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Black Rice with Edamame, Sweet Potato and Cashews

Have you checked out the whole grains section of your supermarket? No more will you only see brown or white rice, but quinoa, millet, farro, freekeh and even black rice. My Asian parents have mentioned black rice but never cooked with it because of the higher cost. This black-purplish rice is also called "forbidden rice" because only the richest of society in ancient China (i.e., emperors) were allowed to eat it.

Thankfully times have changed; I easily found it at Trader Joe's and a client Patrick had bought it at Ocean State Job Lot! Patrick first inspired me to cook with it. He had come to me moderately overweight with cholesterol levels in the 300s and said that despite drinking green smoothies from a Magic Bullet and walking more, his cholesterol wouldn't budge, which he wrote off as being genetically inherited. He refused to take a statin so we tweaked his diet to increase the fiber with more whole fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds and whole grains while avoiding saturated fat and excess cholesterol. He started a regular exercise regimen (he chose P90X which could be done at home). After 4-5 months, his cholesterol dropped to 165better than mine! Patrick is just one of several folks I've counseled who were convinced their genes caused the bad numbers...but were proven wrong when adjusting their diet and exercise level. Some but not all were also using medication. Food is healing!

Black rice is colored by its anthocyanin content, an antioxidant that also pigments blueberries, purple grapes, red wine, tart cherries, plums and eggplant. Black rice, similar to brown, retains the outer high fiber bran layer so its texture is chewier and nuttier than white. Research shows that anthocyanins can decrease inflammation in the body, and therefore may reduce the risk of inflammatory conditions such as cancer and heart disease. Nutrition-wise it's comparable to brown rice with more fiber, protein and iron than white rice. I simply love the taste! 

Patrick shared this favorite cholesterol-lowering recipe for Forbidden Rice Salad by the Get Off Your Tush & Cook blog, which I made today as you can see in the photos. Very easy to prepare with a quick dressing. The only things I changed were using canola instead of sesame oil, and adding cashews instead of sesame seeds. Also, though I would have loved the flavor of roasted sweet potato, I didn't feel like turning on the oven so I microwaved them for 6 minutes. The edamame, crispy bell peppers and green onion rounded out the flavors and textures. The dish tasted great warm, chilled or at room temperature. 

A few notes about preparing the black rice: Because the package didn't specify to rinse the rice, I only rinsed quickly before cooking. I noticed the water immediately turned purple throughout cooking. I used a ratio of 2 parts water to 1 part rice. After the 30-minute cook time, the texture was perfect but it looked gloppy. So I rinsed off the excess glop and it was fine. In the future I plan to rinse the rice well before cooking and reduce the cooking water (1 3/4 water to 1 cup rice). Try out the recipe if you enjoy brown rice, I'm sure you will love it!


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)


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


  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.


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