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

Crunchy Kale and Nut Salad

If you live in New York, this past weekend you were most likely stuck indoors due to the snow. This past weekend during the blizzard, I was supposed to be teaching my first donation-based yoga class, but that just wasn’t going to happen due to the weather, so my yoga class has been rescheduled for next month. If you read my last post about yoga, you know how excited I am about teaching this class! Getting back to being stuck inside, one of my favorite ways to pass the time when stuck inside is to cook. Or in my case, un-cook. I love kale and I especially love kale salads. The following kale salad will satisfy a crunchy craving and supply a good dose of healthy fats and fiber. It’s vegan, and if you use gluten-free soy sauce (tamari or shoyu) it can also be gluten free.

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Ingredients (serves 4 as a side dish, 2 if served as a main dish)

Salad

  • 4-5 cups kale, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 a cucumber, diced
  • 1 carrot, shaved into slices or diced
  • 1/2 cup slivered raw almonds

Dressing (makes several servings, refrigerate and save remaining dressing)

  • 1/4 cup tahini (hulled sesame paste, can be found at most health food stores)
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2-3 tbsp. water
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce

 

Directions

  • For the salad, cut veggies and set kale in a large bowl. Massage olive oil onto kale using your hands so that the kale becomes softened. Add veggies and slivered almonds.
  • For the dressing, measure and whisk together ingredients in a large bowl until uniform. Add 4 tablespoons of the dressing to the salad and mix with a large spoon. There will be a large amount of dressing leftover. Store the remaining dressing in a sealed cup or bowl and use within a few days.
  • Share with friends and enjoy!

 

-Jess

Falafel With A Green Twist

Hello readers! It’s been almost a month since I last posted. As you can tell, I’ve been pretty busy! I started the spring semester in late january and my yoga teacher training is almost done (although, I still have a lot of work to do, including a yoga practical and teaching a class on my own!). This semester is jam-packed for me because I decided to double-up on credits, so I’m actually taking double the amount of graduate courses I’m expected to…whoops! Since this blog isn’t about my academic career, I’ll switch gears now and talk about the delicious recipes I’ve been cooking up. Having limited time has actually made me become a little more creative when it comes to cooking, which is good, because as any busy vegan can tell you, microwaved veggie burgers can get awfully boring after a while.

Falafel has been a favorite food of mine, and it’s my go-to order at any middle-eastern restaurant. I decided to create my own healthier version of falafel, with added collard greens into the mixture. This recipe is tasty, easy, and not too labor intensive, so have fun and enjoy!

My new favorite collard greens falafel with a nice amount of hummus in a wrap

My new favorite collard greens falafel with a nice amount of hummus in a wrap

Ingredients (makes about 9 falafel balls/patties)

  • 1 fifteen oz. can of chickpeas
  • 3 large collard leaves, stems removed
  • 3 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. ground pepper
  • dash of salt
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour or other whole-grain flour
  • 3 tbsp. oil (for the pan)

Directions

  • Combine chickpeas, collard greens, spices, and flour in a food processor and process until you have a uniform mixture (about a minute or two of total food processing time). If you don’t have a food processor, you can try using a blender but the food processor is your best bet for this recipe.
  • Pour oil into the pan
  • Spoon out chickpea mixture into ball shapes and onto the pan and cook on medium heat
  • Allow each chickpea ball to lightly brown and then flip on each side
  • If you find that the chickpea balls aren’t cooking all the way through, feel free to flatten them a bit to create more of a “patty” than a ball. Don’t worry, it will still taste just as good!
  • After cooking, allow to cool, and then enjoy in a wrap, pita, or with a generous helping of hummus (or your favorite dip!)

-Jess

An Ode to Oats

A while ago, I wrote a post about several different ways to prepare oats. Tonight, I was hungry, but didn’t really feel like cooking an elaborate meal. I also had a bunch of veggies that I wanted to use, so I decided to make a savory oat recipe that combines veggies, whole grains, and a good helping of plant-based protein and healthy fats. Next time you’re craving something filling yet quick, try this recipe. Oats are a great grain to use because they’re rich in fiber and leave you feeling full for quite a while. They’re also so easy to make and mild in flavor on their own, so think beyond breakfast when it comes to oats.

This dish might not win any awards for being visually pleasing, but it is sure to leave your belly satisfied!

This dish might not win any awards for being visually pleasing, but it is sure to leave your belly satisfied!

Ingredients (serves 1 hungry person, or 2 people):

  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats (gluten-free oats are also an option, if you’re following a gluten-free diet)
  • 1/2 cup black beans (drained of excess water and salt)
  • 1/4 c. chopped onion
  • 1 cup diced mushrooms, bell peppers, or whatever veggies you have available
  • 1 cup spinach, or other leafy green
  • guacamole (or avocado slices)
  • red pepper hummus (optional), you can also use salsa if available
  • non-stick spray or 1-2 tsp. olive oil

Directions:

  • Spray a pan with nonstick spray oil (or pour some olive oil on a pan), chop up veggies, and allow to cook on medium heat
  • Measure oats and place in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the suggested amount of water listed on the box. Heat for about 3 minutes in the microwave (but watch the bowl, because sometimes oats like to overflow and then you’ll be spending some time cleaning your microwave. Not fun!)
  • When the veggies have lightly browned, add 1/2 cup black beans to heat them up (canned beans don’t really need to be cooked) for a few minutes
  • Remove the pan of veggies and beans from the stove
  • Remove the oats from the microwave and combine the two
  • Add hummus, guacamole, salsa, or whatever you think would complement this dish well. Get creative and enjoy!

-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

How to Make the Best Choices at the Salad Bar

My dad and I dined at my favorite salad bar (I discuss that below). In my container: kale, falafel, beets, and numerous other veggies!

My dad and I dined at my favorite salad bar (I discuss that below). In my container: kale, falafel, beets, and numerous other veggies!

If you’re like me, you love the freedom that making your own salad/assortment of hot foods involves. Depending on where you’re dining, salad bars may offer an array of healthy and not-so-healthy options, and it can be tempting to load up on those comfort food options (I think everyone can agree that french fries and mashed potatoes look so good!) How can you make the wisest choices when you have so many less healthy choices available? Here are some tips for navigating the self-service food set-up:

  • If available, choose a smaller size plate. Studies have shown that the size of your plate or bowl influences how much you’ll eat. Eating off a larger plate can lead to eating larger portions of food, and consuming more calories.
  • Make at least half of your plate greens. In general, the darker the green veggie, the more nutritious it is. Spinach, romaine, and kale, are all good choices. If possible opt for these over iceberg lettuce, which is all water and little nutrients.
  • Make your plate or container look appetizing by adding colorful veggies. Carrots, peppers, broccoli, cucumbers, baby corn, are usually some common options offered.
  • Add a protein component. Some healthy options include beans and tofu. Try to keep the portion size to the size of deck of cards (about a half cup).
  • For dressing, your best bet is oil and vinegar. Although oil is high in calories, usually the oil provided will be olive oil, which has healthy fats that will help absorb the fat soluble vitamins in vegetables, such as vitamin K, vitamin E, and vitamin A.
  • Since there will probably be less healthy options available, choose this item last and stick to a 1/4 cup portion.

I personally love dining at salad bars/hot food bars. In fact, I rarely go out to eat and instead I insist that my friends and family meet me at Whole Foods Market Salad Bar when they decide to treat me! What I love about Whole Foods Market Salad Bar are the many vegan options, which of course you’d expect at a salad bar because of the vegetables, but Whole Foods takes it a step further by offering different bean salads, grain salads, different types of tofu, and so much more. If you live near a Whole Foods Market, I encourage you to pick up a tray and make yourself a meal!

What are your strategies to navigating self-serve food bars? If you have a favorite salad bar restaurant or food place, do share by leaving a reply!

-Jess

A Simple Way of Eating

A burrito I made filled with brown rice, lentils, tofu, spicy avocado hummus, and hot sauce. Delicious but my stomach was less appreciative.

A burrito I made filled with brown rice, lentils, tofu, spicy avocado hummus, and hot sauce. Delicious but my stomach was less appreciative.

Lately I’ve been cooking and creating so many new dishes and even though I’m having a ton of fun in the kitchen, my stomach is starting to complain (I tend to use a lot of spices while cooking and I eat a lot of difficult-to-digest beans and grains). I also find that trying to constantly come up with new meals can take a toll, especially when my main focus should be on school (I’m currently pursuing two degrees, both in nutrition!). So, I’ve decided to simplify my diet and eat pretty basic, nutrient-packed meals for the time being. Besides my stomach pains and limited time and energy due to my classes, another reason why I’ve decided to get back to basics when it comes to eating is an inner feeling that my body just craves real simple food right now, instead of the complicated yet tasty meals I’ve been making. As I’ve mentioned many times throughout my blog, I’m a big fan of (trying) to listen to one’s body. Not only am I an advocate of intuitive eating, I’m also on my own journey to eat more intuitively and be less dependent on external factors (like counting calories and eating at certain pre-determined times during the day).

A blood orange up close and personal!

Luckily, the food stores I shop at have a great variety of fresh produce. Here’s a blood orange, up-close and personal.

I don’t really have a plan of what I’m going to eat, because that would be counter-productive to the goals of intuitive eating. However, I know that for the past few weeks I’ve been eating a ton of oatmeal (see my previous post—all those photos are from my own breakfasts!), tofu, wraps and sandwiches with spicy hummus galore, and a lot of other bean and veggie dishes. Obviously, I eat quite healthy, but my stomachaches indicate I should switch up my diet. I keep craving really simple meals (like fruit, salads, soup, nuts) so I’ve purposely stocked my pantry and fridge with the above. I also had a wild thought of trying to wean myself off of coffee (I’m heavily dependent on the magical bean elixir) but I will get back to you on that in the A.M. hours! (Update: Still drinking coffee, and even wrote a new blog post on coffee!)

This was a meal (I ate this for lunch) composed of dark purple grapes, a banana, strawberries, and turkish figs. I craved fruit, I ate fruit, and got my fair share of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients!

This was a meal (I ate this for lunch) composed of dark purple grapes, a banana, strawberries, and turkish apricots. I craved fruit, I ate fruit, and got my fair share of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients!

Salads are never boring with the right dressing. Here, I used cilantro dressing. Yum!

Salads are never boring with the right dressing. Here, I used cilantro dressing. Yum!

How do you know when it’s time to make a change in your diet? Is your weight the first thing you check, or are you more aware of your energy levels, digestion, and overall wellbeing? Feel free to share your input!

-Jess