Monday, March 2, 2015

When a Plant Based Diet Just Isn't Enough

A few weeks ago, in my vegetables for breakfast post, I mentioned the fact that I have been experimenting with dropping whole grain flours and all sugars (except for the occasional date in a dressing or sauce) out of my diet. I said that it was a story for another day, and that day has come.

This is going to be a very long blog post, so if you are interested, I recommend that you get comfortable!

First a review of my recent dieting history and inspiration for starting the Healthy Girl's Kitchen blog. Five years ago, a college roommate of mine asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. I was thirty nine years old and I had recently had my third child. I had a long history of yo-yo dieting, with many successful weight loss journeys, all to be followed up by weight gain horrors. I made up my mind that I would NOT be the fat bridesmaid, and I went back to a national weight loss program that had worked for me many times in the past (if you consider working to mean losing the weight and gaining it all back).

The program worked again, because I was hell bent on weighing and measuring my food, tracking it all and staying within my allotted calories. I made a lot of really nice friends in that program who I miss to this day. The camaraderie was amazing.

Shortly after I entered those meeting rooms again, one member had mentioned to me an online support group for people who follow all different diet plans. It's called PEERtrainer and it was in that support group that I first heard of a whole food plant based diet. The idea appealed to me immediately. First, from an ethical perspective, because I had been a vegetarian for ethical reasons for eleven years. But second, from a health standpoint, learning about the negative impact of processed food, dairy and meat on our bodies suddenly and forcefully hit home for me. So while I was on the "counting and measuring" program, over the course of a few months I was really BOTH on the counting plan AND on a whole foods plant based plan.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Butternut Squash and Quinoa Chili

Ever since I posted about my vegetables for breakfast commitment, I have been asked what I eat the rest of the day. I'm really not a fan of the WIAW ("What I Ate Wednesday") type posts, I find them completely ridiculous and a symptom of food addiction, but I do want to answer this very legitimate question.

So without going into gory detail about an entire day's worth of food right now, I want to share with you what would be a typical dinner for me. My husband and my oldest daughter will love this dish. It's super filling, warm and spicy. My little kids wouldn't go near it with a ten foot pole. I'm still struggling with getting them to eat a plain potato, let alone a complex chili with butternut squash and quinoa!

I prepared this chili in my InstaPot electric pressure cooker, but I'm absolutely positive that if you threw all of the ingredients into a slow cooker and set it for at least four hours (and you could leave it for many more), you would have wonderful results.

Thank you to my friend and co-worker Allyson for inspiring this dish! I think this is going to be very popular with the Chef AJ's Ultimate Weight Loss crowd that starts up on February 16th.

Butternut Squash and Quinoa Chili
serves a lot!

Print me!

1 1/2 pounds cubed butternut squash (if you've got a Trader Joe's near you, that's 2 12 ounce bags of cut butternut squash)
1 large red or yellow onion, diced
2 cans of salt free (if you're avoiding salt and can find these) black beans, washed and drained
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 Tbsp minced garlic (I used 3 cubes of Dorot frozen garlic)
3 14.5 ounce cans fire roasted, diced, no salt added tomatoes (if you can't get the fire roasted ones, no biggie!)
1 tsp dried jalapeno pepper (I got this ingredient at Penzey's) or 1 jalapeno pepper, deseeded and diced
1.5 Tbsp salt free taco seasoning
1 tsp cumin
2 Tbsp chili powder
3 Tbsp Benson's Table Tasty or other salt substitute
1.5 cups low sodium vegetable broth, plus at least 1 more cup
3 cups frozen corn kernels (I used one bag of Trader Joe's fire roasted corn)
Optional garnishes: scallions, cilantro, avocado slices, nacho cheeze sauce

Place all ingredients into a pressure cooker and stir. Pressure cook for 15 minutes. You can do quick or natural release, it doesn't matter.

Once cooked, add corn and stir. Add as much or as little additional vegetable broth to achieve the desired consistency for your palate. It's great really thick and yummy without added broth, but nice also with a more stew-like consistency.

Saturday, January 17, 2015


It's been a long time since I have written a blog post, so please excuse me as it's almost hard to begin! But begin I must, because I have something exciting that a really want to share with you.

You may know that for the past, oh, six months (or maybe it's been a year, I can't remember at this point) or more I have been making some serious tweaks to my whole food plant based way of eating. Exchanging starches for nuts was a really big step and a great move (my weight gain finally halted!) and incorporating vegetables into my diet first thing in the morning moved the scale in the right direction, finally!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Nut-Free Cheezy Southwestern Dressing

Something kind of exciting is happening at my office tomorrow and we're having a little party to celebrate. The first woman to ever leave my company to have a baby is coming back to work! Well, at least I hope she is. 

She says she is.

I just haven't known that many women who actually went back to work after having a baby. Most of the women I know think that they will return, but once they have that baby, they change their mind.

So in honor of this momentous first at Luscious Verde, we're having a little pot luck and office fun. Our plant manager informed me that New Mom has communicated to him that she's interested in healthier eating (after having been a friend of the fast food chains for a good long time) and I was more than happy to commit to bringing a huge salad.

But which salad would I pick?

Well, let me tell you about this incredible salad that my cousin makes (actually, my husband's cousin's wife). She does catering on a small scale. Lots of salads. It's got romaine lettuce, tomatoes, corn, scallions (I think), avocado (you can leave that out of course), black beans, and tortilla chips (I recommend the baked ones, or bake them yourself). I never knew what was in her delicious Southwestern dressing, but you could tell that salsa was probably one of the ingredients.

One day, Cousin dropped a bomb on me. She told me that there was Earth Balance in her dressing. I about fell off my chair (if I was sitting, I can't remember--maybe I just passed out). 

I was like, "Why on earth would you put Earth Balance in a salad dressing?" I recommended replacing it with cannellini beans and left it at that, but feared the salad after that day. Which is such a bummer, because it is THAT good.

So tonight, I set about to right this ship. It happened pretty easily. I created a super easy to make, nut free, Vegan Southwestern salad dressing that I believe can replace Cousin's Earth Balance and salsa salad dressing, and I think it tastes just as good.

Let's just hope that New Mom actually does return to work tomorrow, and loves the salad as much as I think she will!

Edited to note: There it is! There's the salad (including my finger in the photo)! 
And it tastes exactly like the original dressing. Whoo hoo!

Cheezy Southwestern Dressing
Vegan. Oil-free. Possibly salt-free.

1 16 ounce jar of your favorite salsa (as spicy as you like it, salt free if you can get it)
2 cups alternative milk (if you want a totally nut free dressing, choose soy, rice or oat milk)
1/2-3/4 cup nutritional yeast (depending on how cheezy you like it)
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (if your salsa is not hot to begin with)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
2 tsp dried onion 

Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Anytime Oatmeal Cookies

I have a confession to make.

The first time I tried these cookies, I thought they were gross. And so did my kids. I was encouraged to make them by my good friend and Health Coach Sharon McRae whose family was loving all over them. I was really bummed that they didn't work out for me and my family, and I didn't make them again for a very, very long time.

Until I hosted a HUGE women's only, 40th birthday, pot luck at my house (and not a plant based one). The theme of the meal was salads (I can only stray so far people!). Someone, I don't even know who, brought this big plate of cookies and they were being devoured. My nine year old was loving them. I was loving them.

I took one look at them and I knew--they were THOSE cookies. The ones with just two ingredients: bananas and oats.

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