Food & Cooking

nutrient-rich skillet of yams, apples and sausages

Holiday Brunch

Christmas comfort food – that’s what I call yams and apples with warm spices, layered with grilled sausages. Make it a few days before your celebration, and pop it in the oven to heat through when you wake up. It will be ready for brunch after your Christmas morning festivities.

Ingredients

2 sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds), baked

1 package Aidells Chicken & Apple Sausage

3 apples

1/4 c. butter

1/2 tsp. each cinnamon and nutmeg

1/4 tsp. each ginger and coriander

2 Tb. pure maple syrup

Salt to taste

Directions

Peel and cube sweet potatoes and set aside. Slice sausage and cook according to package directions. Dice apples and saute in butter with maple syrup and spices. Combine all ingredients in a covered casserole dish. If desired, refrigerate for use at a later time. An hour before serving, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake casserole for 45 minutes, or until heated through.

a low-sugar Christmas meal

Low-Sugar Christmas

You’ve eaten the turkey, cranberry, and stuffing from Thanksgiving.  Now, you’re counting down to the glazed ham, mashed potatoes, and rolls of Christmas. Such high-glycemic choices are why Santa has his belly! So, here are a few delicious alternatives for a low-sugar Christmas.

Low Sugar Christmas Roast

If turkey is your tradition, then try fresh cranberry relish with it and non-traditional stuffing to reduce the strain on your pancreas. Or you might consider prime rib instead. If you like ham, you could serve it with a savory mustard glaze. To avoid unhealthy fats, whip up your own 3-ingredient mayonnaise in just 1 minute to use in the mustard sauce recipe.

Slow Carb Side Dishes

Think colors and fiber when selecting your side dishes. Herbed sweet potatoes, free from marshmallows, are a delightful alternative to mashed potatoes. If you like, you can blend some sour cream with them. Cruciferous vegetables lend color, minerals, and nutrient density to the meal. Caramelized Brussels sprouts and kale are quick and easy to prepare.

Roll Over, Breads

Dinner rolls may be a feature of most American holiday meals. But a low-sugar Christmas should avoid breads made with refined flours. To keep your carbohydrates in balance, use fresh greens to fill your plate. A festive salad is eye-catching and provides necessary enzymes to digest your meal.

What About Dessert?

If you still have room after all that, go ahead and have a treat. Pears drizzled with dark chocolate are a light, refreshing option that won’t spike insulin levels. For a decadent delight that will wow your guests, these chocolate truffles only have 5 grams of carbohydrate.

 

 

Halloween snacks

Halloween Snacks

Halloween will be here before we know it, and the kids are definitely excited about their costumes, and their loot. But, you want to avoid sugar overload! So, the video showcases some great Halloween snacks for kids – and adults, too!

Children have a very high need for protein and fat to support their development. And with their high energy output, they often need more carbohydrate than adults do. Unfortunately, we often buy refined, processed food-like substances, which not truly nourishing!

A smart way to fuel kids is to pair a fiber-rich, whole-food carbohydrate with a natural fat, such as strawberries in coconut milk.   Or peaches and cottage cheese, or apples and almond butter.  Even grapes and cheese.

Here are 10 creative Halloween snacks for you:

  1. Kids like colors, so you can use beet puree to color plain hummus. By using a bell pepper to serve it in, the bowl is edible, too!
  2. Purple ice pops can be made by blending Greek Yogurt & blueberries
  3. Kids like to dip their food. Try guacamole with baked sweet potato slices!
  4. If you’re worried about portability, you can grab condiment cups & baggies. Fill them with sunflower seed butter and celery sticks.
  5. For a change from peanut butter or hummus, you can use tahini. Sesame tahini dip goes great with sugar snap peas.
  6. You can make your own trail mix by combining pumpkin seeds, nuts, coconut flakes, goji berries.
  7. Instead of grabbing fig bars, just give the kids figs, or better yet, figs and brie cheese. Or dates and goat cheese.
  8. Instead of cottage cheese, you can use ricotta, which has a really good protein, fat, carb ratio. It’s yummy with raspberries.
  9. With baked cheese & beet slices, you can make mini “cheese – burgers.”
  10. Hard-boiled egg & grape tomatoes make a bright combination!

With winning combinations like these, you can eat them year-round!

 

Oatmeal for breakfast

Oatmeal for Breakfast

Are you in the “Oatmeal for Breakfast” crowd? That’s the camp that believes whole grains are the best way to start the day. If you are, you have the backing of the American Diabetes Association. But perhaps you side with the keto bunch and prefer eggs or sausage. So which, really, is the best way to eat in the morning?

Consider Your Unique Biological Needs

First of all, let’s be clear that there is no one-size-fits-all diet. Whether you are male or female, old or young, active or sedentary impacts your dietary needs.  But that’s not all. I had a client who became very sick on a high-protein, high-fat diet because she couldn’t digest the food well. On the other hand, I have seen individuals with chronic inflammation because of their high-carb diet.

I know a healthy man who eats oatmeal for breakfast 365 days a year. However, I also know a woman whose blood sugars spike like crazy when she eats oatmeal. The more you become educated about your own body, the more you can tailor your breakfast to your health goals. Lab tests can be an important part of assessing your needs.

Strive for Balance

Excess is not healthy for anyone. Individual foods have both strengths and weaknesses. Spinach is high in iron and calcium, but it can’t give you thiamine or B-12. So you should aim for lots of variety in your meals.

Also, recognize that you need all three macronutrients: carbohydrate, fat, and protein. Build meals that do not favor one macronutrient too heavily. Oatmeal  is 70% carbohydrate. If you add sugar and fruit to it, you are increasing the potential for a blood sugar surge. In two hours, this could drop you into a hypoglycemic reaction, causing you to need more fuel fast. Then you will be driven to eat more carbs because fat and protein don’t enter the blood stream quickly enough. As a result, you create a blood sugar roller coaster.

oatmeal for breakfast can cause a blood sugar roller coaster

How to Eat Oatmeal for Breakfast

If you like oats to start your day, think like a pancreas. You want a slow, sustained energy burn that keeps blood sugars – and insulin levels – low and even.

Add protein or fat to your oatmeal for breakfast to keep blood sugars level.

Consider one of these balancing options:

  • Stir in some grass-fed butter or full-fat coconut milk.
  • Serve with a side of eggs or uncured, center-cut bacon.
  • Sprinkle in some protein powder just before serving.
  • Top with nuts and seeds.
  • Mix with almond butter
  • Add egg whites the last minute of cooking.

 

Meat and veggies for grilled customizable meals

5 Customizable Meals

With these quick meal templates, you can modify your meal according to your budget, time, and tastes. So, you will have delicious meals and optimal nutrition! Further, you can choose your meal to fit  your mood, and tailor it to the seasonal foods available. Now, you can have healthy customizable meals anytime!

Customizable Meals in a Salad Bowl

marinated chicken and vegetables for customizable meals

Ingredients

8 oz. any cooked protein, cubed
2 c. any raw vegetables, chopped
1 Tb. any fresh herbs, minced
3 Tb. vinegar, any flavor
2 Tb. any unrefined, cold-pressed liquid oil
1 tsp. prepared mustard, any type
1 clove garlic
salt to taste
2 c. salad greens, any variety
1 c. cooked grain or legume

Instructions

In a large bowl, toss together the protein, raw vegetables and fresh herbs. Next, whisk together the vinegar, salad oil, mustard, and garlic. Pour dressing over meat and vegetable mixture. Marinate at least 1 hour, and up to 48 hours. To serve, place greens in serving bowls. Then, add grain. Finally, top with the marinated mix.

Variation: Omit the grain or legume and serve in a tortillas or pitas.

Customizable Meals In a Soup Pot

soup ingredients for customizable meals

Ingredients

3 Tb. coconut oil, pastured lard, red palm oil, tallow, or ghee
1 onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart bone broth
12 oz. beef, pork, organ meat, seafood, poultry or tempeh
2-3 c. starchy vegetable OR 1 c. whole grain or legumes
Abundant greens –cabbage, kale, spinach, chard, bokchoy, etc.
Up to 4 c. additional vegetables: green beans, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, zucchini…
salt to taste

Instructions

First, sauté the onion in fat until translucent. Second, add the onion to the remaining ingredients in a crock pot or large soup pot. Third, simmer until food is tender. Lastly, season according to one of the variations below.

Mexican: Add tomato, cumin and chilis. Serve with avocado and lime.
Indian: Spice with cinnamon, coriander, cumin, ginger, and turmeric. Serve with cilantro.
Italian: Stir in basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme & fennel. Use tomatoes generously.
Thai: Season with ginger, lemongrass, fish sauce and lime. Serve with coconut milk.
Garden: Use any fresh herbs, such as dill, savory, thyme, parsley, or marjoram.

Customizable Meals In A Skillet

stir-fry vegetables for customizable meals

Ingredients

2 Tb. temperature-stable cooking oil
1/2 lb. cubed raw protein
1 onion, sliced
2-4 c. cut vegetables, fresh or frozen
1 c. chopped tomatoes
½ tsp. each cumin, coriander, turmeric and ginger
salt to taste
1 c. grain: rice, millet, buckwheat, quinoa…
2 c. bone broth

Instructions

In a large skillet, sauté the protein, and onion in the cooking fat. When the onion is translucent and protein is browned, add the tomatoes, spices, grain, and broth. As the final step, cover, reduce heat, and simmer until liquid is absorbed and grain is tender, 20-30 minutes.

Variation 1: For quicker meal prep, cook the grain in the broth beforehand. Store it in the fridge or freezer until needed. Then, stir-fry the rest of the meal while the grain is warming in the microwave. Serve the stir-fry on top of the rice.

Variation 2: For a more southwestern flavor, substitute chili powder, paprika, and red pepper flakes for the coriander, turmeric and ginger.

Customizable Meals Roasted or Grilled

grilled veggie and meat skewers for customizable meals

Ingredients

1 lb. pork, beef, poultry, fish
2 Tb. coconut oil, avocado oil, ghee, tallow, or pastured lard
1 onion, chopped
Several cloves garlic, minced
2 c. root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, turnips, rutabaga, beets, parsnips)
2 c. non-starchy vegetables (green beans, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, peppers, celery)
1 Tb. Italian seasoning OR chili, cumin and paprika
salt & pepper to taste
1 Tb. balsamic, red wine or apple cider vinegar

Instructions

Cube the meat and chop the vegetables. Then, toss these together with the cooking fat and place in a roaster pan or on skewers. Before cooking, season generously. Grill or roast in a 450°oven for 20-25 minutes, turning halfway through. When meat is cooked and vegetables are tender, remove from heat and sprinkle with vinegar.

Customizable Meals in a Slow Cooker

mushrooms and peppers for customizable meals

Ingredients

4 c. firm vegetable peeled and sliced (eggplant, turnips, celeriac, rutabaga, yam, squash…)
1 lb. beef, poultry, pork, seafood or tempeh
8 oz. tomato paste
2 c. bone broth
1 tsp. each dried rosemary, oregano, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder and salt
1/2 c. fresh basil, packed
2 c. additional vegetables (carrot, celery, bell peppers, spinach, zucchini, mushrooms…)

Instructions

Spread the 4 c. sliced vegetable evenly on the bottom of your crock pot. Next, lay the protein on top of the sliced vegetable. In a bowl or blender, whisk the tomato paste, broth and seasonings together. Then, chop the basil and mix into the sauce along with the 2 c. additional vegetables. Finally, pour the sauce over the meat. Cook on low for 4-6 hours

Variation: Add 1/4 lb. grated frozen liver to the sauce before pouring over the meat and vegetables.

More Customizable Meals

If you liked these recipes, find others like them in our Balanced Bowl Cookbook.

5 Slow-Carb Side Dishes to Love

Trying to ditch potatoes because they spike your blood sugars? Staying away from breads because they aren’t low carb? Not to fear! These amazing slow-absorbing, insulin-stabilizing dishes will have you so crazy about the sides, you’ll almost forget the entree!

Red Lentils and Tomato – best with beef

1 c. red lentils, washed and drained

2 c. bone broth

2 Tb. coconut oil or red palm oil

1 tsp. brown mustard seed

1/2 tsp. cumin seed

1 onion, chopped

1″ ginger root, grated

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 c. tomato paste

1/2 tsp. salt or more to taste

In a small saucepan, combine the lentils and broth. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat, cover, and cook until lentils are soft and only a little liquid remains, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the oil over medium heat. Add the seeds. When they sizzle and change color (10-20 seconds), stir in the onion. Saute until onion becomes translucent, 2-3 minutes, then add in the garlic and tomato paste. Reduce heat to low and cook gently to marry the flavors while the lentils finish cooking. Combine the cooked lentils with the tomato mixture. Add salt to taste.

Gluten-Free “Dumplings” – excellent with stews

1 lb. cassava root, yucca root, or African white yam

2 green plantains

1 1/2 Tb. butter or coconut oil

salt to taste

Pare the root vegetable and the plantains. Place in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes, or until fork-tender. Drain thoroughly and cool slightly. Place in a high-power blender or food processor. Add the butter or coconut oil and salt. Process until smooth and lump free. Take spoonfuls at a time to form balls.

Note: over-ripe plantains will cause your dough to be sticky. If this happens, add a little cassava or arrowroot starch to the dough. If your plantains are too under-ripe, the dough will be mealy and will not hold together. Add a little coconut milk to the dough in this case. Aim to use plantains that are mostly green but just beginning to turn yellow.

 

French Lentils with Capers – complimentary to fish

1 c. green lentils

4 c. bone broth

2 leeks, thinly sliced (white part only)

1/4 c. butter

1 Tb. lemon juice

1/2 tsp. dried tarragon

4 oz. capers

Salt to taste

Put the lentils to simmer in a saucepan with broth over medium heat for about 40 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and lentils are tender. Meanwhile, saute the leeks in butter. Add the leeks, lemon juice, tarragon, capers, and salt to the cooked lentils and cook 5 more minutes to marry flavors.

 

Savory Bananas in Coconut Milk – beautiful with teriyaki chicken

3-4 green bananas or 2-3 green plantains, unpeeled

1 onion, chopped

2 Tb. coconut oil

up to 8 oz. coconut milk

salt to taste

Put the bananas or plantains in a saucepan covered with water and bring to a boil. Simmer until the skins split and the fruit is soft, 15-20 minutes. Drain and cool. Meanwhile, caramelize the onion by cooking in oil over medium heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown. Peel and slice the fruit and return to the saucepan along with the onions. Add just enough coconut milk to cover them. Simmer until the milk thickens slightly, 3-5 minutes. Salt and serve.

 

Green Apple Curry – exceptional with pork chops

2 Tb. coconut oil

1 tsp. brown mustard seeds

2 bay leaves

1-2 Tb. curry powder or 1/2-1 Tb. curry paste

3-4 large green apples, cubed2 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tb. palm sugar or 1 Tb. brown sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 c. bone broth

1/2 c. coconut milk

Heat the oil over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and bay leaves and sizzle for about 20 seconds. Then mix in the curry, apples, sugar, and salt, tossing to evenly cost the apples. Saute 5-10 minutes, until apples start to soften. Add broth and coconut milk. Continue cooking about 10 minutes more, until apples are quite soft and sauce is thickened.

Eat Probiotics When Cravings Strike!

Have you ever eaten something sour when your body cried out for sweets? It seems counter-intuitive, but the probiotics in a cultured food can alter your cravings in the long run by improving your gut health.

In this video, you can see how easy and inexpensive it is to create your own probiotic foods from your garden.

You can find recipes for culturing your vegetables online at Cultures for Health. If you are purchasing naturally fermented foods, look for phrases such as “contains live cultures” or “never heat-treated” on the label.

Other benefits of probiotic foods, aside from helping with cravings, are that they:

  • Bolster your immune system and help fight infection.
  • Strengthen your gut and help relieve conditions such as bloat, indigestion and IBS.
  • Make your food more digestible and help your absorb your nutrients better.
  • Manufacture B vitamins, which you are likely to have a deficiency of if your are under chronic stress or sugar overload.
  • Are an economical way to boost your health.

Build a Balanced Meal

It’s smart to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet and skip the processed food. But can you eat too many plant-based foods? On the other hand, can you eat too much protein or fat? Balance is crucial to avoid metabolic disorders, hormone disruption, blood sugar disruption, and disease.

How Many Vegetables is Enough?

Americans don’t get nearly the quantity of vegetables they should, so more than likely, you’re going to be adding, not subtracting! Aim to fill half your plate with vegetables – both raw and cooked. Raw vegetables will have more vitamins and enzymes, but cooked vegetables will be more digestible and their minerals will be more bio-available. Don’t count starchy ones, like corn, peas, and potatoes. They come under carbohydrates. But do prepare an array of colors – oranges, yellow, purple, red, and green. Pick a variety of vegetables that represent different parts of the plant, such as these:

  • Shoots and stalks:sprouts, asparagus, celery
  • Leaves: lettuces, chard, spinach, beet greens, mustard leaf
  • Buds and flowers: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, artichoke
  • Fruits:green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, squashes, eggplant
  • Roots: turnips, beets, rutabaga, parsnips, onions, garlic, carrots

Can I Get Sufficient Protein on a Vegan Diet?

Protein is tricky. It musn’t be too much or too little, but must be just right – like the porridge in Goldilock’s story. An excess of protein can cause gout and kidney disease. But because protein is what provides the building blocks for your body, if you don’t have enough, you have trouble making hemoglobin (blood cells), hormones (including thyroid), antibodies (to fight disease) and enzymes (the catalysts for every process from digesting to growing.) Even detoxification requires protein.

So try to make 25% of your calories, or at least 1/4 of your plate, protein. Women ought to target 20 grams per meal as a minimum and men would be well-served with at least 30 grams per meal. Those who don’t eat animal products should make a conscientious effort to add up their protein. Yes, quinoa is a high-protein “grain”. But it’s still 4/5 carbohydrate (32 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams protein). The same is true for most legumes. While they contain protein, they are around 75% carbohydrate. One of the best plant proteins would be spirulina, at 2 grams carbohydrate and 4 grams protein per tablespoon. Tofu also rates high in protein – but the processed soy is another story completely!

What is Carb-Loading?

While there are essential fatty acids that the body cannot make and essential amino acids that can only be derived from proteins in the diet, there are no essential carbohydrates. But being carb-free isn’t the answer either, as grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables all have vitamins, antioxidants, and phytonutrients that the body thrives on. The key is to focus on eating carbohydrates in their whole form, as close to nature as possible. Avoid refined sugar, white flour, and other processed forms of carbohydrate. Afterall, real foods don’t come with a label!

If more than 50% of your calories are coming from carbohydrate, you are robbing your body of its need for proteins and fats. I believe that most individuals do very well with no more than 1/4 of their plate coming from starchy carbs: whole grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables. So don’t load up, here!

But Go Easy on the Fat, Right?

Not exactly. Fat is the primary fuel source for your marathoning heart, and the very substance of your brain cells. If you don’t have enough fat, there isn’t a single cell in your body that won’t suffer as it tries to build the membrane around itself that lets nutrients in and siphons wastes out. While carbohydrates provide quick energy, fats provide sustained energy. Be sure to include both saturated and unsaturated types in your diet. But avoid hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated and trans-fats at all costs! Be wary of processed oils that may already be oxidized and rancid. It’s best to stick with unrefined and cold-pressed varieties, especially with those oils that are liquid at room temperature.

A general rule of thumb is to eat a couple of teaspoons of fat for every fist-ful of carbohydrate and palm-ful of protein.

You can learn more about balancing your macronutrients in this class.

Pretty Papaya Pudding

Oh, what a treat to find a perfectly ripe papaya at the market! Naturally sweet, these make a delightful dessert without adding sugar! This no-cook version is a cinch. It will be soft set and ready to eat in 5 minutes.

Simple Pudding Ingredients

1 whole papaya, peeled and seeded

1″ fresh ginger root, finely grated

1 c. full-fat coconut milk

3 Tb. chia seed

Extravagant Pudding Ingredients

All ingredients above

1 c. fresh or frozen berries

water

1/8 tsp. cardamom

1 tsp. lime juice

Directions

Blend fruit, grated ginger and coconut milk until smooth. Mix in chia seed until evenly distributed. Pour into dessert dishes and serve immediately, or for a thicker set, refrigerate an hour or more.

For the extravagant topping, place berries in a saucepan and add water until they are 2/3 covered. Bring to a simmer, stirring and mashing until you have a jam-like consistency. Remove from heat and stir in cardamom and lime. Cool and spoon over pudding.

Why Does Stress Make Me Crave?

Stress. Even the word itself sounds, er, uh…stressful! You immediately conjure images of family quarrels, financial problems, road emergencies, sleep deprivation, a difficult boss, or life-sucking disease. But no matter the source, stress is a voracious monster that has a lust for only one victim: Energy. To mobilize…to escape… to ward off danger…to survive.

And whose job is it to supply the sacrificial lamb to this beast? The adrenals, those tiny glands atop the kidneys, best known for their production of adrenaline and cortisol. Instantly, they send out their fleet-footed messengers to recruit fuel for the energy factories in the body – those tiny mitochondria inside each cell. They sound the alarm for oxygen and food to be delivered promptly.

The bronchioles in the lungs dilate, the pulse quickens, all the better to ferry the goods to their destination. Digestion, reproduction, and other “non-essential” functions grind to a halt. All attention must be focused on responding to the demon’s demand.

The couriers dash to the liver to scrape up all the glycogen stores that can be converted to glucose – the quickest food that can be lapped up in such an emergency. They race to the muscle tissue to coax fatty acid and amino acid conversion into glucose. But inevitably, they sprint to the brain, where the commander-in-chief demands that rations be confiscated from outside the camp.  You receive an unquestionable order: Eat! Eat now! Eat quick!

No long-burning logs will stoke the fire soon enough. You need kindling! Intuitively, you seek carbohydrates that can be transformed into glucose rapidly. A fiber-ful bundle of buttered asparagus doesn’t quite pass muster. But ice cream – now, that sounds fine!

Two Keys to Kill Your Cravings

Outwitting your cravings will require clever strategy. Implement these assertive tactics:

  • Fight the stress itself! Instead of letting urgent bids take your attention, re-focus on the moment. Ascertain that you are actually okay – you are alive and functioning – then reprogram your breathing, your mindset, and your sensory input through deliberate, mindful exercises. (Check out our Stress Hacks class.) You can choose to respond from a place of peace.
  • Fuel up before the energy crisis. Having adequate amino acids from healthy protein, and plentiful fatty acids from natural, unrefined fats will guard against energy deficits. Make sure, especially, that your first meal of the day will meet your metabolic needs. It has been suggested that no less than 20 grams of protein are needed in the morning to establish your metabolism for the day. So if you want waffles or cereal, save them for dinner. Instead, try some Fisherman’s Eggs for breakfast! Rich in Omega 3’s, this dish is protective of those energy factories, your mitochondria.

Fisherman’s Eggs

2 Tb. coconut oil or unrefined red palm oil

1/2 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 package of frozen vegetables, optional (or any fresh ones, such as bell peppers, artichoke hearts, or asparagus)

1 can wild-caught sardines packed in olive oil

2 pastured eggs

Preheat oven to 350°. Using an oven-proof skillet, saute the onion, garlic and optional vegetables over medium heat in oil until soft. Add sardines to the pan. Gently crack the eggs over the mixture. Transfer skillet to the oven and cook until the eggs are soft-set, approximately 10 minutes.