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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sweet Potato & Kale Soup (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free)


Sweet potatoes have my heart. I have a deep love affair with them. The kind of love that will last a lifetime. The "God must have spent a little more time on you..." type of love. Food crush Friday. Love struck by the vegetable cupid. Too far? Fair enough. What can I say? When you're in love, you're in love. You don't choose who you fall in love with, guys. In all seriousness, this silky smooth soup is sure to warm you up and fill you up with exuberant nutrition.

Today's ingredient spotlight goes to...

Sweet potato - One of the oldest vegetables known to man, the sweet potato is naturally sweet and undoubtedly nutritious. According to the USDA, 1 medium sweet potato provides more than a day's worth of vitamin A and 35% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C. Vitamin A is essential for healthy immune function, eyesight and for keeping our skin and mucous membrane cells healthy. According to this article written by Jennifer Brett, N.D., on the Discovery Fit & Health website, healthy membranes prevent cell damage largely due to the moisture they produce. This moistness prevents bacteria and viruses from causing infections in the body. Brett also spoke to vitamin A's cancer-fighting properties: "Healthy cells are also resistant to cancers. Vitamin A fights cancer by inhibiting the production of DNA in cancerous cells. It slows down tumor growth in established cancers and may keep leukemia cells from dividing." 

Interestingly enough, in order to receive all of the benefits of the beta-carotene (in the form of vitamin A) in this root vegetable, it must be eaten with a small amount of fat. Fortunately, in the sweet potato & kale soup, that healthy fat comes from the coconut oil.  

Sweet potatoes are also a good source of calcium, potassium, manganese, copper, and fiber. Potassium is especially important to include in our diet when we're stressed because in that state of tension, potassium can be lost through urine. Also, much of the nutrition is in the skin of the potato, which is removed in this particular recipe, but it's a good thing to keep in mind. 

Sweet potatoes can be steamed, boiled or roasted/baked. Though research has found that baking a sweet potato increases its glycemic index (the measure of how a food effects blood sugar levels) while steaming or boiling lowers its glycemic index, it's more important to pay attention to the glycemic load. The glycemic load takes into account the quality and quantity of the carbohydrate in a food. If you look at a carrot, for example, it has a relatively high glycemic index (47) but a low glycemic load (2) because GL gets specific and takes into consideration the amount of food eaten and its nutritional quality whereas GI does not. Another example is in the case of diet soda and heavy cream. Because they both have 0 carbs, their GI and GL is 0! So, as you can see, GI can be misleading because you would never tell someone to avoid carrots and load up on heavy cream comprised mostly of saturated fat and diet soda aka disease in a can. Dr. David Katz put it this way in an article on usnews.com

"Consider, for instance, that one person weighs 170 pounds, and another weighs 120 pounds. Who is heavier?

The answer is obvious: The person who weighs 170 pounds. But that obvious answer might be totally misleading. What if the person who weighs 170 pounds is 6 foot 5, and the person who weighs 120 pounds is 4 foot 5? In all the ways that matter, the shorter person is now the "heavier" of the two.

The glycemic index is subject to this same limitation, because it compares comparable portions of "carbohydrate" in foods. Traditionally, comparisons are based on a 50-gram portion.

See the problem? Carrots, famously, have a rather high glycemic index. But it takes 4 cups of carrots to amount to 50 grams of carbs. In contrast, a cup and a half of vanilla ice cream has 50 grams of carbs. A small portion of ice cream is compared to a very large portion of carrots. Cotton candy provides more than 50 grams of carbs in less than 2 ounces.

So the glycemic index, while useful when comparing similar foods, may be rather misleading when comparing dissimilar foods—just as weight can be misleading when comparing people of very dissimilar heights."

Moving on... This soup is a cakewalk to make if you have a high-powered high-quality blender such as a Vitamix. If not, I would half the recipe (because it fills my 64 oz. Vitamix blender almost to the top) and see if that works.

If you've been interested in buying a Vitamix but have been hesitant to take the plunge, I found a company called Sunshine Juicers (<--- click that link) that sells the 5200 Vitamix blender (called the Vitamix Turboblend VS) for $50 off the original price of $449 with this discount code: 5200X. I realize that anything over $50-$100 seems to be a ridiculous amount to pay for a blender, let alone over $400, but let me tell you, it is worth every penny and then some. You'll only be sorry you hadn't bought one sooner. Plain and simple, this blender makes eating healthy easier and tastier. It saves time and hassle and the consistency of smoothies, soups, dips, desserts, etc. is as smooth as ever, not chunky one bit. That quality alone has made it worth the money because the one I was using before was an absolute nightmare and it eventually burned out. Plus, some people have said their Vitamix blender has lasted over 30 years. I just purchased mine in February so I obviously can't quite speak to its reliability long-term, but from my experience so far, I couldn't be more pleased. It's certainly added value to my life as I use it almost daily.

Think of it as an investment in your health. Over the long run, it saves money because you won't have to keep paying for new blenders that crap out on you in a few years. And for the record, I don't get paid to speak so highly of Vitamix or promote their products - I wish I did LOL - but it really is top of the line. I hope the discount will be helpful for some of you!

Getting back to the recipe... If you know your blender isn't up to speed or if you don't have a blender, you could use a food processor, but I would still half the recipe as most food processors are not apt to fit the volume of liquid and solids that the full recipe requires. If you're cooking for no more than 1 or 2 people, you'll love the fact that this recipe makes enough to have leftovers for days. On the other hand, this soup is also so great because it's suitable to satisfy 4 people. I hope you love it as much as I do, but don't fall too hard. ;-)

Sweet Potato & Kale Soup

YIELD: 4 servings

INGREDIENTS
• 3 medium-large sweet potatoes, baked and chopped (about 6 cups chopped)
• 2 cups unsweetened almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
• 2 cups vegetable broth, divided
• 1 bunch lacinato/dino kale, chopped into bite-sized pieces
• 1 Tbs virgin coconut oil
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 tsp coriander
• 1 tsp cumin
• 3/4 tsp sea salt
• Black pepper, to taste
• 1/2 - 1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
Parsley, finely chopped, to garnish (optional)

DIRECTIONS
1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and scrub the sweet potatoes and dry well. Prick the potatoes all over with a fork. Place on a baking sheet lined with foil or on a Silpat and bake for 50-60 minutes, until tender/soft. It may take more than 60 minutes depending on the thickness of the potato.

2. While the sweet potatoes are baking, prepare the garlic and kale to be sautéed. Mince the garlic and wash, dry and chop the kale.


3. When the sweet potatoes are done baking, let them cool for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a 3-quart sauté pan over medium-low heat, heat the oil. Then, sauté the minced garlic for a few minutes until fragrant and soft but not colored (keep a close on it to avoid burning). Raise heat to high and add in 1/2 cup vegetable broth and kale and toss to combine. Cover and cook for 4-5 minutes. Uncover and stir until all of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat.

4. After the sweet potatoes have cooled, remove the skin and chop into big chunks. Save any leftovers for another dish or to snack on. Combine the almond milk, 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth and 6 cups sweet potato in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth, no more than 30 seconds. Add more almond milk or vegetable broth if needed.
5. Place the sauté pan over low heat and pour the sweet potato mixture into the sautéed kale. Mix well. Next, mix in the coriander, cumin, sea salt, black pepper, and cinnamon (optional), and adjust seasonings to your liking. Top with parsley, if desired.

Just a side note on kale, since this post was dominated by sweet potatoes: the sautéed kale would be an awesome choice as a side to any other dish, too. :-) Let me know how you like this soup if you make it!

"Sometimes what you're most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free." Robert Tew

How-To Peel, Cut & Roast Butternut Squash

How-To Peel, Cut & Roast Butternut Squash

INGREDIENTS
• 1 butternut squash
• 1 - 2 Tbsp virgin coconut oil or grapeseed oil, melted
• 1 Tbs dried rosemary (optional)
• High-quality sea salt and black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS
1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a baking sheet or casserole dish with coconut oil or place a Silpat (my favorite!) on a baking sheet (no need to grease a Silpat).







































2. Lay the squash on its side and cut off the bottom end. Then, cut off the stem on the other end.




3. The squash should be able to stand upright since the bottom part has been cut off for stability. In this position, peel the squash using a sharp vegetable peeler or use a large, sharpened chef's knife to take off the skin.


4. Lay the squash on its side and cut at the bottom of the neck (the longest part).


5. Still lying on its side, starting from the left or right, cut the squash into 1/2-inch rounds or 1-inch rounds, your choice, but keep it consistent throughout the recipe.

6. Stack two or three rounds on top of each other and cut 1/2-inch (or 1 inch) slices lengthwise. Then, with one hand holding the rounds, use the other hand to cut the rounds crosswise to create cubes.

You're done with the neck. Now, onto the bottom half a.k.a the bulb...



7. Take the bottom half, the bulb, and sit it upright. Then, cut it in half. With a large spoon, scoop out the seeds and membranes and either discard or save the seeds to roast later (the seeds have awesome health benefits).







































 8. Place each half of the bulb cut side down. Now, very carefully so you don't slice off any fingers, cut 1/2-inch (or 1 inch) slices lengthwise. Then, cut cubes, crosswise, a few slices at a time.



9. Transfer the cubed squash to a bowl and toss with coconut oil or grapeseed oil, rosemary, if desired, sea salt, and black pepper.



10. Place the squash on the baking sheet. Roast for 30-35 minutes, or until lightly browned.

You're done! Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Creamy Almond Butter Sesame Dressing (Vegan, Gluten-Free) + Powerful Foods That Prevent Breast Cancer & Why Mammograms May Not Be The Answer

Salad dressings can really make or break a salad, don't you agree? It should be the perfect complement to the greens and other vegetables in the salad - not overpowering, not too oily, not bland. I made the same homemade salad dressing for a very long time, the one from my very first post, but I desperately needed to spice things up. This almond butter sesame salad dressing is one of the tastiest I've ever had and the best part about it is that it can be whipped up in just a few minutes time!

I'll 'fess up - I haven't always loved eating salads and leafy greens were never first on my list of favorite foods. I actually avoided them at all costs up until 2 years ago but I've found 2 ways to not only tolerate them, but to love and appreciate them. Drinking them first thing in the morning blended up in smoothies and enjoying them in a salad accompanied by a delicious dressing has definitely helped secure their position as some of my most favorite foods. I'm still learning to love some of them, but luckily over time our taste buds adapt to the new foods in our diet.

As I've mentioned before, I eat a salad full of raw vegetables before lunch and dinner to help with portion control (thanks, fiber!) and to ensure I'm consuming an abundance of raw and living foods in general. Some nutrients can be destroyed during the cooking process (but some nutrients can also become available and therefore more absorbable if cooked - however not fried, grilled or cooked at really high temperatures where browning occurs), so I find it easiest to have a salad with a dynamite dressing before most meals to balance that out. And again, drinking a green smoothie in the morning a few days, or everyday, out of the week is also an awesome way to get raw veggies into your body for optimal digestion and health.



I constantly change up my salads so that I don't get bored but in the salad pictured above, it's a simple mix of romaine lettuce, celery, and red and yellow bell peppers. I also sprinkled 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseeds on top after I took the picture, for an added boost of fiber, heart-healthy omega-3 essential fatty acids and lignans (which act as antioxidants). I put spinach and kale in my smoothies because I don't love them on their own - I know! I'm the weirdo who's forcing myself to pretend to love kale on its own because everyone else lives and breathes for it - but romaine is so great in salads because it has a neutral taste, not too bitter like some other leafy greens I know, *ahem* kale, watercress, arugula, and collards!

Another thing I'd like to address in this post is breast cancer, especially with October being breast cancer awareness month. Now, what I'm about to say might set some people off but hear me out. We are bombarded with the message that the most important thing we can do to protect ourselves from breast cancer is to get a mammogram. What if I were to tell you that mammograms are contributing to breast cancer? In a study reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, it was found that at-risk women who were advised to get a mammogram as early as age 30 had an even greater risk for breast cancer due to the radiation emitted from the mammogram.

Researchers used data from 22 pedigree studies, consisting of 8,139 subjects, and found that for women who carry the BRCA1 or BRCA-2 mutation and are 25-29 years old, that annual mammograms actually increased the risk of radiation-induced breast cancer. The exposure to radiation from the mammogram has proven to be harmful.

A group of 6 studies showed that for post-menopausal estrogen-positive women who underwent chemotherapy, no significant benefit was found following the treatment. In other words, current screening methods and treatments are causing more damage and are not prolonging lives or reducing deaths like people may think. Evidence is showing that few, if any, lives are saved because of mammograms. After all, it is still the second leading cause of death in women, after heart disease. 

It's important to mention that this doesn't mean those who have been successful at detecting breast cancer early with a mammogram should be disregarded, it is just that it is very rare and if it does happen, it's usually too late for medical care to make a substantial difference. 

Let's face it, health care is a big business. So much emphasis is put on getting a mammogram, but we're not seeing breast cancer rates decrease. They're actually rising and have been for decades. How is that happening with the millions upon millions of dollars that go to breast cancer research and with all of the mammograms that are done? 

PLEASE express your concerns with your doctor before making any major life-altering decisions with regards to your health. I am sharing this information with you to encourage you to take control of your health, to listen to your gut and to do your own research before going through with something that has the potential to be very damaging with seemingly more risk than benefit.

Dr. Joel Fuhrman, board-certified family physician and New York Times best-selling author says, "the problem is that instead of the focus being on the environmental, lifestyle and nutritional causes of cancer that really has the power to beat this disease, our nation and medical authorities are focused solely on mammograms, biopsies, radiation, and chemotherapy" and goes on to say, "breast cancer month is all about promoting mammograms to the astonishing exclusion of what women really should do to protect themselves." Fortunately, we have the answers within us. We have the capability to heal and protect ourselves from illness.

In this articleDr. Fuhrman gives us a few super powerful weapons to use against breast cancer and all cancers in general. He recommends taking a vitamin D supplement daily, which I have been doing for awhile now since I found out I was deficient in it a few years ago, like many people are. I use this brand. A study was published where 1,000 women received 1,100 IUs of vitamin D and were tracked over a 4 year period. The results were astonishing. Cancer incidences (all types) decreased by over 50%.¹ I've heard this a lot lately, that if vitamin D were a drug, it would be the most powerful cancer-fighting drug ever discovered. 

Another way to help combat cancer is to incorporate Dr. Fuhrman's anti-cancer food acronym GOMBBS into your life. That is, Greens, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries, Beans, and Seeds. Mushrooms have been shown to have anti-estrogenic effects and have also been found to inhibit tumor growth. In fact, eating one mushroom (portobello, white button, etc.) a day has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer by 60-70%!!!! 

Flaxseeds and mushrooms both block an estrogen-producing enzyme called aromatase. The lignans in flaxseeds, chia seeds and sesame seeds bind to estrogen receptors and help to protect us from hormone-related cancers. According to a source Dr. Fuhrman referred to in the article cited in the paragraph above, "women with breast cancer who began consuming flaxseed regularly showed significant tumor cell death after only one month" and "women who consumed more flaxseeds with higher levels of circulating lignans were found to have a 42% reduced risk of death from post-menopausal breast cancer and a dramatic 40% reduction in all causes of death." Why aren't these statistics and natural cancer-fighters on the cover of a popular magazine or in a TV advertisement that runs year-round?? Where are our dollars really going?

Click here for another informative article on this topic.

The truth is, you have your own personal pharmacy in your kitchen if you decide to make it that way.





Creamy Almond Butter Sesame Dressing


YIELD: Approx. 1 cup

INGREDIENTS
• 1/2 cup raw almond butter
• 3 Tbs raw apple cider vinegar (Bragg brand is my favorite)
• 2 Tbs reduced sodium tamari (gluten-free fermented soy sauce)
• 2 Tbs freshly squeezed lime juice
• 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
• 2 cloves garlic, peeled
Liquid stevia, to taste (I used 20 drops)
• 1 tsp dijon mustard (optional)
1 Tbs water (optional - if needed to dilute)

DIRECTIONS

1. To peel the garlic: on a cutting board, place the garlic clove flat side down, curved side up. Take your large chef's knife and place either flat side of the blade on top of the clove. Make sure the clove is positioned under the top part of the blade near the handle, not underneath the center or bottom part. With one hand holding the handle, use the other hand to quickly and firmly press the blade with your palm and smash the garlic. Peel the skin off and discard (the skin is on the left in the picture). Cut off the tough end of the garlic clove (the top part of the clove shown on the right). Place the garlic cloves in the food processor and process for a few seconds until minced.

2. Add in the remaining ingredients to the food processor and process until smooth. You could also use a blender but add 1/2 cup water - keep in mind that it will yield more than 1 cup. The dressing will be watery at first but it will thicken up within 10-15 minutes.

NOTES
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

My kitchen has looked like a war zone lately with all of the experimenting I've been doing. I have a lovely fall soup featuring MY BELOVED KALE ;-) coming soon and a divine guilt-free dessert in the works. I'm tweaking away to make them worthy of sharing with all of you. I refuse to post anything that I don't love 100%.

With love & care,
Claire

"It is no coincidence that four of the letters in the word 'healthy' are 'HEAL'." Unknown

Sources
¹ Lappe JM, Travers-Gustafson D, Davies KM, et al. Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk: results of a randomized trial. Am J Clin Nutr.  2007; 85(6):1586-91. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Whipped Coconut Cream (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar-Free)

This whipped coconut cream is easily one of my favorite discoveries in the vegan food world. You feel like you're being "bad" but in all actuality, you're making the healthiest choice, without sacrificing flavor. Those are the best kinds of recipes.

Enjoy this much healthier alternative to regular whipped cream aka Reddi-wip and Cool Whip, which are filled with clogging, acidic-forming dairy, refined sugar (high fructose corn syrup), artificial flavors, preservatives, and hydrogenated oil. Click here to see those labels with your own eyes.

Whipped Coconut Cream

INGREDIENTS
• 1 can classic coconut milk, cream only (I recommend using the Native Forest brand because the can is BPA-free)
• 2-3 tsp raw coconut nectar (can be found at Whole Foods) or other sweetener of choice or liquid stevia for sugar-free option, to taste (optional)
• 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or 1/4 - 1/2 tsp peppermint extract (optional)

DIRECTIONS
1. Place the can of coconut milk in the refrigerator to chill and thicken over night. *See note for a tip!
2. Before making the whipped cream, place your mixing bowl in the freezer to chill for 10 minutes.
3. Open the can of coconut milk and remove the hardened coconut cream at the top. Be sure not to use the liquid at the bottom. It's okay if a little bit gets mixed in though. That usually happens for me. You should have quite a bit of liquid remaining so instead of throwing it out, pour it into a jar and save it for smoothies! I'm guilty of drinking it right out of the can. So delicious.



3. Take the bowl out of the freezer. Using a hand mixer or electric mixer, whip the cream for 2-3 minutes until it forms a peak and is fluffy.
4. Add in the vanilla extract and/or sweetener, if desired, and whip again. It's delicious on its own too so you don't have to add the vanilla or a sweetener if you don't want to. Experiment and see what you like best.

*To store: Put the leftovers in a sealed container and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. You can whip it again if you want to fluff it up.

NOTES
• Keep a few cans of coconut milk in the refrigerator just in case you need some whipped coconut cream last minute.

Monday, October 14, 2013

DIY Two-Ingredient Baking Soda Exfoliant for Clear & Glowing Skin

Hi guys. :-) As you know, my blog focuses on providing you all with healthy recipes, nutritional information and tips. Coincidentally, nourishing our bodies with unprocessed, whole foods is vital to the health and appearance of our skin, as it is our body's largest elimination organ, but an effective, gentle and non-toxic skin care routine is an integral part of healthy skin as well. With regards to the skin care products on the market today, some people may experience short-term results, some may experience no change, some may find the product has worsened their condition, and many don't realize the damaging effects these chemical-filled products have on our long-term health.

I have a deep connection to this topic with acne, but the same goes for dry, flakey, dull, ruddy, blotchy, excessively oily skin too. Exfoliation is imperative if you want to achieve beautiful, healthy skin. Regardless of your skin type - oily, dry, combination, normal - everyone can benefit from regular exfoliation. Removing dead skin cell particles through exfoliation allows for cell renewal and elasticity, providing us with clear, even, glowing skin while also reducing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and hyper pigmentation (which I suffer from). 

I've battled adult acne on my face, back and shoulders, as well as other skin conditions like dermatitis for a little over 3 years now. I talk about it in detail on the "My Story" page if you're interested in reading more. :-) I have tried numerous topical and oral treatments from dermatologists, whom I no longer see, and more skin care products, even natural, organic ones, than you could imagine. But who would have thought that two simple, inexpensive ingredients in my kitchen would work better than all of the guaranteed-to-work-or-your-money-back-well-I-want-my-money-back, pricey, oftentimes toxic and ineffective products, combined. 

I've always been terrified to exfoliate my very sensitive skin because I felt like any irritation would exacerbate my acne. In all honesty, I was afraid to try any product, whether it be a facial cleanser or moisturizer. I went a long time without a lot of these things because I felt that every time I used something new, it would cause breakouts. I always blamed the product for new blemishes. Even with all of that fear, I knew I needed to find a way to slough off the dead skin cells piling up from products and the environment. My skin was suffocating underneath all of the blocked pores filled with dirt and oil. These clogged pores were interfering with my natural oil production so my skin would overcompensate and produce more oil, especially since I wasn't using a moisturizer to balance that out. As a result, my skin's capacity to absorb all of the nourishing properties from the skin care products, even the most natural and gentle ones, was essentially non-existent because of that build-up. So, I blamed the products for making my acne worse, but they didn't even have a chance to do their job.

I have been using this do-it-yourself baking soda exfoliator for many months now. I wanted to really test it and see if I experienced positive, sustainable results to determine if it was worth sharing with all of you. Luckily, it has worked wonders! I noticed a difference the very first time I tried this exfoliating treatment. This has been a major breakthrough for me and my skin. After exfoliating in this way, my skin feels incredibly soft and smooth and it looks noticeably brighter, too. I suffer from red hyper pigmentation marks that linger after the pimple itself has healed and they usually take several months to fade. That has been most frustrating for me. However, thanks to this exfoliant, I feel so much more confident in my skin. And though I am still working on eradicating acne completely on my face, in combination with my diet and lifestyle changes, this treatment has helped tremendously. My skin has never looked better since my battle with acne began 3 years ago in August. I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. So, without further ado...




Baking Soda Exfoliant

YIELD: 1 use for face, neck, chest, shoulders, and back

INGREDIENTS
• 1 Tbs + 1/2 tsp baking soda
• 1 and 1/4 tsp water

DIRECTIONS
1. In a small bowl, mix the ingredients together until it forms a thick paste.
2. Cleanse your skin first. Then, spread the paste evenly on your face. As a bonus, you can also use it on your neck, chest, shoulders, and back, if you're doing this in the shower like I do. You could also exfoliate your entire body - just double the recipe.
3. Working from the center of your face outward, in circular motions, use your fingertips to exfoliate/scrub the skin for a few minutes. Apply medium pressure. You want to make sure you are applying enough pressure to pull out impurities and remove the dead skin cells, but not so much that you cause damage or irritation. Also, be sure to avoid the eye area.
4. Let the paste sit on your skin for 5-10 minutes and then rinse off well with water.
5. Pat your face dry with a towel and apply your favorite moisturizer immediately after to lock in the moisture.

I have cleared up the acne on my neck, shoulders and back and the dermatitis on my chest using a combination of tea tree soap from Dr. Bronner's (which you can also purchase from Whole Foods, The Vitamin Shoppe or Sprouts), the baking soda exfoliator, and the removal of refined sugar and processed foods. A powerful trio, I tell ya. All without harmful chemicals!

I use this exfoliant once a week though 2-3 times a week should be fine too. Tailor it to your needs. The skin on your face is more delicate than the rest of your body so be as gentle as you can and monitor how your skin looks and feels after the first go-round. You may experience a tingling or warming sensation while the paste is on your skin but not to worry, it's harmless. 

Because the exfoliation process removes dead skin particles, a temporary purging of impurities will occur. With that said, you may experience a few initial breakouts if you're prone to acne, but keep with it and you'll see dramatic improvements in your complexion without the disappointment, empty bank account and long-term health consequences that come with brilliantly but deceptively marketed skin care products.

Let me know how this works for you if you give it a go! Even if you don't suffer from skin problems per se, still give it a try and see if you notice an improvement. I'd love to hear from you! Stay tuned for my next skin care post where I will discuss my all-time favorite face moisturizer - you may be surprised when you find out what it is. ;-)

"The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It's as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer." Nolan Bushnell

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Perfect Steel-Cut Oatmeal (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar-Free)


































I am a breakfast junkie, it's true. I'd be cool eating breakfast all day long quite frankly. But 
most of all, there's nothing quite like warm oatmeal on a cool fall morning... or any morning, really. I eat oatmeal all throughout the year because I adore it so much! In fact, I post my oatmeal delights almost weekly on my Instagram. :-D One of my favorite things about this recipe is that if you're not serving more than 2 people including yourself, you'll have enough for leftovers! I am the leftover queen. 

Today's ingredient spotlight goes to...

• Steel-Cut Oats - Most people are familiar with the classic rolled oats from brands like Quaker. Due to the fact that they are highly processed as they are steamed, rolled, re-steamed, and toasted, it's likely that they lose some of their nutritional value. However, steel-cut oats are the least processed of all oats. Often referred to as Irish or Scottish oats, they come from whole grain groats and are cut by steel blades into smaller pieces instead of being flattened like rolled oats. The flattening process enables them to cook faster.


Steel-cut oats are high in fiber, calcium, protein, and B vitamins. Nutrition wise, rolled oats and steel-cut oats are very similar; the main difference is in the processing. It has also been said that steel-cut oats have a lower glycemic load, meaning that they do not cause a blood sugar spike and thus provide sustained energy and appetite and keep cravings at bay. 

According to this article written by Carol DiPirro, "one of the most significant health benefits of steel-cut oats is that they help eliminate fat and cholesterol from the body. Studies show that in individuals with high cholesterol (above 220) consuming just 3 grams of soluble oat fiber per day typically lowers total cholesterol by 8-23%. This is highly significant since each 1% drop in cholesterol translates to a 2% decrease in the risk of developing heart disease." The soluble fiber turns into a gel-like substance when consumed and binds to cholesterol to move fat and cholesterol out of the body. It also stabilizes blood sugar and promotes weight loss as it makes us feel fuller for a longer period of time. Fiber isn't digestible so it moves through our intestinal tract taking toxicity out with it. People with little fiber in their diets typically experience constipation, which can lead to irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulosis and colon cancer.

Regarding the texture and taste differences, steel-cut oats are chewier and nuttier than rolled oats. They also take longer to cook, about 20-30 minutes, which can be off-putting to some. To make it easier to enjoy steel-cut oats on the weekdays, I suggest cooking them on Sunday and saving the leftovers for the next day or two and just re-heat on the stovetop with up to a tablespoon of water or unsweetened almond milk. Or you can cook them overnight in a slow cooker or a crock-pot for 7-8 hours on the lowest setting. Just be sure to grease the bottom with a bit of coconut oil so the oats don't stick. Use 1 and 1/2 cups water and 1 and 1/2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk with a pinch of sea salt. Add in what ever else you'd like.

I use Bob's Red Mill gluten-free steel-cut oats, which you can purchase at Whole Foods or other health food stores or online. Packaging always makes things more expensive and is less environmentally kind, so if you can, try to buy them in bulk at health food stores, because they're actually quite inexpensive. I see them at Whole Foods and Sprouts in the bulk aisle, but they never specify if they're gluten-free or not which is why I hesitate.

Also, I recommend soaking grains, as well as beans and nuts, overnight to reduce the amount of phytic acid in the grain, which has been said to inhibit mineral (calcium, zinc, iron, & copper) absorption and thus may cause mineral deficiencies and bone density loss if consumed in excess. Soaking also helps the grain to digest easier in the body. Apparently, traditional cultures used to soak (or sprout) grains before consuming them. With that said, there are many conflicting messages on this topic. Some say soaking in water actually causes the minerals and protein to leach from the grain, that phytase, the enzyme that breaks down the phytic acid, is actually beneficial in that it releases the stored nutrients in the body and makes them digestible, and that soaking really only removes about 10% of the phytic acid, which isn't enough to make a big difference. It has also been said that the phytic acid will be reduced during the cooking process. I still soak mine because I find they're easier to digest that way and allows for a shorter cooking time, but experiment and see what works best for you!

Steel-Cut Oatmeal

YIELD: 3-4 servings

INGREDIENTS
• 1 cup gluten-free steel-cut oats, soaked overnight
• 3 cups water
• A pinch of sea salt
• 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
• Liquid stevia, to taste *I use 20 drops
• Topping suggestions: banana, goji berries, currants, raisins, blueberries, strawberries, walnuts, pecans, cinnamon, ground cloves, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, coconut sugar

DIRECTIONS


























1. In a pot, bring the water to a boil. Meanwhile, thoroughly rinse off soak water from the steel-cut oats.
2. Once the water is at a boil, add in the steel cut oats and a pinch of salt and bring back to a boil.
3. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the oats are absorbing the water quickly, reduce the heat to the lowest setting. For chewier oats, cook less. For more done oats, cook more.
4. Mix in the almond milk and let simmer for another 5-10 minutes.


5. Take the pot off of the burner and mix in the stevia. Adjust taste as needed. I always start with a small amount and work my way up. I've learned you can always add more but can't take away. :-)
6. Serve with any toppings your heart desires! Store any leftovers in the fridge and enjoy over the next few days.

NOTES
For the majority of the week, I usually drink a green smoothie first thing for breakfast. On those days, a serving of oatmeal is much smaller as opposed to mornings where I don't have the smoothie, so depending on your appetite and other breakfast you may be having, it can serve 3-4.





















Let me know how you like it if you try it out! :-) Leave a comment or find me on Twitter or Instagram. Sending you love, light, good health, and good vibrations. <3

"Good things come to those who wait but the best things come to those who do." Unknown
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