Fresh Strawberry and Flaxseed Muffins

 

Fresh Strawberry and Flaxseed Muffins

 

Happy Hump Day.  This past weekend marked the annual planting of our summer garden.  I had never really thought much about actually growing food until my lifestyle changed about 10 years ago.  When I decided to research and understand everything I was putting into my body, it was a perfect solution to the highly processed foods available in the marketplace.  We made the initial planting endeavor many years ago and have enjoyed eating the fruits of our labor ever since.  Our boys enjoy being outside and getting their hands dirty in the soil, so a home garden has turned out to be a great way to get the kids outdoors and involved.

Fresh Strawberry and Flaxseed Berries

Strawberries are perfectly in season right now and that means all things strawberry in my house.  I love to cook and bake using seasonal local produce so I generally purchase fruits and vegetables that are in season and therefore have the most nutritional value.  Strawberries have a fairly short life cycle and because they are so tasty, we really take advantage of their abundance for the next few months.  Find a local U-pick farm and make it a family outing to get berries.

Fresh Strawberry and Flaxseed flour

This recipe was created by accident.  I used frozen cranberries in the batter the first time around and they turned out good.  But, I ran into Swamp Rabbit Café, a local grocer a few days later, and they had pints upon pints of fresh strawberries and my mind went crazy thinking how my new little recipe would be even better with those fresh berries.  I was not disappointed.  These muffins turned out moist and flavorful.  Success.  You must try them and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.  Feel free to pop leftovers in the toaster and reheat for breakfast.

Fresh Strawberry and Flaxseed finished muffins

 

Fresh Strawberry and Flaxseed Muffins

1 cup gluten-free rolled oats – ground (I use a coffee grinder)

1 cup almond meal

1 tsp aluminum-free baking powder

1 TBSP ground flaxseed

1 TBSP chia seeds

1 tsp Himalayan pink salt

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/3 cup pure maple syrup

1/4 cup coconut oil – melted

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 heaping cup fresh strawberries – chopped

Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare a muffin tin with paper liners or spray.  In a large bowl combine all the dry ingredients.  In a small bowl combine all the wet ingredients.  Combine the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk until well incorporated.  Gently fold in the strawberries.  Fill muffin tin cups to about 3/4 full.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden around the edges.

Healthy Homemade Pickles

Healthy Homemade Pickles One

I took the kids to the beach for a few days a couple of weeks ago.  It was our first beach trip of the season.  And, my first time ever making that trip without my husband.  We went to meet family, and Tom wasn’t able to join us due to his workload.  So, at 6:00 pm on a Wednesday night the kids and I set out for our four hour trip.  I continued to glance at my GPS timer countdown.  Yes, we still had 4 hours to go!  As soon as we pulled out of our local Whole Foods parking lot (where we had dinner), the kids started asking if we were almost there.  It did cross my mind a few times to turn around and head home as fast as possible.  But, I kept going and we got into our groove.  The kids came together and chose a movie that would please them both, and I didn’t focus quite so much on the countdown timer anymore. The kids were beyond excited about this trip so I tried really hard to change my attitude and my mindset so that I could become excited too.  It worked!  I always tell them they have the ability to change their attitude at any given moment.  This was a time when I needed to practice what I preach. I love how my kids show me my true heart.  They keep me on the straight and narrow and I am so grateful for that.  Once we got there, we had a wonderful three days of eating, playing and relaxing in what I would consider to be my “happy place.”

While we were soaking in the sun on the beach, the cucumbers in our home garden decided to rapidly multiply.  I have honestly never seen a cucumber plant expand the way these beauties have.  As soon as I walked in the door, my husband looked at me very seriously and said “you need to learn how to make pickles.”  We’ve had a garden for several years now, but this is the first time we have ever had such success with cucumbers.  The vines are magnificent and they are taking over most of the garden as well as some of the yard.  So yes, It was crucial that I quickly learn how to make pickles.  As I researched many different recipes I was a bit disappointed as most of them required some amount of sugar.  I was not on board.  Finally I came across this recipe from diynatural.com and I hope I never have to purchase store bought pickles again!  The recipe is simple, the ingredients are wholesome and the results are delicious.  We adapted the recipe a bit to fit our needs, which was to make them a little spicier.   We have wonderful jalapenos in the garden, so it was a natural thought to add them to the mix.  We also opted for the highly beneficial apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar, and I couldn’t have imagined they would turn out so good.  While cucumbers are so abundantly in season, please give this recipe a try.  I hope you enjoy!

Healthy Homemade Pickles Four

 

Healthy Homemade Pickles Three

 

Healthy Homemade Pickles Two

 

Healthy Homemade Pickles

1 quart jar with a lid

2-3 pickling cucumbers (as many as will fit in the jar)

1 TBSP dried dill weed

2-4 cloves fresh garlic (I use 4)

3 TBSP apple cider vinegar

1 TBSP kosher salt

20 black peppercorns

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1 jalapeno pepper – cut in half lengthwise

filtered water – enough to top off jar

Cut cucumbers and add them to the jar.  Add the remaining ingredients except water.  Once everything is in the jar, fill to the top with filtered water and screw the lid on very tightly.  Shake the jar to equally distribute the spices.  Leave on your countertop for 12 hours.  Shake the jar again and turn it upside down for an additional 12 hours.  For the 2nd 12 hours, I place the jar on a cookie sheet or in a large pot in case the lid leaks.  After a total of 24 hours, taste your pickles.  Refrigerate for up to one month.  Enjoy!

Here is another great cucumber recipe:

Basic Green Smoothie

Healthy Mac N’ Cheese

 

I am sitting here with a little one under the weather.  And, after feeding him bone broth rice and a smoothie, he is resting nicely.  I was also thinking of napping myself since neither one of us got any sleep last night, but making this blog post won out.  Yea!  I love how I continually think to myself, after a restless night, that “I will definitely nap tomorrow”, and NEVER do.  I always seem to have something that could be done rather than napping, and this day is no different.  I can hear the rather loud hum of my spinning washing machine in the background and know it will soon begin “beeping” to let me know it’s time to put down the computer and change out the clothes.  It is truly never ending when you run a loving household full of people.  I honestly don’t mind, but I wanted to ensure I got this recipe to you as it has been a big request for some time.   So, I am going to press on and ignore the rhythmic “beep” that is about to occur.

I have honestly tried this classic dish many different ways using several different vegetables, but this one got major approval from my family, so it is the keeper.  Sometimes it takes 100 tries to finally nail something down worthy of writing about and sharing.  I have looked for many years for the perfect inspiration to completely renovate one of my all-time favorites.  I do have a really good recipe using butternut squash, and will share that one with you sometime around Thanksgiving or Christmas.  Those are the times I usually make that particular dish as the gourd squashes are in season.  But, for now we are going to use cauliflower as the base for this decadent rendition.  I wanted this make-over to be much more than the standard macaroni and cheese.  I wanted more than two ingredients.  I wanted protein and spices and vegetables.  I have managed (after many failed attempts) to pack all of those requirements into this super healthy, super tasty dish.  We, often times, eat it for lunch with a side salad or fruit.  My 3 year old usually eats 2 bowls and if I must confess, so do I.  If you are worried about the cauliflower taste, don’t be.  You really wouldn’t even know it was there if I didn’t tell you.

The health benefits of cauliflower are great, and I am certain you are aware of most of them by now.  So, I want to introduce you to a somewhat unfamiliar ingredient called nutritional yeast.  “What is it” you ask?  It is deactivated yeast.  A more formal definition from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen is “nutritional yeast is made from a single-celled organism, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, which is grown on molasses, and then harvested, washed and dried with heat to “kill it” or deactivate it”.  It is a good source of vitamin B 12, folic acid and protein,  and has a bold nutty flavor.  Many vegans use it as a cheese substitute.  It is a nice addition to  this recipe as it increases the nutritional value while enhancing the bold flavor I was looking for.  Win Win!  I truly hope this becomes a future classic for your family.  Enjoy!

 

Healthy Mac N’ Cheese

1 16oz package brown rice noodles

1 small head of cauliflower – steamed

1 cup raw cashews – soaked overnight, if possible

5 TBSP warm water

2 medium cloves garlic

1 cup goat gouda cheese – shredded

1 TBSP nutritional yeast flakes

1 tsp ground black pepper

2 tsp Himalayan pink salt or sea salt

1/4 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp turmeric

4 TBSP extra virgin olive oil

1 cup almond milk

Cook noodles according to package directions.  While the noodles are cooking, steam the cauliflower for about 10 minutes, don’t overcook.  To a blender add the remaining ingredients and blend until creamy.  Drain the noodles and add the cream sauce.  Stir until well combined.

 

 

 

 

 

5 reasons we don’t wear shoes in our home + Sophie Uliano’s Lemon Chia Seed Muffin Recipe

5 reasons we don't wear shoes in our home
5 reasons we don’t wear shoes in our home

 

This can be a touchy subject.  I am a Southern girl and hospitality is high on my list.  I would never want to offend or invoke feelings of discomfort to those I invite into my home.  But, when I can, I educate our house guests as to why I am politely asking them to remove their shoes at the door.  I have not always felt this way, but after many hours of research, I concluded that wearing shoes in the house is extremely bad for your health.  I have narrowed my research down to what I feel are 5 good reasons to promote dropping your shoes at the door.

1.  Bacteria on the bottoms of shoes  A large portion of the bacteria found on your shoes is from stepping on fecal matter.  It originates from public restroom floors or contact with animal fecal material from being outdoors.  The most common occurrence from this type of bacteria is  E. coli bacteria which can cause sickness including diarrhea and other illnesses according to the CDC.  This can be especially problematic for those who have young children that crawl and play along the floors.   This bacteria can be easily transmitted to tile and carpet.  Cleaning your floors and vacuuming your carpet will greatly cut down on the amount of bacteria in your home.

2.  Toxins on shoes – Shoes pick up all kinds of toxins in the course of a day.  Anywhere you walk, you are likely grabbing a toxin.  From the dry cleaners to the gas station, and everywhere in between, there are toxins.  Environmental pollution from spilled gasoline at the pump to walking through grass that has recently been sprayed.  All of it then comes right into your home.  This is probably the most important reason I initially began removing my shoes at the door.  These pollutants are extremely harmful to our systems and can potentially cause serious side effects.

3.  Dirty – I have two young boys.  Dirt is a constant.  If they wore their shoes in the house, I would be cleaning the floors all day long!  I believe this one is pretty self-explanatory.  No shoes=no dirt.

4.  General Health – I am a firm believer in the notion that not wearing shoes in the house makes for overall healthier people.  Given that we have discussed the fact that large amounts of bacteria and toxins travel on shoes, it makes sense to me that a home without shoes is healthier than a home with shoes.  I believe the instances of allergic reactions and respiratory issues as well as general sickness is much lower.

5.  Comfort – Whether you work outside the home or are a stay-home mommy, when you finish your workday, the first thing you want to do is take off your shoes and relax.  Make your home a haven of comfort.  Put a few pairs of comfy slippers by the door that you can slip into as soon as you walk inside.  You may even want to offer a pair to your guests if you feel they are uncomfortable removing their shoes.  Remember, hospitality for guests is still crucial.

 

Now for the good stuff.  One of the very first books I bought when I decided to follow a clean eating lifestyle was Sophie Uliano’s The Gorgeously Green Diet – How to Live Lean and Green.  I have prepared countless numbers of her recipes and they are all fabulous.  Her website www.SophieUliano.com is full of helpful ideas and perfect ways to eat and live a gorgeously green lifestyle.  She posted this Lemon Chia Seed muffin recipe on twitter last summer and my family fell in love with them.  I made a batch this week and she kindly gave me permission to share the recipe with you.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Sophie Uliano's Lemon Chia Seed Muffins
Sophie Uliano’s Lemon Chia Seed Muffins

Sophie Uliano’s Lemon Chia Seed Muffins

1/3 cup coconut oil

1 cup coconut palm sugar

2 eggs, beaten

2 cups sprouted spelt flour (just use Spelt if you can’t find the sprouted version)

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

grated zest of 1 lemon

1 TBSP vanilla extract

1/2 cup rice milk (I used almond milk)

2 TBSP chia seeds

Makes 6-8 medium muffins.  Preheat oven to 350.  Beat the sugar and oil in the food processor until creamy.  While the processor is still running, slowly add the eggs.  Finally, add the flour, baking powder, salt, lemon zest, vanilla extract and milk.  Process well.  Finally add the chia seeds and pulse just to mix them in.  Line a muffin tin with liners and fill each liner with the batter.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Serve immediately, or gently warm again before serving.

 

 

Homemade Ginger Turmeric Dressing

Homemade Ginger Turmeric Dressing
Homemade Ginger Turmeric Dressing

I have been testing this homemade dressing for a few weeks.  I served it to our guests for Super Bowl Sunday and it was a huge hit,  so I guess it’s time to share.  I am actually not going to bog you down with much writing in this post and let the product speak for itself.  I love salads.  And I love salad dressing.  This recipe combines two of my daily favorites and ensures I am fighting inflammation as well as keeping my digestive system happy.  Done and Done……

Here you go.  I hope you enjoy this simple yet hearty dressing.  I recommend using it on salad greens, as a marinade for chicken or a dip for crudités.

 

Homemade Ginger Turmeric Dressing

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 TBSP Dijon mustard

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp garlic powder

dash of pink Himalayan salt or celtic sea salt

dash of black pepper

1 tsp raw local honey

In a small bowl add olive oil and mustard.  Whisk the two together.  Add all the spices and continue to whisk until well combined.  Whisk in the honey.  Refrigerate leftovers in a glass container.  Remove from the fridge a few minutes before you need to serve.

Vegetable Stuffed Sweet Potato

 

Vegetable Stuffed Sweet Potato
Vegetable Stuffed Sweet Potato

This is a new, healthier spin on the classic.  I used to love a good “stuffed” baked potato.  You know, the kind loaded with butter, sour cream, cheese and a few chives.  Chives are green.  That’s makes it healthier right?  Well, at least that’s what I told myself.  I completely understand the desire for carbohydrates.  That is, honestly, my weakness.  Because of this weakness, I had to invent an alternative to satisfy my craving.

My version of a “loaded baked potato” is truly loaded. It begins with a vitamin C packed sweet potato and includes lots of yummy vegetables and healthy fats.  Not only is this a perfectly balanced meal, it is super simple to prepare.  I generally make this dish for lunch as it gives me the energy I need to get through the remainder of the day.

For more simple, family friendly recipes, check out my monthly column in Upstate Parent Magazine.

 

Vegetable Stuffed Sweet Potato – Serves 2

2 medium sweet potatoes

½ TBSP extra virgin coconut oil

½ yellow or white onion – chopped

1 large clove garlic – chopped

2 medium carrots – chopped

½ bell pepper – chopped

5-6 stalks asparagus – chopped

½ cup broccoli – fresh or frozen

4 mushrooms – chopped

1 cup fresh spinach

1 tablespoon bragg’s liquid aminos or soy sauce – adjust the amount you use based on your taste preference

Preheat oven to 350.  Bake the sweet potatoes for approximately 45 minutes or until soft.  In a large skillet on medium heat add the coconut oil.  Add the onion, garlic and carrots.  Cook until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the pepper, asparagus, broccoli and mushrooms.  Cook for 4-5 more minutes.  Turn heat to low and add the spinach.  Toss until wilted.  Drizzle the soy mixture over the vegetables and toss until well incorporated.  Open the sweet potatoes and load them with the vegetables.

Here are a few other healthy sweet potato recipes:

Healthy Sweet Potato Skins

Sweet Potato Pancakes

Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie

 

Simple Overnight Oats

 

Simple Overnight Oats
Simple Overnight Oats

With the holidays behind us and routines back in full swing, I am always open to anything labeled “simple.”  Our morning routine is pretty basic.  We all stumble to find the motivation needed to get moving and one-by-one end up in the kitchen.  Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and is the perfect meal to encourage healthy eating habits with your entire family.  But, it also happens to be the meal when most families are the busiest and saving a few extra minutes can be the difference between being late or on-time for school or work.

Oatmeal is always a sure thing for my family, so this easy and nutritious recipe is a staple.  I have posted several other oatmeal recipes which further proves our love of this healthy grain, but this one takes the least amount of time.  Prepare this healthy dish the night before, stick it in the fridge and don’t think about it again until morning.  It’s that simple. Now enjoy a hot cup of tea and begin pondering what’s for dinner, at least that’s what I do every morning.  I hope you enjoy!

 

Simple Overnight Oats

1/2 cup whole grain oats – not instant

1 TBSP chia seeds

1 TBSP pure maple syrup

1/3 cup fresh or frozen berries

1/2 cup almond milk plus a bit more to stir in the morning

In a bowl or glass jar combine the oats and chia seeds.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir until completely combined.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  In the morning, add a bit of almond milk and stir.  This recipe is for one serving.  Duplicate it for the amount of people you need to feed.

Here are a few more simple oatmeal recipes for you to try:

Baked Oatmeal

Healthy Oatmeal Muffins

100 Days of Real Food – Favorite Overnight Oats

 

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

Happy New Year.  I can’t believe it’s the end of another year.  Time is zooming by.  I hope you all had a wonderful, safe and healthy holiday season.  We have spent the last few months unpacking, setting up and settling into our new house.  It’s finally starting to feel like home.  I am looking forward to the coming days of just “being” instead of my previous state, which entailed things being hung, fixed or unpacked.  2014 was a very blessed year for me and I am so thankful for my family, friends, neighbors and a few strangers I met along the way.  Having these people, encounters and experiences help to make my life full and I couldn’t be happier.

Even though I have not posted in a while, I assure you I have been hard at work in the kitchen creating, testing and eating some very yummy food.  I am excited about the many recipes I am planning to share with you over the next year.  This particular recipe combines two of my favorite foods into one nutritious, quick and easy family meal.  Sweet potatoes are very versatile and can easily take on the flavors of sweet or savory in many simple dishes.  They are also extremely beneficial to someone following a clean eating lifestyle.  Some have even deemed them a “superfood”.  I tend to agree.  As whfoods.com states “One difficulty in describing the health benefits of sweet potatoes is knowing where to begin. There are a surprising number of nutrient categories responsible for the health benefits of this underappreciated tuber. Among these categories are antioxidants, anti-inflammatory nutrients, and blood sugar-regulating nutrients.”  Read more about the health benefits here.  I know I can sometimes get off on a tangent, but this particular food is very important to incorporate into your weekly meal plan.  I hope this recipe helps you get acquainted with this special root vegetable.

 

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili

1 TBSP coconut oil

3 cloves garlic – peeled and chopped

1/2 white onion – chopped

1 large sweet potato – peeled and chopped

4-6 medium carrots – peeled and chopped

4 cups broth – either vegetable or bone broth

24 oz organic strained tomatoes

45 oz organic black beans – I use Eden Organic

1 tsp ground turmeric

1/2 tsp paprika

1 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp chipotle chili pepper powder

1 TBSP chili powder

sea salt and pepper to taste

avocado

In a large stock pot or Dutch oven melt the coconut oil.  Add the garlic, onion, sweet potato and carrots.  Cook until vegetables are tender.  Add the turmeric powder and cook until well combined.  Add the broth, tomatoes and beans.  Add the remaining spices.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 30-45 minutes.  Ladle into bowls and top with fresh avocado.

Here are a few additional recipes to help get you on your way:

Healing Mineral Broth

7-Minute Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie