Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cherry Chocolate "Green" Pudding

I love when cherries are in season! They are one of my favorite fruits not only for their sweet tart deliciousness, but for their powerful health benefits as well. I was inspired by the Whole Foods Cherry Recipe contest to create this recipe even though I never entered the contest. This is such a fast, easy recipe and quite decadent way to sneak in some extra greens!!

Chocolate Cherry "Green" Pudding

2 Avocados
3/4 cup Raw (ideally local!) Honey (or Maple Syrup. For completely raw vegan- raw agave or raw vegan sweetener of choice)
1 cup fresh cherries (if cherries are out of season, frozen can be used)
2 handfuls of baby spinach
1/2 cup raw cacao powder

Put all ingredients in a blender (if you don't have a powerful blender like a vitamix or blendtec, a food processor might be better) and blend until smooth. Put in fridge to chill. That is it! Easy!

Some tips:
It is important to make sure that the avocados are not too ripe. If they are overripe, they have a weird taste and you can definitely taste that in the pudding- not good. I have made this mistake before. I have also made this for my grandmother who is quite possibly the pickiest eater I know and she absolutely loved it and had no idea that there were avocados in it.
Raw cacao powder is typically found with other superfoods at whole foods or in your local health food store. It is not typically found in the baking aisle with regular cocoa powder.
Why raw cacao powder?
Raw cacao is unprocessed cacao with lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. There are a lot of health benefits that are lost when chocolate is processed. Chocolate turns unhealthy when all the dairy and sugar is added to a the nutrient stripped processed chocolate. Though a dark chocolate bar is considered beneficial in small amounts, it doesn't even come close to the health benefits of raw cacao. It has high levels of antioxidants like resveratrol and the polyphenols catechin and peicatechin. It contains the feel good neurotransmitter serotonin, the motivation booster neurotransmitter dopamine, and the feeling of bliss neurotransmitter anandamide. In addition, it is high in magnesium, chromium, iron, B vitamins and vitamin A, B and E.
I use Navitas Naturals Raw cacao powder which can be found at Whole Foods or most local health food stores:

Cherries- : I love cherries. They are packed with antioxidant anthocyanins which are responsible for the power anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have shown that muscle fatigue and pain was reduced in athletes who drank cherry juice. The study suggests that cherries before endurance training and after can help reduce muscle soreness and pain. It is a much better alternative to traditional NSAIDs (Advil, Aleve etc.)! Cherries also may help reduce inflammation in relation to heart disease and arthritis.

Avocados: some people shy away from avocados because of their bad rap for the high fat content, but they truly have a great kind of fat and are a nutrition powerhouse! We need fat in our diet especially good fat coming from plant based whole foods. The good fat content helps with increased nutrient absorption when eaten with other foods. For example, studies have shown significant increased beta-carotene and lycopene absorption (200%+!) when avocados are added to salads. Avocados are also anti-inflammatory due to their diverse cartenoids.In addition avocados are great sources of folate and vitamin E.

Spinach: We all could use some more greens in our diet! Spinach is full of neoxanthin and violaxanthin which are regulators of inflammation making spinach a great anti-inflammatory food. It contains high levels of calcium, vitamin K, vitamin C and E. It is a powerful food for boosting your immune system.

Raw Honey: Raw honey can look funny to those who have never seen it. It looks creamed or sometimes even hard. This is because the honey is in its natural form and unprocessed. Processing honey causes the loss of all the nutritional value packed in honey in its natural state. Raw honey is a natural energy booster, immune system booster, and contains antioxidant and antibacterial properties. I could go on for a while on the benefits of honey, but we will leave it at that for now! I do suggest buying a local raw honey either at a farmers market, a farm or read the label to see where it was made.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The power of Chlorella

I have been experimenting with my own bar recipe. I recently had food allergy tests done because of the issues I was having and found out that I needed to eliminate quite a few things out of my diet. One of the issues is that I have an extremely limited selection on what kind of bars I can eat while I ride my bike. Bars that are vegan and unprocessed typically have almonds. Bars that don't have almonds typically have gluten, or some form of dairy or soy. I had been eating great bars before, but the whole almond thing has really thrown me for a loop. So I am going to have to experiment with making my own recipes. This morning's batch was just okay. It is definitely not developed to the place where I can post the recipe. One of the misses, was that I put in chlorella. While the taste is extremely strong and did not work in the bars, it led me to do a quick refresh on the powerful nutritional benefits of chlorella.

What is it? Chlorella is a single-celled green algae. It is a nutrition powerhouse. It is filled with vitamins and minerals and chlorophyll. In particular, it contains natural B12 which is plentiful in animal foods, but not in plant foods. If you are a vegan, chlorella is a fantastic way to get B12. B12 is important for red blood cell formation, developing nerve cells and metabolizing macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein). Chlorella is great to take after a tough workout. Not only is it a complete protein containing all essential amino acids to speed up recovery, but it also contains chlorella growth factor which speeds up the cell repair and growth. Perfect for muscles broken down after a long training session. It also helps increase good bacteria in the gut to improve digestion. This is a plus for recovery as well since it helps absorb recovery food and all its nutrients much better.
In addition, chlorella has powerful detox properties that help reduce cell damage from free radicals.

When buying chlorella, look for cracked cell. The cell wall needs to be broken for people to digest it. It is important to not to take a processed version or a version with extra fillers. I like the Yaeyama brand.

You can take the tablets with water, or you can blend it into a smoothie. Just be careful not to over do it- the taste is very strong!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Salmon with Leeks and Peas

My mom did the work on this one- we adapted this recipe from a Boston Globe article last week. We adapted it to make it healthier, anti-inflammatory, allergen friendly and a little less labor intensive along. This is one of my favorite recipes - it was so delicious, I can’t wait to make it again!

Salmon with Leeks and Peas
(dairy-free, gluten-free)
Serves 4

10 oz frozen or fresh peas
5 large leeks, trimmed of dark green, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced crosswise
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 pieces (6 oz each) boneless wild organic salmon
Salt and pepper to taste
5 oz shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 package pasta (optional) –I suggest Quinoa or Brown rice pasta so it is not pro-inflammatory and gluten-free.

1.Rinse peas to defrost if using frozen peas (don’t even need to cook, just start letting them defrost.)
2. Start to boil water if cooking optional pasta.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks, peas, salt and pepper to skillet. Cook for 5 minutes and stir often.
4. As leek mixture is cooking, sprinkle the salmon with salt and pepper. Add salmon to skillet with the skin side down and cook for 4 minutes. Turn and cook for another 3-4 minutes or until cooked through.
5. Optional pasta: Depending on type of pasta you chose, cook pasta for indicated time.
6. Add the mushrooms to leek mixture and cook for 5 minutes more continuing to stir. Stir chives and basil into the mixture.
7. Optional- if adding optional pasta, turn off the heat and add cooked pasta to skillet and mix into mixture.
8. Arrange the leeks and peas mixture on the 4 plates and top with salmon.

Nutritional Benefits:

Salmon: Why eat wild salmon over farmed salmon? Farmed salmon contains about 10 times more toxins than wild salmon (such as Polychlorinated biphenyls- PCBs) Farmed Salmon are typically raised in fish pens and fed grain (not their natural diet), and given antibiotics since disease can spread quickly in the farm environment. Wild salmon are not given any antibiotics since they are living and eating in their natural environment. Wild salmon have higher levels of critical omega 3s: DHA and EPA. The omega 3s promote normal cholesterol and triglyceride levels, improve blood flow, promote health skin, hair, promote optimal brain function and enhance immune function. Salmon is also high in protein, vitamin D and is anti-inflammatory. The majority of salmon is farmed, but it is worth the superior health benefits and extra cost to seek out wild salmon.

Leeks: Leeks are very similar to onions and garlic. They are high in vitamin C, vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6, folate, iron, potassium and manganese. They help with stabilizing blood sugar by ensuring the sugar in the body is properly metabolized. Leeks are also antiseptic and anti-inflammatory- great for fighting infection or inflammation.