Category Archives: Healthy diet

Summer Veggie “Noodles” with Walnuts and Goat Cheese Recipe (Gluten-free, refined sugar-free, vegetarian)

My little organic gardenLate summer is one of my favorite foodie times of the year. My local farmer’s market is overflowing with a variety of colors and flavors, and my little organic garden is lush and happy (although I do find I am sharing more and more of my harvest with little critters that like to help themselves despite my fence!) I’m cooking with fresh herbs every day, and greens like kale, bok choy and beet greens are regular staples in my diet. I’m extra excited about my butternut squash, which I’m growing for the first time. It’s such a thrill to see the squash getting bigger! And you simply can’t beat fresh-from-the-garden heirloom NJ tomatoes!

Baby squash!

Baby squash!

This is also that time of year when everyone seems to have an over-abundance of summer squash. This recipe was born of that, and has become one of my favorites. It’s a riff on pasta, but much lighter. Enjoy it on its own or as a side dish. I hope you love it as much as I do!

I made this dish in the Pampered Chef 4-quart Rockcrok Dutch Oven that my wonderful Pampered Chef consultant Kathy Yellets sent me. (Disclosure: I was sent a free product for this review by an independent Pampered Chef consultant. I have worked for Pampered Chef corporate in the past in a consulting capacity, but corporate was not involved with this review. Although I was provided with a free product, all opinions expressed here are my own.)

Pampered Chef Rockcrok

When I received the Rockcrok and read about it, I was pretty excited. It can go on the stovetop, in the oven, in the microwave (with no plastic BPA worries!) and even on the grill (it can take the heat up to 752 degrees)! I love the fact that you can start a dish on the stovetop and then finish it in the oven without transferring pots. I found that it heats really evenly, too, which makes me think it will be great for a Korean dish I love called Bibimbop. That dish traditionally calls for a clay pot which holds the heat and crisps the bottom of the rice, which this pot should do well. This pot is definitely one I find I use almost everyday, because it’s so versatile.

You can see a video about the Rockcrok here: http://youtu.be/mrXfJ0QOEs8

So I am excited to share with you this recipe today. Please note that the variety of  veggies and amounts below are suggestions. Feel free to adapt this to whatever veggies you have on hand, in whatever amounts. It’s delicious no matter how you make it!

You’ll need to use a vegetable peeler to make thin slices of your zucchini, squash, pepper, and carrots. You’ll also want to chop your kale into bite-sized pieces.

veggies

Toast your walnuts while adding your onions and veggies to the Rockcrok. (I love how the steam looks in this picture!)

steamy veggies and nuts

When the veggies are pretty soft and cooked down, add your tomatoes and chopped rosemary, along with salt and pepper.

veggie noodles with tomatoes

When the kale starts getting a little crispy, add the goat cheese and let it melt into the “noodles.” Top with some of the toasted walnuts.

veggie noodles and melty cheese

Serve on a plate topped with additional goat cheese and walnuts. Enjoy!

veggie noodle pasta finished 3

Here’s the full recipe:

Summer Veggie “Noodles” with Walnuts and Goat Cheese
Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side dish

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil (or olive oil)
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 medium yellow summer squash
  • 1-2 carrots
  • 1 sweet red pepper
  • 1 cup chopped kale
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup red cherry tomatoes
  • 1-2 oz goat cheese (to taste)
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves chopped and stems removed
  • salt and pepper (to taste)

Here’s What to Do

  1. Toast chopped walnuts in a small saucepan until fragrant and lightly browned. Set aside.
  2. With a vegetable peeler, slice zucchini, summer squash, pepper and carrots into long thin strips.
  3. Mince onions and chop kale.
  4. In Rockcrok or large saucepan or frying pan, melt coconut oil over medium heat.
  5. Add onions and saute for 3-4 minutes, until they begin to become transparent.
  6. Add veggie “noodles” and saute lightly for about 3 minutes.
  7. Add chopped kale, along with chopped rosemary, salt and pepper, and continue to cook and stir for 5-7 minutes, or until kale begins to look a little crispy.
  8. Add cherry tomatoes and stir for another minute.
  9. Add goat cheese and half of your toasted walnuts, and cook and stir until goat cheese melts into noodles.
  10. Remove to serving platter and top with additional goat cheese and toasted walnuts.
  11. Serve and enjoy!

veggie noodle pasta finished

What’s your favorite recipe with summer veggies? Please share in the comments below!

Kale, Squash and Cranberry Saute (Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free)

Kale Squash and Cranberry Saute from https://jenfongeats.wordpress.comI try to eat vegetables at every meal, in order to get 7-9 servings of vegetables a day. I’ve found it’s done dramatic things for my health and waistline. When it was summer, it was easy to find a variety of vegetables at the Farmer’s Market. But now that it’s winter, my options that are organic and not imported are a lot fewer. So I’ve been doing a lot of winter squash and kale.

I’ve been on a big kale and butternut squash kick recently. I eat both nearly every day in a variety of ways. Green smoothies, soup, stir fries, you name it. But one of my absolute favorite ways to enjoy both is in this hearty dish that I make for breakfast a few times per week.

This dish also uses cranberries, which I stock up on during the holidays and keep in the freezer. I love the way the cranberries in this dish complement the earthy flavors. So often we think of cranberry as sweet, since we typically add so much sugar to them. But in this dish the tangy, sour flavor of the cranberry adds a lot.

I hope you enjoy this healthy dish as much as I do!

Dec_Jan 2012-3 089

Kale, Squash and Cranberry Saute

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 slice nitrite-free bacon, sliced into small pieces
  • 1/4 onion, chopped
  • 4-5 leaves kale, washed and trimmed from stems, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup roasted butternut squash, cut into bite-sized pieces (I typically prepare a whole squash, and keep the cooked cubes in the freezer)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh whole cranberries (unsweetened), chopped
  • 1/2 cup broth (chicken or vegetable) Note: Can also use water
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 1-2 eggs

Here’s What To Do:

  1. In a large frying pan, melt coconut oil. 
  2. Add chopped bacon and onion, and saute for 5 minutes over medium heat.
  3. Add kale, butternut squash, cranberries, broth, salt and pepper, and saute for 5-7 minutes or until kale reaches desired tenderness.
  4. Toss in pumpkin seeds, and stir fry for 1 more minute.
  5. Put on a plate.
  6. Wipe out saucepan, and then cook 1-2 fried eggs.
  7. Serve eggs over kale saute.

What’s your favorite way to serve kale and squash?

Gluten Free School Lunches for Kids

My Kids on the First Day of School

I’m trying to reduce the amount of wheat I send in my kids’ lunches. While I’ve always tried to include milk and a vegetable, reducing the wheat is even more of a challenge, because it affects the easy sandwich. While I can use gluten free bread, I’m also trying to be a bit more creative and up the protein quotient.

Here are the parameters I set when packing school lunches:

  • No peanuts (although my kids aren’t allergic, there are kids in their school with life-threatening allergies to peanuts and I don’t believe that peanuts have any place in schools where this is the case.)
  • Must include milk
  • Must include a vegetable and a fruit
  • Must include a protein
  • Something sweet is nice to end the meal with

I have plastic sandwich boxes for each of the kids (no waste) and last year I purchased silicon cupcake cups by Wilton that fit inside the sandwich boxes and serve as flexible partitions for various foods.  I also have a few convenience products for the sweet/fruit component of my kids’ lunches, but they are all organic and pure.

Here are some of the lunches I’ve sent with my kids.

French Toast Sticks (made with Udi’s Gluten Free bread) and Homemade Breakfast Sausage (just meat and spices)

Served with 100% maple syrup for dipping, organic apple slices, organic yogurt, organic fruit & veggie shredz, and organic milk.

Another Variation…Homemade Gluten-Free Pumpkin Waffle Sticks with Mixed Dried Fruit (no sugar added)/Nuts and Homemade Sausage

Homemade Chicken Nuggets (made with almond flour and coconut oil)

Served with organic ketchup for dipping, organic carrots and cherry tomatoes, organic apple slices, yogurt (not organic this time…my mother in law bought it), dark chocolate square, and organic milk.

Plain Organic Unsalted Brown Rice Cake with Sunbutter for Spreading

Served with an organic apple, organic yogurt, seed/dried fruit mix, and organic milk.

Brown Rice Cake and Cheese

Served with organic carrot sticks, baby sweet pepper, Laughing cow cheese for spreading on the rice cake, string cheese, cashew and freeze-dried strawberry mix, organic fruit and veggie smoothie, and organic milk.

Organic Brown Rice Cake (Tamari with Seaweed Flavor)…can you tell my kids like rice cakes?…with Turkey Pepperoni and Cheese

Served with dill pickle (from the farmer’s market), cheese (from the farmer’s market), Laughing cow cheese for spreading, organic fruit and veggie smoothie, dark chocolate square and organic milk.

Gluten Free Pizza Bagel (made on Udi’s Bagels)

Served with turkey pepperoni, organic carrots, organic fruit and veggie smoothie, homemade fruit sweetened brownie (adapted from this recipe), and organic milk.

When All Else Fails…GoPicnic

Sometimes I don’t have time to make lunch. And my kids think these GoPicnic gluten free lunch boxes are a real treat. They only get them for special occasions (they’re $4 a pop). I also give them a choice between buying pizza lunch at school on Fridays or a GoPicnic box. They choose this about 50% of the time. These are their favorite flavors:

Now obviously some of these lunches (but not all!) require some forethought. I tend to cook up a large batch of pumpkin waffles or french toast and chicken nuggets on the weekend, and freeze some for lunches for the week. Pizza bagels can be made in the toaster oven in the morning.

What do you send with your kids for lunch?

6 Halloween Candy Alternatives That Aren’t Lame

It’s the beginning of October. That means my kids are eagerly making their plans for the sugarfest more commonly known as Halloween. I live on a street that sees a LOT of kids on the 31st of October, and most houses are well stocked.

When the kids come home with their loot, we carefully ration it out so that they  don’t overload in a couple of days, but rather make it last for months. But even so, there’s a part of me (the part that doesn’t buy candy for my kids) that doesn’t really want to hand out candy. I don’t want it in my house, and the kids in the neighborhood are going to get more than enough of it.

But I still want to participate in the fun, and I also don’t want my kids to have to deal with the reputation of being the house that hands out toothbrushes. So here are some suggestions for things you can hand out on Halloween that aren’t candy, but also aren’t lame, so your kids can show their faces in school the next day.

  • Helium balloons. I still remember the one house we always tried to hit in our neighborhood on Halloween when I was a kid. They rented a big helium tank and handed out black and orange helium-filled balloons. A glance into their house showed that they had balloons floating all over their living room. And you could tell every kid that had been there because they all had their balloon while they were trick or treating in the rest of the neighborhood. What a fun idea!
  • Glow novelties. This is one I’ve done a few times, and it’s always a hit with the little kids, as well as the teenagers! I buy a bulk pack of glow necklaces, bracelets, or whatever I can find, and crack them so they glow right before trick or treating begins. I’ve even seen glow in the dark vampire fangs! It’s especially nice at night, and gives a little more safety to kids as they wander the streets after dark.
  • Organic fruit shreds. Now I don’t mean organic sugar sweetened gummies. But the ones that are basically organic fruit puree and nothing else added rank right up there with handing out gummy bears, in my opinion. I like this kind.
  • Bubbles. Now this may go over better with little kids than big kids. But those little bottles of bubbles (same size they use at weddings) can be tons of fun.
  • Coins. There’s one house I know of where they save up their loose change all year, and then hand it out at Halloween. Now this isn’t one you can use for self-serve. But if you’re willing to dole it out to each goblin at your door, this is always a good one. And if nothing else, you’re prepared for the kids that trick or treat for UNICEF.
  • Individual sized microwave popcorn. Now I’m a little bit torn on this one, because I’m not super fond of all the chemicals in microwave popcorn, not to mention the fact that corn in the US is genetically modified. But if you’re trying to avoid sugar, we’ve done this in the past and it’s been well-received.

What do you hand out at Halloween? Do you have additional suggestions? Please share them in the comments below!

Nutty Dark Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe (Grain-free, Gluten-free, Fruit-sweetened)

Occasionally I like to have a treat waiting for my kids when they get off the school bus. I don’t think there’s much more inviting than walking into the house after a long day and smelling fresh-baked cookies coming out of the oven.

But with this new eating plan, I’ve been trying to cut back on the wheat and sugar for them, as well as me. That makes cookie baking a bit more challenging.

I’ve been working on this cookie recipe for a while. At first, they were too soft…almost like cake. But I finally perfected it. They’re not TOO sweet, have a nice crunch, and are absolutely delicious. I hope your kids enjoy them as much as mine do!

Nutty Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 6 pitted dates
  • 1 banana
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) organic butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup almond butter (or nut butter of your choice), room temperature
  • 2 Tbsp coconut flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup chopped nuts (I used raw almonds)
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Here’s What To Do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. Soak the dates in hot water for 10 minutes or until soft.
  4. In a blender, combined drained dates, banana, egg, melted butter and vanilla until dates are completely pureed.
  5. In a large bowl, combine almond butter and date mixture until completely combined.
  6. In a small bowl, combine coconut flour, salt and baking soda. Add to almond butter mixture in large bowl and stir until combined.
  7. Mix in chopped nuts and chocolate chips.
  8. Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls onto baking sheet, about 1/2 inch apart (these will not spread much while baking.)
  9. Bake for 12 minutes or until lightly golden.
  10. Allow to cool for a few minutes, and then remove from baking sheet.
  11. Enjoy!

I hope you and your family enjoy these cookies as much as we do!

Kelp Noodle Japchae Recipe (Gluten free, Refined Sugar free, Grain free)

My beautiful babies (not so little anymore!)

My 3 kids are adopted from Korea. In learning about the culture as we prepared to adopt, I fell in love with the country, as well as the food. Korean barbeque (Bulgogi) is phenomenal, and kimchi is a spicy, addictive condiment that I love. (I even made kimchi once or twice…a process that takes several days…and my sweet son prefers mine to anyone else’s…good boy!) But one other dish I really enjoy is japchae, which is a stir-fried noodle dish made with sweet potato noodles.

The best japchae I ever had was cooked by my son’s foster mother in Korea. When we went to her apartment to meet our new son for the first time (he was 2) she had a huge spread of traditional Korean food. It was SO delicious!

I’ve made japchae in the past, but I always messed up a bit with the sweet potato noodles, which can easily be overcooked. However recently, I finally took the plunge and ordered some kelp noodles. I had been reading about them on various gluten-free food blogs, and I was curious. The reviews for them on the Amazon product page were really positive. They are not a grain, but rather a sea vegetable. And there are only 18 calories in an entire package (6 calories per serving.) For real!

But the best part is that they are, of themselves, fairly tasteless. They take on the flavor of whatever they’re cooked with, but they retain the texture of a rice noodle. Plus they’re full of nutrition. They have more than 70 minerals, including potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium and iodine. They also contains enzymes, vitamins, trace elements, and more than 21 amino acids. It’s safe to say they’re really good for you.

So I decided to attempt japchae again, this time with kelp noodles. And it was perfect! It’s safe to say I’ll never go back to sweet potato noodles for this dish again.

Some of the ingredients in the japchae

Kelp Noodle Japchae
Serves 3

Ingredients

  • 1 package kelp noodles
  • 3 Tbsp tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
  • 3-4 Tbsp sesame oil, divided (or more as needed)
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped, divided
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 3 green onions, sliced, divided
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds, divided
  • 1-2 boneless organic chicken thighs
  • 1/4 cup carrots, cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 cup shitake mushrooms, sliced (dried are great in this but you have to soak first, you can also use fresh)
  • 1 cup baby spinach, chopped
  • 1 organic cage-free egg, scrambled

Here’s What To Do

  1. Rinse the kelp noodles in cold water.
  2. Boil some water in a large pot, and add the kelp noodles. Cook for 5 minutes and then remove from heat. Let it sit in the hot water until you’re ready to use the noodles.
  3. Meanwhile, combine 2 Tbsp tamari, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1 chopped clove of garlic, the ginger, 1/3 of the chopped green onion, and 1/2 of the sesame seeds in a small bowl.
  4. Slice the chicken thighs into strips, and add to the tamari marinade. Let sit while you slice the carrots, mushrooms and spinach.
  5. After all vegetables have been prepared, heat a tsp of sesame oil in a large frying pan, and add a little of the garlic. Add the chicken and all of its marinade, and stir fry until the meat is cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  6. Remove the meat from the pan and put on a plate.
  7. In the same pan, add another tsp of sesame oil and some garlic, and cook the carrot strips until softened, but still with a bit of crunch left.
  8. Remove the carrots from the pan and put on the plate with the meat.
  9. In the same pan, add another tsp of sesame oil and some garlic, and cook the mushrooms until softened, about 2 minutes.
  10. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and put on the plate with the meat and carrots.
  11. In the same pan, add a bit more sesame oil and garlic, and toss in the spinach. Cook for a minute or so, until wilted.
  12. Remove the spinach from the pan and put on the plate with the meat and vegetables.
  13. Add enough sesame oil to coat the bottom of the pan, and then add the scrambled egg. Tilt the pan to cover the bottom with egg, and allow it to cook in a thin sheet.
  14. When the egg is almost done, use a spatula to break it up into bite sized pieces, and then remove the egg to the plate with the meat and vegetables.
  15. Drain the kelp noodles.
  16. Add another tablespoon of sesame oil and the remaining garlic to the pan, and then add the kelp noodles. Stir-fry for 2 minutes to get up all the pan flavors that have accumulated into the noodles.
  17. Dump the plate of meat, vegetables and egg on top of the noodles, along with the remaining green onion, and stir fry it all together for another 2-3 minutes.
  18. Taste and add another Tbsp of tamari if the flavor needs it.
  19. Sprinkle the top with the remaining sesame seeds, and serve!

Hungry yet?

Have you tried kelp noodles? What did you think of them? How do you like to prepare them? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below!

Healthy Fats – Choosing Them and Using Them

Since I’ve been on this gluten and refined sugar free eating lifestyle, I’ve been doing a lot of research. I’ve also added fat back into my life, specifically coconut oil and olive oil, a little sesame oil, and of course the fat in things like butter and meats. These make foods a lot more filling and satisfying.

From what I’ve read, I’m convinced that part of what is making people obese is avoiding fats (which the body needs), and replacing it with processed foods and grains (which often have sugar added to make up for the lack of fat.) In fact, it seems that you can correlate the current spike in obesity with the beginning of the lowfat/high grain craze.

Now of course all foods should be consumed in moderation, and this goes for fats as well as everything else. But I wanted to share with you some of the things I’ve learned about oils that have worked for me.

  • Canola Oil: From what I have read, this heavily touted “healthy” oil is anything but. First of all, it’s heavily genetically engineered. Personally I try to avoid foods that are science projects. After all, that’s what has caused such harm with wheat, and new research is finding that our heavily genetically modified corn crop caused MASSIVE tumors in rats. No thank you! Then add to this how it’s produced: they use solvents to extract it (and these are still present in the end product), deodorize it (which causes most of the Omega 3’s to become rancid) and hydrogenate it (turning it into trans fats). There is still science to be done to determine the safety of canola oil, but it’s certainly not one I choose to use.
  • Olive Oil: Olive oil is a great choice for cooking, and one that I use often. It’s important to note, however, that not all olive oil is the same. Apparently in Italy, olive oil is one of the biggest rackets going. MANY brands of olive oil are cut with cheaper oils (including canola), and then sold as pure olive oil. This post describes more about this. When I did the “fridge test” described in the post, I was shocked to discover that the “good quality” olive oil I thought I was buying turned cloudy! I took Mark’s advice and looked for olive oil produced closer to home. I found a California olive oil that I love, and I was SHOCKED at how different…and delicious…it tastes! Really fruity.
  • Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is a new love of mine, and one I discovered when researching this new lifestyle. It’s been used forever and is super healthy for you. The flavor is slightly sweet, and does not give off a strong coconut flavor. Depending on the temperature you live in, it may be solid or liquid (but it’s a simple thing to liquify it by microwaving it or putting it over low heat for a couple minutes on the stove.) I love the flavor that vegetables and meat take on when cooked in coconut oil, and it’s a fabulous oil for baking. Do note, however, that you have to keep the temperature fairly low when cooking with coconut oil on the stove. Medium heat is about the highest you can go, or it smokes terribly. Also note that it’s NOT great for pan greasing. I find that it doesn’t provide a non-stick coating as well as olive oil or butter do. I buy my coconut oil online at Amazon with free shipping, because it’s most cost effective.
  • Sesame Oil: I’ve actually used sesame oil for years because I live in an Asian household, and it’s a staple for creating authentic Asian flavors. However it also seems that there are a whole host of health benefits to this oil. You can read about them here. I usually use Sesame Oil in small quantities, because the flavor is quite strong. But it adds a wonderful nutty flavor to dishes that my family loves. Here’s the brand my family buys at the Asian Market. It’s also available on Amazon.
  • Butter: If you want buttery flavor, please use the real stuff and not a science experiment (i.e. skip the margarine!). I absolutely love the flavor of grass-fed organic butter. It melts well, lends an amazing flavor to dishes, and simply can’t be replaced by substitutes. We don’t use a ton of butter in our dishes (often just using it for finishing a dish) but it’s a great fat to have on hand. And your body needs a certain amount of saturated fat. What causes heart disease etc. is inflammation in the body. And inflammation is caused by…you guessed it…the white stuff: flour, sugar, etc.

I have to tell you that since we’ve added fat back into our diets, food just feels more satisfying. Plus it’s filling. I’m dropping weight without really trying, but I’m never hungry! It seems like my body just knows it’s getting the right foods now, and fat is a part of that.

What fats do you include in your cooking? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below.