November 30, 2015

Pears for Healthy Digestion

Dry weather and oily, rich winter foods can cause constipation, gas and bloating. If your digestion suffers in the winter because the air is so dry and the meals are heavier, pears are a perfect antidote.

Pears are loaded with flavonols, plant nutrients that provide anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant support. They are high in pectin, a sugar loaded with galacturonic acid, which coats and soothes the intestines to reduce symptoms of heartburn, ulcers, GERD, acid reflux, and colitis. Pear fibers bind with bile acid in the intestines, making them soothing and easily digestible. They are an important part of a low-allergy diet and. In my native Italy, they are one of the first foods given to infants.

These recipes also feature cardamom and olive oil, both of which support digestion in crucial ways.

Cardamom is a fragrant and floral spice native to Southeast Asia that reduces gas and bloating. Its warming and soothing quality makes it a perfect pairing to pears.

Olive oil is a polyunsaturated fat that hails from various parts of the world, including Greece, Syria, and Italy. First cold press olive oil is high in anti-inflammatory polyphenols, which reduce risk of heart disease, maintain a balanced cholesterol profile, and reduce the overgrowth of ulcer-inducing helicobacter pylori bacteria in the intestines. 

Pear, Almond, and Chocolate Muffins


These delicious muffins are more like dessert. They are gluten-free, (almost) dairy-free, and free of refined cane/beet sugar (adapted from the Five and Spice blog).

You will need:
2 cups almond flour (I like Bob's Red Mill brand or you can make your own in a food processor)
½ cup rolled oats (replace this with more almond flour if you want grain-free muffins)
a pinch of sea salt
½ teaspoon each: nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
½ cup chopped dark chocolate
1 small pear, diced into little pieces

Heat your oven to 375 degrees and grease a muffin pan with olive oil.

In a medium bowl, stir together the almond flour, oats, spices, and salt.
Make a well in the center of the dry mix and add the maple, oil, coconut milk, vanilla, and egg. 

Whisk these together and then fold dry ingredients into wet until mostly smooth and fully combined.
Add the chopped chocolate and pear at the end. 

Spoon the batter into muffin tins, filling each cup almost to the top.

Bake until brown and a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean, 15-18 minutes. 
Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan before removing and serving.

These muffins are best eaten the day they are made.

Pear Almond Cake


This light, fluffy tart is a wonderful brunch addition or a simple treat to serve at the end of a holiday meal.

You will need:
2 cups almond flours
1/2 cup oat flour (buy flour or make it by grinding rolled oats in your blender or food processor)
a pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon each: cinnamon and cardamom
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 egg
1 pound Anjou pears
lemon juice and water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 9 inch pie plate or cast iron skillet with olive oil.

Slice pears in half, core them, and then slice each half into about 3 smaller slices.
Place these slices them in a bowl of lemon juice and water to keep them from browning. Set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together flours and spices. 
Make a well in the center and add the rest of the ingredients, minus the pears. Whisk these together, then incorporate them with the dry ingredients. 

Pour batter into greased pan.
Pat pears dry and arrange them in a circle over the batter.

Bake for 25 minutes and cool for 10 minutes before serving.


Would you like to learn more about which foods are ideal for you? 

November 25, 2015

Vegetarian Thanksgiving

Trust me, I am a lover of turkey. We have the honor of roasting a bird raised by our friends at Tangletown Farm. These turkeys are a heritage breed that only feeds on grass - they are delicious. 

However, it can be nice to have an alternative to the sedating effects of the tryptophan in turkey. Here are some protein-rich vegetarian ideas for the feast.

Lentil Millet Loaf


You will need:
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, ground
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 large carrot, grated
2 celery ribs, diced
2 cups cooked lentils
1 cup cooked millet
1/4 cup vegetable broth, as needed
1/2 teaspoon each: sage, rosemary, thyme

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil a loaf pan or 8x8 square baking pan with olive oil.

Grind the sunflower seeds into a coarse meal using a food processor or spice/coffee grinder. Place in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Sauté vegetables in the olive oil for 5 minutes. Add to the large mixing bowl along with all the remaining ingredients. Mix and mash together well, adding only as much liquid as needed to create a soft, moist loaf that holds together and is not runny. Add more ground sunflower seeds if the loaf seems too wet.

Press mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes.
Let the loaf cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes, then turn out onto a plate or platter and slice.

Leftover slices of make a great sandwich filling.

Lentil Squash Soup


You will need:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 teaspoon each: salt, black pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cinnamon
1 medium butternut squash, baked
1 cup dried green lentils, rinsed and boiled
1 cup kale or Swiss chard, chopped

Preheat oven to 375. Place the squash on a cookie sheet in the oven and bake it for 1 hour, or until it is soft when you cut through it with a knife.

Meanwhile, rinse the lentils and bring them to a boil in a sauce pot with 3 cups water. Reduce heat to simmer, skim off any foam that rises, and simmer for 30 minutes.
Rinse, drain, and set aside.

Now, chop vegetables.
Heat olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add diced yellow onion and vinegar and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add diced carrots, celery, and spices. Sauté until vegetables are just tender, about 5 minutes.
Add cooked lentils and 3 cups water.

Bring to a boil, reduce to low, and cook, covered, while you peel and de-seed the squash.
Once it’s peeled and de-seeded, add the squash to the pot.

Add the kale or Swiss chard.
Simmer for 15 more minutes.

Pumpkin Cashew Soup


Watch this simple video to learn how to make it!

November 19, 2015

Healthy Eating Guide and Recipes

As the days grow shorter and we spend more time inside, it's important to focus on healthy eating as preventive care. This is also a great time to enjoy foods that promote mental health. Here are some healthy eating guidelines to keep in mind.

Healthy Eating Guidelines


Eat 90% of your food to nourish your body and 10% just for fun.
Your eating doesn't have to be perfect, just look for progress!

Eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day. Eat between 9 and 12 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Fresh fruits and vegetables are loaded with enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and important phytonutrients such as carotenoids and bioflavonoids that protect us from cancer, heart disease, and most other chronic degenerative illnesses. Fruits and vegetables also provide us with fiber.

Choose organic and/or local foods whenever possible. The average American eats a pound pesticides each year, which can stimulate the growth of cancer cells. Organic and pesticide-free foods have higher levels of nutrients because organic farmers pay more attention to their animals' health and to their soils. Also, the mineral levels in local and organic food are twice as high, on average, as commercially grown foods.

Try to eat foods that are in season. They usually have the highest nutrient content and the greatest enzyme activity. Eat foods that will spoil. This insures that the food still has life in it. Packaged foods lack this nutrient-rich vitality.

Increase high-fiber foods--if you can tolerate them. Try to consume 20-30 grams of fiber daily. Richest sources are whole grains (brown rice, bulghur, millet, buckwheat, rye, barley, spelt, oats, quinoa), legumes, vegetables and fruits. Fiber protects our colon health, and reduces our risk or colon and breast cancer.

Eat high quality fats. Fats found in avocados, fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines), nuts and seeds, organic coconut oil and olive oil all provide essential fatty acids. These crucial nutrients reduce inflammation, calm the nervous system, and improve joint motility. 

Eat breakfast! This practice jump-starts your metabolism so you feel more energized, digest better, and use your calories for energy instead of storing them as fat.


Try these high fiber recipes.

Here are some delicious desserts made with high quality fats and alternative sweeteners.

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November 13, 2015

Freezable Meals

I so appreciate all who comment on these posts and make requests for more. Your feedback lets me know that this information is useful and allows me to learn how I can best be of service to you.
Thank you!

Based on requests, here are ideas for meals you can prepare in advance and freeze to have on hand in a pinch. Because we are pregnant, I am starting to freeze meals for the time after the birth. Whether or not you are expecting, this practice is a great way to incorporate healthy food into your diet no matter the circumstances.

Holiday time often gets full, and there's not always time to cook whole grains, mineral-rich vegetables, and nourishing proteins. By preparing this dishes ahead of time and enjoying them during the holidays, you will feel better, help ward off the cold and flu, and enjoy your down time more.

To start, get all the ingredients for two or three of these dishes. Have enough containers to store all the food in the freezer. Set aside two hours of time where you will not be interrupted, Invite a friend or a family member to cook with you if you like. Put on music and make it fun!

When you freeze, make appropriate portions. If a meal serves four and there are two of you, split it into two containers. Fill containers three quarters full so that they have room to expand once they freeze. Once you are done, label containers with the contents and date. I like using masking tape and a permanent marker.

Remember to make a list of what's in the freezer and tack it onto the fridge. This way, you will remember to eat these healthy delights! The night before you wan to eat them, remove from freezer and place in the fridge to thaw.

Chicken and Quinoa Soup


You will need:
2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
1 pound free-range chicken, with bones
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch fresh ginger root, chopped
2 cups chard or kale, chopped
1 teaspoon each: coriander, cumin, oregano and salt
4 cups water
1 cup quinoa
juice of 1 lemon to finish

In a soup pot, sauté onion and leek for 15 minutes on medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until they start to brown.

Splash with apple cider vinegar.

Add the chicken and sauté on medium high heat, stirring constantly with a metal spatula, until chicken is cooked through - about 25 minutes depending on the cut.

Add the celery, carrots, garlic, ginger, and spices. Stir well.
Add the chard, quinoa and water. Bring to a boil.

Reduce to simmer, cook for 15 minutes, and stir in lemon juice.

Cool and store in portion-sized containers. This soup is a complete meal and serves four. 

Chicken Breasts Baked in Rosemary Lemon Sauce


You will need:
6 medium chicken breasts with skin
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon each: black pepper and salt
2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup almond or cow milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place chicken in an oiled baking dish.

Whisk all ingredients together. Pour over chicken.

Bake skin side up 25- 30 minutes or until cooked through.

Freeze with wild rice pilaf in labeled, portion-sized containers.

Wild Rice Pilaf with Onions, Almonds and Peas


You will need:
1 cup wild rice blend
1 ½ cups long grain brown rice
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon brown mustard
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon each: black pepper and salt
1 onion, chopped
1 ½ cups peas, fresh or frozen
½ cup organic almonds

Cook rice in 5 cups water or stock. Add a pinch of salt as rice cooks.

Meanwhile, chop onion and cook in olive oil in a deep skillet. Add water to prevent sticking.

Add salt, pepper, coriander and mustard. Stir well, close with a lid, and cook on medium low heat for 15 minutes, or until golden.

Once rice is cooked and onion is golden, mix them together. Add peas and almonds.
Stir well to incorporate. 

Freeze with chicken breasts.

Aloo Saag - India-Inspired Potatoes and Spinach


You will need:
4 medium white or red potatoes, boiled until just fork tender
2 teaspoons coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cumin
5 tablespoons olive or sunflower oil
1 pound fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

Boil the potatoes whole. Run them under cold water once they are cooked.

Then, cut the potatoes into small wedges.

Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
When hot, add the potatoes and fry until they are golden brown, gently stirring often, about 10 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the spices.
Stir in the spinach a few handfuls at a time, until each handful is slightly wilted.

Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid, stir in the salt and cook for another 5 minutes or until most of the liquid from the spinach has evaporated.

Serve with red lentils but freeze separately.

Red Lentils in a Spiced Sauce


You will need:
2 cups cooked red lentils
1 large yellow onion
1 bunch kale or collards, chopped
1/3 cup olive or sunflower oil
2 Tablespoons lime or lemon juice
1 teaspoon each: turmeric, cumin and coriander powders
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Salt to taste

Bring lentils to a boil with 4 cups water. 

Skim off any foam that rises to the top and then cook for 30 minutes, or until they are reduced to a soft paste.

Meanwhile, chop onions.
Heat olive oil in large skillet.

Add the spices, stir and sauté on low heat for 2 minutes.
Add onions, stir, and raise heat to high for 2 minutes.
Add lime juice, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Chop greens and ginger. Add to skillet. Add water if onions are sticking to the bottom.

Add the cooked red lentils and ½ cup water. Cover and cook for ½ hour more. 
Freeze separately from aloo saag. Reheat separately and serve together.

November 4, 2015

Coconut Milk Brownies

Last night, I attended a pot luck and, as usual, decided to create an experimental dessert without following a recipe. I love the mystery and delight that arise through this creative process.

I knew that some of the potluck attendees are gluten-free and dairy-free. Others prefer not to eat any refined beet / cane sugar. I wanted to keep the ingredients list simple, so I created this recipe.

The more you cook without recipes, the more you will understand which ingredients combine best. Keep experimenting! Try these brownies and let me know what you think. The beauty is that they only contain 5 ingredients, most of which you may already have in your pantry.

Coconut Milk Brownies


You will need:
1 can organic coconut milk, full fat
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups brown rice flour
2 eggs
1 cup maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Blend all ingredients with an immersion or upright blender.
Oil a glass baking dish or pie plate with coconut or sunflower oil.
Pour batter into it and bake for 35 minutes.
Cool, slice, and enjoy!



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