Category Archives: recipe

Matcha Balls

 

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As many of you know, I am running an ultra marathon in a couple of weeks.  It was convenient timing that I was researching a recipe using matcha around the same time I was to run my longest training run, 27 miles. When running that many miles at once, you have to eat.  You have to eat a lot of food while you are running.  It’s one of the hardest adjustments I had to make when I started running longer distances.  I have tried eating the energy “goo”  packs, which just left me feeling kind of sick, and might or might not have led to some post-run gastro-internal issues. I perform much better when I make my own, real food.

After reading about the “clean” form of caffeine matcha contained, I knew it would be a perfect addition to some mid-long-run snacks. I decided to make some matcha energy balls with whatever I could throw together to make it stick together into a ball.  I used oats, almond butter, honey, goji berries, vanilla, and of course, matcha.

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I mixed the ingredients together, and packed them into a small 1-ounce scoop.  I placed them on a sheet pan, and in the refrigerator.  They came together perfectly, and tasted great!  On the run they were a bit burly.  The next time I make them, I will either soak the oats, or grind them up in the food processor.  Burliness aside, they were magic balls of “zenergy,”  which really made a difference in boosting our energy throughout the run.

Click here for the recipe.

Gotch Your Matcha?

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I am a coffee drinker, but I love tea.  Especially green tea.  Green tea is a great appetite suppressant, and I often drink it when I am trying to make it to my next meal or snack. I had heard of matcha, and I knew it was a type of green tea, but I had never really tried it.  As someone who spends a lot of time reading food blogs, I had noticed that matcha has been quite trendy lately in cooking, and I have even saved several recipes to try.

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I have recently taken on a blogging assignment: to sample and write about some ceremonial grade matcha from Matcha Zen.  I received the cutest little package in the mail.  It was a little cardboard tube with a bag inside full of emerald green matcha from Matcha Zen.  Matcha Zen tea is some of the finest matcha you can buy.  It comes from a region of Japan historically known for cultivating quality matcha. It’s also USDA certified organic.  The matcha at Matcha Zen is not the only “green”  that their into.  They support ethical, and sustainable practices when it comes to sourcing, cultivating, packaging, and marketing this special tea.

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Tea Ceremony

Tea is serious business in Japan.  According to the website, Japanese Tea Ceremony, the tea ceremony has several names, “Chanoyo,”  meaning literally, “hot water for tea,”  or “Sado”  and “Chado,”  which both mean “the way of tea.”  I could go on for days about the history, aesthetics, and essence of the tea ceremony.  It has been going on for over 900 years in Japan, and even before that in China.  People have dedicated their whole lives to studying it.  I am not a scholar of tea, but I am a lover of most everything that involves food and drink. The website describes the tea ceremony as  “…a choreographic ritual of preparing and serving Japanese green tea, called Matcha, together with traditional Japanese sweets to balance with the bitter taste of the tea. Preparing tea in this ceremony means pouring all one’s attention into the predefined movements. The whole process is not about drinking tea, but is about aesthetics, preparing a bowl of tea from one’s heart. The host of the ceremony always considers the guests with every movement and gesture. Even the placement of the tea utensils is considered from the guests view point (angle), especially the main guests called the Shokyaku.”

I love it!  I am always trying to be more “in the moment,” and I love the idea of being fully engrossed in the intricacies of where to place utensils, etc. Also, how touching is it to prepare a cup of tea for a friend “from your heart.”  This captures the essence of what I love about cooking.  Cooking for someone, especially someone you love, the goal or intention is to please. satisfy, or nourish them. Ask anyone what their favorite meal is, and most likely, it will be something that was prepared growing up by their momma.  How come that food tasted so good?  Because it was prepared with thoughtful intention and love.

What is Matcha?

Matcha is a quality green tea that is dried and crushed into a fine powder. The tea leaf is known as tencha. The tea bushes are shade-grown to avoid the exposure of direct sunlight which reduces the pace of photosynthesis and slows the growth of the plants. This stimulates the production of chlorophyll and amino acids, resulting in a dark-green tea leaf. The bright green powder is beautiful brewed into teas, and cooked into food.

Health Benefits of Matcha

Wow!  This stuff is really good for you. The website, Organic Facts, states that matcha is full of nutrients. “It is source of vitamin A, vitamin B-complex, vitamin C, Vitamin E, vitamin K and trace minerals.  Matcha is rich in components with super antioxidant activity including polyphenols, catechins and chlorophyll. Presence of amino acids such as L-theanine and theophylline in the matcha tea makes it a multi nutrient-packed drink.”  These nutrients lead to a number of health benefits. Organic Facts list these health benefits as boosting immune system health, reducing inflammation, and helping to prevent cancer. It also helps with detoxification, cardiovascular health, and boosts metabolism.  Matcha has the equivalent amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee. The caffeine in matcha, however is a different for than is in regular coffee. This form caffeine is known as theophylline, and releases amounts of energy in a steady stream. Kaitlin of The Garden Grazer blog describes the caffeine high you get from matcha as “zenery.”  According to Kaitlin, “zenergy”  is the feeling of being energized, yet calm and focused.

A Cup of Matcha

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I decided it was time to make myself a cup of matcha.  I  found a simple description on  how to make it from Bon Appetit’s website.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a bamboo whisk, but I did have a small stainless steel whisk that was the perfect size, as well as a small strainer. Even though I didn’t know the proper procedure for a tea ceremony, I did have a very pretty china tea cup that my mom had given me.  I hardly use it, so I thought it was appropriate for the occasion.

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 Bon Appetit stated that you should push the matcha through a strainer into a bowl to sift it so there are no lumps.  You pour in the hot water and whisk the tea until it becomes frothy.  I added a bit of stevia to the tea powder before I whisked in the water.

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 I loved the beautiful deep emerald green color that looked especially pretty with my fancy teacup.  The first sip was a bit bitter, but the more sips I had, the more I loved it.  The stevia helped to balance out the bitter flavor, which left an earthy, umami-type flavor.  I also loved the swirls the powdered tea left when I got toward the bottom of the cup.  I couldn’t help but think of tasseography, or the practice of reading the symbolism in tea leaves to predict the future.  I know there’s a pretty fantastic future to be predicted in the swirly pictures of my cup of Matcha Zen.

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The Recipes

I found endless food blogs with posts about cooking with matcha.  Here are some links to some of my favorites.  Stay tuned for a food recipe using Matcha Zen in the day or two!

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Chocolate Matcha Butter Cups from Keepin it Kind

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Healthy Matcha Green Tea Coconut Fudge from Desserts with Benefits

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Matcha Mochi Yogurt Pops from My Name is Yeh

Spaghetti Squash Casserole

As promised, here is my recipe for Spaghetti Squash Casserole with Chicken.  The recipe is fairly easy, but there are several steps. It’s delicious, and less than 300 calories/serving.

Clean the fat from the chicken thighs.

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Season chicken with spice mix.

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Roast chicken thighs for about 15 minutes at 375 degrees,

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Add salsa and water, and stir to combine.  Cover with parchment paper and foil.  Turn oven down to 325 degrees, and braise chicken for 45 minutes.  Remove from oven, allow to cool, and shred with a fork.

 

Cut spaghetti squash in half, remove seeds, place in the oven, with the chicken, and roast until tender, about 20 minutes.

 

Allow squash to cool, remove the threads from the shell, and add to the pan with the shredded chicken.

Add shredded kale, cottage cheese, and stir to combine.

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Return casserole to oven, and cook until the top is browned, about 20 minutes.

See full recipe here.

It Begins and Ends with Your Diet – Chef Katie’s Eating Plan

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It all begins and ends with your diet.  Don’t get me wrong – I passionately believe in exercise and working out.  It’s an essential part of my program (and my sanity).  However, if you want to lose weight, and have a truly lean body, 90% is about your diet.  Any time I am injured or fatigued and cannot work out, I get really tight when it comes to my diet, and the results tend to be the same.

THE TOOL

Everyone is different.  Everyone has different motivations, and systems that make them successful.  I will share what works for me, and has worked for many of my clients.  My plan starts with just that, a plan.  You have to prepare and plan ahead for success.  My favorite tool for planning and tracking my progress is the app, My Fitness Pal.  Create an account, and set your current weight and your goal weight.  It will ask you a few more questions pertaining to age and activity level, and then it will recommend an amount of calories for you.  Every day you go to your diary to add everything you eat.  You can search the extensive database for the food you eat.  You can go into “recipes” and type in a recipe and the serving/portion amount, and easily add it as an entry to your diary.  This is such an amazing tool (it’s free!), and it sets you on the path to success. Here’s why:

  1. TRACKING – it’s so important to track what you eat.  I have been cooking and living through clean eating for a long time, but I still need to measure and track.  Ultimately, your success is in the details.  Download the app and track what you eat for a few days.  You will be shocked at how much the little things add up.  At certain moments throughout your day, you might think, “just a couple of squares of dark chocolate”….”just a few almonds”….. “just one latte, it’s a skinny one”…  It adds up, people!  If you really want that chocolate, or latte – go ahead and have it – but add it to your diary, and you will have to subtract something later. Another method is to wait.  Get through your day, and if you have extra calories to spend, have some dark chocolate after dinner.
  2. IT KEEPS YOU ON TRACK FOR ULTIMATE HEALTH – Not only does this app track your calories, but it also sets daily goals for your protein, fat, and carb intake, and more. It will tell you if something you are adding into your diary is high in fat, or if you have met or exceeded your goal for your daily fat intake.
  3. RECIPE TRACKER – This is an amazing tool within the amazing tool that My Fitness Pal is. I have added recipes that I thought were clean and low calorie, and I was surprised to see how high the calorie count was when I typed it all in – which goes back to one of my themes – It adds up, people. You need to track and measure everything.  Maybe you can only have half a portion of that recipe, and add in some more veggies.
  4. EXERCISE TRACKER – You can add in your daily exercise. I love tracking my progress to see where I am every day.  Also, it shows how many calories you burn doing the exercise you do.  It takes a lot more exercise to burn off a little bit of calories, which leads me back to the main theme of this post – It begins and ends with the diet.  There’s one aspect in this category that I do not like about the app.  It subtracts your exercise calories.  DO NOT eat back the calories you burn with exercise.  You will not be successful.  If you work out for four hours one day, okay, maybe you will need to eat a little more.  Do not, however, spend half of your morning Zumba or spinning away, see that you’ve burned 500 calories, and head straight to Starbucks and suck down a “Beast Mode Frappucino.”  No joke – that’s what it’s called.

THE PLAN

So now that I know what to shoot for daily (1200 calories), here’s how I break it down.  I try and eat a small meal or snack every two and a half to three hours.  If I eat breakfast at 7am, my morning snack is at 10, lunch at 1, afternoon snack at 4, and dinner at 7.  Now, I know that life happens, and we need a bit of wiggle room in our lives.  I give myself half an hour before or after those targets.  If I am starving, and I simply cannot wait, I will eat a bit early.  If I am doing that yoga class that I really like, I need to wait until after class to eat my morning snack.  The idea is that if you keep feeding your metabolism every few hours, it ramps it up.  I am serious when I say that this works!  Try eating this way for a week, and you will get on the “train.”  I know when I am on the train because I am hungry when it’s time for me to eat, but I get full easily.  I also know when I am on the train because I am bounding out of bed in the morning.  It gives you lots of energy, and makes you feel great.  A note here, (forgive me if this is common sense to you) you need to eat the right kinds of foods to feel good. You can’t substitute in a coffee drink, some chocolate, or potato chips, and expect to feel good. This paragraph describes clean eating plain and simple.

For breakfast I like to eat a bit more, since it’s the first meal of the day, and I usually exercise during the morning hours. After breakfast, no matter what my plans are for the day, I pack my snacks and lunch.  This way, I can take my food with me all day.  I will eat when it’s time to eat, and I will eat my pre-portioned, healthy food.

Here’s what I ate yesterday:

Breakfast (256 calories):

2 teaspoons coconut oil (I put it in my coffee)

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 eggs

Morning Snack (218 calories):

½ cup nonfat greek yogurt

½ cup frozen blueberries

13 almonds

Lunch (245 calories):

Tomato Soup with Chicken and Barley

½ cup homemade tomato soup (see recipe here)

½ cup cooked chicken breast

½ cup cooked barley

Afternoon Snack (139 calories):

½ Ezekiel Sprouted Wheat English Muffin

2 teaspoons homemade almond nutella (see recipe here)

Dinner (253 calories):

1 Portion homemade Mexican Chicken and Spaghetti Squash Casserole

(I will post this recipe in the next day or two)

Total Calories for the Day = 1,111.  That’s 89 below my goal.  That means that I will have some berries with almond milk and stevia for dessert after dinner.

TIPS AND TRICKS

A Few Notes:

  1. VEGETABLES – You might have noticed in my diary above, there weren’t any vegetables.  That’s because I don’t count them.  I like to follow the 80/20 rule = 80% of what I eat comes from vegetables, and 20% is everything else (proteins, grains, dairy, fruit).  I like to think of vegetables as free, so I eat more of them.  There are a couple of points to make here.  You have to count what you cook the vegetables in.  If you sauté or roast veggies, you usually use oil, right?  Measure it and add it to your diary.  Secondly, all vegetables aren’t the same.  Butternut squash and sweet potatoes, while delicious and very healthy, pack a lot of calories.  Here’s a list of veggies I count, and veggies I don’t…

 

VEGGIES I DON’T COUNT

All leafy greens (lettuce, spinach, kale, cabbage, collards, etc), broccoli, green beans, zucchini,  yellow squash, cauliflower, asparagus, bell peppers, celery, onions, tomatoes (I know – it’s technically a fruit)

 

VEGGIES I DO COUNT

Winter Squashes (pumpkin, butternut, acorn, spaghetti, delicatta, kombucha), sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, corn, beets

 

  1. WHAT IF YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY STARVING? – If I am starving, and it’s not time to eat, first, I wait 5-10 minutes to see if it passes. Next, I drink something. Tea, black coffee, water, and seltzer, are all calorie free and they fill your belly.  Third, if I still am feeling like I am going to eat my hand, I just eat.  I eat my meal or snack early, or I add in an extra snack that is low in calories.  It’s okay to add – some days you are just hungrier than others, just don’t make a habit of it.

 

  1. TREATS AND CHEATS – I am going to devote a whole post to this in a few days. If you don’t ever enjoy the food and treats you love, you will set yourself up for crash and burn failure. We are in post-holiday boot camp mode right now though.  If I am feeling LARGE, I will put myself on a 21 day plan of the above diet.  After that, if I feel it’s necessary to keep going, I will.  If I want to lose more weight, but I am dying for some wine and greasy food, I will have a cheat meal, and get back on track.

 

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MY SERVICES – I have made a career out of cooking healthy food for others.  Many of my clients know how to lose weight, they just don’t want to spend a lot of time cooking. You can hire me by the hour to come over and cook foods specific to your needs.  I also offer a 21 Day Program of the above method, tailored to your specific needs.  I will prepare, portion, package, and deliver breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks to your door for 21 days.  It’s a great way to lose weight.  It’s a great way to get started, and get yourself in the habit of clean eating.  Lastly, I offer workshops that will teach you how to prepare, cook, and set yourself up for your own clean eating plan.  My cooking expertise follows a program with the emphasis on taste and satisfaction, so you hardly realize how healthy you are eating, but reap the benefits of truly eating clean.  chefkatiecooks@gmail.com.  (828)707-3166.

 

The Secret to Making the Creamiest Tomato Soup without Dairy

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As I have said many times before, this is one of my favorite times of year.  The weather feels pleasantly cleaner and cooler.  The light changes, and the beautiful colors, reds, golds, and greens of the season stand out. It is also the best time of the year for cooking. You have the convergence of summer still producing fresh zucchini, tomatoes, corn, and herbs.  At the same time, the glorious fall squashes and root vegetables are ready for harvest. The weather is cool enough that you can make soups, stews, and chili’s that warm you in the cool evenings, but still enjoy summer salads in the warm sun at lunch.

I love, love, love summer tomatoes.  I also love soup.  One of my favorite things to make and eat is fresh tomato soup.  If you share this love of mine, I advise you to RUN to the store now, and buy all the fresh tomatoes you can find because they are almost gone.

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There are three key secrets to making the creamiest tomato soup without dairy.  You need to start with a mirepoix: a mix of onion, celery, carrot.  Whether I am making a pureed vegetable soup, or a soup with diced vegetables, I love to add parsnips and/or celery root to my mirepoix.

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Tip:  The best way to peel a celery root is with a sharp knife and not a peeler.

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It makes all the difference in flavor.  The first (secret) tip to making creamy soup is to grate your root vegetables (carrot, celery root, parsnips).  You can do this with a box grater or a food processor.

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Once you have the onion and celery diced, and the root vegetables grated, you need to sweat the vegetables in olive oil.

I love olive oil, and think it’s really good for you, but I really try and measure it, due to the amount of fat and calories.  For this recipe I start with three tablespoons of olive oil in a heated Dutch oven.  I then add my onion, celery, carrot, and celery root, salt, pepper, and sweat the vegetables.

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  The definition of the culinary term sweat, is to cook without color. The second secret to the creaminess is to spend the time sweating these vegetables until they are good and cooked. Stirring often helps them not to stick to the pan or to brown.  If this happens, you might need to add a bit of water and stir constantly.

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Once the vegetables are well cooked, add the fresh tomatoes.

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  I like to stir them in and let them release their water until I add more water to the pot.  Once they do break down and release their liquid, I add water to cover the tomatoes, and simmer for about 20 minutes.

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The third and final key to the creamiest cream-free tomato soup is to have a good blender.  I have a Vitamix which is my pride and joy in the kitchen.  It’s expensive, but I was able to set up a payment plan, and It was worth it!  I use it everyday!

Use caution when blending hot liquid in a blender, because it can blow up and burn you.  A lovely feature of the Vitamix is that it has a dial where you can start the power level on low, and gradually move it to high. Also, when blending hot liquid, don’t fill the blender to the top.

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  Blend the soup for at least two minutes on high speed to achieve the desired creaminess.  It is the most velvety, creamy, delicious tomato soup you will ever make without cream!  Enjoy!

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Click Here for the Recipe:  Creamy Tomato Soup