Archive for January, 2012

Cooking from Scratch

This soup contains NO dairy, and yet it was creamy and delicious. The creaminess came from pureeing half the soup and adding pureed cashews to the mix.

We made this sauce in a slow cooker using all fresh veggies, even the tomatoes!

What a healthy sauce! I want to make it again soon!

In an effort to save money and avoid processed food with additives and other unwanted “yuckies,” I am determined to start making more things from scratch. My only dilemma is the lack of a food processor. So far, we have still been successful on a few things with our blender. Check out what we’ve been cookin’ lately: Creamy broccoli soup, Slow cooker veggie sauce, and Italian bread wedges.This soup contains NO dairy, and yet it was creamy and delicious. The creaminess came from pureeing half the soup and adding pureed cashews to the mix.

Ok, so these have a little Parmesan on them, but at least I used whole wheat flour in the dough!

 

Can't get enough of this delicious soup!

Here are some things I would like to start making from scratch:
 
Vegetable broth
Cashew cheddar
Salsa
Salad Dressing (all kinds)
Applesauce
Peanut Butter/Almond butter
Fruit spread
Almond milk
Various other sauces and spreads
 
Now all I need is a food processor!
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Small Changes

So over the past few months we have made significant changes to our diet, for our own health. As you may have noticed, our main goal is to be healthier. A secondary benefit is that we’re helping the environment in the process. Now that we’ve switched to a mainly whole foods, plant based diet, we’ve started to look at other aspects of our life.

What other changes can we make to live “greener” and save some money in the process? (Yes, I always have a selfish goal in mind amidst the “save the planet” trend)  So I’ve done some research and found some (reasonable) ideas for saving money and saving the environment in the process. And just so you know, I’m not going extreme hippie and switching to reusable toilet paper. (I did see a lady on an “Extreme Penny-Pincher” type show that used cut up rags as TP and washed them. EWWW!)

To help us meet our goals (and because I’m too organized for my own good), I’ve decided to make a little schedule of the small changes. We will be more motivated to meet these challenges with a strategic plan laid out.

January

Recycle paper, cardboard, glass, and plastic (already got my homemade bins set up!)

Start using  glass Ball jars to store bulk items

February

Switch to linen napkins

Switch to microfiber cloths instead of paper towels and rags

Transition to using more handkerchiefs and less Kleenex

March

Start a small compost bin

Plant an herb garden

Switch to Ecover or BioKleen or Seventh Generation dishwasher detergent

April

Replace old cookie sheets NordicWare Bakers half sheet cookie sheets

Replace old silicone baking mats with MIU brand

Switch to glass water bottles

May

Stop using non-stick cookware

Stop using plastic storage containers, use only glass and ceramic

Switch to CFL light bulbs

Shop at the Farmer’s Market

June

Switch to reusable bulk bin bags and reusable produce bags

Recycle old batteries

Recycle electronics

In other news, I’m finding more and more difficult to be away from home with our new eating habits. My co-workers probably all think I’m crazy being a vegetarian and almost vegan. I try not to talk too much about it. I’m by no means an expert, and I don’t want to give off an air of “I’m better than you” because I DON’T think I’m better than them. Still, it’s an interesting situation when everyone around you is eating things you wouldn’t want to eat. And keep in mind MOST of my co-workers do eat “healthy” by mainstream American standards, but they all eat dairy and meat, and can’t understand why I don’t.

Another thing is eating out. Because of budgeting, my husband and I don’t eat out very often, but when we do, we find limited choices in vegetarian options and hardly any choices at all that are vegan. What do we do when we occasionally want a night out? We’re not willing to compromise our health for a night out, and I’m still not crazy about meat substitutes like tofu because they are still very processed. Thoughts, anyone?

Old Jeans = New Denim Purse

So I had to post some pictures of my first big sewing project. I had a pair of jeans and the zipper broke, so I found a tutorial and converted my jeans into a purse. Started with an old pair of jeans…ten hours later:

Cleaning up our act

So we’ve recently realized that there are large amounts of toxins in A LOT of the toiletries and cleaning products in the average American’s home. Here’s the blog post I found about this subject: http://veggie-kids.blogspot.com/2011/11/toxic-beauty-products.html

We have switched to all natural/organic supplies! After reading the labels, we threw out most of our toiletries and cleaning supplies and got new ones. The unopened ones we actually gave away in our family Christmas, white elephant exchange. They were popular items! Who wouldn’t want a bag full of Clorox wipes, Crest toothpaste, Comet Cleaner, and hand soap for Christmas? It’s a practical gift.

But anyway, we’ve discovered that toiletries in natural form are slightly more expensive, but not too hard to find. We like the Yes To brand, as well as Burt’s Bees and Jason. We have found that Hyvee and Target carry such products, as well as Whole Foods (but sadly, the nearest Whole Foods is 2 hours away). One thing that was tough to find was Fluoride-free toothpaste, but we found some! (Did you know fluoride is bad for you?)

As far as cleaning products, I have done a lot of research and discovered that all you need to clean your home is a few cheap, natural ingredients: club soda, castille soap, borax, lemon juice, vinegar, baking soda, and tea tree oil. For more information on homemade cleaners, check out http://greenlivingideas.com/2008/04/27/natural-cleaning-recipes/.

Now I can clean the shower without gagging and coughing on chemical fumes! It’s also good for the environment, and I think, cheaper than using commercial stuff. I cleaned all my floors, the entire bathroom, AND the kitchen counter with just one cup of club soda and a tablespoon of castille soap. The total cost was probably 50 cents!

Natural/organic makeup has been the hardest to find. I got powder foundation and mascara at Target, tinted moisturizer at Walgreens, and blush and eye shadow online at www.iHerb.com. It’s a great website for finding natural products, including food items. We’re considering buying some groceries off of iHerb since, it’s cheaper than the stores BUT that’s for pre-packaged things. I haven’t compared bulk bin items.

So we’re going grocery shopping tonight! We’ll be trying some new grains we haven’t had before, such as barley, quinoa, and lentils. I am excited as our grocery list is 80% produce and bulk grains and about 95% items that only contain one or a few ingredients. The holidays were difficult! We stayed away from meat, but the dairy temptations were everywhere, as were the unhealthy “beige food” options. Now that the holidays are over, we’ll be better off with our healthy eating.

Here are some tips I learned from my lovely sister-in-law on healthy living/cooking:

Flax – You can susbstitute flax and water for an egg in most baking recipes. Here’s a link to see how to do this: http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/2011/10/how-to-make-a-flax-egg-for-vegan-baking-the-right-way/

BPA in cans – We hear all this talk about BPA free plastics and the push to use these. But apparently almost all cans used in canned goods have BPA in the lining. Yikes! So far, the only brand without BPA is Eden Foods. You can find them at Whole Foods or online. Learn more about Eden Foods here: http://www.edenfoods.com/articles/view.php?articles_id=178

Nutritional Yeast – It is used as a substitute for parmesan cheese in vegan recipes and has a nutty flavor. You can find it in the bulk bin section or packaged near the flours and grains in the health food section.

LABELS – Read the labels on all the items you buy. Almost everything contains high fructose corn syrup or corn syrup. That’s why I’m trying to stick to eating primarily foods in their simplest forms that haven’t been processed. Make your own sauces and salad dressings to avoid all the extra gunk you can’t pronounce on the label.

Sweeteners – Artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Equal are just as bad for you as processed sugar. Try using REAL maple syrup, organic honey, or date syrup to sweeten baked goods or snacks.

Have you made your New Year’s Resolution yet? How about cutting out drinking pop? Or making salad once a week? Or cutting back on meat and dairy? You can have a healthier life just by taking baby steps to eating better!