Nana Joes Granola Perfect For My Fab 50s Lifestyle Change!

Manic:  Me thinking about turning 50 next month! 

Managed:  With this milestone birthday on the horizon, I have decided to try to mostly eat plant based foods.  I am not going 100% vegan, but I am striving for 85% to be realistic with my lifestyle.  Plus, eating this way helps our bodies, earth’s animals and the environment as stated in this interesting Medical News Today article.  My thriving and healthy 72-years-young mother also eats mostly vegan and this lifestyle has served her well.

My mom with my girl at my daughter’s Wizard of Oz performance last month. Told you my Mama looks good!

I am certainly not criticizing meat eaters as I do occasionally enjoy a meat meal as well…which is why I am striving for a 85% change. Plus I will still have dairy from time to time as a decadent chocolate malt or coffee ice cream cone are a must have at least once during the hot summer!  Call me fickle, but partially vegan is my goal for now.

Great example of my plan…mostly plant based lunch…but with wild salmon.

I started the gradual dietary switch one week ago and I already feel a positive difference!  I was having bad allergies, left leg and ankle pain and sinus issues.  Not to mention bloating and a sluggish feeling after eating some foods.  I do believe in everything in moderation and after reading countless accounts of folks who went vegan, and marveling at their improved health, vitality and energy, I have decided, at almost 50, to give this mostly vegan lifestyle a try.  I am loving it so far and just in time for me, I discovered the awesome vegan, gluten free and super tasty Nana Joes Granola line!  Who says you can’t have treats on a healthy eating plan?  With Nana Joes delish granola, a little good sweetness can be added to breakfast, snacks and more.  Love this stuff! Check out my tasty breakfast vegan makeover today that I made in 10 seconds…so yummy!I replaced cow’s milk with almond milk (I truly taste no difference) and those sugary processed cereals with the Nana Joes Trifecta Blend Granola, which only has 5 grams of sugar (per half the packaged serving, so I used the one bag for two separate meals). This combo filled me up and I felt energetic and satisfied.  I am pretty impressed with the wholesome and real food ingredients.  Plus, I adore that this stuff is handmade in San Francisco (my hubs and I honeymooned in the City by the Bay 🙂 )

They also have granola bars, too. I am a fan!  My personal favorite is the Swell Bar with Coconut, Almond and Cocoa Nib.

Gonna have this snack tomorrow when I take a reading and snack break. Readers…another fab 50 accessory!

I highly recommend Nana Joes for your healthy gluten free and vegan go to breakfast, snack, smoothie ingredient, dessert topping and more.  I love how her versatile this stuff is, not to mention super delicious, too!

Have any of you gone vegan or semi like me? Share your experience in the comments section and I am wishing all of you good food, vibrant health and joy!  Those are my goals as I dive into the fabulous 50s next month!

 

A big thank you for the Nana Joes samples so I could test it out!  My opinion about how much I love this granola line is 100% my very own. 

Tasty & Light Savory Salmon & Brussels Sprouts Recipe

Clean eating has been our goal lately.  My daughter requests healthy homemade recipes as she works to keep herself in top shape to keep up with her community theatre audition schedule and high school honors class load. For myself, since I am just a few months away from my 50th birthday, I want to be as healthy as possible…and I am trying to cook that way for the hubs as well.  Our clean eating goals is not his favorite change around here since our son went away to college, but he grins and bears it, for the most part.  So when we find a recipe that meets all criteria that he also likes, I can’t wait to share my food find.  Today’s recipe is called Garlic Baked Salmon with Brussels sprouts.  I borrowed it, with permission, from my favorite online meal planning recipe guide, MealGarden.  This yummy recipe calls for some of my favorite ingredients like white wine and garlic.  And when it comes to Brussels Sprouts, when roasted with savory spices and pleasing olive oil, who can resist this healthy and tasty veggie that comes out of the oven a bit crisp?! Read on for this easy, delish and nutritious recipe that can be prepared from start to finish in a little over 30 minutes.  So good!

Garlic Baked Salmon with Brussels Sprouts

What You Need — Serves 3 

3 salmon filets – buy wild and select pieces close to the tail to avoid bones 

1/4 tsp pepper – grind it yourself for best results

3 cups Brussels sprouts, trimmed and sliced

1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil

7 garlic cloves

1/3 medium lemon cut into wedges

1 tbsp fresh dried oregano

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup white wine, preferable Chardonnay 

What You Do

  1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Mince 2 garlic cloves and combine in a small bowl with olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper.
  3. Halve the remaining garlic and toss with Brussels sprouts and 3 tablespoons of the seasoned oil on large roasting pan.
  4. Roast, stirring once, for 15 minutes.

    Looking tasty after 15 minutes of roasting

    Salmon hasn’t cooked yet and it already looks so good!

     

  5. Add wine to remaining oil mixture and when Brussels sprouts are done, stir and place salmon filets on top.
  6. Drizzle with wine mixture and sprinkle with more oregano, salt and pepper as desired.
  7. Bake until salmon is cooked through, about 5 to 10 minutes.

    Done and yum! I cut into the filet on the top left hand side to show that it is flaky and finished.

  8. Serve with lemon wedges.  So good!

Be sure to check out MealGarden for your healthy and tasty meal planning.  It has made our clean eating plan easier to follow with great recipes, grocery lists and more.  We love our MealGarden membership!

My Mama’s Healthy Homemade Vegetarian Spaghetti Recipe

My mother always spent countless hours in the kitchen cooking up healthy meals for us kids.  
I didn’t appreciate it then, but I do now!

And now more than ever, I am on a mission to keep my own daughter healthy as she balances her high school honors classes with her exciting community theater schedule. As the Queen of Hearts character in Valley Youth Theatre’s (VYT) Alice in Wonderland upcoming production, she has spent many hours rushing from school to downtown Phoenix for lengthy rehearsals.  VYT is a highly regarded professional children’s theatre with very impressive alums like Emma Stone.  So this is a big commitment that my girl was excited to make. She had rehearsal last Saturday from 10am to almost 10pm and again on Sunday.  We are now in tech week, so rehearsals go daily from 4:30pm to 10pm until opening night…happening this Friday.  Very exciting that the countdown to opening night is now on…and especially now, keeping her in top form is a top priority.

So, in the meantime, it has been my job to do the best I can to keep her healthy.  Some of my motherly deeds include a gentle nightly push to go to bed earlier than usual.  I also prepare as many nutritious home cooked meals as I can muster.  We are both working to keep her immune system strong and healthy.  She has also done her part and made good decisions like choosing to stay in a couple of Friday nights (her night off from her weekly rehearsals) to rest over going out with pals.  Next month, after having performed in over 20 shows, it will be over and will then be a cherished memory, so she can return to her Friday nights out.  However, we both hope to keep eating clean beyond the demanding show schedule.  My mother’s recipe accomplishes this clean eating goal. One surprise ingredient that makes Mom’s spaghetti sauce taste so good is the inclusion of cooked carrots. Carrots give the sauce a hearty, almost meaty consistency and taste. Give this recipe a try.  So good!

 

What You Need:

4 to 6 carrots, cooked…I boiled in water until tender

2 green or red bell peppers

1 large tomato

1 yellow onion

1 red onion

3 cloves fresh garlic

2 to 3 stalks of celery

2 jars Trader Giotto’s (from Trader Joe’s) Organic Spaghetti Sauce with Mushrooms

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon oregano

1 tablespoon basil

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 teaspoon of agave nectar (optional for sweeter sauce)

Parmesan cheese to taste

healthy whole grain spaghetti pasta

What You Do:

One of my Mom’s secrets is to cook the carrots first. Cooked carrots in the sauce give it a meaty taste.

1.  First saute the peppers and celery in 1 tablespoon of olive oil for about 5 minutes or until they turn soft, being careful not to overcook.

2.  Then add all of other chopped up veggies (except the carrots) and saute until soft.

3.  Add chopped up tomatoes, bay leaf, cooked chopped carrots and the 2 jars of sauce and simmer for about 30 minutes.

4.  During the last ten minutes of simmering, add the basil and the oregano.  If you like a sweeter sauce, you can add the agave nectar.

5.  Pour over the cooked spaghetti and add grated parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!  This is one spaghetti dish that is super tasty and super healthy to boot!  Just look at all of the veggies that your family gets in each serving!  Thanks Mom!

Soup Season! Pleasing Potato Leek Soup Recipe

Lucky for me, it is soup season to nurture us during winter’s chilly temps.  And this is lucky for me since I have to eat soft foods as I recover from my gum surgery.  So I asked a few pals for their soup recipes.  I plan to share several here on my blog, starting with Sherry’s Soup:  Potato Leek Soup.  Thanks for the yummy recipe, Sherry.  Here is how you make it…

4 leeks, trimmed of tough tops, leave 3-4 inches of green on white of leek.
2 T. olive oil
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
4 potatoes, peeled and sliced
salt and pepper
6 cups chicken stock
1/3 lb. bacon, sliced and cooked crisp (keep grease and set aside bacon for garnish)
1 T. tarragon, fresh, leaves stripped from stems and chopped slightly, for garnish
2 TBS chives, fresh, chopped, for garnish

Optional add-ins:

Corn as much as you would like to add to soup

Half & Half cream

Sour cream for dollop serving per soup bowl

What You Do:

1. Cut leeks in half lengthwise and slice into 1/2-inch pieces. Place leeks in colander. Separate sliced leeks under cold running water and clean them. Drain well.

2. Heat medium soup pot over med high heat. I used my dutch oven because I am big fan of cooking homemade soup in it.  So good.  Add 2 tablespoons olive oil (or try Sherry’s trick and use the bacon grease from the bacon cooked instead of the olive oil to saute the leeks and potatoes), bay leaf and leeks. Season with salt and pepper. Peel potatoes and thinly slice them, adding them to soup pot as you go. Season potatoes with a little salt, add chicken stock to soup pot. Cover soup and bring to boil. Uncover and simmer 12-15 minutes, until potatoes are very tender. Break up potatoes to slightly thicken soup Remove bay leaf.

3. Serve with bacon, tarragon and chive garnishes. 

4. Sherry adds about 1/2 cup of fresh corn before simmering and about 1/4 cup cream at the end for a richer tasty soup. Along with the garnishes mentioned, she also adds a dollop of sour cream before sprinkling on the rest.  I was out of sour cream, so I missed that in my pictures of the finished soup. Next time for sure!

Finished soup without adding cream if you want more of a broth base.  But I like cream, so I added cream for my daughter’s serving later when she came home from school….

Here it is with the cream and the full fixin’s.  A perfect homemade after school dish for my daughter before she went off to her rehearsal. Good grub for our busy days.

Thank you Sherry Kline for your perfect and lovely potato and leek soup recipe!  Give it a try folks and stay warm and well through the winter months.

 

 

Homemade Holiday Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Who says ice cream is just for summer?  How about homemade holiday vanilla bean ice cream to serve with pie or all by itself with a little red and green flair. If you own an ice cream maker, this recipe is for you.  Your holiday guests will cheer when they see that ice cream is near, especially since it isn’t expected this time of year.  Here here I say.  Ice cream works on any day.  OK I am done with my rhyme as now it is time to make everyone’s favorite dessert.  Ice cream!  Homemade.  Vanilla bean with the real beans.  Even better! xmas-ice-creamI did this over Thanksgiving and it was a hit!  I like that the vanilla bean can be seen in the ice cream, too. I must admit that I am sharing this recipe from my Cuinsart Ice Cream maker recipe book that came with my delightful ice cream machine that Santa brought me last year!  cream-makerMy Santa would be my wonderful mother-in-law and father-in-law.  My family especially enjoyed our tasty ice cream recipes all summer long and adding some vanilla bean ice cream to my Turkey Day dessert table was a bonus for sure! 

And my decadent sweet tooth brainstormed simply adding red and green sprinkles to finished ice cream for a merry festive look with an extra dash of sweet!  I think Santa would approve!  santa-creamHere is how to make what I call Holiday Vanilla Bean Ice Cream (using an ice cream maker…I used a Cuisinart Pure Indulgence Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker). The coolest ingredient is the actual vanilla bean that comes in a jar like this one that sells at Walmart and other grocery stores.  This costs around $8 a jar, so it isn’t cheap, but it is the real deal bean that makes the vanilla bean ice cream authentic.  This recipe makes about 14 1/2 cup servings. van-bean

What You Need – The Good Stuff! 

2 1/3 cups whole milk

2 1/3 cups heavy cream

1 whole vanilla bean

3 large eggs

4 large egg yolks

1 1/8 cups sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

optional for Christmas Ice Cream – red and green sugar sprinkles

What You Do:  Work That’s Worth It! 

Combine the milk and cream in medium saucepan.  Use a sharp knife to split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise.  Use the blunt end to scrape out the “seeds” and stir the seeds and bean pod into the milk/cream mixture.

Bring the mixture to a slow boil over medium heat.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Combine eggs, egg yolks, and sugar in a medium bowl.  Use a hand mixer on medium speed to beat until the mixture is thick, smooth and pale yellow in color (similar to mayo), for about 2 minutes.

Remove the vanilla bean pod from the milk/cream mixture and discard.  Measure out 1 cup of the hot liquid.  With the mixer on low speed, add the cup of hot milk/cream to the egg mixture in a slow and steady stream.  When thoroughly combined, pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk/cream mixture and stir to combine.  Cook, stirring constantly, over medium-low heat until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon.  Transfer to a bowl, stir in vanilla, cover with a sheet of plastic wrap placed directly on the custard and chill completely.

Pour the chilled custard  into the ice cream maker freezer bowl.  Turn the machine on and let mix, until thickened about 25 to 30 minutes.  The ice cream will have sort of a soft serve creamy consistency.  To make thicker, like typical ice cream, place in container with air tight lid and freeze for two hours.  This container was full to the top….I took the picture after our Thanksgiving dessert was consumed! v-bean-ice-creamTop with the red and green sprinkles for a splash of holiday cheer.  This also gives it a sweet crunch, too.

Absolutely yummy and crowd pleasing!  Great to add to your holiday pies for a la mode, too!ice-cream-santa

Different Than Pumpkin Pie…Try Pumpkin Supreme!

If you are not a pumpkin pie fan, but like pumpkin desserts or if you want something a little different from the usual pumpkin pie, try this scrumptious pumpkin supreme recipe.  pumpkinsupremeSeveral years ago, I asked my sister-in-law for her Texas family’s recipe for my all-time favorite dessert that she makes for us every Thanksgiving and Christmas.  She gave it to me and gave me to permission to share it with you!  It is called Pumpkin Supreme and it is better than pumpkin pie any day, in my opinion!  With a light whipped topping over a pumpkin and cream cheese layer that lays on top of a chilled delish graham cracker crust, this recipe will have your guests coming back for seconds.  Here is how you make it…

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup chopped pecans
1 8 oz. cream cheese
1 big container cool whip
3/4 cup milk
2 small boxes of instant vanilla pudding
1 regular sized can of pumpkin
dash of cinnamon

Instructions:
1. Mix graham cracker crumbs and 1 cup of the sugar in with the butter.
2. Press this mixture into a 9 x 12 Pyrex dish, so that this becomes the crust.
3. Combine eggs with the 3/4 cup of sugar and cream cheese.
4. Mix until fluffy.
5. Spread over crust.
6. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
7. When completely cool (can even refrigerate overnight), go on to next step.
8. Mix 3/4 cup milk with two boxes of instant vanilla pudding.
9. Add pumpkin.add-pumpkin



10. Fold in one cup of cool whip.
11. Spread over cooled cream cheese mixture.

pumpkin-layer
12. Cover with remaining Cool Whip and sprinkle nuts on top.  Here is what a slice looks like and you won’t believe how good it tastes.  Place a dollop of whipped cream on top, like pictured, or layer the entire top with whipped cream, sprinkled cinnamon and pecans.  Up to you. pumpkinsupremeTruly decadent!  You can also serve this dessert in mason jars by following the same steps and layering in the jars instead of a pan.  This recipe is super tasty.  Try it! mason jar

Enjoy!  So yummy!  Happy Thanksgiving!!

Found! Healthier Organic Popcorn That Is Safe To Microwave!

Manic:  My family years ago when I banned microwave popcorn from our home! Too many reports were surfacing that the chemicals and packaging used to pop the kernels in the microwave could be a health risk.  So we gave it up and we have missed our popcorn.

Managed: Today when I spotted a new brand of microwave popcorn at my favorite local organic and super healthy market (Pomegranate Cafe’s market).  popcorn-saferreinvented-popcornThe packaging says that no chemical coatings or plastics are used in this brand, that is called Quinn Popcorn! I was intrigued so I bought a box to test at home. I followed the instructions to simply pop it in the microwave…literally.  My kids really have missed this snack, so I was hopeful that this new and safer brand tasted just as good as the stuff that I had banned.  It popped beautifully.  poppedI used my microwave setting that has a button that says “popcorn” on it. I think most microwaves have that option now.  It tasted great!  Although I did add a little melted butter for flavor.  Using a little real butter isn’t too bad, as long as only a little is used.  Lots of things could be added to give this extra taste like salt and pepper or Parmesan cheese.  I am so thrilled that it tastes good and is a new option that doesn’t scare me with the packaging/microwaving risks.  I love this!   Quinn offers other flavors that include Parmesan & Rosemary (I so want to try that one), Vermont Maple Kettle Corn, Micro White Cheddar and several others. 

I also like that the only ingredients in this popcorn is just popcorn and sea salt.  No chemicals!  I say hooray for that and let’s get popping!  Here’s hoping that more companies like Quinn pop up giving fresh farm to bag organic snack options!  See additional places to purchase this smart popcorn snack here at the Quinn website.

Overnight Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal in Mason Jars

Here is a cool holiday breakfast idea for your guests.  Make pumpkin spice oatmeal the night before.  Prepare in individual mason jars that can be simply set out in a breakfast buffet the next morning, warm or cold. oatmeal-doneoatmeal-closeSuch a fun, festive and flavorful idea with a recipe that is healthy clean eating.  And some house guests may crave a nutritious breakfast the day after the high calorie Turkey Day.

I found this delightful and super easy recipe from my favorite meal planning site, MealGarden. I especially like MealGarden because the recipes are clean and healthy with a wide variety.  I did add a few extras to the original recipe.  My version is shown below in this how-to video.  So easy and so festive.  Take a look…

 

The original recipe can be found at MealGarden. Thank you to MealGarden for allowing me to experiment with this recipe and share it on my blog!  Enjoy and happy holiday pumpkin everything season!

 

My 3TV Chicken Pot Pie Recipe

What fun we had on the morning show I work on, KTVK’s Your Life A to Z show on 3TV because we impersonated (or we sort of impersonated, I should say) a group of celebrity chefs complete with yummy recipes, too!

Our morning show cast of characters and the chefs we portrayed!

Our morning show cast of characters and the chefs we portrayed!

Can you guess who I was asked to portray?  I will give you a hint with this picture of me on set in my costume…rr-costume

Yep, another Rachel!  I mean Rachael, as in Rachael Ray!  I had a blast being Ms Ray!  And if you want the yummy, easy 30 minute (Rachael’s 30 minute style) recipe that I showed from my own kitchen, here it is.  This is my family’s favorite recipe ever.
cp-pieA few years ago I worked with awesome Shamrock Farms and we taped several cooking segments in my kitchen.  Here is that video with this same recipe, so you can see it step by step. The written recipe appears below the video.  That can be printed out from this page.  Try it and enjoy!

 

What You Need:

 1 can of cream of potato soup

1 can Veg All Veggies, drained

1 package Tyson Grilled & Ready Southwestern Chicken Strips

3/4 cup mik

1/8 teaspoon pepper

2 frozen pie crusts

What You Do:

 

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2.  Combine and mix all ingredients except pie crusts and keep the crusts frozen until you are ready to use.

Note:  I cut my chicken strips into bite sized pieces.  You can also use a cooked Rotisserie one from the grocery store.  Tyson’s Southwestern Chicken Strips are what give my pot pie that little kick of spice that I’m told folks love.  Even my kids like that bit of spice in every bite.

3.  Next pour the mixture into one frozen pie crust.  It is very important that you keep your crusts frozen until you are ready to assemble the pot pie.

4.  To fake make (since this is not a homemade crust – no time for that!) that perfect top crust, simply pop the other frozen crust right out of the pan and place on top of the pot pie.  This is such a cool and easy trick!  If the crust is truly frozen, it should pop right out after you loosen the edges.

5.  Cut a slit in middle of the top crust for venting during baking and bake uncovered for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.

Ahhmazing Autumn Sangria Recipe

Perfect for fall.  Tasty for your October gatherings.  Nice beverage for your adult Halloween party.  This Autumn Sangria recipe is the perfect combo of not-too-sweet with a little spice.  a-san-drinkI recently served this to my gal pals and they asked for seconds…and thirds.  Everyone commented how unique, refreshing and tasty this particular sangria tasted.  One chef friend of mine exclaimed, “It tastes just like Fall”….true!  If you love Sangria, you will love this.  If you are not a Sangria fan, you may be surprised that you like this one because it is not near as sweet as traditional Sangria. Give it a try.   I am pretty sure it will be a big hit at your autumn gathering!  It was at mine!  Here is the easy recipe that marinates overnight, too.  I think another reason this is so delish is the pumpkin pie spice that is also included in the recipe.  A big thank you to Hob Nob wine for sharing this recipe with me! Hob Nob has their wicked wines available at Total Wine & More now and the Halloween labeling is so cool.  Plus the price is right at only $9.99 a yummy bottle.  Thanks Hob Nob!  mail-wine

Now here is the video recipe preview that I showed on my morning show, with the written recipe instructions appearing below this fun and quick video….

And here is the written recipe below that my gal pals and my morning show team just loved (including the chef on set)! show-set-sang

Autumn Sangria

(15 servings)

  • 2 bottles HobNob Chardonnay
  • 1 cup vanilla vodka
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 apples
  • 2 pears
  • 1 orange

Directions:

Combine vodka, sugar, apple cider and pumpkin pie spice in a large pitcher and stir until sugar is completely dissolved.  Chop fruit (apples, pears, orange), add to mix and marinate overnight.  Add chilled Chardonnay. Serve over ice.

So cheers to Fall!  Cheers to Halloween!  And cheers to you, my loyal readers.  Happy Autumn all!