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

Healthy, Vegan Avocado Chocolate Pudding!

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

I don’t know what it is about this time of year, but suddenly, everyone seems to be craving pudding.  There is definitely something comforting about the rich, creamy consistency of this favorite dessert… and you know what?  Sometimes it’s ok to have pudding!  BUT, it is never ok to eat the crappy, supermarket stuff that is full of sugar (or carcinogenic fake sugar), artificial flavors and colors, and low quality dairy.  Your amazing body deserves better than that!

How about a chocolate pudding that is actually healthy?  “Whaaaaaat????” you say… Well it exists.  Avocados are a super amazing, healthy food that are full of delicious, vital nutrients, and their creamy consistency make them the perfect base for yummy desserts!  This recipe uses avocados to achieve that pudding consistency, and a select few other, healthy, natural ingredients that honestly taste pretty close to that crappy store-bought kind you know you shouldn’t let within a 10 foot radius of your body.

Vegan Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Serves 3 (please keep this in mind, and don’t eat the whole batch in one sitting!  Sa-a-a-a-avor the experience!)

1 avocado pitted and removed from the shell
1/3 cup raw, organic agave
3 tbsp organic cocoa powder (preferably raw)
1/2 cup water (soy or coconut milk work here too, but if you’re watching the waistline, stick with water!)
2 tsp vanilla

In a blender, mix all ingredients until smooth and the consistency of pudding. Refrigerate and enjoy!

{Photo: Pennies on a Platter}

Delicious, Healthy Slow-Cooker Recipes!

A slow-cooker is an amazingly convenient kitchen tool that really makes life easier for busy people.  You can basically just throw a bunch of healthy, whole food ingredients into your slow cooker, go to bed, and have a delicious healthy lunch to take with you to work!  Or, have your slow-cooker running while you’re at work to come home to a hearty, healthy soup or stew for dinner!  Especially now, as the weather begins to cool, this is one time-saving tool that you’ll come to rely on for quick, healthy meals.  Check out some of my favorite slow-cooker recipes below… Note how short the preparation time and directions are!

Slow-Cooker Vegetable Stew

Slow-Cooker Vegetable Stew

Serves 6
Hands-On Time: 15m
Total Time: 7hr 30m

Ingredients

  • 4  large organic carrots, diagonally sliced into 2-inch pieces (about 5 cups)
  • 2  medium turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
  • 1  large onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1  14-ounce can diced organic tomatoes
  • 1  cup organic vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1  teaspoon  kosher salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1/4  teaspoon  crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1  zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1  16-ounce can chickpeas, drained

Directions

  1. Combine the carrots, turnips, onion, garlic, tomatoes (with their liquid), broth, salt, cumin, and pepper flakes in a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker. Cook on low heat for 6 hours, or on high for 3 hours.
  2. Add the zucchini and chickpeas and cook 1 hour longer on low.

{From Real Simple}

Barley Risotto with Fennel

Serves 6
Hands-On Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 3-4 hoursIngredients

  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs, cored and finely diced, plus 2 tablespoons chopped fronds
  • 1 cup pearl barley, or short-grain brown rice
  • 1 small organic carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups organic vegetable broth
  • 1-1 1/2 cups water, divided
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups frozen French-cut green beans
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional) — You can substitute nutritional yeast for the vegan option!
  • 1/3 cup pitted oil-cured black olives, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Coat a 4-quart or larger slow cooker with cooking spray. Crush fennel seeds with the bottom of a saucepan. Combine the fennel seeds, diced fennel, barley (or rice), carrot, shallot and garlic in the slow cooker. Add broth, 1 cup water and wine, and stir to combine. Cover and cook until the barley (or rice) is tender, but pleasantly chewy, and the risotto is thick and creamy, 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours on high or low.
  2. Shortly before serving, cook green beans according to package instructions and drain. Turn off the slow cooker. Stir the green beans, Parmesan, olives, lemon zest and pepper into the risotto. If it seems dry, heat the remaining 1/2 cup water and stir it into the risotto. Serve sprinkled with the chopped fennel fronds.

{From Eating Well}

Squash, Chickpea & Red Lentil Stew

Serves 8
Hands-On Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 8 hours (including the 1-hour quick-soak for chickpeas)Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup dried chickpeas
  • 2 1/2 pounds kabocha squash or butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or more, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped roasted unsalted peanuts
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Directions

  1. Soak chickpeas in enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches for 6 hours or overnight. (Alternatively, use the quick-soak method: Place beans in a large pot with enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour.) Drain when ready to use.
  2. Combine the soaked chickpeas, squash, carrots, onion, lentils, broth, tomato paste, ginger, cumin, salt, saffron and pepper in a 6-quart slow cooker.
  3. Put on the lid and cook on low until the chickpeas are tender and the lentils have begun to break down, 5 to 6 1/2 hours.
  4. Stir in lime juice. Serve sprinkled with peanuts and cilantro.

{From Eating Well}

Slow-Cooker Seafood Gumbo

Slow-Cooker Seafood Gumbo

Serves 6
Hands-On Time: 25m
Total Time: 5hr 30m

Ingredients

  • 2  stalks celery, sliced (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1  medium onion, sliced (1 cup)
  • 1  organic green pepper, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced
  • 2  cups organic vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1  14-ounce can diced organic tomatoes
  • 2  tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2  teaspoons  kosher salt
  • 1  teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1  pound  large raw shrimp, cleaned
  • 1  pound  fresh or frozen crabmeat
  • 10-ounces fresh or frozen okra, thawed and sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Directions

  1. In a large skillet, over medium heat, heat olive oil.  Add the celery, onion, green pepper, and garlic to the skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Spoon the vegetables into slow-cooker and add the broth, tomatoes (with their liquid), Worcestershire, salt, and thyme.
  2. Cover and cook on low heat for 4 hours, or on high for 2 hours. Add the shrimp, crabmeat, and okra, and cook 1 hour longer on low heat or 1/2 hour longer on high.
  3. Delicious served over rice!

{Modified from Real Simple}

Organic Chicken & Sweet Potato Stew


Serves 6
Hands-On Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours 20 minutesIngredients

  • 6 bone-in organic, free-range chicken thighs, skin removed, trimmed of fat
  • 2 pounds organic sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into spears
  • 1/2 pound white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 6 large shallots, peeled and halved
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary, or 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar

Directions

  1. Place chicken, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, shallots, garlic, wine, rosemary, salt and pepper in a 6-quart slow cooker; stir to combine. Put the lid on and cook on low until the potatoes are tender, about 5 hours. Before serving, remove bones from the chicken, if desired, and stir in vinegar.
  2. Delicious served over quinoa!

{From Eating Well}

Easy, Delicious Tempeh Recipes!

Tempeh is a delicious and healthy food made of fermented whole soy beans.  It’s a great source of protein and fiber, lowers cholesterol, is chock full of awesome nutrients, and is really easy to cook!  Below are some of my favorite tempeh recipes:

Easy Broiled Tempeh
Serves 2
Ingredients:

  • 1 package tempeh, pre steamed for 15 minutes
  • 4 large mushrooms, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 6 tablespoons tamari
  • 4 teaspoons fresh chopped parsley

Directions:

Preheat broiler.  Cut tempeh into small cubes.  Toss with tamari, mushrooms, garlic, and ginger.  Lightly oil an 8×8 baking pan or pie plate.  Pour tempeh mixture into pan and broil 6″ from heat source until liquid is bubbling and tempeh is browned.  Sprinkle with parsley, and serve over brown rice, quinoa or greens.

Cold Soba Noodles with Tempeh
Serves 6
Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons tamari
  • 1 (8 ounce) package tempeh
  • chili powder
  • 8 ounces soba noodles
  • 1/2 cup chunky raw almond butter
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons agave
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, to taste
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 8 ounces mung bean sprouts, or other sprouts of choice
  • 3 scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced
  • 1 large carrot, thinly sliced, julienned, or cut into strips with a vegetable peeler.
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or 1/4 cup parsley
  • 2 -3 tablespoons finely chopped almonds (optional)

Directions:

Break or cut tempeh into small cubes and toss with vegetable oil and 1 tbsp tamari.  Let sit.  Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Add noodles, stirring to prevent sticking.  Cook noodles according to package instructions, until al dente.  Heat a skillet over medium heat, and add tempeh cubes and marinating liquid.  Cook, stirring often, until nicely browned and crisp.  Sprinkle with chili powder and remove from heat.  If you’d like, you can set the tempeh on a paper towel to drain some of the oil.  In a small bowl, whisk together almond butter, lime juice, agave, pepper flakes, 2 tbsp tamari and water.  Set aside.  Drain noodles, rinse under cold water, and drain again.  In a large bowl, combine noodles, sprouts, tempeh, scallions, cilantro and almonds.  Whisk dressing and pour over, tossing to coat.  Serve at room temperature.  The refrigerated leftovers are delicious!

BBQ Tempeh with Greens
This delicious recipe comes from The Chic Life
Serves 2
Ingredients:

For tempeh:

  • 1 8-ounce package of tempeh, sliced to make short strips, 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 cup homemade BBQ sauce (check out The Chic Life’s recipe!) bottled BBQ
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

For greens:

  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/8-1/4 chopped onion
  • 6 cups packed greens, swiss chard and kale work best!
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 4 sprays of Braggs liquid amino, optional
  • 1 tablespoon raw organic apple cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Combine tempeh and BBQ sauce in a bowl. Gently stir to coat all sides of tempeh slices. Marinate for 5-10 minutes.  In the meantime, pre-heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook till translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add greens and water and cook till wilted, about 5-6 minutes.  While greens are cooking, heat oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add tempeh and cook till each side is golden brown, about 4-5 minutes per side.  Serve tempeh over greens!

4 Breakfast Foods to Avoid

We’ve all heard over and over again that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  While I’m not necessarily in agreement with that (Team Lunch!), I think we call agree that a healthy breakfast is pretty damn important.  Not only does it set the tone for your mood and energy levels for the rest of the day, but it also sets you up for ultimate fat metabolizing, regulated blood sugar, and a whole lot more.

But what you may not know is that all breakfasts are not created equal.  If you are regularly consuming any of the foods below for breakfast, you’d be better off skipping the meal entirely!  (Not that I’m advocating that).  Read on for the biggest culprits of belly fat, mid-morning crashes, headaches, and crankiness:


1.  Doughnuts, Muffins, Bagels and Croissants

Yes, I know that’s four foods, but they all fall pretty solidly in the same category of terrible, refined, and processed carbs that are typically loaded with sugars, trans-fats, and empty calories as well.  These are the biggest barriers to weight loss, and will typically cause a midday energy crash as well.  Not to mention leaving your blood sugar depleted by lunch time, which can lead to some not-so-great, hysterical food choices.  If you’re craving carbs for breakfast, opt for a piece of whole grain toast with almond butter, apple butter, or some natural (no added sugar) preserves.


2. Sugary Cereal and Granola

99% of conventional supermarket cereals and granolas are also loaded with tons of added refined sugar, refined and processed carbs, and useless, chemical “supplements.”  As with all foods, read your ingredients!  There are plenty of healthier, whole grain cereals out there (check out Nature’s Path, Barbara’s and Ezekiel) that are sweetened with light amounts of organic cane sugar or honey, and feature super potent grains like flax, hemp seed, millet, amaranth and brown rice.  Better yet, go for a completely unsweetened cereal or oatmeal, and sweeten it yourself with a sprinkle of stevia or a drizzle of agave.  Add some nuts and berries for some added excitement and flavor!  And skim the milk in favor of some greek yogurt, soy milk or almond — all of which are much healthier and easier on your digestive tract!


3. Breakfast Sandwiches

This “all-American” combination of eggs, fried bacon or sausage, processed cheese and refined breads add up to a fatty, greasy, high-calorie, high-sodium junk food binge. Not only will this only serve to pack on the pounds, but you’re also clogging your arteries, increasing risk of heart disease and cancer, and negatively impacting your skin.  If you just can’t live without the occasional breakfast sandwich, make your own at home, with a two egg omelet, tempeh bacon, and avocado or high quality cheese on a whole grain toasted english muffin.


4. Meal Replacement Shakes

Popular brands like Ensure, Slim Fast, Atkins, or any other store-bought prepared shake is not a meal!  It’s not even a snack.  It’s a mess of processed garbage and chemicals that neither satisfies your hunger nor provides your body with any real nutrition.  And it certainly isn’t a healthy or effective way to permanently lose weight.  If you like shakes in the morning, make your own with hemp or rice protein powder, fresh or frozen berries, and some almond milk.  Delicious, nutritious, and real food!


BONUS!!!!
You know what else isn’t a breakfast?  A cup of coffee.  You heard me!  Starting your day off with a shot of false energy, adrenal imbalance, and a potential blast of sugar and unnecessary fat and dairy (depending on your particular coffee drinking style) is certainly not a healthy way to start your day.  If anything, this will lead to midday moodiness, depleted energy, and long term adrenal issues.  If you like your morning coffee, have it every other day (to avoid dependency), with some stevia and soy or almond milk.  And for the love of god, skip the Fraps and whipped creams and flavored syrups and crap! 


—–
Natasha Uspensky, chhc, aadp
NU Health & Wellness

Healthy Chicks Eat Salad

By: Cindy Moustafa, B.S., AFAA

Salads have somehow become the food associated with girls that don’t eat or are dieting. Books such as “Skinny Chicks Don’t eat Salad” have become best-sellers encouraging people that salads aren’t filling enough and will cause you to overeat later. Sure, if you’re eating a bowl that looks like one you used to feed your class rabbit, then it’s probably not full of sustainable energy. But salads are a great, quick way to get an array of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, fiber and protein-if they’re done right. Also, salads can actually help you maintain your weight, especially if you find yourself at a restaurant with no healthy options. Follow these steps to ensure you’re never hungry after the salad bar again.

  • Kick the iceberg to the curb. Use the base of your salad as an opportunity to your dark leafy greens in for the day. For example, arugula, baby spinach or bibb are loaded with vitamins A, C, K, cancer-fighting properties and give a nice taste. Iceberg lettuce, however, has very little taste or nutritional value. Save it for lettuce wraps(or rabbits) instead.
  • Pump up the Protein! This is what most salads are lacking. Protein will help you keep you satiated and give you sustained energy for the day. Choose lean protein sources, such as fish, chicken breast or hard-boiled eggs. With fish or eggs, you’ll get the added benefit of omega-3’s, which can help combat a range of disorders such as obesity, Alzheimer’s and inflammation. You can have up to 7 oz. of fish for minimal calories and maximum satisfaction! As an alternative, you can also add beans such as chickpeas, that are full of protein and healthy carbs.
  • Embrace the Colors of the Rainbow. As a child, you probably associated this with Skittles, but as an adult you really do need to “taste the rainbow.” Firstly, it makes your salad look so pretty you can’t wait to dive in. Secondly, different colors give you different vitamins and health-boosting effects. For example, red peppers are packed with more vitamin C than an orange and more than 40% of your Vitamin A recommendations. Beets are rich in Potassium which can help regulate blood pressure. Load up on different veggies with different colors to get the most out of your salad.
  • Add more Flavor. Another issue with salads is that the can be very bland. By adding some depth of flavor into it, however, your body will feel more satisfied. For example, if you like some sweetness, add 1/2 an orange to your salad, which also goes great with fennel. For something fresh and zesty add cilantro or basil or for something spicy add crushed red pepper. Be creative!
  • Get Fat! Yep, you read that right. Too many people are scared that fats will make them fat, but this is absolutely not true. Before you throw caution to the wind and inhale 3 donuts, understand that there is a big difference between GOOD fats and BAD, artery-clogging, Paula-Deen-loving fats. Good fats can actually help combat belly fat and keep you fuller longer. They include foods like Olive Oil, Avocado, and nuts. Add these to your salad to get a good balance or protein and fat.
  • Crunch Time! Lastly, add some crunch to your salad as your topping. Nuts are the best way to do this, but you can certainly use homemade pita chips or tortilla chips(gluten-free) to get your crunch on. Just exercise portion control. For example , if you break up 2 chips or half a pita into your salad it’s a lot of crunch for almost no added calories.

The take away message here is that salads can provide real benefits and it’s a shame to stop eating them because of marketing tactics to sell you on other foods. Salad eaters are more likely to get their daily dose of Vitamins C and A, minus the bloated feeling after eating a burger or alleged “healthy wraps” from the deli . I don’t know about skinny chicks, but healthy ones certain eat their salad.

 

Seasonal Food Focus: Thai Sweet Potato Soup

Since it’s finally starting to feel like winter here in NYC, I am getting way more in the soup mindset.  Although with our busy lives (recurring evening workshops 3 days a week… oy) it’s not always possible to make soups from scratch, a new cookbook I received over the holidays, Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons, has really been motivating me to get souping!

The other night, we made a big batch of this Thai Sweet Potato Stew, and I’ll tell you what, it was warming, nourishing, and sooooo delicious!

Thai Sweet Potato Stew
Serves 6


Ingredients:

I made a few OB substitutions.. agave for sugar, almond butter for peanut butter, and left out the lemongrass and tofu… but you should experiment!

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 to 6 cloves garlic
3 medium-large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
3 cups water
1 medium green bell pepper
1 1/2 cups frozen green beans
1/2 tsp (or more, depending on how spicy you want it) red curry paste
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp agave, optional
2 stalks lemongrass, optional
1 13.5 oz can organic light coconut milk
2 tbsp raw, organic almond butter
salt to taste
One 8 oz package baked tofu, optional
Cilantro leaves for garnish

Heat the oil in a soup pot.  Add the onion and sauté over medium-low heat until translucent.  Add the garlic and continue to sauté until both are golden.  Add the sweet potatoes and water.  Bring to a rapid simmer, then lower the heat.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are about half done.  Add the bell pepper, green beans, curry paste, sugar, and ginger.  If using lemongrass, cut each stalk into 3 or 4 pieces, and bruise by making long cuts here and there with a sharp knife.  This will help release the lemony flavor.  Stir into the soup pot and simmer for 10 minutes longer.  Stir in the coconut milk, almond butter, salt and optional tofu.  Return to a simmer and cook over very low heat for another 10 minutes, or until all veggies are tender and flavors well integrated.

Remove lemongrass pieces, taste to adjust seasonings, and serve at once, topping with a few cilantro leaves.

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!

Yummy Cold-Busting Salad

I finally broke down and got my first cold of the season last week, and though it thankfully only lasted two days, my poor fiancé caught it and has been suffering for a good 4+ days. In an attempt to make him something comforting and immunity boosting, while making use of the relatively meager contents of our fridge, I concocted the following super healthy dinner salad for him. Low and behold, today he’s on the mend!  This recipe is a perfect example of how we can use food as medicine.  There are more essential vitamins, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients in this salad than you could ever dream of getting from a supplement, and being in whole food form, the delivery system to the parts of your body that need it are much more efficient.

This delicious salad features:

  • Kale, which is full of SUPER high in vitamins C, A, and K, as well as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory flavanoids which boost immunity and the body’s natural detoxification.
  • Fennel, which is loaded with vitamin C, and immunity-boosting phytonutrients, including anethol, which has major anti-inflammatory qualities.  Plus fennel has antimicrobial qualities, which are perfect for beating colds!!
  • Orange or grapefruit, whose unique citrus flavanones combine with the super high levels of vitamin C which produce extraordinary antioxidant and immune-supportive results.  Plus, the zest ensures that you get the amazing benefits of herperidin, an incredibly anti-inflammatory flavanone that is only found in the peel and white pith of the citrus fruit.
  • Garlic, which is an anti-inflammatory, ant-bacterial, and anti-viral superstar, and is one of the best foods to eat when you’re sick. It’s also very high in selenium, B vitamins, and helps your body to metabolize iron!
  • Flaxseed oil is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which are very anti-inflammatory, and is also high in thiamin and manganese.
  • Raw apple cider vinegar is a true wonder tonic that helps your body beat just about anything.  It’s loaded with potassium, which helps cure sinusitis and runny nose symptoms; and it has massive antibacterial and anti fungal properties, which are obviously hugely beneficial for beating a cold!
  • Himalayan salt supports respiratory health and clears up congestion, is a strong natural antihistamine, eliminates persistent dry coughs, and provides your body with all the necessary trace minerals it needs to heal and be healthy!

Cold-Busting Fennel, Kale and Orange Salad

Ingredients:
Serves 2

About 5 leaves of organic kale, ripped apart into pieces (or about half a package of washed and cut kale)
One large organic fennel bulb, sliced into 1/4 inch thick strips
One large (or two medium) organic orange, cut into small chunks (a grapefruit will also work)
Zest of the above orange (make sure it’s organic and washed!)
3 cloves of organic garlic, pressed or minced
2 tbsp flax oil
1 tbsp raw organic apple cider vinegar
Himalayan salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Pour flax oil over the orange zest and pressed garlic while you prepare everything else.  This helps to release some of the super healthy compounds that speed recovery!  While the oil is infusing, rip up your kale and combine with the sliced fennel and orange.  Try to use a cutting board that has those little gutters around the sides so you can reserve the juice from cutting the orange and pour it over the vegetables.  When your veggies are ready to go, pour the flax oil with orange zest and garlic over the salad, along with the vinegar.  Feel free to add more vinegar if you like your salad a little heavier on the dressing.  Season liberally with himalayan salt and freshly ground pepper.

I served this salad with a bowl of vegetarian matzo ball soup (the ultimate comfort food).

A Healthier Take on Thanksgiving Recipes!

Have a Healthier ThanksgivingThanksgiving is one of my all-time favorite holidays.. and not just because it falls on my birthday every few years!  Getting together with family, laughing, drinking, and eating amazing food make for a pretty perfect affair, and I am always eager to find ways to make it a healthier one.

Luckily, a lot of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes are already pretty healthy at their core–the gratuitous addition of marshmallows, cream, and tons of butter and sugar to pretty much everything is definitely the Standard American Diet interpretation of classically delicious and nourishing foods.  Get back to the basics and make Thanksgiving a healthy and yummy celebration of the autumn harvest, as it was always meant to be!  Below, find some healthier versions of traditional Thanksgiving dishes, your family will love them, and everyone will feel much less comatose afterwards.But first, try the following tips this year, and get through it all without gaining a dress size:

  • Make sure to have a healthy breakfast the morning of Thanksgiving (if you do the whole dinner at 3pm thing), and/or a healthy lunch (if you sit down to dinner later).  I know this is contrary to the mentality of fasting before a huge meal, but making sure you’ve eaten well throughout the day will ensure that you’ll eat less!
  • If you’re cooking, use some healthy substitutions for common ingredients (agave or stevia instead of sugar; Earth Balance instead of butter; almond milk or coconut milk for milk or cream;  whole grain bread for white bread).  If you’re not the one cooking, take the opportunity to chat with mom (or whoever) about some healthier options, or just go ahead and bring the ingredients over and offer to help!
  • If salads aren’t a traditional part of your family’s T-giving dinner, make it one!  Start the meal with a healthy salad course before diving into the insanity.
  • Try a little bit of everything.  Don’t load your plate with heaps of the three fattiest things on the table.  Allow yourself a small portion of all the dishes, which will give you a more balanced meal, as well as encouraging you to eat less overall without feeling deprived.
  • I’ll be the first to admit that playing football is sooo not my thing, but the sentiment is spot on.  If you’re having an early dinner, get the family outside afterwards for some physical activity.  It’ll get things moving, and help you to digest your big meal!  If you’re eating later, have everyone go for an evening walk together after dinner.  It could be the start of a new family tradition!
  • Lastly, slow down!!  The holiday meal is a celebration of family and loved ones, not just food.  So take your time to eat slowwwwwly, chew your food and focus on the company!

Mashed Yams with Coconut Milk

A Healthier Take on Thanksgiving Recipes!This dairy-free take on traditional mashed yams tastes exactly the same as the one you’re used to, but with substantially less fat and calories! 

Ingredients:

5-6 sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut in halves or thirds
1 14 oz can organic coconut milk
2 tbsp olive oil or Earth Balance
1 tbsp maple syrup or organic raw agave
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
a pinch of sea salt

In a large pot, cover the yams with water and bring to a boil.  Allow to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until soft.  Remove from water, mash or put through potato ricer.  Pour in coconut milk until the desired consistency is reached (this may not be the whole can), and stir in remaining ingredients.

Mushroom and Walnut Stuffing

This stuffing recipe uses vegetable broth and spelt bread instead of the traditional chicken broth and refined, white bread, which makes it heartier, and a whole lot healthier!  

Ingredients:A Healthier Take on Thanksgiving Recipes!

10 oz. cremini or button mushrooms, diced
2 large, yellow onions, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 loaf of whole grain spelt bread (you can also use a good rye or other whole grain bread), left out overnight or toasted in the oven, cubed
1 to 1 1/2 cups low sodium organic vegetable broth
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
2 tbsp fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add onions and celery, and season with a small pinch of salt and some pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, about 5-7 minutes.  Transfer to a large bowl.  Add a bit more olive oil to the pan, and sauté the mushrooms and sage, seasoning with a small pinch of salt and some pepper.  Cook about 5 minutes, or until mushrooms are browned.  Add wine and cook, stirring and scraping all bits off the bottom of the pan, until the wine is almost entirely evaporated.  Transfer to the bowl with vegetables, mix, and add bread, walnuts, and enough bread to moisten (stuffing should not be soggy).  Taste and add a bit more salt and pepper, if necessary.  Add eggs to the mixture and toss well to combine.

Pour stuffing into a lightly oiled, 2-quart baking dish.  If using stuffing for turkey, reserve four cups.  Bake, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until top is golden brown.  Stuffing can also be made ahead of time, covered, and refrigerated before baking day-of.


{adapted from Martha Stewart Living}

Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts

This classic roasted brussels sprout dish is rich and delicious without being full of the butter and bacon and aren’t doing anyone any favors.  The smoky, roasted hazelnuts add a meaty, bacon-y flavor without the artery-clogging fat!

A Healthier Take on Thanksgiving Recipes! Ingredients

1 1/2 lbs. brussels sprouts, halved, with stems cut off, and any discolored outer leaves removed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp maple syrup or organic raw agave
3/4 tsp sea salt
ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
2 dashes liquid smoke (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, toss hazelnuts with a splash of olive oil, the smoked paprika, and a tiny pinch of salt.  Spread onto a lined baking sheet and roast for about 10-12 minutes.  In the meantime, toss brussels sprouts, remaining olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl.  For an added smoky flavor (for those of you who would miss the bacon), add a couple dashes of liquid smoke.  Once all the brussels sprouts are coated, pour into a 9×13 baking dish.  Roast in oven for 15 minutes (at this point, your hazelnuts are probably done!), and stir with a wooden spoon, and continue roasting for another 15 minutes.  Stir in maple syrup, and roast for a final 15 minutes, or until the sprouts are easily speared on a fork.  Remove from the oven, and toss with the toasted hazelnuts.  

Zesty Cranberry Sauce

Making homemade sauce out of fresh cranberries does wonders to improve the flavor and benefits of this traditional turkey condiment.  The canned stuff is cooked, processed, full of sugar, and has about zero health benefits, where as this super easy raw recipe is loaded with vitamin c, antioxidants, and is still sweet as can be!

Ingredients

12 oz bag fresh, organic cranberries
1 cup juice from about 3-4 organic oranges
1 tsp zest from one of the juiced organic oranges
1 medium organic apple, peeled and grated with a box grater
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup organic raw agave

Pulse cranberries, grated apple and orange juice in a food processor.  Add remaining ingredients and pulse until desired consistency is reached.  For a thicker, chunkier sauce, use less orange juice.  For a smoother consistency, use full cup of juice.  Enjoy!

Vegan Mushroom Gravy

This recipe is great for vegetarians forgoing the turkey altogether, or meat-eaters who don’t want to add meat on top of more meat… I mean come on, is that really necessary?  This gravy tastes great with the turkey or without and is super healthy!

Ingredients

3/4 cup dried mushrooms, chopped (I like to use shiitakes)
1 cup vegetable broth
1 small onion, diced
2 tbsp flour
1 1/2 tbsp Earth Balance
2 tbsp tamari
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp thyme
Freshly ground pepper to taste.

Hydrate dried mushrooms with about 1/2 cup boiling water.  Cover and let sit for about 10 minutes.  Melt Earth Balance in a small skillet over medium heat, add onion, and saute lightly.  Add the mushrooms with their soaking liquid, tamari and the vegetable broth.  Add the flour, little-by-little, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.  Bring to a simmer or low boil, then reduce heat.  Add herbs and pepper, and continue to cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring constantly, until gravy thickens.

Spicy Pumpkin Pie

A Healthier Take on Thanksgiving Recipes!This vegan take on the traditional pumpkin pie uses REAL pumpkins (commence gasping!) and not the canned, processed, sugar filled variety.  It also features silken tofu, which makes it much healthier and lower in fat, while still being rich and delicious.

Ingredients

1 medium sugar pumpkin (enough to make 2 cups mashed)
1 package organic silken tofu
3 tbsp organic cornstarch
3/4 cup raw organic agave nectar or maple syrup
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
9 inch graham cracker pie crust (I like the one by Arrowhead Mills)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cut pumpkin in half and remove stem, seeds and pulp.  (Save the seeds for roasting!)  Place two halves face down in a shallow baking dish and cover with foil  Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until pumpkin flesh is tender.  Let cool, scoop out flesh and puree in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Turn oven up to 425 degrees.  In food processor add agave and tofu to pureed pumpkin.   Add spices, cornstarch, and salt, and process thoroughly until smooth.  Pour mixture into pie crust and bake for 15 minutes.  Lower heat to 350 degrees, and bake for another 60 minutes.  Cool and serve!