Rest and a Fresh Recipe

Have you ever changed your diet and felt amazing…only to go back to how you were eating and feeling before?  It can be hard to stick with eating healthy, even if we feel the benefits.  I often wonder why this is, and I’ve noticed that for me I’m a creature of habit and habits are hard to change, especially when you’ve been doing something or eating something for so long.

I mentioned in early August that I was taking a break from drinking coffee.  I quit coffee cold turkey and was coffee-free for over 35 days until I decided to indulge in an iced coffee. For the next week, I was drinking about a cup of coffee in the AM.  I also got on average about 4 hours of sleep each night that I had drank coffee in the morning.  Although caffeine shouldn’t affect my sleep so much, it does and I came to the conclusion that I’ve become extremely sensitive to caffeine and (for me) it just isn’t worth it any more.

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Of course I documented my iced coffee indulgence!

I’m happy I realized coffee was affecting me in a negative way instead of drinking even more coffee to make up for lack of sleep, which is something I used to do on a daily basis.  I’m also happy to share what I learned during this self-realization coffee experiment: don’t beat yourself up!  If you slip up on a health goal, diet, or exercise routine, etc., instead of berating yourself and feeling like poo, simply note the difference in how you physically, mentally, and emotionally feel when you’re doing something good for yourself vs. how you feel when you do something that doesn’t benefit your overall health.  Then, decide which feelings you’d rather feel.  In my case, if I kept drinking coffee, I’d probably feel energized for a few hours, but ultimately miss out on sleep and feel really tired at work, in class, and during my free time.

Being coffee-free also made me realize the importance of eating energizing foods.  I pride myself on practicing what I preach, but sometimes quick convenience foods are an easy option that I rely on.  These foods are ok in a pinch, but real, wholesome, unprocessed foods provide so much more.  I’ve decided to share a delicious meal filled with fresh veggies that I made recently.  It took me about 10 minutes to make the entire meal and it’s packed with fiber, lycopene, vitamin A, vitamin C, and deliciousness.

Zucchini Noodles with Tomato-“Cheez” Sauce

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Ingredients (serves 1-2):

  • 1 large zucchini
  • 2 vine-ripe tomatoes (or use about 1-1.5 cups of ripe cherry tomatoes)
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. basil
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • 5 kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews

Directions: * you will need a food processor and a vegetable spiralizer (or buy spiralized zucchini at a supermarket)

  • Spiralize the zucchini into spaghetti-shaped noodles and set in a bowl or plate
  • Using a food processor, blend the tomatoes, spices, cashews, and olives together for about 3-5 minutes, or until a sauce consistency appears
  • Top the noodles with the sauce and use whatever garnish appeals to you
  • Enjoy, and take care of yourself!

 

-Jess

Very Vegan Mac & Cheese

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, in the past I’ve deviated from a vegan diet due to cravings for animal protein. The more I learn about nutrition, the more apparent it’s become to me that we are all unique and the most important thing is to listen to your own body while being mindful of nutrition. It’s also important to not judge yourself when it comes to what you eat and instead be an observer of how your food makes you feel! Maybe you’re a vegan for ethical purposes but find yourself having an occasional craving for animal products. Take a look at your diet and see if you’re missing out on an important nutrient, like iron, protein, calcium or omega 3’s and then see if eating more plant sources of those nutrients alleviates some of your cravings (in my experience, that piece of advice really helped!).  Above all, always try your best, but know that “diet perfection” doesn’t exist.

One thing that I’ve also realized is that sometimes eating the same things can get really repetitive and can also lead to cravings for things that you wouldn’t normally eat. With this in mind, I decided to try my hand at making vegan macaroni and cheese because who doesn’t love a serving of comfort food every now and then? This recipe is actually a combination of a few recipes gathered from Daiya brand’s website and from a dish that my favorite health food store makes as one of their “hot lunch specials”. I put my own spin on it by adding some vegan mock-meat sausage for added protein and a spicy taste, but feel free to omit that component if you’re looking for a more classic mac and cheese taste.

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Ingredients:

  • 16 oz. whole grain elbow macaroni (whole grains can be brown rice noodles or speciality gluten-free noodles if you’re following a gluten free diet)
  • One 16 oz. package of Daiya brand vegan cheddar style shreds
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2.5 cups unsweetened, plain almond milk
  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance vegan buttery spread
  • black pepper (I didn’t measure, just sprinkle at your discretion)
  • garlic powder (about 1 tsp)
  • paprika (about 1/2 tsp)
  • 2 Field Roast Italian vegan sausages (omit if you’re following a GF diet)
  • Breadcrumbs or oat bran (to use as a topping. Omit if you’re following a GF diet)

Directions:

  • Boil water in a large pot (big enough to fit an entire 16 oz. package of macaroni)
  • Once the water has come to a rolling boil, allow macaroni to cook until tender
  • Remove the pot from the stove and drain the macaroni, set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan, melt the vegan buttery spread on low heat.
  • While the buttery spread melts, cut up the Field Roast vegan sausage into small pieces and cook in a separate saucepan on low heat until brown (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Add the nutritional yeast and pepper to the vegan buttery spread saucepan.
  • Add the almond milk to the above saucepan.
  • Add the Daiya cheddar shreds to the above saucepan. Use a spoon to mix on low-medium heat.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F
  • Once the Daiya cheddar shreds have melted, turn off the heat.
  • In a large oven-safe casserole dish, mix the drained macaroni and Field Roast vegan sausage. Add the vegan cheese mixture and use a spoon to make sure that the macaroni is evenly topped with vegan cheese.
  • Top the mixture with breadcrumbs or oat bran.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the top is golden.
  • Remove from the oven, allow to cool, and enjoy!
The most beautiful melty, "cheesy", non-dairy meal I've ever had!

The most beautiful melty, “cheesy”, non-dairy meal I’ve ever had!

-Jess

Farm to Table: Kale and Pumpkin Sauce

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When I’m not working on this blog, taking notes in class, or at work, I also volunteer for a cause that I’m passionate about: supporting local agriculture! Living on Long Island for most of my life has given me a huge appreciation for the local farmers that dedicate their lives to providing communities with real, fresh, sustainably-raised produce. Because of this, I spend time helping out at a Farmers’ Market where we sell all types of fresh fruits and veggies planted on Long Island. This past weekend, I picked up some kale (among other nutritious goodies) and was thinking about possible recipes I could come up with. I looked in my cupboard and saw that I had a can of pumpkin (it would be even better if I had fresh pumpkin, but it’s not late enough in the season for that). I decided to combine the two to make an awesome, delicious sauce that I’m sharing today. I made this sauce up as I went along, so feel free to adjust it based on your tastebuds.

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups of kale (raw), chopped
  • 1 twelve-ounce can of pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix in a can!)
  • 1 cup unsweetened, plain almond milk, rice milk, or soy milk
  • 2 gloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped, or 2-3 tsp. dry basil
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano (I didn’t have fresh oregano, but if you have it, use it)
  • a dash of salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/8 tsp. of nutmeg (this is optional, nutmeg complements pumpkin really well, but if you don’t have any on hand, don’t worry about it!)

 

Directions

  • Finely chop garlic and use non-stick spray to grease a pan on low-medium heat
  • Allow garlic to sizzle a little
  • While garlic is cooking, use blender to combine kale and unsweetened non-dairy milk until uniform
  • Add 12 ounces of pumpkin and the kale/non-dairy milk mixture to the pan containing the garlic
  • Continuing to stir on low-medium heat, add olive oil, basil, oregano, salt and pepper, and nutmeg for 10 minutes or until warm and uniform in color and texture
  • Prepare your favorite pasta, rice, or protein and use this sauce to add an unexpectedly delightful feast your body and tastebuds will equally enjoy! I roasted some veggies and made some sprouted grain fettucine, but the possibilities are endless with a little imagination.

-Jess

Peanut Butter Crunch Noodles

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I love peanut butter and I’m pretty sure I could eat it with anything. One of my favorite dishes is peanut butter noodles, usually served cold. I decided to create my own version of peanut butter noodles with an additional crunchy vegetable component. I like playing around with different textures of food in the same dish, but feel free to sub cruciferous veggies for whatever tickles your fancy. This recipe is gluten-free because I used quinoa spaghetti which is made from quinoa, making this dish high in fiber and protein. Using natural peanut butter (without hydrogenated oils) along with just a tsp. or two of coconut oil also provides additional healthy fats. It’s always a good idea to eat your veggies with a fat source so that more of the vitamins and minerals are absorbed. Most importantly, this makes a delicious, easy dinner. I prepared this earlier in the day and came home late from work and ate this and it really hit the spot.

Peanut Butter Crunch Noodles (serves 2)

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. whole grain pasta. There are many varieties, I went with Ancient Harvest brand quinoa spaghetti. (You could also use wheat-containing pasta, if you want).
  • 2 cups Trader Joe’s cruciferous crunch medley (or any combination of your favorite vegetables)
  • 2 tbsp. natural peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp. tamari or regular soy sauce
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. coconut oil

Directions

  • Boil water in a pot, add 4 oz. of pasta when the water comes to a rolling boil. Be sure to stir frequently.
  • In a microwave safe dish, heat cruciferous veggies with a little water, cover with a paper towel allowing it to steam for 5 minutes, or steam using a steamer on the stove.
  • For the sauce, make sure the peanut butter is soft, not solid. You may have to heat it a little in the microwave.
  • Combine peanut butter, tamari, lemon juice, and coconut oil to create the sauce. Stir.
  • Drain the pasta after 12-15 minutes (taste to make sure it’s done)
  • Drain the remaining water from the veggies and add to the drained pasta.
  • In a bowl, mix in the sauce
  • Serve and enjoy!

-Jess