Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Three A Day

Three A Day. Now that  definitely sounds like a prescription or daily allowance recommendation. For example, "Take these three times a day and your pain will be gone in no time," or "you need three or more servings of vegetables a day." 

Even though I can speak for my veggie intake (which you will see soon,) the real three a day I am referring to is not in reference to either. Instead, it explains how my Sunday was spent. Let me explain. Sunday was my first official "class time" for registered yoga teacher training (as opposed to my Wednesday night Mysore practice). During this time, I was lucky enough to take part in two "feedbacks". (For those of you that do not know, a feedback is a class taught by teacher trainees in which the students tell them how they are doing as a teacher afterwards.) 

Unfortunately, I had ate right before since I was unaware of what was ahead. Chocolate brownie oats with strawberries are delicious...

...but not right before two yoga classes. Ooof.

Luckily, the feedbacks went well regardless. It was a lot to take in but I definitely enjoyed participating. Now that my RYT (registered yoga teacher) trainer and I have formally decided upon moving forward, I can look forward to feedbacks of my own very soon. After talking with her, I also have been assigned a mentor (or "big sister" as my trainer calls her) and a plan. I am so honored to be working under both of these inspiring women. I feel especially excited because my mentor is the "big sister" that I already feel I have a connection with. How perfect! 

Directly following the two feedbacks, I was off to a Vinyasa class with my mom. Yes, this was my third class for the day. I should also mention that the three classes all followed each other. Talk about non-stop yoga! 

After I finished my three a day, I was ready for a shower and some serious eats. In that order. 

Speaking of showers, did you know that Ayurvedic teachings encourage students to rub their sweat back into their skin? I know that may sound crazy, but it actually makes me more mindful. To me it kind of represents how the work of yoga, which can be physically shown by sweat, should be savored and embraced. Basically, our yoga practice should carry with us throughout our day instead of just being physical exercise that ends when we leave the room. 

Sweat-rubbing aside, my tummy was calling for one thing: my favorite wrap combo. 

After preparing my dinner, I most definitely relaxed. A bowl of my favorite treat (kabocha!) was in order as well. This was a treat for both my mind and body, both of which had worked hard.

To save you from lots of random snacky photos (of which I did not take), I can sum up my night by saying that my hunger was increased from my physical activity, and I continued to snack, snack, snack. 

Thanks to this, I was not a raging beast in the morning. Always a good thing, my friends, always a good thing. Since Monday's are my day off from community service, I took it easy and had time to prepare warm oats. 

I am so very happy that I did because these were crazy delicious. Seriously, I always love the blueberry-strawberry combo but this was like no other. 

Maybe it had something to do with absolutely succulent, local strawberries (which were also an amazing deal---wahoo!)...

...or the addition of my rare blackraspberries. Swoon.

Anyway, back to the three a day thing. I mentioned at the beginning that I could also speak for my daily veggie requirements. I am always shocked when I hear that most Americans do not meet the USDA's requirement of 5 servings of vegetables and fruits a day. Sometimes I actually worry that I get too many. Haha, just kidding, but I do try to get some variety. How many servings of vegetables and fruits do you get a day? What is your favorite way or food to get them?

Some of my favorites in the past few days have been salads, stir-fries, and straight-up veg. Mind you, these are definitely not new methods for ST&VE, but they are delicious and versatile none the less. I can eat bowls and bowls of steamed broccoli and cauliflower just as much as the next guy (oh wait, that is not common? Nevermind...), but I also enjoy playing with endless possibilities of combinations and flavors. 

Apparently I was having a little to much fun playing tonight because my resulting Mexican-inspired stir-fry was so voluminous that it called for my biggest plate. Obviously I am serious about my veggies.

With my veggies, I had the usual grain suspect: millet. If you have not tried millet yet, you are seriously missing out. It is fluffy, nutty, and light while still being filling. Please, try it for yourself. And for when you do, you are welcome

I also had some avocado slices. I really enjoyed how its creaminess nicely complemented the spicy and hot flavors in my stir-fry. I am starting to grow fond of avocados, but still only eat it in small forkfuls at a time. 

Another veggie that is new for me is the purple asparagus (on the left) I picked up at the farmer's market. I steamed it up last night with green asparagus (on the right), zucchini, cauliflower, and broccoli. I also made millet and topped it with my homemade vegan lemony garlic scape pesto (recipe to come, inspired by two of my favorite bloggers, Angela and Ashley) and chickpeas. 

Unfortunately, I had trouble taking pictures of this meal, which is quite sad because the colors were beautiful. I later realized that it was because I had changed my camera's settings so that my grandmother could take a picture of her magnolia tree. I did manage to get a fun picture of the pesto looking heart-shaped, though.

As for the purple asparagus, even with the camera-glitches, you can probably tell they were NOT purple. Well, they were perfectly purple... until I steamed them. My neighbor who sold them to me said that they would turn green, but would not divulge much else in hopes of me seeing it for myself. Silly me, I thought that they would magically turn green over time, not when cooked! Hehe. Either way, I could definitely tell a taste difference. They were a bit sweeter and meaty-ier (not a fan of this word, but I do not think hearty really says it well). No complaints from me! 

Oh, and just for fun, here is the photo that my grandmother took of the magnolias. She absolutely adores them. What is your favorite flower? I have a special place in my heart for sunflowers because my other grandmother, who has now passed on, used to grow them for me when I was younger. I was convinced she had some kind of magic over them because I had never seen sunflowers grow so big and beautiful. I think her secret was growing with love.

On the salad front, I enjoyed a snack plate that was basically a very simple, deconstructed salad of romaine lettuce, carrots, and Mary's Crackers

For a more traditional salad, I ate this beauty for lunch. 

Talk about veggies galore! I steamed yellow squash and asparagus to go with raw sweet peas, carrots, and cucumbers on a bed of romaine lettuce

Naturally there were chickpeas included as well. This was such a great mix! I loved that there were both raw and cooked components, giving me a range of textures. 

Personally, I am a salad-purist, for lack of a better term. I usually prefer my salads naked (without dressing) to let the natural flavor of the veggies shine through. I do, however, enjoy different textures and methods of preparation. Do you eat your salad veggies raw or mixed? Do you like to dress your salads? What are your favorite combinations?

Have a lovely Humpday, everyone!


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Everyday Sale

If there is one thing I have learned from going to the farmer's market, it is that everyday is a sale. Not literally speaking, of course (though today's deal featured a flat of strawberries for only $3--oh my!), but in the sense that with prices as good as these, they are actually better than sales at the grocery store. And as if that was not enough, the market is filled with fresh, local (sometimes organic), and absolutely beautiful produce that is enough to make your heart sing. 

There is no way I would rather spend my Saturday mornings than basking in this wonder with my mom. What is your favorite way to spend a lovely summer weekend?

Today was an especially good day at the market. It seems that with every summer day, the produce seems to get more beautiful and bountiful, calling to me, "eat me, eat me." Naturally I was happy to oblige. 

For the obligatory green-action, I decided to get romaine lettuce, broccoli, and kale. All of these were so large that they did not even completely fit on my recyclable bag for the picture! Usually I would not share prices, but all of my finds were just too good to be true. The broccoli that was bigger than my head (maybe about 2x my head or so?) was only $2. Both the romaine and kale were $1 each for a generous head and bunch respectively. 

I wanted to show you a bit of a close up of these because I really like the texture. I have found that farmer's market produce generally has "character" and is more "rugged" in texture than their store-bought counterparts. I actually really like this because it shows me that they were grown with care and are produced on a smaller scale. Let's be honest, who actually sees "Michigan-grown" on a label in their supermarket (unless, of course, you are a Michiganian)? Basically, these local farmer's are producing on a small scale which allows everything to be fresh and mindfully taken care of, not to mention extremely delicious. 

More veggies included cauliflower, zucchini, yellow squash, sweet peas, and (the return of) an avocado. I am so excited about the sweet peas because I cannot remember the last time I had them. Something about sweet peas just says summer to me. What food says "summer" to you?

I also bought two red peppers ($1 for both) and both green and purple asparagus (2 for $5, I think) from my neighbor. The purple asparagus are definitely a new find for me. Has anyone every had them before? I did a little research and found that their purple color comes from their cancer fighting phytochemicals called Anthocyanins. Apparently they are also sweeter than their green counterparts. Sounds good to me! 

The bounty of gorgeous veggies certainty could not distract me from my other love: fruit. First up was 3 pears that are destined for either sorbet overnight oats or as an addition to a salad. 

The deal of the day was a flat of strawberries for $3. Yes, my friends, that is indeed $3 for 8 boxes! However, they looked a bit too ripe for my taste. I can go through strawberries like nobody's business, but not that quickly! Instead, my neighbor offered me a great deal on Michigan strawberries that were not quite as ripe. She charged me $2 for 1/2 a flat. Is she a sweetie or what? 

My little splurge for the day was a basket of black raspberries. I was intrigued by the farmer and his daughter's little table that was filled with only these precious gems. Unsure of what they were, I inquired about them and got to talking. What can I say, I love to chat it up about good food.

 The farmer told me that they were freshly picked this morning and offered that I could try some for myself. I knew almost immediately that it was love. Through chatting, I learned that black raspberries are only around for 3 weeks, so naturally they are quite the rarity. Not wanting to miss my opprotunity, I asked my mom if we could buy some. 

We decided that our $4 splurge (which, in reality, is not so much of a splurge when comparing it to the store and considering that it we were supporting a local farmer) was completely worth it. Once the black raspberries ripen a bit more, we will savor them all as they should be: au natural, in the company of loved ones.

With all this beautiful produce, I see a lot of fresh and flavorful meals in my future. The joy of eating food that is good for my taste buds, body, and even the local economy delights me like no other. What more could a girl want? 

I definitely see a lot of salads in my future (which will probably be even more exciting than this beauty below). 

Do you have any ideas of how to use all this produce? What are your favorite meals using these finds? Do you have any recipes to share? Salads are my go-to meal because I get to enjoy all my favorites (veggies, of course) in their natural state. Yum!

Aside from picking out produce and googling recipe ideas, I have also been pretty busy baking in the kitchen. First up, I made two batches of cookies for presents for my mom's students (she teaches a water aerobics class to senior citizens). The first batch was coconut cookies

Next, I decided to make cranberry almond cookies. I must admit, the fact that this combination sounded like something my grandmother would like had a large effect on my decision. I knew she would want a little taste (remember the little mouse?), so why not make it something special?

However, I was really wishing I had a Twitter while making these. I spent more than an hour trying to decide what kind of cookies to make and still to no avail. Some blogger inspiration could have fixed this in a jiffy!

Even with my lack of inspiration, my cookies seemed to turn out well. First, my mom and I packaged them up in patriotic dish towels (the picture she took of the packages is below). 

Then I left a few extras out for my family to nibble on. 

Even with a sign on them explaining that I had not done my blogging duties yet (i.e. I had not taken pictures so to please refrain from eating too many), they disappeared before I knew it. 

Accordingly, only a few were left for the photo op, including one that my mom was in the process of eating. Munch, much, munch. 

Since my family was obviously gobbling up the baked goods faster than I could turn them out, I decided to continue on my baking spree. 

Somehow we ended up with a surplus of black bananas in our fridge so I felt it was my duty to fix that. No wasting!

 Add to that some chopped strawberries that were on their way out (last week's $5 a flat deal---wahoo!) and you have delicious and savvy vegan strawberry banana muffins

Whew! Looking back at this post, there is A LOT of stuff going on. What have you been up to this weekend? Here's a hint about how mine started...

Enjoy this beautiful summer Sunday and have a lovely start to the week, bloggies! 


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Raining in the City

Hey there, bloggies! How's your week been so far? 

This week I was able to start community service projects with my favorite organization. Their mission is to enrich our sometimes neglected big city by involving teens from the surrounding areas. I worked with them last year and had a great time so naturally I was excited. 

To fuel me for my first day, I had high expectations for my breakfast of sorbet overnight oats. It had to be both delicious (duh) and filling (we work from 9am-2pm, without a break). 

Although I was originally a skeptic, I'm happy to say I can now call myself a fan. Not only are overnight oats a breeze to prepare for this girl who refuses to wake up any earlier than she already is, but they also leave my tummy feeling fine. Angela once mentioned a weird feeling similar to mine after eating warm oats. I never thought anything of it until now. Happy tummy = happy & ready-to-work Mandie. Perfect. 

Yesterday kicked off with a painting project. Many buildings in the city are either abandoned, falling apart, or in need of sprucing up. Because of this, one of the many things the organization seeks to do is beautify the city one building at a time by painting murals. However, before we could get down to the artistic painting on our first project, we had to chip/scrape off the old paint coats and prime the brick. It was a long day of work but totally worth it. (Let's just say primer doesn't come off easily.) When we left, the walls became a blank canvas for our imaginations to explore. 

I was so tired after my first day working that I barely noticed the time. I kicked back for a little while before finally making a late lunch. I've had these Ezekiel Sprouted Grain Tortillas in my fridge, waiting for an inspiration moment. I'll admit I've been curious about them for awhile, but I finally took the plunge after seeing them multiple times on Claire of A Fresh Dille's blog (I love everything she eats) and realizing they were on sale at Whole Foods. What can I say, I'm a sucker for sales. 


I love Food For Life products but apparently these tortillas are not unanimously loved. They've definitely received their faire share of mixed reviews. I guess you love 'em or you hate 'em. Well I'm definitely on the love side! Most of the complaints about them were that they were too hard and broke when folding because of it. I can see where that comes from, after all they are tougher than most tortillas, but personally I think that gives them their characteristic flair. If I'm eating lots of natural sprouted whole grains that are dense and filling, then why not show it? Oh, and for those of you who are still skeptical about the folding issue, just pop your tortilla in the microwave for a few seconds and they become more pliable. Problem solved. 

Speaking of problems solved, my hunger was solved by this combination. I made a wrap (or maybe it was more like a taco or something else because it didn't exactly wrap) with hummus, spinach, carrots, yellow squash, and mini cucumbers. On the side, I had a bit of romaine lettuce with the yellow squash and carrots that didn't fit in the wrap. 

Crunch. Munch. Yumm. Repeat

 Oh, and I might have had some chickpeas, too. And when I say some, I mean a lot. It's no secret that I love these things. 

While the chickpeas were perfectly what I wanted, they did me fuller a little longer than expected. After yoga, I still wasn't hungry. Whoops. As is usually the case following yoga, after an hour or so I went from not-hungry-at-all to hungry beast in a matter of seconds. Luckily, I was already preparing veggies for a mexican stir fry.  

One thing I love about stir-fries is how easily they come together. While cooking a grain, chop & steam/sauté veggies + add protein + spice it up + make it pretty (or not, if the sun goes down and you lack natural lighting like me) --> done! 

Grain = millet

Veggies = yellow bell pepper + carrots + zucchini + yellow squash + cauliflower + broccoli + Brussels sprouts

Protein = homemade black beans (homemade is the way to go, my friends!) 

Flavaah = chili powder + cumin + lime juice + salsa

This was definitely a spic-ayy mix! It was bursting with flavor and oh so satisfying. In case you were wondering, multiple glasses of water had to be consumed with this. 

After experiencing savory for dinner, my taste buds decided they wanted a sweet break for snack. A fresh, homemade graham cracker (recipe to come) that I warmed up and sprinkled with cinnamon plus a bowl of fresh fruit was perfectly what I needed. Comforting and naturally sweet, what else could a girl want? 

On the fruit, I sprinkled a little cocoa powder a la Gabriela of Une Vie Saine. After eating the berries that were dusted with cocoa on the top, I decided to add a little lot of cinnamon (do I really need to explain why?) I worried about the indecision but was SO glad I went for it. Try this. Cinnamon and cocoa powder is a whole new flavor. The fact that these two could be combined was too good to be true. This will definitely be repeated.