Thai Quinoa Salad with Homemade Peanut Ginger Sauce

Have you ever been bored with your typical cooking routine? I can tell you I have. I’ve found that when I’m uber-busy with work, school, working out, and just life in general, I stick to the same foods. I might alter my meals a little bit, but I don’t go out of my comfort zone and try a new recipe. Well, I’ve made a goal to change that. To find new recipes, adapt them, or simply create my own. And its going great so far! I have actually saved time by just cooking a large batch of food and eating portions of it throughout the week.

This dish has been on my radar for a while, but for some reason, it seemed like a time investment. Surprisingly not the case. Aside from chopping up the vegetables, it was pretty quick to prepare! With the combination of the quinoa and edamame beans, this is a pretty protein-packed meal, and the loads of vegetables make this an even more nutrient-dense dish. And did I mention it is gluten-free AND vegan?? IMG_20130623_111302

Thai Quinoa Salad with Homemade Peanut Ginger Sauce

Adapted from Ambitious Kitchen

Makes 6 servings

¾ cup uncooked quinoa

2-3 cups shredded red cabbage

1 red bell pepper, diced

½ medium red onion, diced

1 cup shredded carrots

½ cup chopped cilantro

¼ cup diced green onions  

1 cup edamame

Fresh lime, wedges

For the dressing:

¼ cup all natural peanut butter

2 tsp freshly grated ginger

2 Tbsp soy sauce*

1 Tbsp honey*

1 Tbsp apple vinegar

2 tsp olive oil

*To make this recipe gluten-free, use gluten-free soy sauce. To make it vegan, substitute agave for the honey. 
To cook the quinoa: Unless it is already pre-rinsed, rinse the quinoa with cold water in mesh strainer. In a medium pot, bring 1 ½ cups of water to a boil before adding the quinoa. quinoa and bring mixture to a boil. Bring it to a boil again and cover the pot, reducing the heat to low and letting it simmer until the quinoa has absorbed all of the water (about 15 minutes). Remove from the heat and fluff the quinoa with fork, then place it in large bowl and set aside to cool for about about 10 minutes.
To cook the edamame: Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium pot. Add edamame and bring back to a boil. Let the beans cook for 4-5 minutes. Using a colander, Drain the water and rinse the beans with cold water.
To make the dressing: Add peanut butter and honey (or agave) to a microwave safe bowl and heat in microwave for 20 seconds. Add in soy sauce, vinegar, olive oil, and ginger, and stir until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
Add as much dressing as you prefer to the quinoa. You can save the dressing for later, but the flavor absorbs better if soaks into the quinoa longer. Fold in the edamame, cabbage, red pepper, onion, carrots, and cilantro into the quinoa. Garnish with and green onions and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges, chilled or at room temperature.
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This is, hands down, one of the most flavorful salads I have ever made. Words can’t even describe how delicious this was. My taste buds were jumping for joy  (finally!).
 What’s your favorite recipe to get you out of a cooking rut?
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Solstice in Times Square: Athleta Mind Over Madness

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(All my fellow Times Square yogis)

Can you believe it’s already summer? Where has the time gone? It feels like I just moved to the city a few weeks ago, not months ago. Ahhh! I kicked off my the first day of my (first!) summer in the Big Apple by taking off of work early and heading to Times Square to do some yoga. In the middle of Times Square. Yep, you read that right. In the middle of the mayhem, part of the hectic, tourist-invaded Times Square. Mind over Madness, right?

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(My sweet new yoga mat from Athleta)

Athleta teamed up with the Times Square Alliance to provide free yoga classes led by master yoga instructors throughout the day, in honor of the first and longest day of summer – the summer solstice. The first 1200 people received a free yoga mat and an Athleta goodie bag (hence me leaving work early). The yoga areas were sectioned off so that tourists couldn’t walk all over us while we were doing our savasanas, but that didn’t stop them from taking pictures – I can only imagine how many random Facebook albums I’m going to be in doing a Warrior pose!

But once the session started, the tourists were forgotten about, and my mind started to take over the madness. During my session, I was lucky enough to have Colleen Saidman Yee and Rodney Yee leading the yoga class. They were great teachers and complemented each other in a very harmonious way. And since we were in the middle of Times Square, their voices had to be projected via jumbo-trons, which almost reminded me of the Hunger Games (don’t ask), but in a good, peaceful, meditative-Hunger Games kind of way. I guess a better way of describing it would be that the sky was telling me to breathe in and out as I flowed through the poses. Still weird? Oh well, you get the drift.

At one point, Colleen said, “You have to be grounded in order to fly,” and this definitely resonated with me. How many times in dance class have I been told to be more grounded? Too many to count. And I feel like, in life, everyone could benefit tremendously from being more grounded.

All in all, it was an amazing experience, leaving me rejuvenated as I battled my way out of Times Square.

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(Mind over Madness)

How did YOU spend the first day of summer? Let me know in the comments below!

Two-Ingredient Banana Pancakes

You know that Jack Johnson song, “Banana Pancakes?” It’s one of my favorite rainy day songs, and always makes me want banana pancakes. No matter what time of the day it is. Heck, it makes me think that if I were eating banana pancakes, the rainy day wouldn’t be so bad. And today feels like a rainy day, in fact, I’m 60% sure (according to my phone) that it’s going to rain sometime later today, most likely at a time when I need to trek outside to get to my next destination, most likely in a way that will leave me absolutely drenched. And so, to keep from getting upset at the possibility of an unfortunate rain, I’m going to think about banana pancakes. And you should too. Why, you ask?

Well, what if I told you that I had a banana pancake recipe that wouldn’t break your calorie bank? And that it was high in protein, and [gasp] had no wheat (meaning gluten-free for all my gluten-sensitive friends)? And, as if you’re somehow not convinced yet, that it takes less than 10 minutes and 2 ingredients to make? Are you sold yet? I thought so.

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Two-Ingredient Banana Pancakes:

Makes 1 serving of pancakes

1 ripe banana

2 eggs

*cinnamon, dash (optional, but HIGHLY recommended)

*Another optional add-in: crushed walnuts – to up the healthy fat content of these pancakes and keep you full longer.

In a small bowl, mash the banana with a fork. Add the two eggs (and cinnamon, if you dare), and whisk the ingredients together with the fork. Spray a heated pan with non-stick cooking spray. Spoon a desired amount of the “batter” onto the pan and cook until golden brown. And try, just to make this little nutrition fanatic friend of yours happy, NOT to pour syrup or any sweetener on your pancakes. Your body will thank you for it!

What’s your favorite rainy day meal? Comment below and let me know!

Sunday Morning (or any morning!) French Toast with Homemade Raspberry Sauce

Welp. It’s not Sunday, but life has been a whirlwind and will continue to be a whirlwind all week (a good whirlwind though – no worries). But I couldn’t resist and I HAVE to share this recipe. It’s simple AND satisfying, and one of my favorite weekend breakfast/brunch dishes. Or any day that I’m not rushing through my morning routine.

I’m sure you read the words “French toast” and thought of the typical indulgent breakfast favorite that is sure to leave you with a sugar rush rather than setting you up for the day. I’m not going to lie, French toast is one of my brunch weaknesses. But, I have to admit, it’s usually more of a dessert than a well-balanced breakfast dish, drenched in syrup and topped with even more sugar-laden goodies.

So, of course, I had to recreate it. I mean, a girl with a love for French toast simply can’t go without for too long, am I right? But you won’t find any added sugars in this recipe…what you will find is a well-balanced breakfast, complete with whole grains + fiber, complete protein, healthy fats, and fruit + antioxidants.

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Sunday Morning French Toast with Homemade Raspberry Sauce:

Makes 1 serving

1 piece of whole-grain bread

1 large egg

1 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen

2 Tbsp almonds, chopped or slivered

dash of cinnamon, to taste

Whisk the egg and cinnamon together in a bowl. Soak the bread in the egg mixture, flip over and soak the other side. Spray a heated pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place and cook the bread in the pan until golden brown. Flip and cook the other side. Meanwhile, in a heated pan, toast the almonds until they are golden-brown, 2-3 minutes. Microwave the raspberries for: 30 seconds if they are fresh, 45-60 seconds if they are frozen. The raspberries should melt and form a sauce, but still be mostly intact. Top the French toast with the raspberries and almonds. And voila, you have healthy French toast that is firm on the outside, soft on the inside, creamy and crunchy on top, and both cinnamon-y and with a naturally sweetness from the raspberries. Delish!

What’s your favorite healthy Sunday morning breakfast? Leave a comment and let me know!

The Weekend Update with Alena

Happy Friday everyone!

Though the weather in New York is anything but pleasant at the moment, this weekend is swarming with fitness events happening in the city. You can read all about them in my blog post for the FiTMAPPED Blog here.

I, myself, am planning on attending the Buns n’ Biscuits event, which combines bootcamp and brunch (who can say no to brunch?) and the Wanderlust Yoga in the City event, which features outdoor yoga classes taught by local instructors, live music, and post-savasana dance parties, taking yoga to another dimension.

What fitness events stand out to you? What do you do to keep fit on the weekends? Comment below and let me know!

The 5-Minute, Out-the-Door, Summer Salad

Think you don’t have time in the morning to prep your lunch for the day? Think again.

I must admit, I’ve been lacking in the “food-prep-the-night-before” department this week. Sure, on Sunday I had good intentions and cooked a large batch of wild rice meant to last an entire week, chopped up a few fresh vegetables, and bagged up pre-measured carrots and almonds to grab as hunger-striking snacks throughout the week. But alas, it is Thursday and and no, yesterday I neither prepped my breakfast OR my lunch for today. Yikes! Eating out for lunch today certainly didn’t fall into my [NYC-dwelling, NYU-student] budget so I had to think fast. And that I did. I grabbed the cutting board and the most accessible vegetables in my refrigerator and went in a chopping frenzy. All together, this salad literally took 5 minutes to throw together.

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The 5-Minute, Out-the-Door, Summer Salad:

Makes 1 salad
1 small cucumber, diced
2 radishes, sliced 
1/4 red bell pepper, chopped
1 vine-ripened tomato, chopped
1/2 cup spinach
1/4 cup light feta cheese, cubed
1 Tbsp Tessemae’s Lemonette Dressing*

Layer the ingredients in a to-go container as follows (from bottom to top): dressing, cucumber, radishes, tomato, feta cheese, spinach. When you’re ready to eat, shake the container with all your might (or just shake it normally…the end product is the same).

*Usually I make my own dressing, but Tessemae’s dressings are a great alternative to homemade dressings. They’re all vegan, gluten-free, and sugar-free (READ: paleo-friendly), and can be found in select Whole Foods stores.

If you want to make your own lemon dressing, however, no need to fret. It’s simple and easy:

In a small dish, combine 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, 1/4 lemon (juiced), 1 clove of garlic (diced), and a pinch of black peppercorn. Whip the ingredients with a fork, and you’re good to go. See, that wasn’t too bad, was it?

From start to finish, the salad took me less than 5 minutes to put together. And, might I add, it was delicious, filling, and healthy, just like lunch should be.

What are your favorite quick and healthy lunches? Leave me a comment and let me know!