Monday, October 17, 2016

Favorite Autumn Smoothie #1 - Pumpkin Chai

I love smoothies for their on-the-go portability to provide a healthy snack, breakfast, or lunch. They are an easy way to sneak in veggies for the kids.  My teenage daughter knows they are in there and is her preferred way of getting in those dreaded vegetables (because she can't taste them). I don't know how I have a kid that doesn't like veggies!

During the summer months, my smoothies usually consist of protein, spinach/kale, and mixed frozen/fresh berries picked from local organic farms. I use organic whenever possible.

Come Autumn here in New England, pumpkin is the highlight mixed with high quality protein and superfoods such as flax and chia seeds.

Step 1: Get yourself some pumpkin. Canned is fine but making some yourself is even better and costs a lot less. This one small local organic sugar pumpkin made 7 cups of pureed pumpkin and a cup of toasted seeds for snacking for only $2.50 plus the few cents it cost to run the oven and little of my time.

To make your own puree: cut pumpkin in half and remove seeds and stringy parts. Place halves cut side down on a baking tray and bake at 400 degrees about 40 minutes (or until soft when pierced with a knife). Let cool for an hour and puree in a food processor with a little water or apple cider (not too much; just enough to process).

Step 2: The rest of the ingredients:

  • 1 medjool date (optional), soaked in hot water a few minutes
  • 8 raw almonds (helpful to soak overnight - just put in the blender with 1/2 cup of the chai tea before bed)
  • 1-2 cups cooled chai tea (or plain water or milk or milk alternative)*
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 4 scoops (or as noted on can for 2 servings) plain whey (or your favorite vegan plain or vanilla flavored)**
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (or more as desired)
  • 2 tsp chia seeds
  • 2 tsp finely ground flax seeds
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp pure maple syrup (don't need if using stevia based protein powder) 
  • Optional: sneak in a green veggie by adding a handful of baby spinach
 *If you don't use chai, you will need to add in extra spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom.

**I prefer unsweetened but for those of you that like sweet, choose a protein powder with stevia, a plant-based natural sweetener.

Step 3: Blend it up!
  • add almonds, 1/2 cup chai, and medjool date to blender and blend until smooth
  • add the rest of the ingredients (start with another 1/2 cup chai and add more liquid as needed) and blend until smooth. You can also add in a couple ice cubes to make it frosty.
  • Serve sprinkled with a little more cinnamon or nutmeg and enjoy!

 Nutritional Information:
  • Pumpkin provides a day's dose of Vitamin A along with some Vitamin C, calcium, iron and other trace minerals. For more info click here.
  • Banana provides a nice dose of Vitamin C along with some Vitamin A, calcium, iron and other trace minerals. Click here for more info.
  • Chia seeds are high in dietary fiber, calcium, omega-3 fats, trace minerals, and rich source of anti-oxidants. Click here for more info.
  • Flax seeds provide fiber, omega-3 fats, protein, Vitamin B1, manganese, magnesium, and other minerals and vitamins. Click here for more info.
  • Whey = easily digestible and absorbable form of protein. I love Tera's brand for their high quality and commitment to sustainable farming practices and the ethical treatment of animals. If you are vegan/vegetarian, I recommend Sunwarrior brand plant-based protein.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Baked Tofu and Brussels Sprouts Recipe

I love Brussels Sprouts and now that they are fresh locally, I'll be eating a lot of them. I also try to cook simply and use the least amount of dishes and pots and pans as possible. Tonight my daughter requested baked tofu (recipe courtesy of Moosewood Restaurant slightly modified by me). Perfect! The Brussels sprouts would cook perfectly with the tofu and it's baking sauce. I forgot to take a photo, so will have to do it next time I make this dish.

Serves 4.

1 lb. extra firm sprouted organic tofu (or any firm or extra firm tofu of your choice), drained.
1 lb. or so small Brussels Sprouts, stems trimmed and cut in half
3 tablespoons Tamari or soy sauce of choice
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sesame oil, dark sesame oil, or olive oil
2 teaspoons tomato paste
3 teaspoons seasoned rice vinegar (or 2 teaspoons rice vinegar plus 2 teaspoons honey or sugar)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cut tofu into 8 slices.
Combine tamari, water, oil, tomato paste and rice vinegar in a measuring cup.
Lightly oil the bottom of a large glass baking dish (9 x 13 or so)
Place tofu in dish and arrange sprouts around the tofu.
Pour sauce over the tofu and sprouts.
Bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, turn tofu and shake dish to distribute sauce.
Return to oven and bake 10 more minutes; remove, turn.
Return to oven and bake until sauce has mostly evaporated and tofu and sprouts are browned.

We like steamed rice or buckwheat noodles with this dish.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Vegan or Not Broccoli Soup

Autumn is in the air. Even though the trees aren't turning their gorgeous colors yet, the nights are cool and the air smells of fall. It was a gorgeous day here in the Berkshires and I went out for a late afternoon hike to clear my head and get the blood pumping. My borrowed dog, Ginger, waited all day for me to get my act together and take her out for a hike. She's such an awesome companion!

Cooler weather means warmer foods. I love soups in the fall and winter. Cheap and easy to make, especially when you need to clean the refrigerator out of the week's leftovers or use up miscellaneous veggies in the crisper. I usually make my own veggie and chicken stocks (save those celery tops, onion peels, mushroom stems, herb stems, beef & chicken bones, etc.)

Broccoli soup is one of my favorites (and so nutritious - more about that below); wish my teenage daughter would eat it. I keep telling her one day she'll like broccoli; I just get a scowl and "gross mom I'll never like it". This time of year broccoli is available at the local farm markets (and usually quite inexpensive; organic preferred). No cream needed in this soup! I prefer this dairy free version; creamy due to the addition of oatmeal. There are various options for stock and herbs; so, adjust according to your tastes. 

I am not vegan, so I use what I have on hand which sometimes includes chicken stock and/or butter/ghee.
1 tablespoon olive oil or other vegetable oil (butter/ghee works too)
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 stalk celery, diced (1/4-1/3 cup)
2 garlic cloves, chopped/sliced
1/2 tsp salt (omit if using stock with salt added)
2 large broccoli stalks (yes, you need the stalks; don't just buy crowns)
4 cups water, vegetable stock or chicken stock (home made or store bought low salt)
1/2 cup rolled oats (whirl in a blender about 15 seconds) or use 1/3 cup quick oats
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh herb of choice (or 1 tsp dried) such as dill or thyme or oregano.
black pepper (optional)

In a soup pot warm oil over medium heat and add onion, celery, garlic, and salt (if using). Partially cover and let cook about 10 minutes stirring occasionally. 

Wash broccoli and cut crowns into florets (you should have 4-5 cups). Reserve 1-2 cups florets.

Peel stems to get at the tender part of the stalk and chop (about 2 cups).

Add broccoli (except reserved florets), herbs, and water/stock to pot. (Do not be tempted to add more liquid; the water/stock will just cover the vegetables. Too much water will make the soup too thin; you can always add more later if you like a thinner soup).

Cover and bring to a gentle boil; lower heat and simmer about 5 minutes. Add oats, cover and simmer about 10 minutes (stir occasionally) until vegetables are tender and soup thickens. Don't worry if oatmeal clumps.

In a glass measuring cup, add reserved florets and cover with water. Microwave on high a few minutes until crisp tender and bright green; drain. Or, cook in small pot or steamer on the stove.

Remove from heat and add lemon juice and black pepper. Puree soup with an immersion blender (or let soup cool and whirl in a blender/food processor in batches) until smooth. 

If eating immediately, add florets. If not eating immediately, let soup cool completely before adding florets and refrigerating. 


Nutrition Info: 

Broccoli, a cruciferous vegetable, is one of the healthiest veggies you can eat (along with other greenies such as kale, collards, swiss chard, bok choy). What does it do?
  • can help lower cholesterol (steamed/cooked is best)
  • supports detoxification (helps get rid of toxins in the body)
  • 1 cup supplies 250% RDA of Vitamin K and along with Vitamin A helps rebuild Vitamin D stores. (As a New Englander, I take a Vitamin D supplement Fall-Spring).
  • has anti-inflammatory benefits
  • can help people suffering from allergies
  • provides many vitamins (C, B6, E, B1, B2) and minerals (chromium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, and many more).

Monday, August 8, 2016

EcoM8s: Clams and Vitamin B12 for Brain Health

EcoM8s: Clams and Vitamin B12 for Brain Health: I really enjoy seafood, all kinds of fish, shellfish, and bivalves. I'm careful to purchase seafood that is sustainable, pole caught or ...

Clams and Vitamin B12 for Brain Health

I really enjoy seafood, all kinds of fish, shellfish, and bivalves. I'm careful to purchase seafood that is sustainable, pole caught or caught/fished in an environmentally friendly manner. The Monterey Bay Aquarium seafood watch app is my go to guide when I'm at the fish market purchasing my seafood.

There are all kinds of health benefits from eating seafood. Clams (along with mussels, sardines, crab, trout, and wild salmon) are high in Vitamin B12, an essential vitamin for brain health and healthy nerve cells. B12 is also absorbed and concentrated in animals (beef liver is an excellent source). If you are vegan or vegetarian it is important to take a B12 supplement. (FYI, the body can store B12 and you could go a couple years without supplementation before you start to notice symptoms of deficiency. Click here for more info for vegan and vegetarians. This article from the University of  Maryland Medical Center describes symptoms of deficiency, food sources of B12, and supplementation information. It is important to talk to your regular physician, a doctor of Naturopathy,  or dietician expert about supplementation; do not try and supplement on your own.

One of my favorite ways to get Vitamin B12 is by eating clams. Here is my go to recipe:

Clams Steamed in White Wine with Garlic and Shallots 
Serves 2-3 as main meal

3 pounds clams (if collected in the wild they need to be purged/cleaned and degritted -click here for more info).
2 small shallots, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc is good; California style with lemon and citrus notes works well)
Chopped fresh parsley
Fresh crusty bread

If you purchased your clams from a seafood market, chances are the distributor has already purged the clams and they are ready for cooking. I buy and cook my shellfish on the same day so I don't have to worry about keeping them alive for very long. For info about storing click here.

Rinse clams under cold water and place in a colander.
Heat olive oil over medium heat and sauté shallots and garlic about a minute.
Pour in white wine. Boil until you have half of the volume, about 1/2 cup.
Add clams, cover and steam and until they start to open, about 5 minutes or so.
Add butter, cover, and cook until most or all of the clams open (another minute or so). Discard any that do not open. 
Sprinkle with parsley. 
Our family tends to just pull from the pot on the table (so they and the broth stay nice and hot).

 I serve mine with warm crusty bread, a green salad/Caesar salad, and fresh corn on the cob. It is summer after all!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Poaching Chicken

Eating nutritious foods along with regular exercise are the keys to staying healthy, happy, and feeling good about yourself. Science has proven over and over that if you feed your brain and body nutritious foods, the happier and healthier your life. My favorite recent books with the most recent science include The Happiness Diet and Eat Complete, both by Drew Ramsey, MD. I highly recommend these books - great information, humorous, and some excellent recipes too.

Chicken is one of my go-to proteins; easy to prepare and my family will eat it a variety of ways. For families on the go, it's easy to prepare poached chicken to store in the refrigerator to add to salads, quesadillas, stir fried rice, pasta, or whatever else you can conjure up. I buy organic or locally raised free range chicken. It costs a little more, but, I have a problem with conventional methods of raising chickens (inhumane in my opinion) and believe the stress that the animals go through finds its way into the meat and into me; no thank you. There is enough stress in life; I don't need to eat animals that were stressed out.

For those of you that say it takes time to prep food; yes, it does. But, you can prepare poached chicken while watching the evening news, a TED talk, while you watch over your kids doing homework, or while you get in a 30 minute exercise routine from the web or CD (I love Beachbody programs). I'm poaching a batch right now at 9pm.

So, here it is. My easy, tasty poached chicken breast recipe. The broth gets saved and frozen to use again for poaching and/or for a soup base.

2 whole chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
Water (or if you have some leftover chicken stock, use it) to cover the chicken by about an inch
1/4 cup white wine or vermouth
3-4 sprigs flat leaf parsley
1 onion, sliced
3-4 celery tops (the small stalk with leaves)
1 clove garlic, smashed
dash of salt and pepper

Place chicken breasts in a large saucepan or small stockpot.
Add stock or cool water to cover by an inch.
Add in wine/vermouth, parsley, onion, celery, garlic, salt, pepper.
Bring to a boil.
Turn off heat, cover pot, and leave on burner for 30 minutes (longer if breasts are very large).
Use a meat thermometer in thickest part of breasts; should read 160 degrees.

Remove from pot and let cool slightly. It's easiest to remove skin and meat from bones while still warm.

Remove skin and pull meat from bones. Remove any extra fat and chop into large pieces.

Strain stock and compost solids.
Stock will keep in the refrigerator for 2 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Reusing this stock several times for poaching will give you a delicious rich chicken stock to use in the fall/winter months as a soup base.

Note: To poach a whole chicken, follow recipe but when water reaches boiling, turn to low and let simmer 10 minutes before turning off flame. Let sit 25-30 minutes and check with meat thermometer.

One final note: Be mindful of how much you are eating. Most people eat too much protein at one sitting. Two large chicken breasts (mine for this post were 2 1/4 pounds) yield about 4 cup of cut up chicken. A serving size is 1/2 cup. So, this recipe can serve about 8. It cost me $13 for two organic chicken breasts which ends up being $1.60 per serving.

And, a few scraps for my neighbor's dog, Ginger. :)

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Purslane - Weed It or Eat It?

For years I would "weed it." Until, I found out that you could "eat it." And, that its nutritional benefits are extensive. I had forgotten about it this year since we moved from the country and into town (although still a New England country town); it doesn't grow in my yard, yet. I stopped by a local farm today to pick up some asparagus and strawberries, and there it was! Freshly wild gathered.

  • Full of minerals: calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium - most American's eating a MAD diet (Modern American Diet of processed and fast foods) are deficient in these important minerals
  • One of the few plants offering a high amount of  omega-3 fatty acid in ALA form (other forms DHA and EPA are obtained from seafood). Omega-3 fats are not produced in the body and you must get them from food. They play important roles in brain health and are the building blocks of cell membranes.
  • High in Vitamin E (provides 6 times more than spinach)
  • Rich in vitamins A, B, and C. 
How to eat it?
  • raw in salads
  • lightly steamed
  • lightly sauteed with a little olive oil, garlic and salt
For more information:
Chocolate and Zucchini
Mother Earth News
Edible Wild Food