Monthly Archives: March 2013

Tropical Guacamole!

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This was one of those accidentally wonderful creations. We were getting ready to go out of town and I needed to use up a bunch of things–an avocado, a tomato, cilantro, pita bread, black beans. And I was hungry. Like really hungry. Like I just spent 3 hours running errands with a preschooler hungry.

I usually enjoy guacamole with crunch chips. It is divine. Guac is one of the recipes I’ve enjoyed making when we have company over, as everyone seems to love it and you kind of forget it’s healthy. Of course avocados are high in fat but it sure beats fat from butter or straight-out oil.

tropical guacamole www.inspiredbykim.wordpress.com

I pulled together what I had and improvised this tropical guacamole. The beans give it a little more staying power. Works great with chips (that’s how I ate the leftovers) or on a pita. I popped mine into a whole wheat pita lined with romaine, cucumber slices, and mushrooms… again, I was trying to clear out all the produce I could from the fridge. But I think this would also be great rolled into a tortilla, on top of brown rice on a lettuce wrap, or by itself on top of greens for a salad. Enjoy!

Tropical Guacamole
Stir together:
one avocado, chopped
1/8 of a fresh pinapple, diced
2 T finely chopped red onion
1/2 of a jalapeño, minced (more or less to taste)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 roma tomato, chopped and seeded
1/2 cup black beans
juice of one lime
1/2 t ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste

General Tso’s Sesame Broccoli with Tofu

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Tofu. Should be simple enough. I have yet to master tofu. This recipe is downright yummy. Right down to the tofu. I had high hopes that the light searing in a tiny smidge of oil would make it yummier. The truth is, maybe I just don’t like tofu. ‘Cause I’m cooking it the same way others seem to cook it. Is this an acquired taste? Do I have texture issues? I’m not certain. If you love tofu, I assure you, you will love this recipe. If you don’t like tofu, just leave it out. The sauce and the veggies are delicious on their own.

I started with this recipe from Vegan Richa as a base to work from:

http://www.veganricha.com/2012/01/general-tsos-tempeh-vegan-glutenfree.html

I changed it up a bit. Here’s what I did:

Ingredients:
3 crowns of broccoli
1 red pepper
1 t sesame seeds
1 12 oz block of firm tofu, cut into 1/2 inch by 2 inch strips

sauce:
2 Tablespoon soy sauce
4 teaspoons orange juice
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha (this could be increased if you like more heat)
2 teaspoon white wine or rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons vegan hoisin sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 Tablespoon cornstarch mixed in 1 cup of water

Directions: Heat a dry wok over medium heat. Cut the broccoli into florets and the pepper into 1/2 inch by 2 inch or so strips. Stir fry the veggies until crisp-tender. Remove from wok. Give the wok a tiny spritz of canola oil from a pump. Cook the tofu, turning frequently, until lightly golden. Add the sesames to the tofu and toast. Mix all the sauce ingredients together, being careful to dissolve the cornstarch thoroughly in the water before adding it to the sauce. Add sauce to the hot wok. It will thicken quickly so stir it and remove from heat when it is the desired consistency. Add the veggies back to the wok and toss to coat and heat through. Serve with brown rice.

I made my kids some chicken as I knew they would not eat the tofu. Two of them just had the chicken. Plain. No veggies. Sigh. One brave child ate some broccoli and red pepper with his chicken. Score!

If you love tofu and know just how to cook it, please tell me! I’d love to love it but I’m just not feeling it, dog.

Rainbow Minestrone

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This is the best soup. Ev-ah. Seriously. Run to the store to get an armful of multi-colored produce and make. this. soup. (Have I mentioned I hate when people do that? Split up sentences with periods to emphasize a point. like. this. I. hate. it. But in this one instance, it is truly justified.)

I’ve been wanting to make a yummy homemade minestrone for awhile. With a mid-March blizzard going on outside, I figured the time was as good as any to make a warm and filling soup. I read once that minestrone soup was first made by monks to give to those in need of a meal. Minestrone… from “to minister.” This soup warms you up inside, fills your belly, and you can be assured that the multi-colored veggies cover your nutritional needs. And no, there is no blue vegetable. I’m not about to put blueberries in a soup just so it is truly a rainbow. If Skittles are the rainbow of candy, and they get away with no blue, I figure I’m following in a giant’s footsteps.

Rainbow Minestrone (red, orange, yellow, green, and purple produce? Check!)

1 yellow onion, diced
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 purple potato, peeled and diced (you could use a regular potato if you can’t find purple, but then you won’t really have a rainbow and you’ll have to come up with your own clever soup name)
2 14 oz cans of diced tomatoes
3 C vegetable broth
1 small zucchini
1 small yellow squash
1 can or 1 &1/2 cups cooked and drained kidney beans
2/3 cup mixed vegetable whole wheat elbow macaroni (mine had spinach, beet, carrot, and plain)
1 t each dried parsley, oregano, and basil
1/2 t dried rosemary
1/2 t coarse black pepper (or less to taste)
1 large pinch kosher salt
1 bay leaf

In a large pot, sauté the onion, carrots and celery until soft (either dry sauté in a nonstick pan or use a small amount of oil from a spray pump). When soft, add everything except the beans and macaroni. Bring to a boil and reduce heat, simmer 20 minutes. Add the beans and pasta, cook about 8 more minutes or until pasta is al dente. Done! Enjoy!

Berry Green Smoothie

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Smoothies have been my mainstay of healthy eating. The hubs and I have marveled at the fact that by 8am, we will have already consumed more servings of fruits and vegetables than many Americans consume in a whole day. Add to that healthy non-dairy milk and a sprinkle of chia seed for omega 3 fats and you can hit the ground running.

My basic breakfast smoothie is a cup of unsweetened almond milk (or unsweetened vanilla-almond milk or, my favorite, coconut-almond milk). That goes into the blender with a generous helping of greens–I don’t measure, just eyeball it, but probably close to 2 cups, about half of a small bunch or 1/3 of a large bunch of greens. I remove the tough stems and just use the leafy parts. My favorites are lacinato kale (also called dinosaur kale or black kale), red chard, and green curly kale. Collard greens work fine, though I think they have a slightly stronger taste. Spinach is the most mild (I usually hoard spinach for salads so it rarely goes into smoothie duty). I’ve also used beet greens and those work fine, plus you have the actual beets to use for another dish. Turnip greens, mustard greens… just pick a green and go for it!

After blending the greens and almond milk together, I add a whole banana (peeled, duh) and then whatever other fruits I want to use. If you want more veggie power, zucchinis are pretty mild as are cucumbers. Go ahead and throw in half of one if you like. I am generally content with the greens. Fruits that work well include pineapple, fresh or frozen berries, fresh pears, fresh peaches, apples, oranges, kiwis, whatever you have on hand.

If the green color turns you off, go ahead and try this berry green smoothie. The bright berry colors overpower the green, but you still get all the health benefits of green-ness.

Berry Green Smoothie
1 C nondairy milk
about 2 C greens
1 banana
1/8 of a fresh pineapple
1 kiwi
1/4 C each frozen or fresh strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries (or 3/4 cup mixed frozen berries)
1 T chia seeds

Blend it all together and enjoy. Do you like my smoothie cup? It was 50 cents on sale at the end of the summer, and it holds A LOT. Score!

Teriyaki Chick Pea, Jicama, Pineapple and Quinoa Lettuce Wraps

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Have you ever bought a jicama? I’ve always wanted to buy a jicama. (This may be the first time anyone has shared such a bizarre wish publicly.) But usually they are really large, and not knowing exactly what to do with one, I didn’t want to buy a giant jicama. What would I do with a giant jicama? Go jicama bowling? But I digress.

So today at the store I found a very modestly sized jicama. Here he/she/it is, in all it’s brown boring turnip like jicama glory:

jicama

Pretty unassuming, right? The trick is a serrated peeler to peel these things, the skin is kind of tough. The flesh tastes very slightly sweet but mostly just like something crunchy. It reminded me a lot of water chestnuts. In fact, if you can’t find a jicama smaller than a bowling ball or are intimidated by the thing or just can’t pronounce it (it is “hic-i-ma” as in hiccup), then by all means, use water chestnuts.

chickpea jicama teriyaki

To make a lettuce wrap that is easier to eat, try and keep your ingredients fairly small. You can’t stuff a leaf of lettuce the way you stuff a monster burrito at Qdoba. On the plus side, a leaf of lettuce gives you some good healthy greens and very few calories, as compared to a tortilla with no leafy greenness and many more calories.

building wraps

The best lettuce to use is a leaf lettuce with a natural “cup” shape. Bibb lettuce works great. I used red leaf, which was ok. I had the leftovers on romaine, which did not work too well but still tasted good. The crunchier the lettuce, the harder it is to fold into a wrap. Having survived many crunchy taco dinners with children sobbing because their taco shells have broken and created a mess on their plates, we have learned to frequently announce “tacos are messy! That’s the fun!” with smiles plastered to our faces. So be prepared to tell yourself that lettuce wraps are messy. But messy is ok.

teriyaki chickpea jicama quinoa lettuce wraps

There’s the money shot. Doesn’t that look yummy?

Teriyaki Chickpea, Jicama, and Quinoa Lettuce Wraps
1/4 C chopped red onion
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 of a red pepper, chopped
1 T minced jalapeño pepper (more or less to taste)
diced jicama, about the same amount as your red pepper, maybe 1/3 C, or substitute diced water chestnuts
1 C chick peas (either cooked from dry beans or rinsed and drained from a can)
1/8 of a fresh pineapple, chopped (or substitute about 1/2 cup canned, diced pineapple)
1/2 t dried ginger
2 T soy sauce (low sodium)
1 C cooked quinoa or other grain
Large leaves of leaf lettuce, preferably cup shaped

Heat a wok over medium high heat. I gave mine a tiny spritz of olive oil first. Add onion, garlic, pepper, jicama and jalapeño to the pan and stir fry until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add the chick peas, pineapple, ginger, and soy, and stir fry until heated, stirring frequently. Assemble wraps with a scoop of quinoa (about 1/4 cup seemed to work for me) and top with the chickpea mixture. This made two very generous servings, probably three normal sized servings.

Get Yer Salad On

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Salads. They seem so simple. And yet.

The idea of pulling out stuff and washing it and peeling it and chopping it up–not always so inspiring. My salads sorely needed a dose of inspiration. I recently had lunch at a salad-y kind of restaurant and was inspired to recreate the Sunshine Salad I enjoyed. Here’s my interpretation of Sazza’s Sunshine Salad:

Sunny Day Salad

I used a mix of greens–red leaf lettuce blended with a spinach/baby spring salad blend. This kept the overall cost lower (more pricey “blend”, inexpensive head of red leaf lettuce) and gave lots of variety and crunch. I made my salad big as I was taking it to a pot luck dinner. Salads are hard for me to give ingredient amounts–you just kind of throw stuff in the bowl until it looks right. This salad started with a mix of greens described above–about half a head of red leaf lettuce and half of a package of spinach/spring salad blend, then I added one cucumber, chopped, two roma tomato, chopped, about one can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed, about 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds, and a 1/4 cup of of dried cranberries. I topped it with a lemon vinaigrette that I based off of the “appetite for reduction’s basic dressing” that you can find through my salad dressing post, here:
https://inspiredbykim.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/salad-dressings-linkity-link/

I substituted lemon juice for the vinegar, resulting in this recipe:
1/4 C raw cashews (would blend easier if they were soaked in water for a few hours first)
2 T chopped shallot
1/2 C water
1/4 C fresh lemon juice (I used the juice of one lemon)
2 t mustard (I used spicy brown)
1 t agave syrup
a pinch of salt
pepper to taste

Put that all in the blender and really let it blend to come together–it will take several minutes. My salad was a hit at the dinner party. And it was filling enough that I could take a big plate of it and pass on all the other foods (lasagna! garlic bread! some seriously tempting stuff!).

This salad started off some serious salad inspiration in my house and I’ve been enjoying more salads since then–and getting more creative with ingredients. I also came up with some great ways to store ingredients to make salad production easier and keep greens fresher, longer. I will share those later!

So what do you love on a salad?

Healthy Eating on the Road

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I had done it. I committed to eating healthier. I started before the holidays and cruised into a new year feeling good about my commitment to health. I lost weight and my clothes fit me better. Then–BAM–I had to go out-of-town unexpectedly without much notice. Panic set in. I could manage eating healthy, unprocessed foods when I have my own kitchen and my routine going, but doing it on the fly was a whole different affair. It is always hard to eat healthy when you have to fly and eat in restaurants or at other people’s homes, but eating vegan in these places is a bigger challenge. So here was my survival strategy for flying: I packed a lot of food. Yes, you can take food on planes, just not liquids or gels that are bigger than regulations.

For that first trip, I packed some zucchini-carrot muffins made with almond pulp in place of some of the flour for extra protein. I brought a big salad I would eat for lunch on the plane. And I brought a mixture of chickpeas and cooked red peppers in an Asian inspired sauce. This was all before I started this blog so I do not have any recipes to share. I also packed some fruit and a bag of baby carrots and snap peas to munch on. The food I brought easily got me through my first day of flying with leftovers. When I arrived, I enjoyed a few meals with family, eating mostly salad and veggie side dishes. I had access to a kitchen and shopped for some veggies, fruit, and humus to get me through the rest of the meals, augmented by my ample supply of muffins. On the way home, I packed up my leftovers to snack on during the travel day, and had a bowl of vegan vegetable soup from a restaurant in my layover airport (if I were 10 years younger I would remember the name of the restaurant, but alas I am not). It all worked out.

healthy lunch to go

More recently, I’ve gone on a couple of day trips with the hubs. Planning ahead and packing a picnic style lunch and snacks helped us eat healthy on the road and save cash. I recently found this folding divided lunch keeper (made by Sistema) on sale and snatched it up. It works great with a salad on one side. On the divided side, I put a little tub of homemade salad dressing (not in the picture), fresh fruit, and cut up veggies. We also packed wraps–whole wheat tortillas with stir fried eggplant, red pepper, red onion, and chickpeas one day, whole wheat tortillas stuffed with stir fried fajita style veggies and guacamole the other day. We brought fresh fruit both days for a late day snack, as well as more homemade muffins one day and homemade trail mix the other day. Despite full days of activity (skiing) and fresh air, I was not hungry at all.

healthy salad and wrap to go

So how do you eat healthy on the go? Share your favorite tips in the comments below!