the long road to healthy

July 28, 2009

the way to start a day

Filed under: C25K, family, fitness, good eats, nutrition — karena @ 7:01 am

Harry, the toddler, has been waking up between 5 and 6 AM recently.  It’s agony.  I hate sacrificing my sleep, even if it’s for some cuddly toddler love.  I want to sleep in — which, as all moms know, means make it til 7 without being awoken by matchbox cars running a race up and down your body, or little boys calling from the bathroom for you to come help wipe their butts, or a big CRASH! followed by uh-oh coming from the toy room.

Anyway, yesterday the parts finally arrived to fix the jogging stroller, and dh got it up and running again.  So this morning, when Harry got up at 5:45, I had no excuse.  I waited about twenty minutes, hoping I could wish him back to sleep.  No such luck.  I got up and, without so much as a cup of coffee, headed out the door with him.  And you know what?  It was nice.  It was still cool and crisp.  I didn’t have to contend with traffic.  Harry loved seeing the canal boats  traveling alongside us.  And I didn’t waste an hour sitting on the couch nursing a cup of coffee, wondering where I was going to find the energy later in the day to workout.  The best part?  I feel incredibly noble and healthy!

What a great way to start a day!  Of course, that could just be the combination of exhaustion and endorphins making me say that.

The other way to start a day:


A Green Monster.  Or a Green Smoothie.  Or, as my husband calls it, The Snotblower.  I started making these about a week ago.  The funny names were what enticed my kids to try it.  The taste is what forced me to make a second for myself since my five year old sucked down an entire one on his own.  And, yes, that’s a pint glass.  The recipe:

  • 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed
  • 2-3 cups of fresh spinach
  • 1 cup of lite milk (I use soy, but skim would be fine too)
  • 1 frozen banana

Put it all in your blender, in the order given, and blend away.  Once everything is blended, I turn it up on high and let it go wild for a full minute.  The smoother and the creamier, the better.  If you don’t have frozen bananas, try a banana and some ice cubes.  No, you can’t taste the spinach.  Really.  I swear.  The proof: my five year old has had four of these in the last week.  That’s eight cups of spinach.  Which is probably eight times the amount he’s been willing to eat in his entire life up until this point!


June 24, 2009

Tofu Tuesday

Filed under: good eats — karena @ 9:05 am

Brought to you by…
Kaci@Ellyphant & Kelli@Gohn Crazy

A day late, but I promise you not a dollar short! We sampled a new recipe from my oldest vegetarian cookbook — the first one I ever bought. It’s fromThe Vegetarian Family Cookbook by Nava Atlas. I highly recommend it! The cookbook, that is, but also the following recipe! A couple other recipes that have been kid-tested, mom-approved from this book to whet your appetites: Veggie Pot Pie, Southwestern Baked Rice Casserole. Pasta with Sneaky Marinara Sauce… I could go on and on. Check out Nava’s website above. She’s got a recipe section so you can “try before you buy.”

Here’s one to get you going: Gingery Japanese Noodles with Mushrooms and Snow Peas

5 cups of veg broth
1 8oz package of soba noodles
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1-2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 cups (about 4 oz) snow peas
6-8 ounces sliced mushrooms
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced

Bring the broth to a simmer and cook the noodles at a boil until done. Meanwhile, heat the oils and 1/4 cup of water in your stir-fry pan (I use simply a deep-sided skillet). Stir in the ginger and soy sauce, then add the snow peas and mushrooms to the mix. Cook over med-high heat, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes. You know, until the snow peas are lightly cooked but still vibrant green, and the mushrooms are starting to look yummy.

Add the cooked noodles and broth and scallions to the pan (I didn’t have any scallions) and simmer for another couple minutes. Serve in shallow bowls.

This was incredibly good! I used the lesser amount of ginger, and next time I’ll use a tad more. But absolutely delicious! If you like mushrooms at all, you HAVE to try this. My kids are on a no-mushroom kick, so lucky us, my husband and I got to enjoy it all ourselves!

June 9, 2009

Tofu Tuesday – tofu tips

Filed under: good eats — karena @ 12:52 pm

Brought to you by…
Kaci@Ellyphant & Kelli@Gohn Crazy

When I was a veg*n newbie, I remember being quite intimidated by tofu. It was supposed to be some miracle food that could sub for meat, milk, eggs, cheese…. But how? When it was so flubbery and tasteless? Chances are, this is not the first veg blog you’ve come across. But just in case it is, here are a few basic tips:

*if you freeze the tofu first, the texture becomes spongier and “meatier”. I freeze it right with the water.
*drain as much water out as possible before you cook, or you will have tofu soup. I wrap a block in a kitchen towel, place it on a plate, then weigh it down with my heaviest cast iron pot for an hour or so.
*marinate, marinate, marinate. Your choices are endless. Tofu is like a sponge and will soak up the flavor. Then you can fry, bake, grill, etc.
*it’s not cheese. So don’t expect it to taste like cheese.
*it’s not an egg. So don’t scramble it and expect it to taste like eggs. It will taste like whatever you season it with.

Really, the first few of those are easy to come by. The last two, well, I really wish someone had explained that to me. When someone says a recipe “tastes just like the real thing,” 99% of the time they’ve been vegan way too long to remember what the “real thing” tastes like. But it doesn’t have to taste like cheese, or eggs, or chicken, or tuna, or whatever. If you drop those assumptions, you’ll enjoy your meals a lot more, trust me.

Five of the million and one uses of tofu:

1. puree one box of silken tofu and one jar of pesto sauce (Galroy Farms is vegan) together to make a creamy pesto sauce. A box of pasta and you’re ready to eat!
2. use silken tofu to replace milk or cream in cream-based soups. Some day I’ll post my “cream” of broccoli soup recipe.
3. 1/4 silken tofu = 1 egg. works well in muffin and bread recipes, usually. (you’ve got to play around with vegan baking, let me tell you)
4. one block of firm tofu, a little nutritional yeast, a little soy sauce, and you’ve got a good base for scrambled tofu for two or more. My fav is with onion, garlic, and bell peppers.
5. cube a block of firm tofu (drain it first, obviously) and roll cubes in your favorite bbq sauce. Bake in the oven at about 350 for about, I don’t know, twenty minutes? My kids love this. It was my five year old’s choice for supper last night!

June 3, 2009

Tuscan White Bean Soup

Filed under: good eats — karena @ 3:17 pm

As promised, here is my adaptation of Donna Klein’s Tuscan White Bean Soup from her cookbook, Vegan Italiano. This is a favorite in our house. It’s simple enough that the kids aren’t weirded out by the way it looks, or strange mixtures of taste. Yet at the same time it’s a wonderful melding of flavors that appeals to my husband and me. We’ll pair it with a simple green salad and some tomatoes still warm from the sun. Mmmmmm.


4 scallions, chopped
3-4 cups veg broth (either canned or from bouillon, or homemade if you’re industrious)
8 cups cooked white beans
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

In a large soup pot, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the scallions and cook for a few minutes, until softened but still colorful. Then add everything else (told you I was the queen of easy!); bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Stir occasionally, mashing about half of the beans against the side of the pot. Let simmer roughly 20 minutes.


*This makes a double batch, so 8-10 servings. I always make soup in large batches, then freeze half for quick an easy meals on nights when I’m rushed.
*The original recipe calls for canned white beans. I always make my own. Why? Because I am cheap. If you’re not, you can sub 4 cans of white beans.
*The original recipe also calls for roughly half the broth. I find that’s too thick for our tastes, but you might want to try starting with half, then add if you feel it’s too thick.
*Additionally, the original recipe calls for sliced of day-old Italian bread, toasted and rubbed with a clove of garlic, placed in the soup bowl with the soup poured over. I omit this simply in the interest of saving calories. I’m sure it’s delish.

June 2, 2009

Tofu Tuesday – a week in the life

Filed under: good eats — karena @ 8:28 am

Brought to you by…
Kaci@Ellyphant & Kelli@Gohn Crazy

Although I love to cook, and I’m actually a fairly accomplished vegan cook, most of the time our meals are one-dish affairs. We don’t typically have starters, an entree, desserts, etc. We have kids. I make supper with a toddler either clinging to my legs or sitting on my hip. And a five year old discussing the lunar landing. Most of the time, meal prep has to be something I can do with one hand and only a portion of my brain. It has to be filling, not-too-spicy (although I adore spicy), and not too exotic for my kids.

Here’s our menu for the week:

tonight: Taco salad for the grown ups, soft tacos for the littles. I use MorningStar crumbles for this. A friend gave us some of his homegrown lettuce, and ours is coming in as well, so a filling salad was in order. Lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, taco filling, salsa, maybe some guacamole, etc. You don’t miss the cheese, trust me. I’ll put a couple tortillas under the broiler so dh and I can have “chips” with this.

Wednesday: Tuscan White Bean Soup. Yummmm. Tune in tomorrow and I’ll post the recipe. This is one of our all time favorites – a Donna Klein recipe, of course. We will have a salad on the side. Leftovers for Thursday.

Friday: stir-fry, curry, rice and beans…? I don’t know. Something with rice. Friday my husband is out of work early, so it’s the one day I can experiment with new recipes or do something a little more in depth.

Saturday: Saturday is pizza night in our house. We make individual pizzas, to accommodate the wide range of tastes in our house. All get a simple but yummy homemade sauce, this recipe for a tofu-based cheese substitute. The boys like it plain, like this, although we sometimes sneak in little bits of mushroom or peppers. DH loves mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, and spiced olives. I like all these, but am trying to go a little healthier these days, having mushrooms and green peppers. DH thinks green peppers are the food of the devil.

Sunday: During the summer, Sundays are salad nights. Non-mayo potato salad, pasta salad, green salad, rice salads….. You get the idea. In cold weather, Sunday is soup night.

I’ll *try* and get in here this week with some photos of our meals and a few recipes here and there.

Have a great Tofu Tuesday!

May 26, 2009

Tofu Tuesday – Peanut Butter Fluff

Filed under: good eats — karena @ 12:38 pm

Brought to you by…
Kaci@Ellyphant & Kelli@Gohn Crazy

You know, I really need to get more organized for Tofu Tuesdays. I should write this post in advance, when I have oodles of time to myself and a stunningly beautiful dish to photograph and post here, as proof of my cooking prowess. In reality…

Recently we instituted Monday as Kids’ Cooking Day. My five year old makes supper. Prep, actual cooking, setting the table, clearing away… OK, what this actually means is that it takes me twice as long to get supper on the table, twice as much mess to clean up, and twice as much frustration. But also the joy of watching my little boy learn to cook, and take pride in all his “hard” work. It’s definitely worth the headache.

Yesterday was super-hot for and I had no intention of turning on the oven or standing over the stove. So L and I made a couple of side salads (carrot-raisin salad and a corn salad) and we had sandwiches to boot. The grown up version was kind of a tofu salad sandwich — no doubt if you own a veg cookbook, you’ve already got a good jumping-off recipe. The kid version, and the version my husband opted for as well, is known in this house as “Peanut Butter Fluff.” Trust me, it doesn’t get any easier than this! Plus, everyone (at least in our house) likes it, it greatly reduces the fat for those that need…ummm… fat-reducing, and it gets some quality protein into those sometimes picky kids!


1 box of silken tofu
12 oz peanut butter
4 tablespoons honey

Put all in your super-duper blender and blend away. Obviously, this makes a lot. Spread on your bread of choice; also good on apples, etc. Refrigerate any leftovers. If you have use for half a box of tofu, simply half the recipe.

I hope you enjoy! L’s got plenty of kid-friendly, easy recipes up his sleeves. Tune in next week. If the weather is more accommodating, he’ll be making you barbecue tofu!

May 19, 2009

Tofu Tuesday – I heart Donna Klein

Filed under: good eats — karena @ 5:45 pm

Brought to you by…
Kaci@Ellyphant & Kelli@Gohn Crazy

Today I’m going to share one of my favorite recipes of all time, from my favorite cookbook author of all time. I have mad, mad love for Donna Klein. Other veg cookbooks come and go in my kitchen, but hers are the pride of my collection.

This my adaptation of her Quick Farmer’s Paella from The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen. I meant to get a picture, but was too busy cooking and running after kids to grab a camera. Enjoy!

2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon saffron
2 tablespoons high quality olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup rice
1 pkg frozen lima or butter beans *
1 can artichoke hearts
4oz baby carrots, rough chopped
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

In a saucepan, heat the broth and saffron to a simmer, then set aside.

In your biggest, favorite skillet (I like a cast iron) heat the oil, then add the onion and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the bell peppers and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes. Add the can of tomatoes and bring all to a simmer.

After about 3 minutes at a simmer, add the rice, zucchini, and broth. Simmer (covered) for ten minutes. Add the carrots and simmer for another ten. Add the peas and continue cooking 5-10 minutes, until the rice is “done.” Stir in the toasted pine nuts and serve.

*the recipe calls for lima beans, but I didn’t have any this time around. What I did have were two leftover zucchini that needed to be used up.

Hope you all have a terrific Tofu Tuesday!

May 12, 2009

Tofu Tuesday

Filed under: good eats — karena @ 10:39 am

Brought to you by…
Kaci@Ellyphant & Kelli@Gohn Crazy

I was actually going to start a Tofu Tuesday thread on our family blog, but it’s much more fitting here. We’ve been strict vegetarians for I think about three years now, although we lapsed for a couple months earlier this year when we thought we’d try Body for Life. I felt horrendous after adding meat back into my diet, so quickly cut that back out after a week or two. The cheese…. well, it took a little longer to adios that from the house. Now we’re back on track. The only non-vegan items in the house are Eggbeaters, and those are for the guys — my husband and two little boys, ages 5 and not-quite-2.

Anyway, my veg*n tip for this week: get thyself to Fat Free Vegan, an absolutely must visit for any vegetarian. When we first went veg, we lived off SusanV’s recipes for months while I figured out the ins and outs of cooking without meat and dairy. Today it’s unseasonably blustery and rainy, so I’m making one of our favorite comfort foods, SusanV’s split pea soup. Her recipes are always healthy and delicious, and range from so-simple-a-child-could-do-it to nearly gourmet. Try it, you’ll like it!

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