Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Healthy Eating Challenge Update

Hi everyone,

I'm halfway through my healthy-eating challenge, which I started on February 15. Since then, I've noticed more frequent brighter mornings, fully energized days, and a different kind of fullness that has me thinking of food only when I'm actually hungry. Imagine that magic! 

The hardest part of sticking to the challenge is time management. You spend so much more time at the grocery store reading ingredients on all labels and shopping for fresh produce, and then there's the cooking itself. I'm a slow chopper. 

But it's worth it! Here's some deliciousness, courtesy of Ebeth Johnson, Healthy Eating Specialist at Whole Foods, P Street: 
  • Green Banana Almond Smoothie
  • Ebeth's Veggie Stir Fry
  • Romaine Salad with Pine Nuts 

A perfect way to get your daily serving of raw greens in by starting your morning off with a smoothie.  

Green Banana Almond Smoothie
2 cups unsweetened almond milk
2 cups baby spinach 
4 medjool dates, pitted 
2 very ripe bananas
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Dash of cinnamon 

Combine all ingredients (with ice, if you want) until smooth. 

My experience: Instead of spinach, I used kale and I reduced the number of dates to three. Four was too sweet for me: can you believe it? The only problem I've encountered while making this smoothie is that the dates never get fully chopped, so I get some chunks of sweetness in my sips. My blender may be causing this problem, and it's not a bad problem to have in any case, but you might try soaking the dates in water for a while to soften them up before blending. See if that makes a difference. 

My breakfasts consist of oatmeal with raisins, cinnamon, and nutmeg. This week, I've tried some recommended challenge-approved cold cereal called Engine 2 (with almond or soy milk, of course). It's good, filling cereal, but I like my hot oatmeal better.  Lately, I've been hooked on clementines and grab a couple to snack every day.  

For dinner, I've tried a couple of dishes. For this fantastic oil-free veggie stir fry, it's all about the glaze.

Ebeth's Veggie Stir Fry and Peach-Tamari Glaze 
Serves 4

For the glaze: 
1/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
1/2 cup all-fruit peach preserves
3 tablespoons low-sodium tamari
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

For the stir fry:
1 medium red onion, sliced into half moons
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, minced
1 cup red bell pepper strips
1 cup bite-sized broccoli florets
1 cup bite-sized cauliflower florets
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup halved Brussels sprouts
1/2 cup sliced carrots

1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of one lime
1/4 cup roughly chopped macadamia or cashew nuts

In a small bowl, combine all glaze ingredients. Using a whisk, mix well to combine. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of water or vegetable stock over a medium-high flame. Add onion, garlic, ginger, and jalapeno. Cook, stirring for about 5 minutes. Add remaining vegetables one at a time, in the order given, allowing 30 seconds between each addition and tossing well to combine. When all vegetables are added and they are still fairly crisp, add the sauce, stirring to combine. Cook 5-7 minutes until sauce thickens. Just before serving, add cilantro and lime juice and mix well to combine. Transfer to a serving platter and top with chopped nuts. Serve with brown rice, quinoa, or brown rice noodles. 

My experience: You can use whatever veggies that you like or happen to have on hand in this dish. (You can even use pre-cut frozen veggies to save time.) I skipped including the jalapeno pepper and Brussels sprouts in my version. You can also choose a different kind of fruit preserves for a new flavor. I've used all fruit preserves, orange marmalade, and rasberry preserves before. (Peach is still my favorite.)  

Ebeth demonstrated how to make this easy salad during our Glorious Greens class that kicked off our healthy-eating challenge. I was nearly as quick recreating it at home, where I paired it with a light carrot soup. 

Romaine Salad with Pine Nuts
4 cups shredded romaine
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup raisins
1 avocado, halved, pitted and cut into chunks
Juice of one lemon (more or less to taste)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt 
dash of cayenne pepper

In a serving bowl, combine all ingredients. Using clean hands, mix well to combine until avocado becomes a bit creamy. Serve and enjoy! 

My experience: The avocado and lemon make the yummy dressing for this salad, and I don't have the flavors down yet. On my first try, the dressing was too sour and not as creamy as I like. Next time, I'll try a little less lemon and a little more avocado, but yours is up to your taste.

Give these yummy recipes a try and let me know how they turn out! 


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