Monday, February 28, 2011

Not Obsessed



That is not 14 cups of freshly made delicious hummus right there.  That is not 2lbs worth of chickpeas sitting on my table.  Your eyes are deceiving you.  We are not hummus obsessed.


Oh wait . . . . .


In all fairness 4-5 cups of that is going to my friend Justine.  She gives me chickpeas, and I give her hummus. It works.  So really only like 10 of those cups are for us.  We are not hummus obsessed.


We're not....   ;-)

Happy Birthday Love of my Life

Today is Handsome Man's birthday!  He's been around a whole 27 years!  I told him I hoped he'd be around another two to three 27 years, and he said he be happy to make it for another two 27s.  We'll just compromise and hope for 100 years total. :)

Today is a busy day for both of us, not the least of it all being a Wing Chun training class for each of us this evening, pretty much totally messing up a fun birthday dinner hour, so we have postponed tasty birthday festivities until tomorrow.  Too bad.  Just wait till you see what dinner I have planned for tomorrow!  (He requested it, by the way.)

Here are some pics of us through the years.

Taken at Wall-E!!  One of the rare movies we've actually seen in the theater.

At Raven Rock while we were dating and I was at Campbell, circa 2006 maybe?

Our OBX photoshoot with bethanydan photography  August 2010. They were awesome!

At a friend's wedding circa early 2007 before we were married.

Our 1st Anniversary!  2008

Who knows...

That's what I looked liked normally after coming home from teaching.

A friend's wedding shower in 2008.

One last meet up with Erin and Daniel in 2008 before Jack was born.

At my good friend Karoline's wedding in 2008.

Our visit to PEI in 2008.

Probably one of my MOST favorite pictures of all time!  At Anne of Green Gables gift shop in PEI.

You'll notice most pics are from 2008 or before.  Yea, it's so much easier to remember "couple" shots pre-baby and when you are dating.  In 2009 we had the great camera disaster and were without until just a couple weeks before Charlie was born - at which point 90% of all pictures became Charlie pictures or Charlie-and-one-parent pictures.  Infact, I had to go all the way back to our OBX photoshoot in August of 2010 as our most recent couple shot, as we just haven't remembered to take any of ourselves together since then (and actually we didn't take it then - Bethany and Dan Photography did).  Clearly we need to work on this.  I want to remember that we exist as a couple too, not just as Mama and Daddy and Children.  And I want some new pictures to document my thinner face now. :)

Maybe we'll make more couple pictures our new goal - along with our other plethora of goals....  :-)


You are my best friend, handsome husband.  I love you and have a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What did you have for dinner tonight?

Tonight we (and by "we" I mean "I" since William was working late) had one of our favorites!  Creole Black Bean Burgers!   Oh we could eat this meal FAR more than we actually do.  It's even tastier with some accompanying Creole Potato Wedges, but sometimes when your hubby isn't around, you just don't have the umph to make a side dish too.  So just burgers it was.  And here's how they turned out!

(too bad I didn't have good lighting for the shot.  that's the most gourmet my food has looked in a long time.)

Creole Black Bean Burgers
We LOVE these!  Generally William eats them on a whole wheat bun, and I'll eat them without.  They are tasty no matter what way you eat them.  And they are pretty darn simple too!

3 cups (or 2 cans) black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 onion
2-3 cloves of garlic
2 tsp creole seasoning (we prefer Zatarans)
oatmeal or cooked rice for consistency

Place onions and garlic in food processor and chop till fine.  Add creole and beans and pulse until roughly mixed.  Dump ingredients into a big bowl and stir in oats or rice until mixture is only a little sticky.  (Sticky is good because it means moist burgers, but bad if it's too sticky to work with.  Walk that line, people.)

Grease a large cookie sheet and shape mixture into approximately 6 burger sized patties, and bake for 30 minutes, flipping half way through.

Serve with lettuce, tomato, and GUACAMOLE!  Trust me when I say that the guacamole just makes these burgers heavenly (unless you are diametrically opposed to guacamole to begin with).

Let me know what you think if you try them.   So what did you have for dinner tonight?

Experimenting

I'm experimenting with a new dip.  It's a rustic sundried tomato white bean dip kind of thing.  The inspiration was a dip I saw in the store that I didn't even try!  The last time I saw a tasty dip that I thought about trying to recreate, I bought the dip, got hooked and then couldn't perfect a homemade version.  Didn't want that to happen, so I figured I'd just imagine what it would taste like and mess around at home.  So first batch is pretty good.  Still needs more tweaking - and more sundried tomatoes I think.  Alas I am all out.  If I get it all sorted out and properly tasty, I'll share.  In the mean time you'll have to guess.  And stare at the cuteness.

Sunday digging
His favorite pastime is picking at the dirt around and in between the bricks.  Yes his fingernails are gross.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Charlie and Jack Visiting!

We finally get a weekend away, and we are visiting our good friends Erin and Daniel in Charlotte.  A much needed change of pace, good food, great friends, and super cute toddlers to keep up with.

Sorry the picture is so small.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sprout Wellness Giveaway at GreenMommyBlog!!

One of my favorite blogs is hosting a fantastic giveaway for some very awesome, natural moisturizing cream from Sprout Wellness!  Kristen Suzanne of the Green Mommy Blog is giving away one Sprout Wellness Award Winning All-Over Cream!  It is a super fantastic, natural moisturizer with

-wildcrafted, fair-trade shea butter
-organic extra-virgin coconut oil
-organic extra-virgin olive oil

Kristen even uses this on her infant daughter Kamea, which says a lot because Kristen is super careful about the quality and healthfulness of products she uses on and around Kamea.  But what's not to love about shea butter, coconut oil and olive oil anyways?!?  

The giveaway lasts through February 21st, 2011, and the winner will be announced the following day.  For all the details about entering, hop on over to Kristen's blog and check it out!

Kristen is also a raw, vegan chef who runs Kristen's Raw, a fabulously informational blog about eating a healthful high raw, vegan diet.  Check her out here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Hummus - the good old standby

I’ve posted some of my newer dips we’ve been eating over here, but not the good old favorite standby that we always have on hand.  We love hummus!!!  All three of us do in fact.  Charlie is just as passionate about hummus as we are.  We barely get two bites into a meal before he refuses to eat anymore until there is hummus mixed in (or tahini - that works almost as well).  In fact, many days we just skip the first two plain bites of food and smother it with hummus from the beginning.

But aside from Charlie, William and I love having hummus on hand for snacking on veggies, and sometimes just eating by the spoonful.  (Yea, it’s that good.)  We both used to eat loads and loads of chips and hummus (still the favorite way to have it), but my days of gorging on chips are over and I largely favor carrots and hummus.  William will still consume some corn chips and hummus though.

So here’s what I love about this tasty snack:


Versatile!!  Eat it with carrots, chips, pita squares, cucumbers or smother your entire plate with hummus (like Charlie does).  Sometimes I’ll even add a dollop of hummus to a soup that I’m eating (lentil soup in particular).  Slather it on some good whole grain bread, top with lettuce, tomato, bean burger (if you have it), and any other veggies. Do whatever you want with it!


Cheap!!!  When you make it yourself that is….  Our income certainly would not support our hummus habit, should we ever have to buy pre-made hummus again.  And given hummus’s other health virtures which I will sing in a moment, I’d hate to cut back on our hummus, just because it was expensive.  So homemade it is!  Plus you can tailor make your hummus to your exact tastes and needs.  At my Kroger a 1lb bag of dried chickpeas is $1.65.  Tahini is the only other “expensive” ingredient in here, which can have a huge range in price, but I can find it for $7/2lb tub.  For the salt, garlic, lemon juice and 6 Tbsp of tahini used per 1lb bag of chickpeas, I figure you’re looking at $2, maybe $2.50 for ingredients.  And a 1lb bag of chickpeas will make up 7 cups of hummus!  If you find good, store bought hummus for $2.50/7cups, please let me know!!


Healthy!!!  Chickpeas are a legume and are high in protein and low in fat!  But that’s just the beginning.  One cup of chickpeas has 12g of fiber, 15g of protein, 26% RDA iron, 71% RDA folate, 84% RDA manganese, and 28% RDA phosphorus, just to name a few of the high points.  Plus, they have satiety value “staying power” to help you feel full.  When I eat 1/2cup of hummus on my salad for lunch, it helps me feel fuller for longer than if I’d just eaten a veggie salad.
So recipe already…

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Hummus
1/2lb dried chickpeas, soaked, cooked, cooled
1/2cup lemon juice
1 medium clove garlic
1 tsp salt
3 Tbsp tahini
cold water to thin as desired

Place all ingredients in food processor, and mix until desired smooth texture.  Water will aid in getting a smoother texture but will also make it thinner, so it’s a trade off.

Couple of things you’ll notice:  No oil!  You can of course add olive oil to it, but with every Tbsp you add, the calories go up obviously.  Since we don’t use this as one of our main sources of fats (although you could if you needed that to suit your dietary style), I don’t bother with the oil.  In fact I use hummus as a substitute for the more calorific salad dressings.  Salad dressings are generally all fat, and have little to no nutrients, fiber or protein, unlike chickpeas.  If I’m going to consume fat, I’d rather do it in a more pleasing and healthy way (I love nuts!). Besides, it tastes pretty darn good without olive oil, so try it first!

Also notice the dried chickpeas.  You can in fact use canned, but in my opinion the quality of your hummus will diminish DRASTICALLY!!  And I say that in all seriousness.  There are some things for which canned chickpeas work fine - and I do NOT believe hummus is one of them.  Also cooling the chickpeas and using cold water in the recipe make for a better result too.

One last thing to mention that has to do with versatility, is that while I make our hummus with less tahini than some recipes call for because I like reduce the fat I’m getting, tahini is a pretty good way to consume fats.  So if your family needs more fat in your lean diet, or you have a child who needs more fat consumption, go a little more heavy handed with the tahini, or mix in extra tahini to the portion of hummus you are giving your lean folks and leave it out of the main bowl.  I would favor doing that over adding olive oil, as tahini (sesame seeds) generally have more nutrients in them than olive oil - so more bang for your fat calories.
Tell me what you think if you try it!  Off to have some hummus and carrots…

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Tasty Vegan Dishes to Freeze for Later

A good friend of mine is due in just a couple weeks and she asked me for some good vegan recipes that would be easy to freeze and pull out later when she had her hands full with a new baby and still wanted something healthy to eat.  Let’s face it, as GRATEFUL as Moms are to receive meals postpartum, sometimes the food is not the type you are used to eating.  And sometimes it can be pretty difficult to request a certain type of food that is out of most people’s cooking comfort zones (vegan generally falls into that category, as can gluten-free, no fat, or high raw).

So immediately I thought of soups when she asked me that question.  We do a lot of soups/stews - basically anything that’s vegan, hearty and filling, and has just a smidge of broth counts as “soup” in my book.  Soups are easy to throw together (especially in the crockpot during a morning nap) and then voile! you have dinner 8ish hours later.  So most of the recipes I suggest will be stew like in nature, with the exception of two.  I came up with my own tasty Gardener’s Pie recipe, and have a great Lentil Sloppy Joe recipe that both freeze well.  For me, I’ve had trouble finding good healthy casserole type meals (which generally freeze well), because once you cut out meat, dairy and pasta, I find it’s pretty hard to make a casserole.  If anyone has any good vegan casserole suggestions, PLEASE LET ME KNOW!!
Please note that any and ALL pictures were taken by me on my dinky camera and I realize don’t do anything flattering to the food.  They are merely to give you a rough idea of what the food looks likeI am no food photographer.
Here goes…
Gardener’s Pie

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3-4lbs potatoes, cooked and mashed.
1 ½ cup French Lentils  (or regular brown lentils)
1 can pinto beans
3-3 ½ cups water
1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped
1/2c each corn and peas
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp each Miso and Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp basil
1 tsp rosemary
salt and pepper
1tsp-1 Tbsp RWV

Cook and season mash potatoes as you normally would mashed potatoes.  (I prefer to use garlic powder, salt, pepper, and veggie broth in my mashed potatoes - gives them plenty of flavor without adding any fat from oils, butters, cheeses, or milk).

Sort and rinse lentils in a mesh strainer.  Place lentils, water, carrots, corn, peas, bay leaf, onion, garlic, Miso, Worchestershire, basil and rosemary in at least a 3.5qt pot and bring to a boil.  Simmer for around 30 minutes or until done.  (truthfully I always forget to time how long it takes, so I just stir and taste check to see when they’re done).  When lentils are cooked, taste test to see if you need to add more herbs or salt and pepper.  Add red wine vinegar a little at a time, according to taste preferences.   There shouldn’t be much liquid in the pan, so if there is, drain some off into a cup.

Spread lentil mixture evenly in 9x13 pan and carefully spread mashed potatoes over top.  Place pan in oven at 350 degrees until lentil mixture gets bubbly around the edges - around 20 minutes?

This bakes up nicely and freezes nicely.  Eat half for dinner and freeze half for a rainy, postpartum day. :)


Santa Fe Chowder

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(This recipe was originally gotten off of the FatFreeVegan.com’s website, but I can’t seem to find it on there now to link to it.)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 gold or sweet potato, diced
1 cup diced carrots
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup canned chopped green chilies
1 15oz can pinto or white beans, drained
1 13oz can light coconut milk
1 15oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
10oz package of frozen corn
1/3 cup Dry Sherry (optional)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp dried cilantro
1/2 tsp cumin, to taste
dash of chili powder, to taste
salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients but coconut milk in crockpot and cook for 8ish hours on low.  Add coconut milk anywhere in the last hour before serving.

*Note - I have never used the dry sherry as I never have it on hand (also you might not want to if you are nursing).  I rarely use 1 cup of canned green chilies as that’s a little hot for me.  Usually I’ll use a little 4oz can or leave it out all together.  Don’t skip the coconut milk - it adds a fun, creamy flavor you don’t want to miss!  Although you can lessen the fat if you want to by using half a can of coconut milk and then freezing the other half for a later soup date.


Lentil Soup  -  No picture, sorry!

1 1lb bag of dried lentils, sorted and rinsed
1-2 potatoes, diced
1lb carrots, chopped
1 onion, minced,
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1 qt vegetable broth
2 Tbsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (or tamari)
1 tsp of a Mrs. Dash seasoning you like (we do southwest chipotle)
1 can of diced tomatoes (optional)
7oz bag or several handfuls of fresh spinach
Place everything in crockpot except spinach and cook for 8ish hours until lentils are fully cooked.  Right before serving, rough chop the spinach and stir it into the soup.  The spinach will wilt down pretty fast and be ready to eat within 5-10 minutes.
*Note - Lentil soup is SO versatile and this recipe can really be played with according to your preferences.  Use less carrots, add corn and green beans, leave out the tomatoes (what we have lately been doing), more cumin, totally change the spices, etc.   This is really just one idea for lentil soup.


Lentil Sloppy Joes
(This recipe was originally found on the internet, but again I can’t find it now to link to it.)

1 1/2 cups lentils, sorted and rinsed
2.5-3 cups veggie broth
1 can diced tomatoes (fire roasted prefered)
1 onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1/4 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (or tamari or soy sauce)
1/2 Tbsp yellow mustard
1 Tbsp mild chili powder
Bring lentils, onion, green peppers and tomatoes to a boil and simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes or till you achieve the preferred bite to the lentils.  (we like a little bite to our lentils for added texture).  Drain any excess liquid and stir in rest of ingredients.  Pulse lightly in a food processor to just break up the lentils, and serve over whole wheat rolls or inside pita pockets!
*Note - I always use the whole bag of lentils if I am going to freeze some for leftovers (plus I hate having little bits left in bags), and I just increase the water and seasonings a little bit.  Have hubby pick up some WW rolls on his way home from work and you’ve got dinner on the table!
So there’s a start to the homemade freezable vegan meals!  I realize now that most of them are lentil based, so I guess I should hunt up some of my other recipes to post that aren’t lentil based!  But we do use a lot of lentils and beans here because legumes are an EXCELLENT source of protein.  Also, I only posted one recipe that uses a food processor -  the Lentil Sloppy Joes.  If you don’t have a food processor but you have a blender, you could lightly break up the lentil mixture in that as well, but you would have to do it in much smaller batches than the food processor or the blender wouldn’t handle the thick mixture.
Enjoy!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Growing Up



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Charlie is 16 months now.  He used to snuggle with me in our rocking chair before every night-night.  Now I get high-fives before nap and bedtime.  He loves it!  And I love it.  I miss snuggling, but I’ll take enthusiastic high-fives. :)
*Note, you can’t see everything else in the background, but that man goes to bed with an army of things.  Pictured here are just his special elephant, a ball, the big puppy and his blanket (which usually never stays on him - must have been exhausted and passed out as soon as I laid him down).  Not pictured are generally a puppy dog, teddy bear, a froggie, 3 mouse-opotamuses - the creature that looks simultaneously like, you guessed it, a mouse and a hippo, and several random duplo pieces he manages to throw in there.  I try and draw the line at sticks, but even then I find some that have sneaked their way in. Gone are the days of sleeping in an empty bed.   
(But we were very careful when initially allowing him to sleep with things in bed, due to that whole suffocation thing.)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

NuNaturals Giveaway at Healing with Raw Juices!!


One of the blogs I follow is having an AWESOME giveaway this week - ending today unfortunately!  Raw Juice Girl (Michelle Tune) over at Healing With (Raw) Juices is giving away a package of NuNaturals NuStevia White Stevia Powder (50 packets) AND one bottle of NuNaturals Vanilla Liquid Stevia, 2oz!!  Better yet, there will be 4 winners!! (Oh I’m crossing my fingers so that I can try the Vanilla!!)
I love using stevia as a natural sweetener around here.  It’s an herbal sweetener with no refined sugars, HFCS or anything nasty like that.  I feel good giving it to my little 16 month old - and that should tell you a lot since I still watch what goes into his mouth pretty closely.
So you should head on over to see the Raw Juice Girl and enter her giveaway today!  One last day today, lots and lots of ways to enter!  Just do it

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Warm Cheesy White Bean Dip

This dip is absolutely delicious.  Today was the 3rd time I made this dip in the last 4 days, and I may or may not be sitting here with a bowl of it, eating as I type.  Don’t be too skeptical about the “cheesy” part, given this is coming from a vegan person.  Does it actually taste really cheesy?  Not really (coming from a vegan who still loves the taste of cheese).  But is the dip super tasty anyways?  YEA!

This dip came from the cook book eat, drink & be vegan by Dreena Burton.  I have gotten several other good recipes from her book and can vouch for their tastiness.  You can buy the book at Amazon or check out her blog here.

I actually made a couple alterations to the recipe, which I’ll put below.

Warm & Cheesy White Bean Dip
1 cup cooked cannellini beans or navy beans  (Great Northern work great too)
1/2 cup raw cashews
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 medium clove garlic, sliced
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp ground turmeric (for color)
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced (optional)
1/2cup +2 Tbsp plain rice milk
1 1/2-2 Tbsp olive oil
1-3 Tbsp plain rice milk (to thin dip as desired)

In food processor, combine the first 4 ingredients and puree to break down cashews. (I also should have added the garlic at this juncture to break it down more too.)  Add all other ingredients except the 1-3 Tbsp rice milk, and process till smooth.  You can at this point put the dip in a sauce pan and warm it up like a warm cheese dip (adding extra rice milk to thin as needed) or you can just eat it as is.  I didn’t bother to heat it up either time and it was delicious.  Serve with chips, carrots, salt-free pretzels, etc.

Alterations I made: 1 can of beans and only 1/4c cashews to use the whole can of beans and cut back on the fat from the nuts.  (Nut and seed fats are good, but you still don't want to go overboard.)  I only used a splash of soymilk because that’s all I had - you could even cut it out altogether for a thicker, hummus texture dip.  I didn’t have dry mustard so I just used prepared. Also I left out the olive oil in order to cut back on some of the fat. (CrunchyMamaLife didn’t lose 35lbs by consuming lots of fat you know. :)  )


This one is worth trying, even if you are worried about the vegan cheesy taste.  It is SO good.

Smoky Cilantro White Bean Dip

Sweet potatoes are cooking in the oven, clothes are in the dryer, dishes are washed, Sonny is sleeping, which means it’s DIP TIME!
I had a good old time turning 2.5lbs of beans into tasty dips this morning during Charlie’s nap.  First on the list was the Smoky Cilantro White Bean Dip.  This recipe is actually one of my own, so I might secretly be hoping that someone other than my husband really likes it…maybe….
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Here’s the recipe:
2 cans Great Northern Beans*
1/4c lemon juice
1 small handful each, fresh cilantro and Italian parsley
1/4-3/4tsp Mrs. Dash Southwest Chipotle blend**
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
3 medium cloves garlic
1 tsp agave nectar (honey might work as well, or try it without sweetener)***
1 tsp salt
1-2 Tbsp tahini
Thoroughly blend everything in a food processor, high powered blender like a Blendtec or Vita-mix, or regular blender.  Grab a spoon and enjoy!  Or serve with veggies, pita or chips for dipping.
(If you use a regular blender you may have to use more liquid to get it to blend well, and stop and scrape down sides more often.)
*Whenever I can plan ahead I like to use dried beans because they are cheaper.  1/2lb or a little over 1 cup of dried beans generally equals about 2 cans of beans
**The Mrs. Dash is what makes it hot, so if you aren’t a hot person, try just 1/4tsp first and work your way up
***I realize most people might not have agave nectar on their cupboard.  I added it because I wanted something to temper the savory-ness slightly, but if you don’t have agave nectar, try it without a sweetener and see if you like it.
Let me know if you try it and like it! :)