Why Seaweed Salad is Everything

I recently took a trip to the new Gelson’s they just opened in my town, and to my very pleasant surprise, they of course took the time to incorporate a little sushi/seafood section, complete with ahi tuna poke, spicy ahi tuna poke and seaweed salad (among other things).

The way I feel about seaweed salad is hard to explain, so I’ll just leave it at this: it’s awesome.  The only time seaweed salad is not awesome is when you’re on a first date (it gets all up your teeth, which usually requires actual floss) and when it’s been sitting out too long and develops a funky smell.  Usually I steer clear from buying it at grocery stores, but Gelson’s has really stepped their game up with this new location and it looked so delicious.

This post was extremely necessary because for lunch I had a pretty typical leafy green salad with spring mix, shaved zucchini, avocado and hummus, and decided last minute to add some extra seaweed salad (and some ahi tuna poke). While of course it’s delicious by itself, it’s also pretty delicious mixed in with a big raw green salad. In case anyone is unfamiliar with what seaweed salad looks like, it’s the stringy green stuff in between the tuna and the hummus (I know, not the most appetizing description, but the picture speaks for itself).

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Anyway, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to do some research on why else seaweed salad is awesome (aka nutrition and shiz). And so without further ado, here are all the reasons why you should eat seaweed salad:

  1. Only about 15 kcal/oz (a typical serving size is 3-4 oz) depending on how it’s made – in case you were wondering, seaweed salad is typically made with sesame seeds, sesame oil, vinegar and garlic.
  2. It’s high in calcium, magnesium, folate, and iron
  3. No cholesterol (this one should be obvious) and very little sodium, unless you add a bunch of soy sauce like I usually do at sushi restaurants
  4. Contains sesame oil, which is high in heart-healthy unsaturated fats!

So yeah, that’s what I found in a quick search for all the benefits of seaweed salad.  Nutrition aside though, it really is delicious and I highly suggest you order it the next time you’re out to sushi. You can also purchase it at fancier supermarkets and at fish markets.

 

Whole Wheat Tortilla Recipe!

Recently I sat down and wrote out my 1 year, 2 year and 5 year goals.  One of my 2 year goals is to learn how to make anything I would ever want to make – from milk to bread to cheez-its. Lately I’ve been working on mastering bread, because after taking a Food Science class last semester, I gained a lot of confidence in making bread because I actually learned what the hell is going on with gluten (and no, gluten is not evil unless you’re celiac).

One of the easiest flour products to make is flour tortillas! So in honor of Taco Tuesday, I made homemade tortillas to use in vegan tacos, and I decided to share the recipe with you guys. I got this recipe from 100 Days of Food.

Flour Tortillas

Ingredients

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  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup warm water

Directions

  1. Combine the whole wheat flour, vegetable oil and salt in a large bowl (preferably in a large mixer bowl)
  2. Beat mixture with an electric dough hook mixer for 3-5 minutes until the mixture becomes crumbly
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  3. While mixing, slowly add the warm water until a smooth dough forms
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  4. Take the dough out of the bowl and divide into 12 equal sized pieces (I just cut it)
  5. Roll each piece into a ball, flatten it out on a baking sheet (I forgot to do this step), cover with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature for anywhere from 15 minutes – an hour.
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  6. Grease a large skillet or pan with a little bit of vegetable oil and heat over medium-high heat. Sprinkle a baking sheet or the counter with about a tablespoon of flour, and roll each ball out with a rolling pin.
  7. Cook the tortillas, one at a time, about 30-45 seconds on each side.  You know the sides are ready when they start to bubble up.  I found that while one is cooking, there is exactly enough time to roll out the second and get it ready.

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And that’s it! The tacos were just onions, peppers, mushrooms, zucchini and this vegan ground beef I found at Gelson’s. I also made black beans and homemade guacamole! Sooo delish. Try it out and let me know what you think!

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Breakfast and Lunch in 10 Minutes

So this morning I accomplished the impossible, and I have to say, I’m pretty impressed with myself.  Not only did I wake up and successfully dress myself just 20 minutes before I had to leave, but I also made breakfast and lunch just in the knick of time.  And how did I accomplish this pretty amazing feat? 

Leftovers!! Simple as that. 

Granted, it’s not really as simple as that.  I also went to bed with a very well-thought-out plan so that I could wake up as late as possible and get everything done in order to leave with my roommate by 7:20.  I also moved very quickly and had to sacrifice any time spent on my face or hair, so you’re welcome world. And frankly, it doesn’t really matter what you look like in 7 degrees at 7 am, because if you’re doing it right, you don’t have any skin showing.  
 
ANYWAY, leftovers are awesome because if you make enough of something, it will actually last a couple days, and then you have an excuse to be too lazy to cook.  Also, they can be turned into a variety of different meals over the following few days with a little creativity.
 
Now, if you’re one of those people that tends to cook single servings every time you cook for yourself, I commend you because you’re probably much better at portion control, but that is just far too much work for me.  The thing with cooking one meal is that you have to cook every meal, or you end up ordering out or eating a lot of toast… and toast gets old. I eat a LOT of toast. Instead, whenever you make a good meal or make grains/pasta, make 4 or 5 servings and thank yourself later when you have something healthy already cooked in the fridge!  For those of you who are starting on your health journey or starting to familiarize yourself with cooking all your own meals, cooking in advance is the best advice I could give, in addition to learning how to make all your own spreads (i.e. make your own hummus… I just made some today and omgnomnom)
 
Recently I’ve been making a conscious effort to cook a couple cups of one or two types of grains every weekend so that I have a complex carb base for my meals throughout the week.  I like knowing that even if school gets crazy busy, I have healthy options to grab at any minute.  For instance, the other day I accidentally bought a HUGE bulk-bag of Farro, one of my new favorite grains, and so the first thing I did when I got it in the mail (yes I order my grains on Amazon), is make two cups of it and threw it in some tupperware in the fridge.  Ever since, I’ve been adding just a little bit to my salads or snacks and it’s still lasting me a while! 
 
And then last night, I made a huge pot of my winter favorite… Mediterranean Veggies (Check out my Instagram for the recipe). 
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Yeah… that is feta. And it’s amazing, trust.  
 
And then this morning I used all my leftovers to make two delicious meals!  Literally while brushing my teeth in the kitchen, I made a mini omelette out of one egg and one egg white, a couple fork-fulls of my Med Veggies and some shredded deli turkey.  Then of course I added a little cheese because egg sandwiches don’t stick together nearly as well without cheese (and also because… you know… cheese). I spread some avocado on both sides of a toasted English muffin, added the egg and a handful of fresh spinach, wrapped the sandwich in some tinfoil and voila! Breakfast is born! 
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While the eggs were cooking, I took out my grains and made a little to-go container of farro, Mediterranean Veggies, spinach, a piece of chicken I had left over from earlier this week, and a grape leaf to top it off.  And it ended up being the perfect little lunch snack to eat before Pilates to give me some much needed energy.
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So, to recount, in 10 minutes I made breakfast and lunch AND dressed myself like a big girl.  I got a ride to Starbucks from one of my roommates and enjoyed my breakfast sandwich over an incredibly necessary cup of coffee. And BOY was it delicious, especially since it was still hot by the time I got to starbucks.  Sorry chewy, flat, always initially too hot but a little cold in the center egg sandwiches from Starbucks, but I’m sticking to my real foods. 

The Soggy Salad Solution

Happy Hump Day!

The theme of today is SALADS! I love salads because they make the perfect lunch.  Salads are light enough that I don’t get tired and groggy for the rest of the day, but they are also filling enough to keep me going.

The problem with packing a salad and bringing it around with you to class is that they always get soggy, and whenever I put avocado in the salad, it’s brown by the time I go to eat my lunch. And in my opinion, very few things are worse than a soggy salad with brown avocado.  Like seriously that sounds horrible.  And I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve thrown out my beautifully made salad because it gets so soggy and gross by the time I have an opportunity to sit down and eat.

SO I came up with a solution.  And I’m really excited about this solution because I’m much more inclined to make salads when I know they won’t be soggy by the end of the day.

The Solution? Containers within containers WITHIN lettuce.

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This is what my salad looked like at 5 pm yesterday, even though I made it at 7 am.  The lettuce was still so fresh!

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What you’re seeing in this picture is an organic Kale and Spinach salad with lentils, turkey, olives, tomatoes, diced red onion and avocado.

You’re probably wondering what exactly the secret is, so let me tell you…

How to Keep Your Salad From Getting Soggy

  1. Dice up any juicy ingredients (aka tomatoes), onions, avocado and celery or cucumber.  This isn’t an all inclusive list, but basically the rule of thumb for choosing ingredients to put in the small container is to include ingredients that you want to marinate in your dressing for the entire day.  It’s really important to include avocado in this container (I suggest at the top) if you plan on using avocado in your salad
  2. Once all your “wet” ingredients are diced and put in a small container (with avocado on top), squeeze a wedge of lemon over the top of the avocado.  Form this point you can add whatever dressing you like! For most of my salads, I keep the dressing pretty simple with 1 Tbsp of Olive Oil and a little more lemon juice.  The lemon juice is crucial though because this will keep the avocado from going brown.
  3. Close the small container and put it on the bottom of the big salad container.  Put any other “dry” ingredients (turkey, olives and lentils are pictured here, but I’m also a fan of adding hemp seeds, other kinds of seeds or nuts, cheese, etc.) on the bottom of the container UNDERNEATH the lettuce.  Putting all the ingredients below the lettuce will keep the lettuce fresh all day!
  4. Add any lettuce of your choosing, salt and pepper (or other spices) and you’re done!

And here’s what the salad looked like when I dumped out the dressing/ingredient container on top!

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How good does that look?? It blows my mind that the salad stayed so perfect from 7 am until 5 pm when I finally had a break to eat.

The thing I will say is that if you’re going to eat a home made salad, pay the extra $1 to buy organic lettuce! It’s pretty rare (at least on the East Coast) to find restaurants that make salads with organic, fresh ingredients, so if you’re going to put in the effort, you might as well make it as clean and nutrient-rich as possible.

Also, don’t be afraid to add some carbs! Just because it’s a salad doesn’t mean it has to be all veggies.  I love making salads with a serving of organic brown rice, especially on days when I need that extra energy kick.

So that’s all for today! I would love to hear what you guys like to put in your salads and if you have any other suggestions for making this packed lunch even better!

Getting My Health Groove Back

Happy week 3 of classes!! Finally I’m settled in (for the most part) and somewhat adjusted to attending classes again.  Unfortunately though, with moving, having to restock a new kitchen and hanging out with friends again, my eating habits are a bit out of whack, to say the least.  But before I get into that, let me recount what’s been going on the past month.

So as you probably noticed (or didn’t, whatever), I decided to stop posting for the last few weeks of summer so I could just relax and not look at my phone/computer for a while (Technology breaks are so necessary).  Usually what happens is that whenever I stop posting, I get really off track and freak out about how I look, etc.  This time was totally different though!

It was pretty amazing.  While I was home I ate healthy, I worked out, I went out to dinner and ordered what I wanted (within reason), I ate slowly and I felt good.  I didn’t weigh myself for probably 3 weeks.  For once I wasn’t worrying about being 1 pound overweight or eating a bit of pasta for dinner.  I was extremely relaxed, I looked great and most importantly, I felt great about myself.

Unfortunately though, by the end of summer and the start of my moving period in Boston, I completely stopped working out because I was either busy or trying to get some rest! I lost my workout groove, and my eating habits went just as quickly.  As soon as I stop working out, I start obsessing over calories and “staying skinny” or whatever, restricting myself during the day and then filling the dissatisfaction with big, calorically-dense meals at night.

I HEAVILY reincorporated cheese (and sometimes meat) into my diet because it was being offered to me and hey, I do love cheese.  Needless to say, this kind of diet coupled with no exercise led to more fat gain than I would have liked.

Not only that, my cravings have been crazy and my desire to eat anything and everything has been through the roof.  Not to mention that move-in and syllabus week consisted of far too many pizza deliveries.  And frankly, I am really feeling the consequences of the past 3 or so weeks, both physically and mentally.  Every time I have eaten something processed in the past week, my stomach starts to hurt within 2 hours.  And yet I keep doing it!

I’ll be honest… It has been really tough getting into good eating habits having a new kitchen.  First, it’s hard to know what to buy in order to make full meals.  Also, when everyone else around you (roommates, other friends, etc.) are also in the transition period and immediately go to delivery, it’s REALLY hard to have any desire to cook something healthy and seemingly less desirable.  I struggle to remind myself that I FEEL better when I make my own food, even if the food being ordered is “healthy”

Thankfully though, class has actually started and I am finally figuring out when to work out and when I’m generally eating.  In essence, I’m working on re-establishing my healthy habits, but I’m quickly realizing that it will take a lot more effort than I’m putting in.  Feeling so down on myself, coupled with feeling physically ill after many of my food choices, has prompted a list of back to school goals to get me on track:

  1. Start preparing meals, recipes, or even just meal ideas in advance
    The other night I made 2 jars of the Probiotic Oatmeal Recipe and I am still working through those.  They are so filling and have so been awesome to have on the go, so I would like to expand on this habit by planning out my meals/smoothies and having them prepared in advance so I can save as much time as possible.
  2. Cut out cheese… mostly
    Except for the occasional feta added to a salad or slice of pizza, I want to cut cheese out of my diet.  Cheese has become an integral part of my diet and it doesn’t make me feel good, but I also know I love cheese, so I will treat myself every once in a while.
  3. Always use a plate when eating
    I’ve been the worst with snacking recently.  The problem with snacking is that it can be so mindless, you don’t even realize how much you’re actually eating (especially with goldfish).  The solution? Put everything on a plate.  I’m even going to start weighing things out because that method has always been so effective for me when I set my mind to it.
  4. Remind myself how good it feels to be healthy
    Finally, I really need to stop getting down on myself and stop criticizing my body in front of the mirror.  Instead, I need to realize that eating healthy is about FEELING good, not looking skinnier or whatever. All I want is to feel good again and to get through a full day without being bloated and sick to my stomach. That shouldn’t be too hard right?

So yeah, that’s my back to school check list!! I’ll keep you guys updated with how it’s all going and I’ll post as much as I can with school work and everything.  YAY HEALTHY EATING!

Protein-Packed Probiotic “Oatmeal” Recipe (With Kefir!)

HI!

Woo I have a new recipe for you guys with some new products that I loveeee.

Protein-Packed Probiotic Oatmeal

Being home has been awesome because not only do I get some true R&R, but I also get to go to the huge Whole Foods in my town and get a little crazy trying new things. One of the new things I’ve been reading about is Kefir, so I decided to buy some Kefir-Enhanced Non-Fat Milk from Whole Foods and see what the hype is all about.

What is Kefir?

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Kefir is really similar to yogurt, in that it is a cultured milk,  meaning it has live and active probiotic bacteria cultures in the milk to promote gut function.  It is packed with vitamins, minerals and SO MUCH PROTEIN, containing 16 g of protein per 1 cup of Kefir milk.  

What’s awesome about this milk product is that it is safe for people who are lactose-intolerant or who are dairy sensitive.  The live bacteria actually eat the lactose (the sugar) in the milk, so our bodies don’t ever have to deal with it.  And if that isn’t good enough for those really sensitive to dairy, Kefir can be easily grown in any type of milk from a small sample, purchasable online!

Kefir has an incredible amount of calcium, magnesium and Vitamin D, and is known to calm the nervous system.  Not only that, but the protein in Kefir is much more bioavailable than protein from animal sources, meaning it is more easily digested and accessed by the body.

Long-story short, Kefir is great for digestion, and even greater as a post-workout protein source.  Now…

How can you use it to make this “probiotic oatmeal”?

Well for starters, this recipe is actually for muesli, but it’s easier to refer to it as oatmeal.  This is a very simple breakfast or post-workout meal that you can make anywhere from 2-3 days in advance (depending on the fruit) in order to have something on-the-go for those rushed mornings.

Ingredients: 

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  • 1/4 cup of Rolled Oats (not steel cut or instant – Can be found packaged or in bulk at Whole Foods or other health food / grocery stores)
  • 1/3 cup Kefir milk (With this oatmeal you can use any type of milk, but I chose Kefir for the added digestive properties)
  • 1/4 cup low-fat Greek Yogurt
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of Chia Seeds
  • Any fruit, honey, syrups, spices or sweeteners you desire!
    - Use 1 tsp of honey or syrup
    - With fruit, feel free to use half or whole, and dice the fruit into small pieces.  My flavor this morning was banana, so I only used half of a diced banana

Directions: 

  1. Combine oats, milk, yogurt and chia seeds in a 1 cup container, either in a mason jar or in any other half-pint container
  2. Add Sweeteners and syrups, and mix well:
    I used 1 tsp of Agave Nectar because I couldn’t find any honey, and honestly I just really like the taste of Agave Nectar
  3. Add fruit last and gently mix in to preserve the integrity of the fruit.  I like having big chunks in the oatmeal because I feel like there is more flavor that way. Last night I mixed the banana in with everything all at once and the banana got kind of mushy.  Just in general, banana will get mushy, but it’s easier to just add it last
  4. Close the container and place in the fridge for at least 8 hours!

What I love about this recipe is that the chia seeds and the oats really soften and absorb liquid for a great, almost pudding-like texture in the morning.

I actually chose to double this whole recipe because this morning I took two Pilates classes, one at 8 am and one at 10 am.  For my training I need observation hours, so in the hour between classes I observed a class.  I made this double recipe last throughout my whole workout by eating part for breakfast, part in between classes and the rest after.  Muesli is packed with carbohydrates and protein to energize you for an early morning workout and to replenish you with all the essential amino acids after your workout.

Here’s the nutrition on 1 serving of muesli:

Screen Shot 2013-08-12 at 11.57.57 AMAs you can see, this has an incredible amount of protein and carbohydrates, both of which really kept me feeling energized throughout my workouts.

And of course, I must give credit where it is due: I got this recipe originally from Callie because she’s awesome and has been eating trendy health recipes since she was a baby, but specifically from The Yummy Life.  Check out her No-Cook Overnight Oatmeal page for flavor ideas.  I haven’t tried any of her flavor ideas, because I like experimenting with my own, but she has some great suggestions!

4-7-8 Technique for Cravings, Anxiety and Sleep

Hello from Vail!

Boy is it beautiful up here, I definitely wouldn’t mind moving to Colorado at some point in my life.  With over 300 days of sun per year in this wonderful sport-oriented state, I can’t imagine depression and anxiety are very prevalent in the people who live here.

For those who don’t know me, I tend to be a very anxious person, and every now and then my anxiety is debilitating.  When under a lot of stress, I am incredibly prone to panic attacks and I often find it difficult to explain what triggered it or why all of a sudden my throat closes up, I can’t breathe, my vision gets blurry and I start hysterically crying.

Now, my anxiety isn’t always this bad.  Generally I become more anxious from school/work/family/self-image stress, from feeling out of control (yes, I have control issues in case you guys couldn’t tell from the way I treat food), and from neglecting myself and my body’s needs.

Sometimes though, I simply just get anxious.  I’ve been very sick the past couple of days, and this morning when at the Farmer’s Market, I was feeling weak, achey and physically uncomfortable. Those feelings plus the large crowds quickly turned on my anxiety and I had to step aside for a minute to collect myself.

The reason I bring this up is because in the past few days I’ve started practicing this breathing technique, which I stumbled upon the other day, and it has been a great tool to use when trying calm down or sync my mind and body. So…

What is the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique?

This practice originated in Ancient India, and is currently being promoted by Dr. Andrew Weil, who practices, teaches and writes about holistic health.  He discusses how the technique brings about an altered state of consciousness by creating a circuit of breath within your body.

How to Practice this Technique

To start, you should be standing, sitting up straight with your feet flat on the ground, or laying down.  Also, this technique is practiced with yoga tongue placement, which involves resting the tip of your tongue on the gum between the roof of your mouth and your front teeth.  This tongue placement relaxes your neck and head by preventing you from clenching. Now here’s how to practice this breathing exercise:

  1. Exhale completely through your mouth to prepare for the exercise
  2. Inhale for a count of 4 using your diaphragm and allowing your ribs to expand (as opposed to belly breathing, which is shallow)
  3. Hold your breath for a count of 7
  4. Exhale out your mouth for a count of 8
  5. Repeat for 4 cycles

This is meant to be practiced at least twice a day, every day.  Dr. Weil promotes the long-term benefits of doing this everyday, and although I can’t speak on whether or not this is true, I have no doubt in my mind it brings greater awareness and peace of mind overtime.  Even after just a couple of days, I’ve found that it’s much easier for me to manage my stress.  After 4 cycles, I truly feel calmer, in tune with my body and I find that I have forgotten about my stress.

Dr. Weil also discuses the benefits of this technique for getting to sleep, falling back asleep and fighting cravings! I haven’t tried it for cravings yet, but I can see how this would be beneficial because whenever I end up running to the fridge and indulging in my craving, I am usually highly anxious.  I rarely stop to think about what I’m doing before indulging.  This technique can provide a nice mental and physical break to relax whatever is going on inside causing this urge to binge. 

I suggest everyone give this technique a try for a week or so, and see how it works! I’m going to make an effort to practice this every day, and I’ll let you know if there are any noticeable changes in my anxiety levels overtime.

To learn more, here is a video of Dr. Weil’s explanation of the technique: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/VDR00112/The-4-7-8-Breath-Benefits-and-Demonstration.html