Cinnamon Vanilla Almond Milk

Hello to all, and apologies for not having posted in a while! I have taken some much needed time to rest and rejuvenate over the past few weeks. First, I attended an amazing meditation retreat at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, and highly recommend getting there if you ever have the opportunity.  After that I spent a few days warming up in beautiful Puerto Rico, and experiencing some incredible nature in the rainforest.  I am back in the freezing cold now, and back in my kitchen, which I am grateful for.  There seemed to be a serious lack of fruits and vegetables in the parts of Puerto Rico I was in, and It will be a long time before I eat another fried plantain!

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A while back I posted about making my own cashew milk, which was incredibly delicious.  Well, since then I have embarked on a new diet to help improve my digestion.  I have been dabbling with the low FODMAP diet, and have read this book about it.  It was very informative, and though I haven’t been really strict with it, I have found that avoiding certain foods that are high in FODMAPs has been beneficial for me.

Unfortunately, both cashews and dates are high in FODMAPs, so I had to revamp my nut milk recipe.  I had previously tried almond milk but found it to have an unpleasant bitterness to it.  I have since discovered that removing the skins from the almonds seems to eliminate the bitterness.  I also tried pecan milk, which was good, but there was a lot of pulp to strain out.  So I wanted to share my latest almond milk recipe.  I have found that the addition of cinnamon is fantastic too.  After soaking the almonds, the skins slide off very easily.  It is a bit of a tedious task, but I think it’s worth it, especially when you have this guy helping you in the kitchen!

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Cinnamon Vanilla Almond Milk

(gluten free, dairy free, grain free, low FODMAP friendly)

3/4 cup raw almonds

1 teaspoon sea salt

4 cups filtered water

1-2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

In a glass jar or bowl, soak the almonds with sea salt in filtered water for 6-8 hours or overnight.  Drain, rinse well and and slip the skins off of the almonds if desired.  Combine almonds, 4 cups of filtered water, maple syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla in the  blender and puree for 1-2 minutes until a smooth consistency is reached. Strain milk through a fine mesh strainer, cheesecloth, or nut milk bag.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

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Homemade Elderberry Syrup

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday filled with family, friends, delicious food, and laughter.  We actually ended up staying home from our celebration, as my son was sick AGAIN!  He is all better today, but we’ve been in the house a lot with little ills more often than I would like to admit. I’ve been cooking up chicken broth, and we’ve been taking probiotics and elderberry daily too.  I know it’s helping, but little kids just seem to be susceptible to every little germ out there!!

Do you know about the wonderful Elderberry?  So first of all it is a berry, so of course contains antioxidants, which are great for warding off cancer and various other diseases. It has long been used to treat respiratory diseases such as cold and flu, and some evidence suggests that elder may help reduce sinus swelling and nasal congestion.

Studies have also suggested that the little elderberry has some amazing powers, such as possibly reducing the duration of flu by 3 days as well as reducing flu symptoms.  One study even showed elderberry extract actually killing the H1N1 flu virus in a test tube!!?

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So I’ve been buying a prepared Elderberry Syrup for years that I think has been effective in helping us fight the flu. But this year I decided to get crafty and try making some myself.  The original recipe I used was too sweet for our liking, so I reduced the honey a bit and it came out just great.  We have been using it once a day for prevention and more frequently when sick or trying to fight something off.  We have been taking 1 tablespoon a day for adults and 1 teaspoon a day for children (skipping a day at least once a week) and up to 4 tablespoons a day for adults and 3 teaspoons a day for children when sick or fighting something. This syrup has several other immune boosting and anti-bacterial herbs and spices, and is also really delicious.  I usually put some in the freezer too; the honey keeps it from freezing too hard and it is so yummy to take frozen. And do use raw honey if you are able, it is full of live enzymes and good stuff that gets killed in the pasteurization/heating process of typical honey.

It should be noted that raw elderberries have a chemical in them similar to cyanide, so need to be cooked to make them safe for ingestion.  Anyone on medications or with special issues should speak to their doctor before using elderberry.  And please remember not to give this syrup to any child under 1 as it contains honey, which can be toxic for little ones.

If you are sensitive to honey, or want to give this remedy to your littlest ones, stay tuned for an updated post soon.  My next batch will be made with maple syrup, as I have embarked on a new diet to help with my IBS, a low FODMAP foods diet, but more on this later!

And here it is, I know you’ve been waiting for it, another use for the nut milk bag! When the syrup is done it needs to be strained, which can be done through a fine mesh strainer, cheesecloth, or, you guessed it, nut milk bag! I used my nut milk bag last time and was really pleased because I was really able to squeeze all the elder-goodness out at the end.

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Homemade Elderberry Syrup

Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients

1 cup dried elderberries

4 cups filtered water

2 inch chunk fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thin

1 cinnamon stick

4 whole cloves

3/4 cup raw honey

Add all ingredients except honey to a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to a simmer and let the mixture reduce by half, about 30-40 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and strain through a fine mesh strainer, cheesecloth, or nut milk bag. When the mixture has cooled but is still warm (118 degrees F or less) whisk in the honey and store in a glass jar in the fridge, or in the freezer.  The mixture should keep in the fridge for a few weeks.

I’d love to hear what you use to keep your family healthy during cold and flu season!

Homemade Nut Milk

For years and years I have been buying and drinking non-dairy ‘milk’ of different sorts, as I have never been able to digest regular milk.  First it was soy milk; sweet, thick and delicious.  After some time I stopped being able to digest soy, so switched to rice milk.  It was thinner and decidedly not as delicious, but I made do with it for many years.  Then came the news about rice and arsenic, and though I still have my reservations about whether this is really a threat, I couldn’t keep feeding my boy something that could potentially harm him.  So we switched to almond milk, and had been enjoying it for a while now.  Lately though, I have been reading about carrageenan, a thickener in many non-dairy milks that has shown in some studies to have a detrimental effect on some individual’s GI tracts (read more about this here and here…and now I just found out it’s in my sliced turkey too. DOH!!).  Well no one needs any extra inflammation in their lives, and anyone who knows me knows I certainly do not need any extra GI irritation.  Now, you should know that carrageenan is still on the FDA’s list of approved organic ingredients, but personally, I don’t really have a whole lot of faith in the FDA and their many lists.

Anyhoo, I have been seeking out milks that do not include carageenan for the past few months, and some have proven to be better than others, but then I started to wonder about these other ingredients too.  Take a look at this:

IMG_3028I’m pretty OK with cane sugar and salt…but Locust Bean Gum?? Gellan Gum?? What are these and why do we need them?

So I’ve been hearing how easy and amazing it is to make your own nut milk, and also how beneficial it is to soak your nuts and seeds before consuming them.  So I finally gave it a shot.  I do own a Vitamix, so all I really needed was a nut milk bag (everyone seems to hate this particular combination of words so I’ve been trying to throw ‘nut milk bag’ into my conversations as often as possible lately).

I started with almond milk, and it was good, but there was a bitterness that comes with raw almonds that I just couldn’t get past.  So this week I tried cashew milk..HELLO!  It is so creamy and delicious and SO easy to make, I don’t think I will ever go back to that stinky boxed milk again.  I am excited to experiment with other nuts and seeds so I will keep you posted.  But for now, here is how cashew milk goes.  It’s still somewhat experimental right now, so just go with what feels right to you, you can’t really go wrong with cashews.

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Cashew Milk

(Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Dairy-Free)

Adapted from The Shiksa in the Kitchen

3/4 cup raw, unsalted cashews

4 cups filtered water

1-2 dates, pitted (optional)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

pinch of sea salt (optional)

Soak cashews in filtered water for 4-6 hours, no longer.  Apparently cashews can be finicky when it comes to soaking ; most “raw” cashews have been heat treated and  can become a bit slimy if soaked too long.  Drain and rinse well. Combine cashews, water, dates, vanilla, and sea salt if using in the blender and puree for 1-2 minutes until a smooth consistency is reached.

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Strain milk through a fine mesh strainer, cheesecloth, or nut milk bag.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

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This is the only downfall that I can see of homemade nut milk. It doesn’t last as long.  Also, I have to say that with the cashews I don’t even think I needed to strain it, as there was barely an sediment left in my nut milk bag.  But that will probably depend on the blender you use and how smooth you like it. Also, you could sweeten with honey or maple syrup too, or not at all if you like it that way or plan to use it in a savory dish.  I was wondering if I could make an unsweetened version and freeze it to use in dishes when I need it.  I’m not sure how well it will freeze, so I will keep you posted on that too.

But don’t you worry, I have found some other uses for my NUT MILK BAG, which I will let you in on soon!  In the meantime, I’d love to hear about anyone else’s nut milk adventures and how they turned out.  Here is my first smoothie made with homemade nut milk, spinach, banana, and peach.  YUM!

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Healthy Holidays

Well, with all the hustle and bustle of getting it all done before holiday travel, I didn’t get this post up in time for you to read it before your Thanksgiving meal..but I think a lot of these tips apply to the whole darn holiday season, whether it be Chanukah, Christmas, or Festivus.

Hope everyone is enjoying time with loved ones, and that no one is feeling too nauseous at this point.  If you are, I have to recommend the homeopathic remedy Nux Vomica.  Put a few of those little pills under your tongue whenever you feel like you’ve overdone it, and see how you feel in about 10 minutes.  Chances are probably a little better, unless you’ve gone way overboard.  It has saved me and my sensitive stomach many, many times.

Tonight I am feeling very thankful for my home, my family, and all of my amazing friends near and far.  I am truly lucky to have come upon such goodness in my life, and I hope you are too.  Here’s to filling your bellies and your souls with pure deliciousness..

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus L). Słonecznik zw...

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus L). Słonecznik zwyczajny (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The holidays are upon us, and trying to get it all done can be very stressful on both our bodies and our psyche.  Taking the time to take care of yourself at this time of year can make a world of difference.  Here are some great tips for staying healthy through the holiday season, both physically and mentally:

  • Take a short time for your self each day.  Whether it be a 15 minutes yoga session, a short afternoon nap, or just a few minutes to read or veg on the couch, it is important to just let go of all the “things” for a few minutes each day.  Taking this time to rejuvenate can actually help you check things off your list at a faster pace.

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    yoga (Photo credit: GO INTERACTIVE WELLNESS)

  • Don’t give up on cooking meals.  From purchasing the perfect gifts to planning that special holiday meal, there may not seem like there is enough time in the day to cook meals.  Do your best to keep up on the cooking as much as possible and let some other things fall aside…keeping on your Facebook feed or watching your favorite TV show perhaps.  Fresh, nourishing meals will help to keep your body healthy in the chilly weather, and will also keep you going much longer than a greasy take-out meal.
  • Plan your holiday meals well in advance and rely on the help of others.  Ask a few family members to bring a side dish and order some pies from a local baker.  Prepare as many foods in advance as possible and reheat them an hour before the meal.  This will leave you free to actually enjoy the meal and your family and friends.
  • Boost up that immune system.  If you are getting on a plane this holiday season (or even if you’re not), prepare your immune system in advance for the challenge.  Ramp up your intake of garlic and onions, which are full of natural bacteria fighting compounds.  Consider adding anti-inflammatory herbs such as garlic and ginger to your dishes.  Already popular for the holidays, cinnamon and clove have lots of anti-microbial action too.  Elderberry is also a great immune booster and flu fighter and can be found in delicious syrups or lozenges.  I even bought whole dried berries this season and made my own elderberry syrup.  Yummy!  It is so delicious I think it would even make a nice holiday gift.

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  • Speaking of gifts, don’t get crazy with the gifts.  People get REALLY stressed out about holiday shopping and getting the best deals.  Try thinking a little differently this holiday season. Is there something you could make or bake at home that would serve as a great gift for most people on your list?  These types of gifts are usually inexpensive to make and mean more because they are homemade.  And you don’t have to be super crafty to bake mini banana breads and wrap them in red cellophane!
  • Drink alcohol in moderation.  Sure it’s nice to enjoy a spiked egg nog or a few glasses of wine, but excessive drinking along with all that heavy food is sure to leave you feeling awful the next morning.   Have a glass of water in between each drink and pace yourself.  Holiday meals are usually day-long events, and if you spread your drinking out over the day, you will not only feel better, but also be able to remember the whole day and enjoy the next one too.
  • Allow yourself to indulge in holiday favorites without feeling guilty, but don’t starve yourself all day and the day before just so you can go nuts.  Eat a balanced meal before going off to your gathering.  Doing this will help keep your blood sugar steady and keep you from getting too hungry and eating everything in sight right when you get there.
Pumpkin Pie from a *real* pumpkin.

Pumpkin Pie from a *real* pumpkin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Listen to your body’s cues!  Eat slowly and enjoy all the delicious food.  Take small portions and then go back for more if you are still hungry.  Stop eating when you are full, and try to get out and take a walk in the fresh air after your meal.  This will not only help to burn off some of those calories, but also aid in digestion.

Lastly, remember what the true meaning of the holidays is.  Whatever holiday you will celebrate in the coming weeks, it is not about the best gifts, meals, or outfit.  It is about being thankful for what we have and enjoying the company of wonderful friends and family.  I wish everyone a safe, relaxing, and joyful holiday season filled with laughter and love!

So the farmers market got cancelled this week due to horrid weather, so I never got to make this recipe, Sauteed Red Cabbage with Raisins from Martha Stewart.  But it looks like it would be a nice addition to a holiday meal, and I am always looking for things to do with cabbage other than cole slaw.  If anyone gets around to making it before I do, let me know how it comes out.

Naturally SWEET

Natural sweeteners are definitely big news lately.  From classics like molasses and honey, to new fangled agave and stevia, every week seems to bring about a new favorite, each touting its own unique ‘health’ benefits.  Sure, some natural sweeteners contain more nutrients than white sugar, while some digest a little more slowly, thus causing a slower rise in blood sugar levels.  But the fact of the matter is that these foods are all still sweeteners, and most of them break down to the same molecules as plain old sugar, and are digested in the same way.  Therefore, we should still use moderation with sweeteners, no matter which ones they are.  This is especially true for those who need to keep watch on their blood sugar levels.

 

One of the most classic ‘natural’ sweeteners is honey, which comes in many varieties that all lend slightly different subtle flavors.  Raw honey, which you can find for sale here at the market, contains a host of enzymes, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants along with natural sugars.  Raw honey is nutritionally superior to pasteurized or processed honey because many of the beneficial properties are lost when honey is heated.  There is also some evidence that eating locally produced raw honey, which contain local pollen spores, can help alleviate seasonal allergies by acting to build immunity much like a vaccine would.  Unfortunately, there are no studies yet to back up this belief.

 

Med u saću

Med u saću (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Honey is also a natural humectant (something that attracts and retains moisture), so it can help to keep a dish moist when used in a recipe, or retain moisture in the skin when used in a skin care product.  Honey is also known to soothe and coat a sore throat, and one study has shown that buckwheat honey provided better relief for nighttime cough in children than an over the counter cough medication!   However, please note that it is not considered safe to give honey to children under 1 year of age because of the risk of botulism poisoning.  Honey may naturally contain spores of Clostridium Botulinum, a toxin which adult digestive systems can easily fight off, but could sicken a young child.

 

Another classic is of course maple syrup, which has it’s own wonderful and distinct flavor.  Recent research shows that maple syrup is high in polyphenols, an antioxidant that helps ward off inflammation as well as supplying the minerals manganese and zinc.  Maple sugar has become very popular lately too, and is made by boiling down maple syrup until all of the liquid has evaporated.  It should be noted that maple sugar is about twice as sweet as regular sugar.  It is recommended to use ¾ cup of maple syrup for every 1 cup of granulated sugar called for in baking, and reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by 3 tablespoons for every 1 cup of maple syrup used.

 

When substituting honey for sugar in baking, Heidi Swanson, author of Super Natural Cooking, recommends substituting ½ cup honey for every cup of sugar, reducing the liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup, and increasing the baking soda by ¼ tsp. It is also advisable to turn down the oven temperature by 25 degrees to prevent overbrowning.

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The recipe for this week, Sweet and Sour Braised Fennel, was simple and so warming and delicious.  Especially on a VERY cold and windy day at the market.  The weather conditions made the stove a little hard to deal with, but the result made it all worthwhile.  I of course substituted honey instead of the sugar that the recipe called for!

 

Spice it up!!

Do you use herbs and spices in your cooking?  Not only are they a great way to add tons of flavor to a dish, but they also provide many health benefits.  Using herbs and spices in cooking also may eliminate the need for extra salt, fat, or sugar in a dish, without sacrificing taste. From heart health to cancer prevention, here are a few of the most beneficial herbs and spices around:

  1. Turmeric is a bright orange root that comes from the same family as ginger.  It is great for reducing inflammation and may reduce incidence of some cancers.  It can be found fresh or dried as a powder.  Try it in soups, stews, curries, or mixed with yogurt as a dip.  If you find the flavor too bitter, you can take turmeric as a supplement, but look for one that includes piperine or black pepper extract, which enhances absorption.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

  1. Cinnamon is not only warming, delicious and versatile, but is also loaded with antioxidants. It has been shown to decrease inflammation, as well as decrease blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides in some diabetics.  Most of us are familiar with how to use cinnamon; sprinkle on oatmeal or yogurt, in baking, or on top of just about anything.  My little secret-adding a dash to ground turkey or lamb really covers the natural gamey-ness of the meat.
Cinnamon verum2-spice

Cinnamon verum2-spice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  1. Ginger can be found as a fresh root or powdered and dried.  I love the natural spiciness of fresh ginger root in a stir-fry or soup, or as a tea.  Ginger is wonderful for combating nausea and stomach upset, and also has anti-inflammatory properties.
English: Adrak

English: Adrak (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  1. Oregano, a wonderful Italian herb, is certainly delicious sprinkled on pizza, but also contains some very strong anti-bacterial agents that help fight infection. Oregano contains lots of antioxidants and is high in vitamin K.  You can find oregano fresh or dried and it can be used in dishes from salad dressing to pasta sauce.
  1. Thyme, another herb with strong antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, is delicious in soups, stews, or roasts.  It comes fresh or dried and can also be used for common skin problems such as acne and eczema.

Herbs: Thyme, oregano and rosemary

  1. Chili peppers come in many varieties; fresh, dried, or ground, from the pretty spicy jalapeno to the super spicy habanero.  The spicier the pepper, the higher the concentration of capsaicin, the compound that provides health benefits such as increasing circulation and providing high levels of antioxidants.  As a topical cream, capsaicin has also been shown to relieve nerve pain.  Use chili peppers in any dish you want to add spice too.  And keep in mind that the seeds contain the highest amount of capsaicin, so to mellow out the spiciness of any chili pepper remove some or all of the seeds, while wearing gloves of course.
Fresh red chile de árbol chili peppers

Fresh red chile de árbol chili peppers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My recipe for this week was a simple looking soup with surprising delicious flavor.  Cayenne pepper adds a nice kick of heat to warm you while filling you up with a plethora of fall vegetable goodness.  Get the recipe for Autumn Vegetable Soup.

Brrr….Bring on the Broth!!

It’s been a beautiful fall season and I’ve really been enjoying the crisp air and crisp apples.  But before we know it, the heat will be on and our bodies will be seeking warm, hearty food.  Soup is a classic winter food and I’ve talked before about how easy it really is to make your own.  No need for that canned stuff!

But there is one secret that makes good homemade soup into great homemade soup…homemade broth, or stock, or best of all, bone broth.  I have to admit I didn’t know the difference between the three of these until now, but here it is. They all start out with the same base; vegetables, herbs, and some sort of animal carcass.  Broth is made with meat and a small amount of bones, and simmered for a short period of time, usually a couple of hours.  Stock is made with only animal bones that are usually roasted first for extra flavor. Stock is typically cooked for a medium amount of time, 3-4 hours.  Bone broth is also made with only bones, but is cooked for very long periods of time, sometimes 24 hours or more.  This long cooking time helps to extract as many nutrients as possible from the bones.  Bone broth can be made from the bones of chicken, beef, fish, or other animals.

In my opinion, bone broth is where it’s at, because it contains so many amazing nutrients while imparting wonderful flavor to any dish you use it in.  Bone broth is rich in amino acids, which help support the body’s detoxification process and healthy digestion.  Bone broth is also high in collagen, which helps with digestion as well as healthy skin.  There are also components in chicken stock that help to lessen the effects of colds and flu.  So your grandma was on to something!

Bone broths are less expensive than their store-bought counterparts, are more flavorful, and do not contain any additives or other weird ingredients.  If you don’t make enough of your own bones you can always ask a butcher or one of the meat producers at your farmers market for bones, which they would probably give you or sell you at very low price.

Here’s how I make my chicken stock (I guess it’s not quite bone broth because I usually cook it for 10ish hours):

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Save the bones, skin, and drippings from roasted bone-in chicken pieces or whole chickens in the freezer.  When you have enough (approximately 2-3 chickens worth of carcasses) put them in a large deep pot with a few stalks of celery, a few carrots, a large onion, whatever other vegetable scraps strike your fancy (just avoid ones that could impart a bitter flavor like broccoli or cauliflower) and a few cloves of garlic, all roughly chopped.  Alternatively, you could use vegetables scraps, such as carrot and celery tops, and onion and garlic skins.

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Add about ½ bunch of parsley or whatever fresh herbs you have on hand, about 10-20 whole peppercorns, a couple of bay leaves, whatever dried herbs you like, and enough filtered water to cover everything well.  Add 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar and let the whole pot sit for about 30 minutes before turning on the flame.  The vinegar helps to draw more nutrients out of the bones before cooking.

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Turn the stove on high and bring the stock to a boil.  Skim off any scum that comes to the top, cover, lower the heat, and simmer all day, or up to 24 hours or more.  When mine is done I strain the solids through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth.  You could just use a colander for this, but I find that if I don’t strain it well there is grittiness at the bottom of the stock that I really dislike.

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I then either use it immediately or freeze it in containers for later use.  One thing I love to do is freeze my stock in ice cube trays so that I can just use a little for sautéing or sauces when I need to.

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Once the stock is chilled, the fat will rise to the top and it can be scooped out if you like.  Traditional foodies believe you should leave it in or use it to cook other dishes with.  I usually scoop some and leave some.  It should also be noted that the sign of a good chicken stock is that it gets gelatinous when chilled.  I used to be put off by this, but recently learned that this means that there is lots of gelatin from the bones along with other goodness in my stock.  Lastly, I want to mention that the more “parts” you use for your chicken stock the better.  Many people use the gizzards as well as chicken feet, which are very high in gelatin.  I just haven’t been able to go there just yet!

I hope that this inspires you to make some of your own broth, stock or bone broth, and that it keeps you warm and healthy through the winter!

Here is my recipe for this week, mmm, mmm. Simple and packed with flavor.  And you could use your homemade veg or chicken broth!

CARROT GINGER TOFU SOUP

(gluten free, dairy free, grain free)

Adapted from the Vitamix Whole Food Recipes Cookbook

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 Tbsp olive oil

4 medium carrots, diced*

¼ c onion, diced*

4 garlic cloves, minced*

1 Tbsp fresh ginger root, minced

½ tsp salt

pinch of white pepper

1/3 c silken tofu*

2 cups low sodium (or homemade!) vegetable or chicken broth

Directions

Sauté carrot, onion, garlic, and ginger in oil until onion is clear and carrots are very tender.  Add salt and pepper.  Place carrot mixture in a blender or food processor with tofu and broth and puree to desired consistency.  Return to pot and heat through.

*Available NOW at the market

Nutrition Facts (per 1 cup): Calories 107; Total Fat 6g; Saturated Fat 1g; Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 348mg; Total Carbohydrate 8g; Dietary Fiber 2g; Sugars 3g; Protein 4g

Mindful Meals

My market post for this week…

It’s 6:30, you just got home from work, you’re starving, and your family is too.  You throw together whatever you can find in the fridge and call it dinner.  You and the family sit down to eat at 7:00, you wolf down your food and are out the door to a meeting at 7:10.  Sound familiar?

This is a common occurrence in many homes today.  We feel pressure from many sides, and are often rushing around trying to get it all done.  Unfortunately this also includes cooking and eating.  We stuff down our food without thinking, or while watching TV or even while working.  This type of “mindless” eating can lead to overeating or eating the wrong foods.

All the while, most of us are trying to lose a few pounds too, so we often go between starving and restricting our eating to overeating or bingeing.  It’s been shown that most of the time traditional diets do not work, and the pounds shed during times of restriction are gained back quickly after one goes back to their regular diet.  Often a few extra pounds are gained back too, because restricting intake causes the metabolism to slow down.

Enter “mindful eating”, a new perspective on diet and eating.  The principles of mindful eating stem from Buddhist teachings and involve eating almost as a meditation, paying close attention to all the properties of each bite of food taken.

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This of course involves turning off the TV, closing the computer, sitting down, and eating slowly.  The goal is to savor the taste, texture, and temperature of each food physically, while also taking notice of the effects the food has on our emotional self too.  Mindful eating is not a diet but quite the opposite; giving a person permission to eat whatever foods they are hungry for in the amount that is satisfying to them.  This might sound crazy to some people, but research has shown that it works.

When eating in a mindful, conscious way, we ask ourselves, “Is this what my body needs?  Am I eating this because I am hungry, or just tired and stressed?”  By asking  these questions when we are about to eat that second slice of cake, we can not only have a moment to check in with our selves, but also a moment to find an honest answer that will probably lead us to NOT eat that slice of cake, and feel perfectly satisfied with the first one we ate. That is if we ate it slowly and savored it, instead of wolfing it down while watching TV.

By slowing down and eliminating distractions when we are eating, we are much more aware of our food and therefore need less of it to feel satisfied.  We are able to tune in to our bodies cues of when we are still hungry or when we are full and to think just about the food, perhaps where it came from, who grew it. This mindfulness about what we are eating and why we are eating it is what experts say may keep us from overeating or eating for the wrong reasons.

Of course there will still be meals on the run at times.  But I urge you to give mindful eating a try.  Sit down, eat slowly, focus only on the food, and savor each bite.  See what happens.

For more information visit the Center for Mindful Eating.

Edible Rainbow

Here is the link for my recipe for this week, Broccoli Quinoa Pilaf.  Have I told you how much I love quinoa?  I love quinoa.  I didn’t make the cod in this recipe, and all the reviews said it was just OK.  I’d skip it.

Sweet potato hash..a great way to stock up on beta-carotene

Fall is definitely in the air, and fall vegetables are showing up at the market.  I find it just amazing that just as the weather begins to turn our bodies naturally begin to crave warmer, heartier foods.  And it is so fitting that the harvest provides us with foods like winter squash and pumpkin.  Both of these vegetables happen to be high in a very important nutrient called beta-carotene.

Beta-carotene belongs to a group of pigments called carotenoids that can be red, yellow, or orange.  It is found in many fall fruits and vegetables and is considered a ‘provitamin’ because the body is able to convert it to the active form of vitamin A.

We need vitamin A for healthy skin and mucous membranes, a hearty immune system, and healthy eyes and vision.

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Eating beta-carotene in our diets is a very safe and effective way to get vitamin A.  Caution should be used in taking vitamin A in supplement form, as it is fat-soluble and can be toxic in large amounts.  Eating vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene is very safe because the body converts only what it needs.

Carotenoids are antioxidants, which help protect our cells from damage by free radicals.  Some studies have even suggested that those who consume at least four daily servings of beta-carotene rich fruits and/or vegetables have a lower risk of developing cancer or heart disease.

So come on down to the market this week and stock up on the following beta-carotene rich foods:

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Kale
  • Onions
  • Peppers
  • Plums
  • Pumpkins
  • Spinach
  • Squash
  • Sweet potatoes

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Sweet Potato Hash

(dairy-free, gluten free, grain free)

Adapted from The Neelys, www.foodnetwork.com

Serves 6

Ingredients

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1-inch cubes*

3 tablespoons olive oil or coconut oil, divided*

1/2 red onion, chopped*

1 red bell pepper, chopped*

1/4 cup green onions*

2 cloves garlic, chopped*

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

¼ tsp Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley*

 

Directions

Add the potatoes to a large saucepan of salted boiling water and simmer until tender. Drain and dry completely with paper towels.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the red onions, bell peppers, and garlic, and saute until tender and lightly golden, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the green onion and cook an additional 2 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and remove to a bowl.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet, and then add the drained and dried sweet potatoes. Cook in a single layer, stirring occasionally, on medium heat until they are tender, about 6 minutes. Increase the heat to high and cook, without stirring, until the potatoes are golden and crisp, about 2 more minutes. Sprinkle with the smoked paprika and gently stir in the onion mixture and parsley.

*Available NOW at the market

Nutrition Facts (per serving for 6): Calories 130; Total Fat 7g; Saturated Fat 1g; Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 135mg; Total Carbohydrate 16g; Dietary Fiber 3g; Sugars 4g; Protein 2g

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s cold season…boost your immunity with FOOD!

With back to school and the cooler weather coming, everyone seems to be coming down with a cold.  There are lots of immune boosting supplements, and I do take some too, but there are lots of foods that actually help boost immunity too!  If you’re going to go for a supplement though my favorites are elderberry (I am planning on trying this recipe to make your own elderberry syrup) and lots of probiotics!  Did you know your gut flora plays a big part in your immunity??

So here is my post for this week, and my recipe of course.  Its a really yummy, crunchy and simple fall salad.

With back to school and the change of seasons both in full swing, cold and flu season is also upon us.  You may wonder why we tend to get sick more as the seasons change.  There is actually no scientific evidence that shows that rapid changes in body temperature (getting too hot or too cold) causes us to catch a cold.  It is more likely that bacteria and viruses just spread faster when people start spending more time close to each other indoors.  And since the kids are just getting back in school, they are all cooped up together too, greatly increasing their chances of getting sick from one another.

There are many different things we can do to increase our chances of staying healthy, from eating regular, well-balanced meals and drinking plenty of water, to getting our blood flowing daily through exercise.  There are loads of supplements on the market touting all sorts of immune-boosting claims.  But even better than supplements are the immune boosting properties of many of the foods we eat every day.  Here are just a few that you should know about (and eat!) this season:

  1. Yogurt.  We talked about this a couple of weeks ago, but I will mention again that the probiotics found in yogurt do wonders for keeping the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut.  One strain (Lactobacillus reuteri) even appears to stimulate white blood cells that help to fight off infection.
  2. Garlic and Onions contain an ingredient called allicin, which helps fight bacteria and infection.  Studies have shown that people who eat garlic are less likely to catch a cold, and also reduce their risk of certain cancers. IMG_2561
  3. Fish.  Shellfish such as clams, oysters, crab, and lobster are high in selenium, which helps white blood cells manufacture cytokines, a protein that assists in eliminating flu viruses from the body.  Fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon and mackerel help reduce inflammation, which protects the lungs from respiratory infection.
  4. Beef is high in zinc, an important mineral in the development of white blood cells.
  5. Sweet potatoes, carrots, and other orange vegetables are high in beta-carotene, which your body converts into Vitamin A.  Vitamin A is very important in the production of connective tissue for skin, which is our body’s first line of defense against foreign invaders.
  6. Melons are high in vitamin C, which increases production of white blood cells and an antibody called interferon that coats the surface of cells to prevent invasion of viruses.

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Apple Slaw

(dairy free, gluten free, grain free)

From www.cookieandkate.com

Serves 4

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil*

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon honey*

1 lime, juiced

1 small purple cabbage, cored and sliced into small stripes (about 2 cups)*

8 radishes, stems and ends removed, finely sliced and coarsely chopped*

2 medium organic Granny Smith apples, or other tart, crisp apple*

Loose 1/2 cup chopped cilantro*

Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

In a big bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the dressing: olive oil, mustard, honey and lime juice.

Toss the chopped cabbage, radish and apple into the bowl. Use your hands to thoroughly toss the chopped ingredients with the dressing. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Cover and chill in the fridge for an hour. Mix in the chopped cilantro right before serving.

*Available NOW at the market

Nutrition Facts (per serving): Calories 229; Total Fat 14g; Saturated Fat 2g; Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 168mg; Total Carbohydrate 27g; Dietary Fiber 6g; Sugars 19g; Protein 3g

And one more photo…I was photographing the food I was eating for dinner last night, and so my son had to take a photo of his dinner too.  Came out pretty good, I think.

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