Simple Stove-Top Maple Bacon "Baked" Beans

Hellooo comfort food. Cannellini beans in a rich tomato sauce with caramelized onions, bacon, mild Spanish peppers, garlic, and a shot of maple syrup. These give Heinz a serious run for their money, if I do say so myself. I promise you won't miss the processed sugar for one minute either. 
On weekdays, I almost always go for a green smoothie for breakfast, since I'm in a rush mornings and don't work up much of an appetite just sitting at my desk all day. On the weekends, though, I have time to turn on the stove and want something that will fuel me up for a day out and about. In other words, I want a plate of food bigger than my head. Now that the days are cooler and shorter, this goes double. I want something hearty that sticks to my ribs and keeps me satisfied for a while. This fits the bill perfeccctly and is a surprisingly healthy option!  
These baked beans have a few things going for them health wise:
  • High in fiber: One cup of beans (click for nutrition data) contains one-half of your daily fiber needs! In my book, fiber is an absolute all-star. Diets high in fiber not only are known for helping reduce cholesterolpromote heart health, and lower risk of cancer and diabetes, they improve digestive (colon) health. You may have heard people talk about how a huge part of your health is actually in you gut. This is because your digestive tract is where you absorb nutrients your body needs. Fiber helps keep your digestive tract clean by brushing the microvilli in your intestines free of debris so they can do their job. Fiber also supports weight loss/maintence and helps control appetite by slowing the release of sugar into the blood stream and improving insulin regulation. 
  • Packed with protein: Beans are also a great source of plant protein. One cup has nearly 20 grams. Amino acids are the building blocks of life. We needs them to help repair cells and make new ones.
  • Good source of iron, folate, calcium, zinc, magnesium, manganese, and other vitamins and minerals: Iron is critical for our red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the body. Without oxygen we feel fatigued and everything from our nervous system to immune system suffer. Calcium is important for strong bones and zinc plays a key role in the immune system's defense, cell repair, and wound healing.


Summer BLT Salad

So summer hit me hard this year. Somewhere between July and August--when Frankfurt was having those record-shattering highs in the 100s and shade was no escape--the heat got to me. It settled in every corner on my body, and I found myself lulled into a state of pleasant apathy that made it impossible to want to do anything but lay by the pool. 

This included cooking or even thinking about food. Even going to the grocery store, which happens to be one of my most favorite places ever, seemed like work. I just could not be bothered. Eating a watermelon for dinner and calling it a day sounded like a grade-A plan right about then. And this my friends, this low point is where this recipe was born.
Desperation errr... necessity is the mother of innovation, they say. I guess it is at least kinda true, although I feel like it paints a much more glamorous picture than the reality of a somewhat sweaty, hungry, tired me staring into my nearly empty fridge. Regardless, on that trusty day, I threw all the things I could find to eat together and somehow the result was far more delicious than anything so easy deserved to be. This is the power of bacon. Fresh zucchini, squash, and tomatoes aren't so bad either, but we all know who the star in here.
I like to think of this salad as a healthier alternative to your classic BLT sandwich, minus the lettuce, which we all know was kinda the boring part anyway. Not only do skip the mayo slathered bread, but you're actually getting a decent serving of veggies in at the same time. The beans add a good source of fiber and protein and you still have the mouthwatering bacon in there to bring everything together.
Another thing I love about this meal is how little cooking is actually involved. You just sizzle up the bacon and the acidity of the lemon juice breaks down the zucchini and squash just enough while still keeping the dish fresh and bright. 


Tuscan White Bean & Asparagus Salmon Salad

On my last trip home to the U.S., I had the pleasure of exploring New York for a few days with my family to celebrate my mom's 60th. It was the trip of a lifetime, and one of the absolute highlights was a lunch I had at a little Italian restaurant in SoHo. Salmon with a crispy skin over a bed of cannellini beans, thinly sliced asparagus, pesto, earthy rosemary, and tons of freshly squeezed lemon juice. It was so simple, delicious, refreshing, and filling at the same time. Needless to say, it's been stuck in my head ever since. 
Since asparagus is still in season here, I took it upon myself to give recreating this dish a try last weekend. Hopefully the pictures speak for themselves, but hot damn, it was spot on and oh-so simple to make. The first words out of my boyfriend's mouth after trying this were "Wow!" And this is not something I hear often, since he is slowly becoming spoiled by all the good eats he gets living with me.

Perhaps best of all, though, this meal is incredibly healthy! It is high in protein and fiber and low in calories. It also is free of refined sugar and gluten for those who need to look out for that!

  • Wild salmon: Wild salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acid you can find. This is exciting because omega-3s promote heart health, brain health, circulation, blood sugar control, and even memory function! Other studies suggest they also help improve mood. Salmon also is a great source of protein, potassium, and the cancer-fighting trace mineral selenium. I can't in good conscious mention the health benefits of salmon without mentioning that there is a world of difference between farm-raised and wild salmon. Salmon gets its omega-3s and lovely pink color from its natural diet. Farm-raised salmon typical are feed grains and, as a result, contain more inflammatory omega-6 fats.
  • Asparagus: While low in calories, these spears are high in antioxidants, fiber (blood sugar regulation and digestive health), potassium, folate, vitamin K (strong bones and healthy blood clotting). They also contain the anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting compound quercetin. 
  • Beans: Beans are incredibly rich in fiber, which aids our digestive health. Fiber slows digestion, regulating blood sugar levels and keeping us full. The roughage also acts like scrubbing bubbles to cleanse our colon and intestines, helping to push out unwanted waste products and free the microvilli, so they can better absorb nutrients
  • Rosemary: You don't hear much about rosemary, but it contains caffeic acid and rosmarinic acid, which are anti-inflammatory, and have mildly antibiotic and antiviral properties. In animal studies, the oil has proven to protect the liver and inhibit tumors. It also contains compounds that help prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter needed for memory and brain health.
  • Lemon juice: Although lemon juice is acidic, it has an alkalizing and anti-inflammatory affect on the body. It also stimulates digestive juices and the liver to release bile.


Strawberry-Rhubarb Coconut Crumble

Some girls look forward to buying new clothes when seasons change. I live for the new produce! There is just something about specific foods that ushers in a season for me. As much as pumpkins and apples equal fall, asparagus and rhubarb are spring. 
When I saw a big basket of ripe strawberries and rhubarb on sale, I knew Frankfurt had finally said goodbye to winter! Rhubarb never seems to stick around long, though, so I grabbed two bundles and went on my merry way. The only thing left to do was bake a crumble.
As far as I am concerned, once baked goods are in the house, they are fair game for any time of day or meal. With that in mind, I decided to make this treat at least semi breakfast appropriate and went with an oat, walnut and coconut streusel topping, which is filled with fiber and healthy fats. Oh, and the combination is heavvvennly. The coconut and tangy rhubarb are so refreshing with the sweetness from the strawberries and honey. The fat from the walnuts and coconut also help ground the flavors and cut the acidity of the fruit filling. I'm also happy to report that no refined sugar was used and that this dish is gluten free. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!


Samosa Stuffing Over Coconut "Rice" With Lime-Mint Sauce

This is my soul food. Tumeric, cumin, and cardamom spiced chickpeas and veggies, with a pinch of cinnamon, over cauliflower coconut rice and topped off with a cool and tangy lime-mint sauce.  The colors, the smells, the TASTE! It is heavenly. And unlike fried samosas, which I love with all my heart, this dish is low in calories, extremely heart healthy, packed with nutritious goodness, and fantastically filling.
Despite my deep, undying love of Indian food, it has taken me until the ripe old age of 26 to try cooking any in my own kitchen. This is partly because I was spoiled enough to have an Indian best friend in high school whose mother would send me home from their house with tupperware filled with amazing, traditional home-cooked meals. But if I am honest, it is mostly because Indian spices are so intimidating. I felt like didn't know where to even start.

Last Christmas, I finally did a little research on the top-12, must-have Indian spices, bought them in bulk, and packaged them up as gifts and, of course, kept a set for myself. Out of all the recipes that I've tried, this is my favorite! It is so hearty and nourishing. Sometimes, I go all out and put the stuffing in wonton wrappers and bake them to make a lighter version of samosas, but most of the time I can't be bothered.
Besides the delicious earthy flavors, this meal contains a number of nutritional powerhouses that do so many amazing things for your body (click on foods for links to nutritional data):
  • Promotes heart health: This dish is packed with fiber and low in cholesterol, thanks to the peas, chickpeas, and spinach! Diets high in fiber are shown to reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, and the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Plus it evens our blood sugar levels, keeps you full longer, and helps your digestive system move things along.
  • Prevents cancer/detoxifies the body: Like broccoli, cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetables that releases a sulfur-containing phytochemical in our body called glucosinolates. These little guys detoxify the body by activating enzymes in the liver that help disarm and eliminate carcinogens before they can cause celluar damange. To get the most out of the cauliflower, avoid boiling or microwaving it.
  • Helps build and maintain muscles: This dish is filled with multiple sources of plant-based, low-cholesterol protein. One cup of chickpeas has 15 grams of protein and one cup of frozen peas has nearly as much with 12 grams. Cashews, while higher in fat, also contain a good amount of protein, at 5 grams per protein 28 grams (not to mention magnesium, phosphorus, copper and manganese)! 
  • Is rich in tons of key vitamins and minerals
    • Vitamin A (spinach, peas, carrotsonions, spinach): Important for vision, the immune system, and cell growth (think healthy skin, nails, and hair).
    • Vitamin B6 (spinach, chickpeas, cauliflower, peas): Needed for maintaining healthy brain and nerve function, helps metabolize fats and proteins, and vital for synthesizing antibodies that fight disease.
    • Vitamin C (spinach, cauliflower, peas): Boosts the immune system and vital for cell growth and repair.
    • Vitamin K (peas and onions): Helps us store calcium in our bones.
    • Iron (spinach, chickpeas, cashews): Helps blood cells transport oxygen to the brain and body.
    • Zinc (nuts, peas, chickpeas): Key for cell growth and repair, boosts immune system, and vital for vision and fertility.
    • Folate (spinach, peas, chickpeas, cauliflower): Prevents neural tube defects and reduces levels of homocysteine, a naturally occurring amino acid that can damage blood vessels and lead to heart disease, stroke, dementia, and peripheral vascular disease.
Not to mention the long list of benefits that come with all the spices!
  • Ginger: There is reason you reach for ginger when you're sick. This little plant is antiviral, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory. Plus it can soothe an upset stomach, improve circulation, and thin the blood. Numerous studies on humans have also shown ginger to have a positive impact on pain and fever
  • Mustard seeds: So I was surprised to find out that this spice is actually part of the brassica family, alongside superstars like broccoli, kale, and brussels sprouts. Like its brothers and sisters, mustard seeds are packed with cancer-fighting substances like indoles, isothiocyanates, and sulforaphane.
  • Turmeric: Curcuminoids, which are what gives tumeric its bright yellow color that threatens to stain everything, are also what gives it superpowers! It is a powerful antioxidant that reduces inflammation in the body and helps alleviate arthritis and joint pain. It also has antitumor properties, reducing the size and number of tumors in animals that have them. It improves heart health by reducing cholesterol and is known to boost liver health.
  • Cardamom: Like ginger, it helps with digestion, but for different reasons. It contains a compound called carminative, which reduces cramps by helping the body expel gas from the stomach and intestines. It also supports liver health by stimulating bile flow and fat metabolism.
  • Cayenne pepper: It helps increase circulation, break up congestion/mucus, and stimulate digestion by increasing the body's production of saliva, gastric juices, and digestive enzymes.
Hopefully these are enough reasons to consider giving this recipe a try!


Sea Salt & Dark Chocolate Goji Berry Bites

Folks, it's been a while. My two-(err three?)-month hiatus from the blog has been in part due to a rather major change in my life: On Jan. 19, 2015, I had my second-ever first day of work. Getting to that point, though, took a great deal of time and energy. The job search being kick-started by the threat of looming unemployment made the process just that much more emotionally exhausting. I had to recharge my batteries and focus on the basics for a while there.
I didn't come here to talk about life's trials and tribulations, though. I came to talk about delicious, wholesome treats! These babies are dipped in mood-lifting, antioxidant-rich dark chocolate and filled with protein, fiber and healthy fats. Slightly bigger than a cookie, they are the perfect size to satisfy a grumbling tummy and sweet tooth between meals. I'm really enjoying having them after my smoothie in the mornings with a cup of coffee or tea.
The whole idea for these came from a delicious energy bar I discovered when I was in the States visiting family over Christmas. They were made almost entirely of almonds, dark chocolate and sea salt. I bought a 30-pack to take back with me. Needless to say my supply is dwindling and I had to find a replacement STAT.
After playing around in the kitchen, I came up with these beauties. Besides being delicious, they also do a few other fantastic things for you. They...
  • Improve digestion and lower cholesterol: The fiber from the wheat bran, oats and nuts slow down digestion and act like scrubbing bubbles for your insides. Soluble fiber binds to the bile acid your body produces to aid digestion. To make more bile acid, the body pull cholesterol from the blood stream. 
  • Kill hunger pangs & sugar cravings: Aside from just staying in your tummy longer, fiber also helps regulate the release of sugar into the blood stream. No blood sugar peaks and crashes followed by intense sugar cravings. The same goes for protein and fat. They take a while to digest, which means that 15 minutes later you will not be wanting to eat everything in sight.
  • Load you up with antioxidants: So goji berries, dark chocolate and nuts are high in this fantastic thing called antioxidants. Antioxidants do exactly what their name says: prevent oxidation aka damage. The various antioxidants prevent free radicals in the body from causing cell damage, which can result in cell aging, inflammation, cancer and a long list of other diseases.
  • Relieve stress: I don't think this comes as a surprise to chocolate-lovers, but dark chocolate is a proven stress reliever. Consuming dark chocolate can lower levels of two stress hormones, cortisol (also responsible for fat storage) and epinephrine.
  • Contain more than 20 key trace minerals: Gogi berries are considered a superfood for a reason. They contain a long list of important minerals, including iron, zinc, cooper, selenium and calcium. 
  • Feed your brain: Walnuts not only look like mini brains, they are brain food. They are filled with omega-three fatty acids that our bodies cannot produce and NEED to help maintain brain and nerve function.