Saturday, September 22, 2012

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Clean[er] Eating: Week 3

Week 3

Cauliflower curry. Brown rice and vegetables. Vegetable lasagna. Asian stir-fry. Sweet potato fries. It's been a good week.

I made this cauliflower curry under the suggestion of my sister, Katy, and it was quite tasty. I served it over brown rice, and there was enough left over for lunch the next day. I want to make a few more Indian and Thai dishes over the next month...I really like the combination of flavors and textures in the ones I've tried. I found a great Thai Sweet Potato and Lentil recipe I may try this weekend. We'll see...

While I did cook a lot, I didn't have a chance to bake any gluten-free bread. I'm making some gluten-free banana yogurt muffins this afternoon, and if they turn out well I'll post a recipe next week. I did have a chance to sprout some lentils that I'll use in a salad this evening, a stir-fry for lunch tomorrow, and a brown rice and veggie mix this weekend. They are so good and soooooo easy to make! Why sprouted lentils? Well, for some reason sprouting lentils makes the protein and vitamins more digestable, and decreases the number of calories per cup from 678 to 82. No, seriously.

Next week is the last week of our Clean[er] Eating challenge, but I think John and I both plan to keep going. We're set to save about $100 on groceries (that includes spending a bit more this month on a select number of gluten-free items), the food we're eating is healthy and delicious, and we feel great. It's the real deal.

Sprouting Lentils (makes a lot!)

You will need:

  • 3/4 cup brown lentils
  • a small colander
  • a bowl that the colander can easily fit inside
  • a thin dish towel

Step 1: Rinse the lentils well and put them in a bowl with water about 3 inches above the top of the lentils. Let sit for 12 hours (I typically do this while I'm preparing dinner, and then drain them the next morning).

Step 2: Pour the water and the lentils into a small colander. Rinse well (at least a full minute). Let drain for another minute. Put the colander into the larger bowl and cover with a thin dish towel. Set somewhere out of direct sunlight and at room temperature.

Step 3: 12 hours later, rinse the lentils again, let dry, and put back in the larger bowl, covering it all with the thin dish towel. Place back in a location out of sunlight and at room temperature.

Step 4: Repeat step 3 at least twice more.

When your lentils have sprouted 1/4 - 1/2 inch, you're done! Do not rinse again, simply put in a Tupperware container and transfer to the fridge until use. You can steam them, saute them, or use them raw in salads.They are delicious, cheap, and ridiculously healthy!!!

Sprouted Lentils!!!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Clean[er] Eating - Week 2

John: "Why do I have so much energy?!?!!"
Me: (half-asleep) "Mmmmfffrpmm..."
John: "This is amazing! I'm not even a little bit tired!!!"
Me: .....
John: "I'm gonna read Hunger Games for a while, because I AM NOT TIRED!!!"
Me: "MmmmmrrrrrKatniss...."

it was once my book to read....


This has been a pretty typical scene at the Peterson household lately. Two months ago, we were both in bed and asleep by 9:30 (don't judge), exhausted from work and life and general lack of energy. Now, John comes home smiling and energetic and joyful and talkative and ohmygoodness it's awesome.

Why do I mention this? Because the only change we've made is eating cleaner. We haven't been taking new super-expensive vitamins or getting up at 5am to strike some awesome yoga poses or downing protein shakes every two hours. We've just been eating cleaner, and John specifically has been eating gluten-free. 

So what do we eat? Well, because we're participating in Rice & Beans month (learn more about it here) we eat a lot of....rice and beans (both are gluten-free). We also eat a lot of veggies and fruits. For example:

Sunday: Pinto beans and rice with tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, broccoli, garlic, basil, and oregano
Monday: Baked sweet potatoes with garlicky lentils and a side of brown rice and broccoli
Tuesday: Corn tortilla tacos with refried pinto beans and Spanish rice
Wednesday: Sweet potato chili w/ kidney and pinto beans
Thursday: (community group night) Chili dogs w/ gluten free hot dog buns
Friday:  a stop at Chick-fil-a (they have GF salads, and their waffle fries are GF!)
Saturday: whatever's leftover from the week....

(By the way, most of these recipes were vastly improved by the addition of cheese. Ya just can't tell a guy raised in Wisconsin that he can't have cheese...)

In addition to Pinterest and Google, I'm also taking advantage of the recipes you all have sent me, as well as the recipes posted by some of my favorite bloggers! My sister sent me an Indian cauliflower curry recipe that I'm planning to try out next week, and my dear friend Jen sent me a bean soup recipe that is going to be GREAT for the stormy weather coming up next week. And, of course, my friend Heidi over at The Busy Nothings has TONS of resources for gluten-free eating. 

Next week, a post about sprouting your own lentils, attempting GF bread, and what John thinks of The Hunger Games....

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Clean[er] Eating - Week 1

We may never go back to our old ways...

Ok, I know it's a bit presumptuous to claim right now,  but John and I both feel SO much better after a week of clean[er] eating. It's crazy awesome.

We managed to eat rice and beans every single day this week - even when we went to Tulsa to see Gungor at Cain's Ballroom. We got there early and, after a bit of a discussion, landed at a nearby Mexican restaurant where we shared a plate of stacked blue corn enchiladas with Spanish rice and beans. It was really cool to continue our challenge even while traveling. I've found that eating rice and beans (plus veggies) is not nearly as monotonous as I had feared. Because they're a staple of nearly every country in the world, there are thousands of recipes from all across the globe using rice and beans. You can do spicy or subtle, creamy or textured, black beans or lentils, soups or casseroles...there's a lot of variety. Not to mention the fact that several wonderful friends have sent me recipes :)

And I've been cooking so much more. I love it. Not just following a recipe, but intentionally soaking and preparing dried beans, using regular brown rice instead of instant, making oatmeal breakfast muffins instead of buying Clif's fantastic. I love the feeling of standing over a pot of simmering vegetables and beans. To me there is something slightly therapeutic about it all, mixing and chopping, stirring and watching, smelling and's rhythmic. 

One night this week, I realized my dinner consisted of lentils I sprouted myself, fresh vegetables, brown rice, and a slice of seven-grain bread that I made from scratch. It was one of the healthiest meals I'd ever eaten, incredibly simple, and prepared by my own hands from start to finish. It was an awesome feeling. 

In addition to rice and beans,  we're also eating more veggies. We tried out a local organic delivery service this week (since the farmers' market isn't open yet) and I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of our box. It was a really good value! The apples and clementines have a ton of flavor, and the carrots were delicious. I plan to use the rest in next week's meals, so it's definitely a good investment for us, at least this month. 
lettuce, shiitake mushrooms, apples, oranges, clementines, bananas,
zucchini, green beans, onions, broccoli, lemon, mango, carrots, and potatoes.  

We're definitely excited for week two. I'm looking forward to making gluten-free pancakes at some point, as well as three-bean chili, jambalaya, and possibly gluten-free bread (fingers crossed...). Thanks for reading and cheering me on! If you have any other recipes or ideas, let me know!

Here are some of the other things I've made this week:

Friday, March 2, 2012

Eating Rice and Beans

John and I are changing things up this month.

We've been talking for a while now about how to live healthier. Obviously I've played around with vegan/vegetarian/flexitarian tendencies for a while, but I've really been wondering what we as a couple can do to improve our health, increase our energy, and combat the stress that seems to be ever-increasing in our lives. So for the month of March we're going to try to eat cleaner, better meals, incorporating waaaaay more whole grains, vegetables, and fruits while decreasing the amount of processed food we consume.

Mmmm...fresh tomato soup w/ spaghetti squash

I've come up with four main reasons for this month of better eating:

1. Health. Neither John nor I have been feeling 100% lately. We're mentally exhausted and physically drained most of the time, and I know that eating veggies and fruits can really help combat fatigue and illness. For example, I personally feel much better in the afternoons if I eat a healthy lunch like brown rice w/ veggies and a salad (like today) as compared to days when I only have time for a microwaveable entree and apple. If I can make healthier meals for us, why spend money on convenience foods that aren't nutritious or filling? Oh, and by the way, we're also going to steer clear of foods with gluten this month. Ya know, just to make this extra fun ;)

2. Budget. By removing processed foods from our diet and eating more vegetables, grains, and fruits, we can drastically reduce our food budget. The most expensive things we tend to buy include meat (we'll still eat some, but not a lot), packaged snacks and soups, and breads (pitas, whole grain breads, etc). By comparison, vegetables really don't cost much at all: a package of carrots is around 82 cents, and squash (winter and summer) comes in under $1 a pound right now. Sweet potatoes are cheap and incredibly nutritious, as are seasonal fruits like oranges, bananas, and apples. Throw in some brown rice (under $1 a bag) and some beans (super cheap when you buy them dried), and you're set for the week. Now, I know it will take a lot longer to prepare these meals, but I've already been working up a pretty effective method of cooking in large batches and separating the leftovers into individual containers for lunches. For example, on Monday I made a huge batch of brown rice and Asian-style vegetables, and it ended up being lunch for John at least two other days this week. It was pretty cool.

3. Lahash. We recently heard about this organization called Lahash, who has organized something called "Rice & Beans Month" (you can check it out here). The premise is to invite as many people as possible to eat simple meals of rice and beans throughout the month of March. Then, donate the money you save to the Lahash organization so that they can buy rice and beans for children and families in East Africa. This seems like the perfect chance to try this, since rice and beans are inexpensive and gluten-free! Woo-hoo! Plus I love the idea that small changes like this can mean food for a family in East Africa!!!

4. Faith. Now, it may seem weird to add faith into this post (however, I did manage to discuss faith and Crock-Pots in my last post), but it's something I think actually fits quite well into our goals this month. We're called to treat our bodies as temples: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; therefore honor God with your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). I feel like I honor God more when I'm eating nourishing foods that provide energy and sustenance than when I'm inhaling McDonald's cheeseburgers or a bag of potato chips. I also feel like it's showing good stewardship of what God has given me, taking care of the body He's provided me in such a way that I am physically and mentally able to serve others more genuinely. So this month of clean eating will hopefully provide an opportunity for me to gain physical and spiritual strength.

The guidelines are simple: we'll eat meals based around rice and beans any night we're home (typically 3-4 nights a week). I'll try to make enough for those meals that they transfer over into lunches for us. On nights when we aren't home, either for community group or other events that provide food, we'll choose healthy, gluten-free options. If we eat out, we'll do the same.

I'll be posting every Thursday of this month to let you know how things are going. Right now, I have plans to make spend the afternoon prepping some lunches of brown rice w/ zucchini, shredded carrots, kale, chunks of sweet potatoes, and black beans. Yum! I'll also be meal planning for next week, so if you have any tips, advice, prayers, or recipes, PLEASE share them with me!

Thanks  :)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Salvation and the Slow Cooker

Last night was our turn to host community group. I love our community group - it's small, personal, honest, and fun. We meet once a week, but also hang out together a lot during the week, either in book clubs or at church or random drop-ins at work. Honestly, some of my very good friends are in the group, so it's as much a time of friendship as it is a time of study and prayer. (Plus, their children are ridiculously cute and I love playing with them.)

So anyway, for dinner I decided to make barbecue beef and beans based on a recipe I found through Pinterest (this woman made something in her Crock-Pot every single day for an entire year). It sounded tasty and easy, and I haven't made it for group before, so I bought the ingredients and set out my slow cooker last night to remind myself to get it started this morning. 

Yesterday morning, around 6:30am while John was getting ready for work, I began to gather the ingredients: barbecue baked beans, an onion, some garlic, barbecue sauce, a 3 lb. cut of chuck roast, etc. I put the chuck roast in the slow cooker, cut up the onions, and poured the can of barbecue baked beans over the roast, just as the recipe stated. Then I opened the barbecue sauce....and I realized it was not the same flavor as the beans. I hesitated. Then, in what I can only describe as unconscious act of self-sabotage, I watched myself pour the contents of the bottle into the slow cooker, covering the beans and chuck roast completely. 

I froze. So, maybe this will make a new, more awesome flavor, I thought optimistically.  Or maybe each flavor will be ruined by an ingredient in the other, making it completely and utterly inedible.  I stood there for a moment trying to figure out exactly how bad the situation was. I've never made barbecue anything, and I rarely cook red meat (not because I'm a meat snob...I just don't know how to prepare it right). After 10-15 seconds of deliberation, I decided that the flavor medley would be nothing less than earth-shatteringly horrible. How on earth could I have purchased maple bacon baked beans and Southern-style barbecue sauce without realizing the consequences?! Oh, the humanity!

And guys, I want to be honest with you. I found myself praying for the barbecue sauce. 

No, really. Lord, I said, I think I screwed this up, and I don't have a plan "B." We're on a tight budget and I don't really have the money or the patience to go out and buy more stuff. So, I kinda need this to taste good and not make anyone sick, ok? I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.

And although I feel silly announcing that I prayed a pitiful blessing over the pot of chuck roast and baked beans, I confess that almost immediately the verse I'd memorized  for last week's Bible study pushed it's way through the self-pity and guilt. 

"For God has not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." (2 Timothy 1:7) 

And it clicked. Was I really going to spend the rest of my day nervous about the quality of one meal? I mean, I couldn't exactly taste-test a pot of raw meat and beans, and I'd have to wait at least 8 hours before attempting to try it, so I could either throw it all away or move on with my day hoping for the best and realizing that even if it tasted funky, I was serving it to my community group. As in, the people who love me and pray for me and text me when I'm sick to make sure I don't need any chicken noodle soup or popsicles. The people whose children I love, and whose houses I've been to multiple times. The people who are sharing life with me because they are passionate about the Gospel and about lifting one another up in fellowship and prayer, not because they like the taste of barbecue beef and beans. Not because they're food connoisseurs seeking only the best and most delectable dinners available (though they're all fantastic cooks). Not because of anything I do, but because they are good people who love Christ and live in community with other believers. 

So I finally realized the worst that could happen: I'd serve a sub-par meal to a group of friends, who probably wouldn't even say anything about it and forget within a week what we'd even had for dinner. Yep. That was it. I've been so afraid of "losing approval" from people, and from Christ, that I'd completely overlooked the fact that you don't earn Christ's love, you just have it, freely given. And those who love Christ are typically pretty good at loving the same way (even if it means pretending to enjoy a meal of odd-tasting barbecue). If Christ's love was dependent upon me and my actions, I'd be in a lot of trouble. Thankfully, Christ loves me completely, eternally, and sacrificially. 

So today, I am basking in the reality that my salvation is not dependent on the quality of my cooking, or my housekeeping, or my ability to do laundry or yoga or mountaintop yodeling (ok, not actually a skill but you get my point).  My salvation is dependent upon Christ, who has already accomplished His goal when He came to earth as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world, including every single one of mine. I need to spend my time in adoration of Christ, not in fear of a potentially disappointing meal. 

p.s. The meal was fine. I guess the two flavors sort of melded together into a fairly mild and tasty barbecue. A couple of people even went back for seconds :)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Reading Update

Here's an update on books I've read so far in 2012...
and a list of what I'm currently reading.

Books I've Read

  • Born to Run by Christopher McDougall - I've heard a couple of people talk about how this book has changed their idea of running, and I see why. While at first the book appeared to simple be a chronicle of McDougall's journey to uncover a hidden tribe of Tarahumara Indian ultra-runners in the Copper Canyons of Mexico, it slowly becomes a critique of everything we know today about running, from shoes to posture to the proper fueling of your body. He invites the reader along as he trains for a 50-mile trail run against some of America's best ultra-runners and members of the Tarahumara Indian tribe. In between chapters on the progressing tension of the race, he also researches the habits of the best runners in history, analyzing the philosophy of barefoot racing, the evolution of running, and the hidden levels of endurance most people never realize they can reach. It's a good read, especially for anyone interested in running or running methodology. 

  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - I read this book when it first came out back in 2009, and re-read it during the week between Christmas and New Year since my husband bought me the trilogy for Christmas. In 2009, when I was still an English teacher, my students and I loved this book. I had multiple copies in my classroom library, and I could not keep them on the shelves for more than a day. The students absolutely loved the story, and all the English teachers were reading right along with them. I even used portions of the book to teach tone, sentence structure, and word choice. So re-reading it brought back a lot of great memories of my teaching days, and reminded me of all the wonderful co-workers I've been blessed to work alongside. It's so easy to get caught up in the plot of this book, to take an entire day snuggled up in a blanket with Katniss and Peeta saying just one more chapter until you've finished the entire book in a single sitting and stare longingly at Catching Fire until your husband says it's time for bed. Hypothetically speaking, of course. 

  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins - Yep, read this one too. Some say it's the strongest of the series, and I might agree. The plot definitely strengthens and the character development is much stronger in this second book. I don't want to give too much away lest someone be in the midst of reading the first book, but this is where you really struggle with the Peeta vs Gale issue. At first, I was all for Peeta. Who wouldn't love a baker's son who risks his life (literally) for a girl who doesn't really seem to love him or really even care for him deeply at all? I can see why any girl age 12-25 would fall madly in fiction-love with Peeta. But then there's Gale, the handsome, rugged, brooding teenage boy who comes back to challenge the feelings of his childhood friend and risk his own life in the process. And so the fun begins.
  • The History of Love by Nicole Krauss - This was our January book club read. It's got a plot line that's eerily similar to Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close in that both novels star curious adolescents who set out on an adventure in New York City to discover hidden family truths and, along the way, meet old men with memories of WWII who have suffered the deaths of long-lost sons. Oh, and both are set to be released as movies in 2012. Oh, and Foer married Krauss just before publication of her book. As for the book itself, I was immediately drawn to the writing style, which shifts dramatically between chapters as multiple perspectives move the plot along. If you aren't paying close attention it's easy to get lost in the shifting stories, but it's also easy to float through the chapters, eating up the curious details of Alma Singer and Leo Gursky's seemingly unrelated lives. 

  • Food Rules by Michael Pollan - I read this on a road trip to Dallas a few weekends ago. It's got a pretty simple premise: eat food, not too much, mostly plants. But Pollan fleshes out the meaning behind eat statement, explaining what "food" is and is not, underscoring the importance of plants and plant-based foods, and identifying ways to stay in tune with your body's true hunger cues. Really good read. 

Books I'm Reading

  • The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis - This is our community group book for the next month or so. Each week we read over a chapter and discuss it together over a great meal. So far I've been blown away by the connections Lewis makes between our worldly desires and our innate need for God. When we walk further from God, we fill the void with things of this world, and yet, those things can never replace our need for God. So we find more and more things to fill our time and our thoughts with: politics, food, people, nature, etc. We try to control, manipulate, and draw affection out of them in the hopes that they'll make us feel good and happy. But it doesn't work, and we're left frustrated. Lewis is an amazing writer, and I am excited to continue working through the book with my community group.

  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - This fun young adult novel is our February book club choice. I've only just started on it, but I can already tell it's going to be a good read. 

So what are you reading?

Monday, January 23, 2012


In times like these, I need to remember all the things I'm thankful for. Here's a list, in no particular order:

  • long-sleeved shirts
  • birthday cake
  • lentils, cooked to perfection
  • the new BBC series, Sherlock 
  • my husband
  • Pinterest
  • The Hunger Games series
  • really good friends
  • Pilot Precise V5 pens
  • the free gym at our apartment
  • cookie dough ice cream
  • enamel cookware
  • garam marsala
  • pink sunsets
  • my community group
  • lattes
  • Good Morning America
  • blogs
  • Gungor
  • apples
  • fast wifi access
  • iPhones
  • How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman
  • warm chai
  • sleep
  • iMessaging
  • my parents
  • sweaters
  • oatmeal
  • Sunday movie and pizza nights
  • Fage all natural Greek yogurt
  • rainy weekday afternoons

Friday, January 20, 2012

Walking on water

So today I was preparing the lesson for the two-year-olds on Sunday. This month's theme is "Jesus can do anything," so they have been studying the miracles of Jesus. On January 1st, they learned about Jesus turning water into a "very special drink" (it was adorable). The next week, they heard about Jesus filling nets with fish. Last week, they listened to the story about the loaves and fishes feeding 5,000 men (plus women and children, mind you). Today, I made last-minute touches to the story of Jesus walking on water. I copied the coloring page, checked for supplies, ordered more BabyGanics wipes and foamy hand sanitizer, and was about to call it a day when I looked over at the neatly stacked lessons and coloring pages.

And it hit me. 

I read over it again and again. Jesus can do what's walking on water! 

He can do what's impossible. 

I'm glad no one was in the office at that point, because I sat in what appeared to be a rather unproductive daze for several minutes. Jesus walked on water, I thought to myself, and yet, why do I refuse to trust Him with my life?

It seems like in these last few weeks, I've been struggling to give all of myself to a Savior who was sent down from Heaven to die for my sins and, along the way, fed over 5,000 people on one boy's lunch, walked on water, calmed stormy seas, brought people back from the dead, and rose from the dead himself after being nailed to a cross. I don't know about you, but I would fall pitifully short if tasked with the same responsibilities. And yet, I don't fully trust that everything will work out for me.

It's funny how I'd rather just do it myself, because for some reason I feel that I could do it better. Me, a girl who is 29 and still afraid of spiders. Who constantly misspells vacuum, intimidate, and thief (all of those had to be auto-corrected, by the way). Who won't eat raw bell peppers because "they're icky." Yes, somehow it "makes sense" to trust my life to myself, having failed miserably on numerous occasions, rather than give it over to Jesus, who can do the impossible.

Does anyone else ever feel this way?

I should know that God can do a much better job than me. I should let it go, realizing that this is all bigger than me and I am just privileged to play a tiny role. In Phillipians, Paul said, " it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (2:13). He will take care of me because it's part of His plan. It has been all along. I just need to remember that Jesus can do what's impossible. I can't.

So it's probably best to leave the job to the expert.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Butternut Squash Soup

I've made this soup about three times, switching out ingredients and changing up spices to see how everything works together. I feel like I finally got it right this last time, and it was so good I wanted to share it with you. It packs A TON of vitamin A and C, and is gluten-free, dairy-free, and can be easily modified for vegan/vegetarian diets by swapping out the chicken broth for vegetable broth. It's seriously my favorite soup ever. Maybe next time I'll actually remember to take a picture...

This recipe serves 4-6 people, and the soup freezes and refrigerates well. 

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 5 cups)
1 yellow onion, diced
2 small zucchini, peeled and cubed
1 carrot, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp dried thyme
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups water
2 cups chicken stock (or vegetable broth to make it vegan)
salt and pepper to taste

Bring 1/2 cup water to simmer in a large sauce pot over medium heat. Add in the onion, garlic, carrot, celery and cook until translucent (about 6-7 minutes). 

Add in the stock, water, squash, onion, dried thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the zucchini and continue simmering for 15-20 minutes, until all vegetables are fork tender. Turn off the heat and allow to sit for a few minutes (also, remove the bay leaf). Pour half of the soup mixture into a food processor and blend until smooth (about 2 minutes), then pour into a serving dish and repeat with the second half of the mixture. Alternately, use an immersion blender. 

Add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy.

Nutritional Information (for 4 servings):
Calories: 157, Carbs: 37g, Fat: 1g, Protein: 5g, Fiber: 3g