28 February 2011

product placement: pro bars

I feel naked if I leave the house without a snack in my bag. I mean, you never know when your the train might "pause" for 30 minutes underground or your errands will take hours longer than you anticipate, or the only thing between you and rage or fainting is a quick bite to eat. So, anyone who knows me knows I can usually be trusted to have a little something-- usually nuts or fruit-- in my bag, "just in case". The easiest go-to for most is usually some sort of individually wrapped bar, as it has been for me, but I have a disdain for most granola and energy bars as being candy bars disguised as something healthy and they are most often overly full of sugar, lacking in much sating protein, or packed with isolated proteins or protein powder. I just want whole, real foods!

The Probar has single-handedly saved the world of granola and energy bars from my mental banishment. Hearty enough to be an emergency meal replacement, I will also eat half of one for an afternoon snack. The bars come in several flavors, but of those that I've tried, I've narrowed my top favorites to the Art's Original and Superfood Slam. What I love about these is that they are almost entirely organic, most of their sugar comes in the form of brown rice syrup and dried fruit, they have nice sized chunks of nuts, chocolate chips, and fruit, which makes for a really pleasant and varied texture experience

At just over $3 a pop, they are on the pricey side, so they are more of a special treat. Though I did once get a box of 12 on a great deal on Amazon , which I just might have to do again, come to think of it. 


ProBar Website
Note: I did not receive any compensation, product, or recognition from ProBar for this review.

21 February 2011

product placement: clean well hand sanitizer

In New York, you'd be hard pressed to find a person that doesn't regularly carry around some form of hand sanitizer. I've lived here for awhile, and I don't get too caught up with sanitizing too often (I just avoid having to touch too many things, like subway poles and door handles) because I heartily believe in some germs being good for you. Our society is over-concerned with being sterile, but I just suck it up, wash my hands regularly, and know that I will probably get sick once a year despite my best efforts.

That being said, there is a good time and place for hand sanitizer, but with all of the hand and dish washing I do just from work, my skin can't take too much more of a beating from the alcohol in most standard hand gels and sprays-- not to mention the nose-burning smell. I'd tried a couple of more "natural" ones, most of which were overly oderized for my likes (lavender is nice, but I want my hands to smell clean or like nothing). In comes CleanWell Hand Sanitizer.

This stuff rocks my world. It is a light, non-toxic, alcohol-free spray that smells like herbs, which is perfect for a chef, if you ask me. I get excited for my hands to smell like thyme and it totally doesn't dry my hands out. Not to mention that because of the cap I don't have to worry about leaking all over my bag (and I've experienced unfortunate alcohol-based sanitizer gel spills-- it may evaporate quickly, but everything smells awful for awhile).

They also make Hand Wipes, soap, and have an additional Orange Vanilla scent.

Clean Well Website

17 February 2011

recipe: butternut squash and kale lasagna

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A bit of a belated post, but here's a little something I whipped up for Christmas Eve. M laughed because apparently I do my own take on lasagna-- I like something different on every layer. "What, that's not how you do it?" and he says "No, it's just repeated layers of filling." What's the fun in that?! So yes, I have my lasagna style-- every layer for itself! I've been making lasagna in this way for quite some time now, and I'm not sorry for it.

I didn't work from a recipe, but I didn't get complicated, here's basically what we did.

butternut squash and kale lasagna with roasted cherry tomato sauce
2 packages whole wheat lasagna noodles, par-boiled
3 cups simmered tomato sauce (I made my own)
1 large bunch kale or chard, chopped and sauteed with chili flakes and salt to taste
3 cups roasted butternut squash flesh (from whole squash), seasoned with salt and pepper
1/2 lb. fresh mozzarella, sliced or grated
15 oz. container ricotta, combined with teaspoon each dried basil, oregano, chili flakes, salt

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Build the lasagna, first with some sauce at the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish, one layer of noodles topped with squash, another layer of noodles, some sauce and the ricotta, noodles, sauce and greens, noodles, sauce and mozzarella, a couple dabs of sauce. Bake in a 375ยบ oven for about 45-60 minutes until the cheese is nice, brown, and bubbly.

Note: Because your noodles aren't totally cooked, you want to be realtively generous with the sauce so the noodles have something to soak up!


Little did I realize this was similar to what we made last year-- pumpkin ravioli with sauteed chard and onions.

15 February 2011

work it brooklyn networking event - feb. 23!

I wanted to tell you all about this event that I co-produce that might be of interest.


Work It Brooklyn is an event-based networking organization formed in 2010 to connect inspired creatives working independently within the creative fields. Graphic designers, dancers, musicians, tech gurus, painters, and others gather in our evenings of productive debauchery. WIB is devised as a forum to connect folks working from home without the benefit of a network support system, opening up the opportunity to meet and forge partnerships, fine and create work, instigate healthy competition, and encourage the exchange of ideas and potential collaborations, all the while having a whole lot of fun.

Our next event is on February 23, 2011 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and is open to the first 250 registrants.

Register here: http://workitbrooklyn22311.eventbrite.com/
Website: http://workitbrooklyn.wordpress.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/home.php?sk=group_138148766245567
Twitter: @workitbrooklyn

Questions? Ideas? Or to join our mailing list, email us at workitbrooklyn@gmail.com

14 February 2011

introducing: healthy food coaching and consultations!

I'm really excited to introduce my new service: Healthy Food Coaching and Consultations.

This gets to the root of what I feel really passionate about-- helping you-- and is designed to arm you with the tools for successful menu planning, making healthy food choices, and cooking skills. In an effort to make this accessible to everyone who can benefit, this program is priced on a sliding scale. I'm really excited about this program-- I've started working with a few people already and the empowerment they've experienced has been a thrill.

So whether you are striving and/or struggling to transition to a healthier lifestyle, feel intimidated in the kitchen, or just need some extra motivation staying on track, I can help you discover more about your eating habits, your body, and your needs. At the most basic level of coaching, clients will have an hour long one-on-one consultation (in person, over the phone, or via Skype) and have the option to add on additional private consultations, cooking lessons, pantry consultations, market tours. We'll work together to create a customized program specifically tailored to you and soon you'll feel energized and excited on the path to a healthier you! 

Email me now for a free 15-minute pre-consult! 
 Also, if you book a regular Healthy Food Consultation by Friday, February 18th, you'll receive a complimentary follow-up consultation!
Note: The consultation does not have to take place by the 18th, it just needs to be booked by then!

Please read here for more information: http://www.ajataharimarsh.com/food/healthyfoodcoaching.htm

09 February 2011

recipe: greens with coconut milk and tomato (vegan)

IMG_7354I made this from a cookbook I've had for several years-- The Ethnic Vegetarian. I love this book because it has a lot of African, African-American, and Native American rooted recipes, but all vegetarian and vegan friendly, which is amazing because that's not always easy to find. It's been great for when I want to make traditional southern dishes that are usually riddled with bacon, hamhocks, bacon fat, and the like. It's funny because I had some collard greens in the fridge, some spinach in the freezer, and also the desire to eat something coconutty. All the ideas hadn't quite merged when I thought to look in this book, knowing she'd have some ideas for things to do with collards. And then, perfect! a recipe that called for collards, spinach, and coconut milk. No lie.

This recipe is a bit soupy and the greens come out meltingly soft, but the broth is delicious and I ate mine with rice. You could remove some of the cooking liquid from the greens, but that stuff ("pot likker" as they call it in the south) is crazy good for you, so you should save it for a soup base or drink it warm as a broth and restorative.


Greens with Coconut Milk and Tomato
Adapted from "Kenyan Style Mixed Greens" - The Ethnic Vegetarian by Angela Shelf Medearis

Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 teaspoon dried crushed jalapeno or 1 fresh jalapeno, chopped
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound fresh collard greens, chopped (could also use mustard or turnip greens or kale)
1 pound fresh spinach, chopped or 1 12-16oz bag frozen spinach (no need to thaw)
1 yellow onion, diced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can unsweetened coconut milk (light or regular)
raw or toasted sunflower seeds for serving (optional)

Pour four to six cups of water into a large pot (you want it to submerge the greens with a little room), add jalepeno, salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Bring to a boil over high heat, add the greens and spinach. Reduce heat to love and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a skillet over medium high heat, heat the other tablespoon of oil, and add in the onion, tomatoes and their juice, and coconut milk. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in the greens and some of the cooking liquid (optional, do it to your own preference) and cook for 15-20 minutes. Top with sunflower seeds when serving (optional).

07 February 2011

product placement: organic valley pasture butter


So, like many Americans perhaps, I didn't really know the goodness of butter until I was an adult. Growing up "butter" was a big tub of margarine in the fridge, and hey, I didn't know any better. When I was 22 and in cooking school, I had my first real focused taste of butter and a little light-bulb-of-obvious lit up over my head and I thought, "Wow! Butter is delicious!" I went a little trigger-happy with butter for a bit, but have since settled into olive oil and coconut oil for my everyday needs. Every once in awhile I get the craving for butter and I usually keep some around just-in-case.

Attracted to it's "specialness" (it comes in beautiful half pound slabs, as opposed to sticks) and it's production from seasonal milk (May-September), but unsure if it could beat out my love of Kate's Homemade Butter (still a favorite), I whipped out my $1-off Organic Valley coupon and took it home...

AMAZEBALLS!  (to borrow my friend Michelle's expression)
If butter could kick ass, this Organic Valley Pasture Butter surely would. It's all you want from good butter-- deep golden yellow, smooth and creamy, sweet, and very buttery tasting. If all you've been consuming is Hotel Bar butter or some other "butter" you're really missing out. Missing big. Slather some of this stuff on your morning toast and find yourself at a loss for words. Plus I love that Organic Valley is cooperatively owned and operated.

This is what simple food is all about-- you don't have to get all fancy with your ingredients and recipes, just get the best ingredients you can access and afford. If everything you consume is individually great, the rest comes together very easily.


Photo from Organic Valley

05 February 2011

recipe: butter beans with sage, lemon, and honey

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Trying to use up a few things in my fridge and celebrate the magical reappearance of the Bioitalia Butter Beans at Whole Foods, I threw this together the other night. It could be made vegan by substituting the honey for agave or maple syrup. If you can't find butter beans, this would probably be pretty good with other "meaty" beans like limas or cannellinis.

sauteed butter beans with sage, lemon, and honey
serves 4 as an accompaniment

1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
1 16 oz. can butter beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage, divided
1 lemon, zested and juiced, divided
pinch red chili flakes, optional
2-3 teaspoons honey
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil or butter in an medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add in butter beans, 1 tablespoon of sage, lemon zest, and chili flakes, stirring occasionally until beans are heated through, about 4-5 minutes. Add in lemon juice and honey. Remove from heat and add remaining sage, salt, and pepper.

01 February 2011

food in vietnam

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In November I went on a 3-week trip to Vietnam (with micro-trips to Cambodia and Seoul). I've always loved Vietnamese food, but was a little concerned that I wouldn't be able to keep to a vegetarian diet while there, and had already planned to make a lot of concessions. Amazingly, I hardly had to make any compromises, which makes sense given the strong Buddhist community there, though I will say it's a good think I like fish sauce.

hungry? Walking through the markets was a really amazing experience-- you've got your produce and dry goods vendors, butchers and the like, but then you've also got women hawking live fish, shrimp, crabs, frogs, chickens, ducks, and more. You pick what fish you'd like and they ahem, take care of it, and hand it over. Different than what we're used to, but I love that, I love that you get to pick what looks good to you and know that you couldn't really have gotten it any fresher. In Cambodia we went to a market with lots of different spicy fried bugs. I was tempted by the chili-scallion crickets because I've had roasted crickets before and liked them, but I just couldn't do it. There were too many. I failed!

IMG_5836As with most of the travel I do in tropical areas, I get really excited about the fruit I'm going to experience. Vietnam did not disappoint-- from tiny baby bananas, dragon fruit, papaya, pomelo, mangoes, and rock melons in the south to passion fruit and persimmons in the mountain regions, I was a pretty happy camper. I think avocados were out of season, otherwise I would have been extremely happy. And of course there were French pastries galore.

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IMG_5795In the South the food was very produce and seafood oriented, lots of fish sauce, very fresh with a lot of availability for raw dishes-- bun, summer rolls, and the like-- these are the kinds of things that we more associate with Vietnamese food here in the States. Pho of course, is everywhere in the country, and makes a really delightful breakfast. I might have to start making noodle soup to start my day-- with all of the herbs and lettuce and simple, but refreshing flavors-- I really enjoyed that. Up North the food was more meat-based, and overall less exciting in my opinion. We splurged one night at a 4-course French dinner at the Sofitel in Da Lat-- something that was pretty affordable there but would have cost us half a month of rent here.

IMG_6546 Misha and I embarked on a spring roll tasting mission, mostly partaking of the vegetarian variety. Out of at least 10 orders of spring rolls throughout the country, we only found 2 that satisfied our criteria of proper texture, flavor, appearance, and sauce. 

There are a few things I need to start seeking how to make, including banh chung (sticky rice cakes-- though the ones we had didn't have meat and were fried), banh chuoi nuong (banana cake), and banh dua nuong (coconut cake). Maybe just in time for Lunar New Year!

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