Salad Days

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Do you ever have those days when you wake up and you just want to create something? Last Wednesday I woke up wanting to make salad. Not just one salad, but three different kinds and all in large quantities. It was an incredibly therapeutic activity for me, so much so that I didn’t bother to document the process and almost didn’t snap any photos of my creations or tell anyone about what I made. But thank goodness for a good friend who encouraged me to share these creations with others! So many people are eager to eat healthier and if these recipes can help them do so, I’d be glad to share!

Cabbage Salad Wrap with a Ginger Garlic dressing adapted from Hello Paper Moon
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Ingredients:
Whole wheat wraps
3 cups shredded green cabbage
1 1/2 cups julienned carrots
3/4 cup sliced cucumbers
1/2 cup sliced sugar snap peas
1/3 block extra firm tofu
little bits of cooked shrimp (optional)

Ginger Garlic Dressing:
4 cloves minced garlic
1 to 2 inch block of minced ginger
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp honey
3 tbsp water
a squeeze of Sriracha

Combine the dressing ingredients in a jar or sealed container and shake vigorously until mixture is homogenous. Toss the salad ingredients together in a large bowl. Slowly pour the ginger garlic dressing until it covers all ingredients. I only used a little more than half of the dressing recipe. Serve salad in a whole wheat wrap or eat by itself. Feel free to change any of the quantities for the salad and dressing. Measure to your tastebuds as I do with mine! (Just a note that I do prefer my foods spicier and more sour than “normal”)

Quinoa Salad with Miso Orange Dressing inspired by Sprouted Kitchen
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Ingredients:
2/3 block extra firm tofu
Canola oil
1 tsp soy sauce
Fresh ground pepper
2 cups cooked quinoa
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
½ cup sliced sugar snap peas (edamame would probably taste better)
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Chopped cilantro (I’m always very generous with adding cilantro!)

Dressing:
2 tbsp white miso
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp sesame oil
3 tbsp rice vinegar
1 shallot minced
Juice of half an orange

Heat the oil in a pan. Slice the tofu into ½ inch cubes and add to the pan when the oil is hot. Add the soy sauce and a little bit of pepper and sauté for a few minutes. Let it cool.

Combine the quinoa, thinly sliced carrots, snap peas, sesame seeds and tofu in a large bowl. Mix the dressing together and pour in the bowl of quinoa. Roughly chop the cilantro and mix into the quinoa. I prefer to eat it cold rather than room temperature but either way should be fine.

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Delicious!

Kale Israeli Couscous Salad
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I first discovered Israeli couscous at Mendocino Farms where they make a deliciously tangy Israeli couscous salad. I knew that I wanted to recreate it someday. While this salad is not quite like the one from Mendocino Farms and was birthed from the random leftover ingredients in my fridge, I was rather pleased with the result so I decided to make it again! Kale is such a healthy and complex green that it just feels so good to consume it and I love the chewiness of Israeli couscous!

Ingredients:
2 cups cooked Israeli couscous (Trader Joe’s sells a box)
4 cups kale
1 medium to large sized sweet potato
½ cup chickpeas
Grape tomatoes sliced in half (only include if they are sweet!)
Crumbled feta cheese
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the Israeli couscous according to the instructions on the box and then set aside to cool. Chop the kale into small pieces, making sure that the stems are sliced small. Have a bowl of iced water ready. Boil a large pot of water. Blanch the kale in batches for about 30 seconds to a minute and then immediately place in the ice water bath. Drain well. (Alternatively, you can chop the kale into smaller pieces after blanching).

Prick the sweet potato with a fork in a few places. Bake it in the oven at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Take it out when it is just soft enough for the fork to go through but not mushy. Let it cool. Once it is cool enough to handle, peel it and cut it into small cubes.

Combine all ingredients together in a large bowl. Create a balsamic vinegar dressing using 2 parts balsamic vinegar to one part olive oil. Add some salt and pepper and dress the salad. Sprinkle some red pepper flakes. Keep in the fridge for a few hours before serving to allow the dressing to penetrate the salad. Serve it cold with crumbled feta on top.

I hope you enjoy your creations! Happy salad eating!

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Ratatouille a la Remy and Baked Eggs

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Task me to cook dinner and I will make you my favorite chef’s prime creation, Ratatouille (and baked eggs for extra protein)! That chef is of course none other than Remy, a fictional rat from my favorite Pixar movie, Ratatouille.

In the movie, Remy is asked to cook for a famous food critic and out of all the fancy French dishes he is capable of making, he chooses to make Ratatouille…but in his own style! I don’t know too much about French cooking, but I do believe that Ratatouille is traditionally made in a pot, like a vegetable stew. In the movie, Remy slices the vegetables thinly and roasts it in the oven with some herbs and tops it with a sauce. The first time I wanted to recreate the dish, I found this New York times recipe that was supposedly conceptualized by the man/lady who made recipes for the movie. I tried making it during college and it wasn’t too difficult, though it was rather time consuming. This time around I wanted to try a simpler version so I used Smitten Kitchen’s version, which was much easier but still incredibly delicious!

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The main ingredients are very simple and easy to find. Some vegetables and a sprig of thyme is all you need! I substituted tomato paste mixed with water and a little tomato sauce for tomato puree because I already had them in my pantry. They worked just fine!

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The key to this recipe is to acquire and utilize a mandoline. Chopping these vegetables thinly is not very fun if you don’t have a sharp knife and above average knife skills. Don’t get too caught up on arranging the vegetables perfectly (I know I did the first time). Just make sure to alternate between each vegetable. Make sure you use salt and pepper generously!

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I served the Ratatouille on a bed of whole wheat couscous that I purchased from Trader Joe’s. It’s very easy to cook and pairs well with the Ratatouille. Do listen to Smitten Kitchen and top it with goat cheese. It works really well with it!

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I was brainstorming protein dishes that I thought would complement the Ratatouille well without taking the spotlight away from it and figured I should stay away from meat and go for eggs! To jazz my eggs up a little, I decided to bake them. All I used were:

– grated parmesan cheese
– sliced up ham/prosciutto/bacon/pancetta
– fresh parsley (sliced very small)
– fresh thyme (sliced very small)
– eggs, of course
– salt & pepper
– cute little ramekins to bake them in!

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It was very easy to make. Simply crack the eggs and place them in the ramekin. Top it with the cheese, fresh herbs, sliced up meat and sprinkle some salt and pepper. I held off a bit on the salt because I knew that the cheese and meat would add saltiness to it. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees (same temperature as the Ratatouille) for about 10-12 minutes for a runny egg (which I love!). The deeper the ramekin, the longer it takes to cook and since mine were pretty shallow, they were done in 10 minutes.

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Voila! Delicious and sophisticated baked eggs that can be served during any meal. Doesn’t that soft, bright yellow yoke just make you hungry?

This dinner was good for 3 people with a very small amount of Ratatouille leftover, which I then scrambled with some eggs the next morning for breakfast and topped with goat cheese!
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I ate it with a crispy whole wheat toast. It was a lovely, hearty breakfast. Two great and pretty healthy meals from one dish. Success! Thanks Remy and Smitten Kitchen!

Let’s Get Healthy!

I have a confession to make: I didn’t bake for a whole month! (I also didn’t update this blog for over a month. My apologies!) I lasted one whole month without combining flour, sugar and butter together! January was a tad busier than previous months, with friends visiting from out of town and a second part-time job (I now tutor low-income kids Math!), but I definitely had more than enough time to spend in the kitchen. It’s just that I chose to spend that time cooking instead of baking, more specifically, healthy cooking! While I didn’t formally make a list of New Year’s resolutions, there are some lifestyle changes that I carry out, several of them involving my health and fitness. Most people usually think of exercise when they think of health and fitness, but food is JUST as important as exercise to your health and fitness! I’ve seen this quote all over Pinterest: “A six pack is 10% exercise, 90% diet.” While I can’t exactly vouch for the accuracy of that statement and those numbers since I am no fitness expert, I do know that there is plenty of truth in that statement. Okay I probably learned the science behind this since I did study nutrition in college, but the explanation eludes me at the moment… But to get to my point, besides making it a point to exercise and keep myself moving throughout the week, I’m also intentionally choosing to eat healthier! Am I completely banning sweets and fast food from my diet? No…come on. I’m baking Bea, I have to taste my baked goods at some point! But am I eating fast food once a week or eating half the whole batch of cookies I bake? HECK NO! So what AM I doing? Well let me show you:

1. Eat a healthy, filling breakfast every morning within an hour of waking up.
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oatmeal with blueberries and a dash of brown sugar, mango black tea and spinach scramble

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a piece of toasted whole wheat toast, half a small mashed avocado and fried egg made with a spray of Pam instead of excess oil

2. Create delicious meals with whole foods and lean meats and making sure to eat vegetables with almost every meal (even breakfast!). I’ve been eating a lot of quinoa and lentils, exploring couscous and farro and using brown rice and whole wheat bread almost exclusively (thank goodness I always preferred the taste of whole wheat!). I’m also relying on salmon, tofu, chicken breast and beans for my protein! Quinoa also has more protein than other carbohydrate-rich foods! I’ve also been using more sweet potatoes over potatoes (which I don’t like that much anyways, except I love fries…) because they have a lower glycemic index – I’ll probably write a post on what that means later.

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Pan-seared sockeye salmon (which contain lots of eicosapentanoic acid and docosahexanoic acid AKA omega-3 fatty acids!) flavored with minced garlic, lemon, salt, pepper, soy sauce and a bit of brown sugar to brown it. Quinoa, chopped up spinach with fresh lemon juice sprinkled on top of everything. Please forgive me for this half-devoured picture. I was just ridiculously hungry and jumped right in before taking a picture. My bad.

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Sweet potato, black bean, chicken breast, quinoa “chili.” I’m not really sure what characterizes chili, but this is definitely a much healthier version of it. Hearty and filling! I topped it with fresh avocado and a tabasco & dijon mustard greek yogurt. Recipe here (though I altered it quite a bit).

3. Consume healthy snacks! I’ve been eating lots of almonds, fresh fruit (especially berries!) and bananas (which I hate and totally makes me gag when I eat it, except they’re so damn good for you). I’m naturally not a heavy snacker (I prefer large meals instead) but I’ve been eating more smaller, frequent meals to keep my blood sugar steady throughout the day and avoid hunger pangs!

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Greek yogurt is freaking awesome. So is honey. A cup of 0% Greek yogurt has only 130 calories and more protein than normal yogurt. It’s a great substitute for sour cream as well!

4. When eating out, make healthier choices and PORTION CONTROL PORTION CONTROL PORTION CONTROL. If you go to any other country, you’ll find that their serving portions are MUCH smaller. A small soda in America is equivalent to a large soda in the Philippines. A plate of food in America is half the size in European countries like Portugal, England and France.

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Okay okay before you judge me for the Saltado de Mariscos pictured above, let me just say that you shouldn’t deprive yourself of good food, especially when eating at probably the best Peruvian place in LA with friends (Mario’s!) BUT eating out and good food is NOT an excuse to finish the whole gigantic plate of food. PORTION CONTROL! I also chose seafood over beef which is healthier, partially because I craved it but normally I would get the Lomo Saltado! Just make sure you’re not eating like this every freaking day and to balance it out by eating healthily during other meals!

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Or you could just eat at healthier places like Native Foods when you go out, and order a filling and flavorful dish like this Rockin’ Moroccan Bowl above (it has quinoa, roasted veggies and tofu!).

5. When baking, share your goodies with everyone and refrain from eating half the batch! I recently tried this chocolate chip, oat & walnut cookie recipe from my new Tartine cookbook and only kept three cookies for myself (: Sharing is caring!

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These are just some of my healthier lifestyle choices for this year, but don’t get me wrong, baking bea won’t stop baking. But perhaps you can call me healthy-eating bea as well? :) What are some of your New Year’s resolutions that pertain to food, nutrition and fitness?