Oodles of Zoodles

I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted a recipe on here, but believe me, I’m still cooking.  Over the past six months or so, J and I have moved towards a more plant-based diet with minimal processed “stuff.”  It’s close to vegan, but I occasionally add cheese to my meals, just to jazz it up (plus, giving up Feta has been really hard for me…it’s SOOO good!)  It’s been weird to re-learn some cooking techniques, and has been challenging coming up with new and creative (and still delicious) meals, but so far its going well!

One of my favorite ways to incorporate more vegetables into our diet is with a spiralizer.  That thing is HANDY!!  Last evening, I decided to make some “Zoodles” (zucchini noodles) and a raw sauce for dinner.  The zoodles are easy, just cut the ends off the zucchini, then run it through the blade.  Voila…zoodles!  For the sauce, I used some sun-dried tomato vegan pesto along with some leftover cherry tomatoes, and sautéed those in a tiny amount of oil.  I added the noodles to the “sauce” and cooked the noodles for a few minutes until they were slightly tender.

And then…this is where I failed at the vegan.  Oh yeah…I added feta.  Because, well, feta makes it “bettah.”  Obviously, if you’re following a vegan diet, then just leave it off.  Or, like J did, add some nutritional yeast for that “cheesy” flavor!  Definitely a great pasta substitution, very low carb, and full of fresh vegetables!  What more could you ask for on a warm summer evening!

Much love,
K.

**I realized that the photo I had taken of the noodles was horribly blurred.  So, I promise, the next time I make them, you’ll get a photo!

Vegan Alfredo…So Good!

IMG_0193Last night I decided to try my hand at vegan alfredo sauce.  J and I have a brand that we really like (Victoria), but we don’t have a grocery store in town that sells that brand, and it’s pretty hard to find, not to mention it’s expensive.  So, with that in mind, I set out to find a vegan alfredo sauce recipe that would stand up to traditional Pasta Alfredo, which is  a favorite of ours.

I won’t lie, I poured over Pinterest, for at least 5 minutes 30 seconds, before quickly realizing that most of the posts used Cauliflower as a thickening agent instead of butter and flour.  Plus…hey…another way to get in a vegetable?  I’ll take it!  I pretty much gave up after that point and decided to make up my own recipe and see how it went.   So, here you go!

The ingredient list is pretty simple, and probably already in your pantry if you follow a vegetarian/vegan diet.  Olive oil, garlic, cauliflower, nutritional yeast, milk/milk substitute (we use whatever we have on hand, typically either rice milk, oat milk, soy milk, almond milk, or coconut milk), sun-tomatoes, salt and pepper, and lemon juice.  We happened to have everything in our pantry, and had picked up some cauliflower at the grocery, so we were set.

Start with sautéing the garlic in some olive oil.  I used a teaspoon of olive oil, and a tablespoon of garlic.  What can I say…garlic is heavenly!  However, this is one of those areas where you can go with how much you like.  You want alfredo with 40 cloves are garlic?  Then get on with your bad self!  You want less than that…feel free.  I sautéed the garlic for a few minutes, taking care to not let it burn.  Burnt garlic tastes terrible.   While that was going, I cut up a half a head of cauliflower.  I figured I could have used the whole head, but it was just the two of us, and I had plans for the other half of the cauliflower (roasted cauliflower with turmeric…that’s for tonight!).

Once the garlic was ready, I added a cup and a half of soy milk (use whatever milk you have on hand) and the cauliflower florets, along with salt and pepper (to taste).  Then, you let the cauliflower cook until it’s soft.  It took about 10 minutes for mine to soften, mostly because I was lazy and cut it into big chunks.  The smaller your cauliflower chunks, the faster it will cook.  Keep and eye on it and when it will break up easily with a spoon, it’s good to go.

After your cauliflower is soft, pour the milk/garlic/cauliflower mixture into a blender.  Add in nutritional yeast (I put in 2 Tablespoons) along with lemon juice (1 Tablespoon).  Blend away!  Here’s where it really becomes your preference…the thickness of the sauce.  I personally like a thicker alfredo sauce.  However, while blending, it was a tad too thick even for me, so I added more milk.  Don’t be afraid to add more milk if you think your sauce is too thick!  This is all personal preference here, folks, make it how you like it!

When you’re done blending…taste it.  I decided that mine needed a little something extra, so I added nutmeg to the sauce.  I used to add nutmeg to my regular alfredo, so why not this?  It really made all the difference!

For dinner, we paired the alfredo with whole wheat pasta, roasted asparagus, and roasted carrots.  So good and healthy!  Hope you make it and enjoy it as much as we did!

Much love,
K.

Easter Vigil, One Year Later

While I don’t talk much about my faith journey on my blog, I was reminiscing the other day about how it has been a year since my baptism and conversion to Catholicism.  The year has been full of learning and growth, and I’m forever thankful for the change that has come to my life since joining my Parish.  The people there are amazing: loving and kind, supportive and helpful, and full of a heaping dose of reality if you get to be too big for your pants.  I adore them all, and love to help out wherever I can.

Which brings me to this post.  A few weeks back, right before we left for Alaska (which is a blog post all unto itself), the Adult Faith Formation leader, Kathy, shot out an email to the RCIA class from last year.  Apparently, each year, the RCIA class from the year prior helps stock the food for the following class’s Easter Vigil.  Always up for an excuse to cook, I quickly volunteered to help set up for the vigil, as well as provide a few dozen deviled eggs for the party.

Now, there’s a story to deviled eggs.  Growing up, it was the ONLY dish I was allowed to help with on the major holidays.  My mother ran her kitchen like a General runs his military unit.  Everything had a place and a place for everything, and God help you if it wandered under your watch.  Needless to say, deviled eggs became my speciality, and I was pleased to be able to share the with everyone this Easter!  However, I needed something with a bit more “oomph” than just regular old deviled eggs.  So, after a little bit of thought, a quick bit of research, and a short trip to the store, I had everything I needed.

DYED DEVILED EGGS.  That’s right…why serve any boring old, white deviled eggs?  This is the 21st century, folks…the land of Pinterest!  Why be inspired when you can be PINspired?!  (Lame, I know…feel free to express your groans)  I quickly set to work, hard boiling my eggs and peeling them to get started.  As a fair note, I have tried every trick under the sun to get my eggs to peel easily.  So far, hasn’t happened.  I’ve damn near given up and just accepted the fact that my eggs look like they escaped from a leper colony (no offense to any lepers reading).  But, nothing a little dye wouldn’t fix, right?

picstitch 2I peeled and cut up my eggs, disposing the yolk in a bowl, and set to dying.  I wanted the colors to be super vibrant, so I bought two dye packs and used 2 tablets per one dye cup, just so the colors would be ultra saturated.  I also used vinegar, though not as much as the packet said, because I didn’t want my deviled eggs to taste pickled.  Because that’s just gross, I don’t care who you are.

The eggs dyed up really well, and I let them dry over night in the fridge.  This morning, I whipped up the filling, and grabbed my icing piping bags to fill them.  I thought that I had some icing tips around here somewhere, but apparently they’ve disappeared (or I never bought them, either is entirely possible), but none the less I made do.  I left out the pickle relish in the filling, as I’ve recently been told that some people don’t like pickle in their deviled eggs (THE TRAVESTY!), and instead opted to cut a sliver of pickle and stuff it in the middle of the filling as a garnish on half the eggs.  Problem solved!

Here are my Easter Dyed Deviled Eggs!  Hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed making them…it was a ton of fun!

Much love,
K.

CHIP: Complete Health Improvement Plan

fruitsStarting next week, J and I are kicking off 2015 by participating in an 8-week health improvement plan through our company.  The idea behind the program is to reverse the effects of unhealthy habits and create a lasting, healthy lifestyle.  The program has three meetings a week, all during lunch, and food is catered in that meets the program guidelines.  I’m actually really excited about it, though also nervous because it’ll be introducing some foods I’m not used to, and removing some of my staple items!  The idea is that a large portion of health issues in the US are lifestyle related.  By removing some of those unhealthy lifestyle actions, you can help mitigate the effects, and sometimes even start to reverse them.  Personally, I think that’s pretty cool!

So, starting Monday, I’ll move to a strict diet for a week.  It’s plant-based, so pretty much vegan.  I’ve never tried a vegan diet before, but I’m willing to give it a whirl.  Luckily, the program includes a cookbook, so there are a ton of recipes to follow, which makes it much easier.  If I had to come up with these recipes on my own, I’d be sunk.  After the first week’s strict diet, it starts to ease up and gradually reintroduce some items.  It still suggests that you give up dairy (which I already don’t eat), and wants you to heavily limit animal proteins, but encourages more fruits and vegetables and whole grains/legumes/beans.  Overall, it seems doable, and I am excited to see how it goes, so hopefully it’ll be a good experience.

Before the program starts, we had to have biometric screening done through our health service at our company.  They ran blood work and looked at body fat %, BMI, waist to height ratio, and other health factors.  I was really pleased that, after the past year and a half of weight loss and a healthier lifestyle, my numbers were all really good!!!  It’s always nice to see numbers and science to back up all the changes that you’ve made, that you really are doing the right thing for yourself and your health.  So, hopefully, at the end of this, it’ll be even better!  Time to kick off the 2015 year the right way!

Much love,
K.

Friday Favorites: Healthy Snacks!

I’m not too much of a snacker, in general, but I do struggle with the hangry when my blood sugar dips.  Due to that, I’m always looking for healthy snacks that get me to the next meal, raise my blood sugar, and turn me back into something that resembles an agreeable human being.  So, here are my favorite healthy snacks!

 

1.  Popcorn

jar-topObviously, I’m not talking about the loaded down with butter and salt popcorn (though that is quite tasty).   Unflavored popcorn (though bland) is actually quite a healthy snack!   If you walk down the snack aisle at the grocery, there are an overwhelming number of boxed, microwaveable popcorn options on the shelves.  Avoid them!  It’s much cheaper (and healthier) to just buy the kernels and pop your own.  All you need is a microwave safe bowl, a microwave safe plate, and popcorn kernels.  Put 1/4 cup of kernels in the bowl, cover with the plate, and microwave until you hear the popping kernels slow down to about 2-3 seconds between pops.  Voila!  Popcorn, minus the waste of the bag.  Because I enjoy flavor on my popcorn, I usually add some spices to my already popped popcorn.  Cumin is really nice (use sparingly), as is garlic powder and kosher salt.  If I’m feeling extra lazy, I’ll just lightly salt the popcorn and dig in!  The best part about it is you can totally doctor it up to your taste!  Just remember, the more butter and fats you add, the less healthy it becomes.

2.  Hummus

460px-Hummus_from_The_NileHummus is everything that I love in a snack.  It’s creamy, healthy, tasty…I could go on and on.  Plus, it’s another snack where you can completely tailor it to your individual tastes.  I really like to pair hummus with carrot sticks for a veggie, but it’s also really good with pretzel crisps or a pita (for some extra calories, the pita is amazing).  You can buy a lot of different types at the grocery nowadays (ten years ago you’d have to go to a specialty store), but it’s also incredibly easy to make on your own.  I go both ways…if I’m feeling lazy I’ll buy some, and if I’m feeling more culinary with some extra time, I’ll whip up a batch of homemade.  I enjoy both, and don’t feel guilty about taking some shortcuts.  Just be sure to look at the label to make sure it doesn’t have a ton of “extra” stuff that you really don’t need (if you can’t pronounce it, you probably don’t need it).  One of my favorite recipes (brace yourself, it calls for peeling the chickpeas…and it really does make all the difference) is from Smitten Kitchen.  And please, for the love of all that’s good and holy, don’t skimp on the olive oil!

 

3.  Energy Bites

6907215929_29ed2b0329_zI’m sure many of you have heard of the Lara Bar craze.  I get it…they’re chewy, unprocessed (for the most part), and delicious.  They’re also expensive as crap!  Plus, I don’t usually want an entire bar, so then I’m left with half a bar that dries out and is pretty gross when I want some more (usually the next day).  Which is why energy bites is a much better alternative for me.  If you get on Pinterest, you can find plenty of recipes on how to make them, but most of them have the same method.  A grain (usually oats), some seeds, some nuts, a sweetener (I prefer honey), dried fruit, maybe some chocolate, and a binder (either a nut butter, or a sticky fruit).  Gimme Some Oven has a great recipe for Cranberry Pistachio Energy Bites, and it’s my favorite (I’m a sucker for pistachios).  It takes a little longer than the 15 minute prep time, but the results are totally worth it!  I like to make these before J and I go on a hike, because they’re great on the go, and are easily transportable.  Plus, these are fantastic for road trips, because they’re not messy and you can pre-pack them and pull them out as needed.

 

4.  Fruit

fruit-bowlThis one almost seems too easy.  But, raw fruit is a great healthy snack, and is easy to grab when you’re pressed for time.  For many fruits, the peel holds a lot of the fiber, which helps you feel full longer (obviously, this is only true for fruits that have edible peels), so don’t peel them if you don’t mind the taste.  When I’m at work, I like fruits that are easy to eat and not incredibly messy, so berries or grapes are usually my go-to.  However, when I’m at home, I prefer messier fruits, like plums and oranges.  My favorite fruits, overall, are blackberries and raspberries.  They’re tart and juicy, and easy to eat.  Plus, the more color to the fruit, the more nutritional value!  Another great way to eat fruit, especially in the summer, is to spread out whole pieces of fruit (berries, melon balls, and grapes work best for this) in a single layer, on a baking sheet. Then, place in the freezer and let the fruit freeze.  This really offers a sweet, cool treat during the hot summer months!

 

5.  Avocado

72468dd777e471da_cottage-cheese-avocadoI absolutely love avocado, and it’s one of my favorite “snacks,” when I have the time.  I don’t usually keep avocado in the house, so it’s more of a treat when I remember to pick one or two up at the grocery.  One of my favorite snacks with avocado (I have several) is avocado with cottage cheese.  The creamy avocado with the cold cottage cheese…it’s awesome!  Plus, cottage cheese (especially european style) has a more dry texture, so I really like how it tastes with the avocado.  If you feel like adding some more flavor, without a ton of extra calories, a light drizzle of balsamic vinegar or balsamic reduction would be really tasty on this as well!  When looking for avocados, I’ve found the best way to see if they’re ripe is to peel off the little nub where the stem would be.  If it’s green in there, it’s not too old.  Also, a gentle squeeze to see if it’s hard as a brick is a good trick too.

 

There you have it, my favorites in healthy snacking!  What are some of your favorites?  Feel free to let me know in the comments, as I’m always looking for new ideas!

Much love,
K.

Recipe Monday: Prosciutto, Arugula, and Egg Pizza

Over the past two weeks, J has been in Asia on business travel.  I’ll be honest, when J is away, cooking at home usually falls by the wayside.  But, after the first week of eating like a college student again, I was ready for a home cooked meal (to be honest, so was my waistline).  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to make, so I spent a few minutes walking through the grocery before I came up with a meal that sounded delicious for dinner:  Prosciutto, Arugula, and Egg pizza!

This is a recreation of a pizza that I had while in Seattle, WA last May.  I know many of you are sitting here thinking, “Ummm…is she really going to put an egg on her pizza?”  Yeah, J thought the same thing when I ordered the pizza at the restaurant, but let me tell you, it is DELICIOUS!  I don’t mean to shout…ok, yes I do.  DELICIOUS!  The crunchy, salty prosciutto, paired with the creamy mozzarella, topped with a slightly runny egg and peppery arugula?  Oh my word, it’s just beyond belief good!

I was being lazy when I made this, so be forewarned.  I’ll admit, sometimes I make my own pizza crust, sometimes I don’t.  Sometimes I make my own pizza sauce, sometimes I don’t.  This dinner was all about ease of cooking, so I took the shortcuts where I could get them.  Pre-made crust?  Check.   Jarred pizza sauce?  Check.  Pre-washed arugula lettuce mix?  You bet your ass.  The only thing I technically “cooked” was the egg I topped it with.

Start with a pizza crust.  You can make your own, you can buy a pre-made one.  At the end of the day, it’s personal preference.  I went with the small pre-made pizza crust.  I topped it with jarred fire roasted pizza sauce.  From there, it was all about assembly.  I topped the sauce with two thin slices of prosciutto, and then thinly sliced fresh mozzarella cheese.  I put it in the oven, and waited for the bubbly goodness to happen.

Meanwhile, I dug out a skillet (see, this is where I “cooked”…so it counts as a home cooked meal) and heated it up with a small smidge of olive oil.  I broke an egg into the skillet and let it cook (without breaking the yolk) until the clear “whites” of the egg turned white and hardened up.  Then I turned off the burner and let it set while my pizza finished cooking.

Once finished, I brought out my pizza, and topped it with the pre-washed arugula lettuce mixture.  On top of that, I put on the egg and let the heat from the egg and the pizza wilt the lettuce.  And then…it was ready!  Time to eat!  Total time spent on this dinner was 15 minutes, max., and that included cooking time for the pizza.  Simple recipe that was quick to make, and healthier than take-out!  Hope you give it a try, and love it as much as I do!

Much love,
K.

Recipe Monday: Honey Sweetened White Peach Jam by Food in Jars

After several years of talking about how I’d like to start canning, I finally broke down and decided to do more doing and less talking about canning.  Last year, I thought I was ready to take the plunge.  I had bought more jars than I knew what to do with, as well as all the other necessary equipment, and then let it collect dust in our spare bedroom closet for another year.  Finally, yesterday, I decided that today was the day, and I stuck to it.  Since this was my first time ever canning anything, I decided to start small and simple.  Jams seemed like a good place to go, and I recently came across a blog that had tons of different canning recipes (Food in Jars, which I talked about here).  I was perusing Marisa’s recipes, when I came across the motherload!   Honey Sweetened White Peach Jam…HOLY CRAP!  First…I love honey.  LOVE honey.  Second…I love peaches.  LOVE peaches.  It was like a match made in heaven, and also made for me.  Naturally, I decided that this would be my first leap into the adventures that come with canning.

Honey Sweetened White Peach Jam
from Food In Jars

Ingredients: 

  • 2 pounds white peaches
  • 1 lemon
  • 8 ounces honey

First, I prepped my jars and lids.  Since all my supplies were brand new, I washed the jars, lids, and rings in warm, soapy water.  I then grabbed my water bath pot (which is actually my biggest stock pot I own) and put a small rack in the bottom to keep the jars elevated.  I put the jars on the rack and filled up the pot with water (I also put water in the jars, to keep them from floating).  I brought the water level up to the top of the jars, put the lid on it, and brought it to a simmer.  While I was waiting for the jars to come to a simmer, I put the lids in a small saucepan, which I also filled with water, and brought those to a simmer as well.  Both of these pots were left simmering until I was ready to use the jars and lids.  The screw tops didn’t need to be kept in simmering water, so I just let those dry on a clean towel.

IMG_9336Then, I began with my ingredients.  I started with white peaches (shocking, based on the recipe name).  I found some beauties at the local produce shop, and was excited to get them home.  I peeled them with your random, everyday vegetable peeler, and nearly bit into one right then and there because they smelled so good.  But, I held myself back, and managed to finish peeling.  After the peaches were peeled, I grabbed a lemon and peeled that as well, the chopped up the peel into pieces.  The recipe calls for you to cut it into strips, but I got lazy and just chopped it up into pieces.

IMG_9338Once the peeling was finished up and out-of-the-way, I pitted the peaches and cut them into slices.  I tossed those into a bowl and covered with the honey, letting the peach slices soak up the honey for a bit.  I wasn’t really sure how long to let this go, so I basically let the fruit sit in the honey for 15 minutes before calling it “good enough” and tossing in the lemon peel pieces.  After that, I stirred it all up, then put the mixture into a large skillet on my stove.  I brought that up to a boil and let it reduce.  Mine took a bit longer than the recipe called for, closer to 15 minutes before it was ready to be put in the jars.

IMG_9340One thing I am so glad I broke down and bought was a funnel for the jars.  At first I thought, “eh…why would you need that, a steady hand should be fine!”  Umm…no.  If your inner voice is saying that, don’t listen to it.  Get the funnel.  That $4 will make your life SO much easier!  So, I used my handy-dandy funnel and scooped the mixture into two half-pint jars.  I made sure to release the bubbles around the inner edges, then wiped clean the rims on the jars, then placed on my lid.  Using my hands, I screwed on the screw tops just until there was resistance.  I put the jars back into the water bath (where I was simmer the jars before I filled them) and filled it with enough water to cover the jars by at least an inch.  I put the lid back on, then brought it back up to a boil, then started my timer for 10 minutes.  One thing I’ve read about canning is to make sure that the water continues at a rapid boil for the full-time the recipe calls for processing.  If it stops boiling, you have to bring it back up to a boil and restart the timer.  So, with that in mind, I kept a close eye on the water to make sure it continued to boil.
IMG_9344After waiting and watching for 10 full minutes, I turned off the heat and took off the lid.  My canning book said to let it sit in the water for another 5 minutes to let the contents settle, then you can get it out and let it rest for 24 hours to let the seal develop.  I wanted a place where the cats couldn’t get their paws on the glass jars, so into the microwave they went, with strict instructions to J not to open the door or turn on the microwave.  The last thing I wanted was for all my hard work to go to waste!

I won’t lie…there were a few leftovers in the skillet when I was finished.  Just to test the quality (I swear, it was only to make sure it was edible!) I waited for it to cool and took a bite.  HOLY WOW!  If the preserves are only a quarter as good as what I had, I can’t wait to dig in!  I have big plans for these preserves…I think they’ll be a great addition to my morning oatmeal once it gets cold outside.  Plus, I think they would be perfect as an appetizer for a dinner party!  I’m thinking crusty french bread, a slice of brie cheese, and a dollop of the honey sweetened peach preserves.  Sigh…my mouth is watering just thinking about it!

There you go, my first foray into canning!  I hope you enjoyed the adventure with me, and I highly encourage you all to go to Food in Jars to see what Marisa is up to!

Much love,
K.