Posts tagged ‘inspiration’
You have seen my progress in the Vegan Challenge, and have occasionally heard from my parents and friend, but I thought I would give them a chance to share about their experience in their own words! One of the highlights of the month for me was recipe swapping with my mom. She taught me the basics of cooking and shared her passion of good food with me at a young age. I was excited to be able to share some of the tips I have picked up along the way with her, and am amazed by her creativity with vegan cooking! I hope you are as inspired by my mom as I am!
Somehow my daughter was able to talk my husband into going vegan for the month of January. I don’t think he really had any idea of what he was agreeing too, but I had wanted to try going vegan for some time. Some of my friends had done the Daniel Fast, a “spiritual fast” based on the book of Daniel in the Bible in which he ate only vegetables, fruits, and drank only water. A “side effect” of their fasting was weight loss. So needing to shed some pounds and really cleanse my body and mind, I thought, “Why not join him in this challenge?!” So during the Christmas holidays, with help from my already vegetarian daughter, I prepared both my mind and my kitchen for the challenge. She gave me tips on how to incorporate protein into each of our meals so that we wouldn’t go hungry. I stocked my kitchen cabinets with beans, quinoa, and rice and my refrigerator with fresh vegetables and fruits. I had recently started getting a weekly delivery of organic fruits and vegetables which proved to be a huge help during the challenge. She took me to Whole Foods and taught me how to read labels to find all those hidden sources of off limit ingredients and introduced me to tofu and tempeh. I replaced cow’s milk with almond milk–which I now absolutely love and will not go back to milk. We even found some different coconut creamers for my husband’s coffee in the morning.
For breakfast, I made oatmeal with a variety of different fruit mixed in. I took Jen’s advice and made sure to add either almond milk or sometimes peanut butter to give the oatmeal some protein. On the weekends, when I would normally have loved scrambled eggs, I began making hash brown potatoes, something I learned from my younger daughter. On a recent Saturday morning, I shredded some sweet potatoes I had gotten in my organics box, added some onions and black beans, and fried them in olive oil for a delicious and filling breakfast! I discovered a love for hummus at lunchtime, which also helped to keep me full. My favorite quick lunch is spread some hummus on a wrap, add some mixed salad greens and diced cucumbers or any leftover grilled vegetables. Fabulous! I had a lot of fun finding new recipes and enjoying all the things that I could eat. That was the best advice that Jen gave me at the start of the challenge. It was never about what I couldn’t have but making the most of what I could have. I made homemade pizza with caramelized onions, roasted artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers for a topping—I didn’t even miss the cheese. I made chili with sweet potatoes instead of meat. I even made a vegan macaroni and cheese using butternut squash and some nutritional yeast to make the “cheese sauce”.
So, after my thirty days as a vegan, I definitely feel better and lost 12 pounds in the process. I learned a lot about healthy eating and filling my body with good food. It definitely takes a bit more planning and preparation to be vegan and social settings are definitely hard. I had friends over for dinner during the challenge and fearing that they would have to be satisfied with a weird vegan dinner, the men all admitted to having eaten meat or chicken BEFORE they came over to eat my vegan food. So I do agree with Jen, being Vegan with Benefits is much easier. That’s pretty much what I have been doing (significantly reducing my meat and dairy intake) since the challenge ended as well and plan to continue doing, although I do admit to having some pepperoni pizza while cheering the Giants to victory over the Patriots in the Superbowl this past weekend! So thanks, Jen, for the encouragement and support in helping me succeed in this challenge!
The question still remains: how did Dad fare? Well, he has been busy with a snowmobiling and business trip, but I will try to wrangle a paragraph or two of thoughts from him as soon as I can! Looking at the pictures of what my mom cooked throughout the month, I can assure you he didn’t starve!
Happy Wednesday! My week has flown by, since a good chunk of Monday was spent in the ER with my roommate (who knew washing dishes could be so dangerous?! 4 stitches and 4 hours later, she was fine!) and Tuesday catching up with school. I ate – nothing too exciting, but I still enjoyed every bite, I ran, I studied, I did yoga. A peek into my eats:
Breakfast: oatmeal cooked in water and almond milk, with pumpkin butter, raisins, cinnamon and sunflower seed butter. Morning workout: 4.5 mi run. Lunch: Pan-fried polenta, steamed Swiss chard, and black beans, topped with nutritional yeast and salsa. Dinner: Oven-roasted snap peas, pita chips, and Sriracha swirled hummus. Evening workout: 1 hr power yoga class. Pre- and post- yoga snacks: Trail mix with peanut butter filled pretzels, raisins, granola, and peanuts; a rehydrating orange and chamomile tea.
The focus of this post, however, is not about me or my day. I recently received a copy of the book of poetry, Jump, written and published by the girl that I mentored in college. Even though we are no longer formerly involved in the mentorship program, we still meet up from time to time to catch up on life, her college applications, and hopes and dreams for the future. I could go on and on about how amazing she is, but I think her poetry speaks for itself. If you are interested, she has copies of her book for sale for $10 – email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) for information about how to purchase one!
I wanted to share this poem because I think it is particularly applicable to the healthy living community. Often, healthy diets and vanity are confused. A strong motivation for what we put on our plates is purely motivated by trying to fit into a certain pair of pants or meet certain expectations. While vanity can kickstart our motivation for healthy living, it cannot stop there. If we are never satisfied with our weight or our shape, then we are not healthy. Being healthy is more than just being thin: it is about self-acceptance and loving the body you have been given, no matter the number that is written on your pants tag says. My favorite seventeen year old articulates this much better than I ever could, so I will share her words.
The Marshall’s Fitting Room
from Jump, by Yolandi Cruz
Sorry I’m late
I just came back from the most wonderful date with myself
It was love at first sight
In a Marshall’s fitting room with dancing chandeliers,
flying monkeys and a pair of frozen cacti
For the first time in my life I had butterflies in my stomach
like we were meant to be
Please tell me that Bon Jovi immediately popped into your head when you saw the title of this post. No? Just me? Great, well now that’s out of the way… We are already halfway through our vegan challenge, and there already some exciting results to share! First, I’ll let my friends and family do the talking, and then I’ll add my two cents at the end.
It is hard to start a post that I am so excited about, and has been this long in the making! My roommate and I eat impossibly large volumes of oatmeal, and never get bored with it. This shocked and surprised our friend, who challenged me to make a different flavor of oatmeal every day for a month. A chance to try to pull an oatmeal hater onto my beloved breakfast bandwagon was something I could not refuse. My roommate and I immediately brainstormed some of our favorite classic combos, as well as threw out some ideas that were a little more out of the
box bowl. The project took longer than a month, since some of the flavors took more than one shot to perfect, and since even I can’t eat oatmeal 7 days a week. (Shocked gasps are leaving your mouth, I just know it). But without further to do… 30 Days of Oatmeal!
The picture links to a page that contains separate links to all of the oatmeal flavors. Some were inspired by the little instant oatmeal packets, such as Honey Walnut and Maple Pecan. Others are just classics that I turn to when I don’t want to think in the morning, like Apple Cinnamon and Peanut Butter Banana. Some are fun twists on desserts, like apple or pumpkin pie, and a few even hide some veggies! (Hint: Carrot Cake and Red Velvet Cake.) One, Raspberry Coconut, was inspired by a friend’s Facebook comment,. There are some holiday themed flavors, and some that are mild and simple for days that you don’t feel like a bold breakfast bowl. Basically, there is something for everyone! My mom, dad, sister, and roommate have taste tested and approved many, and I have loved them all.
I should get paid by an oatmeal company as their spokesperson, for I simply cannot rave enough about my favorite breakfast. It is cheap, it is healthy, and it can be so good – what’s not to love? Plus, oats are filled with fiber, which helps get rid of bad cholesterol (LDL) and boosts good cholesterol (HDL). Oats do not have to be bland or boring, as demonstrated above. They also don’t have to be packed with sugar to taste good. Most of my bowls were naturally sweetened with bananas or apple sauce, and flavored with spices and extracts. I like to cook my oats in a mixture of milk (I usually have unsweetened almond on hand) and water to add creaminess. This also adds a bit more protein to your breakfast to help it stick to your ribs longer. I have been known to have audible hunger growls on the bus on the way to school if I eat protein-poor cold cereal! I also like to cook a smaller portion of oats (1/3 cup) in a normal amount of liquid (1 cup) for a bit longer, which makes them softer and fluffier, and also gives some wiggle room for all of the add-ins to incorporate well.
Try one of the 30 flavors I posted, or make your own! Start with your oatmeal base, mix in some flavor from vanilla, cinnamon, or nut butters, add some fruit or jam for sweetness, and get creative! The options are almost endless, especially when you consider that oats are great soaked in milk overnight on warm days, or oven baked for really cold ones! Not enough ideas here for you? Check out the real Queen of Oatmeal at KERF, or CCK’s baked vegan oatmeal flavors! Jump on the oatmeal bandwagon, my friends – you won’t regret it.
Roommate dinners will soon be back in full swing! I am so looking forward to these – we don’t simply share a meal but life together as we sit and talk for hours at the dining room table. I don’t think either of us realized how much we valued these times together until we no longer had them! Ten weeks apart over the summer meant 5 hours of non-stop chatter in the car as we drove back to Boston after completing the NYC triathlon.
This dinner was the brain child of my lovely roommate, a really good cook despite her lack of confidence as such. It has been so much fun watching her grow and experiment in the kitchen over the past year! She made this for us and her sister, brother, and his fiance in a tiny studio apartment in Manhattan the night before our triathlon. Limited in both space and spices, the meal still turned out wonderfully and was great pre-race fuel. I hardly changed anything when I made it again this past week in Boston. You could call it a stewed quinoa, or a quinoa and greens pilaf, or a use-up-those-veggies one-pot meal… no matter what you call it, it is really simple, tasty, and healthy! Some of the liquid from the tomatoes cooks into the quinoa, giving it more flavor. The veggies can be subbed for what you have (spinach for the kale, +/- broccoli, less onions, more carrot – whatever you would like!) You can also kick up the spiciness with a bit of Sriracha sauce, or leave it out for the more faint of heart (you can tell I like my spicy food!). Even better – one pot means easy clean up. Basically, there is no way to go wrong with this one. Learn from my roommate and try something new in the kitchen tonight!
Question: Who does most of the cooking in your house?
Marie’s Stewed Quinoa
1 cup quinoa
28 oz can diced tomatoes, with liquid
1 2/3 cup water
1/3 cup chopped carrots
3/4 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp red chili flakes
1 tsp nutritional yeast (optional)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 bunch kale
Mince the garlic and the onions. Sautee in olive oil in medium heat until the onions become soft. Add the carrots and tomatoes. Add the quinoa and allow to absorb the liquid from the tomatoes. Top with 1 2/3 cup water and season with red chili flakes. Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until quinoa is cooked and the liquid is mostly absorbed. Before it is fully cooked, add the washed and chopped kale (or greens of choice) and allow to wilt in. Season to taste with nutritional yeast (optional) and salt. For extra spice, add Sriracha sauce after serving.
There is nothing I love more than watching someone fall in love with a healthier lifestyle. It only takes a few small changes that eventually add up into a lot of healthy habits! This recipe is what pushed my little sister over the edge to be an adventurous, veggie-cooking college student. She has found her own veggie delivery program in Philly, and says that she is excited to try new recipes and new foods as she begins to cook for herself this year! I hope that she finds inspiration from what I make with my box, as well as from her own amazing culinary creativity.
I have seen recipes for all types of green goddess dressings popping up everywhere, whether they are low-fat, vegan, gluten-free… you name it! I had some leftover cashew cream from my pasta sauce, and decided to try my own hand at it! It is a little more inspired by the flavors in pesto than in a traditional green goddess dressing, but is absolutely delicious in its own right. Plus, I got to try out my new Whole Foods purchase – nutritional yeast! This strange, flaky ingredient is super good for you – rich in B vitamins and packed with protein. It has an interesting, almost cheesey flavor, making it a perfect addition to dressings and pasta sauces! If you are not so adventurous, you can definitely try substituting a bit of grated cheese in the dressing, or just leave it out and add a bit more salt! I really like the flavor that it adds in recipes, but am not at a point to use it sprinkled over pasta. A little to earthy for me…
Try this recipe. It is really, really good. My sister exclaimed, “I just want to stick my face in it!” She had me make extra before I left, and is dreaming up ways to use it. We dipped some roasted broccoli in it, but she thinks it would make a great chip dip, or could even be a great pasta sauce.
Question: What do you think it would go well with?
Green Goddess Dip
1/3 cup basil
1/3 cup parsley
1/2 cup cashew cream
1/2 tsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Chop basil and parsley finely in a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and combine until smooth. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Bosnian cuisine can be summed up in one word: stuffed. As my friend jokes, a Bosnian will try to stuff anything with rice, meat or cheese at least once. They certainly are good at it! From the ubiquitous pita (more to come on this!) to the stuffed cabbage leaves to sogan dolme (stuffed onions), many of their nationally treasured dishes are meat-filled delights. During our stay in Sarajevo, Azra took us to a beautiful restaurant in the hills where her brother held his wedding reception. While considered upscale in Sarajevo, the price of the food was still reasonable – comparable to The Cheesecake Factory pricing. More so, food is generally cheap at the market, so dinner is typically eaten at home. Like I have said, any visit to Azra’s parents house will yield a multi-course dinner made with love. Restaurant dinners are reserved mainly for special occasions, and for this reason, Park Princeva was populated more by foreign tourists (it was pretty much the only place in Sarajevo where we didn’t stand out while speaking English!) than Bosnian natives.
The restaurant was known not just for its food, but also for its breathtaking panoramic views of the whole city. We sat and soaked in the atmosphere while waiting for our food. Of course I had to try sogan dolme!
On my plate was a small green pepper, tomato, and onion, all stuffed with meat and rice. I was so impressed by this dish. Not only was the filling really flavorful, but also both the meat and the veggies were soft and tender while still being artfully stuffed. They sat in a delicious broth that I mopped up with some bread – couldn’t find a drop on my plate!
Although a bit stuffed already, we ordered dessert so we could extend our stay and watch the sparkling lights of the city. To our surprise, we got to see a thunderstorm roll in as well! We enjoyed palatschinke, a crepe (slightly fluffier than the French version) filled with Nutella and some homemade raspberry ice cream – the perfect end to a perfect evening.
Since returning, I have been inspired again to stuff veggies! My mom, sister and I trekked to the West Cape May Farmer’s Market on Tuesday evening to see what produce we could find to inspire dinner. We got some heirloom tomatoes and local cucumbers so I could show them an Eastern European salad, and we got a few huge green peppers and a sicilian eggplant to stuff. I will definitely be on the lookout for another one of these eggplants – they are a lighter purple and more round than your usual eggplant, and have a much thinner skin and delicate flavor. The inside is surprisingly easy to scoop out and stuff, but I forgot to take pictures of my eggplant exploits! Oh well, just excuse to make it again ;)
My college roommate is the one who originally got me into running. She ran 10K races a few times a year, and ran the Boston Marathon our senior year. She inspired me to run my first race, and is one of the reasons I have found such a love for running. We both brought our sneakers to Europe, and want to try to run at least once in each country we visit. Might be a great way to explore the city! New to running, or recovering from an injury? Some thoughts on how to fall in love with running:
- Get fitted for proper running shoes. I am cheap and used to just buy sale shoes off the rack. While training for my first half-marathon, however, I developed pretty severe hip pain during longer runs. After my race, I finally got fitted for proper shoes, and found out that I have a tendency to pronate – a likely cause of my hip problems! My sister, suffering from knee pain, also just got fitted for good shoes. After finding out about her high arches, crazy turn out, and slight pronation, she got shoes with insoles to help correct her problems.
- Prevent injury, or support old problems. With my sister’s knee pain, she finally invested in a brace that supports the patellar tendons in her knee. New shoes plus a brace meant absolutely no knee pain! Also, make sure you stretch well (especially those IT bands) to help prevent injury.
- Take it slowly starting out. If it is your first run in months, years, or ever, don’t try to be a champion. My sister and I ran a slow mile to try out her shoes and whet her appetite for running.
- Find a running buddy! Having my roommate’s support in training for my first road race was crucial. On days I did not feel like running, she was there to encourage and support me. My friend Regina was another support, pacing me on long runs as I trained for my half-marathon. Use it as a way to catch up with a friend, or join a running club to meet new people. If running alone is more your style, find a fellow lone runner and keep each other accountable.
What do you do with a whole lotta mango salsa? You make tacos! These were somewhat inspired by fish tacos that my sister and I had at a music festival in Red Bank a few weeks ago. We scoured high and low for some gluten-free fare, and these tacos really hit the spot! I enjoyed it so much that I knew I needed to recreate it at some point. This recipe can be modified however you want it. I used cumin-spiced shrimp, guacamole, and mango salsa on corn tortillas, but you could use pico de gallo, avocado slices, pineapple salsa, broccoli or cabbage slaw, sauteed veggies and/or white fish. Just choose your favorite ingredients, and be adventurous! Sweet, fruity salsas compliment seafood really well. My tacos were as much of a hit as the street food my sister and I stumbled upon – a great, gluten-free recipe that doesn’t require expensive substitutes or make you feel deprived!
Question: What are your favorite taco ingredients?
1 lb shrimp
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup black bean and mango salsa (or salsa of your choice)
1 cup guacamole
12 6-inch corn tortillas
1 lime, cut in wedges
Toss shrimp in cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper. Saute in a pan over medium heat until the shrimp curl and turn pink. Meanwhile, wrap the tortillas in tin foil and heat in the oven or toaster oven at 400 degrees for 5 minutes. Serve dinner as a make-your-own taco night, or assemble 2-3 shrimp, a spoonful of salsa and guacamole, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice per taco.
I guess my friends and family are beginning to think I know how to cook… silly. I merely enjoy myself in the kitchen, and usually dream up something tasty in the process. My best friend, Amanda, has always been amazed at how at ease I am while cooking, since her idea of making dinner used to be heating up a frozen pizza. Her taste buds have matured so much through the course of our friendship, and now she is even brave enough to get her hands dirty in the kitchen! She assisted me with the Baked Arancini I made for my mom’s party (which, according to my mom, were better than the Italian restaurant’s fried rice balls that she sampled today!) and got her first full cooking lesson this evening. We made Balsamic chicken with mushrooms (my college roommate’s favorite recipe!) as well as my take on the classic haystack, with none of your expected ingredients. A haystack is typically tortilla chips, shredded lettuce, beans or meat, salsa and cheese, but is layered in stereotypical fashion that is unique to the dish. My version uses none of the same ingredients, replacing the chips with polenta, the lettuce with green beans, the salsa with roasted red peppers, the protein with pine nuts, and the cheddar with goat cheese. Polenta is new to me as well, introduced to me by my mom less than a year ago. It is simply boiled cornmeal, which can be made as a porridge or shaped into a log. I am totally in love with this dish – I created it to use up some leftovers a few months back, and was even more pleased with the result the second time around! Definitely give this recipe a try, and play around with the layers to use up whatever you have on hand!
A few tips on the recipe for those of you who are new to the kitchen (I did just give a cooking lesson, so figured some advice might be appropriate in this post!)
1. Using recipes is a really good way to start learning flavor combinations, get inspiration, and get instructions of how to make dishes using certain techniques. However, don’t feel like you need to stay married to the specific recipe if you feel inspired to branch out and try something new! (The exception to this rule is in baking, where it is usually a pretty good idea to follow instructions…)
2. Don’t skimp on the seasonings. Herbs, vinegar, salt and pepper add a HUGE flavor component, with a relatively low-cost and calorie component. I season almost all of my food with at least pepper, if not also salt and dried herbs. If you are worried about your sodium intake, salt can be omitted from some dishes without being missed, but on occasion is really needed to bring the flavor out of certain foods. You can also choose to let your dinner guests let their own taste buds be their guide – check out these adorable salt and pepper shakers that my mom and I found at a local festival this afternoon. A crafty addition to my dining room table!
3. Chopping is a simple step that often takes too much time for new cooks. I once cooked with two of my guy friends and was finished with cooking dinner before they even finished their one chopping assignment. True story. Save yourself from this fate by using sharp knives, learning the simple rocker technique (where you stabilize the blunt back tip of a chef’s knife with the palm of your hand and using a rocking motion to facilitate chopping), and using scoring for easy veggie chopping.
4. Minimize your clean-up by re-using sautée pans when possible. For example, tonight I sautéed green beans in one pan, then transferred them to a bowl and added my mushrooms to the same pan. I pushed the mushrooms to the side while the chicken cooked. Be careful not to let raw meat come in contact with food that will not be further cooked when using this dish-saving technique.
5. Start with something manageable and work your way up. If you start with a recipe that is way too complicated, you might get discouraged which will only further keep you out of the kitchen. But don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try something that looks a little more challenging than you think you can handle. If you mess up, at least its only food – probably not an expensive mistake, and there is always pizza or a good ol’ PB&J as a stand-by dinner ;)
With that being said, go forth and experiment with a new recipe or two. Maybe even this one (recipe guidelines are at the end of the post). Just enjoy yourself and see what you can create!