Food & Cooking

A Little Indulgence

Boycotting refined flour and sugar doesn’t mean you must live a spartan life! Being healthy certainly includes joyful connection with family and friends over delicious and nourishing food. Why not replace low quality treats with something better? Deprivation only instills resentment and drives cravings.

Since brownies were once my downfall – the food that triggered my bingeing and was the gateway to my sugar addiction – I have chosen to give them a healthy makeover. Enjoy!

Ingredients

1/2 c. yam or sweet potato, cooked and mashed

1 c. almond, cashew, sesame, or sunflower seed butter

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1 egg

1/4 c. pure maple syrup or honey

1/2 c. cocoa or carob powder (I find carob less bitter)

1 tsp. vanilla

 

Beat the yam, nut/seed butter, salt, and cinnamon together until smooth. Add the egg, syrup, cocoa powder, and vanilla. Mix well, until batter is evenly colored and no lumps remain. Scoop into a sprayed or greased 9×9″ pan. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes. Don’t eat the whole pan!

Easy-Peasy Probiotics

Do you think of pills when you hear the word “probiotics”? Perhaps you envision yogurt. Or sauerkraut. So, if I told you to eat your probiotics every day – for life – you’d probably roll your eyes at me.

Probiotics Help with Cravings, Stress and Fatigue

The microbes in your gut are really a kind of organ that aids digestion, boosts immunity, manufactures vitamins, and communicates with your brain. The kinds of foods you eat influence the kinds of strains that live in your digestive system, and the kinds of strains that inhabit your body, in turn, influence the types of foods you crave, the emotional responses you feel, and the optimal wellness you attain. To feel better, most Americans need to boost their probiotic populations in both diversity of strains and sufficiency of each strain.

Probiotics Can Be Condiments At Every Meal

From kimchi to pickled beets, and from miso to capers, foods have been naturally preserved with probiotic cultures for centuries, with almost every society having vegetables, dairy products, or beverages that were probiotically active – until the industrialized age, when food preservation techniques changed to involve heat processing and sealing. Today, you can buy Gherkins and herring that aren’t actually pickled. You need to look for the words “live active cultures,” “on the label to know that you are getting a product that actually contains beneficial living organisms.

But while soy sauce and giardiniera may be mass produced today without adding helpful bacterial strains, you can easily turn your kitchen into a laboratory for probiotics without any fancy equipment. Some vegetables, a few mason jars, and some sea salt are all you will need to begin making your own active foods.

Then you can whir them into smoothies, dress up your meats, complement your salads, and enliven your desserts. Some of my favorites are Dilly Beans, Gingered Carrots, and Creme Fraiche.

One of my preferred sites for recipes is Cultures for Health. Traditional Cooking School also has some great resources. Below is a very simple, family-friendly recipe for gingered carrots that comes from Firefly Kitchens. Firefly’s recipe book, Fresh and Fermented, uses a few simple sauerkraut variations to make everything from peanut sauce for chicken satay to strawberry salsa for your fish fry.

But the gingered carrots are a good place to start because even children love these crispy, tangy shreds on their salads.

Yin Yang Carrots

8 c. (about 2 lbs.) coarsely grated carrots

6 teaspoons sea salt

2-4 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

Put the carrots in a large bowl and sprinkle them with the salt. Use your hands to thoroughly work the salt into the carrots. When the carrots have shrunk down to about half their original volume and have generated a briny, watery base, taste and add more salt or water if necessary. Add 2 teaspoons ginger, making sure it’s evenly distributed throughout. Taste and add additional ginger if stronger flavor is desired.

Pack the carrots tightly into a quart jar until they’re about 2 inches below the rim, pressing them down until the juices completely cover the compressed carrots by about an inch.  You may need to weigh the carrots down with a small glass object or even a sterile rock. Add the lid to the jar, not so tightly that gasses cannot escape, and leave at room temperature for about a week. If needed, add more liquid to keep carrots covered (using a ratio of 1 1/4 tsp. salt for every cup of water). When flavor has developed to your liking, transfer to refrigerator and store for up to 6 months.

Savory or Sweet: Breakfast the Nutrient Dense Way

I’m a “cereal killer.” You could say my vendetta is to avenge the health wrongs instigated by the refined carbohydrate breakfasts of the American people: enriched flour waffles and pancakes drenched in maple-flavored high-fructose corn syrup; shortening-filled, baseball-size muffins and donuts; insulin-triggering juices; and energy-zapping cereals that create alternating waves of high and low blood sugars in the body.

If you look at non-westernized cultures, their breakfasts look the same as their lunches as dinners: an appealing blend of raw and cooked produce dressed in natural unrefined fats, paired with slow-burning whole starches (like plantains, cassava and brown rice) and wild-caught or traditionally raised animal products.

With the two recipes below, courtesy of the Nutritional Therapy Association, you can return to eating that is in harmony with your physiology. You can satisy your appetite for sweet or savory while eating an optimal balance of carbs, fats, and proteins that won’t send your energy dipping, your blood sugars soaring, and your health plummeting.

Savory Kale and Hemp Salad

The apple cider vinegar marinade makes this massage kale salad as tender as if it had been cooked, while still retaining all of the live enzymes. Serve it with egg and avocado for a well-rounded breakfast.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch dinosaur kale, washed, thick part of stem removed, and cut in chiffonade (fine ribbons)
  • 1 tsp unrefined salt
  • 2 tsp raw apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp hemp seeds
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

Place kale in bowl and add salt. Using your hands, massage the salt into the kale. Almost immediately, the kale softens. Continue for 1-3 minutes. The longer you massage, the softer the kale becomes, acting as if it is cooked. As when you cook greens, the volume reduces greatly. You will create a deep green sauce as well from the massaging technique.

Then add raw apple cider vinegar and toss. Add hemp seeds and toss. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil and add chopped tomatoes. Toss once more and serve.

Sweet Omega 3 Smoothie

Spring is all about enjoying the abundance of fresh produce available using easy preparation. Boost the antioxidant content of your smoothie by using dark berries as the fruit component!

Ingredients:

  • 1 serving of your favorite protein powder
  • 1⁄2 cup fresh fruit
  • 1⁄4 cup frozen fruit
  • 1 tsp of your favorite liquid Omega-3 supplement
  • 1 Tbsp full fat plain yogurt or coconut cream

Blend and enjoy!

A Love Affair with Curry

This is a guest post from Kathryn Akomah-Mordi, owner and mastermind of Mordi Photographie. She loves ethnic cooking almost as much as she loves natural light photography.

The first time I ever had curry, I fell in love! The flavors were incredibly warm and bright!

Not too long after, I came down with strep throat. I vividly remember sitting in the doctor’s office waiting for the lab results while my mom read a magazine. She excitedly quoted that curry could help relieve sore throats!

I currently have over 8 varieties of curry in my pantry, but only recently did I learn that the health benefits of curry extend beyond sore throat relief. Curry is one of those foods that supports gut health. It helps us break down and assimilate our food.

A good curry is a balance of all 5 flavors: sweet for building the body and storing energy, salty to maintain fluids and for electrolyte balance, sour to tonify the liver and improve sluggish digestion, bitter for detoxification and movement, and umami to insure enough protein to create blood cells, anti-bodies, enzymes and hormones.

Not only are curry dishes balanced in flavor, they also have a balance of macro-nurients. This means that the ratios of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats (the healthy ones, like coconut milk) are just what your body needs to stay fueled for hours. This balance even helps curb your cravings, so that you don’t go looking for potato chips or cookies later on!

Finally, curry is a blend of many spices, each of which have their own health benefits, such as improved immunity, decreased inflammation, lowered blood sugars, and better digestion.

 

Here are some of the most common curry ingredients, and what they purportedly have to offer:
  • Cumin – aids digestion, improves immunity
  • Turmeric – anti-inflammatory, improves antioxidant absorption
  • Coriander – lowers blood sugar, eases digestive discomfort, decreases blood pressure, improves cholesterol
  • Ginger – aids bile flow, digestive stimulant
  • Fenugreek & Fennel – anti gas/bloating
  • Mustard seed – omega 3 fatty acids
  • Cloves – reduce inflammation, improve digestion
  • Nutmeg – relieves pain, soothes indigestion, detoxifies, improves cognitive function
  • Cinnamon – antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, fights diabetes and infections, supports heart health
  • Cardamon – GI protection, cholesterol control, improved circulation, helps fight infection
  • Cayenne – relieves migraines, prevents blood clots, supports detox, boosts metabolism, supports weight loss
  • Lemongrass – treats digestive tract spasms, stomach ache, high blood pressure and vomiting; relieves muscle pain
  • Kaffir Lime Leaf – helps the liver and lymphatic system cleanse the blood, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, stress reducer
  • Galangal – anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidant, eases stomach pain

Now, I don’t go around promising any food as a guaranteed cure to illness, but I definitely like to stack the odds in my favor! So why not use curry as often as you can? You can use these 3 basic principles for creating a good curry dish:

Principle 1: Be generous with your spices. Spices not only bring flavor, but also texture to dishes. Most supermarkets sell spices in misleadingly small containers, so it’s easy to skimp on how much you use. You can buy bigger packets from Asian supermarkets or online to encourage spooning in the spices with a freer hand. (You can store them in the freezer to stop them from going stale.)

Principle 2: Decide what to add to your curry (which meat and vegetables), then how to cook your ingredients. Many curries start with onion, ginger, and garlic. This trio provides the deep base flavor of most curries, equivalent to onion, carrot, and celery in the French tradition. You may choose to simply sweat them for a lighter curry, or cook them long and slow to carmelize them for a richer, darker dish. Next decide whether you will sautee/stir-fry the meat(s)/vegetables, grill them, or simmer them in the sauce.

Principle 3: Choose what will give your curry sauce its body. This will normally be one, or a combination, of the following: tomatoes, pureed peppers or chilies, yogurt or cream, coconut milk, spinach, or finely diced onion.

As you follow these basic principles, you will find the use of curry to be simple and enjoyable. With a little practice, you will be improvising and creating your own curry recipes! You may even wish to create your own curry blend. Heres is a basic yellow curry spice blend to get you started. Adapt it to match your palate perfectly!

 

Yellow Curry Recipe
2 Tbsp ground coriander
2 Tbsp ground cumin
1 1/2 Tbsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground ginger powder
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or ground chilies

Inside-Out Sushi

These quick snack “coins” are a twist on sushi because the cucumber is on the outside! Fill them with fish, or go crazy with other international ideas, such as Mexican-, Italian-, or Mediterannean-themed fillings. These are a great way to stabilize blood sugars and stave off your sweet cravings!

  1. Peel your cucumber, then slice it lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.
  2. Fill the halves with one of these pairs:
    • tuna & daikon radish
    • guacamole & refried beans
    • sausage & marinara
    • hummus & sundried tomatoes
    • cottage cheese & grape tomatoes
    • crab & pico de gallo
    • salmon & cream cheese
    • shrimp & spicy rice
    • olives and feta
    • devilled eggs and pickles
  3. Put the cucumber halves back together.
  4. Slice perpendicular to your first cut, creating “coins.”

 

Sweetheart Pancakes for Valentines Day

Want to show your love through cooking? Your dear ones will cherish these adorable pancakes that won’t put them on a sugar roller coaster all day. They may be showered with candy at work and school, but at least you’ll know you sent them out the door on the right foot.

Ingredients

1 c. flour of your choice (but not coconut flour)

2 Tb. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1/2 c. mashed cooked beets

4 Tb. coconut oil, melted

2 c. coconut milk

Greek yogurt and raspberries for serving

Instructions

Combine dry ingredients. Mix in eggs, beets, and coconut oil. Slowly stir in coconut milk until batter is smooth. Bake on a 325 degree griddle until bubbly on top and browned on the bottom. Flip and cook 2-3 minutes more, until golden brown and set. Serve with yogurt and raspberries on top. Makes about 16 small pancakes.

Superfood Snack for the New Year

Here’s a treat that will treat you! With 3 superfoods to supercharge your energy and boost your immune system, these power balls have enough protein and healthy fat to keep your blood sugars from surging.

Goji berries are purported to improve immunity and fight cancer, help stabilize blood sugars, detoxify the liver, boost your mood and increase fertility. But that’s not all. They are loaded with trace minerals.

Hemp hearts have a complete profile of essential amino acids (think protein) and have a perfect ratio of Omega 3 fatty acids to Omega 6 fatty acids.

Cacao powder is not only a mighty anti-oxidant, it is also high in iron and magnesium.

Keep a batch of these Hemp-Cacao Bombs in the freezer for those blood sugar emergencies when you need a boost now.

Ingredients

1/4 c. dried goji berries, processed to a gritty meal

1/2 c. chopped nuts

1/4 c. hemp hearts

1/2 c. chopped pitted dates

1/4 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. vanilla

2 Tb. 100% cacao powder

1/8 c. unsweetened coconut flakes + 1/8 c. hemp hearts

Instructions

In a food processor, process the berry meal, nuts, 1/4 c. hemp hearts, dates, salt, vanilla and cacao until the mass becomes uniform, sticky, and forms a lump.

Roll into 1″ balls and roll in the mixed coconut flakes and hemp hearts. Keep refrigerated or frozen.

 

Creamy Oyster Stew

Classic chowder with oysters, broth, and cream is not only a New Years’ tradition and warm comfort food in the chilly depths of winter, it is packed with sugar-stabilizing nutrients! Oysters contain lots of B vitamins, chromium, and zinc, all of which are beneficial for healthy blood sugars. A homemade broth adds the amino acid L-glutamine, necessary for your liver to convert excess sugars to storage, then release them again when your energy slumps.

Additionally, the cream controls your uptake of sugars into your bloodstream, creating an even burn, instead of rocketing and plummeting blood sugars. Our recipe uses cassava root (also known as yucca) in place of flour or potatoes to give it body, cutting the glycemic index to half of what a conventional recipe ontains.

You can’t go wrong with this easy, nutrient-dense recipe. It’s even budget-friendly!

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 lb. cassava/yucca root*

3 cups bone broth

2 cans (8 oz.) oysters

1 cup cream (may use coconut cream if dairy intolerant)

2 Tb. red wine vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

dash of red pepper flakes, optional

 

Instructions

In a heavy-bottomed pot, sautee onion and garlic in butter until translucent. Meanwhile, pare the skin from the cassava and cut into 1″ cubes. Add the cassava and broth to the pot. Simmer 15-20 minutes, until cassava is very soft. With an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and heat through.

*found with specialty produce at the grocery store – usually with a waxed coating to keep it fresh. Generally imported from South America.

Find more recipes to support healthy blood sugars here.

 

 

 

Make Your Own Bone Broth

Having the indispensible skill of making broth from bones, water and vegetables will save you money while sustaining you with necessary minerals and amino acids – more bio-available in this form than from a supplement. The benefits of bone broth are too extensive to list here, but check out this great infographic!

Ingredients

Soup bones, oxtail, knuckle bones, marrow bones, ribs, wings, fish bones, or carcass from roasted poultry

Water – enough to cover bones

Vinegar – 1 Tb. for every quart of water

2 carrots for every 2 lbs. of bones

2 celery stalks for every 2 lbs. of bones

1 onion for every 2 lbs. of bones

1 sprig of thyme for every 2 lbs. for bones

Instructions

In a stock pot, add water and vinegar to bones and let sit for 1 hour to begin dissolving the minerals out of the bones.

Turn the heat to medium-high and add the thyme and chopped vegetables. As soon as the water begins to reach a boil, skim off any scum that rises to the top, reduce heat to low and cover.

Cook at just barely a ripple for 2 hours if cooking fish bones, 4 hours for poultry bones, or 8 hours for beef or pork bones.

Strain. Pour into quart jars and refrigerate until needed.

Combine everything in a slow cooker and set to low if you prefer! Or put in a pressure cooker and process: 20 minutes for fish bones; 40 minutes for chicken bones; 60 minutes for beef bones.

How To Use Your Broth

You can drink it by the mugful each day, but if that seems unappetizing to you, substitute bone broth in any recipe using liquid. Here are some ideas:

  • Moisten mashed potatoes using broth in place of part or all of the milk.
  • Add to refried beans for a more savory flavor.
  • Simmer rice, quinoa, or other grains  in broth instead of water to add protein to the recipe.
  • Create gravies and white sauces by cooking roux (butter and flour) and herbs with broth alone or broth plus milk.
  • Use as a base for soups instead of bouillon cubes and water.
  • Combine with tomato paste for a nutrient-dense tomato sauce.

Holiday Treats That Won’t Let You Down

Nobody likes to feel left out at a holiday party. And certainly no one wants to be sick for Christmas. So how can you have your cake and eat it, too? How can you enjoy social warmth and celebrate festive food without indulging your sweet tooth and weakening your immunity? I’ve scoured the internet to find whole food dessert recipes for that won’t trigger a sugar rush and subsequent crash! Here’s my winning  line-up of TEN remarkable desserts:

Spiced English Pear Trifle from Autoimmune Wellness

 

Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares from Rachel’s Nourishing Kitchen

 

Key Lime Pie from Pretty Pies

 

Chocolate Beetroot Cake from the Nourished Psychologist

with Chocolate Avocado Icing from Chocolate Covered Katie

 

batch_carob cup cranberry fig ice cream pro

Mini Carob Cups with Cranberry Ice Cream from Autoimmune Wellness

 

Sweet Potato Pie Pudding from Blissful Basil

 

Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookie from Gourmande in the Kitchen

 

Coconut Milk Eggnog from Wellness Mama

 

Chocolate Turtles from Meghan Telpner

 

Easy Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge from Bakerita