Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My life story in 6 minutes

I was given the opportunity to speak to 800 Whole Foods Team members over the course of 2 days a few weeks ago.

I was asked to present my personal journey to health in 6 minutes!

I had to revise a talk I usually give in 45 minutes.

This was not easy.

I was pretty nervous as I have never spoke to such a large audience before.

I really enjoyed it and got a standing ovation at the end which was honestly a little overwhelming.

At the end of the day many people told me that they were inspired by the talk which in turn really gets me excited and re-energized.

I hope you enjoy it. Try not to make fun of my nervous speaking style. :)

on the big stage at the Herbst Pavillion, Fort Mason, San Francisco, Ca


 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

CRISPY POLENTA ROUNDS WITH KALE, MARINARA, WHITE BEAN AND GARLIC


A co-worker of mine, KD asked me if we cold start cooking together for lunch once a week. She wants to start eating a bit healthier but like a lot of folks is not super into cooking. Never has been, probably never will be.  Unlike me the idea of just throwing something together is somewhat foreign to her. She asked me to help her put together quick meals that don't involve a long list of ingredients or a recipe. Most days this is how I cook.

Throwing together meals is not all that hard assuming you have some food in the house. Cooking healthy meals is no different it just means have the right kinds of foods in the house and some pre-planning.

One "trick" to make sure you can throw a meal together in under 20 minutes is to have some staples that require longer cooking times precooked and ready to heat and eat. Like..

-cooked grains (rice, quinoa, faro, wild rice, or some mixture)
-cooked or canned beans
-rounds of pre-cooked polenta

Or quick cooking bases for my veggies to land on like....

-whole wheat pasta
-baking potatoes
-sweet potatoes

Other convenience items that get tossed into the mix are usually...

-pasta sauce
-canned tomatoes
-frozen vegetables
-vegan "chreese" sauce mixes (I add a teaspoon of tahini, almost double the "milk", and add black pepper, powdered garlic and some salt to finish them off)
-McDougall soups

Generally speaking I can take whatever fresh veggies I have around like...

-broccoli
-cauliflower
-brussel sprouts
-onions
-peppers
-zucchini
-carrots
-squash

And create some kind of quick dish that has some grains, beans/lentils, and tasty fresh vegetables stir-fried toegther. Top it off with some tamari and sriracha and you are good to go!

For this week my friend and I are cooking one of my wife's easy to make polenta dishes.

There is no real recipe but here's how we do it.

CRISPY POLENTA ROUNDS WITH KALE, MARINARA, WHITE BEAN AND GARLIC


INGREDIENTS
polenta round (basil&garlic flavor)
fat free marinara
canned white beans (drained and rinsed)
some fresh onion (diced)
some fresh garlic (minced)
a bunch of kale (stems removed and leaves torn into smaller pieces)
water, broth, or white wine


toppings:
red chili flakes
vegan almond "parmesan"

I take the poleenta and slice them into thin 1/2 inch-inch rounds. Brown these on a pre-heated non-stick pan over medium high. Flip after a few minutes.If they are sticking let them cook a bit longer.

meanwhile I heat up the marinara in one small sauce pan.

in another non-stick pan I saute the onion, and garlic for a minute or two and then add the kale. Add about a 1/4 cup of water, white wine, or broth. Put the lid on and steam for 3-4 minutes or until as cooked as you like your greens. Once nearly done add the beans and heat through.

To serve place polenta rounds on a plate. Top with greens and beans mixture and ladle some marinara over that. Season with chili flakes and parmesan to suit.

That's it.Takes about 10 minutes usually.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Burnt Potatoes and the art of eating healthy while travelling

black nasty burnt taters
I am in Dallas, Texas at a convention for my day job.

My first breakfast I ate moderately burned hash browns, un-spiced oatmeal, and some whole grain toast for breakfast. I needed some serious fuel that day as I was to walk the gauntlet of food retail vendors at the Dallas convention center for 5+ hours.


(Side note: conventions can be good exercise. My coworker Suzy had on her pedometer and she clocked over 7 miles by the end of the day!)

I don't normally tell the world wide web about my embarrassing fails of cooking but my hope is that I never burn potatoes in a hotel room again and that I might inspire you to consider the option of cooking for yourself even while out of town on business or vacation.

Generally speaking when I have traveled for work or vacations over the last year I have always reserved a hotel or a house that has a kitchen. Most of the time the simple residence inn type places are very comparably priced to a standard hotel room. Before I embark on these trips I usually call the hotel to ask some questions about what's in the kitchen so I know if I need to pack any crucial items.

Some loved ones who will go unnamed for my own protection at times have used words to describe this tactic-crazy, obsessive, or over-the-top.

The last few trips I have been on I have been really lucky. The places have been really nice and the kitchens have had all the things I need to cook my meals as I do at home without oil.

Well I must have had my guard down when I was planning this trip, or maybe it was the dancing until 2am the night before a 7:30 flight...

Either way I was wholly unprepared for the kitchen I received at the Magnolia hotel in downtown Dallas. There was one fork, 3 spoons, no pots or pans, no chef's knife, cutting board, or sponge to wash dishes.There were plates, bowls, cups, a corkscrew, some really awful looking hotel coffee and paper towels. I had to ask the front desk to bring me all of these items. They had no non-stick pans. :(

As a result my taters were burnt and my oatmeal not as tasty as it normally is.(not only was the fry pan not non-stick but it was thin and electric stove tops always mess me up!)

Thus, I thought I would put together my tips for cooking on the road to share with you guys.

BEFORE YOU PACK
There are some basic items that all fully-stocked kitchens should have in my opinion. Granted some of these are not always available and that is why you call. That way you can pack them in your luggage.

These are the things I ask about-

1. Non-stick skillet/frying pan
2. A chef's knife aka a knife larger than a steak knife
3. a cutting board
5. a pot with a lid (for cooking rice)
6. enough bowls, plates, glasses, etc. for the number of people in your party.
7. dish soap/washing detergent and sponges/brushes (i know this seems crazy but sometimes they think you are just gonna use the microwave for popcorn and hot pockets!)
8. Salt and pepper
9. Any additional spices?
10. rubber spatula and flipping spatula
11. Tupperware for leftovers (generally the answer is no but in some cases a nicer rental house will have these and then there is one less thing to pack)
12. Is there an oven or just a stove top?
13. measuring spoons and measuring cups (not always necessary unless I plan to cook something new or i am baking)

Once I have established what they have I pack the items that are missing. In some cases this is easier done over email depending on the hotel/house.

I also like to pack little things that I use everyday that will make my meals just a little bit tastier or what I am used to. These typically are things that I can bring in very small quantities that I really don't want to buy at the store in the town where I will be staying because I won't use up a whole jar/bag/etc. Usually I measure out a small amount and either pack in a very small Tupperware or some zip lock bags.

1. 365 Chili pepper valle de sol (an all purpose seasoning based on chili powder)
2. cinnamon
3. miso
4.soy sauce
5. balsamic cream (this is my go-to salad dressing)
6. Onion powder
7. Garlic powder
8. mustard
9. ketchup

Some additional items that I usually pack are-

  • A good kitchen towel 
  • Silpat (usually I wrap my chef's knife in the towel and then wrap my silpat around that and secure it all with a rubber band)
  • A potato masher if I am making burgers
  • a good pairing knife

NOW HOLD ON A SECOND!!!!

I know that many of you are thinking-THAT'S A LOT OF STUFF TO PACK!!!

1. when I do it it all fits in one reusable shopping bag or a back pack.
2. and this is the important part...

YOU ARE WORTH IT! YOUR HEALTH IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ONE EXTRA BAG!

Think about it. Many of us would never considering going on a trip without a bunch of toiletry-type products and even some small beauty tools to make sure our outside looks like we want it to when we are on vacation or business. Why don't we start treating our insides with the same RESPECT?

I can not tell you how great it feels to be in a strange new city or out in the country on a holiday and to start your day by getting up and doing some exercise, taking a shower, and cooking a healthy breakfast that will sustain you throughout the day.

I find that I get soooo much more out of life (at home or away) when I have plenty of good wholesome healthy starchy foods like oatmeal and potatoes before I leave the house/hotel. I am ready to take on anything that comes my way. I have the mental stamina to endure an all day meeting in a strange conference room. Conversely when on vacation  I am also ready to hike, bike, swim, or do any number of fun activities that may be lined up as well.

I know a lot of people love being in a new town and checking out the restaurants. Me too! I usually eat out if I can find the right spot. Unfortunately Many times I leave either disappointed or still hungry. Or even when the food is great I don't want to eat out at every meal. Not to mention just cause a spot is vegan don't make it healthy. Is really necessary to have cashew cheese in everything these days? (apparently so)

MEAL PLAN
When I am on the road I like to keep it simple. I don't have a ton of time to cook so I tend to buy a few already chopped products like onions and peppers. I also like to cook a big pot of rice or or grains.
Here is a sample menu of what I ate this week in Dallas.
Note: this is multiple days of meals. I did not eat all of this in one day!

Breakfast

  • hash browns with Tabasco and ketchup (one day I added peppers, onions, and seitan chorizo)
  • oatmeal with brown sugar, bannas, raisins and soymilk
  • Sprouted whole grain toast 
  • Rip's big bowl cereal mix (from the bulk bin at WFM in Dallas!)

(I got the Tabasco and ketchup as well as the brown sugar and raisins from the free breakfast the hotel was serving and brought them to my room)

Lunch



Dinner
soo foo

  • Soo Foo cooked in water and miso(brown rice,wild rice, barley, wheat berry, buckwheat, oat, rye berry, and lentil mix) when I got to the hotel I immediately cooked up the entire bag of this and kept it in the fridge to warm up at meal times
  • baked sweet potato (microwaved)
  • stir fried broccoli, onion, and bell peppers with tabasco and soy sauce.
stir-fried broccoli with peppers, onions, tabasco, and soy sauce over soo foo

Dessert!
Manna Bread!!!! (I love the carrot raisin and cinnamon date varieties)

Snacks


None of these meals took longer than 15-20 minutes to prepare and most took less than 10.

As you can see I am not starving in Dallas, a city not know for it's healthy cuisine.

I hope this post spurs some ideas for some of you. This is one of those lifestyle shifts that seemed daunting at first but is now just "how I do it".

and now for a few bumper sticker moments.....

It's not a diet it eating healthy.

LIVE TO EAT, EAT TO LIVE!

Thanks for reading.

-benjamin


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