Dec 31, 2013

Asian Quinoa Salad

This salad is similar to my lettuce wraps, but a variation that is easier to take to a potluck or something. And my 3 year old eats it up every time, no problem; unlike other lettuce-based salads (that don't have ranch).

Cooked quinoa
colored bell peppers
edamame, shelled
cucumber (opt)
carrots, shredded (opt)
asian flavored ground turkey (opt)
extra-virgin olive oil
sesame oil
rice vinegar
soy sauce
sweet chili sauce (opt.)
sesame seeds

Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

My parents went to the Steel Grass Chocolate Farm on Kauai during their Christmas vacation. When they got back my Dad shared a handout with me that he got there about dark chocolate. (Lucky also involved taste testing tons of types of chocolate...yummmm!)

Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

1.       Cacao has one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants of any food.
Antioxidant levels are measured by Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC.)
Here's a list of ORAC levels (per roo grams) found in common foods and chocolate:
·         broccoli - 890
·         alfalfa sprouts - 930
·         plums- 949
·         Brussels sprouts - 980
·         Raspberries - 1,22o
·         spinach - 1,26o
·         strawberries - 1,540
·         kale - 1,77o
·         blueberries - 2,400
·         raisins - 2,830
·         acai berries - 4,5oo
·         prunes - 5,770
·         milk chocolate - 6,740 *
·         dark chocolate - 11,120
*The milk in milk chocolate blocks antioxidant absorption.

2.       Dark chocolate contains significant amounts of minerals essential to
healthy metabolism such as Magnesium, Phosphorus, and Calcium.

3.       The fat in better quality dark chocolate is cocoa butter, one of the components
of the cacao bean. Cocoa butter has a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels
because it consists mainly of stearic acid and oleic acid. Stearic acid is a saturated
fat but unlike most saturated fatty acids, it does not raise blood cholesterol. Oleic
acid, a monounsaturated fat, does not raise cholesterol and may even reduce it.

4.       Chemicals in dark chocolate called theobromines act as mood-elevators,
and can produce a pleasurable sensation of alertness and well-being by boosting
serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain. Dark chocolate does contain caffeine,
but not much: you'd have to eat five average-size bars to ingest as much caffeine as

you get from a single cup of black coffee.

Dec 11, 2013

Curried Butternut Soup

I've tried a few basic butternut soup recipes and never seem to quite get it right. This one finally tastes like a good blend of flavors. It's not the most amazing butternut soup ever, but it sure is a good base butternut soup recipe if you don't have one. It's from Mark Bittman.

1 onion, diced
2 c butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
5 c broth
1c coconut milk
Salt to taste

1. Sauté onion. 
2. Add butternut squash and seasonings.
3. Add broth and coconut milk. Simmer 20 minutes.
4. Blend until creamy.

african: add 2 T peanut butter or crushed nuts
Indian: add cilantro
...serve with garlic bread

Homemade Marshmallows

1 c water
1 c honey
4 T gelatin (grass-fed is best)

1. Boil water in pan.
2. Pour 1/2 c water into gelatin powder in a separate bowl.
3. Put honey into the pan with remaining 1/2 c water and bring to boil. Boil until softball stage (240 degrees...about 10 minutes).
4. Slowly pour hot mixture into gelatin mixture (which will be very gelatinous by now) while beating on low until soft peaks form (about 8 minutes).
5. Pour out onto greased tray and spread about 1 inch thick.
6. Let sit for at least 4 hours. Then cut in cubes and place in sealed container. Do not freeze!

Other Ideas:

  • Infuse the water with 1 T. marshmallow root for healthier option (make a tea of it, then strain)
  • use juice
  • add orange zest, mint essential oil, or other extracts/flavorings
  • add cocoa powder into hot mix
  • roll in crushed candy canes
  • add probiotic powder at the end, while mixing to give nutritional boost
  • put in little bags for Christmas gifts ("snowman poop"???) :)

original idea from wellnessmama

Nov 22, 2013

Meatball Soup

This soup is yummy and subtly spicy..somewhere between Mexican and Italian, but definitely its own personality.
1 T oil or butter
1 onion, diced
1 red or green bell pepper, diced (opt)
3 celery sticks, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 + 1/2 tsp. chile powder
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 c finely chopped black olives
1 1/2 c cooked rice (give or take)
1 lb cooked ground turkey, Mexican or Italian seasoned (cumin, chili powder, garlic, etc.)
6 c chicken broth (plus extra water if necessary)
1 c salsa (if mexican, or 1/2 -1 c tomato paste/sauce for Italian)
1 small can green chilies (opt.--best with Mexican)
Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Sauté the onion, celery, pepper and garlic together in oil or butter for 5 minutes, season well with salt and pepper and stir often.
  2. Add in the chile powder, oregano and thyme cook 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in the olives, rice, meat, broth and salsa/tomato and chilies. Bring to a simmer and cook 30 minutes. Stir and taste often - seasoning as needed.

*This tastes good with chicken too. And we like having it with garlic bread to dip in the yummy flavored broth. I generally don't use salsa, so don't worry if you don't have it and use tomato sauce instead...I just use my canned tomato sauce without flavoring because the rest of the soup has so much. The simmering for a long time is key to getting the flavors melded together well.

*Or just do simple italian style: Italian seasoning and tomato sauce with bay leaves. It still turns out yummy. I drop freshly made mini meatballs directly into the soup and let boil for 30 minutes until done. The bay works best if it can simmer in the broth for an hour start it in advance, before meatballs go in.

Oct 25, 2013

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a nutrient needed to regulate calcium and phosphorous. The body produces vitamin D through a chemical reaction after 5 to 15 minutes of direct exposure to sunlight. People in northern locales and people who stay indoors are at risk for a vitamin D deficiency, which can lead to rickets and osteoporosis. Vitamin D also boosts the immune system and is known to prevent cancer and autoimmune diseases. Vitamin D is found in very few foods and supplements may be needed in certain cases to boost vitamin D levels. 

Try to supplement your vitamin D through food, if possible. A cup (237 ml) of fortified milk provides about 30 percent of your daily value. 3 oz. (85 g) of salmon or mackerel provides about 100 percent of the daily value. 3 oz. (85 g) of canned tuna provides about 40 percent. Eggs, liver and fortified cereals can provide about 10 percent of your daily value

Choose the correct vitamin D supplement. The most common kinds are vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). D3 is recommended most often because it is the naturally occurring version of vitamin D in your body. For best absorption, take during a large meal.

Examine your medications. Certain medications interact with the absorption of vitamin D supplements and prevent healthy absorption. These medications include antacids, Lipitor, Dovonex, Lanoxin, Cardizem, Dilacor, Tiazac, Cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP 3A4) substrates, Verapamil and water pills. Magnesium supplements also aren't needed while taking vitamin D, because the vitamin D increases magnesium levels.

Info from wikihow

Sep 5, 2013

Lara Bars (or Power Balls)

If you want easy, healthy fruit and nut bars, here are some basic Lara Bar recipes....

Coconut Cream Pie
·         1 cup raw cashews (can use almonds)
·         1 cup unsweetened coconut
·         1 cup whole pitted dates
·         Pinch of salt
·         2 T of coconut oil

Hot Fudge Brownie
§  3/4 cup pitted dates
§  1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
§  1/16 tsp salt
§  2 T cocoa powder (or raw cacao powder)
§  2 T shredded coconut
§  1/3 to 1/2 cup raw pecans
§  Optional: feel free to add some chocolate  or carob chips

Oatmeal-Raisin Cookie
§  1 cup raisins (or try half raisin Half dried apple)
§  1/4 cup quick oats
§  1  cup walnuts
§  1/4 tsp salt
Optional...add pinch of cinnamon

Nut Free LARA bars
·         1 cup seeds (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, or mixture of both)
·         2 tsp olive oil
·         Two big pinches salt
·         1 cup plums, pitted
·         1 ½ T water

Blend all ingredients together very well. (I recommend using a food processor.) Line an 8×8 pan with parchment or wax paper and push your LARA bar mixture down into the pan FIRMLY until it is touching edge to edge and VERY compacted together. I let it sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes before cutting them into bars. (This makes it a little easier) Then you can individually wrap them for a quick grab and go snack or store them in an air tight container in the fridge.  The bars last at least two-three weeks in the fridge. They can also be frozen.

Here’s a few ideas to help you create your own LARA Bar:
  • 1 cup nuts (Almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, pistachios, peanuts, hazelnuts, etc.)
  • 1 cup sweet dried fruit (Dates, raisins, figs, prunes, plums, etc.) 
  • 1 cup filling (optional) (Dried cherries, dried blueberries, dried apricot, dried pineapple, cranberries, goji berries, more chopped nuts, dried coconut, chocolate chips, coffee beans, cacao nibs, shredded carrot, etc. )
  • 2 - 4 tbsp flavoring (optional) (Cacao, vanilla, cinnamon, citrus zest and juice, ginger, mint, cloves, coconut oil.)

1.       You can also roast your nuts to add a richer flavor to your bars.
2.       Using coconut oil in the bars not only gives the balls a nice texture and taste, but also provides a healthy fat to slow down the sugar rise in your body from the fruit.
3.       You can also make these into bight size balls and then roll them in chopped nuts, chopped dried fruit or coconut flakes for special bit size treats.
4.       If you don’t want the LARA Bars to be as sweet or have less natural sugar add more nuts and filling. (However, this will cause the bars to not stick together as well so I suggest making them into balls rather than bars.

*Thanks Rachel Seangsuwan for sharing these yummy recipes/versions. :)

Aug 28, 2013

Grain Challenge - September: Rice & Wild Rice

September is not only Whole Grains Month, but also National Rice Month – and the month traditionally celebrated as Wild Rice Month, as well. While these two versatile, nutritious, gluten-free whole grains have similar names, wild rice is not actually a kind of rice, and each grain has a full story of its own. So this month we’re offering two full Grain of the Month features.
Continue reading below for our feature on rice.
Click here to access our feature on wild rice.


Rice [Oryza sativa] provides about half the calories for up to half of the world’s population, especially in parts of Asia, South America and the Indies. Worldwide, it’s second in production to corn – but first in its contribution to human food, since corn is used for many other purposes.
Rice can be traced to both South Asia and Africa, originally, but today it is grown on every continent except Antarctica. It grows everywhere from flatlands to steep mountainsides – its only requirement is plenty of water. Traditionally, rice fields are flooded to kill weeds and pests that aren’t as water-loving as the young rice plants. Then, just as the rice plants are saying, “enough water, already!” the fields are drained. Rice can actually grow without flooding, but greater pest- and weed-control measures will be needed. Want to watch a rice field growing, day by day? Click here for a cool tour from Lundberg Farms.
After rice is harvested, its inedible hull must be removed, resulting in a whole grain (often brown) rice kernel. If the rice is milled further, the bran and germ are removed, resulting in white rice, with lower levels of nutrients.
Rice is often classified by size and texture. There’s long-, medium-, and short-grain rices, with the former quite elongated and the latter nearly round. Some short-grain rices are known as “sticky” rice because of the extra amylopectin (a kind of starch) that they contain; this stickiness makes them easier to manipulate with chopsticks, and perfect for sushi. Aromatic rices have a special fragrance and taste. We’re all familiar with the wonderful fragrance of Basmati or Texmati rice; in India Ambemohar rice, with the fragrance of mango blossoms, is a big favorite.
Rice growing in fields and paddies has three edible parts – the bran, the germ, and the endosperm – just like all other whole grains. Most of us think of “brown rice” as being synonymous with whole grain rice, but in fact whole grain rice can be many different colors, depending on the variety of rice. Most rice varieties look similarly white once they’re milled to remove the bran and germ – but trace them back to their origins, and you’ll see a vibrant range of colors.
Rice growing in a field
Rice is generally grown as an annual crop, with seedlings planted or seeds sown in late spring and harvest about six months later. Flooding at various stages in the plant's life keep pests and weeds at bay. Depending on the variety and on soil and weather conditions, rice plants can grow to anywhere from 3' to 6' tall (1-2m).
Close-up of Rice Growing
In this photo, you can see the rice "heads" filling with kernels.

Long Grain Brown Rice
Long grain rice has a long, slender kernel, four to five times longer than its width.  Cooked grains are separate, light, and fluffy.
Medium Grain Brown Rice 
Medium grain rice has a shorter, wider kernel (two to three times longer than its width) than long grain rice.  Cooked grains are more moist and tender, and have a greater tendency to cling together than long grain.
Short Grain Brown Rice
Short grain rice has a short, plump, almost round kernel.  Cooked grains are soft and cling together. 
Sweet Brown Rice
Sweet rice is short and plump with a chalky white, opaque kernel.  When cooked, sweet rice loses its shape and is very sticky.
Wehani® Rice
This long-grain honey-red rice was naturally-bred and developed from an Indian Basmati-type seed. Like other aromatic rices, it has a distinctive nutty fragrance when cooked.
(Lundberg Family Farms developed this variety of rice. While we don't usually use brand names, we're including Wehani rice here to illustrate the diversity of rice varieties available, and to make the point that new varieties are being developed all the time.)
Brown Basmati Rice
India is well known for its fragrant Basmati rice, another aromatic long-grain rice with a distinct "popcorn" aroma.
Himalayan Red Rice
Also imported from India, this long-grain rice has a reddish bran layer and a nutty, complex flavor that adds visual and taste delight to any dish.
Colusari Red Rice
Grown in the Sacramento Valley of the U.S., Colusari Red Rice originated in a seed bank in Maryland. When  cooked, it adds an upscale burgundy color to the plate.
(As with the Wehani rice above, this rice was custom-developed, through natural breeding – this time, for Indian Harvest Specialtifoods.)
Purple Thai Rice
Slightly sweeter than some other rices, Purple Thai rice was traditionally used in dessert recipes, but is now turning up in savory dishes too. Add other ingredients at the last minute, unless you want them to take on the distinctive reddish-blue hue of this rice!
Chinese Black Rice
Chinese Black Rice is a medium-grain rice with white kernels inside the black bran. Cooked, it takes on a deep purplish color.
Brown rice has much higher levels of many vitamins and minerals than white rice. Click here to see a comparision of the nutrient levels in brown and white rice.  Other colored rices have similarly higher nutrient levels, but aren’t as well studied as brown rice.
Brown rice is an excellent source of manganese. Just one cup of cooked brown rice provides 88% of your daily need for manganese, a mineral that helps us digest fats and get the most from the proteins and carbohydrates we eat. Manganese also may help protect against free radicals. It’s also a good source of selenium.
Studies indicate that whole grain brown rice may
•    cut diabetes risk
•    lower cholesterol
•    helped maintain a healthy weight
Sprouting brown rice may confer additional health benefits (the most studied sprouted grain).


Cooking common varieties of brown rice is simple. In general, combine 1 cup uncooked brown rice with about two cups liquid (such as water or broth) in a 2-3 quart saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45-50 minutes. If rice is not quite tender or liquid is not absorbed, replace lid and cook 2 to 4 minutes longer. Fluff with a fork and serve. Yields 3-4 cups.
Other varieties of whole grain rice may take different amounts of time. Bhutanese red rice, for instance, takes only about 20 minutes to cook. Check the package of any rice for specific instructions. While many people swear by their rice cookers, we want everyone to know that a simple saucepan is all it takes to cook rice!
Tips for perfect rice:
  • Keep lid on pot during cooking
  • Don’t stir – unless you like sticky rice. Stirring releases extra starch. (That's the reason for all that stirring when making risotto!)
  • If rice (or any other grain) is sticking to the pot, add a little water, turn off the heat, and let it steam for a few extra minutes. Usually the rice will release from the pot.
Whole grain rice comes in many quick-cooking forms these days too. These brown rice options are partially (or completely) pre-cooked, so all you have to do is warm them up for ten minutes – or even as little as 90 seconds in the microwave. So brown rice can have a place on your table even when you’re in a hurry.
Storing and freezing brown rice. Store uncooked brown rice at room temperature for up to six months, or in your fridge or freezer for longer periods. Cooked rice can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-5 days, or in the freezer for several months. It’s easy to cook a big batch of brown rice, freeze it in batches sized for your household, and simply warm it up at mealtime.



Want to win big at Trivial Pursuit next time the subject is rice? Here's what you need to know: 
  • The Japanese word for cooked rice is the same as the word for meal.
  • In India, rice is the first food a new bride offers her husband. It is also the first food offered a newborn. There is a saying that grains of rice should be like two brothers — close, but not stuck together.
  • Instead of saying "How are you?" as a typical greeting, the Chinese ask "Have you had your rice today?"
  • There are more than 40,000 different known varieties of rice, but of these only about 100 are commonly grown world-wide, and just a few of these are commercially marketed and sold.
  • Rice is a symbol of life and fertility, which led to the tradition of throwing rice at weddings.
  • Rice is cultivated in over 100 countries and on every continent except Antarctica.
  • There are over 29,000 grains of rice in one pound of long grain rice.
  • On cooking, rice swells to at least three times its original weight.
  • 96% of the world’s rice is eaten in the area in which it is grown.
  • Thailand, Vietnam, India, and the USA are the top 4 rice-exporting countries in the world.
  • 85% of the rice consumed in the U.S. is grown there. The major rice producing states are Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Missouri.  Almost half of the U.S. rice crop is exported to over 100 countries.
  • More than 1 billion people throughout the world are actively involved in growing rice.
  • Americans eat about 26 pounds of rice per person each year. Asians eat as much as 300 pounds per person each year, while in the United Arab Emirates it is about 450 pounds, and in France about 10 pounds.
*post from