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Month: March 2017

What makes a meal

What makes a meal

We are all striving to feel better, do better, be better, live better.  We each in our own ways have our priorities and goals aligned, and slowly but surely we are getting there.  For so many, eating better is a work in progress.  And we are so fortunate to have such amazing information at our fingertips.  The internet, facebook, pinterest…  we can find all sorts of recipes and inspirations.

But sometimes these inspirational posts and videos can also work against us.  We look at what others are doing and think our meals will never come close to that.  Sometimes the ingredients list is intimidatingly long.  Or the instructions are so complicated.  Or maybe the ingredients are so exotic we’d have to travel all over the place (and internet) just to get them.  Yes, those gorgeous pictures get me too.  (Confession- sometimes I check out cookbooks from the library just to look at the pictures… with no intention of ever making the recipes!)  But sometimes you just need to set the cookbook down, turn off the computer, and make your own meal.

So what makes a meal?  I guarantee you it’s not a complicated list of unique foods and techniques you’ve never heard of.   A meal doesn’t even have to be hot.  A meal just needs to satisfy your needs nutritionally, emotionally, and mentally.  What do I mean by that?  We’ve been trained to think a meal has to come out like it does at a restaurant.  And for those of us who are not adept at cooking, well, then we must be relegated to cereal for dinner.  Or frozen dinners.  Or take out.  Not so!

In our house, I try to make a nice dinner once a week.  We are pretty busy, going from one place to the next all the time.  We take our meals together where we can.  Breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  And on those busy, throw-a-quick-meal-together days, the only rules are “Where is your protein?  Where is your green?”  My children are so tired of hearing me ask this but I drill it into their heads day in and day out.

Building our plates can be as regimented or loose as we choose.  But we start first with a vegetable.  (I prefer green, but it’s not a hard and fast rule.)  The biggest portion should be your vegetables.  These guys are chock full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and necessary health boosting benefits.  They are your friends.  They help you function better, digest better, think better, breathe better, move better, fight cancer and other illnesses… need more?  I like to see at least half of my plate covered in vegetables.  Most of them work beautifully together, and in this house we aim for the rainbow on our plates!

Next, protein.  We don’t have to go over board here, just a modest amount is good.  The recommended amount is roughly .4g per lb of body weight.  There are some medical or extenuating circumstances that will change this, but those individuals will have been advised by their doctors if this is the case.  Protein is so important in providing nutrients such as omega fatty acids, vitamin D, iron, and all the good things that help us rebuild and repair.  This is important for day to day issues, like muscle support, but did you know it is vital in recovery from illness too?  So that’s why these too food sources are my top picks.  Of course I recommend organic, grass fed and pastured animal proteins, wild fish, and organic beans and legumes.  The beans and legumes are considered incomplete proteins, and therefor should be eaten with another incomplete protein to make them more available as protein and micronutrients in your body.  Vegetables are other incomplete proteins, so as long as you have vegetables to eat with them, you now have a better nutrient profile.  Combining them with nuts or rice will also do the trick.

Now, our healthy fats.  Avocado oil, coconut, ghee, lard or butter for cooking… olive oil as dressings or low temperature cooking… fat is flavor, fat is satiety, fat is healing.  Our brains are made from this stuff- feed your brain!  It doesn’t have to be much, but fat should be included in healthy doses every day.  What is a healthy dose?  You will know when you find your happy level.  Watch for the following signs:  improved energy throughout the day, less cravings for sugar throughout the day, less need to snack in general, improved mental functioning, improved digestion… sound good?  Right!  Fat is our friend.  How will you know when you get too much?  A quick way to tell is your digestion.  If it causes loose stools, back off a bit.  Reduce the amount until you feel good and see positive signs in your body.  For me, it took some playing around.  But my brain and digestive tract work best with a higher amount of fats in my daily diet.

Next comes a fruit.  Fruit is a tricky one.  Some people do really well with it, some don’t.  Pay attention to your body and you will soon find out which side of the fence you are on.  Fruit is natural fructose, but the body doesn’t see it differently than other sugars.  That means that fruit can still spike your blood sugars.  And that means it can create imbalances in focus, energy, hormones, digestion, and in just about every other system in your body.  Tread lightly, and focus on berries and lower glycemic index fruits, preferably local and in season.  Caveat- I do love my frozen berries.  Harvested at peak ripeness and frozen on site, they are more nutritious for us than most fresh options.  Dried fruits, by the way, are especially tricky here.  The dehydrated content of this food is even more blood sugar spiking.  We use these very sparingly.

Last?  Well, I go back to my vegetables, personally.  But for others, this is where you would enter your grains.  And of course, I prefer less inflammatory options like quinoa, amaranth, sprouted rice, and buckwheat.  My children love these, but honestly by the time they fulfill my previous requirements they are no longer needing them.  This keeps our gluten free, processed grain foods to a bare minimum.  Why is this important to me?  Because I believe there is truth behind the theory that a poorly varied diet contributes to food sensitivities.  And rice and corn, highly used gluten free substitutes, are fast rising on the allergen list.  I do occasionally indulge in the alternative grains, like lentil pasta, black bean pasta, and the like.  It makes for a special treat when the need arises.  But usually, once we have fulfilled my previous tenets, there is not really room in our stomachs for grains.

So these are my rules.  Sometimes our dinners look like beautiful, restaurant worthy plates.  Steaming hot foods that coordinate pleasingly with their herbs and spices, the kind that you want to take a picture of they are so pretty.  Yes, sometimes this is what we eat.  And then other times we eat carrots with hummus, avocados, and cold tuna salad.  Or cucumber slices with homemade mayo and deli meat.  Sometimes it’s just a random collection of things we found in the fridge.  But it always follows my basic tenets.  And if we walk away feeling satiated by the flavors, energized by the nutrients… then it was a meal.  And it was a good one.

So don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.  You do what you need to do to be healthy, and you do not worry about what your version looks like in comparison to someone else’s.  If you’re happy and you’re fulfilling your nutritional needs and wants, then you are doing well.  Congratulate yourself, you’re eating a good meal!

Everything Ahi Tuna…cabbage, and curry mayo too!

Everything Ahi Tuna…cabbage, and curry mayo too!

Today we had dinner for lunch.  One of those days- on the go, stuff to do, won’t be home later.  You know those days?  Yeah.

So for lunch, …

Seared Ahi Tuna covered in an “Everything but the Bagel” seasoning, served with roasted cabbage and curry mayonnaise.

This time of year cabbage is in abundance, and though it’s usually passed over for other more glamorous vegetables, it’s actually a stand out food all on its own!  Cabbage is a great source of vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, fiber, and B vitamins like B6 and folate.  It’s also got that magnesium we all need.  Not only that, it’s quite inexpensive in it’s humble existence.  Need more reason to love it?  It’s one of the goodies on the Clean Fifteen list, meaning it’s less likely to have been exposed to pesticides in chemicals during the growing process.  A.k.a. you can buy the conventionally grown cabbages, and not stress about it not being organic.

Needless to say, it’s been showing up in our house quite a lot these days.  Roasting the cabbage brings out a sweetness and a pretty palette satisfying crunch.  I added just a hint of garlic and cumin to the cabbage, drizzled with avocado oil, and voila- delicious!  (I did throw in some radish slices to the oven and let them roast alongside the cabbage.  I am on a radish kick these days, so they go with everything here too.)

As for the Ahi Tuna Steaks… well I owe this one to a friend.  After this seasoning showed up recently on the shelves at Trader Joes, we have found any and every reason to throw it into a meal.  So my friend’s brain child was to sear the Ahi Tuna in the Everything but the Bagel seasoning.  So very good.

No real recipes here, friends.  Just straight forward, easy cooking.  Easy peasy, but this meal makes you look like you might just know what you are doing in the kitchen.

 

 

 

The only recipe I will share here is the mayonnaise.

Homemade mayo is a staple condiment in this house.  I make the base recipe and then throw in herbs and spices according to my mood.  This week my mood said curry.  Curry spices have been a craving for me lately.  And they served me well today because they were a perfect compliment to the Tuna steaks and roasted cabbage.

 

Curry Mayonnaise

1 egg, room temperature

1 c. avocado oil

1/4 c. olive oil

fresh squeezed lime juice

1 t. turmeric

1-2t. curry seasoning

1/8t. dried garlic (or 1 clove fresh minced garlic)

sea salt, to taste

black pepper, to taste

 

  1. Allow the egg to come to room temperature.  I often pull mine out first thing in the morning, leave it to sit on the counter until afternoon, and then it’s ready.  This is an important step here- don’t skip!  Do use a high quality egg- organic, pastured, local if possible.  I use it reliably with organic, cage free as well.
  2. Crack the egg into a wide mouthed container.  I use a wide mouth pint mason jar.  Squeeze the lime juice in to the egg, then add the oils.  Follow with the listed spices.
  3. I use an immersion blender to blend everything together.  Place the immersion blender into the jar and turn on.  Blend from the bottom up to the top, moving slowly to incorporate and emulsify all ingredients.  You will see the mixture magically thicken and turn a beautiful golden hue.  When all the oil is mixed in, remove the immersion blender, cover with a lid and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour before use.  You could alternatively throw this in a blender and mix to get the same results.
Eating Real Food: Desserts and Sweets

Eating Real Food: Desserts and Sweets

 

The sweet tooth.  That’s the one that gets us after a meal, or late at night, right?  It calls to us and nags and nags.  Well, good news- there are so many real foods that can answer that sweet tooth of ours!

After years of eliminating sugar, I still look for sweets from time to time.  I usually indulge in frozen blueberries or raspberries.  Put some in a bowl and let sit for about 5 to 10 minutes.  Sprinkle with a little cinnamon and dig in!  They taste amazing in their half thawed state!

But if frozen berries aren’t quite what you are looking for, try one of these ideas and see how they do!

 

Banana Ice Cream – 10 NEW Recipes

 

Pineapple Whip

roasted strawberries and coconut cream

Healthy (ISH) Melt-In-Your-Mouth Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

Raw Brownie Bites (Vegan, Paleo)

No-Bake Pineapple Coconut Bars

Coconut Almond Bars

Quick Homemade Nutella – Just Three Ingredients! (Dairy-Free)

Paleo Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

No bake Peanut butter banana dark chocolate bites

3 Step No Bake Chocolate Coconut Cashew Bars {Vegan, Paleo}

2 Ingredient Banana Coconut Cookies

How To Make Paleo Lemon Curd

Paleo Lemon Sorbet

Gingerbread Chia Pudding (Dairy- & Gluten-Free)

 

 

 

 

 

When you lose your motivation…

When you lose your motivation…

Staying motivated can often become the true challenge.  We hear people talk about willpower, and to some degree, yes, willpower helps.  But it doesn’t boil down to just willpower.  Willpower implies just using strength to barrel through.  We can envision ourselves gritting our teeth and visibly (and uncomfortably, maybe even painfully!) struggling.  And of course the opposite implication exists, too.  If our willpower fails to get us through, then we must not be strong enough.  We must be weak. It’s just not the case.

Willpower is a real thing, and we all have it.  I think we just have been using the wrong definition.  I prefer the saying, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

Mindset is key.  Positivity, hope, faith.  When we want something, we have the will to work for it.  Some days more than others.  But it is always there as long as that goal is in our minds.  It is the power of our will that helps us find the way.  And for some, maybe that is gritting our teeth and barreling through.  But that’s not the only way to achieve something.  Ever hear “slow and steady wins the race”?  Right!  The power of our will comes in all forms.  And as long as our goal exists, we can use that to motivate ourselves to get there.

When it comes to food and health, I find it helpful to remind myself why I am doing this.  For some of us we want visible results.  But for many of us we want inner health and wellbeing too.  That can be a challenging goal because we just can’t see what is happening inside our bodies.  When we eat that nutritious meal we know we have done well, but we can’t see how it begins to heal and repair our inner workings.  Of course it’s a process that happens gradually, and progressively, over time, so where is our instant gratification?  The reverse here is true too.  When we eat that junk food, we know the satisfying sensation of the taste, but we can’t see our inner workings and how it is hurting us.  This is where the hard work comes in.  This is where we have to use our minds.

  • Remind yourself why you are on this path in the first place.
  • Remind yourself how far you have already come.
  • If you stopped now, what would you gain by stopping?
  • How would you feel if you gave up on your goal?
  • Envision yourself working through this positively.  Now how do you feel?
  • Is there some other reason you are feeling tired, unmotivated, or wanting to quit?  (Stress, emotions, frustration?)

These are all important questions to ask yourself.  We are human, and from the beginning we equate nourishment with emotion.  We all consider ourselves emotional eaters in some form, and I believe it is important to acknowledge this.  Food does sometimes provide more than fuel, like it or not.  The trick is which foods are we allowing to comfort us?

There are some fun and interesting ways to find your motivation again.  Sometimes you need a change of scenery.

  • Try a new recipe.
  • Shop at a new grocery store.
  • Splurge a little and treat yourself to a nice cut of meat or fish, a spice, or a cooking indulgence you wouldn’t normally.
  • If you’re seeking sweet, find something that accommodates that desire but still meets your nutrition goals.
  • Change up your flavors!  Herbs and spices are our best friends!
  • Call a friend.  Talk it out, make a lunch date, swap a dinner.  Mostly, have fun!

But above all else, stay positive.  This is about you, and you are the only one in charge of you.  You are worth the extra work and effort, and you deserve to feel good and be healthy in life.  One step at a time, you are getting there.  If you take a misstep, no big deal.  Just fix it, get right back on your road, and right back on your way.

 

12 Times Makes a Habit

12 Times Makes a Habit


Have you ever heard this phrase?  Someone told me this years ago, and I have forever cemented it in to my brain.  There’s no scientific basis for this, and it may very likely have no foundation whatsoever!  But every time I start something new, every time I struggle to make it happen, I remind myself “12 times makes a habit.”  It is a reminder to myself that it takes time to learn something new.  It’s a reminder to be gentle on myself while I am making this change.

Today is March 12, and today is the 12th day of the Eat Real Food Challenge.  Today marks 12 days in a row of new choices, new thought patterns, new lifestyles.  While to us our daily actions may seem insignificant, know that they most certainly are not.  Every little choice is a ripple in what will later become a large wave.   What you do today will change your tomorrow.

So when you are finding it a challenge to keep with your goals, remind yourself that change is hard work.  And sometimes we can keep on it, and we feel proud of ourselves.  But sometimes we fall back in to old patterns and habits.  Don’t beat yourself up about it.  Instead, remind yourself that every day you have the choice to choose something new.  And even when we take a step backwards, it’s ok.  Because this time we remembered that maybe that wasn’t the choice we wanted to make.  And that little thought right there, that was your sign of positive change.  Take comfort and pride in the fact that even though your old habits may still exist, new habits and reactions are in fact alive and strong in your brain.

No one is asking for perfection here, and no one is expected to be perfection.  Learning comes in many forms, in many disguises.  It’s been 12 days friends, and you have learned new habits.  Keep going, keep trying, keep learning.  And don’t stop until you are proud.

Real Food- Chips Edition!

Real Food- Chips Edition!

Chips.  Salty, crunchy, and satisfyingly good.  It’s that perfect combination of texture, flavor, and of course, the fact that they serve as a great vehicle for dips and salsas!  I love my chips, and growing up, chips and salsa were served every night while dinner was being prepared.  Now, as an adult, sometimes chips and salsa are served for dinner.  (I feel the salsa meets the dinner requirements, really.  It is composed of vegetables, after all- right?)

But these chips really have been a downfall for me.  I abuse them.  I eat them in place of more nutritious foods, and I eat them more than I need to.  And indulgence is good, but a routine?  No.  They’re filling my plate where vegetables and proteins should be.  So they’ve been gone for me this month.  And guess what?  I’m still here!  I’m surviving.  And not only that, I actually feel better without them.  I will still have them from time to time, but they will no longer hold such a place of esteem in my pantry.

Remember that while chips are made from whole foods, like potatoes, corn, or even root vegetables, there are bigger problems involved.  The chips on the shelf of grocery stores often use less than quality ingredients.  Potatoes and corn are high offenders in the GMO world, but it is easy to find non GMO and organic options these days.  How about the oils used?  Are they the best oils for the job?  Many brands use safflower, sunflower, or canola oil to fry the chips.  I have found a few chip companies that use coconut oil for chips, but they’re pretty cost prohibitive at this point.  But even if we find the perfect list of ingredients, remember this- these foods are mass produced.  Real foods cannot be mass produced.  Real foods come in limited quantities.  (Or they should anyway!)

Fortunately, there are many options to more positively supply my crunchy, salty, dip-providing cravings.  You can make your own “chips” easily if you have an oven or a dehydrator.  The process is so simple, and it’s so much healthier for you.  And when we make our own, they are inherently self limiting.  The amounts we make at home will be more appropriate to what intake should be, both from quantity of ingredient standpoint and work involved standpoint.

I’ve gathered some recipes here that will definitely satisfy that chip craving.  Here, most recipes use the oven, but a dehydrator can be used instead.  If it’s a dehydrator recipe, follow the same steps but place in the oven at a low temperature.  I usually set it to the lowest possible degree (around 170) and let it go throughout the day.  Please substitute oils for more appropriate choices where necessary.

But mostly, enjoy!

Baked Sea Salt and Pepper Potato Chips

 

Homemade Baked Sweet Potato Chips

 

 

Easy Paleo Plantain Chips

Baked Beet Chips

Baked Butternut Squash Chips

Baked Zucchini Chips

Coconut Garlic Kale Chips

Sea Salt & Lime Spinach Chips

Tomato Chips!

Crispy Prosciutto Chips

Healthy Baked Carrot Chips

Homemade Apple Chips

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Healthy Oils and How to Use Them

Healthy Oils and How to Use Them

Oils and fats are a hot topic these days, and a confusing one at that!  How do you know which oil is better, and how should you be using it?  Well I am going to tell you my favorite picks.

First, a little science behind it to enlighten us for future purchases.  Fat chains are fat molecules connected together.  Some fat chains are long and thin, and as a result, delicate.   Others are short and bunched together solidly.  Those guys?  Hardy.  Some are in the middle.  The chains are important distinctions, because they predict how these molecules will act under certain circumstances.  The first group includes vegetable oils, such as canola oil, and contain low amounts of saturated fats, medium levels of  monounsaturated fats, and higher numbers of polyunsaturated fats.  The second group includes fats from animal proteins, such as lard, and contain more saturated fats and monounsaturated fats, but less polyunsaturated fats.  The middle group includes avocado oils, olive oils, and is more composed of monounsaturated oils overall.

So why is this important?  Under heat and cooking, these fat molecules begin to change, and sometimes, weaken.  If they break down completely, they release toxins in to our bodies, which we affectionately call free radicals.  These radicals wreak havoc in our bodies.  It’s like when our dog gets out the front door and makes a run through the neighborhood!  Yeah, that’s these guys.  If we don’t rein them in they cause damage, getting in to things they shouldn’t, maybe dragging out our trash, or causing trouble in other yards and neighborhoods!  We have to get these radicals back inside, or better yet, prevent them from getting out in the first place.

Those long, thin delicate molecule chains are the first to break loose.  Canola oil and safflower or sunflower oils are low in saturated fats, yes, which everyone loves to focus on.  But the truth is, these guys need those saturated fats to withstand chemical changes from heat and pressure.  Those villainous saturated fats (can you read my sarcasm here?) we love to hate actually work hard to keep their chains in tight form.  They are strong!  They are sturdy!  They are good under heat and pressure.  These fats with a higher saturated fat content actually are better oils to use because they are less likely to go haywire in our bodies.

So when it comes to my choice of oils and how I use them, my top pick right now is avocado oil.  Man, is this oil fantastic! It’s clean, low pesticide residue, and unlikely to be GMO.  It’s high heat stable, up to 500 degrees, so I use this one for wok cooking and roasting.  I cook my eggs in it every morning too!  How does it taste?  Like nothing.  No real flavor, completely mild oil so it’s perfect for many things.   You get all the protective benefits of avocados here too. Bonus points- it works beautifully in baking recipes as a substitute for other fats and oils.

 

Next up would be coconut oil.  Now this one is not as high heat stable as avocado oil, so I reserve it for 350-385 degrees or less.  Reports can be confusing, some saying it can be used at higher temps, but I err on the side of caution.  It has that characteristic coconut flavor, so as you can imagine, it’s not appropriate in every recipe.  I do use it often in baking, or for roasting potatoes.  It adds a lovely sweetness to your foods.
Lard is another fat I like to use.  I will recommend this one with caveats, however.  I do not advocate lard purchased from the store.  Most of these lards are rendered from animals raised in conventional farming standards.  Their diets are not natural and not aimed at proper nutritional needs, therefore these animals are not the healthiest they should be.  We are what we eat, after all.  So lard rendered from unhealthy animals will thus be unhealthy as well.  You may remember that I prefer to purchase my pork direct from a farmer using traditional farming practices.  I purchase the fat from these animals and render my own lard as well.  It’s actually a very easy and economical practice.  Plus it makes this beautiful jar of pristine white lard.  So how do I use lard?  It’s high heat stable to 465 degrees.  I like this one for cooking, sautéing, roasting, and baking.

 

Where’s olive oil, you say?  Don’t worry, I love olive oil too.  But!  I don’t cook with it.  Olive oil is only high heat stable to 325 or so, especially the extra virgin olive oils.  They have wonderful health benefits though, so I reserve these for making dressings and sauces.  I really don’t heat them through cooking or baking.  There are so many varieties of olive oil with a wide array of flavors that they make perfect dressing bases, giving a delicious flavor profile to our recipes.

 

Other fats I use include butter and ghee.  Butter is loved in our household, and has such a rich depth of flavor to it.  It just makes everything better!  I do bake with butter, when I am baking for those without dairy intolerances.  Ghee is simply clarified butter.  This is butter that has been heated until the solids separate from the liquids, and then are skimmed and separated.  This removes the milk proteins from the butter and leaves a gorgeous yellow butter more suitable for those who normally do not tolerate butter.  Why do I like butter?  Aside from the flavor of course, it is rich in vitamins D and K.  These important guys go a long way in boosting our health, supporting systems such as skeletal, cardiovascular, immune, and even neurological mechanisms.  So yeah, they are kind of important!  Again, source is important.  I use grass fed butter and ghee.  This ensures the maximum amount of nutrition for the cows, and therefore us, who so thoughtfully provide us with the dairy to make our butter.

 

 

I am a sucker for fancy things, so on occasion I use walnut oil, hazelnut or macadamia oils, and of course we can’t forget sesame oil.  But just like olive oils, I really reserve these oils for dressings and last minute additions.  I get the flavor boost but forego damage to the molecules through heating.

 

And an important note to consider is that I am not just referring to heat happening during cooking.  (Because I can see you thinking, I’ll just use these unsaturated fat oils for other things, like dressings.)  No, no, no.  Just the process of making the oils creates a fair amount of heat.  The pressure of grinding alone can do this.  These oils are just better off not used.  And if you have them in your pantry, now is a good time to just go ahead and get rid of them.  They are generally inexpensive, grown en masse, and under less than natural circumstances.  Canola oil, peanut oil, soybean oil- those are high high high on the GMO list.  This free radical activity released through improper temperatures and treatment is what contributes to so many degenerative and chronic diseases.  Short term use that equals long term effects?  Just not worth it.

What is worth it?  Investing in you by using quality ingredients, and using them well.  Look for brands you can trust, and apply the rule of organic or grass fed where appropriate.  Then cook and enjoy with the reassurance that you’re doing your body and your tastebuds a favor!

Pork Roll in a Bowl with Hot Green Pepper Drizzle

Pork Roll in a Bowl with Hot Green Pepper Drizzle

For a while now I have been seeing Pork Roll in a Bowl recipes floating around the internet.  With cabbage in season, I decided it was time to give it a try.  We’re not big cabbage eaters, except for the occasional sauerkraut kicks we go on.  But seeing it in the stores had it on my mind.

This recipe is surprisingly easy and amazingly satisfying.  Someone in my household might have declared it her new birthday meal.  Which is months away, by the way.  So yeah, pretty good.

For my pescatarian friends, substitute the pork with shrimp.  And my Vegetarian buddies, skip the fish sauce and pork, and load up with additional seasonal vegetables- carrots, green onions, daikon radish, and maybe some adzuki beans!

 

Pork Roll in A Bowl

1T. avocado oil

1 lb ground pork, pasture raised

1/2 head of green cabbage, finely shredded

1 small onion, finely sliced.

3 cloves garlic, diced

3-5 radishes, finely chopped

2t. fish sauce

2T. coconut aminos

2T. sesame oil

Toasted black sesame seeds

Hot Pepper Drizzle, recipe to follow

  1. Heat a large, deep sided skillet with avocado oil.  Sautee the ground pork until just done.

  2. Stir in the cabbage, onion, and radish shreds.  Pour in the fish sauce, coconut aminos, and stir thoroughly until all ingredients are incorporated.

  3. When the dish is close to complete, add the garlic.  Give it a good stir and allow it to meld together.

  4. At the end, drizzle the sesame oil over the top and mix well.

  5. To serve, place in a dish and sprinkle the toasted black sesame seeds and Hot Pepper Drizzle on top!  Enjoy!

 

Hot Green Pepper Drizzle

4-6 Green Finger Peppers, stems removed

1/2c. olive oil

2-3 cloves garlic, diced

sea salt, to taste

  1. Chop your peppers and set in the food processor.

  2. Puree the peppers, slowly adding the oil until they begin to mix well.

  3. Add the garlic and salt and incorporate.

  4. Process until you reach a consistency you like.  (*I prefer a rougher texture, so I left my peppers small but still visible.)

Spinach and Red Pepper Quiche with Spaghetti Squash Crust

Spinach and Red Pepper Quiche with Spaghetti Squash Crust

Spaghetti squash is such a versatile squash and in this household we eat it quite often.  Often we just cook it and use it as a noodle substitute, but this time I wanted to try something new and different.  Someone told me recently that it works well in baking recipes, substituting the squash in place of flour.  Intrigued, I immediately searched for recipes.

A spaghetti squash crust?  That sounded great!  I see a lot of potential for this because depending on your flavorings, it has so much variety to offer.  You could make it savory like I did, adding any variety of herbs and spices.  But it could easily become a sweeter version of a breakfast or dessert option.  Throw in some cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, or honey and you’re set!  For us this quiche is a breakfast, lunch, or dinner choice.  It reheats well and is easily transported for lunches and snacks on the go.

Using the squash as a base boosts your antioxidant intake, loads you up with vitamin C, doesn’t fill you up with unnecessary bulk nor leave you feeling heavy.  I was concerned about the liquid content of the squash but that was not a problem.  It did take a while to bake, so you could add a step to drain any excess liquid from the squash before lining your pie dish.  All in all, this was a win for us and we will be keeping it in our recipe rotation.

Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed!

Spinach and Red Pepper Quiche in a Spaghetti Squash Crust 

Ingredients:

1 small to medium sized spaghetti squash

6 large eggs

1/4c. milk or milk alternative (we used coconut milk)

1/4 c. spinach, raw or frozen, chopped

1/2 red belle pepper, chopped

1 garlic clove, finely minced

1 T. avocado oil

1/4 t. dried garlic powder

sea salt

black pepper

1/2 t. thyme

1/4 t. oregano

  1. Wash and clean spaghetti squash.  Slice in half and bake in preheated oven at 375 for 20-30 minutes, until cooked.  Alternatively, I used my Instant Pot.  I placed the squash on the steaming rack inside the pot, added 1 cup of water and sealed the lid.  Be sure to change the dial to seal.  Set the Instant Pot to Manual, use the arrow buttons to adjust the time to 20 minutes, and press the Manual button again.  When the timer goes off, release the pressure by turning the dial to vent.  When done, open the lid and remove the squash.  Allow to cool.

  2. Once cooled, scoop the squash into a bowl and mix with sea salt, black pepper, and garlic.  Line your pie dish with avocado oil.  Place the squash mixture into the pie pan pressing down with your fingers as you go.  Work it all the way around until you have a nice crust for your quiche.  Place to the side.

  3. Preheat the oven to 425.

  4. In a medium sized pan, place 1T. avocado oil and allow to warm on medium high heat.  Sauté the red peppers until the begin to soften.  Add the garlic, spinach, thyme and oregano at the end and continue to sauté until the garlic and herbs are aromatic.  Set aside.

  5. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs.  Add the milk of your choice and mix.  Now add the peppers, spinach and garlic and continue to mix.

  6. Pour this mixture into the quiche crust.

  7. Place the pie pan in the oven and allow to bake 45-60 minutes.  When done, insert a knife into the center and test for doneness.  (You should not see any liquid remaining when you cut into it.)

  8. Slice and serve!

It’s delicious on it’s own, but a little basil pesto, red chile flakes, or avocados make a wonderful addition.  Garnish with parsley, serve with salad, bacon, or steamed vegetables!  Enjoy and relish the fact that you have just fueled your body with amazing nutrients and pleased your tastebuds in the process.

Eating well…

Eating well…

In talking with a friend about the Eat Real Food Challenge, he brought up an important note,  one I found worth sharing.  He told me he had finally decided what his challenge would be.  He decided he would not be eliminating anything from his diet because he ate pretty well already, but he would be adding something instead.  He challenged himself to eat more fresh fruit every day.  And that’s when it hit me!  We need to change our perspective here- we are not asking ourselves to give something up for 30 days, we are asking ourselves to add something better for 30 days.

Too often we find ourselves in a habitual mindset.  We run on autopilot.  And that’s ok for us sometimes, like when we need to remember to run the dishwasher every night before bed, or that the dog has to go out before we leave the house.  It’s one less thing to manage.

But sometimes autopilot bleeds into other areas of our lives, ones where it doesn’t really belong.  We stop paying attention, and we resort to routine.  Often, this is us with our eating patterns.  We know what is familiar and comfortable, and sometimes wrapping our brains around making changes can seem pretty daunting.  But what we need to do is to turn that autopilot off, take back the wheel and pay attention!

This Eat Real Food challenge is a way to wake ourselves up, try something different.  When presented with the idea of eating real food for 30 days,  so often there is a knee jerk response that says “I can’t do this.”  Or “How am I supposed to eat only real food?  That sounds hard!”  And it can be- if you make it that way.  That’s why this is not about not eating “any” processed foods.  It is about replacing one or more processed foods in your diet with something else.  So ask yourself, “What can I do?”  And then think about all the “I can’s.”  This challenge is not about depriving ourselves of something we enjoy.  This challenge is here to do something good for ourselves, our bodies.  It’s a form of self respect.

Did you know that all those additives, preservatives, and artificial whatnots in our foods alter our taste perceptions and even our brain wiring?  It’s true.  After all, they are made of chemicals, so why would we not expect chemicals to make some changes in our body?  It interferes with chemical signaling of the brain, interrupting our neuromessengers.  The excessive use of sugars, salts, and artificial flavorings also impair our tastebuds, making real food taste, well, less.  Not only this, but one side effect of these flavorings is that we become addicted to them, craving more, and needing more to hit our reward sensors in the brain.

But ditching these processed foods removes the interference, allowing our brains to take back control.  Now our brain is able to send more appropriate messaging to our digestive systems, and we find cravings more under control.  One huge  bonus?  Our tastebuds recover too, and boy, does real food taste delicious!  Confession?  I used to hate raw tomatoes.  Couldn’t stand them.  Now?  I can’t get enough!  In the summertime my mouth waters thinking about slicing up a fresh tomato with a little black pepper and sea salt.  But when my diet was loaded with processed foods (even “healthy” ones), I couldn’t taste their natural goodness.  And this wasn’t the only food I have since discovered to now taste pretty amazing.

Keeping this in mind, eating real food is not to be looked at as an elimination of something.  We equate elimination diets as a loss of something enjoyed.  No, this is not an elimination, nor is it a diet.  This is an addition of something, a giving back.  Sure we are replacing one thing with another, but it’s a better thing.  We find that it tastes great, and provides a better substitution for our previous, habitual food snack.  And that tastes goods, feels good physically.  But mentally, and emotionally speaking, we know that we are giving our bodies something more, too.  And that feels good.  Very good.

So when you wonder why you are doing this challenge, thinking you would rather have not joined in, remember this.  It’s not about losing something or giving it up, it’s about adding something in.  Something valuable.  Something nourishing.  It’s about showing ourselves a little self respect.  Because we deserve it, we are worth it.  So keep on, Eat Real Food challengers.  You’re doing a damn fine job, and your bodies will thank you!