Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spinach Salad with Blood Oranges

After getting home from the gym tonight and drinking a chocolate banana shake made with Sunwarrior protein, I decided I wanted a light, simple dinner. Luckily, I picked up salad ingredients when I grocery shopped at Whole Foods this past weekend. Blood oranges were on sale, so I bought a couple of them to segment into a salad. Blood oranges are sweeter than regular oranges, and have a great "blood" red colored flesh. This is thanks to the presence of anthocyanin, a type of antioxidant. Besides the antioxidants, blood oranges are full of vitamin C and fiber, just like regular oranges. I used spinach for my salad greens; perfect since the iron in the spinach is absorbed better when eaten with vitamin C rich foods. I also used avocado and sliced almonds to round out the salad, and I made a blood orange sesame vinaigrette to dress it. This was so good, I could have eaten a whole additional plate. The recipe below serves two; double as needed.

Spinach and Blood Orange Salad with Blood Orange Sesame Vinaigrette
-2 servings of fresh spinach
-2 blood oranges
-1 avocado, diced
-4 tbsp sliced almonds
-2 tsp red wine vinegar
-1 tbsp sesame oil
-1 tbsp canola oil
-1 tsp agave nectar
-1/2 tsp sriracha
-1 clove garlic, minced
-juice of half a lemon
-1 tbsp sesame seeds
-salt and pepper

-Divide the spinach between two dinner plates and set aside.
-Using a paring knife, slice the ends off of each blood orange. Then slice the rind and outer pith off the sides of the orange. Finally, slice out each segment of the orange between the membranes. Do this over a bowl and save the juice; you can also squeeze the remaining juice out of the membrane once you've removed your segments. Separate the juice and the segments.
-Make your salad dressing. You should have about 3 tbsp of blood orange juice. To this juice, add the vinegar, oils, agave, sriracha, garlic, lemon juice, sesame seeds, and salt and pepper. Whisk until combined.
-Top each plate of spinach with segments of one orange, half the diced avocado, and 2 tbsp of almonds. Divide the dressing between the plates and serve immediately.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Foam Rollers and Colorful Food

Happy Monday! Again, it is raining here. I'm really glad I managed to get in a 9 mile run on Sunday right before the rain (which will continue until Wednesday) started. On that note, today I ordered a foam roller. I had noticed a tiny twinge in my knee, and I think it might be a tight IT band. I have heard some bad stories about IT band trouble, so to nip this in the bud I ordered the foam roller. It works like a massage for your muscles and tendons, loosening tight spots and relaxing them. From what I hear, foam rolling hurts a bit, but in a good way, and the feeling in your muscles when you're done is supposed to be great. I also did a little research and found some stretches and strengthening exercises to do. So, here's to hoping nothing problematic is at hand. I have a 5k this Saturday and the half marathon in just over a month!

Onto the food. Tonight I made the recipe I posted in my first real post in this blog; Roasted Tomato Soup. I also toasted up a whole wheat dinner roll, sliced, with garlic and oregano on top. Of course, I made a salad to go alongside dinner with romaine, cucumber, carrot, dried cranberries, and pine nuts, with a walnut vinaigrette. For dessert I recreated one of my favorite smoothies from the local health food store. I blended up apple juice, ripe banana, maca, spirulina, and frozen blueberries. Great deep color on this one thanks to the berries and spirulina! I also treated myself to one of the cookies I made yesterday. I'm still making my way through Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, and have yet to make a bad recipe. Last night I made the almond pignoli nut cookies. These are divine. I am a HUGE almond fan; regular almonds, almond extract, almond paste. Needless to say, I love this recipe. It's a challenge to not eat more than one of two of these at a time!
I'm happy to say I actually planned a bunch of meals and snacks before I grocery shopped yesterday. Expect some new recipes this week!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Risotto and a Smoothie

As I've mentioned before, risotto is one of my favorite comfort foods. I really wanted to make something with mushrooms tonight, but was a little stuck when I started to try to figure out a recipe. Mark suggested risotto, and I am glad he did. After what seemed like a pretty long day, I just wanted to eat something savory and creamy. This mushroom risotto hit the spot. For something crunchy and fresh, I made a salad of romaine, carrots, celery, cucumber, toasted pecans, and dried cherries. I topped it with a lemony garlic vinaigrette. This meal was filling and tasty.
Mixed Mushroom Risotto with Peas
-olive oil
-1 onion, minced
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1 lb. mixed mushrooms, chopped (I used button, cremini, and shiitake, but you can use whatever kinds you prefer)
-1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
-1 1/2 cups arborio rice
-3/4 cup white wine
-4 cups mushroom stock
-1 cup water
-1 cup frozen peas
-salt and pepper
-1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

-In a small saucepan, heat the mushroom stock and water over low heat.
-In a large pot, add a few tablespoons of olive oil and the onion. Cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes until the onions start to look translucent.
-Add the garlic, mushrooms, and thyme. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, until the mushrooms are tender.
-Add the rice and cook for a minute, stirring, until it starts to crackle. Add the wine and stir until the wine is absorbed.
-Add a ladle of the mushroom stock and water combination and cook, stirring very often, until the stock is absorbed. Continue this process, one ladle at a time, for about 15 minutes, you are almost out of mushroom stock, and the rice is just shy of tender.
-Add the peas and your last ladle of stock to the pot. Test for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Ensure the rice is fully cooked; if it isn't, add a bit more liquid and cook for another few minutes. Add parsley to the risotto, stir, and serve.For an easy and healthy dessert, I made a green smoothie. I simply blended orange juice, vanilla soy milk, maca, spirulina, frozen peaches, and frozen mango in the blender until smooth. Yum! This was really satisfying. Even Nitro (one of our three cats) seemed interested!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Peanut Noodles

One of my favorite comfort foods on a rainy, windy day is noodles. I like noodles any which way, and I use them often. Sometimes I'll make vegetable lo mein with udon noodles, other times a spicy Asian soup with cellophane noodles. Last night (which was appropriately drab weather-wise), I chose to use soba, or buckwheat, noodles to make dinner. Besides tasting really good, these noodles are a source of multiple amino acids and are easily digestible since they are wheat free. My favorite way to use this kind of noodle is with a peanut based sauce; for whatever reason, a peanut sauce coats soba perfectly. After trying more sauce recipes than I can count on two hands, I figured out my own version of peanut sauce that I really love. You can simply boil the soba, dress in peanut sauce, and enjoy for a simple and fast meal. But I added a few tasty extras to mine - tofu and a mixture of veggies. A big bonus of this recipe is that it is equally delicious hot, room temperature, or cold. It makes for great leftovers.
Soba with Peanut Sauce, Tofu, and Vegetables
-8-10 oz. soba noodles, cooked, drained, and rinsed
-canola oil
-1 14 oz. package extra firm tofu, drained and cut into cubes
-2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
-1 bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
-1/2 cup frozen shelled edamame
-2 tbsp freshly grated ginger
-1/2 cup natural creamy peanut butter
-1/4 cup soy sauce
-1 clove garlic, grated
-2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
-1 tbsp sesame oil
-1 tbsp agave nectar
-1 tbsp sriracha
-2 scallions, chopped
-2 tbsp sesame seeds

-Coat the bottom of a large pan with canola oil and put over medium-high heat. Add the tofu cubes and cook for 7-8 minutes. Once golden, flip the tofu and cook for another 7-8 minutes so you have two golden sides. Remove from the pan and place on a paper towel.
-Leave the heat on the pan. Add the carrots, peppers, and edamame. Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring. Add 1 tbsp of grated ginger and cook for 1 more minute. Remove the vegetables from the pan and set aside.
-While the tofu and vegetables cook, prepare the peanut sauce. Combine the peanut butter (softened in the microwave if needed), soy sauce, 1 tbsp of the grated ginger, garlic, rice vinegar, sesame oil, agave nectar, and sriracha. Whisk well to combine. You may need to add a tablespoon or two of warm water to get the sauce nice and smooth.
-Toss the soba noodles with the prepared peanut sauce in a large bowl. Top with the cooked tofu and vegetables, and sprinkle scallions and sesame seeds over the top. Serve.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Meals, a Quick Review, and a Smoothie

What a busy week, and weekend for that matter! I apologize for the lack of updates, but between busy nights at the gym, Mark's birthday on Friday, and lots of work on our house this weekend, I just haven't had the time. I have been cooking though. A few things I made this week are stir fry with bell pepper, broccoli, shiitake mushrooms, and edamame, pasta with artichokes, arugula, and white beans, and black bean tostadas (I'll have to post this recipe one of these days). I have some tasty meals in mind for this coming week so I'll be sure to have at least one new recipe for you all soon!

Earlier this month I posted about my new Nathan water bottle for running. Yesterday, on a positively gorgeous 65 degree morning, I got a chance to give it a test drive on a 6.5 mile run. Overall, this is a really good water bottle. First and foremost, it holds more than enough liquid (about 20 ounces) for really long runs. The sport top is easy to use, even while running. The fit around my hand was snug and comfortable, and the sweat wicking strap worked well. My only complaint was that the inside of my hand (around the bottle) got pretty sweaty. Over the course of the run I had to remove the bottle twice to wipe the sweat off my hand so the bottle wouldn't slide (sorry for the gross details). However, to be fair, I'm not sure how any water bottle would really deal with this issue. Overall, the bottle was comfortable, didn't negatively affect my running at all, and I was really happy to be able to have a swig of water every couple of miles.

I will leave you with a quick recipe tonight. After a strength training workout or a long run, it's really important to get a hit of protein and carbs to help your muscles recover. This smoothie hits the spot with just 3 ingredients. Feel free to add other supplements that you like to include in your diet. Flax oil or maca powder are my additions of choice.

Chocolate Banana Protein Smoothie
-1 cup vanilla almond milk
-1 serving chocolate flavored protein powder (any kind will do; rice, soy, hemp, etc.)
-1 frozen banana

-Add the ingredients to a blender and blend on high until well combined and smooth. Add any supplements you like and blend to combine. Serve right away.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Vegan Muscles!

Hi all! Mid-Atlantic folks, did it rain enough for you these past few days? Being stuck inside is never the best, but I got lots of quality running and working out in at the gym. I also had the time to check out a website that my husband showed me recently. Think you can't be strong and muscular on a vegan diet? Think again, and check out Mike Mahler. He's a sports conditioning trainer, a kettlebell expert, and a vegan. His website is full of useful (and often, free) information about working out and kettlebells, and also vegan nutrition. He freely admits that he eats mostly for fuel and not for flavor, but after reading through his basic food combinations, I thought up all kinds of tasty and healthy ways to make these base foods delicious! The homemade protein bar and smoothie recipes will also be really valuable to me, and they look so easy to make. I'll be sure to post the results of these experiments as I try them.

Mike's website also talks about his supplements of choice, and the one that kept popping up everywhere was Sunwarrior Protein. My friend Lauren uses this stuff in all her smoothies and loves it, so I figured now that I have multiple positive reviews I should order it. I went with the chocolate flavor, and I'm looking forward to trying it! Finally, visiting Mike's website really motivated me to work harder on my strength training days. I am a runner first and foremost, but the advantages of full body fitness and strength can't be ignored. Luckily my husband Mark is always there to push me farther than I think I can go, and I often surprise myself. If you feel like you're low on motivation, check out the website! There's no way you can read through it and not be inspired.

On a separate note, dinner tonight is going to be a stir fry. I'll use the base sauce from my earlier post, but tonight I am going to use broccoli, shiitake mushrooms, edamame, and red bell pepper. I'm also going to serve it over brown rice. Just one more variation on a dish that you can really get creative with!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Soup with a Little Bit of Everything

I typically do a big grocery shop once every two weeks, and try to avoid hitting the grocery store in between. I make some exceptions, especially for certain kinds of produce that spoil quickly, but by and large the twice monthly grocery shop gets me through. That being said, I'm approaching the tail end of those two weeks between shops, and my pantry is getting pretty limited. In instances like this, I have a great soup recipe (if you can even call it that) that uses up items commonly in your refrigerator and pantry. You'll also have a few servings of leftovers, which works out well for tiding yourself over until shopping. It was inspired by this recipe, but I made a few tweaks. I served this soup with a salad made from my last head of romaine and some straggling carrots and celery that were in the crisper drawer.

Little Bit of Everything Soup
-olive oil
-half an onion, small diced
-3 carrots, small diced
-3 celery stalks, small diced
-6 cloves garlic, minced
-2 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped (use 1 tbsp dried if you don't have fresh)
-2 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped (same as above)
-1 tbsp dried basil
-salt and pepper
-6 cups vegetable stock, water, or a combination
-1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
-2 15 oz. cans of beans, rinsed and drained (any kind will do, I used cannellini and red kidney)
-4-8 oz. small pasta (I had about a third of a box of small shells)

-Put a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large soup pot and put over medium heat.
-Add the onion, carrots, and celery and cook for 8-10 minutes, until softened.
-Add the garlic, thyme, rosemary, and basil. Cook for another 3-4 minutes, stirring. Season with salt and pepper.
-Add the vegetable stock/water and the tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft.
-Add the beans and pasta, and bring back to a boil. Cook, stirring often, until the pasta is cooked. Serve.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Stuff in the Mail and Quinoa

I don't know about everyone else, but I love getting stuff in the mail. A letter, a card, even something I ordered myself and I know is coming. Today, my new water bottle came! After my last round of half marathon training, I did a lot of reading and quickly realized that it is a really bad idea to run for 10 or 12 miles, in the summer, with no fluid intake. I'm obviously a moron for ever thinking that this was a wise idea. Anyway, I do not intend to make that mistake again. I was not psyched on the idea of water drops, since I would be paranoid of someone taking my water or messing with it, and the idea of wearing a fuel belt just did not seem appealing. So I went ahead and bought a handheld water bottle - the Nathan Quickdraw Plus. I had heard good things about Nathan products and the price was right, so I'm really hoping this works out. I'm sure it will take a bit of getting used to, but it will be invaluable on long runs, especially in the heat. The little zipper compartment will be great for a gel or Shot Bloks, too.
On a similar note, I got my first outdoor run in many weeks in today! The weather has been gorgeous these past few days, and I hadn't gotten outside too much. I knew I would be kicking myself if I didn't get out today, so I'm really glad I did. Come on springtime/daylight savings time!

In the interest of time tonight, I whipped up a quick salad. Quinoa is a superstar grain, packing loads of protein, folate, and important minerals like manganese and magnesium. I simply cooked the quinoa and tossed it with veggies that were languishing in my refrigerator and a homemade vinaigrette. This is another one of those salads where creativity is encouraged; almost any veggie will do!

Quick Quinoa Salad
-1 cup dry quinoa, cooked
-1 bell pepper, small diced
-1/4 onion, small diced
-half a cucumber, seeded and small diced
-1 large carrot, peeled and small diced
-3 tbsp parsley, chopped
-half a medium tomato, chopped
-1/2 tsp garlic powder
-1/2 tsp dried basil
-salt and pepper
-3 tbsp red wine vinegar
-4 tbsp olive oil

-Combine the veggies in a large bowl. Add the cooked quinoa, after it has cooled for 10 minutes or so.
-In a blender, combine the tomato, spices, vinegar, and oil. Blend until smooth.
-Add the vinaigrette to the quinoa and veggies, and toss to coat completely. Serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator for a few days.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Something Soft for Dinner

This evening after work I had an appointment for my twice yearly dentist appointment. I love the way my teeth feel after a good thorough cleaning, but wow, are my teeth sore when it's all done. With this in mind, I planned a soft, easy to chew dinner for tonight. Pasta was an easy choice. Using some mushrooms I bought last weekend and a few standard pantry items, I was able to whip up a fast, delicious, and most importantly, soft, dinner. I served this with a raw salad with stone ground mustard vinaigrette, but I really should have skipped the carrots.

Rotini with Mushrooms an Artichokes
-1 lb. rotini, cooked and drained
-olive oil
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-pinch crushed red pepper flake
-1/2 tsp dried basil
-10 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
-1 15 oz. can artichoke hearts, rinsed and quartered
-salt and pepper
-3/4 cup white wine
-1 tbsp Earth Balance
-juice from half a lemon
-3 tbsp parsley, chopped

-Coat the bottom of a large pan with olive oil and put over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes.
-Add the red pepper flake and basil and cook for another 1-2 minutes, until garlic is just barely starting to brown.
-Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook for 5-6 minutes, until softened.
-Add the artichoke hearts and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
-Add the wine to the pan to deglaze. Cook for 7-8 minutes to let the flavors combine. Add a little pasta water if needed.
-Just before you are finished cooking, add the Earth Balance and stir until melted.
-Toss the cooked pasta with the mushroom and artichoke mixture, lemon juice, and parsley. Serve immediately.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Summer Rolls in the Winter

Maybe it's because spring was in the air over the past couple of days (and by this I mean not freezing temps and some sun!), but I really have been craving light, summery food. I think I just needed a break from the heavier, richer winter dishes. In any case, I decided to try my hand at one of my favorite light dishes - summer rolls. I based my recipe loosely on this recipe on VeganYumYum. These rolls were definitely labor intensive; don't plan on making these unless you have at least a solid hour available. But if you have the time, these are well worth it! I'd recommend serving this with a Thai sweet chili sauce for dipping.

Tofu and Veggie Summer Rolls
-canola oil
-1 14 oz. package extra firm tofu, cut into wide matchsticks
-1 cucumber, peeled and cut into matchsticks
-2 carrots, peeled and grated
-1 ripe avocado, sliced and tossed with juice from half a lime
-1 1/2 cups spinach, chopped finely
-1 small package cellophane noodles
-rice paper wrappers
-2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
-1/4 cup Vegannaise
-2 tsp sriracha
-juice of half a lime
-salt and pepper
-Heat a couple tablespoons of canola oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Pan fry the tofu until golden on two sides, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from the pan, drain on a paper towel, and set aside.
-Boil a pot of water, add the cellophane noodles, and turn off heat. Stir noodles until soft, 3-4 minutes. Drain, rinse, and drain again.
-In a small bowl, mix together the cilantro, Vegannaise, sriracha, lime juice, and salt and pepper. Add the noodles to the sauce and stir to combine. Set aside.
-In the pot, add about an inch of water and heat over low heat. The water should be warm, but not hot enough that you can't put your fingers in the water.
-Soften a rice paper wrapper in the warm water; this should take about 10 seconds. Lay the wrapper flat on a plate. Fill the center with noodles, tofu, cucumber, carrot, spinach, and avocado. Fold the rice paper around the pile like a burrito.
-Repeat the above process until your ingredients are gone. I got 8 rolls (and one mess up!) out of these ingredients.
-Serve with dipping sauce of your choice. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.