Reset Week (A Week of Healthy Eating)

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012 | Posted under Cooking, Health, Personal, Recipe

I mentioned in my 101 things in 1,001 days post about doing what I call a Reset Week. This is a habit that I started last year. As someone who likes to eat…a lot…and now eats a wide variety of things that I didn’t before, I’ve decided that I need to give my body a break once in a while. I have done juice fasts before, which are fine. After the last one I finished, it was hard to incorporate solid food again, even when I added things back slowly.

Then I got an idea. Why don’t I just cut out some of the foods that I’d like to cut back on for a week (more like five to six days) instead of cutting out solid food altogether? I would begin to think again about how I am eating and remind myself of how to eat healthier. In a way, I would be resetting my eating patterns.
During a Reset Week, beginning on a Sunday or Monday, I refrain from the following until I have a nice, triumphant dinner on Friday night:
No Meat
No Dairy
No Sweets/Dessert (including sugar sweeteners. I try to use agave nectar)
No Alcohol
No Caffeine
and probably something else I’m forgetting as I write this
Essentially, I become a non-drinking vegan for about a week. I also try to eat more fruits and veggies than I normally do already. To be quite honest, it’s not as hard as I thought it would be. The easiest for me is refraining from caffeine since I rarely drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages, including soda. No meat is fine since I was a pescetarian (a fish eating vegetarian) for years and used to it, and I’m not big into dairy (except for cheese…I LURVE cheese).
Surprisingly, the sweets have gotten to be the hardest for me. These days I tend to like a little something small and sweet after dinner. During these weeks, I’ll drink Vanilla Almond milk as my sweet fix. It’s sweetened with cane juice, but I guess it could be worse.
I know many of you are thinking “What’s left to eat?” Well, here’s a sampling of the things I eat during a Reset Week:
Breakfast
-Vanilla Soy Probiotic Yogurt with apple, berries or some other seasonal fruit, sprinkled with ground flax seeds or flax meal
-Steel Cut Oatmeal with drizzle of agave nectar and banana, apples or berries mixed in
I usually use McCanns Quick & Easy Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal because steel cut oats tend to take longer to cook. These take way less time than normal to make.

-Fruit smoothie with almond milk and flax meal
Snacks
-Most nuts (especially walnuts, and almonds are my favorite) are fine. I avoid salted ones though.
-Rice cakes (I like the Lundberg whole grain ones with little to no salt)
-Fruit (I find apples are filling and a great source of fiber)
-Lots of herbal decaf tea (unsweetened or a little agave nectar)
-Lots and lots of water (I like adding big hunks of fresh lemon)
Lunch
Lunch is usually a salad or leftovers from the night before. Here’s one of my favorite salads from this summer:
I like to use spinach for my greens, so I’ve already got one good veggie. This salad also has beets, artichoke hearts, yellow peppers and carrots. For a protein kick, I would add chickpeas, sunflower seeds or maybe some tofu. Go light on the dressing, or just use a sprinkling of balsamic vinegar.
Dinner
I usually try stay away from some of the more processed vegetarian “meats” and patties in favor of things like beans, quinoa, seitan, and tofu (I’ve been trying not to depend on soy very much for protein). Here are few dishes that I will probably be eating this week.
Santa Fe Quinoa Salad with steamed veggies or sauteed kale
Here’s some of the Santa Fe Quinoa Salad I made during last summer’s Reset Week
In the summer, I love Spicy Quinoa, Tomato & Avocado Salad.
-Seitan Stir Fry with Sesame Ginger Sauce
I love seitan. Have you ever had mock meats at various vegetarian restaurants? Well, seitan/wheat gluten are the basis of many of those “meats.” Those who are allergic to gluten might want to avoid seitan, but you know more about gluten allergies than me. Like tofu, seitan takes on the flavors of what it’s cooked with.

Seitan right out of the bag. Not necessarily pretty, I know

For this dish, I don’t make my own stir fry sauce (Sigh..I know I should). I just try not to get too heavy handed. In the pic below, I did. Oops!
Seitan with bok choy (Chinese cabbage), carrots and peppers and Whole Foods sesame ginger sauce

So that’s my Reset Week in a nutshell. I know that I indulged a lot this past holiday season, so it’s nice to start the year off with a renewed look at how to eat healthfully. I’ll be doing this at least three more times this year. If I try any new recipes, I’ll be sure to share.

Are you looking to eat healthier this year? What steps are you taking to do so? Do you have any healthy recipes that you’d like to share?

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A Recipe for Ujima on Kwanzaa Culinarians

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011 | Posted under Antigua, Cooking, Featured On, Recipe

Today is the third day of Kwanzaa. While I know that many people don’t celebrate the holiday or think it’s even a “real” holiday, I don’t believe that it should be ignored. Why? Well, I may not agree on many ideas espoused by the founder, Dr. Maulana Karenga, I think he’s done a great thing here. By creating a celebration focused on principles, I think he’s adding a grounding aspect to a season that often can be filled with excess (financial or otherwise).

I was very flattered to be asked to write a piece for the Kwanzaa Culinarians site for today’s Kwanzaa principle of Ujima.
Ujima stands for Collective Work and Responsibility.

Here’s a link to my post featuring one of my favorite Antiguan dishes and a discussion of how it relates to Ujima.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 24th, 2011 | Posted under Blogging, Cooking, Personal

I shouldn’t be blogging right now. I should actually be cooking, but I wanted to make sure that I whipped out a post to say “Happy Thanksgiving” to those of you celebrating today.

I was thinking about the idea of passing the baton this week. My mother-in-law and godmother will both be here today. I know that they have both put a lot of blood, sweat and tears over the course of the last 30 years to make sure that Husband J and I had nice Thanksgivings. I’d say that some of the first things that I am thankful for are FAMILY and happy holiday memories. I let one bring a dessert and one is bringing a side dish, but that’s it. They’ve done their time, and I am forever grateful to them. It’s now time for them to rest (’cause I ain’t. I am sooo tired) and enjoy their later holiday years. I’m happy to accept the baton and the opportunity and the ability to be able to create new holiday memories for my still very new family in its various forms. Thanks to my Mom (who is still baking. I’m not there yet completely), my godmother and my mother-in-law for their hard work. I got this now (I think. Y’all need to pray for me that Fred II, my turkey, comes out okay).
Fred II is supposed to look something like this by early afternoon. No pomegranates though.
This year has been an odd one, but even with all of the weird, annoying, stressful things that have happened, I am so very thankful for all of it. I love the concept of being refined through our trials. I already see some better things about myself having gone through some of the things I have (vague alert!).
I am super thankful for Husband J ’cause he keeps me going even if I was soo jealous that he got to sit on the couch and watch his DVR’ed shows last night. Marry a partner who can cook, everyone. 😉 Just kidding, sweetie!! Love you!
Lastly, I am thankful for you all. I have to admit that there was a moment a few months ago, when I wanted to stop blogging. I think it was the same day that someone said something over e-mail (or was it a tweet?). They said that I had inspired them in some way to get out there, to see something new, to experience something different. As much as I do this ’cause I enjoy it, I do it so that people will dream a little bigger, even if it’s just by seeing some pretty pictures on a screen about some faraway place. I just want to say that I am thankful for you all, my little community here on the interwebs. Thanks for keeping me going.
Anyhoo, this is way too long, way too much stream of consciousness and probably because I am waaay too tired. 🙂
HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

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It’s Coming…

Thursday, November 17th, 2011 | Posted under Cooking, Personal

Yup. We’re a week away from one of the biggest, if not THE biggest, food holiday of the year, Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a huge holiday here in the U.S. (if you didn’t know), and it is THE time to get busy/jiggy with it in the kitchen.

Last year, I hosted my first Thanksgiving, and everything came out well, if I do say so myself. 😉 My own mother, one of the best home cooks and bakers I know, was moved to call me the next day to tell me how much she enjoyed the meal. I was beyond flattered (more like floored. That is major props in my book), and I felt like I’d arrived. You can take a look at some parts of the meal from last year here.
Last night I took some time to get my menu together. Here it is below. I feel like I’m missing something though. I need one more side. What would you include? What’s one of your best go-to Thanksgiving recipes or favorite dishes? I have to warn you that I’m not really into green bean casserole or pearl onions, so anything else is welcome. 🙂
TAO Thanksgiving Menu
Turkey
Roasted Fall Vegetables with Fresh Herbs
Greens of some sort (TBD)
Mac & Cheese
Sweet Potato Casserole
Fig & Almond Stuffing (may change to another stuffing)
Fresh Cranberry Sauce
Dessert (my Mom is in charge of desserts)
Sweet Potato Pie
Pumpkin Cheesecake
Pecan Pie
What am I missing? I can’t wait to see what you suggest! Thanks in advance for the suggestions!

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Bertolli, Fabio Viviani, Meal Soups & Me

Friday, September 30th, 2011 | Posted under Cooking, Food Culture, Food Events, Video

If you follow me on Twitter (and I hope you do, if not, click the little birdie on the right. I am a prolific tweeter for better or worse), you’ll know that earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend a really wonderful event sponsored by Bertolli to promote their new Meal Soups with special guest, chef and two-time Top Chef contestant, Fabio Viviani. This was my first invitation to attend a food related event by a major company, so I kinda felt a little special. Cue the “Jeffersons” theme song (Movin’ on Up….).

I thought I was going to be in a large room full of lots of press and wall-to-wall people where I could retreat into a corner and shove food into my face. Instead, I walk into this small, intimate wonderfully lit room full of bread, antipasto and friendly people. You guys, I met such wonderful bloggers at this event (more on them later), and I was just a feet away from Fabio Viviani, who is probably one of my top ten favorite Top Chefs ever (I think my favorite of all time is Carla Hall, who is probably the long lost sister of my friend, Big Mitts).
Of course, there was plenty of great antipasto for noshing and meeting people.

Amazing bread and wine….
Focaccia & Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio

After a speech from a rep from Bertolli/Unilever, we saw a little introductory video about the Meal Soups. Chef Michael Christiansen, who essentially develops many of Bertolli’s products from the chef’s perspective, takes us through how they created the soups. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and is actually a really nice, down-to-earth guy from New Jersey. We had a great conversation that evening.
Essentially, these soups are the frozen componets of what you would make homemade except now you just add some water, bring to a boil, then let it simmer until all of the components are hot. Pretty quick and easy.
After the video, we proceeded into this lovely kitchen and had a demonstration of how the hearty soups really work and learned a little more about the production process. Fabio & Chef Mike tried to do a cook off to see who could make an actual soup in the time allotted. Of course, Chef Mike’s Bertolli version won.


Chef Mike showing us the frozen version of the soup. It’s essentially all cubed at first.

Here’s an actual video of both Fabio & Chef Mike speaking about the soups. I will say that Fabio does give a decent explanation for why people skeptical of frozen anything should try the Meal Soups. Fabio is a VERY good salesman. BTW, excuse my camera angles! This was taken with my Iphone.


After the short talk, we were able to try some of the soups with wine pairings.

Chicken Rotini (roasted white meat, pasta, zucchini, yellow squash, carrots and celery in chicken broth)

Tomato Florentine (Cheese filled tortellini, white meat chicken, spinach and tomatoes in a tomato bisque) I think this one was a big hit. I was too busy scarfing to take a pic earlier.

So, I’m sure you all want to know my opinion, right? I will start by saying that you all know that I don’t shill for anyone, so this is really my opinion. You guys, this stuff is actually good! Like I cleaned my bowl good. I wouldn’t have been able to tell that it came from anything frozen. I know sometimes in the winter, especially, I am scrambling to find something to make on a weeknight, or I’ve run out of groceries. I could totally see me having one of these soups for a quick meal. While I am a proponent of eating things that are made from fresh veggies, etc., I don’t mind taking short cuts when I need to. I also read the ingredient label, and I could pronounce everything. That’s a good sign.
There was even someone serenading us with Italian opera favorites.

Luckily, dessert was not left out. Woo hoo!
I LOVE a good cannolli


You know that I was too happy to see some tiramisu.
As I mentioned before, all the bloggers there were sooo nice. It was really great to connect to food bloggers, especially those that cook since I am not a cooking blogger. Bloggers are really cool people (If I do say so myself). 🙂
from left to right: Rachel of Laptops & Stovetops, Dana of Dana’s Food for Thought & me
Finally, the honored guest, Fabio and I actually had a few conversations during the night. I asked him about the whole Domino’s thing. He mentioned that they wanted him as a consultant and that his role was to teach them about sourcing ingredients and how to make pizzas in a more authentic way. Hey, I’m not mad at Fabio for working for the big guys like Bertolli and Domino’s. Do you, buddy! I can actually say that Fabio is exactly like he is on Top Chef: very genuine, charming, funny and the accent is totally real. Just kidding, Fabio. 😉

What a night! I’m waiting for New York City to finally cool down, so I can make the soup I got to take home.
Happy Weekend!

Disclosure: As usual, I didn’t get paid for this post or links in any way, but a stomach full of good soup, meeting nice people, and hobnobbing with Fabio was payment enough.

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