Monday, April 8, 2013

Smoothie Challenge Favorite: Berry Cherry Jubilee

Berry Cherry Jubilee, from the lades over at
Longing for a change of pace, I decided to check out the recipes is offering as part of the April 30-Day Smoothie Challenge.

The Berry Cherry Jubilee piqued by interested, and just happened to include ingredients I already had on hand: berries, cherries, banana, spinach, chia seeds and water. It's sweet and refreshing, perfect for spring as the weather begins to turn warmer.

This was a family favorite with Lily rapidly slurping hers down. If you're looking for a sweet treat with your daily dose of greens, head on over to Simple Green Smoothies and check out this recipe and sign up for the challenge yourself.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Knowing What I Don't Know

I learned an important lesson today -- not knowing what you don't know can be dangerous.

After a week of detox, I thought I had a handle on what would and wouldn't be safe to eat and we ventured out to an organic restaurant loved by our whole family.

I drank water, enjoyed soup, salad and a vegan dish that consisted of sauteed veggies in an ultra-thin gluten-free wrap. After a week of no salt, I could barely handle the dish -- the saltiness burned my tongue. Thankfully, that prevented me from eating much of it. And I'm thankful because I had no way to predict what was to come.

Two hours later, I was doubled over with intestinal pain and we had to cut our day trip short to get me home. It took more than an hour for the pain to subside, but once it did, I was barely conscious. It was as if the intense pain took every ounce of energy from my body.

I passed out in bed and was dead to the world for over four hours. When I awoke, I was groggy and sore but at least the pain was gone. Still, the residual pain is acute enough to make feel like I need to skip yoga tomorrow and take it easy. It also makes me realize that detoxing is something I shouldn't treat lightly and as much as I love being a do-it-yourselfer, I think it's something that requires support.

I'm relieved to discover a local detox program supported by a local naturopath that will be taking place this month. I've decided to take it easy this week, eating foods that I know are easy on my body. It won't be much different from my detox but will focus on soups and teas that are soothing and calming to my digestive system. I don't consider this a failure. I've learned a lot over the course of this week while detoxing. I have learned that juices and smoothies in the morning give me incredible energy throughout the day. I have also learned that I sleep better when I save my heavier meals for the evening. Good things to know and remember.

Friday, April 5, 2013

'Zoodles': Detox Dinner of Champions

Detox Delight: Chunky red pepper & mushroom marinara over "zoodles" with steamed asparagus.

 Earlier this week, I wasn't sure I was going to even make it to the weekend on this detox. Though I'm battling some intense sugar cravings at the moment, that wasn't what had me feeling weak. It was general boredom with my food. Eating a salad every day was getting old quickly and no salt and no sugar even made my favorite sweet potatoes not such a favorite.

That's when I had a brainstorm. This detox doesn't have to be dreadful. With the ability to eat almost anything from the plant kingdom, my options for meals are endless. I was the one limiting my options with my limited thinking.

Enter "zoodles," spaghetti-style zucchini shreds that can be used in place of pasta for a vegetarian, grain-free entree or side dish. Making zoodles is easy. All you need is a julienne vegetable peeler (I picked mine up for $5 at the grocery store) and some washed zucchini. Use the julienne peeler to peel strips of zucchini from top to bottom, stopping when you get to the seeds. I save the middle part and slice it up to add to the dish. To prepare them, heat a skillet to medium heat and give them a quick saute just until they get flexible (the heat of your sauce will cook them further). It's much faster than making pasta.
"Zoodles" only need a quick saute in a dry pan.
I topped my zoodles with a chunky sauce made of onion, red bell pepper, mushrooms, diced tomatoes, fresh thyme, oregano and dried chile flakes for a little zing without salt. I served some spears of steamed asparagus on the side. The best part of this recipe is that it's family friendly and gave me the opportunity to eat with my family instead of sitting in the corner with my detox food glaring while they noshed on their own yummy dinner -- which is exactly what I was doing every night before. To round out the meal for Lily and Brian, I added some broiled polenta slices and fresh cherry tomatoes.

The sauce was a little spicy for Lily but that didn't stop her from asking for seconds.
Brian gave me the best possible compliment on this meal. He said it didn't feel like it was missing anything. Not only was it yummy, but it felt complete to him. He wasn't missing meat, pasta or dairy. A man of few words, Brian doesn't compliment often or effusively. I went to bed feeling pretty proud of myself.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Detox: Day 2

I've survived my first 24 hours of detox! It hasn't been easy, but I wouldn't say it's hard either. My biggest challenge was when preparing food Lily last night. I desperately wanted to chow down on the bread she was eating. But I managed to overcome the temptation.

Planning is definitely key for me. I have an hour set aside each night for me to prepare/pack my lunch and snacks for work the next day and also to prep my smoothie/juice ingredients. This saves a ton of time in the morning and prevents me from feeling like I don't have time to give my body the nutrients it needs.


4:30 a.m. -- Wake Up
4:45 a.m. -- Warm Water with Lemon
6 a.m. -- Morning Juice: Kale, Beet, Orange, Apple, Ginger, Celery
7 a.m. -- Office
8 a.m. -- Kim Snyder GGS: Lettuce, Spinach, Celery, Apple, Pear, Banana
Noon -- Lunch: Soup & Salad
3 p.m. -- Snack:
6 p.m. -- Dinner: Baked Sweet Potato Stuffed w/ veggies; Veggie Detox Soup
8 p.m. -- Herbal Tea
9 p.m. -- Bedtime

Side Effects/Reactions

I had some minor sweats/chills while sleeping last night and woke up with a painful headache. There's also a bad taste lingering in the back of my mouth. I attribute all of this to my body starting to shed its toxins. It's also a reminder to keep increasing my fluid intake to help flush my system.

Veggie Detox Soup

I'm a soup gal. Regardless of the time of year, I favor warm, soothing soups over anything cold and crunchy. I made up this recipe based on what I had on hand.

1 yellow onion, diced
1 cup celery, chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
1-inch knuckle of ginger, peeled and diced
1 med. daikon root (4-5 inches long), peeled and sliced
1 cup rutabaga, cubed
6-8 tablespoons low-sodium vegetable broth powder (I use Frontier brand)
4-6 cups water
2 tablespoons miso paste

1. Saute onion in a stock pot with just enough water to prevent sticking. Cook until onion is translucent.
2. Add celery, ginger and garlic and cook a few minutes more.
3. Add all other ingredients except for miso paste and bring to a boil.
4. Simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
5. Turn off heat, stir in miso and serve.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Detox: Day 1

In an attempt to overcome my food coma from the holiday weekend, I started today bright and early with an intense workout. As far as first days go, today wasn't too bad. The only real temptation I faced was discovering leftover pizza and cookies in the office break room. I steered clear, though, and am glad to say my colleagues made sure that the leftovers didn't last long.

I have to brag on my amazing husband, though. Knowing that I have no willpower around sweets, he left work a tad early and tossed out the cookies and pie we had for Easter. So no more junk food to contend with at home. What a great guy!


4:30 a.m. -- Wake Up
4:45 a.m. -- Warm Water with Lemon
5:20-6:20 a.m. -- Exercise: Cycle & Weights
6:30 a.m. -- Morning Juice: Kale, Carrot, Beet, Orange, Apple, Ginger
8 a.m. -- Office
9 a.m. -- Kim Snyder GGS: Lettuce, Spinach, Celery, Apple, Pear, Banana
Noon -- Lunch: Spring Salad w/ Ginger Dressing
3 p.m. -- Snack: Banana
6 p.m. -- Dinner: Baked Sweet Potato Stuffed w/ veggies; Veggie Soup
8 p.m. -- Herbal Tea
9 p.m. -- Bedtime

Side Effects/Reactions

I haven't noticed any ill effects today. I was very hungry before lunch but the salad and banana kept me satisfied throughout the afternoon. Drinking water is definitely important. It helps with the cleansing process and also keeps me from grazing. I am aiming for 90 ounces of water every day. I had close to 100 today. Looking forward to keeping that up.

Ginger Dressing

Today's lunch was a hearty green salad of lettuce, red onion, apple, carrot, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds dressed with this tasty, tangy vinaigrette that I discovered in a recent issue of Yoga Journal.

1/2 cup apple juice 
2 tablespoons miso paste
2 tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger
2 large Medjool dates, pits removed
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1. Blend all ingredients together until smooth. Makes 2/3 cup. Will keep for about a week when refrigerated.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

One Last Binge

Knowing that I am starting a full-scale detox tomorrow, I gave myself permission to eat whatever I wanted all weekend. Having that kind of freedom on Easter weekend means eating a lot of cookies and candy. I honestly can say that I have had my fill. But to be brutally honest, I am surprised at myself.

There was once a time where a free eating pass would have had mean gorging on everything under the sun. Instead, I found myself still exercising some restraint -- even when it came to the King's Hawaiian rolls we had with Easter dinner. I had made my husband pick up an extra package on Friday because I was going to eat one all by myself. As of 9 p.m. tonight, I've eaten two. Not two packages, two rolls. It just wasn't as exciting as I had predicted.

That's my entire philosophy when it comes to this detox. Though I'm afraid I won't be able to make it the full 30 days, my guiding belief is that there is no food in the world that I can't stay away from for 30 days. And it if it's that miserable, I can always decide to eat it again at the end of my detox. I'm hoping to stick with the plan of doing a slow introduction to see what, if any, foods bother me. But we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Detox Prep: Cleaning the Kitchen

I've been cleaning my kitchen since the sun rose today in an effort to get ready for my detox. Even though the rest of the family isn't joining in, I think it's important to make room for the outrageous amount of produce I'll be bringing into the house and also to hide the foods that may tempt me to fall off the wagon.

Cleaning the kitchen also means making room for the juicer and blender on the counter so they are easy to access and hiding the coffee pot so I don't brew a pot in a moment of weakness. I wish I could say it's fun but it's not. I hate cleaning, but it's necessary. I'm sure I'll be content once it's all said and done.

Spring Cleaning is an Inside Job

After a long talk with Brian, I've decided to take the plunge and begin a 30-day detox/cleanse on Monday. After the series of incremental changes I've made since Jan. 1, it feels like the right thing to do at this time. I've already incorporated green smoothies and fresh juicing into my daily eating routine, and with the exception of this week, have been committed to a steady exercise routine.

Something I've learned this month, though, is that I have zero willpower in social situations. I can be on the top of game at home, but the moment temptation crosses my path at work, parties or in restaurants, I'm a goner. That's why I have had to ensure Brian is enrolled in my goal. He's not planning to detox with me, but I need him to know my goal so that he can support me at home and in public. Luckily, I married a pretty amazing man and he immediately jumped on board.


I hope stripping away all toxic foods and common allergens that I can reset my digestive system and palate in a way that enables me to pinpoint which, if any foods, cause me discomfort or general feelings of malaise. I'm also hoping to eliminate my wild cravings for sugar.


I like to keep things simple so my detox is based on plant-based whole foods with no synthetic supplements. I'll start each morning with lemon water, fresh juice and a green smoothie. Fruits, vegetables and some seeds will comprise by other meals and snacks. I'll increase my exercise to three intense sessions each week (Spin, interval training, Pilates) and two yoga classes. I believe this, in addition to drinking 90 ounces of water each day, will further help my body to release built-up toxins.

Foods to Eat

  • Whole, unprocessed fruits and vegetables (fresh or frozen)
  • Seeds -- pumpkin, chia, sunflower, hemp, flax (raw, unsalted)
  • Fermented foods (to aid digestion)
  • Dried fruits/veggies (limited)
  • Water
  • Herbal tea
  • Cashews, walnuts, almonds, pistachios (raw, unsalted)
  • Apple cider vinegar

Foods to Avoid

  • Eggs, dairy (includes soy/casein)
  • Beef, pork, chicken, fish, seafood
  • Soy
  • Processed foods, dressings, sauces (anything in a box or can)
  • Sugars (white sugar, brown sugar, natural sugar, etc.)
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Natural sweeteners/syrups (maple syrup, honey, agave syrup, brown rice syrup, molasses, etc.) 
  • Coffee, soda, alcohol
  • Beans, legumes (exception: green beans, snow peas, sugar snap peas)
  • Grains (wheat, corn, rice, millet, quinoa, oats)
  • Preservatives
  • Coloring agents
  • Oil
  • Peanuts

The lists above may seem exhaustive, but I prefer to think of them as very freeing. With a focus on whole, natural foods, meal preparation should be relatively easy with minimal cooking required. I'm excited to see what happens.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Eat Crap; Feel Like Crap

I've done a little experiment this week, skipping my daily green smoothie and fresh juice to see what, if any, effects I'd notice.

Even I am surprised. Not only do I find that I am hungrier throughout the day, but my sugar cravings are through the roof. Additional side effects include water retention, moodiness, excessive thirst and general fatigue. I barely made it through work today without falling asleep on my keyboard. Stimulants such as coffee have become a necessity.

To say I feel unwell is an understatement. It's been eye-opening for my family and me.

Of course, I'll be getting back on the wagon soon. I'm contemplating an intensive detox next month in combination with my daily routine of smoothies and juices. How I'm feeling this week motivates me further.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Eating on the Road

I am one of those crazy people who is always on the go. Whether for work, charity or personal reasons, I am on the road a lot. I go here, I go there. The truth is it's not very often that I'm at home for more than a couple of consecutive hours.

That means that eating healthy can be a bit of a challenge. Drive-thru fast food is cheap and easy. Sit-down restaurants take time and money. But nothing worth having comes easily. And if I want to be healthy, and I want to pass along good health to my daughter, I can't create a regular habit of feeding McFood to her or allowing her to watch me eat it.

So what's a busy mom to do? Well, a busy, motivated mom like myself has to plan ahead. I think the cheapest, easiest solution to pack food and snacks from home when I know we're going to be gone around meal times. It's not always practical, but it's ideal. Here's some of the snacks that work for us:

  • Fresh fruit (apples, citrus)
  • Crackers (we like the gluten-free ones from Crunchmaster and Mary's Gone Crackers)
  • Pouches of fruit puree (Lily calls them "squeezers")
  • Dried fruit (dates, raisins, apricots, apples, cranberries)
  • Sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds
  • Dry cereal
  • Nuts (cashews, almonds, walnuts)
  • Homemade muffins or granola bars
  • Veggie sticks

When it's not possible to pack food for the road, then the planning goes into finding an eatery or restaurant worthy of the time and money required. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Chipotle
  • Baja Fresh
  • Freebirds
  • Panera Bread
  • Nearest supermarket (grab something ready to eat from the deli), Whole Foods or Trader Joe's
  • Jamba Juice
  • Starbucks (Lily loves the protein bento box)

Where do you eat when you're on the go? How do you stick with your preferred eating routine when away from home?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Getting Juiced

I've recently begun to experiment with juicing, thanks to receiving a Breville Compact Juice Fountain from my employer-sponsored wellness program. Even though I had been planning to spend $100 on a juicer, getting it for free makes it even better.

Juicing is something I've shied away from for some time, fearing that even fresh juices would contain too much concentrated sugar for my altered digestive tract to handle. However, in keeping with my goal for the year of filling my body with more good stuff to make less room for bad stuff, I decided to risk it. Juicing may concentrate sugars but it also concentrates all nutrients, meaning that it's like a straight shot of vitamins and minerals our bodies desperately need.

For the past week, I've alternated between two green juice recipes every day. I haven't suffered any ill effects. If anything, it's been all positive. I've noticed a reduction in appetite, an increase in energy and general sense of wellness. Combined with a green smoothie every day, I've managed to almost double the amount of vegetables and fruits I'm consuming each day.

Here's a sample of what I've been "eating" each day in the form of juices and smoothies: 1 bunch spinach, 1 head lettuce, 1/2 bunch kale, 8 stalks celery, 2 carrots, 2 apples, 1 orange, 1 beet, 1 pear, 1 banana and 1 lemon. That roughly 20 servings of fruits and veggies, not including the solid food I'm eating. Talk about a nutrient boost. I'm sharing my two favorite recipes so far. Feel free to share yours in the comments section.

Rise & Shine Juice

Rise & Shine Juice

(Loosely based on this recipe from

4-5 Swiss chard leaves with stems
4 stalks celery
2 carrots
1 beet (feel free to include greens)
2 oranges
1-inch piece of ginger

Push all items in order through juice shoot. Stir and serve over ice or at room temperature. For best results, chill oranges in refrigerator overnight.

Eva's Magic Elixir

Eva's Magic Elixir

(Courtesy of my dear friend, Eva Knox)

2 handfuls of spinach
2 stalks celery
2 carrots
1 orange (peel but leave as much white pith as possible)
1 apple
Optional additions: juice of 1 lemon, 1 lime or 1-inch piece of ginger

Push all items in order through juice shoot. Serve immediately.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Un-Green Your Green Smoothies

Green smoothies can be intimidating. Even I shied away from them for years. The idea of blended greens sounded weird. And if that wasn't enough, there was the color. How could anything that shade of green be tasty? Not only am I a convert, but I have become a loud evangelist.
Green smoothie with blueberries.

The undeniable health benefits I've received since incorporating one green smoothie a day into my lifestyle outweigh any possible aversion I may have had in the past.

Still, I can empathize with the odd looks and incredulous comments I get from others when drinking my smoothies in public. My carpool buddy says it looks like I'm drinking salsa. Other folks in the office can't even look. When it comes down to it, we are trained that green=mold and mold is nasty.

If you're averse to green drinks does that mean green smoothies aren't for you? Of course not, you just have to un-green your green smoothie? The "green" in the name doesn't really refer to the color anyway. It's about the ingredients. You can make green smoothies in almost every shade of the rainbow, depending on what you add in.

Green smoothie with beets.
My favorite add-ons to change the color of my smoothies to something more palatable by others are beets and blueberries. 

If you're not a beet fan, stick with blueberries. Blueberries are great because they mask both the color and the taste of the vegetables you're blending. This is especially great for winning over skeptical kids. Unless you have a Hulk fanatic at your house like I do. Then just make it as green as possible, call it a "Hulk Smoothie," and watch as they gulp it down in record time.

Other options include beet greens and rainbow chard in place of whatever greens your recipe calls for. Both will bring a bright pink/purple hue to your smoothie as they are pureed. 

Once the April smoothie challenge kicks off, I'll share some additional smoothie tips. Until then, start experimenting.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Join Me: 30-Day Green Smoothie Challenge
When I recommitted to a plant-based lifestyle, my ultimate goal was a simple one: I just wanted to put more good stuff into my body each day to leave less room for bad stuff. I figured green smoothies would be a good start. I can drink way more vegetables over the course of a day than I could ever eat.

My all-time favorite recipe is Kimberly Snyder's Glowing Green Smoothie, which is featured in "The Beauty Detox Solution." However, when setting out to do something consistently, you have to account for boredom. A quick search of the Internet let me to a 30-Day Green Smoothie Challenge by Jen and Jadah over at Simple Green Smoothies. Joining their challenge was easy, and it meant weekly emails with shopping lists and recipes. Some I tried and some I didn't, but having access to them made a world of difference in helping me to successfully complete the challenge.

I'm still drinking one to two smoothies a day, sometimes in place of a meal. Other times, as a snack. It's been a great habit that has even rubbed off on others who have had positive results similar to mine. Jen and Jadah are at it again with another 30-day challenge, which kicks off April 1. I'm already signed up, and I'm looking forward to trying some new things and continuing my commitment to yet another month of healthier living.

Join me by signing up online and checking out the free eBook that comes with your registration. You still have a couple of weeks to get ready and plan to track your results.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Restaurant Review: Organic Fresno

Pad Thai with mixed veggies.
Organic Fresno is a hidden treasure we discovered on a day trip to Fresno's Chaffee Zoo. I was looking for a fun place to have lunch before heading to the zoo, and was surprised when an Internet search showed a plant-based restaurant only a couple of miles away.

Billed as a "farm-to-fork restaurant, dinner theater and market," Organic Fresno is unique in the San Joaquin Valley of California. Considering that our valley grows most of the food for the nation, you'd think farm-to-fork restaurants would be everywhere. Sadly, even CSAs are tough to find. That's what makes Organic Fresno such a gem.
Lily definitely approved of the Pad
Thai. She didn't even want to share.

Rather than attempt to do the history of Organic Fresno and its sister restaurant, Revive Cafe, justice, I'll let you read it on owner "Ta-raw" Hamilton's blog. But for perspective, I'll give you my take: Entrepreneurial immigrant gives up financial stability to promote a love for the land and her community and ends up as impoverished as most of the people she originally sought out to help.

Luckily, she hasn't given up and I think she's found a formula that works -- two restaurants with different hours (one is open while the other is closed), amazing prices and affordable weekend entertainment that allows Hamilton to attract others who share her vision.

Organic Fresno's lack of sophistication is its main drawing card. Hamilton and her family treat the restaurant almost as their home, warmly welcoming all who enter. As a guest, you set the pace of your visit. Are you in a rush? Then place your order, await your food, eat and leave. No hurry? Then take your time and enjoy the added bonus of conversations with Hamilton, her grown children and other relatives.

Menu options are low-priced and limited (breakfast is $7.50; lunch is $10 for plant-based and $12.50 for primal). Lunch comes with bottomless soup and salad, all of which are made in-house using fresh ingredients from a variety of local farmers. Curious about Organic Fresno's vendors? Pay attention to your table. Every table features a supplier. Lily likes to sit at the honey table to count the bees while I read her the brief story about Cary's Honey Farms in Lindsay, Calif.

The dressing was so good, I wanted to lick it from the plate.
On our first visit, we were treated to the Farmers Bounty soup and garden salad with a persimmon-orange vinaigrette that was prepared before our eyes. Brian ordered the chicken tikka masala over pasta (weird, I know...but that was his request) and I made the mistake of deciding to share the Pad Thai with Lily. The mistake was mine for assuming Lily would share the delicious concoction of rice spaghetti, veggies and creamy almond sauce with me. Instead, I was allowed maybe three bites while she wolfed down the noodles, making enthusiastic yummy noises the entire time.

Farmers Bounty Soup
As a barista, Brian was interested in trying the organic coffee with raw cream (all dairy served is not homogenized or pasteurized). He said it was rich, mellow and full-flavored -- everything coffee should be but rarely is nowadays. As far as the chicken tikka masala went, Brian said it was the best he'd ever had and that the chicken was of a quality far and above what he was used to eating, proving that where ingredients come from is just as important as how they are prepared.

The Hamiltons are a prime example of why I love Fresno and its surrounding area. The San Joaquin Valley may be known nationally for its poverty but there is an entrepreneurial spirit here that is unlike any you'll find elsewhere. Whether by necessity or design, most of us work hard to fill the needs we see in our communities. Brian and I are passionate about helping to improve the world Lily will inherit -- and we're equally passionate about others trying to do the same. That's why, we've decided to sponsor the Hamiltons in their efforts and we've committed to making the hour-long drive to Fresno at least twice a month to visit one of their restaurants. We hope we can get a few friends to join us each time.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Recipe Redux: Roasted Winter Vegetables with Miso-Lemon Dressing

I have been a veggie-roasting fool lately. A week of eating on the go put me a little behind in using up our CSA vegetables and I've been trying to play catch-up ever since. I knew that if I was getting sick of eating roasted cauliflower for almost every meal, my family was, too. An email alert from The Kitchn saved us from veggie boredom. Roasted Winter Vegetables with Miso-Lime Dressing sounded just exotic enough to kick the winter veggie blahs.

I changed things up a bit in my version, opting to use broccoli instead of sweet potatoes, coconut oil instead of walnut oil and lemon juice instead of lime juice. The resulting dish was slightly tropical, and as you can tell by the picture, incredibly edible. So much so that Lily was snatching brussels sprouts before I even had a change to dish hers up. For the first time in weeks, there were no leftovers after dinner. I can't wait to try this dressing on other veggies. Next, I'm going to try it drizzled over roasted potatoes or maybe even as a dressing for greens and chopped avocado.

Roasted Winter Vegetables with Miso-Lemon Dressing

Serves 4


  • 8 ounces brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 large head of broccoli (or two broccoli crowns), cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon white miso paste
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • Black pepper


  • Preheat oven to 400. Place veggies on individual baking sheets, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt and toss to thoroughly coat (if you don't want to use oil, cover the veggies with foil). Bake, turning every 10-15 minutes until browned and soft. The broccoli and brussels sprouts will be done in about 15 minutes; the cauliflower will take about 25 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, whisk together the lemon juice and miso paste until smooth. Slowly drizzle warmed coconut oil (barely melted), whisking constantly, until thoroughly combined.
  • Place roasted veggies into a large bowl with dressing and toss to coat. Season with pepper and serve.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Fun with Pickles: Watermelon Radish, Daikon, Cabbage

A salad of kim chi and pickled watermelon radishes.
I've been feeling adventurous lately and have been experiencing with refrigerator pickles. It all started with watermelon radishes in our CSA box. I didn't know what they were or what to do with them so I looked online and found various food blogs suggesting they be pickled. We've also had an abundance of Napa cabbage and daikon. Growing weary of stir fry and soups, I decided to try making my own kim chi, a spicy version of pickled and fermented cabbage. The kim chi didn't meet my expectations, but the watermelon radish pickles, on the other hand, were the perfect balance of sweet and sour. Mixed together (top picture), they made for a tasty salad.

Green on the outside with a bright purple-pink starburst center, watermelon radishes have beautiful color that intensifies when pickled, making for a striking snack. Refrigerator pickle recipes suggest a wait time of 24 hours to 2 weeks for maximum flavor. After three tries, I can tell you that shorter soaking times net a milder pickle. So if you want a pickle that bites you back, wait at least three or four days before trying yours. If you don't, then start snacking the day after preparing them.

Watermelon Radish Pickles

Radishes in brine.

  • 3 large watermelon radishes (about 3 cups chopped)
  • 1 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar


  • Peel the radishes and cut into disks or sticks (or a combo of the two) about a quarter-inch thick.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the rice vinegar, salt and sugar until dissolved.
  • Fill pint-size jars (or resealable plastic bags) with the radishes. Pour the liquid over the radishes, cover with lids and shake to ensure even mixing.
  • Refrigerate at least 24 hours before enjoying. The pickles will last about a month in the fridge.
  • Variations: Combine the radishes with green or sweet onions for variety; add a dash of crushed red pepper for a little kick.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Kids Eat Plants, Too

I always find it interesting when parents tell me that their kids "only" eat chicken nuggets, macaroni & cheese, french fries, etc. When folks see how Lily eats with us, there are always remarks.
"My kids would NEVER eat that!" "Wow...will she really eat that?!" "How do you get her to do that?"
I used to laugh it off. Then I got defensive. Now, I've just resigned myself to being weird by other people's standards. Feeding Lily a variety of foods has always been a priority for us. We never wanted to raise a picky eater. We love trying new things and experimenting in the kitchen; it's important to us to cultivate that lifestyle for our children, regardless of age.
So with Lily, we started early. I made her first foods to ensure she was exposed to variety of textures and flavors. The end result is we now have a toddler who eats just about anything that doesn't eat her first.
Lily loves beans, greens and almost everything in between. Her favorite foods include avocado, broccoli, greens, nuts, fruits and nut butters. She likes ethnic food and American standards. She also loves everything she's allergic to, but that's a different story.
She also has dislikes. She prefers cooked veggies over raw ones, peeled fruits over those with skin and sweet potatoes over white ones.
I don't judge others for what they feed their kids, but I do object to parents who act as if they are powerless victims. A child cannot force an adult to do anything that adult doesn't want to do. Our daughter doesn't eat chicken nuggets and mac & cheese because those are foods we never bothered to introduce into her diet. It hasn't been convenient, but it's been worth it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Busting Food Ruts

Even just my timid steps into the world of plant-based eating has taught me the importance of seeking out, finding and trying new recipes. Over the past few months, I have amassed a library of resources to support me in my endeavors: I have a collection of cookbooks; I subscribe to a variety of food blogs; have various vegan/vegetarian websites bookmarked; I've even created my own Pinterest board devoted to plant-based recipes.

My new lifestyle is much more challenging than when I was an omnivore. Even though both my husband and I love to cook, our meat-based meals fit one of two formulas: Our standard was 1 part animal protein and 2 parts vegetable; about once a week, we'd switch things up with 1 part animal protein, 1 part vegetable and 1 part starch (beans, grain or pasta).

Eliminating the animal protein has made for some boring nights. The choice of eating vegetables with vegetables or vegetables with starch wears easily on my husband. Also, as a diabetic, he doesn't feel like he can have a lot of starchy meals without feeling adverse affects to his blood sugar so pasta with veggies and sauce is not what he wants for dinner. We have an agreement that if he doesn't like what's on the menu, he can have tuna and crackers without fear of hurting my feelings. But I know that if he's eating tuna and crackers, that means I'm stuck eating the leftovers of whatever I've made for the entire week. It also means that I'm more committed to weekly meal plans featuring new and different meals to avoid getting stuck in a rut.

Even I get sick of lentil soup every day. My goal is to try three new recipes each week and then to cycle through about 10 favorites from the past. If I do it well, we only end up eating the same meal once or twice a month. To make life a little easier, especially during the workweek, I try to have a least 10 meals ready to go in the freezer and I'm always thinking of ways to modify recipes so I can repurpose leftovers in a variety of ways.

For example, I might make pilaf as a side dish one night and then use it as a stuffing for cabbage rolls or squash later in the week. Pureed soups can make great sauces when thickened with coconut milk, a roux or a cornstarch slurry. Options are only as limited as your imagination -- and imagination makes everything taste so much better.

Monday, February 18, 2013

CSAs Rock

I have some serious goals this year. In addition to wanting to end the year with more days of eating plants vs. eating animals, I want to fill my body with nutrient-rich whole foods, exercise daily and experiment with growing my own food. And I want to support others with similar goals.

That is why we have become members of a community-supported agriculture operation (CSA).  When you join a CSA, you become a partner with equal rights to its products. Depending on your farm's policies, you pay a regular fee in exchange for a share in the farm's produce. Simply put, you're supporting the farm's efforts, and you share in its bounty. Some CSAs offer home delivery, others require you to pick up your share at the farm. We're fortunate to have a pick-up location at my place of employment so I can just pick up my box when I leave the office.

We are members of Rancho Piccolo Farms, and receive a full share of vegetables every week. There are three CSAs that currently serve our area, but I chose Rancho Piccolo for two reasons: their farm is the closest to our home (making it the most local) and they offer vegetable shares separate from fruit shares. Given that my husband is allergic to most fruits, this ensures that we can fully utilize all that we receive. It also helps me live out my goal of working more vegetables into our daily diets.

What I love most about CSAs is what others dislike: the element of surprise. You never know what you're going to get each week, and that makes for a culinary adventure. Last week, we received red cabbage, Swiss chard, diakon, lettuce, beets, rutabaga, fennel, beets and spaghetti squash. The week before, we got carrots, watermelon radishes, lettuce, rainbow chard, cauliflower, Napa cabbage and kale.

Each week, I've been challenged to try new things. Some great; others not so much. Some winners have been roasted cauliflower with garlic, spaghetti squash with chickpeas and Brussels sprouts, pickled watermelon radishes, fennel-endive salad with navel oranges, and fried beet and carrot salad. The biggest loser was colcannon with curly endive (the bitterness was overpowering).

If you want the benefit of fresh, organic produce, joining a CSA is probably the most affordable option next to growing your own. Visit for a list of CSAs in your area. Some offer additional benefits to members, such as tours, farm-to-table dinners, and you-pick harvest events. It's also a great opportunity to try unfamiliar fruits and vegetables. Before my introduction to CSAs, I had never tried fennel, swiss chard, rutabaga, turnip, or even fresh beets. Now, those vegetables are familiar and favored. Not only do I benefit from the experience, but so does my daughter who is being raised with the daily habit of trying new things.

Unpacking our produce box has become one of her favorite weekly activities. She loves to name each vegetable as we pull it out. When she doesn't recognize one, I tell her what it is, let her touch it and talk about what we can make with it. Sometimes she gets so excited that she sneaks a bite on the spot (my poor rainbow chard stems were her latest victim).

To me, this is the epitome of a healthy lifestyle. Raising a daughter who recognizes and values fresh, whole foods is my answer to ending the cycle of obesity in my family, and also our society's general apathy about the food we eat and where it comes from. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Oatmeal Muffins

Oatmeal muffin with dried cranberries.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but between getting ready for work and school, it can also be the easiest to skip. That's where these muffins come in. Easy to make the night before, they ensure you send everyone in the family away with a hearty breakfast. These also freeze really well and make for a hot breakfast after 45 seconds in the microwave. The key here is to not overbake the muffins. Pull them from the oven when they seem just shy of being done. They will cool to perfection. If you bake until an inserted knife comes clean, you will end up with dry hockey pucks that nobody wants to eat.

My standard recipe is to add 1/4 cup of sliced almonds and 1/2 cup of orange-flavored dried cranberries. Other popular variations include: 1/2 cup frozen blueberries; 1/2 cup chopped fresh apple and 1/2 cup diced dried apricots; and 1/2 cup dried cranberries and 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips.

Oatmeal Muffins

Makes 12-16 muffins

Dry Ingredients
Oatmeal muffin with fresh apple
and dried apricot.
  • 3 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar or turbinado sugar
  • 2.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
Wet Ingredients
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 "flax eggs"
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup applesauce (pumpkin puree or mashed banana also works)
  • Dried or fresh fruit (1/2 cup dried cranberries; fresh or frozen fruit works well too)
  • Nuts (slivered almonds, chopped walnuts)
  1. Make 3 "flax eggs" by whisking together 3 tablepoons of ground flaxseed with 9 tablespoons of warm water (1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon water). Store in refrigerator while assembling remaining ingredients (at least 15 minutes).
  2. Mix together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients until blended well
  4. Slowly stir dry ingredients into the mixed wet ingredients.
  5. Stir in any optional ingredients such as dried/fresh fruit or nuts. Allow mixture to rest.
  6. Line muffin tin with paper liners or grease with cooking spray or coconut oil.
  7. Spoon mixture into muffin tin, packing until level with rim.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
  9. Cool on wire rack. Serve solo or with coconut oil.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Ups and Downs

Five months ago, when I created this blog, I felt 10 feet tall and bulletproof. Our family was two weeks into a plant-based lifestyle: no dairy, no eggs, no meat, no fish, no cheese, etc. I was feeling great. Our daughter's allergy symptoms had disappeared and her sleep pattern improved. My husband seemed to be doing equally well.

The experiment lasted six weeks, during which time I lost 10 pounds and my husband had significant health improvements. His blood sugar dropped 60 points and his cholesterol dropped 20 points. His doctor said if his blood work was the same or better in three months, he would officially not be considered a diabetic.

Then we got cocky. We knew if that doctor visit wasn't positive, he'd be put on insulin. Since it went well, he thought he could indulge here and there. A celebration of sorts. And then I decided that I would go off the wagon to enjoy some cheese for my birthday in late September. The challenge, though, when going off the wagon is that sometimes, you never manage to get back on. I can't even articulate how much I love cheese and all things made with cheese.

My birthday in late September seemed to bleed into Thanksgiving in November and then Christmas in December. Staying meat-free wasn't hard for me, but dairy...dairy is my addiction. Whether we're talking butter in cookies or cheese as a party appetizer, I have just never met a dairy product I didn't like.

I recommitted myself to a plant-based lifestyle in January. My husband, however, isn't nearly as into it as I am. And that poses a variety of challenges. I don't want to be a short-order cook, making multiple meals at home to suit everyone. And I still like meat, which means watching him eat it tempts me to do the same.

But I'm working on it. We still don't keep dairy products in the house. No cheese, milk or sour cream is a big change for me. We have gone from eating 18 eggs a week to about 12 a month, and I only make chicken  two to three times a month. Red meat (beef, pork and lamb) never make their way into the grocery cart. Neither does fish.

We aren't perfect but we're making progress. And that's a big accomplishment.