How many sleepovers can my children cram into the 11 months of summer? For some reason, hanging out with friends is much more fun at 2am than during the daylight hours. The older my kids get, the later they stay up when their friends spend the night. I’ve learned there is no way of predicting when they’ll arise the next morning – today my daughter and her friend slept until 11:15! I had already exercised, walked my little dog, showered, taken Ben to golf, taken my dog to the groomer, gone to a doctor appointment, gotten a pedicure, and returned a pair of shorts before their sleepy eyes opened. On mornings like these, when we have guests, I like to make muffins or a quick bread to feed them. I can bake a batch of muffins as it fits into my schedule, the muffins are ready to eat whenever the kids wake up, and I know they’re still getting some nutrition without too much sugar first thing in the morning.
The last batch of muffins I made – banana nut muffins – was a big hit, especially with Rob. Because we are about to leave for our summer vacation, I’ve been trying to use up all of our produce and perishables. I noticed the bananas were looking less than appealing for a smoothie, but perfect for muffins.
Bananas have long been known to be one of the best pre-workout foods, as they contain easily digestible carbohydrates and potassium – a nutrient that helps nerve and muscle function. Bananas are especially good to eat before morning exercise when you need a little something on your stomach and to give you energy but you don’t want a heavy meal. Bananas supply all you need to sustain you through a one hour workout – sometimes called nature’s power bar.
When making muffins and quick breads, I like to use a combination of almond and sweet potato flour. Plantain flour also works well with almond flour. For these muffins, I used 1 1/3 cups almond flour and 2/3 cup sweet potato flour. I sweetened the muffins with honey and added some walnuts and cinnamon for more taste.
- 1⅓ cups almond flour
- ⅔ cups sweet potato flour (or plantain flour)
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 very ripe bananas, mashed
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup honey
- ½ cup almond or coconut milk
- ½ cup coconut oil
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Line muffin pan with paper liners.
- Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
- Add bananas and walnuts and stir to coat.
- Combine the wet ingredients in a small bowl.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and mix together until well blended.
- Fill muffin pans ⅔ full, and bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Why no oats in the oatmeal? Let me explain…
Over the past couple of years, as I prepared to start this blog and my health coaching business, I have been in super learning mode. I have devoured every new nutrition book, diet perspective, detox plan, and cookbook I could find. Because food and healthy eating is my passion, this has been anything but a chore for me. Not only have I read these books, but I’ve also taken what I’ve learned out into the “field” and have tried out every way of eating in the name of research. If I am learning about a raw food diet, I go whole hog – I am cooking, eating, and experimenting with raw foods.
Some of the diets I tried on for size over the years: the raw food diet, vegetarian diets like the Engine 2 plan, anti-inflammatory diets like Dr. Weil’s plan, weight loss plans like Ann Louise Gittleman’s Fat Flush, traditional food diets like that of Dr. Westin Price, healing diets like the Body Ecology diet, and the Atkins, paleo, and primal eating plans.
Through my tour of eating, I gathered many nuggets of nutritional wisdom and learned a lot about what diet works best for me. First, I’ve learned that none of the health and nutrition gurus have it ALL figured out (although I do have my favorites). Nutrition has to be the most un-exact science, and most experts claim to have an eating pyramid and diet plan that is the answer for everyone.
Second, I’ve learned that everyone is different. The eating plan that works for me won’t necessarily work for all of my friends. For example, people have different protein requirements based on their activity level, genetics, and who knows what else. And, each person feels best eating different sources of protein. Some feel their best without any animal protein while others feel weak, unfocused, and depressed without it.
So how have I learned what I should eat? How did all this “research” help me? Through experimenting and paying attention to how my body feels in the process, I have figured out a lot about what makes my body tick. For example, when I experimented with a vegetarian diet (which by the way, any time I try a diet, I am completely convinced it is the way to go while I’m on it…until I start learning about another one), I felt awesome! My head felt so clear, I loved the way my skin looked, and I loved the way my body felt too. Then Thanksgiving came after weeks with no meat. We always have our Thanksgiving meal on the Wednesday night before because my parents go to the Cowboy game on Thanksgiving Day. The turkey smelled so good that night, so I had a little slice. The next day, on Thanksgiving morning, my family ran the Turkey Trot. At that year’s trot, I ran faster than I ever had before. I had so much energy! I realized really quickly that I need animal protein in my diet.
But, a few months later, I began studying the paleo and primal diets. I read up on the Whole 30 plan and Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint, and off I was – the new carnivorous me. A few weeks into it, I started to feel heavy and just yuck…I was on animal protein overload and missing my vegetarian lifestyle. I still love the foods included on these plans (primal more than paleo as it’s a little less strict!), but I needed to re-arrange their pyramid of eating to fit my body’s needs. I learned that vegetables and fruits need to be the base of my pyramid, with the second tier being other plant foods that give me healthy fats like nuts, seeds, avocados, and oils. Fats are a good steady source of energy for my body that help this high-strung girl keep both feet on the ground. Animal protein is included in my pyramid, but it is more like the third tier up than the base. Too much of it, and I’m heavy and dragging.
That brings me to the third thing I have learned from my stint of researching and experimenting. Most of these diets and detoxes I have tried do not include gluten. I got to thinking…is that why so many people feel so much better on these different diets? Obviously, if you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know that I do not eat any wheat or gluten. I believe omitting it has had the biggest positive impact on how I feel and my overall health. But not only is there no gluten on most of these diets, but also there are very little if any grains either. Could that be the common thread as to why everyone feels better when trying these eating plans? The grain containing foods we eat today (especially wheat but also gluten free) are processed so much more than say a carrot or apple. And, usually extra sugar and junk is added, so the texture and taste is just right. Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and natural meats and eggs are not processed at all, or at least very minimally. No sugar or flavorings are added to these fresh foods. In addition, grains in general contain anti-nutrients, lectins, and phytates because they are really just little seeds that need to protect themselves. And their means of protection doesn’t always do our bodies good. The glycemic index of grains is also higher than most vegetables, nuts, seeds, and natural meats and eggs. When we process our grains, it jumps even higher. Eating a high glycemic diet causes weight gain and inflammation in our bodies, leading to heart disease and insulin resistance – diabetes. Inflammation leaves us feeling overall lousy too. Now, not only do I eat no gluten grains, but I have also moved all grains from the base of my pyramid where they’ve been most of my life to the tip top, reserved for the occasional treat.
So the conclusion I’ve come to after my years of eating is really pretty simple…
- Real, whole, fresh foods – not processed and packaged – are most nutritious.
- Vegetables are where it’s at – eat a LOT of them. Choose local, organic, and a good helping of raw.
- Eat a lot of plant foods in general – nuts, seeds, fruits, herbs, spices, and healthy oils.
- As far as animal foods – experiment with how much you really need, and always choose animals raised in their natural environment.
- Get rid of the gluten – I promise there is life without wheat, and you will love it. In fact, there’s life without grains, and you may love that even more.
- Striving for perfection never works – eat how you feel best MOST of the time, but don’t sweat it (stress can be even more detrimental to your health!) and enjoy life, and that includes your food!
- Pay attention to how food makes your body feel – how do you feel after eating different foods? How is your digestion, your energy level, your mood and focus? Food really does heal and make a difference in how you feel, so experiment a little…
Start with this blueberry no-oatmeal. I love a good warm porridge on a dark winter day. As I stated above, I feel better when I don’t eat many grains, so I decided to try this grain free option. Chia seeds and hemp hearts take the place of oats in my breakfast, and I’d say they do a mighty delicious job. Both are known for being energizing foods to help you get your day off to the right start. Let me know if you like it!
- ¼ cup chia seeds
- ¼ cup hemp hearts
- 1½ cups almond or coconut milk
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 2 tablespoons honey
- handful of blueberries
- handful of chopped walnuts
- In a medium bowl, stir together chia seeds, hemp hearts, milk, pumpkin pie spice, and honey.
- Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Transfer to a small saucepan, and heat over medium-low until the no oatmeal is warm.
- Divide between 3 to 4 bowls, and serve with blueberries and walnuts on top.
I can’t think of a better breakfast for Christmas morning than fresh, warm cinnamon rolls. The aroma of cinnamon, the winter spice, conjures up fond memories of past Christmases and creates the perfect atmosphere for making new ones. Smells are tied to our memories and feelings, as the olfactory bulb is in a part of the brain that is closely associated with memory and emotions. In fact, smells can call up memories that lead to powerful responses instantly. Because cinnamon is also known to increase brain activity, cognitive processing, and attention, these easy to make cinnamon rolls make a good breakfast for the kids on school mornings as well.
Cinnamon, with its spicy and sweet taste, is not only warm and inviting for the colder months, but it also has a long history of being something of great value, dating back to Biblical times. In fact, at one time it was valued more than gold! This tubular exotic spice comes from the bark of the cinnamon tree, and when dried rolls into what we call a quill that can be ground into the cinnamon we recognize.
Surprisingly, cinnamon is one of the highest anti-oxidant foods and is prized for its aromatic and medicinal benefits. Its anti-microbial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties make it an excellent preservative for foods and a potentially effective medicine. Many natural dental products like toothpaste, mouthwash, floss, and chewing gum take advantage of cinnamon’s antiseptic and anesthetic principles. Cinnamon is also commonly found in natural products used to treat candida or yeast overgrowth.
Cinnamon promotes heart health, as it prevents blood clots and lowers cholesterol with its high fiber content.
Other than its nostalgic smell, what I love most about cinnamon is its ability to steady blood sugar, increase metabolism, and thereby help with weight loss and diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a scary epidemic in our country, and cinnamon has been shown to naturally regulate blood sugar levels while simultaneously increasing the activity of insulin and increasing the metabolism of glucose. Not only does cinnamon boost metabolism, but it does so in a way that prevents fat storage, leading to weight loss. Lastly, cinnamon also helps with weight loss as an appetite suppressant because it slows the time it takes a food to lead the stomach, leaving you feeling fuller longer and that means eating less.
Enjoy the many health benefits of cinnamon this season when you bake this old time favorite…only these have the added bonus of being gluten and dairy free.
- 3 cups almond flour (www.honeyvillegrains.com)
- 2 tablespoons finely shredded coconut
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ cup coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- ¼ cup honey, a little more if you like your rolls sweeter
- 2 tablespoons finely shredded coconut
- ½ cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts
- ½ cup raisins
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- ¼ cup coconut oil
- 2 teaspoons honey
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine almond flour, coconut, sea salt, and baking soda.
- In a small bowl, combine coconut oil, honey, and eggs.
- Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, and mix until a dough forms.
- Dust a parchment lined baking sheet with a little almond flour.
- Roll out dough on the parchment lined baking sheet to a 9 x 13 rectangle.
- For the filling, pour honey over dough and use a brush or your fingers to smooth the honey over the sheet of dough.
- Sprinkle the sheet of dough with coconut, pecans, raisins, and cinnamon.
- Carefully roll up the dough tightly and seal to make one log.
- Using a knife, cut the log into 1 inch rolls and lay each roll flat on the parchment lined baking sheet. Makes about 10 rolls.
- Bake for 10 – 13 minutes, watching closely to not over bake.
- For the icing, slightly warm coconut oil, and stir in the honey and vanilla. Drizzle over warm rolls.
To oat or not to oat? Are oats a safe gluten free whole grain? Well, that depends. Pure oats are gluten free, but the risk for cross contamination is high. The only 100% gluten free oats are those marked gluten free, so the average Quaker variety in your grocery store most likely contains gluten. This is because oats are grown in fields side by side wheat and processed in the same plants as wheat. Some batches of oats may have very little cross contamination, but some may have a decent amount of gluten. When purchasing oats, look for gluten free on the label, or find them in the gluten free section of your grocery store.
Oats are considered a cereal whole grain. They are certainly not new on the scene, as they have been a staple food for our Scottish ancestors for centuries. Certified gluten free oats are quite nutritious, as 1 cup packs in 16 grams of protein, 10 grams of fiber, 7 grams of poly and mono unsaturated fats and iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, and manganese. The American Heart Association is oats’ biggest cheerleader because of its high amount soluble fiber and its ability to lower cholesterol naturally. The fiber in oats also serves as a nice prebiotic, as it increases healthy gut bacteria and the short chain fatty acids they produce.
The only potential downfall of oats is that like other grains, oats contain phytic acid, which will bind to and prohibit other valuable nutrients like zinc from absorbing into our bodies. Soaking and then rinsing oats for several hours or overnight lowers the amount of phytic acid. I soak all my grains and highly recommend it, as I find I digest whole grains much better after a good soaking. The other potential problem with oats is the protein called avenin. Although it is different from the gluten protein, it is in the same general category, so a handful of gluten sensitive people cannot tolerate oats either. My advice would be to try oats before crossing it off your list of healthy whole grains. If you experience any of the same symptoms as you did with gluten, you will know it isn’t the grain for you.
Oats can be bought as steel cut oats, rolled oats, or instant. They are all from the same grain but are just prepared differently. Steel cut oats are the whole oat chopped into pieces. Rolled oats are steamed and rolled out flat and are probably the most popular form of oats. Instant oats have been steamed, rolled out, and also precooked.
Granola is just one way to enjoy your oats. I love this version because it is seasonal and so fragrant – filling my whole house with that festive scent while baking. Enjoy your granola served over plain Greek yogurt, soaked in almond or coconut milk, or just by itself as a snack.
- 3 cups gluten free rolled oats
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- ½ cup slivered almonds
- ½ cup sunflower seeds
- ½ cup pumpkin seeds
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon cloves
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- ⅓ cup honey
- ⅓ cup maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
- ½ cup cooked pureed pumpkin
- ¼ cup applesauce
- 2 tablespoons raw coconut oil
- ½ cup fruit juice sweetened dried cranberries
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- In a large bowl, stir together oats, pecans, walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt.
- Add honey, maple syrup, molasses, pumpkin, applesauce, and coconut oil.
- Spread out on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
- Remove from oven, stir, and bake for 20 more minutes.
- Remove from oven, stir, and test for desired crunchiness. Return to oven for up to 10 – 15 more minutes if you like a crunchier granola.
- Remove from oven, and stir in cranberries.
Oh the incredible, edible egg! Although eggs have been given a bad rap due to their cholesterol content in past years, other health experts encourage us to include them daily, calling them a perfectly nutritious food. A whole lot of goodness is packed into that small oval-shaped kitchen staple.
As far as macronutrients, eggs have a good amount of animal protein with 6 grams for 1 large. Eggs also have a good amount of fat concentrated in the yolk, which we have been advised to stay away from in the past. While it’s true that poor quality saturated fats like foods fried in vegetable oils and margarine are quite unhealthy, our bodies need the right blance of healthy fats for brain and nerve health among lots of other things, so eating a good source like eggs is beneficial. Many important micronutrients included in eggs like vitamin A, potassium and many B vitamins like folic acid, choline and biotin also need that healthy fat to properly absorb and be used in our bodies. Obviously eggs have saturated fats and cholesterol, but they also have omega 6 essential fatty acids, and the ones from the lucky pastured chickens contain the essential fat superstar – omega 3 fatty acids.
Every egg is not created equal when it comes to nutritional content. I’m not talking about the color of the eggs; white or brown makes no difference. Be careful to choose eggs from chickens that were raised in as natural an environment as possible. This means the little guys were allowed to roam in a grassy field, eat what they can forage and would naturally choose, and not subjected to the stress or infections of a factory farm. Chickens with a home on the range not only produce more nutrient dense eggs, but their eggs also have that prized omega 3 essential fatty acid and less saturated fat and cholesterol. So choose organic eggs from pasture-raised, cage-free chickens whenever possible.
These omelet muffins are a quick and easy way to prepare an egg dish for your family. Double the recipe to have extra on hand throughout the week. And change up and personalize the meat, veggies, and spices to suit your family’s likings.
- coconut oil or 8 – 10 muffin liners
- 8 eggs
- ½ pound chicken, nitrate-free chicken or turkey sausage, or nitrate-free turkey bacon cooked and cut into small pieces
- 2 cups diced vegetables, for example: red bell pepper, asparagus, broccoli, tomato, spinach, onion, squashes
- 1 tablespoon Bragg Organic Sprinkle or your favorite spices
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat oven to 350℉.
- Grease 8 -10 muffin cups with coconut oil or line with paper liners.
- Beat the eggs in a medium bowl and add meat, vegetables, spices, salt, and ground pepper.
- Pour mixture into the muffin cups.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until eggs are “set”.
It doesn’t get quicker than the Miracle Muffin for a healthy breakfast, and I am loving it. I made my favorite version this morning with cacao and goji berries. The fiber, protein, and healthy fat kept me full until lunch. Let me know your favorite way to make the Miracle Muffin!
- ¼ cup flax seed meal
- 1 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon raw coconut oil
- 1 egg
- 1 dropper vanilla creme liquid stevia
- 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
- 1 tablespoon goji berries
- Stir to combine all ingredients in a coffee mug.
- Microwave for 50 seconds.
- Turn over mug onto a plate, and muffin will fall out.