Spring Food Prep

Spring Food Prep

Whether it’s not procrastinating on a homework assignment, creating an elevator speech, or making some meals and snacks ahead of time, being prepared helps us when life throws us a curve ball or when it’s just crazy busy in general! As I covered in my first food prep post in the fall taking some time once per week saves time and stress later. When it comes to making decisions about food, you can’t ignore them or put them off. We need to eat at least three times per day in order to feel physically and mentally well. When we make the right decisions, we may not consciously give ourselves enough credit to reinforce those good decisions but unconsciously they are balancing our mental well being, making our brain more sharp, making us feel happier and more energetic. Being prepared with meals and emergency snacks helps us make the correct dietary decisions during crunch time and then influences the rest of our abilities for the day and week.

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If prepping ahead is not something you are in the habit of doing or you are not ready to tackle, read the beginning of my fall post where I highlighted what needs to be done before you commit to planning out your meals (ex: start with a list like the one to the left). Earthbound Farm Organics gives similar tips too.

While prepping food is a major part of my life most Sundays, I have made a commitment to post a new week of food prep each semester. At this point, my students have learned a lot about the science of nutrition, specifically what essential nutrients are, why they are important for the body’s metabolic processes, and where to get the nutrients from. However, we are just now getting to the application. There is no one diet for everyone and to improve health, each individual person needs to focus on small goals/changes that they can make to change bad habits into good ones for the rest of their life. A diet is simply a pattern of eating. What can you do to improve your pattern?

In addition to the above, I always have the follow fresh and ready to eat foods on hand:

Apples, bananas, clementines, nuts & seeds, nut butters, raisins & dates, and not so fresh but still fairly clean rice cakes.

 

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Here is how prepping went:

Sunday morning we decided to have pancakes. I made my buckwheat pumpkin pancakes but used applesauce instead of pumpkin. For the two of us, the whole recipe makes enough for Sunday and a couple of days during the week. You can either cook them all, freeze, and reheat in the toaster or you can cover the batter with press and seal and make fresh the next couple of mornings. I like to make them fresh when I can because then I can add different things for more variety. One morning I added walnuts and banana and topped with peanut butter and this morning I added chopped dark chocolate, unsweetened dried coconut & hemp seeds and drizzled some local honey on top.

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Crockpot black beans

After breakfast and the gym and right before church I threw 3 C dry black & pinto beans, 6 cups water, 4 cloves minced garlic, 1 chopped onion, 1 tsp cumin and pepper in the Crockpot and set on high for 8 hours. When they’re done you can mash or use an immersion blender to really get the “refried” texture, or you can just leave as is and they’re still really good. Throughout the week we add these to salads, potatoes, or have with a random grain and vegetable for a meal. Super versatile and if you are a family of less than 4 I recommend freezing half for another week. Also, if you don’t own a slow cooker I don’t know what you’re waiting for. These things are a gift from God to save us all a ton of time.

 


Late afternoon
potatoes and sweet potatoes went in the oven as did asparagus and a chopped red bell pepper for the frittata. I also thinly sliced fresh beets and tossed in olive oil, salt & pepper and baked them. It saves time and energy ($) to cook as much in the oven at once as you can.
While those were in the oven on the stove top I quick cooked some garbanzo beans from dry for hummus, a cup of brown rice, and a package of Trader Joe’s quick cook farro.
With all of that going, I chopped garlic for the guacamole, hummus, soup, and sauce as well as chopped onion for the guac, soup & sauce and jalapenos for the guac. It saves time to chop everything at once so you don’t have to keep going back. With the cutting board out this was a good time to chop carrots and celery for snacks.

When the asparagus & pepper were ready I chopped them and threw them into a bowl with thawed spinach to let cool. The beet chips were all set and went right into a container.

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Food processor came out and I made simple date & cashew energy bars. There’s simple and more fresh than larabars, though I do like my cashew “cookie” hemp bars a little better!

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I put the rice away for sushi night Wednesday and used that burner to cook organic green beans from frozen. Drizzled a little Tubby Olive Tuscan Herb on top with some pepper and those were done in minutes. I then started the white bean soup (but you can prep any soup!) which was also quick since it was vegetarian and while it was cooking made a quick red sauce for the farro.

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Last steps of food prep were making the hummus in the food processor, smashing up the guacamole, and cooking the frittata. Here is a hummus recipe I have up but you can also just throw in garbanzo beans, garlic, salt, pepper, tahini and water, pulse and you’re done. I always have extra garbanzo beans so we can have them on salads. Here is an easy guacamole recipe too. Make it in the storage container so you don’t have to wash an extra bowl. For the frittata, I added 6 eggs to the spinach, asparagus and red pepper mixture and cooked in a large non stick eco pan on low so it wouldn’t burn but would cook through. You can also bake frittata’s. I cut it into 6 pieces and stored in a pyrex in the fridge. Tim eats it for lunch and I even had some with already baked potatoes after a workout one night as dinner.

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The prep I did not do Sunday was crockpot oats Wednesday night so breakfast was ready early Thursday (and Friday) morning for us. 1 Cup steel cut oats, 2 cups almond milk, 2 cups water, cinnamon & vanilla. Low for 8 hours. DONE. Added cacao nibs, coconut, hemp hearts and sunflower seed butter and had some mango on the side.

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Things we still prepared during the week:

We still have to pack lunches every night but its a lot quicker when you just ladle soup or farro into a pyrex and throw lettuce and veggies in another container for a quick salad. Below is the bpa free silicon salad dressing containers I picked up recently at Bed Bath & Beyond too. No one likes soggy salads at work!

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Wednesday was salad & sushi night. After having a salad easily with pre-washed lettuce and some oil & vinegar, we took the already prepped rice and simply chopped up some avocado & shredded some carrot. We rolled out the sushi and had some pickled ginger, low sodium soy sauce & chili sauce on the side. To add protein we also split a package of organic frozen edamame that was easily heated up in a pot in minutes.

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Hope you are feeling inspired to start prepping on your own. I promise its so much better to only have to reheat food after a long work and/or school day! While it seems like a lot of work above, it only took about 3 total hours which would have added up to a lot more cooking breakfast and dinner each individual day of the week. You’ll also spend less time doing dishes! If you already prep, maybe there are some new ideas above too. As my students already know, I am always open to comments and question. Have a healthy weekend!

Grow Your Own! Seed Starting for Summer Produce

One of the most frequent complaints I hear from people about eating healthy and organic food is that it costs too much. While I beg to differ and will be posting more this week on how shopping for healthy versus unhealthy food can be much more economical, no one can deny there is nothing more cost effective and fresh than growing your own food! Even if you don’t have much outdoor space, you can still grow small plants like micro-greens or potted herbs. I highly recommend, that if you have kids, to get them involved in planting so they can see where their food comes from- it will definitely increase the chances of them trying and liking the veggies and herbs as well.

When living in the northeast it is best to plant seeds indoors 2 weeks-2 months before planting outside (depending on the plant). I wish I had started some of my seeds a couple of weeks ago but with how long this winter has been, I think the timing may be just right. According to the woman at the garden center (Carousel Gardens in Wrightstown) this past week, it is okay to plant not only lettuces outside but the radish seeds I purchased too. Pictured below are all the seeds I have for this season. Last year the tomatoes turned out great and I have always had good success with jalapenos and herbs. New to our garden this year will be the tomatillos, radishes, and oregano. I am also trying wheatgrass for the first time but am growing it inside. Over the past couple of years I have gotten the seeds from Whole Foods and Fresh Market.

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At carousel gardens I also had to pick up a little more seed starting soil since I only had a little left from this year. To really grow organic plants, you also want to get organic seed starting soil as well as organic fertilizer.

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Now for actually planting. I hadn’t saved enough old egg cartons (reuse when you can!) so I bought a couple of seed trays as well at Carousel Gardens. All you need to do is fill each tray with seed starting soil , add some water to moisten the soil and then add your seeds as directed. For most seeds you’ll just want to add one per section but for others, like oregano, a pinch of seeds is necessary. Each seed pack will give specific instructions on how many to add and how deep to plant as well as how early to start seeds inside or plant outside.

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To tag the plants I cut up old business cards (again, reuse when possible :) ) and added to each row. I planted a couple extra seeds compared to what I would like to plant outside in case some of the plants don’t grow and so I can give an extra to my mom for her much larger veggie garden by the time she visits for Easter.

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For any indoor seeds, keep them in a warm area and cover with plastic or paper until they sprout. The remove whatever they are covered with but keep in a warm and sunny area until the ground outside is ready for them.

Once the herbs above are ready (oregano, basil, cilantro) I will likely transfer them into pots to save space in the ground for planting lots of  tomatoes, beans, jalapenos, radishes and lettuces .

Below is the wheatgrass before I covered the seeds. It should grow in a couple of weeks so it can be a pretty decoration for Easter and then a good addition to make juice and add to smoothies.

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It may still feel chilly outside most days (especially with that wind!) but time is ticking so plant your indoor seeds ASAP! Here is a list of what seeds can be planted in March-April. Many cool weather crops will be able to be planted in May or June as well.

March-April: pepper, shallot, eggplant, cherry tomato, tomato, basil, peas, cabbage, cucumber, squash, snap beans, bean poles, leeks, beets, brussel sprouts, carrots, asparagus, garlic, onions, and broccoli

Here’s a site that will tell you when to plant certain seeds based on your location: http://www.almanac.com/gardening/planting-dates/PA

What are your favorite herbs and veggies to grow at home?

Baked Vegan Lentil Loaf

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Lentils are one of my favorite protein sources, especially green lentils. They provide tons of fiber and iron and are very versatile. I’ve used them in sloppy Joe’s and burgers, and often just throw them on salads or potatoes but this lentil bake is one of both me and Tim’s favorites now. He even says it tastes a little like meat! The original recipe that I adapted this from can be found here from “clean eating mama” but I made it a little spicier without the added sodium of hot sauce and also made it a little easier in terms of herbs by using a dried blend. Added carrots and pumpkin (or sweet potato) give the dish a carotenoid boost too!


Baked Vegan Lentil Loaf
(GF, V, DF)

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Ingredients
(see below for beneficial properties of these ingredients):

2 Cups cooked organic brown rice
1 Cup dry green lentils
1/2 Cup dry red lentils
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large or 2 small-medium onions, diced
1.5 cups tomatoes, diced (can use canned but choose low sodium)
2 carrots, grated
4 ounces tomato paste (or 2 Tbsp concentrate)
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin (can sub mashed sweet potato or butternut squash)
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 – 1/4  tsp crushed black pepper

Directions:
-Cook rice with water according to package directions. I typically prepare one cup dry and have a little left over after adding 2 cups to the recipe.
-Cook the lentils with about 4 cups of water but add extra if they seem too firm once all water has been absorbed and/or evaporated
-Heat oven to 375 degrees F
-Heat oil over low-medium heat and add the garlic and stir for 1-2 minutes (do not let garlic turn brown)
-Add the onions and tomatoes, stir and cover for about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally
-Add the shredded carrot, stir and turn off heat. Let Sit covered for a few minutes
-Food does not stick to the baking dish I use for this meal easily but if yours is any different, grease with a very small amount of olive oil (9×11 or larger for thinner slices)
-Add all the prepared ingredients to a large baking dish
-Mix in the tomato pasta, pumpkin, and all seasoning and stir well until mixture is consistent throughout

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-Place dish, uncovered into oven and let bake for 35-45 minutes (I generally go for the longer amount of time to get the loaf more crispy on top)
-Remove from oven and let sit for 10-15 minutes

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-Use a knife to cut and serve up with a spatula

Serving Options:

-Slice up by itself with a side of green beans or other veggies
-Dish up a slice onto bread or roll of choice
-Enjoy atop mixed greens (as below)
-Dice and add to a wrap (love in a TJ brown rice wrap w/ nutritional yeast)

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Real Ingredients with Real Benefits:

Lentils don’t get as much attention as they should. Per 1/4 C dry serving, at only 180 Calories, lentils provide more protein and iron than beans. You’ll get lots of B-vitamins from this legume, especially thiamin and folate. They’re also a great source of choline, potassium and many minerals. Lentils are high in both insoluble and soluble fiber; soluble being the type that helps reduce blood cholesterol levels. Green lentils provide much more fiber than red though so while I used a mixture of both in this recipe, I use green more often.

Tomatoes pack in lots of Vitamins A, C, and the important fluid balance mineral Potassium. They are well known in terms of phytochemical content for their lycopene which is known for reducing risk of prostate cancer. This was one of the first phytochemicals that really made a name for itself. It is often forgetten that tomatoes also provide other carotenoids and flavonoids such as quercitin.

Rice provides a good amount of Vitamin A, Riboflavin, Vitamin C, Riboflavin & Manganese. You can also get phytochemicals like quercetin (great for your immune system and lungs) & several carotenoids. Purchase organic rice as it is not as likely to be contaminated with inorganic arsenic.

Onions & garlic are part of the same family, providing the phytochemicals allicin and sulfides which are linked to improved immunity and respiratory health. Onions also provide Vitamins C, B6 and folate.

Carrots and pumpkin are most known for the role in eye health. This is because they have a high content of Vitamin A and other phytochemical carotenoids which not only support your eyes but also skin, hair and antioxidant systems. They are also high in Vitamins C & K and the mineral potassium. Pumpkin also contains a good mount of fiber. Antioxidants work to keep your heart healthy and potassium is important for fluid balance and plays a role in maintaining normal blood pressure.

Cayenne contains capsaicin. Capsaicin has long been used for decreasing joint pain and inflammation topically but in the body may aid in appetite control, metabolism and intestinal inflammation. Oh and you aren’t the only one who gets a runny nose from spicy food – these peppers can all help clear your sinuses!

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Nutrition Information (without lettuce or other toppings):

Servings: 8 (*Athletes may want to split into just 4 servings)
Calories: 240
Total Fat: 3 g
Saturated Fat: < 0.5 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: < 0.5 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 1.5 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrate: 43 g
Fiber: 11 g
Sugar: 8 g
Protein: 12 g
Sodium: *300 mg 13 %
Potassium: 675 mg 15 %

Vitamin A: 30%     Thiamin: 25 %        Riboflavin: 8 %
Niacin: 15 %            Pant Acid: 15 %       Vitamin B6: 20 %
Folate: 2 %              Vitamin C: 30 %      Vitamin E: 10 %
Calcium: 6 %           Iron: 25 %                 Zinc: 20 %
Magnesium: 20 %   Copper: 50 %           Selenium: 7 %
Manganese: 66 %   Phosphorus: 20 %    Omega 3: 2 %

*Sodium content if using canned tomatoes. Will be much lower with fresh tomatoes. Athletes should add 1 tsp salt to recipe if using fresh tomatoes
**vitamins & minerals are listed as % daily value; you may need more than 100% each day if you’re an athlete, have a deficiency disease, or other medical concerns

Spinach and Artichoke Dip (Dairy Free)

Spinach and artichoke dip has become a very popular appetizer whether at restaurants, parties or just at home with family. While spinach and artichokes are healthy veggies, the average dip contains so much cheese and saturated fat though that you can hardly call it healthy. I’ve attempted several times in the past to make a healthier version and finally on Super Bowl Sunday, I got it right! This easy lightened up version has great flavor and a creamy texture without shocking amounts of fat and sodium.

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Dairy Free Spinach & Artichoke Dip (GF, V, DF)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small-medium yellow onion, sliced thin or diced
2-3 cloves garlic
1.5 Cups/250 grams cannelini, great northern or other white bean, prepped from dry (or 1 can rinsed & drained*)
Half of 12 oz jar artichokes ( I used trader joe’s marinated artichokes)
1 Cup cooked organic spinach from fresh or frozen
Juice of 1/4 lemon
1/4 tsp dried oregano
Fresh ground black pepper & sea salt to taste
Optional: 1/8 – 1/4 cup cashews, blended in food processor to a grated parmesan consistency

*Purchasing tip: If I do purchase canned, I buy beans at Trader Joe’s because they do not contain BPA. A risk of using canned foods is that the cans are lined with the carcinogenic chemical BPA. If you don’t live near a Trader Joe’s, click here for brands that are BPA free.

Directions:
-Heat oil in a pan over low-medium. Add sliced or diced onion, stir well and cover. Let cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to caramelize the onions. If onions stick to pan, add 1 tbsp water, stir and reduce heat to low.
-Add beans, garlic and onions to food processor. Pulse for 45-60 seconds or until well blended. If very thick at this point, add 1-2 tablespoons of liquid from the jar of artichokes and pulse another 15-30 seconds or until you achieve a creamy consistency.
-Next add the artichokes, spinach, lemon juice, oregano, salt and pepper. Pulse about 15-20 seconds or until well combined.
-Place in a ceramic serving dish and heat in the oven (or a toaster oven to save energy!) at 350 for 5 or more minutes to desired temperature. If you are adding “cashew parmesan” sprinkle on top before placing in the oven.
-The dip should keep for about 4-5 days.

-Enjoy your healthy spinach and artichoke dip with chopped veggies and baked chips for dipping. I love using carrots and Trader Joe’s organic “reduced guilt” tortilla chips that have 3 grams less fat per serving compared to regular. You can also use the dip as a spread for toast with eggs in the morning or on a wrap or sandwich.

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Real Ingredients with Real Benefits:

Onions and garlic provide the phytochemical allicin, as well as sulfides, which are linked to improved immunity and respiratory health and act as antibacterial agents. Onions also provide Vitamins C, B6 and folate.

Spinach provides lots of Vitamin C as well as calcium, thiamin, iron, B6, zinc, copper, riboflavin & magnesium. Phytochemicals provided include isothiocyanates, sulforophane & indoles – these can act to aid your immune system as well as reduce inflammation to aid in muscle recovery and heart health.

Artichokes are high in Vitamin K and the B vitamin Folate. They are also a great source of fiber and contain potassium and magnesium. They have also been found to be high in antioxidant phytochemicals that protect the heart.

White Beans are an excellent vegetarian source of protein and contain a high amount of fiber. Like other beans, they also provide several B vitamins and a variety of minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and copper. Beans contain antioxidant phytochemicals such as lutein, epicatechin, quercetin and proanthocyanidin – which have been found to benefit eyesight, reduce inflammation, and support the immune system.

Oregano actually contains manganese, iron and Vitamins A & K. It can also benefit your immune system as its phytochemicals like thymol are anti-bacterial.

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Spicy Sweet Potato Hummus

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I am a huge hummus lover -  as a dip, on wraps & sandwiches, on top of potatoes or sweet potatoes, and even on salads. Hummus can for certain be a healthy addition to any diet but making it at home from scratch means it will taste more fresh and you can make more for your money! In the summer, roasted pepper and garlic is my favorite but in the winter when sweet potatoes are in season this combo hits the spot. All you need are a few simple ingredients and a food processor. With “Big Game Sunday” coming up, and everyone thinking about what they are going to eat I thought this would be a good time to post something that can fit in to your football party food without making your health fumble. For a lot of people who made new years resolutions or goals, by late January/early February the chances of slipping up increase. So remember, you can make super healthy foods that taste amazing and won’t leave you regretting your intake later! Here is a post I put up last year on healthier choices for the big game and better alternatives to your football food staples.

Spicy Sweet Potato Hummus (GF, V, DF)

Ingredients :

eat real live well tahini & garbanzo's1.5 Cups/250 grams garbanzo beans, prepped from dry (or 1 can rinsed & drained*)
2-3 cloves garlic
2 medium jalapenos, stems chopped off
1 small-medium baked sweet potato (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons tahini
Juice of 1/4 lemon
1/8 tsp each: cumin & cayenne
Fresh ground black pepper & sea salt to taste
1/4 C warm water

*Purchasing tip: If I do purchase canned, I buy beans at Trader Joe’s because they do not contain BPA. A risk of using canned foods is that the cans are lined with the carcinogenic chemical BPA. If you don’t live near a Trader Joe’s, click here for brands that are BPA free.

Directions:
-Add all ingredients except the water to your food processor and pulse for 30-60 seconds-If mixture is very thick and difficult to blend, add 1/8 cup of water. If you use canned beans, you are less likely to need to add the water. Pulse for another 30-60 seconds and then gauge if you think you need the remainder of the water.
-Pulse an additional minute or until mixture is very creamy.
-Pour into a storage container and enjoy within a week!

Since my home only consists of myself and my husband, I sometimes will freeze half for next week if we won’t be having anyone come over or visit. Just throw it in the fridge a day before you want to eat it :)

Real Ingredients with Real Benefits:

Garbanzo Beans, aka “chickpeas”, contain protein, fiber, manganese, folate and even some iron.

Tahini which is a paste made from sesame seeds, is an ingredient in the hummus you buy at the grocery store that you maybe never knew was in there. It provides great flavor but also gives you some protein, omega 3 fatty acids, and plant sterols. Vitamins and minerals in tahini include thiamin (a B vitamin), vitamin E, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese and zinc. 

Sweet Potatoes: there are so many nutrients in this versatile veggie! Other than a good mix of soluble & insoluble fiber, they provide lots of Vitamin A and are also rich in Vitamin C, B6, potassium and manganese. You’ll also get some copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, B vitamins and even calcium. Sweet Potatoes give you carotenoids and quercitin as well, which are phytochemicals that aid eye, brain and lung health while reducing inflammation.

Garlic provides the phytochemical allicin and sulfides which are linked to improved immunity and respiratory health and act as antibacterial agents.

Jalapeno peppers as well as cayenne powder all contain capsaicin. Capsaicin has long been used for decreasing joint pain and inflammation topically but in the body may aid in appetite control, metabolism and intestinal inflammation. You may have noticed before but, these peppers can all help clear your sinuses!  In addition they have been found in research to be anti-bacterial, and even anti-allergy due to nutrient content including vitamins A and C, some B vitamins and potassium.

Cashew Cookie Hemp Energy Bars

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I found this recipe right after getting hooked on the Navitas Naturals brand of raw and rare “superfood” ingredients and products. I had also just fallen in love with Manitoba Harvest hemp hearts and recently had purchased their hemp protein powder. The Navitas website has tons of great recipes that I was browsing and after trying this one decided it was the best energy bar I have ever had. I made some slight adjustments such as adding a little more protein powder, maca and honey and slightly less nuts but the difference is marginal. Another change I’ve made is making these into bars rather than balls – much less messy to make the bars then to roll the mixture in your hands. The original recipe is here.

This is an awesome option for a bite before an early morning workout or a snack after work before the gym.

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Cashew Cookie Hemp Energy Bars (Veg, DF, GF)
Makes 10 bars

Ingredients:

1 1/4 Cups raw or roasted unsalted cashews
1 Cup raw pitted dates*
1/4 Cup + 1 tablespoon hemp protein powder
1 tablespoon maca root powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons honey (or agave to truly make vegan!)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon raw hemp hearts

*Both Medjool and Deglet Noor work. When using Deglet you may need to add a tsp of water for more moisture.

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Directions:

Add all ingredients except the hemp hearts to your food processor.

Date hemp bar ingredients // Eat Real Live Well
Pulse until all ingredients are pretty finely ground like in this picture. If the mixture doesn’t seem sticky enough add another 1/2 tablespoon of honey or even water.

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Next, pour whole mixture onto a large sheet of wax paper. Fold the paper over the mixture and begin to flatten our with your hands or a rolling pin. I roll mine out to about 1/2 inch thick. Once rolled out to desired thickness, flatten out the edges with hands.

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Unfold the wax paper and sprinkle the hemp hearts on top. Lightly press them  into the mixture with your hands and then cut the piece in to 10 even bars (the nutrition info below is for 10 bars but you can always cut into larger or smaller servings).

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Separate the bars and cut the large sheet of wax paper to wrap the bars. Throw one in your lunch bag or purse & store the rest in the fridge for up to 10 days.

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Real Ingredients with Real Benefits:

Dates, in my opinion, are natures candy! They are a source of natural sugar which can be helpful to athletes before and during exercise when they need a quick absorbing energy source. They provide fiber and minerals like potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and even some calcium. Instead of packaged products, I use dates as fuel during long outdoor workouts and even races.

Nuts like cashews are known for their heart healthy mono-unsaturated fats. Most do not recognize the high iron, copper and magnesium content. Female athletes especially need more iron for proper metabolism, blood & immune function, and oxygen delivery around the body. Copper is important for the blood too but also supports your body’s antioxidant systems. Magnesium plays a role in over 300 enzymes reactions in the body for metabolism, bone and heart health.

Hemp protein is an excellent alternative to dairy proteins like whey and casein. Manitoba Harvest is my favorite brand for both protein powder and hemp hearts; they highlight amino acid content here. Other than its protein content, hemp also provides both soluble (great for your heart) and insoluble (excellent for your gut) fiber, potassium, zinc, magnesium, calcium and lots of iron. In addition, hemp protein is a terrific vegan source of omega 3′s.

Due to its natural sugar content honey is a great sports nutrition aid as discussed in this Runner’s World article. When purchasing real nectar or clover honey, especially local to your region, honey is also great for the immune system. And your mom didn’t add honey to tea when you were sick for no reason; it is an excellent cough suppressant. See more on its nutritional benefits at the National Honey Board. *Be careful what you purchase though as a report revealed most store bought honey isn’t real honey and the pollen, which has immune benefits, is removed (more info here).

Maca root has small amounts of calcium, Vitamin C and iron as well as fiber, phytochemical antioxidants and plant sterols which are known to aid in reducing blood cholesterol levels. It is most sought due to claims to boost energy and endocrine function (particularly in females). Maca has been consumed in Peru for thousands of years for these reasons, but there is not a large body of conclusive scientific evidence for those claims. I tried Navitas Naturals brand mostly to see what the hype was about. I enjoy the taste and do feel it provides a small energy boost when I add it to my oatmeal and skip the morning coffee – but that is just my feedback, not a research study! Lot’s of studies related to endocrine function are linked to from a summary here and you can evaluate more research at examine.com.

Nutrition Information:

Servings: 10
Calories: 160
Total Fat: 7.5 g
Saturated Fat: 1.5 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 2 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 4 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrate: 22 g
Fiber: 3.5 g
Sugar: 13 g
Protein: 4.5 g
Sodium: 120 mg   5 %
Potassium: 220 mg 5%

Vitamin A: 2%      Thiamin: 10 %               Riboflavin: 5 %
Niacin: 3%              Vitamin B6: 6 %            Folate: 3 %
Vitamin C: 1%        Pantothenic Acid: 5 %
Vitamin E: 3 %       Calcium: 3 %                Iron: 12%
Zinc: 15%                 Copper: 35 %               Magnesium: 20 %
Phosphorus: 15 %  Manganese: 20%        Selenium: 6 %
Omega 3: 0.2 g  (12%)

**Vitamins & minerals are listed as % daily value; you may need more than 100% each day if you’re an athlete, have a deficiency disease, or other medical concerns

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Snow Day Soup – Hearty Vegetable & Bulgur

With the (so far) snowy winter in eastern PA along with today’s “arctic vortex” giving us temperatures of, according to the Weather Channel,  “0 degrees, feels like -22″, I thought it is a perfect time to post an easy soup recipe. I personally always feel cold from October through April, and am not sure that I would make it to spring without sipping hot tea and eating soup daily. Sometimes the winter months put people into hibernation mode, laying on the couch and reaching for “comfort foods”. Comfort foods don’t have to be super high in fat and calories though. Soup to me is a comfort food, and this one, containing beans and bulgur (my new favorite grain) in addition to a variety of veggies, can satisfy your hunger and warm you up in a healthy way. Then you’ll feel energized enough to get off the couch and warm up with exercise!!

Hearty Vegetable & Bulgur Soup (V, DF)

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Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon olive or canola oil* (I use Spectrum Organic)
3 cloves garlic minced
1 medium- large onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
2-3 medium carrots, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
3-4 celery stalks, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 1/2-2 C each: kidney beans prepped from dry or a 15 ounce can kidney beans, drained & rinsed (choose BPA-free brand)**
4-5 large beefsteak tomatoes, chopped or  1-2 cans of organic diced tomatoes
1 Cup cooked, chopped organic spinach or kale (from fresh or frozen)
1 1/2 Cups organic frozen peas
1 Cup dry bulgur (I use Trader Joe’s brand)
1/4 Cup fresh basil, finely chopped (or dried basil to taste)
1/2 Tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon parsley
2-3 Cups low sodium vegetable broth (Trader Joe’s has surpassed the flavor of all other brands for me here)
1-2 Cups water
Crushed red and cracked black pepper

*While I purchase organic for all items, if not purchasing organic for starred items, at least choose Non-GMO Project Verified  brands to ensure your food is free of genetic engineering.
**Purchasing tip: If I do purchase canned, I buy beans at Trader Joe’s because they do not contain BPA. A risk of using canned foods is that the cans are lined with the carcinogenic chemical BPA. If you don’t live near a Trader Joe’s, click here for brands that are BPA free.

Directions:
-Wash the carrots and celery (and greens if fresh) and prep all of your ingredients as listed above.
-Place a large saucepan or stockpot over low-medium heat and add the canola oil. Spread w/ rubber spatula so that it coats the bottom of the pan.
-Add the garlic and stir for 1-2 minutes (do not let garlic turn brown).
-Add the chopped onion, carrot & celery. Stir well and cover for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
-If using fresh tomatoes, add them now, stir and cover about 5 minutes.
-If using canned tomatoes, add both tomatoes and beans now and stir the mixture.
-Now, add bulgur, and seasonings. Stir well.
-Immediately add 3 Cups of liquid. I recommend starting with 2 cups broth and 1 Cup water. Increase heat to bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for about 10 minutes.
-Now add your spinach or kale, and peas. If you like brothy soups, add another cup of broth and another cup of water. I personally like soup more thick so I usually leave the extra liquid out. Let simmer another 5 minutes or so and then you’re done!

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Serve up your soup right away to have the most warming effect :) . Tim adds some grated Parmesan to his, but I add nutritional yeast to mine for some added flavor since I don’t consume dairy. Cashew “parm” works too. This is a large batch so you can freeze some for next week if you don’t care to have the same soup as leftovers for a couple of days after cooking. I recommend portioning some out into pyrex containers so you can easily grab a serving to take to work for a healthy lunch.

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