Between making the homemade mac ‘n cheese and bakeapple pie for SHL’s birthday a couple of weeks ago, and trying out some new (healthier) recipes for myself, my brain has been trying to stay focused on fueling my body as well as possible during this holiday season.
Throughout the past 6 months I have become a curious person about food. What will this new food taste like? What if I put these 2 (or 3) foods together? I never liked x before, but maybe if I tried it this way I just may (hence the post a few months ago about broccoli). I’m constantly tweaking and picking and cutting and peeling and sifting through recipe books. The biggest challenge isn’t necessarily that I don’t know the difference between dicing and julienning, but more in finding the time to cook. And I was always a skeptic: Spinach, in a juicer? Yuck. But I can tell you that I’m slowly beginning to convert… (especially when you throw in an apple and half a lemon, yum!). I’m new to juicing, but sometimes I even wake up craving it!
A couple of weeks ago, on a particularly cold Sunday, I decided to make a one-pot hearty dish (in the world of cooking it doesn’t get better than just having 1 pot to clean, does it?). I like to cook most Sundays b/c SHL often works long hours on that day, so it’s nice for him to come home and have dinner with me at a decent hour.
A lot of people ask me where I get my recipes from, which I why I created the “Recipes for Health and Happiness,” page, so that you can find them all in one place. I’m certainly a beginner, but I’ve been able to find some great stuff both online and in cookbooks that I already owned (plus the purchase of 2 more; Tara Stiles Make Your Own Rules Diet (which isn’t really a diet) and Kris Carr’s Crazy, Sexy, Kitchen).
This one-pot recipe that I made is actually from Pinterest, another excellent place to find amazing and healthy recipes (or non-healthy recipes) right at your fingertips. This one is called “One-pot cheesy turkey taco chili mac” and it’s from Skinny Taste’s website, found here: www.skinnytaste.com. The recipe, as you can see from the title, contains some of my very most favorite things. Turkey tacos? Good. Chili? Good. Mac ‘n cheese? Good. But not wanting a lot of white pasta or cheese, I browsed through the recipe to see what it was all about. While I don’t eat meat a whole lot any more, I will eat some ground lean turkey on occasion, so this was fine. It also called for veggies like peppers, onions, and garlic, three of my faves, and the spices I knew SHL would be into like chili powder, paprika, cumin, and garlic powder. It calls for rotel tomatoes with chilies and tomato sauce, but I just used one small can of diced tomatoes with jalapenos and cilantro, and it was fantastic. Also in it are refried beans and red beans (because you know that I barely ever cook without adding in some beans these days!), along with some organic chicken stock, and water. Towards the end of the meal you throw in some whole wheat pasta, and when it’s ready, you can top the dish with some shredded cheese (I did this the first night, but then for leftovers ate it without the cheese, and it was just as delicious. I recommend taking a block of cheese and shredding it, rather than buying it in a bag from the store when they add who knows what into it). I know that cilantro is a hot topic for many—you either love it or hate it (a genetic thing I recently found out), but we love it, so in went the chopped up cilantro and then some scallions as well! It is so hearty and so good! Find the recipe here: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2014/12/one-pot-cheesy-turkey-taco-chili-mac.html?showComment=1417723089438#c484412469678559557. (I will also post this on the “Recipes for Health and Happiness” page as well!).
The other night I was truly craving dessert. I have been a lot lately, perhaps because it was the holidays and every day when I arrived to work there seemed to be a new sweet treat in our kitchen that I had to avert my eyes to! Now don’t get me wrong: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again– There is nothing wrong with dessert! Taste! Live! Enjoy! But for somebody with cancer, it’s been important for me to find new and healthier ways to satisfy my sweet tooth. I had read in the Make your Own Rules Diet that you can make some banana “soft serve ice cream” just by putting a couple of frozen bananas and some cocoa powder into a blender on the “dessert speed,” but my blender doesn’t have that speed and so without a liquid, that was going nowhere fast. Then I got another idea. I took my frozen bananas and threw them into the blender with some cacao powder (I like it better than cocoa powder because it has no sugar, it’s full of antioxidants, and it still tastes great and satisfies that chocolate craving), and then added some almond milk. But you know what else is great with chocolate? Almond butter! So in went that (you could also easily add peanut or cashew butter or any other kind of nut butter that you may have in the house). Then lately I’ve been on a coconut kick, so I added in some shredded unsweetened coconut, blended on high, scraped down the bowl, and then blended again. OK, so it’s not rocket science, but what resulted was a beautiful milkshake like concoction! Without all of the sugar! It was so delish that I had to share with SHL, but are wives for?
I also recently experimented with some other new sweet recipes as well. I tried making a dark chocolate and cranberry biscotti from Pinch of Yum (www.pinchofyum.com), but when I took the loaf out of the oven (and let it cool just a little bit) and tried cutting it, it completely fell apart! What I was left with was a bunch of crumbly bits of biscotti with a dark chocolate drizzle. So when life gives you lemons, put your crumbly biscotti into a bowl of almond milk and yum! Using whole wheat pastry flour, fresh cranberries, dark chocolate and pecans, it was the perfect little sweet treat (despite the fact that it was in no way or shape like biscotti), and then after a nibble (or a slurp I should say), we threw the rest into the freezer for another time. If you’re interested and think that you can get it to actually look like biscotti (I bet you can!), check out the recipe found here: http://pinchofyum.com/cranberry-dark-chocolate-biscotti.
I also tried making brownies from the website Top With Cinnamon (www.topwithcinnamon.com) which I found on Pinterest. They were made with coconut flour, less butter, and honey instead of sugar. They turned out a little dry, but the taste wasn’t bad. This is another example of where a nice cup of almond milk comes in handy! A little “dunk-dunk” after dinner treat! http://www.topwithcinnamon.com/2014/04/flourless-browned-butter-brownies-gluten-free-grain-free.html.
Now don’t get me wrong: I am well aware that sweets are still, well, sweet. I could give you the recipe for a vegan carrot cake but quite honestly, if I’m not going to eat it (and I tried), then I’m probably not going to share it with you (unless you make specific requests!). These dessert recipes that I’ve mentioned are great, but some of them do still have butter, chocolate, honey, and eggs (gasp!). I’m not vegan, I’m not even vegetarian (yet). Wink wink. But think about all of the healthy changes that we can make together; from an ice cream sundae to a delicious milkshake of frozen bananas, cocao powder, and almond milk. Will we never have the ice cream sundae again? Of course not! But isn’t it fun to experiment and see what other goodies we can come up?
When we spend a lot of time thinking about the ways in which we can take better care of ourselves, it helps to have a little fun with it. There are days when I wish I had a personal chef who could tell me exactly what to eat, and could make it for me, but since I haven’t won the lottery (yet), I will continue looking for recipes, cooking, baking and taste-testing! You never know what direction life is going to take you, but follow your heart (and your stomach), and you may just be surprised at what sweet (but good-for-you) treats lie ahead.