Tofu Frittata with Mushrooms and Collard Greens

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  In the omnivorous portion of my life, I was never really one for breakfast foods – I’d pick a bowl full of leftovers over a plate of scrambled eggs pretty much any day of the week. For the past few weeks though, I’ve had an insatiable craving for a big baked breakfast pie, like the ones I used to watch Giada de Laurentiis make on the Food Network. A big slice of frittata alongside some crispy radishes, sweet potato, or a lightly dressed salad would make for a fantastic summer meal.

  Tofu is my favorite ingredient for eggy dishes like scrambles and frittata. This one has two very important up sides: it can be baked ahead of time and stored in the fridge for quick breakfasts and easy dinners, and it’s incredibly versatile – use whatever looks good this week at your farmer’s market. Do keep an eye out for the moisture content, though – veggies that tend to be watery will make your frittata soggy. Avoid using things like raw tomatoes – save those beauties to be eaten with a little balsamic and some salt.

Tofu Frittata with Mushrooms and Collard Greens
adapted from The Post Punk Kitchen
serves 4

6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 cups chopped collard greens, packed
4-5 baby bella mushrooms, chopped
1 tablespoon coconut oil
pinch of thyme, crushed between your fingers

19 oz. firm tofu
1 tablespoon tamari
1 teaspoon grainy mustard
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4-1/2 teaspoon himalayan pink salt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1. Preheat oven to 400º.

2. In a large pan, heat the coconut oil over low-medium heat. Cook the garlic slices gently until they are lightly browned. Turn the heat to high and add the chopped collards, mushrooms, and thyme and cook until the greens are very wilted and the mushrooms are soft – add water one tablespoon at a time if your greens need some help.

3. While the greens are wilting and the mushrooms are softening, squeeze the tofu gently over the sink to get some water out and place it in a large mixing bowl. Using your hands, smush it until it resembles ricotta cheese and there are no large chunks. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir.

4. Add your cooked collards and shrooms to the tofu and mix very well. Press firmly into a sprayed or coconut-oiled pie plate and bake in the oven until the center is firm and the top is golden brown. In the original recipe, Isa notes to cook for 20 minutes, but mine took closer to an hour to reach firm and solid doneness. Set your timer for 20 minutes and see how things look at that point. Cool, slice and serve.

Nutrition per Serving: 174 calories, 11g carbohydrates, 7g fiber, 8g fat, 17g protein

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Put Your Faith in Julia

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Doubt stays my hand there in the supermarket, balancing on my tiptoes, fingers curled around a can of jumbo pitted black olives.

You’re going to regret this, the little voice informs me. I shift my basket in the crook of my arm, rolling back on my heels to read the label on the can.

You don’t even like olives.

After a particularly stressful day, I find myself where I usually do on the tail end of stressful days – our local grocery store. Having voraciously watched episode after episode of The French Chef over the past week or so, I’ve found one recipe has stuck out in my mind – Julia’s main course on Spaghetti Dinner Flambe: Spaghetti Marco Polo.

According to historical distaste for briny and salty, I should be somewhat repulsed by the components of the bright, chopped “sauce” that tops the pasta – nuts, fancy pimento, and a generous portion of chopped black olives. Strangely enough though, I’ve been so fascinated by the unique, tomato-free nature of the dish that I’ve watched the episode three times, ensuring I’ve gotten all the details down pat.

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But as I stroll the linoleum tiles of the canned foods aisle, I’m having second thoughts. Certainly it would be easier to fix something more familiar, something more to my taste – perhaps a stir fry with peanut sauce, or a South-of-the-border bowl with plenty of cumin and lime juice?

No, the other little voice says. Put your faith in Julia.

The can of olives finds a place in the basket next to the zucchini.

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    After thoroughly mixing the Marco Polo sauce, I take a tentative bite from the end of the spoon. The harsh brininess I was expecting is nonexistant, replaced by a pleasant creamy saltiness complemented by mild, sweet pimento and bright parsley. Oh Julia, I should never have doubted you.

  I’ve made a few changes to Julia’s dish in order to meet my needs: while she used chopped walnuts, I happened to have dry roasted sunflower seeds on hand (though I’m sure that any finely chopped nut would do very nicely). Also, I’ve given the whole thing a slightly modern twist by serving it over my favorite julienned zucchini (“zoodles”) rather than spaghetti.

Zoodles Marco Polo
inspired by The French Chef
serves 2-3

3 medium zucchini
1/2 cup pitted black olives, chopped
1/2 cup pimento packed in water, chopped
1/3 cup fresh flat parsley, chopped
1/4 cup dry roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds
salt & pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons walnut oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1. Trim the ends from the zucchinis and julienne them. Place the strands in a large colander and sprinkle well with salt – this will draw out the excess moisture. Let them drain in the sink or over a bowl for 10-20 minutes.

2. Mix the chopped pimento, black olives, sunflower seeds, and parsley together. Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Rinse the salt from the zoodles and dry very well.

4. Heat the oil and garlic in a large pan over medium-high heat. Cook your garlic until just about done – you’ll only add the zoodles long enough to heat them through. Add the zoodles to the pan and stir well to coat with the garlic and oil. Allow the zoodles to just heat through and transfer them to a large serving platter or bowl.

5. Pour the Marco Polo sauce on top of the zoodles and sprinkle with nutritional yeast, if you like. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Nutrition per Serving: 301 calories, 18g carbohydrates, 7g fiber, 21g fat, 9g protein.

Grilled Summer Corn

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I can feel my hair sucking up the moisture in the air, looping into fat ringlet curls and resting against my forehead. As we stroll up the beach at half past five, it’s becoming clear that this probably wasn’t the best morning to wake up early and watch the sunrise.

“It’s eerie, isn’t it?” Curt asks, his hands in the pockets of his shorts as he looks up and down the empty beach. “The fog makes you think of a ghost pirate ship or something.”

The Weather Channel assures us that the sun is going to rise at exactly 5:36 a.m., but we probably won’t see anything other than slightly less gray skies until at least the afternoon. Curtis tucks the big beach towel under his arm as we head back to the car. It’s not a big deal – at less than a mile from the front door to the shore, we’ll come back on a clearer morning to complete our tradition of watching a sunrise over the ocean together.

On the drive back, we see a ton of wildlife – two proud goose parents and their crowd of fuzzy, awkward-teen goslings, a big-eared fox, and a great blue heron on the side of the road, slurping up a small snake like a strand of spaghetti. Our early morning adventure has gotten us out of the house just as nature is breaking its fast.

I love the simple joys of summer – seeing the sunrise (or trying to) with Curt, iced coconut coffee from my favorite coffee shop on the boardwalk – when it comes down to it, I’m pretty easy to please, especially from Memorial Day to Labor Day. But my all-time favorite summer pleasure has to be locally-grown sweet corn.

Having grown up in Central New Jersey, I’m something of a corn aficionado. Nothing says summertime to me quite like corn on the cob. As a child, I was happy to munch away at ears fresh from a pot of boiling water, coated in a thin layer of butter and sprinkled with salt. As an adult, not too much has changed – but now, I prefer it with the gentle char from the barbecue and a pat of Earth Balance or coconut oil.

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When I had braces as a teen and couldn’t dig my choppers into the cob, my mom used to slice the kernels off in big slabs for me to eat it with a fork. I thought it tasted so much sweeter this way that despite being brace-free for over a decade, I still prefer my corn this way. Plus – no pesky corn skins stuck in your teeth!

When you’re choosing your ears, peel the husk back a few inches and prick one of the kernels with your thumbnail. If the kernel squirts a milky juice, it’s going to be ripe, sweet, and ready to eat!

Grilled Summer Corn
makes 4 ears

4 large ears of corn

1. Heat your grill to medium.

2. Peel the husks back and remove the silky threads from the corn (running water helps the process). Gently fold the husks back over the corn and submerge in a large bowl of cold water for 10-20 minutes.

3. Shake off any excess water and place the ears on the grill. Close the lid and cook for 25-30 minutes, turning every 5 minutes or so until the kernels are tender and yield easily to a paring knife.

4. Remove from the grill and serve with Earth Balance, coconut oil, lime juice, salt, and/or a sprinkle of chili powder.

Nutrition per 8-inch Ear, without condiments: 123 calories, 2g fat, 27g carbohydrates, 4g fiber, 5g protein.

Raw Rainbow Noodles with Tofu and Peanut Sauce

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It’s a little after midnight. I’ve been in bed for a few hours, but Curtis has just gotten into bed, and I love to chit chat with him in the dark before my lids get heavy again and I slip gently back into deep sleep.

“The 140’s,” he says, pulling me close and burying his face into the back of my neck. Our window is open, and the cool night air tumbles into our bedroom, tangled with laughter from the sidewalk, far-off sirens, and all the summertime sounds of the city. “I’m so proud of you, baby.”

It’s been a big day in the life and times of Melissa Hartz – this morning, for the first time in my adult life, I stepped on the scale and was greeted with a weight that began with “14”. 149.6 pounds, to be exact. I won’t lie – I’m proud too. I don’t think I weighed less than 150 pounds when I was twelve years old.

Pulling the sheets up closer to my chin, I think about how much things – how much I – have changed since I began actively trying to lose weight following my college graduation. What I’ve lost in body weight (nearly a third of the woman Curtis fell in love with years ago), I’ve gained in so much more – confidence, passion for fitness and nutrition, and the knowledge and satisfaction of knowing that I can attain whatever goals I set for myself. It’s a good feeling – and makes me think that maybe less truly is more.

I’ve noticed a huge shift, for the better, in my mental state during the past few weeks. In something that feels what I imagine a spiritual awakening, I feel a comforting sense of peace and contentedness in my existence. I am thankful for the small things in my life and have a vague vision of what the path ahead looks like concerning my studies, my career, and my upcoming marriage. Though my lantern burns only bright enough to light the few steps ahead of me, I am unafraid to continue forward.

It helps to have a hand to hold along the way, too.

This afternoon, I am still reveling in our gorgeous Saturday spent at the Morris Arboretum here in Philadelphia. My brother was in town, so we decided to spend the day taking in the sights, smells, and sounds at the grounds. In addition to the beautiful trees, plants, and sculptures, we also saw plenty of wildlife including skittish chipmunks, baby bunnies, and an entire family of chubby groundhogs. It was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon with two people I care about.

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Now that the weather is finally [suddenly?] warming up, I’ve found myself drawn to mostly-raw foods – cleansing, hydrating, and cooling foods that keep my mouth happy and my belly full.

I made this big bowl of rainbow noodles and tofu with the ingredients we had on hand, but you should feel free to make adjustments according to your own taste – shelled edamame, crunchy carrots, or creamy avocado would fit right into this quick, healthy meal.

Raw Rainbow Noodles with Tofu and Peanut Sauce
Serves 1 Hungry Person

1 cucumber, julienned
1/4 small head of red cabbage, sliced very thinly
sprinkle of salt

5 oz. firm tofu, pressed, cubed, and patted dry
1 tsp coconut oil
sprinkle of chinese fivespice

2 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

2 tbsp organic creamy peanut butter (or nut butter of your choice)
1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp rice vinegar
sprinkle of garlic salt
sprinkle of curry powder
1/2 packet Splenda

1. Add julienned cucumber and red cabbage to a collandar and sprinkle generously with salt. Set in the sink to drain excess water.

2. Heat coconut oil in a large nonstick frying pan or wok and add cubed tofu. Sprinkle with fivespice powder and cook until crispy on all sides. Set aside.

3. Rinse cucumber and cabbage and pat dry VERY WELL – you may even want to take them on a trip through the salad spinner to ensure they are completely dry. Excess moisture will make your noodles soggy and water down your sauce, so make sure you don’t skip this step.

4. Add “noodles” to a large bowl and stir in green onions, cilantro, and tofu. Drizzle with peanut sauce and mix well to ensure everything is coated. Let rest for a few minutes to marinate. Munch.

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Nutritional Information: 472 calories, 26g net carbs, 28g fat, 25g protein.