Last year, on a whim, I entered a vegetarian chili cook-off at my alma mater. It was a festive evening, a great learning experience with my chili won a prize! However, I can’t share the recipe with you, because I didn’t use one. But, read on and check out the guidelines I always use and customize each time -as you should as well. Continue reading →
Detox drinks anyone?! January means simultaneously starting fresh and taking it back a notch. We celebrate the new year and our bodies by getting back to (ideally) the best of our pre-holiday patterns. Whether you are doing a full-on cleanse, whole30, or just Dryanuary, you’re likely taking a break from alcohol, perhaps sugar and caffeine as well. But, that can leave a lifestyle and flavor void to fill —as in what are your options for detox drinks? Filtered water and more filtered water? Even if you flavor it up with lemon, mint or ginger, liquid boredom will eventually set in.
Following are 7 health-supportive detox beverages I’ll have on rotation this month. These DIY drinks are not only non-alcoholic and caffeine-free, they have no refined sugar, don’t require a juicer and they’re rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients. Hopefully these ideas will help you stick with your health resolutions —and get you through what might have been your coffee breaks or happy hours.
Turmeric tofu scramble is a quick and savory option for any day. But, with its gorgeous sunshine yellow, this dish is also festive enough for guests. With about 8 grams of plant protein, it provides stable, yet light nourishment to start your day. Serve it with the suggested sides and toppings below, or bundle it up in a whole grain wrap and take it to go.
Not only quick and nutritious, this dish is also what I refer to as ‘a turmeric delivery mechanism’. That’s right, per serving, the scramble gives you a quarter teaspoon of turmeric, the anti-inflammatory ‘spice for life’. Further, it uses all three ways to get the most from curcumin by using the whole turmeric spice and includes both fat and black pepper to maximize bioavailability.
If you shoved your baking staples to back of your cabinet since last holiday season, you may need this baking soda and baking powder test. Because, just like your other ingredients, baking soda and powder freshness counts. So, before you gather your ingredients and pre-heat the oven, do this quick test to make sure your gingerbread men emerge from the oven pleasantly plump and your cakes rise to the occasion!
Why You Should Test Baking Soda and Baking Powder Freshness.
Both lose their effectiveness over time, typically after anywhere from 6 months to 1 year after opening. But, if opened and stored under humid conditions, they may not last until the “best used by” date on the container.
What is the Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder?
The difference is that baking powder contains an acid, whereas baking soda does not. So, when using baking soda, an acid be added separately. Either way, when the acid interacts with the soda, carbon dioxide gas develops, giving your baked goods that pillow-like loft and airiness.
My First Vegan Chili Cook-Off. Here’s What I Learned.
On a whim, I recently entered the vegan chili cook-off at the Natural Gourmet Institute. Never having entered a cooking contest before, I had a ‘nothing to lose’ mindset. Besides, Chef Barb was running the gig. So, even if I didn’t have an award-winning chili, the event was bound to have decent entertainment value.
Did I Use a Tried and True Chili Recipe?
Not exactly. While many people have a favorite chili recipe, I’ve always used the (clean out the fridge and) kitchen sink approach. But, I always start with the same foundation, then adapt with what I have on hand. Continue reading →
Umami, the fifth taste, mystified even our greatest philosophers, Aristotle and Plato. Even they believed that there were but four tastes; sweet, sour, salty and bitter, according to NPR’s Jonah Lehrer. In fact, that was the belief of every philosopher, scientist and cook until the 1800s when French chef Auguste Escoffier changed everything.
Escoffier invented veal stock. When he did, he gave the world much more than just another starter for soups and sauces. Neither sweet, sour, salty nor bitter, its earthy savoriness changed cuisine forever. He gave us the fifth, but yet to be named taste, umami. Continue reading →
As discussed in Part 1, training and racing put unique demands on an athlete’s immune system. Luckily, immune boosting isn’t difficult or time-consuming. In fact, there are some very simple things you can do to keep your immune system in high-performance mode.
In this post, I’ll cover some very strategic actions, such as focusing on gut health. Because, let’s not kid ourselves. While an athlete’s muscles and cardiovascular system may get all the attention, the gut is running the show. In fact, it’s estimated that 70-80% of our immune system resides in our gastrointestinal tract. So, stop treating it like it’s nothing more than a food processor and give it some TLC! Other tips are much more tactical, both my personal recommendations as well as research Dr. Greger shares in his new book ‘How Not to Die‘. Continue reading →
Does your training plan address the needs of your immune system? Perhaps it should. You’ve trained for months, diligently following your plan, logging miles and / or time in the gym. You’re prepared to test your limits, land a PR and perhaps a spot on the podium. But, you’re probably NOT planning to get sick. However, if your training plan ignores your immune system, your post-race days could be filled with more than just memories, but also illness. In this two part post, I’ll explain why —and what you can do about it. Continue reading →
When the farmer’s market has Brussels sprouts on the stalk, one is coming home with me and roasted Brussels sprouts are suddenly on the menu. I can’t resist. There is something so novel and (literally) fresh about pruning the little cabbages from their stem. For an urbanite, it is close as we get to the ‘harvesting’ concept. That is, unless you are one of those people who have actually attempted and succeeded with urban gardening. That’s not me.
According to Rebecca Wood, author of The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia, Brussels sprouts become sweet and tender after a frost. So keep growing region in mind when purchasing. Most Brussel sprouts come from California’s mild coastal area. Deborah Madison, in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, recommends stronger flavors for sprouts harvested without a frost, such as mustard, capers, and lemon.
For the most flavor in Brussels sprouts from any region, select small sprouts with few yellow leaves. For best results, cut the sprouts in half or into quarters for bite-size pieces. They should all be cut about the same size for even cooking.
HONEY DIJON ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUTS
This recipe is the Little Black Dress equivalent of Brussel sprouts recipes. It is classic and simple; a reliable ‘go-to’ recipe for weekdays or special events, which can not only be made in advance and reheat well, but can be dressed up in countless ways. It has just a hint of sweetness. So, you may want to increase the sweetener for some palates.
Try tossing in carmelized onions, roasted and chopped nuts, bacon, soaked current, chopped dried cherries or (of course) cheese to the roasted sprouts. You just might convert a skeptic with your creativity. And little will they know that with Brussels sprout’s glucosinolates and isothiocyanates, they are reducing cancer risk through with every delicious bite.
3 tablespoons olive oil (1 tablespoon reserved for after roasting)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/8th teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or fire cider or apple cider vinegar)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons raw honey (or maple syrup)
Preheat oven to 400° F degrees.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, toss Brussels sprouts with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Transfer the Brussels sprouts to the baking sheet.
Roast the sprouts, stirring half-way through for even browning, until tender and caramelized, about 15-20 minutes, depending on their size.
Return roasted brussels sprouts back in the bowl. Combine remaining tablespoon olive oil, vinegar and honey together and pour the mixture over the sprouts, tossing to coat evenly. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
The stringy flesh of spaghetti squash resembles traditional pasta in appearance. But, does it taste like spaghetti? Does it have that unique ‘toothiness’ of an al dente pasta? Of course not. But, with about one-fourth the calories and carbohydrates of traditional wheat pasta, it can be a very satisfying, grain-free alternative —and a novel, creative way to enjoy a carotenoid and antioxidant-rich meal. And, like regular ‘noodles’ the spaghetti squash pulp is like a naked canvas for flavorings. Almost anything goes. Check out these 4 tips for making delicious spaghetti squash dishes and 5 ideas to get you started!
Just like preparing traditional pasta, the process can be as free-form and improvisational as you want. No recipes needed. In fact, think ‘Operation Fridge Clear Out’. Cooking spaghetti squash is as easy as making regular spaghetti noodles. But, you just need to allow for longer cooking time, about 40 minutes at 375° F, either whole or cut in two. (For step-by-step instructions, see above link.)
4 TIPS TO DELICIOUS SPAGHETTI SQUASH DISHES
Preparation: drain off excess water. For the best and most pasta-like results, place the strands in a strainer and press out as much excess water as you can. This step is optional. But, it’s worth the effort, especially if you are cooking the squash ahead of time and/or are not using a fat-based sauce, such as a marinara.
Dressing: go fat! Due to the high water content of spaghetti squash, I prefer fat-based sauces. Healthy fats in moderation will help modulate the blood sugar response and increase satiety as will adding in some protein. Or, indulge with a little browned butter. Try these!
Seasoning: go bold! Like regular pasta noodles, spaghetti squash provides is a neutral vehicle for any variety of flavors. But, unlike regular pasta noodles, the spaghetti squash pulp won’t absorb the sauce and its flavors very well. And, these noodles don’t have much flavor of their own other than a slightly sweet earthiness. So, go a bit more bold with your seasoning than you might with regular pasta.
Try these seasonings!
Basil, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme
Black pepper, Cinnamon, chili flakes, nutmeg
Garlic, onions, scallions
Soy sauce or shoyu
Tomatoes (sun-dried or paste)
Add contrasting textures. Fold different textures into the strands and on top of the dish. These variations in texture gives makes the dish chewy similar to al dente pasta. Try these additions and toppings!
Toasted, chopped nuts, such as hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts
Bread crumbs or panko (regular or gluten-free).
Beans, such as adzuki, black, garbanzo or kidney
Cheese, such as mozzarella, parmesan or Gruyère
Cacio y Pepe-Inspired Spaghetti Squash
Base: Olive oil and garlic
Seasonings: A generous amount of fresh ground black pepper and sea salt
Additions: sautéed onions and shiitake mushrooms, roasted and shopped walnuts
Garnish: Italian parsley and basil
Spaghetti Squash with Cinnamon-Nutmeg Vegan Cream Sauce and Nuts
Base: Cashew cream sauce
Seasonings: Cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper and sea salt
Additions: sautéed onions and shiitake mushrooms, toasted and chopped walnuts.
Garnish: Italian parsley
Indian-Inspired Spaghetti Squash
Base: Store-bought Indian simmer sauce (Maya Kaimal brand)
Additions: Garbanzo beans
Garnish: Cilantro or Thai Basil
Southern Italy-Inspired Spaghetti Squash
Base: Olive oil, garlic and tomato paste
Seasonings: Red chili pepper flakes, black pepper and sea salt
Additions: sautéed onions, chopped or pureed sun-dried tomatoes
Garnish: Italian parsley or Basil
Spaghetti Squash Tossed with Avocado Pesto and Kale
Base: Vegan avocado pesto
Seasonings: Lemon, garlic, black pepper and sea salt
Additions: Wilted kale
Garnish: Basil and roasted, chopped pecans
USDA National Nutrient Database
Page, Karen. The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York: Little Brown and Company, 2014.
How do you like to prepare spaghetti squash? Share a tip! Leave a comment below.