laurenlikestocook

Archive for the ‘Nuts’ Category

Ate Days a Week

In Beans, Bread, Breakfast, Brunch, Challenge, Fruit, Healthy Lifestyle, Holiday, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Nuts, Oats, Party, Pasta, Pizza, Quick Meal, Rice, Salad, Saving Money, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian on February 24, 2015 at 7:04 pm

When it comes to healthy eating, I find there is a fine line between two philosophies: 1)Variety is the spice of life and 2)Consistency is key.  How does one stay in balance without getting bored of the same 10 meal repertoire?  When it comes to diversification, I’m always looking for inspiration.  I often look at healthy eating blogs/sites, fitness magazines, and even get sucked into the articles on the latest celebrity eating crazes.  There are definitely common trends (who else is sick of seeing kale everywhere?), but there is also a lot of differing and conflicting information.  Some people eat the same exact breakfast and lunch every day because it helps them stay on track, while others will cave into candy if they have another egg white fritata.

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Could you eat THIS every day?

Where do my habits fall on this spectrum?  It’s kind of hard to say.  There have been weeks where I definitely fall into the same lunch rut, and others where I order take out every night.  It really depends on what else is going on that hour/meal/day/week/etc.  In an effort to better answer this question, I decided a couple of weeks ago to keep a log of my food/water/alcohol intake every day for 7 days.  This practice helped me to reflect more accurately on my habits and identify trends, which is something I hadn’t done in several years.  Back in my days of working with a personal trainer, I had been required to turn in a nutrition log at the beginning of each session, which gave me so much anxiety.  If I was honest about every morsel, I’d get ripped apart for having even one cookie, even if the other 98% of my intake was perfect.   I would end up omitting anything that I knew was “inconstant” and veering away from my “goals”, just to avoid the wrath of someone who subsisted on protein shakes, whey, and hardly any fresh fruits or vegetables.

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Homework…

It’s been a long time since I’ve followed any sort of “diet” or meal plan, so this time I took a different approach to the journaling process.  I didn’t focus exclusively on calories, macronutrients, or obsessively counting and measuring.  While I did note approximate amounts (I have a very good sense of portions and volumes, so that’s how I was able to quantify all the ingredients), I didn’t use any measuring devices (scale/cup/calculator), except when required by a recipe (baking).    I just wanted to get a sense of 1)the main components of my meals, 2)some idea of ratio (is the meal 1/2 veggies, 1/4 each protein/carb), 3)how often/frequently I eat, 4)what kind and how often I was having alcohol and “treats”, and how 5)much water I was consuming.  For water, I used the same size glass throughout the day (usually a 17 oz size, which I’d note as 2 cups), and I didn’t include cooking water.  I also noted times I ate/drank to understand the frequency better.

Here’s a high level overview, which I’ll follow with more details and pics.  This particular week had a busy weekend (Valentine’s Day, birthday parties, 2 big family dinners), so it’s an example of more splurging than usual.

  • Breakfast is the most consistent, usually some combination of protein (eggs or yogurt) with whole grain (oats) and lots of veggies
  • Lunch is usually leftovers or a simple salad
  • Dinner is the most varied, usually freshly cooked, and has carb heavy options for the other members of my family
  • I’ll have 1-3 in between meal snacks or bites
  • I drink a minimum 12 cups of water a day, but usually 16+ (especially on days I exercise).  This equates to about a cup/hour.
  • 1-2 glasses of wine 4 times a week; 1 night of cocktails.  None of that bothers me. 🙂
  • A piece or two of chocolate 3x; ice cream 1x
  • During the week, frequency is 2-3 hours; Weekend eating frequency is less, but more indulgent

That’s the basic gist of the week’s trends.  Some of you may want more information, the same way I look at other blogs as I mentioned earlier.  For those who want more details, here they are, along with some photos when I remembered to take them.

  • Monday
    • Water total: 16 cups
      • 530: 2 cups water before/during barre workout
    • 7 am grande coffee w 1 oz milk
    • 7:45 am: 2 cups water; porridge – 1/2 cup oats, 2 cups water, 1.5 cups kale, 1 tsp miso, 2 eggs, 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
      • 2 more cups water btwn meals
    • 11:15 Carob spirulina energy bite (1)
    • 12:30 pm: 2 cups water; salad of 3 celery stalks, 1 small gala apple, 1/3 cup chickpeas, lemon juice; 1 brown rice cake with 1/3 avocado and 1/2 oz sharp cheddar
      • 2:30 2 cups water
    • 3:15 whole wheat banana nut bread
      • 4:30 2 cups water
    • 6:00 low fat string cheese 1 cup water
    • 7:15 2 cups water; whole wheat pasta with honeynut squash olives capers and almonds (1 cup)
      • 1 cup water after dinner
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Porridge

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Lunch

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Whole Wheat Banana Bread

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Pasta.

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My itty portion.

  • Tuesday
    • Water total: 16 cups
      • 8:30 am: 2 cups water
    • 9:00 – pancake (1.5 eggs, 6 tbsp oats, 3 tbsp nonfat Greek yogurt, 1.5 cups flower sprouts [like kale]). 2 cups water
      • 10: stroller strides (interval full body workout) 2 cups water during workout
    • 11: 3/4 cup Greek yogurt with 1 tsp pb 3/4 apple and cinnamon
    • 11:30 – grande coffee w 1 oz milk
    • 1:00 pm – 2 cups water; 1 whole wheat pizza slice with broccoli and spinach topping
      • 2:45 – 2 cups water
      • 4:15 – 2 cups water
    • 5:15 – 1.5 clementine 10 raw almonds
    • 6:15 : 2 cups water, 3 bell pepper slices
    • 7:30 2 cups water. 2 (really big) glass red wine. 1/3 cup sprouted brown rice, 1/3 cup mushroom stroganoff, 1/2 cup roasted sugar snap peas in 1 tsp Evoo, 1 small bell pepper stuffed w 1/2 cup chickpeas w lemon zest and juice; 2 choc truffle
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Pancake with a hot sauce smile.

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Yogurt parfait.

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  • Wednesday
    • Water total: 16 cups
      • 9:15 am 2 cups water
    • 9:30 – smoothie (3/4 cup Greek yogurt, 1/2 banana, 1/2 cup blueberries, 1.5 cups broccoli, 1/4 cup oats, 1 tbsp pb, 1/2 cup water, vanilla and cinnamon)
      • 10:30 2 cups water
    • 11:15 cup of coffee w splash of milk
      • 11:40 2 cups water
    • 12:15 pm 1 cup coffee
      • 1:00 2 cups water
    • 1:15 leftover snap peas stroganoff and rice, kidney beans 1/2 cup each
    • 2:45 2 cups water. 1 oz sharp cheddar
    • 5:15 thin slice whole wheat banana bread
      • 6:30 2 cups water
    • 7:00 carrot ginger coconut soup (1 cup), sesame noodles (1/2 cup brown rice quinoa pasta with pb and sesame sauce (pb, molasses, sesame oil, ginger, garlic,etc), 2 cups water, 1 piece dark chocolate w raisins and pecans
      • 10:30 2 cups water
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Finished smoothie.

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Sautéing veggies for the soup.

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Soups on!

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Sesame noodles, with some modifications on this recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/cold-sesame-noodles-recipe2.html

  • Thursday
    • Water total: 14
      • 9:30 am 2 cups water
    • 10:00 1/2 cup oats, 6 oz baby spinach sautéd in 1 tsp Evoo and garlic, 2 scrambled eggs, 2 cups water
    • 10:45 2 cup coffee w splash milk
      • 12:30 pm 2 cups water
      • 1:30 2 cups water
    • 2:00 leftover carrot soup (1.5 cups) rice beans and mushroom (1/2 cup each;) 1 cup water
      • 3:00 1 cup water
      • 5:15 2 cups water
    • 6:15 2 cups water. 1 small sweet potato with skin and sprinkle cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup white beans cooked in sriracha sauce, 1 cup slaw (napa cabbage carrots onion pepper apple celery lemon juice avocado), 1 glass red wine
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Breakfast.

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Leftovers. Again.

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Slaw.

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BBQ(ish) Dinner.

  • Friday
    • Water total: 17 cups
      • 5:30-7am 3 cups water before/ during barre
    • 7:00 grande coffee with splash milk
    • 8:30 2 cups water. Miso soup (1 tbsp miso w 2 cups water) with 1/2 cup leftover sprouted brown rice, 3 cups flower sprouts, 2 poached eggs, 1 tsp toasted sesame oil and hot sauce
      • 9:30 2 cups water
      • 11:15 2 cups water
    • 12:15 2 cups water. 2 cups leftover slaw w 1/2 cup kidney beans, 1 small sweet potato w sprinkle cheddar
      • 4:00 2 cups water
    • 4:30 2 clementines 15 raw almonds
      • 530 1 cup water
    • 7:00 pm – FAMILY DINNER. 1 cup water. 1/4 cup guac w 10 scoops, 2-3 oz white fish, 1/2 cup black bean, 1/2 cup cabbage, 2 margaritas. 1 piece salted caramel dark chocolate, 1 scoop vanilla ice cream
      • 10:00 2 cups water
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Another take on Breakfast.

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  • Saturday
    • Water total: 16 cups
      • 9:45 am 2 cups water
    • 10:15 2 cups water. 1/2 cup oats cooked in water, 3 oz baby spinach in 1 tsp Evoo, 1/3 avocado, 1 tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds
      • 11:00 am – 1:00 pm 4 cups water before/during/after barre
    • 1:00 pm grande coffee splash of milk
    • 2:30 pm salad w romain eggplant roasted red pepper cucumber tomato chick peas fresh mozzarella 1 tbsp vinaigrette, 10 French fries, 5 bites broccoli cheddar omelet, 1 cup water
      • 7:00 pm 4 cups water
    • 8:30 VALENTINES. 2 glasses red wine, 5 slices baguette 1/2 inch thick,  5 crackers, cheese (3ish oz), cherry jam, 10 olives, 2 cups water
      • 1 cup water before bed
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More savory oats.

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VDay with my love.

  • Sunday (Busy day, no photos)
    • Water total: 12
      • 9:30 am 2 cups water
    • 10:30 am 16 oz americano w steamed milk (1/2 cup?), 1 slice whole wheat banana bread, 1 cup water
    • 12:30 pm BIRTHDAY BRUNCH PART 1. 3 cups water, 1/2 cup brown rice 1 cup sauted Chinese broccoli,  2 bites tapioca custard, 2 bites dessert bun
    • 3:30 BIRTHDAY BRUNCH PART 2.  1 cup water, 2 poached eggs, 1/2 biscuit, 1/2 cup sauted kale, 1 cup mixed green side salad, 1/2 Bloody Mary
    • 6:30. BIG FAMILY DINNER.  3 cups water, 2 glasses red wine, 1/2 cup mixed greens, 1/2 slice fresh mozzarella, 1 bite bread w butter, 1 cup whole wheat pasta w arabiata sauce, 1/2 cup green beans, 1/4 cup sauted spinach, small piece eggplant parm (3 bites), 3 bites sole oreganata
      • 9:00 pm. 2 cups water

To answer my initial question, what does all of this mean? After this experiment, I think I can say that I am consistent with adhering to the healthy habits I’ve developed over the years, all while spicing things up with twists and changes.  And even if I do indulge a smidge, I don’t have to worry about hiding it from anyone, because I don’t consider it something off limits.  How else do you expect me to muster up the energy to cook (or chase a toddler) without a glass or two of wine?

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And if you’d like to see any of the recipes from this week, comment and let me know.  They could be included in a future post.

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Has it Really Been (Almost) a Year!!??

In CSA, Fruit, Holiday, Indian, Jewish, Mexican, Nuts, Party, Pizza, Sweet Potato, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian on October 19, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Whenever I meet somebody new, while talking and getting to know each other, we inevitably talk about food.  Sometimes, the conversation will go something like this:

New Person (NP):  I love food, but I hate cooking.  The closest thing to a homemade dish I’ll make is something frozen from TJs.

Me:  It’s not that hard.  I find it easier if I do A, B, and C. (More tips ensue).

NP:  Those are great ideas.  Do you like to cook?

Me:  I do!  I even have a food blog…

NP:  Really, what’s it called?

Me: Lauren Likes to Cook.  Although, it’s been months since I’ve written anything.

NP:  You should write something new!

Okay, so not verbatim, but you get the idea.  The last time this happened, I decided to look back at my homepage and see how long it really has been.  Turns out, it was last October.  Now I know my life has different responsibilities than when I started this journey, but still, I couldn’t believe it.  This blog, the manifestation of my love for food, had been pushed to the back burner.  What, you say, has made its way to the forefront of my to-do lists?  Well, a lot happened this past year.

After 7 years (9 for Nick) of living in Brooklyn, we finally made the move to the ‘burbs.  We staged and sold our condo, moved in with my in-laws, bought a new house, and fixed/furnished the bare necessities of our new space – all while caring for an infant (who is now a bonafide toddler).  Spruced in with some firsts and milestones, here are some highlights (warning – there are a lot of baby pictures):

  • October 2013

    Rocco's First Halloween!  Charlie Brown (with Snoopy)

    Rocco’s First Halloween! Charlie Brown (with Snoopy)

  • December 2013
    Rocco's first solid food - Avocado

    Rocco’s first solid food – Avocado

    Good-bye view from our Condo.

    Good-bye view from our Condo.

  • January 2014 – Coldest and longest month ever.

    Running redefined

    Running redefined

  • February 2014

    Best Valentine's Day Gift - a juicer!

    Best Valentine’s Day Gift – a juicer!

  • March 2014
    We moved!

    We moved!

    New workspace.   Boo for Electric cooktop.

    New workspace. Boo for Electric cooktop.

  • April 2014 – The end of my 20s.  Starting my 30s off as a Lush.
    Mixology party for my 30th Birthday.

    Mixology party for my 30th Birthday.

    Best. Drink. Ever.

    Best. Drink. Ever.

New Kitchen Floor.

New Kitchen Floor.

First Family Vacation

First Family Vacation

  • May 2014
    First Mother's Day

    First Mother’s Day

    Starting my First Garden

    Starting my First Garden

    A garden grows in Garden City.

    A garden grows in Garden City.

  • June 2014
    Rocco Turns 1!

    Rocco Turns 1!

    New CSA

    New CSA

  • July /August 2014 – Beach vacations
    Playing on the beach

    Playing on the beach

    Summer Corn

    Summer Corn

    First backyard BBQ

    First backyard BBQ

  • September 2014
    Happy 3rd Anniversary, Nick!

    Happy 3rd Anniversary, Nick!

    Anniversary Dinner.

    Anniversary Dinner.

  • October 2014 – Back to Apple and Pumpkin Season!
    Pumpkin and Apple Pancake

    Pumpkin and Apple Pancake

    Lots of Apples

    Lots of Apples

    Apple and beet juice

    Apple and beet juice

    Apple cinnamon cocktail

    Apple cinnamon cocktail

    Slow cooker stew with what else - Apples!

    Slow cooker stew with what else – Apples!

    Apple multigrain Breakfast bars

    Apple multigrain Breakfast bars

There you have it!  Pictures worth thousands of words.  Now that life is a little less hectic and routines are rather consistent, I’ll have more time to blog about what’s cooking.  In the meantime, some more photos of last year’s concoctions.  Happy drooling!

Gold/Purple Cauliflower and Romanesco

Gold/Purple Cauliflower and Romanesco

Fish in a white wine butter sauce over wild rice, with roasted brussel sprouts, radish, carrots, and jerusalem artichokes

Fish in a white wine butter sauce over wild rice, with roasted brussel sprouts, radish, carrots, and jerusalem artichokes

Margaritas

Margaritas

Watermelon radish, red cabbage, avocado

Watermelon radish, red cabbage, avocado

Sweet potato gnocchi

Sweet potato gnocchi

Homemade Indian feast at the In-Laws

Homemade Indian feast at the In-Laws

Moscow Mules

Moscow Mules

Rocco eating dried Mango

Rocco eating dried Mango

Homemade Almond Milk

Homemade Almond Milk

Typical Lunch

Typical Lunch

Roasted veggies

Roasted veggies

Ratatouille stuffed pepper, truffle risotto, roasted green beans

Ratatouille stuffed pepper, truffle risotto, roasted green beans

Pesto Pizza

Pesto Pizza

Sweet potato with goat cheese and maple glazed nuts

Sweet potato with goat cheese and maple glazed nuts

Crustless quiche for Passover

Crustless quiche for Passover

Chocolate covered strawberries

Chocolate covered strawberries

Drunk kale quesadillas

Drunk kale quesadillas

Juicing cucumbers and lemons for cocktails.  Very healthy.

Juicing cucumbers and lemons for cocktails. Very healthy.

More roasted veggies.

More roasted veggies.

Nicoise salad.

Nicoise salad.

Roasted cabbage

Roasted cabbage

Rocco's story time choice - Eat to Live.

Rocco’s story time choice – Eat to Live.

A Little Sumpin Pumpkin

In American, Breakfast, Fruit, Nuts, Oats, Quick Meal, Shopping, Vegetables, Vegetarian on October 24, 2013 at 4:16 pm

The past month or so has been super busy.  We’ve been prepping to sell our place, and needless to say I never want to step foot into Lowes, Target, or Ikea ever again.  Aside from the obviously dos during this process, there were some unexpected don’ts.  I won’t bore you with those details, but basically I’ve been living in a beautiful showroom and not allowed to use or touch anything for fear of making dirt or imperfections, especially in the kitchen.  With the process having moved along, I am finally getting back into some normalcy.

This past weekend I finally made it to the farmers market to do a pretty decent shopping.  Prior weekends I either couldn’t make it because of household duties, or I would just pick up a few necessities if I happen to be passing by.  I was happy with my bounty, but not happy with the crowds of people.  I don’t know if it’s just the time of year, or if my neighborhood is really overpopulated, but it was so frustrating to navigate through the half block stretch.  But I digress.

photo 1

Although the majority were green, I managed to diversify the rainbow of produce.  Clockwise from top left:

  • Red (really purple) cabbage
  • Yellow and purple beans
  • Chocolate mint (my new best thing!)
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Kale
  • Some new leafy green I forgot the name of
  • Heirloom cherry/grape tomatoes
  • Long Island Cheese Pumpkin
  • Honey crisp apples
  • Fennel
  • Broccoli
  • Rainbow chard
  • Sweet potatoes (not pictured)

I originally wanted a butternut squash, but every one was huge, like 5+ lbs.  Hence, my newest squash – the Long Island Cheese Pumpkin.

photo 2

So named for it’s skin’s resemblance to cheese rinds, this pumpkin is grown to make pies.   I’m not really a pie baking kind of gal, but I wanted to do something with this thing.  Before deciding what to make, I figured I should at least go through the process of roasting and pureeing.  Hey, at least this is good practice for making baby food.

Cut in half, before scooping out the seeds.

Cut in half, before scooping out the seeds.

It was pretty easy.  I preheated the oven to 400.  Then cut the pumpkin in half, scooped out the seeds, and placed the flesh in a roasting pan with an inch of water.  An hour later it was done.

After roasting and scooping out the flesh.

After roasting and scooping out the flesh.

Once it was cool enough to handle, I scooped out the flesh into my blender, then blended for a minute.  This 3.5ish lb pumpkin yielded 3.5ish cups puree.

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It took me 2 days to decide what to make first.  I was inspired by my local bakery to make muffins, only not the kind that are essentially un-iced cakes the size of a human head.  Now that it’s Fall, they have been in full pumpkin mode, and pumpkin muffins are no exception.  After many trips to this cafe for breakfast (just to avoid making a mess in the kitchen), I have to admit there were a couple of times I purchased such muffins and tried to only eat half, knowing very well the damage heading my way – white flour, white sugar, butter and/or oil, etc.  Hence, my attempt to remedy myself with some whole grain breakfast appropriate muffins.

I searched the interwebs for some recipes, and finally settled on one with some substitutions and additions.  You could easily make these vegan by using banana instead of egg, and nondairy milk/yogurt instead of buttermilk.  I happened to have Greek yogurt, so that’s what I used.  You can check out the original recipe here, but just to clarify anything in bold was not the original recipe/ingredient.

Whole Wheat and Oat Maple Walnut Pumpkin Muffins

Adapted from Kitchen Treaty

  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats + 2 tablespoons for topping
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 6 oz nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup 1% milk
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
 It’s pretty simple.  Oven at 400.  Mix wet and dry separately.
Dry

Dry

Wet

Wet

Add wet to dry just to incorporate.  Then mix in the nuts (that was my own little addition).

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Spoon the mixture into some 3 oz muffin tins with some paper muffin cups in there.  This recipe makes 12 of them.  Sprinkle the top with some oats, then bake for 15-20 minutes.  The original recipe said 15, but mine were still wet.

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Let them cool for 10-20 minutes, and then enjoy with a cup of joe or tea.
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These were pretty good.  Not as moist as a cake version, but what do you expect from something made from whole wheat, oats, and mashed fruit/veggies?  Normally, I have no issues subbing in apple sauce for oil.  However, if I make these again I might try to follow the original recipe’s oil suggestion.  I will say though that I totally dig my addition of walnuts, and the caramelization produced by the maple syrup was a nice touch.  Overall, these are a much better quick option than anything I’d find at a bakery.
I still have 2 and 1/2(ish) cups left of puree, so I either need to make something in the next day, or freeze it for a rainy day.  While I’d love me some pumpkin ravioli, there’s also about 6 weeks until Rocco starts solids, so I may just save a lil sumpin pumpkin for my little pumpkin.

Slow as Molasses

In American, Breakfast, Fruit, Nuts, Oats, Saving Money, Vegan on April 12, 2013 at 2:55 pm

When I posted last time about all my new recipes, I emptily promised to reveal and detail the winner the following week.  Well, let’s just say a week is apparently equal to nearly 2 months in the energy level of a pregnant lady.  It takes me a lot longer to do simple tasks, such as walk to the subway or go grocery shopping, so please bare with me.

The recipe with the highest votes was unsurprisingly the truffled mac ‘n cheese.  I have to say I am slightly disappointed, only because that is the least wholesome dish I offered in the poll.  Regardless, I will at least give you a snapshot of the story behind the glory.

Maybe 5 or so years ago, I was watching Barefoot Contessa, which you may or may not know features Ina Garten, the poster child for Hamptons culinary indulgences.  Don’t believe me?  She is basically the Yankee version of Paul Dean.  I’m surprised she hasn’t announced any critical medical problems herself.  Anyway, on that particular episode she had whipped up some of said truffled mac ‘n cheese.  I was mesmerized, and of course made it for my hubby (then bf).  It was a winner.  Since then, I only make it for special occasions.  Most recently, this included a potluck Superbowl party.  I’m not going to go into too many details, so here’s a link to the recipe.  I followed it to a T.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/truffled-mac-and-cheese-recipe/index.html

Here are some pictures.

Shredded Cheddar and Gruyer

Shredded Cheddar and Gruyer

Sauteed Mushrooms

Sauteed Mushrooms

Truffle Butter

Truffle Butter

Bechamel

Bechamel

Pasta, Sauce, Cheese, and Mushrooms

Pasta, Sauce, Cheese, and Mushrooms

Breadcrumb ingredients

Breadcrumb ingredients

Assembled

Assembled

In other news, I’ve been refining my diet even more since switching from an OB to a Birthing Center midwifery practice.  The former gave me no nutritional information other than avoiding undercooked animal products.  The latter sat with me for 30 minutes reviewing my diet, and suggesting what nutrients to increase.  The biggie was iron.  There’s a big misconception that as a vegetarian you are at an iron disadvantage.  When we went over a list of foods to eat, I would say 90% on the print out were plant based.  These foods include leafy greens, whole grains, legumes (beans, lentils), nuts, dried fruits, and blackstrap molasses.  She said that molasses is great to use in baking instead of brown sugar (which I’ve done in the past), but also to add to cereal, yogurt, beans, you name it.  One tbsp has 20% daily value of both iron and calcium.  Mind you, pregnant women need double the iron, but still.  Even 10% from switching a tbsp of sweetener for the molasses goes a long way.

There was one recipe I had in my archives that I found a few years ago on a blog for granola bars.  Oats, dried fruit, almond butter, almonds, seeds.  All tons of iron.  I decided to swap out the brown sugar and replace it with molasses to boost the iron factor even more.  I had intended on making these for 2 straight weeks, but I either was missing an ingredient, or once I bought it was too tired to assemble and prepare.  Let me tell you, once I finally got my act together I was happy to have them lying around when I was in a pinch for a snack.

Almond Fig Granola Bars
Adapted from In Praise of Leftovers

1 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 c. chopped raw almonds
1/4 c. raw sunflower seeds
1 Tb. flaxseeds
1 Tb. sesame seeds
1 c. unsweetened crisped brown rice cereal
1/3 c. dried tart cherries
2/3 c. dried figs, coarsely chopped
1/4 c. creamy almond butter
1/4 c. blackstrap molasses
3 Tb. brown rice syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt

I followed the directions accordingly, just with my substitutions: brown rice cereal instead of kashi, cherries instead of cranberries, blackstrap molasses for brown sugar, and brown rice syrup for honey.  The last bit makes this recipe vegan, for all my vegan friends.

Oven preheating to 350, I spread the oats, almonds, and all the seeds on a tray for toasting for 8 minutes.

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While toasting, I combined the rice cereal in fruits in a bowl.

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Once the toasting items were done, I combined all the dry ingredients and prepped wet to simmer in a saucepan for 5 minutes: almond butter, molasses, brown rice syrup, vanilla, and salt.

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Then when the goop was done, I poured it over all the dry ingredients, and pressed the mixture into a pan.

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After 30ish minutes in the fridge, I cut mixture into 12 bars, and placed each one into an individual ziplock.  Those packages were placed in an airtight container.

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And voila!  Protein, fiber, calcium, and iron.  I may be slow as molasses, but my metabolism sure isn’t thanks to these bars.

I’m Over It(?)

In American, Bread, Chinese, Indian, Italian, Lentils, Nuts, Pasta, Quick Meal, Quinoa, Seitan, Soup, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian on February 20, 2013 at 1:04 pm

A little less light-hearted than usual, but here’s a bit of what’s been going on.  Don’t worry, I’ll still have some photos to make you drool :).

I’ve always loved food.  Throughout my adolescent and adult years, there has been a constant battle between enjoying food and being mindful of nutrition and health.  Although it became easier as I grew older and more knowledgeable, that inner struggle was always there.  Sometimes to the point of obsession and compulsion.

Being the over analytical nut that I am, I’ve gone through different phases of nutritional “rightness”, ensuring my due diligence by checking labels, measuring, logging, etc.  I’ve even developed predictive models in Excel.  My analyses have gone so far that I can piece together meals and daily meal plans to get the most bang (filling/satiating) for my caloric buck.   These endeavors, however, are extremely masochistic.  No matter how hard I try to just relax about my diet, I will drive myself crazy with some new form of food obsession.

Everyone thinks that being pregnant is a great excuse to let yourself go and eat what you want.  Yeah, right.  Not according to every piece of pregnancy literature.  Experts recommend only adding 300 extra calories a day to your diet, along with making sure you get 4 calcium servings, tons of protein, and various vegetables as sources of necessary vitamins – just to name a few of the “dos.”  The don’ts are even longer.  So I stopped the caffeine, really committed to excluding chemicals, hydrogenated oils, HFCS, GMOs, etc.  I’ve turned down so many offers of candies, cookies, and packaged products because they don’t fit my new “diet.”  I forced myself to drink milk, and stuff my face with a variety of veggies, lest I endure my self-inflicted guilt.

All of this “dedication” (read: obsession) had helped me in the first 5 months to first drop 5 lbs and then only gain 6 back.  Compared to the average gain of 13 lbs by that point (and what woman doesn’t compare herself to others?), I became worried.  Even with the occasional ice cream or cookies, I was not gaining weight.  While this is a goal most women strive for, it’s not super when you have a living being growing inside of you.  So now, I have to try to eat more.  If you thought it was difficult counting calories, measuring foods, or leaving food on your plate, try purposefully eating a lot of healthy food.  My mind is so conditioned to abide by that bang for your buck mentality, I find it exhausting to think of more things to eat.  Almost every day, I think to myself or say to Nick “I’m so over it [thinking about food],”  and I am about 95% committed to that statement.  Because really, who am I kidding?

I’ve been eating a lot of avocado, nuts, and cheeses to aid in my healthy weight gain.  I also eat whole eggs instead of whites.  And sometimes I eat french fries.

Whole Wheat with avocado, mixed greens, and provolone.  Newest sandwich obsession. Also great with fried egg.

Whole Wheat with avocado, mixed greens, and provolone. Newest sandwich obsession. Also great with fried egg.

It’s been 3 weeks of these practices, and 4 lbs have been added to my total gain.  Unless you catch me from the side, I still don’t look pregnant, but I’ve finally succumbed to wearing maternity jeans.

As for “liking to cook”, I still do!  When I have the energy :).  I may be using more fats, but I guarantee everything is wholesome real food.  There are some new recipes to report!   However, by the time I’ve finished cooking and cleaning, my energy levels are usually maxed out with no reserves for blogging.  I’ve been getting a lot of advice, mostly to let others help out more.  That’s where you, my lovely readers come in handy.  I’m posting some photos below of a few recipes, and I’ll let you vote which to write about next.  And remember, with great power comes great responsibility.

Eggplant, Peppers, and Onions Hero

Eggplant, Peppers, and Onions Hero

 

3 Lentil and Quinoa Stew

3 Lentil and Quinoa Stew

 

Marinated Beet Salad with Arugula, Sunflower Seeds, and Homemade Paneer (Indian Cheese)

Marinated Beet Salad with Arugula, Sunflower Seeds, and Homemade Paneer (Indian Cheese)

 

Truffle Mac 'N Cheese (Warning: not healthy AT ALL, but will win you friends and get you laid)

Truffle Mac ‘N Cheese (Warning: not healthy AT ALL, but will win you friends and get you laid)

 

Whole Wheat Peanut Sesame Noodles (Served with Gingered Chicken and Garlic Broccoli)

Whole Wheat Peanut Sesame Noodles (Served with Gingered Chicken and Garlic Broccoli)

 

Twist on an American Classic:  Seitan or Chicken Noodle Casserole

Twist on an American Classic: Seitan or Chicken Noodle Casserole

 

Cast your votes, and I’ll post the most popular recipe next week.

Where is Lauren, and What Have You DONE with Her????

In CSA, Italian, Nuts, Pasta, Quick Meal, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian on December 4, 2012 at 4:09 pm

I’ve been hearing that a lot lately.  It’s been 3 months since my last post, and some changes have been brewing since then.  This past summer, I was traveling at least every other week, and my home cooking was lacking to say the least.  Whenever I actually was home, we’d either order delivery or I’d make some standbys (like pitzas, pastas, or soups).  With two trips left in September (including a surprise anniversary trip to Paris :)), I’d promised myself I’d get back in the swing of things once October rolled around.  I know that going on vacations are supposed to be fun and enjoyable, but to be honest I was so sick of being away I’d have nervous breakdowns about not having time to even clean my bathroom.  I know, poor me (you may begin to slap me across the face).

There were so many opportunities to relax on the beach or spend time with friends and family, we just couldn’t pass them up.  Besides, we thought, now is the time in our life when we are only responsible to ourselves.  We know that soon enough we’d start to have a family and we couldn’t just dredge our suitcases across half a mile of Fire Island sand.  This is what we kept telling ourselves as we unpacked and repacked our suitcases week after week.

Our final summer trip was to LA for our niece’s first birthday party.  And you know what happens at those parties?  Everyone keeps asking “when are you going to start popping out those babies?”  I laughed it off as I kept drinking Pinot Grigio and said “obviously not tonight.”  Boy was I surprised when I got home 2 days later.  I had been feeling awfully crampy and fatigued, and even though I was expecting my monthly bill it never came.   I peed on a stick,  saw that blue plus sign, and was in utter disbelief.  Even Nick couldn’t believe it (he thought I was crazy for even suspecting).  We were both excited, but all I could think about was the copious amounts of alcohol I’d consumed in the past 4 days.  When I mentioned it to my doctor, he said not to worry and that plenty of crackwhore alcoholics have beautiful healthy babies.  Great.

And then there’s this wonderful condition called “morning sickness” that kicked in later that week.  Some of you may not know this, but I believe it’s called that because as soon as you wake up in the morning you feel sick and it lasts all day.  I had aversions to every taste and smell.  I’d think “oh, pizza looks really good” and then I’d feel worse.  So my game plan was to force feed myself healthy foods, since everything made me feel sick anyway.  My first attempt was a golden cauliflower soup w/ collard greens from the book Eat to Live.

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Cooking some cauliflower in fresh carrots juice with onion and garlic, I blended the soup with some cashews (for creaminess).

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And then I topped with collard greens.

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Looks delicious, right? WRONG.  Since making this soup I cannot ingest cauliflower, collards, or cashews without a gag reflex.  I thought “oh, maybe it’s just the creaminess of the recipe.  Let me try other veggie dishes.”  A few days later I made some whole wheat pasta with eggplant, broccoli, and shallots.

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For some reason the picture editor will not let me rotate this photo.

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Or this one. Turn your heads 90 degrees to the right :).

That dish was slightly more palatable, but the thought of eating the leftovers made me want to hurl.  I felt so defeated, all the veggies I loved to eat were revolting.  It was ever harder to swallow after reading all those pregnancy books with dietary guidelines.  I’ve always been one to get tons of vitamins via veggies, and protein from dairy and plant based sources.  I’ve even had more than my daily allotment of fiber from beans, oats, and cruciferous plants.  However, my last few precious CSA distributions pretty much went to waste as they rotted in my fridge and I was lucky to get some vitamin C from the daily orange I’d have with breakfast.  I blamed it on my fetus’s father who only eats pork and cheese products.  Luckily they make those prenatal vitamins to fill in the gaps.

I tried my best to eat as healthfully as possible, having fruit and oatmeal w/ either eggs or milk for bkfst, but the rest of the day was wacky.  Some days I’d bring a bean burrito and some broccoli for lunch, only to end up rushing to the bagel shop or Thai takeout instead.  Other days I knew myself better and didn’t even attempt to bring food from home.  I wasn’t eating anything bad per se, but I definitely did not reach my 5 veggie a day goal.  When I’d go out for dinner,  I was fine to eat a raw kale salad, probably because somebody else prepared it.  Yet, when I tried to wash and chop kale at home I wanted to faint and vomit at the same time.  Other veggies like raw peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, and celery seemed to jive a bit more, so I’d try to slice some up to snack on throughout the day.  That’s when I actually had the energy to do so.  Same with sneaking greens into a Green Smoothie.  Other tricks include melting cheddar on broccoli or hiding spinach in a cheese omelet.  I’ve also given in to buying a green juice from the healthfood store once or twice a week.

Meanwhile, this was all happening for the past 2ish months, and nobody knew aside from my husband, doctor, and the occasional Yoga instructor.  I’d be bailing on happy hours, or going with the excuse of antibiotics or getting over a cold.  Of course everyone suspects you’re preggers, but nobody really pushed me.  However, people don’t suspect being tired or averse to certain foods as any red flags.  I felt miserable and couldn’t even explain to my friends why.  Recently we started telling a select few friends and family, so I’ve been much more relieved.  When I would tell friends I haven’t really been cooking, they were like “what???? what is wrong with you.”  Then the explanations ensued and the mysteries revealed.

I’m just beginning the second trimester now, and they say that those horrible symptoms begin to subside.  I’m slowly feeling less tired and nauseated, so hopefully I’ll be back on track with the cooking and posts.  In the meantime, eat your veggies and drink some wine for me.

Eat to Live vs. Live to Eat

In American, Challenge, Fruit, Nuts, Quick Meal, Salad, Shopping, Vegan, Vegetables on September 5, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Having a summer full of vacations has pulled me in polar opposite directions with my diet.  It seems that every vacation activity is planned around feedings, and the highlights of the trip are the bleu cheese stuffed olives or truffled mashed potatoes.  A whole afternoon can be spent chopping fruit for sangria, and this is considered quality relaxation time spent with my family.  Then reality hits upon crossing the threshold of my apartment:  I can’t continue to have martinis, beer, and sangria everyday, nor end every meal with a bowl of molten chocolate cake.  I do begin to crave my normal routine of salads, veggies, and the like, but I also suffer from indulgence withdrawal.  Yes, enjoying delicacies are some of the most precious moments in life, but living to a healthy old age is more of a priority in my book.  So what am I to do to achieve a balance between the two?  Eating to live, instead of living to eat.  Easier said than done, especially for this foodie.

Farmer’s market taters and tomaters.

Does anybody else every have an experience where they learn something new, and then all of the sudden that new thing is everywhere?  That’s how I feel about Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book Eat to Live.  I remember coming across his diet philosophy on another food blog (I can’t remember which, since I tend to read 30 posts in a row on a new blog I discover), and then many times after seeing him on talk shows and PBS.  According to Dr. Fuhrman, the key to living a long, healthy, and disease-free life is to adapt a plant-based diet (ideally vegan) that focuses on 6 required food groups a day.  He created an acronym to remember these categories: “G-BOMBS”

  • Greens (Kale, collards, bok choy, spinach, etc) – 1 lb raw and 1 lb steamed
  • Berries – 1 cup
  • Onions (red, white, scallion, garlic, etc) – 1/2 cup
  • Mushrooms – 1 tbsp
  • Beans (beans, lentils, peas) – 1 cup
  • Seeds (seeds and nuts – chia, flax, almond, cashew, etc) – 1 oz

Additionally, you can eat other non-starch veggies, and should have about a cup a day of whole grains (oats, quinoa, rice, etc).  Mind you, all of this information I’ve gathered without reading the book, but it’s on my to-read list for sure.  Regardless, I really like his philosophy.  I basically eat this way anyway, but I really had to up my veggie intake to meet the greens requirement.  Do you know how much a lb of greens is?  A lot.  Basically, 2 huge salads a day.  And that’s just the raw requirement.

Inspired by this eat to live mentality, I made a trip to the farmer’s market a few weeks ago in between 2 vacations.  I kid you not when I tell you I spent 60 dollars.  The mushrooms were pricy, and cukes/tomatoes/zucchini were on major sale, so I really took advantage of the plethora of options.  Besides, 60 bux for 2 people’s grocery budget is pretty low, especially for organics.

Not even half of my bounty.

About 20% of the zucchini.

Not included in the pictures above are chives, shallots, mushrooms, lettuce, kale, cauliflower, basil, and cucumbers.  I made lots of salads and had veggies juithies every day.  I made a really delicious dressing, but didn’t take any pictures.  Kind of a take of Green Goddess dressing, only non-dairy.

Green Tahini Dressing

1/2 bunch chives
3 cloves garlic
1 carrot
2 tbsp tahini paste
1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
salt and pepper to taste

I blended everything in my Vitamix, which was really quick.   This dressing lasted me about 5-6 salads worth, and sometimes I squeezed a lil lemon juice to freshen it up.  It’s REALLY oniony and garlicky, so just be forewarned, but it’s super delicious.

With all the zucchini and tomatoes (including heirloom!) I opted to do a raw dinner one night.  I had this huge bunch of basil, so what else to make with it except pesto? It wasn’t a traditional version with tons of oil or parm.  Just basil, pine nuts, and 1 tbsp evoo.

Instead of wheat pasta, I used my veggie peeler to peel some zucchini ribbons, and topped the dish with sliced heirloom tomato, salt, and pepper.

Those are some of the raw veggie ideas.  I’ll talk about some cooked ideas in my next post.  In the meantime, I am still readjusting to this new philosophy, so I’ll be coming up with some new kinds of recipes.  Pretty soon, by eating to live, living to eat will be in pursuit of the former.  That’s what I call a win-win.

End of Week Recap, Ruby Rhubarb Relish, and What NOT to do with an Avocado

In Breakfast, Challenge, Chinese, CSA, Fruit, Italian, Nuts, Pasta, Quick Meal, Rice, Salad, Saving Money, Seitan on June 19, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Oh, rhubarb…that reddish celery looking crop that pops up in the late spring at farmer’s markets.  I don’t know about you, but the only time I’ve ever had rhubarb was combined with strawberries in a pie, a crisp, or over vanilla ice cream.  As a result, I never knew exactly HOW it tastes on its own.  I’m all for sweets and desserts, but I’d rather waste my calories on chocolate than a vegetable.  Hence, my mission to create a savory rhubarb recipe!  Knowing that rhubarb is biologically a vegetable, and that it is also very tart, wasn’t enough information for me, so last Thursday, I braced myself to taste some raw.  The best way to describe it: celery marinated in lemon/parsley juice.  I know that sounds so weird, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought.  I decided I’d make a relish/salsa kind of deal, since I had some tomatoes and onion.  My other plan was to make a chilled avocado soup as a base to be topped with the relish.  Let’s just say don’t try THAT at home.

Ruby Rhubarb Relish

2 stalks rhubarb, leaves and ends trimmed, diced
3/4-1 bunch radishes, diced
1/4-1/2 red onion, diced
1 pint grape tomatoes, diced
Juice of 1 lime
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

This was a great way to use up the rest of this week’s veggies.  I diced up all the veggies, the same way I’d do for a gazpacho.

Rhubarb

Radish

Red onion. Wow, a lot of red AND R words!

Tomatoes

After combining all the ingredients, I squeezed the citrus juices, and combined with salt and pepper.

Then I took half (about 1.5 cups) and blended in my Vitamix.

I combined the juice with the rest of the solid veggies, and let them chill overnight.

I tried to remember a recipe for chilled avocado soup, but my mind went blank.  Instead of looking one up, I experimented.  I combined 1 avocado with 1/2 cup each Greek yogurt,  1% milk, and water.  I also added the juice of one lime, some salt, pepper, cumin, and coriander.

It turned more into a mouse than a soup.

I let it also chill overnight, thinking maybe the consistency would change, but to no avail.  For some reason I thought adding more water would fix it, but that made it disgusting.  Next time I will actually use a recipe.

What the mixture was good for was as a dip for crackers or tortilla chips.  I also had a dollop on my omelet.  I used some of the radish greens, the avocado mouse, and the rhubarb relish.  It was tasty.

I’d definitely recommend making this relish.  If you have cilantro, it would make an excellent addition!

I am also happy to report I used EVERYTHING in my share this week!  Here’s a recap:

Veggies

Fruit

How About a Quickie…or Two

In Bread, CSA, Fruit, Italian, Nuts, Pasta, Quick Meal, Salad, Saving Money, Shopping, Vegetables on June 13, 2012 at 12:11 am

With the bounty of cleaned and prepped veggies from this week’s CSA share, I’ve had a lot of ideas for some new recipes.  Especially ones that are super quick.  Think half of a 30 Minute Meal.  Which reminds me , the inspiration for 2 recipes I’ve made thus far is the queen of quick meals, Rachael Ray.  Some people love her, others hate her.  I have to say I kind of hate that I kinda love her.  I must admit that her morning talk show is one of my guilty pleasures, and after I’ve managed to look past her kitschy jargon and painfully bright kitchenware items, I’ve learned a few things from the lady.  Although many of her recipes break my personal calorie/fat budget, and incorporate meat, meat-based stocks, and TONS of bacon, she does make whole and real foods accessible to the masses.  She also happens to love both Italian and Mexican foods, so that will always catch my attention.

A few weeks ago, I caught an episode of her morning show that featured a chef whose new book is all about cooking with super foods, or what he calls “Hero Foods”, as a means of healing his own personal health issues (RA in particular).  It was very interesting to see the correlation between diet and healing, but I’m sure this sentiment was lost on most of the audience.  Later on in the episode, Rachael used two super foods – kale and almonds – to create a caesar style kale pesto pasta.  I’m not a huge advocate of pestos in general, because they usually include a lot of oil, and more than the “in moderation” amount.  However, I liked the idea of pulsing leafy greens into a paste for pastas.  That way I can trick my hubby into eating more veggies, because all the volume is removed and each bite packs a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals.  And what better time than on a Sunday when he is busy doing housework and is starving for the first thing available for inhaling?

Whole Wheat Spaghetti; crushed red pepper; garlic scapes; parmesan cheese; broccoli rabe; raw almonds

Broccoli Rabe and Almond Pesto with Whole Wheat Spaghetti  Adapted from Rachael Ray

Serves 4

8 oz whole wheat spaghetti, or any pasta of your choice
1 bunch broccoli rabe, roughly chopped
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup raw almonds
2 garlic scapes, roughly chopped (or 2 cloves garlic)
1-2 teaspoons red chili flakes, depending on desired heat level
Juice of one lemon
1 cup reserved pasta water

I brought the water to a boil in a covered pot.  While waiting, I added all the other ingredients, except pasta, lemon juice and pasta water, to my food processor and let it run until it was all ground up.  I didn’t add any oil, figuring the fats from the nuts and cheese would suffice.

By the way, you could use any greens you have on hand for this recipe.  I picked broccoli rabe because it is the least “gross” green from the share that Nick will kind of eat.

Once the water is boiled, I added salt and the pasta, cooking for 7 minutes.  During that time, I transferred the ground green mixture to a skillet sans oil, and cooked over medium high heat.

A minute or so before the pasta was done, I squeezed some lemon juice to start deglazing the pan.

Once the pasta was ready, I turned off the flame, and added the pasta liquid to the pan to create a more saucy consistency.

After 30 seconds of mixing, I incorporated the pasta.

And then it was time to mangia!  Only 15 minutes after starting!

I thought it was freaking delicious.  Nick said it was prepared excellently, he just still couldn’t get over the actual taste of broccoli rabe.  He actually left some of it in his bowl, like the way a lady leaves something on the plate.  Probably because he was going to see Prometheus  and wanted to save room for butter laden popcorn.

The next day, I wanted to throw something quick together for dinner.  I was thinking of some sort of salad that incorporated the radishes from the share, but then couldn’t really figure out what to pair with it.  While brainstorming with Nick on the phone, I almost gave into buying a couple slices of pizza from the pizza shop!  However, I was a good girl and said I’d just make some pizza instead – only using really thin whole wheat pitas instead of dough.  Pitza is my new go-to for the hubby, being quick and delish!  Since I was going Italian again, I decided to grab an orange and red onion while at the store to add to the salad.  I actually got that idea from Ms. Ray, too.  Once episode she had the cheesemonger from Fairway on to pair cheeses with foods, and one such Italian cheese was added to an orange/red onion concoction.  Seriously, it’s a freaking amazing combo, and if I wasn’t eating cheese on pitza I’d have added cheese to this salad.  It’s also really easy to make and super refreshing.

Whole Wheat Pitza

Serves ones (just multiply for additional loaves – I eat one, and my hubby eats 2-3)

1 thin whole wheat pita (80-100 calorie size)
2 tbsp good marinara sauce
1 oz shredded fresh mozzarella
1.5 teaspoons grated parmesan cheese
veggies and/or meats of your choice (optional)

This is so simple, even a 10 year old could do it!  It’s kind of like english muffin pizzas, only better.  Turn the toaster oven on to 350° (or regular oven, but the toaster oven is way faster).

Spread sauce on pita.  I made 2 at a time.  Then sprinkle the cheeses on each one.

Bake 7-10 minutes, depending on your oven, until crispy brown on top.

Very simple and easy.  I made the salad while it was baking.

Radish, Red Onion, and Orange Salad with Lemon Dijon Dressing

Serves 2

Salad:

4 large or 8 small radishes, sliced thin
1/4 red onion, sliced in crescents
1 navel orange, peeled and sliced thin
1 garlic scape, thinly sliced (or 1 clove garlic, minced)
1 small bunch arugula
3-4 leaves red leafy lettuce

Dressing:

1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 tsp agave nectar
Juice of half a lemon
1 tsp EVOO
Salt and Pepper to taste

I sliced up all the salad ingredients.

Radishes.

Red Onion.

Orange.

Garlic Scapes.

Then I had to chop the greens.  My method of storing arugula wasn’t the best, as I forgot to actually store it in a bag or container, so I had to chop it up finely like an herb, and fill the rest of the bowl with some leafy lettuce.

Red Leafy Lettuce.

Spicy Arugula. Mmmmm.

In a separate bowl, I combined the dressing ingredients with a whisk, and then poured over the salad ingredients to be mixed.

Here’s everything plated up!

Doesn’t that look yummy?  A well balanced meal that only took 10 minutes!  I usually don’t have the pitza for dinner, but I splurged and had one.  They really aren’t so bad for you, only about 200 calories each, which is like half of a real slice of pizza.  As for the salad, super yummy and healthy!  Full of colors, textures, and with a light dressing that is only 35 calories a tbsp.  I swear, that is my last calorie calculation for this post!

There you have it!  Two recipes that take 15 minutes or less, both incorporating real foods like fresh veggies and whole grains.

Here’s a bonus recipe.  This one takes 2 minutes and 1 minute to cleanup.  I had this smoothie today as a pre-yoga snack to hold me over until dinner.

Protein-Packed Green Smoothie

6 oz nonfat Greek Yogurt
1/2 frozen banana
1/2 cup frozen mango
1 tbsp natural peanut butter
2 large handfuls (about 3 cups) chopped kale

Add everything to a good blender (I have a Vitamix).  Blend it.  Pour it in a glass.  Drink it while you clean up.  Or shower. Or walk the dog.

Using white/yellow ingredients allows the greens to really show!

Now, I know that looks like split pea soup, but it’s freaking delicious.  You can’t even taste the kale, but it’s definitely in there.  I use any combo of fruit: blueberries, raspberries, peaches, apples, etc.  However, the more colorful the fruit, the less green/more brown it ends up looking.

Okay, I am finally done for this post!  It took me twice as long to write as it did to prepare everything AND clean up.  I guess that’s because I like to take my time to make everything looks so pretty.  So much for a quickie in the blogging department.

Faux-lognese, Purple Haze, and Golden Beets

In Italian, Lentils, Nuts, Pasta, Salad, Vegetables on May 7, 2012 at 1:56 pm

I’ve been a very good girl since my last post.  Last Saturday I cleaned out my fridge, wiped the counters, and finally did enough dish-washing to have an empty machine!  Taking inventory of a very empty fridge, I made a shopping list and headed to Fairway.

Pretty much sticking to my list, I only selected a few extras to add to the cart.  One of those items were some golden beets.

I’ve been pretty obsessed lately with roasted beet and goat cheese salads, both on a plate and in a wrap.  Unfortunately, these dishes cost a pretty penny to buy premade, which is why I vowed last week to make a version at home.  Although they are usually made with red beets, the store was fresh out of the ruby variety, so I opted to use the golden kind that were available.

The one item I did forget – which is probably the most important for this recipe – was soft goat cheese.  I got caught up tasting 12 kinds of cheeses at the cheese monger station, and I completely forgot what I needed for this salad.  This is why I need to be better at writing and following my lists!  Anyway, on Monday I went to a cheese/meat shop near my office (It used to be called Grab, but I think they changed it to The Ploughman) and I asked for a soft goat cheese to complement the beets for my salad.  The guy recommended one called “Purple Haze”, which I’m assuming garners its name from the lavender surrounding the mound of cheese.  I don’t think any of the other Hazy herb variety were used for this product :).

I came home with such great intentions of making this salad.  However, for reasons I cannot recall at the moment, I think we ended up eating leftovers or freezer items instead.  This pattern had ensued for the next 2 nights, each day with the promise that “I’ll make that salad tomorrow.”  Well, what do you know – tomorrow finally came on Thursday.  I told Nick “I’m finally gonna make the salad tonight!” – but what to make as an accompanyment?  In case you don’t know, men don’t really eat just salad for dinner.  I ended the dinner message with “and some sort of pasta dish,” which is usually a satisfactory plan.

I mentally went through my catalog of pasta recipes, debating between a primavera, fagiole, or plain old marinara.  Then I remembered a recipe I had made several times from Giada that was a vegetarian version of bolognese made with mushrooms instead of beef.  I definitely had some mushrooms at home, as well as the other veggies required for the dish.  The only downside to the recipe was that it incorporated a lot of both parm and marscapone cheese, which would be cheese overload paired with the salad.  Instead of cheese, I would use some lentils – to bump up the protein, reduce the fat, and give a meatier texture to the sauce.  I’ll start with the pasta, and then show you how to assemble the salad.  Great; now it’s party time!

Whole Wheat Penne Rigatti Faux-lognese
Adapted from Giada De Laurentis

Serves 4-6

1 tbsp EVOO
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 small or 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 colored bell pepper (not green), finely chopped
10 oz mushrooms (I used white), chopped
2 tsbp tomato paste
Salt, pepper, and oregano to taste
2/3 cup red wine
1.5 cups cooked lentils
1/2 cup broth (or residual liquid from cooked lentils)
1 cup water
8 oz whole wheat penne rigatti (or any short cut pasta with ridges)
Parmesano or Pecorino cheese for garnish (optional)

First of all, I want to warn all of you that this dish is surprisingly filling.  That is why (especially paired with a salad) I budgeted this recipe as 4-6 servings.  Even if you wanted to eat a lot of it, you’re digestive system will thank you later if you have just a primi sized portion.

To get the party started, make sure to chop the veggies up nice and fine!  I am not really an expert at differentiating between a dice, fine chop, mince, etc.  Here’s a photo of how they were all cut up.

I sauteed them in the EVOO for about 10 minutes on medium heat, just until they were tender.  During that time, I chopped up the mushrooms.

Then those mushrooms joined the party.  Woohoo!

During their big dance, they create a lot of brown bits that stuck to the pan.

Those brown bits ended up messing around with some tomato paste, salt, pepper, and oregano…

…but the bits were stubborn and still stuck to the pan.  Grr.  Just needed to get them drunk with the red wine, and then they were ready to go with the flow.

They kind of sobered up after 2 minutes, and then it was time for the lentils to arrive.  If you don’t already have cooked lying around, better to cook them before starting with the veggie chopping.

Once they mingled, they were all very thirsty and needed some water.

Okay, now enough party talk.  It’s time to get serious…so I lowered the pan to a simmer, and boiled the pasta water.  I cooked it for about 9-10 minutes, until al dente.  I scooped some pasta in a bowl, and mixed with the fauxlognese, topping with some shredded cheese.

Kinda looks like meat.  And by kinda, I mean it is brown and chunky.  Awesome.

Okay, so now we can review how to make the salad.  It really is very simple.  Lettuce, beets, goat cheese.  You can add dried cranberries/blueberries, some nuts, even some sliced apple!  Whatever you have lying around is great.  Just as long as you have those first three ingredients, you are good to go.

To roast the beets (which you kind of do in advance, since they take about an hour to cook and some cool off time in the fridge), you have to wash them and scrub them first.  Beets are very dirty.

You wrap them individually in tin foil, and then roast them at 400 degrees for an hour, rotating half way through.

I don’t know about you, but to me that image reminds me of sci-fi movies, the ones on a space ship with alien tentacles all over the place.  Weird.

Once roasting is over, take those suckers out of the oven, and place the tray in a cool place (i.e. not on top of the stove, which is on top of a probably still 375 degree oven).  A couple of minutes pass, and you can try (preferably wearing oven mitts) to unwrap each beet.

After a few minutes, they should probably be cool enough to handle.  They will still be warm, but you won’t incur any scars to your precious paws.  You can rub the beets with your fingers to start peeling off the skin (similar to the process of peeling a boiled potato).

Look at the difference between the original and peeled version.  Big difference.  Now you can see why they are called golden beets.

You can slice them up before or after refrigeration, but doing it before will help it chill even faster.

Before assembling, you can whip together some dressing.  Any classic vinaigrette will do, but I prefer a very mustardy style dressing, especially for offsetting the earthiness of the beets and tartness of the goat cheese.  I’m not sure if it would classify as a true vinaigrette, but I like it.

Agave, Champagne, and Dijon Salad Dressing

Makes 5 servings of 1 tbsp each

2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp champage vinegar
1 tbsp agave nectar
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 tbsp EVOO

In a bowl, combine all ingredients, except the oil.  Whisk together with a fork or whisk.  Slowly stream in the olive oil.  Tada!

To assemble: Add the dressing to the greens (about 1 tbsp per person).  Mix them in a bowl (or directly on the plate) and create a bed for the other veggies.  Spread the beet slices around the edges of the plate, place 1 ounce of soft goat cheese in the center, and sprinkle some chopped walnuts and dried blueberries all around.  Beautiful!

This salad is also surprisingly filling, so you may want to have only half of what I suggested along with the pasta.  It is super delish though, so if you feel like having your fill of it, go right ahead!

I really do love this salad.  Not only is it super flavorful, but it also has loads of colors – especially purples when using the more reddish colored beets.  I love purple!  I am also reminded of my alma matter, using both purple and gold hued veggies for this dish.  Now if I only I cared enough to share that with the alumi association.