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.


7.21.2014

Citrus Berry Breakfast Crêpes

During the week, I stick to the same thing for breakfast pretty much every day, some kind of green smoothie. I pour it in my thermos and I'm out the door. But on weekends, it is a different story. I like to keep my pjs on as long as possible, have a relaxing breakfast and indulge my sweet tooth a little. These fit the bill and don't take much time to whip up either. Maybe best of all, you can easily scale the recipe up or down to even just one person.
I call these crepes, but a better description is probably sweet, paper-thin omelets. The pancake part is just made of egg, milk, vanilla extract and honey  no flour, or gluten for that matter. I fill them with quark or Greek yogurt pepped up with a little lemon and sprinkle in some fresh berries or fruit for natural sweetness. Between the egg pancake and quark filling, these little guys have a fair amount of protein and the berries are filled with lots of antioxidants that help fight cell aging. Blueberries specifically also help improve memory. This is thanks to a compound called polyphenol in the berries that helps neurons talk to each other and promotes the growth of new neurons.

7.07.2014

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

 
Where I come from in North Carolina, this is the time of year when your yard starts to look like the jungle in Jurassic Park. By the time you finish mowing the lawn, the grass is already back up past your ankles, and every plant in the garden is supersized thanks to the blazing days and almost daily afternoon thunderstorms. I am not exactly short, but it's safe to say there are tomato plants in my mom's veggie patch right now that are taller than me. In the humid heat of July, everyone and their mother starts to wonder if they planted too many "tamaters." The kitchen counter is covered with them and you have to think fast or toss all that precious goodness into the compost pile. Canned homemade spaghetti sauce is always a go-to option, but this salad is a great way to enjoy them while they are still fresh.

Juicy cherry tomatoes, salty feta, spicy baby arugula and savory sun-dried tomatoes with a few handfuls of pasta. This summer salad is quickly becoming a favorite at our house, because its fresh, filling and fast! Unlike most pasta salads that are heavy on the pasta, mayo and Miracle Whip, this one is packed with veggies that won't leave you feeling bloated or sluggish. It's a great option for those who want to go easy on the carbs without cutting them out all together. I like to think of it as happy middle ground that can please the pasta-lovers and the carb- or gluten-conscious alike.


To make this a gluten-free meal, just use a gluten-free penne. The Food Babe has a list of the healthiest gluten-free pasta options here. If you are feeling adventurous, replace the pasta with two spiralized zucchini. It makes for a totally different texture, but is still delicious! If arugula seems a bit too spicy for you, just reach for baby spinach instead. Make sure to wait until you are ready to eat before dressing the salad with lemon juice, since spinach does not seem to hold up as well against the acid.


Besides having fewer calories than your traditional pasta salads, this dish has a few other exciting things to offer:
  • Arugula: Eating this leafy green is great way to strengthen your bones. One cup contains almost half your daily recommend value of vitamin K and it has just as much calcium as spinach. You can also absorb this calcium better than in spinach thanks to lower levels of oxalates, a substance which inhibits calcium absorption. Few people realize that arugula is also a cruciferous vegetable right alongside broccoli, cauliflower, kale and your other nutritional powerhouses. Just like all of them, arugula contains glucosinolates that mix with the enzyme myrosinase to produce isothiocyanates. This compound neutralize carcinogens in the body and has anticancer properties. Oh yeah, 1 cup = 5 calories. Unreal.
  • Tomatoes: Vine-ripened tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C, vitamin A and B complex vitamins (boosts immune system, cell repair and metabolism). They contain the carotenoid lutein, which supports healthy vision and may help against macular generation. They contain three antioxidants, zero-carotene, phytoene and phytofluene, that help fight disease and prevent cell aging. The phenolic acid in tomatoes also helps fight lung cancer. When cooked (like in speghetti sauce :), tomoatoes are a rich soure of cancer-fighting lycopene.
  • Red pepper: In terms of nutritional value, red peppers have a lot in common with tomatoes. They are also low in calories, a good source of vitamin A and C, and contain the cancer-fighting compound lycopene. They also contain the carotenoid beta-cryptoxanthin, which is believed to lower risk of developing lung cancer. Try to buy organic bell peppers when you can though, because this vegetable is considered one of the most pesticide-contaminated foods.