Safeway SimpleNutrition giveaway winners!

safeway SimpleNutrition

Congratulations to the two lucky winners of the Safeway SimpleNutrition gift card giveaway!

Winner #1 is Kashena!
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Winner #2 is Katrina Tomashicka!
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Congratulations to both of you! I will send you an e-mail to get your mailing address for the gift card.

Spicy noodles with asparagus and broccoli

It really feels like spring this week. It is in the 70s here (80s tomorrow!). The kids are playing in the backyard without shirts or shoes. The birds are happily tweeting away in the freshly-greened trees. There is a breeze blowing that softly reminds me that winter still has a tiny hold, but the air smells like summer. While I should be gathering laundry and dusting tables, I feel more inclined to sit and soak up the sun. "The dishes can wait," says the slacker in me, "go get your Kindle!"

I have been keeping a close eye on the roadside strawberry stands near my house. They should be open really soon and I can't wait! It is also the beginning of asparagus season. I've been known to eat an entire pound of asparagus myself. It is just that good.

I usually roast it in the oven with a little olive oil and sea salt:

asparagus

Last night, though, I was ravenous when I got home from triathlon training. Instead of asparagus alone, I wanted something more substantial. These spicy noodles come together really quickly and the recipe makes a ton so you'll have leftovers for another night or for lunches throughout the week. This dish is intended to be eaten cold, like a salad, but it would be fine warm as well.

spicy Asian noodles

Spicy Noodles With Asparagus and Broccoli
  • ~15 ounces of soba noodles or whole wheat pasta*
  • 2 cups chopped fresh broccoli
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, cut in bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds (lightly toast them in a dry skillet or buy toasted seeds)
  • 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 low sodium soy sauce*
  • 1 tbsp chili garlic sauce (or other hot sauce or chili flakes, adjust amount based on desired spice level)
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tsp aji-mirin (rice wine), optional
  1. Cook the noodles according to the package directions. In the last minute of cooking, add the broccoli and asparagus to the pot. When finished cooking, drain and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking and rinse away the starch that makes the noodles stick together.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the noodle mixture with the carrots, sesame seeds, and green onions.
  3. Make the sauce by whisking together the soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and aji-mirin. Pour the sauce over the noodles and toss well. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
*Gluten free: This dish can be made gluten free by substituting rice or other gluten free noodles and using a gluten free tamari (soy sauce). If using full-sodium soy sauce, reduce the amount by 1/4 to 1/2 (down to 2-3 tablespoons).

Asian noodles

Ratatouille over polenta with tempeh "sausage"


I am a huge fan of garlic and frequently come up with meal ideas centered around that main ingredient. Sometimes that means simple sauteed greens. Other times it is a more complex dish with lots of different layers of flavor. This meal was of the latter type and I LOVED how these flavors all came together. It is sweet, savory, smokey, and just a tiny bit spicy all at once.This is an enjoy-with-a-glass-of-wine kind of meal!

vegan ratatouille over polenta

Polenta
4 cups of water
1 cup of polenta
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp liquid smoke (optional)
1 tbsp margarine (I use organic Earth Balance)
Olive oil
  1. Heat the water and salt to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, slowly add the polenta. Reduce the heat to medium, add the margarine and liquid smoke, and stir continuously until very thick.
  2. Pour mixture into an 8x8 inch (or similar size) pan lined with parchment paper. Let cool completely (can be refrigerated to speed this up). Once cool, remove from the pan by lifting the parchment paper. Cut into roughly 2-inch squares.
  3. Lightly coat (or spray) a skillet or griddle with olive oil. Heat over medium heat then fry the polenta squares until lightly browned on each side.
Ratatouille
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
2 zucchinis (courgettes), chopped
1-2 cups chopped eggplant (aubergine)
1/2 - 1 red bell pepper, chopped
5 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Vegan tempeh "sausage" (see recipe below)
Chopped fresh basil
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and saute for several minutes- until the onions begin to brown. Add zucchini (courgette), eggplant (aubergine), and bell peppers. Cook until they begin to soften and the zucchini is lightly browned in places. Add chopped tomatoes and dried herbs and cook for a few minutes more. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir in the tempeh sausage.
Vegan Tempeh "Sausage"
1 tbsp olive oil
1 package of tempeh of your choice, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (adjust amount if you would like it to be more/less spicy)
1-2 tsp Bragg's liquid aminos (or soy sauce)
  1. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the tempeh and saute until it begins to brown. Add the garlic and remaining ingredients, except the Bragg's aminos. Saute until the garlic is lightly brown. Sprinkle the Bragg's aminos over the tempeh (it is VERY salty, so start with less and add more if necessary!). Cook for a minute or two more then remove from heat.
To serve: Place two squares of polenta on a plate then top with ratatouille/sausage mixture. Sprinkle fresh basil over the top.

vegan polenta with ratatouille

vegan polenta with tempeh sausage and ratatouille

On blogging

journal

A fellow blogger tweeted yesterday about how reading old blog posts is like flipping through old journals. I was doing the same thing the other day and I completely agree! While Get Natured is only a little under a year and a half old, I have been blogging for over six years (before Get Natured there was my Allibrew blog). Over the years I have found my voice and become a better photographer. I have met and been inspired by so many awesome people online. I have grown as a human.

I will occasionally be republishing old posts from Allibrew because I think they are helpful or they contain a message that I want to share here. I'll start with one of my very first reflections on blogging from way back in 2005!

Cultivating Life
(Originally published Feb 26, 2005)

As I was sowing seeds for my garden today, I was reflecting on the metaphor that it presented. As I carefully and delicately placed the seeds in the soil, I was imagining the future of the garden. How could these tiny seeds become a vegetarian bounty to share with friends and family? How fantastic it is that the plants that will grow from these seeds will produce so much more these little flecks! Without soil, water, sunlight, and maybe a little love, the garden would never come to be. Now that they have been planted, the seeds have a new beginning today. They will carry forward their genetics and they will become plants as healthy as the ones that they came from and a product of their new and ever-changing environment.

Somewhere, in the midst of my reflection, it occurred to me that my blog is following a similar path. There are tiny seeds of contemplation dwelling in my soul. Holding onto these thoughts creates a quiet fear of losing them. It is as though they become something valuable and necessary as soon as they arise. With this blog as my plot, I’m able to plant the seeds and alleviate the subtle urgency to free them. I am, no doubt, tempted to reach into the past to attempt the retrieval of ideas gone by. Some of them are free floating in the back of my mind but they change shape and completely lose their magic when I try to bring them forward. Others are actually captured in the volumes of my old journals.

Recently, thinking that I had a beautiful story hidden in my past, I scoured my treasured journals. One journal, in particular, was my travel companion everywhere that I went in 1992 and 1993. Recalling some of the magnificent prose that I had captured in these things that I once held so dear, I went on a hunt for the contents of my first book. What I discovered was that they held nothing more than the average story of a mystified girl.

When I put the journals back in the box where I keep them, I also let go of the assignment that I was holding over my own head- no book is contained in those pages. They hold only chapters that provide proof that I hadn’t captured what mattered to me. I guess that’s my blog resolution of sorts- to connect to me and to document my exploration. Bon voyage!

Safeway SimpleNutrition and a GIVEAWAY!

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Safeway stores recently launched a program called SimpleNutrition. The program was developed by registered dietitians and food labeling experts to help shoppers with choosing healthful products based on what is important to them. Shelf tags highlighting up to two key nutrition benefits have been added to many of the items in the stores. From the program website:

Nutrition benefit tags include Made with Whole Grains, Sodium Smart, Good Source of Fiber, Low in Fat, Good Source of Calcium and many more. You'll also find products tagged with benefits such as Gluten Free and "Organic. Look for the green tags while you shop!

If you're a label-reading kind of shopper, you may find that this helps to quickly narrow down your search among multiple brands of similar products. For those who typically make their food choices based on other factors (price, habit, etc.), this might prompt you to consider the health factor- this is a good thing.

Being the label-reading food nerd that I am, I found some of the tags to be more helpful than others. For example, "Gluten Free", "Organic", and "Good Source of Calcium" were more useful than the mysterious "Made with Whole Grains" or "Natural". It would be great to also see labels for "Vegan", "Vegetarian", "Good Source of Iron", or "Good Source of Protein" (I didn't notice any of those in my store).

All in all, I think this is a very positive addition to our grocery store shelves. I'm all for bringing light to the contents of our food. Anything that gets the attention of consumers who usually don't consider nutritional value when selecting products is a good thing!

GIVEAWAY!

The folks at the SimpleNutrition program provided me with two $25 gift cards to give away to you!

TO ENTER: Please leave a comment on this post telling me whether you read labels when you shop or if you base your purchases on something else.

The fine print: Two winners will be chosen via random drawing. Each winner will receive one $25 gift card that is good at Safeway, Vons, Pavilions, Genuardi's, Dominick's, Carrs, Randalls, and Tom Thumb. Contest ends Wednesday March 30th at 11:59pm PDT. Winner will be announced on Thursday the 31st.

Good luck!!

Chocolate chip zucchini bread

My kids are really good about eating their veggies. They definitely have their favorites but I try to keep offering the ones that they haven't liked in the past and ask only that they take one bite (unless they want more!). Zucchini is a tricky one because it can sometimes be a little bitter. I took full advantage of the spirit of St. Patrick's day and the boys and I made zucchini bread for dessert last night. My kids put their "no green flecks in my food" rule aside in honor of St. Pat and, with the addition of a "secret ingredient" (aka chocolate chips), they enjoyed this green-ish and wholesome treat.

zucchini bread

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread (vegan)
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (whole wheat pastry flour works well)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2/3 cup non-dairy milk
  • 2/3 cup real maple syrup (this is a pretty sweet bread and this could be reduced to 1/3 cup)
  • 1/4 cup oil (canola, coconut, olive - your choice)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups grated zucchini
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup hemp seeds (optional, adds protein, iron, and omega 3s)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375º F (190º C). In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, spices, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the milk, syrup, oil, lemon juice, vanilla, and zucchini. Add to the dry mixture and stir gently to combine. Fold in the raisins, chocolate chips, walnuts, and hemp seeds.
  3. Pour batter into a loaf pan* lined with parchment paper (or lightly oiled). Bake for 45-50 minutes, until lightly browned and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
*Note: You can also bake this as muffins. Reduce baking time to approximately 20-25 minutes.

loaf of zucchini bread

chocolate chip zucchini bread

vegan zucchini bread

slice of vegan zucchini bread

Quick and easy granola bars

I love the convenience of energy bars but I can't eat any one kind very often because I get burned out on them very quickly. Besides that, they tend to be expensive. These bars are easy to make and they taste great. The ingredients are flexible too, so that really helps to minimize the burn-out factor. Feel free to customize them to your liking! They can easily be made gluten-free too (just make sure that your ingredients are gluten free versions).

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Quick and Easy Granola Bars
Makes about 12
  • 1/2 cup slivered or chopped almonds (or other nuts)
  • 1/2 cup sunflower or other seeds
  • 1/2 cup raisins, dried cranberries, or other dried fruit (or a combo)
  • 2 tbsp hemp or other seeds
  • 1/4 cup raw cacao nibs (or chocolate pieces)
  • 2 cups rolled (old-fashioned) oats
  • 2 cups toasted rice cereal (like Rice Krispies, I use the Barbara's brand brown rice version)
  • 1/2 cup nut or seed butter (I like almond)
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Combine the first seven ingredients (almonds through rice cereal) in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Combine the nut butter, rice syrup, maple syrup, and vanilla in a microwave safe bowl. Warm in the microwave until pourable. Pour over the dry ingredients and mix until well combined.
  3. Firmly press the mixture into a 9x13 inch pan lined with parchment paper and put in the freezer. When cooled and hardened, remove from the pan by lifting it out by the parchment paper and place on a cutting board. Cut into bars and individually wrap.
For 12 bars: 287 calories, 9g protein, 16g fat, 37g carbohydrates, 15g sugar

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Ecover products- thank you Naturally Savvy!

A while back, I won an online giveaway hosted by Naturally Savvy. I received four products from Ecover and I was super excited because I love Ecover! Their dishwasher tablets (available at Costco) are the only natural product that I've found that works well on our dishes and their laundry detergent smells nice and cleans well too.

Naturally Savvy sent me Ecover all purpose cleaner, dishwasher tablets, delicate laundry wash, stain remover, and a reusable bag:

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Thank you Naturally Savvy!

Blueberry super pancakes

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These pancakes are easily the best I've ever tasted. Especially if you top them with powdered sugar, margarine, and a squeeze of lemon. Really, these are bed-and-breakfast good! I added a few extra goodies, so they are healthy (aka "super") too.

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Blueberry Super Pancakes
  • 1 cup of whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (or more whole wheat)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened coconut)
  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseeds
  • 3 tbsp hemp (or sunflower) seeds
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp oil (canola, coconut, etc.- your choice)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup blueberries (if using frozen, defrost them in a strainer under warm water)
  1. Preheat your griddle over medium heat. Combine the flours and baking powder in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. Place all remaining ingredients, except for the blueberries in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the wet ingredients over the flour mixture and stir to combine. Some small lumps are ok- you don't want to over-mix the batter or the pancakes will be tough. Fold in the blueberries.
  3. Cook on a heated griddle, flipping when the edges are bubbly.
To serve, spread margarine (I use Earth Balance) on top of warm pancakes, dust with powdered sugar, and squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the top.

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