October 22, 2012

Pumpkin Soup


I missed my Silent Sunday post this week but here is the picture I would have posted had I made it to a computer..... 




Eeek! Talk about "Happy Halloween"! This spider found a new home in my shoe and had to be coaxed out by the brave and rugged Thor. I did actually take this photo though - anyone who has known me a while knows that I must have come a long way to get this close to this spider! I have since learned that this is a Cat Spider (his HUGE back looks like a cats head- the points are the ears) and is non-poisonous and beneficial in the garden for killing insects. They create beautiful big webs and do not like to venture indoors. Thor and I decided not to kill this guy and set him out in a home away from my shoes.... 

I am going to be wearing large gloves next time I'm pick up leaves....


Good thing we had a warm and hearty dinner to sooth our souls. I created this Pumpkin soup from a variety of recipes. It was the perfect combination of savory and sweet, light and filling and healthy and delicious. 



Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients:
1 sweet onion
1 clove garlic
3 lrg carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
4-5 whole cloves
3 cups pumpkin puree
6 cups vegetable broth
2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup canned coconut milk
2 tbs pure maple syrup

In a large pot, saute onions and garlic until onions are translucent. To make the recipe oil free, I sautéed in a splash of the vegetable broth. Add carrots, celery and cloves and continue to cook until carrots are fork tender. Add the pumpkin and vegetable broth and bring to a simmer. Remove cloves. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until lumps are gone. You can also do this by transferring your soup to a blender or food processor. Return soup to a light simmer. Taste and add cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper to your preferance. Stir in coconut milk and maple syrup. Serve immediately or store in the refridgerator. 

I would assume this soup will freeze well though I have not yet tried it.

Garnish with a dollop of coconut cream and a drizzle of maple syrup.




Tenn Sense Shout Out!

I wanted to finish todays post with a blog shout out to a fellow blogger, leader, amazing mother, army wife and friend. Her name is Amy and her blog is Tenn Sense. Amy writes about her family and their day to day joy, pain, successes and struggles as an army family, away from 'home' and raising a beautiful daughter with special needs. Tennyson was born very early (I think I remember Amy saying she was a little over 2lbs) and has had to fight many battles already just to live and interact in the same world as the rest of us.

Every time I see a new blog post up from Amy, I am so excited to read it. Not only because Amy is sharing a special peak into her amazing family, but because Amy shares this peak in such a beautiful and honest way. I have known Amy since high school and I knew very quickly after meeting her that this was one tough lady who did not hold back and was not afraid of saying how she felt, but I had no idea that this would transfer into some of the most beautiful writing I have ever read. There's no poetry, no fancy word choices and no flashing colours. Its just real.

Take a few moments to visit Amy and her growing family over at Tenn Sense. I know that you will be glad you did.



October 18, 2012

Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal

Fall is officially here. While I deeply mourn the loss of warm days, fresh heirloom tomatoes and sun kissed skin - there is a soft spot in my heart for the robust flavours of cinnamon and nutmeg. I could eat fall inspired foods morning, noon and night - in fact many days I do. My favourite way to kick-off a crisp fall morning is with baked oatmeal. While baking my oatmeal will never fully replace the gooey stove top version in my life, I do enjoy it as a little mid-week switcharoo.... I'm wild...

You could bake many versions of this oatmeal- Apple Pie, Berry Cobbler, Banana Nut Butter etc....
My favourite is Pumpkin Pie.














Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Ingredients:
1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup almond milk, unsweetened (or milk of choice)
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tbsp chia seeds
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
    pinch of nutmeg and salt
    Optional Add-in: raisins or walnuts

Preheat oven to 380 degrees. Mix together all ingredients in an oven safe ramekin or bowl. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until firm. You can broil the top crust for an additional minute if you wish. Serve with a sprinkle of cinnamon, a splash of almond milk or a dollop of coconut whipped cream! (From my chocolate cake recipe)






I foresee many more pumpkin recipes in our near future.... today I will be baking my Pumpkin Spice Muffins for by Friday Biggest Loser muffins! 4 weeks of everyone weighing-in and turning in their homework! Go Team!

October 13, 2012

I'm Back...With Chocolate Cake!!!

I must have composed my next blog post two dozen times in my head. My last post was in June and it seems like yesterday and like a lifetime ago all at once. I am not under any false pretense that my blog was an important part of anyones lives, though I know that there are a few of you out there that do read very consistently and I thank you for that. I think that I am the one that likely missed my blog posts the most. 

Too me this is a type of diary and a social and creative outlet unlike any other. I feel held to a high standard to be as honest and forthright with my blog writing as I am when I talk to myself. Maybe that is why I have not blogged in a few months. While some exciting and great things have happened, there have also been events that maybe I am not ready to put to paper keyboard. 

Maybe that is OK. Maybe I can share what I wish to share and let the rest come out naturally on its own. I have so missed this ritual and am so happy to hear the clicking of keys once again as I type this. 

One of my big motivations to return was a delightful recipe that I received many requests for. I knew that writing up the recipe on my blog and posting was the easiest way to share and so here I am. 

This past month I launched a new nutrition program from my home called Plant Strong. This is something that I have wanted to do for a long time and I finally decided just to go for it. The program was a great success and I was so pleased with the amount of interest and support that this program received. I limited my first group to 8 people since we would be meeting in my home and I wanted to make sure that I got a chance to really get to know each person over the course duration of 4 weeks. 

Each week I provided a nutrition lesson, Plant Strong recipes , recipe samples and a cooking demonstration. I think I can speak for the group when I say that we had a fantastic time and we all learned so much from each other. For the final week, I asked to group to bring their own Plant Strong dish and recipe to share with the group. I was so blown away by the yummy foods that came into my kitchen from carrot soup to pizzas to golden flax seed bread with coconut whipped cream. 

The dish that I prepared for the group was of course a dessert..... anyone who had read my blog before knows that I have a terrible sweet tooth. The person who has read my blog before also knows that I don't just bake sweets the 'normal' way....





Chocolate Cake With a Plant Strong Secret

Ingredients:
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 
2 tbsp ground flax
1/3 cup pure cane sugar
1/4 cup sugar replacement (stevia) or more sugar
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips 
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 loosely-packed cups frozen cauliflower, thawed completely but not cooked  (Or omit and sub 1 cup canned pumpkin, if cauliflower is too weird for you. I cant wait to try the pumpkin version )
1/2 cup milk of choice. For pumpkin version, use just 1/3 cup milk 
3 tbsp unsweetened applesauce

Preheat oven to 350F, and grease an 8×8 square or 9 inch round baking dish. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl, and mix very well. Combine all liquid ingredients and the cauliflower in a food processor and blend until super-smooth, so there are NO lumps whatsoever.
Pour wet into dry, and mix until just combined, then pour into prepared pan and bake 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool completely.

If making a double layered cake like I did, double the ingredients and bake in two round 9in pans.




Avo-Yum Chocolate Frosting

Ingredients:
2 avocados
1/2 cup raw agave or sweetener of choice (I LOVE making date paste)
1 cup cocoa powder
1 tbs vanilla extract
a tiny pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Feel free to play with different additions.... instant coffee grounds, coconut, cinnamon, mint extract etc....




Coconut Whipped Cream

Ingredients:
1 can full fat canned coconut milk (placed in refrigerator at least overnight)
1 Tbsp sweetner of choice (agave, sugar, maple syrup or stevia work well)
1/2 tsp vanilla

Open can of coconut milk upside down. Pour liquid into a container to be saved for future culinary uses. You will be left with the “solid” coconut milk on the bottom. Scrape in a large bowl and beat on medium/high with an electric mixer until light and fluffy and soft peaks form. Add-in sweetener to taste and vanilla. 

A great recipe to get creative with- add flavors of choice such as mint, coconut, almond extract etc...



Assembling the Cake

I spread my vanilla Coconut Whipped Cream on one of the 9 in cakes and then gently placed the 2nd cake right one top. I frosted the whole cake with the Avo-Yum frosting. I placed dollops of the Whipped Cream around the top of my cake and sprinkle coconut shreds on top for a special touch.



There is a lot of work to be done on the blog..... my 'Recipe Archive' is a mess and my 'About Me' and 'Contact' is completely out of date... 

But for right this moment, lets just eat some chocolate cake.

June 4, 2012

MORE Banana Nut Muffins


I know that this is not the first time I have posted a Banana Nut Muffin recipe. Maybe not even the second time.... BUT how do you not love turning too old to eat bananas into sweet healthy treats. With this recipe I decided to try and go so healthy I would feel good about eating these for breakfast.... no sugar, no butters, no oils. Leave that stuff out and bring on the yummy factor.


Banana Nut Muffins

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup  oats
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp flax seed powder + 4 tbsp water
1 cup mashed banana (about 3 bananas)
6 tbsp nut butter (I used a mix of walnut and almond, but any nut butter is fine)
3/4 cup water
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg



Directions:
Mix flax seed powder and water, keep it aside.
Combine all the dry ingredients and mix well.
In a separate bowl, stir oil and nut butter. Now add the mashed banana, flax seed and water mixture, 3/4 cup water and mix well. Pour the wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix till everything is combined. Add the spices and lightly mix in. 
Spoon them into greased muffins tray - regular or mini sized work well.
Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degree F for 20-25 minutes or till the toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.





Are you sick of pictures taken around my yard yet???? If you are now might be a good time to stop looking... BUT there is an awesome Iris picture to come.... 

Enjoying the colours of Spring.

I am smitten with these Iris's!



This might be one of my favourite pictures... 


I just love these pinks and greens.


Green tomatoes! 


My veggie patch is coming right along.... Do you like the weed that is front and center there?!

June 1, 2012

Guacamole!!!





Guacamole! 

Considering my deep passionate love for avocados I can not believe that I have not yet made guacamole. I think that I just end up eating them straight from their shell and have not taken the 5 minutes to turn them into this amazing little side.

So easy and super addictive. Lets just get to the recipe..

Ingredients
3 ripe avocados
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 cloves of garlic
2 TBS Salsa
2 TBS fresh minced cilantro
1 TBSP fresh minced mint
1 tsp cumin seeds
salt and pepper to taste

1. Just mix it all together! I Mashed 2 of the avocados and left one of them diced so I would have some nice chunks in there. 
2. Try not to eat the entire batch in one sitting.... at least share it!

3. Have fun with this recipe... next time I want to roast the garlic..... yum!


Avocado Fun Facts!!

*Did you know that avocados contain all 18 essential amino acids. These means that they are a complete source of protein all on their own! As an added bonus they also contain fiber, which make those muscle building blocks even easier for your body to digest and use!

*Avocados contain healthy fats that help your body boost your HDL's or "good cholesterol". These help the body fight free radicals and prevent diabetes.

*Avocados are anti-inflammatory! Thanks to the power house of nutrients contained in these green wonders. Serve this guacamole to your family members who suffer from arthritis.

*Avocados are also know are 'Crocodile Pears'.

*The portion of the avocado closest to the skin in the most dense in nutrients. Be sure to scrape this part clean with a spoon!


May 31, 2012

Hello June!




Do you like the new background?? It is part of my attempt to re-inspire my blogging consistency.


Boy, I can not believe we are nearly half way through 2012 already! It has been a bit of a whirlwind year for me thus far but also a good year.
I am so excited that summer is arriving and I can not wait to explore more hiking, running, biking and other fun adventures in my new town of Hayden. 
This last weekend we took the short drive to Sandpoint, ID. A cute little town surrounded by 
Lake Pend Oreille.

How darling are Thor's parents!?!?



I have been spending A LOT of time in my yard, prancing about, attempting my first veggie garden and weeding like a maniac. Here are a few of my favourite shots of the garden.







The list of edibles I am attempting to grow this year....

Carrots
Beets
Spinach
Kale
Arugula
Sugar Snap Beans
Shell Peas
Lettuce
6 Varieties of tomato plants
Red, purple and yellow bell peppers
Jalepeno
2 Varieties of eggplants
Zucchini
Strawberries
Herbs - chives, mint, rosemary, sage, parsley, cilantro and coming soon basil

Well I may have bit of more than I can chew (pun intended). It actually makes me a little nervouse to look at that list!

This is my first ever veggie garden so I am planning on a huge percentage of failure and experimentation! That way I can only be pleasantly surprised....haha.

A little note, I have a new love affair cooking up with Tazo Focus Tea. Orangey and chocolatey. YUM!!!






May 27, 2012

Nutty Potato Salad

Once again, lets skip the whole "Its been a long time - so much to catch up on!" thing and just get right to the blog post....


As you likely know, I am living in a new house this spring. The lady before me did a wonderful job with planting a beautiful array of trees, shrubs, plants and flowers and I am having so much fun watching things come up from winter hibernation. Check out these two photos below that had less than a month between them.



The crazy part is this was taken in mid-may and I already need to take another photo it has grown so much! Very exciting but also scary.... lets just pray that I don't kill everything and turn it into a big rock and dandelion patch.....

Thor's parents are here visiting for memorial day weekend and his mum was able to identify a chive plant right in that island.

Chives!!! After getting over my immediate craving for sour cream and chive potato chips, I did a little chive research.... did you know that pom pom flowers and buds on a chive plant are also edible??

Memorial day weekend and I have chives.... naturally this calls for potato salad.

But not just any gloopy, mayo loaded, artery clogging potato salad... I wanted a feel good, vegan, oil free, mayo free, protein packed potato salad that would knock your grandmas sock off......




Some recipes take trial after trial after trial to get them right. This is not one of those recipes. I was in love at first taste.

Nutty Potato Salad

Ingredients:
2-3lbs red skinned potatoes, chopped into bite size pieces
1 cup cashew butter
1 cup almond milk
1 TBSP Ground Flax Seed
Juice of half a lemon
Sea Salt 
Ground Pepper
1/2 Sweet onion, sliced
1 Red Bell pepper, diced
2 TBSP fresh chives, chopped
Chive flowers and buds for garnish, optional

Directions:
1. Boil your potatoes in water is a pinch of salt, until fork tender. Strain and allow to cool.
2. While the potatoes are boiling, your can prepare the sauce. In a food processor or high speed blender,   blend cashew butter and milk until creamy. You can add more cashew butter or milk depending on how thick and creamy you want your glaze to be. More cashew to milk for a thicker mixture.
3. Add in flax seeds and lemon juice and continue to mix. Add in salt and pepper to taste. 

At this point the base should taste to good your are considering eating it out of the food processor with a spoon. Play here to make it just right for you. More lemon? More salt and pepper? Maybe some curry powder? Get crazy.....

4. In a large bowl, stir together the onion, bell pepper and chives. Mix in your cashew cream mixture. Another taste test here is perfectly acceptable. :)
5. When the potatoes have cooled, gently toss them into your large bowl with the cream mixture to coat. Garnish and refrigerate until ready to serve.



Packed with tasty goodness and protein while containing non of the saturated fat and empty calories of a traditional potato salad, this version might just be your go to recipe for many years to come.

One last thought.....

Please keep in mind this memorial day, the reason for the national holiday. Between the camping and food and time outside, take a moment to honour those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom.


March 28, 2012

In like a lion, out like a lamb

It is late March and the areas that I grew up in are experiencing full blown Spring. Blossom on trees, daffodils opening up in the sunshine, lambs grazing in a field. If I have triggered your gag reflex already you may want to skip this post.

Here in the inland northwest and north Idaho, we are still in winter. Snow is not a surprising event and don't think about putting your hat and gloves away yet. However, for the past couple of weeks I have been closely watching the ground and the trees for signs that Spring is coming. Living in a new home with a new yard is really quite fun because I do not know what to expect. Will the trees bloom into flowers or go right to leaves? Are there bulbs quietly waiting under the ground? Is that plant a weed or something more exciting?

Yesterday, we had a breakthrough.......

 CROCUS!

I might have skipped around the garden.... shhh, its our secret. It took me a little facebook, ask a friend help to even identify these beautiful little rays of sunshine. I am a very novice gardener. Hahahaha, I'm laughing because I just used the words "I" and "gardener" in the same sentence....


 Morning dew on the Crocus buds.


 Spring is emerging!


There are also purple ones!!! I decided to go on a little "Spring is coming" photo scavenger hunt....

Daffodils?? Anyone care to make a wager on the bloom date?


Not sure on these guys....tulips??? Can not wait to find out!!!!

Does anyone know what this fella is? He is kinda tucked away in the side yard with now other plants around...


Rhododendron buds waiting to bloom. I wonder what color they are?!?!

In the spirit of Spring and having my first garden, I am really excited to try growing vegetables. Try is a big word in that sentence. I could probably become a professional plant killer if my record of house plants is anything to go by. But I am going in with low hopes and expectations. If I eat anything that I grow this summer I will call it a very pleasant surprise. That being said I planted a few seeds. It is still a little early so I put then I'm this home made 'greenhouse' that I move indoors on cold nights. I made it from one of those salad containers.


My little greenhouse waiting for some rays of sunshine. Obviously, IF anything sprouts here I will needs to get another bottom to put on top as the lid to allow for more vertical room. 


Are you done with my jabbering on about Spring yet??? 

I'm SOOO excited!!!
\

March 1, 2012

Have your popcorn, and eat it too!

Hold the phones people!!!!

So you know those magic little bags that they made with super powers for microwaving popcorn instead of using a stove top? The ones that we pay $1-$2 for a bag when we know that the actual popcorn kernels cost mere pennies? The ones that you avoid reading the ingredient list because you know they filled the bag of your healthy snack with preservatives, food colouring and artificial flavours?

Well my friends, along with myself, you have been had!  Those bags are not magical!! You can make popcorn in a brown paper lunch bag.

OK Ill give you a moment to digest what that means....

The convenience of microwavable popcorn...

Lots of $$$ savings....

No extra mystery ingredients....

Pop as little or as much popcorn as YOU want.....

Add your desired seasonings on any whim you have.....

Reduce packaging and waste...

Did I mention the extra $$ in your pocket?

I don't know if you are as excited as I am about this but I might have had popcorn for dinner last night.... and as a mid morning snack today. Not going to rule it out as an afternoon snack either...




OK, lets be honest. Most things that save money are a little harder to execute. This is easy.... fun even. I promise.

Get your brown paper bag. 
Pour in about 3 TBS of kernels... I eyeball it. 
Add a splash of oil, I am using vegetable but I want to try peanut. Then shake shake shake (maybe sing the song a little). 
Fold the top over a couple of times. 
Microwave on high until you hear the popping slow (about 2 minutes).
 Season and enjoy!


I enjoy my popcorn with a TBSP of melted Earth Balance, sprinkling of nutritional yeast and a pinch of sea salt. 
Get crazy... Chocolate - good! Cinnamon - good! Cayenne Pepper - hot!



There was a good ten minutes between these photos... I think.




Now what are you gonna do with all that money you save??? You know momma needs a new pair of shoes... JK!

February 15, 2012

Spring Wreath

It may be February, but I've decided that Spring is starting. I'm sure I won't get too many complaints. It was time to take the Christmas wreath off the front door but I did not want to leave the door naked and so a spring wreath was created.

Love this wreath because it is inexpensive, easy, fast and no glue gun required. When I say fast and easy, I'm talking hit up Michael's on your way home from work and make this while your pasta is simmering...


Materials:

3-5 strings of spring floral garland
1 woody wreath (mine is 21in)

Simply wrap the garland around your wreath, tucking the ends into the wood to secure. Try to space your flowers as evenly as possible.

Wa Lah! A spring garland!


I do know that it is voila not Wa Lah, but Wa Lah is just more fun.....















The Love Cookie

Have I mentioned to you guys that Thor and I are closet cookie monsters? Its true. In public we generally make very healthy food choices and never rarely order dessert, but at home, we sit down with with big piles of cookies. Just look at the picture below....


OK, so this was a special occasion... Valentines Day!! Thor came home from work and made me wait in the bedroom while he warmed up some yummy McKenzie River Pizza and set a table with a red table cloth, wine and candles. It was perfect! I took care of dessert by baking up a big batch of these dark chocolate, cherry, almond, oatmeal cookies. Then we snuggled on the couch, watched a romantic movie, drank wine and ate way too many cookies. Bliss.

This cookie might be one of my all time favorites. Chewy, sweet, nutty, chocolatey, vegan, whole wheat... whats not to love???


The Love Cookie

Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup Earth Balance
scant 1 cup sugar
scant 1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp tahini, stirred into 1/2 cup almond milk
2 tbsp coconut milk (the canned stuff, not the milk replacement)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract (use all vanilla, if you like)
2 1/2 cups rolled or quick oats
2 cups semi sweet/dark chocolate chips
1 1/2 dried cherries
1 1/2 cups sliced almonds

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda and powder, and the salt.  Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, beat the Earth Balance and the sugars until creamy. Add the tahini/almond milk mixture, then the coconut milk and the extracts.  Mix well.
3. With your mixer in low speed, add in half the flour mixture, mix well, then mix in the rest of the flour.
4. Stir in the oats, chocolate chips, cherries and nuts. Oil baking sheets or line with parchment paper.
5.  Drop by teaspoon on the sheet and bake for about 13 minutes.
You want them golden brown on the edges, so they stay chewy in the center. 

Cool on baking sheet for at least 1-2 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

This makes kind of a lot of cookies... just under 4 dozen for me. Believe it or not we did not eat all of those. I have actually frozen over half the batch so will let you know how they do. Most cookies freeze really well.

I hope you all had a LOVEly valentines day. Love yourself a little and make some of these Love Cookies...