Thursday, May 30, 2013

Vegan Banana "Ice Cream" with Whipped Coconut Cream

Vegan Banana "Ice Cream" topped with
whipped coconut cream and dried banana pieces.
So... let's talk a little bit about dessert, shall we? I LOVE dessert. I have a sweet tooth like nobody's business, but since I'm trying to eat healthier, I've been avoiding sugary treats as much as possible. But avoiding sugar doesn't mean I can't have sweet, luscious creamy desserts! One of our favorites around here lately is Banana "Ice Cream" with Whipped Coconut Cream. We've been eating it almost every weekend! I first learned about banana "ice cream" from this old vegan cook book I bought in 1990. I enjoyed it fairly often over the years, but my recent discovery of coconut cream has turn an old stand-by dessert into a completely decadent treat. And yet... it's not even bad for you, so you can eat it without any guilt at all! To make this, you'll need a food processor (a blender will do, in a pinch) and a mixer. You do have to plan ahead a little bit for this, as you need to freeze the bananas first. We solve this little problem by always keeping some bananas in the freezer, so we always have them ready for desserts and smoothies on a moment's notice. I usually just peel them, break them into chunks and seal them in a tupperware container or zip bag.

Banana "Ice Cream" with Whipped Coconut Cream

You will need:
1 can of coconut cream (I like the Trader Joe's brand) well chilled.
Natural sweetener of choice (I usually use liquid stevia for this)
1 to 2 frozen bananas for each serving.

Dump the coconut cream into the bowl of a stand mixer (or into any large bowl, if you're using a hand mixer) Start whipping, adding a touch of sweetener to taste. I don't think it needs much, personally. Keep whipping it, scraping the sides down occasionally, until it's fluffy. It won't get quite as fluffy as dairy whipped cream. When it's good enough, place it in the fridge while you make the ice cream.

Place your bananas in the food processor, and blend until they are nice and creamy. That's it!

Now... scoop the "ice cream" into serving dishes, and top each one with a generous dollop of coconut cream. Sometimes, to be fancy, I'll top it all with a few crumbled banana chips. A little spoonful of crushed pineapple is a nice addition, too!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Eating Clean... Making it Work in Real Life

There are two times when I tend to fall off the "Clean Eating" wagon... during holidays and special occasions, and when life gets really super busy, and I don't have as much time to prepare healthful meals. I have been working hard to make taking care of my body a priority, and so I have been trying to find ways to make this Clean Eating lifestyle fit into my Real Life. Holidays and special occasions are still a real challenge for me, but I'm beginning to get a handle on eating well while busy. Here are some things that are working for me right now.

Plan Meals. I've talked about this one here before, in a post about feeding your family on a budget.  Not only does planning meals save you money, but it also saves you oodles of time. By planning out your menu for the week before you go shopping, you'll know exactly what ingredients you need to have on hand for the week's meals. Knowing what you're going to cook, and having all the ingredients already, saves you from having to run out to the store several times a week for a few ingredients here and there. Because really... aren't you busy enough? While some families might find it helpful to plan out all the meals for the week, I usually just plan out dinners, including side dishes. For example:

Saturday: Homemade Pizza Night
Sunday: Curry roasted root vegetables and sauteed kale
Monday: Bean burritos and Salad
Tuesday: Lentils and brown rice, roasted carrots, broccoli
Wednesday: Tofu, quinoa and veggie bowls with ginger nama shoyu sauce
Thursday: Three bean chili with avocado and salad
Friday: Surprise! (Friday is our shopping day, so Friday dinners are always leftovers or other "cleaning out the fridge" meals.)

For breakfasts, we just keep basic staples on hand such as cereals, fruit, etc. For lunches we often eat leftovers from dinner, but we also keep things like bread, peanut butter, tortillas and salad fixings in fridge. Once I've planned my dinners for the week, I make my shopping list by writing down all the ingredients I need for those meals, then add in the staples we'll need for breakfasts, lunches and snacks.

Shredded carrots, shredded cabbage and
cooked  quinoa, ready for the week's meals.
Prep Veggies. Meals are much easier to throw together if you do prep work ahead of time. At the beginning of the week, I like to wash and chop up a bunch of veggies and store them in the fridge in sealed
containers.  I wash and chop my kale, shred a bunch of carrots and cabbage in my food processor, cut up celery sticks for the kiddos, etc. If you have healthy food that is prepped and ready to go, you really have no excuse not to make healthy choices. I can throw a salad together in 3 minutes, because everything is washed and ready to go... I just toss everything into a bowl, slice a tomato and add dressing. If I know I have a lot going on in a particular week, I will even precook some grains like rice or quinoa, and keep those in the fridge. That way I can just toss my prepped veggies and precooked rice into a skillet along with some beans or tofu for a quick dinner.

Cook Double (or triple) Batches. Whenever I make things like chili or soups, I ALWAYS make a big pot. It's not much more trouble to make a bigger batch, and that way I can freeze some for another meal. It's great on busy work nights to just have to reheat something and toss together a salad instead of having to cook a whole meal. Reheating some frozen soup doesn't take any longer than ordering in, and it's WAY healthier.

Pack for the Road. This is one I will admit to being pretty inconsistent with. On days when you're going to be out and about a lot, pack a bag with healthy food, so you won't be tempted to get takeout. I failed at this one last Friday! We had a REALLY busy day of rushing from one activity to another... we didn't have time to stop home for dinner before an evening activity. We were starving, out someplace with no healthy choices, and ended up with greasy snack bar pizza. Bleh. Lesson learned!

I won't is definitely a lot more effort to eat healthy than to not. Most of the time, it requires planning and preparation. But, when you think about how great you'll feel, and the benefits to your health long-term, it is well worth it.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

"Clean" Eating

I try to "eat healthy" most of the time. Sometimes I do better at this than others! But as I'm getting older, I'm trying hard to step up my game in the healthy eating department, endeavoring to not only eat "healthy", but to eat "clean." But what does that mean, to "eat clean"?

Well... like any dietary guideline, the definition is not black and white. At one extreme, it may be eating only raw plant foods, while others might consider simply avoiding unnatural ingredients and refined foods to be "eating clean"  For me, it's somewhere in the middle. I've been vegetarian since my teens, and have avoided artificial ingredients, preservatives, etc for many years. It was a New Year's Intention of mine to try to back to a vegan lifestyle, so lately I've also been trying to avoid dairy and eggs, as well as sugar, and anything refined.  I've been sticking to tons of veggies, a few whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice and quinoa, seeds, nuts, fruits and beans.I have really noticed that when I'm eating a nice clean diet, I feel great! And on those occasions when I do indulge in some refined carbs, sugar or dairy, I don't feel so good. Being aware of how my diet affects the way I feel definitely helps keep me motivated to make healthy choices.

So what does a "clean" diet look like in real life? Well... here are some sample menus of what I've been eating lately:


Oatmeal, with raisins and flax, and a little stevia.

Apple slices w/almond butter

Lentil Stew

half an avocado

Tofu, veggies and quinoa, with ginger nama shoyu sauce.


Banana, handful of walnuts

Pineapple chunks

A big salad, with garbanzo beans, hemp seeds and tahini dressing.

Veggies with hummus

3 bean chili with diced avocado, small salad


Millet with dried fruit and hemp seeds

Green Smoothie

Vegetarian Minestrone Soup

Veggies and buckwheat noodles with spicy peanut sauce

Breakfast! Oatmeal w/flax and stevia

Lunch! Big, awesome salad.

Dinner! Veggies, buckwheat soba noodles and spicy peanut sauce

There are days when I find it more challenging than others to eat well (particularly when the rest of the family really needs a Mac-n-Cheese fix!) But I try to just take it one meal at a time, one day at a time.  Next post, I will share some ways to make it easier to make good choices, even when life gets really busy.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

This Year’s Garden, (so far)

I planned on getting some pictures of the garden beds in progress after work today, but it is just raining cats and dogs out there! I’m pleased with this rain, though… as we all know those little seeds need the rains as much as the sun in order to grow!

Even though I can’t get any good pics right now, I’ll still share a rundown of what we have going on out there, so far!

Berries…. In our tiered strawberry bed, our strawberry plants are doing great! They came back bigger and healthier than ever this year, and they’re spilling out of the bed and trailing all along the ground!  Some were starting to creep into the rose hedges and the raspberry bushes, so I dug those up and shared them with friends.  Speaking of those raspberries… we gave them a pruning back in early April, and we put some new trellises up behind them. Next to the raspberries and strawberries, we’ve got two blueberry bushes. We’ve had them for 3 years now, and have yet to see a berry… there seems to be lots of new growth and buds of them so far, so maybe this will be the year we see some fruit!

In addition to our little berry area, we also have seven 6x8 foot raised beds:

Lettuces… We have one bed dedicated to salad greens. In this bed, I have planted some Simpson lettuce seeds, some Bibb lettuce seeds, and some spinach seeds. Still waiting for it all to sprout!

More greens… in another bed, I’ve put in some kale, cabbage, collards and broccoli. These were starts from a local garden center. So far, so good!

Peas and Potatoes… a couple of weeks ago, I planted some pea seeds (right after last frost!) They have sprouted and are coming along nicely! In the same bed, I planted some seed potatoes last weekend, Yukon golds on one side, russets on the other.

Cukes, summer squashes and beets… a couple of weeks ago I planted some beet seeds, and then last week I put in some pickling cucumbers plants, some zucchini plants and some crookneck squash plants. These were starts from the garden center, and they seem to be doing well, so far. Still waiting for the beets to sprout.

Tomatoes, carrots and herbs… For tomatoes this year, we’ve got 5 kinds of heirlooms, along with some cherry tomatoes and some romas. I put those in two weeks ago, and they look great so far. The week before that, in the same bed, I planted carrot seeds, and also put in some basil and parsley.

Beans, squashes and melons… in the last two beds, I have planted green bean and wax bean seeds, sugar pumpkins, acorn squash and watermelons. Still waiting for those to sprout, too!

Peppers… in pots! We ran out of room in the beds, so this year we put our peppers in pots! We’ve got some sweet banana peppers, red bells, poblanos and habaneros.

Although we got a late start planning our garden this year, I’m pleased that we managed to get everything into the ground by mid-May, right on schedule. We managed to catch up by buying starts from the garden center, rather than grow our own seedlings. This is definitely a much more expensive way to start the garden, though it certainly took a lot less time and effort.

So now we watch, water, weed and wait!  

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Family Time: A Spring Hike!

This time of year is quite busy for our family! Little League season, dance recital season, lots springtime activities with our homeschool group keep us going almost non-stop. In spite of our best efforts to keep our schedule from getting too overwhelming, (a popular topic, for me!) we often end up with a month or so here and there where we seem to have a LOT of obligations on our time. But when things get this hectic, it becomes even more important to schedule in some quality "downtime" wherever and whenever we can squeeze it in! Yesterday, we realized we had NOTHING on the calendar... not even baseball! We seized the opportunity, and had a perfect Family Day. We started with a big pancake breakfast, made by Ladybug. Then we puttered about the house, enjoying the fact that we didn't have to RUSH to get anyplace. After lunch... the highlight of our day... a gorgeous spring hike at a local reservation!

Noodle, Monkey and Ladybug, enjoying the view
Hiking is a favorite activity for our family. We love to be outside, and we like to stay active. I also love that it's something we can do together as a family, that costs absolutely nothing! We are very lucky to live near some great hiking places. There are several parks and reservations within a short drive of our home. Yesterday's trail was a 4 mile hike on rocky terrain which gave us lots of beautiful views. We were out for about two and a half hours, but it was such a beautiful day that it felt much shorter! We came home tired, but happy, and wrapped up our day with some homemade pizza and a family movie. BLISS, I tell you.

Today we're back to business as usual... Monkey's got a baseball practice this morning, and then we've got some household projects to tend to, and some stuff to do to prepare for the work/school week... but after our nice "Day Off" yesterday, we are refreshed and ready for whatever the week may bring.

Next post: a Garden update!