Healthy Choices: Honey Soy Glazed Veggie Fries

On Sunday, my Real Food Challenge will come to an end. One thing I have become increasingly aware of as I’ve stayed away from packaged and processed foods is what a product of this consumer culture I am.

In many cultures, simply finding food to eat is a struggle. Putting a meal on the table takes work — from planting to tending to reaping and dealing with weather, animals and economic poverty. The concept of “favorite foods” is foreign — most people in the world eat anything that is available.

Here in America, we are bombarded with choices and variety of foods. Eating is not such much a necessity of life as it is a cultural and social experience. There are things we eat just because it is right in front of us and looks good. Because food is so accessible to us, we don’t need to put thought into what we eat. But we should.

When I was young, my dad would take me and my sisters out to Friendly’s. My sisters would order big sundaes with whipped cream and hot fudge sauce. I always ordered French Fries. Always French Fries. For me, salty and greasy trumped cold and sweet.

Now, French Fries hold little appeal to me. It is probably because I’ve discovered how much more delicious and flavorful real food is. It may be slightly due to watching videos like this:

Why are we filling ourselves with food that isn’t real and that only does us harm? There are much better choices out there.

Here’s a fry recipe to prove it. Full of flavor, crispness and color. And about a day’s worth of vegetable servings if you eat the whole pan.

If you do, beware — your vitamin levels might soar and you skin might turn orange. But on the other hand, there will be no clogged arteries or elevated cholesterol. It’s a swap I’m willing to make!

Honey Soy Glazed Veggie Fries

Ingredients

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 lb fresh string beans
  • 1/2 lb fresh asparagus stalks, bottoms trimmed,
  • 3 T. Honey
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • 1/2 t. ground ginger
  • 1/4 t. pepper

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 400F
  • Cut sweet potatoes into “fry” like sticks or wedges. Trim off ends of string beans and “woody” bottoms of asparagus stalks.
  • In a small bowl or jar whisk together honey, soy sauce, ginger, and pepper. If needed, add a little water to thin it out (you want to be a dressing like consistency).
  • In a large bowl, pour glaze over vegetables and toss until fully coated.
  • Arrange on a large baking dish. Bake for thirty-five minutes or until vegetables are tender. I  stuck this under the broiler for five minutes to crisp the vegetables up a bit so they can be “finger food”.
  • Serve with ketchup and honey mustard for dipping.

*Note: if you refrigerate these for later use, the fries will soften and probably not be dippable. Just reheat under the broiler to recrisp.

Making healthy choices never tasted so good.

I’m lovin’ it.

Day 11 of Real Food: Mexican Fiesta Quinoa

I had a taste of the world today.

The missions fair at our church is always an exciting time to meet people from all over the globe and hear their stories of what God is doing.

I am reminded that in this big big world, I am very small. But this is actually a hopeful thought — God is at work in ways I can’t see. And the knowledge that He chooses to use my little prayers as tools for eternal purposes.

It is already Day 11 of my challenge to eat only unprocessed, natural foods for 40 days. Read the story here! So far, it is going well. The daily devotionals from A Place at the Table have been great inspiration to keep up the challenge.

There are times when the sweets and chips come a-calling and I really want to give in. That’s when I realize how spoiled I am to even have food I can turn down. By saying no to processed and packaged foods — foods that large parts of the world have no access to — I’m hoping to grow my understanding of what my body really needs vs. what just sounds good at the moment.

One helpful tactic I’ve been utilizing the past few days is to focus my thoughts and prayers on the country whose cuisine I’m eating. I research a little about the country — their daily staples, their economic status, their everyday personal, social and political needs — so while I am cooking, while I am eating, while I am not eating other foods, I am consciously able to identify with people across the world in my prayers. It has made the whole process of eating so purposeful. I’d love for this to become a habit even when the 40 days are over.

Today was Mexico. It is going to be difficult to not just do Latin cuisine because lately I’ve been craving tortillas and guacamole like no one’s business.

Staples of nearly ever Mexican meal are corn (tortillas!) and beans. Other common ingredients are squash, peppers, rice, honey, tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, garlic, cinnamon, and cocoa.

I found an excellent information and prayer resource at Operation World. Here are just a few of the listed “challenges for prayer”:

a) The poor, both the impoverished rural poor and the exploited slum-dwellers — Poverty affects 60% of the Mexican population

b) The marginalized native Amerindians — This group of people have no official social status and live in greater poverty and political upheaval

c) Corruption in politics and the police. 

d) The massive drug trade and gang violence that accompanies it — including over 5000,000 addicts, the power-hungry cartels who control the “industry”, the government and law enforcement fighting against the corruption and violence of gangs.

These heavy concerns need contemplated over a light meal. This bowl has it all — grain, protein, healthy fat, vegetables, spicy and colorful — Mexico in a dish, all natural and delicious. Enough to keep my taste-buds and tummy happy and preoccupied from the snack cupboard and to keep my mind focused on more important things.

Mexican Fiesta Quinoa 

Inspired by Daily Garnish and Oh She Glows ~ serves 10 as a side, 6 as a main

  • 2 c. dry quinoa
  • 1 large can black beans, drained and rinsed
  •  1 c. diced tomatoes
  • 2 small avocados, chopped
  • 1 c. corn kernels
  • 1 large bell pepper, diced
  • 1 t. chili powder
  • 1/2 t. paprika
  • 1/2 t. garlic salt
  • 3 T. fresh cilantro, minced
  • 3 T. lime juice

Directions

  • Prepare quinoa by package directions (4 c. water for 2 c. dry quinoa). Cook till water is absorbed and quinoa is soft and fluffy.
  • Transfer quinoa to a large bowl and stir in spices: chili powder, paprika, and garlic salt
  • Meanwhile, chop pepper, tomatoes, and avocados
  • Add beans, corn, pepper, tomatoes, avocado, and cilantro to quinoa and stir to combine.
  • Pour lime juice over mixture and toss to combine.
  • For best flavor results, refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

I could definitely eat like this for a while. If someone would send me a link for foolproof tortillas, I’d be set for life.

“Breakfast” Anytime: Herb and Cheese Souffle

I like thinking about breakfast.

I do it a lot. I think I’m making up for lost time.

When I used to think about breakfast, I used to think….well, not much. I rarely ate breakfast back in the day.

I don’t know who that girl was. Except that she wasn’t very healthy. And she was missing out big time. Breakfast is now my favorite meal of the day.

Now I savor my mornings. I pad downstairs and pour myself a big glass of water to drink while reading my Bible and journaling. Then I sip a mug of green tea while I ready my school books and contemplate what I want for breakfast. There’s nothing more sad than rushing into eating something I’m not really in the mood for. I generally choose between one of these breakfasts (in no particular order):

  • Oats/oat bran. Cooked stove-top style with almond milk, cinnamon, vanilla and some kind of fruit mixed in (banana, berries, apple, pear)
  • Yogurt parfait. Plain Greek yogurt topped with sliced fruit, topped with cereal and drizzled with maple syrup.
  • Big bowl of Cereal. I am without shame a cereal mixer (maybe that’s why I love granola?) — sometimes it gets crazy 😉 I always need to pair my bowl with a whole piece of fruit because cereal alone never fills me up!
  • Smoothie — my favorite post-workout breakfast. See here, here, and here.
  • Whole grain toast with mashed banana, cinnamon, and maple syrup. Kind of like the lazy version of my Pumpkin Banana French Toast
Things I never crave for breakfast?
  • Pastries. Keep the donuts, danishes, and cinnamon rolls away from me and hand over the fruit.
  • Savory Veggies. Meaning tomatoes, peppers, onions, etc. Ick. That being said, I do it some veggies for breakfast (Hello pumpkin! Green (spinach) smoothies!)
  • Eggs.
I used to think I didn’t like eggs at all because of the way my stomach turned on the Saturday mornings Dad cooked omelets. The savory smells and the gooey yolks were too much to take at eight am on a weekend. A big reason I never ate breakfast was that I didn’t realize there were breakfast foods I liked. I needed to find my modus operandi for breaking the fast.

Lightly sweetened whole grains with fruit? Sold.

Eggs in the morning? No thanks. But any other time — cook them till the yolk is set,  season them with fresh herbs, and I’m more than willing.

Put them in cute little ramekins and bake till light and puffy, and I’m in love forever.

Cheesy Herb Souffle 

Slightly adapted from The Food Network

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • half of a small onion, peeled
  • 1/2 T. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon whole wheat flour flour
  • 2 eggs, separated + 1 egg white
  • 1/4 c. freshly grated Romano (or mozzarella or parmesan) cheese
  • ½ t. fresh oregano
  • ½ t. fresh dill
  • ½ t. fresh sage
  • Pinches of salt and peppers
  1. Put the milk with the bay leaf, onion, in a saucepan and bring just to the boil. Turn off the heat, cover, and set aside to “steep” Heat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Spray 2 mini (150ml) ramekins or 1 2c. casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray and dust with the grated Parmesan.
  2. Melt the butter in a seprate saucepan. Whisk in the flour and let thicken for about two minutes.
  3. Remove onion and bay leaf from the milk and gradually whisk flour-butter mixture into the milk. Continue to heat and stir until thick.
  4. Remove from the heat and beat in egg yolks. Stir through the cheese and herbs. Season well with salt and pepper.
  5. In a small bowl, beat the whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. Stir a spoonful of whites into the yolk mixture, then pour the yolk mixture onto the remaining whites and gently fold together.
  6. Pour into the soufflé dish and bake until risen and set, but not completely firm in the middle, about 20-25 minutes, depending on the size of the soufflé dishes.
  7. Serve immediately before it slumps!

Dad took the older sister out for breakfast this morning. He’s probably eating a fancy omelet and she’s probably cutting into a mountain of Belgian waffles. Topped with whipped cream. And maybe a chocolate drizzle.

I’m not jealous, though. I happy to b here, sipping the last of my green tea, and licking the last bit of yogurt from my spoon. Breakfast just the way I like it best.

Make Time for Tempeh

I know it is a week till Christmas (eek!) and this should be a post of festive cookie recipes, but though that post will come, it is not this post.

Truth #1: I am not officially finished with the semester until Tuesday, so my opportunities to bake have been slim.

Truth #2: I did take some time off studying the past few days to do some baking, and, well let’s just say I went a little overboard. As in did not take a shower till noon today, I still have icing in my hair, and I’m pretty sure if I don’t bake again till Valentines Day, that will be just fine with me. (Don’t hold me to it, though).

Truth #3: After a few days of rolling in sugar and flour, the last thing I want to do right now is look at a bunch of pictures of cookies. That time will come. Right now, I just want to eat something full of nutritious and wholesome ingredients. Like Tempeh Quesadillas.

Stay with me, here. Never had tempeh? It’s time you met.

Tempeh is a superfood, made by fermented soybeans formed into a patty, similar in substance and nutrition to tofu. It is very minimally processed and so is rich in soybean nutrition: high protein, calcium, fiber, iron, and beneficial isoflavones. It has a textured, nutty flavor, but also quickly absorbs the flavors of the foods and spices it is cooked with. I have found it to be a very versatile substitute for meat — crumbled into chili or taco “meat”, grilled for a TLT (tempeh+lettuce+tomato), and now used in place of chicken strips in one of my old favorites, the quesadilla.

Tempeh Quesadillas

Ingredients

  • 1/3 pkge tempeh
  • /2 green pepper, diced
  •  2 T. chopped onion
  • 1 t. olive oil
  • 1 T. lime juice
  • 1/2 t. chili powder
  • 1/4 t. paprika
  • 1/8 t. garlic salt
  •  1 large whole wheat tortilla
  •  2 T. hummus
  •  1 T. low-fat cottage cheese
Directions
  • Slice tempeh into thin slices, about 1/2 inch thick.
  • Heat oil in a medium frying pan. Add tempeh, peppers and onion to the pan and sprinkle with lime juice and spices. Saute, flipping tempeh for even cooking until it is lightly brown and vegetables are soft. Set aside in a dish.

  • Lay tortilla in the frying pan. Spread hummus across tortilla and spoon cottage cheese on one half of the tortilla.
  • On the cottage cheese side, spoon tempeh and veggies. Let tortilla heat a bit open-faced, about 2 minutes or until lightly browned.
  • With a spatula Gently fold the empty side of the tortilla over the vegetables and using the spatula edge, “seal” sides together.
  • Continue to heat, flipping quesadilla after a few minutes to brown both sides.
  • Serve warm with salsa, Greek yogurt, or guacamole.
This is not like your typical quesadilla — there isn’t even any cheese! But, trust me, it’s good. When heated, the hummus and cottage cheese get all gooey and delicious and the veggies and tempeh add wonderful flavor. As for nutrition? It’s hard to beat these stats:Who says vegetarians don’t get their protein? That’s 21g right there, as well as 10g fiber and high amounts of both Calcium and Iron.

Whether you eat meat or not, it’s good to expand your repertoire of healthy ingredients and experiment with a few new superfoods. The more nutritious variety available to you, the less you will find yourself reaching for the unhealthier options.

What did you say about Christmas cookies?

Come back soon. I’ve got to brush my teeth a few more times.

An Exam is Like a Marathon

Fuel:

Maple apple oats, peach tea, weight textbook lifting

Nervous jitters:

I’ve trained so hard…but I’m so unprepared. I just want it to be over…I hope a hurricane/tornado/earthquake happens right now so I never have to start.

Fast forward several painful hours, a finish line and stopped clock later…

Refuel:

Peach Chobani, banana bruised from sharing backpack space with four notebooks, a fat stack of flashcards, and a large umbrella

Rice with roasted veggies and steamed spinach = demolished.

Coffee in the library. Shh…it was necessary.

Recovery:

Everything hurts. I don’t want to ever get up. Not ever.

Missions Trip Salad

In a few short days, I’ll be in New York City. Not to visit Broadway or shop in Times Square, but to be with children. A missions team from my church is going to a church in Queens to help run a Vacation Bible School.

It’s not Haiti. It’s not Mexico. But it is a missions field where people need the gospel and I suspect it will bring it’s own challenges.

On Saturday, we had a planning meeting to make final travel arrangements, discuss responsibilities and run through the CD of VBS songs with motions. That takes practice.

We also had dinner together. I brought a salad. Not just any salad, a Missions Trip Salad.

On other days, it might be called an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink or open-the-fridge-and-see-what-you’ve-got salad. But on this day, the mix of flavors and the array of colors were representative to me of the ministry myself and these seven others were about to begin. Let me try to explain…

It begins with a lettuce base. The foundation of every ministry is the Great Commission: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15) Just as the greens are varied with romaine, spinach, and cabbage, Jesus’ call to the church takes many different expressions — in the local church, in foreign missions, in the neighborhood — but they are all united in calling and kingdom.

The fresh vegetables represent those of us who are going. Mostly inexperienced, fresh in the faith, and not particularly spectacular in ourselves. But we are willing to be used, and that makes the difference. In the grand scheme of things, we probably won’t be noticed but hopefully the effects of our lives will be noticed. We are dependent on the power and strength of God to work in and through our weaknesses.

The roasted nuts and seeds and corn kernels represent the work we are doing — planting seeds in kingdom of God, doing our small part in the Lord’s harvest and waiting for Him to bring the increase. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37,38)

The long roasted vegetables are in the dark oven a long time before they are added to the salad. These represent the people we are trying to reach — people who are in a dark world, waiting to be brought into God’s kingdom. My prayer for next week is that I will be able to shine the light of Christ to the young children I’ll be with so that they can live their whole lives in fellowship with Him.

Everything is seasoned by prayer, just as the croutons and dressing add flavor and seasoning to the other ingredients. Ministry without prayer is just plain work. It’s prayer that gives it wings to fly and make a difference. Prayer is the power through which God’s power flows. It also binds Christians together across the globe. Will you pray for me and my team as we travel to Queens, for the church there reaching out to un-churched families and for the children many of whom have never heard the gospel?

One by one, the ingredients are added and tossed together. Ministry in God’s kingdom brings together people of all kinds — different in ethnicity, community, and personality — but when doused with the grace of God and bound by fellowship in Christ, seasoned with prayer, we are able to produce something. Something of substance, carrying the aroma of Christ and the flavor of the Gospel, presented in such a way that others are drawn to. And keep coming back for more.

Missions Trip Salad

1 head of romaine lettuce, broken into big leaves
3 c. fresh spinach leaves
2 c. shredded cabbage
1/2 c. walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/3 c. sunflower seeds
3/4 c. corn, fresh, canned, or frozen (if using frozen, thaw beforehand).
1 large cucumber, peeled and sliced
1/2 c. chopped carrots
1 1/2 c. cherry tomatoes, cut into halves
1 c. broccoli florets
Homemade croutons: 1/2 loaf crusty Italian bread, 1 t. garlic salt, 1 T. Parmesan cheese,
1 t.oregano, 1 t. basil
Spices to taste: oregano, basil, pepper

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400. Lightly spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray. Spread walnuts, sunflower seeds, and corn on pan in a single layer. Roast in the oven 8-10 minutes until the nuts are a golden brown and give an aroma. Set aside in a dish to cool.
2. On the same pan, place tomatoes cut side down and broccoli florets. The nuts should have given off enough oil to not need to respray the pan. Roast in oven for about 20-30 minutes, until the tomatoes are shriveled on the outside, but with a little juice left inside. I like to then the oven on broil for 3-4 minutes to get a blackened edge on the tomatoes. Set broccoli and tomatoes aside to cool.
3. While your nuts and vegetables are roasting, begin preparing your green base. Combine romaine, spinach, and cabbage in a large bowl. Mix in the carrots and cucumbers.
4. Once everything has cooled, toss broccoli and tomatoes into the salad and top with nuts and corn. Avoid over-mixing as the nuts and corn tend to fall to the bottom of the dish. Finally, top with homemade croutons (recipe follows) and sprinkle with oregano, basil, and pepper. Serve with a Balsamic Vinaigrette or dressing of your choice.

Homemade Croutons:
Preheat oven to 400 and spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray. Cube Italian loaf into 1-inch squares. Arrange cubes on pan in a single layer and spray over them with cooking spray. Sprinkle with oregano, basil, garlic salt, and Parmesan cheese and mix croutons around pan with a wooden spoon to evenly coat. Bake, stirring once or twice, for about 10 to 15 minutes until the croutons are crisp and brown on the outside, but still somewhat soft inside. Let cool before adding them to salad.

This could alternatively be named the Get-All-My-Veggies-In-Before-a-Week-of-City-Eating Salad. Kind of has a nice ring to it, no?