The Start of Something Good

Fresh cut papaya and cantelope. Perfect for breakfast and snacking.

There is no more soul satisfying day than Sunday. It is my day to sleep in, linger around steaming, foamy cups of  chocolate-y coffee and spend the day prepping to nourish my body for the upcoming week. Sunday is food prep day. Usually I make a big batch of various vegetable soups, cut up ripe fresh fruit for morning smoothies, and maybe even make a special Sunday treat. The beginning of 2011 came with a realization that I want to get serious about the food I ingest on a daily basis. I want to be healthy, strong, and most importantly, happy.
Although I have always had a love of cooking, I have not always had the best relationship with food. I spent most of my teen years underfed, malnourished, and basically starving. College meant lunch time lattes, oversized muffins, late night diner dashes, and beer Thursdays (and Friday, Saturdays, and some Sundays). The later college years made room for an almost all fruit diet supplemented with soup and salad. Then came the married life, which I started with the same zeal for cooking, but was fascinated by the idea of taking store bought foods and adding a few ingredients to “make it my own”. It allowed me to cook, be creative, and save time so that I could focus on my new career. Except I would hardly call this healthy or even cooking for the matter. I would eventually take a much simpler approach.
Fast forward four years: I have developed quite the obsession with food, nutrition, and the importance of teaching our children about healthy eating. I’ll save my rant about neon colored, sugar saturated and over processed food for another day. Today I want to focus on the pure joy of deciding to (mostly) eliminate packaged foods and eat a plant based diet of fresh vegetables, fruits, hearty whole grains and the occasional shrimp or scallop. I had no idea how exciting this journey would be (so much so that I had to write about it!).
I’ll start with the basics. In the month of January alone, I have discovered a plethora of new foods including eggplant, turnips, and spaghetti squash. Truthfully, I have had these foods before, but it seems like my new attitude has resulted in a totally different sensory experience this time around. Eating has become so much fun! A few simple tools like a steamer and cheesecloth have also taken up residence in my utensil drawer. So far, I am most proud of making homemade yogurt, greek yogurt, yogurt cheese, crock pot applesauce, roasted red peppers, and roasted chickpeas. A few favorite dinners include curried eggplant with white bean stew, spaghetti squash with pea pesto, pan seared scallops with roasted beets and asparagus, and butternut squash soup. Cooking from scratch has become the most fulfilling and time consuming project I have endured in a long time. I love it! However, there are days when I am short on time so it will be my goal to create simple, fresh, and fast go to recipes. In fact, one of my favorite snacks is simply a diced apple sprinkled with cinnamon and drizzled with honey, maple syrup or molasses. Microwave this little concoction for about two minutes and you practically have apple pie. Top it with some greek yogurt and low fat granola and you have a small, healthful, almost dessert worthy meal.

Pasteurizing the milk for homemade yogurt

Yogurt:
Bring 2 C. Milk to 180 degrees.                                                                 
Cool to 105-110 degrees.
Add 2 Tbs. plain yogurt with live cultures.
Pour into sterilized mason jar. Place in a cooler filled with warm (110 degree) water.
In four hours, you will have yogurt!
To make greek yogurt, simply place yogurt in strainer lined with cheesecloth. Place strainer over large bowl. In an hour or two, the remaining yogurt in the cheesecloth will be thickened to greek yogurt. To make yogurt cheese, strain for about 24 hours.

Roasted Chickpeas
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
Rinse canned chickpeas.
Coat with olive oil and desired seasonings (Paprika, Cumin, pepper).
Bake until crispy (about 45 minutes to an hour).
Crunch and enjoy!

Crock-pot Applesauce
Peel, core, and thinly slice 8 apples.
Place in crock pot with ½ C. water or apple juice, sprinkle of brown sugar, drizzle of honey, and cinnamon. Bake on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours.

Next weeks adventures include making almond milk, cooking collard greens for the first time, and maybe even making homemade peanut butter.

My new found love affair with super nutritious foods comes not only from the desire to have a healthy body, but also to have a body that will support my other passion: fitness. I have finally overcome my 12 year mental block against running and laced up my shoes for the first time shortly before Thanksgiving. Running has motivated me to push myself in new and challenging ways and I’m doing something I never thought I could do. I’m running farther and longer than I have in my entire life. Almost two years of yoga and walking gave me the confidence I needed to finally break out into a run (or slow jog. Whatever). The point is I feel great. What started out as a slow five minute walk/alternate run has blossomed into 35-40 minute runs and 5k distances. I consider myself a beginner who is trying to find the right pace, stride, time, and speed. So there it is. In 2011 I want to forget about processed foods and focus on whole plant foods. I want my diet to help me run my first 5k. More than anything else, I want to kick ass.

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