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Saturday
Feb282015

Creamy Peanut Noodles with Tofu

One of my Mom's favorite Chinese appetizers is peanut sesame noodles served cold. I always thought it a strange combination but it's really just nuts and starch, the Asian equivalent to an American peanut butter sandwich or peanut butter swirled into breakfast oatmeal. Really a fantastic duo! So as my Mom is now recovering from major shoulder surgery and to celebrate a belated Chinese New Year, I recreated this recipe for her. 

It's super easy...just mix up the sauce ingredients in one bowl or a blender, then toss with cooked noodles. The sauce is a creamy blend of rich, salty, sweet and tart (and spice if you like). There may be some scallions or vegetables added but traditionally not much else.

My twist on this classic recipe was to use Pasta Zero shirataki spaghetti from Nasoya, and add baked tofu and spinach. Nasoya sent over samples of their new, improved Pasta Zero noodles. I had worked with Nasoya a few years ago when I first tested their shirataki noodles, a very low carb and low calorie blend of potato starch, konjac flour, and chickpea flour (just 30 calories per 8 oz. serving!). There's no cooking needed; after removing the noodles from the package and rinsing, they're ready to eat. My recipe then was very similar to this one, except this recipe is much creamier and richer tasting because of the peanut butter. 

These revamped Pasta Zero noodles do taste better! Once I added the peanut sauce, the shirataki noodles became soft and velvety—heaven! So dreamy delicious, the perfect comfort food. What I love about this recipe is that though it's not a low calorie dish with the peanut butter, you drastically lower the calories by substituting the shirataki spaghetti, without sacrificing any flavor whatsoever.

Creamy Peanut Noodles with Tofu (makes 2 servings)

Ingredients

8 oz. package Nasoya Pasta Zero Shirataki Spaghetti

Generous 1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter (or smooth if preferred)

2 T soy sauce

2 T rice wine vinegar

1 T canola oil

2 T honey or agave nectar

1 tsp sesame oil (if desired)

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

1/2 cup baked tofu (I used Nasoya Sesame Ginger Baked Tofu), diced into cubes

1/2 cup baby spinach

Directions

  1. Remove and rinse well the shirataki noodles under cool water. Drain well and set aside. 
  2. Microwave peanut butter in microwave-safe bowl for about 15-30 seconds until slightly melted. Add the next seven ingredients and stir well to combine.  
  3. Add diced tofu and baby spinach and mix again until well incorporated (note that I microwaved the spinach for 20 seconds to soften it).
  4. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!

Per serving: 400 calories, 30 grams carbohydrate, 12 grams protein 

Disclosure: I received free samples of Pasta Zero Shirataki Spaghetti to help facilitate this post. The recipe, thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

Saturday
Feb212015

My Quest for the Perfect Fitness Headband

Since becoming an exercise instructor, I've learned a lot about fitness attire. I don't spend much on clothes in general as I could care less about fashion, so I'm willing to spend more on exercise stuff. I've tried super expensive brands from boutique stores and low end brands from Target and even Walmart. In the Boston area, Lululemon is no longer the only store of choice for fitness enthusiasts (though I will always love you Lulu!). My requirement is simple: the clothes should be so comfortable as I'm moving that I completely forget about them. I shouldn't be tugging up the waist or picking at a wedgie...and of course I'm sorta vain that I don't want a muffin top showing above the hips, or underarm flab with a too-tight bra. Doesn't seem too demanding, but it's taken me years to find clothing that fits the bill!

I'm even finicky about headbands. I have to wear them because I sweat like a faucet. Once the drips start, they don't stop. The problem is that I have a large head and flat forehead, as you can see in the profile shot below. So most headbands are too tight, and at the same time slide down my face. Ugh it just happened this week mid-class: I wore a Lulu headband with the sticky grips underneath, but once it got soaked it slid off despite the grips. So I was super interested in these non-slip headband scarfs by Klara Kelly, a Boston-based company that launched in February 2014. The website says the headbands "legitimately won’t move” and I appreciate that they're an adjustable one-size-fits-all. We had connected on Twitter and I purchased a few to test out.

The first thing I noticed is that the material was high quality, very soft with a bit of weight. When I tied it on, it felt really comfortable and, true to its promise, didn't move! The width was generous to help soak up a lot of sweat. The headbands are $22 each and come in a wide range of solid colors and prints. Lululemon's wider width headbands range from $18-22 but are not adjustable. These headbands looked great and stayed put even after intense sweating, yay!!

Trying to pose pretty after my sweaty Zumba class

Thanks to my student Sherry for whipping out her iPhone for these pics!

Overall I love these headbands despite the higher cost. A tip on caring for headbands is to do a quick prewash immediately after your workout: rinse with water and a little soap, to ring out the excess sweat. Then hang dry and wash with your fitness clothes later on. When I used to toss them directly into the laundry basket but not wash them for a day or two, residual odors would collect.

Right now Klara Kelly sells online on their website and at fitness studios and boutiques across the country. Check out their other fitness gear like leggings and ponchos! If you're a fitness instructor, they offer discounts through their ambassador program

Friday
Feb132015

Healthified Chocolate

Thankfully the verdict is out on all counts that chocolate, specifically dark chocolate, is a healthful food. Of course if you're eating milk chocolate that is higher in sugar and fat, or eating too much of any chocolate that piles on the calories, you'll likely negate those health benefits. So what's the best way to enjoy this food and reap the health benefits?

  • Choose dark chocolate or unsweetened cocoa. The cocoa bean is a plant that, like other plant foods (fruit, veggies, whole grains), contains special nutrients and antioxidants. Flavonoids are the specific type found in dark chocolate that research shows can help make blood less sticky, thereby improving blood flow throughout the body. It also can help relax blood vessels and lower blood pressure. Unsweetened cocoa powder that is not treated with alkali or has not undergone Dutch processing (which lower the flavonoid content) and dark chocolate with 70% or more cocoa solids contain the most flavonoids. Flavonoids taste bitter, so enjoying very dark chocolate can take some getting used to!
  • Eat 1-2 ounces a day—that's about the size of a standard Hershey's Bar. The kind of fat in dark chocolate includes a blend of saturated and monounsaturated fats. Good news that the saturated fats in dark chocolate do not affect blood cholesterol levels, but all fats are rich in calories so you can't eat too much without paying for it!

The lower sugar Craisins on the right have 14 grams sugar vs. 29 in the original, and 10 grams fiber vs. 3 from added corn fiber. It contains sucralose to make up for the lower sugar. I've posted about homemade chocolate bars before but I'll share again one of my favorite ways to "healthify" chocolate. I mix in ingredients to add more texture and different flavors, while boosting the nutritional value even further. For this version I added crunchy low sodium, low sugar Kashi Original Go Lean Cereal to bump up the fiber and protein content, ground flax and chia seeds to boost omega-3s and fiber, and reduced sugar dried cranberries to balance out the bitter flavor. Dried cranberries are another great source of naturally occuring flavonols and even drying this fruit does not greatly change its antioxidant content! I just found Reduced Sugar Craisins, which have about half the sugar as regular and are fortified with fiber. They have a diluted flavor compared with usual tart dried cranberries so I didn't love them. Use whatever dried fruits you like, or omit entirely.

  1. Start with a good quality dark chocolate or chocolate chips. It's hard to find >70% dark chocolate; I used Guittard extra dark chocolate chips with 63% cocoa solids. Pour the package into a large microwave-safe bowl and heat on high for 1 minute. Stir well and microwave for another minute. Stir again until creamy smooth and completely melted. 
  2. Add 1 cup Kashi Go Lean Original Cereal, 1/4 cup ground flax and/or chia seeds and 1/2 cup Reduced Sugar Craisins or preferred dried fruit. Mix until incorporated. The batter should be very chunky!
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper and spread the chocolate batter into a thin or thick layer depending on your preference. Allow chocolate to completely cool and harden. Or place sheet in refrigerator for 5-10 minutes to speed up cooling process.
  4. When chocolate feels firm to touch (no chocolate residue on your fingers when pressing it), cut into small squares and enjoy! Store at room temperature in a sealed container.

You can use a food scale to measure out 1-2 oz. portions, or just cut into very small squares. This is a rich, very satisfying treat so eat it slowly and savor it! I love to enjoy it at night with a large mug of green tea (to get even more antioxidants).