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Monday, December 19, 2011

Deck the Halls With Kale?

The holidays historically represent a time of family, friends, merriment, and of course delicious, sugar packed  treats.  It wouldn't be Christmas at our house without my Mom's peanut butter fudge, homemade cinnamon rolls, whoopie pies.....a time for indulging in all of our favorite treats we otherwise work so diligently to avoid the rest of the year.

I am the first to admit being a repeat offender of such indulgences.  Every year for as long as I have had a kitchen of my own, I would bake for hours knowing full well I would regret it in January.  Chocolate, real butter. sugar, sugar and more sugar.  It seems the holidays are the perfect excuse for consuming all to much of all things so temptingly divine.

Enter the first holiday season with a 6-month-old in the house and suddenly it is December 19th and I have yet to bake a single thing, sprinkle anything with sugar or roll out any dough.  I haven't even finished (and in some cases, started) my Christmas shopping.  My former pre-baby self would be horrified.  My former pre-baby self (who had her Christmas shopping done shortly after Thanksgiving and her baking completed soon thereafter) would wonder what happened to the energy-filled, holiday loving woman she once knew.  Christmas parties? Yes, please.  Holiday dinners and nights out celebrating with friends over a glass (or several bottles) of wine? Absolutely, but this woman is foreign to me now.

Instead of wallowing in the joys of Christmas past, I have decided to find comfort in the new traditions.  Bedtime Christmas stories with our little one, the wonder we see through her eyes when she looks at our Christmas tree all lit up and decorated, the Christmas outfits and pictures with Santa - all new experiences and all better than anything I can remember doing before.  Sure, I miss the nights out, the baking, the celebrations with friends;  however, I am also incredibly thankful for the new traditions, the new memories.  The cookies, parties and traditions of years past (I've realized) were just place holders reserving the space in my heart now completely consumed by the love I have for my precious baby girl.

SO...instead of offering a sugar coated, naughty, calorie-dense holiday recipe for you to add to your list of indulgences....I have decided to provide you with a delicious, crave-conquering, nutrient packed, low-calorie snack, instead.

Kale Chips are just the treat to munch on before hitting up your next holiday party or pack them to go in your suitcase or travel bag.  A few of these delicious, crispy treats will keep you feeling satisfied and keep your digestive system on track when you indulge in one too many holiday treats or glasses of wine.  Kale is packed full of nutrients such as: antioxidants, beta-carotene, folic acid, Vitamin B6, and fiber, to name just a few.

I know what you're thinking.......but I promise, you will be amazed by how much you will love this crunchy snack and you will thank me for it come January.  The recipe couldn't be easier if it came prepackaged on a shelf somewhere near you.  Try it, give it a whirl!  Everyone could use a little more "green" in their diets this holiday season and this is a great place to start.

To my readers....wishing you a joyous holiday season and a very happy, healthy New Year.  I will not be blogging next week but will see you again in 2012.

KALE CHIPS


1 Large Bunch Organic Kale
2 Tablespoons Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Season Salt
1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
Cooking Spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

  • Wash Kale and remove leaves from heavy stalks.  Break into bite sized pieces and dry using a salad spinner
  • Lightly spray a large cookie sheet with cooking spray

  • Lay Kale out evenly on the prepared cookie sheet
  • Sprinkle Kale evenly with season and sea salts
  • Bake for 10 - 15 minutes or until edges are just brown
  • Remove from oven  
  • Use a spatula to remove Kale from cookie sheet, place on a paper towel and cool for 5 minutes

  • Enjoy!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sous Chef #1: Pregnancy Tips Straight from the Source

Pressure Cooker is excited to announce a new monthly series, "Sous Chef", showcasing guest bloggers who will offer advice, share their own stories of pregnancy and motherhood and may even offer up their favorite recipes to share with all of you.

I am excited to present our first Sous Chef today, Beth McVey, who is expecting her first little one at the end of January.  Beth is one trimester away from becoming a chiropractor, a fabulous cook in her own right, a sweet and funny woman who I am proud to call my sister-in-law and friend.  I am honored she has taken the time out of her already packed schedule (finals, holidays, did I mention she is also 8+ months pregnant?) to offer Survival Tips for Pregnancy along with a fabulous recipe for homemade protein bars below.  I know you will enjoy this post as much as I do!


Pregnancy Survival Tips for Mommies-To-Be
 Beth McVey

            Let me begin by saying if you are a female and plan on having children soon, you may want to wait to read this after you have had your baby.  I wouldn’t want to be the person responsible for changing any plans you may have for starting a family J  (only kidding, starting a family will probably be the best decision you will ever make).  Here is a short list of things (in no specific order) that I wish I had been warned about before my pregnancy…..you’re welcome.

#1
Often when women first find out they are pregnant they have the mentality that they want to stay in great shape and stay healthy, which in and of itself is a wise thing to do.  However, if you are doing it because you want to be the fittest pregnant woman out there so you don’t get a chubby tummy, STOP!! If you are trying to peel your eyelids open to stay awake so you can work out at the end of the day, it’s not worth it.  Having tight abs will backfire on you, it’s better to keep your abs flabby because they will stretch out anyway. All that hard work will soon be diminished.  It’s time to face reality; your body will never look the same.  

#2
Remember that really cute black pea coat that you got last winter?  Don’t try to stuff yourself in it, the buttons will pop off and you will be that chubby lady wearing a small coat….with no buttons.  Face it, it doesn’t fit!  Just hold out hope that it will fit next winter after you have the baby.

#3
Stop buying cute pumps now!  You will get swollen feet and it is a possibility that they may grow a little bit due to the changes in your hormones (which is tough to avoid, especially at the end of your pregnancy).  Keep your feet up as often as you can to help minimize swelling and remember, there are a lot of really cute shoes in your closet you will want to fit into after you have the baby!  If you absolutely have to wear heels, wear them in the beginning of your pregnancy and then try to move on to flats because your feet (and your back) will hate you when you get further along.  Not to mention trying to stuff your chubby toes into pointy shoes (that barely fit before you were pregnant) is not at all attractive.  It is also possible that your anklebones may disappear or you may have wrinkles on your feet, if you can see your feet at all.  Rest assured, the wrinkles will disappear and you will be able to see your anklebones again after the baby arrives but for nine months, you get to be the girl with the ugly feet. 

#4
After a certain period of time you will want to stop looking in the mirror (especially at your behind) as it is not your body anymore, it is your baby’s. Mirrors are not your friend, they will make you cry….walk away from the mirror ladies.

#5
Sleep.  Sleep now.  Take naps as often as you can.  You will hear this often when  you are pregnant and yes you need sleep and yes you appreciate hearing from everyone you know how exhausted you will soon be but really?  Think about it.  Your big belly will get here long before the baby does, how is it possible to sleep with an extra 30 pounds attached to your belly?  It’s like having a watermelon stuffed under your shirt! Run to the nearest store and buy a body pillow, it will become your new best friend.

#6
Just because you are pregnant does not mean that people are going to be nice to you.  People are not going to let you go first in line because it looks like you have a bowling ball stuffed up your shirt. People are not going to let you sit in the aisle seat on the airplane so you can get up to go to the bathroom with ease every 8 minutes.  The golden days of people opening doors for you and helping you pick something up off of the ground are over.   

#7
Even though you couldn’t wait to be pregnant and snuggle up in oversized sweatpants and sweatshirts there may be a few days when this doesn’t make you feel any better about how big you actually are.  Some days, it is going to be tough being pregnant.  Barely being able to put on shoes and socks, sit or lay down in a comfortable position without your back having an out of control spasm, or feeling like you have to pee again even though you just went 10 minutes ago, there will be times when it is really tough.   But that’s ok rest assured there really is an end in sight.  The baby cannot stay in there forever (even if sometimes you think how lovely that may be and really want to figure out how to make that happen).  

#8
The first time you feel the baby move, it’s ok not to cry tears of excitement and joy.  If you think it’s weird in the beginning, that’s ok.  Soon, you will realize that it really is a magical thing and you will eventually love the feeling. 

#9
You may cry at anything and everything.  Just remember to always look up when crying and dab your eyes so your mascara does not go all over your face.  Also remember this is something that you are allowed to use to your advantage whenever you want so use it and use it often.  Soon the only tears that will matter in your house will be that of your baby’s so take advantage of the extra attention, comforting and hugs while you can!

#10
Plan on extra time when you go places where walking up stairs is required.  It will be very hard to breathe.  It may feel like you are going to die but I assure you you won’t.

#11
Lastly, enjoy the peace and quiet of your house now because it will be a very long time before you can hear yourself think again. 

I truly haven’t hated being pregnant.  I have been extremely fortunate throughout my pregnancy by feeling great with no complications.  Even with all of the uncomfortable and weird things happening I would be pregnant again in a heartbeat (although check back with me on this after the baby is born J). 
Pregnancy truly is a blessing for my husband and I and we are more than thrilled to be adding a little addition to our family.  I can’t imagine what it will be like to hold my baby in my arms and experience that kind of love for the first time.  

Below is one of my favorite recipes especially if you have a sweet tooth during your pregnancy like I do.   These homemade protein bars offer a high content of essential protein and taste just like a cookie so plan to make room for more than just one. Oh and you will have to forgive me, my pregnant brain was in full force and I forgot to take pictures for this recipe.

Survival Bars
Ingredients:
3 Cups Organic Raw Oats (preferably gluten free)
1/2 Cup Ground Flax Seeds
1/2 Cup Unsweetened Organic Shredded Coconut
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Himalayan or Sea Salt
1/4 Cup Organic Brown Sugar
2 Cups Organic Greek Yogurt (plain or vanilla)
1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons Raw Agave Nectar (you can substitute organic maple syrup or raw honey)
1/2 Cup Organic Peanut Butter
1 Teaspoon Organic Vanilla Extract
1/4 Cup Organic Coconut Oil, melted
1 Bar of Organic Chocolate, chopped or 1 cup Organic Chocolate Chips (70% dark is best)
1 Cup Organic Chopped Seeds or Nuts (or a combination )
1/2 Cup Chopped Dates, Raisins, Figs or Other Dried Fruit, optional
1 Cup Vanilla or Chocolate Whey Protein Powder, optional (or use 1-2 cups if you want the bars to have significant protein content)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish with a little coconut oil or organic butter.
2. Combine dry ingredients (oats through brown sugar) in a large bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients (Greek yogurt through coconut oil).
4. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined, and then add in the chocolate.
5. Taste a little of the homemade protein bar mixture. Is it tasty? You can add more peanut butter or the optional nuts at this point if you like. Is it sweet enough? If not, you can add some additional sweetener or some of the optional dried fruit. Now is also the time to add in the protein powder if you are going to use it. Mix well using very clean hands (warning--it will be sticky!)
6. Spread the mixture into your prepared dish and bake for 15 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven, let them cool a little, and then slice the bars as you desire. Your homemade protein bars can be sliced into squares (or into a more typical bar shape if you prefer).
7. Spread the bars evenly onto a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes more. Allow to cool, and then wrap and store in the refrigerator.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Can You Say Quinoa?

Quinoa, pronounced "Keen-wah", is a powerful wholegrain packed with antioxidants, vitamins, nutrients, and amino acids.  Small and round, this unassuming grain can be used in place of rice, used in casseroles, as a topping for salads, or is also available in pasta form.


Quinoa comes in three main varieties of grains (easily distinguished by their colors; cream, red and black) with each variety having a slightly different flavor.  Quinoa as a whole has a nutty, hearty flavor and is a delicious option to your standard rice.  Check out this link to the Whole Foods web site explaining the benefits and nutrition content of Quinoa: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?dbid=142&tname=foodspice

I have used Quinoa frequently instead of pasta for the last year or so and it is the one pasta replacement option my husband doesn't turn his nose up at.  It looks like, tastes like and has the texture of spaghetti and given its healthy goodness, I don't think I will ever go back to regular pasta.

Quinoa can also be used in place of rice cereal as a baby's first food.  We have started Quinoa with our daughter this week and it's an easy way to pack a large amount of nutrition into a few small ounces. Steamed and pureed, it's an economical easy way to make your own baby food and it stores easily in the fridge or freezer.  Recommended as a Level 1 Grain by Baby 411, Quinoa is fast becoming a popular, versatile grain for your whole family.

Try it, get to know it....you won't be disappointed.

Here is a delicious example of an easy, wholesome dish using Quinoa, let me know what you think!

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients



6 Organic Large Green Bell Peppers
1 Cup Quinoa
2 Cups Water
1 Lb. Grass Fed Ground Sirloin
1 Medium White Onion, peeled and diced
1 16 oz. Can Organic Diced Tomatoes
2 Cups Organic Tomato Sauce
3/4 Cup Organic Shredded Cheddar Cheese
2 Tablespoons Italian Seasoning
2 Teaspoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Teaspoons Garlic Salt
2 Teaspoons Ground Black Pepper
2 Teaspoons Sea Salt

Directions

  • In a medium saucepan, combine Quinoa and Water, bringing to a boil

  • Cover and reduce heat to Medium Low, simmering for 10 - 15 minutes (until water is absorbed completely)


  • Set aside
  • Cut the tops off of the green peppers, discard the stems from the top and chop remaining portion finely

  • Hollow out the innards and seeds from inside of the peppers
  • Lightly spray a large casserole dish with cooking spray, place peppers in dish side by side, open side up
  • Set aside and preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • In a large skillet, heat olive oil over Medium heat
  • Add onions, cooking for 5 minutes or until just clear
  • Add ground sirloin
  • Cook for 5 - 7 minutes or until beef is well cooked
  • Add green peppers, diced tomatoes and spices, stirring frequently for 3 minutes
  • Add tomato sauce and reduce heat to Low, simmering for 5 minutes

  • Add reserved Quinoa to skillet, stirring to combine

  • Using a large spoon, scoop the mixture from the skillet into the peppers until just beneath the top
  • Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes
  • Remove from oven and sprinkle tops of peppers evenly with cheese

  • Return to oven (no aluminum foil) for an additional 10 minutes
  • Serve immediately

    • Enjoy!