Category Archives: Food

Crispy Latin Chickpeas

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I love an easy healthy snack that’s not only packed with flavor and crunchy, but has no added fat and provides health benefits!  To this end, I have perfected my oven roasted chickpea (aka garbanzo bean) recipe.

Chickpeas are good for you! They’re loaded with insoluble fiber and promote a healthy digestive system, and studies have shown that they provide more appetite satiety when compared gram for gram with other sources of fiber.  1 cup can provide you with 85% of your daily recommended antioxidants. Garbanzos can even help regulate blood sugar!  These and many more health benefits are detailed on one of my favorite sources for nutrition information, World’s Healthiest Foods.

As I mentioned, these chickpeas are super easy to prepare!  First, rinse well and drain your beans.  If you’re using beans you’ve cooked yourself (instead of canned) and they’re completely dry on the surface, go ahead and give them a rinse.  Since we’re not using oil, we need a little moisture for the seasoning to adhere properly!

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While your beans drain, grab a zip top bag – gallon or sandwich size is fine.  Add all of your spices to the bag.

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Add your damp (but not dripping!) chickpeas to the bag and shake, shake, shake!  When the beans are evenly coated,  dump them onto your favorite baking sheet and distribute evenly.

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Bake at 375° for about 25 minutes, depending on desired crispness.  Serve warm or cooled!

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Crispy Latin Chickpeas

1 15 oz can garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas) or about 1 cup precooked garbanzos
3/8 t salt
1/4 t cumin
1/4 t smoked paprika
1/4 t cilantro
1/8 t garlic powder

Rinse beans well and drain.  Combine seasoning in a zip top bag, then add drained (but still damp) beans to same bag.  Shake until beans are evenly coated, then spread evenly on ungreased baking sheet (with edges to keep beans from rolling off!) Bake at 375° for 25 minutes,  stirring half way through for even crisping.  This will produce chickpeas with a light crisp on the outside but a fluffy inside.  If you like less crisp, cook 10 minutes less.  If you prefer more crunch, cook 10 minutes more.   Eat warm or cooled! 

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Thai Peanut Sauce from Belligerent Cupcake

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So I’ve been meaning to make my Thai peanut sauce and keep it stored in the fridge for whenever I decide to make stir fry.  Every aspect of stir fry is easy to me, including the sauce, but it seems that between chopping veggies, stirring regularly during cooking, preparing rice or noodles, and making sauce, there’s just too much to do all at once if I want everything to be ready at exactly the same time.  I’ve been fortunate the last couple times making it and Hubby Dearest has made the sauce while I do everything else, but I doubt it will always work out that way. (Plus, I only have 3 24″ sections of counter top in my kitchen, so space is limited for us both to be in there!)

Hubby is working tonight, so I had some time to kill and took myself up on my offer to make the Thai peanut sauce!

First, I gathered my ingredients.

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Throw them (or place gently… it’s up to you!) into a medium bowl.

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Use your favorite method to mix.  I love this old immersion blender my dad got at an auction and gave to me…

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Who am I kidding?! This bowl is too big and my stick blender doesn’t work well in it.  That bowl is pretty for pictures, but let’s be honest – this cheap plastic cup is my favorite vessel when using the stick blender!

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Much better!

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It’s also quite speedy to clean the immersion blender with my Green Cup of Wonder!  Dish soap, water, and blend away!  (You can also clean the whole room if you’re awesome like me and decide not to do this over the sink! …I recommend doing it over the sink,  just FYI.)

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Now just pour it into your favorite jar and refrigerate,  or serve in stir fry right away!

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Thai Peanut Sauce

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3 1/2 T liquid aminos (or soy sauce)
3 1/2 T molasses (or 2 T brown sugar)
3 T white wine vinegar (or rice wine vinegar)
1 T lime juice
2 t garlic powder
1/2 t cayenne pepper or to taste
Heaping 1/4 t ground ginger

Stir vigorously with a whisk or fork or use immersion blender until all ingredients are uniformly combined.  Add to your favorite stir fry during last minute of cooking. If desired, top with chopped or whole unsalted peanuts for some extra crunch.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Shake, Vegan Style!

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I wanted a quick easy snack when I got home from work this evening while I scrounged up something for dinner.  I had thrown a couple of very ripe bananas in the freezer last night and decided to get creative.

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I was quite pleased at how well it turned out! Next time I might use cashew milk instead, since it tastes creamier. The type of milk, amount of cocoa powder, peanut butter, banana, etc can all be tweaked to taste, but the recipe as follows tasted great to me!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Shake (Vegan Style!)

1 frozen ripe banana (the more brown spots, the sweeter)
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
12 large ice cubes
2 T peanut butter
2 T honey (adjust to taste)
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1 t vanilla extract

Slice frozen banana into 1/4″ slices and remove peel (I found that the peel separates easily, but if you prefer, you can peel and slice the banana before freezing).  Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.  Serve. Eat. Enjoy.

Great success!

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I feel well on my way to succeeding at this whole vegan thing.  I have now successfully made rice and beans, and they both even taste good!

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I’m not sure why rice and beans were the big things holding me back.  I guess I was concerned that I’d feel hungry all the time if I couldn’t make “filler” for my dishes.  A big part of it, too, is that my husband is between jobs right now and only working 12 hours per week. This severely limits the grocery budget.

Everything we buy right now is a “How many times will this item feed us and leave us satisfied?” debate.  Snack foods are out. Hearty whole grain cereals are in (though occasionally hubby sneaks something amazing like chocolate peanut butter puffs), along with lots of potatoes, canned tuna, pb&j… I had been taking frozen burritos to work for lunch for weeks months, just because they were so cheap.  I had lunch for a week for under $3.  So when it came time to eat healthier, I knew I had to stick to the same money-saving principles… which meant probably dried beans and rice as a portion of many meals.

Last year, we had purchased a Community Supported Agriculture share, which was bringing us a box fresh vegetables from April through December.   We had paid all at once and didnt have to spend another dime on produce for the rest of the year. Now that the CSA season is over, we’re left having to buy our produce from the grocery store, which is not exactly in our budget.  The good news is I can spend the $3 from my burritos on cabbage and mushrooms!  Haha

Back to my point… I can make beans and rice!  Last night I added some dried cilantro, cumin, salt, pepper, garlic, lime juice, and chilli powder along with a cup of mixed rice, beans, and rinsed and drained canned diced tomatoes for supper.  Not too shabby!  I also baked some potatoes and had a small potato with coconut oil and garlic salt.  Not my typical potato with cheese, butter, and bacon, but still pretty good!

This morning I had some dry oatmeal with a little honey and almond milk – ate it like cereal.  I had done this in the past with a bunch of sugar instead of honey.  I’ll admit I didn’t like the honey.  I think I still have some raw sugar in the pantry. If not, I may eat it unsweetened the next time.

The point is I’m making it work.  We’re hopeful that my husband will have a job soon (he has a couple of interviews coming up)! I’ll be able to get much more variety in my diet.  And as I go, I’m sure I’ll find more things at the grocery store that are healthy, inexpensive replacements for things we already purchase… replacements that we will both like!

Do you have some inexpensive yummy vegan ideas? Feel free to share them below!

Hungry Hungry Hippie?!?

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I love meat. Seriously.  It wasn’t always that way, but over the years I have come to enjoy it far more than I should, at the encouragement of the American (and Southern) culture.  Case in point last 4th of July at my parents’ house in TN:

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While the photo my mom took with her phone is incredibly blurry, you can see how I am proudly (at the time) gnawing on a leg of venison fresh off the smoker.  Meat-eating always felt like sort of a sport to me in my family, and my dad could smoke it with the best of them.  Now I am embarrassed by that photo, chowing down on that deer with reckless abandon.

There was a time in my life that I didn’t like meat all that much, especially chicken and steak.  Too fatty, to greasy, to tough, too bloody… none of it satisfied me, no matter how well prepared.  But I lived in a house where you eat what was prepared or don’t eat (which I’m thankful for in many ways), and more convincingly,  everyone kept exclaiming how great meat is!  Something was obviously wrong with me, in my mind, since I didn’t like meat, so I kept eating it until I loved it. I’m not sure when that transition took place.  But now meat seems to be an inextricable part of my life.

Fast forward to today.  My mom and dad have become mostly vegetarian throughout the week and most weekends will smoke a chicken for them and my  two nephews that live with them.  This has been going on for about the past year.  I thought it an odd change of pace for them, but they’re getting older, have less time and energy,  and I figured it was that, combined with budget constraints that had them cutting back on meat.  But last weekend, my mom informed me that my dad has become vegan. Vegan!  My dad, who loves all things meat and egg and dairy… has become a vegan!?  What in the world kind of hippie notion has come over him!?

My mom explained, without going into any detail at all, that he did it for health reasons after reading “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell and Colin M. Campbell.   Health reasons made sense to some extent, but what was so bad about meat?  I promptly checked out the e book from my local library and began reading, very skeptically, on my week long trip to Denver.

I won’t get into nitty gritty details, but the scientific evidence presented in this and other studies had slowly started changing my opinion of my diet-god, Meat.  It subtly changed my mind enough by the end of the week (only about 20% of the way through the book, at that) that I was compelled to mention it to my meat-disliking best friend as she was complaining that she doesn’t really like meat, eggs, or cheese, but she eats it anyway because she needs protein.  She chalked The China Study up to a bunch of BS research skewed to reflect the views of the author, and just another fad diet.  When I got home, I shared some of what I had learned with my husband, who was also concerned that it was another fad diet.  After some  intense discussion, a little reading,  and watching Forks Over Knives on Netflix,  he finally understood why I had changed my way of thinking. He’s not ready to give up meat with me, but he can see the merits of a vegan diet and has agreed to try whatever I make to eat.  I’ve told him that this doesn’t necessarily mean that I won’t eat meat occasionally; it just means that I recognize that I need to cut as much meat from my diet as I can.

Now where do I start? I like vegetables,  but don’t know how best to prepare them.  I realized the other day that I don’t even know how to prepare dried beans or rice.  Vegetables are expensive, and our CSA is over until March or April.  What do I take to work to eat? How long will beans keep in the fridge once cooked? Salad doesn’t fill me up.  But CHEESE! I love cheese about as much as I love meat.  No pizza, because CHEESE. No favorite local restaurant because it’s a pizza place.  Salad still doesn’t fill me up.  I have no idea how to eat like a hippie!

I like stir fry.  Thai peanut sauce that I make is delightful.  I could eat Thai all the time.  There we go. That sounds feasible (not) But still, what about lunch at work?  I know I need variety in my veggies, so taking a bag of carrots to snack on may be great, but what if that’s all I eat there?  What about drinks?  No soda?! (Yes, I know soda can be vefan, but I’m doing this for health reasons, remember?  No toxic sludge. Just like no Oreos and whatever other junk food is vegan.)

This was the ridiculous back and forth I experienced once I decided this is what I need to do. I realized just how addicted to junk I was, to the point that I didn’t know how to live without it.  I was letting my not knowing how to switch over hold me back.  Until yesterday.

Yesterday I came back to work after being off since Christmas.   My boss kindly bought lunch for us from Arby’s.  (Pretty sure he buys me lunch just so I’ll go get it and he doesn’t have to, ha!) Because I wanted to be “kind” and cost him less money, I used a coupon. Free small curly fries and diet drink with a reuben sandwich.  It was fine, because I hadn’t started a diet yet, right? I was still trying to get it figured out, right?  Arby’s was the swift kick in the pants I needed.  30 minutes after eating, I was miserable.   Headache, tired, shaky.  Just overall felt awful.  Didn’t start to improve until 3 glasses of herbal tea-infused water (oh look! There IS something I like to drink besides soda or food coloring-laden mixes!) 5 hours later.  My husband had leftover frozen pizza sitting out for me when I got home (he always leaves me a slice and I get so excited! See how addicted I am to junk??) and I knew I’d start feeling crappy again if I ate it.  I had him wrap it up and save it for another day and I made brown rice spaghetti for supper.  I don’t normally use sauce, but I add lots of butter, garlic, and parmesan cheese instead.  Knowing butter was out, as was parmesan, I decided to saute some fresh garlic in coconut oil and add some mushrooms and salt.  I used that to lightly coat the rice spaghetti, along with some garlic salt… and it was way better than butter and parmesan!  While I cooked dinner for us, I also boiled a pot of black beans that my husband had soaked for me during the day. They turned out just fine, albeit a little bland.  I can cook beans.  I can drink tea infused water.  I can figure this out.  I can be a hippie.

Spinach, Feta and Mozz Chicken Roll-Ups

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Yes, you read that correctly.  Spinach, feta, and mozzarella cheese stuffed chicken.  And yes, it’s wonderful.

As you may have read already, I’ve developed a slight obsession with spinach and feta, thanks to our wonderful friends Matt and Alison. They introduced me to feta cheese when they had us over for pita pockets one night.  Love at first bite.  Anyhow, at this point, I’m sure you’re ready for the recipe, so here it is, folks!

Spinach, Feta and Mozz Chicken Roll-Ups

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, fat removed

3/4 C fresh baby spinach leaves

2 T feta cheese

3 T shredded mozzarella cheese

salt

pepper

garlic

basil

Preheat oven to 350º.  Place each chicken breast seperately in a gallon-size zip top bag and pound each out with a meat mallet until about 3/8″ thick all over.  Remove from zip top bags and season to taste with salt, pepper, garlic, and basil.  Chop your spinach into small pieces.  I like to roll mine up and do a chiffonade cut, but that’s up to you.  Place about 1/3 of your spinach onto the center of each chicken breast.  Now top the spinach with about 2 t of feta cheese and 1 T of mozzarella cheese.

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Roll up each piece of chicken, tucking in the sides as you go, and pin into place with toothpicks.  (Try to do a better job than I did at keeping all of your filling inside your chicken roll)  Use as many as you need, but keep count so you can be sure to remove them all after cooking!

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Now heat some cooking oil (I use coconut oil) in a frying pan and sear both sides of your chicken rolls.  I cooked mine for about 3 minutes on each side.  If I hadn’t been rushing it, I would have let each side cook just a little longer, until a nice golden brown.  I was in a hurry.

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Remove your chicken roll-ups from the frying pan and place them into a foil-covered baking pan (I used a plain old 9×13 pan) and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to rest for a few minutes before cutting them open.  You can top them with a bit of colby jack cheese if you’d like.  Now enjoy!

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Breakdown of a Smoothie – Health benefits of it all

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So today I made my very first attempt ever at making a smoothie.  While I found a few things I should have changed, I did do some research while I drank it about the benefits of each component I put in.  So I’d like to share some of my findings, but not my recipe.  Believe me, you’d understand why.  Flavor:  good.  Consistency:  bad.  Anyhow, on to my findings…

Strawberries

  • best fruit source of vitamin C
  • contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers
  •  help with cardiovascular health and help prevent cardiovascular disease
  • can decrease risk of Type II Diabetes
  • phytonutrients ellagic acid and ellagitannins have been shown to prevent breast, cervical, colon, and esophageal cancer  (wow, right?!)
  • improve cognitive abilities and motor skills

Pears

  •  anti-inflammatory and antioxidant powers
  • lower the risk of Type II Diabetes and Heart Disease
  • cinnamic acids lower risk of cancer, particularly stomach and esophageal
  • low acid and easy to digest
  • low allergy risk to those that may be sensitive to some fruits

Raw Honey

  • anti-viral
  • anti-bacterial
  • anti-fungal
  • antioxidant
  • builds up the immune system
  • lessens allergies
  • stabilizes blood pressure
  • helps balance blood sugar levels
  • promotes good bacteria growth in intestines
  • soothes and heals skin injuries
  • calms and aids in sleep
  • cough suppressant, and can help with upper respiratory infections, asthma, etc
  • tastes amazing!

Almond Milk

  • low calories
  • glow glycemic, better for diabetics/preventing diabetes
  • high calcium, vitamin d, vitamin a, vitamin b
  • great alternative for those that have a dairy allergy

Plain Lowfat Organic Yogurt

  • boosts immunity
  • lowers bad cholesterol
  • increases loss of fat
  • helps prevent and heal arthritis
  • helps prevent ulcers
  • lowers risk of colorectal cancer
  • can freshen breath and reduce plaque

Oatmeal

  • lowers cholesterol
  • antioxidants
  • lowers risk of cardiovascular disease
  • boosts immune system
  • stabilizes blood sugar
  • lowers risk of Type II Diabetes
  • fiber helps prevent breast cancer
  • lowers risk of childhood asthma

Bee Pollen

  • reduces allergies (this is so true for me!)
  • reduces digestive issues
  • prevents anemia
  • helps with arthritis
  • helps with skin conditions like acne (my dry skin has improved!)
  • aids with depression (also true for me!)
  • boosts energy level (true!)
  • prevents/reduces hemorrhoids
  • boosts immune system

Ice… well, I won’t bother with explaining the benefits of frozen water.  🙂

There you have it.  Lots of info on what I had for breakfast/lunch.  It’s really intriguing to sit down and look at why you should eat what you eat.  Real food has so many healing properties, I find it ridiculous that all of these fake, packaged, frozen, fast food meals are pushed on us… but that’s a discussion for another day.

I hope you enjoyed learning as much about my breakfast as I did!  For more detailed information, please visit my sources:  http://www.whfoods.comhttp://www.draxe.com/the-many-health-benefits-of-raw-honey/http://www.naturalnews.com/035493_raw_honey_health_benefits_antibacterial.htmlhttp://www.3fatchicks.com/6-health-benefits-of-almond-milk/http://www.naturalnews.com/027165_pollen_bee_health.htmlhttp://www.benefits-of-honey.com/bee-pollen-health-benefits.html