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Prepping For Baby: Freezing Flautas

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Our little cupcake has been baking in my oven for over 33 weeks and we are getting more excited every day. We're also getting a little more prepared each day. From setting up the nursery to acquiring a lot of essential items through the generosity of our family and friends, we've been taking a lot of baby steps (see what I did there?) toward getting things ready for our new roommate.

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One of my big projects for this month is prepping and freezing meals that I can then easily heat up once the baby arrives. I typically spend a lot of time during the week cooking. In the first few months especially, I don't anticipate spending a lot of time in the kitchen. However, I do anticipate spending a lot of time hungry. (I've reached the hungry, hungry, HUNGRY phase of third trimester pregnancy and I know it will only increase with breast feeding.) In an attempt to make things a little easier on myself down the road, I'm freezing meals now so I can have quick, healthy options after our baby arrives. 

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The first dish I'm making and freezing is sweet corn and green chili baked flautas. This is a recipe from the original Thug Kitchen cookbook. It's a super simple recipe that only requires the ingredients shown above, so it's a great one for a project like this. It's also easy to double the recipe: one for this week and one to freeze for later. 

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I chose this dish because it's an easy way to squeeze veggies into a super portable meal. Flautas can be picked up easily and I have a feeling that will come in handy on certain days. A lot of the other meals I have planned are more casserole-based, but I needed at least one meal in there that I could easily pick up with my hands. 

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An update on pregnancy itself: Yes, I'm still incredibly tired. That seems to be the hallmark of my pregnancy. In the past few weeks I've also been quite breathless. Standing for even a few minutes can make me feel like I might pass out, but light movement like walking helps. As the little cupcake's apartment gets more cramped, things are getting more uncomfortable for me, too. I feel a lot of pressure on my organs, mostly my bladder and lungs. I like the idea of sharing this space with the baby but I have a feeling we'll both be much more comfortable when we're free to move around a little more. 

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Mike and I have been taking a birth class for the last two weeks. We were so overloaded with information after the first class that we both had trouble sleeping for the next week. Last night's class was better, though we still both woke up an hour before the alarm this morning, unable to get back to sleep. I think the birth classes are solidifying the realness of the impending labor, something I managed to not think about for most of my pregnancy. 

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The thing about childbirth is there's only so much I can actually do to prepare for it. My body will do what my body does, my baby will do what my baby does, and I will do my best to respond accordingly. Although the idea of childbirth is getting more real to me, I still feel distanced from it. I don't think it will be REAL-real until it happens. 

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Meanwhile, my baby is moving more. The issue of baby movement has been a touchy one for me because apparently my placenta is anterior and apparently this makes it more difficult for me to feel movements. It took a long time before I could feel even slight flutters. Now that baby is moving around (possibly doing laps?) in a way I can obviously feel, I am grateful.

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My emotions have surprised me. I do not get weepy over television commercials and I do not cry over nothing like the pregnant women in movies. If anything, I've felt less sensitive during pregnancy than I normally do — but more irritable and more vulnerable. I'm not a fan of strangers getting too close to me. I'm more likely to feel agoraphobic or claustrophobic while out shopping or in group events than I did before. I feel very protective of my body and my space. I feel less inclined to be polite to strangers. When I walked past a man on the sidewalk last week and he yelled out, "Boy or girl?" I just kept walking, ignoring a question I didn't feel like he knew me well enough to ask. Normally I step all over myself to be polite, even when that politeness hasn't been earned. Pregnancy has offered me many moments like this where I surprise myself. 

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Having a pregnancy that coincides nearly perfectly with a presidential election is probably THE most stressful thing to me. The idea that I could bring a baby into a world with a certain leader in charge is too stressful for me to elaborate. 

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By the way, these tin pans came from the Dollar Store and they're perfect for freezing. As an added bonus, we actually have an extra refrigerator and freezer in our garage. It's usually unplugged, but we're going to plug in for the next few months and store big batches of ready-to-go food.

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I think I've reached that point in pregnancy where despite my exhaustion, I have enough worries and emotions coursing through me that I can't easily lie down and take a nap. It feels like all the drama of life should stop and make room for my pregnancy, but that certainly is not the case. I'm still working but it's getting harder to concentrate and unfortunately my job requires nothing but concentration. I'm trying to reach out and be a good friend to people but I'm also trying to spend as much time as I can readying myself before the beautiful storm arrives. It's an overwhelming time but little things like freezing a batch of flautas help me to feel a little more in control. 

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Banza Recipe #6: Roasted Veggie Pasta

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A few months ago, I received six complimentary boxes of Banza chickpea pasta. Since then, I've put the pasta to use in a variety of ways. If you missed my earlier posts, here they are now:

Banza Recipe #1: Creamy Avocado Pasta 
Banza Recipe #2: Mediterranean Pasta
Banza Recipe #3: Vegan Macaroni and Cheese With Roasted Tomatoes and Crushed Crispy Kale Chips
From Krike's Kitchen: Banza Recipe #4, Spicy Pesto Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes and Nectarines
Banza Recipe #5: Vegan Mushroom Stroganoff

Today I'm using my last free box to show you a simple recipe I adapted from the Food Network. It involves roasted veggies, an easy tomato sauce, and a minimal amount of ingredients and prep work. 

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I thought you said minimal prep work?! I did, and I didn't lie. There is no way to make a pasta with veggies without spending a few minutes chopping said veggies (though I suppose if you were in a real pinch you could grab a frozen version). Years ago, a situation like this would have scared me off. Who wants to spend that much time cutting things up with a knife? At this point I've cooked so many dishes and I can say with confidence: CHOPPING VEGGIES ONLY TAKES A FEW MINUTES. I promise. Get everything chopped and prepped BEFORE you start the recipe and the recipe itself will fly by. Trust me. For this dish I chopped zucchini and asparagus as suggested in the Food Network recipe, but I also added some cherry tomatoes. I can't resist a good roasted tomato. 

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I roasted the cherry tomatoes for 10 minutes at 425 degrees. I roasted the asparagus and zucchini for 20, flipping halfway through. Olive oil, salt and pepper are all you need for flavor in a good roasted vegetable. 

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While the vegetables were roasting, I cooked my pasta. The ingredients in Banza are chickpeas, tapioca, pea protein and xantham gum. Banza is vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free and egg-free. Banza contains two times the protein, four times the fiber, and half the net carbs of regular pasta. (I'm telling you all this because they're facts. I am not paid by Banza.) To find out more, including where Banza is sold, visit eatbanza.com

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Next I sautéed onion in olive oil for about 8 minutes over medium heat. Onions start to break down and get soft when they've been cooked long enough. If you don't wait to that point, you'll get a weird raw onion flavor. Be patient and stir occasionally. When they were good to go, I added a little minced garlic. 

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Let's check in on that pasta. I say this every time I use Banza, but it really is remarkable how much it looks, feels, and tastes just like regular pasta. When done cooking, be sure to rinse off the pasta after draining to avoid gumminess. 

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I love a good homemade tomato sauce as much as anyone, but sometimes it's nice to just throw a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes in with some onions and garlic and call it a day. The Food Network recipe suggested adding 1/2 cup of cooking water, but I didn't do that. I just simmered the onion, garlic and crushed tomatoes for about 15 minutes. 

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Easy as pie. 

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While the sauce was simmering, I cut up some fresh basil. I don't know if you guys have ever compared dried basil to fresh basil, but: there is no comparison. Fresh basil is always worth the few extra dollars it costs, in my opinion. 

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Optional ingredient: parmesan cheese. I don't eat dairy every day. In fact, I don't eat dairy MOST days. My body generally feels better when I keep my dairy consumption minimal. I do love cheese and eggs, though, and therefore will never become a full-blown vegan. I've found that it works well for me on a personal level to maintain a vegan diet about 75% of the time. This is just what works for me and I think everyone needs to find what works for them. For this dish, I definitely wanted to go all in, so I added parmesan. On another day if I wasn't feeling as cheesy, I could easily skip it. 

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The sauce came together beautifully after simmering. At this point all the components were finished and I just needed to combine everything. 

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Here come the veggies ...

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Here comes the pasta ...

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A little bit of cheese ...

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Some basil and voila! We have ourselves a meal that is delicious, nutritious, filling, and perfect for the changing weather. 

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It's just as yummy for lunch the next day and took 40 minutes in and out to make. Thanks for joining along for all these Banza recipes. Pasta is a beautiful thing. 

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New Cookbook Day: RUN FAST. EAT SLOW.

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I love cookbooks. New recipes, crisp pictures, fun ingredient ideas: a new cookbook opens up a new world. I get excited for cookbooks the way others get excited for clothes or shoes — I see a new one on the market and I simply HAVE TO HAVE IT. For many months I've been getting increasingly excited about the release of a cookbook written by four-time Olympian Shalane Flanagan and chef/food writer/nutrition educator/runner/mother Elyse Kopecky called RUN FAST. EAT SLOW. After all my anticipation, the book was released in August and I finally got my hands on a copy last night during a talk the authors gave at Powell's at Cedar Hill Crossing. 

I'm excited to get cracking on some of the recipes, but before I do I already know I love this book. How do I know this? Shalane and Elyse have a food philosophy that aligns perfectly with my own. They may eat a lot more meat (they are particularly big fans of bison) and their athletic training may be way more elite than mine, but we still share some very similar ideas about food.

Particularly in this country and especially as women, so much of what we're taught about nutrition is bonkers. By focusing so much on avoiding fat, counting calories, and restricting ourselves, food is stripped of both flavor and fun. Restrictive eating leads to hunger which leads to binging which leads to restrictive eating which leads to hunger which leads to binging. Nowhere in that cycle is there room for enjoyment or adequate nutrition. For many years now I've believed — and KNOWN! — that there's a better way. In reading their book, I can see that Shalane and Elyse believe this too.

Their food philosophy is all about "indulgent noursishment." They believe that eating real food and not obsessing over calorie counts or micronutrients leads to optimal body function and satisfaction. We all have the ability to tune into the needs of our own bodies, but some of us have been conditioned for years to participate in diets and other restrictive styles of eating. We've lost sight of the power of our own bodies and minds.

I try hard never to turn food into a moral argument but the fact always remains that I DON'T FEEL GOOD when I eat processed foods or when I skip meals or when I let myself get so hungry that I'm willing to eat whatever is set in front of me. I feel good when I eat whole, real food. I feel nourished. I feel happy. Eating a real meal does not make me want to turn around and eat a bag of potato chips. Eating a bag of potato chips makes me want to turn around and eat a bag of potato chips. Eating real food — the kind that is prepared with fresh ingredients, contains substantial calories, and actually tastes good — is the bridge for everything for me. It's the bridge to a good mood. It's the bridge to a good run. It's the bridge to less stress and higher contentment. There is simply nothing in this world that can or will make me feel better than a healthy, home-cooked meal shared with someone I love. 

In this cookbook, Shalane and Elyse are not messing around. They do not shy away from healthy fats, which are both flavor and nutrient carriers. We've been so conditioned to be so scared of certain types of foods (like foods with real fat) while encouraged to flock to the very foods that will leave us less satisfied and more unhealthy (like low-fat foods pumped with extra sugar). These elite athletes are here to put a stop to this madness and I could not be any more on board.

I'll be trying recipes in the coming weeks and letting you know what I think, but for now I'm just pleased that a book like this even exists. At their talk they said this is the first book geared toward runners that doesn't contain calorie counts, which I find astounding. As someone who refuses to count calories and/or weigh myself* I think this is such a positive step toward establishing healthier food habits for so many people. In my opinion food is meant to be lovingly prepared and happily devoured. When a food relationship is all about trying to look a certain way or be a certain weight, life can get pretty miserable. I have no interest in a miserable life and every interest in loving the food I eat and the body I'm in.

*You don't weigh yourself?! How do you know how much you've gained in your pregnancy? I don't! And I also don't think it's important that I do know. I get weighed at every single doctor's appointment and I know they'll let me know if there's ever an issue. Otherwise, what difference does it make? Keeping active and eating healthfully have been my main goals throughout this pregnancy and as long as I'm sticking to that, I think that's all that matters.

But what about losing the weight after the baby is born?! Before I was pregnant, I thought this would be a concern. The more pregnant I get, the less I care. I want my baby to be healthy and I want to keep myself healthy and the rest just doesn't seem that significant to me. My body will look the way it looks. I will continue to focus on being active and eating healthy and my body can either follow suit or not. I'm much more interested in providing a healthy life for my child. I think the best place for me to start is to introduce healthy food habits early. I don't anticipate my kid caring about how soft my stomach is. I do anticipate my kid caring about whether or not the food I'm serving is delicious and satisfying. 

With Elyse Kopecky and Shalane Flanagan at Powell's in Beaverton

With Elyse Kopecky and Shalane Flanagan at Powell's in Beaverton

Life is crazy enough without making ourselves crazy about food, too. I say: eat real, good food and enjoy every bite. Then get outside for a run (or walk or whatever your preferred mode of activity is) and enjoy that, too. We're humans. We're alive. We're allowed to enjoy ourselves and it's totally possible to do just that while living a healthy life at the same time. 

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My Favorite Summer Ingredients

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I love summer because it means eating lots of fresh food. Whether it’s produce that came from the store, farmers market, CSA or berry farm, summertime produce is full of flavor and is generally super easy to prepare. If you want to get out of the kitchen, no problem — most summertime ingredients taste great either raw or grilled. Here are a few of my favorites. 

1. Berries

My family loves to go berry picking during the summer. Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries: any berry, anytime, anywhere, and I’m happy. We are lucky to live in Oregon, where there is an abundance of U-pick farms. I love to eat berries plain, add them to a Greek yogurt parfait, mix them into scone batter, or enjoy them with ice cream. 

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2. Corn

Corn on the cob is such a perfect food because it’s fresh, flavorful, and fun to eat. I love corn when it’s boiled but I LOVE corn when it’s grilled. We recently grilled ours in the husk and found that it came off pretty easily after cooking, which is great because peeling away those corn “hairs” is often the one thing that makes an otherwise easy food seem like a bit of a pain to prepare. I like corn with a little bit of olive oil or butter and salt and pepper, but I also like it with no seasoning at all. Especially when it comes to sweeter corn, I think it’s just as good naked. 

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3. Tomatoes

It’s difficult to beat a garden-fresh tomato (or a handful of garden-fresh cherry tomatoes). I love them raw or in salads and I LOVE them roasted. I think roasted tomatoes make the perfect addition to pasta, sandwiches, eggs and more. 

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4. Peaches and Nectarines

I love peaches and nectarines. I think they have the perfect amount of sweetness to seem decadent enough on their own, but they’re also delicious when combined with ice cream, cobblers, or other desserts (especially if they're grilled). Blend a peach in a blender and throw it in a popsicle mold, add a layer of coconut milk, and you have yourself an amazing peaches ‘n cream pop (I learned this trick from Fit Girls Guide). 

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5. Zucchini

Zucchini is one of those foods that everyone always seems to have an abundance of in their gardens, and I for one do not complain when asked to take on some of the overfill. I love to spiralize zucchini and use either in conjunction with or as a replacement for pasta. I also love the taste of grilled zucchini. In my mind there are few things more perfect than a big platter of grilled veggies. If for whatever reason you’re getting sick of grilling things this summer, you can always slice zucchini up thin and bake in the oven for some delicious homemade zucchini chips. 

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Worth Mentioning:

watermelon, green beans, summer squash, pineapple. Yum!

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