I am asked about food quite a bit. Understandable. I am in the wellness industry, where food & fitness are the cornerstones of pretty much everything. It's most of the reason I began blogging about food-- to more thoroughly answer the question, "So what do you eat, Tootsie?" Answer: In moderation, everything.
I eat and drink pretty much what I want. Not because I work out like a lunatic. I do not. Not because I have an envious metabolism. Neither the case. But because I have found that 1. the more I deprive myself of something, the more I want it and 2. I have seen the fragility of life and if I am dying tomorrow, I am eating what I want today. Mostly. Some weeks I might be up a couple pounds. Some weeks I am down those same couple. I don't own a scale.
Cleanses, juices, diets are generally not my (successful) thing. I eat dessert (with- gasp-real sugar). I eat meat (though admittedly a former vegetarian for over a decade). I consume alcohol (full disclosure 1.5 glasses is pathetically my big game) and I simply really enjoy eating and cooking tasteful, good food. And I happen to love moving and sweating so I wind up with a lucky balance there. I guess that would pretty much sum up the chapter on food in my non-existent book.
With that, everybody and every body is different and I do believe there is not one answer for everyone. I have had food allergies (pectin fruit of all things) since I was a teenager and I know how terrible your body feels when it wants to revolt over something you put in it's track. Gluten, dairy, sugar, shade vegetables. There are so many things we have taken out of our diets today, rightfully. But I think the collateral damage of these legitimate allergies is that we are unwittingly dragged into being afraid of simply enjoying food. While this is the Foodie culture moment, we are simultaneously embarrassed about what we eat when it's not organic quinoa with tumeric, seasonal peas & a dusting of uber-organic-local-fresh-from-the-dirt-chanterelle-mushrooms-that-were-blessed-by-a-Himalayan-monk-that-hasn't-spoken-since-1977 . And that turns into a whole 'nother ball of wax of fearing food. My next chapter of my non-existent book.
So, here. A big, delicious, indulgent, but mostly vegetable, bowl of... get ready, fear not... PASTA. If you can look long enough without flinching at that word, PASTA, try this guy. We were tucked into the house on a snowy evening and well, this nailed it. I'm not gonna lie. I did feel like I had to do an extra 3 sit ups the next morning in class. The good news: you can use as much or as little pasta as you like and it equally satisfies that hankering for Italian food.
Pasta. You can switch out for a gluten free, vegetable based, whole wheat blah blah. I went with my fav.: DeCecco brand Rigatoni.
Red sauce/gravy of your choice. I sometimes make my own. And when I don't, like here, I use my other favorite. The hometown all star, RAOS marinara sauce.
3 Zucchinis sliced into thin quarters
Lots of baby spinach. 4- 5 cups approx.
3 cloves garlic chopped
Fresh mozzarella cheese roughly chopped into cubes
Salt /Pepper to taste
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Make pasta as per always. Do not overcook. Keep al dente , or a little bit hard. Set aside.
Throw in an oven dish: olive oil, garlic, zucchini. Salt and pepper all lightly. Let roast for approx 25 minutes. Add spinach, toss veggies together and cook for another 10 minutes so all are roasted to your taste. I like it a little carmelized. Take pan out of oven and add pasta, red sauce (as much as you like) and cheese. Mix all and put back in oven for about 15 minutes.
Take out. Salt, pepper, hot pepper flake to your taste. Feel free to change out vegetables for what you like, obviously.
Good luck not going back for 6 rounds. I had to walk away after 4. It was a problem. #dontfearfood #itsjustsoyummy
It's winter now in the Northeast, which means, among other things, local fresh fruit is scarce. My kids like strawberries but I have feeling that if I put a GoPro on a case of strawberries now and saw how many trucks and planes and states it had to travel to arrive on my kitchen counter, I would lose my appetite. So, cut to the homemade fruit roll up.
I am not going to pretend I came even remotely close to making this up. What you should really do is google "fruit roll up recipe" because there are so many. But the basics are all the same. So few ingredients, pathetically easy and legit delicious. I got the idea from my son's teacher and my friend, Bonnie. Shoutout to Bonnie!
You can use a variety of fruits. I use organic frozen. You can use a dehydrator if you're fancy. I use my oven at the lowest temp setting, again, as per recommended by my google search. Awesome snack for the sweet tooth (read: me)
1 or 2 bags of frozen fruit
Sweetener of your choice. I chose honey but any sugar, stevia etc. will do. Go natural.
Set oven to the lowest temperature. My oven's lowest is 170 degrees. Throw frozen fruit into blender. Add sweetener to taste. For 1 bag of fruit, I used 2 tablespoons of honey. Add approximately 2 tablespoons lemon juice to keep the brightness of the fruit intact. Blend all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until it’s as smooth as you think fruit roll ups to be.
Line a baking pan with sides with parchment paper Pour the fruit liquid-ish mixture onto the pan. It should still be slightly thick but thinly spread. Use back of a spoon to spread the mixture out thinly so that it is about 1/8-1/4 inch thick on pan. Put pan in oven and almost forget about it. Let it dry out in the oven for 4-6 hours.
You know it is done when no part (the center) is not gooey/tacky. The edges will likely get more dry than the middle but you can moisten them with water when it's done. Once cooled, you can be crafty and cut it into strips or attach paper to make it into cute snacks, As you can tell by my photos, I don't have time and am going for the au natural ugly but tasty version. Plus they are eaten so quickly, they don't need to be pretty. I would think they could stay fresh a decent amount of time, but they don't last more than a day around here.
Total sucker punch to the winter fruitless blues. Then do some yoga or dance.
This is one version of the beautiful simple life. Certainly there are millions of versions. But 22 of us got to experience this version together during my Dance + Yoga Retreat to Tulum, Mexico this week. To be woken by the sounds of the waves lapping and wind brushing the palm leaves against our thatched roofs. To wake for sunrise meditation on the beach, then barefoot and peaceful ascend the stairs to begin our new day with this. A cup of coffee or tea. Papaya. Pineapple. Melon. Fresh yoghurt. Homemade granola. To witness a new day stunningly unfold. A true gift.
The rest is simply a matter of taste.
I kind of loathe the word, "busy". Who isn't some version of "busy"? Even those who have little to do themselves are busy watching others be busy on some social media platform. The badge of honor that today so many boast with being busy...I dunno... #lame. I have been trying on "productive" and "full schedule" for the last year and a half to replace "busy". Aaaaaand verdict isn't in as to whether using these euphemisms makes me feel any less b*sy. But I'm keeping to my plan. Suffice to say, Time and I have a special squinty-eye-to-squinty-eye understanding with each other. A little thumb war Time vs Tootsie.
So If I see Time, I look around hungrily, grab it and tuck it in my pocket. I fiddle with it, lose it and find it again in tiny unsuspecting crevices of my life. A sliver is perhaps 5:45am before the house is awake-- I am making 3 kid lunches for school, I'll roast vegetable for a soup, throwing vegetables in the oven as I brew my coffee. Another is on a work call midday, when I can sneak in dicing vegetables to roast for the week. Post-late-night of teaching my dance classes in NYC, when the house is quiet, I will slow cook chicken with fresh herbs because...well, because it makes me strangely content to do so. Stealing any moment I can, giving it to making real food, is simply a feeling of accomplishment as a Pretty Full Scheduled Human/Mother/Wife . Cuz' frankly, I'd just as likely be the first to just grab a couple Twizzlers and be on my way. So, here, clockwise from left corner are some latest versions of good, easy food:
1. Falafel (from Whole Foods fresh) with then my additions of fresh garbanzos, roasted sweet potato & zucchini, scallion, olive oil and salt
2. Homemade lentil soup with shredded carrot, roasted cauliflower and baked potato with butter & scallion
3. Roasted cauliflower and brussel sprouts
4. Mexican salad: Chopped romaine with homemade shredded organic chicken, saffron rice mixed with roasted wild mushrooms and kale
Any vegetable that whispers sweet nothings to you from the farm beds or supermarket shelf.
Roast it at 400 degrees with olive oil and salt. Maybe garlic cloves added. Approx 25 minutes or until brown on edges. I like mine very well roasted on verge of carmelized so I go 35 min. Let cool. Put in glass tupperware and store for use for a good bunch of days.
Then add whatever you are feeling that day of use: Indian spice, Mexican flavor, protein or bare naked goodness solo.
Then relish in your well nourished moment of Time.
Last night was a late Saturday night of enjoying some outdoor live music, followed by an early morning of my dance class. By 9:15am on a Sunday, I am awesomely sweaty and feel reasonably incredible. I come home, my kids are groggily mulling about the house, enjoying a last lazy Sunday and there is the creeping hint of Fall in the air. I love the whole scene. I know it is blasphemy to want summer to end but, I am more of a spiritual being anyhow. So with the summer's imminent end, perhaps there is your desire to eat fewer cheeseburgers, truncate the hours of day-drinking and narrow the number of ice cream cones from daily to once a week.
My big back to Fall schedule trick? I know, the anticipation is mounting...Wait for it: Keep roasted vegetables in the fridge to throw onto or into anything. Sorry, not as exciting as you might have thought?
The process is equally not exciting (but so good). Open the refrigerator, pull out every vegetable you have and sauté it. Then put it in a glass tupperware and store it for days. This way when you open the fridge, you see this gorgeous, I-promise -delicious vat of goodness. Throw this sauté on top of raw lettuce, mix it in with some brown rice, layer on a fresh baguette with some cheese. Or do what I do and just sprinkle salt and pepper and eat plain. Anything goes. As long as it once grew from the land.
Any vegetable that you like. Here: zucchini, wild and white mushroom, baby spinach, kale, potatoes, scallion
Coarse chop all of the vegetables. Heat the sauté pan, sprinkle olive oil and put the vegetable in first that needs the most time. Here, potatoes. Yell at your kids to stop doing that. Whatever "that" is. Return to watch your vegetables cook. Once potatoes have browned, you can add the vegetables that are more watery like the zucchini or spinach because they won't steam the potatoes at this point. Give an ultimatum to your oldest kid that "he should know better". Throw in remaining vegetables, stir and brown to your liking, salt and pepper artistically and drop the mic. You're done. Or pick up the mic one more time if you want to sprinkle some fresh green on top, like scallion or parsley. And then drop the mic. Then give your kids a hug and make them try mushrooms.
So much better than the leftover chicken fingers that were your other choice when you opened the fridge. Happy end of summer.
We have just returned from Disney. A mere sixteen of us went. Correct, 16. It was great. And work. And fun! And the "happiest place on earth" for all of the remaining time that you are not yelling at your own kids. But the food? Holy Mickey Mouse! Definitely did not make it the happiest place on earth for me. Sorry, Disney but I don't think we were about to co-brand anyway, but you gotta work on the terrible food. So, because I cannot cleanse (I obsess too much about food when I cleanse. Seems to have the reverse effect for me), vegetable and fruits up the wazoo to undo Disney is my plan. And my strategy is Suzie's Salad.
Here: Suzie's Salad. Suzie is my mom. This is her signature salad that has fed legions, literally, legions of friends and family over the years. She has been known to make it and put it in a trough, like a massive ice bucket made for frat parties, and it disappears in minutes. She is called upon to make this for every Thanksgiving, holiday & event and there were leftovers maybe twice in 30 years. If you know how to cut a vegetable, you too can be the champion of your community with this one. I have taken on this legacy and make it for my friends and community and the power of The Suzie Salad is real. This is staying in my fridge, undressed for this week, as a Disney vacation antidote.
Below is for a large salad. This is large group kinda salad.
4 Heads of Romaine Lettuce
3 Large Gorgeous Tomatoes or 10 ish Plum Tomatoes
2 Orange Peppers
1 Yellow Pepper
1 Can of Garbanzos
1 Large Cucumber
1 Package of Mushrooms (any kind will do and we historically use simple organic button)
Black and Green Olives (We use canned or jarred of each but going fancy is fine)
1 Bag or Fresh Shredded Carrots
1.5 Cups Crasisins
Italian Good Seasons Packet Dressing
1 Tablespoon Grey Poupon Mustard
2 Tablespoons Honey
For Salad: Grab a cutting board and small chop away. The key is to chop everything small and bite size. The secret is the dressing. Here, I divided up the vegetables to keep them from getting soggy but I do not usually do that. I usually just throw everything into a bowl, dress and serve. But since it is going to last a few days, I will not dress it and go the extra step and keep separate.
For Dressing: Simply follow the directions on the back of the dressing packet. Additionally, add 1 tablespoon of Grey Poupon mustard and honey. Shake well. This dressing last months in the fridge. Is this the cleanest dressing? Nope. But not blasphemously bad. The secret of the secret of the secret of the dressing is you must put dressing on and then mix well and cover all ingredients. This is not a little drizzle over the top kind of salad! I actually put the salad and dressing in a tupperware and shake up to make sure I have ideal coverage. I guess you can add chicken or shrimp or something. I do not. I am a purist. Let the Suzie Salad Legend Live On!
A friend just returned from Korea armed with photos of his amazing meals. Made me think of how much my fam of five love Korean BBQ where we cook on the table and use the lettuce as shells... Which then inspired me to make a very loose version of what I am going to call Lettuce Shelled BBQ Tacos. A simpleton version of marrying the ol' American summer backyard BBQ with some K-Town. But I wasn't about to leave the house for groceries because I was too lazy. So:
Here, I grilled some organic grass-fed steak and some farm-fresh zucchini, kale and onions I had in the fridge. Using the lettuce for the taco shell, it goes: long leaf romaine lettuce "shell", then one piece of steak, layer on tons of roasted kale, zucchini and onion. Flank the plate with a petit glass of Pinot Grigio one one side, some fresh flowers on the other and you transform it from just throwing food down your throat to a meal experience.
Take a/my yoga class before this meal and a/my dance class after--perhaps tomorrow morning at 8am!-- Share the plate communally and life is better.
Large bunch of kale (fresh or already cut in bag works. In bag easier but less fresh obviously)
1 Large Zucchini
Fresh Leaves of Romaine
Flank Steak (or other protein or not)
Turn grill on so it is hot when food is ready to go on.
Put kale in aluminum pan that can go on grill. Drizzle kale with olive and kosher salt.
Slice zucchini long, put in dish with oil and some salt/pepper and let marinate for 10 minutes ish. Slice onion keeping rings intact and throw in pan with kale or wrap in tin foil and put on grill.
Put steak on grill. Grill to your preference. If you have a top rack, put kale pan on top so that the vegetables do not burn. Zucchini can go directly on grill. Pieces should be long and fat enough that they don't fall through the slats of grill- place diagonally across the grill grates. Pull food off when it is done to your preference.
Serve with long fresh romaine leaves, using the leaves as your taco shell, where all of the vegetable and protein get layered in. Or use leaf as your scooper utensil. Kids think this is pretty cool, until they figure out you duped them into eating lettuce.
And if you are grill-less, you can create same basic meal using your oven. No one will call you out on calling it BBQ. Maybe. Take out your mild or super spicy sauce, sprinkle on taco and then book a field trip to your local Koreatown and realize how not Korean this really is. (I'm getting closer).
Corn season in the Northeast! Paaartaay. Raise the roof. Oh yeah! Uh huh! Exclamation marks!
Or maybe just make a salad. I love fresh corn and a few years ago, I realized, no need to even cook it. We had some friends out from the city yesterday and this was amongst the various dishes I made. And now I am eating it for breakfast post dance class this morn. What? Should I be eating pancakes? And actually just decided right here and now --that's right, you were here for it--to make it again to bring to a pool shindig we are headed to this afternoon.
Anyway, enough about my play by play day. This Kinda Perfect Summer Bowl: You can make any changes, add or subtract what you like and it is bound to be a dish that is clean, filling and a pretty perfect compliment to anything else you eat/ serve/ bring. Equally important, it makes you look healthy even though you might have had a massive double scoop of chocolate peanut butter ice cream with rainbow sprinkles last night at the beach.
2 Ears of Fresh Corn (Wait for corn season- don't make this with canned corn. For the love of...)
1 Fresh Gorgeous Tomato (Any kind. I used vine ripe Jersey)
1 Handful Kale (or any green like spinach, arugula, collards)
1 Zucchini (I had a behemoth zucchini the size of my 6 yr old's arm so I used half of mine)
1 Can Garbanzos ( Chic Peas). Organic tend to be a bit harder in my experience so I use regular
1 Can Artichokes Hearts in Water
1 Large Scallion Stalk
1 Fresh Cooked Beet (or what I used: Trader Joes Beets in Vinaigrette, which is my new fav thing)
Fresh Grated Parmesan Cheese (optional)
Cut up zucchini into thin slices and then in quarters. Put in bowl with a bit of drizzled olive oil and kosher salt to soften up the zucchini a bit. Not too much, but a bit. Bring everything else to cutting board and chop away. Cut the corn kernels from the rind and throw in a bowl. Drain and rinse (rinse!) the garbanzos and artichoke hearts. Cut the artichokes hearts into quarters and dump chic peas and hearts into bowl with corn. Add the zucchini. Do not add the beets until the end because they will stain it's vegetable friends. I roughly layer: fresh corn, garbanzos, artichoke hearts, kale, zucchini, tomato and then lay beets on top and sprinkle with thinly chopped scallion. Drizzle all with olive oil, salt (Pink Himalayan, Kosher, Fleur de Sel-- some good salt not blah, diner, lame table salt) and fresh ground pepper. Perhaps a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Perhaps some fresh grated cheese on the side for those who like. This bowl of goodness can sit for awhile because all of the vegetables in here are pretty sturdy. I'm eating it a day later as I type and it's perfect. A different kind of perfect than that ice cream last night.
We love to entertain and host. And I come from the tutelage of too much food is better than too little food when hosting. This combo= an embarrassment of leftovers. And although my low maintenance husband can eat leftovers for weeks and literally cause me to wince in repulsion, I give leftovers the one day and you're out rule. But I do love using last nights leftovers as an inspiration for something else today.
Here, our overly abundant raw vegetable crudite from our party last night makes for a fresh roasted vegetable tapenade with assorted cheese on thick baguettes with fresh garden herbs. I served it aside sliced chicken & steak that we threw on the grill so that the meat could either be layered over the bread with veggies or eaten a la carte. And now we have room in our fridge. I think we get each other here but, this need not be made from leftovers. We get that, right? OK, good.
Raw Vegetables of Your Choice. Here: Zucchini, Yellow Squash, Pearl Tomatoes, Broccoli, Asparagus
Sliced Fresh Baguette- larger better so vegetables don't fall off
Cheese of your Choice. Here: Mozzarella, Goat & Parmesan
Fresh Herbs. Here: Chive, Parsley, Basil (from my garden, baby!)
Wash the vegetables, cut into long slices, layer in roasting dish, drizzle with olive oil and salt/pepper. I roast the asparagus separately because it has a different roasting time than the other vegetables.
Roast at 420 degrees (asparagus for about 15 min-- other vegetables for approx 20 min).
Let cool for 5 minutes and then small chop the vegetables and put in bowls like a prep station.
Lay thick baguette slices on a roasting sheet, spoon the chopped vegetables onto each piece of bread and light layer with cheese. I did combos. Some pieces with mixed veggies got the parm, some got the mozzarella, some got the goat cheese. Same for the baguette with the asparagus.
Throw pan of bread, veggies and cheese back in oven for 5 ish min. Keep an eye on it.
Take pan out of oven and sprinkle all with variety of fresh herbs. Maybe drizzle some extra olive oil for those of you who do that kinda thing.
Serve alone or pair with some very thinly sliced chicken or steak.
Serve on your balcony, deck, porch so veggie spills can be kicked away and enjoyed by some insect colony. Invite friends over to enjoy with you to ensure you don't have leftovers from leftovers. Cuz' no one wants that other than my husband.
Whether you're heading to a beach BBQ or a winter pot luck, bring this. It's a winner. Change up the vegetables depending on what's local and in season. Here, I was undiscriminating and grabbed every vegetable I could get my hands on in the farmer's market and it was fabulous for my impromptu family dinner party for 17. And then I ate it for breakfast the next day post yoga class. Truth.
Choose any grain. Choose any vegetable. Add any cheese, though a grated parmesan is universally perfect. 'Slike a choose your own adventure book.
Vegetables of your choice. Here: Zucchini, Mushrooms, Tiny (pearl) tomatoes, Onions, Baby spinach
3 Cloves garlic
4 ish Scallion Stalks
1 Bag of Bulgar (I used the Trader Joes tiny bag of Bulgar here but use orzo /couscous/any grain of your choice)
Fresh Grated Parmesan Cheese
Coarse chop small all of the veggies except for the spinach. Throw in roasting pan, generous drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for approx 30 min at 425 degrees or until getting brown and carmelized.
Garlic: For each dish I make, I decide whether to use roasted/cooked garlic or minced raw. Keeping it raw gives a little heat and is particularly good for you. This time around I roasted it with the rest of the vegetables which makes the whole dish a bit sweeter rather than hot. Next time perhaps I'll switch it up and use raw, 'cuz I'm crazy like that.
Make bulgar (or Israeli couscous or quinoa or any other grain of choice) according to package directions. Don't overcook. Then it's mush.
When roasted veggies done, toss the grain in with the vegetables in the still warm roasting pan so that the grain absorbs all of the roasting juices from the pan. Then add the fresh baby spinach to wilt. Pour whole mixture into serving dish.
Add more olive oil, salt, pepper to taste. Or not. Sprinkle fresh sliced scallion and grated parmesan. Serve immediately or hours later. When served at room temp, the flavors have had the time to romance each other a bit more. Serve with Pat Benatar's Greatest Hits whispering in the background or Florence + The Machine blaring. Follow with s'mores & a fire pit.