The magic of fresh herbs!

This weekend when I was planning my meal prep for the week, I was craving tomatoes and fresh herbs. Clearly, my body is pining for a true spring, not this cold, snow-filled one we are experiencing. So, I decided to make two VERY different dishes with tomatoes and fresh herbs!

First, inspired by a dish my boyfriend ordered a local Asian fusion restaurant this past week which included ‘coconut rice’ – which is just white rice boiled down in coconut milk instead of water. This stuff was addicting and was sweet like a dessert. Obviously, I had to try to make it myself….so, here comes ‘Indian Tomato Cilantro Chicken with Coconut Rice’!  I decided to make this dish for my teacher friends, just to show a little appreciation for them– we’ve had a long month with the move, Intensives (where we take 7-12 graders out of the building for two whole day for career exploration), fundraising for our end of the year 8th grade trip to DC, and battling the testing shenanigans of NYS.

I used a recipe from Pinterest for the chicken…. check it out here!

Please advise, I can never follow a recipe to the T, I get it from my mother…. so, instead of two fresh tomatoes, I used one can of diced — I wanted the yummy tomato juices to add to the broth of this dish. Also, I did not use 3 Serrano chilies, instead I used one long green hot pepper, and I did not include the brown sugar (duh, no way was I adding that!) or the hot pepper flakes. And lastly, I used two bunches of cilantro instead of one… which was an awesome call on my part!

Here’s the broth cooking down without the chicken…

IMG_5233

Then I put some aside with chickpeas for my friend who is vegetarian, and added the chicken to the rest.

IMG_5239

I also rubbed the chicken with some more cumin and tumeric (you can never have too much of these in Indian cooking, in my humble opinion at least).

Here’s the final chicken dish…

IMG_5242

Oh, and of course, the rice!

I started with 1 1/2 cups of Jasmine brown rice in a medium sauce pan and toasted it in a tiny bit of olive oil. Then I added in 2 cups of coconut milk and one cup of water. I let this simmer on medium low heat for about 25-30 minutes. It didn’t cook soft for a while, so I had to keep adding water, about another 3/4 cup probably.

IMG_5234

Here’s the rice! :-) I promise, it tastes as good, if not better than it looks :-)

IMG_5240

On to the second dish, comfort food just for me! I haven’t made lasagna in a long time (besides the true lasagna I made for my boyfriend this winter that I couldn’t eat). So, I decided to make a vegetarian lasagna out of zucchini, portobello mushrooms, eggplant, and kale. I layered these raw vegetables that I sliced longitudinally with my favorite spaghetti sauce and this lemon basil cashew cheese sauce that I found on Pinterest (of course!)

IMG_5235  IMG_5237IMG_5236

The reason this lasagna is considered vegetarian is because I decided to add one layer inside of goat cheese and topped it with some more as well :-) I can’t help it, I love the saltiness and gameness of goat’s milk! I know it’s weird given my eating habits, but it’s the one decadence I allow myself.

IMG_5238

I baked the lasagna at 375 for an hour – first 15 minutes uncovered, last 15 minutes uncovered.

IMG_5243

Goat’s milk Kefir in the morning with my homemade Blueberry Pumpkin Granola this week for breakfasts will be a hit with my tummy as well!

IMG_5244

This granola is just random nuts (hazelnuts, pecans, almonds, and cashews), 2 cups whole grain oats, dehydrated blueberries that my stepmom made me over the summer that I still had, and 1 cup of pumpkin puree mixed with 1/4 cup maple syrup and 2 tbs coconut oil, some cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. I baked it at 300 degrees for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Five days until April break. I have no plans set in stone. Weather doesn’t look the best for visiting my dad in ADK. I have tons of work to get done for my last unit, review sessions, and summer work. I may find myself at coffee shops in between gym classes and training for my 5K.

Life. It’s all good!

Craving Proteins!

Oh how our bodies crave. The science behind it all is very fascinating. Last year I taught my 7th graders the ins and out of processed sugar and how its more addictive to the brain that cocaine. Don’t believe me? Here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23719144

I’ve gotten back into my workout regime, a completely revamped regime. After multiple conversations with friends, I decided to leave Planet Fitness and join my local YMCA. What a positive change! Instead of driving out of the city to run on the elliptical and mindlessly use machines, dreading every minute of it but still forcing myself, now I am eagerly awaiting the next day to get to work out! I started taking Pilates and Body Pump classes and this week I will be using the fitness center as well for cardio and FitLinxx. The best part of it all is that my local Y is right around the corner from my school!

With very sore muscles from body pump yesterday, my mind is craving protein to repair and rebuild those muscles. Eating a small portion of protein before and after your workout will infuse your blood with these necessary amino acids for your muscle growth. Proteins also help to build enzymes important for your body to gain endurance during cardio.

So, my recipes for this week include turkey bacon, eggs, and greens – all stocked full of great amino acids!

Pilates is in the morning before work, so I’ve been scrambling eggs with some veggies and packing it up for breakfast once I get to work. It’s worked out well, but it’s taken me at least 5 extra minutes in the morning. With waking up earlier than normal to get to the gym on time, these 5 minutes of sleep are so needed!

My wonderful creative mind went to work and I thought of these– Quiche muffins!

Protein Packed Quiche Muffins (…without the dairy and crust)

*I roasted some veggies with cubed turkey bacon: broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, onion, portobello mushroom and garlic. Then I put this mixture into muffin tins…

IMG_5156IMG_5157

Look at all those powerful green veggies!

*Then I scrambled 10 eggs with 3/4 cup of almond milk and some dried herbs and black pepper. In this went to each muffin cup…

IMG_5158

*I baked these at 350 for about 20 minutes and bam!…

IMG_5163 IMG_5164

I can’t wait to have one of these after Pilates tomorrow morning!!

Then for lunches/dinners I’ll do salads made with kale & romaine lettuce. Most likely greek styled with tomatoes, cucumbers, and kalamata olives because I’m addicted to greek salads. And then I’ll have this warm salad… I’ve made this recipe plenty of times before, but it’s been awhile.

Warm Sweet Potato Avocado Salad

*I cubed and roasted one large sweet potato at 375 for about 15 minutes. Then I added some broccoli, kale & brussel sprouts along with cubed turkey bacon and continued to roast for another 15-20 minutes. As soon as I took the veggies out of the oven I topped them with black pepper, one avocado cubed, and a large handful of chopped fresh cilantro.

IMG_5159IMG_5160IMG_5161

The fresh cilantro in this dish creates this punch of flavor every bite you take! Adding it when the vegetables are still hot also helps some of the oils infuse the vegetables, really giving it a powerful flavor.

This week I start cardio…

Spring is on it’s way and that means I need to buy my bicycle soon. If you have any suggestions for commuter bicycles, let me know!

Happy Eating!

Welcome Home!

Tomorrow will be my first day teaching in my school’s home building. I’ve been working tiredly on my classroom to make it feel like home & I can’t wait for my students to see it in the morning. I probably won’t sleep a minute, too excited in anticipation.

I wanted to share some of my most recent food creations. Two weeks ago I made some millet – most commonly found in bird seed (seriously!), a non-gluten whole grain. It has 11 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup serving… pretty intense! You cook it just like a rice – 1 cup grain to 2 cups boiling water, lower heat to medium low and simmer until all water is absorbed. It looks like this when done… nice and fluffy and yummy! :)

So, what do you do with it? Basically anything. I like to add it to my salads to increase the protein content. Here’s a Greek salad I made that I’ve also prepped for this week because it was so addicting and I want it in my mouth every day!

Millet Greek Salad:

*massaged kale (with apple cider vinegar)

*cucumbers

*tomatoes

*chickpeas

*red onion

*fennel

*avocado

*millet

*sheep’s milk feta

*cilantro

Doesn’t this look divine?! It surely is, you have to try it!

IMG_4987

Then, with left over millet that I cooked I tried something new — porridge. I warmed the millet up in a bowl, added almond milk, a little bit of maple syrup, cinnamon, and chia seeds. I let it sit for about 10 minutes and bam! Delicious thick porridge! The chia seeds soak up the milk and make this grain a delicious breakfast that keeps me full until lunch!

IMG_4988

I visited my dad in the Adirondacks this past week while on break from school. I made this salad for him and my stepmom one night…

Roasted Fennel & Apple Salad

*Roasted fennel, onion, and radishes — actually sauteed these in a tiny bit of coconut oil at a high heat in a frying pan.

*Thinly sliced an apple

*Arugula (underneath everything else so you can’t see it in the picture)

*Sheep’s milk feta cheese

*salt & pepper to taste

IMG_5016

So my one warm dish for the week —

Deconstructed Stuffed Peppers:

*1 lb ground turkey, sauteed with onion and garlic

*1 cup of red lentils cooked

*1 cup brown rice

*1 cup chopped mushrooms

*2 green peppers, largely chopped

*1 small sweet potato

*2 cups kale

*I sauteed all of the above vegetables, added in some thyme, sage, and a teeny bit of smoked paprika and cinnamon. Then tossed in the lentils, brown rice and a large can of stewed tomatoes. I let this slowly simmer together for about 30 minutes.

IMG_5112

I don’t know what it is about stuffed peppers, but they are one of my favorite comfort foods! Looking forward to this dish this week – going to be a cold one, again.

Stay warm ya’ll! Spring is coming, I hope…

I don’t

The Power of Green!

Wow, what a snow day I’ve had! Last night the snow began falling as I watched the Superbowl. A storm was upon us and I could barely sleep! I checked my phone to see if school was cancelled about 3 times before 5am… and then finally once my alarm went off, there it was… there was every school in the entire county, closed. As I type this evening, we have accumulated about a foot of snow at my house, its starting to let up, and now the temperatures are plummeting.

While I knew couldn’t get out of my driveway today, my lesson plans done for the week already (thanks to a super productive Sunday), and my hand feeling better… I decided to be creative.

Hand feeling better you ask? Oh how I must share this story. As a teacher, you can never expect events that happen throughout your day. And this one, I definitely did not. As I was assisting students on getting on the bus for a field trip Friday morning at school, I needed to run back inside to speak with another teacher. A student had just come out of the door, so I ran, put my hand in between the door to stop it and SLAM!… SCREAM!…blood…throbbing pain…

Luckily a colleague covered for me on the field trip and I was able to go home and take care of myself. I cleaned, rotated ice, and medicated. Broken? No. But, went to get an x-ray the next morning just to be sure (and cover my school’s behind). And I was A-OK…

I00001 3

The lacerations have started their beginning response and a thin layer of new skin has already developed. I’m not sure who always told me to keep a band-aid and neosporin on my cuts, but not leaving them alone for 3 days and only putting on band-aids when leaving my house or getting them wet did the trick! I’m left with some nasty looking bruising and pain after too much use – like I will feel by the time ‘m done typing this.

So anyways, back to the whole point of this post… a full day with nothing to do but be creative! Happiness enters here.

I started with a three-hour craft session where I made these pieces of leather jewelry:

FullSizeRender

I’ve never made leather earrings before and struggled quite a bit with these. My heart isn’t even set on them, so if you fancy, let me know. My favorite– the bowtie cuff. I think these will be popular and need to work out a few kinks and get these in production for sure.

I also made a sign for the door of my new classroom that I’m patiently awaiting to be in… just three more weeks! My stepmom would cringe to see the bleeding of my paint on my stencil lines, but I think it adds character :) I know my students will love it and that’s all that matters to me!

IMG_4934

Once I finished up my creative crafting, it was on to the cooking. At the grocery store this weekend I grabbed a huge bag of cut kale. I realized as I stood there looking it that I have not bought or cooked with kale in WAY TOO LONG! The power of green! How I’ve missed you! If you need a reminder, kale is boosted to be the world’s healthiest food by some. This green giant is packed full of protein, antioxidants, flavanoids, phytochemicals, fiber and vitamins. Kale scores a 1000 out of 1000 on the ANDI scale for nutrient density along with swish chard, watercress, and mustard greens.

I wanted to eat it right then and there in the grocery store. But I mustered up the courage and waited. Sunday I made my favorite Kale and Turkey Sausage soup- enough to feed my entire block.

Kale & Turkey Sausage Soup

*I start by sauteing 1 pound lean ground turkey with one large onion chopped and 6 cloves of garlic minced in a little bit of olive oil so that it doesn’t stick to my pan. Once browned, I add in a can of whole roma tomatoes, 1 carton of vegetable stock, and 1 can of white beans. I lower the temperature to a medium-low heat and toss in 1 head of broccoli chopped, one bundle of asparagus coarsely chopped, and 1 cup of crimini mushrooms, chopped.

*In the meantime, I roast 1 medium sweet potato, cubed, and 1 cup of cubed purple potatoes (with the skin on) at 375 degrees. Once these have started to crisp up a bit (about 20 mins), I toss them into the pot, put the lid on and let the soup simmer for about an hour.

*The last ingredient is the best…. 4 cups of chopped kale! Stir this in and make sure its all under liquid – you may need to add water. Lid back on and simmer for another hour.

DELICIOUS!!

IMG_4942

Today when I started cooking I used a new toy I bought myself this week and still hadn’t opened! A veggetti! You have to use an Italian accent when you say it… “Veggetti!” I waited quite a while to buy one of these because I was very skeptical and using my hand peeler to make vegetable noodles is not difficult at all, but as you’ve seen from previous posts — it can waste a lot of the vegetable! So…. here it is! Check out how many zucchini noodles I got from one medium zucchini. Also, that little spiral stick— that’s the inside seeds. Pretty freaking cool!

IMG_4939

So, I was in the mood for some creamed kale and decided to create a sauce to toss these lovely noodles in.

Creamed Kale Sauce

*large handful of kale

*1/2 avocado

*1/4 cup raw cashews

*1 clove garlic

*1/2 small onion

*drizzle of almond milk as needed

All of the above ingredients went into my food processor to create this lovely cream sauce. I then sauteed some cherry tomatoes at a high heat to get them caramelized, tossed in the zucchini noodles just to slightly heat them through and tossed it all with the sauce I made.

IMG_4945  IMG_4947 IMG_4948

Such a fresh taste & zing from the raw garlic and onions… yum! Now that my belly is full and my creative mind satisfied, I can relax for the rest of the night on the couch…reading a book about the chemistry of baking of course :)

Last note — I’ve been eating too many eggs for breakfast lately because I want to get tons of protein in the morning to keep me full until lunch. So, I also made my banana nut quinoa breakfast bake yesterday for breakfasts this week. It’s just a cup of cooked quinoa, 1 banana, 1/2 cup nuts of your choice chopped, spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger) tossed together with a little bit of almond milk and a chia egg (1 tbs chia seeds to 1 tbs water). Baked at 350 for about 20 minutes just to brown edges and top… I eat this with almond milk as a porridge in the morning :)

IMG_4915IMG_4946

Happy Eating!

To new friends!

My family is making the move this coming weekend. I am gleaming with excitement to drive up and help them unpack the new house! Cheers to all of the new friends that they will make in their new life. Cheers to all of my dad’s colleagues that may begin reading my blog as he shares it with them as part of the wellness committee :)

Friday night I joined a friend in some exploratory cooking with venison. We love our deer meat & we love our tacos! We have been wanting to create our own venison tacos for months now and we made it happen…

Venison & Vegetable Tacos!

*we sauteed peppers and onions, roasted radishes and fennel, cleaned some cilantro and made a cashew cream (1/2 cup cashews soaked in water for 1 hour and blended with additional water & lime juice).

*the venison was pan fried at a medium high heat to sear each side, temp lowered for about 4 mins, removed and thinly sliced.

Check these out! YUM! The lime in the cashew cream with the cilantro was a great latin flare to the game flavor of the venison. Something that I’ve never tried before. I will definitely spend more time playing around with venison tacos!

IMG_4775

For this week’s lunches – I’ve created a chili…

Curried Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili

*2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled & cubed – pan fried in coconut oil

*2 small zucchinis – cubed and added to the pan with sweet potatoes

*handful of mini bell peppers, cleaned, and sliced

*4 cloves of garlic, minced

*spices: curry, cumin, and chili powder

I sauteed all of the above ingredients and then added them to 1 cup of black beans that had been cooked in the pressure cooker (20 mins on high pressure). I threw in some pearl onions, corn, and green beans that I had in the freezer and turned the pressure cooker back on for an additional 20 minutes.

IMG_4776IMG_4778

I’m looking forward to this chili this week with the cold temperatures that they are projecting. We sure are in winter now!

When I’m not eating the chili I will be enjoying fresh salads. I still have some more fennel, radishes, cucs, and cherry tomatoes to top off salads with balsamic vinegar and EVOO for dressing. Here’s a salad I made for dinner this past Friday night – also topped with left over jerk chicken that my boyfriend made for me earlier in the week. Delicious!!

IMG_4772 IMG_4739 IMG_4743

Happy and Merry

Christmas this year was like being on a rollercoaster for me this year. The emotions were high, some traditions changed, and I am exhausted from it all.

My father and stepmother are moving to the Adirondacks so this was the last year I was able to celebrate Christmas in the house that I helped build with my very own hands twenty years ago this year. Let alone this emotional ride, my father had to work and wasn’t able to be a part of it. I am so happy for them and the future that they will enjoy, but my heart aches knowing that they won’t be in my hometown anymore. No more walks in the back woods, no more treehouse and bear traps my siblings and I made when we were kids, no more faces on the pine trees, no more squirrels eating the bird food… Yet, smiling ear to ear to make new memories at their house surrounded by beautiful ADK mountains!!

For my mom’s christmas, my youngest brother wasn’t able to come home so we skyped with him as we opened our presents. It was weird not having him there, first time for everything I guess. Being in my mid-twenties I guess I have to get used to all of this… things just aren’t going to be the same anymore.

So, the happiness that I will always have during Christmas time is cooking with my family. SO MUCH COOKING! My mom and I were like little elves making toys, nonstop!

The day after christmas we spent the morning lounging around and then finally went to the grocery store to stock up for our family holiday party the next day. That night we invited my grandmother over for some homemade gnocchi! Check them out…

IMG_4649

I used purple, red, and sweet potatoes – boiled until soft, drained and left on the stovetop to stay warm. Then I mixed in 50:50 white wheat flour. Here’s where things get tricky – there isn’t really a specific amount for this, there more of a science to it – it just has to feel right :)

Then I made two different sauces to top the pasta off… a tomato meat sauce made with turkey sausage and roasted red peppers, and a balsamic red wine reduction portobello carmelized onion sauce with cashew cream. Here’s my plate with the mushroom sauce topped off with goat cheese, yum! My mouth is watering right now just thinking about how amazing this tasted!!

IMG_4650

The Saturday morning I cooked cookies, salads, soup, potatoes, and these… Vegan pumpkin cheesecakes!

Gingerbread Crust:

*1/3 cup coconut oil

*1/2 cup sugar

*1/3 maple syrup

*1/4 cup almond milk

*2 cups flour ( I mixed wheat, brown rice & coconut)

*1/2 teaspoon baking soda & 1/2 tsp baking powder

*1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

*1 tsp ground ginger

^Mixed & pressed into mini muffin tins, baked for 6 mins on 350

Cheesecake:

*1 cup cashews

*1 cup water

^blend in vitamix, adding water as needed until creamy consistency

*1 can pumpkin puree

*1 tsp baking soda

*spices – pumpkin pie spice, cinammon, ginger, clove

^I blended these ingridents together in the vitamix and then spooned the mixture out into the muffin tins on top of the gingerbread crusts. Then they were baked for 20 minutes at 300 degrees.

^I cooled them in the fridge for 4 hours and them topped them with coconut whipped cream (full fat coconut cream whipped in the blender) and cinnamon

IMG_4652 IMG_4654

My family loved these little cheesecakes and were all so surprised that they were vegan!

Overall, with the high emotions, my christmas was joyful as always. Seeing the family members that I was able to see made it so worth it and I had a blast!

Staying warm…

We finally got our first real snow fall! It was stressful when it came, thick, heavy, wet snow that piled up quickly and kept coming for two days, but it sure is beautiful on the trees :)

During the snow filled, cold week- I spent time inside, reading. I read an article in a magazine about food and the luxuries we’ve all come to expect… decades ago our food came from local farmers and families ate seasonally. There was no such thing as processed foods and sushi in upstate NY. I know that I’m too young to have lived like this, but I find joy in thinking about what it would be like. I would say that my family is quite traditional with their cooking. Processed foods weren’t a huge thing in my household and my mothers always cooked a full meal with meat, potatoes, and vegetables. In the summer time we ate fresh salads and green beans. In the winter time, more soups, stews, and casseroles.

After reading this article and reminiscing of my own childhood and my fictitious past life in the early 1900’s I vowed to myself that I would try my best to eat seasonal local foods for the rest of this winter. So, here’s my first stab at it…

I went to the public market Saturday morning and bought: butternut squash, spaghetti squash, carrots, beets and Asian pears. My fridge is fully stocked with winter wonderful foods. I instantly roasted both of the squashes and my mind wandered about recipes.

Warm Quinoa & Butternut Squash Salad

1 cup red quinoa, cooked

1/2 butternut squash, cubed and roasted with olive oil (@ 425 degrees)

3 beets, cubed and roasted

1 cup brussel sprouts, quartered & roasted

1/2 cup cranberries (roasted)

*I seasoned with pepper and fresh minced garlic and tossed all of the vegetables together with the quinoa. I plan on eating this over salad greens or just alone for lunches this week. A bit of goat cheese on top won’t hurt either :)

*This morning I warmed the salad in a frying pan along with two eggs, it was delicious.

IMG_4555 IMG_4556

Spaghetti

1 spaghetti squash roasted at 350 degrees for 2 hours

Wegman’s Grandpa’s sauce goes vegetarian

1 head Broccoli, separated

*For dinner tonight I heated the spaghetti squash in a frying pan along with fresh broccoli and my favorite tomato sauce. This heart warming and so very simply dish will keep me happy this week for dinner that’s for sure!

IMG_4559IMG_4560

The other half of butternut squash I roasted whole and I am going to experiment this week with baking some sweet treats with it. Not sure exactly what yet, but if whatever I make turns out good I’ll post it!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.