Red Lentil Spaghetti {with Sauteed Vegetables in Tomato Basil Sauce}

Feed A Cold, Fuel Your Body

On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I started to feel under the weather. I started taking cold medication, hoping to ward off any germs but apparently I was too late. On Monday, I was diagnosed with a sinus infection – my first in nearly four years – and given a prescription for antibiotic.

I did nothing on Monday but sleep, hence the reason for the missing blog post. Apparently my body was exhausted, and the only way to slow me down was to knock me off my feet with this “crud”, as I call it. It’s Thursday, and I’m still not feeling well. (Although I am feeling better!)

I had planned to blog about another topic today, but this sickness has really be interesting to me from a food perspective. I thought I would delay the other post and share with you my cravings, and my take on them.

When 21 months pass between sinus infections, you would think that I wouldn’t remember the details. Oh, but I do! I am quite certain I picked up something on the plane to Haiti and, while I spent the week in the third-world country,  it developed into the worst double ear infection and sinus infection of my life. I knew I was sick, but I had no idea how sick until the day I flew home. The truth is, I probably shouldn’t have flown home. I was THAT sick. It took a month of strong antibiotics and lots of rest to recover. I will spare you any other details. In the next year, I developed other health problems and eventually learned of my food allergies. After learning that I had to give up dairy forever, I was told by my physician that I would likely see a decrease in sinus infections… and I did. I was actually surprised at this one. But she did say “decrease” and not “an end.”

When I learned of my food allergies, I obviously adopted a new way of eating… but it wasn’t entirely due to the elimination of gluten, casein, and whey. I started to eat more whole foods. I try sticking to the simple, natural ingredients when I can. I figure the less stuff, the less chance of worrying with food allergies. I avoid genetically modified foods and shop organic and local when I can. I now eat farm fresh eggs “right out of the chicken”, honey that is harvested and bottled by a coworker, and produce grown by farmers that I’ve built relationships with and know now on a first-name basis. I didn’t view it as a fad diet, like some who eat this way on occasion to drop a few pounds. It was my new way of life. I did see immediate changes: weight loss, more energy, and better skin, to name a few. But two years later, I am still seeing changes.

I remember when I returned from Haiti, sick and pouty, all I wanted was comfort food. My brother had picked me up from the airport, and I begged him to stop and buy me french fries & a sweet tea on our drive home. When I got home, I recall waking up from naps on the couch and eating things like grilled cheese with mayonnaise, mac & cheese, or Doritos. I was out of work for nearly a week following my return because all I wanted to do was sleep. Granted, I was more sick than I am now, but I suffered from fatigue in addition to the infections.

Jump ahead to this week. It dawned on me last night that I have only reached for comfort food once during this sickness, and it was at the very beginning on Sunday morning. And it was eggs, gf/df toast and milk gravy. One meal. One proportioned meal of decent ingredients. Comfort food doesn’t have to equate to junk food! The rest of the time, I haven’t really been able to taste anything. (My nose is so stuffy that it has affected my smell and taste.) However, I have noticed that I still crave certain things: fruits and vegetables! The only things I wanted to eat after that comfort food meal were oranges and bananas, so I listened to my body and ate those. The following day, I continued to crave the same thing but also ate small portions of rice. I couldn’t taste anything, but my tummy wanted it. By Tuesday, I had an insane craving for a giant salad. I filled it with veggies, tossed in some hard boiled eggs for protein, and topped it off with banana peppers and jalapenos, hoping their kick would offer up some flavor. Despite not being able to taste it either, I enjoyed the crunch of the fresh veggies that I wasn’t getting with the fruit. I only missed one day of work, and have had more overall energy than I expected with this sickness. I can’t help but to think that the fuel that I’ve been feeding my body this time around has played a key role in recovery. Because of that, I am planning to blog more about whole food and the benefit of food as fuel for our bodies in upcoming posts.

This morning, I woke up with one thing in mind… spaghetti with sautéed veggies! I know I must be feeling better to actually want to prepare a meal. 🙂 Luckily, this is an extremely easy meal to prepare.


I love sautéed fresh vegetables as a base for almost every meal.


Red lentil pasta has two ingredients: lentil flour and brown rice flour. It is low in carbs, sodium, and sugar, and high in protein.


Doesn’t this look delicious? I save leftovers to make homemade pizza! (I use a store-brand sauce from my local grocery store.)

Ingredients:
2 oz of red lentil spaghetti
1 medium-sized zucchini, halved and sliced
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
coconut oil
tomato and basil spaghetti sauce

Instructions:
Boil 1 qt of water in a medium saucepan
Add pasta and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally

While waiting on water to boil, prepare vegetables
Heat frying pan and add 1 T of coconut oil
Sauté vegetables in coconut oil
Reduce to low and add in spaghetti sauce
Simmer until warmed thoroughly

When pasta is cooked to desired consistency, empty saucepan into strainer. Allow water to drain from pasta thoroughly, then place pasta back into saucepan. (Optional step: add butter or vegan substitute to pasta to help spaghetti to not stick together.)

*Some people prefer to combine the pasta with the sauce and mix. I plate mine separately so that I can use leftover sauce!

Serve as is or with a simple side salad. Quick, easy, allergy-friendly, and nutritious!

Slow Cooker Creamy Chicken & Rice Soup

There are days that I plan to blog about food, and I do a fabulous job capturing beautiful photos in the kitchen. Then, there are other days that I quickly throw something together and regret later that I didn’t photograph the process with my Canon DSLR and good lighting.

Today is one of those days that I regret.

I was in the midst of juggling cleaning with crafting, and had very little time to cook. I had chicken in the refrigerator that was about to expire, and a cabbage head that needed to be eaten. It was a cold, windy day… and this quickly transpired:

SLOW COOKER CHICKEN & RICE SOUP

Ingredients

  • 1lb thawed, thin chicken breasts
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, sliced
  • 1/2 small cabbage head, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon rosemary
  • 2 Tablespoons Earth Balance Vegan Butter
  • 5 cups gluten-free chicken broth
  • 1 cup culinary coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup Jasmine rice

Instructions

Layer all ingredients into a 6-quart crock pot. I started with the chicken breasts on the bottom, topped with onions, carrots, and cabbage, and then added spices, rice, and broth/milk. Cook on low for 4 hours or until chicken breasts are cooked through. Rice should be done around the same time. (If not, remove chicken and allow rice to finish cooking before final step.) Shred chicken then stir back into soup and serve. Soup will thicken as it cools. Serves approximately 4.

Quick. Easy. Delicious.

Trail Mix Bites: A Healthy Sweet & Salty Snack

If you’re like me, you’re on a mission to keep your New Year’s Resolution(s). But the later into January we get, it seems to become more of a struggle to stay on track. Am I right? One of my goals for this year is to make healthy eating choices. This goes above monitoring calories, fats, and carbohydrates. I want to choose organic, whole foods as my options for both meals and snacks. What I am finding is that there aren’t many ready-made selections available that are also gluten- and dairy-free. I have to confess… that makes it harder for me to stick to my resolution because I am guilty of wanting convenient options. Listen, I get it. Life is busy. And the longer it takes to prepare healthy meals and snacks, the less likely we are to eat them.

Fortunately, there are some natural choices that are ready-to-eat with no preparation. I keep a variety of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits in my kitchen at all times. (It’s time to restock… some of my canisters are dangerously low! haha)

I keep them in a resealable bag, too, and carry those with me in case I need nourishment while on-the-go. I love adding sprinkles of walnuts and sunflower seeds to my salads. They’re great in yogurt. Nuts make a tasty addition to stir-fry veggies. Dried fruit is a perfect compliment to a hot bowl of oatmeal. Cashews, soaked in water and then blended in a food processor, create a fantastic non-dairy cream for things like casseroles. Nuts, seeds, and dried fruit are versatile, healthy, and delicious.

Today, I want to introduce you to a great snack that combines all three with one of my favorite things… chocolate! Dark chocolate, in moderation, is healthy too! It is a powerful antioxidant, can improve brain function, and may lower risks of heart disease. Let’s face it; sometimes we just want chocolate. This quick and easy recipe will satisfy your sweet tooth and salty cravings while providing nutrition. Healthy and guilt-free — that’s my kind of snack!

Begin with chocolate. I use a gluten-free, dairy-free, nonGMO chip that I find at my local grocery store. If your local store does not stock these types of chips, they can be found at specialty grocery stores or online. For this recipe, I used all of the 10 oz bag. You do not have to use a gluten-free, dairy-free option but do look for dark chocolate that is a higher percentage of cacao, with as few additional ingredients as possible.

Next, select a variety of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. I have chosen to use dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and almond slivers. Be careful when selecting these items in grocery stores and supermarkets. Often times, the selections will contain additives or high volumes of sodium.  A great source for purchasing nuts, seeds, and dried fruit is Nuts.com. Ordering from them is easy, and the items are shipped to your door. Remember how I said that I like convenience because it keeps me on track? Nuts.com makes purchasing organic items a breeze. (They even have dark chocolate chips and pre-made snacks too, among other things! Please click here to check them out!)

The last step in preparation is lining your cookie sheets with parchment paper. This recipe will yield approximately 30 snacks, so I use two cookie sheets.

To assemble the snacks, start by heating the chocolate in the microwave. I suggest 30-second increments, stirring after each. This helps to ensure that the chocolate does not burn. You want the chocolate to be smooth but not too thin. I achieved these results after approximately 2 minutes.

Spoon small amounts of chocolate onto the parchment paper. I would say use no more than 2 teaspoons per snack; then spread the chocolate to 1″ – 1.5″ diameter. You will want each snack to be able to hold the nuts, seeds, and dried fruit… but you want the chocolate to be thin.

Add a variety of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit to the chocolate, pressing lightly to ensure they stick to one another. When you finish, slide the cookie sheets into the refrigerator for two hours. Once the chocolate has set, the snacks are ready to eat!

These snacks store well and are great on-the-go. Just keep them in a dry, relatively-cool location. I like to put a couple in a resealable bag and keep them in my purse. They’re also great in lunch boxes, and are a tasty contribution to an office potluck. (Just be cautious of anyone with nut allergies! You may want to make them with just seeds and dried fruit if that is the case.)

There you have it! A quick, healthy snack to enjoy on-the-go. This snack has it all… protein, fiber, nutrients, and flavor! It will only take one or two to curb your sweet and salty cravings, and to keep you satisfied between meals.

Veggie Spaghetti

My brother and sister-in-law recently gave me this Joie Veggie Spaghetti. I have been debating on purchasing a zucchini noodle maker for quite some time, but couldn’t decide which option to buy. There are so many! I’m glad that I waited because I love the option that they chose for me.

At first glance, it seems too simple. Will this small kitchen utensil really do the trick? To my surprise, it really is a great little tool. I love that it is compact, and I can toss it into a drawer with my other kitchen gadgets. I also love that it is safe; the blade is encased so it’s virtually impossible to cut yourself. The Veggie Spaghetti also requires little cleanup. And it’s so easy to use!

Although I’ve been out of college longer than I care to admit, the single-girl-cooking-for-one in me often reverts back to quick and easy meals for dinner most nights. I love to cook, but it is hard for me to justify the time and effort involved in preparing a large meal on a regular basis when I’m the only one eating it. And let’s not even talk about cleanup. Washing dishes has to be my least favorite chore!

It isn’t quite as easy to eat like a college kid these days. I have dietary restrictions now that prevent me from opening up the discounted, processed, canned pasta and meat concoctions that I practically lived on back then. I watch sodium intake, avoid gluten and dairy, and aim to eat as organic as possible. Plus, my taste has changed.

The Veggie Spaghetti made dinner prep extremely easy. I was able to make this delicious and satisfying meal in a matter of minutes. I wanted to share this simple recipe with you, so that you can see just how effortless it is to make healthier choices when it comes to eating!

I started with my Veggie Spaghetti and three small zucchini. I washed the zucchini, cut the stalk off of each, and inserted them – one at a time – into the gadget and twisted. It took less force to turn the zucchini than it does to open a twist-top bottle, so if you can do that… you can use the Veggie Spaghetti!

There were two small downfalls with this product. The first? If you do not trim the noodles as you go, the end will create a spiral cap that will eventually prevent the zucchini from turning any further. TIP: After a couple of turns, take a knife and trim the noodles from the Veggie Spaghetti. This will prevent the build up, and will give you the perfect noodle length.

When you’re finished, you’ll end up with a pile of zucchini like this! When you pick the zucchini up, it will begin to fall apart into individual noodles. You may have to peel a few of the noodles into individual strands, but it does not take long to separate them. I was very impressed with the precession of the cuts made by the Veggie Spaghetti.

Downfall number two, for me… I couldn’t twist the zucchini past this point. Perhaps that is a safety feature? It certainly prevents your fingers from getting close to the blades. I have seen other kitchen gadgets that come with an attachment that would stick into the zucchini and allow for a few more twists. There may be a way to alter this one (I guess I could have tried a fork?) but I’m not sure that anything will actually work. This small snafu results in some unused veggies. For some, this may not be a problem at all. For others, like myself, I don’t want to waste anything!

Once your zucchini noodles are cut and separated (even if you use something other than the Veggie Spaghetti), did you know that cooking the noodles is as simple as steaming them? That can be done on the stovetop or in the microwave!

This is a yummy-looking bowl of zucchini noodles, isn’t it?

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 6.54.30 AM

How do you steam your veggies? I have this Pampered Chef Small Micro-Cooker that I use for steaming anything from frozen broccoli to these zucchini noodles. I just popped them in the microwave for two minutes and they came out completely cooked. I do want to mention that it is not necessary to add water to the zucchini when steaming in the microwave. There is enough water in the veggie itself to handle the two minute steam. What I also want to recommend is that after you remove the zucchini noodles from the steamer, place them in a colander and allow them to drain while you prep the rest of your meal. If you skip this step, you may end up with some watery pasta sauce in the end.

Since I am always looking for the quick and convenient route in cooking, I do not make my own pasta sauce. Many of my friends do, but I stick to a jar of organic pasta sauce from my local grocery store. I always check the label to make sure there are less than seven ingredients, that it is low in sodium, and that it is gluten and dairy free. If you do not have dietary restrictions and are just looking for a quick meal… use any pasta sauce that you’d like. You could even grab an alfredo sauce if you prefer! [I heated a small amount of my pre-made sauce in the microwave, and then poured it on top of my steamed and drained zucchini noodles.]

Since I have a dairy allergy, I use Daiya brand cheese. I have found that this cheddar block-style cheese is great for shredding.

I grabbed a slice of my favorite gluten free bread and toasted it. While it was toasting, I softened a tablespoon of nondairy butter and added minced garlic to it. When the toast was finished, I spread the garlic butter on top to complete my meal. From start to finish, this took less than 30 minutes to make. I believe now that I know how to use my Veggie Spaghetti tool, this could easily be a 15-minute meal.

If you have a little more time on your hands, you can do so much with this meal. Need more subsistence? Brown ground turkey or extra-lean beef and add it to your pasta sauce. Want chicken fettuccine? Add grilled chicken breast (or strips of rotisserie chicken) to alfredo sauce. Be creative! Healthy doesn’t have to be boring.

Auld Lang Syne

I still can’t believe that another year is coming to an end. It seems to have gone by so quickly that I barely remember anything happening. But when I scroll through my blog posts over the past 12 months, I am reminded that a lot happened. I giggle because I still haven’t figured out what to really do with this blog yet. There were some about healthy eating posts, quite a few photos of fingernail polish, and a lot of randomness. I hope soon, I get things figured out. 🙂

Some of the cool things that happened in 2012 include:
Participating in The Daniel Fast
Meeting Big Daddy Weave, Kerrie Roberts, Brandon Heath, Joe Moralez, Chris August, Britt Nicole, and Group 1 Crew
Attending Women of Joy and ICOM conferences
Traveling to West Virginia and Indiana – two places I had never visited before
Applying for my passport

With the new year a mere 36 hours away, I am starting to set goals for 2013. I would really love for this blog to come together, I want the word ‘aspiring’ removed from my bio… making me a full-fledged runner, I plan to attend several new conferences this year, I’d like to make time to read a lot more than I do now, and I hope that I can finally travel to Haiti.

What are some goals that you are setting for yourself in the coming year? Please comment and share ways that you plan to accomplish them.