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.

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Sugar Cookies

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I’ve mentioned before that I’m more of a cook than a baker – because of this, I hesitate to do a lot of my own experimentation when it comes to baking. Really, I just hate the idea of having to waste a tray full of perfectly good ingredients because my chemistry project didn’t work out the way I had planned.

 My brother David is in town for a few days, and loves pillowy soft sugar cookies. For this, I turned to the experts – these cookies are from the Healthy Sugar Cookies post over at Chocolate Covered Katie. Katie’s blog is fabulous for health-conscious vegan bakers – or anyone looking to satisfy their sweet tooth!

  The only modifications I made with this recipe was to the fat in the cookies – Katie uses a quarter cup of vegan butter, but I used three tablespoons of Earth Balance and one tablespoon of coconut oil. The flavor of the coconut doesn’t come through (so even picky eaters like my brother can enjoy them), but it lends a subtle sweetness and all that buttery goodness to the finished product. 

  As Katie notes, these cookies will look very underdone when you take them out of the oven. However, let them cool for five or ten minutes (if you can slap grabby hands away for that long) and they become perfectly soft, tender cookies. Sprinkle with sugar, colored sprinkles or dip in chocolate for a perfect sweet treat.

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Sugar Cookies
from Chocolate Covered Katie
makes 12 cookies

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened plant based milk
3 tablespoons original Earth Balance (not whipped)
1 tablespoon coconut oil

1. Preheat oven to 325º. 

2. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and sugar in a large bowl. 

3. In a separate bowl, melt Earth Balance and coconut oil together. Add vanilla and milk and stir to combine. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until batter forms.

4. Roll into 1-inch balls and drop onto a greased baking sheet, flattening them slightly. Sprinkle with sugar or sprinkles, if desired.

5. Bake for 9 minutes. Take the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool for 5-10 minutes. Serve with a big glass of your favorite plant-based milk.

Nutrition per Cookie: 76 calories, 10g carbohydrates, 4g fat, 1g protein.

Sunday Scramble

Last week, I was lucky enough to spend a few days in beautiful San Francisco for a work event. In the less-than-48 hours that I was able to spend in the city, I explored (and ate) as much as humanly possible. I couldn’t help but feel completely at home in a city where single-use plastic bags are outlawed and the soy milk flows freely.

Aside from backpacks full of organic vegan donuts, the best meal I ate during my short time in SF was a big tofu scramble from The Plant Cafe. Every aspect of the tofu was on point down to the side of fresh watermelon (in December, who thought!), but the most memorable aspect – and the inspiration for today’s recipe – was the texture of the tofu. Instead of being crumbled, The Plant Cafe had shredded their tofu to resemble Daiya mozzarella shreds. At first bite, I knew I had to recreate it once I was back in Philadelphia.

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A salted caramel donut from Pepples Donuts.

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My hotel supplied this fabulous leopard-print robe.

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These shoes saw a lot of the Embarcadero.

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The view from our work event!

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  Sundays are usually my long run days. After Curtis leaves for disc golf, I lace up and head outside for anywhere from 6 to 9 miles along the Schuykill River. When I get back home, I love to take a long shower, make a big cup of coconut coffee and fix myself a huge plate of scramble. Today, I decided to take a page out of The Plant Cafe’s book and run my tofu through the box grater.

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  I’ll admit it, I don’t think I’ll ever crumble my tofu for scramble again. Not only do the little soy shreds create a fantastic texture, but in a way, I like that this scramble doesn’t even try to give the appearance of eggs – and it’s not even sorry about it.

  I used collard greens, mushrooms and grape tomatoes in this scramble, but you should use whatever veggies you have on hand. The Plant Cafe used a light and fresh basil pesto on their scramble, but with basil around $3.00 a bunch at my local supermarket, I did without.

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  I may have only had a few short days in sunny San Francisco, but I have a feeling that every time I make this scramble, I’ll be transported back to bayside dining.

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Sunday Tofu Scramble
Serves 1

1/2 package of organic super-firm tofu (you can use extra firm, but
anything softer just ain’t gonna cut it for this scramble)
2 cups collard greens, cut into thin ribbons
5 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
5 grape tomatoes, quartered
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
sprinkle of himalayan pink salt (optional, for “eggyness”)
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried thyme, crushed
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1. Wrap your tofu in a tea towel and place it beneath a few heavy books to drain for about 30 minutes. The drier the tofu, the better. Run the pressed tofu through your box grater or food processor attachment to create shreds reminiscent of Daiya.

2. Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the tofu shreds. Add himalayan salt, cumin, garlic powder and dried thyme and cook until shreds are slightly golden.

3. Add the collards, mushrooms and grape tomatoes. Cook until collards are very wilted and mushrooms are soft.

4. Add nutritional yeast and cook for 3-5 minutes. Serve hot with a side fruit, toast or breakfast potatoes – or all three!

Nutrition per Serving: 216 calories, 29g carbohydrates, 11g fat, 18g protein