eating well in busy times

This was my table pretty much Friday – Sunday, and sometimes it was worse.  That is just the nature of being a student: balancing teaching, research endeavors, having a life, classes, oh, and then there is the studying……. for those who care I was knee deep in Vitamins this  weekend.  Good times.

So, if I’m going to take care of myself I’ve got to find ways to maximize cooking time.  We do really simple meals when life gets busy: quinoa/rice blends in the rice cooker, frozen turkey burger patties, hardboiled eggs, spinach salads, etc.

For those of you who think you don’t have time to cook healthy, I want to challenge that belief.  You may not have time right now, but somewhere in the week you have a few minutes to devote to your wellness, if you are willing to get creative and try something.

Batch cooking is your tool of insuring healthy food is around when you need it.  Basically I figure out what foods needed to be cooked soon to avoid spoilining and I whipped up enough foods to last a  few meals.  My approach is that if I’m turning on the oven, I’m going to make it worth my while, so on Saturday I baked sweet potatoes, roasted garlic and green peppers, and cooked some phyllo encrusted tilapia for dinner that night.  The whole process took me about 30 minutes (including making a big green salad to last that night and the next day), and I had meal components for 3 days.

Check it out: a view of the oven (you can’t see the fish)  I cooked it all @ 350 for various lengths of time.  I was willing to sacrifice precision for diversity in options:

The sweet potatoes lasted 3 meals, and one was used to make some tasty oatmeal for B-fast one day.  The fish served as the basis for dinner, and the roasted veggies were nice additions to a salad for 2 lunches.  Easy, peasy…..

Happy off white eating!

child’s play

Oh, to be a kid again.

I got a lot of great toys as a kid: Cabbage Patch kids, Barbies galore, and even a pound puppy.  After years of begging I finally even got a Charlie McCarthy doll, which I ended up thinking was really creepy and never once played with it.  Mom still has it, and apparently I’m not the only one who thinks it’s creepy because my cat, Madeline, won’t go on the bed when Charlie’s on it.  Ha!

But one thing I always wanted and NEVER got was an Easy Bake Oven.  Oh, how I fantisied about having control over baking my own treats, in my own room and eating them at my own pace (read: as fast as I could).  Maybe mom and dad had the insight that this was NOT the ideal toy for a girl who spent all over her allowence on candy ($3/week and it all went to Skittles, York Peppermint Patties and Brach’s Candy in bulk).

I can recall the commercials – happy, thin girls playing with the oven, baking, laughing smelling delicious aromas of tasty treats….a sugar junkie’s fantasy.

Today I came across this interesting article about food marketing to kids: not just direct marketing from food companies, but toy companies as well.  Turns out most companies get a big fat “F” for their efforts to promote healthy behaviors with kids.  It saddens me that one company isn’t stepping up to the plate and creating a brand promise around healthy foods.  I know its all about the almighty dollar, but there has got to be one company with money in the bank who is willing to just do the right thing and not worrk about making so much cash.  Just one…. It might even turn out to be the cash cow of the century as moms and dads struggle to find creative ways to get junior fired up about healthy eats without sounding like a naggy parent.

Now that I think even deeper another toy fav of mine was my Barbie McDonald’s.  I loved putting Barbie’s trays to gether with fries, a Big Mac, and a coke (or in my mind a milkshake, of course).  It never occurred to me that Barbie couldn’t possibly maintain her impossible figure by eating at Micky D’s everyday, so she never cooked at home in my Barbieland – she put on a hot outfit, picked up Ken and the girls and headed to the Golden Arches.  Well, that is one creative marketing scheme by Matel.  Too bad I didn’t like McDonalds – they did not gain a valuable customer from my Barbie adventures, but I’m sure they gained some kind of brand identity or maybe my friends who came over to play in Barbieland were reminded of their McDonald’s love and asked their mom’s to go there at the next outing into town…who knows..

…and that is the issue.  Who know’s what the long term exposure to junk food marketing, direct or indirect, does to our moldable young minds.  What happens to us later in life?  How does making Chuck-E-Cheeze pizza at home in your plastic oven influence your relationship to Pizza?  I could totally see a perfect storm brewing from this combination:  kids eager to be ‘cool’, to have fun and to fit in making associations between ‘junk food’ toys and the good life.  Translation later: they find themselves drawn to certain foods/brands because those neural pathways that gave them the ‘feel good’ response to these toys as kids, still gives them a little kick as an adult.  Maybe they don’t even know why, or that it’s happening.

Hmm….this one certainly gives me some good food for thought!

Kale in the spotlight, by request (Recipe)

Good evening bloggies,

Just spend a lovely evening having dinner at Dos Coyotes in Davis with friends and sharing some Aggie pride watching UC Davis hoops with Matt and friends.  A lovely evening, indeed!

Look like some folks want to get to know their kale a little better. So I’m going to suggest starting with a veggie/bean soup.  Reason:  It’s not a kale overload, its hearty, and a cost effective way to use a veggie that tends to be somewhat pricey.  At $1.89/bunch here in Davis one has to be frugal with making new food purchases.  This way one bunch goes a long way……

2 tbsp EVOO
1 large yellow onion chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced or 2 tsp pre-minced garlic
6 cups of water or broth (not too salty!)
Salt, pepper to taste (less if you use broth)
2 tsp ground oregano
1 tbsp drired parsley or 1 tsp ground
1 bay leaf
4 red potatoes, chopped
1 can white canneloni beans, or navy beans
1 head of kale, stems removed, chopped into 1-2″ pieces

In a non-reactive pot, heat oil on med heat.  Sweat garlic for a minute (add to pan alone and then remove).  Add onion.  Cook for 1 min, stirring.  Add celery, salt/pepper/dried spices.  Cook for 2-3 min, until onions start to soften.  Add garlic back in.  Add water or broth, potatoes.  Cook until potatoes are nearly soft but not mushy.  Add beans.  Cook another 10 minutes.  Add kale for last 5-10 min of cooking on low/med heat.  Kale will wilt, and this is just fine.  If you are an omnivore, you can also add ham hock to this when cooking.  Nice flavor.


Other additions:  2-3 carrots, butternut squash cubes instead of potatoes.

Not your average french fry

The vegan clease allows for potatoes…okay, so not what I’d usually have on a ‘cleanse’ but since I’m opting not to have corn or any flours at all (even GF), I’ll take an inch when its ‘allowed’.

Being the creative kitchen gal I am, I wanted to raise the potato bar and do something fun.  Besides, it was day 4 and Matt was starting to get might cranky, missing his favorite dairy and meat foods.  We decided to make  a vegan burger and fries meal:

Grilled portabello with spices
Green lettuce leaf ‘buns’
fixin’s: mustard, red onion, and tomato
“cheezy” fries.

See video below for the fries, but basically I cut up 2 lbs of red potatoes, marinated them in EVOO, salt, pepper and brewer’s yeast (what gives them the ‘cheezy’ appeal) and baked at 400 for about 17 minutes.  Delicious!  The whole meal was tasty!

Afternote: I definitely ate too many fries and it made we me want sugar.  I satisfied my urge with a not-so delicious apple, but it worked.  And hey, part of this clease is about facing those cravings and realizing the feeling is transient, relatively meaningless, and I feel much better having gone for the apple and not for some other treat!

Enjoy the video, and remeber, it is homemade (AKA, not perfect)

even better than the real thing

Sometimes Matt and I really strike gold in the kitchen.  We’ve been toying with some new ideas for holiday treats, and have wanted to experiment with a new pumpkin pie recipe.   Not that last year’s recipe with coconut milk was a problem, but I’ve made it so many times I’m kind of over it…. plus, I don’t think it had enough density for Matt.

Last Saturday night we really hit the jackpot.  I must give credit where credit is due…it was pretty much Matt’s concoction, which impressed me because he normally doesn’t like sweet potatoes, so his eagerness to use them instead of pumpkin puree was pretty cool. ……ahh, it’s the little things in a relationship, isn’t it?!

Here is the recipe:

Sweet Potato Almond butter pie

Low Sugar, high fiber, wheat free, milk optional:

Crust (adopted from Bob’s Redmill baking book):

1 cup spelt flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
3 tbsp fine sugar (we used an evaporated cane juice)
1/4 tsp: salt, baking soda
4 tbsp butter, chilled and chopped into pieces
1 egg
1/4 cup almond or rice milk

Place all dry ingredients in food processor and pulse to blend.  Sprinkle butter over mixture.  Pulse until just mix. Stir and pulse until it looks like crumbs.  Pour into a bowl and add almond milk and mix until it just begins to clump together.  Roll the dough into a ball, flatten the ball, and cover with plastic.  Refrigerate for 30 min or so.

Meanwhile, the filling:

1 large sweet potato, baked and peeled
1 cup almond/rice/cow milk
1 egg + 2 yolks
1/2 cup almond butter
1/4 cup unrefined sugar or molasses
1 tsp each: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger
1/8 tsp salt

Blend the pumpkin and milk in a blender or food processor.  Whisk eggs and add to pumpkin/milk combo.   Add almond butter and whisk.  Add sugar and spices and salt.  Whisk until smooth (it’s a lot of whisking, really).  Set aside

Once chilled, pull out dough and roll so that it makes a square or circle (we used a square dish) large enough to be a pie crust.  It ends up being kind of thick and dense once cooked, just so you know.  Grease a pie tin, and add the rolled dough.

Pour filling and pinch edges of dough.

Bake uncovered for 40-50 min at 350.   SOOO good!





Abundance (2 recipes)

food 002

I used to think that abundance meant having so much more than I needed, that I’d never run out.  Because I struggle the the disease of  ‘not enough-ism’, there were many days spent wanting for excess of everything: money, friends, time, activities, and of course: SUGAR!!.  It was difficult to see that what I had right now was enough.  God forbid my  cup not runneth over in excess every second of the day, right??

Thank goodness life is changing me for the better.  Nowadays I relish in the opportunities I have to find the abundance in what already lies within me and within my grasp….and my fridge.  Take this morning, for instance.  I was cooking for  a potluck tonight, and out of that experience THREE abundance opportunities found me.

Let me explain.

Opportunity #1:    When I open my mind (and my cookbooks), new ideas emerge that I hadn’t seen before.  So, this morning when  I cracked my trusty culinary companion Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (Deborah Madison – check her out, she ROCKS!!), I nearly squealed with delight when I auspiciously opened to “Curried Quinoa” and realized I had exactly what I needed to make this dish, down to the frozen peas.

Opportunity #2: Fast forward 2 hrs and I’m stirring away in the kitchen.  I glance at my bowl of left-over carrot pulp from juicing for the quinoa dish…and a cookie recipe idea was born!!  A quick review of the pantry (yes, just enough turbinado for 1 batch….2 eggs left in the carton, the right amount of flour…..perfecto) and I was off and baking.

Perfect timing, too, becuase Matt really needed a healthy homemade treat after a hard morning.  Walking in to the smell of curry and baking cookies is enough to make any troubled soul feel welcomed and loved!

Opportunity #3:   Not so glamarous, but it saved me the $$ and energy of going out for lunch (part of that not-enoughism is wanting for things I don’t have so I can go out and buy them!).  I used the rest of that carrot pulp in my mish-mash lunch of hummus, carrot pulp, beans and avocado, a concoction also inspired by looking around at what I have and keeping my mind open.

I feel good about my kitchen finds and how much fun I had working with the abundance right in front of me.

CURRIED QUINOA (from D. Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for everyone)

2 tbsp oil or butter (I used butter)
1 onion: 1/4 finely chopped, 3/4 coarsely chopped1
1 cup washed quinoa
2 tsp curry powder
salt, pepper to taste
2 zucchini, diced into small cubes
1 cup carrot juice (I juiced 5 carrots)
1 cup peas
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
2 tbsp chopped cilantro

heat half the oil in a small soup pot, adding the finely diced onion and cook on med for 3 min.  Stir in quinoa, 1/2 tsp curry powder and 1/2 tsp salt.  Cook for 2 minutes.  Add 2 cups bioling water and then simmer covered for 15 min.

Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in a 10″ skillet.  Add chopped onion, zucchini and remaining curry powder.  Cook, stirring frequently over med heat for 5 min.  Add 1/2 cup water and carrot juice + 1 tsp salt.  Cover and simmer for 5 minutes adn add peas adn scallions.  Cook a few minutes more, adding cilantro at the end.  This is a ‘wet’ dish.

food 003

CARROT/COCONUT COOKIES (fresh from the brain of Rebecca this AM)

2 eggs
1/2 cup butter
1 tbsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup turbinado
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1.5 cups spelt flour
1 cup br. rice flour
1 tsp each: baking soda, baking powder
1 tsp salt

Cream butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon and carrots.  Set aside.  Mix dry ingredients and fold into wet ingredients.  Texture is like that of sugar cookies.  I maked small balls and patted them onto a cookie sheet (1-2″ cookies).  Cook @ 350 for 8 minutes.  Keep moist by storing in airtight container.

A juice story

Summer is just perfect for making juices of all shapes, sizes and varieties.  True, you need a juicer (or a friend with a juicer who is willing to share their time and appliance), but the investment is worth it.

My trusty juicer is simply a Jack LaLaine juicer, circa 1995.  Lucky for us, a client gifted this apparatus because they didn’t use it and we got it just in the nick of time before it mades it’s way to the goodwill.  I bet that a little time on Ebay, Craigslist or even Freecycle ( – look for your town) will give you some low cost options for juicers.

Once you have a juicer, there is no stopping you.  Juicing can add the vitamins and ‘phytonutritents (translatet = plant chemical that are so vital for our health and can’t be duplicated in a lab, despite tremendous efforts), and help build your taste buds for the bitter greens, like kale.

Also, like we demo in this video, juicing those excess veggies and fruits from the garden helps you minimize waste.   Juices in grocery stores are spendy, and you can easily pay $3-$4/12 oz juice whereas the yield in this video was OVER 32 OUNCES of juice!!  That’s like having $8-$12 right in your pocket!

Aside from the juice demoed, which is a great beginner juice or a way  to ween off of pure fruit juice, here is another option:

Rebecca’s off-white juice of the week:

Green based juices help curb sugar cravings, ehnance skin health, and contribute to optimal digestion.  I’m interested in thiem this week because of all the not-so-ideal eating I’ve done inthe past two weeks: tortilla chips 3 days last week, a sandwich on wheat yesterday (with cheese, gulp), and even a diet soda.  Not like these foods are criminal, but if you have a wheat and dairy sensitivity and are an O blood-type (shouldn’t eat toto much corn, if that is even possible in our modern food culture), then your body needs a break.

You can think of this juice recipe like the V-8 commercials in the 90’s: the guy walks into the office sideways because he’s off balance, and all he needs is his v-8 to get back to health.

Move over V-8, there’s a new recipe in town:

1/2 bunch parsley
5 carrots
1 bunch kale
2 green apples
2 large cucumbers

This juice yieled about 48 oz because the cucumbers were HUGE and naturally very watery.

I’ll drink 6 oz 2-3x/day until it is gone, keeping the juice for no more than 2 days.  If my stove worked (replaced on Friday, thank GOODNESS), I’d make pulp muffins but since it’s not that pulp is headed to my AM frittatas or to my AM smoothie, which ever i choose.

Finding your personal balance

Between all the books I read about healthy eating and the work I do with my clients, it’s no wonder that we, as a culture, are really confused about what to eat and when.

The biggest shifts and insights began for me when I slowly realized that even all the research in the world couldn’t really tell me what to eat. In fact, so much new research indicates that because our physiology an genetic make up is so unique, it would be darn hard to say what the exact perfect diet is.

For me, lately, I’ve been doing great by eating 3 full meals a day, with no snacks in between. My trick is making certain those meals really count and are very nutritious. I must have at least 1 full serving of protein per meal, and do best when I eat 2-3 grains/day MAX and 2-3 fruits/day as well.
This approach is different than the advice I might give a client or a friend, because to eat 3 meals or 5 meals/day is a truly individualized decision based on what your needs and energy levels are.

My motivations for 3 meals? Basically I learned about myself that snacking is where I get into trouble with portions and unhealthy choices. My taste buds might begin with a craving for fruit and a few almonds or a hard boiled egg, but then I start grazing and pretty soon I’ve basically had a meal. So for me, the idea of 3 meals and 2 snacks was really translating as having 5 meals!! Hmm…. not so good for the waistline or for the mental wellbeing, especiallly when I didn’t really need all those calories.

Do I make exceptions? You bet! If I’m hiking, didn’t get a solid meal for whatever reason (travel, with others, out and about and didn’t have time…), I will have a snack, but my snacks are pretty consistently the same: veggies/hummus, a protein shake, a piece of fruit, a small portioned bag of trail mix or an energy bar, and I really watch how I’m feeling before I make my choice.

This is where the coaching concepts can come in handy to determine your personal balance. Ask yourself the questions:
1. Why am I eating in the pattern that I’m currently in?
2. Do I like the results I’m getting from this patten? IF no, what don’t I like? If yes, do I need to tweak further?
3. How does my current meal plan support the need for fruits/veggies/whole grains/lean proteins?
4. What am I willing to change today and give a try?

#4 was a big eye opener for me personally. I used to be very afraid of eating only 3 meals, as if I would starve in between! Well the reason I felt this way was because I hadn’t been planning nutritionally for those 3 meals, so I was eating too little to sustain me until the next meal. If I’m eating 3 meals a day, my meals must be about 500-600 Kcal/meal at least to get me to my baseline (according to my latest dip into the BodPod at UC Davis to measure my caloric needs and body composition). That amount seemed too high, but yet it is what I need to be satisfied until the next meal time.

So many women I know under eat when it counts (like at mealtimes) and over eat to compensate for hunger, emotions, etc. They are afraid of 100 Kcal of high quality Salad dressing, but will binge of junk or eat 100 Kcal snack bags, which are only going to make them hungrier. There is just WAY too much evidence that refined foods mess with our metabolism and our blood sugar (and hence our cravings and weight) to go that route and expect a health outcome.

So gang, if you want a different result from your nutrition program, I recommend asking yourself those 4 questions and really being honest about what you need for a balance in your life. It’s about progress and not perfection. What can you sanely sustain for the LONG HAUL….which sometimes means making one tiny but surmountable change at a time.

PS: I still have my guilty pleasures and I do drink a rice/almond based drink MOST days, between meals. Sometimes I splurge and drink a coffee drink w/decaf coffee. For me this is part of my mental balance and keeps me away from the other sweets that I simply CAN’T control 🙂

The Nourishent of an open Heart

This past weekend I had the honor and pleasure of attending a fabulous yoga retreat with Sybil Nance at Flying L Ranch near  Mt. Adams (somewhere near the bustling ranch community of Glendwood….more cows than people!!).

Its hard to describe the layers of experience of this cozy weekend.  Its much like a good lasagna or a great pot of soup: Hard to describe exactly what aspect of it makes the dish so incredibly fabulous, but the harmony of all flavors together create a synergy that can be felt on a level deeper than just the taste buds.

mmmm……my heart and my palate are humming  just thinking about it all.  My mom came with me, which was a huge gift.  Today when I was chatting with her about the experience she said that the good conversation and the laughter were her nourishment.  I just loved that.  Same for me too…..oh, and the amazing food: the food and the loving community were sweeter than my favorite dessert.

But since we are on the topic of off-white living, I shall recount to you how amazing and nourishing the food and the environment were, especially from an off-white perspective.  I am always gracious when in a  community that supports healthy eating and even all of my quirky food challenges.  In fact, there were others with me that ate just the same  – whoo hoo! 
It was really Sybil and the space that set the inital tone, as can be seen here by some of the friendly details of the cozy kitchen and Sybil\’s lovely breakfast provisions, which we were provided each morning before our 9 am yoga:



Mom and I enjoying a post-yoga meal:

I will leave you with one recipe – a simple black bean and avocado hummus I made to share in our communal meals.  It was a hit, so I suppose its worth a share:

2 cans organic black beans
1 large avocado
1/2 – 3/4 cup fresh cilantro
juice of 1/2 lime
1-2 cloves of garlic (make sure they get blended up!)
sea salt, to taste
1-2 tsp cumin

Mix all ingredients in a food processor.  You may need to add up to 1 tbsp EVOO to make a smoothe hummus.  Yields about 4-5 cups.  Serving size: 2 tbsp.