Beachbody or bust…

The ups and downs of maintaining a healthy weight and more importantly a healthy self image. In my memory, I don’t ever remember being called too skinny. I was always, fine enough.  I don’t ever remember being told that I was a picky eater. I always had a healthy enough body image. I was a tomboy for most of childhood even up to college. I would rather play sports with the boys than sit inside and hang with the girls. I wore mens’ shirts, everything fit loosely up until college.  Eventually, I dressed like a girl. I guess, in this day and age, it means to wear clothes that accentuate your “girliness” .  I think that’s when my unhealthy body image began to emerge. A muffin top that was invisible before was now visible. But I never gave a thought to my nutrition or health, I just victimized myself with my body image, like most girls do. Maybe that’s part of the problem. One needs to own the solution to the problem and not victimize themselves over it. Since college, I’ve been married and had two kids and my weight has fluctuated from fine enough to feeling extremely sick to my stomach when I would see photos of myself…still doing nothing about it.

In 2009, I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. You lose so much weight and I WAS TOO SKINNY for the fist time in my life. I would’ve just enjoyed but it’s not just weight loss, it’s rapid heart rate and bulging eyes. I had to take medicine that would get my weight bouncing up and down for a few years until I was in remission. I chose not to remove my thyroid or do any other invasive treatments.

In 2014, I was approached by a colleague to try beachbody programs. I heard about P90X and Insanity Max 30 from my cousins but never realized that they were beachbody programs. She told me to try T25, and I knew I could not handle it. I was so NOT FIT for any exercise. I started with 21 day fix and started portion control with the containers. I was huffing and puffing during the warm up and barely able to walk after the first lower body workout. Since, then, I have lost over 20 lbs. I never thought I had 20 lbs to lose. I have done max 30 and many other advanced programs since then. I TOOK CONTROL of my body image for the first time in my life. Since then, I have gained 5-6 lbs. but I am not afraid of it, because I now know how to target it. Besides a sense of control I have gained a group of women in my life that I CAN TRULY rely on. Many of them I only see virtually but some are my colleagues at work. It’s a true sense of sisterhood that is unique unto itself. Being nomadic for most of my life and not having a true hometown, I’ve never been able to experience, “my high school friends or my college buddies”. This is my first experience. There is something to a shared journey of body image, nutrition, life’s ups and downs. We celebrate our successes and motivate through our stumbles.

Now, I understand how my body responds to foods. I know how food nourishes BODY and MIND. I still enjoy dinners out and a cocktail here and there, but I am smart about what I eat. I am committed to staying active whenever possible through these beachbody programs. My favorite quick thing that I make now for breakfast is overnight oats.  It tastes likes the yummiest pudding AND is healthy.  I am a teacher and once, my students talked about not having time for breakfast and I made overnight oats for two students. I put them in mason jars and hand delivered to their classrooms. They loved it. I impart my love of learning to my students and sometimes I impart my love of cooking and nutrition too.

Starting beachbody has helped me helped my daughters understand what a healthy body image is. They understand how nutrition works. They understand a healthy balance. Here’s a recipe for overnight oats that I have made. Add fruits if you want, change maple syrup to honey or agave if you want. I like the smokiness of maple syrup though.   Add more milk for a loose porridge texture. Make it savory by not adding sweet, but avocado or nuts. Make it your own!  This takes 5 minutes and you can make for 2 days ahead and leave in fridge. If you make more than one serving, it’s best to make servings separately to ensure each serving gets equal amounts of ingredients. It’s so easy, that my kids make it too. One loves it, the other not so much… but that’s life.

OVERLOAD ALMOND OVERNIGHT OATS( 1 serving)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup oats( rolled or steel cut)
  • 1/2 cup almond milk or cashew milk or whole milk
  • 3/4 tbsp.. chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp. almond butter or peanut butter or other of your choice
  • 1 tbsp. maple syrup
  • cute mason jar( no less than 8 oz.) , you could use Tupperware or ramekins
  • Optional- fruits, nuts, flax seeds

Instructions

  1. Place into mason jar in the order listed of ingredients. Stir well. Leave in fridge overnight.
  2. ENJOY THE NEXT MORNING.
  3. Add coconut flakes or fruits…all optional.
  4. There are fun ways to top…

 

 

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To CSA or not to CSA

 

 

This last week, work and life have been quite complicated. So many work obligations, children’s extra curricular activities. Life has been busy, to say the least. My husband, who was hesitant  about joining a CSA at first, a few years ago became a staunch supporter in the last couple of years.

Last week, my fridge was overflowing with produce. I couldn’t keep up. Then, he uttered the dreadful words, “Hey, let’s cancel our CSA for next year.” That tore me up. It made me feel like I wasn’t holding my end of the bargain, using up all the vegetables and making the most of all the bounty we received every week. I had to think fast. SO, this past week, I became even more creative with new recipes for the numerous vegetables I had on hand. There are many options- you could split a share where you share every week or pick up alternative weeks with your partner.  I am determined to be quite resourceful with my entire share.  Every tomato that I can’t use I freeze, I make many greens into my APP.  I give away some to friends and family and then some gets composted.

This week, I made eggplant 3 ways. Eggplant and mushroom thoren( South Indian dish with grated coconut and mustard seeds and garlic).  Panko breaded eggplant, and eggplant& lamb ratatouille. I will share recipes soon.

I made a Thai red curry with chicken last night. It’s pretty easy and a great way to use many greens and things in your pantry.  The best part of cooking is trying new things, putting flavors together that work for you and your family. Play in the kitchen.  I use ingredients that I have on hand, if it calls for spinach,  and I have kale, that’s what I’ll do.

SO I SAY, CSA all the way!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. of coconut oil
  • 2 lbs. of boneless chicken thighs cut into small chunks(typical size found in Chinese take out)
  • 10 shishito peppers(optional)
  • 5 pieces of kale( ribs  removed) chopped
  • one small red onion chopped or one large leek chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic finely chopped/minced
  • 1 tbsp. galangal or ginger
  • 2 -3 green peppers( you can use any color you have) sliced thinly
  • 1 tbsp. red curry paste
  • 1/2 cup of coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp. of fish sauce
  • salt to taste( 1 tbsp.)
  • soy sauce(optional)
  • a dash of toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp cilantro chopped

Instructions:

1. Take a large sauté pan and heat coconut oil in pan.

2. Sauté chopped leek/onion, garlic. When slightly translucent, add galangal.

3. Add salt to soften further, and then add chicken. When chicken is almost cooked( about 10-12 minutes)

4. Add red curry paste. Stir.

5. Add kale, green peppers and shishito peppers. Typically, 1 in 10 shishito peppers can be hot, otherwise they are as mild as green peppers.

6. Sauté further for 2 minutes. Add coconut milk.

7. Cover and let cook for 10 minutes.

8. Add fish sauce and sesame oil and stir.

9. Garnish with cilantro. Serve over jasmine rice or quinoa.

 

 

 

Where does the thyme go?

 

I feel I have been in a writer’s block because I thought all I could write about were my culinary attempts with my CSA. I think I have more stories to tell …. This last summer was the most magical but also a whirlwind.  My daughter did some research over the summer taking us to New Hampshire for a few days. Enjoyed the nature hikes and King Arthur Flour Bakery. Everything baked at the bakery, I kid you not, was buttery scrumptiousness.

After a few days in NH, we made our way across the USA to Houston, Texas. After all of that, our trip of a lifetime was going to commence. We were returning the MOTHERLAND, India, after 8 long years.

NY –> INDIA–> DUBAI–> NY(Aug 2017)

3 weeks of food, family and adventure. Really a trip to remember – people and places to feel nostalgia over and food to savor, over and over again.  This trip to India is in typical Monsoon season. We heard from everyone, how difficult it was going to be on us. We heard that we were moving in the direction of the monsoon rains as we would be going North, 10 days after our arrival.

Some divine energy (God) looked over us. We had some rain, but most of the torrential downpours were overnight. Every food we ate was mouthwatering and painstakingly prepared with love. Every person we met treated us as we were their own. The Taj Mahal is more magnificent than we ever expected.  I have so much to share about the food and our experiences but here’s a taste… The kheer and gulab jamun were desserts we had at Bukhara Hotel in New Delhi was one of the best dessert combos we ever had, maybe one of the best foods, we ever ate.

To be Vegan or not to be…

It’s been quite a while since I have posted. This summer has been busier than most other summers. Summer has had us away from home for longer periods of time than I would want. You know they say, you want to live in a place where you never need to leave for vacation. I don’t know if I agree with that. I love where we live, four seasons, local produce, family, nature, city life… all one would ever want. A vacation is an opportunity for us to see other parts of our world and experience their lifestyles through food, culture, music, transportation etc. So, we love to travel as a family but there is no better feeling than coming back home.

Most recently, we traveled to Texas for a wedding. The wedding was grand and glorious and we had a chance to visit with family we hadn’t seen in over 13 years, since they left NY.  I was excited to go and try out the authentic Texan BBQ options out there.  We were in Houston for the most part, and knew I wouldn’t be able to make it to Austin, the foodie capital of Tx right now. So, what to do? We went to San Antonio to visit the Alamo. Exciting to have seen it but underwhelming for sure. The last season of Top Chef had a stop in San Antonio so we had to stop by. We ate a nice restaurant, Ostra, We made it to happy hour and so the prices were reasonable and food was good.

Back to bbq hunt… Anyway, we thought we could find a nice place for bbq on the way back. Our drive from Houston to San Antonio gave us scenes of  oil and gas and fracking billboards. That alone made me feel sad. Then, lo and behold, we see a large truck driving on I-10 West with, maybe 1000+ chickens in crates in 100ºF + weather. And I’m sure you can guess, it was a Tyson truck. That made my stomach crawl and I had visions of a James Bond movie, where I swerved right in front of the truck and got out to wrangle with the driver and how cruel this was. So, that led to the end of our bbq hunt.  We decided as a family, no need to eat any meat in Texas.

We arrived back home after a delayed flight. I came back to a week’s worth of CSA vegetables not being used. So, creativity ensued and my lack of fondness for meat led to some zesty pesto zoodles and scallion zucchini pancakes. All vegan and all delicious. I don’t think I can be totally vegan just yet but committing to 3 or 4 days a week of veganism at home is a great start and that’s where we are. I also know that I wont buy meat from factories or from places I don’t know how they treat them or raise them. If we do eat meat, it will be local and I will know the farmer/rancher’s practice. When you know better, you do better.

I will post recipes of vegan vegetable pulao, zesty pesto zoodles and scallion zuke cakes later today. Thanks for sharing in my journey.

 

 

 

Double Stuff’t Chard Tacos

It has been pouring all day. I love the rain because it makes everything grow like wildfire. Our curry leaves and tomato plants look so refreshed and rejuvenated, like we do after a great workout and shower. But with this downpour comes a sense of nesting. We just want to sit on the sofa and do nothing else but veg. Even cooking seems like an impossible chore.  Rachel and Erica have been busy all day with things to do at school.  On days like this, comfort food is what one craves.  Warm tacos would just give into that  crave.

A few years ago, I would’ve made just that, a  hard taco corn tortilla shell stuffed with ground beef and maybe beans with some lettuce, tomatoes sour cream and cheese. I still love tacos like that, but…. as one gets older.  Isn’t there a saying,  a taco on the lips is a lifetime on the hips? 🙂 In the last few years,  I was asked by a friend to join a workout program. I hesitantly joined and now my life is forever changed. Upon joining, my view on eating has changed drastically. I can talk about fitness journey later but I have learned to enjoy my cheat meals but also learned the art of satisfying my cravings without sabotaging my hard work.

So,  you’ve heard of stuffed cabbage. I’ve even seen collard greens stuffed but never swiss chard. So today, we are having tacos minus the taco shell . The taco shells will be the chard leaves.

VERDICT: So my kids agree that the hard taco shells are more fun to eat but they still loved this. The Greek yogurt was great, they didn’t miss the sour cream. ALL IN ALL, IT WAS A SUCCESS!

Ingredients:

  •  15 oz can of kidney or black beans( same amount dry- soak overnight)
  • 1lb of ground beef /turkey( don’t use if you want it to be vegan)
  • 2 tbsp of CENTO double concentrated tomato paste/2 plum tomatoes/2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 shallot flowers and stems/ one onion)
  • 2 garlic scapes/3 cloves garlic
  • 10 or more swiss chard stems
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-3 tbsp of taco seasoning( you don’t have to buy this a few things in your pantry make this up, comment or contact me for instructions to make your own, I had some so I used it).
  • EVOO
  • 10-15 swiss chard leaves
  • 1 cup quinoa cooked
  • 1/2 cup of plain Greek yogurt( PERFECT SUBSTITUTE FOR SOUR CREAM)

 

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Place soaked beans in instapot and turn on beans/ chilli. I do this the night before or even 2 days before and then place in fridge and use when needed. So if I used instapot, I may make more and then use beans for other things like rice and beans or huevos rancheros. If using canned beans, don’t need to cook them in advance.
  3. Drizzle 2-3 tbsp of EVOO in saute pan.
  4. Chop onions and garlic( shallot flowers and garlic scapes) and and put into EVOO.
  5. Add a tsp of salt to accelerate browning/softening.
  6. As this mixture softens, add chopped swiss chard stems, if the swiss chard leaves are small, then I add chopped leaves too. The smaller you chop, the quicker it cooks and less it interferes with the taco filling texture.
  7. Once this is softened, add taco seasoning, add more if you like. Add a pinch of salt.( I sometimes add some cumin seeds to Mexican foods, just a bit goes a long way).
  8. Add beans. Stir and saute. You’re done if you’re doing vegan.
  9. If you want meat, add ground beef/turkey and brown.  Taste and salt as needed.
  10. Add quinoa to taco mixture- add more if mixture seems loose.
  11. Spray or coat lasagna pan with EVOO.
  12. Take swiss chard leaf and fill with taco mixture. Roll as best as you can, like an egg roll. Place taco folded side down.
  13. Repeat and finish filling the tray. When done, drizzle the leaves with a bit of EVOO.
  14. Bake for 20 minutes.
  15. Take Greek yogurt, sprinkle with taco seasoning for effort. Drizzle over leaves.(eliminate if you want vegan)
  16. Serve. Eat. Enjoy.

 

Lettuce pick up our CSA

It’s Tuesday and that means it’s CSA pick up day for us. When school’s in session, it happens to be just one more errand for me to run. I pick it up in between my many other responsibilities. During the summertime, it becomes a moment for me and my girls to share. Today, my nephew was with us to tag along. If I asked the girls to join me on a supermarket run, I probably would have to beg and plead to get their company. But for some reason, it’s a much easier sell, if going to Hilltop Hanover Farm to pick our share is the errand of the day.

I always wonder too, why does it seem to be less of a chore/burden to pick up our CSA share than going to a supermarket to get maybe the same vegetables. Maybe  the hard work on the farm is evident in the careful laying out of the vegetables with the careful slate and chalk drawn displays and labels. Maybe it’s the idea that I know the faces that I expect to see and they know me, they know us. You know we live by this, “everyone wants to feel that they matter” I heard it from Oprah, as we do most of our spiritual words of wisdom 🙂 It does feel good when you walk into Hilltop and the people know we are the Joseph family. It feels good that I can help someone with identifying certain vegetables or sharing my two cents on how to use my turnips in an Indian lentil soup(Sambar) or my take on the fearsome green THE MIZUNA,  or I can ask a farmer about the funky looking cucumbers, that look like lemons. Funny enough, they are just that, lemony cucumbers.

Today, I was able to experience some of those wonderful moments. My 7 yr old nephew with my teenage daughters, choosing the best squash to bring home and weighing them so we would take the right amount home. In a supermarket, they probably would be so disconnected from the produce and the process. Picking up our CSA TOGETHER, helps us to engage and stay connected to each other, the food and the place where it’s grown. A true spiritual connection, if I must say so. So after our CSA pick up and a quick stop at a bookstore, we got home to prep dinner.

On the menu tonight, is baked (Indian)spiced salmon with Rachel’s farm fresh salad.

Ingredients:

Baked Salmon

  • salmon fillets 1-2 lbs), cut into 5-6 inch chunks
  • paprika
  • salt
  • garlic powder
  • coriander powder
  • cayenne powder( mine are dried cayennes from last year’s CSA and powdered in spice mill or crushed in mortar pestle)
  • dash of garam masala(optional)
  • EVOO

Salad

  • Panisse lettuce   shredded or chopped
  • 1-2 beets chopped into 1 inch chunks
  • goat cheese( to your liking)
  • walnuts( optional)
  • balsamic vinegar or other dressing of your choice

Instructions:

Salmon:

  1. Preheat oven to 395ºF Cut salmon in to 5-6 inch chunks
  2. Sprinkle with paprika( for color)
  3. Add 1 tsp of -coriander powder and cayenne powder( based on your spice tolerance) and salt
  4. Add a dash of garlic powder
  5.  Add EVOO( maybe 2 tbsp)
  6. Massage the salmon chunks with these spices. Let sit 15 minutes minimum( I have let it sit overnight too)
    • Another way is to make a paste of all spices first and then add salmon pieces and then massage, but for such a small amount of fish, either method works.
  7. Place salmon pieces on a foil or parchment lined tray. No additional oil or spray is required because the salmon has natural oils and so does your marinade.
  8. Cook oven in oven for 10 minutes. Flip the pieces if possible, making sure they are not sticking.
  9. Place on Broil for 2 minutes.
  10. Your fish will look like you fried it when really it was baked. YUM!

Rachel’s farm fresh salad

 

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  1. Chop lettuce and place in large bowl.
  2. Preheat oven to  375ºF. Place beets in foil and place in oven for 45 minutes( I did this the week before and so had some leftover roasted beets this week)
  3. Add roasted beets to bowl. Make sure the beets are peeled and cut into chunks. I would add more beets to my salad, but to ensure everyone would eat the salad, Rachel put in one for a half a head of lettuce.
  4. She broke up some goat cheese we purchased from our local Hemlock Hill farm . We love goat cheese so probably put in a quarter of a log of goat cheese. You can eliminate this completely but goat cheese goes really well with beets.
  5. Sprinkle in some chopped walnuts and drizzle some balsamic vinegar. We had some from Hudson Valley Olive oil.
    • Dressings depend on the individual. Some people hate it. Some people like their greens doused and some people need a drizzle. But in terms of health, little to no sugar in dressing and a drizzle is best.
    • But we just found a great video  made by TASTY and shared by Buzzfeed on different dressings in mason jars.  Choose one that speaks to you and shake away.

 

 

 

 

 

Easy like Sunday morning Frittata

In a household with two working parents and kids who seem busier than the adults, easy Sunday mornings are such a treat.   Usually, my husband and I wake up and catch up over chai. This is super special because my husband makes the chai. Some Sunday mornings, we all congregate in our kitchen.  Our kitchen table was made for a family of 3. So in our family of 4, three  people sit and one stands. Not the best way to have a four person conversation. For the last two weeks, Rachel went away to a 2 week pre-college program. It was the first time for her to be away by herself  for an extended period of time. We had a lot to talk about. Today, we all spent the morning chatting and catching up as a family. We all sat on the sofa over chai. What a great way to start the day!

After our leisurely catch up, it was time for breakfast. We needed something quick , filling and nutritious. A frittata is just that! Frittata  is basically a crustless quiche. What you put in a frittata depends on what it is that you have/want. I make a frittata based on ingredients I have on hand. So the ingredients listed are based on what I have from the CSA or what’s in my fridge. It’s really a nutrition packed meal. It’s so easy and filling too. Always make in a cast iron pan. If it’s seasoned correctly, it’s better than non stick and you don’t take the risk of ingesting those harmful non-stick chemicals. It’s a great way to get kids to eat veggies. you can add different types of vegetables, peppers, spinach, mushrooms. Today’s frittata includes kohlrabi, kale and corn. Kohlrabi is a vegetable that was selectively bred by farmers years ago from wild mustard. Crazy to think that one plant could be selectively bred to produce cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and kohlrabi. The idea of kohlrabi was scary to us. Never ate it , let alone never saw it before our CSA adventures.  According to  Food facts, Kohlrabi is rich in vitamins A, C and K, as well as B-vitamins. It also contains copper, manganese, iron, potassium, dietary fiber and calcium, and is rich in antioxidant compounds like phytochemicals and carotenes as well.Simply put, kohlrabi  tastes like a potato that has a hint of sweetness. Erica loves tortilla española, which is  a Spanish frittata made with potatoes. Substituting potatoes with kohlrabi is a sneaky and creative way to get kids to eat cool foods like kohlrabi. It does taste a bit different from potatoes but not much.

Food always brings families together. Usually we are eating and running.  Sunday morning breakfasts always get us to sit together and connect over that meal. Farm fresh frittata, chai, family, fellowship and love- a perfect Sunday morning.

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 kohlrabi( peeled and chopped) ( optional or use potatoes instead)
  • 1 cup lacinato kale chopped finely
  • 1 small onion ( or two shallot stems the flowers)
  • 1 garlic scape/2 cloves garlic
  • 3 strips of uncured nitrate-free  bacon(optional)
  • 1/2 cup sweet organic corn
  • 4-5 basic leaves finally chopped/julienned(ribbons)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 5-6 eggs beaten
  • paprika- a few dashes for color(optional)

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 365ºF.
  2. In a cast iron pan(there’s no other way to make an amazing frittata) on medium heat on stove. When pan gets hot, place chopped bacon into pan. When fat is rendered,  and bacon is crisp, remove pieces from pan.
  3. You may remove all the bacon fat and cook with EVOO or leave bacon fat to cook the vegetables.{ There are many schools of thought, animal fat should be eliminated. Animal fat consumption should be limited. I am of the second school of thought- limit the consumption. Know how the animals are treated and buy locally.} If you don’t want bacon or its fat, just use EVOO and eliminate bacon altogether.
  4. In the oil/bacon fat, add onions and garlic( shallot flowers and garlic scape). Add two pinches of salt to mixture to accelerate browning.
  5. Next add, chopped kohlrabi and saute( 2-3 minutes).
  6. When browning of kohlrabi has started, add chopped kale. Saute and cook down vegetables.( 3-5 minutes)
  7. Add sweet organic corn, I had in the freezer. I used the corn after defrosting.
  8. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Add paprika( optional).
  10. Add eggs into mixture in cast iron pan. Sprinkle basil , mix in. Sprinkle cooked bacon on top. Turn off heat in 5 minutes.
  11. Place pan into oven for 15 minutes until center of frittata is set( doesn’t jiggle).
  12. ENJOY! ( I like a little hot sauce drizzled over it)