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Vegan Dreams

22 Oct

As a newly married person and as the new adoptive mother of a cat, I’ve been contemplating (and, yes, perhaps obsessing) over what our new little family eats. Not that the cat eats with us, but still having an animal I love in the house causes me to think twice about why people consume animals at all. It’s pretty perplexing and heady stuff.  But I won’t bore you with that brand of thinking in too much detail (I am sure you can log onto the PETA website if you want to get into the whole gory, graphic picture).

In the coming months, I’ll do my best to share some healthy meat-and-dairy free recipes with you.  As I operate on some major time constraints, and run like a madwoman from bed to work and from work to work out and from workout to kitchen and kitchen to bed, I’ll try to keep my suggestions simple.

In that spirit, here’s what worked for me this week:

Pumpkin Red Lentil Soup! I found this recipe while waiting in a doctor’s office recently. I am somewhat ashamed to  admit that I discovered it in the pages of Better Homes and Gardens because I just feel like, you know, I’m not my mother… at least not yet. I mean, my mom is great, and really good looking mom at that, so don’t get me wrong. Nevertheless, I digress. The short of it is: while I think you have to at least be over the age of thirty to get into Better Homes and Gardens, us young folk who don’t yet have a real home or garden to speak of can still learn a thing or two. The soup is amazing, It was fast and easy to make and tasted like something that had been stewing for hours. MAKE IT ANIMAL FREE: Omit chicken stock for a carton of vegetable stock. It tasted just fine to me.

You can view the recipe and video here: http://goo.gl/y8bfKw

Macadamia Pesto:  OMG! This was just so yummy! As you’ll see the recipe calls for half and half and a little bit of parmigiano reggiano.  And, this my friends, is probably the one thing that will always keep me from being a true vegan…Italian cheese.  Perhaps it’s a bit of cognitive dissonance but when I think about European cheeses, especially our family and friends in Italy, I don’t quite get the same factory farm, antibiotic-filled, genetically modified feel as I do when opening a bag of processed dairy products here in the U.S.  Being a little euro-snob, I went for the gusto here and broke the rules. I used some very delicious and oh so rewarding parmigiano.  I did, however, replace the half and half requirement with almond milk. MAKE IT VEGAN: Replace both the milk component and the cheese with dairy substitutes (found here http://goo.gl/slpcNB), although something in me will always feel vegan parmigiano is just as wrong as the powdered crap they sell in the stores.  Also, using whole grain pasta can increase fiber and protein.

   The smell of fresh basil is SO intoxicating.

 Macadamia Nut-Pesto Fettuccine

           Photo from website. Find recipe here: http://goo.gl/nVf7sk

  Black Bean Pumpkin Burgers:  Okayyyyy, so apparently the young woman who curates the amazing alterna-food  website “Sprouted Kitchen” is a better human and cook than I. In my efforts to recreate her delectable black bean burgers, I ended up with a kitchen as messy as a mad scientist’s laboratory, mounds of the “burger” meat stuck to my fingers, in my hair and at one point my cat trampled through the madness of this mayhem…I found him later sitting in a corner meowing and furiously attempting to pluck a lacquered-on layer of pumpkin and bean guts off his pristine coat. Bottom line: THIS WAS A DISASTER for me.  I tried to fry the patties and this is what resulted:

A sizzling disaster underway!

A sizzling disaster underway!

The good news is that while the whole fry-in-coconut oil was an epic fail, I was able to fold this delicious heated paste into the remaining brown rice I’d cooked and it was pretty decently delicious. Nevertheless, I was still pretty sad that I’d failed miserably at bean burgers : (

In the case you feel more talented in the kitchen, you can find all the sprouted goddess’ words of wisdom here:  http://goo.gl/PTZ8qO

Acorn Squash:  We’ve talked about this before, I know, but if you weren’t paying attention, this is a great, hearty fall favorite of mine and it definitely won’t leave you wanting for more. Last I ate one of these I felt like I had swallowed an inflatable pool toy. Acorn squash is simple to cook. Just cut it, gut it, then place the halves in about a quarter to one half inch of water in a brownie pan or other oven suitable container. Let them steam in the oven for about 30 minutes at about 400 degrees. Everyone’s oven is different, so be sure to check. I like to cover my squash with a little foil so it traps in all the steamy water. You can stuff your squash with anything yummy and protein-packed. A good example would be quinoa and any bean of your choice. Sprinkle on some almond or rice-based cheese for extra flavor. Here’s my acorn squash photo, which I may have shared before. Makes me hungry every time I look at it:

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Roasted Tubers:   Here’s another one lifted from the pages of Better Homes and Gardens, but it’s also a good one and really simple.  All that’s required, however, is time and tubers!!! Haha, I crack myself up.  Cut an assortment of rooted  veggies such as red and yellow beets, yams, turnips, carrots and red potatoes plus a medium purple onion for extra  flavor.  Slice into cubes about 1/2 inch thick. Douse them in your favorite extra virgin olive oil and shake in herbs de Provence (dried rosemary, lavender, savory, tarragon, etc).  Heat the oven to about 400 degrees and cover the sheet or  pan.  You’ll need to keep an eye on these but in my experience it can take over an hour to get all the vegetables at the right consistency. This one takes time. I roasted this mix on a Friday night when time was less of an object and I  needed something else to do other than read a book.  The odors that emanate from the oven with this one are so delicious. It will make your neighbors think you’re a regular Martha Stewart, which, of course, we all know you are! At the end, you’ll also want to sprinkle some fresh cracked pepper and salt to enhance the already savory flavors.

Photo credit: saveur.com

Photo credit: saveur.com

Bon Appétit!

repurposing a poor food choice

26 Aug
THE SLIMCADO!

THE SLIMCADO!

Hello readers! Welcome back. I apologize for my failure to keep this old thing updated. I’ve had many new food and fitness adventures since we last spoke.  Having returned from an inadvertent blogging vacation, I write to you today about recent encounters with a new take on the avocado.  Really? You ask, avocados? The early 2000s are calling and they want to let you know that while your blog isn’t exactly highbrow, even taking the time to extoll the benefit of the avocado is truly passé.

I know.

What I bring to you today is a new take on an old classic and a lesson on the benefits of repurposing unwanted foods. A topic particularly relevant to me as I’ve recently returned from the whirlwind of my wedding and honeymoon and, having recently gone back to work, find myself simply unable to stock our shelves and fridge fast enough.  I’ve resorted to many impulse buys merely because they seemed like good ideas at the time. This includes my avocado collection.

First off, and as a footnote, for those of you who are SICK of bougie young people always asking for avocado with everything, I offer an interesting alternative history. Pursuant to the website entitled “Today I Found Out” (who’s facts I have not thoroughly checked), “the word avocado comes from the Aztec word ‘ahuacatl’ meaning testicle.” Yep. I said it.  According to the Aztecs (or perhaps just according to this website), the reference was made due to the avocado’s shape. Once the Spaniards arrived, they began translating the word “ahuacatl” into “aguacate” and eventually “avocado” as we know it today.

So, where am I going with all this history? The answer is nowhere, really. I just thought you might like to know.  Moving on, I introduce tonight’s lesson. Repurposing otherwise good food that is, for reasons of palatability headed straight for the trash.

The story (finally) begins last weekend when I thought I’d had an “ah-ha” moment in  the grocery store when I happened upon a pile of wonderfully large and happily green avocados. Instantly, they reminded me of the humongous and juicy avocados I’d had the opportunity to enjoy during my stay in Tanzania two summers ago. After snapping up a few, I hurried home eager to cut them open and enjoy in a simple manner with some fresh pepper and salt.

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When I set out to crack the first sucker open, I knew my excitement was for naught.  The avocadoes I’d purchased were not truly avocadoes at all but rather a strange new beast heretofore unbeknownst to me.  Plus, they had a horrid name the “slimcado” and were clearly marketed for individuals blissfully unfamiliar with the concept of healthy fats. Ugh!

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So, this slimcado, is really not an avocado at all. After wrestling the thing open (and this was a hard task), I cut the avocado, or, err, sorry, the slimcado, into one inch thick cubes. Unsure of what to do next, I sprinkled them with some extra virgin olive oil, coated them with a heaping spoonful of cayenne pepper and chili powder, a sprinkling of salt and a hearty shake of pepper and put them in a medium skillet. I cooked the cubes over medium-low heat for about twenty minutes, stirring and adding a little water as needed.

I have to say, while this whole slimcado thing might not equal the one true food (or testicle, see discussion, supra) of the gods (the real avocado), it certainly cooks up really nicely. They turned out to be hearty and almost pumpkin-like in consistency. While I can’t say slimcados my new favorites, I am certainly glad we didn’t chuck them out on the spot.

Next time you consider tossing out your less-than-desirable produce or poor food choices, just rethink the possibilities.

This blog post has been brought to you by cayenne and chili.

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Summer Salad Saturday

6 Jul

After another lovely weekend filled with kayaking and adventure, I found myself hot, sweaty and hungry. Being that it was not (and, currently, still isn’t) time for dinner, I was loathe to overindulge. I am a pretty boring salad-maker and usually stick to the basics: lettuce and tomato. This afternoon, I plodded into the nearest grocery store with a different plan in mind: An interesting salad.

I threw this blueberry salad together in a snap and you can, too. Here’s what I used:

– One bag of washed baby lettuce

– Organic reduced fat balsamic vinaigrette to taste

– Half a small carton of blueberries (but I’m sure strawberries would be amazing, too)

– About a handful of shelled walnuts

– Some reduced fat feta cheese, to taste

And, there you have it! Super refreshing and satisfying summer salad. Go out and share it with your friends!

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Brave New Beans

2 Jul

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Cooking with beans presents a wonderful opportunity for using all sorts of great veggies. Slow cooking recipes allow flavors to develop and enrich your legumes of choice.

OKAY. So, I know what you’re thinking. Really?!?! Could you please write about something just a tad more interesting than beans?

Although I have the sense to realize intellectually that parts of me will always crave, and give into, meat and poultry (albeit sparingly), I don’t desire it frequently or often enough to feel like a true omnivore. As a result, I’ve been testing out options for refining my life as what I like to call a 90% vegetarian.  For those of you out there who are hardcore meat-haters, I am sure this sounds as scientifically impossible as being ‘a little bit pregnant’. I can understand.

Being a vegetarian is probably  one of those things that you are or you aren’t.  So, as I move to refine my tastes and figure out a sensible life-plan when it comes to food, I am experimenting with various super-proteins to figure out their long-term powers to sustain me and my busy and sometimes athletic agenda.

This week, I dedicated my kitchen and palate wholeheartedly to beans. I report the findings as follows:

*Please note: In case you are interested in locating these fine beans on the web, I have hyperlinked all the subtitles to pages where these beans can be purchased online. This blogger is not affiliated with these purveyors of beanage in any way. Buy at your own risk. I stock up my stash at the nearest Whole Foods. The bulk bins offer a great and super cost effective way to load up on legumes.

ADZUKI BEANS:

According to Dr. Weil, adzuki beans are popular in Japan. They are low in calories and in fat. They contain good stuff like manganese and B vitamins and copper and they aren’t…ah-hem…gassy. They’re also a staple of the macrobiotic diet, which is something I don’t properly understand.

Nor I didn’t know what to do with these suckers at first.  So, I just cooked up a bunch and sprinkled a little salt on ’em and ate.

I later remembered that one of the ultramarathoners I most admire (Scott Jurek, in case you’re wondering) recently wrote about adzuki beans in connection with a health bar recipe featured in Runner’s World a few months back. So, I dragged up the article and attempted it.

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Step 1:

The KEY to cooking adzuki beans, and, perhaps a disclaimer for those of you who are perpetually in a rush, is that you cannot just throw them into a pot and expect results.  Adzuki beans must be soaked for 4-8 hours, or, ideally, overnight. If you’re like me and forget about them for over 20 hours, they’re still useable but will cook in an even shorter period of time than indicated in most recipes. The standard operating procedure for cooking with adzuki beans is to soak for about 8 hours and then cook for about 45 minutes, give or take.

I always get it wrong when it comes to water-to-bean ratio, so the lowdown is this: cover the beans with enough water so that there’s about 1/2 inch between the beans and the surface of the water. Rinse the beans well before you put them into the pot. Bring water and beans to a boil. Then lower the heat to a simmer, cover and let sit. Check on the beans intermittently to make sure they aren’t done. They should be soft and somewhat sweet tasting when they are ready to be eaten. I checked on my beans every four minutes after the first 20 minutes had elapsed. Of course, because I’d allowed my beans to cook for so long, they were super waterlogged and finished in about 20 minutes.

Step 2: ON TO THE RECIPE! Here is what you will need:

1/2 teaspoon coconut oil
1 15-ounce can adzuki beans, drained
1 medium overripe banana
1/2 cup almond or rice milk
1/2 cup light coconut milk
1/2 cup barley flour
1/4 cup rice flour (this flour was expensive, so I replaced 1/4 cup rice flour with 1/4 cup of barely flour)
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup goji berries, currants, or raisins
1/2 cup nondairy chocolate chips [optional]

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Step 3: Taken verbatim from Mr. Jurek, you do the following… and, it is really easy.

Preheat oven to 400° F. Grease a 9-inch square pan with coconut oil. Blend beans and banana with almond and coconut milk until smooth and creamy. Add the flours, cocoa, syrup, vanilla, and salt, processing until thoroughly mixed. Stir in dried fruit. Pour mixture into pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until firm. When cool, cut into squares.

My Assessment:  I was REALLY skeptical of the success of these little bean bars, especially since I am super low-tech in the kitchen and used a hand-blender to accomplish the “processing” of the beans and the bananas.

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Just a girl and her trusty, rusty blender. We get the job done.

I also used a  little less syrup and a tad less coco powder as well.  I also couldn’t bring myself to splurge on the full out vegan chocolate chips. Instead I purchased Whole Foods bittersweet chips. They were roughly 50% cheaper.  I also used goji berries which baked nicely and broke down to a much juicier consistency than I had expected.

Adzuki Bean Bars.

Adzuki Bean Bars.

And, there you have it. Lovely adzuki bean bars. They are even suitable for sharing with health food phobes. Furthermore, they pack up nicely and are capable of withstanding abuse at the bottom of your gym bag. I know, gross imagery, but they are quite hardy!

MUNG BEANS

Mung beans. Where to begin? Actually, it was a simple twist of fate that led me to purchase a bag. I happened upon these strange critters in the dry food bins and thought “these look cool”. The rest, you might say, is history.  Mung beans originate from the Indian subcontinent where there are many varieties. For all you bean fanatics out there, Alana Sugar’s blog post for the Whole Story, does a nice job combining the cultural history of this lovely, protein-laden bean while offering a nice travelogue.

So, now to the heart or rather, the bean of the story…

I really had no idea what to do with these beans. Feeling adventurous and also crunched for time, I decided to boil the one cup of beans and while still hot mixed them with about  two servings of whole grain pasta. I then stirred in some chia seeds (about a tablespoon) tossed with some extra virgin olive oil. I sprinkled with salt (sparingly) and pepper (abundantly).

Mung beans are simple to cook. Use 3 cups of water for one cup of dry beans. The mighty mung requires no pre-soaking.  Simply bring the beans and water to a boil, then to a simmer and cover. Let simmer for a good 40 minutes. Sources say they can take up to 60 minutes to cook fully. I did not find this to be the case. My best advice is to check up on your bad boys regularly so as not to blow it when it comes to ensuring they reach optimal consistency.

While keeping a close eye on my pasta and my beans, I took this time to set up my yoga mat in front of the stove (users PLEASE use caution, you are forewarned, this is probably dangerous)…but I took the opportunity to go through a few sun salutations while waiting for my grains and beans to boil.

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Chia seeds and mung beans, strange but happy bedfellows.

My Assessment: I’m not sure if this is one for the cookbooks. It’s great as a quick dinner. You’ll feel full yet clean afterwards. However, I’d refain from this with guests. It’s more of a ‘me only’ dinner.  The chia seeds got a little chewy but it all depends on how much of a pasta purist you are.

FRENCH LENTILS

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photo credit: http://honestfare.com/french-lentil-soup/ another great recipe for French Lentils!

OMG! I never use the aforementioned phrase except under circumstances in which I wish to convey my most sincerest sense of irony. However, after trying David Lebovitz’s Lentilles du Puy, I mean it. With all my heart.  French lentils when cooked correctly are amazingly amazing. And, unlike some other earthier, grittier tasting beans, these are smooth and delicious, particularly when simmered with fennel and onions to sweet perfection.

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A little dull in color, but certainly not in taste.

Mr. Lebovitz’s recipe is as follows:

For the lentils:

  • 1¼ cup (250 gr) French green lentilles du Puy
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a few springs of fresh thyme
  • salt
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 bulb of fennel (optional), finely diced
  • freshly-ground pepper

For the vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon red wine or sherry vinegar
1/4 cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small shallot, peeled and minced

1. Rinse the lentils and remove any foreign matter.

2. Transfer the lentils to a large saucepan then cover with a copious amount of water, which should cover the lentils by at least 3-4 inches. Add the bay leaf and thyme.

3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, add a bit of salt, and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the lentils are just tender, adding more water if necessary. Be sure not to overcook them.

4. While the lentils are cooking, heat a few spoonfuls of olive oil in a skillet and add the carrots, onions, and fennel (if using). Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently until tender. Set aside.

5. In a large bowl, mix together the ingredients for the vinaigrette.

6. When the lentils are done, drain them well, then toss them in the vinaigrette with the cooked vegetables. Stir a few times to release the steam. Taste, and season with more salt, pepper, and olive oil if desired. Remove bay leaves and thyme sprigs.

My Assessment: Amazing. Period.

RED LENTILS

Red lentils are popular throughout India and the Middle East. And, I could be wrong, but after my travels in Ethiopia, feel convinced they are a big part of the diet there as well. I like red lentils because they cook down to a creamy, fibrous blend and really absorb the spices with which they are cooked.

For this purpose, I really wanted to make a red lentil curry. I’ll be honest, I selected the following recipe from Allrecipes.com while not-so-hard at work last week. The results of this experiment, however, were amazing.

You can access the recipe at the following link: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/red-lentil-curry/

This is what the finished product looks like

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Downfalls to this lentil project are as follows:

– After cooking, your home will smell like your favorite Indian restaurant, possibly for a few days.

– Once you start mixing the curry paste with the onions and spices and tomato paste, you better get ready to move fast. You’ve really got to put some elbow grease into your efforts. Otherwise, the ingredients will just start to stick to each other and congeal like crazy. At one point, I added half a can of water just to break things up. Actually, I highly suggest you get yourself ready with half a cup of water to control the mixture during the final phase.

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This is where you’ve got to give it your all…but don’t go at it too hard. Red lentils are sort of fragile.

– Once you add the lentils, also get prepared to mix vigorously again. I added some fresh ginger to garnish this dish as I just love the sweet burn of some good old fashioned roots. Despite the strong smell and sweat and tears I put into this one, it’s definitely the closest I’ve come to getting Indian food down right in my home kitchen. I felt so successful!

BEAN BURGERS

Okay, so Friday was supposed to be my adventurous day. I was fixing to borrow a friend’s food processor and make these awesome sounding bean burgers (also featured in the Jurek article). But I went on a long run after work, and it was hot, and I was tired, and I drank a beer or two and lost my ability to fight on. Instead. I settled for some baby greens and freshly nuked Boca Burgers (see link above). Yeah, I know they’re not the greatest, but they do the trick. They’ve got less sodium than the other frozen bean burgers I checked out at the store. Plus, they only have 70 calories per serving. You can’t beat that.

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For extra protein I cooked up two patties and spread hummus inside and made a sort of sandwich. Not too shabby. Especially when washed down with some hearty Ommegang Abbey Ale.

Finally, I whipped up some grainberry muffins for a fresh and quick dessert. I kinda don’t even want to go there. All I’ll say is that they came from a mix, I made them while tipsy…and, I don’t know if you ever ate playdough as a kid, but…yeah, enough said.

So, in sum, I recommend you get out there and bean it up! During my week of eating beans almost exclusively, I felt clean and energized. I can’t report any decline in performance or any sad sluggishness as a result of meat withdrawal.

I suggest you get out there and experiment.  There’s a bag of beans out there with your name on it!

Beet/Beat down to your soul

26 Apr

photo (10)Apart from being an incredibly corny title, I’d like to dedicate tonight’s post to being beat/beet (in my case, physically by a strangely intense night of yoga), and, to eating beets by way of cooking them into an amazing quinoa salad. The evening started out simply enough: with me running out of work, dashing down the pavement in high heels in hopes of reaching my car and beating the traffic in time to get to yoga.

Of course, by the time I arrived at yoga, I realized the following: I did not have a hair tie, a sports bra, the yoga pants without a hole in the crotch, or any conceivable way to cleanse my terribly smelly feet (I have decided to wage war against pantyhose in the spring and summer time…I now go commando in my shoes, and I’m not afraid to admit it–unless we are together in yoga class). Rather than turning around and going home, I made the executive decision to attend class despite these minor setbacks. Little did I know that tonight’s session would not be a cool after hours wind-down. What I walked into was full-contact yoga. And, I have the bruises to prove it.

Class started out innocuously enough with the usual suspects: plank, down dog, cobra, etc. What I wasn’t expecting was this:

…the emergence of Pose Dedicated to the Sage Koundinya I.

Yah.  The name says it all, right? And from the looks of it, you can clearly see it’s right up there with child’s pose (this is me being facetious in case you can’t tell).

At any rate, I’m pretty good on my hands. Or so I like to think.

I’ve got a pretty good bakasana going on and I can hold my own when it comes to Parsva Bakasana, but as to the image above…I’ve never even tried it. I don’t know if you’re like me but sometimes, I can’t let go of the idea that there’s something out there I can’t accomplish because it’s not in my skill set yet. I’m impatient and I need to do.

While ambition drives me professionally, it is also kind of… well, crazy. And, ambition is how I got beat by yoga tonight. In my desperate attempts to nail this pose the first time, I ended up bearing too much weight on my biceps. I got myself into something that I believe resembled this pose…and even earned some oooo’ing and ahhh’ing among fellow classmates who were struggling to take the first steps toward achieving this strange contortion. Haha! I thought, I got it!  But, I later bore the brunt of my pride.

Less than four hours later and I am already rocking some tres awesome purple blotches on the backs of my arms. Tonight’s lesson: try to be badass in yoga, and you will get your ass kicked. After returning home with some seriously sore muscles, I turned to dinner for solace.

Since I’m training for a half marathon (to be completed, hopefully without as much hubris as my ill-fated yoga class, in two weeks’ time) I have been trying to eat pure, whole foods. I completed a practice half  marathon a week ago after a night filled with white wine, seafood and dairy…and I’ve been traumatized ever since. I did pretty good, but my stomach was in agony afterwards.

In furtherance of my efforts to purify pre-run, I’ve been trying to limit dairy and animal products…and when possible, alcohol : ) Tonight, in celebration of my burgeoning bruises and because I had an uneaten bag of frozen beets in the fridge, I decided upon this ‘Quinoa, Beet and Arugula Salad’  dish, accessible at: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/quinoa-beet-and-arugula-salad/. I liked this recipe because it was really simple. Plus, I saw that some of the ingredients could be easily substituted.

Instead of using olive oil, I used canola oil and I substituted goat cheese with almond cheese (I know it’s not the most appetizing thing, but when heated, it totally does the trick). Also, instead of waiting that hour and a half suggested by the authors of the recipe, I decided to make it a warm salad and made it in about half an hour. This means, I didn’t waste time conserving half of the dressing until after the quinoa had cooled. Instead, I dumped it all together the minute the quinoa had finished. I mixed in some spinach instead of arugula so it would warm up nicely. Additionally, I did not peel and steam the beets myself. Instead, I used some frozen beets, threw them on defrost in the microwave until warm and mixed them into the steaming quinoa. What resulted was a hot, healthy and hearty dinner.

And, if my endorsement isn’t enough, check out this article from the NY Times. Accordingly, beets are a great source of folate and may contain antioxidants that naturally fight cancer. So beet that!

With a little extra cracked pepper on top of my warm salad, I was beet down to my soul, and I think you will be too…

…Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some serious bruises to tend to!

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Make Lunch Now – Even if it’s 11 p.m.

26 Feb

 asparagus cover

Here, I show you how to make a salad and a cooked vegetable side in several simple steps and with shared ingredients…this is not a Martha Stewart recipe, but rather a desperation lunch for the time-starved. And don’t fret, fresh, simple foods are actually quite yummy.

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Okay so it’s actually 11:23 EST and I’ve just completed making an avocado, tomato and cracked pepper salad…oh, yeah and some asparagus. I really didn’t want to make anything at all right now, but I forced myself, and so should you. After work today and before yoga, I ran into my local Whole Foods and noticed that avocados were on sale (they are apparently in season, even though they are from Mexico, thus not really in season or doing anything to help our carbon footprint here but whatever). So, I impulse bought some avocados and cherry tomatoes with no real plan in mind. And while I’d rather be checking out ‘House of Cards’ or some foreign film on Netflix, I made myself lunch instead!

Here are some photographs and a quick (read really quick recipe of what followed):

1 teaspoon of Canola Oil with Omega 3 DHA

6 red and green pepper slices

4 cherry tomatoes

1 avocado sliced

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Lemon juice to taste (I got mine from a bottle but feel free to squeeze some lemons if you’ve got ‘em)

Grab a plastic storage container. Get all your ingredients together. Slice the avocado open and pull out the giant pit, I usually loosen it with a fork and then pop it out. I cut around the periphery with a butter or steak knife and make slices down the center. I then turn the avocado’s skin inside out to shake out the pieces.

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After you’ve cut the avocado, toss it in your plastic lunch container. Chop your peppers and toss your cherry tomatoes in….do I seriously need to tell you what to do next? I kind of feel this is all so intuitive that it would insult your intelligence to indicate that the next steps are. But if you must know, you then toss all the other ingredients together and shake it up a bit.

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Not super sophisticated, but it’s actually kind of good.

And now for some Baked Asparagus (this is quick, too, I promise)

asparagus

You will need:

a baking sheet

10-12 stalks of asparagus

fresh pepper to taste

1/4 teaspoon of salt

fresh or bottled lemon juice

PAM or Canola oil

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. While the oven heats, rinse asparagus and gently towel dry. Break off the very ends of the asparagus to ensure you’re only cooking the ripest part. Asparagus will naturally fracture at the point on its bottom end where it is least ripe. Gently do this to each stalk. When finished, place each stalk on your cooking sheet. (Cover the cooking sheet with a piece of aluminum foil if you wish to avoid messy clean up later.)

Spritz the asparagus liberally with PAM (ewww, I know, I know…it’s kinda gross, and you’re thinking that nothing should ever be sprayed liberally with PAM apart from squeaky doors, but it works and it’s not really bad for you, either), or use a half a tablespoon of canola oil just to get the asparagus nice and glossy. Next squeeze on lemon juice to taste.

After, shake on a liberal heaping of pepper and a little bit of salt. Shake it all up by gently shifting the cooking sheet from side to side. Then, you’re off to the races. Toss those bad boys in the oven and let ’em roast for 15-23 minutes depending on the strength of your oven and the thickness of your asparagus. Keep monitoring them intermittently (now is a good time to read the news, grade your students’ papers or prepare a presentation for work) until they are golden brown and the ends are no longer juicy and white.

Let the asparagus cool off and then cover. Enjoy for lunch and/or dinner tomorrow. Unlike the haphazard avocado salad, this is actually something you can serve to other people (e.g. house guests). It tastes fancy, but no one has to know how much time it took (or didn’t take) you to whip up.