Sunday, December 30, 2012

Simple roasted chicken with winter vegetables

If you should decide to have a light New Year's Eve feast and not start 2013 with a food coma, I not only applaud you but can also suggest a fitting meal to go with your admirable intentions. This dish goes very well with some quinoa to which you can add some diced carrots and celery, and spice it with cumin. Yum!

And with respect to your New Year's resolutions, well... go easy on yourself. If you set unfeasible goals, you're setting yourself up for failure and will inevitably end up disappointed. Try to get at least one nutrition-related goal among your resolutions, though. There are so many worthwhile goals you can choose from. Commit to eating less animal fat, less sugar, more leafy greens, more berries, drink less coffee, cook at home at least every other day, bake instead of frying, or train yourself to like vegetables. Do as much as you can. Be realistic, but also ambitious!

Today, when we know so much about nutrition and what food does to our bodies, when there are vegetables-revering bloggers like me who incessantly advertise healthier recipes and belabor good-for-you tenets, we no longer have any excuse to have crappy diets. So, take all of this and find your own way to healthier eating. Use food for energy and nourishment, not as a filler for other things that may be missing from your life. 

Eat, be merry and have a happy new year, everyone!

Simple roasted chicken with winter vegetables
~ serves 4

3 chicken breasts or 6 thighs
2-3 beets, peeled and chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced
1-2 parsnips, peeled and sliced (you can use whatever roots you can find, really: celery root, turnip, rutabaga, etc)
1/2 sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 lemon, cut into wedges
1/2 Tbsp rosemary
1 tsp thyme
salt and pepper, to taste
olive oil, for drizzling

Sprinkle salt and pepper on the chicken and massage it into the meat on all sides. 

In a large bowl, mix the vegetables with rosemary, thyme, lemon and olive oil. Add the meat and mix everything together until well coated. 

Pour the mixture into a baking dish and bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes or until the meat is tender. Cover with lid or foil for the first 30 minutes so the chicken doesn't dry out, then leave uncovered for the remainder. You'll know it's done when the meat has a nice amber color.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Apple & blackberry cobbler

Yes, the holidays were terrific. There was snow and food and family around the table, good humor and stories. Nothing missing, really. Except in the aftermath of the many tastings of meats and cheeses that were inevitable, and the ravenousness for sarmale that ensued, I found myself lacking in drive and energy to exercise. Not even a little. Usually, not a day goes by for me without doing some sort of activity. Whether it's the gym, running, a trip with the bike, lifting some weights at home, playing badminton or going for a swim, I find it a real challenge to make it 24 hours without my drug. That is just how I'm made, I suppose.

It wasn't until last night that I put on my gear and went out for a short jog in the snow - or rather, slush. The cold gave me speed, and the frozen air filling my lung was like some sort of dreamy hookah delight. I felt like I'd been reborn. And I was also disappointed in myself for letting so much time go by without exercise. So I did what any person who's ever had exercise-guilt does in order to live with themselves: I blamed it on the food.

Now, I've no more excuses. Here is a light and fluffy recipe to help you recover from the food coma of the holidays. Only 15 minutes prep time, by the way! You can enjoy this as dessert, but it's also substantial enough to be a whole meal. Take my word for it. And now, get up and get moving!

Apple & blackberry cobbler
~ serves 4

5-6 small (or 4 large) apples, any variety, chopped
1 1/2 cups frozen blackberries (organic! Remember the Dirty Dozen)
2 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp cinnamon
a few drops stevia or 1 Tbsp brown sugar, optional (don't make it too sweet. You can always add powdered sugar on your plate if you need it)
juice from 1/2 lemon or lime
1 cup almonds
1 cup hazelnuts or walnuts (or any other combination of 2 nuts)
2 Tbsp shredded coconut
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a large bowl, toss the apples with the cinnamon, stevia or brown sugar (optional) and lemon juice. Add the blackberries and mix gently. 

In a Vitamix, blender or grinder, add the nuts, coconut, cinnamon and vanilla and pulse until crumbly. 

Coat an oven-safe Pyrex pan or loaf pan (glass is best) with coconut oil and pour the fruit filling in there.

Sprinkle the nut mixture on top. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes, until the top has a nice amber color. To avoid it getting too dry, you can cover the pan (with lid or foil) for the first 20 minutes, and then leave it uncovered for the last 20 so the top can get crispy.

Happy Holidays!

Recipe adapted from Jenny @ the Clean Blog.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sensational oatless oatmeal smoothie

Good morning to you! There are so many theories about breakfast. Some people say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so it should also be the most substantial. Others prefer to skip breakfast altogether and have a large lunch instead. Some are sold for the much-beloved bacon and eggs. Others prefer yogurt and fruit. For convenience and time, we sometimes even reach for those microwaveable oatmeal packets. What's the best breakfast then?

To me, the best meal is one that gives you the best balance between stomach satisfaction and energy contribution. Too much protein invariably makes me lethargic and slow, feeling starved for a nap, and right after I just woke up! Now that just annoys me. Starches have the same effect. I am really not one to go to Waffle House for breakfast, if you ever pictured me this way.

So, the perfect breakfast for me involves fruit. They're light, full of natural sugars and promote your body's natural cleansing process. If you can tolerate yogurt you can have it with your fruit, and so much the better for you. But choose a yogurt loaded with probiotics, like kefir. And skip any fruity variety with added sugar. You just shoot yourself in the foot with that.

For those of us less lactose-tolerant though, there is still hope. Garden of Life makes a terrific protein powder that's dairy-, gluten-, sugar-, soy- and bad stuff-free, and it's also raw. I add this to my breakfasts whenever I've an active day ahead of me. We do need protein in our lives, but it doesn't necessarily have to come from animals. Without further ado, I present to you my favorite breakfast: a smoothie that tastes just like oatmeal, but made entirely out of fruit and raw protein powder.

Oatless oatmeal smoothie
~ serves 2

1 large Granny Smith apple, quartered
2 kiwi, peeled and halved
1 pear, quartered
1-inch piece ginger root, chopped
juice of 1/2 lime
2 dashes cinnamon
1 dash cardamom (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup almond milk
2 Tbsp flax seed (or flax meal)
1 heaping scoop Garden of Life Raw Protein (or another non-dairy protein powder)

Blend everything with a powerful blender (get a Vitamix, for heaven's sake). Enjoy!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Refreshing zucchini and mushroom soup

The holidays are coming, and it's always a challenge to ignore the plethora of cookie recipes coming our way. Everything is about food this time of year. But the problem is, the advertised food is not of the nourishing variety. It's the kind that makes you feel lethargic, that gives you digestive problems, that prevents you in so many ways from being active. It's not the food I yearn to prepare or consume, and certainly not the food I'd like to recommend to others. And for the last time, I don't want to cook my way to "vegan holidays" with a mountain of soy! Generally speaking, soy sucks. To read why you too should stay away from soy, read Kimberly's article. And if you're a Tofu fan, make sure you're sitting down.

This being said, I still enjoy making vegetable soups even now when the weather is getting colder and the said vegetables are not so readily available. Soon we'll have to get creative with roots and mushrooms, the stuff of winter. But for now, as a last adieu to gloriously green zucchini, here is a delicious and versatile blended soup. You can tweak the quantities for any ingredient and the taste will be slightly different, but the duet of zucchini and mushroom is golden every time. You don't need a Vitamix to make this. Any kind of blender will do, and personally I prefer this a little chunky so I don't blend it completely smooth. This will take your mind off cookies and other evils for a little while, I promise.

Zucchini and mushroom soup
~ serves 4

4 zucchini, cut lengthwise and sliced in 1/2 inch half-moons
1 package (12 oz) crimini mushrooms
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper, to taste
water or vegetable broth
fresh chopped parsley or cilantro for garnish

Heat coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute the mushrooms for about 5 minutes, until they start to soften. Add the zucchini, onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for another 3 minutes. 

Add water or broth just to cover the vegetables, and add the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. 

Add cauliflower and simmer until the florets soften, about 10 minutes. 

Turn off the heat and blend the soup until you get the consistency you like. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with parsley or cilantro when you serve.

Recipe adapted from Clean by Alejandro Junger.