Saturday, December 22, 2012

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

    The further I get into the winter season, the more and more I look forward to a delicious hot breakfast.  Oatmeal is an incredibly healthy way to satisfy this craving.  Every time I make this recipe, the blend of cinnamon, banana and apple aromas fill the kitchen, reminding me that this truly is the most wonderful time of the year!

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

1 Cup oatmeal, cooked
1/2 Cup soymilk
1 Banana, peeled
1/2-1 Apple, Sliced
1-2 teaspoons Cinnamon

   Blend all ingredients together in food processor or blender.  Add more cinnamon or soymilk to taste.  Makes 2-3 bowls.

Click here to see my Walnut and Raisin Oatmeal

Walnut Raisin Oatmeal

    This recipe has been my favorite breakfast for well over two years now, and I am definitely connected to it.  It is great tasting, very healthy, and takes only a moment to make.  This meal is perfect whether you want a cold breakfast or a nice and warm one.

Walnut Raisin Oatmeal

1 Cup oats, cooked or uncooked
1/2-1 Cup soymilk (I like vanilla soymilk on mine)
1 Small handful walnuts (I like chopped ones, or else crush them in your hand)
1 Small handful raisins
1-2 teaspoons Cinnamon

    Add all ingredients together in a bowl.  Stir and enjoy!

Click here to try Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Healthy, Delicious, and Easy Hot Chocolate

    For this wonderful Christmas and holiday season, this week's post celebrates one of the greatest aspects of winter; HOT CHOCOLATE! And who says you have to give up this delicious treat if you are trying to eat healthy?  This recipe is incredibly easy and has a deep, rich flavor that is undeniably good!
First ingredient: Sugar- it goes downhill from there...

    When you drink this hot cocoa rather than the store bought powders, you are avoiding a great amount of unhealthy sweeteners, preservatives, and other ingredients.  Do yourselves a favor and choose the healthier, tastier alternative to the powders bought in the store.

If you read the label of your unsweetened cacao or cocoa, you will see one ingredient:  Cocoa

Click here to view my post on the importance of reading labels

Hot Chocolate

8 oz.  soymilk (almond or rice milk works too)
1.5 Tablespoons unsweetened cacao (or cocoa) powder 
2-3 teaspoons natural sweetener (agave, xylitol, sugar)

    Heat soymilk in microwave or stove until hot.  Mix in cacao powder and sweetener, stir until dissolved. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Perfect Homemade Hash Browns

    We usually don't do anything too special for breakfast here, just oatmeal or shredded wheat, however, we just got home from a trip to see the in-laws and realized we had no breakfast food!  Fortunately, we had been meaning to try making homemade hash browns for a while, and these turned out incredible!  We both agreed that it would become a common weekend breakfast in our home.

Homemade Hash Browns

6-8 Potatoes cut in half
3 Tablespoons olive oil
Paprika (or smoked paprika for a kick!)
Garlic powder
Onion powder

    Grate potatoes in food processor with shredding attachment (you can grate them by hand with a cheese grater although it is a bit harder).  Let shredded potatoes soak in water for 10-20 minutes.  Drain water and rinse potatoes under the sink for another minute or two (the soaking and rinsing is to remove unhealthy starch that also causes the potatoes to get clumpy).

 After rinsing, take a towel (or several paper towels) and wring out the potatoes in the towel.  The key is to get as much water out of them as possible (the more dry they are, the crispier they are)

    Heat oil in fry pan or on griddle over medium-high heat (350 degrees on the griddle).  Add potatoes and stir them, spreading the oil over all the potatoes evenly.  Mix in the spices to taste and let cook while slowly stirring occasionally for 5-7 minutes until potatoes soften.  Arrange potatoes into a single uniform layer, cook for 3-5 minutes until golden brown on the bottom, then flip and cook on the other side for 3-5 minutes.  You will have perfect hash browns with hefty portions for two or decent portions for four.  Yum!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Quinoa Avocado Salad


    This week's meal is hearty and healthy with a variety of great ingredients.  With a tangy kick it is definitely unique and will make a great impression on anyone who tries it!  Malissa and I love this one!

(optional: Top it with a little shrimp to add a great flavor and texture) 

Quinoa Avocado Salad

2/3 cup dry quinoa
1/3 cup red onion, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
salt & pepper
1 cup pomegranate arils, optional (about 1 pomegranate worth)
For the Sauce:
2 Lemons, juiced (you need about 1/4th cup worth)
2 Garlic cloves, minced
Dash of natural sweetener (we use agave nectar)
Salt and peper, to taste
6 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Cook quinoa according to package directions. Set aside to cool.
For the Sauce: Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid, and shake to combine. Or whisk in a small bowl.
Combine quinoa with red onion, avocado, beans, pomegranate arils, corn, cilantro, salt and pepper. Pour sauce over the salad and stir to combine. Can be served warm, cold, or at room temperature.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sprout Sandwiches

    Without meat or dairy, we thought that these sandwiches would fail at filling us up.  We were completely wrong.  After eating one sandwich we were too full to make ourselves another one!  On top of that, this sandwich is one of the tastiest sandwiches we have ever eaten, and is loaded with healthy grains and veggies.

Sprout Sandwiches

Whole wheat bread (locally made and only 2 dollars at this site!)
Mushrooms sliced
Avocado sliced or pureed (1 should make about 3 sandwiches)
Tomato sliced
Olives sliced
Green peppers chopped (optional)
Vegan sour cream
Celery Salt to taste (A critical ingredient!)
Chives to taste (optional)
Spinach (optional, good with sprouts or as a substitute to the sprouts)

Spread the sour cream on both pieces of bread, sprinkle celery salt on top of sour cream on both sides, add all other ingredients to taste. ENJOY!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Vegan Tortilla Soup

    Today's meal isn't just tortilla soup, it is the best tortilla soup Malissa and I have ever had.  It was delicious and incredibly hearty.  This soup is also very healthy, being filled with vegetables, and it makes great leftovers!  You can double this recipe and freeze the leftovers for later.

Tortilla Soup

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1.5 cups chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 green or red bell peppers, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 can corn
1/2 cup green onion, chopped
3 Tablespoon ground cumin
2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes
1 can chopped green chili peppers, drained (optional)
3 cups vegetable broth
2 Tablespoons chia seeds (optional)
1 14.5 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed (or beans of choice)
salt & pepper & crushed red chili pepper, to taste
Fresh lime juice, to garnish on top
Non-Dairy Cheese (we use Daiya cheese), for sprinkling (optional)
Vegan sour cream (optional) (Can be found in most grocery stores)
Chopped avocado, for garnish
Tortilla sticks (or tortilla chips) 

In a large pot over medium to low heat, add the olive oil, onion, and garlic. Sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the peppers, zucchini, onion, and corn and sauté for another 5-10 minutes.  Add in the crushed tomatoes, cumin, broth, and chia seeds. Stir well and season with salt and pepper. Simmer on low-medium heat for 25-30 minutes. Stir in beans just before serving.
After the soup simmers, ladle into bowls, and top with chopped avocado, fresh lime juice, cheese, green onion, and tortilla strips. Serve immediately.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Slivered Almond Green Beans

    Today's side dish is Slivered Almond Green Beans.   Besides having a rich flavor with a garlic kick, it only takes ten minutes to prepare and is extremely healthy.  Green Beans are full of Protein and have many other essential nutrients such as, fiber, vitamin A, and iron.  

For more information on the nutrient value of green beans, click here.

Slivered Almond Green Beans

1-2 Handfuls Fresh Green Beans, tips removed, cut in half
2 Tablespoons Slivered Almonds (We like to double this)
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Cup Sliced Mushrooms
1/3 Cup Sliced Onion
1 Garlic Clove
1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce (Add more to taste)

 Steam Green Beans and set aside.  In a skillet, heat olive oil and saute almonds, mushrooms, onion and garlic 5-6 minutes until almonds are golden brown.  Add all ingredients to a bowl and stir in soy sauce.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Layered Tex-Mex Enchiladas

     Tonight, Malissa and I were in the mood for some good Mexican food!  This dish is now one of our new favorites!  A good-hearty center, with a delicious and spicy sauce!

Layered Tex-Mex Enchiladas

Two 8-ounce cans tomato sauce

3 Cups water

1/4 Cup Cornstarch

3 Tablespoons chile powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

4 cups mashed cooked pinto beans

1 cup chopped green onions

1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed

One 2 1/4-ounce can sliced black olives, drained, optional

1 to 2 Tablespoons chopped green chiles, optional

10-20 corn tortillas

Salsa, optional

Tofu sour cream, optional

1.  to make the sauce: Put all ingredients  for the sauce into a saucepan.  Mix well with a whisk until well combined.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Taste and add more chile powder if desired.  Set aside

2.  To assemble the casserole: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Put the beans, green onions, corn, olives and green chiles into a large bowl and mix gently until well combined.

3.  Spread 1 1/2 cups of the sauce over the bottom of a oblong nonstick baking dish.  Place 3-6 corn tortillas in the bottom of the dish.  Spread half of the bean mixture evenly over the tortillas.  Place another 3-6 tortillas over the bean mixture, then spread the remaining bean mixture on top.  Cover with 3-6 more tortillas, and then pour the remaining sauce over the tortillas.  Cover the baking dish with parchment paper, then cover with aluminum foil, crimping the edges over the baking dish.  Bake for 45 minutes.

4.  Remove the baking dish from oven and let the lasagna rest for about 15 minutes before cutting.  Serve with salsa and tofu sour cream, if desired

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Why Changing Your Diet is So Hard: Emotional Connections to Food

     Ever wonder why changing our diet is so hard?  In words, it seems so simple:  Eat healthy food.  Yet this concept can seem impossible to actually practice!

     One reason this is the case is because of our emotional connection to food.  Ever since we came into this world, food has been used to help comfort us emotionally.  Our mother would hold us close to her while she fed us.  Candy or other goodies would be treats we received when being good.  We celebrated victories in sports by going out for pizza, and when our hearts were broken, we looked for comfort at the bottom of a tub of ice cream. 
     Remember the movie Ratatouille?  In it, the chefs are trying to please a harsh food critic with a simple peasant dish known as Ratatouille.  At first, he is appalled that he would be served such a simple meal, yet the moment it touches his lips, he is brought back to memories of his loving mothers comfort...

Advantages of these Connections
     Although this emotional "addiction" to food can cause many people to eat terribly unhealthy, this isn't always a bad thing.  Because these connections are in place, it means you can train yourself to be emotionally connected to healthy foods too! (just imagine broccoli becoming your comfort food!)  Two years ago, I began eating oats with raisins, walnuts, cinnamon, and soymilk, for breakfast nearly every morning for almost a year!  After that, I grew tired of it, so I began eating other things for breakfast instead.  Just a couple weeks ago, I decided to try my old breakfast again.  The minute I took my first bite, I had a "Ratatouille" experience!  I couldn't believe how incredible the food tasted!
     People often ask me if it is hard to eat the way I do.  My answer is always the same: Not at all!  I am so emotionally "addicted" to the healthy food I eat, thinking of eating anything else seems gross!  Here are two tips to develop an emotional connection to healthy food:

Just Eat It!
     Two years ago, I hated onions.  I couldn't stand the taste, or even the smell.  Now I love them, and put them in many recipes.  The secret?  Just eat it!  Your taste buds recycle every two weeks, which means that if you eat something you don't like for a month, you will begin to like it a little more!  Repeat the process for another month and you will see that you are starting to develop a taste for the stuff you once thought was nasty.
     This truly works, but isn't an all at once process.  Believe me, I didn't just take a big bite out of an onion to get myself to like it!  I took it slow, I put a small onion on my veggie burger, or a few chopped onions in my salad, etc...  Find small ways to incorporate those healthy foods you don't like into your meals, and don't get discouraged when you don't like them at first.  In three months, there will be a significant difference in how you feel about that certain type of food. 

Use Healthy Rewards
     When we were younger, our moms would tell us we could have dessert after we ate our vegetables.  Although that may have worked back then, if we try to do that now, we will just create a greater attachment to the unhealthy food, and resent the healthy stuff we have to eat before having what we want!  Instead, find healthy recipes and desserts that you really like, and use those as your rewards or comfort food.
     Whenever I need a pick me up, and want to indulge with a great dessert, I always make my Healthy Chocolate Mousse recipe.  Or, when Malissa and I watch a movie, we eat my healthy movie theater popcorn, and I always look forward to having it!
     As you change your diet, change your comfort foods as well.  Instead of regular ice cream for your comfort food, make yourself Banana Ice cream!  Create emotional connections to all the right foods and eating healthy won't look like a chore any longer!

     When new years rolls around, there are thousands of people who resolve to lose weight and eat healthy.  A month later they are back to eating all the foods they had previously sworn off!  These tips are here to not only help you start eating healthy, but help you learn to ENJOY eating healthy.  Take it slow, and develop emotional connections to all the right foods.
  • For more tips and help controlling serious emotional eating, click here.
What healthy comfort foods have you grown attached to?  I would like to hear what good foods you love!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Zucchini Marinara

    Tonight, we were in the mood for a simple and healthy spaghetti.  Zucchini marinara is very easy to make and is delicious! Enjoy!

Zucchini Marinara 

1 1/2 Cups Sliced Zucchini
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Salt and Pepper
1/2-1 Cup whole wheat spaghetti noodles 
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
1/2 Tablespoon sweetener (Xylitol is recommended, or you can use sugar)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
cilantro or basil for garnish

Cook spaghetti noodles according to package directions.  Cook sliced zucchini in 1/2 cup water over medium-low heat until tender.  Drain squash and stir in the olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.  In a saucepan, mix together tomato sauce, sweetener, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning.  Simmer 3-5 minutes.  Divide noodles onto two plates.  Layer zucchini on noodles and pour marinara sauce over zucchini and noodles. Garnish with cilantro or basil. 

Apartment Gardening

    Since Malissa and I got married, one thing we have been looking forward to is growing a vegetable garden together.  The only problem is that we currently live in a tiny apartment in the city.  With not much space, we have still been able to find ways to begin our dream of having a garden.  Here are some tips:

Focus on Herbs
No more store bought herbs...
      Herbs are something great to grow in small spaces.  Also, it doesn't take long before you are able to cook with them, and they grow back very quickly.  Think of the herbs you use most in your recipes and grow those.  When you do this, you will always have that herb on hand and fresh for your recipes! (no more buying a bunch of parsley when the recipe calls for a tablespoon!)  We chose to grow cilantro, parsley, basil, and thyme.       Click here for more information on herbs.

Use the Proper Fertilizer
     Just like gardening in a large space, a small space needs to be fertilized, and a little fertilizer goes a long way!  Try to stay away from chemical fertilizers, as they add harmful substances to your food.  Besides being healthier for you, organic fertilizers are usually more effective for your plants in the long run.       Click here for an in-depth look on fertilizing.

Pay Attention to Weather
My gardening dream is coming true...
     Poor weather can destroy gardens.  One great advantage to having a small apartment garden is the ability to transport your food inside.  Plant your food in containers that are easy to move.  We chose two-foot long planters that can hold two plants in each.

For more tips and tricks on apartment gardening click here!

  • What apartment gardening tricks have you found helpful? Let me know!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Nutty Almond Fudge

     As a chocoholic, a healthy chocolate recipe is a must in my home! Allow me to introduce this delicious Nutty Almond Fudge.   This meal is incredibly simple to make, and only takes about five minutes!

Nutty Almond Fudge
2/3 Cup raw almonds
1/3 Cup plain oats
3 Tablespoons agave nectar (this is a great sugar substitute and you can find it at most grocery stores!)
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
1/2 Tablespoon Cinnamon
Handful of Cacao chips (same as dark chocolate chips, just tastier and healthier! Again, easy to find) 

Blend almonds and oats in food processor until they reach texture of flour.  Add agave, vanilla, cinnamon, and cacao chips, then blend until dough forms.  Roll into balls and either refrigerate to harden, or leave out to keep soft. (We prefer them nice and soft! YUM!)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Easy Delicious Tacos

     Tonight, Malissa and I are feasting upon one of the simplest of our meals.  If you are like me, occasionally you will be caught blankly staring at the refrigerator, wondering when food will end up in your mouth!  Tacos are great for making a quick meal without prior planning.

  • Refried beans (If you use store-bought, make sure they are vegetarian or you are eating lard!)
  • Chopped Lettuce
  • Cilantro
  • Diced Tomato
  • Diced Onion
  • Avocado or Guacamole 
  • Sliced Olives
  • Salsa (there are many that are made with all natural ingredients. We prefer pace)
  • Vegan sour cream (available in most grocery stores)
  • lime wedges
  • Hot Sauce (If you are a hot sauce junkie like me!)
  • Whole Wheat Torillas (We have been struggling to find a truly healthy brand, if anyone has any suggestions, please let me know!) 

Line up all the ingredients in individual bowls and place items on tortilla.

Heating your Tortillas
     Heating the Tortillas is a must in our house! To do it in a way where the tortillas don't become dry and stale, simply wrap the tortillas in a slightly dampened hand towel, then cover in aluminum foil and place in the oven on the warm setting.  After just a couple minutes they will be moist and warm! 

     Click here for my Mexican rice to put in the tacos or have as a side!

  • What unique things do you like to put in your tacos? I would love to hear your feedback!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Plant-Based Proteins

     A worry of anyone changing their diet to one that doesn't include meat is where to get protein.  Truth is, protein is incredibly easy to find.  Listed below are three types of food that are full of this important nutrient.

Quinoa = protein
     Something many people don't know is that real whole-wheat bread (check the ingredients...some 100% whole wheat bread have little grain and lots of sugar!) actually has 4 grams of protein in each slice, making your sandwich have 8 grams of protein in the bread alone.  Most other grains and pastas also have a great source of protein.  The best source of protein you can find from this category is a grain known as Quinoa (keen-wah), a grain that has much in common with rice, and can be found in the grain section of most grocery stores.  
     Click here for my delicious Black Bean Quinoa salad recipe! (One that is chock full of protein)

     Beans and legumes are a great alternative source of protein.  In addition, they have much less cholesterol or fat than meats, and they have many other nutrients that will supplement your body.  Bagged dry beans are the best, but canned beans are very simple to prepare and eat.  If you ever feel the need to buy refried beans (definitely the least healthy) make sure you get vegetarian ones, as the other kinds are cooked in lard!
Click here for my Homemade Refried Beans recipe!

Nuts and Seeds 
They can be a bit pricey, but very good
     Nuts and seeds are a good source of protein. Real Peanut butter, and almond butter have lots of protein and can make a good lunch if you spread it on bread.  Almonds (try to get them raw, not roasted and salted), walnuts, cashews, etc.  all have protein in them, and can make a great snacking food as well (very filling).  The one thing to be careful about with this category is that they also have a high fat content.  Our bodies need some fat in our diets (and this is obviously a great alternative to McDonalds...), but make sure you don't overdo it.
     It's easy to incorporate nuts and seeds into other meals as well.  Sprinkle some shelled sunflower seeds over a salad, or put some walnuts on your oatmeal in the morning!

Click here for my Slivered Almond Green Bean recipe (has mushrooms and a garlic kick!  One of my favorite side dishes)
Click here for my Nutty Almond Fudge dessert recipe (A delicious dessert you don't have to feel guilty about eating)

Don't Worry
These listed protein sources aren't meant to make people worry about the amount of protein they are getting.  In the past two years I have been eating this way, I haven't once had to worry about getting enough protein.  Regularly incorporate grains and/or beans in your meals and you will be fine!

    For many recipes with these ingredients, check out all my recipes!

  • If you have any recipes with these ingredients, please let me know! I would love to try them and share them with others!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Reading Labels

   Reading Labels
     When going grocery shopping, I am amazed at the garbage that is put in our everyday food! Reading labels is crucial to know what to buy.  Reading the nutrition facts is very important, but something people often don't know is that it is equally, if not more important to read the ingredients.  If a third grader can't read all the ingredients of an item, it probably has a lot of stuff you don't want in your body.  With that being a general rule, here are three words you definitely want to watch out for.
Third ingredient: Sugar.  About 1/2 Cup sugar with each bowl.
  • Bleached, or White flour-  This ingredient is often found in bread, pasta, tortillas etc.  It is very unhealthy and means you are basically eating sugar.
  • Hydrogenated or Partially Hydrogenated-  This ingredient is found in a variety of packaged goods.  It adds trans fats to your food, even if the nutrition facts claim there are 0 grams.  It increases your bad cholesterol levels and should be avoided.
  • Sugar or High fructose Corn SyrupOkay people, this is serious!  You need to avoid sugar! And you wouldn't believe how much food has this killer in it.  From your morning cereal, to your dinner spaghetti sauce, if you aren't careful, you could be consuming mass amounts of sugar every day without even knowing it.  It is literally hidden in your food and is one of the worst things you can consume.  Click here to see the list of 124 things sugar does to your body.
Real Whole Wheat Bread: 5 ingredients, no artificial ones.
A good rule of thumb:  The fewer ingredients there are, the better the food is for you
Click here for more information about reading labels.

The Great Deceptions of Food Companies
Reese's puffs cereal...need I say more?
     We live in a society that is based in consumerism.  Because of this, many companies try to mask the fact that their foods are unhealthy because they know it will effect their profit margins.  Your box of Goldfish may say something like "A good source of grains!"  Or your Sunny Delight will say "100% of your daily source of vitamin C!"  While it is true that they dropped a vitamin in their drink, it doesn't get rid of the fact that they dropped it in sewage!  The amount of preservatives and sugar you consume will far outweigh the nutrients they claim to have.  This is why reading labels is so important.  It's the only way you can truly determine what is healthy and what is not.  
     I love the bread label in the picture shown above.  The ingredients are proudly worn on the front of the package!  No need for deception, they know their food is healthy; 5 ingredients, none that are artificial.

For a greater in-depth Look on reading labels, click here

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Joys of Meal Planning

     Meal planning has played a huge role in making sure we eat great and delicious food every night.  As newlyweds, before Malissa and I started meal planning, we were often eating nothing but rice, chips, refried beans, and salsa!  Our grocery shopping was chaos. We wasted too much time looking around in the grocery store, and a lot of money purchasing things we never used before it went bad!

  •  You save money on food, not buying perishable foods you don't use quickly enough
  •  Your grocery shopping takes much less time
  •  It's much easier to make dinner every night when you know exactly what you are going to be making (rather than opening the refrigerator and staring at the food, hoping something will magically appear on your plate!  We've all been there...)
  • You eat like a king every night because of the great food you have planned to eat, and it will make you excited about coming home!
  •  When making our meals, we make sure we make enough for dinner and for lunch the following day.  That way, we never have to worry about preparing a lunch in the morning; it's just a matter of grabbing lefovers on your way out the door! (This will save you money and help you eat healthier as it stops you from eating out for lunch)
  • We do our meal planning using Google Calendar.  It sends you reminders of what meal you need to make that night, and it is very simple to switch around what meal you make on which day if you need to. (A good idea for this would also be to print out your monthly calendar and stick it on the fridge)
  • If you just search meal planning in Google, there will be a variety of printouts you can acquire to help you make a list of ingredients you need and such.  Find what works best for you!

I would love to hear any other ways to enhance the meal planning experience, let me know if you have any! HAPPY PLANNING!  

Monday, May 14, 2012

Cherry Tomato Couscous

     Happy Mothers Day everyone!  Yesterday, we had a wonderful time visiting my mom and celebrating all the wonderful things mothers give to this world.  Because it was mothers day, we decided to prepare something light to bring up to the family dinner.  This is cherry tomato couscous.  Super easy to make, very delicious and filling.  It can be a great side dish, or a main course and it makes great leftovers!

Cherry Tomato Couscous 
 Keep your eyes peeled for whole wheat or barley couscous - either would work great here.

3 cups cooked couscous*
1/2 a basket of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 medium cucumber, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 lemon, cut in half
1 lime, cut in half
about 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
fine grain sea salt
freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup basil or cilantro, chopped

Combine the couscous, tomatoes, cucumber, and chickpeas in a large bowl.  Squeeze the lemon and lime juice directly into the bowl,  add the olive oil, and some salt and pepper. Toss well, taste, and adjust with more of the above until it tastes just right.  
  • This really needs a generous amount of salt, and the lemon and lime juices might need to be adjusted depending on how juicy the fruit is.
Add the basil and toss gently until it is evenly dispersed.

*To cook the couscous: Either follow the package instructions or bring 3 1/2 cups of water to a boil, stir in a scant 2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt and 2 cups of couscous. Cover and remove from heat. Steam for 5 to 10 minutes and then use a fork to fluff up the couscous.
Prep time: 10 min

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Pizza Party!

     Last night was Saturday night--time to mix it up! Malissa and I decided we wanted to do something really fun with dinner!  This one was a bit more complicated than the other recipes, but it was super fun for the two of us to make together and comes highly recommended for a great, inexpensive date night or party!  As you can see, our pizza is a rectangle.  We didn't have a pizza stone, so we just used a cookie sheet, and it turned out perfectly!  This pizza was so delicious and very satisfying to know that we made it ourselves (first time I've ever made a pizza! whoot!).

Oven Baked Pizza

For the Pizza Crust:

1 Cup warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sweetener (xylitol, or sugar)
3 Cups flour
1-2 Tablespoons dried basil
1-2 Tablespoons dried oregeno
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons oil (olive oil is healthier, but vegetable oil works too)

Dissolve yeast in water.  Using a mixer, blend in 2 cups of flour and remaining ingredients.  Mix until well-blended.  Stir in remaining flour.  knead on floured surface 3-4 minutes.  Cover and let rest 30 minutes.  Punch dough down and shape into a ball.  Roll out ball or stretch by hand to fit a 12" greased pizza pan (or a cookie sheet if you don't have one)

Pizza Sauce:
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
Dash of sweetener

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan.  Simmer 3-5 minutes or until sauce starts to deepen in color.  Spread over pizza crust and layer with desired toppings*.  Sprinkle vegan cheese over everything.  Bake at 450 for 15-20 minutes

*A great date activity could be to go to the store together and pick out all the toppings you want for your individual pizza!  If you want cheese, I recommend vegan gourmet mozzarella (our favorite, you can find it in the health food section of most grocery stores)  One of my personal favorite toppings are artichoke hearts! YUM!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Whole-Foods Sloppy Joes

Okay, you will only ever hear me say this once (unless my opinion changes).  This recipe is by far, our absolute FAVORITE!  I have mentioned some recipes that are one of our favorites, but Malissa and I both agree that this one tops them all! If there is one recipe you NEED to try, it's this one.  It isn't that difficult to make, it does take a while, probably plan on about an hour, but don't worry, it's totally worth it!  This is one recipe I would definitely recommend you double or triple, because it makes awesome leftovers too!  If anyone tries this one, please leave feedback about what you thought of it!

Note* Bulgar Wheat isn't too hard to find, just look in the flour section (bob's red mill makes a good kind)

Whole-Foods Sloppy Joes

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 Cup bulgar wheat
1/2 Medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 Green pepper, finely chopped
1 Clove garlic. minced
1/2 -1 1/2 Cup water
1/2 Cup strained or diced tomatoes
1/3 Cup ketchup (get some organic ketchup.  Regular Hunts or Heinz is loaded with bad ingredients)
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (or just mix 1tsp white vinegar and 2 tsp soy sauce)
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1-2 teaspoons sweetener (we use agave)
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional) (put in more and some crushed red peppers for extra spice)
Salt/pepper, to taste

In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and peppers to the pan, cooking until the onions become slightly translucent. Stir in the minced garlic and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes more. S
tir in bulgar and let toast for 1-2 minutes. Add in 1/2 cup of water and the strained tomatoes. Turn heat down to medium-low and continue to cook the mixture uncovered, adding more water as needed up bulgar reaches the right consistency. (I like mine to be slightly al dente.)
Once bulgar reaches your desired consistency, stir in the remaining ingredients and cook for 5-6 minutes. Taste and adjust any of the ingredients to reach desired taste. (I tend to like a little heat with less sweet.)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

     I have to say that I have the most wonderful wife in the whole world!  Coming home from work and seeing these delicious stuffed mushrooms, made entirely by her, was a wonderful treat last night!  When I think of something called Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms, I immediately get intimidated.  They look incredibly elaborate and complicated.  One thing I learned with this recipe though is that it is actually one of the simpler ones.  As you will see from the directions below, there aren't a lot of ingredients and there is very little work needed to prepare them.  Make them for your friends and they'll all be impressed!

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

1/2 Cup Almonds
1/4 Cup olive oil
1/4 Cup Braggs liquid aminos (easy to find at most grocery stores near the salad dressings/soy sauce) (If you can't use this, then soy sauce may be used as a substitute, though it is not recommended)
1/4 Cup Water
2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
3 Cloves Garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
4 Large Portabello mushrooms with stems removed
1 Medium onion chopped
1 Bell pepper chopped

Preheat oven to 350.  Place almonds, olive oil, braggs, water, garlic, oregano, rosemary in a high powered blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Place the four mushrooms in a large baking dish (if you don't have one, a cookie sheet works too) upside down and top with onions and peppers.  Pour sauce over each mushroom and bake for 25 minutes.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hawaiian Haystacks

     We first made these Hawaiian Haystacks a week ago, and they were so good we couldn't wait to make them again!  They are chalk full of a variety of your daily vegetables and the sweet and sour sauce is great!  We also like a bit of soy sauce on it as well.  This recipe requires a bit of chopping, but overall is very easy to make.  Another plus is that it is very filling.  Enjoy!

Whole Foods Hawaiian Haystacks

Brown Rice 
Diced green bell pepper 
Diced green onion 
Diced tomatoes
Diced Pineapple
Water Chestnuts 

Hawaiian Sweet and Sour Sauce
½ cup xylitol (all natural sweetener, you can use sugar instead, but you should try to use xylitol)
½ cup white vineagar
½ cup pineapple juice (use less according to how sweet you like things)
1 Tablespoon diced green bell pepper
½ teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons tapioca starch (cornstarch works too)*
1 Tablespoon cold water

Simmer all ingredients (*except tapioca starch and Tbsp cold water) for 5 minutes.  Mix the tapioca starch (cornstarch) and water in a cup, then slowly add into simmering mixture.  If desired, add more tapioca (corn) starch/water mix to reach desired thickness.  Serve warm over the Haystacks.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Minestrone Soup

     Today we  had a soup that was an immediate hit!  Besides being delicious, it was also incredibly easy to make! Only a few minutes of prep time, then let it cook and you are done!  This recipe makes only a couple of bowls, so make sure you double or triple it for great leftovers.
     I added more beans than what is called for here (1 can instead of 1/4 cup) and loved it, Malissa said she thought it would be better a bit less beans than what I put in.  Still, it is definitely a permanent keeper in our recipe book!

TIP: Soup is a great way to get in your vegetable quota for the day, AND you can make a bunch and freeze the leftovers for a meal later! 

Minestrone Soup

1/4 Cup Diced Onion
1 Stalk Celery, Sliced
1 Carrot, Peeled and Diced
3/4 Cup Water
1 Bay Leaf
1 10 oz Can of condensed tomato soup
1/2 Cup Green Beans
1/4 Cup Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon parsley
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Pour water into medium saucepan, add onions, celery, carrots, and other seasonings, simmer 20 minutes or until carrots are tender.  Stir in remaining ingredients, simmer 5 more minutes.  Remove and discard Bay leaf.

I'm not usually a soup fan for a meal, but this is a GREAT exception!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Tinfoil Dinners!

Yesterday was Saturday and I woke up freezing cold with an aching body smelling like dirt and smoke...ah yes, I must have been CAMPING! Whoot! That's right folks! Malissa and I went on an awesome camping trip!
Two of the highlights: 1. We went hiking off the beaten path and found several patches of animal bones that were picked clean...probably by the mountain lion that was stalking us...AND 2. We ate DELICIOUS tinfoil dinners!  Definitely the best I've ever eaten.

Tinfoil Dinner

3 potatoes chopped small
8 oz. (about 15) whole baby bella mushrooms (or any regular/small size mushrooms)
1/2 red pepper chopped small (I'd put the whole thing in because they are delicious!)
1/2 white onion (or any onion for flavor)
20 (approx.) Baby Carrots
1 Cup frozen corn
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Garlic Cloves minced
2 tsp fajita seasoning mix (we used Lowry's seasoning salt instead. Either is super good)

Place all veggies in gallon size plastic bag that seals.  Mix olive oil, minced garlic, and fajita seasoning together.  Pour into the bag over the veggies.  Shake it to make sure all the veggies are well coated with the seasoning.  Divide into piles on tinfoil (you can choose the portions).  Fold foil around mixture, be sure to cover completely.  Place directly onto hot coals in your campfire. Cook for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are nice and soft.

*Also can be cooked on a BBQ grill on a low temp
**The bag of veggies can marinate if kept cold for a couple of days, which makes this a great meal for camping!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Banana Ice Cream

Ice cream is the dessert of the day here at the Moench abode.  Not just any ice cream though, a homemade kind that you can indulge in forever, knowing that you are actually eating something healthy!

Probably the simplest recipe we've made, and definitely in the top ten for tastiness.

Banana Ice Cream

Peel and Freeze 4+ Bananas (add more based on how much ice cream you want).  After frozen, put them all in the food processor and blend until smooth and creamy.

Chocolate Sauce

2 Tablespoons agave
1 Tablespoon dark cocoa powder

mix ingredients together, and drizzle on ice cream.

This ice cream is delicious and will leave you feeling glad you ate it once it's gone!

Protein Power!

Timothy Bradley.  Whole-Foods enthusiast; totally buff...
     Where do you get your protein?  When you tell people you don't eat meat, this seems to be the first thing out of their lips.
     For those wondering if they can get protein while eating a Whole-Foods plant based diet, ask my friend to the right here.  His name is Timothy Bradley. As an up-an-coming boxing superstar with a 28-0 record, his diet is built upon Whole-Foods and proteins from nuts, legumes, grains, seeds, fruits and vegetables. (Click here to learn more about Bradley)

     The truth is, protein can come from many different places.  All Whole grains have protein, as well as nuts and legumes.  In the two years that I have eaten a whole-foods plant-based diet, I haven't once had to worry about whether or not I get enough protein.

Click here for my post on three plant-based proteins!