A well deserved ME day!

After an insanely long and busy week at school – full of meetings, co-running a professional development, and leading a skype conference with my students with Dr. Fuhrman (!!!), I decided that I deserved a me day yesterday. So, I went to bed early Friday night, got up and went to the gym (“I be up in the gym just workin on my fitness”) and ran some errands which consisted of JoAnn’s and ACMoore’s (crafts! gah I love crafts!) and getting groceries of course.

When I got home, I loaded the fridge with my $100 worth of foods – which looks like this…

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(yum! cancer fighting, micronutrient rich green vegetables!)

Then I got busy cooking, my most favorite thing to do. In between recipes I danced around in my pj’s to ZZ Ward (shout out to my girl Jillian for introducing her to me… I obsessed… I may or may not be playing her right now). A day all about me! Dancing and singing! Cooking and cleaning! Being a woman (as I joked with my boyfriend – there you go babe, shout out #1!).

Anyway, let’s get down to business. Recipe #1:Β  Thai Basil Eggplant

Started out garlic and onions in a little bit of water – one simple way to eliminate or lower the amount of oil you use. You really don’t need it when sauteing vegetables, water works just fine because the vegetables themselves release their sugars which is what causes the caramelization. The oil just adds extra fat that isn’t needed. Then I added in the peppers and eggplant (both of which were cut length wise into large pieces). I covered the pan and let simmer away, stirring occasionally. Just before adding the aminos liquid (replacement for soy sauce) and Hoisin sauce and Sriracha I upped the temperature and allowed the vegetables to brown up – again that whole caramelization that adds so much flavor. I did not add tofu because I don’t like to add soy products to my diet. There are many scientific studies that show links between soy and estrogen production. With breast cancer as such a huge part of my life, I don’t want to play around with it. Plus, I’ve never really been a fan of tofu – the texture is too strange for me.

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Added the sauces, stirred, covered for 3 minutes & done! I prepared lunch dishes with some brown rice for the week πŸ™‚ The Hoisin sauce gives it a sweet flavor, but the Sriracha (I used more than called for, obvi) evens it out with an awesome kick. I know my work wife will be tasting this and loving it!

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Multitasking (because that is what teachers are so good at), I made these Black bean brownie thumbprints while the vegetables were sauteing. Now a little back story on me and brownies. Growing up as a kid, I liked one thing… chocolate. I still love it. So, boxed brownies were always my thing. I even tried my own from scratch time to time and made chocolate chip cookies often. When I changed my lifestyle – I cut out processed flours and sugars. So, brownies became a challenge. At my mom’s house over Thanksgiving break from school I attempted a black bean brownie recipe and I spit it out immediately as it reached by tongue. My god it was awful and I swore to never try making brownies with black beans again. Well, here I was yesterday – happily cooking and on pinterest and this recipe popped up. So, I strapped on my big girl boots and gave it a shot. O-M-G, it’s a keeper. I already packaged some up and put them in the freezer to bring home to my mom in a few weeks. I was really worried about the black bean flavor still so I added 1/3 cup of maple syrup for added sweetness and i definitely think it was necessary. The brownie part itself is slightly sweet and then the chocolate almond butter in the middle adds the needed burst of sweetness. I followed the recipe pretty much to a T otherwise, leaving out salt and using almond meal instead of ground flax. The batter was pretty loose which is why I used mini muffin tins instead of rolling it out into balls and using a cookie sheet – not really sure how the person did that in their recipe.

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Success. Shout out to my girl, Rach – these ones are for you! Vegan, gluten free, soy free! πŸ™‚

Multitasking again, while the brownies were in the oven, I made this super quick and easy salad: Curried Chickpea Salad. If you haven’t noticed from my blogs yet, I love Indian food, so when I saw curry I knew I had to make it. I used golden raisins soaked in rice vinegar (for about 10 minutes) to give that vinegar flavor that I would be missing because I didn’t use mayo. Also I used one clove a garlic minced instead of powder and added lemon zest as well as the juice. Tossed everything in a bowl and mixed and you would not believe the burst of flavors.

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In each bit you get the zing of the vinegar, onion and garlic, the tang of the lemon, sweetness of the raisins and the warmth of the curry. This is definitely a winner for the future – totally putting it on salad greens this week for lunches!

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Last but definitely not least, I finally tried a cauliflower cheese recipe. I bought some nutritional yeast from weggies (which was way more expensive than I expected – $7.99/lb) and used this recipe:Β Cauliflower Cheese Sauce.Β  I followed this recipe pretty closely as it was a first time thing, but again used a clove of fresh garlic instead of powder. I always worry about spices and if there is anything added to them that isn’t needed. That’s why I try to buy them from the Amish market back at home when I can. This came out pretty good I have to say. It wasn’t as creamy as I expected, but the flavor was great. It’s so weird to me how nutritional yeast tastes like cheese – well I think it does. Not sure if I know what cheese actually tastes like anymore… a phrase I never thought I would say, but I’m so glad that I am.Put some in the freezer for later use πŸ™‚

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Later last night after cleaning, I sauteed some asparagus and mushrooms and toss together whole wheat rotini and this cream sauce and topped it with some fresh scallions and cracked black pepper and it was really tasty!

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So to end this journey of greatness for this week – a little more information on why nutritarian. Skyping with Dr. Fuhrman Thursday was so surreal, I thought I was in a dream. His excited and hyper tone answering my students’ questions was contagious. His thoughtful recognition to them and the work they are doing as middle schoolers was gratifying. When I asked students later that day to explain their experience in one word the most common was “once-in-a-lifetime”. To all of the teachers out there reading this, never stop trying. I emailed over and over again, persistently stalking his PR and it was more than worth it – it truly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all of us. One of my students’ questions to Dr. Fuhrman was about vegetable versus animal proteins. He talked about the hormone IGF-1 which I had previously read in his Eat to Live book. IGF-1 is found to have a high risk correlation to cancer as per thousands of clinical research, including the famous China Study out of Cornell University published in 2005 – a 20 year study of diet and disease.Β  IGF-1 used to be used as an athletic enhancer- IGF standing for insulin-like growth factor – so helps with the uptake of glucose by your cells to make energy. It has now since been banned due to its links to cancer. Where do you find high levels of this hormone? Dairy products. Yup, that cheese that I don’t know what it tastes like anymore. I’m extremely happy not knowing. With the prominence of cancer in my family on both sides, eliminating bovine out of my diet wasn’t even a question. As soon as I finished reading Eat to Live over a year ago, the choice was clear. It was simple. And it’s remained simple.Β  I think after the skype this week that my students have an even heightened sense of awareness and strive for advocacy. They want to continue to learn about the foods they eat and how they can change their lifestyles and educate others.

Who would’ve ever thought I would be here, exactly where I am today. Educating the whole child was a dream, and now it’s become my reality. I’m loving life 110% and I’m praying that this ride will never end.

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Week Two and already behind…

Such is life, right? Last week at school was so crazy busy with the Mike Moss skype that I couldn’t think about school or anything for that matter this weekend. I was drained beyond belief, and mostly because of my own stress that I carry around for no reason. Momma every call you a drama queen? Cause mine sure did, and still does. I have the nutrition part down, I really need to focus on the well-being. How does one take care of themselves when they have 83 preteens to take care of? It’s a question that I’m not sure I’ll be able to answer with confidence for quite some time. My work w ife (who was upset I didn’t shout out to her in my initial blogging last week, so shout out to you my dear!) joked with me last week that I will never have a night where I don’t bring my laptop home and work on school work. I wishfully think that after 3 or 4 years that I will, so here’s to that!

So anyways, I did my usually cooking Sunday and Monday – thank you MLK for your inspirational advocacy for all Americans. I wish there were more people like you today working just as fiercely. Sunday I roasted a huge pan of vegetables with rosemary and sage (I always burst out singing Simon and Garfunkel – Scarborough Fair when I use those spices…. “she once was a true love of mine. Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thymeeeeeee!” – Oh the ballads we sang in high school choir and the memories I have). Anyways, I love roasted a pan of vegetables for the week because it easy and then I have them to eat over rice, salad greens, add to vegetable broth, or really whatever I feel like. Simple – cut vegetables, tiny bit of olive oil, spices & bake- stirring every so often at 375-400 degrees. This week I had parsnips, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, peppers, onions, brussel sprouts and asparagus – with (“parsley…”) sage and rosemary (“and thyme…..”). Today at lunch I ate them on salad greens (no dressing of course because I’m weird like that) and one of my students who was in my room for lunch asked me how I eat that. Another sarcastically replied, by chewing with your teeth and swallowing. Oh the joy of seventh grade.

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Then, after a long day at the university attempting to unit plan for Earth Science and enjoying a FAB lunch buffet at my favorite Ethiopian restaurant with my besties yesterday – full of stewed beets and carrots, lentils dahl (basic recipe here), and injera (yum! gluten free fermented bread) – I went home andΒ  made my favorite citrus sesame ginger kale salad – shout out to my work wife AGAIN for finding this amazing recipe on wegmans.com. I didn’t follow the recipe precisely because I am my mother’s daughter and physically cannot follow a recipe line by line, measurement by measurement. But mainly because I did not have some of the ingredients in my apartment. I used fresh lime juice instead of orange juice and regular kale – but when my wifey makes it with the baby kale its always the best so I would recommend it.

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That just wasn’t enough for this post so I made an oldie but goodie tonight for dinner – Asian sauteed vegetable slaw. It’s the easiest and quickest dinner when you’re in the mood for some soy sauce (or in my case, Braggs aminos) and veggies. Start by sauteing onions, garlic, peppers, jalapeno pepper, broccoli, mushrooms and carrots in 1 tsp olive oil and some vegetable broth. I turn the pan up to a medium heat so that the vegetables brown and caramelize after they have been sauteed for about 10-15 minutes. Then I add in a full head of savoy cabbage that has been chopped (in the case of tonight, and you can do this whenever – I used a premade bag of coleslaw mix from the store), lower heat and cover – simmering until cabbage is tender. Add aminos liquid and other Asian sauces as you see fit until you’ve reached the desired taste & enjoy. Last shout out to my work wife for this blog – this one’s coming to you life tomorrow for lunch! πŸ™‚

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My students are skyping with Dr. Joel Fuhrman Thursday, in less than 48 hours, I may be freaking, just slightly. We worked on authentic and compelling questions they want to ask today and they nailed it – I know they will do amazing and make me proud as always. Check back this coming Sunday (promise it will be Sunday this time) to hear how it went! Until then, enjoy some spicy and warm vegetable stew or any of these recipes listed above with this polar vortex that doesn’t seem to be going away!

Warm me up, buttercup

With the arctic vortex behind us, or at least so we think, I’m still in soup and stew mode – trying to stay warm. My menu for the entire fall season was full of vegetable stews and roasted root vegetable soups thanks to my GFC farm share. Buttercup squash was always my favorite for a soup, roasted with apples or pears and blended to perfection.

Even though the weather this weeks looks promising- holding in the mid thirties, my pinterest board called my name in the middle of the night (I’m serious, I dream about cooking) & yelled stew, Moroccan stew. I had pinned a Moroccan sweet potato and chickpea stew earlier in the week and was dying to try it. So, I went to Weggies super early (it’s the best in the morning because you get cashiers like Hank, an 80 year old man, delightful and precise – making sure that every last vegetable fit into my reusuable bag – making it too heavy to carry, but it’s the thought that counts).

Meet Moroccan sweet potato and chickpea stew, Lisa’s way. I didn’t include all of the vegetables that the recipe called for, leaving out zucchini and substituting tomato paste with mashed cherry tomatoes (just threw two handfuls in my ninja and wa-la mashed!) because I was worried about the sweetness of tomato paste. I bulked up on the sweet potatoes and spices. Garam marsala (high in calcium and potassium) is one of my new favorite spices and I’m obsessed with using it in everything. Oh, and I also added some curry powder (actually a good source of fiber) instead of ginger. Paired with a salad, I think this will be a great lunch to fill me up with energy and spice just before I teach for 3 hours straight πŸ™‚

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And of course that is not all, it’s Sunday, Sunday is my cooking day. I also made my own version of a quinoa breakfast bake. I’ve gotten stuck on this plateau of breakfast for weeks now – eating overnight oats, oatmeal, smoothies, or an egg every once and a great moon and I was yearning for something new. I found some quinoa breakfast bakes and didn’t fall in love with one specific, so I made my own Zellerific version (yes, students came up with that term, not me, though I wish I did cause its awesome!).

Banana Nut Breakfast Quinoa Bake:

Ingredients-

1 cup quinoa dry (cook in 2 cups water)

2 ripe bananas

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (my mom’s homemade, boiled apples nothing added)

1/3 cup coconut milk

1/4 cup almonds

1 tbsp cinnamon (antioxidants!)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp nutmeg

3 tbsp hemp seeds (all needed amino acids, omega fats, fiber and protein source)

2 tbsp chia seeds (omega fats, protein & fiber source)

Directions – mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Grease 8×8 pan with coconut oil, pour in mixture. Bake in 375 degree oven for 25 minutes uncovered. Enjoy slightly cooled. Top will be crunchy with a soft, creamy inside πŸ™‚

8-10 servings, 121 calories (5 g fat, 16 g carbs, 5 g protein)

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A new salad to throw in the mix as well, so simply, yet full of flavor – Broccoli Avocado salad, literally chop the two vegetables, add juice and zest of half a lemon, cracked black pepper, and some nuts of choice – bam! Delicious and fresh and slightly addicting.

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And last but not least, a two ingredient dessert for when I get that sweet tooth every so often – Pineapple Coconut. “You put the lime and the coconut and mix it all up”, just substitute in cubed pineapple and coconut milk – put into blender (I used my ninja storm, cause its the best thing since sliced bread, thanks mom!), store in freezer in mason jar and its like a fresh icey, just without the food coloring, fake flavor and water. It took seconds, literally seconds to make, so do it. Now. I promise you won’t regret it.I plan on using it in smoothies too!

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Enjoy πŸ™‚

Inspired by middle school students…

Welcome to my blog!

I’m a young professional, or at least I like to think of myself as such… I’m currently in my second year of teaching science in an urban school district in Western New York… wow, it’s really weird saying second year, time surly does fly when you’re having fun! Very happily, I am teaching 7th grade science this year at an expeditionary learning school. Expeditionary learning is an outstanding program that I feel very honored to be a part of. Each year, my team of seventh grade teachers and I plan a learning expedition – a series of case studies and projects for each content area that all link to a big idea that is authentic and relevant to our students. This year I came in as a newly second year teacher and first year teacher in expeditionary learning and hit the ground running – and I still haven’t stopped. I’m sprinting, with lactic acid built up to my ears, but I deeply love the challenge.

Our expedition this year is titled: “Hungry for Change: From Needs to Actions”. You have to say it in a deep formal voice to get the full effect, which is pretty darn awesome. Our students have been excitingly sprinting with me through various topics from manufacturing and marketing of food, to nutrition labels, to remaking recipes, learning about fiber’s secret weapon for your body, to understanding the true science behind type 2 diabetes, to the crazy complication of the human body and how it can insanely maintain homeostasis (or at least try to), to neurological communication in the brain specific to America’s addiction to processed sugar. Remember, I said, seventh graders. [Applaud here]

So, why am I blogging? My twelve- and thirteen-year-old students have more than inspired me throughout this expedition by making serious changes to their own and their family’s lifestyles. Many students have stopped drinking Brisk (yes, I took on that challenge and conquered it with my fist high in the air), limited their processed food intake by visiting the corner store much less frequently, fearlessly tried new fruits and vegetables, eaten more fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, started shopping at the public market, and eating less dairy and meat. One of our projects for the expedition being led by the math teacher and myself is teaching students how to remake recipes for optimum healthiness. Specifically, students are decreasing fat content, increasing fiber and micronutrient content, and eliminating unhealthy ingredients such as white sugar, white flour, butter, and cream.

Now, I was a fortunate person to grow up with fabulous women in my family who taught me how to cook healthy and flavorful meals. Healthy to me growing up was very similar for you I am sure… it meant a large portion of meat, a starch, and a small side of vegetables. All three food groups included meant we were healthy and getting all of the essential vitamins and minerals that we needed. Oh and don’t forget the glass of milk! Which in my case frequently came from my aunt’s farm down the road – the real stuff! It wasn’t until I moved to the city from my small farm town that I had the gigantic transformation in so many different aspects of my life and specific for this blog, started to research more and more about the foods I was eating.

The nutritarian lifestyle caught my eye as I watched Forks over Knives and began reading book after book: The China Study, Eat to Live, and Eat Right to name a few. I guess the fact that I befriended many health nut friends didn’t impede this journey in any way either. Everything I read made perfect sense to me, from a biological standpoint, socio-emotional, sustainable and ecological. Food from the earth itself is what I am meant to eat, not anything that is produced in a factory full of chemicals that wreak havoc on my body. So for just over a year now, I have been living a nutritarian lifestyle- eating no processed foods, no bovine (dairy products and beef), very limited meat (only chicken, turkey, and fish – organic as much as possible) and eggs on a very limited basis, always organic. My daily meals include massive amounts of fresh vegetables, mainly green and cruciferous, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts and seeds. Eating this way brings me comfort in many ways -feeling physically healthy and happy, taking power over my health specific to disease and cancer (something very close to home for me with my mother being a breast cancer survivor and over 10 family members surviving and dying from other various cancers), and personally supporting my local economy by purchasing local farm fresh foods on a weekly basis – again close to home growing up with multiple family members running their own farming businesses.

So again, why blog about it? Well, my students have done such an outstanding job making changes in their lives and sharing those changes with their families, friends, and community members. But here I am, enjoying my healthy cooking everyday but not sharing it with as many people as I could. So I plan to share with you, whomever you are, my weekly healthy recipes and some information here and there for why these foods are so good for you. Please remember that I am a teacher, a very dedicated one, so I do most of my cooking for the week on Sundays, leaving me time for lesson planning, grading, meetings, and the gym during the week. Warming up delicious food in the oven for 10 minutes takes much less time than cooking an entire meal when I’m exhausted and starving at 6 or 7 at night during the week.

I hope that you enjoy my recipes, my banter, and humor as you read my blog. Here’s to a healthy, happy, fruitful life!