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:  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 🙂 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! 🙂

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: Cauliflower Cheese Sauce.  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 🙂

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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.  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.  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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