Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ten Minute Tacos

Ingredients for taco filling

1/4 cup chopped onion (I use frozen chopped onion to save time)
1 TBS minced garlic (the pre-minced from a jar)
1 can black beans, drained (check ingredients*)
1 can chopped tomatoes (check ingredients) - you could chop fresh tomatoes for this as well
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 TBS cumin
2 TBS ground flaxseed (flaxmeal)
1/8th tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Toppings for tacos
Brown rice
Fresh diced tomatoes
Guacomole or sliced avocados
Finely diced red onion
Olives (check ingredients)
Fresh cilantro
Hot sauce (if you like the extra spice - check ingredients)

You can use corn tortillas (check ingredients) or hard shell tacos (check ingredients)


Heat the olive oil in a skillet.

Sautee the onions over medium heat until soft and translucent (3 minutes).

Add mushrooms and saute until soft (3 minutes).

Add garlic and saute until fragrant (10 seconds).

Add spices and stir (20 seconds).

Add black beans and tomatoes and cook until heated through (2 minutes).

Add flaxmeal and stir to combine (1 minute).

Your taco filling is done. You can let this simmer longer until you are ready to eat it, but add the flaxmeal right before you serve it as it acts like a thickener and if you leave it too long, it will get too pasty.

I dice my tomatoes and onions for garnish while this is cooking. I do use a pre-made guacamole, so that saves me time. These are especially good with brown rice, but that takes awhile to make. I usually make double batches of rice and then freeze portions to serve with meals like this. These are still good without the rice - in fact, M prefers them that way.

If you want to get fancy, you can fry your tortillas in just a bit of olive oil. This will add to your prep time and it's not necessary as you can just warm the tortillas in the microwave before filling them. But M really enjoys them when they are fried, so I usually do a few for him. Then they are more like fifteen minute tacos. We also like the hard shell corn tacos and those are even easier (just throw 'em in the oven on a baking sheet at 400 degrees while you are making the filling so they are warm).

*Every time I say check ingredients, you are looking for hidden sugars, wheat, dairy, soy, and gluten. If you can't pronounce an ingredient or wouldn't be able to buy it to stock in your pantry, then you don't want to use that brand.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Where's My Wagon

Oh, I am so sorry. Here I start a new blog with all of these great intentions and get you all excited and. . . I stop posting!

Sick husband, sick kids, my part-time job (that seems more full-time than part-time sometimes), blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I guess you could say that life has been lobbing itself at me lately. Has anyone else noticed that when things get rocky, carbs and dairy seem to call your name? Loudly? Or is it just me that hears the siren song of All Things So Very Bad Yet So Very Yummy?

I did promise to keep it real on this blog, so I am just being honest: I have fallen off of the wagon. Hard.

I am not eating red meat, I am making healthy choices whenever possible (I ordered oatmeal at McDonald's last week!), and I am still making mostly detox-friendly dinners. But I have also had the following over the weekend: Coffee with with creamer, chicken in thai lettuce wraps, and. . . cheesecake. Oh, sweet, sinful, amazingly yummy cheesecake.

Want to know something? It all tasted amazing, but I don't feel good. I have headaches, feel fuzzy, and my system has alternated between being stopped up and. . . well. No need to be that honest.

Also, an interesting thing that I have noticed? I am hungry all of the time. Even after the cheesecake, I still wanted to eat. Even though I am consuming a ridiculous amount of calories and fat, it isn't satisfying. I eat something and feel. . . empty. I start foraging for something else to make me feel satiated within minutes of my last meal.

The scale has been slowing creeping back up. Nothing that anyone would notice but me, but I also notice a bit more bloat and that the jeans I so proudly fit into three weeks ago are still fitting, but not as well.

M is still going strong. I am so proud of his dedication. He was tested for celiac disease and the bloodwork came back negative, so he did add gluten back in, but he didn't love the way it made him feel.

All is not lost. I am still making a lot of healthier choices. We have gotten rid of a lot of the crap we had around the house and I have no plans to replace it. Overall, I am still eating far better than I was before, but I guess I just know how good I can feel when I eat even better.

So, I am going to rededicate myself to eating better this week. No sweets, no dairy, increasing the fruits and veggies. I am leaving gluten in for now and focusing on whole grains. But overall, I am going back to basics.

More recipes to come this week!

Friday, January 14, 2011


Heather asked some questions and I also tend to get the same questions repeatedly IRL. While recipes are important, I think it's also good to hear about the day to day experiences of eating this way and how it affects our lives beyond feeling better and losing some weight.

What Do the Kids Eat?

Emma is just starting solids. She has mostly breastmilk, an occasional supplemental formula bottle, rice cereal, and homemade, sugar-free applesauce.

Will eats mostly what we are eating, especially at dinner. However, I am still serving him dairy (2% milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.) and meat. He mostly eats chicken (the boy loves his nuggets) and turkey, he also loves his Gramma's meatloaf and she sends us home with frozen slices of it that make a great supplement to our meal. I am fortunate, in that he likes raw veggies (he'll ask for baby carrot and cucumber slices) and loves fruits (he begs for grapes and apples). He does still love Goldfish crackers and macaroni and cheese and general "kid foods" and we just try to keep those things as special treat.

I find that more and more of our choices are leaning towards organic foods for the kids. We give Will organic milk. We choose organic for fruits and veggies that I cannot thoroughly wash.


Heather asked how long it takes to put the tortilla soup on the table. I will admit that I didn't look at the clock that night, but I think maybe 30 minutes, start to serve? You do have to simmer this a bit longer than other soups, to get the tortillas to "melt" into the broth. But seriously, that soup is pretty fast and easy, it's a great starter recipe. You could even put cooked shredded chicken in it, too, if you were wanting to add a protein source.

Most meals that I make do not take any more time than meals I was making before. I have learned a lot of shortcuts along the way, like making a double or triple batch of the basic roux or roasting enough veggies for several meals at once. I also am coming up with more and more "easy" dinners to make, like the chili (that's a fast one! - you don't even have to cook the meat - you could have that one on the table in 20 minutes) and also I made some black bean tacos this week that I made in TEN minutes. Ten.

I will confess that I enjoy cooking and always have. I find it soothing to chop, slice, stir, and create. An hour in the kitchen can feel like mere seconds. I have heard there are people that feel this way about cleaning. Not me. I enjoy making the messes, but not so much the cleaning up.

Grocery Bill/Costs

While our grocery bill has stayed about the same (we are buying way less meat, cheese, dairy, junk foods, etc. BUT we are buying more fresh fruit and veggies in the off season and more specialty ingredients like vegetable stock and coconut milk), our going out bill has been reduced dramatically - to nothing. There is very little we can eat from a restaurant and it makes no sense to go out and spend money on a meal we can't eat. We were relying way too much on eating out or grabbing something on the way home through a drive-thru. When I go shopping, I use coupons, shop sales, and buy bulk when I can to save money. Overall, we are spending less money that we were before.

Are You Really A Vegan?

No. A vegan is not just dietary restriction, it is a lifestyle. Veganism is an ideology and lifestyle whose adherents seek to eliminate what they see as the exploitation of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. The most common reasons for veganism are ethical concerns about animal rights or welfare, health, environmental concerns, and spiritual or religious concerns. Vegan advocacy organizations generally regard animals to have some form of rights, and therefore consider it unethical to use animals in ways that infringe those rights (definition from Wikipedia). While M and I both love animals, and I cringe when I think about animals being mistreated, we haven't chosen to eat this way for that reason. We are trying to eat better and feel better.

Do You Ever Cheat?

Yes. I have. I regretted it. I actually promised you that story, so I will share it now. We went to McDonald's on New Year's Eve with some friends. I was going to have a salad, but we got in line and the Big Mac called my name. I had been talking about indulging for days. M encouraged me to eat it and I did.

Oh, I so did.

It was everything a Big Mac should be. It was Big, it was Mac. It was cheese and meat and cheese and meat and special sauce and did I mention the cheese? I face planted in that thing.

Within about ten minutes of eating it, it felt as if I had a Big Mac Boulder in my stomach. Within twenty minutes, I was on the toilet. I ended up being on the toilet for the rest of the afternoon.

Lesson learned.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't think meat is evil. I especially don't think cheese is evil. But when you haven't had either for five weeks, it might be best to start a bit slower.

In all seriousness, I don't consider it "cheating" if I eat something that isn't "on the plan." For me, this is a not an "all or nothing" situation. My husband is a person that has to have rules. If he has a "bite" of something, it snowballs into three weeks and ten pounds later. For me, I can eat 98% great and still have an occasional bite of brownie or piece of cheese. I just try to make my occasional splurge a healthy choice. The entire goal of doing the detox was to cleanse our bodies, retrain ourselves how to eat real food, and hopefully feel a bit better in the process. As I feel I accomplished all of that (and more!), I try not to beat myself up when I make a less-than-ideal choice.

What Other Questions Do You Have For Me?

Oh, and I promise that I will post about salad dressings and pizza this week! Last week kind of got away with me!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Roasted Vegetables

This is a staple in our house lately. These veggies are so amazing. If you've never roasted vegetables, then you are in for a treat. Not only are they so simple to make, but the roasting process brings out incredible flavor.


1/4 - 1/2 c. olive oil (or even more if you are roasting a lot of veggies)

Freshly cracked black pepper

Sea salt

A variety of the following vegetables in the quantities you'd like (the quantities that I usually do are in parentheses - remember, I like to have these for leftovers, so I make enough in one roasting for at least two meals):

Roma tomatoes, thickly sliced (6) (Roma tomatoes hold up really well to the roasting process, but you can use other tomatoes if you have those on hand)

Artichoke hearts (6)

Kalamata olives, pitted and halved (two generous handfuls)

Whole button mushrooms or thickly sliced portabellas

Peeled garlic cloves (I just use a whole head, but I love me some gahlic)

Red pepper, deseeded and sliced (1)

Green pepper, deseeded and sliced (1)

Red onion, quartered (1)

Mayan sweet onion, quartered (2)


Take a large jelly roll pan (or any shallow baking sheet or baking dish, the only important thing is that it must have sides) and drizzle a general amount of olive oil on it.

Place all of your veggies (except tomatoes if you are using those) on top of the oil. Drizzle another generous portion of oil on top of those. Then salt and pepper pretty generously (I never measure, just kind of sprinkle, so it's hard for me to give measurements). You can then use a basting brush if you're shy about getting your hands dirty, but I like to just use my fingers to make sure the salt, pepper, and oil gets all over the vegetables.

Then, place the pan in the oven for 15 minutes.

At 15 minutes, remove the vegetables from the oven, use a spatula or tongs to flip them and add the tomatoes if roasting them. I also will occasionally throw some fresh basil leaves on top at this point, especially if I know I'm using the veggies for spaghetti. Add another drizzle of olive oil and put back into the oven for another 10 - 15 minutes.

Vegetables are done when they are soft and tender. They will start to get that blackened/roasted look, with a char on the edges. If you don't like the char, you can take foil and cover the veggies, which will help prevent that.

Some uses for these vegetables:

1) Added to curries, soups, spaghetti sauces, etc. (recipes coming for each of these).

2) Put between two slices of gluten-free bread with a spread of hummus.

3) On a bed of mixed greens with a sprinkle of basalmic vinegar and sunflower seeds over them (this is my favorite lunch, I could eat it every day).

4) Tossed with gluten-free pasta and a little bit more olive oil. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast.

5) Take a huge leaf of butter or romaine lettuce, add brown rice and roasted veggies for a great wrap (this one is also great to take on the go).

How do you use roasted vegetables? What others do you roast that I haven't listed here?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tortilla Soup

This is an easy dinner that is great for cold nights.


1 TBS oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 TBS ground cumin
1 TBS chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. dried basil
1 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes with green chiles
2 cups vegetable stock
1 c. frozen (or canned) corn niblets
1 c. black beans
12 corn tortillas, sliced into strips
Optional 3 TBS chopped fresh cilantro (and more for garnish)


Heat oil over medium heat.

Saute onion until soft.

Add garlic and saute until fragrant.

Increase heat to medium high and add tomatoes, spices (except fresh cilantro), beans, corn, and vegetable stock.

Heat until boiling.

Reduce heat to medium and add tortilla strips.

Add cilantro 10 minutes before serving.

I served this with fresh chopped tomatoes, olives, and guacamole - extra tortilla chips for dipping! I also did a salad on the side, with mixed greens, corn, black beans, avocado, and salsa for dressing.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Let's Talk Lentils

I had never cooked with lentils prior to starting this new way of eating. Let me tell you, lentils will be a staple in my pantry moving forward, regardless of how we eat. Lentils are:

1) Economical.

2) Easy to prepare.

3) Versatile.

4) Delicious.

Here is just one of my favorite ways to prepare lentils. I have a few more up my sleeve, but this is what I am making for dinner tonight. Can't wait! I got the original recipe here (this site is phemonenal for gluten-free cooking) , but I tweaked it a bit to make it vegan. This recipe calls for red lentils, which are softer, creamier, and (for lack of a better descriptor) sweeter than brown lentils. I have used brown lentils for this, too. They are more savory and have more of a "bite" to them (they are firm, even after cooking). After using both, I much prefer the red lentils for this recipe, but the brown lentils worked okay, too, if that's what you have on hand/can find in your local grocery store. You could also add tofu to this recipe if you are eating soy and needed an extra texture to satisfy your palette. Heck, if you aren't eating vegan, adding pieces of cooked chicken to this would be amazing, too. I love finding recipes that are so delicious, I will keep making them even if/when we return to a "normal' diet.

Curry Red Lentils and Rice (Original Recipe courtesy of Jackie's Kitchen)

1. Prep.

-1 onion, diced (I used half a red onion)
-3 cloves garlic, minced (I used 1 TBS of the pre-minced garlic-in-a-jar)

2. Cook.

In a medium sauce pot, combine:

-1/2 cup red lentils, picked through and washed
-the onion
-the garlic
-1.5 cups vegetable broth
-1 15.6 oz can of coconut milk

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. After the 25 minutes, add:

-1/2 cup dry rice (I used basmati)
-3/4 tsp sea salt
-1/4 tsp turmeric
-1/2 tsp good curry powder (I doubled this, because M and I love curry flavor)
-1/2 tsp ground coriander
-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed. Remove the cover from the pot and cook for another couple of minutes to dry things out a little.

4. Remove the rice and lentils from the heat. In a small pan, melt 2 Tbsps butter and stir-fry 1.5 tsp cumin seeds until fragrant and they begin to darker. Drizzle the butter-cumin mixture over the lentils and fluff with a fork. (I used 2 tbs. olive oil and flax seeds for this step. I'd like the try the cumin seeds sometime, but I liked the texture that the flax seeds added.)

This is so rich and satisying, I guarantee you will not feel as if you are on any sort of "diet." The lentils add a low-fat protein source and it is perfect for a cold night where you need something warm and filling.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Basic Roux

In looking over what M and I ate "pre-Detox," I realized that we ate a lot of things with sauces. These sauces usually started in some jar or box form or if I went crazy and made something homemade, then the sauce started with a roux. If you are not familiar with a roux, it contains flour and butter, both of which are no-no's on our eating plan.

So. . . how to make a rich, flavorful base for a sauce that will also thicken it?

Turns out, veggies are the answer.


3 TBS olive oil
1 cup diced sweet onion
2 carrots, peeled and shredded
1 green pepper diced
2 cloves of garlic minced
Enough vegetable stock to puree

Saute all ingredients except the garlic in the olive oil or medium heat until soft. You don't want to carmelize the onions, just get them tender enough to puree.

After vegetables are done, add the garlic and saute until just fragrant.

Remove from heat and allow to come to room temperature, approximately 20 minutes on the counter or you can put the sauteed veggies in a bowl and put that in the fridge or freezer to speed up the process. You don't want to blend hot things, as this can create a vacuum in your blender, which will basically "explode" when you take the lid off. Not only will this create a mess, but it can actually be dangerous if things are hot. I tell you this as someone who has cleaned this mess off of my ceiling!

After your veggies have cooled, transfer to a blender (I use my Magic Bullet) and puree them until smooth, adding a splash of vegetable stock to get things moving (but only a splash at a time, you want this mixture to be very thick - like a paste).

And now you have a roux! This will add so much flavor to your sauces and think of all of the vegetables that you are using already.

You can use this basic roux to make just about any sauce, simply by adding the appropriate spices or just changing up the veggies just a bit. We'll get to specific recipes (curry, marinara, enchilada sauce) later on, but this gives you a jumping off point. You can also use this roux to thicken soups or chilis.

I have taken to doubling or even tripling this basic recipe and then freezing it in smaller portions so that when I am ready to make dinner, I already have most of the work done!