Thursday, November 14, 2013

Quick, Healthy, Wild Rice Pilaf



    Like many of you, Malissa and I celebrate Thanksgiving at our parents home surrounded by our family.  We estimated that there will be close to 30 people at this feast!  That many mouths will generally also include many different diets, allergies, and food restrictions, so, for this thanksgiving feast, we decided we wanted to bring a side that would be hardy, substantial, and one that the whole family could enjoy!  This wild-rice pilaf is Vegan, organic, nut free, gluten-free, and delicious!

Wild Rice Pilaf
 
1-2 Tablespoons Olive oil 
1 Small onion, diced  
2/3 Cup mushrooms, sliced 
2 Cloves garlic, minced  
1/4 Cup celery, chopped 
1/4 Cup fresh parsley, chopped  
1 teaspoon dried sage, 
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary 
2 cups wild rice (for a unique taste and texture, you can mix brown rice in with it)  
3 1/2 cups water or gluten-free vegetable broth
 
In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until soft.  Add mushrooms, garlic and celery and cook 5 minutes or until mushrooms are cooked.  Stir in parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary. Add rice and stock or water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 50 minutes or until rice is tender.  Fluff with a fork before serving.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Easy Homemade Crockpot Applesauce




     Growing up, it was always a treat when I was at school, opened my lunch, and saw a small cup of applesauce from my mom!  The applesauce was always delicious, however, looking back and thinking of the added preservatives and sugar I was consuming de-romanticizes my elementary school days a bit.  Fortunately, after getting 22 pounds of apples, and scrambling to figure out what to do with them, Malissa and I discovered how to make delicious applesauce with no preservatives, and no artificial ingredients!  Now I can re-live my childhood memories without re-living the chemicals!

...OH! And it's SUPER EASY!...

Crockpot Applesauce

12 Apples, peeled and sliced into cubes (we used Fuji, which were really good!)
1-2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 Cups water
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon sweetener (optional)


Combine all ingredients in the crockpot, cook for 6 hours on low setting, stir and mash occasionally.

  


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Easy Crunchy Kale Chips


      I have a secret I need to confess to everyone who reads this blog.  I love chips!  I know, I know, chips aren't healthy, they're really oily and fatty and have way more sodium than I should be consuming...but chips are my vice!  Malissa always gives me grief because I can turn away the ice cream, chocolate, candy, or any other type of junk food, but when chips are placed before me, my mouth immediately starts watering.  Fortunately, I have devised a plan to turn that weakness into a strength!  Behold the kale chip!  A healthy, delicious chip that you can eat guilt-free!  (And I think that picture looks cool too).  For all of you who have a weakness of loving chips too much, I have an incredibly easy win-win solution!

Kale Chips

Kale, stemmed and cut into chip-sized pieces
Olive oil
Salt or Seasoning of your choice

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Combine a small amount of olive oil (just enough to lightly coat all your kale), kale, and seasoning in a bowl.  Mix well and spread kale evenly in one layer over a cookie sheet.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until they are nice and crispy, but not burnt.  Enjoy!
 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Spicy Tomato Basil Pasta


    Okay people, move over sloppy joes,  this is the new favorite recipe in our house!  Malissa and I have recently discovered a new sauce that we have become completely converted to.  It's called Harissa and it is divine!  Now, you all know how much I love to read labels, so I can tell you that I have read the label of the Harissa sauce thoroughly and there is nothing hidden or bad about its contents.  Every ingredient is healthy and natural.  As we mixed it in with some garlic, basil, cherry tomatoes, and spices, we created a middle-eastern pasta sauce that is out of this world.  If you try one of the recipes I have written this year, make it this one.

Spicy Tomato Basil Pasta

1 Pound spaghetti, cooked (or any pasta)
4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Pound cherry tomatoes, halved 
3 Garlic cloves, sliced (NOT diced or minced)
3/4 Cup fresh basil, chopped
2 Tablespoons dried oregano
2 Tablespoons dried chives 
2 Tablespoons dried parsley
2 Tablespoons onion salt
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1-3 Tablespoons harissa
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook until browned, about 2-3 minutes.  Lower heat to medium low.  Add cherry tomatoes and cook for five minutes. Add one tablespoon of oregano, chives, parsley, onion salt, and 1/4 cup of the fresh basil. Simmer another 5 minutes. Add Harissa paste (amount depends on how spicy you want this), salt, pepper, and 1/4 cup of fresh basil. Cook another 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, another 1/4 cup of fresh basil, and 1 Tablespoon of oregano, chives, parsley, and onion salt. Cook another 5 minutes. Add sauce to pasta and enjoy!
     

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Summer Veggie Pasta Salad With Balsamic Dressing

    I have loved pasta salad all my life.  Every time I eat some, I can't help but reminisce about my childhood, eating with my family outside on a warm summer evening.  My craving for pasta salad has not been satisfied for a long time however, as most pasta salads usually come with fatty, sugary dressings, and bleached, unhealthy pastas.  Malissa and I have successfully remedied this inability to enjoy pasta salad with our new healthy, whole grain version.  This meal only takes 15 minutes to make and will create new lasting memories ingrained in your mind forever!

*Veggie Pasta Salad

1 Pound whole wheat pasta (we use fusilli)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Clove garlic, minced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 Bell peppers, diced (red, green, or both!)
2 Zucchini, chopped
1 Tablespoon thyme
1/2 Cup fresh basil, cut into small pieces
Salt, to taste

Dressing:
4-5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
5 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
Dash of cayenne or chili powder (optional)
Dash of crushed red peppers (optional, for a little spice!)

    Cook pasta according to package directions.  Place in large bowl.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the cherry tomatoes and garlic and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the peppers, zucchini, and thyme.  Cook until *veggies are soft, about 5-7 minutes.  Add to pasta bowl, along with the basil.  For the dressing:  Combine all ingredients and stir.  Add to pasta bowl.



*Note:  I call this a veggie pasta salad even though from a scientific point of view, all the main ingredients are actually fruits...however, I think you would agree with me that to claim this as a fruit salad would be ridiculous!  Therefore, I am taking a culinary liberty, and calling these vegetables.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Easy Ratatouille


    

    
    The word Ratatouille always brings my mind back to the beautiful city of Paris, with it’s glamorous tower, renowned breads, and small rodents cooking for food critics.  Yes, the first time I was ever introduced to this dish was when I watched the animated character Anton Ego take a bite, then dramatically drop his pen in slow motion as he savored the delicious taste.  Now, several years later, we are cooking our own ratatouille, and it is good!  Its flavor didn’t cause me to go into shock and have a flashback of my childhood…but it probably would have if I had ever had ratatouille when I was younger! 
    This meal is a great way to get rid of all that squash you have piling up in your refrigerator, and you can cook it as a delectable side, or serve it over rice as a wonderful main course.  Bon Apatite!

Ratatouille

1/4 Cup olive oil
1 1/2 Cups yellow onion, diced
1-2 Cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (The spice works if you don't have fresh)
1 Cup green bell peppers, diced
1 Cup red bell peppers, diced
*3 Cups zucchini squash, diced
1 Cup yellow squash, diced
1 1/2 cups tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley leaves, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 Tablespoon Harissa sauce (optional, if you like spiciness)

Directions

Set a large 12-inch saute pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Once hot, add the onions and garlic to the pan. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are wilted and lightly caramelized, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Add the thyme, green and red peppers, zucchini, and squash.  Continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, basil, parsley, salt and pepper, and Harissa (if you want it spicy), and cook for 5 minutes. Stir well to blend and serve either as a side, or on rice as a main course.

*Note- if you like eggplant, you can substitute 2 cups of eggplant and only use 1 cup of zucchini.  Add the eggplant before the peppers, zucchini, and squash and let it cook for five minutes.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Healthy Zucchini Muffins

 
  Once again, we come to that wonderful time of year when all of us are panicking about how we can get rid of the truckload of zucchini we found in our garden.  Perhaps an obstacle you are facing is that the children at your table aren't thrilled about the taste of zucchini!  Time to sneak some of this squash into their lives!  These zucchini muffins are a great side or dessert to add to your meal, and they are very simple to make!  Just make sure your kids don't wander into the kitchen while you're making them, and they'll love these muffins without ever realizing what kind of squash they're digesting!  Enjoy!

Zucchini Muffins

2 Cups whole wheat flour
1/2 Cup flax meal 
A healthy, sweet, and hardy dessert or snack!
















2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
2/3 Cup agave (Add more if you want it really sweet)
3/4/ Cup soymilk
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 Cups Zucchini, shredded

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line a 12 muffin tin with paper liners, or spray with non-stick spray.  In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Add the wet ingredients and whisk until the batter is smooth all the way through. Mix in the zucchini.  Scoop 1/3 cup of the batter into each prepared cup, almost filling it.  Bake on center rack for 23 minutes.  Poke with toothpick to test.  
 
 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mexican Rice

 
    Growing up, I always loved going to Mexican restaurants because of how delicious the Mexican rice was.  We never ate Mexican rice in my home, and I assumed the reason why was because it must have been very complicated to make, or required some type of "secret ingredient".  Little did I know just how easy Mexican Rice is to make on your own (With just two lines of instructions!).  Now, Malissa and I are always just 20 minutes away from enjoying restaurant quality Mexican rice, which has now become the popular side to many of our favorite homemade Mexican Dishes.

Mexican Rice

2 Cups water
2 Cups rice (regular brown rice does not work!  Use quick brown rice or white)
1 ½ Cups Salsa
2 teaspoons salt
Dash of Chili Powder

In a medium pot or saucepan, bring water to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, add all ingredients, cover pot and simmer for 20 minutes.  Easy!

*This recipe works wonderfully as a filler for Tacos!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Chunky Tomato Basil Soup



    I don’t believe that Malissa and I are a minority as people who love to have soup with our sandwiches.  If you are like us, then this tomato basil soup is perfect for you!  Not only can it be enjoyed guilt-free, knowing that it is completely vegan and healthy, but it is also extremely easy to make and works very well as leftovers!  It is rich and creamy, but still has some good chunks in it, giving it a good hardiness.  This meal is also very quick, taking about 15-20 minutes to make.

8 Cups roma tomatoes, diced
2 Eight-ounce cans tomato sauce
1 Six-ounce can tomato paste
2 Cups water
4 teaspoons bouillon (we get veggie “better than bouillon”)
1 Package silken tofu (optional, adds to the creaminess)
10 Basil leaves, finely chopped (or to taste)
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Vegan cheese (optional, for garnish)

Place diced tomato pieces in blender or food processor and pulse 2-3 times.  Combine tomatoes, sauce, paste, water, and bouillon in pot and simmer 3-4 minutes.  Blend the tofu until creamy and stir into tomato mixture.  Simmer until it reaches desired thickness.  Remove from heat, stir in basil, salt and pepper.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Statuses of Kindness on Facebook

     
    Those of you who follow my Facebook page may have noticed a daily post that is a bit different from the rest.  Each morning, I have posted a status update that has to do with kindness in some way.  Why should a page about living a healthy lifestyle write daily posts involving kindness?  This blog post will be dedicated to sharing with you my conversion to promoting kindness each day on my page, and why I believe it is the healthiest post of the day!

    When I first began the Facebook page, I immediately went out and looked for lots of other pages that shared my view on healthy eating so that I could become a part of a great healthy eating community.  This worked really well and I was able to find many pages that were devoted to promoting a whole foods plant-based diet.  What I didn't anticipate, however, was the fact that many of these pages, while promoting healthy eating, also promoted vanity and pride, often writing posts that were being very critical and sarcastic toward people who didn't eat the way they did, and showing pictures of women with beautiful bodies to depict the benefit of eating healthy (this can also be found on most Pinterest pages).  It is amazing that the same page could publish a success story of someone miraculously overcoming cancer or diabetes through eating healthy, and then, moments later, publish a cartoon showing someone obese walking into McDonalds with a condescending joke about their eating preference under it!  My feed became full of this garbage and I, regrettably, began to succumb to this mindset and became very critical and prideful myself.
    After a few months of being consumed by this attitude, I realized that because of my pride and criticism, I had become much unhealthier than anyone I had criticized.  This realization led to my choice to stop updating my blog or page in order to get my priorities straight again.  I wasn't sure if I was going to ever begin updating my blog or page again, until one day, just a couple weeks ago, I decided to just look at my old posts on my page.  
    While looking through my posts, I realized that, although there were some critical things, I had also published a lot of posts that were a positive influence in lives of others.  Suddenly I realized that I was in a position of influence.
    I decided to begin updating my blog and page again, but this time, I was doing it because I saw that it was an opportunity to help others.  This is why I have begun the kindness posts.  With all the pride, vanity, and criticism in the world, it is easy to become consumed by it; I know!  But that's why we all need something uplifting in our lives everyday!  And we all need to be kind everyday!  Honestly, the posts I write concerning kindness are as much for me as they are for you, the readers.  They help me start my day with a proper perspective, and they keep me accountable to the commitment I have made to never criticize, but to always be kind, no matter the circumstances.
http://cdn-media.ellentv.com/2013/02/11/kind-612x339.jpeg 
    Ellen Degeneres has a more expansive influence than I do, and something she does that I absolutely love is that each day she ends her show with the same reminder: "Be kind to one another." (she's also into eating healthy as well!).  Every day, we all have some influence in this world.  You and I can do so much more good in this world as we begin using the influence we have to promote kindness.
    Kindness not only uplifts and benefits the lives of everyone around you, but it is also what will bring happiness and peace to yourself.  This is why I believe the kindness post is the healthiest of the day; after all, who cares about being healthy if you aren't happy?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Penne Marinara With Artichoke Hearts


 
  If you like artichoke hearts, then this Italian dish is a must for you!  And for those of you who have never tried artichoke hearts, this is a great introduction.
  The marinara sauce is delicious and the artichoke hearts add a taste and texture that is out of this world.  A bonus is that it only takes about 15 minutes to make!  A perfect dish to prepare for a potluck party, as a side, or as the main course of your meal!  Enjoy!

Penne With Artichokes

1 Pound whole grain penne rigate
1 Small onion, finely sliced
2 Garlic cloves, minced
3 Tablespoons olive oil
8 Artichoke hearts, quartered
1 Can diced tomatoes
2-3 small cans (8 oz.) tomato sauce (depending on how saucy you want it!)
2 Tablespoons Italian seasoning (or to taste)
Salt/Pepper, to taste
1 Tablespoon Chopped Parsley (optional, for garnish)
1/2 Cup shredded vegan cheese (optional)

Cook the penne according to package directions in boiling water.  In a skillet over medium-high heat, sauté the onion and the garlic in olive oil.  Add the artichoke hearts.  Cook to pale gold color.  Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, and seasonings.  Simmer 15 minutes over medium heat.  Combine sauce and penne together, sprinkle with chopped parsley and cheese. 


 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Black Bean Avocado Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing



Tonight, Malissa and I have decided to try something a bit light, though, we still wanted something with a good kick.  This salad is incredible!  The Mexican style taste could be compared to a salad you would find at Cafe Rio, only much healthier, and the cilantro lime dressing adds a great zest to the already great colors and flavors.  Make too much and the leftovers can become an awesome Pico De Gallo.  It is also very easy to make, only taking about 15 minutes, and is great for a side or as the main course.

Black Bean Avocado Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing


2 Cups fresh or frozen corn
1 Can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 Cups fresh diced tomatoes
1 ½ Cups finely diced red or white onion
2 Ripe avocados cut into ½ -inch squares
2 Cups chopped fresh cilantro
6-8 cups lettuce (optional)

Dressing:
½ Cup flaxseed oil (or extra virgin olive oil)
1/3 Cup lime juice
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cook corn in pot of lightly salted water for about 2-3 minutes, until crisp-tender.  Drain and rinse with cold water.
Combine corn, beans, tomatoes, onion, avocados, and cilantro in a large bowl.  Whisk oil, lime juice, salt, and pepper in a separate bowl.  Pour over veggies and toss gently to coat.  Serve on beds of lettuce, or use as a chip dip if desired.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Black Bean Sweet Potato Chili



A co-worker of Malissa's has recently changed her diet, and has been looking for a good chili recipe.  Let me tell you, I don't blame her one bit for wanting one!  Before I changed my diet, I loved the taste of a can of chili regardless of how unhealthy it was.  Fortunately, for us chili lovers, I have found a recipe that, besides being extremely healthy, is the best chili I have ever eaten!  It is also very good served over brown rice, and can make great leftovers!  Double the recipe, freeze the rest, and have it always on hand as a quick meal!  Yum!

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Large onion (chopped)
1 Red bell pepper (chopped)
1 Green bell pepper (chopped)
2 Jalapeno peppers (seeded and diced)
2 Sweet potatoes (peeled and diced)
2 Garlic cloves (minced)
2 to 3 Tablespoons chili powder
1 to 2 t ground cumin
1 to 2 teaspoons crushed basil leaves
Dash of marjoram (optional)
1 bay leaf
1 Can diced tomatoes
2 Cans vegetable or chicken broth
1 Can black beans, rinsed and drained
Juice of one lime
Sea salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Crushed red peppers, to taste (optional)

Heat oil in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add onion; reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10-15 minutes or until tender. Add bell peppers, jalapenos, and sweet potatoes, cook for 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute. Add chili powder and next 7 ingredients. Stir and cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes and broth. Simmer, uncovered, about 30 minutes. Stir in beans and continue to cook 10 more minutes. Remove bay leaf and stir in lime juice.  Enjoy! 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Healthy Movie Theater Popcorn



I am very excited about tonight's recipe.  Malissa and I love to watch movies together, but we have never really had a snack to eat while we watched.  Occasionally, we would pop some popcorn in the microwave, but we felt guilty if we ever put anything on it.  Then we discovered this little trick!  Now we enjoy popcorn that tastes exactly like the stuff you get at the theaters without the guilt (not to mention the unpleasant side effects).  Enjoy!

Movie Theater Popcorn

2 Tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil (or extra virgin olive oil)
6 Tablespoons popcorn kernels
Any other seasonings you like


Place the coconut oil in a 14-inch wok over medium heat.  Add few kernels of popcorn. When you hear a kernel pop, pour in all of the popcorn.
Cover, turn the heat to medium-low, and cook, shaking the wok constantly, until you no longer hear the kernels popping against the lid.  Place in a bowl and Enjoy with your favorite movie!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Four Ingredient Chocolate Mousse


Alright everyone, this one is a big deal.  This is my new FAVORITE dessert!  Not only is this incredibly delicious, rich, sweet and wonderful in every way, it is also the easiest dessert we have ever made!  A must for anyone who is a chocoholic and wants to eat healthy like me.  Only 4 ingredients. period.

Four Ingredient Chocolate Mousse

1 Can coconut milk (make sure it is full fat, or for ultimate thickness, get coconut cream)
5-6 Tablespoons cacao powder (cocoa powder works if you don't have cacao, but cacao is healthier)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Natural sweetener, to taste (to preserve the thickness, use stevia, or xylitol agave will work, but will make it a little thinner)

Make sure the coconut milk is thick like mousse, if not, put it in the refrigerator for an hour or two until it thickens up (also, to make it thicker, leave out the watery part at the bottom of the can).  Mix all ingredients by hand or with a mixer in a bowl mixing it may take several minutes to thicken.  If you want it thicker, just refrigerate until it reaches desired thickness.  Enjoy!  Easy as that!

Tex-Mex Rice and Bean Polenta


    Tonight, we are going south with a tex-mex polenta pie.  This is a super fun recipe to make, and the citrus garlic avocado topper is to die for!  This recipe is also incredibly simple, especially if you have a rice cooker.  A must have for anyone that enjoys healthy tex-mex food!

Tex-Mex Polenta Pie

Filling:
1 Cup vegetable broth
1 Cup water
1 Can diced tomatoes
1 Small diced onion
1 Cup brown rice
1 Tablespoon chile powder
1 Can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 Cup salsa

Polenta crust:
2 Cups water
3/4 Cup polenta
dash of salt

Avocado topper:
1 Avocado, mashed
4 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Combine broth, water, tomatoes, onion, rice, and chile powder in a rice cooker or saucepan.  Cook until all liquid is gone or rice is tender (about 45 min).
While that is cooking, make the polenta crust:  Bring water to a boil and whisk in the polenta and salt.  Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes until the polenta becomes semi-firm.  Dump the cooked polenta into a large pie dish and spread evenly over the bottom and sides of the dish.
After rice is cooked, stir in the black beans and Spread the filling evenly in the polenta crust.  spread salsa evenly over the top.  Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.
Meanwhile, mash the avocado and mix in a small bowl with lemon juice and garlic powder.

Slice the pie and put a dollop of avocado mixture on each slice before serving. Enjoy!