Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My #1 Healthy New Year's Resolution

The start of a new year always brings the opportunity to set new goals and try new things. As a green blogger, others sometimes ask me what would be my top "green" or "healthy" resolution that I would recommend.

Now although there's lots I would love to choose from, there's one that always tops the list for me. Drum roll please...start your day with warm lemon water!

I love this tip because it’s quick, easy, cheap and can feel a difference in your body right away.  Personally I’ve been starting my day with warm lemon water for about 2 ½ years now (click here to read my original post on how I make it) and I couldn’t go without it. One of my favorite benefits that come from drinking warm lemon water is increased hydration. After sleeping all night, our bodies are thirsty and hungry. Drinking a glass of warm water quenches our thirst and gets us hydrated first thing.  With this I feel like I make better food choices and it encourages me to stay hydrated throughout the day. Another benefit is that the warm water gently stimulates your digestive tract often to help remove the food from the previous day and make way for the food from the new day. (aka you may need to head to the restroom shortly after drinking this). A last benefit comes from the lemons in how they give you vitamins and minerals, and some fiber from their pulp, but they also help our bodies become more alkaline.

Here's how to make it:

Warm Lemon Water

What you'll need:
  • 1 lemon
  • 1-2 cups water
  • a glass
  • a saucepan to warm the water
  • citrus juicer 

1. Add your water to a small sauce pan and turn the heat to high.
I gently warm the water on the stove, until it looks about like this
with a few little bubbles. Usually takes 3-5 minutes.
You definitely don't want it boiling!
2. Cut your lemon in half and place the lemon on
the juicer and twist away.
I love how it catches the seeds, those are never fun to drink.

3. Then I just pour the warm water into my
glass. If it ever gets too hot, I'll let it cool
down a bit before I add the lemon juice.
(You could use a glass or as you see in the ingredients
above I also like small mason jars) I usually drink about
1 1/2 cups of warm lemon water.
4. Now pour in lemon juice into the warm
water and drink up!

Here I am drinking my lemon water first thing in the morning,
no make up...just enjoying my lemon water. ( :

That’s basically all there is to it! In case you’re wondering, I’m usually pretty hungry when I get up in the morning, so after drinking this I go right to eating my pre-workout snack or breakfast smoothie, I don’t wait any extended period of time or anything like that.

Other things you could add to your lemon water include sprinkling a pinch of cayenne pepper or some grated ginger.

A pinch of cayenne is a great add-in with the lemon water.

This is about how much I put in (max).
Also, you could vary the amount of lemon juice used. Some lemons are bigger, so you can just use half, and some lemons are smaller and use can use them all, it’s really up to you. I like a lot of lemon flavor, so I usually do a full lemon. 

Citrus Juicer Questions: I use a citrus juicer from Chefmate that I got from Target for $4 a few years back, but it doesn't seem to be in stock any more. So you could find any that work for you on Amazon or Target, but here's a cool one: Norpro Stainless-Steel Citrus Juicer Press $20 off  The benefit of using a citrus juicer is that it will make your warm lemon water much easier and cleaner each morning.

Now if you don't have a citrus juicer, no worries. Just cut the lemon in half, and carefully cut off the peel, leaving as much of the lemon as possible. Take the "naked" lemon half and squeeze it into your warm water. Yes, this method is messy, but it will get much more juice out of the lemon than just cutting it in half and leaving the peel on.

So there you have it my #1 Healthy New Year’s Resolution.

In case you’re wondering, my personal New Year’s Resolution for 2015 is to slow down and give myself a chance to rest and reflect. Trying to balance my job as a teacher, this job as a blogger/Youtuber, and my job as a mom can get a bit crazy at times and I find that I’m always trying to fill every minute of every day with something productive that I can cross off my to-do list. So my goal for this next year is to give myself a chance each day or week to just relax and do nothing. Maybe just play Legos with my girls, or write in my journal, or just take a nap. Basically set the intention of doing nothing for a certain period of time so I can recover and recharge this way I’m ready to go with more creative ideas, more love for others, and I have more energy for the work I really want to do. Obviously it’s not the most measurable goal in the world, but I feel it’s a worthwhile one that can help me not feel so frazzled and frantic all the time. So we’ll see, I’ll try to keep you posted.

Now that you know my favorite New Year’s resolutions, Will you give warm lemon water a try? What goals are you setting for the next year? Post them below; I’d love to hear them.  Happy New Year and I'll see you for some more green posts in 2015!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

My Go-To Holiday Meal: Vegan Cheesy Casserole

If you've read my blog for a while now you may have remembered this recipe from years back when Avery was just a baby, but since I've had a lot of requests for recipe videos lately I thought I would re-visit it with a step-by-step video of how I make it.

As the title suggests, this meal is my go-to for holiday gatherings. You name it...Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter this is the meal I make for little green family. Something about it just hits the spot.

Years ago when I first went vegan, I tried a variety of meals for holiday gatherings such as spaghetti, burritos, stir-frys, and veggie burgers but nothing seemed to taste quite right when everyone else was eating their turkey, mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole. That's when I came across this casserole recipe, and it quickly became the perfect main course for our vegan holiday dinners. I've since tweaked the recipe and the way I prepare it to make it as quick and easy to make, while still just as delicious.

It's a combo of potatoes, broccoli, carrots, tofu, rice and a vegan cheese sauce all baked together in a creamy, chunky casserole. Now it takes longer to prepare than most of the meals I make, but the flavor is so worth it.

This casserole is a huge hit with my kids too, in fact, any time I ask Avery what she wants for dinner she replies, "How about Cheesy Casserole?" I'm pretty sure she would eat it daily if she could.

"Did you say Cheesy Casserole?"

"Oh yeah, that's my favorite!"

And well, Mila is a fan of anything cheesy as well, so she's always game. Best part is that they both end up eating tons of vegetables, brown rice, and tofu and they don't even realize it because it's all mixed in the casserole.

Cheesy Casserole gives her some spoon practice. 

"Finger licking good!"

Check out a video breakdown of how I make it:

No time for the video? Here's the recipe:
Vegan Cheesy Casserole 

Modified from "Cheezy Casserole" from Skinny Bitch in the Kitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin

Casserole Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups dry short grain brown rice  
  • 1 pkg. of extra firm tofu
  • 1 small red onion or 1/2 a large red onion
  • 2 large carrots
  • 4 small russet or red potatoes (or 3 large)
  • 1 broccoli crown
  • 1/2 cup cashews (optional for topping)
"Cheese" Ingredients
  • 1 pkg. Daiya cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups rice milk or other milk alternative
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup brown rice flour
  • salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. You'll need a 3 quart casserole dish (mine is 9.25 x 13.25).

The casserole ingredient group-shot.

1. Press your tofu. I use (and love) my TofuXpress. It' makes
pressing tofu a breeze! I'll usually press the tofu
overnight, but sometimes I forget so just a few hours works too.

Once you assemble the press, it looks like this. This will help
get all the extra water out of it to make it even more firm.

2. Cook your rice. I use a rice cooker and it takes 1 1/2 cups of
rice with 3 cups of water. You can also make this on the stove.
Here's what mine looks like once it's done cooking.

3. Peel and chop the potatoes into bite-size pieces. 

4.  Boil water in a large stock pot. Once boiling, add the
potatoes and cook until mostly soft...10 minutes or so.

5. While the potatoes are boiling chop the carrots into "coins".

6. Next, chop the broccoli and onion into bite-size pieces.

7.  Once the potatoes are mostly soft, scoop them
out with a strainer or slotted spoon into a large mixing bowl
with a napkin at the bottom (to absorb the extra liquid).

8. Now add the broccoli, carrots and onions to the boiling water and
let them boil for about 3-5 minutes. Then remove them in
the same way you did the carrots and potatoes and
add to the large mixing bowl.

Time to make the cheese!

Cheese Ingredient group shot

9. In a  saucepan turn the heat to medium and add 1/4 cup
coconut oil, and allow to melt. Then add 1/4 cup brown rice flour
to the oil and whisk constantly so it won't burn.

10. Now add the 2 cups of rice milk and crank up the heat
until it starts to simmer.

11. When you start to see bubbles, lower the heat,
and then add the entire package of cheddar
Daiya cheese and stir it in. I also add 1 tsp. of salt and 1
shake of pepper at this point to the cheese.

12. When you first put it in, it will look clumpy like this.

14. Keep stirring it until it looks more creamy like this.

Time to bring it all together...

15. Now add the cooked rice, about 3 cups total, to the big
bowl.  Feel free to use more or less if you want. Be
sure you've pulled out the napkin that was at the bottom
of the bowl from earlier!

16. Now add the cheese and stir...don't add the tofu just yet.

17. Remember that good ol' tofu that was pressing? Time to get
it out and pour the extra water out of it.
Next chop the tofu into bite-size pieces, as big or as small
as you would like. I go with small rectangles.

18. Once your veggies and rice get all coated with cheese,
then add the tofu and stir carefully. I like my tofu to retain
it's shape a bit so if I stir it too much I end up with small tofu

19. Now pour the mixture from the bowl into a greased 3 Qt.
casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees.

20. While the casserole is cooking, food process or finely
chop 1/2 cup of cashews to add as a topping (optional).

21. Take the casserole out after 30 minutes, sprinkle the
cashew crumbs on top and bake for 15 more minutes.

Then let the casserole cool and enjoy this filling, veggie-
loaded, "hits the spot" casserole.
From there you could serve it in a bowl like this...

Or for most holiday gatherings, I've been pairing it with some roasted butternut squash (takes the place of the marshmallow sweet potatoes) and green beans that have been cooked with some vegan butter (takes the place of green bean casserole) and I love the way it all comes together.

Now I just need to find a good gluten-free, vegan roll recipe and I'll be all set! If you have one, share it below.

So there you have it, my go-to holiday meal: Vegan Cheesy Casserole. Do you have a vegan recipe you make like this that is your go-to for the holidays? Or do you switch it up? Post it below and we can all grow our holiday recipe collection.

And one more thing...
Merry Christmas from these two!

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