Better than ?? Cake

This dessert has many names.  A walnut shortbread crust. Creamy layers of cream cheese, chocolate pudding, and whipped cream.  In my house growing up, we called it “Chocolate Wonderful.”  I know, doesn’t it just sound like something that will make your day better??  I decided to try a somewhat healthier take on it to take as my dessert contribution for family dinner while we are trying to eat healthier.  I can’t say that anyone liked it better than the original, but it was all gone by the time we got home!

Crust

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup walnuts
1 cup softened butter

Give those a whirl in the food processor until combined and bake in a 9 x 13 pan at 350 for 15 – 20 minutes.  Let cool.  Then this is where we get a little crazy.  Instead of pudding, I made this recipe from Averie Cooks for the next layer!  Except I doubled it for extra goodness.  I know what you are going to say…Avocados??  In mousse??  What the heck?  I promise you it is so good and you can’t taste the avocados.  They just add all their healthy fat into the mix to make it rich and creamy without actual cream.

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Raw Vegan Chocolate Mousse

Combine in Vita-Mix or Food Processor until smooth
2 ripe avocados
1/2 c agave
1/4 c cocoa powder
Dash Vanilla Extract

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Then I finally tried my hand at coconut cream.  Have you been salivating over the pictures on pinterest like I have?  Have you tried it yet?  Basically you take a can of full-fat coconut cream and put it in the fridge overnight.  Then you take the solids from the can and whip them as you would whipping cream!  Add a bit of sweetener and vanilla and it was so yummy!  The best explanation on how to do it is at Oh She Glows.

Crème_Chantilly

I wish I had seen that before I attempted mine, because one of my cans failed and my whipped cream layer was far too skimpy.  Yes, get two if you are going to try this.  Guess I forgot to take a picture of the final product, but to make it pretty I took a chunk of my Trader Joe’s 72% Dark Chocolate Bar and made shavings to top it off.

Guess that gives me an excuse to make it again soon!

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!

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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

WalnutBlueberryBananaBread_article

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

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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!

Becca’s Best: Top 10 Places to Explore in Washington

Remember how this was supposed to be a Healthy Living Blog and not just a Healthy EATING Blog?  Obviously I have my priorities (and my obsessions), so all my posts tend to be geared toward FOOD!  Since my other main obsession is exploring, I thought I should add some of my experiences with that to the mix.  So Becca’s Best will be a new regular feature.

These “Top Tens” are of course my opinions alone so feel free to disagree with them in the comment section below.  In fact, please do because then I will have more places on my list to explore in the future.  These are also all my personal pictures from past trips that I found on my computer, so don’t judge them for their meritocracy!

1. Mt. Rainier National ParkNovember 2010 399

I am pretty sure this one goes without saying!  I mean, it is practically the icon of the whole state!!  “The Mountain” as we locals call never ceases to amaze me, whether I am up close and personal hiking a trail at Paradise or just walking out of our Wal-mart on a sunny day and taking in the awesome view.  It is so massive that it deserves a Top Ten post all of its own!  The hikes range from all levels and all lengths (94 miles around the whole thing anyone??) and all views, except down into the lava, which really disappointed Adelyn.

2. Mt St. Helens National Park

Early 2009 196

 

I have always felt a strange connection to St. Helens since it erupted shortly before I was born.  When I was little and still lived in Texas my dad had a business trip up here and brought back some salt and pepper shakers that were made from the ash of St Helens.  I thought they were so beautiful and couldn’t believe how awesome it would be to visit a REAL volcano.  Now that I have I think how crazy it must have been to have lived here during that eruption!  I guess if Rainier ever blows we will find out.

3. Hoh Rain ForestCamping 026

This is another place that I retain a certain degree of childhood wonder for.  When I was in elementary school we had a special unit on rain forests and I was really taken with them.  At the time I pictured them as only in Brazil—I had no idea we had them in America!  So when we moved up here from Texas it became a quick favorite; as you can imagine we had nothing like that in Dallas!  I mean 140 to 170 inches of rain per year?!?!  Yes Erika, they don’t have that in Vegas either, please come visit.  I will take you there and we can search for Vampires and Werewolves as it is very close to Forks.

4. Cape Flattery

Camping 006

Ok so this one is definitely more random; you may not have even heard of it.  This is the northwesternmost point in the contiguous United States, which I know has been on your bucket list!  It is actually really beautiful and has some kind of special feel to it that I can’t explain (play the music from Goonies in your head….that feeling).  Don’t call my crazy.  Maybe that’s because It is also very close to Shi Shi beach which is a great place to hike into and camp on and looks very Goonies-esque.

5. North CascadesAnniversary 2010 008

These are much less traveled to than a lot of other mountain destinations because of the distance and the amount of time of the year that the road stays closed due to snow and avalanche trouble.  Though I have lived up here 17 years now, I actually just went for the first time two years ago.  Aaron and I wanted to explore somewhere new for our anniversary and my mom suggested here.  We were so glad that we took her advice (which I usually do when it comes to exploring since she loves it even more than I do)…everywhere we turned our heads it felt like we were snapping another picture.  When the babes are a little older we will definitely be going back!

6. San Juan IslandsLate Summer 2007 013

This, on the other hand is a very well-known and well-traveled spot, but that doesn’t keep us from going back again and again.  What does keep us going again and again is that we still haven’t managed to spot any of the resident Orcas!  We have seen so many whales here and in Alaska, but never those blasted Killer Whales!!  Guess we need to head up there soon and try again.  Of course that is not the only reason.  Even though it is NOT Hawaii, it still has that laid-back island pace.  It is so relaxing to go there that you really feel you are escaping the cares of everyday life…something you definitely need on your to-do list if you are Living to Last.

7. LeavenworthJuly 2011 022

Leavenworth is a quirky little Bavarian Village up in the middle of  the mountains that has a little bit of everything.  In the summer there is hiking, rafting, horseback riding, fishing, boating, and you can camp if you love that, but if you don’t you can still enjoy the greatness of the real outdoors with a hotel or vacation rental.  Safeway is just down the street and the prices are NOT inflated like most resort towns.  Then in the winter there is snowshoeing, sledding, snowmobiling, sleigh rides, skiing 40 minutes away, not to mention a really special Christmas celebration complete with every kind of Christmas character you can imagine.  And now there is a Cafe Rio only 30 minutes away.  Sounds like I should just move there!

8. Washington State Ferries

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Ok, this might be the most random one of this post but I love them for their uniqueness, their simplicity, and their cheapness!  No, Washington is not the only state with ferries, but I would wager to say that we have the most per person or square mile.  There are so many islands and peninsulas that all have great little nooks and crannies to explore and just get away from the crowd and bustle of city life.  They are a favorite of Aaron’s family whenever they come to visit…yes definitely something you can’t do in Idaho. Ya gotta love this view of downtown Seattle as we headed to Bainbridge Island!

9. Lake ChelanOctober 2010 018

I figured I’d better include something from Eastern Washington, since that IS the majority of the landmass it ought to be represented somehow!  But let’s be honest, no matter how much they brag about their 300 days of sunshine, it just isn’t as pretty.  But we did have a lot of fun when we went there and I imagine if you have a boat you could have even more fun than we did!  It is just nice to visit someplace somewhat close by that actually has warm water to swim in, and at 50 miles long, it definitely has plenty of it.

10. Westport

August 2011 019

I have always been confused why people seem to go to Ocean Shores more than any other place when they want a quick trip to the ocean.  Westport is way better!  They have surfing, crabbing, fishing, whale watching, a cuter little downtown area, way more sand dollars to collect, a nicer state park that has YURTS.  Ok truth be told they are both pretty ghetto as far as beach towns go and we all really love going to the Oregon Coast more, but for a quick sandy beach, this is the one to hit.  If you have a little more time Kalaloch is really beautiful and Seaside is the best…but I guess we will have to save that for an Oregon list.

On my list of places still to visit: Cape Disappointment, Lake Ozette, Hurricane Ridge, Beacon Rock, Mt. Baker, Stehikin.  Please tell me some of your favorite places so I can add those to my list too.  Or better yet, let’s go there together!  And if you live out of state and haven’t been to any, we have an extra room, please come and stay anytime.  You just have to take care of my baby when she wakes in the middle of the night.

Summer’s End

I figured this kind of sentiment was in order after my last post.  Saying hello to wonderful things like pears and pumpkins means saying goodbye to equally wonderful things like peaches and corn.  Of course in the global world we live in today we can get all of them all year round, but the mouth-watering freshness can sadly not be duplicated.  We have been getting some AMAZING fresh peaches from the farmstand by our house and I really can’t get enough of them.

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This isn’t a recipe so much as it is an ode to my favorite summer snack.  The basic premise is plain Greek Yogurt topped with fresh fresh fruit topped with just a touch of Nature’s Path Granola (I am currently loving the new Coconut Chia–have you tried it yet??).  Early summer the fruit is Spooner’s amazing strawberries, then raspberries, then blackberries, and now this delicious peach.  Frozen blueberries are a nice alternative for the long rainy season here in the northwest.

As pictured the nutrition is: Calories 244 / Carb 33 / Fat 6 / Protein 16 / Sugar 17

It seems so much easier to eat healthy in the summer with all the produce.  We were having salads every day when our lettuce was at its peak!  How do you keep up a healthy lifestyle instead of hibernating?  What are your favorite summer snacks?

peach ice cream

If you want another great way to enjoy some “peaches and cream” just toss in the Vitamix:

4 peaches
2 cups Greek Yogurt
Sweetener to taste (numbers below are with 1 TBSP Agave)

Then pour in your ice cream maker and voila!  Some super yummy super easy super healthy frozen yogurt.

Calories for 4 servings: 124 / Carb 19 / Fat 0 / Protein 13 / Sugar 16

Feeling Fall

Today’s deliciousness happened by pure accident.  Well I shouldn’t say accident really.  More like two inconveniences that led to desperation that led to discovery.  The first inconvenience: all-day downpour leading to crazy cooped up kids.  Baking is always a good distraction on such days because these two little ones love to help.  But the one on the left is a little ipod obsessed and Aaron had taken it away from him earlier and gone to work with it, along with all the recipes on my mental list of things to bake soon.

August 2013 048

We still have gobs of zucchini, so I thought some of the Clean Eating Zucchini bread would be good…recipe on the ipod.  I had a pile of dried figs that I bought on a whim and a craving the other day at Winco, but my clean fig newton recipe??? On the ipod.  So I went to the kitchen feeling resigned to simply modify some less healthy recipe and for some reason reached for my least healthy, but most yummy baking cookbook.

August 2013 047

 

I looked up figs in the index and came across Oatmeal Breakfast Bread.  You know from my last post that I am a fan of oats…you can prob tell from my posts over time that I am a fan of breakfast breads!  But you probably didn’t know that I am a fan of Figs.  Figs are a great source of potassium, which helps lower high blood pressure, and dietary fiber, which aids in weight loss.  And they taste delicious!   I love the teeny tiny crunch in your mouth when you eat them.

August 2013 051b

 

I was a big fan of Fig Newtons too until I started to detest packaged baked goods, first for taste reasons, but now for health reasons obviously as well.   This bread does not taste like a Fig Newton of course, but it does have a great Fall Figgy Flavor.  Let me know if you are interested and I can post a great healthy Fig Newton recipe too.  If for some reason you do not like figs, feel free to substitute apples, apricots, raisins, or dates.  I decided to go ahead and throw in the shredded zucchini I had leftover in my fridge, but feel free to replace that with some canola oil if you don’t have the overabundance that I have been dealing with!

August 2013 052

 

Oatmeal Breakfast Bread
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking From my Home to Yours”
Ingredients
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup shredded zucchini
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • 1¼ cups flour
  • 1/2 cup agave
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ cup dried fruit figs, apples, apricots or raisins
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare 9×5 loaf pan by buttering and dusting with flour. Put pan on baking sheet.
  2. Whisk together eggs, applesauce, zucchini, and buttermilk until well blended.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. Remove ½ tsp of the mix and toss it with the fruit, just to coat; set aside. Stir the oats into the bowl of dry ingredients.
  4. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry and, using a large rubber spatula, stir just until everything is evenly moistened. Scatter the dried fruit over the batter and stir to blend.
  5. Chop 1/2 cup walnuts and
  6. Scrape the batter into the pan and sprinkle over the topping, patting it down very lightly with your finger so it sticks.
  7. Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until bread is beautifully browned and a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the bread to a rack to cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pan and un-mold. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.

Calories 187 / Carb 32 / Fat 5 / Protein 5 / Sugar 17

Serve it with some greek yogurt to add an extra protein punch.

Overnight Oats

I thought I would share another favorite recipe that I have been eating for awhile without sharing.  Don’t hate me…I had so many months of no blogging that I am sure there will be a lot more of them to come!

I love oatmeal and usually eat it every other day, so it is nice to have a lot of options on ways to prepare it.  It probably goes without saying that Oatmeal is really good for you, but here are some of the reasons why.  They have been linked with:

  • reducing cholesterol levels
  • balancing blood sugar
  • helping to lower blood pressure
  • encouraging regular bowel movements
  • providing a valuable source of carbohydrates for athletic performance
  • promoting nerve health
  • assisting with weight management
  • and even as an important food for longevity

June 2013 183

 

There are tons of different versions out there, but the basic one I use is from Kath Eats Real Food…a great site you should check out if you haven’t already.  She has a lot of other versions on there you can try as well as tastier looking photography than my own.  And not to mention an interesting debate in the comment section on whether or not this counts as true muesli (which is what it reminded me of when I first had it).

Recipe

1/3 cup rolled oats (if you are a strong man like my husband, change all these 1/3 to 1/2)

1/3 cup milk

1/3 cup plain yogurt (I use Greek for the protein…but do I even need to say that these days??)

1/2 banana

1/2 tbsp chia seeds

Directions

Stir everything together in a bowl (I usually use a mason jar to keep it nice and fresh).  Place in fridge overnight. In the morning top with something crunchy and something with healthy fats – like nut butter or nuts.  Personally I like to add shredded apple or diced berries or some cocoa powder, but I have cheated and added these things the night before too to really simplify my morning.

What are your favorite ways to eat oats?

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.

beets1

 

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

Ingredients

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)

Dressing
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


Instructions

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!