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When was the last time you got out of your culinary comfort zone? The start of the New Year is a perfect time to look at your habits with fresh eyes and attempt to try something new. Today I ventured out of my food shopping routine and visited Reliable Market, an Asian grocery shop in Union Square, Somerville. I had already gathered necessary ingredients to make this Post-punk Kitchen curry udon recipe, but hadn’t been able to find the udon noodles during my usual trip to Trader Joe’s. At Reliable Market, I found the udon (big, chewy, Japanese noodles) plus a bunch of other fun additions to my kitchen. I brought home a few bags of dried shitake mushrooms ($.99 a piece), teriyaki-flavored seaweed snacks, and some matcha green tea powder—another ingredient that had eluded me during trips to mainstream stores in the past.

Besides the healthy, bargain deals, just the act of wandering around an unfamiliar environment, looking at different types of produce, spices, and sauces, was enough to make me feel refreshed and inspired.

Curry Udon

udon curry stir fry

I made my beautiful curry udon stir fry, with the shitake mushrooms, as well as broccoli, red pepper, and tofu. I always try to add in as many veggies as possible when it comes to stir fries, an easy way to get a big serving of vegetables in one delicious meal.

I’m in love with the teriyaki seaweed snacks, and looking forward to going back to Reliable and picking up more. They had about 30 different kinds of seaweed snacks at this store! There are only 10 calories in 10 flavorful, crunchy strips of seaweed, as well as 50% of your daily recommended allowance of Vitamin A. And, medical journals like Nutritional Reviews have shown sea vegetables to be high in many essential vitamins and minerals like iodine, copper, and zinc. Make sure you read the labels of seaweed snacks, though, as some contain MSG.

I also made a matcha green tea smoothie, blending my new matcha powder 

Matcha green tea smoothie

(1 tbsp.), with 1 cup of hemp milk, 1 tbsp. of honey and a few ice cubes. A refreshing alternative to iced coffee, and high in cancer-preventing polyphenols.

 

Have you tried any new foods or places to shop lately? If you’re interested in visiting in the Reliable Market, or other interesting ethnic shops in the Somerville area, check out Nibble, a new blog by the Somerville Arts Council, highlighting recipes and ingredients from local shops. Go explore!

Thanksgiving is just around the bend, and while this time of year marks the start of the holiday season, it also means that its time to be prepared for something much less fun: cold and flu season!

I was sick all of last week, and know a few other people in my office and grad school program have been coming down with colds  also. I’m thankful to be feeling better and able to be up and active by now—as we all probably know, it isn’t until you’ve felt unhealthy that you tend to fully appreciate just how great being healthy really is.

Hawaiian Ginger Chicken Soup and Sriracha

I made a batch of this Hawaiian Ginger Chicken Soup from EatingWell.com when I was feeling sick, and I’ve decided to go ahead and dub it the “new” chicken soup. While I love the Lipton’s noodle packets as much as the next person, a spicy, pungent soup filled with dark green leafy vegetables, is much more beneficial to your body. It is VERY ginger-y, which I love, but those who aren’t really into ginger may want to reduce it a little. Ginger is acknowledged as having tons of health benefits, including: boosting immunity, relieving gastrointestinal discomfort, and reducing inflammation. The spicy Sriracha in the broth is excellent for clearing up a stuffy nose! I hope you don’t end up needing a cold-remedy, but should you need one, keep this dish in mind. :)

Have a great holiday!

 

pumkin pie oatmeal

Pumpkin-pie oatmeal

 

I never get sick of oatmeal. I might go through brief interludes of interest in switching it up with scrambled eggs or a breakfast sandwich, but for the most part oatmeal and I stick together like glue every morning. I switch it up with a cold variation like bircher-muesli in the summer, and in the fall and winter I love having a hot bowl in the morning, always with toppings. To me, it’s the perfect breakfast food. The health benefits are undeniable–oatmeal has been found to lower cholesterol, and provides energy in complex carbohydrates with lots of soluble fiber to stabilize your blood sugar. It’s also inexpensive–I like to buy a jumbo box of plain, old-fashioned oats, which has about 30 servings and costs around $3-4. None of the pre-packaged, sugary packets for me, thanks. My long-time standby mix-ins for hot oatmeal have included chopped apples, cinnamon, honey, and nuts.

hemp milk

Lately I’ve tried some other varieties that I thought I’d share. First off, I usually mix my oats with half milk and half water. I recently discovered the joy of using hemp milk from Trader Joe’s in this mix. Their hemp milk provides almost half your daily serving of Omega-3 ALA fats–those healthy fats you need for a healthy functioning brain and heart. The fat and protein the hemp milk provides makes for an extra creamy bowl of oats, and I find that it really helps to keep me full for longer.

Along with hemp milk I’ve tried a few new add-ins:

The Thanksgiving-season appropriate Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal, with:

  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin (plain, not sweetened)
  • Pumpkin pie spices: ground ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon, adjusted to your taste preference. I like a lot of ginger in mine.
  • Drizzle of honey
  • Chopped walnuts
  • Raisins

I scoop the pumpkin in with the uncooked oatmeal and hemp milk and heat it up all together (about 4 minutes in the microwave), and then add on the toppings and an extra splash of milk once its cooled a little.

My other new favorite variety involves:

  • 2 tbsp dried, unsweetened coconut flakes
  • dried cranberries
  • chopped walnuts
  • drizzle of maple syrup

This variation came out of using what I had on hand in the pantry, and just happened to come together fabulously. It might be my favorite variety to date.

Enjoy!

There’s no doubt that McDonald’s and similar fast-food chains can give you a “value”—for $3 you could get yourself a double cheeseburger, fries, and a milkshake, which is hard to beat when it comes to fast food. (Although, if you’re in Chinatown, you could get a delicious Vietnamese sandwich with real veggies and lean meat or tofu for $3…) I’ve been somewhat of a thrift-detective since I accepted a new part-time job that allows me more time for grad school, but less money for my food budget. As promised, I’m going to be delivering some new recipes that are super-budget friendly and give a whole lot more value than the aforementioned fast foods.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve already been a huge fan of the black bean. Sometimes I find myself rattling off black bean recipes like Forrest Gump’s Bubba in his shrimp soliloquy…Black bean burgers. Black bean Soup. Cuban Black bean and yam stew…And today, I have yet another black bean recipe for you—the delicious Jamaican black bean and coconut cornbread bake. There’s a reason I’m so excited about the legume noir. Fiber, protein, antioxidants, polyphenols, folate, magnesium, iron…the benefits of the black bean go on and on. And the cost? I bought a 10 pound bag of black beans for $10 from MarketBasket about six months ago (which also influenced my plethora of black bean recipes). Dried beans double in size after they are soaked and boiled, so this means I’m getting about a cup of black beans for 25 cents. Not too shabby. I found this recipe on Vegetarian Times website, and adapted a little. I substituted one sweet potato, which I cubed, peeled, and roasted in oven, instead of the frozen corn that the recipe called for. I served it up alongside a serving of sautéed collard greens ($1.79 at MarketBasket for a huge bunch that ended up being about 6 servings.) After doing the math, I calculated this recipe to cost about $1.39 per serving (this doesn’t include the spices, which are just too difficult to factor in).

$1.39! For a heart-healthy, vitamin-packed serving of home-cooked goodness. That’s a real value meal.

 

Black bean and coconut cornbread bake

 

 

I recently got some very exciting news—the part time job that I had been interviewing for finally came through with an offer! I’ve been on the lookout for something part time since beginning grad school this past September. I had been “burning the candle at both ends” by working 40 hours and taking on night classes with tons of reading and assignments. So starting next week, I’ll be in a new work environment, with my hours scaled back to a much more manageable 20 hours per week. The caveat? I’ll also be scaling back on my paycheck. Definitely expect to see some low-budget healthy recipes from me in the future! I’ve always been fairly budget conscious, but I’m really going to have to start thinking thrifty from now on. That being said, I don’t believe in scrimping too much on the important things in life! Which is why I go to the best gym in the world, buy fewer quantity of higher quality clothes and products, and try to use the best (organic, local) ingredients when I cook. To be able to keep my quality of life in check along with my budget, I’m planning on organizing more cheap social activities like potluck dinners, and taking advantage of the deals that are offered daily on sites like Groupon and Eversave.* I’m also planning on preparing lots of meals at home and getting creative with ingredients so I can lower my overall grocery bill without sacrificing great taste.

I know that a lot of people (myself included, until this new job opened up) don’t always have the opportunity to spend lots of hours in the kitchen and planning meals, which is undoubtedly the cheapest way to eat. There are a few strategies for eating on the run that I’ve worked out in the past month or so, while juggling full time work and school. Whole Foods has generally been my go-to spot for cheap and healthy prepared meals. Forget that “whole paycheck” nickname – this grocery store has a lot of really good options if you know where to look. If you’re navigating the world of prepared food items, here are my suggestions:

  • Skip the salad bar. Unless you’re a serious pro with picking out the lightest salad choices, and can effectively steer yourself away from the heavier tantalizing toppings, these salads tend to really add up when it comes time to weigh in. Same goes for the foods in the hot bar.
  • 2 for $5. Whole foods has a whole section of small serving packaged foods that are only $2.50 a piece. There are gourmet salads with dried cranberry, goat cheese, and pecans; mini roasted vegetable or turkey sandwiches; and whole grain pilafs with ingredients like quinoa, kamut, and brown rice. There is a ton to choose from, and mixing and matching these healthy foods in healthy portions is a great way to pick up a quick lunch or dinner for only $5.
  • Prepared foods section. The prepared foods in the glass case at Whole Foods is a total gem. Every week, there are at least one or two prepared foods on sale. The counter staff will let you try samples of their different options, which I’ve always found to be delicious. I personally like to get a grilled marinated chicken breast – today I bought one (on sale) for about $2.20 and paired it with a half-pint of kale salad (mixed with cranberries, walnuts, and tomatoes) which cost me another $2. There’s even a microwave in the dining area to heat this up. You can’t beat a meal of lean protein and fresh greens for $4.20!

Disclaimer: I’m not a secret employee of Whole Foods, and no one bribed me to say any of this. I just love the budget-friendly options that I’ve discovered there.

*Speaking of Groupon, I recently went berserk and ordered 3 of their recent deal—a $60 gift certificate to Studio 9, for just $30. Studio 9 an awesome, yet pricey salon, and I am in love with it, so I jumped at the offer—without reading the fine print, which says only one per customer! If any of you out there are interested in this great deal, please shoot me an email at Jean.Zove@yahoo.com. I’m selling them for the same price I bought ($30). Their services are excellent and this is a great deal!

This past weekend was some pretty glorious Fall weather! Unfortunately, I spent most of the weekend locked away, working on a huge paper for one of my classes (almost finished), but it was just too nice outside to not sneak out and do something fun. I ended up going apple picking with some friends at Russell Farms in Ipswich, quite possibly one of the cutest places ever. I ate the best cider donuts and hot apple cider I’ve ever had, took a hay ride out to the orchards, and brought home a ten pound “peck” of Cortland, Macoun, Macintosh, and Gala apples.

One of the great things about season fruit picking, is finding ways to eat your new bounty. Some of those apples have been getting cut up and cooked with oatmeal in the morning. Some of them might end up going into that apple chicken recipe that I wrote about a few weeks ago. And yesterday, I decided to procrastinate with that paper just a little bit more, by baking an awesome apple crisp. I love apple crisp because it’s so delicious and easy and can be prepared without a lot of extra fat or sugar. I actually really don’t like most store-bought crisps or packaged mixes – I find them to be way too sweet and gooey. Apples baked with some cinnamon and raisins have so much natural sweetness and flavor on their own, why would you want to cover that up? I prefer to keep mine simple, with just a little bit of crumb topping. Below is the recipe I came up with yesterday.

Slightly Sweet Apple Crisp

5-7 apples (I used 5 because mine were huge) peeled, cored and sliced thin. I used the aforementioned apple varieties which are all semi-sweet and tart, good for baking

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp lemon juice

¼ cup raisins

3 tbsp tapioca pearls – this is optional, I like to add them because they add some fun texture

1 cups water

½ cup rolled oats

¼ cup brown sugar

1/3 cup whole wheat flour

2 tbsp butter

Preheat the over to 375 degrees, and coat a 9 x 11 glass baking pan with non-stick spray. Arrange apple slices to an even layer on the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon, lemon juice, raisins, tapioca, and stir until evenly coated. Add water to the apples. In a separate bowl, combine the oats, sugar, and flour and mix well. (I also added an extra sprinkle of cinnamon to this mixture). Cut the butter into the mix using a pastry knife or two butter knives (if you don’t know what this means, here’s a link to a video that explains). Sprinkle crumble mixture evenly over apples. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until apples are soft.

 

Have you noticed that local food has been cropping up now more than ever? I’ve been happy to see a big selection of produce at stores like Whole Foods with the “I’m a local” sign next to it. And recently, I’ve also been seeing signs at more mainstream grocery store like Shaws, advertising a few New England grown produce items. A few days ago I picked up a convenient box of organic mixed spring greens by a brand called “Locally Known,” which comes from a farm in Maine. It makes me happy to see more sustainable food options growing, and I love being able to get food at my grocery store that hasn’t been trucked all the way across the country.

I took the box home, which contained  lettuces, mustard greens, beet tops, baby spinach, baby arugula, baby swiss chard and baby kales,  and attempted to re-create an awesome salad that I had at a restaurant last week, adding a few of my own twists. Even though I know how good it is to eat leafy greens, for some reason, I can’t ever get excited about a regular garden salad – if it doesn’t have a theme and extra add-ins, I just won’t end eat it. This recipe has heart-healthy walnuts, red grapes, a little bleu cheese, and a warm shallot vinaigrette to jazz it up:

½ shallot, thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp balsamic vinaigrette

About 2 cups of mixed baby greens

¼ cup chopped walnuts

1 tbsp blue cheese crumbles

½ cup of red grapes, sliced into halves

Sautee the shallots and garlic in olive oil in a small pan, until the shallots turn brown and crispy. Meanwhile, toss salad greens, blue cheese, walnuts, and grapes. Wisk mustard and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl, then add olive oil-shallot mixture and stir. Toss with the rest of the salad. So gourmet, and so easy! I made this as a single serving, and ate it for a very filling dinner. You could definitely make it in a bigger batch and serve multiple people, or as an appetizer.

- Jean

Last night was the second Healthworks Blogger party event. This time 12 other women bloggers and I met at Healthworks for a Bosu class, followed by a great picnic in Copley Square.

The Bosu class, taught by Kate, was super challenging! I hadn’t expected such an intense workout from a 30 minute session, but I was definitely feeling the burn right away – trying to balance on the Bosu takes some serious balance and core strength.

After the workout, we were joined by Lynay and Melissa from Whole Foods, who provided us with a picnic dinner – sandwiches (I went with Avocado on sprouted grain bread with hummus and tomatoes, which was delicious and very filling), quinoa salad with cranberries and oranges, and a fruit salad – all in a re-usable Whole Foods tote. We also sampled Joos and Joos bites, which are mini-muffins made with leftover pulp from Joos, and heard from Joos Founder Lauri Meizler, who I was happy to finally meet in person! There were also mini cupcakes from Mix Bakery in peanut butter cup and carrot cake flavors. They were the perfect size, and tasted great. Kelly, the owner of Mix says that she doesn’t put anything ingredients in her cupcakes that she wouldn’t eat by itself on a spoon – and the flavor of the cakes really benefit from it.

It was a perfect summer evening for being outside, enjoying good company, and sampling all of these healthy and delicious treats…thank you, Healthworks!

Today is officially my last day on the Joos cleanse. I had my final Immunity Booster this morning, a vegan fruit-juice sweetened bran muffin from Trader Joe’s with almond butter, and for lunch I packed some homemade tabouleh and baked falafel. I have mixed feelings about returning to a “regular” diet now. I’ve been feeling longing for foods that I’ve cut out – like ice cream and pizza, and yet at the same time, I think that if those foods were in front of me right now, I wouldn’t really feel like eating them. Strange! I’m planning on taking Lauri’s advice and adding back one ingredient at a time (dairy, gluten, caffeine, etc) and seeing how I feel. It’s definitely interesting to take those things away and then having a sort of level playing field for discovering things that your body doesn’t like. For instance, I had some seemingly innocent whole wheat pasta with marinara sauce and vegetables on Saturday for my vegan meal, and almost immediately noticed that I felt bloated and uncomfortable afterwards. Being on the cleanse has helped me a bit in some detective work, uncovering what works and what doesn’t for my body.

I’ve been really surprised to discover that I can get by eating a lot less food than I normally do, without feeling hungry. I’ve felt a lot lighter while still being satisfied, and realized how often I’ve been eating for fear of being hungry, rather than actually being hungry. In this sense, I feel that I met my primary goal for the Joos cleanse successfully.

Final thoughts and recap:

  • I’d say it’s been a very good experience. As far as external results: my skin is looking pretty good and my stomach definitely feels flatter. I lost about a pound and a half, and my boyfriend commented that he thought I was looking noticeably slimmer. All good things!
  • I really liked being able to drink my veggies, and get “a shot” of vitamins every day with the Joos. It definitely made me feel really healthy. I’m considering buying a juicer now, so I can continue to incorporate juicing into my regular routine.
  • Overall, I didn’t think that sticking with the cleanse was too difficult. I definitely started to feel a little bored of drinking the Jooses, which all tasted pretty similar to me, by day 5 or so. As Judith said, it’s really helpful to have plan out vegan meals in advance to avoid getting bored or getting in a panic over finding something to eat that fits into the cleanse. I would recommend meal planning, and shopping for your favorite fruits and vegetables in advance, to anyone considering starting the Joos cleanse.

And I want to say thank you to Lauri who provided me with the opportunity to do try the Joos cleanse and have this great experience!

I started off today feeling a little grumpy, a little annoyed at drinking yet another Antioxidant Blast instead of chewing food. Also a little jealous of other people’s pizza, breakfast sandwiches, soft pretzels…stuff I normally don’t even eat anyway. I think just the idea of something being off limits was making me want it more. But this is the same with everything in life, no?

By late afternoon, though, I’m past that and feeling good. Actually really good. Maybe it’s Friday, maybe it’s the Joos cleanse, but I feel pretty upbeat, alert, and good all around. For lunch, I bought a Macro-Vegan buckwheat noodle box lunch from Whole Foods, because I hadn’t prepared anything in advance. This actually had wheat in it, but I was having a hard time finding anything that was both vegan and gluten free, and actually looked good.  I haven’t been snacking much today though, just some cashews earlier this morning, and that was because I was actually hungry – which makes me feel ok about it.

This weekend will probably be a challenge for staying with the Joos cleanse. I’m going to do my best to stay away from alcohol and other “irritants” but being around other people will make it harder. Plus that Festival of Food Trucks is happening on Sunday…Temptation abounds, but I’m having a good time sticking with this and hope to keep it up. Wish me luck!

- Jean

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