Food For Thought

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Amber SweetI have always been cognizant of my health, and was that weird kid who loved vegetables. I worked out diligently and always chose the healthy option, even before the coercion of Hollywood forced me to do so. Luckily, I was naturally athletic and active in sports in high school, so I never really had to worry about my weight. When I finally journeyed on my own, my college roommates and I thought we could survive on pasta and ice cream without consequence. I watched the scale tip and even battled with an eating disorder. All of the sudden I did nothing but worry, the pressures of being thin suffocated my self-esteem, and I found myself obsessing over every bite. It was a year long struggle of fixating on my imperfections and trying achieve perfection. I lost sight of my health, and myself. It wasn’t until after my dentist pleaded with me to stop binging that my health, over my looks, became the priority.

My Dad taught me to cook at a very young age, which has not only helped me stay self-sufficient as an adult, but my love affair with cooking and skills in the kitchen have provided me with a fruitful, and incredibly rewarding healthy lifestyle. I now always aim to be healthy, not “thin”, and have the tools to do so. My friends may tease me about kale addiction, but only after they ask for my smoothie recipe.

Eating healthy isn’t always easy, especially if you’re busy, but I assure you it’s possible. Additionally, you do not have to sacrifice taste or flavor when making the healthy choice, or live by an extreme diet regimen. You can add these SIMPLE recipes to your current daily regimen and infuse a little delicious wellness into your life. All of these are quick and easy and vegetarian friendly. You can make them the night before for on the go meals and snacks, or whip up a dish for your next pot-luck mixer! Impress your friends (or dates) with these vegetarian friendly recipes, or simply dazzle yourself and your taste-buds. Please leave comments if you’re able to try any!

THE BEST GREEN SMOOTHIE

What you’ll need:

-A blender

-1 frozen banana (or 4 pieces)**

-1 cup of frozen pineapple

-1 heaping spoonful of almond (or peanut) butter

-1 cup of fresh spinach or kale (can also use frozen, but fresh is preferred)

-1/4 cup shredded coconut

-1/2 cup plain oatmeal

-1 small dash of cinnamon

What to do:

Add all ingredients to the blender, then fill blender with coconut water, leaving 2 inches at the top. Blend until smooth. Makes enough for 2 giant smoothies. Enjoy one now and put the other in the fridge for a healthy mid-day snack! Keeps best the day of!

**Buy one bunch of bananas, peel and break each banana into 4 pieces, place banana pieces in a plastic tupperware container, seal tight and freeze. Keeps for over a week!

  • Frozen fruit ensures it’s cold! You can also add ice cubes but they will dilute the flavor.
  • You can find all ingredients at Trader Joe’s or at your favorite grocery store.

NOT YOUR MOM’S BRUSSEL SPROUTS

What you’ll need:

-An oven, a large cookie sheet, aluminum foil, 1 large mixing bowl

-1 bag of uncooked whole brussel sprouts

-Extra virgin olive oil

-2 cloves of garlic, chopped

-1 shallot chopped

-Sea salt, pepper, basil, paprika (all to taste)

-1/4 cup chopped unsalted almonds

What to do:

Cover the cookie sheet with aluminum foil

Cut the brussel sprouts into halves, place into the large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil (coat but dont soak.)

Add all of the spices, chopped garlic and shallot to the bowl, seasoning to taste.

Toss/mix well so that the brussel sprouts are evenly covered in oil and spices, then spread evenly on the cookie sheet.

Bake at 375 degrees for 25 min, rotate the cookie sheet and add the chopped almonds. Mix so almonds are not directly on top.

Continue baking for 20 more minutes or until brussels are tender to touch and there’s a light browning on the tops.

Enjoy a portion now and save the rest for tomorrow and the next day! Reheats well.

  • You can add a light drizzle of balsamic glaze at the end for extra deliciousness. I get mine at Trader Joe’s!

HAPPINESS BOWL

What you’ll need:

-1 medium or large frying pan

-Brown rice or quinoa*

-2 tbsp of olive oil or 1 tbsp coconut oil

-Fresh kale

-1 cup chopped white mushrooms

-Sea salt, pepper (I also love lemon pepper), basil, paprika, parsley (pinches of each, all to taste)

-2 cloves of garlic, chopped

-Protein: Grilled (boneless) chicken breast or grilled tofu. Chopped into cubes.

-1 whole avocado

*Trader Joe’s sells frozen EASY to make brown rice and quinoa, I highly recommend these! Each pouch is about 2 full cups. Use one pouch for this recipe.

What to do:

Heat oil of choice in pan on medium heat, add garlic and protein of choice. Cook protein thoroughly.

Add mushrooms and seasonings (to taste), mix well, then add one pouch of rice or quinoa.

Cook for about 7-10 minutes, then add kale, mixing everything well and cooking the kale down until lightly wilted.

Take off heat and portion out enough for your meal, saving the rest for later or tomorrow!

Top your happiness bowl with half an avocado (using the other half for when you enjoy the leftovers.)

HOMEMADE PESTO PASTA

What you’ll need:

-A blender, 1 large boiling pot, 1 pasta strainer

-1 bag brown rice/quinoa pasta

-3 (packed) cups of fresh basil

-2 cloves of garlic (chopped)

-1 cup of raw pine nuts

-Sea salt and pepper to taste

-fresh lemon juice

-(extra virgin) Olive oil

What to do:

In the blender add the basil, garlic, pine nuts, and lemon juice (I use the juice from half a small lemon. Make sure you take the seeds out before you squeeze.) Then add a dash of sea salt and a dash of pepper (you don’t want to add too much. You can taste it once it’s blended and add more if desired.) I add about a half cup of oil then blend on low, as it’s blending I drizzle in olive oil until it’s smooth. Stop the blender and taste. Add more oil and seasonings as desired. You want it to be light green in color and not too oily. Should make about 2 cups of pesto. Stick the mixture in the fridge while you cook pasta. Bring a large pot to a boil (I add a pinch of salt.) Once it’s boiling add the whole bag of pasta and drizzle in a small amount of olive oil, this helps the pasta not stick to the bottom. Boil the pasta until SOFT, stirring frequently. Takes about 15 min. Strain the pasta, removing all water. Pour the strained pasta back into the boiling pot and add the pesto mixture. Mix until the pasta is completely coated in the pesto. Serve immediately and enjoy!

  • I add a dash of red pepper flakes at the end for an extra kick!
  • I don’t eat diary, but you can add fresh parmesan for cheesy goodness!
  • This pasta keeps well and is SO good cold the next day! I add the cold pasta to fresh spinach for a super yummy pasta salad!
  • You can double the pesto recipe and put the rest into a mason jar! Keeps for about 3 days! Add it to scrambled eggs in the morning or to your choice of grain!
  • You can find all ingredients at Trader Joe’s or at your favorite grocery store.