Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

It’s finally that time of year! The time of year when you decorate your home with dead leaves. The time of year for hot tea, acorns, sweaters, and pumpkins. The time of year when you can throw everything that’s been sitting in your fridge all summer into the crock pot before bed and have a magical soup ready in the morning. Yep, that time of year: soup season!

For the record, I encourage you not to put three-month-old ingredients into your next soup. Or any soup, ever. What I meant was that a good soup can be made from almost any vegetable known to man – except for  brussel sprouts. Those things just shouldn’t even be eaten in the first place. Yes, you heard me, I don’t like brussel sprouts. Hey, it’s not written somewhere that I have to like every single vegetable, okay?!?

Lots of recent blog browsing has led me to the conclusion that I’m not the only one who appreciates this season of hot, liquid food. In fact, I blame other bloggers for my current soup obsession. I found a wonderfully simple and delicious-looking tomato soup recipe that I plan on testing out over the weekend. But it was Elle’s post that gave me the idea of concocting a butternut squash soup recipe, and Lauren’s post sealed the deal – it was butternut squash soup or bust!

The thing I love most about butternut squash is that it doesn’t taste like butter or nuts but tastes delicious with both of those flavors. It’s almost as if the guy who named the squash was suggesting that it be combined with nuts and butter, so I followed his advice. I wish he could taste my soup and I could thank him for his brilliant suggestion, because I am confident that this soup will make it into the Soup Hall of Fame. Oh, it’s a real place – or at least it will be after I build it to ensure that this soup is remembered for eternity. You’re witnessing history, people!

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 large celery stalks, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, pressed
Olive oil
4 – 6 cups vegetable broth
1.5 cups cashew cream
3 T butter substitute (I used Smart Balance)
Seasonings to taste (I used salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper)

Step 1: Roughly chop all veggies. This is a creamy soup, so nothing needs to be neat or bite-size – it’s all going in the blender. Saute the onion, carrot, celery,  and garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat.

Step 2: While the veggies are getting soft, prepare your cashew cream. You will need to plan ahead and cover 2 – 3 cups of cashews with water and let them soak overnight in the fridge. After soaking for at least 12 hours, rinse the cashews and cover with fresh water in the blender. The less water you use, the thicker the cream will be. Blend for at least 2 minutes until smooth.

I ended up adding more water to this because it was too thick.


Step 3: Don’t get so preoccupied with your cream that you forget your veggies are on the stove. Then you’ll have to start all over. 😦


Step 4: When veggies are soft (but NOT burnt), add the squash and the butter alternative. Remember to stir frequently so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot or burns. You can add more olive oil if necessary.

Step 5: Let everything cook until the squash is soft and falling apart. When all the veggies are very tender, scoop them into the blender. Add a portion of the vegetable broth and a portion of the cashew cream to the blender with the veggies and blend until smooth. Pour into a bowl and set aside. Repeat this process until all the veggies have been blended with all of the cream and broth.

Step 6: Wash your pot and put it back on the burner on low. Pour all of your smooth, creamy soup back into the pot and bring to a simmer (do not boil). Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. You can add other seasonings if you want to make it interesting, but the squash is so simple and flavorful that you probably won’t want to add much more to it. I actually added a teeny dash of pumpkin pie spice, mostly just to see if my husband would notice (he didn’t). Let simmer for 5 to 10 minutes and serve.

I added a dash of cayenne pepper for a little kick and an extra swirl of cashew cream. Parsley would be a nice garnish as well, but I didn't have any

My husband went absolutely crazy over this and ate two enormous bowlfuls. When my dad handed me his empty bowl he declared, “This soup is restaurant-worthy!”, but it was really hard to take him seriously with big orange globs dribbled all over his beard.

Pull on a sweater and enjoy a hot bowl of delicious, creamy butternut squash goodness. Then enjoy a second bowl, because it’s all vegetables and cashews, and it can’t get much healthier than that! This is what soup season’s all about.

EDIT: I made this again with Silk creamer and it was equally as tasty!

~Becky, a skinnyfat girl

Kalachandji’s

Sometimes Becky and I go way too long without seeing each others faces.  Blogging helps us stay connected, but there really is no substitute for face-to-face interaction.  Since we are both huge foodies, our togetherness is often  always paired with food.  This time, we let our husbands come with us.  Have we ever mentioned that we both married Latinos?  Becky’s husband is half Mexican, half Colombian, and mine is half Puerto Rican, half Colombian.  If we looked more related, you probably wouldn’t have a difficult time convincing me we are sisters, separated at birth.

So, yes, back to the food.

Kalachandi’s.  Indian.  Vegetarian.  Delicious. 

That was the condensed version of what turned out to be a magnificant evening.  Kalachandi’s is located in a spectacular temple, the ceiling above the tables is a tree and between the branches you can see the stars.  The food was incredible, the Indian spices were not overpowering (even though I’m okay with that), their homemade whole wheat cinnamon raisin bread practically melted in my mouth, and please don’t get me started on the Tamarind Tea!  The tamarind tea ended up being the best part, aside from the company.  None of the four of us even like iced tea, but this stuff is like liquid heaven.  I’m not kidding!  Becky and I have certainly added this to our list of recipes to try to imitate so be watching for it!  I probably could have drank two pitchers full of it!

Here is a photo summary:

So, if you live in the DFW area, definitely make a trip to Kalachandji’s.  It will be well worth your while.  If you don’t live close, find your own special place and enjoy a few priceless moments with the special people in your life.  That’s really the most important part.

So, until next time, it’s skinnyfatgirls signing off.  

~Elesha, a skinnyfat girl

Secrets to Great Hummus

My obsession with chickpeas is no secret. And while they’re great in  biscuits, salads, and gooey desserts, the most popular way to eat chickpeas is definitely in hummus form. A few months ago I made my first batch of hummus and was completely hooked.

I’d never been impressed with homemade hummus. Store-bought hummus had a great flavor and creamy texture, but it seemed all the homemade hummuses lacked one or the other. All of the ones I tried were either gritty, grainy, or just tasted…weird. I was determined to make mine even tastier and creamier than the stuff from the store. And guess what? I did.

It’s so easy when you know the secrets. Maybe they’re not even secrets, maybe these are the basic rules that you all learned in Hummus-Making 101, but they’ve changed my life. Hummus used to be a rare treat because I couldn’t rationalize paying $4 for an 8 ounce container that I would undoubtedly devour in one sitting. Now I pay a dollar for a pound of dry chickpeas that will yield enough for an entire week of hummus gluttony. These days, my fridge is rarely without it.

I’m not giving you an exact recipe, because everybody likes their hummus a little different. For example, I despise tahini (which is normally one of the main ingredients) and leave it out entirely. I’ve made it with and without, and the hubs and I both enjoy it much better without tahini. I usually use limes rather than lemons because I’ve always got them on hand, and I don’t think it really makes a difference in the flavor. I go heavy on the garlic, but I realize we’re not all garlic lovers. My dad sometimes adds liquid smoke, but I think it tastes fake and nasty. See? It just depends what you like.

I’ve also found it to be nearly impossible to measure ingredients, because I continually taste and add more of this or that.

World’s Creamiest Hummus

Ingredients:
Chickpeas (Garbanzos)
Lemon or lime juice
Flavorful olive oil
Fresh garlic cloves
Salt (I like sea salt)
Tahini (optional)
Paprika (optional – I love it!)

Five ingredients. I told you this was easy.

That takes care of the flavor, but what we really need to focus on is texture. To me, the texture makes or breaks it; good hummus needs to be super smooth and creamy. So listen up, the secrets are about to be revealed!

1. Overcook your beans. Leave your garbanzos cooking in the crock pot on low for a good 10 to 12 hours. They should be so soft that if you drop one on a hard floor it will splatter! While overcooked chickpeas may not work well in other recipes, they are ideal for hummus. For this reason, I recommend not using canned , but if that’s all you have, then you absolutely must:
2. Make hummus with hot beans. If your chickpeas are from a can or have been stored in the fridge, cover in water and boil for at least 10 minutes. They’re softest when hot, and the softer the bean, the smoother the hummus.
That’s it. Those were the secrets. I know, you’re in shock.
Directions:
1. Put hot, drained chickpeas, fresh lime juice, pressed garlic, salt, and olive oil in the food processor.
2. Blend and blend and blend until perfectly smooth.
3. Sprinkle with paprika and olive oil and serve with hot pita bread or chopped veggie sticks.

Yummus hummus in my tummus.

Have you ever seen a more beautiful, fiberlicious snack? I didn’t think so. Enjoy your bean paste hummus!
P.S. Blogging makes me hungry.

~Becky, a skinnyfat girl

Carb hangover? Nevermore.

What is your biggest food temptation; the food that you know you shouldn’t eat, but it tastes so heavenly you could just forget yourself and enjoy one moment of pure tastebud pleasure?  My greatest love is dark chocolate, but since cacao is a superfood full of wonderful and incredible nutrients, I don’t bother about feeling guilty about consuming it.  So, if I’m not talking about chocolate, what could possible be such a big food temptation for me?  (Little hint: I want to visit this country, not for the gondolas, for the food).

Okay, that was a big hint, but you’re right, I’m talking about Italian food.  Do you love pasta as much as I do?  Oh my goodness, I can honestly say that I have never eaten an Italian dish I didn’t adore.  Fettucine alfredo, bowtie pasta, eggplant parmesan, the bread, gelato, do I really need to go on?  Unfortunately, Italian food can also be extremely fattening with loads of cream, cheese, and white flour.  Have you ever experienced a carb hangover from eating too much pasta?  I know I have.  You know, that bloated, heavy, uncomfortable feeling?  Now, I’m a huge believer in everything in moderation and the last thing I believe in is deprivation, but it’s so hard for me to restrain myself when it comes to pasta, so I have to be careful.

Now if I hadn’t had the skinnyfat mind makeover, I probably wouldn’t believe that it was possible to make Italian food delicious and healthy,  but now I’ve learned that whole, real nutrient-dense food can actually be way more delicious than the alternative.  Prime example? The best lasagna I’ve ever eaten.

To begin with…

These whole wheat lasagna noodles from Target have one ingredient.  ONE!  Whole wheat seminola.  That’s it and it’s looking like a pretty good start. 

Next you have fresh mushrooms (I’ve used shiitake mushrooms, which I like the best).

Grind or chop these up and moving on.  Next chop up fresh oregano, fresh basil, fresh spinach, fresh kale… Do you notice a theme here? 

Of course, you’ll also need cheese and tomato sauce.  I used half Daiya non-dairy cheese (If you haven’t tried Daiya, it’s the best non-dairy cheese out there and Target has it!) and half Italian blend cheese.  For my tomato sauce I used an organic garden vegetable marinera sauce, also from Target.

With all these delicious and wholesome ingredients, all that’s left to do is layer your lasagna! 

I always layer the bottom of an oiled casserole dish with the sauce first then the noodles.  On top of the first layer of noodles I put more sauce, then I put a thick layer of kale and spinach.

Then add your ground mushrooms, cheese, and sprinkle your fresh oregano and basil on top of the cheese.  Now layer and layer until you cannot fit anymore in!  On the very top layer I only put the layer of sauce, cheese, oregano, and basil.

Bake the lasagna at 375 for about 30 minutes until the noodles are soft and the cheese is melted.

Here is the whole recipe:

  • Whole wheat lasagna noodles
  • Tomato sauce
  • Cheese
  • Fresh mushrooms, chopped
  • Fresh oregano, chopped
  • Fresh basil, chopped
  • Fresh kale, chopped
  • Fresh spinach, chopped

I have been eating this all week and every day at work someone has commented on how good it smells.  Don’t tell anyone, but it tastes even better.

~Elesha, a skinnyfat girl

Jicama Pear Salad with Orange Vinaigrette

Step aside, boring sandwich and Diet Coke, because lunch at the office just got a whole lot more interesting.

No, you’re not in a pricey restaurant, you’re in the break room. This salad may sound fancy, but it’s really quite simple to put together, chock full of nutrients, and, best of all, entirely scrumptious!

I know what you’re thinking: those are some GIANT raspberries. Yup. Gigantic, delicious raspberries that were on sale, 4 cartons for 5 bucks! Definitely the best $10 investment I’ve made in a while. I didn’t initially plan to put them in my salad, but it turns out they add a necessary tartness.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of this heat and am really quite ecstatic about not having to put my head in the freezer anymore! And I’m sure my sad lawn will be grateful for a break from the unrelenting sun after being scorched for three months straight.

We have a tiny, random green spot in the yard. We call him "Patchy". We haven't had to mow since the first week of June because SUMMER IS A MURDERER.

This will be the last hoorah for summer recipes of the year, though I can’t promise that I’ll stop drinking strawberry coconut smoothies anytime soon. This salad is light and fresh – a great way to celebrate the last week of summer.

Jicama Pear Salad with Orange Vinaigrette
Serves 4 (or, ya know, just me)

Ingredients:
1 medium pear, sliced
1/3 cup jicama, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup toasted pecans (I only had raw almonds, but they tasted great, too)
1/4 cup raspberries, chopped
3 cups chopped Romaine lettuce
3 cups chopped dark, leafy greens (kale, chard, spinach; I used collard greens)
Optional: If you eat dairy products, goat cheese would be a wonderful addition!

For the dressing, combine the following ingredients and mix well:
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1.5 T white vinegar
1 T agave (optional)
1 T olive oil (optional, I omitted)


Chop all of your ingredients. For collard greens, kale, and swiss chard, it’s preferable to remove the bitter spines from the leaves.

Toss the greens with the vinaigrette. Because it’s strong, you may not need to use all of the dressing, so add half, taste, and go from there. Divide onto four salad plates and garnish with all additional ingredients. Serve immediately.

What’s special about this salad is that it has so many different things going on at once. The citrusy vinaigrette brightens up the strong, dark flavor of the greens, jicama adds an earthy, root flavor, raspberries provides tartness, the pear is sweet and fruity, and pecans finish it off with a nutty crunch. I imagine goat cheese would add a lovely creaminess.

Of course, I have to mention that the fact that fresh, raw green leafy vegetables contain high doses of chlorophyll, easily digestible proteins, enzymes, and a wide range of vitamins and minerals. They’re an easily accessible superfood that should be eaten daily. Berries are among the fruits highest in antioxidant content and are excellent sources of several phytochemicals that seem to help block cancer development. Additionally, nuts, pears, oranges, and jicama offer other health benefits. Your body will LOVE this super salad!

Powerful and tasty all at once? That’s why I eat four servings.

~Becky, a salad freak skinnyfat girl

Salsa Verde

I married a Mexican. Well, half Mexican, half Colombian…the point is, we eat a lot of Mexican food. I’m talkin’ probably 75% of the time, dinner is tacos, fajitas, quesadillas, nachos, tostadas, chilaquiles, or guacamole with totopos.

Mexican food is simple, quick, tasty, and very healthy. You can easily incorporate lots of plants; shredded greens, pico de gallo, sauteed veggies, and chopped avocado work magnificently with any meal. Of course, beans are almost always a requirement and a great way to add fiber and protein to your plate.

While it’s easy to make healthy Mexican food, remember to avoid the traditional unhealthy stuff, such as white flour tortillas, fried chips, fatty cheese, sour cream, red meat, and the worst offender of all: LARD. If you have to eat any of it, do so in moderation! There are all kinds of great substitutes out there, so make use of them. We like whole wheat flour tortillas and corn tortillas, which can be eaten soft or baked for tostadas or nachos. I’ve found that if you pile your plate with enough greens, tomatoes, pico de gallo, guacamole, beans, salsa, and other delicious veggies, you won’t even miss the cheese or sour cream!

I’ve become a pro at scraping a Mexican meal together with just the bare minimum ingredients. Grilled seitan with onions, corn tortillas, and salsa can be sufficient for an enjoyable dinner. But if there’s one thing you simply cannot do without, it’s salsa. You can work around the other meal components, but salsa is a necessity. Salsa gives a touch of heat and burst of flavor. Without salsa, those grilled seitan and onion tacos would be dry, bland, and one-dimensional, but salsa gives it that kick and – voila!- it becomes a delicious meal.

Y’all should know me well enough by now to know that I don’t eat many things from cans, boxes, or jars, so our salsa is always homemade. Store-bought salsa is probably one of the healthier things you can buy in a jar, but honestly, you have no idea what you’re missing. Once you’ve tasted the homemade stuff you will never go back. I could slurp it up with a spoon. Or drink it from the jar. Gross.

Okay, enough of my rambling. Here it is, the best salsa I’ve ever made!

Salsa Verde (Green Sauce)

Ingredients:
10 – 15 tomatillos (green tomatoes)
3 medium serranos (more or less, depending on desired spiciness)
3 large cloves garlic
1/2 cup fresh cilantro (more or less, to taste – I use more!)
Salt, to taste

Step 1: Preheat oven to 400. Remove the dry, loose outer peel and wash the tomatillos. Arrange them on a cookie sheet or in a baking dish.

 

Step 2: Roast them for at least 30 minutes, but longer is better. The flavor will be better if you let them bake until they look almost burnt. Actually, the absolute best-tasting salsa is made by grilling the tomatillos on a charcoal grill, but I really wasn’t going to go through all that trouble at 10pm.

These guys baked for about 45 minutes. I would have preferred to cook them longer, but my kitchen was a sauna at this point and there’s only so long that I can bake myself at 400 degrees.

Step 3: Cut off the hard stem part on top of the tomatillos (you don’t really want that in your salsa). The reason you don’t cut them off before baking is so that the tomato juice can’t escape, although some of the tomatoes will “explode” in the oven, as you can see happened to the deflated-looking ones above.

Step 4: Grill the serranos and unpeeled garlic cloves in a dry frying pan until thoroughly blackened.
 
 
 
Step 5: Peel the garlic and take the stems off the serranos. Put the tomatillos, garlic, serranos, cilantro, and a few sprinkles of salt in the blender and blend until smooth.
 

That’s all there is to it – so simple, yet so flavorful! This can go on anything, and believe me, you’re going to want to put this on everything!

What’s your favorite healthy Mexican meal?

~ Becky, una chica Skinnyfat

Strawberry Scones

When I was 18 I worked at my aunt’s coffeeshop. I consider it one of my favorite jobs ever, which is saying something, seeing as how I’ve already had over 10 jobs in my 24 years.  The Moonstruck Cafe; I have such fond memories of that place.


It was just barely big enough for the counter and a few small tables, but it had plenty of faithful customers. Everything was decorated in suns and moons, and my aunt had stenciled hundreds of hand-painted gold stars over the midnight blue walls. Ecclectic paintings hung for sale by local artists and hometown bands would come in and play live music on Friday nights.

Whether it was The Talking Heads or Duke Ellington or an old 80’s mix playing overhead, the musical selections were unpredictable and yet somehow always just right. The atmosphere was laid back and everybody knew each other. It was fun to see the regulars pull up – Teacher Tim, Steve the Green Tea Guy – and have their drinks ready by the time they reached the counter. It was cozy. It was home.

But my favorite thing of all was the scones. Blueberry scones. Selling that last scone was the happiest moment of the week, because I knew that in less than an hour I would take a fresh batch from the oven and escape into a rich, warm, blueberry scone heaven. Yes, being the owner’s niece had its perks. Free coffee was great, but nothing compared to free scones.

Before I knew it, we had moved out of state and my coffeeshop days were over…and I haven’t had a scone that good since. With that realization, I made it my mission to recreate scone bliss, only this time a healthy version. A daunting task; scones are all cream, butter, sugar, and white flour. But I’ve done my best, combined multiple recipes, and present to you my best attempt at a very nutritious and delicious scone.

Warning: turn back now if you like crumbly (DRY) scones like the ones you find in most coffeeshops. These scones are moist. Not dense, moist – because there’s nothing I hate worse than a mouthful of dry crumbs. Oh, and for the record, these taste nothing like the blueberry scones from Moonstruck. Completely different flavors, but even more satisfying. Trust me, I tested these on a number of people who are not fans of typical health food. Even my brother, whose favorite food in all the world comes from Taco Bell, came back for seconds and told me repeatedly how good they were.

Another great thing about this recipe is that you can use whatever berries are in your fridge. These can just as easily become blueberry scones, raspberry scones, or boysenberry scones! I just happened to have strawberries on hand, but you can bet my next batch will be blueberry.

One last thing: you’re going to be adding some vegetables. Beets and carrots, to be exact…because that’s just what we do around here. Don’t get me started about beets. Poor, underrated root! To be brief: Don’t want cancer? Eat your beets. 

Let the scone-making begin.

Skinnyfat Strawberry Scones

Ingredients:
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 T baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 T Stevia (or sweeten to taste with your favorite sweetener)
1/4 cup cold butter or substitute (I used Smart Balance)
1/4 cup oil (healthy variety; I used coconut)
3/4 cup milk (the thicker the better. I use 1/2 cup almond milk, 1/4 cup coconut cream. Creamier means richer, moister scones)
1/4 cup finely shredded beets
1/4 cup finely shredded carrots
1 cup fresh strawberries (or berries of choice)

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 400. Combine your dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and soda, salt, and Stevia) in a bowl.

Step 2: Add the wet ingredients (butter, oil, milk, and cream, if using) to the dry ingredients. Cut in with a fork or pastry cutter until just combined.

Step 3: Shred the beets and carrots onto a paper towel. Press until most of the juice is gone and you have semi-dry vegetable shreds. You’ll go through a couple of paper towels.

Step 4: Add the berries, beets, and carrots and mix until just combined.

Step 5: Shape the dough into a round, very thick pizza shape on a cookie sheet (think deep dish pizza, only deeper!). It should be about 2 – 3 inches deep. Cut into 8 equal parts and separate the pieces about an inch apart so they have room to expand while cooking.

Step 6: Bake for 17 – 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. You can drizzle agave on top or add a glaze, which can be made by whisking together a bit of melted butter, sweetener, and vanilla. Serve with butter or jam, or devour them plain like I do. Scrumptious any way you look at it!

So grab a cup of hot coffee, that book you’ve been wanting to read, and savor a warm scone (or two). The best part? Now there’s no scone guilt, because – let’s face it – most scones are just a dense cake that managed to weasel it’s way into the breakfast food category. Enjoy the satisfaction of eating baked goods that are actually that: good for you. “Baked good-for-yous”, if you will. 🙂

~Becky, a skinnyfat girl

Bagels = Joy and antioxidants

Okay, so you know how in this post I said that pastelillos de guayaba (guava pastries) would be my next recipe attempt?  Well, I lied.  Don’t ask me why I have not yet gotten around to using the enormous stack of guava paste that I ordered in bulk from Amazon. 

In my defense, I did not realize how much guava paste I would be getting when I ordered it.  Now I will definitely get to making pastelillos de guayaba at some point, but now is not that time.  

By now you must know how much Becky and I love to add funky things to our recipes to make them more nutritious .  You can take a look at pretty much any of our recipes and see examples of this (“Greens with Ice Cream” Shake  and Chocolate Chip Blondies  are just a few).  I’ve applied this tactic with a vengeance to another food item I love, bagels

If bagels are one of the foods you’re scared to eat because they are unhealthy, fear no more.  I have rescued and remade your nutritionally void loop of unhealthy carbs into a fiberful treat for both you and your body to rejoice over. 

Here it is:

  • 4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons oil or butter
  • 2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1 cup shredded carrots (yes)
  • 1.5 cups chopped kale (and yes, seriously)

Blend all ingredients except for yeast and flour in the blender.  Once the carrots and kale have blended in well, heat the mixture in the microwave until warm.  Then mix the flour, yeast, and liquid together in a mixing bowl.  Oil your hands and knead dough, then separate into 12 equal parts.  Let the dough rest for about 10 minutes.  While the dough rests, bring a large pot of water to a boil and preheat your oven to 425.

Once you have let the dough rest, form each section into bagels.  I found the best way to do this is to roll each section into a hamburger bun shape and then use your finger to make the bagel hole.   Once the bagels are formed, boil each bagel for about a minute on each side.  This will make them puffy and nicely shaped. 

Once boiled take bagels out and put on an oiled cookie sheet.  At this point you can dip the bagels in seeds or nuts, if you want.  I didn’t, but if I had some whole flax seeds, I may have tried.  Bake at 425 for about 5-10 minutes, then flip them and bake them for 5-10 minutes more. 

For a healthier version of cream cheese, try using greek yogurt or neufchatel cheese.  I had one with neufchatel cheese and guava paste (hey, I had to start using it somehow) and then I had another with melted cheddar cheese.  Yes, I had to have two, they were just that good!  And tomorrow, I have a sneaky suspicion I will be having a egg and cheese bagel for breakfast.

Have another favorite type of bagel?  Try your own variations of bagels and let us know how they turn out!  We love to learn new tricks!  Don’t forget like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!  And if you love us, help us spread the word! 

~Elesha, a skinnyfat girl

Suma Veggie Cafe

Last weekend I attended a two-day conference with my mom and some friends. Our tickets included lunch, but by dinner time I was nearly starved. You see, I have a hard time eating things masquerading as food, or “food-like substances” as Michael Pollan would say. Don’t be confused – I do eat “unhealthy” things on occasion. But if I am going to splurge, you can bet it’s going to be on REAL food. My idea of a treat is a plate of fresh spinach ravioli and homemade marinara with hot bread and spiced olive oil. Its “food-like” equivalent would be a can of Chef Boyardee served with a slice of wonder bread and margarine. I just can’t see or taste the appeal; real ingredients taste best.

Surprisingly, nobody else seemed to care that their lunch was nutritionally void. 50,000 women sat in the arena happily munching away on their food-like substances. The lunch consisted of a turkey sandwich on a white bun, potato chips, a rice krispie-like (plastic-looking) treat, a mini bottle of water, and an apple. I drank the water and ate the tiny and rather tasteless apple (red delicious? my butt…) but couldn’t really stomach the idea of the other stuff. I’ve never considered myself high maintenance or picky until that moment; I felt like the kid who will only eat his sandwich if the crusts are cut off or those snooty ladies who wouldn’t dream of carrying anything but a Coach purse. However, upon further contemplation I came to the conclusion that being picky about food can be a good thing and that I’ve actually trained myself to be this way for a great reason: I want to live a healthy and happy life. It’s that simple.

But I’m not gonna lie – I got grumpy. I guess that’s what happens when I go too long without eating nutrient-dense food. I yearned for my daily salad bowl, filled to overflowing with kale, spinach, tomatoes, cucumber, beans, and countless other delicious foods from the earth. I’m an plant addict: one day without leafy greens and I start going through withdrawals. If I don’t eat a hearty, fruit-filled breakfast I break out in hives and develop flu-like symptoms.

It’s possible I’m exaggerating slightly, but for goodness sake, how do so many people live happy lives while eating garbage? I figured they probably don’t live every day feeling every cell tingling with life, which deeply saddens me. I want everyone to experience it, that feeling of being truly alive, that beautiful and indescribable feeling of health and energy. There has to be a way to fuel that desire in others, so they will taste and see for themselves the joy that is healthy living. In fact, I’m starting to feel as though it may be my life calling – fueling that desire. Honestly I could ramble on about this forever, so back to my story:

Yes, I felt deprived. And HUNGRY. And did I mention grumpy?

Enter my brilliant and wonderful friend, Sheri, who invited me to dinner at…wait for it…an ALL-VEGAN chinese restaurant! Goodbye, deprivation! The place looks unimpressive, in fact, it was bordering on “hole-in-the-wall”, but I’ve found that those are usually the best places to eat. They don’t hide behind immaculate interior design, overpriced menus, or fancy entrees. Nope, its simply all about the food, which has got to be good or they’ve got nothin’.

The first thing I saw was this:


And yes, my heart did leap up into my throat with excitement! I realized later that the sign is for the buffet, not the entire menu, which actually does serve some non-vegan but vegetarian options. Speaking of the menu – it was gigantic! It was at least five pages of the most incredible veggie food I’ve ever heard of. They actually have veggie substitutes for almost any kind of meat you can think of: chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, fish, duck…I was awestruck.

We ordered some appetizers to begin with: egg rolls and dumplings. Both were fab, but I especially enjoyed the egg rolls with an amazing sweet garlic sauce they had at the table.

I was so overwhelmed with options that I couldn’t make up my mind about what to order. I asked the owner, a tiny Asian lady, what she recommended. She said everyone loved the orange chicken, so I went with it.

It was absolutely delicious! I’ve eaten my fair share of orange chicken, and this tasted just like the real deal! I was blown away, not to mention appreciative of the beautiful green broccoli to feed my vegetable habit. My mom got a tofu dish and Sheri order the Beef Lo Mein, both of which were quite tasty.

This was literally an entire block of tofu. It doesn't sound or look very appetizing, but it was very enjoyable, trust me!

This dish was absolutely scrumptious! It rivaled my orange chicken. The beef was almost black, which was a little weird, but it tasted so amazing that it didn't matter.

If only this place were a little closer to me I would go all the time! Unfortunately, it’s an hour and a half drive from my house, so I may not even go ever again. Sad face. Their food proves that you don’t need animal products to have a spectacular meal. And while there were plenty of healthy options, this meal was definitely what I consider to be a treat! I’m not regularly a fan of fried anything, but those egg rolls…*drool*.

Now it’s off to do homework. School is now in full swing and I’m barely finding time to cook, let alone blog. Elesha just got a new and demanding job, so we’re both running around like chickens with our heads cut off. We’re expecting things to settle down a bit and we’ll be able to post more regularly.

Until then, eat at the Suma Veggie Cafe! 🙂

~Becky, a skinnyfat girl

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