Hicka-what? And Other Under-Appreciated Vegetables

I recently took a vegetable tray to a church function instead of my usual plate of goodies.  I know…gasp!  What is to become of me.  Who knew what a stir it would cause.  Any of you recognize this little veggie?  Everyone kept asking me what it was and seemed even more confused when I told them.


It is usually in the part of the grocery store with all the less popular vegetables.  Broccoli, asparagus, potatoes, all get their spotlight out in front but these stay tucked in the corner with turnips, rutabagas, beets, etc.  If you are still clueless, I will just give you the answer.  It’s a jicama!  Pronounced Hick-a-ma, and though people were leery to try it, everyone that did liked it.  It was one of the random foods that we got well acquainted with during Aaron’s cleanse and I just wanted to post about it to encourage all of you to give it a chance.

Just peel it, cut it into matchsticks, and dip it in hummus or ranch or whatever your favorite is.  Or toss it on salads and it will add a nice sweet crunch with minimal calories.  Honestly I even just love it plain for a nighttime snack when I don’t want to eat too much before bed.  Of course there are real recipes you could try it with, but so far that’s all I have done and I’ve loved it.  I’ll report back when I take it to the next level.  Or you could.



Speaking of parsnips, this is another vegetable you should add into your rotation.  You can use them in place of potatoes for a similar consistency with a sweeter taste but fewer carbs and calories.  They are terrific mashed, as oven baked fries, or roasted as a medley with some other neglected vegetables.

coconut collard greens

The last lucky vegetable for today’s spotlight is Collard Greens.  Even though I am from the South, I can’t say that I have eaten too many of these in my day.  Of course, Aaron says Texas is not really the South, so maybe that is why.  I also can’t say that I love these straight up like I do the last two veggies, but since they are REALLY good for you and this recipe below, from Aaron’s cleanse, took the bitterness out of them and made them yummy, I thought I would share.

What are your favorite random veggies?  Or favorite random ways to cook “normal” veggies?

Coconut Collard Greens

  • 1½ tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ medium onion, diced
  • ½ bunch collard greens, stems removed, cut into ½-inch strips
  • ¼ cup coconut milk
  • 1 dash Himalayan salt (to taste; optional)


  1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook, stirring frequently, 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown and very soft.
  2. Add collard greens and coconut milk; cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes, or until greens are very tender.
  3. Add salt (if desired)

Conquering Cravings Part III

Remember The Land Before Time?  I was 8 when it came out and LOVED it.  Did you know that it was followed by TWELVE direct to video musical sequels?  They are pretty much all on Netflix right now and my kids are loving them.  I, on the other hand…not so much.  As with all too many sequels these days, they definitely should have quit while they were ahead (Tokyo Drift, anyone??).  Hopefully this conquering cravings issue does not take the same path.



I will readily admit I am not the most technically savvy person, nor am I up on the latest trends by any means.  I mean, don’t judge me but I don’t even have a smart phone!  So it took me awhile to realize I was not utilizing Pinterest to its fullest capacity.  I was pretty much just following my friends, but then one day I wanted to pin a recipe I saw in my Cooking Light magazine instead of ripping out the page and sticking it in my overflowing expandable file of recipes to try.

And it dawned on me…Cooking Light has its own Pinterest!  With almost 5,000 pins!  What a better method for organizing recipes!  So I quickly followed them, Health, Fitness, Clean Eating, and Eating Well magazines.  So many recipes to try, all digitally and more cleanly organized than my file, PLUS no monetary investment and no wasting of trees!  I am loving it.  Seriously.  Awesome.  I try to go to one of those when I want to avoid all the amazing looking baked goods people are pinning that have me salivating.

So tonight while looking at Health’s pins (avoiding lingering on a recipe for Salted Browned Butter Snickerdoodles), I saw an article, How the Pros Curb Cravings and figured I ought to share it with you since we have been talking about it so much.  They had some good ideas that we hadn’t talked about yet.

What non-friends have you found helpful to follow?

Marshmallows for Every Meal: And other Healthier Foods for Kids


My friend asked me the other day what my kids usually ate for lunch.  I thought it was a great topic of discussion for the blog because all of us moms probably struggle with getting our kids to eat healthy.  We make our kids eat whatever we are having for dinner, but no matter how much they liked or disliked it, they will NEVER eat the leftovers for lunch the next day!

March 2012 240



Of course they would eat macaroni, quesadillas, chicken nuggets (and marshmallows, cookies, ice cream) at every meal if I left them, but that’s not really the ideal! So I thought I would compile a list of some of the things they do eat for lunch or snacks and hopefully there will be some good ideas for you.  And please share your own ideas in the comment section with everyone so we can have even more options.

  1. Apples and peanut butter or almond butter
  2. Applesauce or pears and cottage cheese
  3. Grapes and string cheese
  4. Smoothies
  5. Carrots or Cucumbers with Greek Yogurt ranch or Hummus
  6. Trail Mix made from The Unsalted Nut Mix at Costco, Cheerios, and Raisins
  7. Hard-Boiled Eggs and Cuties
  8. Whole Grain Breakfast Breads/Muffins with Yogurt or Hard-Boiled Eggs


There are also some surprising things my kids love that may be less typical

  1. Grilled Chicken or Salmon with Homemade Sweet Potato Fries
  2. Shrimp cooked any which way imaginable
  3. Edamame, shelled and unshelled
  4. Raw Red Peppers
  5. Tofu!!  As long as the sauce is not too spicy
  6. Salad (well that is Adelyn, not Barett)
  7. Plain Rice Cakes! Sometimes with Peanut Butter, Almond Butter, or Hummus


As I compiled this list, I realize it is short on veggies and substance.  My kids eat a big meal (usually oatmeai with cottage cheese, eggs and waffles/english muffins, or protein pancakes) in the morning and then graze throughout the day.  So if any of you have any more substantial lunch ideas, I would really love to hear them too!

If you think you don’t like beets…

I used to think that myself.  But remember when I was reading this book and I learned about all the “superstar” foods??  Well that book reminded me of a recipe from a cookbook of my dads that I first made last summer and we absolutely loved it.  When we made it again this summer, I was reminded I never shared it with you.  If I shared all the reasons it was good for you, we would be here all day, so let’s just focus on the beets.



Here are a few reasons to love them:

  1. They lower cholesterol
  2. Increase exercise endurance
  3. Anti-imflammatory
  4. Anti-cancer Effects
  5. Immunity Booster
  6. Reduce the risk of birth defects
  7. Rich in essential minerals
  8. Oh yeah, and they taste delicious!!!

So try this salad while the beets and kale are still fresh and your farmer’s market.  Or share with us YOUR favorite way to eat beets.

Beet Kale Walnut Salad


3 to 4 beets, peeled and cubed
1 bunch kale, rinsed and chopped
1 cup raw walnuts, lightly roasted
½ cup organic feta cheese (optional)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or coconut oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons finely chopped basil, optional
1 teaspoon wheat-free tamari or ¼ teaspoon sea salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the cubed beets into a steamer basket. Steam for about 15 to 20 minutes or until tender*, place into a bowl to cool. Place chopped kale into the steamer basket and steam for 5 to 10 minutes until tender but still bright green. Place into bowl with beets.

Place walnuts into a small glass baking dish and roast in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool completely. Place into the bowl with beets and kale.

In a small bowl, whisk together ingredients for the dressing. Pour** over beets, kale, walnuts, and toss. Top with feta cheese and freshly ground black pepper if desired.

*Don’t know if it’s me, my beets, or my steamer basket, but usually this takes twice as long for them to get tender.

**I didn’t need to use all of the dressing on this one, so start sparingly and get it to the consistency you like!

Conquering Cravings

Aaron, my P90X obsessed hubby has recently started a Beachbody Challenge Group.  One of the members of the group said his main challenge to losing weight was his sweet tooth and his inability to control himself once he got a taste of the good stuff.  This is something I can DEFINITELY relate to!!  This is always my main challenge too.  I mean, how do you refuse this


and choose this??  I know some of you could do it easily…that is why I wanted to make this post!  The other members of the challenge group have decided to give up sugar for the 90-day challenge to support him (and of course consequently help their own health and fitness goals).  And while I am far from perfect in this, I will share some tips that have helped me in the past.


When a craving strikes:

1. Drink a huge glass of water to fill my belly quickly.
2. Brush my teeth (or put in a piece of gum if I am out)…that dessert never tastes as good when my mouth is minty fresh
3. Find a healthier substitute:
-fruit, naturally sweet and high in fiber
**bananas easily make me think I am eating a dessert, especially frozen and blended with a little milk…and maybe a little raw cocoa…and natural peanut butter…it’s practically ice cream!  These cookies are ridiculously easy, yet surprisingly tasty and wholesome–no added sugar or oil.
-protein bars or protein shakes are usually pretty sweet
4. Eat something healthy before going somewhere I know there will be temptation
5. Don’t put too severe of restrictions on myself that make it hard to be successful, i.e if I swear them off for too long, I will just binge when time comes to eat them again!  Instead, I build in a “cheat” day where I can have whatever I want which makes it easier for long term success.
6. Walk away from the kitchen!  Especially late at night when I am tired and weak!

Those are my thoughts for now before heading to bed.  What are some tips that you have for resisting those cravings??

Organic Schmorganic?


I am sure we are all quite familiar with the current health crazes: Omega 3s, Chia Seeds, Acai Beries, Coconut Oil, Organic Foods, Free Range, Grass Fed, and so on.  The nutritionist powers that be are filling the airwaves with all the benefits of the newest superfoods, but of course they all seem to come with a high price.

I thought this article had an interesting perspective on the organic food debate.  Yes, it is lengthy.  Yes, it is wordy, but I wondered your personal perspective.  Do you buy organic foods?  If so, why or why not?  And if you do, have you experienced any noticeable benefits.

One curious thing we discovered through a nutritionist is that Aaron is allergic to regular eggs, but not to Cage Free ones.  That is of course, if you put any stock in her allergy test…if you haven’t heard that story remind me to tell you about it when I see you in person because I don’t think the text will do it justice.

Please share your opinion on the issue!

To Buy or to Grate


Does that whet your appetite?  Maybe if the Pioneer Woman or Deb over at Smitten Kitchen posted it then it possibly could look a little more appetizing??  I don’t think so.  I don’t think any amount of amazing photography or food eloquence could make us excited to eat wood pulp, yet you have probably eaten more recently than you realize.

Have you ever noticed that pre-shredded cheese doesn’t taste the same as cheese freshly shredded at home?  In fact, nowhere near as good?  My sisters and I were commenting about that one time at my parents house and my dad responded that perhaps we should read the ingredients on our bag of preshredded cheese and we would find out why.  The answer?  Calcium sulfate, Cellulose, and Silica–essentially plaster, wood, and sand.  Getting hungry yet?  They put them there to prevent the cheese from drying out or from clumping together and though said not to be dangerous in small amounts, is that really want you want to put in your body??


And cheese is not the only packaged food out there feeding us this wood pulp–the use of cellulose by the food industry is on the rise.  They use it to thicken or stabilize foods, replace fat and boost fiber content, and cut the need for ingredients like oil or flour, which are getting more expensive.  It is commonly used in low-fat versions of foods to make them creamier.  So sad because I was really excited about those low-fat ice creams.  You can find a larger list of some specific foods with cellulose here.

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article I found when I got curious about these additives, and I also saw a blogger’s take on that article that you can peruse if you are curious about things that you are perhaps unknowingly putting into your body.  This form of cellulose is apparently very different from that naturally found in foods like fruits and vegetables that provide a good source of fiber.  It is indigestible by humans, created in a lab, and can sometimes have acid added to it to help break it down.

Again, not that appealing.  But maybe you don’t care about chemicals and cancer…just grate your cheese yourself because it tastes better!!

Sweet Potato Fries

I am super slow in posting.  I have been busy being putting my feet up to rest from twisting my ankle playing volleyball.  Sadly it was not during some game winning play that makes for a great story or made the pain worth it.  I simply landed wrong after hitting the ball in the net.  At least we did end up winning the game so it wasn’t totally worthless.

I have been wanting to continue highlighting all the great foods in the 150 Top Healthiest Foods that I read on vacation.  The sweet potato is one of my favorite foods and main reason I look forward to fall.  Thanks to Costco though I can eat them pretty much year-round.

So what makes them so good for us?  One has over 700% of our daily recommended value for Vitamin A.  700%!!!  Crazy. Vitamin A promotes eyesight and helps us see in the dark; aids in the differentiation of cells of the skin (lining the outside of the body) and mucous membranes (linings inside of the body); helps the body fight off infection and sustain the immune system; and, supports growth and remodeling of bone. In addition, dietary vitamin A, in the form of beta carotene (an antioxidant), may help reduce your risk for certain cancers.

Then there are the 4 grams of protein (who knew), the 7 grams of fiber, and the 65% of daily Vitamin C.  Failing to get enough vitamin C causes inflammation of the gums, scaly skin, nosebleed, painful joints and other problems associated with scurvy, and we all know what failure to get enough fiber can lead to….

One of our favorite ways to cook them is to make an oven baked fry.  I have been trying for years to figure out how to get them crispier without sacrificing health, when I came across a trick in Clean Eating that I finally had time to try.  I was disappointed to find the results not any crispier than the quicker, more traditional method.  But perhaps it was user error, so feel free to try either and let me know if you get that crispiness.  Or if you have an even better method that works, please let me know!!!

Crispy Baked Sweet Potato Fries 


For Fries
2 medium sweet potatoes or yams
1 egg white
sea salt to taste
herbs or spices to taste (I used smoked paprika but garlic and cilantro or basil would be delicious) \


1. Peel the potatoes and cut into strips or wedges with even thickness (you choose on how thick you want, just make sure the thickness is the same to ensure even cooking). Soak in a bowl of cold water for 30 minutes to allow all starch to be removed. Drain and pat completely dry (you don’t want excess moisture!!). Meanwhile prepare dipping sauce (if using). In a small bowl, add all ingredients and set in fridge for flavors to meld.
2. Preheat oven to 425 F (convection is best*). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
3. In a large bowl, add egg white and beat until slightly foamy. Add potatoes, salt and choice of herbs/spices to taste. Toss to coat.
4. Spread potato slices onto baking sheet and make sure they do not overlap and are not crowded or touching.
5. Bake for 15 minutes. Take out  and flip the fries over and return to oven for another 15 minutes or until cooked through. The thinner the fry, the shorter the time, so keep an eye on them! Reduce heat to 200F and let the fries dry for another 15-20 minutes.

*If you do not have a convection oven, occasionally vent the oven the allow the steam to escape. This will help crisp up the fries more.

Strawberry Spinach Salad

It has been awhile since I have posted.  I have pretty much been on vacation for the past two weeks.  Try not to be jealous.  That includes a lot of road trip time with a toddler and an infant, if that makes you feel any better about it!  For part of my “things-to-do bag” as we called them in road trips of youth, I picked up a book at the library, The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth.

This was a terrible and fabulous decision at the same time.  On the one hand, it made me very conscious of what I was eating in a time when I had to eat out a lot more than usual.  On the other hand, it made me very conscious of what I was eating.  It is hard to eat healthy while on vacation!!!!   Do you have any tricks for doing so?

It did give me a good idea though to highlight the foods in the book in the recipes that I choose to share so that we can talk about what the foods we eat are doing for us instead of just the number nutritional value.  Though I am still in vacation, I thought I’d share something I made just before I left that features three foods from the book that are all “superstars”, which means they are the best of the best.

I am sure we have all heard spinach is good for us, but why?  The calcium content in spinach and the other dark leafy greens strengthens bones.  The flavonoids in spinach help protect against age related memory loss.

The A and C vitamins in spinach plus the fiber, folic acid, magnesium and other nutrients help control cancer, especially colon, lung and breast cancers. Folate also lowers the blood levels of something called homocysteine, a protein that damages arteries. So spinach also helps protect against heart disease.

The lutein in spinach makes it one of the best foods in the world to prevent cataracts, as well as age related macular degeneration, the leading cause of preventable blindness in the elderly. Foods rich in lutein are also thought to help prevent cancer.

Strawberries contain a range of nutrients, with vitamin C heading the group. They also contain significant levels of phytonutrients and antioxidants, which fight free radicals. These antioxidant properties are believed to be linked to what makes the strawberry bright red. Free radicals are elements that can damage cells, and they are thought to contribute to the formation of many kinds of cancer.

In addition to vitamin C, strawberries also provide an excellent source of vitamin K and manganese, as well as folic acid, potassium, riboflavin, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, copper, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids.

More on those to come!  I feel like you may be falling asleep at your computer reading all this info so far!  Let’s just get on to the yummy salad recipe.  I only put half the dressing on to lower the calories and fat even more.  If you are feeling hungry, you can easily make this into a meal salad by adding some smoked salmon and avocado…two more of the star performers in the book!

Strawberry Spinach Salad


2 TBSP sesame seeds
1 TBSP Poppy seeds
1/2 C sugar substitute
1/4 C Olive oil
1/4 C water
1/4 C balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 tsp Worcesestershire Sauce
1 TBSP minced onion
10 oz fresh spinach
1 quart strawberries, sliced
1/4 C almonds blanched and slivered


In a medium glass or plastic bowl, whisk together the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sugar, olive oil, water, vinegar, paprika, Worcesesershire sauce and onion.Cover and chill for 1 hour

in a large bowl, combine the spinach, strawberries, and almonds.

pour dressing over salad and toss

refigerate 10 to 15 minutes before serving

NUTRITION: 117 Cal / 10 g fat / 7 g Carbs / 3 g Fiber / 3 g Protein

Protein Power

Ever since my dad became Vegan, Aaron and I have been paying a lot of attention to the amount of protein that is in everything we eat.  We all know that protein is important, but just how much do we need?  Here is a chart I stole from the CDC that gives a good guide.

Recommended Dietary Allowance for Protein
Grams of protein
needed each day
Children ages 1 – 3 13
Children ages 4 – 8 19
Children ages 9 – 13 34
Girls ages 14 – 18 46
Boys ages 14 – 18 52
Women ages 19 – 70+ 46
Men ages 19 – 70+ 56

This means that I could almost meet my daily requirements with a 6 oz steak!  I was excited to see in my inbox this morning that someone over at Spark People had nicely charted out different vegetarian sources of protein and how they stack up to each other and to meat.

Nuts, 1/4 cup Protein Calories Fat
Peanuts, raw 9 g 207 18 g
Almonds, dry roasted 8 g 206 18 g
Pistachios 6 g 171 14 g
Hazelnuts 5 g 212 21 g
Pine nuts 5 g 229 23 g
Cashews, raw 5 g 197 16 g
Walnuts 4 g 164 16 g
Seeds (1/4 cup) Protein Calories Fat
Hemp seeds 15 g 232 18 g
Pumpkin seeds, roasted 9 g 187 16 g
Flaxseed 8 g 191 13 g
Sunflower seeds, roasted 8 g 205 18 g
Sesame seeds, roasted 6 g 206 18 g
Legumes, 1 cup cooked Protein Calories Fiber
Soybeans 29 g 298 10 g
Lentils 18 g 230 16 g
Split peas 16 g 231 16 g
Navy beans 16 g 258 12 g
Garbanzo beans (chickpeas) 15 g 269 12 g
Black beans 15 g 227 15 g
Kidney beans 15 g 225 11 g
Lima beans 15 g 216 13 g
Pinto beans 14 g 234 15 g
Soy Foods Protein Calories Fat
Soybeans, 1 cup cooked 29 g 298 10 g
Tempeh, 4 oz cooked 21 g 223 13 g
Edamame, 1 cup shelled 20 g 240 10 g
TVP, 1/4 cup dry 12 g 80 0 g
Soy nuts, 1/4 cup roasted 11 g 200 1 g
Tofu, 4 oz raw 9 g 86 5 g
Soy nut butter, 2 tablespoons 7 g 170 11 g
Soymilk, 1 cup sweetened 7 g 100 0.5 g
Soymilk, 1 cup unsweetened 7 g 80 0.5 g
Grains Protein Calories Fiber
Amaranth, 1 cup cooked 9 g 238 9 g
Quinoa, 1 cup cooked 9 g 254 4 g
Whole wheat pasta, 1 cup cooked 8 g 174 6 g
Barley, 1 cup cooked 7 g 270 14 g
Spelt, 4 oz cooked 6 g 144 4 g
Oats, 1 cup cooked 6 g 147 4 g
Bulgur, 1 cup cooked 6 g 151 8 g
Buckwheat, 1 cup cooked 6 g 155 5 g
Brown rice, 1 cup cooked 5 g 216 4 g
Whole wheat bread, 1 slice 4 g 128 3 g
Sprouted grain bread, 1 slice 4 g 80 3 g
Dairy Protein Calories Fat
Fat-free cottage cheese, 1 cup 31 g 160 1 g
2% cottage cheese, 1 cup 30 g 203 4 g
1% cottage cheese, 1 cup 28 g 163 2 g
Fat-free plain yogurt, 1 cup 14 g 137 0 g
Low-fat plain yogurt, 1 cup 13 g 155 4 g
Parmesan cheese, 1 oz grated 12 g 129 9 g
Whole milk yogurt, 1 cup 9 g 150 8 g
Goat’s milk, 1 cup 9 g 168 10 g
1% milk, 1 cup 8 g 102 2 g
Swiss cheese, 1 oz 8 g 106 8 g
2% milk, 1 cup 8 g 121 7 g
3.25% (whole) milk, 1 cup 8 g 146 8 g
Low-fat cheddar/Colby cheese, 1 oz 7 g 49 2 g
Part-skim mozzarella cheese, 1 oz 7 g 72 5 g
Provolone cheese, 1 oz 7 g 100 8 g
Cheddar cheese, 1 oz 7 g 114 9 g
Blue cheese, 1 oz 6 g 100 8 g
American cheese, 1 oz 6 g 106 9 g
Goat cheese, 1 oz 5 g 76 6 g
Feta cheese, 1 oz 4 g 75 6 g
Part-skim ricotta cheese, 1 oz 3 g 39 2 g
Eggs Protein Calories Fat
Egg, 1 boiled 6 g 68 5 g
Egg white, 1 cooked 5 g 17 0 g
Liquid egg substitute, 1.5 fl oz 5 g 23 0 g

They didn’t include vegetables on their list, which I can understand because they don’t have a LOT of protein, but I was curious about the comparison.  In case you are curious too, I’ll share a chart I found for that here:

Vegetable (100 grams) Protein (g)
Asparagus 3
Aubergine 1
Beetroot 2
Broccoli 3
Brussel Sprouts 3
Cabbage 1
Carrot 0.5
Cauliflower 3
Celery 0.5
Cucumber 0.5
Fennel 1
Leek 1.6
Lettuce 0.7
Mushrooms 2
Okra 2.4
Onion 0.7
Spring Onion 2
Parsnip 1.5
Peppers 1
Pumpkin 0.5
Radish 0.7
Spinach 2
Swede 0.5
Sweet Corn 2.5
Tomatoes 2
Turnip 0.8
Yam 2

I think you have probably seen enough charts for the day, but if you want to see how all of this info adds together to getting the RDA of protein without eating meat, check out the Vegetarian Resource Group.  My dad says he feels so much better since changing his diet.  Anyone curious enough to give it a try?