Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"Healthy" Breakfast Burritos

Soyrizo Breakfast Burrito
Even before I decided to try to be a vegetarian I liked "soyrizo." Actually, when I first heard of it I fake gagged and said "deeeeesgusting!" But then I was tricked into eating it under the premise that it was real chorizo. Not even my dad could tell the difference. I've pretty much never gone back. Josh was already boycotting chorizo because he accidentally read the ingredients. Big mistake! I, on the other hand, have always held that it doesn't matter what's in it, if tastes good I'll eat it. Much like my mom's mantra It doesn't matter if it feels good as long as it looks good! Unfortunately neither of those arguments really hold much water as I am now scrutinizing every label with a magnifying glass and my mom is wearing orthotics! (Don't tell her I told you!)

Anyway, back to my burritos. On our honeymoon to Maui Josh and I ate breakfast at this cool little restaurant called Soup Nuts and Java Jazz. Such a funny name. Turns out it was a coffee shop by day and a jazz club by night. I ordered the chorizo breakfast burrito, which was the size of my head! It had chorizo and eggs, black beans, and a load of cheddar. It was so so good! I thought it such a strange concoction with the black beans, served on a bed of Spanish rice. Oh my. That was seven years ago and I still dream about it!

With a few changes I would venture to say my version of this burrito is quite healthy. Lots of breakfast protein and healthy carbs, not to mention veggies and beans! I went ahead and substituted soyrizo for the real deal. I almost always add baby spinach to my eggs, so I included that in this recipe too. If you chop the spinach small and add it to the scrambled eggs before you cook them you will not even taste it! (This is pretty much the only way I can get Jer to eat spinach!) If you like a stronger spinach flavor, you can saute it before adding the eggs to the pan. Here is my healthy version of this delightful burrito.

"Soyrizo" Breakfast Burrito
1 Tbsp Olive oil
1 package Soyrizo -- I like the Trader Joe's brand.
6 Eggs -- You can use more if you'd like more burritos. I'd say up to 10.
A couple large handfuls of Baby Spinach, chopped small, and some extra to add later
1/2 cup Black Beans, drained and rinsed
6 Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas -- You may need more or less depending on how full you like your burritos.
A sprinkling of Cheese -- Right now I have a Mexican blend that I've been using, but you can use whichever kind you prefer, Cheddar is tastiest.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Remove the Soyrizo from the package and add to the pan. Use a masher or wooden spoon to break it up and let it cook for about a minute or so before stirring. Since it's already "cooked" your goal is just to brown it up and add flavor. Stir every couple of minutes or so till browned.

Meanwhile scramble the eggs with salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add chopped spinach to the eggs and whisk it all together. Add the egg/spinach mixture to the soyrizo once it is browned. Let it sit for a moment to begin cooking, then use long strokes with a wooden spoon to mix.

Once the egg is mostly cooked through add the black beans. Continue cooking for another minute or two till the beans are heated through.

Now you can begin assembling your burritos! If you have a gas range you can heat your tortillas right on the stove top, otherwise you'll want to preheat a pan or "comal" (cast iron skillet) to warm them up. I like to heat one tortilla at a time, then make the burrito before I heat the next. You could heat all the tortillas and place them in a (lintless) kitchen towel to stay warm, then assemble the burritos all at once.

Here's the lineup: tortilla, light layer of baby spinach (you can leave this out for kids or picky eaters as I did here), soyrizo and eggs with black beans, sprinkle cheese; wrap! If you've never wrapped a burrito before you'll want to fold the bottom end (and top if you'd like) then roll from one side to the other. Make sure you're tucking all that yummy goodness inside as you go.

That's it! Enjoy!!! (With a sprinkling of hot sauce of course! My fave bottled kind is Tabasco Chipotle.)

P.S. If you're having a cheat day or just want to be a little decadent go ahead and use real chorizo and white flour tortillas. Don't forget to load up on Cheddar too! I could die happy after eating this...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Menu Planning

If you're like me and you like to make schedules and spread sheets then planning menus can be exciting and a fun challenge. But most of the time menu planning can be a bit difficult and, let's face it, boring. Even when you like to make lists and schedules it's not always the most fun. I've had a few people mention how meal planning is hard and wish they could do it better. Well, you're in luck because I have a few tricks up my sleeves that I'd like to share.

The very first thing you could do is Google it. I know it seems obvious but there are lots of great ideas out there and some helpful websites that will either do it for you or help you out along the way. I found this post on that gives several "basic" recipes with variations on the theme. This is an easy way to use the same ingredients throughout the week and have a starting point for your planning. Easy! has a section called everday cooking which includes a fast weeknight dinners tab. They basically give you a menu for the week's dinners. This is super helpful and, if you like experimenting with menus and new food ideas, it could be a good place to start.

I like to have somewhat of a routine to my meal planning. Each night M-F has a "theme" and every week I choose a meal from that category. I use alliteration because it's easy to remember, i.e. Macaroni Monday. You could have Meatless Monday, Meaty Monday, Mexican Monday, etc. I think you get the point. Planning my weekly menu this way helps to focus my planning ideas. Here's a run down of how I do it:
  • Macaroni Monday - This includes basically any pasta/noodle dish I make or would like to make. We don't have macaroni every Monday, but you could! Sometimes I'll make rice noodles and we'll have Asian, or shredded veggie "noodles" in a wrap.
  • Taco Tuesday - Mexican food! Yes please!
  • Sandwich Wednesday - Sandwiches are so easy and left overs come in handy here quite often. If sandwiches don't seem dinner appropriate to you or your significant other throw a little extra cheese in there and heat it on a grill pan. Ta da: Panini! This category also includes anything on a bun or in a wrap: burgers, sloppy joe's, burritos... You can always include a veggie or salad on the side or make it a veggie sandwich/wrap/burger/burrito.
  • Slow Cooker Thursday - Thursdays are hard for me because it's getting close to the weekend and I'm feeling less and less like cooking. It's also the night we have the least amount of time for dinner because we have music rehearsal at church. I have to be creative here and make something that doesn't require too much energy to get on the table and that will clean up quick. That's where my slow cooker comes in handy! Since we've gone mostly vegetarian throughout the week it's a little harder to find meals to cook in the slow cooker, but any kind of soup or chili is always a hit. There are millions of recipes out there, even whole cookbooks devoted to slow cookers!
  • Family Friday - We always eat together, but this is one night we like to have a fun, easy meal that I don't have to work too hard at. It usually means pizza! I know it's kid food but I looooooooove pizza! We'll usually get take-and-bake or go to Round Table, then out for ice cream or a walk to the park. Basically this is a really great night to get the kids involved and have them help you make dinner or pick what they want to eat. Give yourself a break here and make something easy!
  • Saturdays we eat dinner out or Josh helps me cook something yummy. I don't usually plan it.
  • Sundays we eat left overs and prep for the week ahead.

So there you have it. I will say that before I start my meal planning I check my cupboards, fridge, and freezer to see what I've got on hand. This helps me choose meals that incorporate those ingredients. Just this one thing saves money and time. Sometimes it saves me an entire trip to the grocery store because I have enough on hand to make a few days worth of meals. You can also use the "What's for Dinner" tool at to plan your meals based on the ingredients you have on-hand. You list three ingredients you have and it gives you four recipes which include those things. Couldn't be simpler!

Meal planning takes time so plan ahead to plan your meals. Set aside a half hour or an hour on Friday or Saturday and just do it! If you feel stuck or uninspired ask your hub or kids what they like that you make. Sometimes Josh will remind me of a meal I made that I had totally forgotten about.

The last tip is the hardest one for me: stick to your menu! I maybe felt like stuffed peppers when I made the menu but now they don't sound good. Boo. Force yourself to use the ingredients you've got and make the meal anyway. Turn it into something that does sound good or switch it with another night of the week. This way you save more moola and the food doesn't go bad.

Here's what a typical week might look like for us:
Monday - Spaghetti with Turkey meatballs
Tuesday - Veggie Tacos
Wednesday - Black Bean Burgers with Green Bean "Fries"
Thursday - Meatless Turkey Chili (I use Beef-less Ground Beef from Trader Joe's)
Friday - Papa Murphy's followed by mini blizzards at Dairy Queen
Saturday - Grilled Salmon, Baked Potatoes, Broccoli

Hope this was helpful!

P.S. I also plan lunches based on what leftovers we have so we make sure to eat it all!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Veggie Tacos

Veggie tacos...yum!

Well our healthy eating is going really well! I say that enthusiastically because I'm so surprised by it. Ha ha. We've ventured into "diets" before only to have crazy withdrawals and binges. I think we are learning from our mistakes, curbing our cravings, and really loving the benefits of a healthier diet. The weight loss really helps with keeping us motivated too! Funny thing, our vegetarian diet is moving quickly toward vegan, but I don't know if we'll ever really take it there. We are finding great ways to add flavor without unhealthy fats, and most of the time we don't even miss them! Take, for example, these yummy veggie tacos I've now made three times for dinner. No meat, no cheese or sour cream. Just sauteed vegetables, and whatever toppings I have on hand in a corn tortilla. The first time we ate them we had just tacos, no sides. Surprisingly satisfying.

Mexican food has to be one of my favorite things on earth...probably because I was raised on it, but mostly because it's wonderful. When I first started thinking about healthy eating it seemed like I would have to give up most of what I love about Mexican food...melty cheese, flour tortillas, non-vegetarian refried beans (that means they're fried in rendered bacon fat--sounds gross tastes amazing!), tostadas. And going vegetarian seemed to seal the deal. I thought well, I can eat beans and salsa. It's taken a long time for me to like avocados, so now I can have guacamole too. As I have expanded my horizons I've learned to add Mexican flavors to my veggies, er, veggies to my flavors...yeah that one. Trust me it's nothing fancy, but it sure is good. I'm so glad that I'm learning to eat vegetables and that pretty much anything in a (corn or whole wheat) tortilla is delectable!

I found that whenever we ate Mexican food there were little or no vegetables on the table. Unless you count salsa because as my dad says, "Salsa is a vegetable!" So, I've been making something like a black bean and corn salad with zuchinni and red bell pepper that I added as a side to our taco nights a long time ago. I love it!

This concoction has become a base for many a Mexican dish in my house, and now it has become a taco!

Veggie Tacos
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Red Bell Pepper, sliced thin
1 Green Bell Pepper, sliced thin
1/2 large Yellow Onion, sliced thin
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Corn Kernels -- You can use frozen, canned, or fresh. I like to keep the frozen ones on hand because they taste fresher than canned and I can use them year-round.
1 cup Black Beans
1 medium Zucchini, cut in half lenthwise then sliced into 1/4 in half moons
2-3 small potatoes, diced -- I don't always add potatoes I was just craving them, so this is totally optional!

If you are using potatoes you'll want to start those first. I cooked mine separately because they take a little longer. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium high heat till shimmering, add potatoes. Season with salt, pepper, granulated garlic, and a little bit of cumin. Cover and do not disturb while you get the peppers and onions going. Occasionally return to the pan to stir and turn the potatoes so that all sides turn golden and cook until the potatoes are soft. Try not to stir too frequently or they'll turn to mush!

Meanwhile, saute bell pepper and onions with a sprinkling of salt and pepper in 1 Tbsp olive oil till translucent. Add the garlic in at the last minute just to get it started cooking. You don't want to burn it so only cook about 30 seconds or so before you move on. Add zucchini, and if you're using frozen corn add that too and cook till zucchini is soft. (I didn't use zucchini in the tacos pictured because I didn't have any, hence the potatoes!) Finish with cumin, more salt, and pepper, then add black beans and heat through. Every measurement is to your taste so make sure you taste along the way for seasoning and use as much or as little of each vegetable as you prefer.

Once you've added the beans start on your tortillas. If you have a gas stovetop you can heat the tortillas right on the burner. If not, use a cast iron griddle or any flat pan that you've pre-heated. Use tongs so you don't burn your fingers! I like to heat them till they are nice and soft. You can pile them -- folded in half -- in a folded dish towel on a plate or keep them in a tortilla warmer till you've heated them all up. Fill each tortilla with veggies, and add whatever toppings you wish. My suggestions to try: fresh baby spinach (you won't even taste it!), avocados, salsa, chopped tomatoes, cilantro. Delish!

Veggie Tacos

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Success!...Ok, Progress!

Well, our month of vegetarianism is up. It was a great month of learning how to eat some new foods and plan meals that didn't revolve around meat. I'm not gonna lie, there was definitely some meat and refined sugars eaten. But overall, I feel like we did really well. I even lost 5 pounds since the first of the month. Honestly, though I'm really down about 9 pounds from my high point after I stopped nursing. My clothes fit great, some even big! It's really nice not to feel fat and stuffed but somehow still hungry all the time.

What I'm taking away from this month is:
  • The ability to stop eating when I'm full
  • The end to incessant, thoughtless snacking
  • The realization that veggies and whole grains can not only be filling, but also delicious
  • A new outlook on health and how I want to feed my family
  • Most importantly, a renewed commitment to cut out meat and most animal products from my diet and eat healthfully and conscientiously
One of the chapters in Veganist that really surprised me was the one about spirituality. I thought it would be something that was way "out there" or that I totally didn't agree with. What I found was a whole lot of good reasons to reconsider the way I think about food and the idea that even eating is a spiritual act. It seems silly, but aren't we supposed to do everything as unto the Lord? And if I'm taking care of the "temple" of the Holy Spirit then shouldn't I be feeding it in such a way as to bring optimal health and vitality? Then there's the whole issue of eating compassionately. Even just a year ago this would have seemed like such a silly idea to me, but I feel like I'm learning to be more compassionate in every area of my life. I guess it should be no surprise that it would come into play here too.

I didn't get too creative or inventive over this first month of vegetarian cooking. I wanted to try different recipes with new vegetables (maybe) just the way they were and see how we liked them. I found some really great recipes and menus, and some not-so-great recipes. I'll do you a favor and just share the great ones here:

  • Falafel -- I've truly discovered a new love in food! This recipe I found, Sean's Falafel and Cucumber Sauce was divine! I did go ahead and fry them because why not?! I omitted the coriander since I didn't have any on hand. The second time I made them (yeah I made them twice!) I had it and added it but didn't love it. Next time I'll definitely add just a pinch. It's very lemony in flavor. Anyway, we had the falafel with whole wheat sesame pita pockets from Trader Joe's, Quinoa Tabouleh, and Roasted Broccoli. It was a surprisingly delicious meal!
  • Spring Roll In a Bowl -- I recently discovered how easy it is to make spring rolls and peanut sauce. This recipe was even easier and served as a great main dish. To cook the rice noodles simply boil water and pour over the noodles in a heat proof dish -- I used a square glass baking dish. Cover and let sit for about 10 minutes, or until tender. I loved being able to slice and dice veggies at my convenience and then just throw it all together at dinner time. I made this Best Peanut Sauce recipe and followed the advice of several of the reviews adding a little rice wine vinegar and reducing the amount of peanut butter just a little. Super good!
  • One Pot Wonder Pasta -- OMG! Soooooo easy and YUM! This recipe really shocked me. I thought there was no way it would come out like it said, but it did and it was delicious! This was the easiest pasta recipe I've ever made. I added shredded carrots in with all the other ingredients, white beans when it started simmering, and a couple handfuls of spinach in the last few minutes. I also only had reduced sodium stock so I added salt and pepper at the end. Other than that I just followed the directions. Also made this one more than once!
That about does it. Entering July has been a bit of a challenge with all the celebrating in the first week. But we're back on track this week and loving it! What's your favorite vegetarian dish?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs in Marinara

Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs in Marinara
Well we're starting to have cravings...kind of random cravings: burgers, chips, snack-y foods. I blame TV commercials and watching Rules of Engagement where many a conversation happens in the diner. We're not really missing the sugar which seems weird to me but I'm totally ok with it. I decided we should make something healthy with meat instead of driving to Red Robin or In n Out! So Friday night we had spaghetti with turkey meatballs. I know, big splurge right! I made kale and spinach salad with blueberries, red onion, and cucumber, with poppy seed dressing. (Um, yeah, TASTY!) And we had steamed broccoli. Overall it was super satiating and quenched the meat craving.

Our favorite turkey meatballs come from a cook book by Giada De Laurentis similar to the recipe found here. They are cheesy and delicious. The ones in the book include 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, but I added basil because that's what I had. DEEVINE! I bake them instead of frying. It's super quick and less greasy. Use a small cookie scoop and line them up on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 min and they're prefect. I love Trader Joe's organic whole wheat spaghetti noodles. But the best part is the sauce. Super easy to make and delicious! It's adapted from Josh's adaptation of a recipe he found in an America's Test Kitchen cook book he has. (Which, incidentally, was the first thing he ever cooked for me.... awwwww!) Anyway, here you have it!

Marinara Sauce

Olive Oil
1/2 Medium Onion, diced small
4-6 Cloves Garlic, minced (You can also roast a whole head of garlic and add it all!)
1 Tbsp Tomato Paste
1 28 oz can Crushed Tomatoes
Dried Italian herbs - i.e. thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil, parsley - If you have fresh herbs feel free to use those instead or in addition
S & P

Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a heavy bottom pot/pan. Use just enough to lightly coat the bottom. When the oil is shimmering add the onion and cook till soft, about 8-10 min. Add garlic and cook till fragrant. Add tomato paste and cook another minute or so to bring out the tomato-yness of it all. Now Add the crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Add dried herbs about a palmful of each at a time, crushing them as you add to the pot. (I find this to taste better than just using Italian Seasoning blend.) I usually add one palmful of each herb and then add S & P to taste. Then you can adjust for flavor. Simmer at least a half hour but for full-blown deliciousness up to an hour. If you have fresh herbs wait till the end of cooking to keep the fresh taste of the herbs. Usually I'll try to at least add fresh basil because the flavor is great! 

P.S. If you're tempted to add other veggies like carrots or celery or mushrooms, just don't. This sauce is perfect just the way it is... But if you must go ahead and cook them out with the onions so they're super tender and melt into the sauce.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Vegetable Curry

Vegetable Curry over Brown Rice
 Wow! Day 5 and I am not missing the meat...or really the refined grains...not even the sugar! Crazy I know. I think it's been a long process to get to this point. We've gone without sugar before but the withdrawals usually last much longer. It probably helps that I'm not giving up coffee at the same time! I'm also finding some really great ways to satisfy my sweet tooth with fruit, and fruit desserts. Last night I blended up 3 cups of frozen watermelon cubes and about 1/2 cup Vanilla Soy Milk in the food processor and we had watermelon sorbet! It was refreshing and scrumptious. We also discovered Kind Bars, which are delicious! They are basically nuts, dried fruit, natural sugars, and of course we like the dark chocolate ones! But they only have 5g of sugar. Way better (for you) than a candy bar.

This morning for breakfast was oatmeal with a drizzle of agave nectar, dried cranberries, and honey roasted almond slivers (from Trader Joe's). For lunch I made a veggie wrap: whole wheat tortilla, roasted garlic hummus, spinach, roasted red peppers, tomato slices, cucumbers, carrots, cauliflower, and a little bit of feta. Yum!

Tonight for dinner I made vegetable curry. Now don't get me wrong, I'm no expert when it comes to Indian cuisine. I found a recipe awhile back and I've been tweaking it and loving it! I've changed it up enough to call it my own, so I thought I would share it. This recipe is actually one that Josh and I have enjoyed several times over the last few months. It's full of veggies and beans, and you can eat it over rice or even in a pita. It's quick and easy too so that's always a plus!

Vegetable Curry

Vegetable Oil Spray
1 Small to Medium Red Bell Pepper, diced
1 Medium Carrot, sliced
1 Medium Zuchinni, sliced
1 Can Garbanzo Beans, drained and rinsed
Curry Powder
Garlic Powder
1 to 1-1/2 cups Lite Coconut Milk
Salt Pepper

Coat a skillet with vegetable oil spray and heat over medium high heat. Add the vegetables (I usually just use whatever I've got in the fridge, but always bell pepper and carrots) and 1 Tbsp of water. Stir around and add water a tablespoon at a time as necessary to keep the veggies from burning. Cook till just soft, about 7 min, stirring occasionally. Add curry and garlic powder to the mixture. The seasoning is really to taste but don't be shy. Start with about a tablespoon curry powder and a sprinkling of garlic powder. Stir and cook for about a minute. Add the garbanzo beans and coconut milk. I usually add just enough milk to make a nice sauce, not too much though. Heat through and finish with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over brown rice and enjoy!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


At the Beach First Weekend in June!
Yesterday I made a couple of really yummy smoothies. I just have to share the links because these were some good snacks!

In the morning I needed a little extra energy because I was going to be doing some marathon cleaning. I wanted a candy bar but I decided a smoothie would be a better idea. Plus the candy bar was not an option! I found a recipe for a Pumpkin Spice Smoothie. Basically it's pumpkin puree (the kind you use at thanksgiving to make pumpkin pie), frozen banana slices, soy (or almond, or whatever non-dairy kind) milk, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, ginger, protein powder. So easy and I loved it! I omitted the protein powder, not on purpose, I just forgot. Also, I only had the prepared pumpkin pie pumpkin so there was added sugar, but either way I think it would be divine! It was like thanksgiving in a cup.

After dinner I was wanting some ice cream really badly. I thought I could possibly attempt another smoothie when I had the brilliant idea to use coconut milk and pineapple slices to make a pina colada. I thought I should see if I could find any recipes for measurements and sure enough! Here it is! I made a smaller batch and a simple substitution of adding orange juice to frozen pineapple chunks since I didn't have a can of pineapple in juice. Besides that it was lite coconut milk and frozen banana slices. It was a refreshing little treat that perked us right up. I  am planning on turning this into a pina colada sorbet very soon. And I will be investing in some popsicle molds because it is so stinkin' hot here already!

Zachy and Me Soaking up the Sun

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Super Easy Black Bean Soup

Black Bean Soup
Ah Sunday. Sundays are a bit hectic and a little bit of a cheat day every week (even if we've already had one). We usually have coffee and snacks for the choir and band between church services. Usually someone brings a lot of yummy, sugar-laiden treats, and possibly some fruit. Today I got to bring the snacks so we had a variety of bagels and cream cheese, and grapes. I had a cheese bagel and cream cheese, and creamer in my coffee. So, yeah, not quite up to par, but my only cheat for the day. We had Chipotle for lunch -- sofritos (tofu) salad bowl with brown rice, black beans, grilled peppers and onions, salsa -- delish! For dinner I made this delightful black bean soup, which we will be eating twice more this week.

I love black bean's thick and bean-y and delicious. Usually it's also bacon-y...mmm...bacon. But alas all that bacon is behind me and I have found a pretty delicious black bean soup recipe sans the meat-candy. It's from a show called "Let's Dish" on The Live Well Network. It's not a show I watch very often but I was fortunate to catch this episode. I immediately looked up the recipe and this super easy black bean soup has become our go-to. Even today when it is 100 degrees outside I am making it because we love it and it is good for you!

You can find the recipe here, but I'll share my modified version.

Black Bean Soup
2 cups diced onions
2 Tablespoons canola oil  -- I just used enough to coat the bottom of the pot
2 green bell peppers, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 oz. can black beans
2 15 oz. cans refried black beans
12 oz. vegetable broth
1 15 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
10 oz. cooked brown rice -- I used the microwave kind from Trader Joe's
1 Tablespoon chile powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaf

In a large saucepan, brown onions and bell peppers in oil over medium high heat (about 10 minutes). Add garlic and spices and cook for another minute. Adding the spices here will intensify the flavor, so if you'd like it a little milder just add them after the garlic with the rest of the ingredients. Add remaining ingredients and warm through. You can let it simmer for awhile till it thickens up a bit. Taste for seasoning and serve with whatever garnishes you like on top -- tomatoes, cilantro, avocados, lime, cheese, sour cream.

I did try my hand at making black beans myself instead of using canned. They came out perfectly and were super easy to make, just a little time consuming. Also if you can't find refried black beans you can just refry them yourself, and this way you leave out much of the fat that is added. I simply heat and mash. You're really only adding them to thicken the soup so the extra oil is unnecessary.

If you try this recipe I'd love to hear how it turns out!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Pasta Salad and a New Goal

Pasta Salad
A couple weeks ago Josh and I got a little bit of food poisoning from some not-hot-enough pulled pork. Ugh. My stomach hasn't been the same since. The last couple weeks we've eaten nothing but soup and crackers! In the meantime I started reading a new book called Veganist by Kathy Freston to help me stay motivated (or get re-motivated) to eat healthfully. As you might have been able to tell from the fact that we were eating pulled pork, we haven't really been keeping up with our goal of Dr. Fuhrman approved eating. As I started reading this book though I realized that it doesn't have to be a huge deal to eat well, I just have to be consistent about making better, healthier choices.

I decided that for the month of June -- all 30 days -- I am going to eat entirely vegetarian, also eliminating refined sugars and refined grains. The plan is also to keep the dairy to a minimum without cutting it completely. Reading the book isn't the only thing that brought about this decision. I also recently read an article in Good Housekeeping magazine about how sometimes doing something all or nothing is the best approach. Basically if you don't give yourself the option of choosing the unhealthy thing there's no debate. You just don't do it. Then I also saw an episode of The Drs. about how anyone can do anything for 30 days. One of the things they had a couple ladies do was to go vegan. (Kathy Freston was their consultant on this, which is when I first heard about her books.) I figured why can't I do that?!

So here I am. First day of June, first day of reaching for this new goal. I think the hardest thing for me will be eliminating refined sugars. I've developed quite the sweet tooth since being married to Josh. But today has been okay. I had Josh make my morning latte with vanilla soy milk and no extra sugar. Not too bad. For breakfast we had whole wheat toast with peanut butter and banana slices with blueberries on the side. We munched on fruit after our trip to the farmer's market. And for lunch we had black bean burgers on whole wheat sandwich thins with hummus, lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers, and a side of pasta salad, with strawberries for dessert. Yum! For dinner the plan is homemade veggie pizza on whole wheat dough, followed by Banana-Raspberry Sorbet.

I feel good about making healthy choices. I know it won't always be easy, especially as I come off my sugar addiction. But I believe it's worth it. I want to be healthy. I want my family to be healthy. And I am the one who controls what we eat. So really it's up to me.

Here's my Pasta Salad recipe:

1 lb Whole Wheat Pasta -- I used elbow macaroni, but you could use rotelle or whatever your fav is
Veggies -- I chopped carrots, orange bell peppers, zucchini (but pretty much anything would be good here...cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, artichokes, you could even add onion)
Roasted Red Peppers
Sliced Olives
Trader Joe's Tuscan Italian Dressing -- I used to use the Italian Dressing mix and make the dressing myself, but I just discovered that the first ingredient is SUGAR! Boo!

Boil the pasta according to package directions. I tossed the chopped veggies in with the pasta for the last three minutes of cooking to take the bite off. (I'm still getting used to eating raw veg.) Drain everything off and place in a large bowl. Add the roasted red peppers and sliced olives. Drizzle the dressing around the edge of the bowl and toss with the salad. Add more dressing as needed to suit your taste. Now put the salad into the refrigerator and chill for a couple hours. Couldn't be simpler!

Chinese Chicken and Rice Soup

 I found this great recipe and I just have to share it! It's from the Food Network website and it is delicious! Josh said it was better than the soup we usually get at our favorite Chinese food restaurant. When I first read the recipe I was a little suspicious of starting a soup with eggs and tomatoes. It just seemed odd. But after reading all the raving reviews I thought I would give it a try. It was worth it!

I did make a few tweaks to the recipe just because I can't help it! And to make it just a bit healthier. I used brown rice instead of white. I also used kale, which I pre-steamed because I find it to be a little too tough otherwise. This actually turned out to be a good thing because Jer thought the kale was broccoli and picked it all out and ate it first! I omitted the extra helping of oil at the end and just started with the sesame oil to get rid of some of the extra fat. I also only used two eggs instead of the suggested four. More than enough.  You could also leave out the chicken and I think it would be just as flavorful. The rice and eggs are more than enough to fill you up.

I've made this soup three more times since the first. Yeah it's that good. I've tried, without success, bok choy and red cabbage. Not so much. But the original suggestion of baby spinach is good. I sliced it up into little pieces for picky eaters. Overall, this recipe is a big ol' keeper! You can find it here: Chinese Chicken and Rice Soup.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Birthdays and Spanish Rice

Wow we've been busy around here! Jeremiah's and Josh's birthdays are only two weeks apart. So we've had lots of birthday celebrating, and unhealthy, but delicious eating. We've also been working on our living room area and have some great additions, including this beautiful piece of art!!!

Found the DIY plan on pinterest. Here's the website if you'd like to give it a try. It was super easy and I love the way it came out.

I haven't had much time to create any new and delicious recipes, but I have been cooking it up around here and pulling out some of our favorite recipes for birthday festivities. One of my love languages is food after all... That is one of the love languages right?

I didn't really take many pics of the food. Weird, I know! But it was just so good, or maybe we were just so hungry, everyone was halfway through their meals before I even thought of taking pics.

For Jeremiah's birthday I tried to allow him to make all the food choices. Being that he was turning three, it really wasn't a varied or exciting menu. When I asked what he wanted for breakfast he said cereal. "Really, just cereal? What about pancakes?" "No." "Waffles?" "No." "French Toast?" "No. Just cereal." Fortunately I'm the parent and I got to veto that ruling. Pancakes it is! I made the original, non-healthy version and added chocolate chips. So delish! We even used Mrs. Butterworth's. What a celebration!

Enjoying birthday pancakes!
Everyone had full tummies!
For dinner Jer requested Mac 'n' Cheese, of course. That I was willing to accomodate, simply because Josh and I both love it! Fortunately we had come across some delicious mac 'n' cheese the weekend before at Panera Bread. Apparently they have a new recipe and it's really good. We were a little jealous of Jer's meal when we ate there. So Josh asked me to figure it out. We had a plan but I decided to search the internet for a copycat recipe just in case. Guess's on the Panera website! How exciting is that! It's a white mac 'n' cheese, super creamy and yummy. You can find the recipe here. It is by no means healthy or good for you, but definitely good for a splurge.

For Josh's birthday celebration meals we went all out. I made Peanut Butter and Banana Stuffed French Toast, the recipe I posted a few weeks back. We tried it on French bread instead of the whole wheat, and I must say I like the whole wheat better. Go figure. Dinner was Josh's favorite tostadas: tinga. It's weird because it's a Mexican dish I'd never heard of till we saw them make it on America's Test Kitchen. You can find the recipe on their website. You have to sign up to get it. It's worth it. Basically it's pork shoulder braised with thyme, onions, and garlic. Once it's cooked you smash it up and fry it with chipotle, garlic, oregano, and salt. Then you eat it on top of freshly fried corn tortillas. Topped with queso fresco... it's mouthwatering! My mom made refried beans and I made Spanish rice. Yeah. There were no vegetables.

The next day we did a short "tour" of coffee shops in San Francisco. We started at Blue Bottle and had poached eggs on toast and a "waffel", which will be recreated in our kitchen this weekend. I'll let ya know how it turns out.

And then after some shopping we made our way to Four Barrel.

It was a good day!! Gosh, I love food! And coffee... and my hubby!

I know this is really long already, but if you'd like to know how to make Spanish rice, here's my recipe...

Spanish Rice
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 C Long Grain White Rice
1/4 of an Onion, diced or in long thin slices
1-1/2 C Water -- heat it in the microwave for a minute or two till it's almost boiling
1/2 C Tomato Sauce -- I usually just use regular sauce but the Pato brand is really good and spicy
S & P
Garlic Powder

Heat the oil in a sauce pan over medium high heat. When it starts to shimmer add the rice. Stir it around to coat the rice. If some of it seems dry add a little more oil. Let it cook for about 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.  You want the rice to brown but not burn. Once it starts turning golden add the onion and cook for another couple minutes to soften the onion. When the onion is translucent and the rice is golden brown, add the water and the tomato sauce.  Season liberally with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Taste as you go. This is your only chance to season it so make sure it's good. Bring it to a boil then lower heat to low, cover and let simmer for 15-20 minutes. Check at 15 and stir it up if it needs it. Eat up!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Egg and Black Bean Breakfast Burritos

Burritos are amazing. You can basically put anything in a tortilla and it'll taste good. Now, I'm not recommending this, but my dad puts tuna in his tortillas. My mom swears they grew up eating peanut butter and jelly burritos. And one of the only ways I'll eat mayo is is rolled up in a warm corn tortilla. So good!

That being said, I almost feel silly posting a recipe for a burrito. Seems like such a simple thing. What I'm really sharing is the way I learned to make amazing scrambled eggs from watching "The Chew". Thanks to Michael Symon and Mario Battali for teaching me what I should have known for at least the last 10 years!

But, before I get to that, I must tell you that the best breakfast burrito I have ever had by far was at a restaurant called "Soup Nuts and Java Jazz" on Maui during Josh's and my honeymoon. It was the most random little cafe, but that burrito has been recreated time and again in my kitchen! It was pretty simple actually -- chorizo and eggs, black beans, cheddar cheese. Served on a bed of Spanish rice with a side of salsa. OMG! So flippin' good!!! Try it sometime. You'll love it!

Anyway, back to my weekend burrito, and making delicious scrambled eggs! They're super easy and buttery. So good!
Jeremiah enjoying his burrito!
Egg and Black Bean Burritos
4 eggs, scrambled
1/2 cup black beans
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar or 4 white American cheese slices, torn
4 soft tacos size flour tortillas (I used whole wheat tortillas)
2-3 Tbsp Butter
Salt to taste

You wanna start with a good size pan, 10 or 12 in. Heat it to about medium heat. While it's heating crack your eggs and scramble them up really well. Do not salt! Now drop a couple pats of butter, maybe even a tablespoon into the pan. Swirl it around the pan to coat. When it starts bubbling (not browning) it's ready. Pour the eggs into the pan and add some more butter. Let it sit for a bit, just about 15-20 seconds. Using a spatula swirl the eggs in long sweeping motions. Add salt and continue to stir the eggs. As they're beginning to cook through add the beans and cheese and keep stirring till the eggs are cooked, glossy, not browned or over cooked. They almost look under cooked, but don't worry, turn them off, remove from heat, and let them sit while you heat up the tortillas.

Heat your tortillas on a cast iron griddle or directly over a gas burner. Make each burrito as the tortillas are heated. Before you put the egg/bean mixture into the tortilla, put some extra cheese onto the tortilla. Don't overfill, wrap it up, and enjoy! You can add salsa, homemade or Tapatio. So delicious!

If you're a visual person you can check out the clip of Michael Symon making the perfect scrambled eggs (along with the entire steak and scrambled egg tacos recipe) here.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Super-Healthy (and Delicious!) Pancakes

Whole Wheat & Flax Pancakes
 Finally! I got to make my pancakes! Now, of course, since we're on the track to better health I made a bunch of changes and crossed my fingers hoping that the "super healthy" version of my normally "super delicious" pancakes would be just as good. And they all of our surprise and delight! I added blueberries, which Jeremiah did NOT like! He spit out the first bite and said it was too juicy. Funny he never does that when I add chocolate chips. We proceeded to cut every blueberry out of his pancakes, and he ended up eating like 4 of them in pieces. Silly boy!

I found this recipe in a fun little cookbook my MIL gave me. It has copycat recipes of restaurant meals, and this one is for IHOP buttermilk pancakes. Now I've always made a few healthy tweaks of my own to add bulk and make up for the butter and sugar, but today I went all the way. After a few calculations I have discovered that this recipe makes 12 pancakes each with 80 calories, less than 1 g fat, 16.6 carbs, 2 g fiber, and 2.5 g protein! (These calculations do not include blueberries, but those are practically free!) I think that is a win-win.

I cooked them on a griddle lightly sprayed with canola oil. And we topped them with all-natural maple syrup. Delish!

Super Healthy Whole Wheat & Flax Pancakes
1-1/4 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Baking Powder
Pinch of Salt
1-1/4 cups Vanilla Soy Milk
1 Tbsp Ground Flaxseed mixed into 3 Tbsp Water
1/4 cup All Natural Applesauce - I used the cinnamon flavored kind from Trader Joe's.
3 Tbsp Agave Syrup - you can use honey or sugar or whatever you like, but I used Agave.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, soda, powder, and salt. In a separate bowl combine the soy milk with the flaxseed/water combo. Add to the dry mixture and stir until just combined. Add the applesauce and agave and mix it all together. At this point you can add any fruit or chocolate chips if you would like.

Scoop by 1/4 cupfuls onto a prepared skillet sprayed lightly with canola oil. I wipe down the pan between each pancake so there's no burnt oil or pancake bits, then spray again. Cook 1 to 2 minutes on each side until browned.

I had mine with a home made latte on the side. Thanks Josh!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Eat Your Greens!

Eat To Live book coverMy most recent stop on the journey to healthful eating is this great little book called "Eat to Live" by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. It has really changed the way I think about food. I read it before Christmas and told Josh that I would love to adjust our eating to fit the plan as soon as the holidays were behind us. He, of course, said "yes" thinking that I would get over it by then. Little did he know... (Stranger Than Fiction, anyone?) I finally convinced him to read it this last month, and now he is all about it! It's great to have him on board with it. He is so good at making healthy changes when he's convinced.

We really started wholeheartedly, although not 100% on the diet, this week. We've both lost a little over 2 pounds in only a few days! It's crazy! I think the small changes I had made before this week were what kept me from putting on a bunch of weight during all the holiday festivities and the emotional ups and downs of postpartum. This book is also what started me on a path toward vegetarianism, or what Dr. Fuhrman calls "nutritarianism". Basically it means eating food that is nutrient-rich instead of empty calories.

I've decided that my health and the health of my family is important enough for me to learn to eat veggies. So here we are. When I started this blog it was because of this journey from "meat and potatoes to leeks and tomatoes"! I literally had never tasted a leek when I wrote that...not very long ago I might add.

Over this last week of wholehearted healthful eating I've been more in experiment mode than anything. I am trying to figure out which recipes I love and which I could live without. Also, I have been trying to figure out how to make everything as tasty as possible using only high-nutirent foods. Many of Dr. Fuhrman's recipes are quite good as they are, but I don't know if I could have or would have enjoyed them if I had not been adapting my taste buds over the last few years.

Well, this first recipe is straight from the book. I had avoided it because it seemed scary to me. I mean "Eat Your Greens Smoothie" just sounds like a trick you play on someone to make something healthy seem like something fun. It kind of is. But in the most surprisingly delicious way! I made it yesterday because I was having weird cravings and I was trying to avoid eating an entire bag of chocolate...chips...the Costco size one. Yeah. Anyway, I was a little intimidated by all the spinach that was going into my blender. The other ingredients didn't seem so bad though. I hoped they would make up for all the greens. And they did!

So here it is. Do give it a try. Don't be afraid of all the good-for-you stuff.

Eat Your Greens Smoothie (1/2 the recipe for 1 serving)
2.5 oz (Baby) Spinach - if you don't have a food scale just take two really huge handfuls
1/2 large Banana
1/2 cup Frozen Blueberries
1/4 cup Pomegranate Juice - this adds a lot of flavor to smoothies and is super good for you! It's worth a little extra dinero.
1/4 cup Vanilla Soy Milk (or Almond milk)
1/2 Tbsp Ground Flaxseed

Throw it all into the blender and blend away. You may have to stop and mix it up a bit and get it all blended. Pour it into a glass and drink up!

I know it looks gross, but it is really good, I promise! Give it a try and let me know what you think. This is more spinach than I thought I would ever eat in a day, let alone a smoothie! I am so healthy!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Portabella and Leek Marinara

I love cooking. It calms me down somehow. I think it's the thought of eating that comforts me so much! Some people talk about the joy of seeing someone else enjoy what you've made. That's nice and all, but for me it's all about getting to sit down and eat it myself! Call me selfish, but I love food. What can I say. I make no excuses.

Every Valentine's Day Josh and I have spaghetti and watch a chick flick. We don't like crowds so we avoid restaurants on V-day at all costs. Josh usually cooks, but since he's working today and there's not much time between when he gets home and the boys' bed time, it's all me. I thought I would start early on the sauce. We've been trying to eat healthier and incorporate some good-for-you foods into our diet that we haven't always eaten, like mushrooms. Josh says he doesn't like fungus. I don't blame him. But since I've learned to eat avocados I think he can learn to eat fungus!

Hungry Girl taught me that portabellas make a good substitute for meat. So I decided to incorporate them into our spaghetti sauce. I forgot to buy onions and since I had leeks on hand, I thought what-the-heck, why not? I love marinara because, like salsa, it's kind of a free-for-all. You really can throw just about anything yummy and Italian in there and it comes out great.

So here is my newly discovered combination. Hope you like it!

Portabella and Leek Marinara
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Leek
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
4 oz Portabella Mushrooms, diced into small pieces
1 Tbsp Tomato Paste
2-28 oz cans Crushed Tomatoes
S & P
Italian seasonings - I used dried thyme, oregano, basil, and fresh rosemary.

In a large skillet or deep sauce pan heat the oil over medium high heat. When the oil is shimmering add the leek. If you've never cooked with leeks before, check out this video on how to prep them. Saute the leeks for a few minutes until they start to soften. Add minced garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, until garlic is fragrant.

Now add the mushrooms. I chopped mine up pretty good so they give the illusion of meat. Let everything continue to cook out for a few minutes till the mushrooms brown up, but don't burn. If you like mushroom flavor you can add up to 8 oz. They cook down pretty well.

Once everything is nice and brown and smells like Italian heaven, add the tomato paste, and stir it around to cook up for another 30 seconds. Once it's fragrant and cooked out a bit, add the crushed tomatoes. Stir it all together to incorporate everything. Season to taste. I start with a couple good pinches of salt and lots of black pepper, then add about a handful of each of the dried herbs. You can always add the "Italian Seasonings" blend. That's what I used to use when I first started cooking.

Let the sauce simmer for as long as you've got, but at least for a half hour. The longer it simmers the more the flavors come together. Add any fresh herbs at the end just before serving.

We'll eat this with whole wheat spaghetti and a sprinkling of parmesan, and sourdough bread, followed by homemade chocolate covered strawberries.  Mwah-ha-ha!!!

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tuna Salad in Lettuce Cups

One of my favorite lunches to eat with my mom and sis is a tuna sandwich with Ramen or chicken noodle soup. I don't know why we always pair these, but we do. The first time I suggested this as a lunch option to Josh, and subsequently every time thereafter, he said, "Um yuck!" Apparently it's not a conventional pairing, but one I've grown up with and love!

Josh did make my tuna eating experience much better the first time we made tuna together. I actually hate mayonnaise. It's something I cannot stand in a sandwich. I have always eaten them dry. I refuse to eat any sort of mayo-based salads... chicken salad, potato salad, anything with mayo...eeewww! There are only two exceptions I make. The first being tuna. I don't like a lot of mayo, but it's one way I will eat it. The other is on a freshly warmed corn tortilla. Just mayo. So good. I don't know why, but it's delicious. Trust me. Try it.

Back to my tuna making with Josh. He likes to add all sorts of things to his tuna that I would have never before considered. But since I have been expanding my food horizons, and since I could toss it and start over if I wanted, I decided to give it a go. These yummy little additions have made my tuna so much tastier. A far cry from the mayo only, and occasional pickles of my past.

I have also started adding veggies. Go figure. Tuna is another great way to hide vegetables. Dice them up really small and you've got lots of flavor and few complaints from the veg haters. Eating it in lettuce cups instead of bread will save you lots of calories, carbs, and even some fat!

Tuna Salad in Lettuce Cups
1 can Tuna
1-2 Tbsp Mayonnaise (you can always use a vegan-naise like the one at Trader Joe's)
Dehydrated Onion Flakes
Garlic Pepper
Red Pepper Flakes
Dill Relish
Diced vegetables - I've tried and enjoyed celery, carrots, tomatoes, red bell pepper.
Butter Lettuce

Start by removing any wilted outer lettuce leaves, then pull off the nice leaves whole. Rinse and pat dry. Next dice your veggies. If you want them really small you could even grate them or stick them in a food processor. Now assemble your salad. Dump the tuna in a bowl and add the mayo. I start with one tablespoon and then add more in necessary. Now add your spices and onions. I usually shake a goodly amount over my tuna. There's no measuring just pouring. Start with a little then add more if necessary.

If you've never tried dill relish you should. I resisted it for so long because I hate sweet relish (and sweet pickles) but it tastes exactly like chopped dill pickles. I have always eaten my tuna with dill pickles - it's yummy! I usually add about a teaspoon to start.

Now mix it all up and taste. You can add a little salt if you'd like. I usually add a dash. If it needs more of something, add it. If it needs less, make a note for next time because you can't take it out! Once you've got the mixture just right scoop your tuna into your lettuce cups. Perfection!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Vegetarian Fried Rice

I loooooove rice! I've always said that I could live off rice alone. And I think I could. Have you ever seen that show "My Strange Addiction" on TLC? Yeah, if someone could live off dryer sheets, I think I could live off rice! Steamed white rice with soy sauce is my go to. It's comfort food at it's finest. Ok, I know this is not true for everyone, but when I need something to calm my tummy or my emotions, the rice maker is my best friend! The stove top method is just as easy but takes a little more attention.

Rice is great because you can do so many things with it. And I love all kinds of rice. Spanish rice. Fried rice. Brown rice. Rice pilaf. Even Rice-a-Roni! Fried rice is quick and easy. I love it because you can make it with whatever you've got in the fridge: veggies, meat, day-old rice.

I usually use a combination of olive and sesame oils to add a little extra flavor right off the bat. Sometimes I'll throw in diced onions and grated garlic, and ginger, if I have some. Lots of delicious flavor right there. Standard fried rice veggies are carrots, broccoli, peas. I've also seen red bell pepper, and jalapenos in Thai fried rice. It all depends on your taste preferences. I like to finish my fried rice off with soy sauce to make it extra yummy.

The fried rice I made this time was the easiest I've ever made. I used a couple handfuls of my Broccoli Slaw and Kale Salad in place of chopped vegetables. The salad is so hearty, and uses veggies not just greens, so it stands up to the cooking really well. I also tried Bragg's Liquid Aminos instead of soy sauce. I had bought this awhile back because I've seen a lot of recipes that use it in place of soy sauce. I never tried it though because I love soy sauce so much and I was worried that the Liquid Aminos wouldn't be as good. But it was! The flavor is a little different but still just as yummy. I found that I was able to use less of the Liquid Aminos than of the soy sauce, since it is a little saltier. You can find out more about Liquid Aminos at the Bragg Live Food website.

Vegetarian Fried Rice
1 Tbsp each Olive Oil and Sesame Oil
1/4 cup diced onions
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 in fresh ginger, grated
2 cups cooked day-old rice (white or brown)
2 eggs scrambled
1 cup mixed veggies
Soy Sauce

Heat the oils together in a large saute pan or wok. When the oil is hot add onions and cook out for a minute or so until the onions appear translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds or so. I use a microplane to grate the garlic and ginger so there is no chance of biting into big chunks, just lots of flavor.

Next add the rice. You can break up the clumps of rice using your spatula. Toss the rice in the oil, onion and garlic mixture to coat the rice. Let it cook and heat through. It should be sizzling. While it cooks you can scramble your eggs. Once the rice is warmed up, push the rice to the sides of the pan and drop the eggs in the well you've created. Move them around to cook. Once they are mostly cooked begin to incorporate them into the rice. Mix it all up.

Now you can add the veggies. I like to use pre-cooked veggies. If you don't have any, just cut them up small so that they cook quickly. If you'd like you can blanch the veggies by boiling them for 2-3 minutes and then removing them from the water. The 1 cup measurement is just a guess-timate. I will usually cut up a carrot, half a zucchini, a small head of broccoli, a handful of frozen green beans, and/or a quarter of a red bell pepper. So it's likely there's more than a cup of veggies. Either way, toss all the veggies in with the rice and eggs and mix it all up. You can cover it at this point to cook the veggies if you need to. Let them heat through if they are already cooked.

Lastly, add the soy sauce. I never measure this part. Usually I will swirl it over the pan a few times all the way around, then toss. Taste it, and add more if necessary. Remember it's ok to start with less and then add a little at a time till it's right. You can't take it out once you've added too much.

We ate ours with Aidell's Teriyaki Chicken and Pineapple Meatballs, which I warmed in Yoshida's and Soy Sauce. We had to add some meat! 

Breakfast Sandwich

I love a great sandwich for breakfast. As a child I would only eat cereal for breakfast. Even in high school I hated breakfast. The eggs were just too egg-y and the oatmeal too squishy! Now don't get me wrong I have always loved a good pancake or French toast, but that's basically the same as cereal...bread and sugar! YUM!

Now I love a bowl of oatmeal or an omelet for breakfast. But I really love a breakfast sandwich! So much so that for Christmas last year my mom bought me a breakfast sandwich toaster! It's awesome and easy for making a quick sandwich. But when I have a little more time I like to prep all my ingredients and put it together hot. So good!

Healthy breakfast sandwich recipes are abundant. Here's the basic recipe I use:

Healthy Breakfast Sandwich
1 low-calorie, whole-wheat English muffin
1 whole egg
1 slice of extra-lean turkey bacon
1 oz cheese

If you're going to cook your bacon you will want to start there. Trader Joe's has a great Turkey Bacon that is nitrate free and really tasty. We still fry ours in some oil to make it more bacon-y, which adds calories and fat, but also makes it yummier. You can also use Canadian bacon instead of turkey bacon. I even used some Black Forest Ham the other day, which was delish too!

Next, pop your bread in the toaster. Meanwhile cook your egg. I prefer mine scrambled, and if you use a small pan it's just about the right size. Or you can use a bigger pan and fold it all up to fit your bread. I like to use the Thomas' Light Multi-Grain English muffins. They only have 100 calories and a third of your fiber for the day! They're a little sweet, so if you prefer something more savory, Josh likes the 100% whole wheat English muffins from Orowheat.

Once everything is cooked up, assemble your sandwich and enjoy!

The additional toppings are endless, and depending on your goal for breakfast (i.e. keep you full, get your metabolism going, something easy, etc.) you can pile it up! You can substitute avocado for the cheese to get rid of the bad fats (cheese is actually one of the worst kinds of fat you can add next to trans fats!) and add some healthy fat. Avocado is also good for keeping the mayo or extra butter out of your meal. Tomatoes will add moisture. Spinach is a great way to incorporate raw greens. BTW I always use baby spinach. It's more tender and you hardly know it's there. Since Jeremiah has been eating eggs I have always chopped up baby spinach and scrambled it right in. One day he'll figure out eggs aren't supposed to be green!

Get creative! And have a healthy breakfast that will keep you full for hours.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Menu For The Week

I must admit that my menu is a goal for me, kinda like my skinny jeans. It's an ideal that I hold up and then shoot for. Sometimes I aim and bulls eye! Sometimes I aim and don't even hit the target. That's ok though, not the end of the world. I like to have a plan in case I need it, and most days I do. It helps me remember to pull meat out of the freezer in the morning instead of force thawing everything at the last minute. It pulls my shopping list together quickly and makes my bill a lot smaller. I do try to use what I've already got and minimal extras. It doesn't always work out. Like sometimes I just have to make that beautiful dinner I saw them make on America's Test Kitchen. Their recipes always turn out exactly wonderful. Or I'll want to try a new technique I saw on some other show...not really. It's usually America's Test Kitchen! We love our Saturday morning PBS! That's what having no paid cable will do to ya. Oh well. Many a memorable Saturday night's dinner came about from a morning of cooking shows. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Anyway, the planning part usually starts with a mental inventory of what is in the fridge. Then I either look up recipes or fish through my magazines and recipe box for the tried and true ones. Sometimes I'm craving something and that'll go on the menu. Once I've got the plan I go look in the refrigerator to see what is actually in there and if there's anything I missed. My grocery list is made from there. Nothing fancy.

So here's this week's menu:
B - Dr. Oz's Berry Strong Smoothie - I saw him make it last week and am excited to try it!
L - Chickpea Sandwich (We made this last week and it was a little onion-y so this time I'll rinse the onions before they go it. We've seen Rick Bayless do this a lot and it has always worked to take the bite out.) with Veggies and Greek Yogurt Dip
D - Roasted Cauliflower and Leek Soup, (I didn't make it this weekend) Mediterranean Vegetable Penne (from an old Clean Eating Magazine. They've got lots of recipes on their site, but not this one. They also have clean meal plans with shopping lists if you're looking for help in that area.)

B - Oatmeal with Bananas, Honey, & Almonds
L - Turkey Chili (left over from last week)
D - Black Bean Chicken

B - Smoothie
L - Salad & Roasted Cauliflower Soup
D - Grilled Shrimp with Veggie Stir Fry

B - Toast with Peanut Butter & Bananas
L - Left over Chicken Succotash & Sweet Potatoes
D - At my mom's house. Last week we had Turkey Spaghetti. It was awesome!

B - Pancakes (I will make them this week!)
L - Veggie Fried Rice - This usually consists of day old white rice tossed together with whatever random veggies I've got in the fridge. I'll post pictures and a basic recipe.
D - Steak (Cooked in a cast iron pan it's sooo good! This is all Josh!), Whole Wheat Freezer Rolls, Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Veggies

B - Omelettes
L - Left over Penne or Soup
D - Out...or maybe I'll crack open the giant can of Que Bueno I just bought at Costco. They were giving samples. I couldn't help myself.

That about does it. I'm going to track my foods this week and see what I am actually able to stick to. I intended to go mostly veg after the new year, but it is almost February and yesterday our menu consisted of the trifecta: breakfast burritos, pizza for lunch, and burgers for dinner. Not exactly healthy. Definitely not meat free. Here's to a healthier week!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Peanut Butter Banana Stuffed French Toast

Peanut Butter Banana Stuffed French Toast
Before Josh and I were married I had never made french toast. Actually after we were married I would use it as an excuse to get him to make breakfast whenever we were craving it (or I just didn't want to cook!)! It seemed like such a difficult thing to me for some reason. I'm a rule follower kind of person so to not have a recipe made it seem like such an impossibility. As I learned how to let go and let cooking become an art I realized that I could do much more without a recipe than I ever thought.

Either way, french toast isn't very difficult at all. I don't know why I was so scared of it. Last week I saw a post somewhere about a grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich, which to me seemed like DUH! We eat peanut butter banana toast at least 3 times a week around here. I had to figure out how to make that better, more weekend appropriate, glam it up so to speak. Well, here you have it: Peanut Butter Banana French Toast with Honey Drizzle. So unfancy. So good!

I was going to make pancakes on Friday, but this sounded so much more appetizing. It was just as easy and rather quick once the sandwiches were made. I added a little cinnamon to the eggs and it was perfect.

Peanut Butter Banana French Toast
8 slices Whole Wheat Bread
4 Tbsp Creamy Peanut Butter
1 Banana
3 Eggs (you can use just egg whites if you want to save a few calories, but you'll need more eggs)

First, prepare your eggs. I use a square pyrex dish. Crack the eggs in, sprinkle with cinnamon, (as much or as little as you like, you really can't go wrong!) and scramble them up. Heat a large skillet or griddle on medium heat.

Meanwhile, on a plate or cutting board assemble your sandwiches. I used about a tablespoon of peanut butter per sandwich, but it's up to you how much you like. I didn't want mine oozing out while I was cooking so I spread it thin, a little on each slice of bread. Next, slice the banana onto one slice of bread with peanut butter. I'm a little anal about having thin slices and lining them up just so. You'll probably only use about 1/4 of a medium banana.

Close each sandwich and press the edges together to decrease the chance of anything flying out when you flip it. You can do this to each sandwich right before you place it into the eggs. You may want more or fewer banana slices, but really they're just there to enhance the flavor, not be the flavor. Go ahead and place the sandwich into the egg mixture. Move it around to coat, then flip and do the same on the other side. When you're ready to cook, drop a good sized pat of butter onto your griddle or skillet. If it melts and foams up immediately you've got the right temperature. If it browns really fast, turn the heat down just a bit. Spread it around to coat the cooking surface. Remember you're going to flip the sandwich and you want there to be enough butter so it doesn't stick or burn. I used a stainless steel griddle so I needed more butter than if I had used, say, a non-stick skillet.

Next, put the sandwich onto the griddle or skillet right in the butter. Let it cook for a minute or two. The goal here is to cook the egg and warm the sandwich. You want it to be browned and crisp on the outside and ooey and gooey on the inside. Once it starts to brown flip it over carefully. Press down on the edges and let it cook for another minute, until it's browned on the second side.

Serve it up! I drizzled honey over mine. Then we added a drizzle of real maple syrup. Then I added honey roasted almond slivers from Trader Joe's. Sorry I don't have a picture of all of that. I ate it too fast!  Josh had his with just syrup. And you can have yours however you like too!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

I'm not a big chili fan. I don't know why. It's really yummy and can be so good for you. The only time I used to eat chili was in a bread bowl at Boudin on Pier 39 in San Francisco. About a year-and-a-half ago we started working with Least of These Ministries, which is a local ministry to the needy here in Tracy. Once a month our church provides a hot meal for them to take to the homeless people they've developed relationships with. It's a really cool ministry and Brian and Lydia who run the ministry are great! Anyway, they asked us to try to provide healthy meals as the food available to most homeless people is totally unhealthy. So in my search for healthy meals that would be easy to make in large quantities I came across a Jaime Oliver chili recipe. It was choc full of healthy ingredients: beans, tomatoes, peppers and onions. It turned out it was also full of flavor! Everyone loved it. We even came home and made a batch for ourselves!

Since then I've not been able to find the recipe online again and only have the one I saved from somewhere in cyber space. I have made a few changes here and there, the main one being that I use ground turkey instead of beef and sausage. Gotta save the calories where we can, but there's no way I would do it at the expense of flavor!

Turkey Chili
1 pound ground Turkey - I use the dark/white meat mix because it has a little more flavor and breaks apart more like ground beef. You can feel free to use all white meat.
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 green bell pepper diced

2  stalks chopped celery
2 (28-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
1 (28-ounce) can whole, peeled tomatoes
Ground cumin
Chili powder
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 package chili seasoning mix*

S & P
Shredded cheddar, sour cream, chopped green onions, for garnish

*Chili seasoning recipe follows

In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and celery. I use a chopper to make sure my veggies are diced small. If you have a picky eater you're trying to fool you can put them in the food processor and chop away. They'll still cook up the same and add the same flavor, they just won't be discernible to those little eyes!

Saute for a couple minutes till the onions become translucent. Push the veggies to the side and add the meat in the middle. You may need more oil at this point, but give it a try without at first. Add cumin and chili powder, salt and pepper. I don't measure at this point, just a nice sprinkling over everything. You've got to season turkey a little more heavily than you would beef or sausage.

Break up the meat and let it all cook out till the meat is browned. While it cooks up, get your slow cooker heating up. Drain and rinse all the beans.

Add the beans and all the tomatoes to the crock pot. I always use the diced tomatoes, but I've been know to substitute whatever I have in the pantry for the whole peeled tomatoes. If you don't have time to let it cook all day crushed tomatoes or even tomato sauce works as a substitute. You could even just leave out the extra if you want it chunkier. I promise the end result is not "tomato-y" as it might seem like it could be, so please don't leave out the tomatoes for that reason. I have also discovered petite diced tomatoes which would help with cooking time as well. Anyway, at this point it may seem that it's not all going to fit in the crock pot, but trust me it will! 
Once the meat is browned add the meat and veggies to the pot.

Now comes the fun part: make the chili seasoning! You can find the original recipe here. I made some changes based on my taste and what I had on hand the first time so this is how I make it:

Chili Seasoning
1 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried leaf oregano
1 Tbsp seasoned salt
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp instant minced onion
1 tsp garlic powder (NOT garlic salt!)

Combine ingredients and add it all to the chili! Mix it in and add S & P to taste. Let the chili cook all day on low. My crock pot is crazy hot so I can hardly ever leave anything all day. The general rule is 5 hours on high and 8 on low. Mine is about 5 hours on low. It won't hurt the chili to cook longer than these guidelines. It's really hearty. Taste it and add salt and pepper to your liking. I like to under season just in case the cheese is salty. Everyone can add a little extra salt or pepper if they need it. Serve with your favorite chili toppings or try cheddar cheese, sour cream/greek yogurt, or green onions.

Feel free to drool. I think the bowl is!