Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Strawberry Puree Pancakes, Curried Zucchini & Carrots with Ancient Grains Mix, Mango BBQ Beans

Breakfast: Strawberry Puree Pancakes
(recipe makes six 3" pancakes)

1 c strawberries
1/2 tbsp of ground flaxseed + 1 1/2 tbsp water
1/4 c rice milk
1/2 tbsp coconut oil
1 1/2 c Bob's GF pancake mix

Strawberry season!!! Sweet, sweet strawberry season!!!!! I need to find a way that we can go strawberry picking--not sure a 1 year old is capable to pick fruit nicely, but I think it'd be a fun weekend activity anyway. Perhaps next week--the farmer's market strawberries will do for this week :) I was inspired to make a pancake combination of my own after making carrot-juice waffles a few weeks ago (I didn't post about it yet, I will do a post later this week though because they were amazing and I'm planning on making some in bulk to freeze.) I didn't want to juice the strawberries though, but I thought adding a puree to pancakes would work really well---and it did! These need NO sugar they are sweet and delicious, but still light and fluffy. This is a gluten-free recipe, but I'm sure replacing the GF pancake mix with a wheat flour mix (packaged or homemade) would be just as tasty.

  • Combine ground flaxseed and water, stir and let sit
  • Puree strawberries
  • Combine pureed strawberries, flaxseed mix, rice milk and coconut oil
  • Stir in pancake mix adding more if necessary to get the batter to the right consistency.
  • Spoon onto heated, oiled skillet (or griddle if you are so lucky) flip once to brown both sides
  • Top with fresh strawberries (maple syrup, coconut whipped cream, etc.)


Cooking in my new/old cast iron skillet

They aren't quite so pink once cooked, but still sweet and strawberry flavored!

Lunch: Curried Zucchini & Carrots with Ancient Grains Mix

5 zucchini
2 carrots
olive oil
1 tbsp curry powder
1/2 tbsp curry paste
2 c dry ancient grains mix [red and gold quinoa, amaranth, brown rice, and wild rice]

I saw an ancient grains mix at Harris Teeter probably over a month ago and I picked it up thinking it'd be a super nutritious grain mix to incorporate into MJ's diet. Somehow I just never using it. Well after being gone for a week and quickly exhausted by the DC heat I thought this was the week to pair it up to the curried vegetables. It was a pretty good mix, but I think that it'd probably be a better investment to make your own mix. I had intended on mixing the zucchini & carrots with a nut-free Spinach Pesto recipe I found, but I completely forgot and added curry to the veggies while they cooked.

Sidenote: I made the pesto anyway and it was AMAZING! Seriously---I think I like it better than "classic" pesto. I have been adding it to sandwiches like a mad man. (Sorry MJ!)

My Chop't salad "The Melrose" (minus feta) has made 5 sandwiches. On a whole wheat sandwich thin with pesto!

  • Bring ancient grains mix and water to a boil and let simmer for 45 minutes
  • Peel and chop zucchini and carrots
  • Steam carrots for 3-4 minutes
  • Toss steamed carrots and zucchini with olive oil and put in skillet on low and add curry powder
  • Cook for 2-3 minutes
  • When ancient grains mix is soft or water has evaporated add curry paste.
  • Combine vegetables and grains.

Cooked & curried vegetables


Dinner: Mango BBQ Beans

olive oil
1 onion
4 garlic cloves (minced)
1 mango (about a cup)
1- 16 oz can of tomato sauce
1/2 c vegetable broth
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (less if you can't handle the heat!)
2-16 oz cans of kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
1 tsp liquid smoke
salt and pepper to taste

Whoa! MJ & I both love spicy food and this was a perfect one to fit the bill. I would definitely consider this one of my (can't speak for him) favorite dishes I have cooked for him. It has a sweet & spicy mix that is dead on perfect. I know, mangoes sound weird with beans right? But somehow they work really well flavor-wise and texturally. If possible I recommend everyone run out and make this recipe. It is so good I'm not sure if I can keep myself for devouring it all (definitely will have to remake this and double the recipe.) I got this recipe from Appetite for Reduction, a truly great vegan cookbook by one of the author's of Veganomicon (which is also a cookbook I have recommended to a lot of people and cooked from before on this blog.) Seriously can't recommend either book enough!

  • Chop onions, mango and mince garlic
  • Preheat pot with a little olive oil, add garlic and onions and saute until translucent.
  • Add kidney beans, tomato sauce, mango, veg. broth and red pepper flakes
  • Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 45 minutes partially covered with room for steam to escape stirring frequently
  • Turn heat off. Sauce should have thickened and mangoes should be cooked down.
  • Add liquid smoke and let beans sit for 5 minutes (honestly it tasted great even before adding liquid smoke, so if you don't have it don't fret- it won't kill the dish BUT it does add a nice BBQ flavor which was perfect for this Memorial Day weekend. I think this is definitely a dish you could bring to a cookout and no one would know/care that it was vegan).
  • Salt & pepper to taste

MJ's dinner, paired with some rice milk to cool down his mouth

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Cooking for Mimi & Poppi

MJ and I spent the last week visiting my parents and I cooked for all of them. Here are a couple of the dishes I made.

Spaghetti Squash & Spinach with Garlic Roasted Hummus

Spaghetti Squash & Spinach

1 spaghetti squash
16 oz spinach
olive oil
1/2 c water
  • Cut the spaghetti squash in half and roast in 1/2 c water at 400 for 35-40 minutes or until the inside of the squash is soft.
  • Allow squash to cool & remove innards with a fork to get long spaghetti strands
  • Combine spaghetti squash with olive oil, salt and pepper and lightly saute for 2-3 minutes
  • Add rinsed, chopped spinach and saute for 2-3 more minutes
  • Serve!

Garlic Roasted Hummus

2 cans of chickpeas
1/2 c tahini
1 whole garlic
olive oil
1 lemon

  • Rinse chickpeas and cook in water for 20 minutes or until soft but not mushy.
  • Roast 1 garlic in olive oil (Cut tip of garlic off, drizzle olive oil over garlic including the tips, cover with foil and roast for 25-30 minutes on 350 or until soft.)
  • Let chickpeas cool.
  • Combine all ingredients in small batches in food processor, add water if mixture is too thick.

My mom's plate served with some naan.

MJ's plate

The next day we had leftover makings of hummus & I added an avocado for

Garlic Roasted Avocado Spinach. Whoa!

Added steamed spinach & brown rice for MJ's lunch.

Melted some Mozzarella Daiya on Whole Wheat sandwich thins w/ raw Spinach and Avocado Hummus for my dad.

Friday, May 18, 2012

7 Tips for Shopping on a Budget

One of the things I have seen most in the various forums I frequent about food, access, healthy eating, etc. is people wondering how to eat healthily on a budget. That is my primary interest when food shopping. I do consider health and nutrition to be of utmost importance, but I have a budget that I simply cannot afford to go over. Next time I go shopping I plan to document and list how I shop for a family of 3: 2 vegans & 1 flexitarian. But, until then I will give you some of the tips that makes healthy, non-stressful, inexpensive shopping trips happen for me.

  • Meal Planning: #1 most important tip. It literally makes all the difference. When I first graduated college and started doing my own shopping I was constantly running back to the grocery store for last minute things that I hadn't anticipated because I didn't know what I would be cooking when I went grocery shopping. It isn't necessary to have every meal, snack, etc. planned out, but have a general idea of at least 2-3 meals you want to make per week.
  • Go-to Meals: Whatever it is you do whether work, school or full time parenting there are nights when you just don't want to cook. These are the nights that people either eat out (if they have the money) or go for the quick, easy processed foods. Well, go ahead and make this a tradition of the past. Even on nights like these it is simple to throw something together & still eat well (and cheap). Whole grain/bean combo provide a hearty, delicious and nutritious meal. Add some vegetables (fresh or frozen) and you have a complete meal that can be changed up in a number of ways to add variety. 
*Black beans, brown rice, broccoli (About $3/meal using canned beans & frozen broccoli, even cheaper if you make dried beans in advance and store them in the freezer)
*Peas, carrots & coconut rice (About $2/meal using frozen peas & carrots and canned coconut milk)
* Chickpeas, quinoa & pepper salad (About $3/meal using fresh peppers and canned chickpeas)

  • Sale papers: Even if you don't get the newspaper you can easily find out about sales at (major) grocery stores by looking up their circulars online. While couponing doesn't work for me because most of the coupons aren't for food I eat it works for a lot of other people. What does work for me is knowing whether foods that I eat frequently are on sale. Last week at the Safeway brown rice was for sale buy one get one free for $2. The three of us go through brown rice like water so it was an investment for me to spend $10 and get 10 bags of rice, knowing that it would save me money in the long run. If I had a car I would probably comparison shop more, but seeing as my time to go shopping is pretty limited and I am on foot w/ MJ I have to determine which grocery store has better deals on a week to week basis. 
  • Farmer's Markets: Yay farmer's markets. One of my favorite shopping excursions and perhaps the easiest to budget. For my DC crowd I know there are markets open throughout the city that accept EBT and I believe that all if not most accept the Farmer's Market WIC vouchers, but double check the website linked above for the market most convenient to you. I know that Aya Community Markets and Ward 8 Farmer's Market will double your vouchers & EBT purchases up to $20! The best/most economical way I've found to use the farmer's market is to go once a month to get fresh produce & freeze whatever I don't intend to use immediately. This helps guide what I cook and helps extend the life of produce.
  •  Bulk cooking: This is definitely not for everyone, but I think it makes life easier and I am not particularly picky. As I have documented before on this blog I cook for my son once a week, but I often also cook for myself the same way. I might throw in a rice & bean bowl to mix it up, but some weeks I do eat the same thing throughout the week. Foods that are particularly good for bulk cooking are soups, stews and chilis (more for the winter months, but hey I could eat my sister's black bean chili any month.) In addition to bulk cooking meals, I also bulk cook dry beans. Canned beans are inexpensive enough, but dry beans are even more inexpensive AND come without the preservatives and risk of BPA from cans (I use both). The downside of dry beans is they take a long time to cook and aren't really a "throw together" meal, BUT if you make a pot of beans of your preference (my go to beans are black beans) and freeze baggies or containers in serving size portions you have the convenience of canned beans and the freshness of dry beans.
  • Staple items: In my household there is always a short period of time between our bi-weekly shopping trips where we would be out of the food we really liked and only have foods that we normally would pair with something else: (e.g. brown rice and no beans). This would be the time where we'd do our quick shopping trips to "just pick up a few things" and would end up spending $20 or $30 out of our budget when we have a full shopping trip to make a few days later. To avoid this period of time or to still have good, healthy meals when we get low on groceries we always try to keep some staple items in our pantry & freezer that we always can use. These are different for every household, but they are foods that you can turn to and are relatively inexpensive.
Some of our staple foods: vegetable broth, frozen fruit, frozen mixed vegetables, canned beans, olive oil, pasta, rice. [If any of these items are on sale I always make sure to get extra.]

  •  Tracking spending: I'm sure that when people see me in the grocery store I look crazy- I have my cell phone in one hand calculating my expenses, grocery list in the other while trying to keep MJ amused. The easiest way to break your budget is to not stick to it (duh), but seriously I always go into the grocery store with a number in mind and very rarely do I ever go over it. As I shop I total up the costs (rounding up always) and put back items accordingly. By rounding up (anything with any change gets rounded up to the next whole dollar) I always have money leftover for a treat or two at the end of the shopping trip.
I hope these tips are as helpful and snow that it is entirely possible (with planning, research & follow-through) to eat well while on a tight budget. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Weekly Cooking

Breakfast: Vanilla Quinoa Oat Mini Muffin Tops

I never thought I'd be letting MJ eat ice cream for breakfast, but these just looked so tempting and nutritious that with a few modifications I had to make them! After officially weaning MJ all his nutrients are coming from his meals. So it is even more important to make sure that all his nutritional needs are met. This recipe contains the super grain quinoa, which is a complete protein, as well as oats another powerful grain. 

Ingredients: (yields 24 mini muffin tops)

1/2 cup melted So Delicious Coconut Vanilla Ice Cream
1/2 cup cooked Quinoa
2 tbsp virgin coconut oil
1 3/4 cup ground Oats
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt

  • Cook quinoa and let cool
  • Melt ice cream and combine with melted coconut oil
  • Add ice cream+oil to quinoa
  • Mix ground oats, baking powder and salt & add to wet ingredients
  • Mixture should be a thick muffin mix consistency, but not stiff. Add more oats or melted ice cream to get desired consistency.
  • I originally scooped spoonfuls onto a cookie tray, but they didn't look right so I baked the second batch on the reverse side of my mini muffin tray.
First batch didn't look smooth enough, but still tasted delicious.

Lunch: No-rice Risotto with Rainbow Chard

I saw the most beautiful rainbow chard at the market. I just had to buy it. The colors were just so vibrant and enticing. Chard is also a Vitamin K & A powerhouse I wasn't sure what I was going to make, but I knew I needed the protein from beans. I paid for my first app last week, the Green Kitchen app and it paid off with a delicious No-rice Risotto recipe that only needed a few modifications. The recipe originally called for mascarpone cheese and I couldn't find any soy-free cream cheese, so I used coconut milk, which of course altered the original intended taste.

Ingredients: (Makes 3-4 adult servings)

2 cups of rainbow chard (stems & leaves separated)
7 cups cooked white beans (I used Northern beans)
1 red onion
2 garlic cloves
1 lemon; juice & zest
olive oil
2c vegetable broth
1 tbsp potato starch
4 tbsp coconut milk
sprinkle of salt

  • Cook beans (I used dried beans so I soaked them overnight and simmered them in veg. broth for an hour), but drained, rinsed and cooked canned beans are fine too.
  • Chop garlic, chard stems and onions very finely and saute in olive oil
  • Add veg. broth & chard and cook well.
  • Add beans & potato starch and simmer while stirring frequently.
  • Cook until veg. broth dissolves.
  • Add lemon juice, thyme & a sprinkle of salt
  • Add lemon zest before serving

Dinner: Cheesy Spinach-Avocado Pasta

I had some washed, chopped spinach that I had stored in the freezer a few weeks ago so I decided to use it for this extremely simple recipe. There are definitely a lot of ways you could play with this recipe. I added some nutritional yeast to give it a "cheesy" taste, I think it could also go great with some soy cream cheese, but the avocado really gives it such a creamy texture and delicious base.


1 1/2 avocados
4 c frozen spinach
2 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 garlic cloves
lemon juice from 1/2 a lemon
sprinkle of salt
sprinkle of pepper
Pasta (Brown Rice Pasta to make it gluten-free)

  • Puree frozen spinach and avocado along with lemon juice
  • When it reaches a creamy consistency heat in saucepan & add olive oil, garlic & nutritional yeast (sidenote: this could also probably be a really good raw dip if you didn't cook it)
  • Spice accordingly
  • Add to pasta tossed in olive oil
  • Sprinkle with nutritional yeast and serve

Simple & Delicious

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Health in the Black Community Free Write

So, this is kinda a free write I’ve been thinking on and hopefully I could get some feedback to help me shape what I hope will be a longer piece on the food/nutrition crisis in Black America.

*Hopping on to the soapbox for a moment* <clears throat>

It is quite clear there is a health epidemic going on in America. The epidemic has to do with food and nutrition, but some of the symptoms are obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease. As a Black person I have more family members suffering from one or more of these symptoms than fingers to count on. I know this is true for many Black people and many Black families. Is it acceptable for us to let our family members suffer and be put on high regiments of medicine without addressing the root cause? Do we continue to let our cycle of poor nutrition impact our children?

Who am I to judge, but then again who am I not to? I was too aware of these illnesses that “ran in my family” and had at the age of 18 proclaimed proudly, “everyone else has diabetes I guess I probably will too.” I continued to devour foods with names I couldn’t pronounce, having no real consistency to what foods I chose and how I prepared my foods. To be honest if you asked anyone I went to school with a favorite food of mine most likely they’d name a candy. Of course I knew I wasn’t making healthy choices, but the true impact didn’t really hit me.

For most people, especially younger people, nutrition is typically paired with weight and physical appearance. If you look good on the outside and you are not viewed as overweight most people never question your dietary choices. How many times have you heard people snicker at overweight people at the McDonalds when a thin person at McDonalds is clearly making similar unwise nutritional decisions. This was true of me. I never really thought much about my own nutrition until I had my son and was having trouble getting rid of those post-baby lbs. My body was definitely not bouncing back like all the women that are plastered on magazine covers touting 40 lbs. of baby weight lost in 6 weeks (damn them and their personal trainers)! For me this signified a need for a dietary change and the more I did research and changed my diet the more I was able to see that I too was suffering from this nutritional epidemic that challenges the Black community.

To be fair, this is an American epidemic, but as a Black woman and mother I am most concerned about the impact on Black America. We have been behind the times in many lifestyle changes because of the desire not to be perceived as “uppity” or “acting white.” So be it. I’ll be the uppity Black woman living healthy and happy into old age. I can’t fully express my nutritional views in one post and I definitely won’t try to, but Black people, my people if we can take it one step at a time—give up processed foods. Yes, they are cheaper, but they are cheaper for a reason—-they are barely food. Good food costs more, yes, but it is worth it. I am not saying you need to break the bank and buy 100% organic everything, but look at what foods you buy and think about them critically.

We are one of the few races that regardless of class will drop $300  or more on a hairstyle. And please believe that Black women and men both will spend good money (even money they don’t have) to make sure they are wearing the newest Jordans, designer clothes, expensive acrylic nails, etc. If you can afford to maintain your outer appearance then you can afford to maintain you, your children and your family’s inner “appearance” because that is in fact what truly will make the difference.