Creamy Hidden Veggie Macaroni

I had finally broke down and tried it. A creamy sauce for pasta made from vegetables and seasoning. I can’t say it taste like macaroni and cheese, but it’s a great way to stay on track with your goals and still have a high-fiber, low-fat creamy pasta side dish that can be made dairy-free. I’ve tried a few different versions and then I needed to add my own flavor to it. I like my “cheese” to be tangy, so by adding the miso and yellow mustard it adds that tangy/fermented cheese flavor that I look for. Also the nutritional yeast. I’m sure I’ll have a post about it soon enough, but the benefits it adds when you use it as a topping or a seasoning are pretty impressive.

Check out the benefits!

I looked up a few different “Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese Recipes” and put them into my nutrient calculator that I use. Here are some staggering numbers.

 

Classic Macaroni & Cheese (1 cup Serving): 

  • 350 to 750 calories
  • 23 g fat (35% DV) to 39 g fat (60% DV)

Hidden Veggie Macaroni & Cheese (1 cup Serving):

  • 297 calories
  • 3.9 g fat

 

Not that I don’t enjoy an occasional cheesy side dish, but I think this recipe is definitely something to be tried. I don’t think of this as “macaroni and cheese” but a “creamy macaroni side”. For me, it fills the craving for something that looks and feels like it should be a lot worse than it is. Let me say this too – low-fat is good for some things. There is a definite need for fat in your diet, but you don’t need 30-80% of your average daily intake to be in 1 cup of food on a regular basis. I like to take my fat and spread it around like butter throughout my day. So to keep things balanced, and to keep on track with my goals without going too overboard with creamy fattening cravings, I like using this version.

Creamy Hidden Veggie Macaroni

  • Servings: 12 servings or 1 casserole dish if baking, 1 cup per serving
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Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. whole wheat macaroni (or less *see leftover sauce freezing note)
  • OR use a gluten free variety
  • 2 cups yellow potatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrots, chopped
  • 2/3 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 sun dried tomatoes, dry, not in oil
  • 1 1/2 cup water (from boiling vegetables)
  • 1 can butter beans
  • 1/2 cup coconut cream *see note
  • OR 1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
  • 6 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp salt, optional
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp miso, optional *see note
  • 2 tbsp yellow mustard

Directions

  1. Cook pasta to package directions and set aside.
  2. Put the potatoes, carrots, onion, and sun dried tomatoes in a pot and fill with just enough water to cover the vegetables. Boil until the potatoes are fork tender.
  3. Once they are done, take out 1 1/2 cups of the vegetable water and put into a blender. Add in the cooked vegetables and the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.
  4. Top your cooked pasta with the sauce, add salt if needed, and enjoy a creamy pasta without any guilt!

Coconut Cream | Use canned coconut milk, or now I’ve seen canned coconut cream. Do not shake. Open the can and the cream will have separated from the water. The cream will not be sweet or have much of a coconut taste. There should be about 1/2 or more coconut cream in one can.

Miso | Regular miso is made from fermented soy beans and is used in Japanese cooking. They are now making chickpea miso, which is what I use, as a soy-free alternative. It adds a tangy taste to the sauce like cheddar would do, so I recommend using it, but it is optional. Since miso is fermented, it’s very good for balancing gut bacteria and in effect, healthy for digestion.


Nutritional Information

297 calories | 3.9 g total fat | 0.2 g saturated fat | 0.5 g polyunsaturated fat | 0.4 g monounsaturated fat | 0 g trans fat | 0 mg cholesterol | 198 mg sodium | 53 g carbohydrates | 7.8 g fiber | 1.5 g sugar | 12.8 g protein

Macro Sources

71% Carbohydrates | 12% Fat | 17% Protein

Dietary Servings per Portion
  • 0.9 Grain
  • 0.2 Meat Alternative
  • 0.6 Vegetables
Freeze Leftover Sauce

I will freeze the rest of the sauce that I don’t use if I am not using 2 pounds of pasta at once. Freeze in a gallon bag and lay it flat. Freeze up to two weeks at the most. When ready to use, take it out the morning you will be using it and let it defrost in the fridge. You may need to add a little more flavoring with added nutritional yeast and salt, but it should be good to go!

Mistake #1: Thinking I Was Missing Out

If you are like me, it’s much easier to see the negative before the positive. Especially when it comes to change. Any change can be difficult when we are focused on what we won’t be able to have or do. When it comes to food and a new way of eating, there was a few things I needed to learn.

Things I Learned Early On

If you read my first blog post or My Story page, I was a kid with some severe allergies. I was not able to have the “normal” kid snacks. Instead of milk and cookies, I had apple juice and flavored rice cakes. Instead of popular cereals, I had oatmeal. Instead of ice cream, I had frozen blueberries with rice milk. You get the picture! I wanted to be able to eat the foods that were advertised between my favorite cartoons and to eat the same foods as my friends. It was frustrating especially being a kid and only seeing the “kid foods” being something I couldn’t eat. However, I realized on an every day basis, it wasn’t that big of a deal.

  • My life wasn’t all about eating
  • I liked the foods I could eat
  • I still enjoyed eating
  • I enjoyed being with my friends more than eating the same foods they were
  • I was able to learn things that others had not

It’s all in how you look at it. I’ve thought of these things whenever I’ve had to make changes to my diet since then. Whether trying to loose weight, or becoming plant-based, and so on. Whatever change you are doing now, focus on the new benefits you’ll be experiencing. You’ll realize that what you are giving up, isn’t really of any value compared to the benefits.

Think about:
  • New foods you’ll be trying
  • New places that will become your old places
  • How much energy you’re able to maintain
  • How your mental and emotional health will benefit
  • And I’m sure much more…

Life isn’t all about what you get to eat. After counting the pros, the cons don’t seem that tempting. Who am I kidding? It’s difficult to build good habits but focusing on the healthy, positive aspects of a new routine or diet instead of the negative “missing out” thinking, will help you and get you just that extra step further you might need to break the cycle. Realize what has value and will benefit your life.

Green Chili Enchiladas

This recipe is something I make whenever we need a special meal: officially being moved in to a new place, an anniversary, my hormones deciding I need something gooey and fattening… Whatever calls for something to be deceptively nutritious and comforting. I make this with hearts of palm and plain low fat yogurt for a vegetarian/plant-based version, but you can easily make it with chicken and a plain low fat yogurt. (If you want a little more fat, use sour cream or coconut cream from the can, only using the cream and not the water that is at the bottom of the can.) I have the nutrition information for both versions below.

High Fiber
  • Aids in Digestion
  • Aids in Detoxing
  • Normalizes Blood Sugar Levels
  • Helps Lower Cholesterol
  • Aids in Weight Maintenance
Low-Fat

If you are watching the amount of fat you intake or just want a lighter dish than your regular creamy enchilada recipe, using the plain low-fat yogurt is a great swap!

  • Dairy-free yogurt: I’ve used the Kite Hill unsweetened almond yogurt
  • Nut-free and Dairy-free: A plain unsweetened soy yogurt should work
Easily Adaptable
  • Already Soy-Free
  • Already Dairy-Free
  • Already Plant Based
  • More Plant Based Protein: Use soy or seitan products instead of hearts of palm
  • Gluten Free: Use corn tortillas instead of whole wheat

 

 

Green Chili Enchiladas

  • Servings: 12-14 Large Enchiladas | 6+ Servings | 2 Enchiladas per Serving
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Ingredients

    Enchiladas
  • 1-2 tbsp oil, optional if using a non-stick skillet
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 can hearts of palm, pulled into shreds OR 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 “chicken” bouillon cube OR use veggie broth instead of water
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 can low fat vegetarian re-fried beans
  • salt to taste
  • 12+ whole wheat OR corn tortillas
  • Low Fat Green Chili Sauce
  • 1/2 cup plain unsweetened low-fat yogurt
  • 1 15 oz can green chili sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar, if using the coconut cream
  • Toppings
  • Green Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Cilantro
  • Avocado
  • Limes

If using the coconut cream, the best way is to buy a can of full-fat coconut milk. Do not shake the can, and if you have the time, put it in the fridge for a few hours. The coconut water will separate from the coconut cream. Most of the time it does this on its own if it’s not shaken. Use only the cream. It does not have much of a coconut taste.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9-by-13 pan.
  2. Heat oil in skillet, if using. Add onion and sautee until translucent. Add pulled hearts of palm or shredded cooked chicken and sautee for a few minutes more until the onions and hearts of palm/chicken start to brown.
  3. Add water, “chicken” bouillon or 1 cup vegetable broth, chili powder, and garlic powder and simmer with the hearts of palm/chicken mixture. Simmer 20-25 minutes making sure most of the liquid is gone and the bouillon cube is dissolved.
  4. Add the re-fried beans and mix together. Taste and add salt if necessary.
  5. Sauce
  6. Add all sauce ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.
  7. Assembly
  8. Add a few tbsp of the hearts of palm/re-fried bean mixture on one tortilla and a small bit of the sauce. If using corn tortillas, you will need to make sure they are not cold and that they are dipped into the sauce, otherwise they might crack. Repeat until your 9-by-13 pan is full. You want to make sure it’s tight and completely full if possible so the enchiladas don’t dry out in the oven.
  9. Cover the enchiladas with the rest of the sauce, making sure all corners are covered.
  10. Bake for 20 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before eating.

Nutritional Information

With Hearts of Palm Per Serving: 

387 calories | 12.6 g fat | 1.5 g polyunsaturated | 5.2 g monounsaturated | 4.8 g saturated | 0 g trans fats | 0 g cholesterol | 784 mg sodium | 56 g carbohydrates | 13 g fiber | 6 g total sugar | 14 g protein | 71% vitamin C | 31% calcium | 38% magnesium | 26% iron

With Chicken Per Serving: 

445 calories | 14 g fat | 1.8 g polyunsaturated | 5.9 g monounsaturated | 5.2 g saturated | 0 g trans fats | 36 mg cholesterol | 601 mg sodium | 54 g carbohydrates | 12 g fiber | 6 g total sugar | 25.8 g protein | 66% vitamin C | 29% calcium | 35% magnesium | 21% iron

Seasonal Allergies – What I Use Naturally

It’s that time of year! Summer has now ended and fall is in full swing. For some people their worst allergies are in the spring. Others, like me, it’s in the fall. Ragweed is awful! I’m exhausted all the time, my mood changes, my stress level is higher, and there are some days I can’t even walk from the house to my car before I start sneezing and my eyes start watering.

Photo by Lukasz Szmigiel on Unsplash

If you’ve read My Story, you know that as a kid I had severe food, environmental, and seasonal allergies. I’ve been able to grow out of some, and manage the rest. Today, I’d like to talk about what I use that helps my seasonal allergies that is natural, along with the foods that are good to have during this time of year for allergies. It might not take away all of it, and yes there are still times I need allergy medication, (like this time of year) but doing these natural remedies have helped to reduce my reactions and reduce the amount of medications I take during this time.

If you are researching how to help your seasonal allergies naturally, look into these things. Some things won’t work for everyone. And not everything is suited for all people when it comes to allergies and health. Please do your research before trying anything.

Photo by Abigail Lynn on Unsplash
Take Showers Often

When you are out and about all day, pollen gets attached to everything. In your car, your clothes, your hair, your skin, and of course your sinuses when you breath them in. To help reduce the overall exposure to the allergens, try to stay in the air conditioning, and when at home and are going to stay home, take a shower and wash (or at least rinse) your hair immediately. Throw your clothes in the hamper and rinse off.

By doing this you can keep the allergens low in your home so that your home can be as safe and clear from the seasonal allergies you are dealing with. On the same note, your sheets when going to bed will have minimal allergens on them and you can sleep without your sinuses clogging up over night.

Photo by Bárbara Montavon on Unsplash
Apple Cider Vinegar First Thing In The Morning

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has been know to help a lot of things. Some have proven true, and others have not. However, ACV being an anti-inflammatory is hard to argue against. There is also talk about it being an anti-histamine. Taking this in the morning will help to clear your head and open up your nasal passages.

Taking 1 teaspoon as a shot or with 8 ounces of water in the morning definitely has its benefits. When I first tried this, I was surprised at how much it cleared everything. I could breath better and I could feel my sinuses opening up and the drainage that resulted afterward. I feel so much more equipped to step outside into the ragweed infested air once I’ve had my dose of ACV.

 

Quercetin & Bromelain
Quercetin

Quercetin is an anti-oxidant meaning that it fights against natural oxidation damage in cells that occurs as we age. It acts as an anti-inflammatory and is a natural anti-histamine. Quercetin stabilizes the release of histamines which results in lowering the symptoms of allergies like coughing, sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, hives, etc. Studies have shown it can be just as effective as medications with little to no side effects.

  • Anti-Oxidant
  • Anti-Inflammatory
  • Natural Anti-Histamine
  • Can Be Just As Effective As Some Medications
  • Little To No Side Effects

Some of the foods highest in quercetin is apples and onions. However, to get the amount needed in your diet to help with major allergy seasons, it can take a lot. Getting it in a supplement form is suggested.

Bromelain

Bromelain is a digestive enzyme found in pineapple, including the stem and leaves. It helps to break down proteins that can be hard for us to digest and aids the liver in breaking it down. It’s used in a lot of meat tenderizers because of this. So next time you want to tenderize meat before cooking it, just let it soak up some fresh pineapple juice. With that in mind, bromelain helps to soothe and relax tense, inflamed muscles and connective tissues. It’s long been used for its anti-inflammatory and anti-swelling agents. If you have not looked up bromelain before, please do. There is so much that it can do and help with.

For allergies, like I said it is known for it’s anti-inflammatory and anti-swelling agents. Think of how swollen your sinuses can get and how inflamed it can be and then cause you to be at risk for an infection. Bromelain can help reduce the chances of a sinus infection. There have been studies that show how bromelain has helped to stop inflammatory responses affecting airways, which makes it something helpful for asthma sufferers. The enzyme helps by addressing the root of the issue – an oversensitive immune system. So instead of it blocking histamine like quercetin, it helps the immune system to have a normal response.

  • Digestive Enzyme found in pineapple
  • Anti-Inflammatory
  • Anti-Swelling
  • Helps Stop Inflammatory Responses, including airways
  • Gets To The Root – Oversensitive Immune System
Quercetin & Bromelain

Quercetin and bromelain are my favorite when it comes to defending myself against seasonal allergies. These are two different components you can find readily in foods which I’ll be listing later in this post. You can find these two together as one pill. Both have shown little to no side effects. The only thing is, is that the longer you take it, the better the results. It’s best to test how well it works after taking it for 2 weeks or more. For my fall allergies I start taking this combo at the end of June, 2 months ahead for early ragweed signs just to make sure. I even have a reminder on my calendar. With the other benefits of bromelain helping with inflammation and quercetin being a powerful antioxidant, it’s not going to hurt however early you start taking it and will be benefiting you before allergy season starts.

Photo by Coley Christine on Unsplash
My Natural Allergy Routine
  • Take Showers Often
  • Clean Clothes and Sheets More Often Than Usual
  • A Shot of Apple Cider Vinegar in the Morning
  • Start Taking Quercetin & Bromelain as Preventative Defense at Least 2 Weeks or More Prior

There are many other natural remedies out there, but these are the ones I choose and do regularly. I’d love to hear from you what you use!

Foods That Help with Allergies

Along with taking natural things as remedies and supplements, you can also be preventative by the foods you eat. Food rich in quercetin and bromelain (pineapple), and then also foods that support a healthy immune system that are high in things like vitamin C, zinc, and having a daily dose of probiotics can be very helpful. Foods rich in Omega-3 for it’s anti-inflammatory properties will help too. Here are some foods to make sure you’re having in your diet.

Vitamin C
  • Citrus Fruits (Oranges, Lemons, Limes, Grapefruit)
  • Kiwi
  • Bell Peppers, Especially Green Peppers
Zinc
  • Legumes (Lentils, Chickpeas, Beans)
  • Seeds (Pumpkin Seeds, Sunflower Seeds, Hemp Seeds, Chia Seeds)
  • Lean Red Meat
Probiotics
  • Yogurt
  • Keifer
  • Sauerkraut
Omega-3
  • Fish (Salmon, Mackerel)
  • Seeds (Flax Seeds, Chia Seeds)
  • Walnuts
Quercetin
  • Berries (Raspberries, Blueberries, Blackberries, Strawberries)
  • Onions
  • Broccoli
  • Apples
Bromelain
  • Pineapple

Other than bromelain, which is only found in pineapple, there are more to add to the list of foods, but this gives you a rough idea. Eat for the nutrients your body needs, not just for energy. Like I said before, for some this might work, for others it might not at all. For me I still need to take allergy medication along with doing all of what I’ve listed to help. I don’t have to take as much, but to make sure it doesn’t cause an infection later on in the season and be down for a week or so, I still take allergy medication along with eating the foods I know will help and other things I can change in my lifestyle to aid my allergy reactions naturally.

I’d love to hear from you! What do you use or change in your routine during your allergy season?

I Always Had “A Different Beet”

Hello and welcome to my nutrition and wellness blog!

My name is Amanda Arroyo. I am a Nutrition and Wellness Consultant. I received my certification from AFPA in January 2019. I wanted to start my blog with sharing a little about myself and why my diet and nutrition needs have always had “a different beet“. (For the full story, visit My Story page.)

Food Allergies Then

I was 5 1/2 years old when I had my first allergy test. My back was so small they had to finish the test on the back of both my arms. I don’t remember much other than the itching and the fact they had to test me again on another day because my reactions were spreading and crossing barriers so that they couldn’t tell which was which.

It ended up showing I was allergic to dairy, soy, corn, most grains, most fruits and vegetables, pork and shrimp. I’m not even going to get into the seasonal and environmental allergies. I was a bubble child. A lot of my food allergies were not detrimental, but definitely lowered the quality of my life if I had too much.

My parents did their best in trying to make sure I was taking in what I needed to grow, enjoyed what I was eating, and able to eat with the family without eating too differently. That was hard to do in the early 90’s in a suburb town in Indiana. The small health food store had a few things, but most had soy or other ingredients I couldn’t have, so my Mom ended up making a lot just for me.

Food Allergies Now

I’ve grown out of most of my food allergies, but there is plenty I still need to watch out for. Soy and corn are the ones I constantly need to be careful with since there is so many products that have them in it. There are others but not as common. Dairy is something I keep away from on a regular basis, but there is a time for everything including cheesy pizza. There are times it’s worth it, and other times it’s not. My body definitely has no problem telling me what it can take, and what it can’t.

One thing that I’ve noticed is that if I keep my food allergies in check, my seasonal allergies are bearable with a little bit of attention and maintenance. With learning more, I figure it’s because I can keep my inflammation down internally by keeping my body and immune system from reacting to the food that I eat (something I can control) and my body only needing to focus on my environment (something I can’t always control). Plus the fact that I love being outdoors and having the windows open when it’s nice outside, which here in Texas usually means when my allergies are the worst, I need to keep what I can control in check so I can enjoy the little things in life and not have to worry.

Eczema Then

Along with allergies, I also had eczema from the time I was born. My mom took out cow’s milk early on realizing it was making it worse. At that time, there was not a lot backing up that eczema was related to being an allergic reaction. How I wished I could have been a case study! My arms, the back of my legs, my face… everywhere. After my allergy test, allergy shots, anti-histamines, and avoiding my major allergies, it did get better. There was so much that effected my dry, itching, burning, and red skin that it was almost constant, whether relatively controlled or a full blown breakout.

Eczema Now

Even now I deal with it, but I have been able to control it with diet and some lifestyle changes. It still shows up around my mouth and in the delicate skin between my fingers, but I usually can treat it naturally without steroid creams or medicated creams, and most of the time it gets better in a few days. I can keep it to where it looks dry but not red, inflamed, and burning. Of course hormones and stress levels effect it too, so there is only so much I can do there. I regularly have to manage it and sometimes it doesn’t matter how much I do, it’s just going to take time.

My Switch to Plant-Based

Along with watching my allergies, I made the jump to being plant-based. There was a time in my early 20’s that it didn’t matter what I ate, my stomach would cramp, and I would have IBS pain at least once or twice a day. Salads, smoothies, etc. It didn’t matter. I did better when I went back to my allergy diet when I was young, but even then I was still in pain. After a few documentaries (because it always starts with a documentary) I decided to try out a whole food plant-based life style and keep with my allergy diet. It was tough and took some planning, but I did it and within a week the pain stopped completely. Within 2 weeks I was sleeping HARD, and within 4 weeks increased energy and no desire to look back. I still have issues with IBS here and there when I get off track, but with my normal diet that I’ve found that works for me, I don’t have the pain anymore.

An interesting thing that happened was that I realized some of the foods I was avoiding by default from my allergy diet, I didn’t have much of a reaction anymore, if at all. Which I was grateful for since now my variety of food opened up. I have now been meat-free for over 5+ years, and dairy and egg free strictly 100% for 2 years, and about 90-95% of the rest of the years. However, it seems like eggs are making their way back in. Eggs were never a protein I had an allergy or issue with and knowing that some of the plants that are high protein like soy and some types of peas, eggs are making more of an appearance recently. We essentially need the same things nutritionally, but everyone has their own beat.

My husband on the other hand, is not plant-based. He’s made some healthy strides in the last few years. He’s slowly gotten off of fast food, stopped drinking sodas, and decreased his processed sugar intake, along with lessening his red meat intake. I made a blog, The Shared Skillet, to post about the meals I would make for us and now will be posting some of those recipes (some of them upgraded) here on this blog along with the nutritional benefits.

Thank You

Thank you for stopping by and reading my first post! If you’d like to know more about my relationship with nutrition and food, visit My Story page. I look forward to sharing with you the things I’m currently learning, the things I have learned, the mistakes I’ve made along the way, and my recipes that my family enjoys. I’m looking forward to the upcoming years with this blog and I hope you can be a part of it too!