Chia Pumpkin Granola

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Every morning, all I can think of is getting a big bowl full of crunchy delicious granola.  Granola is just what your body craves in the morning.  All those nuts and grains are so much healthier for you than any of those sugary cereals you could be eating instead.  When I went gluten-free, every breakfast cereal I bought seemed to LOADED with sugar!  Naturally sugar is something I’m trying to avoid even more so than gluten, so after a few weeks of becoming highly discouraged with outrageous prices on granola, I decided there HAD to be a better option.

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I honestly wish I could take the credit for my discovery, but the husby is actually the one who bought me this cookbook on a whim that had a recipe in there for homemade granola.  It looked easy enough, so I tried it.

My first attempt was a total flop!  I would not be beaten though!  I just knew there had to be a way to create yummy healthy granola that wouldn’t hurt my wallet, would be healthy for me, not have gobs and gobs of sugar, and was relatively easy to make.

After much experimenting, numerous tests and failed batches of soggy oats, I eventually came up with this incredibly tasty recipe for success!  I make a batch every IMG_0247

Saturday and it lasts the husby and I all the way to the weekend!  We love heaping up a nice big bowl in the morning topped off with our favorite fruit.  It’s great because you get the protein you need, but you don’t get the heavy stomach feeling from eating fried eggs and sausage!

I have actually found that I feel LESS hungry before lunch and sometimes I forget to eat lunch ENTIRELY because my stomach is so satisfied with this.  Seems so crazy to me that just a year ago I was eating eggs on toast every morning and I felt LESS satisfied and had more cravings than I do with the granola!

I’m so excited about this recipe that I hope everyone gives it at least a week’s worth of trying.  Just give it a shot and then tel me how you feel in the comments below!

To start out you’ll need:
  • 5 cups rolled oats
  • 2 1/2 cups dried flaked coconut (I prefer Bob’s Red Mill flaked over the shredded because it gives more texture to the granola and does not have added sugar.)
  • 3 cups raw unsalted cashews (you can also do sliced almonds if you don’t have a nut allergy.)
  • 1 cup ground flax seed
  • 1 cup chia seeds or 1 cup flax seeds
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin spice

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Preheat your oven to 275 degrees F.  Then start off by mixing all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.  Make sure they are well mixed, otherwise your flax-seed flour may clump together once you pour in the liquid ingredients.

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Combine the maple syrup, water, coconut oil, and vanilla extract.  I had EXACTLY the right amount of maple syrup, and since I was trying to save myself on dish duty for the day, I just mixed it up in my maple syrup jar.  Otherwise I would shake it all together in a little blender bottle.  You could just use your blender, but I find it to be a bigger mess than it’s really worth.

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Once your liquids are all mixed together, pour it in and mix it all up!  This is where it starts to make sense why you would need a big bowl for this recipe.  These little flax seeds, or chia seeds will go ALL OVER your kitchen counter and floor if you give them the chance!  So mix CAREFULLY and make sure everything is well coated.

I suggest mixing it until it starts to become heavy and clump together because once you put it in the oven, the maple syrup mixture is what gives it that fun crunchy texture.

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This is also where some people say to throw in dried fruit, but I just find adding it this early makes for either soggy granola, or burnt dried fruit. So in my humble opinion, just wait till later.

Once you have it all mixed up, you’re going to want to line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  I’ve also done it with wax paper, but every once in a while I’ll decide to use agave nectar instead of maple syrup and I find that wax paper and agave have a messy relationship and usually ends in me pealing wax paper out of my granola.

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Evenly divide your granola between your two pans and spread out evenly.  You’re going to want it to cook evenly, but spreading it out flat will actually make it lock in the moisture so I like to roughly spread it around and leave a few areas thinner than others.

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Bake in oven for 45 minutes, then take out, stir on the baking pans, and spread evenly again.  Continue to bake for an additional 30-40 minutes, until crisp and beginning to color.  Sometimes I’ll even go to about 50 minutes until I see the coconut flakes burning on the edges.  It all depends on how crispy you like your granola!

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Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups rolled oats
  • 2 1/2 cups dried flaked coconut (I prefer Bob’s Red Mill flaked over the shredded because it gives more texture to the granola and does not have added sugar.)
  • 3 cups raw unsalted cashews (you can also do sliced almonds if you don’t have a nut allergy.)
  • 1 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1 cup chia seeds or 1 cup flax seeds
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin spice

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and mix well.
  3. In a shaker, combine all the liquids and shake well.  (It should turn frothy.)
  4. Pour the liquid mixture over the dry mixture and mix until it begins to clump together.
  5. Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and spread out into an even layer.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for about 45 minutes, then stir well and spread out again into an even layer.  Continue to bake for an additional 30-40 minutes (50 if you like it crispy and toasted like me!)
  7. Stir in any dried fruit of your choice and enjoy!

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Loaded Sweet Potato Fries + Loaded with life!

Oh ya… I have a blog. 

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Ok I swear I haven’t forgotten about W2EWYCEA.com, but in my honest defense, it’s been a super crazy time!  Between moving, resigning from my teaching position at a school that closed shortly thereafter, and getting a job as the new FACS teacher in a small town 30 min away from my new place of residence… it’s been SUPER busy!  I was fully intending to keep up with W2EWYCEA.com, but fully restarting my career has sort of made it difficult to keep up on anything that’s not work-related, moving-related, or house keeping-related!

But enough about my excuses!  I’m back!  Things are going very well for me actually.  I’m LOVING my new job as the FACS teacher!  It’s awesome that I get to share my passion about health and nutrition with young minds.  It is so much fun, and their energy and enthusiasm for life just lights me up!

My diet has been good, but has also added an new element to the W2EWYCEA list.  I have recently decided to go sugar-free.  Now I’m not talking about switching over to splenda, or substituting coconut sugar, I’m talking about cutting out any unnecessary added sugars completely.  I was inspired by the movie “Fed Up.”  It’s a documentary about the American consumption of sugar.  It’s absolutely fascinating and really made me consider if most of my health issues stem from the fact that I’ve been raised on too many processed foods that are contaminated with horrendous amounts of added sugar.  So the rule is: No sugar except for three times a year.  Birthday, Christmas, and Valentines day.  I can’t eat sugar the day before or after that holiday, even if I have leftovers.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “Well you’re not really going off sugar if you’re still eating it 3 times a year!”  I’d beg to differ.  If you consider the fact that added sugars are found in items as simple as ketchup, granola bars, yogurt, and preggo pesto sauce, consider how many processed foods you eat in a week that aren’t so called “sugary.”  I’m cutting all of those out from my daily diet.  I’m anticipating that by the time Christmas comes around, I will have become so used to NOT having sugar, that my pallet simply will not be able to handle the large amounts of sugary treats it was once able to.

So yes.  Sugar-free will now be added to that crazy mix.  I thought this was going to be harder especially now that I’m around sugary foods every day with my cooking class.  Now that’s not to say I’m teaching only the unhealthy recipes, but with kids, you’re teaching them the basics.  This means that instead of making homemade quinoa gf pasta, they buy it.  Instead of using cashew Alfredo sauce, they make it with milk and other similar ingredients.  Naturally the school has no intention of purchasing free-range chickens for all 195 or my students… I could go on but I think you get the picture.  I figure if I can at least give them the skills to cook for themselves, I’ve done some good.

Anyway, back to sugar.  Unfortunately I’m afraid to say the “sugar-free” portion might be replacing the “paleo” section of this website.  I have found that for me, beans and legumes seem to be just fine.  However, I still wholeheartedly agree with the other parts of the paleo diet.  I’m just taking a side path to health.  We’ll see how it goes, and if it’s a complete flop, I guess I’ll go back to paleo!

Well considering this post has turned out to be far longer than I originally intended, I guess I’ll just wrap up by summing up.

I’m back and better than ever!  I go jogging every morning for 40 min.  I’m totally seasick (as in: I desperately miss the sea)! I’m going off sugar, and I’m ready to be back and revamp my website!

As for these tantalizing sweet potato fries I’ve lured you with, here is the recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 5 medium sweet potatoes
  • coconut oil
  • seasoning salt
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • add in your other favorite seasonings!

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Line a sheet tray with parchment. In a large bowl toss sweet potatoes with just enough oil to coat.
  3. Sprinkle with seasoning salt, chili powder and paprika. Spread sweet potatoes in single layer on prepared baking sheet, being sure not to overcrowd.
  4. Bake until sweet potatoes are tender and golden brown. Take them out every 20 minutes to flip them with a spatula and spread them around again. I like mine sort of crispy so I usually leave them in till they’ve dried on the edges.
  5. Top it off with our favorite ground turkey sausage (or as I prefer, some vegan ground sausage), tomatoes, mashed avocado (or homemade guacamole) sour cream ( I get the Toffuti sour cream at my local health store), and whatever other topings you so desire!

I’ve used this everal times for dinner and the husby always eats it right up!  Filling and delicious!

Enjoy!

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/baked-sweet-potato-fries-recipe.html?oc=linkback

 

10 Pounds Healthier

It’s a New Year… It’s a new Dr.’s appointment.  

I usually try to leave my blog as food-related as possible and keep away from personal posts, but this just seemed like an appropriate time to share another tid-bit of my journey.

The New Year is here, and it seems as though everyone is cracking down on their new diets, new fitness plans, and new whatever-resolutions.  In fact, I’ve been guilty of mocking all the excessive equipment sales, and the product placement of new energy drinks and get-fit-quick solutions that all the stores and media seem to be saturating us with.  Poking fun at the idea that just because it’s a “New Year” means that anything is going to change.  I’m a firm believer that once a (fill in the blank with your current weakness- mine’s a chocolate pudding addiction), always a (example: chocolate pudding addict).  I feel that people get on the bandwagon, try out the latest craze in dieting, and after a few days (and if they’re really head strong- weeks) they’ll give up and go back to their old habits.

Old habits die hard.

I feel a person has to be truly committed to something, as well as have a very convincing reason, for doing something in order to reach their goal.  Take my marathon for example.  Hardest 26.2 miles of my life!  But I had a determination and a reason.  My best friend and running pal had recently passed away from cancer.  I ran each and every stretch of that race for her.  That was the only thing that kept me going after the rain, hail, snow and sleet that occurred on that day.  I wasn’t about to let a bit of bad weather slow me down!  Nope.  She deserved better than that!

That is the sort of determination I believe needs to be behind every goal if it is going to be achieved.  So “What does this have to do with the title of my post?”  you might be wondering.  Exactly this- This journey has been difficult.  Harder than I could have ever imagined.  There were times when I literally was so sick and tired of eating the way that I eat that I honestly just wanted to throw in the towel.  I wanted to just forget about it and let them stick tubes in me and shove pills down my throat.  I’ll be honest, this way of living is HARD!  It’s not all cherries and cupcakes.  (Unless of course you’re about to eat my gf, vegan, cupcakes that is!)  When you’re living like I do, you don’t see results “instantly” like you would from any of those get-fit-quick gimmicks I spoke of earlier.  It comes slow.  So slow, you don’t even notice it until you slip up and eat something you shouldn’t.

These past 5 years have been a journey.  One that I wasn’t even sure I was winning until today.  Today was my 6 month checkup with my diabetics specialist and to be honest, I was a bit nervous.  I mean after all, the last visit ended in him telling me to go gluten-free, low-glycemic and everything else I was already doing!  I had no idea if I would get something entirely new thrown on me!

I sat in the highly uncomfortable squishy doctor’s waiting room chair nervously and heard the patient next to me complain about how much trouble he was in for gaining 13 pounds over the holiday break.  Rapid weight gain is a sign of insufficient insulin in the cells for people with insulin-resistance.  It ultimately means you are not eating, or exercising right and if those two things don’t help/fix it, then usually patients have to result in hard medications so their pancreas doesn’t wear down and they develop type 2 diabetes.

“Sheesh!” I thought to myself, “I totally forgot to factor in the holidays!  I’m sure I gained a decent amount of weight too!

I nervously thought back to all the treats I’d made (though on my diet) and the few tidbits here or there where I slipped up.

“This sets me back at least another 6 months!” The patient to my right exclaimed.

“Jessica?”  the nurse called me back.

After a few routine tests, and the usual nurse small talk, I was left to my own devices.  I frantically pulled out my smartphone and starting searching for the best work-out routines, and recipe plans for the upcoming week.  Texting anyone who was currently online for any form of distraction I could think of.  I swear I was sweating like a pig by the time Doc burst in with a giant smile and a firm handshake.  I could feel my own timidness trembling inside his own sturdy hands.

“Well Jessica,” he said looking down at the test results from the nurse, “you’ve lost 10 pounds over the holiday break!”

We both looked at each other with shock and awe.

“That’s really impressive!”

I was floored.  I usually don’t make it a point to constantly check and log my weight, so this really was news to me.  He proceeded to review my other test results and to make a long story short, all systems were go!  This is the first time I’ve had significant success in my entire 5 year process.  He seemed thoroughly impressed and told me to just “Keep up whatever it is that you’re doing, cause it’s working!”

I felt like I was floating on air as I walked out of the building and into my car.  All I could think is, “I’m making progress.  I’m getting better.  This is great news!” I could have burst into tears.  The knowledge that I was getting better without the use of hard medications was almost overwhelming.

The gift of good health is good news.  This year, give yourself the gift of a healthy body.  Give it as a gift to yourself for Christmas 2014.  Yes I know that’s a whole year away, but results take TIME.  Good health takes PATIENCE.  Don’t you dare look at yourself in the mirror and say “I’m not worth it.”  “I’m not thin enough.”  “I’m too lumpy/plumpy/round or fat.”  I hate that word. “Fat.”  Let’s make that a swear word.  You are not “fat!”  (Pardon my language), you are beautiful!  You know why?  Because you are a battling your own challenges, fighting your own fights, and even living your own life.  You are you.   That makes you beautiful.

No I haven’t LOST 10 pounds, I’ve GAINED knowledge about my health that took 5 years to acquire.

Next time you go to that party and that dessert table looks like it might just crawl it’s way right into your mouth, you just think to yourself, “Nope.  Not today.  Today I’m going to be 1 cupcake healthier.”   “Today I’m going to be 1 mile walk healthier.”  “Tomorrow I’m going to be 1 more hour of sleep healthier.”

Give yourself the gift of a healthy life.  It’s worth it.  Even if it takes years to get there.

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Cashew Thai Quinoa Salad with Peanut Dressing

Personally this is the PERFECT dinner dish if you’re looking for quick, filling, and you want to feel good right after a killer workout.  (Aka: you’re on the ultimate health kick.)  This dish is so tasty and so filling!  Husby had an entire bowl and declared he was happily stuffed!  The great thing about this recipe is that it’s easily modified.  I tried it with some boiled eggs and it’s divine!  I love eating this with a side of fresh fruit such as black grapes right after a crucial workout to get food in my belly, but not get that “bloated” feeling of eating something extra heavy.

So try it out!  You may even want to share it with your friends and neighbors sense it can be eaten hot or cold!

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Ingredients

  • ¾ cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1-2 cups shredded red cabbage, or if you’re like me, shredded lettuce.  Just add it very last.
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • ½ cup cashew halves or peanuts (honey-roasted is good but if you’re doing low-gi then go with the raw)
  • Optional: 1 cup edamame or chickpeas (for paleo- do cooked chopped brussel sprouts)
  • Fresh lime, for a bit of tang

Dressing

  • ¼ cup all natural peanut butter
  • Optional: 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 3 tablespoon soy sauce, gluten-free if desired
  • 1 tablespoon honey (use agave if vegan)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Water to thin, if necessary

Instructions

  1. To cook quinoa: Rinse quinoa with cold water in mesh strainer. In a medium saucepan, bring 1 ½ cups of water to a boil. Add in quinoa and bring mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes or until quinoa has absorbed all of the water. Remove from heat and fluff quinoa with fork; place in large bowl and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes. You should have a little over 2 cups of quinoa.
  2. To make dressing: Add peanut butter and honey or agave to a medium microwave safe bowl; heat in microwave for 20 seconds. Add in ginger, soy sauce, and both sesame and olive oil and stir until mixture is smooth and creamy. If you want a thinner dressing, simply stir in a teaspoon or two of water or olive oil.
  3. Add as much or as little dressing as you’d like to the quinoa. I always start out with a little bit of dressing and usually add more to suit my taste preferences. Alternatively you can save the dressing for later and add when you are ready to eat; however the flavors of the dressing usually soak into the salad so I love adding it to the quinoa first.
  4. Next fold in red pepper, onion, cabbage, carrots, and cilantro into the quinoa. Garnish with cashews and green onions. Serve chilled or at room temperature with lime wedges if desired.

Coconut Peanut Thai Curry

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This is a great dish for something quick and easy.  The best part about these noodles is that you don’t even have to spend time cooking them!  They’re pre-cooked!  If you’re interested in knowing about what I think about them, you can check out my product review for them under my product review tab.
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The great thing about this dish is you can easily add in extra veggies if you like to go even more healthy.  I made this dish a again a few days ago and added some peas and celery.  Just cook it with all the other veggies and mix it into the noodles and sauce as usual.
I love cooking this up on a cold winter day when you’re exhausted from work and don’t want to spend to much time preparing a meal. Especially if you’re in the mood for Thai peanut curry sauce!
Ingredients
  • 2 packages Tofu Shirataki NoodlesIMG_20131126_182455[1]
  • 1 15 oz package shredded carrots
  • A few handfuls of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • Green onion, for garnish
  • Oil for sautéing
For the sauce:
  • ¾ cup canned coconut milk
  • ½ cup fresh or canned diced tomatoes
  • 6 tablespoons natural peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (about ½ a lime)
  • 1½ teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • A pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. Prepare the noodles according to package directions.IMG_20131126_182548[1]
  2. Add all the sauce ingredients to a small pot and heat over medium high heat until it comes to a simmer. Remove from heat.
  3. Put a splash of oil in a pan over medium high heat. Add all veggies and cook for about 2-3 minutes, until they have softened slightly.
  4. Add noodles and sauce to the veggies and toss to coat. Serve in bowls and top with slices of green onion.

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Tofu Shirataki Noddles

I know what you’re thinking, ew right?  I thought the same thing.  These slimy looking noodles in packeges just floating around in some liquid?  Gross!

Yet at the same time, my pasta options are limited so I went ahead and grabbed to packages and figured, “what the heck?”  What could it possibly hurt to give them a try?

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Here’s my honest opinion, these are the closest thing to normal noodles as you’re ever going to get if you want each helping to be less than 3 carbs, gf, dairy-free, and vegan.  I really loved these! Sure the texture was a tad bit more slimy, but mixed in with some Alfredo sauce and whatever you might be cooking for dinner, they’re fantastic!  I put them in a tomato noodle soup and thought they fit very nicely.

They’re a tad bit more chewy than normal noodles which is the main reason the husby isn’t that into them.  But for me it’s either kelp noodles or these.  So I’d pick these any day!

If you’re going to put a sauce over them, I’d be sure to strain and rinse off the noodles first.  You don’t even have to cook them which really saves you on time which I really like.

So honestly if you stomach other pastas just fine, then I wouldn’t bother with this one.  But if you’re low-glycemic, pre-diabetic, or insulin resistant, I’d go for these instead of your normal noodles.

 

Healthy Low-Carb Pizza

 

Grain, gluten, soy, nut, corn, dairy, egg, yeast free recipe. Can be made oil free. Makes 1 9 inch Pizza, or two smaller half pizzas.
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Crust:

  • 1/2 a head of cauliflower grated( medium size)
  • 1/2 inch ginger grated (2-3 Tablespoons)
  • 1 medium potato boiled and mashed well
  • 1-2 green chili finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili powder/black pepper to taste
  • 1-2 Tablespoons chickpea flour (or coconut flour)

Toppings:

  • 8 oz can basil tomato pasta sauce
  • 1 bag of daiya mozzarella cheese
  • Cilantro Chopped
  • 1 cup of chopped broccoli
  • 1 cup chopped artichoke hearts
  • 2 TBS chopped garlic
  • 12-20 slices of vegan pepperoni or sausage chopped
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Other additional toppings of your choosing

Variations: Top with cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, baby radish slices, baby greens.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven 360 degrees F.
  2. Grate the cauliflower and ginger.
  3. Add chopped chili, cilantro, salt and spices and mix. At this point, you can not leave the mixture sitting for long.
  4. Add the mashed potato and chickpea flour and mix well.
  5. Make a fat ball by pressing the mixture together.
  6. Add more mashed potato or chickpea flour for better binding if needed.
  7. Place ball on parchment lined sheet.
  8. Using your hand spread the oil, then start to press the ball onto the parchment.
  9. The ball will crack, keep pressing it out until desired thickness. I kept mine to a bit thicker than 1/4 inch.
  10. Seal the cracks by pressing the mixture inwards.
  11. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the center feels dry and not squishy to touch.
  12. Time depends on the thickness of the crust and moisture content in the cauliflower. Sometimes the moisture content is very high, so the crust takes longer to cook and might easily break near the center.
  13. Spray water on the edges after 15 minutes and turn the sheet around.
  14. Take the crust out and let cool.
  15. Once it has cooled, spread the tomato sauce evenly over the crust in small spoonfuls until the desired thickness is achieved.
  16. Then layer all the toppings over the pizza, finishing with the cheese on top and bake for an additional 5-10 min.
  17. Serve hot and try not to eat the whole pizza at once!

*Also makes great leftovers!

Drizzle yogurt Raita on top. Sprinkle red chili powder or flakes and chopped cilantro and serve immediately.