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


  • 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


  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


  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


  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


  • 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


  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


  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

  • 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


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

  • 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)


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

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


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!

Food Focus: Black Pepper for Fighting Fat!

I just read this really interesting new research on Dr. Weil’s site:

How Black Pepper Fights Fat 

Piperine, an alkaloid responsible for black pepper’s pungent taste, appears to be responsible for its reputed health benefits, including weight loss. New research from Korea published in the April 18, 2012 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggests that piperine interferes with the activity of genes that control and promote formation of new fat cells. As a result, the investigators said that piperine may also set off a metabolic chain reaction that helps reduce body fat in other ways. The researchers noted that black pepper has been used for centuries in traditional Eastern medicine to address gastrointestinal distress, pain, inflammation and other disorders. They suggested that if further test results confirm their findings, black pepper might prove useful in treating obesity. Piperine has another valuable attribute: it enhances the absorption and anti-inflammatory effects of turmeric and its beneficial constituent, curcumin, both of which are associated with reduced risks of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

Spices like cinnamon and ginger are also great additions to your daily meals, and have amazing blood sugar balancing and anti-inflammatory effects!

Natasha Uspensky, chhc, aadp
NU Health & Wellness

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!

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.


Get Your Agrarian On!

Living in Brooklyn, we are no strangers to the burgeoning trends of urban agrarianism (rooftop farms and gardens, beekeeping, chicken coops, pickling, and home brewing are the big ones around here) that are popping up all over the place.  S it was only a matter of time before a place like Williams-Sonoma, that mecca of all things domestic and culinary (and the home of about half our wedding registry) got hip to the DIY scene with their very own line of over 250 adorably rustic products, books, guides, and tools to get you started in whatever your particular agrarian proclivities may be.

Want to raise your own free-range hens, but aren’t quite the barn-raising carpenter type?  Order a charming chicken coop made from sustainable wood, hand painted with low-VOC paint, which will be delivered and assembled for you by Williams-Sonoma’s white glove service.  Don’t know where to start? Pick up a copy of Keeping Chickens, a guide to “all you need to know for a happy, healthy flock.”

Ready to make your own local, raw honey?  Get started with a Backyard Beehive & Starter Kit, featuring everything you need to get your beekeeping on (though courage to face a huge box full of bees costs extra).  You don’t even need a backyard!  Amateur beekeepers all over the city are making do with nothing but a spot of space on a rooftop, and you can too!  I recommend reading up a bit first — Keeping Bees is a great place to start.
The easiest place to start may be gardening, be it in an apartment-friendly window box, a set of charming little pots for the window sill, or a raised, self-contained planting bed made from sustainable, untreated, Western Red Cedar.  Need to start gardening tout suite?  This starter kit features a cedar planter, heirloom seeds, and organic soil to get you from garden to table in no time!  In the humble opinion of this aspiring gardener, half the point of gardening is looking adorably outdoorsy and rustic while doing it, and no one captures that particular look better than Williams-Sonoma, all the tools and accessories you may need, including this ridiculously cool handmade raw denim utility apron (see photo at right). 
Unfortunately, we lack a usable roof… and a yard… so as much as I would love to start my own little chicken posse and bee colony, my own DIY pursuits must be limited to DIY efforts I can complete in my own kitchen.  Though any ol’ mason jar will do the trick for home-canning, preserving and pickling, I have to admit the whole prospect seems a lot more fun with these speciality jars, kraft paper tags stamped with your own personalized embosser, and charming little chalkboard labels.  
But my absolute favorites are the DIY kits (I love DIY kits!!)…  Everything you need to make your own all-natural goat cheese or ricotta, your own apartment-friendly beer (no bathtubs needed!) or kombucha from Kombucha Brooklyn.  I’m especially excited about the at-home sprouting kit and the shiitake mushroom log you can grow inside your home!  A shiitake mushroom log!!  Seriously can’t wait to get that one… It would make a really cool and rustic decorative item as well.
So hats off to Williams-Sonoma for getting on board!  There is so much value is having a hand in where your food comes from and how it is made… anything that might make it easier or motivate us to do it ourselves gets a big A plus in my book.
Natasha Uspensky, CHHC, AADP

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


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

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).