Make This Tonight: Cauliflower “Rice”

I’ve been seeing “rice” made out of cauliflower here and there on social media sites recently and have been itching to try it for myself because it sounds like a great way to switch out a grain in one of my meals and substitute it with even more veggies…my favorite!

Being grain-free, cauli-rice is a great alternative to rice for those living a paleo lifestyle, or for anyone who wants a low-calorie, lower-carb alternative to rice. Plus, the dish is super quick and easy to make, with no cooking required! Using raw cauliflower also yields you all of the wonderful benefits of raw foods!

But what’s so great about cauliflower, anyway?
This white wonder veg is full of boastful body benefits, including:20131119-105906.jpg

  • loads of fiber, which helps to fill you up, stabilize your blood sugar, decrease your blood cholesterol levels, and keep your digestive tract moving along smoothly.
  • vitamin C, a potent antioxidant that aids in your immunity, tissue repair, collagen formation, and iron absorption (cauliflower is also high in iron, so it’s a complete package!). Vitamin C has also been reported to be a “fat-burner” (1).
  • vitamin K, which helps in bone development and blood coagulation
  • potassium, a key body electrolyte and heart health promotor
  • isothiocyanate, a sulfur-based compound that supports the body against disease (3).
  • magnesium, a mineral that is known to play in so many of the numerous enzymatic reactions completed by the body on a daily basis

(that’s just the tip of the nutrition iceberg)

Below is my simple raw cauliflower rice recipe! You can certainly make it with just cauliflower, but I decided to take it up a notch and add::

  • onions –> known for their antibacterial properties, onions are also a blood purifier and thinner, helping to clean the blood and prevent blood clots. Onions also have a stockpile of the antioxidant quercetin, which helps destroy free radicals (2).
  • parsley –> a potent detoxifier, digestive aid, and diuretic! Plus, this tiny herb is packed with the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E as well as iron and folate (both very important for female and reproductive health) (2).

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Raw Savory Cauli-Rice

  • 1 head organic cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 small cooking onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. black pepper (feel free to play with the amount of herbs and spices. I usually use herbs and spices to taste, and I tend to like them strong)
  1. put all ingredients in food processor or high-powered blender and pulse until it reaches a “rice-like” consistency.
    * this works great as a side dish or as a base for a curry, a saucy entree recipe, or a stirfry!
    *no salt and no oil required!
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my Raw Savory Cauli-Rice, pictured here surrounded by a bunch of sauteed, curry-spiced veggies and some baked turnip “chips”

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Resources:
1. Sadia. “Top  10 Health Benefits of Cauliflower.” StyleCraze.com. 5 Sept 2013. http://www.stylecraze.com/articles/top-10-health-benefits-of-cauliflower/
2. Snyder, Kimberly. Beauty Detox Foods. Harlequin. 2013.
3. Stanton, Meredith. “Cauliflower: A Royal Health Boost.” WebMd. 2006. http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/cauliflower-health-boost

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A How-To: Making the Perfect Green Smoothie

“A green smoothie a day keeps the doctor away!” 🙂20131018-195453.jpg

Whenever the topic of green smoothies comes up in conversation (okay, I tend to bring them up a lot..hey, I’m a fan!), I say that they are downright life-changing.

I started slurping “green monsters” back in May, and since then, I have made them into a daily habit, drinking at least one a day. Prior to taking the plunge into green goodness, I had seem them around on the internet, especially from my health coach colleagues and always wondered: Can that really taste good? How does it NOT taste like grass?!

Let me tell you, once you get the combination of ingredients right, they taste simply decadent. I swear.

Add their great taste to the fact that these gems are jam-packed with nutrients, vitamins, and minerals and yield tremendous health benefits, and I wouldn’t doubt that you’ll be making a green smoothie into a daily habit too!

So, what makes green smoothies so great anyway? Well, they are:

  • like liquid nutrition for your cells – because the cell walls of the greens are broken down by the action of the blender, the nutrients are more easily digested and assimilated into the body
  • fiber-rich, unlike juices where all the fiber/pulp is removed. Fiber helps keep your system “moving along,” keeps you fuller longer, stabilizes blood sugar spikes, and helps bind cholesterol and remove it from the body
  • an immune boost! With so many antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients from the veggies, fruit, and “extras” you can add (see examples below), a green smoothie like a gigantic multivitamin for your body.
  • a great “pick me up”: due to all the nutrients you’re consuming and the easily-digestible nature of green drinks (did you know that the act of digestion takes up the majority of our energy throughout the day?!), you’ll get a burst of energy that lasts.
  • they make you more VIBRANT from the inside out: you skin, your hair, your digestive system, and your mood..all due to that lovely liquid gold (or should I say green?)
  • a great alternative to salads, which for me, can get dull. So many leafy greens go into my smoothies that they contain more than my typical salad!
  • super detoxifying and cleansing for the body: our bodies build up a lot of toxins on a daily basis, even when we’re eating well (see my post on toxicity), but the healthy punch of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and chlorophyll in green smoothies helps to neutralize and get rid of that built up gunk that’s just bogging down your health, your weight loss, and your mood.
  • incredibly versatile, as you’ll see below, so you can mix up and switch up ingredients to your taste (I even have a great one for chocolate lovers!)
  • perfect for on-the-go! Just stick it in a travel cup, a mason jar with a lid, or whatever you have on hand, and take it with you. You can even make them ahead of time (but stick it in the freezer to save the optimum nutritional quality) and just grab it as you head out the door in the morning. Super portable!

Now, let’s talk about how to make the perfect green smoothie..

BLEND IT UP, BABY!

Tools you need:

  • a blender (I’m even using my great-grandmother’s ancient blender, so believe me when I say you do not need a Vitamix to make smoothies)
  • measuring cups and spoons; hands work just fine for measuring greens and fruit too
  • a glass
  • a rubber spatula (to scrape the blender sides, if necessary)
  • a straw for sipping, if that’s how you like to roll

The goods:

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  1. Step 1: Greens and Liquid
    2-3 cups/handfuls of organic greens (switch them up periodically so you get a wide variety of nutrients)
    1 cup “milk”: almond, coconut, hemp, rice, etc. Coconut water works here too!
    other veggies: cucumber, celery, etc.
    herbs: parsley, cilantro
  2. Step 2: Blend (blending the mylk and greens first will decrease chunkiness, especially if you have sub-par blender)
  3. Step 3: Everything Else
    fruit: 1/2-1 frozen banana, 3/4 cup frozen mango or pineapple (these fruits really help cut through the “green” taste)
    protein: 1 scoop protein powder of choice (I like Perfect Fit because it’s raw, organic, non-GMO, vegan, and sprouted brown rice protein…and it tastes amazing!); 1-2 tbsp. soaked nuts or seeds (I like chia or ground flax)
    Extras:
    – 1/2 cup fresh or frozen berries, peaches, grapes etc.
    – 1/2 avocado (for an extra creamy texture and good fats)
    – 1 tbsp coconut oil or unsweetened coconut flakes (for healthy fats and staying power)
    – dried fruit, such as: gogi berries or cherries
    – superfood powders like: raw cacao, maca root, spirulina
    – pumpkin puree
    – spices, such as: cinnamon, cayenne, nutmeg, ginger
    – ice 
  4. Step 4: Blend
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  5. Step 5: Pour, “chew,” and enjoy!
    * It’s important to sip, not chug, your green drink, for best digestion. Also, try to “chew” your smoothie because digestion begins with the activation of saliva in the mouth.
    *If the smoothie isn’t cold enough for your liking, just throw it in the freezer for a few minutes as you clean up the blender!

Here’s a recipe card of one of my favorite green smoothies ever. I especially love it post-workout since it has a great amount of protein (15g) for optimal muscle recovery. Save the image on your computer or print it out if you’d like!

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A Top-10 Ode to Raw Foods

To be quite frank, I haven’t turned on the stove in over a week (besides to heat up water for
my morning elixir – warm water, lemon juice, raw apple cider vinegar, and cayenne). The reasoning is two-fold:
(1) I’ve been busy training for a marathon and recovering from a running injury, as well as getting a new fall program going (so excited about this..look below for the first details!)
(2) raw foods are just too tasty to pass up for me right now, especially with all the fresh produce this time of year (don’t get me started on how sad I will be when winter comes!).20130906-081325.jpg

Besides their YUM-factor, adding some/more raw foods to your diet can do so much to help improve anyone’s health and daily life!

So without further ado, here is my Top-10 Raw Food Love Fest List:

  1. Raw foods can help you lose weight (and prevent obesity): raw foods, especially fruits and vegetables have a very high water content (often more than 90%), making you feel fuller faster. They’re also typically high in fiber (think fruits, veggies, raw nuts and seeds), which also fill you up and help balance your blood sugar! Another bonus to your waistline? Raw foods are often low in calories!20130906-081430.jpg
  2. Improved digestion: raw foods come with all their natural enzymes intact (they’re killed off once a food’s temperature reaches 118F), and these enzymes help your body digest food more efficiently and effectively. Although we have our own digestive enzymes to digest food, it is believed that we possess a limited number of them; so, as we age, our storage becomes diminished. If we aren’t digesting our food well enough, we aren’t getting nearly as many nutrients from the food we’re eating, and all the leftover undigested waste, which can lead to health problems, builds up faster.
  3. More energy: The majority of our body’s energy each day is spent on digestion, so the more efficient ours is, the more extra energy we’ll have to keep us moving onto bigger and better things!
  4. Mega doses of antioxidants and other phytonutrients: just as enzymes are killed off in cooking, many of the healthy vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are lost when we cook – just look in the pot of your boiled or steamed veggies –> that colored water is full of nutritious goodness leached from your food.
  5. Decreased exposure to harmful chemical by-products of cooking: certain foods, especially meats and fried foods, produce toxic chemicals when cooked at high temperatures; these chemicals include Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs), Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), Acrylamide, and Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs); they have been linked to various cancers and other diseases, including heart disease, Alzheimers, and diabetes. Raw foods do not produce these by-products, or do so at very low amounts (ie. AGEs) (1).
  6. Lessens the toxic load: eating more raw foods (and whole plant foods in general) leaves less room in your stomach to consume refined, processed, preservative-filled junk. It’s “crowding out” 101.20130906-081655.jpg
  7. Better immunity: a greater amount of nutrients + a decrease in toxins = a more equipped, ready-to-act immune system. You’re giving it what it needs (phytonutrients, vitamins, antioxidants) while taking away things it would need to fight off (the junk). Raw vegan diets have been shown to directly help symptoms in people with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia (1).
  8. Lower heart disease risk: Naturally lower sodium and trans fat levels in raw foods help slash your risk of cardiovascular issues, including hypertension and atherosclerosis.
  9. Supports natural detoxification processes: the phytochemicals, antioxidants, chlorophyll, and non-clogging nature of so many raw foods boosts your body’s natural detox activities, leaving you feeling lighter, fresher, younger, and prettier!
  10. (and last but not least) Raw meals are usually quick and easy to prepare! This is especially true if you want to keep things generally simple and spend a little time once or twice a week washing and cutting fruits and vegetables to use in your meals.

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And to provide some proof that eating more raw foods doesn’t mean just chomping on celery sticks and eating boring salads…

1-Minute No-Guilt OMG “Ice Cream”20130906-081110.jpg

ingredients:

  • 1/4-1/3 cup water, or homemade non-dairy milk
  • 1 frozen sliced banana
  • 1 cup fruit of choice (peach is my favorite right now)

set the timer, and go:

  • dump everything in blender
  • blend for 45s -1min (get your spoon ready!)
  • pour into your favorite bowl, and enjoy!


Resources:
1. Davis, Brenda. “Raw Food Diets: Separating Fact from Fiction.” Presented at Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

Mix Up Your Meal with Millet

20130828-201647.jpgIt’s not just for the birds.

Millet is one of the newest additions to my pantry, and it’s quickly becoming a staple in my diet, not only because of it’s pretty fantastic nutritional quality, but also for it’s great taste, texture, and versatility.

Lately, I’ve been expanding my repertoire of whole grains – rice, pasta, bread, and oats tend to get old after awhile, and some of them aren’t the healthiest for us to consume either. For example, wheat, even if it’s whole wheat, can really spike your blood sugar as well as cause trouble for anyone who is sensitive to gluten (and it seems like more and more people are these days, and many don’t even know it). Plus, anything overly refined or processed is better left on the store shelves, in my opinion, except for maybe the occasional treat. Even grains like rice have been found to leave an acid ash in the body, which is not good for our health (see below) (2). Millet, however, is one of the grains (along with amaranth and quinoa) that is not only a gluten-free whole grain, but also one that helps balance our pH in the proper, slightly-alkaline range (2).

Millet is an ancient grain originating from China. When cooked, it has a slightly sweet taste and retains a “harder” consistency, which makes it a great replacement for couscous (made from bulgur wheat). Nutrition-wise, millet packs a powerful punch:

  • it’s unprocessed, so it retains all parts of the grain (bran, germ, and endosperm). The bran and germ are vital for nutrition – that’s where all the fiber, vitamins, and minerals are! Refinement leaves only the endosperm, pure starch, which will surely send your blood sugar on a nice rollercoaster ride.
  • The high fiber content helps keep your blood sugar stabilized, which decreases your risk of diabetes, keeps your digestive system moving smoothly, and provides sustained energy; fiber even binds and holds onto cholesterol, thereby helping to lower cholesterol levels.
  • millet is a good source of protein, for extra staying power.
  • it’s gluten-free
  • it can help decrease your cravings for refined, processed carbohydrates
  • millet is one of the few alkaline grains: as it digests, all food leaves either an alkaline or acid ash in the body, which contributes to our overall pH. A slightly alkaline pH is crucial for proper cellular functioning and body health – it effects everything from how well your nerves fire to how well your heart pumps. An acidic pH has been said to be at the root of so many diseases; it also contributes to weight gain, toxic buildup, wrinkles, and bloating, and the typical American Diet is chock-full of acid-causing foods (2).

The versatility of millet makes it wonderful to include in your diet in a variety of ways! You can make it into a sweet or a savory dish, depending on what other ingredients you add. It’s also perfect for any meal of the day – use it at breakfast to replace your morning oatmeal or cereal dish (hot or cold!); use it in refreshing, cool “pasta” salad to take to your next get-together; or replace your normal rice or potatoes with a buttery, garlicky, or italian-seasoned, etc. side dish at dinner tonight.

Here’s one of my favorite recipes for millet. I love the flavor the Indian spices add to the dish (and it helps kick my cravings for Indian food)! Plus, it’s perfect to make this time of year with all the fresh, seasonal produce at your local market!
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Indian Summer Millet (serves ~4)

Ingredients:
– 2 cups cooked millet
(~1/2 cup uncooked, soaked overnight*)
– 1/2 cup green peas
– 1/2 large bell pepper, chopped
– 3/4 cup broccoli, chopped
– 1/2 small-medium yellow onion, chopped
– a few leaves of kale, coarsely chopped

Seasonings (add to your taste: I love spicy foods,
so I add quite a lot of curry and paprika)
– salt and pepper
– curry powder
– paprika
– turmeric

Directions:

  1. Cook millet: Add ~1/2 cup soaked millet to 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, stir, cover, and reduce to simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Set aside.
  2. In a frying pan, saute onion in liquid of choice (I just use water or coconut oil) for 3-4 minutes, until slightly brown and soft.
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  3. Add peas, bell pepper, and broccoli to pan. Add in spices. Cook another 3-4 minutes or to your preference (I still like a little crunch to my veggies, and less cooking time retains more nutrients!)
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  4. Add kale last, and mix in. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until kale color brightens.
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  5. Add millet to the frying pan. Mix and serve!

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I hope you enjoy the recipe!

Have you tried millet? What’s your favorite starch/grain, and what is your favorite way to make it? Share below!

* I recommend soaking grains 8-12 hours in water at room temperature and then rinsing them in a fine mesh sieve prior to cooking. Because grains are seeds, they are protected from the environment by a hard casing that provides protection from the environment, including our digestive system. Soaking starts the germination process and decreases the phytic acid (an anti-nutrient that binds minerals), making the grain more easily digestible, so that your body can get more nutrients out of them (1). Although this requires some planning ahead, I’ve noticed that it helps my digestion. You can save time by making a huge batch of your grain of choice in advance and save the rest for leftovers, another dish later in the week, breakfast, etc. Grains hold up well in the fridge for at least a week, in my experience.

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Soaking prep: put desired amount of millet (measured) in a bowl. Pour filtered water into the bowl until grains are submerged.

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Then cover with a paper towel. Let sit at least 8-12 hours. Rinse prior to cooking.

References:
1. Kimball, Katie. “Soaking Whole Grains: Why Do It?” Kitchen Stewardship. 28 Aug 2013. <http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2009/11/30/soaking-whole-grains-why-do-it/&gt;.
2. Snyder, Kimberly. “The Beauty Detox Solution.” Harlequin Enterprises. 2011.pg 26, 110.

How Chocolate Can Be Your Not-So-Guilty Pleasure

I’m sure you may have heard that certain kinds of chocolate are considered “good for you.” Some are even touting it as a “health food,” but you may be wondering if this claim could even possibly be true. Honestly in my opinion, if I’m looking at raw cacao, I’m standing in the “health food” camp. The stuff is quite spectacular. Are you smiling yet?

Cacao pods are extracted and fermented to remove bitterness and increase rich chocolate flavor.

source (3)

The word cacao refers to the plant from which cacao seeds/beans, cocoa, and chocolate are all derived. In ancient Central/South American cultures, such as the Aztecs, cacao beans (and drinks made with them) were considered a privilege only the elite experienced. Today, you can find raw cacao beans, powder, or nibs in your local health food store or on Amazon, and in this raw, unprocessed form, cacao has numerous healthy attributes and can be enjoyed guiltlessly (in moderation, of course!) as a part of your diet.*

Let’s break down the health benefits of raw cacao:

  1. fiber: with 4g/serving (1), this will help keep you feeling fuller longer; high fiber diets are also linked to better insulin sensitivity and a decrease in blood cholesterol levels!
  2. health health: naturally high in magnesium and potassium, raw cacao powder provides minerals necessary to helping decrease cardiovascular disease and blood pressure. A 2012 meta-analysis showed a decease in both cardiovascular disease (by 37%) and stroke (by 29%) by eating chocolate.(2)
  3. iron: one serving of raw cacao powder provides 8% of your daily need of this essential mineral, which is often low in pre-menopausal women. (1)
  4. mood-booster & stress-buster: raw cacao gives serotonin (that feel-good neurotransmitter) a boost, decreasing depressed moods, stress, and PMS.(3) Higher serotonin also means heightened endorphins, so you’ll feel even better.
  5. sulfur: this mineral helps strengthen keratin-rich structures, like your hair and nails, and is found in high amounts in cacao. (3)
  6. anti-inflammatory: packed with antioxidants, polyphenols, and flavanols, cacao has the tools necessary to pack a serious punch to free radical damage as well as inflammation, which underlies numerous diseases from heart disease to Alzheimers to cancers. Chocolate has been shown to decrease C-reactive protein (CRP), a measure of the body’s inflammation, by 17%! (2)

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So, what should you look for when purchasing a chocolate product to ensure you’re getting these healthy benefits? Ideally, you want it to be raw, as this keeps the nutrients and natural enzymes intact; plus, eating raw cacao means you’re safely keeping away from the junk (like high-fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors) that is in many other processed chocolates. However, if you can’t find raw cacao, or you find the taste too bitter, look for chocolate that is at least 70% cacao. Secondly, it is best to look for an organic, non-gmo product, as chocolate is often genetically modified. Third, if you’re sensitive to dairy, lactose-intolerant, vegan, or are concerned with the added hormones and such in many commercial dairy products, look for a vegan cacao to ensure there is no milk in it. I personally like the Navitas Naturals brand, which I buy on Amazon.

My favorite way to enjoy raw cacao powder is in smoothie form. Here is my nutritiously delicious chocolate green smoothie recipe – a perfect alternative to your standard summer chocolate milkshake! With the added greens (I promise you can’t taste it!), you not only get your chocolate fix, but you also provide your body with the amazing, fiber- and vitamin-rich, beautifying, hydrating, and detoxifying effects of these great vegetables.

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Cacao Chia-Coco Bliss Smoothie

1/3 cucumber, sliced
1 small head romaine
2 handfuls baby spinach
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2-1 frozen banana
2 heaping tbsp. raw cacao powder
1 tbsp. chia seeds
1-2 tsp. unsweetened coconut flakes

Blend until smoothie reaches desired consistency. If the smoothie isn’t as cold as you would like, stick in the freezer for about 5-10 minutes – this also seems to enhance the chocolate flavor for me! Yum!

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Are you a chocolate lover? Give this smoothie a try! What are your thoughts on cacao being called a “health food”?

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* Please note that the nutritional/health benefits of cacao have not been evaluated by the FDA. Enjoy chocolate and cacao only in moderation. If you are caffeine-sensitive, raw cacao, as other chocolate, does contain caffeine and theobromine. Listen to your body and consult your physician if you experience adverse effects or are wondering if cacao is okay for you. Consider the source of your cacao/cocoa products, as certain places such as Nigeria, have previously been shown to have high levels of lead in their cacao/cocoa products (3,4).

Sources:
1. “Cacao Powder.” Navitas Naturals. http://navitasnaturals.com/product/441/Cacao-Powder.html
2. Dr. Mercola. “Surprise! Chocolate Can Be Good for You, At the Right Dose.” Mercola.com. Aug 26, 2012. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/08/26/no-sugar-chocolates.aspx
3. Ingalls, Lindsay. “Health Benefits of Raw Cacao Nibs.” Livestrong.com. Aug 20, 2011.http://www.livestrong.com/article/522112-health-benefits-of-raw-cacao-nibs/
4. Rankin CW, Nriagu JO, Aggarwal JK, Arowolo TA, Adebayo K, Flegal AR. (2005) Lead contamination in cocoa and cocoa products: isotopic evidence of global contamination. Environmental Health Perspectives. Oct;113(10):1344-8