Friday, March 28, 2014

Loaded "Quesadilla" ~ gluten-free, dairy-free, corn-free, vegan

Breakfast has been a challenge for me since I found out about my body's negative reactions to gluten, dairy and eggs. I am so excited about this quesadilla which is a fantastic option for any meal of the day! I make the filling in a big batch ahead of time and then make the quesadilla when I'm ready to eat it.

1/4 of a medium sweet onion, finely chopped
1 small/medium sweet potato, cut into small cubes
1/2 package of tofu, cut into small cubes (I like superfirm)***
4 Tbs diced green chiles
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp coriander
1 brown rice tortilla (I use Food For Life)
1/4 cup cheddar Daiya shreds

***If you are avoiding soy or if you don't like tofu, I tried it with lentils instead and it is also delicious!

Drain the green chiles. In a bowl, sprinkle the cumin and coriander over the tofu. Mix thoroughly so that the tofu is evenly coated and then let it sit while you cook the onions and sweet potatoes. Over medium heat, cook the onions and sweet potatoes for about 10 minutes. I have a fantastic non-stick Scanpan so I didn't have to use any oil. If I did, I'd probably use a small amount of coconut oil. Add the tofu and the green chiles to the pan and cook for another 10 minutes. Add a few shakes of salt and pepper to taste (I also added a few more shakes of cumin and coriander at the end).
Set the filling aside. Wipe out your pan or grab a new one and place the brown rice tortilla in it on medium heat (again, I didn't use any oil but you could spray a little olive oil on the tortilla before you put it in). Sprinkle the Daiya shreds on the tortilla and cook until the cheese starts to melt. Add the filling and cook until the tortilla gets a little brown on the bottom. If I'm taking the filling out of the fridge I heat it in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Fold the tortilla over, put it on a plate, and enjoy! You have a meal that is satisfying, delicious, and packed with complex carbohydrates, healthy protein, fiber and loaded with nutrients from the chiles, onions and sweet potatoes. My son likes to have a side of raw avocado with it which is a great way to add some healthy fats and more nutrients.

If you're interested in buying a Scanpan for yourself, here's an Amazon link. You will pay the same price through this link but I will get a small affiliate fee to help maintain this blog. Thanks for your support!

I'm sure there are a ton of ways to play around with the filling. If you try anything and love it, please share!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Braised Coconut Spinach and Chickpeas with Lemon

This recipe fits all of my criteria for a great dish: it's delicious, it's quick, it doesn't have a gazillion ingredients, it's nutritious, and it's allergy friendly!  It's got sun-dried tomatoes, chickpeas, spinach, onions, garlic, lemon, ginger ~ it smells incredible when it's cooking!  I normally tweak recipes after I've tried them once or twice until I find my perfect version but this one is perfect as it is. This is a fantastic recipe for a make-ahead meal. My son and I both really like it so when it's done cooking, I portion it out for he and I as lunches and keep them in the fridge. I've eaten it on it's own and over steamed brown rice. I think it would also work over Super-Easy Spaghetti Squash or Cauliflower Couscous

If you are trying to manage your calorie-intake, you should use light, unsweetened coconut milk. Also, be sure to use sun-dried tomatoes in a bag, not the kind packed in jars of oil. You'll cut out a significant amount of fat and calories without sacrificing much in the way of flavor and consistency. 

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! To see the recipe, follow the link below:

Braised Coconut Spinach and Chickpeas with Lemon from The Kitchn

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

To Make Big Changes, You Sometimes Have To Make BIG CHANGES, Part 1

I generally recommend baby steps to achieve lasting behavior change. Research shows that if we try to bite off too much at one time, we are probably setting ourselves up for failure. Most people prefer little changes because it's a more comfortable process. But sometimes, tweaking our current behavior isn't enough. Sometimes, our behaviors are so disconnected from what they need to be, that we have to make big changes. To make big changes, you must first identify the challenges you face and then be open to experiencing difficult emotions like fear and sorrow.

I am currently leading a weight-loss group and we've hit on what I believe to be very common challenges in reaching, and maintaining, a healthy weight. One that comes up most frequently is that socializing tends to revolve around food. For some people, eating out and going to parties is a weekly, if not daily, event. Common sense would say that you should make small changes, like asking the server not to bring bread or ordering grilled chicken and steamed vegetables. For some of us, that is unrealistic in the long run. We may do it a few times, but then we run into the issue of willpower (which ultimately fatigues). If you don't think you'd be able to stay away from the food and the drinks that you know are going to throw you off of your eating plan, you may need to skip the actual events for a time. You might have to completely change the way you socialize or even change WHO you're socializing with. For some of us, food can be like alcohol or drugs are to an addict. When people go through rehab or a 12-step program, they usually have to stop hanging out with their old friends and stop going to their old hang-outs. You obviously can't avoid food entirely, but you can avoid the situations that prevent your new behaviors from taking hold. However long it takes, making that big change will give you some space to breathe, think, plan, and grow some confidence in your ability to handle those situations in the future. Self-efficacy is a powerful force ~ once you give yourself a chance to build it up.

This process will probably be uncomfortable. You might feel sad to miss the social events (Is FOMO holding you back?). You might be worried that your friends are going to be upset with you. You might miss the feeling you get at a party when you're letting loose and just enjoying yourself. Whatever the pain is that comes along with making this change, you have to ask yourself: Which pain would I rather have~ the pain of change, or the pain of my life staying the same?
Change can be scary and difficult, but if it will transform your life, isn't it worth it?

Next post will deal with the process of being vulnerable and asking for support in our efforts to change. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Wild Huckleberry Mango Green Smoothie

This summer, my family and I visited our cousins in Idaho and had the incredible luck to be there right when the wild huckleberries were ready for picking. If you've never had a huckleberry, they are like small, tart blueberries but they pack in even more antioxidants per serving. No one has been able to cultivate them and they only grow in a few places in the United States. 

All of the families of the valley have their "patches" and it can get pretty territorial. Luckily we were allowed to hang out even though we are from California (thank you extended Somsen family for "grandfathering" us in) ;) We spent most of two days picking huckleberries ~ it was magical. I think it is the closest I've ever come to really meditating! We brought the huckleberries back in a cooler and I froze them in mason jars as soon as we got home. I've been enjoying our bounty now for months. If you can't get your hands on huckleberries you can always substitute blueberries for a similar taste (but if you have to beg, steal, or borrow to get some of the real deal, they're worth it!).

2 handfuls spinach
1 big handful kale
1 handful parsley
1/2 cup mango
3/4 cup huckleberries
1 inch square fresh ginger
1 mandarin orange
1/2 small avocado
1 Tbs. orange flavored Calcium Magnesium Citrate (totally optional, it adds a little sweetness but I include it more for the minerals)

Blend it all together with your liquid of choice until it's smooth. I love my Vitamix but any good blender should work. This is a relatively big batch. It made enough for me to have a large smoothie and then a small one for my husband. You might want to halve the recipe if you are making one serving as a snack.

This is us at the end of our first day of picking. Dirty, stained, and so happy!

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Saturday, February 8, 2014

10 Healthy Valentine's Gifts

Nothing says "I love you" like a gift that tells your beloved that you want him or her around for a long, long time. So instead of giving gifts of candy and champagne, why not give gifts that will improve your Valentine's health and encourage intimacy? And when it comes to my kids, I'm trying to break the connection that all celebrations center around food. To that end, I've come up with a few non-traditional ideas for both your grown-up sweetheart and your pint-sized love-bugs.

1. Balloons ~ For the last few years, we've gotten our kids huge mylar balloons for Valentine's Day. They loved the balloons and played with them for weeks. Last year my husband bought balloons with a little music player inside of them so that when the kids hit the balloons a song would start playing. When the balloons finally bit the dust, my husband cut out the music part and hid them in their backpacks. It was hilarious to watch my daughter's face when she put on her backpack and it started singing, "You're The One That I Want"!
2. A box of "chocolates" ~ This year, I bought papier maiche boxes at Michaels and am making what look like candy boxes. I painted them, glued a decorative heart on top, and then filled them with toys. I got Valentine's cupcake papers and filled them with Rainbow Loom bands, plaster magnets to paint, sugar-free gum, and a small toy. It looks like a box of chocolates but I think the kids will like these treats even better.  If you'd like more ideas for small toy "stuffers" check out my post on Easter treats.

3. Love Notes ~ I plan to top the box of treats off with love notes my husband and I will write to them like, "I love listening to you sing", or "I love cuddling with you", or "I love that you are brave and try new foods".

4. Stuffed Animals ~ My kids are still into stuffed animals, especially the Beany Baby "Boo" animals with the big eyes. It is one of the few indoor activities that my nine year old daughter and six year old son will do together so this gift feels like an investment in their relationship :)

5. Healthy(er) food treats ~ If your kids are in elementary school they will most likely have a Valentine's Day party. I saw a post on Facebook of an inside-out caramel apple which looked delicious and is more nutritious than just about any candy you'd buy at the store. I thought it'd be even better if you pushed some healthy granola into the caramel while it was still a little soft. It would cut down on the amount of caramel you'd be using and would add some healthy whole-grains while maintaining that "treat" feel. I tried experimenting with making a lower-sugar, dairy-free caramel to use but my candy thermometer broke on me (darnit!). When I achieve success, I'll post the recipe and a photo. Until then, please try it and let me know if it works! And anything cut into the shape of a heart is cute. You could cut apple slices (horizontally across the apple) and then cut them with a heart-shaped cookie cutter. My kids love when I use them like a sandwich and put peanut butter in between. Fruit is always a good party food and strawberries already look like hearts so you don't even have to do any work!

1. A shared experience ~ preferably an active one. Classes are a great way to spend time together! You can take a class in dance, rock-climbing, trapeze, or snowboarding. You can take a class in healthy cooking. You can go for a hike, a bike ride, or a nature walk. You can go roller-skating, ice-skating, snow-skiing, or trampolining. Research has shown that one of the best ways to increase intimacy with your partner is to experience NEW things together. So get out there, get active, and get closer to your partner.

2. Photo book ~ Photos of happy times will help your sweetie FEEL happy. Make it a size that your partner can take with him or her to work or keep handy. Then, when the world doesn't seem like a loving place, your Valentine can take a few deep breaths, look at the pictures, and remember how cherished he or she is.

3. A jar of "I Love You"s ~ Take slips of paper or small note cards and write loving things. They could be quotes about love or specific things about your partner. You might write, "I love how you make me laugh", or "I love that you are a caring friend", or "I love how you ______________ me in bed" ;) Make them honest and personal. Again, your sweetheart can pull this jar out in times of need and boost his or her happy brain chemicals.

4. Massage accessories and massage(s) ~ Touch is incredibly important for human beings and the act of touching promotes the release of oxytocin, a happy hormone. Oxytocin improves mood and also make us feel more connected and intimate. You can use fancy oils or go basic with some coconut oil. The key here is to create a relaxed environment and to really focus on your partner.

5. Gadgets that promote health ~ Okay, I realize that most other women would not get giddy over a Valentine's gift of new dumbbells, but try to think of something that you could buy your sweetie to help his or her healthy lifestyle. New exercise equipment? New cooking equipment? I will admit that this gift could be a landmine so tread carefully. The last thing you want is to give someone a Valentine's gift that they will receive as, "so you're telling me I'm fat?". You should do a little recon before going this route. 

Finally, we don't usually celebrate Valentine's Day, but Dwayne, if you're reading this and are moved to show how much you love me, I'd really like a spiralizer ;)

I hope these ideas help! If you have any ideas to add, please comment below :)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Thai Green Curry ~ Dairy-Free and Gluten-Free

This is a very easy recipe that is great for leftovers. I love bulking it up with veggies ~ I used zucchini and yellow squash, but you could really use whatever veggies are in season (or are hanging out in your fridge)

1 can regular coconut milk
1 can light coconut milk
3 Tbs + 1 tsp Green curry paste (I used Thai Kitchen)
3 medium zucchini
2 medium yellow squash
1 Tbs xylitol
2 Tbs fish sauce
4 basil leaves per serving for garnish (I add this right before I serve it or right 
  before I reheat it when I'm eating leftovers). I used my kitchen shears to cut 
  strips but you could just tear them up.

***To make it vegan, just omit the fish sauce

Shake the cans of coconut milk and then pour them into a deep sauce pot or pan. While cooking the liquid on medium heat, stir in the green curry paste. Once the milk is simmering, add in your squash and stir well. Lower the heat to low-medium and cook for about 15 minutes or until your squash is your desired firmness, stirring periodically. Stir in the fish sauce. I removed the pan from the heat and let it sit for about another 5 minutes. The squash was tender but still firm. 

You can also use all light coconut milk. I did that last night and it was fine, but the sauce was quite a bit thinner than using even just the one can of regular coconut milk. If you are trying to lose weight or are watching your total fat intake, though, you may want to stick with only light coconut milk. It still tastes great!

The photo is with it over brown rice. I ate it the other day over spaghetti squash and it was delicious! I am sure it would also be great over quinoa. I also added some shredded chicken before I reheated it one day and plan to try it with shrimp soon. There are lots of possibilities!

It's a little bit spicy but both of my kids tried it and liked it. They haven't sat down to eat a whole bowl of it, so I'm not quite ready to give it the "kid-approved" stamp yet ;)

Please let me know how you like it and if you change it up at all, please share your results!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Super-Easy Spaghetti Squash

This is what it looks like when it's done cooking
Spaghetti squash is a fantastic food, especially if you are trying to lose weight or limit your carbohydrates by cutting back on grains. According to Self website's Nutrition Data analysis, it is "low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Niacin, Vitamin B6, Pantothenic Acid, Potassium and Manganese, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber and Vitamin C." The fiber is key to helping you feel satisfied and to stay full longer.

While I don't think you are going to believe you are eating pasta, the texture is enjoyable and the taste of the squash won't compete with whatever you put on it. I have two recipes I'll be posting soon, Thai Green Curry and my Happy Accident Sauce, both of which worked very well with spaghetti squash.

The only thing I don't like about spaghetti squash is cutting it raw. It's hard and unwieldy and my knives aren't big enough to cut it in one try. So I was very excited when I saw that you can roast them whole and make life much easier. This method takes a little longer than cutting it and microwaving it but I still prefer it.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Puncture your spaghetti squash several times with a knife and then place it 
   whole on a baking sheet
Put it in the oven
Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on the size of the squash. Once you 
   can pierce the skin easily with a knife it should be good.
Let it cool for about 10 minutes
Cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and discard them.
Using a fork, scoop out the flesh (it will come out in strands that look like spaghetti) 
Top with whatever sauce or dish you like

Easy, delicious and nutritious! Can't get better than that!

What do you like to put on your spaghetti squash?