Month: May 2016

Easy One-Pan Meal: Baked Salmon, Potatoes & Asparagus

As much as I like experimenting in the kitchen, I also think it’s fun to explore other blogs and cookbooks to find inspiration for the next great meal idea!

Last month, we tried something new and used the meal planning service from Relay Foods, an online grocery store that makes grocery shopping quick and easy. They have different categories for meals, so you can search based on what you’re looking for, including these: 20 Minutes for $20, One Pot Meals, Vegan, Gluten-Free, Quick & Easy, 30 Minutes or Less, and over a dozen more.

The last time we used their meal planning service, we made a yummy black bean soup and kale slaw with our friends Zach and Kiersten a few weeks before they said, “I do.”

I was curious to see what Relay’s One Pot Meal options looked like, since I’m not a huge fan of the clean-up part of cooking. I found a One Pan Salmon, Potato and Asparagus dinner that looked easy to make. Asparagus is in season, so I thought it would be a great way to showcase that veg.

asparagus-closeup

What I loved about the dish was its simplicity and how delicious it was! Not only that, but two of the main ingredients are mood-boosting foods that I wrote about in my last blog post – folate-rich asparagus and wild caught salmon.

Folate is one of the most important nutrients we can eat and is found in leafy green veggies, asparagus, lentils and other beans. It plays a key role in helping our body produce the mood-balancing and boosting neurotransmitter, serotonin.  The omega-3 fats in the salmon feed our brain and help our body reduce inflammation, which is at the root of so many of the diseases that are taking life from our years and years from our lives.

I bet you will enjoy this delicious dish as much as Bill and I did!

Here is the link for the full recipe from Relay Foods.

**Want to save $20 on your first order with Relay Foods? Click here.**one-pan-final

 

5 Ways to Boost Your Mood…with Food!

I’ve had the privilege of teaching a two-part series about Eating Empowerment and creating a judgment-free, joyful relationship with food at the Institute for Integrative Health in Baltimore.

In the first session, we talked about reframing eating. We started with this funny video clip from one of my favorite comedians, Jim Gaffigan. He’s spot on and had everyone laughing!

We spent the rest of our time connecting with why we eat, how it makes us feel, and the impact it has beyond our plate. We talked about and experienced the power of slowing down enough to be aware of how we eat, so we can be more present and take time to truly taste and savor our food. We want to move away from guilt, shame, and judgment and toward freedom, joy, and enjoyment. I’ll be writing future blog posts to recap our discussion on each of those areas in more detail, so if you missed the workshop, stay tuned!

In the second workshop of the series, Dr. Chris D’Adamo and I highlighted the best ways to nourish ourselves, to eat in a way that makes us feel empowered instead of overwhelmed and powerless.

If you want to start feeling better, think more clearly, boost your mood, reduce anxiety, and get sick less often, then you’ll want to upgrade your eating by adding in more of these foods.

top-mood-boosting-foods

#1: Probiotic-Rich Foods

Since two of the most important mood-boosting neurotransmitters – serotonin and dopamine – are produced with the help of our digestive system (the “gut”), it’s important that we give our body what it needs to make that happen.

SerotoninThink of serotonin as the neurotransmitter that helps us maintain mood balance, reduce anxiety and keep calm. Patients with depression often take medication that affects their serotonin levels. Low dopamine production is associated with apathy and a lack of motivation. It’s often called the “motivation molecule” because it provides the drive and focus we need to be productive. It’s also in charge of our brain’s pleasure-reward system. We want to help our body produce enough serotonin and dopamine to help us feel calm, focused, and happy.

What we eat and drink can affect our serotonin and dopamine levels. Specifically, consuming probiotic-rich foods is one way to promote digestive health the production of these mood-balancing neurotransmitters. Many of us, including me, have taken lots of antibiotics, which wipe out all of the bacteria in our gut, so it’s important that we replenish the good guys and keep the bad guys in balance. Think probiotic = pro-life; antibiotic = against life.

So, what are some food-based sources of probiotics?

Sauerkraut, miso, plain and fermented yogurt from grass-fed cows (if you can tolerate some dairy), tempeh (recipes here!), pickles, kimchi, and kefir, just to name a few.Probiotic Rich Foods

Some of my favorite kinds of fermented foods are:

  • Hex Ferments sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha (Baltimore-based. You can find them at Whole Foods, MOMs, Graul’s, and Eddies as well as at the farmer’s markets)
  • Bubbies pickles and sauerkraut (Click here for where to buy near you)
  • Tempeh (This is the brand we like)

#2: Focus on Folate-Rich, Antioxidant-Rich Foods

Folate is a naturally occurring B vitamin that is found in plant foods, including lentils, chickpeas, spinach, asparagus, pinto beans, beets, romaine lettuce, bok choy, cauliflower, broccoli, and broccoli. It comes from a Latin word that refers to foliage or leaves, so that should help you remember where to find it 🙂folate-rich-foodsFolate is important for a number of reasons, but one of its most important roles related to mood is helping our body convert amino acids (the building blocks of protein) into neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Neurotransmitters are the brain chemicals that communicate information throughout our brain and body. They send signals between nerve cells (AKA neurons).

Not only that, but folate-rich foods also tend to be packed with fiber and antioxidants. Think of antioxidants as the rust-busters – they help protect our body from damage from the inside out and reduce inflammation, which is linked to a wide range of health issues, including mood disorders. Fiber, which is only found in plant foods, protects our heart and it’s safe to say that food that is good for our heart is also good for our brain.

To experience how delicious folate-rich, antioxidant-packed foods can be, we enjoyed my Taste the Rainbow Kale Salad, which is always a hit!Kale aerial

#3: Power Up with Protein

Despite all of the fuss about protein these days, the good news is that very few of us are deficient in it. But that doesn’t mean we’re off the hook. Most of us aren’t consuming high quality versions of protein. Protein and the quality of protein we eat is important because of the role of protein’s building blocks – amino acids – in the production of our neurotransmitters, hormones, enzymes, and tissues.

Protein, specifically animal sources of protein, are packed with B-vitamins, which are crucial for energy and mood balance.

For years, I was not breaking down protein properly because all of the acid blockers I was taking were shutting off my stomach’s production of stomach acid, which helps the body break down proteins into amino acids. My energy was affected and my hormones were out of whack as a result, so I’ve experienced firsthand how important it is to make sure we are taking in quality forms of protein and that our body can break them down.

Protein is found in plants and animals. Here are a few sources of protein to consider: oysters; cold-water fish like wild caught salmon, sardines and mackerel; halibut; lamb; turkey; tuna; grass-fed beef; pastured chicken; cage-free/pastured eggs; beans, lentils, peas; nuts like walnuts, almonds, pecans, etc.; hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds; nut butters, peanut butter.protein-rich-foodsWhat I mean when I say “quality” is to aim for grass-fed, pastured meats or poultry; wild caught seafood; and cage-free eggs from chickens that were allowed to roam freely on pastures like chickens are supposed to do.

During the session, we munched on one of my favorite protein and fiber-packed snacks – rosemary Chickpeatos! They’re roasted chickpeas tossed with sea salt and rosemary, and I love them as a snack or as a substitute for croutons on a salad. They are SO GOOD!chickpeatos-bag

#4: Feel Good about Fat

60% of our brain is made up of fat, so we want to make sure we’re nourishing ourselves with high quality fat that our brain and body can use, so we can feel good. When it comes to fat, quality matters, so we want to opt for anti-inflammatory fats found in foods like avocado, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and wild caught salmon.

feel-good-fats

Deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to mood disorders, as clinical, integrative nutritionist Jason Bosley-Smith shared in this blog post. He suggested consuming cold water fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines, as well as walnuts to up our omega-3 levels.

Another higher fat food that has other mood-boosting benefits (enhancing serotonin and dopamine production) is CHOCOLATE. So, we enjoyed some of my super food trail mix that is full of nuts, seeds, shredded coconut, berries, and cacao nibs!

trail mix

#5: Herb & Spice It Up!

Herbs are spices are often overlooked as tools in our food. Back in the fall, I had the pleasure of meeting and spending the morning with Rebecca Katz, a culinary nutrition expert and author who is incredibly passionate about using herbs and spices.

Mint is a powerhouse and boosts alertness and memory. Rosemary has been linked with better brain functioning and at keeping depression at bay. It helps us improve concentration and focus. Thyme contains brain-boosting vitamins A and C and contains some iron which is important for brain health as well. Other potent brain-boosting herbs include oregano, basil, and sage.

Spices like turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, and cumin also have brain and mood-boosting properties, so we want to include more of them in our diet. When it comes to cooking, Rebecca Katz shares a helpful tip:

And here’s what you need to get about cooking with herbs and spices: Spices go in at the BEGINNING of your cooking and herbs go in at the END.  

Another way to add in more herbs and spices is by having tea each day. We shared in some Chamomile Lemon Tea from Numi. Here are a few of my other favorites:

  • Traditional Medicinals – Chamomile Lavendar (so calming!)
  • Organic India – Lemon Ginger (stress-relieving and reviving) or Masala Chai (energizing)
  • Pukka – Three Mint and Three Cinnamon (invigorating)
  • Truebroc Green Tea (calmness, relaxation)

We closed by talking about the importance of having your nutrient levels checked to ensure you’re not deficient in any of these crucial mood-boosting nutrients. I recommend seeing a functional medicine practitioner for further guidance on that topic.

So, there you have it! A look at some of the best mood and brain-boosting foods. You’ll notice that many of the recipes on my blog use a lot of those foods. I want to make it easier for you to eat in the most energizing, nourishing, delicious way possible!

 

Bill’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Bites

My husband, Bill, is in the process of preparing his mind and body for an epic life event – his first Ironman triathlon in Lake Placid, New York this summer.

With only one triathlon under his belt, he knows what he is about to do in a few short months is no small feat, but he is determined to make it happen.

He’s training with my dad, who has completed five Ironman races since starting at the age of 56, and will be competing in his sixth Ironman with Bill at the age of 66.

Dad Bill Columbia

Bill has been diligent about his training, putting to use the discipline he’s learned as a lifelong athlete.  His training schedule is rigorous and requires activities like four-hour bike rides on a Saturday morning and 5:00 a.m. swims at the gym in order to be guaranteed an open lane.

People often ask me, “Are you going to do one?” (Translation: Are you going to swim 2.4 miles in a lake, bike 112 miles through the mountains, and then run a marathon (26.2 miles)?)

Hmmm, let me think about that…probably not 🙂 It doesn’t appeal to me in the least!

What does appeal to me and what I do enjoy is making sure Bill is well fueled and nourished. Eating well is an often overlooked aspect of athletic training. It’s critical for ensuring your body has enough energy and strength to endure long training hours and essential for speeding up the recovery process.

By modifying his diet over the years, Bill has connected why and what he eats with how he feels and functions. We eat as Michael Pollan suggests – real food, not too much, mostly plants – so our diet is packed with nutrient-dense foods. He eats the way he does to fuel and nourish himself, so he can perform physically at the highest level. One of his favorite fueling snacks, especially on the days of early morning workouts, are these chocolate peanut butter energy bites. PB Choco Bites

Packed with healthy fats, fiber and protein, these little no-bake bites are energy-dense, meaning a little goes a long way.

For someone like Bill, popping a few of these before, during or after all of those hours of training stokes his fire, since he’s burning a lot of energy. But for the rest of us, one or two a day will do.

Like most of my other no-bake bites, these tasty treats require a food processor, so if you don’t have one yet, I would highly recommend adding it to your wish list. They’re not super expensive but are incredibly versatile. We have a Cuisinart one and use ours just about every other day!

PB Choco Bites Title

Ingredients

  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (I love Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free oats or Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1.5 cups Medjool dates, pitted (find these in the produce section of the grocery store)
  • 2/3 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup raw cacao powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt (add 1/4 tsp more if your peanut butter is unsalted)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Put oats and shredded coconut in the food processor fitted with the S-blade and run until it reaches a fine meal, about 45-60 seconds.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and process until everything is evenly combined.
  3. Form dough into 1-inch balls with your hands and roll gently between your palms to even out the edges. Store in the fridge or freezer.

Cheezy Cauliflower Nachos {Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free}

We’re in the FINAL stages of our kitchen renovation, and I can’t wait to show you all the before and after pics! I’m waiting for some frames to arrive to hang up artwork, and then I’ll reveal the final look. It’s been very exciting! 🙂

On Thursday night, we decided that we’d had enough of eating dinner in our basement. We brought most of our kitchen stuff upstairs and started putting food, cups, plates, bowls and other accessories in their new homes. For the first time in my life, I have a pantry and soft close drawers and doors! It’s the little things.

We decided to break in the kitchen by making our first dinner in the new space that night. And we shared some pretty nasty champagne to celebrate! Me and Bill Cheers

Inspired by a recent visit to the AWESOME MOMs Organic Market and cafe in Hamdpen, I decided to take a stab at making vegan cauliflower nachos, a dish they had on their menu at the Naked Lunch cafe. My friend Katie and I split it the other day when we met up for lunch, and it was delicious!

As a kid I never ate beans, brown rice, avocados or scallions, so everything in this dish represents quite a few transformations along my food journey. Our taste buds are highly adaptable, so give foods you’ve previously sworn off a second chance!

Since removing dairy products from my diet (here’s why I did), I’ve missed some of the creamy goodness dairy-based foods provide. But, because my body feels and functions so much better without them, I don’t consider it a struggle to be without them. And that’s what motivates me to find alternatives like the cheese-y sauce used in this recipe.

The “cheese” sauce has a bit of a kick to it (back off the cayenne if you want less).

Cheese Sauce CloseupIt’s creaminess comes from the cashews and tahini, two ingredients I use in a lot of my recipes that you can find at just about any grocery store (find tahini in the natural food aisle or international aisle in the Mediterranean section).

We haven’t made this cheese sauce in over two years, and Bill liked it so much that he said, “We need to make a batch of this stuff every week!”

From start to finish, this recipe comes together pretty quickly, as the cauliflower takes very little time to roast and the cheese sauce can be whipped up in a matter of minutes in the blender.

Vegan nachos pic

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 15-ounce can no sodium added black beans, drained and rinsed (Eden Organic or Field Day Organic are our go-tos)
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 batch noocho cheese sauce

To learn more about the ingredients in the noocho cheese sauce, check out this blog post I wrote about it previously.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Toss cauliflower with olive oil and a few pinches of sea salt and pepper. Roast on a baking sheet for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown and a fork pierces through easily. Remove from oven and set aside.
  3. Add rice and beans to a medium bowl and stir to combine. Top with roasted cauliflower, avocado, scallions, and noocho cheese sauce.

 

Ginger Lemon Energy Bites {Gluten-Free, Paleo}

We’re approaching the final week of construction on our kitchen (YAY!), which has been going on for almost two months. I’m excited to get back in my kitchen so I can come up with more delicious, nourishing recipes to share with you!

One piece of equipment I’ve had access to throughout the remodel process is my food processor. It is one of the most versatile and useful tools in our kitchen. We use it to shred cabbage and carrots and to whip up hummus, pesto, and chocolate avocado pudding.

But we use our food processor most often to make raw, no-bake energy bites, including these Cherry Chocolate Brownie Bites, Coconut Chai Almond Butter Bites, and Snickerdoodle Donut Holes.

I wanted to come up with a new no-bake bite recipe to celebrate my friend Jinji’s birthday. She makes our favorite chocolate treats that I slowly savor on a weekly basis, so I thought I’d check with her to see what flavor combinations she might like. Lettuce Party Card

Citrus

Coconut

Ginger…LOTS of ginger.

Ginger for Jinji 🙂

I took her inspiration and combined a few tastes and textures that I thought would complement each other and came up with my newest no-bake recipe!

The bite from the ginger, zing from the lemon zest, tartness of the cranberries and a pinch of salt come together in a special way in these energy bites. For more energy bite recipes, check out this page.

Ginger Lemon Bite Closeup Ginger Lemon Bites TrioGinger Lemon Bite Wrapper

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
  • 2/3 cup Medjool dates, pits removed
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon ginger root, peeled and grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

Directions

  1. Process cashews and coconut in a food processor until it reaches the consistency of a fine meal/flour.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until the ingredients start sticking together.
  3. Shape dough into a small ball with your hands and roll to smooth them out. Store in the fridge or freezer.

A Dream Come True: When Your Calling Finds You

Last year when I was in San Diego soaking in the final moments of the WELCOA conference after being honored as their Top Health Promotion Professional, I pulled out my journal.

I had one page left and decided to use it to list a few of my intentions and goals for the coming year. At the top of the page, I felt compelled to write this:

goals

I closed the journal, returned home, and stowed it away in a drawer.

And then it happened.

I received a call from WELCOA in August of 2015 and was invited to speak at their 2016 summit in Orlando!

I hadn’t done anything intentional to “make it happen.” I hadn’t pushed for it. I wasn’t trying. I hadn’t even asked WELCOA if I could present or told them I was interested. I had simply put my intention on paper.

And my calling found me.

I was asked to speak about eating in a way that was refreshing, non-prescriptive, and welcoming. I couldn’t believe my dream was becoming a reality.

I knew I needed to keep the message simple yet compelling. I wanted to invite people to be curious about food and their bodies, not to judge them or “tell” them what to do. One of my goals and life missions is to reframe the conversation around food to move away from fear, shame, guilt and judgement and toward something that is inspiring, empowering, uplifting, positive, encouraging and supportive.

As I geared up for the presentation, my dad, who is one of my greatest mentors in business and life, sent me this image because he knows how significant the symbol of a butterfly has been to me lately.

butterfly

I had to let that one soak in.

What if he was right?

What if it was true?

What if I was ready?

As I transitioned from, “I think I can/ Can I really?/ Why me?/ Who am I to do this?” to “I’ve got this/ I can do it/ I was born for this!” in the days leading up to the presentation, a sense of peace came over me.

Reading this passage from my devotional two days before my presentation was all the assurance I needed to know I would be given what I needed to do what I was called to do. I couldn’t help but feel as though the words had been written just for me:

devotional

I was humbled and encouraged by what I read.

“You have no reason to be afraid, Rachel.”

“I’ve got you.”

The morning of the presentation, I opened a gift and card from my husband, Bill, who knows my heart better than anyone. It was just the lift I needed to start the day. Another butterfly…and a pretty awesome card.

Bill gifts

It was as though everything and everyone around me was supporting me, lifting me up, and speaking truth to me.

In that moment, I knew I was ready.

As I approached the stage on Tuesday morning, my eagerness turned into an adrenaline rush that flooded my body with a powerful surge of energy I couldn’t explain. I could feel the power of the dozens of people who were praying for me and wishing me well back in Baltimore and in that room.

For the next hour, I delivered a message of hope, encouragement and life to a room of nearly 400 of my peers and colleagues. We had the opportunity to connect, savor, laugh and be transformed by the truth about food.

What a privilege it was, a moment I will never forget.

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I felt so alive

Free.

Flowing.

Radiant.

Present.

Connected.

and

Worthy.

I truly felt like the best, most authentic version of myself and was aligned in every way with the core desired feelings I declared at the beginning of 2016.

CDF.jpg

When my time was up, I stepped down from the stage, realizing that what I had just done was a challenging but defining step along my journey.

I couldn’t have done it without the help and support of my family, friends, colleagues, coworkers, the folks at the Institute for Integrative Health, and my church community. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything you did to prepare me for this moment.

I’m so grateful.

Thank you to everyone at the conference who was kind enough to offer words of affirmation to me throughout the week. That is my #1 love language, so I was honored and humbled by the number of kind and thoughtful things people said. “Authentic,” “captivating,” “inspiring,” and “real.” Your words spoke to my heart and are what I aspire to do and who I strive to be.

One of the questions that excited me most was whether or not I’ve ever considered giving a TED Talk. Yes! Yes, I have. It’s one of the items on my new goal list. I believe it will happen one day, so I will remain open.

I will continue to pursue what makes me feel most alive.

I will surround myself with people who lift me up and speak truth to me.

I will dream even bigger dreams and believe they are possible.

My calling will find me once again, just as yours will find you.

Trust that if you are called, you will be equipped.

All you have to do is be patient, be open and listen.

And be ready for your time to fly.

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