Fruit for Lunch, also now known as Fruit Party!!

With all the abundance of fresh yummy fruit in the summer, we decided one super hot day to just have as much cold fruit as we could eat for lunch! So we stopped at the store and bought any fruit that looked or smelled awesome! (Side note, that sounds expensive, but we realized it cost the same amount as if we’d gone to taco bell or any other fast food place) My youngest daughter dubbed the meal: Fruit Party!

When we got home we cut it up and devoured it, but not before I took this scrumptious photo!

Fruit Party

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My Plant Based Diet with ALL my Recipes

A couple years ago we started trying to eat better, mostly for health reasons. I blogged about the journey we took with food mostly as it happened, but those posts are long and scattered, so I’ve summarized the info into a timeline to help anyone considering starting this long process, maybe you can learn from my mistakes :)

2012 – Summer
We were eating completely SAD (Standard American Diet), pizza, burgers, donuts… basically meat/wheat/dairy with every meal. We started researching different ways to eat, realizing that most of the health issues we were dealing with were food related… but terrified to try eating differently we delayed changing for six months…

2013 – Spring
Starting fresh with the new year we tried to go cold turkey for all of two days. By the end of the second day only eating raw fruits and veggies, we RAN to the nearest pizza place and binged till we were full. Next we took it slower, cutting out one food at a time. When we cut out meat, we went through a couple bad weeks before the cravings faded. The same happened with milk. Cheese was next, and it was so hard, three solid days of shaking like a drug addict. What I could not manage to give up was the bread, finally I buckled down and went through my four worst days of withdrawal, including flu-like symptoms, cold sweats, and withdrawal shaking, I even had to call in sick to work one of the days. On the fifth day we allowed ourselves some sandwich bread, but since then have eaten MUCH less wheat. As we discovered with meat, once you stop eating the foods your body can’t process, your body feels better, and does not have any interest in those foods. You just have to break the craving cycle. Even a few months ago I could never imagine a future that I would not need bread as a comfort food. Now I’m looking at trying to create that future, and it’s both scary and exhilarating.

2013 – Summer
We tried a completely wheat free experiment that lasted three weeks. The first couple of weeks I was not interested in losing weight, so I used small amounts of chocolate, and fries, to get through the cravings. The third week we all felt really really good, but could not maintain the no wheat at all. I may try again, or I may just stop trying to force the issue, and let wheat fade away over the course of a year like I did for meat. Only time will tell. What we learned: changing the way you eat is not about deprivation, it’s about change. Saying “I’m not going to eat cheese today” gets you nowhere. All you can think about is cheese. Instead, if all day you are thinking about the wonderful juicy peach you bought for an afternoon snack, and how tasty that will be, you have positive thoughts.

2013 – Autumn
It’s hard to stay hyper focused on something long term. It’s stressful and tiring to stay focused on one life topic, day after day, meal by meal. Sometimes I think we did it the hard way, and other times I know this was how we needed to do it, for our family, to slowly change habits, try out different diets and ways of eating a plant based menu. I feel that with this choice to be simply a whole food plant based vegan, that we are finally on the right track for now, on the path of something healthy that we can maintain long term.

2014 – Summer
I remember feeling so wonderfully healthy when we started eating vegan about a year and half ago, so what has gone wrong? How did we get so unhealthy, and how did we not notice? I imagine what made the biggest difference at the beginning, was merely removing all the processed foods from our diet, and starting to eat vegetables that caused us to feel so well, but slowly we became deficit in the foods we were restricting ourselves from, and the last couple of months we’ve just been feeling awful. So, after reviewing everything I had learned, we decided to stop being vegan. I started looking at how people eat, and why, and success they have with their chosen diet, and as I researched I put all the ‘diets’ into a simple chart. What I discovered was that the people eating ALL these different diets… were ALL healthy! But how could that be? Some don’t eat meat, some eat meat but no dairy, some eat grains, others don’t, and it became very confusing. Finally I started looking at the linking factors, which seem to be vegetables. A LOT of vegetables. Everything else had its place in the food habits of these people, but veggies at every meal seem to be at the core of success for them all. As we’ve been muddling through new recipes, new flavors, new styles of cooking, we have not been totally successful, falling back on our old patterns of eating when all this newness becomes overwhelming. As a family we agree that when we eat plant based we all feel strong, more energetic, and generally happier.
A look at all the plant based diets (most of which we’ve tried), with a comparison chart….
https://growsewhappy.wordpress.com/2014/06/23/diet-comparison-chart/

2015 – Summer
The way I currently eat has worked for me for over a year now. This is the path I think that works best for my health, and is somewhat easy for me to follow. It looks like this…

Unlimited:
Vegetables & Fruits
Rice & Oats
Eggs & Honey

Limited:
Sprouted Wheat Bread (about once a week)
Dairy (about three times a week, usually in the form of probiotic yogurt)
Meat (only chicken that I cook myself, about twice a month)
Beans (about twice a month)

Rules:
-One cheat meal a week
-All diets suspended for vacations and holidays
-I only eat two meals a day, no snacks or desserts

When I eat this way, I feel fantastic, have tons of energy, and lose weight. Does this work perfectly all the time? No. Life happens. When I stray off of this plan all my old issues come back to make me feel ill, and you’ll find me moaning on the couch. After experiencing health I don’t want to feel sick though, so for the most part I WANT to eat this way. The main thing I have learned is to not stress over eating “perfectly”. I still want to enjoy life, a hot chocolate in winter, or cold jello cake in summer is part of life, and I won’t give that up completely, I’ve learned to balance it with eating healthy on the other days of the week to stay physically and mentally well.

I hope reading about my long tour through diet after diet helps you skip strait to what will work for you. I wish you happiness and health for life!

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My Recipes…

I’ve been reading and researching for three solid years, health books, recipe books, blogs, and more. This is my combined learning, condensed into the recipe cards that I use every day in my own kitchen. These are based on my diet plan, and my tastes. Keep in mind they still include some of the unhealthy recipes that I grew up with, because occasionally I still make these recipes for my planned weekly mental-health-cheat-meals.

Click here to download: Basic Cooking Cards

The Soup Card

The Soup Card

Simple Avocado Salads

My New Favorites!!

Romaine Avocado Salad
1 RIPE avocados – peeled, pitted and diced
2 ripe roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 lime, juiced
3 romaine hearts, chopped into strips
1 green bell pepper, chopped (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
Combine and enjoy!

Guacamole Kale Salad
1 head kale, all stems removed
1 avocado
1 small tomato finely diced (optional)
Juice of 1 lime or lemon
Salt & Pepper
1. In a bowl add avocado and lime or lemon juice, and salt/pepper. Mash together to form guacamole.
2. Place kale in a salad bowl and top with guacamole. Fold guacamole into kale. Massage all ingredients together. Stir in tomatoes.
thediva-dish.com

Roasted Vegetable Soup

Roasted Vegetable Soup
Follow the recipe, or add any available summer veggies!
2 medium zucchini, sliced in ¼-inch slices
2 summer squash, sliced in ¼-inch slices
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 orange bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
Coconut Oil Spray
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 cups water
6 tsp vegetable broth
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with foil, and place chopped vegetables on it. Spray with coconut toil, and sprinkle with spices, toss to coat. Cook vegetables for 20 to 25 minutes until slightly fork tender. Add water to a stockpot, and bring pot to boil, add broth, and return to boil. Remove vegetables from oven and scoop into the pot. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Adapted from a recipe in: The Wheat Free Diet & Cookbook

Diet Comparison Chart

It all kind of started with eggs. They were one of the last things that I finally took out of our diet so we could be completely vegan… but I’d always intuitively felt that they were healthy, and I missed how good they made me feel. When I had an omelet that my brother made me in Arizona, I really began deliberating over the whole vegan thing. Only lately staying strictly on a high carb vegan diet, my weight refused to budge even an ounce. Even working out really hard, such as in a group class, in a cycling class, on the treadmill, nothing was working. Next I made a strange discovery that whenever I ‘cheated’, and ate an egg, would I lose a bit of weight. And that began to really make me think critically about the way I was eating.

I looked into the reasons why other people had ‘fallen off the vegan wagon’, and discovered that it was because they were lacking vitamins to make their body run correctly. They were experiencing fatigue, digestions issues, hair loss, cavities, loss of appetite, weight gain, unrestful sleep, lowered immune system, depression… I was surprised to realize that my husband and I, combined, had all or most of these problems… and that we didn’t have them before. And in kids, symptoms of vitamin deficiency included unrestful sleep, less vibrant skin, loss of appetite, fatigue, and distended bellies… the girls were showing all of these ills, things I had noticed in them, but had not even considered was due to our ‘perfect vegan diet’.

I remember feeling so wonderfully healthy when we started eating vegan about a year and half ago, so what had gone wrong? How did we get so unhealthy, and how did we not notice? I imagine what made the biggest difference at the beginning, was merely removing all the processed foods from our diet, and starting to eat vegetables that caused us to feel so well, but slowly we became deficit in the foods we were restricting ourselves from, and the last couple of months we’ve just been feeling awful. So, after reviewing everything I had learned, we decided to stop being vegan.

But then… what do we eat? I started looking at how people eat, and why, and success they have with their chosen diet, and as I researched I put all the ‘diets’ into a simple chart. What I discovered was that the people eating ALL these different diets… were ALL healthy! But how could that be? Some don’t eat meat, some eat meat but no dairy, some eat grains, others don’t, and it became very confusing. Finally I started looking at the linking factors, which seem to be vegetables. A LOT of vegetables. Everything else had its place in the food habits of these people, but veggies at every meal seem to be at the core of success for them all. Also, quality of food was a link between the diets. Pasture raised eggs, organic grown produce, raw nuts, whole grain bread. No junk food, or processed food. Whole, natural food, that was the reigning theme throughout all the library books, eBooks, medical sites, diet sites, and blogs that cataloged how this or that diet was the best because BLANK. The link I am sure is the vegetables, and quality of food.

Here is my chart, the green is things that you are allowed to eat on the diet. The light green with “Lim” is for things that are allowed to be eaten in limited quantities. The dark green with “Focus” is the main food group of the diet. There are complexities to each diet, but undressed, down to the basics, these are their do’s and don’ts.

Click on the photo to see it clearly, or download it here: Diet Comparison Chart

Diet Comparison Chart

I had eggs for breakfast this morning, and am full and satisfied. I’m glad that we did the vegan thing for a while, because it stopped our cravings for most processed foods, and we had to learn to cook and enjoy vegetables. So with our new healthier eating habits, we’ve started incorporating meat and dairy back into our diet. And instead of focusing on any specific diet, as a family we agreed to simply eat the best quality food we can.

Yummiest Green Juice

Green Juice
Yield: one quart jar

1 cucumber
4 apples
8 leaves of kale (one bunch)
1 small lemon
1 red pepper

1. Wash
2. Chop
3. Juice
4. Strain
5. Enjoy!

Coconut Rice Pudding

Coconut Rice Pudding
1 can coconut milk (about 2 cups)
2 cup cooked rice
1 tablespoon of honey, agave, or maple syrup
1 dash of cinnamon
1. Add the coconut milk to a small pot. Make sure that you mix the can thoroughly before using to ensure the liquid and solids are evenly mixed (they can sometimes separate in storage).
2. Bring the coconut milk to a simmer over medium-low heat.
3. Add the honey and stir to combine.
4. Add rice and continue to stir until it is evenly distributed.
5. Let the mixture continue to simmer in the pot for about five minutes. The liquids should boil off and the mixture will become thicker.
6. Spoon into dishes and sprinkle the top with cinnamon. Garnish with a sprig of mint if you’re feeling fancy!

I found the recipe HERE

Vegan Spaghetti O’s

I found lots and lots of recipes for homemade vegan Spaghetti O’s, I was going to post the recipe that we tried, but I lost it. I’m not going to try hard to relocate it, because my family only sort of liked the one that we tried. But it’s easy to locate more, and we might try again!

Soft Bean Burritos

I can’t find the website where I saw this great quick recipe for sauce, but when I saw it I thought it would be great to use as a base for soft tacos. We all loved this quick tasty mexican food dish, I even got picky eater Kaylee to eat it!

Enchilada Sauce
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 5 minutes
Servings: Makes 2 ½ cups
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 ½ cups water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 ½ tablespoons chili powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan until well mixed. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened. Serve over Mexican flavored foods.

Soft Bean Burritos
1 can black beans, drained
1 can corn
1 can of refried beans
10 small soft corn tortillas
Combine both beans, and corn, in a sauce pan over medium heat, blend well. Preheat ENCHILADA SAUCE in a frying pan on the stove at medium heat. Spoon the bean mixture on half the tortilla, and fold in half. Cook in enchilada sauce nearly two minutes, remove from heat and enjoy!

Two Vegan Baking Basics

DIY Gluten-free Flour
This recipe works for almonds, flax feeds, or oats:
1. Measure out 1 or 2 cups
2. Place into your blender
3. Secure the blender lid and place tamper inside blender (use tamper if necessary to get almonds moving)
4. Turn blender on high (for Vitamix use High, Speed 10) for 7 seconds, done!
Original instructions found here at: Simply Whole Foods

Flax Seed Egg Replacer-One egg equals 1 tablespoon flax meal plus 3 tablespoons water, and you do not need to make each one individually.
-In a small bowl, add flax meal followed by water, stirring as you go with a whisk or a fork.
-Refrigerate. This is key! Place the bowl of eggs in the refrigerator for a minimum of 15 minutes, but up to an hour is best. This will allow your egg to “set up”. Don’t skip this important step!
The above excerpt is from: Bonzai Aphrodite

For more information on flax seeds as an egg replacer read about it here: Vegan Baking

A recipe that uses both is:
Mint Brownie Bites
found at Begin Within Nutrition
1/2 cup coconut oil (melted)
1/2 cup honey
3 flax eggs
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 cup almond meal
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a mini-muffin tin with cooking spray, set aside.
-In a small bowl, whisk together liquefied coconut oil, eggs, honey and peppermint extract.
-In a medium bowl, combine almond meal, cocoa powder, and baking soda.
-Mix wet and dry ingredients together until well combined and a batter is formed.
-Pour batter into mini-muffin cups, 2/3 way full.
-Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
-Cool and enjoy!

They turned out okay, my hubby didn’t like them, but the girls finished them!

Avocado Corn Salad

This is our new favorite family recipe!

Avocado Corn Salad
Serves 4
1 can of corn, or two ears of cut corn
2 roma tomatoes
1 medium cucumber, diced
1 avocado
1 tsp. Garlic powder
Lemon Juice
½ tsp. Salt
fresh ground pepper (optional)
Mash avocado with garlic, salt, and lemon. Add to a large bowl with the everything else, combine, refrigerate until ready to use.

Banana Milk

This was a bit of a fail. I loved the simplicity of the idea, just blend a couple bananas in some water, and Banana Milk! I was really hopeful, so we tried it with a few different cereals, and it just didn’t work. I know other people enjoy it, so maybe it will work for you!

Energy Bars, or Dessert Balls, or whatever!

Hands down these are my new favorite indulgence for the weekend…
All of these fabulous recipes are from Chocolate Covered Katie! :)

Samoa Bars
1 1/2 cups pitted dates, packed
6 TBLS shredded coconut
1 tsp vanilla
3 TBLS chocolate chips, or carob chips

Put all the ingredients together in your food processor, and blend.
Line an loaf pan with foil (or wax paper) and, using another piece of foil on top, press the bars as hard as possible. Refrigerate for an hour or so, then cut into bars and individually wrap for on the go snacks!

Fudge Bars
1 cup almonds
1 and 1/3 cups pitted dates
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 tbsp cocoa powder
3 tbsp chocolate chips

Blend all the ingredients, using a food processor. Form into bars. It might help to put dough in a ziplock bag and close the bag, then shape into a bar.

Cookie Dough Babies
1 cup pitted dates
3TBLS chocolate chips or carob chips
1/2 cup cashews or almonds
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Blend the everything in a food processor.
Roll into tight balls, store in a jar in the fridge.

Fabulous Real Watermelon Cake!


I saw this idea first in a photo facebook update from a raw vegan about a year ago, and my daughter loved the idea! We really love fruit in our household! After two semi-failed gluten free vegan “cakes”, we remembered this fruit cake, and realized we were going at the problem the wrong way. Instead of trying to find things that sort of taste like our old life, we should just fully embrace the new! So I went looking for watermelon cake instructions. The best I found were here at Paleo Cupboard, however we didn’t even attempt the whipped coconut frosting, our family doesn’t seem to ever like anything made with real coconut. I did some google image searching and discovered that people were making these cakes layered using toothpicks, and that was just too cool not to give it whirl! I wanted to try a fruit compote over it, and even found a good looking recipe, however Meg wanted it fruit and she wanted it all raw, and so it was! She chose all the fruit, and the candles, decorated it herself, and she LOVED the effect!

Meg’s Watermelon Layered Cake
2 Personal Watermelons
1 pint blueberries
1 pint strawberries
Small can pineapple rings
Cookie cutters
Toothpicks
Cut the ends off the watermelons, then cut the rinds off in a circular fashion. Leave one block of watermelon whole, cut the other block into two rings, cut the rings smaller to make layers. Attach all the layers with toothpicks. Decorate with fruit using more toothpicks!

Chocolate Cake, healthy-ish of course…

Over the last few weeks I tried out a couple recipes for my daughter’s birthday party that was the other day. The first one was good, everyone liked it except my husband, who said it tasted like chocolate covered beans… which is was I suppose…

Black Bean Brownies
1 1/2 cups black beans, drained and rinsed very well
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup oats
1/3 cup pure maple syrup or honey
2 stevia packs or 2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup coconut or vegetable oil
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup chocolate chips
optional: more chips, for presentation
Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine all ingredients except chips in a good food processor, and blend until completely smooth. Really blend well. (A blender can work if you absolutely must, but the texture—and even the taste—will be much better in a food processor.) Stir in the chips, then pour into a greased 8×8 pan. Optional: sprinkle extra chocolate chips over the top. Cook the black bean brownies 15-18 minutes, then let cool at least 10 minutes before trying to cut.
This amazing recipe is from one of my new favorite hot spots for vegan desserts: Chocolate Covered Katie

This second recipe was great! But not vegan, and so close to tasting like actual cake that perhaps it was too spot on. The recipe was so complex that the kitchen was a disaster afterward, everything was messy including the blender, the food processer, a sauce pan, measuring cups, two mixing bowls, and the baking pan! On top of that the cake was soooo tasty that we all had an extra piece each, and I gained nearly two pounds from it!

Chocolate Cake
1 1/2 cup packed almond meal
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
1 1/2 cup packed pitted dates
1/2 cup water
3 eggs
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Mix together all dry ingredients (almond meal, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt) in a bowl and set aside.
3. Place the dates and water in a food processor or strong blender and blend until it forms a smooth paste.
4. Mix the date paste with the wet ingredients (eggs, coconut oil, vanilla), and mix until smooth.
5. Add the wet to the dry and stir until smooth.
6. Grease an 8″ round cake pan, and pour in batter.
7. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for at least 10-15 minutes before serving so that it has time to set.
-Make your own almond meal by processing raw almonds until no large chunks remain. Don’t over process because it will turn into almond butter.
-You may soak the dates for a few hours or overnight to make them softer and easier to blend.
-You can melt the coconut oil by putting it into your preheating oven, that saves getting an extra sauce pan messy.
I found the original recipe here: Spoonful of Sugarfree
(The frosting was basic buttercream using vegan butter and almond milk.)

Tomorrow I’ll post what cake we actually ended up doing for Meg’s Birthday Party :)