Saturday, December 28, 2013

Austin Eats Food Tour

Since marrying Josh seven and a half years ago we have lived in Kansas City, Las Vegas, Wichita, and now Texas.  The longest stint was in Wichita and I met some great friends there!  I was blessed to find a group of friends who share my love of running, yoga and eating.  One of my most favorite memories from Wichita will forever be an evening about a week before I moved.  My friend Tammie moved to a new house on some land and we spent a great evening making veggie burgers together.  My friend Nicole had recently got certified to teach yoga (yay!) so we were treated to a private yoga session on some beautiful land overlooking water as the sun set.  It was a perfect evening.
I miss these girls lots and was so excited when two of them decided to come visit me in Texas!  We met in Austin and had a fabulous weekend of eating, running and yoga.  Like I said, we know what we like and we were in a prime location for all of the above.  Austin has lots of food, lots of running trails, and lots of yoga.  Jack. Pot.
I read about Austin Eats Food Tours online and when I found out Nicole and Tammie were coming to visit I looked into it more.  I was excited to find out they would be visiting during one of the bike tours offered.  We had a very fun afternoon riding bikes around Austin with our group (around 12 of us) and eating delicious food from popular, local eateries.
Picking out my bike. Pink, of course was my choice!  These are electric bikes, which are awesome because you can pedal like a normal bike, but you can also push a button and the motor pushes you on your way with no pedaling necessary. 
Our first stop was at The Blue Ox BBQ.  Our tour guide was kind enough to bring Tammie (my fellow veggie lover) and I  breakfast tacos to eat from a different place as this stop was the only one that didn't have a vegetarian alternative.  Everyone said the meat was delicious from here and seemed to really enjoy it.  I brought some meat home for Josh when our weekend was over and he agreed the meat was really good.  However, we are spoiled with amazing BBQ in KC and he can't find any BBQ sauce in Texas he likes. 
Our next stop was at Rios Brazillian CafĂ©.  We were served Chicken Stroganoff and Tammie and I got Mushroom and Spinach Stroganoff.  The highlight for me was the cheese bread that was made from yucca root flour.  Our tour guide shared with us these are packaged and sold at Whole Foods and they are gluten free.  I keep these on hand and pop them in the oven for Josh and I sometimes on spaghetti night.  I will definitely miss this gluten free bread option when we move.
Tammie got a sangria and was kind enough to share a few sips.  Definitely a winner!
The third stop on the tour was Hopps and Grain Brewery.  I don't like beer, but I tasted a few and others seemed to enjoy it.  The highlight of this stop was the fact that someone (not in our group) brought their kids and there was a baby crawling on the floor.  I mean, really?!  I don't know, we thought it was strange.
Middle pick on the left side you can see the babies.  Oh, and please notice Nicole's guns in the bottom right pic.  Get it, girl!
Next up was cupcakes at Sugar Circus Bakery.  I was excited they had pumpkin and it was delicious!  The excitement of this stop was when I tried a bite of Nicole's and realized there was walnuts in it...which I am allergic to.  So, I got to spit that out in front of everyone while trying not to be dramatic.  This poor older lady was very worried about me.  She followed me on her bike the next two stops to make sure I was okay.  Thankfully, no ingestion of any walnuts, no Epipen stab to the thigh needed, and the food tour was not ruined by yours truly. :)

By now, we were getting pretty full!  Knowing our last stop was pizza, I feel the next stop kind of got looked over as we all were really full, but wanting to make sure there was room for pizza.  We went to East Side King at the Grackle food truck.  If any of you watch Top Chef, Paul Qui won it a few years back and he has several East Side King locations in Texas.  I had not been to his food truck, only his brick and mortar location, which is right by the University of Texas.  While my food here was good, I much prefer the menu at the location by UT.  Everyone was served a Pork Katsura Sandwich, while Tammie and I had Eggplant Salad. 

The last stop was Detroit style pizza at Via 313.  This was, once again, a food truck.  I had never had Detroit style pizza and it was thin crust and I liked it.  I would definitely go back here again because they have gluten free pizza.  A lady in our group had it and shared a piece with me and it was great!

The three of us on our bikes getting ready to ride back to the bike shop.
The day after our food tour we went to a rooftop yoga class.  It was free (score!) because they were promoting an upcoming concert series in the area.  We attended the "rock" stage music and it was actually pretty awesome.  I didn't know any songs as I don't follow the Austin rock bands (shocking, I know) but it was a gorgeous day and beautiful setting.  Oh, and the yoga instructor was pretty easy on the eyes.  We enjoyed all aspects of this class, for sure!

If you are ever in Austin I HIGHLY recommend taking a food tour.  There are walking tours, van tours, and occasionally the bike tours.  I think prices vary, but ours was $70 and we were fed plenty of food to keep us full for lunch and dinner.  Plus, we got to see some "in the know" local places to eat that otherwise we never would have known to visit.  We had a really fun trip together and I'm so grateful the two of them could come spend a long weekend with me!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Wheat Belly

I have an amazing husband.  Seriously.  Last year I hinted that I would like an Elf on the Shelf even though it was just us.  I not so subtly asked him if he would find the Elf everyday if I hid it.  He politely turned me down and that was that.  Then, last weekend, his co-worker and her husband came over before we headed to a Christmas party and she brought me a present.  (That I know Josh helped her pick out)  :) I would like to introduce you ELF!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I was so excited.  Seriously.  Josh and I spent the entire time at the Christmas party coming up with name ideas.
What pressure it is to name this thing!  There were two main criteria. 
1. We used the go to fill in the blank from the movie Elf.
"________ the Elf, what's your favorite color?  Some were immediately crossed off if they didn't flow with this phrase. 
2.  It had to be easy to pronounce for our future children.  After I named him I did realize I was probably taking away a fun thing for my children and perhaps someday we will change his name to whatever our kids want it to be.  So, maybe #2 was silly, but it was part of our decision process.
After much deliberation, our elf now has his magical powers to visit Santa each night and his name is Marky.  He is named after my favorite actor, Mark Wahlberg. 
Marky the Elf, what's your favorite color?  Flows from the lips quite nicely, I'd say.  As for kids?  They should be able to say Marky just fine!
I was caught off guard with this gift and I was not prepared for the creativity needed to do amazing things.  All the little kid ideas on Pinterest are great, but I don't have any of the necessary accessories to execute them.  No army men.  No Superman figurines.  No dollhouses.  Furthermore, I don't have any of the "junk food" needed to do fun food items.  No goldfish to make him fishing, no marshmallows to do numerous activities.  Yikes.  Pressure. was. on.  So, I looked up "adult" elf on the shelf ideas.  Whoops...shouldn't have done that.  You dirty, dirty, people!  No, I am NOT going to put my elf with a bunch of naked Barbies.  No, I am not going to have him puking or pooping.  I mean, really.  What would Santa (not to mention Jesus!) say?!  Shame on all of you! 
So, we're pretty much on our own and I think so far we've done great.  More importantly, we are having a blast!
The first day Marky joined us at the table for dinner and he was wearing a present for Josh.  That man likes a new ugly sweatshirt/sweater any day. 
Day 2 Marky joined me on my yoga mat.  He does a pretty amazing downward dog if you ask me!
I thought I would be the one hiding him each day, but to my surprise I woke up this morning to poor little Marky stuck in a mouse trap!  We check our garage every morning for a mouse and several days a week we are successful in murdering one.  So, this was especially funny and appropriate based on our daily hopes of never finding a mouse in the house.
Josh is on call this weekend and unfortunately had to work all day today.  Part of my day was spent doctoring up Marky and when Josh gets home he will find him in a cast from the mouse trap, his leg elevated and watching a Christmas movie. 

Maybe we are a little weird, but I think having an elf adds to the Christmas season and I say, just because we don't have kids doesn't mean we can't have one.  I was right.  We are having so much fun!

All that has absolutely nothing to do with Wheat Belly, but I felt I needed to start with something fun and lighthearted because it's downhill from here.  Wheat Belly.  Have you heard of it?
It's a great book!  I read nutrition related books all the time.  It's why I haven't gotten around to reading the final two books in the Divergent series. I tend to be drawn to nutrition books and I enjoy learning about all they have to say.  This one, I didn't find on my own, though.  Let me back up a bit...

A few years ago we had dinner at my grandparents house and my grandpa shared he had recently found out he has a genetic disease called Ataxia-6 Cerebellum.  As you age you begin to lose your balance frequently and as it progresses your speech starts to slur and you can be hard to understand.  He shared this because it is passed down.  That being said, my Dad has a 50/50 chance of getting it.  Obviously, if my Dad doesn't have it I'm in the clear.  If my Dad does have it, I then have a 50/50 chance.  When my grandpa first shared this I didn't think much of sense worrying until I find out if my dad has it.

Fast forward to this past October.  I went home to KC for my grandma's funeral.  After the service there was a luncheon at the church and I sat next to my grandpa's sister.  Turn out, she also has the disease.  She is in a wheelchair and I found her quite difficult to understand due to the effects the disease has on her speech.  It hit me that she wasn't that old, but her symptoms had aged her tremendously.  My grandpa on the other hand has done tons of research and while there is no medicine to help, he has learned that many people say if they adopt a gluten free diet their symptoms dramatically slow or improve.  My grandpa shared this with us a couple years ago when he switched to a gluten free diet and aside from me noticing all the weight he lost I again, didn't think much of it.  That is, until this luncheon in October.

I drilled my grandpa with questions a few days later at dinner and came home to Josh with many questions.  After discussing it and thinking about if for a week or so, I made the decision to quit eating gluten.  I know, crazy, right?!  My initial hesitation was due to my already "needy" dietary requirements.  I mean, you know when you have kids and people make those online sign-up sheets for meals.  There's that section for special requests/dietary needs.  Can you just imagine:

Vegetarian, low sugar, allergic to crab, lobster, walnuts, please don't bring any desserts, and one more thing...make it gluten free. 

Yikes.  I'm that girl.  BUT, it truly is for a medical reason.  No, not Celiac's disease, but I'm not just joining the bandwagon of Paleo/Gluten Free eating.  (Though, you should all read this book and at least cut back your gluten intake!)  I may have a potential medical reason for this, but after reading the book, so do all of you.

Let me explain.  Dr. Davis argues through various studies his beliefs as to why wheat is making all of us sick.  He blames wheat for obesity, diabetes, some cancers, migraines, high blood pressure, and yes, my super rare potential disease.  How is this?  Well, he says wheat attacks every one's body differently.  So, for the Celiac sufferer, it obviously attacks the intestines and causes severe stomach issues.  For others, it may cause headaches.  Others, possibly me, it can attack the brain. Obviously, intestinal issues present themselves immediately, where mine would be progressive and shown as I age. 

The whole "progression as I age" was my final deciding factor in my dietary decision.  You see, Josh tends to tease me for my vegetarian, organic, low sugar ways.  (Though secretly I know he doesn't think I'm crazy since he still partakes in Meatless Monday!)  Anyway, I kind of thought when I got home from KC and brought this up he would say I was nuts.  But, after hearing me out, he agreed, it wouldn't hurt anything to go ahead and cut wheat out of my diet as a precautionary measure since it is progressive and won't present itself until I'm older.  (In my case, initial balance issues can start as early as not very old!)  I debated about waiting to see if my Dad has it to then give it up, and at first that was my plan.  However, the more I read and the more discussions I had I realized it really would only benefit me to go ahead and start.  The same co-worker who gifted me with Marky also has Celiac's run in their family.  They have a little boy and they have done research that says if you do not expose your child to gluten their chances of developing an intolerance later in life significantly diminishes.  He is 1 1/2 and they abide by a gluten free diet for his sake.  We had them over for dinner and I brought it up with them and after a bit, her husband said something that make it all "click".  He said, "Trish, you run, you do yoga, you eat healthy and do everything to take care of your body.  If all it takes is to give up wheat to maybe help you not be in a wheelchair, why wouldn't you add that to the list?"  Good point. 

I'm not going to do a whole summary/review of the book.  It's good.  Read it.  You will learn a lot.  My grandpa read it.  My Dad read it (and has been gluten free since) and now I'm almost finished with it. Here are two main things I do want to share though so you don't think I'm totally insane.  First, Dr. Davis shows many studies that have been done that show your glycemic index rises MORE when you eat wheat than when you eat sugar.  Say what?!  I believe him and I find that it appalling that this information is not more mainstream.  What I don't completely agree with is his views on sugar.  He is super against wheat and not so much sugar.  I stand my ground and still think a diet low in sugar is the way to go.  It's not that he promotes sugar, but he's very clear in that wheat is worse than sugar and I'd prefer to keep them at the same level.  It's not my book, but just wanted to get that out there.  Second, you may be wondering why wheat is so bad.  I was the same way.  I mean, all the food people have been telling us to eat 100% whole grains to have a healthy diet.  I believed them and ate them frequently.  The beginning of the book shares how the wheat we eat today is MUCH different than the wheat our great grandparents ate.  Depressing, I know.  Here we go again.  Eating genetically modified food without even knowing it.  Here are a few excerpts from Wheat Belly about the wheat we eat now:

One of the practical difficulties solved during the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center's push to increase yield is that, when large quantities of nitrogen-rich fertilizer are applied to wheat fields, the seed head at the top of the plant grows to enormous proportions.  The top-heavy seed head, however, buckles the stalk.  Buckling kills the plant and makes harvesting problematic...Norman Borlaug, is credited with developing the exceptionally high-yielding dwarf wheat that was shorter and stockier, allowing the plant to maintain erect posture and resist buckling under the large seed head....Dwarf wheat today has essentially replaced most other strains of wheat in the United States and much of the world thanks to its extraordinary capacity for high yield.
-p. 24

Dr. Davis acknowledges he doesn't blame the farmers for adapting to this genetically modified wheat.  It grows faster, is shorter and easier to harvest.  However, he also states, "over the last 50 years, thousands of new strains of wheat have made it to the human commercial food supply without a single effort at safety testing."

Hmm...and we wonder why Celiac's disease is on the rise, child allergies are rising, there are more infertility clinics than ever before...the list goes on and on and I buy into it.  At least, enough to continue reading and researching.  Again, remember, the main point of this book.  Wheat we eat today is not the same wheat that "naturally" grows.

I could write and write about the book, but you should just read it yourself.  :)  My official "last meal" was on my 30th birthday at the beginning of November.  I had already cut down on my wheat intake for about a month, but I ate one last pizza for my birthday lunch and that was that.  It's been over a month and I'm still going strong. I've only had one time that I wanted to cheat.  I made some chili and cinnamon rolls.  I made Josh some lovely, full of gluten, gorgeous cinnamon rolls.  Then, I made me some gluten free, all crackly cinnamon rolls and they were yucky.  I drooled as I watched him devour his.  However, I survived and live to tell the story so I suppose it wasn't all bad.  Actually, it's been easier than I anticipated.  I think part of that is because a year or so ago I realized that I was eating too much pasta/carbs in response to giving up meat and I made and effort to cut back.  So, I already had balanced a bit, and now, I just eliminate it altogether.  At home it's much easier than when we eat out.  I do my best, and I'm so thankful I don't get sick immediately if I happen to eat some gluten.  For example, when we go out for Mexican I make sure to choose corn tortillas and I get veggies with salsa, but do I really know if there's no gluten?  Nope, I don't, but we don't eat out THAT much and I still say if I do my best it's better than not even trying.  Let's be clear on one thing, too.  If I go to Chicago, I AM going to eat some Mama Depandi's Pasta and that's just that. 

If all I have to do is give up wheat in order to keep Josh from having to push me in a wheelchair because my balance is so bad I'm all about it.  If in a few years we discover my Dad is Ataxia free, then we will celebrate!  (Testing is super expensive so we are just waiting to see if symptoms develop)  In the meantime, after reading this book, I certainly know I will not have hurt a thing, rather, I will have only helped myself, by giving up gluten in my life.  I realize I also could give up gluten and still end up in a wheelchair.  However, my grandpa is an example of someone who appears to have definitely slowed the progression by altering his diet.  He's in his seventies and you would never know a thing by hearing him talk or watching him walk.

Oh, and if you're wondering.  Yes, I'm more confused than ever on how I will ever feed my children. 

*I feel I should add that I'm not saying gluten free is for everyone.  I think it's worth reading about and educating yourself, but as always, it's about balance...  maybe just make an effort to reduce your gluten and see how you feel!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Homemade Vegetable Broth

I got spoiled this summer not working.  I'm not going to lie, it was GLORIOUS.  I know everyone is different and some people get bored if they are home a lot.  That's not me!  When people ask, "Wouldn't you get bored not working?" I have to mask my shock.  Capital N, capital O. NO!  Never have I been bored.  My list of things "to do" is forever growing.  It may not be important stuff, but it's fun stuff and it keeps me plenty busy.  What do I do, you ask?  Well, let's just look at the past two Mondays I've had off work. 

Last week, I went to Dallas.  (2 hours away)  I found out about a display at a resort hotel called ICE.  I mentioned it to Josh and he politely declined so I took advantage of my day off and made the trip myself.  Totally, totally worth it!  Here's the description on the website:

Join Clara and her Nutcracker Prince for a magical adventure in more than 2 MILLION POUNDS of hand-carved ice sculptures and slides! Relive your favorite scenes from the classic ballet, accompanied by the original Tchaikovsky score and featuring thrilling rides down our most extravagant slides ever!

You must know my mom and I go to the Nutcracker ballet every year and I look forward to it so much.  I may not have made the drive if it wasn't Nutcracker themed this year.  But, come on, 2 million pounds of ice....I was intrigued.  So, I pulled out my hat and gloves, purchased my first Peppermint Mocha and away I went.  Pictures do no justice, but here are a few I took.

EVERYTHING in these pics is carved from ice and colored.  It was breathtaking.  I seriously might make a destination trip to Dallas every year to take this in.
Yes, I was borderline the creepy lady with no children, there alone just walking along.  Whatever.  I don't care.  It was awesome.  Plus, I totally refrained from going down the ice slide which would have been super fun, but I had to draw the line somewhere.
That brings me to today and my day off work.  I had a really rough day considering my biggest concern was where to hang our stocking since we don't have a fireplace in Texas.  I know, tragic.  Anyway, I started my day by entering a contest that you should too!  One of the blogs I follow, Mix and Match Mama announced they are giving away a $500 Nordstrom gift card.  That's right.  Go enter and then come back.  It should go without saying that if you win, you will buy me something.
Later in the morning, I went and visited Sunfood Farms, a farm I've been getting veggies from every week.  You all know I love me some veggies!  I was so incredibly excited to find Marty and his wife, Tammie.  They have a garden in Rogers, TX, which is about 20 minutes from me.  Normally, I meet them here in town each week and pick up my box, but they offered a visit to the garden anytime so I took them up on it this week because the weather today was absolutely incredible.  I had a blast!  In a perfect world I will develop a green thumb magically and someday have a beautiful garden.  We shall see.  In the meantime, I'll enjoy learning all about it and pick the produce of others. :)  Huge thanks for Marty for spending a couple hours showing me around and answering all my questions.
Picture on the right is spinach.  I picked some myself and enjoyed a delicious salad for dinner tonight.  The level of excitement that gave me was ridiculous. 
Top left pic is where it all begins.  Good old compost of manure.  Soil in Texas isn't ideal so that's what Marty uses for prime growth.  He has thermometers in all the piles and he had me look at one.  It was over 100 degrees in there!  I was shocked.  Pretty amazing to see it from start to finish.  Picture on the right is kale.  One of my favorite things to eat now.  He had me guess the bottom pic.  I wasn't even close.  It's garlic!  It's not ready yet, but I can't wait for some of that!
So, that was my morning.  Pretty awesome stuff if you ask me.  I think I made it worth Marty's time too.  I was pulling carrots and I got so excited each time I got a "big" one.  He just laughed and said he couldn't believe the joy I was getting out of it.  I've said it's the little things in life.  That's all I need.  Plus, he gave me beets.  I LOVE beets.  Josh always makes fun of me when I eat them and says, "Who eats beets?"  Well, for one, I do.  They are delicious.  Plus, they always make me think of this:
Dwight owned a beet farm on The Office.  I rest my case.
Okay, enough of proving my point.  We can all agree, I keep myself productively busy when I'm at home.  Although, Josh may beg to differ.  He opened the fridge when he got home from work and said it looked like Jurassic Park in there with all my greens. I got him purple carrots and that was his response.  I mean, really?!  Anyway, on to the recipe.  It's an easy one!  As almost always, credit to my mama for this idea.  She read about it online somewhere and then I gave it a try.  Why I never thought of this I have no idea. 
Homemade vegetable broth is genius.  It minimizes waste, allows you to control the salt, and saves you money.  All you need is a crockpot and some scraps.  That's right.  Start saving your veggie scraps.  I thought it would take me awhile to collect a whole bag full, but it only took a week.  If you don't cook with a lot of fresh food it will take you longer, but it's still worth saving.  Simply start a gallon freezer bag with leftover scraps and keep it in your freezer.  Keep adding to it and when it's full you're ready to make your broth. 
My bag had onion skins, carrots (that were going bad I didn't get through), celery tops, cob from corn, spinach, garlic peels, potato skins, bell peeper tops, kale scraps, the greens from some beets and more!  You'd be surprised at all you toss in the trash when you start to save.  Once your bag is full, empty the contents into your crockpot.  (Make sure you wash your vegetables before you add them to your freezer bag.  For example-I usually don't wash onions or garlic before I peel them, but now I do so the skins are clean)
Then, fill the crockpot with water.  Turn it on low and leave it all day, overnight, whatever you want.  Just walk away.  I started mine about 9 p.m. and finally got around to dealing with it mid morning the next day.  You aren't going to hurt it by letting it simmer.
Here it is after many hours of soaking.  The thing at the top is my tea sachet from my tea pot.  I don't have a strainer so I use it as needed.  You say ghetto, I say innovative.  Anyway, simply remove the veggies and strain your broth and place in containers or freezer bags.  I measured mine out for a couple recipes I have.  I did a 3 C. bag, a 4 C. bag and a 3 1/2 C. bag.  I got 10 cups of broth, but I added a bit of water to get the exact measurements I wanted.
I've already used some of this for a batch of soup and I already have enough veggies to make some more so I plan to do that tomorrow.  I didn't add any salt to my crockpot, but you absolutely could if that's important to you.  I'd rather just add to taste in my soup or whatever recipe I'm making to control it more. 
Easiest recipe I will ever share with you!  Who doesn't want to save money, save on salt intake and not waste food.  You're welcome.  Now, you can use that money to buy something even if you don't win that Nordy's giftcard!  Enjoy!


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Sweet Potato Apple Soup

I'm baaaaaccckkkk.  So much to catch you up on and to blog about, but let's just get right to it.  The most important thing we need to discuss is the fact that we narrowly escaped the Sriracha shortage.  Can you imagine?  Oh, I would have been heartbroken.  If you haven't heard, the people in the town of Irwindale, CA, where Sriracha sauce is made complained the air spelled too strong of garlic and pepper.  First off, if I were the judge, I would have sent them all on a trip to the Midwest (probably Iowa, because Iowa smells the worst) and asked them to kindly stay by a meat packing plant and ask how they like it.  Just imagine, those Southern Californian's coming back from that trip.  Garlic and peppers would be like fragrant flowers and they would welcome the improvement.  It's all perspective.  Since I'm not a judge, thankfully, the real one gave the 'ol smackdown and the people in Southern California will have to be okay with a little spicy air as production will not be interrupted.  Now, the plant does have to adjust and lower the amount of fumes, blah, blah, blah, but can I get an AMEN that clearly Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert O'Brien is a Sriracha lover himself and on behalf of myself and all Sriracha lovers out there: thank you. 

You know on the news when in one sentence they transition horribly? "We were saddened to hear of the death of _______ and will keep you posted as more details developed.  Next, see Jennifer Aniston rock her bikini in Cabo."  (When I say news, I mean E! News.  Duh.) I only point this out because if Giuliana and Jason can do it, I can do it on my blog.  So here is my lame transition from Sriracha to soup, which have nothing to do with each other.  I'm just diving in. 

I found this recipe in a magazine.  Family Circle to be exact.  Why Family Circle has started coming to my house I have no idea.  I'm sure one of my brothers signed me up for it.  Back off boys, I'll have a family when I'm ready! :) I made this soup one weekend when I had "nothing" to eat in the house and wanted something quick.  I love it because it's delicious, comes together really quickly and I usually always have these ingredients on hand.  I still would say I prefer the butternut squash soup I've shared previously, but this is something different and like I said, perfect for a quick thrown together meal. 

Sweet Potato Apple Soup
Recipe from: Family Circle, September 2013
6 servings
1 T. olive oil (I use avocado oil)
1 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
3/4 pound Idaho potatoes, peeled and cubed (I had red potatoes on hand so that's what I used)
2 red apples, peeled, cored and cubed
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup water
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
Heat oil in large pot over medium heat.  Add the onion; cook for 4 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.  Stir in the sweet potatoes, potatoes, apples, broth and 1 cup of water.  Cover and bring to a simmer.  Cook for 20 minutes.
Use an immersion blender to smooth. (Place in batches in the blender if you don't have and immersion blender)  Stir in maple syrup, salt and pepper.
That's it!  So easy, right?  I decided not to add the maple syrup to the entire pot because I wasn't sure if I would need that much sweetener with the apples in there.  I just drizzled a bit on top of my bowl and that worked perfectly for me.  Don't forget-always buy 100% pure maple syrup.  The fake stuff is full of junk; never eat it.  The recipe suggested topping with apple chips, but I was hungry when I made this and there was no time for making apple chips!  I sprinkled a few pecans and it was delightful.  I hope you can try this next time you make some soup this fall.  Enjoy!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Spinach Lentil Beet Salad

I know, I know.  It's October.  It's Fall.  It's time for pumpkin everything and soups.  I couldn't agree more that this is a highly inappropriate time for salad posts.  Forgive me, but since I haven't had the chance to blog in awhile, I didn't want to forget to add this one.  It's a keeper.
This recipe arrived in my inbox from Sugar Free Mom.  I read the recipe and it intrigued me because I never thought to combine these ingredients in a salad so I decided to give it a try.  It was delicious!  I've made it many, many times and it's the perfect lunch or light dinner as the lentils help fill you up.  Plus, it's so pretty to look at!
I also loved reading this recipe because I found out about two new items at Trader Joe's.  Pre-cooked/packaged lentils and beets. Personally, I have no problem making lentils so I made those myself.  I had some beets my mom canned for me, but I love them and they WILL get eaten so I decided to give the beets at Trader Joe's a try.  They were delicious and much easier than cooking them.  It's not that cooking beets is particularly difficult, but it is messy!  These are ready to pull from the package and slice and it's as easy as that.  Highly recommended if you have a Trader Joe's by you, but if not, go to the effort to boil and slice your own.  Beets are totally worth it!

These are both found in the refrigerated section.  If you haven't had lentils, what are you waiting for?  It's a delicious legume full of protein.
Spinach Lentil Beet Salad
Salad Ingredients
2 cups fresh spinach
¼ cup cooked lentils
2 small fresh beets, steamed, peeled, quartered or sliced
½ cup sliced orange or red bell pepper
½ cup cherry or sunburst tomatoes, sliced
1 ounce goat cheese, crumbled
Balsamic Dressing Ingredients
1½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2½ teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon minced garlic
pepper to taste
Add spinach to a serving bowl or plate.
Top with cooled lentils and the rest of the ingredients.
Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.
Pour over salad. Serves 1.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Jicama Arugula Salad

It’s hot here.  I mean, really hot.  I don’t mind it at all, but I do tend to stay away from big, hearty meals and eat more salads for lunch.  (Thank goodness, something has to balance out all the Mexican food I’m shoving in my face for the rest of the time)  Just like the Pad Thai Zucchini Salad I have found this salad to be very easy and healthy and it’s the perfect lunch for me on a hot Texas day.

I first heard of jicama a few years ago when I was working at a restaurant in Las Vegas.  I was poolside working on my tan while studying, trying to memorize the menu and all the ingredients when I came across one of our appetizers that stated it was topped with an orange jicama salsa.  For starters, I wasn’t even sure how to pronounce it, let alone what it was!  A quick Google search and I learned the “j” is pronounced with an “h” sound.  (hic-uh-muh)  I also learned it’s a round, hard root vegetable, often compared to resembling a potato.
Here is a picture in case you’ve never seen one:

The orange jicama salsa garnish was delicious on the dish in Vegas, but I never ate it at a restaurant again until I moved to Wichita.  One evening, my friends Katie and Brittany and I went to a cooking class at a local restaurant and made a salad with watermelon, cucumber, jicama and sriracha sauce among a few other ingredients.  It was delicious!  Who am I kidding; I’ll eat about anything with sriracha sauce on it, though!  I’ve made the salad from that cooking class a couple times, but it’s definitely a side dish and Josh won’t touch it so I don’t make it often.
When I saw this recipe in my inbox a few weeks ago I was intrigued because it utilized jicama.  So, the next week when I was grocery shopping and saw jicama in the produce section I grabbed one and was ready to go.  (Even if you haven’t seen it or noticed it before, jicama should be at most grocery stores.)
The e-mail I received with this recipe was from Sugar Free Mom.  I’ve mentioned her on my blog before and I relate the most to her postings because like me, she is very focused on watching her sugar intake.  There’s no need to worry about sugar in this recipe though, so eat up!  This salad is full of yummy, healthy ingredients. 
If you haven’t tried jicama before I highly encourage you to do so.  It’s a great summer addition to salads because it adds a nice crunch and is perfect because no cooking is necessary.  Just peel, chop and get to eating.  
Jicama Arugula Salad

Recipe from:

2 pounds jicama, peeled, thick matchstick slices
2 limes, juice and zest
1 teaspoons salt
1 yellow pepper, sliced (about 2 cups)
½ cup sliced red onion
1 cup arugula
1 cup butter lettuce, chopped
¼ cup fresh chopped parsley or cilantro
1 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Place jicama in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and juice of limes and zest.  Let stand 15 minutes to soften.
In a serving bowl add all remaining ingredients and top with jicama. Gently toss with salad tongs.
Serve or refrigerate. Makes approximately 10 cups.

*I couldn't find butter lettuce at the store so I used arugula and spinach.  Since the dressing is very light I recommend making sure you use a bold flavored lettuce...just spinach and romaine won't cut it for this recipe.  Arugula is one of my favorite leafy greens and it adds so much to this dish.  I don't usually like fresh parsley much, but cilantro I could probably eat a handful of plain so I went with that option.  Plus, I always have some in my fridge.  I was so surprised by how flavorful this was.  Enjoy!



Monday, August 19, 2013

Pad Thai Zucchini Salad

We’ve been in Texas for a little over three weeks.  A few of my thoughts so far…

-The people are very friendly here, which always makes meeting people and running errands much more enjoyable.
- I learned I have to search a bit, but I can find good places to eat here. What I mean by that is the restaurants that show up when you search for places in Temple are all fast food or chains.  The types of places I want to try don’t always have websites or Facebook pages, but if I dig around enough they are out there!  (Hmmm…I need a job, should I go to all these places and offer to be their social media girl and welcome them to 2013?) 
-Josh has made it his goal to go the whole year and not pick up on saying, “Y’all”.  We shall see how that goes! 

-There is a very important part about Texas that is a huge pro as well as a con.  They serve Mexican food (one of my faves!) for breakfast.  It’s like I’m in Mexico all the time.  I can get guac and breakfast tacos right when I wake up.  Love it!  The health freak in me tells me not to get too excited and to limit myself, but I’ll only be here a year, right?  I must take full advantage.  Oh, and they make homemade tortillas right in the grocery store that are divine.  If I thought I had a guacamole addiction before, I’m in real trouble now! 
-We also visited a church that was recommended by someone and really enjoyed it so we are just checking things off the list and making ourselves right at home.
-I do have one good story…the head of Josh’s fellowship program here took us out for a welcome dinner at a BBQ place about 25 minutes outside of town.  It was in the middle of nowhere, you ate outside, the owner had a handle bar mustache and a cowboy hat on, and they only serve a few months out of the year and only on Friday and Saturday.  We sat down and I noticed the t-shirts the servers were wearing had the word tofu written on the back with a big no sign on top.  So, you know, totally my kind of restaurant.  Ha ha!  Actually, the service was great, the coleslaw I had was delicious, and the company was wonderful.  As I said, people here are so welcoming and friendly!  It was just one of those moments where I sat there and was singing to myself…”Deep in the heart of Texas.”  Ladies and Gentlemen, I have arrived.

Now that you got the quick update on us, let’s get to the good stuff.  I tried this recipe right before we moved and have made it twice already since we got here.  It’s a perfect summer salad that could be a nice starter to a meal or used as a main dish, like I do.  It was also a fabulous choice for me after I ate all those breakfast tacos!  It’s pretty quick to throw together if you have a mandolin.  If not, your prep time will increase quite a bit for your zucchini and carrots. 

Such a beautiful salad.  It tastes as good as it looks!

My mom sent me this recipe after it was e-mailed to her from Oh She Glows, a vegan blog that also often features gluten free recipes. When my mom forwarded this to me I knew I had to try it and I’m so glad I did.  Healthy, colorful, nutritious, beautiful, and oh so tasty! 

Pad Thai Zucchini Salad 

*Recipe from

1 medium zucchini, julienned with mandolin or cut with knife
2 large carrots, julienned
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
1 cup thinly sliced red cabbage
3/4 cup frozen edamame, thawed (or try tofu)
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon hemp seeds
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

For the dressing:
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup raw almond butter (or peanut butter)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons low-sodium tamari
2 tablespoons water
2.5 teaspoons pure maple syrup (or other sweetener)
1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

Prep vegetables. Add the zucchini, carrots, pepper, and cabbage into one or two large bowls. Toss with hands to combine.

Prepare the dressing by processing all dressing ingredients in a mini processor (or simply whisk by hand). The dressing may seem a bit thin at first, but it thickens as it sits.

Top bowls with edamame (or tofu), green onion, hemp seeds, and sesame seeds. Pour on dressing.

Makes 2 large servings.

*I used almond butter because I thought that was a nice change from peanut butter.  It was great, but if you don't have any, peanut butter will be delicious too.  I happened to have all these ingredients on hand one day so that's why I tried the recipe. However, I didn't have any cabbage so I just added some extra of the other veggies.  I also didn't have hemp seeds so I only sprinkled sesame seeds on top.  Also, the tamari that is in the sauce can be substituted with soy sauce.  Tamari is just a gluten free soy sauce like substitute, but if you aren't worried about gluten soy sauce works just the same.  ENJOY!  Seriously, this stuff is awesome and super fun to eat with chopsticks!



Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Drying washed lettuce

It’s official, we are residents of Texas!  We are all unpacked and settled in and I have a very good excuse for not blogging as of late.  While I was a bit nervous to see our duplex, sight unseen, it turned out to be fabulous!  It’s brand new construction so we are the first to live in it, which is a super plus for a germ-freak like moi.  The down side of our brand new development is there are no Internet service providers here yet.  Who knew there were even areas this still happened?  I may be in a small town, but we are definitely not living in the country, so this was quite a surprise to me.   After hours on the phone with many different providers I have come to accept I am now going to be a regular at Starbucks to use the Wi-Fi.  I always have a long list of other things to get done while I use the Internet that blogging has taken a back seat.  I finally got smart and realized I can type my blog in Word (duh!) and then just take a few minutes to post it while I have Internet access so hopefully I will be better from now on.   

My friend Kelly Jo over at The Dr. and the Mrs. gave me an awesome tutorial of ways to improve my blog before I moved from Wichita and I haven’t been able to do any of it!  I am hoping Internet access becomes available in the next few months so I can get to work on making those changes. 

My post today is a quick tip that makes a huge difference in salad preparation. I mentioned in my last post before I left Wichita I attended a great cooking class.  One of the things I picked up on was a new way to dry my lettuce.  Andrea used a dish drying mat to dry her kale.  GENIUS!  Why didn’t I ever think of that?  I sometimes do buy bagged lettuce, but whenever I can I buy it fresh and wash and prepare it myself.  However, the amount of paper towels I use to dry it thoroughly was always frustrating, not to mention it always got the counter all wet as well.  Andrea to the rescue!  A $5 drying mat from Bed, Bath, and Beyond is the perfect solution.  It is machine washable so you can toss it in the wash after a couple uses and it’s ready to go again.  Best $5 I’ve spent lately. (Actually, best $4 I've spent.  Gotta love those 20% off coupons.)
Just rinse your lettuce, kale, etc. and toss it on the drying mat, and fold over the sides a few times to squeeze off the excess water.  Did I mention, genius?!
Since we are talking about kale and salads, I woke up yesterday and my twitter feed was bombarded with Bethenny Frankel tweets about kale.  Apparently, she just learned about massaging kale as I did a few months ago.  Enjoy her tweets…


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Social Cooking Classes

I move to Texas in TEN days so I want to get one last post in about Wichita.  (Ten days...I should be packing, I know, I know.  A girl needs a break every now and then, though!)  I've told you some of my favorite places to eat here including: The Flying Stove, Newport Grill, One Night Chef, and Copper Oven.  This post is a bit different in that it isn't a restaurant, but rather, cooking lessons!

I met Andrea and heard about her business, Social, through the yoga studio we both go to and it's been on my list of things to try out for months.  She plans several menu items and then demonstrates them in her home while you watch and eat the food when it's finished.  She also sends you home with all the recipes.  With my move quickly approaching, I knew I needed to get this on the calendar or I would miss out.  I am so fortunate to have several friends in Wichita who are vegetarians so when I saw a lineup of Andrea's that was sans meat I knew I would have some friends who would join me! 

We signed up for the "Party on the Patio" class because it had no meat, but the point of the evening was that you would be equipped to throw a wonderful outdoor gathering, and by making these food items you wouldn't be stuck in the kitchen away from your guests.  Clever title, right? And, who isn't always looking for recipes that are easy to make while entertaining?

We started with Watermelon Margaritas...yum!
Our first course was Tomato Scallion Biscuits with Whipped Goat Cheese.  I said vegetarian evening, not healthy evening! :)  Totally worth it! 

Our biscuit was followed by Kale Salad with Dried Cherries & Pecans.  I failed to get a picture of the salad...probably because I was too busy talking. (Good thing my blog is owned by me, because if I had a boss I'd be fired for that failure.) Anyway, I made this recipe for my family over the 4th of July and they enjoyed it a lot!  I will definitely be making it many more times.

Next up was my favorite dish of the night, Roasted Eggplant with Yogurt Tahini Sauce.  How fancy does that look?  And, so easy!  I made this for lunch a couple weeks ago and it will definitely be a regular on my meal rotation.
For dessert, we had Snickerdoodle Squares.  I will admit, they were great, but like most desserts very, very unhealthy.  So, I won't be making those much, but it is a wonderful make ahead recipe guests would eat up!  (Yes, I failed to get a picture of that also.)
Here's Andrea plating our Eggplant.

My dear running/yoga/veggie loving friends.  (Well, a couple prefer meat, but they survived!)
We had such an enjoyable, relaxing evening at Andrea's, learned about food and left with some amazing recipes.  If you're in Wichita I highly recommend checking out her website, getting some friends together and settle in for a great evening of food, friends and fun! 
Prices vary depending on the class.  Ours was $45/person. 
Check out her website at: for a list of upcoming classes.  You won't regret it!