Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Grilled Zucchini and Mushroom Sandwich

Being just back from a week long vacation, our wallet is looking a little slim.  This has prevented me from doing an all out grocery shop for this week so we have minimal food in our house.  This is pretty detrimental when your main source of food has become fresh produce and various other perishable items.  We all know that these are often the most expensive.  In my previous life (6 months ago), I would have had no problem stocking up on boxes of $0.69 macaroni and cheese and whatever frozen dinners were on sale that week.  Not anymore.

This financial and health conundrum leads me to get a little creative with the dinners I whip up from time to time.  Tonight was no exception.  I had picked up a couple zucchini (a staple at my house now), a container of baby bella mushrooms (on sale), and some hummus (on sale) during a trip to the grocer last week. Yesterday, during another quick stop to get fruits and veggies, I also grabbed some Foldit Artisan Flatbreads by Flatout (BOGO this week!).  These were just random items that I knew I would be able to use some way or another, be it by themselves or in a combination of things.
I felt a little like Mrs. Wizard in the kitchen tonight.  I started off with the plan to just saute the zucchini like I always do.  As I was cooking, I decided to take a look in the fridge for what else we might have in there.  Found the mushrooms and decided to saute these too.  Figured it would be a nice plate of veggies and fungus for dinner.  Score.  But then it happened.  As I was plating all my items I decided that it all might work well together... I spotted the Foldit Flatbreads on the counter and the hummus in the refrigerator entered my brain.

Here's what you need and what to do with it:

1 medium sized zucchini  - washed and sliced
2 Foldit Artisan Flatbreads (I used the Rosemary & Olive Oil flavor)
4 oz Baby Bella Mushrooms
4 tablespoons hummus (any flavor - I used plain)
Olive Oil to saute
Garlic salt
Italian Seasoning
Parmesan Cheese (the grated kind is find, such as Kraft)

Add approximately 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a pan on medium heat.  Once warm, add zucchini slices flat on the bottom of the pan.  Lightly sprinkle with garlic salt, Italian seasoning and cheese.  Saute for about 5 minutes on one side.  Flip slices over and repeat.  Once done to your liking (I leave them in until the cheese gets a little brown on one side), remove from pan individually leaving any remaining oil and seasoning in the bottom of the pan.  Add mushrooms and saute until done.  Remove from pan.  Lay out bread.  Cover each slice with 2 tablespoons of hummus.  Sprinkle each piece lightly with paprika.  Top hummus with a layer of zucchini and then a layer of mushrooms using equal amounts on each piece of bread.  Fold bread and Enjoy!

As always, play with this recipe.  Find out what you like.  Try with different flavors of hummus or different flavors of flatbread.  I was thinking this might also be amazing with some added sauteed onions and/or peppers.   Let me know if you try it out and what combos you use!

(Sorry I don't have a photo for you on this one... I didn't expect it to be blog-worthy.  Next time I make this, I'll be sure to update :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Asian Veggie Patties

Just a quick little product review....
No joke.. these are the best!  I've been trying out various MorningStar Farms products when they go on sale at my local grocer and we've had a pack of these in the freezer for a little while.  I finally tried them out a few nights ago and they are so yummy!  Only 100 calories per patty, too!  I'm a little disappointed that the ingredient list has some random crap at the end, but overall I think a good quick, freezer friendly meat alternative.  I just microwave a patty for a minute and eat it with a bowl of steamed edamame... tada.. dinner!  The website has a handful of recipes as well.  I'll have to try some out.  If anyone else has tried the recipes or any others, let me know.... I would love your feedback!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Pesticides and Produce: Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen

We're learning more and more each day about random chemicals that have been used in and on food for a long time.  Farmers push to find the best options to grow the largest number and sized crops and chemicals, additives, fertilizers and pesticides were the answer.  At one time, no one thought that the pesticides that were sprayed on growing product would hurt anything besides pests, but come time find out, that's not true.  While the Organic Movement has bee around for over a century, it has only bee in the last 30-40 years that it has been regulated and even less time that the masses are paying attention.

So what is Organic?  Iowa State University has provided the following definition:
According to the USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), organic agriculture is defined as "an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain, or enhance ecological harmony. The primary goal of organic agriculture is to optimize the health and productivity of interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals and people." (NOSB, 1997) The term "organic" is defined by law, as opposed to the labels "natural" and "eco-friendly," which may imply that some organic methods were used in the production of the foodstuff, but this label does not guarantee complete adherence to organic practices as defined by a law. Most "natural" products do not contain synthetic products, but may have been provided conventional (synthetic chemicals used in production) food or feed (as in "natural" beef). source

Keep that label trick in mind when you go shopping the next time.  You specifically want to look for the word Organic.  By law, in the US, foods labeled as organic must meet the appropriate criteria.

The Environmental Working Group, has published this year's EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides on their website.  This guide provides us with the Dirty Dozen - the top 12 produce items that we should buy organically - as well as the Clean Fifteen - the top 15 items that are OK to not buy organic.  This list may come in handy for you as it can easily identify what you might want to splurge on (the extra few cents) to buy without pesticides and chemicals and what items you can save on and buy non-organic.


There is also an awesome video from CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta where he tours a grocery store (Kroger!) and explains a little more about which produce, the costs and why its good to buy organic.  He mentions that most important thing to me which is that the pesticide levels that are measures on produce are the tested levels AFTER the foods have been power-washed.  To me, that says that my little scrub job at home isn't going to help much and I for sure want to buy any items on the dirty dozen list organically.

Looking for more info?  Check out the rest of the EWG website as well as last year's CNN Special Report: Toxic America

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Scary Truth About Movie Theater Snacks [infographic]

Review this before you head out to go see Green Lantern this weekend.... make smart choices!  Or do what I do and sneak in a bottle of water and a snack bag of baby carrots (this works for girls with purses/bags/pocketbooks.. and don't tell anyone I told you that!) or have a big salad before you go!  Our local theatre will also provide us with cups for water from the drinking fountain at no charge.

Full story and infographic here:  Scary Truth About Movie Theater Snacks [infographic]

Post-Vacation Wrap up and more

We're back from a wonderful vacation in Orlando.  Dan and I had a great time with our friends and it was an awesome experience.  Our main reason for going was that Dan competed in a gaming tournament for various fighting games.  He played Mortal Kombat 9 and there were also matches in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Super Street Fighter 4 AE, Tekken 6, and a few others.  He's been a big gamer as long as I have know him (going on 11 years!) and my first introduction to competitive video game competitions was awesome!  We've already got another in our sights for later this year and I think I might actually give it a try this time, too.

So how did I do on the food part you ask?  Well, I think OK.  I packed on about 4 lbs but have already shed two of them since being back on Wednesday.  I stuck completely to vegetarian and pescetarian meals (with the exceptions of two small tasting bites: Greek gyro meat at local place we've wanted to try (I love Greek food) and chicken at Three Broomsticks in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios).  Where did we eat you ask?  Not half as many places as I had hoped!

Our first planned stop got cancelled.  We had a late breakfast on the road and were all still too full to have lunch.  This was a bit of a bummer as I had hoped to get in a meal at the Ethos Vegan Kitchen in Orlando.  Next time...  So we moved right ahead to our second planned stop at the Raphsodic Cooperative Vegan Bakery.  I ended up here because I had purchased a Groupon (it might have been living social) deal a few weeks in advance.  Completely worth it!  This is a quaint little shop in an odd little place in downtown Orlando, but it was awesome.  The staff was super friendly and let us him and haw over our random sampling.  We each chose a treat or two and then headed to our hotel to check-in.  We got a handful of vegan cupcakes, a few cookies and a brownie.  Each item was so yummy and they kept well too.  We did not have a refrigerator in our hotel room so the items we didn't eat right away were just stored in the bakery box. On day three, they were still pretty good.  The brownie even made it back home (with part travel in a cooler) and was amazingly tasty almost a week later.  I couldn't imagine how good it would have been if I was able to eat it the same day!  Here's our goody box:

The rest of the weekend included stops at Giordano's for deep dish pizza (another Groupon deal and it was right across the street from our hotel.. we walked! I got mushroom and broccoli!), Whole Foods for random samplings (I love their hot bar for lunch or dinner.  Gives a great chance to try many foods that you don't usually eat... and so good!), and found a Sweet Tomatoes down the road (if you have one of these in your area GO! Salad Bar Buffet with soups and other yummy food.. such a good deal!).

Salad at Sweet Tomatoes

We landed at a few other stops as well over the five days we were in Orlando.  I'll post more about some of them in a separate post (World's Largest McDonald's and food at Universal Studios).  Overall, again, had a GREAT time!  We ate a ton and really enjoyed ourselves.  I did not get in the exercise that I had hoped, but we did a lot of walking while we were there so I felt that made up for some of it.  I feel like my food choices were for sure those of a girl on vacation, but I was still conscious of what I was putting in my mouth.  The stop at Sweet Tomatoes was awesome and definitely helped flush out all that cheese from the night before at Giordano's.  Hoping to get back to Ethos in the future and will for sure be stopping at Raphsodic next time we're in town... and I didn't stop at just one cupcake... I went for two!

I've got a new fitness / weight-loss / food plan in the works for the next two moths and will keep on my mission of getting healthy.  Which leads me to mention that I think I need to change the title of this blog.  While I was hoping to keep my focus on pescetarianism, things change and so has my life over the last 6 months.  As you've noticed, while my posts still include my pescetarian diet, I seem to have moved forward.  I'm enjoying sharing health, fitness, travel and overall life info with you and I hope you feel the same.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

The death of the Food Pyramid

RIP Food Pyramid... we've moved on to something hopefully better and for sure rounder.

Introducing, the new and improved, Food Plate.  This New York Times article has a great write up about the changes that the USDA has made to the historical Food Pyramid.  They have done away with the pyramid scheme (see what I did there?) all together and First Lady Obama has replaced it with the plate idea.

CBSNews has provided the following summary:
The new design incorporates seven key dietary messages:
- Enjoy your food, but eat less
- Avoid oversized portions
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
- Drink water instead of sugary drinks
- Make at least half your grains whole grains
- Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) milk
- Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals - and choose the foods with lower numbers.
Experts argued the now-defunct pyramid lumped all types of foods in its design - including unhealthy ones at the top of the pyramid . That made it hard to tell which foods were better choices.
Unfortunately, when I look at the plate, I don't get any of those messages!   The words above gave me more information than the graphic ever will and they do not coincide at all.  No wonder we can't eat well!  I get the point that they were trying to make (more visually friendly and hopefully easier to understand), but I'm not sure if it is going to work.  Clearly we can not continue to just toss pictures out at people, especially children, and expect them to understand.  Education, continuously, for children as early as possible about good food choices and why those choices should be made may be the best idea to get a healthy message across to all.  If you understand what is happening to the stuff you put in your body and what it does to your body, I think it makes a whole world of difference.  I'll stop here as I'm leaning towards some grandstanding and political mess....

Here is a great quote from the Fooducate Blog:

The USDA hopes that the new graphic, which reportedly has half of the plate dedicated to fruits and vegetables, can promote better food consumption habits.
But there is a bigger problem here. How can the USDA, a government body set up to promote agriculture and sales agricultural commodities be also charged with health recommendations? There is an inherent conflict of interest in helping farmers sell more corn, soy, and milk and at the same time helping people consume less food.
The government efforts are but a tiny drop in an ocean of savvy food marketing. Don’t hold your breath or expect the new campaign to instantly help America make better choices.

While I'm not overly impressed with the food plate, I did find some possibly useful tools on the USDA's website.  The interactive tools that are provided look like a start in the right direction.  I glanced at the food tracker and as soon as the link sent me to something that referenced the pyramid, I was disappointed and didn't look further.  Get it together folks.  Then I took a look at the Daily Food Plan.  I plugged in my numbers and besides that it instantly told me I was overweight (yes, I know.. got it.. let's try not to deter people right away, OK government!), the resulting guide, details and available print-out were actually pretty cool.

Oh, and here is one more blog post about this topic from Andy Bellatti's blog, Small Bites.  I've recently discovered Andy, who is almost a registered nutritionist and "considers himself one part vegan chef, one part nutritionist, and one part food policy activist."  His post and the comments are well worth the read.

[EDIT] While I have not read all the posts, Spoonfed: Raising kids to think about the food they eat appears to be a good website/blog to keep an eye on if you are interested in learning more about educating your children on smart food choices. [/EDIT]

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Diet Dining-Out and Vacation time!

We've been eating out less and less in the last few months and last week, Dan and I stopped by our favorite breakfast spot.  We hadn't been since September of last year.  Since then, not only have I adopted my pescetarian diet, but I've been on this mission to lose 15 lbs (down 14.8 and 3 days to go to reach my goal!!).  I went ahead and decided to splurge and treat myself to a vegetarian omelet with a side of pancakes.  I will fully admit that I at all three of those, what I would call medium-sized, pancakes, but I used half as much syrup and butter than I would have previously.  Also, I only ate half, or less, of the omelet.  The thing was sooo big that I think if I would have polished it off I would have been instantly sick.  As it was, the amount that I ate was still way too much.

Next week, we will be on vacation.  We're spending a week in Florida with another couple and between the four of us, our favorite past-time is eating.  We've got some spots already picked out for pizza, dim sum, greek, sushi, breakfast spots and a few others. But, we've also got a couple vegan stops planned and will be just across the street from a Whole Foods market.  My plan is to eat fun but eat smart.  I'm really looking forward to trying some new eateries.  I'm hoping to stick to my pescetarianism and stay on a healthy track... but I won't be fooling myself - it is vacation! Will I have a vegan cupcake? Yes!  Will I have six of them? Probably not... unless they are THAT good!  I've got my arsenal of iPhone apps (fitness and healthy eating), a wealth of knowledge and the understanding of what my body needs to feel good.  I've also got some good will-power and serious determination to continue to become more and more healthy!

Here's a great infographic that I ran across today.  Gives us a little bit to think about, especially when ordering out.

fat americans
Learn more about Healthy Meals
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