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.