Friday Fun-day!

In between homework and chores, Mommy and Luchi have been having tons of fun in the kitchen! Luchi had some homemade sweet potato mash and Mommy had a fruity salad and roasted chick peas for lunch! Girls gotta eat! This amazing new popcorn I found has been in a bowl by my computer screen for some of the morning as well! What an awesome snack! Eat whole foods and feel amazing!

I just piled anything fresh I had into a bowl to create this masterpiece. Apples, raspberries, tomatoes, avocado, peppers, feta, and spring mix topped with raspberry walnut dressing.

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These are just organic garbanzo beans from a can, rinsed, dried, tossed in 1 tbsp of olive oil, baked for 25 mins at 400 degrees and then sprinkled with spices of your choice! (I used 1/2 tsp of each, salt, coriander, paprika, and garlic powder) They are crunchy and delicious! 4 points plus for 1/2 cup.

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Look at those little teeth!! I love this baby!!

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We are going to finish our Valentine’s this evening…stay tuned for that post!

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Healthier Hot Chocolate, from scratch

downloadIngredients:

  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1.5 tbsp of really good cocoa powder (i like this one)
  • 1 tbsp agave nectar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup of whipped cream or 1/3 cup of mini marshmallows on top (optional, each option are 2 pts+)

Directions:

Put milk and almond milk on the stove and heat until almost boiling. Mix in agave and powder ingredients with a whisk. Pour into a pretty mug and top with whipped cream or marshmallows.

Make your own whipped cream or marshmallows for the most whole product!

Farmer’s markets, specialty stores, and other fun places will sell gourmet cocoa powders or vanilla extracts! These special touches make for an even more fun experience and product! Enjoy!

This is a healthier version of a homemade hot chocolate but it is still a “treat”. The agave will help prevent that sugar crash and the almond milk packs a nice protein punch! And of course, use a really good dark chocolate with antioxidants!

This recipe makes 1 cups of hot chocolate. Weight watchers Points Plus 2012: 6 points

Quinoa Lauren

photo-2Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • 1/2 cup of feta
  • 1 medium zucchini, steamed
  • 1 pint of grape tomatoes
  • 1 can of garbanzo beans
  • 3 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • 1 tsp dry oregano
  • 1/4 cup of chopped fresh basil
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

Start by bringing 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups of water to a boil without lid. Once vigorously boiling reduce heat to medium-low and put lid on for 15 minutes. Fluff with fork. While quinoa is cooking, cut up your steamed zucchini (to steam, I use a steamer basket), tomatoes, and basil. Rinse garbanzo beans. Mix them all together along with the other ingredients and enjoy!!

This recipe makes about 6 cups of salad. Weight watchers Points Plus 2012: 6 points for each salad!

One cup has 10 grams of protein!  Pair with a fruit salad or yogurt and a piece of dark chocolate for an awesome lunch!

Banana “Ice Cream” & Granola Mug

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Ingredients:

You are going to need a Yonanas machine (I know some people use blenders or food processors to make these whips but the Yonanas machine is specifically made to make them).

When you have 3 or 4 bananas that are overripe at the end of the week, DO NOT throw them away! Cut them in half and freeze them for this recipe, smoothies, or anything else!

To make the “ice cream”, you simply place your favorite coffee mug under the machine’s spout, put your frozen banana in the top and and use the plunger to push the banana through the machine! They will come out with a very similar consistency to ice cream. You can also visit the Yonanas site to see how it works with photos and videos!

I like mine a few ways: with mini chocolate chips, with sliced almonds and a drizzle of good caramel sauce, or with granola!

This recipe makes one mugful of “ice cream”. With the 1/3 cup of Banana Sunbelt Granola: Weight watchers Points Plus 2012: 3 points

I consider this a special weekend treat because you have to have the bananas ready to go, need to wash the machine after you are done (which can take a little extra time than your normal breakfast clean up), and because even though it is only technically 3 points, there are 2 bananas in this which are high in sugar (even though its the best kind of sugar, in its most natural form).

*The machine is dishwasher safe, so you better believe mine is going in there!

Overall this is super healthy and incredibly delicious!! Let me know what you think of it!

2 Great Salads, 4 Points each!

These 2 easy salads have 3 of the same ingredients and 3 different ingredients; this makes for little waste, easier shopping, and easier points tracking!

The 3 constant ingredients in the salads are Organic Baby Spinach leaves (1 cup), Crumbled Feta (1.5 tbsp), and Honey Roasted Almond Slices (1 tbsp). CLICK HERE FOR COUPON FOR ALMOND ACCENTS!

5244d746-d64b-4b46-81fd-ff508d6e2b65wallpaper*Collage by Photovisi

Salad #1: Honey Balsamic Watermelon Salad

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To make this salad, place the 3 constant ingredients (listed above) into the bowl. Add 1/2 cup of sliced tomato, 1/2 cup of cubed watermelon, and 2 tbsp of Ken’s Honey Balsamic Dressing!

Salad #2: Sesame Ginger Mandarin Orange Salad

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To make this salad, place the 3 constant ingredients (listed above) into the bowl. Add cucumber slices (about 1/4 cup), 1/4 cup of drained mandarin oranges, and 2 tbsp of Newman’s Own Low Fat Sesame Ginger Dressing!

Weight Watchers Points Plus 2012: 4 points for each salad!!

Enjoy a whole wheat roll and fresh baked cookie alongside of one of these salads to make a great lunch! Wash it down with my Blueberry-Lemon Iced Tea!

The spinach is packed with antioxidants and the protein provided by the almonds and feta will help these salads keep you full until dinner!

Enjoy and let me know what you think!

Crock Pot Sweet Potatoes

The very best way to cook sweet potatoes, in my experience, is in the crock pot! They come out PERFECT every single time! This is easiest way to get the best outcome with the least prep time!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 or 3 sweet potatoes (similar in size, about 5″ is great for a single person)
  • 1/4 cup of water

Directions:

Pour the 1/4 cup of water into the crock pot, the temperature of the water doesn’t matter. Clean the outside of the potatoes off with warm water; you can use a vegetable brush if you have one but I just do the best I can with my hands. Place the potatoes in the pot, cover, and cook on high for 4 hours.

Serve with a little butter, salt, and pepper or gravy! Delicious.

I also really like to put these into a salad, especially with a red wine vinegar dressing! (see photo above)

The water and the heat steam the potatoes; when they come out they are so soft!

If nutients were money, sweet potatoes would be considered the Oprahs, Bill Gates’, and Beyonces of the vegetables. They are full of fiber, potassium and a variety of vitamins. This article discusses the benefits of sweet potatoes in even more detail, if you are interested!

Weight watchers Points Plus 2012: 4 Points for 5″ potato with 1/2 tbsp of butter spread (I like Smart Balance Butter & Canola and Extra Virgin Olive Oil Blend), salt and pepper.

*I have only ever used this technique to cook 2-3 potatoes at a time so if you were looking to make more, I would be lying if I told you it works, or not. I don’t think it could hurt to try…if you do, let me know how it goes…

 
Enjoy!!

Healthy Relationship with Food–5 Concepts

Over the last 5-7 years I have accumulated many concepts, theories, ideas, and tips about having a healthy relationship with food. I have tried different techniques and my weight has fluctuated throughout these years. I spent about 6 months of this time practicing veganism, have loosely followed Weight Watchers, have made countless trips to many different health food stores all over the tri-state area, and have read hundreds of articles and books on this topic. Food is a big part of my life so I am thrilled to say that I think I have finally developed a healthy relationship with my diet.

I started to write a very detailed post about this and realized that I would need to publish my own book in order to fully explain everything in detail, so… I revamped my plan for the post and decided to share with you my 5 top concepts (along with brief details about each) and my favorite book about food! Many of this author’s beliefs run parallel to my beliefs on this topic, so I wanted to share this excellent source of reference with all my readers!

I am not claiming that these concepts are going to help you lose weight; they are merely theories that help me maintain my healthy relationship with food. They work for me so I wanted to share them with you…

Concept #1: Do the best you can with what you have

In my euphoria, I would have a Whole Foods Market down the street from my home and all the prices would be within my budget. I would walk through the store putting all the healthiest of foods into my cart from all the food groups! This is not reality for me…

My reality is that the closest Whole Foods Market is 1.25 hours away and I have a budget of $100-$125 per week to spend on groceries. Should I exceed that budget, other parts of balanced life are disturbed in ways I can’t afford so I have to do the best I can with what I have. I visit Shop Rite once per week with a planned schedule of meals. I look at all of the products on the shelves, in each section of the market, and choose the most “whole” product I can afford. (whole: least processed, least unnecessary ingredients, most organic) I use the dirty dozen rule for produce and to buy the products we consume most in their organic variety.

Everyone’s budget is different and some people will say “health is worth the extra money.” I have considered this when creating my budget and I agree that health is very important but balance has to rule over all in my world. Doing the best you can has to be enough.

Concept #2: Be real and honest with yourself

Eating highly processed, sugary candy is not a healthy choice but let’s be real…every time, for the rest of your life, when someone offers you a handful of M & M’s, you are not going to say “no.” If someone in the morning offers you a handful of M & M’s and you say “yes”, then later in the evening, when your neighbor brings over a huge slice of leftover birthday cake, you should at least consider putting it in a pyrex and sharing it with your husband the next day.

If you eat the M & M’s (or even the M & M’s AND the cake, because let’s be real, this stuff happens), don’t lie to yourself that this was healthy or that you didn’t eat them. Take responsibility for your decision and make your next decision based on what you have learned. Say to yourself, “tomorrow I will try to practice a little more discipline.”

Your relationship with food is just like any other relationship in your life, it is not perfect and honesty is a MUST. Apologize for small mistakes, try REALLY hard not to repeat the big mistakes (eating an entire bag of chips in one sitting), and continue in your relationship with no regrets.

Concept #3: Do not monitor what you eat on a holiday

On the day of the holiday, I think you should shove your face with whatever it is you want to shove it with. This is when the “life’s too short” philosophy comes into play. You can’t say “life’s too short” every day or you would be unhealthy but there are few enough holidays in the year that you should be able to fully indulge on those few days. I think that these are the happiest days of the whole year and on these days I don’t want to be in a fight with food; I want to be on great terms within my relationship with food on the holidays.

The hard part comes on the days surrounding the holiday… Examples: The day after Halloween, you can’t eat your kid’s candy all day and the day after Thanksgiving, the leftovers need to be portioned like you would portion on any normal day.

Deal?

Concept #4: Cook and prepare food in your home as much as possible

Cooking is like playtime with food. It is your time to bond and be intimate. Not everyone likes cooking/prepping but it is crucial for a healthy food relationship. (see my subtle metaphor?) Cooking your own meals and packing your own lunches are the only ways to know exactly what you are eating. Cooking, to me, means preparing anything from a salad to a full course meal like Thanksgiving dinner. I consider rinsing the grapes in a colander and putting them into containers for the week a part of my food prep/cooking on Sunday’s when I get home from the market.

Baking is nice too, once in a while; if you make a batch of 24 cupcakes, you better eat at least one but share many. Bring some to your neighbors or to work.

Cooking dinner and eating in your home, as a family, is a good thing to do. Packing balanced lunches for your kids, your husband or wife, yourself, and other household members, is a good thing to do too. It will make you all healthy, happy, and proud thus enhancing all of your relationships with food.

Concept #5: Record your meals/servings

I like to use Weight Watcher’s PointsPlus system to keep from overeating or eating too much of the wrong type of foods.

*More info on WW: Basically, each food has a PointsPlus value that is calculated depending on the amount of protein, fat, carb, and fiber that is in the item. The higher the protein and fiber content, the lower the points but the higher the carb and fat content, the higher the points. You are not to avoid fat or carbs all together but your choices should reflect the concept of consuming each type of food in moderation. Depending on your size, you are designated a correlated points allowance. If you are specifically interested in this program I suggest you register for the minimum amount of time (online) and learn about the program/how you specifically fit into the program. You can always cancel your membership once you feel like you have obtained some knowledge and can move forward on your own. If staying in the program works for you, thats great too! You can utilize the techniques whether or not you are enrolled. WW TIP: You can Google “WW Points Plus calculator” right on your smartphone if you don’t have your WW calculator on hand.

I try to plan my day’s worth of points in the morning, leaving a few points in case of an unanticipated food offering or opportunity (like the M & M incident detailed above). I like to write down my meals, the approximate points, and the number of servings of each food group in the meal to keep a balance. I try to keep up with this, especially after I have a few days of getting “carried away” (a few days in a row of not using great discipline). *Exception: I don’t record on holidays.

If you are uninterested in using Weight Watchers that is okay too; WW is just my preference. Whatever you come up with to help you with self control and portion control will do the same for you as this concept does for me.

And now, onto my favorite food book…drum roll please…

Food Rules by Michael Pollan

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The link above is to Michael Pollan’s website. If you are interested in his point of view, you should read some of the articles on this site too. This book is an incredible reference for when you are feeling frustrated with all the food buzz on the news and in the media. It helps you get back to basics! He actually just came out with a cookbook too. To purchase “Food Rules”, click here and to purchase his new cookbook called “Cooked”, click here.

Yay, I am so excited to have this all in writing for you!! Please comment with any questions or thoughts and try some of my recipes!

Blueberry-Lemon Iced Tea

Tired of drinking only water? Try this really tasty drink that is only 1 point for an 8 ounce glass…

This blueberry-lemon iced tea is a favorite of mine, especially for the spring and summer months…

Ingredients:download

Directions:

Bring the water to boil in a large pot. Turn burner off and steep the tea bags (with the paper tags torn off) in the pot for 10 minutes. Add juice from 2 of the lemons to the pot along with the agave nectar. Slice the other 2 lemons and add the slices to the pot. Transfer everything to a large glass container or pitcher and add 2 ice cube trays (24 ice cubes) to the container. Chill and enjoy! (I keep the tea bags in there for a few hours and take them out either that evening or the next morning, depending when I prepare the tea)

**This tea provides antioxidants from the blueberries and Acai. The lemons are an excellent digestive agent. Enjoy!!

This recipe makes about 6, eight ounce glasses of iced tea! Weight watchers Points Plus 2012: 1 point for 1 eight ounce glass

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This is the tea I like to use.

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How perfect is this lemon? Take a sniff of it when you first cut it open and remind yourself how blessed you are to exist on a planet that can produce such beautiful things!

Happy almost-spring Sunday!

Gnocchi with Sausage Sauce

For dinner tonight, I cooked up a simple dish that I really like, potato gnocchi topped with sausage meat tomato sauce!download-6

First, I cooked a pack of Ronzoni potato gnocchi in salted boiling water. You know they are done when they float. I strained them and set them aside until the sauce was ready.

*tip, if you put a tiny drop of oil in the cooking water, the pasta wont stick together once you strain it and let it sit for a few minutes while your sauce or whatever else is being finished.

Then, I “squeezed” the meat out of the casings of 3 sausage links (you can choose any kind you like, the leaner the better if you are following WW, I chose organic turkey sausage) to make ground sausage. I browned the meat in a pan and added it to one 15 ounce can of tomato sauce. I added my favorite seasonings (garlic and onion powder, pepper, salt, and Italian seasoning blend) I heated the sauce throughout and spooned it over 1 cup of cooked gnocchi. I always grate asiago cheese on top with my favorite microplane! Enjoy!

This recipe makes about 2-3 servings.

Weight watchers Points Plus: 5 points for 1 cup of gnocchi, 3 points for 3/4 cup of sauce; TOTAL: 8 points plus **Add a point or so for the cheese (optional)

The turkey sausage packs a punch of protein and the lycopene in the tomato sauce is rich in antioxidants!!

Only have a half cup of gnocchi with a huge salad on the side if you don’t have as many points left!