A Surfeit of Sauces

We, like you, eat food. Sometimes that food needs a little accompaniment to spruce it up. We can’t just eat plain pasta, right? Who does that? Here, then, are three of our favorite healthy vegan sauces/spreads.

Kale Pesto

We used this vegan pesto to top our tofu and chickpea flour pasta the other night, and it was great. Sometimes Hungry Harvest gives us more kale than we know what to do with, and this is a nice healthy way to use up a good little bit of it.


Ingredients:

1 avocado
1 1/2 cup kale, shredded
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 clove garlic
Salt to taste
3 Tbsp olive oil

Directions:

Blitz avocado, kale, nutritional yeast, garlic, and salt in the food processor until well combined. Then drizzle olive oil in very slowly while the food processor is running until it is all incorporated and the texture is, you know, pesto texture.

White Bean Caesar Dip

This dip tastes like you’re eating a bowl of Caesar dressing, which feels super decadent. But it’s vegan and super healthy, so you can do it without the guilt you normally feel when you chug a bottle of Newman’s Own. I mean, wait. I don’t do that. Who does that? Never mind.


Ingredients:

2/3 cup dried white beans (normally I’m all about canned beans to save time, but these were on sale at Target…used canned if you didn’t go crazy and buy 10 bags of dried beans)
2 Tbsp capers
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
2 Tsp nutritional yeast
Salt to taste
Water to reach desired consistency

Directions:

Boil a medium saucepan of water and add the beans. Cook until they are soft. You know what beans are supposed to be like. Drain and place in a food processor. Add capers, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, nutritional yeast, and salt. Blitz until everything is well combined. Slowly add water and process more, stopping when the dip has your preferred consistency.

Smoky Almond Butter Sauce

Nut butters are the unsung heroes of the healthy vegan sauce game. If I’m going into sauce battle, I want nut butters in my sauce army. Even if we lose the sauce war, we lose it fighting the good healthy fight. This metaphor may have gotten away from me.


Ingredients:

1/2 cup smoked almond butter (if you can’t find smoked almond butter, just put some smoked salt in your regular almond butter)
Juice of one grapefruit
1 Tbsp tamari (or soy sauce)

Directions:

Put all of these things in a food processor. That’s it. Put it on burgers, bowls, salads, whatever you feel like.

Veggie Breakfast Tacos

It’s lettuce week here at Our Chaotic Kitchen, thanks to the four heads of iceberg lettuce that came in our Hungry Harvest, so everything this week has been healthy lettuce wraps. We’ve been trying to do a reset on our diet and use tons of vegetables after getting off course a little, so these breakfast tacos are chock full of healthy vegetable goodness. I know we keep saying it, but these are surprisingly good! A dash of salt, a sprinkle of hot sauce, and you’ll be wearing a chef’s hat and gently kissing your fingertips, they’re so good.

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 peppers, diced (we used Anaheim, but bell or jalapeño would work too)

1 package grape tomatoes, quartered

1 zucchini, sliced

1/2 package tofu, crumbled

1 15-oz can beans of your choice

2 Tbsp nutritional yeast

Salt to taste

Iceberg lettuce leaves

Directions:

Heat oil on medium high heat. Once hot, add peppers, tomatoes, and zucchini. Sauté about 5 minutes, then add tofu. Sauté another 5 minutes, then add beans, nutritional yeast, and salt. Sauté for another 5 minutes or so. Serve immediately with lettuce wraps, or transfer to fridge and eat it when you damn well please.

Vegan Shepherds’ Pie with Cheesy Potatoes

We’re not shepherds, but we have always been fans of their pie. Both of us grew up liking it quite a bit, but we hadn’t figured out a good healthy vegan version until now.

The kids tried it last night, if by tried it you mean didn’t try it almost at all. Watson took his requisite two bites and Vivi just made a huge mess. Sometimes it’s harder than other times to remember how rewarding parenting is. But we ate it happily with a light salad, and it was healthy and absolutely delicious.

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp olive oil 

1 medium onion, diced

2 large carrots, sliced

1 pkg mushrooms, sliced (a good meaty mushroom is best but use what you’ve got)

1 pkg soy crumbles

1 6 oz container tomato paste (we used more because I always forget about half used tomato paste cans in the fridge)

2 1/2 cups veggie stock

1/2 bottle dark beer

3-4 medium potatoes

1/2 cup nut cheese (we used kite hill almond milk ricotta)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F. In a stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onions and carrots until the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and soy crumbles and sauté for another 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, 2 cups of the vegetable stock, and beer. Let this mixture cook until thick and saucy.

In the meantime, boil the potatoes until they’re soft and mashable. Drain and transfer into a bowl and mash them. Mix in the nut cheese and the remaining 1/2 cup vegetable stock.

Put the mushroom mixture in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish, and spread the potatoes on top. Bake for 30 minutes or so. The potatoes on top should be starting to brown. Enjoy!

Losing Weight While Having Kids

We’ve heard a lot from parents who have packed on some extra pounds after having kids. We were both determined not to fall into that trap, and not to let having kids be an excuse to not be healthy. And you know what? It’s worked! Let me go through a few of the things we’ve done to manage our much busier lives in a smarter, healthier way. Note: This certainly is not to say that losing weight is the only, or even the primary component to being healthy. It’s one of the things we needed to do for ourselves, but please consult your doctor before attempting any kind of methodical weight loss program.

One of the tools we use is the Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale. It automatically syncs weight and body fat percentage to the Fitbit app, so we can have a real-time record of our progress. Some people definitely don’t do well with daily weigh-ins, since weight can fluctuate in the short term, and those fluctuations can get discouraging. For both of us, though, there’s something very rewarding in looking at a graph charting our weight over the course of 3+ years and seeing a fairly steady decline (pregnancies excepted, of course, for both mom and dad). More than just keeping track of our weight, looking critically at this data helps us see patterns we might otherwise not be aware of. Does our weight tend to go up around a certain time of the week? A certain time of the year? What can we do to combat that?

Above is Tim’s weight for the last 4 years or so, with the birth of each child noted. It’s easy to see the weight gain during each pregnancy as well as the weight loss after each birth.

So how did we do it? We lost some weight after each child was born, but as you can see above, we really kicked into high gear over the last 8 months. The answer is 90% healthy diet, 10% exercise. When we say healthy diet, we mean four things:

1 Portion control
2 No added sugar
3 No dairy, with small exceptions
4 Tons of vegetables

Let’s take these one at a time. First, portion control. One way to eat healthy is just to eat less, as long as you’re still getting what your body needs, but it’s way easier than anybody realizes to just eat a whole lot of food in a sitting. We’ve been combating this by planning meals pretty rigorously, and by not keeping snacks around, especially at work. If you know you’re a person who can’t have a big barrel of hard pretzels from Target sitting on your desk without eating the whole thing in an embarrassingly short time, then maybe just don’t get the big barrel of hard pretzels from Target in the first place, to use a totally random example that’s not at all derived from real life.

Second, no added sugar. We’re not religious about this particular rule, but as a healthy guiding principle it’s served us well. A lot of stuff is really delicious without making it sweeter than it needs to be. One side effect of lowering the amount of sugar we put in stuff is that we tend to want less sugar in stuff. The habit of not eating so much sugar is affecting our tastes so that we don’t actually want as much sugar. There’s a part of us that’s a little sad that a donut doesn’t taste as good as it used to, but on the other hand, if that means we eat fewer donuts, then it’s a win.

Third, little to no dairy. When Vivi was little we thought she had a lactose intolerance, so we cut dairy out of our diets (it was easier to just not have it in the house at all, rather than just have one or two of us cut it out). We learned to take our coffee black. Once we found out that Vivi didn’t have lactose intolerance, we had gotten used to a scaled down reliance on dairy, and it’s helped us like crazy. There was a whole lot of less healthy fat we were getting through cream, butter, milk, and cheese, and which we generally don’t miss. We’ll still allow ourselves some indulgences now and then, like a small latte or some feta crumbles on a salad, but this is another one which, once we cut it out, we’ve been shocked by how little we’ve missed it. We eat mostly vegan now, and no longer relying on dairy has really opened us up to a lot of different techniques and ingredients that we never would have considered before.

Fourth, tons of vegetables. This one mostly speaks for itself, but I want to emphasize one thing: even if you think you don’t like some vegetables, give them another try. Cook them a different way. See if you can figure out a way to love them. We used to loathe broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts, until we discovered the heathy, life-changing magic of roasting. Now when one of those comes in our Hungry Harvest, we practically jump for joy. We could eat crispy brussels sprouts and cauliflower tacos all damn day.

There are a couple of other little things we do around the edges. We’re vegetarian, which we feel helps us, but isn’t necessarily for everybody. We still have eggs and fish occasionally, but by and large our diet is plant-based and mostly vegan. We try generally to stay away from gluten, not because there’s anything wrong with gluten for us, but because foods with gluten tend to be more calorie dense, so it’s a bit easier for us to have a blanket rule.

Is there anything you’ve done to successfully lose weight since having kids? Let us know!

Eating Local – Pepper and Lobster Mushroom Sandwich with Pecan Pesto

Parenting can be exhausting. You always want to expose the kids to new things, new experiences, and aid their development through healthy and edifying consumption, but sometimes you also just want them to go to sleep so you can have a glass of wine and stuff your face with delicious food. This recipe makes use of both of those impulses. On the parenting side, we took our kids to experience the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the Baltimore Farmers’ Market. On the food side, behold.

The other day we showed you some pictures from our trip to the Baltimore Farmers’ Market. With the food we bought there, we put together a delicious vegan (not gluten free this time, but easily adaptable) meal, along with a wonderful local wine. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

2 large bell peppers
1 basket of lobster mushrooms
1/2 cup pecans
1 cup basil, packed loosely
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt to taste
Bread of your choice

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425° F. Chop peppers roughly and spray them and mushrooms with cooking oil of your choice. Place on a lined baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, to make pesto, pulse the basil and pecans in a food processor until finely chopped. Slowly add the oil in a thin stream as the food processor runs until everything is incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Toast four pieces of bread, spread some pesto on each, and split the mushrooms and peppers in two portions to make two sandwiches. Serve with a refreshing local Vidal Blanc.

Whatever We Have Around Salad with Making It Up As I Go Dressing

The intersection of healthy eating and parenting tends to get congested quite a lot. Sometimes you look in the fridge on Sunday as the kids are screaming and fighting with each other and defiantly refusing to nap, and you realize that you don’t have enough lunches prepped for the week. At times like those, it’s necessary to think fast and think minimal. Thankfully, jarred salads are both.

This week we roasted some vegetables, whipped up some rough peanut dressing, and topped it with some roughly shredded kale. The time spent working in the kitchen added up to only about 10 minutes, and it padded out our lunch count by two full days. Mission accomplished.

Ingredients:

Green beans, trimmed
Carrots, peeled and sliced
Mushrooms, chopped into small chunks

4 Tbsp creamy natural peanut butter
2 Tbsp sesame oil
2.5 Tbsp tamari (or soy sauce)
4 Tbsp rice vinegar
Garlic powder to taste

Kale, chopped roughly

Directions:

First, I didn’t put amounts for the vegetables or greens because this is based around whatever you’ve got around. If you’ve got zucchini and no green beans, you’re golden. Broccoli instead of mushrooms? Sure. Whatever fills a jar and is tasty and healthy. Same with the greens. If you don’t have or don’t like kale, throw some lettuce in there. Or some arugula. Or some spring mix.

Ok, so now we get down to brass tacks. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Put those veggies on a baking sheet with a small spritz of the oil of your choice, and let them roast for half an hour or so. Meanwhile, turn to the dressing. I’ll outline my process below, but you can probably figure out a more streamlined process if you read between the lines.

Put 3 Tbsp of the peanut butter, the sesame oil, the tamari, and 3 Tbsp of the rice vinegar in a bowl. Whisk together until fully incorporated. Taste, and discover that its way too salty. Add the fourth Tbsp of peanut butter, but worry that the dressing would be too thick without something else. Add the fourth Tbsp of rice vinegar. Taste, decide it’ll work, and then add in some garlic powder because you’re feeling saucy.

Finally, divide the dressing among 4 pint jars. Divide the roasted vegetables among the jars. Then top each jar with shredded kale. Refrigerate, breathe a sigh of relief, and eat a few days from now.