Spring Superfood Smoothie

Oh geez, people.  I have so much to tell you.  There are apple cinnamon cookies, there’s lemony quinoa asparagus salad, there’s a really impressive bourbon carrot cake.  There’s also hiking and rock climbing and some crafty stuff.  There’s probably a lot I’m forgetting.  But before all that (especially before the cake…that’ll come next, and it’s sinful) there’s the renewing, refreshing superfood power of this smoothie.

Don’t be fooled by the spinach AND kale in this smoothie.  You won’t be able to taste it, I promise.  That green power is amped up by the antioxidant power of frozen berries, plus the protein and good-for-you fats of Greek yogurt and almond milk.  Make a big tall glass of this and feel good about the rest of your day!

Superfood Smoothie

Makes 1 tall glass, about 16-18 ounces

  • scant 1 cup almond milk (I like the kind that’s sweetened but not flavored)
  • 1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup loosely packed baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed kale, torn
  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries (I do a third each of blackberries, blueberries and raspberries)
  • 1/2 frozen banana, sliced
  • drizzle of honey (about 1 tablespoon)

Put the almond milk, yogurt, spinach and kale in the blender and blend well.  Then add the remaining ingredients and blend until you get a thick, well-combined smoothie.  You might need to pulse it a little bit, or put it on grind for a few seconds and stir it with a spoon if your blender is having trouble with the frozen stuff.  Your finished product should be thick and purple!

You might need to eat this with a spoon (side note: I am obsessed with mint green nail polish).  You can change up the ingredients a little bit, but the way I make it produces one big, satisfying serving with about 300 calories.  Now your body is prepped and ready for carrot cake and french fries…just sayin.

Also, a lesson on frozen bananas: peel the bananas before freezing.  I made the mistake of popping them in the freezer whole and the skins are close to impossible to remove.  Just a bit of wisdom from me to you.

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Weekly Ponder (Sort Of)

I’m bad at keeping an ed cal.  Hush.

Okay, it’s late on Saint Patrick’s Day…scratch that, it’s early the day after Saint Patrick’s Day, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time extrapolating on these quotes.  But these are two thoughts from the Dalai Lama that have really helped me this week, dealing with unkind people and tough situations.  I always marvel at the simple but profound truths in what the Dalai Lama has to say.  I hope they can help you, too, when the time comes that you might need the wisdom:

“True compassion is not just an emotional response but a firm commitment founded on reason.”

“If you have fear of some pain or suffering, you should examine whether there is anything you can do about it. If you can, there is no need to worry about it; if you cannot do anything, then there is also no need to worry.”

I’ll also need to write a post on the seriously golden wisdom from my capoeira mestres…but first there will be cookies.

 

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Mushroom Polenta as a Lesson in Time Management

I haven’t been posting a whole lot lately.  You know this, I know this, I’m sure whatever government agency monitoring our computers knows this.  And I apologize.  I’ve been very busy lately…well, I thought I was very busy.  Really I was just making bad choices about my priorities.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been running around like a crazy lady, with capoeira, volunteering, starting my business, working, meeting friends and of course spending time with my boo.  Oh and laundry.  Lots of laundry.  But the truth is, in my down time (scarce as it is) I’ve just been sitting on my butt, watching reruns of Food Network shows online and eating WAY too many brownies.  So now it’s back to blogging, meditating, crafting…the good stuff.  More good stuff.

Anywho. Who remember’s Stick Stickly from Nickelodeon?  If you do, you know why I ask.

ANYWHO.  What better way to teach a lesson in time management than baked polenta?  There are several steps and (literally) several pots on the stove, but it’s not as hard as it looks.  And it’s oh so rewarding!  I’ve adapted this recipe for mushroom polenta from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, that lovely book I got for Christmas.  I changed up a few things – adding veggies, changing the cheese, pairing it with a spicy cream tomato sauce – but as we know, recipes are just jumping off points, right?  Right!  Especially with something as versatile as polenta.

Mushroom Polenta with Spicy Cream Tomato Sauce

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 3 cups water or low-sodium vegetable stock
  • 6-8 crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 portobello mushroom, sliced
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • optional: handful of baby spinach (or whatever green you want to put in)
  • splash each low-sodium vegetable stock and red wine
  • 3/4 cup grated smoked provolone or mozzarella
  • 1 28-ounce can low-sodium crushed tomatoes
  • 1-2 tablespoons cream
  • olive oil
  • dried basil and thyme to taste
  • paprika, chili powder and red pepper flakes to taste
  • salt and pepper

This is one of those recipes where you want your mise en place to actually be in place – you’ll have to sautee the veggies, cook the polenta, make the sauce and then bake the finished product.  I’d start by at least cleaning and prepping your mushrooms, plus chopping your onions and garlic.  Remember to remove the gills of your portobello with a spoon!

Then you can start by adding half your onions and garlic to a large sautee pan with some olive oil.  When the onions begin to turn soft and translucent, add your mushrooms, plus a splash of vegetable stock and red wine to help them cook down.  Continue to sautee the vegetables until the mushrooms begin to soften, then add some salt, pepper, basil and thyme to taste (I tend to go a little heavier on the basil).

Toss in some spinach or other green if you want to (or, as I did, some baby romaine I needed to use up – weird, I know, but I’d rather not let it go to waste and I’m one of those weird people who doesn’t mind wilted greens).  Keep turning everything until the greens begin to wilt and the mushrooms and onions are cooked through, then remove from heat and set aside.

While your onions and mushrooms are cooking you can start the polenta by bringing your 3 cups of water or veggie stock to a boil in a large pot.  When it begins to boil, slowly pour in your cornmeal while stirring with a whisk to prevent clumps.  Reduce the heat and simmer the cornmeal uncovered for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently – be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan so the polenta doesn’t scorch!  Add in a generous pinch of salt, plus some pepper, paprika and maybe a dash of chili powder if that’s your fancy.  When the polenta is thick and the water is absorbed, pour it into a greased 9-inch glass pie dish.

Oh!  Did I mention you should also be making your tomato sauce?  If you want, you can move the mushroom topping mix into a bowl and reuse your sautee pan.  Just add some olive oil and sautee about another quarter of your onion with a couple more cloves of garlic.  When they begin to get soft and translucent, add in your can of crushed tomatoes and season with salt and pepper, plus a good dash of paprika, basil, chili powder and a generous sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes.  Adjust all the seasonings according to how spicy you like things – I like em spicy!  Heck, throw in some oregano if you want.  Simmer the sauce on low heat to marry the flavors and cook off some of the liquid; after about 5-10 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and stir in a tablespoon or so of heavy cream.  Be conservative here – a little cream will go a long way, so add a little bit at a time until it’s to your liking.  Then top your polenta with a thin layer of the sauce.

Next, top the polenta with about half your cheese, then the mushroom mixture, then the rest of your cheese.  Add another sprinkling of pepper if you want, then pop it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.  Hit the broiler for a few minutes more, and when the top looks brown and bubbly take it out.  Let it cool a bit, then serve in slices topped with more sauce and a fresh green salad.  I know it’s a lot of juggling, but trust me, you’ll get the hang of it.  Show that mise en place who’s boss!

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5-Minute Chocolate Cake in a Mug

I feel like, before I go ahead with this recipe, I need to issue a warning: this recipe is dangerous.  It’s way too easy, way too convenient and perhaps just a little too indulgent (the cake base on its own is about 400 calories).  You might find yourself whipping up this cake far too often for your own good, so proceed with caution.

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On the other hand, this cake might be your best friend on days you really need a quick boost of warm chocolate without going to the store or spending an hour baking a cake.  In fact, you can make this little gem in five minutes flat, I guarantee it (I don’t actually guarantee it).  It’s especially nice on snow days with coffee, and it would totally impress an unexpected guest – most if not all of the ingredients are probably in your kitchen anyway!  If you don’t believe how easy it is, go ahead and give it a try.  But know the awesome addictive power of a five-minute cake.

5-Minute Chocolate Cake in a Mug (adapted from The Family Kitchen)

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon water (or a bit more if needed)
  • optional: sea salt, chopped walnuts, cinnamon and cayenne pepper, salted caramel candy, instant coffee, peanut butter…?

In a small bowl (think soup bowl sized), mix your mandatory chocolate cake ingredients.  All of them.  Seriously, just throw that stuff together and stir away.  If you’re adding in something that will fill the whole cake, stir it in now: a small handful of chopped nuts, a quarter teaspoon each of cinnamon and chili, a half teaspoon maybe of instant coffee powder?  Not all of them of course.  Don’t be greedy.  Pick a theme, you can always make another one later.

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Then grease or spray a regular-sized coffee mug (something around 12 ounces) and pour the batter into the mug.  If you’re adding something that isn’t incorporated into the whole cake batter, pop it in now: drop a couple caramel candies in the center, swirl in a tablespoon of peanut butter, top with crushed pretzels or sprinkle with sea salt.

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Finally, microwave your mug of goodness for one-and-a-half to two minutes on high power.  The mug will be hot, so remove it carefully and let cool a minute.  Then…indulge.  It’s really that easy.  And addictive. Beware!

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All About It: Because I Say So

If I had to give one illustration to show how I’ve been feeling lately, it would be this:  for the past couple of weeks, off and on, I’ve been binge-snacking on unsalted bread.  Seriously.  True story.  Sad, sad true story.  That pretty much sums it up, too: my life has been feeling dull, plain, and pathetically out of control.  But today was different.  Today I felt the wise words of my acquaintance Carolina coming on: “Fuck it!”

Carolina is an architect from Sao Paulo, Brazil, whom I met in a hostel in Paris back in 2008.  We went out to a wine bar and ate decadent desserts and drank a bottle of Syrah and talked politics while Moby played in the background. Carolina was pretty great, but the greatest thing about her was that every time she did something wrong or embarrassing she would simply say “Fuck it!” and move on.  It’s a really lovely sentiment, if you think about it; who cares if you bump the table or spill your creme anglaise?  Can’t take it back, might as well get over it.

My point is, in a roundabout way the Gospel of Fuck It has reinvigorated my appreciation of…well…me.  Less worry, more loving things and doing things simply because I want to.  I’m taking back control, dammit.  First I pulled weeds, now I’m planting flowers.

So, in that vein, here’s my (really really belated) All About It post:


1. Washi tape

I know I’m not a trendsetter in the Japanese washi tape craze, but I’m jumping on the bandwagon now and I’m kind of obsessed.  I just bought some here and I especially like this post for making Japanese washi tape magnets.

2. Doppelganger myths

This goes along with my love of the book The Muse Asylum by David Czuchlewski and, yes, a little bit with How I Met Your Mother.  In most cultures the doppelganger is a bad omen or an incarnation of death.  I’m fascinated by the idea of a person’s double, and all the layers of similarities in actions, memories and thoughts that different cultures attribute to these double-walkers.  It’s a really interesting idea of identity and individuality…and how spooky would it be to see your own doppelganger??

3. Thai food

Nothing revolutionary here, I just can’t get enough curry or rice noodles.  This could get problematic.

4. Edie Sedgwick

Okay, I guess this started when my coworker wanted to start planning my birthday party (yes, five months in advance) and I suggested a pop art/Factory theme.  I don’t really know that much about the scene, but I’ve since become fascinated with Edie Sedgwick…which is weird because I totally don’t get into that celebrity watching stuff, and she was basically the Paris Hilton of her day.  I like to romanticize the trendsetting, art world, fuck-all aspects of those black and white photos, but then I’m also struck with the harsh color world of reality and the fact that she lived a tortured and probably unhappy life.  Still, the idealized carefree girl is still refreshing to me right now.

5. Gang documentaries

This isn’t really a new thing for me, but Frontline put out a really good one on Valentine’s Day (yes, this is how I spent that day…along with my boo, some Thai food and some really good beer.  Win!).  Crips and Bloods: Made in America is another good one.  I realize it’s kind of a morbid fascination with something so far removed from my own life (except for the kids I sometimes work with – sad), but I think it’s a good perspective and definitely makes me reconsider my own judgments.

So there you have it.  No pictures yet since I’m about to be late to capoeira, but I’ll try to post some later.  These things are awesome…because I say they are.

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Pulling Weeds

Starting tomorrow I’m pulling weeds in my life.  You know, the things and people that choke out all the good stuff in your life and leech sunlight and new opportunities from you.  I’m seeing less of toxic friends and cutting out bad habits (sadly, I’ve fallen back into a samsara cycle – but tomorrow it’s getting the boot for good!).  I’m moving froward in my professional life and hopefully kicking my old work environment to the curb in the near(ish) future.  I’m letting go of needless worry and giving people more compliments.  I’m still going to watch bad TV online.  Don’t judge.

See, things have been really good lately.  I am so in love (again, don’t judge.  Trust me I know how cheesy it is), I’m doing meaningful volunteer work that feeds my soul and I’m exploring new things all the time.  Unfortunately I’ve also been depriving myself of sleep in the name of all that awesomeness and falling into a lot of old, negative ways.  Even this blog has gotten a little stale…it’s okay, I know the writing is hurried and the pictures are sub-par.  But recognizing those things is the first step toward change, and I certainly don’t want to lose sight of the amazing things for all the petty not-so-amazing things.  So I’m pulling those weeds.  I’m going to re-focus on my health, show people more love than negativity and stop spending much energy on anything that doesn’t contribute to happiness.  And I’m doing it right NOW.  See you on the other side!

 

Oh, P.S.  I’ve stopped the clean eating for now.  I know it seems counterintuitive to stop eating clean when I just said I was going to re-focus on my health, but after trying it for several weeks I realized it was having the opposite effect that I wanted; it was making me think MORE about food and in turn sparking more cravings and more massive fails.  The idea was go get back in touch with my body and what I want, and it pumped too much thought and too little feel into the process.  I might try it again in the future, but for now, it’ll go on a shelf.  It’s kind of a weed.

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Mujaddara Paella?

Look, I don’t mean to brag here, but this dish is a winner.  It started out as mujaddara – a spiced Middle Eastern dish of lentils, rice and onions.  But you know me, and I can’t settle for only grains and protein for dinner.  I have to add as many veggies as I can.  As it happens, I’ve also been hankering for some paella lately (also Spanish rice, which I plan on making with cauliflower – stay tuned!) – not traditional paella, since I don’t eat meat or seafood, but the idea of a paella.  You know, rice and veggies and spices.   The obvious solution is to combine the two, and I must say, it is mighty delicious.  And, as always, healthy!

Mujaddara Paella

  • 3/4 cup lentils (I like red)
  • 1/3 cup basmati or long-grain rice
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 portobello mushroom cap, sliced
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3-1/2 cup frozen peas
  • about 3 ounces baby spinach
  • olive oil
  • 1/4-1/3 cup red wine
  • pinch of dried sage and thyme
  • chili powder, paprika and red chili flakes
  • salt and pepper

First, soak your rice in water while you get the lentils and veggies going.  Put your lentils on the stove with 1 and 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the water is evaporated and the lentils are tender, about 15-20 minutes.  Turn off the heat, stir in the tomato and let stand, covered, until the other items are done.

Although you should technically soak your rice for about 30 minutes, I usually get impatient and only soak it for about 10 minutes before cooking it.  Like the lentils, stir with 2/3 to 1 cup water and cover, bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer.  The rice might take a little longer to cook, about 25-30 minutes, until it’s truly tender.  Stir it (and the lentils!) often so nothing sticks to the bottom of your pan and burns.

While your lentils and rice are going, start sauteeing your onions in olive oil.  When they begin to soften and turn translucent, add your garlic and mushrooms.  Wipe the caps with a paper towel to clean and scrape out the gills of the portobello.

Sautee on medium-low heat until the mushrooms start to cook, then add about 1/4 cup of water and 1/4 to 1/3 cup red wine (I just drizzle it in the pot till it looks right – i.e. not a lot of excess wine in the pan), plus a little more olive oil if needed.  Also add some salt, pepper, sage and thyme to taste (just a pinch of the last two, and a healthy sprinkling of the first two).  Stir frequently until the mushrooms really become tender and start to shrink.

At this point, add in your baby spinach and peas, and stir until the spinach begins to wilt.  Take off the heat and add to the lentils, along with a dash of chili powder, a smidge of red pepper flakes if you like heat, and a generous amount of paprika.  Stir together with more salt and pepper, and add the rice whenever it’s ready.  Taste to adjust the seasonings, but remember the flavors will marry more as leftovers.  Then…serve!  Whole grains, protein (in the rice, peas and lentils) and of course vegetables.  My kind of meal and oh so good.  Another one-pot (okay, three-pot) wonder!

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