featured

bacon and butternut squash “risotto”

Posted by on Nov 20, 2013 in featured, side dish, vegetables | 2 comments

SONY DSC

 

The holidays are upon us.  Thanksgiving is next week!  Even though I love this magical time of year, I can’t help but feel my anxiety level rise as my to-do list grows.  And when my anxiety increases, my sleep decreases.  For whatever reason, my body likes to deal with anxiety at night in the form of insomnia.

Until several years ago, I have not been a good sleeper.   I have been tortured with insomnia on and off my whole life.  And torture is a pretty accurate word to use when it’s 2am in the middle of your umpteenth sleepless night, and your mind is still on that hamster wheel.  I used to describe the feeling in my brain as having a light switch on that I just couldn’t flip off.  Insomnia is MISERABLE!

About ten years ago, when I was also going through the worst of my years of sickness, I was driven into such a craze from yet another night of no sleep, that I decided I needed a little help in the form of a pill to get some relief.  My doctor did not immediately jump to Ambien (which is what I was hoping he’d prescribe me for a quick fix) but instead looked for the source of my night time wired mind.  He explained that when a person is experiencing anxiety, it is common to motor through your day pretty unaffected and coping just fine, but the second your head hits the pillow, that switch in your mind flips on and your body deals with the anxiety at night.  I left his office without a prescription for Ambien and instead began a three year relationship with Lexapro, a serotonin re-uptake drug.  Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in your brain that promotes a good mood and relaxation.

At first, I was so happy to be sleeping like a baby, that I was perfectly content taking my one little “sanity” pill each day.  But after I had several months of better than average sleep under my belt, I was thinking a whole lot more clearly and became much less enthused about my magic fix.  I loved how Lexapro took away any anxiety and insomnia I had been experiencing, but that’s not all it took away.  I had no feelings.  I had to force myself to do what I had previously been motivated to do during my days.  I would be perfectly content sitting on the couch watching life happen around me with no care in the world.  I didn’t like the feeling of not caring and not having an emotional attachment to pretty much anything.  And then there’s the weight gain.  I felt puffy and carried around an extra five pounds the three years the drug was in my system.

I made the decision to stop taking Lexapro after less than a year of starting it.  Then began my two year yo-yo experience, as I tried to wean from myself from it.  I began to research natural ways to boost my serotonin level because I believed that the cause of my chronic anxiety and insomnia was a chemical problem within my brain.  I found that the body makes serotonin using the amino acid tryptophan.  Eating a well balanced diet consisting of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, healthy oils, eggs, fish, and meat is the best way to ensure I’m getting enough tryptophan.  But some people can still come up short and need a little boost.  I decided to supplement with additional tryptophan.  Except I didn’t start with tryptophan, I started with something called 5-HTP, which is what the body converts tryptophan into before making serotonin.  I started off very slowly and worked up to several capsules per day until I started to feel relief.  I was able to ditch Lexapro for good with the help of 5-HTP.

But to be honest, I wasn’t completely satisfied with my sleep.  I still lay in bed awake for at least an hour trying to shut off my overactive mind.  I went back to researching and even met with a holistic specialist who suggested I try L-tryptophan instead of 5-HTP because it works better for some people.  And guess what, I was one of those people.  For the last several years, I have experienced amazing sleep.  I feel like a new person!!

A few other supplements that have also helped improve my sleep are GABA, melatonin, and liquid calcium and magnesium.  GABA is also a neurotransmitter in your brain that calms you down for sleep at night.  I’ve found that GABA wipes out my anxiety, so my mind can turn off.  Melatonin is a hormone that helps you fall and stay asleep through the night.  Magnesium is also needed for your body to relax, and because magnesium and calcium need to be taken together for both to absorb properly, I take a liquid calcium and magnesium supplement by Bluebonnet each night.  I have found all three of these supplements have further helped improve my sleep quality, especially during stressful or hormonal times when I’m prone to anxiety.

The holidays are a busy and crazy time of year.  If you aren’t sleeping well or are suffering from anxiety or insomnia, don’t let that sabotage the merriment and celebration of the season.  I encourage you to ask your doctor or other professional about these natural supplements that have helped me sleep.

My favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal is the side dishes.  I plan to make this bacon and butternut squash “risotto” for my family this year.

 

SONY DSC

 

I am open to any shortcuts I can find to save myself a little time in the kitchen on Thanksgiving.  To make this side dish, I bought my butternut squash pre-chopped.  I have found organic pre-chopped butternut squash at both Costco and Whole Foods.  If you prefer to chop your own, here is a great tutorial on how to do it.

 

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

 

Next, I “riced” the cauliflower by putting the florets in my food processor and pulsing until they are pieces the size of rice.  A head of cauliflower yields quite a few florets, so I processed several batches before finishing the entire head.  Here is another method to “rice” cauliflower.  I also diced a couple stalks of celery and about a fourth of a purple onion and set them aside.

 

SONY DSC

 

I then chopped five pieces of uncured bacon and cooked them in a large pan over medium-high heat for about five minutes.

 

SONY DSC

 

Next, I added the diced celery and onion and a half teaspoon of both salt and pepper to the pan and cooked it for another five minutes.

 

SONY DSC

 

I added the butternut squash to the pan and cooked it for about seven minutes or until the cubes of squash became tender.

 

SONY DSC

 

I added the “riced” cauliflower to the pan and cooked it for another seven minutes.  And lastly, I stirred in chopped sage, pine nuts, and a little ghee for additional flavor.  Ghee is clarified butter that is a casein-free and lactose-free substitute for butter.

 

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

 

 

4.0 from 1 reviews

bacon and butternut squash “risotto”
Author: 
Recipe type: side dish, vegetable
Serves: 6
 

Ingredients
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 2 stalks celery
  • ¼ purple onion
  • 5 pieces of bacon
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • handful of chopped fresh sage
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons ghee

Instructions
  1. Peel and cut up the butternut squash, or buy it pre-chopped. Set aside.
  2. “Rice” the cauliflower in a food processor and set aside.
  3. Dice the celery and onion and set aside.
  4. Cut up the bacon, and cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes in a large pan.
  5. Add the celery, onion, salt and pepper to the pan, and cook for 5 more minutes.
  6. Add the butternut squash to the pan, and cook for 7 more minutes or until the squash is tender.
  7. Add the “riced” cauliflower to the pan, and cook for 7 more minutes.
  8. Stir in the the sage, pine nuts, and ghee.
  9. Serve warm.

 

 

Read More

pumpkin chia pudding

Posted by on Oct 11, 2013 in breakfast, desserts, featured, snacks | 2 comments

SONY DSC

 

Easy peasy.  That is what this breakfast is.  After a fun girls trip to Miami, I made a big batch of pumpkin chia pudding so the morning of my re-entry would go just a little bit smoother.  I liked it so much that I’ve made it my breakfast every day this week.

Backing up a little bit…so I went to Miami this past weekend for the first time ever.  I had no idea it could be so much fun!  I went with a great group of girls (my soon to be sister-in-law was one of them), and we had the best time.  I will be returning again for sure…maybe for my 40th birthday next year??  Anyone want to join me??

Any time I travel, I lose control over what goes in my food.  Because I’ve been eating healthy for so long now, my body craves fruits, veggies, nuts, eggs, fish, etc. and I pretty much continue to eat that way even away from home.  But when I’m on vacation, I’m on VACATION!  I make it a point to try new foods and enjoy those foods I don’t eat every day, especially desserts, and I do so completely guilt free.  Adopting a healthy diet will never last if you try to do it 100% of the time.  I shoot for eating the healthiest foods 90% of the time and allow myself to have a little FUN the other 10%.  Food is a big part of life, and I do not want to miss out.  Vacation always comes to an end, and I will be back at home eating my kale in no time at all.

 

SONY DSC

 

After a weekend as enjoyable as the one I just had, it always feels good to get back home and do a little mini cleanse.  Chia seeds are an effective detoxing food.  Each of those little bitty seeds swells up and absorbs anything in its path while passing through my digestive system, acting like a little vacuum or broom, ridding my body of toxins along the way.  Plus, chia seeds contain lots of valuable nutrients and electrolytes, and because they are also soluble fiber (meaning they absorb water and liquid), they move slowly through my digestive system, promoting hydration and helping my body retain those electrolytes.

 

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

 

When I got home on Sunday night, I made a basic chia pudding.  I combined 1/3 cup of chia seeds with 1 cup almond milk (coconut milk works too) in a sealed container.  I love these glass containers I picked up from The Container Store.  I have a ton of them and use them to store all of my nuts and seeds in the fridge.  Nuts and seeds go rancid within a few months, so because I usually buy them in bulk, it’s important to refrigerate or freeze them.

 

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

 

The next morning, I combined the chia pudding with a can of organic pumpkin (in a BPA free can), pumpkin pie spice, and English toffee stevia in the small Vitamix container.  I blended the ingredients together in the Vitamix to make a creamy pudding.  This recipe makes about 4 servings, and the pudding stays good when stored in the fridge for about 4 to 5 days.

I chose to sweeten the pudding with stevia (a super sweet herb from South America) to minimize sugar (even natural sugar) upon returning.  Whenever I travel, sugar seems to be my main indulgence, so after coming home, I’m ready to break away from it.  Stevia is a smart choice because it has absolutely no sugar, not even natural sugar.  In fact, it has no calories at all!  And there’s even more good news.  Stevia goes further to actually benefit your pancreas help your body regulate blood sugar.

 

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

 

As toppings, I chose a honeycrisp apple and walnuts but feel free to shake things up and get creative with your toppings.  Here’s a few ideas for inspiration:  berries, banana, pear, peach, plum, mango, pineapple, figs, mandarin oranges, pistachios, slivered almonds, coconut ribbons, pumpkin seeds, cacao nibs, sesame seeds, pomegranate seeds, raisins, dried cranberries, dried mangoes…and the list could go on…

 

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

 

pumpkin chia pudding
Author: 
Recipe type: breakfast, dessert, snack
Serves: 4
 

Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup chia seeds
  • 1 cup almond or coconut milk
  • 1 can organic pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2-4 droppers of English toffee stevia
  • 2 apples, chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts

Instructions
  1. The night before, combine chia seeds and almond milk in a sealed container and put in the refrigerator.
  2. The next day, combine chia pudding with the can of pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, and English toffee stevia in a Vitamix, and blend until smooth.
  3. Divide pumpkin chia pudding into 4 bowls, and top with chopped apple and chopped walnuts.

 

Read More

curry salmon salad

Posted by on Oct 2, 2013 in entree, featured, salads | 2 comments

SONY DSC

 

Ugh. It’s allergy season, and it seems like everywhere I go people are sick.  Sneezing, coughing, miserable.  As a life long sufferer of seasonal allergies, I know that spring and fall are the worst times of year – when pollen counts are the highest.  Spring is notorious for tree pollen and in the fall, it’s ragweed.  Seasonal allergies leave you with chronically inflamed sinus cavities, itchy eyes, drainage, and a nagging cough.

Since cleaning up my diet, I’ve experienced relief from my allergies I never thought I could.  They aren’t completely remedied – certain times of year I can tell my body wants to rev up and fight for no reason – but there is no comparison in how I used to feel to how I feel now.

If you’ve read anything about me on my blog, you know that I truly believe food has the power to heal and drastically improve how you feel.  Food is information that actually communicates with your genes and influences your gene expression.  Eating an anti-inflammatory diet gives your body nutrients that provide information so your body can accomplish necessary processes that reduce overall inflammation.  For example, omega 6 fatty acids tell your body to ignite an inflammatory response, necessary to initiate healing when you are injured or sick, and omega 3 fatty acids tell your body to calm down and decrease inflammation.

Those of us that suffer from seasonal allergies have an immune system that recognizes various pollens in the air as foreign and potentially harmful, stimulating the processes necessary to take care of these threatening particles.  Basically, our bodies immediately call all the troops into battle to fight and protect the body.  During peak allergy season, our bodies are constantly in contact with these pollens, so our bodies are in a constant state of inflammation – in full attack mode all the time. When our bodies are perpetually inflamed, we feel sluggish, foggy-headed, and just plain yucky.  Plus, inflammation puts us in a weak and vulnerable state, susceptible to other opportunistic viruses, bacteria, and fungus.

So how can we use food as information to tell our bodies to stop the inflammatory process?  Eat those foods that provide nutrients that communicate to our bodies to calm down.  An anti-inflammatory diet is really very simple looks like this:  eat all of those natural foods that are not processed or packaged like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, pasture-raised eggs, wild fish, and naturally raised meats.

One example of an anti-inflammatory meal is this curry salmon salad.  It’s quick and easy to make, and I can double the recipe to feed our family more than one meal.

 

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

 

I started with two 6 ounce salmon fillets – seasoned them with salt and pepper and then baked them at 325 degrees for 17-19 minutes.  Do not over bake or the salmon becomes dry.  I chose wild salmon from Alaska, which is rich in anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids in the most easily used form for our bodies – DHA and EPA.  After the salmon fillets cooled, I used a fork to break up the fish.

Next I made an easy homemade mayonnaise with eggs from chickens fed an omega-3 rich diet.  Packaged condiments are notorious for containing hidden sugar and gluten (which both promote inflammation), so I find it healthiest and freshest to just make my own most of the time.  My favorite homemade mayonnaise recipe is from Mark’s Daily Apple:  Homemade Ghee Mayo.

 

SONY DSC

 

I chopped some purple onion, celery, and purple grapes to go in the salad.  All three of these have anti-inflammatory nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin A, quercetin, and sulfur.

 

SONY DSC

 

Spices with a kick are a potent decongestant, so whenever my allergies or a cold is flaring up, I liberally add them to my meals.  Anyone who likes spicy foods knows they stimulate those mucous linings to break up and release, relieving congestion.  Curry is a spice blend that originated in southeast Asia and usually contains mustard seeds, coriander, cumin, red chili powder, and turmeric (which is famous for its anit-inflammatory effect) and sometimes ginger, cinnamon, cloves, garlic, cardamom, and fennel too.

 

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

 

I combined the salmon, onions, celery, grapes, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, curry powder, slivered almonds, and a little sea salt in a medium sized bowl.  After stirring the ingredients together, I served the curry salmon salad over a bed of spinach.

 

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

 

curry salmon salad
Author: 
Recipe type: salad, entree, fish
Serves: 4
 

Ingredients
  • 2 6 ounce wild salmon fillets
  • ⅓ cup homemade mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • ¼ cup chopped purple onion
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 cup halved purple grapes
  • ½ cup slivered almonds
  • salt to taste

Instructions
  1. Season salmon fillets with salt and pepper, and bake at 325 degrees for 17 – 19 minutes.
  2. Let salmon cool, transfer to a bowl, and break up fish with a fork.
  3. Combine salmon and the remaining ingredients in a medium sized bowl, and stir together.
  4. Serve over a bed of greens or wrapped in a lettuce leaf.

 

Read More

apple bumpkin breakfast bake

Posted by on Sep 24, 2013 in breakfast, desserts, featured | 0 comments

SONY DSC

 

I found this apple bumpkin breakfast bake from The Foodie and The Family while searching for some new paleo breakfast ideas for the kids. Before each school year starts, I vow that I am going to send my kids off with tummies full of good nutrition, especially enough protein to carry them through until lunch.  And because they are in charge of what they choose at their school’s cafeteria for lunch, I have no idea if they are refueling with anything of substance in my absence (one of mine is known to make a lunch out of condiments).  Hence the reason breakfast becomes that much more important in laying a good foundation for their morning at school and beyond.

Even though I have come to the point of not really missing bread after years of eating gluten free and now grain free, my children really REALLY like those big starchy breakfasts…muffins, pancakes, waffles, toast, etc.  Even though this hearty breakfast recipe is really more of an egg strata, it tastes sweet and almost presents like a coffee cake.

My first attempt at making this apple bumpkin breakfast bake did not go over well with my kids.  “Mo-om…I don’t really like it…it’s too…I don’t know…egg-ie for me”.  (For the record, I thought it was delicious!)  Nothing infuriates me more than using a dozen pasture fed fresh eggs plus all kinds of other healthy organic ingredients only to be met with such a tough critique of what I was sure would be our family’s next favorite breakfast.  Ugh… back to the drawing board…but I’m not giving up.

Too egg-ie, huh?  Well, let’s just fix that.  I made a few adjustments to the recipe, and this time it was a hit.  The best part of this breakfast is that it makes 12 servings, so it feeds our family breakfast for at least two mornings of the week.  Plus, I can make it the night before so no need to wake up an hour before the family to get breakfast on the table.

The first steps in making the apple bumpkin breakfast bake are to preheat the oven to 425 degrees and grease a 9 x 13 baking dish with coconut oil.

 

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

 

Next, I chopped three apples and spread them out in the baking dish.  I chose honeycrisp apples because they are my family’s favorite, but any variety will do.  Although honeycrisp apples are the best type to enjoy raw, they are pretty tasty baked too.  Fall is the season for apples and the only time of year for fresh honeycrisps.

 

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

 

I combined the bananas, eggs, pumpkin, coconut milk, almond flour, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and baking soda in the Vitamix and blended until smooth and creamy, stopping a few times to scrape the sides.  When choosing canned food products, I check for BPA free on the label.  I picked up this BPA free canned pumpkin at Whole Foods and a can of Native Forest BPA free coconut milk there as well.  BPA stands for bisphenol-A – a type of chemical found in plastic products like water bottles and the linings of food cans.  Too much BPA exposure messes with your nervous system (your brain) and is a hormone disruptor, as it mimics the natural hormone estrogen.

 

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

 

I poured the egg mixture over the apples in the baking pan and topped with slivered almonds and shredded coconut ribbons.

 

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

 

Lastly, I baked it for about 45 minutes to an hour or until the eggs were set.

 

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

 

SONY DSC

 

apple bumpkin breakfast bake
Author: 
Recipe type: eggs, breakfast, dessert
Serves: 12
 

Ingredients
  • 3 apples, chopped
  • 3 bananas
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 can pumpkin
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • ¼ – ½ cup maple syrup, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ cup slivered almonds
  • ¼ cup coconut ribbons

Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish with coconut oil.
  3. Spread chopped apples in the baking dish.
  4. Combine bananas, eggs, almond flour, pumpkin, coconut milk, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and baking soda in the Vitamix, and blend until smooth.
  5. Pour egg mixture over the apples in the baking dish.
  6. Sprinkle slivered almonds and coconut ribbons on top.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until the eggs are set.

 

Read More

paleo chicken caesar salad

Posted by on Sep 10, 2013 in entree, featured, salads, vegetables | 5 comments

SONY DSC

 

“Mom, this is the best salad you have ever made…” says my 11 year old.  This summer, while spending his days on the golf course followed by swimming at the pool at our nearby country club, Ben developed a love for Caesar salads.  Traditional chicken Caesar salad usurped his usual order of chicken strips with honey mustard and fries – he made a step in the right direction in my book by adding in some greens.

But chicken Caesar salad is not gluten free, so to make his new favorite at home, I decided to come up with my own gluten, grain, and dairy free version.  Ben gives this recipe two thumbs up (he and his two friends walked into the kitchen right after I made this salad, and the three of them quickly polished it off), and so do I because not only is it made with healthy whole food ingredients, but it was super easy to make when in a pinch for time.

 

SONY DSC

 

And most evenings, I am just that – pinched for time.  To make life a little easier, I picked up a rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods to use for the salad.  Their chickens are pasture fed and gluten free and $2 cheaper on Wednesdays.

 

SONY DSC

 

The most tedious part of making this salad is removing the chicken meat from the chicken carcass.  Kayley and I have gotten quite speedy at this process after volunteering at the Ronald McDonald house where our main job was to remove the meat from 5 birds and chop it for sliders.  Our first chicken was a mess…we were s-l-o-w and wasted a good deal of the chicken.  But then we got in a rhythm and discovered the best way to do it was just to dig in with our fingers and pull off anything that resembled meat and set it aside to chop later.

I have a big stockpot that I put any part that is not meat – the skin, bones, ligaments, tendons, etc., so I can make a large batch of bone broth to use in making a soup for dinner the next day.  Real bone broth is soooooooo much better than the boxed or canned version.  And it’s one of the most healing foods for your body, as it’s chocked full of gelatin, collagen, hyaluronic acid, chondroitin sulfate, glucosamino glycans, and lots of minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus.  Homemade bone broth is good for healing your gut lining and building strong bones and joints, and it’s beautifying too – nourishing your skin, hair, and nails.  After pulling off all the meat, I placed the entire carcass in the pot with the rest of the shrapnel I’d already pulled off, filled the pot with purified water and a splash of apple cider vinegar (helps to leach out the minerals and goodness from the bones), and let it simmer on the stove for the next day.

 

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

 

Now for the romaine lettuce…the morning before serving the salad, I cut off the end of the head of romaine and thoroughly washed the leaves.  I like to lay the washed leaves out on a stream of paper towels and then roll up the paper towels with the leaves inside.  I lay the rolled up leaves in the refrigerator to crisp throughout the day.  Romaine lettuce is definitely my kids’ favorite green because it’s crisp and refreshing without the bitter taste of some of the other greens.  And it’s one of my favorites to use because they will actually eat it, getting in a serving of those nutrient dense leafy greens which are the most lacking in most of our diets.

 

SONY DSC

 

When ready to make the salad, I chopped the romaine and placed it in a medium sized salad bowl.

 

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

 

Next…on to the dressing.  I used my Vitamix to make the Caesar dressing with olive oil, water, 2 egg yolks, 2 cloves of minced garlic, juice of 1 lemon, salt, pepper, and some pine nuts as a substitution for Parmesan.  The dressing initially tastes pretty salty but once on the salad it’s delicious.

 

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

 

The only thing left to do is to layer the romaine lettuce, chopped chicken, another sprinkle of pine nuts, and fresh cracked pepper in a salad bowl.  I drizzled on about half of the dressing and tossed the salad.  After tasting, I drizzled on a little more dressing and tossed the salad again.  Perfect.  I saved the remaining dressing in the fridge where it will be good for about 3 -5 days.

 

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

 

 

5.0 from 1 reviews

paleo chicken caesar salad
Author: 
Recipe type: salad, entree, vegetable
Serves: 4
 

Ingredients
  • 1-2 heads romaine lettuce, depending on the size of the head
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, meat removed and chopped
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • fresh cracked pepper, to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup water
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Instructions
  1. Tear off leaves of romaine lettuce, and wash. Lay flat on a stream of paper towels, and roll up leaves inside paper towels. Let crisp in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
  2. Remove meat from a rotisserie chicken and chop. Set aside.
  3. Remove lettuce from the refrigerator, and chop.
  4. In a medium sized salad bowl, layer chopped romaine lettuce, chopped chicken, ¼ cup pine nuts, and fresh cracked pepper to taste.
  5. In a Vitamix or other blender, blend together garlic, ¼ cup pine nuts, egg yolks, olive oil, water, lemon juice, sea salt, and black pepper.
  6. Drizzle half of the dressing over the salad and toss. Taste and add more dressing if desired.
  7. Serve immediately or chill in the refrigerator.
  8. Save the remaining dressing in the refrigerator for 3 – 5 days for another use.

 

Read More

jerk chicken and mango skewers

Posted by on Aug 29, 2013 in entree, featured, meat, vegetables | 0 comments

SONY DSC

 

When we first moved to Frisco, Texas from Snoqualmie, Washington, our kids were 1 ½ and 3 ½.  We had a teeny tiny little backyard in our first house with not even one tree or shrub, no outdoor grill, pretty much nothing but a slab of concrete and a few chairs.  But Rob and I would sit outside in the ridiculously hot summer evenings just watching our kids run around in circles.  Because we could.  It was our summer to “thaw” and enjoy being outside with no jackets, no goose bumps, no chance of rain.  I don’t think we complained about the heat once that summer because we were so happy to have the sunshine.  Now we did make a pretty big trade off for that sunshine; we lost the mountains and water and evergreen trees and crisp clean air of the Northwest.  Texas is home now and I love it, but I hop on a plane and travel to a beautiful part of the world any chance I get.

Moving into our second home here, we now have a pool and an outdoor grill, so we spend many summer nights outside together as a family.  This routine provides such a good way to wind down and relax at the end of the day.  As my kids get older and their sports and social lives expand, we have fewer and fewer nights when all four of us are at home together, so we have to make more of an effort to plan family time.

Typically, our nights at home are the most relaxing time of my week.  This weekend, however, I had a hard time winding down.  It occurred to me that it’s because school has now started and with school comes a higher level of stress.  Gone are the lazy days of summer and back are the worries of being a middle school parent…homework, grades, social circles, social media, sports team tryouts, service opportunities, a faster pace of life…it’s all resuming, and I could feel my body revving up in response.

I make it a priority to take good care of my body with food and exercise, so I can live my life feeling good, but what about stress?  Am I making it a priority to keep it in check?  Stress can sabotage all of my good intentions and efforts to keep my body healthy.  In particular, there’s this important little hormone called cortisol – our fight or flight hormone – that can get stuck in the permanent “on” or high state.  While cortisol at a normal level helps us meet the challenges of every day, too much of a good things isn’t so good.  High cortisol levels trigger our bodies to always be in a state of emergency.  Our bodies then do anything and everything to turn on the life saving strategies, going into survival mode.  Adrenal levels are elevated, metabolism slows and we store extra weight around the middle, sleep is difficult to come by, and we feel stressed out and anxious all of the time.

A few cortisol lowering tips I will be incorporating into my life as school is back in full swing and I feel my stress level rising…

  • Pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray.  No peace is like the Lord’s.  I am on my knees daily asking for it.
  • Write down everything that is on your mind in your journal.  In your head, picture placing each of those worries on a tray and handing them over to God.  Then let it go and trust.  Someone in college gave me that tip, and I’ve been doing it ever since.
  • Take time out to breathe. Slow and deep breathing works wonders to reduce anxiety and stress in the body.  I breathe in for a count of 7, hold for a count of 4, and breathe out for a count of 8 and repeat it several times.
  • Spend time with people you love and those who make you laugh.  For me, this is my family.  They are my favorite people in the world.
  • Watch your caffeine intake as it stimulates your adrenal glands as well.
  • Drink water.  Lots of it.  Pure, clean water.  Even slight dehydration is stressful on your body.
  • Watch your sugar intake and focus on those low glycemic foods to keep your blood sugar stable.  High blood sugar is super stressful on your body.
  • Increase your omega 3 fatty acids (fish, walnuts, flax seeds, etc.), as they lower cortisol levels and reduce inflammation in your body.
  • Give yourself permission to take a time out, and do something that relaxes you.  I like to read, listen to music, or take a hot bath.

Another reason our family nights spent in our backyard help me relax is that my husband does the cooking.  He’s come a long way with his grilling skills – we’ve traded those hockey puck hard burgers for fall-apart-in-your mouth grilled salmon.  His latest favorite to make is these jerk chicken and mango skewers.  Jerk is a spice rub or marinade from Jamaica that actually originated in Africa and is known for being spicy hot with a little bit of sweetness.

 

SONY DSC

 

To make the skewers, Rob started with one pound of pasture raised chicken breasts.

 

SONY DSC

 

He cut them into cubes the right size to thread on a skewer.

 

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

 

To make the jerk chicken marinade, he chopped a purple onion and minced two cloves of garlic.  In a medium sized bowl, he combined the onion and garlic along with the juice of 4 limes, tamari, maple syrup, olive oil, and lots of spices: sea salt, black pepper, cayenne, chili powder, allspice, thyme, nutmeg, and cinnamon.  Freshly grated nutmeg is the best.

 

SONY DSC

 

He submerged the chicken cubes in the jerk sauce and marinated them in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

 

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

 

We cut chunks of mango, red bell pepper, and purple onion to add to the skewers.  He alternated threading the mango, red bell pepper, onion, and marinated chicken cubes onto eight skewers.

 

SONY DSC

 

He grilled them for about 6 minutes, flipped them over, and grilled them for 6 minutes more.

 

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

 

For a side, one idea is to “rice” a head of cauliflower in a food processor.  Heat the remaining jerk sauce in a medium sauce pan and let it simmer for a few minutes.  Then add the “riced” cauliflower to the sauce pan and cook for a few minutes more.  Serve the skewers with the cauliflower “rice”.

 

jerk chicken and mango skewers
Author: 
Recipe type: main dish, meat, vegetables
Serves: 4
 

Ingredients
  • 1 pound pasture raised chicken breasts
  • 3 mangos
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 purple onion
  • ½ purple onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon cayenne, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • juice of 4 limes
  • 1 tablespoon tamari
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ tablespoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated is best)

Instructions
  1. Cut chicken breasts into cubes and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine diced onion, minced garlic, and the remaining ingredients to make a jerk marinade.
  3. Marinate the chicken breast cubes in the jerk marinade in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
  4. Cut mango, red bell pepper, and purple onion into chunks.
  5. Alternate threading the mango, red bell pepper, purple onion, and chicken cubes onto 8 skewers.
  6. Grill over medium heat for 6 minutes. Flip, and grill for 6 minutes more.

 

Read More