Time really does fly when you are having fun.  I can’t believe that it is New Year’s Eve already! 2015 has been such a fun year for our family, full of new experiences and growth.  To end such a wonderful year, Hannah and Liam are having a New Year’s Eve slumber party at our house.  To conclude such a wonderful year, we decided that the kids deserved a little party.  :D

My little party planner, Hannah came up with the great idea to host a New Year’s Eve party.  At first my husband I am were a little hesitant but after a little discussion we decided that it had been such a wonderful year the kids deserved to have a party; only if they agreed to clean up, which they did. :) 

Liam didn’t care about the décor or the themes, he was just excited to have friends over and be able to stay up until midnight playing video games.  Hannah on the other hand had an entire party itinerary up her sleeve.  She wanted to have a black and white themed party and all her friends would dress up in black and white with one bright color. 

Hannah always comes up with cute ideas; I don’t know where she gets them from.  This afternoon Hannah and I made little snacks and decorated the house for her themed party.  It ended up turning out really great.  She made a black and white clock cake and cupcakes, marshmallows dipped in dark chocolate, and Oreo milkshakes. 
  

She also found some black and white party ideas on Pinterest; she is really starting to take after her mother.  Earlier this week I took her to our local party store and gave her a little budget to buy some decorations.  It is amazing what good ideas she came up with.
 
We finished baking and decorating the house earlier this afternoon, and it looks incredible.  You would have never guessed an eight year old girl came up with this idea and decorated the house so nicely.  Our house looks like a New Year’s wonderland.  :)


Both Hannah and Liam are taking a “powernap” to make sure they can stay up all night.  I am excited to have a house full of kids tonight, I love seeing both Liam’s friends and Hannah’s friends interact.  The little bit of an age difference makes it so fun for them.

On that note, I should start preparing dinner before all the kiddo’s come over. 

Happy New Year!

Go Green and Stay Keen,

Julie
With thanksgiving right around the corner we have spiced up our menu at the restaurant.  We have created a little “holiday section”. We finalized the dishes and desserts last week and have had tremendous feedback this week. 

My favorite part of the menu to decide on was the dessert menu.  Who doesn’t love dessert?  We had quite a few different options and I couldn’t be happier with the ones we chose.  Although the desserts we are serving now are phenomenal, the other ones we came up with and tried were fabulous too.  I have made two of them at home already. 

Here are our vegetarian (mostly vegan) desserts we did not chose to serve.

Chocolate Pumpkin Pie
Ingredients-
•    ½ lbs. firm tofu, pressed
•    1, 15 oz. can of pumpkin puree
•    ½ cup sugar
•    ¼ cup maple syrup
•    1 tsp. vanilla
•    ½ tsp. nutmeg
•    ½ tsp. cinnamon
•    ½ tsp. ground cloves
•    2 tbsp. soy milk
•    1 pre-made pie crust




Instructions-
•    Preheat the oven to 400 degree F.
•    Put all the ingredients into a food processor or blender, obviously not the pie crust , and pulse until creamy and pour into pie crust.
•    Bake for 30-35 minutes and enjoy the wonderful combination of pumpkin and chocolate.

Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake
 
Ingredients-
Crust-
•    2 ¼ cups graham cracker crumbs
•    2/3 cup butter, softened
•    1/3 cup sugar

Filling-
•    5 packages, 8oz. cream cheese, softened
•    ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
•    ¾ cup granulated sugar
•    3 tbsp. flour
•    1 tsp. slat
•    1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
•    ½ tsp. ground all spice
•    ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
•    ¾ tsp. ground ginger
•    6 eggs
•    1 can (16 oz.) pumpkin puree
•    2/3 cup evaporated milk


Instructions-
•    Preheat oven to 350 degree F
•    In a medium bowl combine all the ingredients for the crust and stir with a fork until mixed.  Press the mixture to the bottom and sides of a 10x13 inch pan.
•    In an electric mixer mixing bowl beat the cream cheese at low speed until smooth.  Add the remaining ingredients and beat until blended. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 5 minutes. 
•    Pour the batter into the crusted pan and bake for 1 hour then turn off oven and let sit for 30 minutes.  Let the pan cool and refrigerate. 
•    Enjoy!

Cranberry Sorbet
 
Ingredients-
•    2 cups cranberries, either fresh or frozen rinsed and stems removed
•    1 ½ cup sugar
•    1 ½ cup water
•    ½ cup orange juice
•    ¼ cup lemon juice
•    2 tbsp. Grand Marnier or another orange liqueur


Instructions-
•    Make a syrup by adding sugar and water to a pot and bring to boil.  When the sugar has dissolved add the cranberries and orange juice.  Continue boiling until the cranberries burst. 
•    Let the mixture cool and then blend or puree until smooth.  Strain the mixture into a bowl and stir in the lemon juice and orange liqueur.  Freeze the mixture and enjoy!

I hope you enjoy your delicious vegetarian thanksgiving desserts!

Go green and stay keen,

Julie
healing foods
I believe that foods can have a healing power on the body.  Becoming vegetarian has made me look at food differently and has changed my body for the better.  Instead of turning to medicine for minor aliments like muscle pain, headaches, sore throats or colds, I try finding a food or herb alternative to make the pain diminish.

Whether you are fighting stress, fatigue, or trying to boost your immune system I believe that a lifestyle change and healthy eating can help immensely.  Eating fresh fruits and vegetables help the body perform to the fullest potential and stay healthy.

Here are some of the foods that can help fight minor ailments-

•    Bananas are good for fighting stress and anxiety.  They provide a little bit of a sugar boost and have 30% of your day’s vitamin B6 that helps your brain produce mellowing serotonin to help calming down.

banana healing food

•    Raisins help maintain cardiovascular health and bringing down blood pressure.  They contain fiber and potassium that are both good for the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.

•    Kidney stones are something no one wants to deal with.  Apricots help prevent then because of the fiber, low sodium, and potassium help keep minerals from accumulating in the urine and from forming calcium stones. 

•    Ginger tea can help cure nausea from motion sickness.  The oils and compounds in ginger help to get rid of nausea without the side effects of other prescription drugs.

•    It is a little strange but I swear by buckwheat honey as a cure to coughing.  2 teaspoons of the thick, dark brown honey and your coughing will stop.  I find it so much more effective than cough syrup.  And the honey has antioxidants and other properties that can soothe the throat.

•    Ladies you know yeast infections are not fun.  By adding garlic to sauces, dressings, and other dishes you can help lowing the risk of getting them.  Garlic contains oils that inhibit the growth of a certain fungus that causes the unpleased symptoms of a yeast infection.


•    Chamomile tea can make heartburn disappear.  Although it may take a few cups of tea to fully ease the digestive culprit, who doesn’t like sipping tea all day?

•    Headache? Cure that with some potatoes!  The carbs in potatoes can ease tension headaches by raising serotonin levels and nixing that pesky thing.

There are many other foods that help diminish or prevent ailments from happening.  These are just some of the foods I eat frequently with more than just a nutritional value.  Foods can not only change your body, but can also help your mind fight off negativity.


Go green and stay keen,

Julie

 


Healing foods

by on 10/28/2015
I believe that foods can have a healing power on the body.  Becoming vegetarian has made me look at food differently and has changed my ...
Happy National Women’s Health and Fitness Day to all you wonderful women out there.  Today is a day to focus our attention on the importance of physical activity and health awareness for all women. 

Many organizations around the country host women’s health and fitness events at hospitals, health clubs, park and recreation districts, and so many other locations.  It is great because the events held are all fun, non-competitive and very informative.  I am so happy I heard about this great day and happy to bring awareness to it.

Last year over 100,000 adults participated in health promotion events at more than 1,400 local organizations.  I am going to participate in an event today at local parks and recreation club about vegetarian lifestyle.  It is a great way to showcase how this lifestyle can really change your life.

I love that National Women’s Health and Fitness day has a grassroots nature and provides an opportunity for local organizations to showcase all their wonderful programs and services they offer.  It is a good way to educate and give back to local communities. 

In honor of this great holiday, I want to share one of my favorite healthy fall snacks, Pumpkin Pie Energy Bars.


Ingredients-
·         1 cup pitted dates
·         ½ cup raw cashews
·         2 tbsp. raw pumpkin seeds and 1 tbsp. to garnish if desired
·         2 tbsp. unsweetened coconut flakes
·         ¼ cup rolled oats
·         1 tsp. ground cinnamon
·         ½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
·         ¼ cup pumpkin puree

Instructions-
·         Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth.  Place parchment paper on the bottom of an 8x8 baking pan and spread the mixture to fill evenly. (it will be really sticky, beware)

·         Press the mixture down and sprinkle the garnish pumpkin seeds if you would like and freeze for 2-3 hours until solid.  Slice and enjoy this wonderful fall snack. 

·         Keep the bars in the freezer so they do not become mushy.

For more information on National Women’s Health and Fitness Day click here.

Go green and stay keen,

Julie

A couple years ago my husband and I met a couple staying at a bed and breakfast near our home.  My husband and I were having coffee and they asked to join us.  Our simple cup of coffee turned into a day of adventure.  They were from the Caribbean and in California for a vacation.  It was so fun getting to know them and doing things we do all the time with a set of fresh eyes.

After meeting, we kept in contact through Facebook in case we were ever in the same area again.  They came back to California this past week for a business conference and we opened up our home to them.  It was great seeing them again, and as a thank you they cooked us their favorite dinner.

Caribbean food is so delicious.  After dinner I begged to get the recipe, it was so good.  They were kind enough to share their favorite recipes with us so we will be able to transform our meals into a paradise.

Here are two of the Caribbean recipes they shared, and I promise they are to die for.



Creole Rice Pilaf

Ingredients-

1 ½ tsp. olive oil
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
1/3 cup minced shallots
½ cup sliced scallions
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 ¼ cup diced plum tomatoes
1 ½ cup short-grain brown rice
3 ½ cup vegetable broth, boiling
½ cup chopped fresh coriander
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. Bragg liquid Aminos

Instructions-

Heat oil and crushed red pepper in a saucepan on medium heat for 1 minute.  Add the shallots, scallions, and celery and cook for about 3 minutes until adding the mushrooms and tomatoes, and cook 2 minutes before adding rice.  The entire mixture for 2 minutes while stirring.

Add the boiling broth, coriander and thyme into the saucepan and bring to boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for about 45 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.  Stir in the liquid aminos and enjoy!

Caribbean Style Sofrito- this makes 6 servings, they like to feed a crowd! :D



Ingredients-

1 green bell pepper, cut into ¼ inch cubes
1 red bell pepper, cut into ¼ inch cubes
½ orange bell pepper, cut into ¼ inch cubes
½ yellow bell pepper, cut into ¼ inch cubes
5 tomatoes, cored and chopped
½ bunch of green onions, chopped
¾ bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
3 fresh tomatillos, husks removed
½ cup chopped garlic

Instructions-
Put the green, red, orange, and yellow peppers, tomatoes, green onions, cilantro, tomatillos, and garlic into a food processor or blender and pulse or blend to make the your desired consistency, either chunky or smooth. Season lightly with salt.

Enjoy!

Hope these recipes can transport you to a Caribbean escape in your kitchen!

Go green and stay keen,

Julie

The kids first day of school is tomorrow and they are having mixed feelings of excitement and sadness because the summer is over.  They both got new backpacks this year and have them all filled with notebooks and pens ready to go.

We got to do so many things together this summer and were able to cross everything off their summer to do list.  It was a wonderful summer.



Because it is the last day before they start school, I want to make them a nutritious dinner so their brains are ready for tomorrow.  I am making my eggplant lasagna that they love.  Eggplants are great vegetables with so many benefits for everyone.

Here are some healthy facts about eggplants that will make you want to add them to your regular diet.

Eggplants have essential nutrients that your body needs like iron, calcium, and many other minerals.

Eggplant skins contain essential phyto nutrients that improve blood circulation and nourish the brain; perfect for back to school after a summer of fun.

Eggplants have fiber to protect and regulate the digestive tract.

For many years eggplants were used to control and manage diabetes.  With research it was proven because of the high fiber and low soluble carbohydrate content.

Eggplants are high in bioflavonoids that control high blood pressure and relieve stress.  Good for those first day of school jitters.

Regular consumption of eggplants can also help prevent blood clots because of the vitamin K and bioflavonoids that strengthen capillaries.


I believe that a good dinner and breakfast are the key to a successful day at school for children.  Food fuels the brain and the body so that it performs to its highest capability.  I am lucky I taught my kids at a young age to like foods that are good for their bodies and minds.  Now Hannah and Liam prefer “healthy” food over junk food, almost all the time :).

It makes me proud to see them make good choices and grow stronger and bigger each year.

I am sure tonight is going to be the “I don’t want to go to school, I want it to be summer longer,” but with this dinner and homemade ice cream for dessert, it should make it a little more bearable for them.

Happy first day of school for all the other kids out there!

Go green and stay keen,

Julie


The Wonderful Eggplant

by on 9/07/2015
The kids first day of school is tomorrow and they are having mixed feelings of excitement and sadness because the summer is over.  They bot...
After planting my herb garden last year I have had so much success with growing and harvesting all my herbs.  I don’t know why I didn’t plant one sooner.  With it being the peak of summer I have found myself using more and more herbs in salads, drinks, and as an additive to many summer dishes.



I have encouraged many of my friends to plant an herb garden and they are just as pleased as I am.  One question they always come back to me with, is how to harvest them and dry them for use.  It is not tricky but it is good to know how.



Here is how I harvest my fresh herbs.

How to dry fresh herbs-


Cut the healthy branches you want to dry from your herb plant and remove any dry, diseased, yellowed, or spotted leaves.  Then shake gently to remove any dirt or bus that may still be on them.

Get rid of the lower leaves, about an inch along the bottom of the branch. Make bundles of 4-6 branches and tie together using a string or rubber band.  The bundles will shrink as they dry so it is important to keep an eye on them so you don’t lose any branches.

Use a paper bag and cut multiple small holes and label the bag so you remember what herb you are drying.  Insert the herbs upside down in the paper bag and close the bag with a string and hang the bag upside down in a warm airy room.

Check your herbs weekly to make sure they are progressing along until they are dried and ready to store. And enjoy your freshly dried herbs.

How to freeze fresh herbs-


Cut the healthy branches you want to freeze from your herbs and remove any dry, diseased, yellowed, or spotted leaves.  Wash and chop them or leave them in larger springs and leaves.
Pack the wells of an ice cube tray about 2/3 full of herbs and pour extra virgin olive oil or water over the herbs to fill up the well.  (You can mix herbs to create a unique mixture)  Cover lightly with plastic wrap and freeze overnight.

After frozen remove the cubes and store in the freezer in containers or small bags.  Enjoy your frozen herbs whenever you please.

Drying and freezing are the two ways I use the most to keep my herbs longer.  Do you use other ways to preserve your herbs or other methods, I am intrigued to know and try new ways.  Just leave a comment below.

Go green and stay keen,

Julie

Harvesting Fresh Herbs

by on 8/31/2015
After planting my herb garden last year I have had so much success with growing and harvesting all my herbs.  I don’t know why I didn’t pla...
This afternoon both Hannah and Liam are a friend’s house so I am making my husband some vegetarian sushi!

We love sushi so much, it is difficult to make it while the kids are home because they think it is “weird.”  They don’t know what they are missing out on  :D

My husband is doing some yard work so I am going to surprise him with it and some soup for dinner.  I can’t wait.

Vegetarian sushi is delicious and fairly easy to make.  Here are the sushi and soup recipes that I like using when we finally get to indulge.

Basic Sushi


Ingredients-

2 cups short grain or medium grain rice
¼ cup rice vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1 package of roasted seaweed sheets
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into long narrow strips
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced into long narrow strips
1 avocado, removed skin and sliced into long narrow strips
1 block of cream cheese, sliced into long narrow strips
Soy sauce and wasabi for dipping and garnish

Directions-

Cook the rice as to package instructions and let cool.  Mix the rice vinegar and salt in a small bowl and pour over the cooked rice.  Use your fingers to mix the rice and mixture together.
Place the seaweed sheet, shiny side down, on the sushi roller and spread sticky rice evenly across.  Leave a one inch tab of seaweed on one edge.  Place carrot strip, cucumber strip, cream cheese, and avocado across the rice bed.
Dab the exposed tab of seaweed with wet fingers and use the sushi roller to roll your roll making sure you are using enough pressure to keep the rice sticky.
Cut your roll into small pieces and Enjoy!


Miso Soup with Greens and Tofu
Ingredients-

4 cups water
½ cup chopped green onion
½ cup chopped green chard
¼ cup firm tofu, cubed
3-4 tbsp. white miso paste
1 sheet or ¼ cup nori, cut in large rectangles

Directions-

Place water in a medium sauce pan, bring to low simmer then add nori and simmer for 5-7 minutes more.
Place the miso paste into a small bowl, add a little hot water and whisk until smooth.  Add to the soup and stir so it doesn’t clump.
Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and cook for another 5 minutes.  Add salt to taste if desired and enjoy.

This recipe can be used with a variety of vegetables and you can add and take away spices or sauces to create your unique roll.

It is going to be a delicious dinner!

Julie

Vegetarian Sushi

by on 8/16/2015
This afternoon both Hannah and Liam are a friend’s house so I am making my husband some vegetarian sushi! We love sushi so much, it is di...
I was looking for images on the web and came across an awesome infographic on BusinessInsider.com.


Although, it was posted a couple years ago, it is still relevant and resonated with me.  It is titled, Why You Need to Stop Driving Your Car Right Now.

I always try walking or riding my bike whenever I can and only drive my car when it is really necessary.  It not only saves me money by biking but I get exercise too.

When my husband and I were looking for our first our home, it was essential that it was located close to markets, parks, work, and our children’s school.  We were fortunate enough to find a home that is in a very central location and walking and biking distance to many places.

Since moving here and not using our car as much, we have seen a large drop in our transportation expenses and we are even healthier.  We are helping the earth by reducing our emissions that are harmful to the environment, not spending money on cars upkeep, saving of fuel, not having to pay for parking, and we get to speed past traffic jams.

I saw this statistic that shocked me; it showed that 80% of bike commuters improve their heart and lung function within 8 weeks! Just 8 weeks! I couldn’t believe it.

Once you understand how the simple change from driving your car to riding your bike is, it is clear that riding your bike is better for you, your health, your family, and the environment.  So hop on that two-wheeler and get pedaling.

I have shared here, the informative infographic from BusinessInsider.com. Enjoy!


After reading this infographic, I hope you feel motivated to start riding your bike whenever you can.

 If you live near your work, grocery stores, or frequented venues, why not give it a try?  I enjoy walking and biking places, it allows me to clear my mind and stay active.  I challenge you to try swapping your car for an earth friendly bike! :)

Go Green and Staying Keen,

Julie


Happy National Watermelon Day! :D

Okay, I know it is not a widely known holiday or for that matter really celebrated, but our family takes National Watermelon Day very seriously.  It is a great day to indulge on watermelon for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Watermelons are pretty interesting fruits as well, giving us plenty to talk about.

Here are our family’s favorite fun facts about watermelons-

There are 300 different kinds of watermelons in the US and Mexico
They are the perfect summer snack because they are 92% water making them so refreshing.
The world’s heaviest watermelon weighed 268.6 lbs., now that is a lot of watermelon.
People eat on average 16 lbs. of watermelon annually.
Egyptian hieroglyphics show the first-ever watermelon harvest took place about 5,000 years ago.  They were often sealed into tombs of kings.

Now you can have the same useless trivia as we do.

There are so many recipes with watermelon that are often forgot.  People usually just eat them sliced, although it is wonderful that way, there are so many more possibilities when it comes to a delicious fruit like this.

Watermelon-Peach Salsa with Tomatoes-

Ingredients-

½ cup hot pepper jelly
1 tbsp. lime zest
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 cups seeded and diced watermelon
1 cup peeled and diced fresh peaches
1/3 cup chopped basil
1/3 cup chopped chives
3 cups baby tomatoes, halved
Salt and pepper
Fresh basil springs to garnish

Directions-

Whisk the pepper jelly, lime zest, and lime juice together and then stir in watermelon, peaches, basil, and chives.
Season the baby tomatoes with salt and pepper to taste.  Mix with salsa, and serve with basil if desired.  Enjoy!

Don’t be nervous at the thought of warm watermelon, Grilled Watermelon Slices are delicious-

Ingredients-
Several slices of watermelon
2 limes, juices
½ a limes zest
3 tbsp. honey
2 tsp. water
A few dashes of cayenne pepper
A few pinches of salt



Directions-

Preheat the grill to high.  Cut watermelon into 1 inch thick slices and lightly brush each side with honey and place on grill until browned, about 2 minutes.
In a small bowl mix the rest of the ingredients and drizzle mixture over watermelon slices on place.
Enjoy!

And for a little adult beverage, Frozen Watermelon Margaritas are very tasty-

Ingredients-

1 ½ cups watermelon, cubed
1 cup tequila
½ cup lime juice
½ cup orange liqueur
1-2 tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
3 cups ice

Directions-

Puree watermelon, add the rest of the ingredients and blend until desired consistency.  Divide among glasses and garnish with lime and watermelon slice.
Enjoy!


With your new fun facts and superb watermelon recipes, National Watermelon day is going to be WONDERFUL!

Go green and stay keen!

Julie

National Watermelon Day

by on 8/03/2015
Happy National Watermelon Day! :D Okay, I know it is not a widely known holiday or for that matter really celebrated, but our family ta...
This summer Hannah took the initiative and joined our library’s book club and fun summer classes.  She loves reading and learning and didn’t want to stop over the summer. I am lucky to have two wonderful proactive kids.

Today after I picked her up from the library she told me she is doing a project to show kids that “being a vegetarian is cool and fun.”  I couldn’t be more proud of my little girl.


Of course I helped her come up with some ideas.  She wanted to make a “fun facts” poster and bring in a vegetarian snack to share.  Her idea is that if the kids see how happy and fun she is because she eats some vegetarian meals, maybe they will want to try and have their parents try too.

Although some of the facts seem obvious, she chose them on how they will relate to other kids.

1. People become vegetarian for all different kinds of reasons.
2. There are all different kinds of vegetarians.  One might better suit you than the other.
3. Many animals are vegetarians and you are caring for animals
4. It is good for the world and nature around us.
5. There are many restaurants that offer vegetarian options.
6. Meat is expensive, having a plant based diet helps save money
7. The world is nearly ¼ vegetarians.
8. By not having meat in the freezer you have more room for ice cream.  (Hannah’s Favorite)
9. You can buy almost all your food at the farmers market
10. You learn how to cook better and more delicious food

She is making a really cute collage of her favorite fruits and veggies with the lyrics to the Meat Free Monday song too.

On Friday before she goes to the library to present her poster and song we are going to make Almost Raw Cookie Dough Balls to share with the other kids.  Here is our easy and fun recipe.

Ingredients- 
1 cup oats
1 ripe banana
½ cup grated dry coconut
3 tbsp. maple syrup or agave syrup, your choice
2 tbsp. coconut oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup vegan chocolate chips

Instructions-
Add oats into a food processor and pulse for 20 seconds to break them down a little.  Add the rest of the ingredients, except the chocolate chips, and pulse until fully combined.

Stir in the chocolate chips and refrigerate for 10 minutes to slightly harden.  Roll dough into balls then place back in the refrigerator for 1 hour.  Enjoy the doughy goodness!



I love how Hannah always jumps to challenges and loves sharing her lifestyle with her peers.  I hope that maybe Hannah’s passion will inspire you to try a few vegetarian meals a week.

Go green and stay keen,

Julie

Vegetarian Fun Facts

by on 7/22/2015
This summer Hannah took the initiative and joined our library’s book club and fun summer classes .  She loves reading and learning and did...
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like dips and sauces.  I am a firm believer that anything smothered in dip or sauces is 10x better than it otherwise.



I went to a BBQ two weekends ago for the fourth and made the best taco dip.  It was the hit of the party and no one believed me when I told them it was vegetarian!



There was quite the variety of dips and surprisingly most of the dips were meat-less.  It made my BBQ a little easier.  I wanted to share with you my favorite vegetarian dip recipes that are not hummus. :D

Vegan Taco Dip

Ingredients-

1, 14 oz. can vegan refried beans
1, 12-16 oz. container of vegan sour cream
1 packet of taco seasoning mix
1 cup black olives, chopped
2 cups tomatoes, chopped
1 ½ cup lettuce
1 avocado, chopped
½ cup green onion, chopped

Instructions-

Spread the refried beans of the bottom of a 9x7 inch tray.  Mix the sour cream and taco seasoning together, then gently spread it on top of the beans.  Top with olives, tomatoes, avocado, lettuce, and green onion.

Chill for an hour and enjoy!

Miso-Lime Sweet Potato Dip

Ingredients-

2 medium sweet potatoes
2 tbsp. white miso paste
1 tbsp. lime juice
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
½ tsp. grated lime zest, more to garnish if desired

Instructions-

Pierce sweet potatoes with a four and microwave for 7-10 minutes until soft.  Let potatoes cool and coarsely chop leaving the skins on.
Place chopped potatoes in a food processer and add the miso paste, lime juice, ginger, and lime zest with 2 tbsp. water and pulse until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.
Garnish with lime zest if desired and enjoy!

Hot Artichoke Dip

Ingredients-

1, 12 oz. package of light silken tofu
2 tbsp. reduced fat mayonnaise
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp. onion powder
1, 15.5 oz. can artichoke quarters in water, drained, rinsed, and chopped
1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Dusting of paprika

Instructions-

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Puree tofu, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, garlic, and onion powder in blender until smooth and then transfer to bowl.

Stir artichokes, spinach, and parmesan cheese into tofu mixture.  Bake for 20 minutes, dust with paprika and enjoy!

I love dips, they make a meal or appetizer even better.

What is your favorite vegetarian dip?


Vegetarian dips, sauces, dressings.


Go Green and Stay Keen,

Julie


It is finally summer break for my kids and they couldn’t be more excited.  Hannah is going to a horseback riding camp for a week and Liam is playing soccer this summer.  Needless to say it is going to be a fun filled and busy summer.  Although the kids have arranged activities already, I want to make sure we spend lots of time together and make summer memories.



Ever since Liam and Hannah were little I loved planning fun activities, this summer won’t be an exception.  I have mastered how to keep them entertained so they are not complaining they are bored every 5 minutes.  Plan, plan, plan, is the key to success; it is the only way to make sure they are having fun, staying active and not sitting on the couch watching cartoons.

The last week of school was exciting for them because they were looking forward to summer break.  I saw this great idea on Pinterest to have them make a list of all the things they want to do over the summer.  It is a good way to “accomplish” fun new things and keep them looking forward to something.

Here is our list of fun activities Liam and Hannah came up with so far, I am sure they will want to add to it as the summer goes on.

1. Bake cookies and make ice cream sandwiches out of them
2. Have a water party in the backyard with the sprinklers
3. Visit the beach
4. Make a cardboard box fort
5. Go berry picking
6. Have a picnic

7. Go canoeing
8. Go camping
9. Have a campfire and make s’mores
10. Make homemade pizza
11. Set up a lemonade stand
12. Have a water balloon fight
13. Go on a bike ride

14. Help mom plant the garden
15. Visit a museum
16. Go stargazing
17. Play mini-golf, Guys vs. Girls
18. Go to an amusement park or water park
19. Paint rocks to make paperweights
20. Go roller blading
21. Visit the zoo
22. Catch fireflies
23. Have a movie night outside
24. Watch fireworks on the 4th of July
25. Make a giant slip and slide
26. My tie dye shirts and socks
Having the kids make a list of fun things they want to do makes it easier on when planning activities; they are already “kid approved.”  It is going to be a great summer.  :)



What do you like to do with your kids over the summer? How do you keep them from the inevitable “I’m bored” stage?

Go Green and Stay Keen,

Julie

Kids home for summer

by on 6/17/2015
It is finally summer break for my kids and they couldn’t be more excited.  Hannah is going to a horseback riding camp for a week and Liam...
Ever since I was young my parents taught me how important it is to recycle and take care of our planet.  I believe that all parents want to leave the world a better place for their children after they are gone.  As my children grew up and learned about trash and where it goes, they also knew about recycling.



My husband and I made leaning about recycling fun for our kids.  We made it more of a game and made it easy for them to understand and put to use.  The earlier good habits are ingrained, the easier it is to make an impact.

When we were teaching our children about recycling we used some of these steps.

1. We talked about what recycling means and respecting and helping the earth.

2. There are many books about the basics of reducing, reusing, and recycling.  It is a great way to start of teaching your kids.  It excited my children to start recycling after reading.

3. To help them understand what was recyclable and what was not, we decorated bins to correlate what goes in them.

4. We had a “recycled item of the week” that we focused on to make it a fun event.  Each week we kept adding to the list until we had a full list.

5. We made a fun facts list to post on the fridge about facts about recycling. For example; the average person throws away about 170 lbs. of food waste every year that is the same as 1,077 banana peels.

6. We visited our local recycling center to see how the process actually works.  Our kids loved it when they were young.  Usually recycling centers will help organize a visit with a group.  It is a great way for them to understand the process.

7. To reuse our own “nice trash” we made little craft projects.  Kids love crafts and what a great way to learn about recycling too.  I found some good recycling craft ideas here.

8. To teach them about conserving water, we set a “shower song.” It was a song that they got to shower to that gave them a time limit so they did not waste water.  We always made it one of their favorite songs so they knew when it was going to be done.  It was fairly easy for them to grasp the concept of conserving water, they understand that if they used too much water, the fish wouldn’t have any place to live.

9. To teach our children about reusing we also had them go through their closets and toys to find five items to donate to local panties and organizations.  It was a great way to help the community and teach them about reusing and making a difference.

10. There are countless games online that revolve on the subject of recycling and conservation.  Our favorite websites were Kids Recycling Zone and Kids Recycle.


My husband and I strive to inspire our children to love the earth and take care of it.  It is easy to feel like we don’t have much control about what happens to our earth in years to come; but it is beneficial to teach our little ones now to ensure there will be a healthy planet for future generations.  I believe the earlier good habits are created, the easier it is to incorporate them into daily life.

Go Green and Stay Keen,

Julie

I have been slacking about posting my Kids Cook Monday Meals.




We have been keeping up with it and participating since my first post.  My mind just goes to other topics when I sit down to write.  I have had way too many other good topics to share with you guys :)

Good news is I remembered tonight! My kids and husband helped cook dinner tonight! It was so wonderful.

We made Confetti Stuffed Bell Peppers and Chilled Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cookies for desert.

We had so much fun cooking and our meal tasted delicious.  I think we spent the entire time cooking, laughing at Liam, he had a comment for everything; silly kid!

Here are the recipes that we used!

We actually found the Confetti Stuffed Bell Pepper recipe at the Kids Cook Monday website.

Confetti Stuffed Bell Peppers

Ingredients-

4 large bell peppers, cut in half lengthwise and seeded
1 bag (12 oz.) frozen mixed vegetables, cooked according to the package directions
1 bag (10 oz.) whole grain brown rice, cooked according to package directions
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup parmesan cheese
1 can tomato sauce
1/8 tsp. black pepper

Instructions-

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Lightly grease a 9x13-inch shallow baking dish with nonstick cooking spray
Combine mixed vegetables, brown rice, ½ cup mozzarella cheese, ¼ cup parmesan cheese, tomato sauce and black pepper in a large bowl.
Arrange peppers in prepared pan and spoon mixture into peppers.
Pour ¼ cup water into pan around the peppers. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes, until peppers are tender.
Remove foil and evenly sprinkle peppers with remaining cheeses.  Bake uncovered 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Enjoy!



For dessert we made no-bake, Chilled Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cookies


Ingredients-

2/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut
¼ cup honey
¼ cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
¼ cup chocolate chips
2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
3 cups corn flakes, lightly crushed

Instructions-

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
On a small skillet add cocoanut and toast for about 3 minutes then let cool.
In a medium sauce pan combine honey, corn syrup, and peanut butter on medium heat.  Keep stirring until mixture begins to bubble.  Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips and cocoa.  Stir the mixture until the chocolate chips have melted and then add the cereal and toasted coconut and stir until coated.
Spoon balls of mixture on to parchment paper and refrigerate until hardened, about 15 minutes.
Enjoy!



It ended up being a fantastic kid’s cook Monday!  We were so full after our meal we went on a walk around the neighborhood to digest it all.  The meal and the walk put the kids right to bed.  When we got back they sat on the couch for 15 minutes and went straight to bed.  Great end to a great evening.
Go Green and Staying Keen,

Julie

Kids Cook Monday

by on 6/01/2015
I have been slacking about posting my Kids Cook Monday Meals . We have been keeping up with it and participating since my first po...
Rhubarb is one of my favorite vegetables that is seasonally spring.  It is so delicious and makes, in my opinion, THE BEST desserts.  Don’t get me wrong, I like to add rhubarb to main courses, but it doesn’t get much better than a good old fashioned rhubarb pie.  I wanted to share my love for this seasonally sweet vegetable with a few of my recipes.  I hope they seem just as delicious to you as they do to me!

Rhubarb Crumble
rhubarb crumble julie green and keenIngredients-
1 ½ pound of rhubarb, just into small slices
2 cups of raspberries or strawberries (or if you are feeling crazy, both)
1 ¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons of instant tapioca
½ tsp. grated orange zest
2 tbsp. fresh orange juice
A dash of salt

Ingredients for topping-
6 tbsp. softened vegetarian butter
¼ cup packed light-brown sugar
¼ tsp. orange zest
1 cup flour
Dash of salt

Instructions for topping-
Mix butter, brown sugar, orange zest in a large bowl, electric mixers work great.  Mix until creamy.  Add flour and salt, work mixture until it forms coarse crumbs.

Instructions for Rhubarb-
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Mix rhubarb, berries, sugar, tapioca, orange zest, orange juice, and salt in a large bowl.
Divide rhubarb mixture into six small, one cup baking dishes and top with topping.
Bake for about 30-35 minutes until golden brown and it is bubbling a little bit.
Let cool and serve, Enjoy!




My favorite Rhubarb Cake
rhubarb cake julie green and keenIngredients-
½ cup vegetarian butter
1 ½ white sugar
¼ cup soy yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 tsp. bake soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups chopped rhubarb
1 tbsp. flour
¼ cup vegetarian butter
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup packed brown sugar

Instructions-
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
In a large bowl, mix together butter, sugar, yogurt and vanilla until creamy.
In another bowl sift 2 cups of flour, baking soda, and salt.  Add the buttermilk and combine with creamed mixture.
Toss the rhubarb with 1 tbsp. flour and stir into the batter.  Pour the batter into a buttered 9 x 13 in pan and smooth the surface.
In a separate bowl, blend together ¼ cup butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar.  Sprinkle evenly over the batter.
Bake for 45 minutes, let cool and enjoy!


The Beloved Fresh Rhubarb Pie
rhubarb pie julie green and keenIngredients-
4 cups of chopped rhubarb
1 1/3 cups white sugar
6 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. butter
Pie Crust (Homemade or bought, your choice)

Instructions-
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F
Combine sugar and flour and sprinkle a ¼ of it over the pie crust.  Heap the rhubarb over this mixture and sprinkle the remaining sugar and flour over the top of the rhubarb.  Chop up pieces of butter and sprinkle over the top and cover with top crust.
Bake for 15 minutes then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and continue baking for 40-45 minutes.
Enjoy your fresh rhubarb pie!


Go Green and Stay Keen,

Julie

Walking through the grocery store it is hard not to miss the milk section.  With countless varieties including animal milk, plant milk, nut milk, soy milk, and grain milk; how do you know what to choose and what is the best for your family. 

I have always been lactose intolerant so I have drank plant based milks since I was a child.  With all the recent hype about antibiotics and pesticides that are said to be in animal milk, many people are turning to alternatives.  Milk substitutes are often consumed by people with intolerants, people concerned with the environment, vegetarians, and vegans. 

I have never known anything but plant based milks and have always had an interest in the various types.  Here are a few plant based milks I consume and their pros and cons.

  • Almond milk is a safe milk option for people with food allergies or a lactose intolerance like me.  It does not contain any dairy, lactose, soy, eggs, cholesterol, gluten, MSG, or whey (milk proteins).


Almond milk has less protein than traditional dairy milk, one cup of almond milk has 1 gram of protein and one cup of dairy milk has 8 grams.  When I drink almond milk I make sure that I am getting protein from other sources in my diet.

Over all Almond milk is very healthy.  It is heart-healthy, low calorie, nutrient dense dairy milk alternative.  

  • Soy milk is my favorite non-dairy alternative.  It has the best source of protein compared to other substitutes.  It has about 7 grams of protein and has a similar fat content to dairy milk.  Most of the fat in soy milk is unsaturated, providing the body with healthy fats.


It is the milk is produced by soaking soybeans and grinding them with water.

It is a good alternative to dairy milk.  The only concern I have is that many soybeans that are grown today are genetically modified.  I make sure to read the labels and buy soy milk that is organic and “non-GMO.”

  • I don’t often use Hemp milk, but it is also another alternative.  Hemp seeds are high in plant based omega-3 fatty acids which help keep cholesterol and blood pressure under control.  It also has 10 essential amino acids making it a good source of protein. 


I like hemp milk in smoothies because it has a thick and creamy texture.  It also has a little bit of a nutty flavor that is really delicious in banana smoothies.

If you are looking to switch to a plant based milk for health reasons it is important to read the ingredients and understand the products nutritional value.  Many substitutes can be high in sugar and have little to no difference in their nutritional values.  I drink plant milks because of my intolerance and because I am a vegetarian.  If you are thin thinking about switching for environmental reasons, know that you will not have a lack of nutrients.  
With spring right around the corner I have been feeling pretty ambitious.  Over the past year my cute little herb garden has turned into somewhat of a little jungle.  When I started growing it last year I had no idea how quickly it would grow or how much it would yield.  I was really surprised how my green thumb has developed, I haven’t killed any herbs and they are growing like crazy. 



My family secretly loves when I cook with our fresh herbs…they usually don’t know but they always have seconds.  J  I decided yesterday because of how much of a hit my garden is, I should expand it and plant some new herbs.  I had no intention of making it larger or planting more when I first started but our family loves it and I like being able to share it with friends.






Yesterday I started planning out how I am going to make it larger and what herbs I want to attempt to grow.  Expanding my outdoor herb garden took more time planning than I thought it would.  I had to figure out if I could transplant and move herbs so they have enough room to grow and to see which way I could expand the garden without hitting any power lines.  I felt like an architect or something like that.



This morning I went to the hardware store to pick up some new garden stones and some healthy black soil for my expansion project.  I was motivated to start moving stones and building up the walls…then I tried moving the ones that have been in the ground for a year; it wasn’t happening.  I decided I needed my husband’s muscles to help. 

In the mean time until he gets home, I have be looking up other herbs to plant in the garden.  I already have a healthy growing amount of mint, chives, parsley, basil, sage, and thyme.  The mint plant is probably one of my favorites; I love mixing it in drinks and when I am cooking vegetables.  I guess I can’t really say it is my favorite, I love all the herbs I have planted. J

I think I want to add some rosemary to use with olive oil and cheeses, tarragon to cook with rice and tofu, and cilantro to add to sandwiches and guacamole.  Adding these three should be enough herbs for me now.  I don’t want to go over board and create an even larger jungle. 
Since planting my herb garden I have used so many more fresh herbs while cooking.  It is so convenient to just walk outside and find an entire garden full of flavors.  I can’t wait until my expansion project is done and I have even more herbs.


Go Green and Stay Keen, 

Julie