Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pumpkin Oatmeal

This is the best oatmeal I have ever eaten. The recipe is from the Happy Herbivore meal plan which I highly suggest you download and donate to! I eat oatmeal almost every day with my husband. He is a traditional rolled oats with raisins and brown sugar, while I go for the Raw brand cinnamon and plum spice or chai oatmeal. (I like mine sweet!) As I sit and enjoy this delicious breakfast all I can think is that this meal plan was so worth the $5. Thank you Happy Herbivore for being a genius and adding pumpkin to oatmeal. You are awesome!

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Butternut Squash Ravioli

I was the very lucky recipient of a giant butternut squash from a friends garden last week. I mulled over what to do with the monster squash because lately, we have been eating a lot of squash. In a moment of sheer genius, I came up with this recipe:

Whole Wheat Butternut Squash Ravioli with Butter Sauce

The pasta is 3 cups whole wheat flour and 1 cup water. When making pasta dough, I start out with less water and add more as I think its needed. When the dough is the consistency of, well, dough, I cut it into long one inch strips and roll it out paper thin with my handy rolling pin. I then use something small and round (a cookie cutter would be nice but I don't have one) to cut circles out of the flat dough (about an inch in diameter is good). Set the circles aside and move onto the squash puree. 

The puree is made up of a cooked butternut squash (cut it in half, place it face down on a cookie sheet, add a little water and put that baby in the oven for about 45 minutes), about a 1/4 cup plain soy milk, a 1/2 tsp of salt, and a pinch (or a little more) of sage. I put it all in a food processor until the chunks are smoothed out but its not quite liquified. 

Then the exciting part: Take a spoon and place a small dollop of the puree on a ravioli round (For mine, I rolled my pasta circles with the rolling pin again to make them super flat). Dip your finger in a small glass of water and dab it around the edges of the ravioli. Put another ravioli round on top of the one you just wet and press down all of the sides. Set aside and continue this process until you have used all of the dough. 

Have a big pot of boiling water ready for your raviolis. I usually only cook a few at a time so I can monitor the cooking time more closely. When they float, and are light in color, they are done! Strain them from the water and plate them. 

For the sauce I used a few spoonfuls of smart balance margarin, about 1/8 a cup plain soy milk, and about a tsp of vanilla. Heat it in the microwave for about a minute, stir, and spoon it slowly over the ravioli. I used very little of this mixture on mine so that I could really focus on the butternut squash flavor. The vanilla adds just the perfect amount of sweetness! 


PS: The sauce in the pictures is just butter and brown sugar, it was boring so I changed it up! Happy eating!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Lesson learned

For all of you who don't know, let me set the record straight: you don't have to do all of your grocery shopping at expensive health-food stores in order to maintain a healthy-food diet. For all of you who didn't know, I feel that it is my responsibility to fill you in on that little known (or maybe not so known) secret. Why? Because I don't want you to experience what I experienced today.

Whole Foods is probably the most beautiful grocery store I have ever been in. That being said, it's also the most expensive grocery store I've ever been in. Now, granted, I sort of knew that walking in. Sort of. Knowing that the prices were a bit steep, yet wanting the experience of shopping there, I did half of my shopping (mainly produce) where I usually do--the Sunflower Market. I figured, the few other things I wanted to pick up, I could grab at Whole Foods; I also figured, because I didn't need crazy-out-of-the-ordinary things, that my bill wouldn't amount to much. Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, WRONG! Even with my half-sized shopping cart that was only half full, I spent over double what I did at the Sunflower Market and about fifty dollars over what I had budgeted.

Now, I could have freaked out, but I didn't. Instead, I took a deep breath, reminded myself that what I paid for I would be able to take home and use, and slid my trusty plastic debit card. As I was walking out of the store, I bid Whole Foods the kindest farewell; while it was nice getting to shop at such a beautiful establishment, I realized that it's just not worth it. Why? Because everything I bought, I could have grabbed at King Soopers for cheaper. For one afternoon, however, I wanted that ambiance. Well, I got it and I don't think I'll be hunting it down again any time soon.

Here's the truth of the matter: I can eat healthy and shop frugally as well. The whole reason I go to the Sunflower Market for my produce is because they always have fruits and veggies on sale. Everything I can't get there, I can usually find at a regular super market--and you probably can, too. Don't get me wrong--you may have to be more label-conscious when you aren't in a health-food store because the shelves at regular grocery stores are filled with falsely advertised nutritious goods, but your wallet will appreciate the extra effort you put in. Trust me!

Anyway, I plan on enjoying my Whole Food purchases as much as I can! In fact, I've already started to do just that. My grandparents got me a beautiful blender set just because (Just because they are awesome! When they found out I didn't have a blender, they promised me one when I came down for Thanksgiving. I was sure they were going to give me one of their old ones, at least, that's what they made it seem like--but then I walked out with this wonderful-brand-new-exceeding-my-expectations blender. They love me! And, oh, how I love them!) and I was super anxious to break it open and use it today.

I made a delicious, nutritious smoothie with the almond milk and frozen fruit I got from Whole Foods this afternoon. My Ninja worked just as effortlessly as it promised and I can definitely see myself making many more fruity (or maybe even veggie--since my grandma assures me they are pretty good and a great way to get in another serving of vegetables) frosty beverages in the future.
I also used my Ninja to make marinara sauce--more on that when I write about the lasagna I plan on making tomorrow.

That's all for now--Rosalyn

My first fruit smoothie recipe (in case you were wondering):

1/4 cup frozen blueberries
1/3 cup frozen peaches (about 4-5 slices)
1/3 banana
1/4 vanilla almond milk

Throw everything in the blender and vuala--you've got yourself the perfect little snack. Add a tasty English muffin or double the recipe and you've got breakfast!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Food & Tradition

I grew up in every sense of the term "nuclear family." Mom, Dad, Little Sister, me. Where other kids had grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and even neighbors around that were considered family, I just had my tiny, four person unit. I have grandparents (we occasionally visited), and aunts and uncles and cousins (I love those who have stuck around dearly), but my family is separated by the pains of divorce and distance. Our lack of extended family to cook for over the years has resulted in very little consistency and tradition..

I remember my mom saying almost every holiday something like, "We have to start our own traditions," and try as we did, nothing ever stuck. I do not have any vivid food memories from my childhood that involve traditions or holidays. No special cookies, like the ones my mother in law makes every year, no memories of my own mother cooking dinner or baking. The one most vivid food memory I have from my childhood is eating at a free school lunch program one summer when my parents were struggling to make ends meet (I remember being embarrassed and grossed out by the smelly cafeteria).

I grew up eating meat and never really questioned why. It was just food. I never thought of meat as anything other than that. In March of 2007 my husband (then boyfriend) and I were attending a small church that had decided to participate in Lent. At the last minute we decided that we would give up meat for the 40 day fasting period. We were unprepared, excited, and motivated. We had come across some statistics about world hunger and vegetarianism that we were eager to share with our friends and family.

Little did we know at the time that we would stay on the path to permanent vegetarianism.

Our unpreparedness at first led us to eat a lot of unhealthy things such as fast food burritos, cheese pizzas, veggie burgers (with fries of course!). Our new culinary path was not one necessarily of health, but simply of no meat.  We were trying to eat all of the things we loved when we were meat eaters. Although our diet evolved and we had the resources and know-how to make much healthier choices with our diet, we found our selves stuck in a rut of lazy vegetarianism.

Fast forward to today. Thanksgiving 2011. My family cooked prime rib, fresh green beans (sans casserole), sweet potatoes, and a choice of cheesecake or pumpkin pie for dessert. I contributed a beautiful vegetarian lasagna packed with thinly sliced zucchini and tons of cheese (with my sauce that I made from scratch!) We still have no set traditions. My family does not care much for turkey, and so we had no use for stuffing, or cranberry sauce. The Thanksgiving staples are almost foreign to our family table.

To be honest, I never really noticed that we didn't have real traditions until I got married. Seeing my husbands big family gather year after year and enjoy each others company and favorite foods has made me long for a sense of tradition and home. As I start thinking about raising a family of my own I dream about handing down recipes to my children who I hope will hand them down to their children and their children after them.

So I have started a journey. I am cooking from scratch and making my own versions of recipes that I love. I am searching for a food culture and a set of traditions that I can call my own. I hope that through this experience, I will change the way my husband and I, and my family, approach food. I hope to create memories and gain lots of new cooking skills.

I sincerely hope that you will join me on my new journey as a scratch kitchen chef, as I cook, learn, and create memories and traditions from my kitchen.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Those without

My heart for food has changed substantially over the past few weeks. I've been taught for years that my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, but I always associated that fact with my Christian walk--I thought it was more about what I wore, what I said, how I carried myself, and so on and so forth. Lately, I've realized that I should also take into consideration what I am eating. My body is a gift and I need to take care of it.

But, God has also shown me something more. My eyes have been opened to the reality that I'm not the only person who should be worried about what is going into my body; I am not the only person whose body is a gift. We are all made in his image.

With Thanksgiving upon us, I can't help but think about food. With this being my first vegetarian holiday, I'm approaching the day with a bit of caution. My body is still adjusting to the change and I don't want to freak it out with a bunch of rich foods I've done without for so long.

But--what about those who are simply going without? What about those who aren't worried about explaining, for the tenth time, why they aren't eating turkey because their answer is--they are without a turkey. What about those people who don't have a place to call home, who don't have a family to invite them in, who don't get to sit around a table full of food that smells of Thanksgiving and welcomes everyone into the holiday season? What about those people?

I think it's amazing that we have a holiday that people associate with eating. Ask the average American their plans for the holiday and they will tell you where they are going and what they will be eating when they get there. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm guilty of doing just that. And, while I don't plan on overeating--like so many enjoy doing on Turkey Day--I will be indulging in time with family and a home cooked meal. I'm really looking forward to the tradition that I have come to expect from my family, but I can't help but wonder--what about the homeless? What are they doing tomorrow? Who is feeding them?

These are questions I wouldn't have asked last year, or the year before. But now? Now, not only am I more aware of my calling to do right and seek justice, I'm also more aware of the importance of food. I can't imagine going without it, ever--but, more specifically, on a day where everyone I know plans on eating until they can't eat anymore.  So, I looked for the answer to my question: who is feeding the homeless on Thanksgiving?

I was, actually, really disappointed with the information I found. Trying to see where people are volunteering to serve, on Thanksgiving, in my town, was like trying to find a scholarly source that is reliable enough to reference in a research paper using Google as your primary search engine. (Google is good for a lot of things, but not research papers...or holiday volunteer opportunities in Colorado, either, apparently.) I'm not sure if it's because most of the local non-profit organizations weren't advertising via the internet or if there really are very few ways to reach out to the homeless tomorrow--but I found one in the city that I reside, and a couple others in our state's capital.

Common sense and faith in humanity tells me that there are more people supporting the hungry on Thanksgiving, but I wish there were even more!

From what I know about people in need all over the world--which isn't anything to boast about--I'm willing to bet that my town could do so much more, even just in our town. Maybe next year, with a little more effort on my part, I won't just find one or two organizations who are only publicizing that they don't need any more volunteers; maybe next year, with a little more effort on my part, I'll find a dozen more opportunities to serve in my community; and maybe--just maybe--I'll be one of those people asking for volunteers.

In any case, allow me to give a shout out to the people who are making a difference in the lives of many tomorrow. Every little bit helps, and I'm so glad that there are people who have the heart and the means to honor those less fortunate.

The Open Door Mission is hosting a big Thanksgiving dinner in town for anyone who wants to attend. They are hoping that it will be a time for people in various situations to come together and break bread--what I believe this holiday should be all about.
The Denver Rescue Mission is delivering boxed dinners and serving a banquet dinner. I read that they had thousands of turkeys donated to the cause, which is awesome.
My favorite event that is going on is being hosted by Rock Bottom Brewery. They are inviting over a thousand people (homeless and displaced children and their families) to a dinner at the restaurant. They will be treated as guests and they will be served on tables decked out with silverware and china and tablecloths. I imagine that it will be great for everyone involved.

I hope this Thanksgiving finds you well and that you get the chance to enjoy the day with friends and family, and maybe even a few strangers who need a warm meal served with love.

That's all for now--Rosalyn

Life as I know it

A couple of months ago, my grandparents decided they were going to drastically change their diet and become vegans. When I heard the news, I couldn't believe it--if you knew my grandpa, you'd understand my disbelief. My whole life, he's been the guy who likes to eat just about everything. I remember my grandma used to joke around, telling us that the only thing she could buy that he wouldn't eat were salt and vinegar potato chips; but if there was nothing else for him to munch on, he might have eaten those too. Furthermore, the best meals I can remember my grandma cooking all had meat, cheese, or butter--sometimes all three. My grandpa is a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy.

That is, he used to be.

I remember talking to them about it, initially, and my grandpa said one thing that stood out to me the most--it's not a change someone can make unless they have a reason that drives them. I respected their decision and was, actually, really excited for them. It is their health that has inspired them--and because, of course, I'm not nearly ready to live a life without them, I was proud of them for taking drastic measures to improve their health.

I, on the other hand, insisted that I could never handle a vegan diet. Why? Because I like hamburgers too much. My favorite restaurant is Old Chicago, and one of my favorite things to do is to go there and enjoy a beer with a classic cheeseburger, or a Chicago style pizza. There was no way I could give up meat--and definitely not dairy! Besides the cheese I can't go without on my hamburger, I love ice cream.

Ice cream. Let me tell you a little bit about how ice cream changed my life.

This summer, ice cream became a part of my nightly routine. A couple scoops a night was my night cap--I wouldn't go to bed without the delicious, milky, nectar. For a while, I'd come home from the grocery store with different variations of vanilla ice cream with chocolate covered peanut butter cups, rabbits, swirls--didn't matter, as long as there was peanut butter. After a while, and an impromptu trip to Cold Stone Creamery one evening, I decided to go for something lighter. Cake batter flavored ice cream became my new craving. And then I discovered it--the most delicious summer ice cream pick my mouth had ever known--I do, I do, Wedding Cake--butter-creme flavored ice cream with chunks of white cake and raspberry swirls! Oh my gosh, it was so good. So good that  I could hardly stop myself from going back for another bowl after I'd finished my first; occasionally, I didn't even try and stop myself. I loved it.

My waist, on the other hand, did not.

Now, I'm a woman--feeling fat is something that happens on a regular basis. Bloating happens. We get over it. But, that was the thing, I had hit a point where I wasn't getting over it. A week went by and I was wondering why I still felt uncomfortable in my body. Then another week slipped by, and another, and I couldn't shake the feeling. It was frustrating when everything I put on made me feel like I had to add another layer to cover myself up just a little more. Something had to be done--so I made the decision to go on a diet.

I'm the kind of person that, when I make up my mind to do something, I do it. And I had made up my mind. So, after my summer vacation with family (where I knew going on a diet wasn't going to happen), I changed how I was eating. I decided that I wanted to lose 20 pounds. I gave up sweets and beer, I cut way back on carbs and upped my protein intake, I started eating more vegetables and, within the first two weeks, I lost nine pounds.

It was awesome.

That's when I decided that I was going to start making my own vegetable soup. I was getting sick of salads for lunch everyday, and with autumn on the horizon, soup seemed like the next best thing. It was a great idea, in theory, but not so great the first few practice rounds. Turned out the soup I was eating didn't have nearly as many calories as I needed and by the end of my work day, I hadn't eaten enough food to provide me with the energy I needed. My body was going into starvation mode.

My solution? More protein. But, I didn't want that to mean more meat. I couldn't afford more meat! So, I started hunting for ideas. I added beans to my soup and my body was very pleased; and, happy to have found a few recipes for nutritious lunch time meals, I kept looking. It was then that I discovered the plethora of recipes out there for vegetarians. It wasn't long before the lulls at work were filled with me scouring the internet for more vegetarian soup recipes. Soup recipes turned into dinner recipes and snack ideas and then I realized something....

If I stopped buying meat, my grocery bill would probably go down in price. Plus, with all the recipes I was finding, I was sure that I could still maintain a well rounded menu that tasted just as good without meat. And, I was suddenly very intrigued by the idea of knowing exactly what I was eating--so, switching to a vegetarian diet just seemed to make sense.

It dawned on me that what I was eating went beyond just feeding myself. The knowledge that my body is not my own took on a whole new meaning; I understood that my body is a gift from God and it is a temple that houses Christ's promise in the form of the Holy Spirit. Suddenly, I realized that I needed to take care of myself better.

Surprisingly enough, I don't miss ice cream. While I am still trying to stay away from sweets and excessive carbs for now, I'm not sure that my diet will really have room for those things in the future. I've found that I actually enjoy eating healthy and it's not as hard as I imagined it would be. My recipe hunt has grown into a habit. I seek out blogs with recipes and articles about food and nutrition. When I think of something I like to eat (outside of fruits, vegetables, dairy and nuts), I look into what it would take to make it. And, I've discovered, most of the things that I now eat, I can make them myself.

So, here I am, a vegetarian who has vowed to make as much as I can from scratch. I tell people that I have this rule that I live by--If I want it, I have to make it. And you know what? I love it. Not only does my body appreciate my efforts (I've lost four more pounds--yippee! Only seven more to go), but I thoroughly enjoy the time I spend in the kitchen. And there is something so rewarding about eating something that you've made from scratch.

I look forward to sharing this experience with you; I'm anxious to grow spiritually, as a person, as a woman, and as a cook as I journey my way through life as a vegetarian--life as a health conscious consumer--and life as a Scratch Kitchen chef.

That's all for now--Rosalyn

the scratch kitchen Copyright The Scratch Kitchen 2012