Little, Warm, Golden Sunshines In The Midst Of Winter

Guilty pleasures.  Don’t we all have them?  One can’t eat healthy all the time!  If we didn’t have our guilty pleasures we’d all go crazy, I’m sure.  I have a few guilty pleasures.  Potato chips are one.  Tortilla chips with salsa are another.  Due to the extreme cold of the last few days I have been craving some warm, comforting, guilty-pleasure type of food but completely unmotivated to brave the subzero windchills.  I looked in my cabinet and it’s getting rather sparse but I did have some polenta.  It reminded me of an episode of Everyday Italian with one of my heroes, Giada De Laurentiis from back in the day where she made fried polenta.  Bingo!!

Polenta is Italian in origin and is ground cornmeal usually boiled with water or some kind of stock until thickened.  Kind of like grits.

Frying the polenta was super easy because in this case, I didn’t actually have to boil up the polenta.  I bought an organic pre-made/packaged brand which had all natural ingredients, so I didn’t mind the purchase.

I coated the bottom of a pan with olive oil and turned the heat onto medium-low.  I sliced the polenta into half-inch circles  and pan fried them for about 5 minutes or until I noticed they turned a nice golden brown on both sides.  When they were done I placed them out on paper towels to absorb some of the oil and let them cool.  In the meantime, I put a handful of spinach into the pan and let it wilt for a hot second.  Literally.  Gotta have a veggie!

So, let me tell you: fried polenta is a gift; a little, warm, golden, sunshiney gift.  It’s my new guilty pleasure that brings warmth to the dead of winter.  I had to stop myself from eating all of it.  They came out crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside and best when still warm.  In my opinion, they didn’t need anything extra but they would be great with salsa or in a salad with spinach and goat cheese.  They’re definitely something to get creative with.  They’d be an awesome Superbowl snack too!  Yes, they’re fried so not the healthiest in the world, but it’s a nice treat on a cold day and I guarantee if you serve them at a party they will be polished off in a matter of seconds.

Fried polenta with spinach

fried polenta

Park Slope Stoop Interview!

I’m not sure I’ve mentioned this but I love my neighborhood in Brooklyn.  Park Slope is one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in all of New York City and I am totally privileged to live here.  There’s a unique sense of community in Park Slope that you don’t get in other areas of NYC.  The beauty of Prospect Park (which is just like the famed Central Park in Manhattan but larger and fewer tourists) just up the street, all of the small privately owned restaurants and boutiques as well as the beautiful brownstone architecture makes Park Slope a wonderful place to live.  I have been living here for four years and I still think “I can’t believe I live here!” when I walk down the charming tree-lined streets.  Yes, trees do grow in Brooklyn.  Many, as a matter of fact.

Today, I consider myself even more fortunate to be part of such a wonderful community, being able to voice my passion to the local residents through Park Slope Stoop, a fantastic local website.  Recently I was interviewed by the editor, Arianna, on overall wellness and tips to get through this upcoming flu season (it’s supposed to be a doozy!).  Check out the post here!! :)  I’m so excited about this interview, I had to share it with you all right away!  It includes my recipe for homemade chicken soup, which is proven helpful in fighting off colds and flu, and other helpful tips for feeling good and energized.  I hope you enjoy!!

Love to you all and stay healthy!!

Prospect Park Panorama

On a winter’s day, just me and my shadow, alone in Prospect Park

10 Reasons Quinoa Rocks!

Okay, so quinoa has become a big obsession of mine.  Quinoa….quinoa, quinoa…….quinoa…  How I love thee.  Let me count the ways…….

(1) It’s a super healthy substitute to grains and noodles and tastes great!  There’s a misconception, that quinoa is a grain because it’s typically used in dishes where a grain, like rice or barley would be used.  But, it’s actually a seed related to chard and spinach.

(2) Quinoa is a plant-based complete protein which means it contains all 9 essential amino acids.  So it’s great for vegans or anyone looking to get more protein in their diet without eating meat.

(3) It’s gluten-free!  If you have Celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, quinoa will be a good substitute to barley and other grains with gluten.

(4) Quinoa is cholesterol free, so it’s heart-healthy and better as a side-dish than, say, buttered noodles.

(5) It’s super easy to cook.  Cook quinoa like you would cook rice: 1 cup quinoa, 2 cups water, bring to a boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes until water has evaporated, quinoa looks light and fluffy and substantially larger, and the white germ (the spiral tail) partially detaches.

(6) Quinoa is a great source of fiber (though it’s insoluble fiber so if you have colitis or something where insoluble fiber isn’t a friend of yours, quinoa may not be a good choice – this may be the only con to quinoa).

(7) It tastes great!  It’s slightly reminiscent of couscous, slightly nutty in flavor and slightly crunchy in texture.  I’m looking forward to using it in soups as a replacement to noodles or rice.

(8) Quinoa is versatile.  It can be eaten cold or hot for any meal and it’s great any which way.  Serve it hot with steamed vegetables, some garlic, olive oil and lemon, or cold, the same way with raw veggies.  You can also serve it hot with a curry sauce, which is amazingly yummy.  It can be served in salads, veggie burgers, even as breakfast, hot or cold.  Mix it up or even cook it with some milk (regular, almond, coconut…the choice is yours) add some fruit and enjoy!  It’s a great way to start the day and will keep you full and energized for a long time.

Quinoa with broccoli, kale and a coconut curry sauce.

(9) It’s a historic food.  Apparently, 5000 years ago, the Incas cultivated the crop and realized it’s potential to give strength to their warriors.  They called it the “mother seed.”  It was a staple in the Incan diet until the Spanish conquerors came and made it illegal to grow quinoa.  The conquerors destroyed the quinoa and forced native indians to grow wheat instead…for whatever reason.

(10) It’s high in manganese, magnesium and phosphorus which are major minerals needed in our diets.  Manganese helps in the metabolism of carbs, fats and proteins to produce energy.  Magnesium maintains the nerve and muscle cells and signals the muscles cells to contract and relax.  Phosphorus helps to generate energy from all cells in the body, is the main regulator of metabolism and is second to calcium in what makes up our bones and teeth.

As a side note, for your own health: in it’s original state, quinoa is covered in saponin.  Saponin is a natural protector of the seed with a bitter taste to ward off bugs and birds and is a protective coating against harmful sun rays.  Though, most quinoa sold in the U.S. has been pre-rinsed, removing the saponin, it can’t hurt to rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer.  You will notice any saponin by seeing a soapy consistency in the water and we all know what can happen if soap somehow gets ingested. ;-)

There you have it folks, 10 reasons quinoa rocks!  If you haven’t already tried it, I highly recommend it.  If you’re already on the bandwagon, keep it up!  Let’s all thank the Incas for cultivating such an awesome, well-rounded food.

As reference, check out this informative website for all healthy foods:
The World’s Healthiest Foods – Quinoa

Time for Another Healthy Breakfast!

Morning everyone!  I have discovered a breakfast that I love and want to share.  The last time I wrote about breakfast was back in July and it was one of the first posts that I wrote.  Today’s breakfast is similar but instead of milk, I used vanilla Chobani  and added Cascadian Farm Organic frozen blueberries to Cascadian Farm Oats and Honey Granola.  I love Cascadian Farm products.  They’re all organic and a staple product in my home. My freezer is loaded their frozen fruits and vegetables.

The oats and honey granola is about 230 calories per serving, which is about 2/3 of a cup.  The Greek yogurt is about 40 calories and the blueberries are about 70 calories.  Some people say to stay away from granola because it can be high in fat and sugar but I think it’s great, if it’s organic and especially good for a yummy start in the morning.

Also, aside from this yummy breakfast, I’m trying to switch over to almond milk.  It’s very creamy (much more than skim milk) and tastes great.  There’s more calcium in almond milk too.  I put it in my coffee and it’s almost like having some sugary coffee creamer in there, but there’s not.  And I got the original flavor too.

1 cup of almond milk is 60 calories. It’s also a good source of protein.  I’ve heard of people making their own almond milk.  It sounds like a good idea but it also seems like a waste of perfectly good almonds, to me at least.  Any thoughts on that?  I do admit though, it seems like the nutrition from pure, homemade almond milk is amazing.  Especially for breakfast in the morning….yum!

Try this breakfast, it’s yummy, nutritious and a great way to start your day.  I hope you all have a lovely one. :-)

Did I inspire you to try a new breakfast?  :-)  Also, let me know if you have any insight into homemade almond milk.  Thanks!