Thursday, March 31, 2011

Kale Salad with Avocado and Grapefruit

For some reason, I felt very lethargic today. Maybe it was the stress of having an exam today, or not getting enough sleep last night, but I had no energy. I went to the gym this morning, and did my usual morning workout, but it was rather painful.

Well, the exam is over and done with, so now I can relax and plan fun stuff for the weekend :) Today's dinner was a green smoothie made with spinach, cucumber, mango, and chia seeds and a kale salad with grapefruit and avocado. I felt loads better after eating, which probably means I just needed more nutrients in me. I also had a bowl of yogurt with banana and raw cashews for dessert.

I bought the kale and spinach last Saturday, and they weren't looking too hot by today. The kale lost some of that vibrant green color, and the spinach was a bit wilt-y. I pretty much only have time to shop on the weekends, so I'll have to plan my grocery shopping better. I'll choose some hardier greens next time.

The kale salad was, nevertheless, pretty yummy. I chopped it up and squeezed grapefruit juice to marinate and soften it. The sweetness of the grapefruit complemented the slight bitterness of the kale. It was so juicy and sweet! Not at all sour. I just wish I had more than my measly 1/4 of an avocado. That was all I have left, and I cut it up into small cubes to make it seem like more. Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that. I would rather have plenty of large, velvety chunks of avocado. I'll make this salad again when I have more avocado.

Kale Salad with Avocado and Grapefruit 

  • a bunch of large kale leaves, tough stems removed
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 ruby red grapefruit
Chop up the kale and place it in a bowl. Squeeze out the juice of half a grapefruit over the kale. Let it marinate for a few minutes if your kale is a bit tough. Cut away the rind of the other half of the grapefruit, and dice the fruit. Dice the avocado, and add it to the kale and grapefruit. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Pumpkin Chia Pudding Experiment

I have been looking up more ways to use chia seeds in recipes. Chia seeds can absorb a lot of water, and can thicken up the liquid that it has been soaking in. I found a bunch of recipes for chia puddings, and have been experimenting with my own pudding recipe. I love pumpkin pie. Actually, I love anything that contains pumpkin. So naturally, I decided to make a pumpkin chia pudding.

I have never soaked chia seeds before, so I soaked 1 tablespoon of seeds in 1/2 cup of soy milk to see what would happen:
These seeds have been soaking for a few hours, but it really only needs about 20 minutes. The mixture does get thicker the longer it stands, though. The texture is interesting. It is rather slimy, and the seeds are a bit softer than unsoaked seeds, with a nutty flavor.

I then stirred in about 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spices (only had cinnamon and ginger on hand).
 The soy milk soaked chia and pumpkin puree do not mix together very easily. Also, adding some sweetener and vanilla extract would improve the taste.

I thought it would be easier to just mix all the ingredients together at the beginning, and letting it thicken. This time, I used a little less pumpkin, and the resulting mixture was quite thin.
After letting it soak for about 20 minutes, it thickened to a more pudding-like texture.
I made the second batch right after I finished eating the first batch for dessert, so I put it in the fridge to eat the next day. After letting the pudding sit in the fridge for almost a day, the pudding became thick enough to turn the cup upside down without any of it falling out! That's the power of chia ;) Oh, and it's really tasty, just like pumpkin pie :P

Pumpkin Chia Pudding
makes one serving

  • 1/2 cup vanilla soy milk (or milk of your choice)
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • pumpkin pie spices, to taste (I used cinnamon and ginger)
  • sweetener, to taste (maple syrup, agave, turbinado, brown sugar, etc.)
  • vanilla extract (optional)
Mix everything together in a bowl and let it thicken for at least 20 minutes in the fridge. The longer it sits, the thicker it will become.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Taking a Mental Health Day

College life can be very stressful at times, but I try to manage my stress by taking a day to unwind. This Sunday, I took the day to relax by going to Whole Foods for lunch and reading books and magazines at Borders. I get pretty stressed around mid term time, since my classes just happen to have all their mid term exams in the same week! I just finished a huge wave of exams, so I'm not too stressed right now. I studied a bit Saturday afternoon, so I had plenty of time on Sunday to NOT think about school work.

To manage stress, it's important to take a mental health day and do something that you enjoy. If you are too busy to take a whole day off, find at least a couple of hours to totally unwind. Try going to sleep early and waking up earlier to find time to take a leisurely stroll through the park or neighborhood, sitting in your favorite cafe, or curling up with a good book and a cup of tea. Whatever suits you.

Sunday morning, I woke up early and made myself a mug of coffee, which I sipped in bed, just sitting there and waking up slowly. Then I went to the gym and had a nice workout, making sure I stretched my muscles and doing a little yoga. I took the bus to Whole Foods and made myself a delicious salad from the salad bar. It was a little pricey, but worth it. I spend way too much money eating out, and most of it is so unhealthy. The salad was delicious, and at the same time, nutritious and didn't weigh me down, so I think it was well worth the money.

I topped a bed of mixed greens with edamame, roasted sweet potato, corn, red quinoa, raw beets, a "detox salad" thing that had a mix of veggies, pumpkin seeds, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. I ate it with chopsticks because they ran out of forks! I don't recommend this, it was hard to pick up all the little pieces of edamame.

I also bought some groceries that I used in the wrap recipe from yesterday. Freaking expensive, I tell you. Organic produce is tasty, but when you're a poor student, it's not the most practical to buy organic. I'll stick to conventional, next time, and be more price savvy. It was a splurge (spent almost $40), and I didn't even buy that much! Oh well ;)

I've been experimenting with making chia pudding, and I'll have a pumpkin chia pudding recipe posted soon!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Lovely Veggie Wrap

Today, I made a lovely wrap to bring for lunch. Sometimes I just need a change from the food available on campus. Not to say that the food is terrible. A lot of options are actually healthy, fresh, and local. I just enjoy making my own lunch for a change.

This veggie wrap contains spinach, avocado, tomato, cucumber, and alfalfa sprouts on a multi-grain wrap.

First, slice some veggies. I used about one third of an avocado, four slices of an organic tomato, and a few thin slices of cucumber. Since I am making just one wrap, I only used a third of the avocado. Avocado can oxidize easily, so if you have some leftovers, take care when wrapping it up. I put the two avocado halves together, with the pit still in, and wrapped it tightly with plastic wrap. The pit helps prevent it from oxidizing and turning an ugly, brown color. You can use this trick when making guacamole, as well. If you are making it in advance, or letting it sit out for a while, just plop in an avocado pit and it'll prevent it from turning brown.
I'll use the rest of my avocado in wraps later this week. Or maybe a salad ;)

Lay out the tortilla on a plate, and place a small handful of spinach and sprouts. Place the tomato, cucumber, and avocado slices on top. Now for the tricky part. I was a bit too enthusiastic with the veggies, so I had to remove (eat) some of the spinach before wrapping it up. Roll it up like a burrito, making sure to tuck the edges in well. Sorry I don't have a picture of this. It requires two hands!

 There we go, all wrapped up! Now let's take a look inside, shall we?
Looking good :) I actually would have kept it uncut, since it is easier to transport for my lunch on the go, but I wanted to get this lovely shot! It is well worth it. Just hope it doesn't fall apart in my backpack... I made sure to wrap it tightly with plastic wrap.

Lovely Veggie Wrap

  • 1 multi-grain tortilla (or whatever flavor you like)
  • 4 tomato slices
  • 4 cucumber slices
  • 1/3 avocado, sliced
  • small handful spinach
  • small handful sprouts
Place ingredients in the middle of the tortilla and wrap up like a burrito. Cut in half and serve, or keep it whole to take on the go.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I Love Smoothies!

Did you know, that my smoothie consumption increases exponentially with the temperature? No, really, in the summer, I am constantly using my Vita-mix blender to make refreshing, icy-cold drinks. I buy a big bag of frozen berries from Costco and keep frozen bananas in the freezer at all times, so I can feed my smoothie cravings. I also have a peach tree that produces way more peaches than we can possibly consume, so I usually have quite a few gallon ziplock bags of frozen peaches. My usual smoothie is a few frozen strawberries, half a frozen banana, maybe some honey, blended with some soy milk and ice. I like them thick, almost frozen yogurt-like.

Although it is currently BELOW FREEZING here in this god-forsaken place, I want smoothies! There is snow on the ground, but I am kind of in denial, so I am going to ignore how cold it is outside and pretend it is still 80 degrees. Which it was actually 80 degrees last week. Crazy weather huh?

I brought a blender along with me to school last August, but I haven't really been using it. Let's see, I made one smoothie last semester, and maybe some matcha milk tea (green tea bubble tea) a few times. Another than that, my blender has been neglected, sitting forlornly in it's dusty corner.

I made a promise to my blender that I won't ignore it any longer! (psh, like you don't talk to your appliances?) I have been making green smoothies to try to get more greens into me. Do you know how hard it is to get veggies on campus? Other than eating from the salad bar, there is a pathetic amount of vegetables in the food options on campus. No, ONE leaf of lettuce and three slices of tomatoes in my sandwich is not enough.

Green smoothies are delicious, and so good for you. It's an efficient way to get some greens into your diet, so you aren't wasting so much time munching on that tasteless pile of lettuce from the salad bar like a freaking goat. Blending the greens also releases more phytonutrients and vitamins that your body can absorb if your chewing isn't as effective as said goat. If you don't like the taste of raw greens, up the amount of sweet fruit and it'll mask the flavor of the greens. I promise. To make a green smoothie, just blend up a bunch of leafy greens, like spinach and kale, with some delicious fruit, like banana, mango, berries, pineapple, papaya, etc. You can also add some superfoods, like chia seeds, flax seeds or flax oil, spirulina, acai, goji berries. Add enough water to blend, and you've got yourself a delicious, VERY GREEN, very healthy drink! Oh, and did I mention that green is my favorite color? Just looking at it makes me feel healthy ;)

Look at that beautiful color!
Green Smoothie Recipe #1

  • handful of kale
  • handful of spinach
  • 1/2 mango
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • water
Place ingredients into a blender, and blend on high until smooth. Adjust the amount of water depending on how thick or thin you like your smoothie.

Learning to Eat Mindfully

I am an emotional eater. When I get stressed out, which is rather often, I bury myself in food. I can just eat and eat and eat, no matter how full or sick I feel. Junk food was my drug that could put my mind at ease.

But not really. After binging, there was always the terrible guilt and shame. Junk food gave me a high, but it also came with hideous side effects. And I was addicted. Since I have been binging for so long, I didn't listen to my body's hunger cues, and I have to re-learn how to eat.

What is so complicated about eating? You eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full. You crave something, eat it, and the craving is satisfied. Simple? Maybe, but my wacky brain just didn't get it.

So I am trying to avoid denying myself, or putting temptation in my way. If I had a bag of potato chips in my room, my brain will hone in on those potato chips, distracting me from unimportant things (like homework), until all those chips have been stuffed into my mouth. I am trying to eat more often, and not waiting until I am ravenous at the end of the day, when I feel like eating everything in sight.

Everyday, I have been eating a yummy bowl of oatmeal to help keep me full. I like my oats half oat bran, half rolled oats, cooked in the microwave with water. I have also recently added chia seeds, some chopped mango, and a splash of vanilla soy milk.
Oatmeal with Chia and Mango

I have recently "discovered" chia seeds, and bought a bag of them on Amazon (they were on sale!). Chia is a superfood that is actually pretty amazing for you. In my opinion, they don't have a strong taste, just a mild nutry flavor. The little, black seeds are packed with protein, antioxidants, omega-3's, fiber, and is easily digested and absorbed. Add chia seeds into your diet to promote weight loss and stabilization of blood sugar. They have magical properties when added to water. If you mix a couple of tablespoons in a cup of water and let it stand for about 10 minutes, the mixture will gel. This thickened liquid can help you feel fuller, longer.

Chia can be added to more than just oatmeal and water. Add them to your smoothies, salads, yogurt, granola, soup, pizza, ice cream, on top of a s'more, etc, etc, etc. Haha, you might not want to use my last few suggestions, but my point is that they are very versatile and easy to incorporate into your diet. See, being healthy is easy! So what are you waiting for? Get your chia on, pronto!

More info on chia seeds here
Bought these on Amazon (raw, organic, and on sale!)
But then I found, which is probably a better deal (great website, btw). Wait, I take that back, the shipping is pretty pricey, while I got free shipping on Amazon. Nutsonline has great products, anyway, so I think it would be a better deal if you buy a lot or in bulk.

Mango Chia Oatmeal

  • 1/4 cup oat bran
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 chopped mango
  • soy milk (optional)
Place oat bran, rolled oats, and water into a microwave safe bowl. You can add more or less water, depending on how thick you like your oatmeal. I like mine pretty thin, so I add more water. Microwave for about 4 minutes. Stir in chia seeds and chopped mango. I also like to pour some cold soy milk for some sweetness. Eat!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Eating My Way to Health

Hello and welcome to my blog! I guess this is where I say a little something about myself. I am a rather complicated person, and describing myself would probably take a few volumes, but here are a few bullet points that succinctly sums me up:

  • I love food, eating, cooking, any thing to do with food
  • My eating habits have been royally fucked up for the past few years
  • I want to change my life around by becoming a healthy freak

Yep, that's pretty much all you need to know about me. Oh, and I am also a second year college undergraduate, shuttling myself back and forth between the east coast and the Midwest to attend an overpriced university. So part of the year (school), I am scraping by in my dorm room, without a kitchen, using public transportation to lug myself to the grocery store and back. When I am at home, I have a kitchen chock full of cooking equipment and appliances, and farmer's markets and grocery stores that I can easily reach by car. 

Guess which stage I am in right now? Yep, it's March, it's snowing(?!) outside, and I am stuck in a tiny dorm in the Midwest. Without a kitchen. Or a car. Luckily, I'm pretty clever and I can hack my way through the perils of college cafeteria food and still eat healthily.

Oh yea, I should probably elaborate on that second bullet point. My eating habits are really messed up. Most of the time, I eat too little. A lot of the time I eat too much. That is the oxymoron of binging and purging. I have never been diagnosed with an eating disorder by a professional, but I don't need a professional to tell me that something needs to change. I am sick of hating my body and treating it like a dumpster. I am sick of feeling sick, depressed, alone with my secret.  After years of it, my bones and joints started to ache, I had insomnia, indigestion, heart palpitations, chest pain, constipation, heart burn, and weakness. If I continue with my disorder, I know that it will eventually kill me.

I am going to turn my life around, even if that means that I am going to turn into a complete health nut. At least I'll be healthy, strong, and alive :)

To Health,

The Challenged Health Nut

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