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Vegan Shepherd’s Pie

26 Oct

Shepherd’s pie is pure comfort food. This recipe from Nava Atlas’ Vegan Holiday Kitchen is one of my favorites. Sometimes I substitute crumbled tempeh for the lentils and add a can of diced tomatoes. I almost always add extra veggies like green beans.

Find the recipe here: 

http://www.vegkitchen.com/recipes/lentil-and-mushroom-shepherd%E2%80%99s-pie/

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Thanks for reading!

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Art, Science & The Meaning of Good Food

28 Sep

I used to hate science.

In high school I was in art club. I had dreams of becoming an artist. A designer, a painter, maybe even a sculptor. I made my own clothes and wore them to school. I entered my drawings and paintings into contests and actually won on a few occasions. I made my own jewelry, I sewed quilts and gave them as gifts, I painted polka dots and palm trees on my bedroom walls. I was a creator.

Fast-forward 6 years. Imagine me sitting in a large lecture hall surrounded by pre-med students desperately trying to decipher what the professor was scribbling on the blackboard: organic chemistry. This was the worst of my science-heavy academia, but many similarly technical courses ensued: anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, medical nutrition therapy… you get the picture.

As I was cooking the other day- carefully examining a recipe in one of my new cookbooks while simultaneously improvising with a dash of this and a substitution for that- I started thinking about the opposing forces of art and science. Some of us naturally sway more in one direction than the other. But these are not “gifts”, they are skills, meaning we can become adept at both no matter which way we tend to lean. And, in my opinion,  we all need a little art and a little science in order to be balanced. As I half-followed that recipe, I realized that this opinion is also a perfect description of my philosophy on food.

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Food is fuel. (True). Food is memories, connection, and creativity (Also true).The sciences get us what we want (lower blood pressure, weight loss, faster race times). The arts are ends in themselves (the warm fuzzies from a bowl of soup on a cold night, the comforting memory of your grandma’s signature pie). Our relationship with food needs the sensibility of science to keep us healthy. It also needs the expression of art to make us feel alive and connected to our culture, to the people we break bread with, and to ourselves. I’ve seen how things can go awry if either of these aspects is forgotten. Ripping the art out of food leaves us with carbs/protein/fat, calorie counting, chugging lemon/cayenne/maple syrup concoctions, and obsessing over ways to “rev our metabolisms”. All art and no science ignores the compelling research that proves food really can be our medicine. Our disordered interpretation of how we should view and experience food has left us with a broken and abusive relationship with the thing that is meant to nourish us on all levels.

I am cooking much more now (for myself and for True Food clients). The creator in me revels in the vibrant colors, endless flavor combinations, and the reassuring act of producing nourishment for myself and others with my own two hands. The scientist beams with pride knowing that each ingredient, recipe, and final meal was carefully crafted with the intention of improving and supporting health.

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Wherever you fall on the science-art spectrum, I encourage you to seek out balance, especially when it comes to food. Without science, we are merely floating into an abyss. Without art, we live a rigid life. As for food, make choices based on what you know will nourish your health (I am confident your intuition will lead you to the right stuff), but don’t forget to create, play, savor, share, and enjoy what’s on your plate.

A soup recipe worth trying:

African Peanut Stew

(adapted from Peas and Thank You)

The Science: a meal of soup will fill you up (fiber- and water-licious!), fuel you up (nice balance of complex carbs, healthy fats, and plant proteins), and make you feel great (loads of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants up in here).
The Art: a blend of the vivacious colors of nature, varying textures, and punchy flavors will have you smiling and “mmm..”-ing until the final spoonful.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 sweet potato, cubed
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 T. curry powder
  • 1 t. cumin
  • 1 T. minced ginger (or 1 t. ginger powder)
  • 2 t. minced garlic
  • dash of cinnamon
  • dash of cayenne
  • 1 14 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes, in juice
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 2 c. vegetable stock
  • 2 T. natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 c. red lentils
  • chopped fresh greens (kale or spinach work nicely)

How-To:

  • Combine all ingredients except greens in a soup pot on the stove or in a crockpot and simmer until sweet potatoes are tender. Right before serving, stir in greens until wilted. 

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In the end, we all need a little of both worlds. The scientist must engage creative thinking to solve his hypothesis and the artist must learn technique to master his medium.

Psst… you still have one more week to win 20 LARABARS! All you have to do is share this post and sign up for the True Food newsletter.

Thanks for reading.

Dancing In The Rain

8 Aug

Many of my most significant life events have happened in the rain.

I came to this realization on a particularly stormy bike ride yesterday. I was trekking up a steep hill, wind and rain hammering my face, clothes clinging to my soaked skin. I was consumed by a mix of panic and hastiness that rain provokes. And then I remembered that just over 2 months ago I got married in the rain. And not just rain- black clouds, vicious lightning, and clapping thunder. In a long white dress. Suddenly, feelings of true joy washed over me as I pedaled up that hill. My drenched ride became playful, laughable, and… enjoyable. I felt more alive, more plugged in to the moment.

Why do we allow a little rain to shift our perspective so much? In life, it rains. Not only does it rain, but it storms, hails, tornadoes, tsunamis… Think of all the joyful moments you might be missing because you choose to cry along with the rain instead of dance in it?

It rained the day James proposed to me…

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It rained the day we got married…

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It rained the day I graduated college…

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It rained the last time we moved…

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It rained the day I ran my first marathon…

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It rained the first time I summited a mountain…

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I handle life’s rainstorms pretty well. I credit this to my belief that we are the masters of our own experience. We get to choose how we experience and remember each precious moment. I was surprised by the number of people who complimented me on my calm and happy demeanor the day 100 of our nearest and dearest gathered under a gazebo during a downpour, soaked and soggy, to watch me and JWD honor our love. To me, it was an easy choice to take it in stride. I didn’t see a rainy day, I saw a day on which my heart was overflowing with love and gratitude for JWD, our families, and our friends.

I think rain is good for us. It teaches us that perfection is highly overrated and is, in fact, something to reject rather than strive for. It teaches us that the imperfections are what make life exciting, make us feel truly alive, and connect us with each other. It conditions us to stop sweating the small stuff and to stop waiting for the sunny days to smile. 

A positive outlook is not just good for your soul, it’s good for your health too. One study found that hospital patients with a positive outlook were 58% more likely to live longer than their glass-half-empty counterparts. Aside from longevity, positivity is also linked to better heart health, strong immune systems, and less stress. Those who are positive tend to be exercisers, which is also proven to boost mood, health, and lower stress.

As everyone filed out of the gazebo after our wedding ceremony into the then sun-drenched park, one of our friends said the most incredible thing to me. He said, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just soft people.” So dig deep and create your own sunshine. It’s not always easy, but it gets easier the more you practice.
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We’ve all been rained on (both literally and figuratively). Do you cry or do you dance?

 A song from our wedding day…

Banana-Berry Chocolate Chip Pancakes My Way

27 Jun

Are you drooling yet?

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How about now?

There is no way this stack of ooey gooey deliciousness could be healthy, right? Hold on to your hats because I’m about to deliver the best news you’ve heard all day: these hotcakes are 100% nutritious! If I could reach through the screen and pinch you to prove this is not a dream, I would (it would be a gentle “love pinch”, of course).

About a year ago, a good friend sent this recipe to me in a “you’re gonna love this” email and I’ve been whipping them up once a week ever since. The original recipe is from Minimalist Baker and can be found here. But I’m going to post my adapted version which includes doubling the recipe (naturally) and a few ingredient tweaks.

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From a nutrition perspective, my biggest “beef” with pancakes is the lack of protein. Enter Creamy Yogurt Pancake Topping. Problem solved.

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In other news, it’s been business as usual this week. I’ve been switching it up a bit on the snack front, so I’m excited to share that with you soon. Also, tomorrow marks the first of what I’m sure will be many wedding adventures! More to come on that too.

And last but not least, Happy Birthday to my beautiful Mamma!

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Thanks for reading 🙂

Buffalo Wings Veggie Style

25 Mar

Happy Monday! This is what spring time in STL looks like:

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Brrrr! Looks like soups, hot tea, and steel cut oats will be on the menu for a bit longer. Here’s another recipe with a spicy kick to keep you warm…

You already know that plants make up the majority of my meals. People ask “Don’t you miss eating meat? Isn’t it hard to not eat it?”. I think this is funny because it turns my style of eating into a punishing diet- the complete opposite of what it actually is 🙂 I choose to eat what I eat because it makes me feel great, it fuels my workouts, and it’s yummy! If meat sounds good, I eat it (like turkey on Thanksgiving).

However there is one meat meal that I don’t necessarily miss, but I miss the idea of- buffalo wings. I am a hot sauce junky! I love the combo of the fiery sauce, crunchy celery, and cool dressing for dipping. When I saw several Buffalo Cauliflower Wing recipes circulating Pinterest, I knew I had to try them and… OH. EM. GEE. This recipe is amazing. To push it completely over the top, I whipped up cool and creamy yogurt dipping sauce. Yum!

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Buffalo Cauliflower Wings

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower

Batter:

  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (optional; sub an additional 1/4 cup flour if you don’t use it)
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 cup plain unsweetened soymilk (or any milk)

Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup hot sauce (I used Trader Joe’s Jalapeño Pepper Hot Sauce)
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp vinegar (red wine or apple cider)
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp Earth Balance (or butter), melted
  • Red pepper flakes for extra heat

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 450*F.
  • Cut cauliflower into bite-size pieces.
  • Whisk all batter ingredients together in a medium bowl.
  • Add cauliflower to batter and toss until evenly coated.
  • Place cauliflower on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet or on a wire rack stacked on top of a cookie sheet (I used a wire rack to allow the excess batter to drip off the cauliflower pieces).
  • Bake for 20 minutes.
  • While the cauliflower is baking, combine the sauce ingredients in a medium bowl.
  • Carefully transfer baked cauliflower into the sauce bowl and gently toss until evenly coated.
  • Return cauliflower to wire rack/cookie sheet and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until cauliflower is crispy.

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Lean & Clean Yogurt Dipping Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup plain nonfat greek yogurt
  • 1 T vinegar (red wine or apple cider)
  • 1 T nutritional yeast (optional)
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon + zest
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup soft cheese crumbles (goat cheese, blue cheese) (optional)

Instructions:

  • Combine all ingredients and blend with a food processor, blender, or immersion blender.

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Thanks for reading 🙂

Video Post: Easy Weekday Steel Cut Oats

19 Mar

Yesterday started as a gloomy, chilly Monday here in St. Louis and I found myself searching for something warm and comforting for breakfast (and something fast because I needed to get out the door!). Good thing my fridge is stocked with my easy weekday steel cut oats. My breakfast warmed me to my core and I was off to work in a flash.

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Easy Weekday Steel-Cut Oats

Ingredients

  • 2.5 cups steel cut oats, dry
  • 5 cups water
  • 5 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or other milk)

Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients in crockpot, set crockpot on high.
  • Cook for about 4 hours, stirring occasionally, until the oats thicken. I like to leave them a little soupy because they will thicken even more as they cool.
  • Divide oats into microwaveable containers, cool, and refrigerate.
  • When you’re ready to eat, add a splash of milk or water and microwave for 2-3 minutes. Add toppings and enjoy!

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Thanks for reading 🙂

Weekend Workouts and Pinterest Recipe Inspiration

28 Oct

Hello friends! Hope you had a great weekend. Today I slept in until 9am (!!) This is rare for me. I has yoga plans, so I shoveled a frozen waffle in my mouth and hurried out the door. A different teacher was subbing the class, it was hard but fun-  a lot of abs and a lot of crow practice. The soreness is already setting in. I’m afraid I won’t be able to get out of bed in the morning. The rest of the day was a typical Sunday of cleaning, homework, and prepping for the week. Oh yeah, and this happened…

I found these cookies on Pinterest and they’ve been on my “To Cook” list for a while now. The ingredients are simple (and bizzarre): peanut butter, honey, baking powder, vanilla extract, chocolate chips, and.. chickpeas! They are surprisingly delicious!

Let’s back up a bit and check out some recent workouts and eats…

The temps have certainly dropped here which made for a few chilly runs last week/this weekend. I am slowly trying to get back into running. I took a long hiatus due to a string of injuries and bad races, but I finally have the racing itch again!

On Thursday JWD and I squeezed in 4 miles before the rain hit. We averaged an 8:45 pace. Considering I am very untrained in the running department right now, I was happy with that 🙂

I planned on Saturday being a rest day, but I woke up in the mood to move so I bundled up and knocked out 6 miles at an easy pace. I was STARVING when I got home, so I showered and promptly inhaled an egg on toast and this leftover soup that I found on Pinterest. (highly recommend!)

Lower temps trigger the return of oatmeal cravings, so oatmeal has been my breakfast of choice lately. 

In this bowl: rolled oats, almond milk, bananas, stevia, cinnamon, and walnuts.

Snackage:

Plain greek yogurt topped with homemade pumpkin-flax granola, apples slices, and cranberry apple butter.

Love this Trader Joe’s butter!

Larabars are always in the snack mix 🙂

Chocolate covered espresso beans for afternoon pick-me-ups.

Bubbles!

Lemon sparkling water.

Now it’s time to put my sore body to bed. Thanks for reading 🙂

Transitions

11 Sep

Historically, this time of year is always chockfull of transitions- with this year being no different. I’ve always had quite an adverse reaction to change, just ask my mom. She would tell you stories of anxiety ridden first days of school, tummy aches on the way to summer camp, and teary phone calls every time a curveball was thrown my way. It recently dawned on me that I’ve actually gotten better at the whole change thing- it takes quite a bit to shake me up these days. Between new jobs (that I’ve yet to tell you about, but definitely intend to!), new graduate classes, a new home, and a new daily routine, transition is in the air. I’ve been so wrapped up in settling in to my “new life” that I almost missed the first glimpses of my favorite season.

The first signs of fall are revealing themselves at our house.

Sure, the endless prattle of the return of Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes clued me in to the changing seasons, but I prefer signs of different sorts.

The AC has been banished and the windows are wide open, with a crisp breeze blowing in- perfect for afternoon napping.

Check out my second favorite room of the new nest. A study complete with french doors, giant windows, original stained glass, and delicious hardwood floors. Obsessed.

You didn’t actually think I was referring to myself napping, did you? C’mon, you know me better than that…

Greens are sprouting on the windowsill.

Another signal of fall- the smells. Today the apartment is filled with the smell of roasting butternut squash…

…waiting to be turned into this:

Blend roasted squash cubes with sautéed onion, garbanzo beans, soy milk, curry powder, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and a dash of cinnamon in a food processor or blender until smooth. Simmer on stove until warm throughout. 

I enjoyed my soup with a grilled {goat}cheese fold-over for dunking.

I also know that fall is looming because hot tea and Emergen-C on the rocks are my cocktails of choice. I have the sniffles 😦 …a sure sign the seasons are changing.

Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice tea is a fall staple for me. There is something so romantic and special about opening the tin, releasing the smell of sweet and spicy cinnamon, and plunging one of the silk teabags into your mug. I’ve only had two tins of this tea- the first given to me by my mom and the second given to me by JWD. I tend to savor it because thinking of the givers when I drink it makes it that much more special. In a strange way this tea is comfort food to me, hence it making an appearance when I’m feeling under the weather.

Now it is time to rest. Workout plans were cancelled for the day in favor of recharging. I am already posted up in bed  for the evening with no plans of moving. Check in for a fun recipe later this week and a peek at my first favorite room of the new nest!

Thanks for reading 🙂 

Comfort Food

10 Oct

Fall is the time of year when our cravings for grilled veggies, hydrating melon, and crisp salads disappear and we long for something richer, heartier, and more decadent. Think creamy soups, buttery mashed potatoes, and dense desserts. It’s the time of year when we trade our bikinis and shorts for oversized sweaters. We hide beneath the layers while we curl up on the couch and tuck in to a big bowl of comfort food.

What is comfort food?

It’s food that reminds you of home, of your childhood, or of your current family. It’s food that warms your body and soul. It provokes happy memories.

It’s food that is associated with: butter, fat, calories, and food comas.

It’s food that is not associated with: health, fitness, and wellness.

Guess what? Comfort food can be healthy! Comfort food can make you feel good about yourself, it can fuel for active life, and it can help you maintain or lose weight. Pureed veggies and beans and thick greek yogurt can replace heavy cream, baking with olive oil can replace deep-frying, and loading comfort food recipes full of veggies will cut calories and raise nutritional value in a snap.

A few of my favorite comfort food makeovers

  • Soups: Instead of adding heavy cream to thicken your soups, simply ladle half the soup into your blender, pulse until thick and smooth, and stir it back in to the pot. I love to puree roasted butternut squash, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, and any kind of beans to add a thick and creamy texture to my soups without adding the fat of heavy cream.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

  • Fries: There’s something about crispy, starchy fries that provoke a feeling of happiness, but traditional french fries are loaded with unhealthy fat. Instead of deep-frying, bake your fries in the oven and get the happy feeling whenever you want! Slice regular or sweet potatoes (or even carrots and winter squash) into strips, toss in a drizzle of olive oil and seasonings, arrange on a lightly greased or parchment paper lined cookie sheet, and bake at 400 degrees for about 30 min. or until brown and crispy. Enjoy with your favorite dipping sauce (mine is hummus).

  • Casseroles: Casseroles are usually full of fat sources like cheese and butter. One way to lighten casseroles is to cut the fat by using less cheese. Top cheesy casseroles with a little bit of a more pungent cheese (parmesan, gorgonzola, feta). A little sprinkling of these cheeses packs much more flavor than dowsing your casserole with a low-fat cheese. Another strategy is to load your casserole with veggies. This leaves less room for meats, cheeses, and creamed soups.

This casserole is hearty, comforting, and topped with a layer of mashed potatoes (another comfort food)

Shepherd’s Pie

Prepare 1 cup of brown lentils. Set aside. (If you prefer meat, add lean ground turkey instead)

Boil diced potatoes until tender.

Puree 1 cup of garbanzo beans, 1 cup milk (I use soy milk), and a few spoonfuls of nonfat greek yogurt. Add pureed mixture to potatoes and smash or whip until smooth (I Like em a little chunky). Add 1-2 tablespoons butter (I use Earth Balance) and paprika, salt, and pepper to taste. The beans add creaminess and extra nutrition to the potatoes.

Meanwhile, add a tablespoon of olive oil to a pan and sauté about 1/3 cup diced onion, 1 diced bell pepper, 2 diced carrots, and 2 diced celery stalks until tender. Add 1 can diced or crushed tomatoes, prepared lentils, 1 cup green beans, and 1 cup corn kernels. Simmer until the mixture thickens. Pour veggie mixture into a casserole dish, top with mashed potatoes, and sprinkle with a small amount of your favorite cheese (I used goat cheese). Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

When dipping in to a casserole, it’s very easy to over-serve yourself. Bake the casserole in bell peppers and you’ll have perfect portion-controlled servings. (Bake at 400 degrees for 20 min with a splash of water in the bottom of the baking dish)

Another healthy mashed potato recipe courtesy of Oh She Glows


  • Calorie-free comfort: Grabbing your favorite mug and curling up with a seasonal hot tea can do the trick. My favorite cold weather tea is Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice. It’s so flavorful makes me feel warm and fuzzy without extra calories.

As I was planning this post I realized I have A LOT of comfort food recipes to share, so there’s going to be a sequel. See you soon with more healthy comfort food and don’t forget to bring your sweet tooth 🙂

Thanks for reading 🙂

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