Archive | March, 2012

Weekly Menu ~ March 31st

31 Mar

I cannot believe it is almost April! Where the heck has the year gone?

I’ve been super busy lately and was really thankful that I prepped all my meals over the weekend. I didn’t have to cook anything during last week which left more time to get bikini ready.

I started working out with my friend Kyra aka The Get In Shape Girl and I am having so much fun. I also signed up for a two week yoga membership at Raffa and have gone to five class already… who knew that I’d love yoga?!

This week I will try and go to 5-6 yoga classes and will continue with the GISG workouts all while trying to study for the Personal Training exam that I have coming up in a few short weeks.

The bottom line is that I need to have a week’s worth of menus that I can prep in advance in a short amount of time.

This is what I came up with:

  • Spinach Pasta with a Garlic Cream Sauce
  • Barley Bliss Casserole (from Chloe Coscarelli’s new cookbook)
  • Seitan Piccata
  • Jewish Comfort Food ~ kasha and shells with potato latkes
  • Red Pepper & Broccoli Stir Fry with Miso Soup

~ Happy and Healthy Eating

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One Step Closer To The Circus

26 Mar

In case you didn’t know, my dream job is to be a circus performer with Cirque du Soleil!

I would like to be a tumbler

or an acrobatic gymnast

a contortionists

or a dynamic rope skipper (legitimately an available Cirque position)

a clown

or even an ariel performer.

A few years ago I met my husband’s cousin and her soon to be husband, we discovered a mutual love for all things Cirque.

We would often talk about the desire to be in the circus and then one day I heard that there was circus camp in Canada!!!!

Oh my goodness!!!!

Get me there immediately!!!!

Soon I found out that “camp” was just for Cirque employees, like training camp for baseball 😦

This came on the heels of finding out there was a Trapeze school in Boston only after I moved to Tampa.

Clearly I fell into a deep depression that I am just starting to come out of. All I’ve ever wanted (during my adult life) was to be in the circus.

Well, last night I got a taste of the circus life at Raffa Yoga

I took the Antigravity Yoga class and it was seriously one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

I was a competitive gymnast for 13 years and I really miss tossing my body through the air and swinging off bars. The strength and flexibility that gymnastics offered me is something that I try to reclaim every day when I work out. Even as an adult you can find me doing cartwheels in parks or handstands in my living room. I seriously miss it and wish that they offered adult gymnastics classes so I could get some of those skills that were always out of reach.

I think twisting around upside down in a hammock is probably the closed I will ever come to being a gymnast again.

But reclaiming my youth is only part of what made this experience some great!

I really enjoyed the core workout the class afforded me as well as the opportunity to really stretch my back and hip flexors in ways that can only be achieved when you can be airborne. Although the program is called Antigravity it’s the effects that gravity has on your body when you are in mid-air that really helped me stretch.

For over a year I’ve been dealing with back pain that landed me in physical therapy for 7 months and counting. Although my originating issue was with my lower back, the muscles in my upper back have been working overtime and it’s been impossible to loosen them and feel any kind of relief…. until now. For the first time in a long time by upper back feels 90% limber. Not only that by my hips don’t feel tight today and my lower back, although tight (which is normal for me) is not causing me any pain, which is really amazing! I am certain that being able to hang upside down is the reason for my back feeling so great!

In addition to my back trouble I have also been struggling with chronic fatigue. I am always tired yet I can fall asleep at night (although it’s not very restful) and nap throughout the day.  Even when I’m on vacation I never really feel rejuvenated.

However, after I finished Antigravity Yoga last night I felt AWAKE for the first time in a long time. I can’t even describe the feeling, I was alert and spirited, I felt like I could clean my house top bottom then run a 5K. It truly was amazing.

Fortunately I was able to go to sleep at bed time and believe it or not I slept soundly through the entire night. I haven’t had such restorative sleep since around this time last year.

Although I have a background in gymnastics I  really liked that this class is designed to be accessible to all ages and fitness levels. The instructor encourages you to work within your own strengths and limitations which allows individuals to modify the level of challenge to meet their needs.

Just in case you don’t belive me I will let you know that my husband who has suffered from back pain and tight hamstrings was able to get into every position! Way to go  🙂

All in all this was one of the BEST experiences of my life. I have already signed up to take this class two more times!

If this interests you be sure to check out this link which will give you even more information about Antigravity Yoga and all of its benefits http://www.antigravityyoga.com/html/about_us.html

~ Happy & Healthy Eating Stretching

Cirque du Soleil photos courtesy of http://www.cirquedusoleil.com

Antigravity Yoga photos courtesy of http://www.antigravityyoga.com unless otherwise noted

Weekly Menu March 24

23 Mar

I have a lot of cooking ahead of me this weekend so I am going to post my weekly menu early. My plan is to wake up as soon as Whole Foods opens on Saturday so I can be in and out in a half hour without having to see anyone, get home and start prepping meals for the week. If all goes as planned I’ll be able to post the recipe for Chocolate Eclair Cupcakes this weekend too!

Lately, I’ve been cooking exclusively from the Happy Herbivore cookbooks but I recently picked up a brand new cookbook from the library and it looks amazing!

In my opinion what makes a great cookbook is one in which I am interested in trying 80% of the recipes and most recipes have a photo.

For the first time ever I have found a cookbook where I want to try every single recipe. Provided this week goes as well as expected I will certainly be adding this book to my collection.

I made this week’s menu extra long because I was disappointed with last week’s meals and figure if I increase the number of meals I’m creating the better chance of success.

Worst case scenario: I’ll carry over any meals I don’t make to next week.

Breakfast & Snacks

  • Homemade Yogurt (for Strawberry Barley Breakfast Bowl)
  • Chocolate Brownie Larabars
  • Blueberry Almond Chia Squares
  • Tofu Scramble with Homemade Ketchup
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies (I swear I will only eat one or two as part of this week’s cheat)

Dinner Entrees

  • Chimichurri Tacos
  • Penne Alla Vodka with Garlic Bread
  • Caribbean Vegetables with Coconut Rice
  • Meatloaf with Garlic Mashed Potatoes
  • Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Asparagus
  • Chicken Pot Pie minus the chicken and the pie 🙂
  • Kasha with Caramelized Onions & Mushrooms, Garlicky Greens, and Roasted Carrots

I bet you wish you were dining with me this week! You are welcome to join me in spirit if you tell me what vegetable should I serve with the meatloaf.

~ Happy & Healthy Eating

I Heart Sheep

20 Mar

I dedicate this post to my friend Mel… she eats more Shepherd’s Pie than anyone I have ever (and will ever) met in life… EVER!

The reason why is not important, what is important is that I am amused by this fact – which I am 🙂

I’ve never had Shepherd’s Pie before so this is a whole new experience for me. I looked at the ingredients in the recipe and it sounded like a manly dinner made prissy by tossing it into a casserole dish.

I’m sold.

This is an artist's rendition of me dressed as Little Bo Peep 😉 Get it? She lost her sheep.... shepherd's pie... a person who tends to sheep?

No sheep were harmed in the making of this recipe, but plenty of dishes were dirtied because of my disorganization and lack of preparation. This meal will become a weekend make ahead meal from now on (if it tastes good).

Shepherd’s Pie (recipe adapted from The Engine 2 Diet)

6 small Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered

1/2 cup non-dairy milk (unsweetened)

16 oz green beans or peas, fresh or frozen

2 small onions, diced

1 pkg (10 oz) mushrooms, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced whoops – I knew I forgot something

1 Tbsp Bragg Liquid Aminos

2 Tbsp tomato paste

2 cups beef flavored tvp crumbles (recipe follows)

  • Preheat oven to 400*F.
  • Steam potatoes until soft, approximately 15 minutes. Drain and mash along with milk and pepper.
  • Steam green beans or peas for 7 minutes or until bright green and firm.
  • Saute onions until translucent. Add the mushrooms and garlic. Cook until mushrooms begin to release their juices.Add Bragg Liquid Aminos, tomato paste, and pepper.
  • Add onions to beef crumbles and combine thoroughly. Spread along the bottom of a casserole dish.
  • Top beef crumbles with green beans. Spread potatoes over top.
  • Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until potatoes begin to brown.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Well Wheatgrass and Sassafras isn’t supposed to be about my cooking triumphs it is  supposed to be chronicling my vegan journey but I haven’t posted any of the hiccups I’ve experience along the way – what kind of chronicle is that?

In the spirit of honesty I must tell you that some things I make sound really gross, look really gross, or taste really gross.

Mostly, even the gross sounding or looking meals I’ve made have been really tasty.

I bring you… Beef Flavored TVP Crumbles.

They sound gross and look gross.

Do you even know what TVP is? It is textured vegetable protein… YUCK! It is a meat analogue made from reduced-fat soy flour… EEWWWW! It is a good source of protein and essential amino acids… YAY!

This is what it looks like once liquid has been added.

Why would anyone voluntarily eat this? I have no clue, I guess some people just love Shepherd’s Pie.

The fact of the matter is that although TVP looks and sounds nasty it actually tastes pretty good. I’ve used it to make bacon bits that are seriously addictive and taco meat for tacos of course and nachos and taco salad.

My favorite part of my vegan journey is trying to recreate omnivore foods without the use of animal product. It’s simply amazing how many recipes there are for everyday “omni” foods like chicken, yogurt, scrambled eggs, ice cream, etc.

Sometimes I really hate what I’ve made (i.e. grilled cheese) but more often than no I am completely surprised over how delicious a recipe can be (i.e. vegan crab cakes).

So if you are scared to try this recipe because you are unfamiliar with TVP just try it… chances are there is TVP (aka TSP – textured soy protein) in that veggie burger you are chowing down on right now.

Beef Flavored TVP Crumbles (adapted from The Happy Herbivore)

2 cups water

2 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp nutritional yeast

1 tsp + 2 Tbsp Vegan Worcestershire Sauce, divided

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp black pepper

salt to taste

2 cups TVP

2 Tbsp + 2 tsp steak sauce

  • Combine water, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce, and spices; bring  to a boil.  Once boiling combine with TVP. Once reconstituted stir in 2 Tbsp Worcestershire and steak sauce.
  • Use with Shepherd’s pie recipe above.

I was writing this post while the Shepherd’s Pie was cooking. I couldn’t wait for it to be done so I could gobble it up.

This was the expected outcome

Photo Courtesy of Engine 2 Diet

This was the actual outcome

Oh well, I guess I wasn’t meant to like Shepherd’s Pie or maybe I jinked myself by letting you know I’ve had some kitchen disasters. Either way, I would  guess that the recipe is just fine (or it wouldn’t have been published and served to E2 Immersion participants) so my experience shouldn’t discourage you. In fact, try it and let me know how it comes out.

~ Happy & Healthy Eating

Note: If you don’t want to make your own beef crumbles you can by them in the grocery store or substitute lentils.

Weekly Menu

17 Mar

This week’s menu is all about comfort food

Image

  • Shepherd’s Pie
  • Mushroom Soup & Caesar Salad
  • Tuna Sandwiches
  • Seitan Piccata with Asparagus and Quinoa
  • Cajun Cornbread Casserole

I love that I can make all of these “meaty” sounding dishes without an ounce of meat 🙂

~ Happy & Healthy Eating

 

 

 

Chinese Takeout

15 Mar

Who doesn’t like Chinese food? I practically lived on it while I was in college. My favorite meals were always the ones that were saucy and had lots of mushrooms.

Unfortunately (or fortunately) I don’t get as much joy from Chinese takeout as I once did. Since I started eating healthy foods consistently I have found that the greasiness of Chinese food does not make my belly happy.

Interesting fact: By eating a whole food, plant-based diet I was able to cure my tummy troubles. For at least a year I would have a belly ache after eating (every meal) and lived on Tums and Pepto. I was popping antacids so often that I couldn’t leave home without them; I kept some in my car, in my desk at work, and had to take them on long trips. I never anticipated that my diet was causing all of this discomfort, in fact, I was doing research online about Celiac Disease, Crohn’s Disease, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome in a desperate attempt to understand what was going on. Within about a month of changing my diet I realized that I wasn’t taking Tums or Pepto EVER! Since then I rarely have a belly ache, and every time I do I can tie it to an unhealthy meal that I ate (especially dairy). And now, instead of popping something pastel and chalky I have a ginger chew which is delicious and is just the thing I need to settle my stomach.

such cute packaging, don't you think?

But I digress; let’s get back to the Chinese food.

Although I don’t much care for Chinese takeout any longer, I do love all of the flavors of Chinese cuisine – and what’s great, is that you can whip up your own takeout in just minutes and make a very flavorful meal.  This meal came together in under 30 minutes, less time than it takes for you to read a takeout menu, fight over who is going to call it in, and wait for delivery.

 

Tonight I made Broccoli & Red Pepper Stir Fry which had a wonderful sauce and could easily be customized by swapping in your favorite veggies. I also made Miso Soup for the first time… it was the best soup I have ever made! This meal was enough to feed two so make sure to double the recipe if you are cooking for a family or want leftovers.

Shitake Miso Soup (adapted from Everyday Happy Herbivore)

1 cup shitake mushrooms, sliced (about one handful, stems removed)

3 green onions, whites and light green part sliced

2 cups water

1 Tbsp miso

1 tsp kelp

  1.  Sauté mushrooms in water in a medium pot.
  2. Once softened stir in miso adding a small amount of water if necessary to prevent clumps.
  3. Add green onions and water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low.
  4. Add kelp and simmer until soup is warm. Turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes, allowing the flavors to enhance.
  5. Note: Feel free to add addition miso, soy sauce, or other veggies/flavorings along with the kelp to make your own customized soup.

I suppose now would be a good time to clue you in on what kelp is.

Kelp is a variety of seaweed and is often used in Asian cuisine. According to Thrive Foods by Brendan Brazier, “sea vegetables are among the most nutritionally dense foods, containing about 10 times the calcium of cow’s milk and several times more iron than red meat, sea vegetables are easily digestible, chlorophyll rich, and alkaline forming. Packed with minerals, sea vegetables are the richest source of naturally occurring electrolytes know.”

Kelp comes in a variety of forms (powder, granules, strips) – I have larger strips and toss them in a coffee grinder when I need it ground up. You can find kelp at your neighborhood Asian Food store, health food store, or in the international aisle of many supermarkets. I use kelp (and other sea vegetables) in soups and to make a mock-tuna salad, it adds just the right about of flavor to replicate recipes that use seafood.

Did you know that by throwing in a piece of Kombu (another sea vegetable) when you are cooking beans will add nutrients, improve digestibility, and reduce flatulence?  Surely I couldn’t keep that tip to myself… let’s start making the world a little less stinky 😉

Broccoli & Red Pepper Stir-Fry (adapted from Everyday Happy Herbivore)

2 cups water

2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

2 Tbsp nutritional yeast

2 Tbsp Dijon mustard

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp onion powder

½ tsp ground ginger

1 tsp Vegan Worcestershire Sauce

2 heads broccoli, chopped into florets

1 tsp cornstarch

1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced

  1. In a pickle jar combine water, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, mustard, spices, and Worcestershire sauce and shake vigorously. If you don’t have a pickle jar you could do this in a bowl with a whisk.
  2. Pour half of the sauce into a large skillet and bring to a boil.
  3. Add broccoli and cook over medium heat until most of the sauce cooks down.
  4. Add cornstarch* to remaining broth and shake until combined. Pour over broccoli.
  5. Add peppers and cook over high heat until the broccoli is dark green, the peppers are crisp-tender, and the sauce has reduced down.
  6. Serve veggies and sauce over brown rice.

Don’t worry if you think you have too much sauce, this recipe makes a lot to drown your veggies and rice in J

*Note: If you are concerned about lumps (from the cornstarch) you can pour the sauce through a sieve when adding to the broccoli.

 

I am thinking that the next time I make Chinese Takeout I’ll have a party and I make customized stir-fries for my friends and serve them in Chinese takeout food containers with chopsticks and make homemade fortune cookies. How cute would that be?

 

~Happy & Healthy Eating

Just Like Thanksgiving

12 Mar

Several months ago I purchased Thrive Foods by Brendan Brazier. It is a companion cookbook in the Thrive series.  Unfortunately I haven’t read the book yet because it was hiding in my husband’s bag for the last five months but I have perused the recipes. Originally I didn’t think I would actually make any of the recipes because they didn’t really appeal to me (Young Coconut Soup, Sacha Inchi Milk, Superfood Gomashio) but I have been drooling over photos on Thrive Foods Direct   so I decided it was time to pony up and start cooking.

Last week I made the Roasted Garlic Quinoa. My husband (who doesn’t really care for quinoa) says it is his favorite quinoa dish! It  was very yummy… but, not worth photographing 😉

Roasted Garlic Quinoa (adapted from Thrive Foods)
1 whole head garlic
2 Tbsp melted coconut oil
1 tsp lemon juice
2 cups cooked quinoa
½ tsp sea salt, or to taste
Pinch dried thyme leaves, for garnish

Slice off the top of the head of garlic and place in foil. Roast at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until softened. Allow garlic to cool.
Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the peel and into a small bowl along with coconut oil and lemon juice, mix well. Heat sauce over low heat.
Add the cooked quinoa and salt, stirring to combine. Heat through thoroughly and garnish with thyme before serving.

If you’ve never roasted garlic before YOU MUST! It is so delicious and versatile. You can eat the cloves whole, spread it on bread, blend into salad dressing, create a garlic hummus dip, or even  add it to soup. Roasting the garlic mellows the flavor and creates a creamy richness that is irresistible.

This week I made the Wild Rice with Kabocha Squash and Sage Butter. It was to die for! The combination of hardy wild rice, sweet squash, and savory sage butter reminded me of thanksgiving. In fact, I think I will serve it with home-made cranberry sauce and green bean casserole next time I make it.

While this recipe calls for Kabocha Squash

I used Acorn Squash because that is what I found at the grocery store.

I think you could probably  substitute any firm winter squash and have great success

Rice Pilaf with Acorn Squash and Sage Butter (adapted from Thrive Foods)

1lb acorn squash
1 cup rice pilaf
2 cups water
3 Tbsp melted coconut oil
½ Tbsp chopped fresh sage, packed
1 Tbsp mined onion or shallot
½ tsp salt

  1. Preheat oven to 400ᵒF
  2. Cut squash in half, discard seeds, and place face down on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until tender. Allow to cool then cut into chunks.
  3. While squash is roasting prepare rice by combining it with water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, uncovered for approximately 45 minutes.
  4. In a food processor (or coffee grinder) blend coconut oil, sage, onion, and salt until smooth.
  5. Heat sage butter over low heat then combine with rice.
  6. Fold in squash and serve warm.

Note: I used a whole grain rice pilaf blend that I found in the bulk aisle of Whole Foods, if you cannot find a suitable rice pilaf combine ½ cup wild rice and ½ cup brown rice and cook as directed above.

According to Vegetarian Times winter squash is nutrient-packed full of beta-carotene, vitamin C and potassium. Winter squash is also known to be low in calories, and according to Thrive Food, squash is the most nutrient-dense form of starch-based food, making it ideal for those looking to build muscles.

So there you have it, one meal to  comfort you like Thanksgiving, satisfy even the pickiest eaters, and help build your muscles. What more could you want from a recipe? I suggest you make this one right away.

~ Happy & Healthy Eating