Betcha’ thought I forgot about you… oh and here’s a nice pasta salad

pasta salad

I know, I know. It’s been a while since I posted. Betcha thought I forgot about you. Or about health. Or being healthy. Not at all, my friends. I’ve been working on walking the walk, as they say, and forgot about talking the talk. The holidays, winter and spring have been a lot of fun, honestly. So fun that I did occasionally lame out on my health. I went a little nutso with coconut ice cream, for instance, and hard cider with a Fireball chaser. I was a little lax about exercising. And I paid the price with a little winter weight gain and a few sugar-induced migraines. But I also skied and did some rock climbing, and dusted off my elliptical machine. So we’ll call it a wash.

But now it’s spring – the time of renewal. Of starting over. Of green shoots bursting from the ground. And of a million vows to start exercising and eating right again. I don’t know why New Year’s Eve is considered resolution time – everyone I know re-starts in the spring.

This lovely pasta salad is a nice spring renewal offering. I was inspired by a recipe in a health magazine. Mine includes organic brown rice and quinoa pasta (gluten-free), grilled salmon, olives, a LOT of spinach, red onions, and a simple dressing of olive oil, lemon, toasted sesame oil, tahini (sesame butter) and tamari (wheat-free soy sauce). Oh and garlic and sesame seeds. Mmm. It was so good it was hard to stop eating it. Give it a try!

Sondra’s Salmon Pasta Salad

What’s in it — add or subtract whatever sounds good to you, it’s your salad 🙂

  • 2 cups uncooked GF pasta
  • 2 cups grilled salmon, cut up
  • 4 cups raw spinach
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped, pitted kalamata olives
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. tamari (wheat free soy sauce)
  • 1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp. tahini (sesame butter)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated or crushed
  • 1 tbsp. sesame seeds

How to prepare it

  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions – leave al dente (a little firm, not limpy)
  2. Drain pasta, transfer to large serving bowl
  3. Add spinach, stir and allow to wilt a little
  4. Stir in salmon, onions, red onion
  5. Mix dressing – combine olive oil, tamari, tahini, toasted sesame oil, lemon and garlic, stirring well
  6. Combine dressing into pasta salad, then top with sesame seeds
  7. Stir, serve, and enjoy!

What do you juice?

green smoothie prep

There’s nothing like a fresh green juice, bursting with the flavor of organic vegetables – and maybe a little fruit.

Here are some of my favorite things to juice – what are yours?

  • Apples help protect your bones, prevent cancer, and even promote weight loss. A little bit of their natural sugar can help regulate your blood sugar.
  • Beets are a juicy, delicious root with tasty greens. The root is rich in folates, potassium, B vitamins, iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium. The greens are full of vitamin C, carotenoids, and vitamin A. They help keep our mucus membranes and skin healthy, and boosts vision.
  • Carrots are full of antioxidants which can help prevent cancer. And the beta-carotene in carrots is converted to vitamin A, protecting our eyes and skin.
  • Ginger adds a spicy twist to your fresh juice while aiding digestion. Ginger also helps fight inflammation, colds and flu, and nausea.
  • Kale is rich in antioxidants as well as vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, and manganese, plus Omega 3 fatty acids that help fight inflammation. And kale’s natural sulfur helps your body detox!
  • Spinach is also rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, and manganese – plus vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc and selenium. Spinach supports the immune system, vision, blood pressure, skin, the nervous system, and brain function.

Share your favorite juice — or smoothie — recipes in the comments. I’d love to try them!

xoxo,
Sondra

 

Let it go—Juicing Edition

juice

I cannot get the song Let It Go from the movie Frozen out of my head. It bursts into my head as I’m driving, walking, reading—even sitting on the toilet. Very apropos.

It also rears its pretty head when I come face to face with my bad habits.

The other night I was feeling a bit bored so I opened the pantry door for a snack: “Let it go, let it goooooo…” Ok, no snack.

Another night I was tired from work and didn’t want to go for a walk, so I plopped down on the couch with my book. “Let it go, let it goooooo, can’t hold it back anymore.” So, I guess I’ll talk a walk, right?

It’s like the ghost of bad habits past, haunting me.

Something I do need to let go is a little winter weight. It happens to all of us—when the weather gets colder, our bodies naturally slow down and crave carbs. Root vegetables, popcorn, homemade bread. What’s winter without them?

But now that we’ve let go of winter, it’s time for some spring cleaning.

When I thought about changes I could make to “Let it gooooooo…,” I thought of juicing.

Green juices deliver a potent burst of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals in an easily digestible form. Fresh juices support your immune system, enhance your skin, brighten your eyes, and can help you lose weight.

They’re a healthy burst of energy in a cup!

Everyone is going gaga for them. All the usual suspects love them—cancer survivor Kris Carr, raw food activist David Wolfe, inflammation expert Dr. Andrew Weil , and Joe Cross, author of Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. Joe went on a juice fast for 60 days and lost a ton of weight, and now he makes his living off the movie and book. If that’s not inspirational, I don’t know what is. 😉

If you’ve been over-indulging, they can help heal your digestive system while encouraging your liver, kidneys and gallbladder to release toxins. They also help restore your body’s PH balance. Foods like meat, fish, chicken, and grains have high acidic values. Vegetables are alkaline–they cancel out the acid and bring your body back into balance.

When should I juice?

You can juice any time of day, but morning and afternoon are best. Try one instead of your morning coffee or your afternoon snack for a natural energy boost.

A morning juice will wake you up naturally without caffeine. Have a big glass of juice alone to power through your morning. Or combine juicing with lean healthy protein like beans or eggs, some healthy fat in the form of avocado, chia deeds, flax seeds, or some almond butter, and a little carbs in the form of starchy vegetables. You’ll have everything you need to get you out the door and into your day. Adding a little something sweet, like a chunk of apple or pear, can help even out your blood sugar throughout the day.

An afternoon juice provides energy just about the time you’d reach for that snack. Try a juice with a little less sugar, like a carrot-beet combo or a green juice with kale, spinach, and a little pear. Add some kick with a smidge of cayenne powder or part of a jalapeño pepper.

What should I juice?

Fill your juices with fresh, organic super foods, including:

  • Apples help protect your bones, prevent cancer, and even promote weight loss. A little bit of their natural sugar can help regulate your blood sugar.
  • Beets are a juicy, delicious root with tasty greens. The root is rich in folates, potassium, B vitamins, iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium. The greens are full of vitamin C, carotenoids, and vitamin A. They help keep our mucus membranes and skin healthy, and boosts vision.
  • Carrots are full of antioxidants which can help prevent cancer. And the beta-carotene in carrots is converted to vitamin A, protecting our eyes and skin.
  • Ginger adds a spicy twist to your fresh juice while aiding digestion. Ginger also helps fight inflammation, colds and flu, and nausea.
  • Kale is rich in antioxidants as well as vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, and manganese, plus Omega 3 fatty acids that help fight inflammation. And kale’s natural sulfur helps your body detox!
  • Spinach is also rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, and manganese – plus vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc and selenium. Spinach supports the immune system, vision, blood pressure, skin, the nervous system, and brain function.

Add fresh juices into your weekly routine and you’ll be surprised how well your body responds.

It’ll help you let it all go.

Happy spring!

xoxo,
Sondra

Chocolate Cinnamon Coconut Chia Pudding

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Last summer I got into chia pudding in a big way. I’d just discovered that chia seeds are food, not just pets, and started adding them into smoothies and sprinkling them on salads. Chia seeds are high in protein, fiber, and Omega 3’s, and don’t need to be ground before using. What’s not to love?

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My obsession started with a pumpkin chia pudding recipe on The Naked Avocado and snowballed from there. Her pudding is super easy–no cooking!–and delicious. I made it every week through the fall, until pumpkin season was over. Leaving me with a hole in my repertoire. And perhaps my heart. After using up all of my canned pumpkin, I moved on to other squashes and even tried using sweet potatoes. I tried fruit, and applesauce, and cinnamon. It just wasn’t the same. But then it hit me – chocolate!

Two great tastes that taste great together. Well, ok, one great taste, and another that'll soak it up.

Two great tastes that taste great together. Well, ok, one great taste, and another that’ll soak it up.

I’ve been on a no-sugar kick, which makes desserts a bit of a no-no. Anything I can make that’s chocolaty and sugar-free is a big win. And I had scaled back on my Chocolate Coconut Tahini Balls because of all the fat, so this was an even bigger win.

If you haven’t tried it, chia pudding is a little like tapioca in consistency. Which isn’t a great comparison, because I hate tapioca. I promise this is better. Chia seeds are small and black, smaller than sesame seeds. When you soak them in coconut milk, or any other liquid, they swell into fat black drops. Cool! Science! Then just add any sweet flavors that strike your fancy. The chia is neutral, it’ll pick up the coconut and other flavors. In fact, Chia Pod has productized chia pudding, so look for Chia Pods in natural markets near you. But my recipe is better. 😉

Chocolate Cinnamon Coconut Chia Pudding (gluten/diary/sugar free + vegan)

Ingredients:

  • 1 + ¼ cup light coconut milk, divided*
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds
  • 2 Tbsp raw cacao
  • ½ Tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ Tsp Stevia

Instructions:

  1. Stir chia seeds into 1 cup coconut milk in a bowl or sealable container.
  2. Cover and store in refrigerator overnight or at least 4 hours.
  3. Open container and stir – consistency should be pudding-like. If too thick, stir in additional ¼ cup coconut milk.
  4. Stir in raw cacao, cinnamon, and stevia. Taste, and adjust to your liking.
  5. Enjoy!

xoxo,
Sondra

*”Divided” means you’ll use the 1 cup and ¼ cup coconut milk at separate points in the recipe

Where do vegans get their protein?

pondering

During the course of my health coach training I’ve experimented with what feels like a million different dietary theories – Raw, Atkins, Hunter-Gatherer, Vegan, Blood Type, Mediterranean, South Beach, Zone, Macrobiotic, and Slow Food, to name a few.

By far the one I was most nervous about, in a “will I have enough to eat?” sort of way, was going vegan.

I was concerned about more than feeling full – I also had no idea where I was going to get my protein without partaking of our planet’s adorably delicious fish and animals.

My school’s blog provided some useful guidance, vegan classmates were generous with recommendations, and the internets provided the rest. Did you know there are a plethora of vegan foodie blogs? Though a startling number of the recipes are for desserts. We all know what happened to the last gal who suggested that we subsist on cake! Luckily there are real-food recipes as well. Thug Kitchen, Bunny Kitchen, The Sweet Life, Kris Carr, and This Rawsome Vegan Life are some of my favorites.

My favorite gluten-free bakery and café, Flying Apron, is also vegan, and their lovely menu was a nice start. Salads, soups, and gluten-free vegan pizzas, pot pies, and lasagna were all filling and made this seem doable.

So that took care of “will I have enough to eat?” Those recipes would more than cover three meals a meal, and snacks are easy – almonds, green juice, cut up veggies with hummus, a piece of fruit.

Which freed me up for my next anxiety. What about my daily nutritional requirements? Where is my protein supposed to come from?

Beans, seeds and grains provide a ton of protein!

It turns out the whole-food vegan world is chock full of protein, mainly in the form of beans, nuts, seeds, and grains. These little powerhouses contain all of the protein, fiber, and fat you need, and when combined with a rotating selection of fresh vegetables and fruit, ensure a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals in your diet.

Notice I say “whole-food vegan world.” Many vegans get a portion of their protein from soy products including tofu, soy milk, tempeh, soy yogurt, and soy-based faux meats. I’ve worked hard to reduce the amount of processed foods in my diet, so that seemed like backwards progress. It’s a personal choice. Manufactured foods usually have more sugar, sodium, and unexpected chemicals than you’d think, and the processing removes nutrients, so you can end up just as unhealthy on a vegan diet as your average American. Which kinda defeats the purpose, at least for me.

Ok, so I figured out where to find protein on a vegan diet – but how much did I need? The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended dietary allowances for protein intake by age group. According to the CDC, adults need between 46- 56 grams of protein a day, small children from 12-19 grams, tweens around 24 grams, and teenagers from 46-52 grams of protein a day.** As an adult female who’s neither an athlete nor pregnant, my target is 46 grams.

Which is great, but how does an adult woman get 46 grams of protein a day from beans, nuts, seeds, and grains? After reviewing the nutritional information for everything vegan in my pantry, here’s a roundup:

  • ½ cup of cooked black beans:    7 grams*
  • ½ cup cooked lentils has:           9 grams*
  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds:                     6 grams*
  • ¼ cup of almonds:                      6 grams*
  • 2 Tbsp flax seeds:                      3 grams*
  • ½ cup of uncooked quinoa:        12 grams*
  • 2 cups vegetable broth:              2 grams*

(* Estimates based on the packages at hand.)

Add these up and you’re more or less covered.

What can you do with these goodies? Make black bean patties from the beans, quinoa, and flax seeds (play around with this recipe); sprinkle the chia seeds into your daily smoothie; make a quickie warming soup with the veggie broth and lentils; and enjoy the almonds as a mid-day snack.

And there you go – your vegan protein needs are met! Deliciously!

xoxo,
Sondra

** You can find a lot more information about the recommended daily allowances of protein, and a handy chart, on the CDC web site.

Stone Soup

stones

When I was little I was entranced by the tale of Stone Soup. The story, if you’ve never heard it, goes something like this…

A dusty, road-weary man reaches a small village where he knows no one. He has few belongings, just the clothes on his back and the shoes on his feet and a large cooking pot. He goes to the town pump and fills his cooking pot, then plops down in the village square announcing “I think I’ll make my world famous stone soup. Oh boy is it good. I am so excited to eat it. All I need is water and a nice big stone, and I’ll heat me up some delicious soup.”

The locals are wary but interested. Times are hard in this village. No one wants to feed a vagrant, but if he can teach them how to make a satisfying meal out of rocks, they’re willing to learn. So they start to listen in, keeping their distance and trying to look busy.

The wanderer sees them starting to gather around the edges of the square.  “Gotcha!” he thinks.

He finds a nice sized stone, about as big as his hand, rinses it off, and plops it in the pot. He makes a little fire, puts the pot over it, and as the water starts to heat he rhapsodizes about this soup.

“I once entertained a King,” he says, “with only this stone soup. Oh and an onion – this soup is even better with an onion.”

“An onion,” one of the eavesdroppers thinks. “I can spare that. If it’ll teach me how to make something from nothing.” So he brings the wanderer an onion, which makes its way into the pot.

“Fantastic,” says the wanderer. “This will be even better than the stone soup I prepared for the Maharaja. Oh now that was a soup, I tell ya. A soup anyone would love. Oh though I do believe that soup had a little bacon grease in it.”

“Bacon grease,” thinks another villager, “I can spare a little of that.” So she brings a small scoop of bacon grease to the pot and adds it in.

I’ll spare you the blow by blow account from here, we’re on internet time after all, but suffice it to say that before the soup was done, every villager had contributed some small thing – an egg, some greens, a little meat, some herbs – until it was soup that a king could, in fact, love.

This story has stayed with me my entire life. Like the soup itself, everyone brings something different to this tale. If you’re a socialist, it’s a heartwarming example of the many creating something better than the few. If you’re thrifty, it’s the dawn of pot luck dinners. If you’re a schemer, this is the playbook for getting others to do your work for you.

As an eater, my take-away is different. Soup Is Good! Eat more soup!

I was thinking of this the other day as the weather turned cold. Soup *is* good. I wanted soup. So I looked through my cupboards and threw together an ad-hoc Thai-inspired soup that would satisfy a Maharaja, I am sure. I didn’t measure; I just threw in some of this and some of that. Measurements were approximated after the fact. Use whatever you’ve got. Leave out stuff if you hate it. Throw in other stuff if you love it. I’m sure it’ll be good!

Sondra’s Stone Soup

No stones were hurt in the making of this soup

No stones were hurt in the making of this soup

What to use:

  • ½ can Coconut milk
  • 1 package of low-sodium Vegetable broth
  • 3 Tbsp Fish sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Lime juice from the little green plastic lime or the juice from ½ fresh lime or a few drops food-grade Lime essential oil
  • 1 packet Stevia (replaces the brown sugar found in most Thai soups)
  • 2 slivers of fresh ginger (I always have ginger!) or a few drops food-grade Ginger essential oil
  • A chunk of frozen spinach (about 1 cup)
  • ½ package of pre-prepared Trader Joe lentils (about 1 ½ cups)
  • Optional – 4-5 pieces of dried Lemongrass (I had some dried on hand – fresh is better) or a few drops food-grade Lemongrass essential oil

If you decide to use essential oils, I recommend doTERRA.

What to do:

  1. Warm the coconut milk and veggie broth over Medium-High heat until boiling
  2. Reduce heat to Medium
  3. Add the fish sauce, lime juice, stevia, ginger, and lemongrass. Stir and let simmer for about 5 minutes for the flavors to develop
  4. Add the spinach and lentils. Raise the heat back to Medium-High. Let bubble on the stove for about 10 minutes. House smells good, right? If it’s bubbling too much, reduce heat to Medium.
  5. Serve and enjoy!

Hope you like your first stone soup. Oh and don’t forget to take the stone out before you eat it. 😉

Xoxo,
Sondra

Get your free Gluten-free Holiday Recipe Guide!

It seems like the holidays start earlier every year. As a nation we’ve just recovered from our collective Halloween candy coma and are already preparing for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

If you’re one of the many people going gluten-free for the first time this year, don’t stress out about the holidays. My school, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, is offering a free gluten-free holiday recipe guide that’s a great place to start.

 

Here’s a sneak peek of what’s inside Integrative Nutrition’s Gluten-Free Holiday recipe guide:

  • 24 delicious recipes for any time of day and every craving.
  • Seasonal ingredients to make the most of the fall harvest.
  • Healthy alternatives to conventional dishes that your family and friends will love.

Download your free gluten-free holiday recipe guide today.

If gluten-free cooking is new to you, you may want to practice before the big event. You know where to find me if you need a taste-tester!

And here are some of my other favorite gluten-free recipe resources — Gluten-Free Girl, Flying Apron’s Gluten-Free & Vegan Baking Book , This Rawsome Vegan Life (it has some great desert recipes) and Babycakes Recipes.

Happy eating.

xoxo,
Sondra