Friday, July 20, 2012

Easy Homemade Yogurt

Homemade yogurt is easy-peasy with this wonderful little electric yogurt maker from Euro Cuisine (~$30). I love the single-serving glass jars and the simple recipe. For ease, use one store-bought (6-8 oz.), plain, organic, greek-style yogurt as the "starter"; of course, you can opt to use actual yogurt starter cultures instead.

Recipe: Remove "starter" yogurt from fridge and allow it to come to room temperature. Bring 40 ounces of your favorite organic milk just to a boil (watch carefully so it doesn't boil over and make a big, fat mess!). Remove pan from burner immediately and allow milk to cool to room temperature. Whisk "starter" yogurt into cooled milk, then fill all 7 glass jars with mixture but do NOT put individual lids on jars until yogurt has "cooked". Place jars in yogurt maker and add yogurt-maker cover; switch yogurt maker on and leave for 8-10 hours. Cover individual jars with lids and chill in fridge for 4 hours or more; good refrigerated all week. Optional toppings might include: gluten-free granola (see recipe); fresh strawberries, blueberries, or banana slices.

Strawberries & Sugar-free Cornbread

Sugar causes inflammation in the body, so many of us are trying to keep sugar to a minimum or completely cut it out of our diets. However, once in awhile we may want to have a sweet dessert around for a treat, for guests, or for a celebration. Here's a nice no-sugar dessert that you can feel good about — and, it's completely delicious, too!

Follow the recipe on the back of a package of Pamela's Products Cornbread & Muffin Mix, but eliminate the sugar (it will still bake up beautifully, I promise :)). For topping, use fresh or frozen (thawed) strawberries; just cut them up and mash them with a fork. Spoon mashed strawberries over fresh-from-the-oven cornbread and enjoy!

Baking Tip: Using two buttered, 8-inch ceramic pie pans, divide mixture into pans and bake as directed. This will ensure that the bread cooks evenly throughout. Often I'll just use half the mixture and make one pan (as pictured above); 6 oz. of the mixture is just shy of 1 cup.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Gluten-Free Granola

Makes ~6 cups. (Use organic and fresh ingredients whenever possible.)

Mix up a big batch of this wholesome granola and have it available all week for sprinkling on yogurt, blending into smoothies, or preparing like traditional oatmeal. Personally, I like stirring a tablespoon of my favorite crunchy peanut butter (Safeway's O brand) into a 1/3 cup of granola and snacking on it when I need to feel grounded and really full.
  • 3 c. gluten-free rolled oats; toasted (ie. Trader Joe's Gluten-free, non-GMO rolled oats)
  • 1 c. slivered or sliced almonds; lightly toasted
  • 1/2 c. white (or black, or a combination of both) sesame seeds; lightly toasted
  • 3/4 c. shredded coconut; lightly toasted
  • 1/4 c. chia seeds
  • 3/4 c. raisins
  • 1/4 c. ground flax seed
  • 1 Tbsp. Ceylon cinnamon (or Cassia cinnamon)
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
In dry skillet, toast oats until golden brown. Pour toasted oats into a large mixing bowl. In same skillet, toast almonds next, then place with oats. Finally, toast shredded coconut and sesame seeds together (watch them carefully as they will brown in just a minute or two) and add them to oats-almonds mixture. Add remaining ingredients to mixing bowl and gently stir together until well blended. Once cool, store in airtight container (flax seed can turn rancid quickly, so store granola in refrigerator unless you opt not to include the ground flax seed). Will store well for several weeks.

6 Tastes :: Free Mini-Class

Suffering from food cravings? Always hungry despite eating enough calories? Ayurveda teaches that these are symptoms of not eating all "6 tastes" at every meal.

Long before the USDA told us what to eat, people listened to their taste buds to ensure all major food groups and nutrients were being consumed. The SAD (Standard American Diet) is high in salt and sugar — an imbalance which can interfere with our ability to "listen" to our wise bodies.

Learn More: Interested in getting back in tune with your body and feeling good again? Attend my 6 Tastes mini-class on Tuesday, July 17, 2012; 7-8 pm at the Grand Canyon Rec. Center. This class is free to the public; an RSVP is appreciated but not required. I look forward to seeing you there!

Quinoa Tabouli

Lots of mint makes this easy dish a superbly refreshing summer lunch. Make the quinoa in advance, then just chop, blend, and serve!

Serves 2-4. (Use organic and fresh ingredients whenever possible.)
  • 3 c. quinoa; prepared in advance and chilled
  • 3 tomatoes (use multi-color or heirloom varieties if you can); chopped
  • 1/2 cucumber; quartered lengthwise and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/3 red onion; chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh mint leaves; chopped
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro leaves; chopped 
  • 3 garlic cloves; minced
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice — or, 2 tsp. balsami vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • (optional: chopped black olives; chopped red/orange/yellow bell peppers; finely chopped fresh spinach) 
Prepare quinoa in advance and according to instructions on box; chill in refrigerator for an hour minimum (or make a day in advance). In large mixing bowl stir together tomatoes, cucumber, and onion. In small bowl, combine oiive oil, mint, cilantro, garlic, lemon juice, and black pepper; pour over tomato mixture and blend well. Spoon over beds of quinoa and serve with crusty bread (or, gluten-free blue corn chips) with pesto spread.  See pesto recipe below. (Photo shows vegetable mixture prior to being blended with quinoa.)

Ayurveda Note: With it's cooling herbs of mint and cilantro, this refreshing summer salad pacifies Pitta.

Fresh Basil & Pepita Pesto

I bought handfuls of gorgeous, aromatic basil yesterday at the Farmer's Market in Flagstaff. The lovely woman who sold the herbs suggested using pumpkin seeds (pepitas) as an alternative to pine nuts in pesto making. The result: Amazing, inexpensive, easy-peasy pesto with all the health benefits that basil has to offer!

Makes ~ 1 cup. (Use organic and fresh ingredients whenever possible.)
  • 2 handfuls of fresh de-stemmed basil leaves; gently washed
  • 6 Tbsp. olive oil (more or less to get the consistency desired)
  • 3/4 c. hulled, toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 3 garlic cloves; minced
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • pinch of sea salt
In cast-iron skillet, gently brown pepitas on medium heat for 8-10 minutes until most turn golden brown; stir occasionally. In food processor, blend all ingredients into a relatively smooth paste. Serve on pasta, crusty bread, "faux pasta" (see earlier recipe), roasted vegetables, eggs, etc. Stores well in refrigerator for 2-3 days.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Reducing Stress through Meditation

Most people if asked whether they'd like to reduce the amount of stress in their lives would answer with a resounding, "Yes!". But most of us don't know how to do it — and, furthermore, the thought of adding "must lower stress levels" to our daunting to-do lists is, well... stressful. However, with more and more research suggesting that meditation successfully lowers the amount of stress hormones in our bodies by changing the way our brains function, meditation is one thing we may actually want to squeeze into our daily routine.

Some Science: In 2011, a team led by Harvard-affiliated researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) demonstrated meditation-produced changes over time in the brain’s gray matter. Participants in their study experienced increased gray-matter density in the hippocampus (important for learning and memory), and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection, after just 8 weeks of meditating for ~27 minutes a day. Participants also reported reductions in stress which correlated with decreased gray-matter density in the amygdala (our "fight-or-flight" area of the brain associated with anxiety and stress). The team used magnetic resonance imaging to measure their results.

Learn More: Interested in learning how to meditate? Join me for a free mini-class this summer. Check the course calendar for details.

Quinoa with Cherry Tomatoes

With its understated taste, protein-packed quinoa is a great neutral base for fresh, warm summer salads. Cherry tomatoes, kale, carrots, and avocado make a nourishing medley of goodness.

Serves 2 as main course. (Use organic and fresh ingredients whenever possible.)
  • 2 cups quinoa; rinsed and prepared according to instructions on package
  • a fist full of kale; washed and chopped
  • 1 small carrot; shaved into ribbons using vegetable peeler
  • 18-24 cherry tomatoes; washed and quartered
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2-4 garlic cloves; minced
  • 1 Tbsp. dried basil (use fresh herbs if you have them)
  • 1 Tbsp. dried oregano 
  • 1 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1/2 avocado; cut into thin wedges
Prepare quinoa. Wash vegetables and cut accordingly. Steam kale and carrots on stove top until brightly colored. Quarter tomatoes and place in medium-sized bowl with olive oil, garlic, herbs, and black pepper. When steamed vegetables are done, add them to the tomato mixture and gently stir all ingredients until well mixed. Place 1 cup of hot or room temperature quinoa in each serving bowl. Spoon vegetable mixture on top of quinoa bed and garnish with avocado wedges. Optional: Blue corn chips make a nice accompaniment.

Faux Pasta

This gluten-free dish is delicious and easy. It's basically a hot salad that performs and tastes like real pasta — and, it only takes about 12 minutes if you prep veggies in advance (ie. cut them up in the morning and store covered in fridge).

Serves 2-4. (Use organic and fresh ingredients whenever possible.)
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut oil or olive oil
  • 1/2+ onion; sliced into thin rings
  • 1 c. sliced crimini mushrooms*
  • 1-2 carrots; washed and shaved into long ribbons using vegetable peeler
  • 2 zucchinis; washed and shaved into long ribbons using vegetable peeler (discard seeds and core; or save in fridge and add to soups or stews)
  • 2-6 cloves garlic; minced (optional)
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 jar (~25 oz.) favorite tomato-based sauce (ie. Trader Joe's Organic Tomato Basil Marinara)
On stove top skillet at medium/low heat, in 1 Tbsp. oil sauté onions until translucent and sweet; add mushrooms and sauté a few minutes more. Add carrot and zucchini ribbons to skillet and cook for 5-10 minutes or until tender; do not overcook (separate using fork as necessary); add garlic and black pepper. Place vegetable mixture in bowls and cover. Warm pasta/marinara sauce; spoon sauce over vegetables. For larger meal, eschew the crimini mushrooms in the main dish and serve sides of portobello mushrooms sauted in olive oil and soy sauce.

*Health tip: Place mushrooms in the sun for an hour before using to significantly increase vitamin D content.

Ayurveda Note: Warm and lightly cooked foods help pacify Vata.