Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Naughty Nachos

These nachos are sinfully delicious.  Made with all healthful ingredients of course.  You don't have to clog your arteries to eat great tasting junk food.  You just have to know what you're doing (or have a friend like me to help, ha).  I actually made this as a late dinner for my husband and me (the kids had already eaten earlier).   Wouldn't you know it, as soon as this came out of the oven, the kids come wondering in to narf on my nachos!

Directions (I don't really have a recipe; Nachos can be made any way you like):

1 can of  vegetarian chili beans, heated on the stove top
I spiced them up by adding a dash of cumin, chili powder, and Cayenne to taste
Unsalted blue or yellow corn chips spread out on baking sheet (the chili beans have enough salt!)
Pour the heated beans all over the chips.  Grate some vegan cheese over the top, optional
Broil for a few minutes to melt cheese and warm through, then remove from oven
Add all your toppings such as, lettuce, tomatoes, scallions, black olives, avocado slices and salsa.
Best served with a cold beer, or my favorite, a nice marg on the rocks.

**For some reason it may be ingrained in your head that you need sour cream and cheese for this to taste good, but that is simply not true.  It's delicious without.  Re-train your brain!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Butternut and Balsamic

Spring and summer are upon us, so time for all those summer fruits and veggies.  Hold your horses!  I still like to eat winter squash, namely butternut squash.   I don’t like to prepare it from the skin and roast it because I don’t want to run my oven in the summer.  Thankfully, you can buy it already skinned and cut up in a bag.  Butternut squash, a superfood, is very low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.  It is also a good source of Vitamin E, Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium and Magnesium, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Potassium and Manganese.  It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  It is proven to help prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in the body, which helps maintain proper levels of cholesterol and reduce the possibility of heart attacks or strokes.  The fiber in this vegetable may be a benefit in reducing the risk of colon cancer.  Wow-za!  Who is not eating this stuff?

**You can stove top steam the butternut squash cubes or microwave in the bag.  I’ve discovered that it is so delish with Balsamic vinegar drizzled on top.  I buy a really good Organic Balsamic and keep it in my fridge for just such occasions!  No salt or butter is needed for this flavor explosion!  A party in your mouth baby.  Give it a try.

Homemade Blueberry Pancakes

I love making these pancakes.  They are super fast and easy.  I like being able to control the salt and sugar as well.   I eat them for breakfast, lunch or a late night snack.  Very satisfying favorite in my house.  Like I said before, I try to eat blueberries as much as possible because of their antioxidant properties (ranked among the highest antioxidant activity on a per serving basis), Vitamin C, manganese, and fiber.

**Did you know whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour is still refined and processed? It's not the same as eating "whole grains."  Still, I choose whole wheat flour over white flour because I'm not a fan of eating chemicals and bleach.  White flour is stripped of it's two most nutritious and fiber-rich parts of the grain: the outside bran layer and the germ.  Plus, white flour contains Alloxan, a diabetes-producing chemical that destroys cells in the pancreas.  Alloxan is toxic, no joke.  Google it.

Click photo to enlarge

1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or buckwheat flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups unsweetened soy milk
2 Tablespoons of safflower or canola oil
2 Tablespoon pure maple syrup, plus more for topping
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1 cup of organic blueberries, rinsed in cold water

Whisk together the dry ingredients first, then add the wet.  Stir in blueberries last.  Pre-heat and oil your nonstick griddle or large frying pan as you normally would and cook pancakes.  Top with pure maple syrup (Not Log Cabin please! It's really HFCS, yuck).  Makes about 10 pancakes.  Yum-o!

Note: if you are cutting back on sugar/calories, top with a sprinkle of powdered sugar instead of syrup.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Italian Quinoa

Pronounced "Keen-Wah."  I only found out what it is a couple of years ago.  I can't believe I wasn't eating it my whole life.  Here's the deal:  Quinoa is not technically a grain, but it can substitute for any grain in cooking.  It's actually the seed of a leafy plant, related to spinach.  Quinoa is very popular among vegetarians because of it's full protein content.  It provides all 9 essential amino acids, has iron, potassium, vitamins and minerals.  It's a good source of fiber and easily digested.   Quinoa is gluten-free and cholesterol-free.  It is so versatile because you can stir in anything you want, veggies, mushrooms, herbs, garlic, beans, broccoli, artichokes, olives, peas even fruit!  For extra flavor, use vegetable broth instead of water when cooking.  It makes an excellent side dish instead of that same old Rice-a-Roni.  Eat hot or cold or for breakfast.  Wow, I can't say enough about this stuff! Seriously try it; so delish.  (I don't eat food that tastes bad!) Read more for recipe:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Let's Live Longer!

What is this I hear about cutting out carbs to lose weight?!?   In this month's Health magazine, there is an article on page 14 about the secret to living longer.  What’s the secret they say?  Eat more fiber!  "People who load up on it seem to have a lower risk of dying early from any cause."  Fiber includes wholes grains, fruits and veggies.  But extra servings of whole grains has the biggest affect on longevity.  Here's what whole grains can do for you today: 

*protect you from heart disease and lower your cholesterol level
*ward off certain cancers
*reduce your risk of diabetes
*promote digestive health
*keep weight off (you heard me!)

I’m sorry, aren’t all carbohydrates fattening?  Don’t they raise blood sugar and insulin levels and make our bodies store fat? Well, that depends on what type of carbohydrate we are talking about. Both whole grains and refined grains are high in carbohydrates, but their effects on the blood sugar differ.  Refined grains (white flour, white rice) quickly raise blood sugar, leaving us feeling drained and hungry; while the fiber in whole grains helps slow down this rise, leaving us feeling full so we are less likely to pig out.

What kind of whole grains will help you live longer?  I’m so glad you asked:
*cracked wheat (including kamut and spelt, cousins of wheat)
*brown rice
*corn (including whole cornmeal and popcorn)
*steel-cut and rolled oats
*whole rye
*quinoa (technically not a grain, but has the same composition and gluten-free)

C'mon peeps, get with the program.   It's the insides of our bodies we need to worry about because we can't see those parts. **Make sure you are eating tons-o-fiber, and extra whole grains. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Orange Juice

Oh yes I did.  I took a picture of orange juice.  A few people have told me they stopped drinking orange juice because it's not worth the calories or "points."  I agree, the calories are high, but so are the vitamins and potassium.  You can buy fortified OJ with calcium, which is good for strong bones and teeth.  **Did  you know that orange juice is not Acidic?  It's Alkaline.  Citrus fruits have an acid pH before they are consumed but leave an alkaline residue in the body after they have been metabolized.  Alkaline foods prevent disease, slow the aging process, and increases longevity.  Meat, eggs, dairy, and caffeine are acidic.  Here is a great article on Acidic vs. Alkaline foods.

I try to pick OJ that has no sugar added and non-GMO.  Just 100% juice.  If you're dragging in the morning and think you need 10 cups of coffee, maybe try some refreshing OJ instead.  I do a 4 oz. shot every morning.  I like Naked (the brand, geez) and Simply Orange.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bomb Banana Bread

My kids ask me to make it this ALL the time.  They have no idea there's no eggs are dairy included in this recipe.  It is plenty sweet, however!  I got the original recipe from Dr. Weil, but I tweaked it to exclude some of the fat and sugar, and include some cinnamon for extra flavor.  The recipe is for a loaf, but it works for muffins as well.  I wanted to call it bomb-a** banana bread, but didn't think that was appropriate.  Enjoy with Smart Balance butter, fruit spread, honey, or plain.  Perfection!  Read more for recipe:

Hummus Lover

Years ago I didn't even know what Hummus was and I thought "eeewwww" like a 5 year old!  But now I love it so much I eat it almost every day.  I like it with chips and salsa, a dip for veggies, and on a sandwich, pita, or burrito.  It's so flavorful.  There are many store-bought varieties which are good too; just make sure you read labels and pick one with pure ingredients and not too much sodium.  I do both, buy it and make my own.  I pack this up and take it to work or eat it on the weekends when I'm busy: unsalted blue corn chips, salsa, veggies, and hummus.  You got your protein, veggies, grains, and good fats to keep you going all afternoon!  An apple for dessert and you're golden, completely satiated!  Recipe below; taste as you go:

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Trans-Fat Quicky

3 Ways to Avoid Trans Fats (partially hydrogenated oils):

Trans fats have been linked to many health issues, especially heart disease. If you want to avoid trans fats when dining out or cooking at home, follow these simple rules:

1. Avoid margarines. Most contain trans fats.

2. Read snack food and canned labels carefully. Stay away from items that list "partially hydrogenated oil" on the label and opt for baked or air-popped versions instead.

3. Limit heavily processed foods and focus on fresh, whole foods.

Dr. Weil recommends using extra virgin olive oil as your main cooking oil and source of dietary fat. For a neutral-tasting oil, use organic expeller-pressed canola oil (okay to bake with).

** Hydrogenated oils affect your thyroid and slows your metabolism.  If you cannot lose weight, this could be why.  "The more labels you read, the more astonished you will be at the variety and number of places that this insidious little killer shows up. Do read the labels. Do recoil in disgust, and do throw the product back on the shelf -- or throw it on the floor, where it belongs." -Treelight

Easy-Peasy Enchiladas

Vegetarians and vegans must consume protein and calcium.  Just not from animals.  I eat plenty of beans, all varieties including lentils and garbanzo beans. I also get protein from almonds, natural peanut butter, seeds, whole grains, quinoa, tofu, soy, tempeh and green veggies.  So many choices!  **Did you know that certain animal proteins cause people to excrete more calcium than normal through their urine and  increase the risk of osteoporosis?  Yikes ladies!  That is not good.  As long as your diet contains a variety of grains, legumes, and vegetables, protein needs are easily met.  I eat these enchiladas quite frequently.  I love Mexican food.  Happy, healthy eating!


White corn tortillas, about 20, warm in micro before using
15 oz. can organic black beans, drained, rinsed
4 oz. can diced green chilies
1/2 small onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
2 cups enchilada sauce, mild or medium (no shortening, or HFCS!)
Vegan mozzarella grated on top, optional


Preheat oven to 350F.  Saute onions and peppers a few minutes in a pan with oil. Add chilies and black beans and warm through. You can also add a cup of corn here, but I was out.   Spread 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce in bottom of 13x9 pan.  Roll up the tortillas with a bit of the bean mixture.  Top with the rest of the sauce and bake for 15 minutes.  You can also grate some vegan cheese on the top before baking, if desired.  Serve with guacamole made simple, salsa and a green salad.  No sour cream needed.  Sooo good!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Stuffed Shells with Tofu Ricotta

I'm not lying when I tell you my family ate this meal and had no clue they were eating tofu and soy cheese.  It tasted so yummy and saved us some bad-for-you calories and cholesterol.   I used regular shells because I could not find whole wheat pasta shells for this dish.   The recipe below is for the tofu ricotta, but then you stuff and bake the shells as you normally would.  Use your favorite pasta sauce.  Promise it's delicious!  Give it a try.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How Do You Get Your Calcium?

Boy, if I had dime for every time someone asked me that.  It's true, I don't eat dairy or drink milk.  I grew up consuming tons of it.  I talk to so many people who tell me they love cheese and could never give it up, as well as how they drink milk for their bones.   I just smile and don't say a word because I don't think folks want to hear that it's disease-producing and fattening.  A study funded by the National Dairy Council itself discovered that the high protein content in dairy actually leaches calcium from our bones.

**I get calcium from dark green vegetables, beans, soy, tofu, seeds and raw nuts.  Also, I eat calcium-fortified foods, such as orange juice, soy/almond milk, and "yogurt."  This is the wonderful "yogurt" I eat, which is fortified with calcium and live & active cultures. It is made with coconut milk instead of cow's milk. I threw some granola on the top. You can find it at Sprouts or Whole Foods.  Amazingly Good!

Monday, March 7, 2011

BBQ "Chicken" Sandwich

Calling all meat-eaters out there!  All my family members are meat and dairy eaters, but they are always willing to try new things.  I've done a lot of research in the last few years, and I'm always amazed and shocked at the things I discover about health and nutrition, particularly how your body reacts when certain foods are consumed (such as meat, dairy, sugar, caffeine).  I feel as though we are our own advocates for having a healthy body and a healthy life.  I am not a big fan of "faux" meat because it is so processed, but I do eat it once or twice a month.  Here is what I would call a "fast food" sandwich.  You don't have to be a vegetarian to eat soy.  Give soy burgers and soy chicken a try sometime.  What is the worst that can happen?  It tastes delicious and virtually no saturated fat. Your heart will love you.  Details below:

Morning Star makes vegan soy protein called "Meal Starters."  They have ground beef and chicken strips. You can find it in the frozen food aisle of most supermarkets.  The "meat" has no flavor so you have to make something of it.  I found a BBQ sauce that does not contain HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), but it does contain sugar.  Like I said, this is fast food, junk food.  I heated up some "chicken" and BBQ sauce and piled it on whole wheat buns.  Served it up with some corn-on-the-cob and it made a great dinner the family loved!  Give it a try; you'll feel satisfied, satiated, but not heavy and gassy.  No heartburn here!

Cold Bean Salad

Yes another salad!  This salad is so easy to make, I whip it up all the time.  I've even brought it to potlucks. This is actually meant as a side-dish but I eat is as a main dish.  It's got your protein, green veggie, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  There's a secret ingredient that makes it hard to stop eating!  Check it out.

Adapted from Vegan Heartland:
1 pound green beans, ends trimmed, I leave them long cuz it looks prettier
1 cup garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 small red onion, chopped

1/4 cup organic olive oil or organic expeller pressed canola oil
2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar, or white wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup, surprise!
Salt and pepper to taste, about 1/4 teaspoon

Steam or blanch green beans (or get the microwave in a bag kind), and cool
Mix dressing and toss with beans
Eat and feel good!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

I was sitting around craving something sweet and chocolate and decided to search the Internet for a cookie or brownie recipe that I could make with ingredients I already had on hand.  My kids rolled their eyes and walked away. O ye of little faith!  I found several vegan recipes for chocolate peanut butter cookies, but they all had something I wasn't happy with (white flour, refined sugar).  So I tweaked around and came up with these yummy cookies that are almost brownie-like.  Thick, rich, sweet and satisfying.  Enjoy!

Add chocolate chips for an even richer cookie!

1 cup evaporated cane juice sugar (slightly less processed than white sugar, and can be found in baking aisle)
1 banana, ripe and mashed
2 Tablespoons Organic Canola or Safflower oil
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 to 1/2 cup natural peanut butter (not Jiff! full of trans fats)
2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Sprinkles for decoration, optional
You could also stir in a cup of vegan chocolate chips

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Mash the banana and mix it with the oil, vanilla and peanut butter until smooth.  In a separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Sift well.  Combine all the ingredients until it forms a thick ball, like play-doh.  You may have to mix with your hands to get it all incorporated. Fun!

3. Roll into 1 1/2 inch balls, flatten slightly.  If adding sprinkles: pour sprinkles into a small bowl, dunk flatten cookies into sprinkles.

4. Place on baking sheet or stone and bake for 8-12 minutes depending on your oven.  Let rest 5 minutes before removing from baking sheet.  Cool.  Eat.  Makes about 18 cookies.

    Agave Beware!

    Several friends recently mentioned to me they use Agave Nectar as a natural sweetener.  It comes from the Blue Agave plant.  It is very sweet and delicious.  I use it sometimes too, but very sparingly.  I did some more digging on Agave and here's what I uncovered:  Although Agave is lower on the glycemic index scale, many brands of Agave Nectar are highly refined, containing almost 100 percent fructose, which is a higher percentage than that found in high fructose corn syrup! Ugh!  Fructose is a sweetener known to raise triglycerides, promote belly fat, and contribute to fatty liver, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Another thing to note is that some distributors of Agave Nectar have been labeling HFCS as Agave Nectar.  What!?  Is that legal?  The FDA recommends looking for labels that say "hydrolyzed insulin syrup," which means it's real Agave.  I try to stick with Organic Brown Rice Syrup or Pure Maple Syrup as much as possible. 

    A kind and heartfelt reminder on HFCS:

    Saturday, March 5, 2011

    How Sweet is your Oatmeal?

    This is not quite a recipe for oatmeal.  You know how to make oatmeal.  And you know that it is super healthy for you.  Oats are full of vitamins, minerals, protein and a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber.  Insoluble fiber's cancer-fighting properties are due to the fact that it attacks certain bile acids, reducing their toxicity.  Soluble fiber may reduce LDL cholesterol (bad) without lowering HDL cholesterol (good). Oatmeal lowers blood cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart disease.  It is another food I think of as a superfood.  So why on earth are we ruining it with so much sugar?  Read below for healthy ideas and tips for your oatmeal.

    *Try buying just plain old Quaker Oats, you get way more for your money.  Buying prepackaged, instant oatmeal means extra salt and sugar your blood-sugar level does not need.  White table sugar is high on the glycemic index scale and causes your blood sugar to spike and then lower too quickly.  When THAT happens, the glucose gets digested too fast and then we are hungry again 5 minutes later.  White sugar is like CRACK. It's addictive.  Try Brown Rice Syrup.  It is lower on the G.I. than white table sugar.  It digests slower, leaving you satisfied and fuller longer.  It is thick like honey and has a slight vanilla flavor.  I even use it to replace white sugar in some baking recipes. Stevia is another sugar alternative that is zero on the G.I. scale.  Look here for a great article on the different kinds of sugar.

    *In my oatmeal:  pinch of sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 Tablespoon of Organic Brown Rice Syrup, and topped with fruit!

    Note: Brown Rice Syrup is sold in most grocery stores now.  Check the baking aisle next to all the sugars.

    Pizza My Way!

    My family has 'pizza night' on Fridays.  I don't eat restaurant pizza because of the cheese and sodium etc.  But I want pizza too!  My thought was to buy my own ready-made crust and make my own pizza.  I was surprised and disappointed to read that store-bought pizza crust lists "cheese" as an ingredient in the crust. Why do they do that?  (always a good idea to read labels so you know what you're eating).  I finally found a whole wheat pizza crust recipe that has ingredients I can live with (it does have white flour and a bit of white sugar) and tastes amazing.  It was super fun and easy to make.  I used my pesto sauce and veggies to top my pizza.  Enjoy!

    Friday, March 4, 2011

    Yams on my Salad

    Why are we only eating Yams in November?  You can buy them year-round.  Sweet potatoes are good too, but I'm referring to the orange ones.  Yams are a superfood, and I'll tell you why.  Aside from containing Vitamin C, potassium, iron, folate, fiber and calcium, they contain B vitamins; particularly B6, which helps in the breakdown of a chemical substance in your blood called homocysteine (an amino acid) Google it.  We need lots of B6 to break down this amino acid which can increase the risk of heart disease.  B6 can also improve the symptoms of PMS.  Way cool.  Did I forget to mention Yams are very low in saturated fat, salt, cholesterol? Sorry.  Recipe below.

    **Did you know your brain and palate love hot and cold together?  Just the same as we love sweet and salty together.  It's a match made in heaven.  Next time you are at the supermarket, pick up a few yams and serve them warm on a green salad.  Ditch the boxed mac & cheese and try this delightful salad as your side dish. Yum yum!

    In my salad:
    Chopped green leaf lettuce or romaine
    Chopped kale (yes kale, for calcium, yay!)
    Dried cranberries
    Slivered almonds
    Warm, cubed yam
    Throw in some Edamame for protein, you bet! 
    Any other veggies you want to add, go for it!
    Light balsamic vinagrette

    Pesto Sauce

    In my next post, I will share a pesto pizza recipe to go with this pesto.  So stay tuned!  Now a word on Nutritional Yeast.  I use this in several recipes calling for Parmesan cheese.  It mimics the look, texture and taste of Parmesan.  Nutritional Yeast is not the same as live yeast you buy to make bread. I've only been able to find it at Whole Foods.  I buy it in bulk and store it in the fridge.  It contains vitamins, minerals, protein and folic acid.  It has minimal sodium and saturated fat (1% or less!) and zero cholesterol.  You can't say all that about Parmesan.  Of course you can buy pre-made pesto, but it has so much sodium and other yuckies that clog veins.  Give this a try;  it tastes even better than store-bought and it's fun to make.  Thanks toVegan Heartland for this simple and delicious recipe:

    Makes about 1/2 cup of pesto

    2 cups basil leaves, rinsed
    1/4 cup pine nuts
    2 garlic cloves, chopped a little
    2 T nutritional yeast
    Pinch of salt and pepper
    If you like heat, add a dash of cayenne

    Place all ingredients into food processor or blender.  While blending, stream in good quality olive oil.  Not sure how much because I do it by consistency, but it's about 1/4 -1/3 cup.  Enjoy on pasta, pizza and as a sandwich spread instead of mayo!

    Thursday, March 3, 2011

    Beautiful Burritos

    The beauty of a burrito is you can put anything you want in it. Keep the ingredients healthful, and you have a nutritious, low-cal snack or meal anytime! I keep these ingredients on-hand for a quick burrito when I'm in a hurry (or when the kids are eating chicken nuggets).  Honest to goodness, you don't need meat or dairy here for a delicious, satisfying food with protein, fiber and calcium.  I can eat two, oink!


    Whole wheat flour tortilla (make the switch to whole wheat, your body will love you)
    Black beans or vegetarian refried beans (rinse canned beans to get some salt off)
    Vegan Mozzarella cheese (yes! it tastes good)
    Spinach (for calcium, yay!)
    Salsa, cilantro, hot sauce etc.
    Avocado slices (for good fats that your brain needs)

    Warm up the beans and "cheese" in the micro before adding toppings.  Fold, roll up, how ever you want to pig out!

    Wednesday, March 2, 2011

    Got Blueberries?

    Yes, I know you know berries are good for you.  Blueberries are chalk full of vitamins, minerals and fiber (colon health, seriously!) And, we all know blueberries are full of many antioxidants that fight free radicals and help lower cholesterol.  The blue pigment is called Anthocyanins.  Huh? Just know that it helps fight cancer-causing cell damage and age-related diseases. With zero cholesterol and virtually no saturated fat, I try to eat some every day.  No recipe here, just get some of these bad boys into your diet.  I eat mine on whole grain waffles, in smoothies and muffins.  (Organic is best when eating berries. I don't like bug spray, do you?)

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