Tag Archives: Real Food

Recipe: Vegan Zucchini Muffins and Zucchini Recipe Resource!

Finely Shredded Zucchini.

I love Zucchini, and it seems to be one of those garden veggies that simply thrive no matter where I’ve seen it grow around the Pacific Northwest. I prefer the delicate young ones for eating with pasta, or on the grill. Once they get bigger and tough skinned, the only way I like to eat them is in a baked goodie. So, this recipe has been a staple for a few years now. Once we discovered our daughter could no longer eat eggs and dairy, I modified it to this current one. These muffins are just as tasty! I think muffins last about 2-3 days before they need to get tossed in the compost bin. But, we never have them sitting around here that long. I’ve also frozen them and found they are delicious once thawed out. Okay, onto the recipe:

Recipe: Vegan Zucchini Muffins

Ingredients

– 1.5 Cups Flour (I like to use a 1:3 ratio of Refined and Whole Sprouted Spelt Flour)

– 1/4 Cup Sugar (Regular, Sucanat, or Turbinado is great)

– 1/4 Teaspoon Salt

– 1/4 Teaspoon Cream of Tartar

– 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda

– 1 Cup Finely Shredded Zuchhini

– 1/3 Cup Applesauce (unsweetened, plain or with Cinnamon)

– 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice

– 1/4 Teaspoon Lemon Zest

– 2/3 Cups Water

Mix the wet ingredients with the dry.

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl and in a separate bowl mix the wet, then combine. You can fill lined or greased muffin tins – this recipe makes 12 regular sized muffins, or 24 mini-muffins. It also fills a 9×13 Cake sheet for making cake like bars (I’d recommend lining it with Parchment paper first). Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Enjoy!

Feel free to add a cup of crushed Walnuts or Pecans. Dried Currants or Cranberries are another nice addition to this recipe. I’ve also successfully used Brown Rice Flour or Whole Grain Flour, but find a ratio with Refined Flour suits our tastes. And, I’m happy to share that you can substitute the Apple Sauce for 1/4 Cup Butter, or 1 egg for the 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice if you want. This recipe is really an easy, flexible one that can be modified for whatever dietary sensitivities you may have.

Mini Zucchini Muffins ready to eat!

Zucchini Lovers Recipe Resource:

I was delighted to find a local blog, Seattle Seedling, with a whole page dedicated to Zucchini Recipes! There’s 13 and counting recipes from Zucchini Risotto to Chocolate Chip Cookies (I never would have thought of that).

p.s. Shared on Simple Lives Thursday – recipe, real food info round up.

Recipe: Confetti Garden Salad

Refreshing and easy to make!

Cilantro and what we had on hand were my inspiration for this salad last week. It is refreshing and slightly sweet.

Ingredients:

– 2 Large Carrots

– 2 Stalks Celery

– 1/2 Cup Peas

– Handful of Cilantro (about 1/4 Cup)

– 2 Table Spoons Olive Oil

– Squeezed Lemon (about 2 Teaspoons)

– Salt to Taste (about 1/2 Teaspoon)

Wash, peel and grate the Carrots before adding them to a bowl. Dice the Cilantro and Celery or chop into desired size, add to the bowl. Add fresh Peas, or defrost frozen Peas but don’t cook them least they get mushy. Drizzle with Olive Oil, Lemon and Salt to taste. Enjoy!

This recipe serves 2-4 adults depending on portion size.  We enjoyed it with baked Cod and Zucchini. I think it would go well with any meat, and even with some added cheese like Cheddar or as a meal itself with some Rice or Pasta. Let me know what you discover!

p.s. Shared on Spain In Iowa’s Simple Lives Thursday.

How To Start Cooking From Scratch

Do you want to start cooking from scratch?  Cool! I am cheering for you right now. I probably don’t need to tell you how much more nutritious your meals will be for you. I do want to let you know what you’re getting yourself into, what I’ve found myself struggling with, how I’ve adjusted and what I’ve learned.

Cooking from scratch = more dishes!

The dirt: Cooking and baking from scratch means I have more dishes to wash. Seriously, we now run the dishwasher (an energy-efficient one) once a day, or every 24 hour period. It also means more time spent preparing and creating meals or snacks. I am making a huge effort to streamline the time I spend cooking, but that usually means I put in a chunk every few days on things like Bread, Soup, or Crackers.  I have to think ahead about ingredients like Yeast, Butter, Vegetables, Flour, Salt, Olive Oil, and on the list goes. Basically, it can get as long and arduous as you chose to make it. For our household, I make every meal from scratch. That includes staples and treats like Cupcakes. All of these things require more individual purchases when you count flour, salt, Baking Soda, etc., but, they actually reduce my grocery bill.  And that helps me justify buying more expensive ingredients or giving me room to experiment with new ones.

The benefits: Surprisingly, the things that are the least expensive and prepackaged like Tortillas or Bread are easy to make and even taste better. I never would have thought a Tortilla made at home could taste so yummy!  Somewhere along the line of our industrialist revolution we started buying the easy things to make: soup and bread, for example. The things that take some time to make were some of the first to be sold in markets.

Less waste: I know, I know, who would have thought I could get excited about garbage and compost?  For our house, we found ourselves only

More compost - a sign you're eating real food.

filling our garbage can half full. We’ve downsized it and save about $36 a year (not huge, but still provides at least one movie date out for my Honey and me). Our compost bin, on the other hand is almost full every week. It’s really satisfying to physically see a difference our food choices are making on our garbage output.

Starting from Scratch

If you’re ready, here we go:

1) Start small – Trying to cook every meal from scratch is overwhelming. Try starting with whatever meal you’ll have the most time to prepare – lunches might be a good place since you can make them ahead of time (don’t need to be piping hot from the oven). Look up recipes and learn one new one every couple of days. If at first you don’t succeed, try it again. Seriously. It took me several tries to come up with a good cookie recipe to meet my daughter’s dietary restrictions. We had a few batches of some that were either too bland, too crunchy or too soft.

2) Get help – If you have a family you’re cooking for, I strongly suggest letting them know you’re going to try something new. Perhaps you can bring it up at dinner or hold a family meeting.  Invite them to help you, but don’t get stuck if no one is interested. You can do this.  Another place

Farm Fresh Veggies taste amazing!

to look for support and inspiration is from food blogs or recipe type forums to see how others experimented with a recipe or how they overcame a problem.

For Vegan/Vegetarian recipes I really like: www.Vegweb.com

For a wide range of recipes, I enjoy: www.foodista.com and have heard great thing about www.seriouseats.com

Websites that host “recipe swaps” or “rounds” are a lot of fun if you’d like to discover individual bloggers like mine. I really like these ones:

Spain-In-Iowa: Simple Lives Thursday: focused on not just recipes, but all things natural/homemaking/alternative home making.

The Healthy Home Economist: Monday Mania – more than recipes, you’ll find folks preaching a new diet cleanse, home-made laundry detergent, fringe health ideas.

Farmer's Market Feast Experiment!

3) Host a social meal –  It might sound daunting, but it can be a lot of fun. You can do a traditional potluck with the theme of “cooked from scratch” or try something like a “soup swap” where folks bring a set number of soups to trade. Or try something totally new – the only limitation here is your imagination.

Last year for my birthday, we had friends come over with instructions to bring two things from the Farmer’s Market or our beloved Seattle’s Pike Place Market. We didn’t plan ahead for types of foods, just that everyone needed to bring two things. I was a little bit nervous that we’d end up with a bunch of bread and apricots, and agreed with my husband that our plan B could be to order Pizza. But, we never needed our plan B.

The experiment was an exciting, fun, delicious success!

Me and my adventurous friends!

Once everyone had arrived, we laid all the food out, made a list, then brainstormed what to create from it all. We then divided and conquered the prepping and cooking. Our menu included: Grilled Salmon, Spinach-Raspberry Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette  and Olive Oil, Pesto Pasta with Bacon bits, Chicken Sausage, Grilled Zucchini and Apricots (glazed with Honey), Bacon (not my personal favorite but did add flavor to the pasta and Spinach salad), Sliced Rainbow Carrots, Celery and Cucumber for munching, Rye Sourdough Bread and hard Apple Cider. We finished the meal off with Chocolate Sponge Cake, sliced Strawberries and Vanilla Ice Cream (not made from scratch, but made from only 5 real ingredients).

I want to host more of these Farmer’s Market Meals. We were able to host 10 people and our 2 little kids only because we ate outdoors. Our home will only fit about 6-8 adults if eating and cooking inside.

Okay, now go out there and have fun!

p.s. I’m still learning. I’d love to hear about your favorite food blogs or cook books or general words of wisdom.

Recipe: Carrot Basil Soup

Basil Carrot Soup with Zucchini

I love the smell of Basil. And, Carrots are one of my favorite vegetables. These are the two reasons for creating this soup recipe.  It works as a great base to add complimentary vegetables, and if you chose to add fat and protein, all you need to do is add some Ghee, Butter, Chicken or Beef stock. From start to finish, it takes about 30 minutes or a little longer when you add extras. I chose to add Zucchini to my last batch, and it was so yummy!

Basil Carrot Soup Recipe

Ingredients:

– 3 Cups chopped Carrots (about 6-8 Carrots)

– 3 Cups Water

– 1/2 Teaspoon Dried Thyme

– 1/4 Teaspoon Dried Oregano

– 1 Tablespoon Freshly Diced Basil

– 1 Teaspoon Salt plus more to taste

Wash, peel and chop Carrots into 1/2 inch rounds, and place in a sauce pan to boil with 2 cups water. Once the Carrots are soft enough to puncture with a fork (about 5-10min), let cool for 5 minutes. Add to a Blender with residual Water, and add one additional cup of Water before blending on High for about 2 min. Depending on you blender, you may need to use a wooden spoon or spatula to mix the Carrots and blend to create a smooth texture. Once you get it to your liking, return the mixture to your sauce pan or pot, turning the heat onto a Medium-High setting. Add Salt and Herbs and let simmer until you are ready to eat. Enjoy with homemade, fresh Bread or Crackers!

The recipe yields 2 large bowls or 4 small bowls of soup. You can easily multiply the ingredients to make a larger batch.

This is a great recipe for experimenting – let me know what delicious variation you discover!

p.s. I have successfully added left over rice for more substance, and frozen Peas to cool it down quickly for eating.

p.s.s. I love this recipe enough that I also shared it on The Healthy Home Economist’s Monday Mania Recipe/Food round up.


Recipe: Easy C Salad

Super quick and easy Carrot and Cucumber Salad.

This salad was born out of necessity – I only had Carrots and a Cucumber to work with one fine day, and wanted some raw veggies. It is refreshing, sweet and downright delicious.

Easy C Salad

Ingredients:

– 2 Carrots

– 1/2 Cucumber

– Several small Basil leaves

– 1 Table Spoon Olive Oil

– Salt to taste

Wash and peel the Carrots, then finely grate them. Wash and peel the Cucumber, then slice finely – I cut mine diagonally, then into smaller sections. Mix together in a bowl, add Olive Oil, Salt and a few leaves of fresh Basil. Enjoy!

Additions: You could add some fresh Mozzarella or Feta cheese for protein. I think Chicken would also be tasty with this salad but a red meat might be too strong in flavor and distract from the subtle sweetness of the Cucumber. If you discover some amazing additions, please let me know.

p.s. Shared on The Healthy Home Economist’s Monday Mania Recipe/Real Food mania share post.

Recipe: Sweet Zing Salad

Sweet Zing Salad ready to eat.

Sometimes, while I’m drifting off to sleep, I think of a recipe I want to create.  I can almost taste the various flavors and try to imagine what the marriage of them together become.  I try my best not to forget them the next morning, and usually find the time to try them out. Sharing them with you helps me remember them, and gives me motivation to keep experimenting.

Sweet Zing Salad

Ingredients:

– 8 Romaine Lettuce leaves

– 2 Stalks Celery

– 1/2 Small Shallot

– 1 cup Red Grapes

Wash produce, then chop Romaine, Celery and dice the Shallots finely, adding to a bowl. Cut Red Grapes in half, or quarters and add to the bowl. Drizzle with a little Olive Oil and Salt to taste. Makes 2-4 servings. Enjoy!

Options: I think some sharp Cheddar or Feta Cheese would add some extra depth to the overall flavor, and protein to this salad. As for meat, I’d recommend Chicken because it has a milder flavor and would compliment the Shallots. Feel free to play with this recipe – let me know when you discover your own favorite variation.

Shared at The Health Home Economist’s Monday Mania Round-up.

Recipe: Garden Green Salad

Garden Green Salad

April will always remind me of my Grandma. Her birthday would be this month. She was an avid gardener and practiced edible landscaping before it became popular. But, she was not a fan of salads, and referred to them as “rabbit food.”  I love salads, so I dedicate this month’s recipes to my Grandma the gardener and salad avoider.

While my efforts to get my kids to eat more vegetables consumes my research time and experimentation, it is easy for me to share these salad recipes. Salads are like treats to myself. Before we began our “eat more vegetables” quest, I was the only one who ate salads. Now, my husband does to set a good example, and even enjoys them (some more than others). You can expect a new salad recipe every Monday.

Garden Green Salad

Ingredients:

– 4-6 leaves of Romaine Lettuce (about half a head)

– 2 Stalks Celery

– 1/2 Cup Peas

– 1/4 Cup Fresh Parsley (Italian shown in the picture)

Italian Herb Dressing

– 1 Table Spoon Olive Oil

– 1/2 Teaspoon Dried Thyme

– 1/4 Teaspoon Dried Oregano

– 1/2 Teaspoon Salt (or just add to taste)

First, wash produce. Chop or Dice up Lettuce, Celery and Parsley to desired size (I usually like to dice up the Celery) and place in a bowl.  Either add the fresh Peas, or thaw some frozen Peas by steaming for only 2-3 minutes in a sauce pan, then rinse with cool water before adding to the salad (this avoids wilting the lettuce). Now, you’re ready to make the dressing.

Dressing: Mix Olive Oil and Salt together, then add the dried herbs. I usually like to grind the Thyme and Oregano first, but you can add them directly to the Olive Oil. Mix well and drizzle onto the salad.

Yield: This recipe makes 2 large plate fulls, or 4 small dinner salads.

Additions: You could add some Parmesan or Romano cheese to the salad, or any other that would compliment the Italian flavor of the herbs. To create more of a meal, I’d also recommend adding some meat like Beef or Poultry.

Let me know if you discover any other delightful additions!

p.s. Shared this recipe on The Healthy Home Economist’s Monday Mania Recipe/Resource Roundup.

The War on Vegetables

My son refuses to eat Broccoli one night, but asks for it the next.

 

It doesn’t feel like an exaggeration to say that there is a war against vegetables. Vegetables are still not popular or eagerly welcomed by our 4-year-old.  And let’s be honest, they are not cool. You can’t make billions from selling Carrots or Zucchini. You don’t see billboards of Movie Stars or Sports Heros smiling while holding a bunch of Collard Greens or looking sexy while taking a bite of a salad.

My little kids have just started to notice billboards. They ask me what they are about. Hmmm, that lady in a slinky red dress with a wine glass is selling wine. I answer with basic truth, and avoid describing what else I suspect is being sold like the sexy image or appeal.

But that is what got me thinking: peer pressure works just like advertising. Why aren’t we using it to fight childhood obesity or inspire everyone to eat better? Instead, I find myself censoring my kids from obnoxious cartoons or the networks that show them, because I don’t want them to beg me for every toy or new cereal or processed snack shown every two minutes.

During one of the first episodes of Jamie Oliver’s “Food Revolution” TV show, you saw that the processed, prepackaged Public School lunches were cheaper that buying raw ingredients. We’re not talking Organic food here, just simple real foods that required more time to prepare than simply opening packages and using a microwave.

I know, I know that it’s true: eating real food that includes vegetables costs more time and sometimes money.  Yes, I also understand how marketing and economics works. That is why I am trying to train my kids to eat healthy and understand how important food is while they are young. Because the hard truth is that I cannot censor them from real life. A life full of clever advertising trying to tell you what you NEED. They need to learn to think critically for themselves in order to make smart choices.

If you are wondering how our little battle is going on at home, I have a report to share. We’re still using the same strategy I explained before. Our daughter just exclaimed the other day, “I love Kale, Mama.”  She likes it lightly steamed with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt. I wish I could say the same for her brother. His willingness to eat one of three vegetables changes from meal to meal. The other day we had a battle over broccoli.

I am working on a new plan of attack. His preschool has unused raised beds waiting for someone to use for gardening, and I am willing to make that happen. Hopefully peer excitement will ignite some willingness to try new vegetables. We’ve already spent the last two years gardening at a friend’s house and growing Kale, Peas, Broccoli and gleaning extra Collards, Red Peppers, Tomatoes and Strawberries. While my son has been willing to help harvest and enjoys digging in the dirt, he’s never wanted to eat any of it except the Strawberries.

And I’ve already got books on hold from the Library – full of how to teach your kids about nutrition – my hope is to learn something, but I don’t expect a perfect solution. As some really well educated folks have already pointed out, our national health crisis hasn’t been helped by education.

Maybe my battle will be helped by taking my son to see the movie: Mars Needs Moms, because supposedly it starts out with the Mom trying to get her son to eat vegetables. The truth is, I’m willing to experiment, but not beat myself up over this. One mom I know offered some comfort when she advised that it’s an age thing – here daughter magically started eating vegetables after turning 5.  I don’t know if anyone has the right answer for us, but I am willing to look for something that works.

Unexpected Benefit to Eating Better: Losing Weight

Mark (at left) having a Beer at a family BBQ.

My cousin, Mark, is like the other brother I never had. We don’t talk for like 3 months or more sometimes, but when we do it never feels odd to catch up where ever we left off.  We talked a week ago about his upcoming wedding. Among the logistics and excitement he had to share, there was something I didn’t expect to hear: He lost weight – 25lbs. in about a month and a half. I haven’t seen him in like a year and a half. He didn’t look like he needed to lose any weight, but like me, he has a slender frame. I guess he carries his extra weight well. So, how and why did he drop the pounds? No, it was not because he wants to look pretty for his beach side wedding.

Why: His mother recently had heart surgery, and it dawned on him that at almost 33 years old he needed to start taking care of his health.

How:  He and his Fiance stopped eating Fast Food, drinking Soda Pop, and drink Alcohol much less. They drink lots more water, snack on veggies and fruit and try to make more food at home. The biggest dietary change for my cousin is drinking only 2-3 Beers a month. He was no budding alcoholic, but did enjoy a beer with dinner regularly. They also joined a Gym, but are not training for any Triathlons. He’s pleasantly surprised by his weight loss, and even more so to see his Psoriasis disappear.

I am truly happy for him. Our call ended, and then I realized that I forgot to share that my husband and I have lost some weight too. It’s something that has really just crept up on us without consciously trying. We changed our eating habits the most last September/October after deciding to try a different approach to cure our daughter’s constipation. I didn’t notice the change right away.

My Mom and Step-Dad visited us earlier this month. We hadn’t seen them since Thanksgiving. One of the first things my Step-Dad said was, “Looks like everyone’s lost weight.” I hadn’t noticed that about everyone before. I knew that I had gone down a pant size, and was a little bit irked. I vented about that already.

Me and my husband in September.

I was happy with my weight in September. It wasn’t my pre-baby making weight, but with my slender-boyish build, I liked the extra curves. So, how much weight have I lost? 15lbs. I am back to my old weight, but not my old build – making babies did give me boobs.

My husband has lost weight too. We don’t know how much, because we don’t really use a scale. But, he’s lost his Computer Geek Belly Pooch. He needs new pants, at least a size down. No, he’s not a boxer showing, plumber’s crack guy. But, he needs a belt.

Our kids have grown taller, but that was expected. Our son now outweighs his little sister. He looks thicker, more solid. Our daughter lost her “Trucker Belly” as several folks pointed out in a “oh, isn’t that cute” sort of way. She hasn’t lost weight, but has gained less than her brother.

How did we change our eating habits? Honestly, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the way we ate before. But, it seems our daughter doesn’t handle dairy or most animal protein well. So, we had a reason a very good reason to make some changes.

What changed: We stopped buying snacks (even Organic, “healthy” ones), going to Starbucks (except when on a Road Trip, because they are so much nicer, cleaner and more comfortable than a Rest Stop), reduced our grain intake (less bread, pasta, etc), reduced our dairy and meat (removed all processed meats even naturally made sausage), and the biggest change for us is to eat a LOT more vegetables which helps to make up the difference in our diet. It hasn’t been easy as you may have already read here.

We’ve reached the goal of this dietary change: Our daughter now poops almost daily. Losing weight was just a bonus.

No, I don’t think everyone needs to eat just like we do. My cousin is an example of someone who’s just eating better and taking care of himself. I didn’t ask him if he’s buying Organic food or making everything from scratch. If he asks me about that, then I’ll be more than happy to explain why I do.