Thanksgiving time period is one of my favorite times in the year to cook. It’s finally cold (oh, to backpack in this weather is divine!) and when I come home from work or travels, I am up for a hot, filling meal. I tried a number of new meals this week and though they were good, my stomach told me to go back to the basics. One of my staples is the below meal- one of the few meals I can eat a few days a week and not be sick of it. 🙂 It’s one of my favorites. Enjoy!
This recipe was a mixture of an awesome spanish bean recipe given to me by Doris, our recent guest blogger, which I subsequently changed to my desires and a dish I’ve eaten at a restaurant called Guasaca. The use of avocados, spinach, and plantains together with beans and rice (or orzo in this case) is such an amazing complex flavor.
Spanish Beans with Whole Wheat Orzo, Avocado, Spinach, and Plantains
3 cups black beans with sauce
1/2 small onion or 1 shallot, diced
3 large cloves garlic
1 handful fresh cilantro, diced
1 tomato, cubed (roma is best, but any will do)
1 packet organic herb seasoning (I use Rapunzel sea salt and herb)
Saute onion or shallot, cilantro, tomato, and garlic for about 10 mins until fragrant.
Meanwhile, put tomato sauce and beans in a large pan and put on medium heat until almost boiling. Add in other ingredients. Cook about 15-20 mins until thick and soupy. Let cool to thicken up.
While the soup is cooking, cook the whole wheat orzo (however much you would like) from the package directions.
Once all is done, put as much orzo as you’d like into a bowl. Top with as much bean recipe as you would like then chopped bunch spinach, avocado, and a portion of the cooked plantains from above (and sour cream if you would like). Enjoy for at least 4-5 meals during the week (per person)!
Two of our good friends have been exchanging some of their food for the week with ours so we can have a little more variety in what we eat (’cause leftovers get pretty boring after a while without it). A few weeks ago, they made cardamom ice cream in their ice cream maker for an Indian meal we cooked and OH MY GOSH, IT WAS THE BEST ICE CREAM I’VE EVER HAD. So we ended up borrowing the ice cream maker…and OH MY GOSH, I CAN’T STOP MAKING ICE CREAM (OR EATING IT).
Sorry about the caps; I get a little excited about these things. Even though it is the fall and getting colder here in NC, I have an ice cream maker temporarily and I’m going to use it! So I’ve made six batches of ice cream in three weeks just so I could perfect a recipe or two for all of you (I know, what a sacrifice). Am I really not the only one who enjoys ice cream when it is 30 degrees out? Enjoy!
2 cans of Thai Kitchen coconut milk, chilled in fridge for a few hours ( An alternative if you want more of a frozen yogurt texture is use 1 can of coconut milk and 1 cup of yogurt or 1 cup of almond milk.)
1/2 cup honey or vegan cane sugar* (reduced from 3/4 cup in the original recipe)
1 cup frozen raspberries (or blueberries or cherries…any frozen fruit works here!)
1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks or carob chunks
1 tsp vanilla extract
The recipe calls for blending everything together except the fruit in a blender before adding it to an ice cream machine and putting the fruit in about 20 minutes into the mixing process. This provides you with a coconut ice cream base with chunks of fruit, so do it this way if you would like. I wanted a fruity, chocolate-y, and coconut-y base with additional chunks of chocolate and fruit. If you would like it this way better, put 1/2 cup fruit and 1/4 cup chocolate/carob chunks into the blender with the other ingredients and then add this to the ice cream maker. After 20ish minutes of ice cream maker mixing, add 1/2 cup fruit (chopped smaller if needed in a food processor or by hand) and 1/4 cup chocolate/carob in. Mix until stiff, about 10-15 more minutes. Serve by itself or on a brownie…or eat directly out of ice cream maker. Make sure to lick the mixer.
*Note: If you’re wondering about why I noted vegan cane sugar, most sugar is not vegan because it is filtered through activated carbon, which is often made from bone char.
2 cans coconut milk, chilled in fridge 2-3 hours before
1 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 tsp peppermint extract
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp maple syrup
1/3 cup chocolate chips
2 handfuls of mint leaves, chopped
Blend all the ingredients except the chocolate chips in a blender and put into ice cream maker. About 10 minutes into mixing, insert chocolate chips into the top of the ice cream maker. Keep the ice cream maker on for another 10-15 minutes until desired consistency is met. Enjoy! This is a little bit more of a soft-serve flavor than the berry ice cream, likely because there is nothing actually frozen in it to start. However, it is very refreshing and soooo yummy!
Are you one of those people who can eat the same thing every day and be happy? I’m unfortunately not. I go through phases of liking a staple food for a few weeks and then can’t stand it for another three months. It’s difficult. Thus, I am always going through recipe “staples” and this was one of them: salad in a jar. The concept is awesome and simple and really healthy. The best part is that you can use whatever grains, veggies, fruits, and nuts you have in stock and mix and match like you would a smoothie. And these keep for up to a week in the fridge if you layer appropriately! So all it takes is about 15 minutes cutting fruits and veggies and cooking some grains and putting ’em all together into 5 mason jars for a whole week of lunch at work (or home).
Basically, the issue with bringing a salad to work or making one ahead of time in general is that you need the stuff that is liquidy to be separated from the stuff that needs to stay dry until eating. The solution is layering the wet stuff and the dry stuff appropriately with the wet stuff on the bottom and dry stuff on the top and when it’s time to eat…bottoms up!
I get some weird excitement from turning a jar upside down into a bowl; don’t ask me why.
Here are some recipes to get you excited about bringing healthy and filling salads in a jar to lunch too!
A general recipe:
Bottom layer: Dressing
Next layer up: Absorbent stuff (like beans, rice, or whole wheat orzo) that will absorb some of the dressing flavor
Layers above it: Any veggies or fruits or nuts to your heart’s desire. I recommend fruits and nuts on the top.
A more specific suggestion recipe:
Bottom layer: olive oil with pepper and salt
Next layer: cooked whole wheat orzo, canned black beans (I use Eden brand because they are BPA free), baked tofu cut into cubes
Layers above that: tomatoes, raw almonds, carrots, broccoli, spinach, avocados
Top layer: blueberries, raspberries, pineapple, grapes, sunflower seeds, pecans
Have fun with it! Experiment! Challenge yourself to eat all the colors of the rainbow or put all the superfoods you can into your salad. Feel free to leave pictures in the comments of your creation! 🙂
Last night, D and I made our meals for the week with a friend. Our friend is trying to eat healthier and doesn’t have much experience with cooking and so as a trade for taking care of our puppy in December, we are training her on the N and D ways of cooking healthy. Last night reminded me of my beginning attempts to cook, especially when I became vegetarian. At first, I attempted to take family recipes made with chicken or turkey and just transform them into recipes made with tofu, seitan, tempeh, or other fake meat products. I can’t say I make most any of these meals anymore, but it was a good start to transitioning to healthier cooking as I started with what I was comfortable with.
One of the meals that I made at that time of transition was a recipe that I made for many meat eaters and was able to convince them it was meat when it was actually made with tofu. I knew that if I told them it was made with tofu, they wouldn’t even bother trying it. There are some tofu haters out there! I will admit that tofu made in the typical way with breading is not my cup of tea either. But tofu is one of the most versatile foods out there. It takes on the flavor and texture of everything around it. So give it a chance here first before you diss all tofu forever.
I’ve given this recipe out to many people, and every time, I received a raised eyebrow because the ingredients are so out there (though simple and cheap as well). However, they’ve always come back to me and said “Ya know, it was really good…and it really tasted like chicken!” Without further ado, here it is:
Crispy Total Tofu
2 heaping tbsps peanut butter
1 heaping tbsp fruit preserves or jam (any flavor)
1 box Total cereal or any corn flakes (preferably without corn syrup)
1 container extra firm tofu
Preheat oven at 375.
Mix peanut butter and preserves together in a bowl. Press tofu between your hands over a sink and then with paper towels so it is as dry as possible. Cut into medium-sized cubes. Dry your hands. Crumble Total (or corn flakes) in your fingers into a bowl- Start with a few handfuls and keep adding into the bowl as you need it. Roll the dry tofu cubes in the peanut butter/preserve mixture and then dip into the Total/corn flakes.
*Note: Don’t think you’re doing something wrong if it’s a total mess. It is! It can be made easier if you have two people, one to dip the tofu into the PB/preserves and one that then dips the tofu into the Total. You may need more PB/preserve mixture. If you do, just make sure there is a 2:1 ratio of PB: preserves in any quantity you need.
As you complete each tofu cube, place onto aluminum foil on a cookie or baking sheet. Once done with the whole tofu block, bake at 375 for 15 minutes.
Suggestion: Serve with low-sodium teriyaki sauce for dipping and steamed veggies with brown rice.
Another great tofu recipe is a marinade you can read about here.
Is there a recipe you have that you would like advice on how to make healthier? Comment with it below and I will do my best and hopefully make it into a featured recipe of the week. 🙂
Since the number one advice people ask me for is food-related, I’m going to start posting with a taste-approved health-ified recipe every week with reasons for why I made the revisions I did. The temps are finally starting to drop here at home and the leaves are finally changing color and for me, this always brings with it a desire to eat creamy comfort foods. Thus, I thought I’d start with a simple fall favorite.
Most of the recipes I come across that inspire me are on either Pinterest (see my Pinterest food pins here) or this awesome blog. I almost never cook from recipes directly though. I change bits and pieces of it to make it healthier to my satisfaction (or my/D’s taste buds). A good friend told me that I “go by the recipe”…with an asterisk. 🙂
4 roma tomatoes – I replaced the condensed tomato soup with roma tomatoes. Though the condensed soup provides more thickness, I figured the coconut milk would make up for the creaminess. Romas compared to condensed tomato soup also have less calories per serving (27 versus 90), less sodium (7mg versus 480mg), less sugar (4g versus 12g) and more vitamin C (32% versus 10%). Romas are also obviously not processed like condensed soup is.
2 handfuls of spinach, torn
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
1 large can full-fat coconut milk (Thai Kitchen is the brand I use)- I replaced the half-and-half with coconut milk because coconut milk has no cholesterol (compared to 90mg cholesterol in 1 cup of half-and-half, more iron and magnesium, and about the same amount of protein. Coconut milk does, surprisingly, have more saturated fat though (51g per cup versus 17g in half-and-half). Reduced fat coconut milk would also work as a substitution, but would not be nearly as creamy. Coconut milk also does not have casein, while half-and-half does.
2 cups vegetable broth- I replaced chicken broth with vegetable “broth.” Instead of broth in general, though, out of laziness, I often just mix the amount of water I need with a block of Organic Vegetable Bouillon with Sea Salt and Herbs by Rapunzel.
1 tsp onion powder
1 tbsp italian seasoning
1/2 tsp salt- I omitted the salt. Use it if you want to.
1/2 tsp pepper
1 whole 9 oz package of whole wheat cheese tortellini- I always try to find a whole wheat pasta alternative rather than white pasta whenever I can because it doesn’t spike glucose as much and the whole wheat option is less processed and has more protein in it. If you want to make this recipe vegan, you can make the recipe with a non-cheese tortellini or other pasta and omit the parmesan.
1/4 cup of parmesan cheese- You can add this or not. The original recipe calls for it as a topping, but I mixed it into the sauce for some added thickness. It’s quite tasteful without any extra cheese though.
Directions: Saute garlic with olive oil in medium pot. When garlic is done, add tomatoes, coconut milk, vegetable broth, parmesan and spices. Bring to a simmer. Once simmering, drop tortellini into soup. Cook according to package directions. After the tortellini are cooked, ladle soup into bowls and top with parmesan if desired.
My picky husband declared this a “definite make-again” and said it was “the best soup you’ve ever made.” And when he gives something accolades like that, I know it is safe to share with you all!
Enjoy this soup- ideally next to a fire while leaves are falling outside. 🙂
Anyone who has come over to my place to eat knows how much I use (and love) the Vitamix. It took me a couple years to convince myself to get it due to its price (yes, it’s about $400…$600 if you get the wet and dry containers), but it ended up being one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. Obviously, a total “want,” but it is a want that did make life a lot easier! Here are the reasons why:**
1) It replaces most other food appliances.
At the time I acquired a Vitamix, I owned a breadmaker, food processor, and blender, all sitting on my countertop. As soon as I realized how great this thing was, I got rid of all of them. Had I also owned a juicer and ice cream maker, it would have replaced those as well. For the type A personality in me, I love the fact that my kitchen is less cluttered and requires the use of (and space for) less appliances.
2) It is freaky fast and freaky awesome.
As a vegetarian who makes homemade food for most meals a week, do you know how much time I used to spend chopping vegetables and fruits? Even when my husband, the anal food chopper, laboriously cut vegetables or fruits into 92 pieces (all exactly the same size), many times I needed them to be smaller for what we were making. With the Vitamix, I can chop, dice, or mince at whatever variability I want. It’s even better than a food processor because you can make pieces whatever size you want…and do it freaking fast.
3) It gets so hot that it will actually cook food. (And so cold it will make ice cream and sorbet.)
I’m serious. The Vitamix has 2+ horsepower to produce enough heat to actually heat and cook soup. This means on a cold winter night, you can get home and spend only 10-15 minutes in the kitchen and have a healthy homemade hot soup ready to warm you up. Who wouldn’t love that? Similarly, on a hot summer day, a minute or two of blending frozen fruits will create some amazing ice cream/sorbet. To make a thicker ice cream texture, use whole milk or full fat coconut milk (here is why you should consider the latter).
4) You can make homemade flour, dough, and granola bars.
It used to be a Sunday ritual that my grandma would come over to our place and I would make pancakes. Because this happened every weekend, I got pretty creative sometimes. With the Vitamix, getting creative was easy. I made pancakes from totally raw materials like flour from garbanzo beans or kasha. I prepped biscuits or other bread or dough in minutes without requiring kneading. For our hikes after brunch, I made granola bars in minutes from apples, steel-cut oats, berries, and other super heart healthy schtuff (See a staple recipe here). Making breakfast was not only made easy, but also fun!
5) It’s a professional-level smoothie-maker.
The Vitamix is beyond a good blender; it is an amazing blender. It makes smoothies taste as consistent as fruit juice, but doesn’t remove all the great fiber and nutrients from fruits and veggies like juicers do. The next time you go to a smoothie place, look at the blender they use- I guarantee it’s either a Vitamix or a Blendtec (competing brand). And for good reason. These things can take any combination of healthy food items (and take them whole) and blend them into smooth goodness. And yes, I realize how sexual that sounds. I’m not un-typing it.
6) Clean-up is quick and easy!
Clean-up of a Vitamix requires putting a couple drops of soap and some water in and turning it on high for a minute. It’s just as much fun using it as cleaning it up. 🙂
7) Make organic fertilizer from your food scraps!
Yes, you can actually take food scraps, blend them in the Vitamix, and use them as organic fertilizer. It’s cheaper and better for the soil anyway. Find out more here if you might be interested.
8) Provide the best for your babe!
Do you have a young child? Why not give them the cheapest, healthiest, and least processed food to grow up on: steamed and/or pureed fruits and veggies. No more BPA to worry about or chemicals you don’t know how to pronounce. Pure fruits and veggies, no more and no less (see recipes here). You can even make raw almond or soy milk if your baby is lactose intolerant! (example here)
9) Get the creative juices flowing!
My favorite thing about the Vitamix is that it makes cooking so much easier in general that I am much more willing to try preparing new dishes. When the chopping only takes a minute or less, I can spend more time doing other more complicated things within the meal.
So those are my reasons for why the Vitamix is awesome. Have I convinced you yet? If I have, go out and see one for yourself (click here for more information about Vitamix retailers in your area) or buy one online at the vitamix.com website.
**Note: I am not being given anything from Vitamix to get on my soapbox about this great product. 🙂
Part of my goal for balance involves eating a wider variety of food and making healthy meals with more balanced nutrition. I aim to make at least one new meal a week and try at least one new food item a month. In that vein, I’ll introduce you to some foods I’ve learned about along the way.
Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”)
The Incans ate quinoa as their staple food and considered it to be sacred and call it the “mother seed.” It was made illegal for Native Americans to grow when the Spanish conquistadors came into the picture and was rediscovered by Americans and started being grown in Colorado in the 1980’s.
Quinoa is an often overlooked protein powerhouse. It has more protein than rice, millet, or wheat. A single cup of cooked quinoa contains 8.14g of protein. It is also a great source of iron (15% of RDI- Recommended Daily Intake- in 1 cup), fiber (5g per cup), potassium, magnesium (118mg per cooked cup), and many other nutrients. Quinoa also consists of riboflavin, a vitamin that helps to reduce the frequency of attacks in migraine sufferers by improving the energy metabolism within the brain and muscle cells. Quinoa is also a low-calorie food (172 calories per 1/4 cup dry) and gluten-free! Though it is a carbohydrate, it has a low glycemic index- great for people with diabetes and also helps in weight management. And last but not least, it only takes 10-15 minutes to cook! (great for bringing on the trail/camping!)
How to add quinoa into your diet: Quinoa is extremely versatile and can be placed in most any dish, as it provides texture but not a very strong taste. It can easily be used as a rice replacement or added into salads, smoothies, cookies, breakfast “oat”meal, or “granola” bars. It can even be popped like popcorn. *Make sure to rinse quinoa before cooking, as it is coated with a toxic chemical called saponin, which is actually used as detergent in South America for washing clothes.
Everyone knows what wheat is, but few know where it comes from. It comes from these high protein, nutty-tasting nutrient powerhouses! 🙂 Wheat berries are the least processed form of wheat and come in a few forms: hard or soft, winter or spring, and red or white. Wheat berries are full of carbohydrates, dietary fiber, protein and numerous vitamins and minerals (B1, B3, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, manganese, and selenium). 1/2 cup of cooked wheat berries yields 6g of fiber, 1g of fat, 35.5g of carbs and 6.5g of protein. The B-vitamins, fiber, and minerals in wheat berries aid in energy metabolism, blood pressure regulation, creating strong, healthy bones, forming RNA and DNA and connective tissue, digestion, and immune function. The carbohydrates in wheat berries makes these a great source of energy for before and after exercise! These are not, however, a gluten-free food.
How to Add Them Into Your Diet:
Wheat berries can be sprouted for most nutrition value, cooked as a grain or side dish, or ground into flours to be used in baked goods, pancakes, or bread. For easiest preparation, wheat berries do need to be soaked in water overnight to become soft enough to cook with. They can also be cooked on high on the stovetop for at least 90 minutes if you forget to soak them. 🙂
Sprouted Wheat Berry Crackers (kid friendly) Wheat Berry Pancakes: I highly recommend the recipe from Vegan With a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz (the whole book is great!) and replace the flour with wheat berry flour (made with a Vitamix) or a combination of wheat berry and buckwheat flour
You’ve probably heard of omega-3 fatty acids, but did you know it’s not just found in fish? A tablespoon of flaxseed yields 1.8 grams of omega-3’s too! Additionally, flaxseeds contain 75 to 800 times more lignans (a plant estrogen) than other plant foods and is packed full of fiber. Recent studies have even shown flaxseed may be protective against breast, prostate, and colon cancer because they can inhibit tumor incidence in growth (in animal studies at least). The omega-3’s in flaxseed also aid in anti-inflammatory action and cardiovascular health by reducing plaque buildup in the arteries by up to 75%, helping to maintain a normal heart rhythm, and lowering cholesterol levels (specifically LDL or “bad cholesterol”). Flaxseed has even been shown to be beneficial in improving blood sugar for diabetics and reducing hot flashes in menopausal women as well as protecting skin tissue from damaging radiation! As with all food with lots of fiber, flax seeds also help with digestion. It’s amazing such a small seed can be so filled with so much good stuff!
How to add them into your diet:
Flaxseed can be bought in two forms: ground or whole. In order to get the most nutritional whammy for your body, it’s best to eat flaxseed in ground form. Whole seeds take longer to go bad, however. Whether you buy them ground or grind them yourself is up to you. Eating flaxseeds whole may prevent absorption of nutrients, since the whole seeds can pass right through your digestive system. Per the Flax Council of Canada, one to two tablespoons of flaxseed a day is suggested.
Because flaxseed provides a slightly nutty flavor but you don’t need much of it for nutritional benefits, you can add up to a tablespoon or two of flaxseed into things you already eat such as smoothies, pancakes, casseroles, oatmeal, desserts, sandwiches.
Sound foreign? It is! Farro originates from an ancient version of wheat from the Fertile Crescent in Asia, and can now be found farmed in Italy and even America at Washington’s Bluebird Grain Farm. Farro consists of loads of fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium and carbohydrates. Farro also contains cyanogenic glucosides, which stimulate your immune system and lower cholesterol.
How to add it into your diet:
It has a nutty flavor and is quite chewy, and thus can be added to soups, risottos, pilafs, and salads. It is a great alternative to pasta. I can be found pearled or semi-pearled. Semi-pearled has more fiber and nutrients. Farro is also found in long, medium, or cracked grain lengths. For most freshness, buy the long or medium grain length and crack it yourself in a coffee grinder or blender.
If you immediately think of Chia pets when you hear “chia,” you probably haven’t tried these wonderful seeds before. Chia seeds are native to Mexico and Guatemala and were considered a staple in Aztec and Mayan culture. “Chia” actually comes from the Mayan word “strength” and they considered chia seeds to be almost magical. Studies have indeed suggested chia seeds boost energy, stabilize blood sugar and blood pressure in diabetics, aid digestion, and lower cholesterol in addition to containing lots of nutrients like calcium (18% RDI in one serving), manganese, phosphorus (27% RDI in one serving), and yes even omega-3-fatty acids too (5g per 1oz of seeds)! Like most of the other foods on this list, they are also packed with fiber (11g in 28g of seeds, to be exact- a whopping 1/3 of the RDI for adults) and protein (10% RDI in 28g of seeds) as well. An amino acid most people associate with eating lots of turkey on Thanksgiving is also in chia seeds; it’s called tryptophan and it helps to regulate appetite, sleep, and improve mood.
How to add them to your diet:
Chia seeds are tasteless, and once added to a liquid get large and gelatinous. Similar to flaxseed, you can add them to most anything to increase nutritional value. Some suggestions: topping salads, oatmeal or cereal, toast or ice cream or mixing into smoothies,yogurt, fruit juice, water, pudding, or even vegetables. Chia seeds can also be sprouted and added to salads, sandwiches, and other dishes.
You might attract birds with millet, but it is great for people too! Millet originated in Africa and is also regularly consumed in Asia, India, and Eastern European countries. Millet is actually the umbrella name for a large variety of grains including couscous and they provide a super amount of nutrients not widely seen in other foods like manganese, tryptophan, magnesium (19% RDI), and phosphorus (17% RDI). It has been shown to have heart-protective properties, reduce blood pressure and also risk of heart attack, reduce high cholesterol, reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, prevent gallstones and are protective against breast cancer in women and childhood asthma, and reduce risk of colon cancer.
How to add millet to your diet:
Millet can have a rice texture or a creamier, mashed potato-like texture depending on how you cook it. Therefore, you can use it in breakfast porridge or can be ground to be added to baked goods or even tossed into salads as well as a replacement for rice or potatoes.
You may have had bulgur in a Middle Eastern restaurant, as it is a staple in this kind of cuisine. It is used to make tabbouleh salad, for instance. It is a great source of iron, magnesium, fiber (75% RDI in a cup!) and protein (25% RDI in a cup). The huge amount of fiber in this dish means it is great for your colon! Even better, it can be cooked in only a few minutes and will keep for months in an airtight container.
How to add bulgur to your diet:
Similar to quinoa, bulgur has a mild taste but provides lots of texture. It is often used in salads, soups, pilafs, and breakfasts and if you’re getting creative can also be added into desserts.
I was raised on kasha varnishke, a Jewish dish (recipe below), and I actually never knew that when it is raw, it is called buckwheat. Oh the things you learn while writing blog posts! 🙂
Kasha is primarily eaten in East Europe and Russia. Though it can be made into flour and added to noodles and pancakes, eaten in their raw form leads to a lower glycemic index (and leads to a reduced risk of diabetes). Buckwheat is high in a flavenoid called rutin which protects against disease strengthening capillaries and preventing blood clots (great if you are prone to excess clotting!). Buckwheat also lowers blood pressure with its high levels of magnesium (20% RDI in a cup) as well as reducing LDL and increased HDL as well as lower total cholesterol. Buckwheat has also been shown to prevent gallstones, protect against childhood asthma and breast cancer in women like other whole grains. It can be kept in the fridge for three months or in the freezer for six and is totally gluten-free.
How kasha/buckwheat can be added to your diet:
Kasha has a very nutty flavor and chewy texture and thus it best replaces rice and dishes with chewy textures such as porridges.
I was first introduced to lychee by a friend of mine in elementary school whose parents grew lychee in their backyard. I couldn’t determine whether I liked it or not with the strange grape-like texture and the smell that always reminded me of nail polish remover, and of course the bumpy rind. It grew on me, though, and I think it will grow on you too…especially when you hear how great it is for you! 🙂
Lychee is well known in China, India and Indonesia and was considered to be a symbol of romance and love. Two studies have concluded that lychee prevents the growth of cancer, especially breast cancer. It also contains vitamin C and a chemical called oligonol, which has been proven to help the immune system and those suffering from viral illness as well as act as an antioxidant. It can even relieve pain and shrink swollen glands say the Chinese. Phosphorus, potassium, copper calcium, magnesium, and protein can be found in lychee fruit as well, which aid in controlling heart rate and blood pressure and production of red blood cells.
How to add them to your diet:
As you can imagine, this exotic fruit is not one you can find at just any grocery store. Asian supermarkets, however, will have lychee fresh (usually from June-October), in cans, dried, or in jelly sauces. Lychee are great on their own, but can also be added to fruit salads, juices, and jams, jellies, sorbet, sauces, and syrups.
Goji berries are also native to China and have been rumored to increase lifespan and be a miracle health remedy. What is known is goji berries’ antioxidant properties, specifically astaxanthin, which is known to help reverse and protect from sun damage and in general reduces free radicals in the body (as all antioxidants do). Gojis also contain more beta-carotene than carrots, which reduces inflammation and encourages new skin cell growth. Within a goji are 20 different vitamins and minerals and 18 different amino acids- holy moly!
How to add them to your diet:
You can use them like you would any other dried fruit. Eat them plain, add them to yogurt or cereal, smoothies, granola or trailmix, and baked goods. You can buy them online hereor at specialty stores like Whole Foods.
The word amaranth comes from the Greek amaranths meaning “one that does not wither.” It is a native crop in Peru and the Aztecs consumed it and used it in religious ceremonies. And for good reason! Amaranth is high in calcium (as in three time the average amount), iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium in addition to 13-14% of one’s RDI complete protein (because it contains lysine). The minerals and nutrients in this grain keep anemia and osteoporosis at bay. Studies have also shown that amaranth “is among the highest in nutritive quality of vegetable origin and close to those of animal origin products” (Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama at Guatemala, 1993). Another plus- like whole grains, amaranth lowers total and LDL cholesterol. It’s also gluten-free and as has anti-inflammatory and cancer-preventing properties.
How to add amaranth into your diet:
Unlike whole grains, amaranth does not lose its crunch, so it’s not great as a pilaf. However, it can be popped like corn and is used in South American breakfast porridges and desserts. It can also be dried and then sprinkled on top of salads as well as added to baked goods. Amaranth thickens any food item a LOT because it is very starchy, so be liberal with the water to avoid a goopy texture (suggestion: at least 6 cups of water for every 1 cup of amaranth).
Kamut is just as ancient as it sounds, originally cultivated by the Egyptians in 8,000 BCE. Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it isn’t amazing for you though! It is surprisingly high in protein (6g in 1/2 cup), fiber (5g in 1/2 cup), and selenium (>100% RDI in 1/2 cup). The fiber in kamut helps to reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, helps with digestive health, and lowers cholesterol. Selenium is essential to maintaining a healthy immune system and supposedly protects against cancer (especially lung, stomach, skin and esophageal). Kamut is also relatively high in fat, with 1g per half cup.
How to add kamut into your diet:
Like most good-for-you whole grains, kamut has a mild nutty flavor and can replace rice or flour in baked goods or added to salads or soups or breakfasts. It pairs well with dried fruits (especially apricots), toasted nuts (especially pecans), citrus fruits (especially oranges) and other bitter foods like kale, lemon or vinaigrette.
Spelt is a distant cousin to wheat native to Iran and Southeast Europe. Spelt is actually mentioned in the Bible as one of the first known grains to make bread with. It was also a grain used as a gift to the pagan gods of agriculture to encourage harvest and fertility in ancient Greece and Rome. It is rich in manganese, niacin, and other micronutrients such as copper, iron, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorus. Spelt is also easier to digest for those with wheat intolerance because it has a higher water solubility, which also helps in lowering blood cholesterol and regulating blood sugar levels. Like other good-to-eat whole grains, spelt also reduces cardiovascular risks and protects against cancer and childhood asthma
How to add spelt to your diet:
Spelt can be cooked and added to soups or grain-based salads or used like rice. It can also be used as rolled or flake spelt in hot breakfast cereals or added into baked goods as flour. It’s nutty, but slightly sweet.