Saturday, March 26, 2011

My Newest Obsession!

I just realized over the past few weeks that I have developed a new obsession!  I LOVE slipping fruits, vegetables and other unexpected ingredients into recipes you wouldn’t expect to find them in!  Most “dieters” have heard of mixing cauliflower in with mashed potatoes or cooking pumpkin into cakes and muffins, but I like it when recipes call for really “weird” ingredients.  It’s not really all that weird, it’s just unexpected. 

I have been making green smoothies for a few months now and I have just recently started to expand my green smoothie repertoire.  After Angela from Oh She Glows posted her Peppermint Patty smoothie last week for St. Patrick’s Day, I felt like I had to try my own version and I LOVE it.  What a brilliant idea to use spinach as food coloring for minty foods!  Then I noticed that Katie over at Chocolate Covered Katie posted a recipe for Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream that basically uses the same idea.

(Photo source: Chocolate Covered Katie)

(I plan to try the Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream this weekend now that I have ice cream cones AND chocolate graham crackers!)  I plan on posting my recipe for my “Grasshopper” with pictures in the next few days, but I LOVE it!  It tastes like dessert!  I haven’t had mint chocolate chip ice cream in so long and it used to be one of my favorites.  I am very excited about the possibility of having healthy mint chocolate chip ice cream with spinach in it.  Of course, I still love my kale smoothie.  However, I have tweaked it again now that I have some protein powder that I mix in for an added boost.  

I have also been obsessed with making chocolate zucchini muffins based off of this recipe from the Happy Herbivore. 

(Photo source: Happy Herbivore)

I have tweaked a couple of things, but Lindsey’s recipe is still what I follow.  For “frosting” I just mix up some peanut flour with Truvia, a bit of salt and water.  It’s AMAZING!  In this muffin/cupcake, you have zucchini, applesauce and banana!  I made a variation last night that even had pureed strawberry in it with a strawberry yogurt cream cheese frosting (vegan, of course).  I love eating food that seems decadent but it’s really just healthy! 

Another strategy out in the healthy living blogosphere world is pureeing beans and “sneaking” them into recipes such as the famous Black Bean Brownie!  I have tried and definitely dig the black bean brownie.  I have made a few different versions but Lindsey over at Happy Herbivore has a pretty famous one on her blog! 

(Photo source: Happy Herbivore)

The last time I made black bean brownies, I just tweaked the recipe from the cookbook, Vegan on the Cheap.  I think what’s exciting about adding beans to baked goods is that you are just adding protein and fiber to what you are making.  I have made some pumpkin bars with white beans and silken tofu although I have not mastered this recipe yet.  I have just made it one time and I plan to work on it some more before I call it a true recipe.  I made a batch for our flight to Hawaii to get us through 10 hours of air travel without much protein availability.  They did the trick (along with some peanut flour and english muffins). 

Isa Chandra Moskowitz has a few of these strategies up her sleeve in Appetite for Reduction too.  She does the cauliflower mashed potato trick and calls it “Caulipots.”  The way I like these best is to make a shepherd’s pie and make a version of the “Caulipots” instead of just straight up mashed potatoes on top.  With all of the veggies in a shepherd’s pie, no one will even notice the cauliflower mixed in with the mashed potatoes.  I highly recommend it!  Isa also mixes cauliflower in with her tofu ricotta for the lasagna recipe.  I had never thought of that before, but I bet it works great!  I plan to try that sometime soon. 

One recipe that is blowing my mind that I have yet to try is this one from Weight Watchers.  Sauerkraut in a cake?!  WTF?? 

(Photo source:

I am super excited about this one.  I will have to veganize it, but I can't wait to give it a try!  When I saw this recipe and I got all excited, that’s when I knew I had an obsession with mixing “weird” ingredients into things.  Weight Watchers is kind of known for putting recipes out like this.  When I still ate processed foods and was not vegan, I used to make their diet soda cake all of the time.  Now that I don’t drink diet soda, eat packaged cake mixes or Cool Whip, I have to figure out other ways to bake and cook healthy though. 

Last but not least, there’s a book a checkout from the library.  It’s not a vegan book or even vegetarian for that matter.  It’s called Deceptively Delicious. 

(Photo Source:

It’s by Jessica Seinfeld and it’s the entire premise of the cookbook!  She creates these purees to sneak into foods to feed her kids fruits and veggies without them complaining about it.  It’s amazing all of the things that she comes up with and uses!  

Do you have any recipes like this?  Do you like the idea of "sneaking" unusual ingredients into things?  If so, let me know what you are making!  

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Oh, How I Love You, Green Foods!

I had planned on doing a green foods post on St. Patrick’s Day but sometimes there’s just not enough time in the day to work and blog.  I wish I could blog everyday, but time just doesn’t allow.  Anyway, last weekend I made some green foods in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.

I made a green smoothie, spirulina pancakes and steamed kale.  The spirulina pancakes made an awesome green pancake batter but the finished product didn’t really turn out green.

Spirulina is a recent food find for me.  I kept reading about it on blogs and other places, so I got curious about it.  I bought a small jar at one of the local health food stores to see if I liked it and made a smoothie with it. 

The first smoothie I made was bright, bright green so this second one I made with spirulina I scaled back a little bit and it’s definitely not as green.  I ended up ordering some more spirulina from Vitacost so I will have it on hand. 

Another green food that I LOVE is kale!  I used to hate kale and now I can’t get enough of it.  I love it in green smoothies, steamed, in soups, casseroles, you name it.  I love it so much I am going to order this shirt for myself as a reward when I hit 90 pounds lost.

Steamed greens are not just for dinner.  They go great with breakfast food too! 

On St. Patrick’s Day, I made a green smoothie with spinach that was inspired by this smoothie on the Oh She Glows blog. 

(Photo Source: Oh She Glows blog)

It tasted like a dessert more than a smoothie.  It tasted just like a “Grasshopper.”  Next time I make it, I might make it with a bit of chocolate mixed in (like Angela did in hers) and have it for a dessert instead of breakfast. 

So, Happy LATE St. Patrick’s Day!  Here’s a picture I took a couple of years ago at the Muir Woods near San Francisco.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Recent Online Deals!

I am always looking for a bargain, but I am pretty picky about the food I buy.  I try to buy as much organic food as possible.  I know this isn’t always possible because of cost and availability, but I try to make it happen as much as I can.  I know I have mentioned how much I love Amazon Subscribe and Save before, but I thought I would just share some of my recent online deals.  I also placed an online order this weekend with Vitacost and found some pretty good deals.  I will share those too. 

Amazon deals

(Photo source:
-Simply Organic Vanilla Extract (Subscribe and Save)-$12.92 for 2 bottles (4 ounce bottles)

(Photo source:
-Coffee Bean Direct Fair Trade Organic Shade Grown coffee (Subscribe and Save)-$34.73 for a 5 pound bag.  (We drink coffee like it’s going out of style!)

(Photo Source:
-Country Choice Organic Multigrain Hot Cereal (Subscribe and Save)-$13.65 for a 6 pack (18 ounce containers)

(Photo Source:
-Organic Stevia-8 ounces-$15.95 and free shipping—I know this might not sound like a great deal, but at Trader Joe’s, organic stevia is about $10 for 1 ½ ounces. 

(Photo Source:
-Organic Olive Oil (Subscribe and Save)-$14.50 for 2 25 ½ ounce containers

(Shipping was FREE)

-Nutritional Yeast Flakes-$9.77 for 22 ounces

-Spirulina powder-$14.95 for one pound

-Other purchases included kelp flakes, chia seeds, chocolate rice protein, and vanilla plant protein (I have never used any of these products)

If I had bought these items at the nearest health food store, I would be broke as a joke.  I love how online shopping makes it affordable for me to buy good quality foods at a decent price!  I hope this helps/inspires you to check out products that you either can’t find or can’t afford and see if you can find a deal!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Hummus is one of those foods I always try to prepare myself.  Store bought hummus is good but it's too fattening and too expensive.  Not a good combo when you are trying to eat healthier and save money.  Over the years, I have made different hummus recipes and this is the recipe that I go back to time and time again.  If you don't think you will eat this much hummus, I would just cut the recipe in half.  If you buy canned chickpeas instead of cooking them, I would just adjust the recipe for one can of chickpeas if you don't want to have it make so much.  Also, if you have black beans on hand, they are great for hummus. 

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
(Makes about 10 half cup servings)

-1/2 container of Nasoya Silken Tofu
    -1 7 oz jar of roasted red peppers (in water not oil)-rinsed and drained 
    -4 cups chickpeas 
    -3 TBSP lemon juice 
    -1 TBSP Tahini 
    -1/2 tsp garlic powder or 3 cloves (minced) 
    -1 tsp salt 
    -1/2 tsp cumin
-1/2 tsp paprika 
-Reserve a bit of the chickpea juice in case the mixture needs added liquid (add liquid 1 TBSP at a time if needed)

Put the tofu and red peppers in the food processor first and puree them. Then add the chickpeas and process for a few seconds. Then add all of the other ingredients and process until smooth. This may take a minute or two to get it to the consistency that you like. Serve with carrots, celery, bell peppers, crackers, etc. 

Below is the nutritional break down from the Spark People recipe calculator.  

Nutritional Info
  • Servings Per Recipe: 10
  • Amount Per Serving
  • Calories: 142.4
  • Total Fat: 2.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
  • Total Carbs: 22.8 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 4.5 g
  • Protein: 6.1 g

I either eat hummus as a snack with mixed veggies and crackers or I eat it for lunch as a wrap.  In this picture, I have the hummus mixed with raw red bell pepper slices, alfalfa sprouts and wrapped in an Ole Xtreme Wellness Low Carb High Fiber tortilla.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Smoothie Rude Awakening!

(Berry Banana Smoothie)

Last week at my Weight Watchers weigh in, I gained a pound.  I have actually been pretty frustrated lately about my weight loss since the switch to the new Points Plus system.  But I didn't want to be one of those impatient "dieters" looking for a quick fix.  I know that weight loss takes time.  It's not a race; it's a lifelong process.  I know all of this.  But I was still frustrated thinking that my weight loss was abnormally slow.  Then R came home from her meeting and she maintained weight again.  She said that when she looked at her records from her weigh ins, it had been about 5 weeks of maintaining weight.  So with both of us being frustrated, we decided to sit down and come up with a plan.  Being vegan, we already eat a lot of fruits and vegetables.  So the whole concept of the new Points Plus system of pushing people in direction of making healthier choices with fruits and vegetables doesn't really apply to us.  That's the foundation of our diet already.  Plus, with my tendency to overeat, I have found that I can eat way too much of fruit just like I can with "junkier foods."  However, I feel like it's a great move for Weight Watchers and the new plan is great for a lot of people.  So we decided to not only keep track of points, but to keep track of calories too.  I have an account with Spark People, so I updated my goals, weight, fitness, etc. so I would have an accurate range of calories I should be consuming each day to lose weight.  Once I had all of that figured out, I knew I would have a better idea of what was going on with the stalled weight loss.  This was a HUGE eye opener!!  I started measuring out ALL fruits and vegetables and figuring up the calories for EVERYTHING.  I was easily eating 2 cups of grapes a day-one cup has 100 calories!  That's 200 calories right there; just in two cups of grapes!  I would often pull some grapes out of the fridge and just eat them while I was cooking dinner and not even think about how much I was consuming.  With the concept of "free" fruit, I was no longer measuring out fruit and I was mindlessly eating it like it wasn't really calories entering my body.  I was acting like I was not accountable for those calories!  Crazy!    Another shocker was my morning smoothie!  My kale smoothie pictured below:

This "innocent" kale smoothie has over 350 calories in it!!  I was only counting this as 1 point for the almond milk because everything else is just fruit and that's "free" on the Points Plus plan.  I would drink this smoothie on Friday mornings thinking it was a better choice since I usually use more points on Fridays for "Friday Night Pizza."  Ha!  I quickly modified that!  Also, the smoothie recipe makes a VERY large smoothie.  I decided that I don't need this much-I just need about half of it.  It easily makes two servings.  

So, this has been a very educational week for me.  I have never really paid attention to calories because I have done 2 diets in my life--Sugar Busters and Weight Watchers.  Sugar Busters is more about eating low on the glycemic index and Weight Watchers is all about points instead of calories.  Actually paying attention to calories was very empowering.  I decided that I only needed one cup of grapes instead of two and, like I mentioned before, I could easily split my smoothie with R and still be satisfied.  I also decided to play around with smoothie ideas this week and come up with a smoothie that would be a little more satisfying and stick with me longer.  It's the smoothie that's pictured at the top of this post-the berry banana smoothie.  Because I weigh everything out on the food scale, some of my amounts listed on the recipe are in grams instead of cups.  

Berry Banana Smoothie
(2 servings)

-1 small banana (82 grams)
-1/2 block of silken tofu (227 grams)
-1 cup almond milk (I use Almond Breeze Unsweetened Original)
-1-2 packets of Truvia or sweetener of your choice 
-1 cup/100 grams frozen blueberries 
-150 grams of frozen strawberries 
-water (around 1/4 cup or as needed)-optional 

Add the banana, silken tofu, Truvia, and 1/2 cup of the almond milk in the blender.  Puree until smooth.  Then add all of the berries and other 1/2 cup of almond milk.  Puree until smooth.  If you have a super powerful blender, it might blend all of this up with no problems.  I have to blend for awhile, stir it around a bit and add a little water, and then puree again.  I do this process until it's smooth and there are no longer chunks of fruit anymore. Once it's all blended up, I pour it into two glasses and serve.  

If your weight loss is stalled and you are struggling, I highly recommend that you pay attention to your calories (even if just for a day or two).  It was such an eye opener for me!  R has even switched over to totally counting calories, carbs, protein and fat with Spark People.  She feels like it's a better option for her and she feels like she has more freedom with how and what she eats.  I am still going to stick with Weight Watchers for awhile, but I am also going to track calories along with points. is a great site that you can find calorie listings for almost ANYTHING!  I have been referring to it as well as Spark People a lot lately.  

What do you think of the new Points Plus system if you are a Weight Watcher?  I would love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"What else are you doing half-ass?" -Jillian Michaels

I started watching the Biggest Loser last year in May.  I caught the end of one of the seasons and got hooked on the show.  Up until that point, I had imagined the show to be exploitative and just trying to make a mockery of overweight people.  Finally, I decided to watch it and see for myself and I was pleasantly surprised (and hooked) right away!  I find the show to be such an inspiration.  During a recent episode, Jillian was pushing her team to work harder with their running on the treadmill.  Almost everyone pushed themselves to a point that they never had before and they were all amazed at what they could do.  It was a defining moment for many contestants on the show.  Then Jillian Michaels said, "What else are you doing half ass?"  There was something about this statement that really resonated with me.  It got me thinking about my own life and how often do I really push myself to see what I am capable of. 

I started looking around on the internet for other Biggest Loser quotes and I was surprised there aren't more sites that list out BL quotes.  I did find a few here though. 

These are some of my favorites:

"This is where it matters the most. This is where lives are made, in these moments where you can choose whether or not to say "I can't" or "I can." It is a choice that will either make or break you for life." - Jillian

"Don't lose sight of what you want! Don't lose sight of what you're entitled too!" - Bob

"Well then just do it. Stop saying all these words, quit talking. I'm sick of just words, words, words, talk , talk, talk. Shut the f**k up! Just do it! Just stop talking and do it." - Bob

"Believe in yourself, trust the process, change forever." -Bob

Is there a moment or quote from the Biggest Loser that really stands out to you?  I am constantly inspired by the show.  I also love Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels.  I love that Bob is vegan now and he even talks about veganism on the show sometimes and has even worn a vegan shirt!  Jillian is just a bad-ass to me.  I love that she cares but is tough.  I am glad I finally gave the show a chance!