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I tried two new recipes this weekend. The first was Karina’s Sweet Potato & Black Bean Enchiladas from the Gluten-Free Goddess blog. Take a look at the tastiness:

These really were very good. I love just about anything with black beans and sweet potatoes, and these were no exception. I was afraid it was going to be too spicy with all the chilies, but they really weren’t that spicy at all. This recipes definitely a keeper.

After I assembled the enchiladas, I still had a sizable amount of sweet potato mixture and beans left, so I assembled some sweet potato & black bean quesadillas—sweet potato mixture and beans sandwiched between two corn tortillas—wrapped them individually and thew them in the freezer. On a night I don’t feel like cooking I can thaw them a bit, throw them on a hot skillet, and have almost-instant dinner. Yay!

I also finally got around to making some of Katie’s famous Fudge Babies. These are amazing! If you’re a fan of Larabars or chocolate, you must make these. So fudgy and good (and healthy!). I think next time I make these I’ll throw in some peanut butter for Peanut Butter Cup Babies.

This morning I made Happy Herbivore’s Fat-Free Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls. I’d never made cinnamon rolls from scratch before, but these seemed much easier to make than I expected. They’re gooey and sweet and so tasty. I had two for breakfast, and Kevin had three. These will definitely make it into regular long-weekend breakfast rotation.

I’ll have a new recipe up tomorrow, so check back then! :-) In the meantime, have a lovely Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

Low-Fat Vegan Granola

Holy crap! I’ve gone over a week without posting a new recipe! How sad! Don’t fear, though. I’m back with something you can make for breakfast.

Granola is a healthy breakfast food that often gets loaded with oils, sugar, corn syrup, and other unhealthy ingredients, and the brands with healthier ingredients tend to be crazy expensive. So what’s a granola-lover to do?

Make this!

No oil. No refined sugars. Just wholesome tastiness. Enjoy it with your favorite vegan milk, on yogurt, on top of your I-Scream Sundae, or wherever you need the tasty crunch of granola.

Low-Fat Granola

4 cups oatmeal, quick or regular
1 cup oat bran or another cup oatmeal
2 cups raisins or other dried fruit (dried cranberries are great)
1/3 cup apple juice concentrate, thawed
3 tablespoons agave nectar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon powdered ginger (optional)
Tiny pinch salt

Preheat oven to 325F. Combine everything except the apple juice concentrate, agave and the spices in a large bowl. Combine the spices, agave and the apple juice concentrate in a small bowl. Add the apple juice mixture to the oat mixturel. Mix with a spoon until everything is evenly coated. Spread the granola out on 1 or 2 very foiled-lined (spray foil with nonstick spray) baking sheets. Bake until toasted, about 30 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes. Allow it to cool completely on the baking sheets, then store in airtight containers.

Variation: If you like your granola nutty, add up to 3/4 cup shelled sunflower seeds or chopped nuts. Pecans or walnuts are tasty!

For “flavored” granola, add up to 1 teaspoon of your favorite extract–vanilla, almond, coconut, or whatever you like–to the apple juice mixture.

I’m a little late hopping on the New Year’s Resolution train, but whatever. My new year goals almost always involve eating healthier, shedding pounds, exercising more, writing more . . . it doesn’t change much. So here’s what I’m working toward in 2010.

1) Eliminating sodas. When I was in high school I stopped drinking all sodas, and I stayed soda-free for about five years. I started drinking diet sodas again around 2003-ish. I was at a party with my husband (boyfriend at the time) and there was nothing vegetarian to eat, and I was starving for something, so I had a Diet Coke. And that started me down the path of soda-drinking again. I’ve been trying to quit ever since. A couple of years ago I discovered Zevia sodas, and they’re really good (and way healthier for you), but still, they’re kinda pricey, and there’s really nothing better for you than water. So far this year I haven’t had one, and I haven’t been terribly tempted (and we have free sodas at my office). Water is by far the best beverage for your body, so that’s what I’m going to drink. I also drink 1-2 cups of black coffee per day, and an occasional glass of unsweetened tea. I don’t plan on giving those up. But I’m glad to be without the carbonation.

2) Exercise. I’d gotten into a good groove of regular exercise since July 2008, until around September 2009 I just kinda crapped out. I still went for light 20 minute walks, but to meet my health and weight loss goals, I need more than that. I started back up exercising right before Christmas with some Leslie Sansone DVDs that I really enjoy. I also walk and ride my bicycle outside. I enjoy exercise once I’m doing, it’s just the motivation to start that I lack. I’m keeping an exercise log on this blog so I stay accountable, and it’s kept me on track so far. I’m also incorporating strength training into my daily exercise routine, to build lean muscle and help out my lazy-ass metabolism. I have Smoothie Girl to thank for planting this idea in my head.

3) Food issues. Boy do I have food issues. I’m trying to have a more sane relationship with food, and it’s getting better. I think I’ve realized the hardcore low-fat dieting is not for me. I need moderate amounts of healthy fats from avocados, nuts, coconut, and nut butters. I still avoid straight oils because they’re highly processed and have no nutritional value other than tons of calories. I’m also trying to avoid lapses into what I like to call “binge days” or “bad days.” Just because I have one fatty/sugary/uber unhealthy thing that doesn’t mean the whole day is a wash and I should just have a free-for-all with the chips and ice cream. So far this year, I haven’t had any epic diet lapses, maybe just a bite of something her or there, or one slightly “off” meal. The key is to get back on track ASAP and not dwell on your dietary screw-ups. They happen.

So there we have it. All my issues out here for the interwebs to see. What are your exercise/health goals for the new year?

Spiral Diner is hands-down my most favorite restaurant ever. Spiral is a vegan restaurant that opened in Fort Worth in 2002. I’ve been going ever since opening week and I’ve rarely had a thing I didn’t like.

Spiral has a regular rotation of Blue Plate Specials. Past ones have included the Festivus Sandwich (cranberry pecan dressing, Tofurkey, cranberry sauce, cream cheese, and mayo all sandwiched between two slices of whole grain bread), the Paul Reuben (vegan reuben), chili mac, crazy baked potatoes, and countless other awesome things.

Their newest Blue Plate is an assortment of vegan quesadillas (made with Daiya cheese and all kinds of awesome fillings) and vegan nachos (made with their own cashew cheeze sauce). Of course, as soon as we found out they were offering these tasty gems, Kevin and I had to go down there and try them out. We ordered the Blackened Tofu Quesadillas:

And the Black Bean and Cheese Nachos:

We shared both, and WOW! The quesadillas consist of whole wheat tortillas stuffed with melty Daiya cheese (this stuff is magical!), crisp blackened tofu, corn, tomatoes, green onions and creamy chipotle. On the rare occasion I’ve had regular quesadillas, I always feel gross after eating all that greasy cheese. The Daiya cheese is melty and creamy without all the grease, and the tofu and corn add the perfect combo of textures and flavors.

The nachos were also a winner. The piping hot cashew cheeze sauce is smooth and has a great nutritional yeast/”cheezy” flavor, and the black beans, tomatoes, and onions all added great substance and flavor. They reminded me a little of the vegan nachos we had at Hungry Tiger Too in Portland, Oregon.

If you live remotely close to a Spiral Diner (there’s one in Fort Worth and Oak Cliff), get there fast before these babies are gone. I really, really hope these get added to the regular menu. In fact, now I’m inspired to make my own vegan nachos . . .

Vegan Quesadillas

Today is Vegan Thursday! (If you don’t know what that is, check out Chocolate-Covered Katie’s blog). Since I’m already 90% vegan (and 100% vegetarian), I decided on Vegan Thursdays, I’d come up with a new vegan recipe. Thus, we have these delicious, cheeseless quesadillas!

I made this using ingredients already in my pantry and fridge. It’s all really basic stuff. I’m trying to keep the food bill low this week, so look for more pantry concoctions soon! :-)

I have a feeling this spread would also be good between two slices of bread as a cheeseless grilled cheese!

Queso-less-dillias

1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon yellow miso
2 tablespoons vegan cream or milk (I used unsweetened MimicCream)
2 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teapsoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Tortillas of your choice

Place everything except the tortillas in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. This is your “cheeze.” Spread a generous layer of “cheeze” on a tortilla. Place another tortilla on top of the cheese (you know, like a sandwich). Grill over medium heat in a lightly oiled nonstick skillet or griddle until toasted (about 5 minutes). Flip over and grill other side. Cut into wedges. Repeat until you have a big pile of delicious quesadillas.

Need some hearty comfort food to get you through the winter (holy crap, it’s been cold lately!)? Check out this filling pasta dish. It’s reminiscent of Hamburger Helper, but without the meat, dairy and general processed grossness of its pre-packaged cousin.

For the pasta, I used rice penne, but rotini or macaroni would work well, too.

Hamburger Helper with a Vengeance

2 cups uncooked pasta
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
12 oz package “beef” crumbles
3/4 teaspoon cajun seasoning
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Cheeze Sauce
1 cup plain, unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon vegan mayo
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Cook the pasta according to the package directions.

While the pasta is cooking, making the cheeze sauce. In a small sauce pan, whisk together all the sauce ingredients and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly. When it just starts to boil, lower the heat and cook until thickened. Set aside.

Cook the onion, crumbles, and cajun seasoning in a lightly oiled skillet until onion is translucent and crumbles are heated through. Add the drained, cooked pasta, almond milk, ground pepper, and cheeze sauce and cook over low heat until everything is heated through. Serves 4.

I love pretty much anything with chocolate and peanut butter. Throw in a banana and it’s that much better. This smoothie’s a great way to get your chocolate-PB fix without ingesting tons of fat and refined sugar. Note that the small amount of strawberries called for don’t really impart any flavor; they’re just low-cal filler.

Choco Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

1 frozen, sliced banana (hint, slice before you freeze)
1-1/2 cups almond milk (chocolate, plain or vanilla)
3/4 scoop chocolate protein powder
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 heaping tablespoon PB2 (or 1 tablespoon natural style peanut butter)
3 frozen strawberries
1 teaspoon agave (optional; the banana and protein powder already provide quite a bit of sweetness)

Put everything in a blender or Magic Bullet and and process ’til smooth.

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