Archive for the ‘Healthy’ Category

Almond Joy Smoothie – Vegan and Healthy!

What better way to wake up in the morning than knowing that, taste-wise, you will be eating the equivalent of a candy bar for breakfast while getting all the nutrition needed to supercharge your day?

That’s exactly how I felt this morning, knowing that yesterday I had experimented with creating an Almond Joy-type smoothie and today I had some ideas to perfect it!

This smoothie replicates the flavors in an Almond Joy bar.  The chocolate flavor comes from cacao, the almond flavor from almond butter and almond extract, and the coconut flavor from coconut milk and unsweetened coconut flakes.  What about the fruits and veggies?  Those come with the addition of a handful of spinach and a frozen banana, while calcium comes from the coconut or coconut-almond milk.  And I also like to add some hemp protein powder for some extra protein, but that’s optional.

Almond Joy Smoothie

All the goodness of the candy bar, replicated with healthy ingredients!

All the goodness of the candy bar, replicated with healthy ingredients!

Ingredients:

  • 1 large handful baby spinach
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 1/4 cups coconut milk (the kind from the carton, not the thick canned kind) or almond-coconut milk blend
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter (peanut butter also works)
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon cacao power
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 3 ice cubes
  • 1 tablespoon hemp protein, optional
  • 1-2 dates, pitted (optional – include if you like extra sweetness)

Combine in blender and enjoy your smoothie!  Sprinkle with extra coconut flakes if desired.  Makes one tall glass (about 2 cups).

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Vitamin-A Packed Mango-Goji-Carrot Smoothie

Smoothies have turned out to be the neatest trick to getting more veggies into my diet.  Today I decided to experiment with a new vegetable (and a new color): carrots.

I’ve been pretty successful when matching the same color fruit and vegetable, so I opted for a mango-carrot smoothie.  To amp up the nutritional value and to make it more filling, I added goji berries, avocado, and chia seeds.

This smoothie is packed with Vitamin A.  So what’s the big deal about this vitamin?  Vitamin A helps maintain healthy skin, teeth, mucus membranes, and skeletal tissue, and it promotes good vision.  This smoothie delivers about 300% of your daily vitamin A needs – 1 cup of mango has 25% of your daily need for vitamin A, while 1/2 cup chopped carrots has over 200% and goji berries contain about 68% in 2 tablespoons.  Although Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin and thus can be toxic if ingested in large amounts, this is highly unlikely to happen from consuming foods (only from vitamins), as your body only converts the amount of Vitamin A that it needs.  That’s just another reason that, when possible, we should get our nutrients from whole foods, not vitamins!

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They key ingredients for the mango-goji smoothie.

Mango-Goji Smoothie

  • 1 large mango, peeled and cubed
  • 3 small or 1 large carrot, peeled (about 1/2 cup, chopped)
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 2 tablespoons goji berries
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 cup almond or coconut (or almond-coconut) milk
  • 2-3 ice cubes

Blend all ingredients in blender.  Enjoy!

Healthy Chili-Mango Lassi Popsicles

What better way to improve the best-tasting food out there than by combining the best of two culinary traditions?  I learned this when eating Mexican-inspired sushi at a Japanese-Mexican fusion restaurant in San Antonio.  And I decided to apply this lesson when creating my chili-mango lassi popsicles.

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These pops were  first inspired by the popsicles featured on Joe Cross’ site.  I tried this recipe, but did not enjoy the banana taste mixed in with my mango.  I also wanted to spice things up a bit, and since living in south Texas I have loved adding chili to my fruit.  I did, however, like the combination of mango and coconut milk, which tasted like the Indian lassi drink.  So the combination of these wonderful Indian and Mexican-inspired flavors resulted in these great popsicles.

I’m proud to say that these popsicles are raw.  They are also dairy free, sugar-free (free of added sugars, at least), gluten-free, and soy-free.  They are also really delicious.  Start light on the chili if you are not used to  heavy chili flavor with your sweets.

Ingredients (makes 4 popsicles):

  • 2 ataulfo mangos, pit removed and scored, plus extra mango pieces (optional)
  • 1/2 cup coconut or light coconut milk (I like to make my own light coconut milk by combining equal parts coconut milk and water)
  • 2-3 ice cubes
  • 1 teaspoon chili powser, optional (or quantity to taste)

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Directions:

1.) Place some of the extra mango pieces (if using) in the bottoms of the popsicle molds.  Scoop out the scored mango flesh and place in blender.

2.) Add the coconut milk and ice to blender and blend completely.

3.) Add chili powder to taste.  I recommend adding it little by little to ensure you like the taste.  If you do not enjoy the taste of the popsicle in liquid form, you won’t like it in popsicle form!  Blend.

4.) Pour liquid into the molds, leaving a bit of space at the top if you are planning on adding more mango pieces.  Add these pieces to the molds and push in with the end of the popsicle stick (so that the mango pieces are spread throughout the popsicle).

5.) Freeze and enjoy!

Stuffed Acorn Squash, Inspired by the Mediterranean

Last year, when I was on a trip in Dallas, I tried stuffed acorn squash for the first time in my life.  Was I wowed!  To be honest, I had never even enjoyed the sweet taste or mushy texture of squash, and could not imagine it in a savory dish.  Yet something about that couscous-stuffed squash with goat cheese called me.  After dreaming about that delicious dish for almost a year, I decided to adapt this recipe for stuffed acorn squash in order to carry out my new-found squash-loving fantasy.

In this recipe, there is a perfect combination of salty, savory, sweet, and tart ingredients that make this main dish shine.  In addition, the slightly dry and crunchy textures of the rice mixture and the smooth squash mingle miraculously to produce what I can only call a party of flavors and textures in my mouth.  Enjoy!

Mediterranean-Inspired Stuffed Acorn Squash

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Ingredients:

  • 2 large acorn squash, cut into halves with seeds removed
  • 2 Italian sausages (remove casings)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup cremini mushrooms, diced
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 2 tablespoons dill, chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped dried cranberries
  • 1 oz. romano cheese, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

Directions:

  1. Saute the sausages until golden brown, breaking apart with a spatula so the meat is broken into small pieces.  Remove from pan, strain drippings, and wipe pan clean.
  2. Saute the onion until soft.  Add the celery and saute for 3 minutes.  Add mushrooms and saute for 2 minutes, until soft.  Add scallions and garlic and saute for one minute.
  3. Add the brown rice, dill, cranberries, Romano cheese, salt, and pepper, and return the meat to the pan.  Mix until incorporated and remove from heat.
  4. Set the oven to broil.  Place acorn squash halves in the microwave and microwave on high for 6-7 minutes, until squash is tender (ready to eat) when pierced with a fork.
  5. Fill squash halves with the rice and sausage mixture.  Sprinkle feta cheese on top.  Broil for about 4 minutes with squash 6-8 inches away from the heat source, or until feta begins to turn slightly golden and melt.

Spinach-Pineapple Juice With Cilantro

As a 6-year-old, I used to think that eating spinach would magically give me Popeye’s superhuman strength.  I disliked the taste of spinach, but remember loading up one evening for dinner knowing that later my athletic friend and I would race each other.

Unfortunately, the spinach did not turn me into a Popeye-style racing machine.  Nevertheless, according to Livestrong.com, it’s a nutritious food, containing plenty of calcium (for bones), beta-carotene and vitamin A (for healthy skin, eyes, and immune system), lutein (to prevent muscular degeneration), and folate (to prevent birth defects).  It also helps prevent cancer, making it a winner nutrition-wise.  Baby spinach, which I use in my juices, has the same benefits of other spinach varieties.

While the idea of “spinach juice” does not appeal to me even as an adult, blending it with sweet fruit is a whole new take on the concept.  And adding some herbs gives the combination a je ne sais quoi – sophistication, perhaps?  Below is my favorite recipe, which uses only three ingredients.

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Spinach-Pineapple Juice with Cilantro

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups firmly packed baby spinach
  • 2 cups cubed pineapple (about 1/2 medium pineapple)
  • 4 sprigs cilantro

Directions:

Combine ingredients in juicer according to juicer directions.  Best served chilled!

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

Beet-Carrot-Fruit Juice With a Zing!

Juicing has been on my radar since the documentary “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” came out.  Since I had only tried V8 canned tomato juice, which I had to drink holding my nose closed, I was not too thrilled initially.  However, after hearing the positive news around juicing and finding a great deal on a multi-functioning juicer, I couldn’t say no.  Once I got the juicer and learned how easy it was, things took off from there!

I know eating fruits and veggies is good for me, but I have been wary of the too-good-to-be-true health claims of people who really push juicing.  So I decided to look into it.  According to sources such as WebMD, juicing is beneficial in the sense that it’s an easier way to consume more servings of fruits and veggies, and thus get more nutrients from these sources.  However, the downside is that the fiber gets removed in the juicing process.  The WebMD article mentions an individual who uses the pulp (a.k.a., the fiber) left over after juicing to make muffins or stock.  I always feel wasteful discarding that, so that is something I will look into.

In addition, there have not been any scientifically proven “cleansing” benefits of juicing because our liver and kidneys already already take care of removing toxins.  Nevertheless, an internet search will yield lots of results of individuals claiming that once they began juicing, their skin was glowing, they were told they looked younger, and health problems went away.  I personally wonder if this is due to juicing, or because juicing resulted in a change to a healthier diet.

That said, I enjoy juicing and will continue to juice because it helps me include a larger variety of veggies (and nutrients) in my diet.  I am happy to say that I have experimented and found several veggie-and-fruit juice combinations I really enjoy.  For the juice to taste good, it’s important to include some sweet vegetables, some fruit and something that will add “zing” to the juice (like citrus or ginger).  Here is one combination I continually turn to, with two variations:

Beet-Carrot-Fruit Juice With Lemon

Beet-Carrot-Fruit Juice With Lemon

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium beets (including beet greens, if possible)
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 apple (Granny Smith works best)
  • 1/2 red grapefruit
  • 1 key lime and/or 1-inch piece of fresh ginger-root (this adds the zing to the juice!)

Directions:

  1. Clean and cut all vegetables to the size required by your juicer.
  2. Follow juicer instructions to get the juice.

Yield: 2 cups

Nutrition Information: 224 calories total (according to the Self Nutrition Data calculator)

So I know that the research doesn’t prove any additional health claims to juicing – besides getting the nutrients – but I feel energized and healthy after drinking a tall glass of these nutrients!  Even if it’s the placebo effect, it can’t hurt.  I will continue drinking to my health!