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.

A recipe using up left-overs – Vegetable Fried Rice

The idea of using up left-overs started at a young age. Growing up with not a lot of money, once a week, my mom would serve left-overs for dinner. No big deal! After all, back in the day, you ate whatever was served at dinner. There was no separate meal made for different family members and their particular taste buds. Meal time was what ever mom or dad prepared. Period.

As I got older and eventually lived on my own, left-overs of certain sorts grossed me out. Like left-over fish…NO WAY! When I use to eat red meat, couldn’t really get down with that either as a left-over (unless used in spaghetti sauce or something). These days, I see the benefit of cooking once and eating twice. For instance, on Sunday I may make a large batch of brown rice. 3 meals for a couple people can come of this. Possibly a type of porridge or brown rice pudding for breakfast, rice with beans for lunch, and in stir fry for dinner.

I was out of town for the weekend and had a couple options for lunch. However the brown rice that was made a few days earlier was staring me in the face. Then I thought about fried rice. That’s it! So easy to whip up, delicious & nutritious! Doesn’t get much better than that!

Ingredients:

Brown rice (left-over friendly)

Veggies of any sorts (for this I used broccoli & carrots)

Garlic

Oil (sesame or toasted sesame will add to the fried rice style but I didn’t have any on hand so used grape seed)

Egg

Tamari or soy sauce

Pepper and any other spices

Directions:

1. Saute garlic & veggies in a little bit of oil. Set aside when reached your desired texture. I prefer mine a little crunchy so sautéd about 5 mins.

2. Add a little bit more oil to pan and add rice. Use spatula to flatten out rice in a single layer.

3. Meanwhile, mix the egg, tamari and pepper/spices in a bowl. Add to pan with rice. Move around like scrambling an egg for about 7 mins until egg is cooked through and the fragrance of fried rice is in the air.

4. Transfer to a bowl and add the veggies.

**This can easily be made vegan by omitting the egg and substitute with tofu.

left-overs for lunch BEFORE

left-overs for lunch BEFORE

left-overs for lunch AFTER

left-overs for lunch AFTER

YUM

YUM

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.

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Dressings. 3 easy, affordable, delicious dressing recipes

This post is all about dressings. Notice, the word salad doesn’t come before dressings. Why? Because salads aren’t the only foods that can be dressed. Veggies, pastas, fruit, sandwiches, and fish/meat. All dress-able! Read on for tips on ways to play with color and flavor and dress up those dishes.

Most of us crave salads, fruits, cooling foods in the summer time. Most of us tend to get bored with the same ol’ salad and dressing. What we don’t realize is making our own dressings cuts out a lot of the fat and adds a lot more flavor. Plus you can customize to your liking. Plus you are eliminating unnecessary toxins entering your body through preservatives in the pre-packaged, processed dressings on shelves. Don’t get me wrong, for the sake of time, our house has purchased dressing from the store at least once this year. However, we much rather make it at home. Here are a few of our staples:

1. Citrus – squeezing citrus is one of the quickest way to add fresh flavor to any dish or drink. When I was younger, and much too concentrated on eating a low-fat diet, I use to squeeze lemon on salads. Still do on days my body screams “feed me whole, simple foods please!” On days I need a little more, I’ll whip up a citrus inspired oil:

Citrus oil dressing

In a bowl, whisk fresh lemon juice (lime or orange works too), olive oil, minced garlic, honey or agave, sea salt, and pepper. VOILA!

2. Vinaigrette – LOVE vinaigrettes! Lately, my favorite is dijon. Versatile and ready for grilled veggies or salad.

Dijon Vinaigrette

Makes 1 1/4 cups. Will last up to 1 week in fridge. Whisk all ingredients or put into jar with sealable lid and shake!

1/4 cup dijon mustard

1/4 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons agave (light or dark, depending on your preference)

3 garlic cloves, finely minced

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (sherry vinegar also works well)

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Speedy Dijon Vinaigrette

Find an infused vinegar (fig or raspberry) and mix with a few tablespoons of Dijon mustard.

3. Herb inspired – basil, parsley, cilantro, mint… all great herbs to utilize in homemade dressings. Chimichurri (usually a green sauce made up of parsley, oregano, lemon zest, and oil, used for grilled meat) is one of my all time favorites to use as inspiration.

Creamy Cilantro

Makes about 3/4 cup. **May turn to brown color if using avocado.

1 cup loosely packed cilantro, rinsed & stems removed

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt OR 1 avocado

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1-2 garlic cloves

Splash of vinegar (white wine vinegar goes well)

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt to taste

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A creamy avocado sauce on top of veggie enchiladas!

So the bottom line here is to have fun and get innovative with what you have around to add pizzazz! One last tip to share…a dear friend of mine years ago made a dressing that blew my taste buds away! She used olive oil, high quality mustard, jelly, and spices. I have yet to recreate one that was as good as hers but I have not given up.

What tips can you share?

Spaghetti Squash and Zucchini Parmesan

Hey there! Summer is away and kickin here in FL.

While I am sure spaghetti squash is not in season, it was available at local Detweiler’s Farm Market and so we purchased. Over the past couple of weeks, the essence of flexibility has come up again and again. Although we (family & I) vow to eat locally and seasonally and primarily organic, there are times when we must bend our rigid ways and sway with what comes. For example, a couple weeks ago we purchased from the farmers market a squash we had never seen let alone heard of. On the evening of cooking this squash, we cut in to it and realize it was not even close to ripe. Hugely disappointed we had to go out for dinner that night (sounds crazy but when you want to know exactly what goes into your meal, going out can be a bummer). Another example of bending our ways came when shopping this past week for groceries. There was not a lot to choose from in the organic section and I had to be ok with what was presented or get in my car and drive 3-6 miles to another store that probably had a better selection of organic. Not to dive into the debate of conventional vs. organic or convenience vs. “driving the extra mile”. Not to dive into the ongoing battle of what to & not to bring into our home. This is simply my explanation of how being flexible to an extent can save unnecessary stress to an already unexpected situation.

That being said, we made spaghetti squash and zucchini parmesan and it was DELISH!

Makes 4 to 8 servings

Ingredients

1 large spaghetti squash (2-3 lbs)

1 large zucchini, grated

1/3 cup caramelized onions

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salt and freshly ground black pepper

sprinkles of feta cheese

sprinkles of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Pierce the spaghetti squash with a fork in several places. Microwave it on high power for 12 mins, rotating it every 3 mins. Let the squash cool, then cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Scoop out the flesh into a large bowl. Add the zucchini and onions. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture into a 3-quart shallow baking pan. Bake for 40 – 45 mins.

3. Remove the baking pan from the over and turn the oven to broil. Top the vegetables with the grated cheese and place under the broiler until golden brown, about 5 mins. Let sit for 5-10 mins before serving.

**This recipe can also be made with tomato sauce.

ENJOY!

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Cinnamon Vanilla Sunbutter Banana Pops

I cannot take any credit for this recipe. I found a while back on hayleyhobsonblog.com and quickly added to recipe bookmarks to try during summer time. SO WORTH IT! A MUST!

  • EASY
  • CHEAP
  • DELICIOUS
  • KID TESTED AND APPROVED

Ingredients:

2 bananas

1/3 cup sunbutter

½ tsp vanilla

¼ tsp cinnamon or drop of cinnamon essential oil

1/3 cup all natural dark chocolate pieces or chips (at least 70% cacao)

1 T coconut oil

popsicle sticks or bamboo skewers

Directions:

Mix sunbutter, vanilla, and cinnamon together until well mixed.

Peel and cut bananas in half. Slice the halves vertically in half.

Divide your sunbutter mixture into 4 equal portions. Use 1 portion of sunbutter per 2 banana slices. Spread the sunbutter mixture over half of the banana slices.

Press your popsicle stick or skewer on top of the sunbutter and top with the remaining banana slices.

Place the banana pops in the freezer and freeze until firm.

When your banana pops are all the way frozen, melt your dark chocolate and coconut oil in a double boiler over low heat. (If you don’t have a double boiler, use a large skillet filled with some water and place a smaller pot inside the skillet on top of the water. Put your chocolate and oil in the smaller pot.) Stir until melted and smooth.

Dip each banana pop in the dark chocolate and place on parchment paper. Place back in the freezer for a few minutes until chocolate is hardened and cold. Enjoy!

Recipe inspired by Primarilyinspired.com

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A staple meal – brown rice, vegetables, protein

What is a staple meal? A food or meal that is eaten routinely and so often that it dominates over other options in a given population. Usually energy packed with high nutrient content, a community can live on only 2 or 3 staples. Usually inexpensive, accessible, and suitable for long periods of storage, staple foods provide one or more powerful macronutrients needed for survival and ultimate health: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Usually plant based, staple foods consist of- grains like wheat, barley, rye, millet, quinoa or rice; root vegetables like potatoes, yams, taro, and cassava. In some cases, fishing serves the community as the primary source of nutrition, therefore; fish may be considered a staple.

We just got back from New York City. Spending a good amount of our vacation budget, we needed to carry out the week with a strict budget in mind. We decided to use up the items in our freezer, fridge and pantry with one stop to a new market before it closes for summer (Phillip Estate Wednesday Market). About once a week, brown rice & veggies with some form of protein is on our menu. This is our staple. It is flexible, healthy, and budget-friendly. What is yours?

Brown rice – My history with brown rice began a few years ago when I heard it was a better choice over white rice. So I began choosing it when available at local sushi and asian style restaurants. Never really researching for myself, I thought “according to Oprah, just say no to all starches that are white – flour, bread, rice, etc.” Now in present tense, when my severe abdominal discomfort & bloating came into play, my elimination diet relied on the great grain. Great because brown rice has all bran layers intact, holding on to its naturally present nutrients. Brown rice contains the highest amount of B vitamins out of all grains. This great grain is high in fiber; contains iron, vitamin E, amino acids, and linoleic acid. In many cultures around the world, brown rice is eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

BUYING & STORING

  • Good quality may contain a small amount of green grains and that is a good sign!
  • When buying in bulk, store in an airtight glass jar in a dark cupboard. When not buying bulk, make sure to read the package as it may advise refrigeration.

SOAKING & COOKING

  • Recently, I started soaking grains before cooking. For years I thought it was silly and not possible for busy people. Yet now with a little more time to slow my flow, I see the benefits through the texture after cooking and digesting after eating. DEFINITELY WORTH A TRY TO SEE IF SOAKING MAKES A DIFFERENCE FOR YOU! I soak 1 cup of brown rice in enough water that the rice is covered with a splash or two of apple cider vinegar.
  • Over the last 2 years I am taking the easy route of cooking rice….a rice cooker. 🙂

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CHARACTERISTICS

  • Promotes good digestion and is gluten free
  • Quenches thirst
  • Balances blood sugar and controls mood swings

Vegetables – We use whatever vegetables we have at the time and throw in to our meal. Last night we had squash, sweet peppers, leeks, and lacinto kale. Another night we might have mushrooms, broccoli, peas, and carrots. Use what is local and seasonal, have fun! A great way to get kids to enjoy vegetables. Take it from me, my son is an extremely picky eater which emphasizes his strong personality yet he knows if its rice & veggie night its time to get down on whatever veggies are around. And recently, he’s pretty ok with it.

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Protein – We mainly use plant based protein sources in our meals. However, if my man is feeling like he needs a change he will add chicken or fish to his dish. Last night we used tempeh which is personally my fav. My son does ok with tofu. So choose what works for you.

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Cooking oils – For this meal, we mainly stick with sesame oil (sometimes toasted), maybe a little ghee if we have. Always adding flavor with spices and garlic or ginger.

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Viola! Unfortunately, we were very hungry and pressed for time so I did not take pics of the finished product! HA!