Think Fresh: Sugar Free

We don’t eat a lot of sugar around here. Not for the calories, not for weight loss, but for the sheer reality that sugar is dangerous to our bodies, creates an environment for bad things to grow inside us, messes with our natural cellular functions, and stresses our immune system. I can completely tell in my body too when sugar is more present. If I eat poorly, I feel every painful detoxifying second in the Bikram Yoga hot room I practice regularly in. If I don’t have sugar in my system, I feel great! To be honest, when we don’t eat sugar, I don’t miss it or even notice it. But it has a way of creeping back into our lives. It is just EVERYWHERE, and it can easily become a habit for me, to have it around. I don’t think there is anything wrong with the odd dessert or special treat. But when it becomes that I am consuming some amount of sugar, every day, it’s too much. Let’s be honest, it’s not a treat if you have ice cream every day. So every once in a while I feel the urge to eliminate sugar completely from our lives, just for a week or two to get back on track. I like to think of it as spring cleaning for the body!

That’s where we’re at this week. Sexy Husband and I are off sugar for a couple of weeks. Thankfully we eat healthy enough that it’s not too dramatic(although he is a chocoholic so it’s a bit more painful for him;). HOWEVER, life is meant to be enjoyed and there are so many amazing and natural sweet things out there that are sweet simply because they were made to be that way, not because they’ve been chemically manufactured for sweetness.

Honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, and fruit, are all great sugar alternatives. Once you get used to the more natural taste of sweet, refined sugar can seem too cloying.

So here’s an idea. I made this as a little pre-class snack for one of my bff’s who is pregnant with baby number 2, baby number 1 just turned 1 and she’s a full time university student(so she’s busy and needs healthy snacks!) So simple, took 2 minutes to prep:

Slice one pear into paper thin slices. Divide between two bowls. Pour 1/4 cup of whipping cream into a standing mixer. Add 1 tbs of maple syrup and 1 tsp of cinnamon. Beat until whip cream is lightly whipped. Place a couple of spoonfuls of spiced whipped cream on the pears and serve. So yummy!

The bottom line is this: I have kids, we like sweet things. I’m not going to pretend that eating ultra healthy things that taste like dirt are satisfying. But there are many ways to make small changes, decreasing the amount of sugar we eat. Hopefully I can give you some ideas this week!


Think Fresh: Winter Salad

Sauteed Mushroom Salad

I am full of inspiration for salad all summer long. I could eat it three times a day and I never seem to run out of creative combinations for fresh summery greens. In the winter, however, I don’t want to eat salad. I do, because it’s healthy, but I just do. not. want. to.  But I’m kind of tired, this week, of the same roasted veggies I’ve been eating, or the same raw chopped veggies. I also had the dark and heavy realization this week that it is a LONG time until summer(this always hits me at some point, usually the first week of January). So I thought I would combine some of the comfort of warm roasted food, with the health of piles of raw spinach. This salad was delicious, flavorful and felt a bit gourmet. I will proudly serve it to guests later this week!

If you are needing some winter salad inspiration, give this one a try. The great thing about it is that you don’t have to have a dressing. The garlic/olive oil/cherry tomatoes/mushrooms have enough flavor, and the balsamic drenched sourdough croutons are hearty enough, that nothing more is required. Enjoy!

Sauteed Mushroom Salad

Makes enough for 2 as an entree or 4 as a side.

Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium heat. Add 2 cloves of garlic, minced, and 1 tsp of coarse sea salt and a pinch of chili flakes. Add 2 cups of halved small white button mushrooms and 1 cup of cherry tomatoes. Saute until golden(as we’ve all learned from Julia Child, don’t crowd the mushrooms if you want them to really brown).

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, put 2 cups of coarsely torn sourdough bread. Drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and a bit more sea salt. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes, stirring once.

On a large bed of spinach, dump mushroom mixture and hot croutons. Garnish with shredded parm and serve! The combo of cold spinach and hot mushrooms is delicious!


Think Fresh: Sushi

Mmmmm Sushi! We love sushi with a capital L-O-V-E. Foodie Baby and Picky Princess can out-sashimi Sexy Husband any day. I’m a vegetable only sushi kind of girl, which I know isn’t technically real sushi, but nevertheless, sushi is an easy, healthy, vegetarian(my way) meal. I have some friends who lived in Nashville for a while and they said they could both binge on great sushi in Nashville for $12. That’s pretty incredible. I think of it as a pretty cheap night out because we can feed our family of 4 sushi lovers for under $40.

BUT…Sushi is a really fun and easy thing to make at home! It seems intimidating and involved, but it’s really not and I am going to show you how. It is so delicious fresh, you can fill it with all sorts of things, and you will definitely impress your guests. This is also a really easy meal to have your kids help you with!

Here is your step by step how to:

make the rice

1. Make the Rice – I use a rice cooker, but of course you can do it in a pot. In these pictures, I used white sushi rice. You can buy brown sushi rice which also tastes great. You cannot use regular rice because it doesn’t stick. I did just see a recipe for quinoa sushi somewhere, so give that a try too! You want to make the rice and then put it in a bowl so that it cools down enough that you can touch it without burning your fingers.

prep the veg

2. Prep the vegetables – thinly slice long pieces of cucumber, red pepper, and avocado, or any other things you’d like to put in the middle. Shredded carrots are nice in vegetarian rolls as well. Set aside.

set it up

3. Set it up. Place a bamboo sushi roller(super cheap from almost any grocery or kitchen store) on the counter and place one sheet of seaweed on the roller. With your hands sprinkle some rice on the sushi wrapper and press it down. You want to not make it very thick but you do want to cover most of the seaweed. If you make it too thick, the pieces are hard to eat in one bite. I like to leave a little spare space of seaweed at the end because it makes it easier to seal. At the bottom of the sushi roll, line up the vegetables. Using the roller, tightly roll up the seaweed. Set aside the roll. Repeat with all your ingredients.


4. Once you have rolls, use a serrated knife and GENTLY saw back and forth through the sushi. Each roll should be cut into about 10 pieces. This makes them bite-size. Place them on a platter. You can eat the ugly end pieces as a snack.


Tip: Usually I make 2 cups of sushi rice. This equals about 10 rolls which is a LOT, but usually I make it as a snack for a group of people. Yesterday I made 1.5 cups of sushi rice and it was about 6 rolls which was an entire dinner for the 4 of us.

There you have it. How to Make Sushi!

Think Fresh: Homemade Christmas

dried citrus slices

There are some things I really really love. My Family. My Sweet Little Girls. Pretty Things. Cooking. Christmas. (just to name a few, top of my mind tonight). This year I thought I would combine these particular loves and make Christmas a little more homemade. I have nothing against glitter and wrapping paper, and enjoy the collections of glass ornaments I’ve accumulated. But I’ve always wanted to decorate a tree with all natural, homemade things. Happily, it turned out to be exactly what I’d hoped for! Picky Princess helped me make most the decorations. What she didn’t help with, my girlfriends stopped by for fudge and popcorn stringing. I intended to make crafty little things,with natural products. It wasn’t until I decorated the tree that I realized that everything we made was…edible. I shouldn’t be surprised. I guess that’s where I’m crafty: in the kitchen. We made popcorn strings, cranberry strings, dried citrus slices, cinnamon stick ornaments, salt water taffy garland and peppermint wreaths.

Sometimes, just sometimes, it’s good to be reminded that we don’t need more. We don’t need more stuff, bigger toys, more glitter, more commercialism. We have each other. We have simple and beautiful things around us. I think this is the message of Christmas to me this year. Out of the very very ordinary, God did something utterly magical. Shepherds and sheep, simple people and a stable.  And out of OUR ordinary families, ordinary talents, ordinary lives…well tonight anyway, with my Loves in front of our tree…it felt magical.

peppermint wreaths

cranberry strings

cinnamon sticks

salt water taffy garland

Picky Princess stringing cranberries

pretty tree

Think Fresh: Cocoa

chocolate almond muffins

It’s pretty much the best news of all time, chocolate is good for you!  I’m sure you’ve read reports on the benefits of cocoa. I’m not talking Kit Kat bars, sadly, I’m talking real, cocoa powder, high quality dark chocolate. Cocoa is high in antioxidants, and surprisingly high in all sorts of important minerals: iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, copper, manganese…and it’s super high in fibre! We usually associate chocolate type things as unhealthy, and really, the way chocolate is usually used IS unhealthy. But we don’t need to shy away from using cocoa, especially if we sweeten it with natural products such as honey.

To prove my point, here is a fantastic recipe I whipped up today. Seriously, I impressed myself with this one(after a long string of lame dinners this week, perhaps it didn’t take much to impress myself). These are MUFFINS. Not cupcakes, although it’s hard to believe it. Which means that they are not super sweet like little chocolate cupcakes would be, so don’t be shocked when you bite into these healthy little treats.  This recipe is completely clean and healthy and sugar free. They are decadent and seem indulgent, without any of the guilt. These muffins will impress, so…make them!

Chocolate Almond Muffins

Makes about 12

2 cups spelt flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

3 heaping tbs cocoa powder

3/4 cup honey

1/2 cup almond butter

1 egg

1/4 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/2 cup milk

sliced almonds to garnish


In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together wet ingredients. Dump wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir with a spoon until JUST combined. Scoop into silicone or paper muffin cups. Garnish with sliced almonds.  Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes.  Serve warm!

Think Fresh: Broccoli

baked broccoli with feta and almonds

Quick! What’s the first vegetable you think of? Broccoli, I knew it! The broccoli floret does seem to be the North American poster child of vegetables. It kind of has a reputation as being such a despised vegetable (ewwww eat your  broccoli!) But really, most people I know, and even most kids I know, including my own, love broccoli. Too often, broccoli is steamed to death, limp and mushy. But there are so many ways to make broccoli.

SUPER high in Vitamin C, one serving of broccoli(about 1 cup chopped) contains 135% of your daily recommended amount! It is also super high in Vitamin K and a significant source of folate and fibre. So when our mothers told us to eat our broccoli, they were right!

If you are tired of plain steamed broccoli, and too health conscious to douse it in creamy cheese sauce, here are a few fresh ideas for broccoli.

Baked Broccoli (pictured above) – steam broccoli just for a couple of minutes, until just tender. Place in a baking dish and top with crumbled feta and almonds. Bake until the top is browning nicely, about 30 mins (or broil just a few at the end for a deeper golden top). I ate this yesterday as an entree with a rose sauce.

Broccoli pesto – I usually make mine with broccoli, raw and cooked, almonds, parm, garlic and lemon.  This recipe from 101 cookbooks is absolutely perfect!

Stirfry – Broccoli is perfect stir fried with some ginger, teriyaki sauce and a hot pepper. Fiery and delicious!

Grilled – grilled until crispy, broccoli has an amazing texture and nutty flavor. Dip it in a homemade tzatziki sauce for a fun and different side dish!

There you go, some broccoli ideas. Like I’ve mentioned before…Picky Princess will eat anything she considers small and cute. Cut up broccoli into the tiniest of florets and plant as a mini forest in the rice, barley, quinoa, side dish you have. Always a hit around here!

Think Fresh: Swiss Chard

I know that green stuff is good for us. And thankfully I like green stuff! But I do find that I get tired of eating the same few salads I make. I’m forever trying to get more green stuff into my body, without having to eat giant bowls of cold salad. So I thought I’d put a little effort into my favorite green of the season: Chard! It was also one of the ingredients I had some requests for recipes for.

Chard is a dark leafy green, that comes in a variety of colors. It is extremely high in almost all vitamins and minerals(as are all dark leafy greens). A one cup serving is a whopping 7 calories, and 375% of your daily recommended intake of Vitamin K. Vitamin K is important for many reasons. It has shown to have anti-cancer properties, and to prevent the hardening of arteries. It is used to prevent and treat osteoporosis because it helps your body absorb calcium. It is also a key blood clotting agent. If you get a cut, Vitamin K is used by your body to stop excessive bleeding.

I got a giant bag of Swiss Chard from the Farmers Market last week. Like a really big bag that I hadn’t even made a dent in. So yesterday I made this for dinner. It was so good that I made it again today for lunch. Comfort food at its absolute best, yet  between yesterday and today, I’m sure I’ve eaten about 6 cups of chard! Utterly delicious, total comfort food, major health benefits of leafy greens and garlic, 20 minutes including boiling pasta! Give it a try!

Linguine with Swiss Chard and Garlic

In a sauce pan, sautee 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil, 2 garlic cloves, minced and sea salt. When garlic softens and starts to brown, add 1/2 cup of white wine, and 6-8 cups of chopped chard(stems removed). Saute until they are softening, about 5 minutes, add in 1/4 cup of pine nuts. Pour on top of fresh linguine, and garnish with parmesan cheese.

Linguine with Swiss Chard and Garlic

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