Monday, September 30, 2013

Weekend Highlights: 9/28

Here are some fun pics from the weekend!

I spend a good part of Saturday attending a foreign language teacher conference for work.  I came home with some new ideas that I am definitely going to try in my classroom.

Late that day...Oliver worked on his party tricks...
While Wendy worked hard helping us clean and do laundry (yeah, right...).
I also had a chance to cheer on Jay's volleyball team as they dominated their competition from Ft. Worth, and afterwards we celebrated with dinner at our favorite Thai restaurant.

Sunday morning we got our grocery shopping in for the week. 
And in the afternoon, I got the house all ready for Fall!  After a rainy Saturday morning, we ended up with quite a beautiful weekend!
Jay also used his empty beer keg to make me some homemade lemon-lime sparkling water.  Now I have five gallons on tap!
Sunday night I made a yummy dinner of baked mahi mahi, sauteed kale, and pearled couscous.  
Just one more full work week until Fall Break!  Woo hoo!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Vegan Black Bean Sweet Potato Enchiladas

Enchiladas may be the single most beloved meal at our house.  I would say we eat some variation of them almost weekly, with the sweet potato black bean version being the most common.

It used to take me forever to make enchiladas from scratch (there were just so many steps!), so I would only make them on nights when I was feeling extra ambitious and had lots of time on my hands.  However, after making them over and over and continuously tweaking the recipe, I am now at a point where I can throw this meal together in just minutes of hands-on time. As long as I remember to throw a sweet potato in the oven an hour ahead or so, I am good to go.

Even though I often change up the ingredients, the enchiladas pretty much always end up delicious.  In fact, Jay recently declared that it is his all time favorite meal that I make.  Coming from someone that eats and loves everything, that is saying a lot!

Vegan Black Bean Sweet Potato Enchiladas

Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Total cooking time: 1.5 hours (because you need to cook the sweet potato first.)
  • 1 medium to large cooked sweet potato
  • 1 can black beans or around 1.5 cups fresh
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite salsa
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (or more if you like it spicy)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup non-dairy shredded cheese (such as Daiya), divided
  • 1 can red enchilada sauce (10 oz.), divided 
  • 6 whole wheat tortillas
  • Optional toppings: avocado, cilantro, pico de gallo, jalapenos, lime, fresh tomatoes, hot sauce, etc.
Combine black beans, sweet potato (remove the peel first), salsa, chili powder, 3/4 cup cheese, and 3/4 cup enchilada sauce in bowl.  Mash up sweet potato and stir until ingredients are evenly combined.  Pour a small amount of enchilada sauce into a 13 x 9 casserole dish to keep tortillas from sticking.  Fill tortillas with sweet potato mixture, roll up, and pack together seam side down in casserole dish.  Top with remaining sauce and cheese.  Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes, or until enchiladas are heated through and cheese is bubbly.  Garnish as desired.

On a side note - you could use any type of shredded non-dairy (or regular) cheese to make this meal.  I strongly recommend the Daiya brand, however, for a couple of reasons.

First of all, it is by far the best tasting non-dairy cheese I have ever tried.  It melts and stretches like the real thing, and it has a creamy taste that reminds me slightly of Velveeta.  We made pizza with it one night, and I swear it tasted just like Imo's in St. Louis.  It's the best.

Secondly, Daiya is made entirely from plant-based ingredients and does not contain any of the three most common allergens: dairy (casein, whey, and lactose), soy, or gluten.  Beware of other "non-dairy" cheese brands - many actually have hidden casein in their ingredients, along with other unappealing additives.
It may be a bit more expensive than other brands, but I always stock up when I see it on sale.  It's worth it!

Hope you are all enjoying your weekend!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Salty Sweet No-Bake Oatmeal Nut Butter Balls

I try not to eat too much added sugar, but after dinner I love to have a little something sweet.  Most nights, after we have finished up all of our to-dos for the day, Jay and I sit down together and watch a show before bed.  (Currently, we are watching the entire West Wing series from the is sort of old school but I love it!)  We often used to have a little ice cream while we watched (back in the day when I was still eating dairy), and now it's like my brain automatically associates TV time with dessert.  The rest of the day I could take it or leave it, but, as soon as we sit down to watch our show, I start craving sugar!

Most nights, a square or two of good dark chocolate will do the trick, but last night we were all out and I could not get dessert off my mind.  It was already pretty late in the evening and my energy was lacking, so I wanted to make something easy and somewhat healthy that I could throw together without turning on the oven or dirtying a bunch of dishes. 

Of course, I immediately checked my "something sweet" Pinterest board for inspiration and decided to try my hand at some no-bake oatmeal balls.  They were roughly inspired by this recipe, but I added in some carob chips and sea salt, among other things, to give it that salty sweet flavor I love. 

The cookies turned out great...we ate more than our share last night, and I'm sure the rest won't last long.  Luckily, they are super easy, so I can always whip up another batch.  And they are full of fiber and healthy fats, so you could eat them anytime, not just for dessert.  

Here is my recipe:

  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1.5 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup vegan carob chips (or chocolate chips)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Roll dough into balls and refrigerate for an hour or so (if you can wait that long!).

There are so many different variations you could try with this recipe based on your taste preferences and what you have on hand.  I can't wait to make it again!  

Friday, September 20, 2013

We Can Pickle That - Jalapeno Edition

We love pickled veggies at our house, from regular pickles to okra to jalapenos and beyond.  And, as it turns out, you can literally pickle just about anything.  My good friend Catie showed me this funny video that pretty much sums it up.

Jay has tried his hand at pickling jalapenos a couple times now, and both attempts have been successful!  The first time he did it I was out of town, and, when I came back, I ate the jalapenos numerous times thinking that they were store bought.  It did strike me as a little weird that there were big cloves of garlic floating around and that that the jalapenos were SO hot, but I never actually put it together until Jay told me a few days later that he had made them from scratch.

The pickling process, like many things we have tried, is actually surprisingly easy.  You need the following:

15 (more or less) sliced jalapenos
2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 cup filtered water
1 cup distilled white vinegar
4 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp pickling salt or kosher salt
Tumeric to taste (the world's healthiest spice - check out the health benefits here)
An empty jar
Now, here's what you do:

Step 1: Cut the tops off the jalapenos and discard them.

Step 2: Slice the jalapenos into rings. (At this point you may also want to remove some seeds if you don't like it too spicy - and it will be spicy.)

Step 3 (optional):  Sip on some whisky.  (Jay insisted this was an important part of his process.)
Step 4: In a medium saucepan, drop in two peeled and slightly crushed cloves of garlic.

Step 5:  Pour in water, vinegar, sugar, salt and bring to a boil.

Step 6: Stir until sugar and salt are both dissolved.

Step 7: Add the jalapenos into the vinegar bath.  Sprinkle in turmeric.
Step 8: Remove from heat, cover, and wait 10 to 15 minutes until you notice the jalapenos become slightly darker in color.

Step 9:  Remove the jalapenos and pack into a jar.

Step 10: Pour some of the remaining liquid on top of jalapenos.

Step 11:  Allow jar to cool, put the lid on, and put in the fridge.

Step 12: Eat!

This most recent time, Jay used jalapenos and a few Tabasco peppers that his dad gave us from his garden, and also some Mucho Nacho peppers from our own garden.  They turned out so good, but super spicy!  Be warned!

I can't wait to start pickling everything!!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Weekly Grocery Run

Hello everyone! I hope you are enjoying your weekend.  I had a super fun Saturday!  My friend Zenie invited me to go along with her and her sister to the OU game, and we had a blast.  We shopped on Campus Corner, cheered on the Sooners, and even got to go over to Coach Barry Switzer's house afterwards to watch him film an internet sports show!  It was pretty cool!

The only bad thing was that I didn't get much of anything done on Saturday (cleaning, grocery shopping, etc.), so that left Sunday as my catch-up day.  As soon as I woke up, I got to work on some thank-you notes I needed to write from my birthday.  Then, Jay and I decided to go for a jog at the local lake on our way to the grocery store.  It is so nice now that the weather is finally cooling off a bit!
We walk-jogged a little over two miles before heading to Sprouts for our weekly grocery run.

We keep a running grocery list on our phones using the AnyList app, which is great because multiple people can contribute to the same list.  I try to make sure that we never run out of staples like bread, almond milk, peanut butter, hummus, oatmeal, olive oil, etc. - the things I can't live without.  Then, before going to the store, I try to think about whether there are any special recipes that I want to make for the week, so I can be sure to include those ingredients on the list.  

We do the rest of our meal planning once we are at the store.  I like to go and see what kind of sales are going on and what looks good before I decide exactly what we are going to have.  If you are somewhat flexible with your meals, you can get the best deals and eat foods that are tasty and in-season.  I just try to ensure that we have plenty of veggies, proteins, and grains to put together healthy meals for the week. 

Here is how our shopping trip ended up.  
Lots of veggies, a few fruits, tofu, tempeh, some wild-caught ahi tuna, Daiya non-dairy cheese, black beans, oatmeal, and a few things fun things that we might not usually buy (but did because they were on super sale) like organic waffles, pearled couscous, and organic frozen cherries.  Our bill came to $65, which is pretty average for us for a week's worth of food.  Considering most of the veggies are organic and we got some really nice fish, I would say that is pretty good!

Here are the meals I am planning for the week:

Sunday - Seared ahi tuna, roasted purple potatoes, green beans
Monday - Giant salads topped with roasted veggies and tofu
Tuesday - Roasted cauliflower, pearled couscous, tempeh
Wednesday - Out to dinner with my family
Thursday - Black bean sweet potato enchiladas with Daiya cheese (one of my all-time favorite recipes!)
Friday - Wing it/out to eat
Saturday - Wing it/out to eat

Now all I have to do is fill out my cute menu board!
Have a great week!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Few Things I'm Loving Lately

Here are some healthy finds that I've been loving lately!

A coworker recently arranged for a cross-fit coach that she knows to lead a boot camp for teachers two days/week after school.  I love trying new workout classes and also thought it sounded like a fun way to squeeze in some social time with my fellow coworkers, so I signed right up.  When I was packing up my gym bag the night before my first class, it suddenly dawned on me that the bag I'd been using was quite ratty and unattractive.  I had gotten it for free somewhere and never really paid attention to how ugly it was.  

I decided that I needed a cute new gym bag to go along with my new class, so I got on Amazon and started looking around.  I settled on this bag from Adidas, because I loved the colors, it had lots of compartments (like a separate one for shoes!) and it was the perfect size.
So far I am loving the bag and can't believe I went so long without buying one!  It is so nice to know that my shoes won't be getting dirt or smells all over my clothes, and there are so many padded pockets to protect jewelry and other small items that I may need to store after changing.  

After watching an episode of Dr. Oz touting the benefits of Neem bark for dental hygiene, Jay picked up a tube of this Ayurvedic toothpaste on sale at Sprouts to try.  I was a bit skeptical about it at first, but after one brushing I knew I was not going back to my old Crest!  Even though the mint flavor wasn't as strong as a store-bought brand, my mouth somehow felt so much cleaner after using it.  And, although the tube is small, it is three times concentrated and the tiniest dot produces a ton of foam.  I feel like my teeth are as white and healthy as ever, and when I saw my dentist recently he gave me the seal of approval. 

I love going to workout classes, because someone else makes the plans, tells you what to do, and pushes you to try new things.  Since it's not always feasible to attend a class, however, I think workout DVDs are the next best thing - like having a private class in your own living room! 

I'm not exactly a huge Bethenny Frankel fan (I don't have cable and hardly knew who she was), but I had heard good things about this yoga DVD from several people and thought I'd give it a try.  
It took me a couple times of doing the workouts to really get the hang of it, but now I can flow through the moves pretty well without having to stop often to look at the TV.  I really am loving the DVD, because I feel so good and relaxed after I do it, yet my muscles are sore the next day.  It is a good blend of stretching and toning, and the moves flow fast enough that you even get your heart rate up a little bit.  The instructor does a good job of explaining things and providing different levels of modifications, and Bethenny adds some useful and occasionally amusing commentary.  I also like that the 45 minute workout is split up into three shorter segments, so you can mix and match depending on what you have time for.  I can definitely see myself turning to this DVD on a regular basis!

Bragg Liquid Aminos
I know I have mentioned liquid aminos before, but I seriously cannot get enough of this seasoning!  I put it on everything - salads, soups, rice, stir-fry, roasted veggies, fish...pretty much anything that you want to taste delicious.  The flavor is very similar to soy sauce, only better.  Plus, it is definitely better for you!  It is made from non-GMO soybeans and contains 16 essential and non-essential amino acids.  There is a small amount of naturally occurring sodium, but way less than regular soy sauce.  I don't really know how they do it, but I love it!

That's all for today!  See you soon!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Birthday Weekend Recap

This Saturday was my 29th birthday, but I had the pleasure of celebrating all weekend long!

Since Jay had a volleyball tournament on Friday and Saturday in Houston (he is the head coach, so he can't miss these things), he took me out to dinner on Thursday night and gave me my present early.  He got me a new camera, and I could not be more excited about it!  He did a lot of research before choosing the Canon Powershot S110.  It takes great pictures, is small enough to take with me everywhere, and the best thing is that it can send the pictures over wi-fi directly to my phone or computer.  It will make blogging so much easier!

On Friday I had a full day of doctors appointments and chemo, but after an afternoon nap I felt lots better and made it to my aunt and cousin's mother-daughter art show.  My aunt Janice is a super talented professional artist here in OKC, and her daughter, Elise, inherited her creative genes.  She is now majoring in art at OU and does amazing work that I love!

Their show featured many pieces that they worked on over the summer in similar styles, and they were all beautiful!  My step dad was very generous and got me a painting for my birthday AND one for Christmas, both by Elise (top right and bottom left).  My mom fell in love with one of Janice's larger pieces (bottom right) and ended up purchasing it for herself.  I would say the show was a big success!
Janice and Elise also donated ten percent of the proceeds from their show to Heels for Hope, a local organization raising awareness for ovarian cancer.  Heels for Hope happened to be hosting a 5k the next morning, so I signed up along with my friend, Zenie, and my mom.
Zenie and I walk-jogged, and, although we didn't set any records, we had a great time chatting and taking in the sites along the Oklahoma river.  My mom walked most of the way but wasn't far behind.  It was a fun, healthy way to kick off my birthday!

My cousin Elise and I actually share the same birthday, so that evening our families got together at my aunt and uncle's for a joint get-together.  We had a delicious meal of grilled free-range chicken, grilled vegetables, tabbouleh, hummus, and pita.  My uncle makes his tabbouleh from a long-standing family recipe, and it is the best there is!
Elise and I both opened some really nice gifts, and we enjoyed a tasty chocolate cake that my mom made with a vegan chocolate coconut cream peanut butter frosting!  It was really good (and creative), and she promises to share the recipe soon!

To wrap up the weekend, Jay invited some friends to meet out at our favorite winery on Sunday once he was back in town.  I love this winery, because, even though it is only a few minutes outside of the city, it has a very peaceful and relaxing country feel.  The owners are super nice and laid-back, and they make some really good wine!  It was a great afternoon catching up with friends!

Despite not always feeling 100%, I would say I made the most of the weekend and had a great birthday!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Quick and Easy Indian

Indian is one of my favorite food types, because the dishes have so much flavor and and can be incredibly healthy.  They are often chock-full of disease fighting spices like ginger, turmeric, and curry.  Since many of the recipes rely on coconut milk (rather than dairy products) to give them their creamy texture, there are also tons of vegan options.

Chana masala is a popular vegetarian Indian dish that centers around chickpeas in a spicy, citrus-y tomato based sauce.  I love making it at home, because it comes together entirely from ingredients that I always keep on-hand in my pantry and fridge.  The recipe I've developed is roughly inspired from others I have seen online, but adjusted to my own tastes and preferences.  It is probably not authentic in the least, but it is super easy and tastes pretty darn amazing!
In addition, this dish contains some of the healthiest spices in the world!

Ginger has been proven to be more effective against bacterial staph infections than antibiotics. It can kill cancer cells. Its anti-inflammatory effects are famous. It can resolve brain inflammations and ease or cure a variety of gut problems.

Turmeric is a safe yet extremely potent anti-inflammatory.  It provides relief for arthritis and cystic fibrosis.  It helps to prevent cancer and inhibits cell growth and metastases.  It also improves liver function, protects against heart disease, lowers cholesterol, even prevents Alzheimers!  I try to use this mild peppery spice as much as I possibly can!

Curry contains turmeric, so it has many similar health benefits.  It has been shown to improve cognitive function and protect against many types of cancers.  It can be used as an inexpensive and effective treatment for autoimmune disorders.  Also, when used in place of tobacco in hookah pipes, curry powder helped to offset the detrimental effects of tobacco smoking by reducing the concentration of inhaled chemicals.  

Now for the recipe...

Quick and Easy Indian Chana Masala

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ginger, minced
6 oz. can of tomato paste
1/2 cup coconut milk (or more to taste)
1 can of chickpeas
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp curry powder
2 tsp turmeric
Salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste

1. Heat oil on medium heat. Fry onions until slightly browned.

2. Add garlic and stir for 30 more seconds or until fragrant.

3. Add curry, turmeric, tomato paste, and coconut milk. Simmer for a couple more minutes.

4. Add chickpeas, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper. Simmer 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Add red pepper flakes to taste.

6. Serve over brown rice.

When I made this the other night, I also added in some green peas with the chick peas to amp up the veggie content.
It is such an easy, tasty dish, and I love that it incorporates so many powerful super spices.  This dinner will definitely remain a regular one in our house!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day Eats

Happy Labor Day everyone!  Aren't three day weekends the best?!  I finally feel caught up on everything.  We ran a billion errands, cleaned the house from top to bottom, mowed the lawn and did some gardening, bought a new mattress, and still had time to see some friends, go on a couple of date nights, and have a family cookout!

My aunt and uncle from Florida (and their super cute dog, Mike) are driving across the country from Florida to do some hiking in Colorado, and they planned their route so that they could make a stop in OKC to hang out for a while and have some lunch.  We don't get to see them very often, so it was fun to be able to show them our new house and catch up!
We knew we wanted to grill since the weather was going to be nice, but I wanted to make something a bit healthier than typical cookout fare.  I picked up some chicken sausages at Sprouts for the meat-eaters, along with a package of my favorite veggie alternative.
The Field Roast hot dogs and sausages taste delicious and are made simply from whole grains and vegetables.  While they do list pressed safflower oil as ingredient number three, the fat content isn't too overly high, and all of the ingredients are natural and wholesome.  (You should always look closely at the ingredient list even for vegetarian and vegan foods...don't just assume they are good for you!)

On the side, I decided to make a vegan potato salad recipe that was given to me by my mom.  I am not a fan of traditional mushy, creamy potato salads at all, but this recipe tastes NOTHING like what you would find in a tub at Wal-Mart.  I hate to even call it potato salad for that reason.  It is light, lemony, flavorful, and refreshing without an ounce of mayo or any other dairy products.
Lemony Dijon Potato Salad

2-3 pounds red, yellow, or new potatoes
Juice of 1.5 lemons
6 tbsp. dijon mustard
8 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste (quite a bit)
3 scallions, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley (or you can use dried)

Chop up the potatoes into 1-inch cubes and boil in water for 10 minutes or until cooked (but not too mushy).  Whisk the remaining ingredients together.  Once potatoes have cooled down a bit, add the dressing to the potatoes and toss.  Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

My mom also made a regular salad, and we cut up some juicy watermelon for dessert.  It was a great summer meal!