Free-styling it! How having few restrictions can be a valuable lesson in transformation. PLUS a couple yummy recipes

FREE-STYLE. In other words, few restrictions. I like the sound of that. During Operation Transformation there have been many restrictions. And so it is nice to take a break and open up the boundaries. Speaking of boundaries, let me begin with my personal experience of how having few restrictions scared the shit out of me.

I grew up with the idea of free-style although was never really comfortable with it. Free-style rap was emerging. Improvisational dance was being shared with the dance community and spreading like wildfire. 80’s fashion. HA! Despite all this freely roaming creativity, I liked having someone (besides myself) tell me what to do next. In ballet class, in school, chores at home. I was shy and timid and often had little to voice. One of the most prominent memories comes from my experience at an incredible performing arts high school (Booker High School in Sarasota, FL). I was a ‘bunhead’ ballerina. I loved ballet and all its technique and discipline. Even my beginning years of modern dance was based in Graham & Horton techniques. The teacher or choreographer called out vocabulary or demonstrated what they wanted to see and the dancer followed. Since the age of 5 this is what I was use to. Welcome junior & senior year at Booker and man was I in store for change. IMPROVISATION. That’s right. I had to learn to improvise. It did not go so well. Let me just say this, week after week I chose to sit out…not participate…and get a ZERO for the day! I was so scared. Lacking confidence. I couldn’t let go. Until I graduated high school and attended the American Dance Festival at Duke University. A world renowned 6 week dance festival. There was no choice but to dive in head first to improv. I cannot explain how it transformed my dance world. I didn’t want to stop. Literally. By the time I got to college I shouted out to anyone that would listen about the greatness of improvising art. Some listened and some sat scared like I once was.

Yet when the opportunity presents itself (like in cooking) I tend to still freak a little and not feel capable of winging it. Cooking without a recipe has not always been my cup of tea. This means there is more digging to do. More transforming. Slowly but surely…free-styling is proving a super valuable lesson. Learning to free-style a few areas in my life has only deepened the experience of turning negative self-talk into true body-love and living an authentic/happy/healthy life.

Here are a few examples of how I am challenging myself to get comfortable & confident about free-styling in the kitchen:

BREAKFAST

  • Make your own oatmeal. Buy rolled or cut oats and put your own additions in. The packages all say to cook the oats in water. I have replaced 1/2 the water with non-dairy milk (usually almond) and the flavor instantly changes. Then I look to see what is around in the form of nuts, seeds, and dried or fresh fruit (the other day we were out of fresh so I added frozen blueberries which defrosted quickly). But do not stop there! Look at your spices. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom, etc. Vanilla beans or extract. Many options. An alternative to oats is leftover brown rice. Also I’d like to share something I just came across from a well trusted source, FoodMatters.tv. “Grains such as oats should be cut or rolled and then soaked overnight in a warm, acidic medium to neutralize the many anti-nutrients naturally occurring in grains, such as irritating tannins, digestion-blocking enzyme inhibitors and mineral-blocking phytic acid. This treatment can also gently break down complex proteins in grains.” To read more visit the link http://www.foodmatters.tv/articles-1/dirty-secrets-of-the-food-processing-industry. But let me warn you, there is frightening information to ponder.
  • If you eat eggs, experiment with omelet ingredients. The most recent surprisingly delicious ingredient we have added to omelets is frozen green peas. If you like green peas, you must try! I can’t really give all the credit to trying to free-style. After all, when we were in NYC last spring we ordered an omelet with green peas and were pleasantly surprised. So get creative with veggies, and herbs. An alternative to eggs would be tofu or tempeh scramble.
  • Pancakes. Look into from a sweet OR savory perspective. I’ve mentioned before a favorite in our house, Jessica Seinfeld’s Pink Pancakes. She uses beet puree to give the pink color and a step up in nutrition value. Why can’t shredded zucchini or squash be added to pancake batter with some fresh herbs?

LUNCH

  • Get comfortable with left-overs. And then re-invent them. Use the left over grilled veggies from Sunday’s football party for a wrap (whole grain of course OR gluten free) with hummus or pesto.
  • Use left-over rice for a quick and fried rice https://awholesomeapproach.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/a-recipe-using-up-left-overs-vegetable-fried-rice/.
  • Salads have endless opportunities. Work with simplifying the dressing part. Switch between creamy & vinegar based dressings. Remember that adding avocado to homemade creamy style dressings is a great alternative to using actual cream. Once in a while try just good quality olive oil and lemon or lime. Chop up fresh herbs and add the salad.

DINNER (inspired by Vegetarian Times Sept. 2013 issue)

  • Soups. Start with a good quality oil or butter (ghee can be used as well). Sauté what you have – onions, leeks or shallots; carrots, celery, bell peppers, mushrooms, etc. Then add garlic, herbs & spices. Doing this second will prevent these little bits from burning. Toss in the vegetables that make cook slower like potatoes, large squash, parsnips, etc. Now the delicate veggies and if using beans – zucchini, broccoli, corn, peas, green beans, and beans. Towards the end of cooking time add more fresh herbs. For a really cool trick, stir in juice from a citrus source (lemon or lime).
  • Stir-frys. CHOP – garlic, ginger, onion, broccoli/raab, cauliflower, carrots, cabbage, celery, bok choy, mushrooms, bell peppers, snow peas etc. Also prep your protein – tempeh, tofu, edamame, or meat. Also think about nuts to add – cashews, almonds, peanuts, etc. SAUCE – soy (soy sauce or tamari), sweet (honey, jam, brown sugar, maple syrup), acid (vinegar or citrus juice), spice if you like (chile sauce, chile flakes, fresh chiles). SAUTE – over high heat. Start with onion to caramelize, then add the hard “vegetables”, add “soft” veggies & protein. Toss in the ginger & garlic, add the sauce.

SNACKS

  • Granola. One of my most favorite things to make at home. Leaves the house smelling divine for hours, is easy to pack for on-the-go, and ok on its own or mixed in. So many options out there so experiment and find what works for you.
  • Snack mixes. Get creative with pulling from nuts, dried fruits, puffed rice cereal, brown rice syrup for a sweeter snack or nuts, roasted chickpeas, wasabi peas, and spices for a savory/salty snack. Make at home!

Here at A Wholesome Approach, we are all about getting back to the roots of living. Today its all about cooking. It’s important to use your senses and taste what you are creating as you go.
Please comment below and share your favorite ways to let go in the kitchen. Or your free-style recipes.

Breakfast Breads – Quick, Nutritious, Delicious

Hello out there! This blog post I’d like to share a breakfast option when you don’t have much time but want a great source of protein, fiber, and vits/minerals.

Toast has been a popular foodie novelty for many years and its style and toppings transform throughout different cultures. As a kid, I remember toast with honey or cinnamon & sugar was the only thing that sick Keely could swallow. In college years, a quick bowl of cereal or toast topped with nut butter was the perfect nibble as I ran to early morning class (and the occasional smoothie with my very own blender as a 21st birthday present :). Unfortunately, breads are not made like they were years ago. If you have the time try making your own bread! That way you know exactly what is in it and don’t have to play the guessing game.

Like most of us, time is of the essence. So become a label detective and research before going to the store to save yourself the frustration. Commercialized breads are extremely processed and reading labels brand after brand may feel overwhelming. KNOW THIS:

  1. Most breads contain some form of corn or soy. So if you are not interested in consuming Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s), then stay clear of conventional breads. 
  2. Commercialized breads want you to think they are ok to eat. They place things like no HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) on the label and WHOLE GRAIN but this is not the whole truth. Most breads use enriched flour. Ask yourself, “Why does this bread need to be improved or enhanced?”. Because  when the flour is processed, the good stuff (bran & germ) is removed. 

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR:

  1. Artificial stuff. If you can’t pronounce it, it was made in a lab and therefore is artificial. And stay away from colorings! I’ve seen caramel color in bread! Why does bread need color added to it!?!?
  2. Preservatives. Calcium propionate, aka cultured wheat starch/cultured whey, is a popular and may be tough to escape. This preservative is used to prevent mold and bacteria in food. Don’t know about you but I grew up thinking mold in bread was a natural occurrence and am more concerned about my shelf life than breads. Over time, it has been associated with stomach ulcers, headaches, and behavioral changes.
  3. Trans fats = HYDROGENATED ANYTHING!!! Steer clear!

I have tried a grain-free life and it has not served well with my body’s needs. But is an option you may want to try. Rice and I do very well. Quinoa too. So find what works for you! I will say that I eat a lot less grains than ever before and feel a huge difference.

Toast options : Recent years too much gluten has shown to upset my insides so I watch consumption carefully. I can do the occasional whole grain, rye or pumpernickel. Sprouted grain breads (Ezekiel, etc) are a great option but if you do better gluten free you may need to limit consumption. The main thing here is choosing fresh bread, that has only pure ingredients. SARASOTA PEEPS, check out Whole Foods Market, Detweiler’s, Island Gluten Free Bakery for clean options. Publix also stocks a decent selection of sprouted/gluten-free options, usually found in the freezer isle. (*There are many more bakeries around town that I did not mention because I have not looked at ingredients lists)

Whichever toast you choose, there is a WIDE VARIETY of toppings!

  • Nut butters of all kinds (peanut, almond, sunflower, cashew, hazelnut/homemade nutella, etc). A close friend of mine introduced me to a sort-of nut butter that I would have NEVER thought to put on toast…tahini (see below for pics of my tahini topped toast that was delicious!)
  • Seeds – pumpkin, sunflower, sesame
  • Veggies – avocado toast is HUGE in our house. Scoop it out, mash it with lemon juice and a little salt & pepp. Sliced tomatoes with sprouts. All sorts of options here!
  • Natural sweeteners like honey.
  • Spices like cinammon.
  • Fruit – fresh & dried.
Gluten-free rosemary biscuits *CLICK PIC FOR RECIPE

Gluten-free rosemary biscuits *CLICK PIC FOR RECIPE

Gluten-free toast with homemade nutella!

Gluten-free toast with homemade nutella!

Gluten-free toast with tahini, blueberries and cinnamon

Gluten-free toast with tahini, blueberries and cinnamon

Gluten-free toast with almond butter, chopped dates, pumpkin seeds and cinnamon

Gluten-free toast with almond butter, chopped dates, pumpkin seeds and cinnamon

 

So being super busy in the morning is no longer an excuse to grab the nutrient sucking bar or bowl over preparing a quick nourishing bite!!! Let’s commit to begin each day with gratitude for waking and take that a step further and commit to breaking-that-fast (BREAK-FAST…get it!?) with nourishment in mind.