Category: Tips & Tricks Page 2 of 7

8 Easy Ways to Upgrade Your Thanksgiving {+ Dozens of Recipes!}

I have so many positive memories of Thanksgiving from growing up – the giant glazed donuts from Woodlea Bakery we got every year for breakfast, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and helping my mom peel apples for her signature three-apple pie.

We never did anything too extravagant, and it was usually just the five of us – my parents, me, and my brother and sister – but Thanksgiving was a special day in our house. Now that I’ve grown to love cooking so much, it’s become my second favorite holiday after Christmas. Some of my favorite crowd-pleasing, gluten-free, dairy-free recipes to make are gluten-free stuffing, pecan-crusted sweet potato casserole, roasted garlic cauliflower mash, and pumpkin cheesecake.

I wanted to offer up some helpful tips and tricks to support you on Thanksgiving Day. Most of the websites that give tips for Thanksgiving just tell you to use healthier versions of your favorite staples, avoid going back for seconds, and watch your alcohol consumption. While I agree that all of those recommendations are useful to some extent, I’m here to offer something different, something more inviting and life-giving.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends! 🙂

thanksgiving-cover

1) Be Present & Enjoy It

Thanksgiving is meant to be a time to come together with friends and family to celebrate the abundance and blessings in our lives. It’s easy to get caught up in the busy pace most of us keep throughout the year. For at least this one day, we can choose to pause, reflect, and be present. Enjoy the day. Savor the meal.

Part of being present means being aware of our body. If you’re going to eat something, OWN IT. Notice how it smells, tastes, and feels. Notice the signals your body sends you. Are you really hungry or do you just want something to do? Your body will let you know when it is no longer hungry. Pay attention to it. Take a break. Save the leftovers.

2) Eat Breakfast

When we know we’re going to be eating a lot later in the day, many of us will skip breakfast or eat too little early in the day to “save up” for the afternoon. Instead of skipping breakfast, which will lead to overeating later, have a nourishing breakfast to start your day. Try one of these 25 breakfast recipes, like this pumpkin spice oatmeal or this quick and easy black bean scramble.

3) Upgrade Your Recipes

All of us have family favorites that aren’t likely to be replaced anytime soon, but I invite you to give a new side dish recipe a try. I put together a collection of nearly 30 nourishing, delicious, and upgraded Thanksgiving recipes in this blog post. You won’t want to miss the maple-roasted Brussels sprouts, shredded Brussels sprouts salad, pumpkin spice dip, pecan-crusted sweet potato casserole, or pumpkin cheesecake.

You can also check out this post by Adventures of a Sick Chick for a list of paleo Thanksgiving recipes, featuring my gluten-free stuffing!

brussels-salad-angle

Shredded Brussels sprouts salad with walnuts

4) Taste the Rainbow

Most Thanksgiving plates look pretty one-note with lots of browns and whites and a little bit of green or orange. Focus on filling your plate with as many colors as possible. This sweet potato casserole, shredded Brussels sprouts salad, and butternut squash and quinoa harvest salad will all add color to your plate!

The more colors you have, the more fiber is on your plate, the fuller you will feel, and the more nourished you will be. If you have kids, encourage them to count the colors on their plate and celebrate who gets the most.

5) Reallocate Your Plate to 50 / 25 / 25

That’s the ratio I recommend to “up” the nutrition of your plate. Half of the plate filled with vegetables (i.e., greens, salad, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, etc.) with some room for fruit, 25% protein (i.e., poultry, meat, seafood), and 25%  fiber-rich starch (i.e., sweet potatoes, squash, corn, grains). I’m a big advocate of the Harvard School of Public Health’s Healthy Eating Plate below, which is a visual representation of the 50/25/25 ratio.

harvard-healthy-plate

6) Slow Down

I hear a lot of people (me being one of them!) say things like, “But you don’t understand, it’s just that I LOVE food.” It’s given as a reason why we eat so much. Here’s something to consider from author, Geneen Roth, one of my favorite writers and truth tellers:

When you love something, you spend time with it.

Boom.

Man, she is always so spot on.

If you really, truly love food, spend time with it; take time to connect with your food. Pause before you eat and offer gratitude for the farmers who grew it or raised it, the money you have to purchase it, and the hands that prepared it. So often we forget about the process our food goes through to get from the farm to our fork. If you want to cut down on discomfort later that day, slow down and chew your food thoroughly before taking the next bite. 

7) Take a Digestive Enzyme

If all else fails and you realize you’re not going to follow any of the steps above, give your digestive system some support and take a digestive enzyme. This is kind of like the last-ditch effort. I almost feel like I’m advocating for overeating by putting this one in here, but I also think it could help a lot of people. When we overeat, we put a lot of extra work on our digestive system and don’t have enough enzymes to break down the massive amounts of food we’re eating. Some of my favorite digestive enzyme brands are Rainbow Light, DigestGold, and Garden of Life. You can find them on Vitacost.com.

8) Move Your Body

Moving your body helps stimulate digestion and regulate your blood sugar – something that is usually out of whack due to the amount of food most of us eat on Thanksgiving. 

Start a new family tradition focused on movement. Take a walk Thanksgiving morning for at least 30 minutes and try to do the same after dinner. Find a Turkey Trot 5k in your area on Active.com. Or, if you’re in Baltimore, check out the classes at my favorite place to get movin’…Movement Lab!

Some of Baltimore's Nia community with a few amazing Movement Lab instructors

Dancing with some of Baltimore’s Nia community with a few amazing Movement Lab instructors

Do you have any helpful tips to share to make Thanksgiving more nourishing for your body, mind and soul? Feel free to comment below!

Simple Beauty-Boosting Salad with Pesto Dressing

One of my favorite parts of my job is spending time with employees and showing them how delicious and doable it is to eat well. I love the look of surprise on their faces and the comments they make when they try something they assumed wouldn’t taste good.

(Like this chocolate avocado mousse!)

For a recent cooking demonstration with a client in DC, we focused on beauty-boosting foods – food packed with colors, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other anti-aging nutrients and benefits.

We started with this Tropical Breeze Smoothie and then made the salad below for our main course, followed by my 5-minute chocolate avocado mousse topped with blackberries for dessert. Everyone had a great time and raved about the recipes.

To be totally honest, I came up with this salad the day before the class when I was in DC and eating my lunch from Chop’t, a salad place at the train station. I was admiring their seasonal Greenmarket Grain Bowl made with radishes, cucumbers, a mix of lettuces and a lemon basil vinaigrette.

Since the focus of the demo I was teaching the next day was about anti-aging, beauty-boosting foods, I knew that was the inspiration I needed to come up with this recipe. The good news is that you don’t HAVE to use these exact ingredients – just use a variety of vegetables that are in season and serve them with a yummy dressing, like the pesto one we made.

This particular recipe would be the perfect pairing for an ionic foot detox. Want to learn more about the potential health-boosting benefits of this unique detox treatment? Take a look at this guide to foods to help detox with ion cleanse. As with any health-related matter, always do your research before embarking on any detox plan.

Here are the health benefits of some of the ingredients we used according to nutritionist, Kimberly Snyder, in her book, The Beauty Detox Foods.

salad-ingredients

Cucumbers: This is one of the top beauty-boosting foods we can eat. Cukes are packed with enzyme-charged water, B-vitamins and electrolytes to help us flush out the kidneys, reduce bloating and build radiant skin from within.

Radishes: Help cut and dissolve mucus in the digestive tract, so nutrients can flow freely throughout the body. They are in the mustard family and act as cleansers and detoxifiers in our body.

Scallions: Onions contain compounds that stimulate the production of the most important antioxidants the liver uses for detoxification (glutathione). They also contain quercetin, an antioxidant that counters the effects of premature aging.

Zucchini: Rich in antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory compound, vitamins and minerals, this summer squash is not only good for our bodies but it’s also fun to prepare when you use a spiralizer.

To make things a little more exciting than usual, we spiralized the zucchini and diced and sliced everything else. (This is the spiralizer I have). We topped it off with a pesto sauce that I usually serve with pasta or as a topping for cucumber slices as an appetizer. You can thin it out a bit by adding a little more oil or water and use it as a dressing. We just took it straight from the food processor and mixed it in.

The finishing touch was a sprinkling of Tomato Basil Chickpeatos (my FAVE roasted chickpeas). The bag was gone in a matter of minutes. I use them instead of croutons, and the rest of the crew is on board with that idea now, too, which is awesome to see!

salad-covr

Ingredients

1/2 pound mixed greens
2 zucchini, spiralized (or cut into thin strips)
1 bunch scallions, chopped
2 cucumbers, chopped
1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced
1 package of sprouted beans (we used lentil sprouts from MOMs)
1 cup Tomato Basil Chickpeatos
1/2 cup basil walnut pesto

Directions

  1. Mix all salad ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Add dressing and toss to combine.
  3. Top with Chickpeatos and enjoy!

3 Secrets to Heal Your Heart {…and Live to 100!}

Baltimore is home to some of the world’s thought leaders in health and medicine. One local organization at the forefront of innovation in healthcare and holistic health is the Institute for Integrative Health.

The Institute’s mission is to create a wellness and medical model to shift society’s focus from managing disease to promoting health. Their approach aligns with mine, as I strive to offer hope that we can be well and feel better, that health and vitality can become the new normal. It’s been a privilege to serve as one of their health educators and instructors over the past year or so.

For the Institute’s most recent healthy happy hour, Dr. Michael Miller, a preventive cardiologist, and his wife and podiatrist, Dr. Lisa Miller, facilitated a discussion about how to heal the heart. At the happy hour, I provided samples of my popular Love Your Heart trail mix before heading into the main room to listen to the Millers’ presentation. (Shout out to my favorite grocery store and cafe, MOMs Organic Market, for generously sponsoring the trail mix! If you haven’t been to their Naked Lunch cafe yet, it’s well worth going and is one of my favorite heart healthy lunch spots in town.)

trail mix

Aside from being an internationally recognized leader in the field of preventive cardiology, Dr. Miller has written the best-selling book, Heal Your Heart, which is the top-rated book on heart disease on Amazon out of over 1,000 books.

Included in the book are Dr. Miller’s Positive Emotions Prescription, over 100 recipes (that I can’t wait to try!), and practical tips to heal your heart and optimize your health and wellbeing. All proceeds from the book go to the American Heart Association.

Dr. Miller opened his talk with insights from centenarians – people who have lived to be over 100 – and identified their secrets to longevity. It’ll make you smile (and the simplicity of their advice may surprise you!):

During his talk, which served as a preview for a four-week coaching series he and his wife will be teaching in the fall, Dr. Miller pointed out the main risk factors for heart disease and what we can do to heal our heart and reduce the likelihood of succumbing to a disease that affects millions of Americans each year.

Most of us are aware of the main risk factors for heart disease and heart attack – smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Dr. Miller touched on those but spent the bulk of his time focusing on the impact of two lifestyle factors – stress and what we eat. A heart attack can also bring with it uncertainty in our work and whether we can continue. This can put a lot of pressure on wage earners and so critical illness insurance companies may be something worth looking into.

Our bodies were designed to respond to acute stressors (like being chased by a tiger), but most of us are in a state of constant stress these days – one that never seems to shut off. If I had to identify one aspect of my health that I want to transform, it would be how I handle stressful situations in my life and making more time for rest, play and relaxation. Some people find smoking cannabis is the best way for them to relax, especially since it’s so easy to produce at home with this new grow room design, but others find exercise, or spending time with friends or family helps them to unwind.

Miller-Talk

One of the comments Dr. Miller made that stuck with me was that chronic stress is the same as cellular aging; stress advances the aging process. Even if we’re eating healthy food, exercising regularly and not smoking, this one factor – stress – can undo a lot of the helpful things we’re doing. That’s how powerful stress is.

Dr. Miller shared the story of a former cardiologist colleague of his who passed away from a heart attack in his mid-50s. The stress that accompanied a new, more demanding job on the other side of the world was too much for his heart to handle and ultimately took his life decades too soon.

Other than making sure that there are pieces of medical equipment like Heartsine Samaritan defibrillators in public spaces to utilize should anyone suffer from a heart attack, what else can we do? What are some simple and effective things we can do to help heal our heart? Here are three tips Dr. Miller shared:

1) Add Mind-Body Exercises to Your Daily Routine

Research has shown us that these exercises down-regulate our body’s pro-inflammatory genes, which is exactly what we want to happen! Taking time for ourselves can be challenging, as we may feel selfish, but if we want to be well, self-care is non-negotiable. Here are some ideas for mind-heart exercises to try:

  1. Listen to music you enjoy.
  2. Meditate. Try the Headspace or Calm apps on your phone. They are great guides!
  3. Practice yoga. My favorite YouTube channel for yoga is Yoga with Adriene.

2) Watch a Funny Movie or TV Show

Dr. Miller shared some fascinating research about the blood vessel constriction that happened to a group of participants who watched the harrowing, stress-inducing opening scene of Saving Private Ryan. He compared it to the blood vessel dilation that happened when they watched comedies that made them laugh like Shallow Hal, Kingpin and There’s Something About Mary.

After just 15 minutes of laughing, volunteers experienced the same vascular benefit they’d experience from spending 15 to 30 minutes in the gym or from taking a daily statin medication to lower their cholesterol.

Not only that, but the blood vessel expansion lasted for up to 24 hours! Get a good laugh in in the morning, and the positive benefits could last the entire day.

We all agree there are still plenty of benefits to exercising, so keep up your daily movement routine, but don’t downplay the importance of a good laugh.

Need another excuse to watch The Office (my favorite!) or your other favorite funny TV show, movie, or YouTube videos? Permission granted! It’s good for your heart 🙂

3) Fuel Your Body with Heart-Healing Foods

In his book, Dr. Miller lists the top 50 foods that affect heart health and mood. To add an interactive component to the presentation, his wife, Dr. Lisa Miller, made a delicious raw blueberry cashew gelato topped with mashed peaches and a sesame cookie.

A few of the top 50 foods were cinnamon, ginger, peaches, vanilla, cashews, blueberries, maca powder, and sesame seeds. Here are some simple ways to incorporate these foods into your day:

  1. Add 1/2 tsp CINNAMON to your coffee each day. Cinnamon has been shown to lower triglyceride levels (that’s the fat in your blood). and inhibits a protein connect to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
  2. Add GINGER to smoothies, use it to make your own tea, and try these delicious ginger energy bites. It reduces plaque buildup and improves mental performance. It also promotes healthy digestion and settles nausea!
  3. Enjoy all of the delicious PEACHES that are in season. Peaches are high in antioxidants and other heart-healthy minerals. Mash them up in a mason jar, stir in some cinnamon, ginger and vanilla and add them to overnight oats or use them as a topping on ice cream, as we did that night.
  4. Enhance flavor (and your libido!) with VANILLA. It has been show to reduce inflammation and has high antioxidant activity. To avoid the alcohol content and bitterness of most liquid vanilla extracts, opt for the powdered version from Nielsen-Massey. We add it to smoothies, ice creams, and most of my energy bites!
  5. CASHEWS served as the base of the ice cream we made. If you don’t eat dairy (all recipe on this blog are dairy-free!), cashews add a creamy consistency to everything from cheesecakes and smoothies to soups, cheese sauces and dips. They are high in antioxidants and lower the risk or macular degeneration.
  6. In addition to being packed with antioxidant and blood sugar regulating components, BLUEBERRIES inhibit cortisol – the major stress hormone that runs rampant under chronic stress and adds weight to our bellies. Dr. Miller has a large handful of blueberries every day and swears by their eye health-promoting properties!
  7. MACA powder is derived from a Peruvian radish and has a malt-like taste that I absolutely love. I toss it into smoothies and my chocolate bark and find it pairs especially well with chocolate. It’s known for being a hormone-balancing food and has high antioxidant and blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose-lowering properties. This is the kind of maca powder I order on Amazon.
  8. SESAME SEEDS help regulate blood sugar and contain cholesterol-lowering compounds that protect our heart. Enjoy the seeds themselves and try tahini, a paste made from sesame seeds that we use to make salad dressings super creamy! You can find it in the international aisle of the grocery store. Trader Joe’s just started carrying it, too.

Dr. Lisa Miller’s raw cashew blueberry gelato combined several of those delicious ingredients, and I will share the recipe for it (and her sesame tahini cookies!) in my next post.

In the meantime, here are a few action steps to take if you want to keep learning more about this topic (and spend more time with the Millers and me):

  1. Buy Dr. Miller’s book, Heal Your Heart, on Amazon by clicking here.heal-your-heart-book
  2. If you want to be part of Dr. Millers’ Positivity Challenge Coaching Program in the fall, click here to learn more and register.
  3. Leading up to the Millers’ challenge, I will be teaching a two-part cooking class series about healing foods that you won’t want to miss! Click here to learn more and register.

10 Cauliflower-Powered Recipes {Vegan, Paleo}

I was teaching a workshop about Eating for Energy last week at a company, and one of the employees said she would love some creative ideas for how to use cauliflower, so I thought I’d dedicate an entire post to it.

This one is for you, Deb!

For starters, cauliflower is one of the most nutrient-packed yet under appreciated veggies out there. This less colorful cousin of our beloved broccoli happens to be one of the best foods we can eat, yet very few of us eat it!

mash

Cauliflower is one of Dr. Fuhrman’s GBOMBS, which are the most powerful, nutrient-packed, antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting, disease-fighting foods on the planet! Most of what we eat on a daily basis are GBOMBS. To learn more about them, click here.

Here are just a few more reasons why you’ll want to add more of this cruciferous vegetable to your life:

  • Packed with vitamin C and other powerful antioxidants that helps our cells protect and repair themselves from damage, which is essential for optimizing our health
  • Contains sulforaphane, a compound that has been shown to kill cancer stem cells, thereby slowing tumor growth, AND improve blood pressure
  • Source of potent antiinflammatory nutrients. Chronic inflammation (caused by stress, what we eat, lack of movement, etc.) can significantly increase our risk of cancers and other chronic diseases, so we want to do anything we can to reduce inflammation!
  • Supports our body’s detoxification (“clean up”) process, which is important because we are exposed to so many environmental and dietary toxins on a daily basis

To learn more about the awesomeness of cauliflower, click here or here.

Most of us are familiar with eating raw or steamed cauliflower, but there SO many other ways to use this versatile veggie that taste amazing!

Why not try something a little more exciting? 🙂

You can roast it, make a substitute for mashed potatoes out of it, turn it into a pizza crust, whip up a batch of cauli-fredo fettuccine sauce (don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it!), and use it to make soups creamy.

Check out the links below to 10 recipes that will make you fall in love with cauliflower.cauli collage.jpg

Roasted Buddha Bowl by oh she glows

Roasted Cauliflower in Lemon Tahini Sauce by Vegetarian Times

Easy Cauliflower Rice by All Recipes

Smoky Roasted Cauliflower by Tori AveySmoky-Roasted-Cauliflower-5-640x480

Fancy Pants Curried Cauliflower Steaks & Mash by RNKcauli2name

Caulifredo Sauce with Zoodles by RNKcaulifredo

Cauliflower Pizza Crust by The Detoxinista

Detoxinista Pizza Crust

Photo Credit: The Detoxinista. Used with permission.

Roasted Garlic Cauliflower Mash by RNKcauli mash cover.jpg

Creamy Rosemary Sweet Potato Soup by RNKIMG_8875Soupbanner

Garlic & Red Pepper Cauliflower Hummus by Our Fifth House

garlic-red-pepper-cauliflower-hummus

Photo Credit: Our Fifth House. Used with permission

What are your favorite cauliflower recipes?

Feel free to leave a comment below with a link!

I love hearing from you 🙂

Curb Cravings with Crunchy Cacao Nibs {Plus 7 Recipes to Try!}

For the video version of this post, check out my Facebook page!

Either way, make sure you hit up the awesome recipes at the bottom 🙂

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Let’s pretend it’s 3:00 in the afternoon.

What’s something a lot of people crave right about now?

Nibs

Did you say CHOCOLATE?

The reason why might surprise you!

Many of us start to notice a dip in our energy levels and attention spans and the cumulative impact of stress throughout the day by mid-afternoon. Why not give our body a boost in energy, feel good chemicals and relaxation at the time we need it most? Why not enjoy some chocolate?

High quality dark chocolate that contains a high percentage of cacao (ka-KOW) is packed with magnesium.

Magnesium is known as the relaxation and anti-anxiety mineral, and most of us are deficient in it. Not only that, but in times of stress and high demands, our body needs it more than ever. Sources of magnesium include spinach, oats, beans, pumpkin seeds, leafy greens, sesame seeds.

And…CHOCOLATE! 🙂

The key is to use QUALITY chocolate. I’ve written before here about why I became a qualitarian and what it means to be one. As the word suggests, I encourage you to focus on eating the highest quality food you can, especially when it comes to things like chocolate – the darker and purer, the better.

One of the purest forms of chocolate we can eat is cacao nibs.

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These bitter, crunchy chocolate bits are peeled and crumbled from dried, whole cacao beans. They are PACKED with nourishing, fueling goodness! When we hear about chocolate being good for us, these little guys take the prize. One ounce (about 1/4 cup) of cacao nibs contains:

  • 35% of the recommended daily value of relaxing magnesium
  • 6 GRAMS of fiber, which fills us up and keeps things moving in our digestive system. Only about 3% of the population eats the adequate minimum intake of fiber, even though it is one of the main disease fighters, blood sugar regulators, and energy stabilizers out there
  • 4 grams of satiating protein
  • Over HALF of the recommended daily value of copper and manganese, trace minerals that help us with formation of tissues (like bones and skin), energy production, and blood sugar balance.

You can find them in the natural food aisle of your grocery store, but I find the best deals at HomeGoods or online at Amazon or Vitacost. Wegmans, Whole Foods, and MOMs Organic Market carry them as well.

You can enjoy cacao nibs in trail mix, cookies, chocolate bark, brownie bites, sprinkled on top of smoothies or avocado pudding (recipe coming!), and as a topping for my chocolate walnut brownies.

Check out SEVEN of my favorite cacao nib recipes below!

Click the picture to get to the recipe.

PB Oat Bites CoverIMG_2208Mint Choco Chip Bday Ballssuper food trail mixcherry choco biteschococherrybanner2barkmain

Celeriac: Give This Ugly Vegetable a Chance

Avocado. Eggplant. Sauerkraut.

Most of us can think of certain foods that we don’t like or refused to try at one point. As a recovering picky eater, I was often afraid to try new foods, especially foods that looked or sounded “weird” to me.

Sauerkraut, eggplant and avocado were all foods that I wouldn’t even try at one point in my life but have learned to like, and, in the case of avocados, LOVE.

We’re told not to judge something without getting to know it, but, let’s be honest, most of us do. One vegetable that I had seen multiple times and was curious but afraid to try because of how strange it looked was this…

celeriac

Celeriac (say, sa-LAIR-ee-ac) also known as celery root.

It’s a relative of parsnips, carrots and parsley, and its taste resembles celery but is slightly sweeter, nuttier and milder. It’s a great source of filling fiber and also contains quite a bit of vitamin K, which supports heart and bone health.

This root vegetable isn’t always easy to find here in the U.S. (I get mine at MOMs Organic Market or Whole Foods), but if you can find it, it’s worth trying! It can be served the same way as a potato (mashed, roasted, sliced into fries, steamed, and as a component in soups and stews), so it’s really versatile.

Check out the video below to learn how easy it is to get the skin off of this less than beautiful root veggie and for a few more tips about how to prepare it!

Then, try one of the celeriac-centered recipes below:

Smashed Celeriac by Jamie Oliver

Celeriac Mash by Paleo Leap. This is the recipe I made, but I added about 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme, used 4 cloves of garlic, and used veggie broth instead of chicken stock.

celeriac puree.jpg

Autumn Celeriac Puree by food52

Cauliflower Celeriac Soup by Cook Eat Paleo

Easy Celery Root Fries by The Spunky Coconut

Rosemary Roasted Celery Root & Carrots by Everyday Health

Roasted Root Vegetables with Tomatoes and Kale by Simply Recipes

roasted-root-vegetables-tomatoes-kale-vertical-a2-1200

Photo used with permission from SimplyRecipes

 

Which recipe do you want to try? Do you have another you’d like to share? Feel free to leave a comment below!

 

 

GBOMBS Spaghetti Squash Saute + How-To Video {Gluten-Free, Paleo}

I’ve been on a squash kick lately! From roasted butternut squash to creamy kabocha squash soup and even squash “pasta,” winter squash is one of my favorite foods because it’s versatile, delicious and nourishing.

Today we’re going to take a look at a squash that many of us have heard of before but might have been too intimidated to try making ourselves – spaghetti squash!

As someone who loved twirling pasta on my fork as a kid, this is a food that is fun to eat and play with…and it has lots of body-boosting benefits, too!

IMG_7154

Winter squash is packed with antioxidants that support our body from the inside out – vitamin A for our skin and eyes, vitamin C for antioxidant protection, fiber for fullness, and folate, a B vitamin that supports our body’s production of mood-boosting neurotransmitters.

For more info about the awesomeness of spaghetti squash, click here.

Now, I’m not going to lie to you and say that it tastes just like spaghetti (because it doesn’t…it’s a bit crunchier and a tad sweeter), BUT it does give you a similar experience and is basic enough to be paired with a variety of sauces – from pesto and marinara to pad Thai.

Check out my video below for the step-by-step instructions for how to prepare spaghetti squash and then buy some for yourself, so you can make one of the recipes below! It’s easier than you think 🙂 If you’re more of a picture person, check out this post I wrote for step-by-step pictures and directions.

I’ve included a recipe below for a winter veggie saute full of GBOMBS like shallots, garlic, dino kale, beans, berries and pumpkin seeds. Here are a few additional spaghetti squash recipes for you to try:

Spaghetti Squash Saute.jpg

Ingredients

1 large spaghetti squash
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter) or coconut oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 shallots, sliced
1 bunch dino kale (AKA lacinato or Tuscan kale), destemmed and chopped
1/4 cups water
1 15-oz can no-salt added cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted
1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar
Freshly cracked black pepper and sea salt to taste

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Slice a line down the length of the spaghetti squash, about a half-inch deep or make several slits round the squash to allow steam to release. It’s usually too hard to cut in half at this point unless you have a really good knife.
3. Put the squash in a 9 x 13 baking dish in the oven for 25 minutes, so it can soften enough to easily cut it in half. Remove squash from the oven and let it cool enough to handle it. Cut it in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon.
5. Put the squash cut-side down in the baking dish and fill the bottom of the dish with 1/2 cup water. Return squash to oven for about 30 minutes or until the squash easily pulls away from the shell. Let the squash cool and then scrape out the inside into strands with a fork.
6. In a large sautĂ© pan over medium heat, sautĂ© shallots in ghee (or oil) until fragrant, about 4-6 minutes. Add garlic and sautĂ© 30-60 seconds. Add spaghetti squash, dino kale and 1/4 cup water and toss until the kale is wilted but bright green. Add beans and toss until heated through then add cranberries and pumpkin seeds. Remove from heat and sprinkle with 1 1⁄2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar.

Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oats

When it comes to convenience, versatility and eating for energy, it doesn’t get much easier than overnight oats in a jar!

This is one of my go-to breakfast options and is perfect for busy mornings. Here are just a few more reasons I’m such a fan of overnight oats:

  • Change it up based on what you have on hand and what’s in season
  • Inexpensive ingredients that are pantry staples in our house
  • Eat them right out of the jar or heat them up on the stovetop, if you’d prefer something a little warmer
  • Make them a few days ahead of time for a ready-to-go breakfast
  • Involve your kids and let them get creative with toppings!

I’ve shared recipes for overnight oats before, including these Pumpkin Spice Overnight Oats and these “Berry” Quick Overnight Oats, but today’s recipe is for Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oats!

Oats aerial

I used some of my favorite seasonal ingredients, including crisp apples, warming cinnamon and crunchy walnuts. I used apples two ways – applesauce as the base and chopped apples as the topping. The chia seeds are filling and soak up some of the almond milk, helping everything come together…without cooking it!

I love the combination of apples and cinnamon, especially during the colder months, so that’s what inspired this particular combination.

Apple OatsOats aerialI had some fun making a video “how-to” in case you’re a more visual person and want to hear more about the benefits of each ingredient.

The full recipe is listed below, so check it out and give it a try!

Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oats

This is a quick and easy breakfast option for the busy person on the go! Make 2-3 ahead of time so you can prep once and eat multiple meals. It’s a time saver!

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 teaspoons chia seeds
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch ginger
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • Pinch fine grain sea salt
  • 1/3 cup whole rolled oats (I use gluten-free)
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 apple (chopped)
  • 4 walnuts (chopped)
  1. Stir applesauce, chia seeds, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla, and sea salt in the bottom of a mason jar.

  2. Add the oats and almond milk and stir everything together to combine. Cover with a lid and store in your fridge for at least 30 minutes, ideally overnight.

  3. Remove from fridge and stir in toppings. Eat directly from the jar or warm on the stove. Enjoy!

Optional toppings: 1 tablespoon nut butter, toasted coconut, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, 100% pure maple syrup, to taste

Like this:

Rachel D’s 30-Minute Meals: Veggie Pasta UNrecipe!

I’m usually a bit more on top of the whole Christmas shopping thing, but with all that has been on my plate this year, I really fell behind and started doing the bulk of my shopping on Friday.

Some people love the adrenaline rush of waiting until the last minute…I’m definitely not one of them!

After spending a few hours shopping on Friday with all the crazies, Bill and I were hungry and ready for dinner. Since we’d just spent money on gifts, I didn’t want to spend more money on food, so I was determined to make something using what was already in our fridge and pantry.

That’s how this (under) 30-minute meal came to be!

We had a box of Tolerant Foods’ red lentil rotini pasta, so I threw together a bunch of veggies from our fridge and a few simple add-ons like lemon juice, sea salt, and olive oil to give the dish some flavor.

tolerant rotiniTa da! Dinner is served 🙂

When I posted the picture on instagram and Facebook, a friend of mine asked the question, “Where’s the recipe??”

Short answer?

There isn’t one!

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Consider this an “un”recipe (you know, just like those “un”birthdays in Alice in Wonderland?!).

This is one of those dishes that I literally pieced together based on a template that works no matter what you have on hand. Check out the basic process below.

<30-Minute Meal Basic Ingredient List

  • Base: Quality, gluten-free pasta of choice (We use Tolerant Foods pasta because it’s packed with fiber and protein or brown rice pasta. Both are gluten-free and contain only ONE ingredient, which is ideal!)
  • Cooking Broth or Fat: Veggie broth, ghee, olive oil, coconut oil, or grass-fed butter
  • Aromatic Veggies: Onion (red, yellow or shallots), Garlic (2-4 cloves)
  • Simple Seasonings: Sea salt (coarse grain), Black pepper
  • Flavor Burst: Lemon
  • Finishing Fat: Extra virgin olive oil
  • LOTS OF VEGGIES! (cherry tomatoes, broccoli, bell peppers, squash, kale, spinach – add leafy greens at the very end)
  • Any add-ons like chickpeas, cannellini beans, chicken, fish, etc.
  • Top with fresh herbs like basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme, etc. And if you like other herbs and spices, add them in along the way!

Here’s the foolproof process to follow:

Cook the pasta – saute the veggies – blanch the broccoli – toss everything together – top with lemon juice and zest, olive oil, sea salt and pepper.

And for those of you who like more detail…here you go!

  1. Bring water to a boil in a medium pot. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. During the last 90 seconds of cooking, add the broccoli florets to blanch them (quickly cook!).
  2. While you’re waiting for the pasta water to boil, heat a large skillet to medium-high heat. Cut onions into thin half-moon slices. Add a few tablespoons of veggie broth or cooking fat of choice to the skillet. Add onions and saute 5-7 minutes until they soften. Add more veggie broth as needed to prevent sticking. Add tomatoes and garlic and saute until you can smell the garlic.
  3. Once pasta is cooked and broccoli is still bright green, drain the water in a strainer and add the broccoli and pasta to the veggie skillet.
  4. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste and finish with the zest of one lemon and the juice of one lemon. I used half a lemon to start and added more as I tasted. Finish it off with a few drizzles of olive oil.

We topped ours with some paleo parmesan cheese 🙂 The combination possibilities are endless, so HAVE FUN with it…and get cookin’!

The Top 10 Healthy Food Trends from Natural Products Expo East 2015

Last month I had the opportunity to attend the Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore for the second time.

The Expo gives companies who create natural, organic, and healthy living products an opportunity to showcase their stuff to a community of retailers, practitioners, business owners, press, and bloggers like me 🙂

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The best way I can describe the expo is like Halloween for healthy foodies. It’s like you get to meet all of the people behind all of your favorite products and then try their new stuff.

Pacing is important.

When you’re basically sampling all day from 9:30 until 6:00, you get full quickly, especially since many of these foods have decent amounts of fiber, healthy fats and protein.

Each year, new food trends pop up, and even though my #1 philosophy focuses on eating as much whole, real food as possible, trends are fun and can make mealtime and snack time a little more exciting.

Here are the top 10 trends I noticed in the natural food space and some products I tried along the way!

Transparency matters. Tell us what’s in your product and where it comes from.IMG_2373

As consumers are taking a closer look at labels and ingredient lists, there’s a growing demand for retailers to tell us CLEARLY what is in the packaged foods they’re making and to simplify their products to have fewer ingredients.

Here are some standouts that prioritize transparency. No secrets here!

The “free from” (dairy, gluten, nuts, grains, soy, etc.) movement is in full swing.

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Because of years of poor diet, chronic stress, too many antibiotics, and other environmental and lifestyle factors, many of us are walking around with compromised digestive health, not realizing how badly we feel until we start feeling better.

Since 70% of our immune system lies in and around our digestive system, it makes sense that an unhappy “gut” = less than awesome health.

While we’re in the recovery phase, (or if we have to be “free from” a particular food for life), it’s helpful to experiment with cutting out certain ingredients (for me it’s dairy and gluten) to feel better. These are some of my favorite “free from” brands. They’re all dairy-free and gluten-free and some are free from other allergens as well.

Gluten-free is the way to be (31% of the products at the expo were GF).

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I got to meet Elizabeth behind Purely Elizabeth granola! She's a fellow IIN grad and a rock star!

I also got to meet Elizabeth behind Purely Elizabeth granola! She’s a fellow IIN grad and a rock star!

Paleo is still going strong.

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As the free-from movement continues and we get back to our roots of eating real food, the paleo diet (no grains, legumes, dairy, sweeteners, processed foods) maintains its strong following.

Their philosophy is, “If man made it, don’t eat it.”

As someone who doesn’t eat gluten or dairy, I often buy products labeled “paleo” because I know they will not have gluten or dairy in them, which gives me some peace of mind!

Check out some of these paleo options:

Organic, grass-fed meats and dairy are the new standard.

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Cows are supposed to eat grass, not grains. When cows are fed grains, they often get sick and have to be pumped full of antibiotics, which then end up in our food. This is no bueno for the cows or for us.

That’s why we want to buy grass-fed beef whenever possible.

To take it to the next level, grass-FINISHED beef is the gold standard because it means that in the last stage of their life, the cows were still fed grass rather than being fed grains to quickly fatten them up.

A few brands of grass-fed jerky to check out:

  • Epic bars & jerky (Bill loves these and we find them at Wegmans, Whole Foods & MOMs)
  • The New Primal jerky (cows are grass-fed AND grass-finished). You can find these at REI.

Move over coconut water. Maple water is the new kid in town.

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With a lower sugar content and price point than many coconut waters, maple water is a new trend.

I first found out about them when we were in Lake Placid this summer volunteering at the Ironman triathlon. Drink Maple had a team competing there, and we ended up being at the same cafe as them the day after the race.

Maple water has a subtle maple flavor and naturally occurring electrolytes, so for people who can’t stand the taste of coconut but want an option aside from plain water, this is definitely worth trying!

…But coconut is still in LOTS of products and is being reinvented.

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Hemp is the new flax.

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Hemp is an excellent source of easily digestible, plant-based protein and is a great source of healthy fats and minerals.

CBD is also becoming a popular cannabis-based ingredient in edible and consumable products that one could purchase from a cbd distributor. CBD businesses have become extremely popular over the years as the demand for hemp/marijuana-based products is soaring in the market. With a wide range of potential benefits from pain relief to anxiety management to help with insomnia, it’s no wonder that sites like Gold Bee (you can view the products they have to offer on the company website here) are becoming more and more popular. This is also why great care and attention need to happen on all ends when it comes to these businesses, including when it comes to financials. There are banks that accept cbd business for those that are looking, they just need to do some research in their business based area to find the right ones.

Here are a few hemp-based brands to try:

Turmeric, the ultimate anti-inflammatory, is taking center stage.

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The key component of turmeric that makes it such an anti-inflammatory and protective powerhouse is curcumin. Research suggests that curcumin’s protective properties play a key role in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease and inflammation.

An inflamed body is a sick and angry body, so we want to do anything we can to cool inflammation, and curcumin that can be ingested via brands like CuraMed, is definitely one of the best ways to do this. But this is just one company to consider, so to find the best one for you, make sure to give these products a taste too…

This final trend excites me the most!

There’s a focus on taking a step back to traditionally nourishing, gut-friendly foods like bone broths and sauerkraut.

Since 70% of our immune system lies in and around our digestive tract, eating foods that make our digestive system happy make our whole body look and feel its best!

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And, that’s a wrap!

For a gluten-free, dairy-free foodie who is focused on prioritizing whole, real food made with integrity by people who care, those were some of my favorite finds at Expo East 🙂

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