Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cheeseburger Confession

I must confess: I ate a cheeseburger the evening before teaching Friend Your Blender, a class all about super easy, fast meals.

And you know what? I enjoyed and loved the whole thing up! No feeling guilty or anything...

How did I do it? I CHOSE to eat and enjoy and love it. I had some last-minute ends to wrap up before heading out. I'd decided I was simply going to order some food or stop and pick something quick up. My first choices weren't open yet. I could hear a voice in my ear whispering "cheeseburger cheeseburger cheeseburger." I realized I was craving something hearty and comforting meal. Probably some of my nerves talking. Maybe my body needed the protein and iron. Either way, it was what I wanted.

My "gotta-walk-my-talk" concerned inner health coach, who was about to teach a class about healthy eating, was having a fit and saying, "No, that's not an option tonight, what a hypocritical thing to do! Make yourself some soup!" But I didn't have any ingredients on hand and I'd already packed up my blender for the class.

I decided to get honest and real with myself. On any other night, would I consider a cheeseburger? If I was feeling good and grounded and knew I could get a good-quality burger, the answer was... yes... So I had to get over my not-so-quiet voice of judgment and listen to what I wanted.

So I gave myself permission and ordered a high-quality Niman Ranch burger with a salad on a whole-wheat bun. It was delicious. I felt great. I loved every bite. And then I went off and lead a fantastic class.

And to be really really honest, I feel like I was more true to myself by eating and really enjoying the burger than by denying myself and not feeling satisfied with whatever else I chose. No need for all that fuss and guilt I used to carry around with me. Or the next-day punishment of limited eating. It is an act of self-love to listen to yourself and give yourself exactly what you want.

I don't advise always listening to the whims of your cravings, but I DO find it's really important to know and recognize where your cravings are coming from. It's important to know what you DO really want (not just what your taste buds or instant-gratification self want) for yourself. And when the time is right, DO give yourself permission to "indulge" consciously and with full lip-smacking enjoyment.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Spaghetti Squash and Kale - Two Ways

I can't get enough. The squash and kale are taking over my food life! And I love it. What's great is that both of these meals took 10-15 minutes to pull together from scratch because the squash was already made!

On the left: Ripped up raw kale tossed with spaghetti squash and leftover quiona. Creamy hummus dressing (just thin with a little water, some lemon or apple cider vinegar and stir), plus pickled onions. S&P. Done & Yum.

Next morning breakfast. I could eat this every day. Sauteed some chopped kale with garlic in olive oil and a crumbled leftover piece of bacon. Tossed in the squash. S&P. Removed from pan. Cracked two eggs into it. Flipped. Viola! Amazing.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Kabocha Kale Thai Curry

Made this curry last night in as much time as it took to cook the quinoa (aka about 25 minutes). I had pre-baked my kabocha squash earlier in the week when I had my oven on, not sure what I was going to do with it yet, but knowing it would be better to have cooked rather than raw squash. It's a great example of how pre-roasting early in the week saves a lot of time later.

Besides the rich, satisfying curry flavor, here's why I get excited about this dish:

Kabocha squash (pronouned kah-bow-cha) is a Japanese variety of winter squash, sweeter even than the more well-known butternut, in some cultures revered as an aphrodisiac. It's packed with vitamins C and A, beta carotene, fiber and a significant amount of other vitamins and minerals. They are a great source of antioxidants and are a great anti-inflammatory food. Quickest way to prep it is to steam it (only takes about 7 min), though I often roast.

Kale is a powerhouse, one of the most nutritionally dense foods you can eat. For 1 cup cooked (36 calories), you get 1328% of your vitamin K, 354% of vitamin A, 89% of vitamin C, 10% of your fiber, 9% of calcium, plus some omega-3 fats and 5% of your protein (more here and at all other links!). Eating it boosts your energy, strengthens your immune system, promotes natural detoxing, fights free-radicals and cancer, and lowers your cholesterol. If there is one mega-super food to start finding ways to get into your diet every week, this is it.

Quinoa is an ancient grain with a full protein profile (contains all 9 essential amino acids) - so don't balk at this recipe being vegan. You're getting arguably one of the best sources of protein on the planet here. Quinoa's also known for it's high antioxidant levels, anti-inflammatory phyto-nutrients, and high levels of minerals. It's also gluten-free.

Coconut milk is higher in calcium than regular milk and contains protein as well as a wide range of vitamins and minerals, including iron, potassium, and many of the B vitamins. Do not be afraid of the fat (I always buy and eat full-fat products) - the saturated fat in coconut is made up of short-chain and medium-chain fatty acids which the  body quickly turns into energy instead of storing as fat. Therefore, even though it’s high in saturated fat, coconut can aid in weight loss. It's also known for aiding in digestion and boosting the immune system!

Kabocha Kale Thai Curry
Any winter squash (pumpkin, butternut, delicatta) can be substituted in this recipe.

1 cup quinoa
1 yellow onion, chopped into 1 inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 very large bunch of kale (or more, whatever you like)
1 medium-sized kabocha squash
1 can full-fat coconut milk
2 tablespooons red curry paste (buy pre-made)
1 lemon
cayenne pepper (optional)

Rinse quinoa under cold water until it runs clear. Combine with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, stir, reduce heat and simmer, covered (no peeking) for 20 minutes. Turn off, allow to sit for a few minutes then fluff with a fork.

In the meantime, chop onions and garlic. Saute with coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until onions are translucent. No need to stir constantly.

While that is happening, strip kale leaves from stems and rip into rough pieces. Combine with onions and saute until just wilted. Season with a light sprinkle of salt.

Add coconut milk and stir in curry paste. Reduce heat to medium-low so it can simmer while you cut up squash (remove skin, cut into 1-inch cubes). Add to pot, stir to combine. Add salt to taste. This curry powder is not very spicy at all, so if you want to kick it up a notch, add cayenne.

Turn off heat and squeeze half of lemon over curry. Stir to combine, taste and adjust any other seasonings and serve spooned over quinoa in bowls. Makes about 5 servings.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Quinoa-Corn Basil Salad & Retreat Photos

Last weekend, I cooked for a yoga retreat with Pedro Franco and Chrisandra Fox at Harbin Hot Springs. Here are some shots of our first meal. The weather was HOT and dry, so I kept it summery and fresh for us... using the last of the summer tomatoes!
heirloom tomato, cucumber plate with basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, s&p

add baby spinach (dress as you'd like style) plus quinoa-corn basil salad (RECIPE BELOW!)

served right in the kitchen!

It was a weekend of grounding, soulful yoga + soaking in hot springs + good, clean food. YUM.

I'm always amazed how much a few days of really clean eating (no meat, dairy, added sugar or processed foods - all fresh stuff from scratch, baby) can reboost and cleanse my body. Even though I aim to eat well all the time, I'm far from perfect.

If you're feeling a little heavy or clogged up, pick a weekend to set aside to feed yourself delicious, fresh and clean foods and take extra-special care of yourself (relax, massage, walks, quiet time with people who raise you up). You deserve it all.

Quinoa Corn Salad with Basil
This salad is a delight to make in the summer when fresh basil and corn are in abundance. If you’re a newcomer to quinoa, this is a good recipe to try as an introduction because it’s tasty, quick and easy. You’ll have time to prepare the basil, red peppers and onion while the quinoa is cooling. For a striking presentation, serve the salad inside hollowed-out beefsteak tomatoes.

1 1⁄2 cups uncooked quinoa, rinsed well and drained
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh corn (from about 4 ears)
1⁄2 cup diced jarred roasted red peppers
1⁄2 cup finely diced red onion
1 cup tightly packed basil leaves, finely chopped
2 Tbs. olive oil (try playing with flavored varieties!)
3 to 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1-2 lemons)

In medium saucepan, combine quinoa, salt and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 15 minutes. Turn off heat, uncover allow to sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

While quinoa is cooking and cooling, prep your corn, roasted red peppers (I've used sun-dried or fresh tomatoes here instead with great results), onion and place in the bottom of a large mixing bowl.

When your quinoa is cooled a bit (this salad is great warm or chilled – I often just use leftover quinoa), scoop into the same mixing bowl, top with basil, olive oil and fresh lemon juice. It should be enough to give the salad a distinct lemony edge. Season with salt to taste, garnish with a few whole basil leaves. Serves 4.

AND BEYOND: I've found this to be a great starting place to playing with grain salads. Sub in other veggies, herbs, vinegars, nuts and seeds, olives, even fresh or dried fruit.

Take this recipe idea and run with it – use this to make the stuffed peppers, tomatoes, squash or eggplant OR collard green wraps below!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Pickled Onions - An easy DIY condiment

Some of our friends always kid that everything they eat at our place is homemade. It's mostly true. I derive a lot of joy and a sense of control and accomplishment out of making my own food!

Making your own condiments is surprisingly simple and easy - these two take 5-10 minutes active time each and last for weeks in the fridge (if you don't eat them first). Plus, there's nothing like the satisfaction and tastes of homemade. 

Feel Good About Your Food: Onions are cleansing and detoxing for the body, alkalizing, and boosting for your immune system, especially RAW.

Be aware though - cut onions - when not preserved readily attract bacteria. DO NOT cut and save parts of onions. Use or toss.

Pickled Red Onions 
1 red onion                 
1 lemon                   
red wine vinegar           
sea salt                   

Cut ends off onion, slice in half, remove peel.

With cut side down, using a sharp knife, slice onion as thinly as possible, keeping your fingers curled under and safe.

Transfer onions to a  non-metal/reactive bowl.
Squeeze lemon over bowl, sprinkle with red wine vinegar (tablespoon or two) and sea salt (about a teaspoon).

Use your hands to churn and mix everything. They might feel a little slimy (this is totally normal).

Allow onions to sit for about 10 minutes - you will notice they soften quite a bit.

Taste one and add more vinegar, lemon or salt if you'd like.

When they taste good, stick them in a jar and eat as you'd like.

Try these onions on everything from salads to cooked greens to crackers and sliced cheddar cheese!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

My Pantry (or How I Make It All Happen Consistently)

What's in my pantry? Having ingredients to work with on-hand is tantamount to making easy, healthy food for yourself that you feel good about.

Start with the flavors and ingredients you know. What did you grow up eating? What cuisines do you like and what ingredients do you find in them? If you don't know, google some recipes and explore.

Getting well-stocked is a really fun, adventurous project. Buy just one new thing each time you shop and do some playing and cooking with it to see what it's about.

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (for dressings, drizzling, and medium-heat cooking)
Raw Extra-Virgin Coconut Oil (for all-purpose and high-heat cooking, roasting and salads)
Raw or Toasted Sesame Oil (look for unrefined or Hot varieties, if you're the spicy type)

Balsamic Vinegar (my go-to all-purpose for dressings and for bringing more depth of flavor when cooking)
Raw Apple Cider Vinegar (with the "mother" - read more about it's amazing array of health benefits for my favorite brand, Bragg's)
Red Wine Vinegar, Brown Rice Vinegar (secondary vinegars, great for Italian and Asian cuisines, respectively)
Lemons (in my opinion, the best, freshest way to make the flavors of any dish pop, squeeze fresh over your dish right before serving)

Natural sea salt (full of trace minerals and does not raise the blood pressure - It is the insufficiency of other minerals that cause the body to hold on to and keep water inside the cells, raising blood pressure)
Whole pepper grinder: (pepper tastes so much fresher and floral when freshly ground, try it and never go back - more on pepper and health benefits and concerns)

Natural Sweeteners
Raw honey (great for allergies and supporting the local bees)
Maple syrup (grade B is most flavorful, organic isn't necessary)
Coconut Palm Sugar (granulated, low-glycemic, my go-to replacement for white sugar in baking)
Agave Nectar or Brown Rice Syrup
Stevia (look for natural varieties, green liquid or powder is best as it is unrefined and has the same taste with way more nutritional benefits)

Tamari or soy sauce
(look for organic, as this will mean non-GMO, and wheat-free if you have gluten sensitivities) or Bragg's liquid amino acids (a savory, less salty condiment, which I love to get in a spray bottle)

Good-quality Mustard, Mayo, and Ketchup (so you feel prepared to dress things up - read the label and look out for high fructose corn syrup, anything you can't pronounce, and trans fats. For the mayo - look for one made with olive oil and cage-free eggs - Spectrum brand is fantastic)
Pickles, Sauerkraut, Olives (for extra crunch, punch and fun)

Sweet: Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Cardamom, Allspice
Spicy: Red Chili Flakes, Cayenne, Chili Powder
Savory: Cumin, Paprika, Turmeric, Curry Powder
Italian savory: Basil, Oregano, Rosemary, Parsley
Indian: Garam Masala, Turmeric, Cumin, Cayenne, Mustard Seed

Bulb of garlic and a yellow onion (the base flavoring for most of my dishes, soups and sauces, chop and saute for added savory sweetness and complex taste)
Brown Rice, Lentils, Oats, Quinoa (or other whole grains and beans/legumes - more on their health benefits and how to ease digestion here! - that you love, I always make sure to keep quick-cooking ones on hand - oh, and popcorn kernels!)
Pasta, noodles
(for when you really need a quick meal, saute up some garlic, onion and veggies, toss in some beans, drizzle with oil and call it dinner)
Assorted raw nuts and seeds (dress up any dish with a little crunch, I also grab these for a fast snack with some fruit to tide me over) 
Canned or boxed beans, tomatoes, broth, soup (makes eating quickly in a pinch so much easier - when you use something, restock on your next shopping trip)
Whole-grain Crackers (Read the ingredient list on everything that passes your lips - if you don't know what it is, don't buy it. Look for 100% whole grains, no funny stuff.)