Food & Cooking

Heart Healthy Papaya Pudding

Heart Health Every Month

Heart health is vital all year long, not just during American Heart Health Month. Here are some tips to keep your cardiovascular system strong for life!

Magnify Antioxidant Power

Functional nutrition concerns itself, not with disease, but with the inflammation & imbalances that incite disease. To speak succinctly, chronic inflammation occurs in your body when free radicals outnumber antioxidants.

Heart Health is threatened by an imbalance of free radicals

Free radicals are very reactive particles that burn through most things they touch in a process called oxidation. When they damage tissues of the cardiovascular system, they threaten your heart health.

In the nutrition world, processed vegetable oils, refined sugars, and alcohol are top contributors to free radicals. Dietary sources of antioxidants are vitamins A, C, and E, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), alpha lipoic acid, and bioflavanoids – the pigments that give plant foods their rich colors.

fruits and vegetables in a balance with free radicals

In plain English, that means eat lots of brightly-colored produce. A study of 3100 different edible substances discovered that herbs and spices were among the highest sources of antioxidants.  Spices such as turmeric, cumin, and ginger; and herbs, such as cilantro, and peppermint are especially powerful.  Here’s a tip: add leafy herbs to your smoothie, and have a shaker bottle of warm spices, such as these, near the stove to sprinkle on your meats, soups, and stir-fries.

Cilantro Smoothie

cilantro smoothie

Blend together: 6 mandarin oranges, 6 oz. pineapple juice concentrate, 1 can full fat coconut milk, 1 bunch cilantro, and 1 cup ice.

Tame Inflammation

Most Americans eat too many pro-inflammatory Omega 6 fatty acids. Vegetable oils made from corn, cottonseed, canola, soy, and safflower are high in Omega 6’s. Omega 3 fatty acids help re-establish balance and support heart health by managing inflammation, reducing triglycerides, and slowing plaque build-up.

However, since your body can’t make them, you have to get them from food. Fish is the best source. But if you don’t like fish, then walnuts, chia, and flax are your next best sources. To ease more fish into your diet, you can make fish patties.

Easy Fish Cakes

Fish Patty

Mix together equal parts cooked white fish and mashed potatoes. Add Old Bay Seasoning to taste. Form patties and toast on a hot griddle. Serve with lemon and dill.

Support Methylation For Heart Health

Methylation is  one of the most essential processes in the body. It detoxifies homocysteine, an amino acid that can threaten heart health by increasing inflammation and damaging blood vessels. You need folate and vitamin B-12 for methylation.

The best sources of these important B vitamins are dark leafy greens and liver! Many people detest liver, so your tip to use this nutrient powerhouse is to hide it from yourself. Mix 1 part ground liver into 4 parts liberally-seasoned taco meat.

tacos with ground beef and liver

To eat more leafy greens, try these recipes for wilted or cooked greens from traditional cultures.

Maximize Magnesium

This essential mineral is especially important to control blood pressure and prevent arrhythmias. One study suggests that up to 75% of Americans are not meeting the recommended daily allowance. Since magnesium insufficiency often manifests as muscle weakness, it is critical to get enough magnesium for your most active muscle – your heart.

Super Magnesium Trail Mix

heart healthy trail mix of cashews, almonds, pumpkins seeds and cacao nibs

Toss together raw pumpkin seeds, almonds, raw cashews, and extra dark chocolate chips. If desired, add dried cherries or dried cranberries.

Prevent Plaque Formation

According to this study, Vitamin K-2 can prevent both hardening of the arteries and plaque build-up in the arteries. You would think that if a specific vitamin had actually been shown in clinical study to be associated with a 50% reduction in cardiovascular disease risk (yes, half!) that it would be a major news headliner, right? Unfortunately,Vitamin K2 is prevalent mostly in animal foods that many people shy away from because of nutritional myths. These foods include grass-fed butter, cheeses, fatty red meats (e.g. ribeye steak), liver, and egg yolks. The food containing the highest amount of vitamin K2 is a highly fermented soy food called natto, which very few people can tolerate due to its strong odor and flavor.

However, increasing your vitamin K-2 intake might be easier than you think. Instead of grabbing chocolate when you hit that energy “coma” in the afternoon, snack on gouda cheese and whole grain crackers instead.

Since egg yolks are also high in this critical nutrient, you can maximize your intake with this beautiful Brazilian dessert, known to Americans as Papaya Pudding.

Creme de Papaya

A light, satisfying, low-sugar version of a Brazilian classic
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time5 mins
Standing time10 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Dessert
Servings: 4
Cost: $5

Equipment

  • Blender

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. very ripe papaya chunks
  • 1 large ripe banana
  • 1/4 c. lime juice
  • 1/3 c. honey
  • 1/2 c. full-fat coconut milk
  • 3 tsp. grated ginger root (grates best when frozen)
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 egg yolks

Instructions

  • Puree the papaya, banana, lime juice, honey, coconut milk, ginger, nutmeg, and salt in the blender.
  • Transfer mixture to a saucepan or microwave-safe bowl and heat, stirring frequently, until steamy.
  • Remove from heat. Add egg yolks to the blender jar, and turn the motor on low.
  • While the blender is running, slowly pour the papaya puree into the blender jar. Process until creamy.
  • Pour into dessert dishes and let stand 10 minutes before serving or refrigerating.

 

 

Antioxidant Strawberries are Valentines that love you

Valentines That Love YOU

Satisfy your sweet-loving heart – and your sweetheart – with Valentines that love you back! These treats bring nutrients to your heart, muscles, skin and lungs, even your very cells. Because you create them from all-natural ingredients, you get no inflammatory lash-back from refined sugars, artificial colors & flavors, and processed oils. No recipe necessary! Just mix and share. After all, real food = romance!

Strawberry Hearts

Dip fresh strawberries in melted dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao), then sprinkle with chopped nuts or unsweetened coconut flakes. Want to send your Valentine some extra love? Instead of dipping the strawberries, draw on them, like Brandi at The Vegan 8, using an icing bag filled with melted chocolate.

White plate of strawberries with chocolate words

 

Valentine Love Pudding

You know the chia pudding that was popular a couple of years back? Why not adapt it for February 14th? Go ahead and mix your full-fat can of coconut milk with a couple of tablespoons of chia, but just before you add a pinch of salt and set it in the fridge to set up, stir in just enough juice concentrate to sweeten it. Try pomegranate, cherry, or cranberry for a beautiful pink color. Then when you are ready to serve it, top it with nuts and fruit, such as goji berries, pitaya, raspberries or cherries.

boysenberry pudding makes a delightful valentine

 

Cupid Chocolates

With just 3 ingredients, you can spread the love! Start with an all-natural peanut-butter, such as Adam’s, and mix in just enough pure maple syrup for a semi-sweet taste. Form into small balls (or even hearts if you like), and chill while you melt some dark chocolate (70% cacao or more). Dip the balls in the melted chocolate and set them in paper candy cups.  Before the chocolate sets, sprinkle with red sugar crystals.

With 3 ingredients, PB chocolates share the Valentine love

A Valentine Mousse to Love

What could be more romantic than a creamy pink mousse, shared by candlelight? Plus, it whips up so quickly, you can spend the extra time getting ready for the big night. Simply combine equal parts heavy cream and softened cream cheese. Add some pureed raspberries to taste and spoon into dessert cups. Chill. Just before serving, top with fresh raspberries and a dolop of whipped cream.

raspberry mousse that loves YOU

Heart’s Delight

Love chocolate and fruit together? Here’s a filled valentine that loves you because there’s no added sugar. You need freeze-dried raspberries or strawberries and coconut butter, plus some melted dark chocolate (70% cacao or more). Start by melting the coconut butter in a double boiler. Meanwhile, using a blender or food processor, powder the berries by pulsing the motor. Add the powder to the coconut butter at a ratio of about 4 parts coconut butter to 1 part berry powder. Pour into candy molds and chill to set. When candies are firm, dip in melted chocolate and leave in a cool place to set.

These valentine chocolates have a surprise raspberry filling

Lover’s Pie

Give your Valentine some love with a light fresh fruit pie. Blend any kind of nuts until they release their oil and begin to stick together. Press them firmly into the bottom of a pie pan. Next, empty about of pound of fresh or frozen berries into a saucepan along with a half of a cup of water. Bring to a simmer, and cook until the berries break down. Sprinkle in a couple of tablespoons of gelatin, and stir until the gelatin dissolves. Pour over the nut crust and refrigerate until set. Top with more berries.

berries and gelatin make a fruit pie your Valentine will love

What you eat matters because YOU matter! If you want to live and give your best, you must eat your best! To be someone’s Sweetheart, cherish your own sweet heart by eating only ingredients that love your body back. If you’re confused about the connection between your diet and your symptoms, check out what Functional Nutrition can do for you.

Immunity Soup made with lentils

Immunity Soup

Immunity Soup is engineered to deliver vital nutrients while providing a comforting winter meal. The immune system is a nutrient HOG! In order to keep it functioning well, we have to feed it a constant stream of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Benefits of Immunity Soup

We start with bone broth, because it’s rich in magnesium, potassium, zinc, selenium, and iron. To that, we add sautéed onion, which has sulphur compounds to help you detoxify. The onion is sautéed in coconut oil with some minced garlic, thyme leaves, and cumin seeds. These all have antimicrobial properties.

We know that zinc is crucial for immunity, so we use brown lentils as an abundant source of that mineral. Then for Vitamins A & C, which provide a shot of antioxidants, we chop some veggies. Rich colors alert us to the presence of antioxidants. We use tomatoes, parsley, celery, carrot, kale, cabbage, and chilies – green for mild, red for spicy.

To get an anti-inflammatory benefit, we add grated ginger root & grated turmeric root (or turmeric powder).To give the immune system a boost, we put in some chopped mushrooms and a couple of bay leaves. A final touch is to add some red wine vinegar, which supports your healthy gut microbiome in fending off pathogens.

Recipe

1 onion, chopped

2 Tb. coconut oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. cumin seeds

1 tsp. dried thyme or 1 sprig fresh thyme

4 c. bone broth

1 c. brown lentils

1 lb. ground grass-fed lamb, beef, or sausage, browned (optional)

2 stalks celery, chopped

3 carrots, sliced

1 bunch kale, chopped

4 c. cabbage, chopped

1/4 c. tomato paste or 4 tomatoes, cubed

1 Tb. dried parsley or 1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped

2-3 chilies according to preference

1″ each of turmeric root and ginger root, grated (or 1/2 tsp. powder)

8 mushrooms, chopped

2 bay leaves

3 Tb. red wine vinegar

1 Tb. salt

Combine all ingredients in a stock pot, crock pot, or Instant Pot. Pressure for 20 minutes, or simmer for 30 minutes, or slow cook for 4 hours.

 

 

Breakfast soup of broth, chicken, and vegetables

Breakfast Soups

What if, instead of cereal, you had soup for breakfast? It might sound odd in America, but all over the world, healthy cultures feast on breakfast soup several times per week.

Historical Bias for Breakfast Soup

There’s an old saying: “Breakfast like a king; lunch like a prince; dinner like a pauper.”  In blue zones – 5 places around the world where people consistently live over 100 years old – breakfast looks more like dinner. In most cases, the first meal of the day consists of protein, plant-based fats (nuts, seeds, oils), and beans or vegetables.

Many Japanese eat Sumo Stew first thing in the morning is normal. Also, Nigerians often enjoy Egg Stew, Chinese slurp Congee (rice porridge with egg and meat), and Columbians have their Changua (milk soup with poached eggs). From Mohinga (fish & noodle soup) in Burma to Lablabi (chickpea soup) in Tunisia, people around the globe have been eating soup for breakfast forever. And let’s not forget Vietnamese Pho, or Indian Ginger Rasam (lentil soup).

Yet, according to a survey that Kellogg’s conducted, only 34% of adult Americans eat breakfast at all.

Advantages of Soup for Breakfast

Here’s how soup beats cereal for your morning meal:

First, it stabilizes your blood sugars. Steaming broths rich in amino acids, and vegetables in healthy fats help insure you don’t have an insulin spike today. Add to that protein-rich meats and legumes, and you have a true winner.

Second, those who eat a hearty meal in the morning are more likely to lose weight. One study followed two groups of people who ate the same number of calories, but distributed them differently throughout the day. This first group ate more calories at breakfast, while the second group ate more calories at dinner. The group that consumed the larger breakfast lost 2.5 times more weight than the the group that ate a larger dinner group. Additionally, the first group lost four more inches around the waist. ”What we have seen is that people on diets with the same number of calories who front-load calories to the earlier part of the day fare better in terms of subjective and objective measures of satiety,” researchers said.

Further, those who eat like a king at breakfast are more likely to have a lower body mass index (BMI). “Studies have found that although people who skip breakfast eat slightly fewer calories during the day, they tend to have higher body mass index, or BMI,” says Christy C. Tangney, PhD, a clinical dietitian at Rush University Medical Center and an expert on the effects of diet and nutrition on heart health.

Finally, an ample breakfast encourages a vigorous metabolism. When you eat well in the morning, you’re telling your body that there are plenty of calories available for the day. When you skimp on breakfast, the message you send your body is that it needs to conserve rather than burn any incoming calories.

Recipes

Not sure you want to eat international fare? Here are some American recipes that will give you the same benefits that cultures around the world enjoy.

Butternut Soup

This recipe comes from Mickey Trescott at AutoimmuneWellness.com.

  • 1 tablespoon solid cooking fat
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 lbs. whole chicken
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded, and cubed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 5 cups baby spinach
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  1. Place the solid cooking fat in the bottom of your Instant Pot and select the “saute” function. When the fat has melted and the pot is hot, add the onion, and cook, stirring, until translucent and lightly browned, about six minutes. Add the garlic and rosemary and cook for another 30 seconds, until aromatic.
  2. Put the water into the pot and turn off the heat. Add the chicken, squash, and sea salt to the pot. Lock the lid, and set your machine to pressure cook on the manual “high” setting for 16 minutes.
  3. When the machine indicates the dish is finished cooking, immediately place a towel over the steam valve, carefully opening with the use of a wooden spoon (careful — you can burn yourself easily here!) to quick-release the pressure. Once the steam is released, remove the lid, and allow to cool.
  4. Once the dish has cooled enough, remove the whole chicken from the pot, take off the meat, and place back in the pot with the spinach and lemon juice. Place back into the Instant Pot container to heat to temperature, and enjoy!
  5. If you are going to be portioning this soup into jars for storage in the freezer, allow it to cool completely and spend 24 hours in the refrigerator before doing so — the soup will have a better flavor when you reheat it!

Sausage and Sweet Potato Soup

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 3 cups bone broth
  • 1 lb. ground sausage, browned
  • 2 cups diced raw sweet potato
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 3 cups kale, chopped
  1. Saute the onion and garlic in coconut oil until translucent.
  2. Put all ingredients except kale in a crock pot or soup pot and simmer until sweet potato is tender (20 minutes on stovetop, 2-3 hours in a crock pot).
  3. Add the kale and cook 2-3 minutes more, just until kale is wilted.
A cornucopia of unprocessed Thanksgiving food.

Thanksgiving Unprocessed

The Thanksgiving dilemma is that we want to FEAST, but we don’t want the food coma that follows!When you make your Thanksgiving unprocessed, you will actually eat less and be more satisfied! Switch out manufactured foods for whole foods that don’t come with a nutrition label to have a truly pleasurable meal that doesn’t leave you feeling sluggish and sick!

Non-boxed Stuffing

wild rice stuffing

It’s time to think outside the box – the stuffing box! In this wild rice stuffing, say goodbye to stale bread & long ingredient lists. Say hello to tender wild rice, crispy bacon, mushrooms, herbs, nuts, & cranberries.

  • 1 c. wild rice blend
  • 2 c. chicken bone broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Tb. butter
  • 6 slices bacon, fried and crumbled
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 8  crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • ½ c. fresh cranberries
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 Tb. fresh snipped sage
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Bring the bone broth to a simmer. Add the wild rice, bay leaf, and butter. Then cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until all liquid is absorbed, about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, saute the onions, mushrooms, garlic and celery in a little bit of the grease left from cooking the bacon. When vegetables are soft, stir in cranberries and cook just until they pop. Mix in the herbs.

Combine the rice, bacon, sauteed vegetables and nuts. Season to taste. Voila! A classic recipe for Thanksgiving, unprocessed and original!

Green Beans with  Mushroom Gravy

green beans with mushroom gr

Forget the canned soup for this green bean casserole that is loaded with flavor! Portobello mushrooms and balsamic vinegar are sauteed in butter and thyme, then topped with baked leeks for a bit of crunch in this amazing unprocessed Thanksgiving comfort food!

  • 1 leeks, thinly sliced (white part only)
  • 1/2 Tb. avocado oil
  • 1/8 tsp. each salt and paprika
  • 24 oz.  frozen green beans
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 1/2 c. sliced portabello mushrooms
  • 3 minced cloves garlic
  • 2 Tb. butter
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tb. balsamic vinegar
  • ¾ c bone broth
  • 24 oz. (2 pkg.) frozen green beans

Toss the leeks with avocado oil, paprika and salt. Microwave in a covered bowl for 2 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spreading them out into a single layer. Place 6″ beneath the oven element and cook on low broil for 4-5 minutes until golden.

Saute the onion, mushrooms, and garlic in butter and thyme until tender. Add salt, vinegar, and broth. Simmer 10 minutes. Blend until smooth.

Steam the green beans according to package directions. Fold beans into mushroom gravy. Garnish with leeks.

Traditional Candied Yams

candied yams with dates and maple syrup

Dates, pure maple syrup and cinnamon lend a decadent sweetness to these classy candied yams– without artificial ingredients — to make an unforgettable comfort food for your Thanksgiving Unprocessed.

  • 6 c. yams, peeled and cubed (2-3 yams)
  • 4 Tb. butter, melted
  • 1 c. chopped pitted dates
  • 1/2 c. boiling water
  • 4 Tb. pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ c. unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 2 Tb. butter, melted

Toss yams with 4 Tb. butter and layer in a 9×13 baking pan. Roast at 425° for 25 minutes.

While yams are roasting, pour boiling water over dates to soften. After 5 minutes, strain the dates. Combine the dates, maple syrup, cinnamon, coconut flakes, and 2 Tb. butter. Toss with roasted yams and bake at 350 for 15-20 more minutes.

Homemade “Cornbread”

millet, cornbread, and sweet potato bread

Pass up the frozen dough and gluten bloat when you make this absolutely scrumptious corn bread from millet, buttermilk, and sweet potatoes. No sugar needed!

  • 2 Tb. coconut oil
  • 1 c. millet flour
  • 1/4 t. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. sea salt
  • 1 c. buttermilk
  • 1/2 c. sweet potato, cooked and mashed
  • 1 egg

Melt the coconut oil in a 10″ oven-proof skillet.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, mashed potato, and egg. Add the potato mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until combine

Spoon into  skillet and bake in a preheated 425° oven for 20 minutes.

Fresh Fruit Salad

rosy cranberry salad

In this rosy cranberry fruit salad, there’s no need for imitation whipped topping! The unprocessed burst of flavor comes from honey, warm spices, and orange juice, perfect for your Thanksgiving meal!

  • 5 whole cloves
  • 3-4 allspice berries
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • ½ c. honey
  • ½ c. orange juice
  • 1 pkg. fresh cranberries
  • 2 red pears, diced
  • 2 green apples, cubed

Put spices in the center of a coffee filter. Bring the edges together like a bag to enclose the spices. Secure with a wire twist tie or a piece of string. Put the honey and orange juice in a saucepan. Add spice bag. Simmer over medium heat until reduced by half.

Remove and discard the spice bag. Add the cranberries to the pot and cook until berries are softened. Remove from heat. Cool, then add pears and apples.

Unprocessed Thanksgiving Pie

no bake pumpkin pie with cookie crust

You’ll love this mouthwatering no-bake pumpkin pie! The yummy cookie crust contains only unsweetened coconut flakes and dates. So there are no trans-fats or processed flours. And the delicious pumpkin filling is made without canned milk!

Cookie Crust:

  • 2 c. unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 ½ c. pitted medjool dates, roughly chopped

Process the coconut flakes and dates until the mixture resembles brown sugar. Press mixture firmly into a pie tin. If you desire a crisper crust, poke holes in it with a fork and bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes. Cool and fill.

Pumpkin filling:

  • 1 Tb. gelatin
  • 3 Tb. water, divided
  • 2 c. cooked pumpkin (may be fresh, frozen or canned)
  • 2 ½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ c. butter, softened
  • 1/3 c. honey

Soften the gelatin in 1 Tb. cold water. Add 2 Tb. boiling water and whisk until frothy. Blend the gelatin mixture, pumpkin, spices, butter, and honey. Pour into crust & refrigerate.

Your Thanksgiving Unprocessed

Twisting yoga pose for bloat

When you eat real food, you are less likely to overeat. But if you do happen to gorge yourself on all this appetizing, nourishing food, your best bet is to take a walk instead of hit the couch.

If you feel bloated or have heartburn, try these natural remedies instead of reaching for Tums or Zantac:

  • Sip peppermint or chamomile tea.
  • Nibble a razor-thin slice of fresh ginger root.
  • Chew some roasted fennel seeds.
  • Stretch into some yoga poses for digestion, such as maricasana or pavanamuktasana.

 

a sheet pan meal with tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, and beef

Healthy Isn’t Hard: Sheet Pan Meal

With a chill in the air, I’m eager for an oven-roasted meal full of fall flavors! But just because I’m eating whole foods doesn’t mean cooking a sheet pan meal needs to be complicated. When my husband wants take-out, I tell him I can have the meal ready before he can drive to the take-out counter and get home again. Really, a sheet pan meal only needs 20-25 minutes to cook – no tending needed! Throw it in the oven and read a book while it makes its magic of savory deliciousness!

Advantages of a Sheet Pan Meal over Fast Food

  • Aids detoxification with its inclusion of onions, garlic, or other alliums.
  • Anti-inflammatory! Find me one fast food meal that isn’t inflammatory!
  • Provides antioxidants to protect your cells against damage that leads to disease.
  • Can be adapted to any budget, any level of pickiness, any dietary restraints.
  • Uses good fats that are necessary to your health and avoids bad fats that contribute to inflammation.
  • Contains more vegetables than the typical take-out meal.
  • Doesn’t contribute to blood sugar imbalance.
  • Aborts cravings because it is so filling, mouthwatering, and nutrient-dense!
  • Saves well, so you can make a double or triple batch and not have to cook again for a couple of days.

So, let’s get started!

Pick Your Protein

What’s your preference: land or sea? A sheet pan meal needn’t be limited to beef or chicken. Shrimp, crab, scallops, fish fillets, and even mussels work wonderfully in oven-roasted fare. So do pork, venison, and lamb! Vegans can use products such as tempeh to create an appetizing dish. How much you use is up to you. I recommend 3-6 ounces per person, cut into bite-size pieces.

Choose Some Color

Here’s where it gets fun! Think of the rainbow. Mix and match colors and flavors to suit your personal preferences. Add as many as you like, but make sure you have at least 1/2 cup of cubed or julienned produce per person. Include firm fruits to provide sweetness if you want. The options you select for your individualized sheet pan meal may lend themselves to a particular ethnic flavor, so let your creativity reign! (See image at the end of this post.)

  • White: cauliflower, jicama, leeks, fennel bulb, parsnips, rutabaga, turnips, mushrooms, daikon radish, kohlrabi, and potatoes.
  • Yellow/Orange: summer squash, winter squash including pumpkin, yellow and orange bell peppers, pineapple, yellow beets, sweet potatoes/yams, carrots, and corn
  • Red: tomatoes, beets, red bell peppers, chili peppers, radishes, cranberries, red pear, rhubarb, red pear
  • Purple: eggplant, purple endive, purple cabbage, purple carrots, purple potatoes, dried plums, black currants, figs, or even elderberries
  • Green: beans, peas, broccoli, zucchini, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, asparagus, artichoke hearts, celery, endive, celery, green bell pepper, jalapeno, green chilies, serrano pepper

Grab Some Leafy Greens

In traditional cultures, a meal is not complete without some dark green leaves. Think beyond spinach here! Some options are mustard or beet greens, chard, kale, collards, arugula, bok choy, rapini, and watercress. Be generous because they are one of the most concentrated sources of nutrients on the planet. They will cook down substantially, so aim for at least 1 cup torn leaves per person. Since these do not require a long cook time, you can just toss them onto your sheet pan meal the last 3-5 minutes of cooking.

Remember The Sulphurs

No sheet pan meal – or other meal, for that matter – is truly balanced in flavor and composition without sulphurs. What are these? Primarily, they are the foods in the onion family, including leeks, garlic, chives, shallots, and scallions. But that’s not all. Mushrooms are sulphurs, too. So are the cruciferous vegetables.  If you haven’t already added a cruciferous vegetable as one of your colors, here’s your chance to include some of the healthiest plant foods of all time. One onion and 2-3 cloves garlic are usually sufficient quantities for a single recipe of this oven-roasted entree.

Dress With a Temperature-Safe Oil

Polyunsaturated liquid oils, such as canola and safflower, are unstable and degrade at high temperatures. So stick with monounsaturated or saturated fats, like avocado oil, coconut oil, pastured tallow, or ghee (clarified butter). If your oil is solid, warm it enough to melt it, then toss with all your other ingredients in your sheet pan meal. Use about 1 tablespoon for every 2-3 cups of food on your tray.

Season With Herbs and Spices

Flavor your dish to suit your palate. Fresh thyme, oregano, basil, parsley, tarragon, and sage are winners. You may also like chili powder, cumin, coriander, turmeric, bay leaf, paprika, or cayenne. Just sprinkle your favorite flavors over you meal until the vegetables are very lightly dusted. Don’t forget salt and pepper. Now slide the whole tray into a preheated 450 degree oven and bake until meat is cooked through and vegetables are fork-tender (20-30 minutes). I usually turn the food after about 15 minutes to insure even cooking.

The Finishing Touch

When the sheet pan meal comes out of the oven, I like to give it just a splash of vinegar to add depth of flavor. My favorite is balsamic vinegar, but red wine vinegar is good, too! Of course, rice vinegar would be the perfect choice for an Asian meal.

Below are some ideas to get you started!

sheet pan meal planning guide

Teal Halloween pumpkin & toys

Teal Halloween

I’m ditching orange and going teal this Halloween! The Teal Pumpkin Project is a movement to create a safer Halloween for all trick-or-treaters by avoiding treats that contain food allergens. Since 1 in 13 kids has food allergies, we need more houses where they can get allergy-free treats. You let kids know your house is allergy-safe when you put a teal pumpkin on your doorstep.

I’m making my Halloween teal by purchasing non-food treats to give to trick-or-treaters. Glow sticks, bouncy balls, stickers, and spooky toys are always a hit in our neighborhood! You can add your house to the Teal Pumpkin Project map here.

I’m also making sure that for parties, I offer treats that don’t contain common allergens, such as wheat, soy, eggs, corn, nuts, or fish. Here are some ideas you can use:

Apricot Pumpkins and Banana Ghosts

All you need is a little melted chocolate and some fruit! Using a toothpick, drop dots of melted chocolate onto fresh, frozen or dried apricots and onto halved, peeled bananas to make faces of jack-o-lanterns and ghouls.

Monster Mouths

You will need:

  • red apple slices
  • pumpkin seeds
  • sliced strawberries
  • toothpicks

Each apple slice will become a top or bottom jaw. Press ends of pumpkins seeds into fleshly part of apple slices to make teeth. Join two apple slices together with toothpicks, keeping the red skin facing out to resemble lips. Lay a strawberry slice over the pumpkin seeds on the bottom apple to look like a tongue.

Black Cat Fudge

This Teal Halloween-friendly recipe is chock-full of anti-inflammatory ingredients to help offset high-sugar treats that are almost inevitable for trick-or-treaters. Combine the following:

  • 2 avocados, mashed
  • 1/4 c. each melted virgin coconut oil, and melted cocoa butter
  • 1 tsp. each vanilla, cinnamon, and salt
  • 1/4 c. each carob powder and honey
  • 2 Tb. coconut cream, optional (use if you want a milkier taste. Omit for that dark chocolate taste)

Mix until smooth, press into an oiled loaf pan. Freeze, then cut into squares. Alternately, you could press onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Then, after freezing, you can use Halloween-themed cookie cutters to cut shapes of bats, cats, and spiders.

fruit treats

Teal Halloween Caramel Apples

These caramel apples use no butter or milk to make them allergy-safe. Also, they use no refined sugar or corn syrup, making them healthier for all children.

  • 14 oz. can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2  granny smith apples
  • tongue depressors or skewers, stuck into the apples for handles

Simmer coconut milk and maple syrup over low heat for 30 minutes or more, stirring frequently, until very thick and light brown-colored . Remove from heat and stir in oil and vanilla. Pour into two round cake pans coated with cooking spray. Refrigerate until set. Using a spatula, release the caramel from each pan and lay it on a piece of parchment or wax paper. Set an apple in the center of each caramel disc. Fold the caramel up and around the apple, pressing firmly so that the caramel stays in place. Keep refrigerated.

Witches Fingers

Hauntingly good! You won’t miss the gluten, eggs, nuts, or the sugar, either!

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, softened
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup honey, warmed
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup coconut flour
  • 1 teaspoons each ginger powder & cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon each sea salt & baking soda
  • 6 Tb. water
  • 2 Tb. unflavored gelatin
  • Pumpkin seeds

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl whisk together the coconut oil, honey, molasses, and vanilla extract. In a small bowl, measure 2 Tb. of cold water. Sprinkle the gelatin into the water. When the gelatin has absorbed all the water, heat the remaining 4 Tb. of water to boiling and pour over the gelatin mixture. Stir well until all of gelatin has dissolved. Whisk the gelatin mixture into the wet ingredients.

In another small bowl, mix the coconut flour, spices, salt, and baking soda. Add these dry ingredients to your large bowl, mixing until creamy. Shape dough into finger-length “snakes.” Score knuckle lines with a knife. Press a pumpkin seed “fingernail” onto each finger. Set fingers on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Bake for 17-20 minutes, until edges are browned and cookies are firm to the touch.

Food sensitivity test

Test for Food Sensitivities

The whole idea of a Teal Halloween may seem foreign to you if you do not have known food allergies in your family. However, the chance of having food sensitivities is much higher than the probability of having food allergies. What’s the difference?

Food allergies

  • Manifest within seconds of ingestion.
  • Impact skin, airways and eyes with classical allergy symptoms (hives, restricted throat, mucous, watery eyes).
  • Require only a few molecules of the allergen to trigger a response.

On the other hand, food sensitivities

  • May take up to 3 days to manifest
  • Can impact any system of the body, causing joint pain, mood changes, headaches, digestive distress, and many other symptoms
  • Are dose dependent, meaning they may not trigger a response at all unless a certain threshold is passed. So, you may be able to eat a tablespoon, but not a cup.

You may order a home blood test kit that detects your response to 132 different foods. Results are confidential and are color-coded to give you a range of tolerance. For example, you may have no response, indicated by a green bar. You may have a minor or moderate response, indicated by a yellow or orange bar. Finally, you may have a dramatic response, indicated by a red bar.

Let’s make Halloween safe for everyone by identifying and avoiding food triggers.

 

 

Nutrient-Rich Black Rice Pudding

My Nutrient-Dense Breakfasts

A nutrient-dense breakfast isn’t optional for me. If it isn’t convenient to eat well in the morning, will it be more convenient to be unwell? As a functional nutritionist, I know that every bite I eat has the power to inflame or heal. Plus, I know that my breakfast sets my blood sugars for the day, giving me either steady or erratic metabolism. Since it’s vital to get minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants from my food, I want a breakfast that is nutrient-dense as well as balanced.

So what does a functional nutritionist eat for breakfast? A broad variety! I’m as likely to have leftovers from dinner as to actually prepare a meal in the morning. But if I were to pick several meals that rotate through my menu frequently, you would see a diversity that reflects several cultural influences.

Eggs are Nutrient-Dense

I like to make up creations, such as taco eggs, pizza eggs, or eggs-in-a-nest that contain a variety of vegetables and perhaps a little extra protein as well. Here are some common egg breakfasts at my house:

  • Italian Frittata (I also add mushrooms and olives!)
  • Fisherman Eggs (The recipe is at the bottom of the post.)
  • Thai Curried Eggs (You can omit the venison, but be sure to use plenty of Chinese greens, such as bok choy and pea sprouts!)

Meals with Breakfast Meats

While I do not follow a paleo or keto diet, per se, I like to make sure I get about 20 grams of protein in any given meal. Getting meat in the morning helps insure I am having a nutrient-dense breakfast. I like these vegetable-meat combinations:

  • Yam, Apple & Sausage Skillet
  • Hawaiian Wraps (For convenience, I use pre-made sausage patties and pineapple rings. I omit the cornstarch from the sauce and add a little honey to make it thicker.) Here’s a cleaner version that I’m dying to try because it look so yummy!
  • Farmer Hash (I enjoy grating or chopping rutabaga, turnip, cabbage, parsnips, yams, squash, carrots, or beets for mine. And of course, there’s always the addition of dark leafy greens and some crunchy vegetables such as celery and bell peppers.)

Nutrient-Dense Comfort Food

Everyone likes some comforting carbs once in a while. How do I do that and still maintain balanced macro ratios? To begin with, I use unrefined carbohydrates. Then I add fiber-rich vegetables, healthy fats and quality protein. Check out these enticing selections:

Play helps kids eat veggies

Help Kids Eat Veggies

Will your kids eat veggies? Perhaps they’ll be more eager when you apply the principles below.

Veggies are Vital

It is not just a good idea to eat veggies. It is imperative! Without abundant vegetables in the diet, it is unrealistic to expect that you or your children will be getting enough vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals to regulate the immune system. The tragedy is that an immune system that does not have sufficient micronutrients becomes vulnerable to cancer, infections, autoimmunity, allergies and asthma. If you want to prevent chronic disease in your family, you have to eat more nutrient-dense food. That means lots of leafy greens, plenty of vibrantly-colored vegetables, and ample sulphur-containing vegetables (those in the cruciferous, onion, and mushroom families).

In addition, when you eat veggies in place of other carbohydrates, such as grains and fruit, you help balance blood sugars. We have an emergency to steady our blood sugars, because statistically, one in three is pre-diabetic.

Help Kids Eat Veggies

It’s not a psychological mystery that children love making cookies and hate eating their vegetables. Beyond the difference between natural sugars and refined sugars, there are fundamental distinctions in the way we approach cookies versus vegetables.

It’s a sign of “mom love” to make cookies together. You and your child bond when you share the experiences of mixing ingredients, frosting, and celebrating with cookies. But do you get excited to make vegetable recipes and serve them to friends during holidays and special occasions? Most likely, you sternly tell your children that they have to eat their vegetables before they get a treat.

Principles for Celebrating Vegetables

The following principles are taken from the work of Melanie Potock, feeding therapist, who blogs at My Munch Bug.

  • Friendship Principle: If you want to be friends with vegetables, they have to come play at your house frequently! Not only that, you have to model a friendship with veggies yourself.
  • Curiosity Principle: Let your child experience and explore veggies through cooking, eating out, growing food, and culinary field trips. A child should be able to touch and smell a vegetable long before he is expected to touch it to his lips, put it on his tongue, and eventually eat it.
  • Play Principle: Encourage him to use all of his senses in exploring the unique characteristics of each vegetable! Be creative and spontaneous. No ultimatums here!
  • Firmness Principle: If your child knows that you will not require him to eat something if he doesn’t like it, he will learn he doesn’t have to try anything new. Instead, model this sentence: “I don’t care for it yet, but I’m practicing!” Kids must understand that vegetables are not optional.
  • Kindness Principle: Kids may have anxiety about eating new foods. So, rather than forcing them, help them become comfortable by repeated exposure and play.

Play with Your Veggies

Here are some ideas evolved from Potock’s book, Adventures in Veggielandthat you can use to help your children eat more veggies.

  • Stamp on some tattoos with beets, then rub them off with potatoes.
  • Create sheep, or even teddy bears and other beasts, with cauliflower, broccoli, and toothpicks.
  • Play Mr. Potato Head with large vegetables, such as eggplant, butternut squash, celery root, or jicama.
  • Build log cabins with asparagus stalks. Also, you could also use green beans, or julienned yams, turnips, rutabaga, kohlrabi, or parsnips.
  • Play Tic Tac Toe with any veggies that can be made into coins and matchsticks.

Make Veggies Playful

I suggested several ways to present vegetables in a playful manner in my post, The Nutrient-Dense Lunchbox. In addition, you can always use vegetables in making a treat. For example, you could put pureed spinach in chocolate pudding, or make cake using cauliflower (See my post, Eat More Veggies.) How about ice cream with red bell peppers in it, or apple crisp that uses squash?

Recipes to Help Kids Eat Veggies

The following recipes are adapted from Potock’s book.

Can’t Be Beet Dip

  • 1 medium beet, or 2-3 small beets
  • 1 small banana
  • 3 Tb. plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tb. honey (optional)

Roast the beet(s) by wrapping in foil and baking at 375 for 45 minutes or by slow-cooking in a crock pot for 2-3 hours. (Hint: you may cook a whole batch at once and refrigerate them until use.) Cut off the ends and slip the skin off. Puree in a blender with the remaining ingredients. Serve with apples and crackers.

Chocolate-Asparagus Fondue

  • 4 large asparagus stalks
  • 2/3 c. coconut milk
  • 6 oz. dark chocolate bar (70% cacao)
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • Strawberry & banana slices for dipping

Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and peel away the thick skin. Steam asparagus until very soft. Place in blender with 2 Tb. of the coconut milk. Process until very smooth. Melt the chocolate with the remaining coconut milk and the vanilla over low heat. Add the asparagus mixture and get ready to dip!

Cauliflower Popcorn

  • 2 heads cauliflower, different colors if desired
  • 1/4 c. melted coconut oil
  • 2 Tb. pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, break cauliflower into tiny florets. Combine coconut oil, maple syrup and cinnamon and pour over florets, coating evenly. Spread on foil-lined  baking sheets and roast 20 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

Butternut Squash Crumble

  • 1/2 of a butternut squash, peeled, seeded & cubed ( or 8 oz. package)
  • 1/4 c. dried tart cherries
  • 1/4 c. chopped pecans
  • 1 Tb. melted butter
  • 2 tsp. pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Toss all ingredients together and place in a square baking dish. Cover with topping (below). Bake 45 minutes, until topping is lightly browned.

Topping:

  • 1/2 c. oats
  • 1/4 c. oat flour
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 c. softened butter

Mix topping ingredients together with a fork until crumbly. Scatter over the squash filling.

Cherry & Red Bell Ice Cream

  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded & cut into chunks
  • 1 c. frozen cherries
  • 2 c. half & half (or coconut milk, if preferred)
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Blend until smooth. Freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

Don't have time to eat on your busy mornings?

Breakfasts For Busy Mornings

  1.  

    Need help eating right on busy mornings? Certainly, you need breakfasts that are quick and easy! But you need them to be nutrient-dense, too! Fighting inflammation requires a host of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids, and phytochemicals! So, You can’t just buy toaster pastries and be optimally well!

Do Your Prep on the Weekend

One way to conquer the busy morning frenzy is to assemble and freeze ingredients ahead of time. For example, Pizza Burritos made with zucchini and mushrooms provide lots of potassium and B vitamins.

Pizza Burritos

A Breakfast Burrito for busy mornings

  • 1 zucchini, grated
  • 6 mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 lb. ground Italian sausage
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • salt & pepper
  • 3/4 c. grated mozzarella cheese
  • Tortillas

In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the meat with the zucchini, mushrooms and Italian seasoning. When the mushrooms are softened and the meat is evenly browned, pour the beaten eggs over the sausage mixture. Season with salt & pepper. Then, cover, reduce heat to medium low, and cook until set. Using a spatula, transfer onto tortillas. Sprinkle with cheese, roll, wrap in plastic and freeze.

The Crock Pot is Your Ally Against Busy Mornings

Oats with yogurt, cherries and nuts

Take just a few moments to put ingredients into a crock pot or Instant Pot at bedtime. Breakfast will be ready when you are. Combining steel cut oats with Greek yogurt makes a creamy, high protein breakfast. Top it with antioxidant cherries and zinc-filled pecans for even better nutrition. Last of all, add crunchy chia seeds for an Omega 3 boost.

  • 1 c. steel-cut oats
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 cups bone broth (for added protein)
  • 1 c. Greek yogurt (I like FAGE Total 5%  to balance blood sugars)
  • Frozen cherries
  • Pecans
  • Chia seeds
  • cinnamon and nutmeg, optional

Spray your crock or Instant Pot liner with non-stick cooking spray. Put the oats, salt and broth into the crock or liner. For the crock pot, set temperature to low. If you are using an Instant Pot, employ delay feature to start cooking 20 minutes before you want breakfast ready. Set cook time to 10 minutes. Let cool naturally for 10 minutes before releasing the pressure.

Just before serving, stir in yogurt and scoop into 4 bowls. Finally, top with additional ingredients.

Microwave a Grab-and-Go Sandwich

Microwave-poached eggs in pita, English muffin, and tostada

You can poach an egg in just 60 seconds using your microwave! Fill a ramekin with 1/4 cup water and break an egg into it. Before you cook it, puncture the yolk and cover with plastic wrap. Check after 30 seconds of cooking and microwave another 20 seconds if needed. Then, toss it onto a tostada, slip it into an English muffin, or stuff it into a pita. Besides egg and grain, you can add cheese, meat, spinach, sprouts, tomato, or avocado to balance your meal. For example,

  • Southwestern Tostada: Add cotija, refried beans, and pico de gallo
  • Club English Muffin: Include ham, swiss, turkey and spinach
  • All-Star Pita: Load it up with sprouts, avocado and bacon

Quickly Blend Your Nutrition

A superfood smoothie is quick on a busy morning

Do you love a speedy smoothie for busy mornings? Then whirl antioxidant blueberries with probiotic kefir for a superfood breakfast. Top with hemp hearts for essential fatty acids.

  • 1 1/2 c. plain, unsweetened kefir
  • 1/2 c. coconut water (for electrolytes)
  • 12 oz. frozen blueberries
  • 1 avocado (for added creaminess and blood sugar balance)
  • 2 scoops protein powder
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 Tb. honey
  • hemp hearts

Blend all but the hemp hearts. Divide between 2 tall glasses. Top with hemp hearts.

Deep Nutrition is Part of Functional Medicine

Preventing and reversing chronic disease means addressing the roots of inflammation. Minimizing the stress of your busy mornings and eating nutrient-dense anti-inflammatory food are impactful choices to help you be well.  Learn more about your power to change inflammation in my 4-week Functional Nutrition Course.