Ginger Chicken with Sesame Non-Noodles

gingersoychixsesamenoodles

My husband and I are HUGE fans of any food that is Asian-inspired. When we go out to eat, nine times out of ten, we will opt for either Thai, Vietnamese or Korean. It’s just our fave. However, I don’t love some of the less glamorous ingredients that often accompany take-out. Asian food found in restaurants is notoriously laden with MSG. While there are many healthy options available usually, you can never really be sure what sort of nasty vegetable oils the food is cooked in, and you are usually not getting organic vegetables and grass-fed beef. So when we go out, I try not to be too uptight about it, and just enjoy the meal for what it is- DELICIOUS! However, when I cook Asian-inspired food in our home, I LOVE knowing that I’ve used organic chicken and veggies, that it’s cooked in healthy coconut oil, and that there’s absolutely NO MSG.

So this is one of my Asian-inspired meals. It was a big hit. My husband loved it, and my little one ate every last bit off of her plate! There are not actually noodles in this recipe (that’s why I call them “non-noodles”), but you still get that great noodle texture from zucchini noodles! This recipe is gluten free and Paleo, and you can most certainly make it vegetarian by swapping out the chicken for extra veggies. Enjoy!

Ingredients For the Chicken:

  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs (you can really use whatever cut you like. We really like thighs around here)
  • 1/4 cup coconut aminos. You can use soy sauce if you prefer.
  • 2 tbsp raw honey, melted
  • 1 inch knob fresh ginger, grated (this is the microplane I use)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp red pepper flake

Ingredients for the Non-Noodles:

  • 3 medium zucchini. To make the noodle shape, I use a julienne peeler. You can find these at the regular grocery store. But if you don’t have one, just use a vegetable peeler. Your noodles will be thicker like fettuccine, but they will still be great.
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, any color, julienned
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 inch knob of ginger, minced
  • 1/4 cup coconut aminos (or soy sauce)
  • 1/4 cup tahini (if you don’t have tahini, just use almond butter)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp honey, melted
  • Cilantro to garnish

Directions For the Chicken:

  • Throw the chicken along with the coconut aminos, honey, ginger, garlic and rep pepper flake in a dish and massage it into the chicken. Don’t be afraid to manhandle it- it will just make it more tender. Refrigerate and marinate for at least one hour but overnight is great.
  • Heat 1 tbsp coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the pan and cook about 5 minutes per side if you’re using thighs.
  • When the chicken is cooked through, remove it from the pan and set it aside to let it rest while you cook you Non-Noodles.

Directions for the Noodles:

  • In the same pan you cooked the chicken in, add a bit more coconut oil if needed and heat it over medium-high heat. Throw your bell pepper and onion into the pan and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and ginger to the pan, and saute another 2 minutes, until fragrant.
  • Add the zucchini to the pan and saute another 1-2 minutes.
  • In the meantime, in a large mixing bowl combine coconut aminos, tahini, lime juice and honey. Whisk to combine.
  • When the vegetables have finished sauteing, remove from the pan and place into the mixing bowl with the sesame sauce. Toss to coat.
  • Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and serve. Enjoy!

Coconut Milk vs. Coconut Water: What’s the Difference?

coconut-watermilk

Coconut milk and coconut water have become super trendy in the last couple of years. Until a few years ago, I don’t recall seeing coconut water or coconut milk on the shelves of grocery stores. If it was there, you definitely had to search for it. But just as fashion trends come and go, health trends come and go, and all things coconut have become quite buzzworthy. Now you can find numerous different brands of coconut water, and even more brands of coconut milk. You can find flavored coconut water, light coconut milk, and everyone seems to have their own recipes and uses for coconut milk and coconut water.

It wasn’t until last week when someone asked me “what is the difference between coconut water and coconut milk?” that I realized that there was some confusion happening in this arena. But then I thought back to a time before coconut water was all the rage, and I remembered that I too pictured cracking open a fresh coconut to find that thick, creamy, milky liquid flowing out. Not the case.

What is the difference between coconut water and coconut milk?

Coconut water is the actual clear liquid that comes out of the fresh coconut when you crack it open. Coconut milk is what results from blending the white, fleshy meat of the coconut with water. The end products is a delicious white, creamy liquid.

Which is healthier? Coconut water or coconut milk?

Comparing coconut water to coconut milk is like comparing apples to oranges. They’re two completely different substances, with different benefits. But they do both have their benefits!

Coconut water is extremely hydrating and packed full of electrolytes. In fact, coconut water is actually isotonic, meaning it has the same osmotic pressure as our blood! Coconut water contains high amounts of lauric acid (also found in human breastmilk) which has anti-microbial, anti-fungal, and antibacterial properties! It’s awesome for rehydrating after a tough workout and a wonderful alternative to toxic sports drinks! Add it into a smoothie or drink it straight up with a squeeze of lime. Delicious and refreshing.

Coconut milk is an excellent source of protein and healthy fats! Like coconut water, coconut milk also contains tons of electrolytes, lauric acid and antioxidants. It may help prevent diseases such as alzheimers, cancer and Parkinson’s. Coconut milk is an excellent non-dairy alternative for those who have dairy allergies or just prefer to stay away from dairy. It’s great in soups and stews. You can bake with it! You can put it in smoothies or make yogurt out of it. You can accomplish most things with coconut milk that you would with cow’s milk.

Are all coconut milks and coconut waters created equal?

The short answer: no. Since coconut milk and coconut water are in trend, manufacturers have taken advantage of this, and added some nasty ingredients.

Ideally, we would all have a ready supply of young Thai coconuts at our disposal to crack open and slurp down when we’re in need of hydration. Clearly, that’s not an option for most of us. What should you look out for in coconut water? Simple. The ingredient list should read: 100% pure coconut water. Look out for added preservatives such as sodium bisulphate and citric acid. Many brands contain “natural” and artifical flavors (which most certainly translate to MSG). You may also often find artificial sweeteners and colorings hiding out in there.

When it comes to coconut milk, I’m in love with making my own. First of all, it’s cheaper. Second of all, I know there are NO unneccesary added ingredients (here’s my recipe). If your coconut milk comes in a can, that can is likely lined with BPA, which we know is a major endocrine disruptor, among other things.  There are some quality boxed options of coconut milk out there. But make sure to watch out for things like carageenan. Carageenan is an non-organic ingredients that IS allowed in organic food. It’s used to keep ingredients emulsified, but may cause a number of inflammatory processes in the body such as irritable bowel disease. Other things to look out for are artifical sweeteners, preservatives and MSG.

Both coconut milk and coconut water, although very different, can be great healthy options! If you cannot make your own coconut milk, or you don’t have young thai coconuts growing in your backyard, you just have to be certain to read those labels! Be an educated consumer and know what to look out for!

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Source 

Gluten Free Un-”fried” Chicken

unfriedchicken

“I don’t like fried chicken”… said no one ever! Fried chicken is seriously one of my favorite foods in the whole world. It’s one of those things that I just never get sick of. But between the breading and the deep-frying, it’s not so healthy, and lets face it, deep frying equals a hot mess in my kitchen that I just don’t want to take the time to clean up. So I made this super tasty Gluten-Free Un”fried” Chicken. This recipe is really fast to whip up and there is no deep frying involved!

Ingredients:

  • 1 -2 lbs chicken thighs. You can use ANY cut of chicken here- legs, breasts, bone in or boneless. Just adjust cooking time appropriately. We like the thighs because they hold up to the high cooking temperature without drying out and they’re so flavorful!
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (optional)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp melted coconut oil or ghee

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
  • In a shallow dish, whisk your egg.
  • In a separate shallow dish, combine almond meal and spices, making sure to get out all of the clumps.
  • Coat each piece of chicken in the egg, and then in the almond meal, pressing the almond meal mixture into the chicken and then shaking off the excess.
  • Place the breaded chicken on a baking sheet with a wire rack on top. This allows for the heat to circulate in the oven, ensuring proper browning and crisping. If you don’t have a wire rack, no big deal. Just line with parchment and flip the chicken halfway through cooking time.
  • Drizzle the chicken with the melted coconut oil or ghee, whichever you’re using. This well help is crisp up!
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until brown and crispy. If your chicken is done cooking before it becomes brown, just turn the oven up to broil for a couple of minutes, but watch it closely as it will turn into blackened un”fried” chicken real quick.
  • Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon on top. Enjoy!

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Homemade Lactofermented Sauerkraut

sauerkraut

I LOVE sauerkraut. But I grew up eating the stuff our of a jar from the grocery store, which is delicious, but not as nutritious as it could be. This recipe for traditionally lactofermented sauerkraut is even more delicious, easy to make, and full of healthy probiotics! Probiotics help populate your gut with healthy bacteria, aiding in digestion and immunity! This sauerkraut is a great way to get some probiotics into your diet! Give it a try!

Ingredients:

-1 head of cabbage. Remove the outer leaves. Core it and shred it finely. You can make this easy and run it through the shredder blade on your food processor. But I actually love chopping veggies (I know, it’s weird) so I like to do it by hand- it’s relaxing to me.

-approximately 1 tbsp sea salt

-4 tbsp liquid whey

Directions:

-Place your shredded cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle over your sea salt. Now you want to get really friendly with your cabbage. Use the best two tools God gave you- your hands! It’s key to really massage the salt into the cabbage for a few minutes. The point of this is to draw the liquid out of the cabbage.

-Go back every 45 minutes or so and turn and massage the cabbage. I like to let the cabbage sweat for about 3-4 hours.

-Get a quart size mason jar and a wooden spoon. Place about 1/2 cup of cabbage into the jar and take the handle of the wooden spoon and beat the cabbage down. Just go for it here. REALLY beat the crap out of it. You need to push the cabbage down to minimize air bubbles. This will also ensure that the liquid is coming out of the cabbage. 

-Repeat this process until you have the jar filled, leaving 1-2 inches at the top. Don’t forget! Really beat down the cabbage with the wooden spoon good! You won’t hurt it!

-Add in your 4 tbsp of liquid whey. Between the whey and the liquid released from the cabbage, the cabbage should be covered with liquid. If it isn’t, you didn’t pound hard enough. Or, you can add in some of the liquid that accumulated in the bottom of the bowl you sweated the cabbage in. 

-Cover the jar, and let it sit UNDISTURBED on the counter top at room temp for three days. After three days, crack that baby open. There should be some fun fizzy bubbles at the top. Give it a taste and see if it’s sour enough for you. If not, close it and let it sit another day. Just keep tasting and letting it sit at room temp until you reach your desired sourness. When you’ve reached that, you’re ready to enjoy! And enjoy you will! It is DELICIOUS!

-Store it in the fridge for up to six months.

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Broccoli and Citrus Superfood Salad

broccolicitrussuperfoodsalad

In our home, we eat broccoli with meals at least two or three times a week. Yes it’s great for you. We all know that. But really, we just love us some broccoli. We make it a million different ways, and it’s delicious in any preparation.

Most of the time I just steam it and squeeze some lemon over it or I roast it in the oven (which is delicious if you haven’t had it that way), but sometimes I like to get a little crazy with it. That’s how this recipe was born!

This recipe hits all the flavor notes for me. It’s a little salty and a little sweet. It’s got some tang from the ginger and some crunch from the cashews. It’s beautifully colorful from the carrots and goji berries. It’s definitely not your average broccoli salad! So if you’re ready to get a little funky with your broccoli and switch it up a bit, this is the recipe for you!

Prep time: 15 minutes

Yields: 6-8 cups of salad, depending on the size of your broccoli head

Serves: 4-6 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of broccoli, cut into florets. We’re also using the stems in this recipe because I’m a no-waste kind of gal (and they’re tasty). So peel the outer layer of the stalk off as it is quite fibrous. You can use a vegetable peeler or a paring knife. Chop the stalk into 1/2 inch pieces.
  • 2 carrots, peeled. I have a vegetable peeling gadget that cuts the carrot into really thin noodle-like strips. I love it! But if you don’t have that you may either grate the carrot, julienne it, or continue to use your vegetable peeler to make noodle-y shapes.
  • 1/2 cup cashews, chopped
  • 1/4 cup goji berries. These are optional. If you don’t have them, you can use raisins or some other dried fruit.
  • 1/4 cup chopped mint
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients for the vinaigrette:

  • zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp raw honey (if it’s solid at room temp you’ll need to melt it first)
  • 2 inch knuckle of fresh ginger, grated

Directions:

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. When I say salted, I mean salted. It should taste like the sea…so really salty.
  • Add the stalks of the broccoli to the boiling water and boil for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, add the florets to the water. Boil for an additional 2 minutes.
  • Fill another large bowl with generously salted ice water. After the florets have been in the boiling water for 2 minutes, remove all of the broccoli (the stalks and the florets) from the boiling water and into the ice bath to stop the cooking process and lock in that bright green color! You don’t want your broccoli to be thoroughly cooked through. It should still have a bit of texture to it.
  • Remove the broccoli from the ice water to a paper towel to dry it.
  • In the meantime, make your vinaigrette. In a small bowl or mason jar (I make all of my dressings in mason jars for easy shaking), add the zest and juice of 2 lemons, olive oil, honey, and ginger. Shake it up (or whisk) until emulsified. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine the broccoli, carrots, mint, cashews and goji berries (if using). Pour the vinaigrette over the veggies and stir to combine.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Fool Proof Fish: How to Cook your Favorite Fish Perfectly!

codenpapillote

I think by now we have all heard that fish is great for our health! It’s an amazing source of omega 3 fatty acids, which help maintain our cardiovascular health, help us to develop neurologically healthy babies, and aid in reducing tissue inflammation in the body.

However for a long time, the only time I ate fish was when I went out to restaurants. In retrospect I realize this was a bad idea, as the majority of fish found in restaurants is farm-raised unless otherwise specified. Oh well. You live and you learn. The benefits of eating wild fish as opposed to farm-raised is a different post for a different day! I’ll get to that.

Anyhow, I guess I always felt intimidated by preparing fish at home. I’m not sure why though. I think it’s because I just didn’t really know how to prepare it. If I grilled it, it always stuck to the grill. If I baked it, I always overcooked it and overcooked fish just tastes…fishy!

Enter En Papillote, pronounced on-pap-ee-ote. I know it sounds fancy but it’s really not. It’s a method of French cooking that literally just translates to “in paper”. And that’s just what it is. You cook the fish in a pouch made of parchment paper. It works beautifully everytime.

In this particular recipe, I used Thai flavors, because my husband adores any and all things Asian-inspired. It’s kind of a no-brainer for me. But you can absolutely use any flavors you like! If you learn this method, you can taylor it to your tastes.

There are just four components to this method:

  1. Vegetables
  2. Liquid (this is your flavor agent!)
  3. Fish
  4. Parchment

Ingredients (this is for 4 portions)

  • 2 lbs fresh fish, any kind you like (more on how to pick it in a minute). I used wild Atlantic Cod.
  • 4 cups mixed vegetables. In this recipe, I used 1 bell pepper- julienned (a.k.a. thinly sliced), 1/2 of a red onion- julienned, 1 zucchini- noodled using my vegetable peeler or a julienne peeler, and 2 carrots- noodled.
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, grated on a microplane
  • zest and juice of 2 limes
  • 1/4 cup coconut aminos (you may use soy sauce)
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • sea salt and pepper

Method:

  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Cut your parchment paper. You will need about a 12×18 piece for each pocket. Fold each piece in half lengthwise and cut into a heart shape (you know, like you would to make a homemade heart-shaped valentine).

enpapilloteveg

  • Prepare your vegetables. As I said, in this recipe I used red onion, bell pepper, zucchini and carrots. Feel free to use what you like, just make sure you slice them very thinly because the only cooking will be for a few minutes in the oven. Thinly sliced mushrooms would be great. Boy Choy would be awesome. Spinach even better.  I just really enjoy the carrots and zucchini because they become like noodles, yet they retain a bit of crispness- perfect!

enpapilloteinparchment

  • Pile about 1 cup of veggies onto your prepared parchement paper heart. You want to position the veg on the fattest part of the heart. At this time, if using, add your grated ginger, lime zest and garlic on top of the veggies.
  • Prepare your sauce. This is where you can get really creative. I used coconut aminos (like soy sauce but better), fish sauce, lime juice and honey. Just play around and taste as you create. If the sauce tastes good, the fish will taste good. You could use white wine, lemon juice, or balsamic vinegar, or just some chicken stock. You just about 1/2 cup total of some sort of liquid in your pouch to steam your fish and vegetables.
  • Next prepare your fish. As I said, you can use any sort you like. I chose my fresh fish based on two criteria: 1) What’s the best price that day? 2) What’s the freshest? Obviously the first question you can answer by looking at the prices in the cooler. The second you can accomplish by asking the fish monger what he recommends. Then, ask to see it. It should NOT smell fishy. Fresh fish has no odor. If it smells fishy, it isn’t fresh. Also, the eyes should be clear. If they’re cloudy, it isn’t fresh.
    Okay, we have that out of the way. So season your fish liberally with sea salt and pepper and place it on top of your vegetables.

enpapillotefinish

  • Beginning at the point of the heart, fold the paper over itself around the veggies and fish. Leave a hole when you get to the top so that you can pour in your sauce. I recommend pouring in your sauce with the pockets on a cookie sheet because they’re a bit awkward to transfer once they have the liquid in them. After you’ve poured in the liquid, finish folding the pocket, tucking the last fold underneath the pocket so that it doesn’t open up. Repeat this with all of your pockets.
  • Brush the outside of the parchment paper with oil (any kind, you’re not eating it) so that it doesn’t burn in the oven.
  • Bake the pouches (on a cookie sheet) at 400 degrees F for anywhere from 10-14 minutes.

For this cod, I baked for 10 minutes. If you have a thin filet of fish, such as tilapia, 10 minutes will be enough. If you are using a thicker cut of white fish, perhaps a mahi mahi, you’ll need to cook it for more like 12 minutes. Salmon, depending on how you like it cooked with be 12-14 minutes. If you like it medium, go for 12. If you like it well-done, go for 14.

To serve, transfer to a plate and take the whole pouch to the table. Rip open the paper and give yourself a facial with the steam! I served this one with a squeeze of lime and a garnish of cilantro! However you serve it, this makes a beautiful presentation and it turns out moist, flaky and delicious every time! Enjoy!

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Fool Proof Fish: How to Cook your Favorite Fish Perfectly!

codenpapillote

I think by now we have all heard that fish is great for our health! It’s an amazing source of omega 3 fatty acids, which help maintain our cardiovascular health, help us to develop neurologically healthy babies, and aid in reducing tissue inflammation in the body.

However for a long time, the only time I ate fish was when I went out to restaurants. In retrospect I realize this was a bad idea, as the majority of fish found in restaurants is farm-raised unless otherwise specified. Oh well. You live and you learn. The benefits of eating wild fish as opposed to farm-raised is a different post for a different day! I’ll get to that.

Anyhow, I guess I always felt intimidated by preparing fish at home. I’m not sure why though. I think it’s because I just didn’t really know how to prepare it. If I grilled it, it always stuck to the grill. If I baked it, I always overcooked it and overcooked fish just tastes…fishy!

Enter En Papillote, pronounced on-pap-ee-ote. I know it sounds fancy but it’s really not. It’s a method of French cooking that literally just translates to “in paper”. And that’s just what it is. You cook the fish in a pouch made of parchment paper. It works beautifully everytime.

In this particular recipe, I used Thai flavors, because my husband adores any and all things Asian-inspired. It’s kind of a no-brainer for me. But you can absolutely use any flavors you like! If you learn this method, you can tailor it to your tastes.

There are just four components to this method:

  1. Vegetables
  2. Liquid (this is your flavor agent!)
  3. Fish
  4. Parchment

Ingredients (this is for 4 portions)

  • 2 lbs fresh fish, any kind you like (more on how to pick it in a minute). I used wild Atlantic Cod.
  • 4 cups mixed vegetables. In this recipe, I used 1 bell pepper- julienned (a.k.a. thinly sliced), 1/2 of a red onion- julienned, 1 zucchini- noodled using my vegetable peeler, and 2 carrots- noodled.
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, grated
  • zest and juice of 2 limes
  • 1/4 cup coconut aminos (you may use soy sauce)
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • sea salt and pepper

Method:

  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Cut your parchment paper. You will need about a 12×18 piece for each pocket. Fold each piece in half lengthwise and cut into a heart shape (you know, like you would to make a homemade heart-shaped valentine).

enpapilloteveg

  • Prepare your vegetables. As I said, in this recipe I used red onion, bell pepper, zucchini and carrots. Feel free to use what you like, just make sure you slice them very thinly because the only cooking will be for a few minutes in the oven. Thinly sliced mushrooms would be great. Boy Choy would be awesome. Spinach even better.  I just really enjoy the carrots and zucchini because they become like noodles, yet they retain a bit of crispness- perfect!

enpapilloteinparchment

  • Pile about 1 cup of veggies onto your prepared parchment paper heart. You want to position the veg on the fattest part of the heart. At this time, if using, add your grated ginger, lime zest and garlic on top of the veggies.
  • Prepare your sauce. This is where you can get really creative. I used coconut aminos (like soy sauce but better), fish sauce, lime juice and honey. Just play around and taste as you create. If the sauce tastes good, the fish will taste good. You could use white wine, lemon juice, or balsamic vinegar, or just some chicken stock. You just about 1/2 cup total of some sort of liquid in your pouch to steam your fish and vegetables.
  • Next prepare your fish. As I said, you can use any sort you like. I chose my fresh fish based on two criteria: 1) What’s the best price that day? 2) What’s the freshest? Obviously the first question you can answer by looking at the prices in the cooler. The second you can accomplish by asking the fish monger what he recommends. Then, ask to see it. It should NOT smell fishy. Fresh fish has no odor. If it smells fishy, it isn’t fresh. Also, the eyes should be clear. If they’re cloudy, it isn’t fresh.
    Okay, we have that out of the way. So season your fish liberally with sea salt and pepper and place it on top of your vegetables.

enpapillotefinish

  • Beginning at the point of the heart, fold the paper over itself around the veggies and fish. Leave a hole when you get to the top so that you can pour in your sauce. I recommend pouring in your sauce with the pockets on a cookie sheet because they’re a bit awkward to transfer once they have the liquid in them. After you’ve poured in the liquid, finish folding the pocket, tucking the last fold underneath the pocket so that it doesn’t open up. Repeat this with all of your pockets.
  • Brush the outside of the parchment paper with oil (any kind, you’re not eating it) so that it doesn’t burn in the oven.
  • Bake the pouches (on a cookie sheet) at 400 degrees F for anywhere from 10-14 minutes.

For this cod, I baked for 10 minutes. If you have a thin filet of fish, such as tilapia, 10 minutes will be enough. If you are using a thicker cut of white fish, perhaps a mahi mahi, you’ll need to cook it for more like 12 mintues. Salmon, depending on how you like it cooked with be 12-14 minutes. If you like it medium, go for 12. If you like it well-done, go for 14.

To serve, transfer to a plate and take the whole pouch to the table. Rip open the paper and give yourself a facial with the steam! I served this one with a squeeze of lime and a garnish of cilantro! However you serve it, this makes a beautiful presentation and it turns out moist, flaky and delicious everytime! Enjoy!

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No Bean Spicy Jalepeno Hummus

nobeanhummus

I’m a huge fan of hummus! Can’t get enough. I can, however, get enough beans. Sometimes it’s just not so convenient to have a gut full of beans (if you know what I mean).

So how do you get the flavor and texture of hummus without the chick peas? Zucchini of course! Zucchini is a relatively unassuming flavor so it works perfect in this dip and it’s a fantastic way to get more veggies in my little one who will eat absolutely anything that’s dippable!

Although I’ve removed the beans from this recipe, it’s still a protein and nutrition packed snack. Sesame seeds (in the form of tahini in this case) are loaded with calcium, potassium, B vitamins and essential fatty acids. Additionally, they weigh in at about 3 grams of protein per tbsp!

And because I always enjoy a little spice in my life, why not spice up this hummus? The jalapeno adds a great zing that’s just the right amount of heat. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium zucchini, peeled and rough chopped
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Put the zucchini, tahini, lemon juice, lime juice, jalapeno and garlic in your high speed blender or food processor (I use my Ninja).
  • Process until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides.
  • With the motor running, stream in the olive oil. I say 2-4 tbsp because the amount you use will vary depending on how much water is in the zucchini and how thick you like your hummus.
  • Taste, and season with sea salt and pepper to taste. Serve with cucumber slices, bell pepper, carrots or whatever you prefer to eat your hummus with. Enjoy!

Drive-By Check-Ups: Five Secrets to Getting the Most from your Doctor’s Visits!

doctor

You know the drill. You go to the doctor’s office for your yearly check-up. You wait in the appropriately named “waiting room” for an hour and a half past your scheduled appointment time. The medical assistant pops her head out the door and FINALLY calls your name. You plop your magazine down, walk through the door, make a quick stop at the dreaded scales, and are escorted into a tiny cold room. The M.A. checks your blood pressure, and maybe your pulse and temperature and then quickly shuffles out of the room muttering “the doctor will be with you shortly”. So you wait patiently (or not so patiently)… again..for another thirty minutes or so. While you’re waiting you glance around the room at the various informational packets and latest studies on why you should be on a statin if your total cholesterol is over 200 (ugghhh). All of a sudden you’re startled when the doctor abruptly walks in (Oh yeah, that’s right…I was waiting for the doctor). He asks how you’re feeling while simultaneously listening to your heart and lungs (he’s an amazing multi-tasker).  “Mmm hmm. Yep. Okay. Everything looks fine here. If you don’t have any other concerns I’ll see you next year. Okay great have a nice day then!” and walks out. HUH! Wait! What just happened? Was that a drive-by check-up? Did I seriously just spend my entire afternoon waiting for that?

I think most of us have probably experienced this kind of appointment or one similar to it at some point, and it can be very frustrating. You go in thinking you’re finally going to talk to your doctor about that pesky mole you have on your back or that chronic nagging knee pain and before you know it, the doctor came and went and you didn’t discuss any of your concerns! Alright I’m not suggesting that all doctors are like this. I’ve had experiences like this one (obviously) and I’ve had wonderful experiences where I left feeling like I got to discuss my health concerns and the doctor really listened to me, actually cared about what I was saying, and took his or her time with my appointment. Finding a doctor who makes you feel like they care and learning to make the most of your appointments is very important to a satisfying doctor-patient relationship. I think it most certainly helps that I’m a nurse so I’ve gotten to spend quite a bit of time talking to various doctors in a clinical and hospital setting.  I’ve picked up some tips along the way on how you can plan ahead to get the most out of your doctor visits!

1) Try To Get The FIRST Appointment Of The Day!

So this one is kind of a no-brainer for me. For one thing, don’t you want to just get it out of the way for the day? I don’t really know anybody who enjoys going to the doctor (okay actually I do but that’s a different post for a different day). Anyhow, try to get the first appointment of the day, and if you cannot get that, go for the first appointment back after lunch. First thing in the morning they should be running on schedule. If you schedule an appointment for 10 AM or 3 PM it’s highly likely that somewhere along the line they’ve gotten behind. Also, when you go early, your doctor is fresh! He’s more likely to be able to focus on you and not be distracted by his growling stomach or the fact that he’s just exhausted and ready to pack it in for the day! Doctors are not superheroes (although some may think they are). They’re people too and taking care of others all day can be draining!

2) Make A LIST Of Everything You Want To Discuss!

You know how it happens. You go in wanting to discuss something that felt very important to you at the time, but when you finally get face-to-face with your doctor you forget what it was you wanted to talk about! So I suggest you make a list. Now I’m not suggesting that you write down that strange pain you had in your left pinky toe a few months back. That’s how the doctor gets behind in the first place! Keep it concise. In a perfect world, your doctor would have time to address every ache and pain you have, but in this world where keeping up with mountains of paperwork in order to avoid litigation consumes hours upon hours of their time, they simply do not have two hours to spend with every patient. Sad but true. Write down those things that are of greatest importance and address them first, and maybe if you catch him in a great mood and he has the time, you’ll get to talk about that pinky toe afterall.

3) Bring A FRIEND Along!

If you can, bring a friend! A spouse, a granddaughter, a nephew- anyone you trust and feel comfortable sharing your personal medical information with who is willing to come with you! And don’t just bring them and leave them in the waiting room. The point is to actually bring them back to the room with you! A patient advocate is extremely important. Sometimes it can be very difficult to comprehend the information your doctor is giving you. They use words that are everyday vocabulary for them, but may forget that it all sounds like Mandarin to you! If there are two of you there, you have doubled your chances that you will leave with a clearer understanding of the conversation you just had. Often times at appointments your doctor is giving you medication instructions or discussing  disease processes and it can be extremely overwhelming and nearly impossible to absorb all at one time. Having that extra person there to listen and discuss it with later can be hugely beneficial! And if that person you bring happens to have a bit of a medical knowledge, that’s a major bonus! But not imperative.

4) Keep Your OWN Medical Record!

I know this sounds a bit anal, but I can tell you that as an ER nurse, it was always very refreshing when people actually had some knowledge of their medical history, what medications they were taking (and actually knew why they were taking them), what tests and surgeries they had, and what their normal or “baseline” vitals were. The really organized patients actually had it written down! Trust me when I say this makes it exponentially easier and more time efficient for both you and your physician when you don’t have to sit and ponder the last time you had a colonoscopy! I’m not suggesting that you go and request all of your lab tests and MRI reports. What I am saying is that it is prudent to have written down your significant- key word is significant medical history, medications you’re taking (and why if you cannot remember), and recent tests or surgeries. Bring that notebook with you to your appointment. When the medical assistant or nurse takes your vital signs, ask what the values were and write them down in your notebook. It is important to know what is normal for you, or your baseline, so that you know when something is abnormal. When you leave the appointment, talk it over with that friend your brought, and write down how the appointment went and what you discussed with your physician. Record any medication changes, and anything else noteworthy specific to that appointment. As I said, I know this may appear a bit anal, but nobody is responsible for your health except for you- not even your doctor!

5) If You Feel Like You Are Getting The BRUSH-OFF, Find A New Doctor!

I don’t advocate “doctor-shopping” (a.k.a. habitually switching or seeing different doctors until you find one that tells you what you want to hear). However, if you try all of these things and you still feel like you are not able to form any kind of functional doctor-patient relationship, it may be time to look elsewhere. This does not mean that this particular physician is not perfectly competent. He or she is probably a great physician- for someone else. You are not going to “click” with every doctor, just as you don’t “click” with everyone person! However it is imperative to find a physician you can develop a working relationship with and that you trust. The point of having a primary care physician is so they he can get to know you and your history and can help manage your overall health. Notice I said help. It is still your responsibility to take care of your own health! 

So next time you have to go in for that yearly check-up, or any doctor appointment for that matter, consider these tips. Plan ahead! It will save you and your doctor precious time!

How to Make the Most of your Farmer’s Market!

farmersbountyFarmer’s Markets are popping up everywhere these days! It seems like even the small towns are inviting the farmer’s to set up shop for a few hours once a week. Even the little town in Michigan that I grew up in with population 5,000 and only one gas station started a farmer’s market this year. It’s amazing! Currently my husband and little one and I live in Nashville, where there are at least fifteen or so markets in the greater Nashville area. To be honest, I wasn’t all that impressed with the main downtown market! It’s open everyday, which is convenient, but there really isn’t a whole lot there that I can’t get somewhere else. Now I know, you’re thinking, at least it’s local right? Wrong! On closer examination, a lot of the produce isn’t  local! And barely any of it is organic! If it has a Sunkist sticker on it, it probably didn’t come from a local farmer. When I go to a farmer’s market, I’m looking for quality local produce and products for good prices, and if it’s organic I count it a bonus! So how do I find it? I’ll give you some pointers.

1) Seek out the smaller markets. The big farmer’s markets are great, but those guys are bringing massive amounts of produce with the intent of selling lots of quantity. The farmers who are bringing their produce to the smaller markets are only bringing a small amount of their best crop. They go for quality. They’re not bringing 30 different things. They bring 8-10 different crops that they hand-picked that morning before they brought it to market. It’s going to be fresh! Think about it, the farmers who bring a huge quantity of stuff were not out picking it this morning right? You will get the best quality, freshest produce from the smaller farms.

pattypan

2) Talk to the farmers. The farmers at the smaller markets who are bringing their best crop want to tell you about it. Farming is a labor of love! They love what they do. They’re passionate about it and they’re proud of what they’re growing. And you can totally taste the love when you eat that gorgeous heirloom tomato. Ask them what is the freshest that day. If you don’t know what something is, ask! If you don’t know how to pick the ripest tomato, ask them to pick it for you! If you see something beautiful but you have no idea how to cook it, ask! I ran across these gorgeous pattypan (pictured above) but I had no clue what to do with it! Turns out, it’s just like any other squash! They are more than happy to tell you all about the fruit of their labor.

3) Organic is great. No doubt. However, as I said, these smaller markets draw in local farmers, who are not in it for the money and probably not making a ton of money. A USDA certification label costs a ton of money. Many of them, even though they can’t slap the label on it are practicing organic farming. Again, you just have to ask. And sometimes you don’t even have to ask. They will put a little handwritten cardboard sign underneath the basket that says “organically grown”. That sign is as good as gold to me and even better than a USDA label. These people are not trying to rip you off. They want to sell you quality produce.

oystermushrooms

4) If you cannot find what you’re looking for, again I say, ask the farmers and people selling their handmade products. If they don’t have it, chances are they know where you can get it. For instance, nobody at the market was selling raw milk (for my imaginary dog, of course) but I was pretty sure the girl selling her extra kombucha mothers and homemade kimchi could tell me where to find it. Sure enough, she did.

5) Bring cash. This is not %100 necessary, but it’s just a courtesy to the vendors. Most vendors at farmer’s markets now have those adaptors they put on their iphones, but they have to pay per transaction when you use your debit or credit card so they would prefer to work with cash. So don’t forget to make a pit stop at the ATM before you go.

I’ve had GREAT farmer’s market experiences (like I had today) and I’ve had not-so-great farmer’s market experiences. The trick is to get out there and find your favorite ones. Go often and get to know the farmers. I can’t stress that enough. Introduce yourself and shake that farmer’s hand. It’s literally the hand that feeds you!