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Savory Bean Salad with Onions and Herbs

I’m a total bean fanatic. Not a week goes by that I don’t have a bowl of dried beans soaking on my countertop. White beans, black beans, scarlet runner beans, pinto beans…they all get a turn in soup, chili and salads. They also make appearances as dips, fillings for omelets or sautéed with a little chopped bacon. Yum! And, wherever I use beans, fresh herbs are not far behind. Combining rich, creamy beans with savory herbs is a mouthwatering combination that has no limits.

Here’s why you need to get on the bean bandwagon!

1.    Your Friend Fiber: Beans are a great source of fiber. Fiber is known for “keeping you regular” but it does so much more than that! It helps maintain normal cholesterol and blood sugar levels, while keeping unwanted pounds off.

2.    Protein Power: Beans are a great vegetarian source of protein and loaded with other nutrients such as calcium, potassium and zinc. Consider replacing one meat meal each week with a bean dish such as a veggie chili. If you need that meat taste sauté the beans with a little ham or bacon and then toss in a handful of chopped kale for a complete meal.

3.    Cook ‘Em with Kombu: Kombu is a seaweed that is sold dried in strips or sheets. Adding a strip of kombu to your bean cooking water helps increase your beans digestibility and prevents the “toot” that beans are well-known for. You can find kombu at most health food stores. The farmers market is overflowing with a huge variety of herbs right now.

You can use virtually any combination of herbs and beans in this recipe to change it up. Basil and sundried tomatoes would be amazing, as would black beans with avocado and mango. The possibilities are endless!

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Savory Bean Salad with Onions and Herbs

Serves 4

Ingredients
1 small sweet potato
1 cup dried beans such as pinto or great northern (you can also a 2 cans of beans)
strip of kombu (optional)
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon of savory fresh herbs, roughly chopped (sage, oregano and hyssop are good choices)
Small handful parsley, chopped
Juice of one lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon real maple syrup or honey
pinch of salt and fresh pepper

Instructions

  1. If using dried beans, soak the beans in water overnight. Add juice of half a lemon and 2 pinches of salt to the soaking water.
  2. To cook the beans, strain them from the soaking water. Put in a medium pot with 3 cups of water, the kombu and a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes until beans are tender but still have a bite. Strain in a fine mesh sieve and place beans in a serving bowl and add the onion.
  3. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Place the sweet potato in a small covered baking dish and bake for 30-40 minutes until soft but not too mushy. You want the potato to hold its shape. Remove from oven and let cool about 10 minutes. Once cooled down, cut the potato into bite-sized pieces and add to the beans.
  4. Place the sliced onion in a bowl and cover with water. Let sit while you’re preparing the dressing.
  5. To make the combine the herbs, parsley, lemon, olive oil, mustard, honey, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk until well combined.
  6. Add the onions to the bean and potato mixture. Pour half the dressing over the mixture and toss to combine. Taste and add more dressing and/or salt if necessary. Enjoy!

Cooking tip: You can cook the beans and bake the potato a day or two ahead of time. Then, all you have to do is assemble! You can store this salad for 2-3 days in the fridge.

Comments { 0 } · Posted on June 7, 2013 in General

3 Simple Steps on How to Eat for Health and Healing

We are bombarded with health and nutrition information left and right, day in and day out. Labels like “low fat,” “fat free” and “no cholesterol” are found everywhere on supermarket shelves. Articles about “lose 5 pounds in 5 days” and “foods for a flatter tummy” greet us at the checkout (and immediately make us critical of our bodies).

At the end of the day all of this “helpful” information causes more confusion than clarity.

When overwhelm takes over we have a tendency to throw our hands up and grab the next bag of chips that comes our way. But, stop right there! What you put in your mouth has huge implications on your energy levels, mood, cravings, skin and even how well you sleep. But, taking control of your health and making positive changes doesn’t have to involve a total diet overhaul or a 4 week lemon juice cleanse. Instead, try going back to basics. Small changes can make big impacts on your health….you just have to take the fist step.

If you’re unsure of where to start follow my 3 Simple Steps on How to Eat for Health and Healing. They are cheap, easy and won’t take any time out of your already busy day.

So, let’s get started, shall we?

Apple with peanut butter

Eat Fruit with Fat: Apples and bananas are great on-the-go snacks. But, they are still loaded with sugar and when eaten alone can raise your blood sugar quickly. Instead, eat fruit with something that contains healthy fats such as a spoonful of natural peanut butter, a piece of organic cheese or a handful of raw nuts like almonds, walnuts or cashews. This will steady your blood sugar, keep your energy up and you’ll stay full longer.

Visit the Water Cooler: If you’re feeling fatigued, experiencing foggy thinking or can’t stop snacking on the office donuts, it’s very likely that you’re dehydrated. Drink half your weight in ounces every day of clean, pure water (if you weigh 130 lbs you need to drink 65 ounces of water). Water helps you digest your food and clears toxins from your body. If you are a soda or coffee drinker consider replacing one of these beverages per day with two cups of water. You can add slices of lemon, lime or orange to give your water a little flavor.

Chew Your Food: With crazy work schedules, kids’ activities, house chores and more, we’re lucky to have 5 minutes to inhale our lunches. But, don’t forget that eating is what gives you the energy to get it all done! Carve out 20-30 minutes to eat your meals and be sure to chew your food properly. This means, chewing each bite at least 5-10 times. Swallowing large pieces of food can cause indigestion, gas, bloating and food allergies. Chewing also prevents overeating because it gives your stomach the time it needs to alert your brain that it’s full.

Now tell me. What are you already doing that makes you feel fantastic? Please share!

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dendroica/6238376077/

Comments { 0 } · Posted on April 16, 2013 in General

5 Reasons Your Kitchen is Stressing You Out

It’s usually New Years that causes us to reflect on the past year and look forward for what is to come. For me, it’s March that has me looking back on the past year and where I was merely 12 months ago. And, when I do it totally and completely blows my mind! Never in a million years would I have expected to go from the hustle and bustle of Oakland, CA to embrace the calm, quiet (and occasional crowing rooster) in Shermans Dale, PA. It’s been quite a ride!

You see, this time last year I was doing a MAJOR overhaul of my belongings to prepare for a move from a 2 bedroom house into a cozy studio apartment (the PA move came a bit later – it’s a long story!). I was determined to not have a storage space and this called for a serious assessment of all of my stuff – from books and craft supplies to clothing and decorative items. I went through every little piece of my life and decided what to keep, what to donate and what just needed tossed. It was a tedious and exhausting process but I felt incredibly light and free after it was all over. That is, after I slept for nearly an entire week to fully recover 🙂

The hardest area for me to dig through was my kitchen. I had collected an array of kitchen gadgets large and small that I felt I absolutely NEEDED in order to be a good cook.

Aren’t a juicer, dehydrator and ice cream maker essentials to everyone’s kitchen pantry?

My new kitchen was incredibly tiny with a 2×3 foot counter space, 3 drawers and 4 cabinets for storage and so the juicer, dehydrator and ice cream maker found new owners through Craigslist. My wine bottle openers, spatulas and other tool multiples found good homes in other kitchens. I haven’t missed them since. Are there kitchen tools or gadgets you haven’t used in months? Or, probably ever will?

I learned a big lesson when it comes to creating a successful and stress-free cooking environment. It may sound cliche but even in the kitchen “less is more.” I cooked some incredibly delicious meals for myself and my friends in that itty-bitty kitchen and I have to say…I kind of miss it sometimes! It forced me to be more creative, innovative and organized with my preparation and cooking. I couldn’t let dishes pile up in the sink or leave a trail of food scraps on multiple countertops.

5 Reasons Your Kitchen is Stressing You Out

I often hear people say that cooking is totally stressful and takes up way too much time. If that’s the case it’s because their kitchen isn’t serving them in the best way possible.

A few minor changes will turn cooking from stress inducing to stress reducing.

1) Your Sink is a Dirty Dish Parking Lot

Having a full sink of dishes at the end of the day or at the end of just one meal is a total downer! Make it a priority to take the 30 seconds to wash your dishes as you go or put them in the dishwasher right away. It also helps to create a dishwasher routine. Run the dishwasher after dinner and then empty it before bed. Being able to put breakfast dishes right in the dishwasher in the morning will totally make your day!

2) Your Trash Can (and Recycling) are in a Bad Location

If it’s not conveniently located it will feel like total pain in the behind to use it. Put your trash and recycling close to where you do most of your cooking preparation. If you have the space get it out from under the sink – opening that door every time can be annoying and you’re just getting chicken juice all over the handle, right? I like to use a compost bowl while cooking where I put all my kitchen scraps. It keeps my workspace clean and I’m not walking back and forth just to throw out an onion peel.

3) Your Cleaning Supplies Are Not Accessible (or They’re Gross!)

No matter how clean of a cook you are you will make a mess. So, if you have to get down on all fours to dig out your spray cleaner from under the sink it’s going to feel like a total bear. I keep my kitchen cleaning supplies in a basket under the fridge. This includes Barkeepers Friend for my sink, Mrs. Meyers Countertop Spray for countertops and the stove and a cleaning sponge. If your sponge tends to get stinky be sure to wring it out really well and put it where it dries quickly. A wet sponge will breed germs and smell to high heavens. You can also put it in your dishwasher every so often to give it a good cleaning.

4) Your Drawers Are a Clutter Chaos

Organize your drawers into “everyday use” and “occasional use.” Make sure your “everyday use” drawers are located where you do most of your prep and cooking. Go through all your tools and get rid of the triple wine bottle openers, 5 wooden spoons and 3 vegetable peelers. You can either donate them or put them in a box for later use. Then, buy simple drawer organizers and non-skid pads to keep everything in the right place.

5) Observe How You Work

Once you’ve de-cluttered, moved the trash and got your cleaning supplies in order pay attention to how you function in your kitchen. Are you walking back and forth multiple times to get frequently used tools? Then move them closer. Or, are you running laps just to put the dishes away? Maybe the plates and glasses should go in the cabinet above the dishwasher. Pay attention to what is frustrating you and then find a way to fix it. Cooking should be an enjoyable experience, not a total frazzle-fest!

Do you have ways to make cooking an enjoyable and stress-free experience? Please share your ideas in the comments below!

Comments { 0 } · Posted on March 20, 2013 in General, In the Kitchen

10 Ways to Boost Your Immune System

I’m in recovery from a pretty nasty cold. One day I was spending time with friends in Monterey, the next I sounded like a six-pack-a-day smoker. I spent last week rotating between the couch and my bed with a few shuffles to the kitchen to make tea and soup.

I must say that I can’t remember the last time I’ve had such a bad cold – it’s probably been at least 3 or 4 years. I guess I was due.

It’s the time of the year when coughs, sniffles and sneezes become more prevalent. So, to keep you safe from sleeping with the tissue box clutched under your arm, here are 10 ways to boost your immune system and stay sniffle-free!

  1. Eat Lean Protein at Every Meal. Protein gives you a double-whammy for your immune system. The antibodies that help fight disease are made up of proteins AND protein foods contain other immune-boosting nutrients. Beef, pork, beans and some seafood are high in zinc, which is important for keeping your immune defenses strong. Many nuts are also high in magnesium – also an important immune boosting mineral. So, load the nuts on your morning oatmeal, add beans to your salad at lunch and have a grass fed beef burger for dinner.
  2. Take 10-Minute Walks. Carve out some time to take a brisk 10-minute walk a few times a day. Daily exercise increases circulation so antibodies and white blood cells can detect illnesses sooner and release a hormone that can detect an invader. Schedule short walks after each meal or take one 30-minute walk after dinner. Added bonus: walking after eating will curb those cravings so you won’t be reaching scrounging the office kitchen for holiday cakes and cookies.
  3. Get Your Vitamin D Levels Checked. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that can boost our immune response. We get this vitamin from few foods and the sun. However, because many of us spend much of our time in offices we miss out chance at getting enough Vitamin D, especially as the days get shorter. Request a Vitamin D test from your doctor. 50 nmol/L is generally considered enough to maintain overall health; less than 30 nmol/L is too low for most adults. If you are low, talk to your doctor about taking a supplement. Oh, and take those walks!
  4. Eat Your ACE’s. Vitamins A, C and E are especially important to enhancing your immune function. You can get Vitamin A from sweet potatoes, carrots and dark leafy greens. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits like lemons, limes and oranges. Top that off with Vitamin E rich foods like nuts, seeds and Swiss chard and you’ve built a flu-fighting army!
  5. Limit the Liquor. Alcohol suppresses your immune system by weakening dendritic cells whose job it is to seek and destroy invading microbes. This leaves you nearly defenseless against the winter sniffles. With upcoming holiday parties the drinks will be flowing. Try and stick with 1-2 drinks per evening and then hydrate with water or a juice spritzer.
  6. Reduce Your Stress. Stress can put the breaks on your immune system making it not work so well for you. And, this time of year can be especially stressful. Do yoga, learn to meditate, listen to music or take time to play with your dog or kids. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the holidays treat yourself to a housekeeper for the next few months or have your kids help with the holiday cards.
  7. Eat More Omega 3’s. One way that omega 3 fatty acids help your immune system is by increasing the activity of phagocytes, the white blood cells that eat up bacteria. Omega 3’s are abundant in fatty fish like tuna, salmon and sardines. You can also add ground flax seeds or chia seeds to oatmeal, smoothies or yogurt. If you want to take a supplemental fish oil I recommend Carlson’s Fish Oil.
  8. Get Plenty of Sleep. Skimping on sleep releases stress hormones, which in turn weakens your immune system. It’s important to get to bed between 10 and 11 pm and get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Take the occasional short nap when necessary to give your immune system and extra boost.
  9. Skip the Sugar. With bags full of Halloween candy, pecan pie at Thanksgiving and the endless party trays of holiday cookies ‘tis the season of sugar! Problem is, sugar wreaks havoc on your immune system by increasing production of hormones that suppress your immune defenses. Instead of inhaling every sweet treat that comes your way reach for sweet fruits and veggies like apples, oranges, sweet potatoes and winter squash. Not only will they satisfy the need for sweet, they also contain immune boosting vitamins and minerals.
  10. Take a Probiotic. About 70% of your immune system resides in your gut so it’s crucial to keep your digestive system healthy to avoid getting sick. Your gut is filled with tons of good bacteria that eat any bad bacteria that may enter. However, eating too much refined sugar, alcohol, stress and frequent antibiotic use take a toll on your good bacteria. Taking a probiotic 1-2x per day can help build up your good bacteria defenses. My favorite brand is Udo’s Choice Adult Probioitics. You can also get probiotics from plain organic yogurt and kefir.

Let me know in the comments how you fight off the sniffles!

Photo Credit

Comments { 0 } · Posted on October 16, 2012 in General

10 Ways to Save on (Organic) Food

Eating well AND affordably seems impossible. We walk the aisles, compare prices, think we’re on target and then get hit over the head with a nasty number at the register. Choosing healthy foods and sticking within a budget does not have to be an impossible combination.

Here are my tips for savings on food in general as well as saving some cash when you decide to buy organic…

  1. Make a List, Check it Twice. I know this seems obvious but making a grocery list can cut your grocery bill dramatically. Take at least 30 minutes each week to leaf through your favorite cookbooks or collect recipes you see in magazines. Choose three recipes to make in the coming week, check to see which ingredients you have and make a list of those you don’t. The key is to not stray from the list!
  2. Buy Less Than You Think You Need. It feels more economical to buy the giant bags of avocados, apples or carrots but then we throw many of those fresh foods away. The next time you reach for “extra” fresh produce “just in case” you need it ask yourself “will I use this in the next 5-7 days?” If you’re not sure, don’t get it. Those avocados will still be there if you need them on Wednesday.
  3. Buy in Bulk. More and more grocery stores are stocking up on bulk items like rice, nuts, seeds, beans, dried fruit, herbs and spices which are cheaper than buying the packaged versions. Plus, you can buy exactly what you need for the next week or two and not worry about nuts going rancid or herbs losing their flavor.
  4. Buy Beans. Organic and grass fed meat can be a pricey protein source. But, thankfully there is such a wonderful variety of beans available to us that make for wonderful meals and great additions to soups and stews. Dried beans are ridiculously cheap. Don’t want to soak and cook them? Getting canned is still very affordable. Eden Organics is a great brand to try.
  5. Save Scraps for Soup. Don’t throw out the ends of celery, parsley stems or carrot peels. Making chicken or turkey? Save the bones! (I’ve shamelessly taken home doggie bags of bones from restaurants). These are the essentials to delicious stock rich in wonderful minerals with which you can make great soup for pennies.
  6. Buy Real, Not Fake. Sure, the small package of granola for $5 is convenient but you can buy a dozen organic cage free/free range eggs for $3-5 and have delicious breakfast all week long. Buying true, whole foods will always be cheaper than a packaged option.
  7. Buy the Clean 15. Some fruits and veggies are sprayed more heavily than others so if you’re on a budget check out the list of Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen. This guide will show you, which fresh foods should be bought organic and which are ok to buy conventional. Put this list in your wallet or purse to refer to at the store.
  8. Shop with a Friend. You can save on gas, split the cost of that big bag of apples and hold each other accountable to your grocery lists. Want to take it one step further? Cook a collection of meals for the week together in your kitchen. You’ll both have go-to dinners, which will save you tons of time.
  9. Buy In Season and Local. Strawberries in December are going to cost you a fortune and be imported from Chile. Not to mention, they won’t taste nearly as good as when they are in season. Buy locally from your farmers market where food will be in season, more affordable and taste delicious.
  10. Grow Your Own. You don’t have to have a farm or be a master gardener to grow your own veggies. Herbs can be easily grown in small containers and all tomatoes need is sun and water. Choose three veggies to grow and start small. If you don’t have to buy a single tomato for an entire summer you will save big!

How do you save at the grocery store? Share your tips and ideas in the comment!

Comments { 0 } · Posted on October 9, 2012 in General

Guilt Free (and Gluten Free) Ginger Snap Cookies

Let me just start by saying….I am notorious for not following instructions. I’m the person who buys Ikea furniture, stares blankly at the instructions and then just thinks “screw it, I’ll figure it out without this piece of paper!” And then, and hour later I’m digging in the trash trying to find them.

This is why I’m not much of a baker. Baking requires following a recipe (i.e. those pesky instructions!), using measuring devices and organization. Cooking on the other hand is much more adaptable and creative. To me cooking recipes are solely meant for inspiration and it’s up to me to make it work with what I’ve got on hand or what kind of mood I’m in. Plus,  I like looking like a mad scientists in the kitchen with pots steaming, spices flying and adjusting flavors until it tastes just right. (And yes, if you’re imagining a huge mess when I’m done cooking you’ve got that right!)

In a nutshell….baking has rules, cooking doesn’t. And, I don’t like following rules (or  instructions for that matter).

But, I’m trying to harness my slightly ADD ways and I think baking might be a good place for me to start. And if I can benefit from the occasional sweet treat….well, that wouldn’t be so bad either!

I recently picked up a great cookbook called Clean Food by Terry Walters and I’m totally obsessed! On the very last page is a recipe for cookies using teff flour that intrigued me so I took the plunge last night and made them. I made a few REALLY small tweaks (hey, I just can’t help myself!) and they are super yummy. Plus, they are gluten, egg, dairy and processed sugar free. Heck yeah!

A little bit about teff. Teff is a tiny acient grain native to Ethiopia.

It’s gluten free and since it’s so tiny that it can’t be processed like other grains so it’s always ground in it’s whole form making it a whole grain. It’s loaded in calcium, high in vitamin C (unusual for a grain) and a great source of fiber that can help control blood sugar, manage weight and colon health. You can find teff flour at most health food stores.

Now, even though teff has some great health benefits these are still cookies! So, bake ’em, share ’em and enjoy in moderation.

Guilt Free (and Gluten Free) Ginger Snaps

Makes about 24 cookies

Ingredients

2 cups brown teff flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ cup all natural peanut butter or almond butter (if your nut butter is thick set it out on the counter or near the preheating stove while you’re gathering your other ingredients)
½ cup molasses
½ cup real organic maple syrup
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and the wet ingredients in a smaller bowl. Pour wet ingredients over dry and blend until just combined. Be careful to not over mix. If your batter seems to thick to mix add a tablespoon of water and continue to mix. Add small amounts of water if it’s still too thick.
  3. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or silpat. Scoop small balls of the batter with a spoon (a little smaller than golf ball size) and place on the parchment paper. No need to flatten, you can just leave them in mounds. Place in the oven and bake for 12 minutes. Remove from oven immediately and place directly on wire rack to cool.

Adapted from Clean Food
by Terry Walters

Comments { 0 } · Posted on October 5, 2012 in General