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Friday, July 22, 2016

Versatile Vegan Tomato Sauce with a Secret Source of Veg Protein

Yum, yum. This is Scrumptious Pasta and Sauce!

Want to prepare a sauce that's packed full of nutrition, and looks, smells, and tastes great? It features the bright Mediterranean flavors of tomatoes, basil, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes. A secret ingredient, pinto beans, adds deliciousness, heartiness, and increased protein. Beans make the sauce a perfect thing to combine with pasta, legumes, veggies, brown rice, and many other foods. All beans provide a powerful helping of plant based protein, so perhaps this blog post will encourage you to eat beans more often. 

Look below to see how easy, cost effective, and fun it is to cook with them. You might be tempted to keep the sauce ingredients on hand to enhance the taste of all your favorite veggies. I revealed my secret ingredient so you'll try it. Maybe it will be your clean eating go-to gravy. One I love so much.

Versatile Vegan Tomato Sauce with a Secret Source of Veg Protein, Served on Gluten Free Fusilli Pasta


For Pasta
1 12 oz. package gluten free pasta (I used organic brown rice and organic quinoa mix fusilli) and fresh water to cook it in.

For Sauce
2 14.5 oz. Organic San Marzano Style Diced Tomatoes
2 14.5 oz. Organic Tomato Sauce
12 Organic cherry or grape tomatoes or 2 small whole ones
1 4 oz. can Organic Sliced Mushrooms or 1/2 cup fresh ones
1  15 oz. can Organic Pinto Beans
Sprig of Fresh Organic Basil
1 teaspoon Dried Organic Oregano or sprig or 2 of Fresh Oregano 
1 teaspoon Dried Sage and 1 teaspoon Dried Thyme (optional)
2 Organic Garlic Cloves minced
2 Organic Zucchini 
2 Organic Carrots
1/2 Organic Yellow Onion (can substitute red onion or scallions)
Salt to taste (I prefer mine with no added salt, because canned tomatoes and tomato sauce have a lot of added salt)
Freshly ground Black Pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes

Notes: Feel free to add other veggies if you like. A few ideas are red pepper, string beans, kale, capers, and celery. When you add additional veggies, it makes the sauce thicker, increases nutrients, and heightens taste even more.
I always use organic ingredients when available, because organic means produce is not genetically modified, not sprayed with chemicals, and is not grown in soil that contains chemical fertilizers.

How to Make It

1. Open diced tomato cans, tomato sauce cans, and rinse fresh tomatoes. If you're using fresh tomatoes, chop them in the bowl of a food processor until chunky. Place all in a large saucepan that has a cover. Add minced garlic, red pepper flakes, and bring all ingredients mentioned in this step to a boil. Stir and turn heat to simmer. Then cover and cook for 15 minutes. While tomatoes are simmering on the stove top, do the next step.

Note: Select fresh tomatoes that are bright red in color. This is a signal that they have ripened fully and are loaded with a valuable nutrient called lycopene, an antioxidant that helps prevent cancer and lowers unhealthy cholesterol. Cooking tomatoes for at least 30 minutes  releases more lycopene than cooking for less time. That's why my recipe suggests you cook tomatoes for 30 minutes total. Canned tomatoes are picked when at the peak of freshness and can be used when you don’t have fresh on hand. I buy only those that are packed in BPA free cans, because bisphenol A, a synthetic estrogen found in the epoxy coating of food cans, has been linked to many health problems. Many companies have publicly pledged to stop using BPA in their cans, but check to see that the ones you buy are labeled BPA Free.

2. Rinse canned beans, mushrooms, and all fresh veggies in cool water. Prep zucchini and carrots by washing and scraping off sand and dirt with the side of a knife. Keep as much skin on as possible, as it contains fiber and nutrients. Peel onion and garlic. Rinse basil and any other fresh herbs and veggies you want to include. Put all remaining ingredients except pasta in the bowl of a food processor and chop until they reach a consistency that you like. I like to see little chunks of veggies in my sauce as it adds bright splashes of color and texture. Chop as fine or as chunky as you wish, but for 2 minutes max. Pour veggies into simmering pot of tomato sauce, mix, and cover. Bring to a boil again and simmer for 15 minutes more. 

Zucchini on the left is scraped clean as is the carrot on the right

Basil, Pinto Beans, and Mushrooms

3. While veggies, beans, and tomato sauce mixture is cooking (the last 15 minutes of the cooking process) put up a large pot of fresh water to use to cook the pasta. Follow the package directions (the package of fusilli I used stated that 1/2 cup of dried pasta is one portion and to cook fusilli from 7-10 minutes). It's best to test pasta for doneness at 7 minutes, so it doesn't get overcooked. When done, place pasta in a colander and strain. Put individual portions of fusilli into dishes, top with sauce, and serve while still piping hot.

This is Freshly Made Versatile Vegan Tomato Sauce 

Right below is another way I used my versatile vegan tomato sauce, a day later.

I combined 2 cups of Tomato Sauce with 2 cups of Lentil Soup for this Mouthwatering Soup Transformation

For information about lentil soup see this link:

A few days later, I served the remaining sauce on steamed green cabbage and red skinned potatoes. It looked fabulous and was so delicious. I seasoned the dish with organic garlic powder, 1 teaspoon of extra virgin organic olive oil, freshly ground black pepper, and a pinch of Himalayan Pink salt.  

Organic Green Cabbage, Organic Red Skinned Potatoes, and Sauce

When you tabulate the cost of a home-cooked meal like this to meals that have been processed commercially and frozen, or eat a similar meal in a restaurant, you'll realize you come out way ahead of the game by eating at home. You save money, are eating real food, and can trust the quality of the ingredients that are in it. My secret ingredient protein tomato sauce recipe only takes 30 minutes to prepare, so you save time too. Refrigerate extra sauce, as soon as you're finished making it. It will stay fresh for up to four or five days. Have fun inventing new ways to serve it. Other ways to use it might include to put it into gluten-free burritos or organic corn tortillas, or use it to top off spiralized zucchini. 

Don't forget to let me know what you think of my "secret ingredient" vegan tomato sauce. This is how to do it. Scroll down at the end of this post and write in the space that says "enter your comment." Then, click on "publish" after you've written your comment. Thanks so much.

The quote for today follows: "Putting even one thing in your shopping basket that's locally produced or organic makes all the difference. It's a vote for the future, for animal welfare, for the environment, for your children's children." Sheherazade Goldsmith

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Saturday, July 2, 2016

Easy, Economical Ways to Really Relax

Easy, Economical Ways to Really Relax

Does muggy weather or the dry heat days of summer, just like we have in Tucson, make you feel edgy? Is your reaction to someone's behavior making you feel hot under the collar? Are you frustrated or overwhelmed by unfinished projects at work or at home? Perhaps family obligations are more than you want to deal with right now. Maybe you are doubling up on work to pay down credit card debt or watching every penny so that you'll be able to send a kid to college. Don't delay. Check out my ideas for free or inexpensive ways to really relax. 

If you want to face the rest of your day refreshed, renewed and raring to go...

Change Your Pace to Refresh

At times, we all need to give ourselves permission to take a 5 or 10 minute break . Read the definition of relax and breathe deeply.

Stand up for a quick stretch to relieve muscle tension. Reach for the sky and down toward your toes. Spreading your arms wide with palms toward the sky, helps you release trapped energy you've picked up from sitting too long or stressing about things you are powerless over.

Run in place, when you feel sluggish, stale, or foggy headed. Aerobic exercise releases endorphins, the feel good hormone.

Take a power walk (even 5 minutes will do) to speed up metabolism, preferably outdoors. Nature is a natural healer, one that doesn’t cost anything. Take responsibility for your well-being. Once you're in motion by moving outdoors, your spirit and body will thank you.

Put your feet up, against the wall to do a restorative yoga pose, Viparita Karani. All this pose requires of you is to do no more than rest and breathe. Relax in this pose for 1 or 2 minutes at first. Then gradually rest for 5 or 10 minutes at a time. Feet up the wall pose changes the effect of the pull of gravity on your circulation. When you stand, gravity tends to draw blood toward your feet. When you invert yourself in this pose, blood tends to be flow in the opposite direction, toward your head. Read this article from Cindi Lee to Check Out Proper Body Alignment at Yoga Journal Before Doing this Pose.

Switch Off Perfectionism

Learning to do something new requires practice, determination, and concentration. If your default setting is to be hard on yourself for making mistakes, you set yourself up for self-criticism, negativity, and tension. Adjust your thinking by observing how often perfectionism brings self-inflicted stress into your body, mind, and spirit. 

Eliminate the internal critic by telling yourself you are okay, no matter how long it takes you to learn new behaviors, move forward, and change. Treat yourself gently. Self-compassion gives us strength to postpone instant gratification for a longer term goal.

I've discovered that perfectionism is a fear-based behavior that I adopt when I try to control an outcome in order to receive love and acceptance from others. Whenever I realize I'm striving for the wrong reason, outward instead of inward approval, I can make a conscious decision to switch off perfectionism. As soon as I focus on my learning curve and appreciate my efforts to gain new knowledge, information, and skills, I become my own best friend. 

"Being able to feel content about progress without an expectation of perfection is a life-skill that helps us live gracefully." Nancy Andres

Be a Good Vibes Leader

Think Positive Thoughts and Smile

Your attitude and behavior influences your level of relaxation. 

Do this:

1. Count your blessings.
2. Let go of striving to fix or change other people, places, and things. When you can accept things as they are, you will find ways to be at ease about today's reality.
3. Make the choice to see the humanity in everyone and be kind and encouraging to others.
4. Bring passion to your own work and lifestyle.
5. Self-caring behaviors like those above and napping, eating a nourishing meal, and short breaks in daily routine, helps you refresh and renew yourself.

Human beings are naturally attracted to those that are happy and smiling! Are you eager to work and play with people who have a positive outlook? 

Yes. Our relationships can stress us or satisfy us. If yours are bending you out of shape too often, perhaps you need to back away from some people and relationships, kick back, and unwind. 

Note: If you're looking for hints about ways to communicate more effectively, see this article from Susan Heitler Ph.D. at Psychology Today, "10 Things to Say to Generate Good Feelings."

Additional Ideas to Help You Take Time for You

1. Put in a phone call to a mentor, life coach, or chat with a confidant.
2. Eat lunch with a pal or go to the movies with your best friend.  
3. Decide to put a tense or stressful situation on the shelf for a short time, while you listen to your favorite music or dance up a storm. You may have a new perspective about the scenario, when you look again. 
4. Indulge in a hobby, read a book, daydream, or work on a craft project.
5. Laugh often, laugh at your foibles, laugh at life's absurdities

People who take good care of themselves by having downtime as well as work spurts, find balance, energy, creativity, flexibility, and resilience that is necessary to lead a healthful and happy life. 

The quote for today follows:

"Take precious time to just be." Nancy Andres

Take Precious Time to Just Be

Before you go, please comment, ask questions, or share whether it's easy or hard for you to kick back and relax. Why do you think that's so? I'd appreciate feedback, as it's challenging for me to take frequent breaks during my workday. I know I feel better when I do. I often get caught up in the creative writing process, and think I might lose my train of thought and enthusiasm if I take time away from my computer. Any input is greatly appreciated.

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Monday, June 13, 2016

What Mourning and Loss are Teaching Me About Resilience and Recovery

During the last few months, three family members have been critically ill, and I have been challenged and tested. All three of my dear loved have died, two on the same day and the last on June 2nd.

My heart aches with loss. Yet I am slowly healing and using self-care practices that help me recognize the need to live fully by cutting back on some activities and relying more on others. Meditation, prayer, journal writing, yoga, walking in nature, and limiting outside obligations to a bare minimum all help. Daily living while mourning is a balancing act, one that I review one day at a time.

A life skill I'm using to recover my equilibrium is to record and savor quotations that have meaning for me at this time. Each of the ones I've included in this blog post help my heart stay open for healing and give me hope. The wise words displayed below encouraged me to feel my feelings and let them flow through me, especially when I felt vulnerable, overwhelmed, sad, confused, hurt, angry, or afraid.

Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, in the present, and non-judgmentally, to the unfolding of experience, moment by moment ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. Mahatma Gandhi

Challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new center of gravity. Don't fight them. Just find a new way to stand. Oprah Winfrey

Don’t let your hearts grow numb. Stay alert. It’s your soul which matters. Albert Schweitzer

Please keep my family in your thoughts and prayers.

Thanks for Your Thoughts and Prayers. They Create Powerful Healing

Perhaps when you are challenged, you'll recall this blog post and these quotations will support you. 

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Create a Colorful Red, White, and Blue Dessert 1,2,3

Nowadays, many of us make plans to get together with family and friends during the Memorial Day Weekend for picnics, cookouts, or other gatherings. Want the perfect dessert to serve at your party? It uses fruits that are at the peak of ripeness and flavor right now. 

You're sure to see smiles on the faces of family and guests as you serve this colorful red, white, and blue dessert at your dining or patio table. A three ingredient recipe that's relatively inexpensive, a snap to assemble, and packed with 3 healthful ingredients. What more could you ask? Just follow the 3 steps below.


1 Quart Organic Strawberries or about 16 oz. of berries that are lightly washed in cool water and hulled (see links below)
1 Quart Organic Blueberries or about 16 oz. that are washed in cool water
1 Cup unsweetened shredded coconut (either fine or coarsely shredded)

Read what Molly Watson shares about washing and hulling strawberries.

4 hulled strawberries

What to Do:

1. Wash and hull strawberries and wash blueberries as described above. Place them in a medium-sized glass bowl and mix them together.

2. Sprinkle the berries with coconut flakes.

3. Insert serving spoons into bowl and place on your holiday table or portion out into individual dessert dishes for a more formal touch.

This is a Berry Good Dessert

Strawberries and blueberries contain many healthful elements. They're high in vitamin C, phytonutrients, and contain no cholesterol. Shredded coconut provides fiber, iron, and healthy fat to satisfy and stave off hunger. 

Look at the links below for additional nutrition facts from

Nutrition facts about blueberries

Take some time this Memorial Day weekend to remember and honor those Americans who are our war dead. They gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Serve this color rich dessert to honor the red, white, and blue. In fact, serve it anytime you want to top off your meal with a delicious and healthful finale.

For a More Formal Look, Serve in Goblets

Before you go, ask yourself how often you serve summer berries. Do you purchase them at a farmer's market, pick them from your home garden, or purchase at a local shop? Berries lose nutrients and spoil, the longer you keep them it. Serve within a day or two of purchase. What are your favorite ways to serve strawberries and blueberries? Have you made plans for this weekend or is your plan to relax and kick back? Leave questions, comments, and/or share this berry recipe. Sharing is caring and I care about you. Happy Memorial Day Weekend Everyone.

Here's the quotation for today from Jordin Sparks:

"I love berries. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, black berries, anything with an 'errie' in it!"

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Awesome Reasons to Eat Family Meals at Home

Awesome Reasons to Eat Family Meals at Home

Life is often hectic, and filled with responsibilities. Nonetheless, the ritual of eating meals around the kitchen or dining room table can help you and your loved ones feel centered, nourished, and energized. Whether it’s your nuclear family, your life partner or roommate, or a group of congenial friends, eating meals at home together is salve for the spirit, and does wonders for wellness.

 A consistent habit of eating meals together bolsters everyone’s sense of well-being. According to data collected in the National Survey of Children’s Health, 48% of youth surveyed ate a meal together with their families every day during the previous week. Additional studies show that children who knew a lot about their family history, through family meals and other interactions, had a closer relationship to family members, higher self-esteem, were less likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, and had a greater sense of control over their own lives.

Gathering with folks to break bread is a relaxing, restorative social function. It’s a great time to put aside electronic devices and daily tasks temporarily. Partaking in regular family meals establishes a tradition of unity as well as provides an opportunity to hone communication skills. Mealtime talk demonstrates by example the “how-to” of polite, effective conversation. Each person involved will have the experience of taking turns to share the happenings of the day, light moments, and the joys and sorrows of being part of the human race.

Slow Roasted Black Eyed Peas, Roasted Carrots, Greens and Sprouts

Research indicates that home cooked meals reap mighty nutritional benefits. The USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) has found meals and snacks based on food prepared away from home contained more calories per meal than those based on at-home food. Away-from-home food was also higher in ingredients that Americans over-consume (sodium, sugar, and saturated fat) and lower in nutrients that Americans under consume (calcium, fiber, and iron).

Although it requires planning, know how, and time to assemble and serve a healthy meal at home, you and your family or friends can share responsibility for prepping meals, setting the table, and clean up. When you consciously choose to incorporate a variety of fresh produce, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, and fruit into meals served at home, you and your loved ones will get back on the wellness track. Purchase these foods at the peak of freshness and you’ll get more of the body’s daily requirement for vitamins, protein, minerals, complex carbohydrates, unsaturated fats, fiber, water, and antioxidants. Menu planning and cooking food for oneself and others are positive life skills. It’s good training for both youngsters and oldsters. The first group grows up and the second may lose a partner through divorce or death. Both kinds of individuals often need to fend for themselves as they live on their own.  

You can design a more relaxing ambiance for healthy eating and good communication at home than in many restaurants. When you eat at a fast food place or even a moderately priced restaurant, more than likely you will be bombarded by loud music or offensive smells like excessive perfume or rancid cooking oils. Perhaps your serenity is disturbed by people at a nearby table, who shout into their cell phones or are accompanied by a crying baby.

At home, you can regulate the air conditioning or heat to your liking, you won’t get a rush job, or be served by ineffective or rude wait staff. Although there are no large-scale studies to show that it’s more cost effective to dine at home, I’ve found that if I plan ahead, buy sale items and in-season, local produce, and freeze what I can’t use for another meal, I save money and time shopping and cooking. An informal study I conducted indicates that all those interviewed do think it makes good sense to eat more meals at home. Here’s a link comparing time and money saving of a Fast Food Meal vs. a Home-cooked One.

If you eat at home, there’s no need to drive to an out of the way location or get tied up in traffic, before you can eat that meal. Even if you pick a restaurant that’s close-by, it’s hard to assure the cook doesn’t add too much oil, salt, sugar, or processed ingredients rather than serve a low sodium, low fat, whole food meal.

Family connections require attention to sustain them. Make it a point to eat at least one meal together daily, and you will automatically reserve a place in your busy schedule for shared time. Often, it’s the only time when you and your loved ones aren’t rushing to get somewhere else. Make family meals as uncomplicated as possible. To give them a festive flair, serve foods on dinner wear instead of paper plates. You don’t need a special occasion to use a tablecloth and cloth napkins. Decorate your home with flowers and candles to celebrate the next birthday, anniversary, graduation, or other special occasion, when you might have been tempted in the past to eat out. A delicious home cooked meal conveys caring and interest in the people you cook for.
When you and your family eat nourishing food at home, it broadcasts a positive message about warm sentiments and a passion for good health. For fun, gather individual family members together each week, when no one has to leave early. Stay in your pajamas, and each help prepare a meal that includes lean protein and complete carbohydrates, instead of fattening bacon, home fries, and eggs. Before too long, you’ll realize your clothing has gotten looser and it's much more cozy to stay put, than it is to drag yourself out in that rainstorm, heat, or other inclement weather to have a meal in a restaurant. Celebrate the joy of eating the earth’s bounty at home with family and friends. Nurture your body, mind, and spirit by entertaining and eating healthfully at home more often.
The quotation for today follows:
“To make changes like this more widespread we need action both cultural and political. The cultural lies in celebrating real food; raising our children in homes that don’t program them for fast-produced, eaten-on-the-run, high-calorie, low-nutrition junk; giving them the gift of appreciating the pleasures of nourishing one another and enjoying that nourishment together.” Mark Bittman
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Thanks for Visiting

Hope you enjoyed your visit and will return again. Be well. Live well. Lead a colorful life! Warm regards, Nan