|" 'Tis the Season" Salad|
Thursday, December 25, 2014
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
|Chocolate Fudge Pie|
Sunday, December 21, 2014
|Peppermint Sugar Cookie Pinwheels|
I seriously thought I would have posted a basic sugar cookie recipe already, but I guess I overlooked that last year when posting all my different versions of the original: (Vegan Coconut sugar Cookies and Vegan Chocolate Sugar Cookies). So here is the most basic sugar cookie recipe that I like to use, of course embellished for a Christmas theme. Obviously you can use all white flour if you want lighter colored and textured cookies, but I love the hearty flavor and nutritional benefits of whole wheat and love giving cookies as a gift that are slightly unexpected and show people that even delicious treats can be healthy as well. Some would argue that a "healthy cookie" defeats the purpose of a treat, and while I totally understand that sentiment, sometimes it is nice to be able to indulge while knowing you aren't completely sabotaging yourself. But I honestly dare you to try these without completely falling in love with them because they are ridiculously good, and like all sugar cookies, they taste even better a couple of days after baking. So you can enjoy them throughout the entire holiday season.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
|Nutella Filled Cupcake|
Friday, December 12, 2014
Nothing smells more like Christmas to me than gingerbread. I suppose peppermint candy canes would be a close second and I will be featuring a recipe with candy canes soon, but the unmistakable aroma of gingerbread muffins, or cookies, baking in the oven is an all time favorite. I honestly thought I had posted this recipe last year since it is such a staple in my home. Better late than never!
As always, I use all organic whole wheat flour to add fiber and nutrients, but the real all stars in this recipe are all the spices. Cinnamon can help regulate blood sugar and reduce inflammation, ginger is a natural pain killer and can ease stomach upset, nutmeg is good for digestion and detoxification of the body and cloves are anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and nutrient dense. Combine those benefits with a tasty filling snack and you have a perfect holiday treat!
Friday, November 28, 2014
|Chocolate Hazelnut Butter (Nutella II)|
|Maple Cinnamon Hazelnut Butter|
Thursday, November 27, 2014
|Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars|
Monday, November 24, 2014
|Healthy Happy Meals|
As a mother, I can think of very few things that would be as heartbreaking as not being able to adequately nourish my own children. My two kids are lucky that they have healthy, delicious food available to them all the time and will most likely never know what it feels like to go to bed hungry or not know where they are going to get their next meal. Unfortunately, not all kids are so blessed. Millions of children in the United States, supposedly the most prosperous country on Earth, live in homes that are "food insecure."* For many of these kids, the only guaranteed meals they get are the ones provided at school. But what happens on the weekends, especially long weekends, or extended holidays?
Last Spring I attended a PTO meeting at my son's elementary school because there was going to be a presentation by the dietitian from my local grocery store. I wanted to meet her and was curious to hear her advice about healthy eating and maybe give me some suggestions for this blog. I was able to do all of those things, but the best part of the meeting was when the principle asked the PTO if they would provide a start up fund for a food assistance backpack program for kids at the school that the principle knew were in need. I had recently seen a television segment about a program just like that at an inner city school and although I knew there was a need where I live as well, I didn't necessarily have the contacts or resources to start something on my own. But the idea jumped out at me as something that I really wanted to be involved in, so I contacted the principle as soon as the meeting was over to offer my services in whatever way she would need. Shortly thereafter, the principle, the dietitian and I sat down and drew up plans to start our own backpack program, which we entitled "Healthy Happy Meals."
Lacking the funds to provide assistance every weekend, we decided to focus on long weekends and predictable snow days and to fill the bags with the equivalent of two breakfasts and two lunches. Since the items have to be non perishable, some of the choices are limited, but we came up with a bag that I think is not only fun for the kids, but nutritionally balanced. It is only meant as a supplement to whatever food they will hopefully have at home as well, but as the principle has said, anything to help alleviate this problem is important, since a hungry child is not a child who is ready to learn, laugh or have fun. We successfully sent home bags with about 40 kids over Easter break and Memorial Day weekend, using the money from the PTO with the plan to extend the funding to the community this fall.
So a couple of month ago, we held a fundraiser at the local Shoprite and sold the bags for $3.00 a piece (the generous family owned store fronted us about $ .80 per bag). People were able to use a ticket with a code on it to buy as many bags as they wanted when checking out and the total was recorded and the bags were sent to the school. We packed most of the bags on the premises, so that people who weren't sure what we were doing or putting in the bags were able to see it all first hand. Over the course of about six hours, spread over three different days, we sold close to 600 bags, which is more than enough to provide Healthy Happy Meals to numerous elementary age children for the next couple of long weekends.
What amazed me last week, right before we were set to send the first group home with kids, is that Dr. Oz highlighted a teacher who created a very similar project at her school after hearing that one of her students had not eaten since the previous Friday. I almost lost my breath while watching it because the story is so similar to what happened with the principle at my local school. That could easily have been her up there being congratulated and applauded for her efforts to help curb child hunger. I am just honored that I have been able to take part in such a worthy cause and cannot wait to see how much more we are willing to do in the future. Attached is the link to the Dr. Oz episode, as well as a newspaper article about the program we did here locally. So this Holiday season, when you are busy planning your own parties and feasts, and worrying about eating too much, remember that there are people in your community who only wish they had that same problem. Please do your part and help out, whether it means donating a few more items than usual to the local food drive, helping out at a food pantry or homeless shelter, donating your grocery store's free turkey to a family in need, or finding out if there is a program like this... and if not, maybe figuring out how to start one. Because no child should ever go to bed hungry.
|Items in the "Healthy Happy Meal"|
|ready to go in a backpack|
Sunday, November 16, 2014
|Curried Onion Soup|
Everyone has heard of French Onion Soup, which is a hearty, and often buttery, beefy soup smothered in toast and cheese. Onions are one of the most healthful foods on the planet and have been consumed and revered for their medicinal properties since ancient times, so in my opinion, the more you can include them in your diet, the better. Even if you have to cover this soup with bread and cheese, at least you are getting the onions into you first. What is so great about this recipe is that by adding the flavor of green curry and coconut oil, you transform a traditional soup into something exotic and surprising. The addition of the chick peas adds some protein and the kale adds a boost of antioxidants and texture. So as the weather turns and you are craving something to not only nourish your body, but warm your soul, give this soup recipe a try.
Friday, November 14, 2014
|Creamy Broccoli and Pea Soup|
Having just finished a bowl of this soup for the second night in a row, I knew I couldn't wait any longer to share the recipe. It is honestly my new favorite soup, not only because it is healthy and filling, but because it is so easy to make. I know when my meat and potato loving husband asks me "what is in this... it is really good!" that I am on to something. Usually when you order Broccoli and Cheddar "Soup" in a restaurant you get some glorified cheez wiz and chicken broth concoction with tiny pieces of broccoli in it. Not exactly nutritious, or appetizing, in my opinion. While most of the ingredients in the following recipe are full of vitamins, minerals and fiber, there is a considerable amount of cheese as well, which you could easily reduce if you are watching your weight or your heart health. I divided this soup into five hearty servings and the nutrition information (listed below) is still not that bad. And it is an easy way to get yourself and your family to eat their greens, and some fiber, which is always a good thing. I love that I was able to sneak in a whole block of organic tofu for some extra protein... no one would ever know it was in there, just that this soup is extra creamy without the addition of any actual cream. Best yet? It uses frozen vegetables, so you can make it year round, it's affordable and really easy to throw together. You can even make it ahead and let it simmer on the stove for an hour or two which is great on a busy weeknight with kids getting home at different times and needing help with homework. So when the weather turns cool this week, why not give this soup a try?
Thursday, November 6, 2014
|Spicy Chipotle Bean and Corn Chili|
Friday, October 24, 2014
Earlier this week I had the privilege of participating in a discussion at East Stroudsburg University entitled "A Conversation about Learning to Love Your Body Without Apology". A wonderful friend of mine, who knows my personal history and struggles with body image, is an alumni of ESU and a member of the school's Feminist Alliance organization which put together the event. Initially it was supposed to be a formal event where those who wished would read a monologue, and although about a dozen of us still did, it was in a much more casual setting, which was great because it encouraged commentary and conversation that would not have been possible otherwise. My hope is that this was just a stepping stone to more involved projects, with more students and community members attending. And eventually my friend and I are planning to bring some of the amazing young women we met that night to do a similar presentation at the local high school and middle school. The teenage years are not easy, and the more that young women, and men, are encouraged to share their insecurities, fears, accomplishments and strengths, the stronger they will be as adults. And the first step to being a productive citizen is to be proud of who you are, and love yourself, your body and your mind, without apology.
The following is the monologue that I prepared and shared with the group:
The following is the monologue that I prepared and shared with the group:
Her nose is perfect. She has great hair. She has amazing abs. She is really tall. Look how strong her arms are. I wish my boobs were firmer, my butt was bigger, my hair longer, my feet smaller, my legs skinnier. I hate being short. I hate being tall. I want, I hate, I need, look at her, look at her. Just look.
Nobody is perfect. No one goes through life completely satisfied with how they feel every day, how they look in the mirror or how their clothes fit. But we are all perfect. Our bodies are marvelous creations that have been formed by the choices we have made and the circumstances we have been presented with. As women, our bodies are beautiful and strong, miracles of nature that we far too often take for granted.
I hate to admit that I spent years torturing my body and in the end I achieved nothing but self-destruction, depression and misery. Sure I was skinny, but I was miserable and half dead inside. From the age of 14 until 23 I struggled with anorexia, sometimes acutely when I needed hospitalization and sometimes more in my head than in my outward appearance or actions. I was never heavy, never suffered from abuse; honestly I had nothing to complain about. My life was “perfect”. I should have been ok. I was one of the “lucky” ones. And yet even I was not safe from my own mind. I understand more fully the reasons now for why I suffered so much back then, but I can’t change the past, nor do I wish to. I only have control over what I do today and how I restructure my thoughts whenever I begin to falter.
There may have been a lot of reasons why I fell prey to an eating disorder and later to a strong bout of alcohol abuse, but I know one main reason why I survived. At the age of 23, I got pregnant. Obviously this could look like just another bump in a road to disaster and I would not recommend this path to anyone. Having a child is usually the worst thing you can add to an already shaky life. But it worked for me. For years I had been searching for my purpose in life, my passion, a way to focus all my strengths without the need to be perfect. And the only consistent answer I had ever given when asked what I wanted to be when I "grew up," was "a mom." So getting pregnant, and having an amazing man by my side through it all, saved me. My son, saved me. I know that in my heart and honestly believe that if it wasn’t for him, I may not be standing here in front of all of you today.
This is not to say that every day since I heard the words “you are pregnant” my life has been easy or all my problems have been solved. But it forced me to look outside of myself while learning to absolutely love all that my body is capable of doing. I had something and someone to focus my energy on, and I started to be kinder to myself. I began to really grasp the concept that what I put in my body really mattered, not just as far as how many calories it had and what it would do to my shape, but in regards to the simple fact that “we are what we eat.” If I want to feel strong and healthy, I need to eat properly, and focus on a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins, vitamins and minerals. I need to trust that my body knows what it needs and to give into my cravings whether it be a piece of fruit, a bar of chocolate or a jar of pickles. My body knows what it needs if I quiet my mind long enough to listen.
Of course I still slip up, both in action and in thought. In the past year alone I have found myself working out too much, eating too much or too little at times, drinking too many beers on a Saturday night, or not letting myself rest when all I really need to do is breathe. But I don’t punish myself because of it. I am kind. I look at myself in the mirror as others would (sometimes by not focusing on my face and looking solely at my body as if it was someone else’s- that really can work!) and I try to find things I love about myself. Every day. If I feel the demons of my past creeping up, I close my eyes, and just let myself feel. Feel my breath enter and exit my body and just be. Think of the feeling of extreme relaxation I experience before drifting off to sleep, the sweet complex taste of a simple strawberry against my tongue, the complete exhaustion of my muscles after running for 3 miles, aching for breath and relief but bursting with adrenaline and pride. My body can do all those things; this one body that I have been given, that I have tortured, scrutinized, bullied and finally learned to love.
This body made life. That is really cool. And it is the only vessel I have been given to get through this life of mine. So I need to treat it well. All I have to do is look into the eyes of my two marvelous children and I know what I have to keep fighting for, who I have to be an example for, and what I have to be proud of. But I am also proud of me, who I am, with all my flaws, mistakes, bumps and bruises. I have the ability with this imperfect body of mine to offer comfort and security to my children, express my love for my husband of almost ten years, prove my own strength by running for 30 minutes without stopping, and running a 200m race in a little over 30 seconds even though I know my athletic prime is long gone. I keep on trying, because what do I have to lose, except everything? I am here now, I am alive, and for that, I am thankful.I am not perfect, I will never be perfect, but I am perfect just the way I am.
Monday, October 20, 2014
|Curried Pumpkin Bean Soup with Kale|
Usually when people cook with pumpkin in the fall it is to make a dessert, such as pumpkin pie, muffins or cookies. But there are plenty of savory uses for the beloved pumpkin as well. I was hoping to have a few home grown sugar pumpkins to cook with this year since I planted about a dozen seeds back in the spring, but unfortunately despite many flowering vines, our garden only produced one pumpkin, that is currently helping to decorate the front step. So for this recipe, and most of the recipes in which I use pumpkin, the canned variety is a fantastic substitute. I got the inspiration for this soup from a couple of bags of dried beans that I bought from my local organic farm that were so pretty, like little works of art, I had to try them. The best way to cook dried beans, in my opinion, is low and slow in a nice soup, and nothing is easier than throwing a bunch of ingredients into a crock pot. I had never made a pumpkin soup before, despite my mom telling me all about different creamy squash soups she has made and seeing recipes online and on TV. I just wanted to make sure it didn't taste too much like pie, or too much like plain squash, but hit a balance right in the middle. So in addition to the curry powder, I still added in some traditional pumpkin pie spices along with a decent amount of onion and garlic. The house started to smell amazing within a couple of hours and when I finally opened up the lid to add in the kale, fresh from my garden, I couldn't wait to taste the soup. The combination of sweet and savory flavors, the hint of spice from the cayenne, combined to make a truly satisfying vegan dish that my husband, son and I all enjoyed. And every one of the ingredients are their own nutritional superstar, so it is a meal that your body will truly thank you for. I guarantee it will give you energy, boost your immunity and give you that little extra something you need to get through whatever this autumn day may throw your way.
|Whole Wheat Beer Bread|
Monday, October 13, 2014
|Harvest Turkey Salad|
Thursday, October 9, 2014
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
|Whole Wheat Coconut Slow Cooker Cake|
Now that the weather is getting cooler, I have found myself using my slow cooker more often, since there is nothing better than throwing a few ingredients into the magic pot, closing the lid and enjoying the smell and the ability to relax as a meal is prepared for you. But did you know you could also use your slow cooker for dessert? I honestly thought I had posted this recipe last year, but I guess I actually made this cake before I began my blog and although I have made other versions of it since, I never got around to posting anything. But today at the gym, something came up about using a slow cooker and not having a liner, and I stated that I never use a liner, and although I sometimes worry that the smell from the last meal I cooked might linger, that has never actually happened. And I know this because while you might not taste last week's chili when cooking a potato soup, I would have noticed it when I made a cake in my crock pot. As soon as I said the words "cake" and "crock pot" in the same sentence, two different people asked me to share my recipe, as they had never heard of using a slow cooker to bake, and were intrigued. I was sure this recipe had already been posted, so I checked on my phone over and over again, but came up empty. So I knew I had to get home and remedy this situation as soon as possible. So although I do not have more than one photo to display my "crock pot cake", I assure you it is worth the minimal effort involved. And if you aren't a fan of coconut cake, you can basically try any basic cake recipe you like and I am fairly certain you will get the same result. My personal favorite, since I love chocolate, is to use my Chocolate Birthday Cake recipe. The cake comes out extra moist, almost gooey, reducing the need to even use frosting. Plus it will make your house smell amazing for hours. And trust me, nothing smells better than a cake cooking, low and slow, filling your house with sweetness and warmth... you cannot buy that experience in a candle! So next time you want to treat yourself and don't want to hang around over a stove, give your old crock pot something to cook besides dinner!
Friday, October 3, 2014
|Homemade Cheese Crackers|
Thursday, September 25, 2014
|Almond Butter Birthday Cake|
with Nutella Frosting
Please be advised that this recipe is still a dessert, so of course it shouldn't be eaten everyday as part of a healthy diet, but as far as a cake goes, it is much better than average. If cut into 12 or 16 slices, each piece will contain about 20g of mostly heart healthy fats, only about 15g of sugar, a couple of grams of fiber and about 10g of protein. Not too shabby for a birthday cake, and since you make it yourself it doesn't have anything artificial or processed in it. Of course I did ruin all that when I added in some colored sprinkles and frosted it with Nutella, but you only turn 10 once (double digits!), so I had to add a little something extra. You could definitely make a regular buttercream frosting for this cake, but I love Nutella and sometimes getting something straight from a jar when you have a billion other things to do in a day is the best option. I know my son loved this cake and we all enjoyed it (for breakfast) a couple of times last week.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
|Indian Slow Cooker Potato Soup|
I have seen recipes all over social media recently for making potato soup in a crock pot. One of those posts was the inspiration for making this meal as well, but of course I had to put my own twist on it and make it not only using more nutritious ingredients, but with a different set of basic flavors as well. I am sure it would be delicious using butter, cream, cheddar cheese and bacon, and perhaps I will try something simpler another day,* but why be predictable when you can have an adventure in your kitchen instead?
All of the recipes I saw called for a can of condensed milk and it was that one ingredient, which I have yet to find an organic version for in my store, that made me want to try an alternative instead. I also like to make recipes that are vegan for my followers who don't like to use any animal products, and although this recipe in its current form is not vegan, it certainly could be made that way by switching out the chicken stock for vegetable stock and using vegan versions of cheese, or omitting that condiment altogether. Honestly, the rich Indian spices and flavorful, in season, organic potatoes are what make this soup so satisfying. And like all crock pot meals, it takes only minutes to prepare, and the slow cooker does all the work for you. You could certainly add a bit of turkey bacon on top afterwards, or some curried chicken even, but I love this soup with just a large helping of full fat plain Greek yogurt and a lot of fresh herbs. And on a cool fall day like today, nothing tastes better.
* a potato soup recipe from last year: Baked Potato Soup
Friday, September 19, 2014
|Chocolate No Bake Date Nut Bars|
Thursday, September 18, 2014
|Super Soy Smoothie|
Friday, September 12, 2014
|Baked Mini Eggplant Parmesan|
|Radish and Carrot Greens Pesto|
Sunday, September 7, 2014
|Maple Macadamia Cake|
Recipes like this just make me happy. I spent most of the day outside today with my family and we had a late lunch of grilled turkey hot dogs around 3pm. So once we were all back inside and dinner time was getting close, I knew that no one would want a big meal and I certainly didn't feel like cooking anything much. But I did feel like baking and trying out an idea I had stirring around in my head using home made nut butter as the base of a recipe. Initially I had intended this cake to be chocolate, but knowing my kids would be eating it close to bedtime on a school night, I thought that something without a dose of caffeine might be better. (Definitely plan to make a chocolate version soon as well). So I grabbed a few ingredients out of my pantry and fridge and literally made this recipe up on the spot. I had my husband jot down the measurements as I eyeballed everything and hoped for the best. And my hopes were answered. This is one of the most delicious, moist and flavorful yellow cakes I have ever made, and it is gluten free and full of super healthy macadamia nuts. My daughter had hers with some Nutella "frosting" but it is perfect plain as well, and great for an after dinner snack or a quick breakfast. And it was all mixed together in my food processor which made clean up a breeze. I can't say I was completely surprised by how good it came out, but I am smiling with pride, and a happy tummy, just the same.
Friday, September 5, 2014
|High Protein Guacamole|
Friday, August 8, 2014
|Green Curry Chicken Salad|
Friday, July 11, 2014
|Kiwi Lime Salsa|
Friday, July 4, 2014
Saturday, June 21, 2014
|Shrimp Salad with Grilled Polenta|
Friday, June 20, 2014
|Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Brownies|
Thursday, June 19, 2014
|Chocolate Stout Donuts|
I know you love Nutella. Everyone does, we just don't like to admit it, or admit that most of the time we eat it straight out of the jar with a spoon. I am definitely guilty of that even though I know it is made with more sugar than hazelnuts and unfortunately doesn't use sustainable sourced palm oil. It is just so delicious that although I have tried in the past to not buy it often, it has become a staple in my house because of it's ability to turn a healthy muffin into a "cupcake" and get my daughter to eat just about anything she can dip into it. The recipe that follows is the best version that I have come up with so far, although I still have about four cups of hazelnuts to work with, so if I get a better tasting one that isn't completely made of sugar I will post that as well. I honestly think that I am just not a huge fan of hazelnuts unless they are completely masked by sugar and fat, so I may try a similar recipe using walnuts or macadamia nuts (my two favorites). Needless to say, this homemade chocolate spread is definitely delicious, although it doesn't fool my kids because it tastes more like nuts than sugar. I have used it on cookies, baked donuts, in smoothies, and even on bread with peanut butter for a quick sandwich before working out. And yes, I have eaten it with a spoon straight out of the container as well. And I am sure you will too!!
|Maple Raspberry Corn Cake|
Sunday, June 8, 2014
I have been baking cakes for years, but always for myself and my friends and family. So I never put too much effort into how perfect they looked or agonized over the consistency and the taste as much as I did for this recipe. Because this was the first time I made a cake for someone who paid me for it! The recipes I used are trusted favorites, which is why I decided to write this blog post. The chocolate cake is one my mother has used since I was a child, with the addition of about half whole wheat flour being my only change. The vanilla cake recipe is one I have been working on for awhile and I think I finally have it right. It tends to be a bit crumbly because of the whole wheat flour, so if you want a softer texture, you could use half white flour like I do with the chocolate cake. So get baking and forget buying a cake for your next big party!
Friday, May 23, 2014
|Chocolate Macadamia Nut Butter|
Monday, May 19, 2014
|Raw Piña Colada Bars|
Friday, May 16, 2014
|Italian Farro with |
Wild Mushroom Cream Sauce
Usually I just buy fresh mushrooms, and saute them in oil or butter as a side dish, but I know that the many different types of dried varieties available today are even better for you. Just make sure to follow the instructions on the package carefully in regards to how to prepare them. For this recipe I chose baby bella mushroom and dried porcini mushrooms, but you could easily substitute your favorite type as all mushrooms have the same health benefits.*
*For more information on the nutritional benefits of mushrooms: