Salad with Fresh Cherry Vinaigrette

Cherry-Salad

Cherries are my husband’s favorite fruit. They are only in season for a couple of weeks each year, so when they go on sale I buy several bags. I like to pit them and freeze them to use in smoothies and desserts all year long. But nothing beats a fresh sweet cherry. This recipe makes use of the fruit in two ways-as a topping and in the dressing. This dressing is oil free and has no added sugar. The salad is delightfully refreshing and makes a great summer time meal. Enjoy! This makes 4 entree sized portions or 8 side sized salads.

Ingredients:

8 cups mixed greens
1 yellow sweet pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
1 ear corn on the cob, kernels removed
8 stalks of asparagus, chopped
1/4 cup sliced red onions
1/4 cup nuts or seeds of your choice (I used pepitas)

Dressing:

1/4 cup fresh cherries, washed and pitted (about 12 cherries)
2 TBSP sliced green onion (white part only)
2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
2 TBSP water
1 TBSP Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/8-1/4 tsp salt

Instructions:

Assemble salad by layering salad greens on the bottom and topping with fresh veggies and nuts or seeds. Blend all of the ingredients for the dressing in a high powered blender or with an immersion blender until smooth. You may need to add a little extra water to thin the dressing. Pour dressing over salad and serve.

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Summer Corn Cakes

Summer-Corn-Cake
Because corn is in season, and because I LOVE fresh corn on the cob, here is another yummy way to use this summer time treat. Did you know that corn is a whole grain? A large ear of corn has about 120-150 calories, 5 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, and is a good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Magnesium, and Vitamin B6.

I like to top these corn cakes with fresh avocado or guacamole and tomatoes. There is no added oil, and they can be made gluten free by simply substituting an all-purpose gluten free flour for the whole wheat flour in the recipe. Serve the cakes as a side or as a main dish with a fresh salad for a light summer meal.

Ingredients:

3 ears of corn
1/4 cup green onions, sliced
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Slice corn kernels from the cobs. 3 large ears of corn should yield about 3 cups.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and pepper.
  3. Separate 1 cup of corn kernels from the rest. In a blender, blend the cup of corn with the almond milk until smooth. Add the liquid to the flour mixture. Stir to combine.
  4. Mix in the remaining 2 cups of kernels and the green onions.
  5. Let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes so that the cornmeal can absorb some of the liquid. You can also prepare this the night before and refrigerate it overnight.
  6. Heat a non-stick griddle or skillet over medium heat. Spray the pan with non-stick cooking spray if needed. When the pan is hot, scoop about 1/4 cup of the batter onto the griddle for each cake. Cook until the bottom has browned. Flip and cook until the other side is golden brown, about 3-4 minutes on each side.

Yields 8 cakes

Serve with avocado, guacamole, tomatoes, salsa, or beans

Easy Patriotic Breakfast

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We have a tradition of making a special breakfast on holidays. Usually we make some sort of pancake creation, but this Fourth of July I wanted to do something different. I wanted to create a flag with blueberries and strawberries, but what to make the crust out of? Then, in the middle of the night it came to me…I could make the base out of banana cookies! My kids love them (see this post), and it is the perfect way to get them to eat oats.

This fruit topped flag comes together in about 20 minutes with just a few ingredients. It is festive yet healthy and hearty, and it is so easy that the kids can help!

Happy Independence Day!

Ingredients:

3 ripe bananas (the ones that have a few black spots are the best)
2 cups rolled oats
2 TBSP ground flax seed (optional)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 container vanilla yogurt (I used cashew yogurt)
Fresh blueberries and strawberries

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 13×9-inch cake pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl mash the bananas until there are no chunks. Stir in the rolled oats, ground flax seeds and cinnamon. Mix until well combined.
  3. Spread the oat mixture evenly onto the parchment lined cake pan.
  4. Bake for 12-15 minutes.
  5. While the banana oat crust is baking, wash the berries and slice the strawberries lengthwise.
  6. When the crust is cool, spread the vanilla yogurt over the top. Decorate with the berries to make a flag.

Note: Feel free to add finely chopped nuts to the banana oat mixture as well. Chopped walnuts would be a yummy addition!

Summer Corn Salad

Summer-Corn-Salad

I love corn on the cob! It must be in my genes. My great grandfather grew the most delicious sweet corn. When it was harvest time he would have my great grandma cook several ears, and he would have a corn feast for supper. The corn loving gene is strong. When my daughter was a year and a half old I remember taking her to Safeway. Corn was on sale, and I put several ears in my cart. Before I knew it, Lucy had peeled back the husk and was gnawing the corn off of the cob. It was so cute! Raw corn is really delicious. When I cut the kernels off of the cob, I will purposely leave about an inch of kernels at the top so that I can nibble them off. Don’t worry, it is perfectly safe to eat sweet corn raw. However, corn’s antioxidant activity increases by 25-50% when you cook it (see here), so to get the maximum nutrition out of an ear you should cook it.

When I go to summer potlucks, I like to bring this salad because it is so easy and delicious! It comes together in about 20 minutes and is quite versatile. The fresh herb adds a nice brightness to the salad. Feel free to use your favorite herb in place of the basil. I’ve used parsley and cilantro, and both are delicious. You can also add other veggies, beans, and seasonings, but the simplicity of this recipe allows the flavor of corn to shine.

I’ve learned a really handy trick for cutting corn off the cob without having kernels fly everywhere. First, place a small bowl upside down inside of a large bowl. Place cob on the smaller bowl and slice kernels off. The corn will fall into the larger bowl and not all over the counter. Enjoy this scrumptious summer salad!

Ingredients:

4 ears of corn
1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes
1 TBSP chopped fresh basil (or herb of your choice)
1 TBSP olive oil
Salt
Pepper

Directions:

1. Husk the corn and cut off the kernels. Wash the tomatoes and slice them in half.

2. Over medium-high heat the olive oil in a large frying pan.

3. Add the corn and toast until the kernels turn a nutty golden color, about 10 minutes.

4. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.

5. Mix corn with tomatoes and herbs. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy warm or cold.

Serves 6-8

Un-Beet-Able Fudge Brownies

Brownie-Web

Oh, rich, fudgy, chocolate brownies are such a weakness. There is nothing better than the smell of a pan of brownies baking in the oven. But, I don’t make brownies (or really many baked goods) just for our family. This is shocking, I know, because I have a business baking goodies for others. Talk about irony!

I decided to bake a brownie that I can feel good about eating and enjoy it along with my family. I created a rich, fudgy brownie recipe that is oil, egg, dairy, and refined sugar free, but it is so good you won’t even miss those ingredients. There is only 1 TBSP of maple syrup in the whole recipe! As a bonus-they are made with beetroot puree. WAIT! Don’t click away. I promise, you won’t even taste them! The beets marry nicely with the chocolate and pack antioxidants and extra fiber into the brownies. There are studies that indicate beetroot may help prevent diabetes. When I was trying to come up with a name for these babies my husband jokingly said, “So You Don’t Get Dia-Beet-Es Brownies.”

I frosted the brownies with a chocolate avocado fudge frosting. My kids (who do not like avocados) don’t even know the frosting is made with one. In fact, these brownies are 100% kid approved. My daughter said, “These are WAAAAAY better than the sugary kind.” The night I made them the kids each had two big brownies and wanted a third. I would have said yes, but selfishly, I wanted the last 2 brownies for myself!

Kids and brownies

This recipe creates 9 hefty brownies. You’ll never guess that each frosted square is less than 100 calories. Seriously, what are you waiting for? Buy a bunch of beets and make a pan of these brownies today! You won’t regret it.

BROWNIES

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 TBSP ground flaxseed (optional-if you don’t have any, don’t sweat it)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
15 dates, pitted (I use the Deglet Noor variety because they are cheaper than the Medjool dates at Costco)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup beet puree (to see how to make beet puree, check out this post by Light Orange Bean)
1/4 cup non dairy milk
2 tsp white vinegar
DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl add whole wheat flour, cocoa powder, ground flaxseed, baking powder, and salt.
3. Place dates in a measuring cup. Add enough water to make 1 cup total. Microwave on high for 2 minutes to soften the dates. Puree the softened dates and water with an immersion blender or other blender. (If not using an immersion blender, wait until the dates cool so that you don’t have an explosion!)
4. Measure 1/4 cup non dairy milk and add the white vinegar to it. Let it sit for a minute.
5. Add date puree, vanilla, beet puree, and milk mixture to the dry ingredients. Mix until all the ingredients are well incorporated.
6. Prepare a 9×9 inch baking pan by lining it with a square of parchment paper.
7. Pour batter into pan. Bake for 22-24 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
8. Let brownies cool completely before frosting. Cut into 9 squares and enjoy!

 

Chocolate Avocado Frosting
5 pitted dates
1 ripe avocado
2 TBSP cocoa powder
1 TBSP maple syrup (may add another TBSP if you want the frosting a little bit sweeter)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
DIRECTIONS:
1. Place dates in a microwavable mug and cover the dates with water. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Remove dates from the water. Reserve the water.
Using an immersion blender, or other high powdered blender or food processor, blend the dates along with 1 TBSP reserved water, avocado, cocoa powder, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Spread over cooled brownies.
***If you have any leftover frosting I highly recommend dipping fresh strawberries or pretzels in it.

Fluffy Whole Wheat Pancakes (Dairy and Egg Free)

Whole Wheat Pancakes.JPG

Nothing beats a warm stack of pancakes for breakfast, and these scrumptious hot cakes come together in only 15 minutes and only uses 1 bowl! They are egg, dairy, and oil free too. I used oat milk in these pancakes because oat milk is naturally higher in sugar. It gives baked goods a nice golden color which you lose when you don’t use dairy, but any kind of milk will work for these pancakes.

This recipe makes eight 4-inch size pancakes. I double the batch for my family of 6. These pancakes also freeze nicely. Just place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a non-stick mat. Freeze for an hour or two, and then place in a plastic storage bag. On busy mornings, just pop them in the toaster and enjoy!

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 TBSP baking powder
pinch of salt
1 cup non-dairy milk
2 TBSP maple syrup or 4pkts Stevia (optional-if using oatmilk, I don’t add any sweetener at all)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
Whisk dry ingredients together. Add the wet ingredients and mix well. Let sit for 5-10 minutes. Heat a non-stick pan or griddle over medium-high heat.

Use an ice cream scoop to drop batter onto hot pan, and cook until top is no longer shiny and any air bubbles on the surface have popped. Flip and cook for 3-4 minutes more.
Serve with fresh fruit, almond butter, peanut butter, or a small drizzle of pure maple syrup.

Yield 8 pancakes

My Story

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Dear Reader,

First of all, thank you for your time. There are billions of websites competing for your time, and I am honored that you chose to take a moment and share this journey with me.

Since my last post, I gave birth to a happy, healthy little boy. Our family grew from 3 to 4 children, and I have been busier than I could have ever imagined…doing what exactly, I am still not sure, but each day is filled to overflowing.

My passion for food and nourishing our body and soul through food have not changed; if anything it has grown stronger. I created this blog to help busy families cook healthy food from real, budget friendly ingredients. I had to take a break from posting because I was so sick during my pregnancy and too exhausted after giving birth to consider doing one more thing. Over the past year and a half I have learned more about nutrition and myself. After much thought, I decided that it was time to share my personal story and relationship with food with you. The following story is very personal to me, and I don’t often open up about my struggles, but I want to be honest and show that I am not perfect (nor ever will be). Like you, I am doing the best I can with the knowledge I have. When I learn more, I do better. I am excited to share what I have learned with you and continue my mission of helping busy people feed their families healthy food on a budget. I hope that sharing my story will be helpful to you in some small way.

My personal story of how I found healing through food started in 9th grade. I was diagnosed with PCOS and Insulin Resistance. I was overweight and had little self esteem. I felt very alone as I didn’t have many friends. It was one of the lowest times in my life. After I was diagnosed I was prescribed Metformin and changed to a low carb diet. The weight fell off quite quickly, and by the time I was a junior in high school I was at a healthy weight and looking and feeling great about myself. I learned that what I eat can profoundly affect my health. In college I continued to cook what I thought were healthy meals until I got married in 2006. Busy with school, work, and my new role as a wife I admit that our meals were not the healthiest. The weight crept back on. Then, in May of 2008 I found out that I was expecting our first child. I was overjoyed, but I was miserable with morning sickness. Cooking was out of the question, and I relied on high calorie processed heat and eat meals. By the time I gave birth to our beautiful daughter I was back to the weight I was when I was in 9th grade. I was embarrassed and ashamed. I vowed to never let my weight get away from me like that again. Over the past 9 years I have been more careful with my diet. Mostly, I watched my sugar and carb intake. This was the way my mother ate, and I learned to prefer “sugar free” things from her.

Over the years there were several times when my thoughts about food and weight became obsessive, and I struggled with anorexia. After my third child was born a friend started a Facebook group challenge to cut out processed food. I jumped on board with that, started to eat more fruits and vegetables, and switched from cow’s milk to almond milk. That started a slow descent into another bout of obsession and anorexia. My weight dropped to 102 pounds. My periods (which were few in number to begin with due to PCOS) became non-existent. I was losing hair, and my skin took forever to heal. I still have scars on my legs from simple scrapes. At the same time I felt that the Lord had another child waiting for our family. Since I couldn’t get pregnant on my own, I did what I had done with my second and third babies and started taking Clomid. Other than becoming hormonal and cranky, the medicine did nothing for me. I was devastated. After trying for more than a year to get pregnant I resigned myself to the fact that I would be a mother of 3 and not 4. Then, in December 2016 I had a terrible pain in my back. I had herniated a disc in college when I worked at the bookstore, and I thought that I was having a flare up from that. It turns out that I had ovulated. A few weeks later I had some tell tale signs of pregnancy, and I took a test, actually 3 tests just to make sure, and to my surprise, I was pregnant!

The pregnancy was a blessing in many ways. At the beginning I was so sick with morning sickness that all I could do was lie on the floor and doze off and on while trying to keep my toddler entertained. My obsessive thoughts about food and calorie restriction took a backseat to my all consuming nausea. I was hungry all of the time and gave myself permission to eat because I knew that my body needed fuel to grow this baby. Becoming pregnant broke the most recent cycle of anorexia, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the mental relief.

I gave birth to our little Noah in August 2017. He has been a joy, and I have loved giving him as many snuggles as I possibly can. To my satisfaction, I also gained the least amount of weight during that pregnancy as I had my other pregnancies because I mostly ate nutritious food. I wasn’t too worried about losing the baby weight because I had done it 3 times before. This time, though, I didn’t want to descend back into my spiral of obsessive thoughts and calorie counting.

I longed to find a solution to my health challenges and make peace with how I nourish my body. I turned to prayer. I believe that God hears and answers our prayers, no matter what we are praying about. God wants to share His wisdom with us. How many scriptures teach “Ask and ye shall receive. Knock, and it shall be opened unto you?”

I remembered that the Lord has given us a code of health to live by. It is called the Word of Wisdom and was revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith. Along with things that we are admonished to avoid (tobacco, recreational drugs, tea, coffee, and alcohol), the Lord prescribes good things for our bodies:

“Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.

Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;

And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.

All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;

And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.

All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground—

Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.” (D&C 89:11-17).

I read and reread those lines over and over until I have come to a better understanding of what the Lord is saying: our bodies do best when we feed it whole plant based foods. I also read articles from General Authorities about the Word of Wisdom. About the same time I read a book by T. Colin Campbell called, “The China Study.” I was fascinated with the depth and breadth of research in that book citing the detrimental effects of increased meat and dairy consumption on our bodies. Then I read “How Not to Die” by Dr. Greger. Again, the amount of research that affirms what Dr. Campbell found was astounding. Basically, our standard American diet is killing us. The top 12 causes of death can all be linked to our consumption of meat, dairy, and saturated fat. All of the evidence that eating a more whole food plant based diet can prevent and even reverse some of the most common diseases known to us was hard to ignore, and the evidence supports what the Word of Wisdom has been teaching for over 185 years!

Since February I have been following a mostly whole food plant based diet. I have been hesitant to share my thoughts and feelings about my lifestyle change because some might think I have gone to an extreme, but I don’t feel good about keeping the blessings that have come to me because of my choice to eat a whole food plant based diet to myself. Whenever the Lord gives us a commandment, He also gives us specific blessings when we obey. The blessings of obeying the Word of Wisdom are these:

“And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shallreceive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;

And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;

And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.

And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them.”

 I have experienced many of these blessings by following a Whole Food Plant Based diet. My body feels so much better. I have energy and my mood has definitely improved. My cystic acne has also improved, and I have lost all of the weight that I gained during pregnancy. I believe that I will more fully realize the Lord’s promised blessings as I continue to follow the counsel in the Word of Wisdom.

Has it been easy? Not always…I often have to cook separate things for me than for my family because they still want meat and dairy. At times it can feel a little lonely. Our culture revolves around food, and most of it is unhealthy junk! It can be difficult to find food to eat at restaurants when I travel, but I don’t have a desire to go back to the way I was eating before. My tastes have changed, and I love the taste of fresh fruits and vegetables! All the sugary, fatty, meaty food has for the most part lost its appeal, but eating is also influenced by our culture, and sometimes I find myself wanting to “celebrate” by eating something that I know would not make me feel good afterward just because that is what we do when we “celebrate.”

Being “Vegan” or eliminating animal products from our diet is becoming more acceptable, but it can still be viewed as going to an extreme. I don’t really see it that way. What is extreme to me is neglecting the beautiful body that the Lord gave me and abusing it by what I feed it. If I can avoid diabetes (which I am predisposed to now that I have had Insulin Resistance and PCOS), heart disease, high cholesterol, chronic headaches, cancer, and depression (all of which plague one family member or another), why wouldn’t I do everything in my power to do so? I also abhor the thought of having to spend money on medicine instead of something that I would enjoy a lot more-traveling and making memories with my family.

So, with my newfound energy, the passion that I have always had for cooking and showing love through feeding others, and my love for teaching and sharing knowledge with others, I am resuming this blog. I hope that you will find helpful recipes and tips for wherever you are on your journey of health and happiness.