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I am not a big fan of substituting meals with protein shakes or bars.   I really believe in the importance of eating whole foods and I don’t have issues with my weight, so “meal replacement” options have never appealed to me much.

However, I am a busy mom with three young children and I have bought lots of different brands of protein shakes over the years because I like the idea of the convenience of them.  Especially when I’m trying to get three kiddos out the door for school or I’m in the car driving them around for hours in the afternoon, sitting in their gymnastics, tae kwon do, superhero classes straight through meal times.  (Yes, they have superhero classes for toddlers.)  I hate that feeling of getting hungry when I’m out and then being freak-out hungry by the time we get home.

I’d love to say I have a cooler full of fresh snacks in the car like carrot and celery sticks, almonds and apple slices but I don’t.  I’m not that organized.  Not even close.  In fact, it’s all I can do to remember to get all the kids, my keys, wallet and cell phone in the car.  Usually I forget my wallet or my phone but I haven’t forgotten any of the kids yet so I feel pretty good about that…

I have wanted to like protein shakes because they are usually full of nutrients and could fill me up for a few hours with virtually no effort or clean-up in the kitchen.  Plus, I could take them with me in the car.  And I have tried so many…7 different brands in total plus some from the bulk bins at my grocery store.  You name it.  If you’ve heard of them, I’ve tried them.  I want to like them.  My friends who drink them regularly swear they have more energy, better digestion, they are full longer, etc.  I believe them.  The good quality shakes do really pack a punch of protein and vitamins and minerals.  But in my humble opinion they ALL taste chalky, even when I add rice or almond milk, bananas, peanut butter, etc.  And they ALL taste kind of fake, even the ones that I know are natural.  There is some kind of odd aftertaste with each one of them that just makes me feel like I’m not having real food.

So when a friend of mine mentioned she had started drinking (and selling) Shakeology and they had a vegan chocolate version I should try, I said “Cool, I’m sure I won’t like it though,  I can’t stand protein shakes.”  (She is a Beachbody coach, where she offers support as a fitness trainer and promotes the workouts like   P90X, Insanity, and T25 to name a few.  She also promotes their brand of protein shakes, Shakeology.   I have used the P90X dvds on and off for years so I wasn’t put off by it all.  More about direct marketing in a minute…)

As a coach, she gets a discount on the expensive Shakeology shakes and she told me if I didn’t like it I could return it within 30 days for a full refund, even if the bag was empty.

While I like to support my friends, I was still hesitant because the shakes were expensive and I don’t tend to like them anyway.  But it so happens that a couple of days later when I was leaving my gym I noticed they were advertising Shakeology at their juice/coffee bar.  It was that limbo time between lunch and dinner when I usually start to drag and contemplate having another cup of coffee.  They had the vegan chocolate version so I decided to order a shake with banana and peanut butter.  I fully expected not to like it, I was almost cringing as I put the straw to my lips.  But IT WAS GOOD!  Ok, I mostly tasted peanut butter, but I could taste a hint of chocolate too.  It was NOT sickening sweet (I think some companies load their shakes with sugar to cover up the awful taste), it was NOT chalky and there was NO aftertaste.  NO AFTERTASTE!

I drank the whole 16oz shake and I liked it the whole time.  In fact, I called my friend I was so excited that I liked it.  And after I drank it I felt great.  Full, but not too full.  I felt much more energetic than usual.  I felt good.  Awake, satisfied, and it was just sweet enough that I felt like I had a little afternoon treat.

That night I got online to start researching the ingredients.  Shakeology’s ingredients have a slew of really great superfoods and antioxidants.  The Shakeology shakes are natural and only sweetened with a little bit of stevia leaf and tapioca.  (Stevia leaf is much more mild than stevia leaf extract, something I tried once in my coffee and didn’t like at all.  Terrible aftertaste.)

I started reading reviews comparing Shakeology shakes to other popular brands and even the few that had similar, high quality ingredients didn’t compare in taste.

I watched a video clip where they had 100 doctors across many fields of medicine endorse the shakes and their nutritional value.

What was even more unbelievable to me was that I craved the shake and the way it made me feel again the next day and I went to my gym just to get one.  I ordered a bag and I haven’t looked back.  I have one each day either for breakfast or for a mid-afternoon snack.  I feel good, I think it has curbed my cravings for sweets and my digestion is great.  I am thrilled I have such a convenient, nutritious way to fill up a little when I’m on the go.  When you break down the pricing it’s a little less than $4.00/shake.  Keep in mind it is a healthy meal replacement.  A meal that includes prebiotics and probiotics, protein and amino acids, antioxidants, phytonutrients, adaptogens, and digestive enzymes and that is completely worth $4 to me.  You can’t go through a drive thru for $4 can you?  You can barely get a drink at a coffee shop for $4.

*I do always add almond or rice milk and a banana with either frozen berries or peanut butter and I always mix it in my blender.  I’m sure if you just tried to stir some of the shake into a cup of water, you might not love it.  But blending it with a couple of other healthy ingredients only takes about 2 minutes and is totally worth it.

Now, about direct marketing… People have some serious opinions about it.  Personally, it doesn’t bother me at all.  I have several friends who make a very good living working for companies like Arbonne, Rodan+Fields, and doTERRA.  None of my friends have ever been pushy about it and the products they sell are amazing.  Direct marketing, or network marketing as it’s sometimes called, is NOT a pyramid scheme, which many people liken it to, it is just a successful business model.   Tupperware, Avon, Mary Kay are all examples of direct marketing companies that have been around a long time.  Warren Buffet bought The Pampered Chef, another direct marketing company, back in 2002 and has been quoted as saying it’s one of the best investments he’s ever made.

There are reputable direct marketing companies.  Ones that have been around for many years, ones that make sure their products are made in the USA, ones that give back to the countries where they source ingredients, ones that only use Fair Trade practices while sourcing those ingredients.

Yes, often the products they sell seem expensive but quality products are more expensive.  And there is no shame in making a good living.  I know many women who support their entire families from their hard work at these companies.  And they get to work around their children’s schedule.  That’s pretty great, if you ask me.

Usually, you can get significant discounts on products from these companies if you sign up as a consultant and typically there is a small fee for that.  It doesn’t mean you have to sell the product yourself, the membership just allows you to receive the discounts.  I look at it like a Costco membership.  I pay a certain amount a year to belong to Costco and it’s worth it because I shop there every month and I do save money on the products I like and use frequently.  So don’t be put off if you are asked to “sign-up” when exploring these companies or trying their products.  You don’t have to sign up for anything if you don’t want to but if you know you like the product and want to incorporate it into your life, why wouldn’t you?

And if you decide you like it enough to sell it, or you want to create your own home-based business, you might just be able to make some money sharing a product you believe in.  What’s so bad about that?

*I very recently signed up to be a coach myself because I really do love the shakes, it fits in perfectly with my nutrition background and my busy mom lifestyle, and I believe in Beachbody’s fitness and nutrition philosophy.  Please email me at adrienne@theveggiehouse.com if you would like to know more about the products or want to try the shakes.

 

 

6 ingredients: gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free

  • cauliflower
  • almond flour
  • olive oil
  • egg (or a flax egg)*
  • salt
  • italian seasonings

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FINALLY I’ve found a DELICIOUS gluten-free pizza crust.

Since finding out my daughter has Celiac few months ago, pizza seems to be the one thing that she misses most.  We’ve tried every gf pizza crust they sell at the grocery store and none of them are great.  I’ve tried to make my own with various gf flour blends and she didn’t like those either.  I’ve ordered gf pizza from every restaurant in town that sells it. They all taste like cardboard.  She takes two bites and shoves it away and I don’t blame her.  She’s been such a trooper about changing her diet so drastically but the other day she was watching someone eat pizza and she looked at me with tears in her sweet, 5-year-old eyes and said “I miss eating pizza.”  So last week I was on a mission.

I’ve heard great things about cauliflower pizza crusts but I was skeptical to say the least. Cauliflower?  REALLY?  I’m new to Instagram and a couple of people I follow posted cauliflower pizza crusts that looked amazing last week so I took it as a sign and decided to finally give it a try.

It sounded like a lot of work but it really wasn’t.  The prep time is only about 15 min.

I’ve never had so little faith in anything I was making in the kitchen before.  But it was unbelievable!  I served it to my daughter and and she loved it and ate two whole pieces.  I’ve made it several times since and she eats it right up.  I made it for a couple of friends the other day and they said it was the best gf pizza they had ever had.  One even said she liked it better than regular pizza.  It’s also really filling without making you feel bloated and too full after.

Cauliflower is now a staple on my grocery list.  One large head of cauliflower will make about two 10-12 inch pizzas.

  • Cut and rinse half a head of cauliflower, add to your blender and pulse until it is pureed.
  • Transfer to a glass bowl and microwave the pureed cauliflower for 4 minutes.
  • After it has cooled for a few minutes transfer to a cheesecloth or strainer bag and squeeze out as much water as possible.
  • After that, add the cauliflower to a mixing bowl.
  • Add 2 tbsp of almond flower, 1 tbsp of olive oil, 1 egg and seasonings.
  • Mix well and then and place the “dough” onto a piece of parchment paper on a baking stone.
  • Spread out with your hands, NOT a rolling pin.
  • Bake in the oven at 450 degrees for about 10 min.
  • Then take it out of the oven, add toppings and bake again for about 5-10 min.

The photo above is the pizza I made for myself with a cashew cream pesto and lots of veggies.  For my kids I use tomato sauce and cheese.  It’s great either way.

*To make a vegan version of the pizza crust use a flax egg, which is 1 tbsp of finely ground flax seeds and 3 tbsp of water.  Add ground flax to a bowl, then add the water.  Whisk for a minute and then let it set up in the fridge for about 15 min. before you add to the recipe.

7 ingredients:  gluten and dairy free

  • strawberries
  • blueberries
  • bananas
  • kale
  • almond butter
  • almond milk
  • cardamom

 

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I’ve found my new favorite breakfast smoothie.  This is so good and the almond butter gives it some protein so it’s extra filling.  The almond butter has a much milder flavor than peanut butter so it’s great to add to fruit smoothies.  (I’m not a huge fan of protein powders but I do like to make sure my smoothies have some healthy proteins and fats.)

Add the following ingredients to your blender:

  • 1 handful of frozen strawberries
  • 1 handful of frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 a banana
  • 1 handful of fresh kale
  • 1 cup of almond milk (more if you like a thinner consistency)
  • 1 tbsp. of ground cardamom

Blend for about 30 seconds and it’s ready.

 

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4 ingredients:  gluten, grain and dairy free

  • almond meal/flour
  • eggs
  • salt
  • pepper

 

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There are a lot of gluten-free products out there, which is great when you are transitioning off of a more traditional diet.  I have a 5 year daughter with Celiac so I’m always looking for crackers, breads, pastas and pizzas that are gluten-free.  She’s still a kid who wants typical kid foods.  I’ve found many things she likes but almost all of what I have been buying is made with a blend of rice flour and potato starch.  So I feel like I’m essentially just giving her loads of refined ingredients even though they are gluten-free.

The Paleo diet has never interested me much because I think it would be virtually impossible for a vegetarian to follow it.  It’s heavy on animal protein and excludes grains and legumes for the most part.  But I did stumble across some cool recipes lately that use almond flour, which is gluten and grain free and I like the idea of not using rice flour all the time.

One of my favorite new sites is www.elanaspantry.com where I came across this recipe for crackers.

These were so easy to make and they’re actually really good.  I’ve had them with peanut butter and jam and I’ve had them with creamed spinach on top.  They’re not quite as crunchy as traditional crackers  but I thought they were great and will continue to make them.

In your blender or food processor combine the following ingredients:

  • 2 cups almond meal/flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt  (I actually used 1/2 tsp)
  • 1/4 tsp cracked pepper
  • Pulse a few times until it forms a dough.  Then roll it out as thin as you can on a baking stone and bake for 12-14 minutes at 350 degrees.  They suggest rolling the dough out between two sheets of parchment paper.  I didn’t have any and it was fine.
  • After the dough is rolled out cut it into squares with a pizza cutter or a sharp knife before you bake it.
  • Let them cool a few minutes and the take them off the baking stone with a spatula. They came off easily and I only broke two of them.  Mine weren’t very uniform in size but it made about 20-30 small crackers.

6 ingredients:  gluten and dairy free

  • hazelnuts
  • cocoa powder
  • rice milk
  • coconut sugar
  • vanilla
  • maple syrup

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My kids love nutella.  In fact, to be honest, they love all kinds of junk food, most of which other people (grandparents) let them try for the first time.  Which really flies in the face of my goal to raise healthy children on a diet of clean, whole foods.

Although, I’m not perfect either.  They often have to come to the grocery store with me and I will gladly buy the chips or chocolate they beg for in order to avoid a couple of kids scream-crying and as I push my cart through the store.

Yet, they caught me off guard the other day when I walked into my living room to check on my two little ones who were playing so nicely and overheard my 3 year old say to my 5 year old…”Ok, my name will be Cheeto in the game, your name will be Dorito.”

UGH!

Before I had kids my plan was no sugar, no tv, no plastic toys.  Hahahahaha!

(Did I mention they were playing Cheeto and Dorito while watching a movie and playing with plastic legos?)

So my new goal is to have them mostly eat treats that I make because I can trick them and make healthier versions of their favorite indulgences.  I recently came across a vegan recipe for homemade nutella online that looked pretty good.  I had to adjust it quite a bit until my oldest finally said it was just right.

  • Roast 1 cup of hazelnuts in the oven for 10 min. at 375 degrees.
  • After they cool take the skins off.  They come off really easily, it took me about 5 minutes.
  • Pulse them in the blender until they get powdery.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients below and blend until smooth.  (Which took me a lot longer than I thought it would, about 2 minutes all together.)
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup of coconut sugar (or any sugar you have on hand)
  • 1/2 cup of rice milk or almond milk
  • 2-3 tbsp maple syrup

Depending on how sweet you like it you can add a little more or less sugar.  My oldest told me in no uncertain terms I did not add enough when I tried just 1/4 cup.  She also thought it tasted a little chalky at first so I kept adding rice milk and blending until it was really smooth and a little thinner than I had planned.  But after putting it in the fridge for a bit it was about the same consistency of the Nutella you can buy at the store.

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 ingredients:  gluten and dairy free

  • fresh spinach
  • cashew cream
  • red onions
  • grapeseed or sesame oil
  • garlic
  • salt and pepper

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This is my new favorite side dish.  I also sometimes make it in the morning and put it on toast for breakfast.  It’s quick, easy to whip up and perfect for this time of year.

 

  • Add about a tsp of grapeseed or sesame oil to a skillet over low-medium heat.
  • Add about 1/4 cup of chopped red onion and a grated clove of garlic to the heated skillet.
  • Stir for about a minute and then add two big handfuls of raw spinach.  (You could also use kale.)
  • Pour 1/2 a cup of cashew cream over it all and stir together for about 5 minutes.  If the cashew cream starts to stick to the skillet, just add a spoonful or two of water.
  • Click here for my cashew cream recipe.
  • Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

You can spread it over toast for a warm, filling breakfast or you can put it in a bowl with tortilla chips as an appetizer.

 

6 ingredients:  gluten and dairy free

eggplant

tahini

lemon

olive oil

parsley

salt

optional: smoked paprika and/or crushed red pepper

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I don’t cook with eggplants very often, mainly because I don’t like peeling them.  They’re kind of a pain.  Also, I’m the only one in my family who likes them so it seems like a lot of trouble for just me.    But not anymore.  I watched Curtis Stone from Take Home Chef poke some holes in an eggplant with a fork and place it directly on the oven rack to cook it until it was tender.  Then he just let it cool a bit and peeled the eggplant like a banana!  I couldn’t believe it.  From there it takes about 5 minutes to whip up the Baba ghanoush.  Here is how I make mine…

  • Poke holes in the eggplant with a fork, like you would a baked potato, and place it on the oven rack to cook at 350 degrees for about 45-60 minutes, or until tender.
  • Let it cool and peel the skin off.
  • Cut the ends off and then cut it lengthwise and scrape out most of the seeds.  (The seeds make it bitter)
  • Take the flesh and add it to a bowl and mash it really well with a fork. You can also pulse it in the blender.
  • Add a spoonful or two of tahini, a drizzle of olive oil, the juice of half a lemon and a handful of fresh parsley to the eggplant and stir well.
  • Salt to taste.  I like to use crushed red pepper to give it a little kick but you don’t have to.

Traditionally Baba ghanoush is made with garlic as well but I think it’s really fresh and light without it.  I don’t always have fresh garlic on hand and either way it’s great.

I like to dip rice chips or tortilla chips in it.  It’s delicious, full of fiber and really easy to whip up.

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I have tried a couple of gluten-free pastas that I like.  I prefer quinoa pasta to brown rice pasta but I’ll eat either.  My kids are a little more particular though and don’t like either of those so after my daughter’s Celiac diagnosis I had to try something new.  My kids eat pasta a couple of times a week (at least) so the search began…

I’m so happy I’ve found Bionaturae gluten-free pasta.  It’s the BEST!  It tastes just like traditional pasta, so much so that it’s the only one I buy now and all of my kids like it.

Some gluten free pastas seem a little slimy after you cook them but not this one.  The only catch is that you need to cook it almost twice as long as it says on the package, in my opinion.  Small price to pay for good gf pasta.

They have rigatoni, fusilli, spaghetti, penne, elbow macaroni, linguine and spaghetti.  (Or as my kids say, “long slurpy noodles”.

Thank you Bionaturae!

 

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I’m still wrapping my head around the phone call I recently received from my daughter’s pediatrician.  After two months of my sweet 5 year old having bouts of extreme diarrhea and vomiting, after missing about 4 weeks of school in the first two months of kindergarten, after being told she had a virus, then a stomach bug, then a parasite, we finally ran some blood work and found she tested positive for Celiac Disease.  She tested very positive.  Her numbers were so high, in fact, that after consulting with a pediatric gastroenterologist and her pediatrician I decided to forgo the intestinal biopsy, which is the recommended procedure (in the U.S.) after a positive blood test.  But there is virtually no question she has Celiac based on her blood work.  And after just two days completely off of gluten she is feeling much better and has completely stopped having diarrhea and stopped throwing up in her sleep.

I know there are far worse things than Celiac.  I have close friends who deal with many other more serious and stressful health issues with their children.  I feel very lucky that this is something I can control with diet.  But I still felt like I got punched in the stomach when my doctor called the other night.  I was in a store and I actually had to sit down.  Celiac is an autoimmune disease and she will have it the rest of her life.  And, yes, I write a gluten-free blog but my 5 year old is not gluten-free.  She is my pickiest eater.  She is the reason why I have to sneak veggies and cashew cream into my kids food.  And my children are lifelong vegetarians.  Most people I know who are gluten-free rely heavily on animal protein in their diets.

But I am not afraid.  If anyone is going to have a health challenge with their child that can be entirely controlled with diet, I’m your girl.  But I feel for her.  How inconvenient and confusing for a 5 year old.   As I started to feel sad for her not being able to get a donut at our favorite coffee shop or have pizza and cake at birthday parties, I quickly snapped out of it.   First of all, that’s just junk food and there is plenty of junk food that is naturally gluten-free like ice cream, hot chocolate, etc.  I don’t want her to have that stuff very often anyway.

The more I thought about it all the more I realized there has probably never been a better time in history to have an allergy to gluten!  Grocery stores, restaurants, even coffee shops are offering gluten-free fare.  This can be figured out.  This is a situation that calls for focusing on all of the things she can still eat, not the things she can’t.  Rice, tofu, potatoes, fruits, veggies, peanut butter, popcorn, milk, and yogurt are some of her mainstays and they are still safe.  Whew!  I have found a fantastic gluten-free pasta and gluten-free pancake mix that all of my kids love so those foods are on the table again.  (I’ll talk about those in some upcoming blog posts.)

She has been such a trooper these last few weeks.  I think, even at 5 years old, she is relieved to know what was making her so sick and even more relieved to know how to feel good again.  We just went to the first birthday party since her diagnosis where we knew she wouldn’t be able to eat the birthday cake.  But we brought her new favorite oreo-like gluten- free cookies (thanks Glutino!) and she happily liked the icing out of the middle of them while the other kids ate cake.  She’s going to be fine.

I’ll be posting my latest, favorite gluten-free finds very soon…

3 ingredients:

baking soda

apple cider vinegar

lemon and/or orange essential oil

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Don’t eat this.  You probably figured that out from the title of the post…

I’ve been making my own cleaners lately and they’re right in line with The Veggie House. Simple recipes made with vegetarian ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen. I scent mine with high quality, pure essential oils which make everything smell better.  (Pure lemon oil is also a great astringent which makes it a nice addition to cleaning products.)

This really works too.  I wasn’t sure but I thought I’d try it before I bought some gross chemical drain cleaner that makes my whole bathroom smell like bleach for half the day.

Pour about 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain with a few drops of lemon essential oil and then follow that with about 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar.  It will start to bubble right away and when it does plug the drain.  If you don’t have a plug, just set a dish or something over the drain so that it can’t all bubble out.  Leave it for 1/2 an hour or so and then rinse with hot water.  Completely unclogged the drain and it has stayed unclogged. Super inexpensive, completely natural and it works.  How great is that?