Burritos: The Other Love of My Life

This recipe is a healthier, equally-as-satisfying version of my favourite take-out:

2 cups cooked brown rice (I use soup stock instead of plain water, but you can do what you like)
1 cup cooked black beans
2 avocados, smashed
12 slices Henry’s tempeh
2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
1 diced tomato
1 sweet onion
1 red onion
2 sweet peppers (pick your favourite colour–I chose orange)
1 cup grated Daiya grated cheddar/cheddar/pepper jack cheese
2 tbsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 pinch crushed red chili flakes
Chipotle peppers, diced (as many as you like, or none)
Cilantro (optional)
Sriracha (optional)
Large tortilla wraps (I use flax/ancient grain)
1 tbsp olive oil
1. Heat pan on med-high heat, add olive oil.
2. Add onions, chipotle peppers, and spices; stir occasionally; cook until onions are translucent.
3. Add sweet peppers and tempeh strips to pan. Stir.
4. Turn down heat to low. Cook for about 5 minutes or until peppers reach desired doneness.

Building the Perfect Burrito

Layer 1: Tortilla. Obviously, but make sure your tortilla is fresh and pliable. Sometimes it helps to heat them up a touch.
Layer 2: Smashed avocados. These will not only give you a dose of healthy fats, they will hold your cheese in place–let’s get our priorities straight. Put them in the centre of the tortilla.
Layer 3: Cheese/Cheese-like product. Place in the middle of the tortilla, atop the avocado.
Layer 4: Rice. Hot rice + Cheese = gooey deliciousness.
Layer 5: Beans. Not only are they the magical fruit (according to my dad), but they are full of protein, fibre, and other good-for-you nutrients.
Layer 6: Place tempeh, onions, and peppers on top of beans. I like to try and get an even distribution, so each bite will have a little bit of each ingredient…but that’s kind of crazy.
Layer 7: Shredded lettuce.
Layer 8: Diced tomato.
Layer 9: Cilantro.
Layer 10: Sriracha. A lot. (But I’m saucy like that, you can mellow it out by doing something cooler, like tziki sauce or a low-fat Catalina dressing.)

Wrapping It Up

I found a quaint video to show you how to wrap a burrito like a pro:

 

Chia: Not Just for Heads and Pets

I went crazy this week and splurged on some foods that we have wanted to stock up on, but can be pricey at the outset: coconut oil, hemp hearts, chia seeds. Let’s talk about chia seeds, shall we?

Chia is a member of the mint family; it’s high in essential fatty acids (really, really high), protein, soluble fibre (nearly 40% of the recommended daily dose in 1/4 cup of seeds), calcium, magnesium, and a whack of other good-for-you things. No wonder it has been getting a lot of press! When placed in liquid, chia absorbs up to 9 times its weight and forms a gelatinous goo that is amazingly good for you (and can be turned into a lot of different things, for instance: a vegan egg replacer).

Grown in Central America (Mexico and Guatemala), Chia crops date back to pre-Colombian times.

3 Popular Ways to Ingest Chia Seeds

1. Chia Fresca: A drink of water and chia seeds, perhaps with citrus or other fruits for flavour.  I’m drinking this as I write this post…I’m not really sure how I feel about it, just yet. It’s like bubble tea, but different. I like the weird texture and the very light flavour (I added some lemon, too), but I’m not sure I could make this a regular thing. 

2. Chia On Yogurt: Yes. This is a great choice. I take 2 tbsp and put it on my greek yogurt in the morning, along with some hemp hearts.

3. Chia Pudding. I haven’t tried it, but I suppose you can take the goo and turn it into a tapioca-like pudding. 

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Working 9 to 5 and My Big Fat Ass

Last time I was working in an office environment, I ballooned from a size 6 to a size 14 in less than a year. There was a lot of snacking and not a lot of moving. I invested in a heavy-duty cable package and a comfortable couch. Then one day I looked at my old-lady ass and could not believe it belonged to me…at 25-years old.

Since then (4 years later) I’ve been busting my butt to stay active and eat well. Lately, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, if you’ve read any posts since October, I’ve been slacking. 

In an attempt to avoid the downfalls of office life, I’ve stocked my desk with the following acceptable munchies (I also have a mini-fridge, so that’s an amazing help):

1. Cocoa roasted almonds (not chocolate-covered)
2. Walnuts
3. Water
4. Cottage cheese
5. Dark chocolate squares (70% cocoa)
6. Holy Crap! Cereal (non-GMO, organic, lactose and gluten free, high protein)
7. Yogurt
8. Rice cakes and natural peanut butter
9. Bananas
10. Pink grapefruit cups (Kirkland brand; Del Monte is too high in sugar)
11. Protein shakes 

I always have something to snack on and I’m never hungry. 

Chicken and Greens in Sauce

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Ingredients:
2 tbsp light cream cheese
2 tbsp heavy cream
1/4 cup of low sodium chicken stock
2 tbsp basil pesto
2 tbsp light Parmesan cheese
1 cup cooked broccoli and/or cauliflower
2 cups raw baby spinach
15 asparagus stocks
1 cooking onion, diced
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Cook onions in a non-stick pan, on medium heat, until translucent; add garlic; add cream cheese, cream, pesto, and chicken stock, stir constantly until it is a sauce. Add asparagus, let cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally; add spinach and stir; add cooked broccoli and chicken; top with Parmesan. Let all ingredients heat through, then serve.

(Editor’s note: I like to keep my chicken separate so I can ensure I’m eating 4oz, so the addition of the chicken breast is optional.)

South-West Inspired Salad That Eats Like a Meal

Needless to say, I’ve been on a salad kick lately. I find salads are the healthiest and easiest one-dish meals that take 20 minutes or less to make.

You can use either lean ground turkey (1 lb), lean ground beef (1 lb), or boneless-skinless chicken breast (2 breasts) for this recipe, it is entirely up to your discretion. Instructions below for making your own taco-like seasoning from scratch, for whichever meat moves you.

Ingredients (Meat Seasoning)

2 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried chili flakes
1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional, for those who like some heat)
2 tbsp Worcester sauce
2 tbsp Frank’s Red Hot (optional, for those who like some heat)

In a skillet, combine all dry ingredients with meat; allow to begin to brown. Once the meat is starting to brown, add wet ingredients. Cook fully, drain, remove from heat.

Ingredients (Salad)

1 head iceberg lettuce (chopped)
1 can black beans (rinsed and drained)
1 can corn (rinsed and drained)
1 red, yellow, or orange sweet bell pepper (finely sliced)
1/2 cup sliced black olives
2 green onions (sliced)
1 pint cherry tomatoes (I don’t halve them, as I’m afraid my salad will get soggy)
1/3 cup light jalapeno jack cheese (grated)
1 jalapeno (finely sliced; optional)
1/2 cup of light or homemade catalina dressing

Toss all salad ingredients in a bowl, add dressing, and mix thoroughly. Place cooked, seasoned meat on top. Serve and enjoy! 

The Best Cobb Salad You Will Ever Eat

This is a taste of what was for dinner last night. Season the chicken anyway you like–I usually opt for tossing it in Frank’s Red Hot or some homemade basil pesto. I also do each bowl separately so I can cater to everyone’s tastes and I can make it look beautiful, cause I’m domestic like that.

Ingredients (for 2 very large salads):

1 cup baby spinach
1 cup mixed greens or romaine lettuce (chopped)
2 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cubed)
4 hardboiled eggs (quartered)
1 yellow, red, or orange sweet bell pepper (cut into thin strips)
2 avocados (diced)
2 oz light marbled brick cheese (cubed) OR 2 oz feta cheese (crumbled)
1 pint cherry tomatoes (I don’t halve them because I am afraid the guts will make my salad soggy)
1/2 seedless cucumber (sliced)
2 slices of cooked, drained, bacon (crumbled) OR 2 slices of deli ham (cubed)
2 tbsp low-fat or homemade dressing of your choice (I like ranch or blue cheese)

Basically divide all of these ingredients between two bowls, in an artful manner and enjoy!

A Word on Diet

When I started getting serious about working out and eating right was when I started seeing results–this was when I got combined eating wellwithexercise. I had the exercising down, but I wasn’t getting slimmer–stronger, sure, but not smaller. When I stopped buying diet books and trying to cook outrageous recipes, things got easier.

I had to take some time to recognize my strengths and weakness. Here is a list of things that I’ve picked up over the past few years that I try to keep in mind when I’m preparing or eating food:

1. Keep It Simple. Exotic ingredients and complex recipes can be fun, if you have the time and energy to prepare the meal. When cooking for myself, I stick to lean red meat (once a week), chicken, and fish (tuna, tilapia, and sole, mainly). I pick out a green vegetable, usually broccoli or spinach (I often buy fresh, but pre-cut and pre-washed produce, so I can just toss it on a plate or lightly steam). I then make 3 – 4 servings of brown rice or quinoa. I season the protein with salt, pepper, and maybe a bit of cayenne. I then make up 3 – 4 plates of the same dinner. Yes, it’s boring. Yes, I’ll put some hot sauce or soy sauce on there to mix it up. But once you start seeing food as fuel, not as fun, then it makes sense. Einstein wore the same outfit everyday so he wouldn’t have to put any energy into what he would wear–I’m applying the same principle to food.

2. Shop Smart. If you buy it, you’ll probably eat it. I don’t even go down the snack aisles of the grocery store anymore. I stick to the outter circle aisles–produce, meat, dairy, and bulk products only. It’s easy to tell yourself that you can have “just a handful,” but truthfully, I’m not that disciplined, so I need to remove the temptation by keeping processed, sugary, non-foods out of my cart.

3. Cheat. You aren’t a robot. You will have slices of pizza and burgers, that’s okay. The important thing is making better choices and eating for the size you want to be, not the size you are. Sure, I can eat a double burger, but ordering the single is just as satisfying and I probably don’t need the fries or the soft drink. I could order a whole pizza, but walking to the store to get a slice is the wiser idea (and the more economical). Before I cheat, I think of all the time I spend in the gym, sweating, grunting, and hurting, then I make my choice.

4. Why Do Tomorrow What You Can Do Today? Get to it! Stop telling yourself that you’ll start tomorrow or get back into it tomorrow–choose now, there’s no time like the present.

5. Be Prepared. If you are a busy person, you’re going to eat whatever’s handy. Always keep lots of ready-to-eat foods on-hand. I spend the extra cash to buy pre-made salads, pre-cut and pre-washed vegetables, and pre-mixed protein shakes so I don’t have the excuse of “Well, there was nothing that I could eat, so I got take out.” I like keeping shakes and protein bars in my car, so if I’m in transit, I still have no excuse for grabbing something from a fast food place.

6. It’s Okay to Say No. My family expresses their love for eachother by making and serving rich and delicious foods on special occasions. For my birthday, it was always “Tell your mom what you want to eat.” Well, if you’re family is like mine, you have to learn to be a firm no person. No need to be rude, but you don’t need to explain yourself to anyone–it’s your body. My family is slowly, but surely, learning that my eating habits have changed, but it’s a process. I still have to refuse seconds or say no to chips and pop during a movie, but they have been mostly supportive. The big change came when I was doing laundry at their house one day and my dad held up a pair of my pants and laughed “These look like kids’ pants!” and they all acknowledged how hard I’d been working. Even if you don’t get any sort of acknowledgement, be firm in your choice and know that it’s really not offensive to turn down foods that are detrimental to your health and fitness goals.

7. Keep a Journal. You can use a memo pad, smart phone, blog, whatever, but write down everything you eat–even that spoonful of Nutella you shoved in your mouth when you thought noone was watching. By analyzing what I eat, I’m better able to see where and how I can improve. For instance, I need to eat every 2 – 3 hours, if I go longer between meals, I tend to make some poor choices and I notice that my workouts suffer because of those choices. I am more cognisant of my diet, because I’m accountable to myself for every bite that goes into my mouth.

8. Calories Do Count. You cannot reasonably expect to get smaller if you do not reduce your caloric intake. I’m not talking about being crazy and limiting your calories to the point where you are starving and your body is not getting the nutrients it needs to build lean muscle and burn fat. When I’m working out, I need about 2,500 calories just to function, that means that eating 5 times per day, I should aim for my meals to be between 300 and 500 calories each. If you’re eating clean, you don’t need to stress, you’ll be fine. If you are a person who eats a lot of take out (even so-called healthy takeout), you might want to pay more attention to packaging and nutrition labels.

9. Take Supplements. Fish oils (6 per day), a good multivitamin, vitamin C, and branch chain aminos (before, during, and after a workout) are what I’m taking. Everyone is different and should consult a professional before starting this kind of regime, but I find I get better, faster results when I take my supplements. I put them in the days-of-the-week pill box, so I don’t forget.

10. Don’t Eat Low Fat Anything. I don’t eat anything that advertises that it’s fat free or calorie free. Food should have calories in it. Dairy should have fat in it. Meat should have fat in it. Fat Free and Calorie Free sound like foods that have been processed to the point of Frankenfoods. Scary!