Whole Living Gal

Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the In the Kitchen category.

Drinks: Green Juice and Ginger Tea



Recipe Links

Here are a few links to recipes that I’m excited to try. I guess I should try them before I post about them, but I’m feeling a little reckless, so here you go – untested recipes I’m excited to try. Let me know if you try and like any of these!


I love baked oatmeal and usually use the version in Simply in Season, but I’m excited to try this Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal. One thing I love about it is that the recipe calls for you to prep it the night before and let it hang out in the fridge to pop in the oven in the morning.

My oldest turns 3 next week and she’s requested macaroni and cheese for her birthday dinner. I’m excited to try this recipe in the crock pot.

I cooked some rice last night and I’m going to try this very simple recipe for rice milk.

Sometimes Plan B Means Pulling Through a Drive-thru (and not feeling guilty…)

Last Friday I had the perfect end-of-week meal planned: local, organic, grass-fed burgers with roasted squash and “french fries” (i.e. roasted potatoes in the shape of fries)…also from our CSA.

I rushed home from an outing with the girls to chop the potatoes and get everything ready for dinner.Partway through the baking process, I tried to flip the potatoes, only to discover that not only was I flipping the potatoes, but with every turn, I was pulling up parts of the non-stick pan as well…and those non-stick parts were definitely sticking to my potatoes.

By this time, the burgers were ready for the grill and my family was getting hungry. So I jumped in the car, waived bye to my toddlers and husband, and drove myself to the nearest Culvers, where I ordered a family size french fry and brought it home (to some cheers) to my family.

Sometimes the best-laid [local, organic, homemade] plans fall through… And it’s times like these that I’m thankful for fast food and I serve and eat it guilt-free. Sometimes Plan B means fast food…and I’m okay with that. After all, keeping my sanity is part of living a healthy life – and last Friday night, those deep-fried french fries saved a little dose of my sanity.

Freedom in Discipline and Boundaries

Happy Fall everyone! I love this season as a time for reflection, sweaters, bon fires and apples.

Around our house, we are making changes and re-evaluating life. My husband graduated from seminary in the spring, finishing a degree he has been pursuing all of our married life together, and he also started a new job that allows him to have weekends off. So for our family, we are learning a new rhythm to life and cherishing all the extra time together.

We are also evaluating in other ways – one of those being our budget. It’s probably an understatement (and redundant to say here on this blog), but I love food. And for us, it’s been the one area of our lives that we haven’t practiced much discipline.

Do I think you can eat healthy on a budget? Yes!
Have I ever tried it? Not really!

So in an effort to cut back on the amount we spend on food (eating out and groceries), we have gone to the cash system. Have you heard of this? You put money in envelopes either each pay check or once a month and when the allotted money is gone from the envelope, you are done spending money. Pretty simple!

We’ve only been at it for a few weeks, but I can already say that the discipline I have to practice when I’m shopping and planning meals along with the boundaries set with having the cash in hand has given me a new sense of freedom.

Remember how care-free those college days were and how we all had no money and it didn’t matter? In a sense, I’m re-creating that scenario – sort of. For example, this week, I had $5 left in my grocery fund – with a fridge full of food – and I went to the store for a few essentials. Suddenly, I was weighing the 3 onions I bought and calculating the cost and then deciding between milk and eggs (I chose eggs). We have more than enough to get us through the week, so it felt great to have to say no to some things I wanted and just be thankful for what we have.

Here are some things I’m learning:

When enough is actually enough. It’s easy to look in the pantry and fridge and think “Oh, we have nothing to eat!” But now that we’re on a budget, I see with new eyes – and we actually do have enough…more than enough – for ourselves and to share a meal with others.

My natural instincts are not good. Sometimes I would wonder, “Where does our money go?” But in the last few weeks, I have seen where our money WOULD HAVE gone. So many times I had the urge to buy something, to go out to eat, to pick up a few extras, but since I am on a tighter budget, I don’t give into the urge. But if I don’t have the cash right in front of me, I will spend the money and swipe my card. My natural instincts are to spend…so setting boundaries has been really healthy for me.

You can eat well on a budget! I’ve said this to so many people, but I’ve never put the philosophy to the test. But it’s true: you can eat well on a budget. It’s possible to eat good, healthy, tasty food on a budget. There are somethings I compromise on (like not buying organic bananas), but some things I don’t (I still choose local, organic, grass-fed meats).

It takes time and effort. It does take extra time and effort to eat well and stay on budget. I am planning more meals ahead of time, constantly evaluating what I have on hand, and spending more time cooking and cleaning than ever before, but it’s worth it.

It’s healthy to have to say ‘no.’ Our society is such a ‘yes’ society – for many of us, we rarely have to say ‘no.’ But it’s good to have to practice discipline and say ‘no’ sometimes – even if it’s to something good – like great food.

The discipline I am learning in this one area of my life is applicable to so many other areas, and I feel like for me, it’s turning into a spiritual discipline – to learn to say no, to be a good steward of what we have been given, and to be thankful for what we have instead of always wanting more. Not everyone needs to learn these lessons, but I know I sure do – and the thing about a budget is it never ends. We continue to be handed an opportunity to learn discipline, and I, for one, am glad for the lesson…and the freedom that it’s bringing to live within these boundaries.

Banana, Zucchini and Summer Squash Muffins (recipe)

I adapted this recipe from my friend Molly who is a genius at muffins, cookies and granola.

I baked this recipe tonight and it’s all I can do to refrain from eating the whole dozen. Enjoy!

Banana, Zucchini and Summer Squash Muffins

1 1/2 cups organic whole wheat flour
2 cups organic rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 organic banana (chopped 1/4″ x 1/4″)
3/4 cup grated zucchini
1/2 cup grated summer squash
3 large eggs
3/4 cup apple sauce
2 TBS oil

Preheat oven to 350, spray or line a 12-cnt muffin tin.
Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
Add banana, zucchini and squash and mix.
Beat eggs, then add to mixture.
Add apple sauce and oil. Mix well.
Evenly distribute batter into muffin tin and bake for 30 min.
Allow to cool slightly before turning out to a cooling rack…enjoy!

Lettuce Wraps with Creamy Sesame Sauce

We got some amazing boston lettuce at my CSA pick-up this week. Whenever I see good, buttery, boston lettuce, I immediately think: lettuce wraps!

So today at lunch, I decided to keep it simple and stuff this lettuce with some basics that I had on hand: mainly, brown rice and a homemade creamy sesame sauce.

I made the creamy sesame sauce based on a recipe that I acquired from my CSA this week. I doubled it so that I’d have enough for marinades, salads, and stir-fries.

Creamy Sesame Sauce

1/4 cup sesame seeds (toasted dry on a skillet)
2 TBS dijon mustard
1 TBS honey
2 TBS sesame oil
1 TBS olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 TBS fresh, grated ginger (I keep mine in the freezer: it keeps longer & it’s easier to grate)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

In a food processor or blender, blend all ingredients until smooth and creamy. Store in the fridge for up to 2 months (recipe can be doubled or tripled).


Then I mixed some sauce with leftover brown rice I had in the fridge. My 15mo loved the rice and sauce, but my 2.5yo claimed it was too spicy (sometimes she’s into spicy, today was not one of those days).

So when I wrapped the rice in the lettuce wraps, I gave her plain rice, but mine was doused in the sauce (I could have eaten just that for lunch…). She was happy as a clam, though.

Zora is really into “tacos” right now – and by that, she means anything wrapped in a tortilla. So as I was eating my lettuce wraps, it suddenly dawned on me that maybe she’d be into wrapping her rice in lettuce and calling it a taco. Well, just using that word worked wonders. She was thrilled about her “salad taco” and ate happily away.

Until I pulled out the camera, of course. I felt like I got a lot of patronizing grins at that point. Then suddenly, just as quickly as she embraced the lettuce wraps, she was announced “Mommy, I don’t want the salad.”

So be it.

But the lettuce wraps themselves were a big hit, and I’m going to re-introduce them again – heck, you can wrap anything in lettuce. And the sesame dressing – well, that is just heaven in a bowl, that’s what that is. It turned rice and lettuce into a delicious meal that felt complete. I love having extra dressing in the fridge for a quick addition to another meal.

Raising Healthy Kids

I taught a cooking class at Trillium Haven Farm on Saturday. The setting could not have been more perfect. It was a gorgeous sunny day and we were outside – a rooster even walked through at one point!

Since it was on a farm, the conditions were a bit rustic, which was fun. Here’s where I washed my hands:

And I cooked brown rice, black beans and a brown rice syrup/peanut butter sauce over these burners:

I felt like super woman after creating a delicious meal in the outdoors – it was like camping but with much, much better food.

The menu focused on simple, delicious dishes that are versitile for families. I also wanted to teach some basic cooking techniques that can be applied to other dishes. We ate beans and rice (inspired by this meal) and roasted beet salad. I also made my simple, delicious guacamole. I also did a version of brown rice crispy treats.

One key theme that I talked about during this class is to remember the big picture. We are not trying to raise healthy children, we are trying to raise healthy people. We want our children to grow up with an appreciation for good food and an adventurous spirit when it comes to new and different (but healthy and whole!) foods.

This takes the pressure off dinner time (and lunch time and breakfast time, too). It’s no longer about this one plate of vegetables or this one particular dish, it’s about the big picture. And raising healthy people has to do with the whole experience of food, too – choosing the vegetables at the farmer’s market or store, helping prepare, setting the table, clearing the table, tasting bites (during prep and during mealtime, too).

This has been my refrain recently as I now have a two-year-old who is extremely opinionated and strong-willed. The big picture helps me relax a bit when it comes to food – and helps me enjoy the process again, in hopes that she’ll enjoy it, too.

Happy, healthy eating!

Pile of Vegetables

Nothing says summer like a pile of fresh stuff on a plate that we call dinner.

After our first CSA pick-up, I had planned a dinner of beans and rice. I was planning to put it in tortillas and wrap it up, but then I saw glorious, fresh spinach that was probably picked that day, and I couldn’t resist piling it on my plate…followed by the rice, then beans, salsa, sharp cheddar, mashed avocado and fresh cilantro from our back yard.

A Healthy Cupcake Recipe

A few months ago I was on the search for a healthy cupcake recipe. Well, first I was on the search for a cupcake recipe for my youngest daughter’s first birthday, but when I came across a recipe I thought I liked and discovered that between the frosting and the cake, there were 6 sticks of butter, I thought:

There has to be a better way!

I ended up using a pumpkin cupcake recipe that was delicious and had pretty good ingredients. I definitely limit the amount of sugar and white flour altogether in our diets, but I’m not a stickler, so when it came to a birthday party, I thought a little flour, butter and sugar (and cream cheese frosting) was okay.

But then when I came across today’s cupcake recipe in a cookbook I’ve been using for years, I just had to make it. Then I made it, and I had to share it.

Really, I wish you could have been at my kitchen table this afternoon as my friend Brooke and I ate away at these cupcakes… Because, frankly, I wish you could taste them before I tell you what is in them – they’re delicious and not even in the, these-are-good-for-being-healthy kind of way. They’re just delicious in the: these-must-be-naughty way.

But they’re not naughty. They are sweetened with natural sweeteners, vegan, gluten free, and guess what’s in the frosting? Oh, I won’t tell…you’ll have to read on…and give it a try…

Trust me? Okay, then let’s continue…

Chief Cloud’s Cupcakes
from Healthy Cooking for Kids by Shelly Null

2 Cups whole-wheat pastry flour (I used gluten-free, all-purpose flour)
1 Tbs baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup spectrum spread*
2/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup well-mashed banana
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup soy milk or rice milk (I used almond milk)
1 cup flaked coconut (optional)

1 lb silken tofu, well drained
1, 10-oz package dairy-free carob chips (I used dark chocolate chips)
1/4 cup honey
1 Tbs vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a muffin tray with paper cups.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together until well combined.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine spectrum spread, maple syrup, banana, and vanilla. Mix with an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy (about 1 minute. Gradually pour in the milk, increase speed and beat for 30 seconds. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixure (in 2 batches), beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients. When the ingredients are fully incorporated, increase the mixer speed to high, and beat for 1 minute to aerate. Pour in the coconut and beat for 10 seconds until well combined. Scrape off any excess batter from the side of the bowl. Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared tins (the wells will be full).

Bake in the middle of the preheated oven for 30 minutes. For uniformity in baking, rotate the tin halfway through the baking. Remove from tin and let the cupcakes cool.

To prepare the frosting: In the food processor (w/ the medal blade), process tofu for 2 minutes until smooth. In a double boiler, combine chips, honey and vanilla until the chips are a fudgy consistency (about 5-6 minutes), stirring consistently. Restart the food processor and add the chocolate through the feed tube and run until smooth and creamy (about 2 minutes). Scrape off excess frosting from the sides of the food processor and transfer to a medium bowl. Cover the surface directly with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour, or until firm.

Spread frosting on the cupcakes and serve immediately.

*Spectrum Spread is the name brand for the non-dairy (but not margarine!) buttery spread substitute you can find at the health food store. I used Earth Balance.



One Year Birthday

I’ve been hit or miss on my blog recently. I would apologize, but the weather has been nice on and off, so we’ve been outside – not sorry about that! Plus, I’m working on simplifying, de-cluttering, and purging in my house so my free moments are spent in piles of books, clothes and decorations, deciding what I can live without.

Also, my youngest daughter turned one today. We did a family party and I made dinner and cupcakes. Here’s the menu:

Herb-Roasted Pork Loin

Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

Arugula Salad with Oranges and Dates (I know, I’m obsessed!)

Peas & Carrots (my daughter’s favorite)

I wanted to make my own cupcakes, but I’m a little intimidated by baking – and also didn’t want to go off the sugary, buttery deep end for some cupcakes. So I made the recipe that my friend Luanne used for my older daughter’s first birthday – Pumpkin Gingerbread Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting. So delicious!

I hope everyone else is enjoying the springy(er) weather. Anyone doing spring cleaning? I’ll get back to my regular posts sometime…and I haven’t forgotten about joy…posts coming for that soon, too.