Sunday, September 14, 2014

Smoothie Bowl

Since my last post:

  • I moved (a long way). 
  • I started a new job (the "big kid" kind). 
  • I took a huge exam (nailed it). 
  • I joined a new CSA (deliveries start next week). 
  • And I started a new fitness challenge (#100byHalloween). 

As for all that unpacking that was supposed to happen in August? Still only half finished. (But hey - we can't win 'em all.)

I'll be honest and say that I haven't really been adventurous in the kitchen in the past couple of months. Firstly, with only myself to cook for, I do tend to get a little lazy. And ya'll don't care about my lazy food. Second, I can't find my toaster. Do I use a toaster for many recipes, you ask? No. But I can't remember if I even packed it up or if I simply tossed it out in the heat of the crucial "I DON'T CARE WHAT COMES TO TEXAS ANYMORE" days of Ames.

So how 'bout some smoothies? No toaster required.

I have been on this "smoothie bowl" kick for a couple of weeks now. Mainly, the pictures of these beauties on Instagram are a huge inspiration factor. You should check them out (also try here). Gorgeous breakfast soup.

Normally, I like to liquefy my smoothies to a point where they are more like juice. The Nutribullet lets me do that fairly quickly with the addition of water. The smoothie bowl, however, should probably be of thicker consistency so that you can spoon it up without having to slurp it. Unless slurping is your thing.

The first bowl I invented was a twist on my "Everyday Breakfast Smoothie" which is fresh kale blended with frozen fruit (pineapple, peach, mango, and strawberry) and water. I topped this with fresh mango, unsweetened (dried) coconut, rolled oats, and chia seeds.



The second edition was this frozen fruit smoothie (same blend as above) topped with something called "chia pudding" and fresh raspberries. Chia pudding is basically just soaked chia seeds. Remember those "ch-ch-ch CHIA! Pets" from the 80s? Same seeds. I soaked 1/4 cup chia seeds in 1 cup regular almond milk with a dash of cinnamon overnight. You have to stir it up a bit so it doesn't clump, but I find this to be a nice, weird textural addition to the smoothie bowl. And, most importantly, it looks cool.


Finally, my post-SundayRunday smoothie from this morning. Here, I have a new frozen fruit blend (pineapple, cantaloupe, grapes, peach, and strawberry), layered with the rest of the chia pudding and topped with fresh raspberries and unsweetened coconut.


I actually made some green smoothie with spinach to layer into today's breakfast, but I was afraid the colors would run.... and that wouldn't be so pretty. So I drank it separately! How's that for taking one for the team?

Anyone else out there on the smoothie bowl bus?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Asian Roasted Vegetable Salad with Vermicelli


WARNING. This is a procrastination blog post. 
I should be studying for boards.

If you have never set foot in an Asian grocery, you are truly missing out on some excellent bargains. Usually they will sell larger volumes of the same items found in the "Asian Foods" section at the American grocery store - but AT RIDICULOUSLY LOW LOW PRICES. (I realize that may sound a bit like a used car commercial, but it's 100% factual). I haven't been happy with the state of affairs in their produce section, but for dry goods and non-perishables - IT'S ON!

As for produce, almost anywhere else is better. I usually just go to the regular grocery store, but occasionally hit up the Sam's super store if I have another reason to head that way. You may be surprised, but Sam's has a pretty solid selection of fresh staples. This includes giant amounts of spring mix for salads. Who needs that much lettuce, you may ask? WE ALL NEED THAT MUCH LETTUCE. I consider it a healthy challenge to finish the entire package before the leaves start to turn. The same challenge applies for most fresh veggies in my fridge. You may remember - it pains me to throw things away. LITERAL PAIN. (Man, I've used a lot of caps already! I'll chill out now...) If only there was a way to use up the salad greens *and* all of the other veggies in my crisper without making a heaping pile of cold chopped salad....



I took a peek in the fridge. I happen to have a bottle of fat free soy vinaigrette from Trader Joe's that I don't love as a salad dressing, per se... (I don't prefer sweetened dressings for salad), but it would work great as a base for a quick veggie marinade. I already had an idea in my head for a warm, soy based dressing for broccoli, carrots, and green beans...

Marinated, roasted vegetables on top of lettuce. That could work.



A step to the pantry -- should I add vermicelli noodles? Why not?! Noodles are far underutilized in salads, if you ask me. Which you didn't. But these particular noodles are an automatic match for fresh vegetables (spring rolls, anyone??). Experimental salad. Let's do it.



Asian Roasted Veggie Salad with Vermicelli

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 20 min
Servings: 4

INGREDIENTS:
½ cup fat free soy vinaigrette (I used Trader Joe’s Sesame Soy Ginger Vinaigrette)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp chili garlic paste
1.5 cups broccoli
1 cup fresh green beans, snapped into 2” length
1 cup sliced yellow squash
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced on a bias
4 spears asparagus, cut to 2” length on a bias
¼ pkg (or two small bricks) Asian vermicelli (bean thread)
6 cups salad greens
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds (I used black sesame)
Extra vinaigrette dressing, to taste


INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Combine the first three ingredients in a small bowl.
3. Place all chopped vegetables in a large bowl and pour vinaigrette sauce over. Gently stir to coat all veggies.
4. Spread veggies into a single layer on a large sheet pan. Bake vegetables for 20 minutes.
5. When veggies are almost done, bring a pot of water to boil.  Add vermicelli bricks to boiling water and cook for 2 minutes, gently agitating noodles with a fork to separate.
6. Strain noodles with a large skimming spoon, or similar. Set aside.
7. Plate 2 cups salad greens topped with ¼ noodles and ¼ roasted vegetables (cooled to warm or room temperature). Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve with extra salad dressing, if desired.

NUTRITION INFORMATION (per serving):
Calories 203, Total Fat 4.8 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium: 279 mg, Protein 4.6 g, Fiber 5.1 g

The salad was good. Again, I simply used up what I had on hand. Other tasty additions might include marinated tofu, scallions and mushrooms. If you can't find vermicelli noodles, you can also sub Japanese soba noodles or omit them altogether.



Thursday, July 24, 2014

Arugula Spinach Tomato Pesto (ASTP) with Gnocchi & Chickpeas

Aaaaahhhhhhh. The benefit of being (temporarily) unemployed is multifaceted, but one particular bonus is sleeping past 6 am. Every. Day.

Another bonus is having the time to do something other than work, study, or pack boxes. Unpacking.... well that's another story for August. In the meantime, trips to the farmer's market and shoe shopping for one particular upcoming wedding have been a much appreciated change of pace from the daily hospital grind.



Are you ready for another, absolutely delightful permutation of beans n' greens? Not quite to the eat-to-live standards (hello olive oil... and cheese.. and pasta) but full of healthy things nonetheless (arugula-spinach-tomato pesto = ASTP!). The ingredients for the pesto actually make enough for two nights. Use half today and freeze the rest.


The great thing about pesto in general is how forgiving it is. Don't have spinach? Add extra arugula. Prefer less garlic? Reduce it to three cloves. Where the heck to I find pepitas?? Use walnuts.


Arugula-Spinach-Tomato Pesto on Gnocchi & Chickpeas

Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 5 min
Servings: 4  servings

INGREDIENTS:
3 cups packed fresh arugula
1 cup packed fresh spinach
6 cloves fresh garlic
¼ cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or pine nuts
2 chives
6 large basil leaves
¼ cup virgin olive oil
1 – 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (do not drain)

1 - 14.5 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 - 500g package of potato gnocchi
2 oz herbed feta cheese, crumbled (I used tomato basil)

INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and prepare a large bowl of ice water. Drop arugula and spinach into boiling water and allow to cook for 20 seconds. Then strain out greens and submerge in ice water. Reserve boiling water for gnocchi (step 5).
2. Peel the garlic and add it along with the basil leaves, pepitas, and chives to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is minced.
3.  Squeeze all of the water from the blanched greens and add them to the food processor along with the tomatoes. Pulse until finely chopped and well incorporated with the garlic mixture.  
4. With the processor running, add olive oil. Blend until well combined. Set half of the pesto aside and freeze for later use.
5. Add garbanzo beans and gnocchi to the reserved boiling water and cook according to gnocchi package directions.
7. Strain gnocchi and beans; scoop into serving bowls immediately. Divide the other half of pesto over gnocchi and sprinkle each serving with feta cheese. 


NUTRITION INFORMATION (per serving):
Calories 436, Total Fat 12.8 g, Cholesterol 12.6 mg, Sodium: 507 mg, Protein 8.7 g, Fiber 4.9 g


This was my first time using gnocchi, which are small, soft, dumpling-like pasta balls. They cook up super quickly, and were easy to find at Trader Joe's and the local grocery store. This ASTP has a great bite from the garlic and arugula, and is lightened up with the tomatoes so that it would be great on any pasta. Or, you can try it one of these other 10 Ways to use Pesto Beyond Pasta from The Kitchn.


Friday, July 4, 2014

#100bySummer

The #100bySummer challenge... 

100 miles of cardio in 7 weeks.
Not that hard, right?
It boils down to about 2 miles a day. 

There are all sorts of fitness challenges floating around, particularly in that time of year barreling headlong into summertime. But this particular challenge was inspired by the girls at Tone It Up - you know the ones who have that show on Bravo? Well, maybe you don't know. But Bravo is just about the only channel I watch, so therein lies my current perspective of the world outside of Ames.. whatever. 

The important part is that I did it. Not only that, but I got J to do it too! (He didn't run for a bikini body, but he did run for himself. And maybe a little bit for me, too.) I am so proud of us! Especially since I've never been a good runner. Oh, believe me --- I've given running the ol' college try. Many times. It's always hard. But this time, it was a bit easier for three reasons. 

  1. Other people were doing the exact same thing I was doing. There's a little community of people (mostly women) out there who were posting to Instagram (#bikiniseries #toneitup #100bysummer), documenting their progress, and providing a bit of outside support. It worked. 
  2. I learned to pace myself. With a heart rate monitor (this kind: Polar FT4). It's time to get serious, ya'll. 
  3. Perhaps most importantly, J was willing to go with me. Rain or shine. Hail or humidity. His pace isn't exactly as slow as mine, but he really made an effort to keep with me. I think it was comical at times.. You know how slow I was running? But he didn't laugh. Too much. 

The challenge technically ended on June 21 (the first day of summer!). I posted photos on Instagram throughout the 100 mile challenge to document our progress and thought it would be nice to round them all up here. Enjoy!

Mile 1: We started the challenge the same weekend of Tulip Time in Pella, Iowa and got in our first 4 miles. 
Mile 5: Showing off our Christmas running shoes courtesy of J's parents.

Mile 8: On the way home from Main Street.
Mile 11: Early morning run with the man of the house.

Mile 14: One of the first places I visited in Ames - Olde Main Brewery - with Ian and Tiffany
Mile 17: Started the day off right. That always means a green smoothie. 
Mile 19: Down to the farmer's market on Main.

Mile 23: You just have to get off the couch. The rest is easy. 
Mile 26: Ada Hayden park.
Mile 30: The first of *many* cloudy/rainy days in a row. And a massaged kale salad. That's right. I said massaged.
Mile 34: Minor head trauma due to unexpected hail storm. Whoopsie.
Mile 38: First run with the new toy! Thanks, J!
Mile 42: Lots of good work-outs in the Ozarks! These little beauties live down the street from J's parents. They always come to greet us at the fence.
Mile 46: And these guys.. :) Such troopers!
Mile 58: ....aaaaannnd the blisters that I began taping like a pro.  
Mile 63: A little uphill hiking at Ledges State Park with the boys.
Mile 67: Met this dude at the neighborhood park over Skunk River. 
Mile 70: Made the best roasted garlic and wilted spinach egg pitas after my "passing with a D" mile of the 100 by summer challenge.

Mile 83: Another rainy day in Iowa at the downtown Des Moines farmer's market. 

Mile 88: I ran 5 miles without stopping for the first time ever. I think this hot air balloon in the sky was a visual reward for all my hard work so far. 

Mile 95: Train tracks and green grass in Ames.

Mile 99: Field of dreams. 
Mile 100: My neighborhood for the last 3 years.
"I like my one better than my zero." - Jason
Mile 111: Everything that is good. 

And there you have it. One hundred eleven miles under our belt, and then some (in the weeks that followed).

Have a happy holiday! 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Spring Chicken Linguine No-Fredo with Peas and Asparagus




Do you like peas?
No. 
How about asparagus? You like that?
No. 

Perfect.*
Muahahahahahaaa!





My I present to you: Spring Linguine Chicken No-Fredo with Peas and Asparagus (and Bacon)!!**

There is a reason this is called no-fredo. Because this is NOT alfredo sauce. I don't often go for half-ass healthy recipes (like alfredo made with half and half...), but there is a recipe for one such pasta with peas and bacon in one of my old Cooking Light mags that has survived a couple of cross-country moves.  So, as you can see... no-fredo and I have a history. 


I love pasta. But, as you know, noodles (along with bread and other deliciously simple carbohydrates) sure do pull the short end of the stick when it comes to healthy eating. So, when we choose to make it for ourselves, it makes the most sense to pack it full of vegetables and use ingredients with a lot of flavor.



Spring Linguine No-Fredo


Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 20 min
Serves 8

INGREDIENTS:
4 slices center-cut bacon
2 shallots, chopped
5 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (divided)
16 oz linguine pasta
5 Tbsp butter, salted (divided)
16 spears fresh asparagus, cut into 2” pieces
2 cups half and half
1 tsp chopped fresh parsley
2 cups Parmesan cheese, shredded (two generous handfuls)
1 cup peas, frozen
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, grilled and sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Cook the bacon over medium heat in a large, deep skillet. Remove cooked bacon from pan, crumble and set aside.
2. In the same pan, sauté shallots, garlic, and 1 ½ tsp thyme in the bacon fat until softened (about 3 minutes).
3. While shallots and garlic are cooking, sauté asparagus in a separate pan with 1 tablespoon butter and ½ tsp thyme until crisp-tender (about 4 minutes).
4. Melt the remaining butter in a medium saucepan, then add half and half and chopped parsley.  Gently simmer for 5 minutes. Add Parmesan a little at a time, whisking until all cheese is melted before adding the next batch. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. 
5. While the no-fredo simmers, boil the pasta to al-dente according to package directions.  
6. Add the peas, mushrooms, sautéed asparagus, and sliced chicken breast to the shallot mixture in the big skillet. Cook for 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are soft and the chicken is heated through.
7. Drain cooked pasta and add to big skillet.
8. Pour no-fredo sauce over the pasta and gently stir to combine with pasta, veggies and chicken. Voila!


NUTRITION INFORMATION (per serving):
Nonfat half and half: Calories 492, Total Fat 15.0 g, Cholesterol 74 mg, Protein 32 g, Fiber 3.5 g
Regular half and half: Calories 535, Total Fat 21 g, Cholesterol 95 mg, Protein 32 g, Fiber 3.5 g
(Heavy cream [1cup]): Calories 559, Total Fat 25g, Cholesterol 111 mg, Protein 32g, Fiber 3.5g)


Don't get me wrong, this pasta would be absolutely heavenly with a thick, velvety, alfredo cream sauce. And more bacon. But that's not what I made. The lower fat version of no-fredo sauce is thin and won't pull together like a heavy cream sauce, so please don't expect that if you choose the non-fat route. In fact, the sauce pretty much broke down over heat. But, gosh darn it, this pasta was tasty, cost less than 500 calories per serving, AND it reheated well for lunch the next day. Feel free to use whatever type of cream you desire, but if you go full-fat alfredo on me, I recommend following a different recipe for the sauce (like this one from the Pioneer Woman) rather than simply subbing cream for the half and half.






* See the beginning of this post regarding my favorite thing to do when choosing dinner recipes.
**Don't feel too bad for him. In all honesty, HE is the one who suggested an asparagus pasta. And he actually enjoyed the asparagus in this dish (at least more than the peas). 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Blackberry Clementine Oatmeal Muffins



I wish I were a morning person. There is something extravagant about the quiet moments before most of the world wakes up - stealing them all for yourself, pretending you are all alone. That's the introvert in me, I suppose.

Buuuutttt.... the introvert half of me sleeps late and walks in to work five minutes after the hour. Routinely.

(We can't be winners all of the time.)



This recipe might make up for some of that non-winnerness, though. I made a variety of different oatmeal muffins a few weeks back using the same clementine-bannana base.... some with fresh blackberry, some chocolate chip, toasted coconut and walnut, raisin and dried dates. Hands down, the blackberry ones were our favorite. (Well.. and the chocolate chip ones.. always chocolate).





Blackberry Clementine
Oatmeal Muffins

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 30 min
Yield: 18 muffins

INGREDIENTS:
1 small clementine (whole)
2 ripe bananas
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup honey
5 cups old fashioned rolled oats
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2¼ cups almond milk
36 fresh blackberries

Cupcake liners
Non-stick spray

INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Chop clementine into quarters (skin and all) and puree in a high power blender or food processor.
3. Mash bananas in a large bowl. Mix in the pureed clementine, eggs, vanilla, and honey.
4. Add oats, flax, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt to the bowl and mix well with wet ingredients.
5. Pour in milk and combine.
6. Line muffin tin with paper liners and spray each with cooking spray.
7. Push two blackberries into each muffin.
8. Bake muffins for 30 minutes and cool before serving.

Once cooled to room temperature, muffins may be frozen in gallon-sized bags.  Then, defrost them overnight in the refrigerator or microwave for 1-2 minutes. Enjoy a healthy breakfast on the go!


NUTRITION INFORMATION (per serving, 2 muffins):
Calories 301, Total Fat 5.7 g, Cholesterol 41 mg, Sodium: 476 mg, Protein 8.1 g, Fiber 7.2 g

This "batter" has the best orangey flavor. I used one small clementine (of the Halo variety), but would have used two if I'd had another in the house. If you want, substitute one of the bananas for a second small clementine... I bet that would be awesome. Now, these muffins may or may not get me out of bed a bit earlier, but either way, I can pull one from the freezer as I rush out the door. And I don't have to sacrifice breakfast to make it to work on time!





Please let me know how yours turn out if you try them!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Glazed Vegan Lentil Loaf




It's been busy around my little house. Or, rather, I should say it's been busy outside of my little house.
So much to think about.
So much to do.

Cabinets to organize.
Articles to read.
Budgets to narrow.
Lists to make.
Papers to shred.

But that's why weekends like this one make me feel so content. Toes in the water, legs in the sun, surrounded by a family that makes it look so easy to love and be loved (no matter the drama or responsibilities swirling in the background). Even though they are not technically my own, I will always be grateful for people like that.

Salt of the earth.
(I believe he said it best.)

______________________________


So, after a long Memorial Weekend and a little over-indulging, I have just the thing. Don't balk at the long list of ingredients -- the end result is incredibly flavorful and just absolutely full of veggies! I followed this recipe for The Ultimate Vegetable Lentil Loaf from Julie at The Simple Veganista.


First of all, I doubled the recipe so that we'd have leftovers for a couple of future weeknight dinners. Also, in place of the bell pepper, I used a bag of frozen Trader Joe's Fire Roasted Peppers and Onions (I really love the layer of flavor that the fire roastedness adds).

And oat flour! This was my first opportunity to make oat flour with the milling blade of my trusty Nutribullet. If you don't have oat flour or a mill grinder, I'm thinking regular all-purpose or whole wheat flour would be fine. Of course, the texture of this loaf is a little softer than your average meat loaf, but it actually stands up really well. J and I even made "Lentil Loaf Sandwiches" for lunchtime leftovers the next day.









Glazed Vegan Lentil Loaf

Prep time: 45 min 
Cook time: 50 min
Servings: 6

INGREDIENTS:
Loaf
1 cup dry lentils
2 ½ cups vegetable broth
3 tablespoons flaxseed meal
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves
1 small onion
1 small bell pepper
1 carrot
1 celery stalk
1.5 heaping teaspoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
½ heaping teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
½ teaspoon salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
¾ cup oats
½ cup oat flour

Glaze
3 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Rinse lentils and combine with broth in a pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 35 minutes.  When cooked, set aside to cool for 15 minutes.
2. Mix the flaxseed meal with the water and refrigerated until needed.
3. Coarsely chop the garlic, onion, pepper, carrot and celery. Toss in the food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
4. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add chopped vegetables and sauté for 5 minutes. Add next 7 ingredients (all spices) and mix until well combined. Turn off heat and cool for about 10 minutes.  
5. While vegetables cool, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a loaf pan with parchment paper so that the paper overhangs the side.
6. Pulse ¾ of the cooked lentils in the food processor until coarsely blended.
7. In a big bowl, mixed blended and whole lentils, sautéed seasoned vegetables, flax mixture, oats and oat flour.
8. Press the mixture into a loaf pan lined with parchment overhanging the sides - OR - scoop equal spoonfuls into 12 greased muffin cups. 
9. Mix ketchup, vinegar and maple syrup for the glaze and baste over top of the loaf.
10. Bake the loaf for 50 minutes - OR - muffins for 35 minutes. Allow to cool before serving.

NUTRITION INFORMATION (per serving):
Calories 216, Total Fat 7.7 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium: 685 mg, Protein 7.4 g, Fiber 7 g


Don't skip the glaze. It adds yet another layer of flavor and tastes a bit like barbecue sauce. You might even want to save some to baste after baking. If you choose to make muffins instead of a larger loaf, you'll reap the benefit of a much shorter bake time and easy portion sizes for freezing and defrosting a weeknight dinner. So good, and soo good for you! If I've piqued your interest, please give it a try and let me know what you think.


______________________

I've had a lot of "AHA!" moments this year. (This lentil loaf is only one example of an AHA! moment.) You know - those little bursts of clarity that provide peace of mind and confidence in your own decisions? Such maturity makes me feel very adult-ish, but I actually don't mind growing up at all. It takes only a single second to remember that I am an incredibly lucky girl and I have so much to look forward to - anywhere my feet should land.