Thursday, March 29, 2012

Rainbow Snack Tray

Rainbow Snack Tray

Ready to rev up snacking?

step 1: Fill a muffin tin with assorted healthy snacks
step2: Challenge yourself (or your kids) to eat all of it through the day

This tip is a life changer. I do this for myself when I feel I'm in need of more fruits and veggies in my day. I do this for my kids regularly. Is it just me or are kids in general absolutely crazy for snacks these days? Put food out and kids that were enthusiastically playing whatever (that was previously so engaging that when you yelled their name to try and get their attention it was as if you were not there) come flocking to the table in hoards to eat a snack. I find it a little weird. Kids are weird. Snack time is a lot easier with this method becuase there is no "snack time"-they just graze all day whenever they want. And since I don't fill the tray with anything to terribly filling, they are still are hungry for meal times.

Rainbow Snack Tray

Rainbow Snack Tray

Try filing the cups with as many colors of the rainbow as you can (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink). Kids and even adults are drawn to colors. The more the better.

Some ideas:

red: strawberries, red bell pepper strips, radishes, cherries, apple slices, cherry tomatoes, raspberries, pomegranate seeds, kidney beans (um, yeah, my kids like plain beans sometimes-what?)

orange: mango, papaya, orange segments, cantaloupe, mini carrots, dried apricot, roasted sweet potato wedges or butternut squash

yellow: mango strips, golden raisins, yellow bell pepper strips, star fruit, pineapple, peaches, spaghetti squash

green: edamame, cucumber slices, sugar snap peas, pistachios, kiwi, honeydew, broccoli, peas, celery sticks

blue and purple: blueberries, blackberries, grapes, plums, purple cauliflower

pink: watermelon chunks, guava chunks, pink grapefruit

miscellaneous: mixed nuts and seeds, vegetable chips, whole grain pita chips with hummus for dipping, pickled vegetables, hard boiled egg halves, kale chips, olives, roasted and seasoned chick peas.

Be creative. Think outside the box. I once filled a tin with only mint leaves. They are yummy, refreshing and nutritious. And sometimes, I get crazy and freeze the fruit I put in my tins. I love frozen grapes and kiwi chunks.

I should say that I didn't come up with this. I totally stole it from some Juice Plus video I saw years ago.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Three Ingredient Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream

Strawberry Ice Cream

Ice cream from whipped cream, seven minutes, no ice cream maker required. That's my kind of trick. I have a history of failed ice cream attempts. I think I tried to make basic vanilla ten times last year, each batch worse than the last. I never knew you could screw up ice cream so badly given the ingredients. Thank goodness I found this version! If any of you have a great basic -or not- ice cream recipe, do share in the comments!

I have a love for fresh fruit ice cream. I made strawberry because the berries were ripe, on sale and looked great, but I am dying to try this with peaches. Peaches and cream? Come on!

I have to say how pleasantly pleased I am at how this ice cream turned out. Since you start with whipped cream as your base, you already have nice volume and air throughout, which is why you don't need to run it through an ice cream maker before freezing. Then, when you scoop it out once frozen, you get the same feathery effect you would get with real ice cream. It's pretty genius, I must say.

strawberry ice cream

The sweetened condensed milk gives it the perfect amount of sweetness and the fresh fruit cuts the richness of the cream. I wouldn't necessarily recommend leaving the fruit out, like in case you wanted straight up vanilla ice cream. You could, in theory, add a vanilla bean and leave the fruit out and you would get vanilla ice cream. But, I think this base might be a tad too rich for that. Don't get me wrong, it would taste delicious, I just don't know how much you could eat in a sitting. To me, adding the fruit is key. Just make sure you cut it small enough for scooping. Fruit freezes, you know.

strawberry ice cream

Three Ingredient Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream
makes about 5 cups

1 pint heavy whipping cream (2 cups)
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups fresh strawberries, chopped small (or another fruit of your choice) I used a bit more

Whip cream just until soft peaks stage (about 2 minutes). Add in the sweetened condensed milk, and continue to whip for another minute. Fold the chopped strawberries into the whipped cream, pour into containers with lids and freeze.

I had wanted to try this with coconut milk whipped cream in attempt to make this a little better for the body, but the brand of coconut milk I bought didn't separate in the refrigerator so I couldn't make whipped cream from it. If any of you try it, let me know how it turns out!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Roasted Chickpea Tacos

Chickpea Taco

A new family favorite has been born. I give you, the ingenious chickpea taco. My family is over the moon with this new dinner. The best way to describe is to explain how you make it. Imagine coating naked little chickpeas in a paste made from onion powder, chili powder, cumin, salt, garlic powder, and fresh lime juice and then baking. In the process, the liquid evaporates and leaves with chickpeas coated in a zesty, limey, savory coating. Pair it with some warm, sauteed red bell pepper and onion, then top with cool, crunchy and creamy ingredients like cilantro, avocado, lettuce and non-fat greek yogurt, then wrap it all up in a soft tortilla with maybe a squirt more of lime and prepare to be amazed. The toppings are just as important as the chickpeas themselves, so make sure you get all of them for maximum enjoyment. This means don't skip steps or leave things out. Your work will be rewarded. We use Greek yogurt to substitute for sour cream, and it works much better in this recipe because it's less overpowering and compliments these flavors nicely.

Before baking:

After baking:

Aside from our chickpea taco utopia, we have been getting excited about moving into our new house! Well, we actually are a way off still (we are crossing our fingers for the end of April). But paint went in, trim and tile is done and were gearing up for cabinets so it feels close. A few weeks (um, now that I think about it, it might have been a few months) ago I walked through and wrote quite a few bible verses on the studs and framing. I picked specific verses for each room. More than a couple Psalms regarding "sound sleep" might have made their way into Olivia's room ;)

New House Scripture

Verse in Livy's room

I promise to give you all a full tour once we move in.

Chickpea Taco

Roasted Chickpea Tacos
serves 6

8 teaspoons chili powder, plus more for seasoning the onions and peppers
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
6 teaspoons ground cumin, plus more for seasoning the onions and peppers
4 teaspoons sea salt
4 tablespoon fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons water
4 (15 oz.) cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 red bell peppers, diced

Toppings:Soft or hard taco shells (I used Ezekiel tortillas)
Diced tomatoes (optional)
Avocado slices
Plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
Fresh cilantro
Lime wedges

To roast the chickpeas: preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, salt, lime juice and water. Place chickpeas on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray or coated in oil, then pour the lime juice and spices paste over them, and toss to coat. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until chickpeas are slightly crispy. (Because I cooked so many chickpeas on my baking sheet, my peas never got crispy, but they were still warm and tender. If you really like them crispy, use two baking sheets and make sure your chickpeas are not crowded.)

While the chickpeas are roasting, in a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onions, garlic, and red peppers. Cook for 5-7 minutes until soft. Season with a pinch of salt and a dusting of chili powder and cumin.
To serve, spoon roasted chickpeas and sauteed vegetable mixture evenly down the taco shell and garnish with lettuce, cilantro, avocado slices, lime wedges, tomatoes (if using) and Greek yogurt. Serve!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Healthier Pizza Margherita and My Interview


Hi friends! I have two things to tell you today. First, as far as the recipe goes, I'm all about delicious pizza without the guilt or sacrifice of flavor. Yes, I'm going to ask you to make the dough and the sauce, but I promise you both are easy, easy, easy! Recipe Link below...

Before It's baked:

The pizza sauce before it's pureed:

The second is that my friend Sally, who happens to be a Psychologist (that makes her "Dr. Sal"), is interviewing me over on her blog- about food, what inspires me, and how we soothe ourselves with food and my outlook on food and weight.

This is Sally. I took this picture a few years ago at a Broncos game. Isn't she the most stylin' psychologist you've ever met, with her hat and all?

For the recipe and my interview on Dr. Sal's blog, click here. And while your there check out some of my favorite posts of hers:

Ever wanted to get a psychologists take on a specific question you have? Sally offers a great "Ask Dr. Sal" section.

Sally also co-authors a friendship blog called "Let Me Be Me"

I guess you could say, she's a rockstar.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Zuppa Toscana

Zuppa Toscana

Two weekends ago we took the kids skiing on Howelsen Hill. The weather was perfect.

Jeremiah can barely stand up, but he can ski down the tiniest of bunny hills by himself.

Isabella, frustrated that she had to stay on the bunny slopes with her brother instead of racing down bumps and jumps, glided down with equal boredom and ease.

She is too cool for school.

Clearly, I'm in trouble.

I also got invited over to Danielle's house for lunch. We had this amazing Zuppa Toscana. I can't say for sure if it's exactly like Olive Garden's because I've never had it there. But I can tell you that it is amazing. But then again, how can you go wrong with Italian sausage, potatoes, kale, wine and cream? How?! You cannot. We added in more kale than directed because we love it and figured, why not get all that healthy goodness into the pot?

The soup is rich, but not all that heavy. We were pleasantly surprised how the earthy kale cut the cream. The soup is brothy and elegant, rustic and filling.

Zuppa Toscana

Danielle and I like to eat sausage together. I realize how strange that sounds. Mostly because that's the only time we get to since both our husbands don't eat any meat. I don't eat meat 90% of the time for health reasons, but I partake every now and again because I love it. Danielle and I think were all rebellious for making food like this. Ever heard that phrase "white girl problems?" Listen, I'm all for making dishes healthier and meatless, but there are some things you can't touch. This is one of them.

Our perfect weather has temporarily disappeared to let some snow fly. Wishing I had this soup to warm me up!

Zuppa Toscana
adapted from Annie's Eats
serves 4

1 lb. Italian sausage (or half regular, half turkey sausage)
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup white wine to deglaze the pan
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
2 russett potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch chunks
2 cups fresh kale, chopped
(we added a whole head)
3-4 cups chicken broth
2.5 cups water
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper

Place a large stockpot or Dutch oven on the stove over medium heat. Crumble the sausage into the pan and cook until well browned. Remove the cooked sausage from the pot with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl; set aside. Add the chopped onion to the pan and sauté until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes to the pan and cook for a minute more, just until fragrant. Add the wine to the pot and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits. Add the potatoes, kale, chicken broth and water to the pot. Return the sausage to the pot. Increase the heat to medium-high, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer on medium-low. Cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork-tender and cooked through. Stir in the heavy cream and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

They're Magically Delicious

What my kids will be waking up to on St. Patrick's Day morning

lucky charms

Green milk, courtesy of a little food coloring and a big ole bowl of Lucky Charms. This will be very exciting news in our house. We don't eat sugar cereal except on rare occasions. Case in point? Santa once brought a box of Froot Loops to our house.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spinach Snickerdoodle Smoothie

Snickerdoodle Smoothie

St. Patrick's Day is approaching quickly and I just so happen to have a perfect green drink to share with you all to celebrate this holiday. That is, if you can pass up homemade Shamrock Shakes.

No joke. This smoothie tastes like a snickerdoodle cookie. I think it's a great way to sneak in some spinach, especially for kids without them really knowing it. Except that it's green. I suppose that could give it away...Just tell them the leprechauns did it. Unless that would freak them out. In that case, just go with spinach.

Snickerdoodle Smoothie

To be fair, my husband does not care for this because he says it's too rich and milky tasting which is something he definitely does not prefer. That and it's green. And sweet. And he can't marry the two very well in his mind. So if you don't like milky, sweet, cinnamon flavored drinks, consider this fair warning.

For everyone else, this is a super cool idea that I have enjoyed several times. It could even be desert.

Spinach Snickerdoodle Smoothie
makes 1

1 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 1/2 - 3 cups baby spinach leaves
1/4 package of lite firm tofu (I used silken.) or sub a banana
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2-1 packet of stevia (about 1/4 to 1/2 a teaspoon) or 1 tablespoon maple syrup
6 ice cubes

Blend until incorporated and smooth. Taste. Drink!

I like closer to three cups of spinach in my smoothie to achieve that bright green color. Make sure to use the almond extract if you want a true snickerdoodle taste. It makes the difference. If tofu is not your thing, you can sub a fresh or frozen banana. Also, I use stevia because I can make my drink sweet without adding more grams of sugar like you would get if you went with the maple syrup, but that's just my personal preference. There's no bitter taste in this drink which can be troublesome when using stevia elsewhere. Happy blending!

Monday, March 12, 2012

No-Sugar Oat Drop Cookies

No-Sugar Oat Drop Cookies

My friend Melissa admittedly has dessert issues. Meaning she eats way too much, too often. Yep, I just told the world, my friend. Per usual, I have problems with this. So per usual, I butted in and gave her some un-solicited advice. You know, the kind of thing you invite when you tell your friend you'll down a whole box of Oreo cookies in a day.

I suggested she try out some moderation for size. She's an all or nothing kind of girl when it comes to food. She said she really struggled just eating one, two or three cookies and didn't see how it was going to work. Her only option of avoiding this was to not buy them. I hate guilt. And I hate that she felt like she couldn't indulge at all. So, I told her I would find a healthier, lower sugar cookie to make at home so she could eat as many as she wanted without feeling bad. This oat drop is what I found. And it is delicious.

No-Sugar Oat Drop Cookies

They contain no added sugar, relying on mashed bananas, shredded coconut and raisins for sweetness. It's not necessarily an oatmeal cookie even though the base is oats. The recipe calls for almond meal which I happened to have on hand, but if you don't and you own a vita-mix, you can easily blend a handful of almonds to make your own meal (which is just ground almonds)

No-Sugar Oat Drop Cookies

No-Sugar Oat Drop Cookies

Here you go, Melissa. Go ahead and eat the whole batch, girlfriend!

No-Sugar Oat Drop Cookies
adapted from Blueberry Girl
makes about 10-12 cookies

1 1/2 cups regular rolled oats
1 cup coconut flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 cup of almond meal
1/2 cup mixed nuts, finely chopped
1 cup dried fruit (I used 1/2 chopped dried cranberries, and 1/2 raisins)

3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine rolled oats, almond meal, mixed nuts and coconut flakes. Stir in allspice and cinnamon. Add dried fruit and stir until well and evenly mixed. Make sure the dried fruit do not stick together in big batches.
In another bowl, combine canola oil, mashed banana and vanilla extract. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and stir until well combined.

Mound spoonfuls of the batter into the parchment paper lined baking sheet and pat down gently with your hand to form a cookie shape. Bake for about 20 minutes or until edges are golden brown.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Borscht (Hearty Beet Soup)


There is something so comforting to me about a big pot full of goodness bubbling away on the stove. It had been snowy and cold out this past week, so I had been craving comfort food. Comfort food doesn't have to be heavy. Let me introduce you to my new favorite soup, borscht. Sure, it's main component is the humble beet. Sure, it's accompanied by not-so-exciting cabbage, russet potato, onion and carrot. But let me tell you, magic happens when the caraway seeds, fresh dill, vinegar and lemon hit the ruby red broth. Serve this super healthy soup with a dollop of Greek yogurt, some more dill and hearty whole wheat beer bread and prepare to have your soul restored.

This soup is so chock full of good for you ingredients that it's hard to know where to start. Beets for have been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification support. And that's just for starters. Beets, frequently consumed either pickled or in borscht contain powerful nutrient compounds that help protect against heart disease, birth defects and certain cancers, especially colon cancer. source


Borscht is a traditional Russian soup and the people are certainly proud of it. When I told my friend Becca that I wanted to make borscht, she immediately took to Facebook asking her Russian friends to send her their best recipe. Becca spent a few years in Moscow and knows what's up. When she forwarded me a good looking recipe, my heart melted. It was very obviously translated to English by a man named Sergey, who was consulting his wife, Alla, which was translated again by a man named David (a relative who knew better English?) for more clarification. It touched me that they bothered to send such careful, detailed and thoughtful instructions of their countries beloved dish.

Traditional Borscht, it seems, doesn't have that zip from vinegar added in at the end, or caraway seeds, but since it's my favorite part, I went ahead and deviated from Sergey and Alla's recipe a little. They also make homemade broth for the soup from bone-in beef or veal ribs, but I substituted chicken stock (beef or vegetable works too) to save time, and also because bone-in ribs are hard to come by in my town, unless it's July. Other than that, I stuck pretty close to their recipe. One thing to note is that borscht tastes better the second day, so if you can make it in advance you are better off. An except from Sergey's instructions:

Of course you can eat it immediately but the taste wouldn't be as delicious as should be. Borsh is the best at the 2nd and 3rd day. On the 4th day it is still normal, on the fifth day the taste is worse. Not too bad you still can eat it but the quality is moderate. I'd like to say on the first day it is B, on the 2nd and 3rd day A, on the 4-5 days C.

Don't be shy to ask details which I probably missed.

Borsh is also VERY good with mushrooms but this is another story.



We ate ours the same day, but I let it sit after it had already cooked, covered on the stove, for three hours before re-heating and eating. It allows the flavors to marry more deeply and I figured it was better than nothing. It was still insanely delicious.

Remember how I said Russians were proud of their dish? David concluded the message with this:

We are very proud to present this borsch directly from Moscow from our friend Sergey and his wife Alla

This is the recipe I used for Whole Wheat Beer Bread which I served along side and was the perfect accompaniment. I did have to add a few tablespoons of water to get the dough to come together though, but that's no big deal. I can tell, there is lots of beer bread is in my future.

Since you will be dealing with beets, your hands will get red, but I suggest you just get in there and start peeling and chopping like you would a potato. Your hands will look like this when done:

Borscht Hands

But never fear, It'll fade quite significantly after a few hours. And be completely gone by the end of the night.


serves 6

8 medium size beets (give or take), peeled and chopped small or grated

1 large russet potato, un-peeled and chopped small

1 large yellow onion, chopped small

2 tablespoons olive oil (which I suppose is not Russian, but it's what I had)

8 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup shredded carrot (or two carrots, shredded)

1 cup water (more if needed when cooking)

3 tablespoons tomato paste

3 cups shredded green cabbage (you can use coleslaw mix to save time-I didn't)

small pinch caraway seeds (optional)

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 heaping tablespoons fresh dill, plus more for serving

Salt and pepper

-Non-Fat plain Greek yogurt, for serving

Start the soup at least 4 hours and up to two days before serving it. Saute the onion in the olive oil over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes, beets, carrot and tomato paste and saute for another minute. Season generously with salt (about a teaspoon). Add the chicken stock, water and caraway seeds if using, and bring up to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes and beets are tender (they don't have to be completely soft). Add the cabbage and simmer for another 15 minutes adding more water if needed. Take the pot off the heat and add the red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and dill, and season with more salt and pepper.

If serving the same day, let the finished borscht sit covered on your stove top for three hours before gently re-heating and serving at dinner time. If serving the following day, cool the borscht slightly and then store covered in the refrigerator before serving.

Serve borscht with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt or sour cream and extra dill.

The amount of beets, potato, carrots and onion you use can be altered to your own preferences. I like it heavy on the beets. This soup is not earthy at all. This would be great to serve to someone who thinks they don't like beets.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Miso Salad Dressing and Writers Block

Miso Dressing

Sometimes I don't feel like blogging. Even though I don't fancy myself a writer, the fact remains that I do write at least three times a week and more most of the time with corrections and edits. So, I guess you could say I can relate to things "real" writers go through, namely, writers block. I never knew what it was before! I would hear things like a writer went to a cabin to be alone for three months to finish her novel and I would not get it. Why couldn't she just write at home? Why did she have to be alone? Why was she searching for inspiration? I mean, with all due respect, the words that come out are all in the writers head which is really all you need, so why did it matter the location?

I get it now. New experiences, surroundings and seasons breed inspiration. It unlocks and coaxes those words out. Inspiration= easy writing. As for me, I don't have the luxury of getting away to write. Nor would I really want to. My inspiration usually comes to me through ordinary circumstances with a breath of something new. More often than not, a burst of inspiration will hit me while cooking dinner. Something about the smell, a good song on Pandora, the unseasonably warm weather or my mood...any and all could be a trigger. And what do I do when inspiration hits me upside the head? I write. I write like a mad woman and take advantage of every single second, stopping to stir a sauce, take a sip of wine and tend to children in-between. It's then that writing is enjoyable, fun, inspired and cathartic. It also ends up being my best posts. But do I experience this joy every time I sit down to write? No. I wish.

Miso Dressing

It's to be expected though. I blog because I enjoy it. But, I don't enjoy every time I blog. I used to think there was something wrong with this and would only blog if I really felt it. After all it's a hobby and hobbies are meant to be enjoyed. But I have changed my way of thinking. Runners run because they like it, don't they? They love running, but I bet they don't love lacing up their shoes every single time they head out. I love to cook, but I don't enjoy making dinner every night. My husband loves to bike, but he doesn't love it each and every time he sets out for a ride. Sometimes it's a discipline because fulfillment comes after the fact.

I read a blog post recently that quoted a writer as saying

" I hate writing. Hate it. But I loved having written."

What do you know? I love having written too! If I only wrote when I really felt it, I would write a quarter of the time, which means I would be three quarters worse a writer than I am now. I have a feeling that discipline and fulfillment are more closely related than we think regarding most things in life. When we don't do things simply because we don't feel like it, what else are we missing out on?

Sometimes I run across a recipe I get really excited about and end up filing it away instead of making it simply because it sounds too complicated, or it calls for an ingredient I have never purchased before. I did this with miso often over the last few years. I like miso but have never bought it. I didn't even know where to find it. Did it come in a powder? The answer was no, it came in a paste, was refrigerated and right in front of me at my health food store, not expensive, and all I needed to do was ask. If I hadn't have bit the bullet, I'd be missing out on the best, most flavorful salad dressing in the world. This is a very, very small example of what I wrote above, of course, but if you tasted this dressing, you'd count it as important too.

This is another one of Gwyneth Paltrow's winner recipes. She says if her son finds this in the refrigerator he will stick his fist into the bowl and lick it like an ice cream cone. She wishes she was joking. I prefer it tossed in a salad of napa cabbage, red cabbage, cilantro, radish, sugar snap peas, and sesame seeds. Toss in a side of sweet potato wedges and call it dinner.

Cabbage Salad with Miso Dressing

Don't miss out. Figure out how to find miso paste and mirin. Both are delicious and in tons of recipes.

Miso Salad Dressing

1/3 cup peeled and roughly diced Vidalia onion
1 small or 1/2 large garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon white miso
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons water
Large pinch coarse salt
A few fresh grinds black pepper
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Blitz everything but the vegetable oil together in a blender until smooth. While the blender is running, slowly stream in the oil. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if needed.