Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Birthday Trip - Ecopolitan Review - Best Raw Food Ever!!

For my birthday my family headed up to Minneapolis for a quick weekend trip. We spent Friday at the Mall of America, mostly at the amusement park inside.


The big girls and my husband rode the rides...


While baby G and I hung out (no rides for this recovering back!!)


We bought the girls cotton candy because they had never tried it before and they decided they weren't missing much.


Saturday we did the stuff I really wanted to do.


1. I got to read in bed while my husband took the kids swimming.

2. We went to Ikea (we don't have one here) and I got new dishes, and a new duvet cover for our bed.

http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/90131657


3. We went to this amazing raw food restaurant called Ecopolitan.


ECOPOLITAN


 I cannot stop talking about it. It was so good. We had never eaten at a raw food place before so this was a fun adventure. The restaurant is in a converted old house and the atmosphere is just perfect. The waitress was so nice and she was so patient with us and all of our questions. ("What's in this?" "Can we get the recipe?")


We ordered 4 entries and we all shared. The portions were big and plenty filling. We ordered:


Rawvioli



* I loved the Rawvioli best. The vinaigrette on the greens was to die for and the cashew "cheese" was delicious.


Flax seed Tostadas



* This was my husband's favorite. The tostada shells were made out of flax seeds and other seeds and the dehydrated.


Hummus Plate


* I was apparently so excited I couldn't take an in focus picture.


Pesto Pizza

* I was apparently so excited I didn't take a picture


* I love how you can make crusts and things in the dehydrator. The pesto was great.


Dessert:


Caramel Apple Pie


* We couldn't wait to take a picture
*My husband said this was the best thing he had ever tasted.


Ice Cream Parfait


* We just could not get over this ice cream made from frozen pears, dates, and coconut oil. It was so awesome.






 The most awesome thing about their desserts is that they only use fruit and dates to sweeten them. I truly felt inspired by our trip to Ecopolitan. I want to try making more things raw and I want to really only rely on dates and other fruit for my desserts.


Sunday night we made an attempt at the apple pie. I will post our results on Friday.


A was in a CRABBY mood the whole time. She kept asking to go to Old McDonalds (gag!) E was uncharacteristically adventurous and she tried everything.



Baby G was an angel as usual.


The kids were knocked out by the end...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Meatless Monday: Vegan "Not" Mac N Cheese and Scenes from a birthday dinner

A few weeks ago I made this for dinner. The girls were playing outside and I told them I was making mac n cheese. They came in a little later with their cheeks all pink from the cold air and they were ready for some warm cheesy mac n cheese. When they tried it, they started to complain right away. "Mom, this is NOT mac n cheese!!" "Mom, when you said you were making mac n cheese I thought you were making the stuff in the box!!" Needless to say it was not a success. But my husband and I loved it so I thought I would give it another chance at a later time.

Flash forward to my birthday dinner last week. This time I did not call it mac n cheese. I just called it pasta. And I used spaghetti noodle instead of macaroni. The result: The girls scarfed it down and even had seconds. Here is a little dialogue from the dinner:

Me: Girls, how do you like the dinner?
Girls: It's delicious!
Me: You know I made this same thing for you before and you said it was gross and you wouldn't eat it.
Girls: What? You never made this before!!

The moral of the story: It's all about presentation. This really is sooooo delicious and there is no cheese in it. The ingredients might seems a bit weird, but trust me, it is awesome.

I got this recipe from Liz at Flay Rah. I made a few changes. Here is my version:


Vegan "Not" Macaroni & Cheese

What You Need:
Pasta:
water
pinch of sea salt
16 ounces whole grain macaroni or pasta of any shape

“Cheese” Sauce:
2 shallot, peeled and chopped
2cup red potatoes (1 to 1.5 medium potatoes), peeled and chopped
1/2 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
2 clove garlic, minced
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup raw cashews (or tahini) ( I used cashews)
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/8 cup coconut oil
2 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

What You Do:
Cover the shallots, potatoes, carrots, garlic with water in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and simmer for 15 minutes, or until vegetables are very soft.

While the vegetables are simmering, bring the water and salt to a boil in a large pot. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain pasta (do not rinse) and set aside with the lid on to keep pasta warm.

Process the cashews, salt, garlic, coconut oil, mustard, lemon juice and black pepper in a blender or food processor with 1 cup almond milk. Drain water from softened vegetables and add to blender, process until perfectly smooth .

In a large bowl, toss the cooked pasta and blended cheese sauce until completely coated. Serve immediately.

** So good.
**This is also really good as leftovers, cold straight from the fridge.

Here are some scenes from the b-day dinner:

"Not" Mac n Cheese with a vinaigrette salad

My Dining table has become my homeschool desk and kind of the dumping place for everything else so...

We crowded around the small kitchen table and watched a NCAA basketball game.

** This is proof of what a great wife I am. I made my own b-day dinner and I let my husband watch a b-ball game. If you know me personally, you know how much I LOVE watching sports!!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Weigh In - Low fat, Vegan Fudge Cookies

I did my weigh in a day early because I didn't want the weigh in hanging over my head during my birthday dinner. So I lost 3 pounds this week. Yay! So far I have lost 10 poundsin 4 weeks. I am really happy about that. So I want to lose another 7 pounds or so. I know I can do it.

For my birthday dinner I made a vegan version of mac-n-cheese that I will post next week and a green salad with basil vinaigrette and these fudge cookies. The original recipe comes from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen.

One cookie is only 1 weight watcher point - if you care to know.

Balsamic Fudge Cookies
These fudgy cookies have three chocolate enhancers: cinnamon, prunes, and balsamic vinegar. You probably won’t be able to detect any of them in the finished product, but they lend the cookies a deeper, more chocolaty taste.


1 cup white wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch cinnamon (optional)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

2/3 cup coconut sugar
1/2 cup prune puree (see note)
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar


Preheat oven to 350 F. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Mix the flour, soda, cinnamon, and salt together and set aside.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix the prune puree with the sugar and cocoa and stir to combine. Add the yogurt, vanilla extract, and balsamic and stir until mixed. Finally, add the flour mixture and stir just until it’s combined—don’t over-mix.

Using a cookie scoop or tablespoon, drop tablespoons of the dough onto the baking sheets about 1 1/2-inches apart. Using the back of a spoon, flatten each cookie slightly and sprinkle with vanilla sugar. Place them in the oven. Bake for about 9 to 11 minutes—be careful not to burn the bottoms!

Remove from the oven and lift the parchment paper or silicone mats onto cooling racks. Allow to cool completely. These taste best cold and somehow even better the next day. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

* I used baby food pureed prunes.

** The original recipe said these were fat free but they also used soy yogurt, which I guess is fat free. I uses low fat plain yogurt instead because I am not a fan of soy.

We ate these with peanut butter ice cream and with a chocolate sauce on top. It was really rich and I ate too much.

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

2 cups almond milk
6 frozen bananas
2 huge scoops of natural peanut butter

Blend up.

Chocolate Sauce

1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp cocoa powder

Mix oil and syrup in small pot over low heat. Once combined and thin, remove from heat and mix in cocoa till smooth.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Meatless Wednesday? Barley Risotto and another way to eat falafel

Last night there was a tornado that touched down about 25 miles from here and it was possibly heading our way. Of course this was right at dinner time. So I turned off the stove and the fam headed down to our basement. We spent almost 2 hours down there and it was SO fun, I tell you. Now some of my real fancy friends were probably living it up down in their finished basements but we were hunkered down amongst our boxes in what were lovingly refer to as "the dungeon." As tornado season approaches we decide after last night that we need to create a tornado retreat down there with some seating, treats, and entertainment.

Anyhow, we all survived and then we headed up to eat a new recipe I tried with millet, white beans, and cauliflower. It was not a big hit. So it was basically a great end to a fun filled night.

Anyhow, I missed my meatless Monday post so here is a recipe for a meatless Wednesday. You can do meatless more than one day a week, you know!! I go this recipe from ohsheglows.com.

Easy Creamy Tomato Barley Risotto


Here is the risotto with a side of steamed broccoli and a salad with the vegan ranch dressing.


Adapted from Vegan Yum Yum Cookbook.
Yield: ~2 cups
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup dry pot barley
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1.5 cups canned pureed/diced tomatoes (15 oz can)
  • 1 cup almond milk (or other milk)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (provides the cheesy/creamy taste)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp sea salt, to taste

Directions: Rinse pot barley in a strainer and place into medium sized pot that has a lid. Add olive oil, basil, and oregano and stir well until barley is coated with oil. Turn heat to medium until barley begins to sizzle.
Once the barley sizzles, add in the minced garlic and reduce heat to low-medium. Cook for 1 minute and then add in the tomatoes, milk, water, nutritional yeast,  and salt. Stir well and bring to a gentle boil and then cover and reduce heat to low.

Cook, covered (with a bit of air escaping) for 30-35 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, being careful not to burn the barley on the bottom of the pot.

The mixture should be creamy, but not soupy, and the barley will be very chewy and not mushy. Serve immediately. Serves 4 side dishes and makes 2 cups worth.

** This recipe originally called for miso, which I don't have so I just added a bit more salt. Start low on salt and then add more if it needs it.

** The kids did not love this but it was something different and my husband and I enjoyed it. But it is pretty rich to me. I could not eat a tone of it.

Here is another fun way to eat falafel... on a salad. I just dropped falafel on a bed of romaine lettuce with cucumbers, tomatoes, some drops of hummus, and then drizzled it with tahini dressing. It was yummy!!


** Check out this commercial. Doesn't it make you want a Big Mac??

Monday, March 21, 2011

Excuses, Emotional Eating and 2 Really Good Dressings

So did you notice I never posted Friday? Just Keepin' it REAL!

But I did weigh in. I was expecting to maybe stay the same or even gain because last week was BLAH. Do you ever have those weeks? Mine was because my husband was working really long hours at work and I missed him. I am not one of those independent, got it all together wives. I kind of fall apart emotionally ( a bit of an over eaggeration) when my husband is not around. We ate out a bunch. I let the kids watch movies every night and I just found comfort in my old friends - tortilla chips, desserts, you name it. Plus the exercising just wasn't happening.

So all these excuses are to explain my lame weigh in. So I lost .4 pounds. That is POINT 4. You gotta love those digital scales. Somehow I didn't gain. Amazing. I guess I could attribute that to mostly healthy eating, even if I did indulge a bit. But I am really wanting to see some big weight loss in the next month since we will be taking lots of pictures at my daughter's baptism in April. Gotta look good for the camera. I really am not that vain. Although I sure am sounding like it right now.


Now to the recipes... The key to me and my family downing a ton of raw veggies is finding dressings that we love. I have been digging on this vegan ranch recipe almost too much.


Vegan Ranch


1& 1/2 cups cashews (soaked at least 2 hours)
1 & 1/2 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp onion powder
1 - 2 tsp sea salt ( star with less, add to taste)
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp basil


Blend in the blender. Put in fridge for a couple of hours before serving


* If you like dill (we don't) you could add 1 tsp. dill


** I love this!!


Tahini Dressing


This dressing is yummy on falafel, with raw veggies, and on salads.

2 tbsp + 2 tsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup tahini
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp sea salt
black pepper (couple of dashes)
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 cup lightly packed fresh parsley
1/2 cup cold water

Heat garlic in 2 tsp oil in small saute pan over low heat for 2 minutes, just until fragrant.

Add garlic and all other ingredients except parsley in blender and blend until smooth. Add parsley and pulse until parsley is finely chopped but not blended in.

Refrigerate at least one hour in airtight container.

* Okay I must confess I am the only one in the family who really loves this, but I really love it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chocolate Macaroons and a Dehydratorless Version

Note to self:  I can't eat all the treats I want but these are fine in moderation.


This recipe is from the book, Raw Food/Real World: 100 Recipes to Get the Glow



Macaroons

3 cups unsweetened coconut flakes (find at health food store)
1 1/2 cup cocoa
1/3 cup extra virgin coconut oil (solid state)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp vanilla
about 1 cup maple syrup

stir together all ingredients

shape into tablespoon size balls

place on dehydrator screen at 115 degrees for 10 to 12 hours. 

They are done when they are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside

** These are sooooo good. Even my non - health food friends love these.

Freezer Cashew Coconut Balls



1/2 cup medjool dates
1/2 cup cashews (soaked overnight)
1/2 cup almonds (soaked overnight)
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (find at health food stores)
1 Tbsp extra virgin coconut oil

Process everything in a food processor and then roll into balls. Freeze.

** Very coconutty and good. Family likes these. Shared them with one friend and she gave them a thumbs up.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Meatless Monday: Why I Am a mostly vegetarian - Meatless Taco Salad

I became an "at home vegetarian" about 2 years ago. For almost the past 20 years of my life I have been learning about nutrition and trying to figure out the best way to eat in order to be the healthiest possible. 2 years ago I returned to studying one of the commandments of my church, the Word of Wisdom. The Word of Wisdom is God's law of health and it tells us to avoid harmful substances like coffee, tea, tobacco, alcohol, and narcotics. It also tells us to eat lots of fruits, vegetables, grains and to eat meat sparingly.  I thought I was already doing okay in the eating meat sparingly department but as I did more research and more self reflection I realized that my idea of "sparingly" perhaps was still too much.


We have lost close family members to cancer and if you start to do your research you will see that eating a lot of meat increases your risk of cancer. With this family history I feel like I need to be even more careful about what my family eats. As I have done this research I am convinced that the revelation to eat meat sparingly was truly inspired.  


Now, I know some times the idea of giving up meat can be an overwhelming and emotional idea. But what about this idea of "Meatless Mondays?" I think that could be a good start  and then from there you could continue to decrease the amount of meat your family eats. Do you need to be a complete vegetarian or an "at home vegetarian"? Maybe not. I am a true believer in you being able to be the expert on what your family needs. I think you do your research, if you are religious - pray and if not, trust your intuition because I think you can figure out what is best for you.


For the first 8 years of our marriage my husband would often say that he didn't get full unless there was some kind of meat in the meal. I was worried about that when I wanted to go "veg" but now my husband thanks me all the time for making this change for our family. So it is possible. I swear.


Meatless Taco Salad - no taco required


* This is how we do Mexican at our house. I pile all this on a bed of romaine lettuce:
Mexican rice, beans, sauteed peppers and onions, fresh tomatoes, salsa, guacamole ( my family crumbles tortilla chips on top).

Mexican Rice (original recipe from my awesome sis, Jen)
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1/2 medium chopped onion
1 1/2 cups  brown rice
2 1/2cups vegetable broth
1 cup salsa


Sauté the onion in the oil in a saucepan for about 5 minutes on low heat. Add the rice and stir until slightly browned. Add the broth and the salsa. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low heat for about an hour, check after 40 minutes.

Beans
2 - 4 cans of beans with liquid (I usually do a mixture of pinto and black)
2-4 cloves minced garlic
1 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tbsp cumin
3 tsp onion powder
3 tsp garlic salt


Stir all into a pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for an hour or more. (You could stick these in a crock pot in the morning and have them cook all day.)


Guacamole
1 Roma tomato diced small (I use my food processor)
1 clove minced garlic
2 avocado
1tbsp lime juice
salt to taste


Hand mash the avocados and then stir in the rest of the ingredients. Super easy and yummy

Friday, March 11, 2011

Weigh in and Ceasar Salad

So Fridays are my days to weigh myself and I am happy to report that I have lost another 3.8 pounds!! Yay!! So far that it is 6.8 pounds weight loss. And the best part is I am feeling great. Last night I taught a green smoothie class at my friends church and I bought myself a new pair of jeans so I wouldn't have to wear my yoga pants. Sometimes I am so resistant to buying bigger sizes but it feels good to have something else to wear and hopefully in the next month or so they will be too big for me. But it won't be wasted money.


So I haven't really changed my eating that much. When you do weight watchers you have 2 options - you can keep track of everything you eat and their points or you can follow their "simply filling" plan and eat mostly "power foods" and then only count the points of things you eat that are not on the power foods list. I chose the simply feeling option because I hate having to keep track of all those points and because I mostly only eat power foods anyway. Power foods would be whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, and for those that eat these things: lean cut meats and fat free dairy.


So my eating hasn't changed dramatically but I have cut back on the nuts and treats. I have also been cutting back on the coconut oil and sweeteners that are called for in my healthy treat recipes. I have found that most raw desserts only need half or less of the sweetener it calls for in the recipe, the same can be said for the coconut oil.


But I have started exercising again and that has been awesome. So far I can only really speed walk on the treadmill but it is a far cry better than the exercise I was getting walking to the bathroom!!


Now on to a recipe. We eat a lot of salads and let's face it. That can get boring. So it is nice to change them up a bit. Here is a great recipe I got from Whole foods for the Whole Family. I love the croutons! It have never occurred to me to make my own. My kids love them and it helps them gobble up even more salad.




Caesar Salad

Dressing
2 T almond butter or blanched almonds
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 T Dijon mustard
3 T fresh lemon juice
1T tahini
2 T olive oil
Salt to taste


** I added about 1/2 cup of water to this because I thought the Dijon mustard taste was just too strong. So if you aren't a big Dijon mustard fan you could maybe start with half the mustard and then add more if it needs it or add water like I did to dilute it some.


Romaine lettuce, spinach, shredded carrots, shredded cabbage, shredded zucchini - whatever you have!


Croutons
4 slices whole wheat bread, cut into cubes
1/2 t dried rosemary
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t Celtic salt

I coat the bread with extra virgin olive oil with my silicone pastry brush - a wonderful kitchen gadget to have!!
Then I sprinkle the herb mixture and cut them up with a pizza cutter.
 Bake in 325 degree oven until crisp, 15-20 minutes.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A bad idea deserves a good one

About a month before Christmas I had the bright idea that I was going to just let loose and not worry about sugar and dairy and just eat whatever treats came my way. So I indulged and I indulged bad. I knew I would probably gain a little weight but I decided I would just worry about it after the holidays. And then the week before Christmas I had that horrible issue with my back and I was resigned to eating lots of frozen pizzas (my husband's specialty) and obviously getting no exercise.

My back has been slowly recovering and I have been eating better but the exercise wasn't happening. I have spent the last 3 months wearing my yoga pants. At first it was because it was more comfortable since I was stuck home anyway dealing with my back and then it became a necessity. Nothing else would fit. So if you know me in person, you now know why my black yoga pants have been my uniform for the past 3 months.

I knew I was gaining weight and getting out of shape but the other night when I was headed to a cub scout dinner (yes, the mom of 3 girls is a cub scout leader!!) I wanted to wear jeans and I could not fit into any in my closet. I was quite depressed. I finally made myself step on the scale and found out I have gained 10 pounds since Christmas. Add that to the extra 5 lbs of baby weight I was still carrying and it equals embarrassing my children when I wear my "jammies" out everywhere.

I decided it was time to do something drastic - weight watchers. I have a sister who lost an amazing amount of weight doing weight watchers and I did it briefly several years ago when I wanted to lose 10 lbs real quickly before my Grandma came to town. If you have a super thin and opinionated grandma like me, you will understand. Anyhow I think weight watchers is one of the best programs out there. It is not a fad diet and I think most of their advice is nutritionally sound. Plus it works.

So I signed up for weight watchers online. It is kind of spendy but I think it is worth it for me. It is helping me get a little more focused on paying attention to what and how much I am eating. One thing I am realising is that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. I have been making lots of "healthy sweets" lately and indulging a bit too much. Just because it is "healthier" doesn't mean I can eat how much I want. I need to remember this. So the journey begins. This first week I have lost 3lbs. I weigh myself every Friday so I will let you know how it goes.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sick baby - First Green Smoothie

Okay so I kind of checked out of blogging last week. Since I am a "Real" mom and not a professional blogger I can do that. My sweet little baby G has been sick since last Monday. She has been on antibiotics for an ear infection and has had a running, stuffy nose and cough. I feel so sad for her. It is a real bummer when your kids are sick. It's also a bummer for the mom since often they don't sleep well and are extra fussy. G is a pretty calm, sweet baby and she is trying to still be sweet but this illness is kicking her rear.

So in honor of G and her struggles here is a video of here first experience with a green smoothie. For her I just put in spinach, blueberries, and banana.

video

** This last week we added dandelion greens to our green smoothie and the kids couldn't tell. So there is one more green I can get into them. So far we eat collards, spinach, kale, chard, beet greens, and dandelion greens in our smoothies. So far so good.

** This past week I also realized I am just not going to post 5 days a week, which was my over ambitious original plan. With everything else I have going on, like back issues (which equals tons of doctors and physical therapy appointments), trying to homeschool my kids, and actually trying to live what I preach and make healthy food for my family, I just don't have the energy or desire to write that often. And let's face it. I don't really have that much to say! So the new plan is to post 3 times a week - Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I hope you will still check in!