Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Red Lentil Soup with Lemon and Kale

I started 2017 quite slow most especially after coming back from Manila a few days ago. Last December was busy and I didn't really have the time to do some tidying and organizing so I left the house for Manila in a disaster state.

When John, Nate and I returned on the night of January 3, I would the say same thing despite traveling to Manila and Cebu back and forth twice a year - can I have another vacation? I was so lazy  to do anything. I'm not just on vacation mode, my status is actually on hibernate mode. Baby number two is on the way and all I want to do is lie down and sleep, however, it's not always possible when you have a toddler on hand. 

I would always like to start fresh every year even if I don't have to make list of  new year's resolutions but there are certain goals that I want to accomplish at the beginning of the month of the new year and that is to organize the home and declutter anything we don't need. The most important place is probably the kitchen and that includes the pantry, the chiller and the freezer. With no time to clean and tidy up everything last month, I am certain that there would be a lot of food items that I need to toss out or give away. Not only that, there are some ingredients that I need used up first like some grains and legumes I have in the pantry or the frozen fruits I have in the freezer. 

After so much baking done last December, I wanted to cook for a change. We rarely have home-cooked meals last month because I didn't have the time to cook at home and that includes eating out with friends and family for the holidays. I know John misses simple and healthy, home-cooked meals and one of the things that really satisfies him is a good bowl of hot soup with his meal. This basic red lentil soup brightened up with lemon juice is simple, quick and satisfying. 

Red Lentil Soup with Lemon and Kale 

Serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1 cup red lentils
1 medium carrot
4-5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
juice of a lemon
more salt to taste

To garnish:
200 grams kale, washed trimmed and shredded
red chili pepper flakes
smoked paprika
extra virgin olive oil

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and a bit of salt, stir to combine and sweat until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the garlic and stir for another 2 minutes to release the aroma. Stir in the tomato paste, cumin and salt and cook for another minute. Add the lentils, carrots and stock. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low, cover and let simmer until the lentils are tender, about 20-25 minutes.

Puree half of the soup in a blender and blend until smooth, then add it back to the pot. The soup will be chunky. Add more stock if the soup is too thick. Reheat the soup, then stir in the the lemon juice and season to taste. Turn off the heat and cover while your prepare the garnish. Saute the kale in a little olive oil until softened but a bit crisp at the edges. 

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with kale, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle of the red chili pepper flakes and smoked paprika. Serve with crusty bread, if desired.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Wedding Day Shape-Up: Nourishing Snacks

It’s wedding season once again and many brides who are getting married this June or this year are really trying their best to look great, whether that’s getting in shape or eating well for glowing skin.

There are so many ways you can stay healthy and nourished on your big day but let’s focus on snacks for now. The secret to healthy snacking is to plan ahead of time and making sure they are within reach. Think of it has having a mini take-out section at your own home. Second, it’s important to focus on high protein snacks because they help you control your total calorie intake. So, stock your chiller, freezer and pantry with healthy and nutrient-dense foods, that way it’s easier to fill up your body with nutrients than empty calories.

My struggle 3 years ago was to really find the time to make healthy snacks or even meals for myself and my fiancé. Going out to eat, which is what we usually do is an option but it would save you a lot of money if you do your own.

Below is a great graphic from Nuts.com on how to reach your wedding goals



Either you eat them as is, as toast with high protein bread or use them in your protein smoothie and dip. Avocado is everyone’s favorite because of its satiety value.


My husband loves dips such as hummus, tapenade, baba ghanoush, white bean dip, labneh, spiced carrot dip, yogurt spinach or black bean dip just to name a few. They are great to have on stock in the chiller and make sure if you have some crackers on hand such as ancient grain cracker or seed crackers along with some cut-up fruits and vegetables.

Chia Pudding Parfait or Overnight Chia and Oats

Pumpkin Seed Chia Pudding (Photo by Nuts.com)

This one doubles up as a snack or breakfast. They can be made ahead of time and stored in the chiller for a week days. The ratio is 1 part oats to 2 parts liquid plus extra liquid for the chia seeds. You can use any milk you like. The simplest procedure is to combine them in a jar with a healthy sweetener and let it sit overnight. To make it more fancy, you can fold in some dried fruits, seeds or nuts, then top with fresh fruits the following day. It's also a great vehicle to add flavor into the mixture such as roasted pumpkin, apple or bananas, cherry, mango or blueberry puree or even matcha and chocolate.

Fruit and Nut Bar/ Granola

Almond Granola 

If having granola with Greek yogurt and fruit is too common for you then make them into bars. It can be filled with oat or quinoa flakes or just pure fruit and nuts. A raw energy bar is made with pureed dates and nut butter as a binding agent and they are molded into a baking pan, chilled, before cutting into bar or just form them into balls. Sometimes they are baked for a crunchier texture. Here’s a great homemade granola bar recipe.

Miso Soup 

Something unusual for your snacks but it’s a great tummy filler. Miso soup with wakame, tofu and green onions is a classic but adding some poached eggs and a bit of green vegetable such as asparagus, broccoli or watercress would be a great way to ease up your hunger. I usually skip the dashi stock and use water or chicken stock if it’s available. The miso paste is quite tasty enough.


Definitely more soups. I love to make a big batch of soup and freeze the rest for emergency purposes. They are very helpful to satisfy your cravings and hunger giving you lots of nourishment and of course satisfaction. Pair it with ancient grain/seeded crackers or roasted chickpeas as your croutons for added texture. Some kale chips would be a great accompaniment too. One of my favorites is the French green lentil soup or roasted tomato soup.

Cheesy Kale Chips

Lettuce Wraps 

This is another dish that can be made in advance for your lunch or dinner but it can also be a great snack in smaller portion. Cooked protein such as grilled chicken or shrimp, some quinoa or bacon tempeh is wrap in romaine, lollo rosa leaves or even kale leaves then topped with more raw vegetables and herbs. Don’t forget the sauce. It can be a pesto sauce, nut sauce, a vinaigrette or a yogurt sauce. The sky’s the limit and there are so many variations you can make. This a fresh alternative to using tortilla wrap as well as the leafy vegetables are hats-off higher in nutrients.

 Roasted Chickpeas 

Roasted Golden Chickpeas (Photo by Nuts.com)
It’s like eating nuts or seeds but something different. They are high in protein and low in fat. If you love eating nuts and seeds for snacks, you would love roasted chickpeas for a change. They can also be flavored in so many different ways like you would do with nuts and seeds.

Now, that you know what to eat, there's no more excuse not to have them on hand. Each snack has many possibilities, but for now, let's keep the preparation simple and you can explore more recipes after your wedding day. Remember it's not a diet but a lifestyle that you will bring with you for a lifetime. Don't forget to read about healthy snacks and high protein snacks  at Nuts.com for more information, recipes and idea. Finally, make sure you have inner peace because what's inside will eventually come out. So smile, relax and enjoy your wedding day.

Are there any healthy snacks you would like to add?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

When Life Begins at 40

God's message to me on my birthday. Around 12:30am May 11. Psalm 66:12

Six months ago, I told myself that I would get back in shape and take a photo on my birthday with a toned body. It never happened. I got "pregnant" last January but later found out last March that I had a blighted ovum and had to undergo D & C last April. After D& C, I felt that I'm still having pregnancy symptoms carried over for the month of May. I also got oven burns twice on my arm while baking banana and zucchini bread. Now I have more stories to tell to my future grandchildren on how I got those burns. Also, I am still not over with the unnecessary hospital bill  asking God why it happened. So, I guess, turning 40 is not really exciting after all. Yet, despite all those challenges that my husband and I faced for the past few months, I know the big 40 has a bigger meaning than just having aches and pains all over your body. At this age, being able to conceive is so much harder and more difficult to handle. I may never have  my pre-pregnancy body back and my energy levels may not be the same as before. To give me a bit of credit, I was working out a lot before and I only realized now that I could have been a teacher in the fitness industry. Pilates would be my choice. I ended up cooking more and even eating more and more instead of being physically active. Muscles sag if you don't use it and I can't even do a full push up anymore not even one. So, it only means starting all over again every single day.

God's word a few weeks after my D&C. Always a comfort to read the Word of God. 1Peter 5:14

They said 40 is the new 30 and I would believe that I look younger than my age. That depends on the type of lighting being used though or maybe I'm just in denial that I'm halfway through my lifespan here on earth. I actually became lazy doing workouts and just prefer to read a book or take a nap after putting my little one to sleep. The thought of working out came to mind but I keep putting it off for tomorrow. In other words, I procrastinate. I have a lot of reasons not to do it. As a stay-at-home mom, I may have the luxury of time but in reality, I don't. I take care of the house and I have a small business that I need to expand which has long been overdue. 
As a late bloomer, I have to put things off for the sake of other people: taking care of my late-father and now, taking care of my son. Something's got to give, I can't be all and do all, all at the same time. I've learned to accept that there's a time for everything and that everything can't happen all at once. It taught me a great lesson the hard way when God would send a circumstance to humble me just because I'm too proud of what I've done so far.

Being 40 is always associated with mid-life crisis but wouldn’t be better if we associate it with mid-life celebrations? If you’re in your 20’s and you’re still figuring out what to do with your life because you feel you’re going nowhere and haven’t really accomplish anything, then you’re on the right tract. You’re still young so don’t worry about it.  If you’re almost 30 and you dread saying goodbye to 29 because it’s either you’re worried you won’t get married at all or your resume is not impressive enough to get you a job, don’t worry about it also because God knows and He has a better plan for you. If you’re almost 40 and you fear and felt that you haven’t done significant with your life or you had another setback, congratulations, you just made it.

So, yesterday morning, I woke up sneezing and sniffing that lasted until afternoon. I also have to make granolas. Thank you to God’s Grace Farm. I am thankful that God has kept me busy during the day but I was really tired even after putting Nate to sleep. By the time Nate is asleep, I'm no longer sleepy so I started writing asking God if I could extend my birthday (because time flew so fast that I wasn't able to enjoy it) by not doing anything except to be taken care of, to scribble on my journal about my dream cafĂ© and food boutique and to have one on one undivided date with my husband. It was simple but I have to remember what the last 40 years have been most especially on what God has done for me.

God's surprise to me on my birthday: Make Granola. It was really an exhausting but grateful for the provisions.

Since I have to say to goodbye for being 39, hitting 40 doesn’t mean that I’ve achieved everything already. Honestly, I am still figuring out what I really want to do with my life. We have dreams and desires we want to achieve and sometimes we have to put them on hold because there are more important things we need to attend to first. Being the late bloomer and always the second best, I felt that my work has never been recognized or complimented that much. I don’t promote myself or advertise my work as much as people do. Yet I remember the video that my sister sent me. It’s not important for other people to know what you have done because God knows what you have done and that’s the most important thing.
Nevertheless, 40 is a great number. No need to hide because everyone will get to that number somehow. I have to be proud of it and embrace it. Women shouldn’t be afraid to say how old they are nor be ashamed of the things they haven’t accomplished. It only means that we are getting wiser every single day because of the experiences we’ve been going through. It also means that we are getting closer and closer to the day that we will meet the Lord. Not there but almost there.

Here's a few thoughts to ponder from Faith Street:

Life begins at 40 because’ you’ve traveled just enough to know what your life is, what it has been and what you want it to be on down the line. Sure, some people know that earlier, and over the years I’ve looked with envy at those who seemed to know it sooner than me. But for the rest of us, 40 is a nice round number.

Still worried about your age? I hope not because life indeed begins at 40. Celebrate it.