Monthly Archives: March 2013

Spring Cleaning

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Hello lovelies, happy spring! Warmer weather, blooming flowers, bike rides & frolicking/picnicking/sprawling on lawns are all in sight and this makes me a very happy girl. It is such an uplifting feeling when spring comes back around offering all of its rejuvenating, positive energy.

The theme for my meditation today was creating balance and the mantra was: my outer world reflects my inner world. As our outer world makes a transition, it feels right to make one on the inside as well. Just as we would look to our home for some spring cleaning, now is a perfect time to look to our most sacred homes- our bodies- for some cleaning as well. Staying in rhythm with nature as best we can is a wonderful way to create balance in our lives.

A great way to clean out winter and make room for spring is a juice cleanse. I was recently told that the two things that take up the most energy in our bodies are thinking and digesting. A juice cleanse, where you drink only vegetable and fruit juices, allows our bodies to focus less on digesting and more on cleansing. Meditation is a great practice to pair with a juice cleanse because it means less thinking! Time to not only clear the body of toxins but clear that busy mind.

To be completely honest, I have never done a full juice cleanse. What I have done is replaced breakfast and dinner with juice and kept lunch on the lighter side [grains, steamed veggies, sweet potatoes.] Even replacing just dinner with juice provides great benefits for the body. Plus, if you are new to cleansing, it is the easiest meal to replace since the body’s digestive fire is low and you are engaging in less activity at night.

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Juicing with a juicer instead of a blender is very important. A juicer extracts fiber, which is important during a juice cleanse (but try not to throw the pulp away, you can use it in baked goods or as compost). You want to eliminate fiber from your diet so your body does not use up energy digesting it. The point of a juice cleanse is to give your digestive system a break from all that hard work it does!

Here are some juice combos that I especially love but feel free to play around with your veggies and fruits and see what new and colorful combos you come up with.

Helpful tip: it is important to incorporate some kind of sweet component into your juice so it doesn’t taste so “green”. Apples and oranges are perfect picks but if you are on a strictly veggie juice cleanse, I find beets and carrots to be wonderful sweeteners.

Juice combos:

beet-apple-carrot-ginger

carrot-orange-apple-ginger

kale-spinach-celery-parsley-apple-lemon

pineapple-lemon-ginger-mint (you can use a blender for this one)

cucumber-melon-mint-lemon

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Goodbye winter, hellooooo spring!

Cheers,

Sarah

[Photos: homemade beet-carrot-ginger juice//green juice from fortheloveoffood]

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A weekend in Granada, Spain

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[Photos: Exploring the food, culture, history & beauty of Granada with Alejandro]

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Gluten-Free Banana Coconut Bread

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To call me a banana lover would be an understatement. Anything banana, I will eat: bananas, banana ice cream, banana bread, bananas foster, banana pancakes, dried bananas, banana baby food. Yeah, you heard that last one right. Baby food. I absolutely love the smooth, delicate texture of banana baby food. There is something about a jar of Gerber’s and a little spoon that I find both delicious and comforting (is it too soon in our relationship to reveal this information?) Maybe I’m just trying to hold onto the wee las deep down inside of me. Maybe I’m crazy. Possibly both. I know one thing’s for sure: I am bananas for bananas.

Lately, I’ve also been loco for all things coco: coconut water, coconut milk, coconut, coconut oil and coconut sugar.  I fell in love with coconut again during my trip to Costa Rica, where coconut–in one form or another– is used in everything.  And I mean everything.

And as the kind of girl who can’t pass up a warm slice of banana bread, I decided to marry bananas and coconut in this oh-so-satisfying sweet bread.

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Coconut sugar is a completely natural sweetener, made from the sap of coconuts.  It has a low glycemic index, meaning that our blood sugar doesn’t shoot up when we ingest it.  Coconut sugar also has a high mineral content and is a rich source of potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron. This sweetener also contains Vitamin B1, B2, B3, and B6, which enhance immune and nervous system function, promote cell growth and division, among many other benefits. Compared to brown sugar, coconut sugar has twice the iron, four times the magnesium and over 10 times the amount of zinc! [1]

     Flavor profile: molasses, deep, rich.

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Coconut oil has been getting some long-deserved recognition recently.  I came across this book and was fascinated by it but also thought about how places like Costa Rica must be laughing their blue zone butts off that we haven’t discovered it sooner.

Pacific Islanders believe coconut oil to be the cure for all illness and regard it so highly that they refer to the coconut tree as “the tree of life.”  Coconut oil is used widely throughout the world as both food and medicine as it has been known to cure a whole host of conditions. It is a staple in Ayurvedic medicine as well as other traditional medicine practices.

The magic of this oil lays in medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA). The vast majority of fats and oils in our diets, whether they are saturated or unsaturated or come from animals or plants, are composed of long-chain fatty acids (LCFA). Some 98 to 100% of all the fatty acids you consume are LCFA [2]

Our bodies respond to and metabolize each fatty acid differently depending on its size. MCFA are very different from LCFA. They do not have a negative effect on cholesterol and help to protect against heart disease. MCFA are the main reason for these health benefits of coconut oil:

  • Promote weight loss
  • Help prevent heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and many other degenerative diseases
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Improve digestion
  • Prevent premature aging of the skin
  • Beautify skin and hair

    Flavor profile: coconuty! This oil weaves a subtle coconut flavor through food that has been cooked in it.

I also used almond flour and greek yogurt to make it gluten-free and amp up the protein content. This recipe was inspired by my friend glutenfreefitchick and adapted from a Chez Us recipe. I realized I made this bread on the eve of daylight savings.  No better way to celebrate extra daylight than a warm slice of banana bread.

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Gluten-Free Banana Coconut Bread

Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients:

1/2 cup virgin coconut oil

1/2 cup plain non-fat greek yogurt (add a 1/4 cup more if batter seems too thick)

1/4 cup coconut sugar

1 tbs agave nectar

1 egg

2 ripe bananas, lightly mashed

1 1/2 cups almond flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a bread loaf pan or line with parchment paper.  Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl; set aside. Beat coconut oil in a measuring cup or separate bowl until soft.  Add greek yogurt and continue beating for a few minutes.  Add sugar and mix until fluffy.  Add egg, bananas, and agave and mix until combined.  Add dry ingredients in two parts until combined. Pour into loaf pan.  Top with a sprinkling of coconut sugar and coconut flakes (optional).  Bake for 45-55 minutes, until bread is golden brown and a knife inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Enjoy!

Cheers to longer days and tropical memories,

Sarah D.

Sources:

[1] http://www.sugarcoconut.com [2] http://www.coconutresearchcenter.org/

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Nosara, Costa Rica

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sugartrail

harmony

sunset

“the roads here are paved

in molasses. sweet barefoot

talks and sticky night walks leave

sugar in your bed, under

your tongue. surf boards line up

on drift wood like tanning Ticos,

their owners never questioning how

a sun can paint so well”

[Photos: morning coffee//molasses sugar trail//smoothie&bamboo straw//Nosara sunset]

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chickpea fries with tahini yogurt dipping sauce

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One thing I am: a hummus hound.  I can’t get enough of this creamy, luscious snack.  It’s easy, hearty, and comes in a variety of flavors.  Most times I make my own hummus because it’s super simple and you can tailor it to your own taste buds (I add extra lemon and harissa to mine.)  For me the equation had always been: chickpeas=hummus…until I went to Peacefood Cafe in NYC and tried their chickpea fries.  I fell in love that day.  Seriously, they are divine.  Warm, light, and filled with the perfect blend of Indian spices, these delicate chickpea fries are served with a cool dipping sauce that perfectly balances the warm, subtle spice of the fries.

My eyes were opened that day to the versatility of chickpeas.  Chickpeas are great as soup thickeners, added to salads, stewed in Indian spices, and even simply fried on their own and sprinkled with paprika for an on-the-go crunchy snack.  And in this case, they can be turned into flour and used to make a healthier alternative to regular ol’ potato fries.

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Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, have long been valued for their fiber content.  Two cups provide your entire daily value!  Between 65-75% of the fiber found in garbanzo beans is insoluble fiber, and this type of fiber remains undigested all the way down to the final segment of your large intestine (colon). Recent studies have shown that garbanzo bean fiber can be metabolized by bacteria in the colon to produce relatively large amounts of short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), including acetic, propionic, and butyric acid. These SCFAs provide fuel to the cells that line your intestinal wall. By supporting the energy needs of our intestinal cells, the SCFAs made from garbanzo fibers can help lower your risk of colon problems, including your risk of colon cancer. [1]

Garbanzo beans are high in protein and iron.  One cup of garbanzo beans provides 26% of your daily iron and 29% of your daily protein value.  The high protein and fiber content of these beans makes for better regulation of blood sugar.  These two nutrients have an amazing ability to help stabilize the flow of food through our digestive tract and prevent the breakdown of food from taking place too quickly or too slowly.

These legumes also have a unique supply of antioxidants that play a key role in lowering heart disease.  One of its many minerals, manganese, is a key antioxidant in the energy-producing mitochondria found inside most cells. One cup of garbanzo beans offers 84% of your daily value of manganese! This is especially important since the majority of Americans are deficient in this essential mineral.

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Garbanzo flour (also known as gram flour) is used all around the world.  In India, chickpeas and gram flour are a staple of the diet.  Chickpea fritters, or panelle, is an ancient Sicilian recipe and still a common street food in Southern Italy.  In Southeast France chickpea fries are called panisse, and are sold at beach-side vendors.

You can make your own chickpea flour by running dried garbanzo beans in a food processor until they become as powdery and fine as flour.  Or you can do what I did and buy it pre-made.  I prefer Bob’s Red Mill brand, which you can find at natural foods stores and most supermarkets.

Garbanzo flour’s flavor is non-offensive, making it an excellent flour for gluten-free baking. However, this can mean bland fries if left on its own so be sure to take advantage of your spices & seasoning.  If you are having a hard time choosing a spice to add to the mix, think about what you like in your hummus, since this dish incorporates all the same basic ingredients [lemon, olive oil, chick peas, tahini, garlic.]  My favorites are cumin or harissa.  Other options include smoked paprika, cayenne, or chopped fresh herbs like rosemary or flat-leaf parsley.

Important note: don’t skimp on the sauce.  Don’t get me wrong, the fries are divine but most times aren’t fries just a utensil for the condiment?

Chickpea Fries with Tahini Yogurt Dipping Sauce

Serves 4

Chickpea fries:

1 cup garbanzo bean flour

2 cups water

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

minced garlic (amount depends on how garlicky you like your fries)

spice/herb of your choice (smoked paprika, cumin, harissa, fresh rosemary or flat-leaf parsley)

salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Add 1 cup garbanzo bean flour and two cups cold water to a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Start whisking.

2. Allow the mixture to come to a boil.  Whisk constantly for about one minute until mixture resembles polenta.  Make it fairly thick but not dry. (This process happens very quickly so the second you see it turn polenta-like, take it off the burner.)

3. Stir in one tablespoon olive oil, salt, pepper, and spice/herb of your choice.

4. Spread mixture on a nonstick or oiled surface (I used a cookie sheet) and cover with waxed paper or plastic.  Refrigerate for at least one hour.

*Time saving tidbit: You can make the mixture the night before and take it out right before cutting, frying, and serving.

5. When you’re ready, cut into shapes (rectangles, half moons, peace signs, whatever your creative heart desires.)

6. Shallow-fry in olive oil until crisp.  You can make them pale or dark.  I like mine paler so that they are slightly crisp on the outside but have a custard-like consistency on the inside.

7.  Place on a paper towel-lined plate and top with a little more salt, pepper, and minced garlic.

Taste profile: crisp, light, creamy, custardy, warm, subtle spice.

Tahini Yogurt Dipping Sauce:

1/2 cup sesame tahini

1/4 cup plain whole milk yogurt

1/2 of a lemon

Directions:

1. Mix ingredients until smooth and a palish-tan color.

Taste profile: cool, creamy, smooth, slightly nutty.

*I don’t usually measure my sauce.  I play around with the quantities until it tastes good to me.  Most recipes call for more yogurt than tahini but I like tahini to be the stronger note in my sauce.  I leave it up to you and your taste buds, my dear foodies.

Cheers,

Sarah D.

Sources: [1] whfoods.org

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