Have you heard everyone going crazy about antioxidants? Do you even know what they are? Here's the scoop on the basics... followed by a recipe!
Antioxidants are naturally occurring compounds found in some foods and beverages (coffee and tea). Antioxidants are comprised of vitamins, minerals and flavanoids. 'Popular' naturally-occurring antioxidants include Vitamins C and E, polyphenols (resveratrol in wine, grape skins and anthocyanins in berries) and carotenoids (lycopene in tomatoes, carotenes in orange and yellow veggies), and many more. And yes, there are flavanols in chocolate and carob!
What makes them so special? Well, antioxidants protect cells in your body from 'free radical' damage. Free radicals are nasty unpaired molecules that oxidize whatever they touch (like turning metal into rust). Oxidation occurs naturally in your body, and you are exposed to it in your daily life by pollutants in the environment. So you have unpaired molecules floating around turning your juicy healthy cells into nasty rusty cells, and your superman antioxidant comes along, steals up that extra oxidizing electron and stops the chain of decay. See? They are ANTI-oxidants.
Antioxidants keep your cells healthy, and have been shown to fight off diseases such as some cancers, heart disease and Alzheimers. Your best bet is to get them from food sources and 'eat from the rainbow'... a wide variety of different colored foods will likely cover your bases (think rich dark blues and reds, yellow, orange and greens). And a little snack of berries, dark chocolate, green tea or red wine will fight off those free radicals.
Now the obvious choice would be to share a Superfood rainbow salad or something, but instead I'm sharing a dessert recipe from my childhood. You can get antioxidants from all sorts of places. This recipe contains carob, raisins, honey (polyphenols) and almond butter (Vitamin E), so it's an antioxidant-packed cleanse-friendly dessert!
Carob Coconut Balls
1/2 cup carob powder
1/2 cup almond butter
1/4 cup honey
1-2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup raisins
Stays good up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator!
Well, it's spring cleanse time for me! I'll share a few more nutrient-packed recipes that I enjoy. First off, here's how to sprout some beans! These pack a punch of nutrients and add an interesting nutty crunch to salads, stews or stir-fry (oh my!).
Step 1: Start with a handful of dry beans (I used mung beans-- they're weird and green and cool and I feel super healthy using them :)
You can use just about any bean like lentils, chickpeas, adzuki, white, black. What cool bean have you tried?
Soak them overnight (or 8 hours) in water. Mason jars look hipster, so that's why I like them. Any container that you can drain water in and out of will do. They will triple in size so start small.
Step 2: For the next 3-5 days, rinse the beans with water a few times each day and drain the water out. Basically you want to keep them looking just barely wet, without being soggy.
Some awesome people have cheese cloth lying around (do you?), and those rockstars could use that to cover the jar for easy rinsing. Pantyhose would also work. I'm too lazy (and am also afraid that I probably DO have a pair of pantyhose from the 90's buried somewhere) that I just use my hand to keep the beans from falling out when I drain the water. Don't avoid making sprouts just because you don't have cheese cloth :)
Step 3: Chow down! 3-5 days of sprouting and they're ready to eat! Throw them onto something delicious and chomp away. After they look nice and sprouty, you can move them in the fridge to retard their growth. They should stay good for a week or so, but you can rinse after a couple of days to keep them fresh. They will start growing little green leaves like tiny trees. How miraculous is that??
Here I've made a veggie-rich lentil stew, dished it into a roasted acorn squash, and topped with sprouts and avocado. Yum!
Well, 5 days into a new food trial, and feeling fine. Jury's still out on the chicken experiment. I liked it one day, and then wasn't thrilled with it as leftovers. I had to smother it in sauce and convince myself it was tofu. My winning recipe finds are below.(If you're a food photographer, please don't laugh at me.)
Simple protein salad:
roasted butternut squash (450 oven, coconut oil, salt, 20mins YUM)
easy balsamic vinaigrette (olive oil, balsamic, dijon, salt, pepper)
Simple protein salad in a jar:
Same salad as above, added some more chopped fresh veggies (cukes, carrots, snow peas, sprouts) and put it in a jar for easy lunches!
Thai Chicken with Spicy 'Peanut' Sauce
The sauce was really delicious... and it looked beautiful! Luckily Ballard Market sells spiralized zucchini, because a spiralizer I have not.
Kale and Egg Quiche with Sweet Potato 'Crust'
Turned a breakfast recipe into dinner, because why not?
This was phenomenal! A bit of miso adds a robust flavor to the eggs and veggies. The sweet potato crust was easy and delicious! It came out more like a casserole, but who cares?
Those of you who know me, know that I freaking LOVE ice cream. In fact, I never limit my intake, and I rarely let the freezer get below 3 cartons at at time. I don't even consider it a weakness or a vice. It's just who I am!
I have at times decided to try different warm, cooked desserts, and have found some great blogs with delicious healthy dessert recipes, but no matter what, this girl needs dessert after dinner.
My new naturopathic doctor specializes in ayurvedic medicine (some of you may have heard it called the 'science of yoga'). One of the things ayurvedic practitioners look at is your 'constitution', or your combination of attributes, tendencies and traits. Since each individual has a different combination of these, the medicine required for you is more individualized based on your constitution, and it may vary seasonally. My constitution is one that actually doesn't do well with cold or raw foods (especially during the cold months), and my doctor recommended ocassionally replacing my bowl(s) of ice cream with some rich hot chocolate. Here's a recipe I found that has been blowing my mind!
Coconut milk is rich in flavor, and packed full of nutrients like fiber, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. And we all know that dark chocolate is full of flavenols and antioxidants, right? You can't go wrong with this combination. And it's dairy-free.
Coconut Milk Hot Chocolate
1 can coconut milk (light or regular)
1/2 bar of dark chocolate (at least 65%!)
1 t vanilla extract
Optional: extra chocolate, coconut whipped topping
Empty the can of coconut milk into a small saucepan, add the chocolate and vanilla. Stir over medium-high heat until the chocolate is melted. Pour into mugs, top with whipped topping, and serve hot!
Last time I added some extra Hershey's syrup to make that chocolate flavor even richer (ssshhhhh). We found that full-fat coconut milk is so rich, it feels like drinking a mug of creamy chocolate half and half. I may try light next time... will report back findings.
I went down to Pike Place on Sunday and bought the MOST DELICIOUS smoked king salmon from City Fish. If you're eating meat/poultry/fish on your cleanse, go for organic, grass-fed, free-range, etc (avoid the factory-farmed meats that have been fed hormones and antibiotics). Wild-caught Alaskan salmon is the best fish.
This week I'm making two delicious dishes to munch on for lunches and dinners:
Green Noodles and Chickpea Tagine. Recipes below.
Green Noodles (Adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie)
Makes 4 servings
1 T minced garlic
1 1/2 T fresh ginger, grated
1 cup fresh cilantro, loosely packed
1 t turmeric
1/2 t salt
1 t vegetable or coconut oil
15oz can coconut milk
1/4 cup water
2 T honey
2 T lime juice
Sauce: Puree ingredients above in a blender, then transfer to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer 15 minutes.
1 box spinach or 1 bunch kale
1 T minced garlic
1-2 T olive or coconut oil
3 T Braggs liquid aminos (or other gluten-free soy sauce alternative)
2 T water
6 cups broccoli, cut small
4-6 servings brown rice noodles (not the pad thai kind, but a spaghetti-size noodle)
avocado, for garnish
Chickpea Tagine (Yoga Journal) Makes 4 servings
2 T olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced (1 T)
2 14.5-oz. cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
¼ cup dried currants or raisins
1 t each ground turmeric, cinnamon, cumin
¼ t cayenne pepper
2 t honey
finely chopped parsley, for garnish
I serve mine over a brown rice, mung bean mix. To prepare this, soak about 1/4 cup mung beans (4 hrs - overnight). Rinse soaked beans and add enough brown rice to equal 1 cup. Put rice/mung beans into a small sauce pan and cover with 2 cups vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook 45-50 minutes.
I know that 'cleanse' can be a buzzword, so bear with me... when I talk about a seasonal cleanse, I mean a very low-key elimination diet based on cutting out foods that tend to cause inflammation or that people tend to be sensitive to, and replacing them with healthy, whole foods. I take some supplements for liver support and antioxidants. I can't speak to the juice fasts or intense cleanses that some people choose to do because I've never tried (and probably never will) do something that extreme. My fall and spring cleanses are a way to clear out any junk that has built up in my liver or digestive tract from eating processed foods, alcohol, caffeine, sugars, preservatives in pre-packaged foods, etc. Our livers work so hard... sometimes they need a break!
I learned about this type of cleanse from Dr. Deborah Epstein, a naturopath who specializes in digestive health. She recommends about 10-14 days twice per year of the elimination diet. She also makes her own rad liver cleanse supplement and herbal tea. (Disclaimer: If you have more serious digestive or health issues, this may not be for you. It's also great to get guidance from a doctor if you are thinking of trying a cleanse.)
I usually look forward to my cleanse time. For one, I have an excuse to say no to all the parties and bar-hopping I've been invited to (yes, I'm an introvert), and for two, I love actively pursuing new and delicious recipes. So many doors open up when I get away from my lazy-food lifestyle. I am usually in awe of the delicious flavors and creative foods that I can eat when I start looking for 'cleanse-friendly' food. In my normal life, I forget about coconut oil, tahini, cashew cream, mung beans, coconut milk, shredded beets, fennel, chia seeds (... OK, maybe that list doesn't sound delicious... but seriously, I'll share some delicious recipes). I even found a replacement chocolate bar recipe!
Chocolate Bar (cleanse-friendly)
Recipe adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie.
1/4 cup carob or cocoa powder
1/4 cup coconut oil
3 T honey
Optional: shredded coconut, dried fruit, nuts
Mix ingredients together in a bowl, spoon into a sandwich-size ziploc baggie. Smoosh flat, and freeze until solid... doesn't take long! YUM!
The elimination diet involves cutting out the following foods: processed foods, refined grains and sugars (ie white rice), alcohol, caffeine, gluten, soy, dairy, eggs, corn, peanuts, and factory-farmed meats. Though this may seem intimidating, there is SO MUCH flavorful and filling food that is outside of this list. There is no limit on the amount of food during a cleanse, you shouldn't feel hungry, snack as much as you want. I find that I stay fuller longer and feel more satiated when I'm eating delicious (and fibrous) cleanse food vs the processed, packaged alternatives.
This morning I started the day with delicious refrigerator oatmeal adapted from Oh She Glows.
1/3-1/2 cup organic oats (steel-cut is best)
1/2 cup organic (unsweetened) almond milk (other non-dairy milks are fine here... just look out for additives)
1 T chia seeds
1/4 t cinnamon
1-2 t honey
1/2 t vanilla extract
Toppings: fresh berries, pecans, pumpkin seeds, shredded coconut, banana, or whatever strikes you
Mix all ingredients in a small mason jar or tupperware (I use a little magic bullet container). Shake. Refrigerate overnight. The next morning, adjust the milk and honey and top with toppings.
This is so delicious and satisfying! I drink a cup of green or green chai tea sweetened with honey or stevia (a little caffeine in green tea is OK because it's so full of healthy antioxidants!) and I am good to go until my mid-morning snack of bananas and almond butter :)
I'll post more recipes this week. Happy fall!
I am a lifetime learner and researcher in happy, healthy, fun living.