Friday, June 29, 2012

RECIPE: Spicy Black Bean Quinoa (Vegan, GF)

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Quinoa is a new discovery in my kitchen.

I have heard about his South American "grain" (it is actually a seed) for a long time, but I didn't get a chance to try it until I joined the local food co-op.  It is a complete protein, a good source of fiber, and a good source of calcium.

This is my favorite way to fix quinoa.  It is easy to prepare, yet versatile enough to eat warm or chilled as an accompaniment to a green salad.  Loaded with veggies and protein, low in fat, meatless, and gluten-free, it can be made for almost anyone.  The bright array of colors make it an appealing dish to serve to guests.

[Print this Recipe]



*1 1/2 c. prepared quinoa
*1/2 chopped green pepper
*1 small chopped onion
*1 clove garlic, minced
*14.5 oz. can corn, drained
*15.5 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
*10.5 oz. can tomatoes with green chiles, drained


1.  Heat a medium saucepan to medium heat.  Spray lightly with cooking spray.  Add green pepper, garlic, and onion.  Add 2-3 Tb. of water and saute until onions become translucent.
2.  In a large bowl, add green pepper, garlic, and onion to quinoa. Add corn, black beans, and tomatoes with chiles.  Mix thoroughly.  Serve warm or cooled.

Have you ever made quinoa? 

Gluten Free Meal Plan via Musings of a HousewifePin It Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, June 28, 2012

My Affordable Health Care Reform

Best Blogger Tips Today is a big day for healthcare in this country.

The Supreme Court of the United States ruled the Affordable Health Care Act is constitutional.  Whether they are for or against "Obamacare," nearly everyone can recognize that healthcare in our country will change as a result of the ruling today.

It is also a big day for me.

For the first time, I am posting my "before and after" pictures on my blog.  Actually, they are both "during and during," since I still want to lose another 38 lbs. and I actually started at 212 lbs. 

(My highest weight was 242 lbs., my weight immediately before birthing my son last July.  I lost 30 lbs. by the time I came home from the hospital three days later.)

The first picture is of me at 192 lbs., right before I started following the Forks Over Knivesdiet (similar to the The Engine 2 Dietand Dr. McDougall's The Starch Solution).  I had already lost 20 lbs. from August 2011 to January 2012, but I hit a plateau and lost my resolve to lose weight.  I was eating lots of protein (thinking I must to lose weight), fruits, and vegetables.

The second picture is of me a few days ago.  I hit 173 lbs., nearly 20 lbs. lost from February when I began a vegan plant-based diet. 

I'm not vegan 100% of the time, but I try to eat lots of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and soy products a few times a week.  About once a month, I eat beef and twice a month, I eat chicken.  I eat dairy products a few times a month.

I still have a long way to go, but it is great to see the changes in my body.  By reducing 10% of my body weight, I have

  • Reduced my LDL ["bad"] cholesterol
  • Improved my glucose tolerance
  • Lowered my risk for cardiovascular disease
  • Increased my energy level
  • Reduced my risk of developing type 2 diabetes
Further, by losing 10% at a slower pace, the weight is more likely to stay off since it is a result of my lifestyle change, not a crash diet.  (WebMD)

The greatest health reform that I can see is in the mirror.

I'm almost finished with the recipe for Spicy Black Bean Quinoa!  Check back today and tomorrow for this versatile gluten-free, dairy-free dish!Pin It Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

WIAW: Fast Food & 4 Tips to Avoid the Drive Thru

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I have been eating a lot of fast food lately.

Some of the emotional triggers from my childhood have cropped up lately.  For me, these always cause me to eat greasy, sugary, salty foods. 

Sugar-Fat-Salt foods are very addictive, kind of like the way drugs affect the brain.  Read more about how these combinations fuel overeating here and here.

After a week of eating fast food at least once a day, I'm really trying to get back on track with healthy foods.

I've found these things help me decrease the fast food and other fatty, sugary foods I want to eat.

1.  Increasing the amount of fiber in foods or eating fiber-rich alternatives.  By adding ground flaxseed to foods such as cereals or even ice cream, I get full faster and don't crave unhealthy foods.  Eating quesadillas with sprouted tortillas, vegan cheese, and picante sauce gives me the salt and fat that I'm craving without cholesterol and with heart-healthy grains.

2.  Stocking up on healthier convenience foods.  When I crave fast foods, I certainly don't want to take the time to prepare anything.  Bagged salads (watch for recalls!), Dr. McDougall's instant soup and noodle cups, and low-fat, vegetarian entrees like Amy's or Archer Farms give me nearly "Fast Food" with less fat and calories.

3.  Using a calorie counter app on my android phone.  I rarely stop at a fast food joint without deciding to ahead of time.  I have made myself enter the fast foods ahead of time on my smartphone.  It is a way for me to keep in mind how many calories and how much fat I'm eating.  I don't do as much damage to my diet and health than if I mindlessly eat and consume junk food.

4.  Leaving my wallet at home.  This one may sound a little crazy, but most days the only place I drive in my car is to the gym.  Lately, I have been hitting the drive thru on the way home after working out.  By keeping my wallet at home, I can't pick up fast food!  I still take my driver's license, but if I don't have money, I can't buy food my body doesn't need.

Now, what I ate:

  • The first thing I ate was oatmeal made with almond milk, ground flaxseed, pure vanilla extract, and cinnamon.  I added the fresh, diced peach after the oatmeal was cooked.  I had this ready for me when I came home from the gym.
  • For lunch, I ate a Dr. McDougall's Pad Thai Noodle Cup.  These are delicious and only 200 calories. 
  • I ate one parfait cup for lunch and another for a snack.  I made these ahead of time with layers of fresh blueberries, So Delicious plain coconut milk yogurt, chopped fresh strawberries, ground flaxseed, and Kashi GO LEAN Crunch cereal.  YUMMY!
  • Since I was shopping all afternoon, I threw an Archer Farms Portobello Mushroom and Carmelized Onions Pizza in the oven for supper to feed my family.  I added a romaine lettuce salad with a few dried cranberries and pecans, then topped it with Annie's Lite Raspberry Vinaigrette.
All of this food is about 1200 calories and 30 grams of fiber.
How do you avoid fast food (if you are craving it)?

Come back later this week for my Spicy Black Bean Quinoa recipe.  It is vegan and naturally gluten-free!

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Friday, June 22, 2012

First Pick of Our Garden

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I'm a backyard farmer.

I started a few years after my husband and I married.  Our lawn in Northwest Missouri was filled with weeds.  It didn't seem like we could ever grow grass.  Fed up, I decided we should plow up an 8' x 8' section to make a vegetable garden.  It wasn't terribly productive, but it was a start.

After we moved from Missouri back home to Nebraska, my vegetable garden has evolved, somewhat.  I first planted at my brother Kenny's house outside of town before we bought our house.  My brother and sister-in-law, Sheryl, provided the space and the water, but it was my job to weed and put the water on the garden. 

When we moved into our home five years ago, I wanted a gardening plot of my own again.  I think it is probably 10' x 10'.  I've had a vegetable garden all but one year since we have lived here (last year, I was due to have Benjamin mid-summer).  I have learned along the way, what works and what doesn't. 

It isn't 100% organic, like I hoped, but at least I know what is going into the foods that I'm growing.

Here is a picture of the first produce of the year, a zucchini.  Over the past few years that I have tried to grow plants of the squash family, boring vine moth larvae have destroyed them.  I am spraying them with insecticide weekly, deciding that growing zucchini and winter squash is more important to me than growing organic.

My tomato plants, green pepper plants, eggplant, buttercup squash, purple pod beans, and raspberry bushes are growing well.  The peas are just peaking through the ground (I know, it's late to be growing peas).  My garlic needs constant weeding (as there is no black plastic down through the rows) and the volunteer onions from two years ago are getting large enough to eat.  I need to get my onion sets planted this weekend when my husband is home to help with the baby.

My five year-old loves helping in the garden with me.  I think it is really good for him to see how food grows.

Are you a backyard farmer, too?

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

RECIPE: Oven Roasted Veggies and Penne Pasta (Vegan, GF)

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I used to eat a lot of pasta.

I was one of those who loved bread, pasta, potatoes, any refined starches.

Consequently, I also was quite a bit overweight.

As I'm learning to eat a plant-based diet, I wanted to upgrade that pasta I love.  Instead of having white pasta or cheese sauce and a few vegetables for a garnish, I made vegetables as the main ingredient with a little bit of whole wheat pasta.  I added garbanzo beans for protein and more fiber.

The veggies in this recipe are roasted in the oven, then added to 2 cups of pasta sauce and 2 cups of cooked whole wheat penne pasta.

This recipe is great to make the night before, cover and refrigerate, then reheat in a warm oven (350F) for 30 minutes before serving.

You can easily make it a gluten-free recipe by using gluten-free pasta.

You can see Matthew helped with the pasta. : )

[Print this Recipe]


*1 chopped zucchini
*1 diced tomato or 1 can of drained diced tomatoes
*1 diced medium onion or two small onions
*1 chopped green pepper
*1 c. sliced mushrooms
*3 c. cooked whole wheat penne, drained
*1 can of drained and rinsed garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
*2 c. marinara sauce


1.  Preheat oven to 425F.  Lightly grease a baking sheet.  Distribute vegetables evenly across baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
2. Warm marinara sauce in a large kettle over medium low heat.  Add cooked pasta, roasted vegetables, and garbanzo beans.  Stir until well mixed.  Serve immediately or refrigerate after cooled.

What recipe have you upgraded to a healthier version?

br />Gluten Free Meal Plan via Musings of a HousewifePin It Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What I Ate Wednesday: Getting Physical

Best Blogger Tips My five year-old son had his pre-kindergarten physical this week.

He was really excited.  He never goes to the doctor.

In fact, he has only been to the doctor twice in the past three years.  He never gets sick.

He had a full CBC blood draw, urinalysis, and physical exam.  Everything was perfect!  He weighed in at 40.6 lbs and he now measures 43 inches tall.  He has also never eaten meat in his life, he eats very little processed food, and consumes organic dairy and eggs several times a week.

For more about Matthew's diet, here are a few WIAW posts I wrote about what he eats:

What Matthew Ate Wednesday

What Matthew Ate Wednesday Dec. 14, 2011

What Matthew Ate Wednesday Jan.

What Matthew Ate Wednesday Dec. 28

Now, what I ate:

I started my day with organic basmati brown rice with coconut milk, raisins, ground flaxseed, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

For lunch, I ate a simple salad with some lettuce from my friend's garden, topped with a few sweetened dried cranberries and a dressing I made with Dijon mustard, rice vinegar, and a little honey from a local beekeeper.  I also ate an Annie Chun's Udon noodle soup bowl.

Late in the afternoon, I made sweet cherry "ice cream" since it was 96F outside today.  I used a bag of frozen sweet cherries and 3/4 a cup of Silk original almond milk, then blended it in my Vitamix.

For our supper, I made Spicy Quinoa with Black Beans and Veggies.  I used mine to top my salad.  Check back for my recipe!

I ate all of this for 1300 calories and over 30 grams of fiber.

Check out my NEW recipe for Oven Roasted Veggies and Penne Pasta!

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Knotted Cardamom Buns

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This weekend is Swedish Days in my town.  I decided to make this recipe for Knotted Cardamom Buns from Tomas, someone I follow on Twitter.  The recipe is in Swedish, but you can use a translating tool or click here for the directions in English.

They are delicious!  A little sweet, but not too much.  Perfect.

My husband bought me a Swedish flag from the store down this street this morning.  I had to laugh when I read where it was made.

Glada Svenska Dagar! (Happy Swedish Days!)Pin It Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

WIAW: Couch to 5k

Best Blogger Tips About two months ago, inspired by my best friend who has lost 60 lbs. since the first of the year and ran her first 5k, I started jogging. 

I wanted to run a 5k too, so I printed off a couch to 5k plan and went to the Y.  I hadn't regularly worked out in months, but I felt great and wasn't out of breath.  Instead of resting every other day, I spent that first week jogging for 10 out of 30 minutes every day.

By that Sunday, my knees were killing me.

It hurt to walk. Stairs caused excruciating pain.  There was no way I could continue the plan.

So, I looked up knee pain, runners' knees, and how to rehabiliate my knees while building strength.  For six weeks, I stretched, lifted weights, walked, and eventually began using the elliptical trainer.  I decided to restart the couch to 5k at the beginning of June.

Last week, I made sure I didn't try to run every day.  I biked for 30 minutes during the off days and made sure I stretched well and continued to build strength in my knees by lifting weights every other day.

This week, my knees are in great shape.  I began week two on Monday.

Since my body feels so good from all of my exercising, I feel like eating healthy foods.  I'm more focused on how much I eat.  Even though the scale isn't moving as quickly as I wish, I can feel changes in my muscles.  I feel stronger, leaner, and I have more energy.  I'm trying to eat nutritious foods that fuel my body at regular intervals.

Here is what I ate.

For breakfast, I used 1/2 c. organic quick oats, 1/2 tsp. of pure vanilla extract, and 1 c. of original flavor almond milk to make oatmeal.  I topped it with 1 c. of chopped fresh strawberries and 1 Tb. of ground flaxseed for extra fiber.

At lunchtime, I created a delicious wrap with an Ezekiel sprouted grain tortilla and 1 oz. of vegan cheddar-style cheese warmed in the microwave until the cheese melted.  I filled it with swiss chard from my friend's garden, sliced tomato, and 1 Tb. of Annie's Organic Goddess dressing.  I also ate a Golden Delicious apple.

For a snack, I had a piece of toasted Ezekiel sprouted grain bread with 1 Tb. of Justin's Maple Almond Butter and another Golden Delicious apple.

I made a simple supper for us: a salad, a Yukon Gold and a red potato topped with House Seasoning and broccoli florets.  I made the salad with lettuce from our friend's garden, then added cherry tomatoes and green onions from the farmers market.  I topped it with a Tb. Ken's lite balsamic viniagrette.

After supper, I ate four dates to satisfy my craving for something sweet.

I feel like I ate all day, but I only ate less than 1300 calories and managed to fit in 35 grams of fiber.

This week I'm going to try my best to post a new recipe!

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Jamming on a Saturday Night

Best Blogger Tips Last night, we ran out of jam.

Several years ago, I made pear-raspberry jam and strawberry-pear jam.  The pear-raspberry was the absolute best and didn't last long.  A month ago, I found a jar of strawberry-pear, then started sending it on sandwiches for my husband's lunches.

For the past year, we have been using store-bought jams.  Until recently, we didn't go through much of it, one jar every few months or so.  Since my husband takes his lunch to work every night, we have went through jam much more quickly.

After I made his sandwiches at around 5:00pm, I added jam to the grocery list.  Then, I got inspired. 

Before he left for work, I walked to the store and picked up pears, frozen raspberries, sugar, and pectin.  Two and a half hours later, I had nine pints of pear-raspberry jam and, remarkably, a clean kitchen.

The tangy and sweet taste of homemade jam and jelly is so much better than store bought varieties, which are often bland and full of high fructose corn syrup.   Since no pressure cooking is required, they are quick and easy to make. 

Instead of sending my husband peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I'm sending him homemade whole wheat bread with Justin's Maple Almond Butter and homemade pear-raspberry jam.  Yes, the sandwiches are as delicious as they sound!

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What I Ate Wednesday: Baby Steps

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Our 10 month old son has had a very dramatic month. 

In about six weeks time, he learned to sit up on his own, pull himself to standing, creep along furniture, feed himself, and to crawl.  He started waving and clapping his hands on his own.  He began sleeping through the night in his crib and napping in his crib.  As he developed all of these skills, he also was pushing four teeth into the top gumline of his mouth.  WOW!

For we adults, sometimes development takes a lot longer.

I started eating healthier and buying better food for my family over two years ago.  I learned about the chemicals and preservatives in processed foods and I started eliminating them from our diet.  Although it was often cheaper to buy packaged potatoes and plain wheat bread, I started making most things from scratch.  I canned produce when it was available.  I began to grow food in my own garden.

It has taken me a while to make the transition.  When I ate meat, I ate less of it.  I stopped using margarine and switched to butter.  We ate more fruits and vegetables with our meals.  I changed my son's "fruit" snacks to actual fruit snacks: dried cranberries and raisins.

I finally placed my first order from the food co-op in town.  No longer do I buy even wheat buns and tortillas; now, I only buy sprouted grain varieties and I make most of our bread from wheat I grind in my Vitamix.  I recently started buying organic cheese and eggs for my family.

Here are the healthy foods I ate.

After my workout (I don't like to eat before exercising in the morning), I ate a yummy bowl of Nature's Path Flax Plus cereal.  I added an extra Tb. of ground flaxseed to the top before pouring over 3/4 of a cup of almond milk.

For lunch, I indulged in a bowl of homemade raspberry sherbet, made with frozen raspberries, 1/2 c. almond milk, and 2 Tb. of light agave nectar in my Vitamix.  I topped with another Tb. of ground flaxseed.

For snacks, I ate a Golden Delicious apple (my favorite variety), but I didn't take a picture of it. I also had a piece of Ezekiel bread toast (I was out of homemade bread) topped with 1 oz. of thinly sliced Follow Your Heart vegan cheddar-style cheese.  It looked so good that I almost forgot to take the picture before I ate it all!

I made Amy's California veggie burgers for supper on Ezekiel sprouted grain buns with olive oil mayo. I topped the burgers with romaine lettuce and sliced tomato from the farmers market.  We also enjoyed a side of asparagus and a romaine lettuce salad with light balsamic viniagrette.

Even though it put me a little over the calories I wanted to consume today, I couldn't resist eating the crust from one of two loaves of whole wheat bread I made this afternoon.

Like my friend Mary, who still cherishes eating bologna sandwiches on white bread, I think I would become ill and given up if I had tried to make all of these changes right away.  I started with baby steps in the right direction.  Now, I can't even imagine going to back to all of the fake food I used to eat.

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