag. You’ve been warned and I’m sure you are now laughing at me, so stop that). Place the cheesecloth over the mouth of the jar and fasten with a sealing ring (without the metal center piece). Now you can strain through the cheesecloth all in one step without opening the jar. Kind of like what my grandmother and I used in the 70s, but no plastic parts to buy. Put about 1/2 cup of lentils in your jar and cover with water to soak for 12 hours. Drain and rinse well. Now let them sit, rinsing and draining well every 12 hours. In a couple of days you’ll have sprouts. I let mine get big enough that you just start to see signs of leaves, but it’s up to you how long you let them grow.

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Here’s a shot of them being rinsed and drained, not quite big enough (IMHO) to eat yet. This is before I had the cheesecloth epiphany, and I was growing them in a dish and draining them in a strainer. But you know better now.

Again, you’re welcome.

So what do you do with your little sprouts? Well, you could transplant them to the backyard and grow a crop of lentil plants. But I don’t recommend that when you can buy a pound of lentils for around a buck. Once your lentils have reached the size you like, put a regular cap on your jar and throw them in the fridge with your salad fixings. They add a great crunch and freshness to any tossed salad. They are also yummy on a sandwich. I bet they’d be great on top of nachos, too. I will have to make a note to try that!

What else can you sprout? Well, just about any seed or nut can be either soaked or soaked and sprouted. The sprout gurus say that sprouting and soaking release enzymes which make nuts/seeds more easily digested and make more phytonutrients available. But don’t listen to me, go google it, cause I can’t remember all the details. Some nuts don’t actually “sprout”, they just soak. Beans and seeds generally sprout though.

Have you ever made sprouts? What will you add sprouts too?