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.

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?

Day 11 of Real Food: Mexican Fiesta Quinoa

I had a taste of the world today.

The missions fair at our church is always an exciting time to meet people from all over the globe and hear their stories of what God is doing.

I am reminded that in this big big world, I am very small. But this is actually a hopeful thought — God is at work in ways I can’t see. And the knowledge that He chooses to use my little prayers as tools for eternal purposes.

It is already Day 11 of my challenge to eat only unprocessed, natural foods for 40 days. Read the story here! So far, it is going well. The daily devotionals from A Place at the Table have been great inspiration to keep up the challenge.

There are times when the sweets and chips come a-calling and I really want to give in. That’s when I realize how spoiled I am to even have food I can turn down. By saying no to processed and packaged foods — foods that large parts of the world have no access to — I’m hoping to grow my understanding of what my body really needs vs. what just sounds good at the moment.

One helpful tactic I’ve been utilizing the past few days is to focus my thoughts and prayers on the country whose cuisine I’m eating. I research a little about the country — their daily staples, their economic status, their everyday personal, social and political needs — so while I am cooking, while I am eating, while I am not eating other foods, I am consciously able to identify with people across the world in my prayers. It has made the whole process of eating so purposeful. I’d love for this to become a habit even when the 40 days are over.

Today was Mexico. It is going to be difficult to not just do Latin cuisine because lately I’ve been craving tortillas and guacamole like no one’s business.

Staples of nearly ever Mexican meal are corn (tortillas!) and beans. Other common ingredients are squash, peppers, rice, honey, tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, garlic, cinnamon, and cocoa.

I found an excellent information and prayer resource at Operation World. Here are just a few of the listed “challenges for prayer”:

a) The poor, both the impoverished rural poor and the exploited slum-dwellers — Poverty affects 60% of the Mexican population

b) The marginalized native Amerindians — This group of people have no official social status and live in greater poverty and political upheaval

c) Corruption in politics and the police. 

d) The massive drug trade and gang violence that accompanies it — including over 5000,000 addicts, the power-hungry cartels who control the “industry”, the government and law enforcement fighting against the corruption and violence of gangs.

These heavy concerns need contemplated over a light meal. This bowl has it all — grain, protein, healthy fat, vegetables, spicy and colorful — Mexico in a dish, all natural and delicious. Enough to keep my taste-buds and tummy happy and preoccupied from the snack cupboard and to keep my mind focused on more important things.

Mexican Fiesta Quinoa 

Inspired by Daily Garnish and Oh She Glows ~ serves 10 as a side, 6 as a main

  • 2 c. dry quinoa
  • 1 large can black beans, drained and rinsed
  •  1 c. diced tomatoes
  • 2 small avocados, chopped
  • 1 c. corn kernels
  • 1 large bell pepper, diced
  • 1 t. chili powder
  • 1/2 t. paprika
  • 1/2 t. garlic salt
  • 3 T. fresh cilantro, minced
  • 3 T. lime juice

Directions

  • Prepare quinoa by package directions (4 c. water for 2 c. dry quinoa). Cook till water is absorbed and quinoa is soft and fluffy.
  • Transfer quinoa to a large bowl and stir in spices: chili powder, paprika, and garlic salt
  • Meanwhile, chop pepper, tomatoes, and avocados
  • Add beans, corn, pepper, tomatoes, avocado, and cilantro to quinoa and stir to combine.
  • Pour lime juice over mixture and toss to combine.
  • For best flavor results, refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

I could definitely eat like this for a while. If someone would send me a link for foolproof tortillas, I’d be set for life.

40 Days of Conscious, Natural Eating

“Fasting is an expression of seeking God with life-and-death seriousness”
– John Piper

I’m on Day 5 of a 40-day long journey.

For forty days I am fasting off of all processed foods. The purpose is more than just to gain an appreciation of real food (though that is definitely included). It is more than just denying myself for the season of Lent. My real motivation is to be more actively engaged in prayer and ministry with time and energy normally spent eating.

I have two “focus points” for this challenge:

  • A 40 Days for Life campaign is going on in my city during the Lent season. It is a community prayer vigil for the awareness and protection of human life.
  • A Place at the Table: 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor. This devotional-style book has daily readings to guide intercession for undeveloped countries where hunger is a life-threatening issue. By eating a diet similar to these cultures for forty days, I hope to be reminded to be in constant prayer.

This is going to be hard at times, but I am so excited. Excited to see where eating intentionally and with purpose leads my thoughts and prayers and actions. I’m also excited to share what I learn with you. I have a number of posts lining up: What I’m not eating v. what I’m eating, a day in unprocessed meals, hunger v. appetite, being satisfied with less, and 100% natural recipes!

For now, here are the lessons I’ve learned these first five days:

1)      I am such a product of this convenience, have-what-I-want-when-I-want-it culture. Food is so available to me, when I go to the grocery store, when I walk into the drugstore, when I’m studying at the kitchen table. It doesn’t take much thought to find food, but I also realize that I often orient my day in terms of food: Before my run, I’ll grab a handful of nuts and afterwards I’ll make a smoothie…As soon as I get to work I’m making myself a latte…Friends are coming over, I need to stock up on chips and dip…I can’t wait to end this day with a big bowl of popcorn and some chocolate. These thoughts stem from food habits, not necessity and are foreign to most of the world where the purpose of eating is nourishment and survival.

2)      To combat sweet cravings, don’t limit FRUIT: I’m really giving myself no limitations here. The idea is that if I satisfy my sweet cravings with fruit, I won’t be tempted by sugar. Fruit has been my #1 snack, and I’m making it my job to keep the fridge well stocked with apples, berries, and oranges. And, of course, BANANAS. I think I’ve been averaging 2.5 a day.

3)      Fill your plate with fresh VEGETABLES in their natural state: Again, no limit here. I am trying to bulk up my meals with produce, eating them in their most natural forms possible – either raw, roasted or stir-fried over the stove. Cutting out processed ingredients means skipping my typical seasonings like stir-fry sauce. Minimal seasoning’s been going on with salt + pepper, herbs, and lemon juice. What I’m finding is this way of cooking brings out the natural flavors vegetables which are amazing on their own!

  • Discovery: Mushrooms are amazing. I bought a huge box of baby Portabellas and have been throwing them into almost every savory dish. They add tremendous flavor and are stellar on the nutrition scale: 5g of protein and 3g fiber for each cup plus high levels of minerals like selenium, B vitamins, and riboflavin.

4)      Eating only unprocessed WHOLE GRAINS expands creativity. Starchy carbs are my number one craving and I knew going into this challenge the hardest thing for me to give up would be processed grains – cereal crackers, pretzels, packaged bread, tortilla chips. If I am going to persevere through this, I need to get creative with real whole grains. Brown rice, buckwheat, oats, cornmeal bulgur – this are the staples of the underdeveloped world (and most of the world, for that matter) and for the next forty days, they are mine too.

5)      All that’s needed to make a meal is Grain+Vegetable+Protein. For breakfast this has been oats + pumpkin(or sub fruit for vegetable) + nuts, lunch is homemade tortilla (recipe coming soon!!) + green veggie + beans, and dinner is brown rice/bulgur + beans or tofu + salad. No condiments, no frills. Simple and satisfying.

6)      Making one-pot meals and not snacking takes my mind off of food and onto more important things. Instead of my typical snack-through-day habit, I am attempting an approach of eating three meals a day, not for social or boredom reasons, but simply to feed my body well. When the munchies hit, instead of hitting the snack cupboard, I am purposing to get my thoughts and hands busy accomplishing this list:

  • Pray for country and people featured in A Place at the Table
  • Pray through missionary list provided from my church
  • Sign up for a time slot at 40 Days for Life
  • Read: Currently Bonhoeffer and Francis Schaeffer
  • Call a friend or family members
  • Take a walk with my mom and sisters

I plan on getting a lot done these forty days!!