healthy

LAMB: The Other Red Meat

IMG_5496There is a uniquely robust and earthy flavor that can only be found in the taste of lamb. For the first time, I tried my hand at making the deliciously lean meat this afternoon, paired with roasted garlic potatoes and carrots. The vegetables were a lovely complement to the rosemary lamb shoulder chop.

Lamb is certainly not common American fare, making it a more foreign and undervalued main course in the standard American kitchen. However, this particular cut is quite inexpensive, yet incredibly satisfying and simple when prepared. While it appears and sounds a bit fancy, it is quite effortless. Try it for yourself! It definitely breaks the chain of ordinary weeknight meal planning.

Note: Lamb is a wonderful source of protein, as well as vitamins B2, B3 and B12. Vitamin B2 is beneficial for healthy skin and vision, aids in producing red blood cells and even supports in breaking down calories. B3 is essential for lowering cholesterol and B12 helps promote a healthy nervous system. Even more reason to make this savory dish!

Rosemary Lamb Shoulder with Roasted Vegetables

Serves 2

For the Lamb-

  • 2 Lamb Shoulder Chops (preferably hormone, antibiotic-free)
  • Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary

For the Vegetables-

  • 2-3 Red Potatoes
  • 1 Bag of Baby Carrots
  • Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1-2 tsp. Minced Garlic
  1. Take your lamb out of the refrigerator and let sit in room temperature while preparing vegetables.
  2. Thinly slice your potatoes. Fill a glass baking dish with cut potatoes and baby carrots.
  3. Liberally coat vegetables in olive oil, salt, pepper and minced garlic.
  4. Bake at 400 degrees for about 35 minutes. For additional texture, broil until golden brown after baking
  5. Meanwhile, prepare your lamb. Rub each chop vigorously with olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh rosemary. No need to finely chop your rosemary.
  6. As the vegetables finish, turn your oven’s broiler on HI.
  7. Broil lamb on HI 10-12 minutes, turning each chop over half way through cooking time.
  8. Let your meat rest for about five minutes before serving.
  9. Plate and garnish with fresh rosemary.
  10. Enjoy the beautiful meal you’ve made!
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Now THAT’S Good

IMG_5485Why is it, that when we think of a snack that’s good for us, we automatically think it’s going to taste bad? That’s because in many cases, that is EXACTLY what happens. Health foods are often missing two key ingredients: flavor and satisfaction.

So often I find myself wanting for more. While it may technically be good for your body, health food has a bad rap for sometimes leaving your tummy and taste buds suffering.

For instance: the other day I picked up two new granola bars from my local health food store. To have them on hand is great for on-the-go snacking, as well as for an afternoon pick-me-up. However (to my dismay) they absolutely screamed health food bar. When I bite into a snack bar, I don’t want to feel like I just ate bird seed with an essence of dirt. I think we’ll leave that for the birds!

This weekend, my husband and I camped out in our new tent. In need of some good fuel, I set out to make a snack bar that’s not only nutritious, but one that we actually want to eat! Thus, the Cocoa Crunch Bar came to be.  And let me just say… you will want more. Brett and I were like two little piglets, gobbling up their sweet & salty goodness. We almost felt naughty, like we were chowing down on snicker’s bars. The kicker: we didn’t have to feel a single bit of guilt. It’s all good.

Try for yourself! It’s well worth the effort.

Cocoa Crunch Bars:

  • 2/3 C. Salted Cashews
  • 2/3 C. Walnuts
  • 2/3 C. Raw Sunflower Seeds
  • 4 Dried Figs
  • 4 Dates
  • 10 Prunes
  • 1/3 C. Shredded Unsweetened Coconut
  • 2 Tbsp. Cocoa Powder
  • 1 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. Sea Salt
  • 1/4 C. of Honey
  • 1/3 C. Coconut Oil
  • 1/2 C. Almond Butter
  1. Crush your cashews and walnuts until broken into fine pieces. (I put mine in a bag and used a meat tenderizer. You can also use a processor.)
  2. In a mixing bowl, add all ingredients together except for the Coconut Oil and Almond Butter.
  3. Next, melt your Coconut Oil and pour over the mixture.
  4. Then, do the same with your Almond Butter.
  5. Mix everything together.
  6. Pour into a greased casserole dish.
  7. Bake at 300 degrees for about 30 minutes.
  8. Let cool.
  9. Put in refrigerator until fully set.
  10. Cut and eat!

Note: if you don’t have figs, dates or prunes on hand, that’s okay! Get creative! You can easily substitute with raisins, dried fruit, etc. You can also use different nuts like pecans or almonds. Do what you like and make them your own!

Sugar Coating the Truth

IMG_5435

The average American consumes around 22 teaspoons of added sugar every day.

Wow. That’s nearly 1/2 a cup! Imagine sitting down for breakfast to a bowl of refined sugar and a spoon. Eat up! You don’t want to miss the most important meal of the day! The truth is, we don’t have a clue how much sugar we’re eating on a daily basis nor where it’s hidden.

As my diet changed, I became a label reading machine. I was absolutely astounded to discover sugar hidden in foods that I’d always perceived as healthy and normal:

  • oatmeal
  • protein bars
  • ketchup
  • salad dressing
  • pasta sauce
  • yogurt
  • granola
  • dried fruit
  • peanut butter

Then there are the obvious contenders like:

  • soda
  • ice cream
  • donuts
  • sweeteners
  • pies
  • jelly
  • candy
  • cake

To be honest, we are already getting (or should be getting) our daily amount of natural sugar through our fruits and vegetables long before we’ve gotten to anything else. Oh, dear…

Sugar is a sweet carbohydrate that can be found in both processed and natural foods. Natural sugars (found in our fruits, veggies and grains) are important in fueling our body with energy (along with protein). However, processed and refined sugars serve no benefit to our health. Period. Now, I don’t want to sound like I’m docking dessert and all that is sweet. I love me some rich, decadent dessert! It’s good for the soul!  But, we have to get real about what we’re eating. A mountain dew and apple Danish are not the answers to healthy living (call me crazy, but it’s true!)

The list of sugar pseudonyms runs long. To name a few undercover agents:

  • corn syrup
  • glucose
  • cellulose
  • cane juice
  • caramel
  • cane sugar
  • confectioner’s sugar
  • castor sugar
  • sorbitol
  • dextrose
  • fructose
  • sucrose
  • maltose (pretty much anything ending in -ose), etc..

While you may not know all the hidden names for sugar, it is important to be aware of what’s going into your body. It’s worth learning and it’s worth doing. Your body will thank you!

So, does this mean I can never eat dessert again? Absolutely not. The beautiful thing is, you can still enjoy sweet foods! The key here, for those simply cutting back on sugar, is moderation.

If you’re completely cutting out all refined sugars (like I have had to do) all hope is not lost! There are some incredible recipes using honey, stevia and agave to concoct some pretty delicious alternatives. (Lately, I have been playing with a new brownie recipe. Look for it in the near future!) Before you know it, the alternative becomes the norm! This is a GOOD thing.

Our bodies (though we’d like to think so) cannot handle the crazy amount of processed sugar we get each day. Whether or not we feel the effects now, we will later on. For some of us, sugar is already causing us a world of hurt through inflammation, arthritic joint pain, diabetes, acne and weight gain. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Remember: We have one body and one life to live. Live it well, by eating well.

If Friends Were Flours, I’d Pick You.

Arrowhead Mills Gluten Free All Purpose

Arrowhead Mills Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Mix

Just thinking about the scent of freshly baked bread makes my tummy rumble. There is nothing like filling your home with the comforting scent of bread baking in the oven. However, for us to enjoy this heavenly scent, we have to have one crucial ingredient in our cupboard: FLOUR.

Being Gluten Free (GF) brings a whole new challenge to the baking scene, particularly when it comes to flour. Not able to reach for your generic all-purpose, you are faced with a slew of foreigners: coconut flour, amaranth flour (what is that, anyway?), gluten free mixes, almond and tapioca flour, brown rice and potato flour, etc. How do you know which kind to use? What brand is best?

After having tried all of the above, I have thus far narrowed it down to three go-to flours: Almond Flour, Coconut Flour and a Gluten Free All Purpose Flour Mix by Arrowhead Mills. Word to the wise: while Bob’s Red Mill has a number of good products, unfortunately their Gluten Free Flour is not one of them. I made the sad mistake of using it for dessert one day and unless you want your ooey-gooey cookies to taste like little iron orbs, go with Arrowhead Mills!

Almond flour is probably my favorite with its nutty, yet slightly sweet flavor, rustic texture and nutritional benefits. It is great used in cookie, muffin and even pancake recipes. For bread recipes, Arrowhead Mills’ GF Flour is ideal. Coconut flour is also great and can be combined with other flours; it can stand on its own, too, but keep in mind that it has a drier consistency when used alone.

You can find these flours at your local health food store, such as Earth Fare or Whole Foods, as well as some regular grocery stores. In fact, Publix and Walmart have started to carry more GF products! Each have their own Gluten Free section where you can find various GF flours and mixes.  If you can’t find them at your local market, below are some links for ordering on-line.

When it comes to storage, I keep both my Gluten Free Flour Mix, as well as my Almond Flour, in the pantry (both should be stored in the fridge or freezer if kept for a lengthy period of time). However, I have found that Coconut Flour is best kept refrigerated right away.

If you have any questions or simply want to share about your own discoveries in baking, feel free to comment!

Happy flour picking!

For more information and on-line ordering, visit these helpful sites:

Coconut Flour:

http://www.amazon.com/Coconut-Secret-Flour-Gluten-Canister/dp/B003XB3NNE/ref=sr_1_8?s=grocery&ie=UTF8&qid=1392935822&sr=1-8&keywords=gluten-free+flours

Almond Flour:

(Remember: Almond Flour and Almond Meal are not the same thing. Almond flour is made using finely ground blanched almonds, while Almond Meal is made with the almond’s skins still remaining and is not always as fine as flour.)

http://www.nuts.com/nuts/almonds/flour.html?utm_source=bing-ads&utm_medium=cpc&utm_group=90-AlmondFlour[3030]&utm_campaign=1-Nuts&utm_term=almond%20flour&utm_type=Exact

Arrowhead Mills All Purpose Gluten Free Flour:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00061EMNE/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_1?pf_rd_p=1535523722&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=B000LKUTUK&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=19AASKQZJN7JPA2H49Z7

Find Your Nearest Health Food Store:

https://www.earthfare.com/

http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/?reloaded=true

http://sprouts.com/

http://www.naturalgrocers.com/

http://orgharvest.info/

All You Need Is: CHOCOLATE!

Guilt-Free Decadent Dark Chocolate

Guilt-Free Decadent Dark Chocolate

Let’s face it. Who doesn’t like chocolate? It’s the world’s most iconic sweet, the cure for a love sick heart and the epitome of romance. It gives us warm fuzzies and makes us feel loved! Speaking of love and chocolate: it’s almost Valentine’s Day! Chocolate is a scrumptious treat for the “day of love”, not to mention an amazing aphrodisiac!

But… grabbing a box of chocolates from the store, while it may taste great, is not so great for your body. The chocolate itself is full of iron and antioxidants,  but the sugar inside is just waiting to bog you down! Today I whipped up a batch of homemade chocolate that is not only simple, but better (in my humble opinion) than anything you can get at the nearest grocery store.

Whether you’re going out or staying in, below is the perfect recipe for a perfectly divine dessert. Not only does it tastes amazing, it is absolutely guiltless! Does it get any better than that?

 

 

 

 

DECADENT DARK CHOCOLATE

Serves 6

  • 1 C. Coconut Oil (Melted)
  • 1/4 C. Coconut Milk
  • 1/2 C. Honey
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. Red Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1 C. Special Dark Cocoa Powder
  1. Mix all ingredients together with a whisk.
  2. Line a dish or baking pan with parchment paper.
  3. Then, using a spatula, empty batter into pan.  Be sure to spread the chocolate to all edges, evening out the top.
  4. Optional: Sprinkle sliced almonds or crushed pecans or walnuts on top for a little crunch. Mm!
  5. Pop in the refrigerator for about an hour, or until firmly set.
  6. Delve into your homemade, guilt-free, chocolately goodness!

Store in the refrigerator.

Part of This Complete Dessert… I Mean, Breakfast.

Sweet Potato "Scramble" with Cinnamon Apple Topping.
Sweet Potato “Scramble” with Cinnamon Apple Topping.

The air today is crisp and clean with the breath of winter. This made it the perfect morning to warm up the kitchen and experiment with one of my favorite foods: the sweet potato. Not only are sweet potatoes delicious, but they are incredibly good for you! Filled with Vitamin A and C, beta carotene, fiber and antioxidants, sweet potatoes play an important role in preventing inflammation and keeping your body safe from free-radicals (which can cause cancer, among other health related issues).

Now that you know the beautiful benefits of this sweet treasure, let’s take it up a notch!  Add a few key ingredients and you’ve got yourself a delicious and nutritious way to start your day.

SWEET POTATO “SCRAMBLE” WITH CINNAMON APPLE TOPPING

Serves 4

You will need:

  • 2 Medium Sweet Potatoes
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla
  • 4 Tbsp. of Honey
  • 1 tsp. of Cinnamon
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 1 tsp. of Baking Powder
  • 1 1/3 C. of Almond Milk
  • 2 Tbsp. of Earth Balance Butter or Coconut Oil (for greasing)
  • 2 Chopped Apples (I used Macintosh, but any apple will do)
  • 2 Tbsp. of Honey
  • 1 tsp. of Vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp. of Earth Balance Butter (or Coconut Oil)
  • 1 tsp. of Cinnamon
  1. Begin by poking holes in your sweet potatoes. Place in the microwave for about 6 minutes, or until softened. Cut down the center of each potato (careful! They will be hot.) Allow them to cool if need be.
  2. Carve out the middles into a medium-sized mixing bowl.  Using a fork, mash the potatoes until most of the lumps have disappeared.
  3. Add in the egg, vanilla, honey, cinnamon, salt, baking powder and almond milk. Whisk together.
  4. Turn your stove to Med/High heat. Liberally grease your skillet with Earth Balance butter or coconut oil. When the butter/oil begins to bubble, pour your batter into the skillet.
  5. Leave it until you see the edges begin to cook. Using a spatula, “scramble” the batter like you’re making eggs. It will take several minutes before it is ready to eat.
  6. Heat another skillet on Med/High heat. Add 2 Tbsp. of Earth Balance butter (or coconut oil) and let it begin to bubble. Add in your cut apples, honey, vanilla and cinnamon.
  7. A glaze will begin to form in the pan, so be sure to coat your apples in it! This will only take a few minutes.
  8. Plate your Sweet Potato Scramble, topping it with the cinnamon apples. For a special touch, drizzle with honey and sprinkle with coconut flakes.

And Voila! You have successfully made a delicious and satisfying breakfast (that feels more like a dessert!) I hope you enjoy this one as much as we did. My husband and brother-in-law certainly didn’t mind being guinea pigs this morning! Perhaps you have a guinea pig or two of your own who’d like to try?