Spiced-Apple Tofu and Millet Bake

Jannine Myers

A co-worker asked me recently how I cook with tofu; she had been using it mostly as a stir-fry ingredient but was lost for other ideas on how to use it and how – specifically – to turn it into a palatable dish that the whole family might enjoy. I find tofu to be a very versatile ingredient that can enhance almost any recipe and please even the pickiest of taste buds; the following is my latest tofu creation, and listed further below are links to a couple of other tofu recipes that you might like to try:

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INGREDIENTS
3/4 cup uncooked millet
¾ cup almond milk
¾ cup water
3 or 4 green apples
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cloves
1 tsp minced ginger
1 packet firm tofu + a little almond milk to blend with (use soft tofu if you prefer a less dry texture)
¼ cup raw honey
1/4 cup raisins
¼ cup chopped brazil nuts
Additional milk (if needed)

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a pie dish.

Remove the tofu from package and wrap in paper towels to absorb excess liquid.
Add the millet, almond milk, and water to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer covered for about 15 minutes.

Skin and dice the apples and add to a small saucepan. Add a little water, as well as the spices and minced ginger. Bring to a boil then turn heat down and simmer covered until all the liquid has absorbed and the apples are soft and mushy.

Melt the honey, and add with the tofu to a blender, then pulse until a smooth texture is achieved (add a little almond milk if necessary). In a large mixing bowl, add the cooked millet, the pulsed tofu, the stewed apples, and the raisins and brazil nuts. Mix until well combined. If the mixture is still quite dry, add a little more milk.
Pour the mixture into greased pie dish and bake for about 20 minutes until the edges are golden brown.

Serve warm with plain yogurt and fresh kiwifruit slices, or your choice of fruit.

[✨ Spiced Apple Tofu Bake ✨ A great breakfast alternative! Millet contains various minerals and is high in Vitamin B, and tofu is too! Not to mention that tofu is a good source of protein]

For a little more tofu inspiration, try these tofu brownies, or these curried tofu strips with creamy coconut yoghurt dip.

Protein Brownie Muffins For Active Teens

Jannine Myers

Protein bars are a regular shopping list item for many athletes and recreational exercisers, and provided they aren’t filled with unnecessary added sugars, “questionable” ingredients, or poor quality protein, they can occasionally add value to one’s diet. I find them particularly useful when travelling, or after races, or on days when my diet is lacking in protein.

But what about young athletes? I have a young athlete at home with me; my 13-year old daughter. She spends approximately 12 hours a week at her dance studio and besides the fact that she trains hard and puts her muscles to work daily, she is also still growing. She needs quality protein in her diet just as I do!

It’s too costly for me to buy extra protein bars (and I also wouldn’t want my daughter to get addicted to the sugary candy-bar appeal of them), however I don’t mind giving her occasional home-made “treats” that she can enjoy in place of generic supermarket muesli and cereal protein bars. The following recipe is one that she really enjoys, and one you might also like to try for your active teens:

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Ingredients

2 cups chickpeas, canned is fine but drain and wash first

3 tbsps coconut oil

1 tbsp of plunger or instant decaf coffee (optional)

250ml Unsweetened Almond Milk

3 scoops of quality chocolate whey protein (1 scoop = 25g protein)

2 tbsps cocoa or cacao powder

3/4 cup organic oats

3/4 cup ground almonds

2 tsps baking powder

1/4 tsp cayenne powder (optional)

1 tsp cinnamon

1/3 cup low GI sugar

1/4 cup molasses

2 tbsps tapioca flour

Directions

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

Boil water and add about 4 to 5 tbsps to the coffee. Then, simply add all the ingredients to a food processor, pour the coffee over, and pulse until combined. If you are omitting the coffee, just add a little extra water. Pour the mixture into pre-greased muffin pans (recipe makes 16 muffins), and bake for 15 to 20 minutes (15 to 17 mins if you prefer a really moist brownie, or up to 20 mins if you prefer more of a dense cake texture).

Nutritional Data per muffin: Calories 160; Carbs 18.95g (Sugars 9.45g); Fat: 6.25g (Saturated Fat 2.49g); Protein 7.9g; Fiber 2.5g

 

Trying To Eat Healthy On A Budget

Jannine Myers

There are many reasons to feel grateful for living in New Zealand, but cheap food is not one of them. Grocery shopping for the average family is either a major financial burden or a nutritional nightmare. I don’t claim to have the perfect solution, but I do have a system to share that may work as well for some of you as it does for me.

First of all, before you even begin, I recommend spending a few weeks lining your pantry shelves with some staple ingredients such as spices, seasonings, sauces, healthy oils, dried fruits and nuts, seeds, baking essentials, and also canned beans, legumes, and low-sodium vegetables. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to go! This is how I do my weekly grocery shopping, and it does not involve writing out or taking a shopping list (unless there are a few specific items that I want to remember to pick up):

1. Start with your nearest fresh fruit and vegetable store and grab a basket. Go down all the aisles and only put in your basket whichever fruits and vegetables are selling for the best and cheapest price in terms of quality and quantity. The selection of “sale price” fruits and vegetables tend to differ from week to week, allowing for not only an affordable selection of varied fresh produce but also a wider range of nutrients.

2. Go next to your local supermarket of choice and be prepared to only reach out for “best deal” options. The produce section is always the first area when you walk into most supermarkets, but since you will have already bought your fruits and vegetables, just walk right through towards the deli section. I usually do a quick scan of the deli area to see if there are any exceptionally good deals available but if not, I keep moving.

3. Beyond the deli section you’ll start to encounter the meats in the back of the store, as well as the first aisle entry. My strategy when supermarket shopping is to specifically look for: a) whichever protein foods are on sale, to include eggs, all lean meats, seafood, and vegetarian options; b) top up on the cheapest complex carb options, such as brown rice, quinoa, millet, oats, seeded breads, etc. (root vegetables would have been purchased at the fruit and vegetable store); c) choose whichever dairy (and/or refrigerated vegan) products are on sale, and d), top up on any pantry staples that need replacing.

The main thing to keep in mind is that your objective is to specifically seek out the weekly deals on: fruits and vegetables, meat and non-meat proteins, complex carbohydrates, and dairy and/or vegan cold products.

Once you get home, it’s always a good idea to start food preparation right away. I almost always plan my grocery shopping trips on days that I am off work and have enough time to shop and meal prep all in one go. You’ll find that by practicing this one habit, the likelihood of food being wasted will be significantly reduced.

By now you’re probably wondering how I create my meals without having planned an advance menu, and the answer to that is that I simply mix and match the groceries I come home with. All of our meals are built around the concept of a balanced plate that contains some type of lean protein, a complex carbohydrate, a decent size serving of vegetables, and a small serving of some type of healthy fat (such as avocado, nuts and seeds, or olive oil, for example). By the end of the week, if protein options are completely used up, I start using pantry supplements such as beans and legumes.

Finally, it’s not necessary, but if you enjoy baking as much as I do, I use up ripened or excess fruits and vegetables by making bread loaves and muffins, and I use dried fruits and nuts to make biscuits; I prefer to have healthier home-baked sweets on hand in place of store-bought packaged goods.

A final tip: have plenty of portable containers available to pre-pack meals for school and work, and to also store ready-made meals in the freezer that can be pulled out later in the week and re-heated.

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Coping Strategies For The Runner Who Can’t Run

Jannine Myers

After moving to New Zealand several weeks ago, I not only fell ill with a bronchial type cough that lasted for weeks, but I also managed to injure myself. Consequently I have done very little running and have had to withdraw from three races I had previously signed up for. As a runner who can’t run, it’s difficult keeping a positive mindset, but the following strategies are helping to keep me motivated in the meantime:

– Acknowledging my disappointment and frustration, and allowing myself to feel those feelings was probably a good first step for me. Once I accepted that I wasn’t going to be able to run for a significant period of time, I was able to make a conscious decision to stop focusing on the negatives and visualize instead on daily and progressive steps towards improved physical and mental health.

Key Tip # 1 – Don’t camp out in the land of misery! Keep marching right on through, knowing that every step forward is a step away from negative thoughts and self-pity.

– One thing that I always find helpful whenever I am struggling with any kind of problem, is spending more time reading, learning, and self-reflecting. I like to wake up early and read and/or listen to motivational articles/books/podcasts, as well as journal and put down on paper what I envision and hope for, and then follow through with positive self-declarations.

Key Tip #2 – Use the time that would otherwise be spent training, doing things that advance your personal growth and character.

– My daily goals had to change! To avoid further discouragement, I had to make a shift in goal expectations. Rather than set myself specific and intense training goals, I set myself smaller and more realistic goals, such as “I’m going to do one thing today to maintain my strength,” or, “I’m going to do 60 minutes of non-impact cross-training today.”

Key Tip # 3 – Modify your goals! Make them manageable (given the circumstances you’re faced with), yet still rewarding enough to invoke enough of a positive stimulus and a satisfying outcome.

– Seek professional help! I’m currently under the care of a physiotherapist who has prescribed a set of recovery exercises for me, and depending on how effective or non-effective they are, we may add some acupuncture into the mix of my treatment. For now, I am abstaining from running, doing other cross-training activities that don’t aggravate my injury, foam-rolling, icing, and attempting to do (at least once a day) the rehab exercises that I’ve been given.

Key Tip # 4 – Don’t try to self-manage your recovery process if it’s obvious that your illness/injury is not improving. Better to seek professional guidance and not run, than listen to your over-eager self who will almost always tell you that it’s okay to keep running.

– Nutrition and diet has always been important to me, but it becomes even more so during times of training, racing, illness, and injury. Just as I would normally pay attention to how I fuel my body during peak training phases, I also pay extra attention to my food choices whenever my body is under other types of physical (or emotional) stress.

Key Tip # 5 – Get interested in nutrition! Seek out information on the web and at the library, or consult a dietitian if necessary; learn what foods will help to speed up your recovery. Since my immediate goal is injury/recovery-related, my kitchen efforts at this time are focused on meals that contain a lot of anti-inflammatory foods such as broccoli, salmon, walnuts, flax and chia seeds, blueberries, and ginger and turmeric. On that note, I’ll leave you with one of my anti-inflammatory (and easily portable) breakfast meals:

Turmeric-Ginger Fruit Blend With Oats 

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Ingredients (Serves 4):

1/2 cup coconut milk

1 small banana

1 small apple

3 dried dates

1 tsp ground turmeric

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1 cup oats

Toppings: 

Plain greek yogurt, a couple of pieces of fresh fruit (optional), pumpkin seeds, coconut shreds

 

Directions:

Mix the coconut milk, banana, apple, and spices together in a blender.

In four bowls (or containers with lids), add 1/4 cup dry oats to each. Top with a little water to moisten the oats. Pour the coconut milk mixture in even portions over all four oat bowls. Refrigerate for at least an hour. When you’re ready to eat, top with a dollop of yogurt, some pumpkin seeds and coconut shreds.

Enjoy :)

A Brussels Sprouts Recipe You Might Actually Enjoy

Jannine Myers

Brussels sprouts are one of those odd vegetables that people seem to either love or hate; I personally love them! If you’re in the “indifferent” camp and don’t mind eating them, but won’t go out of your way to buy them because you’re not sure how to cook them or what to pair them with, give this recipe a try.

I made this a couple of nights ago, and not only was it super quick and easy, but it was also really delicious. And on a nutritional note, there are so many reasons why you should include brussels sprouts in your diet, including the following:

– a great source of fiber, manganese, potassium, choline, and B vitamins

– high in Vitamins C and K

– a reasonably good source of protein when compared with other green vegetables

– can potentially fight different types of cancer and improve bone health

[The following recipe directions recommend adding the brussels sprouts last, and cooking for no more than 5 minutes – brussels sprouts are nutritionally optimal when they are not overcooked].

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Ingredients

1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 chopped onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsps Thai red curry paste

3 cups cubed cooked pumpkin, kumara, and potato (to save time, I stopped at the deli section of my local supermarket and picked up a pre-packaged container of already roasted vegetables).

1 can (400g) organic black beans

1 can (400g) coconut milk

brussels sprouts, washed and halved (about 2 cups)

brown rice, cooked (to serve as base for the curry)

Directions

Heat oil in pan, and gently saute the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes. Add the red curry paste and cook for a further 1 or 2 minutes.

Add the cooked vegetables, coconut milk,, and drained black beans. Cover and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes. Add the brussels sprouts and a sprinkle of organic sugar, and stir through. Cook over low heat for a further 5 minutes and remove from the stovetop.

Serve hot over cooked brown rice.

[Recipe by Angela Casley, Viva]

No-Bake Apricot-Oat Slice

Jannine Myers

It hasn’t been much of a summer here in Auckland, but unlike the absence of sunshine there is definitely an abundance of sweet summer “stone” fruits. I’ve been enjoying daily servings of my choice of plums, peaches, nectarines, and apricots, and while I love seeing my fruit basket full, the fruits sometimes ripen faster than we can get around to eating them. When that happens it’s time to get innovative. Yesterday I did just that, and the end result was a No-Bake Apricot-Oat Slice made with pantry ingredients already on hand:

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Ingredients

5 or 6 medium size apricots

1 tsp sugar (optional)

1/4 cup peanut butter with chia seeds

1/4 cup blackstrap molasses

1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk

2 cups organic oats

1/2 cup whey chocolate protein powder

1/4 cup ground flaxseed

A few large chunks of dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao)

Directions

Skin and roughly chop the apricots, then add to a small saucepan. Add enough water to soak the apricots and bring to a slow boil (add a little sugar if you wish). Once boiling, cover and simmer until the fruit softens. Remove the lid, increase to medium heat and allow the water to evaporate. Reduce heat again and add remaining wet ingredients (peanut butter, almond milk, and molasses). Slowly heat the mixture through, then remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

In a separate mixing bowl, add the dry ingredients and mix together. Next, add the apricot mixture to the dry ingredients and combine well. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and lightly grease. Pour the mixture into baking tray and spread out evenly using a spatula.

Melt the dark chocolate and spread over the apricot-oat slice. Refrigerate for at least an hour, then slice and store in an airtight container. Keep refrigerated.

Enjoy with your morning or afternoon tea/coffee, or as a pre-workout snack (and although not as sweet as store-bought granola bars, they’d also be a great, and healthier school snack).

Switch to Japanese Washoku-Style Eating for Health and Longevity

Jannine Myers

This week’s post is a little unusual but I hope you enjoy it. I had lunch recently with some elderly Japanese ladies; these women have been friends of mine for more than ten years and they have become like family to me. I have learned so much from them over the years about Japanese history and culture, and at our lunch they had more to share with me. I learned about this year’s Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival in Okinawa, and how several thousand Okinawans who live abroad returned to Okinawa to reunite with family members and enjoy a joint celebration (read this article for more information about Okinawa’s first wave of overseas migration).

The second thing I learned – which is the subject of this post – is about the traditional Japanese washoku diet. One of the ladies in the group attributes hers and her husband’s good health to the diet that they both follow; I asked her to describe for me what their daily meals typically consist of:

[Note: breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals generally include the same foods with the exception of protein source which alternates between tofu, lean cuts of meat, fish and seafood]

  • Genmai (brown rice) and beans – brown rice is high in fiber and has been linked with reduced cholesterol levels, while beans (of any kind) are really quite an amazing food with their long list of healthy nutrients.
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  • Natto – natto is fermented soybeans that have been soaked, steamed or boiled, then allowed time to ferment after the bacteria Bacillus subtilis has been added. Natto is most definitely an acquired taste, but it’s rich in both macro and micronutrients and it offers an extensive array of health benefits, hence the reason it’s enjoyed by many as a Japanese dietary staple.
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  • Miso soup – miso is also a fermented and nutritionally dense food. Lighter-colored miso is much milder (and generally sweeter) in taste than darker-colored miso, and the lighter colors indicate a shorter fermentation process. It’s probiotic properties aid in intestinal health but also help to build a stronger immune system.
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  • Other daily foods that are added to meals typically include small side servings of various kinds of seasonal vegetables (especially root vegetables) that are prepared and/or cooked in different ways. And of course, a lean protein source is always included.
  • Daily beverages include traditional Japanese teas, but two beverages my friend added to the list were Japanese black vinegar (which contains citric acid that supposedly benefits the brain and immune system by causing an increase in energy production), and hot water infused with fresh ginger and black Okinawan sugar (this beverage is especially helpful during the winter months as it is believed to warm the body from within and also promote better blood circulation).
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    Japanese Black Vinegar

And one last food that I’ve saved till last – since it’s quite interesting and I had never heard of it until now – is black garlic:

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According to my friend, she and her husband add rice and water to their rice cooker, then add several garlic bulbs on top of the rice before cooking. When the rice is done and the setting has moved to “Warm,” they leave the rice cooker unopened and untouched (no changes are made to the setting), for a minimum of two full weeks. The aroma is a little pungent at first, but it eventually settles down and when the garlic bulbs are removed two or three weeks later they look like those in the image above. The garlic cloves are peeled and eaten as is, and apparently taste very sweet and delicious; not bitter at all.

(Click this link and scroll down for a more detailed explanation of black garlic and why it is considered a health food).

Finally, if you’ve never eaten a traditional Japanese washoku meal, here’s an example of how it is typically plated:

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A Protein Powder Solution For Runners On A Budget

Jannine Myers

A question I am sometimes asked is if I can recommend a reasonably priced protein powder. Protein powders seem to inhabit the kitchens of almost anyone who exercises these days, and I can see why since they take the guess work out of calculating recovery and performance-gain nutrition needs. But they’re really quite expensive, and while I can’t recommend a more affordable product, I can suggest a much cheaper alternative.

Powdered milk is an often over-looked nutritional gem. Although not as rich in protein as actual protein powders, it’s still a very good source, and also a great source of magnesium, calcium, and Vitamins A and D. I always have powdered milk in my pantry – admittedly, because I live in a location where typhoons love to stop by – but I actually do use it when I’m out of protein powder. It’s so versatile that it can be used in baking recipes, in smoothies, in oatmeal, and even in sauces and soups.

To help get you started – should you decide to pick up a bag of dry milk powder the next time you’re at the supermarket – here’s a recipe I created that’s quick and easy, and perfectly nourishing after a run or workout.

Milk Powder Protein Cake-In-A-Cup

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Ingredients
4 tablespoons Non-Fat Dry Milk Powder
1 tablespoon Coconut Flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 packet Stevia
1 Egg
1 tablespoon Coconut Milk/Cream
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 tablespoons Frozen Blueberries

Directions

Add all the dry ingredients to a large mug

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In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, coconut milk, and vanilla.

Pour wet ingredients into the mug and mix well with the dry ingredients.

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Add the blueberries and gently fold into the mixture.

Put the mug in a microwave and cook for about 90 seconds.

Remove the mug from microwave and allow to sit for a couple of minutes to cool slightly.

Enjoy your mug cake; you should have a nice blueberry sauce at the bottom of the cup :)

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 Nutrition Information: 265 Calories, 6g Fat, 12 g Carbohydrates (4g Sugar), 9g Protein, 15% Calcium, 10% Iron, 8% Vitamin A

Energy-Loaded Chia-Coco-Walnut Cookies

Jannine Myers

I’m “that person” who never lets any food or ingredient go to waste. I will find a way to use pretty much everything in my refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, even if what needs to be used up doesn’t seem to go with anything else I have on hand. Earlier this week for example, I had about a 1/4 cup red miso paste left, so after a quick scan of my refrigerator I knew I had enough vegetables to make an easy coconut-miso curry. Yesterday, as I was taking something out of the pantry, I saw a few almost-empty packages and jars and decided to get busy baking :)

The end result: these energy-loaded Chia-Coco-Walnut cookies!!! Delicious!

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Here’s how I think I made them (hard to remember since I didn’t follow a recipe, but I’m pretty sure the following ingredients and directions are accurate):

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 1 cup Bob Redmill’s Gluten Free 1-to-1 baking flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 1 cup Bob Redmill’s Gluten Free oats, plus an additional cup pulsed into flour
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup organic coconut sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened finely shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup organic raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup black chia seeds

[You don’t need to use gluten free or organic products; that’s just what I had on hand]

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking trays with parchment paper.
  2. Heat coconut oil and agave nectar in a microwaveable bowl, then mix well and leave to cool slightly.
  3. Combine all remaining ingredients (reserving 1/4 cup oat flour) in a large bowl.
  4. Add the slightly cooled coconut oil and agave to the dry ingredients and mix well. If the mixture is too moist and sticky, add more of the oat flour until you reach a dough-like consistency that holds well.
  5. Roll mixture into balls and place on baking trays and press the balls down using the bottom of a glass.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes. After the cookies have been out of the oven for about 10 minutes, place them on a wire rack to cool completely.

 

Baked Cashew Oatmeal Bars

Jannine Myers

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe, so here’s one that can be enjoyed by everyone in the family. I got the idea actually from a friend’s Facebook page; she’s a fitness and health coach who advocates as I do, a mostly whole foods approach to diet. On her page, she showed a picture of her young son demolishing a baked oatmeal bar, and in her comments she added, “It’s the perfect low glycemic option and high in fiber…….”

Admittedly, my bars probably don’t meed the same standards as hers (she didn’t post her recipe so I have no way of comparing), but I am taking a guess since the glycemic and fiber profile of mine are not quite as favorable. However, on the plus side, they are much more nutritionally dense than commercial bars – they contain less sugar, healthy fats, and 4g of protein per slice -.and they’re perfect for rushed on-the-go breakfast snacks or mid-afternoon energy slumps. Give them a try and see what you think!

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Ingredients

  • ½ cup cashew butter (soak raw cashews in hot water for at least an hour and then pulse into a butter)
  • ¼ cup coconut sugar
  • 1/8 cup raw honey and
  • 1/8 cup agave
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup gluten free rolled oats
  • ¾ cup Bob’s Redmill gluten free one-to-one flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8×8 inch baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the cashew butter, coconut sugar, honey and agave, egg, coconut oil, and vanilla until fully combined.
  3. Add in the oats, flour, salt, and baking soda and mix until combined. Add the chocolate chips and fold into the batter.
  4. Spread the batter into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees.
  5. Allow to cool in the pan, then cut into bars and store in a sealed container (they freeze well too).