Mexican Medley

Mexican Medley

This is one of my favorite meals for breakfast.  It requires a limited amount of time to make, can be doubled to have again another day, and keeps me going on those days that require a lot of energy.

Ingredients:

Olive Oil 1 T
Carrot, sliced thin 1
Onion, chopped 1/2 med
Zucchini, quartered lenghtwise then sliced 1/2 reg
Crookneck Squash, quartered lengthwise then sliced 1/2 reg
Reb Bell Pepper, sliced into 1″ pieces 1/2 reg
Cumin 1/2-1 tsp
Aleppo Pepper 1/2-1 tsp
Salsa 3.5 oz
Refried Beans, natural  1/2 of 16 oz can
Spinach, chiffonade 1-2 C
Egg, poached or Fresh Guacamole 1 or 2 eggs or 1 T Guacamole

Preparation:

In a med/lg saucepan add olive oil and sauté carrot, onion, zuccini, crookneck squash, bell pepper over medium heat for a few minutes. Add cumin, pepper and salsa. Cover and cook until vegetables soften; about 8 minutes on med/low. Add beans and cook an additional 5-8 minutes until heated through. Place spinach in bottom of bowl. Top with bean mixture. Place poached egg or guacamole on top. S&P to taste.  Garnish with cilantro if you like.

Serves 1-2 depending on how hungry you are!

Cooking as Meditation

How many of you cook on a regular basis anymore?  Do you find it easier to grab a meal on the run?  How do you feel after eating this way?  Are you satisfied?  Do you feel good?

As a society we have lost the desire and art of cooking.  Somehow our world has become one where fast food and fast eating is the norm.  There is a misconception that it is cheaper to eat fast food than preparing a meal at home and that it is equally healthy.  Both of these are inaccurate.

For me cooking is relaxing; a sort of meditation if you will.  At the end of a busy day I get home and look forward to spending time in the kitchen slicing vegetables, creating delicious sauces, grilling or baking.  It provides a great sense of accomplishment and keeps me in the moment while I am preparing.  Plus I know exactly everything that goes into what I am eating.  In fact most (if not all) of the ingredients don’t have labels.  They come exactly as they are grown.  The result is delicious, satisfying food both in my body and for my soul.  The additional reward is sitting down with family or friends to relax and enjoy this meal.  The conversation that goes along with relaxing at home rather than being rushed to eat out is an even greater reward.

Think about it.  It is great way to enjoy family time.   Pull out all the ingredients and give everyone a part in creating the dinner.  Talk about your day together.  Chopping, stirring, and creating.   Talking will come more naturally when you are moving than sitting on the couch staring at each other.  Make it a time for even exchange of conversation between all of you.  Laugh, be silly and be creative.  After the meal is made sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labor together.

The need for this type of eating and connecting is that much more important in our fast paced life than ever.  In America our population as a whole is 65% obese or overweight and much of this comes from what we eat, how it is made, where we eat it and how unconscious we are when we eat it.

The recognition of this has gone beyond the health conscious population in our country.  Even our doctors know very little about nutrition and how to prepare healthy meals, yet these are some of the people we rely upon to give us advice.  This is changing as is indicated by The Tulane University of Medicine, one of 16 medical schools with a licensed chef as one of their instructors.  In an effort to educate future doctors, medical schools are adopting a designated program to teach not only nutrition but how to cook.

Here are a couple of great excerpts from an article on Tulane University of Medicine:

Dr. Timothy Harlan, known in the food media world as Dr. Gourmet, is also executive director at the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane. Harlan says the program isn’t just about helping students understand nutrition. The focus is on practical talk about food. Harlan wants Tulane-educated doctors to be able to teach their patients everyday skills in how to cook, what to cook and why…

“We know from the literature that when people go home and start cooking from real ingredients for themselves that their health improves,” Harlan says.

Isn’t it time to start cooking yourself?  The meals don’t need to be complicated or take hours.  These are more misconceptions.  I have prepared a delicious meal in no time at all and the process of preparing it has calmed me, brought me more into the moment and prepared my body to get out of the fast pace of the day to one that can relax and fully enjoy the delicious meal.

If you are interested in a few easy meals, simply look through my ‘Recipe of the Month’ section of my blog.

To your health,

Julie

March Cooking Tip – That Delicious Vegetable called Fennel

“In 490 B.C. in a fennel field some 26 miles from Athens, the Greeks defeated the Persians.  An Anthenian runner bearing this welcome news raced back to town.  Since then, the length of a marathon race has remained the same as from the fennel field into town, or 26 miles and 385 yards.  The Greek name for fennel is marathon.”   The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia, Rebecca Wood

Often we think of fennel seeds that are often used in the sausage found on most pizzas.  They can also be found in a variety of dishes, especially Greek recipes.  In Indian restaurants it is common to find them in small dishes found near the exit door.  In this situation, they are eaten at the end of a meal to assist in digestion. 

The bulb is a different variety of fennel used as a vegetable.  Mostly found in Mediterranean cooking, it is now available in most markets in the United States and is plentiful and fresh this time of year.  I enjoy the licorice taste of the raw vegetable.  It really adds to the flavor of a fresh green salad.  You can cut it very thin to enhance a variety of salads from a mixed green to a salad made mostly of fresh fennel and grapefruit.   In addition the fennel bulb can be baked or added to a dish like the chicken recipe this month.   When cooked, the strong licorice flavor diminishes quite a bit, leaving a subtle richness in its place.   

Generally speaking fennel seeds not only aid in digestion but help in reducing gas and spasms in the digestive system and aids in eliminating phlegm.  They are loaded with phytonutrients and contain a great deal of antioxidants so consequently have many health benefits.

If you have never used it, give it a try.  You too might find it a wonderful addition to your regular vegetable repertoire!

February Cooking Tip – Pass the Chili’s Please!

Chili’s come in a variety of sizes and shapes as well as a variance in hotness.  They are a fantastic source of Vitamins A and C as well as folic acid and carotenoids. 

Some people like it hot, some not.  If you are amongst those that like a ‘kick’ to your food, then you are one of the lucky ones.  Chili peppers, unlike sweet peppers, contain a substance called Capsaicin which gives the chili their hotness.  Capsaicin is not only ‘hot’ in your mouth but hot to the touch.   When cutting up a chili, especially one of the hotter versions like Scotch Bonnet, Habanero, or Chile de Arbol, make sure to wash your hands before touching your face, especially your eyes!

So what is so great about that Capsaicin?  It is a fantastic substance!  History and folk medicine used chili peppers for asthma, fevers, sore throats, and other respiratory tract infections, digestive disturbances, and cancers.[1] 

In addition, here are some of the great things capsaicin offers: 

  • It has been associated with having excellent antioxidant compounds
  • It increases metabolism, thus aiding in the burning of fat
  • Although seemingly hot, it actually has a cooling effect by lowering body temperature.  It simulates the cooling center of the hypothalamus in the brain.  This is why it is often common to find hot climates eating foods laden with chili peppers.
  • Is a potent inhibitor of substance P, a neuropeptide associated with inflammatory processes
  • Harvard studies show that it has the ability of blocking pain-receptive neurons without blocking other kinds of neurons that control other kinds of movements.  This work is related to the pain associated with arthritis and other inflammatory diseases[2]
  • It has beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system.  It reduces the likelihood of developing atherosclerosis by reducing blood cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • Research at the University of Tasmania[3] is showing it “has the potential to lower blood glucose and insulin levels, reduce the formation of fatty deposits on artery walls and prevent blood clots – minus some of the nasty side-effects of traditional medications.”

Cultures that consume chili peppers on a regular basis have healthy cardiovascular systems along with many other health benefits.  Maybe it is time to add more chili peppers into your daily diet. 

Get out your various chili’s and start adding them to your favorite dishes!  This months’ Chicken Soup is a great place to start!  https://healthandnutritionexperts.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/february-recipe-%e2%80%93-julie%e2%80%99s-easy-chicken-soup/

 


[1] The Healing Power of Herbs by Michael T. Murray, N.D.

[2] http://www.innovations-report.com/html/reports/medicine_health/report-13188.html, http://golgi.harvard.edu/NewsEvents/News/ug-award_hoopes_6-3-09.html

 [3] http://www.hls.utas.edu.au/news/2009chilli/

January Cooking Tip – Enhancing Flavors in Soup & Chili

If you would like to make your soups and chili’s more flavorful, here are two simple things you can do that really make a huge difference:

  1. Finely chop any vegetables.  When vegetables are cut into small, uniform pieces, they cook more quickly and evenly, and also release a good deal more flavor, than large irregular cuts.
  2. Prepare the day ahead.  The nice thing about this is that you can plan ahead and make a soup or chili ahead of time for one of those nights (or breakfasts) that you don’t have the time to cook.  In addition, by allowing time, the flavors will have a change to integrate and become richer.

December Cooking Tip – Baked Kale Chips

I came across the Vegan Epicurean blog recently and found a great recipe for baked kale chips.  I think often we are looking for a substitute for crunchy chips and think this is fantastic.  Not only is kale so great for you but the taste is delicious.

Alicia was kind enough to let me post it and share it with you.  Enjoy! 

“On Sunday when we went to the farmers market I bought an enormous amount of kale for chips. Since I had far more kale that would fit in my little dehydrator I knew I needed to try to bake it in the oven. I won’t have this problem after Christmas when I get my new large dehydrator, but for now the oven was the answer.

I am not going to post the recipe as I don’t really use one anymore. However, I will post the method, which is all you need.

Take the kale and remove it from the stems and tear it into big pieces. I wash the kale and spin it dry. Then I place some of the kale on a half sheet pan and drizzle it with a little olive oil and toss the kale. I use only as much oil as the kale needs to be completely coated with a thin film of oil. Now I add seasoning to the chips and toss to coat the kale evenly.

Typically I use my homemade curry powder. I have also used turmeric, chili powder, garlic powder, nutritional yeast, freshly ground black pepper, and smoked paprika. The last batch I made was turmeric, black pepper and garlic powder. These chips were spicy and flavorful.

Place the coated kale on a half sheet pan, in a single layer and bake in a 250-degree oven until crispy. I waited one hour and thirty minutes before checking and they were crispy and delicious. They may have been finished earlier so next time I use the oven I will check the texture at the one-hour mark.

My husband and I eat kale chips everyday now. They are a staple item in our lunch. We both find that we like the taste and crunch of the kale chips. I hope you enjoy them too.”

November Cooking Tip – Cooking with Coconut Oil

Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is an excellent source of fat.  It is only one of two that can be heated above 240 degrees and not be denatured.  It is great when cooking over medium heat.  When baking there is no heat limitation so can be added to any dish.  When sautéing, there is a light coconut smell, which I enjoy, however you don’t have to worry about taste for it is completely tasteless. 

The benefit of using coconut oil is that it is a saturated fat that contains about 60% medium chain triglycerides or MCT’s.  These do not need digestive enzymes to be metabolized and most of the fat is metabolized in the liver to ketones. 

“Ketones are your body’s alternative energy source.  When glucose stores are exhausted, ketones are synthesized from fats and delivered to the cells, where they are burned for energy… “

                                                      Health & Healing, Dr. Julian Whitaker, October 2009

In addition to coconut oil being great for the cardiovascular system, it aids as support for your liver, enhances the immune system and is great for the brain.   Research shows that people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases seem to have an inability to get enough glucose to the brain.  By providing the body with coconut oil and consequently MCT’s, which are stored as ketones rather than fat, the brain has a greater chance of getting all the glucose it needs to function at a more optimal level.    

So why not try it!  It is best to purchase virgin organic coconut oil.  It is easily found at most health stores.  It doesn’t need to be refrigerated and will store for a long period of time.  Use it either in place of olive oil or mix the two together.

For more information on the research about MCT’s and the brain check out this site!