Smoked Salmon Snow Peas

Smokes Salmon Snow Peas

Have I ever mentioned how much I love Trader Joe’s? Roughly 3000 times you say? Well, brace yourself, here’s yet another reason why TJ’s is my favorite starving artist go-to. I love me some smoked salmon. In heaven I will eat a toasted bagel with cream cheese and lox every single day of eternity. Unfortunately, back in the mortal realm, smoked salmon is one of those pricey pay day items that requires a paycheck and some serious convincing. At least that’s what I thought until I discovered Trader Joe’s smoked sockeye salmon in a single pack for $4.99. At around 100 calories for the entire pack, it’s small enough to eat as the star of one’s dinner, but big enough that you could stretch it out for a tray of appetizers for a few friends.

For me I would just eat it straight from the package for an afternoon snack or throw it into some scrambled eggs for a light and protein-filled dinner. As an appetizer my default would be to reach for the Carr’s table water crackers, Philadelphia cream cheese, and capers… but I am far more conscious of my health these days and am always looking for ways to snack without too much danger (i.e. dairy and wheat). So, when I discovered that I had a bag of snow peas (also from TJ’s) in my fridge I thought, yes: crunch, flavor, nutrition, zero guilt, done. I simply took one or two peas and wrapped them in one of the thinly sliced pieces of fish. Cheap elegance. Now of course you very well could smear some cream cheese on these bad boys and no one would be upset. Or you could skip the cream cheese and dip them into soy sauce just like sushi…. or both…. mmmm….. And the good news is if you have more than a few friends to feed, it’s only $5 to buy a second pack. How could you go wrong? This is all yet more evidence that Trader Joe’s is likely a front for human trafficking or giant drug empire, but it’s so fantastic and affordable that we’re all just not questioning it.

Any other quick healthy snack ideas out there?

**Disclaimer: TJ’s is notorious for randomly not having items for indiscriminate spans of time (at least at the location near me). I’ve definitely gone for weeks without seeing the single, but it always comes back. The price may also go as high as $5.99 – still a bargain in my book.

New Tactics

Seasoned Blanched VeggiesSo I’ve been stuck at the same weight for a few weeks now. You’ve all heard about my struggles against digestion, which still remain an issue and certainly don’t help, but there’s something else at work here. I noticed lately that I’ve been finding myself rather hungry/ravenous during the day and as such I’ve resorted to snacking on stuff I have in my apartment that aren’t meant for snacking. For example I always have chocolate chips and pecans on hand to bake. I’ve never had a problem avoiding them…. until last week. Daily visits to my chocolate chip box have been occurring, which may not SEEM like a big deal, but if I’ve learned anything on this whole journey, it is that the smallest of decisions are the ones that really add up in the end.

Since snacking is not conducive to my compulsive eating style, I no longer keep snack-like items in the house that could warrant a code red devouring situation. For example, I love Trader Joe’s “Simply Almonds, Cashews, and Cranberries” trail mix. And in the proper dosage, such a snack would not be a big deal. But let’s be serious, I will eat half the back without even batting an eye. Also, not only are nuts easy to overeat, but they’re not easy to digest, which make them doubly bad news for me. As I make all these efforts to streamline my intake, I came to realize that all of this narrowing down has cause one simple problem: I’m not eating enough! Juice in the morning, a salad for lunch, and often little or no dinner. No good! Therefore what I need is a way to not only supplement my meals, but to also allow me to eat in between meals without completely sabotaging the day’s efforts. The solution? Vegetables. My thought process was this: if I just cook a massive quantity of vegetables and have them in the fridge, not only can I eat them whenever I need to squelch my hunger, but I can also use them for dinner.

So here’s what I did. First, I bought a mess of vegetables: a bag of broccoli florets, a bag of baby carrots, a bundle of asparagus, and a package of sugar snap peas. I got a pot of water on the stove, brought it to a boil, added lots of salt, then I began to blanch the vegetables in stages. First broccoli, then carrots, etc. Once they were just a little bit soft I removed them from the water with a spider into a large plastic container, then added the next vegetable to the pot. Once the cooked veggies were in the container, I hit them right away (while they’re still nice and hot) with some Italian seasoning, a pinch of salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and a good swirl of olive oil and toss them around. I did this for every vegetable as I added them to the container. Once cooled down I just stored them in the fridge – they last for at least a week.

Now you could of course just eat them as is, hell you could even eat them cold for a snack. But, you can use them in a variety of other ways too. My favorite thing to do is serve them with a grilled Salmon burger from Costco. Have you tried the salmon burgers? They are AMAZING. I would just heat up the veggies, cook the burger, throw them in a bowl with some Bragg’s Liquid Aminos and bam, delicious satisfying dinner. You could do this with virtually any protein. You can also eat them with any cooked grains like quinoa or brown rice. Toss them with sauteed cherry tomatoes and feta cheese for a fresh treat. Or even have them with scrambled eggs and your favorite hot sauce. mmm!

How has it worked? Well, not only have I been more satisfied, but the weight has started coming off again. Last week when I started this I was at 207. This past week I got down to 202. Not too shabby. The other secret? Don’t eat after 6pm. This was something they really drove home in Bootcamp,  but I’ve only really begun to see what a huge difference it makes over the past week. Yay healthiness!

No-More-Flaming Stir Fry

No More Flaming Stir FrySo you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been putting up a lot of recipe posts these days. And you’re probably getting sick of hearing about weight loss and bootcamp and self-discovery and health trends and blah blah – where’s the FOOD? The truth is that being in such a goal-focused state, I’m eating a lot of the same things on a daily basis. You’ve read about my juice, you’ve seen my purple smoothie, and you’ve hopefully by now tried my curried roasted veggie and coconut soup. For me, routine is a way of keeping me on track: I find good things that I love to eat and I stick with them. It works for me. Once I reach my goals and summer arrives, no doubt things here at the starving artist will shift. But for now, we’re sticking with good clean eats.

Today, finally, I have a new recipe for you. This stir fry was inspired my new quest to fight inflammation. You heard me mention this yesterday, but some of you may be wondering what the hell I’m talking about. Chronic inflammation is a condition that has been identified as the root of many serious medical problems including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. It is also directly linked to smaller ailments like, oh I don’t know, POOR DIGESTION, asthma, and can even be the source of persistant sinus infections – all of which I suffer from. What causes inflammation? Poor diet. GASP!! Shocking? No. Specifically: wheat, gluten, dairy products, meat, white sugar, processed/packaged/prepared foods, and alcohol to name a few. It’s serious business, kids.

Click the link below for the recipe:

No More Flaming Stir Fry (Recipe PDF)

And here are the main things to notice:

  • Soy Sauce Replacement. We all love putting soy sauce in stir fry. I have a gallon jug of Kikkoman in my fridge. But guess what? Soy sauce is not gluten free. It’s true! Look at the bottle. There are gluten free and raw brands you can find at Whole Foods, but personally I love Bragg’s Liquid Aminos – it’s pure, packed with protein, not fermented, not heated, gluten free, alcohol free, and preservative free. Give it a try. You’ll love it.
  • Turmeric. Did you know turmeric is a superfood? Neither did I, until I started researching and came across this fantastic article. A member of the ginger family, not only is turmeric widely known for its anti-inflammatory properties, it is now being discovered that its chief active nutrient, curcumin, can actually fight cancer, not to mention dozens of everyday ailments. The point: use it!!
  • Brown Rice. I know many people are not fans of brown rice, but that’s usually because they are not buying the right kind, nor are they cooking it properly. Go for short grain brown rice (find it in bulk at Whole Foods) and bake it, don’t cook it on the stovetop. For more detail and the recipe, check out this blog post of mine. Brown rice is gluten free and definitely on the anti-inflammatory list. Just be sure to use modest quantities. Notice there is just a sprinkling in the picture.
  • Coconut Oil. I’ve been looking for an excuse to buy this at Trader Joe’s for a while now. Not only does it have great flavor, it is heart-healthy and has many health benefits. You should avoid vegetable oil at all costs and stick to cold pressed extra virgin olive oil or other organic unrefined nut oils like coconut, walnut, and even avocado (though they are all really expensive).  TJ’s has very affordable cold pressed olive oil.
  • Garlic, ginger, shitake mushrooms, broccoli, onion, Sriracha (chili peppers). All are super anti-inflammatory foods! Yes!
  • Eggs are yummy, but beware you should only eat them 2 times per week, lest they could become a source of inflammation. Pay attention to your body and how you feel when you eat them. I really wanted egg in my stir fry, so that’s what happened. :-)

Hope you enjoy as much as I do. What do you think about all this anti-flammatory talk? Share your thoughts. And let me know how you like the recipe!!

Here are more resources to check out:

Seven Spices/Foods that Could Save Your Life
Anti-Inflammatory Pyramid and Diet
Know Your Cruciferous Vegetables!

Purple Smoothie

Purple SmoothieDid you know that foods that are naturally purple (like blueberries or acai berries) are exceptionally high in antioxidants are therefore are super good for you? It’s true. Back in 2010 when I first began my weight loss journey, before I discovered juicing, I would have a purple smoothie every morning with a slice of cinnamon raisin Ezekiel bread. It is such a good breakfast. In fact I may just have to start doing it again.

Blend all of the ingredients below in a magic bullet or whatever blender system you have. I specify the Sambazon variety of acai berry juice because this is the brand they carry at Costco – it’s 2 bottles for $10, whereas one bottle will run you around $7 at Whole Foods. I also get all my frozen berries at Costco. Usually I buy one of their huge bags of frozen strawberries and either frozen blackberries or whatever berry blend they have available. It lasts for weeks and is such a good bang for your buck. As far as bananas go, the more ripe the better. If you like your smoothies extra thick and cold you can freeze the bananas once they’re ripe and add them to  your smoothie that way. At the end of the day, it’s your smoothie, so put in whatever you like – I’d love to hear your variations!

The Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cup Sambazon acai berry juice
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 fresh or frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen blackberries or blueberries
  • 1 large frozen strawberry
  • 1 generous squeeze of honey
  • 1 tbsp fresh ground flaxseed
  • pinch of old fashioned rolled oats
  • dash of vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp Greek yogurt (optional)

Now I am not an advocate of protein powders and the like because at the end of the day they are super processed products that your body will have trouble digesting. However, if you must, this smoothie will be a perfect vehicle for that or any kind of powdered or liquid supplement you take.

Curried Coconut Roasted Vegetable Soup

Curried Coconut Roasted Vegetable SoupI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if the starving artist has one best friend, it is soup. Bang for your buck, hearty, delicious, and (usually) really healthy. This week I’ve been racking my brain as to what I could cook for dinner that won’t completely destroy all my healthy efforts but is also not a salad or scrambled eggs…. yes, this is what my life has come to.

Vegetables are of course the go to when trying to maintain or improve one’s figure, but come on, how many salads can one consume before having a psychotic breakdown? Now ROASTING vegetables is something I can get behind. The depth of flavor one gets is amazing, but aside from tossing them with brown rice, you can’t really  make a meal of a plate of vegetables…. and then it hit me. There’s a restaurant near me, Tender Greens, that makes soup out of their seasoned grilled veggies. Why not do the same thing here, except up the flavor quotient by using curry powder and some coconut cream. Well, let me tell you, the outcome is one tasty friggin’ soup that is completely vegan and completely amazing.

It’s super easy – all it entails is roasted a few pans of your favorite vegetables, then bringing them to a simmer in a broth made of Trader Joe’s vegetable stock, Trader Joe’s coconut cream, and a few spices. Then you puree and voila, a hearty meal to keep you energized and full without the guilt. Check out the recipe below.

Curried Coconut Roasted Vegetable Soup (Recipe PDF)

For the record, I wish I took the photo before I pureed the soup just so you could see all the colors and big chunks of vegetables. Trust me, it’s good stuff.

Also, I have not forgotten about valentine’s day. Look for a v-day post from me on here tomorrow – and don’t worry, there will be nothing heart-shaped coming out of this kitchen! In the meantime check out my facebook and twitter for fun v-day recipes I’ve been finding, like better-than-sex Chex mix. Any excuse for chocolate is ok in my book.