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.

Summer soup – Pea & Mint

IMG_0378On a tight budget as summer winds down. We decided to TRY to use up what we had in the fridge, freezer, pantry, produce bowls, etc. On Friday, as the week winded down, we were looking for something yummy, nutritious, and light. The perfect meal to accompany a funny movie.

Earlier this summer I had made a pea & mint bruschetta for a friends birthday party, pot-luck style. It was a hit. I knew we had frozen peas in the freezer. Our mint plant is kicking ass this summer. So we decided on pea & mint soup with a nice salad (inspired by one of my favs, Sarah B’s Chilled Parsley and Pea Soup at My New Roots www.mynewroots.org). We had to purchase the lettuce for the salad. We are learning the essence of being a tad-bit flexible with ourselves and our lives. Striving to be like a lotus leaf, unattached to the water around. Able to sway and bend with the wind, obstacles, and challenges presented.

The recipe:

1 tbsp coconut oil

1/2 large onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

2 – 3 cups of veggie stock or broth

1/2 bag frozen peas (organic if possible)

3/4 cup loosely picked or packed mint leaves, remove from stems

zest of 1/2 lemon, and 1 tbsp lemon juice

splash of olive oil

sea salt (to taste)

freshly ground pepper (to taste)

**We had Parmasen cheese that needed to be used up so we grated some on top. All this soup is delicious on its own as well.

1. Heat coconut oil in large stockpot. When oil is melted, add the onions and a couple pinches of salt, sauté for 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes.

2. Add the broth (reserving some for blending process), add peas and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat. Fold in the mint leaves until wilted.

3. Transfer the soup to the blender and blend on high until smooth (adding extra broth if needed). Add lemon zest & juice, olive oil, salt & pepper if desired and blend a little more.

4. Serve as is or let cool slightly. Also good fully chilled. Will keep in fridge 3-4 days.

IMG_0376

Immunity soups

Feeling a tad bit run down last week (ahem, yes that is my excuse for not blogging!). You know, the scratchy throat, tiredness, achy body. The cold/sickness/whatev was not at its fullest capacity but I was no where near 100%. On a quest to fight off what ever it is that tells my body to react this way, I turn to soups. I wondered if inflammation was the culprit. So I went back about a week, dissecting my diet, meals, snacks, etc. and nothing prominent stood out and said “Ah-ha!”. So a few days of soup as my main source of nourishment seemed the right fit. As well as permission to fully rest when needed (so hard for most of us to grant ourselves permission! when we are the directors of our lives!).

Most “clean” soups will do. I decided to share 2. One is inspired from Alicia Silvertone’s book The Kind Diet and the other from Dr. Weil’s new book True Food (he was in Sarasota a couple weeks ago and signed my copy! book signings being an interesting blog topic for the future).

In The Kind Diet, pg. 251, you will find “Alicia’s Magical Healing Soup”. It is indeed magical and healing. I made it a lot last year and have customized since with whatever is available during the time of need. That is the cool thing about soups, you can use what is available in your fridge, what appeals to you at that moment, and what is local and in season. The recipe serves 4 and can easily be cut in half to serve 2 (or 1 but 2 meals). Here is the gist:

1 carrot, cut into large chunks

1 daikon, cut into large chunks

1 red onion, cut into large chunks

3-5 celery stalks, chopped

5-6 broccoli florets

8 button mushrooms (or mushrooms you have around)

1 leek, cut into large chunks (to clean: cut in half swirl in a bowl of water to dislodge sand and grit)

juice from ginger, to taste (peel and grate a 1″ piece of ginger and squeeze out the juice with your fingers)

shoyu to taste (shoyu is the Japanese word for soy sauce. anything like tamari or soy sauce can be substituted)

2 whole scallions, roots and all, thinly sliced on the diagonal

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Add the carrot and daikon first. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the red onion, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the celery, broccoli, mushrooms, and leek. Add the ginger juice and shoyu to the broth to taste. Simmer until the vegetables are cooked through but still slightly firm, about 5 minutes. Add the scallion, and turn off the heat (if you prefer scallions raw, add them just before serving). To serve, ladle the soup into bowls. Top with watercress, mochi, or whatever else you fancy.

In Dr. Andrew Weil’s newest book, True Food, pg. 98 you will find “Immunity Soup” (which I cooked this week). **Heads up, this recipe calls for astragalus root which may be difficult to find. I did not find any and therefore did not add to the soup however, will be looking further to see if other natural food stores in my town carry from time to time. Astragalus root is a Chinese herb used to ward off colds and flu and has powerful immune-enhancing properties. Dr. Weil also shares that Shiitake mushrooms boost immunity and have an antiviral effect. Garlic is an antibiotic and ginger a natural ANTI-INFLAMMATORY agent. Here is the recipe for Mushroom Stock and Immunity Soup:

MUSHROOM STOCK

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

2 ounces dried shiitake mushrooms

1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce (we used tamari)

1. Put the celery, onion, mushrooms, and 2.5 quarts water into a large pot. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat and let the stock cook for 20 minutes.

2. Turn off the heat, cover, and let the stock steep for 20 minutes. Add the soy sauce. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh strainer, discard the solids, and let cool. Use as needed, or put into lidded containers and refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 1 month.

SOUP

1.5 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 large onions, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, mashed (I am not sure the technical way to mash or if there is a utensil that helps with this, so I just mashed with knife)

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced (about 2 cups)

2 large carrots, thinly sliced

2.5 pieces astragalus root (about 15 inches total)

10 cups Mushroom Stock

2 tablespoons tamari or low sodium soy sauce

Salt optional

2 cups broccoli florets

1/2 cup chopped scallions

1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and ginger and sauté until soft and translucent. Add the shiitakes, carrots, astragalus root, and Mushroom Stock. Bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes.

2. Add the tamari and adjust the seasoning with salt IF NEEDED. Add the broccoli florets and cook until tender, about 2 minutes.

3. Remove the astragalus root pieces. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the scallions before serving.

Getting down in the kitchen!

Getting down in the kitchen!

Here it is!

Here it is!

Cheers to health!

Cheers to health!