Unwitting Title

Unwitting Title

SoHo House Chicago Margarita
Spicy SoHo House Chicago Margarita

I have acquired the unwitting title of “Margarita Maker”.  I did not seek this title, but everyone talks tequila with me as though I’m George Clooney and Randy Gerber.  As a lifelong calorie-phobe, I have always been on the lookout for low-calorie drinks.  Alcohol was never a requirement in my diet.  Although in college, we drank a lot of beer at fraternities and boy this put me off beer for life.  And, a group of us would go bar hopping as seniors and drink long island ice teas.  Now one of those was all I needed because we ran and didn’t bother with dinner!  We usually got pizza around midnight.  Sigh, youth.

I moved onto vodka and pineapple juice in my early twenties.  I was introduced to this drink by a coworker.  After finding out that my new and cool drink was over 350 calories a serving, I lost interest…

Gimlets, either gin or vodka were my go to drink in my late twenties.  My husband’s uncle, who drove a Porsche 911 made one for me and I loved them.  It is what all the cool grown ups were drinking in the late 90’s.  My early thirties were all about marathon training.   I did not drink any alcohol then because those long training runs were brutal.

What bought me back to drinking was playdates with fellow moms.  I remember a lot of wine playdates.  I am not a wine person and therefore decided to drink something else.  Somewhere in my kitchen was a large stainless steel cocktail mixer with a dozen drink recipes on.  Just twirl to the drink of choice and the ingredients appeared on the side!  Before this margarita immersion, the only margaritas I had were from that fancy restaurant chain “Chi Chi’s”!  The super sweet, goopy, made with fake margarita mix concoctions that came in gigantic glasses.

I made the margarita recipe from my cocktail mixer.  It was too sweet for me and had too many calories.  I did experiment with some other versions, but I did not care for them.  There are many, many margarita recipes out there.  But I came across a simple recipe that is the best margarita I have ever had.  It is refreshing, delicious and not too sweet.  Just for the record, one of these is all I need.

Seshu’s Margarita

1.5 oz Tequila (silver or reposado)

1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice

1 t agave syrup

crushed ice to taste

Combine all ingredients, shake and serve.

Seshu's Margarita
My Margarita with a silver tequila
Only on the weekends

Only on the weekends

My kids told me the that their Dad makes better grilled cheese and better chocolate milk than I do.  How can that be possible?  Well, he adds extra cheese and butter on the sandwich and extra chocolate in the milk of course!  As a family, our diet is mostly healthy and we eat out only once or twice a week.  However, I often find Oreos, Doritos, premixed chocolate milk, yogurt with candy pieces and ice cream of all varieties when my husband B. goes shopping.  I can’t even go on about the secret weekend donut/dessert runs.  These take place early in the morning on weekends when I am still asleep or out for a run.

I have told B. that taste is acquired for healthy foods such as vegetables and fruits.  While sugar is readily accepted by kids.  Kids have more taste buds and their taste buds are more sensitive.  Taste involves not just physical signals but sensory ones too. (Accounting for Taste)  We find food to be tastier if it is plated nicely on pretty dish or a fancy spoon.  Food appears attractive when it it is presented with garnishes.  We are already bombarded with images of unhealthy foods that are loaded in fat, calories and sugar.  And those images are not of fresh, whole foods that are unprocessed fruits, vegetables or grains.

With each meal, I try to include a fresh fruit or vegetable.  I would like my kids to be exposed to these tastes everyday.  Taste can be changed.  For example, people with health issues that are forced to cut back or sugar or salt, find the foods they used to eat previously taste too salty or too sugary after a few months.  The more we eat certain foods, the more we get used to the taste.

While I can’t stop B. from buying junk food, I do have solace in the fact that taste changes with age.  (Taste changes with age)  As we get older, the number of taste buds adults have decreases.  Adults have around 10,000 taste buds and kids have 30,000.  And, we are more inclined as adults to try new foods and new tastes.  Grown ups look at food not only from a taste perspective, but a health perspective also.  I am confident that my kids will eat better as they get older.  Both of them now eat tomatoes, lettuce, onions, olives, broccoli and green beans which was unheard of just a few years ago.

I can assure you that I am not the food police in our house.  With a Dietetics and Nutrition background and I know how to counter the unhealthy food.  I let them eat the unhealthy food, but in limited quantities.  Big desserts in our house are for the weekends only.  I adopted this rule from one of my daughter’s classmates who was lamenting how horrible her life was without weekday desserts.  Before you think I am a mean and awful Mom…during the weekdays, my kids drink chocolate milk for breakfast and lunch.  I pack a little something sweet in their lunch like a small cookie or chocolate.  And they eat a PB&J for lunch everyday at school (their favorite).  I know they will remember the “dessert on weekends only” with great fondness…hardship makes us stronger…right?!

The following recipe is a vegan Hot Artichoke Dip that even my kids love.  It is low in calories and big on taste.  I hope you like it.

 

Hot Vegan Artichoke Dip

2 cans of quartered Artichoke Hearts (14 oz cans)

2 T Vegan Mayonnaise (I use “Follow Your Heart” Veganaise)

2 T Nutritional Yeast

1 t Garlic Powder

1 t Salt

Drain the artichokes and add them to a food processor.  Add the Veganaise, nutritional yeast, garlic powder and salt and blend until smooth.  If your dip is too thick, try adding a tablespoon of water or several as needed.  Empty into a serving bowl and microwave for one minute or empty into a pan and heat until hot.  I like to eat mine with veggies, toasted baguette slices or toasted pita/chapati/naan.

 

IMG_1233
Hot Vegan Artichoke Dip with Veggie & Baguette slices
Not Organic?

Not Organic?

A friend of mine assumed that I only consume organic food made from scratch. That is very far from the truth.  Unless you grow your own food, you are eating processed food.  Fresh fruits and vegetables are minimally processed and meat substitutes and nut milks are heavily processed.  Most of us don’t have the means or the knowledge to grow our own food.  Although I eat a lot of fruit, vegetables and whole grains,  I certainly do consume my fair share of seitan, pea protein, nut cheese and some soy based products.  I just don’t have to time to make my own.  With an active family and schedule, I don’t feel bad about that.

IMG_0528.JPG
Grilled Eggplant, Red Pepper & Red Onions

Fruits and vegetables do not have to be organic.  I used to follow the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) Dirty 15 rule  because it ranked produce with a percentage of pesticides found after harvesting.  But, according to the Journal of Toxicology (article), some pesticides are more toxic than others and they are not all equal.  So, I try to buy organic when possible.  But, sometimes stores are low in organic inventory or the non-organic produce looks fresher than the organic.  A good washing of non-organic fruits and veggies removes most pesticides.  Simply eating more fruits and vegetables is beneficial along with a balanced diet.

IMG_1069.JPG
Orgain Vanilla Almond Milk

My husband and my kids are not vegan.  They consume mostly organic eggs, milk, chicken and fish at home.  But, the kids get fast food when they are out with friends and we go to restaurants that do not serve organic meat and dairy.

According to the Washington Post, there are two main differences between organic and conventional animal products.  One is what the animals are eating and the other is the level of Omega 3’s.  I do care what the animals are eating and not so much about the Omega 3 levels.  (article)

Organic milk, eggs and meat come from cows that are pasture raised and grass fed and free range chickens that are not fed animal or poultry by-prodcuts.  I just feel better buying organic animal products, but when we go out…

IMG_1129.JPG
Roasted Garlic & Quinoa Burger Salad.  See below for recipe.

As long as you are eating a diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fruit and grains with some protein (animal or plant based), you are on the right track.  If that diet includes organic foods, even better!  I would love to be the perfect, puritanical, organic, and unprocessed vegan but I’m not and I’m okay with that!

Roasted Garlic & Quinoa Burger Salad

1 package Morningstar Farms Roasted Garlic & Quinoa Burgers (4 patties)

2 C Mushrooms, washed

2 Medium Tomatoes, washed

1 Medium Yellow or Red Pepper, washed and deseeded

2 T Garden Gourmet Basil Paste (or fresh basil if available)

2 T Olive Oil

1/2 t garlic powder

Salt to taste

Cook burgers according to the package.  While they are cooking, add olive oil, basil paste, garlic powder and salt to a large mixing bowl and mix well.  Chop mushrooms, peppers and tomato into one inch pieces.  When burgers are done cooking, cut them into one inch pieces and add them and the veggies to the mixture in the bowl.  Mix well so the dressing coats all the pieces and serve. This recipe serves two.

As Requested

As Requested

A lot of you have asked for my easy Veggie Chili recipe.  I have been making this Chili for years.  When I became a vegan three years ago, I switched to vegan meat crumbles.  The Morningstar crumbles contain egg whites and are not vegan.  I have also done a variation of this chili with onions too.  Saute the onions first before following the recipe.  This recipe is very simple and very delicious.  I hope you like it!

Veggie Chili

1 package Morningstar “Meat” Crumbles or Beyond Meat Vegan Crumbles

1 red or orange red pepper diced

1 can red bean kidney beans (washed and drained)

1 can tomato sauce

1 large tomato cut into half-inch pieces

1 tsp garlic powder

1tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp cumin

Juice of half a lime

Red chili flakes to garnish

Salt to taste

Spray a medium pan with oil spray.  Add meat crumbles to the pan, on medium heat, saute the crumbles until soft and slightly browner, about 5-6 minutes.  Add diced peppers to the pan, let peppers cook with crumbles for about two minutes.  Add the tomato sauce, tomato, garlic, chili, cumin, lime juice and salt.  Stir the chili well.  Reduce heat to low and let simmer for about ten minutes.  Garnish with red pepper flakes  and serve with tortilla chips or warm tortillas.  If you are vegetarian, add some grated sharp cheddar or monetery jack cheese.  If you are vegan, add grated Chao vegan cheddar cheese.

 

IMG_1033.JPG

Cauliflower Crush

Cauliflower Crush

 

I love cauliflower.  It tastes good, its satisfying and its low in calories.  This dish keeps me happy and keeps me from snacking after dinner.  I am always looking for new ways to make cauliflower.  Most of my recipes are unintentional.  Meaning, they come about because of what I have in my fridge or pantry!  This dish was accidental, but it is really good if you like spicy Buffalo sauce.  Other vegan buffalo cauliflower dishes have breading, but my version is tasty without the extra calories.  I may try a breaded version after I am back to running my usual mileage and injury free!

 

Spicy Tangy Buffalo Cauliflower

1 head of Cauliflower, washed and cut into 2 inch florets

2 T olive oil

1/4 C Buffalo sauce (such as Frank’s Red Hot, mine is a grocery store brand)

4 T Nutritional yeast

1/2 t garlic powder

2-3 T water

Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 425 F.

In a large bowl, coat cauliflower florets in the olive oil until all pieces are coated.

Roast cauliflower for about 20 minutes until they turn soft and have a little color on the tops. Turning them over once halfway, after 10 minutes.  Keep an eye on them as oven temperatures vary.

In a small bowl, mix together buffalo sauce, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, water and salt.  If your sauce is too thick, add another tablespoon of water.

Pour the mixture on the hot cauliflower and serve with your favorite bread, grains or legumes.

This dish serves around 4 people.  And has approximately 130 calories per serving.

dsc_8662
Spicy Tangy Buffalo Cauliflower

 

 

Already November?

Already November?

Hello November!  I can’t believe the year is almost over.  I have finally gotten around to writing down recipes from my previous blog post “Cooking”.  For those of you asking for those recipes…so sorry for the delay.

I cook by the seat of my pants.  Whatever is in the vegetable drawer or is close to expiring, dictates the meal!  When I was a Food Service Director, we operated very differently.  The menu drove inventory purchases.  We had a 4 week menu and usually didn’t deviate unless something was going bad.  Then of course, we had a daily special!  Why don’t I do the same thing at home?  Well, I guess I like the spontaneity and I may be a little lazy.  I hope these recipes help you.

I am always looking for ways to cut calories.  Feel free to substitute your favorite option.  You can get creative from one little idea which can turn into something quite delicious!

 

Seitan Sandwich & ChipsDSC_5871

This is my go to easy option for lunch.

2 slices of Nature’s Own 40 calorie Bread

3 slices of Field Roast Wild Mushroom Deli slices

1 medium Tomato sliced

Handfull of washed Spinach leaves

2 T House of Tsang Korean BBQ sauce

1 oz Kettle Black Pepper Potato chips

Spread BBQ sauce on both slices of bread, one tablespoon each.  Assemble seitan slices, tomato slices and spinach.  Devour with chips.  I like to stick the chips in my sandwich.  It doesn’t always look so pretty when I am eating the sandwich, but I really love the chips in the sammie!

 

Hot & Spicy Mexican Rice with Avocado & MangoDSC_5937

2 C cooked rice (I use Basmati, but any cooked white rice will do)

1 can Black Beans wash and drained

4 Medium Tomatoes chopped

1/4 C Green onions sliced thin

1/2 Mango cut into long slices

1/2 Avocado cut into long slices

1/2 large Lime juiced

1 t Garlic powder (adjust to your taste)

1 t Cayenne Pepper (adjust to your taste)

Salt to taste

In a large saute or frying pan, add rice, beans, garlic powder and cayenne pepper.  Mix well and heat for 3-4 minutes.  Add tomato and green onions, heat an additional two minutes.  Add salt, serve with mango and avocado slices.  I like to sprinkle the fruit with a dash of garlic, cayenne pepper, lime juice and salt also.  This recipe serves 1-2 people depending on their appetite.

 

Savory Veggie FryDSC_6116

1 C Chickpea flour

4 C Baby Spinach leaves

1/2 Red Pepper diced

1 1/2 C Water

2 T Roasted garlic chunks or 1 t garlic powder

2 T Nutritional yeast

1/2 t cayenne pepper

Salt to taste

Oil spray

Spray a medium frying pan with cooking spray.  On medium flame, add diced red pepper to the heated pan.  Cook peppers until soft.  Add spinach and let wilt.

While spinach is wilting, in a small bowl, add chickpea flour, water, cayenne pepper, garlic, nutritional yeast and salt.  Mix well, the batter should resemble thin pancake batter, however this batter will be gritty, not smooth.

Once the spinach has wilted, add flour mixture into pan, pouring evenly and let the mixture cook until solid.  Spray the top with oil spray.  The veggie fry will need to be turned over for both sides to cook.  With your spatula, quarter the fry and turn all four pieces over and spray with oil spray again.  Chickpea flour cooks quickly, I like to let mine form a slight crust.  This veggie fry is a nice alternative to scrambled eggs because chickpea flour is high in protein.  This recipe serves 2-3 people.

 

Mellow

Mellow

I am not sure when it happened to me or when it happens to others.  As I mark another birthday and shake my head at yet another mole or spot on my face, I realize that I am now mellow.   Mellow can mean:  aged, cured, developed, rounded, seasoned, cultured or smooth.  To me, it means that I am much more easy going than I was in my younger days.

As a kid, there is so much pressure on perfection and learning things properly.  Aaah, the exuberance of youth!  I see my kids always wanting things to be perfect or to be the best at something.  My 12 yr old son has to have all his electronics devices in a certain way.  My 9 yr old daughter has to have her stuffed animals in a particular order when she goes to sleep.  And both of them love organizing their backpacks in their own way.  Heaven forbid, mom puts a water bottle in the wrong place.  Their motivation makes me smile.

As teenagers, we still have all that energy, only we pretend we are too cool to care.  My room was my sanctuary during my teens.  My two younger sisters and parents were not allowed to loiter.  All my favorite bands and actors were on my wall in the coolest arrangement of course.  A mean comment from one of my friends would send me into a sad brooding spiral.  “How could she?!!”

In my twenties, it was all about eloping (that’s another post), career paths, promotions and graduate degrees. No pressure or need for perfection there…right?  What I remember about my twenties is that B and I worked really hard and played hard too.  Everything just mattered so much more.

My kids came along in my thirties.  I had to make the agonizing decision to quit working and be a stay at home mom.  Being first time parents is really hard.  I remember torturing my family when they came to see the kids as babies.

“Did you wash your hands?”

“Is this one of the sterilized bottles?”

“That is a choking hazard…!”

I went from that to “You can still eat that…we have acids in our tummies that kill germs.”

In my forties, I really just don’t care about all the things I used to obsess about.   I tell my kids that they need to relax, that other people have it much harder and to stop complaining.  By now, all my family members know each other really well.  We used to push each others buttons in our younger days.  Nowadays, we still push buttons but less frequently and then say something nice afterwards…

And my friends, many of them are still neurotic about things.  They stress about aging, botox, kids and keeping up with the neighbors.  But many of them have also mellowed just like me.  It’s funny that words of wisdom from the past can help us throughout life.  My karate teacher told me “stand tall and be proud”.  One of my uncles told me “health is wealth”. And a teacher once told me “be thankful for what you have.”  And I tell my kids “do your best, if it doesn’t work out, try again, if it still doesn’t work out, move on to something else .”

 

Mellow Drinks

fullsizeoutput_1df3
Bourbon Hot Chocolate

 

Bourbon Hot Chocolate

3 T Cadbury’s Drinking Chocolate or any sweetened chocolate

6 oz Water

1 oz Bourbon

Heat water in a pan until boiling or microwave in a mug for two minutes.   Add chocolate and make sure it dissolves completely.  Add Bourbon.  Viola!

 

 

fullsizeoutput_1dea
Rum & Coconut Cooler

 

Rum & Coconut Cooler

1 C Orgain High Protein Almond Milk or nut milk of your choice.

1 T Coconut Sugar

1 t Coconut Flakes Unsweetened

1 oz Rum

This is a cold drink.  Combine all of the ingredients together, paper umbrella optional.