img_7128I can’t remember how it started, but 2 years ago I started a love affair with restaurant ramen noodles.  There was a local ramen joint that I loved that had these big bowls of delicious broth, pork, and ramen noodles.  It just seemed like the perfect winter food to me!

About a year ago, I discovered Brown Rice Ramen Noodles at the store, and I figured I could make this dish at home!   There’s many different ways to make it – chicken, pork or vegetarain.  In this version, I used some proscuitto (I know, wrong cuisine) to add flavor because I had it on hand.  Feel free to omit it (to make it vegan), or add the protein of your choice.

Since my Facebook live video last week about making tomorrow’s breakfast got such a huge audience, I decided to a Facebook Live video with all the instructions for the ramen recipe.  It’s pretty rough around the edges, and you’ll get to see me in my actual kitchen making dinner and dealing with kids and my husband who interrupts, gets in the way, and tries to eat ketchup straight up! Ewe! It’s real life!

I didn’t prepare at all for the video, except to set up the tripod.  I find with these things it’s best if I just go for it and try not to obsess over the details, because then I run the risk of never getting started.  In the words of my wise Uncle Blaise, “It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be done.”

And with that, here’s the recipe for Healthy (& Quick) Ramen Noodles

Makes 8 servings, cook time 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Lotus Foods Brown Rice Ramen, 4 patties
  • 10oz sliced mushrooms – I used a blend of shiitake, baby bellas and oyster mushrooms, but any variety will do
  • 1 head of bok choy, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Olive oil, 2 tbsp
  • Sesame oil, 1 tsp plus some for garnish
  • 8 slices of proscuitto
  • 8 hard boiled eggs, for cooking method click here
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp Osem Consomme
  • 6-8 cups of water
  • Sesame seeds for garnish
  • Scallions for garnish

Instructions:  In a large pot, over medium heat, add the olive oil and sesame oil and minced garlic.  Let the garlic become fragrant.  Chop the proscuitto and add it to the garlic and oil, lets the proscuitto become cripsy and brown – about 2 minutes.  Rinse and chop the boy chow and mushrooms.  Once the proscuitto is crispy, add the mushrooms and then the boy choy on top. Add soy sauce. Cook down for 5-7 minutes until the mushrooms have turned brown and softened.  Add the water, depending on the size of your pot you can use 6-8 cups.  Add the Osem, let it come to a boil.  Peel your hard boiled eggs.  Once the broth has come to a boil, add the ramen noodle patties and let simmer uncovered.  After 3 minutes, use a fork to untangle the ramen noodles.  Simmer another 1-2 minutes until noodles are done.

To plate, place one hard boiled egg on each serving cut in half lengthwise, scallions and sesame seeds.  Finish it off with a splash of sesame oil.

 

 

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If your child has just gone back to school or just started school for the first time, you may be scrambling to get in the swing of packing snacks and lunch 5 days a week.  My son just started nursery school so I’ve put together a few quick items you can pack in the lunch box and feel good about!

1) Pre-Packaged Apple Slices – Brands like Mott’s sell containers of pre-sliced and packed apple slices that are just 30 calories a serving.  The apples don’t go brown, and since it’s a smaller portion than a whole apple, it’s perfect for younger kids who may get bored with a whole apple or not be able to bite into an apple yet.

2) Hard boiled-eggs – Eggs are a great snack food because they are unprocessed and are loaded with protein for energy! Here’s an easy snack you make at the beginning of the week and portion out into small containers and keep in the refrigerator.  I peel the hard-boiled eggs before-hand so all my son has to do it take a bite!  Ziploc has small reusable containers that aren’t expensive that are perfect for an egg or a portion of trail mix.  If by chance your kid accidentally throws it out, you won’t be heartbroken.

3) Healthy Cookies – Every kid wants to open his lunch box and see a sweet treat!  How about healthy cookies?  Just three ingredients: quick oats, ripe bananas and walnuts make baking cookies super easy!  The kids can even help you make them.  If your child’s classroom is nut-free, you can swap out the walnuts for mini-chocolate chips.  Skinnytaste.com has a great recipe for Healthy Cookies to get your started.

And finally, to avoid the boring onslaught of sandwiches, I suggest you invest in a good insulated container. My son isn’t really accustomed to eating sandwiches so I bought a type of Thermos so I can give him a “hot lunch”.  I opted for the Lunchbot after surveying some moms because it’s got a wide mouth and BPA free.  So far I’ve packed my son brown rice with chicken sausage in here, tortellini with turkey meatballs and broccoli, and even mac & cheese. Having this container opens up lunch to be more than a boring old sandwich!  Best of luck with your snack packing!

 

January Jumpstart!

December 26, 2013

Are you ready to drop a pants size in 30 days?  Are you ready to have tons of energy in 2014?  Do you want to detox from over-indulging in holiday treats?

Then you are ready for the January Jumpstart: 30 Day Cleanse & Reboot that I’m hosting with fellow health coach, Trina Kincey.

Contact now for your personal assessment and for more details by emailing janjumpstart@gmail.com We are offering a $100 discount for enrolling before January 1st, just mention code CHEESE13.

This cleanse is a proven program that thousands of people have used to drop significant weight in 30 days.  Last summer after a glutinous trip to Las Vegas I did this cleanse and lost 15lbs. See my before and afters.  I felt fantastic fitting into my old clothes and even had to go buy a smaller size of jeans! I’ve been keeping off the weight since and feel great!

What will you look like "after"?

What will you look like “after”?

January Jumpstart: 30 Day Cleanse & Reboot

Hosted by Marie Ingrisano Isner & Trina Kincey, Certified Health Coaches

Cleanse begins January 15th!

We will guide you through a 30 Day Nutritional Cleanse with 5 group coaching calls tailored for your success.

As part of the program you will receive Breakfast & Dinner, nutritional supplements, a daily anti-stress rejuvenating drink, and the tools to keep the weight off.

You’ll be invited to a members only Facebook group so you can connect with your health coaches and fellow cleansers to have the real-time support to stay motivated.

Five group coaching calls will teach you everything you need to know!  Listen in from the comfort of your home.

January 13 8:30pm – Introduction to Nutritional Cleansing: All your questions answered

January 20 8:30pm – Eating right for your body: Learning how to identify what foods work best for you

January 27 8:30pm – Healthy Cooking with Ease: Learn new meals and snacks to never get bored while on the plan

February 3 8:30pm – Incorporating exercise into your busy lifestyle

February 10 8:30pm – Developing Maintenance Programs: Keep the weight off or lose more if you desire

Space is limited so please contact us now to secure your spot.  $100 discount expires January 2nd!  Contact me at janjumpstart@gmail.com to enroll!

Follow Us on Facebook HERE.

While in a health coaching session I blurted this out, “Look, for me, weekends end Sundays at 4pm.”  As soon as the words came out of my mouth my client was saying, “I love this idea!”. We love the idea that weekends end?  Yeah!  Because it gives us some time to actually prepare for Monday and the week ahead without feeling guilty.

This past weekend I stayed too long at the fair, so to speak.  We spend the weekend away and should have headed home around 3pm, but lingered until 7.  Then we hit an insane amount of traffic on the BQE and didn’t reach home until almost 9pm.  I had plans to make 2 more recipes and to prepare for my busy Monday of health coaching.  Getting home at 9pm was not really in the plan.  The good news was I’d already done my grocery shopping and cooked a few staples, so I was in a good position, just not the one I wanted to be in.  I scramble to make cashew nut milk and cashew cream cheese because I’d already soaked the nuts.  The milk came out divine!  I highly recommend making your own nut milk if you like the taste.  It’s super easy as long as you have a high speed blender and a nut milk bag.

The cashew cream cheese…not so much.  Probably in my haste I’d misread the directions because mine was a soupy mess.  I haven’t given up yet though.  I soaked some more cashews and am going to attempt to bring it back to life tonight.

This is what happens when I stay too late at the fair.  Raw cashews ain’t cheap and I might’ve wasted 2/3 of a bag because I was rushing to make the recipe at 9:30 at night.

Monday morning was more of the same.  I forgot my notebook, didn’t have time for a green juice (though I did throw together a quick superfood smoothie) and almost missed the bus on the way to my office.  Geez!  Mondays are so stressful even under the best circumstances. That’s why I’ve realized in the past few months that Sundays at 4pm I have to go into “weeknight mode.”  I start planning for Monday morning, take a shower, tidy up the house, whatever it takes to feel calm and sane on Monday morning.  I know that if I don’t cook a bit on the weekend we are ordering take-out by Tuesday night.  I don’t want to live like that anymore.  I want to be one of those people who seem organizing through thick and thin. That’s why my weekends start Friday at 5pm and end Sunday at 4pm.  Which is still 47 whole hours of weekend fun!

Friends and family may not be happy with you when you say at 3pm, “Alright, we’re gonna head home”, but that’s their problem.  I love to be out socializing, but my sanity has become more important to me.  Sunday brunch should be the last plans I make for the weekend so that afterwards its home and chores for me.  Look, I get it, this is not sexy at all.  Didn’t it always seem like the women on SATC had endless brunches and exciting plans on Sundays (and never folded a load of laundry)?  In real life underwear has to be folded!

Especially now that it’s winter (and cold as F*ck outside) think about structuring your weekends a little differently.  Schedule in some self-care (mani/pedi anyone?) or a workout just for fun.  Take time for socializing but plan in the “sanity building” activities like lounging on the couch with your spouse or tidying up a closet.  Then turn into a pumpkin at 4pm on Sunday! Then you can get back to the reality of Monday morning with as much grace as you can muster.  I have never woken up Monday morning wishing I hadn’t spent a few hours the night before getting ready for the week.  I am always so much less stressed and grateful to not have to start from scratch every Monday morning.

About 2 weekends ago, I was sick Sunday night and basically gave up and went to bed early.  The next day was insane!  I was running about 2 hours late for everything because I hadn’t done any of my usual preparations.  Because I was running around like a chicken without a head, I eventually ended up at the bagel place getting breakfast.  (read: not healthy).  The stress always leads me to bad food choices and I don’t want to start my week like that.

When I’ve got the green juice already juiced in the fridge I don’t even think about getting a bagel and hot chocolate (did I mention the hot chocolate?).

This weekend after Christmas and all the madness that comes with it, I really look forward to my weekend ending Sunday at 4 so I can get my act together and start the first week of 2014 the (healthy) way that I want!

My Brush with Fame

November 10, 2013

I guess like most people who go to college and study theatre, I’ve often thought about what it would be like to be famous. Would I be gracious when people stop me on the street? Would I give generously to charities? Would I do Nespresso commercials but only overseas? I know for sure I would remember to thank my husband when I win my first Oscar.

Matt Damon, yeah, I met him in person, TWICE

Matt Damon, yeah, I met him in person, TWICE

But (I’m guessing) like many other people who go to college to study theatre, sometimes our lives take different paths than we ever could have anticipated. A psychic I see every few years (and who has been reading tarot cards for me since I was 19) told me recently that my fame “was going to be more subtle”. Apparently, it’s so subtle, it’s really just being famous to people who share the same last name as me! I believe the saying “a legend in her own mind” is appropriate here. 🙂

All kidding aside, I loved my time on stage and hope that someday I can go back to it, but for now, I’m really happy with my new profession of health coach and all the people I get to work with along the way.

It just so happens that in the past few weeks a couple of my most “fame-iest” projects all came together at the same time. I’ve mentioned in this blog before that I’m working on a mini-cookbook of some of my original recipes. It was an idea that only came to me around my birthday (late August) and I’ve already written 11 recipes for it. Now I know a full size cookbook needs a lot more than 11 recipes, but in the spirit of “it doesn’t have to perfect, it just has to be done”, I’ve decided 11 is a great number to put out as a mini-cookbook so people can learn a little bit about me, my home cooking and my health coaching approach. Some of the recipes are my mainstays (Italian Meatballs, anyone?) and some are brand new (White Bean Dip). They all got the star treatment this weekend when 2 photographers came over and photographed them in all their glory! They asked me if I was happy with the way the pictures were turning out and I said, “Are you kidding? This is my ‘Oscars Moment'” (Thank you to my husband for his never-ending love and support!)

It was not only exciting to see my food come to life through the lens but it was amazing to me that I only dreamed up this scheme a few months ago, and now it’s coming to life. It was an idea that once I thought of it, I couldn’t get it out of my brain. I wanted to work on it (without being forced). I wanted to try new recipes. I wanted to get feedback from people. Basically, I wasn’t afraid. It just goes to show you (and me) that when inspiration hits, it really doesn’t feel like work and it can be a source of primary food! That’s “finding your bliss”.

As part of the cookbook I also got the chance to have some new pictures taken of myself in a “cookbook” kind of setting. I wore an apron, had lights focused at me to make me look my best and felt like Julia Roberts. Another Oscar moment for sure!

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Photo by Scotto Kim

That same week, we filmed a commercial for my dad’s business, Alarms R Us and I played a “yoga student” in an industrial film for my yoga studio. It was lots of cameras, lights and being called “an actor”. It was such a departure for me, because in all my theatre experience I never really did anything on film. I was so happy to be a part of all of these projects and have a chance to step back and say “Wow! I feel really lucky”. When we do things we love, it’s easy to feel that way.

Marie and Vincent filming the Alarms R Us commercial

Marie and Vincent filming the Alarms R Us commercial

I remember a couple years back, when I was working full time, that on Sunday nights I would have a bit of insomnia. I would lay awake staring at the ceiling which I almost never do. Finally I realized I was having a bit of dread over having to go to work the next day. I wanted to stay up late Sunday night as if to say, “Monday isn’t coming”. When I finally came to this conclusion I had to think about why I was having Sunday night dread in the first place. Finding meaning work or meaning in your work is one of our biggest challenges in life, amiright?

Sure, I liked having my pictures taken and being in commercials, but I’ve felt more proud than when I saw my stuffed mushrooms beautifully laid out in a professional picture. It was amazing. And those mushrooms happen to be delicious!

So I guess this is my subtle fame, and I’m kinda cool with that. I can’t wait to finish the cookbook and get it out to you all (read: my family a/k/a the ones who read this blog). Thanks for reading!

Italian Farro Salad

October 22, 2013

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Italian Faro Salad

I bought faro.  Now what do I do?

I love the Trader Joe’s line of 10 minute whole grains.  I’ve already tried bulgur and made some tabbouleh, but this was my first time with faro.  It’s more hearty than brown rice in my opinion and held up really nicely in this impromptu salad I put together.  This is your basic, “what do I have in the fridge?” kind of recipe I love.  I added steamed broccoli and sun-dried tomatoes and had this for lunch today.  It was really delightful and filling.  I suspect I could eat faro in place of pasta in many dishes and not even miss pasta!

I call this salad, “Italian” because it’s the colors of the Italian flag! Plus sun-dried tomatoes are definitely Italian food in my book.  Enjoy!

Italian Faro Salad

Cook time: Follow directions on package of faro. 

Yields: 8 servings

Ingredients

15 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil

4 cups Faro, cooked

10oz Broccoli, steamed

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 tsp salt

Pepper to taste

Instructions:
Cool farro according to package instructions. Set aside.

Steam broccoli, then chop into bite sized pieces and combine with faro and extra virgin olive oil.

Chop sun dried tomatoes and add to faro mixture and stir to combine.

Add 1 tsp salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Serve room temperature or warm.

 

 

Alphabet made of many fruits and vegetablesIt’s the never ending battle with every meal I serve to my 2 year old son, Dylan.  How do I get him to have more vegetables?  I want to make sure and get him interested in these foods early so that he will love them and always have them as a part of his diet.  But even for me, a health coach, it’s hard to figure out how to add in all the good from vegetables.  This is why I came up with 5 easy tips!

I’m speaking mostly of adding in vegetables (vs. fruit), because in my health coaching practice I encounter many people who have 2 servings of fruit a day but practically zero vegetables.  Adding in vegetables is one of the easiest and quickest ways to better your health, and it’s a tip I give a lot of health coaching clients when we first start working together.

I find most people don’t eat as much veggies as they should for 3 reasons:

1) vegetables are more expensive

2) vegetables are boring / I don’t know how to cook them

3) I don’t like salad

All of these fall under the umbrella of “I don’t know why vegetables are important”.  We’ll get to that in a moment.

I’ve eaten and served my fair share of meals that are vegetable deficient.  Sandwiches come to mind, countless bowls of pasta with meatballs, even pizza.  I love all these foods, but they are seriously lacking in the vegetable department.

So why are vegetables so important?

The make you feel full, they provide fiber and countless vitamins and minerals.  Plus they are a non-animal derived food which makes them more sustainable to the environment than eating meat.

I always do my best to buy organic vegetables because they taste better and if I’m going to eat and serve veggies I want the best!  The definition of organic when talking about food is, “Simply stated, organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones.” (Taken from www.organic.org).

But, sometimes there aren’t organic versions available in the grocery store or your budget won’t allow for it.  This is a handy guide you can use when shopping that outlines what’s called the “Dirty Dozen” – the list of the MOST contaminated fruits and vegetables (so you know to always buy those organic) and the “Clean Fifteen” highlighting the LEAST contaminated crops.  Take a look here! You can even download a wallet guide or an app for your phone here: (download a copy of the wallet guide).  With these handy list’s you can have the knowledge to decide which produce you can buy the regular version of and which you should really try to get organic.  Of course the best organic vegetables are the ones you grow yourself!  If you have a garden, think about planting your favorite vegetables next time.  They will be the best you’ve ever tasted!

Sadly, I live in Brooklyn where I don’t have a garden, but not to worry, here are the tips!

5 Easy Tips for Getting More Vegetables  into Your Family’s Diet

1)   Incorporate vegetables and/or fruit at every meal.  Add in veggies at breakfast and you’ll notice how much fuller you feel.  You may not need that 11am snack anymore!  Also, adding in vegetables at breakfast with your usual 2 egg omelet often means you can have 1 egg and still feel as full as when you’d have 2 without the added veggies.

2)   Buy organic where possible because it tastes better and is better for you.  I always tell clients a story about the first organic banana I ever tried.  It was literally the most delicious banana I’d ever had.  Before then I didn’t even really LIKE bananas!  When you buy organic vegetables they will be the best you’ve ever tasted and that makes you want to eat them more often, it’s that simple. 

3)   Swap your boring old potatoes for greens like kale or spinach.  Yes, potatoes are technically a vegetable, but they are a starchy one and they are also delivery vehicles for some very fatty toppings (sour cream, butter, oil, cheese) that can really derail your health and weight loss goals.  Try a new green vegetable instead.  Spinach is very easy to sauté with garlic and olive oil for a nice side dish or try kale, everybody is doing it! 

4)   Try Meatless Mondays so you can build your vegetarian repertoire of meals. The best thing Meatless Mondays has done for me has made me think about vegetarian dinners once a week.  I’ve gotten to try so many new recipes that I otherwise would never have made.  I’ve roasted eggplant, stuffed mushroom caps and made a traditional Middle Eastern egg dish called Shakshuka.  It’s become a fun thing we do together every week rather than eating more of the same old boring stuff. 

5)   Use fruit and vegetables as the base for snacks throughout the day.  The most filling snacks are ones that give you both protein and fiber.  The fiber component can definitely be a fruit or vegetable.  Think about dipping an apple in peanut butter for a more satisfying snack than peanut butter on a cracker or piece of bread.  Another favorite in my family is pepper slices or cucumber slices with hummus for dipping. 

Try these tips for incorporating more vegetables into your diet and share your favorite vegetarian dishes in the comments section below!

Cookin’ it, Old School

September 16, 2013

Remember back in the day when mom or grandma would spend Sundays at the stove making delicious homemade food for an early 3pm dinner?  The smell of onions and garlic sauteing in a large pot with a drizzle of olive oil.  The cans of tomatoes lined up like soldiers waiting to be poured into the pot and turned into a velvety tomato sauce for pasta. Perfectly formed meatballs sizzling away in a frying pan ready to be dunked in the sauce and turned into little balls of heaven.  Those are some of my memories of being at my grandma’s house on a Sunday.  We (being Italian-American) always had pasta with sauce on a Sunday.  There was usually a little salad to go with it and white wine for the adults.  I used to ask to “taste-test” a meatball, to make sure there were good.  My grandma always gave me one ahead of dinner, usually with a crust of Italian bread to dip in the extra sauce. It was a wonderful routine.  Sauce, bread, meatballs, getting a piece before everyone else – it was heavenly!

Marie and her Grandma Marie, 1981

Marie and her Grandma Marie, 1981

My grandma is cooking sauce and pasta up in heaven now, so I don’t get to scam early meatballs from her anymore.  I do have to put dinner on the table for my own family every night (not just Sundays) and I think a lot about the traditions that I grew up with and how different things are now.  My grandma was retired and had all day to cook, whereas now most of us moms are working out of the home and have so much more to juggle.

Marie and Grandma Mary, late 90's

Marie and Grandma Mary, late 90’s

To make sure the weeknights are about healthy eating and not ordering Chinese food, I earmark a few hours on Sunday afternoon to get some cooking done.  This allows me to simply re-heat and eat during the week when things are crazy as we are coming home from work and picking up my little one from daycare.  It’s the only way I can get a home cooked meal on the table 5 nights a week.  My strategy every week is to make 3 different meals that we can have for dinner and/or lunch and that usually gets us through 4 days.  Since we are a small family of 2 adults and 1 toddler, usually making meals for a family of four lasts us for 2 meals, at least.  Then I plan one meal that I will make and serve on the same night.  That could be a crock pot dish (that I can leave cooking during the day) or something that is a 30 minute meal.

So now, on Sundays I’m cooking like a whirling dervish in my tiny kitchen to make sure our fridge is stuffed with healthy food.  It’s a far cry from my grandma slowly cooking a tomato sauce all day, but its our ritual and it works for us.  Once the weather gets colder, I’ll definitely be making more one-pot dishes like soups and stews (and tomato sauce) that will give my home the aroma of onions, celery and carrots simmering away.  Until then, this is my strategy.

Marie’s 5 Easy Tips on How to Fill Your Fridge with Healthy Food

1) Plan to cook 3 make ahead meals for the week.  

I usually pick one beef dish, one chicken and one vegetarian meal.  We normally eat Meatless on Mondays, so I cook the vegetarian meal for that and also for lunch leftovers.

To make the most use of my small kitchen I plan to make one dish in the slow cooker, one in the oven and one on the stove top.  That way I am truly cooking 3 things at once.  One of my favorite make ahead meals for the week is Organic Chicken and Brown Rice that only takes one pot to cook.

2) Decide on what snacks you will want and pre-make and portion those out

I like to make a bunch of hard boiled eggs for snacks and I even peel them so they are ready-to-eat, even on the go.  I put one egg in a small reusable container so they are portioned out and I can thrown one in a lunch bag every morning without thinking.

My other favorite snack is trail mix or plain nuts.  I also portion that out ahead of time into reusable containers so that I don’t overeat it.

3) Have salad ingredients on hand

We eat salad with lunch and also with dinner.  To jazz up a regular bag o’ salad, I add cucumber slices, orange and yellow peppers and red onion.  I dice all these vegetables on Sunday and keep them in a separate container.  Then when it’s time to serve salad I just combine them with lettuce and dressing – voila!  Bags of salad also keep in the fridge very well, so its great to have on hand in case you run out of make ahead meals.  You can always top a salad with a can of tuna and have a new meal!

4) Find one meal (usually one you can make without a recipe) to cook fresh during the week 

Even the most diligent of us will get tired of re-heating and eating, so plan one night where your after work/school activities are light to make a fresh meal.  For me, this is usually the night we have pasta or baked chicken.  Always aim for easy recipes that you know by heart (for the most part) so that this one meal a week is a joy and doesn’t stress you out.

5) Don’t forget about breakfast!  

Think through what you’ll need to make sure breakfast is part of the equation as well.  For breakfast we normally do smoothies or juices because they are so fresh and easy.  I bought reusable cups and disposable straws so that we can put juices in the cups and drink them on our way to work. The straws are sometimes a pain to clean, so I throw those out but reuse my cups.  If you like to have eggs in the morning there are some great recipes out there for make ahead quiches or egg muffins.  This time of year you could also enjoy a pumpkin oatmeal for breakfast that is make ahead and no-cook!

If this seems a bit overwhelming at first, I understand.  With my health coaching clients, I always tell them to pick the low-hanging fruit first.  Whichever of these rules seems the easiest to incorporate into your daily like, choose that!  Do that one for a week or two, get the habit down-pat and then add in another rule.  The other piece of advice is that you know your family best, so modify these accordingly to suit your needs.  The idea is not about following rules but about making your life easier.

What make-ahead meals do you like to make?  Please let me know in the comment section.

Summer lovin’

September 3, 2013

Well, summer’s over.  So long Summer ’13.  Hell,o Fall.  It’s still a tough transition, even after being out of school for *gasp* 10 years!

I always say, when all else fails, cook something! A homemade dish on the stove top brings me so much joy to prepare and to eat.  I love knowing I can find ingredients in the kitchen and whip something up that’s healthy and delicious for my family.  It’s so much more satisfying than ordering from Seamlessweb or dialing up Chinese food.  Because I made it, I know what’s in it (and what’s not in it – added sugar, fat and salt) and I love to try new things in the kitchen, to find new combinations of delicious ingredients.  It’s like the first time I tried mustard on a tuna fish salad sandwich – my whole world was turned upside down!  How are these ingredients such a delight together? I never would have known!

Well since its officially September, I think it’s “Time to make the chili”! I usually refrain from chili during the summer, although it is a favorite of my 2 year old. Chili just conjures up thoughts of cold nights usually for me. But when I think about the ingredients (turkey chili, salsa, and black beans) they seem light enough for warmer weather, especially now that it is September. Though today it was so hot, that I was longing for the fall weather we had at the end of July. Where is the crisp fall air? because this humidity is killing me and giving me a ‘fro simultaneously.  Not pretty.

For this impromptu chili,  I’m using this chili seasoning that my dad bought me.

Mel's Drive In Chili Seasoning

Mel’s Drive In Chili Seasoning

 

I’ve never used it before, but it smells great while its cooking on the stove! I also added a secret ingredient to this batch of chili- red wine!  Just a few splashes while the turkey was cooking and it gave it a really nice complexity of flavor.  Even boring old chili can take on a new life with the addition of a new ingredient. One of my issues with making turkey chili in the past is that you sacrifice flavor for the lower fat content. I think the red wine gave this turkey chili back it’s flavor! This is one my husband will like for sure.  I’m serving it on top of brown rice and with a salad on the side.  Looking forward to digging in tonight!

Turkey Chili, with black beans and salsa simmering away

Turkey Chili, with black beans and salsa simmering away

 

Put this in the Pantry

August 27, 2013

I’ve recently rediscovered how wonderful an egg can be!  Eggs are a complete protein and are a very affordable source of protein.  Plus, chickens can lay eggs and still live long healthy lives.  We have chickens living in the Urban Meadow down the block from where I live.  The chickens are in a coop and are part of the garden’s landscape.  It makes us feel like we have a little piece of farm life right here in Brooklyn!

Dylan checking out the chickens in the Urban Meadow

Dylan checking out the chickens in the Urban Meadow

The chickens spend their days laying a few eggs, getting to see loads of happy families and children and enjoying a lovely life!  So, if animal cruelty is on your mind, you can eat eggs without worry.  Now, the caveat to that is, that it’s really best to aim for Organic eggs, because those chickens are raised humanely.  Organic eggs are the gold standard, but eggs labelled “cage-free” are second best.  Some brands are organic AND cage-free, but you need to read the packaging carefully. Eggs that aren’t organic or cage-free or usually factory farmed and kept in cages from birth to death.  Something to think about.

One dozen organic eggs is currently $4.39 on Fresh Direct.  That’s only 37 cents per egg!  I think almost all of us can afford that.  Find me a snack that’s cheaper and tastier – I dare you! Think about taking just 37 cents into the corner store or bodega.  What on earth would you get for 37 cents? 1 piece of gum?

The easiest and most fool-proof egg is the hard-boiled egg, and the reason I know this is because I formerly had AWFUL luck cooking eggs.  When I first started cooking, back in 2001 while living in London, I ruined an entire batch of eggs just trying to make some over-easy.  So I had to regroup and start from scratch.  Hard-boiling an egg only requires, water, eggs and a saucepan with a cover.  If you can boil water for pasta, you can make a hard-boiled egg.

Here’s my recipe for the easiest hard-boiled egg.

Eat these as a snack with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, or use a few and make an egg salad. Two hard boiled eggs also makes a great breakfast you can take on the go.  I usually make these on the weekend and peel them, so they are in the fridge are ready to eat all week long.

Now, some clients have asked me about eating the yolks.  My preference is to eat the entire egg with the yolk because that makes it a complete protein.  If you are trying to cut calories, you can eat only the egg white, but I hate to waste the yolk so I always eat it.  Of course, you should use your discretion.

If anyone has a great egg salad recipe, please send it along – always looking for new ways to make it!

 

 

 

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Tomato Sauce for Shakshuka simmering away

As I mentioned, for Meatless Monday we attempting a new recipe called Shakshuka.  I found the recipe on Smitten Kitchen and it was very easy to follow and the results were deliciously amazing!  First you make a simple tomato sauce with jalepeno’s for added kick.  Cumin and paprika give it a middle eastern flavor.

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Eggs cracked into the sauce

Then you crack 6 organic eggs into the sauce.  Cover it and let it poach for 5 minutes.

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Shakshuka, ready to eat

The results are soft boiled eggs (or hard boiled if you let it cook longer) enveloped in a spicy tomato sauce.  We ate it with salad and some warm pita.  It would so satisfying as a meal, and there was plenty of tomato sauce left over.  The next night, we put the tomato sauce back on the stop top.  I added one small can of tomato sauce and some water and let it simmer.  Then added 6 eggs and made another fabulous dinner out of it.

In the future, I would probably only make 4 eggs because 2 for each of us is plenty.  Then I would save the sauce, as I did, and make it again with fresh eggs another time.  I have a feeling you can’t really reheat the eggs once they are cooked.

My favorite part of Meatless Monday is all the new recipes we are trying.  It’s become a fun project for my husband and I to tackle together every week.  Plus, trying 1 new recipe a week is just about all I can handle as I juggle health coaching, school, work and being with my son and husband.  Anything more than that and I might go a little nuts!

Next Monday we will just be returning home from a weekend out of town, so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to try a new recipe.  But, having this one in my rotation will be great especially because it uses ingredients I normally keep in the pantry and it is so easy to make.

Hello!  It’s Sunday night so that must mean it’s time for me to rack my brain for a Meatless Monday dinner for the family.  While my husband and I were brainstorming ideas, we both came up with Shakshuka at the same time.  It’s an Israeli dish that is make with eggs in a spicy tomato sauce.  I’ve never made it before and have only had it out to eat at places like Mimi’s Hummus here in Brooklyn.  It’s a wonderful dish because it had tons of flavor and can be made with no meat added.

Marie and Ran overlooking Jerusalem, 2010

Marie and Ran overlooking Jerusalem, 2010

The recipe I’m going to attempt tomorrow night is from Smitten Kitchen.  I’ve never made any of their recipes, but I have heard good things.  Plus the recipe seems easy enough to follow. Fingers crossed!

I’ll probably serve the shakshuka with a green salad and a cucumber salad because I recently acquired some farm fresh cucumbers!  Pita bread is also a customary compliment to shakshuka.

If this recipe goes well, I look forward to serving it again at my next brunch!

So far, Meatless Monday has become a great family project for us to tackle.  We are really enjoying finding new and exciting recipes to make and enjoy.  It’s fun for us to do together and it really does start the week off on a good foot.

We’ve also started eating meat only 1x per day.  I’ve been doing this for a while, but my husband recently got on board.  My main reason for choosing to eat vegetarian most of the day is because I really need to make sure that I get enough veggies in my diet. So less meat, means more creativity with veggies.  I’m also very aware of the fact that meat consumption is terrible for the planet right now, so I want to make a small difference by choosing to eat meat less and less.  I’m also buying mostly organic meat which is more expensive, so if we eat meat less I can mitigate the cost that way.

I’d really love to beef (haha) up the section of my recipe repertoire that’s vegetarian, so if you have amazing recipes you like for Meatless Monday, please put them in the comments below!

I promise to post pictures of my final product as soon as I can.  Wish me luck!

 

Casseroles, Yes You Can

July 21, 2013

Today is My Love Affair With Cheese’s 4th Birthday!  Happy Birthday, Cheese! Many thanks to all my readers, especially those who comment.  Please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to spread the love!

We have big news in our household! My husband has agreed to Meatless Mondays.  I had to them explain to him that fish is also considered a meat, so lunch could not be a tuna sandwich. I’ve been trying to institute Meatless Mondays in my own routine for a few months and unless we are out of town I have been very successful.  I really like it because it forces me to think outside the meat-eating box.  I have to come up with new things for dinner like a few weeks ago when I made this Mushroom Frittata which we really enjoyed.  I also like to cook a big meal and then enjoy leftovers for a few days, so it’s great to have a meatless meal among the bunch.  I really try not to make pasta for Meatless Monday so that I can broaden my horizons a bit.

I went through my recipe cards and found a recipe for Zucchini Casserole that I had all the ingredients on hand for.  It’s pretty simple to put together and needs to bake in the oven for 45 minutes, so I wanted to do it Sunday night because on Monday after work it would just take too long.

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Zucchini Casserole ready to go in the oven

I adapted this recipe from one on Skinnytaste.com.  I figure for a dinner portion, this casserole will give you 6 adult sized portions.  If you want to make it as a side dish, perhaps 10 servings is more reasonable.  I plan to serve this tonight with a big salad and maybe a cold soup.  I’m really curious to see how my 2 year old likes it!

For the recipe click here: Zucchini Casserole

 

Zucchini Casserole out of the oven

Zucchini Casserole out of the oven

Let me know if you try this recipe and what you are having for Meatless Monday on Facebook or Twitter.

@affairwitcheese

Go Somewhere New

July 2, 2013

I made this deliciousness Monday night.

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Wild Mushroom Frittata – for dinner!

I have been lessening my dependence on meat the past few months mostly because I recognize the impact it has on the environment. Not to mention our own personal health. I’ve been buying organic meat as much as possible because I know that every dollar I spend on organic is a vote for a different food industry than the one we have today. So as part of that movement I try to eat meat only once per day and not every day. For this week’s Meatless Monday I wanted to do something I could serve to my whole family. I started poking around online for a frittata recipe because they are easy to make and something new for my family. And I knew my husband wouldn’t object to it! (Kale with beans for dinner might not have gone over so well!)

I found a recipe for Wild Mushroom Frittata that seemed hearty and easy to prepare.

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I served it with a huge salad and we loved it. The leftovers were great for lunch today as well.

I used organic eggs, milk and an assortment of shiitake and baby Bella mushrooms. Using high quality ingredients really makes a difference in the overall taste. It made this dish mouth-watering instead of just some dry eggs for dinner.

Click here for the recipe.

What do you make for Meatless Monday? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter!

Now that the weather is warmer I crave a cold sweet treat at the end of the day. While watching my beloved QVC over the weekend, I got some new inspiration for desserts using my Vitamix blender. Tonight I experimented with what has to be the easiest recipe.

Vegan Mango “Faux-Yo”
1 cup soy milk
1 cup frozen mango
*makes 4 servings, half recipe to make 2

Add to blender, blend about 1 minute on high setting until 4 mounds form. Enjoy!

I added a tablespoon of semi-sweet chocolate chips on top for added pizzazz. (They happen to be vegan as well).

The texture is more soft (not super hard like ice cream). Perhaps adding a few ice cubes would give you a firmer result. I liked the faux-yo soft though.

I prefer this to buying sorbet or fro-yo because there is no added sugar, chemicals or preservatives. You whip it up and eat it fresh. (It doesn’t make very good leftovers, so best to eat right away). Plus, you can make a different flavor every night since frozen fruit is so convenient to keep on hand.

I can’t wait to try something else tomorrow! Happy blending!

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