Thursday, April 29, 2010

What's for Dinner: Sunday

Back again, finally! I suppose you can guess that Brad stole my laptop computer and went out of town for a week. As if getting some time with the computer wasn't hard enough, trying to get myself upstairs to use the office computer is practically impossible for anything other than 10 minutes at a time. I am catching back up on my menu for last week which is when we had this. I just hadn't gotten around to posting about it til now.

Portobello Salad with Mustard Dressing and "Spiked" Cheese and Herb Breadsticks

I really love this salad and mostly I love the mushrooms and the dressing. It is rather light but I made breadsticks to go with it so it wouldn't look all lonely on the plate and give a few more calories to fill up with. Also, what the hey, strawberries are in season so we had them as a side as well with a little whipped cream.
I have a basic breadstick recipe that I use but I decided to get a little creative and make the breadsticks even more chock full of nutritiousness thus the name "spiked" because I don't think you would really know what you were eating unless I told you and because I added some more herbs to make them a bit more interesting. I think next time I will add some frozen finely chopped spinach even. It helps to be devious with food when one of your kids only eats a handful of things. You have to make those things really count. These were so yummy.
The salad is an adaptation from one in my absolute favorite cookbook "Veganomicon" but I change the dressing quite a bit. I think the dressing in the cookbook is too strong. Also, when I made the roasted portobellos I almost drank the leftover marinade, it was so good.  I thought it was rediculous to let something so tasty just go down the drain so I incorporated it into the dressing.

So, for the salad you will need:
about 6-7 cups of romain lettuce chopped
1/2 an avocado peeled (I didn't use the avocado this time because I forgot to add it to my grocery list so we had to go without but every time I have made a variation of this in the past I have included it, it's really a must have here)
a few thin dices of red onion (however much you like)
1 cup chickpeas cooked
2 roasted and sliced portobellos

For the roasted portobellos
Combine the marinade in a small bowl:
1/2 cup cooking wine
1 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tsp garlic powder
2-3 portobello mushroom caps
Lay the mushrooms rib side up in a loaf pan and pour the marinade over them trying to keeo as much inside the caps as possible. Allow them to sit about 20 minutes. In the meantime heat the oven to 400 degrees. Cover the loaf pan with aluminum foil and bake about 30 minutes. Remove the foil, flip the caps over and continue to bake another 10 minutes. Try to keep the caps warm and slice them over the salad just before serving. Reserve the leftover marinade.

Dressing:
3 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs maple syrup or honey
3 Tbs red wine vinegar
3 Tbs dijon mustard
1/2 cup reserved mushroom marinade

Arrange 2 plates of salad, lettuce on the bottom, onions, chickpeas, avocado, and last the sliced mushrooms. Pour over the desired amount of dressing.

"Spiked" Breadsticks
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour

4 tsp. sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp dried rosemary
2 tsp powdered garlic
about 1 1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup walnuts
about 4 Tbs flax seeds
1/2 cup shredded cheese

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. In a blender combine the milk, walnuts, and flax seeds and blend until all the flax seeds and walnuts are pureed. I say "about" 1 1/4 cups of milk because I usually only blend 1 cup and put the 1/4 cup aside to add as needed to get the right consistency. Pour the wet into the dry and also the cheese and knead with your fingers adding the extra milk as neccessary. This is not a yeast dough so the consistency should be a bit more wet, as wet as you can manage without making the dough such that you can't form it into breadsticks. I am slowly getting better at getting this right but it's never the same each time I make it. It is just a matter of paying attention to how sticky the dough is. On occasion I have had to add a bit more flour to make it right. Once you have the right consistency knead the dough a bit to activate the gluten. Form the dough into about  12-15 breadsticks depending on the size you like.

Bake them at 425 degrees for around 10 minutes. It will vary depending on the size of your breadsticks and also what kind of oven you have but do your best to pull them out as soon as they look baked through. You don't want them getting too dry which they do quickly if you bake them too long.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What's for Dinner: Saturday

Pad Thai

I know technically pad thai is supposed to have rice noodles but I had a bunch of udon on hand so why go out and buy stuff you don't need? It tastes just as good no matter what noodle you use. Now I know some of your were probably wondering what the heck I use red cabbage for and this is one of those things. In fact, two things on the menu this week call for red cabbage. Also, if you have read my post on tofu and have wanted to see it in action, here's your chance. Brad really likes Pad Thai and probably because he loves pasta. I am not such a big pasta fan but this is as good as it gets in pasta land I think. I feel obligated to point out that this is a close adaptation to the Pad Thai recipe in The Accidental Vegan but I change the sauce a bit and I use broiled tofu instead of yucky peices of plain tofu and I stir fry my veggies first. The veggies are also almost entirely different.  Ok so now that I think about it my Pad Thai is way different. We'll just call the Accidental Vegan my inspiration.
You'll need:
One batch of broiled tofu. I used:
1 pound package of extra firm tofu frozen and defrosted and cut into bite size cubes
juice of half a lemon
4 Tbs water
1 tsp garlic powder
3 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs agave nectar (you could also use sugar)
Marinate the tofu cubes in the braising liquid about 15 minutes. I put aluminum foil down on a baking sheet, spray it with nonstick spray and lay out the tofu. I put them in the broiler about 5 minutes and then pour the rest of the braising liquid over them. When they start to brown I do my best to turn them over with tongs and continue broiling until their color appeals to me. I like mine nice and dark but if you like yours more tender broil them less time. I think it takes aroudn 10 minutes total.

These were the absolute BEST batch of broiled tofu I have made. I think it was the agave nectar that did it. I had never used that before. I could hardly stop from eating them while I prepared everything else.

While the tofu marinates and broils cook the noodles and prepare the veggies:
1 -8 oz package of Udon noodles cooked (or rice or soba noodles)
1/2 small red cabbage thinly sliced
2 carrots shredded
~3/4 cup of roasted peanuts
Stir fry the veggies in a little oil until just tender. Add the peanuts last after everything is cooked.

Gosh, isn't that cabbage pretty?
Prepare the sauce.
2 cloves or garlic pressed or minced
1/3 can of tomato paste
2 Tbs tamarind concentrate or just dried tamarinds (you can find this at an Asian market)
juice of one lime
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tbs agave nectar or brown sugar
water to achieve desired consistency
In a blender combine all but the garlic and blend into a smooth paste. You will add just enough water to get the blender moving but you want the sauce to really coat the noodles so make sure it's thick enough for that.
In a saucepan saute the garlic in a little oil until fragrant and then add the rest of the sauce. Cook on medium heat until bubbly and then set aside.

Once the noodles are done put them in a large bowl and stir in the sauce. Then add the veggies. Serve with a big handful of broiled tofu on top.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Top 10 Nutritional Boosters: Nuts

I am a nut fanatic. I have a shelf in my cabinets dedicated to nuts. The five nuts I keep on hand all the time are cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans, and peanuts. I know peanuts aren't technically nuts but you get what I mean. I use cashews in things like cashew ricotta and to add into soups to make them creamy as well as just eating them for the heck of it. I also add them to pasta dishes sometimes to add a little extra texture. Pecans, walnuts, and almonds I use for all kinds of things. Below I have broken down the nutritional data according the USDA for pecans. While I don't put much stock in what the USDA deems as the "neccessary daily intake" represented as the percentages for the different items (another day, another blog post on that one) I think it gives you a good idea of how much is in there. The nutritional content is absolutely astounding!

Pecans
Amounts per 1 cup, chopped (109g)
Fats & Fatty Acids
Total Omega-3 fatty acids1075mg
Total Omega-6 fatty acids22487mg

Protein
Protein10.0g20%

Vitamins
Vitamin A 61 IU 1%
Vitamin C 1.2 mg 2%
Vitamin E 1.5 mg 8%
Vitamin K 3.8mcg 5%
Thiamin 0.7mg 48%
Riboflavin 0.1mg 8%
Niacin 1.3mg 6%
Vitamin B 60.2mg 11%
Folate 24.0mcg 6%
Food Folate 24.0 mcg
Folic Acid 0.0 mcg
Dietary Folate Equivalents 24.0mcg
Vitamin B120.0 mcg 0%
Pantothenic Acid 0.9mg 9%
Choline 44.1mg
Betaine 0.8mg

Minerals
Calcium 76.3mg 8%
Iron 2.8mg 15%
Magnesium132 mg 33%
Phosphorus 302 mg 30%
Potassium 447 mg 13%
Sodium 0.0mg 0%
Zinc 4.9mg 33%
Copper 1.3mg 65%
Manganese 4.9mg 245%
Selenium 4.1mcg 6%
Fluoride 10.9 mcg

You may have noticed I left out the fat and carbohydrates section if you are one of those people that pays attention to that. I think I need to take this opportunity to point out my feelings on carbs and fat. Here are my feelings:

I DON'T GIVE A CRAP!

Maybe that's a little rude but it is no less than how I actually feel on the subject when it relates to whole foods like nuts, grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits. If it falls under any of those categories and has not been altered by man then I simply DO NOT care how much fat or carbohydrates are in there. Of COURSE you can get fat off of nuts but only if you eat them all day long. Of course you can overdo your carbs eating too much bread but only if you eat that all day long. Eating healthy is about balance, not about counting calories. I have never counted calories. I used to be slightly overweight in college and I did not lose the weight by cutting back. I lost it by changing my lifestyle with food choices and some exercise. Too much of any food group is a bad thing no matter what it is. However, you can more quickly and more radically damage your health by eating processed foods than you ever could on whole foods. That's my quick speil on fat and carbs. Nuts are MUCH too good for you to avoid because of silly notions like "they have too much fat."

I increase our nut intake by pulverizing them in my blender with some liquid and adding them to things like bread and pancakes. I add them to hot cereals whenever I make them. I enjoy chunky nut texture in just about anything but Novan doesn't appreciate the texture discrepancy so his are usually pureed. You could add pureed nuts to anything I think. They are expensive but well worth it I think. You can get much more out of these natural nutrition sources than your body could absorb from a multivitamin. Why not get the nutrition straight from the source? I also try to buy all my nuts raw. This ensures that they have not yet lost any nutritional value from cooking. Raw is always best when you can swing it. Consider always having a large variety of nuts on hand.

What's For Dinner: Friday

Potato Pancakes with Yogurt Dill Sauce and Lentil Veggie Salad

Potato pancakes, aka Latkes are a Jewish thing. They are pretty much like hash brown patties and you can eat them with any kind of sauce really. I also like them with apple sauce but try the yogurt dill thing, you won't be disappointed. In this particular dinner the yogurt dill sauce is sort of a mediterranean type thing so it goes well with this lentil salad. There's not really anything foreign here except for Zaatar which is a Labanese spice combo made up mostly of roasted thyme. I have only been able to find it at Neomonde's, a Labanese restaurant in Raleigh but I haven't really looked anywhere else. You buy itin rather large quantities and I have been using the same big bag of it my mother-in-law bought me over 2 years ago.

To be honest though, you don't have to use it if you can't easily find it. You can use any combo of spices that seem right. Cumin and turmeric and a little thyme would work just fine. This makes about 12 4 inch patties and about 5-6 cups of lentil salad. The lentil salad makes for good leftovers which is actually something I always like to strive for. Who wants to worry about what to eat for lunch the next day?

Potato Pancakes
About 4 medium potatoes grated and as much juice squeezed out as you can manage
I did not this time but in the past I have added in 2 grated carrots as well.
1/2 small onion grated
1 egg
2 heaping Tbs of flour
1/2 tsp salt
pepper to taste

Form the potatoes into patties squeezing as much juice out again as you make them. Try not to avoid making them too fat because you want them to cook through. I know they don't hold together that well but be gentle and do your best. Fry the patties in a little oil on a skillet until just golden brown on each side. Then place them on a baking sheet and bake them at 350 for about 15 minutes.
Yogurt Dill Sauce
Mix about a cup of yogurt with several Tbs of chopped fresh dill and salt to taste. I LOVE dill. It is positively my favorite herb so I always add a lot. You can buy those squeezey tubes of dill in the refrigerated section usually in the nicer grocery stores. That's way cheaper than buying fresh herbs and it lasts in the fridge a long time.
Lentil Veggie Salad
In a bowl combine the following:
About 2 cups of cooked lentils (I cook 1/2 cup of dry lentils to get the right amount)
1 cup cooked garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
1 diced yellow, red, or orange pepper
2 Tbs diced red onion
1 medium seeded and diced tomato
1 cup of chopped parsley
1/2-1 cup diced cucumber
a couple diced radishes (optional)
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp of olive oil (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
about 1/3 cup Zaatar or spice combo of your choice
I used to see parsley in the store and wonder who the heck bought that stuff. I imagined people dressing up their dinner plates at home for the sake of making something look appetizing. I went to a Lebanese restaurant for the first time and finally got it when I had tabouli for the first time. Parsley is GOOD. And, it is incredibly good for you. Brad thinks parsley is prickly so I always chop it up really well so he doesn't complain. I mean really, as if your mouth is hurting as a result, but whatever makes him happy right?

Friday, April 16, 2010

What's for Dinner: Thursday

Because I get a lot of requests for recipes and such I am going to catalogue this week's dinners. I plan a menu out for a week in advance for dinner, on occasion 2 weeks when I am trying to squeeze 1 week worth of groceries into 2. I will blog about each previous night's dinner with a recipe included so you can get an idea of what dinner looks like at my house for the week. I decided to do this AFTER I had already made my menu this week so you know it's not rigged or anything. My menu varies greatly from one week to the next because I get bored of eating the same stuff fast. Brad always says "Why don't you just make __________ again? I love that." and I will answer, "We just had that 2 weeks ago!" because having something every 2, 3 and sometimes 4 weeks is WAY too often for me. I like variety. In fact, I would say I only make the same exact meal twice a year in that I have the same exact dishes eaten together. When I make the same dish over it is usually with some variation because even if I have made something before I still HATE following recipes so it ends up being slightly different. So this will be the recipe as I made it that night but I may talk about some variation I have done in the past.

Last night we had Tempeh Veggie Salad with Miso-Tahini Dressing

Tempeh is something I could write a blog about in itself because I just love it. I wish I could make it myself but I am not quite sure how to go about. Tempeh is a fermented soy bean patty. Ok, gross sounding I know. But it's so yummy and so good for you. Fermented foods are good for you period and this particular dish features another fermented product, miso. Miso is fermented rice paste. It can also be made out of other things like soy but I always buy the rice kind. Tempeh can be found in the produce section of Harris Teeter and of course Whole Foods and if you are CA then Sprouts. It is also in most well-stocked Asian markets. You can probably also find it in a health food store that is well stocked. Miso may be a little more difficult as I have only found it at Whole Foods and Asian markets. It may also sometimes be found in a health food store. I really like miso for soups but especially for dressings as it is featured here. Finally, the other unfamiliar ingredient is tahini which is pureed sesame seeds. You can find this at Whole Foods or you can just buy sesame seeds (which is what I do) and make it yourself. Make sure your blender or food processor is up to the task of getting the seeds well pureed.
This "salad" is really a smorgasborg as most of my salads are. I dislike most leafy salads and they are rarely found at my house for unless I am just stumped for dinner. So boring! This salad is guaranteed to be super filling and exceptionally good for you. For me, this makes about 2 portions and a little extra that I plate for Beya but I would bet that if you served it to some normal people you could stretch it to 4 easily. I forget what a normal portion is like since I have either been breastfeeding or pregnant for the last 5 years. Plus, Brad eats whatever I put in front of him and he seems to have an exceptionally big appetite.

1- 8 oz package of tempeh cut up into cubes and steamed for 15 minutes.

Prepare the marinade by combining:
1 heaping Tbs of minced ginger (you can never have too much ginger in my book)
1 tbs honey, agave, or just sugar if that's all you've got
3 tbs soy sauce
3 tbs balsamic vinegar
3 tbs sesame oil
red pepper flakes to your taste
The purpose of steaming the tempeh is to prep it for marination which can take place the night before if need be but at least allow your tempeh to marinate for 30 minutes.

While that marinates prepare the dressing by combining in a food processor or high speed blender:
1/4 cup tahini or 1/3 cup sesame seeds
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 Tbs white miso (preferably, but you can use brown if that's all you can find)
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 small garlic clove
1/4-1/2 cups of water added last to get the dressing to the desired thickness

For the salad part:
1 cup corn (any kind)
1/2 red pepper diced
1/2 apple diced (I prefer granny smith or another "sour" apple but any apple will do, I used red delicious this time because it was all I had)
4 scallions sliced
A couple handfuls of roasted pumpkin seeds (don't forget this part, they really make this salad)
About 4 cups packed fresh baby spinach leaves

On medium-high heat brown the corn and red pepper in a skillet.

Set aside in a bowl. In the same skillet pour in the tempeh cubes and marinade and cook them on medium-high heat stirring regularly until all the marinade liquid evaporates and the tempeh is browning. Set aside.

Assemble the salad. About a cup and a half of spinach leaves go on the bottom, then half the corn and red peppers, then half the tempeh, then half of the diced apple, then the dressing, then half the pumpkin seeds and scallions. I usually set a little aside to make a small plate for Beya as well.

Let me know if you try this and if you like it. It is one of my favorites and I make it fairly often. I am big on there being one dish that has everything in it rather than going through the trouble of making sides and all that.

A Development Worth Noting

Finally, finally, finally Novan will pray. We have tried for a very long time to get him to cooperate during prayer. I have watched other parents get their kids to be reverent for prayer and they always seemed to manage and I always thought "What am I doing wrong?" I just couldn't seem to get him to sit and fold his arms and close his eyes while someone else prays let alone actually say a prayer.

So a few weeks ago while Brad was gone in CA I was so frustrated with him running all over the place while I said the prayer for bedtime that I stopped in the middle of it and while spanking him vigorously on the bottom 10 times or so I yelled "You WILL sit for prayer time! You WILL fold your arms while I am praying or I WILL spank your butt again!" It looks pretty mellow as I type this but in reality I would say I was pretty ferocious looking to him because he sat finally and folded his arms.

I have always wanted Novan to do this automatically like Beya. She is very good at following example and it just never seemed right to spank him to do something like sit for prayer. I always thought he would eventually do as he sees us do but really, that kid is so hard headed and I don't think following an example really occurs to him. He'll be a pro at "just say no" when he gets into highschool because it just won't occur to him to do something for the sake of peer pressure.  Good for later, but BAD for now when I am trying to mold his behavior. So it took a few more nights of threats and spankings but he will finally sit and fold his arms for prayer. He even tells Beya "Beya, fold your arms and close your eyes!" when he sees her running around when I am trying to get them settled for prayer. I can't guarantee he does this in church for primary because I am not there to threaten him =) but I am just grateful that at home he does it.

Since we have finally been able to get Novan to sit for prayer we tried to get him to recite one after us. He is SO STUBBORN! He would sit there with his eyes closed, arms folded, and a big grin on his face while you repeat over and over, "Dear Heavenly Father..." Finally after giving up for a while I tried again a few weeks later and he would repeat after me but he would mumble so you hardly knew what he was saying. Now he actually speaks articulately during prayer and I am SO relieved that he has finally seen fit to humble himself enough to say a prayer even if it is only repeating what we tell him to say, baby steps you know. He pleased me all the more the other night when I was going to have Beya say the prayer and he yelled "NO! It's MY turn to say the prayer!" Well, excuuuuse me! If I had known he liked it so much I would have asked him to say it more often.

There are many things I have learned about trying to deal with Novan and one of those is that if he recognizes that I am trying to get him to do something and it is my idea then it's the worst idea he ever heard of. It's a battle to get him to try to do something new especially when I have thought of it. If, on the other hand, HE thinks of it first then, golly, it's the best idea he ever had. I swear, it's a power struggle on a daily basis because to him, it's like he's giving over a peice of his agency when he complies with my wishes. I think, that Novan often feels out of control, emotionally especially, and when he is able to experience some control, like making decisions and following through it is a reminder to him that he can be in control. He feels safe when he feels like he has control of a situation. I believe that is why he reverts to some crazy cave child when we go out of town for more than a couple days. He doesn't know what to expect and that makes his situation feel out of control. Ok, enough of my psychobabble. I am just LOVING the Novan that can sit and be reverent for prayer!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Top 10 Nutritional Boosters: SMOOTHIES!

Let's see, about 2 years ago I bought myself a Vita-Mix blender. When I started cooking more whole foods, plant based I came accross many vegan cookbooks that emphasized the usefulness of an excellent blender. Recommendations from friends and a family member as well as the death of my 50$ wal-mart blender while trying to make a smoothie finally conviced me that the Vita-Mix was the blender for me. The thing costs like a million dollars (ok so not really but certainly way more than most people want to afford) but it has been so worth the money. I consider it my most used kitchen appliance so thank gosh the thing comes with a 7 year warranty.

While I use it for a lot of things I originally mainly bought it for making smoothies. I wanted to be able to "hide" vegetables in smoothies and drink them more regularly so I could increase my fruit/veggie intake. I read "Green for Life" by Victoria Boutenko. She is ALL OVER the green smoothie thing and while I don't agree with some of the assertions she makes about how much grain vs. veggies a person should eat I was greatly impressed with how she breaks down nutrition in vegetables and fruits, especially green leafy items. If you were to write down what you eat in the week and consider how much is actually fresh produce I doubt you would feel very good about how much you were getting on any given day. I certainly wasn't and I wanted more energy and I wanted a stronger immune system and efficient digestion. I also wanted to start a healthy habit for my kids by drinking green smoothies.

So approximately every other day I make a "green" smoothie which is basically the same as any other fruit smoothie but I add a bunch of veggies in there. Spinach is a terrific green leafy to add as it is incredibly mild in flavor so its flavor is easily masked. I have added every kind of veggie you can think of in there, turnips, carrots, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, jicama, radishes, zucchini, even fennel. Smoothies are a great way to get through my leftover produce. You know, like when a recipe calls for 2 turnips but you have to buy them in a bag of 4. What the heck do you do with the other 2 turnips? Throw 'em in a smoothie of course! Of course you gotta put in plenty of fruit so it still tastes good. I like pineapple and blueberries. Pineapple because it is really sweet and blueberries because it makes a veggie smoothie that looks like mud into one that looks like a blueberry smoothie!

A typical smoothie for Brad, Beya, and I might include the following: 1 1/2 cups juice (any kind, orange, pineapple, etc.), 2 bananas, 1 orange or 1 apple, 2 carrots, 2-3 big handfuls of spinach, about 2 cups chunk frozen fruit of which about 1/2 cup is blueberries, and finally 1 or 2 of the following (whatever I find in my fridge) like a tomato, half a zucchini, 1/4 of a red pepper, 1/2 cucumber. I don't do recipes. I just use whatever I have so you never know what you're gonna get. =)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Top 10 Nutritional Boosters: WHOLE grains and my battle with cold cereal

I hate hate hate it when I am in the grocery store and I see something like Pepperidge Farm Goldfish touting a label that says "Made from Whole Grains!" UGH! Seriously, I wonder how many people actually fall for that kind of crap. Ok, if you are one of them, no offense intended but consider this education on the subject of whole grains of utmost importance.

Not every label that says it's made with, from, or out of whole grains actually means that you are actually ingesting a whole grain. Anything made with flour COMES from a whole grain but there is really no telling how much sifting, separating and general processing has happened before said grain makes it into your mouth. White flour is NOT whole grain even though it CAME from a whole grain. All white flour has had the germ and bran of the wheat berry removed in order to give you that lovely soft texture that we so enjoy in pastries and cupcakes and unfortunately with the removal of the germ and bran you can guarantee you are pretty much getting empty calories when you eat anything with white flour.

Sure, most labels will tell you what vitamins and minerals are present but that's where you get "enriched" appearing on the ingredients label. They took a perfectly nutritious wheat berry, removed the germ and bran, pulverized and bleached it until it no longer contains any nutrition and then attempt to add back in what they took out with artificial vitamins and minerals all in the sake of making it taste good and have a more pleasing texture. Enriched flour is simply NOT the same as good hardy stone ground wheat flour. Your body is NOT going to absorb added man-made nutrition like it will natural nutrition. Furthermore, you are eating something that can't even be considered the same thing anymore once it's been so processed. So what are you eating? Heck if I know, some kinda synthesized carbohydrate that will do you no good but make you fat probably.

Which brings me to cereal. Ugh, the bane of my existence in the food department. I can't get aways from it but I want to SO BADLY. If I don't make my family breakfast, lunch, and dinner I can guarantee that Brad most of all is going to fend for himself in such a way that makes me feel like a neglectful wife. My biggest issue is cereal and the fact that if we don't have any cereal, he will go buy it and he won't buy the healthy stuff. He buys junk like cocoa puffs or captain crunch. If that weren't bad enough, he takes Novan with him and lets the kid pick out cereal. Novan LOVES cereal as much as his dad sans milk of course because he simply can't tolerate sogginess in any form. So he and his dear son are hooked on that stuff they call food but can't be considered anything more than junk food. I know it's my problem and I need to figure out a way to feed them breakfast every morning, some kind of warm whole grain cereal, which I do a lot of the time but Novan still refuses anything but OCCASIONAL oatmeal. I know I am getting way off topic here but I guess I wanted to say I still have a ways to go until I feel like I have "arrived" when it comes to providing healthy food for my family and getting away from the processed food trap that hunts me down every time I go to the grocery store. But I am aware, and I try, more and more, to establish healthier habits. It is not an overnight thing. It's a process.

So, be careful what you buy. The only way to be relatively sure is to check the label. Of course, grinding your own grain is best but we can't all have that kind of time on our hands or the tools to do it. BUT, you can really make a big difference nutritionally if you stick with whole grains as much as possible. White flour (and white sugar for that matter) intake can really screw up the balances in your internal bacteria. You know, I think white flour has its place in things like cookies and deserts but when it comes to breads and pasta you should really do your best to be whole grain. I guarantee that you will feel better about yourself and you will find that you prefer it over the bleached out grossness of white flour.

Wheat, of course, is not the only grain that has been mistreated in a factory. Rice has been as well. Most people consume enriched rice which basically means they have removed the germ from the rice kernel and given you the carbohydrate and added in some synthetic nutrition. Brown rice should be your rice of choice. I had a hard time with this one, especially from Brad but eventually we both have found we don't even notice it now. I make sushi with brown rice, amaranth, and millet and it tastes just as good, if not better, than sushi rice does. It is all in the amount of water you use. You generally use more water than you would with white rice and it makes it softer. I have also used a portion of coconut milk in it as well and that helps too.

Sure, your spoiled husband will complain every now and then like mine that he "just wants some bisquik pancakes like mom used to make!" and you can tell him to make his own dang pancakes if he really wants to eat crap for breakfast! OK, OK, well eventually he will come to love it too because you can't eat healthy and simply NOT feel better. It will just happen if you just do it and you will want to keep doing it and it will no longer seem like a burden or sacrifice to give up those lovely soft and fluffy white flour pancakes or white bread that seems to get so perfectly crisp in a grilled cheese or toasted. It really won't seem like such a big deal if you just make the switch and stick it out. I promise!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Top 10 Nutritional Boosters: Red Cabbage

You know how lately you see lots of commercials that play up the benefits of antioxidants? The one that comes to my mind specifically is the one with the little girl who puts out glasses of grape juice in front of her door and tells her Dad she did it so the antioxidants would protect her from monsters. It seems that people are only just now becoming aware of antioxidants, especially in anti-aging creams. It is really silly if you think about it that people are conviced to put antioxidants on their face topically as if it has more effectiveness than actually it would were it injested in natural plant form. I mean really, if you needed antibiotics for an infection would you spread it on your body like a lotion or would you take it by mouth or injection to gain the benefit more fully?

Ok, off of my soap box now. I could go on all day about such silliness but today's blog is about my good friend red cabbage. I know green cabbage (HA! Like it's really all that green) is better than no cabbage but in reality, the nutritional benefits of green cabbage pale (get it? PALE? hahaha!) in comparison to it's red or rather purple counterpart. Red cabbage is antioxidant RICH. Why you might ask? Because of its vibrant color of course! Vibrant color is always an indicator of nutritional value. You should STRIVE to include vegetables of varying color in your diet every day. Red cabbage is something I keep in my fridge almost constantly. I use it all the time and I almost NEVER use green cabbage. It just simply doesn't make sense to ever use green cabbage if you can get the same nutritional value from red cabbage and then some much much more. Look, I'm not gonna break it down for you nutritional lable style for you. You can just take my word for it or you can go check it out yourself and compare. I promise you won't be disappointed.

So, decide today that you will no longer use green cabbage. Make red cabbage a part of your life!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

My Top 10 Nutritional Boosters: Quinoa

I was thinking today that there are so many simple things that people can change about their diets to boost nutritional value vastly and don't require much menu overhaul. So, I have decided to write a blog about each of my own top 10 Nutritional Boosters that I think even my meat loving friends could appreciate. They are not really in order of favorites, because I really don't know how I can choose between so many loves of my culinary life. This first one features Quinoa.

Quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah") is one of my favorite things. It is an amazingly healthy grain that looks almost identical to millet but cooks like rice. I use quinoa a LOT. I actually just ordered about 30 pounds of it from Walton Feed so that I can stop paying through the nose for it from Whole Foods or Harris Teeter. It is certainly more expensive than rice but by far it is more chock full of nutritional goodness than rice or most other grains we Americans experience as a norm in our diet. Most people haven't heard of quinoa which is so sad so I am endeavoring to spread the word.

Quinoa is one of the few grains that contains complete protein. I realize a lot of people don't know what "complete protein" means so let me explain it as simply as I know how. A complete protein contains all of the essential amino acids human bodies need to synthesize into various structures such as enzymes, hormones, and structural tissue. Rice, for example, contains protein but not complete protein. Beans also contain protein but not complete protein. You must consume a grain (like rice) and a legume (like beans) to get all of the amino acids that your body uses. Quinoa is a rare exception and it contains a properly balanced set of amino acids our bodies need. It is also gluten-free. When it's cooked the outer shell curls up and makes it look like each grain is a tiny planet Saturn.

It also tastes good. I usually cook it in with rice so my kids don't realize they are getting a nutritional boost. Ok who am I kidding, I am really only trying to trick Novan, Beya still eats anything. Anyway, quinoa takes the same water to grain ratio as rice and if I am cooking it with brown rice I just add it in the last 15-20 minutes of cooking time. If it is white rice I cook it along with the rice the whole time since white rice only takes 15-20 minutes. I don't really have many special quinoa centered recipes because I generally just use it with or to replace rice.

Check out some quinoa...it's oh so good for you!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spring has Sprung

These lovely flowers line either side of the steps going up my walkway. My mom bought the bulbs several months ago and here they are now in full bloom. While the rest of my front yard might be a dirt track with a collection of leaves here or there at least I have some flowers that look welcoming. It seems like just this past week everything has surged into full bloom. I was looking out into my backyard and thought "Yikes! I have grass again!" Not only that, but I have grass that needs to be cut. Spring and fall are generally my favorite seasons but so far Spring has felt more like summer here with all the heat. We usually swing through Spring quite easily and rarely turn on our air conditioning until June but this year seems to indicate that that pattern will no longer continue.

One of my favorite things about Spring is gardening. I love the anticipation of being able to go outside finally without freezing my rear-end off. I am not allergic to pollen or really anything at all so I am able to enjoy the outdoors to its fullest. The smell of freshly turned over dirt in the spring is a a wonderful smell to me. I love the feel of cool dirt in my hands when I am planting. I get the best high when I look at my garden after I have planted and the little plants are all springing up. There is really something about getting your hands dirty and having a hand in the process of helping something to grow. It must be the desire to create that we all experience and have inherited in our "spiritual genes". What less do we expect from beings such as ourselves who are Spirit Children of a Heavenly Father?

Spring is such a wonderful time to recognize creation and to try our hand at a little creation of our own.

Another thing that Spring hails is the need to be outside. I love being able to kick the kids out the back door and tell em to go play! Don't come back in until you're filthy! And they do.
My little girl may love to dress like a princess but she sure doesn't act like one very often. Finding all manner of living things outside in the dirt is one of her favorite activities.
Yeah...that's a slug, gross! Only thing she loves more is an earthworm to play with or even better, a stink bug to crawl up and down her arm. She will play with one of those things for an hour. I like that she is so interested in living things though and that a little slime or crawly feet on her skin doesn't bother her. What a cool girl.