Category Archives: Cooking

rAWWWW Nuts!

Looking for a nutritious snack option?

Since we have been eating healthier and removing pre-packaged, processed food from our pantry and our diet, we are in need of finding alternatives. Nuts in moderation are a fantastic option. Even better- Raw Nuts! The roasting process can trigger the release of harmful chemicals in some nuts, like acrylamide in roasted almonds. So it’s best to eat them raw.

health benefits of raw nuts
photo credit- Steffen Zahn, creative commons

Eating raw nuts can reduce your risk of developing serious chronic diseases. These little gems can reduce the risk of diabetes, lower blood pressure, lower weight, reduce waist circumference and increase heart health.

Will eating nuts make you fat?

It’s a myth that eating foods high in healthy fat will make you fatter. In fact, it’s better to eat nuts that things with more complex carbs. According to this study, people who ate a low-calorie diet that included almonds vs. complex carbs, the almond group had a:

  • 62 percent greater reduction in their weight/BMI
  • 50 percent greater reduction in waist circumference
  • 56 percent greater reduction in body fat

Another study in the journal Obesity also stated that eating nuts two or more times per week was associated with a reduced risk of weight gain.

Which nuts are best to eat?

Look for raw & organic nuts. Note: peanuts are not nuts, they are legumes. They’re also apparently one of the most pesticide laden things you can eat.

 Some of the best nuts for your health are:

Almonds: almond skins are rich in antioxidants, phenols and flavonoids which can help prevent cancer and promote healthy aging. (In North America, nearly all almonds are pasteurized even if they’re labeled raw.)

Walnuts: help get those free radicals and reduce the risk of prostate and breast cancers. For further reading, check this article out about how the FDA says walnuts, broccoli and some other foods should be labeled as a drug for their healing properties!

Pecans: With over 19 vitamins and minerals, these babies can lower bad cholesterol and promote healthy arteries.

Soaking nuts, especially walnuts, can make the flavor better. It can also increase the enzyme activity which increases your body’s ability to absorb their nutrients and digest them. Soak nuts from anywhere between 20 minutes to 2-3 hours, then discard the water. Even better, soak them overnight in glass, not plastic.

Some nuts are more suited to roasting than others. For example, the health benefits of cashews are not greatly reduced with roasting.

 My favorite place to get nuts, raw or roasted, is in the bulk bins at Sprouts. There are an abundance of choices. Try them all and see what you like best. My favorite is Macadamia Nuts! I pretend I’m in snacking in Hawaii whenever I grab a handful.

Two Months in Review

It’s been two months since I first visited EWG.org and read about the different chemicals and carcinogens that are added to almost everything in our lives. Today I’d like to take a look at what changes we’ve made so far and how they’ve affected us.

My main motivations for changing to a more healthy, all-natural lifestyle are to try and reduce asthma and allergies suffered by my youngest son and me. I’ve been learning about how much disease in America is preventable with good diet and exercise. Cancer struck very close to home a few months ago too.

warning labelHow many times have we read a label that states that the product we are using in “known to cause cancer” and yet we go ahead and purchase and use it in our homes? How many products do we apply to our skin, our face, our clothes, our dishes, that are absorbed into our bodies that are harmful to us? I’m taking a more thorough look at the ingredient labels. I’m educating myself on what I’m purchasing. I hope to drastically reduce the amount of harmful toxins, chemicals and carcinogens that leech into our bodies.

This journey began two months ago, not long after I returned from the funeral of a dear friend and college volleyball teammate who died of breast cancer. She left behind a two year old daughter, a loving husband and many family and friends who just couldn’t believe that this vibrant, healthy, athletic young woman lost her life so early.

First, I made a list of every product I had in my bathroom. There were about 16 different things I’d put on before I even had my first cup of coffee in the morning between face soap, moisturizers, shampoo, make-up and the cleaners I had in there. I did this for each room in my home and came up with an extensive list of personal care and cleaning products.

Then, I looked up each product on the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning, and Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. I wrote down the grades of each product from A to F, just like in school. Almost everything was an F, even the baby laundry detergent that I once bought for my newborns. I was shocked.  There is extensive information on what ingredients cause what harm and I focused closely on which things caused asthma.

After I learned what to avoid, I wrote down next to each of my old products a newer, healthier alternative to use. This has been an ongoing project. I’m still working my way through the list. I’m interested in making a healthier home. I’m also interested in being as frugal as possible. I didn’t just want to throw everything out. I returned unopened products to the store. This gave me about $85 to buy newer, healthier products. There are a great deal of household products that are simply and easily made out of cheap ingredients already in your pantry, namely baking soda, vinegar and honey.

So far, I’ve been using 7th Generation for my laundry and dishwasher and that’s working out nicely. I briefly returned to soap nuts for laundry, but was a little disappointed. I had one load that didn’t smell too fresh. I’ll give them another go down the road. I’m a little concerned about smelling okay since I’ve also changed my deodorant and gotten rid of most fragrance in our cleaners. I’ve asked a friend to let me know if I start smelling “crunchy”. Haha. But so far I’m okay.

I clean my sink with baking soda and vinegar now instead of my old abrasive cleaner and it works like a charm.  I made a solution of all-purpose cleaner and put it in the “GreenWorks” spray bottle. I was shocked to learn that “GreenWorks” got an “F” too! My new disinfecting spray is made of :

1/2 tsp castile soap
3 Tbs white vinegar
1/2 tsp baking soda ( I haven’t found washing soda yet)
2 cups hot water

I use this to clean my counters, table, walls, bathrooms, etc. It works great. I’m not a huge fan of cleaning though and pretty much think of it as a complete waste of my time. However, I don’t like to live in filth, so I’m always reaching for that perfect balance: having a clean home and not spending time cleaning it. This is impossible of course, because I have three little boys. It’s like living with little tornados of grime & Legos. Cleaning is a losing battle, but at least it’s more healthy now.

I changed my make-up, moisturizer, face wash and deodorant. It’s working okay. I still have about the same amount of acne, but that might be caused by the change in my diet. I’m eating less processed foods and meat and much more veggies. I’m wondering if all the nuts and avocados I’ve recently been devouring is adding to my youthful looking skin. By “youthful” I mean acne like I’m still in high school. It’s never gone away. I’m getting by without prescription medication for it now. I was on that for the past few years. So it’s improved. I’d just like it to be gone completely. Same thing with allergies in the spring. They’re still there. We’ll see if they’re less severe this year. I just started my sneezing and itchy eye routine this week.

The houseplants I purchased weeks ago are (all but one) still alive. This is a miracle and I’m very pleased with this. I don’t have any way to measure how clean our air is. But supposedly the plants are cleaning it. Asthma does seem to be a little better around here, although both my son and I still need inhalers occasionally.

We’ve been eating much healthier. Unfortunately my sons are not quite as excited as I am about all the new vegetable recipes I’ve been finding. I keep hoping their taste will adjust and they’ll start loving cilantro, avocados, quinoa and sweet potatoes. I’ll just keep trying new things. I hate to admit how poorly I was cooking for them this past year. It was a difficult year personally and dinners suffered. There were plenty of nights when we ate pizza or chili mac and there was no veggie on the plate. Now there are mostly veggies on the plate with a little pasta or fish.

How about you dear reader? Have you made any new healthy choices recently. I’d love to hear about it.

Food for Better Health

There are a lot of different “experts” declaring what we should be eating these days. I’d like to eat things that make me more healthy, as opposed to less healthy. This seems all very simple and basic, but we’ve come a long way from real food in our culture. So it takes a bit of digging, a bit of education, a bit of research to figure out what I should be feeding my family.asparagus

I’ve read quite a few books on the subject of food. I get turned off by diet books because I’m not changing what I eat for the purpose of losing weight. I just want to put healthy things in my body and into my kids.

The Paleo diet is not for me. I’m sure it’s healthy, and maybe if I was more motivated to make drastic changes immediately I would do it. I’m looking to make sustainable changes for the long term. I still want to be able to order something at a restaurant occasionally. The Whole Thirty does a good job of explaining the Paleo diet if you want to look into that book.

I just started reading The Daniel Plan, by Rick Warren. The basic gist of that diet is to eat real food. I like that. Stuff your great-grandmother would recognize as food. Not the packaged, processed stuff we consume lately.  I’m also looking at the Mediterranean diet, which is also referred to sometimes as the Biblical diet. They all seem to be saying the same basic thing:

 Eat whole, real food- fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, eggs, beans, some lean beef and chicken. Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables.

When buying these fruits and veggies, it helps to know which of these are best for you. Look at the Glycemic Index, the nutritional value, etc. Then look at how it’s grown. Some fruits and veggies are grown with a lot more pesticides than others. How can you keep track of all this. Please, let’s just keep it simple!

The Environmental Working Group developed an app that makes one thing easier. Each year they list the “dirty dozen” and “clean 15”.  I can’t remember all of this and I’m not able to buy every single thing on my grocery list organic. So I downloaded this handy app that tells me which are the best foods to buy organic. This free app is called “Dirty Dozen” and it serves as a handy reference while cruising the produce aisle. For example: get your apples organic but it’s okay to get your pineapples and asparagus from the regular section.

There is an app like this for buying skin care and cosmetics too. It’s called “Skin Deep”. You can scan the item you’re contemplating purchasing and see how it rates health wise for you.

 

How to Sprout Lentils

Sprout your own sprouts!

These are so yummy and delicious. You won’t believe how easy it is to do. Mung Bean Sprouts

When I’d seen “sprouts” on a deli sandwich or sold at the grocery store, I think they’ve always been alfalfa sprouts. I never liked these much. But sprouts are super healthy, packed with way more vitamins and nutrients than just eating the thing un-sprouted…like lentil soup, whole wheat grain vs. sprouted wheat, etc.

Healthy enzyme, proteins, fiber, vitamin and essential fatty acid content increase dramatically during the sprouting process which takes a couple days on your counter top. Get a super boost of vitamins A, B-complex, C, and E.
As I type this, I’m enjoying a small bowl of mung bean sprouts with Italian dressing. It’s a fantastic healthy snack. Ready to learn how?

Red Lentil Sprouts1. Begin with a mason jar and the outer ring of the lid so the top can stay open.
2. Fill jar up less than 25% with your little red lentils, or whatever your grain/bean of choice is. They will nearly triple in size.
3. Fill the entire jar with water.  Cut out a square of cheesecloth and cover the top of the jar, screwing the lid ring over it to hold it in place. (Don’t put an airtight lid on.)
4. Allow beans to soak for 12 hours, (overnight) then…
5. Drain water & rinse thoroughly!  When rinsing, fill the jar, swirl water around beans vigorously and several times before draining. Drain thoroughly. Do all this with the cheesecloth still covering the top so water drains out and beans stay in.
6. Leave drained bean on the counter out of direct sunlight and repeat rinsing process 2-3 times daily.
7. When sprouts are desired length, spread them on a paper towel to dry, then refrigerate in airtight container.

Tah Dah!!

When you’re done, you can eat them plain, add them to a salad or use them however your would use unsprouted lentils. You’ll just get way more good, healthy stuff this time.

Read more here

Home Made Honey Wheat Bread

I have a bread machine. It’s fantastic. Well, almost fantastic. I take the dough out for the final rise and put it in a regular bread dish to bake in the oven because I don’t like the shape of the bread machine loaf. Also, I can’t just leave it because if it cooks with the paddle in it, then I have a big hole in the bottom of my loaf. Still, the bread machine is great. It takes about 6 minutes to put about 6 ingredients in there and then presto! It’s almost done, except for the aforementioned transfer an hour later.

Whole Wheat BreadWhy do I make my own bread? Well, I started to because my 3 boys eat so much and I had to make extra trips to the grocery store for said purchase. It became easier to just make a loaf every other day. But there are also the health reasons. It’s difficult and expensive to find bread that only a short list of ingredients that I recognize. For example: the “healthy” whole grain bread I’ve long enjoyed has terribly long list including things like pyridoxine hydrochloride. It says in parenthesis that this is vitamin B6. So there goes the theory that you should avoid anything with words you don’t recognize and can’t pronounce. It seems Milton’s is pretty good for you. Still, I’m ending my hiatus. I stopped making my own bread for the past several months, but I’m starting it up again. The big bread machine will once again occupy my counter space. Also, the house smells fantastic when fresh baked bread aromas fill the air.

Here is my go to recipe:

Basic Honey Whole Wheat Bread – 2lb loaf

1 ¼ cup warm water
1 tsp salt
2 ½ Tbs unsalted butter
2+ Tbs Honey (sometimes use much more)
1 ¼ cups Bread Flour
2 ½ cups Whole wheat flour
½ cup Flax meal
2 ¼ tsp Yeast (1 packet active dry or instant bread machine)

I sometimes throw in some Kashi 7 grain cereal or wheat germ etc. Also, next time I think I’ll try putting in some sprouted lentils. I love these!

It needs to rise twice before baking at 350 for 40 min.

Mine just finished cooking. The house smells great. I’m going to go enjoy a warm slice now. With honey. Mmmm.

 

Smoothie Detox/Cleanse

I wanted to do a cleanse for the New Year. But the only cleanse I’ve ever tried lasted a half day and I don’t think I’ll ever try the Master Cleanse again. I was going for something a little more pleasant this time. So I planned on doing a smoothie cleanse.

Here is my fantastic plan:

3 days of fruit/veggie smoothies plus a cooked healthy meal each day. Also, I get nuts for a snack if I’m hungry. What could be better?

Smoothie Recipes that look fabulous:Featurette.Smoothies

  1. Surf Rider

Spinach, OJ, frozen strawberries, frozen mixed berries, frozen pineapples.

This is my all-time favorite smoothie. Can’t taste the veggies. It’s healthy and easy. I suppose I should try for all organic ingredients, but we’re doing baby steps here.

2.  Crazy Sexy Goddess

“The avocado, cucumber, greens, and coconut water will shower your cells in alkalinizing goodness,” Carr says. “An alkaline inner environment helps your body’s systems operate optimally.”

Serves 2

1 avocado*
1 banana
1 cup blueberries
1 cucumber
A fistful of kale or romaine or spinach
Coconut water (or purified water)
Stevia, to taste, and/or a sprinkle of cinnamon or some cacao (optional)

*If desired, use coconut meat, raw almond butter, or nut milk in place of avocado. You can also add superfoods like cacao (to taste) and/or 1 to 2 tablespoons of E3Live.

IN a high-speed blender, blend all ingredients until smooth.

Source: Kris Carr, Crazy Sexy Kitchen

3.  Blended Zen From Lacyyoung.com

Ingredients
• 1 Ripe Avocado
• 1 Cucumber
• GIANT handful of Spinach
• 1 Banana, *Frozen
• 1 Pear, *Frozen
• 1 Cup Coconut Milk
• 1/2 Cup Coconut Water
• 1 Teaspoon Honey (if desired)

Here is a great link to all sorts of smoothies at Prevention.com

The best ideas I found were from this Superhero for a gentle cleanse.

I loved how gentle the whole thing is, with snacks and a real meal. Water is the answer to the problems of the universe. At least that’s roughly how Anne Lamott put it. So drink lots of water. Always.

For a day or two before the cleanse, Andrea Scher at superherolife.com says eat less or cut out:

Chocolate (what?)
Caffeine
Sugar
Red Meat
Alcohol
Dairy
Highly refined or processed foods
Binge eating

For healthy meal ideas while you’re having your super healthy cleansing post-holiday week, I found these two amazing looking meals at lacyyoung.com:

Roasted Sweet Potato & Black Bean Salad

Roasted Sweet Potato & Black Bean Salad
photo by Lacy Young

Ingredients
• 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks, approx 1″
• 1 large onion, chopped  – I used sweet onion, but red would work well
• 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 1/2 teaspoon salt + pepper, to taste
• 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
• 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 (14oz) can of black beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped

Optional
• red bell pepper, chopped

peel & chop sweet potatoes. Place with onions on baking sheet then drizzle with a Tbs olive oil. Toss with hands, sprinkle salt & pepper. Bake 30 min at 400 F. Stir halfway thru to ensure even cooking. Remove from oven when golden and keep warm on covered baking sheet.

Dressing: mix 2 Tbs olive oil, salt, garlic, fresh lime juice, cilantro & cumin in small bowl.

Toss roasted sweet potatoes, onions, black beans in large bowl then pour dressing in and mix well. Best served warm.

Makes about 4 servings

PRINT Recipe from withstyleandgraceblog.com

Red & White Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad

Ingredients
• 1/2 cup white (original) quinoa
• 1/2 cup red quinoa
• 1 1/2 cups water
• 3 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice or lime juice
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
• 3/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
• 1/4 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
• 6-8 scallions, white part and light green sections, finely chopped
• 1 red or orange bell pepper, chopped
• 1 cup cucumber, diced
• 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

So far, I’m still in the planning stage of my cleanse. I’m warming up. I’m making smoothies, but I have to go grocery shopping for more ingredients. Also, I didn’t want to start until after my girls night out tonight.

I have this weird mental thing. When I start doing something quite a bit healthier than usual, I sort of need to blow it up a little too. So yesterday I took my boys on a bike ride … to McDonald’s. I bought the first happy meal of my life. I had a bite of their burgers and it tasted like flavored plastic, even the pickle was gross. Then we kept riding, to 7-Eleven. And we got Slurpees. That’s kind of like a smoothie, right? What’s wrong with me?

It’s like that when I first start running or exercising again. If I go on a great jog, I later have to balance that out with some wonderful dessert or four. It’s a mental thing. I’ll forgive myself for this and just continue to try and make the healthiest choices more often.