Spring Semester and More Things with Peanut Sauce

Hello my patient readers! I’ll apologize now for my lack of posts in the last week, but I’d like to think the start of second semester is a worthy excuse. It’s definitely going to be a busy one, with sorority rush, internship applications, study abroad applications, and regular school work. I’m excited to say that I’m actually taking a class on blogging this semester, so maybe there will be some new tricks coming up in future blog posts.

I hope everyones New Year’s resolutions have been going well. I’ve gone to the gym almost every day since coming back to school and I feel as if I’ve been eating healthier. However, it’s restaurant week here in Baltimore so eating out is a must. I’ve already gone to The Dogwood in Hampden, and it was great. I got their vegan caesar salad and a powerhouse sandwich. Both were great.

For those of you who are getting sick of juice cleanses and new diets, I have a great low-carb and delicious meal idea. I think I’ve wrote before about my love for zucchini noodles. And I know I’ve written about my love for peanut butter sauces. So why not combine the two?

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Pad thai is one of my favorite dishes, mostly because of the peanut sauce. So here is my healthy take on peanut sauce. Most recipes I see on the internet have way too much peanut butter, which makes for a sauce high in fat. I think the balance between agave and peanut butter in this version makes for a great sauce. Paired with zucchini and broccoli, this dish becomes a perfect and fast weeknight meal.

Peanut Sauce:

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Ingredients (makes 3/4 cup):

1/4 cup smooth peanut butter

1/8 cup sesame oil

1/4 cup agave

1 tbsp. water

3/4 tsp. ground ginger

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Directions:

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until well combined. Taste sauce, add salt and pepper to taste.

This sauce can be refrigerated for about 3 days, just microwave to soften before using.

Zucchini Noodles (individual portion, I used about two tablespoons of the peanut sauce)

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1. Peel one zucchini until you feel the peeler scraping the seeds.

2. Toss the noodles in about a greased saute pan over medium heat for about 4 minutes.

3. While the noodles are cooking, chop the rest of the zucchini and then add this to the noodles.

4. Saute until the zucchini is warmed through but not mushy. It should not be very hot.

5. Toss with peanut sauce and whatever add ins you like. I used broccoli, but edamame, peanuts, bean sprouts etc would all be great.

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These noodles are a go to for me for a low carb way to curb my pasta craving. I plan on trying shirataki noodles next. Anyone have some suggestions for recipes?

Hopefully I won’t drown in reading and will continue to be active on the blog. Also what does everyone think of the white background for the blog? I’m trying a minimalist theme now, but I’d love criticisms or suggestions!

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Back In Balty and Maple Apple Granola

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Oats are one of my favorite foods. I can’t explain it but something about their chewiness and wholesome taste is completely addictive. So of course I also love granola. But granola is one of those foods that I get upset about – something that should be so healthy usually is full of sugar, process, high fructose corn syrup and fat. And even when it’s not over processed it’s usually chock full of nuts. Not that I have anything against nuts and they are healthy in moderation. But in case it hasn’t become really obvious to my readers, I don’t “do” moderation. And 1/4 of a cup of granola is never filling enough for breakfast anyways, let’s be honest. So my solution? Make my own granola!

My dog Charlie, licking her chops thinking about my granola

My dog Charlie, licking her chops thinking about my granola.

I scoured quite a few granola recipes, considered what my favorite additions tended to be, and did quite a lot of Foodgawker stalking. Finally I decided that I wanted a granola with a good amount of oats, obviously, some protein, and have it be sweet and filling. Quinoa has been popping up in a lot of granola recipes, and to me it was a perfect way to get some protein in without being to calorie dense. For the sweet I decided on maple syrup and apple sauce, a dash of almonds for extra protein, and to make it a little more filling? Cheerios! 100 calories in a cup, so it’s perfect to add some volume without guilt. The Cheerios actually toasted up perfectly in the oven too. All in all, I thought my granola tasted amazing and is way healthier than any store bought kind I’ve seen. If you have any suggestions for me though, please share!

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In other news, I’m finally back at Hopkins. With a full week before classes start I’ve been doing a good amount internship work as well as figuring out study abroad for the Fall (!!!). Unfortunately this means I’m back to my crappy kitchen, but hopefully I’ll still push myself to make more recipes. I’ve gotten quite a few recommendations to make so be on the lookout for reader’s choices!

Maple Apple Granola for Two (feel free to double or triple the recipe, but I have to make small batches because I’ll eat all of it)

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup Cheerios

1/8 cup rolled oats

1/8 cup white quinoa (rinsed well to get rid of the bitterness)

1/8 cup crushed almonds

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce

3 tablespoon maple syrup

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Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, mix until well combined.

3. Grease shallow baking pan and pour granola onto it. Don’t spread the mix too thin because you want everything to stick together. See pictures for a reference.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for the first 5-7 minutes, then take out and mix around. Put back in the oven at 300 degrees.

5. Bake for another 15-20 minutes, taking out every 5-7 minutes to mix. If it seems like it’s getting burnt turn the temperature down even more.

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Notes: The applesauce adds a lot of moisture so be patient when baking. You want *most* of the moisture to be gone by the time it’s done. If you think it’s getting burnt but is still too wet, just take out of the oven and let it cool. This tastes amazing with soy milk and makes the milk taste all mapley and delicious.

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The weather is so beautiful here in Baltimore, I hope everyone else is enjoying a mild January.

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Color pre-baking.

Color post-baking. See how nice and golden it's become?

Color post-baking. See how nice and golden it’s become?

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Review of Canyon Ranch (Rejuvenation, Relaxation and Really Small Portions)

Okay, I was bad. I spent four days and three nights at Canyon Ranch and took only three pictures for this blog post. And only one of those was food. But in my defense, this vacation was all about relaxing, focusing on my healthy and reenergizing my desire to work out. And it definitely did all three of those things. How could I really relax if I had to keep taking pictures of all the delicious food I was eating? Don’t answer that.

Fortunately for everyone, Canyon Ranch has almost all of their recipes online with some pictures. So I am able to not only post some pictures on here of some common food I ate there, but also link you to the recipes! How great is that. There must be about 50 pages of recipes too so definitely browse around. The majority aren’t vegan but there is not a lack of plant based recipes and definitely some that are easily veganized. As a side note, does anyone have a good recommendation for substituting greek yogurt? Other than soy yogurt. So many recipes that are lower fat now have non fat greek yogurt in them and I never know how to work with that.

But back to Canyon Ranch. It’s located in Lenox, Massachusetts and is open year round. The idea behind the resort is that you’re supposed to get healthy, whether that be getting you into exercise classes or giving you perfectly portioned meals. Some people stay for MONTHS at this place, which I think is pretty excessive. It’s not the cheapest vacation in the world, and honestly, if I had to focus on only exercise and food for months on end I’d probably go crazy.

The resort was built off an old mansion

The resort was built off an old mansion

But I took full advantage of the time I was there, and picked up a few good habits/recommendations. The resort offers a varied number of classes, ranging from ab classes to Zumba to yoga and interval classes. I did Zumba (of course I did, I’m a 19 year old girl, Zumba was made for me), some abs classes, a ballet barre class (by far the hardest but one of the most enjoyable), and a rejuvenating yoga class. The latter was basically a lie down in relaxing poses for 45 minutes, and after a day of being in the gym or in a class it was great.

Of course there is also a spa, and yes I did get a massage. I love massages, like a lot. Nothing beats getting rid of all that tension and stress and knots in the back. There’s an indoor pool, a hot tub, various saunas, and even a Eucalyptus Steam Room. Not too bad of a way to pass the time.

Pretty Berkshire Snow

Pretty Berkshire snow

And finally the food. Salad bar at every meal, lots of vegan options and good service. The amount of food they give you is also a good reminder that we all over eat, everything. Seeing the proper food portions definitely will help me work on that at school. For the most part the food was really good. I had a delicious curry one night with pineapples and veggies, a bean quesadilla for lunch another day (the only food I took a picture of) and they offered some of the best granola-crunch I’ve ever had. But you can definitely tell it’s healthy food. When they offer steamed vegetables, they mean steamed vegetables. No spices, no seasoning, nothing. I appreciate the detox idea behind this but it also meant some of the dishes fell flat. I had a chipotle bean soup one day that basically tasted like beans floating in water. The pasta sauce I got for dinner the first night tasted like it was store bought. But the more interesting the dish sounded the better it was. Also the veggie burger was one of the best vegan burgers I’ve had.

Black bean quesadilla, only food picture I took

Black bean quesadilla, only food picture I took

Over-all? I’d definitely give the experience a thumbs up. It helped remind me to drink more water, work out more, and eat in moderation. Would I want it to be every vacation I went on? Probably not. But it’s a great way to kickstart healthier habits, especially in the New Years resolution frenzy right now. I’m actually excited to head back to the gym when I get back to school (tomorrow!). If you’re looking for a similar type of break, this is definitely the place. If you think vacation should be reserved for time whens you can indulge and pretend calories don’t matter (I mean it’s true, calories obviously don’t count in the Caribbean), this probably wouldn’t be your style.

Well I hope this was interesting! Below are links to recipes, including some pictures (all from the Canyon Ranch recipe site). Get ready for a return to my own creations soon. And it includes peanut butter. Just saying.

Canyon Ranch Recipes I Had:

Pumpkin Crunch… Probably my favorite thing I had the whole time I was there

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Mongolian BBQ Marinated Tofu… I had this quite a few times and although the tofu itself wasn’t seasoned the sauce was quite good

Vegetarian Bean Chili… Thick, tomatoey and delicious

Miso Soup… Not the most flavorful soup but for only 45 calories I’ll take it

Flat Bread… I had it with tomato sauce, mushrooms, zucchini and peppers

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Canyon Ranch Recipes I Want to Try:

Edamame Pot Stickers

Vegetarian Hot and Sour Soup

Brady and Co – Vegan Superbowl Snacks

I write this post as I sit in my suite at the Canyon Ranch Resort in Lenox. For those of you who don’t know what Canyon Ranch is, basically it’s an all inclusive health resort. You get perfectly portioned meals, lots of exercise classes each day, a pool, gym, running track and spa. It’s detox heaven, exactly what I need before I head back to the retox at Hopkins on Friday. It’s been a nice long break and I’ve enjoyed it so much but I miss all my friends and even Baltimore, so it’s about time to go home. But back to Canyon Ranch. I’ll definitely be doing a review in a later post.

Now I have to talk about something more important. The New England Patriots, my favorite sports team. You all should know that they played in their division play off game yesterday, but for those of you who suck and don’t care… THEY WON. Which was expected. Next week they play the Baltimore Ravens, which is heartbreaking seeing as I love both teams and I respect Ray Lewis so much. But of course it’s Brady and the boys who I will be rooting for next Sunday. Hopefully Ninkovich will pull off a few more pivotal plays again.

What does this have to do with food? Well one of the countless reasons football is my favorite sport to watch is the tradition surrounding it. Every Sunday millions of Americans sit down to drink some beers and scream at the TV while watching hours on end of the game. Most of those people will sit down to pizza, hamburgers, chips and dip, and wings. Of course it’s a little hard to enjoy the usual game day fare when you’re vegan and trying to eat a little healthier. The solution? Buffalo cauliflower wings!

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I’m sure if you’re on Pinterest then you’ve seen this recipe before, it’s become kind of a thing. As buffalo wings are one of the things I miss since being vegan, this was a perfect recipe to try my hand at. I used PETA’s recipe, but in the one posted below I changed it a bit. I thought they were a little too floury, and the margarine unnecessary. I also added in some cornstarch to make them a little crispier. Also I apologize again for the photos (ok this is getting too common) I took them with the good ole iPhone.

Just some other ideas for vegan game day snacks — Chips and guac, raw veggies, or maybe try your hand at some vegan pretzels? I like my pretzels with mustard but here’s a great recipe from Fork and Beans for a jalapeno cheese pretzel.

Vegan Buffalo Cauliflower Wings

Ingredients:

1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets. Really whatever size you’d like them to be.

1.5 tsp cornstarch

2 tsp. garlic powder

1 cup water or soy milk

3/4 cup flour (I used whole wheat but if you’re not too concerned with the difference between whole and all purpose, AP would probably taste better)

1 cup buffalo sauce (I like my “wings” with lot of sauce so I probably used closer to two cups… oops)

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Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and grease a pan.

2. Mix water or milk with flour, cornstarch and garlic powder.

3. Once well combined, cover cauliflower with the mixture. A good method would be to just dunk the cauliflower right into it so that they are evenly coated. Don’t make the coating too thick.

4. Bake cauliflower for about 15 minutes, until the coating has goldened a bit.

5. Cover the cauliflower with buffalo sauce. Again, dunking would be a good method.

6. Bake for an additional 5-8 minutes.

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Be careful to watch the florets while they’re in the oven as each oven is different, and mine has been pretty temperamental lately.

Who will you be cheering for next week? Remember there is only one right answer.

What are the traditional snacks at your Super Bowl Party.

Yay go Pats!

In The Words of LMFAO, I Work Out!

If you’ve read my introductory post you probably know part of the reason I became vegan was to make better food decisions, while also fighting the weight I put on in college. Right now I’m definitely at a perfect weight and I don’t want you all to think I’m changing it up to lose more weight. But the truth of the matter is I am really out of shape. Ever since I had to stop horse back riding I’ve let myself become lazy and sit around watching romantic comedies instead of going to the gym.

And I really want to be in shape, just for my own self gratification. So first I told myself I was going to try and train for a half marathon. And let me tell you, that is not happening. I blame it mostly on the fact I have sports induced asthma and tendonitis in one ankle but let’s be honest, I also can’t stand running more than a 5k. And I have a feeling a lot of you out there feel the same…

So instead I’m going to start doing yoga, get my ass back to the gym and on the elliptical and do strength exercises during tv shows. If you have ever been on Pinterest I’m sure you’ve seen those workout routines that have you do, say ten squats every time Chuck or Blair say they can’t be together (yes that is a reference to my favorite tv show of all time, Gossip Girl). I tried one of these routines and it actually was a great strength workout. I ended up having to do practically 100 squats. And it burned.

But it’s not just about working out for my journey to being fit. I’m also going to try and stop posting baked good recipes all the time. So get ready for some healthy lunch or dinner ideas coming up.

Like today’s recipe! Spicy tomato, vegetable sauce with rotini. I tried to think of a shorter, more glamorous name but I got nothing. Clearly it’s time for me to go back to school and start creative writing again…

Another special note about this recipe is I made it with my cousin, one of my closest friends. She had made it a bucket list item to get on the blog so here’s my shout out to you, Genna! Thanks for joining with me to make such a healthy delicious dish.CD8U6307

Also, as a precursor for the recipe, if you don’t like heat in your pasta sauce just omit the red pepper flakes and then it will just be a delicious garlicky, red sauce. Also you can choose any time of pasta for this but I would suggest using something like rotini or shells or ziti so they can hold more sauce.

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Easy Spicy Tomato Vegetable Sauce with Rotini

Ingredients:

15-20 cherry tomatos, cut into halves

1/2 medium yellow onion, diced,

1 orange pepper, cut into bite sized pieces

1-2 portobello mushroom caps, sliced

2 garlic cloves

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp oregano

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup favorite pasta sauce (only add if you want a saucier sauce) (sorry that’s a terrible description)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 box rotini

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Directions:

1. Heat water on stove.

2. While water is heating, add oil to pan on medium heat. Once the oil is heated add garlic and red pepper flakes.

3. Once the garlic is browned, add tomatos, onion and pepper.

4. Once the tomatos have broken down, add salt, pepper, oregano and mushrooms. Hopefully by this point the water is boiling and the pasta has been added.

5. Once the pasta is cooked, add a quarter cup of pasta water and however much red sauce you want to bring the sauce to the desired consistency.

6. Pour the pasta into the sauce pan with the sauce and cook for a minute or so. Serve immediately.

It’s such an easy sauce and you can really sub in more or less vegetables as you choose.

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What do you all do for fun workouts?

Any dinner or lunch dishes you want me to feature on the blog?

Happy eating!

Healthy Banana Brookies

I know, the word healthy usually denotes a treat that may taste good but has the underlying notes of not being quite as good had it been made with oils, sugar, butter, etc. And yes the word “brookie” usually denotes brownies and cookies, which these are not. Instead they are bread and cookies combined — and for me, anything that includes banana bread is amazing. The funny thing is I actually don’t like bananas much at all but put them in bread, cookies, anything to replace oils and I’m on board. And let me also promise you that these may be healthy, they don’t taste like it. My mother was even willing to give them to neighbors as thank you presents, and seeing as neither my mom nor my neighbors are anything close to being vegan, I’d say that’s a pretty good sign that these are delicious.

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I also want to quickly discuss something that has been brought to my attention recently. That is soy. A lot of people feel hesitant to become vegan because of the emphasis on soy products – soy milk, soy ice cream, tofu, tempeh, etc. There have been multiple studies that show soy actually can be bad for you, whether that be inhibiting protein intake or increasing estrogen levels. Being a bit of daddy’s girl, I usually go to my dad with such questions, as he is a doctor (general physician if you must know). And his answer was pretty obvious – “Everything in moderation.” He didn’t seem to believe that soy had as terrible effects as some studies show, but a vegan shouldn’t rely on soy products for all protein or other nutrients. Lucky for us vegans we have tons of other ways to get protein – beans, nuts, SPINACH! There are so many ways to go vegan and avoid soy products. Let me know if you have any more questions on the topic! But from now on I will denote if a recipe is soy-free, and I’ll try to incorporate more soy free recipes to make sure every kind of plant based diet is accounted for.

This does tie into today’s recipe, as these scrumptious banana brookies are indeed soy free. And guess what? They’re also oil free, sugar free and fat free. Yay! I would enjoy these with a cup of milk, and they’re perfect for dessert, breakfast, or a snack. For my parents I added in semi sweet chocolate chips but that of course makes them unvegan and a little less healthy. You can always do that or add in vegan chocolate to make them a little more dessert like.

Healthy Banana Brookies (adapted from The Minimalist Baker)

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Ingredients:

2 very ripe bananas

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp cornstarch

2 tbsp water

1 tsp vanilla

2 tbsp maple syrup

2 tbsp agave nectar

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

3/4 cup rolled oats

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Directions:

1. In a large bowl, mash the banana then add baking soda, baking powder, salt, cornstarch, vanilla extract, water, agave nectar, maple syrup and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined.

2. Add in the whole wheat pastry flour and rolled oats and stir. It should be wet and sticky, but if it appears runny, add another 1/4 cup or more of oats.

3. If you want to add in chocolate chips do so now, and stir until just combined. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes while preheating oven to 375 degrees.

4. Scoop slightly rounded 1 Tbsp measurements of the batter and drop onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a non-stick silicon baking mat. Space about 1 inch apart, then slightly press down with back of spoon.

5. Bake for 10-11 minutes or until they appear set. You aren’t going for brown edges – you want them moist and just cooked. Let cool slightly on cooling rack and serve warm or at room temperature. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

I apologize for the picture quality. I stupidly baked these around 5:00 in the afternoon on a cloudy day so the natural light sucked. Oh well.

I hope everyone is having a good first week of 2013. Get ready for an upcoming post on fitness and my battle with yoga.

Bon Appetit!

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