Saturday, April 30, 2011

My 15 Minutes of Fame

I have reached the pinnacle of vegandom...I have been named the Superstar of the Week on!! Go me!! FYI - my VegWeb name is lebkuchen, which is the German word for gingerbread. I used to have a dog named Gingerbread, and I used to live in Germany. So there you have it. I think it's fitting that I will enjoy my reign as Superstar during the same week as the royal wedding :)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Meal Planning

I'm on my second smoothie of the day, and it's only 9:30 in the morning...oy. I've been having trouble sleeping the last several weeks but especially the last week or so...I have trouble falling asleep, and then I keep waking up (and staying up) at around 3 in the morning. What's up with that?!?! The only caffeine in my diet is the little bit that's in my raw cacao powder, and I don't have that after, say, 3 pm most days, so I don't suspect it's caffeine keeping me awake. Hmmm....hopefully this works itself out because, let's face it, I need my beauty sleep!

Yesterday, we had a discussion about various aspects of organization (time, menu planning, house clutter, etc.) at my mother's group meeting. Motherhood, by definition, makes most women masters at multi-tasking and finding ways to get things done. However, we can all benefit from tips and short-cuts that can save us time (and preserve our sanity). I consider myself a fairly organized person - I don't like clutter, and I  like to know where everything is. I also really enjoy organizing my pantry every now and then ('cuz I'm weird like that). But I think there is one area of my life where I have really honed my skills as an organizer, and that is in menu planning. As I've said before, I do menu planning because I like to know what's for dinner every day. I don't like having to THINK about what to have for dinner every day. It's so nice to wake up in the morning and think, yup, we're having XYZ for dinner tonight, and I already have everything I need in my fridge and pantry. Now I can go about my day and spend more time watching The Real Housewives of NYC (Just kidding. Kind of.)

I touched upon my meal planning methods in a previous post, but I thought it might help others out there if I went into a little more detail. This is just what works for me, so feel free to tweak it to your own family's needs.

Meal Planning 101

1. Find a day and time that works for you. I don't always follow my own advice, but generally, I menu plan on Fridays during my son's nap. Assuming, of course, that I am not napping right alongside him :) Be sure you give yourself adequate time - this isn't something you can generally zip through in 15 minutes. Unless, of course, you are SuperMenuPlanningWoman. I am not.
2. Grab your favorite cookbooks, recipe cards, or recipe binders. You know what you like to cook, and you need to be prepared!
3. Find a comfortable spot. Sometimes for me, that's right in front of my (faux) fireplace. Other times, it's at my kitchen island with a smoothie. Whatever works for ya, babe.
4. Gather your supplies. For me, this is a tablet of paper, a pen, my wall calendar, and my computer. I like to have my computer nearby so I can read up on recipe reviews and check the weather forecast for the week. I like to have my wall calendar so I can plan around my hubby's choir practices, doctor's appointments, family obligations, etc.

Now that you're armed and ready for battle, here's the nitty gritty:

5. On the left side of your paper, write down the days of the week (Mon, Tue, Wed, etc), skipping a line in between each day or leaving some space otherwise. You can plan as many days as you'd like, but I usually do a minimum of 7 days and a maximum of 14 days. You could always do more, but let's face it - how do you know what you're going to feel like eating in 3 weeks? Right?!
6. Underneath the day, jot down the weather info you can gather. I'll usually write something like "Mon, 70, p sun," meaning Monday is an expected high of 70 and partly cloudy. That kind of weather doesn't call out anything in particular for me, but if it were "Mon, 30, snow", you can bet I'll have some kind of stew on the menu :)
7. Take note of any special considerations for that day, such as an evening practice, sports event, doctor's appt, etc. I like to prepare make-ahead, simple meals for evenings my hubby has to rush out to choir practice, or when I have a doctor's appointment at 5:30. It just makes life a bit easier. I also like to eat special foods on days like the Super Bowl, birthdays, New Year's Eve, etc. Write these things down so you can plan accordingly!
8. Make note of any produce or food that is lingering in your fridge or pantry, and try to use it up during the first one or two meals of your week. I hate to waste food and I throw out little to no food, ever!
9. Think big picture - what are you in the mood for? Do you want to have some Mexican food this week? Main-dish salads? Pasta? Pizza? All of the above? It's a good idea to have some general theme to your menu for the week. Why? Well, I'm convinced it's one of the reasons why I waste so little food and use up everything I buy. Here's why. Let's say you want to make tacos one night. You'll probably want to buy some sour cream, salsa, shredded cheese, some cilantro, some scallions. But it's not like you need that much of each of these ingredients just for tacos. So, I'll have tacos on Monday, a bean-dish using salsa, scallions, and cilantro on Tuesday, and finish up the ingredients with Mexican pizza on Friday night. Sounds like too much Mexican to you? Well, you're the one who wanted tacos, buddy. By structuring your menu this way, you'll make the most out of your food dollars and minimize waste. Suddenly, you won't feel so bad spending $1.69 on that bunch of cilantro. You're welcome.
10. Be realistic. If your family loves to eat pizza on the weekend (as mine does), then by all means, plan to have pizza on Friday or Saturday. Don't pretend you're going to be virtuous and have a big salad when you really want to dig into a big ole slice of deep dish. I never, ever, ever put pizza on the menu Sunday through Thursday, because for my family, pizza is a Friday or Saturday night treat. When Friday or Saturday comes around, we know it's pizza day and we are happy :) [Side note: if you don't currently make your own pizzas, you should really give it a try. I can't believe how expensive take-out pizza is these days, especially for us vegans. Hello, I don't want cheese, which is the most expensive ingredient - can't you throw some extra veggies my way when you're charging me $19!?! End of rant.]
11. Find a balance. One of the reasons I can plan 7-14 days in advance is because I strike a balance in my meals. If I have pizza on Saturday, I typically have something a little lighter on Friday and Sunday, such as a raw soup, main-dish salad, or some grilled veggies. That way, you don't have 2-3 days in a row of heavy food that leave you feeling less than your best. Goodness gracious, I used to have weeks where I'd have pasta followed by pizza followed by a thick bean stew and bread. By the fourth day, you'd have to wheel me to the couch because I'd feel so lethargic. Nowadays, I will usually do a rawsoup-bigsalad-rawsoup-beandish-bigsalad-pizza-bigsalad rotation. That's just what my family enjoys, so find what works for you. In the winter, I eat a lot less raw food and more beans, cooked grains, and hot vegetable-based soups and stews, but I still try to balance heavier meals with lighter ones regardless of the season.
12. Expect the unexpected. Sometimes life will throw you a curveball - you might get sick, your child might get sick, you go out to dinner, or you just don't feel like cooking. It happens to all of us! Depending on the week, I may build a "free day" into my menu to allow for such occurrences. If I end up not needing the free day, then that's a day I'll typically dip into my freezer for some leftovers or make some pasta. I always have some frozen veggies in the freezer (peas, corn, spinach, collard greens, broccoli, green beans, brussels sprouts, lima beans, sugar snap peas) to help fill out a meal. I also like to have something fun in the freezer, like some store-bought frozen ravioli or Trader Joe's Meatless Meatballs, for those nights when I'm feeling lazy or in the mood for some comfort food.
13. Write down your selected menu on one side of the paper, and write down the needed ingredients on the other side of the paper. I write things such as "med tomatoes, sm eggplant, lg zucchini, 2 lbs sweet potatoes," etc. I also make little hash marks next to the items to denote how many of each I need to buy for the week. You gotta love those weeks when you need to buy 10 tomatoes!
14. Go through your coupons and pull out ones you can use this week. I'm assuming, of course, that you clip coupons. I'll even make notes on my shopping list such as "black beans - coupon," to remind myself that I have a coupon to use. Otherwise, I'm apt to forget and then I get mad at myself!
15. Shop, baby, shop! And don't be afraid to make substitutions on the fly. One of the reasons I find it helpful to have my shopping list on one side of the paper and the menu items on the other side is in case the store is out of a necessary ingredient. If I need to buy cauliflower, and the store doesn't have any cauliflower, I can flip over the paper and see what I needed the cauliflower for. Was it going in a curry dish? Well, then I can substitute frozen or use broccoli instead. Was I making cauliflower sandwiches? Well, then I guess I'd better make something else, since cauliflower sandwiches without the cauliflower are just lacking, IMHO. And yes, I make cauliflower sandwiches, and yes, they are delicious, thank you very much.

Finally, after all is said and done...

16. Take notes in your cookbooks! If you made some ingredient substitutions, write down what you changed and whether it worked or not. Write down if the recipe was a big success or not, how long it took to prepare, how enjoyable the leftovers were (or were not), whatever. This is all information to help YOU! I have crazy notes all over my cookbooks which help immensely, trust me.

Okay, well it's Friday and my son is napping, so you know what that means....time to menu plan. While watching The Real Housewives of NYC. In front of my faux fireplace. And yes, I am being totally serious :)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Soup and Salad Kind of Day

Today was rainy and humid here in RI, so it seemed like a perfect day for soup and salad. Fortunately, that's what my menu plan had called for anyway :) See, this is why I check the forecast when I'm making my menus for the week!!

Let's begin with the soup. The soup (which I had for lunch today) was actually leftover soup from last night's dinner. It was the Delhi Express Soup from The Complete Book of Raw Food. This is a thick, rich, and super-healthy soup chock full of veggies. It requires a few different steps to make, but all in all, it's worth the effort because it is so delicious! My hubby and my toddler son love the soup too, so we had happy bellies all around :)

First, to make the soup, I had to juice some carrots, celery, beet, and apple in my juicer. This juice provides the liquid base for the soup, as opposed to water or broth. The beet gives the juice a beautiful rosy color. Then I pour the juice into my Vita-Mix and add chopped bell pepper, two avocados, garlic, curry powder, and salt. The soup gets pureed until it is super creamy and slightly warm.

I chopped up some veggies to garnish the soup. Here's some diced avocado, tomato, scallions, cilantro, and cucumber:

And here is the soup, garnished and ready to be devoured (along with salad, not pictured):

I am such a big fan of raw soups. I love how you can puree and blend so many veggies into them and literally get a day's worth of veggies in one serving. Plus, they taste awesome!! I am always so thrilled when my son likes a raw soup recipe because I know he is getting so many vitamins, minerals, fiber, and nutrients in one serving. I also think it's helping him to develop a palate for all different kinds of veggies and seasonings, which of course, makes his vegan mama happy :)

As good and filling as this dinner was, I was still feeling hungry and snacky last night so I had some more wasabi peas AND some Kashi cereal AND some air-popped popcorn, sprinkled liberally with sea salt and chili powder. I love salty, crunchy snacks at night!

This morning, after my run, I had a Chocolate Ginger smoothie for breakfast. A couple of hours later, I headed to my weekly mother's group and brought along a new drink to sip on, a mango-coconut KeVita. I saw this at Whole Foods last week and decided to pick one up and see how it compares to my beloved Kombucha. Well, no offense KeVita folks, but it's no competition. Kombucha still rocks my socks!

After we got home, I had my leftover soup and salad for lunch. My son was in the mood for something different and said he wanted applesauce and yogurt. I stirred in some carrot juice, wheat germ, ground flaxseed, and hemp seed oil before I gave it to him, 'cuz I'm sneaky like that :) He's so accustomed to having everything doctored up so it doesn't phase him one bit. He's a champ!

I laid down with him after lunch because he loves to snuggle before his nap. I must have been really tired though because I fell asleep right next to him! LOL I've never been a napper before at all, but I think this is becoming a habit!

After our naps, I decided to make my son some "Blueberry Juice" in the Vita-Mix:

I blend up some frozen blueberries, banana, soymilk, coconut milk, baby spinach, a spoonful of almond butter, and a drizzle of hemp seed oil. Delicious and nutritious! It was rather late in the afternoon, so I forgoed my usual afternoon smoothie in favor of an asian pear and a gala apple. I sliced them both up and shared them with my son, who loves fruit like nobody's business.

Tonight's dinner was a main-dish salad from one of my favorite cookbooks, Appetite for Reduction, Caesar Salad with Eggplant Bacon. Mmmmm.....bacon! Hee hee. I actually made the dressing this morning before I went to my mom's group, so throwing the salad together was a snap.

First, I sliced up the eggplant...

Then I washed and chopped my romaine lettuce and tossed it with the dressing:

After baking the eggplant slices for 11 minutes, the slices are dipped in a tamari-liquid smoke mixture:

...and then baked again for 3 more minutes to get crispy. Well, they were supposed to get crispy, but mine stayed kind of soft.

No matter, they were still awesomely delicious!

I added a can of chickpeas to the salad to boost the protein factor, then I topped it with the eggplant bacon. My son loves sugar snap peas, so I cooked some up to fill out the meal:

I can't believe how awesome this tasted...and how easy it was to prepare. My hubby and son loved it, too, yay!

Alright, I'm off to veg out and probably eat some wasabi peas. Or popcorn. Or maybe both! :)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Trial and Error

Good morning! So, last night's dinner salad was a qualified success. On the one hand, it was a million times easier than making the actual quiche, since I didn't have to dirty up my food processor, wash more dishes, and bake the quiche. On the other hand, it was missing that certain je ne sais quoi that quiche has...I'm guessing it was probably the fact that I swapped out delicious flaky pastry crust and a buttery bread crumb topping for, well, raw baby spinach :) But it was decent and healthy, my hubby liked it, and my son liked the sauteed asparagus and beans, so all in all, it was a good experiment. I love to try new twists on favorite recipes, and this was a great way to simplify and "healthify" an already delicious one.

First, I broke off the tough, fibrous ends of the asparagus....

Then chopped up some shallots and garlic.

I always, always, ALWAYS take the little green center vein out of the garlic before I chop it up.

I used to have horrible acid reflux, and garlic always bothered me, whether in its raw or cooked form. Then, I read a little note in one of Ani Phyo's cookbooks that removing the center vein will help make the garlic more digestible, and that almost anybody who has trouble with garlic will benefit from this. I was curious and removed the vein the next time I made a dish with garlic, and lo and behold, Ani was right! How awesome is this! Now I eat garlic all the time and it doesn't bother me one bit. Thanks, Ani!

I sauteed the asparagus, shallots and garlic in a little bit of EVOO, salt, and pepper.

Then I turned off the heat and stirred in a can of navy beans and some chopped fresh tarragon.

Next, I whisked together a simple tarragon vinaigrette. This consisted of some fresh lemon juice, EVOO, salt, pepper, dijon mustard, and some chopped fresh tarragon. I didn't follow a recipe - I just free-formed it until it tasted good :)

Finally, I assembled my salad. I put some baby romaine and baby spinach in a bowl, then topped it with the sauteed veggies and beans, some chopped fresh tomato, some chopped walnuts, and the tarragon vinaigrette.

On retrospect, I think this salad would have been killer with some steamed bulgur or millet on top to add some texture and chewiness. Next time!

Later I snacked on some wasabi peas while I watched Glee. I just love wasabi peas...they are perfect in almost every way :) They are crunchy, spicy, and even have some nutrition (protein & fiber)! I'm big into the crunchiness factor of food. Some people love creamy textures, but I'm a big fan of the crunch.

This morning, I woke up and did the P90X shoulders & arms workout. After my workout, I enjoyed another Chocolate Cherry smoothie and shared some oatmeal with my son. Lunch was leftover salad from last night. I almost always make 4 servings of every dinner I make so that way my hubby and I can have it again for lunch the next day. I figure, why not kill two birds with one stone? I love having lunch already prepared each day!

While my son is napping, I'm going to do all the prep work for tonight's dinner, Delhi Express Soup from The Complete Book of Raw Food. Have a great afternoon!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Simple Pleasures

In spite of having been a Mommy for almost two years now (May 8 is the day my son officially came home - we adopted him and he came home when he was 11 weeks old), there is one thing I've only recently started to do: take a nap while my son is napping. When he was an infant and I resembled something from The Night of the Living Dead, people always used to tell me, "Sleep when he sleeps! Nap when he naps!" But I used to just shake my head and wonder, But when else am I going to get X, Y, and Z done?!?! However, that mindset changed several weeks ago when my husband attended a 5-week work training session in Georgia, and my son and I tagged along to keep him company and enjoy (endure) some time in a hotel. All of a sudden, I had a WEALTH of time on my hands and not a lot of ways to spend it. I mean, our hotel room was approximately the size of my kitchen. We got tired of it pretty quickly and it's not like I had to clean it, vacuum it, or wash the floors! I also didn't have to cook everyday, so there wasn't meal prep and planning to occupy some of my time. So, my son and I spent a lot of time walking or running around the hotel, the parking lot, the adjacent mall, and the playground. All that running out in the sunshine left us both pretty tired by noon, so when my son laid down for his nap, I laid down with him. And you know what? I slept! Many days I slept for an hour and a half to 2 hours. It was great. It was blissful. Our hotel bed felt like a cloud and I was happy to just sink in and rest (especially because my son woke us up 2-3 times most nights, since apparently HE didn't enjoy sleeping in a hotel!) We've been home for a couple of weeks now, but I realized that napping with my son was something that we both enjoyed, so I've continued the tradition at least once a week. Today was one such day. My hubby had to leave for work at 6 this morning, and I decided to get up at 5 so I could sneak in a run before he left. After a morning full of errands and playtime in the yard, I was pretty tired by noon and decided it would be a great day for my son and I to share an afternoon siesta :) There's something so sweet about lying next to your child and listening to them sleep...I wish I hadn't waited so long to enjoy this!

Anyway, now we're both up and out in the yard playing. Well, he's playing and I'm sitting in a camping chair watching him while I blog :) I promised some pictures of last night's delicious raw tortilla soup, so without further ado....

This soup is so amazing - it's from one of my favorite bloggers, Gena from Choosing Raw. I make it pretty much exactly as directed, except I omit the fresh garlic and I always add a chopped medium zucchini to the blender. I like how it adds yet another veggie and also thickens the soup up nicely. After it gets blenderized...

...I always top the soup with some chopped avocado, tomato, scallions, corn, and cilantro. Then, the best part....I eat the soup like a taco dip and scoop up big mouthfuls with some blue corn tortilla chips! Ohhhh it tastes so naughty but it's so good for you! I like to use Guiltless Gourmet's Blue Corn Chips because they're pretty innocent as far as tortilla chips go, plus, they taste doggone delicious and I can always score a bag for $2 at Ocean State Job Lot. Score! I always make salad to go along with my raw soups, and last night's salad was baby romaine, tomato, avocado, corn, cucumber, and celery topped with some fresh lime juice, Bragg Liquid Aminos, olive oil, and a few shakes of dulse granules. This is one of my favorite dinners and it's super filling, but of course, that didn't stop me from making some popcorn later in the evening :) What can I say, I love to eat popcorn while I watch my TV shows!

After my run this morning, I had my absolute, hands-down favorite smoothie in the whole-wide world...Chocolate Cherry!

*Sigh* It is perfection in a pint glass. It makes me so happy! It's a spin on Kristen Suzanne's Chocolate Cherry Bomb Shake. Here's my version:

Chocolate Cherry Smoothie
Makes 1 large serving (or 2 small servings)

1 cup frozen dark sweet cherries
1 large frozen banana
1 1/2 cups water
1 heaping tablespoon raw cacao powder (I use Navitas Naturals brand)
3 tablespoons raw hemp protein powder (I use Nutiva brand)
3-4 drops chocolate liquid stevia (I use SweetLeaf brand)
6-7 ice cubes

I use a Vita-Mix blender, which is super high-powered and blends my smoothie into submission. It gets sooo creamy, sooo chocolatey-cherry, and sooooo delicious :) And, seriously, it's like having a milkshake for breakfast except there's nutrition here!! Cherries and cacao are full of antioxidants, and the hemp powder has tons of fiber and protein, as well as Omega-3, Omega-6, and Omega-9 fatty acids. Bananas have fiber, potassium, and vitamin C, and the liquid stevia is a natural, calorie-free way to add some sweetness. Now come on, wouldn't you rather have this than a Pop Tart??

After my smoothie, I shared some oatmeal with my son. I think he loves it as much as I do :) Today's bowl was simply oats, raisins, walnuts, cinnamon, and some coconut milk. Yum!

Lunch was leftover raw tortilla soup, salad, and more tortilla chips :) After lunch, I took a nice afternoon siesta with my son. After we woke up, I had a carrot smoothie:

Carrot and Greens Smoothie
Makes 1 large serving (or 2 small servings)

2 cups carrot juice
large hunk of fresh ginger, peeled
1 large frozen banana
1 huge handful baby spinach
few shakes of cinnamon
6-7 ice cubes

Blend on high until smooth.

While my son noshed on a CB&J wrap:

The "CB" is cashew butter and the "J" was some black currant jam. I spread both on a whole wheat tortilla, wrapped it up like a burrito, and cut it in half. My son loves these and I love to make them - they're quick, they're not messy, and they're nutritious and filling.

Tonight I'm experimenting in the kitchen. I loooove the Asparagus Quiche with Tomatoes and Tarragon from Veganomicon, but they didn't have any of the pre-made frozen quiche crusts I like at Whole Foods, so I decided to deconstruct it and make a big dinner salad instead. We'll see how it comes out!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Well You're Not Hard Core...

There's something so inherently...wrong about saying "Happy Monday!" I mean, is anyone REALLY happy that it's Monday? Monday to me means grocery shopping, laundry, and hubby going back to work :( None of these things make me happy!!

Still, I try to start my week off on a good note. For the last year or so, I've had a little Monday tradition that I enjoy. I wake up early and begin my day doing the Yoga X sequence from P90X. It's a 70-90 minute session (the DVD is 90 minutes, but I skip through a lot of the chatter and explanations of moves, and I can usually finish in about 70 minutes - score!!) After my yoga (sometimes my son joins me, which is always fun and usually funny... just imagine a 2-year-old doing downward facing dog and tree pose and you'll understand what I mean :) I make a fresh green juice:

This bad boy had organic red kale, chard, carrots, celery, ginger, cilantro, cucumber, and lemon juice. I often will add an apple to the mix but decided to be hard-core today :) On days like this, I often sing "Well you're not hard core, unless you live hard core..." If you're laughing, that means you've seen the movie School of Rock and remember Jack Black teaching this song to his students. If you're not laughing....then go see the movie cuz it's hilarious!!

After my juice, I usually wait an hour or so before I reward myself with a carrot juice smoothie. Something so simple...carrot-ginger juice, frozen banana, cinnamon, ice cubes, and some almond butter...but sooooo delicious.

After my smoothie, it was time for one of my least favorite Monday rituals...going to Stop & Shop :( I never really enjoyed grocery shopping before I had children, but now that I have a 2-year-old, there are few things more...challenging than trying to keep a spirited and energetic boy in the confines of a grocery cart seat for an hour. I try to go well-prepared...sippy cup with soymilk, snack bag with cereal and raisins, maybe a hopes that he'll be happy to just sit and eat his snacks while Mommy gets the shopping done. Some days, it's a success, other days...not so much. But, thankfully, today was a good day!

I did my menu planning yesterday while my son was napping. Yes, it takes some time to do, but I think in the long run, I end up saving time by not having to plan what to have for dinner every single night. I get a sheet of paper, write down the days of the week, and then I check the weather forecast and write down the temperatures and expected weather. That way, if it's going to be rainy/snowy/nasty on a certain day, I'll plan for something warm and comforting, like a soup or a stew. If it's going to be super hot, I'll plan for a ginormous dinner salad or a raw soup or something. I like to have fun stuff like pizza on Saturdays and soups on Sundays. Knowing this, I can plan the other days accordingly. See? There's a method to my madness!

I make sure to write down the cookbook and page number for easy reference. On Thursday, I can just open up Appetite for Reduction (AFR) to page 42, and bam, there's my recipe! I also make little notes such as how many tomatoes, peppers, avocados, etc. a recipe will require so I make sure to save enough of each during the week. Nothing worse than realizing you're out of an ingredient right when you're ready to start cooking! That makes me sooooo mad!!

After I put the groceries away, it was time for lunch. My son was happily munching on some Kashi cereal and I had some leftover Vegan Bowl from Appetite for Reduction. That's what we had for dinner last night and it was just as yummy the second time around :) What is a Vegan Bowl? Well, it is a bowl full of deliciousness and nutritiousness (yes, I made that up). See for yourself:

First, I chopped up a bunch of mushrooms, carrots, red pepper, kale, chard, and garlic, and added it all to a big skillet with some water and a teensy bit of salt.

I also had a pot of quinoa cooking on the back burner.

I baked a pound of tofu that I'd marinated in some veggie broth, tamari, balsamic vinegar, thyme, and garlic. I sliced the tofu into thin strips so they'd be bite-sized in the bowls.

Then, I assembled my bowls by putting quinoa on the bottom, then the steamed veggies, then the baked tofu, and then I topped it off with the amazing Caesar Chavez dressing, which I'd whizzed up in the food processor earlier in the day. The dressing is craaaaaazy delicious and is way better than traditional, anchovy-laden Caesar dressing, IMHO (in my humble opinion...I use IMHO often so I figured I'd better explain!) I swear, Isa Chandra Moskowitz is a genius!!
I decided it would be fun to eat the bowls with chopsticks. That's just how I roll. And my son thought eating with chopsticks was the coolest thing ever.

Tonight's dinner is one of my hubby's favorites...raw tortilla soup and salad. I mean, just look at all these veggies, which will be magically transformed by my Vita-Mix into a Tex-Mex bowl full of awesomeness.

I'll post some pictures later when we have dinner. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Good morning and Happy Easter! What a glorious day it is :) I used to think of Easter solely in terms of candy, Easter baskets, egg hunts and the Easter Bunny. As a child, I used to get awesome baskets from my parents and my Dad's mother (Grandma). My Mom's mother (Mama) used to hide plastic eggs filled with coins and cash for my brothers and I to find - a tradition that continued well into our teen years! For some reason, I can remember what I got in one particular Easter basket...I must have been about 10 or 11 years old. I got a couple of Sweet Valley Twins books and a raspberry-colored pair of Chuck Taylors. I must have been so happy with my books and my new Chucks (I never got the same color twice and have probably had 25 pairs in my life!!) that it made a memory that's lasted over 20 years!

When I became a born-again Christian, I started to look at Easter from a completely different perspective. Before I was saved, I remember my husband telling me that Easter was actually a more sacred and revered holiday than Christmas, because Easter celebrated the resurrection of Jesus. I remember thinking, really? I had always thought Christmas was the big cannolli of Christian holidays, probably because I didn't really understand what Easter was. I knew Christmas was the celebration of Jesus's birth, but to me even Christmas was really more about the giving and receiving of gifts. How little I knew and understood about these holidays! I now understand the significance of both, and I do now get more excited about Easter than Christmas. I take time to reflect on Good Friday about the supreme sacrifice Jesus made for me on the cross, and I celebrate His resurrection on Easter Sunday. How could I not! Before I knew Him, I was completely lost. Now I know that I have a Savior who loves me more than anyone on Earth ever possibly could! Amen!!

Okay, this blog is titled Bananas for Smoothies, so I should probably get back to the food. Last night, I threw together a quick pizza for dinner. I ran to Whole Foods earlier in the day for my once-monthly shopping trip. I go there to stock up on things I either can't find elsewhere or which are prohibitively expensive at conventional grocery stores. These include things such as raw cashews, pepitas, pistachios, unsulphured dried apricots, dried cherries, dried unsweetened coconut, candied ginger, 7-grain hot cereal, quinoa, millet, amaranth, and sucanat, all bought in bulk; kombucha, a bottled raw fermented tea; seaweed rice crackers; organic leafy greens, such as kale, chard, and collards; condiments, such as miso paste, raw apple cider vinegar, Bragg Liquid Aminos, tamari, Earth Balance sticks, and Tofutti sour cream; Daiya (vegan) cheddar and mozzarella cheeses; large tubs of soy yogurt; organic flaxseed oil; and treats such as graham crackers, carob chips, Sweet and Sara vegan marshmallows, and Ricemellow creme (all of which I use to make some amazing vegan S'mores!!) While I was there, I figured I'd grab a few other things which might make their way onto the (as-yet-unplanned) dinner menu: some baby bella mushrooms, some organic baby spinach, and a chayote squash. I'd read about chayote on other blogs but had never tried it before, so I figured I'd grab one and try to use it this week.

After I spent an insane amount of money (which is why the chain is also known as "Whole Paycheck,") I brought my groceries home and put them away. I like to store my bulk items in glass jars I've recycled and repurposed, such as old pasta sauce jars, almond butter jars, and even spice jars. Hey, you've already paid for the jars, so you may as well use them! Glass is better than plastic for many reasons anyway (no chemicals leeching into your food), plus they just look nicer on your shelf :)

So, dinner time rolls around and I still haven't decided what to make. I ask my hubby and son if they want some mushroom pizza, and I get an enthusiastic "pizza! pizza!" from my son, so pizza it was! Since it was almost 6 pm, I didn't have time to make a yeast dough from scratch, but I remembered the Fastest, Easiest Homemade Pizza Dough recipe from VegWeb, which uses beer to give your dough an instant rise. I halved the recipe and also used half all-purpose flour/half whole wheat pastry flour along with some spices (salt, oregano, basil, thyme). I prebaked the dough for 10 minutes, then topped with my quick homemade pizza sauce (canned tomato sauce, nutritional yeast, basil, oregano, thyme), some caramelized onions, dry-sauteed mushrooms, and some Daiya mozzarella cheese, and baked for another 10 minutes. I topped my slices with some garlic salt and enjoyed it with a nice cold beer. The pizza was both hubby and toddler approved!

This morning I decided to go for an early run before my hubby had to head to church for choir duties. After my run, I was in the mood for a carrot smoothie. I juiced up a bunch of carrots and a big knob of ginger:

Chopped up a few leaves of organic red kale:

And threw it all in my trusty Vita-Mix, along with a large frozen banana, the rest of my baby romaine lettuce, some cinnamon, 6 ice cubes, and a big spoonful of raw almond butter:

I blended on high for a minute or so until it was smooth and ohhhh so delicious!

After my smoothie, I figured I'd get a head start on chopping my veggies for tomorrow morning's juice, since I already had my knife and cutting board out. I chopped up some carrots, ginger, celery, cucumber, kale, and chard:

I'll juice this along with some fresh lemon tomorrow morning after my yoga! I like to do the P90X yoga DVD on Monday mornings and then follow it up with a fresh juice. It's a great way to start my week and I feel all clean and healthy on the inside!

Later on, I had some 7-grain hot cereal topped with dried cranberries, walnuts, and coconut milk. Sorry, no picture because I ate it so fast :)

I had another smoothie for an early lunch (why so hungry today?!) and then had a quick raw wrap for a mid-afternoon snack. I took a raw chard leaf, spooned some leftover raw cashew goat cheez on it, and topped with some carrot and cucumber. 

I rolled this baby up like a burrito:

And then happily munched away:

Thennnnn I enjoyed a Gingerade Kombucha, since it was Easter and all :)

Tonight I'll be trying a new recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, Appetite for Reduction by vegan icon Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Enjoy the rest of your day!