recipe: gazpacho & cheese toast.

Its been quite hot here in LA. While most people think that LA temps hover around 72 degrees year round.. that’s not the case in the summer months! We have been hitting some pretty high temperatures which makes for a warm home (we do not have air conditioning or proper insulation). This poses a bit of an issue with cooking or baking because turning the oven on is the last thing you want to do when your house is already blazing hot. This time of year is when I start relying on crock pot recipes and recipes for foods with minimal cooking.

Yesterday was warm (although not nearly as hot at the weekend and days prior) and I wasnt really in the mood to do much cooking that involved being over the hot stove or turning on the oven for too long.

For some reason I started craving gazpacho. That cold, tomato goodness sounded perfect for a hot evening.
Aaron isnt big on cold meals… so I wanted to make sure there was at least one element to dinner that was warm and “cooked” for him.

The end result was fantastic (and easy!) gazpacho with cheese & herbed toast:

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Not only did the gazpacho turn out delicious, but it was SO easy to make and ended up making enough for either 2 dinners or a dinner and 2 lunches. I love that!

Gazpacho
(recipe slightly adapted from MattBites.com)

3 large heirloom tomatoes
1 large cucumber
1 large green bell pepper
2 tbls red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup olive oil
salt to taste

1. chop up the tomatoes, cucumber and bell pepper into small pieces (it doesnt have to be perfect!) and throw them into your Vitamix blender (this is the model we have, and love). Add the peeled garlic cloves (they can be whole) and red wine vinegar to the blender and blend until the mixture becomes a smooth liquid.

2. once blended, taste the mixture. Add more red wine vinegar if needed.

3. add the olive oil and salt (depending on how much it needs) and blend again until smooth.

4. taste one final time, and add salt/vinegar if needed.

5. pour mixture into bowl, pitcher, individual Weck jars (as I did), or even Mason Jars. Put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

6. remove from refrigerator and serve. optional: top with diced avocado, sliced heirloom cherry tomatoes, pinch of flaky sea salt, etc. Enjoy!

IMG_3314just look at all of those beautiful summer colors!

For the cheese toast– smear a slice of ciabatta or sourdough with a butter-olive oil-herbs of choice mixture (we used cumin, oregano, pepper) and top with muenster cheese. bake until warm/melted and then broil until the cheese bubbles.

packing a lunch.

My blogging hiatus is finally over!
I blame my Spring semester (Biology and Chemistry) and being all-around busier than normal the past few months.

Even though my semester is over and I am in full SUMMER BREAK mode, I thought I’d share my food prep for my long days on campus. On Monday’s and Wednesday’s I would arrive at 7:45am and wouldnt leave campus until around 4pm. Considering I dont eat from the school cafeteria (unhealthy! eww!) I would prep a full days worth of food to keep me from getting hangry (hungry+angry) while I was on campus and then while I fought traffic on the way home at the end of the long day.

My breakfast was usually one of 2 things:
1. An Arbonne protein shake, or
2. a jar of refrigerator oatmeal

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My lunch was usually a Chickpea-of-the-Sea sandwich or some quinoa with tomatoes & avocado topped with Bragg’s Healthy Vinaigrette; a bag of Smart Puffs, some freeze-dried fruit, and a small bar of organic chocolate.

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I would also pack snacks for throughout the day. Things like: a banana, a Kind bar, organic baby carrots, and ginger chews.

IMG_2866Its a common misconception that packing your own lunch is hard and time consuming. Yes, it IS time consuming… but after a time or two of doing it you learn the tricks and you learn what works best for you.

For example, for my lunch I have learned:
1. That I need a good sized, insulated lunch box. My favorite one is this one from the Neiman Marcus + Target collection (also available here).  Aaron’s mom gave it to me for Christmas last year and I absolutely love it. Its a great size and the insulation works very well to keep things chilled until you need them. I also really like this one from reuseit.com (its great if you have smoothies or bottles of kombucha that need to stand upright).

2. That I need a variety of small glass jars and containers. I love using mason jars (both the tiny ones and the pint sized ones), but I also keep a few of these and these on hand; they are great for keeping oils/dressings from leaking all over your lunch bag.

3. Reusable napkins (these are my absolute favorite) & silverware (I use a set like this or these) are a must.

4. Reusable & nontoxic ice packs are essential.

5. It also helps to buy lunch items in bulk. For instance, at my local Whole Foods I can buy a 6pk bag of the Smart Puffs and a 6pk bag of the freeze-dried apples. I also purchase a whole box of Kind bars at a time. Having items on hand makes prepping my lunch even easier. If you dont have a Whole Foods nearby, Amazon.com is another great resource for purchasing things in bulk.

6. and last but not least: prep your lunch (or at least the majority of it) the night before. Have the containers stacked up on the top shelf of the refrigerator waiting for you and have your lunch bag with napkin and cutlery sitting on the counter or dining room table just waiting for the chilled items & ice packs to be put in it the next morning. If you prep ahead of time, the morning of will be a breeze. And trust me, you will thank yourself for the extra effort when you’re eating a yummy homemade lunch while your coworkers or classmates are eating nasty & chemical ridden food from the cafeteria or a nearby fast-food place.

Spring Break 2013.

In hindsight, I should have done a lot less “having fun” and “relaxing” and “spring cleaning” and a lot MORE  “studying” and “prepping for midterms” over my Spring Break…… but alas, I cant turn back time and change that.

The good news is, I had a great, fun, and productive week anyway (regardless of what my midterm grades were).

Here’s a peek into my Spring Break thanks to Instagram:

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coffee. lots and lots of coffee.

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baking. lots of baking.

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I tried out FoodBabe’s Decadent Pound Cake with Chocolate Frosting… which is now a new favorite in our household.

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spent two different days in Laguna Beach with my brother. It truly is a peaceful and fabulous place.

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Laguna Coffee Co = amazing.

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Ziggy loves the beach.. and the City of Laguna Beach is extremely dog friendly.

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I spent a little time day-dreaming of a beautiful home on the beach.

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love brother & sister days of fun.

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checked out the new Stone Company Store in Oceanside… fantastic dog friendly patio!

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and made lots of yummy & healthy breakfasts since I wasnt have to dart out of the house to get to class.

help create a new standard for our country’s food.

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Please join Vani Hari (from Food Babe), Lisa Leake (from 100 Days of Real Food), myself, and thousands of others in the fight for eliminating dangerous chemicals, additives, and food dyes from our food.

Sign this petition on Change.org to get the message out to Kraft Foods (and many others) that we, as a nation, don’t want to consume these dangerous (and deceptively hidden) ingredients! Especially since these same companies send out additive & chemical FREE versions of these foods to other countries who have already voiced their concerns over these ingredients and have successfully banned their use.

For more information on this issue please read Food Babe & 100 Days of Real Food’s informative article:
How Food Companies Exploit Americans With Ingredients Banned in Other Countries

 

Are you as passionate about this as I am? Then…
Get involved.
Sign the petition.
Help create a new standard for our country’s food.

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YogaWorks 300hr Professional Program Final Project

When I found out that we had to do a final project for the YogaWorks 300hr Professional Program I, of course, gravitated towards something food related. I remember being pretty fascinated with how my mentor Joan Hyman ate during our 200hr Teacher Training last year so I thought: “hmm, I wonder what other Los Angeles based yoga instructors eat?”

I ended up “interviewing” a handful of YogaWorks senior teachers asking them 7 questions:
#1. Do you follow any type of “diet” or “eating lifestyle” such as vegetarian, vegan,  raw, Ayurveda, etc? If so, do you care to share your thoughts on how this improves your over-all health and practice?

#2. What is your go-to meal or snack that you feel fuels your body before a yoga class? Or do you practice in the morning before eating anything at all?

#3. What is your favorite post-yoga meal or snack?

#4. If you go out to eat in Los Angeles, where do you like to go? Is there any specific reason you choose this particular establishment?

#5. Is there one food item that you feel you cannot live without?

#6. I’m asking everyone to share one of your favorite recipes. It can be breakfast, lunch, dinner, a snack, or even dessert; it can be simple or complex. Whatever you love to cook at home that you feel is a good representation of your preferred way of eating and contributes to your overall health and yoga practice.

#7. Do you have any tips or suggestions regarding food, health, and how you feel this relates to yoga?

 
I compiled the answers and organized them in a little pamphlet-type-book titled food & yoga and I am really happy with how it turned out! I love how similar these teachers answers are and I also love that I agree with so much of what they had to say.

I presented this to my 300hr TT group as well as my mentor this past weekend and I wanted to share it with you:

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f&y pg2f&y pg3f&y pg4f&y pg5f&y pg6f&y pg7food&yoga pg8

A special thanks to Joan Hyman, Carmen Fitzgibbon, Anne Van Valkenburg, Kia Miller, Lisa Walford, and Jennifer Elliott for their contribution to this project!

ted talk tuesday: why i’m a weekday vegetarian

I try not to push any sort of agenda in terms of a particular diet or eating lifestyle because I feel that each person needs to find their own way and discover what works for them. However, there is incredible data available that shows how reducing your meat intake can not only improve your overall health, but can really impact the planet in a positive way as well.

The “Meatless Monday’s” movement has been gaining in popularity (and was even endorsed by our Los Angeles mayor recently); but I also like Graham Hill’s idea too, especially if you arent ready to make the jump to being a full-time vegetarian:

ted talk tuesday: how to cut an onion

This is a great TED Talk for yogis & foodies alike. The speaker takes two subjects: food & yoga/meditation [both of which are extremely important to me] and merges them together to show how they relate and can aid one another.

and, at the end, she teaches us how to properly cut an onion. Enjoy!

recipe: Whole Wheat Zucchini & Applesauce Muffins

You already know my feelings on having healthy, filling muffins around the house. Here is yet another wonderful muffin recipe that I love and make often.

Whole Wheat Zucchini & Applesauce Muffins
(adapted from Cooking Light)

Ingredients:

2 cups shredded zucchici
3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup organic granulated sugar
1/4 cup organic brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup applesauce (homemade, or unsweetened organic if store-bought)
2 large, free range eggs
1/3 cup walnut or flaxseed oil (I strongly suggest avoiding canola oil)
1 tablespoon + 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350*
Combine flour and the next 5 ingredients (through baking powder) in a large bowl, stir well.
Combine zucchini, applesauce, eggs, walnut oil, and vanilla in a smaller bowl; add to dry ingredients.
Stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.

Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full and bake at 350* for 17 minutes. If using loaf pans: divide batter evenly between 2 loaf pans and bake at 350* for 1 hour 15 minutes.

*the baked muffins freeze well.

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a day of cooking & baking.

We try to keep a variety of food in the freezer for daily use. Sauces, soups, muffins, cookie dough, fresh fish, etc that we can defrost and use on the days that making everything from scratch just doesnt work.

Our food reserves were running a little low, so we chose to have a “cooking & baking” day yesterday in order to stockpile some foods for the coming weeks. I try to have a freshly cooked homemade meal ready for Aaron when he comes home from work, but there are days when time just wont allow it. So, on these days, I rely on our freezer to help me with a homemade meal.

Yesterday morning while drinking our coffee, Aaron and I made out our grocery list and Aaron went to Whole Foods before things got too crazy (we have learned that its simply not worth going to the Whole Foods by our house on a weekend afternoon).

Aaron came home with our bounty and then we piled everything up on the counter top.  I added the items from our CSA that we were planning on using and then divided everything up based on which recipe it would be going with (organization is key!)

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Yesterday we made:
Spicy Tomato Soup
Roasted Tomato & Garlic Marinara (to be used as pizza or pasta sauce)
Spicy Chipotle Hummus
Whole Wheat Zucchini & Applesauce Muffins
Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cookies
Pizza Dough

Instead of putting all of the recipes on one single blog post, I decided to write up the recipes separately so that they are easier to reference.

Aaron and I plan to have one of these “baking & cooking” days about once a month or so in order to keep a decent amount of food in our stockpile. While, yes, it did take all day. We also had fun doing it. We were able to schedule the recipes out so that while one thing was cooking, the other person was prepping the next recipe or doing the dishes (and boy, did we do a lot of dishes yesterday!) We were also able to have the football game going, once the afternoon rolled around we popped open a beer, and just had fun being around the house doing two of the things that we love to do: cook & bake.

Bran Muffins, a snacking staple to have around the house.

I always like to have some healthy, filling muffins around the house (and in the freezer!) for snacks, additions to breakfast, or even dessert.
So I’m pretty much always on the hunt for new muffin recipes to try out.

I tried this recipe for Bran Muffins that I found at 101 Cookbooks, yesterday.
It turned out great! Most and slightly fluffy but with the density you expect from a good bran muffin. I added walnuts and dried cranberries to mine… but the sky is the limit for what you can put in them.

Yogurt & Honey Bran Muffins
(recipe from 101 Cookbooks, who adapted the recipe from the New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook)

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups wheat bran
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons raw natural cane sugar OR brown sugar
2 cups full fat yogurt (I used Fage greek yogurt)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup honey, preferably a light honey such as clover
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup of add-ins of your choice – dried cranberries, walnuts, etc (optional)

Preheat oven to 425F degrees, racks in the middle.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, wheat bran, salt, baking soda and sugar.

Beat together the yogurt, egg, honey, and butter in a second larger bowl. Add the dry ingredients and fold in until everything comes together. Fold in any optional add-ins, raisins, nuts, and the like. Resist overmixing.

Either grease a muffin tin with butter or line the tin with muffin liners.
Fill each 3/4 full. Bake 12 -17 minutes, until muffins are golden on top and cooked through.

Makes about one dozen larger muffins OR about 18 regular sized muffins.

and, these pair great with a hot cup of French Press coffee… which is exactly how I am enjoying mine this morning.