Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Big Breakfast

Waking up to a beautiful Sunday morning, I grabbed my sunglasses, the July issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine and my dog, and headed to the backyard for a little morning sunshine. While reading the Better Health section, I learned several tips for a better start to your day. I am a chronic over-sleeping, trying to get every last minute of being curled up in bed as possible. This leaves me little time for excess activities, including breakfast at home. I usually bring something to work and don't eat until around 10 or 11. One of the tips in this month's magazine was to eat a filling breakfast. A study found that dieting women who ate a 610 calorie breakfast (compared to those who ate 290) had lost about 40 pounds each. The eaters of the light breakfast only lost around 10 pounds each. For the record, I'm not on a major pound-shedding mission, but I do like to make sure I'm choosing the healthier options for meals and giving my body what it needs, when it needs it. So this morning, it was a big breakfast for me when I came back inside!

What I Made:
  • A glass of water when waking up
  • 1 cup of Equal Exchange (fair trade) Tanzanian Jubilee coffee with organic 1/2 and 1/2
  • 1 hearty grains English muffin with Smart Balance
  • 4 large strawberries, sliced
  • 2-egg omelet (eggs from free range, vegetarian fed chickens), with diced sweet red pepper and a little bit of colby-jack cheese. Instead of cooking spray, I melted a little soy margarine in the bottom of the pan for a no-stick option.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Pizza Frites

My mom has been making pizza frites for as long as I can remember, and I was always excited when we were having them for dinner. What's not to love? It's fried dough and cheese! Any time I've shared these with people, they've begged for more...there's just something about them!

What You Need:
  • Dough (If you make your own, make a basic pizza dough. If you purchase ready-made dough either buy ready-to-use pizza dough or rising dough).
  • Mozzarella cheese ( I found hormone-free local cheese)
  • Cooking Oil (I like Smart Balance Omega)
  • Salt (optional)
  • Sauce (optional - any type of Italian sauce - marinara, pesto, etc.)
What You Do:
  • Let your dough rise if necessary. I used a ready-to-use pizza dough from a local Italian shop, so I just began pulling off pieces of dough about the size of a deck of cards or smaller.
  • Add just enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan and put it on the burner to get hot.
  • Stretch the piece of dough and either drop it in the oil plain or add a thin piece of mozz, fold the dough over, and drop it in the oil.
  • Let each side lightly brown and then remove from oil. It's best to put a paper towel on a plate and put the pizza frites on the towel to drain. If you want, lightly sprinkle with salt, but the cheese will add a but of saltiness so be careful not to overdo it!
  • Prepare sauce for dipping if you want.

Friday, July 17, 2009

They're Here!

In my rooftop garden (I opted out of the shared in-ground veggie garden with the neighbors this year) is one of my favorite summertime treats - heirloom yellow pear tomatoes. When I first potted this plant, I added a little bit of worm castings as a 100% natural and chemical-free fertilizer, and since then I have been periodically adding coffee grounds. The tomato (and all the other) plants are doing great! Over the past couple of days I saw that a handful of the sweet little tomatoes were just about ready to be picked. It's salad time!

Believe it or not, I have never purchased a salad spinner, so before dinner tonight I went to the co-op and bought one. I don't think it's quite the most durably made kitchen accessory, but when making salad for one, it'll do. I wanted my usual salad greens, but the bin was empty...everyone else must be getting goodies from their gardens too :) Instead I picked up some romaine and I also bought a sweet red pepper. I already had carrots and raw sunflower seeds at home. I wanted a rainbow of a salad - the more colors, the more varied nutrients and phytochemicals! Unfortunately, once I made my salad (with all of the above and drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette), I was so ready to goggle it up that I got half way through before I remembered that I wanted to take a picture...oops!

So instead, here are a few of the tomatoes :)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Italian Market Meal

This is one of my favorite places to visit in my city. During the early part of spring, my neighbors and I would come here and we'd each buy something to contribute to a big "family" dinner. The day would start early - around 11. We'd stop at our favorite coffee shop for something warm to wake us up, and then hit the streets in search of the perfect goods. In the Italian Market there are shops that specialize in meats, cheeses, pasta, desserts, fish...whatever you can think of, there is a shop for it. All along the sidewalks are open-air produce stands for those extras you might need - basil, onion, tomato - to make the perfect meal. We'd do our shopping, come home for "work hours" which often became nap time, start our meal and carry on late into the night.

It's always fun to find the cultural hub of your community, if you're lucky enough to have one. Different regions of the country are associated with different cultures. Don't get stuck in Wonderbread Land - see what everyone else has to offer! You can meet a lot of great people with interesting stories in some of these little markets. You'll also find some gems as far as the perfect place to buy the perfect whatever it is you are looking for. Embrace it!

Today I was in the mood for something lighter, and I've been craving cannolis for a couple weeks - I haven't had one in months! My neighbor Nick and I headed down to the market and picked up goods for this meal: cheese ravioli, gnocchi and caprese salad. Mmm. The ravioli and gnocchi were from a local pasta shop where it's made fresh. I took care of the caprese salad with fresh mozzarella and basil from the garden, and Nick made the pesto. Everything was delicious and instead of going with wine or some other traditional drink, we complemented it with my fresh lemonade - perfect for a sunny, almost summer afternoon. With a meal like this, you're supporting local businesses and since all the other foods were in season, local farms.

perfect summer salad

What you Need:

  • Mixed greens
  • Sprouts - any type, I used garden
  • Walnuts (or pine nuts, sunflower seeds, soy nuts, etc.)
  • Raspberries
  • Apple (pink lady is nice and sweet)
  • Cheese (fresh mozz is my favorite)
  • Vinaigrette (raspberry pomegranate is my #1)
What you Do:
  • Mix it up

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Please don't super size me

As health conscious as I have always been, and as much as I educate myself about healthy living - be it food, cleaning products, etc. - I have yet to watch the movie Super Size Me. That changed tonight.

A month or so ago I canceled my cable. I was wasting too much time with the TV on - sometimes without even paying attention to it or having a purpose. My local library is now closed on weekends (thanks, economy) and I was unable to check out the books I wanted to get today. I visited the site Hulu (a site where you can watch TV shows and movies for free) and when I was looking through the list of movies to watch, Super Size Me was near the top of the list for most popular movies.

This movie was SHOCKING. I knew the basic idea of the movie prior to watching, but the numbers revealed were blowing my mind. The creator, Morgan, ate only foods served at McDonald's for a total of 30 days. Over the course of that time he had noticeable health problems, gained weight and learned a lot about the issues surrounding food in our country.

I've always been interested in the type of information revealed in this film. At some point during college (I am 25 now), I was reading a book about food issues - it might have been Fast Food Nation or Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating. My mom asked my why I do that to myself. By "that," she was referring to torturing myself with information about (basically) how disgusting the food system has become in the USA. Why? Because I'd rather know than die.

It hasn't been until the past few years as I was learning about all of these food related issues in college (I studied marine and environmental science) and also by my own exploration, that I began realizing how different the eating habits of my life were from my peers. My mom never fried anything she cooked, and I didn't eat processed foods. I recall stopping at an Arby's during a road trip with my grandpa and getting one of the standard roast beef sandwiches with cheese. I almost threw up because of the oily cheese, something my stomach had never known. Where I lived, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, there were two farm stands we frequented to get our fruits and vegetables during the local growing season. They were owned by two brothers - Joe and Eddy. Joe worked at the original Tarheel Produce stand in Currituck, on the mainland, and he could tell you where every single type of produce he was selling came from, who the farmer was, how long it would be in season and pretty much anything else you wanted to know. What does that boil down to? Everything I was eating was local and in season. Little did I know how rare that would become. Before a day at the beach, we'd stop at Eddy's stand, which was on the barrier island, and pick up fresh peaches, green beans and other munchies for the day.

Today I am so thankful for those experiences and have certainly been influenced by them when it comes to my choices. I've learned about the 100 mile diet - only eating foods that are grown within a 100 mile radius of you; about eating organically and why it's good for your body and the earth; about using household products that are as gentle as possible on the earth and our water systems when they go down our drains; and much, much more.

Thank you to those of you who read this blog. I began it as the place to post recipes, since several of my friends were asking me for healthy dinner ideas. I also want to use this space to integrate my green lifestyle and share that information with others. No matter where you stand in this "green revolution" we are finding ourselves in, and no matter how long you ride that wave, we cannot have healthy foods if we do not have a healthy earth. People are the only living creatures that are capable of making the choice to, well, make better choices. So if you aren't already, I hope that maybe you'll begin and that I can provide you with a little bit of education along the way.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Summertime Staple: Fresh-squeezed Lemonade

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. It's quick, easy and refreshing. Forget about those "lemonade" mixes with all the unnecessary extra ingredients!

What you need:
  • 2-qt pitcher
  • 2 lemons
  • Filtered water
What you do:
  • Cut both lemons in half and use a hand juicer to juice all 4 lemon halves.
  • Pour the juice into your pitcher, and fill with filtered water.
  • No sugar necessary, but maybe I should warn you that I love tart and sour flavors. If you do use sugar, try Florida Crystals Natural Cane Sugar for a healthier option.

Friday, July 3, 2009

steamed veggies, quinoa and chicken

This was a really tasty, well-balanced meal (well, probably a little heavy on the protein with the quinoa and chicken). But it was good!

What you need:
  • Veggies of your choice (1 yellow squash and ~1/2 a large carrot for me)
  • Quinoa (I mixed organic white and heirloom red)
  • Chicken (free range, vegetarian fed)
  • Choice of marinade or seasoning for the chicken
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Butter (soy margarine for me)
  • Salt
What you do:
  • If you want to marinate the chicken, prepare this in the morning so that the flavor has all day to soak into the thawed chicken and it will be ready to use by dinner time. Leave it in the fridge.
  • Start your quinoa first since it will take the longest. Follow directions on package, which should be 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water. Cover and cook until tender.
  • Clean and cut your veggies and place in oven-safe dish with minced garlic, a little butter (either cube or shave it - make sure to place in various areas of the dish so it covers all veggies when it melts) and a sprinkle of salt. Cover it with foil and place in the oven. I set the oven to 400 and steamed them for ~15 minutes.
  • After the quinoa and veggies have been started for 5-10 minutes, prepare the chicken. Put a skillet on the burner and turn on to let it heat. While this is happening, season your chicken or take it out of the marinade. After the pan is hot, add a bit of EVOO, then put the chicken in. Cook thoroughly on both sides and use a lid or splatter screen if necessary.
  • When all parts of the meal are cooked, make a bed of quinoa and add veggies and/or chicken on top.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

bean sprouts!

I love sprouts - bean, alfalfa, broccoli and others. They're delicious on salads, in sandwiches or even just to snack on (ok well...the bigger bean sprouts are, at least). I have a large, empty applesauce jar that i've washed and had sitting on my counter and started thinking about sprouting some sunflower seeds. Unfortunately, I was not able to find raw sunflower seeds in either of the stores I went to last weekend. What I did find, was a bag of mung beans. The only sprouter kit I found was pretty pricey - almost $30 - and I was too impatient to order a cheaper version online, so what does a thrifty girl do? Improvise!

I purchased a 5-cup Rubbermaid Produce Saver container, because they have a little slotted tray that rests in the bottom of the container to keep your produce elevated for airflow. The lid also has a couple of vents on the side. Mung beans should be sprouted in a bottom draining container, so I figured I could somehow use this to do what I needed. Since the beans were the tiniest bit too small to rest on top of the slotted tray without following through, I slid the tray inside a knee-high nylon (I bought a couple packages of these for my Costa Rica trip - I put soap in them like I learned in Girl Scouts - and had an unused package left over). This still allowed for drainage but kept the beans from falling through the tray.

I rinsed my beans and put about 1.5 cups into the container. Then added enough water to cover them. Mung beans sprout larger when pressure is applied to them, so I put two saucers upside down on top of the beans, then put the lid on. I left the container in a dark corner on my counter until the next morning, when it would be time to rinse. The beans need to be rinsed about twice a day, so that they are soaking up fresh water while they sprout. To drain them, I just tipped the container to the side and let the water drain out of the vent on the side of the lid. This allowed the beans to stay pretty much in the same place without getting all jostled up and potentially breaking off the sprouts. So far, so good!