2014 Get it going

Well here we are at the end of 2013. It was a topsy turvy year for many including me. Tomorrow is a new year, a new day and the chance to better your best. I have proclaimed it the take care of Sheila year for me.
Let me first say that although I have had my challenges in 2013, this year has been  full of blessings for me too. Still and all 2014.....bring it on!!

I started my 2014 transformation a few days early upon my return from Florida. I cleaned and organized my closets, went grocery shopping for "healthy" food and started putting together thoughts as to my resolutions and goals for 2014.  I made some vegetarian black bean chili with wheat berries, spent some time with friends, had a manicure, pedicure and massage, renewed my workout goals and today had a great healthy lunch.

I had lunch with a friend in Arlington yesterday at a Lebanese Restaurant he frequents called Shatila.  The restaurant atmosphere could use some improvement but the food is darn tasty.

This was my second visit. Both times we had the sampler with Hummus, Baba Ganoush and Tabbouleh. All were delicious and filling.

Since I had parsley in my fridge left over from my cancelled Christmas party (iced out), I decided today to try my hand at a similar lunch.

I had tasted the Baba Ganoush awhile back at WholeFoods and really liked it. The company is "The Mediterranean Chef". In fact, I met the owners at the tasting.

So for lunch today I picked up the Baba Ganoush at Wholefoods then made my own tabbouleh. I cheated a bit by looking at the ingredient  label of tabbouleh Wholefoods sells (same company). I tried before to replicate the Baba Ganoush and failed miserably but felt confident I could succeed with tabbouleh.

So here is what I did:

I took two handfuls of parsley, washed and dried it. I removed some of the larger stems and chopped the rest roughly. To that I added a pinch of dried mint (fresh would be better. I am sure!) a few sprinklings of dried dill weed, minced white onion, minced tomato, minced cucumber (both tomato and cuke seeded)  and a pinch or more of salt.  I then mixed in a little olive oil and lemon juice.  That was it.

Now traditional tabbouleh has wheat.  I liked Shatila's version without it. In their version healthy parsley is the star.  This is very healthy and without the wheat....maybe some of you gluten free folks can enjoy it sans pita bread!

I am not a non gluten person so I ate my meal with whole wheat pita from The Baklava Bakery in Arlington. A little bit of Greek feta and some olives rounded out my meal. Dessert was a few slices of Cara Cara orange.

I wish each of you a happy, healthy New Year filled with clean eating and exercise.  2014....we are ready for you!


Don't like Brussels Sprouts? Try this and help those in need too.

I had a friend in from Florida just before Thanksgiving. Since being a vegetarian, Turkey day does not excite me, I decided to include him in my holiday meal.  In that I bought Brussels sprouts on the vine and used some to roast. We didn't use them all so I was stuck with figuring out what to do next.

A group I am in posted a  note that they would like the members to contribute food for a local women and children's shelter for their Thanksgiving meal.  This particular shelter supports those immigrants that have been victims of human trafficking.  All I could think of is how lucky most of us are and how important it is to help these women and children.

Brussels sprouts are not a favorite for many so I thought I would try something different. Searching the blogsphere I found a recipe that fit the bill,  Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Pistachios, Cranberries & Parmesan http://www.cookincanuck.com/2013/11/shredded-brussels-sprouts-recipe-pistachios-cranberries-parmesan/

I had all the ingredients so I thought I would try it.  I didn't want to use the pistachios so I looked up an alternative. Honeyed Walnuts with Rosemary.  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/brussels-sprouts-with-candied-walnuts-and-green-apple-recipe/index.html

The combination worked perfectly and I liked it so much I had some for breakfast. The good thing about this salad is that it tasted more like cabbage and less like sprouts. I think even non brussels sprouts lovers may still like it.  The best thing about it though is that it went to the local women's shelter and made their holiday a little less lonesome, knowing that people care.

I hope you will try the recipe, whether you use the pistachios or the honeyed walnuts it will be good. Please also support your local women's shelters. These women and children need to know we care for and support them in keeping them safe.

Safe and happy holidays!


"The Ranch" revisited

Life has gotten a bit boring for me these days. Between office work and the gym at night, there hasn’t been much time for socializing. Still I have been trying to find healthy choices for my meals, especially since I sit all day at work. Something I am not used to and don’t love.

I don't love sitting or being in an office all day but I like working for a travel company .I  get to dream of the trips I would like to take and maybe some day can see those dreams become reality.

My last favorite trip was to Rancho La Puerta Spa in Mexico.  http://www.rancholapuerta.com/ As food goes, The Spa serves vegetarian food most of the time, though they did have fish one night. They don’t sugar up the food, so fruit breads are only slightly sweet as are most things that in the “real” world would be sugared up.

The best part of the trip was the hike to their organic garden, picking the fresh organic produce, cooking and eating dinner with some wonderful fellow spa visitors and our morning hike to the organic garden with Breakfast.

One thing I learned about myself by going there was that some of my sugar cravings, at home, were because I didn’t eat enough calories during the day. At the Spa they encourage you to eat their fresh, organic, nutritionally dense offerings and to eat well.

I ate a lot and I actually lost weight. Now you might say it was because I was exercising all day, but if you saw how much I ate, you would realize the food had a lot to do with it.  I did miss sugar but not as much as I thought I would.

So, when I saw the Facebook posting about culinary week at “The Ranch”, it inspired me to buy their cookbooks. Not one cookbook. I bought three of them. 

So far I have made one recipe…twice!! I love it and outside of it being higher in sodium than is good for some people, I find it quite healthy too. http://www.cookstr.com/recipes/mixed-seafood-steamed-in-parchment-with-shallots-and-white-wine

The recipe would be fantastic for a company meal. The fish and vegetables are baked in packets. Opening your packet at dinner is like opening a gift.

I bought the fish at WholeFoods. Adjusting the ingredients for 1 serving, I bought 4 oz of wild caught Salmon (I removed the skin but you can have them do it), 4 large shrimp and 2 large Sea Scallops which I cut in half.  The seafood is marinated and the veggies are also marinated separately.  In the original recipe they use dill and parsley as the herb blend. I included Tarragon (Mexican Marigold Mint as a Texas substitute) in one packet and Spearmint in the other along with the dill and parsley. I loved the Tarragon, an herb I rarely use.  Fresh herbs are the only way to go. I can’t imagine using dried with the exception of the dill.

This was a wonderful meal and the amount I made created 2 packets, one for the next night.  Opening the packets, the fish and veggies had a magnificent fragrance and the packets were filled with a tasty juice that mixed well with the quinoa I made as a side dish (brown rice, wheat berries and barley the second time).

My dinner entailed a glass of white wine (opened for the marinade), my little packet of goodies, the quinoa and slices of orange and grapefruit for dessert. The only thing missing was a partner to share it with or if not that, a table of new friends like I had during dinners at “The Ranch”

I hope you will not only try this dinner, but consider taking a fit trip to Rancho La Puerta Spa. I had an amazingly fun and healthful visit. I “will” be there again. Of that I am sure. http://www.rancholapuerta.com/2013/07/01/taking-the-ranch-home-how-friendship-beauty-and-wellness-inspired-new-ways-to-bring-the-ranch-home/


Chocolate and Coconut a winning popsicle

I haven't been posting much these days because I have been busy. I took on a 6 month Recruiting contract. Between working at an office for 8 hours, then going to the gym after, I have been eating a late dinner and crashing every night.

I haven't worked an in  office job in 4 years and I had forgotten how absolutely bad for your body sitting all day is.  The last time I worked in an office I gained 6 lbs. I was determined not to let that happen this time, but I am noticing my pants aren't as loose as they were.

 So I have been eating ice cream in the evenings. Not a lot. I buy those mini Ben and Jerry's or Hagen Daz containers. I normally only eat a few bits...but it adds up.

I wanted to try a more natural approach so I looked on line and found a number of postings for Popsicles made with Magic Chocolate (thing Dairy Queen)coating and Coconut.  They sounded fantastic so  I combined a number of recipes I saw and came up with my own version. Tryed them today and they are quite tasty.

The recipe calls for full fat coconut milk, so it probably isn't low calorie. I rationalize it by  making them in the smaller popsicle molds. Please excuse the pictures. I am not a food photographer, just s girl that likes to try new recipes.

Here is my version:

Coco-chocolate popsicles

1 can of coconut milk
1 tablespoon of agave syrup or honey (or to taste)
1/2 cup of coconut flakes( I used sweet)
¼ of a lime
½ tsp coconut extract
1-2 tsp coconut rum (optional)
Some toasted coconut flakes for the shell
1/2 cup of Hard Shell Chocolate

Pour coconut milk into a glass measuring cup so you can pour the contents into popsicle molds. Add agave syrup to taste and sweetened coconut (or unsweetened if you prefer) and stir. Squeeze a little lime in, but not too much. Taste and add more rather than overdo it. Add coconut extract and coconut rum if using. Pour into molds. Place lid on molds. Add sticks through the holes.
After Popsicles are frozen, take them out of the molds and dip ends into Hard Shell Chocolate. Quickly sprinkle toasted coconut flakes on the chocolate. Let harden, then eat!
You can use sprinkles instead of toasted coconut to make them more festive, but I love toasted coconut so that is my choice.

Note: I sat them on top of the Popsicle molds stick side down until hardened. You can wrap them and freeze them after that.

Chocolate Hard Shell

2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cold pressed  unrefined
coconut oil

Heat chocolate chips in the microwave in a microwave safe glass bowl (I used the measuring cup) in 30 second increments until melted, stirring in between each time.

Whisk together the chocolate and coconut oil until smooth

Remove from heat and let cool completely before applying to Popsicles


My new favorite munchie-Spiced Roasted Soybeans

I accidentally bought some dried soybeans the other day, thinking I had picked up Garbanzo Beans to make Hummus.

Since I wasn’t familiar with cooking them, I perused the Internet looking for ideas.  What interested me was a recipe for Roasted Soybeans.  I made them and they are now my new favorite “healthy” snack.  No Doritos here. Just protein packed beans. 

So here is how I did it:
 I took 1 ½ cups of the whole dry soybeans and covered them with about double the amount of water. I soaked them this way over night (or 6-8 hrs). Then I drained the water, rinsed them and drained again.

Meanwhile I preheated an oven (actually my toaster oven) to 300 degrees.

I laid out the beans on a cookie sheet and lightly coated them with coconut oil (olive oil would work too).  I then sprinkled some garlic powder, Gephardt’s chili powder and a little pink salt on top (You can vary the spices to your liking).

They bake for about 45 min to one hour but you have to stir them every 15 minutes. I tasted them for doneness each time I stirred them. It took me 45 minutes the first time I tried it in the toaster oven. The second time they were browned but still a little soft in the middle so I turned the oven off and let them stay in there to dry out a bit.

I hope you will try these.


My favorite guacamole

I had a couple of friends over for Cinco de Mayo Margaritas and snacks.  As always,  I like to make fresh food rather than running to the store for chips and dip.

I made a dip that required a roasted peeled red pepper so I headed down to the grill to roast it. Since I also planned to make guacamole, I grabbed a couple of scallions and a fresh bright jalapeno along with the red pepper. I sprayed a little olive oil on the scallion and jalapeno and charred each.  These became part of the guacamole.

Before continuing, I must  share with you where I have had the best guacamole. It is at Cantina Laredo.  I love when the waiter brings all the fresh ingredients to the table and makes a personalized batch. My sister and I have gone there and shared the guacamole for dinner! It's that good.

Well I made my own version last night and I liked it just the same. The only reason I would rank Cantina Laredo's version above mine is the entertainment of having the guacamole made tableside.

Since I rarely eat chips, I decided on my favorite "full fat" chip, Sesame Blues, but I couldn't find them anywhere (disappointing).  In discussion about it with the department head at Whole Foods, he suggested I try "Food Should Taste Good" Blue Corn chips with Quinoa, Flax, Sunflower and Sesame Seed, Soy and Brown Rice.  They are good, but I am still a fan of the "Sesame Blues"!

Nutritionally, Sesame Blues have about 10 more calories and 1 more gram of fat per serving. Surprisingly the Sesame Blues also have 1 gram more of Protein. I am hoping they aren't off the market, because I will get them the next time I decide to eat chips (maybe they are not stocking them because I eat them so rarely!!)

This was my Guacamole version:

1  large avocado
Juice of 1 small juicy lime
1-2  roasted scallions, chopped
1 large roasted jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, chopped.
A sprinkling of garlic powder  to taste

I roughly mashed the avocado then added the additional ingredients. That was it and it was delicious. In fact, I just had some on my morning egg and corn tortilla taco.


Trying Vegan food

In my continued effort to try out different ideas, I have gotten on the Vegan band wagon. No, I am not a Vegan and don’t plan to be. I am just curious about whether the food choices Vegan’s make are tasty.

Years ago I worked in a Health Food store and I always hated the smells from all the Vitamins and doctored foods that mimicked non-Vegetarian fare. With renewed interest in Veganism, things have changed. At least I thought they had but my theory needed to be proven.

My sister bought me the book, “the conscious cook” several years ago. She had seen the chef on Oprah. He was talking about a Chicken substitute called Gardein. Well my experience with faux meat has not been all that exciting. I have found a few products that I can use, but most  can taste either like cardboard or vitamins.

Well I thought I would give Gardein a try…after all they talked about it on Oprah. Yuk! It was not up to my standard. In fact, I threw it away. I looked through the cookbook and some of the food looked interesting but way too much work. Cashew cream? Tempura beet rollatini? All I could think of is red beet juice getting on my carpet. Unfortunately and to my sister’s dismay, I did not use the cook book.

When I went to Rancho La Puerto Spa in Mexico last summer, I was exposed to a diet that was not purely Vegan but there was very little dairy, no meat and Seafood served only once.  Flax and Chia seeds were always abundant to sprinkle on the salads or vegetables.

The spa promotes eating abundant portions of nutrient dense foods. I ate a lot and found that I had very few sugar cravings and I didn’t gain an ounce. I also felt great.

I came back with renewed interest in an alternative eating style. Then I happened upon a website called Damy Health. It was written by a personal trainer and included many Vegetarian and Vegan recipes.  One I mentioned earlier was for a Cashew Cheese. There were those raw Cashews showing up again. Still it sounded so good, I made it and it’s one of my favorite foods now.

I was on a roll. I found a recipe for Pumpkin No Bake Energy bites http://www.gimmesomeoven.com/pumpkin-no-bake-energy-bites/. I love Pumpkin and Pumpkin seeds so this was a no brainer. I am allergic to oats so I managed to make them using wheat flakes (sorry Gluten free gang).

Next were Candy Apple Macaroons http://www.healthfulpursuit.com/2011/03/candy-apple-macaroons/. They weren’t quite like the picture but I liked them and I was eating something healthier than cookies. 

 Since I was branching out, I decided this weekend to try Vegan Mac and Cheese http://www.damyhealth.com/2012/11/vegan-cauliflower-mac-cheese/. This one was a real stretch for me because the Mac part is really grated cauliflower. I love raw cauliflower but I have no love for cooked cauliflower. Still, I wanted to be adventurous so I took on the task of making it the Vegan way.

So, now I must stop to tell you. Vegan cooking is a lot of work and it’s expensive too. There are always specialty ingredients, like flax meal, unsweetened coconut, almond flour etc. The flax meal comes in large bags. I only needed 3 tbl so I bought flax seed and put it in my coffee grinder. The almond flour is 11 dollars a bag. I only needed a tablespoon so again I ground it myself from toasted almonds.  Nutritional yeast was another trip to Central Market. Almond Milk, well it also comes in a carton, so I am now mixing it in with my milk for cereal.

I was starting to feel like I lived in the 1800’s, having to grind my own flour and seeds. I imagined that as I read further down the recipe, it might require me to build a fire to boil water in a kettle. That wasn’t the case but modern equipment isn’t always as simple as it seems.

It was time to grate the Cauliflower. I pulled  out the 25 year old (modern!)Cuisinart Food Processor. That alone is like lifting weights. I was just talking about it to my sister, touting all the things I used it for and how long I have had it.  Well I broke it grating the Cauliflower (no fault of the Cauliflower). The grating disk is now stuck on the stem and I can’t get them apart.  This is really some expensive Mac and Cheese.

The result….well I am not there yet. I started to put it all together for lunch when it dawned on me…Gas…Did I really want to eat a bowl of Cauliflower with Nutritional yeast for lunch?  What would I feel like later? Isn’t Cauliflower a gas producing vegetable?  Hmm…why didn’t I think of this before I broke the Processor! I cooked up some regular old gluten full macaroni and mixed it with the Cauliflower then put it all together and baked it. 

Now for the result…it was pretty good but not anywhere near the time, money and trouble it cost. 

Tomorrow I think I will make a piece of Salmon and a salad. Maybe I will even throw come Chia seeds on for good measure.  That’s more my style. Vegans must have a lot of money and time on their hands. Ask Bill Clinton or Steve Wynn or surprisingly Mike Tyson (yes he is Vegan,  except for an ear now and then).