Hot Yoga on an Empty Stomach

I have been reading about the health benefits of exercising on an empty stomach and decided to try it out. The new scientific consensus seems to be that one burns fewer calories on an empty stomach, but those calories are higher percentage of fat. While eating a balanced breakfast before working out results in a higher calorie burn, but those calories are mostly from the breakfast itself, rather than fat stores.

I used to flip out if I didn’t get a bagel once a week…and my poached eggs. Since pregnancy, I don’t like bagels and eggs make me sick all day.  Without those two items, I am no longer a fan of breakfast, really. I have spent years forcing myself to eat OJ and breakfast cereal  “because breakfast is healthy,” and it gets me is so hungry by 11:30. So this research supports my preferences and it’s the classic self-confirmation bias at work.

I had previously attempted fasting exercise a few weeks ago, in a Hot Yoga class. I had never attended that particular class before–it was so crowded, it must have been 115 degrees. I was about 2 inches from butts in my face in every direction at one point. As a result of the overcrowding, there is no word for how hot it was in that room. It was also an instructor whom I had never before met, so it was a new style of yoga; we spent most of the time coming up from the floor with no “flow”–very challenging simply because of the novelty. It did not go well. I was in child’s pose for 25 minutes. I was so embarrassed! I wanted to steal the Jolly Rancher off my neighbor’s yoga mat. I really, really wanted to leave but I was so nauseated I really thought that I might not be able to make it out of the room without puking or fainting.

So I decided to try it again today…well it wasn’t a conscious decision. I usually abstain from food for at least an hour before class, but I do usually have a banana before yoga. However, the grocery store didn’t have any bananas yesterday–how is that possible? The grocery trucks couldn’t make deliveries because the streets in our neighborhood were shut down for “Pride Fest” this weekend. So no banana for me!

Just as class begins I realize all that is in mystomach is coffee. At least it was my regular class and so I was at least mentally prepared for the style of the practice. And I’m telling myself that the class isn’t super hot, but then I notice it is significantly hotter than normal today! Probably because the only open spot in the part of the room I prefer was right in front of the heater.  And I forgot my water. And so my intention for today was to survive.

The instructor always asks if there are any requests and usually there is no response. Today: “Inversions” and “Abs” come from my cohorts. Seriously?!? So an hour of plank and chair pose! LOL..that is what the instructor usually threatens if we don’t offer up any suggestions but today my nightmare was real.

I was just relieved that I didn’t crap out halfway through. I tried a new inversion. I had no intention of actually doing it, per se, but the instructor saw my feeble attempts and came to “spot” me. Which means that she held my legs while I made a super-weird, scared noise. Now I know why it’s called Dolphin, I guess. The stransition to peacock was very challenging and rewarding, and here is a nice explaination of how to try it. I am feeling a plateau in my practice so the new inversion was a great chance to try and break through the next wall and maybe work towards scorpion pose in the future.

All things considered, it was a great pratice and I was sweating much more than usual. I’m not sure if that was because it was actually hotter than normal or if I was just perceiving it that way because of the added stress of the fasting. At one point I really got lightheaded and wondered if I was going to need to take a child’s pose, but that was at the last moment before corpse pose, after all the inversions. Best corpse pose ever today.  The empty stomach did change the experience of the class in a good way, but I was very conscious of the fasting aspect during my practice. I wonder if after a couple more times it might just be less notable.

I think I will make no-breakfast my status quo for basic and heated yoga casses, but not Hot Yoga. I will definitely stick to my banana or oatmeal before that class because if the intensity and the heat.

The nausea I experienced in my class a few weeks ago was akin to torture, so I picked up a cucumber-spinach juice right after class and added double ginger to calm my stomach, just in case I was going to get nauseaus. The juice served to make me very hungry, while normally that would be my lunch. I also noticed I was especially thirsty today. Sometimes it is easy to confuse thirst and hunger, so it I think the fasting exercise helped me to be more mindful as I went about my day.

I made healthy choices all day (cauliflower tacos above) so I think it was a very positive experience.

Cauliflower Tacos Reicpe (serves 4)

Toss 2 heads Caluflower in 2 Tbspn olive oil and 1 Tbspn chili powder for 25 minutes; add 5 cloves chopped garlic roast 15 minutes more

Heat 1 Tbspn olive oil on mediu heat and crumble 1 brick pressed tofu for 15 minutes, letting it brown before tossing. Add 1/4 cup salsa or tomatoes and heat for 5 minutes

Assemble Tacos with preferred items: peppers, lettuce, cilantro, tofu, rice, beans, refried beans, carrots, tomatillos, tomatoes, jalepenos, salsa, etc—especially whatever is about to go bad, like the avocado in the picture above

Farmers’ Market Soup

I went nuts at the farmers’ market this week. I bought asparagus from 3 different vendors. And strawberries from everyone who had them! I bought a few pounds of mushrooms, a few early tomatoes, spring onions, a ton of spinach and arugula–I adore arugula and I can’t wait to eat that next!

We have been enjoying the return of local food to the midwest and eating salads from the planters on our deck as accompaniments.

Two days ago for dinner I served crimini mushrooms, asparagus and spinach with garlic and thyme over a bed of rice. It was simple and clean and so filling!

Last night I made a really beautiful “cream” of asparagus soup with tons of veggies. I referenced a few recipes and I got the idea for adding barley to make it creamier from a Vegetarian Times recipe. They used basmati rice, but we only eat white rice if we are eating out a Thai or Indian or Mexican restaurant. I find the only way to actually choose wild rice is to not keep white rice in the house, and I thought brown rice sounded pretty gross in this recipe. I used Barley instead but still needed to add some Non-Dairy milk to thin the consistency. It was perfect for B to practice eating with a spoon because it was pretty thick. The vegetarian times recipe called for 8 cups of liquid and I used only 6, so it could be thinned further to feed 4-6 people. At first, I used a food processor to blend it, but found it was still thick, so I went to the immersion blender which worked great.

The baby loved it, the husband loved it, I loved it. It was so filling and fresh and of the moment. The soup was ephemeral and evanescent and all those other things that food should be! Except the broccoli, which isn’t in season yet, but I really only used the stems to add more depth to the flavor of the stock and it was on the verge of going bad.

As a main course, this served our family of 2 adults and a toddler, with a small portion of leftovers. If the soup were served with a side salad, appetizers, or along side steamed veggies and rice, it would probably serve 6 easily.

Farmers' Market Soup- IngredientsAsparagus Soup Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 2 Tbspn Olive Oil
  • 2 lbs asparagus
  • 1 bunch spring onions(about 6), whites and greens spearated and chopped
  • 5 cups water or homemade veggie stock (I used the boiling water from cooking corn because I was cooking for Biddi’s lunch at the same time)
  • 3-4 celery stalks, diced
  • stems of 1 head of broccoli, peeled and rough chop
  • 1 1/2 cups spinach (washed and stems removed) roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tspn coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 tspn thyme
  • 1/2 tspn italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup grain, such as barley
  • 1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (such as almond milk)

Asparagus Soup Cooking Method

  1. Heat Oil in stock pot over medium heat and add leeks; sauté for 5 minutes
  2. Chop asparagus, removing tough ends and reserving 2″ fronds/tips for garnish
  3. Add asparagus stems to leeks and sauté for 5 minutes
  4. Add Water, herbs and sea salt
  5. Add celery, spinach and broccoli stems and simmer on medium low for 5 minutes
  6. Add barley and simmer for 30 minutes
  7. Add non-dairy milk
  8. Use immersion blender to get soup to smooth consistency
  9. Add reserved asparagus tips and allow to cook for about 5 minutes before serving
  10. Serve with salt and pepper and a drizzle of chili oil or tabasco sauce for an extra kick.

 

Spring Dinner: Black Bean Quinoa Burger with Asparagus and Fava Beans

As I mentioned in my Daily Prompt-inspired post today, my intention for the week is to take more risks. I bought fava beans and green garlic at the store today to push myself outside of my comfort zone. Once I was cooking, I realized I have already cooked with green garlic probably around this time last year. I just bought everything that looked good in the produce department today and then looked up recipes. I found a great explanation about how to prepare fava beans from Martha Stewart and also ideas about what flavors pair well together: asparagus and almonds. Since I was trying such new ingredients together, I paired that recipe with an old favorite that I am really comfortable making: Vegetarian Times‘ Black bean Quinoa Burgers.

I followed the Vegetarian Times recipe exactly, but I added an extra 3/4 cup black beans or so because I was using a 23 oz can instead of a 15 oz can. I added it with the beans and quinoa(after the food processing step). Also I cooked the finished patties on parchment paper not a cookie sheet with oil. Usually I use my own oven dried tomatoes, so I have to add some oil, but today I had an open jar of sun-dried tomatoes to use. I don’t have steak seasoning–what vegetarian does?–so I used a medley of seasonings I had on hand. I served the burgers with a quick avocado-poblano guacamole. Corn and/or tomatoes are also a good addition to the guacamole.

My husband and I ate 3 patties each and Biddi (23 months old) ate 2 patties! That is definitely a lot of food, but we didn’t have any bread with the meal so I feel like it was the right portion for dinner. I would eat it again tomorrow it was so good!

The myfitnesspal app from UnderArmour says the Asparagus is 324 calories, the guac is 134 calories, and the burgers are 171 calories each, for a grand total of almost 1,000 calories. But the best calories ever-monounsaturated fats in the avocado and olive oils. 43 grams of protein(72% RDA), 42 grams of fiber (170% of daily minimum according to MyFitnessPal)! I have been consuming mass quantities of veggies like this for 18 months and I have lost 40 pounds as a result, and so has my husband. So I don’t buy in to the “calorie is a calorie” thinking.

I spent my first 6 months post-partum eating 1200 calories a day of granola, diet coke, OJ, and yogurt and ended up hungry all the time and gaining 5 pounds! I now literally eat fruits, nuts, and unlimited olive oil and veggies some days…and other days I don’t eat until lunchtime if I had an especially filling dinner the night before.

It took about an hour and a half or two hours to cook this entire meal, but I am really familiar with the quinoa-black bean burger recipe, having made it about 5-6 times. My husband made it once and it took him a little longer. I think the investment of time pays off in the long run, real food tastes so good and is so filling. Every night when we have dinner I express gratitude that I am able to take care of my family and myself by providing a healthful, nutritious, plant-based meal…Namaste

Black Bean Quinoa Burgers (makes 8 patties)

  • 23 oz can black beans drained and washed- separated into 3/4 cup and the remainder
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 onion–Vidalias are in season right now!!!
  • about 10 sun dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
  • 1/2 cup quinoa(or 365 Whole Foods “Supergrains” blend)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
  • 1/2 Teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cajun seasoning

Cooking Method

Spring Dinner- Burger Patties

  1. Preheat oven to 375 on Convection roast, or about 400 on regular Baking setting
  2. Add quinoa to 1 1/2 cup water and boil; cover and simmer for 20 minutes. After it is done, remove the lid and let the quinoa dry out some–I measure out 3/4 cup quinoa for the food processor right away and leave the remainder of quinoa in the pot on the stove while the stove is preheating to help evaporate some water.
  3. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add onion and sun-dried tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes
  4. Add herbs and garlic and 3/4 cup black beans and 1 1/2 cup water
  5. simmer 10-15 minutes until water evaporates (I think this will vary based on the size and shape of the skillet)
  6. Add onion-bean-tomato-herb mixture to the 3/4 cup cooked quinoa in the food processor, blend until smooth about 30-60 seconds on pulse mode
  7. Add mixture to remaining quinoa and add remaining black beans (about 2 cups)
  8. Use 1/4 cup measure cup to measure out patties. They will be sticky and messy!
  9. Place patties on parchment-lined sheet pan in oven for 20 minute
  10. Flip patties–carefully so as to not split them open–and cook an additional 10 minutes

Poblano Guac (Serves 2)

  • 2 poblano peppers
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 cloves garlic

Methodspring-dinner-roasting-poblanos-e1495593517356.jpg

  1. Mash garlic using molcajete or chop/mince with knife
  2. Add avocado and continue to mash
  3. Fire-roast poblano peppers over open flam eor in oven
  4. Peel and seed poblanos
  5. Chop poblanos
  6. fold poblanos in to the avocado and mix until smooth

Asparagus and Fava Beans with Almonds (serves 2)

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh fava beans, shelled
  • 1 bunch green garlic
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup almonds (slivered or sliced or chopped)

    Cooking Method

  1. Shell Fava Beans and add to boiling water for 3 minutes

  2. Drain and move to ice bath to shock them and cool them for peeling
  3. Peel each bean of the thick skin–they will go from a lima bean light-green color to an edamame bright-green color
  4. Remove roots of green garlic and slice the whites: bulb/stems
  5. Separate that bulb/stems from greens/shoots and chop those separately
  6. Heat the olive oil and add garlic whites for about 3-5 minutes
  7. Add asparagus and cook for 10 minutes, tossing occasionally
  8. Add cooked fava beans and garlic greens and cook another 3 minutes

Spring Dinner- Black Bean Burger with Poblano Guac and ApsaragusThe meal was great but I was hustling more than usual so I didn’t get to take a ton of pictures. The picture above is pretty sloppy but it was an amazing meal.

 

Vegan Tofu Scramble

Wonderful morning and great lunch! I was up until 2 AM last night and thankfully,  Biddi slept in until 9:30! Usually if I am up late she likes to wake up extra early,so this was a great respite for me. We had a fun time reading books until we went on a shopping trip to Target–“Red Cart!!” she screams whenever she realizes where we are. I have heard recommendations to keep brands away from young children but how that is possible when you are taking them around the world, I have no idea. She is even pointing out characters that I have never introduced to her and it is so surprising, she is just a little sponge!

At the store, my husband and I decided to do a burrito-style wraps/mexican salad idea for lunch. When our little fly-on-the-wall heard that conversation, she started saying “rice, rice, rice.” So we added rice to the lunch menu and I mentally shifted the beans from the inside of the burrito to a side dish. We grabbed a variety of salsas–I love Frontera salsas and had never tried the double roasted tomato before. I would prefer a homemade salsa, but it was not in the cards today. We got home at 1:00, which is usually nap-time for Biddi so I wanted everything to be done by the time the rice finished in 45 minutes and I also didn’t have enough ingredients on hand to make a great raw salsa with depth of flavor.

Another similar tofu scramble that is I love to make uses al pastor style seasoning–heated guajillo and adobo chiles and pineapple and red onion…yum! And with that recipe, the leftover guajillo salsa is great over tortilla strips as breakfast chilaquiles.

For this recipe, I used a head of broccoli that is 2-3 days away from being not-great, so I started with that, keeping the floret stems to eat as well. Cauliflower and carrots are also great to pair with this type of Mexican meal. Pickled jalapenos also make a great topping in the burrito or on the salad; the vinegar flavor adds another layer.

Tofu Scramble- Ingredients.jpg

Tofu Scramble Wrap Ingredients (serves 4)

1 wraps per person (optional, this can be served as a salad, too)

1/2 cup greens per person, I used red and green leaf, butter lettuce, parsley, oregano, and mesclun greens

1 tomato per person, diced*

1/4 red onion per person, sliced and rough chopped*

1 tablespoons Hummus per person, I used Jalapeño

Tofu Scramble Ingredients

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 head brocoli, florets and floret stems chopped

About 10 oz High Protein tofu (Or Extra firm, pressed to remove water)

1 Tablespoons Chili Powder

1/2 cup salsa

Black beans and rice Ingredients

1 Cup rice, cooked

25 oz can vegetarian black beans in sauce

1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder

*leftover tomato and onions from wraps

Cooking Method

Heat olive oil over medium heat

Add broccoli stems and brown for 2-5 minutes without stirring, until charred and fragrant

Add chopped broccoli florets for another 5-10 minutes

Crumble tofu and add to broccoli; add chili powder and cook for 5 minutes, stirring

Add salsa and lower heat to medium-low

Assemble Wraps

Heat Wrap over flame to soften it

Add hummus, lettuce, onion, tomato, and about 1/2 cup tofu scramble

Side of BeansTofu Scramble- Beans Base

*There will be leftovers from the tomatoes and red onion- add to stock pot on medium heat

Cook to soften for about 2 minutes

Add entire can of beans with liquid from the can

Add garlic powder

Heat for about 5 minutes, until warmed through

Serve over rice, top with salsa or hot sauce.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Quick Tofu Stir-Fry

So today we did something new–Biddi and I went to our regular “Story Time” but she walked herself there, instead of me pushing her in the stroller! It was really a cool trip. She stopped at every house with an open gate and closed each and every one along the way. It took at least double the regular time, but I feel like she learned a lot more than she does being passively pushed along.

I have read some books on the Montessori education, which is evidence-based, and a common theme was movement and learning being closely related. My experience is just anecdotal, of course, but after our regular story time and trip to the park, she asked to be carried the last couple of blocks home and was noticeably calmer. She had lunch and was ready to nap about 30 minutes earlier than normal.

I tried to give her leftovers for lunch “Would you like the tofu noodles with peas and pesto from last night?”

“No!” I hear from the living room, followed by the pitter-patter of little feet. And then she runs into the kitchen to show me what she wants from the fridge! She is so unbelievable. She took an inventory of her options and decided on carrots and tofu, so I went with stir-fry. She hangs out in the kitchen and watches me cook, or while I am cooking I call her in and let her smell the food or look at what is going on in the oven or stove. It’s a very involved process, but it keeps me mindful of what I am doing.

So here is the recipe that Biddi designed for lunch today! She loved it, she asked for more tofu 2 times and ended up eating about 8 more pieces than pictured. I didn’t use any spicy peppers in the stir fry, but I would if it were just for me. I prefer sambal oelek, but I was out so I added dry sriracha seasoning to mine at the end as a seasoning. The first or second ingredient is sugar in the sriracha powder, but I only use maybe 1/8 of a teaspoon, so that doesn’t bother me too much. The stuff tastes really good, so I am sure one of the many ingredients (maltodextrin, citric acid, natural flavorings, etc) are actually MSG, which is more concerning to me than the sugar listed on the label, to be honest. I used to eat MSG powder and bouillon cubes as a kid and I don’t think there were any long-term side effects, but who knows? I developed a really keen taste as a result of snacking on it, so I can taste it immediately when it is in food. Like chicken stock in risotto or fish sauce in pad Thai, its pretty obvious when it’s not  there and so you can pick it out immediately when it is.

Quick Stir Fry Ingredients (serves 3-4)

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger (I grate the whole piece of ginger whenever I buy it fresh and keep it in the freezer to grab as-needed)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 red pepper (use roasted if they cause indigestion)

1 diced fresno, jalapeño, or serrano peppers, with seeds to make it spicier (optional–no spicy food for baby)

1 bunch carrots, sliced

1 diced yellow onion…Vidalia onions, if you’re lucky!

1 Brick of tofu

1 cup cooked grains: rice or barley/peas/lentil mix work well

Quick Stir Fry- Marinade IngredientsTofu Marinade

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 Tablespoon Black sesame seeds

1 Tablespoon White sesame seeds

1 Tablespoon Toasted sesame oil

1 Tablespoon Mirin cooking wine (or rice wine vinegar)

2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce

Cooking Method

Press the tofu to remove water for 30-60 minutes by wrapping in  kitchen towels and weighting with pots or something heavy. Or use Tofu Express for 15 minutes. This is so that the marinade can absorb and add flavor without making the stir fry watery

Whisk together Marinade ingredients and add tofu for 15 minutes or so

Heat Oil on medium heat (medium-high if you will be standing over the wok to watch it closely, I usually am cutting veggies while things cook, so I use medium)

Add minced ginger and garlic and diced onion to the heated oil and cook for 2-5 minutes, until fragrant and starting to char

Add veggies-peppers and carrots and cook for 10 minutes

Add tofu and marinade and cook for another 5 minutes

Add barley/cooked rice and cook another 5 minutes

Quick Stir Fry- Toddler Lunch Twinning

This is just a basic stir fry with the veggies cooked in oil and aromatics and then sauce added towards the end so that it doesn’t get too salty. Most teriyaki-style marinade recipes will have sugar or honey added but I don’t find that I miss it, so I leave it out. Plus, the cooking wine has some sweetness to it. I love to include broccoli, too, but I left it out since broccoli will probably be the bulk of dinner tonight.

Another great option is substituting all these veggies(onions/peppers/carrots) and using only green beans(or frozen haricot vert depending on what is in season). After cooking until they are brown, I add in the marinade and tofu. I usually have that once a week for lunch, it is so filling but still healthy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Homemade Marinara Sauce

About 18 months ago when my family cut out processed foods and added sugars, the biggest change to our diet was the sudden lack of tomatoes. Tomato sauce, ketchup, barbeque sauce, and even cans of roasted tomatoes have tomato paste as an ingredient and can add up to a lot of extra sugar, especailly when there is already additional cane sugar or sweeteners added. The tomato paste is essentially boiled and condensed tomatoes, with no fiber so the digestive system treats it like straight sugar.

It was quite the shock to stop eating canned tomatoes when we stopped eating processed foods, although I have since found some brands that do not have added tomato paste or puree. By now, I am in the habit of cooking the tomatoes from scratch and the flavor is so good, I don’t think I can ever go back! I make a basic marinara. I use Giada DeLaurentiis’ Simple Tomato Sauce recipe as a guideline, but get deeper flavors from roasting tomatoes from scratch, tripling the garlic and carrots, and adding some deep red wine as it simmers. I served this last night for dinner and it went over really well.

I have found a much better, tastier replacement for canned tomatoes: homemade oven-roasted tomatoes. I just give quartered or chopped tomatoes a light toss in olive oil and sometimes remove the seeds, depending on my mood and the recipe. For instance in a marinara or chili, I leave the seeds in because they will go into the food processor, but for ratatouille I seed them before roasting because they are eaten as is. Roasting the tomatoes takes about an hour, but I usually just wash and cut veggies until the tomatoes need to be flipped and then finish the sauce while I start the pasta water to boil.

Marinara- Roasted TomatoesThe flavor of the roasted tomatoes is unreal–so sweet and rich and combined with the charred flavor of the roasted red peppers the marinara has a lot of depth, unlike flat, watery canned tomatoes.

Produce selection is really important when cooking a dish with just a few ingredients, especially the tomatoes. We are lucky to have a local greenhouse that provides perfect tomatoes all year round so they are really ripe and not just red on the outside due to some ethylene gas chemical reaction, like most commercial tomatoes. I don’t use organic tomatoes for this recipe, because only cherry tomatoes are on the “dirty dozen” list.

Marinara- Ingredients

Homemade Marinara (serves 4)

15 tomatoes, whatever is freshest (if using larger heirloom variety, 8 tomatoes is probably sufficient)

1 yellow onion–Vidalias if they are in season–diced

6 cloves garlic, chopped

1 bunch carrots (about 6 carrots)

2 red peppers

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 for tomatoes

1-2 bay leaf

1/4 cup fresh basil or 1 Teaspoon Italian seasoning

1 Tablespoon fresh oregano

1/8 Teaspoon salt

1 Cup water

1/2 Cup red wine

Cooking Method

Preheat oven to 375.

Cut tomatoes into 3-4 pieces each and place seed side up on a parchment lined cookie sheet

Use a basting brush to cover tomatoes in oil, plus salt and pepper

Place tomatoes in oven for 55 minutes, flipping after about 30 minutes

Use open flame to char red pepper skins, turning as they cook (or use an outdoor grill or place on pan sheet with tomatoes)

Place charred red peppers in a heat proof bowl for 5-15 minutes to steam

Rinse in roasted red peppers cold water to remove burnt skins and chop and dice the peppers

Shred carrots using food processor or box grater. Any weird carrot bits that wont go through the food processor, just chop or dice

Heat 2 Tbspn Olive oil over medium heat in a pot big enough to cook the marinara- I use a 4.5 Qt dutch oven

Cook the onion and garlic for about 5 minutes on medium heat until translucent (I like to go a minute longer and get them a little browned and caramelized for extra flavor)

Add the shredded carrots and salt and cook for about 5 minutes

Add the roasted red peppers and oven roasted tomatoes and stir for one minute

Add 1 Cup water and 1/2 cup red wine and bay leaf

Simmer and reduce sauce until it thickens, about one hour

After removing the bay leaf, use a blender or food processor to blend the marinara to a nice consistency, I prefer a chunkier consistency

Add herbs and heat on low heat until ready to serve

Marinara Sauce

Serve over pasta, spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles

Top with a sauteed broccoli, zucchini, or cherry tomatoes

Season with or serve along side crushed red peppers

Items from the olive bar would make a great appetizer- the spicy olive mix and peppadew peppers are my favorites

Serve with a side salad or fresh wheat ciabatta bread with olive oil or extra sauce (there should be enough extra marinara for dipping)


A quick sautéed with olive oil, sliced garlic, and a couple of florets of broccoli–stems and all. Add 1/2 cup marinara plus 1/2 cup pasta cooking water. Add 2 servings quinoa pasta and toss.

 

 

Making Healthy Choices: Thai Kale Wrap with Peanut Tofu

 

Upon leaving hot yoga class today, I am inspired to go buy tons of produce and make some amazing food. My favorite meal post-workout is a huge salad and my husband’s favorite is a wrap, since we gave up bread for the most part. The perfect compromise is a salad that can be a wrap.

Originally, I got the recipe from my mom. My mother is amazing cook and the quintessential image of her from my childhood is her entering the dining room during a dinner party with a bananas foster or baked Alaska–both flaming in full 80s fashion, of course. She made the Asian Kale Slaw from Once Upon a Chef a few years ago and I just loved it. Usually I double the recipe and save leftovers for wraps the next day, or two…I literally will never get sick of this salad.

Thai Peanut Wrap with Carrot side

So the recipe from Once Upon a Chef is pretty much perfect-I love the carrots and red cabbage. However, it wasn’t on hand in my kitchen today and my husband and I came back from the gym so hungry. I was craving protein and fat after yoga and I thought Peanut Tofu was the best thing I had ever heard of in that moment.

I was way too hungry to head out to the store and buy ingredients, so sans cabbage and carrots had to be good enough! It actually probably worked out better. The Ezekiel tortillas are kind of brittle and a bunch of cabbage and carrots would probably have ripped them apart.

Typically, I do this recipe as a wrap on Day #2, after the salad leftovers have been dressed overnight in the fridge. That gives the crunchy carrots, cabbage, and kale a chance to mellow and soften.

Thai Peanut Wrap Ingredients

Thai Peanut Kale Wrap (serves 2): Ingredients

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

10 Oz Block of organic tofu (I like Wildwood High Protein for this recipe, or a drained super firm would work as well)

1 red pepper, cut in julienne

3 spears of kale, torn into bite-size pieces

1 teaspoon each: Black and White Sesame seeds

1 Tablespoon Sunflower Seeds

2 Tortilla Wraps

Marinade/Dressing Recipe

1 Tablespoon each: Sugar Free Peanut Butter, Rice Vinegar

Juice of one lime

1 Teaspoon each: Soy Sauce, Toasted Sesame Oil, Powdered Ginger, Sriracha

A pinch Garlic Powder

 

Thai Peanut Kale Wrap: Cooking Method

Add 2 Olive Oil to small frying pan and head on medium heat

Cut tofu into strips, about 12 strips per 10 Oz Tofu

Add tofu to pan and cook about 3 minutes on each side

Add marinade ingredients together and whisk

Remove tofu from pan and set on paper towels to remove some oil

Allow oil in skillet to cool for a few minutes, then whisking it into the marinade (if its too hot it will spit when oil and water meet)

Heat wraps over stove flame for a few seconds on each side, or in a skillet for a minute on each side

Assemble wrap. Sprinkle with Sesame seeds and sunflower seeds and marinade and extra Sriracha to taste

Roll it up, Wrap it up, Eat it up!

Roasted Carrots (Serves 2)

Cut one bunch of carrots(I used rainbow carrots) into 1/3s lengthwise, and then halves and then 1/3s again (they be about the size and shape of french fries)

Toss in Olive oil and Salt and Pepper and whatever herbs you prefer (I used Sriracha Powder seasoning and Paprika)

Spread on a sheet pan covered in parchment paper in a 400′ over for about 30 minutes

 

 

 

Food Goals

I found this food poster from the 1940s a few years ago and I was smitten. Those 6 guidelines for food should replace the food pyramid, my plate, USDA guidelines without a doubt. I love that buying local was a recommendation from WW2–those proto-hipsters! Then somehow the McCarthy era convinced Americans that consumerism was patriotism. I want to do better than I have been as far as these 6 rules go.

I adore this poster and I have wanted to frame it in my house, but the wall space in our kitchen is already spoken for. I think having this visual around daily would be a great nudge in the right direction those nights when I am thinking of “treating” myself to some grubhub.

Of those food rules, I have especially been trying to make less waste, so some hybrid of 5 and 6. I watched a few documentaries on freegans and food waste and was totally disgusted by myself. I stopped buying milk because that is the one thing I always buy “just to have it” and never use, and then toss the second the expiration date is close. I really like unsweetened almond milk as a substitute and it stays good so much longer. A third of food is thrown away. Once a “biodegradable” food product gets buried in the anaerobic landfill, it just sits there, entombed but not decomposing. So to do better for myself and for Biddi less of my food should end up there.

Immediate-Term Goals

World_War_II_Patriotic_Posters_USA_Conservation_Food_1LG

This is another amazing 1940s WW2 poster, although my idea of “food as a weapon” is more like abstaining from meat, processed foods, and only buying organics whenever possible. So I guess my wallet is really the weapon I am wielding in that scenario.

In an effort to live up to my grandmother’s generation, I make sure to use food instead of tossing it when it starts to have a blemish or look not-so-fresh. I am cataloging my produce daily, “one more day until I should wash and freeze those peaches/berries/bananas if I can’t eat them,” says the depression/war era housewife in my head.

With herbs and lettuce, a quick rinse in COLD water perks them right up, as long as they haven’t really started to decompose. If there are bugs in my broccoli or mold in my tomatoes seeds, I cross that bridge when I come to it. For the broccoli: a good wash is good enough and maybe I get a little extra protein? Dark tomato seeds I just remove, as long as there is no mold growing. I usually seed my tomatoes anyway. One thing I really will not eat and exchange is a red pepper if it is mold.

Because food waste starts in the grocery store, I am trying my best to buy the first piece of produce I pick up: no inspecting each pepper or pineapple; just grab and go. It has actually made shopping so much more enjoyable, better.

Short-Term Goals

World_War_II_Patriotic_Posters_USA_Conservation_Food_2LG

A short-term goal of mine is to get a worm composting bin to address my own food waste. Biddi will love watching the worms eat scraps (if not because it is inherently entertaining, then because I love it) and its science…and she is getting sick of learning about the planets and water cycle, so this could blow her mind. No I am not joking, I have gone through several iterations of the solar system and ice-water-steam monologues to a 23 month old child. My immediate term solution for my food waste is the garbage disposal, since our pipes are on a sewage system, not a septic system; I consider that a poor man’s compost.

Living in the midwest does present a particular set of problems for Rule #4: Buy Local Foods. In the winter there isn’t much local food to buy. Although our Whole Foods carries Mighty Vine tomatoes from a local greenhouse all winter, and I swear they are as good as any midsummer tomato from the garden. The 1940s patriotic solution from the US Food Administration was canning.

Long Term Goals

And my long term goal is more of my “dream space,” where I live on my own produce year round and I do canning in summer…And I make my own soap à la Fight Club…and I recut old clothes into new ones every season like women did for generations (or “wear leather clothes…” à la Fight Club)

But maybe this is all BS because the sugar ration was like 2 lbs per person a month, which is totally excessive. Also, the same masterminds that create all those other insightful and inspiring food rations posters also made this:

World_War_II_Patriotic_Posters_USA_Conservation_Tokio_Kid_SayLG

yikes!

 

These posters are from Library of Congress and another free site are in the public domain

No-Pasta Pasta: Pesto and Artichokes over Zucchini Noodles

I’ve been eyeing the pre-made “zoodles” at the grocery store for a few weeks, but I have been too intimidated to grab them. Serendipitously, I had a birthday coupon from Williams-Sonoma. What to choose? They literally have everything in the world and I am not actually in need of anything. Except, oh wait, I don’t have a spiralizer. Forget that I have never had zoodles, so I might hate them. It has several blades so I can use it on beets or potatoes, which I do know I like.

I picked out the Paderno 4-blade model over the OXO brand. I have used it a couple of times and it was not intuitive. I had to decipher an instruction booklet and then watch a video online, which incidentally instructed to cut the zucchini in half–wrong!–and use a much larger blade than I preferred. I found some other videos and learned some tricks. For instance, use the lower hadle to push the zucchini through the blades. Also, use strong pressure to get longer length noodles.

So the first time cooking the homemade zucchini noodles was left up to my husband…while he watched Biddi. I left him with a bowl full of raw zucchini noodles, a skillet and some olive oil and a couple of cloves of garlic while I ran out to run some errands.  And he made an amazing meal! So simple and clean tasting, and zucchini is just starting to come into season so I can’t wait to eat these all summer long!

I love pasta but I do think it makes me feel bloated and not great, so I don’t eat it very often. I used to cook pasta at least once a week, but now I realize it isn’t very healthful. Also, I find that eating pasta starts a kind of carb-craving death spiral of cheap energy and subsequent crashes. Even when I make an insanely nutritious veggie pasta, my thoughts when I eat it are like, “would this just be better and paradoxically more filling without the pasta?” Yes!

Zucchini Noodles- Nailed It

In Winter I am obsessed with spaghetti squash in leiu of pasta, but not in the Spring. Like apples and sweet potatoes, by the time Spring and Summer come around they have been in storage all winter and, in my opinion, they have lost some nutritional value.  I am so excited to try out all of my stand-by pasta recipes with zucchini noodles–and zucchini isn’t even on the “Dirty Dozen,” so I can buy non-organic. Although I’m not sure if there is even a big price difference, I will usually just buy the ones that look best and are the right size for my recipe.

Zucchini NoodlesAnd since you don’t have to wait for water to boil and then pasta to cook, it is actually faster than pasta!

Some favorite pasta recipes I love are:

  • a deconstructed pesto: pine nuts, basil, olive oil and lemon juice with blistered cherry tomatoes
  • shrimp scampi: olive oil, peas, parsley, white wine, and maybe even some actual shrimp
  • anti-pasta flavors: roasted red peppers pesto, roasted red peppers, basil, black olives
  • simple tomato sauce: oven roaseted tomatoes instead of canned, red wine, roasted red peppers

But here is what I settled on today for lunch: Pesto and Artichokes over Zucchini Noodles. The artichokes were a last minute addition, when I grabbed the pine nuts from the freezer they literally fell into my hands. I took it as an omen that they were no longer fulfilled living in the freezer and wanted to become lunch. I keep the pine nuts in the freezer cause they are expensive and have a high fat content, like walnuts and almonds and pecans. I have bought nuts and eaten them after they went rancid before…and never again. I use them relatively quickly and store them in the door, the warmest part of the freezer, so I don’t think there is any risk of freezer burn.

Zucchini Noodles- Ingredients

Pesto and Artichokes over Zucchini Noodles (serves 4)

6 meduim zucchinis, spiralized (about 3 lbs)

1 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon for when the zucchini noodles are added

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1/4 cup pine nuts

32 oz bag frozen artichokes

3/4 teaspoon extra-coarse sea salt (optional, use 1/8 teaspoon with table salt)

2 tablespoons fresh basil

1 Tablespoon fresh oregano

1/4 cup homemade or storebought pesto*

crushed red peppers, to garnish

*check the ingredients before buying off the shelf: many cheaper pestos use cashews instead of pine nuts and I think the flavor is lacking as a result. I usually buy the pesto from the cheese/cooler section of whole foods, it is made in-house and sold by weight. It’s expensive and super-rich, so it can be thinned with olive oil for this recipe.

Cooking Method

Heat 1 tablespoon Olive Oil over medium-low heat in a large skillet

Add garlic and sautee for 1-2 minutes, until golden brown

Add pine nuts and cook for 2 minutes, until heated through and beginning to brown

Add the bag of artichokes directly to the sautee pan and cook for a minute until artichokes are lightly covered in oil

Cover pan with lid and cook for 5 minutes until thawed

Add zucchini noodles and 1 tablespoon Olive oil and 3/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt*

Cook for 10 minutes to let the salt sweat out some of the water from the zucchini

Toss with herbs and pesto

Serve with crushed red pepper flakes to taste.

*add crushed red peppers at this point, if you like spicy food and if you aren’t serving this to a toddler 😉

Zucchini Noodles- Twinning

For Biddi, I added a 2 oz tofu, tossed in pesto and warmed through, peice of toast and 1/2 a peach. She loves pesto and eats tofu often, so the peaches were the only “new” food for her, although she has had them cooked before never raw. I had to explain to her that she would like them and then pop one in her mouth quickly, but she ate all the ones I gave her and then asked for more. She ate all the zucchini noodles, half the tofu, no bread, and the entire peach, and she was stealing artichokes off of my plate; I never considered that she would even try the artichokes!

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