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Or you could use your cast iron to press tofu, whatever works right?

I come from a family of foodies. A lot of people tell me they come from a long line of foodies, but I have yet to meet any family that is as passionate about food as the Burleson Clan. I have fond memories of sitting around the kitchen with my Grandma and Papa amidst the friendly bickering over sauces, fluffy rolls, tender meats, and perfectly baked pies. These folks know how to cook. My Dad can look at a fridge of literally nothing and create a mouthwatering masterpiece. Two main principles that I learned as a child:

  • It isn’t complicated.
  •  Multiple appliances are handy, but aren’t necessary

The question is, what does a home cook really need? I am going to start with what I believe are the essentials, and then I am going to give a second list of items I believe are extra convenient.

We lived in a 115 year old apartment this past year, and the kitchen was TINY. I learned how to maximize the space I had! Oh, also there is my husband on Easter Sunday helping me out with some prep.

  1. A cast iron pan: I have an entire set of really nice All-Clad pans that I love and use, but without a doubt the over 100 year old 10 inch cast iron pan, passed from Sam’s mother, receives the most attention. I bake, sauté, and re-heat to perfection in this one pan. After I’m done with pancakes, cornbread, pizza, baked tofu, or any other endeavor, I simply wipe it out! Simplicity at its finest.
  2. Vitamix Blender: Yes it is possible to cook without this blender; however, I believe that it is one of the best investments you can make for your health. I love smoothies, but to be honest that is not why I love the Vitamix. I blend flours, whip up sauces, create nut butters and milks and puree soups. It is easy breezy to clean and if I’m going to be away from my kitchen for more than 3 days, I travel with it.
  3. Zyliss julienne peeler and Y- peeler:  I acquired my julienne peeler when I was hanging out with my friend Katie. I was rummaging through her kitchen drawer while we were making dinner, and I asked her what it was. She responded that she didn’t know what it was for but it was gifted to her at a wedding shower. She said I could have it if I wanted. I took it home and realized I had struck gold. It spiyralizes zucchini, carrots and cucumbers with no fuss at all! I also own a Paderno Spiralizer, but I find myself far preferring this simple $7 tool for the minimal hassle. I use it almost every day for salads, and it is small enough to travel with. I bought the zyliss y-peeler this year because the one I had wasn’t working very well. I use the y-peeler to make large ribbon zoodles for veggie lasagna, peeling butternut squash effortlessly, and any other skin peeling that needs to go down.
  4. At least one descent and sharp knife: I will be the first to admit that I really don’t know very much about nice knives. When cooking plants, you don’t need a super nice knife, but you do need a sharp knife to prevent injury. Not to mention how frustrating it is when you are trying to cut a pepper or a tomato and can’t break through the skin. In short, to keep your fingers and prevent tremendous frustration, make sure you are using a knife that is sharp.
  5. Metal utensils: I like to use metal pans and utensils because they don’t melt when they get hot. To me, it seems pretty common sense, but a lot of kitchens I have been in, have only plastic because of the non-stick pans they are trying to protect. A cascade of consequences! As long as you are cooking at the right temperature, a high quality metal pan will not stick. I use very little to no oil when I’m cooking, and in most cases a little vegetable broth or water can also prevent sticking.
  6. A bamboo cutting board: Honestly, any cutting board that is NOT plastic, is a good choice. A lot of people have plastic because they can be cleaned with a dishwasher. I get that, but understand that when you are using sharp knives on plastic, it is very likely that plastic is in your food. Yikes.

Tools that are handy, but aren’t deal breakers:

  1. Cuisnart Food Processor: This is the food processor that I have, but I’m sure many others would do the job! I like this one specifically because it has 2 attachments that slice and grate. It cleans up very easily, and I use it almost daily. There are some things that the food processor does better than the Vitamix. Hummus, protein balls and pudding to name a few. I love the ease of chopping veggies extremely fast!!
  2. Kitchen-Aid Mixer : I struggle if this one should go in the absolute essential tools because of how useful it is. However, it is pretty bulky! For the tiny kitchen, it can be a burden. I also don’t use it every single day. I like it for mixing veggie burgers and making cookies obviously.

As time marches on, I most certainly will add to this list. Recommendations and suggestions are always welcome!

After almost a year of working with women and their families who are trying to make healthier lifestyle shifts, I learned that it is almost impossible to please everyone with any one type of meal plan. What works for me and my brood may be a complete bust for you and yours. A few months ago while trying to put together a spring eBook meal plan, I came across the idea of making hotdogs out of carrots. It became one of our favorite meal options, so why not put it on the eBook for the group I was coaching?? Long story short, it was a total bust outside of our family and became the punchline for every “so you’re a vegan?” joke. When coaching busy mommies, my philosophy is always KEEP IT SIMPLE! I like to write recipes and try new things, but the reality is that my normal every day is cooking what’s available in the fridge and making something out of nothing. Better if I can do that and clean it up in less than 45 minutes. However, it has taken lots of practice to get to that point. So, it is better to have a PLAN, even if it is a scrappy one. Here are a handful of guidelines that work for most people:

  •  3-4 hour weekly marathon meal prep is all over the internet right now, and it works for some people. It doesn’t work for me, and I notice that it doesn’t seem to be sustainable for my client base either. Instead, I recommend ladies committing to 10-15 minute chunks of prep time a day, outside of cooking the meals for the day. This may involve chopping extra veggies, boiling rice or beans, or making salad dressings. The idea is that by the end of the week, all the fruits and veggies have been utilized and you feel like you spent minimal time in the kitchen. I usually make room for 1-2 flex days that re-purpose leftovers or use up extra scraps from leftover veggies. 
  • Building a pantry doesn’t have to be over complicated. I think of my pantry in sections:

Grains, beans, spices, seeds/nuts, canned (or tetra pack)

Begin with simple and useful grains, such as oats, brown rice, and quinoa. Lentils (red and green) and black beans are crucial. I LOVE spices and my top spices always on hand are chili powder, smoked paprika, oregano, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. I like to have walnuts, sunflower seeds, and almond flour on hand because I can do a lot with those 3. 

  • I don’t buy anything unless I can think of at least two uses. I will use the above pantry items as an example of making at least two things with every pantry essential :

Oats: Standard morning hot oatmeal, veggie burger filler, or ground into flour for muffins. 

Brown rice: Beans and rice, ground into flour using the Vitamix for pancakes or muffins 

Quinoa: I often use quinoa as a way to “beef up” soups if I feel they are too thin, quinoa is also an awesome alternative to brown rice if you need a change. The best thing about quinoa is that it cooks up in less than 12 minutes! 

Lentils: Oh the ways I can use LENTILS!!! Lentil tacos, soups, and curries. Also, lentils can be prepared very quickly in comparison to other beans that are cooked from dry. 

Black beans: Rice and Beans and veggie burgers

Walnuts: Salads and oatmeal topping

Sunflower Seeds: “taco meat” and filler in veggie burgers 

Almond flour: sweet potato biscuits, cookie dough “power balls”

Other things that I keep on hand: tamari or coconut aminos, vegetable broth, green veggies (kale, broccoli, spinach), orange veggies (carrots and sweet potatoes), frozen blueberries and bananas (for muffins or pancakes), maple syrup, almond butter, baking powder, vanilla, medjool dates (for smoothies and baking), and non-dairy milk (I prefer almond milk for how it bakes). 

This is not an exhaustive list, but it is a bare bones list that can scrap together PLANT rich meals every single day! 

I’m including a link to a tool that you can use to help with weekly meal planning and grocery shopping. Click to open my PLANTiful Life grocery list. 

I hope some of these reommendations shed light on how you can simplify your pursuit of health! 

 

 

 

If you follow me on social media, you have probably seen me mentioning my current mantra “enjoy the pause”. In all the hustle and bustle of wrapping up clients in Kansas, Kindergarten for my daughter Mabyl, school for my husband Sam, finalizing our year at Fort Leavenworth, packing our household goods to be loaded in a truck headed to Savannah, and driving 16 hours (plus a few more for potty breaks and toy retrieval), I arrived to the east coast with a literal buzz in my brain. A buzz so loud that I couldn’t hear myself think or process what is next. My sleep was broken, my runs felt frantic, and my parenting was frazzled and loud. Not a good place for me. I muddled through sorting through suitcases, preparing the girls meals, and putting on a pleasant face. All of the recommendations I would give a client were coming up short.

Then, a friend called. “Hey, welcome back. Sorry about the phone tag. You wanna get the girls together for lunch tomorrow?”

A LITTLE WELCOME TO GEORGIA POTTY BREAK IN A CORN FIELD.

Me, “yeah, yeah! That sounds great, meet us at our new house.”

We bought a “turn key” house months ago in an ideal neighborhood; and it sat empty, with the exception of some random furniture pieces that my mom stored temporarily for her furniture booth in Savannah. In my broken dreams the house has been an idea, not a living and breathing home. Only another source of anxiety to jolt me awake at night.

My loyal, practical, and successful friend breezes in. We walk through each room, and the house takes shape. It becomes our house before my eyes. The buzz silences.

Let me put all of this into context. I’m always busy. I crave success, losing is not an option, and self-discipline is my middle name. But there is another side to me. My heart is easily broken. I fall deeply in love with people and places. Army life feels awkward, forced, and many times wounding. The building of friendships, businesses, familiarity, and “home” comes easily but the stripping away is gruesome to my soul. Conversely, I’m madly in love with the man I married.

At the moment, I’m in Anna Maria Island with my two girls and my mom, practicing enjoying the pause between two seasons. All of the things that are ready to build are waiting patiently in Savannah, and the pause is giving me the opportunity to see things a bit more clearly. My hope is that I will arrive with fresh eyes for what is next, and the patience to build it with great intention. Including this webpage and blog!

Thanks to my amazing friend Cassie, I now have a humble landing place for you to peek into who I am as a health coach and as a person. There are incredible dreams for Flux Nourishment and the women it will serve. I can not wait to have you along for the ride.

SWEET SISTERS ON THE BEACH

In August 2006 I was pregnant with my first baby, and I ate ice-cream for breakfast and lunch. Sometimes I mixed it up with a peanut butter and jelly for one of the two meals. I was MISERABLE. But ohhhhh, when the doctor put that precious, squishy, and very heavy (she was basically a toddler on day 1 of her life) baby into my arms, amnesia set in of all the angst over the last 9 months. She was and is my everything. Every mother can relate to what I’m putting down. 

Like every new and clueless mother, I had no idea when or what I was supposed to feed her past breast milk. That is a whole debated subject that is still mostly outside my wheelhouse, but when she was about 1 year old, I was pureeing vegetables, and I had an epiphany. I was obsessed with her eating vegetables at every meal, but I was barely eating vegetables one meal of the day. The idea of being a vegetarian or a vegan had barely tickled my mind, but I started digging for what exactly that would mean. Every book, every documentary, every recipe, and every news article resonated with me so fiercely that I had to investigate for myself. 

It went like this: One day we were eating Boston butt and bacon. The next I was putting spinach, black beans, tortilla strips, salsa, and a sprinkle of cheese on a plate and calling it dinner. My husband is certifiably the most good natured man on the planet, and he ate what I served without asking too many questions. After a week of these types of meals, I asked him what he thought about dinner, and he said, “it’s good, but maybe some chicken would make it better?” We still laugh hysterically over that week, in the fall of 2011, of silent exchanges across the table. I announced that for 30 days we were going to be vegans. 

Fast forward five years, we are NOT card carrying vegans, and I have a much better handle of what a plant based meal should include. My endless experimenting with plant based foods has without question healed my body from the inside out. My experience is not unlike every other case study for the vegan way of life. My skin glows, my energy level soars, my sleep is sound, my sex life is good (yep i said it), and my kids expect vegetables on their plate. When it comes to food, boundaries are good, but fundamentalism is not. In an age of food engineering, following a vegan diet can mean eating a pop tart for breakfast, not chicken nuggets for lunch, a Taco Bell bean taco for dinner, and Ben and Jerry’s dairy free ice cream or Oreos for dessert. For that reason, I do not subscribe to any one way of eating. 

Without a doubt, my coaching style draws from my personal experimentation with eating a plant-iful diet, but I also recognize that gender, activity level, family history, and personal preference drives food choices. For the last six months, I have studied 100 different dietary theories at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. My mind has been opened, and I am equipped to begin people on a journey of healthy living. My hope is that after working with me, your quality of life would greatly improve, and you would be set on a course of intuitively choosing foods that are most beneficial for your body, given any season of life you find yourself in. 

I leave you with chocolate mini muffins as an ode to my style, and my love for CHOCOLATE!!! They are perfect for a slow morning with a cup of coffee, a lunch box treat, or afternoon snack. They can easily be adapted to blueberry muffins for a less indulgent option. When I make them as blueberry muffins, I add 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp nutmeg. 

Chocolate Mini Muffins
Inspired by Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D.
(Gluten free, vegan, oil free, lower sugar)

 

1 cup oat flour
1 cup sprouted brown rice flour (Thrive Market) or regular brown rice flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup of honey (or less)
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
3/4 cup Enjoy Life Mini Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Spray a mini muffin pan or use mini cupcake liners. I use coconut oil spray. 
Mix the dry ingredients in a medium size bowl. 
Mix the wet ingredients in a small bowl. 
Add the wet to the dry, and stir until combined. 
Fold in the mini chocolate chips.
Pour into the pan with a small spoon. I use one spoonful per muffin hole.
Bake for 9 mins or until you press the tops and they pop back up. 
For standard size muffins, bake for 17-20 mins

One of the most difficult aspects of making a drastic shift away from the Standard American Diet (SAD), is the often unfortunate implications it can have on social situations. This part bothered me only slightly in the beginning, and does not bother me at all now. However, I know it was really hard on my husband at first. He was a closet vegetable eater for a long time, until he realized the power of sharing his experience. The BEST way to navigate this obstacle, is to never be apologetic, but to also realize that it may be VERY difficult for someone to accommodate your new eating habits. So, I always bring a large dish to share! This sweet potato biscuit dish is an absolute favorite among adults and children regardless of typical eating habits. It can be adapted to fit a variety of allergies and sensitivities, typical to the majority of the recipes I prepare. 

Vegetarian PotPie with Sweet Potato Biscuits
(Adapted from Perry’s Plate Blog
perrysplate.com)

For the Filling:
4 tablespoons coconut oil
1 yellow onion diced
2 garlic cloves minced
4 tablespoons arrowroot powder
*4 large carrots chopped into bite size pieces
frozen petite peas
head of cauliflower chopped into small pieces
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper

Biscuit topping:
*1 1/3 cup oat flour
1 cup almond flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup solid coconut oil
2 flax eggs (2 tablespoons ground flax seed+5 tablespoons water)
*1 1/2 cup cooked, and chilled sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon maple syrup

Directions:
Heat 1 tablespoon water in an oven-safe, deep saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the carrots, cauliflower, frozen peas, and saute a little longer until the cauliflower pieces are more tender. Sprinkle the arrowroot powder over the vegetables and stir to coat until all the liquid and oil is absorbed. Whisk in the vegetable broth until slightly thickened. Stir in the vinegar, thyme, salt, and pepper to taste. Remove from heat, and cover with a lid until topping is made. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

To make the biscuits:
Combine the 2 tablespoons ground flax seed and 5 tablespoons in a small bowl. Set aside to allow it to thicken. Combine the oat and almond flour, baking powder, and salt in a food processor. Pulse to blend. Add the coconut oil in pieces, pulsing until the mixture is crumbly. Add the flax mixture, maple syrup and sweet potato and pulse until the mixture comes together into a dough. Let it sit for 5 minutes. 
Use an ice cream scoop and dollop the sweet potato mixture on top of the vegetable filling. The topping doesn’t necessarily need to cover the filling, but space the mounds evenly. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the biscuits begin to brown, and are cooked through. If the tops are getting brown too quickly, cover the pan with aluminum foil. 

*organic frozen carrots are an excellent short cut that does not compromise anything about this dish. 
*I have successfully used canned pumpkin and butternut squash, but sweet potatoes or yams are definitely the best. The best way to manage the time of this dish is to either boil the potatoes the morning of, or make them a day ahead. 
*To make this dish grain free, you can use almond flour. However, in my experiments it is best to use 2 regular eggs instead of the flax eggs. In an allergy situation, the flax eggs will still work with the almond flour but the biscuits are little more fragile. 

When we were living in Savannah, we had a lovely tradition of dressing up, meeting our friends at their home on Isle of Hope, grabbing glasses of wine, loading the wagons with the littles, and trick-or-treating The Bluff. A picturesque, waterfront, and movie scene worthy stretch of coastal Georgia land, The Bluff holds all of our best memories. This sweet crew of friends defines Halloween for our family, and of course the yummy food to follow! I brought curried pumpkin lentil soup the first Halloween we had our gathering and it is so delectable, that it has been talked about on sweaty days around the pool and super chilly days dropping kids off at preschool. It absolutely is crave worthy, and when you see how EASY it is, you too can be the star of the Halloween gathering. My favorite aspect of this recipe is that it makes enough to feed a large amount of people, or it can be frozen for a busy evening! 

Ingredient List:

1 tablespoon unrefined coconut oil, or 2 tablespoons water
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup of chopped carrots
1 cup of chopped celery
1 4oz cup organic apple sauce
*4 cups roasted butternut squash
10 cups vegetable broth
1 can organic pumpkin puree
3 teaspoons curry powder (I used Thrive Market)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 1/4 cups dried red lentils (I used Thrive Market)
1 can full fat coconut milk
salt and pepper

Instructions:
Heat coconut oil or water in a pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute until they soften. Add the carrot, celery, and butternut squash. Cover and cook for 5 more minutes. Add vegetable broth, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat, add pumpkin puree, and apple sauce. Add the curry, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add lentils and coconut milk, stir everything together and cover. Cook on low heat for 1-2 hours until the soup is thickened. Every 30 minutes or so, use the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher and press on any clumps of butternut squash. In the past I have transferred the mixture to a blender to make a smooth soup, but I really prefer it to not be completely smooth. You can garnish with cilantro and pumpkin seeds if desired. Once the soup is to the consistency you like, add salt and pepper to your taste! If you are taking to an adult gathering, a pinch of cayenne takes this soup to another level. 

*The most time efficient way to make this soup, is to roast the butternut squash a day ahead. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Sprinkle salt and roast at 400 degrees, flesh side down, 45-60 minutes depending on the size of your squash. Then allow the squash to cool, and scoop out the yellow flesh. Save in a sealed glass container until you are ready to use. 

We have been living in Leavenworth, KS for exactly 3 months, and we have 8 months more in this area before we head back to Savannah, GA. This is my first time ever living in a place where there is an actual fall, and the anticipation is quite exciting! In the south we determine fall solely by the calendar and Starbuck’s clever marketing. While the temperatures have not quite taken a dip, we have been enjoying what is left of the summer harvest and the beginning of the fall harvest. Last weekend we took the kids to a local apple orchard where we picked apples, drank fresh apple juice, and enjoyed homemade apple cider doughnuts. It was the perfect activity to get us in the mood for all things fall! The air was still warm, but with a hint of fall crispness, and a clear blue sky. We came home with lots and lots of apples which called for the perfect apple crisp! I love this recipe for its simplicity and ability to meet the need for a dessert, while also being satisfying enough to become a breakfast! This recipe makes a lot, and I reheated portions in the oven over the course of 3-4 days. 

Apple Filling:

5-6 apples peeled and thinly sliced (I used granny smith, and I sliced them with an attachment for my Cuisinart food processor)
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
1/3 cup coconut sugar
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tablespoon lemon juice

For the Crisp:

2 cups old fashioned gluten free oats
1 cup unsalted pecans chopped
1 cup almond meal
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon coconut oil
pinch of salt

Recipe for Coconut whipped cream found here:http://ohsheglows.com/2012/08/30/coconut-whipped-cream-a-step-by-step-photo-tutorial/

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle the arrowroot powder over the sliced apples and stir. Pour the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon juice in with the apples and stir to cover. Layer the apples on the bottom of the skillet. Mix together the ingredients for the crisp, and spoon the mixture on top of the apples. Bake the crisp for 30-35 minutes until the topping is golden and crisp. Serve with a dollop of coconut whipped cream!