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Our superfood spotlight for the day are those beautifully tear-shaped nutrient packed nuts; almonds! A relative of the peach and apricot, this tree nut is native to the Mediterranean and is known to be one of the earliest cultivated tree nuts in history. Depictions of almonds appear in the artwork and scriptures dating as far back as 3,000 BC – and were even found in King Tut’s tomb! In Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, almonds are regarded for their nutritional value, their ability to increase longevity for the brain and their Vata-pacifying effects.
Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E and vitamin B, both, powerful antioxidants and high in fiber and the essential mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids that are responsible for lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol. Just a handful of these tiny treats may even reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes – and with a nutritional profile of merely 160 calories per ounce and 6 grams of high-quality protein, it’s a snack anyone can sneak into their lives on a daily basis.
Convinced and can’t wait to get more of these delicious nuts into your diet? Here are a few ways to help get you started:
– Instead of using dairy milk in your morning coffee or smoothie substitute it with almond milk.
– Not into or allergic to peanuts but miss that childhood PB&J staple? Then go for an almond butter and jelly sandwich, it’s just tasty and has higher nutritional value.
Source: The Chalkboard
There’s no better way to start your day than with a taste of the tropics. This fruity and refreshing smoothie will even have the groggiest of early risers smiling and moving through the day with an extra bounce in their step. The shining star in this smoothie recipe is papaya.
Papaya is a rich source of antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and special digestive enzymes that have a remarkable effect both internally and externally. If you’d like to improve your skin, relieve digestion problems, protect your eyes and heart then consider the many benefits of eating papaya.
For your skin
Ripe papaya is a great source of antioxidant vitamin C, vitamin E and carotenoids like beta-carotene and lycopene. The high levels of these nutrients can help protect your skin against free radicals known to cause wrinkles and other visible signs of aging.
The enzyme papain in the flesh and skin of the fruit actually breaks down dead skin cells and helps promote skin renewal when used topically on the face or body. Using papaya topically, as scrubs or cleansers can improve your skin’s texture, elasticity and appearance.
For your eyes
Along with its beta-carotene content that can be converted to vitamin A, which is extremely important to eye health and vision, papaya also contains the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.
Lutein and zeaxanthin, known as xanthophylls, are concentrated in the macular region of our eyes. Here they provide protection against high-energy blue light that can damage our retinas. The high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in papaya may also protect us against developing cataracts, glaucoma, and other chronic eye diseases.
The high levels of vitamin C and E along with antioxidants like beta-carotene and lycopene found in papaya can help reduce the oxidization of cholesterol in our arteries. Cholesterol oxidization is considered a dangerous process, potentially leading to arteries blocked with plaque that can result in heart attacks. Increasing your intake of these antioxidants from health foods like papaya may help improve blood flow to the heart and reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
Papaya is a good source of folate, which can help control high levels of homocysteine found in the bloodstream – another warning sign of potential heart-related illness as high levels of homocysteine in the blood are known to damage blood vessels making them difficult to properly circulate through the body.
The enzymes in papaya, and especially the green fruit, can improve digestion by breaking down proteins into their individual amino acids. Undigested proteins can lead to health issues such as gastrointestinal problems and an overgrowth of flatulence causing bacteria in the colon.
The proteolytic enzyme papain found in papaya is extremely efficient at breaking down proteins and restoring healthy bacteria in our gut. The seeds of papaya are believed to have an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effect on our digestive systems. Studies have shown an extract made from them is effective at killing E coli, Salmonella, Staph and other dangerous bacterial infections.
Tropical Papaya Smoothie
2 cups papaya
1 cup pineapple
1 1/2 cup coconut water
Small handful of cashews
Dash of cinnamon
Blend and enjoy.
Source: Superfood Profile
Nothing says spring more than the bud to bloom of the beloved Cherry Blossom Tree – with their elegant arrangement of flowers and endless color, these trees dance when a spring breeze catches their branches. As I found myself daydreaming about these amazing trees and anxiously awaiting their bounty of beauty, just then I realized with a hooray…that I would soon being seeing and walking among these magnificent trees. This year the blossoms are predicted to peak from April 3 – 6 and only lasting a few weeks, with this date fast approaching I penciled it in my calendar with a big exclamation mark. “Cherry Blossoms!! MUST SEE!!” All of sudden, I immediately found myself craving and thinking about my other beloved cherries. Now I know I’m getting ahead of myself as cherries aren’t in season till summer but I just couldn’t resist, and with cherries on my mind, in all forms, I blended up this delicious smoothie to go with my side of cherry blossom daydreaming. This decadent chocolatey smoothie makes the perfect treat to celebrate spring and it’s other “sister” – Cherry Blossom.
Chocolate Cherry Smoothie
1 1/4 cup cherries, frozen or fresh
1 1/2 cup almond milk
2 tsp. cacao powder
1 tsp. coconut nectar or honey
Small handful alfalfa sprouts
Dash of cinnamon
Blend all ingredients until smooth and enjoy.
This cookbook was recently given to me as a gift and since receiving it, the book has become my go-to winter survival cookbook. A lot of the recipes are hearty, nourishing, informational and delicious. I say informational because while root veggies are common ingredients and can be found in anyone’s cooking repertoire, I’m just amazed at how many different types are available to us and how much they vary in taste, shape, size, and preparation, even storing them.
To go over a few basics “roots” can be broken down into the categories of true roots, which can either be tap roots or tuberous roots and then we have stem tubers, rhizomes, and corms. Under true roots, taproots, are the most common known vegetables we call ‘roots’ they vary in shape and size but all have a conical form to them. These are carrots, beets, celery root, burdock root, jicama, maca, parsnips, radishes, salsify, turnips, and rutabagas just to name a few. The other true roots are tuberous roots, which are enlarged roots that function as storage organs. They are sweet potatoes, yuca, kudzu, earthnut, yacon, and mauka.
The other tubers, stem tubers, are still “swollen underground storage organs however they have some components of rhizomes” and typically have a higher starch content. Stem tubers are potatoes, yams, oca, andean potatoes, and jerusalem artichokes, or sunchokes. A rhizomes is “a fleshy plant stem that spreads below the soil and forms leaves above with thin roots below”, most commonly known are ginger, arrowroot, turmeric, and licorice. Corms are “a short, swollen underground or underwater plant stem whose inner structure is made up of solid tissue” an example of corms are taro, water chestnuts, malanga, and arrowhead.
Each and every one of these root vegetables are unique and most certainly deserve some love and attention in your kitchen, so if any of them jump out at you or peak your interest, I highly recommend heading out to your health food store of local farmers market and pick up a new root veggie for dinner.
Today’s recipe comes from Diane Morgan’s cookbook Roots and we choose to highlight this recipes because sunchokes are just about to come into season here in the northeast.
Winter Greens Sunchoke Salad with Grainy-Mustard Vinaigrette
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp whole-grain mustard
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp sea salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
10 oz. curly endive, torn into bite-size pieces
5 oz. baby arugula
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, quartered lengthwise, cored, thinly sliced
8 oz. Jerusalem artichokes, peeled, thinly sliced
1 bunch radishes, tops trimmed, cut crosswise into paper-thin rounds
2 small carrots, peeled, trimmed, cut crosswise into paper-thin rounds
1/2 cup salted roasted pumpkin seeds
1. For dressing, in a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the oil, vinegar, mustard, sugar, and salt. Season with pepper and whisk to combine. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, toss together the endive, arugula, fennel, jerusalem artichokes, radishes, and carrots. (The salad components can be assembled up to 2 hours in advance, covered with damp paper towels, and then covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated until ready to serve.
3. Whisk the dressing briefly, then pour over salad. Toss gently, garnish with pumpkin seeds and serve.
*Notes and definitions from Roots.
The winter blues always seem to get the best of us this time year especially when we’re teased with a few mild spring-like days and then two days later it’s rainy, cold and gray all over again. When it feels like spring is never coming and each day feels a bit colder and looks a touch grayer I head right to the fridge and pull out the greenest ingredients I have toss them in a bowl and devour. I truly believe in the power of food and how our food choices, good or bad, can affect affect our body in terms of mood, emotional, mental and physical well-being. With that, I choose foods that foster as much goodness as possible for my body, so when my mood is dark and damp just like the weather, I turn to my greens.
I’ve seriously been obsessed with this salad all week, I just can’t get enough of it – it’s crunchy, hearty, creamy, and just so easy to make. I’ve been making a large batch of the dressing and eating it with everything, it’s oh, so amazingly yummy! As for my moods…completely transformed, I feel lighter, refreshed and just all around great.
Crunchy Green Salad
2 handfuls arugula
1 handful shredded romaine lettuce
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1/3 cup toasted sunflower seeds or almonds
10 kalamata olives, chopped
1 small head of broccoli florets, blanched
1 small ripe avocado, sliced
Creamy Tahini Miso Dressing
1/4 cup tahini
1 small shallot, finely diced
1 medium clove garlic, diced
1 tablespoon white miso
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar
generous pinch of ground cumin
Salt and pepper, to taste (optional)
Mix all the salad ingredients in a large bowl except the avocado. Once the dressing is whisked and creamy, pour over the salad and toss well. Add avocado slices on top. Serve and enjoy.
Recipe adapted from 101 Cookbooks.
Photo: Heidi Swanson, 101 Cookbooks
Today’s recipe is inspired by one of our New Year, New You Virtual Detox participants. Over the past few days we’ve been discussing different detox friendly foods and their associated health benefits; one of them being artichokes! Yes, for those of you who are not familiar with artichokes, they are an incredibly delicious, kinda funny-looking detox friendly food as they’ve been shown to increase bile production, which helps purify and protect the liver. They also have a mild diuretic effect on the kidneys, ensuring proper removal of toxins once the liver breaks them down. The recipe below will tantalize the taste buds of both detoxers and non-detoxers alike, so I say go ahead and indulge, your kidneys and liver will thank you.
Oil Poached Artichoke Heart Salad
Trim your artichokes (trimming tips here). Once trimmed, slice lengthwise into pieces roughly ¼ inch thick. You want them to look like silhouettes of an artichoke heart. Bathe the slices in a bowl of lemon juice.
In a large heavy pot pour a layer of olive oil, just enough to coat the bottom. Add the smashed garlic cloves and turn the heat to low. Take your marinated artichoke hearts from your lemon bath and salt well. Slip them into the olive oil in layers, adding more olive oil to cover. Try covering with as much olive oil as possible as the artichokes will cook more evenly. Do not use cheap vegetable oil (corn, canola, etc) as a substitute because you will definitely taste the olive oil in the final dish. Cover the pot and cook on the lowest heat of your weakest burner for 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the oil cool for another 20-30 minutes.
To make the salad, just remove the artichokes from the oil and toss with the remaining ingredients. You can eat the garlic or not, but it is just there to flavor the oil.
Serve at room temperature or chilled.
Yield: Serves 4.
Photo and adapted recipe from Simply Recipes.