What Works: January 2016

What works January 2016

8 THINGS THAT WORK THIS MONTH:

  1. First Bite: How We Learn To Eat // Bee Wilson’s book on how we develop and can change taste preferences is a must-read for picky eaters, new parents, and anyone interested in redeeming tangled histories with food.
  2. The Norwegian Secret to a Long Winter // Many of my clients notice at least a little bit of seasonal affective disorder during the darker months. If we experience this here in sunny California, imagine what it may be like in northern latitudes with little to no sunlight during certain months of the year. This article about the attitude of Norwegians is encouraging.
  3. Saltverk Sea Salt // I fell in love with this salt in Iceland and found that I can order it on Amazon! The flaky sea salt is fabulous, but if you’re up for adventure try the lava or birch salts.
  4. Forbidden Rice // I made a delicious forbidden rice dish to share at a Christmas potluck and I got hooked on this tasty black rice. The dark color comes from the same anthocyanins found in blueberries and acai berries and has been linked to health benefits like reducing inflammation, healthier arteries, and better insulin regulation. Look for “black” or “forbidden” rice at your local grocery store.
  5. Bon Appetit // This magazine has been around for a long time, but I’ve recently subscribed and I’m impressed. It’s not touted as a “healthy” magazine, but the best recipes don’t need to rely on heavy amounts of cheese, salt, or sugar for flavor. I’ve found wonderful vegetable, meat, and grain recipes in the pages of Bon Appetit, along with lots of inspiration to try something new.
  6. Lip Sheers // Beauty Counter’s Lip Sheers were my go-to Christmas gift because, not only do they look and feel great, but they also have a “1” rating from the EWG which means they’re good enough to eat (which you’ll end up doing if you wear them on your lips all day).
  7. 2016 Food Trend Predictions // Yahoo Food has predicted 16 food trends for the upcoming year, some of which I’m very excited about! Things like poke, fermentation, seaweed, and waste-free kitchens make me want to eat lunch with the cool kids.
  8. Sugar Still Doesn’t Work // Researchers at the University of Texas Cancer Center have found that “fructose, in table sugar and high fructose corn syrup, ubiquitous within our food system, was responsible for facilitating lung metastasis and 12-HETE production in breast tumors.”

Healthy Tips for 2016: Bon Appetiit Magazine

Saltverk Icelandic Sea Salt

Beauty Counter Lip Sheers

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

  • Mise En Place: I shared my experience with this helpful kitchen prep technique and how it can turn you into a capable cook.
  • Travel + Well – Iceland: My time in Iceland was life-changing and I’ve shared my best tips on I stayed nourished during my trip. Click over for what to eat, where to stay, and what to do in Reykjavik and Selfoss.
  • Potatoes: The potato has a long and storied history, which I’ve detailed here along with how to select, store, and prepare potatoes in the most nourishing way.

Wishing you a happy, healthy 2016!

Travel + Well: Iceland

Healthy Iceland Travel Guide

Seeing the Northern Lights has been on my and my husband’s bucket lists for some time so when it came time to plan our tenth anniversary celebration, our goal was to check it off the list. Iceland did not disappoint! We spent 10 days adventuring, eating, and taking in the sights, including the Northern Lights – twice!

So many of my clients are part of the jet-set crowd and we work together to create plans to keep them healthy and energetic while traveling. Most of my suggestions come from my own experiences as well as sourced from the tips you all have shared with me. With this spirit of sharing in mind, I wanted to share my Icelandic travel experience with you so it might inspire you to travel healthy and well on your next trip!

Healthy Iceland Travel Guide: Restaurants   Healthy Iceland Travel Guide: Restaurants

TASTE

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Much to everyone’s surprise, the food in Iceland was delicious! There’s not much variety, with Iceland being an island in the arctic and all, but the Icelandic attention to detail and commitment to craft comes through in every aspect of the dining experience. Nordic cooking focuses on using the best quality, local ingredients and on most menus you’ll find fresh fish, lamb, wintry vegetables like potatoes, kale, cabbage, beets, and fish soup. The fish soup was to die for – a delicious blend of butter, wine, and wild-caught fish and shellfish. I can’t wait to try making this at home!

Every restaurant I visited was delicious, with special mentions going to Kol, Fish Company, and Snaps (I ate brunch here twice!). Eating out is fun, but I try to eat some meals in when I travel, even if I’m staying in a hotel without a kitchen. In Iceland I took advantage of their traditional Skyr yogurt for breakfast along with some fresh fruit found at the store and some granola that I had brought from home. When I went out to breakfast, I typically enjoyed some smoked salmon or trout, a green salad, and roasted root vegetables. Juicing is quite popular in Iceland, so I would order a nice green juice along with my meal.

In such a dry environment, it’s important to stay hydrated. The tap water in Iceland is some of the purest water in the world, so I enjoyed filling up my water bottle straight from the faucet. I always travel with my own Life Factory water bottle so I don’t have to buy plastic water bottles during my trip.

Iceland is known for its artisanal salt production and uses geothermal energy to harvest the salt from the seawater. I’m a little bit of a salt fanatic (you can read my thoughts about salt here), so I was stoked to load up on specialty salts from Saltverk during my trip. Along with a variety of different flake sizes of sea salt (I know, I know!), I was also tempted by lava salt, birch salt, and arctic thyme salt. I couldn’t fit them all in my suitcase, but I’ve discovered that I can buy them on Amazon here in the United States!

Healthy Iceland Guide: Downtown Reykjavik   IMG_5158 Healthy Iceland Guide: Ion Hotel   IMG_5555

STAY

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Because my hotel is my “home away from home” while I’m on vacation, I try to select one that will help me maintain some healthy habits. The first factor I consider is location. I love staying somewhere that allows me to walk most places and explore the city. Because my regular exercise routine is typically disrupted during travel, I like to incorporate a lot of walking into my vacations. Due to the cold temperatures in Iceland, I also wanted to stay somewhere with a hot tub or sauna – a way to warm up after a cold, outdoor adventure. I also typically look for a hotel with a workout facility, but this trip was so full of outdoor physical activity that a hotel gym wasn’t necessary.

Our first stay was at 101 Hotel in downtown Reykjavik. It was a small, urban hotel located within walking distance of the entire city. The design aesthetic of the hotel (as well as all of Iceland) was so on trend. The minimal, white decor with black accents, wool blankets, doorless showers, and wall-to-wall mirrors made me feel like I was in a cool girl’s Instagram feed. The hotel had a private spa downstairs with a hot tub, shower, and sauna which I used daily to practice hydrotherapy – the practice of alternating hot and cold water – to improve circulation.

After spending time in the city, we wanted to get out and explore the Icelandic countryside. We rented a car and ventured out to Selfoss for a stay at the Ion Hotel. Pretty much everywhere you go outside of Reykjavik will feel remote, and the Ion Hotel made me feel like a James Bond villain in a secluded hideaway. Again, the location was awesome as it was just a short drive to some of Iceland’s most beautiful waterfalls and geysers and a short walk to incredible hiking and hot springs. The outdoor pool pumps in hot water directly from the local spring and we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights from the water. Because we were so remote, our only real dining option was the hotel restaurant. Luckily, the food was very good and they were able to prepare gluten free meals for us without a problem. Regardless, I came prepared for the worst and brought with me bags of jerky, trail mix, yogurt, bananas, granola, and dried fruit.

Healthy Iceland Guide: Northern Lights   Healthy Iceland Guide: Diving Healthy Iceland Travel Guide: Blue Lagoon   Healthy Iceland Travel Guide: Hiking

DO

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Iceland is beautiful – there’s so much to see (in every season!) and I feel like I only say a small portion of it. As I mentioned, my main goal was to see the Northern Lights – they did not disappoint! They’re a bit elusive so I suggest going with a guide to make sure you have the best experience. I was very excited to find a photography guide who not only took us to a prime viewing spot, but also taught me how to capture incredible images of the aurora on my camera. It didn’t happen if you don’t get a picture, right?

The other really unique thing I did was a dry suit SCUBA dive at Silfra. Silfra is the fissure between the North American continental plate and the Eurasian continental plate. It’s full of some of the clearest fresh water in the world and it is COLD. I was fitted for a dry suit, which keeps you toasty warm and dry. I clearly survived and the whole experience made me feel super tough – so tough that I don’t feel like I can complain about the cold anymore (though I probably sill will).

Iceland is a hotbed of geothermal activity (pun!), and the natural hot springs are a welcome respite from the cold air. Hike to a natural hot spring, or buy a ticket to the Blue Lagoon and indulge in a silica mask. Both hiking and driving by car are great ways to take in the natural beauty of Iceland. Be sure to take a drive around the “golden circle” to see the Gullfoss Waterfall and Thingvellir National Park.

Healthy Iceland Travel Guide: Hiking   Healthy Iceland Travel Guide: Golden Circle Healthy Iceland Travel Guide: Golden Circle   Healthy Iceland Travel Guide: Hiking

Overall, Iceland was a magnificent experience and I highly recommend making the trip to anyone who shows even the slightest interest. With such clean air, water, and food, my body felt great during the entire trip. It’s a great place for adventurers, photographers, and introverts (!). I hope to share more travel recommendations with you in the future, but in the meantime, will you share your travel recommendations with me? Let me know how you stay healthy away from home either in the comments or by tagging #parisinutrition in your posts!

Mise En Place

How using mise en place can make you a better cook

I was taking a cooking class at Sur La Table recently (which, by the way, is an accessible, fun, and social way to learn simple cooking techniques – I highly recommend it!) and was inspired by the instructor’s use of “mise-en-place.”

Mies-En-Place is a French culinary term that literally means “put in place.” It is the practice of gathering all the ingredients and tools one will need to prepare a dish and is typically the first lesson chefs learn in culinary school. Produce is chopped, spices are measured, broth is portioned, and necessary pots and pans are laid on the stove resulting in an organized and efficient meal prep.

How using miss en place can make you a better cook

I’ve always thought of this as a wise idea, but one I typically disregard. I often fool myself into thinking that I’ll have time to chop my vegetables while the meat is cooking or the lentils are simmering. While this sometimes works, it usually results in frenzied chopping, ignored and overcooked meats, and a terrible mess.

Ultimately, it’s these stressful situations that keep me from feeling motivated to cook in the future.

What struck me most about my instructor’s view on mine-en-place was her belief that it teaches you how to become a better cook. This is not because of the organization, or that you’ll be able to pay more attention to temperatures and cooking times, but because visually seeing all your ingredients laid out in order will help you know what to do with ingredients in the future.

One of the traits of not only being a good cook, but also feeling comfortable in the kitchen and supporting a nourishing lifestyle of homemade meals, is being able to improvise and even cook without a recipe. Those of us who are visual learners will benefit from being able to see the timeline of events and notice patterns across recipes. The goal is that one day you’ll be presented with a series of ingredients and know in which order to prepare them to create the most flavorful dish.

How using mise en place can make you a better cook

 

For example, a mirepoix (pronounced “meer-pwah”) is a combination of chopped onions, carrots, and celery that provides a flavorful foundation for many soup and sauce recipes. With consistent use of mine-en-place, you may begin to not only recognize this trio of ingredients, but also remember the correct ratio to chop, feel comfortable adding them to your recipe, and know how long they cook without having to refer to the recipe notes. With enough practice, you may even begin to experiment with substitutions – leeks instead of onions for a subtler flavor, or green peppers instead of celery like they use in Louisiana.

Do you practice miss-en-place? I’d love to know! Let me know how it works for you in the comments or snap a photo and tag with #parisinutrition.

Bone Broth

Bone Broth

It’s an age-old cooking technique, but lately bone broth has received renewed interest among the health-conscious.

Broths and stocks are commonly used in cooking as a base for soups, reductions, sauces, for braising vegetables and meats, or simply enjoyed as a restorative drink. Traditional cultures have always placed special emphasis on the utilization of the whole animal, and the use of bones to make stock still influence today’s food culture. In eighteenth century France, travelers staying at inns would be treated to bowls of warm broth called restoratifs. This tradition has become what we now know as a restaurant – a place to restore one’s health and wellness.

What is Bone Broth?

Bone broth is made by boiling poultry, beef, or fish bones; often with some aromatics like onion, celery, and carrots for anywhere from 24-48 hours until the bones break down. As the bones become soft, they begin to release nutrients like collagen and calcium phosphate into the liquid.

Many people use the terms broth, stock, and bone broth interchangeably, and in cooking they can often be substituted for one another. However, broth, stock, and bone broth are all prepared differently and have different nutritional profiles.

  • Broth: Broth is water simmered with vegetables, aromatics, and meat, and may include some bones. It is typically cooked for a short period of time (1-2 hours) and results in a light, flavorful liquid.
  • Stock: Stock is water simmered with animal bones (sometimes roasted), vegetables, and aromatics. It is typically cooked for 4-6 hours, which allows collagen to be released from the bones, resulting in a thick, gelatinous texture. Stock is ideally used as a thick, rich base for sauce or gravy and can be combined with water to be used in a broth-like manner.
  • Bone Broth: Bone broth is water simmered with animal bones (often roasted), vegetables, and aromatics for a very long period of time, often more than 24 hours. This process releases not only collagen from the bones, but nutritious minerals as well. It is then strained and seasoned so it can be used like a broth.

The broths you’ll find at the grocery store are made from meat rather than bone and are often enhanced with chicken or meat flavoring. They contain little to no collagen, and thus, zero protein content. If you read the ingredients, you’ll find that they often contain sugar, artificial flavoring, coloring, and copious amounts of salt to preserve freshness.

Nutritional Value

Depending on the type of bones used and cooking length, bone broth typically contains six or more grams of protein per cup. This is mainly from the collagen released from the bones. This type of gelatin protein contains high levels of the amino acids glycine and proline, which are not very commonly found in other proteins, and they are especially lacking in plant proteins.

Due to its high water content, bone broth is very hydrating and is also a source of minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

How to Use Bone Broth

Broth isn’t just for soups – in fact, a good quality bone broth is so satisfying that many people are enjoying it plain, as evidenced by Brodo’s take-out window in the East Village, where New Yorkers can pick up a cup of steaming broth for their daily commute. Here are a few other ways to include nourishing bone broth in your diet:

  • Cook grains like rice or quinoa in broth instead of water
  • Use it to braise vegetables or meats
  • Add it to mashed potatoes for additional flavor
  • Make your own ramen by adding noodles and spices to a pot of boiling broth
  • Use it as a base for sauces and soups
  • Sip it plain as a comforting beverage

Bone broth will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to one week, or in the freezer for up to six months. Consider freezing bone broth in ice cube trays or one-cup containers to quickly add to your dishes without having to defrost a large portion.

How to Enjoy Cooking (Part 1)

How to enjoy cooking

If I had a nickel for every time someone said to me “I wish I loved to cook like you,” I would be able to afford a personal chef.

The truth is, I don’t love to cook. I do, however, love to eat good food so I’ve had to develop an appreciation for the art, if only for my own sanity. I believe cooking at home to be more sustainable for my own health, the welfare of our environment, and my budget. Not only that, but the process of preparing a meal allows me to connect with my food both mentally and physically and has become a very calming and valuable mental exercise.

It’s taken me a while to get to this point and I still have a long way to go. There are plenty of days when I don’t feel up to making dinner for one reason or another and I allow myself plenty of grace to go out to dinner or rely on someone else for the meal prep. Instead of feeling guilty when I end up skipping a home-cooked meal in favor of an easy restaurant meal, I simply unwind my feelings about cooking that day and try to discover what was blocking me from stepping into the kitchen. Once I’ve identified the problem, I’ll try to make a plan to avoid that situation in the future.

Through this process, I’ve found that I do kind of enjoy cooking. It’s the planning, shopping, and cleaning that I don’t like. Once I’m in the kitchen with a knife in my hand, I can relax, appreciate the smells, and meditate on the process of transforming ingredients into a nourishing meal. In order to get here, I’ve put a few protocols in place that have helped remove some of my barriers to cooking.

how to enjoy cooking how to enjoy cooking

5 WAYS TO MAKE COOKING STRESS-FREE

1.

Keep your kitchen and counters clean

I’ll admit; this is my biggest barrier to enjoying the cooking process. If I have to wash out a pan before I can use it, or if the dirty dishes have piled up on my limited counter space, I will avoid entering my kitchen at all costs.

The good news about this obstacle is that it doesn’t actually have to do with cooking – it has to do with cleaning. Maybe I don’t hate cooking after all! The obvious solution to this problem is to discipline yourself to wash the dishes after every meal so you’ll always be starting with a clean workspace. Easier said than done.

Here are some practices I (try to) employ to keep my kitchen clean:

  • The old “clean as you go” trick. Use any spare moments to wash a dish or utensil during the cooking process so you’ll only have serving plates and silverware to clean when you’re finished with the meal.
  • Use fewer dishes. Cook things in the same pan, try more one-pot meals, cook in the dish you intend to serve from, use one knife for all your chopping, use one glass all day long, only set out silverware essential to the meal, plate food directly from the stove instead of using serving dishes, and put all your food onto one plate instead of using many dishes for one meal.
  • Own fewer dishes. Owning fewer dishes means using fewer dishes, which results in washing fewer dishes. I find this especially true when it comes to pots and pans. I have a few favorites that I use for everything and a bunch of others that I only use when my favorites are dirty. Getting rid of the “others” forces me to keep my favorite pots and pans clean.
  • Ask for help. If you did the cooking, is it possible someone else might do the cleaning? It’s only fair.

2.

Wash and chop produce ahead of time

 This oft-recommended practice sounds so boring, but it’s so worth it! I’ve never felt more proficient in the kitchen than when I’m cooking something and I say: “a little _________ would be really good in this dish…I have some of that in my fridge! It’s already washed and chopped!” and then I throw it in with the other ingredients and smugly celebrate my creativity and competence.

It’s great if you can wash and chop your produce as soon as you arrive home from the market, before putting it away, but it’s not always possible. A good strategy is to at least try to immediately prep any produce that doesn’t have a specific role in your meal plan for the week, i.e. carrots or celery that you plan to snack on or that bell pepper that looked pretty, but you don’t know how you’ll use it. This way these foods will be available when you’re hankering for a snack or you discover a need for that random ingredient in the middle of cooking.

Any produce that you purchased for a specific recipe can be washed and chopped as you prepare for that meal. The trick here is to prep the entire amount that you purchased instead of just the amount required for the recipe. This way the remaining produce is easily available as a quick addition to future meals. Nothing will go to waste.

3.

Keep your fridge clean

In the same vein as keeping your counters clean, a clean fridge filled with only fresh foods will keep your stress levels down. Having to search through an over-crowded fridge only to find that the lettuce you were planning to use has gone bad will add to your cooking frustration and reduce the likelihood of you wanting to cook again in the future.

I’ve found that cleaning out my fridge once per week keeps everything in check and makes cooking a breeze. The best time to clean the fridge is right before grocery shopping. Simply take a few minutes to sort through each shelf and drawer to get rid of any expired items and add items to your grocery list that you need to purchase.

4.

Make a meal plan

As a nutritionist you may think I have no problem coming up with wonderfully nourishing meals to make for myself every night. In reality, after talking about food all day, the last thing I want to do is spend time trying to figure out what to eat. When I already have a plan in place, I actually look forward to going home and stepping into my kitchen.

A meal plan can be as detailed or as simple as you’d like, but I’d encourage you to keep it simple if you want to begin to feel more confident and less stressed in the kitchen. Here are the basic steps I follow when making a plan:

  • Decide how many meals you’ll need. I have a personal goal of preparing at least 4 dinners at home each week. There is no nutritional reason for this; it’s simply what works for my schedule and you may find a different number of dinners at home to work more effectively for you. You’ll also want to consider breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. Of course, things come up and schedules change so I tend to purchase a tiny bit less than I think I’ll need for the week because I hate for things to be wasted or for spoiled food to sit in my fridge. I can always stop by the store to pick up a few items later in the week.
  • Choose your ingredients. You may want to have a recipe for every meal of your plan, and that’s okay. I personally only choose 1-2 recipes to work from each week and “wing” the rest. This “winging it” strategy has actually helped me feel less stressed about my cooking. It allows me to browse the grocery store to choose the freshest and least expensive proteins, or to be inspired by seasonal produce. I’m not tied to a list and I’m not running around the store trying to find every last item. My strategy is to choose 3-4 proteins and 3-4 vegetables that I can play with as I prepare dinners during the week. As long as my pantry and freezer are well stocked, I know I’ll be able to make some satisfying meals out of my purchases.
  • Plan your leftovers. You don’t need to produce a new dish for every meal of the week. I try to make enough to have food leftover every time I cook that I can eat for lunches during the week, another quick dinner, or to freeze for another time.

5.

Create a grocery shopping routine

There’s little I hate more than finishing a long day of work and realizing I have to stop at the grocery store on my way home in order to make dinner. On the flip side, knowing that my fridge at home is already full of everything I need for dinner (and it’s washed and chopped!) makes me so happy I almost don’t mind the rush hour traffic.

The trick to keeping your fridge stocked is to make grocery shopping a routine. Choose a day and time of the week that you will use for grocery shopping. Depending on your circumstances, you may need to shop more or less often, but I try to make a big shop once per week with on other quick run to the market. I typically do my big shop on Sundays. I’ll hit up the farmers market to find the best deals on seasonal produce and pastured eggs, and then I’ll head to the grocery store to round out my purchases with everything else I’ll need for the week. My goal is to live off these items for the entire week, but I’ll inevitably need to run to the store one more time to pick up a couple of items that I’ve run out of or additional ingredients for a recipe I’m craving. This can easily be done during a lunch break or at a more convenient store on my way home.

How to enjoy cooking

This week, I encourage you to assess your feelings around cooking. If, at the end of the day, you don’t feel like cooking dinner, stop to think and pinpoint exactly what part of the process is stopping you. Is it that you don’t have any food at home and having to stop at the grocery store is too much effort? Is it that you have a pile of dirty dishes in the sink that need to be washed before you can start on dinner? Or maybe the meal that you were planning to prepare no longer sounds appetizing to you or would take too long to prepare. Whatever the case, use that information to brainstorm ways to prevent this from stopping you again.

I would love it if you would share your sticking points in the comments below so I can address them in part 2!

How to Cook With Dried Beans

How to Cook with dried black beans

With the convenience of canned beans, many of us have never even considered cooking with dried beans at home. In fact, the long and seemingly finicky process may even intimidate you. The truth is, cooking beans on the stove takes nothing more than dried beans, a pot, some water, and a few hours at home.

While beans are a wonderful way to add protein and fiber to meals, canned beans have some characteristics that make them less desirable than their homemade counterparts:

Sodium: Canned beans contain on average 400-500 mg of sodium per 1/2 cup serving. To put that in perspective, dietary guidelines for Americans suggest limiting sodium to 1,500 mg or less, and strongly recommend an upper limit of no more than 2,300 mg per day. Considering most bean servings are closer to 1 cup, you’re consuming more than half of the suggested sodium daily intake in one serving of canned beans.

BPA: Many studies have recently warned us of the risks of consuming canned foods due to the presence of a chemical called bisphenol A (BPA) in the cans themselves. BPA can leach into food and has been associated with concern for hormone levels, brain and behavior problems, cancer, heart problems, and many other conditions.

Cost: Canned beans cost on average 3 times more than dried beans.

How to prepare dried pinto beans

Preparing beans at home on the stove does take quite a bit of time, but very little effort. So little effort, in fact, that you can prepare beans while you watch TV, run an errand, or even while you sleep.

The first thing you’ll need to do is soak the beans. The process for preparing dried beans is the same regardless of the type, so choose your favorite and get soaking! One pound of beans makes about 5 cups of cooked beans, which is plenty for one recipe, but you may want to consider making extra beans to freeze to use your time most effectively. You’ll simply want to place your beans in a large bowl, cover with water, and allow them to sit for twelve to twenty-four hours. You can leave them soaking on the counter while you’re sleeping or at work without having to worry about them becoming over-soaked.

While some cooks argue that long soaking decreases the flavor of the beans, the soaking process helps the beans cook more evenly and a bit more quickly. To boost the flavor of your cooked beans, simply add some aromatics like garlic, onion, or bay leaves to your pot while simmering.

The amount of time required to simmer your beans will depend on the type and size of bean as well as its freshness. While beans are simmering, you’ll simply want to set a timer to check on them after about an hour and a half, then about every 30 minutes to check for doneness.

Once your beans are tender, you can enjoy them right away in soups, burritos, salads, and other quick meals all week long.

How to soak and simmer dried beans

Stovetop Beans
 
Simple instructions for preparing dried beans on the stove
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. dried beans
  • Filtered water
  • 2- 3 tsp. salt
  • Optional: garlic, onion, bay leaves
Instructions
  1. To soak beans, place them in a large bowl and cover with water at least 1 inch above the beans. Leave on the counter for 12-24 hours.
  2. Once the beans are soaked, drain the liquid and rinse them gently.
  3. Transfer the soaked beans to a large stockpot and cover with 2 inches of fresh water. Bring the beans to a boil over medium-high heat.
  4. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer so the water is just moving. Too much movement from the water can cause the skins to break. At this point, add any aromatics like garlic, onion, bay leaves, and salt. Simmer for 2-4 hours, until beans are tender.
  5. Once tender, cool the beans in their cooking liquid, and then transfer to containers to store in either the refrigerator or freezer, still in their cooking liquid.

 

Strawberry + Blood Orange Fruit Gummies

Strawberry Orange Gelatin Gummies Recipe

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and there’s nothing I love more than food-based tokens of affection. These heart shaped gummies may be cute, but they pack quite a punch in the love-your-guts sort of way.

I’ve been itching to share with you some recipes using gelatin because it’s a wonderful source of amino acids, which are essential for both gut and brain health.

Gelatin

Is gelatin like JELL-O?

Yes! Exactly! And also no, not quite.

Gelatin is a yellowish, odorless powder derived from animal collagen. It’s commonly used in products that “gel” such as fruit candies, jellies, marshmallows, and JELL-O. Yes, JELL-O packets contain gelatin, which is the ingredient that magically transforms your colored liquid into a jiggly treat when refrigerated. JELL-O packets, however, also contain high fructose corn syrup, sugar, and artificial coloring and flavoring. Because gelatin is such a nutrient-dense food I set out to create a nourishing gummy snack flavored with real fruit and sweetened with honey so we can all enjoy a sweet little jiggle.

How to make strawberry orange gelatin gummies

This recipe is quite simple and very easy to alter to suit your personal taste. You’ll simply need one and a quarter cups of fruit puree or juice, 1/4 cup of gelatin (I use this brand), and some honey to sweeten. I found these sweet heart-shaped molds, but you can use a basic ice cube tray for individual gummies or a large, shallow dish and cut the finished product into individual servings with a knife.

Strawberry Orange Gelatin Gummies

These protein-rich gummies are perfect for kids or individuals that don’t eat much animal protein – most people don’t even realize that gelatin comes from beef! I hope you’ll have some fun with this recipe and let me know if you try any delicious flavor combinations!

Have a lovely Valentine’s Day!

xo, Drew

Valentine's Day Gelatin Gummy Snacks

Strawberry + Blood Orange Fruit Gummies
 
An allergen-friendly, protein-rich snack
Ingredients
  • 1 cup strawberries
  • ½ cup blood orange juice (about 2 oranges)
  • 2 Tbsp. raw honey
  • ¼ cup beef gelatin
Instructions
  1. Place strawberries and blood orange juice in a blender or food processor and puree.
  2. Place strawberry-orange puree in a medium saucepan along with honey and gelatin. Whisk to combine. Do not turn on the heat until the gelatin is throughly combined or it will cause clumping.
  3. Heat the pan over medium-low heat and continue to whisk until the mixture is warm and thinned; about 3 minutes.
  4. Pour mixture into a mold of your choice and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to set. Have fun with your mold - use silicone trays shaped like hearts, stars, or whatever you can find. If you prefer, you can use a shallow glass or ceramic dish and slice your own shapes when gelled.

 

White Bean 3 Layer Dip

White Bean 3 Layer Dip (Dairy Free)

Are you ready for some football?

This football season has been “successful” for me personally as I took first place in my fantasy football league (!), but my home team (the SF 49ers) was unfortunately less successful. I offered them my talents as head coach, but apparently they promoted from within. Nonetheless, this Sunday it all culminates with the Super Bowl, which most of you will watch, even if you don’t care for the game.

So let’s get to the most important part of the Super Bowl party: the snacks!

I’ve been seeing all sorts of statistics being thrown around recently about how many calories people consume during the Super Bowl, and I’ll bet it is true that people indulge more than usual during the game. If you’re hoping to stick to your nourishing diet during the game, or avoid foods that you are sensitive to; it may be helpful for you to prepare a snack to share with others that you know you will enjoy eating. Enter bean dip!

Ingredients for simple White Bean DipFood processor White Bean Dip Recipe

I love a classic 7 layer dip, but there are so many layers! This year, I wanted to create a delicious, dairy free dip that I could whip up in 10 minutes or less. This white bean dip comes together really fast, especially if you use store bought pico de gallo like I did.

The addition of cheese in dips like this adds tons of flavor, so I was sure to include lots of spices in the bean mixture to make up for the lack of dairy. I also topped this dip with avocado and pepitas (Spanish pumpkin seeds) so it’s full of healthy fats that will satisfy your hunger.

Ingredients for White Bean 3 Layer Dip

Now that we have the dip squared away, the question is: what to dip?

Chips are delicious with this (obviously), but they aren’t the most nourishing option. Set out or bring along some crudités to freshen up your Super Bowl spread. I found the most beautiful watermelon radishes at the market last weekend so I sliced them into “chips”, but you could also use celery, carrots, cauliflower, endive, or broccoli.

White bean dip with watermelon radish

The recipe below serves 2-4 people so you’ll want to increase the portions if you’re serving a large party. I plan to double the recipe when I make it this weekend and serve it in a small casserole dish for a more traditional layered dip.

Enjoy, and go team! xo

White Bean 3 Layer Dip
Serves: 2-4
 
gluten free, dairy free
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups Cannellini beans (either soaked overnight or 1 15-oz. can), rinsed and strained
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ tsp. chili powder
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper (optional because it's spicy)
  • ¼ cup pico de gallo
  • ½ avocado, diced
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. pepitas
  • chopped veggies for serving
Instructions
  1. Place beans, garlic, and spices in a food processor and process until smooth.
  2. Layer bean mixture in the bottom of a glass serving dish and top with a layer of pico de gallo, a layer of diced avocado, and sprinkle cilantro and pepitas on top

 

A Guide to Selecting Eggs

Eggs in crate

Free range, cage-free, vegetarian-fed… egg cartons are plastered with a limitless supply of equally-positive sounding labels. They all sound good, and eggs are just eggs, right? So you grab the cheapest carton and head to the checkout.

As of January 1st, California has rolled out a new law requiring eggs to come from chickens that have enough room to fully extend their limbs and turn around freely. Eggs that meet this requirement will be stamped CA SEFS Compliant, which stands for California Shell Egg Food Safety Compliant.

The purpose of this law is to allow chickens to be raised in as close to their natural environment as possible, both for the welfare of the animals as well as the nutritional value of the eggs produced.

The uproar by egg producers and decrease in egg production due to this new law has caused many people to ask the question: how are eggs currently being produced and what exactly is a chicken’s natural environment?

Bright golden egg yolks in pastured eggs

Here’s a simple guide to egg carton terminology:

Color: The color of an egg shell is simply a factor of the hen’s breed. White, brown, or rainbow shells have no correlation with the nutritional value of the egg or quality of the hen’s living conditions. Choose your favorite color and enjoy!

All Natural/Farm Fresh/Hormone Free/No Antibiotics: None of these terms give us any meaningful information about the quality of egg production. All eggs are “natural”, come from a “farm”, and egg-laying hens are never given hormones and rarely given antibiotics. This would be akin to labeling broccoli “dairy free”. Of course broccoli is dairy free, and calling it so does not make it any better than another farmer’s broccoli. Calling out the universal qualities of supermarket eggs does not make one more worthy of purchase over another.

Vegetarian-Fed: This means that the birds’ feed does not include any animal byproducts and is probably a mixture of corn, soybeans, and amino acids. “No animal byproducts” sounds positive, but chickens are naturally omnivores, foraging for insects outdoors which provide them with protein. Vegetarian-fed eggs likely come from chickens with little or no access to the outdoors.

Cage-Free: Chickens raised in cage-free environments stay indoors, but they are not kept in cages and have unlimited access to food and water. Because the density of these spaces is not regulated, it’s possible that these chickens are packed very tightly but many industry groups voluntarily guarantee at least one square foot of space per bird.

Many animal welfare experts believe cage-free birds are better off than their caged counterparts as they are allowed to exhibit more natural behaviors like walking around and spreading their wings. Cage-free birds tend to be healthier (more feathers, stronger bones), but actually have a higher mortality rate due to pecking by other birds.

Free Range: Free range is similar to cage-free, but hens have access to the outdoors. There are no regulations on how much time the birds spend outside and, in reality, many birds may not go outside at all. Eggs that are “Certified Humane”, however, come from hens that have spent up to 6 hours per day outdoors in at least 2 square feet of space. Free range eggs have been found to have slightly higher Omega-3 fatty acids due to the hens’ ability to forage for insects outdoors.

Organic: Organic eggs come from chickens that are uncaged, have access to the outdoors, and are not fed anything grown with synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Organic birds can be raised in a variety of living conditions, from very crowded to very spacious. To help determine an egg producer’s sustainability, The Cornucopia Institute has created an organic egg scorecard ranking eggs sold in the United States.

Omega-3: When eggs are produced in a natural environment, they have higher levels of Omega-3s than their conventionally raised counterparts. To mimic this, egg producers supplement the hens’ feed with flaxseed, algae, or fish oil.

Pastured: Pastured eggs come the closest to replicating a hen’s natural lifestyle. Birds spend most of their time outdoors, with plenty of space, and access to a barn. They are able to eat a diet of insects, worms, and grass which is often supplemented with vegetarian feed. Hens raised on pasture will have varying amounts of space and many egg cartons will list the amount of space available to each bird. These eggs may or may not be organic.

Studies have found pasture raised eggs to contain lower levels of cholesterol and saturated fat than their conventionally raised counterparts as well as higher levels of vitamins A, E, and Omega-3 (1, 2).

cracked egg shells

Carton labels aside, you can tell a good, fresh egg by cracking it open and taking a look. Hens with a diverse, rich diet and active lifestyle will produce eggs with bright orange yolks. These yolks will be well-rounded and clearly raised above the white. In addition, take a look at the middle albumen, which is the thick part of the egg white surrounding the yolk. The outer albumen is thin, watery, and will spread out while the middle albumen should be raised and stay fairly tight around the yolk in high quality eggs.

Italian Turkey & Spinach Stuffed Acorn Squash

Italian Turkey and Spinach stuffed Acorn Squash

We’re smack in the middle of this year’s Balance Detox and because it’s the third year I’ve hosted it (and the third year I’ve participated in it), I’ve been inspired to experiment with some of my favorite recipes from the program to keep things exciting.

My stuffed acorn squash recipe is always a crowd-pleaser so I thought I’d try another version in hopes that it would be equally delicious. I’d like to think I succeeded, but you’ll have to try both recipes and let me know what you think. You can find the original stuffed acorn squash recipe here.

Whole Acorn Squash

I enjoy working with squash in the winter because it’s seasonal, hearty, and easy to prepare. To roast an acorn squash, simple cut off the top (the side with the stem), cut in half, and scrape out the seeds. In this recipe I roast the halves intact, but they are also delicious sliced into rings or cubes and added to salads.

Most acorn squashes you’ll find have a mostly green skin which is what you want. Mine was mostly orange meaning that it’s a bit overripe, but it still tasted fabulous. The rind is edible (and full of phytonutrients), but has a bit more bite than the palatable Delicata squash.

Halved Acorn SquashRoasted Acorn Squash

This recipe uses Italian turkey sausage, which I love cooking with because it’s pre-seasoned and makes a quick meal taste like I spent hours in the kitchen. Be sure to buy uncooked sausage and simple slit the casings with a sharp knife and squeeze out the meat. You can treat the insides like any ground meat and use it in a myriad of ways.

Acorn Squash stuffed with turkey sausage and spinach

Italian Turkey & Spinach Stuffed Acorn Squash
Recipe type: gluten free, dairy free, paleo
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 2 acorn squash, halved and seeds removed
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • ¼ lb. diced mushrooms
  • 4 mild Italian turkey sausages
  • 2 cups spinach
  • ¼ cup Italian parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Sprinkle acorn squash halves with salt and pepper and place them face down on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes until tender.
  3. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add diced onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Transfer cooked onions to a plate and set aside.
  4. In the same sauté pan (adding more oil if necessary), sauté the mushrooms until just brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to plate with the onions and set aside.
  5. Turn heat to high, remove the turkey sausage from its casings and cook until brown. Add onion and mushrooms back to the pan along with 1 cup of filtered water and 2 cups of spinach. Cook until the spinach is wilted and the water is just evaporated. Mix in parsley and pine nuts.
  6. Spoon the turkey mixture into roasted acorn squash halves and place under the broiler for about 3 minutes to brown the tops. Serve hot.

Enjoy!

XO, Drew