Since we found out for certain that my middle son is sensitive to cows’ milk (which we long suspected), I’ve been on a search for a gluten-free waffle recipe that results in something light and fluffy and cannot be used as a weapon by our 2 years old son.  In other words, something that can’t be mistaken for a brick.

Recently, I read Dr. Alejandro Junger’s follow up to CLEAN: CLEAN Gut. Great book.  I mentioned in a recent reply post that is is by far the most concise yet clinically comprehensive explanation on gluten intolerance & how it wreaks havoc on your entire body that I have encountered.  The cleanse recommended & approved foods are not identical; as a result, the CLEAN program blog (which I highly recommend for the weekly recipes) now includes many recipes that allow eggs from pastured hens.

Here is their recipe for waffles with a couple changes.  The original recipe calls for tapioca starch; I prefer arrowroot powder.  It also calls for chopped macadamia nuts & flaked coconut.  My kids aren’t crazy about the texture that produces so I process the macadamia nuts to a fine flour & use shredded coconut instead.  We also like our waffles really fluffy so I first beat the eggs.  If you want them crazy fluffy, then use 8 egg whites rather than 4 eggs.

This recipe calls for 2 things about which I get many questions: almond milk & almond flour.  You can certainly purchase either.  However, it’s easy & worth it to simply make your own if you own a food processor and/or a high-powered blender.  We go through so many almonds that it’s far less expensive for me to order raw almonds from Briden Wilson Farms (www.homegrownalmonds.com).  The customer service is amazing & the almonds incredibly fresh.  Almond milk is simply almonds blended in water with the pulp strained.  Blend about 1/4 nuts to 1 cup filtered water on high; strain with a nut bag or through a fine mesh strainer.  Don’t discard the pulp; add it to your next smoothie or dehydrate it to make almond flour.  For almond flour without a dehydrator, simply grind almonds in a food processor or high-powered blender.  Careful not to over process or you will end up with almond butter (which certainly isn’t a bad thing!).

CLEAN Waffles (makes about 8 four inch square waffles)

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/4 cup coconut oil, warmed to liquid (plus a little extra for oiling waffle iron)

4 eggs (preferably from your own free-ranging hens but that’s another post entirely!)

pinch sea salt

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 Tbsp arrowroot powder

3/4 cup almond flour

1/4 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)

1/4 cup macadamia nuts, (processed to texture of nut flour)

fresh or frozen berries (optional)

1. Preheat waffle iron;  In a large bowl, combine the almond milk and coconut oil

2. In a separate bowl, beat eggs (or egg whites); set aside

3. In a smaller bowl, combine salt, baking powder, arrowroot & almond flour

4. Mix this into the almond milk/coconut oil mixture just until combined.

5. Gently fold in the eggs (or whites)

6. Gently fold in the coconut & macadamia nuts & berries, if using

7. Lightly oil waffle iron and pour about 1/4 cup (give or take-your waffle iron mrue require more or less) batter into the wells and bake according to to your waffle maker’s instructions

we serve ours with organic maple syrup; enjoy!

We hosted a charity wine-tasting Saturday evening with Chef Lee Blakely from Wines For Humanity.  If you aren’t familiar with them, check them out at http://www.winesforhumanity.com.  A portion of the proceeds from purchased wine goes to charity.  Our tasting benefited The Pantry of Broward County (www.thepantryofbroward.org).  I think my husband may have fallen in love with Chef Lee; she provided the perfect balance of education, entertainment and sarcasm.  Chef Lee recommended various food pairings for each course so we did mostly cheese but I wanted to use the opportunity to provide some raw appetizers.  I was a little nervous because, even with a large group, what are the chances that dehydrated food will be a hit?  Good news: I think we ended up with a couple converts.  Every last bite was inhaled. And I had so many requests to share the recipes, I thought they deserved a blog post.  Actually, they are from 2 of my favorite raw chefs, Judita Wignall & James Russell.  I have meant to find time to blog about each of them, but just haven’t committed the time.  So, here goes.

If you would like to add more raw food to your daily menu but are overwhelmed at the thought of having to give up cooked food completely, be intimidated no longer!  First, as I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, adding any raw choices to your daily consumption will benefit you; don’t feel you need to go 100% raw. That’s a nice goal, but I think shooting for 80% is more realistic.  Take baby steps in that direction by finding raw recipes that ‘make sense’ to you and don’t overwhelm you. For many, that means starting with raw desserts.  Do what works for you without killing yourself, make it a habit, then move on to something else.  Secondly, if you want to go 100% raw but believe that you have to give up cooked foods, know this is not the case.

After using my oven’s dehydrator setting and loving it, but wishing for more than a 2-tray system, I took the plunge and bought an Excalibur. Actually, I sold an old bracelet on eBay so I could say I bought it myself. The husbands in the audience will appreciate this. They offer a 5-tray oven and a 9-tray oven.  Given the footprint on your countertop will be the same for either model, take my advice: spend the extra 40 dollars and get the 9-tray model.  I purchased mine from an authorized dealer on eBay, but there are many on-line retailers.  Mine came with a great recipe book and free shipping, so do your homework.  Here’s a link to the eBay retailer from whom I purchased mine:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/310265620015?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649#ht_2380wt_1398

A dehydrator is a raw-foodies’s version of a toaster oven.  Now that I have one, I don’t know how I survived without it.  I’m exaggerating but it has been a great addition to our kitchen.  We us it for making raw energy bars, fruit leather, flax crackers, wraps, kale chips…tons of raw foods that are (at least) equally as satisfying as their ‘cooked’ counterparts, but infinitely more nutritious.  I’m over-simplifying for the sake of time, but, in a nutshell, by ‘cooking’ the food at a temperature that does not exceed approximately 118 degrees, you maintain the foods’ naturally-occurring digestive enzymes.  Bottom-line: digesting the food and obtaining its nutrients requires very little energy for your body which means it’s less taxing on your body which means you have more ‘free’ energy to be used on more important things like repairing your cells, maintaining your immune function, etc.  Translation: you will feel lighter and have more energy.  If you want to further research the rationale behind a raw (and living foods) diet, I recommend you research Ann Wigmore.  She was a pioneer and wrote an amazing book that is an oldie but a goodie titled The Hippocrates Diet and Health Program.  Here’s the link to the amazon page:

http://www.amazon.com/Hippocrates-Diet-Health-Program/dp/0895292238/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1346098960&sr=1-1&keywords=ann+wigmore+hippocrates+diet

One general word about raw food: try to use the best, highest quality ingredients and, if at all possible, make them organic.  I’ve noticed that when you transition to raw foods, your taste-buds become very good at discerning differences in the quality & freshness of the individual ingredients.  Especially if you are also doing any type of elimination diet and/or cleanse.  It’s as though your taste-buds get ‘re-set’, starting over from scratch.

Now for the recipes.  The first one is from an amazing book, Going Raw by Judita Wignall.

http://www.amazon.com/Going-Raw-Everything-Lifestyle-Revolution/dp/1592536859/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1346099558&sr=1-1&keywords=going+raw+judita

The recipes are great, especially if you are new to raw and she actually gives quite a bit of useful information, ranging from sprouting to cleansing, so if you have thought about adding some raw books to your collection, this is a terrific place to start. I have yet to make a recipe I haven’t loved.  A quick list of several of my favorites in case you buy the book: zucchini hummus, guacamole, energy bars, tomato wraps, fettuccine, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate mousse and, (recipe to follow) stuffed mushrooms.

These mushrooms will be a hit with any group, I’m convinced, regardless of how tainted their taste buds are; people won’t believe that they are vegan and raw.

Spinach-Walnut Pesto and Pignolia (Pine Nut) Cheese-Stuffed Mushrooms

MUSHROOMS

20-30 medium-size baby bella mushrooms (or you can use more readily-avaialable white mushrooms or 6-8 large portobello mushrooms)

1. Remove the stems by gently twisting and setting aside for another use.  Don’t ‘wash’ your mushrooms because they will absorb too much water.  I use a wet cloth to remove any dirt.


MARINADE

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)

2 Tbsp. tamari (I use the organic, low-sodium version from San-J; it’s also gluten-free)

1/4 tsp. sea salt

1. Combine all ingredients.

2. Place mushrooms in a shallow baking dish and pour the mixture over them.  I kind of massage the mushrooms with the marinade.

3. Let set for 15 minutes (or 1 hour if using the larger portobello caps).

PINE NUT CHEESE

1 cup pine nuts, soaked 2 hours, then rinsed

1/4 cup water

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1/4 tsp. sea salt

1.  Process all ingredients in a food processor or high-powered blender until smooth.  Add more water if needed a Tablespoon at a time, but it’s best to keep it on the thick side (I usually only add 1 extra Tablespoon).

SPINACH-WALNUT PESTO

2 cups spinach, packed

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic (I usually add 3 or 4)

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/2 cup walnuts, soaked 6-8 hours, rinsed, then dehydrated (if you can’t dehydrate them, no worries; the recipe will still work!)

1. Place spinach, oil, garlic, lemon juice and salt in a food processor and blend until smooth.

2. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed; add the walnuts and pulse until incorporated but still a little chunky.

ASSEMBLY

1. Fill each mushroom cap with the ‘cheese’ then follow with a dollop of pesto.

2. Place the pan stuffed mushrooms on a dehydrator tray and warm at 100 degrees for 2-3 hours (3-4 hours if using the larger portobello mushrooms).

3. Serve warm

Note: if you don’t have a dehydrator, you can still make these and bake for less time at your oven’s lowest setting; you lose the digestive enzymes, but you still get the vitamins and minerals and, although the mushrooms will be softer, they are equally as yummy

James Russell’s Mini Flax Pizza Bites were a huge success.  He has a great website and blog with a simply amazing amount of information, videos and recipes, in addition to some beautiful e-books that can be downloaded for a very reasonable price.  Here’s a link to his site.

http://therawchef.com/therawchefblog/

I was surprised, quite frankly, how much people absolutely loved these. One batch after another was inhaled.  They are a little labor-intensive but very worth it.  Please note that the recipe calls for making dehydrated flax crackers as the pizza ‘crust’; however, if dehydrating is not an option for you, you can substitute raw mushrooms, about 20 small or 12 medium-large.   Simply marinate the mushroom caps in 1/4 cup tamari and 1/4 cup olive oil for at least 2 hours.  Bake at your lowest setting for about 20-30 minutes (or until they are warmed to your liking), then follow the instructions for assembly below.

FLAX CRACKER BASE

1/2 cup flax seeds

1/2 cup flax meal (ground flax seeds)

6 medium tomatoes, seeded

1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked 2 hours or longer (these are dry; not the version that is packed in olive oil)

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1/4 cup fresh basil

3 Tbsp. dried Italian herbs (I use dried basil & oregano)

3 medium onions

1 clove garlic (I use 2, at least)

1. Process all ingredients in a food processor.

2. Spread evenly and thinly over 2 dehydrator trays lined with Paraflexx or parchment paper.  Dehydrate at 105 degrees for 1-2 hours, then score into small squares (about 1 or 2″ square).

3. Dehydrate another hour, then invert onto another tray and dehydrate another 8-12 hours.

PINE NUT CHEESE SPREAD

1/2 cup pine nuts

1/2 cup macadamia nuts

1/4 tsp. sea salt

2 teaspoons nutritional yeast

1/4 cup water

1. Process all ingredients in a food processor until rather smooth.

TOMATO SAUCE (please note that you can substitute high-quality jarred tomato sauce, as well)

4 medium tomatoes, seeded

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked for 2 hours or more

1 soft date, pitted

1 clove garlic

2 tsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. fresh basil

1 Tbsp. dried oregano

2 tsp. lemon juice

1. Blend all ingredients in a high-powered blender until smooth

PESTO

2 cups basil, tightly packed

1 Tbsp. minced rosemary

1/4 cups pine nuts

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/4 tsp. sea salt

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

1. Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until broken down, but leaving it a little chunky

ASSEMBLY

1. Using flax cracker as a base, add a dollop of tomato sauce, then a dollop of the pine nut cheese, then the pesto.

2. Garnish with your favorite topping; I like chopped Kalamata olives.

3.  If you have chosen to substitute mushrooms for the flax cracker base and do have a dehydrator, warm at 105 degree for 1-2 hours.

Enjoy!  And a special thank you to all my guinea pigs Saturday night!

Being raised on Kool-Aid and Hostess snack pies, I developed quite a sweet tooth over the years that I started seriously trying to curb (with varying degrees of success) around 1995.  I guess I instinctively knew on some level, at least, that Swedish fish and gummy peaches just couldn’t be good for me, but I didn’t understand fully why until about 5 or 6 years ago.  As I’ve aged, I have seen the toll it has taken on my body and my teeth and I feel blessed to have come to an understanding of its damaging effects sooner rather than later (see yesterday’s post for a great New York Times’ article on sugar).  I come from a long line of sugar-addicts so within the context of clean-eating, cutting the sweets has by far been my biggest challenge.  One of my favorite things in the world?  Chocolate. Chocolate on anything.  I can find a way to justify chocolate for every meal of the day.  And I don’t mean cacao; I mean the CHOCOLATE. Granted, over the years I’ve transitioned to dark, organic chocolate at least, but it’s still just a cover for sugar.  For years, a satisfying recipe for chocolate brownies has eluded me…I’ve tried gluten-free recipes, raw recipes, recipes calling for copious amounts of agave…you name it…and I never felt good about any of them and wasted pounds & cups of expensive ingredients to no avail.  Until last night.

I’m hesitant to even give you this blog because it SOOOO puts mine to shame in the recipe department.  Not just the recipe department, but the aesthetics department, as well.  The photography of the ingredients and final products are absolutely gorgeous.  I’m guessing the creator is not a homeschooling mama of three!!!  And if she is, I don’t want to know. The author, Sarah Britton, is an holistic nutritionist and vegetarian chef. Oh, I can only dream…Her blog is My New Roots and the site is

http://www.mynewroots.blogspot.com

Check it out and then take pity on me and come back to my site and pretend you’ve never seen hers.  No; seriously, her blog is beautiful and the information she’s sharing absolutely hits the mark; the epitome of tasteful taste…if that makes sense.  I hope you love it as much as I do.

Anyway, back to the brownies.  So I had my own recipe that I created based on some ‘decent’ store-bought varieties of ‘healthy’ brownies and decided to do an internet search to see if I was close to the prize before wasting any more ingredients.  My New Roots popped up with a recipe for raw brownies that promised to be out of this world.  ‘Yeah, right’ I thought.  Then I took a closer look at the 5 ingredients and they were what I had but with no agave nectar.  Fantastic.  And she uses walnuts where I had planned to use cashews.  Having all ingredients on hand, I went to town.  These things go start to finish in maybe 10 minutes if you have a food processor.  I can’t offer enough superlatives to describe these brownies.  Now, I admit that my taste buds have evolved to the point where stuff I used to LOVE (e.g. double-stuff OREOs, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Raisinettes) now sickens me.  Even the thought of eating them now makes me a little nauseous, but I still love ‘better’ sweets like organic gelato, for example.  I only need a few bites to satisfy the urge now, but still, those choices offer no nutritional benefit and usually give me hives.  This gives you the rationale for my quest.

I refrigerated them overnight and went to bed planning my brownie breakfast.  I knew the real test would be my oldest son.  As our family’s eating habits have evolved over the years, Samuel’s tastebuds are what I would consider to be the most ‘adulterated’ of my three children.  He was breastfed the shortest time, and, although just about everything he has eaten for 6 years has been organic, he still has a place in his heart for white flour & sugar!  The results of this morning’s taste test: ‘Mommy, these taste like a banana split!’.  Now, I’m not aware that he has ever had an actual banana split, but somehow, he has developed a romanticized affection for the dessert.  Kind of like my middle son who has never had cotton candy, but thinks it is its own food group.  And, as if getting his thumbs up wasn’t enough, my dad, who taught me the beauty of neapolitan ice cream in a cardboard container, gave the stamp of approval.  I didn’t tell him what ingredients they consisted of until after the tasting because he’s a hard sell.

Now that we’ve established how delicious these are, let’s spend just a little bit of time on the nutritional boost the 5 ingredients will give you.  By the way, I agree with Sarah: use the best ingredients you can find and/or afford.  Let the specific richness of each ingredient shine through in the final product.  First, walnuts contain some unique antioxidants and offer anti-inflammatory benefits.  They also contain a specific kind of Vitamin E that has shown to be cardio-protective.  Similarly, almonds contain antioxidants and cardio-protective properties, in addition to high levels of magnesium which helps to relax veins & arteries, resulting in improved flow of oxygen throughout the body (spoken like a true former Pfizer cardiovascular Rx drug-pusher, but that’s another story entirely…probably a whole book, actually).  Raw cacao, rich in antioxidants, is also high in magnesium, which helps with blood circulation.  And what about dates? Not only are they a great source of fiber, but they also contain high levels of antioxidants known as tannins, which provide anti-inflammatory properties.  And these benefits just scratch the surface.  If you haven’t already, I encourage you to check out http://www.whfoods.com as they provide a wealth of information regarding what nutrients and benefits specific foods offer.

So, without further delay:

The World’s Best Raw Brownie (I tweaked this just a bit but it’s still 99.9% Sarah’s recipe; you may want to send her a thank you note after you taste them)

2 cups raw, whole walnuts

1 cup raw cacao (I use Navitas brand organic raw cacao nibs; most health food stores will have some version; I order mine from amazon)

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 1/2 cups organic Medjool dates, pitted

1 cup raw, unsalted almonds, roughly or finely chopped, depending on your (or your 6-year-old’s!) preference

1. Chop or process your almonds in a food processor to suit your taste.  I did a mixture of finely ground with some larger pieces.  Set aside.

2. Process the walnuts in your food processor until the nuts are finely ground.

3. Add the cacao and the salt; pulse to combine.

4. Add the dates, one or two at a time, through the feed tube while it is running.  Sarah says it will look like cake batter crumbs & that’s exactly what you get.

5. In a large bowl, combine your walnut/cacao mixture with the almonds.  Press into a square brownie pan (Sarah recommends you line the pan; I did not and simply used a large spatula to cut and remove the brownies form the pan).

6.  Refrigerate; they are easy to cut when cold and, I think, taste better chilled.  Sarah pictures them with a little dusting of cacao powder, which makes them look very pretty).

On behalf of Sarah, enjoy!

It’s been a long time since my last post and I think that in that time, just about every day it seems, I’ve gotten a question from someone wanting to improve their nutrition but they just can’t give up sugar.  Typically, people know they should give up the obvious stuff like Sweet-n-lo, Little Debbie Snack cakes and Swedish fish, but what about the category I call ‘transitional sweeteners’? Agave nectar, maple syrup, Xylitol, Stevia, etc?  I’m not a big fan of using any of these products on a regular basis and I know from experience that the more alkaline you get your body by cutting processed sugars, dairy & meat from your diet and adding foods like raw greens, the less your body will crave processed sweets.  But, if you are still in ‘transition mode’, I believe these comparatively less-processed sweeteners are a better choice, if used in moderation.  If you are reading this and asking ‘why should I give up my Little Debbie’s?’ or ‘what’s the harm in a little Cap’n Crunch now and then?’, and you don’t yet believe that processed sugars just wreck your body, inside & out, then please check out this April 2011 NYTimes article my friend Margo sent me last year; there are definitely some gaps in the data, but highly compelling nonetheless:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/magazine/mag-17Sugar-t.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

I wish I had more time to spend on the topic of sugar, but in the meantime, if you are becoming increasingly frustrated by how little energy you have or how wrinkles have taken up residency on your face or how every activity in which your children are involved incorporates sweets as a reward, know you are not alone: sugar is the culprit.  I’ve basically decided that sugar is a tool of the Devil, but, again, I’ll make that case another day!  For now, let’s look at some recipes that will not just curb your sweet tooth, but will actually give you some good nutrition.  These recipes include dried fruits; remember to always increase your water intake to replace the natural liquid lost in the dehydration process of the fruits.

This first recipe is technically the least healthy of the bunch; but, if you are trying to eliminate gluten & processed sugars and need a better substitute for your morning carbohydrate fix, look no further!  This recipe is one that I adapted a bit from the CLEAN Program’s website.  They are gluten-free & vegan.  I had to stop baking them because I can literally eat the entire batch in one day.  If you are following the CLEAN Program, these technically shouldn’t be legal, because the gluten-free flour called for contains potato starch & the chocolate has a little cane sugar, but if your ok with that, then have at it.

Chocolate Walnut Scones

Yield: 12 small scones

1/2 cup coconut oil (melted just to a liquid state)

1/4 cup water

3/4 cup organic, pitted Medjool dates

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

about 1 1/3 cup Bob’s Red Mills gluten-free all purpose flour

Pinch sea salt

1 whole 3.5 ounce bar organic dark chocolate (I like Green & Black’s 85% cacao variety; use about 1/2 a bar to cut the sugar content)

1/2 cup organic, raw walnuts coarsely chopped

1. preheat oven to 350 degrees

2.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (if you don’t have parchment paper, very lightly grease your pan with coconut oil)

3. Combine the baking powder, baking soda, flour, salt, chocolate & walnuts in a large bowl.

4. In a separate bowl, mash the dates to make a thick paste.

5. Add coconut oil, vanilla and water to date paste.

6.  Add the date mixture to the dry ingredients and mix gently until just combined.  The dough should just hold together.

7. VERY LIGHTLY flour a cutting board.  Form the dough into a round ‘ball’, place on the cutting board and cut in half then make each half round again.

8. Cut each round into 6 small, wedge-shaped pieces and carefully place onto the cookie sheet (I like to use a large knife for cutting, then slide the knife under each wedge to place it gently on the cookie sheet as I slide it off the knife).

9. Bake for 8 minutes; rotate the pan and bake another 8 minutes.  Cool and devour.

Many of you who ask about raw foods ask about raw desserts specifically.  If you are just discovering the benefits of raw and live foods, I suggest you read a book by Ann Wigmore (who founded the Hippocrates Health Institute) entitled The Hippocrates Diet and Health Program.  I guess many would call it a little ‘old school’ at this point, but it’s filled with tons of currently applicable information regarding wheatgrass, sprouting and juicing, topped off with some great raw recipes.  Here are two of my favorite desserts, tweaked just a bit from her originals; both call for the same pie ‘crust’ and both will take you about 10 minutes from start to finish.  If you like Larabars, you will love these.  And if you are accustomed to desserts that are laden with artificial (read: ‘TOXIC’) sweeteners, colorings and preservatives, and expect this to fill that exact void, you will be disappointed.  If, however, you are willing to allow your taste buds to ‘re-set’ from their current, adulterated form, then this is a good starting place.  I think my friend Margo said it best: ‘when trying a new vegan and/or raw food, you have to look at it as a new food rather than as an equivalent’.  In other words, don’t expect these to taste like Little Debbie’s!

Basic Pie Crust

1 cup raw, organic almonds

1 cup dried organic figs

about 1/4 teaspoon coconut oil for greasing pie pan

1. Grind almonds & figs in a food processor until mixture forms a sort of ‘ball’.

2. Press into a pie plate that has been oiled to form a ‘crust’

Coconut Banana ‘Cream’ Pie

1. 4 ripe, organic bananas

1 cup grated organic coconut

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Mash bananas; stir in coconut & vanilla

2. Scrape into prepared pie crust (see Basic Pie Crust recipe above)

Pecan Pie

1 cup raw, organic pecans, plus about kept whole 15 for topping

1 cup dried figs

1 or 2 ripe bananas (about 1 cup total) mashed (in a large bowl)

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Process pecans and figs in a food processor until it forms a ‘ball’

2. In a large bowl, combine pecan/nut mixture with mashed bananas and spices.

3.  Scrape into prepared pie crust (see Basic Pie Crust recipe above)

4.  Top with whole pecans

Enjoy!

If you like these, keep your eye out for my next post: Samuel-approved-raw brownies and Banana/Apple ‘cookies’.  I’m also going to give you some suggestions for snacks you can buy to keep in your purse or bag when you don’t have time to do your own prep work.  Remember not to be overwhelmed and remember THE VALUE OF ONE!  One change in the right direction does not equal zero; one positive change each day adds up to seven positive changes in a week…you get the idea!  Adopting a totally raw lifestyle is a fantastic goal; 80% raw is probably ideal for most people.  And although I know eating totally raw makes me feel like a million bucks, it’s a little tough for me to do every day as I am feeding a variety of sometimes finicky palates.  You can always do a ‘raw day’ or a ‘raw week’ or just a raw fast once a month.  So, even if you don’t go TOTALLY raw (which I think is just about impossible for the average person) or TOTALLY gluten-free or whatever it is YOU are working toward , simply adding one raw food item and removing one processed item a day WILL have an impact.

Happy New Year!  If you, like I, over-ate and under-slept throughout the months of November and December, you are not alone.  One too many Baby Jesus Birthday cakes, regular birthday cakes, peach cookies hand-delivered by my in-laws from my favorite bakery in Pittsburgh and going over my one-glass-ration of wine have me feeling a little yucky…or ‘acid’ as my brother’s family is fond of saying.  Truth be told, now that we stock urine test strips in the bathroom, my kids and I say it, too.  We are highly smoothie-compliant in our house and rarely skip a day; however, I get a little lax on the juicing and eating mainly raw foods this time of year.  So hopefully this will inspire you (and me!) to get back on track.  And if you are not yet a ‘smoothie convert’, then there is no better time to add this practice to your daily routine.  If you are already a smoothie-junkie but you want to mix it up a bit, then this post is for you.

Regular readers and those of you who know me personally know that I am a big fan of and often reference The Clean Program by Dr. Alejandro Junger, MD.  It offers the best of both worlds because you can follow the entire program with foods you can prepare in your own kitchen (if you have a good blender and juicer) and supplements you can easily purchase at your local health food store.  Or, if you are like my brother-n-law and have absolutely no interest in juicing for yourself because that’s critical time taken away from your golf game, you can purchase necessary items through http://www.cleanprogram.com

One of my recent posts caught the attention of Meghan Goyer, who wears at least a couple different hats as a member of The Clean Program Team.  Turns out she’s also crazy for quinoa and when I offered her the opportunity to share some of her favorite Clean Program recipes, she was happy to contribute.  Below is her bio and three of The Clean Team’s favorite smoothie creations, as well as links to other Clean-approved recipes.  I’m anxious to hear your experiences and results!

To Meghan: thank you for not only taking time from your schedule to pull this together but also for reading the blog.  As a society, we are urgently in need of improved nutrition and not everyone can afford a trip to a Canyon Ranch or The Hippocrates Institute!  For some people, it’s a choice to pay their phone bill or buy quality food.  So I admire someone like Meghan who is passionate about helping others to make improved choices about the quality of their health.

Enjoy!

Meghan Goyer is the newest addition to the Clean team!  She is a new resident of Charleston, SC as well, coming from Athens, GA where she received an M.A. in religion from the University of Georgia, after studying religion and painting there as an undergrad. Her studies focused on ritual and how it can be used intentionally as a tool for healing in today’s world.  Meghan’s passion for healing is likewise reflected in her yoga practice and teaching, work with interfaith dialogue, community building, non-violent communication, work-life balance, emotional intelligence, creativity, spirituality, mindfulness, and nutrition.  She believes that health is a multi-faceted big picture, and that in addition to promoting a cleaner world through living a clean lifestyle, love and fun are both super important parts of good health, and she encourages them widely.  Her role with the Clean team is still developing, but scans from customer support (which she thinks is SO important) to project development and assistance.

Smoothies and shakes are a great way to start the day, or perfect for a snack.  Because they are liquid, they are easy to digest, so your body won’t have to work so hard.  This means fewer digestive issues and better health! The best part about smoothies and shakes is that you can get super creative with the ingredients. Fruit and vegetables both work great, as well as nut milks and coconut water.  You can also use spices! There are infinite possible combinations, but here are a few of the Clean team’s favorite recipes to get you started.

*Note: The following recipes ask for Nourish or Nourish daily.  These are Clean products that can be ordered from www.cleanprogram.com. You can also substitute your own protein powder.  It’s best to get one with no whey or soy.  Some good options are pea, hemp, and brown rice protein powders. Some of the recipes also call for Move.  This is a Clean product too and can be replaced with ground flax, hemp, or chia seeds.

A lot of these recipes call for nut milk. I prefer to use almond milk.  You can buy this (get the unsweetened kind – Pacific and blue diamond are good brands), or make it on your own.  Here are the directions for how to do that:

Ingredients (Makes 3 servings):

1/2 cup almonds, skins removed and soaked overnight

3 cups water

1 tablespoon stevia to taste

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon flax oil

Directions:

Place the nuts, water, sweetener, salt, and oil in a blender and blend until smooth.  If it’s still chunky, either continue to blend or strain the liquid through cheesecloth, then serve.

“Peanut Butter and Jelly” Shake

1 scoop chocolate Nourish or Nourish daily (or your own protein powder)

1 scoop Move (or 1 Tbsp ground flax seeds)

1 spoonful almond butter (unsweetened and raw if possible)

1 handful of blueberries (I like the frozen ones)

1 cup almond milk (Unsweetened)

1 handful of ice cubes (optional)

Blend until smooth

Avocado Lime and Ginger smoothie: creamy, nutrient packed, satiating and delicious!

1 avocado, pitted and diced

1 large apple (any variety), cored and quartered

Juice of 1 lime

1 inch cube of ginger, peeled and minced OR 1 teaspoon ginger powder

1 cup coconut water OR nut/rice/hemp seed milk of your choice

handful of ice cubes (optional)

Blend all ingredients until smooth

Becky’s Morning Shake

8 ounces of water

3-4 ounces of nut or hemp seed or rice milk (unsweetened)

1/2 of an avocado

2 teaspoons organic almond butter

a pinch of sea salt

1 scoop Nourish (or your own protein powder)

1 scoop Move (or ground flax seeds)

sweetener to taste, e.g. stevia, agave, brown rice syrup (optional)

1 tablespoon carob or raw cacao powder (optional)

Blend until smooth and creamy.  Please note: this recipe makes a lot, so it can be one serving, or you can save some and have the rest as a snack later, depending on your individual hunger that day!

Here are some links to even more recipes for delicious juices, shakes, and smoothies. 

http://support.cleanprogram.com/forums/171013-smoothie-juice-recipes

http://my.cleanprogram.com/forum/categories/clean-recipes-shakes-smoothies/listForCategory

Feel free to get creative and experiment with your own combinations too! Make sure to tell us any great ones ;)

Our community site is also a great place to find healthy recipes.  Check it out at my.cleanprogram.com

And if you have any questions at all, feel free to email me at Meghan@cleanprogram.com

Cheers,

Meghan

This is by far the ‘recipe’ for which I get the most requests and about which I get the most questions.  My husband gave this smoothie its name for obvious reasons; the details of which I’ll spare you.  And I’ve been promising for months that I would post it, but (and I know you must tire of this excuse) Baby #3 will be one-year-old this week and he literally just started sleeping through the night a couple weeks ago.  So much for the third child being the easy one.  But this one actually looks like me so it’s a little tougher to be upset with him.

A couple things to note about my smoothie recipe.  About 3 or 4 years ago, we made the investment in a Vita-mix 5200 blender and I honestly don’t know how I survived without it.  My friend and former Pilates instructor, Jeff Riley of Fitness Innovations in Mt. Lebanon, PA introduced me to the smoothie concept probably 12 or 13 years ago.  At that time I had a Cuisinart blender and I had no idea what I was missing out on other than that I didn’t understand why my smoothies didn’t taste like the ones from Jamba Juice.  Those were so smooth and creamy. But I hung in there.  I didn’t know then what I know now about eliminating dairy,  incorporating alkaline-forming foods, etc.  So, to say the least, my smoothie recipe has evolved over the years.   But the concept of a smoothie for breakfast is a great one and that has stayed constant.  I agree with Frank Lipman, MD who states in his book Spent: Fight Exhaustion and Feel Great Again, that (I’m paraphrasing) if you only make one permanent dietary change, the addition of a smoothie for breakfast (replacing bagels, processed cereals, commercial baked goods, etc.), then I’ll be happy!

Please don’t be deterred if you don’t own a Vita-mix because you can still make great and worthwhile smoothies.  But, if you want to take your smoothies to ‘the next level’, then consider taking the plunge.  They are an amazing company and their products are manufactured in the US and the warranty is great.  I contacted them a couple years ago when our church was sending a team to Honduras to ask if they would give us a discount on a machine and they, without hesitation, offered to GIVE us two machines.  If you check out their website and sign up for their newsletter, you will receive emails when they are having specials.  They often have refurbished models that carry the same warranty as the new ones, which I believe is 10 years.  These things are MACHINES. Everyone who tastes my smoothies wants to know why they are so creamy and it’s definitely because of the Vita-mix.  I bought ours directly from their website but my mother-in-law has since purchased two (beautiful red ones) from QVC, so that’s another option.  And I think I saw that Williams-Sonoma now carries one of their models.

If yours is a ‘regular’ blender, you just need to make a couple adjustments to get great smoothies.  I’ll note those in the recipe. Depending on your blender’s power and performance and your own personal preferences, you may need to adjust the solid to liquid ratios I recommend; use the approximate quantities I list as a guide.  The general rule of thumb is about 1 cup liquid to 1 cup fruit and add water and/or ice to suit your taste and your blender’s power.  I use frozen organic fruit and fresh if I have it; feel free to use your own combination of fruit, fresh or frozen.   If your blender doesn’t handle frozen fruit well, you may need to use more fresh than frozen.  Ingredients marked with an asterisk are those that I add for my kids.  I make mine first, then add yogurt and banana for them.  So if you want a vegan version of this, go with the version I use for myself.  If you don’t have all the ingredients I list, feel free to substitute with what you do have.  But keep in mind that by incorporating the ingredients I list, you will get a good dose of protein, iron, calcium, B vitamins, the proper ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids and dietary fiber, in addition to other vitamins and minerals too numerous to list.  And if you suffer from irregular bowel movements, prepare to make friends with your toilet.

BA’s ‘blow it out’ smoothie (serves about 4)

1/3 c. organic raw almonds, soaked in filtered water overnight & rinsed well (if you have a high-power blender; otherwise about 1/4 c. unsweetened almond milk; soaking is important because nuts contain a protective enzyme inhibitor that is acid-forming and soaking will cause the enzyme to be released into the water; additionally, this process maximizes the nutritional content)

3-4 raw, organic Brazil nuts, soaked with your almonds (they are high in selenium which, in addition to providing protection from free radicals, acts as a chelator to help rid your body of mercury, but that’s another post entirely; I find nuts available in the bulk purchase sections to be tasteless & often rancid so be sure to buy from a reputable place & store in the fridge; I order ours from http://www.nutsonline.com)

1/2 c. organic hemp seed (I order mine in bulk from http://www.nutiva.com and store it in the fridge)

1/2 to 1 whole ripe avocado (you will know it’s ripe when it’s just a bit soft; a ‘good’ monounsaturated fat that has been shown to improve everything from heart-disease to arthritis; http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=5)

1/2 c. organic carrot juice (I use Odwalla brand to save time; you can also, obviously, juice your own or throw in some baby carrots if your blender can handle them)

1/2 c. coconut water (we like the ZICO brand that I purchase in bulk from http://www.amazon.com; if using almond milk rather than almonds, cut this to about 1/4 cup)

1 cup organic frozen fruit (I use cherries, pineapple, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries; the pineapple is high in thiamin[one of the B vitamins] and manganese; the berries are all high in polyphenols, or antioxidants)

1 large fresh, organic kale leaf (2-3 leaves if you can; the benefits are too numerous to list so take a look here when you have a chance http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?dbid=38&tname=foodspice)

1-2 Tbsp. Catie’s organic greens powder (http://www.energyessentials.com/catalog/caties-organic-greens-p-46.html; Laird Hamilton swears by this and that’s good enough for me!)

1-2 Tbsp. organic ground flax seed (buy it ground or buy the seed & grind yourself so it’s easily digestible; I use Bob’s Red Mill organic ground flaxseed and it’s readily available)

1 Tbsp. soaked chia seed (I buy mine from http://www.nutiva.com; just like you used in the terracotta chia pets you made as a kid…it’s high in protein, fiber, Omega-3 fatty acids, iron & potassium)

2-4 ounces freshly juiced organic wheatgrass (only we crazy people juice it ourselves but you can also buy it frozen from health food stores; you don’t need more than 2 ounces per person)

filtered water to taste/consistency preference

*1/3 c. organic plain goats’ milk yogurt (available at Whole Foods & some grocery stores; goats’ milk is more easily digested & tolerated by humans than cows’ milk; we have a local place that carries raw goats’ milk which I use to make yogurt, then strain it, adding the liquid part to the smoothies & keeping the cheese to use elsewhere)

*1 whole ripe banana

*oil of oregano (‘thanks’ to my oldest brother who recommended this to me years ago; we use this for a week, about every other week throughout the year to help prevent and/or minimize ‘whatever is going around’; I order mine here http://www.amazon.com/North-American-Herb-Spice-Strength/dp/B0014AUUVE/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1322621484&sr=8-2)

Enjoy!

It’s been a long time!  My apologies.  Baby #3 is 10 months old and STILL doesn’t sleep through the night.  So much for the third child being ‘the easy one’.  Oh well.  He’s really cute so we are going to keep him. Anyway…there was such a positive response (thank you) to the quinoa recipe I posted a couple months ago, in addition to questions about how to add this nutritious dynamo to your diets, that I thought I would share my other favorite quinoa recipes.

The first one is as easy as it is delicious.  It’s better suited to warm weather, so if you need more ‘comfort food’ during the Fall and Winter months, tuck this away for Spring and Summer and go directly to the second recipe.  It’s a good one for all seasons.

Some of you are already familiar with the book CLEAN: Remove, Restore, Rejuvenate-The Revolutionary Program to Restore the Body’s Natural Ability to Heal Itself by Alejandro Junger, MD.  If not, please consider reading it.  I reference this book quite a bit and, as my friend Margo pointed out recently, it’s worth buying for the recipe section alone.  Here’s a link to the book on amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Clean-Revolutionary-Program-Restore-Natural/dp/0061735337/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1319161388&sr=1-1

And here’s a link to the CLEAN website:

http://www.cleanprogram.com/about/dr-junger-md

Here’s the deal: before you visit the website, please understand that you can follow the program without buying anything from their website. Ideally, you will need to purchase a couple supplements, but you don’t need to purchase any of their cleanses, kits or products.  You may ultimately choose to, but I just want you to know that the entire and complete program can be done with items you purchase at the grocery store and a place like Whole Foods that sells nutritional supplements.

And even if you choose to not follow the CLEAN Program legalistically, many of the recipes are so good you will want to incorporate them into your rotation.  This one can easily be doubled and is good as a topping for sliced cucumbers; I just eat it as-is.

Quinoa Tabbouleh

2 cups cooked quinoa (if you have a rice maker, just rinse it and then cook on the ‘white rice’ setting)

1 Tbsp. chopped parsley

1/4 cup currants (I don’t add these, but the original recipe calls for them)

1/4 cup chopped raw almonds

1/2 cup diced carrots

1/4 cup chopped mint

1/4 cup scallions cut diagonally and sliced thinly

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/4 cup lime juice (don’t skimp on this!)

1 tsp. agave nectar

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. sea salt

1/2 cup olive oil

1. I chop the carrots and almonds together in my food processor then add to the other ingredients in a large bowl.

2. Let sit 20 minutes before serving to allow flavors to blend

Here’s the recipe for my husband’s favorite ‘nutritional’ food (understanding that the word ‘nutritional’ is relative).  He doesn’t think the word quinoa is particularly masculine, but he does love these little patties.  As well he should, considering they are a true labor of love.  I devour them, too, but I like that he thinks I’m altruistic, so I allow him to believe I make them just for him.

This recipe is from an outstanding cookbook that is newer in my collection but has quickly become a favorite.  Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson.  I will warn you that it has it’s share of typos and she does use the word ‘slather’ ad nauseam, but it’s a GREAT book.  Not vegan or totally raw, but full of great tips on healthier substitutions and helpful anecdotes.  This is another recipe suited to doubling; I often quadruple it with great success because they are good stored in the fridge for 3 or 4 days.  We eat them warm, cold, in a car, on a train, in a house, with a mouse…oh wait…that was mrs.bedtimestory…sorry.  Try these with just plain avocado or goat cheese spread on them like butter, with your favorite pesto, with grilled portobellos in the summer…you name it.  I mentioned they are a labor of love.  Don’t let that deter you from giving these a try, because the work involved is most definitely worth it.  And if you are one of those people who doesn’t mind getting their hands ‘yucky’, then you won’t perceive these as so laborious. Here’s a link to Heidi’s book:

http://www.amazon.com/Super-Natural-Every-Day-Well-loved/dp/1580082777/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1319163506&sr=1-1

Little Quinoa Patties (I’ve tweaked this a bit and the measurements are somewhat approximate)

2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa

4 large eggs, beaten

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 small onion, finely chopped

1/2 lb. chevre (goat cheese)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. dried basil

1/2 cup bread crumbs (whole wheat will work, but try to find one with no added sugar; if mixture is too dry, add another egg or more chevre)

Olive oil for sauteeing

1. Combine the quinoa, eggs, basil, oregano, chevre and garlic and salt in a large bowl.

2. Stir in the bread crumbs, basil and oregano.  (Heidi’s words: At this point you should have a mixture you can easily form into…1-inch thick patties).

3. Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat.

4.  Add about 6 patties (or as many will fit, making certain there is a bit of space in between for flipping).

5. Cover and cook, for about 7 minutes on each side.  If there is no browning, turn up the heat a bit and continue to cook until the patties are golden.  Carefully flip the patties with a spatula and cook the reverse side until golden.

6.  Remove from the skillet and cool on a wire rack, or serve warm.

Enjoy!

I’m sure you have all been losing sleep over how to get organic dried cherries…you will rest well tonight knowing they do exist.  Last month I posted a quinoa recipe that lists dried cherries as an ingredient.  I mentioned that I have been looking for dried cherries that are organic without added sugar because cherries consistently rank high for levels of pesticides.  The ones we typically eat have no added sugar, but the cherries themselves are not organic.  Turns out, VitalChoice carries dried organic tart cherries, but they do contain organic cane sugar so there’s a bit of a trade-off: choose organic cherries with added sugar or choose no sugar with possible pesticides.  I’ll let you make the call.

If you are interested, check out:

http://www.vitalchoice.com/shop/pc/viewPrd.asp?idproduct=267&idcategory=275

I encourage you to check out this company even if you are perfectly happy not having dried organic cherries in your life.  We have been ordering their sashimi-grade Alaskan Sockeye salmon for years and it’s always incredible, raw or grilled.  They also offer some great bonus gifts-with-purchase each week if you sign up for their mailing list.  That’s how I discovered their macadamia nut oil that is amazing for grilling salmon.  If your idea of salmon is the cotton-candy pink kind from your average super market, you are in for a real treat.  Turns out most of the salmon you purchase is not only farmed (which is terrible for you, the environment and the fish), but it is dyed to appear red or pink in an effort to mimic wild salmon’s naturally occurring red-orange hue.   The antioxidant astaxanthin is what imparts its red color.  More on salmon later (I say that alot, don’t I?), but for now, if you are a salmon-eater, do all you can to get it wild-caught from a sustainable source.  Here is a link to what Wikipedia has to say about astaxanthin:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astaxanthin

If you go to VitalChoice’s ‘Top Sellers & Special Values’ tab, you will see some good deals.  I like having a mix of smaller and larger portions so here’s what we order:

http://www.vitalchoice.com/shop/pc/viewPrd.asp?idproduct=799&idcategory=232

They ship it in a recyclable styrofoam container in dry ice and you can choose the date.  This link will take you to their VitalGreen page.  Take a look at their initiative to recycle the containers:

http://www.vitalchoice.com/shop/pc/viewContent.asp?idpage=7

Hope everyone has a relaxing Labor Day and thanks again for your encouraging emails!

While back in the ‘Burgh last month, my mother-n-law and I took my dinosaur-obsessed sons to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Wow.  I’m embarrassed to say that I went to exhibits and classes there a zillion times while we lived there but I had no idea they had redone (which is a total understatement) the dinosaur exhibits.  If you haven’t gone lately, please go.  Anyway…we ate at the museum cafe and had this incredible quinoa salad.  I wasn’t certain of all the ingredients but knew it had quinoa (duh), dried cherries, ginger and, I figured, some type of onion and green herb.  So I did an internet search for ‘quinoa cherry ginger’ and came up with this great recipe from the Meatless Monday website.  I’ve tweaked it a little but here’s the link for the original recipe:

http://www.meatlessmonday.com/ginger-cherry-quinoa/

If you check it out, you will see the recipe actually comes from a site called Domestic Divas.  I had not heard of it but spent a little time there & I encourage you to do the same.  It’s a terrific blog and I found a slew of recipes I plan to try.

http://www.domesticdivasblog.com/

It’s healthy and easy: my favorite thing about the recipe may be that you can do it all in one pan.

If you are new to quinoa (pronounced |ˈkēnwä|) don’t be intimidated.  I can just hear my friend Mark asking, ‘What the $*@# is quinoa?’!!! Quinoa is a non-gluten grain that is apparently not truly a grain but a relative of green leafy vegetables.  I learned to love it after reading CLEAN: Remove, Restore, Rejuvenate by Alejandro Junger, MD.  It’s one of the approved grains on his elimination diet/cleanse list of OK foods; his book contains a handful of easy quinoa-based recipes. I enjoy that it gives you the texture of rice but packs such an amazing nutritional punch.  It’s high in protein and is safe for those with Celiac Disease.  Not only is it high in protein, it is actually a complete protein, meaning it contains the nine essential amino acids.  I also just learned that it is very high in magnesium which apparently may benefit migraine sufferers.  If you haven’t visited already, please take a look at The World’s Healthiest Foods website; it’s a comprehensive resource if you are looking for the specific nutritional benefits of certain foods:

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?dbid=142&tname=foodspice

This recipe also contains pine nuts (which my nut-allergic friend Christie will be happy to know are optional; she’ll also be happy that I remembered she’s allergic to nuts, but that’s another story), fresh ginger root and parsley.  I’m a big believer in allowing our food to be medicine and these are three great foods for doing just that.

Pine nuts (or ‘pignoli’) contain the highest level of protein per gram of any nut.  The following information comes from a great review of their benefits from Today’s Women & Health:

http://www.todays-women-and-health.com/pine-nuts.html

‘Pine nuts are nature’s only source of pinoleic acid, which stimulates hormones and helps diminish your appetite.  They have the highest concentration of oleic acid: a monounsaturated fat that aids the liver in eliminating harmful triglycerides from our body which helps protect our heart.  Pine nuts are packed with 3mg of iron per one ounce serving. Iron is a key component of hemoglobin, the oxygen carrying pigment in blood that supplies energy.  Additionally, they are rich in magnesium which helps alleviate muscle cramps, tension and fatigue.’ (Another great food for migraine sufferers.)

Everyone knows ginger is good for nausea and helping with morning sickness, but there’s a reason why they serve it alongside sushi, specifically with sashimi.  I remember reading in Sushi for Dummies that this practice is to help kill any parasites and/or bacteria that could be present in the raw fish.  It’s also high in magnesium, potassium and other minerals.  Here’s a link for a more comprehensive list of its medicinal benefits:

http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/ginger-root.html

Parsely is basically good for everything that ails you.  No joke.  It’s great to flavor foods, but also great to throw in with your vegetables if you own a juicer.  My green-thumbed-mother (sadly I did not inherit the gene) grows tons of it and tells me that my 4-year-old niece eats it by the fistful which I think is awesome.  Even Mrs. GoodStuff can’t get her kids to do that.  The benefits are so numerous and complex (just to name a few: cardio-protective, tons of anti-oxidants, protection against arthritis) that I’ll just give you the link if you want to see specifics:

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=100

Ok…enough about why this is so good for you…this recipe also tastes incredible.  And, as I mentioned, it’s incredibly easy to make and to clean up because it’s done in one pan.  This is great served chilled, but also warm (my preference), or hot.

1/4 c. pine nuts (or more if you’re a fan; I use a whole cup)

1+ Tbsp. olive oil

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 tsp. fresh ginger root, peeled & minced (also feel free to add more here; I use closer to 2 tsp.)

1 cup quinoa, rinsed

2 1/3 c. water

1/2 c. dried cherries (I use 1 cup.  *Use whatever dried cherries you like but note that most will contain some form of sugar and/or sulfites & oil as additives.  For this recipe, I use Whole Foods dried sour cherries; if you want one without any added sugar or sulfites, they are a little pricey but I’ll give you the link at the end of this recipe to the ones we get for snacking, adding to steel cut oats and for making trail mix.)

1/2 c. golden raisins

1 Tbsp. flat leaf parsley, chopped

Freshly ground sea salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, toast the pine nuts in a little olive oil then set aside (They toast quickly so pay attention and don’t let them get too brown!)

2. Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in same skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the shallot & ginger.  Saute just about 2 minutes until they soften.

3. Add quinoa & stir to combine.  Cook for about 1 minute then add the water.

4. Bring to a boil, cover and cook about 8 minutes total.  (Add the dried cherries & raisins after about 4 minutes, then cook another 4 for a total of 8 minutes.)

5. Let sit, covered for a couple minutes, uncover and add the nuts, parsley and salt & pepper.  Toss with a fork.  Serve immediately or cool to desired temperature.

Enjoy!

* Here’s the link to the dried cherries I get from amazon.com (Whole Foods also carries them most of the time but if you choose the Subscribe & Save option, they are a much better price; please note that the labeling of these as ‘organic’ is legal under USDA regulations, but the cherries themselves are not organic.  I haven’t been able to find any organic varieties without sugar that taste good; however, they may be out there.  It’s worth finding a good-tasting brand that is organic and not sweetened with sugar because cherries consistently rank in the Top 10 most toxic fruits and veggies thanks to crazy levels of pesticides.  So if you know of a better brand, please share):

http://www.amazon.com/Eden-Organic-Montmorency-Cherries-4-Ounce/dp/B001ELL288/ref=pd_rhf_p_t_1

My friend Margo is one of those amazing bakers who can actually create her own recipes.  Anytime I try something new and want to figure out how to bake it, I go to her.  I can improvise fairly well when I’m cooking, but I respect baking as an exact science so I get a little nervous about changing ratios, etc.  Here is Margo’s recipe for crispy brown rice bars. I love being able to make this sort of thing for myself because 1) the cost for wholesome little snacks like these can equal the size of a mortgage payment over the course of a year 2) I just cringe every time I open one of the wrappers and know that most are headed for the land-fill 3) these are void of any preservatives that still come with many ‘natural’ and/or organic varieties.  

I’ve already praised the benefits of almonds and dried fruits (See the post with the recipe for date balls.), but these also contain one of my favorite ‘sneak-in’ ingredients: hemp seed.  I order mine in 5 lb. bags from Nutiva (www.nutiva.com).  It is easily stored in the refrigerator and is a great addition to smoothies and salads.  For baby food or salad dressing, try adding their hemp oil.  Hemp seed contains the perfect 3:1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids.  For a quick synopsis, here’s a quick read from Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemp_oil

In addition to being gluten-free, I also like that this recipe calls for brown rice syrup and honey rather than white or brown sugar or agave nectar. I’m certainly not an expert on sugars and I don’t mind a little agave now and then, but I do believe that sugar is not as innocuous as the marketing companies whose clients include children’s cereal manufacturers, ketchup manufacturers and ‘whole wheat’ bread manufacturers would like you to believe.  It wreaks havoc on our immune and digestive systems and everything else in between.  More on that later.

Brown rice syrup is a polysaccharide (or ‘complex sugar’) rather than a monosaccharide (or ‘simple sugar’).  It’s still a sweetener so it should be used in moderation, but because of its structure, the body breaks it down more slowly so you don’t get the crazy spike in blood glucose levels that occurs with simple sugars.  It also means that the body can utilize it for energy rather than storing it as fat.   Honey is also a natural sweetener but, unlike processed sugar (e.g. white sugar), it retains its own natural digestive enzymes and nutrients.  I don’t know much about it, but raw honey is a very popular choice because it is completely unprocessed and, as a result, retains all of its natural nutritional benefits. Apparently it is good for allergies and as a natural antibiotic.

A note about gluten free: Thanks Joan, who wrote in to ask about brown rice syrup being gluten free.  I’ve now specified in Margo’s recipe to use Lundberg Farms because both their organic and eco-farmed versions are gluten free.  That’s the only brand I have used so I mistakenly assumed all varieties are gluten free…not so.  I checked http://www.glutenfreeliving.com and they indicate that it’s actually the fermentation process that determines the distinction.  If the brown rice is fermented with barley enzymes, the result is NOT gluten free.  If fungal enzymes are used, the resulting rice syrup IS gluten free.  If eating gluten free is not important to you, then obviously use whatever brand of brown rice syrup you prefer.  

Enjoy the recipe that follows…thanks Margo!

My kids are obsessed with these organic crispy brown rice bars – but we go through a case of them in a matter of weeks.  When I complained about it, BethAnn said what she always says to me about pre-packaged snack food:  “Couldn’t you make those?”  And I responded the way I always do:  (apologetic grimace) “Yeah probably, but I never will.”  So tackled the brown rice bars and came up with this versatile recipe that I hope will become as popular in your house.  My kids like to help make them too.

Crispy Rice Bars

3 cups organic brown crisp rice cereal (I like Barbara’s brand)

¼ cup raw almonds

¼ cup raw cashews

¼ cup shelled hemp seeds

½ cup raisins (or other small dried fruit; add enough to suit your taste)

1/3 cup smooth nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew, tahini, hazelnut would all work well, as would a combination)

¼ cup Lundberg Farms Gluten free brown rice syrup

¼ cup honey

Preheat oven to 350.

Grind nuts and seeds in a spice mill to coarse consistency.

Add these and raisins or other dried fruit to brown rice cereal.

Bring nut butter, honey and brown rice syrup to a boil in a small pot, and allow the mixture to bubble for about one minute (do not let it burn).

Pour nut butter mixture over rice mixture and stir thoroughly.

Turn out onto a greased 9×9 metal cake pan and press down with greased fingers.

Bake for about 10 minutes, just until edges begin to brown.

Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars.

Store in layers separated by parchment in an airtight container.