Friday, May 25, 2012

Foodie Friday Meal Plan 5/28-6/3

Normally, we enjoy at least three nights of meatless meals, but this week you will notice that there are only two meatless dinners and one seafood. I felt like we needed some fish fats and got a little carried away when planning my meat lover meals, so alas...this is what resulted. The salmon dish was still light and healthy, so I'm happy with the plan overall. How often do you eat meat, fish, and vegetarian meals? 

A personal note - if ever you see things like sugar, margarine, white flour, "lowfat," or "nonfat" in any of the recipes I link, please be assured that I only use the REAL FOOD equivalents, meaning non-processed, unrefined, whole wheat, and full fat.  

As usual, the recipes can be found here.

Turkey Pesto Meatloaf (my husband, who typically doesn't like pesto, loved every bit of this meal)
Green and Clean Pesto Lentil Patties
Fennel Gratin

Vegetarian Gumbo in the Crock Pot (who doesn't love a set-it-and-forget-it meal?)
Steamed Brown Rice
Savory Southern Collard Greens with Turnips


BBQ Baked Beans with Sausage (I used a delicious rabbit, pork, and ginger sausage made by D'Artagnan that I picked up during the Go France Week at HEB Central Market)
Zucchini Squash and Broccoli Bake
Homemade Whole Wheat Bread with Garlic and Parmesan 


Seared Salmon with Smoky Kale and White Beans (Can you tell I've recently discovered how to do effects on my smart phone camera? They make my food look extra purdy)
Artichokes with Spaghetti


Whole Chicken in a Crock Pot (I made the chicken the day before and just shredded up some of the meat for this meal...make sure to save the bones for future stock!)
Brussel Sprouts with Sherry Asiago Cream Sauce
Portabello Mushroom Cap Stuffed with Spinach and Goat Cheese



Squash, Chickpea, and Red Lentil Stew (again, who doesn't love a good crock pot meal??)
Crispy Brussels Sprouts


Pork Steaks with Roasted Squash Salsa
Cheesy Butternut Squash and Cauliflower Casserole (the recipe linked is vegan, but I have a fear - some say irrational - of vegan cheese, so I used the real stuff...a combo of cheddar and parm with heavy cream)
Potato Parmesan Bites
Endive Salad

Breakfasts/Culinary Lessons

Hooray for killing two birds with one stone...

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pecan Chocolate Chip Muffins

Summer Squash and Berry Bread (squash is aplenty this time of year, so we used a combo of yellow, zucchini, and magda squashes)



Wednesday, May 23, 2012

If You've Got It, Flaunt It

There I sat, staring down my stubborn toddler, playing a game of dinner time chicken. She wouldn't budge and while my husband had already cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher, I was determined to not let her get the best of me. "As God as my witness, this child will eat that broccoli floret," I muttered to myself. But, as steely as my resolve was, she, as always, persevered. "Fine, put your plate in the sink"...I felt defeated and exhausted. I knew I had made a huge mistake by giving in to microwaveable meals and canned spaghetti, and I was so motivated to right my wrongs. Unfortunately, she was just as motivated to wear me down and get her way.

The failed Brussels sprout experiment

Sound familiar? I know of not one parent who hasn't dealt with this situation, played on repeat for at least a year. Many have reached the point, like I had, where they began to dread dinner time all because they felt like their kids should look at bright orange crunchy carrots with glee. So what are health-conscious parents of notoriously headstrong and picky toddlers to do? "Hide" those veggies!

I've read all the criticism, I've heard all the negative remarks. "Children should know what they're eating and learn to like vegetables for what they are or they'll never develop a habit of eating them on their own." I call shenanigans on that school of thought.

Mac n cheese using pureed carrots, corn, and pumpkin.

I think just about every food out there has the capacity to be eaten a variety of ways, from savory to sweet, grilled to fried. To me, it became about highlighting a vegetable's range, respecting the fact that my child is an independent being with her own preferences, and ultimately getting creative. While I like squash sauteed with bacon and garlic, my child clearly did not. So why not make the squash the star of something she will eat  and enjoy, like a muffin or a sweet bread? I don't think of that as hiding the vegetable at all, I just think it's a good way to repurpose something healthy into something that is palatable to her (and still nutritious).

P adding pureed beets to waffle batter.
Though I didn't initially broadcast it to her that she was eating something like a spinach and carrot brownie, we did ease our way into a more open and honest policy. She's now my little kitchen assistant, watching me as I grate zucchini for chocolate muffins or pressing the button on the food processor to make chocolate pudding made with dates and avocados. And you know what? Now she requests carrots in her school lunch and brags to anyone who will listen about how she's eating her greens inside her muffin. Tell me what's so wrong about that?

Everything is better when mixed with chocolate!

Monday, May 21, 2012

How does your garden grow?

Slowly but it is growing!  My oldest son checks it everyday.  He can't wait until we can eat our first vegetables from it.  There are a couple of seeds that don't seem to be growing (acorn squash, eggplant, and peppers). 

How is your garden growing?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Foodie Friday Meal Plan 5/21-5/27

This week, the meal plan is all over the map, from the Northeast (seafood chowder) and the South (cheesy grits) all the way to the Far East (tofu and soba noodles). I don’t ordinarily eat soy, but I do make an occasional exception when I’m in the mood and can find organic non-GMO tofu. If you are also soy-free, feel free to sub out mushrooms or even a meat or fish in place of the tofu in that recipe. 

Please note that, whenever feasible, I do NOT use canned foods. The only exceptions I make to this rule are pumpkin puree and coconut milk, but I ensure that they are organic/non-GMO in BPA-free cans. If you see a recipe which calls for canned tomatoes, just take the time to halve a few tomatoes and throw them in a blender to break them up. If the recipe calls for canned beans, just set your crock pot out overnight with dried beans and enough water to cover them by a few inches, then set it on low. Easy peasy, lemon're not just saving money, you're missing out on yucky chemicals and ingredients that aren't as fresh as they should be!

Bon appetit!!

As usual, the recipes can be found here.

Seafood Chowder


Quinoa Risotto (I used kale in place of spinach, which I wilted in a pan with coconut oil and a bit of stock)
Roasted Carrots with Thyme
Homemade No-Knead Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls

Honey Butter Pork Tenderloin (this was EVERYTHING pork tenderloin aspires to be - moist, juicy, well-seasoned!)
Salt & Vinegar Kale Mashed Potatoes
Steamed Broccoli
Corn, Tomato, and Arugula Salad

Sweet Potato and Kale Wraps
Whole Wheat Tortillas ( excuse to use my new favorite kitchen gadget, the tortilla press!)
Radish Salsa
Sliced Avocado


Quick Roasted Chicken Thighs
Whole Wheat Israeli Couscous with Peas (so...the recipe calls for saffron. But my bottomless ATM ran out - wouldn't ya know - so I just used turmeric)
Baby Greens Salad

Grilled Tofu with Summer Squash and Soba Noodles (sorry about the lack of photo...sometimes good food is just fug and there's nothing you can do about it)


Shrimp and Vegetable Saute with Cheesy Grits (for tips on the best kind of shrimp to get - for your health and the earth - click here)
Baby Greens and Strawberry Salad

Overnight Oats with Berries

Beet Pancakes (actually, we made waffles...for some reason they like those better)

Culinary Classes

Beet Pancakes

Milk Kefir with Strawberry and Blueberry Puree

Homemade Coconut Milk


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Beautiful and Delicious - Raw Carrot Cake Cupcakes!

Back in early April, I found myself in the midst of a week-long juice fast and yearning for its end. Just as I had read, the first few days of "withdrawal" (from hot foods, from foods that are crunchy or chewy, from whatever your food vices might be) are the absolute worst, but they get better. What doesn't ever wane, however, are the daydreams about what you will eat when you are on the other side of this commitment. I knew that I couldn't just jump right into a T-bone or tear open a bag of chips; it is strongly suggested that you ease your way back into solids, meats, dairy products, etc.

And eating raw isn't just good for juicing situations, it's good for you all the time. Did you know that your vegetables begin to lose their nutrients (you know, the reason you eat them in the first place) once they are heated above 118 degrees? Sure, wilted spinach with warm bacon vinaigrette is DIVINE, but so is a raw spinach salad with grated beets and strawberry slices!

I just so happened to time my fast for the week leading up to Easter so that I could celebrate the holiday with family without having to say "no thanks, I'm juicing" while everyone else made a b-line for the barbecue buffet at my husband's grandmother's home. I came across this recipe at just the right time. They're raw, so my system could easily digest them, and they looked mighty tasty. Plus, they have "kid-friendly" written all over them. 

So I gave the recipe a whirl. I have to admit, I was very nervous. I'm a sub-par baker, so you would think I would relish the opportunity to make cupcakes requiring no heat and minimal hand-mixing. But the lack of cook time threw me for a loop. However, I always love pulling out kitchen gadgets, so I was more than elated to be using my Cuisinart food processor to get these gems on a plate. (recipe adapted from 

Raw, Vegan & Gluten-Free Carrot Cake 
  • 2 cups shredded organic carrots  
  • 1/2 cup dates - soaked for one hour then drained, pits removed (about 6 dates)   
  • 1/2 cup walnuts  
  • 1/3 cup dried apricots - soaked for one hour then drained  
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut  
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened raisins 1 teaspoon cinnamon  
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg  
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger  
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract  
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest 
1. Grate shredded coconuts in a food processor then remove to bowl and set aside.

2. Put dates, walnuts, apricots and raisins into food processor and blend until combined, but not a paste. Then add coconut, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, vanilla, and orange zest and continue to process until well-incorporated.

3. Add carrots back to processor and blend further, until the mixture comes together. 

4. Fill muffin tin cups 2/3 full of the mixture, pressing the tops flat. Chill then top with frosting (recipe below) 

RAW Creamy Lemon Frosting 
  • ¾ cup cashews (soaked for 1 hour & drained)  
  • ¾ cup macadamia nuts  
  • ½ cup unsweetened organic coconut milk 
  • ½ cup 100% maple syrup  
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest 
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract 
  • ¼ teaspoon salt ½ cup organic unrefined virgin coconut oil, melted

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Dangers of Sunscreen

Sun Exposure, Vitamin D, and Sunscreen

Sunscreen is one of the most commonly used and trusted cosmetics used by parents.  But did you know the sunscreen you put on your and your precious children’s skin can actually cause more harm than good?  While they may prevent the redness and pain associated with sun burn, they may in fact increase your risk for skin cancer and may also disrupt the delicate hormonal balance in your body. 

Most conventional sunscreen products today contain harmful chemical ingredients that are dangerous and unsafe.  In 2007 the EWG (Environmental Working Group) published a
list of the ingredients found in many conventional sunscreen products and their harmful effects on humans.  It is a shocking list!  If you look on the ingredient list of most sunscreens available out there, most contain many of these ingredients. ( This entry from Wikipedia has a lot of great information about sunscreen and is very well cited and sourced.  Please take some time to read it.)

This upset me last summer.   I was researching ways to protect my new baby during a summer of days at the beach, lake, and on my in-laws’ boat out on the ocean.  I wanted to protect his delicate skin from sun damage but I wasn’t willing to use harmful chemical sunscreens to do it.  Before he was six months old I used loose-fitting long sleeves and long pants along with a wide-brimmed hat and kept him under an umbrella.  As he got older and wanted to crawl in the sand I wanted to be able to use sunscreen on him.  I did some research on the EWG website and found that California Baby Sunscreen, which is available at Target, was a safe and effective sunscreen.  Though expensive, I was willing to pay the high sticker price for this product (close to $20 in some stores) in order to keep my baby’s skin safe. 

This summer I have tried something new.  I have made my own sunscreen!  I wanted to save money but had no desire to sacrifice safety and efficacy.  I first heard about making my own cosmetics from some friends in a mothers’ group on Facebook.  After hearing the recommendations of other moms, I decided to try my hand at making my own sunscreen and other personal care products.  It has been a 100% successful endeavor!  Not only does it WORK, I know exactly what ingredients are in the sunscreen and I am perfectly confident that they are not only safe but beneficial to my family’s skin.  


Homemade Sunscreen Tutorial

You need to purchase a few ingredients before beginning with your sunscreen recipe.  There are a lot of recipes available out there on the web.  Some are so complex they have my head spinning, others are more simple like mine.  I wanted to keep things simple and easy when I made mine, so I started off with a very simple, easy recipe.  

Gather together your desired ingredients from all or a combination of the following: 
  • 100% pure zinc oxide powder (the only absolutely necessary ingredient) 
  • Carrier oil(s) such as but not limited to coconut oil, shea butter, sweet almond oil, jojoba oil,    etc. 
  • Beeswax 
  • Non-citrus essential oils

What this recipe basically consists of is a sunblock mixed with a carrier oil applied directly on the skin.  Zinc oxide is a total block when used undiluted on the skin meaning it completely blocks all sun rays by reflecting them away from the skin.  By mixing it with other ingredients you can control the SPF.  It protects from both UVA and UVB rays. For this reason you may want to consider allowing some sun exposure without sunscreen before sun burn occurs and before applying sunscreen.  More on that later.

Start by choosing your carrier oils.  I like any of the ones I listed above for different reasons.  Jojoba oil is incredibly luscious and very hydrating.  It makes your skin oh-so-soft and silky but it is also very expensive.  Shea butter is affordable and also very rich and moisturizing.  Coconut oil has many beneficial properties including antibacterial and antifungal properties.  It is very healthy and can help heal skin (not to mention it’s edible!).  Be sure to use only virgin, unrefined, organic coconut oil (and buy organic whenever possible of your other oils).   Sweet almond oil is commonly used by massage therapists and is inexpensive and effective.  I personally like to use a combination of shea butter and coconut oil.  I eventually plan to make a very small batch of sunscreen using jojoba oil for extra dry patches of skin.
In a double boiler, melt your carrier oils until homogenous.  Remove the bowl from the pot and whisk them together.  Add a few drops of your desired essential oils for scent (or omit for unscented lotion).  Add your desired amount of zinc oxide using this formula:  18.9% zinc oxide is SPF 32.  For my first batch I did one part shea butter, two parts coconut oil, and two parts zinc oxide.  This gave me 40% zinc oxide powder in my solution.  I calculated it out to be SPF 68 (40÷18.9=2.12, then 2.12x32=67.84).  This is what I used on my son for our first long day at the beach this spring.  We stayed out for 6 hours and he did not get even the slightest amount of sunburn.  I, on the other hand, waited two hours before applying my sunscreen and did get a little burned.  Oops.

I made a second batch of sunscreen a few weeks ago because I wanted to try a different recipe.  I had some beeswax on hand to use in making some different lotions and body butters and I had read that it can work by making the sunscreen water resistant.  So I wanted to try a slightly different recipe using beeswax and experimenting with a different combination of oils.

This time I used one part shea butter, one part coconut oil, one part almond oil, one part zinc oxide, and about 2 teaspoons of grated beeswax.  I melted the oils in the double boiler and then added the grated beeswax and stirred until it dissolved.  Then I whisked them all together and then whisked in the ZO powder.  Voila!  I opted not to add any essential oils because the beeswax made it smell delicious!  

Make sure to allow your concoctions to sit for at least 10 hours before using them They won’t settle into their more solid/semi-solid state for at least that long even if they are completely cooled.  The beeswax also helps the mixture to be more stable if you are using more liquidy oils such as jojoba or almond.  If 10 hours have passed and you find your recipe to be either too solid or too liquid, simply re-melt in the double boiler and adjust the ingredients to accommodate it.  I suppose you could even use olive oil though I have never tried it myself.

And now, as an end to my post about sunscreen and sun protection, please take a few minutes to read this article about Vitamin D and healthy sun exposure.  Healthy and safe sun exposure is important in allowing your body to make the necessary Vitamin D that it needs. 

Thanks for reading!  If you have any questions about my method or where I buy my ingredients, feel free to ask in the comments.  

Happy summer everyone!

(Me and L after a long day at the beach--notice his still-lily-white skin!)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Foodie Friday Meal Plan 5/14 - 5/20

Pizza! Burgers! Lasagna! What if I told you that you are going to indulge in these classic American (well, Italian-American in two cases) dishes this week and not feel even a tinge of guilt? They may be a little atypical in their preparation, but I guarantee they are tasty renditions of the favorites. In addition to those, you’ll find tons of delicious and healthy ideas for breakfast, dinner, and snacks! As usual, the recipes can be found here

Asian Salmon Burgers 
Homemade Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns
Roasted Sweet Potato and Carrot “Fries” 
Cinnamon Apple Slices


Roasted Chicken with Leeks, Cress, and Radishes Garlicky Greens 
Whole Wheat Pasta with Beet and Carrot Puree Sauce
Roasted Garlic Tops

Tomato White Bean Soup with Pesto Cauliflower
Bread Pudding
Arugula Salad with Balsamic Vinegar

Chicken Breast Valdostana (topped with a little marinara)
Braised Lentils with Spinach Purple Cauliflower Mash

Whole Wheat Pizza Homemade Marinara Sauce
Fresh Ricotta (made by your own hands!)
Other toppings of your choice (get creative and be sure to add some greens)
Baby Greens Salad with Yellow Pear Tomatoes and Cucumbers

Pork Adovada
Homemade Refried Black Beans (cook black beans in slow cooker overnight with jalapenos and onion, puree once cooked, then throw in a pan with butter)
Quinoa Avocado Slices with Tomato Chunks

Meatless Mexican Lasagna Topped with Sliced Jalapenos
Avocado Slices with Tomato Chunks
Baby Greens Salad

BREAKFASTS (both from The Organic Family Cookbook by Anni Daulter): Blueberry Love Muffins Surprising Baked Buttermilk Donuts

CULINARY CLASSES: Heart Shaped Pizzas for the Kids

Blueberry Love Muffins (see above) Strawberry Milk Sugar Free Strawberry Jam (I used the gelatin method from the pinned link and added a touch of maple syrup to sweeten it)