Seasonal Cooking with Milk & Eggs: Wintery Kale Beet Salad and Green Toddler Muffins!

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In this installment of our collaboration seasonal cooking with Milk & Eggs farm direct grocery delivery, I am really excited to talk about more wintery seasonal eating, particularly of greens.  Dark leafy greens are one of the most nutrient-rich and delicious foods that come out of winter, and this is the perfect time of year to increase our intake of these blood-purifying, immunity-boosting foods.

To get the most out of the season’s local produce, specifically greens, nothing beats the Milk & Eggs Organic Farm Sampler Bag (pictured below), which is the most budget friendly way I’ve found to get a load of delicious, local, seasonal cooking going on in my kitchen and onto my family’s plates.  At the insanely reasonable price of $29.99, you get SO MUCH ORGANIC PRODUCE, it’s kind of crazy.  This week, I received a big bunch of kale, a bag of spinach, two heads of green leaf lettuce, celery, beets, a bell pepper, 3 heads of broccoli, a few bananas, an assortment of citrus fruits and a carton of strawberries.  WHAT?!  This usually costs me $50 or more at Whole Foods or my neighborhood natural foods store.

Seasonal Cooking with Milk & Eggs | The Organic Beauty Blog

In addition to being super budget friendly, the organic farm sampler is a great way to get all the fruits and veggies you need for the week!  This one bag has yielded countless salads, smoothies, soups, and toddler meals this week, and with the addition with a few other items in our standing order (organic greek yogurt, sprouted whole grain bread, wild-caught salmon), I’m able to feed our family of three delicious, healthy meals that come straight from our local California farms.  Boom!

My two favorite seasonal cooking recipes this week are lovely little showcases of winter’s bounty that made perfect use of my Organic Farm Sampler Bag!

Gluten-free Cranberry Oat Protein Cookies

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Cranberry Oat Protein Cookies

Since little Margaux came into the world two weeks ago, I’ve definitely been on hiatus from all things cooking. But the perfect combination of my mom napping with the little babe and a sudden burst of energy on my part (probably due to my placenta pills… But more on that later!) led to my first venture back into the kitchen to make a super yummy adaptation of a recipe I saw on Greatist.

Delicious Fresh Pumpkin Bread

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Fresh Pumpkin Bread | The Organic Beauty

Ok yes. I may have gone a little bit gourd-crazy.  I had like 5 of those festive puppies sitting around in my kitchen, and decided that Sunday night was the perfect time to put them all to good use!  I roasted up a sugar pumpkin (used in this recipe), a delicata squash, an acorn squash, and another squash of unknown origin (thanks CSA!) for a whole week’s worth of yummy soup and healthy lunches.

But this bread takes the cake (so to speak!).  Made with fresh organic pumpkin (none of that canned crap!), it makes for a delicious breakfast and has the consistency of a perfect pumpkin pie.  Plus it’s gluten-free and has no white sugar!

To make the pumpkin puree:

Cut a sugar pumpkin in half, remove the seeds (wash and save them for roasting!), and roast at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  Let cool, then puree in food processor until smooth (it should have the consistency of apple sauce).  If puree is a little dry, add water to reach desired consistency.

Gluten-Free Fresh Pumpkin Bread

Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients:

1.5 cups fresh pumpkin puree
2 cups coconut flour
1.5 cups gluten-free flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup coconut palm sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup almond milk (or more, to reach batter-like consistency)
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup virgin coconut oil, melted
1 cup chopped raw walnuts
1/2 cup organic raisins or dried cranberries (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl, stir together flours, palm sugar, baking soda, salt and spices.  Add eggs, water, almond milk, oil, and pumpkin.  Stir until smooth. Add walnuts and raisins (if using). Pour into two oiled loaf pans. (I actually had a little extra, which I poured into a muffin tin.)  Bake for 1 hour, or until a knife stuck in the middle comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes.  Enjoy!

Amazing Gluten-Free Almond Brownies

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

This recipe came out of the quandary facing all makers of homemade nut milk… What to do with all that leftover nut pulp? Although making yummy almond milk every week (check out my recipe here), and creating delicious baked goods that taste oh-so-amazing with a tall glass of cold almond milk can lead to a pretty vicious cycle, I am actually finding a wealth of yummy, healthy, gluten-free recipes that almond pulp is perfectly suited for.

So, behold my delicious, gluten-free, moist, cakey and amazing brownies!!  For those of you who are not yet making your own nut milks (seriously, get on the bandwagon!), just substitute 3/4 cup finely ground nuts (almond works best).  The brownies won’t come out quite as cakey and moist, but they’re still delish!

3 Easy, Tasty & Healthy Breakfast Ideas

By: Stephanie Heino

I usually hear people talking about how hard it is to find easy, healthy breakfast options. I understand that all people don’t have time to make an advanced breakfast menu, and might just end up grabbing a donut and a latte from the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts on their way to work. I have some good news for you – a healthy breakfast is not science. Sure, it takes some preparation, but other than that it can be done while doing your make up in the morning. Check out my easy, healthy and delicious (AND gluten-free!) breakfast ideas below and get a healthy start to your day. It is your choice and your body, be mindful what goes in!

Quinoa Porridge

Not all breakfasts need to taste like the bottom of a bird cage. On crisp winter mornings combine silky smooth quinoa with your favorite almond or rice milk for a creamy consistency.  Add anti-oxidant red-rich berries such as goji berries and you’ll have an energizing, warm and fulfilling breakfast to keep you going until lunchtime. Why not make up your own concoction with delicious toppings such as berries, cacao nibs, raw nuts or coconut flakes?

Here’s how to enjoy a yummy quinoa filled breakfast…

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 8 drops stevia liquid concentrate
  • 1 TBS coconut oil
  • Almond milk to serve

Method

Bring 2 cups of water to boil in a wide saucepan
Add quinoa, sea salt, cinnamon, stevia and butter/coconut oil
Cover and reduce heat and simmer for 12 minutes
Remove from heat and scoop into a bowl add almond milk, scatter with lime zest and enjoy

Chia Seed Pudding

As you may have heard, the Chia seed is a superfood. The seeds are actually a species of flowering plant in the mint family. They’re rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which is usually what you hear the nutritionists discussing. The seeds themselves can be eaten raw as a whole seed, packing a good punch of protein, fat and fiber (one-ounce has 4 grams protein and 11 grams of fiber! – Amazing)

This is one highly adaptable recipe, so you can change it up as you go. The only thing you must do is soak the chia seeds because that’s how the expand and become gelatinous, much like tapioca pearls. But the ways in which you can dress it up are endless: one morning, I had a banana sliced up and added some sliced almonds for a breakfast pudding. Or you could do a version with a cashew cream and crushed roasted hazelnuts.

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients
2 1/4 cups almond milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
2 tablespoons maple syrup or raw agave
2/3 cup chia seeds
2 tablespoons wide-flake unsweetened coconut

Method
In a small bowl, combine the almond milk and the syrup, vanilla, and ginger powder and whisk to combine. Add the chia seeds and whisk vigorously to fully combine. Pour into a container, cover, and refrigerate at least 5 hours, and ideally overnight.

When ready to serve, stir well. Spoon into bowls and top with coconut, berries, nuts, or any other toppings you like. Enjoy!

 

Gluten-Free Flourless Banana Pancakes

Flourless Banana PancakesThis may be the most delicious and easy breakfast option for all of you that like to have a pancake for breakfast. Except for that this one is gluten free, flourless and full of protein. Lately this mashed banana + egg recipe has been blowing up the fitness/health blogs, and we are not late to tag along. Just the two measly ingredients of bananas & egg are perfection, but I usually add my own touches: a tablespoon of almond butter, some ground flaxseed, a bit of vanilla, & a dash of cinnamon.

Serves: 2-3

Ingredients

1 mashed, super ripe banana

2 eggs

Oil for the pan (Coconut oil is my preference)

Method

Mash your banana with a fork. In another bowl whisk eggs. Mix eggs & banana together. Add my additions. Put your choice of oil on a pan [low-medium heat]. Add a silver dollar-sized amount to the pan. Let the cake set for 30 seconds [or when the center bubbles] & flip it! Enjoy with berries & a bit of syrup. Option: if you’re pressed for time use a blender to mix your ingredients.

Images via Pinterest: 1 and 2

Quick & Yummy Macro Brown Rice Porridge

Alicia Silverstone is not only one of my absolute favorite silver screen starts (I miss you!! Come back!!), but she is also one of my favorite diet gurus. Her book, The Kind Diet, was a big reason behind my decision to become (mostly) vegan, and her recipes have had a lasting influence on my cooking. The following recipe is inspired by her soft rice porridge recipe.  It’s super fast, healthy, and is a great way to get some whole grains in at breakfast!

Macrobiotic Brown Rice Porridge

1 cup cooked brown rice (or 1/2 cup brown rice flakes)
1/2 cup water if using cooked rice, or 2/3 cup water if using brown rice flakes
5-6 dried unsulphured apricots, chopped
1/2 tbsp tamari
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
Raw, organic agave to taste–1 tsp is typically enough
1 tsp umeboshi plum paste (optional)

Boil bring water and apricots to a boil. Add rice and cook until it reaches a porridge consistency (typically about 3 minutes). In the meantime, toast pumpkin seeds in a small pan over medium heat, until they start to pop and lightly brown. When they’re browned, transfer to a small bowl and add tamari. When rice is almost done, stir in agave and umeboshi paste, if using. Serve rice topped with tamari pumpkin seeds.

I’ll upload a photo when I make it again next week!

The Healthiest (and Yummiest) Snack Bars!

Those of you who are no stranger to The Organic Beauty know that I am not a huge proponent of snacking. Excessive need for snacking means you’re not getting enough substantial nutrition, and it can lead to weight gain from unnecessary added calories, as well as constantly fluctuating blood sugar. That said, sometimes you really need a frickin’ snack! Maybe you didn’t have time for a big healthy lunch, or don’t want to arrive at your nephew’s birthday pizza party famished. It’s times like these (hopefully not too often!) that you want to have access to a delicious, nutritious and quick snack that get’s the job done, without setting your diet back.  An ideal snack bar gives you a good bit of protein to keep you full, fiber to keep things moving, and healthy carbs to give you energy.  I’ve compiled a list of my top 5 snack bars that fit the bill…  Plus, I’ve added the snack bars you should avoid at all costs, just for good measure.

  • LARA BARS:  These are consistently my number one top recommended snack bar.  They are made of nothing but nuts and dried fruit… no additives, no sugar, no chemicals, no crap.  Simple, whole food ingredients means more complete nutrition! This also means they’re gluten-free and vegan.  A typical Lara Bar provides you with a full serving of fruit, 5 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fiber, making it the perfect snack!  My favorite flavor is Cherry Pie… delish!

  • JOURNEY BARS:  These are a relatively new bar on the market, and I have to say, I am super impressed!  The bars are savory, which means you’re not getting that god awful blood sugar spike, and come in yummy flavors like Rosemary, Hickory Barbecue, and Coconut Curry (my current fave).  The bars feature amazing organic, gluten-free whole grains like amaranth and millet and savory spices and herbs that do great things for your body.  They also pack about 5 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber.

  • BUMBLE BAR:  Here’s another delicious, organic, gluten-free bar filled with nutritious seeds, grains, nuts, and dried fruit.  The bars come in great flavors like Awesome Apricot (my favorite), Chai Almond, and Lushus Lemon, and many are sweetened with naturally low-glycemic sweeteners like organic agave or organic brown rice syrup.  They pack anywhere from 4-7 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and an average of 7-10 grams of sugar!

  • PURE BAR:  These are another line of delicious, organic snack bars that have perfectly simple and pure ingredients.  Dried fruit, nuts, brown rice protein, and agave make up the vast majority of their bars, that come in flavors like Banana Coconut, Wild Blueberry, and Dark Chocolate Berry (that last one is more of a dessert bar, but I’ll tell you what, it is sooo good, and still super healthy!).  They have around 6-7 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, and are loaded with antioxidants!
  • RISE BAR:  Rise has three different lines of breakfast bars, energy bars, and protein bars, all with simple, healthy ingredients like organic fruit, nuts, and whole grains.  Depending on your needs, you can select bars with as much protein as 20 grams (in the Almond Honey Protein Bar),  and all the bars have about 4 grams of fiber and are sweetened with healthy brown rice or tapioca syrup, or honey!  The bars are designed to keep you sustained and energized for 3 hours, which is definitely the mark of a great snack!
Now what you don’t want out of a snack bar is unfortunately what the vast majority on the market have to offer:  chemical additives and sugar replacements, processed or refined carbs, processed soy, processed dairy, and all kinds of other allergens (I love this image on the left from A Healthy Kitchen, which illustrates all the harmful crap found in most “diet” bars).  As with anything you put in your body, LESS IS MORE!  Any product with a super long list of ingredients is no good for you.  A good rule of thumb is to only eat foods with 5 or less ingredients, and if you can’t pronounce an ingredient, stay away!  Anything with “hydrolyzed” or “partially hydrogenated” ingredients typically means a low quality product.  Some bars to stay away from are:
  • “Diet” and meal replacement bars like Atkins Meal Advantage, Zone Perfect Bars, South Beach Diet Bars, Slim-Fast Snack Bars, Balance Bars, Nutribar, Special K Meal Bars — which are all full of tons of processed soy, fake sugars, chemicals and additives.
  • Protein bars and sports bars like Pure Protein, PowerBar, Solid Protein by Nature’ Best — also full of processed soy, palm and canola oils, dairy, and unhealthy chemical sweeteners.
  • Pseudo-healthy bars like Kashi Go Lean bars, FiberOne Bars, Think Thin Bars — which, although slightly better than the bad guys above, are still full of processed ingredients, unhealthy oils, and sugar substitutes.
If you’re trying to bulk up your muscles and are working out a ton, a much healthier alternative to protein bars is a great shake with organic rice or hemp protein powder, fruit, and water or a nut milk!
Bottom line, derive your nutrition from REAL FOOD, not fake food substitutes.  If you need something quick to grab and go, grab something that is REAL FOOD (i.e.: nuts, fruit, whole grains) and not a food facsimile!  Just because something is “high protein,” “high fiber,” “low calorie,” or “sugar free” does not make it healthy — in fact, usually, it means the exact opposite!
——
Natasha Uspensky, chhc
Holistic Health & Nutrition Counselor

What’s All The Buzz About Gluten?

By: Cindy Moustafa

Cindy Moustafa, B.S., A.F.A.A is finishing her Master’s degree in Nutrition. After working in marketing, she decided to pursue her passion for nutrition. Cindy has experience helping others to lose weight and get healthy, including children. She helped build an after-school weight loss program for children and also taught the classes. Cindy uses her knowledge and passion to drive others. For nutrition consultations or additional questions, please contact her at CinnM@hotmail.com.

Recently, while in JFK airport, I noticed that there was an entire section in the food terminal dedicated to gluten-free products. I was both surprised and excited, being that I have just started eating a gluten-free diet. Some of the food choices were great and included Kind bars and hummus. Other foods were just junk food with the attractive “Gluten-Free” label on the front, giving the impression that a gluten-free cookie is somehow healthier than a regular cookie. Gluten has been getting a lot of buzz lately, and the public seems to be overwhelmed with misleading facts about the protein. Read on to get the real facts about gluten and if you should really be on a gluten-free diet.


What the heck is Gluten? People will buy a product stamped “Gluten-Free” without having an idea as to what gluten even is. But they know they heard it on the Dr. Oz show and someone, somewhere said to stay away from it. Gluten is simply the protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Oats are debated by some to contain gluten as well. So foods such as breads and pasta that are made with wheat flour (white, whole-wheat or multigrain) contain gluten. Also, many companies use gluten in their processed foods to help bind the ingredients together, so less obvious products such as Ketchup or tomato sauce may contain gluten as well.

Still a Cookie!

Why is Gluten bad for you? This is a controversial question because going gluten-free isn’t right for everyone. Many people today experience gluten sensitivities, which is akin to lactose intolerance. It’s believed by experts that this sensitivity has arisen from the overexposure to gluten from processed foods and a heavy carbohydrate dependency. In cases of intolerance, the body cannot digest gluten completely, so the person eating it can suffer from bloating, diarrhea, constipation, cramping and an array of symptoms (over 250 listed). Many people are misdiagnosed with IBS, when the real culprit is a food sensitivity. This is not to be confused Celiac Disease,an autoimmune disorder, in which the body attacks gluten and damages the intestine lining. As a result these individuals suffer from malnutrition and can experience life-threatening consequences if they eat something slightly contaminated with gluten. Gluten-free diets are also being associated with thyroid disease, autism and other disorders. It’s believed that those suffering from these ailments should avoid gluten because their body attacks it and makes their condition worse, so if you fall under this category it’s worth trying to go gluten-free. A last point, is that gluten-free foods are typically whole, natural foods so anyone can benefit from going gluten-free a few times a week.

How do I know if I have a sensitivity to Gluten? You can see a holistic health professional, as they are more experienced and exposed to food sensitivities, to get an allergy test through blood or stool samples. An alternative (and cheaper) way to test is to COMPLETELY take gluten out of your diet for 2 weeks. Then, slowly add the food into your diet and listen to your body! If you feel symptoms after having a pasta then gluten is most likely the culprit. Try a piece of bread the next day, if you get the same results then you’ve found the problem. Be warned that this takes discipline, but is completely worth it to relieve you of all your digestive problems. I went gluten-free after being diagnosed with hypothyroidism, and while it was challenging, I did feel better. I also noticed that my stomach wasn’t upside down after breakfast, where I always has whole-wheat toast. I had grown so custom to feeling like crap that I didn’t even realize something was wrong until it felt right.



I’m Gluten-free…now what? The best way to tackle a gluten-free diet is to follow the advice give by nutritionists. Make all your foods whole, natural foods and avoid processed junk. A gluten-free cookie, as mentioned earlier, is still a cookie. Just keep a clean diet and you’ll find that being gluten-free isn’t as difficult as it seems. It gives you a chance to be creative in the kitchen! Below is a list of foods to focus on when going gluten-free:

Healthy Gluten-Free Foods

  • Sweet Potatoes (any potato is GF)
  • Brown Rice
  • Gluten-Free Pastas and Breads
  • Quinoa
  • Farro
  • Buckwheat
  • Vegetables for adequate fiber and vitamins
  • Fruits
  • Protein powders
  • Legumes/Beans including hummus
  • Amaranth flour
  • Arrowroot starch
  • Coconut flour
  • Corn (anything corn-based)
  • Sorghum flour
  • Soy flour
  • Tapioca starch
  • Teff flour
  • Xantham gum (serves as a binder in absence of gluten)


With the growing awareness of gluten sensitivities, there are many options today that there weren’t a few years ago. Breads and pastas taste just like the original. Try different brands to see what you like, or of course, bake it yourself!

Cindy Moustafa

Personal Trainer & Nutritionist

Gluten-Free and Low-Gluten Grains

There is a lot of confusion out there about which grains are and are not gluten free.  This is compounded by the fact that some grains (like oatmeal) are inherently gluten-free, but are often times contaminated by wheat during processing; or that some gluten-free grains (like buckwheat) misleadingly have the word “wheat” in their name.

Below, you’ll find a list of all common gluten-free grains.  Wondering if a gluten-free diet is for you?  Check out Food Focus: Should You Go Gluten-Free?

** As I mentioned, most oats are typically processed in plants that also process wheat, which contaminates the finished product.  If you have Celiac’s disease, or a serious gluten allergy, you should definitely avoid all oats and oatmeals that are not explicitly listed as gluten-free (for example, Bob’s Red Mill makes delicious gluten-free rolled oats!).  However, if you have a light sensitivity, or are simply avoiding gluten as a personal preference, oats are safe to eat, as the amount of the contamination isn’t too high.

Check out some great gluten-free recipes:
Delicious Gluten-Free Breakfasts
The Organic Beauty Healthy Vegetarian, Vegan, and Gluten-Free Recipes

For those that just have a light wheat sensitivity, there are lots of delicious low-gluten grains that are much for easily digestible.  Grains like spelt, farro, rye, and true sourdough are lower in gluten or contain beneficial enzymes that break down the gluten for you, making them easier to digest!  Sprouted whole wheat, like that found in Ezekiel bread products, can also be much easier to digest!

Delicious Gluten-Free Breakfasts!

As the weather starts to get cooler, I always find myself gravitating toward hot, nourishing breakfasts that are super grounding and healthy.  Although oatmeal is my usual standby, even with all the delicious variations it can get a little old.  Luckily, there are lots of other delicious, gluten-free grains that make for yummy breakfast alternatives!

Macrobiotic Brown Rice Breakfast
Brown rice is one of the healthiest grains on earth, being very high in minerals like manganese, selenium, and magnesium.  It is also high in fiber and promotes weight loss and lowers cholesterol! This recipe adds to the nutritious goodness with energizing and detoxifying umeboshi and iron-rich dried apricots!

Ingredients:
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup brown rice flakes (Eden Organics makes a great one)
1/2 cup unsulphered dried apricots, chopped
1/4 tsp umeboshi plum paste
1/4 cup pepitas (shell-free pumpkin seeds)
1 tsp gluten-free tamari
Agave or brown rice syrup to taste

Bring water and dried apricots to a boil.  In the meantime, toast the pepitas on a skillet over medium-high heat, keeping the pan in motion so the seeds don’t burn.  Once water has boiled, add the brown rice flakes and cook for three minutes, or until water is absorbed.  Remove from heat, mix in umeboshi plum paste and sweetener of choice.  Toss pepitas with tamari and pour over the porridge.  Enjoy!


Cinnamon Amaranth Grits
Like quinoa, amaranth is another supergrain.  It is high is very high in protein, calcium, fiber, vitamin E and iron, which makes it a perfect grain for vegetarians!  You can find amaranth at most health food stores and Whole Foods.

Ingredients:
4 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup amaranth
1 small apple or pear, cored and chopped
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt
Agave or maple syrup to taste

Bring water to a boil, with a pinch of salt.  In the meantime, toast the amaranth in a skillet over medium-high heat until it toasts and pops.  Make sure keep the pan moving so the grain doesn’t burn.  Add the amaranth and cinnamon to the boiling water, and stir.  Lower heat and cook for 20 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add apple or pear and cook an additional 10 minutes.  Stir in agave or maple syrup.  If you’d like, you can finish it off with a splash of almond or coconut milk!


Millet Porridge
Millet is another great gluten-free grain that is a great substitute for wheat.  It is non-acidic, which makes it a wonderful grain for those with any kind of digestive issues.  This recipe also features anti-oxidant rich blueberries, and nourishing raw honey, which make it a great breakfast for days when you’re feeling under the weather!

Ingredients:
5 cups water
1 cup millet
Pinch of sea salt
4 tsp Earth Balance
Raw, organic honey to taste
1/4 cup fresh blueberries

Toast millet in a pot over medium-high heat, stirring until they become fragrant.  Add water and salt and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until millet has the consistency of oatmeal.  Stir in Earth Balance and honey, and serve topped with blueberries.



The great thing about these recipes is that you can substitute in any grain (using the correct proportions for cooking that grain) for endless variety!  Quinoa, for example, is great in all three of these recipes, and is cooked in a 2:1 proportion of liquid to grain.


{photo: MarthaStewart.com}