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.

 

 

 

 

 

Calcium Rich Foods to Supplement a Dairy-free Lifestyle

 

Calcium Rich Foods to Supplement a Dairy-Free Lifestyle
Calcium Rich Foods to Supplement a Dairy-Free Lifestyle

How do you ensure you are getting enough calcium when you consume very few dairy products?  That’s a great question and one that I am asked often.  What most people don’t know is that there is a plethora of dairy-free foods that contain high amounts of calcium.  Up until about 10 years ago, I consumed large amounts of dairy products.  Unfortunately, those products did not agree with me.  Commercially produced cow milk is highly processed and is often times intolerable by most people.  So, it was one of the first things I gave up on my quest for better health.  I am not recommending everyone stop consuming cow products, I just want to educate you in other varieties of calcium rich foods that can help you reach your recommended daily requirements. Our bodies need calcium.  According to Dr. Sears, not only do we need calcium for strong bones and teeth, but it is also required for every cell in the body to function in a healthy way.  Calcium is used by nerves and muscles and it contributes to proper blood clotting.  Given all these very important functions of calcium, I make it a point to ensure I am getting enough.  I eat a well-rounded whole foods based diet.  That includes calcium rich foods that are produced from nature.  Fresh fruits, vegetables and legumes all have good amounts of calcium.  For an entire list of calcium-rich foods, click here.  Today’s post includes the calcium-rich foods that my family eats on a regular basis, but we do not limit our menu to just these ten.  It’s important to offer and try many different foods.  Add a few of these to your families meal planning and know that you are fueling their bodies with the proper nutrition.   Dairy-free Calcium Rich Foods 1.  Spinach – 1 cup – 24% DV 2.  Beet Greens – 1 cup – 16% DV 3.  Bok Choy – 1 cup – 16% DV 4.  Swiss Chard – 1 cup – 10% 5.  Kale – 1 cup – 9% DV 6.  Sesame Seeds – 1/4 cup – 35% DV 7.  Cabbage – 1 cup – 6% DV 8.  Brussels Sprouts – 1 cup – 6% DV 9.  Oranges – 1 medium – 5% DV 10.  Parsley – 1/2 cup – 4% DV   Here are a few of my recipes using these foods: Raw Kale Salad Sizzling Cabbage & White Beans Superfood Smoothie

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

 

Detoxing Healthy Beet Juice

Detoxing Healthy Beet Juice
Detoxing Healthy Beet Juice

 

This beet juice has become the summertime favorite of my entire family.  It was a total shocker as I never expected anyone to try it, let alone drink it and ask for more.  Don’t you love it when things like that happen?  I work very hard to get my kids to eat healthy and in this case, it paid off.  It doesn’t always go that way.  Just this week I prepared a wonderful whole roasted chicken and vegetables and neither one of them would touch the vegetables.  So I let them drink a green drink instead.  My 8 year old kindly reminds me when he doesn’t like something, that he “drinks his vegetables.”  I let that slide sometimes, but most often I explain to him that yes, he can drink his veggies, but he also has to eat them too.  I may have created a monster when I allowed him to choose between eating or drinking vegetables a few years ago.  I will be blending forever!!!

If you are typically not a big fan of beets, this is actually a great way to begin getting them in your diet.  They are superbly good for you and fortunately are available year round.  Beets are widely known for their detoxification ability.  And, more specifically, beets help to detox and cleanse the liver.  The liver removes toxins and other harmful substances from the body.  Because of this, it is very important to detox your liver periodically.  Beets have become one of the most common and effective natural liver detoxifiers.  By incorporating this healthy juice into your clean eating plan, you will be cleansing your body while gaining optimal health and well-being.  If you have a great beet juice recipe, I would love to hear from you.  I am always looking for new healthy juice recipes.  I hope you enjoy!

 

Detoxing Healthy Beet Juice

1 large red or green organic apple – chopped

2 medium to large organic carrots – peeled and chopped

1 medium to large golden beet – peeled and chopped (you can use a red beet if you prefer)

Juice of 1 lemon

1 cup filtered water

In a high powered blender, place all the ingredients in the order listed.  Blend until smooth.  Because this is a juice, I strain it through a fine-mesh strainer.  This process separates all the pulp from the juice.  You can also run all the ingredients, except the water, through a juicer, if that’s what you have on hand.

A Healthy Way to Start the Day

Warm Lemon Water
Warm Lemon Water

I have been drinking warm fresh lemon water every morning upon waking for the past 9 years.  That was one of the very first things my nutritionist required as we embarked upon my clean eating lifestyle.  Most people that I talk to wonder why this warm drink is so beneficial.  And I must admit, when I first began drinking it, I had no idea why I was drinking it, other than the fact that Alison, my nutritionist, told me to.  Back then I pretty much did everything she told me to, without questions.  I trusted her.  And still do today.  So, after much research, I am well versed in why this little concoction is so so good for you.  I will get to the list of benefits shortly, but first want to introduce you to a new addition to my warm lemon water.  Salt.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  I add a teaspoon of Himalayan salt to my warm lemon water every morning. This is also known as Sole.  The taste is not for everyone, but I assure you, you get used to it.  Or at least most people do.  My husband being the exception.  I made this for him one morning and he truly gave it his all, but could not get it down.  So, in his case, we stick with plain lemon water.  If you think you may fall in the same boat as my man, just start with a 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and work your way up.  Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint.  Baby steps work just fine for this drink.

Now let’s talk about the outstanding benefits of both lemon water and Himalayan salt water.  According to www.foodmatters.tv there are 16 health benefits of drinking warm lemon water.  Click on this link to get the full list.  http://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/cheers-to-drinking-warm-lemon-water.  A few of my favorites are : flushes toxins, aids in digestion, helps balance pH levels in the body, helps reduce inflammation in the joints, helps cure the common cold and acts as a powerful antibacterial.

*Since I originally wrote this post, I have been introduced to Helen Sanders, the founder and main editor for www.healthambition.com.  She published a pretty extensive post inclusive of the many health benefits of lemons.  Check out her post here.

The list of health benefits in consuming Sole is just as lengthy as lemon water.  For full research on this as well as the recipe that I use, please visit www.himalayancrystalsalt.com.  The main reason I was put on Sole was to increase my mineral intake.  I am continually low in vital minerals, so this addition to my diet has made a huge difference.  Sole can supply the body with 84 essential minerals, balance the alkaline/acidity balance in the body, and helps cleanse from the inside out.  When you prepare the Sole, make sure you store it in a glass jar.  I purchased a small glass jar at Target to keep mine in.

So, we have gone over quite a bit in this post.  This regimen is the one single thing I do every day to maintain good health, vibrant skin, and increased levels of energy.  I highly recommend this routine for each of you.  Lemons are inexpensive and the homemade Sole lasts a long time.  One tip….Do not use hot/boiling water as it will kill the beneficial enzymes in the lemon.  Give this a try and let me know what you think.

 

Warm Lemon Water

1 coffee mug of warm not hot filtered water

1/2 fresh lemon squeezed

1 tsp Sole

Updated 03/27/15 – Here is another great article supporting the health benefits of drinking lemon water from Health Ambition.  Check it out and start the spring off on the right foot!

 

 

 

Festive Healthy Homemade Popsicles

Festive Healthy Homemade Popsicles
Festive Healthy Homemade Popsicles

It is the quintessential summer snack.  A child can hear and recognize the musical sound of the ice cream truck as a dog hears a high-pitched whistle, even from miles away.  I can distinctly remember being young and staying with my cousin for a week every summer.  The days were filled with hours at the pool, going to see movies and anxiously awaiting the infamous truck. Her neighborhood was a late-day stop for him, so it was an all-day wait.  But, it’s what summer is all about.  Now that I have children of my own and try to instill cleaning eating habits,  I had to come up with an alternative to chasing down a refurbished, refrigerated truck on a daily basis.

These simple pops are loaded with essential vitamins and minerals from the berries and healthy protein from the addition of Greek yogurt.  I use a touch of raw local honey to keep the little ones happy.  After all, a popsicle should be sweet, right?  So, I think I have covered all the bases with this recipe.  Moms will be comfortable letting their children partake in this snack, and kids will love the sweetness.  With the upcoming holiday, let your kids help out with this treat, as it’s quite fun having your kids help in the kitchen.  I hope your family has a safe and happy 4th of July.  Enjoy!

 

Festive Healthy Homemade Popsicles

1 cup fresh blueberries

1 cup fresh strawberries

2 splashes filtered water

3/4 cup plain greek yogurt

1 tsp raw local honey

small paper Dixie cups

straws – cut in half

plastic wrap

 

In a blender add the blueberries and a splash of water.  Blend until liquefied.  Pour a small amount into the paper cups until all the liquid is used.  Cover each cup with a small piece of plastic wrap.  With a knife, make a small slit in the middle of the plastic wrap.  Place a straw into the cup through the slit.  This will hold the straw in place until completion of the first freeze.  Freeze for at least 2 hours.

In a small bowl mix together the greek yogurt and honey.  After the first freeze, remove the plastic wrap.  Add the yogurt mixture to each cup.  Freeze for at least 2 hours.

In a blender add the strawberries and a splash of water.  Blend until liquefied.  Remove the cups from the freezer and add the final layer of strawberries.  Freeze for at least 2 hours.

After the final freeze, run a little warm water over the outside of the cup and remove the cup.  Your kids will love these!