Thursday, May 30, 2013

Watermelon Basil Salad

I featured this recipe in my newsletter last month but it is so yummy and easy that I had to share!  What can be more refreshing than watermelon on a hot summer day? This summertime salad literally takes five minutes to make, if the watermelon is already cut up, and oddly the flavors play nicely together. So before you turn your nose up at the thought of balsamic vinegar and watermelon - try it! Did I mention that this watermelon salad is also the perfect choice for your friend's backyard barbeque? No cooking involved, less than five minutes to make, extremely beautiful, nutritious and even the kids will eat it!

Watermelon is sweet, juicy and delicious and has recently been catching the eye of researchers and scientists due to its high concentration of lycopene. Lycopene is a phytonutrient (natural chemical found in plants) that supports cardiovascular health and more recently noted - bone health. In addition, watermelon also contains an amino acid called citrulline which is converted by our kidneys into another amino acid called arginine. Arginine can help improve blood flow and may prevent excess accumulation of fat in fat cells. Toss in antioxidants, vitamin C, zinc and iron (if you eat the seeds) and you've got yourself an incredibly delicious and nutritious fruit! In order to get the most nutrients out of your perfectly selected watermelon, make sure you enjoy it once it has fully matured or ripened (a.k.a. red flesh!).

One watermelon
Fresh basil (add as much as you like!)
Balsamic vinegar
Raw organic feta cheese, crumbled

* Simply leave out the feta cheese to make it vegan friendly!

Slice a watermelon up into bite-sized cubes and place the fruit into a large bowl. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar, top with chopped basil and feta cheese and enjoy!

*Store in the refrigerator and eat within two hours of making or the watermelon may get soft.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Fudgy Chocolate Flax Muffins

Sometimes I get the urge to bake. I will raid my pantry and cabinets looking for items that I can combine to make something delicious and worth devouring. Today happened to be one of those days. And of course I had overripe bananas, which are cause for instant toss-in (shhh…don’t tell my fiancé, he doesn’t eat bananas and he LOVED these :). What you don’t know can’t hurt you right?

Most of the ingredients found in this recipe can easily be found in your everyday grocery store. The only thing you may have to search for at a food coop or specialty market may be flaxseed.

Flaxseeds are extremely small and provide “huge” benefits to your health. There are three unique benefits when it comes to flaxseed. First, flax is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, specifically alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA has been found to be stable for up to three hours of cooking which means you are still getting the benefits of omega-3s even after using them in baked goods! Second, another feature of flaxseed is its lignans. Lignans are fiber-like structures that also provide antioxidant protection. The third quality that makes flaxseed unique is its mucilage (gum) content. What in the world does this mean? Mucilage refers to the water-soluble, gel-forming fibers that can support the intestinal tract by improving nutrient absorption. Still lost at gel-forming? If you place a tablespoon of flaxseed in water and let it sit for a few moments the mixture will become thick and viscous. This is due to mucilage. Amazed? Me too!

Muffins generally get a bad reputation for being junk food. Now, I can’t always argue this statement because more times than not I would agree. However, these muffins call for a natural sweetener, whole-wheat flour and almond meal, flax (super seed!), raw cacao, coconut oil (no butter!) and dark chocolate. Overall I consider these muffins to be super yummy and a lovely upgrade!

½ cup of coconut oil, melted
¼ cup of pure maple syrup
4 very ripe bananas, mashed
2 tablespoons of coconut cream
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
¼ cup of water
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups of whole wheat flour
1/3 cup of raw cacao powder
½ cup of almond meal or flour
2 tablespoons of ground flax
1 ½ teaspoons of baking soda
¼ teaspoon of sea salt
1/3 cup of chopped dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a large muffin pan with liners or spray with a non-stick cooking spray.

Using an electric mixer or standup mixer, cream the oil and maple syrup. Add the bananas, coconut cream, vanilla and water until smooth. Beat in the eggs.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour, cacao powder, almond meal, ground flax, baking soda and sea salt. Slowly mix the dry ingredients in with the wet ingredients. Fold in the dark chocolate.

Spoon the batter into the muffin liners and bake for approximately 12-15 minutes, or until a toothpick or skewer inserted comes out clean. Place the muffins on a cooling rack for five minutes, or as long as you can wait before diving in :)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Coconut Rice Pudding

After days of blazing temperatures, hovering right around 100 degrees, it has finally cooled down bringing heavy rain! Hooray! Most people don’t cheer for cooler, wetter weather but I do! I have this narrow window of what I feel ideal temperature is and 90 degrees (and above) definitely does not fit into this range. Plus my garden and lawn were starting to dry up!

As a child, my aunt used to make a rice pudding dish that was one of my favorites but it was generally served cold. Naturally, when it is damp and cool my body demands warming foods. So this morning as I was brainstorming what to make I decided on a dairy-free hot rice pudding to warm my bones J. I also added flavors of vanilla and cinnamon for added comfort and spice and topped it off with raisins for sweetness.

Cinnamon is not only a spice used for culinary purposes but for health purposes too! Cinnamon can be used to lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar, to stop medication-resistant yeast infections, increase libido and to prevent certain types of cancer. Cinnamon can be used in its whole form (a.k.a. cinnamon stick), ground or as an essential oil.

* You are more than welcome to use regular milk if you choose but know that the coconut milk does not make it taste coconut”y”.

1 cup of brown basmati rice (or any other long grain rice)
1 can of full fat coconut milk
1 cup of water
½ cup of raisins
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
2 teaspoons of pure vanilla
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Bring the rice, coconut milk and water to a boil. Add the raisins and then cover and simmer until the rice is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed (approximately 35 minutes). Remove from heat.

Add the maple syrup, vanilla and cinnamon. Stir, serve and enjoy!