Life Is Like a Batch Of Spinach Artichoke Dip….

When I’m in the kitchen, I feel as though I truly belong (insert expected stereotypes and various snickers from the peanut gallery). No really, though, I de-stress in the kitchen. When I am cooking, nothing can hurt me. It’s better than any bubble bath with added glass of wine (again, add various “did she really just say that?!”‘s and *gasp!*s). Just let me get in the kitchen and cook to my heart’s content. 

I have recently started bringing both of my children into the kitchen with me. My son is starting to show enough maturity to where he will actually listen to me instead of talk over me and act like he knows what he’s doing (a common occurrence in nearly eight-year-old boys). My 16-month-old daughter likes to play with the utensils more than actually cook, so I usually let her have a wooden spoon or a spatula so that she can get more familiar with the instrument by banging it on various surfaces, up to and including the counter, stools, cabinets, and her highchair. They make for very cool musical instruments for toddlers.

Meanwhile, on another glorious day in the kitchen (again, queue snickers, stereotypes, and judgmental obscenities) I thought about how much I missed spinach artichoke dip. It was my favorite appetizer to order whenever our family went out to eat, and I wondered if I could make it near as good as some of the places I had had it (Olive Garden was in the top three). I went ahead and looked up some recipes for it, but none of them really appealed to me. They didn’t use near the fresh ingredients I would expect them to, or I thought that maybe the dip would come out kinda bland. So I took some inspiration from a few recipes (including one from FoodNetwork.com) and combined them, with a few twists of my own (you may find my final version here: ).  Another bright idea I had found, on Pinterest (yes yes I know, very typical) was to slather it onto bread and grill it. GENIUS! 

The end result was fabulous. While my son won’t come within five feet of the stuff, myself, my husband, and my daughter all chowed down. I did not envy my son’s leftover macaroni and cheese dinner, nor did I wish someone else had made it. This was my victory, no matter how small, it was still mine.

I hope you all try this recipe. Feel free to send me some feedback on the recipe page with any added tips or tricks! 

Live to Mangia! another day!

 

Kale & The Culinary Black Thumb

I was perusing the produce section of my local Trader Joe’s one sunny Sunday afternoon, when I stumbled upon a bag of Trader Joe’s brand organic kale. I had seen it used in recipes on Food Network, another of my “vices”, so I thought, why not? I had never had it before, and I knew it was considered a “superfood”, so I grabbed a bag, put it in my cart, and went on shopping.

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A few days later, I wanted to make stir-fry for dinner, but had had a very long day with my daughter and was REALLY tired. My wonderful husband volunteered to make it – under my supervision, of course. You see, Brad calls himself a “culinary black thumb” – last night he managed to completely murder a three step Alfredo sauce to which he was given full instructions on how to do. I typed them out in full detail in a text message to which he responded “ok”. Cause of death? An inability to stir, or read. The food coroner can’t quite determine, but the sauce looked like someone threw up their liver.

Anyway, back to my story. I didn’t want to use the conventional stir-fry veggies you find in a bag in the frozen section of most grocery stores, you know, being filled with GMOs and salt, 5+so I decided to use the veggies we already had in our fridge and freezer (mostly organic frozen and a couple fresh). I looked in my fridge in the veggie drawer and I saw the kale, thought, “why not? It probably tastes close to bok choy” and told my hubby to throw in about 1/4 the bag, like all of the other veggies. We ended up using five veggies – peas, baby carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, and kale – all organic. He cooked the veggies in olive oil on medium low heat for a while, say about 20 minutes, successfully sweating them out, which releases TONS of flavor (this also makes the veggies really soft, which we like). After the veggies were cooked, he placed them in a large bowl and added some more olive oil to the frying pan. He then added the cubed chicken to the pan along with some salt, pepper, and onion powder (our son HATES onions, but doesn’t have a problem with the flavor). Brad turned the heat up and let the chicken pieces sear to a golden brown. Once the chicken was cooked, he then removed it to the same bowl the cooked veggies were in. While he was doing all of this, I was whisking together 3/4 cup of Trader Joe’s soy sauce and 3/4 cup raw blue agave nectar with 1 tbs garlic powder in a small bowl. Then I poured the mixture into the hot frying pan and used a plastic serving spoon to scrape up the bottom of the pan to incorporate some of those flavors into the sauce. Once the sauce simmered for a few minutes, I poured the sauce onto the veggies and chicken.

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After microwaving a bag of organic jasmine rice (brown is pictured as that is all I have to use as an example), Brad served the four of us the stir fry over the rice. Let me just say, this is some of the most DELICIOUS food I have ever tasted – all completely clean. I would rather eat this than any take-out.

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I just want to point out that even the “worst” of cooks can make good, clean food using the most basic of elements. My husband is a self-proclaimed “culinary black thumb”, but he makes a delicious stir-fry. Chicken and vegetables go a long way and can be made into a variety of dishes with a few minor tweaks in ingredients. This knowledge creates a different kind of satisfaction in how we eat, and makes me miss all the “crap” much, much less.

Keep on cookin’, even if you think you suck at it, you will soon find your niche 😉

Until next time,

Jill

March On Monsanto – Make A Difference!

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As most of you are aware, I blog about my family’s adventure in the world of clean living. I am a huge supporter of a healthy, environmentally conscious lifestyle.  

I am also an activist. Though I am forced to miss out on in person events such as this due to family obligations, I do what I can from home and online. I believe in the March Against Monsanto. This company is wholly evil, and is not only poisoning us with their genetically modified food, but they are bleeding farmers dry as well as killing off our bee population. Countries such as Russia, Germany, and Greece have all banned Monsanto’s food from being sold. You can view a complete list of countries who have banned Monsanto’s food from being sold at: http://politicalvelcraft.org/2013/03/23/monsanto-has-been-removed-and-banned-by-austria-bulgaria-germany-greece-hungary-ireland-japan-luxembourg-madeira-new-zealand-peru-south-australia-russia-france-and-switzerland/

I encourage you all, my readers, to protest this awful company by avoiding GMO foods. A list of companies who use Monsanto’s horrible GMOs are in the picture below. Let us fight for change by boycotting these companies to tell them that we will not be poisoned any longer! As Martin Luther King, Jr, once said, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

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Versatile Blogger Award

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I was nominated by Courage To Run for the Versatile Blogger Award. Thank you ma’am!

The Versatile Blogger Rules

1) Add The Versatile Blogger award photo on a blog post

2) Thank the person (or animal) who presented you with the award and link back to him or her in your post

3) Share seven things about yourself

4) Pass the award along to 15 favorite bloggers. Contact the chosen bloggers to let them know about the award.

7 things about me:

1. There are no three people on this Earth I love more than my husband and two children. I’d like to think I’m THE super mom of super moms. ^_^
2. I’m a Trekkie. I boldly go…everywhere. Patrick Stewart is my hero. I despise Doctor Who.
3. I am passionate about music, moreso than food. I have been singing since I was 3 years old, and I play three instruments. I can also sing in two other languages – Japanese and Russian.
4. I’m incredibly stubborn. When my mind is made up, it’s MADE UP.
5. I’m an amazing debater – and it pisses my husband off ;).
6. I’m an otaku. Don’t know what that is? Google it!
7. I love all things in nature. Except spiders. I FUCKING HATE SPIDERS. And mushrooms!

15 of my favorite bloggers:

1. No Fruit After Dark
2. Chef Nedra
3. A Opinionated Man
4. A Boy With A Hat
5. My Vegan Meals
6. Shayla Can Cook
7. Vegan Food Preparation
8. My Sublime Life
9. Matt On Not-Wordpress
10. Huzna’s Ideas
11. Bread Love And Dreams
12. Small Potatoes
13. Doodlemum
14. Mama Papa Bubba
15. Some Species Eat Their Young

“Ewwwww! Mom, what is THAT?”

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My son, Gavin, is the most lovable, helpful, – and forthright kid I know. He speaks his mind without any type of filter. Sometimes, it’s really really funny, and others, it’s, well, irritating.

Now that we are clean eaters, he will often ask me what’s for dinner, what’s in dinner, etc. He wants to know every little detail. On the nights that he doesn’t ask, he will simply walk out of his room right as I am plating our food as if he has “foodar” (food radar). He will take one look at his plate and find SOMETHING that doesn’t look “quite right” to him. Last night, we had stuffed tricolor peppers with marinara, colby jack slices on top (because I didn’t have any mozzarella and I didn’t feel like going to the store), and an organic superfood pilaf I bought at my favorite store, Trader Joes, on the side. The pilaf contained organic quinoa, kale, red bell pepper, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Though it was actually quite good, he took one look at it, wrinkled his nose, and goes:

“Mom, that looks like someone barfed all over my plate.”

Of course I smirked, because it was a bit funny. But in order to keep our principles, I sent him to his room for complaining about dinner YET AGAIN. Some may not agree with the method, but he comes out ten minutes later much more gracious and ready to eat his food. Nine times out of ten, he will try a new item and actually like it.

Point is, I am dealing with an extremely picky eater, and I am trying to find ways to open his mind about food. I’ve done the usual “hide vegetables in casseroles and things” method and he ALWAYS seems to find and pick out what he doesn’t like. The only fruit and vegetables he will eat are carrots, broccoli, pineapples, and apples. I know this isn’t bad, but I would like him to try more. I even try things (like mushrooms) that I don’t particularly like to see if he will eat them. Doesn’t work. I have to say I am proud of his stubborn will, because that will make him much less prone to peer pressure, but to raise that kid can be difficult at times, especially when it comes to food.

From all of this, I have finally learned that he and food will always have tension, kind of like North Korea and the U.S. (although I don’t think he will threaten nukes on quinoa). 

Dreaded Mushrooms, We Meet Again…And I Still Don’t Like You!

As my readers know, I wrote a post some time ago about my extreme dislike of mushrooms and how I would “conquer those vile fungus.” Well, needless to say, they are still vile to me. I look at a mushroom and I want to shrivel up and die. Ok, not really. But I wish the mushroom would.

It just so happens that my first real experience in the kitchen involved mushrooms. When I was seven years old, my mother had me sauté her mushrooms while she finished up the rest of dinner (I think we had steak that night). I remember the smell, how it was so appealing yet I just couldn’t bring myself to eat a mushroom. Some have told me that they are an “acquired” taste, like beer or fine wine. Well I love beer and fine wine (white wine, not red!) but I don’t think I will ever acquire a taste for something that feels like I’m eating a snail every time I chew. Gross. But at least I can say I tried!

I can say, though, that I have still come up with some awesome kitchen creations despite my lack of all things fungal in nature in my food. The other night I whipped up a nice Caprese pasta using whole wheat fusili, diced organic tomatoes on the vine, organic basil, shredded Parmesan, shredded mozzarella, balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Even my husband, who rarely eats a meal with meat, said it was “rather tasty” (that’s high praise from him when it comes to vegetarian meals, kind of like a Vulcan telling a human that they’ve “done well).

So I suppose I don’t need mushrooms to eat clean. But I will never stop trying new things or revisiting old foods that never got a true chance with me. Next stop: Brussels sprouts!

Until next time, here’s a bad mushroom haiku for your entertainment:

Mushrooms
I eat you and my face is bitter
My insides shrivel
Then I throw up
In a toilet, if I’m near one.

To Boldly Go…Where No Mushroom Has Gone Before

A derivative collage from two other files - ca...

A derivative collage from two other files – captain Jean-Luc Picard in his quarter on the USS Enterprise-D (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This image shows a few dried mushrooms.

This image shows a few dried mushrooms. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Since I am now a clean eater, I have decided to take the advice of one of my heroes – Captain Jean Luc Picard (as portrayed by the amazing Sir Patrick Stewart) of Star Trek – The Next Generation, and his predecessors before him – I would “boldly go” into it. That means, giving foods I have never previously liked another try. You see, now that I have cut out processed food from mine and my family’s diet, our choices have seemed somewhat limited, so in order to be more creative and feel more fulfillied, we need new ingredients to throw into the mix.

My first adventure will be with mushrooms. Oh, how I despise mushrooms, almost as much as I despise Swiss cheese. The thought of eating a fungus, something I can most likely find between my husband’s toes (sorry honey!) makes me want to vomit the delicious dinner I just had! But I have to try. I am determined to like it. I’m determined to swallow that fungus and conquer it’s awful texture. Without vomiting. Without lurching. Without a bitter beer face. I WILL DO THIS!!!

 

If I retry mushrooms, the rest of my family will too. There may be some vomiting on their part, so no promises on their determination not to vomit. BUT! I will not. I will perservere! I will conquer my internal oppressors of mushrooms! I will bring them the battle of the century! Ok, maybe I’ll just shove a few in my mouth and try not to choke on my own vomit, but hey, it’s a start, right? XD

Jillian Johnson, out!

Cheese Makes The World Go Round

Cheddar cheese from Bravo Farms, Traver, Calif...

Cheddar cheese from Bravo Farms, Traver, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

Being a clean eater doesn’t mean that I’m a “vegan” – it simply means that I only consume foods that are free of chemicals, preservatives, synthetic dyes and synthetic flavors. That being said, I could probably live without dairy if it wasn’t for my absolute favorite food enhancer (and food altogether) – CHEESE. I LOVE CHEESE. I could eat cheese all day, every day, with every meal. I wouldn’t poop for a very long time, but I probably wouldn’t care. I could eat cheese with anything – including fruit. When I was a kid, I remember sharing plates of white Vermont sharp cheddar cheese and jalapenos with my mom as a snack. It was quick, easy, and the jalapenos cleared my sinuses better than any over the counter medicine I have ever taken lol! Cheese is something that I feel like I will literally die without if I weren’t allowed to consume it. I love pretty much all cheese, except one – the evil, sinister “cheese” they call Swiss.

 

I’m sure Swiss people are some of the most awesome people in the world – but their cheese sucks. It tastes like a mixture of smelly armpit, feet, and cardboard. The fact that it has holes doesn’t sit right with me either. Whoever actually invented Swiss cheese must have thought that their dirty socks were pretty tasty. I mean, do people really like eating their own dirty socks? Is that what all the fuss behind Swiss cheese is about? Seriously, to call it “cheese” puts shame to the very good name of cheese. Fuck “Swiss cheese”.

 

On a side note, cheese is used in A LOT of popular recipes. My favorite cheeses have to be parmesan, mozzarella, (I’m Italian, it comes with the heritage I suppose, since even ancient Romans had special parts of their kitchen just for making cheese – called a careale [pronounced car-a-al-e]), medium cheddar, and havarti. All of which are good on grilled cheese sandwiches – another favorite. As a topping, you can use it on virtually anything – chips, tacos, burritos, salads, burgers – and as a filler in stuffed meat recipes, sandwiches, appetizers-the list goes on and on! To me, cheese makes the world go round, and is something that most popular cultures today have in common. Even though the U.S. is the top producer of cheese in the world, I tried some of the sharpest, and most delicious cheddar I’ve ever had when I was 16, on my summer vacation in Dublin, Ireland, with my father. It was absolutely divine – and no cheese here compares. Thankfully our local commissary sells some imported cheese from Dublin, because I would hate to never eat it again. Did you know that cheese is actually over 4,000 years old? Remains of cheese were found in Egyptian tombs, dating about 4,000 years in the past. They obviously had very good taste!

Cheese is a favorite among my family as well. It’s a good snack for kids when you want to give them something healthy. My son Gavin is a very picky eater, but he loves cheese. Organic cheese sticks are his favorite snack aside from apples and carrots. If I don’t give him cheese at least once a day, the day doesn’t seem right to him. For me, it’s a favorite with spicy food or an anytime snack, and my daughter loves macaroni and cheese so far. I’m so thankful we can continue to enjoy cheese!

 

Cheese facts came from: http://www.10-facts-about.com/Cheese/id/44

 

Temptation

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I have to admit, although I feel better living the lifestyle that I do, I can’t help but think about things I used to eat before. I miss cheese puffs, chips, hostess cakes, things I know aren’t good for me but taste SOOOOO good. My favorite snack was Herrs Buffalo Blue Cheese puffs. I know that they sound weird but they are one of the best things I have ever tasted, EVER. So when I think about them, I grab a piece of fruit and remember how good I feel after eating something that is really good for me. I feel “cleaner”. It’s hard to explain, but I feel lighter, not as heavy as I do when I eat junk. I have more energy, stamina, and my mood is even better when I eat healthy.

People have asked me if I am on some sort of “health kick” or diet, but the truth is, because I nurse my daughter I have been almost five pounds under my pre-pregnancy weight for a few months now. I have been eating better for maybe a few weeks because I want to avoid the risk factors that are present in my genetics (diabetes and heart problems are among the top concerns for me, cancer and hypertension for my husband). Food is the best prescription for any affliction and the best way to avoid afflictions. My husband and I made this decision together, and so far he has lost eight pounds, has been doing better in his workouts and has more energy throughout the day. Our son makes healthier choices and is setting the best example for his little sister when it comes to food.

In a way, my decision keeps me grounded. The reasons that I have for choosing this lifestyle are all I need to avoid temptation. Since it is present, we allow ourselves one day a week to eat whatever we want; although I am noticing that we eat junk less and less even on those days! As my cooking skills increase and I learn how to make more and more of what we would normally “order out”, we may just cut out all junk food completely. Baby steps….:)