Sweet n’ Salty Apple Slices

Summary:  The apple slices are sweet, the nut butter is salty and the seed mix adds a crunchy component. This makes a perfect low calorie snack but also works lovely for a party. Additionally these half-dipped apple slices are less … Continue reading

{A love affair with chocolate…why it’s HEALTHY}

Chocolate. Who doesn’t love it’s decadence? Traditionally it reigns the dessert domain. We can now even find it in drinks, pancakes, and other breakfast foods, healthy bars and so on…This sneaky and delicious food has now been proven to have health benefits. Amen to that. So what’s in it!? A recent study posted on BBC health news states that chocolate may help protect against STROKE. Why? Because it contains a powerful compound named flavonoids. “Flavonoids appear to be protective against cardiovascular disease through antioxidant, anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory properties….It’s also possible that flavonoids in chocolate may decrease blood concentrations of bad cholesterol and reduce blood pressure.” Impressed yet? The article doesn’t grant you permission to go binge eating and order a dozen chocolate soufflés…Remember this magical substance also pack lots of sugar and fat which can lead you to gain weight. However, the article recommends eating chocolate once or twice a week and with moderation (less that half a bar in total during the whole week). Personally I love the Dove chocolate bars. They are divided in a grid like pattern, so it’s portion controlled….When I’m craving sweets, I’ll break apart 1 or 2 little squares and yes…indulge….Now BBC has given me a reason to do this! I’m so happy…

Dark vs Milk. What’s the difference? Well, dark chocolate is packed with additional antioxidants. As many of you may know these powerful compounds help get rid of damaging free radicals found in your body. What are free radicals? They are substances produced by your body when you are subject to STRESS..yes…Sun tanning and smoking in particularly have been proven to increase the production of free radicals. They may also be involved in the development of some diseases such as cancer, stroke and emphysema. Why? Because free radicals damage your blood vessels and may also trigger mutations in your DNA which can eventually lead to cancer. However, they are also an essential component of many biological processes in our body. For instance they play a role in helping our body get rid of threatening bacteria.

So in terms of healthy antioxidant content: cocoa powder > unsweetened baking chocolate > dark chocolate > semi-sweet chocolate chips > milk chocolate 

Additionally another study on chocolate suggested that “…antioxidant compounds, called catechins, can improve lean muscle mass and reduce weight…” So you are likely to benefit from adding antioxidant rich food into your diet. Cacao powder, green tea, and berries are also great sources. And for all the vegans and vegetarians reading this…get this…SOY is another powerful source of flavinoids. In other words it is also has great antioxidant & anti-inflammatory properties. Not a big fan of these? Well… incorporating vitamin A, C, and E into your diet can also do the trick since these vitamins in particular have been proven to play a major role in fighting free radicals. While all flavonoids are antioxidants, some have stronger antioxidant properties than others depending on their chemical structure. Raw cocoa powder ranks very high in terms of antioxidant properties and subsequent health benefits.

Good news for diabetics: one study showed that regular consumption of high-flavonoid cocoa for one month “improved participants’ diabetes as much as exercise and many common diabetic medications.” Likewise, consuming dark, unprocessed chocolate also demonstrated to have a positive impact on regulating blood pressure and protecting your cardiovascular system.

So there you have the skinny of chocolate. Hope you enjoyed my article!

If you want more information on the incredible benefits of chocolate, here are some great articles:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-19402143 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-10986625 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7363004.stm 

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/05/25/dark-chocolate-guards-against-brain-injury.aspx 

 

Arugula & Citrus Balsamic Salad


Yield: 1 to 2 servings

Summary:

The peppery arugula with a spike of citrus, marinated tofu pieces with balsamic vinegar and a touch of basil make this a very savory salad. Low in calories, low in fat, low in cholesterol yet surprisingly good? I’ll take this any day of the week. This recipe makes enough salad for 2 people or one big serving worthy of being a main dish. TIP: if you are not a big fan of tofu I suggest buying the extra firm kind, it has a better consistency yet it’s still able to absorb all the flavor you add to it. I experimented with this recipe and realized that the longer you let the tofu marinate, the better! Try chopping it up, seasoning it and adding the balsamic vinegar along with the basil leaves. Now let sit for 15-20min…the result..you’ll swear it tastes like the Mozarella di Buffala in a Caprese salad. I promise. Quality guaranteed.

Ingredients:

6 oz extra firm tofu
2 cups arugula
1 cup red cabbage, sliced
1 small orange, diced
3-4 small radishes, thinly sliced
4-5 fresh basil leaves, chopped
salt & pepper, to taste
1 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp extra virgen olive oil

Directions:

1. PREP THE TOFU:
Chop the tofu into 1/2 in pieces. Drizzle with all of the balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let the tofu absorb all of the seasoning.

2. COOKING THE TOFU:
Add the olive oil to a non-stick pan. Set on medium high heat. Add the tofu and the chopped basil and let cook for 2-3min. The vinegar may create a sizzling sound. Turn of the heat and mix gently. Set aside.

3. ARRANGING THE SALAD: the bottom layer should be the arugula, next add the cabbage, then the diced oranges, then the sliced radishes and finally group the tofu pieces in the middle of the salad. Garnish with basil leaves if desired.


Notes:
For additional dressing: I used a simple balsamic vinaigrette.

Nutritional Information:

2 cups of arugula = 50 cal.
1 cup of cabbage = 27 cal
3-4 small radishes = 10 cal
1 small orange = 45 cal or less
3oz of tofu = 60 cal for one person / 120 cal if full 6oz serving
tofu seasoning = estimated 70 cal
TOTAL = about 322 calories for this huge plate of salad

{An Ode to Red Cabbage}

I love this vegetable. You can buy a large piece without worrying that it will go bad since it has a long fridge life. In my experience it can last up to 3 weeks without going bad. If you see parts starting to get darker just chop or peel away that bad layer and you’ll find a fresh piece of cabbage waiting for you inside.

Let’s talk about how it looks…I love to use it because just as little as 1/4 cup can transform your meal and give it a bright punch of color and nutrition. Eat it raw in your salads, pitas, and wraps. Add it to your mexican dishes or incorporate it into your asian dishes. The possibilities are endless. You’ll see me using it a lot…here’s why:

(This information was obtained from the Livestrong website): “While green cabbage is the most commonly eaten variety, red cabbage offers more nutritional benefits as well as a hearty, robust flavor, according to the World’s Healthiest Foods website. Red cabbage contains a type of group of phytochemicals or compounds found in plant foods with disease-fighting properties known, collectively, as polyphenols. Polyphenols may offer antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer benefits. Red cabbage is low in calories, a good source of dietary fiber and a rich source of several vitamins.” These include including vitamins A, C and K, as well as the minerals potassium and manganese. It is also rich in beta-carotene, which offers antioxidant benefits.

Additionally as much as 1 cup of raw red cabbage has only 27 calories & 0 grams of fat! So eat up! However be careful about how you cook this magnificent vegetable. As many other vegetables over-cooking it may kill many of its beneficial nutrients. So in order to retain the most nutrients it is best to cook in a small amount of water (this is why you’ll see me using this technique over and over again in my recipes). Light steaming is an effective cooking method plus it’s the best way to cook your veggies without piling up extra calories and fat.

Are you intrigued yet? Read more on: http://www.livestrong.com/article/272966-red-cabbage-nutrition-information/#ixzz24wCsURmc

Sesame & Tofu Veggie Rice

Summary: 

This is the perfect weeknight meal. The aroma of the ginger infuses the rice. The sesame seeds add a slight crunch. The brown rice and the veggies make it a whole meal.  As a habit I usually make big servings of brown rice on Mondays or Tuesdays so I can reheat and re-create quick dinners during the remaining days of the week. This is no different. Cook the rice as directed, store in the fridge, and (when ready) just follow this recipe!

Ingredients:

3 cups of cooked brown rice
6 oz extra firm tofu, drained
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup red cabbage, finely chopped
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp sesame seeds
salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Heat the sesame oil in a large pan.

2. FOR THE VEGGIES: Chop the onions, cabbage, and carrots finely. Add to the oil. Mix on medium heat until the onion starts getting transparent and the veggies are slightly cooked. (You should cover with a lid so the veggies cook with steam. If necessary add 1 tbsp of water to speed up the process). This should take about 5-9 min. Season the veggies with salt and pepper.


3. FOR THE TOFU: after draining the water remove excess dampness with paper towels. Divide the tofu into 4 longitudinal pieces and then chop into 1/2 in. squares. Season with some pepper and all of the ginger. Do NOT add salt since the rest of the recipe contains enough seasoning.

4. ASSEMBLY: Add 1 tbsp of soy sauce plus the tofu into the veggie mix. Gently stir for less than a minute so the tofu doesn’t crumble into chunks. Now incorporate the cooked brown rice. Add the remaining soy sauce, the garlic powder and the sesame seeds. Mix gently on low heat.



5. GARNISH  with pieces of red cabbage and sprinkle some more sesame seeds on top.

{Know your produce}

Know your produce

Ever wondered why fruits and veggies have those annoying stickers on them? Here is why…

…so shop smart and avoid buying the genetically modified products. Although they may look appealing there is not sufficient data out there to asses the potential health risks involved.

{Earthy Bean Salad}

Summary: 

This is a super easy and quick recipe  with a lot of potential. I’ve made lettuce wraps, whole wheat burritos, cheesy bean quesadillas, served it with brown rice, with pasta, and as an appetizer or snack with corn tortilla chips. Bottom line – it is great to make it at the beginning of the week so you have a great base for any meal during your hectic week. Beans are cheap, healthy, and a great item to keep stored in your pantry. Plus they are a great PLANT BASED, lean protein source. Want a shortcut? “Brad’s Organic” even sells pre-mixed canned beans that are a great way a smaller portion of this salad. All you’d need would be 1 can, and condiments to taste!

Ingredients:

1 can black beans
1 can white beans
1 can kidney beans
1 small white onion, chopped
1/2 cup red cabbage, finely chopped
1  tbsp. apple cider vinegar, you can use regular vinegar too or experiment with balsamic
2  tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp dill
2 tbsp. fresh parsley, washed and chopped
salt & pepper, to taste
1 tsp lemon juice, optional

Directions:

1. First drain and wash the canned beans. Place in a large mixing bowl or topperware.

2. Chop the onion, cabbage, and fresh herbs. Add to the mixing bowl.

3. Now add the olive oil & vinegar. Finally season with salt and pepper.

4. Serve with multigrain crackers, lettuce to create wraps, tortilla chips, etc!

NOTE: if desired add a can of chickpeas and drizzle with more olive oil. You can also use any other bean type you like. Use what you have available!

Asparagus Pesto Pasta

Summary: This pasta is crunchy, tangy, hearty, and healthy. It’s the perfect weeknight dinner plus it reheats wonderfully. Asparagus has been shown to be packed with vitamins and minerals (plus it’s considered an anti-inflammatory food). Wheat germ is a great source of vitamin E (a powerful antioxidant) and folic acid. I use this as a healthy topping option; it makes food look more attractive and delectable without packing the extra calories and fat. So enjoy!

Serving Size: 4

Ingredients:

10 stems fresh asparagus
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
lemon rind, from half a lemon
lemon juice, from half a lemon
1/2 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup fresh parmesan , shredded
1/4 cup wheat germ, optional
1/4 cup sliced almonds, optional
1  box whole wheat penne pasta

Directions:

1. To prep the asparagus: wash them and cut off about 2 inches from the top. Save for later. Next you can chop the asparagus however you like: as circular pieces or longitudinal. I prefer to chop them longitudinally because it looks more elegant plus if you cut them thinly they will cook faster. For the longitudinal version: cut in half along the length of the asparagus stem. Place the flat side to the cutting board, now chop 3-4 times more (depending on how thin you want your asparagus strips). Repeat until you’ve chopped all. (This is the hardest step, but I promise it will be worth it).

2. Bring water to a boil. Season with salt and some olive oil. Add the pasta when the water is ready. Cook according to package directions. Drain and set pasta aside.

3. Chop the basil and the garlic.

4. To cook the asparagus add all the olive oil and wine to a non stick pan. Turn on to medium heat. Let cook for about 10 min. covered. Add the garlic, lemon juice and lemon rind. Mix.

5. ASSEMBLE: add the pasta to the asparagus mixture. Add the parmesan slowly, mixing in between. Add the chopped basil. Stir.

6. GARNISH with wheat germ and sliced almonds. (I prefer to add a bit to each plate).

NOTE: this sauce is very subtle and light. If desired adjust by adding more olive oil once you’ve added the pasta and parmesan.

Some Excercise is (much) Better than None

Let’s shift gears a bit and talk about the other side of the health coin. According to Nature via Women’s Health Magazine scientists have recently discovered a hormone called “Irisin” which presents in your bloodstream when you excercise. Harvard University is currently examining this hormone as a potential treatment for diabetes and obesity because it improves glucose tolerance (which means that your body is better able to handle and metabolize glucose) and converts “white fat” to “brown fat.” Brown fat, as some of you might know, burns way more calories than white fat. Unfortunately for us most of this fat is gone from our body by the time we are adults and instead we are stuck with the abdominal flab known as… white fat… which just seems to grow if left unattended. Further ominous news includes the fact that research into possible pharmaceutical applications of “Irisin” are still in their infant stages. Luckily I can tell you how you can get your hands on an ENDLESS supply of the wonder hormone “Irisin” right now!!!! Call Toll Free 1-800…(I’m starting to sound like a drug salesman huh…) All you need to do is excercise… atleast 30 minutes 3 times a week is considered beneficial. Lets be serious here… there are… 10080 minutes in a week. You still have the other 9990 to do as you please! The hardest part about excercising is starting to do it. Have you noticed this as well? Some days I feel like I rather look at paint dry than excercise. Once you get past those first 10 “hell minutes” as one might call them… its smooth sailing from there… and hey… some people even start to like it! So toss the remote control aside and lets take advantage of the fact that excercise is even better for your health than we thought (it has its own hormone for Christ’s Sake)!