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For The Love of Food

Is Organic Quinoa Nature’s Perfect Food?

It seems that organic quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is a food superstar – and it’s showing up on menus all over America. So, what is quinoa and what can you do with it? Is it really nature’s perfect food? Let’s find out!Organic Quinoa

A nutritionist I once knew had declared beans the perfect food for their fiber, protein and nutritional power. And she’s right, but organic quinoa has many of the same attributes.

Organic Quinoa: A little history

Quinoa is a plant that was originally cultivated by pre-Columbian civilizations in the Andes in Peru and Bolivia. It was a staple food at that time, but was replaced by cereals when the Spanish arrived. Evidence suggests it was cultivated sometime between 3,000 and 5,000 BCE and was a primary food source later replaced by corn, millet and other grains.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2013 was declared the International Year of Quinoa “in recognition of the indigenous peoples of the Andes, who have maintained, controlled, protected and preserved quinoa as food for present and future generations thanks to their traditional knowledge and practices of living in harmony with nature.” [Source: FAO.org].

Quinoa is related to amaranth, spinach, Swiss chard, and beets.

Quinoa production worldwide has more than quadrupled since the 1970’s and quinoa has gained popularity due to its unique crunchy texture, nutty flavor, high protein and nutrient content and fast cooking time.

 

Organic Quinoa: Nutrition Packed

On a pound for pound basis, organic quinoa has about the same calories as corn, rice or wheat.  Nutritionally, it has more protein, iron and zinc. Due to the manner in which all of these foods are typically processed, quinoa also generally has more fiber than these other grains.

Also available is sprouted organic quinoa. Sprouting does not mean that you’ve got live plants in your hand, but that the plant was germinated, activating even more nutritional super powers. Sprouted organic quinoa can be prepared just as regular organic quinoa though lower heat and shorter cooking times make the sprouted variety really easy to add to your culinary cupboard.

Organic Quinoa Varieties

Organic quinoa comes in white , red, black and rainbow (also called tricolor). White quinoa is the most commonly used, but red and black quinoa add great color to your dish and make a perfect choice for a side dish like quinoa salad or quinoa cakes.

Organic Quinoa Preparation

You can serve quinoa as a breakfast cereal, mixing with oatmeal, add cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, vanilla, raisins, walnuts, pecans, dates, you name it.

You can make it as a salad – use instead of bulgur wheat for tabbouleh, add roasted vegetables such as asparagus, beets, onions, mushrooms or eggplant; add fresh chopped veggies like scallions, onions, mushrooms, carrots, celery – add chopped nuts, dried fruit (raisins, figs, cranberries), dress lightly and enjoy an energizing lunch, side dish or salad or add quinoa to a hearty Cobb salad.

You can also add organic quinoa or use organic quinoa flour for tasty and nutritious oatmeal-quinoa-raisin cookies, almond-cranberry-quinoa cookies or any recipe that calls for a bit of crunch.

 Organic Quinoa Reigns Supreme

It should be pretty clear why organic quinoa is such a rock star in the food realm. Valued for high nutritional content, high fiber, great texture and quick cooking time, there’s so many delicious, nutritious reasons to keep organic quinoa in your pantry for a regular addition to your healthy meals.

Click HERE for some great organic quinoa recipes!

Top Ten Foods In My Plant Based Pantry

Plant-Based-PantryIt can be intimidating to stock a kitchen for plant based living, especially if you don’t have a lot of cooking experience or a health coach guiding you. One of my number one tip as a plant based living educator is this: set yourself up for success. If you have a well-stocked pantry, you can be prepared to make all kinds of amazing plant based meals – with just the addition of fresh produce – without a lot of fuss! Read on for my top ten must-have vegan pantry items.

 10 Must-have foods in my plant based pantry:

  1. Beans: Inexpensive, filling, and versatile, beans are a staple in my kitchen. I keep both dried and canned organic beans on hand, and I often cook a batch in the slow cooker on Sunday for use in various dishes throughout the week. My favorites are black beans, green split peas, and pinto beans.
  2. Lentils: Did you know that lentils are “pulses,” the edible seeds of legumes? They are good sources of fiber and protein and also contain high amounts of calcium and vitamins A and B. The most common varieties are brown, green, yellow, and red lentils. The yellow and red ones break down a lot during cooking, while the brown and green ones hold their shape. Make your choice based on your desired outcome, in terms of texture! I use the red ones for my Red Lentil Dal.
  3. Jarred or canned tomatoes: Tomatoes are an excellent base for a variety of soups, stews, and sauces. I keep a variety of them on hand, both canned and jarred tomatoes . Diced tomatoes, spiced or not, are preferred for some recipes, while whole or stewed tomatoes may be better for others. I also keep sun-dried tomatoes on hand for some recipes, as they have a depth of flavor and a richness you don’t get from regular tomatoes.
  4. Whole grains: Whole grains contain all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed in their original proportions. When processed, meaning cracked, crushed, rolled, or cooked, the grains deliver the same rich balance of nutrients found in the original grain seeds. Brown rice and quinoa are my go-to grains. They are great on their own or with a little sauce/dressing, and they can be incorporated into tons of dishes, like soups, stews, vegetable stuffing, and cold salads.
  5. Nuts: Nuts are versatile in the kitchen and contain healthy fats. Cashews are probably the nut I use most often. With just two base ingredients – raw cashews and water – and whatever spices or flavoring you prefer, you can make cashew cream cheese (enjoy plain or add your preferred flavors – I add walnuts and agave nectar), cashew sour cream (add lemon juice and garlic powder), cashew creamer, and cashew milk. For the creamer and milk, I usually add a little agave nectar and a little vanilla.
  6. Seeds: My favorites are flax, chia, and sunflower. I use the first two in smoothies and breakfast dishes, and I use sunflower seeds in a variety of ways! My favorite way is to soak them and make a white sauce for pasta that is absolutely divine. You can also put them on salads, roast them with spices as a snack, or incorporate them in a stuffing – the possibilities are endless!
  7. Plant-based milks: You can find plant-based milks in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, but I prefer the aseptic (shelf-stable) packaged milks. They aren’t as perishable, of course, and they come in smaller containers! My personal favorite is hemp milk, as it tastes good and hemp is a nutritional powerhouse – packed with vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
  8. Nutritional yeast: Affectionately known as “nooch” in the veg community, this is a deactivated yeast in powder or flake form that is sold commercially as a food product. It contains folic acid, selenium, zinc, and protein, and it is often fortified with vitamin B12. It has a nutty, “cheesy” flavor, so it’s an excellent substitute for dairy cheese in many recipes. I like nutritional yeast best on organic popcorn and as a pasta topping in place of parmesan.
  9. Tahini: It’s hard for me to imagine that just a few short years ago, I had never heard of tahini. Now, it’s one of my go-to ingredients for salad dressings and sauces! It’s simply ground sesame seed paste, and it is commonly used in North African, Greek, Iranian, Turkish, and Middle Eastern cuisine. It is remarkably versatile, and it packs a ton of flavor. It’s usually my dressing base instead of oil – this Tahini Lime Dressing is my absolute favorite!
  10. Agave nectar or maple syrup: I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but a lot of savory recipes need just a touch of sweetness. Agave nectar and maple syrup are my preferred sweeteners. I use one of the two in my plant-based milks when I make them from scratch. I also use one or the other in veggie chili, in some salad dressings, and in a lot of the soups and stews I enjoy.

If you stock your pantry with these staple ingredients, an easy, plant based meal is at your fingertips every day. Just add fresh produce, and the variety of dishes you can make is limited only by your imagination. Bon appetit!

Committing to Gluten Free Living

You’ve heard the term gluten or gluten free somewhere, but you’re still wondering what the heck is this gluten business all about, right? Well trust me, I’ve been there and I am still learning new information all the time. When I was first diagnosed in June 2015 as being severely intolerant to gluten, a wave of confusion fell over me.

Time and time again I had observed all of the gluten free products on store shelves, I even knew a couple gals who were gluten free and I saw the GF bread at the farmers market, but I had no clue why one would elect to go GF unless it was just another stupid diet fad. (i.e. Atkins, South Beach, The Zone, etc.) Being highly unsupportive of diets, I always snubbed my nose to the gluten free living craze. I figured it was bound to fade out and it would be replaced by something new such as grinding animal bones into powder and drinking them in smoothies. I mean seriously, who knows what the next diet fad will be? That was until I started to learn more about my diagnosis and that for people who are indeed allergic, intolerant, or worse, have an autoimmune disease such as Celiac where gluten can do serious damage to a person’s digestive tract and make them very ill, gluten is no joke. What being gluten free means to this category of people definitely isn’t a diet fad.

gluten free living

Okay so what is gluten? It’s the elastic protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten literally means glue in Latin. Do you love how doughy a fresh loaf of bread feels or how cake springs back from your fork after pressing down on it? That would be gluten doing it’s magic and creating the elasticity most people love and crave.

Not only is gluten found in a lot of cakes, cookies, breads and pastas, but guess what, gluten is also found in barley. Barley is in beer. Beer has gluten. Beer, people. I was so sad to learn this news. I don’t drink beer often, but with all of the valley breweries to choose from, I do enjoy having a glass of local craft beer here and there….I now weep for Mr. Pineapple.

The third biggest gluten culprit is rye, but I never really ate much with rye in it so I don’t worry as much about that. Gluten can also be found in other wheat related grains so take a look at this link for the full list. My main focus is wheat because wheat is in so many products. Even products you wouldn’t suspect, wheat can lurk, especially in condiments. Take a look at this list from Gluten Free Girl and my own research of where gluten can hide:

soy, fish & oyster sauce soups licorice, hard candy
seasoning packets natural flavoring BBQ sauces, ketchup, mayo
salad dressings syrups cereals
chocolate ice cream broth and bouillon cubes
chipotles in adobo sauce yogurt and other dairy products miso
cold cuts, hot dogs mole and Mexican sauces beverages- iced tea, sports drinks
beer, vodka, wine coolers breaded foods oats

So what was my first step with receiving the gluten free blues news?

Initially I thought…okay not a big deal. I will just take this with a 80/20 approach and as long as I’m gluten free most of the time, I can do this. No sweat. For the first couple of weeks I did just that. I mainly ate the same way I was eating before which was a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, organic chicken, fish, nuts, whole grains and dairy. However, a girl steers off the course sometimes and wants a brownie, crackers & dip, pizza or sushi. Or she goes out to eat and may order something that contains gluten that she would have never suspected. This is where I needed to tighten up and stop making assumptions that I knew what was GF and what wasn’t. I needed to start questioning more and accept that this will be a learning curve and it’s okay to not have a handle on this new challenge immediately. I needed to educate myself further and do some research.

gluten free living

Once given the diagnosis, a lot of stuff began to make sense. I’ve had digestive issues since all the way back in high school. I’ve always gotten sick from fried foods, anything with heavy sauces, pastries & cake, salad dressings, fast food, even beer occasionally. I had seen a Gastroenterologist in my early 20’s and had a colonoscopy at the ripe age of 23, but there were no polyps, cysts, Crohn’s or other diseases detected. The diagnosis was IBS. I was prescribed medicine and was on my way. The IBS was so bad that often I would have to plan my night around it. I never liked going to parties because if I had an episode, I didn’t want to mortify myself and hang out in the bathroom half the night. I was never tested for gluten intolerance or even told to change my diet so I didn’t. I continued eating the way most 20 something year olds eat, and suffered the consequences for many years. In addition to digestive issues, gluten can also cause brain fogginess, headaches, bone & joint pain, chronic fatigue, depression, diarrhea and bloating. I have experienced a lot of these symptoms especially the brain fog, pain, bloating and fatigue.

Interesting enough I don’t look at gluten free living as this life-altering complication I now have to face. I’m actually excited by the challenge to try and make myself healthier. Thankfully I started looking at my health differently in my late 20’s and I realized that diet is so key to everything. For the past 5 years or so, I have been on a quest of eating healthy, cooking, taking supplements, exercising and trying to live a healthier lifestyle. Once I recognized the diet and IBS connection, my IBS symptoms reduced significantly, but not 100%. Even with all of the positive changes I’ve made, there was still the gluten issue that I was unaware of until recently. Now that I have this piece of valuable information, I look at it like a piece of a puzzle. I have been looking for the missing piece for so many years and now I have it. I can choose to use this new wisdom to really get to that next step of feeling vibrant, energized and pain free.

I learned that when you are GF, there is no halfway. You are either gluten free or you’re not. This totally shot down my plan on just being 80/20 with it. Kerri Kreuger of Natural Healthy Concepts sums it up well

The gluten-free diet is put into action to not only keep gluten damage from occurring, but to help your gut heal, too. In those with celiac disease and gluten intolerance, ingesting gluten causes varying levels of sickness. That sickness can last for days, and if you’ve been faithful to the gluten-free diet for any amount of time, you know how great being gluten-free can make you feel. So, why would you willingly make yourself miserable?

Well I guess I’m 100% gluten free then. I have read other information online about the havoc that gluten can do on a sensitive digestive system along with the wildfire of inflammation that it spreads into bones and joints. I want to feel better so I want to commit. I want to go GF for real, not just part time. It’s been almost 2 months now and so far so good. I have been exploring different gluten free products, cooking a lot more at home and researching GF friendly restaurants. I have had a few mishaps not by choice, but by not realizing there was gluten in something I ate (condiments and sauces are the biggest culprits for me). I am learning and that is okay. I’m also learning to deal with the comments from people like “well what do you eat then” or “it’s just this once.” Also the misconceptions others have about my reasoning or what gluten intolerance even is, and the label of being a “picky eater.” People often judge what they don’t know. Just because someone is GF, doesn’t mean they judge you for eating gluten. I’m a “picky eater” because I care. Sometimes I wish I didn’t, but I do. I am super excited to see where this road takes me on my path to wellness. How will I feel in 6 months, 1 year, 5 years? As a cancer survivor, I have dealt with a lot of medical issues that I had no control over and if this is something I can put a leash on and control to feel healthy and strong, you bet your bagels I’m on board.


Awesome Gluten Free Bloggers
Gluten Free Girl
Gluten Dude
Gluten-Free Goddess
Gluten Free on a Shoestring

 Has gluten free living changed how you feel? Share below!

Coffee & Beyond: Seven Organic Drinks to Start Your Day

I will admit that I love the taste of coffee.  I love the smell, I love the rich dark color, I love the energy boost it gives me.  Unfortunately, my body doesn’t love it as much as my taste buds do.  I’m far too sensitive to caffeine to have a morOrganic-Drinks-For-Morningning cup of coffee so I’ve learned to replace it with other organic drinks instead.  Along the way I learned that I really don’t need coffee to wake up in the morning and I actually feel better without it.  Even if you tolerate coffee well, you might want to try one of these seven organic drinks to start your day instead and see how it feels!

Seven Organic Drinks To Start Your Day

1 – Fresh Squeezed Organic Lemon Water: Squeeze a half a lemon into a 16oz glass of lemon and drink it first thing in the morning and reap the benefits.  The vitamin C in the lemon will give your immune system a boost.  It will help detoxify your liver by encouraging the production of bile.  The potassium will give your brain a boost, helping to lift depression. The alkalizing effects of lemon water help decrease systemic inflammation. Drinking lemon water first thing can even help decrease your appetite.

2 – Organic Green Smoothie:  If you have a hard time getting all of your veggies in, this is a great way to start your day.  As simple as a handful of spinach, some almond milk and a frozen banana whizzed in a blender, you’ll be starting your day ahead of the game nutritionally, fueling your body right from the start.  Try these Green Smoothie Recipes if you need ideas.

3 – Organic Chai Tea:  If you let Starbucks make your chai latte, not only will you be overpaying, you’ll get way too much sugar in your morning drink.  Brew your own organic chai tea at home and let the spicy aroma and flavor wake you up. You’ll get antioxidant benefit of the black tea, and the spices in chai have been used for centuries for general health and vitality.  These spices, in Ayurvedic tradition are considered both calming as well as vitalizing and mentally clarifying.  One of the best organic drinks to counteract the stresses of daily life.

4 – Organic Matcha Green Tea:  High in antioxidants with a caffeine boost, drinking matcha green tea is a great way to start your morning.  Learn more about the antioxidant benefits HERE.  Try it hot or iced in the morning or any time of day for a healthy pick me up.

5 – Organic Coconut Water:  If you had a little too much red wine the night before, this is one of the best organic drinks for a hangover.  The naturally occurring electrolytes in coconut water are perfect for replenishing what you may have lost the night before.  Coconut water is perfect for extra hydration in the summer or when you’re extra active.

6 – Organic Fresh Pressed Vegetable/Fruit Juice:  Another great way to start the day if you have a hard time getting all of your veggies in once the day starts.  I like to make fresh juices with really minimal amount of fruit.  It’s better to juice your veggies and eat your fruits because your body will overload on sugar if you don’t consume fiber along with it.  So when you’re making a fresh green juice in the morning, don’t go overboard on the fruits.  A simple green juice recipe would be something like this:

Apples – 2 medium (preferably tart like a Granny Smith)
Celery – 3 large stalks
Cucumber – 1 large cucumber
Ginger Root – 1/2 thumb (1″ dia)
Lemon – 1/2 fruit (including rind)
Parsley – 1 bunch
Spinach – 2 cups

7 – Organic Yerba Mate: If you’re not familiar with yerba mate, it is a South American beverage made by steeping the ground leaves and stems of the yerba mate plant.  It does contain caffeine – about twice the amount of black tea but less than half the amount in coffee.  It doesn’t give me the coffee jitters, nor does it give me the crash that happens with coffee.  When I’m looking for something strong to start my day, this one is my go-to.

What organic drinks other than coffee do you start your day with?  Share with us in the comments below!

Seven Unexpected Health Benefits Of Organic Ginger

Organic ginger is most widely known for its anti-nausea effects.  When you were a kid, did your mother give you a glass of ginger ale when you had a stomach ache?  It’s no wonder!  Ginger is incredibly beneficial for stomachaches and nausea.  Even MythBusters did an episode on motion sickness and confirmed that ginger was actually beneficial.

organic ginger

By Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK (Ginger Uploaded by Magnus Manske) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Newly pregnant women, travelers, chemotherapy patients and others have successfully used ginger to treat nausea but did you know that organic gingerdoes so much more?

 

Seven Unexpected Health Benefits of Organic Ginger

1 – Beneficial for Diabetes
Ginger has been found to reduce blood glucose, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol.  The beneficial effects come from ginger’s ability to increase insulin sensitivity and inhibit enzymes in carbohydrate metabolism.  It can be used both for prevention and treatment. Ginger also has protective benefits against certain common complications of diabetes, offering protection to the liver, kidneys and eyes.

2 – Healthy Circulation
Ginger is a stimulating herb that gets the blood flowing.  It contains chromium, magnesium and zinc which can help improve blood flow.  It supports circulation has also been shown to help lower high blood pressure and it has blood thinning properties and prevents clots.

3 – Anti-Viral
Ginger is a natural anti-viral agent.  It heats up the body, inducing fever, so it will help your body fight off colds and flu while you’re relieving the symptoms as well.

4 – Strengthens Immunity
Consuming a little bit ginger every day can help boost your immune system and provide a wide range of benefits –antimicrobial, antibiotic, antiparasitic, cancer-protective, tumor inhibition, and is a powerful antioxidant.

5 – Reduces Pain and Inflammation
Ginger contains some of the most potent anti-inflammatory fighting substances known and is a natural powerful painkiller. A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that ginger was as effective as ibuprofen for relieving painful menstrual periods. Ginger blocks the formation of the inflammatory compounds-prostaglandins and leukotrienes-and also has antioxidant effects that break down existing inflammation.  Try it for muscle pain, cramps, and arthritis pain.

6 – Memory and Cognitive Function
Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation can accelerate the aging process, leading to memory and cognitive decline.  Researchers studied middle-aged women who had developed some form of cognitive and gave them a daily dose of ginger.  After two months the women who had taken ginger had better test results for memory, attention and cognitive processing than women given a placebo.

How To Use Organic Ginger

  • There are many ways to enjoy ginger in your diet depending on how much you want to consume.
  • For a hot tea, steep 2 tablespoons fresh sliced ginger root in water for 15 minutes, strain, and enjoy with some lemon and your favorite sweetener.
  • In soups, add fresh grated ginger or ground ginger powder to add a little zest and zing.
  • In stir fries, add fresh grated or ground ginger to spice things up.
  • In sweets, ginger is wonderful in cookies, pumpkin or apple pies, ice cream
  • In marinades ginger gives a delightful fresh tangy flavor to your meat, fish, poultry or tofu.

What are your favorite ways to use organic ginger?

Matcha Green Tea: 7 Amazing Antioxidant Benefits

We all know that green tea is supposed to be high in antioxidants, great for weight loss, energy and vitality.  Did you know that not all green tea is created equally?  Matcha green tea is made from the nutrient-rich young leaves picked frmatcha green teaom the tips of shade-grown Camellia sinensis plants.  It is them steamed and de-vined before being stone ground into a fine powder.  Stored away from light and oxygen in order to preserve its color and nutrients, Matcha green tea is now ready to be enjoyed for its flavor and antioxidant benefits.

Why are antioxidants so beneficial?  Well, they are responsible for fighting the negative effects of free radicals that we encounter in everyday life from pollution, UV rays, radiation, and chemicals.  These free radicals can lead to cell and DNA damage.  Antioxidants combat free radicals and have numerous health-promoting benefits like preventing cancer and other life threatening diseases as well as making us look younger, with glowing, radiant skin.  All fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants but Matcha green tea has the highest ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) score – one bowl of Matcha green tea has over 5 times as many antioxidants as any other food.  So what will those antioxidants do for you?

 

7 Amazing Antioxidant Benefits of Matcha Green Tea

  1. Anti-Cancer
    Matcha green tea contains a specific type of antioxidants known as catechins.  Catechins are the most potent and beneficial of the antioxidants. A specific catechin called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg) makes up 60% of the catechins in Matcha Green Tea. Out of all the antioxidants, EGCg is the most widely recognized for its cancer fighting properties. It has been found that Matcha Green Tea contains over 100 times more EGCg than any other tea. EGCg has been found to not only inhibit an enzyme required for cancer cell growth, but also kills cancer cells with no ill effect on healthy cells.
  2. Detox
    Chlorophyll is what gives green tea its beautiful green color.  It is also a powerful detoxifier, helping to eliminate both chemicals and heavy metals from the body.  Because matcha green tea is shade-grown, it is richer in chlorophyll than other green teas, making it a superior detoxifying drink.
  3. Immune Support
    The levels of vitamins C and E in Matcha Green Tea along with the catechins, have been shown to improve immune health. Studies have even suggested that the nutrients in Matcha may have the ability to inhibit the attacks of HIV on human T-cells.
  4. Healthy Teeth & Gums
    A study published in the Journal of Periodontology found that among 940 men, those who regularly consumed green tea had better periodontal health than those who did not. Researchers in the study found that for every cup of green tea participants drank per day, there was a decrease in every indicator of periodontal disease studied.
  5. Heart Healthy
    A 2011 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that consuming green tea beverages or extracts significantly lowered serum total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.  Matcha treatment significantly lowered the glucose, triglyceride, and total cholesterol levels.
  6. Anti Aging
    Matcha Green Tea’s potent anti-inflammatory effects makes it an incredible boost for the skin – protecting it from UV damage and improving skin elasticity.  Regular consumption of Matcha Green Tea is one of the reasons attributed to the longevity of the Okinawan people, some of the longest living people on the planet.
  7. Weight Loss
    Studies have suggested that drinking matcha green tea regularly helps burn calories at nearly 4 times the normal rate – a great benefit as we age and our metabolism slows down. Other studies have shown that green tea helps git rid of belly fat; dieters who drank green tea lost more from the waistline than those who weren’t drinking green tea.

How Much Matcha Green Tea Should I Drink?

It only takes a small amount of matcha green tea to get its potent antioxidant benefits.  Just 1/4 to 1/2 a teaspoon whisked with hot (not boiling) water gives you great benefit.  Feel free to drink more; there are no negative side effects.

If you don’t like to drink tea, try matcha in these recipes:

Matcha & Avocado Popsicles
Matcha Green Tea Muffins
Matcha Crepes with Chocolate Ganache
Matcha Chia Pudding
Matcha Coconut Fudge

Do you already enjoy drinking matcha green tea? How do you like to use it?

 

 

7 Tips On Using Your Garden’s Abundance of Organic Tomatoes

My garden, at this very moment, is overflowing with organic tomatoes and its right about this time of year that I wonder how on earth I’m going to use them organic tomatoesall so that nothing goes to waste!

I love eating my Cherry and Pear tomatoes in salads and my Black Krims on sandwiches but sometimes there’s just too much to use at once and I have to break out my tricks.  Here are some of my best tips on using up all of your garden’s abundance.

7 Tips On Using Organic Tomatoes

1 – Dehydrate

Its easy to make ‘sun dried’ tomatoes in a food dehydrator.  They can be used as is once they’re dehydrated or rehydrated to add a richness to soups and sauces.  All I do is slice them in half, sprinkle a little bit of salt on them and pop them in the dehydrator.  It can take about two days of dehydrating depending on how big your tomatoes are so keep checking to see if they’re dry and once they are, store them in an airtight container. *bonus tip: I like to use a smoked salt when dehydrating cherry, grape or pear tomatoes.  Sprinkled on salads, they taste a little like bacon bits!

2 – Salsa

You can use just about any type of tomato for a salsa and it stores well in the fridge for nighttime and weekend snacking.  Click HERE for some awesome summer salsa recipes.

3 – Spaghetti Sauce

I recently had an abundance of Roma tomatoes so I decided to make homemade spaghetti sauce and it was so good I could barely believe it.  Its so simple yet so delicious.  First you’ll need to blanch your tomatoes: boil a big pot of water and fill your sink with ice water.  One by one, score the bottom of the tomato with an x and place it gently in the boiling water.  As you see the skin peel back, remove the tomatoes and place them in the ice water bath.  The skins will come right off.  Set aside your blanched and peeled tomatoes for a moment.  In a large pot, saute garlic and onion until translucent, then quarter your tomatoes and add them to the pot. Season with salt, pepper and any Italian seasonings that you like.  I like to add a bit of dried fennel and bit of crushed red pepper for a sausage-y taste.  Let this cook down for 45 minutes to an hour.  Once it is at the thickness you like, taste and adjust seasonings then either use right away or freeze for later use.

4 – Flavored Butter

This recipe for Tomato Basil Garlic Butter looks amazing and can be stored in your freezer for use all year long.

5 – Juice it

If you have a juicer or a blender you can enjoy the refreshing flavor of tomato juice.  Add a few other veggies like celery and red onion to kick up the flavor or you can add some seasonings and turn it into Bloody Mary Mix.

6 – Tomato Paste

If you really have more tomatoes than you could ever know what to do with, tomato paste is the way to go.  In the winter months I find myself buying a lot of organic tomato paste, but making use of the summer’s abundance allows me to enjoy the freshness of the season all year long.  Just use the same instructions for making spaghetti sauce, omitting the herbs and spices, and cook for another 2 1/2 hours or so until the sauce is a very thick consistency.  At this point you can freeze or can the tomato paste for use later in the year.

7 – Fried Green Tomatoes

Often at the end of the season as it is cooling down, I’m left with a whole lot of green tomatoes that I know aren’t going to ripen.  That’s fried green tomato season for me!  You don’t have to be Southern to enjoy them – and they’re not very hard to make.  Slice your green tomatoes in 1/2 inch thick slices.  In a shallow bowl make an egg bath with a beaten egg and a little milk (or buttermilk).  In another shallow bowl, add your breading.  You can use breadcrumbs, cornmeal, or a mixture of both.  Heat safflower or sunflower oil in a pan to about 375 degrees.  Dip each tomato slice in the egg bath then the batter, then fry until crisp and golden.  Transfer to a plate lined with a few paper towels to absorb the oil and enjoy!

Of course if you don’t have a garden or aren’t the happy recipient of a nearby gardener’s overabundance, you can always get that fresh flavor of organic tomatoes in a jar.

How do you like to use your garden’s abundance of organic tomatoes?

 

Peanut Butter & Beyond: Seven Healthy Nut & Seed Butters

By far the most popular nut butter on the planet is peanut butter.  Peanut butter peanut butteris a healthy protein and contains a good amount of fiber for healthy bowels. It also is high in potassium, which actually lowers the risk of high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease. It contains healthy fats and magnesium to fortify your bones and muscles, and they also contain vitamin E and antioxidants.  Sounds great, right?  It is, but did you know how many other nut and seed butters are out there now? There are far more than the well-known peanut butter and almond butters. Though those are favorites, for sure, there are a few others that are sure to gain in popularity.  For people with nut allergies and sensitivities, this is especially exciting news. Also, having a wide variety of nut and seed butters to choose from makes baking, snacking and sandwich-making so much more fun. All that and each of these nut and seed butters has fantastic health benefits!

7 Healthy Nut & Seed Butters That Aren’t Peanut Butter

  1. Almond Butter: Just one ounce of organic almonds (about 20 to 25 almonds) can contain as much calcium as 1/4 cup of milk. Also, almonds are a great source of magnesium and phosphorous, which are important minerals for building strong bones. Almonds are wonderful for brain health, they contain two vital brain nutrients: riboflavin and L-carnitine, which have been shown to increase brain activity, resulting in new neural pathways and a decreased occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease.
  2. Sunflower Seed Butter: Sunflower seed butter is increasing in popularity and is a perfect choice for those who are allergic or sensitive to nuts. My daughter is sensitive to peanuts, her favorite butter is sunflower. Like many nuts and seeds, sunflower seeds contain a number of essential vitamins and minerals necessary to keep your body functioning. The water-soluble B-complex vitamins and vitamin C along with fat-soluble vitamins A, D and E are all found in sunflower seeds along with vitamin K. Sunflower seeds supply minerals such as calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium and selenium.
  3. Brazil Nut Butter: This butter is not as well-known as the others, but shouldn’t be counted out. Brazil nuts are high in calories (don’t let that scare you away), and they contain good quantities of vitamins, anti-oxidants and minerals. Its kernels, in-fact, have been staple energy sources of native Amazonians, and continue to be even today. The Brazil nut actually holds the highest natural source of selenium. Adequate selenium in the diet helps prevent coronary artery disease, liver cirrhosis, and cancers. Just 1-2 nuts a day does the job!
  4. Hemp Seed Butter: Hemp seed butter is steadily rising in popularity, as a tasty and nutritious alternative to conventional butters. Hemp seed butter is lesser known than most all butters, it also has a light, nutty taste. If you prefer your butter with a subtle, non-overpowering taste, hemp seed butter is the one for you. The nutritional value of hemp seed butter also makes it a close contender against almond butter. The seeds of the cannabis plant are a rich source of amino and fatty acids, which help sustain the health of organs such as the heart. The proteins in hemp seed butter are also very digestible, which means that your body will absorb and use them better.
  5. Cashew Butter: Cashews are slightly sweet and delicate in flavor, which make them perfect for making nut butter. Cashews are high in copper which can play a role in the elimination of free radicals, development of bone and connective tissue, and the production of the skin and hair pigment. Just a handful or two of raw cashews a day is equivalent to one dose of Prozac for mild depression.
  6. Pumpkin Seed Butter: This butter has a richer flavor and a softer consistency than peanut butter, making it perfectly spreadable. This is another butter that can be enjoyed by people who have a nut allergy or sensitivity. It is an excellent source of protein for vegetarians. It contains a good amount of the amino acid tryptophan for dealing with stress and can help to improve sleep patterns. It also contains beneficial fatty acid content, which can help with everything from reducing arthritis symptoms to improving your skin tone.
  7. Pecan Butter: The deep, complex taste of pecan butter makes this nut butter profoundly satisfying.  Pecans are rich in phytochemicals such as polyphenolic antioxidant ellagic acid, vitamin E, beta-carotene, lutein and zea-xanthin. These compounds play an important role in removing toxic oxygen-free radicals, protecting your body from diseases, cancer as well as infections. Pecans also contain oleic acid, a fatty acid which has been found to reduce the risk of breast cancer

Have you tried any of these nut & seed butters? If so which is your favorite? Make sure you try them all!

3 Organic Recipes for Grilling Season: Kabobs (+ bonus dessert ideas)

organic recipes

By Bart Everson from New Orleans, Louisiana, USA (Veggie Skewers) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s that time of season for firing up the grill, and one of the best dishes to make is kabobs.   Kabobs are the perfect way to serve up a complete dinner from the grill. Its fun for kids and adults like to eat food on a stick, plus there are endless combinations so everyone gets something they like.

The sky’s the limit in organic recipes for the grill! To get the most from your meal, always remember to choose organic ingredients, this will guarantee that your food is GMO free!

3 Organic Recipes for Grilling Season: Kabobs

Organic Peanutty Chicken Kabobs

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound organic (pastured raised) skinless boneless chicken breast halves or thighs, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup organic crunchy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 1 tbsp grated organic ginger-root (or 1 teaspoon organic ground ginger)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp of crushed red pepper
  • Organic chopped peanuts, if desired for topping

Directions:

  1. Heat grill
  2. Mix all ingredients except chicken and peanuts; set aside 1/4 cup
  3. Thread the chicken on four 11-inch metal skewers, leaving space between each piece. Brush chicken with half of the reserved peanut butter mixture.
  4. Cover and grill kabobs 4-6 inches from the medium heat for 15- 20 minutes, turning and brushing occasionally with the remaining peanut butter mixture, do this until chicken is golden brown on the outside and no longer pink in the inside.

Serve with organic jasmine rice or quinoa and veggies

 

Quick Grilled Italian Pizza Sausage Kabobs

These were one of my husband’s favorite. He liked to sprinkle fresh mozzarella cheese on these after they were done grilling to get the real pizza taste!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds organic Italian sausage links, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 medium organic yellow zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 button mushrooms
  • 2 medium organic bell pepper (Use any color you like, green red, orange or yellow), cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup organic pizza sauce

Directions:

  1. Cook the sausage in a skillet over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until partially cooked; drain.
  2. Thread sausage, zucchini and bell peppers alternately on each of six 12-inch metal skewers, leaving space between each piece. Place a mushroom on end of each skewer.
  3. Cover and grill kabobs 5 to 6 inches from medium coals 20 to 25 minutes, turning and brushing 2 or 3 times with pizza sauce, until sausage is no longer pink in center and vegetables are crisp and tender. Serve over any style pasta, rice or with a salad.

* You can use wooden skewers as well – just make sure you soak them in water so they don’t burn.

 

All Organic Veggie Kabobs

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Soak skewers in water 1 hour (if using wooden/bambo)
  2. Whisk together broth and next 6 ingredients until well blended; reserve 1/4 cup mixture. Combine remaining broth mixture and vegetables in a large bowl. Cover and put in refrigerator at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. Remove vegetables from broth marinade, discarding marinade.
  3. Preheat grill to 350° to 400° (medium-high). Thread vegetables onto skewers, and grill.
  4. Transfer the skewers to a platter or serving tray and remove vegetables from skewers, if desired.
  5. Serve with reserved 1/4 cup broth mixture.
Here is a fancy guideline of how long to cook different types of veggies:
  • Zucchini and squash

Prep: Cut into 3/4-inch rounds; thread onto skewers. Grill time: 7 – 10 minutes on each side or until tender.

  • Eggplant

Prep: Cut eggplant into 3/4-inch rounds. Cut Italian eggplant crosswise into quarters; cut into 3/4-inch slices. Thread onto skewers. Grill time: 5 – 6 minutes on each side or until tender.

  • Bell peppers

Prep: Cut into 1-inch-thick strips; thread skewers. Grill time: 4 -5 minutes on each side or until tender.

  • Mushrooms

Prep: Trim stems, and thread onto skewers. Grill time: 3 – 5 minutes on each side or until tender.

  • Onions

Prep: Cut into wedges, and thread onto skewers. Grill time: 3 – 4 minutes on each side or until lightly charred.

  • Cherry tomatoes

Prep: Thread onto double skewers. Grill time: 1 – 3 minutes on each side or just until skins begin to split.

Grilled Organic Fruit Kabobs

Who says you can’t grill dessert. Here are some fun grilling ideas for your sweet tooth… that’s healthy too!! These are a hit for kids and adults alike!

Fruit Ideas:

  • Strawberries
  • cantaloupe
  • Honeydew
  • Pineapples
  • Mangos
  • Bananas
  • Kiwis
  • For Basting
  • Honey
  • Fresh squeezed orange juice/lemon juice
  • Unsweetened Coconut Flakes (optional)

Instructions

If you use wood skewers, soak them in cold water for an hour to avoid burning them. Turn on grill to medium heat. Thread each skewer with your favorite fruits. Warm some honey and mix with orange juice so it’s nice and thin and runny. Baste each kabob lightly with honey/orange mix then sprinkle with coconut flakes. Grill until the fruit gets some nice grill marks on each side. Remove to a serving plate (optional: drizzle with a little dark melted chocolate).

Dipping ideas:

  • Yogurt with honey
  • Coconut cream sweetened with honey and fresh squeezed orange juice (I love coconut cream sweetened with a bit of honey and blended with fresh strawberries)
  • Coconut butter
  • Chocolate
  • Your choice of nut spread

What are you organic recipes for grilling season?

 

Organic Salsa: Four Recipes to Spice up Your Summer

Can you think of anything that pairs better with a tortilla chip than organic salsa? Nope, I can’t either. organic salsaSalsa and chips are one of the best summer-time snacks, and they’re nutritious too, just always make sure your corn/tortilla chips are organic and you are good to go! Have you ever made your own organic salsa? There are so many different types you can make! You can practically make salsa out of any fresh produce. Last year I fell in love with watermelon salsa… so yummy! Don’t be afraid to be adventurous in the kitchen!

Four Organic Salsa Recipes

Lacto-Fermented Salsa

This recipe for lacto-fermented salsa is from one of my most favorite books Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. This is my absolute most favorite salsa. Not only that you are getting wonderful benefits of the probiotics, it tastes delicious too! There is a little more work and waiting involved in this recipe, but I promise you, you will love it. This recipe makes one quart of salsa, which must be refrigerated, not canned.

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium organic tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 2 small organic onions, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup chopped chili pepper
  • 6 – 8 cloves organic garlic, peeled and finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 bunch organic cilantro, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried organic oregano
  • Juice of two lemons
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons whey (if not available, use an additional 1 tablespoon salt)
  • 1/4 cup filtered water

Directions:

To peel the tomatoes, use a slotted spoon to place them gently into a pan of boiling water and watch for the skins to split. This only takes from 15 to 45 seconds, depending on the size of the tomatoes.

Then lift them out of the pan and place them in a colander set over a large bowl to catch the draining water. Allow them to cool while you chop the other ingredients. Then peel and seed tomatoes and cut into small chunks.

Mix all your ingredients together in a large bowl and ladle into wide mouth quart canning jar. Press down gently with a wooden pounder or a meat hammer, adding more water if necessary to cover the vegetables.

The top of the vegetables should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 2 days before transferring to the refrigerator.

 

Fruity Salsa

Perfect on top of a burger!

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe mango, diced
  • 2 avocados diced
  • 1 ripe organic peach, diced
  • ¼ cup organic red onion, diced
  • ¼ cup organic fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped (if you want a kick try cilantro)
  • ½ TBSP avocado oil (could use olive oil also)
  • ½ TBSP orange (squeezed)

Directions:

Throw all ingredients in a bowl and stir. That’s it!

 

Classic Homemade Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 1 small organic onion, diced
  • One organic Jalapeño, diced
  • 1 large organic Garlic Clove, smashed and roughly chopped
  • 1 {28 oz can} Organic Whole Peeled Tomatoes
  • 1 {14.5} Can of Organic Diced Tomatoes
  • One big Handful of Fresh Cilantro Leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon organic sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • Juice of half a Lime

Directions:

Add the chopped onion, jalapeno and garlic to a food processor or blender. Next add the can of whole peeled tomatoes (with their juices), fresh cilantro, sugar and salt and the juice of half a lime. Pulse until you get the desired consistency (chunky or smooth). Add diced tomatoes with green chilies. Give a few more pulses. Let refrigerate for a couple of hours at least before serving, but over night is best!

 

Homemade Blender Salsa

Quick easy salsa you can whip up in under 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 15oz. cans organic stewed tomatoes (you can substitute 1/2 fresh if available)
  • 1 4oz. can organic chopped green chiles
  • 1 organic Clove Garlic, minced
  • 1 organic jalapeño pepper – chopped & seeded
  • 1 bunch cilantro – chopped (add as much as you’d like)
  • 4 green onions – chopped
  • 1 tsp organic sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • Pinch of Pepper

Directions:

Add all ingredients into a blender and blend to your preference.

For best results and best for your health. Always choose organic ingredients. Do you have a favorite organic salsa recipe??

 

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