broccoli slaw

The weekly menu

I have a week of food coming your way.  And I’m pretty proud of myself because despite Kyle being out of town I did a decent job of still making myself quality meals…as opposed to just half-assing it and rummaging through the fridge after putting P down.

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Once again, they’re all out of order.

When I’m planning the week ahead, I have a vague idea of when I’ll do certain meals based on their hands-on time and my schedule, but I like the option to switch it mid-week if I don’t feel like a certain dish that day or if something comes up and I don’t have enough time to prep.

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BBQ chicken, grilled corn, and kettle salt & pepper chips.  Holy moly are these chips addicting.  If you haven’t tried them, consider this post your PSA and stay away.  I used TJ’s BBQ sauce (the Bold & Smoky Kansas City style one) for the chicken.

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Asian slaw salad

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This was easy and delicious and I plan on making it again.  I used 1 bag of cabbage, 1/2 bag broccoli slaw which I tossed in TJ’s soyaki sauce in the morning so it would wilt and get soggy by evening.

Then I added 2 chicken breasts which I baked and shredded (some went to P so maybe 1 1/2 breasts), 2 chopped stalks of celery, 3 green onions, 1 can of mandarin oranges, and more soyaki sauce.

Just before serving I added sesame sticks on top.  These weren’t in the picture until after P was asleep (sesame and wheat are allergens for him).

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Perfecto!

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This week’s al fresco had lots of the old (Mary’s crackers, smoked trout and fried green beans), with a few new (goat gouda, fig jam [!!] and fresh blackberries).  Yums all around.

Thoughts on the new Mary’s cracker box?  Kyle and I had a long discussion about the reason for the change and their (possible) new marketing goals.  Because we are weird.

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This is the sprouted quinoa strawberry salad from Terry Walters’ Clean Food.  I wish all cookbooks were organized by recipes in a seasonal way.

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I added chicken because Kyle requested so.  And let’s be real, P doesn’t turn chicken down…ummmm…ever.  So my new favorite thing?  Tomatillos!

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And we already discussed the 4th so that’s the end of the post!

But before I sign off until next week’s menu, let’s discuss the chocolate in my life lately, okay?

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(above) endangered species natural coconut creme filled dark chocolate
(below) righteously raw maca & cacao maca bar

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Usually, I stick to the pound plus bars from TJ’s (I eat way too much chocolate to not).  But when Kyle’s out of town, he encourages me to  treat myself.  So I did!

I’m sorry to say the first wasn’t my fave.  The creme filling was weird and tasted artificial or something to me.

The maca bar, however, is the ISH.  I actually bought another a few days later because it was THAT good – even though it was a whopping $5.  I’ve been a righteously raw bar fan for a long time, but this was my first time branching out after a serious caramel streak.

Fig Friday

I’ll fly through the beginning of this post and get the part when (part of) my family is in town!!

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So tired I couldn’t even scoop my oats into the bowl.  They were made with oats, buckwheat, apples, cinnamon, and vanilla stevia

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Lunch was shake ‘n bake.  Minus the bake.  I just love using tupperware with lids to get dressing in every nook and cranny.

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This is especially important when it’s a delicious dressing like Follow Your Heart’s vegan caesar.

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It helps if you sing while you do it: shake shake shake, shake shake shake…

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This gorgeous monster had mixed greens, broccoli slaw, carrots, tomatoes, and cucumber. And a looooot of Caesar dressing

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I had a ciabatta roll on the side to wipe up all the extra dressing.  But once the dressing was all gone, I wanted another roll.  So I had a second one with hummus

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Sabra done.  Looks like another Costco trip is in order…

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After lunch I did some work around the apartment, went on a run, and then got ready for the arrival of my mom, sister, and g-ma.  The girls in my family (minus Laura, who is still traveling the world) were in Southern California for a baby shower.  Even though I was going to see them on Saturday, they were nice enough to brave the Friday LA traffic to commute from my g-ma’s house in Newport Beach to Santa Monica.  A good meal with family is worth it.  🙂

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We went to a restaurant called FIG, which I have been eyeing for a while now.  The restaurant is located in the Fairmont Hotel on Ocean Ave in Santa Monica.  Despite being blocks from our apartment, I actually discovered FIG’s cuisine at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market (they occasionally have a small set-up serving part of their menu).

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With their focus on eating local, seasonal, and organic, how could I not be a fan?!  The menu even tells you what produce is currently in season and/or coming soon.  Being in California certainly has it’s perks. 

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The food has nothing but amazing reviews and the block-from-the-ocean location can’t be beat.  So we gave it a try!

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We started with cocktails.  I was SO happy to find they had my absolute favorite drink ever, the Moscow Mule.  Mmmm…ginger.  It came in a cute tin mug too.  My mom’s blueberry and thyme cocktail is to the left of mine. 

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As soon as these individual bread packets arrived, I was in love.  They were hot and lightly toasted and sooo soft.  Yum.

Our waitress was really nice and friendly and easily helped me navigate the vegan options on the menu (there were plenty).  She also helped the rest of the fam by sharing her favorites and whatnot.  I love good service and she was excellent. 

Even though there were large salads as main courses and a vegetable curry entree, I ended up choosing a starter and vegetable side because they were among her favorites. 

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Brussels sprouts with a vegan preparation (without butter or bacon).  They were very vinegar-heavy, which I didn’t mind, but my mom (who also got them) thought they were a bit too potent.  That may be because there was no bacon to balance the dish, but I still enjoyed it.  I love brussels sprouts, so whenever I get a chance to eat them without having to stink up the apartment, I jump at the chance. 

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Scarlet quinoa with chard, carrots, apples, and Marcona almonds.  Finally, I now know the name of those white almonds!  This dish blew my mind.  It was bursting with flavor.  I savored each and every bite.  I can’t even being to describe how stellar it was.  I would order it again and again and again.

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Marie and Kyle both started with a tomato soup.  Kyle actually said this was “the best” tomato soup he has ever had.  So yeah, I guess it was good.

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My mom and Marie spilt the Chopped Salad as their entree, which had chicken, avocado, Applewood Smoked Bacon (which they omitted), charred corn, hazelnuts, cranberries, and a lemon-oregano dressing.  The crispies on top were fried carrot chips.  The meatless version of this was my back-up order.  It looked great also, so I may have to go back and try it as well.

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As per our waitresses recommendation, Kyle and my g-ma both got the Short Rib and Pancetta Meatloaf

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It came with mashed potatoes, Nante carrots, and baby broccoli.  Kyle all but licked his plate. 

Last but not least…dessert. 

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Even though we were all stuffed we got a strawberry and rhubarb crumble for the table.  The strawberry ice cream came on the side so the lactose intolerant folk didn’t get sick.  I avoided the crumble top because it most definitely had butter in it, but I did have a bite of the fruity inside.  It was tart, but sweet in a deliciously balanced way. 

This was very much one of my favorite meals in Santa Monica.  What with the fun, summery ambiance, the emphasis on seasonal produce from local growers, and the ingredients-first inspired meals, I know we will be going back. 

FYI to the locals, FIG at Five takes place every Tuesday through Saturday from 5-6 pm in which they offer the menu for half price. 

Seitan tutorial

Ok this is gonna be a quickie because there’s no point in dragging it out.  Seitan isn’t hard to make.  It gets an unnecessarily bad difficult rap.  If you’re scared to try it, don’t be.  I’m a loser and I can manage, so trust me, you can too.

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Finding Vital Wheat Gluten is actually 75% of the battle.  Try Whole Foods or your neighborhood Co-Op or health foods store.  I usually get Bob’s Red Mill, but I’ve used Arrowhead Mills before too.

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The ratio of vegetable broth to VWG is the variable in most recipes.  It really just depends on how dense or chewy you prefer your seitan to be.  I generally go for a one to one ratio of wet to dry ingredients because I like my seitan like Jillian Michaels likes her glutes…packed tight.

Simple seitan

Wet ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce*

Dry ingredients:

  • 1 cup Vital Wheat Gluten
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast

Mix the wet and dry ingredients separately and then add them together.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

*The main difference between this recipe and my other one is the amount of soy sauce.  More soy sauce = more flavor.  I should also mention here that if you prefer your seitan to be more juicy (and not as tough or chewy) you may want to up the vegetable broth a bit (1/4 cup extra should be enough).

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It looks hideous, but it will all turn out ok.  I promise.  Now is when you get out your frustration.  Make the ball your personal punching bag and knead, knead, knead.  There’s no real right or wrong way to do this, and it’s not like how much you do it will make or break the seitan, so don’t freak out if you haven’t a clue as to the technical kneading protocol.  The goal is to get it into some kind of shape that can be edible.

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The more you work it with your hands, the more dense (and thus chewy) the seitan will be.

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I usually form patties with mine, but you can make smaller nugget shapes or whatever.

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Place them in a cooking pan submerged in a bit of vegetable broth and cook it in the oven for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

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After 15 minutes, the top side should be browned.  Flip them over and cook the other side for another 10 minutes.

And that’s it!

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Time to go brag to your friends that you have just mastered seitan.  You may get some funny looks with an opening line like that…

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Mmmmm…

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Always store seitan in liquid (preferably leftover broth/soy sauce) otherwise you’ll look like a teething infant when attempting to eat dinner.

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Ta-da!

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If you’re looking for seitan ideas, there are plenty of elaborate recipes on the internet or in vegan cookbooks, but I prefer the simpler dishes.

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Seitan with stir fried veggies and chickpeas.

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Seitan in a whole wheat wrap with veggies.

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Hope that was helpful.  Let me know if you give it a try.

Clean Food to recoup

I called in sick today.  :( 

I couldn’t help but feel that I would be doing more harm than good for my patients.  Healing hands?  Not so much.  So, rather than pass on my germies, I opted to keep my infectiousness to myself.  Hoarder!

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You know I’m feeling bad when I bring out this bad boy.  My entire fist fits in this mug, I LOVE it :D  Half coffee, half leche, half froth.  Yes, the mug was SO big, the laws of mathematics didn’t even apply – it fit 3/2 in it.  Notice the cookbook in the background?  Stay tuned 🙂

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Along with my massive mug of java, I had half a baguette of Dave’s Sin Dawg.  I’m glad they don’t list the calories on the bag because I’m fairly certain my AM eats were in the 1000s range.  Dave’s bread is just TOO effing good!  I was desperately trying to practice portion control, but it was all in vain.  I kept taking trips back and forth from the couch, to the kitchen, to the toaster, to the couch, to the kitchen, to the toaster…and before I knew it, the baguette was gone!  Good thing I only started with half a loaf. 

I did have some fruit, too.

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Moving on…

I decided to put my sick day day off to good use.  As I alluded to previously, I had been browsing Terry Walters’ cookbook Clean Food all morning to assemble a massive grocery list.  So, once I digested breakfast, I was off to WF where I spent HOURS in foodie bliss.  Thanks to Terry, I explored areas of the store I didn’t even know existed and (with the help of some great deals at WF) I came away with several staple ingredients in her book.  Happy day 🙂

Since my morning eats were a bit on the heavier side, I wanted something light for lunch.  Enter Terry! 

I bought a pear over a week ago, and it only JUST ripened (friggin’ finally).

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As per the recipe, I marinated the pear slices in the balsamic dressing.  Then I decided to throw caution to the wind and added strawberries into the mix, too.

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I substituted them for the walnuts 😛 and tossed them in to the lettuce.  LOVES.

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Who would have known the way this dressing would bring out all the different flavors so well.  Every ingredient was perfectly harmonious.  Cool.  Crunchy.  Sweet with an acidic balance. 

Hit. The. Spot. 

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This was such a success, I can’t wait to try more Clean Food recipes.  I don’t want to go overboard with my praise, but I really felt much better after this meal.  The sweet balsamic mustard dressing seemed to clear out my sinuses (Dijon – the gift that keeps on giving).  There’s something to be said for listening to your body and taking a sick day.  After feeling guilty for the first half of the day, I realized I definitely made the right decision.  Forcing myself to push through another 12 hours would only extend the blah feelings I’ve been muddling through the past few days.  Clean food + rest = recoup.  

Much like yesterday, I opted not to exercise today.  I swear, I’m NOT trying to sabotage myself for my race on Sunday.  Trust.  The looks I would have gotten gasping for oxygen through my clogged airways was enough to keep any gym rat home.  Instead, I did some ExerciseTV yoga and stretching, along with soup-can arm exercises.  I doubt it would impress Jillian, but at least it was something

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After upping my resting heart rate to a super fatiguing 90 bpm, I snacked on some juicy pineapple chunks.  **Side note: I don’t have a Garmin (or any heart rate monitor), so my sarcastic remarks about my heart rate are simply that – sarcastic.  No accuracy whatsoever 🙂

Dinner was another cheesy affair.

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Into the bowl went: quinoa, broccoli slaw, shredded carrots, raw corn, chickpeas (done up al dente of course), and the most amazing UN-cheese ever.  At what point do I consider my excessive use of nooch a problem?  Like a 5 year old, I nearly threw a tantrum when the WF employees informed me they were out of nutritional yeast.  OUT!?!  The store has been open for less than a month.  How many other hippies are out there going through a pound of nooch a week?

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Medjools, medjools, and MORE medjools.  Dried fruit desserts always knock my socks off, and this one didn’t disappoint.  Each bite was like a mini PB&J explosion in my mouth (hopefully tNwss).

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Now for the most important part of this post:  Call to all readers hip on the music scene!!  I need some new tunes STAT.  Since I have a half marathon on Sunday, I will need some MAYJ pump up jams (and since I’m ridic out of shape, I’ll need well over 2 hours worth…haha).  Comment away with anything that you think will get my a$$ in gear.

Down with the sickness

I loved hearing about all your PM routines!  Such planners we all are.  Well, most of us…

I have to say, it’s a little reassuring to know there are other freaks out there just like me.

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As I said before, I was kinda behind getting my ducks in a row on Thursday night.  As a result, I expended minimal energy making this lunch (probably a 2 out of 10 on the effort scale).  Basically, I just kept adding more snacks in the hopes that the next day there would be at least something I wanted in my backpack.

When I got to work they were overstaffed and asked me if I wanted the day off.  Ummm, no! It’s 6:30 and I’m already here – you better believe I’m getting paid.  Fools.  Since none of the other nurses wanted to take the day off, it was a reallllllly easy shift.  Loves.

In the interest of full disclosure, I only ate 35% of my (above) packed lunch.  I guess my insatiable appetite that plagued me all last week was “out to lunch” so to speak…har har har (wow that was a bad pun).  Actually, there seems to be a cold going around the hospital right now and I’m feeling the beginning stages of it coming on.  I was sucking on lozenges for most of the day, and downing hot tea for the rest…fightin’ the cough!  Grrr.

FYI: Topping salads with sweet potato slices is AMAZING, espesh with the hummusI am feeling a sweet potato hummus concoction in my near future…

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Leftovers.

I’ve had this sesame asian tofu in the freezer from I don’t even remember how long ago.  I decided it was time to clear things out, so I made some stir fry veggies and topped it with this thawed out tofu.

I copied the Whole Foods asian marinade to the best of my ability: first I pressed some slabs of extra-firm tofu and dusted them with flour (it makes the marinade cake on better).  Then I dipped it in a mix of teriyaki sauce, honey, ginger, sesame oil, rice vinegar, garlic, red pepper flakes, and a TON of sesame seeds.  If you want to thicken it more you can add in some cornstarch.

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I baked mine in a pan with the leftover sauce on the bottom so it could soak up more flavor as it was cooking.

I was nervous that freezer burn would kill the flavor and texture, and although it wasn’t as plump and savory as the first time I had it, it was still good.  Tofu does tend to shrivel up a bit after it’s cooked, but I ‘aint hatin’ on it.

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Dessert won the fave-meal-of-the-day award, hands down.  Nothing makes my tummy happier than an english muffin lathered in Naturally More almond butter (aside from pounds and pounds of hummus, that is…).