Sunday, April 12, 2015

How to Make Health and Happiness Part of Your Morning Routine and Red Kidney Bean Sandwich Spread Recipe


This post is mainly about sharing my thoughts on how I make health and happiness part of my morning routine. I was inspired by Aloha to join in on this conversation. There are a few simple things that help me start my day like I woke up on the right side of the bed, even if that is not the case. After checking my email, followed by a shower, I eat breakfast. Eating breakfast is new for me - especially on weekdays, because I wake at 5am most week days and I do not feel hungry at that time. However, I have made breakfast a priority now because it makes me feel more energized and less tempted to binge on food when I come back home from work.

I keep breakfast simple. It is usually two toasts of Ezekiel bread with homemade plant-based sandwich spread, hummus or mashed avocado with sea salt, topped with a slice of tomato, cucumber and a big mound of spinach leaves. Check out my red kidney bean sandwich spread recipe below for easy and cheap toast topper. Instead of bread, you can also use collards or other greens as your sandwich "bread." This recipe found on Aloha's Web Site for collard wrap has inspired me to think outside my bread. I am looking forward to trying it soon.
Red kidney bean sandwich spread on two toasts of Ezekiel bread. After I took this picture, I topped both sandwiches with a  mound of spinach leaves. 
My other step to coloring my day with health and happiness via my morning routine is waking my body up. Sounds strange, huh? Well, after you have been sleeping for a number of hours and waking up your brain with a nice breakfast, waking up your body is the next natural step. First, I do Wonder Woman pose to boost my overall confidence for the day ahead.

It is clinically proven that your body language shapes who you are. By practicing Wonder Woman pose each morning or prior to a big presentation at work, try Wonder Woman pose for an extra confidence booster. 
Second, walking to my work instead of taking the train aides in my ability to face the day. By walking, I am getting my daily exercise and I get to relax and reflect during my walk while listening to my favorite music. For me, 80's new wave does the trick. After my 45 minute walking commute, I have released some of my nervous energy. Keep in mind having thoughts about the million things you have to do that day counts as this nervous energy. Spending physical energy by using your body to do it helps get rid of that energy and the less anxious I am, the happier I become.

Now onto the recipe.
Red Kidney Bean Sandwich Spread

1 (15-ounce can) red kidney beans, washed, drained and mashed
1 small onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons or less of olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste, about 1/4 teaspoon
1 teaspoon or less sea salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon sweet red paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely diced

Preheat frying pan on a medium-low heat. Sauté onion in 1 tablespoon of olive oil for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add minced garlic and continue sautéing for another two minutes. While the onion and garlic are sautéing, prepare your beans. Drain and rinse the beans, followed by mashing them thoroughly with a fork in a medium bowl. Add the sautéed onion and garlic to the mashed beans along with all the spices. Do not add all the salt at once as you may want add more or less depending on preference. Add chopped parsley and additional tablespoon or less of olive oil to the spread, mix well and taste for additional seasonings. You can eat it right away, and store what is left over in a closed container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Smoky Green Onion Tofu Scramble and Facing Fear

As a creature of habit with the propensity for avoidance, facing the fear is a new approach I practice presently. This fear may be as minimal as signing up for a gym membership and as extreme as visiting a medical specialist. These are just examples which help to illustrate my message clearly.

For me, the escalation of fears, which I will keep to myself, is a combination of both environmental and perhaps genetic factors. It can take years to figure out what is causing a person to have certain fears, following avoidance, following disturbances in emotional and physical well being. Luckily, we all have the ability to rev up the courage to decide it is time to make things better. Some people may do it on their own while others may need additional supports. It is not important how you get there, what matters is that you showed up. Facing the fear will feel like %*#@ at first, but the longer you practice, the better you will feel.

My recent example of facing the fear is joining a gym two weeks ago. I have been thinking about joining a gym for a long time now. However, thinking is not the same as doing. Some of the fears which prevented me from joining included the following thoughts:

I don't know how to use any of the work out machines... 
I will look stupid excercising. 
I don't know anyone there. 
People will stare.
I don't have any work out clothes. 
I am not a sneaker person. 
What? I have to wear tights!!!

You get the idea. I have grown tired of thinking and I went for it. Going to the gym multiple times a week is relatively new to me. I still don't really know anyone there and I don't know how to use all of the work out machines. Right now what matters is that I have made some strides towards facing this particular fear. Now, I am one of those girls who wears tights to the gym and I don't really care who sees me or who knows about it. Check out my new sneakers....
I am a sneaker girl! 
Now, onto the recipe.
Smoky Green Onion Tofu Scramble 
1 tablespoon sunflower or canola oil
1 (15-oz package) organic extra firm or firm tofu, padded dry and crumbled
3/4 cup green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon onion powder
3/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1 tablespoon liquid smoke
1 to 2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, optional
It's a bird! 
Preheat a large skillet over a a medium heat. Now add oil, tofu, soy sauce, onion powder, turmeric powder, nutritional yeast flakes and liquid smoke. Stir and cook for about 5-6 minutes. Mix often. Add green onions and continue cooking for another 5 minutes or so until the green onions are no longer raw. At this point, you can add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water to the tofu scramble to prevent it from drying out while the onions are continuing to cook. Turn off the heat and taste for salt. Store in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
Peace out!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Creamy Red Lentil Mushroom Soup

I love soups! There is no sense hiding my soup love from the world. To add to that, I believe creating new soup recipes has become my specialty of sorts. In fact, I secretly dream of publishing a vegan soup cookbook in the near future. I made this Creamy Red Lentil Mushroom soup when my refrigerator content was depleted of goods. However, my refrigerator did contain a package of Baby Bella mushrooms and some raw slivered almonds, hence this soup creation. While I would like to remain humble about my culinary abilities, I do believe this soup is one of my best soup recipes yet. It is creamy, satisfying, and so freaking good for you. Try making it if you dare.

Aside from that, my other love currently is this winter season. I am sure you have heard about a gigantic snow storm enveloping Massachusetts. In Boston, Massachusetts where I reside, the snow was cumbersome at times, but mostly, it was beautiful.
The calm before the storm. View of Boston's Charles River. 
Sure there are snow mounds on the sidewalks making it difficult to walk, but I am willing to accept this burden for the sake of having snow. Peace out!
That's our car hidden in the snow blanket. By the way, I am wearing fake fur on my head. 
Creamy Red Lentil Mushroom Soup

1 tablespoon sunflower or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 (24-oz package) Baby Bella mushrooms, sliced
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup red lentils
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper, about 1/4 teaspoon
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons nutritional yeast flakes
1 bay leaf
6 cups strong vegetable broth
1/2 cup raw slivered almonds or raw cashews for the cream, soaked in water for 2 to 3 hours
*See below for instructions on how to make almond or cashew cream.
Creamy Red Lentil Mushroom Soup
In a large soup pot, sauté the onion in oil over medium-high heat, for 3-4 minutes. Add mushrooms and continue sautéing for another 5-6 minutes. Add carrots, red lentils, all the spices and vegetable broth. Mix all of the ingredients in the soup pot, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to medium-low and cook for about 15-20 minutes until the lentils are cooked. The lentils should be almost mushy consistency. Turn off the heat and add the almond cream. See below for instructions on how to make almond cream. Mix in the almond cream and taste of additional seasonings. Serve with your favorite hunk of bread. Garnish with your favorite herb. I used parsley. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Big hunk of bread! 
Almond Cream Directions 
First soak the raw slivered almonds in water for 2-3 hours prior to making this soup. All you have to do is place 1/2 cup of raw slivered almonds in a medium bowl and completely submerge them with room temperature water. Follow the same directions if using cashews. Leave the soaking almonds on your counter. After 2-3 hours of soaking, drain the almonds and place them in a blender or a food processor with about 3-4 tablespoons of room temperature water. Blend until a very smooth consistency. That's it!
The almond cream adds a silky and rich flavor to this soup. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Easy Homemade Crackers

Happy Sunday! I have finally decided to post my homemade crackers recipe I have been putting off for a while. This is mostly due to my laziness - I admit it. Aside from posting this recipe, I have an exciting day planned which includes organizing my closet. You are right, I am not all that excited about this task. It has to be done. I have been consistent with keeping my closet organized for a while, and then it became a mess. I know nothing becomes a mess on its own. Someone told me once disorganized spaces in our homes may reflect what goes on in our minds. Perhaps this is true on some level for me. However, I will not let that deter me from organizing my closet and my mind for that matter, today. Rock on!
Easy Homemade Crackers
Crackers Ingredients
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon smoked or regular paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
2 tablespoons flavored or regular olive oil (I used garlic flavored olive oil)
3/4 cup or less unsweetened almond or soy milk, add gradually
1/4 cup sesame, poppy or flax seeds to sprinkle on top of crackers, optional
Let's do this! 
Preheat oven to 425F. In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt, onion powder, paprika, turmeric, and nutritional yeast flakes. Use a whisk to incorporate all of the dry ingredients. Now add oil and 1/2 cup of milk. You may not need the entire 3/4 cups of milk for this recipe. Begin to knead the dough and slowly add the rest of the milk until all the flour is incorporated. The dough should be moist, but not sticky. This is what the dough should look like.
You can do this! 
Dive the dough into two "equal" parts and roll out each part into a thin pancake. Like this:
Dough divided into two "equal" parts. In case you are wondering, you will not need extra flour for dusting your work surface. The dough comes off easily and does not need extra flour.
We are ready to shape the crackers. You can use any small or even large cookie cutters to make fun shapes like these:
I purchased these cookie cutters on sale at H&M's Home Department for a $1.00. 
Once you cut out the cracker shapes using cookie cutters, combine the remnants of the first part of the dough, roll it out, and continue forming crackers using cookie cutters until all the dough is gone. Now move on to the second half of the original dough you set aside. Repeat the process.

Note: The more you work with the same dough the less pliable it will become. To prevent this, be sure not to combine the remnants of the first half of the original dough with the other half of dough you set aside.
Fun activity for both adults and the little ones. 
If you are not up to speed with using cookie cutters to shape your crackers or you simply do not have any cookie cutters on hand, no worries. Use a knife to cut your crackers into squares on an angle or however you prefer. Like this:
You can do this directly on an oiled cookie sheet pan or a working surface, followed by placing the cut out cracker shapes on an oiled cookie sheet pan. 
Before the crackers go into the oven, be sure to oil the cookie sheet pan with a non-stick cooking spray. I do not own a cookie sheet pan at this juncture of my life. I used aluminum foil coated with non-stick cooking spray instead to bake the crackers. Beware of slippage when taking out baked crackers from the oven when using aluminum foil instead of a cookie sheet pan. I have lost a few cracker friends this way. I recommend using a cookie sheet pan to bake these crackers instead of aluminum foil if available.
Now sprinkle sesame seeds on the crackers and gently press them into the dough. Do not use non-stick cooking spray at this point. If you do, the sesame seeds will fly away. Literally. 
Bake the crackers for 9-10 until the crackers are golden brown, but not burnt.
Ready to party!
These crackers are best eaten when fresh. These also taste great the next day, but are not as crunchy. Serve with salsa, hummus or drop a few to your soup for good measure. Store in a closed container lined with a paper towel to absorb moisture for up to 3 days.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Cream of Spinach Soup Without the Cream and Eating Our Emotions

This morning I stepped on the scale and noticed a significant change in the number I have been accustomed to. "What the frack?" I uttered to myself. The answer was clear. I fell into my old habit of eating larger quantities of food in response to my feelings.

When I came back from visiting Poland recently and after spending a month there with my family, it was difficult to adjust. Then Othello, my 15 year old kitty, became ill, followed by passing away prior to the holidays. The combination of both was the induction to eating my emotions. Of course, now I know better than to succumb to this behavioral pattern for too long. This is backed up by my professional training, but also through prior experiences with this issue. For me, eating larger quantities of food in response to my feelings during the times of emotional distress is not necessarily about making myself feel better, but rather, it is a maladaptive response I have utilized to quiet my internal dialogue.

I continue to practice being kinder to myself and steer clear from obsessive thinking about this or that. I try to remember that it is not all that important what did not go well in the past, yesterday, or even this morning. I focus on the present.

With that in mind, I am going back to eating what I enjoy eating the most, which is soups.
Cream of Spinach Soup 
Cream of Spinach Soup Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 pound red potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped (about 7-8 small red potatoes)
1/2 pound baby spinach, washed (add at the end)
6 cups strong vegetable broth
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon marjoram (if you can't find it, substitute with Italian seasoning)
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
Easy to make and kind of fancy pants, don't you think?
In a large soup pot, sauté the onion in olive oil, over a medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir often. Add the potatoes, all the spices and vegetable broth, cover and bring the soup to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to medium-low and cook until the potatoes are fork tender, but not mushy, for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove bay leaves, add the spinach and allow it to wilt for about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and blend the soup with an immersion blender to a smooth consistency. If you do not have an immersion blender, regular blender will work too. In that case, transfer the soup to a regular blender in small batches and be sure not to burn yourself. Now that the soup is a smooth and creamy, taste it for additional seasonings. Adjust it to your taste. Serve it with vegan sour cream or without. Store in the refrigerator, in a closed container for up to one week.

Peace out!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Seitan with Mushroom Wine Sauce

While walking around Boston yesterday, I visited my neighborhood Whole Foods Market. I love this market, specifically for the amazing vegan food options, variety of spices and fresh local produce they offer. Additionally, I appreciate the enormous amount of vegan fair trade certified products available. However, the prices do not always sit well with me which is the reason I do majority of my food shopping elsewhere.

Anyhow, I purchased a few things there yesterday including this! I really dig the old style graphics on the packaging.
Seitan is a high-protein vegan/vegetarian food made from cooked wheat gluten.  
I must admit the texture of seitan itself disturbs me, but now and again, I reach out for this accessible and affordable product to make a quick dinner. It should be noted I have made seitan in my home kitchen before sucessfully. However, I continue to prefer store purchased seitan.

Before I begin Seitan with Mushroom Wine Sauce recipe, you should know seitan ingredient in this recipe may be substituted with any protein of choice. My favorite vegan proteins include organic tofu, chickpeas and red kidney beans. Be sure to contact me if you have questions about substitutions or otherwise.
Seitan with Mushroom Wine Sauce served over mashed potatoes I prepared earlier and garnished with fresh dill.  
Seitan with Mushroom Wine Sauce Ingredients 
1 (8-oz package) seitan of choice, sliced (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon sunflower seed or canola oil
3 cups mushrooms of choice, sliced (I used cremini mushrooms)

Sauce Ingredients
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked or regular paprika
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup white wine of choice (do not use cooking wine, it sucks!)
*If wine in not your thang, strong vegetable broth may be substituted. However, the flavor will be different as the wine enhances this sauce. 
1 tablespoon corn starch
pinch of salt, optional (add at the end)
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill or parsley for garnish, optional

Preheat a large cooking pan over a medium heat. Add oil and mushrooms and cook for about 6 minutes, until the mushrooms become brown, but not burnt. Stir often. Do not be tempted to season the mushrooms with salt at this stage of cooking because this will cause the mushrooms to release water while slowing down the browning process.

While the mushrooms are cooking, prepare the sauce ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk together all the sauce ingredients except for salt and dill. Set aside.

The mushrooms should be ready or almost ready by now. Add the sliced seitan to mushrooms sautéing in the cooking pan. Continue sautéing mushrooms with the seitan for another two minutes until the seitan browns and warms through. Add the sauce you set aside, stir for about two minutes, until the sauce thickens. Turn off the heat and taste for additional seasonings. At this point you may add that pinch of salt, depending on preference.

Serve over prepared rice, mashed potatoes or anything you fancy. Garnish with fresh dill or parsley when serving. Store in the refrigerator, in a closed container for 3 to 4 days.
Rock on! 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Quick Creamy Tomato Soup and Happy New Year!

I hope you celebrated New Year's the way you imagined it and that 2015 will be a great year for you. There are no New Year's resolutions for me this year. I have stopped dwelling on past years and I have stopped making New Year's resolutions for some time now. The year 2015 will be as it comes and I am ready. I have gained all I could from dwelling in the past. Similarly, I have surmised waiting for the future me - a better me - is a waste of time, which is why I choose to live in the present now. Of course there is nothing wrong with self-improvement coupled with a set achievement date. However, I have noticed this type of thinking has stopped me from enjoying myself and participating in life for too long. Now, I work on self-improvement in the present and without a set date of completion. I try to live in the present to the best of my abilities. Living this way is a skill I am continuing to learn through daily practice. The longer I practice, the easier it becomes.

For example, I have to admit I lost my holiday spirit when my sweet 15 year old feline friend Othello passed away just before the holidays. I kept focusing on what ifs and I was not able to focus on the present. After all, there were other furry buggers asking for attention and I was not there for them mentally.
Handsome boy sitting on his pillow last summer. The extra leg belongs to my other cat Lilah. 
Even though everything was different and nothing was the same, I made a small step towards living in the present during this difficult time. I purchased a Christmas tree. Did it work? The Christmas tree was almost magical to look at coupled with providing a wonderful diversion of sorts. I enjoyed looking at Dude, 4 year old feline youngster depicted below, checking out the tree.
Dude and his tree. 
Getting a Christmas tree did not bring Othello back, but it helped me with continuing to move forward. Now onto the recipe.
Creamy Tomato Soup. I served it with grilled "cheese "sandwich. 
Creamy Tomato Soup Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium sized onion, coarsely chopped
1 cup vegetable broth or water
1 (28-oz can) crushed tomatoes
1 cup unsweetened soy or almond milk, add at the end
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste, about 1/4 teaspoon
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon turbinado raw cane sugar

In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over a medium heat. Add the onion and sauté it for about 6-10 minutes. Stir often. Now add all the spices, crushed tomatoes and vegetable broth or water. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to medium-low and cook for about 15-20 minutes. Stir often. Turn off the heat, add the plant milk of choice and stir. Blend the soup with an immersion blender to a very smooth consistency. Taste for additional seasonings and adjust accordingly. If you do not have an immersion blender, use a regular blender.

Tip: glass blenders are better choice for this job in comparison to plastic blenders because glass does not stain. Tomato soup will most likely stain your plastic blender.

Store the soup in a closed container and in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Rock on!