Friday, August 30, 2013

Go Bananas for Banana Bread!

Bananas are both versatile and delicious! You can incorporate bananas into just about any meal. Slice them into your oatmeal, yogurt, or smoothie for a nutritious breakfast. My go-to breakfast is oatmeal with a scoop of peanut butter and sliced bananas. We're all familiar with the PBB (peanut butter and banana sandwich). You can even throw bananas into a salad. Now that school is back in session, you can bring a banana on-the-go for a healthy snack:  1 banana + Justin's Individual Peanut Butter Squeeze Pack.

Have you ever bought too many bananas and they turned brown before you even got through half a bunch? Well, don't ever throw them away! Over-ripe bananas are the perfect ingredient for baked cookies, muffins, banana splits, and banana bread! Yeah...good old fashioned banana bread.  

This nutrient-dense fruit fuels your body to meet the needs of your active lives.  Did you know that one banana provides 13% of the daily recommended amount of potassium? Fruits packed with potassium and fiber have been shown to decrease risk of heart disease, stroke, and lower blood pressure. 

Back to the banana bread. My lovely sister, Brittany, created one heck of a banana bread recipe. My suggestion? Once it comes out of the oven, smear on some smooth peanut butter.  

Brittany's Banana Bread

2 bananas, mashed
2 cups almond meal
2 eggs
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup raisins
2 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp honey
3 dashes cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, mash the bananas.
3. Combine the almond meal and eggs with the bananas. Mix well.
4. Add the walnuts, raisins, cocoa powder, honey, and cinnamon. Mix. Mix. Mix.
5. Pour banana mixture into a greased 5.5" x 7" loaf pan and let cook for approximately 40 minutes.

Makes 10 servings.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tuscan Bean & Spinach Pasta

This authentic, Italian-style pasta is perfect for a weekend dinner with friends or as a quick meal after work. Substitute the spinach for broccoli rabe, the chicken broth for vegetable broth, or pinto beans for garbanzo beans. Buon appetito!

1 box whole wheat pasta
1 (15 oz) can pinto beans
4 cups spinach, cooked
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

1. Fill a medium pot with water and bring to a boil.
2. In a large sauce pan, add olive oil and garlic. Let cook until golden brown.
3. Add onion and let cook until translucent.
4. Pour in chicken broth and stir. 
5. Add spinach and beans to sauce pan, then throw in the spices.
6. When the water reaches a boil, add pasta and let cook until al dente.
7. Combine pasta and sauce in a large platter. Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

Makes 6 hearty servings

Friday, August 23, 2013

{Restaurant Review} Casa Bianca

I come from a long line of Italians.  Growing up that meant a lot of "sauce." Let me tell you, nobody can make a better penne alla vodka than Salvatore (a.k.a Dad). Something else we Italians make extremely well!  I don't know about you, but I think pizza may be one of the best creations in the world. In the words of Dean Martin, "When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie...that's amore!"

This week I visited a restaurant that has been around for 50 years called, Casa Bianca. As soon as you step inside, you feel as if you're at home. This is a classic old-fashioned Italian restaurant.  Mi piace I'italiano. (I like Italian). Back home in New York, we are spoiled with amazing Italian food. There is an Italian restaurant on every corner. Here, in Los Angeles, it's a little bit different. It's actually hard to find a delicious homemade sauce or slice of pizza.

 I am all about the ambiance when I go out to eat and Casa Bianca met all of my standards.  The tables are decorated with a red and white checkered table cloth and celebrity photos and autographs are hung on the walls. At 10 p.m, this restaurant was packed with people. The staff was friendly and accommodating. Nobody was in a rush to leave. Why would you want to when you're already at home?

Anyways, back to the food.  Casa Bianca offers an extensive menu- appetizers, pasta, salads, sandwiches, pizza and dessert. The pizza was molto buono! Mamma mia!  The best part about Casa Bianca's menu is that they offer whole wheat crust. This is very unusual, even in New York.  Let's just say when I saw this, my face lit up. I ordered one whole wheat pizza, New York style (of course), with sundried tomatoes and eggplant.  Add a glass of wine and I am one happy Noms McGee.  And yes, this pizza did meet my New Yorker expectations.  The crust was crispy, the sauce was perfectly seasoned, and topped off with just the right amount of cheese.

If you're in the Eagle Rock area, check out Casa Bianca.  Mangia!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Top Tips for Healthy Eating in College

You're all grown up, heading off to college. You're finally free to make your own decisions.  The next 4 years are going to be the best years of your life! We've all heard it before and yes, this is true... but there are some things to watch out for, like doing laundry, feeding yourself, and the dreaded "freshman 15." This post isn't meant to scare you, but to make you aware of the choices you will have to make as you enter adulthood. It's easy to fall out of a healthy lifestyle when you're at school and have so many different influences around you. Here are my favorite tips to follow when life gets a little bit tricky:

Sabra Hummus To-go1. Stock up on snacks!

When I was a freshman, I kept a bin of snacks under my bed.  Having healthy snacks readily available while you're studying and pulling all-nighters will make take-out and "midnight breakfasts" look less appealing. Mini bags of popcorn (no butter) are a personal favorite and a great option if you have a microwave.  Sabra's hummus snack cups and edamame are also packed with protein and fiber to help keep you fuller longer.  (Trust me, you don't want your stomach grumbling during a 3 hour lecture).

2. Move it or lose it!

You heard me! I know, I know, you have to study and party all in the same day.  How on Earth will everything get done? Fitting in time for physical activity is a crucial aspect of a healthy lifestyle.  Whether it's in the morning, between classes, or after you've completed all your work, we all have to do it.  You'll feel better too!  In my planner, I would schedule in a time to make it to the gym at least 5 days a week.  Set a reminder in your phone, do whatever it is that will motivate you to get up and get moving!  This was my favorite time of the day, where I had time to myself, completely free to relax my mind.  Stress doesn't exist and you're away from all of your roommate's drama.

Me, on a rock climbing trip with the Outdoors Club freshman year.

3. Visit the Vegetarian section at the cafeteria.

College dining halls can be overwhelming. There are 5 different sections offering a variety of cuisines. Most students grab a tray and grab a little of everything. Sure that sounds like a good idea, but this is where things can get dangerous.  You can fit a lot of food on the tray- lots and lots of food! So, my advice...skip the tray and just pick up a plate.  One single plate that is. To start, choose lean meats and fish. Next, some brown rice perhaps? Is half of your plate full? Good. Now, what vegetarian options are there? Fill the rest of your plate with your favorite vegetable or take a stroll over to the salad bar.

See, nothing to worry about! This is easy. Follow these tips and you're guaranteed to get straight A's!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Swirl Pancakes

Good Morning! It's time for my favorite meal of the day. Breakfast! On occasion, I like to break an old habit, like the everyday fruit and yogurt bowl. Today, I'm serving up a stack of whole wheat pancakes. 

Whole grains play an important role in a healthy diet.  Substituting refined grains for whole grains comes with significant health benefits. Studies show that consuming at least 3 servings of whole grains daily are associated with decreased risk of chronic diseases, such as, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and decreased blood pressure levels. 

Every baked good can be translated into something wholesome and delicious.  

Try this delectable pancake recipe using whole wheat flour...

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Swirl Pancakes

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup skim milk
1 egg
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp honey
1/4 tsp salt

1. Heat a large skillet to medium-high heat. Lightly coat the pan with olive oil.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, milk and eggs. Mix well.
3. Add sugar, olive oil, raisins, cinnamon, honey and salt.  Continue to mix thoroughly.
4. Spoon out pancake batter onto the hot skillet.  When the pancakes start to bubble, flip them over and let cook until golden brown.

Serve with maple syrup. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Restaurant Review: Green Earth

Last week, I visited Green Earth, a 100% vegan restaurant. This cozy, environmentally friendly restaurant, located in Pasadena is dedicated to reducing our carbon footprint. Many people are turned off by the thought of vegan cuisine. However, Green Earth offers an extensive, Asian-inspired menu filled with endless choices for all taste palates.

With options like, quinoa sushi, chick'un sandwiches, burritos, and roasted beet salads...let's just say I wanted to order the whole menu! Since I'm a server myself, I couldn't keep my waiter standing there all night waiting for me to make a decision.  So, I chose the "Three Flavors" rice bowl. Brown rice, pumpkin, eggplant, tofu, sweet basil, red and green pepper, and king oyster mushrooms with chef's sauce. Tell me that doesn't sound delicious!  This dish had the perfect blend of vegetables and flavors.  Maybe one day I will try to recreate this recipe myself.

The night didn't end there.  A girl has to treat herself to dessert once in a while. The dessert menu consisted of organic carrot cake, chocolate cake, almond chocolate cake, cheesecake, chocolate cheesecake, and thai banana rolls with ice cream. This is one restaurant that should offer a sampler menu option.  Chocolate cheesecake it is.  So creamy, so delicious, and so chocolatey.

For those of you who don't know what exactly it means to be "Vegan," I have all the answers for you...

What is a vegan diet?

According to the Vegetarian Resource Group, vegans do not consume any animal products including eggs and dairy.  In addition, vegans won't use animal-based products for clothing or hygiene purposes.

Why follow a vegan diet?

Most people choose a vegan lifestyle for ethical or environmental purposes.  For example, some don't want to support the meat industry due to inhumane practices. According to the Environmental Working Group, "If everyone in the U.S. chose a vegetarian diet it would be the equivalent of taking 46 million cars off the road, or not driving 555 billion miles." This statistic is just mind-blowing!

Meatless Monday

Start by going meatless one day a week.  Join the Meatless Monday movement to reduce your risk of chronic disease and reduce your carbon footprint.

Take the Pledge to go Meatless Monday.

Visit your local vegan restaurant and share your thoughts here on Noms McGee!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Open-Faced Spinach and Egg Sandwiches

This open-faced egg sandwich is a healthy alternative to your traditional egg and cheese sandwich.  It is perfectly seasoned and styled with a nutritious dose of vitamins and minerals.Try this recipe for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup onions, chopped
2 cups spinach
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 eggs, poached
2 slices part-skim mozzarella cheese
2 slices whole wheat bread, toasted

1. Fill a large sauce pan with water.  Place pan over medium-high heat until it reaches a simmer.
2. Meanwhile, add olive oil to a medium sized pan over medium heat.  Add onions and let cook until translucent.
3. Add spinach to the pan with oil and onions.  Let cook for 5 minutes. Season with turmeric and black pepper.
5. When the water comes to a simmer, crack open eggs and let cook until tops are white.
6. Place a slice of cheese on top of toasted bread.  Pile on the spinach and onions.  Then, top it all off with an egg. Serve.

Makes 2 sandwiches

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

New Weekly Post: Restaurant Reviews

Hey guys! Sorry it’s been a little while! Anyways, I thought of this great idea.  Here, in Highland Park, Los Angeles I am in the midst of a growing community.  Between Highland Park and its neighboring towns, Eagle Rock and Pasadena, there are more options, more opportunities, and more freedom! Like, the option to choose something meatless, or the opportunity to try something new, and the freedom to eat whatever you want!  Do you see where I’m going with this? This community is filled with American, ethnic, vegan and vegetarian restaurants.  There are a variety of cuisines on every corner.  So, this is where my great idea comes in…

Each week a restaurant review will be featured on Noms McGee.  We will travel around the world together by eating GOOD food. Good, healthy food that is. The first restaurant I will write about is called, Green Earth, Vegan Cuisine. I will be visiting this restaurant tonight with a camera and notepad in hand. The menu is really exceptional.  Have you ever had “quinoa sushi”? I know you’re just as excited to try it as I am. The main course section of the menu includes the “rice corner,” “pasta lovers,” and “burgers and sandwiches.”  All of which are made of meatless ingredients such as, chick’un breasts, soy steak strips, soy patties, and tofu.  I am the absolute worst at making decisions whenever I go out to eat.  With so many options on this menu I better warn the servers.

I want to extend this opportunity out to all of you. If you live in the Los Angeles area and have any recommendations send me a shout out or if you have any restaurants featuring good, wholesome food in your neighborhood, go ahead and write about it.  Send me an email or comment with your ideas and I will have the pleasure of posting your review right here on Noms McGee.  

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