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Archive for the ‘Vegetables’ 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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Pure Barre-rrrrrrr

In Beans, Healthy Lifestyle, Quick Meal, Soup, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian on February 2, 2015 at 10:28 pm

Like I’ve said before, healthy eating and regular exercise are the key to a hot bod.  Over the years, my dedication to this cause has changed and evolved.  From low-carb to lunges, I’m always looking for a lil something to spice up my regime.  My newest obsession: Pure Barre.  Before I ever took a class, I was really skeptical – was everything I’ve heard just hype, or was there something to this workout craze?  A combination of Pilates, Ballet, and conditioning exercises, it’s like no other class I’ve ever taken.  I don’t know about other people, but I can attest to my experience, and it’s definitely yielded some great results.  I am in no way writing this post to advertise or sponsor Pure Barre, I just really love what it’s done for my mind and body.  From slenderized hips and thighs, to a tightened core, I physically feel like I’m in the best shape of my life.  After only a month of taking classes, I noticed serious changes.  Now 75+ classes later, everybody else can, too.  I’m no VS model, but I’m proud of my results thus far.

Before

Before

4 month in.

4 month in.

Abs!

Abs!

More Abs!

More Abs!

I regularly attend classes 4-5 times a week.  Between the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday early 5:45 am time slot (aka: momma gets up at the ass crack of dawn to work out without inconveniencing her family after already spending an exorbitant amount of money on said workout)  and a few weekend options, I manage to find an abundant amount of opportunities to get my LTB in every week.  That is, until Old Man Winter showed up to the rodeo.  Now, my schedule is dictated by the meteorology report.  Even today, class was cancelled due to snowy/icy conditions.  However, I made sure to put my work in this past weekend in anticipation, so I didn’t have to feel guilty about missing my usual Monday session.  The same preparedness can be said for stocking up my kitchen with healthy staples.  This came in handy when I saw a post on my studio’s Facebook page for a weather-worthy white bean soup.  On a frigid day like today, I was glad to have a recipe for another comforting soup.  I made a few adjustments, but it was really simple and easy, even a toddler could [help you] make it.

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Tuscan White Bean and Garlic Soup

Adapted from Pure Barre Oceanside

Makes 7-8 cup

1 tbl olive oil
1 large onion
2 (15 oz) cans of Cannellini or Great Northern Beans
1 head of garlic, roasted
1 tsp sage
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp oregano
4  cups vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste

I had pre-roasted some garlic earlier in the day, knowing I wanted to use it for this soup.  The original recipe called for sautéing, but I really enjoy the flavor of roasted garlic.

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I did sauté the onions though, only using 1 tbsp of oil instead of the recommended 3.

Fitting in some thigh work while I sauté.  Nick tried to make me laugh, and it worked.

Fitting in some thigh work while I sauté. Nick tried to make me laugh, and it worked.

After a few minutes, I added the spices and sautéed another minute.  The original recipe called for basil instead of sage, but a) sage goes much better with white beans and b) I personally don’t like the taste of dried basil and I find it’s rather bitter.

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Instead of continuing to cook the soup in a pot, I opted to blend in my Vitamix for 6-7 minutes to combine with the rest of the ingredients and cook through.

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Before

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After

The soup came out really creamy.

Extreme close-up.

Extreme close-up.

Paired with some roasted broccoli, we had a yummy and nutritious meal to beat the brrrrrr.

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Being snowed in is no excuse to let your health slide.  With some planning, a repertoire of warm recipes and consistent workout routines, you’ll be sure feel the burn all winter long.

Mopping up Foods on a Snowy Evening

In Beans, CSA, Soup, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian on January 29, 2015 at 5:03 pm

While writing about food is one of my passions, I haven’t always excelled in the literary arts.  I knew my multiplication tables at the age of 5, but reading comprehension, creative writing, and book reports turned me into a deer-in-headlights.  Even in college, I had to drop my extra minor the last semester of senior year because of one writing-intensive poetry class (which was also offered at a lower level with a smaller workload).  Had I kept registered in the upper level version of the class (which I needed for the minor), my grade would have prevented me from graduating summa cum laude.  Ain’t nobody got time for that!  This class was like no other class I’d ever taken.  Millions of ways to interpret and dissect sentences, lines, capitalization, you name it.  Perhaps because I was a business major, that’s how I saw poetry: examining the situation, finding the formula, and deriving a solution.  This approach was far different from the roots of my poetic knowledge, which all started in the sixth grade.

With the exception of “Roses are Red…”, the first poem I learned to memorize was “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost.  My sixth grade teacher made each of us in the class stand up at the front of the room and recite the poem.  Til this day, almost 20 years later, I still remember every line (with the exception of one that I JUST looked up a few minutes ago).  Each time I recall the lines in my mind, I get a sudden twinge of emotions: a mixture of nostalgia, sadness, and happiness.  At the time, I had a very shallow understanding of Mr. Frost’s work.  However, as I’ve grown older – and as my college poetry professor had taught me – there are layers upon layers of meaning one can peel away from this story.  I won’t delve too much into this piece, because that’s not really the point of this post.  For me, this poem symbolizes my journey in life, which is why I have such a great connection to it.  Going through the motions of the day-to-day, even when I think there really isn’t time to stop, sometimes it’s those precise pauses that invigorate me to continue.  And this week was no exception.

After returning from a wonderful week-long vacation in Cancun, I was back to my ever-growing to-do lists.  However, unlike a “typical” week, I had the added bonus of fever/congestion for Rocco, which quickly infected me.  Not only was I dealing with the shock of after-vacation bliss and all of the unpacking/laundry that accompanies the return home, I was taking care of a whiny, inconsolable toddler while feeling weak and miserable.  Oh, and an impending snow storm to boot.  I did what I had to do to prepare – stocked the kitchen, did the laundry, etc. and napped when I could.  Even though the naps took away from doing more work, I had to take care of myself.  Then came Wednesday.

On Wednesday, I kind of felt like that man with the little horse.  I was still congested, but feeling well enough to not allow myself to stop.  In the early afternoon, I was mostly caught up, so I got a jump start on dinner.  While I really didn’t want to cook, I didn’t have much of a choice.  After being inside for almost 3 days, it was one of those clean out the fridge kind of endeavors.  I was really in the mood for some soup, so I decided to try roasting whatever veggies I had, then finishing them off in the Vitamix for a few minutes with some broth. It came out much better than I anticipated.  Plus, the time it took to prepare the veggies allowed me the opportunity to quietly reflect on my progress in the smaller and larger scheme of the day/week/month/year/life.  That may sound a little far fetched, but it truly was how I felt at the time.  I think it’s just what soup does to me.

I’m sure you could swap in/out for whatever you have, but I’d recommend trying this anytime you want a bowl of existentialism.

Roasted Root Vegetable “Refrigerator” Soup

Makes 8 cups (4-6 Servings)

Appx. 6-7 cups chopped root veggies.  I used:
1.5 large carrots
2 small parsnips
3 small turnips
1 small daikon
3 medium red potatoes
2 celery centers
1 medium Kohlrabi
4 whole cloves garlic
3-4 tbsp EVOO
2 leeks
1 quart low-sodium vegetable broth
Salt and Pepper to tastes
Extra EVOO, butter, or margarine for garnish (optional)

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I preheated the oven to 425, lined two baking sheets with aluminum foil, and washed/peeled/chopped all the veggies.  With the exception of the leeks, I added all the veggies into a large bowl, and then mixed in the EVOO, S&P.

Freaky Leeky.

Freaky Leeky.

After 20 minutes of roasting, I took the sheets out, and then mixed in the leeks.

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Another 20 minutes of roasting, the veggies were cooked enough for the next step.

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I transfered all the veggies to the Vitamix, then added the quart of broth.  With the lid on nice and tight, I blended on high for about 7 minutes.

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Then tada! The soup was done!  No simmering in the pot, followed my emersion blending.  The cleanup is really simple – just rinse out, add water, and blend with dish soap for 30 seconds.  Plus, it came out so smooth, you’d think it was a jar of Gerber.

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To really guild the lily, I stirred in a tiny slab of butter.  To keep the recipe completely vegan, you could also use earth balance or another fat of choice (EVOO, coconut oil, etc).  I served the soup with a simple salad of mixed greens, walnuts, avocado, pinto beans, and lime juice (sorry, no picture).  There was just enough left for some lunch today.  Rocco enjoyed his in a sippy cup!

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The next time it snows, I might just whip up a comforting bowl of this soup to slow me down and rejuvenate my psyche for the long road ahead.  There may be “miles to go before I sleep”, but stopping to fuel my body and mind is what I really need if those promises I’ve made are to be kept.

It’s Almost Bikini Season (?)

In Challenge, Fruit, Healthy Lifestyle, Oats, Quinoa, Rice, Vegetables on December 5, 2014 at 4:02 pm

A line I’ve heard far too many cliched times.  I’ll be in a fitness class, performing some G-d awful maneuver, and the instructor will chime in with the motivational “C’mon, it’s almost bikini season.”  Have you been there, too?  This usually starts sometime in the Spring, but I’ve heard it all year long.  The most surprising time was a few years ago in a late November or early December yoga class.  I remember thinking I wanted to Warrior 3 back-kick that teacher in the face.  Seriously?  This was smack in the middle of the season of eating (Halloween-New Years).  But you know what?  I always remember that class, and that message is so very clear and meaningful to me now.

It’s always bikini season, or at least that’s what your eating/fitness routine should reflect.  Don’t starve yourself a month before summer, or spend 3 hours at the gym everyday, then turn around and subsist on fast food and couch potato-ing the other 9 months of the year.  Balance and healthy habits are a 365 day-a-year prescription for what you seek.  Something important to remember during this current season, or any time in your life.  Which brings me to a topic I’ve been toying with discussing on this blog.  Another 9(+) month period that opens you up to the advice and opinions of even the faintest stranger.

I’m talking about pregnancy, and specifically how it affects “bikini season.”

I know this topic can strike a nerve in a lot of people, which is why I’ve been procrastinating addressing the topic.  Several people have asked me to give tips for losing the baby weight and getting back in shape.  I could have wrote a post about this over a year ago.  Honestly, if I wrote some of the things I’d been thinking in my head, I’m sure I’d get a lot of backlash.  I have lots of stories and anecdotes to add to this topic, but really the common theme is this: treat everyday like you’re prepping for bikini season.  Before, during, and after pregnancy.  What does that mean?  Eating healthfully and exercising, plain and simple.  There’s no secret or mystery plan behind it.

Okay, so that may seem like a pretty generic piece of advice.  Plus, not everyone has the same criteria for what constitutes healthful eating and physical fitness routines.  For reference, I’ll talk about some of my healthy habits, but really the bottom line is to find what works best for your body and lifestyle.  I may have been able to run 3-5 miles into my 8th month of pregnancy, but somebody else could benefit just as much from walking their dog for 30 minutes.  It doesn’t make me better, it is just what suits me best.

Recovering from pregnancy weight gain for me really started before even trying to conceive.  I had a healthy lifestyle before becoming pregnant, which set a good foundation for prenatal and postpartum maintenance.  Mind you, I was no skinny super model with “naturally fast metabolism”, nor a fanatic celebrity with a nutritionist/chef/personal trainer at my disposal.  Through trial and error, I found what worked best for me and incorporated these changes into my lifestyle.  I found exercises that I liked (running, full body dvds, yoga, bike riding) and scheduled appointments in my calendar to make sure I didn’t cancel on myself and fitness goals.  I didn’t treat my nutrition in a diet-focused manner, but rather with a holistic approach.  Basically, how do certain foods make me feel?  Do they give me energy or do they make me sluggish?  Are the ingredients naturally occurring or are they frankenfoods?  Do I need a whole plate of an indulgent food, or will just 2-3 bites satisfy my cravings?  You get the idea, but here are some of the food habits I developed and have remained unchanged:

  • Drink 10+ cups of water a day.  No soda or juice.
  • Breakfast is the biggest meal of the day, with no added sugar
  • Eating lots of vegetables, especially leafy greens
  • Maxing out at 2-3 fruits/day
  • Whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, steel cut oats, whole wheat, etc)
  • Organic when possible (although when I prepared the foods it was 98% likely to include organic ingredients)
  • No sweets in the house (hardest by far, and not always kept)
  • No artificial sweeteners
  • Avoiding GMOs, hydrogenated oils, and chemical additives, such as high fructose corn syrup, food coloring, and MSG
  • Minimizing convenience and processed foods (pre-made sauces, crackers, snacky type foods, etc)
  • No eating after dinner

Those are my eating guidelines.  They didn’t change when I became pregnant or after giving birth.  I’ll share one little anecdote about how important that is.  When Rocco was 6 weeks old, I was wearing him in a baby carrier while walking the dog, and I was stopped by a woman who had a 6 month old baby.  She was just being friendly and wanted to chat with another mom.  She expressed interest in walking/exercising to lose her baby weight – which was 80 pounds.  You know how that happened?  She told me that before the baby she worked out like crazy and “dieted” so much, that when she became pregnant she just wanted to eat ice cream every day.  Where did she think that ice cream was going?  What goes up must come down, and it doesn’t exit in the L&D ward.  I think that example really drives home the point about healthy habits, not dieting.  I don’t mean to point fingers at this woman, but I think it’s more common than others admit.  Before pregnancy, I wouldn’t keep ice cream in the house and would only have desserts on special occasions.  The same rules applied during pregnancy.  Okay, so one time I sent Nick out for ice cream, but it was a rare occurrence.

Maintaining my habits during pregnancy was not hard at all.  In fact, it was more motivation than fitting into a bikini, because my nutritional intake went directly into my baby’s growing body.  I was especially more careful about chemicals/gmos, etc, and while that’s all fine and hippy dippy, the positive side effect is I ended up eating a lot less junk.  That junk just goes straight in the trunk, and we all know the baby is in the front.  I also maintained my fitness routine, but just modified for pregnancy.  I biked and did personal training through the first trimester, I ran 2-3 times a week until the 8th month, and then adjusted by going for longer walks with the dog in the last few weeks.  I also increased the frequency of my yoga practice, just avoiding poses not suitable for a growing belly.  Up until 2 days before I went into labor, I was going to the yoga studio 6 days in a row that last week, which was when my monthly pass expired.  The day I went into labor, I took my dog for a 4 mile walk.  That same day was my 39 week appointment, and my weight gain was 24.5 lbs.  My healthy habits carried me through a healthy pregnancy with minimal side effects.

Then the smoking mirrors of pregnancy shattered as reality set-in.  Or so I thought.  This is specific to my experience, so I can only speak to what I know.  The next day when I gave birth, I had 15 minutes of pushing (which I like to think is all thanks to yoga).  Shortly after delivery, I had to take a shower and noticed how flat my stomach was, compared to my expectations based on what everyone was telling me to see (a 6-month-pregnant looking belly).  9 days later I was down 16.5 pounds, and I had one pair of regular size 28 jeans that I could zip and button.  3 months postpartum I was wearing 26/27 again and only 3 pounds from pre-pregnancy weight (I’d like to think those 3 pounds are lactation related).  I’m not saying I looked like the aforementioned super model/celebrity, but I looked like me, not a new mom version of me.  I’ve also definitely improved my shape since then, but having that solid foundation both physically and mentally enabled me to improve myself instead of trying to “bounce back.”

I continued with those nutritional habits in the trying weeks as a new mom, despite the exhaustion and every other excuse in the book.  The foods were the same, just more as I needed them, and also DEFINITELY more water for lactation.  I exercised as my body allowed and was safe for a postpartum recovery.  I started walking 3 days after delivery.  It started out as 15-20 minutes, but within a week I was running errands, walking the dog twice a day for 2-3 miles each time.  It was that simple.  At my 5 week checkup, I was cleared for exercise, and the next day I went to baby and me yoga.  I returned back to running, training for the NYC marathon, but only lasted a month and 14 miles.  Pregnancy taught me to know my physical and mental limits, and clocking in 30-50 miles a week on a collection of 2 hour naps throughout the day was not something I was prepared to continue.  Once the baby was sleeping for longer stretches, and finally through the night, that’s when I would wake up early to run or go to a 7 am class.  Until then, I just tried to keep moving.  I’d wear Rocco around the house as I did chores.  I’d keep going to baby and me yoga, despite time after time dealing with a screaming infant hanging from my boob.  Eventually, I’d catch a break and he’d sleep, allowing me to get in an hour of vigorous practice without paying for a baby sitter.  All of those small efforts, combined with healthful food, strongly contributed to returning to my post-baby measurements.

Like I said before, these accounts are of my personal stories.  I’m not trying to say that if somebody hasn’t accomplished those results there is something wrong with them or what they’ve done.  A healthful life can be challenging, and motherhood is even more so.  My hope is that by sharing my experience, the tips I incorporated into my life could help others to achieve a year-round healthy body, instead of struggling towards some fleeting and unrealistic goal.  Just remember that you don’t need to “diet” or hardcore exercise to achieve those results.  It’s about the journey, not the destination.  Simple, small, and lasting changes will put you on the path to 4 seasons of bikini wearing.  Even if it is still December.

Going Green: Breakfast Edition

In Breakfast, Oats, Quick Meal, Quinoa, Salad, Soup, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian on October 28, 2014 at 6:18 pm
Part of ANY well-balanced meal.

Part of ANY well-balanced meal.

We all know the importance of filling that 5-a-day veggie quota.  However, many a day may come and go without coming even close.  Even with a fridge full of produce, I’ve found myself on some busy mornings running out the door eating a rice cake for breakfast, followed by a sandwich for lunch.  By the time dinner rolls around, I’ve realized I haven’t eaten any veggies, let alone some leafy greens.  As a result, I’ve been making an effort at breakfast time to include leafy greens and other green vegetables.  With a little preparation, ingenuity, and thinking outside of the box, here are 10 of my tips and tricks for incorporating a healthy start to the day.

  1. Smoothies

    More of a trick than a tip.  Make your favorite fruit smoothie.  After everything is combined, add 1-2 cups of greens – kale, spinach, chard, beet greens, even lettuce – and blend until combined.  I also like to add mint and/or raw cacao to cover up any bitter taste.  You can also try my protein-packed green smoothie.

  2. Pancakes
    Apple, Pumpkin, and Kale Oat Pancakes

    Apple, Pumpkin, and Kale Oat Pancakes

    Make your favorite pancake batter.  Then blend in a cup or two of leafy greens.  My new fave for fall: 1/2 cup oats, 2 eggs, 1/4 cup pureed pumpkin, 1/2 chopped apple, vanilla/cinnamon to taste, 1 cup kale.  Blend all except kale.  Once combined, add kale and blend for a few seconds.  There’s the batter, cook like normal pancakes.  You won’t even taste the kale, trust me.  Great for kids and kids at heart.

  3. Pesto/creamed greens

    Using your favorite pesto recipe, substitute some or all of the basil for spinach, broccoli, broccoli robe, kale, you name it.  Get creative.  I’ve made one with spinach, garlic, chickpeas, and nutmeg.  Use on toast, in an omelet, or to make savory oatmeal (think risotto).  Same applies to creamed spinach.  When you’re making dinner, double up so you have some leftovers for breakfast.  You can also use Indian-style spinach (saag) to spice things up.

    Leftover creamed spinach is great the next morning.

    Leftover creamed spinach is great the next morning.

  4. Soup

    This is a new one for me.  A couple times a week I start the morning with a miso-based soup.  I boil some water with whatever greens I have – raw or leftover sautéd (I really like bok choy).  Once warmed up, I add chickpea miso (since I have some soy intolerance) and stir for another minute.  To make it a complete meal, I’ll add some leftover grains and/or beans.  Maybe even some poached eggs.

    IMG_0613

  5. Salad/Slaw

    Not just for a light lunch.  Have a side salad with your eggs.  This can be as simple as arugula and lemon juice.  Add an avocado or nuts.  Really easy.  Same with coleslaw.  If you make some for dinner or over the weekend for a bbq/tailgate, just add a big scoop to your plate.  It may be weird at first, but you’ll feel much better later in the day for being 20-40% done with your veggie requirements.

    Arugula with avocado and lemon juice.  Paired with a quinoa omelet.

    Arugula with avocado and lemon juice. Paired with a quinoa omelet.

  6. Quiche/egg cups

    A little more obvious/traditional.  Make a crustless quiche with lots of sautéed greens.  This will last 3-ish days in the fridge.  You can also pour the batter into muffin tins and freeze for pre-portioned future meals.

    Spinach, mushroom, goat cheese.

    Spinach, mushroom, goat cheese.

  7. Omelets

    A stand-by.  Use any kind of fresh greens.  Ever try an arugula omelet?  It’s really good.  You can also shave some broccoli florets and save the stems to roast for another meal.

  8. Breakfast grilled cheese

    On toast or a bagel.  Add greens to your cheesy sammie.

    IMG_1034

  9. Side of sautéed veggies.

    You can make them fresh in the morning, or you can take leftovers from the day before.  Some mornings I sauté 3-4 big leaves of kale and share them with Rocco while I prepare the rest of breakfast.  It can be as simple as some water/olive oil, or you can add garlic and herbs.  You can also finish with a miso sauce – 1 tbsp miso paste added to a cup of water, add to pan once veggies are cooked.

    Munching on some greens.

    Munching on some greens.

  10. Leftover roasted veggies

    Broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, you name it.  If I have leftovers, they are sides or appetizers for breakfast.  Same principal as the sautéed greens.  While I prepare the rest of the meal, I unload 1-2 cups of roasted veggies on Rocco’s tray, and I nibble while I’m cooking.  Broccoli stems are a particular favorite.

    Roasted cabbage.

    Roasted cabbage.

Those are some of my go-tos.  I hope they help you as much as they’ve helped me.  Who doesn’t want to be more more Green?  Especially first thing in the morning.

Everyone’s Got a Sunday

In Breakfast, CSA, Fruit, Potato, Soup, Vegan, Vegetables on October 23, 2014 at 12:30 pm

No matter how busy somebody may be, there’s usually one day of the week that affords a little extra downtime.  This day may be used to run errands, get chores done, or sit on the couch and basque in the wonders of reality TV.  For the “traditional” Monday-through-Friday-9-to-5 adult, this tends to be Sunday.  It’s the day for grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, spending time with family, watching football, and nursing a hangover with bloody Marys.  While I participate in some of said activities on most Sundays (not all, and not every), I find these days to be just as busy as Saturdays.  They are simply one of the 8 days a month to squeeze in a social rendezvous or attend the obligatory celebration.  At this point in my life, I don’t get any chores or errands done on the weekends.  Instead, Wednesday is my new Sunday.

While everyone is complaining about Hump Day and looking forward to the weekend, Wednesday is the culmination of my weekly routine.  It’s my day to stay home, and with the exception of a barre class at 5:45 in the morning, the only appointments made are with my to-do lists.  When Rocco naps, I get more done in those 2-3 hours than all Sundays of the month combined.  On a good day, I can wash/fold 2 loads of laundry, load/set/unload the dishwasher, roast veggies, prep for dinner, bake something, and watch an episode of Real Housewives or the Chew.  On a great day, I can shower and take a nap.  CSA distributions are on Thursday, so my biggest food priority is prepping the kitchen for the next day’s bounty.

Wednesday is for cleaning out the fridge.
Roasted carrots and broccoli stems

Roasted carrots and broccoli stems

While I prepare lunch, I pull out all the veggies that are left from last week.  This gives me a chance to think about how to use them so that when the clock strikes one, I hit the ground running.  Leafy greens turn into salads or smoothies.  Roastable veggies are great little somethings for Rocco to munch on after his nap.   However, sometimes there are some odd ones at the bottom of the crisper drawers.  Yesterday, it was celeriac.

The culprit.

The culprit.

When I performed my weekly ritual yesterday, I was left with a small head of lettuce (lunch for Thursday), a bunch of carrots (roasted), some broccoli stems(roasted), 2 leeks, and 2 celeriac bulbs.  I was also still slowly chipping away at 6 lbs of apples, but that’s an issue for an entirely different post.  While I knew what to do with the rest of the produce, this ugly root vegetable staring me in the face was one I knew about but never actually prepared.  I figured I could use it for a soup, along with the remaining leeks and potatoes from Thursday.  I quickly googled celeriac so I know how to clean/cut it, and I actually came across a recipe on the NYT website for a pureed soup using celeriac, potato, leek, and apples.  What a coincidence – all the ingredients I wanted to use, plus another way to incorporate some apples.  With the addition of a carrot, it was time to attack this ugly beast.  I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, but it was a good guideline for my first attempt with an unfamiliar food.

 

Celeriac, Potato, Leek and Apple Soup

Adapted from The New York Times

3 tbsp EVOO
2 bulbs celeriac, peeled and sliced
2 leeks, sliced in half lengthwise, then cut into half moons
3/4 lb potatoes
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 apples, cored and diced
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 quart vegetable broth
1 quart water
~10 leaves fresh sage

Leeks soaking in water.

Leeks soaking in water.

First thing’s first – I had to get those leeks cleaned.  I find the most effective way is to slice the leek in half lengthwise, then cross slice into half moons.  Place the leeks in a bowl of water and prepare the other ingredients.  When the other veggies are prepped, transfer the leeks to a towel (I use an old beach towel) and rub off any excess dirt. Then it was time to clean and slice the celeriac.  I cut off the ends, sliced in half, then into quarters.  I used my knife to cut off the skin instead of peeling with a vegetable peeler.  Then I rinsed the flesh to remove the little bits of dirt left. IMG_0646 Then I peeled the potatoes.  I forgot that this variety was a really pretty red fleshed spud.  I also forget it had a slightly spiced taste to it.  This actually worked in my favor for the soup. IMG_0647 Next came carrots and apples.  I peeled the former, but not the latter.  All the veggies went into the pot with some olive oil, ready to be sautéed for 5 minutes with some salt and pepper. IMG_0648   Once the vegetables were soft and the leeks reduced in size, I folded in some fresh sage, sautéed another minute, then added the liquids.  I also added some more salt, because potatoes absorb a lot of salt. IMG_0650 Once it came to a boil, I reduced to a simmer, and covered the pot with a lid, leaving 1/2 inch gap from edge of the lid and the pot.  The soup would probably have been done in 30 minutes, but I let it cook for about an hour.  Then I pureed it with an immersion blender. IMG_0652   I was debating whether or not to strain the soup through a mesh sieve, but I opted to serve the soup as is.  I realized half way through I had forgotten to take a picture, so here’s my ugly picture of half eaten soup.  Seems appropriate.   IMG_0655 Grilled cheese accompanied Nick’s bowl, but I opted to just have the soup with a side glass of white wine.  The soup as really delicious and had a lot of complex flavors and textures.  Nick said it had an Indian flavor to it, which makes no sense to me because the only seasoning was salt, pepper, and sage.  Perhaps because it was spicy?  The consistency was good, but a little stringy.  I don’t know if the cause was the celeriac, or maybe the skins from the apples, but next time I think I would use my Vitamix to really pulverize the pulp. I had the soup again this morning, and it was equally delicious.  For Rocco, I poured some into a straw-style sippy cup, and he loved it!  However, after 5 or so instances of having to unclog the straw, I strained the remainder of his portion through a sieve.  He gulped the rest up and mommy got to drink her coffee in peace.  Just what I needed to start off my week.

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.

photo 1

photo 2

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).

photo 5

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.

 photo 1
Let them cool for 10-20 minutes, and then enjoy with a cup of joe or tea.
photo 2
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.

Finding New Ways to Cook

In Fruit, Lentils, Quick Meal, Rice, Vegan, Vegetables on September 26, 2013 at 3:35 pm

My baby loves to be held and walked around, and won’t shut up until I pick him up.  All advice I’ve ever read about getting things done with an infant suggests wearing your baby.  While this works for folding laundry, cleaning the counters/floors, and even loading/unloading the dishwasher (can you say squats like whoa?), this method does not avail itself in the food prep department.

The biggest challenge I’ve had in the kitchen as a new mom is the ability to actually use a flame to cook food.  My best bet is to wear the baby when he’s awake to do the washing, chopping, and take out all the pots/pans I need.  Then, as soon as he’s napping (or if time doesn’t allow for that, I put him down to scream), I’ll turn on the stove and get to the actual cooking part.  However, three times a day of piecemeal preparation is exhausting and super time consuming.  Sometimes I’ll just make a smoothie because it’s easy (and he like the sound of the blender), but I mean how many liquid meals can I consume daily?

Today I really wanted a cooked lunch.  I had come back from baby and me yoga starving.  I had no leftovers, and I’m sick of eating a plain old sandwich.  So I looked in the pantry and pulled out a few things to put in the rice cooker.  I have a small one, which is perfect for 2-4 servings of grains.  It also has a steamer insert so you can cook veggies on top.  Just plop the grains/lentils in, add 2.5 times the amount of water, any spices you like, and bam.  It does the work for you and stays warm even after it’s done cooking.

Lentils and Brown Rice with Beans, Dried Cherries, and Sunflower Seeds

Makes 2-4 Servings

1/2 cup short grain brown rice
1/2 cup French Lentils
2.5 cups water (you could also use broth)
Salt, pepper, sage, marjoram, thyme, and turmeric – all to taste
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/2 lb mixed green and broad beans, chopped
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
Handful fresh cilantro, chopped

I threw in the rice, lentils, water and spices in the pot insert, then covered with the lid and pushed the on button.  This takes about 35-40 minutes to cook, so about 5 minutes before it’s ready I added the cherries inside the pot.  After mixing, I put the steamer attachment on top, added the chopped beans, and covered until it was done.

photo 1

 

I mixed the beans with the rest, then sprinkled in some fresh cilantro and sunflower seeds.  Very tasty.

photo 2

 

You can see that the rice is yellow.  That’s from the turmeric.  It doesn’t really have a strong flavor, but it makes things look pretty.  It’s also anti-inflamatory.

That’s my newest tidbit in the kitchen department.  Even if you don’t have a screaming baby, I’d try it.

This was not taken today, but on another occasion where Rocco insisted on helping in the kitchen.  As I look at the photo, I realize I'm wearing the same top, so we must have also gone to baby and me yoga that day.

This was not taken today, but on another occasion where Rocco insisted on helping in the kitchen. As I look at the photo, I realize I’m wearing the same top, so we must have also gone to baby and me yoga that day.

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.