Archive for March, 2012
I can’t believe it’s been almost a year that we’ve been living in Southern California. One of the places I’ve been most looking forward to visiting is The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA. By the time we moved here last year we had missed their viewing season which ended in May. This year however, we were one of the first in line. The kids are currently studying about plants so we brought them along for a little homeschool adventure. What a beautiful place the fields are. Here’s a photo highlight of the beautiful sites we saw.
If you’ve been following this blog for awhile then you know I have a food crush on garlic. There’s rarely a meal I make that doesn’t contain garlic. So is it any wonder that one of my favorite companies is Garlic Gold?! I have tried every single one of their products and it’s been love at first taste. Garlic Gold recently came out with 2 new products – Garlic Gold Southwest Nuggets and Garlic Gold Herbs de Provence Nugget – and they are giving you the opportunity to try them along with one of my personal favorites – Garlic Gold Red Wine Vinaigrette. This giveaway starts today and ends Tuesday March 20th, 2012. We’ll announce the winner Wednesday March 21st on our Facebook Page. Make sure you enter the giveaway below and be sure to check out the Garlic Gold website for all their wonderful products!
- 1 1/4 cups dry couscous
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup Homemade Breadcrumbs
- 5 cups raw spinach
- 1 can (15 ounces) no salt added diced tomatoes, drain and reserve the juice
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tbsp Garlic Gold Oil or extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup Mozzarella cheese (I used Daiya Mozzarella Shreds)
- 1 tsp salt, divided
- 3 tbsp Garlic Gold Herbs de Provence Nuggets
- Bring the water to a boil in a medium pan over high heat. Add the couscous and 1/2 tsp of salt, stir well, cover and remove from the heat. Let sit for 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium high heat.
- Add the garlic and onions and sauté for 10 minutes or until the onions are translucent.
- Add the drained, diced tomatoes, remaining salt and Garlic Gold Herbs de Provence Nuggets and sauté for 10 more minutes.
- In a 2 1/2 quart baking dish, mix the couscous, raw spinach, tomato/onion mixture and the reserved tomato juice together.
- Sprinkle with cheese and top evenly with the breadcrumbs.
- Bake uncovered for 25 minutes or until the cheese it melted and brown.
- Remove from oven and serve immediately.
Makes 8 servings.
Nutrients per serving: Calories: 37.5, Cal. from Fat: 16.5, Total Fat: 2g, Sat. Fat: 0g, Carbs: 3.5g, Fiber: 1g, Sugars: .5g, Protein: 2g, Sodium: 391.5mg, Chol: 0mg
If you don’t have any Homemade Breadcrumbs on hand you can use store bought panko or sprinkle some toasted pine nuts over the top.
If you don’t stock Garlic Gold Herbs de Provence Nuggets in your pantry (you should by the way!) then you can substitute with 1 tsp parsley, 1 tsp oregano and 2 tsp basil.
Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Leftovers are good both cold or warmed up.
Portabello mushrooms make a wonderful sandwich filling. But what if instead of being the filling it became the vessel for the filling? And why not fill it with some of the most classic sandwich ingredients from a Reuben sandwich? Our spicy Deli Rub makes these meaty portabello mushrooms taste like something fresh out of the deli case and the tangy sauerkraut and dressing are the perfect accompaniment. With all the flavor going on in this Reuben you will love leaving off the bread and going “naked”.
- 2 large portabello mushrooms, stems and gills removed
- 2-3 tbsp Deli Rub (see recipe below)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup sauerkraut
- 2 tbsp Homemade Thousand Island Dressing
- 1/4 cup cheese of your choice (optional)
Ingredients for Deli Rub:
- 2 tbsp garlic powder
- 2 tbsp raw coconut crystals
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp sea salt
- Heat a skillet on medium heat.
- Drizzle 1 tbsp oil over each mushroom top and bottom. Quickly before the oil is absorbed rub the Deli Rub onto the mushrooms top and bottom (save any left over rub for adding during cooking).
- Place the mushroom top down on the skillet, cover with a lid or foil and cook about 5 minutes.
- Turn the caps over. The caps will probably be filled with juice, if so just pour it out into the pan, sprinkle any remaining Deli Rub over the mushrooms and place top up into the juice. Cover and let cook another few minutes until the mushrooms are tender.
- Remove the mushrooms and place top side down onto a serving plate.
- Place the sauerkraut into the hot skillet to quickly heat up. Spoon the sauerkraut evenly into the mushrooms caps.
- Top with dressing and cheese if using.
Makes 2 Reubens.
Serving size 1 Reuben.
Nutrients per serving: Calories: 159, Cal. from Fat: 127, Total Fat: 15g, Sat. Fat: 2g, Carbs: 6g, Fiber: 3g, Sugars: 4g, Protein: 2g, Sodium: 1318mg, Chol: 0mg
It’s best to only make the amount of servings that will be eaten right away. Leftovers do not save well.
I like to tell people that I lead a healthy lifestyle and while it’s true that I eat a very healthy diet, my lifestyle lately hasn’t been all that healthy. It seems the more I add to my plate the less able I am to cope with stress. It’s gotten so bad lately that I’m starting to experience some health issues related to stress. I’m clearly not alone on this issue. Every week, 95 million Americans suffer some kind of stress related symptoms for which they take medication (source). To help deal with the added stress in my life right now I’ve started using some natural techniques to relieve the anxiety that I’ve been feeling. Here are 10 of my favorite stress relieving techniques.
1. Breathing Exercises
Take a moment to close your eyes and focus only on your breathing. Inhale slowly through your nose. Feel your diaphram move up into your ribcage and extend your belly outward as you inhale. Slowly push out your breathe as you exhale through your mouth. Feel the stress being breathed out of your body. It is no longer a part of you. Each breath should take 6 seconds to complete. Spend 3 seconds slowly inhaling through your nose and the other 3 seconds slowly exhaling through your mouth. Take 5-10 breaths like this and you’ll instantly feel more relaxed.
2. Listen to music
Sit back and relax to your favorite tunes. If you’re feeling nostalgic, put on something that will transport you to another place in time. Try to play songs with a positive or uplifting message. Listening to a program geared towards helping you relax works great too. Instrumental music as well as nature sounds are helpful as well. It’s really up to you to decide what type of music will help you relax the most.
Cardio exercise, like running or bike riding, is extremely effective for relieving anxiety. Exercise doesn’t just provide a physical release. You’re also providing a mental release as well. Physical activity helps to bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Although this function is often referred to as a runner’s high, a rousing game of tennis or a nature hike also can contribute to this same feeling. If you can, grab a partner and take part in some exercise together. Not only will it help reduce stress but having someone to talk with is a great stress reliever too!
4. Get rid of clutter
Studies show that cluttered houses not only cause stress but weight gain and increase the rate of illness too. Time to clear the clutter out of your life. Start with just 20 minutes a day. Pick a room and sort through the things you need and toss the stuff you don’t. Have a pile of things you’d like to donate and not only will you clean the clutter but you can feel good knowing that you get to donate your items to a good cause. Having an organized house and/or office space will help you stay organized and can greatly reduced the stress in your life.
5. Get a massage
Take the time to treat yourself to a massage. You deserve it. A massage is not only relaxing, it also promotes healthy blood circulation and overall well-being. If a massage isn’t in your budget ask your spouse or a loved one to pamper you for 30 minutes or so. A simple neck and back massage can greatly reduce the tension in your body that is caused by stress.
Escape to another place and time. Live in someone elses shoes for a while and leave your troubles behind. Reading is actually another form of meditation. You leave your own thoughts and simply follow a scripted story. You’re essentially just going along for the ride and forgetting the world around you. It doesn’t matter what you read as long as it takes your thoughts elsewhere. This is a healthy break from things and will relieve anxiety within minutes.
7. Take a hot bath
Turn the lights down low, put on some soothing music and let your muscles relax as you sit in peace in the calming water. Light some candles to create an even more tranquil environment. Add some bath salts, bubble bath or your favorite aromatherapy and create your own getaway spa right at home.
8. Guided Imagery
Guided imagery is visualizing something or someplace that calms you. When you feel anxious or stressed, close your eyes. Picture a serene setting where you’d love to escape to. It’s good to make your vision as detailed as possible. Become completely emersed in the escape and leave your anxiety out of the picture.
Adequate sleep fuels your mind, as well as your body. Feeling tired will increase your stress because it may cause you to think irrationally. If stress is causing you to have trouble sleeping spend time each night winding down from the day. Have a hot bath, read a book or listening to some relaxing music with the lights off while lying in bed. Let yourself get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. Starting the day off feeling refreshed and rested will help you more easily deal with the stress in your life.
10. Learn to say “NO”
Know your limits and learn to stick to them. We live in an age of multitasking and it’s stressful. If we’re not doing 10 things at once then we’re falling behind. Write down the tasks that need to be completed and say “NO” to added responsibility when you know you can’t handle any more. Stick to your list and as you check off the completed items, add more as needed.
Are you feeling overwhelmed by the stress in your life? What’s your favorite stress reliever? We’d love to hear what tips and tricks you have to deal with the daily pressures of stress.
Years and years ago when my husband and I were dating, summer was always our favorite month. Not because we liked the hot humid weather that Chicago is famous for but because we loved eating ribs. It seems that every weekend there was some festival in the area that was featuring delicious BBQ ribs. Everyone knows it’s the sauce that makes or breaks a good tasting rib and I LOVE BBQ sauce. I loved going around to each booth and tasting the different sauces. Some people like ketchup – I like BBQ sauce. This recipe is one of my favorite sauces. It’s got a great tangy flavor and a hint of sweetness. It’s perfect for burgers, baked beans or dipping your favorite french fry in. Enjoy.
- 1/2 cup apple butter – apple sauce can be used as well but the sauce will be a bit thinner
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1 can (7 ounces) no salt added tomato paste
- 6 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan and heat over low heat for 30 minutes.
- Use immediately or allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight glass container.
Makes about 2 1/4 cups.
Serving size 2 tablespoons.
Nutrients per serving: Calories: 32, Cal. from Fat: 0, Total Fat: 0g, Sat. Fat: 0g, Carbs: 7g, Fiber: .5g, Sugars: 5.5g, Protein: 0g, Sodium: 60mg, Chol: 0mg
Leftover sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can also freeze the leftovers. I like to freeze the leftovers in ice cube trays and then bag each frozen ice cube in freezer safe ziplock baggies. They are easy to thaw and use whenever you need them for a recipe or topping.
St. Patrick’s day is coming up but no, I’m not going to do a recipe for corned beef and cabbage. Is that really authentic Irish food anyway? I don’t know but St. Patrick’s day does make me think of potatoes. One of my favorite ways to make potatoes is good old-fashioned mashed potatoes. They are simply delicious all whipped up and fluffy but mashed potatoes made into crunchy outside, creamy inside Potato Croquettes are over the top fantastic. Make sure to read all the way down to the Notes section for a “surprise inside” preparation option.
- 2 cups cooked mashed potatoes, chilled (having the potatoes cold makes forming them into balls and keeping their shape much easier)
- 2 tbsp whole wheat flour or all purpose gluten free flour
- 1/4 cup extra firm tofu
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp sea salt or to taste
- 1/2 cup Homemade Bread Crumbs (if you are using a different bread crumb that is unseasoned be sure to season accordingly and if you follow a gluten free diet be sure to use a gluten free breadcrumb)
- 1/4 cup sunflower oil
- Place the first 6 ingredients in a food processor and process until all of the flour and tofu have been mixed in smoothly with the potatoes.
- Place the breadcrumbs into a shallow dish or plate.
- Take a spoonful of the potato mixture and roll it into a ball with your hands. I make mine golf ball sized but you can make them any size you like.
- Roll the ball into the breadcrumbs to completely coat. Place the ball onto a sheet of waxed paper. I like to shape the ball at this point to an oblong shape by pressing in the sides. Repeat the procedure with the remaining potato mixture.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet on medium high heat.
- Brown the croquettes on all sides. Don’t rush them. Let all the sides get good and crispy.
- Serve while hot.
Makes approximately 16 croquettes.
Serving size 4 croquettes.
Nutrients per serving: Calories: 323, Cal. from Fat: 143, Total Fat: 16g, Sat. Fat: 1.5g, Carbs: 41g, Fiber: 5.5g, Sugars: 2g, Protein: 6g, Sodium: 873mg, Chol: 0mg
It’s best to only make the amount that will be eaten right away as the croquettes do not save well.
For a fun twist, try taking a piece of leftover bean or veggie burger and rolling the potato mixture around it before coating in the breadcrumbs and frying.
This past weekend my family and I took a little mini vacation up to Big Basin Redwood State Park. This was the first time I had ever seen some of the giant redwoods. Words can not adequately describe the wonder and beauty of these amazing trees. It’s impossible to capture the sheer size in photos alone but here are some highlights from our trip.
Spring is in the air. The birds are singing noisily in the trees and are busy building their nests. The cherry and apple trees have soft pink blossoms. The beautiful scent of the azalea is drifting on the breeze. I’ve caught it, spring fever, and I want something fresh and green that will have me tasting spring in every bite. This brightly colored pesto is just the thing. I know you can buy ready made pesto at the market but do yourself a favor and make some of your own. It’s so easy, takes less than 5 minutes to make and the flavor from your own fresh ingredients is so much better than store bought. Pesto is a very versatile sauce. You can spread it on bruschetta, mix it in with pasta, use it as a pizza sauce or as a marinade on tofu or meats and much more.
- 1 cup fresh or frozen peas (thawed)
- 1 cup basil leaves
- 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley leaves
- juice of 2 lemons, about 5-6 tbsp
- 1 tsp capers (optional but good)
- 1-2 cloves garlic (depending on how much you like garlic)
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp sea salt or to taste
- Place all of the ingredients except the oil in a food processor.
- Pulse until you have a coarse paste.
- While the processor is running stream in the olive oil until the mixture is smooth.
- Season with salt if desired.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
Serving size 2 tablespoons.
Nutrients per serving: Calories: 70, Cal. from Fat: 54, Total Fat: 6g, Sat. Fat: 1g, Carbs: 3g, Fiber: 1g, Sugars: 1g, Protein: 1g, Sodium: 90mg, Chol: 0mg
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.
I heard the term Mexi-Cali recently about a restaurant and wondered what exactly is that? I Googled it and didn’t really find a good answer but I guess the obvious answer would be a fusion of Mexican and California cuisine. Well, I live in California and this is a Mexican flavored dish so that must make it Mexi-Cali, right? Whatever you call it, this pasta is really tasty and makes a great side dish with your favorite bean burger or on it’s own with a crisp green salad.
- 2 cups raw cashews
- 3 tbsp olive oil plus a little to oil the baking dish
- 2 lemons, juiced
- 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp white miso
- 1-2 tbsp Taco Seasoning Mix
- 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped (if you don’t like cilantro you can substitute parsley or omit altogether)
- 2 (14.5 ounce) cans whole or diced tomatoes, drained reserving the liquid
- 1 roasted red pepper, skin and seeds removed
- 16 ounces whole grain elbow macaroni or similar sized pasta (if you follow a gluten free diet be sure to use a gluten free pasta)
- 1/2 cup crushed tortilla chips
- 1/2 cup daiya cheddar style cheese (optional)
- Soak the cashews in a mason jar or bowl with enough water to cover for at least 4 hours. Drain and then place the cashews into a food processor with the oil, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, miso and taco seasoning.
- Process until the cashews are a bumpy paste. Add in 1/2 cup of the reserved tomato juice and continue to process until smooth.
- Add the tomatoes, pepper and cilantro and process just a bit more until the tomatoes and pepper are chopped up and mixed in with the cashew cream. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add a little more taco seasoning or salt if desired. You will want your sauce to be seasoned a little on the heavy side because when added to the pasta and baked it mellows out.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook slightly less than the package directions indicate since the pasta will continue to cook when baked. Drain and return to the pot. Add the tomato cashew mixture and stir to combine. Don’t worry if the mixture seems too saucy. It will soak into the pasta as it bakes. If it’s too dry looking stir in a little more of the tomato juice.
- Spoon into a greased 9 x 13 baking dish and top with the crushed tortilla chips.
- Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until heated through and the sides are slightly browned around the edges.
- Serve topped with a sprinkle of cheese if using.
Makes 10 servings.
Nutrition info will vary depending on the pasta and tortilla chips you use. The nutritional info below is based on a whole wheat pasta and unsalted tortilla chips.
Nutrients per serving: Calories: 376, Cal. from Fat: 135, Total Fat: 15g, Sat. Fat: 2g, Carbs: 50g, Fiber: 7g, Sugars: 6g, Protein: 11g, Sodium: 155mg, Chol: 0mg
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days.
Years and years ago there was a little restaurant in Grand Rapids, MI where I used to live that had an onion dressing that was so good I would literally eat it with a spoon. Seriously, I did. I’m not proud but it was that good. I’ve been trying for almost 10 years now to recreate that dressing. Now, this recipe didn’t end up tasting anything like that dressing but it was delicious. I used it all week on my salads and I even enjoyed dipping pieces of carrots and broccoli in it. While I’m still on the search for my Grand Rapids onion dressing this will be a nice substitute in the meantime. Enjoy!
- 1/2 medium sweet yellow onion
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 tbsp raw honey or coconut nectar
- a dash of salt
- black pepper to taste
- 1 cup extra virgin oil olive or Garlic Gold Oil
- Place the onion, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper in a blender and pulse on medium for a few seconds.
- Turn the blender to low and slowly drizzle in the olive oil. The dressing should emulsify and you will end up with a creamy dressing.
Makes approximately 2 cups.
Serving size 2 tbsp.
Nutrients per serving: Calories: 126.5, Cal. from Fat: 119, Total Fat: 13.5g, Sat. Fat: 1.5g, Carbs: 1.5g, Fiber: 0g, Sugars: 0g, Protein: 1.5g, Sodium: 0mg, Chol: 0mg
Leftover dressing should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.