Friday, February 26, 2010

Bad Rap

Brussels sprouts get a bad rap. So much so that I spent the past 38 years assuming I did not like this little vegetable because of the negative press it often gets. Well it turns out that Brussels sprouts are actually pretty tasty and they top the charts for soluble fiber, with 2 grams per ½-cup serving. Paired with omega-3 rich walnuts and antioxidant rich dried cranberries, this is one heart-healthy dish.

Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts and Dried Cranberries

½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
2 tsp. olive oil
1 ½ lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 medium shallots, halved and sliced (1/4 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
¼ cup coarsely chopped dried cranberries
1 Tbs. agave nectar
1 cup water
1 Tbs. walnut oil

Heat large skillet over medium-high heat. Add walnuts and toast 3 to 4 minutes, until fragrant. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Wipe out skillet and return to heat. Add olive oil and swirl to coat pan. Add Brussels sprouts and cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Add shallots and garlic and cook 1 minute.

Stir in cranberries, agave and 1 cup water. Partially cover pot, reduce heat to medium and simmer 5-7 minutes, or until most of liquid has evaporated and B. sprouts are just tender.

Transfer to serving bowl and stir in walnut oil and toasted walnuts. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Note: I did not have walnut oil so I just omitted it from the recipe and it was still delicious.

If you've never tried Brussels sprouts, give this recipe a try. You might be surprised. We were fully prepared to choke it down and take one for the FAL team, but both Eric and I went back for seconds. That's right ... a second serving of Brussels sprouts?!?

In addition to the delicious side-dish, we learned a very important lesson: never judge a vegetable by its reputation alone.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Eat Your Way Happy

Add these 3 foods to your diet and you may just boost your mood as well as your health:

1. Chickpeas
Chickpeas contain folate (folic acid), which helps make dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. Other folate-friendly foods include lentils, black-eyed peas and soybeans.

Try making a batch of "Harper's Hummus" and dipping bell peppers (see #3 for how this will provide an extra shot of joy) into it for a snack.

4 cups (about 2½ cans) garbanzo beans (chick peas) rinsed and drained
½ cup tahini paste
1 jalapeno, diced
1/3 cup warm water
1/3 cup olive oil
Juice of 2-3 lemons
4-6 garlic cloves
1½ teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoon ground cumin
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine chick peas, tahini paste, water, olive oil and juice of 1 lemon in food processor.

Process until smooth and creamy. Add garlic, salt, cumin and pepper to taste.

Blend. Adjust seasonings if desired.

Add juice of another lemon to taste. Blend.

Refrigerate. Enjoy.

Lick the spoon.

2. Avocados
Stress depletes vitamin B6, which helps produce serotonin. Help soothe those stressed-out nerves by adding sliced avacado to salads, sandwiches and wraps. Other B6-rich include fortified whole grain cereals, salmon, and chicken breast.

3. Strawberries
Vitamin C-rich strawberries boost your immune system and fight brain cell damage resulting from constant exposure to cortisol (a stress hormone). Foods like guava, bell peppers and oranges are also high in vitamin C.

Happy eating everyone!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Meet Mitra

As I mentioned yesterday, I started drinking the green smoothie in Dr. Mitra Ray's book as much for vanity and beauty as I did to feel better. I know my motives weren't pure and I'm okay with that. I mean, OF COURSE I wanted to get healthy and have more energy and feel better but if the side effect was looking better too, well, so be it.

In, 'Do You Have the Guts to be Beautiful' Dr. Ray gives us the keys to being beautiful, both inside and out, without pills, chemicals or complicated recipes. It was one of the first books I read that talked about the importance of eating a whole-foods plant-based diet for optimal health, as well as beauty.

Anyway, I was poking around on her web site yesterday and came across her top ten list of things to do to get healthy. On her site she goes into detail for each item but I thought I would just list them for you here. It's nothing ground-breaking and you've heard most of it before, but when you have a few extra minutes you should visit her site and spend some time reminding yourself why these practices are so crucial to good health and optimal wellness.

Ten Things to do to Get Healthy

1. Take 10 deep breaths whenever you feel stressed.

2. Drink water, and plenty of it.

3. Eat plant-based, whole-foods at every meal, and make it the biggest part of the meal.

4. Get at least 8 hours of sleep each day.

5. Eat a whole-food based supplement.

6. Eat processed foods sparingly, less than once a week if possible.

7. Make breakfast and lunch your biggest meals.

8. Get outside and move a little bit each day.

9. Start each day with a Green Drink.

10. Think good, healthy thoughts.

I think I need to pay special attention to #1 this week while I am off coffee and wine. I feel especially vulnerable to the crying and the whining and the screaming ... I think Eric put them up to it in an attempt to break me so he can win the bet. But I'm on to his little ruse and am hanging tough despite the added pressure. Ear plugs are helpful.

Be well everyone and have happy hump day!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Green Machine

Ladies and gentlemen ... I give you the all-mighty green drink!

This delicious little concoction is packed with amazing nutrients that will help you look and feel better, and it will literally flood your body with goodness first thing in the morning. On the mornings that I choose to start my day with this tasty treat I find I have more energy, need less coffee, stay full until lunch and tend to make better eating decisions the rest of the day.

But if you must know the truth, health benefits aside, I started drinking this because my friend Melanie suggested that it would help reduce facial fine lines and wrinkles. It’s cheaper than Botox and doesn’t involve needles so I figured it was worth a try. And, while I’m hardly aging backwards, I have noticed a huge improvement in the texture of my skin and my overall appearance.

The star of this smoothie is kale which is one of the most nutritionally dense foods available. It is a nutritional POWERHOUSE that is rich in calcium, lutein, iron, and Vitamins A, C, and K. Kale has seven times the beta-carotene of broccoli and ten times more lutein. Kale is rich in Vitamin C not to mention the much needed fiber so lacking in the typical American diet. The "icing on the kale" is the naturally occurring all important phytochemicals which research suggests may protect against cancer.

I’ve been told that you can wilt kale in soups or sauté it like you would spinach but I just can’t find a yummy way to cook it that I enjoy, so I blend it. Also, since I’m not cooking it, I’m not losing any of the key nutrients through the heating process and I’m getting ALL of the fiber from the leaf and stalk since I’m not juicing it.

Green Smoothie

32 or more oz. of cold, filtered water
2-3 stalks of kale (other leafy greens can work as well)
2 frozen bananas
Frozen strawberries (or any “fleshy” fruit), or frozen red grapes for sweetness
¼ cup ground flaxseed

1 scoop Juice Plus+ Complete vanilla protein powder, optional, for added nutrition and sweetness**

1 tsp milk thistle, optional (milk thistle is a seed that has been shown to be an excellent liver detoxifier; check with your doctor if you have concerns or are on any medication).

Blend above ingredients in a blender. Add more or less water for desired consistency and more or less fruit for desired sweetness. It helps to liquefy the kale in the water before adding other ingredients for a smoother consistency.

**The protein in JP+ Complete comes from 5 different plant-based sources including soy and chickpeas so it is easier to digest and more nutritious than a highly concentrated whey protein powder. It’s also ridiculously delicious.

The smoothie does have a grainy texture due to the whole kale leaves and flaxseed so it takes a little getting used to. However, it is much more nutritious than juicing because you get all of the fiber from the kale and fruit, as well as the vitamins and minerals, which will keep you full. Play around with the combination and proportions to find a consistency you like.

Also, if you already have a favorite smoothie recipe you can experiment by just tossing in a few greens to bump up the nutrition. Other than the beautiful green hue, you probably won't notice. Your kids probably won't notice either. Our little taster Harper actually requests the green smoothie these days over his old favorite chocolate. If a 4-year old can try it, like it and come back for more I'm betting that you can too!

Bottoms up!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Five for Five!

Ever since the twins were born my formerly fabulous relationship with working out has been less than stellar to say the least, hence the need for the FAL Fitness Challenge. I could give you all the reasons why I don’t get to the gym on a regular basis – and I think they are really good reasons too – but the bottom line is that I haven’t made it a priority and any “reason” I have for not doing it is just an excuse, a little lie I tell myself.

However, I am chock full of really good intentions. A few months ago when I decided I would resume working out on a regular basis we decided that the mornings would work best for me. The only problem is that I would rather be SLEEPING at double-O’dark-early, not sweating. I prefer to ease into my day … you know, savor a mug of hot coffee, maybe have a bite to eat and check my email before I actually do anything. So the idea of bolting out of my cozy, warm bed to venture out into the cold, dark winter morning seemed, well, barbaric.

Nonetheless, I was determined. As we lay in bed that Sunday night several months ago Eric asked if I was planning to go to the gym in the morning. I responded with a robust fist pump and shouted “five-for-five baby!” to seal my intention for going to the gym every morning that week. Eric rolled his eyes, which is his usual response for most of my comments, and we called it a night.

Morning arrived too soon, as it usually does, and Eric nudged me lovingly and told me it was time for me to hit the gym. I replied with an equally loving verbal assault and threw the covers over my head and went back to sleep. That scenario has replayed itself so many times in our house over the past few months that it is now a running joke. (And, if you must know, I think my record is a whopping two-for-five. Baby steps people.)

But I am going for a new record this week with an all new challenge. I mentioned yesterday that I was planning on having a green smoothie (recipe to follow later this week) every morning this week in an attempt to sort of clean out my system a bit and energize my body. Eric said, “oh yeah, five-for-five?” in his usual mocking tone. The next thing I knew I was accepting the five-for-five-for-four challenge which, given my track record, is a bit over zealous.

Starting today, for five days, I will be enjoying the ultimate nutritious breakfast each morning, a green smoothie, and working out every single day. But here’s the kicker: I will be doing so WITHOUT a single alcoholic beverage or cup of coffee. Those of you who know me are probably shaking your heads in disbelief right now. You’re thinking, it can’t be done. You might be right.

Originally, it was supposed to be a five-for-five-for-five challenge that included me not cursing or yelling at the husband or the children all week. However, that seemed like cruel and unusual punishment. I mean, without coffee I will be cranky and without wine I will be on edge so it’s unreasonable to think I won’t be yelling at someone, right? And by someone I mostly mean Eric.

It will still be quite a test for this little Monkee, but I do have an incentive: if I am successful and as I write this I am full of my usual Sunday night confidence, Eric will take me out to dinner this weekend. This is no small bet on his part. Going out to eat involves the two things he dislikes most: getting dressed and spending money.

So, friends, keep your fingers and toes crossed for me and keep me in your thoughts and prayers. I’m going to need all the help I can get.

Five-for-five baby!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Squash This!

Until recently I did not purchase, or probably even knowingly eat, squash. I mean, they are these big, scary looking vegetables and I was generally clueless as to what to do with them. But, in my quest to eat more vegetables and be the healthiest version of me possible, I have had to overcome many fears, including my fear of squash. It turns out they really aren’t so scary after all. And, like most vegetables, they are packed with nutrients.

The winter squash group includes pumpkin, acorn, butternut and spaghetti squash. Like other richly colored vegetables, they provide excellent sources of carotenes. They also offer a very good source of vitamins B1 and C, folic acid, fiber and potassium. Winter squash are also a good source of vitamin B6 and niacin.

Winter squash are all in season now and at my local grocery store they are practically giving them away. Yesterday I saw they were selling acorn, butternut and spaghetti squash for a dollar a piece. Ten for $10 to be precise and you can even mix-and-match your squash. That’s a lot of squash for not a lot of dollar.

If you are feeling adventurous this weekend, I offer you two SUPER simple, SUPER tasty recipes to try. I like to serve the spaghetti squash as a main dish with a slice of whole wheat bread and a green salad to round out the meal. You could also incorporate it into your meal as more of a side dish.

You should know that Eric really enjoys the spaghetti squash and recently confessed, albeit begrudgingly, that he sleeps much better after the “veggie spaghetti” then he does after a bowl of regular pasta. That’s what happens when your system isn’t bogged down with the arduous task of digestion … it can actually rest. Things that make you go hmm.

The acorn squash recipe makes a tasty side dish although, on nights when Eric is not home for dinner and I’m feeling lazy, I sometimes bake one to share with the babies, add a small salad for me, and call it dinner. Also, this acorn squash dish also happens to be the first recipe Glennon SUCCESSFULLY attempted to cook and serve to her family, thereby making it foolproof.

Acorn squash

Acorn Squash

Preheat oven to 400

Cut squash in half and spoon out seeds.

Fill oven-safe dish with ¼ inch of water and place squash flesh-side down in pan (the hard skin will be facing up).

Bake for 40 minutes or until tender (fork or knife should slide in/out easily)

Remove from oven and spread with 1 tsp butter (I use Earth Balance, a non-dairy butter substitute) and 1 tsp orange marmalade.

Return to oven and broil for 5 minutes or until slightly browned and bubbly. (Make sure you keep an eye on it b/c things can burn fast under the broiler).


Note: for a variation try drizzling the squash with olive oil and sprinkling with nutmeg, or your favorite spices, wrapping in foil and baking until tender.


Spaghetti Squash
From the healthy kitchen of Erica Arnold

Spaghetti squash

Preheat oven to 400

Cut spaghetti squash in half and spoon out seeds.

Fill glass cooking pan 1/4 inch with water.

Sprinkle kosher/sea salt over squash for flavor.

Place pasta sauce (jar or homemade – if using jar look for all-natural ingredients and/or organic sauce) in the hollow of the spaghetti squash.

Place spaghetti squash in pan and bake for 30-45 min, or until squash is tender.

Remove from oven and let cool enough to handle; then take a fork and scrape squash away from skin (squash will come out in strands that look like spaghetti). Garnish with freshly grated parmesan, if desired.

I mean, seriously, doesn't that look good? It is strangely satisfying, I think, because you can have a heaping bowl full of "pasta" without the guilt or tummy ache. Try it and let me know what you think!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Let Them Eat Flax

OK, so I couldn't stay away ... for now, we are going to dedicate Tuesdays and Thursdays to reader questions so please email me any fitness, nutrition, exercise, and/or recipe questions. We will address them here so everyone can benefit from the information. I am also considering doing a FAL "reader of the month" segment where we can highlight a different reader each month and learn about their journey, struggles and achievements. Kind of like how Shape Magazine follows the weight-loss journey of one of their readers but better because the blog is FREE and environmentally friendly. Please email me if you are interested in participating in this. It could be a source of great motivation to have the support of all our readers.

Also, if you are happy that I will be posting 5 days a week you can thank "LifeWithLove" who lovingly guilted me into reconsidering my position on this. Conversely, if you were hoping to get a break from me a few times a week you can blame "LifeWithLove." Either way, it looks like I'm here to stay.

On to the business of the day. I’ve had a few people ask me questions about flaxseed. What is it? What do I do with it? Does it matter if I buy whole seeds or already ground seeds? What does it taste like? How do I get my kids to eat it. And so on. So, here you go … the 411 on flaxseed.

Flaxseed is high in Omega-3 fatty acids which is an Essential Fatty Acid. They are “essential” because your body cannot make them so they must be obtained from the foods you eat. Flaxseed is an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids, as are walnuts, wheat germ, beans and fatty fish like tuna and salmon. However, you would have to eat over 3lbs of salmon to get the equivalent amount of Omega-3’s contained in ¼ cup of flaxseed. Flaxseed is very high in fiber as well and we all know by now that fiber is our friend.

Flaxseed is also rich in lignans which are molecules with anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-cancer properties. Flax contains 100 times the amount of lignans as the next best source, wheat bran. And, only 2% of the flax lignans end up in flax oil, while 98% remains in the seed meal, make consumption of flaxseed far more nutritious and beneficial than that of flax oil. I’m telling you, this little seed packs quite a punch.

The yellow bowl on the left shows what the whole seed looks like prior to grinding; the pink bowl on the right contains freshly ground flaxseed, ready to sprinkle on anything.

I know you can purchase already ground flaxseed at the store, conventional and health food stores alike, as well as the whole seed. I buy the whole seed in bulk because I think it is less expensive and fresher when I grind it myself, but both have the same nutritional benefit. Regardless of which you prefer you should store ground flaxseed in the refrigerator as it can go rancid easily.

Also, if you do buy the whole seed you MUST grind it prior to consumption or it will pass through your system … err … intact, if you know what I mean. So, to get the nutritional benefits of eating flaxseed you must make sure you are consuming ground flaxseed.

Ground flaxseed offers a nutritional boost to soups, chili, salads, oatmeal, smoothies and pancake batter. It has a mild, nutty flavor and is a great way to sneak extra nutrition (fiber, omega-3s) into things your kids eat as well. I include it in pancake and muffin batter and sprinkle it on oatmeal for my babies. It definitely keeps them regular!

Flaxseed is a pretty simple, relatively inexpensive way to bump up the nutritional power of almost anything you make or eat. Try to include 2-4 TBS a day into your diet and feel the difference.

Special note: Jeannie uses a mixture of flaxseed and water to replace the eggs in some of her recipes, like her delicious 4-grain pancakes. I’m sure she would be happy to tell us more about that … right, Jeannie???

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fitness Challenge Continued

It would seem we have two camps of readers: those who are already exercising regularly but need some variety in their routines and those who are having trouble motivating to start a new, or resume a previous, exercise program.

So here’s what we’re going to do. Starting this Sunday, Feb 21, for the rest of February and all of March, we are going to challenge ourselves to vary our workout programs and try new things, or we are going to commit to at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. Either way we are all going to see results and create some new, positive habits. I realize this is a smidge longer than the original 30 day plan but, well, math is hard. I feel like it’s easier to commit to an entire month but I don’t want to wait until March 1 so let’s just consider the extra week a “bonus” week.

My plan is to post fitness and nutrition information and new recipes on the blog each week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Five days a week seems like overkill when it comes to health and nutrition information, don’t you think? When I worked as a personal trainer I never saw clients more than 2-3x/week, the rest of the time they were on their own, so we will adopt a similar schedule here on the blog. Of course, if you ever have a pressing question or concern you can always email me and we can use Tuesdays and Thursdays for comments and supporting one another.

For those of you who are just trying to establish some consistency with your exercise program, all you need to do is print the fitness challenge calendar at the end of this post and put an “x” on each day that you do at least 30 minutes of exercise. Like I said, it can be anything you enjoy doing that gets you moving, raises your heart rate and burns some calories. I suggest placing the calendar on your refrigerator as a reminder that you should be going for a walk or exercising instead of mindless snacking.

For those of you that are cardio-queens and never stretch or lift weights, you should pick two days on the calendar each week that you will focus on flexibility (maybe attend a yoga class or do a Pilates/yoga DVD) and/or strength training and mark those days with an “x.”

When it comes to losing weight, people always put the emphasis on cardio. But if you really want to fire your metabolism and blast calories, you need to add some strength training to your workout.

If you need some additional motivation to vary your current cardio routine or to start strength training, I give you my Top 10 Reasons to Lift Weights:

1. Weight training tones your muscles which looks great and raises your basal metabolism...which causes you to burn more calories 24 hours a day. You'll even burn more calories while you're sleeping.

2. Weight training can reverse the natural decline in your metabolism which begins around age 30.

3. Weight training energizes you.

4. Weight training has a positive effect on almost all of your 650-plus muscles.

5. Weight training strengthens your bones reducing your risk of developing osteoporosis.

6. Weight training improves your muscular endurance.

7. Weight training will NOT develop big muscles on women...just toned muscles!

8. Weight training makes you strong. Strength gives you confidence and makes daily activities easier.

9. Weight training makes you less prone to low-back injuries.

10. Weight training decreases your resting blood pressure.

Keep in mind that you don't need a fancy gym membership or expensive equipment in your home in order to start weight training. You can use your own body weight for resistance (think squats, lunges, push-ups and sit-ups) or make a small investment in some dumbbells and an exercise ball. I still do a lot of squats while holding a fussy baby and "baby push-ups," where I press a baby overhead while lying on my back, are still a favorite. The babies love it and, now that they are over the 20lb mark, it's getting challenging!

I do have a TRX suspension system at home which is light-weight, portable and can anchor to a wall or door for a killer full-body workout. It also comes with an exercise DVD that leads you through a fast, effective workout in just 25 minutes, which is all I have some days. But, as I said, you don't need any equipment to get started and I will be posting exercises on the blog that can be done anywhere with little or no equipment.

So, print your fitness challenge calendar and get excited to make some positive changes over the next five weeks!

Monday, February 15, 2010

FAL Fitness Challenge

Many of you have expressed to me that you are having trouble motivating to exercise. You are not alone. It seems everyone these days is busy and overcommitted and, sadly, the first thing to get eliminated from our endless to-do list seems to be exercise. We’ve come to view exercise and “me” time as something that is negotiable.

Somehow we’ve also forgotten this universal truth: our bodies want to move. As humans, we were designed to move. As such, we start to feel better when we give our bodies what they crave, want and need – exercise!

We are going to focus on moving our bodies because it makes us feel better and produces natural endorphins which make us happier, not because we think it will make us skinnier. When we focus on exercise as a means only to weight-loss we put unnecessary pressure on ourselves. Exercise then becomes just one more thing we “have” to do which definitely sucks the joy out of it. And when we don’t find time to fit it in we feel badly about ourselves and start calling ourselves ugly names like 'fat' and 'lazy.'

It’s time to break that vicious cycle.

Until I read this Time Magazine article I was very much a proponent of exercise for weight-loss. I used to slug it out in the gym for countless hours each week in the name of fitness and weight-loss/maintenance. I also used to “reward” myself with various treats for all my hard work that, no doubt, negated any calorie burning exercises I had just completed. I also felt a certain amount of time in the gym bought me equal, if not more, time to be a couch potato. What I’m learning is that, for weight-loss and general health, just being active and moving more throughout the day is far more important than one 30-60 minute bout of exercise. The Time article supports that theory.

Please keep in mind that I’m not suggesting exercise is not important. Far from it. We need to exercise to keep our hearts healthy, bones strong and minds clear. Consistent, more intense exercise is necessary for actually increasing your fitness level or training for an event. However, for general health and weight-loss we just need to be more active each day. This is good news for most of us. It means we can start to squeeze in smaller bursts of activity throughout our day that will have a cumulative positive effect. It means if we don’t make it to the gym or go for a run on a particular day that we can still feel good about taking the dog for a slightly longer walk, parking farther away from the store or doing sit-ups and push-ups while watching our favorite TV show.

For those of you, like my dear friend Kelly, who somehow manage to attend pre-dawn boot camp most days and do pilates several times a week while simultaneously juggling a full-time job, family and unfathomable LA traffic, I applaud you. Please keep doing what you are doing because you help motive the rest of us.

For those of you, like me, who haven’t seen the inside of the gym in more weeks than you can count and have resorted to having your babies shovel the back deck,

and for everyone in between, I offer you the Full At Last Fitness Challenge.

The challenge is simple: for 30 days we will exercise at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. And by exercise I mean anything you enjoy doing that gets you off the couch and elevates your heart rate. You can walk, dance, jump rope, hit the gym, practice yoga, play hide-and-seek, bike, skip, hop … whatever gets you moving. Enlist your family, partner, friend, FAL blog buddies, and/or children to help you. Everyone can benefit from a little extra movement.

And, you don’t necessarily have to exercise for 30 consecutive minutes. If you are really de-conditioned or particularly pressed for time, split your 30 minutes of exercise up into three 10-minute segments or two 15-minute workouts. Get up 15 minutes earlier than usual and do some jumping jacks, sit-ups and push-ups. Squeeze in a 10 or 15 minute power walk during your lunch break or after dinner. Pop in a fitness DVD instead of watching TV. Do five minutes of squats or lunges in your kitchen while you’re waiting for the water to boil. It all adds up and it all counts.

I’ve read that it takes 21 days to change a habit which is why I’m starting with a 30-day fitness challenge. The hope is that after 30 days we will all be in the habit of doing more and moving more, so our bodies will actually crave this movement, making it easier to continue. I thought about a 60 or 90 day challenge but sometimes a short-term goal is the best way to build confidence and gain a sense of accomplishment. We can certainly create new, loftier fitness goals moving forward but I thought this was a good place to start.

So let's get moving! Who’s with me because this tired twin mommy needs some help and some motivation too!?!

Friday, February 12, 2010

When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair

We’re going to take a slight detour today from our week of delicious recipes to talk about the book I am reading right now. It’s called “When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair” by Geneen Roth. In the book she provides “50 ways to feel thin, gorgeous, and happy, when you feel anything but.” She points out in her forward that our culture links fatness with a wide array of undesirable qualities and that, unfortunately, so do women who struggle with their weight.

Throughout the book Roth uses feelings of being “fat” interchangeably with feelings of being unworthy, unattractive, useless or incompetent so it really is for the every-woman, not just those with body-image issues. She says that if you do not identify with feelings of fatness that you can substitute whatever you don’t want to feel or be in its place because issues of the heart are universal. I couldn’t agree with her more.

What’s great about this book is that it is a series of 50 short little chapters so it’s not a huge time commitment and it’s an easy, fun read. In a playful tone, Roth asks us to stop dieting, cultivate curiosity and kindness towards ourselves, applaud our strengths and celebrate our successes, stare at REAL women’s bodies (not supermodels, movie stars or elite athletes) and remember that everyone, even the thin, have cellulite, get old and die.

She reminds us that diets are ineffective because deprivation, fear, shame and guilt do not – and cannot – lead to lasting change. Long-lasting change can only come through kindness to yourself and a willingness to act on your own behalf. This principle can apply to any aspect of your life that you want to improve or change, it’s not limited to dieting and weight-loss. We must learn to STOP the negative self-talk and the self-loathing and learn how to become our own advocates. We must treat ourselves the way we would treat a dear friend.

Which brings me to one of my favorite chapters in her book: Chapter 3: When you eat at the refrigerator, pull up a chair. Roth paints a mental picture of inviting a friend to dinner and telling her that you are going to eat the way you eat when you are alone. When she arrives, you lead her to the kitchen, open the refrigerator and stare … then you start picking through cold leftovers with your fingers. We would never actually treat a friend this way and yet so many of us treat ourselves in exactly this manner.

Interesting, huh?

Roth also talks about the sneaky ways we tend to undermine ourselves and gives us strategies to feel powerful and gorgeous even in the midst of a “Fat-and-Ugly” attack and much, much more.

I hope you will order this book because I would love to know what you think about it. It really is an easy, fun read so you won’t feel bogged down by unusually deep and heavy material. But you may just feel a bit more empowered and positive when you finish.

I am obsessed with this book and think everyone should keep a copy of it on their nightstand.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Jeannie's Kid-Tested Mother-Approved Recipes

Jeannie is a fellow nature-loving, healthy-ish eating Colorado Monkee. We "met" through Glennon's blog, Momastery, and learned that we used to live just blocks apart from one another in my old Denver 'hood before we moved up to Steamboat. I like her a lot and I think you will too. I also think she looks a lot like my sister-in-law Becky. Beck ... don't you think you two could be sisters??

Anyway, Jeannie has two kid-friendly, oaty-delicious recipes to share with us today. Everyone ... meet Jeannie!

Hi Full.AtLasters and fellow Monkees. I'm excited to be able to share with you a couple recipes that are a regular part of the Cimino/Brisson household. I've always considered myself a health-conscious, physically active person. Although, the "conscious" hasn't always translated to "action" if you know what I mean. I mean, I know that a banana is healthier for you then a Peppermint Patty, but dammit, sometimes I just want the Peppermint Patty! And if I've spent the whole day snowboarding, doesn't that mean I deserve a burger and fries?!

I became more active about my family's health when my son, Henry was born. I became more careful about what I ate because I realized that if I wasn't getting sleep, the only thing I had left to give me energy and some sense of sanity was the right food. Oh, and I REALLY wanted to lose that baby weight too! I also became intrigued by the idea that I could make Henry's food from scratch, and had a lot of fun learning about that. It had never occurred to me before that I could make baby food AND that being in the kitchen could be fun and not feel like a chore.

Seven months later, I became pregnant again with my daugher, Olive. (No, this was not planned, people!) And while preparing for a homebirth, I learned a heck of a lot about how nutrition has an impact on labor and delivery, something I didn't learn as much about when I was pregnant with Henry.

I made a completely crazy decision this past summer to try and become a vegan. I was in Cape Cod with a great group of friends and it just so happened that the book, "The China Study" was on the nightstand in my room. I was astounded by the research between animal protein and long-term health conditions. This was the same time that I learned more about a very special friend's experience with rheumatoid arthritis. It turns out that after trying several medications, none of which were working well for her, she switched to a plant-based diet. Almost two years later she is symptom free and takes no medication.

Both the book and hearing more about Michele's story was compelling enough for me to make a change. It's taken me a long time to adjust, but I would say that now 80-90% (depending on the day) of mine and my children's diet is vegan and I noticed the change in how I felt pretty quickly. (Husband is more 50/50 because he makes his own breakfast and lunch! Too bad for him that I make dinner.)

So, are you hating me right now?! Well, don't! Because I still crave (and can be found giving into eating) Twizzler bites, M&Ms, Raisinets, Peppermint Patties, of course, oh, and I love Toblerones!, flank steak, and being the good Italian that I am, chicken parmigiana, really cheesy lasagna, baked ziti, manicotti...and the list goes on and on. I just take it one meal or snack at a time.

Thanks to Erin, I say to myself everyday, "Progress, not perfection." And that is an important piece of being healthy for me.

Buon appetito!

Banana Oat Cookies (courtesy of my friend, Julie N. Hi Julie!)

This is an easy and quick recipe that is a great healthy snack for little ones. I make it weekly and my son (and now 10 month old daughter!) loves them. I'm become a bit addicted also. It also doubles as a toddler activity; Henry helps me make them everytime. So, if you're snowed in and have run out of ideas, this will kill about a 30-45 minutes including bake time.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease two baking sheets with cooking spray.

3 mashed ripe medium bananas
2 cups of old fashioned oats
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
A dash of cinnamon (I usually make it a couple heavy dashs)
A dash of salt

Optional to add any of the following:
A tbsp or two of agave nectar (to make it sweeter)
1/4-1/2 cup of any one of the following (dried cranberries, raisins, dates, or walnuts).

Spoon tbsp-sized drops onto the baking sheets. Bake for 20 minutes. Makes about 2 dozen. (For you high altitude ladies and gents, bake about about 21-22 minutes.)

Good to know: Your older kids may not like these! I recently offered them to some of the neighborhood kids and they about gagged. Ha! So, if giving them to kids, they're probably best for the little ones who haven't tasted much sugar yet. But, who knows, maybe someone will prove me wrong. You could always try putting some fruit spread on the top. I put apple butter on one this morning and it was tasty.

Four-Grain Pancakes
(This is a recipe I adapted from the Joy of Cooking. I make these weekly as well and we can't eat them fast enough! NO ONE will know they don't contain dairy products.)

Combine in large bowl:
1 cup of whole wheat flour
3/4 cup unbleached white flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup old fashioned oats
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
dash of nutmeg

Whisk in small bowl:
3 tbsp ground flaxseed with 9 tbsp lukewarm water and let sit while you combine the following in a medium bowl:

1 3/4 cups plant milk (soy, almond or rice milk)
4 tbsp butter substitute, melted (I use Earth Balance sticks)
1/4 cup honey or agave nectar

Add flaxseed/water mix to this bowl.
Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and you are ready to make the pancakes!

Optional: If you have fresh blueberries on hand, add a cup to the batter. You will not be disappointed.

Finally, I drizzle them with agave nectar instead of syrup. Yum! Enjoy!

Thanks Jeannie!

And, don't forget that oats are a significant source of dietary fiber and have been proven to reduce blood cholesterol. They also help stabilize blood sugar, help prevent heart disease and contain important phytochemicals that have been shown to have anti-cancer properties. Those are some pretty compelling reasons to try these recipes, don't you think?


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Kathleen's Brown Rice with Winter Squash

Good morning!

Kathleen has a delicious looking vegetarian dinner of brown rice with winter squash and cashews to share with us today.

You should know that Kathleen has not always been a healthy-ish eater or a fancy-pants in the kitchen. Over the past 18 months she has slowly been teaching herself to cook healthy, low-fat meals and has lost 83 pounds. That’s right … eighty-three pounds! Let’s pause here to give Kathleen a HUGE virtual high-five for all of her hard work.

Just 18 months ago she was a connoisseur of processed foods and confessed to me that she didn’t know how to cook something unless it came in a box. So she had to literally start from scratch in the kitchen and, in the process, has learned to view cooking as a way to calm and nourish herself as well as a means to care for her loved ones. It’s not to say she doesn’t still struggle with her old demons but she is making progress and moving in the right directions. And that, my friends, is what we are all about here … progress, not perfection.

For those of you that don't know, this is what a butternut squash looks like.

After you slice it in half you have to scoop out the seeds, then you can peel and chop it and use it in recipes. See Glennon, it's not so scary is it?

Brown Rice with Winter Squash and Cashews

1 cup short grain brown rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 pound winter squash such as butternut, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 1/4 cups unsalted vegetable stock
1/4 teaspoon salt (can omit if stock and/or cashews are salted)
2/3 cup roasted unsalted cashews
Salt and pepper

Rinse and drain rice.
Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add shallot and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until shallot is soft.
Add cumin, coriander, and rice and cook, stirring, for another minute.
Add squash and vegetable stock and stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 40-50 minutes, or until rice is tender and water has been absorbed.
Remove from heat, stir in cashews, and season to taste.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Allison's Recipes

Allison told me that she cooks with a lot of beans at her house. Smart girl. Not only are they nutrient-dense, meaning they have much nutrition for few calories, but they are also a very economical way to cook. Try including a few vegetarian meals each week and watch your grocery bill start to lighten up (pun intended there folks).

Everyone ... meet Allison!

In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t feel remotely qualified to talk about food and/or nutrition. Yesterday was not one of my better days in terms of making good food choices. Both my husband and I are from South Louisiana, and our beloved Saints were in the Super Bowl. I spent most of the day in the kitchen making some of our favorite Louisiana dishes, none of which were particularly healthy.

The following recipes are two that I make frequently. I am trying to move my family’s diet towards one that is more plant-based, primarily because I believe it is better for us and more affordable. We do still eat meat, but only a few times a week. Luckily, everyone (including my two children, ages 4 and 2) likes beans, so we have them at least once a week. We tend to eat relatively healthy meals -- lots of fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains and legumes, and I try not to buy much processed food. I read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle several years ago, and, based on those books, I have been working at changing how my family eats.

However, I still struggle with my weight. I weigh about 30 pounds more now than I did before I got pregnant the first time just over five years ago. I exercise regularly and try to make good food choices, but I have two major food issues: (1) portion control and (2) emotional eating. I’m working on making better choices, both in what I eat and how much I eat, but it’s not easy. I know what I need to do, I just haven’t been able to make myself do it.

Red Beans and Rice

1 pound dark red kidney beans
6 cups water (or 4 cups of water and 2 cups of stock)
2 cups finely chopped onion
1 1/2 cups finely chopped bell pepper
1 cup chopped celery
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
3 cups of steamed rice

Rinse the beans and place them in a large saucepan. Add the water, bring the pot to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, cover it and let the beans soak while preparing the other ingredients. Place the onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, black and cayenne pepper in slow cooker. Add the soaked beans and stir to mix. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours or on high for 3 1/2 hours, or until beans are tender. Remove about 1/4 cup of beans from slow cooker to a small blow. Mash to a smooth paste with back of spoon and stir them back in. Cook on low for about 30 more minutes or on high for 15 minutes. Serve over steamed rice.

Black-Eyed Peas and Rice

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 pound black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed
1 quart vegetable or chicken stock
Bay leaf
1 teaspoon dry thyme leaves
Salt, black pepper, and cayenne
3 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
3 cups steamed rice

Heat oil in a large soup pot. Add the onion, celery, green pepper, and garlic, cook for 4 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas, stock, bay leaves, thyme, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the peas are creamy and tender, stir occasionally. If the liquid evaporates, add more water or stock. Adjust seasonings, and garnish with green onions. Serve over rice.

Note: I have made it before with one can of black-eyed peas. To do that, reduce the amount of stock by half, and let the peas cook for about 20 minutes, instead of 40.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Man Down!

Dear Friends,

We are a man down this week – well, technically one little man and one little lady. Ethan and Abby spent the better part of last week and the weekend in the hospital with a bad case of RSV that turned into pneumonia. The good news is that they were released from the hospital yesterday and are doing just fine, but they are on supplemental oxygen and have a few follow-up doctor appointments this week. As such, I won’t really have much time to devote to writing original content or testing new recipes this week.

However, I encourage any of you healthy-ish readers out there to email me your favorite nutritious recipe and I will post them on the blog. We will dub this week “Reader Recipe Week” and devote it to sharing your favorite healthy recipes with one another.

Tomorrow Allison will share her red beans and rice and black-eyed peas (no, not the band) recipes with us all. If you have an all-time favorite or general crowd-pleasing recipe to share, please email me!


Friday, February 5, 2010

Two Tasty Treats to Try

These are the last two recipes featuring black beans. They are the last recipes for two equally important reasons: 1) I ran out of ideas and, 2) Eric is responding to the week of bean recipes in a very odoriferous way, if you know what I mean. He keeps blaming the gas on our dog, Berkley, but I'm on to his little ruse.

Black Bean Salsa Chili
Inspired by Cooking Light, made even healthier by Mel

2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed & drained
2/3 cup water
1 teaspoon Agave nectar
8 ounce Tempeh
1 cup chopped sweet onion
½ cup chopped yellow bell pepper
½ cup chopped red bell pepper
1 ½ TBLS chili powder
1 TBLS ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 (14-ounce) can vegetable broth
1 ½ cups fresh salsa—medium
3 TBLS tomato paste
¼ cup fresh chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

Combine 1 ½ cup beans, 2/3 cup water & agave nectar in food processor & blend until smooth. Add remaining black beans & set aside. (Do not blend remaining beans).

Heat a large sauce pan over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Crumble tempeh and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Add onions and bell peppers & cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add spices, tomato paste, bean mixture, vegetable broth & salsa. Bring to a boil & then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat. Add lime juice & stir. Garnish with cilantro.

Taster notes
I LOVE LOVE LOVE this chili and think it is particularly divine served over a baked sweet potato, as does Mel. My meat-loving husband, Eric, was completely fooled by the tempeh and thought it was ground turkey (please do not inform him otherwise or it may put a screeching hault to my healthy recipe testing); he prefered his chili plain with some blue corn chips or served over a regular baked potato. All of the Simons gave this recipe their Super Simon stamp of approval.


World's Easiest Black Bean Burgers

1/2 onion, diced
1 can black beans, well drained
1/2 cup flour
2 slices whole wheat bread, crumbled
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
salt and pepper to taste

Sautee the onions in a little bit of olive oil until soft, about 3-5 minutes.
In a large bowl, mash the beans until almost smooth; you can also use a food processor but I would "pulse" the mixture so it doesn't completely puree. Add sauteed onions and the rest of the ingredients to combine, adding the flour a few tablespoons at a time. Mixture will be thick.

Form bean mixture into patties, approximately ½ inch thick and cook patties in a small amount of oil until slightly firm. Please note that you can use a "grill pan" but they are not sturdy enough to stand up to an actual grill. Serve and enjoy.

Taster notes
We dressed these burgers up in the traditional way with lettuce, tomato and katsup and served them on a whole wheat bun. Eric had a small issue with the consistency (they are not as firm as a meat burger) but he really enjoyed the flavor. He gave me the thumbs up to make them again. I think chilling the patties in the refrigerator for 30 minutes prior to cooking might help with the consistency.

Jackson, age 6, was so smitten with these burgers that he just ate his plain, with his bare hands before Mel could even get them to the table. Harrison, 3, dipped his "burger" into some hummus and Harper, 4, declined to try this recipe.

I toasted the leftovers until warm (use a toaster oven or broil them as the microwave will make them too soggy), and served them with a mound of fresh salsa and slices of avacado for lunch the next day. Yum.

Remember, not only are beans healthy, but they are also extra easy on the budget. Have fun experimenting with these nutritious recipes and go ahead and pat yourself on the back for trying some healthy new meals this weekend.

Let me know what you think!

Bon appetite!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Taste Test Team

Meet the official Full At Last Taste Test Team.


He believes pork fat is actually a food group unto itself. If he gives a healthy recipe two thumbs-up, it is probably safe to try on your husband or favorite carnivore. Until recently he was adding vanilla ice cream to his morning "protein" shake and calling it breakfast. He still doesn't understand why that wasn't the most nutritious way to start his day.


The "big guy" is almost 13-months old and likes everything … I mean everything … including “ABCA” food (already been chewed by Abby). We are still searching for a food that he does not like.


Abby is one minute younger than her brother and, so far, likes next to nothing. She is famous for her hunger strikes and pretending to chew her food only to spit it out as soon as you're not looking. We are still searching for foods, other than bananas and french toast, that she actually likes.


Mel is sort of an “accidental” vegetarian since she gags on seafood (a result of Catholic school fish-Friday lunches) and is repulsed by chicken after seeing Food Inc. She has been sticking to a mostly vegetarian diet for the past year and is no longer afraid of new foods and combinations; she is the creative genius behind many of our recipes, especially the kid-friendly ones.


Garrett likes his food like he likes his women, HOT & SPICY. Of course, he is always hungry due to his triathlon training so he pretty much eats anything Mel puts in front of him. We’re not sure if he slows down long enough to actually taste his food.

The "Super Simons" include Jackson, Harper and Harrison.

Jackson , age 6, is a reformed junk-food junkie. He is the adventurous eater in the group and actually prefers the black bean salsa chili and veggie burgers to his old stand-by of Kraft mac-n-cheese. It’s the darndest thing.

Harper, age 4, is a lover of cuties, smoothies and all things fruity. Harper's Hummus is his favorite savory treat.

Harrison, age 3, consumes 90% of his calories by noon and is the most finicky of the Simon testers. He is partial to foods in fun shapes as well as anything that can be dipped into something.


Berkley is our 13-year old lab-mix who is just happy when we remember to feed her these days. Poor girl. So far, she does not seem to have a discerning palate.

As for me, I get excited about healthy recipes that are fast and easy. I repeat, FAST and EASY. For the past 8 months we have been moving towards a more vegetarian diet (we still eat meat and fish but in much smaller portions and only a couple of times a week), and I have noticed that our grocery bill and our waistlines are getting smaller. More on that later.

I still have a sweet-tooth but I no longer crave refined, processed carbohydrates and junk food like I once did and I am actually enjoying the taste of healthier fare now. And that, my friends, is some serious progress.

Tune in tomorrow for two more tasty recipes featuring black beans. The black bean burgers and black bean salsa chili were overwhelming hits across the board!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Test Kitchen for Dummies

Here at Full At Last, all of our recipes undergo rigorous testing before they are posted. Rigorous. Not only do my friend Melanie and I make, taste and attempt to serve each recipe to our own family, but we also go the extra mile … we have Glennon try them as well.

For those of you that don’t know Glennon, she has been known to turn off the oven when the pre-heat signal chimes, serve melted plastic lids for dinner and use her only pan as part of a festive Fall centerpiece. Some would call her a lost cause in the kitchen but not me. I saw an opportunity to turn her kitchen phobias and blunders into an effective barometer for all of you. I feel strongly that if Glennon attempts a recipe and is successful with it that, quite literally, anyone can make it.

So, if something receives the “Glennon Stamp of Approval,” or GSA as we will now refer to it, you will know that it is safe for even the most cooking-challenged among you to try.

In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that yesterday’s black bean hummus recipe, while delicious and nutritious, did not receive the GSA.

Here’s what happened when she attempted to scrape down the sides of the blender with her red spatula; note the disappointed looks on the faces of her mom and kids:

A close up shot reveals a half-chewed up red spatula:

Further photos reveal that Glennon was still trying to serve the hummus, complete with bits of red plastic for garnish. It looks like Chase was not fooled:

The black bean hummus is easier to make in a food processor; however, you CAN use a blender. Just make sure to turn off the blender before you scrape down the sides so you don't end up with a bowl of spatula-flecked hummus. (It's okay Glennon, it could have happened to anyone!)

Tune in tomorrow to meet the official taste team!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Where do we go from here?

In an attempt to better understand everyone I have spent the weekend reading, and re-reading, all of your comments and emails about your goals, frustrations and desires for better health. So far, the most common themes seem to be the following:

1. How to incorporate fast, easy and healthy recipes into your diets.
2. How to use food to promote good health and to help prevent or reverse disease.
3. How to fit in exercise for busy moms, working moms, and just overcommitted, busy people in general.
4. How to maintain good health during pregnancy and how to reclaim your body after pregnancy.
5. How to find the motivation to exercise and eat right when you are already stressed and overwhelmed and overcommitted.
6. How to lose weight without extreme and unhealthy diets and countless hours in the gym, as well as how to maintain a healthy weight while remaining emotionally calm and balanced.
7. How to bolster self-esteem, improve body-image and set a good example for our children.
8. How to kick unhealthy cravings, make better food choices and teach our children to do the same.

We are going to tackle all of this and more.

I have also had some interest in starting a book club to better understand and cope with emotional and compulsive overeating. If you are interested in this topic and haven’t emailed me yet, please do so. I hope to kick the book club off next week. We will select a new book each month or two to read and discuss.

For starters though, I thought we would look at how to include easy, delicious recipes into our diets that also promote good health. We are going to look at a few “super foods” over the next few weeks that are nutritional powerhouses. We will also try a few simple recipes for each super food and share our successes, or humorous blunders, with each attempt.

Remember, the more nutrient-dense, healthy foods we can include in our diets the better chance we have at staying healthy at the cellular level so our bodies can actually fight disease. Of course, I understand that food has to taste good too and be easy to make, so the idea here is simply this: super tasty "super foods," made super easy.

On Wednesday I will introduce you to the Full At Last Taste Test Team. Our team ranges in ages from temperamental 1-year old twins to a pork-fat loving 40-year old man. There are three finicky children (ages, 3, 4, and 6) a maniacal, health-obsessed tri-athlete, two stay-at-home moms and a 13-year old mutt that round out the team. Each recipe passes the lips, or attempts to, of the entire team and receives reviews from each. My hope is that this will lend credit to each recipe and help you decide whether or not it is something worth trying in your home. Please try these recipes on your own and comment with your thoughts so we can all benefit. We are in this together so your feedback is critical to our collective success.

And, without further ado … our first “super food” is … black beans!

Black beans are a fiber all-star, as are most legumes, and help lower blood cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar while providing a good source of protein and a healthy shot of anti-oxidants.

I typically make a double-batch of this black-bean hummus each week and use it for snacking (I love dipping baby carrots and raw bell peppers into it) as well as for the base of a super fast lunch (veggie wraps). When I run out of dinner options, I like to make a “Mexican pizza” with the remaining hummus and whatever vegetables I have on hand.

We will start with the hummus as it is the base for all three recipes.

Black Bean Hummus

1 garlic clove, peeled
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon tahini (roasted sesame seed paste)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 small jalapeño pepper, chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
Dash of crushed red pepper
1-2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Dash of ground red pepper

Place garlic in a food processor; process until finely chopped. Add lemon juice, tahini, cumin, salt, black beans, jalapeño pepper, and crushed red pepper; process until smooth.

Spoon bean mixture into a medium bowl, and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with ground red pepper. (note: I often skip this step and it still tastes fantastic)

Serve with homemade whole wheat pita chips, blue corn tortilla chips (I like organic Garden of Eatin’ blue corn chips) and/or your favorite raw veggies.

Note: you can also buy fresh chopped garlic in a jar for a time-saver.


Vegetable Black Bean Hummus Wrap

Spread hummus on a 100% whole wheat tortilla. Fill tortilla with sliced bell peppers (high in vitamin C), cucumbers, sprouts (superb source of nutrients and contain concentrated amounts of phytochemicals that can protect against disease), lettuce and/or your favorite vegetables. Roll it up and enjoy.


Mexican Pizza

Black Bean Hummus
Shredded romaine lettuce
Black beans
Grape tomatoes, halved or chopped
Green chilies, chopped
Green onions, diced
Cilantro, chopped
Jalapeno, diced
Lime & Avocado for garnish

Heat tortilla in a pan until crispy.

Spread black bean hummus on tortillas.

Combine black beans, corn, tomatoes, green chilies, green onions, cilantro & jalapeno in a bowl and then spread the corn mixture on the pizza.

Spread romaine over the top. Garnish with diced avocado & lime.