Monday, December 9, 2013

My New Obsession: Spiralized Vegetables

Today I am happy to share with you a food tool that has changed my life: the spiralizer. I can't stop raving about it, and if you've spent time with me the past two weeks, I'm sure you've heard me going on and on about it. As you can probably tell from a lot of my past posts, I really enjoy making hearty, pasta-like dishes. While I normally opt the for healthier kinds anyway, like brown rice, spelt, or whole grain, I have discovered an even healthier, extremely easy, and cheap way to make pasta dishes-- using vegetables!

I stumbled upon this wonderful blog Inspiralized a few weeks ago, and after reading through some of her posts, I spontaneously purchased a spiralizer. I'm so glad I did. I use it every single day, making zucchini, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes into noodles.

It's obvious that I'm into health, but I'm not perfect. For instance, you're supposed to eat heavier meals for breakfast and lunch, and lighter meals for dinner. But sometimes when I come home from work, I'm starving and feel the need to indulge in something comforting and carb-y. This spiralizer has solved my problems. I can now enjoy "pasta" as much as a I want, and I can rest easy knowing I'm only eating vegetables! Generally for dinner, I start off with a protein like fish or bean salad, and then eat my noodles. It fills me up if I eat one or two whole vegetables as noodles, and I feel so light and clean afterwards.

The spiralizer comes with different sized blades, so it can also be used to make thicker fettucine-like pasta, and even curly fries for those who aren't as health conscious. It also can be used to make sweet dishes. I've used the sweet potato noodles and sauteed them in coconut oil, cinnamon and pure maple syrup to make a sweet, but nutritious breakfast treat.

Here are some of my concoctions below:


Some health benefits of zucchini: 
  • Dietary fiber
  • Folate, which helps your metabolism as well as cell growth
  • Magnesium, which keeps your bones and heart healthy
  • Low calorie (one cup of zucchini is about 36 calories, vs one cup of spaghetti which is about 220 calories)
  • Helps lower cholesterol
  • Vitamin C & A help fight cancer and are anti-inflammatory agents

Zucchini Noodles With Pesto & Roasted Tomatoes

1-2 zucchinis (depending how big they are/how hungry you are)
5-7 cherry or grape tomatoes

For pesto:
1/8 cup olive oil (very approximate)
Juice of one small lemon
1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 cup of basil (approximate)
optional: avocado

1. Place tomatoes on aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil. Roast the tomatoes at 425 degrees for about 20-25 minutes. 
2. Prepare the pesto by combining chopped basil, chopped garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil in a blender. If you have the Vitamix or other high-powered blender, then there's no need to pre-chop. If you are finding that the pesto isn't smooth enough to blend, try adding avocado for creaminess (about 1/4 to 1/2 of an avocado).
3. Once pesto is prepared, spiralize the vegetable using your Paderno spiralizer. Inspiralized has a great instructional here.
4. Heat some olive oil on a pan on low to medium heat. Add the zucchini noodles and cook for a few minutes until soft. Add in the pesto and roasted tomatoes and enjoy!

Butternut Squash

Some health benefits of butternut squash:
  • Dietary fiber
  • High levels of vitamin A
  • Lots of B vitamins
  • High in minerals
  • Vitamin C
  • Helps regulate blood sugar
Butternut Squash Noodles With Sweet Potato & Greens

1 butternut squash
Handful of grape tomatoes
1/4 white or yellow onion
1/4-1/2 sweet potato, microwaved or baked until soft
1 cup shredded collard greens
1-2 cloves of garlic
Olive oil

1. Chop onions, garlic, and tomatoes. 
2. Peel the butternut squash. Chop the bulby part of the squash and put it aside. Use the other part to spiralize (good instructions here). 
3. Heat olive oil in pan. Add butternut squash and cook for a few minutes, then add rest of ingredients, except the sweet potato. Cook the mixture for a few more minutes until everything is cooked. If it is taking awhile for the butternut squash noodles to cook, lower heat and cover.
4. Add already heated sweet potato once the rest is done cooking. Toss with olive oil and eat up!

Sweet Potato
(sorry for the poor quality photo)

Some health benefits of sweet potato:
  • Dietary fiber
  • Huge source of beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A
  • High in iron
  • Contains vitamin C & D to help with the immune system
  • High in potassium to help your heart function
  • Antioxidants
Sweet Potato Noodles with "Creamy" Sundried Tomato Sauce

For Sauce:
 (and again, I apologize that I don't measure things properly, so these are just estimates of amounts)
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped shallots
1 clove garlic, chopped
A few large leaves of basil
Olive Oil
White Vinegar
2 spoonfuls Greek yogurt

1-2 sweet potatoes, depending on size
1/4 white or yellow onion, chopped
Extra chopped basil & sundried tomatoes for garnish
Parmesan cheese, grated for garnish

1. Combine ingredients for sauce in blender. Taste your mix: if it feels too liquidy add more sundried tomatoes and shallots. If it feels too thick, add some white vinegar and/or Greek yogurt.
2. Peel sweet potato and cut in half. If it feels too hard to spiralize, microwave for 1 minute.
3. Heat olive oil in pan. Add sweet potato noodles and cook for about 5 minutes. If you would like, cover pan to steam noodles to soften.
4. Once noodles are soft, add sauce and toss. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and chopped basil. 

If you are looking for something more quick and simple, I would recommend starting off with zucchini with marinara sauce or sweet potato noodles with garlic, olive oil, and parmesan cheese. And please let me know if you purchase this contraption--I will be ecstatic for you!!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fall's Nutritional Superfood: Pumpkin + Recipe for Pumpkin Pesto Pasta

We all know that come October comes pumpkin everything -- from lattes to scones, to pies and bread. While it's tempting to indulge in these sweet treats, there are plenty of things you can do yourself with canned pumpkin at home without all those added sugars. Believe it or not,  pumpkin is extremely healthy, and versatile! It can be used for both sweet and savory dishes, and I personally love to use pumpkin in my dinners. I love this time of year not just because it indicates fall, because it gives me a fun autumn squash to spice up my cooking for a few months!

Why you should be eating pumpkin (besides from the fact that it tastes delicious)
  • It's filled with vitamins, including A, C, E, beta carotene, potassium, and B vitamins including folates, niacin, and B6
  • It's high in fiber (which means its going to keep you full, maintain a healthy weight, and help your digestive system)
  • It's a great source of antioxidants
So what does this all mean? It's a low calorie, mood-boosting, good-for-your-skin-and-body vegetable that should be utilized while it's in season! 

As I said before, I love making pumpkin savory. It can be a good cheese substitute for macaroni and cheese, used in a risotto, even made into a savory bread. But, it can also be made sweet. I like to add it to my oatmeal in the morning with cinnamon or blended into a pumpkin pie smoothie. This time I chose to make it into a pasta, as I had a lot of extra basil and wanted to make a pesto. I totally came up with this recipe out of my head, and I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out, but it tasted so much better than I could have imagined (and shout-out to my girls Vivian and Greer for cooking it with me!). You can always just make the pumpkin sauce or pesto on its own, but I think together they complemented each other just perfectly.

Pumpkin Pesto Pasta
(serves about 3)

Pasta: 3/4 lb brown rice pasta

For the Pesto:

2 cups basil
1 cup arugula
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 lemon (to juice)
2 large cloves of garlic
1/4 cup walnuts

For the Pumpkin Sauce:

3/4 can of pureed pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
A splash or two of white wine vinegar
1-2 large cloves of garlic
3/4 cup of onions, chopped

(Remember, all these measurements are estimates, feel free to play around to taste!)

1. Boil your water for the pasta. In the meantime, begin chopping your ingredients, but don't forget to add the pasta once the water is boiling and check on it when it's done, about 8 minutes.

2. Start chopping ingredients for the pesto. If you have a high quality blender like the Vitamix, then you can just throw everything in the blender and blend until smooth. If you don't have that amazing blender, then chop your ingredients so that it's easier to finely blend. If it's hard to get the ingredients smooth, try adding a little bit of olive oil as well as lemon.

3. Chop garlic and onions for the pumpkin sauce. Heat some olive oil over a pan, and add garlic and onions. Cook until onions are translucent, making sure to stir often so the garlic doesn't burn. Then add in the pumpkin puree and Greek yogurt, stirring until ingredients are mixed together and sauce is warm and thickened. Add a splash of white wine vinegar here and there both for flavor and consistency.

4. To serve, pour sauce over pasta and mix in. Add a spoonful of pesto on top, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and chopped walnuts to taste.

What are your favorite pumpkin recipes? The options are endless, and I'll be sure to be making more pumpkin goodness as fall continues on!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Healthy Eating Goals + Coconut Curry Lentils with Kale

Hello my fellow foodies! Once again, there has been a bit of a delay in my posts, as my life is coming together in bits and pieces. I started my full time job, and I am moving tomorrow down to a new apartment in LA! I'm glad I finally have a moment to catch my breath and take some time to write.

I'm sure you all experience this, but when life gets busy, healthy eating habits can sometimes fall by the wayside. I always try to eat well, but it can be a lot easier to succumb to bad habits when you are on the go. I decided to make a list for myself of health eating patterns I need to better adapt in order to feel my best!

1. Eat more locally sourced produce
While I've mastered the art of organic, I really want to start eating more locally sourced produce from farmer's markets. Why? For starters, food loses nutrients the more it travels, so your grocery store produce isn't going to be at its healthiest after it has taken days to hit the shelves. Additionally, many times produce grown from local farms is actually organic, as many local farmers don't use pesticides or genetically modify their plants. The reason it's not properly labeled is because they can't shell out enough money to get the official USDA organic certification. Which leads me to my third point, support small agriculture!

2. Eat less at night
This is personally a really bad habit of mine, and I don't know if it's because my stomach has been accustomed to my patterns or what, but I am inevitably hungry late at night and always crave something heavy. This is something I really want to work on curbing, by eating fruit or not eating at all!

3. Eat more Fruit
On that note, I just need to eat more fruit in general! I used to have the HUGEST sweet tooth.. it was pretty insane (ask my friends who knew me when I was younger). I wanted candy all the time. It wasn't until my sophomore year of college that I kicked the habit, and now I rarely crave sweets, if ever. Unless, that is, I start eating sweets and become addicted again (ahem, I'm looking at you Sara the enabler). I think part of my reluctance to eat a lot of fruit is that I don't want to jump on the sugar bandwagon again. But, fruit is essential and full of nutrients, and it tastes good, so I have no excuse!

4. Eat less cheese
This one is a big one for me. Cheese is my chocolate, my guilty pleasure. I seriously love cheese. But it's fatty. And through experimentation with my own body, I've come to notice that cheese doesn't make me feel that great and makes me bloated (I suspect a slight intolerance). So I've really tried to cut down on it, and I have been pretty successful, but I'm still working.

5. Get tested for allergies
While I don't suspect I have any deathly allergies, I would like to go to an allergist and see what isn't working with my body to function optimally. Food allergies can be subtle, and they can create lethargy and bad moods, among other things (and who wants that?). I only want to put things in my body that are going to make me feel good.

Everyone's list should be individual, but it's always great to what others need to do for themselves--And I would love to hear yours!

Now onto the food...This recipe is super easy, vegetarian, and really healthy! I love working with different ethnic flavors, and it's especially fun to incorporate coconut into savory dishes (especially when they're spicy!). This dish can be enjoyed plain, or over rice, quinoa, or any other grain.

Coconut Curry Lentils with Kale

Ingredients (estimates, as always):
  • 1/2 cup pre-cooked lentils
  • 1/4 white onion, chopped
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup kale
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin, unrefined coconut oil
  • 1-2 tsp curry powder
  • A splash of marinara sauce
  • 1-2 squirts of Sriracha
  • A scoop of Greek yogurt

1. Chop your onions and garlic. Heat coconut oil over pan on medium heat, and add onions and garlic. When they're almost cooked (onions starting to turn translucent), add kale and toss until wilted.

2. With the heat on low, add the marinara sauce, Greek yogurt, curry powder, and Sriracha, and mix in with the rest of ingredients. Then add the lentils, and stir until mixture is heated. 

Eat away! 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Keeping Meals Creative + Italian White Bean Orzo

Some people rely entirely on recipes when it comes to cooking dishes, but I am not one of those people. While there is nothing wrong with guidance--because let's admit it, sometimes recipes are necessary to provide that perfect balance of flavor--the joy of cooking, for me, comes from testing and creating. It's almost an artistic outlet, for times when I feel like de-stressing and taking my mind off whatever is going on in my life.

That being said, it can be easy to hit a roadblock and run out of innovative ideas, so I thought I would share the breakdown of how I personally come up with new meals. I've mentioned in a previous post what inspires me when it comes to creating, but in this post I'm going to share the thought process that goes through my mind when I think of what I want to cook for dinner.

1. First I get in touch with my senses: What type of cuisine do I feel like eating? Am I craving a specific ingredient? For instance, if I'm craving avocado, I like to think of something Mexican or Caribbean. Or if I'm craving Italian, I'll incorporate lots of tomatoes, garlic, onions, and Parmesan or Mozzarella cheese. But, sometimes my dish doesn't have a certain flavor, and I'll just start brainstorming some combinations of my own. Part of this is intuitive to me, but the more you cook, the more you start to see what goes well together.

2. Next I pick my base, the carbohydrate. Honestly, I do try to limit my intake of carbs, but I have found that most meals feel incomplete without them. Carbohydrates give you energy and keep you full, and I find them essential to my meals. My favorites:
  • Quinoa- Quinoa is great because it provides a complete protein and is easily malleable to many flavors. 
  • Brown Rice: Great for gluten free, but I try to only have brown rice once in awhile because of its high levels of arsenic
  • Whole Wheat Pasta: For when you just need that pasta fix. Sometimes I'll go with the brown rice pasta, but again, trying to avoid the arsenic intake. I've also found spelt pasta to be really good.
  • Barley: Another great, easy to cook whole grain.
3. I pick my protein. While I am not a vegetarian, I do consider myself a flexitarian, a term coined to describe people who only eat meat on occasion. I never cook red meat at home, because personally it just makes me feel sick, but I do recommend eating it once in awhile, as long as it's grassfed (which I do from time to time). Sometimes I will make chicken, and I make fish quite often (my fave!). Proteins I love:
  • Beans-- black, red, white, garbanzo, the options are endless!
  • Fish-- especially low mercury choices such as salmon and sardines
  • Eggs
  • Chicken
  • Tempeh (if there is soy in it, make sure it's organic to avoid GMOs)
  • Turkey
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Buffalo Meat (My choice of red meat)
4. Time for vegetables! I love to load my dishes with as many vegetables as possible. When in doubt, add more veggies! I usually incorporate a mix of these things:
  • Greens: Kale, arugula, spinach, chard, etc.
  • Colors: Tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, etc. 
  • Pungent flavors: onions, scallions, garlic, mushrooms, etc.
5. Many times I will also incorporate dairy in order to give my dish some moisture.
  • Greek Yogurt: great substitute for cream, mayonaise, or cheese. I always feel better using Greek yogurt over cheese because it has a higher protein content, lower fat, and is easier to digest. It also works great as a base for sauces.
  • Cheese: I like to keep Trader Joe's Low Fat Three Cheese blend on hand, as well as fat-free feta and regular ole Parmesan cheese.
6. Toppings, for that extra crunch or oomph!
  • Hemp hearts: a mild, nutty flavor packed with omega-3s (you can get these at Whole Foods or even Costco!). Love these on salads
  • Nuts: nice addition to salads or oatmeal.
  • Brewers Yeast: Adds a touch of salty flavor, and provides a good dose of necessary vitamins. Also good on salads and pasta.
  • Chia Seeds: also for salads or sweet dishes.
And now, one of my own creations, clearly inspired by Italian cuisine. I used whole wheat orzo, which looks like rice, but is actually a pasta. This dish can be served hot or also chilled to become more like a pasta salad. Check it out under the cut!

Italian White Bean Orzo

Monday, June 24, 2013

5 Quick and Easy Summer Treats

When I think summer, I think of sun, outdoor activities and light foods. It can be tempting to buy meals out, but there are so many quick, simple and healthy fresh summer foods that you can make yourself. Here are five very nutritious summer recipes that are a breeze!

1. Kelp Noodle Bowl
Great for a delicious macronutrient-filled lunch. Low in carbs and fat! 

*Kelp Noodles
*Hemp Seed

Mix mashed avocado and kale with kelp noodles. Top with squeezed lemon and hemp seed.

What you're getting: More than 70 minerals and 20 amino acids, calcium, folic acid, Vitamin C, fiber, antioxidants, potassium, healthy fats, protein.

Hint: If you're in a mad search for kelp noodles, I would check your local Whole Foods.

2. Strawberry-Mint Lemonade
Get your fix of a summery drink without all the added cane sugar! Plus, mint provides a lot of extra health benefits.

*Fresh Mint
*Squeezed Lemon
*Stevia/Agave Syrup

Blend a couple of strawberries, a few sprigs of fresh mint, one or two squeezed lemons, and about a cup of water in a blender. Taste to adjust if it's too sour, watery etc. Add sweetener as desired (I used one packet of Stevia and a splash of agave).

What you're getting: Vitamin C, antioxidants, toxin eliminator

3. Mexican Pizza
No need to run to Taco Bell with this dish!

*Tomato Sauce
*Green and White Onion

Top a tortilla with ingredients, starting with tomato sauce and cheese. Bake in the oven at 450 degrees for about 7-10 minutes.

What you're getting: Lots of vitamins, potassium, fiber, calcium, protein.

4. Avocado Egg Salad
Make egg salad low fat by taking out mayo and replacing it with avocado and Greek yogurt.

*Hard Boiled Egg
*Greek Yogurt

What you're getting: Protein, healthy fats, calcium, Vitamin C, choline, magnesium, iron

5. Greek Salad
You can't go wrong with a simple Greek salad!

*Red Onion
*Non fat Feta Cheese
*Olive Oil

What you're getting: Lots of vegetables, which means lots of vitamins, healthy fat, calcium,

Also, don't forget to check out Kale Me Maybe on Instagram and Pinterest!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Foods that Help With Stress + A Garden Veggie "Frittata"

I'm back! I've had the craziest, hectic, and most exciting past few weeks! I finally completed my senior thesis, graduated from NYU, and spent an unbelievable ten days in Israel. Now that I'm back in Los Angeles, it's pretty bittersweet. I miss New York, but I'm enjoying the more laid back lifestyle of California. Going to Israel was an amazing graduation treat, and now I'm absolutely hit with the travel bug again!

Things are beginning to calm down, but at the same time, life is a bit crazy. I'm sure I'll be managing a lot of my post-graduate stress by taking some time for myself and cooking (and I'll post it all for you to see!). But, I figured I'm not alone in the chaos of trying to figure out what I'm doing with my life. I thought this would be a good time to talk about foods that can help with stress, especially since this was a large part of my senior thesis on nutritional therapy for anxiety and depression--which, by the way, is fully complete if anyone is interested in reading.

I have previously posted the power of food and mood in my post about Brain Boosters, but now is a good time to focus on what foods help alleviate stress. Many people don't realize that the foods we consume greatly affect our overall mood. To put it VERY simply, healthy foods are the best for your mood, obviously. But there are some other foods that surprisingly play a large role in mood regulation, such as animal proteins.

If you are interested in this field, I would highly recommend reading The Mood Cure by Julia Ross. This book, recommended to me by my friend Brooke, is what inspired me to write my senior thesis, and almost every person I interviewed for my piece was inspired by this book and Ross's findings. The book explains how you can overcome anxiety and depression simply by changing your diet. And while you may be skeptical, you might be surprised on the amount of scientific and psychological research that supports this. I spent a year writing and reporting about this subject, and I can tell you, I'm pretty convinced.

Anyway, for those of us who are beginning to get a little bit stressed out over the big changes in life, I would recommend eating these foods to help make your life a little easier:

  • Animal protein, especially beef, turkey, chicken, fish and eggs: The tryptophan found in animal protein converts into serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for feeling pleasant. And fish are high in omega-3s, which have been proven to boost mood. Remember-- it's important to eat organic, free range, and grass-fed meat whenever possible!
  • Seaweed: The high amount of minerals and nutrients present in seaweed is helpful for when your body is depleted after continuous stress.
  • Whole Grains/Complex Carbohydrates: Bust out the whole wheat pasta, quinoa, or brown rice! Like meats, complex carbohydrates boost serotonin levels to help calm you down.
  • Berries: Berries replete the body with all the vitamins you lost when you were freaking out!
  • Almonds: Almonds help lower your blood pressure to help your body from going too crazy.
  • Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolate has been proven to reduce stress hormone levels. 
Maybe even combine a few power stress relievers.. I'm thinking some Greek yogurt with berries, almonds and dark chocolate shavings. 

In the end, if you are eating well, it will help you cope with stress. Fill up on those fruits and veggies! 

In the spirit of veggies, here is a recipe for a delicious egg I made a month or two ago that I couldn't get over. I have to have eggs for breakfast, so I love to try tons of combinations. I fell in love with all the different textures of this "frittata." I call it a "frittata"in quotes because you actually don't need to stick it in the oven like a typical frittata, which actually makes it a bit easier. 

I'd like to remind everyone, in case anyone forgot, that when I cook I don't really measure. It's all about what you like and experimentation, so I always estimate when I write out the ingredients. 

Garden Veggie "Frittata"

2 eggs, beaten (plus egg beaters if needed)
6 or so grape tomatoes, chopped
1/4 avocado
2 green onions, chopped
Handful of cilantro, chopped
1/4 medium onion, chopped
Handful of shaved brussels sprouts
1/2 cup of kale
Handful of nonfat feta cheese
1/2 lemon, to squeeze

1. Sautee chopped onion, brussels sprouts, and kale in a pan until onions are translucent and slightly browned. Brussels sprouts should be soft, and the kale should be wilted.

2. Spread vegetables so they are even across the pan. Lower the flame, and pour eggs over the vegetables evenly. Keep the heat low and give the eggs about 5 minutes to cook thoroughly. Lift and tilt pan to distribute runny egg if necessary. 

3. Once the egg is cooked, top with your remaining ingredients (tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, green onion, and feta cheese). Squeeze lemon on top for extra zest. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What Are Superfoods? + Simple Salads

Load up on superfoods with these easy, healthy salad.

Sorry for the hiatus! It has been awhile, but I have a good reason for not writing: I finished college! I officially finished my thesis about a week ago, and I will be graduating next Tuesday and Wednesday. Insane! I've been busier than I thought I would be, finishing up with my work at the elementary school as well as my internship at CityEats, so I haven't had a solid amount of time to sit down and write. Now that my schedule is a little calmer, I can finally catch up on posts and start sharing all the goodies I have been cooking.

Today's post will cover the foods that everyone should be eating: superfoods. I'm sure you've heard of the term before, and while there isn't exactly a concrete definition, superfoods are foods that are highly nutritious, filled with tons of positive health benefits and very few, if any, negative properties. These are the foods that are going to aid in your overall health, help you live longer, and make you feel better--probably even help you lose weight. These fruits, vegetables, and select grains are lower in calories, but provide a heavy dose of essential nutrients and antioxidants.

So, which foods are superfoods? Here's a list of some of the most powerful things to put in our mouths
  • Fruits:
    • Apples
    • Avocado
    • Bananas
    • Blueberries
    • Brussels Sprouts
    • Carrots
    • Cauliflower
    • Cherries
    • Kiwi
    • Lemon
    • Oranges
    • Pomegranates
    • Pumpkin
  • Vegetables:
    • Artichokes
    • Bell Peppers
    • Broccoli
    • Kale
    • Mushrooms
    • Onions
    • Spinach
    • Sweet Potatoes
    • Tomatoes
  • Grains and Legumes:
    • Beans
    • Lentils
    • Oats
    • Quinoa
  • Animal Products:
    • Turkey
    • Wild Salmon
  • Other:
    • Chia Seeds
    • Cinnamon
    • Dark Chocolate
    • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    • Flax
    • Garlic
    • Tea
    • Walnuts
    • Yogurt
Now if you are into health, I'm sure you incorporate a lot of these foods into your diet without even realizing. As you can see, if you are eating a fruit or vegetable, it's probably safe to say it's a superfood. All of my recipes on this site include--at the very least--one superfood. It shouldn't be hard for you to find ways to add them into your meals. Toss a little bit of olive oil on some veggies, in a salad, on an egg. Eat a piece of dark chocolate everyday (remember, 70% or higher!). Eat an apple in the morning.

Be creative... or make the salad (below) that I made a few weeks ago!

It's really easy to cram a ton of superfoods together, as there is such a good balance of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and carbs. The salad I created can be made in two ways. In the first version, the green superfood salad is probably best as a side. In the second version, I added in a lot of protein and even more superfoods, and I was actually really surprised at how well the flavors worked together, since there were a lot of flavors! I would definitely go for the full salad, but hey, sometimes we aren't all that hungry!  


 Version 1: Green Superfood Salad

Brussels sprouts
Green onion

Version 2: Super Superfoods Salad

In addition to the ingredients in version 1:

Sundried tomato
Pomegranate seeds
Feta cheese
Chia seeds
Chick peas
Cooked sweet potato

Dressing: Balsamic vinegar & olive oil
Optional topping: Brewer's yeast for extra vitamins and a savory crunch

This salad was very filling, but left me feeling light and refreshed. Perfect for summer!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Cooking Inspiration + Spring Risotto with Ramps and Pan-Seared Scallops

People always ask me how I learned how to cook, and I have found that I don't really have an easy answer. Sure, I watched my mom and my grandma cook, enjoyed programs on the Food Network, and followed some recipes here and there, but that's not really how I learned.

For me, the pairing of flavors, choices of textures, and addition of spices is innate. I'd like to say once you start cooking, you'll have it all figured out, but I can't say that for everyone. But what I can say is that you'll start to learn, and if you're like me, you'll start to take inspiration from recipes. While I am not too fond of following recipes ingredient by ingredient, or by exact amount, I do love to get inspiration from other people's creations, and this comes from reading, watching, and experimenting (and also eating).

While it's easier for me to make dishes on my own now, there was a time when I wasn't so confident and needed some guidance. So I thought it would be a nice idea for me to share my favorite food sites to give you all a taste of what inspires me and what hopefully will inspire you.

Food Sites:
  • Food Gawker- Great for healthy and non-healthy food alike. I like to click the healthy tag, but I also like to type in an ingredient I have and browse all the recipes that include it. The site also redirects you to the blog the recipe originated from, so it's great for discovering new blogs. 
  • Pinterest- Love scrolling through the food section here. Just repin or click like to save!
  • Health Magazine- One of my favorite magazines, with great healthy tidbits and recipes.
Feel free to comment some of your favorites! I'd love to hear.

Today I've also included a dish featuring some in-season, spring produce, featuring ramps! For those of you who don't know, ramps are part of the onion and leek family, and they have a flavor similar to garlic. Restaurants on the East Coast go crazy for them when ramp season rolls around, and the demand is high as they are only available in the spring. On my way home through the Union Square Greenmarket a few days ago,  I grabbed some while they were still available, and thank goodness I did because they don't disappoint!

 Spring Risotto with Ramps and Pan-Seared Scallops

1/2 cup uncooked barley
1 1/2 cup chicken broth or water
3-4 small stalks of asparagus
3-4 white button mushrooms
4-5 ramps
1/4-1/2 cup onions, chopped
1 clove of garlic
3 scallops
Splash of olive oil
1/2 lemon
Parmesan cheese

1. Start cooking the barley in a small pot. Follow instructions on the package, but in general use 3 cups of liquid to 1 cup of barley. Boil, and then simmer for around 40 minutes.

2. Chop your vegetables. Trim the end of the ramps, but leave the rest intact. Finely chop the garlic. 

3. In a pan, heat up some olive oil and sauté vegetables and garlic, but not the ramps. When finished, add to the barley, which should be almost cooked.

4. Sauté the ramps for 2 minutes.

5. At this point the risotto should be close to done. I set my ramps on the plate because they were done before, but when barley mix is cooked, top with the ramps. 

6. Heat up a tiny bit more of olive oil for the scallops. Cook about 2-3 minutes on each side. 

7. Add scallops atop the barley and ramps.

8. Squeeze lemon and grate Parmesan cheese to taste. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Diets Debunked + Healthy Chicken Salad

This semester has been a whirlwind! It's my final semester before I graduate in May, and I am now knee deep in writing my senior thesis on nutritional therapy for anxiety and depression. That's where most of my time is going into now, and although I still have some time to cook and write for fun, it's not as much as I would like!

This week I thought I would focus on different well-known diets, as there always seems to be a new popular craze that's supposedly the miracle cure. I have also been thinking a lot about diets in general, as it is the focus of my thesis. I've broken down the pros and the cons for you of some of the most recent diet fads, and I also have included a really easy chicken salad recipe that has no mayo or bad fats in it.

What is it: No gluten is allowed in this diet, which means no wheat, barley, rye etc., as well as some oats.

Pros: Less carbohydrates, better digestion for some, more stable moods for some, emphasis on protein and produce

Cons: Lacking in fiber and certain nutrients, inconvenient, expensive

Should you do it? Only if you have a gluten intolerance or Celiac's disease. It's not healthy to completely cut out gluten if you have no reason to. It's okay to simply cut down on wheat products, but consult a doctor before giving up gluten entirely.

What is it: The diet of our ancestors, which includes fish, grass-fed meats, eggs, fruits, vegetables, funghi roots and nuts. You cannot have legumes (beans, etc.), dairy products, potatoes, refined salts or sugars, processed oils and alcohol.

Pros: Weight loss, improved mood, clean eating, lots of protein and Omega-3s

Cons: Loss of important nutrients from legumes and whole grains, which have been proven to reduce risk of disease, too much animal protein, eliminates whole food groups, the life expectancy of our ancestors was only 35 years

Should you do it? The Paleo diet isn't considered a healthy, balanced diet by nutritionists because it takes out the nutrients from certain key food groups. However, if you are overweight or feeling depressed, the Paleo diet has been known to help people with losing weight and greatly improve their mood. This diet might be better for the short term to get you started with healthy eating, as the diet encourages many healthy habits.

What is it: Low carbohydrates, high protein.

Pros: Eliminates refined carbs, weight loss, don't feel hungry,

Cons: Toxin overload due to speed of fat burning, not enough energy (causes fatigue), dehydration

Should you do it? If you eat poorly, eat a lot of refined carbs or need to lose a significant amount of weight, then Atkins may work for you. Everyone else needs a balanced amount of carbohydrates for fiber and enough energy during the day.

Juice Cleanse:
What is it: Exactly what it sounds...replacing meals with juices! Some cleanses are healthier than others, like ones primarily made from greens or nuts, and others are not as good, such as ones that are mainly fruit, or honey and water.

Pros: Reduces acidity in the body, lose a few pounds, easy on digestive system, increased energy for some

Cons: Improper nutrients, lack of crucial fats and proteins, mood swings, hunger, irritability, loss of focus

Should you do it? If it is only for a day or two, a juice cleanse is okay as it cleans out your system. However, you aren't eating a proper, balanced diet, and people who do the cleanse often have a hard time focusing or feel cranky and starved. If you're looking to lose weight, skip it, as the weight will undoubtedly come back once you return to solid foods.

What is it: The typical diet in Mediterranean countries, which includes fruits, nuts, vegetables, legumes, olive oils, cereals and fish, with minimal intake of dairy products and meat, and a moderate intake of alcohol, usually red wine.

Pros: Decreased risk of depression, better heart health, weight loss, low blood pressure and cholesterol,  protection against diabetes and Alzheimers, can still drink alcohol

Cons: Too much fish can equal too much mercury, high in fats (albeit healthy ones), alcohol can adversely affect some

Should you do it? Generally, yes! The Mediterranean diet has been proven to be the healthiest overall diet, for both your mind and your body. However, if you have problems with portion control, you have to be careful with your intakes of foods like nuts and olive oils, as they are high in fat.

Spicy Avocado Chicken Salad

1 boneless skinless chicken breast
1/4 to 1/2 of an avocado, depending on size
Handful of arugula
1/2 cup Greek Yogurt
1/4-1/2 cup salsa
1/2 Lemon
Sriracha, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook chicken for about 15-20 minutes, or until cooked thoroughly.

2. While chicken is cooking, finely chop the cilantro and arugula.

3. When chicken is ready, shred into pieces. Top with avocado, Greek yogurt and salsa. Mix in thoroughly. 

4. Sprinkle cilantro and arugula on top. Squeeze lemon over mixture. Add Sriracha to attain desired spiciness. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Good Foods with Bad Raps + Linguine with Clams

Overtime, new studies find that some foods we thought were bad for us are actually more beneficial than harmful, but sometimes it's hard to shake the negative stigma attached to these foods. These 5 foods have been studied extensively, and new research is showing that there are more positive health benefits than negative, and it is encouraged to eat them.

1. Eggs: Eggs were shunned for a long time because of their high amount of cholesterol, but recent research has shown that eggs have no effect on heart disease for those with normal cholesterol levels. Eggs are high in protein and other essential vitamins and are extremely versatile to cook with.

When to avoid: If you're someone who already has high cholesterol, than you should watch your intake of eggs. If you don't have any cholesterol issues, than there's no need to worry, and you can even have more than one egg a day.

2. Avocados: Avocados are a source of good fat that actually help you lose weight. They are filled with vitamins and are good for your skin, and they help you absorb more of the carotenoids in salsas and salads.

When to avoid: Unless you are making it yourself, steer clear of most guacamoles, as many are made with heavy sour creams or oils.

3. Chocolate: Some of the benefits of cocoa: source of antioxidants, cuts down risk of heart disease, helps you lose weight, and boosts mood.

When to avoid: Try to go for dark chocolate 70% or higher to get the full benefits from the cocoa. Milk chocolate is filled with sugar and cream, and that's the kind of chocolate you should limit.

4. Nuts/Coconut: Nuts and coconuts are known for being fatty, but like avocados, the fat in nuts and coconuts is good fat and will help you lose weight. Nuts and coconuts also help your heart and provide you with omega 3s and other important nutrients.

When to avoid: If you're eating something like coconut oil, only get unrefined virgin coconut oil. For nuts, avoid nut butter brands like Jiff's and Skippys because they contain ingredients like hydrogenated oils and corn syrup. Your ingredients should be pure, but for both butters and nuts, enjoy in moderation.

5. Coffee: Recent studies are now showing that coffee lowers your risk of many diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

When to avoid: Those who are prone to nervousness and anxiety should avoid coffee, as it is a stimulant that can exacerbate anxiety. Also avoid specialty drinks that are filled with cream and sugar. 

Healthy Linguine with Clams

I made this dish the other day when I was really stressed out. Although it may seem counterintuitive, cooking when I'm really overwhelmed calms me down. I set out to the grocery store unsure what I wanted to purchase, but I knew I wanted to make something I don't normally cook. I picked up some fresh basil and some sun-dried tomatoes, and then I thought "Why not make a fancy Italian pasta dish?" So, I added some canned clams to my grocery basket and set home to cook my meal.

 This dish came out way better than I expected. In fact, it was probably one of the best pasta dishes I have ever cooked, and I have cooked a lot of pasta before. I posted my picture on Instagram and got a lot of attention for it, so I figured I would post the recipe here. It's a good start for beginners, but it will be sure to impress. 

Whole Grain Linguine (about 1/6 of the box)
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
5 leaves of basil, chopped
1/4 medium onion, chopped
4 large sun-dried tomato pieces, cut smaller
1/2 small can of clams
Olive oil to cook with and to drizzle on top (your discretion, use minimally)
Shredded parmesan cheese, to taste

(and remember, my measurements are always approximate, since I just throw things in when I cook)

1. Start boiling the water for your linguine. In the meantime, chop your garlic, basil, onions and sun-dried tomatoes.

2. Once the water is boiling, put in your pasta and cook for about 8 minutes. While the pasta is cooking, heat up a pan with olive oil and sauté all the ingredients except the basil.  Once the onions are almost translucent, toss in the basil.

3. Drain pasta when ready. Add the linguine to the pan with the rest of your ingredients. Add a small amount of olive oil and the clams and toss together. Top with parmesan cheese as desired. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Good Fats vs. Bad Fats + Lemon Parmesan Salmon

Good Fats vs. Bad Fats

Hearing the word fat might conjure up some negative connotations. For the longest time, everyone was taught to stay away from all fats. However, recent research has show that eating the right kinds of fats are necessary for both optimal health and functioning and even weight loss. All things in moderation still holds true for good fats, but what's important is that you are eating the right kind and ditching the bad.

Unsaturated fats are the kind of fats you should be eating. These types of fats actually lower your bad cholesterol (LDL) and boost the good kind (HDL). Unsaturated fats help prevent disease, support your brain functioning, and lower blood pressure.

Good fats are found in:
  • coldwater fish (like salmon, tuna, sardines)
  • nuts and seeds
  • oils (like olive, flax and other vegetable oils)
  • avocado
  • dark leafy greens. 
Most of these good fats contain omega-3s, which are essential fatty acids. This means our body can't produce the fatty acid on its own, so it needs to derive it from natural foods.

Saturated fats, on the other hand, are the fats you shouldn't be eating. These are the fats that will cause weight gain, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. 

Fats to avoid high intake of include:
  • Dairy (like cream and cheese)
  • Animal fat (like meats)
Cutting these fats out completely isn't necessary though, because some saturated fats are needed in our diet. For instance, coconut oil, which is a saturated fat, has been shown to lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol. Again, it's all things in moderation. 

The worst type of fat for you, which should be avoided as much as possible, is trans fat, also known as hydrogenated fat. These fats are created when liquid vegetable oils are converted into solid fats via a hydrogenation process. Trans fats lower good cholesterol and raise bad cholesterol. These fats are really common in processed foods, and you have to check the label for "hydrogenated oil" to see if what you are eating has trans fat. If it's an ingredient on the label, toss it. A lot of foods from your regular supermarket have trans fat, especially most junk food, or anything that seems processed. 

Before we get to the fish recipe, I just wanted to take a quick moment to talk about low-fat products. It seems like it would make a lot of sense to eat low-fat products to minimize intake of saturated fats. However, the problem with low-fat foods is that when they remove the fat, they replace it with more sugar or salt and sometimes unhealthy chemicals. It also can result in increased calories. 

So, go for the full fat or low-fat version? I'd say pay attention to labels, and try to keep intake of both low. 

In the spirit of healthy fats, here is a really simple recipe for salmon, a food high in omega-3s. Ironically, I put cheese on top of this dish, but a little bit of grated cheese will go a long way! 

Lemon Parmesan-Crusted Salmon


Wild Salmon
2 Garlic cloves
1/2 Lemon
Parmesan cheese grated, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Chop garlic and spread over salmon.

3. Squeeze half of the lemon half over the fish.

4. Spread grated parmesan cheese over salmon.

5. Squeeze the rest of the lemon over the cheese-covered salmon.

6. Bake for about 10-15 minutes (or less if you have a strong oven), until cheese starts to bubble and turn golden. Fish should be flaky.

Add lemon, to taste, if desired.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"Healthy Foods" + Mexican Quinoa Salad

Sorry for the time off between posts! I've still been cooking, but it was a busy and eventful winter break, and I was unable to write due to an unfortunate passing in the family and a lot of travel. However, I'm back in New York now, and I will be jumping right into my usual routine of cooking and writing frequently.

I decided to write today's posts on fake healthy food products and what to watch out for on nutrition labels. There are a lot of items for sale that advertise themselves as healthy or good for you, but a lot of the time they are processed or full of sugars and additives, making them not-so-healthy. It's really important to check labels before purchasing, and here are some of the things you should look out for when grocery shopping.

Added sugars: These include plain sugar, high fructose corn syrup, fructose, sucrose etc. These refined sweeteners are bad for your cholesterol, cause weight gain, and cause degradation to your body. Especially avoid high fructose corn syrup.

Sugar Substitutes: Products that say sugar-free generally include replacements like aspartame, which are carcinogenic. They also have a plethora of other side effects, including emotional disorders, tumors and diseases. Most of the time, sugar-free is the worse way to go because it is more unnatural. Avoid added sugar if you can, but definitely avoid sugar substitutes at all costs.

Hydrogenated Oils: These are oils that have been converted to become more stable and last longer. However, the fatty acids in these oils then change from being the healthy, unsaturated fats to the dangerous trans fat, which are even worse for you than saturated fats. Hydrogenated oils cause obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Hydrogenated oils are very common, so look closely before buying.

Sodium Nitrites/Nitrates: Found commonly in lunch meats and hot dogs, nitrites and nitrates are used as preservatives, but they are very carcinogenic. You'd be surprised how often meats contain nitrites and nitrates, so look carefully on the label, and go for organic brands like Applegate for luncheon meats to avoid these chemicals.

MSG (Monosodium Glutamate): I'm sure you've all heard about Chinese food being filled with MSG, but it can also be found in soups, chips and frozen foods, as well as other restaurant entrees. MSG is bad for your weight as well as your brain, as it can cause both obesity and neurological damage.

Food dyes: Dyes like Red #3 and #40, Yellow #6, and Blue #1 and #2 are linked to behavioral problems as well as cancer. I would avoid any unnatural dyes because they really do nothing for you other than stain your food.

Foods like cereals, bars, meats and many prepackaged goods contain these additives, so look out! It took me a really long time to realize the dangers involved, although my mom and grandma have been on this for year. It's very easy and possible to find foods that don't contain these ingredients, but it just requires an awareness on your part.

Now onto to the good stuff! This is an easy recipe that includes whole grains as well as protein. It's vegetarian, but chicken can be added for those who want extra protein. It can also be made vegan by removing the cheese.

Mexican Inspired Quinoa Salad

1/2 cup quinoa
Black beans
A handful of grape tomatoes
2 green onions
Low-fat cheddar blend

Red peppers
Garlic Powder
Red chili flakes

1. Cook the quinoa ahead of time, in order to let it cool. For more flavor, cook in chicken or vegetable broth instead of water. Let sit or refrigerate to cool the quinoa down.

2. Chop the tomatoes, green onions and cilantro and mix in with the quinoa.

3. Mix in beans and top with cheese and avocado. Squeeze lemon on top and sprinkle on any optional seasonings. Mix in and enjoy!