One of my favorite nutritionists is Dee McCaffrey. She is a local person, if you live in the Phoenix area. She often speaks at Sprouts stores, so if you have one near you, check out their calendar of events and chances are you’d have a chance to meet her. Anyway, she has two great books out with recipes in them that are healthy and yummy! This is one of my favorites. It is different but in a very pleasant way, and tastes wonderful. There are so many different flavors and they blend together so well. Try it sometime! It’s easy to make, too!

Southwestern Sweet Potato Wraps

Makes: 6 burritos

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 tablespoon unrefined coconut oil

1/2 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cans (15 ounce) red kidney beans (preferably organic), drained and rinsed

1 cup water

1  1/2 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons yellow mustard

1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste

1  1/2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce or reduced-sodium wheat-free tamari sauce

1  1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, baked and then peeled and mashed

6 (10-inch) whole-wheat tortillas or whole spelt tortillas, warmed

4 ounces cheddar cheese (preferably organic), shredded, about 1 cup

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350F. Place whole sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until soft through the center. Remove from oven but leave the oven on for warming the burritos.

Allow sweet potatoes to cool, then cut open and scrape out all of the inside part of the potatoes and place them in a bowl. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher. They can still be slightly lumpy. Set aside.

Heat coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft. Stir in the beans, and mash them with a masher. Gradually stir in the water, and heat until warm. Remove from heat, and stir in the chili powder, cumin, mustard, cayenne pepper, and soy sauce or tamari sauce.

Warm tortillas by placing them in a dry skillet over medium heat. When the tortilla is warm to the touch, remove from the skillet and lay the tortilla on a flat surface, such as a cutting board or a plate. Add equal amounts of the bean mixture and the mashed sweet potatoes down the center of each tortilla. Top with cheese. Roll up the tortilla burrito style, and place burrito on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Bake the burritos for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, just enough to lightly brown the tops of the tortillas. Serve immediately.

Recipe reprinted with permission from  Plan-D: The Amazing Anti-Diet That Will Change Your Life Forever by Dee McCaffrey, CDC. © 2009 Center for Processed-Free Living,

 http://www.plandee.org

A friend of mine was doing research for a legal matter-she is a lawyer. She needed information regarding a chemical used in packaging for cat food. During her research, she was gathering information about an additive called propylene glycol. I have been on a soapbox for a while against propylene glycol, since I heard that it is a main ingredient in antifreeze. Well, my lawyer friend found new information—propylene glycol is BANNED from cat food! It’s not from human food, though! Propylene glycol is a solvent and a stabilizer, so it is used in many foods to lengthen their shelf life. This helps increase the profit margin for food companies. Please make a difference and don’t buy products with this ingredient. I’m sorry that food products may spoil faster without propylene glycol, or not be as evenly consistent as far as texture or ingredients, but is that so bad? We should be doing better as far as buying more natural foods, which do spoil. It is so much healthier, and probably lowers our risk of cancers! Please read ingredient labels to see if propylene glycol is in the food items you buy, and put them back if it is listed as an ingredient. Thanks for helping make our food options healthier!

My boyfriend and I went out for dinner last Saturday evening. We wanted to be mostly good, meaning, staying within the boundaries of acceptably healthy without being strict. We had seen a sign for Vietnamese cuisine in a little strip mall maybe a week or two earlier, and thought we should try it out some day. Neither of us had tried Vietnamese food before, though, so weren’t really sure what it was. So, last Saturday night, we walked up to it and looked at the menu posted outside to see if it would have something for me to eat (since I’m veg that can be tricky occasionally but not often). The menu looked ok, so we went in.

Wow, were we impressed! The food was GREAT! It was inexpensive, too, which is something we are definitely looking for these days. I had a veggie curry dish, and it was so good! There was some fresh basil leaves sprinkled on top of my dish, which initially I pushed off to the side since basil belongs in Italian food, I thought. I do love basil, though, so at one point I pulled off a little corner of a leaf and put it on a forkful. Oh, my gosh, could my meal actually get better?! That made it excellent!

We also had the veggie dumplings to start as an appetizer, which the menu had said come fried, but I asked them if it was possible to make them not oily, and the waiter said he could bring them steamed. They were also very yummy.

So, overall, I think Vietnamese cuisine is sort of like a mix of Thai food and Chinese, so think Asian fusion. We will definitely go back to Noodles Ranch. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but definitely is a pleasant surprise inside! Look for it in the ACE Hardware/Albertson’s shopping center on the corner of Scottsdale Roads and Thomas.

I happen to be vegetarian, but don’t tell others that they need to be. I respect other people’s wishes as I hope they will respect mine. I am a lacto-ovo vegetarian (I eat dairy and eggs). I don’t eat anything made with chicken broth or cooked on the same grill as meats. Nor will I eat a salad after picking off the chicken –I’d just rather skip it and wait till I get home. I do in general think Americans eat too much meat (read “The Blue Zones” by Dan Buettner–great, fun read) but not enough fish (although I don’t eat fish myself). I had some great meals this past weekend at different restaurants around the Phoenix area, so I thought I’d let others know if they are looking for some great vegetarian options.

First, Friday night my boyfriend and I went out for our first time to a relatively new restaurant in Old Town Scottsdale. It’s called 5th and Wine. We live pretty close to Old Town, so that was convenient for us, and it was highly recommended by Jay and Susie of FoodiesLikeUs.com, both friends of mine (check out their great events! Not really designed for vegetarians, but they do great work!). We started with the bruschetta appetizer, and had two vegetarian options, the apple with brie and agave drizzle, and the roasted peppers with goat cheese. Both were great. The apple one was so sweet I was considering saving a piece for dessert! Not too icky sweet, though. Then, I had the caprese panini for my main course. It was absolutely to die for! Even my boyfriend who normally choses meat dishes said he will chose the caprese panini too next time, and that we have to go back sometime to have it again! It was fabulous. Great wine with our meals too. The only negative thing I could say is that it’s a little loud in the restaurant, so probably don’t bring someone hard of hearing. But fun atmosphere, good service, and lots of space both indoors and outdoors to sit. And decently low prices–my panini was $10.95.

Then, Saturday night, we had tickets to the ASU baseball game, so we stopped at a little restaurant in Tempe on the way for dinner. My boyfriend and his dad like this Middle Eastern restaurant called Haji Baba and have been many times. I have been a couple of times. I tried something new, and was glad I did. I had a Greek salad and an order of an appetizer that I can’t seem to remember the name. I know the first word was “foul” which seemed like an odd word to use for a food item in the US! I am sure that means something else in a different language. Anyway, I liked the foul appetizer. I would definitely order that again. It is basically fava beans in a sauce, and comes with pita bread to eat it with. Next time, I will probably order the same things, but ask for the dressing on the side for the salad–came with just a little too much for me–and then make pita wraps or something with the beans and the salad contents. Might look weird but I was thinking that would be great. Also very inexpensive; I think the fava beans were about $2.99 or something.

Then, on Sunday evening, we met friends out to eat before they all scatter for the summer. It is so unusual for my boyfriend and I to eat out three nights in a row! We went to Rockbottom at Desert Ridge. This is an example of eating vegetarian, and even healthy, can actually happen in an American-style restaurant! I had a new appetizer that they just added to their menu. It was a spicy hummus and came with lots of carrots, snow peas, and something they called Tuscan bread to dip. The plate was big, and I was happy that it was plenty for me for dinner even though it was off the appetizer menu. I like carrots and snow peas and they went well with the hummus. It wasn’t incredible, but definitely enjoyable and certainly healthy! I passed on the Tuscan bread. Not so yummy, sorry, Rockbottom!

So that was my fun weekend with the love of my life, family, and friends. I am such a lucky girl! I hope to help other vegetarians in Phoenix find some good places to eat. Enjoy!