Tag Archives: nutrition

Summer Cooking

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Summer time makes me want to eat constantly, consuming as much fresh fruits and vegetables as possible before the season is over and all you have left at your disposal is a whole mess of questionable imported produce.  Which, don’t get me wrong, I love being able to buy Peruvian asparagus in mid-February, but there’s something just a *tad* different in flavor and freshness when the asparagus only had to travel a couple miles to my dinner plate.

So everyday recently I’ve been a veritable vegetable vacuum, hoovering up massive quantities of cherries, peaches and strawberries, corn-on-the-cob, fresh English peas, asparagus, scallions, watermelon, beets, carrots, and tons of other goodies. It certainly makes meal-planning a cooking a cinch. It almost makes summer cooking a little boring: fire up the grill/grill pan, throw some protein on there for a few minutes and then let the fruits and veggies on the plate do most of the work for you. Half the time they don’t even need cooking, just a squeeze of some lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil and a grind of salt. Dinner served.  Creativity in the summer months is usually limited to “should I use hazelnuts or pine nuts in my pea pesto today? ”

Which has been great given the utter insanity of my schedule this summer, but I’m sort of missing the creative flair that’s needed to pull of a really fresh, healthy, well-rounded winter meal. There’s thought and time involved. The root vegetables that take over our plates in the colder months take a little more care and attention to make them sparkle (especially without using cheese as a crutch). It takes a little more effort to make me excited for a turnip the same way I get all giddy over peas.

I guess what it boils down to is that I enjoy eating more in the Summer and cooking more in the winter.  Roasting, stewing, braising — these things are slower and more soulful. Blanching, sauteing, barbecuing — laid-back and impersonal.

But a few summers ago, bored with the usual suspects for dinner, I created a peanut-noodle dish that brings a little creativity back into the kitchen with it’s no-cook sauce, and choice of mix-in vegetables and noodle type. It’s still a low-heat dish (essential for hot-weather meals), particularly if you use my suggestion of using fresh pasta,  which only takes a measly 2-3 minutes to boil.

Whole wheat pasta and broccolini, topped with homemade peanut sauce, and sliced and sauteed snow peas. YUM.

Whole wheat pasta and broccolini, topped with homemade peanut sauce, and sliced and sauteed snow peas. YUM.

Spicy Peanut Noodles

Serves 2

*2/3 of a pound fresh whole wheat fettuccine (or your favorite pasta/noodle — rice noodles or soba noodles would work well in this dish)

*2 small bunches of broccolini or one small head of broccoli, cut into florets

*a generous cup or more of snow peas, thinly sliced

for Peanut sauce:

*1 clove garlic, minced

*1/4 cup chunky peanut butter (I use Skippy natural)

*a few good squirts of Sriracha (more, if you like things spicy!)

*a splash of rice vinegar (or regular white vinegar/apple cider vinegar)

*a splash of maple syrup

*1/3 cup of soy sauce (I use Coconut Aminos since I’m allergic to soy)

Step 1:  Stir together all of the sauce ingredients except the peanut butter. Once mixed, add in your peanut butter and, using a whisk or fork, blend until peanut butter is incorporated. This may take a little bit of work, but it does come together! Taste a little bit and add a little more of whatever you think it might need (if too salty, add a splash more of vinegar and a splash more of maple syrup; if too sweet, add a little more soy sauce and a little more vinegar; if not peanut-y enough, stir in more peanut butter)

Step 2: Heat up a small pan and add your sliced snow peas with a splash of water. Let saute, 2-3 minutes until bright green and they’re sizzling.

Step 3: Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add pasta and cook according to directions. When there’s only 2-3 minutes left, throw the broccolini in with the pasta to blanch (if using fresh pasta, throw everything in at once).

Step 4: Drain your pasta and vegetables and then throw back into the pot. Pour your sauce in and toss to coat everything. Serve in bowls and top with the sauteed snow peas.

Enjoy!

What A Week!

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Boy, am I glad this week is nearly through! And I was only at work for 3 days of it!  I am enthusiastically awaiting the weekend and this upcoming week, which, thankfully, will be class-free. Michigan was a blast (more on that in a later post), but scrambling to get everything done to go away and then, subsequently, scrambling to get everything back on track after vacation has been a little crazy. And I even did quite a bit of work/school work while away, too.

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And what an emotional roller-coaster of a week in the news, too, huh? From the incredible show Wendy Davis gave in the Texas State Legislature to fight an anti-abortion bill and speak out for women everywhere, to the joyous overturning of DOMA, to the certainly-not-joyous overturning of the Voting Rights Bill, to immigration reform, my head and my heart are all over the place.   I don’t really want to get all political on here, but I do just want to say: I hope the children that my generation beget can looks back  and say to their parents, “I can’t believe people would ever consider being so hurtful, negative and controlling based on the color of someone’s skin, their country of birth, how other people express love, or how someone chooses to handle their body.”  We still have a lot of work to do, folks.

In other news, I’m taking this weekend to do some serious Rachel-oriented things and to get the household back in order.

– Finish How To Be A Women for the inaugural meeting of my book club (2 members strong!) next week. Pick a new book. Try to recruit some more members.

– Paint my  nails

– Grocery shop, meal plan and cook. Vacation + busy schedule =lots of meals out flanked by gummy bears, cookies and ice cream.

– Write some blog posts! I know ya’ll have missed me. I have some recipes to share, some thoughts on marriage and weddings in light of my brother’s recent engagement to his girlfriend, and some creative writing pieces I’ve been itching to get down on paper (into the cloud?).

– Exercise! I feel so lazy recently. I’m itching to try something new (dance class?) or revisit something I love but haven’t done in awhile (rock climbing?). Also, when will Boston get one of these studios? http://rowstudios.com/   It’s like a spin class on a row machine! Sign. me. up.

-Call some friends whom I haven’t spoken with in awhile

-Watch Game of Thrones season 3!

-Read some more food/nutrition-related articles. Perhaps formulate a blog post here, too. (These have been on my radar this week, if you’d like some reading material: Why The Atlantic’s Defense of Junk Food Fails and Bullied with Food)

 

What’s been going on with all of you folks??

Also: Happy First Anniversary to one of my favorite couples, Brian and Jodi!

 

 

 

You DO Win Friends with Salad!

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I think Homer and Bart are wrong! At least if you bother to make your own salad dressing.

My regular lunch-time salad at work. This week's dressing was a spicy mustard vinaigrette.

My regular lunch-time salad at work. This week’s dressing was a spicy mustard vinaigrette.

 

Store-bought salad dressing is probably one of my least favorite things. Most of them don’t taste very good and they are usually way too full of preservatives, soy, sodium, sugar and other not-so-great ingredients, turning your well-intentioned salad into something little better than something from the chip-and-cookie aisle.   Whatever store-bought dressing you’ve been indulging in, I promise you can make a homemade equivalent that tastes better and is better for you.

The good news is that it’s super easy and fast to make your own dressing in a variety of flavors with just some basic oils, vinegars and spices you likely have in your pantry anyway. This last week along I made a deliciously sweet fig balsamic vinaigrette, a cool and creamy chive and basil dressing and a tangy  spicy mustard vinaigrette.

The formula for a basic balsamic vinaigrette is pretty easy, and then you can grow from there.

For a balsamic vinaigrette, just combine:

*about 1/4 cup of your balsamic vinegar

*a squeeze of a dijon mustard (trust me on this one. It takes the bite out of your vinegar without leaving the dressing tasting remotely mustardy)

*a generous amount of olive oil, drizzling while whisking to combine everything. You’ll know when to stop when you reach the consistency you’d like in your dressing.

 

Right away this formula is easily changed up by using lemon juice as the acid instead of vinegar for a light, lemony dressing. Or use a flavored vinegar for something a little different. Add some garlic or herbs to give it some earthiness and depth. Mustard vinaigrette is just a lot more dijon with a splash of clear vinegar before you add your oil.

If you decide to stray away from the vinaigrettes and decide to try something creamy or cheesy that’s really just one additional ingredient:

*1/4 cup of Greek yogurt or sour cream for a creamy dressing; 1/4 cup of the crumbled cheese of choice for a cheese-based dressing (blue, feta)

*a splash of a clear vinegar (white wine, apple cider, champagne, etc) or lemon juice  (if using a cheese, you’ll mash the cheese into the acid until it forms a liquid-y  paste)

*a tiny squeeze of dijon

* a generous amount of olive oil (sometimes you may want to add some buttermilk, regular milk, etc at this step, too, if you want an ultra-luxurious ranch or something)

*any herbs or spices that give you the flavor you want

 

See?  Simple! It literally takes about 2 minutes to whisk together a dressing, and, if you want to just up the amounts, you can store them for up to several weeks in the fridge, especially any that aren’t dairy-based.   So the next time your reach for the Hidden Valley, try making your own first — I think you’ll enjoy the results!

 

What’s your favorite store-bought dressing? Leave it in the comments and I’ll try to recreate it at home!

 

 

Weekends of Food

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Anybody who knows me well knows that I’m more than a little preoccupied with food. I have been for as long as I can remember, although, admittedly the preoccupation has shifted focus quite a bit. As I kid, I think my focus was on cheese (well, maybe my focus hasn’t actually shifted all that much); in college, I was obsessed with pasta and take out, especially super spicy Indian food  (and then Weight Watchers, understandably); these days I’m entirely focused on creating beautiful meals at home. I still have an unnatural attachment to cheese and going out to eat is probably one of my favorite pastimes, but what gives me the biggest thrill is knowing I’ve made something truly delicious and healthy at home for my husband and I to share (bonus points if other folks are coming over to partake in the festivities!). It combines my passion for nutrition, an outlet for my creativity and my constant desire to do something nice for other people all at one time.

 

So, I’ve decided to start a weekly post on Fridays entirely devoted to food. Sometimes it might be a restaurant or event review, sometimes a recipe, or sometimes maybe just a list of what I’ve been eating the past week. It’ll probably develop as I go along!

 

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There’s very few things as gorgeous as a sunny spring day in the Boston Public Gardens!

Anyway, last weekend turned out to be a really fun culinary adventure! It started out a little bleak, when I came home from a 21 mile training run last Saturday, waited too long to consume post-run nutrition of any kind, and promptly expelled the breakfast I tried to hurriedly consume when I found myself growing increasingly nauseous. Thankfully, some water and two pieces of plain bread seemed to cure me after that and I was quickly out the door to enjoy the gorgeous sunshine and spring flowers with friends. When we arrived home, after a snack of prosecco and butternut squash bisque, I got down to instructing the boys on what still needed to be prepped for the three different varieties of pizza-on-the-grill we were making that evening.  A whipped up some guacamole for us to munch on in the meantime and my girlfriends above were kind enough to bring an enormous box of cupcakes for us to indulge in later from Queen City Cupcakes in Manchester.

For pizzas, we enjoyed a roasted butternut squash pizza, with spicy homemade barbecue sauce, goat cheese and red onion; a spring greens pesto with grape tomatoes and burrata; and a maple-smoked bacon, caramelized onion and smoked mozzarella pie. Although the squash pizza with my secret-weapon barbecue sauce is a favorite around our house, I think the charring from the grill paired the best with the creamy burrata and earthy, herbal notes in the pesto.  We stuffed ourselves silly, and still managed to each eat the equivalent of a little over 1 cupcake each.

Who could resist, though, really?

Who could resist, though, really?

Fat and happy, we talked ourselves into the early morning and then headed to bed, the taste of buttercream still on our lips.  Our indulgent dinner didn’t stop us from having a robust brunch the next morning though — homemade turkey sausages, roasted potatoes and my take on my mom’s signature waffles all slowly made their way to the table.  A and I used to hang out with our best friends nearly every weekend when they lived in New Hampshire, and one of our favorite things to do together was cook and enjoy a big Sunday breakfast. While I miss everything about spending time with them since their move to Colorado, I think that’s one of the things I miss the most and I was so thrilled to be able to have them there to sip coffee and laugh with as waffle batter oozed out of the waffle maker and potatoes sizzled in the oven.

The culinary adventure didn’t end there, as A and I headed to Barbara Lynch’s Oyster Invitational that afternoon with Aaron’s sister and her husband. This event was SO.MUCH.FUN. Tons of delicious food (all you can eat lobster rolls?!?!), beverages, and general silliness. Thousands of raw oysters everywhere in which to indulge! Somehow I managed to score more cupcakes, too, AND then eat leftover pizza when I got home. It’s really a wonder how I’m not 400 pounds…

After a work week of eating very healthfully, we’ve got another tremendous weekend of eating in the works starting tonight(!), but this time everything will be made by both me and A. No oyster extravaganza — but there will be more pesto, more waffles, and even some homemade lemon curd involved, so I’ll probably survive.

What’s on your weekend menu?