3.22.2015

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!

2.08.2015

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.

11.09.2014

Spinach Shakshouka

So you are probably wondering what on earth you are looking at. At least that was my reaction when I first saw a picture of shakshouka. The dish of poached eggs in a spicy tomato sauce is often served for breakfast with crusty bread and has North African and Middle Eastern roots, but I can't claim to know how it is traditionally prepared. This is just a riff off of this beautiful smitten kitten recipe I found a while back and can't stop making.
 I wanted a more hearty version of it, since I find myself eating shakshouka for dinner as well as breakfast. To bulk up the meal, I added sweet peppers, some spinach and more onion, and I kicked it up a notch with some extra spice! This one-pan meal is filled with warming, earthy flavors like cumin and cayenne pepper that are perfect for these cold months ahead. And since the dish is almost entirely veggies, it is relatively easy on the wallet  something I always appreciate moving into December.

 There are also a few other things to love about this meal:
  • Boosts immune system: Tomatoes, spinach and peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C. 
  • Promotes healthy skin/cells: Tomatoes, spinach and peppers are also rich in vitamin A, which is needed for cell repair and regeneration.
  • Promotes strong bones: Cooked spinach is high in vitamin K and calcium. Vitamin K makes sure minerals are deposited into the bones where they are needed.
  • Contributes to healthy body and brain function: Spinach is rich in iron that our body needs to transport oxygen.
  • Reduces risk of cancer: Cooked tomatoes are rich in the phytochemical lycopene, which is associated with the significant reduction of prostate cancer in men especially when consumed with fat (egg yolk) to aid the absorption of lycopene. Other studies strongly suggest lycopene may protect against stomach, lung, oral, breast and cervical cancers as well.
  • Promotes eye health: Eggs and spinach contain the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that that promote eye health by preventing macular degeneration. The fat from the egg yolk also helps absorb them.
  • Provides great source of protein: Eggs contain all nine essential amino acids that our body needs but cannot synthesize. 
  • Contains choline (in the eggs), an essential part of the phospholipid phosphatidylcholine, which helps our bodies ensure that fat and cholestrol do not accumulate in the liver.

There are certainly more benefits, but I'll leave my list at that for now. If you want to read more about the benefits of certain foods, I highly recommend The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth by Dr. Jonny Bowden (C.N.S).




11.03.2014

Cinnamon Spice Baked Apples with Cranberries, Maple Syrup & Walnuts

Now that we've turned back the clocks and the evenings are getting darker and colder, I'm shifting into hiberation mode. By that I mean live-in-a-bathrobe-and-avoid-leaving-the-house-at-all-costs-mode. Since I plan on spending all this time at home, I wanted something to make my place feel a little more... well homey. While scented candles are great, nothing quite does the job like the smell of real spiced apples baking in the oven.

This version of baked apples combines some of my favorite fall flavors: cinnamon, nutmeg, cranberries and maple syrup. The crunchy streusel topping and chewy cranberries add some texture to the soft, warm apple. As the recipe does not contain any processed sugar or gluten, this is one comfort food you can feel good about eating. Best of all, this healthy treat will only cost you about 15 minutes in the kitchen. After that, you can curl back up on the couch with a blanket and cup of tea while your oven does all the work.
 
Between the apple, oats and nuts, these make a  phenomenal breakfast treat or special snack, but they can also easily pass as a dessert with or without a little dollop of whipped cream. Even with the butter, these suckers are a relatively low-calorie as the apple itself is only about 90 calories. Unlike most processed, store-bought sweets, they are made with whole foods and contain some potassium, fiber, protein and omega-3s. 



9.18.2014

Spiced Pumpkin Granola Bars

It's that time of year again. Pumpkin-lovers, rejoice! Fall is just around the corner and pumpkin-flavored everything is here to usher in the season. Pumpkin beer, soup, bread, pie. You can try to fight it, pretend summer isn't over, but really, why not just embrace the spiced, delicious goodness and all that it stands for? After all, fall ain't so bad. Think boots, crunchy piles of leaves and cozy sweaters. Plus who needs all that humidity anyway? Not me! 
Just the smell of these bars baking in the oven triggers about a million memories: back-to-school shopping, memorizing a new school schedule, calling up friends to figure out who else has fourth period with Mrs. So-and-So and the glorious first week of class when all we did was goof off while teachers tried their best to hold our attention as they went over their syllabus. New beginnings and so much eager anticipation have always always been wrapped up in this time of year and these smells.

All this nostalgia is just part of what makes me love these granola bars, though. They're also just straight up delicious and healthy to boot. Between the nuts, seeds, oat bran, flaxseed meal and oats, these bars are packed with protein and fiber that will keep your tummy full and curb sugar cravings. The pumpkin and honey add a touch of sweetness that will satisfy your sweet tooth AND they have heart- and brain-healthy omega-3s. I like to make a batch Sundays and them keep them in the fridge for a grab-n-go breakfast or snack to take to work.


9.04.2014

Coconut Curry Chicken Salad Wrap

 

Creamy chicken salad jazzed up with curry powder, carrots, a splash of lime juice, toasted coconut flakes and cashews. If you’re in the mood to try something new without totally venturing out of your food comfort zone, then this is for you! No need to go to a specialty food store for exotic ingredients. Your regular grocer should have everything you'll need. I’m also loving that this is one of those meals that you can prep ahead of time and keep in the fridge for fast lunches and dinners.

This recipe happens to be another that’s inspired by one of my favorite lunch spots in Frankfurt called Kleine Anna. Their unique sandwich combinations leave me thinking about my order lonnnng after I leave their doors. My first attempt at bringing their delicious ideas home had me whipping up these roasted eggplant sandwiches with goat cheese and caramelized onions. I thought it was time to take a swing at my other regular order: a sandwich topped with a creamy curry-carrot spread, sliced turkey and arugula.

To make the meal a little healthier, I cut the carbs and decided to go with a wrap instead of bread, but you can also just eat it on top of a bed of greens with a little lime juice, olive oil and s&p.  I also added chicken breast for lots of low-fat protein that will keep me full. Instead of relying on full-fat cream cheese for flavor, I used non-fat Greek yogurt and added in healthier fats with the coconut and cashews. The result is an absolutely delicious, hearty chicken salad you can feel good about eating! 

So what are you doing for your body with this tasty meal?
  • Keeping yourself full and energized while fighting sugar cravings: All the protein from the chicken and nuts plus the fiber from the carrots and celery slow digestion and keep blood sugar levels from spiking. This means you won't be hungry again for a while and won't have to fight annoying sugar crashes or cravings.
  • Improving blood pressure + lowering stress levels: Celery contains the phytochemical called phthalide, which has shown in clinical traisl to relax muscle tissue in artery walls and thereby increase blood flow. 
  • Stimulating your immune system : Carrots are a great source of alpha- and beta-carotene that the body converts to vitamin A.
  • Helping your vision/eye health: Carrots contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids, that help protect your eyes from macular degeneration and cataracts. The vitamin A from the alpha- and beta-carotene also boost your body's production of rhodopsin, which you need to see in dim light.
  • Preventing cancer: High carotenoid intake (the stuff that gives carrots its bright pigment) is associated with a decrease of up to 50% in bladder, cervical, prostate, colon and esophageal cancer. The carotenoids acts as strong antioxidants that protect cells from the damage done to DNA by aging and free radials. Read more here
  • Alleviating inflammation and arthritis: Curry powder is a mix of different spices and one of them is tumeric. In the spice world, tumeric is an allstar with strong antioxidant power. It's actually part of the ginger family and its ability to reduce inflammation is attributed to curcuminoids (the compounds that give tumeric that fantastic yellow color that stains everything). One curcuminoid in particular, curcumin, has been the focus of most anti-inflammatory research. Tumeric also improves cholestrol and its anti-tumor properties are showing promising results in animal studies. I'll stop here, but the list goes on. Read more from one of my favorite M.D.s Dr. Andrew Weil here.
  • Boosting heart health: Cashews get a bad reputation because of their carb content, but they actually contain a high-level of heart hearthy monosaturated fat that is shown to be associated with lower levels of heart disease. Not to mention the nuts are filled with important minerals like magnesium, calcium, potassium, and selenium.