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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Summer Salad Fun

Summer salads are a staple over here, especially with all the lettuce and great veggies I have been getting through my CSA.  I thought I would share what I have been throwing in mine the last week. I have been selecting a few of these each day, mixing and matching whatever I have in the refrigerator and whatever catches my current mood.  I find that I do much better with eating salads when I have some options to mix and match throughout the week.  Nothing is worse than making yourself eat boring salads!  I also like to switch up from plain green salads to grain salads and bean salads too.  I just don't do well eating the same thing every day! So here is this week's salad bar in my frig:

Basil pesto (recipe below)
Roasted red peppers
Green onions
Goat cheese
Whole wheat couscous
Dried cranberries
Cooked split peas
Canned chick peas

Monday: pesto, split peas, chick peas, chopped up lettuce, roasted red pepper, dried cranberries. I threw some goat cheese in, but I would have rather had some Parmesan on hand and some extra pine nuts.  Oh well. Next time!  This was more of a bean salad, not a green salad.

Yesterday:  cooked couscous, pesto, roasted red peppers, couple globs of goat cheese and some dried cranberries. It was a nice grain salad for my lunch.

Today:  I had more of a green salad with a big bed of lettuce and tossed pesto, roasted red peppers, green onions cranberries, goat cheese and tomatoes.

Basil Pesto Recipe:

I made a big batch of this on Monday and then continued to toss in my salad for the week.  I found that with this and the goat cheese, I had no need for dressing!

1/3 cup pine nuts (you could switch with pepitas or chopped walnuts too)
1 cup packed basil leaves
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 small jalapeno, seeded and deveined
2/3 cup olive oil

  1. Toast the pine nuts in a toaster oven. Or you could put in a frying pan and toss until toasted.
  2. Blend basil, garlic, lemon juice, and pepper in a food processor (with a splash of the olive oil).
  3. Once blended, slowly add the olive oil while the processor is blending until comes together to a nice sauce.
  4. Place in airtight container and use on your great salads for the week.

Some Tips

  • Cook up a batch of a grain early in the week, put in a container and keep in the refrigerator.  Add to salads as a topper throughout the week, or make up a grain salad whenever the mood strikes.  Farro, barley, quinoa, couscous, and even rice works well.
  • Make a batch of homemade salad dressing and keep in a container for the same purpose.  I like the 3-2-1 balsamic recipe from the Engine 2 diet book (3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons dijon or brown mustard, 1 tablespoon maple syrup).  This week I did the pesto instead.
  • Grab some fun add-ins that "coordinate" beets and goat cheese with walnuts, or tomatoes, cucumber, and mozzarella.  You want to make sure that things will taste well together or the mix/match idea doesn't work as well.
In health and summer salads,
Nicole Harter

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Vegan Challenge Wrap Up

My vegan challenge has come to an end.  It ended a while ago actually (on June 15th) but I have been crazy busy with the end of the school-year shenanigans, vacation, my brother's move and some other things. So, I wanted to do a little bit of a wrap up before moving on to other things.  Needless to say, I am not longer following a vegan diet.   There are a few reasons I plan to discuss, but first, I do want to point out the things I liked about going vegan:

Things I Liked about Going Vegan

  1. Being dairy free.  Dairy as a condiment is okay, but I don't think we should consume as much as we do as a culture.  There are strong links to increased cancer risk and tumor growth, and believe it or not, an increased risk of osteoporosis in cultures that consume high amounts of dairy. I know it is very counter to what we are taught with needing all that calcium!!!  Much healthier to get your calcium from greens where it is balanced with other vital nutrients like magnesium! 
  2. Learning how to bake vegan. I never thought I could do it, but some of my recipes came out so good that I may not go back!  I liked skipping the butter and milk. And, now I know how to bake when I am all out of eggs or if someone I know is allergic to eggs! I don't think I would have taken the time to learn without this challenge!
  3. Skipping dessert or junk food while I was at parties.  It was nice to have an "excuse" to skip the junk foods.  For some reason it was a lot easier to eat healthier while I was out because I "couldn't" eat it.  I had a lot more will-power.  So where is that will power now?  Good question that I plan to blog about soon.

Reasons for Going Back

Reason 1
I felt very limited and I got bored fast with the food options I had.  I know many people don't feel limited as a vegan because you really can do a lot without meat/dairy/eggs. However, I did feel even more limited as I am allergic some nuts (namely almonds and hazelnuts). I am allergic to avocado. I also cannot eat a lot of fresh fruits (apple, pear, cherries, nectarines, peaches, plums, and strawberries) because of allergy issues.  I hope you see where I am going with this...I have a lot of limitations to start and adding the limitations of no meat, dairy, or eggs was just too much for the long haul.  I was getting kind of sick of beans, lentils, and soy products!

Reason 2
I actually gained a pound and a half the first week because I was super hungry.  I cut out sugar and cut my portions the following week to drop it again, but I was hungrier than normal.  

Reason 3
I don't like soy because I don't believe it is healthy. And honestly I don't like the taste or how it makes me feel.  I think very small amounts of soy in a fermented form is fine--a little bit here or there of tofu, miso, natto, soy sauce, edamame.  However, I think consuming large amounts of (processed) soy as a mainstay of your diet is not necessarily healthier.  Since my diet consists of mainly "real" foods and I attempt to avoid as many processed foods as I can, I felt as though I was almost taking a step backwards in my healthy food attempts.  I know many vegans would disagree with me here, but I guess that is just how I feel. I think anyone interested in soy and it's pros/cons should research for themselves and then make their own decision on the matter.

Reason 4
I am not all that morally opposed to eating animals.  I AM opposed to abusing animals and causing long-term suffering to animals, which is why I attempt to avoid spending my money on meat, eggs, and dairy that comes from any sort of factory farm environment (I purchase meat/eggs from local farms). However, I don't have really strong feelings to completely stop eating animals.  I admire those who have strong feelings and follow their heart and truly make change by voting with their fork, and I suppose I try to do that on a smaller scale by buying animal products from local and humane sources.

So there I have it...I guess I thought maybe if I tried it then I would be able to truly see how I felt about the lifestyle and whether or not it "fit" me.  I guess it didn't really fit, but you never know until you try and now I know!

In health and happy experiments,
Nicole Harter