Sunday, September 25, 2011

Miso Soup with Vegetables

I don't know what the season is like where you live, but here in Seattle fall has definitely arrived.  There is that indistinguishable chill in the air, yellow leaves are strewn across the yard, and I woke up this morning with a cold.  My body is apparently not holding up with the change of seasons (and busy schedule!) as well as I would like.

Today, say no to your to-do list.  Instead, say yes to fuzzy socks, lying on the couch, a warm cup of tea (or this if you're feeling like me), and being present while eating miso soup.  

This soup is easy-to-make and combines the medicinal benefits of sea vegetables and miso.  Since miso is a living food, boiling it will destroy its beneficial enzymes, which is why the recipe calls for adding it in at the very end.  This recipe calls for wakame, which is a thin piece of seaweed that can be found fresh or dried.  It's different from nori (the dry, brittle sheets of seaweed used for sushi rolls), but you could also substitute nori if that's what you have on hand. I also added in ginger, mushrooms, and cilantro for extra flavor.  This is the perfect soup to battle a cold, fill a hungry belly, or warm you up at the end of a chilly fall day. 

Miso Soup with Vegetables
Adapted from Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source by Terry Walters.
Serves 4

6 cups water
3 carrots, sliced thinly into matchsticks 
12 ounces extra firm silken tofu, diced
4 fresh shiitake mushrooms
2 Tablespoons fresh chopped ginger to taste
3 inch strip wakame, broken into small pieces
dash of tamari or shoyu
1/4 cup miso
4 green onion, chopped
Fresh cilantro leaves 
In large pot over high heat bring water to boil. Add carrots, tofu, mushrooms, ginger, wakami, and tamari, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

In separate bowl, dissolve miso in 1/3 cup water. Ladle soup into individual bowls and stir 1 generous tablespoon of dissolved miso into each serving. Top with chopped scallions and cilantro and serve.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Asian Soba Noodle Salad with Fresh Peaches

Cool: Listening to the Inception soundtrack.

Super cool: Listening to the Inception soundtrack at your office. It will make your life seem epic, promise.

Cool: Watching the sun rise.

Super cool: Watching the sun rise while running along your favorite trail and listening to the Inception soundtrack. Even more epic.

Cool: Eating soba noodles.

Super cool: Eating soba noodles topped with edamame, sesame seeds, fresh veggies, and sliced peaches. Incredible.

Soba noodles are one of my favorite things at the moment.  They are made from buckwheat flour and can be found at your local Asian or natural foods market.  One cup of cooked noodles only contains 113 calories, but has 6 grams of protein!  They don't have any fiber (unlike whole wheat pasta), but when paired with fresh vegetables and beans they make the perfect hearty meal.

One of the perks of soba noodles is that they don't go mushy overnight.  I made a batch of this salad and have been pleasantly surprised to find that it still retains its texture over a couple of days.  I love using fresh, sliced peaches while they're in season, but you could substitute mango or mandarin oranges, or leave it out altogether.  This is the perfect weekday lunch and the only thing that could possibly make it better (yep, you guessed it) is eating it while listening to the Inception soundtrack.  Totally cool.

Asian Soba Noodle Salad with Fresh Peaches
Serves 4

1/2 pound soba noodles
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon hot chili oil
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup  cilantro, chopped
1/2 cucumber, shredded
1 cup spinach, chopped
1 cup purple cabbage, shredded
1 carrot, shredded
3 scallions, chopped
1 cup edamame
1/4 cup peanuts
1 peach, pitted and sliced
sprinkle of sesame seeds

In a medium pot, fill with water and bring to a boil.  Add noodles and cook about 7 - 9 minutes, until they are fully cooked but not mushy. Once cooked, cool noodles down quickly in an ice bath (or run under cold water).  Drain.

Mix sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, hot chili oil, soy sauce, and sea salt.

Add olive oil to a small pan over low heat.  Sauce garlic and ginger for about 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add garlic and ginger to oil mixture and toss with noodles.  Mix in cilantro, cucumber, spinach, cabbage, carrot, and scallions.

Top with edamame, peanuts, peach slices, and sesame seeds.  Refrigerate until serving.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Watermelon Mint Popsicles

Is it too late for me to tempt you with a popsicle?  I have a feeling that it may already be past popsicle season... as leaves sweep across my front porch and rain pounds the pavement, I fear that you might pass up these beautiful creations for a warm cup of tea.  But as long as these are sitting in my freezer I'm going to pretend that the summer sun is still shining, watermelon is still in season, and neon blue nail polish is perfectly acceptable.  Just let me have this moment.

Today all of my biking from this summer paid off as I rode the Cycle The WAVE (Women Against Violence Everywhere) in Issaquah.  Cycle The WAVE is a non-competitive women's ride meant to inspire awareness and hope for domestic violence victims.  This year's proceeds will support the Eastside Domestic Violence Program, DAWN, and New Beginnings. 

This ride was really important to me because I spent eight years of my life doing anti-violence awareness and recovery work with women.  The best statistics we have suggest that one out of every three women will be abused at some point in her life, whether that is emotionally, mentally, and/or physically. However, given my experience, I would say that statistic is actually closer to one out of two.  I find it incredible how many people and families are affected by domestic violence and, yet, many of us still struggle to recognize it in our own homes.  My hope is that the more that people become aware of what violence is, the more that we can help to spread awareness and end the cycle together.

I originally signed up for the 42-mile route, but the past two weeks I've been having some severe knee pain while riding and running.  Everyone keeps telling me I'm "doing everything right" (i.e. rest days, ice, stretching, strength training, cross training, getting new shoes, having my bike fitted, wearing supportive knee braces, etc), yet, I haven't been able to get the pain to go away.  Three days ago I saw my doc and she ruled out any long bike rides until the pain got better.  

I was really disappointed after training all summer, but in the end I had to do what was best for my body. Instead of riding 42 miles, I rode the "Little Sister" route of 12 miles.  Even though I was a little emotional about it before the ride, by the time I got out on the road I was just grateful to be able to ride at all.  

For anyone interested in being part of a ride for the first time, I would definitely recommend Cycle The WAVE.   Everyone was super nice and the "Little Sister" route was mostly flat road with one big hill towards the end.  One of my favorite parts of the ride was actually the hill because they had signs along the road with inspirational messages.  It sure helped me to feel motivated to make it to the top!  

I also felt pretty motivated to finish knowing that I had these tasty treats waiting for me at home.  These popsicles taste like a frozen agua fresca and you can even throw in a squeeze of lime if you'd like.  I preferred to rely on the sweetness of the watermelon, but you can always sweeten these up a bit more for your taste buds.  These are the prefect way to end a day of cycling, use up your last watermelon of the season, and celebrate the beginning of another.

Watermelon Mint Popsicles
Makes 6 (depending on the size of your mold)

4 cups of seedless watermelon, rind removed, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
Sweetener of your choice (optional)

Blend watermelon in a blender until liquified.  (Depending on your blender, you may have to add a tablespoon of water or so to get it going.  If you cut the watermelon into smaller chunks it is easier to blend without liquid.)  Add the mint and pulse until leaves are incorporated into the liquid, but not completely blended.  Add sweetener of your choice (if using).

Pour the mixture into your popsicle molds and freeze overnight.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fava Beans with Fresh Summer Corn

This past weekend at the Farmer's Market some very important things happened:

1) I saw a woman carrying a puppy on her chest in a baby carrier.  Wow, that's impressive.  If I walk around with my cat like that would you still talk to me?   Probably not.  And he probably wouldn't either. Bummer.

2) Apples are on their way back in and I'm trying to ignore them.  Is it just me or does apple season feel a little early this year?

Sorry apples, but for as long as peaches are still around we're going to be frenemies.  That's just how it is.

3) And, most importantly, I found fava beans!

I don't know if I just somehow missed fava beans at the market every weekend or if they haven't been around much, but I couldn't manage to find them anywhere this year.  Well, until Sunday that is.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with fava beans (also called "broad beans"), you should know that they are large beans that come in giant pods (ranging anywhere from 5 - 8 inches long).  The pods are inedible as is the outer layer of the bean which must be removed by cooking it.  They have a very distinct taste that comes on strong and a tad bitter at times.

This week I've been enjoying them in this recipe, paired with my other summer favorite of fresh corn.  Even though fava beans can be a bit bitter, when they are sautéed with a little garlic, salt, pepper, and fresh summer corn, magic happens.  Their flavor mellows and becomes almost buttery while complementing the corn's crunch and lightness.  Even though it took me all summer to find these, they were worth the wait.

Fava Beans with Fresh Summer Corn 
Serves 2 as a side

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2.5 pounds fava beans (in pod)
Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste
Fresh corn kernels from 2 cobs, about 1 cup

To prepare the fava beans, begin by snapping the tip of the bean and pulling the string gently down until it reaches the end.

Now you will be able to open the pod.  The inside will be very soft and will house about 4 - 8 beans.  Remove the beans from the pod.

The outer layer of the beans is not edible.  To remove it, either parboil or steam them for about a minute or two.  The skin will become shriveled.  Then press on one end of the skin to push the bean out and remove the skin.  The beans are now ready to eat!

Add the olive oil to a pan over medium-low heat.  Sauté the garlic for one minute or until fragrant.  Add the fava beans, salt, pepper, and fresh corn.  Sauté for an additional minute.  Serve warm. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Quinoa Pasta with Golden Beets and Greens

Have you ever had a conversation with your significant other that went something like this:

Sunday, 4 pm, apartment is filled with beautiful sunlight.

Ashley: I'm going to go somewhere dark for awhile.

Me: Um, okay. Is something wrong?

Ashley: No, everything's fine. I'm just going in the bedroom and closing the curtains.

Me: ...Why?

Ashley: I feel like there is too much sunlight today. Exits room.

Does anyone else think that is strange behavior?  Should I be questioning if I am dating a vampire?  I guess I better wait it out in the kitchen until I am sure.  And since I'm in the kitchen, I might as well create something for dinner.  (Maybe with extra garlic? Just in case...?)

On a non-vampire related note, have you been composting your beet greens?  'Cause if so, we might need to have a chat right now.  Beet greens are the most nutritious part of the beet plant, even more so than the beet root.  Pretty cool, huh?  I usually juice mine or blend them in green smoothies, but I've been adding them to stir fries and pastas lately.

This pasta is a hearty, one dish meal that takes a little cooking time, but minimal prep time.  I love using quinoa pasta and golden beets in this recipe, but you could easily use any type of pasta and beets that you like.  Just don't forget the garlic.  

Quinoa Pasta with Golden Beets and Greens
Serves 4 - 6

2 bunches of beets and greens
1 cup french lentils, uncooked (optional)
1 pound of dry pasta
4 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste
a sprinkle of nutritional yeast (optional)

Wash the beets thoroughly.  Chop the beet greens and put them aside.  Place the beets in a medium pot, add enough water to cover, and bring to a boil.  Cook on medium heat for 45 - 60 minutes, or until the skins can be rubbed off with your fingers.  (To test one, fish it out of the pot with a pair of tongs and run it under cold water until it's cool enough to handle.)  When the beets are ready, give them a few minutes to cool, then peel the beets using your fingers and cut them into bite-size pieces.

Meanwhile, cook the lentils (if using).  Add two cups of water to a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer.  Add the lentils and cook until they are done (but not mushy), about 25 minutes.  Drain if necessary.  

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Drain.

Add one tablespoon of olive oil to a pan over medium-low heat and sauté the onions until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and beet greens and sauté for an additional 3 -5 minutes, until the greens are tender.  Remove the pan from the heat and toss contents with the olive oil, pasta, and beets.  Top with freshly ground black pepper, sea salt, and a little nutritional yeast if desired.  

Thursday, September 8, 2011

7 Tips for Transitioning to a Healthier Diet

Everywhere you turn these days you’ll find information about the benefits of eating healthy. We all know that eating less sugar and more fruits and vegetables will make us feel energized, healthier, and happier. But, beginning to make changes to your eating habits acan be daunting—especially if you’re not sure where to begin. Here are a few tips on how to incorporate healthier foods into your diet and be patient with yourself along the way.

1. Know that it’s a process

Making any change in your life, especially related to food, is a process. It’s not going to happen overnight and having realistic expectations for yourself will help to make the transition easier and more enjoyable. Ask yourself why you are trying to change your diet. Then come up with a few small, specific goals attached to due dates. For example, eat one serving of vegetables at every meal starting this Monday. Or, learn to make three new healthy dinners by one month from today. Put these goals somewhere where you will see them often. Reminding yourself of your goals and why these changes are important to you will help you to stick with it.

2. Think about adding, not subtracting

One of the reasons that many people give up on new goals is because they try to make too big of a change too quickly. When thinking about making your diet healthier, start small and think about adding new foods to your repertoire rather than taking familiar foods away. Love pasta? Maybe switch it up this week with whole wheat or brown rice pasta with some arugula and sun dried tomatoes. Crave something sweet in the mornings? Try a smoothie with vanilla almond milk, frozen banana, fresh spinach, and some hemp protein power. Tend to overeat at dinnertime? Start off your meal with a colorful salad or a bowl of homemade vegetable soup and you’ll be able to increase your vegetable intake while cutting back on the main course. Small changes add up over time, so keep it simple and manageable.

3. Get in the kitchen

One of the best things that you can do for your health is to learn to make meals from scratch in your own kitchen. If you’re new to cooking, start small and aim to prepare a few simple dinners at home over the next month. Soups, curries, and stir fries are great for beginners because they’re almost impossible to mess up!

If you’re already kitchen-savvy, bump it up a notch. Challenge yourself to prepare more ingredients from scratch. For example, learn how to cook your own beans rather than using canned. Or, learn to prepare a style of food that you aren’t as familiar with. The more meals that you prepare yourself the more control you have over what you eat and the healthier you can make it!

4. Find some inspiration (and check out the farmer’s market)

If you find yourself relying on the same dinners every week or starting to lose momentum for making healthier changes, it’s time to get inspired! Check out some new cookbooks, food magazines, or recipes online. Or try venturing to a different part of town and eating at a new restaurant.

I also recommend shopping at your local farmer’s market if you are not doing it already. Not only is eating local and seasonal better for the planet, it’s more affordable, healthier, and tastier. Anyone that’s bitten into a mushy apple in July can tell you about how much better things taste when they’re actually in season. Farmer’s markets also give you the chance to explore new fruits and vegetables and find out recipe suggestions from farmers themselves. Plus, if you go home with a fresh bunch of kale and some ripe tomatoes, you have no excuses not to have some delicious veggies at your next meal.

5. Get support!

It’s always easier (and more enjoyable!) when we try something new with a buddy. Enlist the support of a friend or family member and help each other to make healthier changes. Swap recipes, try out new restaurants together, or send each other home with leftovers from healthy dinners. Having a “health buddy” can help you to feel supported in your decision to eat healthier and stay on track.

6. Don’t stress

Food should be enjoyable, not stressful. If you find yourself worried or stressed about your progress (or maybe lack of progress), take a step back and figure out why. Are you trying to make too many changes at once? Are you stuck and don’t know how to proceed? Are you losing momentum and questioning your reason for making the change in the first place? Once you discover the reason behind the stress, it’s much easier for you to figure out how to manage it and make your transition to healthier eating a more enjoyable one.

7. Be kind to yourself

We all have cravings for less-than-healthy foods from time to time and there are certainly situations that call for a little chocolate. If you are occasionally allowing yourself an extra treat (but are otherwise eating healthy), then embrace it and don’t feel guilty. However, if you find yourself indulging in dessert every night, think about that impact on your decision to eat healthier, then come up with a plan for healthier eating moving forward.

Obsessing and beating yourself up over unhealthy eating isn’t going to inspire you to want to change – it’s going to make you feel guilty! No one likes to feel guilty and it’s certainly not fun to associate food with guilt. Be patient with yourself and know that nobody has a perfect diet, but making healthier choices add up to a healthier and happier lifestyle.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Asian Sesame Salad For One

Have you ever found yourself in a funk where you don't want to do... anything?

Where you just want to blow off all of your responsibilities and watch TV?  That's totally the adult thing to do anyway, right?

I've been avoiding my cycling training, paying my bills, doing my laundry, and weeding my garden for far too long now.  I've even been avoiding my runs for my Couch-To-5k program.  And I'm only in week one. How pathetic is that?

I finally kicked my butt off the couch yesterday and did a 33 mile bike ride.  I'd like to say that it made me feel better, but it actually made me want to avoid everything more.  I'm officially on strike.

However, I might have found the cure:  I can be bribed with food.  If I am promised food, and great food at that, then I can be bribed to pay my bills, do my laundry, and complete my first 30-minute run.  It's a start.

Maybe not everyone wants to be bribed with a salad, but I do.  Especially when that salad contains cashews, green onions, edamame, and a creamy Asian dressing.  Count me in.  If I had avocado and cucumber on hand you can bet those would have made it in here too.

The key to bribing yourself with food is that you have to make it all about you.  I fixed my dinner, poured myself some sparkling water with fresh lemon, and sat down with a nice plate and a cloth napkin.  Even though it was just a salad and just for me, it was a fancy pants dinner.  And apparently that's what it takes to get me through the day.  Lesson learned:  when the going gets tough, the tough gets bribed with food.

Asian Sesame Salad For One

2.5 cups mixed greens
1 carrot, grated
1 green onion, chopped
small handful of cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup cashews
1/2 cup edamame
1/2 cucumber, grated (optional)
1/4 avocado, sliced (optional)
sprinkle of sesame seeds
freshly grated black pepper to taste

1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon agave syrup
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon tahini

Mix ingredients together.  Toss with your greens. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Summertime Sparkling Fruit Slushie

Should I start with some good news or bad?

Today I found myself Googling "When does summer end in 2011?"  And there is was, staring me in the face:  September 23rd.

The doomsday is approaching us, people.

The bright side of this is that we all have three weeks to get out there and live it up before we have to part ways with sun, sandals, and summer salads.  Oh how I'll miss the salads.

The other piece of good news is that I discovered one of the most refreshing and delicious drinks I've had all summer.

What's been keeping you hydrated this season?  Besides good, old-fashioned agua, I've been a huge fan of iced chamomile tea, fresh coconut water, fresh vegetable juice, and green smoothies.  Last summer I kept my freezer stocked with these little goodies, but I've been a little lax in my popsicle-making duties this year.  So, when you're in a pinch and you have to have a tasty cold little treat, the slushie becomes your next best friend.

Slushies traditionally involve crushed ice, water, and some flavored syrup.  This slushie is a much healthier version that uses fresh fruit and a little agave for sweetness.  And, the best part:  it can literally be made in less than one minute!

This is the perfect drink for summertime because you get to experiment with all of the wonderful fresh fruit we have in season right now: cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries... yum.  I used a mixture of lapin cherries and blackberries in this particular slushy, but I absolutely adore a mix of peaches and cherries.

Summertime Sparkling Fruit Slushie
Serves 2

2 cups ice cubes
1 cup fresh or frozen fruit
16 ounces sparkling water
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1  Tablespoon agave nectar (or more to taste)

Pulse ice in blender until pebble-sized.  Add fruit and continue to pulse until it reaches a slushy texture.  (You want the ice and fruit to be crushed, but you don't want it to be melted into water.)  Add sparkling water, lemon juice, and agave nectar.  Stir and serve.