August 29, 2012

Tahini Thyme Root Vegetable Puree

Gosh, I've got to start making dinner a little bit earlier so that I can take pictures while the sun is still out.  The quality of these pictures is far from ideal, but - oh well - what else can you do when there is no natural sunlight?!  You'll just have to take my word for it when I say:

This vegetable puree was delicious!

You all know that I love a well-roasted vegetable better than almost anything, but I'll be the first to admit that there can be "too much of a good thing."  This puree turned out to be a great answer to still eating my vegetables, but in a new and exciting way!  And although Bo frequently faults me for wanting to puree everything (in his defense, I do make hummus, babaganoush, and/or pudding on an almost weekly basis), he thought that this dish was really good too...and (he might not admit it) he even liked his plate!

I used thyme in this recipe to liven things up a bit; but if thyme isn't one of your favorite herbs, feel free to substitute it with oregano, rosemary, basil, etc.  Almost any herb will work, as long as you like the flavor of it!

The tahini was added for creaminess and a punch of healthy fats and protein.  I WOULDN'T recommend substituting the tahini with another nut/seed butter because the flavor might be overwhelming for the delicate cauliflower and carrots.  However, you might substitute the water for almond milk (or milk of choice) for additional creaminess.  We were just out, so water was all that I had.

Tahini Thyme Root Vegetable Puree
Serves 3-4

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into chunks
4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
salt and pepper, for garnish
2T Smart Balance (or butter)
1oz. cheddar cheese
2T tahini
1tsp dried thyme (scant)
1/4C water

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Toss the chopped/diced cauliflower and carrots with the EVOO, salt, and pepper.
  • Spread onto a baking sheet; roast for 30 minutes (flipping half way).
  • Once roasted, add the cauliflower, carrots, Smart Balance, cheddar cheese, tahini, and thyme to your food processor.
  • Pulse 10-15 times.
  • After pulsing, begin to process the ingredients on low while simultaneously pouring the water into the food processor through the hatch up top.
  • Process until desired consistency is reached (I like mine relatively smooth).
  • If desired, garnish with additional salt and pepper.

Between the cauliflower head and four carrots, this recipe made more than enough for Bo and I to have generous portions for dinner, and smaller lunch portions the next day.  Because of its seasonality and bright color, I am thinking that this would make a great side dish for Thanksgiving dinner.  I don't know about you, but I would eat this puree instead of mashed potatoes any day of the week!

Question of the Day:

What is your favorite herb and/or spice to use in the kitchen?  Obviously, I am a fan of thyme; but I also love basil, rosemary, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger (among others)!

Ally and Bo

August 27, 2012

Cinnamon Almond French Toast

Believe it or not, this morning I didn't eat oatmeal (hard to believe, I know!).  Instead, I treated myself to this:

If you couldn't tell from my admittedly poor quality photos, this is french toast.  Due to Hurricane Isaac, we woke up to an exceptionally dark and stormy morning.  Rain, wind, and clouds don't exactly make for a ton of natural light for my food photography.  You'll just have to forgive me, and take my word for the incredible yumminess that filled my belly!

French toast = YUMM-O!

I decided to flavor this french toast with almond extract because I had a jar of almond butter that needed to be eaten up and I figured that they would pair well together.  However, if you prefer, you can used vanilla extract and peanut butter instead, or cashew butter, or pecan get the point.  This recipe is easily modified to whatever you have lying around.

One thing I wouldn't change about this recipe, however, is the ratio of egg-to-milk in the batter.  If you use any more milk, it just makes the bread soggy...which will not result in a YUMM-O breakfast.  

Truth me on that one.

Cinnamon Almond French Toast
Serves 1

1 piece bread of choice (I used whole wheat)
1 egg white
3 1/2T almond milk
pinch of cinnamon
1/16 tsp almond extract
1-2 drops butter extract
1 very ripe banana, cut in half - and then in half again - lengthwise
1T almond butter
maple syrup, for garnish

  • Preheat a non-stick skillet over medium heat.
  • Whisk together the egg, 2T almond milk, cinnamon, almond extract, and butter extract.
  • Dip the bread into the egg mixture and thoroughly coat each side.
  • Place the bread onto the preheated, non-stick skillet.
  • Cook for 2-3 minutes until browned on one side.
  • Flip over.
  • Add the banana to the skillet along with the toast, and cook until seared and softened.
  • Meanwhile, microwave the almond butter and 1 1/2T almond milk for 30 seconds, and then whisk together until fully incorporated.
  • Once cooked on both sides, remove the toast and banana and place on a small plate.
  • Smear the toast with the almond butter spread.
  • Top with the banana and a drizzle of maple syrup.
  • Serve warm. :)

This french toast is SO GOOD that Bo and I have both had it for three mornings in a row; and you know that anything that can keep me away from my morning oatmeal for that long must be good!

So what are you waiting for?  
Why not treat yourself to some french toast tomorrow morning?!

You deserve it.

Question of the Day:

What is your favorite "special occasion" breakfast item?  Pancakes?  Eggs benedict?  A waffle?  Scone and clotted cream?!

Ally and Bo

August 23, 2012

Deluxe Banana Split Soft-Serve

Last night I was craving - of all things - a banana split from Dairy Queen.  I don't know about you, but I have wonderful memories of heading to Dairy Queen after school, or on the weekends, or with my mom, for a special ice cream treat.  Sometimes I ordered a Chocolate Dip Cone, other times I ordered a Peanut Buster Parfait (come know you remember it!), every once in a while I would order an Oreo Blizzard; but undoubtedly - at least eight times out of ten - I ordered a Banana Split!  There was just something about the combination of vanilla soft-serve, strawberries, cherries, peanuts, and chocolate syrup that made my taste buds go crazy!

And although Bo and I didn't head out to a Dairy Queen last night, YOU BETTER BELIEVE I got my banana split fix!

To start, I used my recipe for Homemade Peach Compote to create a delicious - but healthy - strawberry sauce.  I honestly think that I could have eaten this straight out of the jar with a spoon and been pretty happy!

Then the real work fun began!  I:
  • whipped together a decadent chocolate sauce;
  • chopped some salted peanuts; and
  • got out all of the ingredients for my favorite Secret Ingredient Soft-Serve.  

After preparing all of the separate components of the Banana Split, it was time to assemble my delectable masterpiece.

Seriously...doesn't that look SO good?!

Deluxe Banana Split Soft-Serve
Serves 2

For the Strawberry Compote:
15 strawberries, diced
1/2T cornstarch
2 packets stevia
2T maple syrup
2T water

For the Chocolate Syrup:
2T dark chocolate chips
1/2tsp coconut oil

For the Banana Soft-Serve:
2 frozen bananas
2T almond milk (or milk of choice)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For Garnish:
salted peanuts, chopped
maraschino cherry, optional

  • For the Strawberry Compote: Toss the diced strawberries with the cornstarch to coat.  Place the strawberries, stevia, maple syrup, and water in a small saucepan; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium; continue cooking at a low boil for 5 minutes.  Use a potato masher to mash the strawberries (until a jam-like consistency is formed).  Pour into a small jar and refrigerate until cooled and set.
  • For the Chocolate Syrup: Place the chocolate chips and coconut oil in a small bowl.  Heat - in 30 second increments - in the microwave until fully melted and incorporated.  Keep warm until ready to serve.
  • For the Banana Soft-Serve: Place the frozen banana chunks in your food processor; process for 1-2 minutes until bananas are broken up and beginning to smooth out.  Add the almond milk and vanilla extract and process until smooth.
  • Next, spoon 2-4T (depending upon taste and preference) of the Strawberry Compote into the food processor with the Banana Soft-Serve.  Pulse a couple of times until the compote is swirled into the soft-serve.
    • Note: At this point - depending upon whether or not your soft-serve is beginning to get too soft - you may need to freeze it for 5-10 minutes to re-harden.
  • Pour the soft-serve into small bowls, drizzle the chocolate syrup on top, and garnish with the chopped peanuts and cherry.
  • Enjoy IMMEDIATELY as the soft-serve will melt quickly!

I was even nice enough to make one for Bo too!  

Go ahead - admit it - I have that "Wife of the Year" award in the bag. ;)

Question of the Day:

Do you like traditional banana splits?  If not, what is your favorite ice cream treat?!

Ally and Bo

August 21, 2012

Simple is Sometimes Better

Dinner at the Behne houshold is not always a fancy casserole, decadent layered bake, or homemade pizza.  On the contrary, more frequently than not it is something incredibly simple that can be whipped together in less than thirty minutes.  To that point, we also try to eat produce that is in season.  Which is why, during the summer months, we eat a lot of squash, kale, corn, and tomatoes.

I have also found that good quality produce doesn't need much doctoring to make it taste good.  The earth, sun, and rain have already done 99% of the work for us.  So, why ruin a good thing with too much salt, butter, or oil?

In my opinion, the simpler frequently the better (and yummier).

Case in point:
Potarrot Mash (potato and carrot...get it?!)
Sauteed Kale and Zucchini
Tahini, Molasses, and Lemon Cream

Note: I like to call these kinds of recipes "unrecipes," because I don't think that they exactly warrant a detailed ingredient and/or direction list.  

Usually, around 2:00PM, I take stock of what is available, ripe, and ready to eat in the refrigerator and pantry.  From there, I decided what to do with it.  For this dinner, I found:
  • a lone Russet potato;
  • three skinny carrots leftover from a 2lb. bag;
  • 1/4 bunch of kale; and
  • two measly zucchini (none of which would really work as an entree, or even a side, on its own).

However, with a little creativity and a willingness to let their natural flavors shine through, I was able to whip up something that was both delicious and filling.

Specifically, I ended up;
  • boiling the potato and carrots and them processing them together with 1T Smart Balance and a little salt and pepper;
  • sauteing the zucchini and kale together with a little lemonjuice and EVOO, and seasoning them with salt, pepper, and nutmeg; and
  • whisking together a cream of 2T tahini, 2T lemonjuice, 2T water, 1/2tsp molasses, pinch of salt and pepper, and 1/2 packet of stevia.  

The cream added some healthy fats from the tahini, as well as a little more staying power from the protein.  Bo added a few links of sausage, and all in all the meal was fast, filling, and fabulous!

Question of the Day:

So, I'm excited to know, what are some of the simplest meals that YOU whip together?  Please share in the "Comment" section below...who knows, I might want to recreate them in MY kitchen! :)

Ally and Bo

August 19, 2012

The Golden Present

Young people live in the future.
Old people live in the past.
Wise people live in the present.
 - Anonymous


I randomly stumbled upon this quote about five days ago. Ironically, I have thought about this quote quite a bit since then, which - I suppose - means that I am living a bit in the past.

Go figure.

I find that, most of the time, I am battling against my propensity to dwell on time gone by, or incessantly plan for those yet to come.  But - let's not get sidetracked - regardless of my own thought patterns, the quote above seems (to me, at least) to echo a great truth.

Living in the present moment can be hard.

For a multitude of various reasons, we might all want to escape our present.  Perhaps it is diverting to focus on the warm and fuzzy memories of your past.  Perhaps I find it calming to plan for things that won't yet happen for another six months (or, in some cases, six years).  Perhaps, by expending our energies on the past and the present we are momentarily set free from the things in the present moment that we might much prefer to ignore.  Perhaps, the past and the future are (at times) misused to distract us from the pain, the hurt, the anger, and the depression of the here and the now.

But, therefore, doesn't that also mean that we run the risk of missing the abundant joy, the surreal happiness, the holistic peace that is also the present?!


In fact, one of the true sources of both happiness and health is the ability to inhabit the present moment...not just to exist in it, but to BE in it.  

For, as we all know, "reality only exists right now - it's as close and accessible as our breath - and this awareness heals suffering caused by past regrets or future fears."  As Eckhart Toole has said:
Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry - all forms of fear - are caused by too much future, and not enough presence.  Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are cause by too much past, and not enough presence. 

Remove the old garment which no longer suites you
and step bravely into the new one - 
weaved from an awareness
gained after years of struggle and pain.
Do not lose site of who you are
in that quiet space - where only reality exists.
You've paid a high price to get here - 
no sense in giving it all back.
Your life is here and now.
Be present for it.
Live it wisely.

Nirmala Devi 

While at the ashram receiving my yoga teacher certification, I was gifted with Swami Satchidananda's book entitled "The Golden Present."  Filled with daily readings from Swamiji's lectures and talks, this books offers up a variety of teachings on how to serve others and realize peace, truth, and unity.  I read it almost every day (some day's I forget...oops!); and although I have a long way to go before learning its lessons, it has certainly been a helpful tool along the journey.

I will leave you with today's excerpt from "The Golden Present":

August 19: The Simple and Practical Way to Find Peace

Anytime anyone complains of worry, anxiety, depression, fear, hatred, jealousy - whatever it is - let him sit back and analyze the cause.  If he is really sincere, he will find out that he wanted something for himself.  Selfish desire causes all the problems.  Do things for the sake of others, not for yourself.  That is the simple and practical way to find peace.

Question of the Day:

Do you feel like you live in the past, present, or future?  What can you do to help make you even more PRESENT in your own life?

Ally and Bo

August 17, 2012

Whole Food Supper Club: Grande Cena Italiana

Last night Bo and I tried something new: we went to a "Supper Club" hosted by our local Whole Foods (WH).  Come to find out, this is a new monthly event that our WH just started up last month.  We attended only the second event of its kind!

For a four course dinner, the event only cost $15.00 per person, and online registration was required.  Upon arrival, Bo and I were pleasantly surprised to see that the event was SOLD OUT!  Whole Foods must be on to something, because it was a packed house!

As you probably noticed from the title of this post, the theme of last night's Supper Club was "Grande Cena Italiana" (translated as "Big Italian Dinner").


Italian Chowder with Cod (or Tofu) & Kale
Mediterranean Crunch Salad
Eggplant Bolognese with Spaghetti Squash Noodles

The event started off with a brief explanation of what we would be eating, how it was prepared, and an overview of the "Four Pillars of Healthy Eating:"
  1. whole food - any food in its most essential, pure, delicious, and basic form: an asparagus spear, a lemon, a scoop of quinoa, or a fillet of salmon;
  2. plant-strong - begin to reconfigure your plate so that the majority of your meal is made from an abundance of plant-based foods;
  3. healthy fats - eat whole plant-based foods like nuts, seeds, and avocados.  Then, work to minimize (or eliminate) the amounts of extracted oils and processed fats you cook with on a daily basis; and
  4. nutrient dense - choose foods rich in micronutrients when compared to total caloric content.

Then we got straight to the best part: EATING!

Course #1 was soup: Italian Chowder with Cod & Kale.  I enjoyed my bowl with baked tofu, while Bo enjoyed his with fresh cod.  Overall the soup was delicious.  My only two points of contention were:
  1. it is still a little bit too hot outside for me to truly enjoy hot soup (for me, it needs to be at least 65 to warrant hot soup); and
  2. a pinch of salt would have taken this dish from "good" to "great"!

Course #2 was salad: Mediterranean Crunch Salad, to be specific.  The salad was one of both Bo and I's favorite courses of the night.  Although the only dressing that it had was a few tablespoons of red wine vinegar, it - surprisingly - didn't need it.  The tomatoes, cucumber, olives, and other vegetables were so flavorful and fresh that they really "popped" on their own.  In retrospect, I think that a heavy or creamy dressing would have just overwhelmed the natural flavors completely!

As you can see, I had no problem polishing off my entire salad...hehehe. :)

Throughout the evening, we drank Cucumber and Lemon Infused Water.  Who knew that something as simple as a few sliced of cucumber and lemons could elevate boring table water to something spectacular?  You better believe I will be recreating this at home!

For our main course, we enjoyed Eggplant Bolognese with Spaghetti Squash Noodles.  By far, the bolognese was my favorite part of the dish.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy spaghetti squash as much as the next person, but the vegetables were really far and above better than their "noodle" counterparts.

Again, the squash could have used some garlic, salt, pepper, and maybe even a little EVOO (while the bolognese was delicious all on its own).  I know that the point of the dinner was to show us how plant-based, fresh, food can be delicious without the added sodium and fat (i.e. oil), but a little bit really would have gone a long way here.

In the end, I ate all of the bolognese while leaving about half of the squash on my plate!

Course #4 was, by no surprise, another one of Bo and I's favorites of the evening.  I mean, truly, who can say no to decadent tiramisu?!  Surprisingly, the tiramisu was vegan!  To prove it to you, here is the ingredient list:
  • 4 cups medjool dates, pitted
  • 2 1/2 cups water;
  • 4oz. espresso;
  • 1 1/2 cups cashews, soaked and drained;
  • 1 cup coconut milk;
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour;
  • 1T baking powder;
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt;
  • 1 tsp lemon juice;
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract;
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon; and
  • 2T cocoa powder.

Creamy, D.E.L.I.C.I.O.U.S., and sinfully good, this dessert was as good as any tiramisu I have ever eaten.  Even Bo said that he never would have guessed it was vegan and relatively healthy!

Obviously, we both ate every single bite (and I might have even used my finger to swipe off the remaining cream a time or two). ;)

More photographic evidence of the deliciousness.

By the end of the evening, we were fulled (but not stuffed), a little bit more educated on healthy foods (but not overly inundated), and relaxed (the sign of any good date night, if you ask me).  I definitely think that we would be interested in attending another "Supper Club" at Whole Foods.  In fact, next months menu is already looking pretty intriguing:
  • Yellow Split-Pea and Sweet Potato Soup;
  • Kale Waldorf Salad;
  • Quinoa with Balsamic Roasted Mushrooms; and
  • Banana Ice Cream Cake.

Sounds pretty good, right?!

Question of the Day:

What sort of unique events does your community offer (and I'm not just talking about grocery stores here, it can be an event hosted by your local mall, pet store, etc.)?!

Ally and Bo

August 15, 2012

Beta-Caroteine and Protein-Packed Salad

Today, as I was walking on the treadmill and reading the latest Yoga Journal magazine (yes, I read while I walk...I find it very meditative and relaxing), I was struck with inspiration for tonight's dinner.  Specifically, something Lavinia Spalding said in her article "Salad Days" really got me thinking:
When dinnertime comes, salad is often overlooked as a main-course option - it's a nice sidekick, but seldom the star.
Well, not in the Behne household!  The star of tonight's dinner was 110% salad; but not just any salad, this salad was filled with beta-caroteine, fiber, healthy fats, and protein.

Protein, you say?

How does someone who doesn't eat meat get protein?

Why, lentil's of course! :)

Don't trust my nutrition knowledge?  Well, not to worry, the World's Healthiest Foods has my back!
Lentils are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber..but this is far from all lentils have to offer.  Lentils also provide good to excellent amounts of six important minerals, two B-vitamins, and protein - all with virtually no fat.  The calorie cost of all this nutrition?  Just 230 calories for a while cup of cooked lentils! (Source)

This salad is packed with an abundance of vitamins, nutrients, and good-for-you flavor!  After eating a plate FULL of it, I was satisfied and full, but by no means overly stuffed.  Three hours later, I was still feeling energized!  Don't be shy about the herbs in this salad, they really take the flavors from moderate to delectable!  And just in case you aren't a fan of rosemary or dill, feel free to substitute them with coriander, oregano, or basil.

Before eating this salad, Bo was CERTAIN that he didn't like lentils.  When I told him what was in tonight's dinner salad, he said "Lentils?!!!"  But - and I promise you I'm not lying here - after the first bite he changed his tune!

Lentils may seem like the red-headed-freckled-step-child of vegetables, but honestly, what do you have to lose by giving them a fair try?!

Beta-Caroteine and Protein-Packed Salad
Serves 2-4 (two as an entree, four as a side dish)

1/2C lentils, washed
1C water
2 medium sweet potatoes, diced into bite-size pieces
4 medium carrots, diced into bite-size pieces
2C spinach, washed and patted dry
4T EVOO, divided
1/2T dried dill, divided in half
1tsp dried thyme, divided in half
1T dried rosemary, divided in half
1T lemonjuice
salt and pepper, to taste

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Place the lentils and water into a small saucepan.
  • Once the lentils reach a low boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes - or until tender.
  • Meanwhile, toss the diced sweet potatoes and carrots with 2T EVOO, 1/4T dried dill, 1/2 tsp dried thyme, 1/2T dried rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Roast for 20 minutes.
  • After the lentils, sweet potatoes, and carrots are cooked, toss them together in a large salad bowl.
  • Cover the vegetables with aluminum foil, and refrigerate until they are cool.
  • In a small jar or bowl, whisk together the lemonjuice, remaining oil, and a pinch of salt.
  • Once the vegetables are cool, add the spinach, lemonjuice/oil mixture, and remaining herbs to the large salad bowl.
  • Toss to incorporate, and refrigerate for an additional 30 to allow the flavors to meld together.
  • Serve chilled.

Up next - Who knows?!  I recently realized that I get a little stressed out by this point in the post.  Although it is 100% self-imposed, I have started to feel some pressure to always have another post lined up, when the truth is, I frequently don't!  So, instead of telling you what I am going to write about next time, I have decided to live in the moment instead, and wait for something to strike me! :)

Question of the Day:

Is there a food that you KNOW is good for you, but you just can't bring yourself to try it?  Or have you tried it, and you just can't bring yourself to like it?!  If so, I would love to hear all about it in the "Comment" section directly below!

Ally and Bo

August 13, 2012

"Cheesy" Bacon (or not) Squash Bake

Growing up, my family had a relatively large farm.  Every summer we planted and harvested:
  • green beans;
  • corn;
  • okra;
  • tomatoes;
  • butter beans;
  • cucumbers;
  • cantaloupe;
  • watermelon;
  • potatoes; and of course

I was never a picky eater (and other than animal products, I'm still not), but I always particularly looked forward to eating the squash.  Don't get me wrong, green beans, butter beans, corn on the cob, and tomatoes were also some of my favorites.  But there was always something special about the crooked neck squash.

Maybe it was the fact that they were so much easier for me to pick.  

For instance, I remember that (much to my chagrin) my mom used to write me a list of chores for the day, and I would loathe seeing "pick green beans" or "pick corn" on there.  The green beans just took SO. MUCH. TIME. to pick, and I always ran across random raccoons or snakes in the corn fields.  But picking squash was easy.  The plants were spread out low on the ground, and the yellow color made it easy to spot ones that were ripe.  In short, squash made for easy pickin's!

Usually I whip up a simple squash and onion saute, but last night Bo was craving bacon and I didn't feel like standing over the stove for twenty minutes.  The result was a fast, easy, and delicious recipe for baked squash that was LOW in effort and BIG in flavor!
Notice, I didn't use bacon on my side of the dish (obviously), and I subbed nutritional yeast for the cheese.  The result was the best of both vegetarian and meat-eater worlds!

Before I share the recipe with you, I just want to address one thing.  A lot of people ask me if - even though I don't eat meat - I will cook it for Bo.  The answer is yes, and I'll tell you why.

Just because I feel very strongly about not eating meat, or for that matter, any animal product that is created in such a manner that is harmful to the animal, doesn't mean that I expect Bo (or anyone else) to follow suit.  His choices are HIS. CHOICES.  He knows my beliefs, and he respects them.  Perhaps most importantly, I neither have the ability nor the right to judge him for his choices.

Now, let's get to this recipe already!

"Cheesy" Bacon (or not) Squash Bake
Serves 2-4

2 small crooked neck squash, sliced into rounds
1 small yellow onion, sliced into half moons and pulled apart
2-3 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
salt and pepper, to taste
4 oz. cheese (or 4T nutritional yeast)
1 1/2T EVOO

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Layer the squash round into the dish (see the picture at the top of this post for an illustration).
  • Sprinkle the onion pieces on top.
  • Generously season with salt and pepper.
  • Drizzle the squash/onion mixture with the EVOO.
  • If you aren't a vegan/vegetarian like me, add the bacon on top of the onions.
  • Bake for 35 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and scatter the shredded cheese (or nutritional yeast) on top of the dish.
  • Return to the oven for 5 minutes, or until the cheese fully melts.
  • Serve immediately.

We enjoyed our squash bake alongside Rosemary, Lemon, and Olive Oil Cake, which - if you were wondering - was amazingly D.E.L.I.C.I.O.U.S.!

Question of the Day:

Do you like bacon?  (I know that I am a vegan/vegetarian now, but even when I still ate meat I didn't really like or crave bacon or sausage...just not my thing.)

Ally and Bo

August 10, 2012

Blueberry Barbecue Sauce with Creamy Polenta and Broiled Tofu

Sometimes being a good cook means being smart enough to NOT reinvent the recipe wheel.  Case in point:

Last night's dinner was full of inspiration from my fellow bloggers!  Since blueberries were on sale this week, I bought three containers of them.  Unfortunately, there are only so many raw blueberries I can toss into my mouth, on top of cereal, or onto oatmeal, before they start going bad.  I thought I remembered seeing a unique use for summer's blue beauties over on Katie's blog; and thankfully I was right!

Specifically, the inspiration for the:

Overall, I drew heavily from the amazing recipes that Katie and Ashley had already created.  I simply added a few twists here and there to put my spin on each component of the dish.  The result was spectacular!

For the Blueberry Barbecue Sauce I:
  • substituted the red wine vinegar for a scant 1/4C of apple cider vinegar;
  • cut the powdered ginger in half (to 1/4 tsp); and
  • added three packets of stevia (instead of blueberries weren't super sweet).

  • added 3/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, and 2T Smart Balance to the polenta; and
  • broiled the tofu on high for 15 minutes, flipped them over, and broiled them for an additional 10 minutes.

The result was ultra-creamy and flavorful polenta with perfectly crisp and textured tofu.  Hm...hmmm...good!

If you are skeptical of tofu, I would strongly recommend broiling it.  The result is a texture that is very similar to chicken.  The edges get a little crisp and - for lack of a better word - substantial, while the insides remain moist and chewy.  Even Bo likes it!

If I do say so myself, the afternoon natural light really did wonders for these photos.  The Blueberry Barbecue Sauce, in particular, looks shiny and delicious; and trust me, IT WAS!

Question of the Day:

Have you ever cooked with (or eaten) fruit in a nontraditional way?!  If so, I would love to hear about it in the "Comment" section below!

Ally and Bo

August 9, 2012

New Yoga Life Website is LIVE!

Today's post is a little out of the norm for the ABC blog because it isn't about a recipe, a book review, life in the Navy, or yoga (per se).  I say "per se" because today's post is about Yoga Life Studio's NEW (and improved) website!



For the past couple of months, I have been working very hard with the Studio Owner and a Web Designer to create the new site.  During that time, I:
  • was in charge of creating (almost all of) the site's content;
  • learned the HTML codes for a variety of plug-in's and cosmetic features;
  • became familiar with a whole new website host (Wordpress, specifically); and
  • much, much, more!

To be honest, when we first started this project I wasn't sure that I was smart enough to figure it all out; but I ended up surprising myself!  Now, I am incredibly pleased with the result, and am beyond proud of the final product.

So, what do you think?  
Do you like the new site?  
Does it seem user-friendly to you?!

Question of the Day:

What is something that YOU have recently accomplished and are proud of?!

Ally and Bo

August 7, 2012

Book Review: The Dovekeepers

I have already told you that a dear friend sent me The Dovekeepers as a gift.  At the time - when I told you that the book was so "passionately magical" that I was trying to read it slowly, savoring every page, and enjoying Alice Hoffman's narrative voice - I didn't realize that I would come to write this review as a changed reader.

In every reader's life there is a book - perhaps two or three - but rarely more than half a dozen, that forever alter the experience of reading a novel.  Alice Hoffman's The Dovekeepers was the third novel in my life to do just that.
Note: Just in case you are wondering, Wurthering Heights by Emily Bronte was the first, and The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion was the second.
Through its pages I felt wonder, pride, and such an intense sorrow that I even shed a few tears (which makes The Dovekeepers only the second novel to have made me cry...Didion's Magical Thinking was the first).

Nearly two thousand years ago, nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on Masada, a mountain in the Judean desert.  According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived.  Based on this tragic and iconic event, Hoffman's novel is a spellbinding tale of four extraordinarily bold, resourceful, and sensuous women, each of whom has come to Masada by a different path.  Yael's mother died in childbirth, and her father, an expert assassin, never forgave her for that death.  Revka, a village baker's wife, watched the murder of her daughter by Roman soldiers; she brings to Masada her young grandsons, rendered mute by what they have witnessed.  Aziza is a warrior's daughter, raised as a boy, a fearless rider and expert marksman who finds passion with a fellow soldier.  Shirah, born in Alexandria, is wise in the ways of ancient magic and medicine, a woman with uncanny insight and power. 
The lives of these four complex and fiercely independent women intersect in the desperate days of the siege.  All are dovekeepers, and all are also keeping secrets - about who they are, where they come from, who fathered them, and whom they love.

Books are like food in the sense that everyone has slightly different taste buds.  So, while I found The Dovekeepers to be an enormously rewarding and engaging novel, I don't expect my review to convince everyone that Hoffman's novel is a "must-read".  Obviously, I am not a professional book critic.  My review will not be particularly academic or over-analytical.  Instead, my review is based off of the fact that I read for enjoyment - and sometimes to learn a thing or two - and in regards to that criteria, The Dovekeepers was outright phenomenal!

I am not a huge history buff, nor do I particularly enjoy reading historical books, but I did learn tid-bits about the battle at Masada in college, and I always had a vague curiosity about what really happened.  Obviously, Hoffman's telling isn't necessarily the "real story," but while it might not be 100% real, it is most certainly compelling in the most beautiful of ways.

Perhaps unexpectedly, Hoffman's "creative path into Masada is from the ground up: not through its generals and warriors, but through its mother, daughters, and wives." (Source)  While the story unfolds through the voices of four distinct narrators, I found myself being entranced by Yael (the first of them), only to be further entranced by Revka (the second), and then Aziza (the third), and finally Shirah (the fourth).  By the end of the novel, the four, distinct, narrative voices blended together in a single voice saying: "Let my burden be your burden, and yours be mine." (Source)

The Dovekeepers is not for the frail of heart, or the reader that only enjoys a lighthearted tale.  It is beautifully raw and incredibly emotional (at least for me) to read.  Reading it is an exercise in dichotomy, for it left me feeling both heavy and light, depressed and hopeful.

In the end, it left me contemplating persecution.  

As Jennifer Raymant - a goodreads reviewer - wrote, "the persectution of Jews over and over again just completely baffles me.  They truly are one of the most formidable, strong, and resilient race the world has ever seen."  After all, "we are all souls anyway, aren't we?  Here to learn.  Here to grow.  Let us see each other as souls. Let us bounce around in the imperfection of our soul bodies, dancing in their pure light way, on this dense earth planet." 

So what's my thesis?!

It's simple really:

The Dovekeepers is elegant.
It is graceful and intelligent.
It is haunting.
It is devastatingly tragic.
It is beautiful.

Question of the Day:

Have you ever read a book that made you cry?  If so, which one was it...I might want to put it on my reading list!

Ally and Bo

August 5, 2012

Baked Potato with Zucchini, Tahini, and Hemp Seed Cream

As I've mentioned before, I have a thing for potatoes.  In fact, I almost have a dozen recipes on my blog dedicated to the delicious root vegetable, including:

But today's recipe is a little different because it focuses on FILLING the potato with delicious yumminess that is both nutritious and delectable.  In fact, today's recipe includes a full serving of:
  • vegetables;
  • protein;
  • carbohydrates; and
  • healthy fatty acids.

What more could you want from a humble potato recipe?!

So what's all the hype about hemp?!  Well, come to find out it actually has a plethora of health benefits.  For instance (source for bullet points below):
  • Hemp is a high protein seed that contains all nine of the essential amino acids.
  • It has a balanced ratio of omega three and six fats.
  • The protein content of the hemp seed is supposed to be very digestible (i.e. it does not cause bloating or gas).
  • Hemp seed doesn't contain phytic acid (the anti-nutrient that prevents us from absorbing minerals).

To try out the little seed for myself, I recently bought a small jar's worth from the bulk bins at Whole Foods.  At first I wasn't quite sure how to use it; but once my wheels starting turning for this potato cream filling, I knew that hemp seeds would be the perfect, nutritional addition.

And man oh man was I right!

Baked Potato with Zucchini, Tahini, and Hemp Seed Cream
Serves 2

2 medium baked potatoes (or sweet potatoes)
salt, to season the potato skin
Smart Balance, for garnish
2 medium zucchini, cut into half-moons
2-3T tahini
2T hemp seeds
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
~4T water

I just wanted to be as clear as possible for you.

  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  • Poke several holes in your potatoes, lightly rub them with salt, wrap them in aluminum foil, and bake for 45 minutes (or until tender...every oven is different).
  • Meanwhile, place the zucchini half-moons on an oiled baking sheet, and roast for 20 minutes.
  • Remove the zucchini and place them immediately in your food processor.
  • Add the tahini, hemp seeds, salt, and pepper to the food processor.
  • Process on low for 30 seconds.
  • Stop, and scrap down the sides.
  • Process on low once again, but this time add the ~4T water while the processor is running.
  • Process until smooth and creamy.
  • Once the potatoes are finished baking, remove them from the oven.
  • Spread a thin layer of butter (or in my case, Smart Balance) onto the potato.
  • Finish by dolloping half of the Zucchini, Tahini, and Hemp Seed Cream onto each potato.
  • Serve warm, alongside your protein of choice!

With the addition of the hemp seeds for protein and fatty acids, I ended up eating this potato and cream-filling all on its own for dinner.  Truth be told, I was simply too full to eat anything else; and miraculously, it kept me full for over SIX HOURS!

Playing with my camera's focus...

Sorry, I know today's post is a bit of overkill in the picture department, but I felt like I captured several good ones and I didn't want to waste them...hehehe. :)  This one (below) is one of my favorites!  I only wish that I would have been able to capture more of the color in the photos.  Contrary to what these pictures might make you think, the Zucchini, Tahini, and Hemp Seed Cream is actually a light green color (i.e. not cream/beige)!

Question of the Day:

What do you like to put on your baked potato?!  Are you a simple butter, salt, and pepper kind of person?! How about cheese, salsa, and scallions?  Or maybe you put something totally unique on your baked potato? 

Whatever it is, tell me all about it in the "Comment" section below!

Ally and Bo