Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Mason Jar Salad

Everyone has at least one mason jar in there home. Be it left over from a jar of homemade jam you got from Grandma on Christmas, or maybe you’re into canning yourself. Either way this is a great way to put it to use.

A while back my husband came across an article online that had the brilliant idea of making a salad in a jar and brought it to my attention. I have done a bit of tweaking to to and this is how I make ours. It is quite simple, really. All you need are a few basic ingredients and a jar and you have yourself a healthy, portable, quick lunch in a reusable glass container to boot.
The mason jar is really a multipurpose piece of glassware. You can use it as intended, for canning, and then when you are done with whatever you had in it, it can become a storage container for nuts and other refrigerated items, a container to hold your lunch salad, a glass so thick you can drink coffee out of it, a portable ice tea container, you can use it as a planter for some herbs, a drinking glass for the little kids who tend to drop things a lot (its hard to break, trust me) and I’m sure there’s some other ideas out there as well. My husband loves these for work and they are so much cheaper and healthier than driving through some fast food restaurant for a quick bite. If you don’t have a few of the large quart jars lying around, I suggest you buy a 12 pack at the grocery store. They cost a little over $12 but can be reused an infinite amount of times. We usually make 2 or 3 at a time. They stay good for about 4 days in the fridge.

What you will need:
-Quart canning jar with lid
-Dressing of choice
-Radishes or Cherry or Grape tomatoes (enough to cover the bottom of the jar)
-Thinly sliced cabbage or zucchini, cut into 3 inch long by 1 inch wide pieces
-Mixed greens of your choice (fill till jar is about ¾ full)
-Top with your choice of nut and seeds of choice ( Chopped walnuts are yummy. For the seeds we alternate between raw pumpkin seeds, sesame seed, and throw in flax seeds too sometimes)
-If you eat cheese throw some on top (we like feta)
-For added protein throw some kidney beans on top

1.Add dressing to jar ( I fill till about ½ inch sits on the bottom)
2.Layer bottom of Jar with enough radishes or cherry tomatoes to cover the bottom. This keeps any of the lettuce from getting into the dressing and getting “weird” before your ready to eat it.
3.Add a thin layer of cabbage or zucchini sticks, just enough to make sure there’s enough space to make sure the lettuce can’t slip into the dressing.
4. Add greens until the jar is about ¾ of the way full
5. Add Nuts, seeds, cheeses, and beans if you use them to the top and place the lid on the jar.
6. Shake till mixed and enjoy!

Store in refrigerator for up to 3 days. You can get creative with this. Add whatever ingredients you like. The only critical part is making sure you put radishes or cherry or grape tomatoes on the bottom to keep the lettuce from touching it. If you add radishes they will start to pickle in the fridge, they taste wonderful if you like picked things. If you don’t, stick with the cherry tomatoes.

To Make Vegan: Leave out cheese and use a homemade vinaigrette.

Do you have any other ideas on ways to use a mason jar? Feel free to share :)

Kid approved vegan homemade pancakes

Are you tired of pancakes from a box? You know, the kind that contain ingredients you’ve never heard of and that you can hardly pronounce? All you have to do is mix with water.  I ate pancakes this way most of my life. I never even thought about making them from scratch, until one day, I was out of the box kind and really wanted to make some pancakes. So I did what any pancake craving woman would do. I got online and started pulling up recipes. Thus began the search for the perfect pancake recipe. I have tried many. After making several variations from too fluffy to too flat, too bland to too sweet, with eggs and without, I have settled on one that is not only heart healthy but kid friendly too! It also happens to be a vegan.

If you haven’t used wheat germ before it is a great addition to throw in to baked goods, sauces, smoothies and of course, pancakes. 2 Tbsp contains approximately 4 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber and 6% of your recommended daily iron.  In a 2 Tablespoon serving size of flax seed the fiber content is 1.33 grams of Soluble Fiber and 2.67 grams of Insoluble Fiber. That’s a lot of fiber. Not only are they a good source of fiber, but they rock in the Omega 3 Fatty Acids department.  In a 2 Tablespoon serving, there is 2400 mg of Omega 3. If you don’t have these two things in your fridge already they are a great addition and easy way to get some extra nutrition in your families diet. Beings that they should be refrigerated, they last a really long time too.

2 cups almond milk (or other milk substitute)
1 tbsp ground flax seed
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour ( I use the pastry flour but all purpose would be fine too)
2 tbsp Wheat Germ
1 tbsp sweetener ( I have used molasses, agave, sugar, & honey, and pure maple syrup, they’re all great)
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
1 Banana, peeled and sliced thinly
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

*Combine milk, ground flax seed, vanilla extract and sweetener (if using liquid sweetener)
*Combine remaining ingredients in medium bowl, mix well.
*Add flour mixture to wet mixture and stir until mixed. Do not over mix or pancakes will come out too thin. Unless of course you like them that way:)
*Preheat heavy skillet over medium heat. It should be very hot. Coat with spray or oil. I like to use cast iron for added iron. I find I need to spray the pan more frequently with cast iron as well.
*Pour ½ cup batter in at a time for adults and ¼ cup batter for kids.
Note: If you want to have the pancakes with banana and walnuts, fold them in after batter is mixed.

If your house is anything like mine, we all like our pancakes different. My kids like pancakes plain with pure maple syrup and a sprinkling of powdered sugar, sliced bananas on the side. My husband will only eat pancakes with peanut butter and syrup.  I like them with bananas and walnuts cooked into the pancakes. So how do I solve this conundrum? I make plain batter and then when it gets down the last cup of batter or so, I throw in half a sliced  banana and a handful of chopped walnuts. I find the banana gives them so much sweetness that I don’t have to use any toppings. These pancakes also freeze well. I usually double the recipe and freeze what’s left for a nutritious breakfast on school days. Just defrost and microwave for 30 seconds, until heated through. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother's Day Tea party treats

What’s for breakfast? Coconut scones and Cheese Cake stuffed strawberries, of course. I can’t let the leftovers go to waste now, can I? Yesterday was mother's day and this year I thought I would throw the mom’s in my family a little tea party. Hats and all.  I had been preparing all week. Who am I kidding, the week before that too, doing a little bit here and there. You kind of have to, with two little ones who seem to need something every time you start doing something that doesn’t involve themJ OK, back on point. The tea party was a success. Mostly everyone was able to attend, the weather couldn’t have been more perfect, there were no disasters, and the food all turned out great and I wasn’t a total stress ball like I can sometimes be when throwing a party. My husband VOLUNTEERED (I swear) to serve us our tea. We even had a little bell to ring when we needed refills. My 6 year old had a lot of fun ringing Daddy.

Back to the Scones and Strawberries. The scones are vegan friendly. The strawberry filling was made with organic cream cheese which could easily be swapped out for a soy based cream cheese for those of you who can’t have any dairy. There is one called Tofutti, that is suppose to be pretty good, although I haven’t personally tried it so don’t hate me if its not your cup of tea. Pun, pun pun:)

Vegan Coconut Scones


4 cups Organic (regular is fine too) All purpose or pastry whole wheat flour
1.5 cup sweetened shredded coconut
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp sea salt
½ cup virgin coconut oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
About 1.5 cup Coconut milk (or other milk substitute)


*Preheat Oven to 400 degrees
*In large mixing bowl, mix dry ingredients
*Mix in coconut oil (work it around a bit, I use a spoon to smash it in good so it breaks up a bit)
*Add vanilla extract
*Slowly add coconut milk, working dough as little as possible, until you have a dough that just barely stick together. I usually don’t need to use all of the coconut milk.
*Turn the dough out on a heavily floured surface
*Knead the dough slightly. When it is done it should be smooth and easy to handle (if you see little balls of coconut that’s fine, they will melt in)
*Gently pat dough into two 1.5” thick discs
*Cut each disk into 6 or 8 pieces, depending on how big you want them. I usually do 8. I use a pizza cutter and slice It like a pizza.
*Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes, turning pan halfway through.
*Cool on baking sheet
*Once Cooled, apply the glaze if you want to use one.

1 cup powdered sugar
4-5 Tbsp Coconut Milk, added 1 -2 Tbsp at a time
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract

Cheesecake stuffed Strawberries


1 to 1.5 lbs large strawberries
8 oz softened organic cream cheese or cream cheese substitute
¼ tsp Pure liquid stevia (or to taste) Or 3-4 Tbsp powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
Graham cracker crumbs or Oreo crumbs ( if making dairy free, be sure to read ingredients on box, there are some that are dairy free)


*Cut tops off strawberries
*If you want strawberries to stand upright, cut off a little bit of the bottom.
*Clean out inside of strawberry with a vegetable peeler or small knife
*Combine cream cheese, vanilla, and sweetener by hand or with a hand mixer, till smooth.
*Add cream cheese mix to piping bag and fill the strawberries.
*Dip each strawberry in crumbs
*Serve or Refrigerate if making ahead of time.

Note: If serving outdoors in warm weather, don’t plate until ready to eat.

I hope you all had a wonderful mothers day surrounded by love ones. Now go on and make your self some scones. You don't need to have a tea party to do so.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Carter's Black Bean Chocolate Birthday Cake

My son just turned three years old last week. For his birthday I made a delicious and nutritious chocolate birthday cake guaranteed to minimize the dreaded sugar crash that so often accompanies the typical sugary laden cakes. All of you with children out there, you know what I’m talking about.:) The recipe is adapted from one of my favorite food blogs, Healthy Indulgences. The recipe for the frosting is a basic vegan butter cream frosting. If I wouldn’t have spilled the beans, about the beans, (pun intended) not one person would have guessed there were black beans in it. The Kids loved it, the adults loved it and being packed with protein and fiber takes away any guilt that you might feel normally after eating cake. The recipe makes enough for one 9" layer cake. I tripled the recipe and was able to make a small two tiered cake and 8 cupcakes. I found this recipe when we were on the South Beach Diet, trying to stay low carb and satisfy a sweet tooth. If you are on a low carb diet, and want to cut your carbs even more, you can use 1.5 cups of canned soybeans instead. Enjoy!

For the Cake:

1-15 ounce can of unseasoned black beans
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
6 tablespoons
unrefined coconut oil
1/2 cup honey + 1 teaspoon
pure Stevia extract
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

*Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
*Spray a 9" cake pan with extra virgin olive oil cooking spray
*Dust cocoa all over the inside of the pan, tapping to evenly distribute. This helps it from sticking and easier clean up.
*Cut a round of parchment paper and line the bottom of the pan, then spray the parchment lightly.
*Drain and rinse beans in a strainer or colander. Shake them a bit to dry.
*Place the beans, 3 of the eggs, stevia, vanilla and salt into blender.
*Blend on high until beans are completely liquefied.
*Whisk together cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
*Beat butter with honey until fluffy. Add remaining two eggs.
*Pour bean batter into egg mixture and mix.
*Lastly, stir in cocoa powder and Mix till its nice and smooth, you can use a hand mixer or mix by hand. I prefer to use the hand mixer.
*Pour the batter into pan. Grip pan by the edges and rap it on the counter a few times to get out any air bubbles.
*Bake for 40-45 minutes.
*Cake is done when the top is rounded and firm to the touch. After 10 minutes, turn out cake from pan, and flip over again on to a cooling rack. Let cool until cake reaches room temperature, then cover in plastic wrap or with cake dome For BEST flavor, let cake sit over night.

For the Frosting:

*1 cup soft vegan margarine
*1 lb powdered sugar
*2 tsp vanilla
*3 tablespoons almond milk or other milk substitute

*Mix all  ingredients together until creamy and smooth.
*Cover and refrigerate until needed.
*Makes two cups of frosting
*Note: If you are not making a birthday cake and don't want all the sugar that the frosting comes with, the cake is delicious by itself. When I make this for my family i usually just sprinkle a little powdered sugar all over to make it look pretty:)

This is my second homemade birthday cake I have made for one of my children's birthdays and I must say it was a success. The racetrack was made from crumbled up dairy free Newmans Own Oreos. I used the inside of the Oreo for the little white dividing road lines. It was however, challenging to  put this together without my son noticing what I was doing. At one point he was sitting on the counter by me trying to eat all the crumbles and asking for "just one more cookie". In the end though, I had one happy boy.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Do good anyway

“People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. 
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”  

                                                         ~Mother Teresa~

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

And the green grass grows all around....

It is that time of year again. No more slacking on the yard. Spring arrives and slowly the grass begins to grow. Our Kitchen window sits directly across from our neighbors front yard. Little do they know that when I am doing the dishes, if they are outside, I am watching. Not like a weirdo or anything, its just in my direct line of site and there is not much else to look at :) One day, as it is pouring down rain, I notice a landscaping truck pull up. Out hops a couple of guys sporting full rain gear and shovels. A little ambitious, I think to myself being that spring literally just began and although it's suppose to be sunny, it's just above 40 degrees and raining. I'm not worried at this point because our grass is still very short, but the thought occurs to me that we are going to have to get the ball rolling quick this year, being the house on the corner of a main road and all.

Fast forward three weeks; it's sunny, semi warm and  between the constant rain and few days of sunlight we've had, our very short grass isn't so short anymore. I go out to start up the lawnmower and realize after pulling on the string a million times that its not going to start. It occurs to me to check the gas and yes, it is bone dry. A couple of days later my husband brings home some gas. I fill it and pull the string another million times and it doesn't start again. must be broke. A few days later, the grass is now officially long and we are the only house on the street that looks like we don't own a lawnmower. I'm slightly embarrassed. I need a lawnmower and I need one TODAY!

Thus begins my internet research. Trying to find a lawnmower that will last, won't  break us and that we won't break. Mind you, we have owned and somehow managed to break 3 lawnmowers. I came across a reel lawn mower. You know, one of the old fashioned kind you push that doesn't use gas. I wasn't sure if it would be able to tackle our now very overgrown lawn, but after talking to my husband about it and sending him many annoying text messages while he was at work about it, I came home one afternoon to him in the front yard mowing the lawn with our new Fiskars push reel lawnmower. I was pretty excited. Here was a mower, that we didn't need gas for. It was so quite you cold hear the birds chirping. I didn't have to worry about any projectile pine cones hitting one of my children, plus what a nice way to get some much needed exercise.

 For the rest of the day, my husband and I took turns mowing the lawn.  Yes, I said day. Not afternoon, but day. Did I mention our grass was 6 inches long by now? Its not that the push mower didn't do its job, it cut grass wonderfully. It just takes a few run threws to get the grass the height you want it when it is as overgrown as ours was. Plus we have some really mossy areas in the yard that make it a little hard to push in places. We finished the front and got to the back and halfway through my husband decided to give the gas mower one last try. We were tired and it was almost time to start dinner, at this rate, we wouldn't be done till bath time. He managed to get it started after some tweaking to the choke and finished up the back yard in no time. I couldn't help but laugh.

Don't get me wrong, I love the reel mower. It is really great for maintaining your lawn. It works beautifully for it. But if your trying to cut through 6 inches of overgrown weed filled mossy grass, its a little time consuming. What  I love though, is that i can mow anytime now with the kids around. I don't have to worry about them getting hit by anything that the gas mowers can sometimes spit out. They can even get behind it an push with me. Its green. We don't have to spend the money on the gas, pollute the air, or worry about having a fourth broken lawnmower that ends up in some landfill one day. Bring it on grass!