Saturday, February 16, 2013

Super-Healthy (and Delicious!) Pancakes

Whole Wheat & Flax Pancakes
 Finally! I got to make my pancakes! Now, of course, since we're on the track to better health I made a bunch of changes and crossed my fingers hoping that the "super healthy" version of my normally "super delicious" pancakes would be just as good. And they all of our surprise and delight! I added blueberries, which Jeremiah did NOT like! He spit out the first bite and said it was too juicy. Funny he never does that when I add chocolate chips. We proceeded to cut every blueberry out of his pancakes, and he ended up eating like 4 of them in pieces. Silly boy!

I found this recipe in a fun little cookbook my MIL gave me. It has copycat recipes of restaurant meals, and this one is for IHOP buttermilk pancakes. Now I've always made a few healthy tweaks of my own to add bulk and make up for the butter and sugar, but today I went all the way. After a few calculations I have discovered that this recipe makes 12 pancakes each with 80 calories, less than 1 g fat, 16.6 carbs, 2 g fiber, and 2.5 g protein! (These calculations do not include blueberries, but those are practically free!) I think that is a win-win.

I cooked them on a griddle lightly sprayed with canola oil. And we topped them with all-natural maple syrup. Delish!

Super Healthy Whole Wheat & Flax Pancakes
1-1/4 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Baking Powder
Pinch of Salt
1-1/4 cups Vanilla Soy Milk
1 Tbsp Ground Flaxseed mixed into 3 Tbsp Water
1/4 cup All Natural Applesauce - I used the cinnamon flavored kind from Trader Joe's.
3 Tbsp Agave Syrup - you can use honey or sugar or whatever you like, but I used Agave.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, soda, powder, and salt. In a separate bowl combine the soy milk with the flaxseed/water combo. Add to the dry mixture and stir until just combined. Add the applesauce and agave and mix it all together. At this point you can add any fruit or chocolate chips if you would like.

Scoop by 1/4 cupfuls onto a prepared skillet sprayed lightly with canola oil. I wipe down the pan between each pancake so there's no burnt oil or pancake bits, then spray again. Cook 1 to 2 minutes on each side until browned.

I had mine with a home made latte on the side. Thanks Josh!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Eat Your Greens!

Eat To Live book coverMy most recent stop on the journey to healthful eating is this great little book called "Eat to Live" by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. It has really changed the way I think about food. I read it before Christmas and told Josh that I would love to adjust our eating to fit the plan as soon as the holidays were behind us. He, of course, said "yes" thinking that I would get over it by then. Little did he know... (Stranger Than Fiction, anyone?) I finally convinced him to read it this last month, and now he is all about it! It's great to have him on board with it. He is so good at making healthy changes when he's convinced.

We really started wholeheartedly, although not 100% on the diet, this week. We've both lost a little over 2 pounds in only a few days! It's crazy! I think the small changes I had made before this week were what kept me from putting on a bunch of weight during all the holiday festivities and the emotional ups and downs of postpartum. This book is also what started me on a path toward vegetarianism, or what Dr. Fuhrman calls "nutritarianism". Basically it means eating food that is nutrient-rich instead of empty calories.

I've decided that my health and the health of my family is important enough for me to learn to eat veggies. So here we are. When I started this blog it was because of this journey from "meat and potatoes to leeks and tomatoes"! I literally had never tasted a leek when I wrote that...not very long ago I might add.

Over this last week of wholehearted healthful eating I've been more in experiment mode than anything. I am trying to figure out which recipes I love and which I could live without. Also, I have been trying to figure out how to make everything as tasty as possible using only high-nutirent foods. Many of Dr. Fuhrman's recipes are quite good as they are, but I don't know if I could have or would have enjoyed them if I had not been adapting my taste buds over the last few years.

Well, this first recipe is straight from the book. I had avoided it because it seemed scary to me. I mean "Eat Your Greens Smoothie" just sounds like a trick you play on someone to make something healthy seem like something fun. It kind of is. But in the most surprisingly delicious way! I made it yesterday because I was having weird cravings and I was trying to avoid eating an entire bag of chocolate...chips...the Costco size one. Yeah. Anyway, I was a little intimidated by all the spinach that was going into my blender. The other ingredients didn't seem so bad though. I hoped they would make up for all the greens. And they did!

So here it is. Do give it a try. Don't be afraid of all the good-for-you stuff.

Eat Your Greens Smoothie (1/2 the recipe for 1 serving)
2.5 oz (Baby) Spinach - if you don't have a food scale just take two really huge handfuls
1/2 large Banana
1/2 cup Frozen Blueberries
1/4 cup Pomegranate Juice - this adds a lot of flavor to smoothies and is super good for you! It's worth a little extra dinero.
1/4 cup Vanilla Soy Milk (or Almond milk)
1/2 Tbsp Ground Flaxseed

Throw it all into the blender and blend away. You may have to stop and mix it up a bit and get it all blended. Pour it into a glass and drink up!

I know it looks gross, but it is really good, I promise! Give it a try and let me know what you think. This is more spinach than I thought I would ever eat in a day, let alone a smoothie! I am so healthy!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Portabella and Leek Marinara

I love cooking. It calms me down somehow. I think it's the thought of eating that comforts me so much! Some people talk about the joy of seeing someone else enjoy what you've made. That's nice and all, but for me it's all about getting to sit down and eat it myself! Call me selfish, but I love food. What can I say. I make no excuses.

Every Valentine's Day Josh and I have spaghetti and watch a chick flick. We don't like crowds so we avoid restaurants on V-day at all costs. Josh usually cooks, but since he's working today and there's not much time between when he gets home and the boys' bed time, it's all me. I thought I would start early on the sauce. We've been trying to eat healthier and incorporate some good-for-you foods into our diet that we haven't always eaten, like mushrooms. Josh says he doesn't like fungus. I don't blame him. But since I've learned to eat avocados I think he can learn to eat fungus!

Hungry Girl taught me that portabellas make a good substitute for meat. So I decided to incorporate them into our spaghetti sauce. I forgot to buy onions and since I had leeks on hand, I thought what-the-heck, why not? I love marinara because, like salsa, it's kind of a free-for-all. You really can throw just about anything yummy and Italian in there and it comes out great.

So here is my newly discovered combination. Hope you like it!

Portabella and Leek Marinara
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Leek
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
4 oz Portabella Mushrooms, diced into small pieces
1 Tbsp Tomato Paste
2-28 oz cans Crushed Tomatoes
S & P
Italian seasonings - I used dried thyme, oregano, basil, and fresh rosemary.

In a large skillet or deep sauce pan heat the oil over medium high heat. When the oil is shimmering add the leek. If you've never cooked with leeks before, check out this video on how to prep them. Saute the leeks for a few minutes until they start to soften. Add minced garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, until garlic is fragrant.

Now add the mushrooms. I chopped mine up pretty good so they give the illusion of meat. Let everything continue to cook out for a few minutes till the mushrooms brown up, but don't burn. If you like mushroom flavor you can add up to 8 oz. They cook down pretty well.

Once everything is nice and brown and smells like Italian heaven, add the tomato paste, and stir it around to cook up for another 30 seconds. Once it's fragrant and cooked out a bit, add the crushed tomatoes. Stir it all together to incorporate everything. Season to taste. I start with a couple good pinches of salt and lots of black pepper, then add about a handful of each of the dried herbs. You can always add the "Italian Seasonings" blend. That's what I used to use when I first started cooking.

Let the sauce simmer for as long as you've got, but at least for a half hour. The longer it simmers the more the flavors come together. Add any fresh herbs at the end just before serving.

We'll eat this with whole wheat spaghetti and a sprinkling of parmesan, and sourdough bread, followed by homemade chocolate covered strawberries.  Mwah-ha-ha!!!

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tuna Salad in Lettuce Cups

One of my favorite lunches to eat with my mom and sis is a tuna sandwich with Ramen or chicken noodle soup. I don't know why we always pair these, but we do. The first time I suggested this as a lunch option to Josh, and subsequently every time thereafter, he said, "Um yuck!" Apparently it's not a conventional pairing, but one I've grown up with and love!

Josh did make my tuna eating experience much better the first time we made tuna together. I actually hate mayonnaise. It's something I cannot stand in a sandwich. I have always eaten them dry. I refuse to eat any sort of mayo-based salads... chicken salad, potato salad, anything with mayo...eeewww! There are only two exceptions I make. The first being tuna. I don't like a lot of mayo, but it's one way I will eat it. The other is on a freshly warmed corn tortilla. Just mayo. So good. I don't know why, but it's delicious. Trust me. Try it.

Back to my tuna making with Josh. He likes to add all sorts of things to his tuna that I would have never before considered. But since I have been expanding my food horizons, and since I could toss it and start over if I wanted, I decided to give it a go. These yummy little additions have made my tuna so much tastier. A far cry from the mayo only, and occasional pickles of my past.

I have also started adding veggies. Go figure. Tuna is another great way to hide vegetables. Dice them up really small and you've got lots of flavor and few complaints from the veg haters. Eating it in lettuce cups instead of bread will save you lots of calories, carbs, and even some fat!

Tuna Salad in Lettuce Cups
1 can Tuna
1-2 Tbsp Mayonnaise (you can always use a vegan-naise like the one at Trader Joe's)
Dehydrated Onion Flakes
Garlic Pepper
Red Pepper Flakes
Dill Relish
Diced vegetables - I've tried and enjoyed celery, carrots, tomatoes, red bell pepper.
Butter Lettuce

Start by removing any wilted outer lettuce leaves, then pull off the nice leaves whole. Rinse and pat dry. Next dice your veggies. If you want them really small you could even grate them or stick them in a food processor. Now assemble your salad. Dump the tuna in a bowl and add the mayo. I start with one tablespoon and then add more in necessary. Now add your spices and onions. I usually shake a goodly amount over my tuna. There's no measuring just pouring. Start with a little then add more if necessary.

If you've never tried dill relish you should. I resisted it for so long because I hate sweet relish (and sweet pickles) but it tastes exactly like chopped dill pickles. I have always eaten my tuna with dill pickles - it's yummy! I usually add about a teaspoon to start.

Now mix it all up and taste. You can add a little salt if you'd like. I usually add a dash. If it needs more of something, add it. If it needs less, make a note for next time because you can't take it out! Once you've got the mixture just right scoop your tuna into your lettuce cups. Perfection!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Vegetarian Fried Rice

I loooooove rice! I've always said that I could live off rice alone. And I think I could. Have you ever seen that show "My Strange Addiction" on TLC? Yeah, if someone could live off dryer sheets, I think I could live off rice! Steamed white rice with soy sauce is my go to. It's comfort food at it's finest. Ok, I know this is not true for everyone, but when I need something to calm my tummy or my emotions, the rice maker is my best friend! The stove top method is just as easy but takes a little more attention.

Rice is great because you can do so many things with it. And I love all kinds of rice. Spanish rice. Fried rice. Brown rice. Rice pilaf. Even Rice-a-Roni! Fried rice is quick and easy. I love it because you can make it with whatever you've got in the fridge: veggies, meat, day-old rice.

I usually use a combination of olive and sesame oils to add a little extra flavor right off the bat. Sometimes I'll throw in diced onions and grated garlic, and ginger, if I have some. Lots of delicious flavor right there. Standard fried rice veggies are carrots, broccoli, peas. I've also seen red bell pepper, and jalapenos in Thai fried rice. It all depends on your taste preferences. I like to finish my fried rice off with soy sauce to make it extra yummy.

The fried rice I made this time was the easiest I've ever made. I used a couple handfuls of my Broccoli Slaw and Kale Salad in place of chopped vegetables. The salad is so hearty, and uses veggies not just greens, so it stands up to the cooking really well. I also tried Bragg's Liquid Aminos instead of soy sauce. I had bought this awhile back because I've seen a lot of recipes that use it in place of soy sauce. I never tried it though because I love soy sauce so much and I was worried that the Liquid Aminos wouldn't be as good. But it was! The flavor is a little different but still just as yummy. I found that I was able to use less of the Liquid Aminos than of the soy sauce, since it is a little saltier. You can find out more about Liquid Aminos at the Bragg Live Food website.

Vegetarian Fried Rice
1 Tbsp each Olive Oil and Sesame Oil
1/4 cup diced onions
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 in fresh ginger, grated
2 cups cooked day-old rice (white or brown)
2 eggs scrambled
1 cup mixed veggies
Soy Sauce

Heat the oils together in a large saute pan or wok. When the oil is hot add onions and cook out for a minute or so until the onions appear translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds or so. I use a microplane to grate the garlic and ginger so there is no chance of biting into big chunks, just lots of flavor.

Next add the rice. You can break up the clumps of rice using your spatula. Toss the rice in the oil, onion and garlic mixture to coat the rice. Let it cook and heat through. It should be sizzling. While it cooks you can scramble your eggs. Once the rice is warmed up, push the rice to the sides of the pan and drop the eggs in the well you've created. Move them around to cook. Once they are mostly cooked begin to incorporate them into the rice. Mix it all up.

Now you can add the veggies. I like to use pre-cooked veggies. If you don't have any, just cut them up small so that they cook quickly. If you'd like you can blanch the veggies by boiling them for 2-3 minutes and then removing them from the water. The 1 cup measurement is just a guess-timate. I will usually cut up a carrot, half a zucchini, a small head of broccoli, a handful of frozen green beans, and/or a quarter of a red bell pepper. So it's likely there's more than a cup of veggies. Either way, toss all the veggies in with the rice and eggs and mix it all up. You can cover it at this point to cook the veggies if you need to. Let them heat through if they are already cooked.

Lastly, add the soy sauce. I never measure this part. Usually I will swirl it over the pan a few times all the way around, then toss. Taste it, and add more if necessary. Remember it's ok to start with less and then add a little at a time till it's right. You can't take it out once you've added too much.

We ate ours with Aidell's Teriyaki Chicken and Pineapple Meatballs, which I warmed in Yoshida's and Soy Sauce. We had to add some meat! 

Breakfast Sandwich

I love a great sandwich for breakfast. As a child I would only eat cereal for breakfast. Even in high school I hated breakfast. The eggs were just too egg-y and the oatmeal too squishy! Now don't get me wrong I have always loved a good pancake or French toast, but that's basically the same as cereal...bread and sugar! YUM!

Now I love a bowl of oatmeal or an omelet for breakfast. But I really love a breakfast sandwich! So much so that for Christmas last year my mom bought me a breakfast sandwich toaster! It's awesome and easy for making a quick sandwich. But when I have a little more time I like to prep all my ingredients and put it together hot. So good!

Healthy breakfast sandwich recipes are abundant. Here's the basic recipe I use:

Healthy Breakfast Sandwich
1 low-calorie, whole-wheat English muffin
1 whole egg
1 slice of extra-lean turkey bacon
1 oz cheese

If you're going to cook your bacon you will want to start there. Trader Joe's has a great Turkey Bacon that is nitrate free and really tasty. We still fry ours in some oil to make it more bacon-y, which adds calories and fat, but also makes it yummier. You can also use Canadian bacon instead of turkey bacon. I even used some Black Forest Ham the other day, which was delish too!

Next, pop your bread in the toaster. Meanwhile cook your egg. I prefer mine scrambled, and if you use a small pan it's just about the right size. Or you can use a bigger pan and fold it all up to fit your bread. I like to use the Thomas' Light Multi-Grain English muffins. They only have 100 calories and a third of your fiber for the day! They're a little sweet, so if you prefer something more savory, Josh likes the 100% whole wheat English muffins from Orowheat.

Once everything is cooked up, assemble your sandwich and enjoy!

The additional toppings are endless, and depending on your goal for breakfast (i.e. keep you full, get your metabolism going, something easy, etc.) you can pile it up! You can substitute avocado for the cheese to get rid of the bad fats (cheese is actually one of the worst kinds of fat you can add next to trans fats!) and add some healthy fat. Avocado is also good for keeping the mayo or extra butter out of your meal. Tomatoes will add moisture. Spinach is a great way to incorporate raw greens. BTW I always use baby spinach. It's more tender and you hardly know it's there. Since Jeremiah has been eating eggs I have always chopped up baby spinach and scrambled it right in. One day he'll figure out eggs aren't supposed to be green!

Get creative! And have a healthy breakfast that will keep you full for hours.

Look it up!