Friday, September 30, 2011

Unprocessed Menu Plan

I spent a good amount of time thinking about the changes I would need to make in order to avoid all processed foods during the next week (I'm starting October 2nd, in case you are keeping track).  Looks like I won't be able to finish the bag of Newman's Ginger Os that I just bought.  Bummer.  That Costco-sized bag of Pirates Booty?  Hands-off.  No refined sugars and flour?  Difficult, but I guess I can manage.  

Just so we're all on the same page, I'm following EatingRules's definition of "processed".  Unprocessed food is any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with readily available, whole-food ingredients.  Basically, if I could make it at home, then it counts.  If it contains unpronounceable ingredients that I've never heard of, I'd best avoid it... at least this week.  

This one-week pledge really made me think about the things I eat, and I know there is room to improve.  I decided to put together a meal plan for the week, otherwise there is only a very small chance that I'll actually follow through on this.  If I have an actual plan, then I can shop for the right ingredients and avoid the it's-five-o'clock-and-I'm-starving-and-have-no-food-worth-eating panic that usually results in ordering take-out.

Here goes!

steel cut oatmeal with fresh berries and maple syrup, eggs, whole grain toast, baked oatmeal

leftovers, Quinoa and spinach salad, tuna salad

hummus/red pepper dip, veggies, fruit, kale chips, homemade granola bars, nuts, dried fruit, smoothies

Dinners -
Taco Salad with Red-pepper dressing (Blissful Bites)
Frijoles Rancheros (Simple Bites)

Coconut Curry Green Lentil Soup (Simple Bites)

Apple and Bacon Frittata (Simple Bites/Whole Family Cookbook)

Lentil Shepherd's Pie (Simple Bites)

Crockpot French Onion Soup (How Sweet it Is)

Pineapple fried rice (Blissful Bites)

Potato and Bean Enchilada Bake (All Recipes)

Time to make my shopping list - my grocery cart is going to be packed with all of this delicious food!

Thursday, September 29, 2011


I eat pretty well, but I certainly have a soft spot for sweet treats and salty snacks.  Unfortunately, these delicious bites are hardly good for me.  I ran across a post on a blog I follow (Simple Bites), and felt compelled to play along with October Unprocessed 2011's challenge.  I know how much better I feel when I eat well, and knowing that what I eat is what the baby is "eating" gives me extra motivation to get on the right track. But, a whole month?! With no processed foods?  I'm not that confident in my will-power, nor do I think I'll be able to find enough time everyday for thirty-one days to make delicious, nutritious unprocessed meals.  A week? Yeah, I think I can handle that.  Now, don't look at me like that!  I am not taking the easy way out... okay, just a slightly easier route.  But, don't you think that is fair?  I mean, come on... I'm the busy momma of a two-month old!  Give me a break :)

If you'd like to play along, DO it!  What a great opportunity to challenge yourself to pay attention to what you are choosing to put into your body.  See how you feel... see how hard/easy it is... see how long you can stick to it.  I'd love to see how you do, so be sure to comment and let me know if you are up for the challenge.  

Want to be a part? Here are some steps to help you out:

  1. Sign the petition, and join over 1500 others as you do so.
  2. Discuss the challenge as a family.
  3. Set a goal. Three days? A week? The whole month?
  4. Make a menu plan.
  5. Blog about it and add a badge to your site.
  6. Follow the #Unprocessed hashtag on Twitter.
  7. Read Eating Rules for daily updates and tips in October.
We can totally do this! 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Window-Shop Wednesday

You thought this blog was going to be all about cooking, didn't you?  Well, as much as I adore playing around in the kitchen, there is actually something I might like even more... shopping.  Now, since we'd end up poor and homeless (but with fabulous odds-and-ends to haul around with us), if I shopped as much as I want to, I usually just focus my energy elsewhere.  But, today, I'm linking up with Katie from The Katie Chronicles.  We are window shopping at Pottery Barn today.  Want to join in the window-shop fun?  Visit her blog, grab the badge, and get blogging.  (I'd like to take a minute to thank my adorable newborn for sleeping all of the time, so I have time to play on the computer all day... and for a husband the doesn't care if the house isn't clean.)


How fantastic would this Skeleton Hand Drink Dispenser Stand be at a Halloween party? The best part is, the actual drink dispenser can be used without it, year-round. Creepy, but so awesome!

It is almost time to replace our old, well-loved sectional. Of course, having a couple kiddos around would force me to purchase the Seabury sectional in some color other than white, but you get the idea!

I'm a sucker for stripes. And I need a mat by our back door. Win-win. 

Wish I could really shop today, but window-shopping will have to do! 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Spicy Thai Noodle Salad

I have a secret.  Tiny, itty-bitty Thai peppers scare the bejeebers out of me.  I have never cooked with them, since surely one little nibble of those hot suckers would singe my tongue and leave irreparable damage.  Best to just avoid them entirely... jalapenos are so much safer.

But, then, I ran across this recipe from the absolutely hilarious, witty, and delicious Pinch of Yum's blog.  Suddenly, I started having these thoughts.  Maybe just one pepper wouldn't be so bad.  Hmmm.  If she can do it, then so can I, right?  Right.  I needed to make this salad - it was calling my name, and I was just going to have to get over my tiny-pepper fears and make it. 

First, for safety's sake, I did a little research on Mr. Thai Pepper.  Turns out he is about 5x hotter than a jalapeno.  This did little to alleviate my fear.  Just to be safe, I started by only adding half of the pepper.  Then, very carefully, I tasted the dressing.  Huh. Barely spicy at all.  Seems that my years of anti-pepper feelings were really unnecessary.  So, I tossed the other half of that little pepper in and it was just perfect.

 Spicy Thai Noodle Salad
Yield: 4-6 servings

Salad Ingredients
1 cup julienne red bell pepper
1 cup shredded or julienne carrot
1 cup shredded zucchini
1 cup finely chopped broccoli (raw or steamed)
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 cup diced cooked chicken breast
8 oz. cooked soba noodles or whole grain linguine
Handful or fresh basil and/or cilantro

Dressing Ingredients
5 Tbsp tamari (or soy sauce)
2 Tbsp water 
2 Tbsp peanut butter
2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
1/2 Tbsp honey
1 clove garlic
1 tsp sugar
1 red or green Thai chili, seeds and capsicum (ribs) removed
1/3 cup peanuts

Combine the first 7 salad ingredients in a bowl.

Puree dressing ingredients (except peanuts) in a blender or food processor until smooth and creamy. Add peanuts and pulse until they are lightly chopped. Pour dressing over salad and toss until well coated.

Top individual servings with basil or cilantro. Yum!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Healthy-ish Granola Bars

Baby Charlie is ruining my meals.  Seriously.  He's sensitive to dairy, soy, and caffeine, which means I don't get to eat them.  This has totally ruined my addiction to Luna and Mojo bars.  Those things taste like candy bars, and yet actually have some decent nutrients.  Perfect for a mom who has little time and energy after being up half of the night.  But, alas, without them I am just about starving to death.  Some might say this is a good thing (like the guy at Whole Foods who thought I was still pregnant - sigh), but I NEED a decent snack.  Most of the bars you'll find at Whole Foods taste like they are healthy... which isn't a compliment.  I can't have that!  I need something that tastes like a cookie or candy or a pound of sugar.  Without actually having a pound of sugar... I'm trying to eat somewhat healthily, you know.

I've been experimenting for a few days, and think I've come up with a pretty solid recipe.  YAY ME!  This is my first recipe made totally on my own without the help of some totally amazing food blogger.  Progress, for sure.  My first batch tasted so good... but it crumbled apart.  I thought I'd go the no-bake route, but it turns out that baking them really gives the nuts a slightly toasted flavor, and the addition of guar gum binds the bars together.  A total success.  And did I mention that they are SUPER delicious?  As-good-as-a-cookie kind of delicious.  So, go make some... and feel proud of yourself for eating healthy-ish cookie-tasting granola bars.

Nutty Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
Yield: about 18 bars

1 cup gluten-free rolled oats, divided
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 Tbsp flax seeds (I use whole)
1/3 cup flaked coconut
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup peanuts
1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup coconut sugar (you can sub white sugar)
1/2 tsp guar gum
1/3 cup almond butter
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup brown rice syrup

Preheat oven to 350.

Put 1/2 cup oats, sesame seeds and flax seeds in food processor or Vitamix and process until finely ground, like course flour. Place in large mixing bowl.  I use a Kitchen Aid mixer, of course! 

Add remaining oats, coconut, almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and sunflower seeds to the food processor/Vitamix and pulse until they are all chopped up.  You want them to still keep some of their texture, but no huge chunks. Throw those into the mixer.

Add salt, coconut sugar and guar gum to mixer, and blend dry ingredients until thoroughly mixed.

Add nut butters, vanilla and brown rice syrup and mix until well combined. Add chocolate chips.

Line a 9x13 pan with lightly oiled foil (you'll thank me for this tip later!), so the bars remove easily for cutting. Put granola mixture into the pan and press, press, press! I used a meat pounder, but you can use a drinking glass.  Make sure the granola mixture in firmly packed in before baking.

Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350, or until edges just begin to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and cool completely. Lift edges of foil to remove bars from the pan.  Cut to desired size, and store in an air-tight container. 

This recipe is pretty flexible.  If you don't have all of those nuts/seeds, just use what you've got! Only have peanut butter? Then use than instead of the almond butter.  No coconut sugar or brown rice syrup? Use white or brown sugar! It will lose healthy-bonus-points, but I won't tell anyone...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Berry Banana Baked Oatmeal

I love lazy Sunday mornings.  Okay, let's be honest.  I love lazy anything.  That's just the way I am.  This is definitely a lazy breakfast.  Throw a bunch of yummy stuff together and bake.  Doesn't get much easier than that.  I imagine that this recipe would lend itself to pretty much any fruit.  Have apples?  Throw 'em in there.  Peaches?  Why not?  Plums?  Heck, yeah.  

Berry Banana Baked Oatmeal
(recipe adapted slightly from Shutterbean)
Yield: about 6 servings, unless my husband is there... then it only feeds 3.

2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
3/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
1/3 cup coconut sugar (you can substitute regular ol' white sugar)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups almond milk (or some of that cow milk works, too)
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons butter 
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups mixed berries (I used 1 cup frozen blueberries & 1/2 cup frozen blackberries)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Generously butter the inside of a dish.  I used a 9x13, but 8x8 would also work.  In a bowl, mix together the oats, half of the walnuts, the sugar, baking powder & cinnamon.  In another bowl mix the milk, eggs, half of the butter and vanilla.  Whisk until well combined.  Arrange the bananas in a single layer at the bottom of your baking dish.  Sprinkle 2/3 of the berry mixture on top. 

Pour the oat mixture on top and then slowly drizzle the milk mixture on top of that. Make sure to get the milk mixture in all of the nooks and crannies.

Scatter the remaining berries and walnuts on top.  Bake in the oven for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is nicely golden and the oat mixture has set.  Remove from the oven and let cool a bit.

Drizzle the remaining butter on top and serve warm. Drizzle maple syrup on top and enjoy!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Peach Vanilla Bean Jam - Finally.

You can stop holding your breath now.  The moment you have been waiting for has finally arrived... :::drumroll, please:::

Peach Vanilla Bean Jam, in all its glory, was finally made this evening.  I didn't read the recipe very closely, which made for a few oh-crap-I'm-going-to-ruin-this-recipe moments, but I'm pretty sure that it all turned out just fine in the end.  I didn't have enough white sugar, so I was forced to use some brown sugar as a substitute.  It still tasted pretty darn good, and the brown sugar lends a nice rich flavor.  Mmm.  A much greater success than last night's awful "muffins" (blech). 

Now, before you start your jam, I'll show you my quick and easy peach-peeling method.  When you need to get the skin off of 3lbs of peaches, and you don't want to lose any of that precious fruit, this is definitely the way to go.  Starting with rinsed peaches, slice an X right at the base of the fruit.  Place the peach in boiling water for 60 seconds, then remove.

Place it immediately in a water bath, so it can chill out a little bit.

Now, your peaches' skins will slip right off.  How easy was that?

This recipe has been posted on two blogs that I really enjoy - and you might, too.  Take a peek at Tartlette and Annie's Eats for more delicious inspiration.

Peach Vanilla Bean Jam
(slightly altered, out of necessity, from this recipe)
Yield: about 4 cups (original recipe said 8 cups, but mine didn't yield nearly that much)

3 lbs. ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped
2½ cups sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar (check out the original recipe if you want all white sugar)
1-2 vanilla bean(s), halved lengthwise, seeds scraped out (I used one)
Juice of 1 lemon

In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, combine all ingredients (including vanilla bean seeds and pods) over medium heat.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is partially caramelized with a dark orange color (it'll be even darker, obviously, if you use brown sugar).  This took about 2 hours for me, but I think I had the heat on a little too low. Discard the vanilla bean pods.  Get ready for some delicious jam!

Are you going to be canning this jam?  Well, I hope you know how!  Make sure you have sterilized your jars and lids, and use your preferred method of canning.  Need some help on this?  Check out this fantastic guide to canning.  I just put my jam in sterilized jars for immediate consumption, so I didn't have to go to the trouble to properly seal it up.  This stuff is tasty, so it is likely to get eaten up pretty quickly.  I'll be using it as a topping for pancakes, baked oatmeal, and hopefully will be mixing it up with some homemade ice-cream.  

Now I get to check jam-making off of my bucket list!


I have  4 lbs of ripe, juicy peaches sitting on my kitchen counter, just awaiting jam making tomorrow.  You're excited, aren't you?  I knew you would be.  Come on back soon, and see how it turns out... other cooking news, I made a totally mediocre batch of cardboard flavored healthy pumpkin breakfast muffins.  Pretty sure I won't bore you with a post about it, even though I took pictures and everything.  Chris liked them, but that isn't really saying much.  Way too healthy tasting for me.  Luckily, I had the presence of mind to douse them in a pumpkin maple glaze, which made them slightly better.  Still, not worth your time.  Hopefully tomorrow morning's Baked Oatmeal will yield a better result.  One can only hope.  Otherwise I'll be one hungry momma.