Festive Green Broccoli Lentil Soup, and a Holiday Break From Blogging

So far the holiday has been a blast!  I've gotten to spend time with friends I don't get to see very often, and my brother and sister-in-law made it into town last night.  With all of the festivities of Christmas beginning I thought I would make one last post before Christmas.  This post will be for Festive Green Broccoli Lentil Soup.  I made this one earlier this week as a hearty pureed soup that has become a favorite of mine this winter season.  

Festive Broccoli, Split Pea, and Lentil Soup

1/2 c uncooked split peas
1/2 c uncooked lentils
2 c vegetable broth
2 c water
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 t dried basil, or 2 T fresh basil
1 lb pre-roasted winter squash or pumpkin (how to)
2 c fresh spinach (optional)
2 c broccoli, cut into florets
1 c mushrooms, quartered
1 T curry powder (optional)

Directions:  In a small saucepan, boil the uncooked split peas and lentils until at a soft consistency.  Strain and reserve for later.  In a large soup pan, combine vegetable broth, water, basil, and chopped onion and bring to a simmer.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Add pre-roasted winter squash to soup and reheat to a simmer.  Simmer for 5 more minutes.  Turn off of heat and stir in spinach until it begins to wilt.  Puree the entire soup in a blender or with a blender.  Return soup to soup pot and add broccoli and mushrooms.  Simmer for 10 more minutes, remembering to stir regularly.  Add in lentils, split peas, and curry powder.  Serve hot with a sprinkle of paprika in each bowl.

Amy's Notes:  With adding the spinach to the puree of the soup, it turns a very green color.  This is why I called it "Festive" Green Broccoli Lentil Soup, and it's even more festive with a punch of red paprika on top!  If you want less of a Christmas-y effect, omit the added spinach.  This soup definitely takes some time to prepare, but is easy to heat up for leftovers the next day.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!  I will be spending Christmas in Spokane before heading to Sequim on the 28th for New Years, then I will be heading back to Spokane with Kevin before returning to Pullman for next semester to start school on January 9th.  My next blog post will not be until school starts again, so I hope everyone enjoys the healthy foods of the holiday and I look forward to coming back in a few weeks to provide you with more yummy nutritarian recipes.

What would you most like to see from my blog when I return?  Any recipes with ingredients you're not sure how to use?  Substitutions for non-nutritarian favorites?


Blog Poll Recipe: Massaged Kale Salad

Since being back in Spokane for Christmas, it has been so nice to relax and enjoy good healthy food with my parents.  Unfortunately, when I got into town on Saturday, I was having terrible stomach pains and felt nauseous all day.  I'm not sure if it was mild food poisoning from something I ate last week, due to the dark beer I had the night before, or a delayed nervous reaction from my last final exam on Friday, but I felt terrible.  So terrible that I wasn't able to make it to my friend April's annual Ugly Christmas Sweater Party :(.  That night I was able to "get-down" some dinner that my mom made.  She showed me from the table (as I may have been sicker than I was and contagious) how to make her great bean burgers.  With a bit of guacamole on them, they were spectacular.  I was lucky I was a bit sick or I would have eaten the whole batch of bean burgers hehe!

The next day, Sunday, I felt much better; good enough to go to church.  This was nice to see all of the people I grew up in faith with that I haven't seen in a long while, and to be reminded that I have more than one family in Spokane that care dearly for me.  After church my parents and I went to Round Table Pizza... to have the salad bar of course!  The salad bar there wasn't anything too fancy, but we loaded up on greens and enjoyed what would have been a very expensive salad at another restaurant (without the hassle of telling the server to put the dressing on the side, and hold the meat, and hold the cheese, and hold the croutons, etc.).  Later that evening, my dad and I wanted to treat my mom to making dinner, so my dad got to work on Vegetable Shish-ka-bobs as I made a quick salad for dinner.  

This today's recipe will feature kale.  I got the idea for the salad from this book.  The idea for massaged kale is from this book and so is the idea of how to handle the cashews for the salad dressing.

Massaged Sweet Kale Salad
(sorry for the blurry picture)
1 bunch kale (leaves size of 2-3 fists)
1-2 t olive oil (or less)
1/3 c chopped walnuts
1/4 c dried cranberries
1/4 c fresh blueberries

1/2 c cashews
3/4 c boiling water
1 c pineapple juice
2 T rice vinegar
1/4 t ground black pepper
1 T balsamic vinegar

Directions:  Boil water and pour into a small bowl with cashews, let sit for 15 minutes.  Strain cashews and add all dressing ingredients into a blender.  Blend the ingredients until smooth.  Refrigerate dressing until time to serve.  Cut the stems from the kale and rip into bite size pieces.  In a small bowl, place kale inside and spray with olive oil (if you have a Misto), or lightly coat your fingers in olive oil.  Then massage the oil into the kale leaves with your fingers, until all leaves have a nice light gloss to them.  Do not use more olive oil than needed, a little goes a long way!  Add the dried cranberries and blueberries to the salad.  When ready to serve, toss a small amount of the dressing to the salad and toss until all leaves are well covered.  Sprinkle the chopped walnuts on the salad and serve. 

Amy's notes:  The dressing makes more than is needed for the salad as written, so feel free to double or triple the salad part of the recipe; the dressing will be able to easily stretch for that.  Also, the pineapple juice can be substituted for any other fresh juice you desire.  As I said, I sprayed olive oil with a Misto, which I find to be a great investment for anyone trying to eat healthy or eating a nutritarian diet.  It is sold for around $10, but I received it as a gift from my sister-in-law last Christmas.  It is a great way to use olive oil if it is a necessity, as it is in this recipe, while helping a small amount spread a bit further.

What is your best trick to keep added oil to a minimum in oil-heavy adapted recipes?


Veggie-Loaded Quinoa Salad

It finally snowed in Pullman last night (and stuck), but unfortunately I only got to be a spectator from my window as I was working on a take-home final for my Limnology (freshwater ecosystems) class, and am now working hard to study for my Oceanography final tomorrow at 8 am.  I've been fortunate enough to have this be my only real final, while the others have been culminating projects and take-homes.  I'm looking forward to tomorrow more than I have any other day this week.   I'll be done with my last final by 10 am, am having coffee (decaf for me) with a friend at 11, end of the semester beer-cheers with my best friend within my major in the late afternoon, and an evening with Kevin uninterrupted by the necessity to do finals studying.  I'm planning on traveling home on Saturday in time for the annual ugly christmas sweater party my good friend April is hosting.  

But, unfortunately for now, I'm stuck with doing a short blog post so I can get back to studying.  Today's recipe was a quick one I made earlier this week to suffice for lunch.  It's my own thrown together creation with lots of veggies and a yummy sauce on top.  

Veggie-Loaded Quinoa Salad
1 c uncooked quinoa, prepare by package instructions, or use this explanation
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 c grape tomatoes, halved
1 bunch fresh basil, finely chopped
3 stalks green onion, thinly sliced
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
3/4 c pesto or creamy pesto sauce
1 t nutritional yeast (optional)

Directions:  Prepare quinoa as directed, and prepare pesto sauce.  Chop all vegetables and place in a large mixing bowl.  When quinoa is done, add pesto sauce and nutritional yeast while still hot and stir well.  Allow quinoa mixture to cool for 10-15 minutes.  Add quinoa to mixing bowl with veggies and mix well. Serve heated or cold.
Amy's notes:  I used a pre-made package of creamy pesto sauce (pictured above)that required 1/2 c almond milk and a small amount of olive oil.  If you prefer to make your own pesto from scratch, or buy the pesto pre-made from the store, it will work perfectly with this recipe.  The nutritional yeast was added to give the dish a slight "cheesy" flavor, but is ok to omit.  Warning, this recipe stayed on my breath for hours, so may not be something you want to eat in a public setting.  Enjoy!

What is your favorite healthy dish when your week feels insanely busy, and you feel quite exhausted?


Amy's Canning Adventure

As I've mentioned in earlier posts, my big kitchen project this season was to make my yummy Thai Peanut Sauce and can it to give out as presents to my family and friends for the holidays.  I've made this sauce in single and double batches, but it has never made as much as I was going to need for this canning project.  So, I think I increased the recipe by nearly 15 times, and made it in a large saucepan.  On the other large burner of my stove, I had my grandma's old HUGE canning tub, that I used to boil the jars in water before and after filling them.  In a smaller saucepan, I boiled the lids to sanitize them until I filled the jars.  (I am by no means an expert on canning, so please do not use my crude explanation of how I canned my jars as a basis for canning on your own.  I would suggest researching the "art" of canning and all of the techniques on your own, as well as being informed on the dangers of canning food and food safety.)

Here are some of the pictures of my process (my nearly 5 hour long process):

Starting the sauce, while boiling the jars and lids.

The Sauce is ready and the canning begins.

I used a wide-bottomed funnel to help me fill them.

After the jars boiled, cooled, and the seal was checked, I decorated them with some Christmas-y fabric my Mom had left over from sewing and quilting, and some basic inexpensive red ribbon.

Health Discussion:
I know that the holidays have always been a time that many of us go overboard with eating, I usually end up gaining several pounds and working my butt off to lose it at the beginning of the year.  While it feels good getting healthy after the new year, I am always kicking myself through the holidays for my bad eating decisions.  Part of me says "I just want to try everything," while the other part of me is encouraging "just get one more serving, it tastes so good!"  I know that this year will be much different, mostly because my parents and I are on-board with a nutritarian lifestyle, so there will be less temptations of "bad foods" and more available yummy good-for-us foods.  

I was chatting with my mom the other day about what recipes we will be making for Christmas dinner this year, during which both of my brothers and sister-in-laws will be in town.  On the list so far are: Kitty's Asian Slaw, Pumpkin Basil Soup, and Thai Vegetable Pizza.  Ok, so not a traditional Christmas meal, but these are some of my Mom and my favorite foods since becoming nutritarian, and ones that I know the rest of my family will enjoy.  We will also be serving a large bowl of mixed fruit, as well as a large side salad with several types of lettuce, walnuts, and cranberries.  I know that this time last year, I would have thought a Christmas dinner looking like this would have seemed so strange, but this year I can't wait to spend the morning and afternoon helping my mom prepare this food that we can be proud to serve, both because of taste and because we know we are giving the people we love most in the world the healthiest things for them.  

What is the most weight you've gained during the Holidays?  What will you do differently this year to change that cycle?


Nutty Green Bean Casserole

Some other things I got from Trader Joe's last week was a big bag of fresh green beans, and a box of shitakki mushrooms.  I have never used shitakki mushrooms in my cooking before, so I thought I would give it a try!  This is yet another recipe from Dr. Fuhrman called: Nutty Green Bean Casserole.  The only differences between the original recipe and mine, is that I halved the recipe.

Nutty Green Bean Cassarole

1 lb fresh green beans, trimmed &  sliced on the bias
4 oz mushrooms, roughly chopped
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 c raw almonds+ 2 T chopped almonds to top
1/2 c non-dairy milk
1/2 t onion powder
1/2 t garlic powder
dash ground black pepper

Directions:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Blanch the green beans in boiling water for 5 minutes.  Drain beans, and arrange them in a 9x9" casserole dish, sprayed with olive oil.  Water saute the mushrooms and onions until onions are tender.  Add cooked mushrooms and onions on top of the green beans.  In a food processor, blend the remaining ingredients until smooth and creamy.  Pour sauce over beans and mushrooms.  Sprinkle chopped almonds on top of casserole.  Bake uncovered at until bubbly, about 15-20 minutes.  

Amy's notes:  When I blended my cream topping for the casserole, it stayed pretty chunky because my food processor is not the best and/or on it's last leg after blending so much peanut butter last week.  I'd suggest blending it in a blender.  Also, for the next time that I make this, I would add dates to the cream mixture.  It was a sweeter dish altogether, and that would give it even more of a sweet bite.  While not my favorite recipe lately, it is very filling as a main dish, and a good side dish to another plant-based dish.

What is your favorite plant-strong holiday dish?


Stuffed Artichokes, and I love Trader Joe's

Last weekend, when I was in Spokane visiting my parents and friends, I stayed with my good friend from high school, April, who lives on the South Hill of Spokane.  Earlier this fall, or maybe it was summer, a Trader Joe's opened up on that side of town.  I had never been to one, but had heard that I would be someone who would love it.  Little surprise when April and I went last Sunday morning, I LOVED IT!  Granted, it's not as cool as some farmer's markets and co-ops I've been to, but it had great prices on their produce, and an awesome selection of products in their other sections.   I got one thing I have been looking for for a good price forever: whole, fresh artichokes.  So I decided to do a recipe on artichokes today (since some of my final projects for school are wrapping up, and I finally have some time to cook).  Today I am making Dr. Fuhrman's Stuffed Artichokes.

Dr. Fuhrman's Stuffed Artichokes

4 medium artichokes
3 stalks of fresh basil
1 c walnuts
1/2 c non-dairy milk
1 t dried oregano, or parsley
1t garlic powder

Directions:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Trim the stems and small leaves from the bottom of the artichokes.  Cut about one inch off the top so that it is flat.  Using a steamer basket and 1 inch of water in a large pot, steam the artichokes for 15 minutes, or until a fork can easily pierce the outer leaves.  (for this I used my microwave steamer, and steamed the artichokes for 8-9 minutes, checking on them periodically)  In a food processor, blend together the basil, walnuts, soy milk, and oregano or parsley.  Place the steamed artichokes up right in a small casserole dish, and separate the leaves outward to expose the inner area for the stuffing (pictured below).  Spoon the mixture into the artichokes, making sure to get into all of the crevices.  Sprinkle with garlic powder.  Bake in the casserole dish for 15 minutes.

Amy's Notes:  This dish turned out fairly well.  The stuffing was a bit bland, so I added fresh ground black pepper to the top.  In the future, I would want to make the original stuffing, then mix it with pre-cooked quinoa before stuffing it into the artichokes.  Also, I would probably drizzle on some balsamic vinegar after baking for a bit more of a zing, since the stuffing was a bit bland.  I didn't want to go overboard with adding too much to spice up the stuffing the first time for the recipe, as I tend to overdo it.  As for serving size, this would be a great add on to a meal with another dish for four people, or most of the meal for two.  I ate two of them and felt plenty full.  Make sure, when you do eat them, to not only eat the whole hearts of the artichokes, but also to scrape the bottoms of the outer leaves for their edible flesh.  Also, you don't want to eat the "fuzzy" part near the base and inside where the heart leaves are.

I have sometimes had the problem with recipe's from Dr. Fuhrman's website being too bland, although they are great nutritarian recipes at the core.  I've tried to stray away from adding any salt, so I find myself adding fresh ground black pepper, balsamic vinegar, or cayenne pepper to dishes to spice them up, and make them more interesting.  After all, eating a nutritarian, plant-strong diet is all about making vegetables the center of your meal, but also enjoying them!  I've been thinking about other ingredients I could add to dishes to make them more interesting and enjoyable.  I've seen a few recipe with a "smokey flavor" extract added, or nutritional yeast to give dishes a cheesy taste.  Maybe I will have to try one of those.

What are some of your go-to ingredients to kick-up the flavor of a more bland recipe?


Prepping for Canning Christmas Presents, and Peanut Butter is Amazing

Yesterday I finally got some time to prepare for my big canning project.  This year, I am borrowing my sister-in-law's idea of home-making Christmas presents.  I will be giving out a canned jar of my favorite Thai Peanut Sauce.

The recipe for the peanut sauce, obviously requires a lot of peanut butter to make a large batch for canning.  For this recipe, I like to use my own homemade peanut butter.  After having homemade peanut butter, trust me, you will never go back to the creamy, salty, processed peanut butter you buy at the grocery store.  I have tried other natural peanut butters from health food stores, but I still prefer mine.  I get my peanuts from Winco, a local grocery store, in the bulk food items, and I usually get the unsalted, roasted peanuts.  If you get unsalted, unroasted peanuts, you can just as easily make raw nut butter.

So where did I learn to make peanut butter?  From, what I consider the authority on nut butters, a blog called "Heather Eat's Almond Butter", specifically this post.  It is relatively simple: with your nut of choice, place a good amount into a food processor (no more than half-way full), and grind, grind, grind!  At first, depending on your nut choice, it will turn into a crumbly, granular powder.  Eventually it starts to become nice and smooth.  Depending on what nut you use, and the quality of your food processor, this could take a few minutes, or a while longer.  I know that I have a very small food processor, but it handles nut butters fairly well.  If it feels like it's taking a long time to thicken and become creamy, let the mixture sit for 5 minutes and try again.  I find that this let's the nuts have time to leak their natural oils, and make blending a lot easier and faster.  Here is me with one batch (I had several batches to make enough butter for canning I'll do another day):

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have never canned anything before, but I have done quite a bit of research so far.  I'm planning on canning my sauce on Sunday this week, so pictures and funny stories are sure to come after that.  When I was young, I remember my grandma canning in her kitchen.  She usually canned raspberry, grape, or strawberry jelly, which was a family favorite we could enjoy all year.  As my very loved and missed grandma has passed away two summers ago, I will be able to use her canning equipment, with new jars I have purchased.  I'm hoping with her canning pot, jar rack, and widened funnel, I will be able to channel her canning skill and know-how, all while remembering her importance in my life during this wonderful Christmas time.  

My grandma taught me many things, from card games, to baking and cooking.  The most important lesson in the kitchen she taught me was just to be scrappy.  By that I mean, don't always follow the rules of baking and cooking and just do things the way you want to.  A lesson I think is very well reflected in my recipes on this blog.  One of my favorite memories of her, is when we made peanut butter oatmeal cookies, or something along those lines.  Near the end, the dough was so thick, my little arms could barely mix it, so my grandma had me wash my hands and just go-for-it!  I had the best time just mixing the dough with my hands and the cookies came out better for it, and better for grandpa to enjoy sampling.

Another large influence of my cooking life has been my mom.  The most important thing my mom has taught me is the value in having a meal together.  At least four nights a week when I lived at home, my family and I were lucky enough to have a homemade meal.  That is something I hope to continue with a family of my own someday.

I know that my cooking skills and love of, what I consider one of my hobbies, has come from my grandma and my mom.  I was so lucky to learn as much as I did (and am still learning) from these wonderful women.  And since my mother has become plant-strong, we have found a new way to connect and enjoy ourselves cooking together and talking about recipes every chance we get.  

Who started your love of cooking (and eating)?  What is the best lesson about cooking or life that you have learned from them?


I'm sure you're getting tired of hearing that I'm busy... so am I!

Well this is the last week of classes in winter semester for me, and next week is finals week.  I have had a couple of culminating projects due, which have been taking up the majority of my time and energy.  So, I have been having leftovers and not having much fun cooking lately.  This will be yet another week that I can't promise any posts, and probably no posts on recipes.  

Hope everyone enjoys their week, that, for your sanity, I hope is less busy than mine!

What are your strategies for eating well when you don't have much time to prepare meals?


Butternut Squash Soup

Well this week has lived up to be as busy as expected!  I've practically lived at the library, so thank goodness for sack lunches and dinners.  A recent favorite weekday meal has been my Barley Veggie Medley.  My roommate informed me that she did not think it looked appetizing, but I beg to differ.  It's a super simple mixture of cooked barley, roasted brussel sprouts, and chopped celery, carrots, and green onions.  Top it off with some fresh ground pepper, and zap it in the microwave if you want.  It's a perfectly filling mid day meal.  I'll feature this recipe with pictures sometime this weekend or possibly next weekend.

As a new feature to my blog, check out the poll to the left on what your three favorite greens this season are!  I'll take the top three choices after the poll closes next Friday and feature a few holiday recipes with them the week before Christmas!

The recipe for today is Butternut Squash Soup.  I made it earlier this week to have leftovers to get me through the week.  Be warned, if you use whole butternut squash, and not pre-cut cubes from the store, it will take quite a while to peel and cut the squash.  Given that I have a slight handicap of a bandaged finger with stitches, it took me a good 45 minutes wrestle two butternut squashes to get them finally ready for the soup.  The soup turned out nice and creamy when blended, but for future recipes I would add more vegetable broth and make it stretch a little farther.  Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Soup
2 medium sized butternut squashes, peeled, seeded, and cubed (approx. 8-9 c)
8-10 c vegetable broth
2 c white beans, drained and rinsed
1 sweet or yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 c chopped mushrooms (I used portobello)
1 tsp minced ginger
1 T ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:  In a large saucepan or dutch oven, saute the onion and ginger in a small amount of water.  Once onions become tender, add mushrooms and saute for an additional 5 minutes.  Add the cubed butternut squash and beans into the saucepan, then add enough vegetable broth to cover all the other ingredients.  For me this was about 8 c, but I would probably use 10 c next time.  Bring to a simmer and cover.  Simmer for an additional 25 minutes, or until the squash cubes are tender.  Turn off heat and allow to cool from a simmer.  In a blender, or with an immersion blender, blend the soup in batches until all is creamy.  Return to the saucepan, stir in seasonings, and reheat to serve.

Amy's notes:  In the future I might be a it more creative with this soup, such as adding well chopped kale at the end until it is nicely wilted, or maybe keep the mushroom pieces whole and add them at the end as well.  This is a very nice base creamy soup that is great on its own, but definitely has room for experimentation, so get creative if you like!  I served my soup topped with ground black pepper and some cayenne pepper and with a grilled portobello mushroom with  red pepper hummus, lettuce, and green onions wrapped in steamed collard greens.  So yummy!
This weekend I will be traveling home to Spokane to spend the weekend with some hometown friends and shopping with my mom.  I actually haven't gone shopping at all this Christmas season, unless you count some amazon.com purchases.  Because money is in short supply this year for me, as I have just payed off some college loans, I will be making several homemade presents this year.  I got this idea from my sister-in-law who gifted some of us with a lovely braided bread, vodka pasta sauce, unique noodles, and fruit preserve.  I am not good at making anything like that, so I will be making a large batch and canning my Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce, and canning it to give with a small recipe book with ideas of how to use it, like on Thai pizza, with noodles or rice, and as a dipping sauce.  This will be my first time canning anything, so I am a bit intimidated.  I'm sure I will make a post when it comes time about my successes and failures with this endeavor.

Do you have any canning advice for me?  How should I decorate the jars once they're sealed? 


Thanksgiving Break Overview

I had such a great Thanksgiving break, here is the summary of it:

The first day of our break, we went on a short hike to go see the Elwah dam, which has been recently deconstructed.  During one of my classes this semester, a student did a report on the project, and it is so fun to see the results of it in action.

Later on the first day we went to Salt Creek which beautifully meets with the Pacific Ocean.  The mouth is very close to a random island on the coast.  Very fun place to explore!

After that, we ventured off to a local community college where they had decorated a local forest with artistic projects.  Very creative area and fun to wonder around in! (Free too!)

We then went to a brewery in Port Angelos called Peaks Brew Pub.  It was literally a hole-in-the-wall pub, but had the best beer Kevin and I have ever had.  The best beer on tap by far was their Ed's Big Ass Red.  My favorites were between the Ed's Red and the Wanda Fucca Pale Ale. The owner of the brewery even came over to talk about the beers to us.  Being so young, Kevin and I rarely get any recognition at restaurants or bars by any point of authority, so this was really special for us.  We obviously wished him the best of luck at any brewing competition for his Ed's Red.  After the brew pub we grabbed some much needed fulfilling Chinese food.

The day before Thanksgiving, Kevin and I took the Ferry from Bainbridge Island to Seattle, WA to meet up with my older brother and sister-in-law.  We met up at Pike's Brewery and Pub.  Their beers were pretty good, and their food was great!  After that, we went to a candy shop to get a chocolate covered twinkie and amaretto truffle.  Yum!

Thanksgiving Day

The next day was Thanksgiving!  I was so looking forward helping Kevin's dad with all the Thanksgiving meal preparations, but, of course, something always has to go not according to plan.  I was helping cut vegetables for a roasted root vegetable dish, when I cut into my left ring finger.... yep my left ring finger.  I cut into half of the side closest to my thumb, and halfway through the width of my nail.  So, Kevin had to take me the the emergency room to get two stitches on my left ring finger... yep my left ring finger.  He kept me company the whole drive as I hysterically and jokingly yelled, "well you can't ask me to marry you now!"  After a few hours in the emergency room, and a very pale and nauseous Amy later, my finger had two stitches and we were on our way back to Kevin's place for Thanksgiving.  The meal was lovely, without my 'bloody' help, and it was so nice to visit with Kevin's Grandma Terry (who loves Sex and The City just as much as I do). 

During the break we made several preparations for Christmas which included picking out a Christmas tree and decorating it, and setting up the Torres' extensive Christmas village.  Overall, I had a wonderful time with the Torres family and felt very at home and welcome.  What a wonderful Thanksgiving break!

What was the best part of your Thanksgiving break?  Did you get much preparation done for Christmas?


Back from Thanksgiving Break!

I had such a wonderful time this past week spending Thanksgiving break with Kevin's family.  It was fun, exciting, eventful, and somewhat relaxing.  Unfortunately, I am coming back to a very busy school schedule, as this is our last full week, then dead week, and then finals week.  AHH!  I don't feel prepared at all.  On top of that, I am getting back to eating a strict nutritarian diet, as I had a lot of goodies during the vacation, with little exercise.  Needless to say, poor food and exercise decisions have left me feeling undernourished, lethargic, and unsuccessful in my health goals.  Well, I am ready to get back to it, school and my health.  I am hoping to get some time today to post some pictures from the trip and talk about my weak points when it came to my health decisions during the break, along with a few funny stories.  I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are ready for me to continue bringing you some great recipe ideas and health discussions.  As of today I will be joining the Dr. Fuhrman 2011 Holiday Challenge.  To join and participate along with me, click this link: http://www.drfuhrman.com/members/holiday-challenge/default.aspx

I'm a little late on the "What I am thankful for this Thanksgiving," but I think it's never too late to be thankful:

I am thankful that I had such a wonderful and welcoming family to spend the holiday with.

I am thankful that I get to visit my parents and hometown friends this weekend.

I am thankful that I get to spend Christmas with my parents, and brothers and sister-in-laws from out of town.

I am thankful that I have the knowledge and the willpower to make the healthiest decisions I can.

I am thankful that I am a senior at WSU and officially graduating in the Spring.

I am thankful for this blog, in testing my culinary skills, sharing my experiences, and keeping track of all my recipes!

I am thankful for kale.

I am thankful for homemade peanut butter.

I am thankful that I have a left ring finger. (more on this story later)

The thing in my life I am most thankful for this year is Kevin.  I have never been so happy and peaceful since meeting Kevin, and I appreciate every moment we have together.  Love you Kevin!

Now that Thanksgiving has past and you have had time and plate-room to be thankful for the food, what are you most thankful for?


Creamed Kale and Onions

I've seen several recipes for creamed kale, which is usually a cashew and soy milk based cream with some sauted kale, but most of them seemed pretty plain, so I decided to make my own!  In my versions I have onion slices that are not pureed into the sauce for an extra crunch, and some red pepper flakes for a bit of spice.  I have this dish pictured by itself, but for the leftovers I'm planning on having it on top of barley and adding in some whole cashews, Yum!

Creamed Kale and Onions

4-6 c kale, sliced into bite-sized pieces
1/4 c vegetable broth
1 onion, 1/2 finely chopped, 1/2 thinly sliced
1 c non-dairy milk
1/4 c raw cashews (+extra if you want to add it to the final dish)
1 t garlic powder, or 2 t minced garlic
1/2 t salt
1/2 t ground black pepper
1/2 t red pepper flakes (optional)

Sauce                          Onions                             Kale

Directions: In a large skillet, saute finely chopped onions in the vegetable broth until translucent, about 8 minutes.  In a food processor, process the cashews into smaller particles.  Add the sauted onions, almond milk, garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes into the food processor and process until creamy.  Saute thinly sliced onion for 5 minutes, adding water to saute as needed.  Add creamed sauce and bring to a simmer.  Once at a simmer, add the kale and toss with tongs for 5 minutes, or until kale is slightly wilted and well covered with cream sauce.  Serve by itself as a side dish, or top a whole grain with creamed kale for a heartier meal.

Amy's notes:  When I made this recipe the first time, I added 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, and found it a bit too hot.  Be cautious with how much you add, depending on your spicy preference.  Since the red pepper flakes go into the food processor, a little goes a long way!  Also, the first time I made this, I had barely 4 cups of kale, but next time I will use much more, probably around 6 cups.  In the picture, I served my Creamed Kale and Onions with my Pumpkin Wild Rice Soup.

Kevin and I are leaving for his hometown of Sequim tonight to start our week-long Thanksgiving break.  I'm very excited to get to spend the vacation with his family, while going on a road trip at the same time!  We have a lot of day trips planned, as well as trying some yummy food!  So, my blog will temporarily be turning into a traveling food blog with not too many recipe posts.  Hope everyone has a fun and save Thanksgiving holiday!

What is your strategy for eating nutritiously during a road trip, while still getting to try the new fun foods you find? 


Spicy Cajun Cauliflower Snack

A week or two ago my sister-in-law gave me another great recipe that I just had to try!  She sent me this link from the Weight Watchers website.  The only change I made was to add a bit of cayenne pepper and cajun seasoning.  Hope you enjoy this guilt-free snack just as much as I do!

Spicy Cajun Cauliflower Snack

1 head of cauliflower, cut into bite size florets (helpful video)
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t chili powder
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1 t cajun seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Spray baking sheet with non-stick spray, or cover with alumninum foil and spray for easy cleanup. Place cut cauliflower in a medium size bowl (there should be 4-5 c when cut), and add seasonings.  Toss to coat well.  Spread spiced cauliflower evenly on baking sheet and bake till cauliflower is tender with a fork, but not wilt-y or mushy.  Stir and turn cauliflower halfway through baking.  This took me ten minutes total to bake.  

Amy's notes: Serve cauliflower warm or cold.  I kept leftovers in a large storage plastic bag and used them for snacking all week.  I bet this would be a great recipe for a Thanksgiving party for pre-dinner snacking I know we all do!  Pair with roasted red pepper hummus for a great flavor combo!

What is your favorite "go-to" snacking items at parties?


Kale is Awesome!

My vegetable of the week this week is KALE!  Since becoming a nutritarian, I really had not had much kale in general.  I always thought it was pretty expensive, but kale bunches actually stretch pretty far.  On Dr. Fuhrman's food score scale, kale is #1 with 1000 points!

For those of you that don't have a Dr. Fuhrman's Nutrient Density Scores, here it is a condensed version of it:
Nutrient Scores
1000-500                      Kale, Collards, Bok Choy, Spinach, Arugula
500-100                        Cabbage, Romaine Lettuce, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Green Peppers,
                                         Artichoke, Carrots, Asparagus, Strawberries, Pomegranate Juice,
                                         Tomato, Blueberries, Iceburg Lettuce, Orange, Lentils            
100-50                           Cantaloupe, Kidney Beans, Tofu, Sweet Potato, Sunflower Seeds,
                                          Apple, Peach, Green Peas, Cherries, Flax Seeds, Pineapple,
                                          Oatmeal, Mango
50-30                             Cucumber, Corn, Soybeans, Salmon, Almonds, Shrimp, Avacado,
                                         Skim Milk, Grapes, White Potato
30-20                             Walnuts, Banana, Chicken Breast, Eggs, Peanut Butter,
                                         Whole Wheat Bread, Feta Cheese
20-1                               Whole Milk, Ground Beef, White Pasta, White Bread, Apple Juice,
                                          Low Fat Yogurt, Potato Chips, American Cheese,
                                         Vanilla Ice Cream, French Fries, Olive Oil, Cola

Today I put Kale in my Pumpkin Wild Rice Soup before I zapped it in the microwave, and it was delicious!  
What is your favorite way to eat Kale?


Pumpkin Wild Rice Soup

What a busy Monday!  I had class from 11 to 5 today, then worked on a PowerPoint presentation for an Environmental Assessment class.  Wish me luck on presenting tomorrow!  From being so busy today, it was very nice to have a soup on the crockpot today.  This is a new rendition on my Pumpkin Basil Soup I made earlier this month, but a bit heartier and with more dynamic flavors and ingredients.  

Pumpkin Wild Rice Soup
1 1/2 c carrots, peeled and chopped
1 c apples, chopped
1/2 to 1 c mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 c cauliflower, roughly chopped into florets
1 handful fresh basil leaves
6 c vegetable broth
2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed, separate
1 c dried wild rice, +2 c water, precooked on stovetop
1 t salt
1 t ground pepper
1 t cumin
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t cayenne pepper

Directions:  In a crockpot, combine roasted pumpkin, carrots, apples, mushrooms, cauliflower, basil, vegetable broth, and 1 can of white beans (save the other can for after soup is done cooking).  Cook on low for 6 hours, or on high for 3.  One hour before soup is done, prepare the wild rice with 2 cups of water on a stovetop.  In a blender, or with an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth and creamy.  Add pureed soup back into the crockpot and (optional) remove 6 cups of soup, save for another recipe or to have as a puree only soup.  Add the wild rice and last can of white beans to the soup.  Cook on high for 20 minutes.  Serve in large bowls with a small amount of cheese garnish and basil sprig.  Enjoy!

Amy's Notes:  Nearing the end of the recipe, when I reloaded the pureed soup back into the crockpot, I decided I wanted to save some of the soup as a sauce for pasta that I'll freeze and use another week.  If you want your soup to be more liquidy than thick, do not take out the extra soup like I did.  I found that I wanted to add more salt and pepper to my soup after I served it, but remember that salt is better tasted when applied directly to the served meal, and not mixed into a large soup.  

This was a lovely, warm, hearty soup that was perfect on a day like this in Pullman (it was cold, cloudy, and extremely windy!).  From writing and blogging about cooking and eating, I have noticed so much more that the weather and season in general influences what I like to eat.  November should be the month of warm yummy soups.

How does the weather affect what you crave and what foods you end up making?