I better pass on the coffee. Get out the juicer.

Things are changing around here.  If you know us, you know that my husband and I are amateur foodies (or at least professional food snobs).  We love the finer things.  We LOVE good coffee, (Will has started roasting his own).  We  love eating a variety, constantly trying new recipes and restaurants.  We love to entertain and make people happy with food.

As you probably know if you follow the blog, you know that over the last year we were on the South Beach Diet and made a major lifestyle change.  We sort of “got our life back,” as it comes to food addiction.  That is, we overcame a sugar addiction: constant desire for carbohydrates/fatty processed foods coupled with irritability and a daily 2:00 p.m. crash.  Since then, we’ve tried to implement a healthier eating pattern that involves a lot more vegetables.

A few weeks ago we watched a documentary entitled “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.”  It’s about an Australian Businessman who journeys to take control of his eating lifestyle by going on a juice fast.  Over many years of overeating a lot of crap, he was terribly overweight, and had developed an autoimmune disease.  He decided to cleanse out his body with a “fast” of sorts, not a water fast that would starve your body, but instead a juice “fast” that will deliver mega doses of vitamins and nutrients directly to your system.  Fascinating documentary.  Highly recommend it to anyone interested in taking care of your bodies.

We’ve decided to give it a try.  In preparation for our juice fast, I have become a vegetarian over the last few weeks.  That wasn’t intentional, but after doing some research about the benefits of juicing and raw food and veganism, I’ve started weaning myself down.  I’ve also given up alcohol and will be done with coffee in a few days.  Gasp.  What the what?!  You may be thinking that I’ve gone and eaten a little bit of Colorado crazy.  😉  That may be true, but this is what I know.  I want to feel better.  I want more energy.  I want more mental clarity.  I want more even moods.  I want my “unexplainable edema” to go away.  I want my digestive problems to go away.  After these few weeks of weaning off of meat and animal products, juicing a few meals a week and trying to avoid processed foods, I can confidently say that I feel like a different person!  I feel more mentally available, I’m sleeping better at night, I’m much more rested and energetic during the day, and my moods are much more stable.  The biggest difference is energy.  Energy when I wake up in the morning to get up and conquer the day.  And, energy in the afternoon.  Example: I used to “have to rest” during every naptime.  That is, put my feet up and sit for 2 hours just to both physically and mentally be able to make it to 5.  I’m not there anymore.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve had energy to play with my kids throughout the day and get work done during naptimes.  This week I painted our living room during naptimes!

I’m not sure how much I’ll blog about this adventure.  We’re going to be doing a 15 day juice fast beginning Wednesday.  Today and tomorrow we slowly and carefully wean off of animal products and animal by-products to completely raw foods.  The only thing I’m worried about is caffeine withdrawal…  Let me know if you’re interested in hearing about how it goes.  I’m thinking about starting a separate blog for it or another page on this one.  That is to say, if I have time, if I feel like it, and if I can figure it out.  I may be really, really crabby in about 5 days from all the detoxing.  That could produce some interesting posts.  😉

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Eat this, then that.

Humor me.  I’m rejoicing in a small victory today.  Lunch time woes.  Both of my kids have it.  “Lunch?!  I hate lunch! I want to throw lunch in the trash!”  Interpretation: “I only like to eat sweet, snacky foods–fruits and snack crackers and cookies.”  Today, my patience paid off–for BOTH of my children!

Lunch for the children today was meager: pile of tomatoes, pile of real mozzarella cheese, and 1/2 wheat bread slice.  I would’ve made a grilled cheese with tomatoes, but they wouldn’t eat it all together like that… They each ate the bread.  They each ate the tomatoes… and then, the cheese was left.  They looked at what Mommy and Daddy were eating and started losing it.  “I WANT a SANDWICH!”  (Of course, I know better… We’re eating fancy paninis, complete with pepperoni, cheese and veggies.)

They see the whole grain chips and hummus we’re eating.  My 19-month old: “Chip.  Chip.  Abby chip.”  It started with Sophia hollering and beggine and continued on to Abby.  The easy thing to do would be to just give in–give them each some chips.  After all, they’re whole grain.  Or, I could simply have put chips on their plate in the first place.  However, I had a sneaking suspicion that neither of them would eat this foreign looking cheese.  I was right.

Since Sophia asked for a chip first, I told her that she would need to eat some cheese before she could have any chips.  After flipping out and yelling awful things, she finally asked to leave the table to go play.  5 minutes later, she was back.  She ate a piece of cheese and got a chip.  10 pieces of cheese and 10 chips later and lunch was finished.  Abby didn’t quite understand the concept so well, though we’ve done it many times.  (Either that, or she’s stubborn as a mule.  I think she’s stubborn as a mule.)  After 10 whole minutes of screaming her head off for a chip, she asked to be all done.  Then 10 minutes later, Abby came back to the table and asked for a chip.  This time when I said, “Cheese first, then chip,” she ate the piece of cheese and then ate the chip.  (Sophia helped.)  10 pieces of cheese and 10 chips later, and she was also completely finished with her lunch!  AH!  Victory is mine!

It’s a simple rewards based system that teaches children the importance of eating what’s more healthy first before moving onto the junk.  Some people don’t like to reward with food, but it’s such a simple concept that is effective.  As long as your rewards aren’t crap and as long as what you’re using to teach them to eat is truly healthy food, then I think that it will teach them good eating habits.

Another trick we use with our eldest is dessert rewards.  When she completely finishes her (well-balanced) plate of dinner, she is rewarded with a (reasonable) dessert.  Dessert is usually fruit, sometimes a fruity popsicle, or something sweeter like chocolate or a cookie.  I want to teach my kids to eat EVERYTHING, appreciate foods with different flavors, textures and colors…  I think it’s working, little by little.  The trick is having the patience to be okay with screaming for a few minutes.  My kids sure can throw fits!  I bet yours can, too.  😉

Yogurt

One of my new favorite yummy pleasures (obsessions) is plain yogurt.  I had tried some a few years ago and thought it was awful, but recently I bought a whole milk, organic version from a brand called “Brown Cow.”  Oh, wow.  It was so creamy and absolutely delicious.  The reason I decided to try it is because of a pantry makeover that we’re trying to do as a family.  We are trying to cut back our sugar (or sugar-free sweetener) intake while eating, as much as possible, food that we personally cook from scratch.

What does that have to do with yogurt?  Well, I decided to make my own.  Does that sound crazy?  Because it really isn’t, it’s SO easy!

I decided to make my own yogurt for a few reasons.  Yogurt is expensive!  Even if you buy it in the large tubs.  If you want it unsweetened and especially if you want it organic, your shelling out some $4 for 32 oz. of yogurt. I can make 42 oz. of yogurt for around the price of 42 oz. of milk.  It comes out in between $1 and $2 depending upon whether or not I buy a yogurt starter or use a previous batch or if I buy organic milk or not.  Another reason is that my girls are a bit addicted to sugar (like the rest of us), and Yoplait doesn’t help matters!  Abby won’t drink cow’s milk, so I’m doing my best to get her calcium everyday.  Yogurt is so healthy, so yummy and tangy without all that added sugar, and when you make it yourself it tastes like the creamiest pleasure without the tiniest guilt!  Have I talked it up enough?  Well, let me tell you now how easy it is in case you’ve never been interested enough to research it.  (I hadn’t until one day I was reading “Why French Women Don’t Get Fat“.)

Here’s what I do.  I bring 36 oz. of milk to a boil, just warm enough to crawl up the sides and steam real well.  I cool and add to 6-7 oz. of room temperature plain yogurt.  First add half and whisk, then add remaining half and whisk until mixed well.  Keep warm for between 6 and 12 hours depending on how runny or thick you’d like your yogurt to be.  Then refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.  SIMPLE!

Keeping the yogurt warm is the tricky part.  Lots of people do a number of DIY methods to keep it warm.  Crock pot.  Oven.  A cooler with hot rags.  There’s lot of ways.  I decided to make a small investment in a yogurt maker, and I couldn’t be happier.  I’ve made about 10 batches so far, one about every other day.  Each batch gives me 7, 6 oz. jars of yogurt.  I use one of the 7 jars as my starter for the next batch.  I bought a yogurt maker because I really wanted to get into this, and I wanted it doable with my current lifestyle, and the investment was minimal ($25) considering how much money I’ll save.

We’ve now started using our yogurt as a replacement for milk in cereal and a number of other things.  And, what a simply yummy and healthy dessert with added fruit or jelly or honey!

My next venture is homemade granola.  Lord knows I need to save some money there!  CO grocery stores give you too many incredible options for granola!

Butternut Squash Pancakes

We were getting dinner ready to go tonight, and I pulled some frozen, diced butternut squash out of the freezer as a vegetable side.  I was feeling creative and came up with something kill-ah!  Oh, let me tell you.  These were amazing!  Everybody, especially the girls L-O-V-E-D these!  I’m just going to jot down what I did here.  Feel free to edit as you like.  I HOPE you try these!

Butternut Squash Pancakes

Ingredients

10 oz bag frozen, cubed butternut squash

1 egg

1/3 c. of whole-grain pancake/waffle mix (no sugar)

1 t. of splenda brown sugar

1 t. canola oil

1 T. milk

dash each of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg

pat of butter

Directions

Microwave squash, covered in a microwave-safe bowl for about 4 minutes or until squash is cooked.  You may need to stir half-way through.  After 4 minutes squash should be very tender and squishy.  Using a mesh colander, drain and “squash” out excess water.  Return to bowl.  Mash well and add egg, oil, milk, sugar, and spices.  Stir until egg in well-combined.  Add small amounts of pancake mix, stirring in between until desired thickness of batter is achieved.  Coat a nonstick griddle or large frying pan with cooking spray and heat to high.  Add a pat of butter.  When sizzling and butter is melted, scoop pancake batter with 1/4 cup scoops onto griddle.  Fry each on med-high, flipping when bubbles begin to form around the edges.  Fry an additional 2 minutes or so until lightly browned on each side.  Serve with the tiniest drizzle of real maple syrup.  Should yield about 6 small, but hearty pancakes.

A love affair with cauliflower

Yes.  Cauliflower.  Before now, I’ve never gotten into it… It lacks color, doesn’t have a lot of flavor on it’s own… fairly unpopular as far as vegetables go… But, my mind has CHANGED!

If you’ve been over to our house for a meal, then you’ve probably had some sort of soup.  If you’ve been to our house quite a few times, then you’ve probably had my potato soup.  I can make a MEAN potato soup.  Rich and hearty.  Make you want to take a nap afterwards.  And, there for a few years (at least 10), I couldn’t get enough potato soup.  Well, since we’ve been having so much success with the South Beach Diet, we haven’t had any white potatoes and definitely no potato soup.  Sad.  I know.  But don’t worry, I don’t lay awake at night missing potato soup. 😉  Here is a secret recipe that will knock your socks off if you haven’t had potatoes in a while!  And, it may even knock your socks off anyway.  Simple, healthy and oh, so tasty: the magic cauliflower.

Creamy Cauliflower Soup

Ingredients:

T olive oil

medium onion, chopped

large head of cauliflower, florets and stems cut into small pieces

32 oz chicken broth

1/4 c. sour cream

1/4 t nutmeg

sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

chopped green onions

Directions:

Heat olive oil in a large pot.  Add onions and fry 5 minutes.  Add cauliflower, cover and cook an additional 5 minutes.  Add chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Boil for 15 minutes or until cauliflower is tender.  Transfer to a blender and puree in batches.  Return to pot and add sour cream and nutmeg.  Whisk or stir to combine thoroughly.  Serve hot with sprinkles of cheddar cheese and green onions.

Yum-oh!  It is fire-y delicious without all the starch and heaviness of a potato soup.

 

For South Beach Dieters: This is a phase 1 recipe if you use reduced-sodium chicken broth and low-fat cheese and sour cream.

My new favorite breakfast

Will and I have been on The South Beach Diet for a few months now.  We haven’t been very strict over the last month or so, but we’ve both lost about 25 pounds and kept it off thus far!  Celebration!  One of the ways that we’re able to fudge a little is by having a frequent breakfast of eggs.  Here’s the thing about eggs… I really don’t like them.  Here’s the thing about the South Beach Diet… For the first two weeks of the diet (Phase 1), you eat different egg combinations for breakfast EVERY day.  I started actually liking eggs, but only when they’re fixed with LOTS of vegetables.  I’d like to share more about my experience with the diet, but this post is about my new favorite breakfast.  So, I didn’t use to like eggs, and I always thought vegetables for breakfast was crazy and weird.  Trust me, though, this is GOOD.  It’s like pizza for breakfast.

What is it called?  Is it a frittata?  It’s not an omelete… I like to call it “EGG PIZZA.”  The recipe varies depending on what vegetables I have handy in the fridge, and I use handfuls instead of measuring, but this is the basic model.  My girls adore it, by the way.

Egg Pizza (for 2)

Ingredients:

2 slices bacon or canadian bacon, chopped

1/2 small onion, chopped

1/2 bell pepper, chopped

1 c. asparagus, sliced in 1 in. pieces (trust me)

2 c. fresh spinach

4 eggs, beaten with a touch of milk

1/2 c. of Italian shredded cheese (low-fat or 2% if possible)

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a non-stick, oven safe, 12 in. skillet, pan fry bacon pieces on med-high heat.  If using canadian bacon, you may need to add a little olive oil.  Drain bacon fat.  Add vegetables minus spinach.  Fry until tender crisp.  Add spinach and cook until wilted.  With vegetables/meat spread out evenly over pan, slowly pour eggs over vegetables.  Don’t touch it.  Just let it cook for a few minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook until you you see the edges pulling away but the center is still very wet.  Sprinkle on cheese, and put it in the preheated oven.  Bake for 2-3 minutes or until cheese is melted and egg pizza is beautifully puffy.  Carefully remove from pan and slice like a pizza.  Serves two grown people for a very satisfying breakfast.

More to come on our South Beach Diet experience later.

Chocolate Banana Bread

Yummo!  This is banana bread at it’s yummiest!  The bread isn’t too sweet and is just right as an evening treat with a cup of coffee.  Though, I’ve modified it a little, I got the recipe from here: http://www.joyofbaking.com/breakfast/ChocolateBananaBread.html#ixzz0W1XvtpEh Her recipe is slightly different.  She adds a 1/2 c of chocolate chips.  I thought that that might be overkill…  😉  I also tried putting the pecans as a crust over the top with the turbinado sugar.  It made a beautiful crust, though it browned a little too much.  Hope you try it!  By the way, what do you think about a chocolate pumpkin bread?  Exchange banana for pumpkin?  I may try it.

Chocolate Banana Bread Recipe:

Ingredients

1/2 c toasted walnuts or pecans coarsely chopped (optional)

1 3/4 c all-purpose flour (I mixed with half whole-wheat)

1/4 c Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1 c granulated white sugar

1 t baking powder

1/4 t baking soda

1/4 t salt

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 c unsalted butter, melted and cooled

3 ripe bananas (approximately 1 pound or 454 grams), mashed well (about 1-1/2 c)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place oven rack to middle position. Butter and flour (or spray with a non stick vegetable/flour spray) the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5 x 3 inch (23 x 13 x 8 cm) loaf pan. Set aside.