Monday, February 28, 2011

Rice & Bean Bowls

This is an exciting dinner for me because not only do we love Mexican food, but this is a healthy option that is delicious :)  For those of you who are sick of eating so much meat and would like to cut back, this is a wonderful meal that can satisfy the need for protein because we are combining a grain with a legume.  I recently learned this, that in most cases, when you combine a grain with a bean, you have a complete protein.  I promise your husbands will be satisfied with this one and not complain that there isn't any meat!

Bean & Rice Bowls

Layer the following ingredients in this order:
Brown rice, cook acccording to package directions
Black Beans, canned or see recipe below
Cheese, shredded
Salsa or Pico de gallo
Sour Cream

First step, get your beans going if you're going to make them.  Next, start your brown rice.  While those things are cooking, make your pico and guacamole.  By the time you're done with those things, dinner will almost be ready!
You can enjoy the bowls just like this, or dip with baked chips!  My kids like to use their chips as spoons.  If you make the bean recipe below, it makes a lot, so you can freeze the leftovers.  I also like to make extra brown rice because it takes so long to cook as well (45 minutes).  That way, when you have a busy night, you can just thaw your extra beans and rice, and dinner's almost done!

Some healthier options are to make your beans instead of using canned beans, use baked chips instead of fried, homemade salsa and guacamole vs. store bought.  Limit your sour cream & cheese.

Pico de Gallo 
4 tomatoes, diced
1/4 c. chopped purple or yellow onion
1 garlic cloves, pressed or diced
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 lime, juiced
salt & pepper to taste
Fresh Guacamole

4 avocados, mashed
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, diced
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
1 lime, juiced
Salt, to taste
(or if you made pico de gallo, just add a little of that mixture to the avocados)

Homemade Jalapeno Black Beans
3 T. olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 t. oregano
1 t. cumin
1-28 oz. can diced stewed tomatoes
3 c. dry black beans
7 c. water
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1-3 fresh jalapenos, chopped
Salt & pepper, to taste

Saute garlic and onion in olive oil.  Add oregano, cumin, tomatoes, water and beans.  Pressure cook on high for 50 minutes.  Remove 2 cups of cooked beans & puree, if you like them smoother.  Add back to cooker, adding cilantro, and jalapenos.  Salt and pepper to taste. 
This is the electric pressure cooker I use.  I love it for beans, stews, and grains.  It cuts the cooking time in half.  Even longer for roasts.

If you don't have a pressure cooker, soak your beans overnight, reduce the water to 6 cups and follow directions.  Your beans will probably take an hour or so to cook.  It depends on how hard the beans are. 
This is a large batch of beans, but I like to make them this big so that I can freeze portions for later use.  It will probably feed my family at least 3-4 times for these bowls, burritos, etc..

Bon Appetit

Leftover veggies

Tip of the day:
Use all your leftover veggies from your weekly veggie tray and chop them up to make a beautiful salad!

Some weeks we eat a ton of veggies and don't have anything leftover, but some weeks we aren't home much and I have a bunch left over that need to be used.  I just chop them all up and throw them on top of some Romaine or Spinach leaves and there's your lunch!

Most all salad dressings contain MSG (monosodium glutamate), a very addictive and almost toxic substance. Findings have shown that it increases appetite, obesity, migrain headaches, etc..) so if you can start getting into the habit of making your own dressings, your body will thank you for it!

Here are a couple to try:

Maple Syrup Dressing (by Robyn Openshaw)
3/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
3/4 c. red wine vinegar
6 T. maple syrup (real maple syrup, grade B is best if you have it)
1/2 t. sea salt
1/4 c. brown mustard
1/4 c. yellow or white onion (use 1/2 t. onion powder, instead of fresh onion if you want your dressing to stay fresh longer)
1/2 t. garlic powder

Blend on high until smooth.

Balsamic Vinegar dressing (for any salad)

¼ c. olive oil
¼ c. balsamic vinegar
1/2 t. salt
1 t. agave (optional)
1 shallot, minced (optional)

Bon Appetit
You can add all sorts of herbs, dijon mustard, or garlic cloves to a balsamic dressing, so play with it, but this is a basic healthy one to start with. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Blender Pancakes

Most everyone loves a good pancake, right?  The problem with pancakes is that we usually use a box mix that is made with a bleached enriched white flour (no nutrition) and then we top it off with a super sugary syrup!  If you didn't know already, you loose 50-80 percent of all vitamins and minerals by using white flour.  And it continues to loose more as it sits on the shelf in the grocery store.  And most store bought syrups are almost completely high fructose corn syrup!  So bad for you!!  These are so easy, but if you don't have any grains, you are going to have to visit a health food store or grain store to get them.  I promise it's well worth your time!!

Here is a great recipe that takes hardly any time, but will fill your hungry bellies, keep you full for a much longer time, and actually provide nutrition! 

Blender Grain Pancakes

2 cups any whole grain (Kamut, Wheat, Spelt, & Amaranth-no more than ½ c. amaranth )
2 cups milk (Almond, Soy, Coconut, Buttermilk or Cow’s milk)
2 large eggs or egg whites
4 Tbs. coconut oil
2 T. honey, optional
½ tsp. salt
1 Tbls. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
blueberries, optional

Grind whole grains and milk in blender.  Appx. 2 minutes if using a VitaMix or BlendTec and 3-4 minutes for a regular blender. Feel the batter and blend until smooth.  You do not want parts of the whole grain in the batter.  If the batter gets too thick, add a little water so the batter is running smoothly in the blender.
Add eggs, coconut oil & honey (optional), then blend well (10-20 seconds). 
Add baking powder, salt & soda.  Pulse until just mixed. 
Batter will be fairly thin.  Let sit for a minute or two.

Heat griddle to 350 degrees or medium heat.  Brush griddle with coconut oil or cooking spray.  Pour batter, about ¼ cup at a time, onto griddle.  When pancakes start to bubble, flip pancake and cook until lightly golden.  If using blueberries, sprinkle them on top of the wet side before flipping.  Re-oil or spray the griddle every time and continue cooking until batter is used.  Makes approx. 18-20 pancakes.  Keep leftovers in the fridge.  The microwave or toaster oven work perfect for re-heating.

To make them even more nutritious, you can try sprouting your grains.  All you have to do is soak them overnight in some water and by morning they should have started the sprouting process.  Just dump the excess water and blend them!  Sprouting grains increases the nutrition because it is now has live enzymes. It also makes them easier to digest. So if you can remember to soak them the night or day before, go for it!  

This is a little bit healthier version of the buttermilk syrup that so many of us enjoy! I replaced half the butter with heart healthy coconut oil & reduced the sugar.  You won't need much of it on these pancakes because they are delicious just how they are, so use it sparingly!!

Coconut Buttermilk Syrup

1/2 c. coconut oil (Organic Extra Virgin, not refined)
½ c. butter
2-3 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. buttermilk

Pour all ingredients into the pan and melt over medium heat.  Stir and let boil for a couple minutes.  Be careful not to let it boil over the sides.  Remove from heat.
In a large bowl, put 2 t. baking soda & 1 T. vanilla.  Pour the hot liquid into the baking soda and vanilla mixture and whisk until blended.  Enjoy the bubbly syrup!

Leftovers store well in the refrigerator for week! 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Veggie Tray & Low-Fat Ranch Dressing

I was talking to a friend the other day and she wanted to know how she could get more vegetables in her day.  She felt like she wasn't eating enough and didn't know what to do, so I offered her this tip and she had an "ah-ha" moment.  It was pretty funny because it is so simple, but it really helps!

Tip:  Put a beautiful veggie tray out before you eat lunch or dinner! 

You and your family will enjoy the benefits of the vegetables without the kids loading up on junk food before dinner.  If you have any kids at home, you understand the pre-dinner munchies.  The kids are always at our feet begging for food because they're starving!  It's the perfect time to have veggies out because they'll eat almost anything when they're hungry right?  And for yourself, it's perfect because you can get in some extra nutrition and you won't eat too much at dinner!

I don't care if you buy it pre-made or make it yourself, you're one step closer to having a healthier diet!  It's definitely cheaper making them yourself and you can have a little more variation too, so if you have time some weeks, try it out!  I think it's therapeutic to chop vegetables, so try it out and see how you feel!

If you would like an easy homemade ranch dressing, here you go:

Low Fat Ranch Dressing
1 1/2 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. reduced fat mayonnaise or veganaise
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. onion powder
1/4 t. black pepper
1 t. salt
1 t. sugar
1 1/2 t. dried parsley
4 t. Ultra Gel (found at most health food stores)

Combine all ingredients until smooth.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes to thicken and blend flavors.  Store leftovers in covered container in a refrigerator for up to two weeks.  Makes 2 1/4 c.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Incorporating Spinach

I couldn't help but want to post something about the amazing Super Food spinach after I got done talking about the smoothies.  The smoothies are definitely the best way to get kids to eat spinach, but I like it it several different forms. 

Here are a couple of ideas to get more spinach into your diet:

Use spinach for lettuce on your sandwiches.  Don't use iceberg, which has hardly any nutritional content, use spinach to power pack the sandwich. 

Spinach Quesadillas are another favorite of mine.  You can wilt your spinach by putting a little olive oil (and chopped garlic if you'd like) into a skillet and pile on the spinach. 

It reduces A LOT, so you can put a lot into your pan.  Just turn it constantly until it reduces to small wilted leaves.  It only takes a minute or so, so keep your eye on it. 

Then chop your spinach and put into a delicious quesadilla with yummy cheeses & black beans.  I love to dip it in guacamole & salsa for flavor as well.  You can also throw wilted spinach in with your spaghetti sauce for dinner.  Play with it and see how many ways you can use it. 

Spinach Omelets.  Another tip for spinach is to throw them in your eggs in the morning.  I know it sounds gross, but it's not!  Get some fresh leaves (preferably the kind already washed in bags or boxes, not the kind in a tiny box on the freezer aisle.  I put the big box from Sam's Club or Costco in my freezer and just use it from there)  Put your eggs in a pan, take a handful of the frozen leaves and crush them in your hand until they break into tiny pieces, throw them in your eggs, and voila!  I like to add salsa on top of my eggs for some flavor or use some Rotel tomatoes in your egg mixture also.  The more flavor, the better!  Season with salt & lemon pepper!  My kids love that!   If your husband is into extra protein, throw in some bacon bits or sausage crumbles for him.  Sometimes the guys are a little slow to warm up to the spinach idea :)


Organic spinach
Any fruit (My fav. combos are in Winter-apples & craisins  Summer-strawberries & kiwi's)
Blue cheese or feta cheese
Candied almonds, pecans or walnuts

Sweet Apple Cider Dressing:
1 large shallot
1/3 c. apple cider vinegar
2 T. fresh lemon juice
3/4 t. pepper
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. canola oil (preferably expeller pressed Canola Oil)

Put all the ingredients for the salad dressing in a blender and blend for at least 30 seconds.  This dressing will stay good in your refrigerator for at least a couple weeks. 

I hope you'll start experimenting with spinach because it is SO good for you!  The benefits will definitely pay off in the end and I know you'll find yourself loving spinach.  Give yourself time for the taste buds to adjust if you are use to eating a lot of fast foods, salts, and fats.  It might take a while, but stick with it!!  Start with the smoothies and go from there!

Smoothies- the 1st step

As I contemplated what recipe or tip I would like to share first, I decided that if you were only going to change one thing to make your family healthier, this would be it.  Most everyone enjoys a good smoothie, whether it's for breakfast, after school snack, or after a good workout.  They are the perfect way to power pack nutrition into a drink without them even knowing it.

My kids use to freak out when they saw the spinach on the counter next to the blender, but now it's just part of the routine.  So, my advice to you is to not let the kids see you put it into the blender and then they'll never know it's there!  After a while if they see you putting spinach in, just tell them that you put it in everyday and it's going to make their muscles big like Popeye!  

Why Spinach?
Spinach contains a synergy of multiple phytonutrients, lutein, beta-carotene, omega-3 fatty acids, glutathione, ALA, Vitamins C, E, B, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc, polyphenols, and betaine)  Along with blueberries, spinach is right up at the pinnacle of the Super Foods powerhouse choices.  Spinach has more demonstrated health benefits than almost any other food.  Spinach is also an important source of the critical antioxidant, CoQ10.  It helps prevent cardiovascular disease, a host of cancers, AMD, and cataracts. 

There are so many ways to make a smoothie, but here is the way I like to do it: (serves 4)
This portion is for a big Vita-Mix container, so if you have a smaller blender, make 1/2 at a time.

1 c. water
1 c. juice (any kind is fine, we usually use OJ- with pulp) The pulp is very good for you.
1-2 big handful of spinach leaves (I buy the big package at Sam's or Costco. Once it starts to look wilted, just put it in the freezer and use it up until it's gone)
1-2 c. of any combination of frozen fruit (usually always strawberries and other fruits but I make sure it has blueberries because they are a wonderful Super Food) 
1 banana
1/2 c. yogurt (I prefer Greek yogurt-the honey vanilla flavor is so creamy & delicious)
2 T. ground flax seed or flax oil (good supply of plant Omega-3's, which the American diet is greatly lacking)

Optional:  Add 1 scoop of protein powder (I prefer plant protein powders-especially hemp & rice)

Put the water, juice, & spinach in the blender first and blend until you don't see any more green leaves.  Then add the rest of the ingredients into the blender in the order I've listed and blend until very smooth.  If you want it thinner, add water.  If you want it thicker, add ice or more frozen berries.  If it's too sour, add a little agave, sugar, or sweet pineapple.  You can also add cream of coconut to really sweeten it up.  I would suggest making them a little sweeter at first so your kids get hooked on them, and then as their taste buds change, I would start to decrease the sugar.  They'll never know :) 

After I pour my kids smoothies, I leave the rest of the smoothie in the blender, add another handful of spinach, and blend it up to get in the extra nutrition for me!  You can really add anything to your smoothies that you need to be eating more of.  Experiment and have fun!  Find your families' favorite!   Almost 100% of any friends, kids, or family I have tried them on, love them!!  I love hearing my friends tell me about how their kids love their smoothies every morning.  It's music to my ears!!  Enjoy!