Saturday, March 31, 2012

Recipe: Veggie and Stars

Don't you just love when you accidently make something wonderful?! LOL
This was supposed to be similar to Campbell's Chicken and Stars soup (sick kiddos), but I added too much pasta, and it came out similar to a "Rice Sides" mix.  The little noodles ended up soaking up all the broth, making it suitable to spoon on a plate as a side dish!  It will now be a permanent side dish LOL  All three kids slurped it up and asked for more :)

8 oz of star shaped pasta (I found a 16oz package at Kroger for under $1.50)
6 cups water
2-3 "Not Chick'n" bouillon cubes
1 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced celery
1 tsp each:  dried marjoram, dried oregano, dried thyme, dried basil
Sprinkle of garlic and onion powder

Bring water to a boil.  Add bouillon cubes and stir to dissolve them.  Add veggies and herbs and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add 8 oz of tiny noodles.  (I used stars!)  Simmer and stir for about 10 minutes.  Turn off heat, cover, and allow to sit for about 5-10 minutes.  This will give the noodles time to soak up liquids.

*If you want a thinner, soupier version-I would reduce the noodles to about 4-5 oz.

Smoothie Pops

As the days get warmer, i'm sure we will be using these constantly!  I've gotten in the habit of making smoothies in the morning for breakfast, and it is super simple to add a little bit of extra fruit for leftover smoothie pops!  These silicone popsicle makers are the BEST!  I found them at Amazon for around $10.  You can find them by clicking here.  

Ideas for Smoothie Pops:

Red Smoothie Pop:  Blend fresh (organic) strawberries with 1 cup of frozen berry mix (blue, black, raspberries), 6 oz of orange juice, and 2-3 oz of almond milk.

Tropical Smoothie Pop:  Blend frozen tropical fruit mix (pineapple, mango, strawberry) with 4 oz orange juice, and 4 oz of coconut water.

Banana Mango Smoothie Pop:  Blend one banana, 3/4 cup of frozen mango, 2 oz orange juice, 2-4 oz coconut water.

Recipe: Veggie Lasagna


9 whole wheat pasta noodles, boiled and cooled
Large jar of organic pasta sauce (I used Prego Mushroom)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup sliced yellow squash
1 cup sliced zucchini
1-2 cups of baby spinach leaves.

1 cup raw cashews

1/2 block of extra firm tofu (8 oz or so)
1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tsp agave nectar or honey
4T nutritional yeast


Preheat oven to 350*.
In food processor, pulse 1 cup of raw cashews until fine (about the consistency of bread crumbs)  Pour into a bowl, and set aside.
Add tofu, vinegar, agave nectar, and nutritional yeast to the food processor and pulse until it is creamy and blended well.  This will serve a a faux ricotta cheese.

In a glass casserole dish, pour 1/2 cup of sauce into bottom and spread thin.  Lay 3 lasagna noodles across.  Pour another 3/4 cup of sauce and spread over noodles.  Arrange baby spinach layer across.  Layer 3 more noodles across.  Spread ricotta mixture across and spread another 1/2 cup of sauce across it.  Top ricotta with sliced veggies (mushroom, squash, zucchini).  Pour one cup of sauce across veggies.  Top with last 3 lasagna noodles.  Pour remaining sauce over the noodles, and sprinkle raw cashew crumbs.

Bake at 350* for 30-45 minutes (until sauce is bubbly)  This was very easy and yummy!  It could also be assembled and frozen for freezer cooking!

Raw Cashews:  Before

 Raw Cashews:  After

Ricotta Cheese 

Ricotta and sauce blend over noodles

Veggies used:

Veggies Assembled

Top with last 3 noodles, sauce, and cashew crumbs

Project Time: Healthy Foods!

As luck would have it, the first day of Easter break had us cooped up inside because of rain.  As I was cleaning and organizing the sunroom, I came across a pile of old Southern Living and Redbook magazines.  Knowing the the kids love anything artsy-craftsy, we decided to make a poster to showcase some "healthy foods".  

Yes-this is a total health class assignment, but guess how many health classes my daughter gets to go to.  NONE!  And she only gets 30 minutes of physical education per week.  They go to PE every Wednesday, and that's it!!! Too much class time is focused on not leaving the children behind academically.  In a time when more and more kids are obese and facing diseases that once only plagued adults (diabetes, high blood pressure, etc), I try to do what I can at home to teach them about healthy choices and why it is important to eat the right things.

So-project of the day-posters!  Each kiddo flipped through magazines, and cut out pictures of "healthy foods".  It was fun to see what they thought qualified to go on the posters, and also a good opportunity to talk about why we don't eat much of certain things!  Anyway-enjoy the pictures...they were very proud of them :) 

ReThinking: Pizza Night!

No-i'm not taking credit for making this.  I absolutely detest homemade pizza!  No matter the toppings, I just don't like it.  For take-out pizza, we started by just getting cheese instead of my favorite:  pepperoni+sausage+steak.  (This was a few months ago)  After awhile, I began getting mushroom and cheese, since I looooove mushrooms.  Kyle and the kids only like them.

After we decided to give up dairy, I got my regular mushroom pizza, but selected the "Light Cheese" option.  Now they only added a couple tablespoons of cheese instead of a thick, greasy layer.

Today, we wanted pizza and decided to go "cheese free" from Dominos.  Now, I know they still use dairy in the crust and in the garlic topping, but I felt much better about it not having an inch of cheese on top.  I can also tell a difference in the way my taste buds work.  Foods that used to gross me out actually taste AMAZING these days.  For example, I am in love with red bell peppers these days!  I have never liked bellpeppers much!  One of the toppings that is offered is roasted bellpeppers, and O-M-G!  They are great! Also added baby spinach and mushrooms, since I know I like them.  In a pinch, this was a good meal and very cheap/filling for us.  Add a big salad and some tea, and you're set!

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Little Science Lesson for You! :)

There is a reason I chose to teach Social Studies and not science.  I am clueless about it! LOL  But, over the last year, i've learned quite a bit about our bodies and what they need to run correctly.  Especially in terms of heart health.

Nitric Oxide is what the body uses to dilate the vessels of the body.  Dilated=open=blood can freely and quickly move around the body, doing all the things that blood is supposed to do.  Nitric oxide is created by the body naturally, using something called endothelial cells.

If your body cannot open it's vessels, blood flow isn't there, and that is where we experience the heart attacks and episodes.  No blood flow to the heart=death of heart tissue.  Studies suggest that meat/dairy play a huge part in the destruction and death of these cells.  A plant-based diet, on the other hand,  can help restore these cells!  I find this about foods that heal!

For Kyle, he spent about about 4 days in the hospital last summer with something called a "nitro-patch" on his chest.  Because his body doesn't create enough nitric oxide, his heart has the tendency to try to clamp shut and not dilate.  This is what caused the chest pain/angina last year. The patch contains a medicine version of nitric oxide.  You can also take it in pill form, as well as an "under the tongue" spray.  All 3 did the same thing=give him HORRIBLE headaches from the dilation of the vessels.  (As someone who has had to start/stop blood pressure medicine, it can be miserable to take any med that affects your blood vessels)

After being released from the hospital, we went to Walgreen's where we turned in the RX for two nitro meds (pill and spray).  Went home, where Kyle took the first one and was immediately hit with a headache from hell.  After one pill, he decided that this was not going to work.  There was no way he could function like that!  So-many hours of research and reading began, and we decided to try a "natural" method to increase his nitric oxide intake.  It turns out that grean, leafy vegetables are nature's own source of nitric oxide!  The fresh vegetables that we rarely ate could be the very thing that would keep his vessel's open, and blood flowing smoothly!

Now-we know how hard it is to get veggies in, much less fresh, raw veggies that are full of the nutrients that could help him.  That is where juicing came in for us.  Juicing is an easy way to get LOTS of veggies in, without having to eat pound after pound of produce.  And-because it is processed (kind of like your food being chewed up for you LOL), it can immediately get into your blood stream and go to work.  Of course, we are learning to eat and cook differently, and actually enjoy many of the foods we used to turn our noses up at.  (Kale, anyone?)  For us, it truly came to the point where we needed to "Eat to Live, not Live to Eat".

Part of our reading was finding foods that packed more punch in terms of heart health.  We had to read bits and pieces of different websites to find  out which foods were good, great, and best for us.  Today I began reading a website, and found this nice little chart!  Where was this thing one year ago?! LOL  I definitely will be referring back to it while we meal plan, so that I can make sure we are getting in foods high in the nitric oxide.

Click Me!  Make Me Bigger!

Recipe: Mango Banana Sorbet

This is the easiest recipe in the world.  Since no dairy=no ice cream, we are trying to find healthier COLD options as we enter these long, Louisiana summer months.  We do like coconut-milk ice cream, but sometimes a pint is over $7!  Definitely an occasional splurge...

This dessert fed 4 of us, and the cost was about $5 total.  I used one banana and 3/4 of a bag of organic frozen mango.  Frozen peach would be good too...Simply throw them together in a food processor, and pulse until it is creamy!  This dessert is super thick and rich, and healthy.  The kids loved it with their lunch today :)

Recipe: Tofu "Chicken" Fingers

Today started our first day of Easter break!  It is so nice to be able to sit and have lunch together with the whole family...yay for no school! LOL

I recently made a veggie lasagna with tofu "ricotta", and had about half of the block left over.  I've seen several friends and websites post about baking or pay frying breaded tofu, so I decided to give it a try.  The result?  The kids ate the WHOLE pan!  I think we have a keeper :)


1/2 block of extra firm tofu (I used Naysoya organic brand) sliced into blocks or "fingers"
1/2 cup of bread crumbs seasoned with garlic powder, parsley flakes, salt, and nutritional yeast.  

Roll sliced tofu pieces into breadcrumb mixture, and coat thoroughly.  You can also dip the tofu in soy sauce first for a little extra flavor!  I will try this next time...

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, turning once!  Dip in maranara or ketchup!

 Served with organic ketchup, almonds, cucumbers, a juice box, and a frozen mango sorbet!

 3 happy plates for 3 happy kiddos!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Saturday, March 24, 2012

New Cookbooks!!!

I am ready for Easter Break...I plan to spend one of my mornings drinking coffee and meal-planning! LOL  Ahhh, the little things in life :)

Re Thinking: Sushi

     If there is one food that I have grown to LOVE, it is sushi.  There is nothing better than a girls night, with sushi and plum Fuki to bond over :)  For the last few weeks, as we have cut out all meat and dairy, we did continue to eat sushi.  

     After reading "Food Revolution", I am to the point where I  am ready to commit to no meat, fish, or dairy period.  None!  That book has opened my eyes so much!  I would recommend it to anyone thinking of changing their eating habits to a plant based diet.  I got to the section last night titled "Fishful Thinking" and actually had to put it down.  I KNEW that if I read that section, I wouldn't want to eat salmon or sushi again.  I picked up my Kindle, and put it back down again.  Finally-I just got it over with and read through it.  Glad I did!  It is scary to learn about all the toxins found in our oceans and rivers.  Even scarier was the section about fish farming.  One year ago, when I starting to clean up my diet, I clung to my salmon, happy to know I was making sure to get my omega fatty acids.  Now-I question how much benefit it was!  Now-I did make sure to buy wild salmon (instead of farmed), but there is not telling what else I consumed with it :(

     Anywhoooo, long story short, Saturday is our "sushi day".  We go to one of our favorite sushi restaurants, and just enjoy it all.  Especially my favorite roll, which is deep-fried with lots of "bad for you stuff" in it. LOL Today I tried to change it up, and rethink what I could do to keep the tradition, but make it better in a plant based diet.  We found that it was actually pretty easy to eat veggie at a Japanese restaurant!  

    Because of time, I ended up calling in an order "to go".  They offered 3 vegetable rolls.  One was full of marinated peppers/carrots/avocado/cucumber/tofu, and was DELICIOUS!  I can't believe I didn't try it before now.  The other 2 were very basic, and "meh"...I spruced those up with soy sauce and eel sauce :/  They were just a basic cucumber roll and a basic avocado roll.  I paired the rolls with a bowl of organic Miso soup that I got from Kroger, and some steamed edemame from the freezer.  Total meal for the 2 of us was a little under $15.  Not bad from the same couple that easily spends $80 on one sushi meal!  

     And, since my kids were not in the mood for sushi, I kept the theme and rolled them some "Peanut Butter Sushi" with peanut butter, chopped peanuts, and raisins in an artisan wheat/corn blend tortilla.  Added some fresh carrots and blueberries :)

Recipe: Vegan Banana Walnut Muffins (and mini-muffins too!)


2c whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1tsp salt
3 large bananas
1/4 cup oil (I used coconut oil)
3/4 c turbinado sugar
1 c chopped walnuts
1/3 c natural applesauce (Not pictured...mix was a little thick before, so I added the     applesauce)

BEST MUFFIN TOOLS EVER!  Medium and Small Pampered Chef Cookie Dough Scoops are the perfect portion-er for regular and mini muffins
 Bake at 360*
        Regular Muffins:  16 minutes
        Mini Muffins:  8-10 Minutes


Friday, March 23, 2012

Quick Fix: "Fast Food"

This was my answer to my Chick-fil-A craving :)

Whole Wheat hamburger bun
Spicy Boca Chikn Patty (these are my favorite....they are now vegan and non-GMO) with Vegenaise and romaine
Grape tomatos
Roasted potatoes with Tony's
Onion Rings with organic ketchup

Yes-sandwich is "processed", but it is STILL better than going through the drive through on my way home!

Quick Fix: Mexican

There are just those days when you need dinner is less than 15 minutes!  This is one of those LOL  It was REALLY good!  Used a Spanish rice mix, and lettuce is chopped romaine.  Also threw together some pico de gallo for the tacos to give it a little extra flavor.  I'm still adjusting to no cheese :)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Re Planning: Breakfast

One meal that has been hardest for me to rethink is breakfast.  I love breakfast...I love breakfast foods...I love eating breakfast foods for supper! LOL

For us, we'd always been a typical family.  Breakfast consisted of pancakes (smothered in butter and Aunt Jemima/Mrs. Butterworth/or any other high fructose corn syrup concoction), scrambled eggs, bacon, fried potato hash browns, and coffee.  There is nothing better that sleeping in on Saturday mornings, and then lazily making my way to the kitchen to assemble this spread.

Not only did I overeat, but I felt absolutely sick made me want to go back to bed and be lazy for the rest of the day.  After our big switch to a plant-based, vegan-ish diet, this was definitely going to be off limits!

Now, we wake up and put together a slightly different meal.  Instead of Hungry Jack instant pancakes, I use a boxed Buckwheat Pancake mix with almond milk, coconut oil and natural applesauce.  Instead of bacon, we used veggie sausage and fresh fruit.  I still have my coffee, but replaced my creamer with coconut creamer (i've used stevia for years and years, so that stays! :)  And goodbye HFCS, hello maple :)

All in all, I can eat less and feel full quicker and longer!  I have more energy when I start my day off right.  I'm learning to like and try things that I normally wouldn''s been a fun ride so far :)

Recipe: Vegetarian Southwestern Eggrolls

Vegetarian eggrolls were a hit :)  Not quite vegan, as the eggroll wrapper itself has egg whites in it (somewhere toward the end of the ingredient list...)

1/2 T pecan (or canola/olive/vegetable oil)
3-5 Baby Bella mushrooms
1/4 red bellpepper, diced
2 cups baby spinach
1/2 yellow onion, diced
(I also added Pampered Chef Southwestern seasoning could add a little cumin and chili powder)

Saute all fresh, chopped veggies in the oil, then stir in:

3/4 can of black beans
1/2 can green chilis
1/2 can whole kernel corn

When mixture is heated, take a package of store-bought eggroll wrappers and count out 12.  I used about 3T of mixture in each eggroll.  After trying several different folds, I found the easiest was to turn the eggroll sideways (where a corner points down) and fold the contents up like an envelope.  I sprayed the top lightly with organic cooking spray, and baked at 350* for about 15 minutes.  You don't want to undercook the wrap, but overcooking them makes the corners a little crunchy.

These were really, really good!  Some recipes called for chicken and cheese, so we just left it out.  The kids tore the eggroll wrap open, and ate the inside only.  LOL It wasn't as creamy as some i've eaten at restaurants, so I whipped up a mixture of guacamole, Tofutti sour cream, and a dash of the Pampered Chef Southwestern seasoning to use as a dip.  Also served with steamed edamame (they ARE eggrolls after all! LOL  And we had some on hand...)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Organic Produce: What to Buy Organic/What to Buy Conventional

Organic produce is something we have bought for many years.  I try very, very hard not to gripe about the cost, but it can be frustrating!  Organic apples here are about $1 each, or I can buy a 3lb bag of conventional apples for $4.  Yeah-frustrating!

One thing that has helped is using the "Dirty Dozen/Clean 15" list when we buy produce.  Most of the kids favorite fruits happen to be those that are the most heavily coated with pesticides.  We save money buy using the "Clean 15" to decide what to buy conventional.  If there is something that isn't on either list, I will buy it based on which one looks the best (Sometimes organic broccoli can be buggy...yuck!)

1. Apples
2. Celery
3. Strawberries
4. Peaches
5. Spinach
6. Nectarines  (Imported)
7. Grapes  (Imported)
8. Sweet bell peppers
9. Potatoes
10. Blueberries  (Domestic)
11. Lettuce
12. Kale/collard greens


1. Onions
2. Corn
3. Pineapples
4. Avocado
5. Asparagus
6. Sweet peas
7. Mangoes
8. Eggplant
9. Cantaloupe  (Domestic)
10. Kiwi
11. Cabbage
12. Watermelon
13. Sweet potatoes
14. Grapefruit
15. Mushrooms

School Lunch Ideas

One of the hardest things I have had to figure out has been what to fix for Taylor's school lunch.  She has eaten school lunches a total of 5x.  Even she (at 7 years old) knows that they are completely unhealthy.  This is one of our "go to lunches".  Peanut Butter/Jelly on whole wheat, banana, strawberries and blueberries, and carrot sticks!  Easy peasy...takes 5 minutes to assemble!  A 99% vegan lunch...the only animal protein is whatever percentage is found in the bread.  Sent this with a box of coconut milk!

Coffee Time :)

Nothing like a lazy, rainy afternoon coffee break with the family!  

Recipe: 15 Minute Black Bean Soup with Coconut Rice

I was lucky enough to get to walk in from work and have this waiting for me on the stove!  Being from Louisiana, one of our staple, "go-to meals" is red beans and rice.  A friend of mine (Yes-alot of my friends share their recipes with me...hi Nikki!) suggested trying a coconut rice topped with black beans.  It sounded great, so we tried it today.  

The recipe for the soup was found from the PETA website (this has been a great resource for foods and recipes!) and the rice part was given to me by Nikki.  Together, the taste was great!  We will be making this often!


Black Bean Soup
1 tsp. olive oil
1/4 cup minced white onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. cumin
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste4 cups vegetable stock
2 15 oz. cans black beans, drained 
   (or-you can save money and sodium by cooking your own black beans from a bag like    we did!  Instead of adding the veggie broth, we just cooked 2 cups of black beans in 4 cups water, and added 2 cubes of "Not Chick'n Broth" in with it.  It takes a little time, but it is way better for you!  If you are short on time, go the 15 minute route and just use canned beans!  It is still better for you than meat or take out)

Add sauteed onion/garlic, cumin, red pepper flakes, and salt/pepper to beans as they finish cooking.  Simmer an extra 15 minutes.  You can mash beans or use an immersion blender at this point.  (We use a Pampered Chef Mix and Chop!)

Coconut Rice:
Place 1 cup of white or jasmine rice to a 2 quart pot.  Add one can of coconut milk, and 1/2 cup water.  Bring to simmer and cook until the rice is tender (It took about 20 minutes)

Spoon your beans over the coconut rice, and top with your choice of avocado or cilantro!  Enjoy!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Grocery Trip!

Packaged Stuff:
A Happy Fridge! LOL

Favorite Oil!

     As we made the switch to a non-dairy diet, one of the things that was hardest to give up was butter.  I LOVE butter.  Love it!  Unfortunately, butter doesn't love my waistline or my arteries. 

     When I browsed the Internet, I really couldn't find a clear answer for whether margarine would be a safe replacement. Yes, it is plant based, but it is also processed. On the other hand, butter is "natural", but ridiculously high in saturated fats. Luckily, I don't need to use either! We had been getting by with organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but I really didn't like the taste of it. While on a trip to Natchez, I was browsing downtown and came aross this:

     100% Virgin Pecan Oil!  I was a little nervous to try it, because pecans (in my opinion) are very strong flavored.  Surprisingly, there was NO strong pecan flavor!  It really doesn't even have a flavor! 

This nutritional information can be found on their website, as well as the pamphlet that came with my bottle of oil:  "Our Pecan Oil has only 9.5% saturated fat compared to Olive Oil with 13.5%, Peanut Oil with 17%, Corn Oil with 13.7% & Butter with a whopping 66% saturated fat."

     I will definitely purchase this again! You can visit their Facebook page for ordering/store information.!/kinlochplantation