Make Your Own Sushi – It’s Easy as 1, 2, 3…

The other night my best friend Jenn came over for dinner.  “What should we make for dinner?” I asked her.  I was thinking maybe something like Cottage Cheese Pizza or Smoked Salmon Potato Salad.  Not Jenn though.  Her response was, “Well, to be honest, what I really want is sushi.”
Now, normally I would just have said, “Alright let’s do it – hop in the car and we’ll go to Akitas (our favorite local sushi place)” but this time I was feeling up for a challenge, so I said, “We can make that.”  And make it we did.

Make Your Own Sushi, (healthy)Vittles&Bits

I had made sushi once or twice in college, but it has definitely been a handful of years since I attempted it.  It was actually surprisingly easy.  I can say hands down that the hardest part of making the sushi is collecting all the ingredients.  We ended up needing to go to two different grocery stores.  The seaweed (Nori) was the toughest thing to find, but in a well-stocked supermarket, most everything you need should be in the international aisle.  Sushi is great because you just need a few staples, and then you can mix and match veggies and proteins to your heart’s content.  Here’s what you need:

Ingredients & Supplies: 

Sushi rice (found in the international aisle at the grocery store)–I used 1 whole box, which was like 3 cups of dry rice
2/3 cup of seasoned rice vinegar (this has some sugar in it so it makes the rice sticky, which is just what you need)
Nori (dried seaweed)–I used one package of 10 sheets, so I made 10 rolls
I would suggest buying a sushi mat because it makes rolling the sushi really easy.  I got a mat and a paddle (for the rice I guess…) in a little sushi-making kit in the international aisle for 5 dollars.

Now, you also need some veggies, and some protein if you so desire.  It’s great cause you can mix and match as much as you want.
I used 1 cucumber, 1 bunch of asparagus, 1 avocado, and 1 pound of raw salmon

Method:

1.  Make your rice.  Add the 3 cups dry rice to a pot and add 4 cups of water.  Bring to a boil.  Once it’s boiling, reduce the heat to low and cover the pot.  Let the rice simmer for like 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so to make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom of the pot.  Taste it when you think it’s done and just make sure it’s not crunchy.  Remove the rice from heat.  Add in the 2/3 cup of seasoned rice vinegar and stir to get it evenly coated.  Now set the rice aside.

2. Prepare your sushi innards.  For vegetables, it’s very simple, just julienne them (which means cut them into thin, long slices).  For cucumbers, peel them first and then slice thin.  Avocados need to be peeled, seeded, and then sliced thin.  For asparagus, steam it in a covered, microwave safe dish with a little water for about five minutes.  (Don’t need to julienne the asparagus because nature did it for you!  Isn’t nature awesome sometimes?)  For the salmon, this is a little trickier because you need to get the skin off before you can julienne it.  My best advice is to use a super sharp knife (like a fillet knife) and to grab the salmon skin by one end and try to carefully use the knife to separate the skin from the flesh.  If this step sounds intimidating to you, just watch a tutorial on YouTube that shows you how to do it. After you’ve removed the skin, just slice the salmon into thin slices.

3.  Get your roll on.  Lay out the sushi rolling mat.  Lay a slice of nori on top.  Then, take a little rice (just about 1/4 of a cup), and spread it thinly on the nori.  Make sure you leave some room at the end of the nori without rice so that it’s easier to roll it up and have it seal better.  Next, choose your innards.  My favorite combination from this dinner was avocado, asparagus, and salmon.  Now, the first time you put innards in your roll, you may be tempted to pile it in there–resist that urge!  Adding too much to the inside of the roll makes it really difficult to roll up.  So start small and get a feel for how it rolls before you go crazy adding filings.  So for example, say you chose to start out with just veggies.  You would take a piece of asparagus and lay it at the end of the piece of nori (not the end that you left rice-less).  Then lay a slice of cucumber next to it.  Now, you’re ready to roll.  Starting at the end with the fillings, use your fingers to start the roll.  After you get it started with your fingers, then use the mat.  Using the bamboo mat helps you get it really tight.  It’s kind of difficult to explain, but you start rolling the mat.  You roll it maybe 1/4 of the way and then stop and unroll the mat (because you don’t want to roll the mat into your sushi).  Then you keep rolling the mat making sure you don’t roll the mat into your food.  Here’s a YouTube video showing you how to roll sushi (you can skip to about  a minute and half into the video).  After that, you can slice your sushi roll into 6-8 pieces and dunk it in some low sodium soy sauce!

Make Your Own Sushi, (healthy)Vittles&Bits

 

Using the amounts of the ingredients listed in this post, we made 10 rolls–which was enough to feed 4 sushi-loving people.  If you are looking for a really great, more in-depth tutorial of making sushi, I suggest you check out this blog post by Peas & Crayons.  It provides a lot more detail about the process, and also provides you some ideas for extra toppings, sauces, etc.

Make Your Own Sushi, (healthy)VIttles&Bits

I cannot stress enough how easy this was.  Also, it was amazingly delicious.  I love going out for sushi, but it’s just so darn expensive! This is a very cost-effective way to make your own.  We bought all the ingredients listed here (except for the avocado because I had one left over from making the Avocado Hummus and Cucumber Tea Sandwiches), and it was less than $30 dollars.  Not bad to feed 4 people.  And by feed, I mean stuff them with sushi–we ate a ton.

This was last Saturday night.  There was also a pretty neat sunset happening, so I tried to take some pictures of that…

Sunset, (healthy)Vittles&BitsAnd one more for good luck….

Sunset, (healthy)Vittles&BitsAnd with that image, I take my leave.  Wishing you all a fantastic rest of the week!

Have you ever made your own sushi?  Was it easy?  What kind did you make?  

 

Sometimes the Music Makes all the Difference

Tonight’s post is a slight departure from my traditional post.  I’ve been wanting for a while now to start doing a few fitness related posts.  I must admit that I enjoy cooking and recipe development more than I enjoy working out, but as a nutrition professional, I know that living a healthy lifestyle requires both healthy eating and regular physical activity.  I encourage all clients I see to engage in regular physical activity, and what kind of professional would I be if I didn’t practice what I preach?  A lousy one.  So this post is the first of more to come.  The blog will of course still be focused on healthy eating, but I am going to try to include more tips, tricks, and info about working out.

So as mentioned, I am not a “gym junkie.”  I don’t like to spend hours at the gym.  It’s just not my style.  (Unless of course those hours were spent Zumba-ing.  I must confess that I do LOVE Zumba).  Not that gyms aren’t great.  I just don’t have a ton of money right now, so I’m not going to pay for something that I can do for free.  That being said, I do think gyms are a great option for a lot of people, especially if you know you’re someone that lacks the motivation to workout on your own, then the gym might be a great option for you, especially the group fitness classes.  For me right now though, it’s mostly outdoor running/walking with my dog Luna, and the occasional DVD or online workout.  Today’s workout was a run–an unusually good run, and here’s why: music.

Luna, (healthy)Vittles&Bits

Luna after a hot and humid run :-)

I will tell you now that although I run, I don’t really consider myself a serious runner.  Serious runners (in my mind) run at least 5-6 miles a day.  I am a casual runner, which (to me) means that I run 1.5-3 miles probably at least 4 days a week.  Some days it is really hard to motivate myself to go out in the hot, humid summer air and run hills (my neighborhood is made of nothing but hills), but being the pretty Type A person that I am, I know it’s good for me and that I will feel better after I do it, so I push myself (and my dog) out the door.  Today I took my iPhone along and put on my “Dance Dance” playlist–yes, that is seriously the name of my playlist.  I had such a great time listening to that playlist and running, that when Luna started seriously dragging after twenty minutes, I ran her home and then did another 10 minutes on my own, at that point really enjoying some Lady Gaga.

Now, as someone who started college as a music performance major (I play the oboe–yup, I’m that nerdy), I have a wide range in my taste in music, ranging from the seriously old-school (as in 15th century) Guillaume Dufay, to the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald, to Florence and the Machine–so my iTunes covers a pretty wide range of musical styles, but when it comes to calorie torching tunes, I reach for the fast paced, upbeat songs that just make you want to dance.  Some of my all time favorite work-out tunes include “Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That” by Robert Randolf and the Family Band, “Loca,” “Rabiosa,” and “Waka Waka” (all by Shakira), “Pump It” by the Black Eyed Peas, “Country Girl (Shake it for Me)” by Luke Bryan, and “Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO.  All these songs have a great, really fast beat that will push you to run faster (at least they push me to run faster).

Not only did I feel awesome during this run, but I also felt pretty awesome afterwards.  As a nutrition expert, I can tell you that exercising is a great way to burn calories and lose weight.  It’s a good way to help lower your triglycerides.  It’s a great way to speed up your metabolism.  Not only will you burn calories during the exercise itself, but you will continue to burn more calories throughout the rest of the day than you would have if you hadn’t exercised.  I can tell you lots of beneficial reasons to exercise.  But what I really want you to think about, is how exercising makes you feel.  Sure, sometimes it sucks to run in 95 degree weather, or to go to the gym after a 12 hour work day.  Sometimes exercising is just the last thing you feel like doing.  But how do you feel afterward?   I know that after exercising, I feel great.  Not just because I know that I did something that was good for me physically, but it was also good for me mentally.  Exercising improves my mood and even helps me sleep better at night.  What I really try to sell people on, is how great exercising makes them feel.  Because I have learned that you can throw all the data in the world at people, and sometimes it’s just not enough to get them off the couch.  People have to want to change.  They have to find what works for them.  They have to find a form of exercise that they like (or at least tolerate because of how it makes them feel afterwards).  Because although changing your diet is great, there’s still that second half of the equation.  It’s all about making lifestyle changes, not just dietary changes.

I hope some of you found this somewhat motivating.  I shared my (somewhat embarrassing) favorite workout tunes with you.  What are your favorite workout songs?

What is your favorite way to work out?

What’s one small healthy change you can make this week?

I would love to hear answers to any/all of these questions in the comments section.  Or of course I am always happy to hear comments with your reaction to the post.  So leave some comment love and I will definitely respond to each and every one.

Avocado Hummus and Cucumber Tea Sandwiches

I guess these aren’t really sandwiches – they’re like half sandwiches.  Unless of course you eventually do what I did, and stick two half sandwiches together because they were just that good.  If you’ve been reading some of my most recent posts, you’ve probably noticed the avocado theme that’s going on.  Recent posts include Avocado Chocolate Chip Cookies, Quinoa Burgers with Avocado Sauce, and who could forget that protein packed Avocado Chicken Salad.  What can I say?  They’re delicious.  And I’m determined to work them into as many dishes as I can.  For a while now, I’ve been playing around in my head with the idea of an avocado hummus.  I’m happy to say that that idea has finally become a reality.  And oh, what a delicious reality it was.  

Avocado Hummus, (healthy)Vittles&Bits

 

This recipe is soooooo easy.  It’s one of those “just throw everything in a blender and push start” recipes.  Sometimes those are my favorite.  As much as I love cooking and playing in the kitchen, let’s be honest–it takes a lot of time and energy.  And sometimes I am just too tired for anything complicated.  However, being un-complicated doesn’t have to mean boring, bland, or take-out.  I love easy, fast, and healthy recipes like this.  Perfect for busy days.  As delicious as this was on bread alone, I knew it would be awesome paired with cucumber.  The hummus itself is so fresh and light tasting.  It just screamed at me, “Top me with a cucumber!!!!!”  And when the food starts talking–you just have to listen.  (Disclaimer, I’m writing this post at 11pm after three sleepless nights, so forgive me if I sound somewhat crazier than usual.)

Avocado Hummus, (healthy)Vittles&Bits

As little tea-sandwich-like bites, I think that these are super perfect for taking to any sort of summer get-together.  Bridal showers, baby showers, family reunions, fancy tea parties thrown on the sweeping lawn of Downtown Abbey–these are all excellent venues for Avocado Hummus and Cucumber Tea Sandwiches.  (If you are preparing for a big, food centered get-together, you may also want to check out 5 Tips for Surviving Get-Togethers without Blowing your Diet.)  Here’s how you prepare these crunchy little delectables…

Ingredients: 

1 ripe avocado, peeled and seeded
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed with cold water to remove excess sodium
1/2 cup of low fat cottage cheese
1/4 cup lemon juice (I love lemon, so if you aren’t as much of a fan, maybe start with 2 or 3 Tbsp and work your way up)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
A French baguette, sliced thin
1 or 2 cucumbers, peeled and sliced thin into rounds, and then into half moons

Method: 

1.  Put avocado flesh, chickpeas, cottage cheese, lemon juice, garlic, and salt into a high speed blender or a food processor.  Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender as needed. 
2.  Taste and be happy.  Or, add more salt or lemon juice if you think it needs it. 
3. Spread some delicious hummus onto a slice of baguette.  Top with a cucumber half moon.  Grind on some fresh black pepper.  
4.  Once again, eat and be happy. 

Avocado Hummus, (healthy)Vittles&Bits

As mentioned, you can eat the little halves daintily, or if you’re more like me, then you can stack ‘em up and make a sandwich. 

Avocado Hummus, (healthy)Vittles&Bits

 

Avocado Hummus, (healthy)Vittles&Bits

 

If you are really into dips and spreads, you may also want to check out other fun recipes including Pumpkin Hummus, Fruit Salsa and Cinnamon Chips, Smoky Sesame Crushed Pea Dip, Spinach and Artichoke Dip, and Tomatillo Bruschetta.  

Also, if any of you lovely readers are vegan (like my new friend Celeste over at Honk if You’re Vegan :-) ), then you can try making this without the cottage cheese and adding olive oil a Tbsp at a time to get a good consistency.  If anyone does try that, please let me know how it turns out in the comments section! 

Okay friends, it’s been a long week.  I hope this post gets your weekend off to a good start.  Here, this should help…..

Luna,  (healthy)Vittles&Bits

 

Luna was very attentive during this whole hummus-making process…

Luna, (healthy)Vittles&Bits

And of course, she was ever so helpful by licking my fingers clean ;-)  
Maybe that grosses some of you–but any dog lovers out there understand, I’m sure.  

Have a very happy (and healthy) weekend everyone!