Healthy Choices: Honey Soy Glazed Veggie Fries

On Sunday, my Real Food Challenge will come to an end. One thing I have become increasingly aware of as I’ve stayed away from packaged and processed foods is what a product of this consumer culture I am.

In many cultures, simply finding food to eat is a struggle. Putting a meal on the table takes work — from planting to tending to reaping and dealing with weather, animals and economic poverty. The concept of “favorite foods” is foreign — most people in the world eat anything that is available.

Here in America, we are bombarded with choices and variety of foods. Eating is not such much a necessity of life as it is a cultural and social experience. There are things we eat just because it is right in front of us and looks good. Because food is so accessible to us, we don’t need to put thought into what we eat. But we should.

When I was young, my dad would take me and my sisters out to Friendly’s. My sisters would order big sundaes with whipped cream and hot fudge sauce. I always ordered French Fries. Always French Fries. For me, salty and greasy trumped cold and sweet.

Now, French Fries hold little appeal to me. It is probably because I’ve discovered how much more delicious and flavorful real food is. It may be slightly due to watching videos like this:

Why are we filling ourselves with food that isn’t real and that only does us harm? There are much better choices out there.

Here’s a fry recipe to prove it. Full of flavor, crispness and color. And about a day’s worth of vegetable servings if you eat the whole pan.

If you do, beware — your vitamin levels might soar and you skin might turn orange. But on the other hand, there will be no clogged arteries or elevated cholesterol. It’s a swap I’m willing to make!

Honey Soy Glazed Veggie Fries

Ingredients

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 lb fresh string beans
  • 1/2 lb fresh asparagus stalks, bottoms trimmed,
  • 3 T. Honey
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • 1/2 t. ground ginger
  • 1/4 t. pepper

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 400F
  • Cut sweet potatoes into “fry” like sticks or wedges. Trim off ends of string beans and “woody” bottoms of asparagus stalks.
  • In a small bowl or jar whisk together honey, soy sauce, ginger, and pepper. If needed, add a little water to thin it out (you want to be a dressing like consistency).
  • In a large bowl, pour glaze over vegetables and toss until fully coated.
  • Arrange on a large baking dish. Bake for thirty-five minutes or until vegetables are tender. I  stuck this under the broiler for five minutes to crisp the vegetables up a bit so they can be “finger food”.
  • Serve with ketchup and honey mustard for dipping.

*Note: if you refrigerate these for later use, the fries will soften and probably not be dippable. Just reheat under the broiler to recrisp.

Making healthy choices never tasted so good.

I’m lovin’ it.

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Life’s Real Sweetness

If this post seems caffeine-induced, that’s probably because it is.

With the early shift at the coffee shop, keeping up with schoolwork, and trying to train for a relay marathon at the end of the month, coffee has felt like a necessity. A delicious, energizing necessity.

In the midst of craziness, there has been time for sweetness.

Un-contrived, mostly unplanned moments that make life sparkle with meaning and joy. Here’s a little glimpse…

We’ve been soaking up the warm sun this past week by spending evenings at the park…

Workouts that leave me like this make me happy and energized all day

My little sister turned eighteen almost a month ago and I still can’t believe it.

And then, I turned twenty myself. 

There is something about reaching a milestone of maturity and yet feeling so far from it that makes you realize how very precious this life is.

All I wanted to do my birthday weekend was go on long adventurous hikes with my family.

Simple, everyday moments. So natural and yet so special. Life in its real sweetness.

If we don’t grab on to it now, it will slip our grasp.

It’s Day 22 of my fast of processed and packaged foods. To be perfectly honest, there have been a few cheat days. But on those days, the little treats that snuck in have been exactly that — treats and not habits. That is exactly how I want to feel toward sweets — special on the occasion but not necessary every day.

I’ve been experimenting with satisfying my sweet tooth naturally. Do you know what I’ve discovered? It’s just like the simple gifts of life — it’s the real, un-contrived foods that give sweetness at its best. Sweetness you can feel good about.

I made these cookies on the afternoon of my twentieth birthday. I wanted to celebrate without compromising my Real Food challenge. So I opened the fridge and pantry cupboards and began pulling out an army of ingredients.

These were totally unplanned and had great potential for failure. No sugar, no flour, no butter or oil, no egg, no recipe. My chances of producing something edible were mighty slim, but I think it was the excitement of embarking on a new decade that gave me courage.

Surprise of all surprises — they worked. And they were delicious. 

So delicious in fact, Jenny couldn’t keep her hands off of them.

“These are the best things you ever made. Seriously. I think turning twenty has made you a really good cook.”

I really had no idea how to interpret that so I just kept munching and smiled. She has no idea she basically consumed a day’s worth of vegetables and whole grains in the four cookies she ate.

It’s the natural, bite-sized moments in life that are the sweetest.

 Carrot Cake Apple Bites

~ makes 12 cookies

Ingredients

  •  1/3  c. buckwheat flour
  • 1/3 c. oat flour
  •  ¼ t. salt
  •  ½ t. cinnamon
  •  ½ t. baking powder
  • 2 T. honey
  • 1 t. vanilla
  •  ¾ c. grated apple
  •  ½ c. grated carrots
  •  2 T. almond milk
  • ¼ c. shredded coconut
  • ½ c. chopped apple
  • 1/3 c. rolled oats
  • 2 T. chopped pecans (optional)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  • To make buckwheat flour and oat flour: process raw buckwheat groats/raw oats in a food processor or blender until a fine, flour-like texture
  • In a large bowl, combine buckwheat flour, oat flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, and rolled oats.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together honey and vanilla. Stir in the grated apple and carrots and almond milk.
  • Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir until just combined.
  • Mix in coconut, chopped apple, and rolled oats.
  • Drop by teaspoonful on to prepared baking sheet. These cookies will not spread out much at all when baking so shape them as you want them to look after baking.
  • Sprinkle with chopped pecans, if desired.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown.

Nutrition Facts for 1 cookie~ Calories: 83.5, Total Fat: 4.6g (Sat.fat: 2.8g), Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 53.6mg, Potassium 39.5mg, Total Carbohydrate: 11.6g (Dietary Fiber: 3.0g, Sugars 3.6g) Protein: 1.5g.

Cookies for breakfast, anyone?

My Single Healthy Heart

At our recital this past Saturday, one of my student’s moms came up to me with a timid smile.

“Our next lesson is scheduled for Tuesday night. That’s Valentines Day. I just wanted to make sure…are you…do you have plans?”

It took me a minute to realize what she was asking, and then I smiled reassuringly. “Oh no, I’m not doing anything”.

“That’s okay”, she leaned in and patted my arm. “My husband and I aren’t doing anything either”.

Sure, Valentines Day isn’t made for the single young woman who spends the night teaching piano lessons and sitting on the couch in a messy bun with my two sisters. But, I’m not going to feel sorry for myself. I have far to much love in my life to feel that I’m missing out. And I’m not going to be left out of celebrating, either. There are more than enough hearts and chocolate to go around, thankyouverymuch.

This Valentines Day, I’m taking care of my heart by feeding on antioxidant rich nuts and fruits. With chocolate, of course. Because, we all know that is the real attraction to the holiday.

Check out the heart-friendly ingredients in this Valentines-inspired, dressed up trail mix:

  • Walnuts: Contain the more antioxidants than any other nut. Antioxidants protect cells against damage caused by harmful molecules known as free radicals. The damage can play a role in heart disease and other health conditions.
  • Pistachios: A lower-fat nut, full of antioxidants, phytosterols, unsaturated fats and various vitamins and minerals,  vitamins, and fiber — all of which work to lower cholesterol and promote heart health
  • Cranberries: Cranberries contain no fat, no cholesterol, and very little sodium and are great sources of fiber, flavonoids and polyphenoics.
  • CHOCOLATE: The cocoa bean has flavanols that act as anti-inflammatory nd antioxidant agents, keeping blood pressure low and arteries healthy.

I always knew there was a good reason to eat more chocolate!

Because I fully intend to spend Valentine’s Day, bonding with a bowl of this trail mix. With my single ladies. And probably a good book.

Keeping my heart healthy till the day I give it away.

I hope he doesn’t mind if I pick out all the chocolate chips for myself.

Heart-Loving Trail Mix

Ingredients

  • 2 c. walnuts
  • 1 1/2 c. shelled pistachios
  • 2 c. dried cranberries
  • 1 c. dark chocolate chips (or more, ;))
  • 1 t. dark cocoa powder
  • 1/2 t, sea salt

Directions

  • Mix nuts, cranberries, and chocolate together in a large bowl
  • Sift cocoa powder over mix and stir until everything is well “coated”
  • Sprinkle with sea salt

Serve with love. Even if you are the only one eating it.

Walk by the $6.99 bagged trail mixes, the racks of Valentines Cards, and the case of red roses with your head held high.

Know that you are loved. Your heart, though single, is full. And happy.

Food Habits: Self-Evaluation

I am a creature of (strange) habit.

Every night, before I go to bed I set the alarm on my phone. Every morning I wake up before the alarm goes off because there is nothing I hate more than being jolted awake by an obnoxious ring.

Today, when I wake up to a snow-covered world, my instinct is to run downstairs, pull on my bright blue snow pants and dash out to build snow forts and freeze my fingers until I can’t feel them any more and need to come inside and de-thaw with a steaming mug of hot chocolate. Just like when I was eight years old.

This week, in my Food and Culture class, I had the opportunity to reflect on my personal food habits by filling out a self-evaluation form. As a Dietetics student and a self-admitted “foodie”, I imagine I think about my food habits more than the average person. But it was still interesting to think about why I eat as I do and what cultural influences affect how I eat.

In order to make healthy changes to your diet, it’s important to evaluate the way you are currently eating. As a Dietitian one day, that is what I hope to do so it was good for me to start with evaluating my own diet. I’m sharing a bit of what I learned here. I’d love to read some of your own food habits in the comments!

Meal Composition/Cycle

How many meals do you eat each day? I eat three meals a day, with breakfast being my largest and most important meal. I tend to decrease meal sizes as the day goes on and my dinners are often smaller than my lunches, simply because I feel less hungry and in need of energy at the end of the day. I also am a big snacker, but try to limit myself to two-three medium sized snacks a day.

What elements (bread, rice, meat, vegetables, or other) are needed to make a meal for you?  It is very rare that a meal does not include vegetables in some form – often as salad loaded with other veggies. Even at breakfast, I often incorporate spinach, pumpkin, or shredded carrots. Another necessary element of my meals is a protein source. I am a vegetarian so this is usually in the form of beans, hummus, tofu/tempeh, yogurt, or cottage cheese. I also usually have some kind of whole grain at a meal: whole wheat toast, oats, millet, or brown rice

What is a typical serving size of meat, starch, and vegetable for you? I don’t eat meat, but my protein servings are typically:  ½c. beans or tofu, 2 eggs, ¾c. Greek yogurt, ½c. cottage cheese. A starch serving is typically ½c. and a typical vegetable serving is 1c.

How often do you snack each day?  What types of foods do you consider a snack? I eat about two to three snacks per day. My favorite snacks are fresh fruit, carrot sticks and hummus, or toast with peanut butter

Food Attitudes

How do your food habits differ from your family norms?  Those of friends?  Those of people you work with?  In what significant ways do they differ? Most of my friends know me as a “health nut” because I often opt out of fast food or ice cream and choose the salad bars at restaurants. Culturally, here in Lancaster County most of my friends eat a Pennsylvania Dutch diet – a lot of pork and potatoes. My family eats a more Italian diet – based in pasta, olive oil, lots of spices and garlic.

Sometimes, I have to fight against the personal bias against people who eat meat or lots of processed foods. I know everyone has different standards and habits when it comes to food and I don’t want what to make what I believe is best for me to be a standard I hold everyone else to.

Application: I am very willing to try new foods! I love ethnic cuisine, especially Mexican and Asian – both trying them at restaurants or friends’ houses and trying new recipes. Growing up on Long Island , New York, a very multicultural place, I was exposed to a lot of different cultures and ethnic food traditions. I think being willing to experience and celebrate the traditions of other people is the best way to avoid ethnocentric judgments.

Tiny Recipes (so there’s time to blow your nose)

This has pretty much been my week:

Me: Where has this day gone?

Mom: Up in a pouf of snot.. :/

The “big night” was sitting on the couch with Mom and Jenny, watching politics, guzzling water and passing the tissue box. Aren’t you sorry you missed it?

There has been waaay to much NightQuil flowing around here!

This sickness, unfortunately, came right at the same time as my first week back in classes and my first week of work. So much for entering the new year with energy and enthusiasm! Here’s to 2013!

One thing I have been valuing lately, beside cough drops and lotioned tissues, is tiny recipes. Following @tinyrecipes is my latest Twitter obsession: entire recipes all in the short space of one tweet. It’s clever, fun, and uncomplicated for my swollen sinuses.

Not many of us have time to lug the cookbook off the shelf at every mealtime. Most days I’m lucky if lunch even makes it on to a plate. I need fast, simple, and healthy. Oh and immune-boosting, cold-fighting ingredients are always a plus.

Ready? Six quick and favorite recipes in 140 characters or less:

Humolsa:
1 mashed avocado + 1/3 c. hummus + 1/3 c. salsa
#scoopit

Egg-topped salad:
Pour 2-3 egg whites in a greased skillet, top with veggies of choice. Cook till egg is settled, flip and cook 2 min. Serve over hearty salad.

HLT:
Layer hummus, lettuce and tomato on a whole wheat roll. “Grill” both sides of sandwich on a greased frying pan until hummus is “melty”.

Pumpkin Green Monster:
Banana, pumpkin, milk, maple syrup, instant coffee, spinach, and cinnamon #pumpkinpieinaglass

Fruit “Roll-Ups”:
Spread almond butter on Whole wheat tortilla, sprinkle with cinnamon, and wrap around a whole banana. Cut into bite-sized slices.
#snackable #tastebudsofachild

Yogurt Parfait:
Top a Greek yogurt with a sliced banana, crumbed baked oatmeal or muffin or raw oats and sprinkle with cinnamon.
#instantbreakfast #tastesfancy

What are your favorite tiny recipes?

Oh, and got any cold-busting tips to share? I’ll pay in honey-lemon cough drops.

Savoring Break: Cranberry Chai Baked Oatmeal

I am a huge fan of this thing called “break”.

Waking up without an alarm clock after eight hours of restful sleep. Thinking “What do I want to do today” instead of “How many items can I knock off of my gazillion lists before the day’s out?”

Having time to spend with friends and family so my sister tells me every single day: “You are so much nicer and happier now”. I had no idea what a monster school made out of me.

I may be over sugar and cookies, but I am not ready to say goodbye to the holiday spirit. No siree. I am going to savor every moment for as long as I can.

Days like yesterday. I puttered around half the morning before bundling up and heading out in the sub-freezing temperatures for a run. I kept my mind off my frostbitten nose by planning a warm, nutritious breakfast. Then I ran harder to get back home and into the kitchen.

My vision of Cranberry Chai Baked Oatmeal was whipped up and baking away quicker than the drive-through at Dunkin Donuts to cash in my brand spanking new gift card. Thank you, Aunt Robin. That large coffee was the perfect accompaniment to the delicious smells of winter spices and orange zest wafting from the oven.

Breakfast was everything I hoped for and much more. I “mmmed” at every bite and felt so good making two healthy decisions that morning. It was the perfect balance for spending the rest of the day with friends, sprawled on the couch and eating chocolate covered strawberries.

My free days are fleeing by and there won’t be many more days to drink in the joys of life, of family and friends. So right now, I’m just going to be thankful. And savor every delicious bite.

Chocolate-covered strawberries and oatmeal alike.

Cranberry Chai Baked Oatmeal~ serves one ~

Ingredients

  • 1/3 c. water
  • 1/3 c. vanilla almond milk
  • 1 Chai tea bag
  • 1/2 c. oats
  • 1/4 t. baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 T. ground flax
  • 1/2 banana, mashed*
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 c. chopped cranberries
  • orange zest
  • stevia to taste

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 375 and spray a ramekin with cooking spray.
  • In a small saucepan, heat water and milk with tea bag until it simmers lightly. Remove from heat and allow tea bag to steep for a few minutes. Remove bag, squeezing to release flavor. Stir in remaining ingredients.
  • Pour batter into prepared ramekin and bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Serve with honey, maple syrup, or jam.

* The banana is to bind the batter together. If you’re not a banana fan, you can substitute either one whole egg or 1/4c. unsweetened applesauce.

I’m going to make this tomorrow morning so I can feel okay about my last hurrah, snacking all night and ringing in the New Year. It’s all about balance, folks.

Make Time for Tempeh

I know it is a week till Christmas (eek!) and this should be a post of festive cookie recipes, but though that post will come, it is not this post.

Truth #1: I am not officially finished with the semester until Tuesday, so my opportunities to bake have been slim.

Truth #2: I did take some time off studying the past few days to do some baking, and, well let’s just say I went a little overboard. As in did not take a shower till noon today, I still have icing in my hair, and I’m pretty sure if I don’t bake again till Valentines Day, that will be just fine with me. (Don’t hold me to it, though).

Truth #3: After a few days of rolling in sugar and flour, the last thing I want to do right now is look at a bunch of pictures of cookies. That time will come. Right now, I just want to eat something full of nutritious and wholesome ingredients. Like Tempeh Quesadillas.

Stay with me, here. Never had tempeh? It’s time you met.

Tempeh is a superfood, made by fermented soybeans formed into a patty, similar in substance and nutrition to tofu. It is very minimally processed and so is rich in soybean nutrition: high protein, calcium, fiber, iron, and beneficial isoflavones. It has a textured, nutty flavor, but also quickly absorbs the flavors of the foods and spices it is cooked with. I have found it to be a very versatile substitute for meat — crumbled into chili or taco “meat”, grilled for a TLT (tempeh+lettuce+tomato), and now used in place of chicken strips in one of my old favorites, the quesadilla.

Tempeh Quesadillas

Ingredients

  • 1/3 pkge tempeh
  • /2 green pepper, diced
  •  2 T. chopped onion
  • 1 t. olive oil
  • 1 T. lime juice
  • 1/2 t. chili powder
  • 1/4 t. paprika
  • 1/8 t. garlic salt
  •  1 large whole wheat tortilla
  •  2 T. hummus
  •  1 T. low-fat cottage cheese
Directions
  • Slice tempeh into thin slices, about 1/2 inch thick.
  • Heat oil in a medium frying pan. Add tempeh, peppers and onion to the pan and sprinkle with lime juice and spices. Saute, flipping tempeh for even cooking until it is lightly brown and vegetables are soft. Set aside in a dish.

  • Lay tortilla in the frying pan. Spread hummus across tortilla and spoon cottage cheese on one half of the tortilla.
  • On the cottage cheese side, spoon tempeh and veggies. Let tortilla heat a bit open-faced, about 2 minutes or until lightly browned.
  • With a spatula Gently fold the empty side of the tortilla over the vegetables and using the spatula edge, “seal” sides together.
  • Continue to heat, flipping quesadilla after a few minutes to brown both sides.
  • Serve warm with salsa, Greek yogurt, or guacamole.
This is not like your typical quesadilla — there isn’t even any cheese! But, trust me, it’s good. When heated, the hummus and cottage cheese get all gooey and delicious and the veggies and tempeh add wonderful flavor. As for nutrition? It’s hard to beat these stats:Who says vegetarians don’t get their protein? That’s 21g right there, as well as 10g fiber and high amounts of both Calcium and Iron.

Whether you eat meat or not, it’s good to expand your repertoire of healthy ingredients and experiment with a few new superfoods. The more nutritious variety available to you, the less you will find yourself reaching for the unhealthier options.

What did you say about Christmas cookies?

Come back soon. I’ve got to brush my teeth a few more times.

Make it Better: Triple Chipper Oatmeal Cookies

At the ripe old age of nineteen, I’ve come to the realization that life is full of inconveniences. They’re unwanted, unplanned, and unavoidable. I have spent a lot of energy and time trying to remove them, but to no avail. So I’ve also come to the realization that they must be meant to be. Part of the greater good God’s working in my life (Romans 8:28). These everyday inconveniences can be opportunities to learn lessons and challenges to find and cultivate the good in “bad” days.

When you have a three hour lab that includes a two hour wait, when you and your lab partners are yawning at each other under foggy lab classes, turn it into a conversation opportunity. You may just make some nerdy new friends

When you are “feeling a bit out of sorts,” your throat is scratchy, and your nose is sniffly, turn your downtime on the couch to read that book you haven’t gotten around to.

When the weather keeps you inside from the run you were planning, turn on cheerful Christmas music and try a new workout.

When you’ve had a long rough day at school, use your car ride home to call your sister and plan a movie-popcorn night.

When you’ve stayed up late talking to a friend and your alarm goes off at 5:15am, be sure to cash your Dunkin Donut coupon in for a tall coffee

When you go after honey with a balloon, the great thing is not to let the bees know you’re coming. (That one’s from Winnie the Pooh. Go read him)

When you want to turn unhealthy sweets into healthy treats, be sure to make them 1)edible and 2)yummy. Just so you know, almond flour + oat flour is a magic combination.

And please, when you have three kinds of baking chips, be sure to use them all.

Triple Chipper Oatmeal Cookies
~ makes 6 dozen

Ingredients

  • 2 c. rolled oats
  • 1/3 c. coconut
  • 2/3 c. Earth Balance (or butter)
  • 1 egg (or 1 T. flax seed + 2 T. water)
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1t. vanilla
  • 1/2 c. almond flour
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 c. milk chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c. mini semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c. butterscotch chips

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350F
  • To make oat flour, process oats (1/2 c. at a time) in a blender or food processor until ground into a fine powder. It should look something like this: 
  • Process coconut in a blender or food processor until very finely chopped. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, beat Earth Balance with sugar and baking soda until fully combined. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add almond flour, coconut and oat flour and mix well.
  • Stir in chocolate and butterscotch chips.
  • Drop dough by heaping tablespoons onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
  • Bake about 12 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are golden brown

When you make six dozen cookies that combine oats, almond flour, and coconut, and when you are going to go all crazy in the baking chips department, be sure to eat them surrounded by friends.

I promise they will taste a thousand times better. And your day will be a thousand times sweeter.

Good Food Doesn’t Last

Meet my new favorite snack.

Only, we aren’t currently friends because he’s all gone. He came for a day and then was gone without even a proper goodbye.

How rude.

Many good things don’t last forever.

Lately every time our family is all together — eating around the dinner table, or watching movies in the living room, Dad has been thanking God because “we won’t all be together much longer.” What are you saying, Dad? Who’s going anywhere? 

But it’s true. Time rolls on and the present realities become memories of the past. I’m no longer a cowlicked seven year old spending whole afternoons with my nose in the American Girl series or broadcasting radio shows with my sisters. My little sister drives away — by herself — to her first college class and I realize we’re never going back to the forts under the stairs

As I’m typing this at the kitchen (surrounded by textbooks I should be reading), I look outside the window to streaming snowflakes creating a winter wonderland where yesterday was an autumn watercolor. The vibrant colors of October are fading fast even though I’ve hardly savored them enough.

It doesn’t mean that new good things will never come. They will, but they will be different. So I want to learn to cherish the blessings I enjoy right now.  I want to have a perspective of eternity, redeeming the time so none of it goes to waste. In this swiftly moving life of gain and loss, I’ve found stability in securing myself on the one thing I know will last forever: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you” (Jeremiah 31:3). The unshakable love of God is my rock and gives me hope in forever.

Anyway, back to this snack mix. It is really good, especially considering it was born out of a runaway thought that could have easily flopped. My goal was to create a portable mix of crunchy salty “power-foods” that rival the flavor of one of my snack vices favorites, Chex Mix, which never stands a chance with me.

You will never find this at the grocery store bagged alongside the Lays and Fritos. But that doesn’t really mean anything, right? It’s deliciousness is really evidenced to Mom and I crowding around the pan, burning fingers and tongues as we inhaled half a batch. Bet you can’t eat just one chickpea.

Move over, Chex. You never saw this one coming.

Good-for-you Snack Mix

Ingredients

  • Three medium carrots
  • 1 medium potato
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 t. olive oil
  • 1 t. sea salt
  • 1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 bag of natural popcorn, popped
  • 3/4 c. almonds
  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 1 T. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 t. soy sauce
  • 1/2 t. garlic powder

Directions

  • Make Veggie Chips: Prepare oven to 400F. With a sharp knife, slice carrots, potato, and zucchini into very thin slices (about 1/8 inch). Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle oil over top and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake about 1 hour or until crispy, flipping halfway through.
  • Roast chickpeas on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray in a 400F oven for about 20 minutes, or until toasted. Don’t let them get too crisp, as they will be baked more later.
  • Reduce heat to 250F. Add veggie chips, chickpeas, popcorn, and almonds to a large casserole dish. In a medium saucepan, melt butter and stir in remaining seasonings. Pour into dish and stir so everything is evenly coated.
  • Bake 45 minutes – 1 hour until dry, stirring every 15 minutes. Let cool completely before storing in air-tight containers.

This is a packable snackable if I’ve ever seen one. That is if it survives the cooling process. No matter how you eat it, just be sure to savor every bite. It most certainly will not last long.

Makeovers that Count

I spent Thursday in my pajamas. All day long.

I wore them while jump roping, grunting, and sweating in the basement at seven am. I then took a shower and then put them right back on.

I wore them while sitting at the kitchen table for a million hours doing homework.

I climbed the stairs at a late hour to get ready for bed and realized all I had to do was brush my teeth and crawl under the covers. Done and done.

Thursday is my day off, and you better believe I’m taking advantage of it. My goal is to do all the cozy homey things I daydream about during Biochem lectures and backpack lugging stair hikes.

The French Press is set a-brewing, the fuzzy socks are broken out and Josh Groban is turned on repeat. I know how studying can make me a crazy, unbearable crank and how a happy atmosphere does wonders for my attitude. And my family’s sanity.

If the pajamas, coffee, socks, and Josh do their job, and my mood soars to the point that I am reading Kant like he’s an old friend, eventually the creative juices plugged up during long stale at school begin to flow again and my brain fairly explodes with fresh new ideas.

In other words, most Thursdays end with me in the kitchen cooking up a storm. In my pajamas.

I may look the prime candidate for “What Not to Wear”, in sad need of a makeover, but I am at my happiest. I love that for one day I don’t worry about what I look like. And I’m learning that sometimes the “makeover” I most need is an internal one — a change of attitude. From a grumpy and stressed young woman to a cheerful and blessed one. The transformation isn’t really brought on by fuzzy socks and peaceful music, but by spending a day at home with my family, spending more time with God in prayer and in His Word, taking the time to breath, look around and count my blessings.

And cooking with some TLC, giving a favorite meal a makeover. Because this is one that counts.

One of my favorite things about healthy, vegetarian cooking is finding ways to recreate old favorite comfort foods into something abundant in nutrition and not lacking in yummyness.

Enter our contestant, homemade chili — soothing, warming, filling comfort at it’s best. A few tweaks, cuts, additions and highlights, and ta-da! Vegetarian Chili Pie.

Vegetarian Chili Pie

Lentil Walnut “Meat”

  • 1 c. dry lentils
  • 3 c. water
  • 1 packet vegetable broth
  • 3/4 c. walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 c. sunflower seeds
  • 1 t. chili powder
  • 1 t. garlic salt
  • 1 t. paprika
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 T. Chili powder
  • 1 t. red pepper flakes
  • 2 t. paprika,
  • 1 t. salt,
  • 1 t. garlic powder,
  • 1/2 t. pepper

Cornbread topping

  • 1 c. cornmeal
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t,
  • 1 eggs
  • 3/4 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. corn

Directions

  • Prepare your lentil “meat”: In a medium sauce pan, cover dry lentils with water and vegetable bouillon. Bring to a rolling boil, then cover and let simmer about twenty minutes or until lentils are soft. Uncover, remove from heat, and stir in walnuts and sunflower seeds so that they soften a bit with the cooling lentils.
  • When lentil-nut mixture is cool, add to a food processor or blender. Add spices. Pulverize until texture resembles coarse grumbled meat. Don’t blend too far, or you will end up with mush :). Set aside.

    Cauliflower "rice"

  • Cauliflower “rice”: Meanwhile, steam cauliflower until soft. Let cool and then add to food processor and pulverize quickly until texture resembles rice. This does not take very long at all — just a few quick turns of the blade. Again, don’t blend too far unless you want cauliflower mashed potatoes.
  • Chili filling: Combine tomatoes, beans, and spices in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  • Cornbread topping: Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl. Add eggs, milk, and corn and mix until smooth.
  • Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly grease a pie dish and sprinkle the bottom with cornmeal.
  • Layer cauliflower, tomato-bean mixture, then lentil-nut mixture. Carefully spoon cornbread batter over the lentil mix and sprinkle walnuts on top.
  • Bake for about thirty minutes or until cornbread is set.

With some trepidation, I cut into the pie. I had no idea whether it would be a complete flop. But it did not disappoint. It was everything I love about chili and so much more. The seasonings come through beautifully and the cornbread topping was a great decision.  And the lentil-walnut faux-meat — Oh my. Words cannot describe. Let’s just say it made the dish. Beef is like the ugly stepsister of this deliciousness.

I don’t calculate the nutritional information for everything I make, but I had an idea the stats on this recipe would be pretty stellar.

15 grams of protein, 13 grams of fiber, chockfull of vitamins, low in fat, and positively delicious.

It’s the kind of makeover that counts.

On Monday afternoon, I’ll plop down my twenty-pound backpack and open my lunchbox to a scrumptious piece of Thursday joy. And with the first bite, I’ll be transported to happier thoughts, fuzzy socks, and a Josh Groban soundtrack in my mind. Instant heart-lift.

However, if you want the maximum comfort food effect, I highly recommend you eat this in your pajamas.