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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Chopping Vegetables is Good Stress Relief, Experts Say

I decided to come home for lunch today and finish up my workout; I had to cut it short in the morning because Toby was forlornly scratching to be let out and I can't resist a forlorn ferret. So instead I took him out for a stroll on this fine Thursday morning.

So anyway, I wanted something more filling than a pita but there was no time to cook anything so I decided to make a sort of raw soft taco (well, except for the beans - that would be a terrible idea). I don't know why it never occurred to me before; it would be a great easy thing to bring to work too!

I chopped up a red bell, a green bell, 1/4 red onion, 1/3 can of black olives. Opened up a can of pinto beans, mixed it all up and that was it. Plopped it in the low carb, low calorie wraps from Trader Joe's, topped with salsa, and had a big salad.


Quarter close is officially over and I got to come home at a normal hour, so I decided to celebrate by making a stuffed eggplant, but it was mushy and had to be thrown out. So instead I made a creamy pasta, green bean, and mushroom dish - this meal is slightly more involved than most that I've made lately, but it involves a trick worth learning.


You can make a great, rich cream sauce with cashew creme. This entails grinding up say 1/2 cup or so of cashews in a food processor to a fine powder, then adding about a cup of water, then usually adding some oil and salt and things. The result is something as decadent as cheddar cheese for macaroni - but, I've sworn off that sort of cooking except for very special occasions.

Instead, I stopped after the water step and sauteed some onions til translucent.

I added them to the food processor (yes, it seems weird but the mellow sweetness of the onions adds something to the sauce).

Next I added about 1/2 a container (8 oz or so) of soft tofu to the food processor and blended it all up. This is the "trick" - one aspect of the incredible versatility of tofu. You can make sauces with the soft variety, "ricotta" by mashing up the firm variety with some Italian spices, cubes for stir fries, freeze a container and then mash up for ground meat texture...

There's really nothing to fear, it doesn't have much flavor and takes on the flavor of whatever you add to it, and eating it doesn't transform you into a hippie, contrary to popular belief.

The above is a picture of me taken after this night's meal...Just kidding.

Additions to the food processor included 2 Tbsp-ish lemon juice, Trader Joe's zesty 21 Spice Salute, ground black pepper, garlic powder, cayenne pepper.

The sauced:
Green beans and mushrooms go great together, I've found. I used an "exotic mushroom combo pack" with oyster, crimini, and shiitake.

Steamed the beans, sauteed the mushrooms in just 1/2 tsp olive oil and a sprinkling of salt.

Dumped the sauce into the pan and added a packet of vegetable broth seasoning; a cube would work too - my favorite bouillion of all time is definitely Rapunzel's, available at Ukrops and Ellwood Thompson's here in Richmond.

Dumped the beans in also, after lightly steaming.
Cooked up 5 oz of whole wheat pasta shells - amazing that we used to eat almost a whole pound before I started replacing most of the pasta with actual substance.
I can't imagine sitting down to a big plate of just pasta and sauce now.

I made an extra-special salad also, with some roasted red peppers (admittedly from a jar), sliced black olives, spinach and arugula.

It was actually flavorful enough that we didn't need to add salt, and the tofu makes a suprisingly rich and creamy, and certainly healthier than the usual, cream vegetable and pasta dish.



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