Thursday, April 18, 2013

Plant based eating - Forks Over Knives - Lasagna & Soups

All of our dinners for two weeks have been planned from the Forks Over Knives cookbook.  I highly recommend this book if you're looking to start cooking more health conscience foods.  The recipes are very easy, the ingredients, simple, as they're all plant based, and the meals have been wonderful.  While I've been trying to blog the full cooking experience for various meals, I get busy and at times can't give my full review, only a brief post about the meal and how awesome (or not) it was.

Here are a few of our recent meals, my opinions, and how the kids felt about them:

Spinach and Sweet Potato Lasagna:

I love the idea of this lasagna.  Love the cauliflower "cheese" and the layers, etc.  It really is an amazing variation to regular lasagna, but I can't do that much sweet potato.  I will make this recipe again, but next time I'll substitute a lot of the sweet potato for other vegetables (broccoli, zucchini, squash, etc).  I will also do a different pasta.  I like rice spaghetti noodles, but the lasagna noodles didn't soften up as well as they should have (being a no boil prior to cooking noodle).  The recipe calls for an artichoke lasagna noodle and I will be sure to find those next time (or just stick with the whole grain pasta that needs to be boiled before hand).   All and all, a keeper, with some adjustments. Kids were right on board with me in regards to too much potato and noodles being a bit hard.  The flavors were all really great, however, and we all ate it (for leftovers even) as it wasn't terrible by an means.

This was a Navy Bean and Potato soup.  It was absolutely delicious!  It had the zest of lemons in it, as well as leeks and it was AMAZING!!!  Another win for the whole fam!  Again, all of these recipes are from Forks Over Knives.

Thai noodle soup - YUM!  I sprouted the mung beans for the top, which was a fun experiment in itself.  The pasta in this dish was a rice spaghetti from Whole Foods and it was fabulous!   You wouldn't know it wasn't a white flour noodle.  Carrot, bok choy, mung beans, cilantro, lime, noodles and broth, SO GOOD!  Like a fancy ramen!  Again, win from the whole fam!  

We love soups, obviously!  So easy, and really filling!  We like to do a side salad if the soup is lighter, but most times and most of the recipes from the FOK cookbook are easily a filling meal in themselves!  Best thing about all these recipes, no fats/oils, all plant based awesomeness!!

Getting kids involved in the meal plans and cooking! Success!

Granted we're only our first week into this new "activity" I've forced on my children, they/we/I love it.  I meal plan on Sundays as that day works best with our schedule for shopping, etc.  I decided to get the whole family involved.  They each get one day a week (based on our schedules with sports, dance, music, etc) that they get to pick the meal, and help me cook.  It's so great as it eases my having to find seven meals that we'll all like, and I get to have that one on one time in the kitchen with them. 

I want my kids to learn to cook.  To never have to depend on our crappy fast food chains to feed themselves.  I'm realistic, we all know they'll be making midnight runs to Taco Bell with their friends, (if they're anything like me at that age), but I like to think that them having the ability to cook and depend on themselves to make good food will give them some power to continue eating healthy even after leaving home.

Olivia's day was Monday and she chose a Cheezy Potato Soup from the Forks Over Knives cookbook.  She also chose to make a side salad with lentils and cabbage on it (because she loves it...yes, a 9 year old who loves cabbage and lentils).  We were all introduced to lentils and cabbage as a salad when we were on the Whole Living Action Plan Cleanse - here's the recipe that the whole family loved that has now inspired our salad making to be different :  French Lentil Salad   (Click on photos to enlarge)

The soup was delicious!   We decided to throw some of our extra lentils as a garnish as well!  The kids love being able to serve the food for each person in the family, to make everything look good when serving plates and setting the table.

Madison had last night for cooking and she chose a Penne with Spinach and Chickpeas.  Very good pasta dish, very simple flavors and something you can vary in so many ways.  She also made a spinach salad, and again topped it with lentils.  We make a homemade ranch that all the kids love.  A recipe I've created just from playing with the following ingredients:

Coconut Milk
Fresh Dill
Fresh Parsley
Garlic (fresh minced or powder)
Sea Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper

I can't tell you how much money we've saved from not buying ranch for the past 4 months!

(Sorry for the crappy quality of pics...I'll do better next week when I'm not so busy with work). =)

So, getting children involved = success.  I have a meal plan on the fridge with the list of each days meals, as well as which kid is helping me cook and the kids keep referring back to it, discussing what they chose, whose day it is, etc.  And, I'm getting help in the kitchen!!!  So great!  Definitely recommend getting your children involved!!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Latest Yard Project - Mason Bees

My cousin introduced me to these little guys a few days ago.  After sending me information and telling me about them, I was sold.  Little, non-stinging, bees for my plants and garden that spend 95% of their time pollinating (as they don't have to build a nest or make honey).  Honey bees have so many other important things to do so it makes sense to bring in some critters that will work solely for me! =)

Mason Bees are master pollinators and come in early spring.  You can build a home for them to nest in and they will naturally come your way, or you can go to bee supply companies and purchase them.  I went to Bee Thinking on Hawthorne in Portland to get mine.  They were $14 for 10 (so I purchased 2 packs at the suggestion of the "bee pro" based on my size yard and gardens.

Rather than buy a home and the reeds they have in store, we decided to make our own.  Just a few days ago I was able to come into a supply of bamboo, so I asked the "bee pros" how they felt about bamboo for the bee home and they said it would be perfect (as long as the reeds holes were large enough, which they are).

We built a basic bird house structure without the front.  Here are the photos of the steps we took to create our little bee house.

Madison's bamboo bee sign!  Love it! =)
More pics to come of the little critters after they've hatched and of it hanging on the fence by the garden.  Cross you fingers we're successful Bee parents. ;)

Wild Rice- Stuffed Cabbage Rolls from Forks Over Knives - A-Maz-Zing!!!

Last nights plant based meal was one I was questioning, but I HAD to try it out.  Result - loved by all! 

It was a wild rice mix with a very simple veggie and herb flavor, stuffed inside blanched cabbage leaves and topped with my homemade tomato sauce.  OMG, delish!!!  So light, but VERY satisfying and SO filling.  My kids were asking if they could take it in their lunchboxes today. =)

I don't even need to tell you how this one goes...just look at the pics (and GO BUY THE BOOK!!!)  =)  (They really should be paying me for promoting them so much.) ;)  (Click on images to enlarge).

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Two for Two on the Forks Over Knives meals - Buy the Book! Southwestern Mac & Cheese

Night two since purchasing the Forks Over Knives cookbook and this recipe was a hit with all six family members as well.  Southwestern Mac and Cheese!!!  Delish!!! 

I followed the recipe for the most part, other than the pasta.  Instead of whole wheat pasta, I used some brown rice/quinoa pasta that I recently picked up from Costco (definitely a great buy!).  The pasta didn't alter the recipe one bit and I will definitely be making this meal again!

First I made the "cheese" sauce.  This was made with onion, red pepper, roasted cashews and nutritional yeast.  This "cheese" sauce is similar to a nacho cheese sauce I've previously made and the whole fam loves it.    (Click on photos to enlarge)

The mix that went with the pasta was sauteed onions and pepper (no oil, just sauteed in their own liquid and a little water if needed to prevent sticking).

After cooking all the parts, this is the mix I had to add to the cooked pasta and the "cheese" sauce.

Ready for the oven.  =)

 Along side we made a simple salad with this new "Zesty Ranch" dressing I picked up at Whole Foods.  This Tessemae's brand is gluten free and vegan and very good.  Jason has the hot sauce from this same company and we used a little on top of our casserole.  Gave it quite the kick.   Delish!

Waa-laa!  Another home run meal from the Forks Over Knives Cookbook!!!   Highly recommend!

What's happening around my house and yard? Flowers. My favorite!

I love this time of year.  Everything is so fresh and full of color.  We have been busy working away at the garden, staining the deck, pruning the bushes, etc I figured I'd take some photos of what's happening around the home right now.  (click on photos to enlarge)

First off, my husband brought me more lilies when he came home from a military trip, so he's winning, of course. ;) 

Second, I started making my own mock essential oil.  I went to Whole Foods recently to purchase some smells for my homemade dishsoap and almost died when I saw the price.  Typically I only buy Tea Tree oil, which I know is spendy, but delving into essential oils for other projects...yikes!  So, this mock essential oil is made of a jar full of jasmine blooms and stems and cheap vodka.  I, then, kept it in the window sill for about a week and a half, turning it every day to shake it up a little.

Today I strained the yummy jasmine vodka (almost debated trying it) and put it back in the jar.  I placed a filter over the top to filter out the alcohol.  I'm hoping I'll have some smelly oils at the end of all of this.  We shall see!!!

Another windowsill experiment:  A great cleaner that you can use in place of borax in homemade natural cleaners, or just use as an all purpose cleaner.  Citrus Vinegar

This has been the girls new thing, painting decorative rocks for my planters.  So cute!!!  We have owls, ladybugs and even little landscapes.

What's in bloom:

Azalea's - love the colors 

 My climbing rose isn't in bloom yet but it's been pruned and weaved through the arbor some more.  Just awaiting the pretty flowers.

Another azalea.  Just sprouting it's first bloom.

Oh, and say hello to my pig riding gnome.  He doesn't have a name yet, but he's pretty awesome! 

It's garden thyme!!!! ;)

We've been busy gardeners lately.  We had a stint of gorgeous, mid-70 degree weather the last half of our Spring Break so we were buzzing around the yard getting so much work done.  We spent some time prepping our garden, planning the layout and starting some new gardens, ones we've seen all over Pinterest - Pallet Gardens.  We decided to try it out awhile back and decided to get it going the same time we got our big gardens going.  For our garden this year, we have peas, potatoes, herbs, green leaf lettuce, spinach, beans, we'll soon plant zucchini and yellow squash, onions, carrots, radishes, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers and jalapenos.  I just went and checked on the garden today and here's what's sprouted so far:  (Click on photos to enlarge)



Sweet Peas:  (you can tell my kids like to plant...they put ALL the seeds in the ground and then we have a million sprouts to thin) ;)


Radishes (a new item for our garden this year):

The beginning of the herb pallet garden to include a lot of basil and parsley, as well as chives, a lot of cilantro, rosemary, lemon thyme ...I think that's it:

The beginning of the strawberry pallet garden.  Wanting to see if this is a way to harvest more before the bugs eat them all as every year my strawberries in the beds get devoured by a bunch of happy critters:

I'll keep posting updated photos throughout the season.  I'm really excited for a couple crops that I've yet to be successful with, lettuce, broccoli and spinach.  We shall see!!!!  =)  Happy Gardening!