Thursday, May 31, 2012

JG's "UR Beet Salad" Recipe

Lammer in between surf sessions in our cabana in Nicaragua.
He was very insistent on the name & spelling of this recipe - HA!
While the beau (Lammer) and I were in Nicaragua this past spring, we made sure to stock the fridge with plenty of fresh produce since we were staying in a place far, far away from any kinds of grocery stores where food was available.  One morning, Lammer got his groove on in the kitchen and threw this amazing salad together from what we had in the fridge.  The ingredients below have no measurements because we had no measurements in the kitchen that trip.  Use your best judgement and have fun making this salad to your taste!

cooked beets (peeled and chopped into bite sized chunks)
celery (chopped fine)
white onion (chopped fine)
yellow & red pepper (chopped fine)
garlic cloves (minced)
dash of sea salt (the chunky kind would be ideal)
extra virgin olive oil
fresh chopped cilantro

While beets are being boiled, chop up the rest of the ingredients.  Throw everything into a large bowl and mix very well.  The more this salad marinates, the yummier it becomes.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The 8 Causes of Cravings

I looooooove deconstructing cravings! Whenever someone mentions a craving they're having I immediately start analyzing what their body is trying to tell them.
The body is amazing. It knows when to go to sleep, wake up, go to the bathroom, maintain 98.6 degrees and tighten the eyes when the light gets bright. It knows the miracle of pregnancy and childbirth. Your heart never misses a beat. Your lungs are always breathing. The body is a super-computer, and it never makes mistakes.
Look at the foods, deficits and behaviors in your life that are the underlying causes of your cravings. Many people view cravings as weakness, but really they are important messages meant to assist you in maintaining balance. When you experience a craving, deconstruct it. Ask yourself, what does my body want and why?

The 8 primary causes of cravings are:
1. Lack of primary food. Being dissatisfied with a relationship or having an inappropriate exercise routine (too much, too little or the wrong type), being bored, stressed, uninspired by a job, or lacking a spiritual practice may all cause emotional eating. Eating can be used as a substitute for entertainment or to fill the void of primary food.

2. Water. Lack of water can send the message that you are thirsty and on the verge of dehydration. Dehydration can manifest as a mild hunger, so the first thing to do when you get a craving is drink a full glass of water. Excess water can also cause cravings, so be sure that your water intake is well balanced.

3. Yin/yang imbalance. Certain foods have more yin qualities (expansive) while other foods have more yang qualities (contractive). Eating foods that are either extremely yin or extremely yang causes cravings in order to maintain balance. For example, eating a diet too rich in sugar (yin) may cause a craving for meat (yang). Eating too many raw foods (yin) may cause cravings for extremely cooked (dehydrated) foods or vise versa.

4. Inside coming out. Often times, cravings come from foods that we have recently eaten, foods eaten by our ancestors, or foods from our childhood. A clever way to satisfy these cravings is to eat a healthier version of one’s ancestral or childhood foods.

5. Seasonal. Often the body craves foods that balance the elements of the season. In the spring, people crave detoxifying foods like leafy greens or citrus foods. In the summer, people crave cooling foods like fruit, raw foods and ice cream, and in the fall people crave grounding foods like squash, onions and nuts. During winter, many crave hot and heat-producing foods like meat, oil and fat. Cravings can also be associated with the holidays, for foods like turkey, eggnog or sweets, etc.

6. Lack of nutrients. If the body has inadequate nutrients, it will produce odd cravings. For example, inadequate mineral levels produce salt cravings, and overall inadequate nutrition produces cravings for non-nutritional forms of energy, like caffeine.

7. Hormonal. When women experience menstruation, pregnancy or menopause, fluctuating testosterone and estrogen levels may cause unique cravings.

8. De-evolution. When things are going extremely well, sometimes a self-sabotage syndrome happens. We crave foods that throw us off, thus creating more cravings to balance ourselves. This often happens from low blood sugar and may result in strong mood swings.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mexican Lasagna

I may be Italian and can't resist all of those irresistible Mediterranean flavors, but I also can't help but adore Latin food!!!  I love how easily mexican food can be whipped up, so I do it all the time.  Here is my latest, Mexican Lasagna!  This recipe makes 2 personal lasagnas, but be sure to have a "to-go" container because this is so filling that you definitely won't finish the whole thing in one shot.  It can feed plenty more than just 2 people.  Toasting the tortillas before building the lasagna keeps them from getting soggy as the dish bakes. Feel free to mix things up with different beans, seasonings or vegetables between the layers.  If you'd like to keep this dairy free, check out the cashew cheese to fill it up with below.

6 spelt flour  or gluten free tortillas
1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped 
2 Tbs. chili powder
2 cloves garlic, minced 
2 cups mild salsa (I love Green Mountain Gringo's mild salsa, and reuse their jars once i'm done)
1 ½ cups cooked black beans, or 1 15-oz. BPA-free can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 medium organic zucchini, diced 
½ cup fresh or frozen organic corn kernels
1 ½ cups grated Monterey Jack or pepper Jack cheese (I love using cashew cheese below)
Fresh cilantro, chopped
1 ripe avocado

Creamy Cashew Mexican Cheese

1 1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked overnight (quick version: place cashews in just boiled water and let sit for 2-3 hours)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon honey
3/4 cup filtered water
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon turmeric

Put all ingredients in a food processor and run for 5 minutes. You can add more water for a thinner consistency or less for a thicker “cheese”. Makes 2 cups. Store in an air-tight container. Try to use within 10 days (sometimes I halve the recipe because it makes a lot., or freeze some so I've got it for another time).

Preheat oven to 350°F. Toast tortillas on 2 baking sheets in oven 5 minutes, or until light brown, turning once.  Set aside.  

Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, and sauté 5 minutes, or until soft. Stir in chili powder and garlic, and cook 30 seconds. Add 11/2 cups salsa, beans, corn, and 1/2 cup water, and season with sea salt and pepper, if desired. Cover, and cook 10 minutes, or until zuchinni is tender.

Coat 2-inch-deep baking dish with cooking spray. Spread 1/4 cup salsa in bottom of pan and make enough room to set 2 toasted tortilla in pan.  Top each tortilla with a scoop of the bean mixture and a sprinkle (or spread) of cheese. Repeat layering 1 more time. Top with last tortilla, and spread any remaining salsa over top with remaining cheese. Bake 30 to 45 minutes, or until casserole is bubbly and cheese has melted. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting into wedges.

Top with fresh cilantro (optional) with slices of avocado.  

Benefits of Spelt Flour:
Spelt, an ancient cereal grain, is a distant cousin to wheat. It has a nutty, slightly sweet flavor. Use spelt flour as a substitute for wheat or white flour when baking. Because spelt flour contains gluten, you are less likely to compromise the texture of baked goods. Compared to wheat flour, spelt flour is richer in many nutrients, such as protein and minerals such as copper, niacin, iron, zinc, magnesium and phosphorus.

Spelt flour has a high water solubility, making it possibly easier to digest for those with a wheat intolerance. Spelt and whole spelt flour offer more soluble fiber than both standard and durum wheat flours, and soluble fiber is particularly beneficial for lowering blood cholesterol and regulating blood sugar levels.

(Recipe adapted from Vegetarian Times Tortilla Lasagna)

Friday, May 11, 2012

What Makes Me Happy Right Now - Kombucha, Pretty Lights, Will Ferrell & Hammertime.

What are you happy for right this very moment?  Instead of complaining, let's dwell on the good things in our lives because there are SO many!

Right now I am so happy and grateful for:

1. Kombucha, GT's original formula with alcohol. GT's kombucha took a hiatus a while back for a bit because of the alcohol content in their delicious, fermented drink.  It was torturous.  Treating myself to kombucha on the regular has improved my health in SO many amazing ways.  GT's finally came back with a new, alcohol-free kombucha which has been better than nothing, but not the same as the real thing.  Anyway, it's back!  I sat in front of the drink section at Whole Foods last night with a smile from ear to ear and picked my absolute favorite flavor of GT's, grape, and the new third eye chai!!!  So glad and grateful there's a few of the old ones back on the shelves!!!  If you click here, you'll see ME on the website-HAHA!  

2. This picture of Will Ferrell. There are no words, just that it's perfect and can bring a smile to any bad day!

3. Pretty Lights. My music choices tend to contain a bit more energy in the spring/summer as the cold and dark winter fades away.  I love Pretty Lights!!  Check out their site, you can download like, all of their stuff.  They rule.  

4. This inspiring thought:
Nourish your mind as carefully as you nourish your body.

5. Stop, hammertime! While on a jog earlier this spring I saw this in my neighborhood.  HYSTERICAL!  I love passing it because it always brings me a laugh.  Silly things that make us laugh are so healthy and I welcome more of them in my everyday life!

Back in March of 2012 I decided to do these posts because it's really easy to be suckered into negative thoughts when we're surrounded by stressful media, unhappy people and whining Facebook status updates. My guru, Swami Vishnudevananda says that for every negative thought you have, replace it with 2-3 positive ones. I love this concept and practice it regularly. I usually find the most effective way of climbing out of a negative attitude is to think about something that I'm grateful for. Feelings of gratitude really lift you up. In honor of this concept, I'm starting a post with this same theme and will blog it regularly. I'll list a few things that make me happy, lift me up and keep me smiling! Let's face it, world peace is something that will never happen. However, I can create my own little world of peace and happiness in my mind through my thoughts! Please give it a try as well and share how it affects you.

Mrs. Forney's Cold Lentil Salad

Growing up, my Italian Mom-Mom (my mom's mother), was the best cook in the world.  I'm not exaggerating on this one and have MANY people that can attest to this statement, so trust me.  Luckily, this gift for good cooking passed along to my mother and as years went on she got better and better in the kitchen.  Now, just like my Mom-Mom's food used to be, every article of food that my mother comes in contact with becomes this incredible-tasting meal!

Mrs. Forney (as she's best known as because she's the best teacher on earth...another statement I'm not embellishing on and have hundreds of students who would agree 100%!) will come across a recipe and switch it up to make it healthier, heartier and most of all delicious. In honor of this Mother's Day I'm featuring my mom's latest and most amazing recipe!  (Picture to left is of my mom and I at my Dad's 60th last fall.  Teehee!)

Mrs. Forney's Cold Lentil Salad 
Don't get discouraged by all the ingredients and directions below. This is a super easy recipe the tastes better after being in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If you want to make it in advance, at least prepare the lentils and quinoa and refrigerate a day ahead. Prepare and toss in the other ingredients and refrigerate all for at least a half hour. Makes a great presentation - and a healthy addition - when served over lettuce or cabbage leaves! You can add this to brown rice or any other grain, since the quinoa just “coats” the lentils. Also, add this to any prepared salad.

¾ C dried lentils (sorted and rinsed)
½ C dried quinoa, rinsed
1 quart water (for pot)
2-3 oz. fresh asparagus tips and stems (1-inch pieces)
½ C extra virgin olive oil
¼ C balsamic vinegar (preferably dark) but can use white balsamic or red wine vinegar
2 TBS grated ginger
1 ¼ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp dried red pepper flakes
1 C (or less) fresh mint leaves, chopped
½ C fresh parsley, chopped
½ C scallions, chopped, including green stems
4 oz. cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 oz pine nuts (or sunflower seeds, any chopped nuts), toasted

Optional Ingredients:
½ C snow peas or carrots, cut up (for extra crunchiness)
¼ C cabbage, sliced thinly
lemon juice, to taste
5-6 C mixed lettuce leaves (radicchio, Romaine, spinach, arugula, cabbage, etc.)
avocado, cubed

Bring water to a boil over high heat in medium saucepan. Add lentils, reduce heat, cover and simmer 17 minutes. Add quinoa, cover and cook 10 minutes more until quinoa is cooked. Drain and run under cold water to cool. Shake off excess water. Set aside. Meanwhile,
  1. In a small pan or pot, in one inch of salted water, cook asparagus pieces: simmer and cover about 2-3 min until tender-crisp. Drain.
  2. Toast seeds or nuts in frying pan on med-high heat, a few minutes, stirring often.
  3. Chop scallions, parsley, mint, and optional snow peas/carrots/cabbage.
  4. Cut cherry tomatoes in half.
  5. Combine oil, vinegar, ginger, salt, black pepper and pepper flakes in a medium bowl.
Add the lentil/quinoa mixture and all from 1-5 above to the oil mixture and toss until well coated. Add lemon juice—or whatever—to taste. Serve over lettuce or cabbage leaves. Add cubed avocado, if you like that, too.

Benefits of Lentils:  Compared to other types of dried beans, lentils are relatively quick and easy to prepare.  Lentils, a small but nutritionally mighty member of the legume family, are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber. Not only do lentils help lower cholesterol, they are of special benefit in managing blood-sugar disorders since their high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal. But this is far from all lentils have to offer. Lentils also provide good to excellent amounts of six important minerals, two B-vitamins, and protein—all with virtually no fat.