5 Ways to lighten the load without losing out

Hey Friends! After the last post, I had a few conversations with people who were trying to eat better, but struggling to move away from “comfort” foods- especially in the winter when the body craves warm, gooey, luscious things. I get it. In the winter all I want are biscuits, mac and cheese, naan, steamy jeera rice, and mashed potatoes. But I’m no longer 20, so if I ate like that everyday it would be pretty problematic (mainly because I refuse to buy a new wardrobe to accommodate the generous increase that would ensue). However, there are ways to lighten the load, without losing out on flavour & satisfaction.

Here are 5 easy and delicious ways:

  1. Portobello Pizzas: Swap out the heavy (but delicious) dough for some chewy mushrooms, top as you like and voila! An easy weeknight meal that has hundreds of options.
  2. Spaghetti squash with your favourite sauce: We like to top this with vegan “meatballs” or a simple lentil Bolognese.
  3. PB&J on an apple: Looking for a way to get some fruit into your daily mix? Swap out the bread for an apple and enjoy the [natural] sugar rush.
  4. Zucchini (Courgette) Lasagna noodles: So easy to build your own favorite lasagna, but without the guilt-inducing noodles. I usually slice my zucchini ¼ inch, salt them, and bake them in an oven at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, before proceeding with any standard recipe. (This helps to remove some of the moisture in the zucchini, otherwise you end up with a lasagna pool.) Once you’ve done this, just use the zucchini noodles as you would lasagna noodles, piling on your favourite toppings and baking until bubbly. cauliflower rice salad for breakfast food blog
  5. Cauliflower rice: A must for anyone trying to incorporate more veggies into their diet. We always have bags of this in the freezer, ready to accompany our curry.

Vegetables for weight loss

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Have you ever tried to lose weight? I mean really tried? I’m in my 30s and this is the first time in my life that I’m truly making a conscious and physical effort to shed some pounds- and it’s hard as heck! In my previous post I talked about slowing down and taking care of myself. A large part of ‘keeping it light’ in 2016 is taking care of the physical body: eating more vegetables, being more active and reinvigorating my yoga practice. Ultimately with the intention to physically ‘keep it light.’

Luckily, time is on my side. Often I speak to people who are trying to lose weight in order to fit into an outfit, go on vacation, or be ready for summer. All of those external time constraints might be a motivating factor for some people, but for me they’re a hindrance. I prefer to wholeheartedly incorporate some changes into my lifestyle, slowly adding ones that feel good and subtracting ones that don’t work.

vegetables saladforbreakfast mamaearthorganic
Some of the bounty from my weekly vegetable delivery.

One effective way to lighten the load is to incorporate more vegetables into the daily mix. Now some of you might be saying “Hey Shilpa, you have a blog called ‘Salad for Breakfast.’ Don’t you eat enough vegetables as it is?” To which I would say “My friend, you can never eat enough vegetables…” Okay scratch that. I would actually probably just say “No!”

So, more vegetables it is! In particular, for weight loss, I use the following as a rule of thumb when choosing vegetables for my plate: either leafys (not really a word so don’t google it), greens, or water-filled. Here are examples of some of these varieties:

  • Leafys (the bunches or layers of leafy-like vegetables): Spinach, Chard, Kale, Cabbage (green or red), beetroot greens, bok choy (or other Asian greens), lettuce
  • Greens (this one is self explanatory): Broccoli, edamame, avocado, peas (blah okay I don’t really ever choose peas), pea snaps (I like these)
  • Water-filled (these are the ones that will keep you hydrated and/or shed lots of water when cooked): Peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, cucumbers, garlic, onions, celery, tomatoes (are they a fruit? Are they a vegetable?)

So basically, the things that haven’t made it on the list are the vegetables that are high in starch and/or sugar (carrots, beets, potatoes, squashes etc.) That doesn’t mean that I don’t eat these vegetables- I sure do! I’m just more mindful of the portions, don’t eat them daily and try not to eat them all in one meal. Again, this is my own rule of thumb for weight loss. I’m not a nutritionist so this might all sound like mumbo jumbo to you! And that’s okay 🙂

This system is particularly hard to follow in the winter, when most of the seasonal produce in Toronto is made up of starches and root vegetables. So it’s been a fun learning process and I’ve had to figure out ways to balance my need for locally grown food, with my need for leafys, greens and water-filled vegetables.

What about you? What rules do you follow for weight loss? I’d love to hear what works for you. In the next post I’ll share some tips on how I’ve been using the vegetables.

Until then, keep it light!

 

Keeping it Light in 2016

Blue Skies
Captured while road trippin’ across Scotland, 2015.

Happy 2016 friends! It is still 2016 right?! It’s January! Okay okay… so it’s the third week of January. My internal clock is moving at a snail pace these days, so it takes me a bit longer to settle into reality.

I don’t know about you but 2015 was a spectacularly hectic year for me. A busy work schedule paired with a glorious year of travel, naturally took a toll on my physical health. Towards the end of the year when the pace picked up all around me, my body and mind were screaming for me to come to a halt. But I didn’t do that. Instead I kept going, pushing further, ignoring my all-knowing internal compass.

So at the outset of January, when the air is typically filled with hope, wishes and beginnings, I was drained, flustered and downright broken.

exhausted

After some thought and conversations, I decided to take a timeout from the hectic pace of things, and take care of myself; a pledge to rest and regroup. This isn’t about going back in time and becoming the person I was 2 years ago or something. It’s about acknowledging where I am today, and growing from where I’m at in this moment. Ultimately, it’s about feeling good and reconnecting with the things that help me get there.

There’s a fantastic line in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, where one of the main characters is advised:

I am no jedi, but I know the force. It moves through and surrounds every living thing. Close your eyes, feel it. The light. It’s always been there. It will guide you.

So this is my moment to slow down, take care of myself and do the things that make me feel super. And of course, blogging is one of those things.

Do you have any intentions, goals or thoughts about 2016? For me, 2016 is all about ‘keeping it light.’

star wars gif

On a side note- if you’re going to do one thing before the end of the month, go and see Star Wars The Force Awakens, if you haven’t already. Geez!

Thanksgiving with vegetarians & vegans 101

Thanksgiving- a frenzied, family ‘n friend filled, foodie-fest… and one of the few American rituals I partake in (sans Turkey).

meatball
Tempeh meatballs using minimalist baker’s recipe

 

I know that thanksgiving can be quite a stressful time of the year for some people- especially if one of your guests doesn’t eat turkey (God forbid!) Well fret not. If you’re hosting vegetarians or vegans for thanksgiving (or just want to make a nice meal for someone special in your life) then the blog world has gotcherback.

Seriously. I’ve been obsessively reading food blogs for over a decade now, and it’s astounding the number of quality vegetarian and vegan blogs that are in the mix. These folks know how to satisfy the hungriest customer and make meals that are consistently good. If you’re still on the hunt for a last minute dish, here are the top 3 sites I would recommend:

  1. http://www.theppk.com/ : If I haven’t said it yet, Isa Chandra of the post punk kitchen is my food guru and idol. I worship her wisdom, relish in her humour, and have become fatter as a result of her recipes. Try.Them.All. (Especially: Porcini crusted tofu, pecan pie, roasted butternut squash alfredo, chocolate pudding pie)
  2. http://minimalistbaker.com/ : Dana has made a splash in the past year or so with her easy to follow, low fuss and consistently delicious recipes. (Try fall pot pie, tempeh meatballs)
  3. http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/ : Susan’s blog is the first one I tested when first moving from a vegetarian to a vegan diet in ’06. (Try: Pumpkin spice bread, sweet dumpling squash stuffed with rice)

That’s all you need. For real. I just gave you an entire meal plan- get to work ya’ll!

Truth be told, perhaps the best part about thanksgiving (yes, better than the food), is the opportunity to reflect and be grateful.

Today in particular my gratitude goes to these two beautiful ladies below.

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Happy birthday to my Mother-in-Law and my Mom. Amazing women celebrate birthdays on November 24th. Clearly.

Diwali Dal!

Happy Diwali and New Year to those who are celebrating!
diwali tealights

This year, I had planned two days worth of yummy Indian meals for the habibi and I. This is a big deal for me because, although I absolutely love Indian food, I don’t make it often enough. The truth is, no matter how long I spend, or what I do, it just never tastes like my Dad or Mom’s food. Yup! Dad cooks too. And he’s a total badass in the kitchen so it’s pretty hard to create a satisfying Indian meal without feeling like it just doesn’t taste like home. How many of you out there share the same issue?

When it comes to Thai, Mexican, Italian, Chinese and North American food, I feel pretty confident (perhaps too confident). Probably because I never grew up in a Thai, Mexican, Italian Chinese or traditional North American household. But Indian food (and I completely recognize that “Indian” food is sort of like saying “European” food- it’s a bit nonsensical because it’s so wide-ranging) is still tough for me.

chana dal spinach

Anyway, I digress. The two days of Indian fare didn’t actually happen because of some unexpected health issues. But I was still determined to make something to mark the holiday, so I scrambled to think of an abridged and simple menu. In the end we had gorgeous spicy jeera aloo, tofu makhani and spinach chana dal.

chana dal

Chana dal is hands down my favourite type of dal, typically served in Punjabi cuisine. It’s hearty and doesn’t fall apart easily when cooked, unlike its cousins masoor dal or yellow mung dal. Chana dal is made from splitting small brown chick peas, but takes on its own unique set of flavours. You don’t necessarily find this dal on a restaurant menu, so it’s quite special when you’re able to find it, or better yet, prepare it at home!

chana dal spinach indian food saladforbreakfast

Chana dal with spinach

What I’m listening to:

Raag Des, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma

Ingredients:

1 cup chana dal rinsed & soaked overnight
4 cups water
2 tomatoes, chopped
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
2 green chilies split in the middle
1 T oil, ghee or butter of choice
1 t cumin seeds
1 red onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 T grated finely ginger
2 handfuls baby spinach
1 T coriander powder
1 t garam masala
Salt to taste
¼ cup fresh coriander

What I do:

The two main stages to making this dal, and most North Indian dals are (1) cooking the dal and (2) “tempering” the seasoning on the side and adding it once the dal is cooked.

So first, drain your dal after it’s been soaking and add it to a pressure cooker along with the water, tomatoes, turmeric, salt and green chilies. All pressure cookers are not created equal, but with mine I close the pressure cooker lid and turn the heat to high. Once the cooker whistles 3 times, I turn it off and leave it to the side to cool down.

In a fry pan, heat oil on medium heat. When it becomes hot add cumin and allow it to fry for one minute. Add onions next, and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally so that they don’t burn. Add ginger and garlic and baby spinach and stir for 1 minute. At this point, if your pan looks a bit dry you can add another tsp of oil. Then, add coriander powder and stir for 20 seconds.

Add half of the tempering mixture to the dal along with garam masala, and heat over medium heat. Add the remaining tempering ingredients as well as coriander right before you serve.

Enjoy!

Are we supporting those who support us?

Tomorrow Canadians will be voting in one of the closest federal elections in decades-so we’re told. Although at times it feels like we hear more about American politics than Canadian, I can’t emphasize what a big deal these elections are- especially to our lowest wage earners. Below is a post I wrote for SEIU Healthcare’s blog. Check it out by clicking on the link:

Source: Are we supporting those who support us?

Spice up your life: Vegan Chai Spice Cake

It’s the most wonderful time of the year ya’ll. Not only is this month full of beauty and bounty it also brings on weeks and weeks of festivities. Over the weekend, many Canadians celebrated Thanksgiving and yesterday was the start of Navaratri, a nine night Hindu festival [stay tuned for more on this…].

No matter where you are, over the course of the next few months you will undoubtedly be surrounded by festivities. Regardless of the occasion, at this time of the year you can never go wrong with bringing some spice cake along to share. [Read: you can never go wrong with spice cake any time of the year]

vegan chai spice cake

I used Vaishali’s recipe for Pumpkin Chai Spice Cake from Holy Cow! and it was perfectly straightforward. The only change I made was to use acorn squash instead of pumpkin because that’s what I had roasted. It’s a vegan cake so no dairy or eggs needed. If you’ve never tried vegan baking, it’s really easy and the most delicious cakes don’t require any fancy ingredients. It’s great if you know anyone with dairy allergies or anyone who is a “strict” vegetarian [read: no eggs]. As a bonus, you can leave vegan cakes sitting out on the counter, and after a day or so they don’t become ‘crusty’ and crumbly like their egg-laden cousins.

vegan chai spice cake

But I digress…back to this cake: seriously- WOW! Vaishali is a genius. My home smelled incredible and when we took a wedge of cake in the car [because it’s essential one always has cake in the car] we had the smell of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and ginger teasing us the whole journey.

vegan spice cake and chai saladforbreakfast
Cake & chai for breakfast

I had a slice with an amazing cup of chai and was in chai heaven… Whichever way you slice it, try the recipe, enjoy and whenever possible- spice up your life with some of this cake.

Now, please excuse me as I go back to singing along with the Spice Girls (especially at 2.04)…