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FG3

It’s report card season in first grade which means that all of my creative juices and wordsmithing efforts have been going into attempting to encapsulate into a character constricted text box how each of my students has blossomed as a learner, friend, and little person over the past 5 months. But, I resolved to keep my presence known here this year and so I offer you the Cliff’s notes version of a post I have been eagerly waiting to share.

FG1

Banana Maple Almond Butter Oatmeal… caramelized bananas, melty maple almond butter, and winter soul warming oats all combined into one heaping bowl of breakfast divinity. And it comes from Angela of Oh She Glows which pretty much guarantees that it will join your breakfast rotation as quickly as it became a staple in mine.

FG2Though I am confident that the recipe is perfection written as is I have made minor adaptations. My version uses half a banana, swaps Justin’s Maple Almond Butter for the peanut butter, and tops the finished product with only the extra nut butter (the additional banana slices in the photos are purely for show). So take the time you have saved reading this abbreviated post, get the recipe here, and go make yourself this oatmeal now. I’ll respond to all your inevitable comments of gratitude as soon as report cards are complete!

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FG4

I am fearful that my previous post may have sent some of you into diabetic shock and that my reliability ratings took a nosedive amongst those who turn to me for healthful recipe inspiration. But, I return today to redeem myself in the form of a Martha Stoever-ized dessert recipe. Honestly, can you think of any peace offering more genuine a bean based cookie?! I think not.

FG1

I would not classify myself as having a sweet tooth and my food cravings border on bizarre. During a recent visit, my sister, who prefers her fruit in the form of “leather” and her veggies dressed in cheese, gave me the most vehement,  “Are you ****’in  serious?” glare when I proclaimed that I was just “dying for a bowl of oatmeal!” My inclination to not order dessert or politely decline a piece of cake is not indicative of ironclad willpower, but rather of the way that my taste buds have evolved over time. I can honestly say that overly processed, refined sugar laden baked goods just do not hold the same “yum factor” that they once had for my chubby, little kid self.

FG7

But, when a colleague recently offered me a homemade cookie whose ingredient list included black beans, chia seeds, coconut oil, and intense dark chocolate my interest (and salivary glands!) were immediately peaked! As I sunk my teeth into the little pillow of delight I had a total “Now that’s what I’m talking about it!” moment. The flavors in the cookie played perfectly off one another and, though moist, they were so chock full of bits of goodness that they had a chunky, dense texture. I would even dare to go so far as to say that they were decadent!

FG8

While I previously dabbled a bit in the bean based dessert arena (having experimented with black bean brownies on several occasions) the black bean cookie nirvana that I had experienced inspired me to concoct some of my own. While I was lucky enough to get my hands on my colleague’s recipe I aimed for something a bit more “pantry staple” friendly and happened to have a bookmarked recipe that fit the bill. The first go around I followed the recipe exactly as posted on A Couple Cooks.  After scraping the bowl I coyly offered Nick a large spoonful of batter and held my breath several moments before asking “You can’t taste the black beans at all right?” to which he replied “Seriously? There is beans in this?!” Success…the recipe had passed the secret ingredient taste test with flying colors! The second time I made a few ingredient swaps/tweaks/additions to suit my personal preferences. Like a little black dress the coconut oil enhanced the chocolate flavors in all the right ways while the oat flour created a delicate, cake-like texture. As for the addition of the chocolate chips…who doesn’t love the added excitement of finding a hidden morsel of chocolatey goodness in every bite?!

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Overall, these cookies get two enthusiastic thumbs up from my semi-sweet tooth. True, they may not make the cut for next year’s Christmas cookie line-up as I fear that my “consumers” prefer the typical two sticks of butter and pound of sugar cookie profile. But, who said I was looking to share anyway?!

FG3

Double Chocolate Black Bean Cookies

adapted from  A Couple Cooks

yield: 18 cookies

ingredients

  • 15-ounce can cooked black beans (approximately 1½ cups cooked)
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • 2 tablespoons almond milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond coconut milk)
  • 1/4 cup – 1/2 cup maple syrup (I used only 1/4 cup as I prefer moderate sweetness)
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons oat flour (can sub whole wheat flour)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ to 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips (mine were Whole Food’s 365 Brand)

directions

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  • Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Rinse and drain the beans.
  • In the bowl of a food processor, blend the black beans coconut oil, almond butter, almond milk, and maple syrups. Blend until smooth.
  • Add cocoa powder, flour, cinnamon, baking powder and sea salt to the bean mixture. Blend until smooth (the mixture will resemble the consistency of thick brownie batter).
  • Remove bowl from food processor and using a spatula or spoon gently fold in the chocolate chips.
  • Drop batter by rounded tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets.
  • Bake one sheet a time for approximately 10 minutes. The cookies will still feel a bit soft when you remove them, but harden as they cool.
  • Cool slightly and then transfer cookies to a wire rack. Cool completely.

Store cookies in the refrigerator (I have also had success with freezing them).

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Reflect, Renew, Revive – Part III

Revelation #3: Hypocrisy 

I am a hypocrite. I spend 6 hours a day encouraging children to face challenges, take risks, persevere through struggles… oh and most importantly keep a smile on their face and positive attitude while they do it. Anyone who has any recollection of how difficult and disheartening it was to learn how to read or to conquer the ridiculously inane rules of the English language can sympathize with my first graders. Add to these uphill battles the weight of developmental differences and you now have the kid struggling to remember what letter makes what sound sitting across the table from the kid writing a captivating ten page realistic fiction story. Every day mantras such as “Mistakes are proof that you are trying” and “Each person’s “best” is different” and “With practice comes progress” are lovingly and honestly bestowed upon my students. And yet, I will avoid writing a post because I don’t have a riveting story to tell or will make the choice not to share a recipe because I couldn’t capture a single photograph that met my self-imposed blog-worthy criteria. I will likely never be the kind of blogger who earns a profit, offers cool giveaways, and is sent complimentary items from major brands. But, that doesn’t mean I can’t hone my culinary skills, refine my writing, and learn how to capture a breathtaking photograph. It is time to practice what I preach, put my ego aside, and compromise with perfection.

Recipe #3: Spicy Smoked Maple Tofu

tofu

Not long after my ode to breakfast post, I dedicated a subsequent post to lunches. In particular, the obstacles that get in my way of eating (and enjoying!) “exciting”, healthful  lunches while at school. In that post I featured a recipe for a Tofu-Edamame Salad that was my obsession at the time. I am back to the reality of lunchtime as a first grade teacher, but haven’t ventured far from my favorite summertime lunch. My newest “go to” lunch is Spicy Smoked Maple Tofu bites. The maple syrup and rice vinegar create an irresistible flavor combination while the nutritional profile of the tofu satisfies my mid-day meal needs. I like to take a few of these delectable little nuggets along with some bite-size raw veggies and rice crackers for a well-balanced meal that satisfies my hunger along with my “no utensil” clause.

The recipe can be found at Edible Perspective. Even more impressive than the tofu is the photography on this site! Prepare for mouth-watering.

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Reflect, Renew, Revive – Part II

Revelation #2: Me, Me, Me

As much as I value my blogging audience (see previous post), this blog was really supposed to be for me. As terribly selfish as that sounds, I do believe that in order to take care of others you must take care of yourself. After all, the foundation that this blog is built upon (a belief in the power of healthful actions) is essentially one of self-service. Fuel yourself with wholesome foods, make time for yourself to exercise, etc. Of course, the energy and positivity that result from these actions will inevitably have a ripple effect on your social interactions and relationships thus benefiting others as well. Although it may not always be “all about you” it does “start with you.” The notion of putting myself first is one that I, like many, struggle with. In particular, I have a difficult time putting my professional life behind my personal life. Though it does not always come easily or without times when I falter, I do make a conscious effort to put my husband, my family, and my health first. What continues to get pushed farther behind are hobbies and interests. Particularly those that do not serve a clear and immediate purpose. As desperately as I want to unpack the mountain of boxes still living in our attic since our September move, I simply can’t justify giving up a weekend day when I could be planning lessons, reading up on behavioral/academic interventions, reviewing assessment data, etc. Sadly, same goes for blogging. Right this moment I am having heart palpitations sitting here writing this post as I  keep thinking about the list of “more important” things I need to be doing. To be honest, the only reason I am even writing this post is because I was given the gift of an unexpected snow day so essentially I am using up “bonus” time in my day. Blogging was supposed to be an exercise in loosening my grip on the control reigns of my professional life and putting myself first. Thus far, I have not been successful in this challenge. If anything it has only made my inability to “loosen up” even more glaringly obvious. But, being aware is the first step in making progress and I hope that in recommitting myself I will begin to make strides in the right direction (right after I go run a few miles, e-mail a bunch of parents, join a few more committees, stay at school till 7pm, and make it home just in time to put a warm, nutritious meal on the table).

Recipe #2: Cinnamon Bun Granola

granola

So I may not have totally crawled out of the yogurt for breakfast rut. It still sneaks its way into my lunchbox at least 2 days a week. But, with this granola peering at me from the cabinet I really can’t be blamed. I am a lover of all things cereal (an ode to cereal post may be in my future) and find it a suitable meal/snack for any and every time of day. I’ve read and heard it all about sugar-laced granolas, but had struggled to find a satisfactory homemade alternative to the store-bought varieties. That is until I stumbled upon this recipe from Kath Eats Real Food. The secret ingredient: buckwheat groats! Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better this gem of recipe appeared on Oh She Glows. I have made sure to have this granola in stock at all times since I first indulged back in October. Sure, it still has its share of sugar (coming in the form of unrefined sources such as real maple syrup and dates), but a little touch of sweetness in the morning isn’t always a terrible thing. Complimented by the crunch of the buckwheat groats it is perfection. Be sure to have your have your quarter cup measurer on hand and divvy up the goodness in advance because this granola is totally addictive! I recommend enjoying the granola while sipping coffee and browsing Kath Eats Real Food and Oh She Glows. They are two of my favorite blogs… both creative and inspirational. The type of people you tell your husband stories about to which he responds “Wait, do you know this person or is this one of those bloggers you stalk?”

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Reflect, Renew, Revive – Part I

Right before the new year WordPress e-mailed me my annual report for Martha Stoever. They politely applauded me on my blogging successes in 2012 toting my 19 posts as “not bad  for the first year!” Their electronically generated canned comments, though a well-intentioned virtual pat on the back, did little for sugar coating the actual statistics listed in the report. I had just shy of 4,000 views in total for the year (the average food blogger get thousands each month), I have a mere 26 followers and my top commenters were my mom and my aunts. I turned to my Facebook page in hopes of some encouraging news there, but it did little to soften the blow as the stats box there showed a lowly 33 likes. No wonder my blogging hiatus since September had not raised any red flags!

These reports only confirmed what I had assumed all along. My blog is the equivalent of a shy, awkward middle schooler. Not so pitiful that it elicited taunting comments, but meek enough to slide under the radar unnoticed. I may still secretly harbor hopes of a “She’s All That”-esque transformation in which the hidden beauty of my passions will slowly be unveiled and will suddenly captivate a mass audience. But, in the few weeks that I have had since my less than stellar report card was received I have had the opportunity to reflect, renew, and revive my original intents for starting this blog. Yes, I know this whole notion of reevaluating is totally cliche for this time of year and would likely seem far more organic had it come in say September. But, better late than never.

Three revelations came about in my reflections. In an effort to prove that I do learn from my mistakes, I will share them in separate posts. I am the first to admit that I skip directly over lengthy posts in search of “the good stuff” (a.k.a. the recipe). I will conclude each post with a recipe that I have been loving lately. The recipes are not my own and I will simply link to the pages of the bloggers who are owed all of the credit for them. I only have a single picture of each taken with my phone as I am battling technical difficulties with my camera at the moment. But despite the lack of fanfare I promise they are winners.

And now without further ado…

Revelation #1: The Voice

This blog was originally intended to be an extension of my passion for a healthful lifestyle. In particular, my love of cooking, my prideful grocery shopping and meal planning habits, and unhealthy obsession with recipe “researching.” I find a great deal of pleasure in these quirky interests and believe strongly in the benefits of mindful eating and fueling your mind and body with wholesome, natural foods. I thought that through sharing my thoughts and experiences with a larger audience it would spawn even deeper levels of excitement and satisfaction. And it did. I need to bear in mind that whether that audience is a core fan base comprised of only my incredibly supportive family members or a vast following of strangers spread across the world only if I put my voice out there will my voice will continue to be heard.

Recipe #1: Banana Bread Quinoa Flake Bake 

quinoa bake

Last year I dedicated an entire post to breakfasts. Specifically, my efforts to diversify my early morning meals. Well I am pleased to report that even once the school year commenced I continued to get creative and not fall back into the yogurt rut. Sadly, one of my favorite recipe findings is a warm meal that requires immediate consumption so it must be reserved as a weekend treat. I’m not positive if it’s the “hard to get” nature or if it really is just that satisfying, but this Banana Bread Quinoa Flake Bake has been brightening up my Sunday mornings for the past few months now.

Head on over to Natural Noshing for this recipe (and leave some extra time for browsing her other natural, gluten/refined sugar free recipes!)

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A new school year has officially begun. On Wednesday morning I welcomed 19 adorable and eager 6 year olds into my first grade class. Behind the facade of their well put together outfits, shiny new shoes, and trendy new backpacks were timid, uncertain little kids who I’d guess had laid in bed the night before just hoping that their new teacher would be nice and would take care of them. Little did they know that said teacher had been sending out her own silent wishes for them to think she was kind and to know that they would each have a special place in her heart. Behind the facade of my mega-watt smile and brightly colored, super organized classroom I was fighting my own first day jitters. The first three days were a whirlwind of early mornings and late nights with the in between filled with getting to know one another and establishing routines. By Friday I was hoarse, mentally and physically spent, and a little voice chirping “Ms. Stoever….” was on repeat in my head. The days of morning reading, hot breakfasts, freshly made lunches, mid-day workouts at an empty gym, and a to-do list consisting of only frivolous errands are definitely over. But, just as my students’ nerves weened over the first few days so did my longing for my summer life. I proudly watched on as their true personalities and confidence began to shine through, friendships started to blossom, and laughter became our soundtrack. When we all gathered on the carpet on Friday afternoon to talk about the highlights of our first week together and the shy little girl in pigtail braids at the back of the carpet raised her hand and whispered “My favorite part of the first week was meeting you” the remaining grasp on those summer vacation luxuries dissipated. I was quickly reminded that there are few things in life as satisfying and rewarding as touching the lives of children and that makes everything (even plain yogurt breakfasts and raw veggies lunches) that much sweeter.

I am still committed to trying to incorporate some of my favorite meal discoveries from this summer into my school year repertoire and I hope to report back on my progress in future posts (hopefully iPhone photos with Crayola inspired backdrops will suffice!) But, the following recipe earned its spot as the first of the school year with flying colors. You see, along with the return to my old routine comes the reemergence of the late afternoon energy plummet. A piece of fruit is my usual go to for a quick sugar rush, but I eat plenty of fruit as is and was hoping to find an alternative that would provide me with a bit more nutritional balance (in terms of stamina a combination of carbs and protein goes a long way for me). I came across this energy ball recipe on one of my favorite sites. Brittany of Eating Bird Food has a plethora of healthful, tasty original recipe creations, but this particular was acquired from a Whole Foods cooking demo. Being a WF fanatic myself (and with a name like Heady Goo Balls) I had total faith that these little balls would do the trick. I whipped up (more like pulverized… but no post is complete without at least one cliche) a batch at the beginning of the week and popped one each day when I felt the onset of the afternoon crash. Though small in stature these babies pack a nutrient-dense punch that got me through the end of day clean-up/set-up plus the dreaded hour+ long commute home. And if that isn’t enough to convince you to make yourself something that includes a blend of grasses as an ingredient they got an “Mmmmmm!” from Nick which is about as rare as a “I’m not going to cook tonight” from me.

My adaptations to the recipe were minimal so head over to Brittany’s site for the specifics (be sure to allow yourself extra time for browsing!) I omitted the bee pollen granules and used a cookie baller for scooping which resulted in 13 tablespoon sized balls. That means I’ve got plenty to keep me ballin’ through school week 2.

Original Source: Heady Goo Balls from Eating Bird Food

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*Disclaimer* This post along with my previous one are intended to be celebrations of summer vacation. By no means am I complaining about my “real life” the other 10 months out of the year…. I am simply stating the facts. I LOVE my job and wouldn’t trade it for the world. And for that I am most grateful. Now on to more important things like this ridiculously tasty salad.     

I know I promised not to harp on the many reasons why I love summer vacation… but I’m recanting on my promise (tsk, tsk) because there is one more thing that I have been relishing extra this summer. Lunch…. that crucial mid-day elixir that gets us through the work day. “But… you’re not working. So why is lunch so remarkable these days?” you may ask. Let me explain…

Unlike my qualms with a typical breakfast spread I am actually quite fond of traditional lunchtime foods. Salads, soups, sandwiches, spreads… now those are my kinda foods. Rather my lunchtime woes are once again rooted in the circumstances surrounding my meals on a typical school day:

  1. Timing – Hungry or not here it comes! My lunchtime coincides with that of my students so it is reliably from 11:25 a.m.-12:20 p.m. (this is a very loose interpretation… see below). Therefore, I eat when the clock tells me to rather than when my body says it’s time. Sure, I could dig into my lunchbox at 1:30 if I wanted to (I am the teacher after all!) but I would have to brace myself for a 6 year old inquisition. What are you eating? … That looks/smells funny!… Ewww! I hate that!… I’m hungry too. I want a snack. Hence, I choose Option 1.
  2. Lunch “Break?” – By the time I walk my kids to the cafeteria and use my super teacher powers to squelch the inevitable tears over lost lunch cards/seating arrangement gripes/what mom packed in Johnny’s lunchbox it is 11:35 a.m. By the time I go to the office and check my physical mailbox followed by getting back to my classroom to check my virtual mailbox it is 11:45 a.m. By the time I respond to said mail (and voicemails and handwritten notes) it is 12:00 p.m. By the time I set up the excessive amount of materials required for our hands-on math workshop it is 12:15 p.m. and time to sprint to the bathroom (even my bathroom breaks are time restricted… not even nature trumps the rigidity of a teacher’s schedule) and make it back to the front doors just in time to greet the rosy-cheeked children coming in from recess. The aforementioned schedule is actually the description of a highly desired “free” lunch period. On the other days I’m committed to meetings with my colleagues/administration/parents which means all those other tasks get nixed and/or completed in a condensed tornado like fashion. So there is no actual “lunch time”. Consuming my meal is entwined in all of my other mid-day duties… it is multi-tasking at its best.
  3. Menu – As I mentioned above I have a propensity for most foods deemed lunch worthy. The complicating matter is not what I want to eat, but rather what I can eat at school. Anything that needs to be eaten warm is out of the question because of the precious time that it would take to walk to the teachers’ lounge (which is on the other side of the building), stand in front of the microwave (which I avoid at all costs to begin with), and then walk back to my classroom. Meals that require more than one utensil are also off the acceptable foods list because they entail actually sitting down and using both hands which does not bode well with my multi-tasking ways. Garlic, ginger, parmesan cheese… not in my lunch! Why? Because have you ever walked into someone’s office after they devoured an over-stuffed tuna sandwich?! Yea… we all have and we all remember it because it’s scarring. Hence why foods with pungent smells are off the menu as well. I’d like for my students not to forever associate me with an undesirable aroma (plus there is also no better way to lose the focus of a 6 year old then to invade their nostrils with a “stinky” smell). Lastly, given the skyrocketing percentage of young children with food allergies I have inevitably had a child with nut allergies in my class every year. This means no nuts or nut products in the classroom for risk of cross-contamination. So much for that un-picky palate.

But in the mystical land of summer vacation there are no time restraints, meetings, tasks to tend to, or children to care for. Lunch = eating whatever I want whenever I want.  And I love it. This summer I’ve eaten hot meals, meals with stinky cheeses and nuts galore, meals that I prepared minutes (rather than hours) before consuming, and meals that required sitting and actually chewing. I’ve experimented with new recipes that are school-friendly and those that will have to be reserved for summers, holidays,and snow days (we’ll broach the topic of these little gems come winter!) Come 11:25 a.m. on September 5th nostalgia may be tugging on the hems of my first day of school clothes, but come 12:20 p.m. when I get my first “I missed you at lunch!” hug it will all be worth it!

This salad has been one of my favorite creations of the summer. It’s cool and crisp and the sweet agave and rice vinegar, savory soy sauce, and rich sesame oil meld together perfectly. The combination of tofu, edamame, sunflower seeds, brown rice, and colorful veggies will satisfy your taste buds as well as all of your nutritional needs (protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals… it’s got it all!) And with the school year just around the corner the fact that it can be made the night before and eaten cold with just one utensil makes it a winner!

Tofu-Edamame Salad

Serves 1

Ingredients

Salad:

  • 3 oz. baked tofu (I bake a whole block of tofu at a time using this recipe http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/easy-baked-tofu and use it in different dishes throughout the week)
  • 1/4 cup cooked edamame
  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice (I have also used quinoa in this recipe with equally as good results)
  • 1/4 cup chopped red pepper
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrot
  • 2 TBSP chopped scallions
  • 1TBSP roasted sunflower seeds

Dressing:

  • 1tsp agave nectar (or honey)
  • 1 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1tsp natural rice vinegar

Directions:

  1. Combine salad ingredients in a medium bowl.
  2. Whisk together dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
  3. Drizzle dressing over the salad and toss to coat.
  4. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for lunch on the go.

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