My Pretty Apron: What Would Wonder Woman Do?

It’s all about superheroes today. All of you ladies who work all day to bring home the bacon and then have to actually cook that bacon, know what I mean when I say that we’re real-life wonder women.  Between all the multi-tasking and juggling of our careers and families, it’s a mystery how we can manage to pull it together. A lot of times it’s not so easy and usually our health- and sometimes our sanity- pays the cost for maintaining such hectic schedules. And so I ask, what would Wonder Woman do?

My inspiration for today’s My Pretty Apron came from one person in two different contexts. My good friend Kyndra, one of my personal super heroes,  has been training for the upcoming NY Marathon and blogging about her experiences throughout the process. Her blog is AWESOME and super inspirational to anyone who’s looking to read a story about someone who posed the ultimate challenge for themselves and tackled it head on. She inspires me every day, so thanks Kyndra for being you! And you guys go do yourselves a favor and check out her blog here: Start2Finish2012

The other day she posted a chicken and quinoa recipe that looked delicious which brings me here. More on quinoa in a bit. The second context was a chat conversation Kyndra and I had earlier today (pardon the partially disguised French):

me: I need like 10 more hrs in my day

kyndra: Eff that. I’d never make it thru the day. 24 works for me

me: That’s for sleep, the extra 10

kyndra: Oh..well an extra 10 hours of sleep i can do…

I constantly feel pressured for time. Between work, my training, nutrition research, social networking, writing, and blogging, I barely have time leftover to sleep. I’m constantly moving or my brain is on overdrive working through all these tasks each day. And although I absolutely LOVE the work that goes into this blog and my network, I feel like I could use extra hours so that I could do more in a day. This conversation with Kyndra earlier today made me think about today’s recipe and then I had an idea.

Fitness has become a major part of my life and I try my best to keep as consistent a schedule as possible. I’ve done a poor job, however, of keeping up with my workouts the past couple of weeks and I’ve been trying to figure out ways to efficiently split my time between my work and exercise. So..…what if I could fit some of my training in while cooking?

Ok, follow me with this. It’d have to be a recipe that has enough downtime in the middle so that I can do a short 20-minute HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) session and then go back to cooking. The recipe I chose included roasted root vegetables which average about 30-40 minutes in the oven which is perfect timing. Yes, I admit, this is insane. Why would I want to do an intense exercise routine in the middle of cooking? Why can’t I just wait until after? Re: above. I don’t have enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do. I do HIIT training mostly because I love it but partly because it’s time efficient and it works. Read about it if you don’t believe me. I speak the truth.

I thrive on challenges and these recipe blog posts have each given me an opportunity to try something completely new, albeit somewhat nuts too. I figure if I can ‘wonder woman’ my way through each day and remain standing, than this shouldn’t be so hard. Right?

Food4ThoughtNYC NUTRITION FACTOIDS

  • Quinoa

 Earlier I mentioned quinoa. I’ve wanted to do a quinoa recipe for a long time now but was just waiting for the right opportunity. Since I knew I needed that 30 minute window, I searched for recipes that would call for slow cooking of specific ingredients to fit my parameters for this blog. Quinoa was a great base for this kind of challenge because it can be mixed with pretty much anything. That’s gravy in my book.

There are tons and tons of health benefits to this so-called superfood, but first, a bit of history.

The Incas began cultivating quinoa (Spanish derivation of the Quechua word kinwa) in the Andean regions of Ecuador, Bolivia, Columbia, and Peru over 5000 years ago. They considered quinoa was sacred, believing that it gave stamina and power to their warriors and it was even used in ceremonial rituals. When the Spanish conquistadores arrived in the 16th century, most of the quinoa crops were burned to essentially destroy Inca culture. Quinoa survived by growing wild in the Andes and through secret-cultivation by the descendents of the Incas. This remained secret until about 30 years ago when North Americans discovered quinoa and began cultivating it in the US.

Quinoa sounds fit for an amazon princess so I think Wonder Woman would approve! 😉

I could explain the advantages myself, but I’ll leave it to the good people at Care2  to explain what those benefits are with the bonus of pretty pictures. If you want to skip the link, then here’s a summary:

8 Health Benefits of Quinoa:

1. High quality protein with the nine essential amino acids, the protein balance is similar to milk. At 16.2 to 20 percent protein, it has is more protein than rice (7.5 percent), millet (9.9 percent) or wheat (14 percent).

2. Great source of riboflavin. Riboflavin has been shown to help reduce the frequency of attacks in migraine sufferers by improving the energy metabolism within the brain and muscle cells.

3. Inca warriors had more stamina and quicker recovery time by eating these quinoa seeds, making it a truly ancient powerfood.

4. Antiseptic. The saponins from quinoa are used to promote healing of skin injuries in South America.

5. Not fattening! Only 172 calories per 1/4 cup dry (24 of the calories from protein and only 12 from sugars, the rest are complex carbohydrates, fiber and healthy fats).

6. Gluten-free. Since it is not related to wheat, or even a grain, it is gluten-free.

7. Alkaline-forming. Although it is not strongly alkaline-forming, it is comparable to wild rice, amaranth, and sprouted grains.

8. Smart Carb: It is a complex carbohydrate with a low glycemic index, so it won’t spike your blood sugar.

  • Butternut Squash

It’s fall which means all that beautiful winter squash is in season! Take advantage and be sure to try to incorporate some of this nutrient-rich produce into your recipes the next couple of months.Butternut squash packs a serious punch with these major health benefits per serving:

Vitamin A– 298% of your RDA (recommended daily allowance). PHEW! I’ve spoken about the pros of Vitamin A before, but note that your body can actually store extra helpings of the stuff for days until your body needs it. Talk about efficient.

Vitamin C– 49% of your RDA. A lot healthier than that tall glass of sugary-sweet orange juice.

Fiber– 2.8g or 7%-11% of your RDA. This of course helps with your digestion and regulates your blood sugar levels.

Potassium– 14% of your RDA

Magnesium– 12% of your RDA

Butternut squash is also a low-calorie and low-fat food which makes this a great addition to a healthy diet.

  • Arugula (aka Rocket)

If you’re looking for an alternative to your iceburg or romaine lettuce salads, try arugula. This leafy green has many things to offer besides that great peppery bite:

Cruciferous vegetable– Arugula is part of a family of produce that contain anti-cancer compounds by regulating our immune system. Broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage are also classified as cruciferous.

Carotenoids– I’ve spoken at great length about the pros of carotenoids when I used sweet potatoes and tomatoes in the past, but note that Arugula has a good range of carotenoids which have cancer-fighting properties

Rich in calcium, Vitamins A, C, and K, Iron, Potassium, and Riboflavin. Arugula may also be a good alternative to spinach and other greens because it is lower in oxalate which is a compound that reduces our bodies absorption of calcium.

  •  Beets

Beets and their greens offer up a number of nutritional advantages and can offer a variety of cooking options with both the green tops and red roots. These benefits below are for a ½ cup serving of beet roots:

Folate– 17% of RDA. Folate is related to Vitamin B, it is necessary to new cell production and the building of DNA.

Fiber– 1.7g or 7% of RDA

Loads of Vitamins and minerals– Vitamins A and C, Niacin, Vitamin K, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Zinc, and Magnesium (at 14% of RDA)

Now that we’ve got all of our super ingredients sorted out, I’m ready to kick some butt on the stove and with HIIT all in under two hours.

APRON ON. WONDER WOMAN BELT AND BRACELETS FASTENED. LET’S DO THIS!

Here’s the recipe for tonight’s creation. I decided to make a Butternut Squash, Arugula, and Goat Cheese Quinoa with the addition of roasted beets and garlic. I tend to make changes to recipes based on whatever inspires me in the moment and there’s few things I love more than beets with goat cheese and roasted garlic. I figure I’d throw them all together and have a party!

This recipe was pulled from Foodista, which is an incredible blog that I recommend all of you to check out. There are literally hundreds of amazing and healthy options for all of you fellow chefs/mad scientists, so take a look and you won’t be disappointed.

As I usually do with My Pretty Apron, I’ll summarize what I did below, but you can follow the instructions step by step if you follow the link above.

Alright, I present to you the ingredients:

Note that I didn’t photograph the garlic here because I got inspired to add that to the dish as I was prepping the squash and beets. These things happen and I just go with it. You should too. By the way, I’ve mentioned that roasting these vegetables was convenient for me from a time perspective, but you should note that roasting vegetables also brings out an incredible depth in flavor and the natural sweetness in produce. This is especially true of a lot of the hearty winter greens like kale and mustard. Roasting takes time but it’s really worth it.

Since my goal here is to try and fit in a workout while cooking, prep is absolutely key. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. The first thing I did was peel and chop the squash. If you’ve never handled squash before you might find the process a bit intimidating. They’re thick and sturdy vegetables so you should really use a strong chef’s knife and put some heft into that grip. If you’re dubious, I suggest you take a look at this great visual put together by the Cooking Light test kitchen pros to learn how to prepare butternut squash with the greatest of ease.

Once your squash is diced up, take the beets and cut the greens off. Make sure to reserve those greens- don’t throw them away! First of all, it’s wasteful and secondly, those greens pack a mighty nutrition punch on their own so you can totally use them for future recipes (new project alert!). After you’ve taken those greens and safely returned them to your refrigerator, rinse the beet roots and remove any caked up dirt. Slice in half to decrease your roasting time. Beets play well with other vegetables while roasting so we can put them together with the squash.

*Note, this photo was pre-garlic addition, so if you’re going to add roasted garlic to your dish, just take an entire head, cut off the pointy top and place it in the pan with the rest of your veggies.

I washed out the quinoa, removing any dull pieces and then put them to drain thoroughly on the side. Afterwards, I put the vegetables and garlic into the oven and set my timer.

And now, it’s time to be a superhero.

I’ve called in Jillian Michaels to give me my dose of HIIT this evening and she’s waiting for me on my computer that I have set up in my kitchen. Yes, folks, I’m doing this in my kitchen. I promise the floors are clean and I washed my hands before, during, and after. I pinky-swear!

My favorite workout at the moment is the 30 Day Shred and I’m on Level 2 (there are 3 levels, each significantly harder than the last). I used to do this at least 3 times a week, followed by pilates or kickboxing. And then I gave birth to this blog and have since scaled that back to once or maybe twice a week if I’m lucky. For those unfamiliar with HIIT, it’s a nonstop rotation between strength, cardio, and ab exercises each in short bursts that usually go in a 3-2-1 format, ie. 3min strength, 2min cardio, 1min abs. It’s all compound movements with no resting in between so your heart rate level goes way up thereby increasing your calorie burn in a short amount of time. It’s awesome. I’ll leave it at that.

Ok, enough of the talk. I’ve gotta get these 20 minutes in! I actually write most these blog posts as I’m cooking, so I am about to step away from the computer to do this HIIT series while my squash and beets are roasting in the oven. Keep yourselves busy- I’ll be back in a jiffy!

….and I’m back! Woo! That was awesome. Yes, I did it. No, there are no pictures to prove it since I’m by myself and I wasn’t going to take time to set up my camera (what a pain) but I promise you, it was done. My dog was my witness. Jillian Michaels has just whipped my butt into shape and now I can check on my veggies in the oven and see how they’re doing. Try doing hammer pulls and lunges while smelling roasted squash and beets. It’s not easy.

After taking a 3-5 minute breather to drink some water, change my shirt and wash my hands (cleanliness first!), I put the apron back on, and emboldened by my wonder woman prowess – or endorphin high, whatever- I got back to my quinoa masterpiece.

Holy moly, the vegetables smell AMAZING and they’re just five minutes away from being done! I took this time to set my pot on the stove, pour out about 3 cups of chicken stock, add the quinoa and set it to boil. I’m upping the recipe here a bit because I plan to share some of this with my friend Kristy (shout-out!) tomorrow, and it’s always good to have a big batch of whatever you’re making so you can reheat later. That’s superhero logic if you ask me.

Once the liquid has started to evaporate, cover, and reduce the heat to simmer. At this point the vegetables are done and I can pull them out of the oven. I need to let them cool down so that I can peel the beets and remove the garlic from their skin. Take a moment to check on the quinoa and prepare the rest of ingredients. It’s best to leave the goat cheese in the fridge until just about before you add it to your recipe. I’m a big big fan of goat cheese but I know some aren’t, so try subbing it with feta or another soft cheese if you prefer.

Once the beets have cooled off, handling them for heat, carefully peel the skin off each root and then dice them into medium-sized chunks. Chop up your garlic cloves as thinly as possible.  At this point you should check on the quinoa. What you want is for all of the liquid to have evaporated so that you’re left with fluffy goodness that’s ready to eat. If that’s the case, then you’re nearly there!

Pour out the quinoa into a big bowl and immediately add the arugula. The heat from the quinoa will help wilt the arugula. Now you can pile in your ingredients; roasted butternut squash and beet root, chopped roasted garlic, half a log of crumbled plain goat cheese, 3 tbsps of aged balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp of EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil), kosher salt, and several cracks of fresh black pepper. The last ingredient is a bit of a flourish. I like crunch in my food. It’s tactile and fun, and adds another layer of texture to an already layered dish. I took about a half cup of walnuts and toasted them slightly in a small pan for about 30-45 seconds, and then added that to the bowl. Now, you mix it all together. And this is what you get:

Deliciousness. Yes, that’s a word and it’s apt here. I’ve never had quinoa before. I probably should have mentioned that sooner, but this was not only my first time cooking it, but my first time actually tasting quinoa. I sort of expected it to be similar to couscous which I’m not crazy about, but figured I’d give it a try. Given the versatility and healthiness of quinoa, I figure this is right up my alley. And after serving a bowl of this salad, I fell madly in love. Oh, so this is what they were talking about? I get it now. It is superfood. The squash was perfect and the beets were a nice sweet touch to the salad. Putting the challenge element of this post aside, this recipe is worth repeating without any gimmicks or ploys. It’s incredibly easy, light, adaptable, and quick. Those four things meet my standards 100% so I am very happy right now. 🙂

Maybe it was the endorphins. Or the excitement of trying something new. Or the Wonder Woman magic bracelets and belt. Whatever it was, it gave me the energy and the inspiration to do something mad like pull off HIIT and cooking at the same time. I got to fit in my workout AND have an incredible meal to boot without sacrificing one or other. But I’m not suggesting you all drop and start doing pushups while you have a roast in the oven. The point is that we lead such busy, hectic lives that every now and then we need to get creative to ensure that we can fit in at least one thing that makes us feel good. For me it’s exercise, but it could be an extra 20 minutes to help your child with their homework, or a phone call to your parents, or painting, or watching a TV episode you missed on Netflix… or whatever it is that makes you super. Maybe we can’t do it all all the time but we can still make the effort to seize as many moments as possible.

Hope you guys enjoyed this as much as I did! Until next time, happy eating folks. 🙂

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9 thoughts on “My Pretty Apron: What Would Wonder Woman Do?

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    1. Yes to both! I took a batch to work for lunch and after I finished, I kind of kicked myself for not bringing more, lol. I always get a little nervous when i do posts for recipes I’ve never tried before so it’s a huge relief when they actually turn out okay. Besides, I can eat anything with beets and goat cheese so i figured at the very least I could eat that if this totally failed. Thankfully it didn’t. I’ll definitely be working with quinoa again!

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  1. I love working with quinoa. It is so versatile and adds great body to any meal or salad. Goat cheese and beets are actually one of my favorite combinations, drizzled with olive oil and topped with toasted pecans or walnuts. 🙂

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  2. Looks so good! Love that butternut squash!
    I had to laugh with your wonderful post. At night in between everything, I hop on my treadmill, do some other exercises and yoga. And then do other multitasking!!

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