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.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

WIAW: Clean Eating

I'm coming off of a great week filled with lots of learning, new friends, and clean eats! The phrase clean eating can mean something different to everyone. So, what does clean eating mean to you? 

For me, it means scaling back big-time on sugar (sorry Hersheys), and really incorporating lots of vegetables into my diet. It also means a lot more mindful eating - appreciating my food and eating in parasympathetic mode aka relaxation. Mindful eating is truly important and critical for good digestion! 

Normally, I try to base my diet around eating whole foods, but life creeps in, and by "life" I mean dessert. Sugar is something I've always struggled with because, well, sugar is truly addictive and my Mom is a chef who knocks it out of the park with her desserts. 

But I don't like to focus on restricting foods - with myself or with my nutrition consulting clients. That's no fun, right? I like to focus about which foods I get to add in or which new fun recipes I plan to try. That's much more my style. 

So, on this What I Ate Wednesday, lets focus on all minimally processed foods and whole foods that taste really good. Like, worth-it good.

Pre-run: a bite of Larabar, which really means half of a Larabar since they're so dang small, with a spoonful of almond butter - this is certainly a processed food, but as someone who struggles to eat before a morning workout, this is working for me as of lately

So, the whole sugar thing. My Nutrition mentor, Lisa, has a rule. This is funny to type out since she is the ultimate rule breaker and loves to challenge the norm. Which is why I love her. But anyways, her rule is to aim to keep sugar around 20 grams per day. Let me tell you - that's an apple. Or not even a whole Larabar (this one had 23 grams of sugar). And sure, that rule may need to be modified based on individual needs, but still. Food for thought, right? I bet most of us are eating at least 50 or 60 grams of sugar daily. At least.

Immediately post-run: I ate the rest of that Larabar, which equaled out to one bite. Darn, those bars are tiny.

Breakfast: The grossest looking smoothie, which tasted delicious: blueberries/3 handfuls mixed greens/ice/almond milk/coconut water/Vega One/almond butter

Lunch part 1: Farm-fresh, pastured eggs hardboiled with sea salt & pepper + new-to-me gluten-free Chia seed crackers. Look at those yolks! So much Vitamin D.

And while we're on the subject of sugar, I am not a huge Kombucha fan, as it's made from mold and so people with mold-sensitivities or candida, for example, aren't benefiting from it. Research shows that craving sugar is a common symptom of candidiasis. Kevita is made from fermented coconut water, as well as some other natural ingredients. I like KeVita because it is light, refreshing, bubbly, and filled with probiotics; highly recommend.

Normally, I drink a half-bottle at a time, but this cold beverage tasted so delicious in the hot weather that I finished the entire bottle. This flavor tastes like a mango bellini - truth.

Lunch part 2: Apple slices with almond butter & cinnamon

Did you know that cinnamon is a super-powerhouse spice with lots of cool nutritional properties? It can help with digestion and it can help stabilize blood sugar. I like to sprinkle it on apple slices or sweet potatoes as it adds a hint of sweetness.

So on this clean-eating WIAW, lets focus on the fun that comes with exploring new foods that make us feel darn good and don't leave us with a sugar-high. Switch it up! For example, zoodles! While I've been at this health training, I've been in a committed relationship with my friend's spiralizer as I try to perfect all-foods with the potential to become curly. 

Zoodles - zucchini noodles served as the basis for a healthy,veggie, fiber-filled dinner

This recipe knocked it out of the park. I made two modifications, which were adding about 1/4 cup more nutritional yeast as well as sauteed mushrooms as a topping. I can't wait to serve this to a certain midwesterner who has refused to go grocery shopping while I've been gone these past 9 days - how can one hate grocery shopping so much!? It's one of my favorite activities. Lets just say for him, thank goodness for Sprig

So on this WIAW, I may have gone slightly over the 20 grams of sugar "rule," but I'm okay with that because I ate so many delicious, healthful things. And the sugars I did consume, were from {mostly} real foods like dates and apples, and didn't leave me traveling on the sugar rollercoaster

Best of all, I enjoyed each bite throughout the day. So this, to me, is a pretty clean-eats kind of day. I felt nourished, satisfied, and happy. 

So on this WIAW, what are you looking forward to eating, cooking, or baking?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Virtual Smoothie Date

Lets have a virtual date. With a green smoothie. Or coffee, tea, even a latte, if that's your style. Right now, I'm still living in hot weather, so smoothies are a daily thing. #getyourgreens

Vega One Vanilla/Organic Greens/Coconut Water/Almond Milk/Coconut Oil/Ice

If we were having a smoothie date together, I'd tell you that the past week I've been at a special health training with six unique women in Hemet, California (near Palm Springs & San Diego). We've been learning some really cool stuff and I've been refreshing (and expanding) my knowledge on the human digestive processes. Did you know that emotional upset or trauma can alter the pH of your saliva from fairly alkaline to more acidic? This will cause your body to work harder since it has to call upon its mineral supply to re-alkalinize your mouth. If my time studying Nutrition at Bauman College taught me anything, it's that your digestive health is everything. For reals. And my learnings this past week have further confirmed that. 

I'd tell you that I am completely obsessed with Orange is the New Black. I resisted getting a Netflix subscription for a long time simply because I didn't want any more TV-distractions. I always tell myself I should be reading or being productive rather than watching TV. But since I'm technically on vacation right now, I figured I'd indulge. And in the past 3 days, I may or may have not watched the entire first season. Can I just say that Sophia is my absolute favorite? I want her to be my friend and my hairstylist. And Crazy Eyes? Whoever did the casting on that show - just brilliant. The acting is just so darn good, as is the music. Can't stop, won't stop.

I'd also tell you that I've been using my friend's spiralizer these past few nights. I wanted to learn how since my boyfriend is on a "get rid of Laura's kitchen stuff she never uses" phase and mine has been sitting in our cabinet unused since October. So I've set a goal, because goals are good, right?  I'm trying to perfect crispy, curly sweet potato fries. Both nights, they've come out delicious (I've got the seasoning down), but not crispy. I've tried soaking them in ice-cold water and patting them down before baking them, but no luck on the crisp factor. Help! Is there a sweet potato fries hotline? I suppose this means I'll keep having to work on my technique back in San Francisco. Which means my boyfriend cannot throw out my spiralizer. 

Oh! And I'd tell you that on Friday, I'm so excited to share with you the perfect Summer recipe which involves spaghetti squash, fresh tomatoes, and dates. My awesome new friend Marla kindly shared with me her recipe for a fresh, raw, knock-your-socks-off tomato sauce. And it's to die for. I've had it for dinner two nights in a row and will absolutely be making it when I return to San Francisco. 

And finally, I'd tell you that lately, I've been feeling really grateful. I'm so happy to be writing this little blog again. And in addition to being surrounded by friends and family who constantly support me, I'm feeling especially grateful for the things to come. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

True Life: I'm obsessed with Shishito & Padron Peppers

I don't love kale. I like it, dressed in peanut sauce. But it's not love.

I've never really craved a big ole bowl of steamed broccoli. 

And collard greens are not my favorite. They've got a pretty strong taste, in my opinion.

I'm not going to pretend with you that because I am a Nutritionist, I love all healthy green foods. I'm human, for goodness sake. I love chocolate, and no, not just the darker, healthier, or fancier stuff! I like the cheap, milk chocolate, in the form of a Hershey's Bar. Anyone who knows me knows that. It's just one of my (many) quirks.  

And, lets get real here. Sometimes, I find it really challenging to get a decent amount of vegetables into my daily eats. That's why I try to sneak them into my smoothies, or cook them quickly in bacon fat

My point here, is that, well, food should taste good. Right? Vegetables, I'm talking to you. So, throughout my adventures in the kitchen, I have figured out how I like to cook my greens to make them taste really freaking good. And that often involves some butter (grass-fed, salted). And maybe some truffle salt here and there. And I'm okay with that. 

But Shishito and Padron Peppers? I absolutely, wholeheartedly, without a doubt, more than Hershey's (like woah), can say that I love these peppers. Have you seen them at your grocery store or Farmers Market? They are only in season during the Summer. I buy 3 to 4 baskets worth, which should realistically last about a week, but I pop these peppers faster than Hershey's kisses, and go through 3 or 4 baskets in a few days. 

These peppers are a game-changer

You don't love kale either? Try these peppers. I think they'd turn any green-veggie hater into a veggie-lover.

The Shishito peppers are less spicy and have a longer shape, with more indents. The Padron peppers appear a little fatter and can be a bit smokier and spicier. Not all are spicy, in fact, most are mild in my opinion, however, occasionally (maybe 1 in 8 peppers) you'll get a real spicy one that will challenge your taste buds. It's pepper roulette! 

I like to heat some Kerrygold butter in a pan, because it's my favorite and because butter is a saturated fat, so it's not going to be damaged as easily when heated as something like, say, olive oil. And then, I dump a bunch of peppers into the pan. And let them sit and start to blister a little. I flip them to my best ability and let them blister a little more. And then grind fresh black pepper and sea salt on top. 

And that's it. I eat them immediately, and usually before my boyfriend can grab more than a few. 

So, don't force yourself to love a vegetable because it's the healthiest one. Find the veggies you like, know how to cook them, and enjoy them. 

Because, when it comes down to it, we should enjoy and appreciate our food, right? 

Pan-fried Simple Shishito & Padron Peppers

1 tablespoon butter, ghee, or coconut oil
2 handfuls of Shishito and/or Padron peppers
Sea salt & ground pepper, to taste

In a saute pan, heat the butter (or fat of choice) over medium heat. Add the peppers, and let them sit and cook for 3 minutes or so. 

Using tongs, press gentle on the peppers as they start to blister - you'll hear a popping sound, perhaps! Make sure the peppers cook evenly on all sides. Depending on how many you cook, they'll be done within 6 or 7 minutes. 

Sprinkle with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Serve immediately, and enjoy!