Wednesday, July 30, 2014

WIAW: Trying New Recipes

This is probably not surprising, but I am one of those people who loves going grocery shopping. I love the whole process. I peruse my favorite food blogs for recipes I want to try, pick out a few, and make a list, heading to the store prepared. I'm pretty speedy too! I am in and out of the store in 30 minutes or so, and I'm shopping for two.

This past Monday evening, I was home alone, and spent two hours cooking in our tiny kitchen. The window and our screen door were wide open, and I was listening to my Bon Iver Pandora station, and life was good. 

Spending even just an hour or two once a week to prep some healthy snacks, sauces, and/or meals, can make a huge difference in the food choices you make throughout the week. If you're stocked with some healthy snacks and ingredients for easy-to-prep, quick meals, you're going to find it a lot easier to nourish your body. 

This week, my Monday food prep happy hour involved me trying out a recipe for Endurance Crackers by Oh She Glows (her pictures always make me want to eat allthevegetables), as well as making Marla's Raw Tomato Sauce, and finally, some cookie dough by PaleOMG (simply love her recipes). 

So lets get to it. It's What I Ate Wednesday!

Breakfast involved one of my favorite foods - fried eggs. Seriously, I feel like Bubba from Forrest Gump when I talk about fried eggs. You can put them on anything and everything. For so long, I feared the drippy yolk. But fear no more - that rich, drippy yolk is packed full of nutrients, such as Vitamin D and choline, and it is delicious. Each egg has around 6 grams of protein, and I shoot to get in around 15 grams of protein (at least) at breakfast. Protein and healthy fats from eggs + avocados, check. Carbohydrates from gluten-free bread, check. 

Also not pictured, two glasses of water and a cup of coffee. I've been focusing a lot more on hydration the past few weeks and have felt an incredible different. More on that in a future post...

As I mentioned, one of the new recipes I tried out for this week was Oh She Glow's Endurance Crackers. They are jam packed with various seeds, and ended up tasting way better than I thought they would. I did alter the recipe a bit; I used flax seeds instead of sunflower seeds, added lots of garlic powder, and sprinkled red pepper flakes on top. They are so crispy and good! I'll definitely be making these 'crackers' again soon. 

Lunch also included some peppered turkey breast along with a kale salad in which I massaged with sesame and olive oils, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and topped with Pecorino Romano and nutritional yeast. And of course, a small glass of KeVita on the side. The mango flavor is my absolute favorite. KeVitas are not exactly cheap, so I'll buy 2 or so per week and slowly savor each sip. From when I arrived at work to when I left for yoga, I drank around 45 or 50 ounces of water. Yup!

My pre-yoga snack was a Larabar. I was craving something a little sweet, as I hadn't really had a sweet taste all day. This bar was perfect an hour before what turned out to be a very hot, challenging, 90 minute Vinyasa flow class. 

And finally, dinner. After yoga, I am never very hungry but rather, extremely thirsty from all the sweating. This isn't going to be the greatest picture, but I promise you, this mixture tastes amazing. I used my spiralizer (I'm pro now; it's the best $29 I ever spent) to make zucchini noodles. I then topped the zoodles with a jalapeño chicken sausage, Marla's Raw Tomato Sauce, and some Pecorino. 

...By the way. Have you made Marla's Raw Tomato Sauce Yet? I hadn't had it in over a week, so naturally, I made some Monday night. I recommend going to your Farmers Market this weekend, hoarding Heirloom tomatoes, and making multiple batches of said sauce to freeze. I may be doing this asap...

And finally, I had a chewy chocolate cookie. I wanted a little sweetness. And it was worth it. These cookies are just, beyond.

I'm already excited to plot which recipes I plan to try next week (dork). What recipes have you tried lately that have been successful?

Monday, July 28, 2014

On Running FOMO & A Little Monday Inspiration...

Did you have a nice weekend? 

Are you feeling, perhaps, a little meh on this Monday? 

Me too. It was uncharacteristically sunny and gorgeous this weekend in San Francisco. While this weather is normally welcomed by this fog-overloaded city, it came on the weekend of the San Francisco Marathon. So, it was a pretty hot race as you can imagine.

The San Francisco marathon has a very special place in my heart. It was the first marathon I ever ran and completed in 2009. I followed a realistic training plan with plenty of long runs and had a running buddy to help keep me motivated throughout the training. 

However, two weeks before the race, I had my heart broken for the first time; like really broken. This heart break struck me suddenly and deeply and I turned into a zombie. I didn't know if I would be able to run the marathon I had committed the past five months of my life to training for. These two weeks before the marathon, when hydration and nourishment are key as you rest or taper, I didn't really sleep or eat; I couldn't. But I decided I'd run it, because life had to go on, and although the pain I was feeling was getting in the way of many other things in my life, it sure as hell wasn't going to stop me from running my first marathon. And truthfully, I was pretty malnourished, so maybe it wasn't the smartest decision to forge ahead, but if I'm being honest here, I sure don't regret it.

And so, the day before the big race, my best friend and I went to a pancake place in Hayes Valley in San Francisco and I forced myself to eat and "fuel up" before the marathon. [Note: After lots of nutrition education, I have a fairly different take on how to appropriately fuel for such a race, but on that day, I was just trying to get some calories in me.]

On race day, energy-wise, I felt great. I was running, quite literally, on adrenaline, anger, and delirium. I still remember parts of the race really well. I remember my Mom poking her head out of my cousin Jimmy's car window on the Golden Gate Bridge yelling "Laura" as I ran across it, smiling. I remember my big Sister waving a handmade poster with a Hershey bar taped to it (no joke...whatever motivates you right?) cheering for me as I made my way through Golden Gate Park. And I remember crossing the finish line and thinking, it was worth it. I want more...after a nap.

I needed those endorphins and post-marathon high so badly at that time. They served me kindly. I finally got a good night's sleep that night. I remember that too. 

So, where am I going with this? 

Running the race was not in my cards this year. I suppose I just have to accept that. It was really hard for me to be there as a cheerleader, and not, as a runner (major FOMO - fear of missing out). I worked for Vega at the finish line of the race. I helped serve electrolyte drinks and recovery accelerator drinks (made with natural ingredients, of course!). I talked to lots of runners, of all ages, even some friends stopped by, each one, inspiring in his or her own way. I witnessed a lot of dehydration, tired muscles, and salty faces. And it all refueled my desire to run, which has been a little absent lately (and that is OK). It also forced me to reflect on how far I've come in the past five years; I'm in a different, healthier and happier relationship, transitioning into a new career (more on that on Friday), and I've become better at listening to my body and trusting my intuition. All, good things. 

I can't wait to run the San Francisco [1/2] Marathon next year. Plotting...

My blog isn't strictly about nutrition. That'd get old real fast. I like to practice holistic nutrition because it means, to me, finding nourishment and happiness from not just food, but relationships, exercise, spirituality, and so much more, too. 

On Sunday, I witnessed my best friend's husband crush his first marathon. I saw my best friend shortly after killing it with a new personal record. I met a man who has run 111 marathons; he assured me he was taking a break soon. 

I felt inspired. 

So, did anything inspire you this weekend? 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies (with Peanut, Almond, or Sunflower Seed Butter)

When I was attending Bauman College for my Nutrition Consultant program, every week one student was in charge of bringing a snack into class for everyone to enjoy. After all, we were studying FOOD, so, we had to be really good at both eating it and appreciating it. And sort-of-kind-of-good at making it, right? 

My classmates brought a variety of healthy, impressive dishes: Roasted organic tomato bell-pepper soup, home-made vegetarian sushi, organic black bean and corn salad, homemade flax crackers with a sardine dip. These recipes packed lots of nutrients, flavors, and superfoods. 

And then, there was what I brought. At first, I did the traditional healthy thing. I made a lovely Brussels sprouts and sweet potato salad with toasted pecans. And then my second time, a smokey soup with lots of green vegetables (I love making soups). And then for my third snack, I brought kale sautéed in pasture-raised (of course!) bacon fat with chunks of salty, delicious bacon. I was starting to give into my roots, I suppose.

And for my last snack I baked. No one else had baked anything, and baking was sort-of associated with unhealthy in a way, since our minds went immediately to baked goods with lots processed ingredients. But I baked anyways.

Lets be honest. I'm a baker at heart. I always have been, and always will be. Growing up, every Sunday morning, I'd prance into the kitchen with my messy bed-head and get my arms elbow-deep in flour helping my Dad bake biscuits, cobblers, or pies. We'd listen to James Taylor and groove just enough.

Anyways, I baked a paleo-friendly bread for my dear classmates, and served it with raw, drippy, almond butter. I realized that every time I thought about which snack I would bring to class, I was getting so caught up in how healthy I could make something, that I completely lost my sense of enjoyment actually making it, and sharing it with others. And isn't that kind of what it's all about at the end of the day? So I embraced my roots. And my classmates loved the baked paleo bread, which was actually pretty darn healthy (in moderation, of course), as it was made of all minimally processed, unrefined ingredients. 

When we focus on eating strictly whatever we think is "healthy," it is easy to become obsessive to a point where we lose the enjoyment of food itself. 

As a Nutritionist, I see a lot of clients who are focused on eliminating certain things from their diets, or restricting certain foods. While eliminating may be necessary on the road to improved health, I think it's healthier, from a spiritual level, to not obsess over elimination and restriction. 

Because, I can bake if I want to. 

Gluten-free [Peanut, Almond, or Sunflower Seed Butter] Chocolate Chip Cookies
Paleo-friendly (if made without peanut butter, butter), gluten-free, & delicious 

2 cups almond meal (I buy Trader Joes almond meal because it is affordable)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup peanut butter or almond butter or sunflower seed butter; I used a natural, more-drippy, organic kind
1 egg
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips or semi-sweet chocolate chips or your chocolate chips of choice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

Melt the butter or coconut oil. Combine almond meal, sea salt, baking soda, vanilla, maple syrup, egg, nut/seed butter of choice, and melted butter or coconut oil. Mix well. Then, add in the chocolate chips and mix. 

Wrap dough in foil or plastic wrap and place in the freezer for an hour or so, so that the dough hardens a bit. Then, take out and scoop cookie dough balls onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or sprayed with coconut oil. 

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Enjoy!

*I love eating these out of the freezer.
**These are not going to spread on the cookie sheet very much.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My Long Weekend, in Pictures

I had a nice, very long weekend. 

I met my boyfriend in Princeton, New Jersey, for a wedding, and then we ventured into Manhattan for the rest of the weekend. One of my oldest girlfriends' and her husband just moved there, so we couldn't not visit them while back east. But I'm back in San Francisco now, and despite the roughness that is a 6am NYC flight to SFO, and rolling straight into work, after over two weeks of traveling, it feels good to be home. 

These are some of my favorite pictures from the end of my trip. 

Oh, and on Friday, I'll be sharing a cookie recipe. Life is pretty good sometimes.

The gorgeous, lush, green campus that is Princeton

The most beautiful crab cake with pickled cabbage - delicious wedding appetizer!

Sunday evening at Central Park

Obligatory Central Park shot

Our friend's amazing terrace, complete with happy pups, on the Upper West Side 

My Fortune Teller Fish after a wonderful meal at The Mermaid Inn

Beautiful chocolates at a wine bar in NYC 

Suckling pig with garlic yucca at Cuba, an amazing restaurant in Greenwich Village. Pretty sure they marinated the yucca in a garlic butter - it was rich and divine.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Marla's Raw Summer Tomato Sauce

So while I was in Southern California for a health training this last week, I met a woman named Marla. Let me tell you about Marla. 

Marla is a traveling Registered Nurse. Her last gig was in Hollywood, and in a few days, she's heading up north up to Seattle. She likes it up there, and hopes to maybe become a not-so-much-traveling nurse if you know what I mean. Marla has the best stories. She's an ER nurse, after all. 

When Marla was 21 years young, she decided to join the Marines. She wrote down her preference as staying on the West Coast, since it was the Coast she was most familiar with. And she got put real far West, to her surprise. As in, Hawaii. Marla has the best stories. She was a female Marine stationed in Hawaii, after all. 

About 10 years ago, Marla quit smoking. She had been addicted for years. And then, she cleaned up her diet. And now, she follows a Vegan diet. 

In my short time spent with Marla, I learned a few things. First, Marla really does have the best stories ever. Maybe it's my innate curiosity for all-things military related (I know so little about it) or maybe I'm just super nosey, but I was asking her to tell me more, all the time. Second, I've learned that Marla is all-business when it comes to her nursing career, something she takes great pride in. And by all business, I mean that as a nurse, she is constantly putting the patient's best interest first, even if it means admitting to the crying kid that the needle will hurt, but that he'll feel much better after. And finally, in talking with Marla, it reminded me that when it comes to our diets, it's important to eat what makes us feel good - physically, mentally, and spiritually.

I don't follow a Vegan diet, and that's my prerogative. Marla does, and that's hers. We have our reasons, just like you have yours, I am sure. 

But one of the things I love most about food is that it is a universal connector despite our differences. Marla and I both loved the same green coconut smoothie with berries, Medjool dates, and anything with nutritional yeast on it. 

One night, Marla volunteered to make a raw tomato sauce to complement my roasted spaghetti squash. And this sauce, well it worked. It worked really well, to the point where we made about 6 jars worth in 2 days. It has all the right Summer flavors - fresh heirloom tomatoes and fragrant basil. 

I'm so happy I met Marla. Not because of the sauce (but that's legit a reason), but because she reminded me of how much fun it is to share the kitchen with others.

Marla's Raw Tomato Sauce 
Vegan, gluten-free, raw; makes about 2 cups

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, loosely packed
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes (preferably Heirloom and Cherry, but just Heirloom would work)
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
About 5 or 6 sundried tomatoes
4 cloves garlic
1 Medjool date...or 2
Nutritional yeast, copious amounts for topping

Soak the date (s) and sundried tomatoes in a cup of water for about 20 to 30 minutes. Drain. Then, put everything in a blender or food processor. If you are blending, pulse the blender. If you are food processing, use the pulse button. The sauce is best a little chunky, rather than fully blended smooth. 

Pour this sauce, in loads, over hot spaghetti squash, pasta of choice, or just eat it by the spoonful. We poured a ton over roasted spaghetti squash and then literally doused it with nutritional yeast. 

*This recipe could easily be de-veganized using cheese and/or adding animal protein. But it's so good and simple as is. So I'm going to stick to Marla's way. 
**For nutritional yeast, you can find it at a lot of health food stores such as Whole Foods. I like this kind.