Thursday, December 10, 2009

Easy Peasy Veggie-neasy Part Three: The "I Am Unmotivated" Recipe

"American consumers have no problem with carcinogens, but they will not purchase any product, including floor wax, that has fat in it."
- Dave Barry

There was about a month after I graduated from culinary school that I was totally unmotivated to cook. I think I went through my own mini cooking dark ages. So, instead of being super creative and coming up with my own magic in the kitchen, I started to rip off dishes I had in restaurants. There was one dish in particular that I feel I did a particularly good job jocking their style :)

Thank you Cafe Gratitude for giving me the inspiration it took to not be creative at all. Now I will share my ripped-off easy peasy healthy recipe with you!

"I Am Unmotivated" or Kale & Quinoa Pilaf with Garlic-Tahini Sauce
Cook Time: 25 minutes

Garnish (Optional):
3/4 cup Almonds
3 Tablespoons Tamari

1 Tablespoon Olive or Coconut Oil (preferrable Coconut because it is better to saute with, but Olive will do in a pinch)
1 onion, chopped
1 cup Quinoa
1 cup Veggie Stock or Water
3 cups kale, stems removed and roughly chopped

3 Tablespoons Tahini (You should be able to find this in any Whole Foods or middle eastern grocery by the nut butters)
1 clove Garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Tamari (soy sauce)
1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
Salt to taste

1. (Optional) Heat a sautee pan to med-high and add almonds. Constantly stir almonds until slightly toasted. Turn heat up to high, add tamari, and stir until tamari is completely evaporated. Set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in a sauce pan over medium-low until water slightly sizzles when dripped into the pan. Toss in onions and saute for 5 minutes (Or longer if you are feeling extra special motivated).
3. Add Quinoa and stock and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer, cover, and cook for 18 minutes.
4. Add Kale on top of the quinoa and cover. Cook for 2 minutes until kale is bright green and the quinoa is chewy, but not mushy.
5. Meanwhile, throw all of the sauce ingredients into a blender, food processor, or bowl and mix until combined. Taste, and add salt if necessary (Don't worry if the sauce is a bit salty because the quinoa will balance the flavor out. You want your sauce to be strong)
6. Fluff Quinoa and Kale, drizzle with sauce, garnish with almonds, and enjoy!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Easy Peasy Veggie-neasy Part Two: Quick Meal Tips

"The devil came to me last night and asked what I wanted in exchange for my soul. I still can't believe I said pizza. Friggin' cravings."
- Marc Ostroff

When I started on my path to better eating, it became very clear very quickly that I would have to do a lot of my own cooking. Though many restaurants with many delicious meals exist, the options are not among the healthiest choices for food. Not to mention the fact that I am not independently wealthy and able to dine out all the time (I wish!).
I quickly found that many of the healthy recipes I found took FOREVER to make and were way too complicated. So, I needed ways to make delic
ious meals that didn’t take 4 hours to make. Here are my insights in the world of healthy fast food:

Bamboo Steamer: I CAN’T SAY ENOUGH ABOUT THIS! Who hasn’t experienced boiled vegetables that evoke the inner child yelling “No, get these gross, mushy things away from me!” Well, what if I told you there was a device that cooked you food quickly while keeping texture, flavor and and nutritional value intact? You’re in luck! That is EXACTLY what I am telling you.

How to use a Bamboo Steamer:
- Fill a sautee pan or a wok with an inch or so of water
- Turn the heat to med-high, and put your bamboo steamer in (make sure the water covers the bottom edge of the steamer)
- Steam veggies until just tender to fork

The steam lightly cooks the veggies in very little time and doesn’t leech out the nutritional benefits. The best part is that you can buy steamers with 3 trays…meaning you can cook three different veggies at the same time with no added mess or hassle! GENIUS! Toss your veggies with a little salt, pepper, olive oil, and spices of your choosing and you’ve got yourself a delicious meal! For information about buying bamboo steamers, check out this link:

Quinoa: A cheap, easy, and tasty grain that has a great health profile! Sub this stuff for pasta or other grains and have a delicious meal. It is also a gluten-free g
rain, which is great for us because our diets are chock full of way too much wheat.

How to cook Quinoa:
- Thrown 1 cup of quinoa and one cup of water or veggie stock in a pan.
- Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and cook for 20 minutes until it is al dente.

Since this grain only takes 20 minutes to cook, so you can turn it on whilst your veggies are steaming. Or, you could cook a big pot of it on a Sunday and heat it up in a sautee pan with a little veggie stock or water when you want to serve it. For more information about how great quinoa is for you, look at this link:

Mix Up Those Veggies
: If you buy in season, you save money-bottom line! So buy those veggies that are in season and they will most likely be deliciously ripe and ready to go. This m
eans that they should be good enough to steam, lightly salt and pepper, and eat.

Also, if you are an easily bored type person like me, you get a ton of variety (read all kinds of different vitamins and minerals) in your diet. You’ll be surprised at how good veggies tastes when they aren’t boiled within an inch of their lives. For a listing on what foods are in season in your area, look at this link:

Easy Peasy Veggie-neasy Part One: Stress and Your Body

Reality is the leading cause of stress for those in touch with it."
- Jane Wagner

So, I’ve been hearing some rumblings from the peanut gallery. Basically, most of them have been going like this: “Sarah, your recipes look SO GOOD (you guys are too kind!), but tempeh? What IS that? Do they all have to have 234,743,903 ingredients? The cook time on this recipe looks to be about 2 hours…come on!”

Duly noted and completely understood! This holiday season is stressful as it is and going home to make a 4-hour long recipe is not what most people need. So, today’s subject will be a three-part-er: stress and your body, tips for fast and healthy cooking, and an easy peasy recipe!

Stress and the Body

So, most people have heard about stress affecting your health. From personal experience, it can be hard to reduce stress in your life when there are plenty of things that HAVE to be accomplished. Part of our culture is to ignore what your body is telling you in order to get through whatever is stressing you. Unfortunately, not addressing the stress and tension in your life can lead to all kinds of physiological responses and adverse affects that are not fun at all. The one that most of us are familiar with is cardiac disease. Serious stuff, right?

Well, instead of telling you to RELAX ALREADY, I would like to suggest something that you can do from the (dis)comfort of your own desk. Everyone needs a little time for himself or herself, and you can affect your health in a good way by taking it when you can! Try this little breathing exercise on for size…

Breathe deeply into the bottom of your stomach (diaphragm), watching as your belly expands like a balloon. Your shoulders might even crack as new air replaces the old. Then breathe out slowly. Repeat this process for at least one minute. Close your eyes if you can, and try to take deeper, slower and longer breaths every time. Don't hold your breath, but keep it moving as you relax your body and let the tension slip away.

For more information about stress and your body, look at this search from the American Holistic Health Association

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Soul Food Sunday Episode One: Tempeh Chili con Frijoles

"I'm not a vegetarian because I love animals. I'm a vegetarian because I hate plants."
- AW Brown

So it begins! The inaugural post of Soul Food Sunday. I want to thank everyone for posting their requests, and I assure you I will post about each and every one of them. Everyone had great stuff and I want to talk about all of it...but alas, I had to choose one. SO, I put each suggestion in a hat and today's recipe will be...drum roll please....CHILI!!

Though the weather was beautiful in San Francisco today, we are definitely staring down the barrel at many cold, wintry days in the near future. Chili has always been a favorite of mine and evokes memories of Sundays at my parents house when my mom would make her spicy chili with cheezy tortilla chips. YUM!

When I became more focused on my heath and decided to go vegan, I knew I would have some trouble finding a chili that lived up to my fond memories of home. I came across many delicious recipes, but I have to say that I recently found one that tops them all! It is a little different than most chili recipes you come across, but I promise you it is about as delicious as they come. I know tempeh may be a little foreign to a lot of you, but I promise you won't find a better or healthier meat substitute. Plus, tell me what's more fun than cooking with beer? Come on!

It may look like a lot of work, but it provides you multiple meals and isn't finicky at all. Enjoy and remember, if you have any questions about any of this, feel free to leave me a comment!

Tempeh Chili con Frijoles by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
prep time: 15 minutes | cooking time: 1 hour 20 minutes | makes 6-8

A hearty, luscious and flavorful chili, brimming with the goodness of tempeh and rounded out with the greatness of beer. I like to serve it with a mound of guacamole and thick slices of cornbread. Some finely chopped red onions sprinkled over the top wouldn't hurt either.

Large pot with a lid
Large frying pan

1 package (8 oz) tempeh, diced medium
1 large yellow onion, diced medium
1 green bell pepper, diced medium
1 large carrot, diced small
3 cloves garlic
1 Tablespoon olive oil + 2 teaspoons
2 teaspoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Couple of generous dashes fresh black pepper
15 oz can pinto beans, drained
1 cup good dark beer
1 8-oz can diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 cups water or veg broth
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Handful fresh cilantro, chopped (about a cup, lightly packed)

In a large pot, cook onions and green bell pepper over med-high heat, until tender and a little brown (15-20 minutes) stirring occasionally.

At the same time, put tempeh in a large frying pan and fill with water until it is almost covered. Add 2 teaspoons soy sauce and let simmer over high heat for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed, stirring occassionally. When water is mostly absorbed, mash tempeh with a fork, so it's crumbly but still chunky. Lower heat to medium and add 2 teaspoons olive oil , saute for 15 more minutes.

At this point, the twenty minutes for your veggies should be up. Add garlic and saute one minute, then add salt and spices (except cilantro, you add that last) and saute a minute more. Add beer and deglaze the pot. Cook for 2 minutes. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, beans and water. Your tempeh should be done cooking so add that as well. Lower heat to medium, stir it up and cover for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and cook 30 more minutes stirring occasionally. Add maple syrup, lemon juice and stir it up. Add cilantro. Serve!

Fun Food Facts:

Garlic: Garlic, nicknamed “the stinking rose” because of its pungent aroma, has many health benefits. Garlic has been proven to be extremely good for heart health for a number of reasons. One of these reasons is that eating garlic relaxes the blood vessels because of the production of nitric oxide. In addition, garlic is very anti-inflammatory, which helps prevent severe asthma attacks and can help people with the pain from rheumatoid arthritis. (

Onions: Onions are rich in powerful sulfur-containing compounds that provide many of their health-promoting effects. Onions are very rich in chromium, which helps cells respond to insulin. Studies have shown that regular consumption of onions can lead to lower glucose levels, lower cholesteral and lower blood pressure. (

Tomatoes: One of the most talked about benefits of tomatoes comes from the carotenoid lycopene. Lycopene from tomatoes has been found to be protective against colorectal, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers. Ketchup is a popular product used by Americans to receive lycopene’s cancer fighting qualities. A little know fact is that organic ketchup delivers three times as much of the cancer-fighting carotenoid, lycopene, as non-organic brands. (

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Battle Raps, Treaties, and MJ...oh my!

"The Union of Concerned Scientists says the Bush administration manipulates and suppresses science. The administration points out that the Union of Bought and Paid for Scientists disagrees."

There has been all kinds of hullabaloo in and around the blogosphere about COP15. I have received no less that 5 emails, all from well meaning friends and newsletters trying to let me know what the problem is and what I should do. Not to say that I don't want to be aware...this stuff is totally my bag!!

An integral part of my holistic health is how we fit into the big, networks, technology, government, and the natural environment (The Lower Right Quadrant for all you Wilber-ites out there).

How do we fit into the natural environment? What does that even mean?! Most of us put our cans and paper products into the blue bin, turn off our water whilst brushing our teeth, and do a number of other things to help save mother earth. Personally, anytime I think of saving the earth, I flash back to singing Michael Jackson's "We Are The World" in my grade school gym....complete with hand movements and a hand-holding sing-along at the end...oh yeah...(p.s. what is with Bruce Sprinsteen's face???!!!)

Well, to go back to the big question: What is the problem and what should I do?! COP15 is the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. (No wonder they say COP15...what a moutful!) Basically, it is the annual conference about the treaty signed over a decade ago intended to reduce global warming and combat the effects of climate change. Ever heard of the Kyoto Protocol? (Come on, Social Studies!) We're talking a legally-binding international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

As can be expected, there has been some controversy about COP15 including whether or not global warming actually exists (what?!) and how the economies of the big countries will be affected by stricter regulation, among other things.

Now, we should talk about what to're out of luck because I'm not going to give you an answer. Pretty much because I don't HAVE an answer. :) HOWEVER, I can say one thing...inform yourself. This stuff may seem way out there, but it does affect you. Don't worry, I have something for you. Instead of a recipe, I'm leaving you with something you can thank me for later ;)...oh yes, its a battle rap...with Al Gore...WHAT?!?!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Soul-Food Sunday" Needs Suggestions

I have a proposition to make....

I think we should take the idea of what healthy food should look like and throw it out the window. How about this: all of you out there in cyberspace tell me what unhealthy comfort foods are your favorites, and I'll try and health-ify it for you. This Sunday will mark the first of (hopefully) many "Soul-Food Sundays".

Leave me comments and we'll see if we can make this work!


I like rice. Rice is great if you’re hungry and want 2000 of something.
- Mitch Hedberg

A typical day in the life of 21 year old Sarah looked like this:

Wake up after 4 or 5 hours of sleep. Drink obscene amounts of coffee to get the day started. Maintain my energy level throughout the day with Red Bull. Go to work, class, random fast food place, class again. Meet friends for drinks until way too late. Sleep and repeat.

What 21 year old Sarah didn't know that 25 year old Sarah is all too aware of is that kind of lifestyle takes its toll. Basically, if I had tried to create the perfect conditions for my body to develop dysglycemia, I couldn't have done a better job. Let me tell you, I never do anything halfway!

GET READY for the science-y paragraph! I know what all of you are DYING to know:
What exactly is dysglycemia? Well, since you asked I guess I'll tell you. Dysglycemia is defined as disturbed blood sugar regulation. Abnormal blood sugar regulation occurs when the blood sugar is raised too quickly and too often. This wears out the regulatory systems to the point that any stimulation can cause too drastic or too little response from the necessary systems. Symptoms are exhaustion, forgetfulness, nervousness, insomnia, headaches, anxiety, sweating and temper tantrums, and irritability to name a few. Sounds like the most fun you've ever had, right? To sum it up, this is what most people refer to as low blood sugar.

The perfect storm of simple carbohydrates (alcohol, bread and fast food) and stimulants (copious amounts of coffee and red bull) creates generation after generation of college-trained, carb-loaded sugar junkies. Basically, generations of people with dysglecmia. Now the kicker...what does untreated dysglycemia lead to? Oh, a little thing call
Type 2 Diabetes. No wonder so many people are developing it. We have pretty much created the best training ground ever in college!

Now for the fun part.
How do you treat dysglycemia? Well, by balancing your blood sugar with delicious food! If only everything in life was solved by eating something delicious...the most important things to remember when figuring out what to eat are:
  • High in Fiber: - Fiber is like a sponge in your gut that soaks up fat and sugar. Since fiber is harder to digest, it slows down how fast sugars are metabolized and how fast they affect your blood sugar levels
  • Low in Sugar: Sorry, sugar-free Red Bull doesn't cut it! Stick with natural sugars like fruits that have a good amount of fiber like apples and raspberries. A great resource to figure this out is
  • Get that Protein: Protein acts a blood stabilizer so eat small servings of high quality proteins throughout the day...McDonlads hamburgers don't count, sorry! Good sources are eggs and almonds.
Don't stress about it!! Just remember that you are what you eat, so choose the best stuff you can. I like to think I'm a plate of seasonal veggies with a side of homemade chocolate almond cookies...but that's just me. :)

Quinoa Broccoli Pilaf with Tamari Almonds by Sarah McKay
Serves 4
1 cup quinoa, cooked
1 1/4 cup water 1 medium onion, diced
2 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil
3/4 cup almonds
3 Tablespoons tamari
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 cup vegetable stock
2 cups broccoli
1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon ginger juice
1. Heat a large saute pan on medium-low. Add toasted sesame oil and diced onions. Sprinkle with salt and saute until translucent.
2. Meanwhile, toast almonds in a saute pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Turn heat to medium high and add tamari. Saute until tamari evaporates. Remove from pan and set aside.
3. Add garlic to onion and saute until fragrant. Add in mushrooms and saute for 4 minutes.
4. Turn heat up to medium-high and pour in vegetable stock. Add broccoli, cover and steam for 8 minutes or until tender.
5. Take pan off heat and stir in ginger juice, quinoa and nutritional yeast. Mix until combined and serve hot!