Tag Archives: fruits

Mahi Mahi Tacos with Pineapple Jalapeno Salsa

12 Mar

I have been planning to cook and post my reformed Rachel Ray shepherd’s pie recipe for a few weeks now, but the Kansan weather has been too nice for me to want to do much oven-cooking, or to even crave something so hearty. This week, as temperatures soared up into the 70s (!!!) I decided to stop fighting it and embrace the warm.

I defrosted the mahi mahi filet I’ve had in the freezer, and grabbed the chunked fresh pineapple at the grocery store, and went to work finding a recipe to pair the two.

For the fish (I’m sure grilling mahi mahi is best, but it wasn’t an option for me, since I don’t own a grill, so oven-baked was the way to go):

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  • Coat a glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray.
  • Arrange fish filets in the dish, and drizzle with about 1/4 cup liquid (I used a mixture of orange juice and lemon juice)
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until fish flakes easily

For the salsa, mix all ingredients together in a bowl:

  • 1 cup diced pineapple
  • 1/4 cup diced shallot
  • 1 tbsp chopped jalapeno
  • 1 1/2 tbsp lime juice
  • Black pepper to taste

I also chopped some red cabbage, which I’ve been adoring lately, thinking the fresh, crisp crunch would add some Baja attitude to the fish taco.

I’m  not usually  much of a fish person, despite growing up in New England, and despite knowing how good it is for me. I usually stick with white fish, and I love recipes that toss the fish in with lots of other ingredients. Fish tacos are a great approach, as they really allow the fish to absorb the flavors of all the salsa ingredients.

I could eat these all summer — if it wasn’t March, actually. So enjoy a little taste of the beach, whatever the weather is in your neck of the woods.

Marissa’s Vegan Cranberry Carrot Ginger Muffins

20 Feb

A few weeks ago, I woke up with a strange craving. I wanted cranberry muffins. But I also wanted morning glory muffins. I had carrots in the house and for some reason, the idea of eating some of them for breakfast would not get out of my head.

To the internet I went!

I didn’t actually know what was in morning glory muffins, despite how much I enjoy them. And while all the recipes I found sounded delicious, I didn’t have any pineapple, coconut or raisins, and I wanted something with a bit more spice. So I searched for carrot ginger muffins, and found this delicious-looking recipe.

And so began my very first “invented” recipe.

My modifications from the original recipe were pretty simple, actually. I used a “flax seed egg” as detailed in the original post, and vanilla almond milk instead of dairy milk, making the recipe fully vegan. But where I got really crazy was that instead of using a 1/2 up of raisins, I used a 1/2 cup of my homemade cranberry sauce.

This was a little risky, because the cranberry sauce is basically a liquid ingredient, so to balance the additional moisture, I slightly increased the amount of flour in the recipe to 2 1/4 cups. The muffins did take 18 minutes, the upper end of the cook time of the original recipe, to set fully in the center. They needed a few minutes on a wire rack to firm, and the texture of the muffin overall stayed moist, for the entire week or so it took me to eat my way through the batch.

But… it worked! And they were really delicious! I was so excited with my kitchen innovation that I texted my pastry chef little sister, who was very proud of me for both my ingenuity and my vegan baking skillz.

Ok, so I used another recipe as a base, and I’ve certainly modified recipes before. But with the exception of substituting applesauce for eggs, I usually don’t modify baked goods, knowing there’s a good deal of chemistry involved.

And I have certainly never done something so adventurous as add a completely different flavor and liquid ingredient before. So when these muffins turned out deliciously, I cannot express just how proud I was.

As I’ve told you all before, I spent most of my life thinking of myself as a total failure in the kitchen. Learning I could learn to cook was a huge victory for me — cooking well is all bonus, as far as I’m concerned. Never did I think I could come this far. Never did I think I would have the knowledge — or the guts — to try something outside the box when it came to baking.

Having it turn out well is the ultimate prize for an awkward clumsy nerd turned-food advocate, because it means what I say is true. Anyone can do this. Trust me. When you settle in to enjoy two warm, soft muffins that are your idea and your recipe with a cup of coffee on a winter Saturday morning, the burned cakes and smoke-alarm fries and leek tarts will all have been worth it.

Mom’s Apple Snacking Cake

8 Nov

Since I haven’t shared a baked-goods recipe with you all for awhile, I decided to devote this week’s recipe post to a sweet snack. And this one comes, not from a magazine or cookbook, but from my very own recipe box!

Well, ok, from my mom’s recipe box, where I coped this down from. Don’t worry, I got her permission to share this one with you. Mom’s Apple Snacking Cake.

In New England, where I grew up, autumn looks like this.

Yeah. And we celebrate fall like nobody’s  business — state fairs, haunted hay rides, pine needle houses (this is where there are so many pine needles in your front yard, that when tasked with helping your father rake the leaves, you have to learn how to separate out the sticky needles, and you and your sisters shape them into the outlines of houses to play in. Multi-room pine needle mansions, complete with pine needle beds to lay on).

One of my family’s most treasured fall rituals is apple picking. Now plenty of people will hit up a U-Pick orchard in fall, but there were seven of us, which meant we left with BUSHELS of apples of five or six varieties, and had to come up with a lot of things to do with them.

(Note: I definitely did not ask my little sister’s permission to use an old photo of her wearing braces in this post. File under hazards of knowing a nonfiction writer. Love you, Caitlin!)

We’d have apple crisp, of course. My parents would invite their friends over for cider-pressing parties. My mother has developed an epic applesauce factory. But my favorite treat was always apple snacking cake.

We call it “snacking cake” because it serves many purposes: you can eat this sweet but fruited cake for breakfast, an after-school snack, or for dessert. Versatile and delicious.

It’s not burdened with the syrupy-sweetness of a caramel apple, but neither is it overly tart. The apples melt away into the cake, leaving it incredibly moist, even after weeks in the refrigerator or freezer. The best part is the secret ingredient — rice krispies! –  leave these little crystallized pockets of chewiness in the cake without adding too much sweetness.

Here’s the recipe…

Mom’s Apple Snacking Cake

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c. oil
  • 2 c. rice krispies
  • 2 c. apples, peeled and sliced not too thin
  • 1 3/4 c. sugar
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Beat the eggs with an electric mixer. Add sugar and continue to beat until fluffy.
  3. Add flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt, and mix.
  4. Add oil, vanilla and apples, stirring gently.
  5. Fold in rice krispies
  6. Pour batter into a 13 x 9 – inch pan (glass, ceramic or aluminum will do, but I prefer glass) coated with cooking spray.
  7. Bake 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Enjoy with tea, milk or fresh whipped cream. Cake will keep in freezer.

Review: Food Cures by Joy Bauer

2 Nov

I was so excited to return home last Friday afternoon and find a package from Rodale Publishing waiting for me, and even more excited to have the chance to review a great new book here on We*Meat*Again that focuses on real food solutions to health problems. You all know I’m a big fan of whole foods, and that I advocate awareness of what makes foods good or bad for you, and of taking charge of your own health by taking ownership of what goes into your body. So Joy Bauer’s newly expanded and revised Food Cures is right up our alley.

The whole book is centered around the notion that changing our diets, specifically by focusing on whole ingredients, and developing an awareness of the nutrients our bodies need from natural foods, can help Americans tackle many of the most common, and chronic, health issues currently facing our nation. I found the book engaging, informative and comprehensive. Let me break it down for you…

Who Is Joy Bauer?

And why should you listen to her? Well, she’s got the nutritionist credentials to back her up. Bauer is a Certified Nutritonist-Dietician and the official nutritionist for both The Today Show, and the New York City Ballet (which I found appealing as it means she’s interested in a holistic approach to health that includes physical fitness and not simply dieting). She’s written several other nutrition-focused bestsellers, and this version of Food Cures is expanded to focus on the most common ailments her clients approach her with.

Educational, Informative Approach

The book is organized into sections based on health issues. The first and most detailed section is on weight loss, which is no surprised given America’s current obesity crisis. But there are also sections on “Living Long and Strong,” “Looking Great,” and “Feeling Good.”

But ok. All of that you could get from your standard diet or self-help book. Bauer’s book is unique for how much information she provides. Each chapter focuses on one issue or ailment, and provides a detailed explanation of just what vitamins or minerals (antioxidants or Omega-3 fatty acids, for example) are needed to combat that condition, as well as nutritional features that should be avoided because they might aggravate or cause the condition (saturated fats come up frequently).

Bauer doesn’t simply provide the reader with the science, however. She moves beyond the educational into the practical by including shopping lists of desirable ingredients, as well as meal plans and recipes that pack the most punch for whatever condition you’re targeting! Many of the recipes sound delicious, like Pesto Salmon with Roasted Artichoke Hearts and Potato, designed to combat cardiovascular disease, or Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry Couscous and Sauteed Greens for vision improvement.

Mix-and-Match, Customizable Info

I love this all-in-one approach. You get both the information you need and a way to use it, which to me translates into lots of customization. When you know why you’re eating butternut squash for memory retention, it’s a lot easier to move ingredients or recipes around. You’re not blindly taking supplements or following a daily regimen, nor are you resorting to tailor-made processed mail order diet foods. Knowledge is power, people.

Similarly, because there are so many goals and health crises tackled in the book, Bauer has worked hard to make sure everything in there is healthy. So if you’d like to lose weight and protect your skin, you can. The healthy skin ingredients are good for you all around, and all the meal plans in the book are designed to have low-caloric impact, supporting any healthy weight goals.

So often when we focus on the goal instead of the means required to achieve that end, our diets can become murky. This is why, as a vegetarian, I was able to eat things like Cheez Whiz and instant mashed potatoes. I was concerned only with what I wasn’t doing, rather than what the intention behind vegetarianism was. By focusing the entire book around whole foods, Bauer advocates a holistic approach to health that addresses best practices, rather than just results — which is the approach most likely to produce results.

More than Just Losing Weight or Looking Good

The thing that initially intrigued me about this book was that, despite its focus on weight loss and other “cosmetic” goals (though of course, having a healthy weight is good for your insides and outsides, and maintaining good hair and skin is indicative of a healthy body), the book also tackles actual illnesses. Now don’t go thinking this is some hippie-wackadoo ‘you can reverse your HIV diagnosis with bell peppers’ kind of thing — it’s not a catch-all guide. Not every disease can be cured with dietary principles.

But some can. The book discusses ways to reverse Type II diabetes by changing diet — but also how to best manage irritable bowel syndrome and Celiac disease to minimize their impacts. In addition to diseases or illness, the book explore solutions to mood problems, insomnia, migraines and PMS. And perhaps best of all, Bauer addresses how eating whole, natural foods can prevent the onset of some of the most serious chronic illnesses, including osteoporosis and many, many types of cancer.

The amount of research I did while working on my book that indicates the very close relationship between American cancer rates and our meat habit made me particularly interested in this aspect. And even I was surprised to learn that only about five percent of cancers are caused by genetic predispositions. More than 35 percent, scientists estimate, are related to nutritional choices (the remainder being made up of tobacco use, and environmental factors like pollution, infection, etc.). Certain types of cancers are more susceptible to developing from other causes (skin cancer is still primarily caused by radiation, for example)but the second leading cause of cancer in Americans (after tobacco usage) is obesity. And in the book, Bauer explores the vitamins and nutrients used to fight off obesity in general and cancer in specific areas of the body.

Overall, I obviously highly recommend checking out the book, or Joy’s Food Cures website, which you can find on my sidebar anytime.

My only complaint about the book might be that it’s too comprehensive — topping out at around 500 pages, it’s certainly not for the feint of heart. I relish this depth and breadth of information, but I imagine the book might be a bit less accessible for someone looking for just a diet plan or an easy fix.

But I think that potential weakness actually demonstrates the ethos of the book. Changing your diet isn’t an easy fix — it’s a systematic repair, one that requires a restart focused on whole foods. And with that kind of reprogramming, detailed information and many options will always be the best, most sustainable route to making your body a better place to live through food.

Brinner Grows Up

31 Oct

We all remember those magical evenings when we were kids when our parents let us have “backwards” days, where we got the special treat of  breakfast for dinner, or “brinner”.

For you Scrubs fans out there, you know I didn’t exactly invent the term brinner. Turk feels me.

And yes, we here at We*Meat*Again definitely believe you that bacon ice cream is the way to go.

There are so many brinner possibilities. You can go for the full-out inverted day, and eat waffles or pancakes with maple syrup. You can have a nice omelette or breakfast burrito and take the more savory route. Or you can really mix it up and use breakfast as the inspiration for a totally dinner-worthy meal.

In one of their early autumn issues, my favorite food magazine Cooking Light did just this, and had a feature spread of sweet/savory re-invented brinner delicacies. And one in particular struck me as the perfect grown-up autumn treat: Ciabatta French Toast with Warm Apple Maple Syrup.

I actually think I picked this recipe to try first because I already had all the ingredients needed for it — since I always keep a bag of apples and apple cider around during autumn — and because I’ve recently been won over to french toast.

I’m not a big egg fan, and I usually prefer savory breakfasts, so I’ve always ranked french toast near the bottom of my breakfast charts. But then this summer, my friend Rachael and I got together for dinner and cooked Ashley & Stephen’s basil pesto french toast. It was the perfect mix of sweet and savory and convinced me to give french toast another shot.

This recipe was surprisingly easy to cook up. First, prep the french toast by stuffing the Gruyere into the crusty bread. I actually did this step, dunked the bread and then cooked the french toast, keeping it warm while I made the sauce, rather than vice versa as the recipe suggests. This meant I had a nice warm maple syrup topping.

What really makes this recipe is the combination of shallots and Gruyere cheese. Without enough of those savory elements, I think this would be a delicious but very sweet fall-flavored breakfast french toast. But the melted Gruyere cheese and the tangy crunch of the shallots balanced this out perfectly. I ate two piece for dinner and the leftovers for lunch the next day.

Brinner is for me, one of those things that reminds me I’m really a grownup and I can do whatever I want. I could eat breakfast for dinner every night if I wanted to! I don’t, usually, but this recipe convinced me to indulge the kid in me just a little more often. And for the record, this brinner would be killer with a side of bacon.

How to Shop for (and Eat) Whole Foods

22 Sep

A few weeks ago, I asked some of my Facebook friends for thoughts on posts and Laura, who writes the blog Shaped by My Life (a fellow IC writing alum) suggested posting a sample shopping list with an eye towards cooking with whole foods. I thought this was a great idea. So often, people don’t buy whole foods because they aren’t quite sure what to do with them. Also, I really love grocery shopping, and making lists, so this is post will be particular fun for me.

I thought I’d start with my general grocery shopping philosophies for whole foods trips.

First, don’t expect to get everything all in one place. I know it seems inconvenient at first, but the massive corporate chain grocery store that stocks everything does so to the detriment of other features like locality, quality, and health. Cheap products that can sit on shelves for months at a time are highly processed — if you want to begin avoiding corporate foods, processed foods and to prioritize local and organic foods, you’re going to have to go outside the big box. The good news is, you will likely quickly develop a routine that is not inconvenient: produce at the market, bulk grains and legumes at the co-op, meat at the local butcher, all in the same amount of time you’d normally spend weaving your way through the fluorescent aisles.

Second, don’t be scared off by the higher price tag. You will spend more in a single trip on whole foods than you are used to at the grocery store. But again, there’s a silver lining here! A single trip to the co-op will stock you up with more food that will last longer, and needs only to be supplemented with weekly produce additions. When you shop at the grocery store, you’re buying food that is pre-packaged to make a single meal. When you buy whole foods, you’re buying the pieces for lots and lots of meals, instead.

In general, a good method for figuring out what to buy involves thinking of the big categories of whole foods, and choosing the individual parts you like in those categories. This will give you lots of options for mixing and matching ingredients into many different meals. I’ve provided a list of the categories here, with a sample of what I would normally buy in each — but keep in mind that’s limited to my tastes, so the categories should be your guidelines.

Grains

You can buy grains either in bulk (where you fill your own container) or pre-packaged. Some of my favorites are:

  • Israeli & French couscous (Israeli for deconstructed couscous salad, french for Parmesan couscous)
  • Arborio rice (for risotto)
  • Pasta! (I usually get a smaller shape that holds sauce for baked mac n’ cheese and a longer pasta for tossing in lighter sauces)
  • Orzo/wild rice/brown rice (for pilafs, stir fries or beds-of kind of recipes)

Legumes/Nuts/Seeds

This is where a normal person would buy lots of bulk lentils and legumes. But I don’t like those, so I spend most of my energy here on nuts for snacks or meal garnishes and seeds for salad topping.:

  • Cashews!
  • Whole or slivered almonds
  • Sunflower seeds (great on spinach salads)
  • Walnuts (for crusting oven-baked chicken)
  • Pecans (for chicken salad)

Produce

I’m not a fan of canned vegetables, and frozen veggies don’t have as much flavor for me, so I try to buy mostly fresh produce. The few exceptions I make are:

  • Frozen fruit for smoothies (though you can just freeze fresh fruit)
  • Frozen corn and peas
  • Canned refried beans if I’m in the mood for Mexican
  • Dried fruit for salads and granola

For fresh produce I always try to get a mix of:

  • Leafy greens
  • Green stalk veggies, like green beans, asparagus (or again, for normal people, broccoli)
  • Tomatoes and a variety of peppers
  • Carrots and celery
  • Lots of onions (I always get at least one red, white and yellow) and garlic!
  • Portable fruit like apples, oranges and bananas
  • Berries, watermelon or pineapple for chopped up snacks/cooking

And then I toss in a few extras depending on what’s there and what looks good seasonally, like cauliflower, zucchini/summer squash, red cabbage, or alfalfa sprouts. Obviously, the possibilities are endless here, so I suggest you figure out your most used veggies, and pick those up each time, and then supplement that with one or two other veggies each trip. This way, you have variety  but don’t overwhelm yourself and end up throwing lots of produce away as it’s spoiled.

Meats

Meat is a lot like produce for me — I pick up the same few things each time, and then add in a bit for variety. I try to get a mix of meat types so I’m not consuming a ton of red meat, and to work in some seafood. My staples are:

  • Chicken breasts (not a fan of the low meat content of other chicken parts, but wings and thighs are best if you like dark meat)
  • Pork chops and/or tenderloin
  • White fish like tilapia or cod (this is a purely Marissa-picky thing, as it’s the only kind of seafood I really like)
  • Ground beef or lamb and/or some fancy form of these like ground buffalo, lamb shanks or sirloin steaks
  • Meats you can use for deli sandwiches. If you’re lucky, your co-op will sell nitrate-free ham, or sliced chicken and turkey. But if not, it’s really easy to buy and cook a chicken or turkey breast and slice it up yourself!

Dairy

Dairy covers a lot, and those things have variety in them (like cheeses!) so here’s a breakdown of what I buy:

  • Milk and/or soymilk. I usually get regular milk for drinking and cooking, and soymilk for smoothies
  • Butter (which I always get in stick form because it measures easier for baking, but can still be used on toast, etc.)
  • Sour cream for sauces
  • Yogurt (I get a large, vanilla container for smoothies and then smaller individual packages in flavors for midday snacks!)
  • And cheese galore! I try to get one or two hard cheeses that work for both sandwiches and grating, like sharp white cheddar and Gruyere or another Swiss, plus fresh mozzarella for salads, Parmesan for pasta, plus some orange cheddar or something else that will melt into a cheddar sauce well.

Baked Goods

Now, by baked goods, I don’t mean cookies and snacks. I make those myself! I mean things that are made in an oven, mostly forms of bread. I usually keep:

  • Whole grain bread sliced for sandwiches
  • Wheat tortillas (for enchiladas, lunchtime quesadillas and wraps)
  • English muffins or bagels for breakfasts

The only things not considered in these categories are sauces, condiments and drinks. Once I’ve stocked up on the basics, I assess the recipes I know I have in my cart and get the corresponding condiments (mayonnaise for sandwiches, mustard for everything, BBQ sauce for pulled pork, vegetable broth, peanut butter, etc.). I basically don’t buy drinks at the store because I consume pretty much exclusively water and milk, but I know that co-ops often stock really delicious local root beers or soda waters, as well as adult beverage treats.

I’ve also not included the things I have in my pantry on a regular basis that don’t need to be purchased on each trip to the store: baking goods like flour, sugar, baking soda and powder, etc; spices and seasoning, like dried herbs, lemon juice, balsamic and other vinegars; honey, and lots and lots of olive oil. Never run out of olive oil.

I know that changing your shopping habits might seem daunting at first, but I promise you that lists become routine very quickly. And you’ll really enjoy getting to spend time creatively piecing together different pieces to make your own meal.

Cooking with whole foods means more than cooking in a more healthy way — it means learning to think about how foods fit together. I know that can seem overwhelming, especially for people who want cooking to be easy, something they can do at the last minute. Once you get the hang of it, and get used to stocking your house with a variety of whole components, it will be easy! I usually take some meat out of the freezer in the morning, and then decide what to do with it when I get home, depending on what I have, and how hungry I am/how fast I want the cooking to go.

The pride I feel when I can open the fridge and freezer and think: Hmm, I’ve got walnuts, chicken, spring green mix, orzo — hey! I can make that walnut-rosemary crusted chicken on a bed of orzo pilaf with lemon-sprinkled salad greens! is unparalleled. Give it a shot!

Ok — what did I forget? What are your whole food staples, and what are your favorite recipes to go with them? Leave a comment and share with readers, as I know my taste and cooking style are limited!

A Healthy Lunch Break

29 Aug

This weekend, I put out the call on Facebook for readers to request topics they’d like to see covered, and my dear friend from way back when, Ariane, requested quick lunch ideas for the school year.

Ariane is in graduate school (at Harvard Divinity, because she’s a genius) so she has the kind of busy schedule I understand, one that doesn’t necessarily adhere to a 9 to 5 kind of  commitment, but also seems to never end. The blessing/curse of the world of academia is that we can do our work (with the exceptions of classes and office hours) whenever works for us. The reality for most of us academic nerds is that this means we work nearly around the clock.

For the longest time, for me, this meant that lunch was the most unhealthy meal of the day. I always make the time for breakfast, and cooking dinner is my big meditative return to the home at the end of a work day. But lunch, sometimes eaten on campus, sometimes eaten at 3pm to avoid eating on campus, could easily get crushed under the weight of the day.

I’ve put together some of the tricks I’ve learned over the years, and especially the ones that are working for me so far this school year to make sure you eat healthy in the middle of the day. For all you full-timers out there with office jobs, my friend Ashley at (never home)maker has written a fantastic post about staying healthy while working full-time that might really help. I do have the benefit of a flexible schedule, so that’s in case any of these tips don’t seem feasible for you.

1. Plan ahead

My awesome new reusable lunch bag. Yes, that is a Velociraptor.

I know I’ve said it before, but this bears repeating when it comes to eating well while working. Whether you have to be in the office all day, you get home for a short lunch break or, like me, you can make it home for lunch everyday, having something already around that doesn’t require a lot of effort helps keep you healthy even when you’re tired from work or have a grumbly tummy.

I’ve always been a sandwich-for-lunch kind of gal. It’s the perfect balance for me between a full, big meal and just a snack. So some of my favorite plan-ahead lunches include making big batches of egg salad or tuna fish, which involve only as much effort as spreading between bread. I also make sure to keep a lot of whole, fresh foods around like apples, bananas, or baby carrots. This way, I can add a serving of fruits or veggies to my sandwich without any prep.

Preparing these foods can also be a good Sunday night task, one that helps you focus on the week ahead without cutting into your morning routine at all. Make a big batch of egg salad, pack a reusable lunch bag with an apple, stick it in the fridge next to your water bottle and go watch re-runs of The Soup until bedtime.

2. Don’t JUST eat at midday

This is one of my newest revelations for healthy eating and it’s been incredibly helpful so far. You know how you always hear nutritionists talking about eating three meals and three snacks a day? Yeah, turns out they know what they’re talking about. Making the commitment to eating at least mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks will do wonders for your energy level, and your weight, as a consistent blood sugar is so much better for your body.

Two days a week, I work from home in the mornings, so I have an early lunch at home, then head up to school for four hours. And I still want to have the energy to work out after teaching. So I’ve made sure to keep my school office stocked with mid-afternoon snacks so that I’m not so hungry I bail on the gym. The other three days a week, I eat a mid-morning snack at school, so that I’m not ravenous by the time I make it home for lunch, and end up snarfing down a box of pasta.

These stored snacks can also be made in advance. At the beginning of last week, I made this super-easy gorp mix of granola, sunflower seeds, almonds, dried cranberries and Newman’s organic dark chocolate chunks, and brought a mason jar of it to school. Now all I do in the mornings is grab a yogurt or carton of milk to take to school and mix with the granola. And they’ll help regulate your blood sugar so you have the energy and therefore the time to make yourself a decent lunch.

3. Mix it up

One of the biggest obstacles I’ve had in the past to eating a healthy meal at mid-day was getting bored. If, at the beginning of the week, I bought a package of ham and a block of cheddar cheese, by about Wednesday, I was skipping lunch, or grazing on snacks, because I just didn’t feel like ham and cheese anymore. So following the above pieces of advice, but giving yourself tons of options, is a big help.

Other snack possibilities, besides dried fruits, nuts and seeds, include hummus and pita (or just about anything); pre-sliced veggies, cheese and crackers. My mid-afternoon snacks are often post-workout smoothies.

Here are some other ideas for healthy main meals, beside sandwiches, that don’t take a large number of ingredients or a lot of time: a fruit salad of melons, pineapple and berries, which you can prep in a large batch; spinach salads topped with blue cheese crumbles, sunflower seeds and red onion (almost no chopping involved); soups/stews in tupperware; savory quiches or frittatas; and of course, one of my favorites: leftovers!

In general, keeping your house stocked with fresh produce and whole foods, especially nuts and other high-protein grab-and-go’s will make sure that, however little time you have, the thing you’re grabbing quickly is going to be good for you. But with a little time spent thinking it over, lunch can be a meal you actually enjoy, too.

What are your tips and tricks for eating healthy at mid-day — whether at work or at home? How do you motivate yourself to have the energy to eat well in the midst of a workday? Leave a comment and share your favorite work-week recipes, for any meal!

Back to School Breakfast

22 Aug

Sunday morning, I woke up feeling jittery. I am about to begin a new college semester, but this year will be the first one in which I am not a student — but a full-time professor, instead.

I’m thrilled, but nervous. I also know I’m about to be busier than I’ve ever been. And just to top it all off, my first class is Monday morning at 8:30 AM. So I wanted to spend some time Sunday getting a system in place that would allow me to run smoothly for the week.

I made myself a print schedule, including work outs and writing time. I made lists of dinners to stick on the fridge. I put together a bag of stuff to store in my office like snacks and a pair of comfy socks for lounging in (I like to wear cute, uncomfortable heels when I dress up).

And I baked.

Sunday morning, before I even had breakfast, I thought I would find a recipe for muffins or a quick bread — something healthy I could grab for breakfasts, to go with a smoothie or some fruit, without a lot of prep.

Instead, I found this delicious recipe for Apple Walnut scones that I tweaked a bit to accomodate the ingredients I had.

I traded the apple juice in the recipe for orange juice. And I didn’t have any currants or raisins, I doubled the dried apples. I used soy milk with lemon juice in place of the buttermilk. I also didn’t have any baking soda, so I learned a cool trick for using baking powder instead (use twice as much baking powder as baking soda, and eliminate the salt in the recipe).

Check out these giant scones — and this is them pre-baked!

I was feeling so pumped up, so proud of myself for being ambitious and baking and, frankly, still pretty amped about the school year, that I decided to invent a totally amazing smoothie to go with my scones while they baked.

There’s my powerhouse, back to school breakfast. These scones were amazing — the lightest, most moist scones I’ve maybe ever had, with a subtle, not-to-sweet flavor. I think they’d be great with a drizzle of honey.

Get your year (or work week, for those of you poor bastards without summer vacations) started right with this smoothie:

  • 1 cup vanilla soymilk
  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries (though any type of berry would work)
  • 2 tsbp. sliced raw almonds (I’m sure whole would be fine)
  • 2 tbsp. honey — just for a little extra sweet.

Eating Well On the Move

26 Jul

Sorry for the delay in getting a post up this week. I hope your Mondays weren’t too sad without your dose of We*Meat*Again… the ranting, the recipes, the loads of interesting links and information.

I wish I could tell you all that I will perform with increased length or frequency for the rest of this week to make up for missing Monday, but unfortunately, that would be a lie. For the week I’ve been longing for/dreading for months now is finally upon me: moving week.

Yes, in case you’ve missed the news, or just don’t know me that well, after graduating from my Masters of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing this May, I finally found a university teaching job for the fall, which will, as of this weekend be taking me to Hays, Kansas.

What this means for the blog are a few big hurdles. First, I have less time to post, as I’m running around packing, buying more boxes, continuing to pack, clean, and learn how to drive a giant U-Haul that is also towing my car. Second, my kitchen supplies are rapidly dwindling, as my cookware gets packed away bit by bit and I try to eat my way out of my refrigerator. So creative cooking and recipes are getting tossed out the window.

But don’t worry! I would never just abandon We*Meat*Again because of the move. So in the spirit of necessity being the mother of invention, I’m crafting a food post out of my current circumstances. Because during times of stress, like major relocations, continuing to eat well is really important. It helps your body by making sure you sleep well and stay …regular… and it also helps your moving budget by minimizing the amount you have to spend on crappy take-out (though, Saturday night, I’m lookin’ at you, Papa John’s).

We*Meat*Again’s Top Three Tips for Eating Well on the Move

(I make everything in lists of three. Yes, it has to be three.)

1. Plan ahead

Last week, when I knew I was going to end up with little cookware or dishes, I decided to use up some large quantities of food that wouldn’t make the move well by making big batches of foods I could eat over and over again. Normally, I hate doing that, as I get bored easily and end up wasting leftovers, but it’s manageable for a short window of time. So I whipped up a batch of Steve’s Loaded Egg Salad (SO GOOD). This way, I got lunch for a week and I got rid of eight eggs, which I was definitely not going to try and get the 500 miles from one apartment to the next.

2. Mix Unlike Ingredients

When you’re running out of food, but you want to keep it that way, you’ve got to get used to the idea of pairing a few things that you would otherwise buy new ingredients to complement. But this can be a great opportunity. The other day for lunch, I cooked the last of my Israeli couscous, sprinkled it over the remaining few handfuls of salad green, tossed on crushed pecans left over from my chicken salad, and dotted the whole thing with ranch dressing (I can’t help it, I live in the Midwest). Total lark — and totally delicious. Consider this wacky ranch-pecan-couscous-salad a fast, easy lunchtime staple of mine from now on! Sandwiches can be another great way to use up mixed ingredients, like arugula, apple and cheddar, or proscuitto and plum. Put anything between bread and it works!

3. Graze — on Whole Foods

You’ve made it to the last few days. You’re exhausted. It’s July and 90 degrees, so you can’t fathom cooking anything, and even if you could, you’re not sure where a spoon is. It’s ok to graze for dinner sometimes, especially when you’re stressed and sleepy — just do your best to make sure whole, healthy foods are around, and you can still have a balanced meal that doesn’t require any serious effort. Last night for dinner, I had local cheddar cheese and crackers, and a sliced apple with co-op made peanut butter. For dessert, the last of my vanilla yogurt with some frozen berries tossed in. So I cleared out a few ingredients that would perish on the go, and managed to stay healthy.

The key to all this is living a life that keeps good, whole foods around as the norm, rather than the summertime, farmer’s market-only exception. When those are the foods you’ve got to eat your way through before you can have your landlord check you out, eating well on the move becomes a lot easier.

What are your tips for eating well on the move? Maybe you’ve had this experience recently, or maybe you’ve got ideas for fast, easy low-cook options from other experiences. Too hot to turn on the oven? Waiting for the paycheck to be deposited and can’t afford to go grocery shopping? What do you do to eat well — under any of life’s crazy circumstances? Leave a comment and share!

Eat Local America — In a Sandwich!

18 Jul

This past weekend, my co-op officially kicked off its summer campaign in support of the national Eat Local, America! Challenge. From July 16th through August 20th, Wheatsfield here in Ames has placed all Iowa items in the store on sale, to encourage people to think about the amount of food they buy from greater distances. It’s a great way to start the conversation about sourcing food locally, and a really fantastic way to meet cool local producers. So I headed over to the co-op on Saturday for their big extravaganza to kick off the sale.

Unfortunately, it was 97 degrees on Saturday, so the extravaganza was pretty sweaty. Hence, no pictures. But the co-op was rocking some local music, and I started my quick grocery run with a swing around the beer tent in the parking lot. I sample really delicious beers from Millstream and Peace Tree Brewing (the Hefe and Blonde respectively, both really good) and then grabbed a sample of Aronia Berry Wine from Andrew Pittz of Sawmill Hollow Farm (these guys are getting serious press — stay tuned, the aronia berry is about to catch on. This wine was delicious — all the fruity sweetness of a zinfandel without being too tart or dry.)

So right off, a little known perk of eating local — grocery shopping with an afternoon buzz. In fact, I didn’t need much food, and was just there to see the sights and grab a few random ingredients to round out some recipes I wanted to make for the week. I grabbed some apples, a few types of salad green, a loaf of bread, a few cheeses and some tomatoes.

And then at lunchtime, I realized all of those things would make a very delicious, very local, meat-free sandwich.

I love making meat-free sandwiches, and coming up with strange clever combinations. During my vegetarian tenure, sandwiches were one of the things I missed the most, because it’s just not easy to recreate that hearty between-bread taste without meat, and cheese and mayo sandwiches aren’t very healthy.

One of my most successful meat-free sandwich combos has always been apple + cheese. A tart granny smith and a sharp cheddar, or a sweet pink lady with melted blue cheese crumbles … I even kept it up when I started eating meat again, one time pairing ham, apple and mozzarella in a gooey panini. So when I opened the fridge today, knowing I wanted a sandwich on this sweet challah, fresh-baked from Gateway Market in Des Moines, the apple and the Milton prairie cheddar leaped right out at me.

I also love a sharp cheese on peppery arugula, so I grabbed that, too. Sliced up the apples, and stuck that half of the bread with cheese under the broiler for a few minutes to melt it. I was feeling simple, and like I really wanted to taste all these ingredients, so I didn’t weigh the sandwich down with anything else, but visions of stone-ground mustard and almonds danced through my head. Five minutes later — two slices of bread with all the wonder of local, fresh food between them. Just goes to show what goodness you can get when you buy locally, and when you’re not afraid to mix things up in the kitchen, to cast aside the preconceived notions of a sandwich as a place where fruit dare not tread, to pair unlike ingredients because they all share one food-shed in common. Would’ve gone great with a glass of aronia berry wine.

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