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Cooking Class!

Loren got me the best present for Christmas this year: cooking lessons for us to take together. After reading a bunch of reviews, he found The Natural Gourmet Institute in Manhattan. It is focused on making healthy, mostly vegetarian, largely ethnic cuisine. Loren and I decided to take a class called “Destination: Morocco” with Myra Kornfeld. Neither of us knew anything about Moroccan food, but we were intrigued by the idea of learning about new textures, spices, and ingredients.

The class was more than I could have hoped for. We took it on Martin Luther King Day, from 2:30 to 6 PM. It seems like a lot of time to cook, but we had so much to make that it went by really fast! We made: Roasted Red Pepper-Sesame Pesto on Toasted Pita Triangles; Green Leaf Salad with Shallots and Pomegranate Molasses Vinaigrette; Red  Lentil Soup; Chickpea Charmoula Strudel; Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Onions, Cinnamon, Almonds and Cherries; Quinoa-Carrot Pilaf with Saffron, Mint and Harissa Spinach; and Olive Oil Semolina-Walnut Cake. (Sorry but I can’t post any recipes here — they belong to the instructor). Loren and I were a team of two and we made the chicken dish, the harissa spinach, and the quinoa pilaf. Everyone in the class made 2 to 3 dishes, which was great because we really learn a lot about using new ingredients and spices.

I took pictures when I could!

The beginning instruction:

Me, seriously hard at work… (making the filling for the chicken)

Me, happily hard at work…

The stuffed and breaded chicken. They were sauted in a pan and then baked in the oven.

Loren had fun stuffing and breading the chicken!

It was great to learn how to make little “pockets” in the chicken to stuff them with the caramelized onion mixture. I will definitely be trying to re-create this dish with different ingredients at home. I think goat cheese would be really great in it!

It was a lot of fun to play with new spices and herbs. To make the “harissa spinach”, we boiled some hot red peppers and let them sit in the water for 10 minutes before chopping them up and adding some jalapeno and spices. Then, we mixed this spicy plate with a whole lot of spinach.

Yum!

Then, we had a presentation on how to use the filo dough, which we stuffed with a chickpea mixture and rolled up.

What’s interesting about filo dough is that you have to use a bunch of layers to create a nice crust. You also have to brush each layer with a little bit of olive oil. I’m usually really intimidated by ingredients like this, but after seeing how easy it was for us to make, I might try to play with it at home.

Myra rolled it up like a pro!

Once everyone had made their dishes, we got to the best part: EATING!It was really nice that the Institute also provided wine with dinner. For $110, the three and half hours of cooking, the professional instruction, the amazing food (multicourse dinner), and wine were more than I expected. EVERYTHING WAS SOOO GOOD!

We started out munching on a dairy-free red pepper dip and some freshly baked pita chips.

Then, we had the red lentil soup, which had a little bit of yogurt drizzled in it. YUM!

The salad came next. I wasn’t expecting to like this salad, but it was AMAZING. It had been described as kind of a “sweet” salad, which I dont usually like, but the dressing was very light and not overpowering at all. It was topped with crispy fried shallots, which were the perfect contrast to the maple syrup in the dressing and the pomegranate arils and juicy oranges. YUM again!

Next came the entrées and we got to try them all! I was a big fan of both the stuffed chicken breast and the chickpea/ filo dough roll.

I love the idea of rolling food together and then cutting along one side to make the presentation very beautiful. I never really cooked this way but it inspired me to spend a little more time thinking about presentation when I cook. The sides — the quinoa and the spinach — were very light. It may seem like we a lot of food but I didn’t feel stuff at all. I think that is because we use such healthy ingredients (i.e. we fried chicken in coconut oil instead of in heavy fats so it didn’t make me feel sluggish or weighed down).

I actually forgot to take pictures of the wonderful dessert- a semolina flour cake which was served with orange slices and vanilla ice cream. I don’t usually like dessert but it was ALSO so good- not too sweet at all!

All in all, it was a very fun day. The Institute definitely exceeded my expectations! (And as a full paying student, I am giving my honest opinion — I am not a paid blogger:) )  In fact, we already have plans to go back in the Spring!

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Miss Me? I missed YOU!

Hi guys!

Miss me? I took a much-needed break from the blog after realizing on my trip how glued I have been to the computer in my daily life. After lots of delays and snowstorms, we got back to New York on Sunday morning and I’ve taken a few days to think about where I want to go with the blog. I definitely missed writing and communicating with all of you — especially getting comments and feedback. But I didn’t miss the pressure of taking pictures and posting about every single meal. I think I’ve known this for a while, and I have hinted at it, but posting that way wasn’t working well for me- I don’t want this to be a diet blog — I never have. I want this to be a non-obsessive, happy, and positive celebration of food and health. So I think I’m going to begin posting differently…

I will post about a  great meal I have out or cook at home, an article that I read about women’s health, a fresh market that I visit, and so on. The idea of posting every day, three meals a day just isn’t appealing for me anymore. I really enjoyed my vacation. I tried to stay active by walking a lot and swimming where I could, but we definitely all ate a lot of delicious food and we all gained a pound or two.

Being away from the blog helped me realize how much pressure put on myself to eat perfectly and stay at a “perfect”  weight… and it just doesn’t always happen. That’s life. So, in trying to do what’s best for me and become my healthiest self, I want to continue writing and being a part of this blog world that I love so much but without the kind of pressure that is unhealthy for me (I don’t judge anyone else who  wants to post things in a different way…). I hope you guys will keep reading because I so enjoy communicating with you about one of my favorite topics: food!

Argentina was an amazing country to visit and I had so much fun with my family eating delicious food, hiking in the mountains, exploring the city, and drinking lots of delicious red wine! Here are some highlights of the trip:

FOOD!

We visited produce markets in Buenos Aires,

And bought lots of good fruit for snacks.

There was delicious smoked salmon everywhere!

And very hearty bread…

lots of fresh vegetables and great salami and cured meat

And amazing, soft, flavorful cheese.

The hearts of palm were incredible — have you ever seen one so big?! (it’s that big white thing on the plate)

Our hotel had delicious homemade yogurt and museli for breakfast… with lots of fresh fruit!

The coffee was really good — I’m told — I don’t touch the stuff!

Argentina is famous for its awesome Italian food — and it definitely lived up to expectations!

Mmmm… Eggplant Parmesan!

We even had delicious sushi and Japanese food in Buenos Aires, which I  guest-posted about on Karin’s blog. I was impressed!

Seaweed salad,

Miso Salmon with veggies,

And a free dessert (some kind of custard)!

All in a very chic, simple, and beautiful Japanese restaurant.

The desert that we had for Christmas Eve dinner with the best thing I have ever tasted!

It was heaven: a thin crusted tart with vanilla custard, fresh blackberries, a raspberry purée, and vanilla ice cream. With a crunchy slice of apple on top.

Of course, yours truly found a juice bar with vegetarian wraps in Buenos Aires. Who knew? They were filled with humus and quinoa tabbouleh. Our vegetable juices were a crazy concoction made up of carrot juice and coconut milk. It was actually really good!

Of course, I also had plenty of good wine! This one was so spectacular that I had to take a picture.

Not only was it an amazing country to eat our way through, it was stunningly beautiful…

Lakes, mountains, and forests!

The city was also gorgeous…

As all tourists have to do, we saw an incredible tango show

It was steamy!

As usual, Loren and I were total dorks and went swimming everywhere we could.  Don’t we look good? HAha.

It was a truly incredible trip and I had the time of my life.

Thank you, mom and dad for an incredible trip filled with beautiful moments that I will never forget!

And I will see you guys later for some (American) food recaps this week! Hope your holiday vacation was relaxing, fun, and, of course, DELISH!

(Trying to) Flee the Snow

Even though it looks like this outside:

(Snowing… cant really see it here!)…

We’re headed to the airport tonight to see if our flight will take off for Argentina! We’re going on a big family trip, with my parents and sisters. It has been a long time since have all traveled abroad together-about 10 years, so I am really excited! It is summer down there!! We’ve been planning this trip for about six months and we’ll be in Buenos Aires and Patagonia. I will do my best to keep blogging regularly about all of the great food and wine I expect to be consuming. Cross your fingers that we get out tonight!

PS I had a breakfast burrito this morning . . .

Good fuel for flying!

UPDATE:  We are stuck at airport- blizzard is full on. Our flight has been delayed until 11:30 tomorrow morning, though I am sure it will be delayed even further because the storm isn’t supposed to end until early tomorrow afternoon. All the hotels in the area are booked and the roads too bad to drive on . . . so AIRPORT SLUMBER PAAARTAYY!!!

A New Relationship

Good morning!

Yesterday was one of those days when I was tempted by lots of treats — a reality of the holiday season, of course. I was proud of the way it handled the day in contrast to the way I have in years before… but more on that in a bit.

I had to be up early to teach a class, so I skipped the gym.  I made a breakfast wrap with scrambled eggs, avocado, a little bit of cheese, and some apricot preserve.I had some tea and fresh berries on the  side.

Breakfast wraps are my failproof go-to for a morning when I need something quick and healthy — and filling!

When I got to work yesterday, a lot of the classes were having holiday parties which meant lots of food.  I tried to make healthy decisions while still enjoying things I don’t usually get to eat.

I had a cup of smart food popcorn,

Two small chile rellenos for lunch (homemade  by a student—- sooo good!)

( I think they were covered in egg and stuffed with chicken and vegetables).

And a chocolate chip oatmeal cookie.

In years past, I would have freaked out about eating a cookie and fried food for lunch-  and not having gone to the gym. I probably would have thrown my hands up and thought,  “Well, I’ve ruined my day/diet so I might as well eat whatever is in sight.”  And then I would have, and then I would have felt like puking.

I don’t get much into my disordered eating past here, but I realize how far I have come on days like yesterday. I have a different relationship with myself, and, therefore, a different relationship with food. This blog also really helps to keep me sane, to keep me accountable, to keep things in perspective. Yesterday, as I felt old thought patterns coming back, I  watched them and I didn’t beat myself up for having a few goodies. I  just said, “No big deal”- because it really wasn’t. And because I didn’t beat myself up, I didn’t overindulge. I got back on the bandwagon  before I could even fall off and had healthy eats for snacks and dinner — exactly what I was craving.

I snacked on a low-fat yogurt from Trader Joe’s.

And a green apple.

For dinner, I ate a big bowl of raw veggies with a little bit of dip.

And some shrimp gyoza  from Trader Joe’s that I steamed and pan fried in olive oil. These were delicious!

I recently bought this great red chili teriyaki sauce and it went perfectly with the dumplings. I went back for two more!

I am usually really impressed with Trader Joe’s frozen foods, but these were especially impressive. They each had big bites of shrimp, lots of veggies, and a great consistency. They weren’t mushy or bland in the center at all — as many frozen dumplings are. They are also very healthy and full of protein,  at  about 50 calories per dumpling. I will definitely be buying them again and relying on them for a great midweek dinner.

I ended the day feeling satisfied but not stuffed- and my “bad eats” at lunch seemed like no big deal in the big picture. I finally feel that I am really moving into a new space with food, eating, with health, and with myself. I hope that it lasts into the new year and beyond.  Thanks to you all for reading and for all your support.  It makes a big difference to know you are there!

Hope you all have a great Friday! I am off on a big family vacation (more details to come) tomorrow night — if the weather permits! A snow storm is coming!

My First Talking Blog

Good morning, blog world!

I am currently reporting to you like this:

What am I doing? I am “typing” — hands-free! Last week, when I realized that I really couldn’t type for a while, I ordered MacSpeech Dictate, a voice activation software. I have never seen anything like this. It is amazing! Very accurate, very easy to use, and will make my recovery much faster. I am actually going on vacation starting this weekend, so that will help to. But I have so much typing to do at work that I couldn’t go  two weeks without typing.

This software is totally worth it for anyone who has wrist, arm, or nerve problems. What is also very cool about it  is  that you can make multiple profiles, so that, for example, Loren  could also use this program because it would learn to recognize his voice separately. He has a bad wrist ( I know, we are both old people) so this is great for him to! You can also find great programs for PC’s (they are actually rated even higher by most review sites).

Anyways, onto  yesterday’s  eats. After a 35 minute workout on the elliptical at the gym, I came home and made a big bowl of oats sans  pumpkin, but with banana, almond milk, and  topped  with some homemade apple butter.

I also stopped at Starbucks for my usual: a skim  awake tea latte  with one pump  of pumpkin syrup.  The oatmeal was very good-  I always feel so healthy starting my day off with oatmeal.

Lunch was packed at home, as usual. I made a turkey bologna sandwich and  packed lots of fruits and veggies to go with.

If I use half a banana at breakfast, I tried to eat the rest of it for snack that day. That way, I don’t feel that I am being wasteful, but I also don’t eat it all at once. In addition to the snacks above, I also had a small cooked chile,  given to me by a student.  I think it was stuffed with veggies and shredded chicken.  These ladies know how to cook!

I tried to be creative for dinner… eh,  it didn’t go so well. I mean,  I ate it,  but I would change a few things that I made it again. Basically, I try to make a kind of  “Mexican casserole”, layering corn tortillas, beans, and veggies. We had just bought some fresh veggies and I was trying to incorporate them into the meal-  but I think I try to incorporate too many.

For example, broccoli. Bad idea.

Here is the finished product:

I just doctored up my piece and Loren’s  with avocado, yogurt,  cheese, and hot sauce. It was actually pretty good once I took the broccoli off my plate!

For dessert, I had a mini ice cream cookie sandwich from Trader Joe’s.

Can’t believe I “typed”  that whole post while talking to my computer. You can just picture me sitting in my  kitchen, talking to my little  Mac-  that should  make you laugh!

Rest and Relief

Morning! Yesterday was a day of rest, so I didn’t go to the gym. Instead, I spent extra time in bed 🙂

I made a delicious breakfast that consisted of a wrap with scrambled eggs, raw goat’s milk cheddar, and some apricot jam. I took a picture but somehow I deleted during the day while I was fussing with my camera 😦

So I guess we’ll have to skip to lunch. We had nothing in the refrigerator, so I walked to work empty-handed. At lunchtime I picked up another delicious wrap from Zaytoon’s (means “olive’s” in arabic) a Middle Eastern Restaurant near my office. The wrap was filled with hummus, babaganoush, and tabouleh. I also ordered a small container of their pickle olive and peperocini mix and added that to my wrap.

It was deeeelish!

I also had the last of a container of pineapple that I bought last week.

I was running around all afternoon, so I didn’t have time for a snack. When I got home around 6, I was desperate for something small to tide me over until dinner. I relied on my trusty string cheese.

Since we had no veggies in the fridge, and I didn’t feel like making a TJ’s run, I gave in and ordered take-out from a Japanese place in the neighborhood. Loren and I split a bunch of rolls: california roll, a seared salmon roll, and a fantastic roll–spicy tuna with salmon, avocado, and yellowtail on top. I also got a large green salad that was much needed after a couple of days sans greens! We also split some edamame.

Puuuurty.

But dessert was definitely the best eat of the day!

What is that, you may ask? A frozen banana covered in dark chocolate from the mecca of frozen foods–TJ’s! I know, I know. You can make these at home, but for a lazy girl like me I was thrilled to see these in the store!

It did not disappoint. It was amazing. I also liked that it took a long time to eat, so I really felt like I got my sweet fix tonight!

P.S. I saw a PT today who gave me a lot of exercises for my arm and wrist. It’s finally feeling better, but not completely up to snuff, so Loren, again, helped me write the post (editor’s note: he’s pretty much the best!). Just wanted you to know that if you don’t get the usual blog comments from me, it’s not that I’m not reading your blogs–I just have doctor’s orders not to type! (But I may slip in a few comments here or there. Hehe). I love reading them all!

Subsisting On Staples

Good morning! Thanks for all of your well-wishes about my wrist–it’s not feeling all that better but I am going to see a PT today who specializes in hand and wrist–so here’s to hoping! Loren, being the kind boyfriend that he is (editor’s note: she really said this, I didn’t make it up!) actually helped me type up this post last night.

Alright, back back to the important stuff: FOOD!! I started yesterday with a 35 min bike at the gym. When I got home, I was looking for something filling but light to refuel. We don’t have a lot of groceries right now, and since we are heading out of town on Saturday, I’m trying to consume what we have (Anyone have any great recipes for brussel sprouts, tofu, and orange juice?!?). I decided to throw together a bowl of staples: some TJ’s raisin bran cereal, trail mix, dried cranberries, a scoop of peanut butter, and some almond milk.

Not as much fruit as I normally like, but the dried grapes and cranberries count, right?

While making breakfast, I also threw together a few things for lunch that needed to be eaten: A TJ’s Indian channa masala, a string cheese, a whole wheat wrap, and some celery.

I was going to have the apple for snack, but I ended up coming home  a little early, so I made a snack at home. It looked a lot like breakfast!

A bowl of TJ’s lowfat raspberry yogurt with a sprinkle of raisin bran, dried cranberries, and a few chocolate chips.

Dinner was a random mix of foods (what was left in my fridge). I made a “pizza” using the last piece of garlic nan, topped with marinara sauce, goat and feta cheese, and some banana peppers.

Yum!

I also had an apple, a handful of wasabi peas, and some pistachios (unpictured).

And lots of tea.

Simple dinner=easy clean up.

P.S. Look at what I picked up at the bookstore this weekend!

I can’t wait to read it! It includes lots of vignettes and short stories from all sorts of food writing from 2009. I’m currently reading “Push” by Sapphire (I wanted to read it before I saw the movie “Precious”), so I think the food book will be a happy pick-me-up after a depressing but important read.

Have a great day!