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Boston Vegetarian Food Festival, October 26 and 27, 2013
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Saturday
Apr192014

My First Flash Mob: Beat As One

When Fen sent an invite on Facebook to a flash mob hosted by The FAM, my first impulse was to click delete. But I hesitated because it was in honor of the Boston Marathon victims, and when I heard the song Beat As One and saw the choreography (by The Z Spot's Lena Andrade), I changed my mind. Being in a flash mob was the last thing on my to-do list but this event wasn't about me. It was about making a declaration of unity and support for each other in response to the tragedy that occurred one year ago. It was a terrible day, week, and months after. It's something you don't want to think about, but have to, because there are disabled survivors in our own communities. They are our inspiration. Below are photos I took from the rehearsal at the Prudential Center just before the actual flash mob with more than 200 participants.

The song describes how everyone goes through trials and we do our best to stay positive and not breed bitterness, but the only way to really achieve this is with the help of others. We can't move forward alone, at least not for very long, and you may be surprised who steps forward to meet you in your worst moments. "When trouble happens right before our faces. Is it better if we look the other way? The best things come from unexpected places. My heart is your heart."

This day I saw diversity in age, ethnicity, and ability, but I'd agree the underlying motivation was unity as the song title suggests.

Everyone's thoughts were with the Boston Marathon victims at each rehearsal and the actual flash mob. There was also joy, and I believe through every dance step we wished we could send the survivors joy and hope for the future.

 

The Beat As One flash mob took place Sunday April 13 outside the Pru on Boylston Street. Below, we try to look inconspicuous and casual before it begins.

Sasha, below, was working in the Pru and watering plants as we were waiting. He'd never heard of a flash mob before but after we described it, he decided to wing the choreo and do the whole thing with us...which he did with water pitcher in hand! 

And, the final video!

Thanks to The FAM for an amazing day. God bless Boston and the Marathon runners on Monday!

Sunday
Apr062014

Dukkah-Encrusted Tofu

Dried tofu. Photo credit: Vegan Good EatsI grew up eating tofu since I come from an Asian family but it was never served to me plain and white, like you see in the supermarket. Some of my clients who aren't familiar with tofu don't realize that you're not supposed to eat fresh tofu straight out of the carton! It is meant to be seasoned and cooked. My favorite ways to eat it are pan-fried or dried (you can find this in Asian grocery stores near the fresh tofu), which are more flavorful. I don't prefer to fry foods because of the mess afterwards, so I usually enjoy this type of tofu from a Chinese restaurant (or at my parent's house, if they'll cook it for me!). For my meals, I add plain, diced extra firm tofu to salads and soups, where it picks up the flavor of the salad dressing or broth. This week I noticed a jar of dukkah, given to me by a friend, sitting in my cabinet and thought why not try it on tofu? Dukkah, originally from Egypt but now becoming popular here, is a spice blend incorporating toasted nuts, seeds, herbs and a little salt. You can sprinkle it on meats, fish, pasta, and even salads.

I used Nasoya's Extra Firm Tofu Plus that is high in protein, calcium, vitamin D and B vitamins. I pressed the tofu to drain out extra water and make it even firmer (place the whole block of tofu between two paper towels on a plate and rest a heavy book or pan on top for about 10 minutes), and then cut the tofu into triangles and squares. I brushed all sides of the tofu with a sauce mixture of 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce, 2 tablespoons honey and 1 tablespoon sesame oil. I sprinkled the dukkah over the top and baked in a 350 F oven for 35 minutes.

The result was a flavorful tofu with a nice crunch from the dukkah's almonds and various seeds. It went well on top of a salad, though I equally enjoyed the leftover tofu the next day warmed with brown rice and vegetables. Actually I preferred the flavor of the tofu after it had been refrigerated and reheated, as the seeds had softened and the sauce had soaked deeper into the tofu.

 It's an easy recipe and a great way to get more whole soy into your diet!

Sunday
Mar232014

Pump Up the Flavor!

This year's National Nutrition Month theme is "Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right." The foods we should be eating more of—whole unprocessed or minimally processed foods—have unique natural flavors, but let's admit it, they often don't have the punch of processed foods that are loaded with salt, sugar, and artificial flavor enhancers. How do you make plain whole grains like brown rice or quinoa palatable without using the salt shaker? Is your elegant two-tiered spice rack used more for decor than function?

Jeremy Sewall plating a mixed green salad with toasted spice vinaigrette

Slow-roasted salmon and toasted barley seasoned with fennel, curry powder and orange zest To meet that challenge, Stop & Shop hosted a tasting event at Boston University last week with Julie Menounos, their nutritionist, and Jeremy Sewall, owner and executive chef of the popular restaurants Lineage, Island Creek Oyster Bar, and Row 34. What better way to learn how to season food properly than from a top chef? At this hands-on cooking class they demonstrated five recipes with an abundant use of fresh herbs and spices. Julie also provided several takeaway tips to help give your everyday meals a flavor boost while controlling sodium:

  • Keep it real. Approximately 75% of salt we consume is already in our foods. Processed foods are our biggest source of excess sodium. Make it a point to try one new fruit, vegetable or whole grain each week. 
  • Read labels. Look for products labeled “sodium-free” (less than 5 milligrams of sodium per serving), “very low sodium” (35 milligrams or less per serving), “low sodium” (140 milligrams or less per serving) or “no salt added.” Beware that low and fat-free products often contain more sodium than the original version.
  • Get in the kitchen. Preparing your own meals is the best way to control how much sodium goes into your food.
  • Retrain your taste buds. It may take up to three months for your body to adjust to eating less salt and sugar, so cut back gradually.
  • Stock your spice rack. The 10 basic everyday herbs and spices include: black pepper, oregano, rosemary, ground cinnamon, red pepper, cumin, basil, ground ginger, basil, garlic powder and chili powder. Also stock up on no-salt-added spice blends like Mrs. Dash and McCormick Perfect Pinch.
  • Remove the salt and salt shaker. If a recipe calls for a pinch of salt, replace it with an herb or spice. Salt-free don’t mean taste-free. You can try rosemary, marjoram, thyme, tarragon, onion or garlic powder, curry powder, pepper, nutmeg, cumin, ginger, cilantro, bay leaf, oregano, dry mustard, or dill.
  • Dress with low-fat flavors. Add vinegar (rice, balsamic, white wine) or citrus juice to foods just before eating. Vinegar is great on vegetables, especially dark leafy greens, cooked or raw. Most vinegars are calorie-free, though seasoned rice vinegar contains sugar and salt. Citrus like lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit are delicious on fish, berries, broccoli and salad greens.
  • Add dried fruits and vegetables to your favorite  dishes. Sun dried tomatoes, chili peppers, dried mushrooms (soaked), raisins, figs and currants can add big flavor without a lot of calories.
  • Don’t fear unsaturated fats. Enjoy the taste and health benefits of liquid fats such as veggie oils, avocado, fatty fish, nuts and seeds. Try all kinds—olive and grapeseed oil, walnuts and almonds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Toasting nuts and seeds adds a smoky flavor and crunch to salads and brown rice.
  • If you’re dining out, try more ethnic cuisines. Choose a restaurant that features food from Asia, Europe or Africa. These restaurants often feature unique seasonal vegetables on their menu that would allow you to try something new.

I was unable to get away from work to attend this event but I tested a few of their recipes at home. I liked their pancake recipe because it was so easy to make and used ingredients I already had. The only downside was that the carrots didn't have time to cook so they were still crunchy. I'd suggest shredding them very fine (e.g., julienned) and/or sauteeing them for a few minutes before adding them to the batter. The honey and almond topping is delicious and the bananas add plenty of sweetness so you won't miss the usual added sugar in the batter!

Whole Wheat Carrot Pancakes with Honey and Almonds

(Makes 8 medium pancakes; 1 serving = 2 pancakes)

Ingredients

2 very ripe bananas

2 large eggs

½ cup whole wheat flour

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

¼ cup almond milk

½ cup shredded carrots 

¼ cup toasted almonds

¼ cup honey

Directions 

  1. Mash bananas thoroughly. Mix bananas, eggs, flour, baking soda, salt and milk, beating until you have a smooth mixture. Add shredded carrots. Warm a non-stick pan over medium heat, adding ½ t canola oil or cooking spray to the pan, ensuring it is evenly coated.
  2. Pour ¼ cup of batter into the pan, and cook until it begins to bubble. Flip over and heat until cooked through. Repeat with the rest of the mixture.
  3. Serve warm and garnish with toasted almonds and a bit of honey.

Nutrition facts per serving: 265 calories, 8 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 108 mg cholesterol, 330 mg sodium, 46 g carbohydrate, 5 g fiber, 8 g protein

Disclosure: I received a $50 Stop & Shop gift card to purchase ingredients to test the recipes.