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superfoods for Fall

Seasonal Superfood Recipes For Fall

Fall has arrived. And with the change in seasons comes a completely different way of eating. Instead of light and refreshing salads, it’s time for nourishing, warming, nutrient-dense foods. If you’re not familiar with the term, nutrient density is the concept of eating foods which provide a lot of nutrients for not a lot of calories. This is contrasted with energy dense foods which provide a lot of calories but not a lot of nutrition.  An apple, for example, is a more nutrient-dense food than fried apple fritters which are calorically (energy) dense.

Benefits of seasonal eating

When we change what we eat with the seasons there are many benefits for our health.  The health benefits come in part from the fact that seasonal foods are usually picked at their peak of ripeness. This is when their nutrient value is highest. It’s a distinct difference from when they are picked early, stored, and force-ripened. While it may be nice to have apples, strawberries, or lettuces year round, the truth is they each have a season.

Taste is another health benefit of seasonal eating. Being fully ripe when picked often means the produce will taste better. That’s because it’s fully ripe so the flavors have had a chance to really develop. Anyone who questions this should think about the difference between cardboard tasting winter tomatoes and a mouthwateringly delicious vine-ripened summer tomato.  There’s a huge difference, one that we shouldn’t ignore because the more flavorful tomato delivers more lycopene, vitamins C and K, biotin, molybdenum, and more.

Variety in the diet

Another important health benefit to seasonal eating is that it introduces more variety to your diet. When we eat the same foods all the time we can miss out on different nutrients from different foods. Micronutrient profiles are broad and varied among different foods, we can take advantage of that by eating with the season. For the Fall season, that means consuming a lot of foods that are rich in Vitamin A, a beta-carotene found in the red, orange and deep yellow foods of this season. Vitamin A is beneficial for eye health, hair, skin, nails, and can be supportive for respiratory health as well.

Just because a food is in season does not, unfortunately, mean that what you are buying at the grocery store is truly fresh. It is possible that foods traveling a far distance can be picked early and stored while they are shipped across the country or around the world.  In order to ensure that you are getting in-season foods, it’s best to shop locally from farmer’s markets and CSA’s or to look for locally grown signs at your grocery store.

Five Recipes

To help you add some of the delicious superfoods of Fall into your diet we’re sharing a few of our favorite recipes below:

Cauliflower

The mild taste and slightly rough texture of cauliflower make it perfect to add to many dishes at this time of year. Rich in vitamin C, K, pantothenate, and folic acid, cauliflower is also excellent for helping with cholesterol health. You can use it as a mash in addition to or instead of potatoes, make lots of types of rice with it, or even make cauliflower steaks.

This recipe is a testament to my friend Padma who taught me so much about Indian cooking.  Every time I wanted to learn how to make something she kindly and patiently invited me into her kitchen to guide me in learning to understand her cuisine.  This recipe is one that I came up with for a quick and tasty curry.  It’s become a family favorite, I’m sure your family will love it too.

2 C. red lentils, cleaned, washed, and cooked
2 T. olive oil
½ t. yellow mustard seeds
½ t. cumin seeds
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. ginger, grated
1 T. curry powder
1 t. ground turmeric
2 C. tomato sauce
½ cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 t. sea salt
1 T. minced fresh cilantro

The curry sauce is made while the lentils are cooking.  If the lentils finish before the sauce is ready, take them off the heat and set them aside until it is time to add them to the sauce.

In a large saucepan heat the oil

When the oil is hot add the mustard and cumin seeds, stirring constantly cook for 1 minute

Add onion and sauté until onion is golden and slightly wilted

Add garlic, ginger, curry powder and turmeric, cook 1 to 2 minutes

Add tomato sauce and cauliflower

Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook until cauliflower is al dente, approximately 7-9 minutes

Add cooked lentils, sea salt and cilantro, cook 2-3 more minutes

Leeks

Mild yet flavorful, leeks are a wonderful addition to any fall or winter dish. A great source of sulfur compounds leeks are also high in vitamin K and manganese. This particular recipe is from my Aunt Haya and is definitely one of my favorite comfort foods for this time of year. This recipe makes a large quiche and is great as leftovers.

Haya’s Spinach Leek Quiche

4 slices gluten-free bread
3 T olive oil
1 pound spinach leaves
2-3 leeks (depending on size), white parts only
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 eggs
1 cup organic milk
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp nutmeg, fresh ground
1 T. dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste
2 C organic grated cheese (any flavor will do but I particularly like swiss)
1 C sliced mushrooms

Preheat oven to 350F

Lightly grease springform pan (place base or foil under the pan to prevent liquid seeping out)

Pulse bread in food processor until it turns into crumbs

Line bottom of springform pan with breadcrumbs

Slice leeks in half and then cut into 1/2” thick semi-circles, wash thoroughly to remove dirt

Heat wok or large pan

Add 2 T olive oil

Add spinach and saute until it starts to wilt

Add leeks and salute, adding more olive oil if needed

Add minced garlic

When spinach and leeks are fully wilted remove from heat and pour into springform pan

In a separate bowl mix together milk, eggs, and herbs beating well

Pour egg mixture over the greens

Top with grated cheese

Top with mushrooms

Bake 1 hour or until set

Let cool 10 minutes before slicing

Pumpkin

One of the easiest healthy food swaps you can do with your fall superfoods is to use pumpkin puree in baked goods. You can often use it in place of other moist ingredients like oil and eggs. When using pumpkin you are also adding fiber, vitamins A and C, plus potassium.

Pumpkin Date Cake

1  cup almond flour
1 cup coconut flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
2 large eggs
Juice and zest of one orange
1/2 C evaporated cane juice crystals
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup chopped dates
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 10 x 12 baking pan

Mix together flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and whisk to combine.

In a separate mixing bowl beat the eggs; add the orange juice and zest, cane juice crystals, pumpkin puree, dates, and vanilla. Beat well. Add the dry ingredients into the wet, and beat for two minutes.

Bake 30-35 minutes, until golden brown and done in the center.

Note:
– this cake freezes well
– can also be used to make snack loaves or muffins

Quinoa

The last substitution you can make for a healthier superfood-rich meal is to replace your rice with quinoa. Most types of rice, including white rice and brown rice, are okay in moderation, but they lack the nutrition you need for a well-balanced meal. Quinoa is considered a superfood, so it is the perfect alternative when you want to have a side dish. It’s also a great way to add a little extra protein, manganese, copper, phosphorus, and magnesium to desserts such as in this recipe.

Quinoa stuffed baked apples

4 apples, washed, dried, and cored

Filling:
3/4 cup cooked quinoa
3 T organic butter
3 T evaporated cane juice crystals
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup currants

Use a square cake pan to hold the apples

Preheat the oven to 400 F

Mix all filling ingredients together until well combined

Stuff equally into apples

Bake for 18-20 minutes until apples are tender and filling bubbles slightly

Serve immediately

optional: if desired drizzle with organic heavy cream

Sweet Potatoes

Many people enjoy potatoes, especially in the fall when you want more savory dishes, but they tend to be high in carbs and fat, and not very nutritious. Instead of having traditional white potatoes in your dishes, try sweet potatoes. These are a superfood, so they are filled with nutrients, and are amazing to enjoy during the fall season. You can have stuffed sweet potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, or even sweet potato soup.

This recipe owes it’s start to a much-loved favorite from my husband’s family.  Made for nearly every big family gathering everyone pitches in to roll the croquettes and then eagerly awaits the finished product.

Updated to use sweet potatoes and cinnamon, plus a few other healthy changes, these are a wonderful way to get beta-carotene as well as vitamin C and manganese.  The recipe makes a lot but this is because we tend to make them for large family gatherings.  You do not need to bake them all at once and can, if you like, freeze some to bake at a later time.  While they take a while to assemble they are certainly worth the effort.

For croquettes:

5 pounds of sweet potatoes, baked and peeled (be sure to not overbake so they are not mushy)
1 stick organic butter
2-3 eggs
1 C organic milk
¼ t. fresh ground nutmeg
½ t. ground cinnamon

For coating:

beaten egg
gluten-free breadcrumbs
Puree baked potatoes while still hot

Add other ingredients and mix well

Roll into croquette shape (an oval tube approximately 1 ½ inches long)

Prepare a pie dish with beaten egg (beat eggs one or two at a time to ensure you don’t make too many)

Prepare a separate pie dish with breadcrumbs

Dip croquettes into beaten egg

Dip egg-coated croquettes in bread crumbs

Place croquettes on an un-greased baking tray, cool 2-4 hours (we usually cool them overnight)

Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes or until golden in color

 

For more seasonal and superfood info check out these posts:

fruit smoothie

Four Delicious Superfood Smoothies For Fall

While smoothies are certainly more popular during the warmer months of the year, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying them during the Fall season. A smoothie can be a great way to add superfood nutrition to your diet. To bump up your nutrition you can simply change the ingredients in your smoothies. This allows you to take advantage of the season by eating those superfoods that are available at this time of year.

A few important notes about the smoothie recipes below:

  • By using bone broth instead of plain ice cubes you’ll be adding a small amount of a wonderful nutrient dense liquid that adds to the health benefits of the smoothies.
  • For added protein in each of the smoothies listed below add 1-2 scoops of collagen powder.  This odorless, flavorless powder is also highly beneficial for gut health but won’t change the delicious flavor of the smoothie.
  • When using almond or coconut milk be sure to read the label and avoid carrageenan. This ingredient, made from a red seaweed, can be highly irritating to the gut.
  • Each recipe below makes 2 servings, if desired you can cut the recipe in half to make just a single serving.
  • If you want to make two servings and save one for later it’s recommended that you freeze the second serving in order to prevent the ingredients from oxidizing. When you are ready to drink it, thaw a little more than halfway (overnight in the fridge should work) and re-blend. The frozen one may have a thicker consistency when blended depending on how much you let it thaw.

Winter Walnut Smoothie

This delicious and refreshing smoothie is full of powerful antioxidants. You may want to add the cinnamon last in order to be able to flavor it to your personal preference

2 cups almond or coconut milk
2 cups frozen organic wild blueberries
2 tbsp fresh-ground flax seeds
2 tbsp organic molasses
1-2 tsps cinnamon
4 bone broth cubes

Cran-Orange Smoothie

Packed with vitamin C this smoothie is a great booster for your immune system. With the addition of kombucha, you’re also adding some wonderful gut-supporting probiotics to the smoothie

6 oranges, washed, peeled and sectioned
2 cups frozen cranberries,
1 16-ounce bottle cranberry kombucha
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
6 bone broth cubes

Almost Like Pie Smoothie

This smoothie packs a nutrient dense punch because of the pumpkin and apples. Because of the oats, yogurt, and frozen banana its quite thick. With the addition of protein powder, this would be a meal replacement smoothie. You may need to add a little more almond milk to get it to blend well.

1/3 C gluten-free oats
½ C pumpkin puree
1 ½ C organic Greek yogurt
2 medium organic Fuji apples (about 2 cups)
1 banana, frozen and broken into pieces
1 C almond or coconut milk
¼ t pumpkin pie spice
6 bone broth cubes

Carrot Cake Smoothie

This smoothie is practically a dessert. Packed with flavor it’s a perfect treat for breakfast or as a snack in the middle of the afternoon.

1 frozen banana, broken into chunks
¼ cup shredded carrots
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1- 1½ tsp cinnamon (to taste)
generous pinch nutmeg
1 C organic yogurt
½ C almond or coconut milk
¼ t ginger
4 bone broth cubes

superfood pumpkin

Three Delicious Pumpkin Recipes For Fall

Pumpkin season is here!

It’s that time of year when the days are getting shorter, the temperatures are dropping, and all those scrumptious, warming, Fall foods are appearing at your grocery store. This includes pumpkin, one of my favorite, most versatile vegetables. Fabulous in soups, baked goods, as a side vegetable, and even as a snack using the seeds. Pumpkins are so tasty that I find it surprising how in the United States we spend nearly $600 million on pumpkins just to carve them up for Halloween and then discard them. They’re so nutritious and delicious that I think we should all be eating more of them.

Superfood benefits of pumpkin

Qualifying as a superfood, pumpkins are a wonderful source of potassium, vitamin A, a good source of vitamin C, and also provide quite a bit of fiber. Health-wise, due in part to their high antioxidant status, studies show pumpkin may be supportive in decreasing the risk of cancer. They’re also believed to help with improving insulin regulation, lowering blood pressure, providing lignans (which can have an antimicrobial benefit), and consuming pumpkin may even be helpful for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia.

It’s not just the flesh of the pumpkin that’s good for you. The seeds also have health benefits. Helpful for cholesterol metabolism and in addition to being a good source of protein, the seeds also deliver tryptophan, manganese, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, and zinc. All of this goes a long way towards making pumpkins and their seeds something you definitely want to add to your nutritional plan.

Pumpkin Recipes

While almost everyone is familiar with pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread, and possibly even pumpkin soup, there’s so much more you can do with them.  Here are a few delicious ways to add more pumpkin to your Fall menu and bump up your nutrition.

Pumpkin Hummus

2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 15 oz can organic chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
15 ounces pumpkin puree
juice of 2 lemons (about 4 tablespoons)
1/3 cup virgin olive oil
1/2 cup tahini paste
3 cloves garlic finely minced
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1 1/2 tsp sea salt 
2-4 Tbsp chickpea liquid, as needed for consistency

Blend all ingredients except salt and liquid together
If needed, add chickpea liquid 1 Tablespoon at a  time for smoothness and consistency
Once fully blended add salt to taste
Best served at room temperature

Pumpkin Alfredo

1 pound gluten-free tagliatelle (my preferred brand is Jovial)|
2 Tbsp organic butter
2 Tbsp gluten-free flour
3 garlic cloves, minced finely
4 cups organic milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp finely minced rosemary
1 pinch red pepper flakes (to taste)
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
shaved parmesan for topping
minced rosemary for topping

Cook, drain, and lightly rinse pasta
Heat butter in a saucepan, add flour and whisk until combined
Add garlic, pepper, rosemary, and milk, reduce heat
Whisk all ingredient together until fully combined
Add pasta to the sauce and combine, coating noodles well
Garnish with extra minced rosemary and shaved parmesan

Superfood Pumpkin Shake
makes 2 servings

1 cup pumpkin puree, cold, not freshly cooked
2 bananas
½ cup plain organic Greek yogurt (full fat if possible)
½ cup unsweetened almond milk (avoid carrageenan)
2 tbsp protein powder
1 tsp honey
1 tsp ground flax seeds
1 tsp bee pollen granules
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 cups ice

Blend well until fully combined
If needed add extra liquid to fully blend ingredients together

For a few more Fall posts be sure to check these out:

 

Six Reasons To Love Adult Coloring Books

Coloring for adults

When you first think of coloring, you might picture children with bunches of crayons excitedly coloring in books with their favorite cartoon characters. But there’s a growing trend of adults that enjoy coloring. This has brought about the release of more complex coloring sheets and books designed exclusively for adults.

Many adults have discovered that not only is coloring fun, it also has health benefits, too. As a form of self-care (and self-care is one of my “ingredients for a healthy life“) coloring books are right up there for a simple, easy way to take a break.  If you’ve been thinking about adding coloring books to your self-care strategy, here are some of the ways this hobby can help support better health:

  1. Stress reliever
  2. Elevates mood
  3. The Un-tech Effect
  4. Improves focus
  5. Anyone can color
  6. Highly portable


STRESS RELIEVER
According to a study published in the Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, coloring in mandala or geometric patterns appears to lower stress and anxiety levels.  

When your body is stressed it produces cortisol.  In small doses this hormone can be beneficial, helping you get through a nerve-wracking speech or boosting your energy when you’re in the middle of a crisis such as a car accident. Too much cortisol over an extended period of time can lead to health problems. Problems like type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and anxiety.

While coloring doesn’t prevent you from producing cortisol, it’s believed to help lower your cortisol levels. This may be because coloring allows you to get into the creative zone and focus on something enjoyable, rather than worrying about your problems. This, in turn, can help you to relax and release the tension in your body.

One of the conclusions of the Art Therapy study was that “It seems that the complexity and structure of the plaid and mandala designs drew the participants into a meditative-like state that helped reduce their anxiety.”

ELEVATES MOOD
Besides easing stress, coloring can also improve your mood. This could be due in part to the fact that no one is judging your art. In many ways, coloring is a freeing experience for adults. It may also be because coloring can lead to something called flow. 

Developed by positive psychology cofounder, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow is the concept of a highly focused mental state. When in a state of flow you are removing outside distractions.  Using coloring as something to create that flow, you let go of stress (as mentioned above) and are focusing the simple act of coloring. This can provide space which allows you to unwind.  Your flow state can then boost creativity, productivity, and positivity.

THE UN-TECH EFFECT
Let’s face it, our lives are immersed in technology. Your phone, your watch, your computer, tablet, and television are all highly technical and always pulling for your attention.  Even our homes are becoming smarter and more high tech. Doorbells, lights, heating systems, refrigerator, and more are requiring us to tap into technology. All of that technology interface can be overwhelming, overstimulating, and somewhat stressful. It feels like you are always surrounded. That’s because you are.

Yet with just your imagination, some paper, and a few coloring tools you can set aside some me-time and take a break from all that technology. Your brain will actually function better after a break and you’ll feel calmer too.

IMPROVES FOCUS
Another advantage of coloring is that it improves your focus. Many people find that coloring while listening to webinars or lectures makes it easier to absorb the information. Some of this may be due to an innate tendency to be a kinesthetic, or hands-on learner. But even those who aren’t typically kinesthetic learners may benefit. Many people find that keeping their hands busy, means their mind is less likely to wander.

Because coloring gives you better focus and more clarity, it can also be a good activity to do before you sit down to set goals or develop new strategies. Many highly creative people, such as Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison, found answers to problems they were working on when they took a break and didn’t focus on the problem. The creativity required for coloring may help you think of new ways to tackle your goals and get the results you’re looking for.

ANYONE CAN COLOR
Many people suppress their artistic impulses telling themselves that they simply aren’t creative. The truth is we are all creative. We all have that spark within us. The beauty of adult coloring books is that when you’re coloring it’s a no pressure situation. You’re not expecting to have your coloring pages hung in a famous museum. You’re simply coloring. And you don’t even have to color inside the lines if you don’t want to. You can make green clouds, pink skies, or anything your imagination can conjure up. It’s a totally personal choice of what you color, what colors you choose, and how you put everything together.

HIGHLY PORTABLE
Coloring is one of those activities that can be done anywhere. There are even small books or tiny coloring kits that can be tucked into a purse or a backpack to have at the ready. Perfect for long waits at the department of motor vehicles or alone at a coffee shop. Wherever you are and whatever time you have available, coloring can fill in the gaps and give you a healthy break.

If you love to color and are looking for new sources of coloring material be sure to check out my ebook, Mira’s Marvelous Mandalas with forty-two ready to print beautiful mandala designs to bring you hours of creative fun and mindfulness.

Replacing The Mighty Avocado

A Journey in Taste and Texture

Whether you have a general aversion to avocados or just an aversion to their cost — the price of avocados increased 125 percent in 2017 — you have plenty of healthy ingredient substitutions that not only save you money but diversify the taste and texture of a variety of dishes, guacamole included.

Guacamole

Don’t let an avocado shortage slow down your guac game. For each avocado used in your guacamole recipe, substitute one cup of steamed, blended spring peas, organic edamame or chopped asparagus. Check out our recipe for Sweet Pea Guacamole below.

Sauces, Dips and Spreads

Avocados give sauces and soups a unique, creamy texture few ingredients can replicate. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get the same consistency without avocados–you just need to apply a little creativity.

  • Create the satisfying freshness of your favorite avocado dressing using Greek yogurt, cilantro, and an optional tablespoon or two of sour cream. For every avocado called for in the dressing recipe, substitute ½ cup Greek yogurt and 1 cup of loosely packed cilantro leaves (minced or processed in).
  • Hummus makes a great substitute for avocado dip on its own, but you can add an avocado-esque touch with a few extra ingredients. To every ½ cup of chickpea hummus, add ½ cup steamed organic edamame, ¼ cup loosely packed parsley leaves, ¼ cup basil or cilantro, 1 teaspoon of lime juice and 1 teaspoon of coconut oil.
  • Avocado toast went from fad to foodie staple almost overnight. Take the concept a step further with a clever, spreadable substitution, such as a chunky cashew spread. Soak cashews for a few hours and blend until coarse with a little water or stock and your secondary ingredients of choice, such as pesto, steamed squash, nutritional yeast, fresh herbs or chipotle peppers.

Salads

With their lush consistency and laid-back taste, avocados complement just about any salad. No avocados, no fear! Try sliced peaches (briefly steamed), seared artichoke hearts or farmers cheese (for creaminess) in your next salad for an exciting new texture.

Southwestern Food

Southwestern-style cuisine and avocados go hand-in-hand–they contrast the spiciness and hearty textures of tacos, salsa, corn salads and other rustic dishes beautifully. Next time you need avos in tacos or other Southwestern dishes but come up short, try roasted sweet potatoes, roasted chayote squash, queso fresco, roasted cauliflower or oven-fried plantains instead.

 

 

Sweet Pea Guacamole
Print
Ingredients
  1. • 2 cups (1 pound) shelled spring peas, steamed for 2 minutes and cooled to room temperature
  2. • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  3. • ½ cup cilantro leaves, loosely packed
  4. • ¼ cup mint leaves, loosely packed
  5. • 2 ½ tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed
  6. • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  7. • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus a little more, if needed
  8. • ½ jalapeno pepper, seeded
  9. • ½ teaspoon sea or kosher salt, plus more to taste
  10. • Pinch of cumin
  11. • Pinch of crushed red pepper, plus more to taste
Instructions
  1. Add all the ingredients to a food processor and process until nearly smooth.
  2. Adjust the consistency and seasoning as needed with olive oil and kosher salt.
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/

 

Favorite Instant Pot Tools

I was a little late jumping onto the Instant Pot train, but now I really can’t remember what I did without it!  It is my absolute favorite tool in the kitchen. Pressure cooking made easy-as-pie (hmmm… I haven’t tried making a pie in my pot yet…)  The ease alone would be enough but Instant Pot takes it even further – a slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, warmer and sauté pot, and that’s just the 6-in-1 model.  The 9-in-1 model also makes yogurt, cooks eggs, sterilizes AND makes cake. All this multi-tasking, no hogging my kitchen counter space – it’s a keeper. So I’ve given my Instant Pot it’s very own drawer, to store all its handy accessories.  Here are my favorites.

TEMPERED GLASS LID
A clear glass lid is perfect for when slow cooking, sautéing, keeping food warm, or even serving direct from the pot.
Instant Pot Tempered Glass Lid

STAINLESS STEEL INNER COOKING POT
Having a second inner pot makes it really easy to prepare multiple dishes. I find it especially handy when I’m meal-prepping. I can make a main dish, and then quickly pop in a new inner and make quinoa, rice a veggie and such. It’s almost as handy as having two Instant Pots.
Instant Pot Inner Cooking Pot

SEALING RINGS
The Instant Pot lid sealing ring is made of silicone. It’s really durable and will last you a long time. It can, however, hold onto food odor. I wash mine in my dishwasher after each use. I also periodically “steam-clean” it in the pot – toss a couple cut up lemons and a cup of water into the pot and cook on manual high pressure for fifteen minutes. I do have a second ring to use when I make a neutral or sweet dish and I really want to ensure no savory aromas are transferred.
Instant Pot Sealing Rings

STACKABLE INSERT PANS
Stackable insert pans are great when you have more than one dish you can cook at once – steaming, cooking veggies and rice. Or cooking two dozen hard-boiled eggs at a time. These make reheat leftovers in the Instant Pot so easy and fast, a much better choice than using a microwave.
Stackable Stainless-steel Insert Pans

STEAMER BASKET
A steam basket or rack is essential for Instant Pot cooking. I especially like one with moveable sides so it can adjust and accommodate food of all shapes and sizes. I like the extendable removable handle on this XOX model, it’s handy when lifting hot food from the pot.
OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Steamer with Handle

TRIVET-RACK-STAND
I use a taller trivet in addition to the trivet that comes with the Instant Pot, so I can cook in several layers. I’ll often cook things like sweet potatoes on the lower level and place an entrée in a pan above on the higher level. If you do this, take care that the height of the tallest item is not higher than the pot’s maximum fill line.
Trivet Rack Stand

RAMEKINS – OVEN-SAFE DISHWARE
I love my porcelain ramekins and love that they work so well in my Instant Pot. The perfect size for single serving dishes and porcelain doesn’t absorb odors or flavors.
Ramekins

HOT POT GRIPPER CLIP
Sort of like a hot pad’s much stronger studier weight-lifter cousin. Just clip the grip end onto the hot pot, or pan or basket and lift it from the Instant Pot. My friend Coleen, an Instant Pot veteran, gave me these when I first got my pot. She was absolutely right about how much I’d love them!
Hot Pot Gripper Clip

CHEESECAKE PAN
Perfect for cheesecake, tarts, quiches and more cheesecake. This pan was designed with Instant Pot cooking in mind, it has a handle for lowering into and lifting out of the pot. The only problem I have found with this pan is that it is too easy to make cheesecake. It’s very tempting to have cheesecake every week. LOL
Stainless Steel Cheesecake Pan

YOGURT MAKER CUPS
My Instant Pot doesn’t have the Yogurt function (sad face) so this yogurt maker cup set is on my wishlist for now. When it’s time to give my pot an Instant Pot sister, it will be the yogurt-making 10-in-1 model.
Yogurt Maker Cups

 

If you loved this list, be sure to check out my Favorite Kitchen Tools list. I’ve done the research so you don’t have to!

 

 

 

 

 

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beaver butt - castoreum

Are You Eating This Ingredient?

Is the “Natural Flavoring” in Your Food Really from a Beaver’s Butt?

You’re probably aware that most modern foods contain flavoring agents that are less than natural and wholesome. What you may not know, though, is that even natural flavorings aren’t necessarily what you think they are. A great example of this is a chemical called castoreum, which under FDA rules can be simply labeled as “natural flavor.” Though it is absolutely natural, castoreum is probably the last thing you’d willingly put on your food. The reason isn’t that it tastes or smells bad, but that it’s sole natural source is, somewhat disturbingly, a beaver’s bottom.

Harvesting, History, and Uses of Castoreum

Castoreum originates in pouches known as castor sacs, which can be found near a beaver’s pelvis and anal gland. Though it may seem disgusting to think of your food being flavored with something that basically comes from a beaver’s butt, castoreum serves several useful functions for beavers themselves. In its raw form, it is a thick, waxy substance that beavers rub onto their fur to lock out water. Thanks to its strong odor, beavers also use castoreum mixed with their urine to mark their territories.

Castoreum can be harvested in two ways, neither of which is particularly easy or convenient. The first method involves killing a beaver and harvesting its castor sacs. Though the sacs are valuable, beavers are rarely killed exclusively for them; instead, fur trappers typically harvest and sell the castor sacs to increase their profits. The second way to harvest castoreum is more disgusting, but also much more humane. When a live beaver is sedated, its anal gland can be “milked” by hand, forcing it to secrete raw castoreum.

No one knows exactly when castoreum’s use as a food additive started, but a 2007 safety review estimated that it had been in use in the food industry for at least eight decades at that point. Its earlier use as a perfume ingredient may have inspired experimentation with it as a flavoring agent. Castoreum is known to be useful in simulating raspberry, strawberry and vanilla flavors.

Perhaps the longest-standing use of castoreum is for medicinal purposes. The secretion appears in Roman medical recipes and its gathering is even mentioned in Pliny the Elder’s Natural History. Today, it is still used by believers in homeopathic medicine as a remedy for everything from tetanus to digestive disorders.

Castoreum Today: Are You Eating Beaver Butt Secretions?

With all of these different uses, you might be wondering just how much castoreum you’ve eaten over the years and how many beavers have had to be milked or killed to produce it. The good news, if you’re currently eyeing everything in your pantry suspiciously, is that castoreum isn’t at all common as a food additive. In the United States, only about 292 pounds of castoreum are used each year. The difficulty of extraction usually makes other flavoring agents much more cost-effective, as evidenced by the fact that 20 million pounds of vanilla is still used in the U.S. food industry each year to provide vanilla flavoring that could, in theory at least, be simulated just as well with castoreum.

With that said, some specialty products have leaned more heavily on castoreum as a flavoring agent over the years. Cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris, maker of the Marlboro brand, is known to have flavored some 400 billion cigarettes with castoreum in 1991. The inclusion of extremely tiny amounts of castoreum was used to make the cigarettes sweeter and better-smelling. Incredibly, the entire production run used just 8 pounds of the substance. So, if you smoked Marlboro cigarettes in the early 1990s, you probably inhaled a minuscule amount of castoreum.

castoreum, beaver butt whiskeyAnother specialty product that has historically used castoreum, and still does to this day, is a Swedish schnapps that is actually supposed to taste like a beaver’s butt. The liquor is referred to as bäversnaps, literally meaning “beaver schnapps” in Swedish. The drink has a strong, musky flavor that is produced by soaking castoreum in high-proof alcohol, which takes on the flavor over time. Though it may not be for everyone, at least bäversnaps uses castoreum openly, rather than labeling it as a “natural flavor.” And an American company is producing a Eau De Musc, a castoreum flavored whiskey. This represents the first time I’ve seen castoreum openly labeled on a food or beverage product. 

So, while the natural flavor in your favorite foods could hypothetically contain castoreum, the odds are that you’ve either never eaten it or have only ever had an extremely small amount. Still, the fact that castoreum was used in the past and is still used in rare cases today is just another reason that you should always make a point of avoiding those ingredients labeled as “natural flavor.” It’s important to know exactly what’s in your food.

 

Gift Ideas For Dad

Fathers deserve to be showered with love every bit as much as we shower our Moms. Sadly, when it comes to the official day for Dad celebrating, Father’s Day, most of the time we’re low on ideas, having used all our creativity for Moms on their official day the month before. So, Dad usually gets a funny card and maybe a new tie. Dads are troopers.

I’m here to support you and Dads everywhere. I’ve compiled a list of my favorite gifts for Dads (and any and all of the unofficially titled dad-like people in our lives). These products all meet The Ingredient Guru guidelines and are products I either own, use regularly, and/or gift on a regular basis to others. Give him a gift that he’ll really love and shower him with the hugs and appreciation that all Dads deserve.

 

HOT SAUCE
Give Dad some heat with hot sauce made from spicy, flavorful real-food ingredients. One bottle won’t be enough, Dad really needs an ultimate hot sauce sampler pack. Start with two of my favorites, Brother Bru’s Original African Hot Pepper Sauce, Very Hot and Sky Valley by Organicville Sriracha Sauce (finally a siracha sauce without potassium sorbate and sodium bisulfite)
Shop Hot Pepper and Sriracha Sauce

 

BBQ TOOLS
If Dad is the master of the grill, he should have a top-notch set of grilling tools. This is the ultimate of grillmaster tool sets, made from heavy-duty food-grade stainless steel, strong, sturdy and dishwasher-safe – just what Dad needs to up his barbecue game this summer.
Shop BBQ Tools

 

CHEF’S KNIFE
Every Dad who knows his way around a kitchen deserves a really good chef’s knife. I love my Wüsthof.  With an 8” blade and perfectly balanced, this is my absolute favorite and I use it all the time.
Shop Wüsthof Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife

 

HEALTHY SUNBLOCK
Is Dad an outdoor enthusiast? I love that. Everyone needs sunshine, but sunburn and overexposure to those UV-A and UV-B rays? Not so much. Get Dad the BEST sunscreen (imho)  3rd Rock Essentials Sunblock. Invented by my good friend, Dr. Guerry Grune, an outdoor enthusiast and research chemist, who wanted something better than the garbage ingredients found in the conventional sunscreens he used to have to put on his skin. Made from 100% food grade edible ingredients, no GMO’s, no parabens, no hormone disruptors, this is the best stuff ever.
Shop 3rd Rock Essentials Sunblock

 

SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD
Who doesn’t love seafood? Vital Choice Wild Seafood & Organics is a wonderful, nourishing gift for Dad. When giving seafood it’s important to get sustainably fished, wild caught for the best quality. My friend Randy Hartnell knows fish. Before he started Vital Choice, he spent more than 20 years fishing wild, pristine Alaskan waters for salmon, herring, and other regional species. He’s an expert, AND he’s generous – he is offering a free gift just for Father’s Day! Use the code DADGRD18 with your order and Vital Choice will tuck in their popular Organic Salmon Marinade. That’s an added $10 bonus for Dad, and you, to enjoy.
Shop Vital Choice Wild Seafood & Organics

 

BECAUSE…  BACON
Did you know that bacon is the healthiest food.? Because it’s been cured.
Eggs and Bacon walk into a bar…… and the bartender says, “Get out – we don’t serve breakfast here.”
I don’t know who became more famous, Sir Francis Bacon or his son Chris P. Bacon
Obligatory Dad jokes over….  
Socks. A regular pair of socks might fall into that ho-hum category of Dad gifting, like a tie. Luckily, these are no ordinary socks, these are bacon socks. Bacon makes anything cool, even socks. Imagine if they also smelled like bacon… that would revolutionize the sock world!
Shop Bacon Socks

 

LEATHERMAN MULTI TOOL
For a Dad who does everything why not get him the tool that does darn near everything? Collapsible, portable, extremely useful. It’s named The Wingman for good reason. Because every Dad needs a knife, pliers, screwdrivers, wire cutters, wire stripper, scissors, package opener, bottle and can opener, file, ruler, ready for anything and more tool.
Shop Leatherman Wingman Multitool

 

OLIVE OIL JARS AND OLIVE OILS
I fell for these gorgeous olive oil jars as soon as I saw them. Handmade by Doni Langlois, talented artist and owner of Artful Life Clay, each and every unique bottle is practical, functional, and beautiful to look at. Not something you’ll find in your local shop. If you don’t see the bottles on her webstore, she’ll help you out if you send her an email inquiry, Doni@ArtfulLifeClay.com

If you’re going to gift Dad an olive oil jar, he’ll appreciate it even more if he has delicious olive oil to fill it with. Sandy Oaks Olive Oil Orchard, 50 acres of olive trees nestled in on a 200-acre homestead south of San Antonio, makes olive oil with love and a Texas accent. Sandy’s Olive Oil is made from Arbequina olives, soft, meadowy and sweet, and Picual olives, brisk and robust, producing a blend with complex buttery flavor. The Orchard also sells olive trees if you really want to help keep Dad’s bottle full.
Shop Olive Oil Jars and Olive Oils

 

SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL UTENSILS
Is Dad always on the go? If so, he needs the right equipment for eating on the go. Eco-friendly To-Go Ware is made from lightweight, strong bamboo, so perfect for toting around. The carrying case is made from recycled plastic (to help keep plastic bottles out of landfills) and has a handy carabiner on the back so Dad can just clip and carry a fork, knife, spoon and chopsticks wherever he may roam. Perfect for Dad’s busy lifestyle and our precious planet. It’s unique combination of ecology, innovation & compassion.
Shop To-Go Ware

 

MINDFULNESS MATTERS
Dad’s need mindfulness too. Life is busy. Meditation can restore balance to the mind, to relationships, to the workplace, and to health. In just minutes a day. Packed with dozens of ways to incorporate mindfulness, great essays, inspiration pages, and worksheets, Beyond Meditation: Making Mindfulness Accessible for Everyone is an easy-to-read, easy-to-implement resource for all, even Dads.
Shop Beyond Meditation: Making Mindfulness Accessible for Everyone

 

Although we officially recognize the greatness of Dads on Father’s Day, remember that dad’s day is really every day. Show your appreciation, tell your dads you love them, and celebrate Father’s Day all the days of the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Affiliate Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you click through my referral link, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase. I only recommend products and services I use myself and would share with friends and family. Your support of these companies through my links helps me bring you free information on this site.

 

 

Gift Ideas For Mom

Mother’s Day is always special. Of course, I believe that’s because moms are special. They nurture us, feed us, and encourage us to grow into better people. They kiss boo-boos, drive away under-the-bed monsters, and generally help to make everything alright with the world.

It’s always been strange to me that we choose only one day to celebrate. That’s mostly because I think moms, well parents actually, should be celebrated every day. But we have this habit of celebrating all the moms, aunts, grandmas, heart-moms, and mom-like people in our lives in May. And they definitely deserve a little pampering.

Here’s a list of my top twelve great gifts for moms. These products all meet The Ingredient Guru guidelines and are products I either own, use regularly, and/or gift on a regular basis to others. (Hint, you will want to buy some for yourself. They’re just that good.) 

 

HERBAL TEAS and a CUTE TEAPOT
I love making my own tea blends. For delicious high-quality herbs, Mountain Rose Herbs is my number one go-to. If mom prefers a pre-blended option, they have a tasty selection of those to choose from also. And if you’re going to give mom some tea why not a beautiful teapot to go along with it? Hayneedle has a truly lovely and eclectic assortment of teapots.
Shop Mountain Rose Herbs & Hayneedle

GLASS STRAWS
Plastic is so passé. It’s chock-full of unhealthy ingredients, like BPA, and it’s really environmentally unfriendly. Re-usable glass straws are here to save the day!  Glass straws made of borosilicate are non-porous, hypoallergenic, shatter-resistant, break-resistant, and usable in cold and hot temperatures. Borosilicate? That’s Pyrex to you, me, and your grandmother’s casserole bowl. I have a set of four straws, which came with a teeny brush to keep them nice and clean. I also keep one straw with me in a travel pouch, so I have it with me when I visit my favorite green juice bar.
Shop Hummingbird Glass Straws & Organic Cotton Travel Pouch

COCONUT OIL CREATIONS
I am so in love with this stuff. It’s a really delicious and convenient way to get coconut oil, along with anti-inflammatory, immune boosting spices into your daily diet. I spoon it into tea, herbal beverages, and oatmeal. I have to keep fighting off my husband who puts it in his coffee. The flavors are deep and scrumptious, created with loads of organic spices. My current favorite flavor? Chai. Next week it may be Mocha. Really, all the flavors are so good. Mom probably needs one of each, so she can taste-test her way to finding her favorite.
Shop Coconut Oil Creations

GLASSTIC
Glasstic bottles are my favorite way to take my water along with me, everywhere. It’s a glass bottle surrounded by a tough BPA-free plastic shell. My water stays delicious, I don’t have to worry about breaking the bottle AND I help keep the earth free of throw-away plastic bottles! Great for hot or cold beverages, and there are a seemingly endless number of designs to choose from.
Shop Glasstic

MYGREENFILLS
Let’s face it when you’re a mom laundry is a way of life. You can make things easier for mom by gifting her with the last laundry bottle she will ever use. MyGreenFills’ refill program delivers eco-friendly, toxic-ingredient-free laundry wash right to mom’s front door. The refills are in powder form, so you don’t pay extra shipping for the weight of a liquid filled bottle. How smart is that? Plus, this company has an amazing mission statement and social cause. Absolutely worth standing on a soapbox and supporting.
Shop MyGreenFills

GAIAM
I really appreciate Gaiam’s (pronounced “GUY-um”) company message. They believe in nurturing, protecting and respecting the Earth and everyone and everything that exists on the planet. For now and for our future generations. They also make some of my yoga and fitness products. They have such a broad range of products good for gifts – comfy clothing, balance balls, colorful yoga mats, foam rollers, videos, even pet massagers – there’s definitely something here for every mom.
Shop Gaiam

DARK CHOCOLATE
Chocolate is a delicacy. The Mayans believed chocolate possessed healing abilities. In 1753, Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus named the cacao tree: Theobroma cacao (food of the gods).  Today, dark chocolate is considered a Super Food. Loaded with nutrients and high in antioxidants, dark chocolate is good for your heart and your brain, just for starters. Also, it’s delicious. Choose minimally-processed, dark chocolate with at least 70% pure cacao, free of emulsifying agents.  Thrive Market has an incredible selection of delicious, clean, healthful dark chocolate for every palate – from fun and flavorful to dark and dreamy. Delicious.
Shop Dark Chocolate

INSTANT POT
Because I absolutely LOVE mine. I received my Instant Pot as a gift last year. As soon as I tried it I immediately added it to my Favorite Kitchen Tools List and added Instant Pot variations to my Fast, Fun Freezer Meals recipe collection. Every kitchen should have one. Every mom should have one. Check out my Pinterest Board’s ever-growing collection of Instant Pot recipes. You can practically taste the deliciousness.
Shop Instant Pot

HIMALAYAN SALT LAMP
Looking to give mom a calm refuge in the hurry and stress of everyday life? Consider a salt lamp. Not only pretty to look at, the soft, gentle glow of a salt lamp adds negative ions to the air and lends a peaceful tranquility to the room. I have several and love their welcoming glow when I return home after a long day. A salt lamp is perfect for every room of the house. Mom’s probably going to want more than one.
Shop Himalayan Salt Lamp

REAL PLANS MEAL PLANS
This online meal planner is a plan with superpowers. If mom loves to cook but struggles with menu planning (and really, who doesn’t?) this is the gift that keeps on giving. It makes menu planning a snap no matter what your dietary plan. Just remember to take her out once in a while too.
Shop Real Plans Meal Plans

SKIN FOODIE
Oh my gosh this is the Best. Stuff. Ever. I met Skin Foodie’s creator, Amy, at a conference and have been a huge raving fan of her healthy skin products ever since. Everything is food for your skin – made with ingredients from nature, and love. Ditch those over-the-counter products full of toxins! And Skin Foodie knows moms – they even have a Mom Fixes Everything Balm!
Shop Skin Foodie

TOTEM
TOTEM has fabulous gemstone jewelry – the prettiest mala necklaces, chakra bracelets, and so much more. TOTEM Sacred Jewelry and Smudge Bar designs pieces with good vibes and lots of love. It’s the place to get mom something really special.
Shop TOTEM

BONUS
I couldn’t resist making this list a baker’s dozen, so here’s one final gift idea: a copy of Gratitude: A Mindful Pause. This journal is the perfect little gift for mom to write down her everyday experiences and the many things she’s grateful for (including you!) Paired with some beautiful pens or pencils and it’s a gift that will keep on giving.
Shop Gratitude: A Mindful Pause

 

Although we’re officially celebrating now, remember that mom’s day is really every day. Show your appreciation, tell your moms you love them, and celebrate Mother’s Day every day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Affiliate Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you click through my referral link, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase. I only recommend products and services I use myself and would share with friends and family. Your support of these companies through my links helps me bring you free information on this site.

 

 

Eggs In The Diet

Nutrition in eggs

Eggs are a favorite food for many.  Easy to prepare and versatile they can be used for any meal of the day, as a quick protein snack, or incorporated into other foods.  At approximately 70 calories per egg, they are a great source of protein, iron, choline, selenium, biotin, as well as B12 and B2.  

Egg allergy symptoms

For a small percentage of the population, eggs are a source of allergic reaction. Allergy symptoms can include:

  • Asthmatic symptoms or wheezing
  • Diarrhea
  • Digestive upset, cramps, nausea, or bloating
  • Hives
  • Nasal congestion, sneezing, a runny nose, or post-nasal drip
  • Skin irritation or rash

In severe cases of true food allergy, there can be an anaphylactic reaction which might include low blood pressure, faintness, dizziness, or restricted airways.  If you suspect an anaphylactic reaction seek medical care immediately.  For those with a true food allergy to eggs it is important to monitor your reactions as the response can get worse with repeated exposures.  Also be aware that the influenza vaccine is made using a small amount of egg protein and may not be safe for those with true food allergies to eggs.

On the label

 

Eggs are used in a wide variety of ways from In addition to homemade goods that contain eggs such as omelets or quiche, they are also used as a binder for baked goods, meatloaf, and other foods. Eggs, however, can also be found in a wide variety of prepared and packaged foods that also contain eggs as one of their ingredients.  These can include mayonnaise, egg crackers (such as matzo), egg noodles, pasta, dressings, sauces, and other condiments.

Because eggs are one of the seven most common food allergens (the others are corn, wheat/gluten, soy, fish, dairy, and nuts) labeling laws require that manufacturers disclose on the label if their product contains eggs.  

Names that appear on the food label that can indicate the presence of eggs include:

  • Anything starting with “ova” or “ovo,” such as ovalbumin or ovoglobulin
  • Albumin
  • Globulin
  • Lecithin
  • Livetin
  • Lysozyme
  • Vitellin

Food intolerance

In addition to true food allergies, there is a possibility for people to develop a sensitivity to eggs due to a leaky gut situation.Testing is the best way to determine if there is an intolerance. In the case of a food sensitivity, or intolerance, avoiding eggs for a period of time while adding supportive protocols for the gut is helpful.  The period of time required to avoid eggs can vary depending on the individual, the severity of the intolerance, and compliance with dietary changes.