June 26, 2012

Summer Healing Spices


Tap into how you are feeling and cook with these when you can!

Basil  - anti-bacterial, anti-spasmodic, digestive, galactagogue, tonic and aromatic. Contains orientin and vicenin, two water-soluble flavonoids, which both stimulate growth of white blood cells and protect cell structures as well as chromosomes from radiation and oxygen-based damage. Basil’s volatile oils, which contain estragole, linalool, cineole, eugenol, sabinene, myrcene, and limonene, protect against unwanted bacterial growth of pathogens such as: Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Yersinia enterocolitica, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Essential oil of basil, obtained from its leaves, has demonstrated the ability to inhibit several species of pathogenic bacteria that have become resistant to commonly used antibiotic drugs.

Peppermint – stomachic, and cooling, it relieves indigestion, dyspepsia, and colonic muscle spasms by relaxing the smooth muscle tissue of the intenstines. Essential oil of peppermint also stops the growth of many different bacteria, including: Helicobacter pylori, Salmonella enteritidis, Escherichia coli, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Peppermint contains rosmarinic acid, which helps open bronchial passageways and reduce the effects of allergy-induced cold symptoms.
 
Parsley – depurative, anti-dandruff, digestive, emmenagogue, expectorant, odontalgic, stomachic, and tonic. rich in Vitamin C to decrease inflammation, beta carotene to help prevent infection and strengthen immunity, and folic acid (B vitamin) to support cardiovascular health. The activity of pasley's volatile oils qualifies it as a "chemoprotective" food that can help neutralize particular types of carcinogens as well as ease the burn of insect bites and stings.

Rosemary – antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, cardiac, carminative, diaphoretic, nervine, and ophthalmic. Contains rosmarinic acid, which stimulates the immune system, increases circulation, and improves digestion. Anti-inflammatory, digestive, and aromatic, the potent herb both aids in digesting fats and decreases the risk of infection from contaminated foods. It increases circulation, specifically to the head and brain, thus improving concentration.

Sage – antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, galactofuge, vasodilator, tonic, cholagogue, and astringent. Improves memory by decreasing the growth of neurovascular plaque in the brain. Soothes the digestive tract, dries excess mucus from all membranes, and provides crucial phytonutrients which counteract the effects of oxidation, not only in human blood but also in cooking oils and nuts.
 
Thyme – anthelmintic, antiseptic, deodorant, diaphoretic, disinfectant, expectorant, sedative, tonic, repellent, and fungicidal. Contains thymol and other volatile oils, which have antimicrobial activity against bacteria and fungi such as: Staphalococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli and Shigella sonnei. Helps preserve foods and protect them from microbial contamination. Thymol helps increase the percentage of healthy fats, such as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid) in brain, kidney, and heart cell membranes.

June 13, 2012

Summer foods to savor and share

Summer solstice is just one week away, bringing the sun's culmination and the longest day. Pause and reflect on all that has transpired since spring

Seeds planted by birds, farmers' hands, and our intentions have begun to germinate. Summer's expansive energy helps prepare these seeds to grow strong and healthy. 

Try these recipes to celebrate summer and share food with friends. Take them on a picnic or a camp-out!

Strawberry Pea Salad with Mint Vinaigrette

For the salad:
1 cup sugar snap peas
2 cups strawberries
2 cups salad greens

For the vinaigrette:
4 Tablespoons good olive oil or local sunflower oil
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 handful freshly chopped mint
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse peas and strawberries. Break the tips off the peas and remove the strings. Place them in your serving bowl.
Cut tops off of strawberries and slice them into the bowl.
Add salad greens and mix everything together.

In a pint-sized mason jar, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Pour over salad and allow to marinate for 15 minutes at room temperature or up to 2 hours in the refrigerator before serving.

Garnish with goat cheese if you like.

***

Pinto Bean Cornbread Casserole

You will need:
1 Tablespoon sunflower oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium zucchini, chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked pinto beans
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 teaspoon each: cumin, chipotle powder, oregano, coriander
1/2 teaspoon each: salt, black pepper
1/2 pound fresh spinach
1 cup coarsely ground cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Heat the oil in a deep, round cast iron skillet on medium-high heat.
Add the onion and cook until soft, about 7 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
Add zucchini and cook for 10 more minutes, until soft.
Add the cooked pinto beans, corn, spices, and 1/2 cup water.
Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and cook for 15 more minutes.
Add spinach, cook 2 minutes or until wilted, and turn off heat.

Meanwhile, in a separate pot, heat 3 cups water. When boiling, add 1/2 teaspoon salt and whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently.

Pour the cornmeal mixture on top of the bean mixture in the skillet and spread it out in one even layer. Bake for 30 minutes. Yum!

***

Chocolate Pecan Cake with Coconut Frosting

For the cake batter, melt these ingredients over low heat in a small pot or double boiler:
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
4 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ripe, mashed banana
4 Tablespoons maple syrup
Pecan Tree Flowering
1/3 cup unsweetened almond or rice milk

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk together: 
1/4 cup coconut flour (I like Bob's Red Mill brand)
1/4 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
2 Tablespoons ground flax meal 
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Allow melted chocolate mixture to cool for 5 minutes. Then, whisk it into the rest of the batter.
Add 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar.
Pour into greased cake pan. 

Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

As cake bakes, make the coconut frosting. In a small pot, melt together:
1/4 cup coconut butter or, if you can find it, 'coconut manna' (I like Nutiva brand)
2 Tablespoons unsweetened, shredded coconut
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
4 Tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup unsweetened almond, rice or soy milk

When cake is baked, allow it to cool for 30 minutes. Drizzle icing over the top and spread gently with a knife. Allow to cool completely before serving.

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