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Gone Fishing- Not Really

I need to take a small break from blogging- not because I am bored, frustrated, or “over it”. Actually, I am more in love with Club Dine In! than  when I started. As some of you may know, I have been working on my own start-up for quite sometime now and it’s really crunch time. I am attending the Game Developers Conference for the rest of this week. Though, I will still be active on Twitter and Facebook, so please join me there! I tweet and post about many cool events, news about food and fitness, and links to great recipes, ideas, and innovations.

Pictures taken on my iPhone.

The view from the Kalalau Trail on the Napali Coast, Kauai

 

 

Kauai, seen from our helicopter ride.

Did you know that Club Dine In! is on Twitter and Facebook? Follow @clubdinein for daily health, fitness, and social news, recipes and delicious tips! Join the Club Dine In! community on Facebook to connect with like-minded individuals and find out about exclusive Club Dine! events.

Eating Healthy On The Road (with recipe)

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Road trip and airport/airplane food is usually dense in refine carbohydrates, salt, sugar, and fat and seriously lacking in nutrients. It leaves you bloated, fatigued, and uneasy. Though, a little planning can change all of that so you can enjoy your trip  so much more.

On The Road
Satish and I drove down to Los Angeles a couple of months ago to visit friends and family. We always prefer to drive down so we can have the convenience of our own car, but this time I was dreading the road food more so than ever before. Off of I-5 there isn’t much offered than fast food and a few sporadic fruit stands, so we usually end up making one stop at In-N-Out. I always order a grilled cheese (no meat) and fries. It’s basically just white processed bread with “cheese” and onions, blended with their special sauce. I  physically never felt great after indulging in that “food”.  Maybe, the experience is much different for people who eat the beef patties. Well, I just couldn’t do it anymore. The feeling of being bloated and fatigue..especially since I have been doing so good with eating fresh, clean food and working out. I find that once you have cleansed yourself of processed food, it’s really hard to eat food made out of chemicals. So, I made our own food! Homemade, gourmet sandwiches to go! The drive was only 5-6 hours long, so we did not need a whole lot of food. I also had packed unsalted, mixed nuts and tortilla chips (Satish loves them). We always travel with our stainless steel water bottles filled with water.  We did stop by a Starbucks for coffee/tea and a bathroom break.

In The Air
Recently, we went to Kauai for our vacation. I couldn’t have been more excited about the trip, but the airport and airplane food had me a little more than turned off. I have been trying to keep up with my new year’s resolution and I do not think vacations are an excuse to eat highly processed food. Plus, there is nothing pleasurable about it to me. I also didn’t want to leave a trail of plastic behind just for my convenience. (Processed food comes packaged in plastic). Especially, since most places and facilities do not recycle or properly dispose these materials. A couple of days ahead of our trip, I made savory muffins (recipe below) for us to take on the plane. They keep well and are filling. We had also packed our own trail mixes and Lara Bars.

Game Plan
Plan: Make sure to eat a decent meal before heading out to the airport or on a long car ride to avoid eating horrible airport food or going through the drive-thru.

-Pack your own food: fruits, sandwiches, sun-dried tomatoes,  nuts, and carrots are good choices.

-If you are driving, you can pack a cooler so the food options open up, especially if the road trip is during the warmer months. Salads can be a great, light option for the road and should not wilt in the cooler.

-Bring  water in a reusable steel/glass bottle. Fill up several reusable water bottles before heading out on the road trip (major no-no for airplanes) and you can even spruce up your water with a sprig of mint or citrus. Just squeeze a few drops of fresh lemon or sweet orange into your water bottles for a refreshing taste. You will save money and plastic from ending up in the ocean. When you run out of water, buy the largest container of water and refill your reusable bottles.  One large plastic container does less damage than 36 individual, plastic bottles. Also, if safe-drinking water is available, fill up from the sink or fountain. Also, many water-filter made for traveling.

– Do some research and try to find out if there will be better choices while driving or at the airport. This is especially helpful for longer flights and road trips.

– Relax. After all you are on vacation, and as long as you are not making too many exceptions and staying active, don’t worry about it!

Muffins On The Go Savory Muffins
Olives and Sun-Dried Tomato Muffins
I made these muffins for our recent trip to Kauai. I added the pinch of turmeric to act as natural preservative, but it did not change the flavor. I like to use sun-dried tomatoes that are not packed in oil/solution. To soften the sun-dried tomatoes, I cover them in hot water for 10 minutes before using them. These keep well in the refrigerator for 7-10 days. They also freeze well.

Ingredients
Butter, for greasing
1 cup baby spinach, washed, well-drained and chopped
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped *see headnote
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
2 tablespoons dried basil
3 tablespoons pine nuts
3/4 cup  freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup mild goat cheese, crumbled
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup whole milk
2 cups whole grain flour
4 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
black pepper, freshly ground
pinch of turmeric (optional)

Method

1. Preheat oven to 400F, with rack in the top third. Use the butter to grease a 12-hole muffin pan and set aside.

 

I buy sun-dried tomatoes that are not packed in solution or oil and soften them by soaking them in hot water for 10-15 minutes.

2. In a large mixing bowl, add the spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, two-thirds of the olives, dried basil, pine nuts, Parmesan, and two-thirds of the goat cheese. Gently mix together using a spatula.

 

You can use a variety of olives, but Kalamata works the best in the muffins.

3. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and milk together and add to the sun-dried tomato mix.

4. In another bowl, mix flour, turmeric, salt, black pepper, and baking powder together. Slowly add the flour mixture to the sun-dried tomato  mixture. Fold together with a spatula just until the batter comes together. Be careful not to over mix.

Be careful to not over mix the batter; it should be a bit lumpy.

5. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan, filling each hole 3/4 full.  Top each muffin with a bit of the remaining olives and goat cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the tops and sides of the muffins are golden, and the muffins have set up completely. Let cool for a couple of minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack.

What are your healthy tips and suggestions for road trips and airports?

Did you know that Club Dine In! is on Twitter and Facebook? Follow @clubdinein for daily health, fitness, and social news, recipes and delicious tips! Join the Club Dine In! community on Facebook to connect with like-minded people and find out about exclusive Club Dine! events.

Farmer’s Market Find: In Kauai

Last week I was in Kauai, one of the prettiest islands with the richest soil. Even though people told me not to expect much from the food, I couldn’t help but think about all of the tropical delicacies. I am obsessed with mangoes and papayas. Sadly, they are rather fragrant-less and tasteless by the time they get onto my local grocery store shelf. Alas, it’s still winter in Kauai, so mango season has yet to begin. Anyway, I didn’t do any research about farmer’s markets before going and just wanted to be on vacation. Though, I just couldn’t help myself…the first place we stopped at after landing was in a town called Kilauea. We heard a quite a lot about the Fish Market and we were starving, having resisted airport/airplane food. After our delicious meal, we decided to take a stroll around the town. Then I spotted it- a cotton bag full of fresh leafy greens and brightly colored food. My radar was on (it’s always on) and a few feet a head of us was a sign about a farmer’s market every Thursday at 4:30PM. We looked at our watch and it was close to 6PM. I briskly walked towards the gym parking lot full of trucks and produce. I started casually observing the food and snapping pictures. I noticed that most of the vendors had already sold their goods and were packing up. A little bewildered since it was only less than two hours into the the farmer’s market, I asked a friendly farmer (Josh). He told me that when he started that day he had a high stack of everything and that we need to get to the market early to get the best stuff. People line up. I was in disbelief and thought about how our farmer’s markets go on for 4-5 hours long, and sometimes, the farmers have to pack up what they unpacked.

A buyer just left money after taking a bunch of carrots for himself. There is so much trust between the consumer and farmer.

This funky looking fruit, breadnut, is hardly eaten by the people.

Brown avocados and leftover citrus.

Waipa (Hanalei) Market

After a lazy lunch of deli, vegetarian sandwiches on the beach, we started driving back to our hotel. Then I spotted a sign and started tapping on the window out of excitement, asking Satish to stop. There was a farmer’s market about to start! So we were directed by a coordinator into an organized parking lot and I just saw hordes of people walking towards an imaginary rope. This rope kept them from the farmers. It was about 20 minutes before the market officially started and there had to have been at least 100 people waiting. There was even a tented waiting area (it was really hot and sunny). I was so blown away. It was just amazing. Before the market opened, the market manager gave a small speech on the market’s purpose. As soon as the market opened, people rushed to their favorite vendors making quick transactions and moving onto the next. I had the pleasure of just enjoying the market. I didn’t bother to talk to any of the farmers; they were too busy. Though the frenzy died down after 20 minutes and half of the shoppers left. I did see Josh and chatted with him for a couple of minutes. He had an amazing selection of fresh peanuts and jeweled-colored carrots.

Every Tuesday at 2PM

Look at this gorgeous color of the organic Oyster Mushrooms! -Kauai Fungi

I love fresh pineapples, but cannot stand canned or imported pineapple. The taste really turns me off. -Alena Farms (Waipake)

The island grows and harvest it's own chocolate. Dark chocolate contains many flavonoids.

 

Satish actually found this mango being sold at the market. It weight about 3lbs and was absolutely juicy good. It made for a fabulous breakfast the next morning.

We walked out with  a slice of macadamia nut-coconut pie, large mango, tender coconut, and a chocolate bar. I am waiting to share the chocolate with my two, chocolate-loving girlfriends.

 

Did you know that Club Dine In! is on Twitter and Facebook? Follow @clubdinein for daily health, fitness, and social news, recipes and delicious tips! Join the Club Dine In! community on Facebook to connect with like-minded individuals and find out about exclusive Club Dine! events.

Meatless Monday in Kauai

Before coming to Kauai, I was told that it’s hard for vegetarians to eat here. Though, I was very skeptical of those notions. Kauai is known as the Garden Island- lush and tropical with rich soil. So far, every place we have been to offers pretty solid options for vegetarians. We also found many restaurants the specialize in local produce and for vegetarians/vegans/gluten-free diets. Also, there is at least one farmers market each day throughout the island!

I will try to update my meals with pictures of what I eat today. Hopefully it will inspire you to seek out your farmers market or the fresh produce section at the grocery store.


Banana Joes Fruit Stand- breakfast of fresh fruit smoothies and macadamia nuts.

Meatless Mondays: Celebrity Chef Support

Last Monday, Satish and I choose to have dinner at Mario Batali’s Pizzeria Mozza in West Hollywood because of his signature “MM” dishes. He is among the few chefs who has embraced the campaign and encourages Americans to make vegetables more of a “star” on their plates. I’ve read many (negative) comments and opinions on Chef Batali’s MM promotion as vain. I think he is genuine and understands the point of MM. Quoting Batali, “Most people in the U.S eat way more meat than is good for them or the planet. Asking everyone to go vegetarian or vegan isn’t a realistic or attainable goal, but we can focus on a more plant- based diet…that’s why I’m such a big believer in the Meatless Monday movement.”

Pizzeria Mozza is understated in the world of glamorous and over the top restaurants in Los Angeles. It’s a place you would go to have a relaxing meal with your friends or family, or just by yourself. Our servers were very kind, knowledgeable, and accepting of MM. My expectations were at best neutral I didn’t think the staff would care that we practice MM. I was expecting one vegetarian option and a nonchalant response. Not that we were looking for accolades or a badge, but it’s rare to find people who actually understands the whats and whys about our request. We unfolded the large paper menu and were overwhelmed by all the options. We just let our server tell us what the vegetarian options for the day were (usually at any resto there are only 3-4 things). He started out by apologizing that the signature MM dish was all sold out and then rattled off at least 10 vegetarian options!  We ordered the Cauliflower Friti and Squash Blossom (obsession) Pizza, wanting to save room for dessert. To be honest, if it weren’t so late at night and if we didn’t have an appetizer at Rick BaylessRed O Restaurant beforehand, I would have ordered at least 3 other things. How can I say this without using childish words like delicious or yummy?! The pizza crust was perfect, the squash blossoms laid out beautifully, the mozzarella impeccable. The friti was delicious and hearty. The best part was the Mozza Caprese that the chef brought out for us: slow roasted tomatoes on the vine with mozzarella and pesto. It was the best tomato dish of its kind I have ever had. I would put it in the top 1o list of the best things I’ve ever ate. I was so inspired that the next day I bought all of the ingredients and tried to replicate it for the family. I would like to thank Nancy Silverton for introducing me to a new way of pairing mozzarella and tomatoes.

Mozza Caprese- high quality mozzarella, tomatoes on the vine, basil peso

My mouth is watering just looking at these pictures!

Cauliflower Friti- a bit oily, but still delicious

Squash Blossom Pizza- embracing local flavors and seasonality

Squash blossoms, tomato & burrata- scrumptious and sensual

Many of Batali's restaurants will designate dishes as Meatless Monday options using his new MM logo

I highly recommend Pizzeria Mozza and they offer plenty of healthy options (vegetarian and non-vegetarian) to keep you on the track of wellness and support local farms.  Club Dine In! approved.

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Farmer’s Market Find: Santa Monica vs San Francisco

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Santa Monica

We spent the Labor Day Weekend holiday in Santa Monica/Los Angeles. Los Angeles is very special to me, since that is where I went to college, found independence, got my first job, formed lifelong relationships, discovered Whole Foods… Satish also has family in Santa Monica (my favorite part of LA). Occasionally, on Sunday mornings I would lazily make my way over to the Main Street farmer’s market, listen to the live band, people watch, and nibble on freshly baked pastries. It was a retreat from the pressures of post-college life and recovery from a late Saturday night in Hollywood. As a more educated farmer’s market aficionado, I was really excited to revisit this FM by Venice Beach, but we opted instead to go to the LA Times Food and Wine Celebration on Sunday. Luckily, we were still in town on Wednesday, so I made sure to go the FM in downtown Santa Monica. This FM is for true cooks, offering all sorts of seasonal vegetables, fruits, eggs, meats, and artisanal goods. Maybe I never paid attention, but it was the first time I noticed grass-fed, free-range lamb and goat being sold at a FM. Similar to the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market, all of the local celebrity chefs pick up their produce here and has been named one of the best markets in America by Travel + Leisure. The almost 30 year old Wednesday SMFM is expansive and has a waitlist for new farmer’s to come in and sell their products. The FM is also beautiful, set just a couple of blocks from the Pacific Ocean and in the heart of a hip, outdoor shopping district. The market is also divided into sections: “Organic”, “Non-Organic”, and “Non-Certified.” I felt that the farmers/vendors were friendlier than they are in San Francisco.  Also, the prices were very reasonable (a lot cheaper than SF)! The climate is slightly warmer in Southern California, and I noticed more varieties of peppers and tomatoes. The squash blossoms were to swoon for! I have not seen squash blossoms like that here in San Francisco. Also, thin asparagus, pistachios, raw dates, purple artichokes, lobster mushrooms were among the celebrity produce spotted!

Farm fresh eggs are in high-demand! All sold-out.

Pinot Grapes- so heavenly!

Valencia Grapefruit

Raw milk is really good, even for those who are lactose-intolerant. Really good and pure.

Really beautiful, purple artichokes.

Oh fresh, delicate squash blossoms, I wish you were naturally available year-round

Lobster Mushrooms I had a filling dish made of these at Sitka and Spruce in Seattle on a Meatless Monday. I couldn't believe there was no meat in the dish and really happy to see them grown in California.

Sitka & Spruce, Seattle - lobster mushroom and tomatoes

San Francisco

After a two-week hiatus, I am so happy to return to my FM at Fort Mason. Apples are already making an appearance and a few straggler berries are still around.  We are at the peak of our summer, but fall is just around the corner. I am a little sad, because the “summer” just seemed to pass by and I haven’t got my share of stone fruit, squash blossoms, berries… Still, all of these fruits and vegetables are tastier than ever. The melons had a late start this summer, but they are so very sweet and fragrant. Until this year, I didn’t know there were so many varieties of melons. Seriously, I only knew of one variety of cantaloupe, red watermelon (seed/seedless) and honeydew. Today alone, I spotted at least 7 different types of different melons. It’s truly amazing. Tomatoes are still going strong and being sold for much cheaper than two weeks ago. Some organic varieties were being sold for $1/lb. (You know I filled my bag with as many as I could!) Check out tomorrow’s Meatless Monday’s posting about an delicious, simple, and creative way to cook tomatoes.

The last week for Blueberries! Slowly saying goodbye to summer...

These are how prunes look before they are dried/turned into the infamous juice

With wine country so close by, it just makes sense to have winemakers selling at farmer's markets.

eat summer tomatoes like candy!

local raw honey

Kombucha and Indian Curry Squash- signs of fall

I love cooking with these Padrone Peppers- they are mild, add subtle flavor, and brighten up any dish.

Summer squash

Asian-pears- sweet, juicy, crisp and they are back. 🙂

Mystery Apples-early varietal

Dried marigold petals and lemon-basil- essentials in my pantry

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Meatless Monday: Traveling

It’s a Monday and we are traveling, away from the comfort of our own kitchen or known restaurants. I have been a vegetarian on each Monday and Tuesday for the last 20 something years and will always be- no exceptions.  “Meatless Mondays” maybe a hot trend, but it’s a lifestyle for me. I have canoed, hiked, camped and swam in a rainforest in Venezuela, eating beans, rice, and tomatoes while everyone else ate rabbit. (It was a Monday-Tuesday). I never felt low on energy or deprived. Of course, you do not have to adhere to MM as strictly as I do. I am just saying that it can be done!  A little planning goes a long way for your palate.

1. It’s usually better to dine at an ethnic restaurant such as Indian or Thai, as options are endless.
2. You can call the restaurant ahead and let them know of your dietary restrictions. The chef can make something for you with what they have on hand or can be realistic about meeting your needs.
3. Visit a local market/grocery store and pick up a few ingredients to make something quick and easy, such as a tomato and cheese sandwich.
4. If practical, bring your own food with you.

Fortunately, there are plenty of healthy options in the Northwest for vegetarians. Oh, I ate well on this trip!

Hearty Portebello Mushroom Sandwich- Portage Bay, Seattle

Green waxed beans with tomatoes- Sitka & Spruce, Seattle

Farro- Tilth, Seattle

Homemade Chai at Prado Cafe -Commercial Drive Vancouver

Vegetarian Tacos- grilled egglplants, roasted peppers, garlic and white beans

Didn't even miss the meat in this one- Havana in Commercial Drive, Vancouver

Tostones with chile sauce- Havana in Commercial Drive, Vancouver