Thursday, April 4, 2013

Honorable Mention from Giada De Laurentiis!

A few months ago, Giada De Laurentiis held a contest entitled, "Let's Get Cooking!" Here's how it worked:

Giada listed hundreds of recipes on her website that she wanted the contestants to prepare, style on a plate, and photograph. Once submitted, the entries had the opportunity to be voted on by the public; the photos that received the most votes publicly would then continue on to the next round. At this final level, Giada would then personally select first, second, and third place winners, each with an associated prize to go alongside the placement earned.

You could only imagine how thrilled I was at the opportunity to play out my "inner food stylist" dreams! I began scanning the list of recipes. I felt overwhelmed with the choices available to me as well as anxious to garner all of my ingredients. Not to mention ideas filtering in my mind as to how I would plate my magnificent preparation. Since I follow a mostly vegetarian diet, there was only one option for me: to find a recipe that was vegetarian. Eggplant rollatini it was!

Here is the final result. Although I did not place, I did get a lot of votes...enough to have made an honorable mention by Giada. I would love to one day be a food stylist alongside a holistic nutritionist. For now, I'll start with my blog! Thanks for all of those who supported me throughout this fun endeavor!

On Hiatus

Hi everyone. I realize that it's been a while since I've last blogged. There have been lots of life changes going on for me and also, I've been trying to learn as much as I can about healthy cooking and lifestyle to bring to the blogosphere. Admittedly, our family has had an addiction that I'm hell bent on making changes on: sugar and processed wheat. I've learned so much about it and how important it will be for us to eliminate or find healthier alternatives to these ingredients as well as many others that are on the "not-so-good" list. I will be back with more exciting content that is relevant (and fun). Among this will be how, as a super busy mama, I will infuse their diets with more healthy foods despite our hectic lifestyle. They already have a healthy daily menu already but things can always be better! Be on the lookout for more posts soon! Thanks for reading!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Vegan Highlight: "Non" BLTs!

Lately, I have been really craving a good BLT. It brings me back to the yesteryear of when I was little, had them occasionally, and loved them. However, since I'm mostly vegetarian, I am staying away from pork products of any kind. That's where Lightlife's Fakin' Bacon Tempeh* Strips come in., what is tempeh, you ask? Tempeh is basically slightly fermented soybeans and is actually one of the better soy products since it is fermented; it can be absorbed into the body more readily (organic is preferred and non-GMO at that). I was so curious about these, since I continually bypass them at the Whole Foods store, just a bit freaked out by them. I mean, really? Fake bacon? I decided to put these to the test to see if I could produce a BLT that tasted the same. Is it even possible?

*For more info on Lightlife's fake bacon strips, go to this link.

I've been reading Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbook, My Father's Daughter and really love it and the message that it sends on how food=family. Her daughter is a self-proclaimed vegetarian so, right off, I know GP is looking to include veggie recipes. She swears by Follow Your Heart Vegenaise (another product I've been tempted but afraid to try since I am picky about my soy products). However, I figured, why not? I don't eat soy blocks every day. Moderation. 

Here's what you will need:

- Lightlife's organic smoky tempeh strips Fakin' Bacon
- whole grain bread
- lettuce
- tomato 
- Follow Your Heart Vegenaise 
- salt and pepper, to taste

 {as I opened up the package, the strips had a very strong smoky smell...wasn't appealing to me, but I continued on...hoping for the best}

 {I had a hard time getting the strips out of the package, so I accidentally ripped three halves off! oops}

 {as they started to cook, they became more "bacon-like" in appearance...crispy...and slightly more appealing}

 {assembled sandwich!}

Verdict: WOAH! This was fantastic!! I was completely surprised at how similar it tasted to my old favorite with the bacon and mayo! The texture is almost identical to a BLT and the taste, dare I say it: I liked it even better as it was more flavorful!

Nutritional Breakdown

Because I am a "numbers" gal, I needed to see how these two sandwiches compared, nutritionally. I entered nutritional information on each via I was amazed at what I found:

Calories Carbs Fat Protein Cholest Sodium Sugars Fiber
Traditional Meat BLT:
Bread - Whole-wheat, toasted, 2 slice 139 26g 2g 5g 0mg 296mg 11g 4g
Oscar Mayer - Bacon - Hearty Thick Cut Bacon, 1.5 slice 90 0g 8g 6g 15mg 375mg 0g 0g
Kraft - Mayonaise-Regular, 1 Tbsp 90 0g 10g 0g 5mg 70mg 0g 0g
Taylor Organic Baby Spring Mix - Mixed Baby Greens, 0.25 cups 2 0g 0g 0g 0mg 4mg 0g 0g
Tomato - 5 Slices, 2 Medium Slice 8 2g 0g 0g 0mg 2mg 1g 0g
TOTAL:  329 26 g 20g 11g 20 mg 747 mg 12 g 4 g
Vegan BLT:
Lightlife - Fakin' Bacon- Organic Smoky Tempeh Strips, 1.5 slices 50 5g 1g 4g 0mg 235mg 1g 2g
Bread - Whole-wheat, toasted, 2 slice 139 26g 2g 5g 0mg 296mg 11g 4g
Follow Your Heart - Grapeseed Oil Vegenaise, 1 Tbsp 90 0g 9g 0g 0mg 85mg 0g 0g
Taylor Organic Baby Spring Mix - Mixed Baby Greens, 0.25 cups 2 0g 0g 0g 0mg 4mg 0g 0g
Tomato - 5 Slices, 2 Medium Slice 8 2g 0g 0g 0mg 2mg 1g 0g
TOTAL:  289 33g 12g 9g 0mg 622 mg 13 g 6g

What I found:

Calories - For the same sandwich, I saved 40 calories by eating the vegan version.
Carbs - 7 more carbs in the vegan version, but still low in sugar.
Fat - Here is where I saw a remarkable difference with 8g less fat in the vegan version than the traditional BLT.
Protein - Happily surprised that the vegan version was somewhat comparable at 9g vs. 11g.
Cholesterol - Another fantastic find...0mg cholesterol in the vegan BLT!
Sodium - Saved 125mg in sodium with the vegan version! Yeesss!
Sugars - Comparable to each other with the vegan version having slightly more at 13g vs. 12g.
Fiber - Vegan version has more, which will help with slowing down the absorption of sugars into the blood stream.

I am highly impressed at what I found and will definitely be trying the vegan BLT again soon! A wonderful substitute for the real thing! 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Inspiring Couple: Amy Smart and Carter Oosterhouse

{how cute are they? I can't take it!}

I recently caught a Rachael Ray episode featuring newlyweds Amy Smart and Carter Oosterhouse. Not only are they the cutest couple alive, but they are also seriously into green living. During their interview, they noted how they used local bakers for their cake as well as local chefs for their food. In addition, they used the natural elements as inspiration for their wedding details. You can read about their DIY green ideas here . A particularly interesting tidbit of the interview was when they mentioned how they had over 200 wedding guests and had ONE BAG OF GARBAGE!?!?!?!?!?! I am in serious awe of this. I thought long and hard about this and figured, if you use china, glasses, wine glasses, silverware, table linens and cloth napkins, composted all leftover food that was just might be possible. So now I am sitting here asking myself, "what's my excuse?" They have inspired me to produce less garbage here at home. Especially during the upcoming holidays. Cheers to Amy and Carter! 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Easy Peasy Taco Seasoning

{taco seasoning from scratch. how gorgeous are these spice colors?}

Tonight, my quest was to make seasoned taco meat with ingredients from my own pantry. Turns out, my husband liked the homemade version better than the packaged! I omitted the red pepper flakes because we have other family members who do not like spicy foods, but even just a little dash would probably have added the "zip" that it really needed.

In the future, to save on time (not that it's not easy enough!), I might measure out a batch, then make a few batches and put it into a mason jar or spice jar for storage. On the outside of the jar, indicate the recommended serving amount. With the holidays coming up, it's a great idea to whip up a few batches and put it in a beautiful spice jar, decorate it and give it as a small gift! In fact, one of the best (and unique) gifts we received as a wedding favor was a  Montreal Steak spice rub! I personally love the simple, cute look of the following labeled jar:

{link for these decorative jars can be found here}

The following recipe (taken from here) was so easy, it's ridiculous! Please note, I did make a few additions.

1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper 
Dash of flour
2-3 Tbsp water

Mix all spices together. Cook desired taco meat in skillet, drain oil. return meat to skillet. Add 2-3 Tbsp water, a dash of flour and the spice mixture. Continue cooking on medium heat until thickened.

Compare the above ingredients to the packaged seasoning (who shall remain nameless):

Yellow corn flour
Modified corn starch
Garlic powder
Citric Acid
Autolyzed Yeast Extract
Natural flavor
Caramel color (sulfites)

I can imagine that you can also season black beans or vegetarian refried beans with the above seasonings if you are vegetarian. 


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Vegetarian Highlight: Whole Grain Spaghetti with Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms

My favorite host on Food Network is Giada De Laurentiis. My daughter just loves her and she is like another family member to us, seriously. You can only imagine my excitement when I tuned in one day and her show was entitled "Viewer's Choice: Vegetarian"! Basically, viewers wrote in with their requests on what they wanted to see on the show and vegetarian recipes won out. According to Giada, she is predicting that 2012 is going to be all about vegetarian fare--that of which I could not be happier about (check out her interview here). I had to try her Whole Grain Spaghetti with Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms recipe immediately. (Note: The only difference was that I kept the mushrooms whole and the Brussels Sprouts chunkier, just my own personal touch!)

{I am a huge Brussels sprouts lover...they really add personality to a dish}

{fresh lemon, creme fraiche and toasted slivered almonds. just a few of the stand-out ingredients.}

{brilliantly staged vegetables}

{the unexpected addition of the fresh lemon and lemon zest was the best surprise to this recipe.}

{finished and plated!}

Words cannot describe how wonderfully tasty this recipe was. I am pretty sure I existed on these leftovers for two to three days afterwards. The pepper gave it a kick and the lemon zest really was the highlight, adding a fresh zing. The creaminess of the creme fraiche made the taste smooth and really blended the ingredients together nicely. Toasted slivered almonds add a protein punch as well as a delectable crunchiness. Pair the dish with baguette on the side to complete the meal, but on it's own it was magnificent. This is one that will remain in my recipe book.

Now, onto Giada's other vegetarian recipes...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

 {pumpkin spice pancakes. YUM!}

While I have been trying to watch my sugar lately, if I do decide to make something sweet, I'll make it from scratch so as to avoid preservatives, high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated anything. My daughter absolutely loves these pumpkin spice pancakes (recipe link here). I'll do anything to increase any fruits into my daughter's diet, and pumpkin does have some nutritional value worth getting excited about (read the benefits here). Next time I will opt out of using the cinnamon sugar on top since the brown sugar in the recipe is enough sweetness as well as the maple syrup. Ahhhhh fall...