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Recipes for the busy and healthy

18 Feb

This post is in response to a recipe search thread I read on one of my online parent networks and as was typing it, I thought it would be helpful to share this with a larger audience:

Easy Peasy Recipes:

I have two words for you, “Slow Cooker”. I got mine (IMG_0369 IMG_0370 IMG_0373 IMG_0375 IMG_0376 IMG_0377 IMG_0380 IMG_0383 IMG_0384 IMG_0385 IMG_0389 IMG_0390Hamilton Beach Set ‘n Forget Programmable Slow Cooker, 6-Quart) less than a month ago for $49.99 and it is such a lifesaver.  My girls giggled as I exclaimed, “I feel like I just discovered fire! ”  My 9-year-old who is enthralled with Greek Mythology calls me Prometheus as I want to share this wonderful new device with parents everywhere.

Learning has been slow as I am an ex-vegetarian (having shunned meat for 7+ years) and have only recently experimented with meat recipes – translation = you can eat a lot of meat if you’re not careful.  It’s so easy to throw in chicken/red meat, veggies, garlic and other herbs and arrive home after work to an aromatic dinner but after a few days of this, I was starting to feel the heft of too much meat in my system.  All in moderation I say.

But  digress, here are a few of my recipes (sides, additions to instantly brighten a meal and main dishes):

My trinity: bell peppers, onions and garlic. Sauteing this three together make everything better and bonus points for being able to chop up a lot of it beforehand and save in ziplock bags for grilling/sauteing/boiling (soups) during the week.

Avocado with sliced tomatoes sprinkled with lemon juice, black pepper and sea salt: again this is always a yummy refreshing and healthy addition to almost any meal.  Also aesthetically pleasing, toss it over a taco or on top of a side of quinoa.

Canned black beans (unsalted) = great source of protein, sprinkle dried oregano, dash of cumin powder, garlic powder and salt to taste. If you eat dairy, the “quezo fresco” from Los Altos is a welcome tasty addition for Mexican food night.  You can find it at El Rancho Supermarket on Willow in Menlo Park, CA. I buy all of my Hispanic food items there. (Any Mexican supermarket / mercado will have this)

Quinoa = you can pre-soak on Sunday and let it dry out or buy a brand that has been pre-rinsed.
Family of 4: 2 cups of quinoa, a third of a capful of virgin oil, garlic powder, oregano, basil, Italian seasoning, salt to taste or chicken boullangaise.
1. Heat pan to mid heat (5), add olive oil, angling pan to cover as much of your surface area
2. Add quinoa and shake pan to make sure that the quinoa gets equal access to bottom of pan.
3. Add seasonings (enough to coat a layer over surface area).
4. Add 4 cups of water.
5. Once it boils, reduce heat to low simmer (2) and cover. 20 minutes later = fluffy yummy nutritious quinoa. We eat quinoa almost daily and it keeps really well for packed lunches for our girls who attend Laurel Elementary.

For “main sides”, I alternate from tofu, Morningstar crumbles, shrimp, carne arrachera asada (grilled skirt steak), chicken breast and whole chicken (with innards and extremities removed).

Tofu: cut into length wise into 1 inch wide blocks.  Season with curry, sesame seeds, garlic powder and tamari.  Coat the seasonings on and add tamari to taste (don’t douse it).
Grill (heat level 6 – 7) on your Cast Iron Skillet ($29.99 at Crate & Barrel) over enough olive oil to lightly coat the surface. Serve on top of quinoa, noodles (soba/udon) with side of steamed broccoli, cauliflower and carrots.

Morningstar Crumbles (Mexican food recipes) - I love this product, it takes the guilt out of eating actual ground beef (Morningstar products can be found at your local Target frozen groceries aisle)
Taco Night:
Heat your pan with olive oil (always just enough to coat surface, don’t over do it, it shouldn’t be creating a puddle on your pan)
Add chopped onions, bell peppers (red/green/yellow/orange = interchangeable but add some variety so the color pops)
Add garlic powder (or if you have oodles of time, chop some fresh garlic cloves and brown for a minute as your stir)
Once onion and bell peppers have softened (~ 2 minutes), add your bag or crumbles
Stir, mix and add oregano, basil and more garlic powder (Can you tell I love garlic?)
Add chopped tomatoes, mix, add half a cup of vegetable broth and cover.
Less than 5 minutes later = Voila
Serve in tacos topped with fresh avocado/tomato mix (see side dishes above), quezo fesco (if you love dairy), and your salsa of choice
Side of your canned beans recipe and quinoa to make it a full dish

To turn the above into nachos:
Same steps above but after you add vegetable broth, sprinkle with lactose-free Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds which can be found at your local Whole Foods or  It’s healthier (plant-based), easier on sensitive tummies and lower on the calories but note that they do not market themselves as vegan s there may be traces of animal protein.
Cover and you will have gooey delicious cheese mixed in with your “meat” to enjoy as your very own healthier nachos.  Top it off with guacamole if you really want to go wild. :)

“Home-made” Corn Chips – Notice the quotations, this is a partial DIY chips
1. Package of corn tortillas (without lime or added flavor as flavor additives will cause the same reaction as adding water to hot oil = not fun, trust me – any my burn scars)
2. Cut tortillas length-wise along the lines of the tortillas into thirds, turn 90 degrees and cut width side three times.
3. Use your trusty cast iron skillet and heat at mid-high heat (6), add enough olive oil (1/3 inch) to allow for frying
4. Once oil is hot (test it with one tortilla strip, if it doesn’t start bubbling and rising to the top, have some patience ;) )
- Once heat is high enough, add a layer of cut corn tortillas, flip over with your tongs as soon as your done adding tortillas, starting with the ones you added first
5. Once light golden brown, remove and place on a colander lined with a paper towel and lightly add sea salt to taste
6. Repeat until you have desired amount
7. Serve immediately or place in microwave oven (uncovered – you don’t want them to sweat and get soggy)
These are fantastic for your nachos (above), guacamole and/or salsa as your guests/family wait for the main dish to be done.  Also great as a side-addition (6-8 chips next to beans).

Carne Asada – Easy recipe
Use Chef Merito Steak & Meat Seasoning, 1 (mid to large size) lemon, oregano, garlic,  half an orange, (Mexican beer optional)
I like using the higher grade Carne Arrachera (skirt steak) found at any Mexican/Hispanic supermarket
In a small mixing bowl, add your Chef Merito seasoning, oregano, light amount of garlic and mix well
In a large mixing bowl add one piece of steak at a time and sprinkle seasoning over entire surface area, front and back
Repeat until you have all meat in large bowl
Squeeze half of an orange on top of mix, squeeze 1/4 lemon on top, if desired add 1/4 of Mexican beer and mix all meet well, rubbing in seasoning into the meat
Let sit while you prepare your beans, quinoa, avocado mix or guacamole
Heat cast iron skillet, brush on olive oil (mid to high heat 6 – 7)
Add meat to skillet and flip with tongs after 30 seconds.  Squeeze a little lemon juice on each piece to keep from sticking to pan as you progress in your cooking. You can either keep flipping until a nice deep brow coloring to serve whole or cook until light brown and separate onto other bowl (if you want tacos and have more time on hand)
In a clean cutting board, slice meat length wise, turn and cut into small pieces width size.  Toss back into cast iron skillet and cook until deep brown.  This is perfect for tacos.

And now I must really get back to my studying as I have a history midterm this Thursday!  I will add recipes for shrimp, chicken, soups and slow cookers soon!

I’m a mom of two (2nd and 3rd grader), pack their and my lunches M-F, cook dinner, work full-time as a business development professional in an international law firm and am taking 9 units of classes at our local community college.  It helps vastly that I have a supportive partner but you can imagine that time flies in our home!


4 Apr


I feel the music
spreading through my body

I have to fight the urge
to dance
Wild and Free

My arms start swinging
propelling me
my legs find the rhythm
hitting the pavement to the beat

The lyrics carry me

I feel myself

A wide grin flashes on my face
I can fly
I can soar

I go

Hip hop
They heal me
Transform me
As I run

Run free

A Rainy Sunday in LA

9 Nov

It rained in L.A. this weekend, which is news for most Angelinos. There was also the Firecracker Run in Chinatown, which I ran in. In the rain.

I didn’t brave the 10K but I did complete the 5K—gasping to the end. A few friends signed up (at my pushy suggestion that they join an event that benefits local schools, libraries, and recreation centers in Chinatown), so I couldn’t exactly bail on the last minute.

I woke up at the unsightly hour of 5am on an otherwise sweet Sunday. It was hard to resist the seduction of my soft bed. My mother had offered to baby-sit the girls that day, so the first thought that came to my head was: What the heck am I doing wasting my precious free time by running out in the cold?
Two cups of strong coffee and a quick shower later I was up and stretching and nervously awaiting my first “marathon”. I felt like I was going on a date. I considered wearing make-up, but the image of my face streaked with sweat and foundation…eek. I opted for Chapstick and a little mascara.
M and I were going to walk to Chinatown, but I must have taken too long applying the mascara because we had to take the car. At least parking is easy at 7am. I, being the procrastinator that I am, had still to register, but it was pleasantly easy and quick. Among the goodies for the participants was a pair of powder blue flip-flops that might have to wait for my four-year old to fit into. Anyone wear a size 5 ½?
The firecrackers and lion dancers were great, filling the air with an electrifying energy… and then choking you with the smoke. The race started, and to my dismay the route was hill after hill after hill after…well, you get the point. Next time I get marathon-running in my head, I’m going to consult the race route first.

After burning those extra calories, we were ready to reward ourselves with a breakfast at the Nickel Diner.
When we got there, with a friend, I ordered the tofu huevos rancheros – deliciosos!
Former Mayor Hahn also happened to be there and ended up seated next to us. The food was wonderful; the service great as always. (We took our neighbors there once, along with my girls. The pancakes were late, but the staff was so apologetic they gave us the pancakes and fruit compliments of the house!)
We’ve gone to the Nickel several times. It is one of my favorite restaurants downtown and the designated place we take our out-of-town guests, which is why I cannot understand why the co-owner, Kristen Trattner, decided to walk over to my guest and inform him that there was a line of people waiting and that we needed to leave since we were finished eating.
I have never in my life been asked to leave a restaurant, and it hurts and humiliates me that it had to be at a) a favorite spot b) in front of my guest c) when we were speaking to former Mayor Hahn (M’s former employer). I felt so embarrassed and uncomfortable because Judge Hahn was just telling us of his new career, and we were discussing the Firecracker run with his companion who happens to work with Kids Run L.A. We had to cut them short and say goodbye.
I have to admit that at first I had mixed emotions; I still do. I tried to rationalize her actions with the current economic crisis, stress, lousy weather, etc. But I looked around the restaurant as we were leaving, and they were setting a table for four – and there were only three people waiting, in a group. I have been to the Nickel countless times and have never minded waiting to get seated; I know the food is worth it.
M was furious and I tried to calm him down while apologizing to our. When we got home M called the Nickel and explained what happened and that he wanted an apology. The person on the phone said they would have the owner return the call. No one did.

Then, M sent an email, but instead of apologizing or diffusing the situation, the waiter claimed it was he who had told us to leave and that it is standard protocol to ask your patrons to leave when they are done.

This waiter has a vivid imagination, because unless it was he was wearing black and white striped trousers and sporting a black wig, I think I can tell the difference between who I saw and didn’t. Unfortunately, he never apologized but did state that if we didn’t like the service then we could just not come back.
Well guess what? I won’t be going back because in these tough economic times I am very picky about where I spend my money, and I sure won’t pay to be disrespected and humiliated.
FYI, Nickel Diner, we were not finished. We were drinking our coffee that had just been poured and enjoying your ambiance – too bad you had to cut it short.

Next time I have a rainy Sunday off from the kids – I’m staying home.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We spoke to Kristin Trattner at the Nickel Diner, but as of posting she had not gotten back to us with a comment.

Published February 13, 2009

Winter makes me lazy

25 Jan

I woke up at 5 a.m. today and it took me about 15 minutes to roll out of bed.  I couldn’t find my work out clothes and my throat was dry.  I was about to go back to bed when I remembered that I can’t give up so easily so I looked some more and finally got dressed.  As I was standing on the treadmill I thought to myself why not just run 10 minutes and stretch?  I was about to start walking when I felt like a ninny so I sped up to my usual running time.

Eight minutes, nine minutes, nine and thirty seconds… I couldn’t keep my eyes from going back to the timer; it was as if a vicious compulsion kept my eyes darting back and forth from the timer to the morning news time display.  And you can imagine which option is more scintillating: morning news or treadmill timer?  Too bad the treadmill doesn’t come with cable. I really need to get audio books on my iTouch.

 Well I made it until 16 minutes. I jumped off as soon as I stopped it and headed to the weight room for some more torture.  I managed to put in 200 crunches on that ridiculously fun looking bouncy ball and I headed out the door as soon as my 20 minutes were up.

This weather makes me feel like holing up in bed with hot tea and snacks- plenty of snacks.  So I guess I should feel good about getting out of bed to work out.  Maybe by posting here I will feel guilty if I don’t?

Feel free to share your work out tips and regimes.

Happy Sweating!

Running and Walking

13 Jan

So here is my daily dose of exercise- give or take a few.

I wake up at 5 a.m. and go down to our gym and run 20 minutes.  It’s harder to run right after you woke up because your body is still half asleep so I only recommend it if there is absolutely no other time you can squeeze it in (my case); otherwise I would suggest waiting until you are fully awake after your morning routine. 

When I started running again in a regular basis I only ran 3 times a week for 20 minutes and averaged 10 minutes a mile which I though was pretty darn good for a self-professed running-hater.  I hated running with a passion. I mean what is so pleasant about sweating, feeling old and tired, your body swollen and sore, your muscles tangled with all sorts of weird bumps that hurt when you touch them.  Okay, I might be exaggerating a little bit but you get the point- most of us agree running sucks. 

So I suggest finding a running buddy or someone who is also running and will motivate you to keep going- or at least make you feel guilty when you don’t go.  That person for me is M, he makes me feel like a pansy when I don’t run and although I dislike him at the moment (I’m not above swearing at him in my head while he runs ahead of me when we run up Grand Ave.) I appreciate that it works. 

Now I run 20 minutes 6-7 times a week and average 7:30/7:45 a mile which is a big improvement.  I have also learned to not hate it as much and actually like it sometimes- weird!  Sometimes when I’m running outside I feel so free and relaxed that I spread my arms and run around like an airplane.. Don’t knock it until you try it. 

The point is that although I may still feel disdain for running, nothing beats all the benefits that I have felt in my body and daily routine since I started.  When I get to work I feel like I can take on anything; I feel alert, motivated and very awake.  I don’t worry about my weight because I am burning those extra 350 calories every morning.  I don’t crave candy or frosted treats; instead I crave apples, bananas, and hearty healthy vegetables.  It’s amazing! 

I should market running as the latest drug, or crazy super healthy berry like the Acai berry fad- I would make millions…

If you absolutely feel like you can’t  run anytime soon then you should walk.  I walk most days (when M doesn’t give me a ride) to the bus which is 0.4 miles, we take the A Dash to 1st./Central and walk to their school which is 0.3 mi away.  I drop them off and walk to work 0.6 miles.  That’s 1.3 miles of walking that you don’t even notice.  In the afternoon I walk back to the school and repeat the process in reverse which gives me more than 2 1/2 miles a day in walking.  When I feel like taking my time we walk home from the school.  We walk more and get to chat while we look at the shops and restaurants on Spring St., Broadway, and 7th St. 

The lesson here is that you can sneak in exercising throughout your day.  Take the stairs instead of the elevator even if it’s only for a couple of flights.  If you’re craving something you shouldn’t eat, go for a walk and when you get back if you’re still craving it then go ahead and indulge but after your heart rate speeds up- your body will probably decline that Snickers bar. 

So there you are, simple things for simple beginnings.  Eat less, exercise more.  Calories Burned – Calories Eaten = Whether you lose, gain or stay at the same weight! :)

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