Granola Breath

Eating healthy is hard. It’s is all about sacrifices. It’s about cutting out foods and habits we like because they aren’t good for us. That’s obvious. We’ve known that forever. And if that wasn’t true it wouldn’t be a challenge.

You’d think after a year it wouldn’t be quite as much of a challenge though. And for the most part, that’s true. I am no longer interested in a lot of foods because I know how terrible they are or I have outgrown them. But every once in a while something random will hit me and I really want it. Lately, it’s been cereal. In school, I used to rock kids’ breakfast cereal with skim milk for dinner on a very regular basis, but having given up dairy, sugar and processed food, Lucky Charms are not really on my pantry’s guest list.

So I’ve been trying to find an alternative. Unfortunately, it’s really hard to find a cereal that is low in sugar, whole grain/gluten-free but doesn’t taste like cardboard. Like, really hard. So I decided to set about making my own. After running into snags on that front, too, I settled on perfecting a recipe for granola.

Crunchy Coconut Granola
Crunchy Coconut Granola

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Vegging out.

So this week continues my on-going quest to insert more vegetables into my life. Having recently passed the one year mark on this operation, it’s time to step up the game. My body understands the difference between healthy and unhealthy now, finally, and it’s time to escalate to the next level. I’m marking the occasion with a juice cleanse! 

Honestly part of it is to initiate next level status, but part of it is because I have been having frequent headaches and other illness-y symptoms recently and I want to get out whatever toxins are making me sick. To prep for a juice cleanse, the juice company recommends taking a few days to work your way into it, which means a mostly vegan, gluten-free, unprocessed diet. I’ll talk more about this later but I wanted to set the stage!

I don’t mind eating mostly produce at all, certainly not just for a couple of days, but my body gets annoyed if it doesn’t have what feels like a real meal. And, I figure three days of nothing but cold-pressed juice is coming up, so I don’t really want to eat a whole bunch of vegan soup leading up to that. So I thought about meals I’ve made in the past that are solid food, warm and almost entirely plant-based. I really love spaghetti squash so I decided to think about something like that.

zucc marinara
Zucchini Marinara

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The Lazy Girl’s DIY Sushi

Do you ever get on kicks where you could eat the same food every day? Given how many times I’ve blogged either curry or oatmeal, it should not be a surprise that this happens to me fairly frequently. Currently, my food addiction is sushi. Specifically, sushi rolls. I know there are plenty of other kinds, which I also like, but give me a couple of maki rolls and I am good to go. The complimentary flavors, the mix of textures, the vast assortment of possibilities. YUM. I’m into it.

The good news is that it could be a lot worse, nutritionally speaking. But as foods go, it’s so elusive. It’s the kind of thing that is really better at a restaurant. A lot of the ingredients can be hard to find and it is a bit of a production to prepare. But then the restaurants have problems too. White rice. Lots of fried ingredients. Lots of sugar. Insane amounts of sodium. In and of itself that wouldn’t be a deal breaker because there are plenty of things on the menu to sustain a fairly healthy meal. The biggest problem is that it is expensive. It’s hard to get enough to eat at a sushi place for less than $25.

So I decided maybe I could figure out a way to make something at home. At first I thought about learning how to make actual rolls, but I ran into a couple of problems before I even got started. First, a lot of the ingredients are not the easiest to find around here. Let alone supplies like a bamboo mat. I’m sure I could find things at Whole Foods or similar places, but the weather is bad this week and it’s a little bit of a drive. Plus, if I’m going for cost-effectiveness, buying all kinds of exotic supplies kind of defeats the purpose. The second problem was that even if I did spend the time and effort getting everything I needed, I’d have to actually do the dicing and shaping and rolling and all that stuff. In the ever eloquent words of Sweet Brown, ain’t nobody got time for that. I’m not great at dicing, and my touch is not particularly delicate, so I just envision crafting the rolls really poorly.

But then it occurred to me, I probably had nearly all of the necessary basics, or acceptable substitutes, and if it’s really the ingredients I like the best, why not just throw them all into a dish together, burrito bowl style?

The result was a very lovely “sushi salad”.

Sushi Salad OR the Lazy Girl's DIY Sushi Roll
Sushi Salad OR the Lazy Girl’s DIY Sushi Roll in a Bowl

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Diversifying My Vegetable Repertoire

This week, as promised, has been a huge improvement! I’m finally getting over my passive attitude toward fitness. That means, in addition to more (and better) workouts, I am back on an active search for new vegetable-heavy recipes to try. Nutritionists suggest the majority of your calories should come from vegetables, but since vegetables have the least amount of calories of any food group, it is a bit of an algebraic conundrum. I mean, an ounce of spinach is 10 calories. That is hard to work with when I also should really not eat fewer than 1400-1500 calories per day after workout. So it’s a challenge! Find ways to incorporate more vegetables!

One way I incorporated more vegetables this week was with a super delicious Moroccan salad featuring harissa, a semi-spicy red pepper paste…it almost has the consistency of a red pepper pesto. I had it on a salad at a Moroccan restaurant a few months ago and have been meaning to buy a jar ever since. It’s available at higher end grocers like Fresh Market and I’ve also seen it at Crate & Barrel/Williams Sonoma sort of places. Maybe you have a more diversified local supermarket than me and it’s available there for you as well!

I have always liked Moroccan Carrot Salad, which usually features orange and raisins, and I thought it would be interesting to combine the two Moroccan food-things with which I am most familiar. I looked up some recipes for the carrot salad online and found a few that were all variations on a theme, and I went from there.

moroccan carrot salad

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Yet another delicious fruity breakfast recipe.

Well, getting back into clean eating mode has proven a little more difficult than I expected. Mostly because it’s freaking freezing outside and who wants to eat a cold salad when there’s a windchill of negative 10? Someone, maybe, but not me. Soup is a great alternative, but eating it every single day gets old real quick.

So the trick, which I am far from mastering, is eating clean, energy dense foods that are still warm and satisfying. Mac and Cheese only satisfies one of these goals it turns out. I’ve had a couple of successes though.

My greatest accomplishment so far this winter is definitely a Banana-Berry Baked Oatmeal, which has received rave reviews and requests for more. I’ve made it twice.

Here's the first batch.
Here’s the first batch.

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Bake me a cake

So, I’m a terrible baker. I mean, it’s probably for the best, because if I loved baking I’d be in real trouble. But you know, it’s the holiday season and I’ve been in this weird domestic mood lately. So I’m baking.

I have big plans for my baked goods. I am not that much of a dessert person, I enjoy it but it’s not the highlight of a meal for me or anything. But I love cake balls. Maybe it’s the intrigue. Maybe it’s the adorable packaging. Maybe it’s that they are virtually the only interesting thing I know how to bake…and they come from a box but don’t seem like they come from a box. So I have all these plans for cake balls, and maybe some chocolate chip cookies, and all these plans are making me exceedingly guilty. Carbs and I seem to have rekindled our love affair in the worst way, but like any abusive relationship, I know this is just a honeymoon phase until the next time I weigh myself.

To counteract…or maybe mitigate is a better word…all this completely indulgent baking, I decided to try something healthy as well.

Banana Chocolate Chip Breakfast Cake

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