Monthly Archives: January 2014

Eating Healthy on a Time Crunch

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pieces

Busy, busy, busy.  It seems to be the theme of our first-world existence.  When talking with people about nutrition, exercise, and even reading books, I often hear “oh I just don’t have time to (cook from scratch, fit in exercise, finish a novel…).”  I get it.  We are busy.  But I think it is about priorities. I could blather on about how upside down priorities seem to be in our lives, but I’ll spare you the diatribe.  Instead, I’ll just say this… “The key is not to prioritize your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”  Ok, I didn’t say that, Stephen Covey said that.  If you make something a priority in your life, boom, suddenly you have time for it.  Unfortunately I think we often dole out our time like it’s a super size free-refill tumbler of pop from 7-11, not thinking that ultimately it will run out, and if we fill that tumbler with things that don’t really enrich our life, we will be left at the end of the day with hiccups and a belly ache (did you follow that metaphor?  Cause I admit it was kind of a strange one…)  Anywho, figure out your priorities, schedule them into your life, and somehow the kids still make it to soccer on time and eventually you’ll still get that kitchen floor cleaned.  And if you miss a few facebook posts, you’re not any poorer for it.

There are some ways though to save a little time and still cook healthy.  The key is planning.  Figure out the best time of week for you to cook ahead–for many of us it is on the weekend, but for some it may be a weekday morning when the house is quiet.  Gather your supplies ahead of time–at least for me, doing a big shopping trip and then coming home to cook multiple dishes is a recipe for disaster.  Optimally, I like to shop the day before I do a big cooking marathon.  You can also take some time to plan around what’s on sale, who’s home for dinner on what nights, and what food is already in the house that you need to use up.  

Before you jump in to cooking, line up your meals for the week and figure out what can be prepped ahead of time.  Pull out your food processor, knives, and cutting board.  Prep veggies for recipes and salads.  You can chop up salad fixings and store them in plastic containers for the week to make it easy to reach into the fridge and have a salad on the table quickly.  Wash greens for salads and store in zip top bags to have those ready to go.  Make a batch of homemade salad dressing–double it if you need to–and have it on hand for the week.  Trying out different dressings and having colorful salad ingredients at your fingertips can really make it easier to stick to healthy nutrition.

Beans fill your tummy when you are on a plant-based diet, giving you protein and fiber, and giving a meal “staying power.”  You have a couple of options for beans.  You can certainly buy canned, in which case I would recommend looking for the low sodium beans.  Better yet, you can cook dry beans from scratch.  This will save you cash–they are about 1/3 of the price–and you get to control exactly what goes into them.  Plus some recipes may call for beans that are a bit firmer, and you really can’t control that from a can.  Beans are actually super easy to cook, they just take some time.  If you plan ahead, you can make a big batch of them on a day when you have time, then portion them into containers (1.5 cups plus some of the cooking liquid works well, that is about the same as what is in a can and most recipes follow “can” amounts).  Those cooked beans will keep several days in the fridge, or can be frozen for use later.

If you’ll be using beans on salad, you may want to mince some onion and pepper, add it to about a can’s worth of any kind of bean, and throw in some vinegar.  This will make a nice marinated bean salad to throw on top of greens.  

If breakfast means smoothies, plan to have frozen fruit on hand.  You can buy frozen fruit, but don’t forget that you can freeze your own when items are in season and on sale.  Right now I have 5 pineapples sitting on my counter waiting to be sliced up and frozen.  They were a buck a piece.  Strawberries, blueberries, and sliced peaches are all easy to freeze flat on a cookie sheet and then throw into a ziplock bag for storage.  Prep greens for smoothies ahead of time–wash them and bag them up, and if you don’t have a high power blender take out the center “vein” of kale or other tougher greens.  You can even make smoothies the night before and then give them a good shake in the morning–I don’t like to do this as I like to add a lot of ice to mine and the water tends to then separate–but if you don’t ice them down, try it.  I know other people who make them ahead, store them in a “drink and pour” type container, and then just grab them on the way out the door in the morning.  

Soups?  Make them ahead and store them in the fridge–better yet, double or triple the recipe and store servings in the freezer (this works well with everything except cream-based soups, and you’re not eating those anymore, right?).  If you are making soup with rice or pasta in it ahead of time and storing in the fridge, keep the grains/pasta to the side, otherwise they tend to soak up too much of the broth.  You can cook those and keep them separate, then stir them in before heating and serving.  Keep homemade veggie stock in the freezer and you can put together soups in no time flat.

Try to think about other dishes that freeze well.  Casseroles, curries, pasta sauces, bean burger patties, nut-based cheeses, and homemade baked goods all freeze and re-heat well.  It is often not much more work to double or triple a recipe and put some away in the freezer.  Be sure to mark your freezer containers with contents and date (yes, I know we all have some mysterious items lurking in the back of the freezer… that is not a good use of your cooking time!).  And most foods are best if eaten in the not-too-distant future, so be sure to plan to rotate your frozen meals into your menu plan.  

These are just a few tips and tricks to getting nutritious meals on the table faster with a little advance effort.  I’m sure you have your own tips… please share them below!

Getting Started on Eat to Live

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I’ve had a number of people ask me for the details of Eat to Live, so this post is an attempt to consolidate the info I have.  I am by no means a medical doctor or a nutritionist, so certainly read up and determine what is right for your body by consulting with your own professionals.  I will say that it has worked well for me and for a couple of people I know who follow it.  

Eat to Live is the nutrition brain-child of Dr. Joel Fuhrman.  It is an eating plan–or perhaps an even better way to think about it, is that it is an intentional way of thinking about food and how it helps or hinders our health.  At it’s most basic, it can be boiled down to a whole foods, no processed foods, no animal products, low fat and no-added sugar diet.  That sounds intimidating, but it is totally do-able.  If you’ve made any of the recipes on my blog, you can follow this.  Whether or not you call yourself a vegan is a whole ‘nuther thing. (FYI I don’t refer to myself that way b/c I think it has bigger socio-political meanings… and I occasionally make an intentional choice to eat something with an animal product in it… however my kids love to call me vegan and at times use it in a derogatory fashion.  Like when my 5 year old called me “you big vegan.”  Really?  Oh, digression noted, returning to the featured presentation)

Fuhrman’s philosophy is outlined in the book Eat to Live.  Grab a copy or get it from the library.  There’s nothing to buy–no shakes, meal plans, supplements, or packets of powder.  In fact you can probably cobble together enough info about Eat to Live off of the interwebs so that you don’t need to get the book.  However, the book explains the whole program and the very compelling research behind it so I wouldn’t skip it.  

Rather than re-hash all the info that is already out here, I’m just going to point you towards some of the blogs and websites that I’ve found the most helpful.  

Dr. Fuhrman’s website: http://www.drfuhrman.com

this link is basically a summary of the 6 week plan, and the fat free vegan blog has lots of recipes too that work with Eat to Live
 
this blog is also basically eat to live, and I’ve enjoyed several of her recipes
 
another great blog and series of cookbooks, plus lots of support and inspiration 
 
And of course, there’s, well, this here little blog… mine.  My recipes all fit with Eat to Live.  
 
As far as how it works, I just wrote and deleted a lengthy paragraph detailing how great it has been for me. I censored myself and decided it was TMI for the intertubes. I’ll just say I’m happy, it works, I feel healthy, and I’ve got the lab reports to prove that it changed my health. Give it a try! If you’re interested or at all curious, I would urge you to try the program for six weeks–follow it as strictly as you can–and then make up your mind. I think you’ll be sold!

Creamy Sweet Potato and Kale Pasta

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I’ve been walking around with a mug of chai tea in my hands perpetually, periodically sashaying to the microwave for a blast of heat. It’s cold here! I know, I know, it’s cold just about everywhere. Like polar vortex cold. Thankful for my warm home, electric blanket, and plentiful tea supply. And for this pasta dish. It will warm you up and stick to your ribs, without tons of artery clogging fat.

I started with a fairly healthy recipe I found on line, but even still it had butter and cheese in it. Not anymore. Here’s my veganized version to heat you up from the inside out.

***a special word on nutritional yeast. What the heck is that, you ask? No, it is not the yeast you put in bread so put down the little packet and walk away from the baking aisle! Nutritional yeast is a yeast grown on molasses and the dry flakes give a wallop of vitamin B12 and impart an earthy, cheesy taste to dishes. My original recipe called for parmesan cheese, so I used nutritional yeast instead. You can find it in whole paycheck type stores or in the nutrition or crunchy-hippie section of larger grocery stores. I buy mine at Sprouts, and it is with the vitamins. Sometimes you will hear very hippie-crunchy types call it Nooch. Please don’t call it nooch. That makes me throw up in my mouth just a little. People shouldn’t eat things that sound like vomit. Makes me think of the following scene: “dude, we were doing keg stands, and it was so awesome, we were like trashed, but then I nooched all over the fraternity stairs.”

The defense rests. I dare you to even think of it as notch again.

Creamy Sweet Potato and Kale Pasta (serves 6-8 depending on portion size)

1 T olive oil
1 shallot, minced (you could sub onion if you don’t have a shallot, I actually used leek but I think shallot would taste better)
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 T whole wheat pastry flour (or any flour, it just is used as a thickener)
1.5 C almond milk
1.5 C mashed sweet potato (about 2 small or one really big one)
1/2 C nutritional yeast
1/2 of a really big bunch of lacinato kale… or use the whole bunch if it is scrawny (can sub regular kale), cut into about 1.2 inch by 2 inch strips
3/4 pound box of whole wheat spiral pasta

In a large skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat and then brown the garlic and shallot. When the have turned golden, add in the flour and stir until the flour is also golden. In a separate container/bowl, whisk the sweet potato and milk together (this would be a smart use of your blender). Add the mixture to the skillet, bring to a simmer and then reduce heat and cook until slightly thickened. Stir in the nutritional yeast till combined, and season with salt/pepper as desired. Meanwhile, cook the pasta per package directions. Add the kale to the pasta water when there are two minutes left of boiling time, then drain the pasta and kale. Mix with the sweet potato sauce. Enjoy! Try not to lick your bowl.

Gotta Get Get–Black Eyed Peas

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Get it? Ha ha ha I crack myself up.

But seriously folks… black eyed peas, and the luck they portend for the New Year, are no joking matter. Run, RUN I tell you and make some black eyed peas in order to ascertain that the fates will smile kindly upon your face in 2014.

Of course, you purchased a bag of black eyed peas several weeks ago because you are smart like that. However, if it is 4pm and you have just realized that the bag of dried black eyed peas you have sitting in the pantry isn’t going to soak and cook itself, you might be thinking you are out of luck. Well you’re not. Because you wisely listened to me and got a pressure cooker from the jolly fat man in red, right? Right? If not, borrow, beg, or steal one from a friend and make these delicious and super fast black eyed peas (and when the stores open tomorrow, buy a pressure cooker with your Christmas cash).
black eyed peas

I know, they aren’t a whole lot to look at, but black eyed peas are super good for you and will fill you up with healthy stuff (hey, go google it, don’t make me do all your nutritional research for you). Plus, they have this nice almost meaty-earthy-smokey flavor. They remind me of the taste of roasted chestnuts. Minus the standing on a corner in Manhattan in the freezing cold aspect of roasted chestnuts. In this savory dish, they pair with spices and fresh peppers and onions to fill up your belly and give you your fair share of the new year’s luck. Serve with brown rice and a side of greens (traditionally, you are supposed to eat greens with the black eyed peas to get luck, so please proceed with caution if you opt out of the greens). Or serve them on top of a bed of greens and keep the fates happy. Cause seriously, I’m not looking to piss off the fates on January 1. Just sayin’.

Savory Black Eyed Peas and Peppers

1/2 of a yellow onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced or pressed (about 1 teaspoon)
1 red and 1 green bell pepper, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 carrots, sliced into small circles
1-2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
a few spritzes of olive oil from a spray pump (or omit and add water to sauté your veggies)
16 oz dried black eyed peas, rinsed and sorted (or don’t sort them but you might break a tooth on a rock and that would NOT be good luck)
4 cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions: Heat your pressure cooker over medium heat and spritz with olive oil (or a thin coat of water). Sauté all of the veggies until slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Add beans, stock, and spices. Cover and seal pressure cooker to high pressure, raise heat to high until pressure is reached, decrease heat slightly and cook for 13 minutes. Quick release pressure. Taste to make sure the beans are cooked to your liking (I cooked for 11 minutes, but they weren’t quite done, resealed and cooked another 2 minutes at high pressure, and they were fine… but I’m at high altitude so you may have different results elsewhere).

If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you could probably easily make this on the stove top but you’ll need to presoak your black eyed peas and cook a lot longer–60 to 90 minutes I would guess, and probably will need to increase the liquid significantly.

Enjoy, happy new year, and good luck to all!