Turkey Pot Pie

WARNING! This recipe (if eaten with the crust) is not low GI friendly. But it is really good so sometimes I have to make a pot pie and just deal with it. I can't eat nuts and berries all the time, can I?

So this year hubby and I decided to go out to Thanksgiving supper. I love Thanksgiving and all of the cooking, but when there are only 4 of us it seems a waste to cook all morning and then clean all afternoon. So out we went. But I couldn't not make something Thanksgiving-y, so a few days before the actual event I roasted a turkey breast for supper. We had loads leftover so I made this with some of the leftovers. I actually made the filling, froze it and then pulled it out when I was ready to use it. When you freeze pot pie filling, be sure that before you top it with the crust that it is heated thru (that's right, thaw it and heat to bubbling before you top your pie).

Turkey Pot Pie (serves 6)

1/4 C butter
1/2 C onion, chopped
1/2 C mushrooms, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3/4 C frozen peas
1 T garlic, minced
1/3 C flour
1/2 t dried sage
1/2 t dried thyme
1 1/2 C prepared turkey gravy
1/2 C turkey stock (or chicken stock or water)
1/2 C milk
2 T dry sherry
3 C cooked turkey, cubed
S & P to taste
1 recipe Single Crust Savory Pie Dough (follows)

Preheat oven to 425.

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in all veggies except peas and saute until tender but not browned (about 5 minutes). Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in flour, sage and thyme. When well blended, add gravy, stock and milk. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in turkey, peas and cook until veggies are tender, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in sherry. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Pour mixture into a deep dish pie pan or other baking dish as desired. Top with pastry. Seal and crimp the edges. (Note: If you like lots of crust - like I do - do not trim the excess pastry from the pan. Simple turn the pastry under, press to seal the edges and crimp as you normally would). Pierce the crust with a fork or cut slits in the pastry to allow for steam.

Bake in the preheated oven for 35 - 40 minutes or until browned and bubbling. Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Single Crust Savory Pie Dough

1 1/2 C flour
1/2 t salt
4 T shortening, chilled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
8 T butter, chilled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
4 T water

Add flour and salt to food processor. Pulse a few times to evenly distribute salt. Add shortening and butter. Using 1 second pulses, process until the flour is pale yellow and resembles course meal. Sprinkle water into bowl. Pulse 4 or 5 times or until the mix comes together. Turn out on plastic wrap. Form into a disk, warp tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes (or up to 2 days).

When filling is ready, roll the pie dough into a sheet large enough to cover your pie and proceed as directed above.

Hot, steamy and soooooo yummy!

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

I made this soup about a month ago and have been meaning to get a post up since then. I am so busy these days that I haven't had much time to blog. Things just seem to be getting busier, so I decided to just hunker down and get some recipes posted.

This soup was made in response to an overflowing bowl of sweet potatoes that sat on my counter for about two weeks. Those spuds just sat there almost taunting me "Make something new! Make something new!" Finally I gave in and this soup is the result. Enjoy.

Curried Sweet Potato Soup (serves 4 - 6)

3 small sweet potatoes (or 3 C cooked)
1 T flour
1 T butter
3 C homemade chicken stock
1 T dark agave nectar (or brown sugar)
1/4 t ground ginger
1/8 t ground cinnamon
1/8 t ground nutmeg
1/2 t curry powder
1/2 t salt
1 C milk

Heat over to 400. Slice sweet potatoes horizontally. Place on cookie sheet cut side down. Bake in hot oven about 30 minutes or until soft.

While the potatoes are cooling, melt the butter in a heavy sauce pan over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is a light caramel color. Add broth and agave syrup and bring to a boil. Scoop the potato pulp into the stock mixture and add spice. Stir to combine and turn heat to simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes. Using an immersion blender, blend soup in the stockpot until smooth (or use a blender and process in batches). Add milk and heat to desired temperature. Ladle into warm soup bowls and serve.

Beautiful Baked Meatballs

I have been craving meatballs lately. I don't really want the spaghetti, but I really, REALLY want meatballs. Maybe it is the weather? Am I anemic? I don't know and I don't care because I just want meatballs.

Tonight I gave into my craving (full disclosure: I had some out last week but they were only fair) and made my beautiful baked meatballs. This recipe is my compromise between proper meatball technique (frying then simmering in sauce) and easy (baking then coating with sauce). It combines the ease of baking with the slow cooked flavor of fried. They are an excellent quick no-fuss meal and were so good. They were exactly what I have been craving.

Beautiful Baked Meatballs (makes 5-6 generous servings)

1 pound ground beef
3/4 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1/3 C whole grain bread crumbs
2 T flax seeds (optional, but very good for you and you won't even notice they are there - promise!)
1/3 C milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 t crushed garlic
1 T Italian seasoning blend
1/2 t seasoned salt (or salt and pepper)
1/2 C Romano cheese (with additional to sprinkle on top of final dish)
2 C of your favorite marinara or spaghetti sauce

Heat oven to 425. Spray baking dish with non stick coating spray and set aside.

Place both meats in a large bowl and set aside. Add breadcrumbs, flax seeds, milk, eggs, garlic, seasoning blend, seasoned salt and cheese to bowl. Stir to combine well. Combine the bread and the meat mixtures and mix well (but lightly) with your hands.

Using an ice cream scoop, portion you meat mixture into 15 good sized meatballs. Arrange meatballs in baking dish so that there is a small amount of space between each meatball.

My little meaty soldiers all in a row.

Pour the marinara over the meatballs to fully cover. Bake, uncovered, for 35 minutes or until firm and bubbling.

All dressed and ready for the oven.

Serve with a side of pasta (Dreamfields, of course!) and enjoy.

Waste Not Want Not Chicken Stock

When we started buying organic protein, I was overwhelmed at the price. $17 for a whole chicken? Really? After I got over the sticker shock, I realized that if I utilized the entire bird, $17 wasn't too bad after all. For that $17, I get one dinner (for 4), two lunches and 6-8 cups of chicken stock (which will turn into 2 family dinners worth of soup later). When I start to do the math on a per serving basis (in this example, $1.22 per serving) the price becomes a lot more palatable.

As I make a lot of soup during the fall and winter (I love making soup: dump in ingredients, stir, walk away), chicken stock made from the carcass was the logical thing to do. I used to purchase Trader Joe's Chicken Broth, which contains 600 mg of sodium per 1 cup serving. That is 25% of your daily sodium intake in one cup of soup! My stock has no added sodium, although I suspect there will be some small amount of sodium present due to residual seasoning. The broth is flavorful and colorful, the later from the addition of onion peel (yes, the peel). You can either strain off and use just the stock or you can pick the carcass and use the meat (I only do this when I am making chicken noodle soup but I leave the decision up to you).

Waste Not Want Not Chicken Stock (makes approximately 8 cups)

1 chicken carcass (from a roasted chicken)
2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
1 onion, unpeeled, roughly chopped
8 cups water

Add chicken carcass to large stock pot. You want to totally submerge the bird in water, so if you may need to break the carcass in pieces depending on the size of your pot. Add the carrots, onions and water. Set over high heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium. Cook at a low boil for 1 hour. Remove from heat and let cool. Once cooled, strain the liquid from the pot into a large zip top bag. Label and freeze for later use.

The SG Challenge Part 2 - Pumpkin Black Bean Chili

A few weeks ago I asked everyone to vote on what new black bean recipe I should make. The winner was Pumpkin and Black Bean Chili and I was ready to go with the recipe. Then summer reappeared. Now, I am not complaining about 75+ degree days in October, but that is definitely not chili weather. Yesterday, fall finally arrived and tonight so did the chili.

You'd never know that there is pumpkin in this chili if you didn't see it go into the pot. The remaining ingredients alone would make a fairly light flavored chili, so that is where the pumpkin comes in. It adds a richness and a depth of flavor to the pot that would be sorely lacking without it.

The recipe is adapted from this recipe found at Taste of Home.

Pumpkin and Black Bean Chili (makes 8 - 10 generous servings)

1 medium onion, diced fine
1 yellow bell pepper, diced fine
1 1/2 lb ground turkey
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
1 C low sodium chicken stock
2 cans (or 4 cups) black beans, rinsed
1 can (15 oz) solid packed pumpkin
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 t dried parsley flakes
2 t chili powder
1 1/2 t dried oregano
1 1/2 t ground cumin
1 1/2 t salt
1 t black pepper

In a large skillet, saute onion, pepper and turkey until cooked through, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Transfer to slow cooker.

Be sure to cook off all of the liquid from the onions and peppers.

Add the remaining ingredients to the slow cooker. Stir to combine well.

Everybody in the pool.

Cook on low for 5 - 6 hours or until heated through and bubbly. Serve with sharp cheddar cheese and sour cream, or to taste.

The SG Challenge: Turkey Black Bean Burgers

After my last post of how to cook black beans, my friend, SG, asked what I did with them once I cooked them. I pointed her to a number of recipes on this blog; Lentil and Black Bean Salad, Quick and Easy Turkey Soft Tacos, even The Amazing Black Bean Brownies. I started thinking about these recipes and the other that I make using black beans and I decided I needed to try something new. It was time to break out of my black bean rut and find some new and interesting recipes. I have dubbed this recipe search (drum roll please.......) The SG Challenge.

I found this little gem on the Taste of Home website. I made it tonight and it was a hit. Even the kids ate them, although they both initially resisted because they could see the red bell pepper in it (shame on me - I thought I diced it finely enough). Chris and I both loved them too. One note on the TOH recipe, theirs makes 4 servings. I found that with one lb of turkey I got six good sized burgers. As we ate them, these come in at 335 calories (including the whole grain sandwich thin and all of the toppings) and only 247 m of sodium.

Turkey Black Bean Burgers (makes 6 patties)

3/4 C black beans
1 egg white
1/2 C zucchini, finely shredded
1/2 C red bell pepper, finely diced
1 t chili powder
1/2 t onion powder
1/2 t pepper
1/4 t salt
1 pound ground turkey
1 T olive oil

In a small bowl, coarsely mash beans. Add all remaining ingredients and mix lightly. With a wet hand, shape lightly into 6 patties. In a large skillet, cook burgers over medium heat for 4-5 minutes per side or until a meat thermometer reads 165 and juices run clear.

Serve as desired (we served on sandwich thins with mayo, mustard, chili sauce (Chris), lettuce, tomato and onion. Yum!)

I am Full of Beans

Congratulations. If you are reading this, you are thick skinned enough (or just down right curious) to keep reading after you saw the title of this post. But the title is perfect; I am full of beans, both literally and figuratively.

I have mentioned on this blog before how much I love beans. I cook with beans all the time. Beans are an inexpensive, versatile source of protein and fiber and are sooooo good for you. We eat so many beans in this household that I used to buy them in cans by the case. Then I started reading labels.

It turns out that beans, like almost every other processed food, start as health food and in the hands of food processors become junk. We eat mostly black beans, so I will give you a little nutritional comparison using them:

Bush's Best canned black beans (regular) - 1 cup
Calories: 210
Sodium: 860 m (36%)

Trader Joe's canned black beans (low sodium) - 1 cup
Calories: 220
Sodium: 350 m (15%)

Home cooked black beans (no salt) - 1 cup
Calories: 227
Sodium: 2 mg (0%)

So then, you can see what my problem is with canned black beans. You think you are making a healthy choice for your family by serving them beans, but in every cup you are giving them nearly 900 m of sodium in a food that is naturally sodium free. Why do food processors do that? It makes me so mad!

Now that I know the truth about canned beans, I won't use them anymore. Instead I cook my own and freeze them in 1 can size portions. Beans are insanely easy to make and freeze beautifully. Go ahead and give it a try.

Freezer Black Beans (makes 12 cups cooked, or 6 2-cup portions)
Note that I make 2 pounds at a time because my large pot holds 2 pounds fairly well. Increase or decrease the amount you make as your pot demands.
2 pounds dried black beans, picked over
water to cover and cook

Add dried black beans to a large bowl and cover with cool, fresh water. Cover with a tea towel and let sit overnight.

In the morning, drain the water from the bowl and rinse the beans in cool water. Add the beans to a large pot and cover with as much water as you can get in the pot. Cover and set over high heat. Once the pot comes to a boil, boil until just tender (not mushy), about 45 - 60 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the beans rest until they are cool enough to handle. Once cooled, drain beans and gently rinse with cold water.

Pack your cooked beans in 2 cup portions (this is roughly equivalent to one can of prepared beans) in zip top bags and freeze.

Homemade Almond Milk

A few months ago I noticed a change in my husband. He started eating salad, lots and lots of salad. Then he began asking for almond milk. We tried lots and lots of different brands and finally decided to make our own. Making our own almond milk isn't any cheaper (it runs about the same price as commercially prepared), but the almond pulp that remains behind is an excellent baking ingredient (I use it instead of almond meal - it is the same texture, but removes some fat and flavor from the meal - all of which is good in my baking) so it is cheaper for us in the long run.

Before you decide to give almond milk (or any other alternative milk product) a try, it is important to understand the differences between the various kinds of milk. Here is a handy chart that I found on a a blog called Noshtopia.

What you will notice from this chart is that cows milk wins, hands on, on the protein front. If you are using milk as your main source of protein, then stick with the moo juice. However, if you are getting enough protein from other sources, then non-dairy milks have lots of advantages. For us, choosing almond milk (it wins for this family on taste) means lower calories, carbs and sugar while still providing us with plenty of calcium. It is also easy (and fun) to make. I hope you give it a try.

Almond Milk (make approx 7 cups)

2 C water (to soak almonds)
2 C raw organic almonds
6 C filtered water
2 T agave syrup (or 4 pitted dates)
pinch salt, if desired

Add almonds to bowl and cover with 2 C water. Refrigerate almonds and let them set overnight.

When you are ready to make the milk, drain the almonds and rinse with clear water. Add 1/2 of the almonds to a blender along with 3 cups of filtered water and 1/2 of your sweetener of choice. Turn your blender on liquefy and process for 2 minutes.

Once the milk is blended, pour your mixture into a nut milk bag which has been set over a large bowl (if you don't have a nut milk bag, use a few layers of fine cheesecloth). Slowly squeeze the almond milk out of the bag. Keep squeezing gently until there is no milk left in the bag (you will have almond pulp leftover). Repeat the blending/squeezing with the second half of the ingredients. Pour milk into a pitcher and taste. If needed, add a pinch of salt to taste.

Cover with plastic wrap and store in refrigerator. The almond milk will keep, refrigerated, for 4 days.

Here's a nifty YouTube video (its not me, but they do a good job explaining the process)

The problem with breakfast

I think we can all wrap our heads around eating low-GI during most of the day. Eat lots of fruits and veggies, lean protein, whole grains, etc. It isn't too much of a stretch to eat a salad for lunch instead of a sandwich or to switch out some broccoli for your nightly potato. Breakfast, on the other hand, can be quite a challenge.

When you think about it, almost all of our "quick serve" breakfast options are loaded with highly processed grain (which immediately turns into sugar in our bodies). Cereal, toast, muffins, pancakes, waffles....they are all just a bowl of sugar waiting to hit your stomach. So what should we eat for breakfast if we have to eliminate almost everything off of the breakfast list?

Here are some of my favorite low-GI friendly breakfast options:

- Sprouted grain toast with peanut butter with fruit on the side
- Plain yogurt with fresh fruit and nuts
- Fresh fruit smoothie made with yogurt and seasonal fruit
- Flax and Bran Morning Glory Muffins
- Slow cooked oatmeal (never instant!) with milk and nuts.

Embracing the change of season yesterday, I decided to make myself a veggie scramble for my AM meal. This is a favorite during the fall and winter. It takes about 10 minutes to make from scratch. If you are pressed for time, saute up your veggies in advance (or use last nights leftovers - almost any veggie is good in this). This cuts the prep time to around 3 minutes. I generally serve this with one piece of sprouted grain toast, but had a whole grain, high fiber sandwich thin in the house so I used it instead. It was delish.

Veggie Scramble (serves 1)

1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 t olive oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 oz cheese of choice (optional)
S & P to taste

Heat medium saute pan over med-high heat. Add olive oil to coat pan. Add peppers and onion to pan and cook until crisp tender, about 5 - 6 minutes. Add egg to pan and stir to combine. Cook until egg is just set, about 2 minutes. Top with cheese, add S & P as desired and serve.

The sweet tooth is on the loose - Soft Ginger Carrot Cookies

Maybe its that time of the month, maybe its because its Monday, maybe it is because it is raining cats and dogs. Whatever it is, I need MORE cookies today. I have an abundance of carrots in my fridge, so I decided to use some of them to whip up a batch of Soft Ginger Carrot Cookies. They are perfect with a cup of tea on a chilly fall day. Mmmmmm....

Soft Ginger Carrot Cookies (makes 30)

1 C whole wheat pasty flour
1 C almond meal
1 t ground ginger
1 t baking powder
Pinch ground nutmeg
Pinch salt
12 T butter (1 1/2 sticks), room temperature
1 egg
1/3 C dark agave nectar
1 t vanilla extract
1 1/2 C shredded carrots (about 3 small carrots)
1 C chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, almond meal, baking powder, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Set aside. In a stand mixer, beat butter for two minutes on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add agave, vanilla and egg and beat an additional minute. Slowly add dry ingredients and mix until combined. Stir in carrots and nuts.

Using a medium-sized cookie scoop (approx 2 T per scoop), scoop out dough onto cookie sheet. With a wet palm, gently flatten each cookie. Bake 14 - 16 minutes or until firm and lightly golden brown. Remove to wire rack to cool.

Each cookie has 116 calories, 0.5 g of sugar and 1 g of fiber. Compare these to Land O Lakes Carrot Cake Cookies at 196 calories, 17.7 g of sugar and 0.7 g of fiber.

Low Sugar Chocolate Cake Cookies

The last 6 weeks have been insane for me. My Mom was here visiting (hi Mom!), we went to NYC together, I was working lots of hours, David went back to school, Mom went home, we went on vacation, Daniel went back to school, etc, etc, etc.... I am not really sure how I got thru the last month and a half, but I do know that it involved lots of sugar.

Generally speaking, I don't worry too much about the occasional times when I am off of my eating plan. I think that is why I have been able to keep it up for nearly two years. I just get right back on the clean eating wagon and move on. But, when you have been on a 6 week bender like I have been, its a bit hard to kick the need for sugar. That is why I needed cookies this weekend.

The sugar cravings have been getting to me since I started back on the refined carbs and I have been dying for a cookie in the evenings. I decided to stop sabotaging myself by making some not-too-bad-for-me treats. These are a soft, cake like drop cookie which are an adaption of a cookie I found on chefnilson.com. They are soft and chewy and not too sweet. Chris finds them a little too bland (i.e. he wants more sweetener), but the boys and I like them as is. If you want to sweeten these up, just add a bit more agave and you should be fine.

I did a quick nutritional analysis of these cookies and compared them to Oreo Cakesters. A 59 gr serving of my cookies is 3.3 gr of sugar and 2.8 gr of fiber and a similar serving of Oreos delivers a whopping 24 gr of sugar with less than 1 of fiber. While my cookies aren't health food (there is butter and sweetener in them after all) they are a fantastic substitute. Enjoy in good health.

Low Sugar Chocolate Cake Cookies (makes 24 cookies, or about 8 servings)

2 egg whites
3/4 C almond meal*
3/4 C whole wheat flour
1/3 C agave nectar
1/4 C cocoa powder
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/4 C butter, softened
1/4 C grain sweetened chocolate chips
1 T butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350. Like baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Add egg whites to a clean large bowl. Whip until soft peaks form. Gently add the remaining cookie ingredients to the bowl and fold to combine (the dough will be the consistency of thick paste.)

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto parchment lined sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 7-8 minutes or until set. Do not over bake. Remove to wire rack to cool.

While the cookies are baking, prepare glaze by adding butter to chocolate chips in a heat-proof bowl. Microwave for 15 seconds. Stir to combine.

When the cookies are cool to the touch, drizzle with glaze and enjoy.

* The almond meal that I used was the leftovers from making almond milk. I am sure standard almond meal would produce a similar cookie.

Saucy and Spicy Overnight Beans

Chris has been craving baked beans. I made some a few weeks ago and he has been begging for them since. I love cooking beans - they are cheap, easy to make, incredibly good for you and can be made in a multitude of ways. I was going to make my usual beans up this weekend, but decided to give a little shout out to Saucy Mama and whip up a batch using a few of their products. The resulting beans were delish. You should give them a try!

Saucy and Spicy Overnight Beans (makes 12 side dish servings)

4 oz bacon, diced
1/2 large onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 C strong black coffee
3/4 C ketchup
1/2 C molasses
1/3 C dark agave nectar (or 1/2 C brown sugar)
1/4 C Saucy Mama Chipotle Mustard
1 T Saucy Mama Hot Wing Sauce
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T worchestershire sauce
juice of half a lemon
1/4 t liquid smoke
1/4 t dried oregano
1/2 t chili powder
5 C water
1 lb dried navy or great northern beans, picked over

Heat a medium frying pan over med-high heat. Add bacon and fry until most of the fat is rendered, about 5 minutes. Add onions and saute until soft, about 5 minutes more. Add garlic and saute approximately 30 seconds or until garlic is fragrant. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients except beans and stir until smooth.

Add dried beans, onion/bacon mixture and the sauce to a large crockpot. Set the pot to high and cook 12 hours (or overnight) or until the beans are tender. If you like, season with salt and pepper to taste before serving, but I didn't find they needed either.

I served our beans tonight with grilled sausages and crisp slaw. It was the perfect Labor Day dinner.

Smoky Turkey Patties a la Saucy Mama

This is a recipe I have promised for awhile. It's a take-off of a Rachel Ray recipe that I have made many times. Rachel serves her patties on generously buttered white toast. I serve mine on buns (for guests), in a low carb warp (for me), or just plain (for the family). I had some patties frozen from the last batch I made, so tonight I served them in a whole wheat low carb wrap with some spring greens and a quick sauce made from some of my Saucy Mama goodies. Enjoy.

Smoky Turkey Patties a la Saucy Mama

1 lb lean ground turkey
1 T paprika
1 T grill seasoning (I use Montreal Steak Spice)
1 T dry parsley
1/2 small yellow onion, grated fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T extra virgin olive oil.

Heat griddle or non-stick pan over high heat. While pan is heating, mix all burger ingredients gently. Form 4 patties with the mix. Place patties on hot pan and cook until no longer pink, approximately 5 minutes per side. Serve as directed above or in a whole wheat tortilla with a dollop on Saucy Mama sauce and spring greens.

Saucy Mama Sauce (makes scant 3/4 cup)

1/2 C good quality mayonnaise
3 T Saucy Mama Chipotle Mustard
3 T red pepper jelly

All all ingredients to a small bowl and mix to combine.

Here's the sauce with some carrots as a dip - yummy.

Let the games begin!

I went to the office today and came home exhausted (full disclosure - I went to the office exhausted!). Let me tell you, nothing perks me up more than finding a HUGE box of goodies waiting for me in the dining room.

I am entered into a Food Blogger contest being run by the nice folks at Saucy Mama. They have asked 50 food bloggers to review their products and come up with creative ways to use them. Well now, that sounds right up my ally, doesn't it?

The following products arrived at my house this afternoon: Lime Chipotle Marinade, Hot Wing Sauce, Sweet Onion Marinade, Cracked Pepper Marinade, Chipotle Mustard and Jalapeno Stuffed Olives. In keeping in the spirit of this blog, I have checked the ingredient list and there is no HFCS or other weird chemicals in the products. A few (Lime Chipotle Marinade, Hot Wing Sauce and Cracked Pepper Marinade) are a bit high on sodium, so my challenge will be to use them sparingly while getting good flavor from the product and keeping the overall sodium content of the dish reasonable. Further, I need to put there recipes together within the next month. I can't wait to see what comes out of my kitchen in the ensuing few weeks. Stay tuned everyone ......

Oh, and by the way, the first person who comments on this post either on the blog or via Facebook wins a selection of tasty Saucy Mama products from me to you. Who will be the first?

More salad....Classic Italian with Creamy Basil and Romano dressing

Tonight I made the kids and Chris Italian sausages (organic, from the farmer's market of course!) with steamed broccoli for dinner. Mmmmmm.....those sausages smelled so goooooood. But alas, while staring at the four lovely, grease covered links I thought about my daily intake of veggies. Basically, it was non-existent, unless you count the red pepper hummus I had while lunching with the kids at Target. No chicken/fennel/greasy goodness for me tonight. Tonight I need salad.

Since the house was full of Italian yumminess, I decided on a classic Italian salad. I had all the greenery fixings, but lacked a substantial dressing. I sat for a moment and started dreaming about my favorite Italian salad - the house salad at Ledo Pizza. Ledo makes this yum, yum, yummy Romano Cheese and Herb salad dressing. Could I replicate it with what I had in the fridge. I was about to find out.

Here is what I came up with from the available fixings in my fridge and pantry. It isn't quite Ledo pizza dressing, but it was close and tasted pretty darned good.

Creamy Basil and Romano Dressing (makes about 1 1/4 cups)
1/2 C good quality mayonnaise
1/4 C buttermilk
1/4 C fresh basil leaves
1/4 C grated Romano cheese (parm would be good too)
1 t dried Italian seasoning blend
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 t seasoned salt blend (or salt and pepper)

Add all ingredients to a food processor and blitz until basil is finely minced.

Here's the salad all dressed. It includes romaine hearts, grape tomatoes, red onion and a few pieces of salami wrapped in low sodium provolone. Yum.

The not too bad for you Everything Cookie

I have had the worst sweet tooth lately. I am having a hard time keeping my hands out of the cookie jar, so today I decided to whip up something that I could feel not too bad about eating. I found a recipe on a nice blog called Healthy Endeavors and adapted it to what I had in my cupboard. Here is what I came up with.

Everything Cookie - makes 40

1 C organic rolled oats
1 C spelt or whole grain whole wheat flour
1 C almond meal
1/4 C shredded coconut
1/4 C raisins
1/4 C grain sweetened chocolate chips
1/4 C chopped walnuts
1/2 t salt
1/2 C agave nectar
1/2 C canola oil
1/2 t vanilla

Heat oven to 350. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Mix dry ingredients in large bowl and set aside. Mix wet ingredients in small bowl. Combine wet and dry ingredients and stir to combine.

Form 1" balls of dough and place them on cookie sheet. Press down with your hand or the bottom of a glass to flatten cookie. Bake approximately 12 minutes or until lightly golden brown.

A serving of 2 cookies (35 grams) is 169 calories, 2.5 g of sugar and 1.5 g of fiber. Not too bad when you compare these cookies to a similar serving of Chips Ahoy (40 grams) with 190 calories, 13 g of sugar and 1g of fiber.

(And, BTW, even my oldest, who hates coconut, liked these. Go me!)

Chocolate Zucchini Bread - yum!

I read a wonderful blog called Kalyn's Kitchen on an almost daily basis. Kalyn blogs on South Beach diet recipes, so her recipes generally fit into my eating plan. She bakes on a regular basis and yesterday's post made me drool - Chocolate Zucchini Bread (I love all things chocolate AND zucchini).

Now, Kalyn, being a South Beach enthusiast, bakes with a lot of Splenda. I don't use Splenda because it tastes gross and leaves a bitter aftertaste. When I looked at her recipe, I realized there was very little liquid in it, so agave nectar would work well as a replacement. I also decided to give the bread a little nutritional boost by replacing half of the whole wheat flour with almond meal. The resulting bread is yum, yum, yummy and the texture is perfect.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread (makes 12 generous servings)
2 eggs
1/2 C light agave nectar
1/2 C dark agave nectar
5 T canola oil
1 t vanilla
1/4 C buttermilk (or make your own with 1/4 t white vinegar added to 1/4 C milk)
1 1/2 C grated zucchini (about 1 large zucchini)
1/2 C almond meal
1/2 C whole grain whole wheat flour
1 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
1/2 C cocoa powder
1/4 t salt
3/4 C chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F/175C. Spray a loaf pan with nonstick spray and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the eggs, agave, brown sugar, oil, vanilla, and buttermilk. Stir in the grated zucchini. Set aside.

In a larger bowl, mix together the flour, almond meal, baking soda, baking powder, unsweetened cocoa powder, and salt. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and stir just enough to combine. Then fold in chopped walnuts.

Scrape the batter into loaf pan that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean. Let bread cool in the pan, then slice and serve.

Another quick dinner idea

Today I ran into my friend Stephanie at Trader Joe's. She wanted to know what was in my cart as she was needing inspiration for her dinner. Unfortunately, I had just walked in the door so I only had a few things in the cart to share with her. I did, however, tell her what sorts of things I typically serve in the summer to make meal prep as quick as possible.

My summer meals tend to be easy things that I can slap on the grill (or George Foreman) and serve with a side of whatever is in the fridge. Ground meat is a staple protein in the summer, as are boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Tonight I went with the later.

Here is my dinner tonight, which is a total throwback to the 90's. I whipped up some Roasted Red Pepper Aioli a few weeks ago and my family has been immersed in the land of big hair and high waisted jeans since then. We have eaten a few recipes worth and it is a hit every time I serve it. BTW, the aioli is good as a dip with veggies or in most sandwiches or wraps. It was particularly good with a smokey chicken burger recipe that I made last week. Stay tuned for that recipe.

Chicken and Roasted Red Pepper Sandwich (serves 2)

1 large boneless skinless chicken breast, butterflied and pounded thin
1 large tomato, sliced
1 C spinach leaves, washed and dried
salt and pepper to taste
2 T Roasted Red Pepper Aioli (recipes follows)
2 buns, toasted or other bread of choice (I used TJ's Whole Wheat Tuscan Pane - thanks for the tip Stephanie)

Heat BBQ, George Foreman Grill or grill pan over high heat.

While the cooker is heating, liberally season your chicken breasts with salt and pepper. When the grill is hot, add chicken and cook until done (4 - 7 minutes, depending).

While the chicken is cooking, toast your bun or bread and set aside.

When chicken is done, remove to plate to cool. Begin assembling sandwich by spreading 1 T of the aioli on the bun. Next, layer 1/2 C spinach and 1/2 of the tomato on the bread. Top with 1/2 of the cooked chicken and the top layer of bread.

Roasted Red Pepper Aioli (makes approx 1 cup)

1 C good quality mayonnaise
2 large jarred roasted red peppers
1 large garlic clove
salt and pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to food processor. Pulse until garlic and peppers are smooth and the mixture is well combined.

A shout out to Wendy part 3 - Easy Limeade in a Hurry

Here's another one Wendy. This was inspired by the beautiful limes in my fruit bowl and my kids whining about not getting soda. Two minutes later they were happily slurping down this quick and much-better-for-them-than-soda limeade. It is light and refreshing. Enjoy.

Easy Limeade in a Hurry
(makes 1 serving)
1/2 lime, scrubbed clean
1 T light agave syrup (or to taste)
1 1/2 C sparking water
Crushed ice

Squeeze lime juice directly into serving glass. Add agave syrup and mix well, Add crushed ice and sparkling water. Stir to combine. Garnish with lime slice and enjoy.

A shout out to Wendy part 2 - My favorite quick summer breakfast

OK Wendy, here's more for you. This is disturbingly easy, but sometimes we need to be reminded that good food can be simple. This is my favorite summer breakfast, especially when the fruit is ripe and delicious. Every time I have this for breakfast, I hum the Summer Fruit jingle from the early 80's ("Summer, summer fruits, it wouldn't be summer without them...Fresh from the tree...Taste 'em and see."). See if you aren't moved to hum the same tune when you try this.

Summer Fruit Yogurt Parfait (makes one generous serving)

1 C organic, plain yogurt (YES, use PLAIN yogurt. Do not use that sugar sweetened junk that the store tries to pass off as yogurt.)
1 C fresh fruit (I used strawberries and blueberries, but any berry or stone fruit is good)
1 - 2 T chopped nut of choice (I used walnuts)
Drizzle of agave syrup

Add yogurt to bowl. Top with fruit and nuts. Drizzle agave syrup over top. Enjoy immediately (I dare you to make it to the table without trying it first!)

A shout out to Wendy - a quick and easy healthy dinner

My friend Wendy is looking for quick and easy healthy meal ideas. Here is my shout out to her. This is actually what we ate for dinner last night. It was quick, easy and healthy. I served it to the kids with a quick, fresh fruit freeze (one peach, one cup strawberries, 1 1/2 cups chopped ice and 1 cup no sugar added fruit juice, all whirred up in the blender). They are yummy.

Quick and Easy Turkey Soft Tacos
(makes 8)

1 lb. ground turkey
3 heaping T homemade taco seasoning
1/2 t salt
1 C cooked black beans (if you use canned, rinse well)
3/4 C prepared tomato or marinara sauce
1/4 C water
8 low carb or whole wheat tortillas (I used Carb Balance by Mission)
Taco toppings as you like (we used shredded cabbage, no-salt added salsa, yogurt - the kids got shredded cheese)

Brown turkey in large skillet over medium high heat. Add taco seasoning, salt and black beans. Stir well to combine.

Once well mixed, add tomato sauce and water. Simmer for 10 minutes or until flavors are well combined.

Serve as directed above with your favorite taco toppings.

Fresh Peach "Milkshake" (aka Smoothy)

I am lucky. My children are still at an age where I can successfully lie to them when it is appropriate to do so. Tonight, they requested cereal for dinner. Since this is a non-meal in my opinion (cereal, by its very nature, is heavily processed and therefore not good for you) I wanted them to have something healthy to go with it. I made them Fresh Peach "Milkshakes" to go along with their dinner and they were delighted.

I can usually get away with calling a smoothy a milkshake when the fruit is sweet and super ripe. My kids can easily sniff out yogurt in the mix if I am using frozen or not quite ripe produce. Since my fruit bowl is over-flowing at the moment, I knew I would be able to pull it off today.

Everyone enjoyed the "milkshakes" tonight without question.

Fresh Peach "Milkshake" (makes 2)

3 small, very ripe peaches, pitted and peeled
1 C chopped ice
1 C whole milk plain yogurt
1/2 C 1% milk
1 T agave nectar (to taste as the sweetness of your fruit demands)

Add all ingredients to blender and mix well to combine.

Lentil and Black Bean Salad

This recipe is similar to Penny's Brown Rice Salad in flavor, but features lentils instead of brown rice. Lentils are packed with fiber and protein, so this would be an excellent vegetarian main course.

Lentil and Black Bean Salad
(makes 12 servings)

3 C cooked lentils
1 15-oz can of reduced sodium black beans, well rinsed
1 medium red onion, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 large zucchini, diced
2 T dried parsley
1 C olive oil
juice of one lemon
2 T cider vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
1 1/2 t ground cumin
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Mix first 6 ingredients in large bowl. In a jar with a tight fitting lid, add next 6 ingredients and shake well to combine. Pour over salad and toss lightly. Add salt and pepper to taste.

The Salad Days of Summer

Today I hosted Cooking Club. The idea behind cooking club is simple: get a few like-minded Moms together, plan a menu, meet at a rotating house and cook together. At the end of the morning, you have dinner all prepared and have you spent a lovely morning hanging out with the girls.

Usually the Club makes an entire meal: protein, starch, veggie and sometimes desert. As summer is now upon us, I wanted to switch things up a bit. Today we made a weeks worth of salads and sides.

The first two receipes are tried and true, old standbys for me. I love them both. I hope the Cooking Club ladies and everyone else enjoys them.

Penny's Brown Rice Salad
(Note: I always switch up the veggies in this salad, but keep the rice/bean/dressing ratio the same)

2 C cooked beans (black, kidney, pinto, etc.)
3 C cooked brown rice
4 green onions, sliced
2 stalks celery
1 small red onion, diced
1 small zucchini, diced
1/4 C canola oil
1/4 C lime juice
1 T white vinegar
1 t chili powder
1 t cumin
1 t sugar
1/2 t salt
1/4 t black pepper

Gently mix the rice, beans and veggies in a bowl. In a seperate bowl, add the remaining ingredients and mix to combine. Pour dressing over salad and toss.

Couscous Salad with Feta and Artichokes
(Pictured above with the addition of tomato, chick peas and crushed pita chips )

1 1/2 C dry couscous, prepared according to package directions
1 can artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and chopped
6 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1/3 C chopped fresh herbs (basil, parsley, dill -- whatever you have on hand)
juice of one lemon
1/2 C olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Add couscous, artichokes, cheese and herbs to large bowl and toss to combine. In a seperate bowl, add lemon juice, olive oil and seasonings and mix. Combine salad and dressing and serve as is or with additions mentioned above (also excellent with chicken).

Grilled Marinated Zucchini

1 1/3 C olive oil
1/3 C red wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic
3/4 t Italian seasoning blend
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 C Parmesean cheese
3 zucchini, washed and sliced thin

Add all ingredients, except zucchini, to bowl and mix well to combine. Add zucchini to bowl or plastic bag and pour dressing over. Marinate in refregerator for at least one hour. Heat grill or broiler to high. Grill or broil for 3 - 5 minutes per side or until browned and tender. Serve as is or topped with additional cheese.

In addition to these recipes, we also made:

Homemade Bleu Cheese Dressing
Homemade Caeser Dressing

Apricot Strawberry Salsa

Last night I made mexican-seasoned chicken breasts (boneless skinless checken breasts seasoned liberally with homemade taco seasoning, sprinkled with salt and grilled). I have lots of chicken left over and I needed something to go with it (BTW, last night I turned my chicken into quesadillas with grilled peppers and onions in a low-carb tortilla). I dug into my fridge today and came up with this. It's yummy.

Apricot Strawberry Salsa (makes 4 cups)

1 lb fresh apricots, seeded and diced
1/4 lb strawberries, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped fine
2 T fresh parsley, chopped (or cilantro, if you have it)
zest of one lime
juice of one lime
2 T red onion, chopped fine
1 T olive oil
pinch cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to bowl and toss to combine. If this will sit for longer than a few hours, reserve strawberries and add right before serving.

Here it is in all of its glory, served over a seasoned chicken breast with quick sauteed zucchini and avacado.

An interesting twist on slaw

In an attempt to expand my salad green repertoire, I purchased a bag a pre-shredded green cabbage at Trader Joe's a few weeks ago. I figured since salad is all about the crunch for me (and since raw cabbage is so crunchy), that throwing a handful or two of cabbage into my salad mix would be a good way to get a nice dose of Vitamin C in my diet without trying (cabbage is LOADED with the stuff).

That experiment proved pretty successful except for the fact that my pre-shredded cabbage started turning brown after about 2 days in my fridge. What is a girl to do with an almost full bag of shredded cabbage? I could have made cole slaw, which I do love, but I just wasn't in the mood for it that afternoon. Instead, I decided to dive into the fridge, pull out whatever sounded good, and start making a salad. The result was so good that we have eaten it once a week for the last three weeks running. Tonight I served this with cheese toast made with sprouted grain bread and unsweetened iced tea. If sugar is a real issue for you, you can skip the raisins, but they were a nice addition. Plus, there is so much other good stuff going on in this salad that I didn't worry about it. Enjoy.

Fruit and Nut Bleu Cheese Slaw (makes 2 generous portions)

3 C shredded green cabbage or packaged cole slaw mix
scant 1/3 C raisins
1 large apple, chopped (unpeeled)
2 T chopped walnuts or sunflower seeds

Add all ingredients except nuts to bowl and toss to combine. To serve, spoon onto serving dish and sprinkle with nut of choice.

A shout out to Ange

I am posting this link on the Saltiest Foods in America as a shout out to Ange. Please read it - its shocking the amount of sodium in restaurant foods. I won't tell you how many of these atrocious meals have passed my lips in the past, but I guarantee they won't in the future.


Also, I highly recommend getting yourself on their email list. They email me a new health and nutrition article every few days and they are enlightening.

Why do we buy pre-made salad dressing?

The longer I continue this clean eating experiment, the more mystified I am at our collective buying habits. This morning I made bleu cheese dressing and it took all of 3 minutes to whip up the batch. Why in the world did I ever buy the pre-made, highly processed, junk laden stuff before? There is absolutely no reason to buy the processed junk when it is so easy to make at home.

As you can see, my fridge currently contains 3 salad dressings, all homemade. The bleu cheese is in the large container at the rear. The other two are recipes already posted (buttermilk ranch and classic cobb dressing).

Bleu Cheese Dressing (makes approx 3 cups)

3/4 c mayonnaise
1/4 c milk (or half and half)
3/4 c sour cream
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 T white wine vinegar
1 T dried parsley
1/4 t black pepper
1/2 t salt
6 oz crumbled bleu cheese

Add all ingredients, except cheese, to a bowl and whisk to combine. Add bleu cheese and toss gently. Pour into storage container and refrigerate until ready to use. Keeps up to 2 weeks in refrigerator.

Sometimes I get it right...Apple Banana Pineapple Cake with Mascarpone Cream Frosting

Last night my husband chewed me out. "You NEVER buy dessert anymore! What is the problem? I keep asking for some dessert. Buy some d**n dessert!"

He's right, I don't buy dessert anymore. I don't eat it (I am not that virtuous - I eat dark chocolate and almonds if I need a sweet fix) and he doesn't need it. He has been begging me for months to bring him a cake, a pie, anything really, but I have resisted.

After the confrontation last night I promised him I would make him a sweet treat tonight. I had intended to make a Gluten-Free Banana Walnut Cake, but in the spirit of cleaning out my fridge/pantry (in anticipation of moving), I realized mid way through the recipe that I didn't have everything needed. OK, time to improvise. I think I am getting good at this improvising thing, because this turned out pretty good. Even David, who is suspicious of anything that looks remotely healthy, gave this cake a huge thumbs up as he shoved this entire piece into his mouth in one bite.

Score one for Mommy.

Apple Banana Pineapple Cake (serves 20)

1/2 c dark agave nectar (or honey)
1/3 c canola oil
3/4 c mashed banana (about 2)
3/4 c unsweetened applesauce
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 t vanilla
2 t fresh squeezed orange juice
1 t orange zest
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour (make sure it is whole grain)
3/4 c almond meal
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1 t baking soda
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 c crushed pineapple
3/4 c walnuts, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350. Line 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine agave and oil. Cream until light. Add banana, applesauce and beat until mixed well. Add eggs, vanilla, orange juice and zest. Mix until combined. Add all dry ingredients and stir until smooth. Add pineapple and nuts and mix gently to combine.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes in the pan, then lift out using parchment paper and allow to cool completely.

To serve, cut into squares and frost liberally with Mascarpone Cream Frosting.

Mascarpone Cream Frosting (makes 4 cups)

6 oz mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
3 T agave nectar (or honey)
1 t vanilla (or vanilla powder)
1 c heavy cream, chilled

Mix first three ingredients in small bowl until well combined. Set aside. In a large bowl, whip heavy cream until firm peak form. Add cheese to cream and mix lightly to combine. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

The perfect low GI summer salad - the classic Cobb

Today was cooking club and as I was the host, I got to choose the menu. We made the following:

1. Classic Cobb Salad
2. Cream of Fresh Tomato Soup
3. Good for You Zucchini Muffins (basically this recipe, but swap out 3/4 C of almond meal for the white flour)

Here is the Cobb Salad recipe that we made:

Classic Cobb Salad (serves 8)

1 head iceberg lettuce, washed and chopped
8 cups arugula, washed
2 small heads of romaine lettuce, washed and chopped
1 lb grape tomatoes
3/4 lb bacon, fried, drained and chopped
4 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
8 hard boiled eggs, chopped
4 small avocados, diced
2 cups crumbled blue cheese
2 cups (approx) Cobb Salad Dressing (see below)

Mix lettuces together. Add dressing, to taste, and toss to combine. Arrange in large salad bowl or plate.

Arrange remaining ingredients in strips on top of the greens and enjoy.

Cobb Salad Dressing (makes approx 3 cups)

1/2 C water
1/2 C red wine vinegar
1/2 T sugar
2 t freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 T + 1 t salt
1 1/2 t pepper
1 1/2 t Worcestershire sauce
1/2 t dry mustard
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 C olive oil
1 C canola oil.

Add all ingredients in large jar or other container and blend well. Mix before serving.

My Polyface Beauty (or Don't Hate Me Because I Live in Virginia)

This morning I roasted off this beautiful bird straight from Polyface Farms. Yes, my foodie friends, THAT Polyface Farms!

For those of you who don't know about Polyface Farms, Joel Salatin and his farm are rock stars in the sustainable, organic, holistic food community. Salatin has written a number of books (of which we own 3: Holy Cows and Hog Heaven , Family Friendly Farming and You Can Farm.) They have been featured in The Omnivore's Dilemma and the movies Food Inc. and Fresh.

We recently discovered that we live within Polyface's 4-Hour "foodshed" and therefore could join their buying club. Yippee! I picked up my first order the morning after I arrived home from California and this bird was in the batch. Isn't it lovely?

This will be dinner for the hubby and kids tonight while I am out eating a decidedly-less organic dinner with the MOMS Club girls. But hopefully there will be leftovers for me for lunch tomorrow.

Simple Roast Chicken

1 3-4 pound organic chicken
1 lemon, cut into quarters
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/2 t dried rosemary
1 T olive oil

Preheat oven to 350. Place chicken in baking dish. Place lemons in cavity. Sprinkle with herbs and olive oil. Rub chicken to evenly coat. Roast for 45 - 60 minutes or until juices run clear.

(BTW, I took a small bite of the bird and it was amazing. God Bless you Joel.)

Decisions, decisions....

Tonight was salad night at our house. I had intended to try a recipe for Cafe Rio Creamy Tomatillo Dressing that I found online at a great blog called Kalyn's Kitchen. In order to make it, I needed to make a Buttermilk Ranch dressing first, as the Tomatillo dressing using it as a base. So, after making both dressings my kids informed me that they would not, under any circumstances, eat their chicken tenders with anything other than Honey Mustard. Of course, I was out of that so made yet another dressing for the table.

All of these were good, but the Tomatillo is especially nice. If you prefer, you can use a pre-made ranch dressing as the base (but homemade is much better for you.)

Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing (adapted from this recipe at Simply Recipes)

1 c buttermilk
1 c mayonnaise
1 t lemon juice
1/4 t paprika
1/4 t mustard powder
1/2 t salt
1/8 t black pepper
1 t dried parsley
1 t dried dill (or dill/lemon mix)
1 green onion, sliced
Add all ingredients to food processor or blender and process until smooth.
Makes about 2 cups. Keeps for a week, covered in the fridge.

Cafe Rio Creamy Tomatillo Dressing (adapted from Kalyn's Kitchen)

2 c prepared Ranch Dressing
1 small bunch cilantro, large stems removed (about 1/2 cup chopped cilantro)
2 large or 4 small tomatillos
1/2 t minced garlic
2 T lime juice
1 t green tobasco sauce

Add all ingredients to food processor or blender and process until smooth.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups. Keeps for a week, covered in the fridge.

Quick Honey Mustard Dressing (My kids eat this stuff by the boatload. They dip anything and everything into it and I bet they would eat it by the spoonful if I let them.)

2 c mayonnaise
3 T prepared mustard
3 T honey or agave nectar

Add all ingredients to a bowl and whisk to combine.

Makes about 2 cups. Keeps for one week, covered in the fridge.

Frosted Sugar Free Oat and Walnut Cookies

So I am finally back at it in the kitchen and decided that we needed cookies. Yes folks, sometimes you just need a cookie. But in the spirit of taking care of myself I have attempted a sugar free cookie. There is nothing synthetic or fake about these cookies and they are pretty decent. They are an amalgum of two recipes: the cookie are adapted from a recipe in Baking with Agave Nectar and the frosting is a modification of a frosting from a neat-o blog called Simply Sugar and Gluten Free. Enjoy.

Frosted Sugar Free Oat and Walnut Cookies (Makes 28)

1/2 C firm tofu
1 T water
1/2 C butter
1 C dark agave nectar
1 t vanilla
1 C sprouted spelt flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t cloves
1/2 t nutmeg
3 C rolled oats
1 c walnuts, chopped

Preheat open to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Add tofu and water to a food processor and pulse until pureed smooth. Set aside.

Add butter, agave and vanilla to bowl and mix with hand mixer until fluffy (about 1 minute). Add tofu and blend well. Add remaining ingredients and mix well to combine.

Drop batter by heaping tablespoons onto prepared baking sheet and flatten with the back of a spoon. Bake until lightly golden brown (about 12 - 15 minutes). Remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Eat cookies plain (Chris' preference) or frost with the following tart frosting (note that Chris wants more agave next time, but I like it as is):

4 oz cream cheese at room temperature
1 t dark agave nectar
1/2 t vanilla
pinch salt
1/2 C cold heavy cream

Whisk cream cheese, vanilla, agave and salt until smooth and light. In a seperate bowl, mix heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Stir 1/4 of the stiffened cream ino the cream cheese mixture. Gently fold the remaining cream into cheese mix until combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.

On life, death and honoring oneself

Sorry to everyone for not blogging much this month. I have been busy - spring break, house hunting, MOMS Club, etc. I find I am on the computer a lot but never with enough time to actually put two thoughts together let alone write them down.

With our impending, unwanted move comes a lot of stress. And when I am in a stressful situation, I can easily slip back into unhealthy habits. I have been eating terribly these last few weeks and finally realized it a few days ago when I realized that not one single fruit nor vegetable had passed my lips the entire day. Seriously - not one bite of anything good and healthy for me. And when I thought about it, I realized how poorly I felt.

Light bulb.

I realized that I had been eating these last few weeks out of stress, not to nourish myself. It's funny really, since I actually knew it all along (I can rationalize eating or doing anything I want - I am a reasonable intelligent person after all.) I recalled so many instances of me thinking "Oh, just one meal of (insert toxic food here)" or "I know I shouldn't eat (sugary substance) but once won't hurt". For some reason I was making excuses for my poor behaviour while actively engaged in it. I was acting just like my kids when I ask them to put their toys away and they ignore me.

I decided that I needed to get back on the wagon and start treating myself right. I was energized, ready, confident that I could tackle the challenge. And then I found out that Elise died.

Elise is a friend from high school who suddenly passed away on Monday. I haven't spoken with her in years, but somehow her sudden passing has really thrown me for a loop. I have lost classmates to chronic disease and to accidents, but Elise just died. She went to bed and didn't wake up in the morning.

Oh sweet Jesus.

Initially I wasn't too upset about Elise, other than to be worried about friends who were closer to her. I processed her passing ("Oh, how sad.") and then I said to Daniel "let's get donuts this morning!". We then trotted off to have a breakfast of donuts and biscuits and anything else greasy and toxic we could bet our hands on. While at breakfast I kept thinking "stop! stop! stop!" but was somehow powerless. We ate our fill and when done, I actually thought I might get sick (and to be honest, I didn't eat all that much). Yuck.

It's now 48 hours later and I have had a bit of time to sit and think about the last few weeks and more importantly, the last few days. Why was I so upset about Elise (did I mention that I have burst into tears 3 times since Monday?) What made me treat myself so poorly? What can I take away from this?

Elise was a bit of a lost soul. She wanted so much to be loved and accepted that she made life choices that I found dangerous and therefore couldn't approve of. To anyone on the outside, Elise has quick to laugh and always so elegantly put together. But I know to herself, she was never quite good enough, smart enough or worthy of attention. She thought that she was utterly unloved yet so many of us are rattled by her passing. This discord between the inside and outside perceptions got me thinking.

A lot of thoughts have been rattling around in my head, but mostly I have been wondering about why we don't honor ourselves more. What is it inside of us (or me or Elise really) that makes us think we are somehow not worthy of treating ourselves properly. For me, it is how I treat my body. I didn't start nourishing myself with food until I was 40 years old. I have periods where I completely abandon my resolve and eat like a 15 year old. Elise had a pattern of entering into seriously unhealthy relationships that lead to a whole host of problems (and who knows, possibly her death). Why?

For someone who has a reasonably healthy level of self-esteem, I don't know what the answer is.

I also wondered if we do not honor ourselves by treating ourselves well, are we thereby not honoring God? What I mean by that is if we are not taking care of ourselves, are we then unable to reach our full potential as God as designed for us? I haven't thought this one entirely out yet, but my gut tells me that if we are not striving to be exactly who God meant for us to be, then we may be on the path to losing Him. That is beyond frightening for me.

So then, where am I at 48 hours later?

Well, I am shaken for sure but I am also resolved. Resolved to continue on the path to good health in all of its forms (eating right, sleeping well, loving my family more, etc.) I owe it to myself. I am worthy of being treated right. Elise was too. I am just sad that she never realized it.

Smokey Sweet Potato Hash Browns with Eggs and Bacon

One of the first things I did when I switched to a low GI way of eating is to swap out sweet potatos for regular spuds. Sweet potatos are lower on the glycemic index (between 40 and 90, depending on preparation) then their white fleshed counterparts (between 60 - 98)and are chock full of vitamins A and C and fiber. I try to incorporate them into our diet at least once per week.

I was in search of a new sweet potato recipe that I could incorporate into our dining routine that is made with pantry/fridge staples. This is what I came up with. Chris ate this and all I heard was "mmmmm....mmmmm....mmmmm...." coming from his direction. That's when I knew I had a winner of a dish.

Smokey Sweet Potato Hash Browns with Eggs and Bacon serves 4

4 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
1 large onion, diced
1 pound sweet potatos, peeled and grated
1/2 t paprika
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t black pepper
4 eggs

Heat large skillet to medium high. Add bacon and fry until browned and crisp, about 8 - 10 minutes. Removed bacon to a paper-towel lined plate to drain and reserve. Pour bacon drippings into a heat-proof bowl and reserve.

Add 2 T of bacon drippings to pan and heat over medium-high. Add onions and fry until soft, about 4 minutes. Add sweet potatos, paprika, garlic powder and pepper. Fry, stirring often, until soft and warm (about 15 minutes.) Remove from pan and set aside.

In the same pan, add 1 T bacon grease. Crack eggs into pan and fry over medium heat to desired doneness.

To serve, spoon has browns onto serving plate. Top with one fried egg and sprinkle with cooked bacon.