Healthy Chocolate Smoothie

I love dessert, and I love feeding people dessert almost as much (or maybe even more) than I like eating it myself.  But some days,  I have a major guilt trip.  Today is one of those days.  I know sugar is terrible for your health.  I shouldn’t eat so much of it, and sometimes I feel guilty that I feed my loved ones baked goods so often.

I generally think I’m a pretty health-conscious person,  but then I turn around and make things like this:

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I know dessert makes me happy, but I also know I shouldn’t be eating it all the time so I give it away.  So pretty much I’m a jerk, a jerk that pawns off things that are too unhealthy for her to eat onto other people.  And when jerks feel guilty, they turn to fruits and vegetables.

I swear this has nothing to do with the fact that I’m about 293048292 years late to the party and finally watched Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead and this article I read in National Geographic about Sugar.  That documentary didn’t convince me that I need to start juicing, but it did remind me that fruits and vegetables are always a good idea. The sugar article just reinforced my original idea that I need to eat less sugar. I’m not a nutritionist, but it seems like juices are lacking fiber and all the healthy things you get from the skins of fruits and vegetables. No? So instead of juice, I’m sticking to smoothies and less sugar.

healthychocolatesmoothie2

I’ve been having green smoothies for years.  My normal go-to combination was strawberry, banana, spinach.  But I decided to try a new combo to help me get past my enormous cravings for big handfuls of chocolate chips in the evenings.  It’s a bad habit.  So let’s replace it with something better:

healthychocolatesmoothie1

Healthy Chocolate-y Smoothie

1/2 frozen banana
1/2 cup frozen mango chunks (I eye ball it)
1-2 cup frozen spinach (I really just grab a huge handful and shove it in the blender)
1 date, pitted
1 1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (or more if you want it more chocolate-y)
1 cup ice
1/2-1 cup water or almond milk (this might vary)

Place all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.  In my Vitamix, I don’t need that much water and I can get it to be pretty thick.

inblender

I actually eat it with a spoon!  Note: This makes one large smoothie for one person.

The key here is really the cocoa powder.

cocoapowder

You get the chocolate-y flavor without all the sugar.  The sweetness here comes from fruit, particularly the date.

It’s not like eating a Wendy’s frosty. Let’s be clear.  It’s not.  But it’s pretty darn tasty and it definitely helps me get my chocolate fix in a much healthier way.

So what do you think?  Is it bad to feed your friends and family unhealthy foods?  Should I (or you) feel guilty about it?

Banana-Date Muffins with a Crunchy Oat-Almond Topping, Vegan and Virtually Oil-Free

In an ideal world, when someone gave me an enormous container of dates, I would make date shakes every single day.

But in the real world, I don’t have a blender and I need to fit into a bridesmaid dress for a wedding this week.

So in the real world when someone gives me an enormous container of dates, I try to make healthy things with it.  It’s no secret that I love sweets.  Usually, I’m all for splurging and eating deliciously sinful sweets, but sometimes I try to make healthy versions.

Like this

Oh hey, muffin.

Vegan Banana-Date Muffins with a Crunchy Oat-Almond Topping

1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar, heaping
1 tbsp ground flaxseed + 3 tbsp cold water
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 ripe bananas, mashed
2 tbsp almond milk (or water)
1/2 cup chopped dates
For Crunchy Oat-Almond Topping:
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp flour
2 tbsp oats
1 tbsp blanched almonds

Pre-heat oven to 350F.  In a small bowl, mix together 1 tbsp ground flaxseed with 3 tbsp water to make your “flax egg”, put in the fridge for 5-10 while you gather your ingredients.

In a bowl, combine applesauce, sugar, “flax egg,” and vanilla.  Add flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Stir until just combined.  Stir in the mashed banana and dates.  If batter is too thick, add 2 tbsp almond milk.  Pour batter into lined muffin pan (12).

Combine ingredients for topping in a small bowl.  Sprinkle on top of unbaked muffins (the topping is optional, it’s tasty but not essential).  Bake for 25 minutes ish, or until it passes the toothpick test (this will vary by oven).

Allow to cool completely then enjoy, without feeling guilty about eating a muffin, because let’s be honest oil-free, whole wheat flour… basically means they’re good for you.

Maybe not quite, but chances are if you have one you’ll still fit into your dress.

I just ate 3, let’s hope I do…

P.S. Tomorrow is National Banana Bread day. Go ahead, jump on the band wagon.  You know you want to make this 🙂

Coconut Curry Stew and My New Love

Since moving, I had to start from scratch.

I bought furniture.  So now I have 1 bed, 1 nightstand, 1 table and 1 dresser.

I have 1 large plate, 1 small plate, 4 bowls, 2 cups, 1 mug, 1 old frying pan and this:

This is my new love.  It’s amazing.  Cast iron is every overly-domestic girl’s dream.

So when you have someone over for dinner and you only really have one plate (though luckily a few bowls) and one pot, start from scratch with fresh ingredients.  It’s easier than it sounds, I promise.

Wondering what to make?

Coconut Curry Stew, naturally.

It might wow your guest.  Who knows?  He might just be polite.  But either way, make this stew.  It’s easy, delicious, healthy, and requires minimal utensils without sacrificing flavor.

Coconut Curry Stew

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, chopped
2 sweet potatoes, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 can diced tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 cups vegetable broth
2 tbsp curry powder (or more or less depending on how you like it)
1 can light coconut milk
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Heat oil in a pot.  Add onions, carrots, sweet potatoes, bell pepper and jalapeno.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent.  Add garlic, cook for an additional minute, then add tomatoes.  Add broth and curry and simmer for about 20 minutes or until sweet potatoes soften.  Add coconut milk, garbanzo beans, salt and pepper.  Simmer for an additional 10 minutes.  Stir in cilantro and serve.

I served it with some sauteed kale.  I thought it was pretty tasty and super easy to make.

You can store left overs in a jar.  That’s how I roll.

Just keeping it real… or maybe I have no other storage containers…

How to Cook the Perfect Plantains

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you might start to think I have an obsessive personality.

For example: You know about my Beyonce obsessionProtein pancake obsession.  Then there’s lemon curd as of recent.  Go ahead, google “Foodologie Obsessed.”  Tons of results.

But I promise, I’m pretty normal.  I don’t obsess over anything nearly as often as I say I do.  The reality is that I tend to exaggerate.  I get it from my mom.  We both do it.  It’s ridiculous.

At the risk of sounding like I’m exaggerating yet again, I’m about to tell you the absolute BEST way to cook a plantain.  Using this method, you will get the most deliciously sweet, tender, amazing, fantastic, every-other-adjective-that-describes-simply-delicious plantain in the world.

Best of all.  It’s super easy.  All you need are plantains and canola oil.

So here’s how to make Plantains Beyond Perfection.

First you need to start with super, super ripe plantains.  Yes, they’ll look like they’re about to go bad.

But really that’s when they taste best.  While the skin is still on, roll the plantains using the heel of your hand to soften out any tough areas.

In the meantime, put some oil in a pan on medium/low heat.  A few tablespoons will do.  Basically you want enough to just barely coat the bottom of the pan.

Arrange the plantains in the pan, they can be touching or not.

Grab a fork and poke the plantains with a fork so you get little holes all around it.  Don’t be shy, poke away.  You do it virtually on facebook, now you get to do it for real.  Once you’ve poked the plantains all over, turn the heat down to low.  I mean really low, as low as your stove can go (Ludacris style?).  Shake the pan so they don’t stick, then cover them.

After about 5 minutes, give them another shake.  They’ll start to sort of inflate from the steam.

At this point, you can start to gently turn them.  The more tender (aka tastier), the harder they are to turn.  Two forks or tongs make it easier.  Once you’ve rotated them, cover them again.  Every so often shake the pan to keep them from sticking too much, but for the most part you can forget about them.  If they are looking too dry either your heat is too high or they need more oil.  Adjust accordingly.

This whole process takes about half an hour, but trust me, you won’t regret it.  If you use this slow cooking method, you will get the most delicious plantains you’ve ever had in your life.

I never promised they would be pretty.

They are decidedly “not cute,” another one of my overused terms.  But they’re definitely worth the time for the taste.

I can guarantee you’ll be obsessed with them too.  Even more so if you eat them with refried black beans.  Black beans and plantains.  Best combination on the planet.  Truth.  I’m not even exaggerating.

 

Vegan Banana Bread

I’m pretty sure there’s something in the Bible against lying to your parents.  But really, this wasn’t a lie.  It was more of a withhold-the-truth type thing.  See, if I told them this was vegan banana bread, something undoubtedly would be wrong with it.  I can almost guarantee they would hate it.

Instead, I fibbed.

I told them it was the same banana bread I’ve always made with butter and eggs.  A banana bread they love.

They loved this one too, and hopefully it won’t raise their cholesterol.

Vegan Banana Bread

1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
2 “flax eggs”*
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)

In a small bowl, combine 2 tsbp flax meal with 6 tbsp water.  Whisk together and set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

In another bowl, combine sugar, oil, “flax eggs” and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients.  Right before it’s all combine, stir in bananas and pecans.  Don’t overmix.

Pour batter into a bundt pan, bake at 350F for about 40 minutes (this will vary depending on your oven).

Serve and don’t tell anyone it’s vegan.  Unless you’re trying to impress a vegan, in which case you can sing its dairy-free praises.  However, should you decide to keep its vegan identity a secret, you might get what’s coming to you.

In the process of making the banana bread of lies, I got a paper cut on a bag of flour.  Call it karma or punishment. I call it an unfortunate casualty of baking.

Colorful Quinoa Salad

I’m in the life stage where I’ve graduated and living with my parents again.  I somehow managed to skip this step when I graduated the first time around by going to India then grad school.  Since moving back home, I’ve made one major observations:  my family eats a lot of meat and very few vegetables.

I’m going nuts.

I offered to cook all meals for my parents.  They said no, because they would pretty much be exclusively meat-free meals.  So basically, I’ve given up on trying to get them to eat healthier.  Instead, I’m making stuff for myself and sharing leftovers.

Yesterday, I made a quinoa, bean, vegetable salad.

Surprisingly, everyone liked it (even though once they claimed to not like quinoa).

Colorful Quinoa Salad

1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 cup edamame
1/2 cup black beans
1 red pepper, diced (I used about 5 multicolored sweet mini ones)
1 mango, diced
1 cucumber, diced
1 tomato, diced
1 handful of cilantro, chopped
Juice of 4 limes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin powder
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the quinoa in 1 cup of water.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes with some salt.  While the quinoa cooks dice your vegetables.  Place edamame, black beans, red peppers, cucumbers, tomato, mango and cilantro in a large mixing bowl.  In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper.  Once quinoa is done and slightly cooled, add to the mixing bowl with vegetables, pour in the lime dressing and mix.  Serve and enjoy!

Serves 4-6.

So I guess this is my new strategy: make healthy, tasty (to me) things I like and hope they’ll eat it as well.

Off to the gym I go! Have a great day!

Sunday Dinner

Sunday Dinner last night was the best.

First, because I didn’t cook.

Second, because it was just damn good.

Third, it was meat free, and I miss that.

Nancy made fruit salad and a spinach salad.

Kyla just got back from Ethiopia and brought spices with her.  So she made shiro and a delicious bean stew.

It was to die for.  I’m obsessed with the shiro that Kyla made.  Sooo good and so easy to make (given that you have the shiro spice mix).  It definitely came at a time when I’ve sorta been going crazy regarding Italian food.  Basically I’ve had enough.  I miss spiced food.  I cannot find cumin or cilantro in stores here!  I’m going to the “ethnic markets” in the immigrant neighborhoods this week to scout out spices.   So this dinner definitely helped with my spice cravings.

Spices, beans, grains, fruit, vegetables, friends!  What could be better?

Pasta alla Puttanesca

I’ve probably mentioned this before but I’ve never been a big fan of pasta.

It just was never that exciting.  UNLucky for me, I’m spending the next few months in the land of pasta.

But as the saying goes… When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

So I’m trying, and here’s my experiment.  Pasta alla Puttanesca, which I guess literally means “whore style pasta.” It’s not a Roman recipe originally, and I like to think I’m not a whore, but why not give it a shot.  While I’ve never been a big fan of pasta, I’ve always loved sauce (or “gravy” as they call it on The Sopranos) and more importantly I love olives.

I have no idea if this recipe is anywhere nearing authentic, but I read the basic ingredients of Pasta alla Puttanesca, took a quick trip to the grocery store and came up with this:

To be honest, it was delicious. And to be even more honest, I didn’t measure these things.  So these are estimates of how much I used.  If you give it a try, add stuff and keep tasting and adding more until you like the flavor.  After all, who cares about authenticity if it doesn’t taste good to you? (At least in your own home)

Puttanesca (ish) Sauce

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced (apparently the original version doesn’t include onions)
2 gloves of garlic, minced
2 cups tomato puree
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp dried basil
1 cup sliced olives
3 tbsp capers
salt and pepper to taste
1 handful of fresh italian parsley, chopped

Heat oil in a large pot, add onions and cook until translucent.  Add garlic and cook an additional minute.  Add tomato puree, tomato paste, basil, olives, capers, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Simmer for 15 minutes, then stir in parsley.  Simmer for another 15 minutes or so, really the longer you simmer it the better.  If your sauce is too thick, add a bit of water.

Serve over pasta and enjoy!

And enjoy I did, standing at my window, admiring the view

Off to Florence for the weekend!  Be back with pictures!

Spaghetti alla puttanesca

Discovering Indoor Exercise and Roasted Vegetables

As much as I hate to admit this, being at my parent’s house was driving me crazy.  For some reason, being there makes me the most sedentary person on the planet.

Example: I watched every episode (5 1/2 season) of How I Met Your Mother in the nearly 3 weeks I was home.  Hilarious show! But that’s wayyyy too much TV.

The truth is, I feel better when I’m more active.  I like walking places and working out.  It just makes me feel better about myself.

So now that I’m in Ithaca, I’m trying to find ways to feel better about myself and my health… despite this:

I won’t lie.  The weather here can be terrible.  I walked to meet up with some friends and my toes were numb even though I was wearing tights, thick socks and snow boots.

But to keep myself moving, I present to you, my home gym:

Real state of the art, right?

Lately I’ve taken to doing circuits while watching episodes of last season’s The Biggest Loser.

Circuit 1: 25 Step ups
Circuit 2: 20 crunches
Circuit 3: 25 jumping jacks
Circuit 4: 20 bicycle crunches
Circuit 5: 25 bunny hops (back and forth over my computer charger)
Repeat

Not the most exciting work out ever but definitely better than sitting and doing nothing.  I’ve also recently discovered ExerciseTV online!

I made another discovery.  It’ll revolutionize lunch (or dinner… for me, at least).  Okay so I didn’t really discover it.  Rather, it’s new to me.

Roasted Broccoli

Who knew it could be so delicious.

What you need:

  • Broccoli, Carrots, Onions, etc.
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • baking sheet
  • oven preheated to 400F

Combine broccoli, other vegetables, olive oil, balsamic vinergar, salt and pepper.  Put it all on a baking sheet like such:

Roast at 400F for about 25 minutes.

Makes a wonderful side dish.  I’m so pleased!  Last night I went and bought more broccoli just so I could have it again.

Definitely recommend it if you haven’t tried it.

Off to try to get some work done, or at least move myself a bit.  Have a wonderful day!

Remix to…

…Ignition

Well, maybe not. More like Remix to Curried Kale with Lentils and Mango.

Somehow that doesn’t sound as good as Remix to Ignition.  I’m going to stick to my day job… err that is searching for one…

Anyway, I remade curried kale with lentils and mango.  I made a few changes, I only used 1 tsp of olive oil, omitted the shallot and used 1 tbsp of red wine vinegar instead of lemon.  Everything else stayed pretty much the same.

Pretty delicious.

Take that R. Kelly… or something…

Speaking of day jobs.  I’m off to work on some job applications.  Wish me luck!