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Posts Tagged ‘almonds’

Healthy Lunches for Kids

In Nutrition on October 21, 2015 at 4:20 am

“Time’s fun when you’re eating flies.” – Kermit the Frog

healthy lunches

Nobody likes packing school lunches. I used to put way too much pressure on myself to make it balanced even though my kids would rather run around during lunch time than eat (they consistently tell me they “don’t have enough time” to eat lunch). I am fine with this BUT kids do need nourishment to make it through the long school days that, honestly, seem pretty intense compared to what I experienced during my childhood. I wish they had more time for both playing AND dining. I find these two things to be most essential to life and wouldn’t it be nice if our schools could reinforce that? To that end, at my home, I’ve focused more on providing a solid, balanced breakfast than putting all my energy into lunch but that’s another post.

For some guidance in packing a healthy, balanced lunch that a kid might actually eat…see below:

  1. Three main elements to a healthy meal: protein, healthy (plant-based) fats, carbohydrates (mostly from fruit & vegetables). Proteins: tofu squares, hard-boiled eggs, lunch meat (nitrate-free), leftover meatballs, breakfast sausage, grilled chicken, hummus, edamame/other beans. Fats: olives, nuts, seeds, avocado, cheese, hummus. Carbs: whole fruits, raw or roasted veggies, whole wheat pasta spirals, mini whole wheat pitas, whole grain crackers, hummus, edamame/other beans.healthy snack
  2. Aim for fruits and vegetables making up 1/2 the meal.
  3. Evaluate the “healthy-ness” of the lunchbox, by noting the ratio of pre-packaged foods to whole foods that you have packaged yourself. Skip almost any food labeled “kids” or specially packaged for kids as they are usually loaded with sugar (think yogurt squeezers and fruit chews) and/or heavily manipulated to not resemble the whole food’s origin.
  4. Dip It! Besides ranch, try smashed avocado alone or mixed into mild salsa, nut butters with a drizzle of honey or mixed with fruit-sweetened jam, or hummus (do some taste-testing to find a hummus your kids will love!). Hummus covers all 3 healthy lunch elements so it’s worth finding a favorite brand.
  5. Easy on the candy bars masquerading as granola/energy bars. Good choices are salmonberry barLarabars, Kind Bars (without chocolate), and GoMacro Bars. These bars are both heavy on the nuts which provides plenty of protein and satisfying fats as well as fiber which is important for regulating blood sugar and energy. Kind and GoMacro have added sweeteners but sugar grams are reasonable and are balanced by the high fiber content.
  6. Facilitate the eating of less popular fruits & veggies by combining them with favorites that you know they will eat. Examples: pineapple & blackberries, carrots & apple slices, cucumber & orange slices, bell peppers & sliced grapes. The flavors mingle making veggies more palatable. Obviously, this strategy won’t work on the “separatist” children!
  7. WATER, WATER, WATER. A hydrated child is focused and calm within a healthy and cooperative body. There are no good reasons to give your child a juice box or even milk. If you must pack milk, give them whole, plain milk. Flavored, as well as low fat or 2%, milk, is piling on the carbs. Whole milk is more satiating and allows for a balanced metabolic response.
  8. Resist packing your child a dessert (at least not daily). Yes, sweet is one of the five flavors that, if included within a meal, will lead to palate satisfaction; however, this flavor can be addressed using fruit as opposed to a cookie. The habit of needing something sweet after every meal contributes to a life-long sweet addiction, potential future weight issues, or other health concerns such as an imbalance in the gut microbiome affecting mood, hormones, and nutrient uptake.

For accessible, evidence-based nutrition guidance that is current, check out The Nutrition Source by Harvard School of Public Health. Great resource website and they have a better version of the Healthy Plate (a graphic your kids may be familiar with…).

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Sweet Breakfasts

In Nutrition on January 13, 2015 at 9:10 pm
cinnamon sugar grinder

Pretty Little Grinders

It all started with an impulse buy at Whole Foods. That place makes me buy the craziest things that I sooo don’t need but kinda add a bit of joy to my life. I was totally drawn to these grinders of helpful spices combined with “unhealthy” things – aka sugar. I had a major cinnamon-toast addiction as a kid so I was instantly drawn to the cinnamon-brown sugar grinder. Growing up, my parents were so strictly No-Sugar that we didn’t even have ketchup in the house. The famous one-gram-of-sugar Cheerios were acceptable; however, Rice Krispies were banned because they had the nerve to have 2 whole grams of sugar!

fruity breakie

High sugar but also high fiber.

When my parents would sleep in on Saturday mornings, my sisters and I would turn the kitchen upside down looking for that sugar bowl reserved for guests who liked it in their coffee and tea. Upon finding the holy grail we would make cinnamon toast with an entire loaf of bread. First we would spread out all the bread on the counter and meticulously pick out all the walnuts and sunflower seeds – delicious bread for an adult but not when you’re in elementary school. Then we would generously spread Country Crock on each slice – this was the early 80s when butter was still evil and trans fats were celebrated.

The next step was somewhat delicate b/c although we were specifically looking for the sugar high you didn’t want it to taste all grainy and overly sugary. Shaking the cinnamon was tricky too…it didn’t come out evenly and getting a glob of cinnamon in a bite kinda dries your mouth out and ruins the experience. Clearly, we could have used the helpful cinnamon-sugar grinder from Whole Foods. I am pretty sure we arranged the entire loaf of bread on a baking sheet and put it under the oven broiler which is kind of dicey considering I was the oldest and still in elementary school. We were very serious – and efficient – about our cinnamon toast making.

Although I’m a sucker for pretty bottles at Whole Foods, I’m also known to be the sugar police so I shocked myself in bringing home the sugary grinders. Swearing I wouldn’t know what to do with them, it was just an impulse buy, etc., I immediately found two great uses for them at breakfast – ha! I’m not a fan of a sugary breakfast; however, these two recipes don’t actually have much sugar and are balanced with plenty of fat and/or protein to maintain steady blood sugar.

coconut rice porridge

Creamy, crunchy, sweet, salty.

Coconut-Rice Porridge

Cooked white rice (short-grain, white rice works best)

Coconut milk (not canned, try coconut/almond blend)

Chopped almonds – roasted & salted

Sprinkle of cinnamon-sugar or cocoa/sugar/chili

Simmer rice in milk. Add more or less depending on desired consistency. Top with chopped almonds and cinnamon-sugar or cocoa/sugar/chili and anything else really!

Eggy (Grain-Free) Pancakes (makes 8 smallish pancakes)

2 eggseggy pancakes2

1 TBSP almond butter

1 very ripe banana

Sprinkle of cinnamon-sugar or cocoa/sugar/chili

Mash and beat and whip all the ingredients together (except cinnamon sugar). Fry in coconut oil and sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon-sugar or cocoa/sugar/chili on one side before you flip over! You won’t need maple syrup.

Potato Leek Soup with Dill Oil

In Nutrition, Recipe on December 24, 2014 at 3:03 am

“The point is to write as much as you know as quickly as possible.” -Kurt Vonnegut

disco joy

Go where the joy is

I’m not sure in what context he said the above quote but I thought it was inspiring and could be applied to almost any creative pursuit.

There can be this palpable rush of needing to get it all out of you already.

I’ve always liked to write but I used to be confined, as an environmental consultant, to the rigid rules of technical writing. It feels so liberating to blog about food and nutrition and yoga; however, I hold back from doing much writing and mostly stick to presenting recipes. I am self-conscious about the fact that I have neither an English degree nor experience in journalism and editing. Jeez, I was even terrible about keeping up a diary as a young girl. I now journal regularly but that doesn’t necessarily make you a writer, right?

Kurt Vonnegut’s formal education was in biochemistry and he also obtained a Master’s degree in anthropology: “I’m on the New York State Council for the Arts now,” he told The Paris Review, “and every so often some other member talks about sending notices to college English departments about some literary opportunity, and I say, ‘Send them to the chemistry departments, send them to the zoology departments, send them to the anthropology departments and the astronomy departments and physics departments, and all the medical and law schools. That’s where the writers are most likely to be… I think it can be tremendously refreshing if a creator of literature has something on his mind other than the history of literature so far. Literature should not disappear up its own asshole, so to speak.”

butter in dill oil

Every good soup begins with butter…and dill oil.

Reading this single quote by this one author inspired me to just do it already. Just start writing about anything and everything that popped into my head. It’s OK that I didn’t get my degree in English Lit. I feel aligned with Vonnegut in that I have two science degrees, so why not pursue writing?! I’ve always been a voracious and quick reader and have consumed so many books in my lifetime that you would think I’d have absorbed decent sentence structure and a vast vocabulary.

For my trip to India last fall, I decided to list “writer, nutritionist” as my occupation when filling out my visa forms. This was an attempt to start establishing myself as a writer in my subconscious while actually attempting to become a working writer. This proved to be problematic as I was then labeled a journalist and had to fill out additional paperwork stating that I would not be acting in a journalistic capacity while in India and, although I requested a 10-year visa, I was only awarded a 5-year visa. Apparently, I’ve got to reach enlightenment by 2018 and then I’m on my own.

potato leek soup

Drizzled, topped, and sprinkled with dill oil, toasted almonds, and Gruyere cheese

So, on to the soup…obviously there are a TON of potato-leek versions out there but they aren’t all good or even all that simple (which I feel like this humble soup should be). This is a really quick and easy soup for the busy holiday season. It’s perfect to make when you are tired of preparing all the fancy holiday dinners and just want something nourishing. A bonus is that you probably already have all the ingredients on hand.

I think this soup caught my eye b/c of the toppings. I am sucker for garnishing and embellishing my food. So the addition of a drizzle of dill oil, toasted almonds, and Gruyere was more than I could resist. Plus, this soup requires few ingredients and can easily be made vegan (sub olive oil for butter). I simplified the preparation a bit without sacrificing taste (I think) and feel free to get creative with the toppings. Pureed soups sometimes need a bit of embellishing in order to give them depth and texture.

potato leek soup - ingredients

Leeks, dill, and red potatoes…and not much else.

I used red-skinned potatoes which are perhaps not the most “thin-skinned” potato but look prettiest in pictures so, thus, were chosen. Yukon Gold potatoes are perhaps the creamier and thinner-skinned choice for this soup. Experiment.

The following makes a large pot (8-10 servings):

1 small bunch of fresh dill
9 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3.5 pounds leeks
6 TBSP unsalted butter
Sea salt
3 medium-sized, or 4-6 small, potatoes, thinly sliced
4-8 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the flat side of knife

4 cups veggie broth, for cooking, and up to 4 cups more for thinning the soup

Toppings: almond slices, toasted and Gruyere cheese, grated

Use a hand blender to puree the dill and olive oil into a creamy green emulsion. Set aside.

Cut the dark, tough green leaves from the leeks, trim off the roots, and wash/rinse well. Use a food processor to chop the leeks in two batches. 

In a large soup pot, heat the butter and 5 tablespoons of the dill oil over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted and is bubbling, stir in the leeks and a couple big pinches of salt. Stir well, then cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks soften up, about 6-8 minutes. Stir in the potatoes and garlic and 4 cups of veggie broth. Simmer until potatoes are soft and mushy. Puree with a hand blender and then continue to add veggie broth until the consistency suits your taste.

Bring back to a simmer, then serve topped with almonds, grated cheese, and a generous drizzle of the remaining dill oil.

Coconut-Berry Cheesecake

In Nutrition, Recipe, Yoga on July 3, 2013 at 7:27 pm

coconut-berry cheesecakeI got this recipe from Yoga_Girl’s Instagram feed. She’s adorable, inspiring, and positive…I totally recommend following her if you’re into beautiful yoga and healthy living. I made this recipe into mini, bite-size cheesecakes for the Salmonberry Open House last Friday and although I feel they turned out yummy, the recipe needs refinement as the crust is a bit too crumbly. Unfortunately, I won’t be doing much recipe development or experimentation this summer as I’ve closed down the Salmonberry studio and kitchen for a bit. I’m renting my house to vacationers and will be living with friends or family until mid-August. This is both discombobulating and freeing all at once. The usual structure – both physical and metaphorical – that I’m used to working under has been totally dismantled and I’m still trying to get both feet on the ground. I am currently located in Encinitas, CA – the birthplace of  Ashtanga yoga in the US, home to the Self-Realization Fellowship, and largest grower of poinsettias –  which is not helping me get more grounded. I’m feeling light, airy, creative, and, well, exhausted. It’s also unusually humid and warm here in SoCal adding to sluggish-ness of body and over-stimulation of mind. Suger cravings kick in for me when I’m feeling like this which is interesting b/c carbs, especially refined carbs, only exacerbate feelings of flighty-ness and spacey-ness (are those words?!). I really should be eating legumes and dairy to ground me but the weather makes me want to eat raw veggie salads. So I panic and eat sweet foods – ugh! Raw, vegan coconut-berry cheesecake is definitely a “sweet food” but can provide grounding with it’s healthy fats and protein from nuts, seeds, and oils. When it comes to indulging in sweet foods and desserts , these mini-cheesecakes are a pretty good choice. Sweet, tart, and nutty and only require time, a processor, patience, and a freezer. Works just as well as a large pie for slicing.

Crust Ingredients:

1/2 cup walnuts

1/2 cup almonds

1/2 cup dates

1 TBSP coconut oil

Combine all crust ingredients and process until smooth. Press into pie pan or individual mini muffin tin. Freeze for 1-2hrs.

party foodFilling Ingredients:

3 cups cashews (soaked)

1/2 cup unsweetened, coconut flakes

1 tsp vanilla

4 tsp coconut oil

8-10 dates

1-2 lemons, juiced

Pinch of salt

Process all ingredients until very smooth and creamy. Spread over crust and freeze for 2 hrs.

Topping Ingredients:

1/2 cup Trader Joe’s frozen Very Cherry Berry Mix (defrosted)

4-6 dates

1 lemon, juiced

Berry mix must be fully defrosted and not at all cold or the dates will harden and nothing will mix well. Put all topping ingredients in processor and puree till liquified. Top frozen pie with berry mixture and freeze for 3-4hrs. Defrost for 20 minutes before serving and enjoying.

Salmonberry Bars

In Nutrition, Recipe on May 16, 2013 at 6:40 am

salmonberry barI never liked PowerBars. I didn’t like the taffy-like texture or artificial flavor. Trail mix wasn’t hip enough and was way too ubiquitous during my childhood in the 70s. So I was really excited when the ClifBar was invented. In the 90s, I did a lot of backpacking and ate a lot of ClifBars. Then I realized, maybe I should be eating LunaBars, they’re for women, right? Those quickly became sickeningly sweet and aren’t even remotely healthy so I gave up on bars altogether until…the Larabar. Just dates, nuts, dried fruit, and maybe some spices. Simple and healthy and my kids loved them too. Recently, I discovered that Larabar was bought by General Mills who is against GMO labeling and just generally has some crappy products they try to sell as “food” (2 thumbs up for Cheerios, though!).

I prefer to buy from local companies with whom I agree on issues that are important to me (you may not care about GMOs or the consolidation of food production/manufacturing). Anyway, I’ve found two locally-made bars that get the ‘healthy’ nod when my kids ask to eat them: Perfect Foods Bar and Earnest Eats. in processorNow I’ve attempted to make my own bar based on my taste preferences and maniacal need to make everything healthier. Introducing the Salmonberry Bar!

Things got a bit sketchy and I was skeptical about my ability to pull these off. But I totally surprised myself with this one. Not too sweet and with some subtle, sophisticated flavors…watch out KindBars, I’m taking over the local Starbucks – ha!

Process until smooth:

1/2 cup pitted dates

1 and 1/2 cups unsweetened, sunflower seed butter, almond butter, or peanut butter

1/2 cup honey

Add: ~3/4 cups hot water, to thin mixture

bar ingredientsAdd in the following:

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp cocoa powder

1 tsp finely ground espresso

1 tsp allspice

2 TBSP chia seeds

2 TBSP finely shredded, unsweetened coconut

Add and process lightly:

1/2 cup almonds

1/2 cup cashews

Remove mixture from processor and into mixing bowl with:

2 cups rolled oats or buckwheat groats

Mix well with wooden spoon and spread mixture on greased, baking sheet. Press down with greased spatula so mixture is about 1/4-inch high.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

After baking, sprinkle with sesame seeds and press them into mixture with the back of a greased spatula. Let cool completely and cut into 1-inch-squares. Makes ~30 bars.

1 bar = 167 kcals, 4g protein, 9g fat, 2g fiber, 13g total carbs, 8g sugars

I would’ve have preferred this bar to be higher in fiber but I feel good about the sugars (from honey & dates). The texture is perfect and it is only mildly sweet and very filling. However, the clean-up was a pain (goopy dates and nut butter stuck to my processor blade!). I honestly don’t know if it was worth the effort in the kitchen because I spotted these in the bulk bins at Whole Foods for only $7.99/pound: Carob Energee Nuggets. They are almost exactly the same nutritionally and look eerily similar to my bars…has someone been spying on the Salmonberry kitchen??

carob energeen nuggets nutrition

Same calories, fat, carbs, protein, & fiber.

carob energee bars

Looks – and tastes – delicious!

Salmonberry Spread

In Nutrition, Recipe on April 16, 2013 at 6:06 pm
Salmonberry spread on romaine leaves topped with avocado, lemon, and cayenne.

Salmonberry spread on romaine leaves topped with avocado, lemon, and cayenne.

This one is a crowd pleaser. Be you raw, vegan, omnivorous, or on a “cleanse”, you really will love this fresh and tangy alternative to tuna salad. This nut-based recipe adds in some herbs and veggies with a bit of sweet and sour flavors.

Soaked almonds and sunflower seeds, red pepper, parsley, lemon.

Soaked almonds and sunflower seeds, red pepper, parsley, lemon.

Using raw nuts and seeds maintains the integrity and; therefore, healthfulness, of the essential fatty acids found within. Fatty acids are the building blocks of cell membranes, the gatekeepers of our cells, which regulate the flow of nutrients, water, electrolytes, and enzymes. Healthy, functional cell membranes are critical to the life of the cell and; therefore, critical to the life of our tissues, our organs, and, finally, our body. Nuts and seeds are also high in fiber, protein, and minerals such as phosphorous (bone health)  and copper and manganese (enzyme function).

Ingredients:

1 cup raw almonds (soaked in water for 24 hrs)

1 cup raw sunflower seeds (soaked in water for 5 hrs)

honey lemon garlic

Honey, lemon, garlic.

1 lemon – juiced

1 T honey

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/4 cup parsley

1/2 red bell pepper

1 small jalapeño

4 green onions (white parts too)

1/4 t pepper

1/4-1/2 t dulse

1/2 t dried or 2 T fresh dill

Serving (1/2 cup) = 400 calories, 34g of fat, 8g of fiber, 6g of sugar, and 13g of protein

mock tuna ingredients

All ingredients into processor.

Toss all ingredients into food processor and process until desired consistency.

Serve on romaine leaves with avocado, lemon, and cayenne as a light, hot weather meal. Also wonderful as an appetizer topping a cucumber or apple slice. Experiment with turning it into a paste (highly processed) and spreading inside a pita stuffed with veggies or keeping it chunky (less processed) and tossing on a bed of greens.

Choco-Chia Nut Spheres

In Nutrition, Recipe on April 3, 2013 at 10:19 pm

I just couldn’t use the word ‘balls’. Again, more chia and coconut (easy, affordable, healthy fats, high fiber). Almonds add healthy fats, protein, and more fiber. All these ingredients can be found in the bulk aisle. If you are shopping at a market that does not have a bulk aisle, perhaps you should find your way to one that does as these markets tend to have healthier food options. Yes, these are a kind-of glorified trail mix but are healthier than a highly-processed energy bar and serve the same purpose. Use as a tea-time dessert or as a great post-workout snack.

nut spheresIngredients:

1.5 cups dates – pitted

1/2 cup water

3 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder

2.5 TBSP chia seeds

2 cups almonds (if you use raw almonds, chop a bit first or it’s gonna be hell on your processor. If you don’t care about the recipe being raw then use tiny roasted & salted ones)

Coconut flakes (unsweetened)

Dash of cinnamon and/or cayenne

In a food processor, purée pitted dates and water until a sticky paste forms. Add cocoa powder. Add chia seeds and almonds in batches to create solid dough. Shape mixture into TBSP-sized balls and roll in coconut or cocoa powder. Refrigerate for 30mins. Makes ~25 spheres.

1 sphere = 88 kcals + 6g fat + 3g protein + 2g fiber