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!

Chipping Away and Fighting Inflammation

Anti Inflammatory Food PyramidIt’s Monday, and since I didn’t give you one last week, I do believe it’s time for a weight loss post. I have to confess to all of you: I came very close to falling off the wagon entirely last week. Like, fall off, tumble down a hill, and smack my face on a tree trunk. Why? Well, let’s see. A few weekends ago when I went on retreat, I pretty much resigned to the fact that I would abandon my healthy ways for a few days. And abandon it, I did. The problem with me (and maybe some of you can relate to this) is that when I start on a course of bad eating, it tends to snowball and gets very difficult for me to regain perspective. In the case of eating not so great foods, I get into the mentality of “well, I already ate this, so you might as well just go ahead and eat that,” which is a very dangerous mind set, but one I’ve never been able to help. My parents will tell you that even as a kid I never knew when to stop. It’s like I was born with a switch missing. Though I have gotten better over the years, it is still a very real battle for me. And this is partly because bad foods are addicting – they are easy, comforting, filling… who doesn’t want to eat them all the time?

After getting back from retreat I dove immediately back into bootcamp but the whole week I continued to struggle with my food choices. I think the real reason for the difficulty was because I lost sight of my goal. I was getting so comfortable with my slimmer body and all the wonderful comments from people that I began to lose sight of the bigger goal I had set for myself. It was just too easy to indulge in all those crappy foods and convince myself that I am content where I am, which is absolutely not true.

But, luckily, by the end of last week I was able to pull myself out of it. If you follow me on facebook, you may have seen my post on anti-inflammatory foods. Last week I was discussing my diet with my colon hydrotherapist and she was telling me that my breathing, my being prone to sinus infections, and my poor digestion are likely all connected. The culprit? Inflammation.  She pointed me in the direction of Dr. Andrew Weil’s webpage where I found the pyramid above. Some of the information I found unsurprising. For example, many of the foods that cause inflammation are also ones that cause digestive problems, i.e. white sugar, white flour, wheat, gluten, dairy products, meat. And then there were other things that totally blew my mind – apparently one should never eat raw mushrooms. Only cooked, and only Japanese – who knew!? If you click on the picture above it will bring you to the website where you can explore the pyramid in more detail, which I highly recommend. It was this new angle that helped bring me back on the right track. If this can help me feel better AND help me lose weight, why wouldn’t I want to give it my all? And that is what I’ll do. Besides, how will I really feel when I reach my 30th birthday and not be where I want to be? Not an option!

For numbers, I’m currently stuck at 207, but I am confident I’ll be seeing some serious progress this week. Tune in tomorrow for an anti-inflammatory stir fry that will make you excited to be healthy. Happy Monday and see you tomorrow!

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.

Sodium: The One You Always Overlook

Photo Feb 18, 1 07 53 PMLast Week’s Number: 211
This Week’s Number: 207

Happy Monday, loyal readers! For those of you off from work celebrating the holiday, hope you’re treating yourself to something fun. This has been a fairly successful week for me, as you can see from the numbers above – very exciting. I will admit that the past few days have been a bit of a deviation. Valentine’s Day prompted indulgence, which snowballed into more indulgence in the days following. But you know what, I needed it, and I’m anxious to be in full swing again.

My lesson this week is a very basic, but one that is very easy to forget. First, read your labels – that we all know. But when you do, don’t forget to pay attention to sodium content. Most of us, whether on a weight loss journey or not, are focused on calories, protein, carbs, and fat – and rightfully so. But we forget that too much salt can completely erase all the merits of food that appears to otherwise be healthy. This really hit home yesterday when I was looking through my cabinet in search of some beans. I’m a big lover of kidney beans and though I try and avoid them when I’m on a serious weight kick, I was in the mood for something hearty. And besides, despite being starchy, beans are good for you, right? I pulled the can off the shelf, glanced at the label, and was shocked to see that one serving of these beans contains 400mg of sodium. Normally I would eat an entire can, which would be a whopping 1500mg of sodium!! Aahh!

Let me put this into perspective. This article published by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) states that the body needs 180-500mg of sodium per day to function. The recommended adequate daily intake of sodium is 1,500mg, with the absolute maximum for healthy adults being about 2,300mg. My bootcamp max? 800mg. This innocent can of beans has almost twice that. Holy crap. What’s so bad about all this sodium, you ask? Consuming too much salt raises your blood pressure. High blood pressure is one of the top risk factors for heart attack and stroke, both of which are in the top three killers of Americans. Yikes! This is precisely why one should never turn to frozen dinners or canned soup to supplement one’s healthy lifestyle. Have you ever looked at the salt content for one of those Progresso “zero weight watcher points” soups? Last time I looked it was nearly 1,000mg… PER SERVING. Bad news.

Now don’t get me wrong, I looooove salt. I can’t stand people who say “well I don’t use salt when I cook” or restaurants who try to blame their bland food on “well some people don’t like salt” – horse manure. If you ask me, if you’re not using salt, then you’re not cooking. The difference is that when you cook your own food from fresh ingredients, you are in control of the salt content, not some manufacturer trying to mask their terrible product.

The lesson: when you’re checking labels and trying to do something good for your body, dont’ forget the sodium!

Here is a list of culprits to watch out for:

  • Frozen veggie patties
  • Canned fish (tuna, salmon)
  • Canned soups
  • Canned vegetables
  • Canned or boxed stock/broth (try comparing a box of Swanson chicken broth to a box of Trader Joe’s)
  • Salad Dressing
  • Condiments (soy sauce, hot sauce)
  • Cold cuts and other processed meats

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.