Sunday, October 2, 2011

Fall Favorites

 First of all, I would like to show you all the crazy phenomenon that is my yard right now. We have had some nasty, rainy, gloomy weather for about a week straight and my yard is now a field of mushrooms. I've never seen anything like it. At first I thought our house was sitting on something really weird and gross but then I heard on the radio that the mushrooms are everywhere. I took the time to look around and they are - in fact - everywhere; so now I don't feel so bad. 

I've never seen mushrooms grow like this before! But they spring up within a day or two and so I'm out pulling them by hand (yuck!) three times a week so the dogs don't eat them. Luckily the dogs only seem to like things they can actually play with like sticks or squirrels , so the mushrooms don't seem to interest them but I'm not going to take chances. 
This is the neighbor's yard and they have just as many so I don't feel like I'm the only one with a rotting yard. I did find out that my mushrooms are growing off the roots of a dead tree stump so until we get that removed, the yard dries up or it freezes, we have a mushroom farm. 

Now to the fun fall things. First up: Butternut squash. It comes around every fall and you either love it, hate it, or don't know what to do with it. 
It's pretty easy, inexpensive and makes a unique side dish. If you're unfamiliar with it, butternut squash is firm until cooked (think: potato) and has a slightly sweet but mild taste.
All you have to do is cut in in half, and bake at 400 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes. Once it's cool enough to touch, peel it and gut it out (the round part has seeds like a pumpkin). 

You can serve it in slices, or mashed up. It's really good with a little butter and cinnamon and a few roasted nuts if you're feeling adventurous. Pureed it makes a great thick soup for a chilly day. 

I have a second food culprit for today. It is the signature of fall for many people: the pumpkin spice latte, "pumpkin pie in a cup".  A Starbucks 12 oz Pumpkin Spice Latte has 300 calories, and 38 grams of sugar. Not to mention the artificial flavorings and modified food products used for the pumpkin sauce, it all just seemed a little less appetizing (ingredients listed here; pumpkin, ironically, is not an ingredient). Not to mention the $4+ it costs for a single drink when you can make it at home for about $.90 or about $.60 if you don't use organic. (Yes, I did the math!)

There are a ton of recipes for similar drinks out there and it really comes down to taste. Some people like it sweeter, some people like it spicier, some people like it more pumpkin-y. Here's one I've used for the past few days so modify it to your heart's content!

What You Need:
  • Canned pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • Milk product of choice 
  • Sweetener of choice (sugar, agave nectar, stevia, honey)
  • Cinnamon, Pumpkin Pie Spice, Nutmeg, Allspice (or any combination of similar spices)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 oz espresso or 4 oz strong regular coffee
What To Do:
  1. In a saucepan heat 6 oz of water if you're using espresso or 4 oz water if you're using coffee. Bring to a boil.
  2. Add 1/4 cup pumpkin puree and stir until dissolved. 
  3. Add 1-2 tbsp of sweetener to taste (obviously less if you're using stevia, use your judgement).
  4. Add vanilla and your spices to taste. I don't measure anything but it's probably 1/4 tsp each of cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and nutmeg and just a sprinkle of allspice. Clove would probably be good here too, I'd just keep adding them and tasting it until it's where you want it. 
  5. Once the spices are dissolved, add 1 cup of your favorite milk product. I like unsweetened organic soy. 
  6. Reduce the heat and add your coffee/espresso. 
  7. Here is where I finish but it does not yield a frothy latte. You can toss the whole thing in a blender to froth it up, or give it a few stirs with a handheld milk frother. Top with whipped cream and spices if you like and enjoy!

Put the extra pumpkin in a container and store it in the fridge to use the rest of the week. Or use it for yummy pumpkin muffins or pumpkin bread!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sometimes You Just Need a Quick Fix

I try to keep a few frozen or quick-cook meals on hand for lazy days or days when I'm in a hurry. Usually this consists of a quick cook rice/vegetable dish or stir fry vegetables. I found this lurking around the freezer and decided it was time to use it up. 

This is a red/white quinoa blend with vegetable melange and it's prepared so it's just heat and serve (yay!). I liked this because even though it wasn't organic it was preservative free so I don't fee like I'm sacrificing quality for convenience. 

While it was heating (on the stove because we don't have a microwave), I chopped up some onion and cucumber. When it was warm, I added the onion and cucumber and... I ate it.

In Hubby's I added half a can of tuna to give his bodybuilding muscles and bottomless stomach an edge. 

All tuna is not created equal, however. As worldwide fish consumption is rising, fish are becoming endangered and irresponsibly farmed in response. 

Bluefin tuna is considered critically endangered - but you won't find it canned. It's typically used in restaurants and sushi. Yellowfin is available in a can, is not endangered, and is relatively low in mercury content. 

Mercury comes from industrial pollution and the runoff ends up in fish. The bigger the fish, the more potential it has to contain dangerous levels of mercury simply because: big fish eat a lot fo smaller, mercury-containing fish. This is called bioaccumulation and it happens with all poisons, in all food chains. The same thing happens to your body when you eat pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables; those pesticides build up in your body. Hopefully nobody wants to eat you. 

Tuna is relatively safe in the mercury department but purchasing "light" skipjack or yellowfin tuna instead of "white" albacore tuna, will be the safest bet. 

It's important to read labels and packaging. BPA is commonly used to coat the inside of aluminum cans. Over time, this can leach nasty cancer-causing chemicals into your food. It's also important to find tuna that is line caught or troll caught as opposed to net caught. These are the most sustainable options according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program, with the blue certified sustainable seafood label. 

So, sometimes healthy and quick meals are delicious, as long as you read labels and packaging at the store. 

More info on healthy, sustainable fish here and here.

On a completely different topic: my blog now has a twitter account! You can follow me (@SneakyTofu) and I'll follow you back. I'm posting more day-to-day stuff on there, food, activities, workout stuff, cool finds... it should be a good time. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

(Sausage) Rotini with Lentils

This recipe is quick (20 mins!) and delicious so get ready for happy bellies.

Sausage Rotini with lentils

You will need:

  • Rotini Pasta
  • Your choice of Sausage
  • Dried Lentils
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Black Pepper
  • Basil
  • Chopped Mint


  • Basil Pesto
  • Capers

What to do:

  1. Boil 2 pots of water: one for lentils and one for pasta.
  2. Add the lentils and reduce heat to simmer. While you're waiting you can chop up some fresh onion.
  3. About 10 minutes later, add pasta to the other pot of boiling water.
  4. Slice up the sausage and cook in a skillet with the onions and garlic for a few minutes each side. There is no need for oil here because the sausage has so much.
  5. As soon as the pasta is done (or 20 minutes after you've added the lentils), you're set to serve.
  6. Sprinkle with Black pepper, basil, and mint. If you'd like, a tablespoon each of pesto and capers make a tasty addition.

Rotini sans sausage
No, it doesn't have to be rotini pasta but thats what we had and it looks so pretty. The sausage we used was from TJ's... Eric said it was "very good" and that actually says a lot.

I know pesto was used in the artichokes but we have a jar in the fridge so it might be in everything for a while. I can't think of anyone who would complain about that, though...

Rotini with sausage, lentils, capers, and... taco meat. 
I usually only make enough for 1-1.5 "helpings" per person but Hubby's been working out twice a day for the past couple weeks and apparently one helping wasn't gonna cut it - so he improvised with leftover taco chicken from the other night. Not my first choice but I guess I'm lucky he'll eat just about anything.

Roast, Potatoes and Artichoke

While grocery shopping last week, my husband picked out a pre-seasoned, pre-marinated roast (grass-fed, no antibiotics, minimally processed... all the good stuff) and I decided to put it in the crock pot yesterday with some potatoes. 

When most people have roast and potatoes... that's the meal: roast and potatoes. What happens when you don't want roast? Just potatoes for dinner? That doesn't sound right! So began my search for something I could throw in the crock pot that would be just as delicious and veggie friendly. Lo and behold: artichokes. 

Artichokes have become one of my favorite foods; they're versatile, nutritious, and (as I found out yesterday) can cook all day and not turn into a giant pile of mush. 

Since the roast was already seasoned I didn't do a thing to it I just tossed it in the crock pot with about a cup of water. I washed and quartered about 6 red potatoes and threw them in with it. 

This recipe is mostly about the artichokes, and if you've never had them: I suggest you try this tonight.

You will need:

  • a few whole artichokes (2-4)
  • olive oil
  • pesto
  • minced garlic
  • salt
  • pepper

Roast, potatoes, and artichoke

What to do:

  1. Wash the artichokes and cut off most of the stem, leaving 1/2 to 1 inch.
  2. Cut off the top inch of the leafy part.
  3. Take a kitchen scissors, clean regular scissors or small knife and cut of the prickly tips of the remaining leaves. I wish I would have taken a picture of this part. It's just prettier and more pleasant to eat if you're not getting stabbed by your food. 
  4. Pull the leaves outward to spread them apart.
  5. Between the leaves, spread a little pesto and/or minced garlic.
  6. Place them stem-side down in the crock pot.
  7. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  8. Cook entire contents on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours.

Artichoke, potatoes, and hummus
To eat:
How in the world to you eat artichoke?

  1. Pull the leaves off one at a time and bite down. 
  2. Use your teeth to drag the "meaty" flesh off the inside and discard the tough leaf. 
  3. Since these are seasoned they're great plain but I like to dip them in some tzatziki sauce or hummus.
Tzatziki is a greek sauce commonly served on gyros and sometimes better known in America as cucumber-dill sauce. I might have to do a post on that all on its own - it's amazing.

I don't know why I haven't posted any pictures of the babies (dogs) on here! My camera is full of them. I thought this was too funny not to share.

While I was cutting the potatoes yesterday, one piece fell on the floor. The puppy who will eat anything ran in and snatched it up. 10 minutes later I hear her playing in the other room. I hear her throwing things and jumping all over: she frequently plays fetch by herself with her toys. 

I go check on her and she's playing with the potato! She'd throw it and tackle it, and toss it in the air and try to catch it. I had to take a picture to share. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Black Bean Quinoa Burgers

Yesterday at the grocery store, my husband bought a pound of ground beef. I asked him if he wanted burgers for dinner tonight and he said, "You don't eat hamburgers so why would you make them for dinner?"

Hamburgers for him, black bean quinoa burgers for me.

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is a seed that can be cooked up and eaten like rice. It is a complete protein, something rarely found in the plant world. It is a good source of fiber and other nutrients, too, so it makes a filling side (or staple) to any meal.

You will need:

  • 1 cup prepared black beans
  • 1 cup prepared quinoa
  • 5-6 saltine crackers

1 teaspoon each:

  • garlic powder
  • season salt
  • black pepper
  • cumin
  • chili powder

What to do:
  1. Put the beans, quinoa, and crackers in a blender or food processor. Blend until well mixed and fairly smooth, you don't want big cracker chunks in your burgers.
  2. Add seasonings and pulse until mixed.
  3. Form the mixture into four patties and either cook them on the stovetop or grill for about 2 minutes each side, or bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, until firm. 

Want real meat? Substitute the black beans/quinoa for ground beef, chicken or turkey; everyone's happy. You could also combine the meat and the bean mixture to stretch the recipe out for a larger crowd and add some extra fiber and nutrients to the table. 

I made four patties each of these to freeze so we have something quick to fix up on lazy days. My lazy self will thank my proactive self later. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Back to Cooking!

So our roadtrip eating adventure was not as exciting as I had planned. We snacked during the day and usually ate a sub sandwich late in the afternoon. It was all delicious but not very noteworthy.
This, however, was an awesome trail mix I picked up at a truck stop in California and thought it was worth mentioning. It was a house mix of raw pumpkin seeds, raw sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, raisins, peanuts, and I don't remember what else. I was impressed with it and had to share. 

Back to reality! We are home, unpacked and ready to start cooking again (YAY) so I am posting our first home cooked meal in the new house.

I did something simple since we don't have a ton of staples that one acquires over time. Here I present: Kung Pao chicken stir fry over noodles.

 You will need:

  • Oil
  • Noodles
  • Stir-fry vegetables
  • Chicken
  • Eggs (optional)
  • Seasoning packet (Kung Pao)
Simply Asia Stir Fry Sauce, Kung Pao, 6 Units 4.43 oz

What to do:

  1. Boil water in a pot for the noodles.
  2. Heat skillet or grill and add fresh chicken breast, season to taste. 
  3. In a skillet, heat oil (I used sesame for the first time). Once hot, crack eggs one a a time and scramble briefly. 
  4. Add noodles to boiling water. 
  5. Add fresh or frozen veggies, cook until heated through and egg is completely cooked. 
  6. Mix sauce according to directions.
  7. Serve noodles topped with veggies, chicken, and sauce.

 We now live 2 minutes from a Trader Joe's and I am in love with that place! The vegetables I used were a fresh mix from there and fresh trumps frozen any day of the week.

It's late in the season for starting a garden but hopefully next year many of these veggies will be home-grown. Until then, it will probably be TJ's veggies and meat.

We also do not have a microwave at the moment (I would like to postpone it for as long as I can) so some recipes might involve doing things the "long way" so if you want to zap stuff go for it, I will make note of shortcuts if I catch them.

Hope you all enjoyed your summer! Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Road Trip

As many of you know (and many more of you don't) we are in the process of moving out of state. Tomorrow we are driving 10 hours to sign for our house, and from there we are taking a two-week long road trip around the U.S. to see our families. It's hard to  eat well while you're on the road so I plan on posting meals we eat throughout the trip, trying to find the best option at the time.

Today I wanted to post a little about the snacks we're bringing with us. We have found that on travel days, it's easier to bring snacks and water with us to eat during the day and then settle for one real "meal" usually at lunch/dinner time. This seems to save time, money, and our sanity.

For tomorrow we have packed unsalted peanuts, organic fuji apples, trail mix, roasted soynuts, and cliff bars. The nuts keep us full with protein, fat, and fiber. The apples are sweet, juicy and refreshing. The trail mix is more of a treat- I love the sweet & salty combination, and the soynuts are protein packed with a lightly salted crunch.

Cliff bars are a decent snack/meal replacement when you know you're not going to be eating for a while or you need an energy boost. They're 70% organic, non GMO, and have 10-12 grams of protein per bar. They tend to have quite a bit of sugar, but if the rest of your day isn't too sugar-y it's not a problem.
Bobble Water Bottle (18.5-Ounce, Lavender )

We also like to keep water bobbles with us in the car. If you haven't discovered these yet: get excited. It's a refillable water bottle with a built in filter. You can refill it anywhere (home tap, restaurant, gas station) and it tastes great! The filter lasts for up to 300 refills and then it can be replaced. The only thing I'm not crazy about is the sport-style cap, so I don't drink out of it all the time but for road trips it rocks! You can find them at many sports stores, department stores, and target. You can also order them in different sizes directly from

Wish us luck and I'll try to post as many creative road trip meals as I can.