Spanish Rice and Beans

Rice and Beans

Spanish Rice and Beans is one of the first dishes I truly made my own.  The original recipe was from a few really wonderful ladies I used to work with back in New Jersey.  Whenever we had a potluck at work they would make this traditional dish for me because they knew I was gluten-free and I would be able to eat it.  Anyone who has food allergies knows how touching it is when someone makes a dish with you in mind.  I loved this dish so much and eventually my friends gave me their recipe. Over the years I have changed a few things here and there to made it my own.  One big thing I changed was I started cooking the beans myself.  Then came making the Sofrito and Sazon from scratch.  I love fresh ingredients, there is really nothing like it.  Even better, all of these fresh ingredients creates a lot less recycling.

The Ingredients:

4 cups cooked kidney beans
2-3 1 ounce cubes of Sofrito
2 c filtered water
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp Sazon
1 tsp Adobo seasoning

The Rice:

Cook rice according to package.  Once rice is fluffed, stir in an additional 1 1/2 tsp of Sazon to give the rice a little spice and color.

In a large skillet, over medium heat thaw Sofrito cubes.  Once they are thawed add in the tomato paste, Sazon and Adobo.  Mix well.  Add beans and water.  Smash some of the beans to thicken up the sauce.  Simmer until beans are warmed through.  Serve over rice.

Enjoy!

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Sazon

Sazon

Sazon is a seasoning blend used in many Spanish and Mexican dishes.  It is a key ingredient in my delicious Spanish Rice and Beans recipe (the recipe is coming soon).  If you had seen my last blog entry you are already aware of my struggle to find Sofrito when we first moved to Colorado.  Well, Sazon was equally as difficult to track down.  I had already  mastered making the Sofrito from scratch and had made spice blends before.  So I figured, how hard could it be to recreate Sazon?  Actually, it was a little more difficult than I had anticipated.  When you are mixing your own spices there is no going back.  I attempted this Sazon several times before needing some assistance.  I decided to search the internet.  I stumbled upon an extremely simple recipe from food.com.  It was perfect, I just altered the salt a bit.

The Ingredients:

1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp sea salt

Place all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until blended well.  Place in airtight container and store in cabinet along with your other spices.  1 1/2 tsp of this Sazon equals an envelope.

Enjoy!

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Homemade Sofrito

Sofrito

Sofrito is a sauce used as a base in a lot of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American cooking.  I love the stuff.  It is such a great ingredient to have on hand and best of all it freezes well.  I make this Homemade Sofrito every couple of months.  You can always find it in my freezer.  I like to make it in large quantities and freeze it in ice-cube trays.  This way I always have a perfect one ounce cube measured out and it is so easy to add when I am cooking.

When we were living in New Jersey, I would make Spanish Rice and Bean often.  When we moved to Colorado I quickly learned that Sofrito and Sazon were not easy ingredients to find.  I had gone from store to store searching for this stuff and every time coming up empty-handed. Finally, I decided to just make it myself.  Fresh is always better!  It may take a bit longer but the difference in taste is certainly worth the extra time spent in the kitchen.

The Ingredients:

2 green bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 onions, chopped
1/2 head garlic, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp parsley, dried (if fresh, 1/2 bunch, chopped)

Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend.  The consistency you are looking for is slightly chunky.  Pour the mixture into ice-cube trays and freeze.

Frozen Sofrito

I use about 2 – 3 cubes when making my Spanish Rice and Beans (recipe coming soon).

Enjoy!

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Cannellini Bean Stew

Canellini Bean Stew

This Cannellini Bean Stew is so warm, delicious and perfect meal for those snowy Colorado Spring days.  Yes, that’s right,  snow in Spring.  A lot of people do not realize while most of the country’s winter is coming to an end, Colorado tends to get the majority of its snowfall.  I love Colorado weather, it is one big reasons we live here.  Wearing t-shirts in the dead of winter and the shade actually working in the summer is pretty sweet.  Though, there are times that I do wish our spring would start closer to winter rather summer.

I have been working on perfecting this recipe for a couple of months.  The beans had been giving me the business.  I typically cook my own beans rather than buying canned.  I find the beans taste better and it reduced the amount we recycle.  I have never run into a problem cooking beans until I came across these white beans.  No matter how long I cooked them they would not get soft.   So finally I gave into and bought some canned (BPA Free) Cannellini beans.  Thankfully, my boys were troopers and dealt with me making this meal a lot until I was satisfied with the outcome.  I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we now do.

The Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic gloves, minced
1 tbsp fennel seeds
2 celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 cans Cannellini Beans
1 26 oz can chopped toms
1 c veg broth
1 tsp sea salt
pepper to taste

In a dutch oven (because it cooks more evenly) heat oil over medium-high heat.  Saute onions, garlic and fennel seeds.  Once onions are translucent add in carrots and celery.  Cook for about 5 – 10 minutes.  Add beans, tomato sauce, broth, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes or until carrots are fork tender.

Enjoy!

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Spring is in the Air

Cloth Diapers

Ah, Spring is in the air and so are our cloth diapers…

I can not express to you all how happy I am that Spring is finally here. I am so excited for what these next months will bring.  I am looking forward to starting our garden, going to our local farmers market, spending all day out side and of course, the smell of sun-dried laundry.  Ah!  I can not remember the last time I was this excited for spring.  A big reason I am so excited is Max. This year he is old enough to really enjoy being outside and exploring the world.  Everything is new to him and I am really enjoying watching him discover the simple things.

Another thing I love about Spring is it reminds me of why we are working toward living an eco-friendly lifestyle.  Being outside with nature is reason enough.  It is very important to us to help preserve this planet for our future generations. For the most part, I consider our family to be pretty green.  The only paper products we use are tissues and toilet paper.  We make a lot of our own food such as baby food, hummusnutbutters and ice cream to avoid having to recycle the packaging.  We reuse most containers we do buy.  We also use cloth diapers and most of Max’s clothes are hand-me-downs.  Since having a baby we produce 1 1/2 bags of garbage every week (that is only 1/2 more bags that before).  Of course there is always more we can do and every year we get just a little closer to that goal.  I feel, baby steps work best when you want to make last long-lasting changes.

Cloth Diapers

I love that we use cloth diapers but I do understand the turn-off many people feel when the subject is on the table. There is the initial cost of the diapers, the extra laundry and of course the yuck factor.  Honestly, it is not for everyone but if you want to try it, do it.  You may be surprised  to learn, cloth diapers are not that big of a deal.  For our little family, it works, it was one of the best baby choices we made and it feels good to know we are not contributing as much to the landfills.  We have mainly been using cloth diapers since Max was born (disposable on laundry day) and I would not have it any other way.  We started out with baby gdiapers and as Max grew bigger we incorporated rumparooz.  Honestly, I love them both for different reasons.  The gdiapers have the option to use a cloth or disposable/flushable insert which is a great happy-medium for those who are unsure about cloth.  Also, before my little guy grew out of them, they hardly ever leaked.  As for the rumparooz, I love that they have the double gusset which holds in the mess.  Both of these diapers we hardly every experienced that “up the back” disaster and I found the cloth was so absorbent I did not have to change Max as often as his little friends were being changed.

Happy Spring Everyone!

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Pasta Fagioli

Pasta Fagioli

Any mom knows how hard it can sometimes be to get dinner on the table.  Whether you are a working mom or running around after a little one all day, we all have this problem now and then.  This happens to me more than I would like to admit.  I lose track of time and before I know it dinner time is almost here and nothing is cooking.  Yikes!  That is when I turn to this delicious gluten-free Pasta Fagioli.  It is the perfect meal to whip up last-minute.  Pasta, beans and tomato sauce are just some of the many essentials I always have on hand so this dish can literally take less than a half hour to make.  The other great thing about this dish, my little man Loves it.  Although he does prefer the beans over the pasta.  I’m not complaining.

The Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, diced
1 lb gluten-free elbow macaroni
2 cups kidney beans
6 cups homemade tomato sauce

Cook pasta according to package.

In a large skillet heat oil over medium heat.  Saute garlic and onions until onions are translucent.  Add beans and sauce.  Bring to a boil then simmer for about 10 minutes until beans are warmed through.  Then fold in pasta.  Garnish with Vegan Parmesan cheese and serve.

Enjoy!

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Bok Choy Green Smoothie

Bok Choy Green Smoothie

Happy St. Patrick’s Day Everyone!  In celebration of the day, I have made this yummy Bok Choy Green Smoothie for breakfast.  One reason I love green smoothies are they are so versatile.  The other is they are packed with so many wonderful vegetables that are filled with vitamins and minerals.  It is truly like drinking a multivitamin.  One thing I have noticed since starting to drink green smoothies regularly is my body will actually crave these amazing phytonutrients every morning.  I cant help but to listen to my body.  When creating green smoothies it is key to switch out the leafy greens from time to time.  If I find myself using kale too often, I will always switch to Bok Choy first.

I came to know and love Bok Choy as an adult.  It was never on the menu as a child and if I did eat it, it was probably in our takeout Chinese.  For those of you who are not familiar with this tasty vegetable.  It is a Chinese vegetable that is actually in the cabbage family although it looks more like it would belong to the celery family.  It helps to grow strong bones and is rich in vitamin A and C.

One other thing to remember when creating green smoothies it is really important to keep the vegetable to fruit ratio 3-1.  Fruits are great in smoothies, don’t get me wrong.  However, the whole point of a “green” smoothie is that it is loaded with vegetables.  So try to keep your fruits to a minimum or save them for a delicious fruit smoothie in the afternoon.

The Ingredients:

3-4 leaves of bok choy
2 celery stalks
2 carrots
1/2 cucumber
1/2 banana
1/2 c peaches, frozen
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp flaxseed
1 tbsp almond butter

Place all ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend until smooth and serve

Enjoy!

*Note: In case you were wondering, “Wait, this is all you have for breakfast?”  Well, yes and no.  About an hour or two after having my smoothie I will usually have a nice big bowl of fruit.  You may call this a mid-morning snack but I call it Second Breakfast. Yum!

strawberries and bananas

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Dairy-Free Lasagna

Dairy-free lasagna

This Dairy-Free Lasagna is so delicious you will not even realize you are eating a gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan dish.  I truly think that is the ultimate goal when making an alternative to a classic recipe.  You want your guests or whomever is eating with you to not even know the difference.  I learn this from my mom.  When my sister and I were diagnosed with Celiac Disease (13+ years ago), my mom worked really hard at changing all her gluten-filled recipes to gluten-free.  If my dad and brother could tell the difference between the two she would keep working at it.  My mom is a great cook to begin with and I thought it was always fun to see the reaction of our dinner guests when my mom would reveal that the meal they just ate was gluten-free.  Their expressions and comments were always utter amazement.  They would say thinks like, “You are kidding.” or “Are you serious?  It did not taste like it.” or “That was delicious!”  I was so proud of my mom in these moments.  For one, she nailed it and that is always so cool to see and  second, it showed all our loved ones that what my sister and I now had to eat for the rest of our lives did not suck.

Changing a recipe to gluten-free and perfecting it is something that comes pretty easily to me.  My newest challenge is changing and mastering dairy-free and vegan.  Practice makes perfect right?  Converting recipes to dairy-free and vegan is certainly getting easier and I feel I owe a lot of that know how to my mom and Nanny (grandma) for showing me the ropes.  Thanks ladies!

I think you will be pleasantly surprised of how good this lasagna tastes.

The Ingredients:

1 lb gluten-free Tinkyada lasagna noodles
4 c homemade tomato sauce
2 c dairy-free ricotta “cheese”
1 c Daiya vegan mozzarella cheese
1/4 c Vegan Parmesan

Cook pasta according to package.

Pre-heat oven for 350 degrees.

In a large baking dish, coat the bottom with a thin layer of tomato sauce.  Place one layer of noodles on top of sauce (as many will fit).  Next place ricotta cheese, mozzarella then sauce.  Repeat until pasta is all used.

Dairy-free lasagna

For the last layer of pasta, place sauce, mozzarella cheese then sprinkle parmesan.

Dairy-free lasagna

Place in oven and cook for 30 minutes or until lasagna starts to bubble.

Dairy-free lasagna

Garnish with parmesan.

Enjoy!

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Meet My Sous Chef

Blowing Kisses

Meet My Sous Chef, Max!  When this little guy was 2 months old (about a year ago) I decided to change my lifestyle and began eating a plant-based diet.  I would have never thought after so many years of struggling with my weight, this amazing boy would be my greatest inspiration.  He is the reason I want to be a better me, a healthier me, and live the longest life this universe will allow.

So, this is Max.  He is mostly a plant-based baby.  I have been making his food since he started eating solids.  Veggies and fruits only.  When it came time to test out dairy and eggs, they did not agree with his tummy or skin.  So they were out. Then when he was old enough to try meats, we offered him chicken, turkey and beef.  He is such a good eater that he tried everything we gave him.  Though he would inevitability spit it out and eat his vegetables instead.  This kid LOVES  his fruits and vegetables!  He will pretty much eat anything that is green.

Sweet Potato Art

Sweet Potato Art

Raw Brussel Sprouts

Raw Brussel Sprouts

Max with Hummus

Homemade Artichoke Hummus straight out of the Vitamix

Green Smoothie

Each morning his breakfast consists of diced fruit, 1 slice of gluten-free, vegan toast with either mashed up banana or cream “cheese” followed by a Green Smoothie.  This kid loves green smoothies so much that if for some reason I am running behind in making it, he will let me know he is ready for his smoothie by pointing and waving at the Vitamix with excitement.  Hah! I have created a green smoothie monster.

So, this is my little man.  I hope you enjoyed meeting him.

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Chew Your Drink, Drink Your Food

Chew Your Drink

Chew Your Drink, Drink Your Food.  Wait, what?  What does that even mean?  Well, if you have never heard this before, you should read on.  This past Friday I had all four of my wisdom teeth extracted. Ouch!  Since then I have pretty much been living on a puree diet.  I have been eating, Creamy Butternut Squash Soup, Split Pea Soup, Green Smoothies, Hummus and Almond Ice Cream.  Yum, right?!  Yes, very yummy.  However, as I ate my purees I would find myself reciting this saying in my head.

“Chew Your Drink, Drink Your Food,” is such a funny thing to say nevermind actually do.  With the amount of pain I was in and the sheer terror that I may cause more damage to my mouth by eating, I was very careful when I chewed and drank anything.  As crappy as it is to have this surgery and be in such pain, it was a nice reminder to slow down when eating.

It is so easy to guzzle down a meal when it is pureed in some fashion.  How many of you have chugged a smoothie, milk shake, soup or even yogurt?  I mean, you do not even have to chew it, right?!  Though after doing so, how many of you have found yourself feeling bloated, uncomfortable or have that feeling like you have a rock sitting in your stomach?  Well, if you stop to think how your digestive system actually works you will begin to see why it is so important to Chew Your Drink and Drink Your Food.

Let me explain further…

Chew your drink!

When we drink foods such as smoothies or soups without chewing them, they enter our digestive system way too fast.  Your body is not aware you are drinking actual food so digesting process has not started.   Saliva is the very first act of digestion.  Just the act of chewing starts that process.  The whole point in chewing your drink is to get your saliva going and start digestion.  Try it now.  Without anything in your mouth.  Start chewing.  You will notice you will start salivating.  When we drink something quickly, we do not give our digestive system a chance to get started which can lead to that uncomfortable bloated feeling.  The easiest way we can help our system out is by chewing our drinks and giving our digestive system a heads up that food is on its way.  Trust me.  Your gut will thank you.

Drink your food!

Similar concept here, but when we eat quickly and mindlessly we do not chew our food properly.  We swallow bigger chunks of food causing our digestive system to work much harder than it should. I’m sure you have heard at some point in your life that it is so important to chew your food well or even count your bites.  Well there is a lot benefit to chewing your food this way.  With each bite we take, our food should be chewed so well it turns into a liquid.  This is not only easier on your digestive system but, it also helps you to be more present at your meal and not over eat.

So…Chew Your Drink, Drink Your Food.

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