Roasting: The Easiest Way to Make Veggies Delicious

When I first ventured off to college, I was excited to experiment with cooking for the first time outside my parents’ house. Having been curious to learn and try to replicate some of my mom’s recipes (none of which is written down or involves any measuring whatsoever), I was eager to begin my own journey in the kitchen. I cooked for my dorm-mates when we had potlucks in the communal kitchen, and I was always willing to try anything I could dream up — as long as it was cooked on the stove top. 

The oven was off-limits back then. Very scary. The words “roast” and “bake” conjured anxiety of burnt poultry or ruined pork parts. There’s no stirring, no mid-course correcting, no way to know what’s going on in there without opening the door compulsively, which I was told not to do. Casseroles freaked me out. With the exception of those green beans I mentioned last week, I didn’t want anything to do with the oven until much later in my cooking escapades. Years later. roasted vegetables 1

And now, I have to say that even though we have a very old, very inefficient, somewhat temperamental oven that literally heats up the entire kitchen when we use it, I couldn’t live without it. I am so eager to throw something in the oven and walk away to get something else done while my dinner cooks. Or at least I’ll work on another part of dinner while something happens inside that magical oven. 

Roasted Vegetables

Today we’re going to talk about the simplest, most delicious way to prepare just about any non-leafy vegetable: Roasting. I love roasted veggies. They’re so simple, and the process is all but fool-proof, even for a beginner in the kitchen. You can roast just about anything using an extremely simple formula that will pretty much guarantee deliciousness every time. With this formula, you can stick your veggies in the oven and move on to making another part of your meal. It’s a great tool for multitasking in the kitchen and getting a lot of delicious food on your plate at each meal without spending all day in the kitchen. 

roasted vegetables 3

Here’s the formula:

cookie sheet or baking pan (not the flat kind, you want a lip) + veggies of your choice + olive oil, avocado oil, melted coconut oil, or ghee + salt and pepper + (optional) balsamic vinegar. Spray oil works great in roasting so you can coat things well without totally overdoing the oil.

roasted vegetables 2

Here are some veggies that are great for roasting:

  • asparagus (chop the white ends off, roast the rest whole)
  • zucchini/squash (better with balsamic and sliced very thin!)
  • broccoli (chop into bite size pieces)
  • cauliflower (chop into bite size pieces)
  • eggplant (better with balsamic and sliced very thin!)
  • bell peppers (slice thin or roast in halves or quarters)
  • onions (sliced or quartered, both work great)
  • sweet potatoes (diced or sliced – leave skin on)
  • beets (diced, pealing is optional – I never peel them)
  • celery root (diced)
  • sunchokes (diced)
  • pearl or fingerling potatoes (whole or cut in half)
  • pumpkin (quartered or sliced, don’t bother peeling until afterwards)

roasted vegetables 4

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F for non-starchy veggies and 400 for the root/starchy veggies  
  2. Rinse your veggies and chop or slice accordingly
  3. Lay the veggies flat on a cookie sheet avoiding any overlapping
  4. Drizzle or spray with oil of your choices (I use this avocado spray or you can use a Misto Sprayer – affiliate links)
  5. (optional) drizzle a small amount of balsamic vinegar
  6. Sprinkle salt and pepper (skip the pepper for the sweet potatoes and beets)
  7. Roast non-starchy veggies for 10 to 15 minutes, starchy veggies could take up to 40 minutes, depending on the root
  8. For starchy veggies, shake them up on the pan after an initial 20 minutes, then check back every 5-10 minutes after until they’re done

With this tool in your tool belt, eating veggies every day will be a snap! Enjoy your delicious roasted vegetables with your favorite cut of meat and a nice big salad if you’re working on a low-carb lifestyle. (Find out why you should make your own salad dressing.) 

Now it’s your turn!

What’s your favorite veggie to roast? What do you add to your roasted veggies to make them delicious?


FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation if you click and purchase it. I only link to products that I USE and LOVE. All opinions are my own.

[VIDEO] Why Make Your Own Salad Dressing?

What would you do if you found out that your efforts to improve your health were actually sabotaging it instead? Would you want to know some simple kitchen hacks to right the wrongs? You’d be surprised at the hidden ingredients lurking in of some of the staple foods in your kitchen right now — foods you thought were contributing to your healthy diet.

Raise your hand if you consider salad a “health food.”

As the wellness program manager of a large hospital, people always assume that I will want salad for a company lunch. After all, salads are healthy and that’s my whole deal right?

Maybe.

It all depends on the details. What type of greens? What type of dressing? What else is on the salad? And very importantly, will I be NOURISHED after eating this salad?

There’s a big difference between a salad made with ice burg lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese, croutons, and store-bought fat-free honey mustard dressing and one made with colorful mixed greens, fresh shredded cabbage, sunflower seeds, and a homemade Dijon vinaigrette. Ingredients matter — especially that dressing!

homemade salad dressing

so many choices, and none of them great

All salad dressings are not created equal.

The type of dressing you put on your salad can make or break the meal, both flavor-wise and nutrition-wise. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that ZERO store-bought dressings are worth buying, you’d be hard-pressed to find one without unnecessary additives that you couldn’t replicate without them at home. And I have my money on the one you make at home tasting better 100% of the time.

Put down that bottle!

Bottled dressings are often full of sugar and highly processed oils. The lovely pictures of vegetables you see on the front label doesn’t often reflect what’s actually inside the bottle (learn how to decipher food labels). Here are a few examples of labels found in the center aisle of the grocery store:

homemade salad dressing

Full Fat Ranch Dressing: As you can see, the first ingredient is soybean oil. Setting aside the fact that virtually all soybeans and a huge proportion of rape seeds (the seed used in canola oil) grown in the US are of the controversial GMO variety, both of these oils are highly processed, often bleached, deodorized, and heated at high temperatures, rendering the oils rancid before they are even added to this concoction. Add that to the fact that soy in general is tough to digest and can irritate your GI tract, and both are full of inflammatory Omega 6 fats — I think we can leave this one on the shelf. But isn’t “low-fat” healthier anyway?

homemade salad dressing

Low Fat Ranch Dressing: Let’s look at the main ingredients. Water (which is free at home) and 4 different words for sugar (corn syrup, maltodextrin, sugar, and modified food starch), make up 98% of what’s in the low-fat model — no, low-fat is not healthier. Using this sugar-filled dressing would completely undermine your good, nutritious intentions.

So far, we’ve only looked at Ranch dressing, and some of you might be thinking, “No one thinks Ranch dressing is healthy. She’s cheating! I only use vinaigrette on my salads.”

Au contraire!

homemade salad dressing

“Olive Oil” and Vinegar: Why is the third ingredient a blend of EVOO and soybean oil in a salad dressing labeled Olive Oil Vinaigrette? Because soybeans are cheap, subsidized products of agribusiness, the byproducts of which have found themselves in nearly every box and bottle on the shelves of your supermarket, including most chocolate!

Why would you pay a premium for water, oil, vinegar, and sugar, along with all those other unpronounceables that we’ve seen in all three of these labels? (by the way, “natural flavors” almost always means MSG, which you’ve seen explicitly listed on some of the other labels here as well.)

Make Your Own Salad Dressing

Now that I’ve convinced you that you’re buying garbage in the dressing aisle, let’s talk solutions. Watch me transform ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen into a delicious, nutritious dressing with real ingredients. This simple recipe takes seconds to prepare and if you double it, you can store it in a glass jar to use all week.

I’ll be posting additional how-to recipe videos in the coming weeks that will include more fun salad dressings, along with other “Why Make Your Own” favorites.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel to ensure that you don’t miss out!

 

Resistant Starch Potato Salad – What’s Resistant Starch?

If you’re up on the latest in the Paleo community, then you’ve probably heard the term resistant starch flying around, and you probably have some idea of what it is. If you’re NOT up on the latest in the Paleo community, then you have no idea what I’m talking about and are reading this post because the weird title piqued your curiosity.

Either way, I’m about to 1) explain briefly what a particular category of resistant starch is and how it works; 2) refer you to an article that fully explains the concept much better than I will; and 3) leave you with an awesome kitchen hack and a recipe that you can thank me for after you sink your teeth into the deliciousness.

resistant starch

What is resistant starch?

Resistant starch, also known as amylose, is one of two types of starch found in green plants. It’s made up of a structure of molecules so tightly wound that it’s difficult for the enzymes in our digestive tract to break them down. They are resistant to digestion and therefore behave differently than digestible starches. There are multiple types of resistant starch, but right now we’re only going to focus on one: Retrograded Starch.

For a comprehensive explanation of ALL types of resistant starch, check out this article in PaleoMagazine.

Retrograded Starch is the type that’s created once starchy vegetables like potatoes, grains, or beans is cooked and then cooled for a 24 hour period before serving. This cooling process, either by refrigeration or freezing, actually changes the structure of the starches already in these foods and creates a more resistant variety. (source)

Why would I want to eat resistant starch?

Resistant starch is actually a lower glycemic food than your regular digestible starch. The glycemic load can be reduced by up to 25% just by cooling your cooked starchy veggie for 24 hours before eating. (source – affiliate link) Great news if you’re struggling with your blood sugar but find yourself starving without a few starchy carbs in your diet! Even better that some studies show an increased sensitivity to insulin with the consumption of resistant starch. (source)

This works beautifully for dishes like potato salad, bean salad, pasta salad, and quinoa salad — just cook your starchy veggies the day before it’s time to make the salad, and you’ll already have cold ingredients ready to go, resistant starch and all!

KITCHEN HACK BONUS: These starches remain resistant upon reheating the food. So if you want warm potatoes or rice (etc), you can still make this work in your favor if you plan ahead.

DIGESTIVE BONUS: When resistant starches make their way to your small intestine, they feed and encourage the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut (prebiotics). Some of these healthy bacteria (in addition to doing a host of other beneficial tasks inside your gut like synthesizing vitamins and fighting invaders) release butyrate into your system. Butyrate is a fatty acid that aids in metabolic function, reduces inflammation, and supports immune function. (source)

 

Don’t go too crazy now!

Start slowly with resistant starch, and make sure it agrees with you. That PaleoMagazine article I mentioned earlier recommends that you begin with 20-40 grams per day to test the waters. This post is not meant to give you cart blanche to go on a wild carbo-licious rampage, as tempting as that might be sometimes. That being said, I have a scrumptious recipe to share that follows all the precautionary recommendations when adding resistant starch into your regimen.

resistant starch

Red White and Bleu Resistant Starch Potato Salad

Ingredients (makes 6 to 8 servings):

  • 1 lb of the most colorful small potatoes you can find (red and purple are ideal for greatest nutrient density), cooked the day before and refrigerated
  • 4 pieces organic bacon, cooked and chopped or crumbled (never settle for conventional bacon, and get pastured if you can find it)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup bleu cheese crumbles (amount depends on your affinity for stinky cheese)
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped raw walnuts
  • 1/2 cup homemade coconut mayo
  • Splash apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Halve or quarter 1/2 the potatoes, depending on the size, and roughly mash the other half with a fork in a large bowl
  2. Add bacon, cheese, scallions, and walnuts to potatoes
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the mayo, vinegar, salt, and pepper
  4. Stir in the mayo mixture until well-incorporated
  5. Serve cold

resistant starch


FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains an affiliate link, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I only link to products that I USE and LOVE. All opinions are my own.

Your Ultimate Guide to Which Cooking Oils to Use and When

Choosing which cooking oil to use for what task in the kitchen is an important component of food preparation. Certainly the flavor an oil imparts on the dish plays a role in which oil you choose, but it’s about a lot more than that. Today’s kitchen hack is about flavor, safety, nutrition, and active disease prevention.which cooking oil

Your Ultimate Guide to Cooking Oil

A super important factor when choosing which cooking oils to use and how to use them is the smoke point.

Smoke point is defined as the temperature at which the oil starts to smoke.

If you heat an oil beyond its smoke point, not only does it make your food taste burnt, but you also run the risk of starting a grease fire in your kitchen. Additionally, you don’t want your oil to smoke in your pan because once it reaches that state, it oxidizes and becomes rancid. The oxidation process takes a perfectly good oil and creates a harmful substance full of free radicals that has lost its beneficial health properties. Oxidized oils result when the glycerol in the oil breaks down to acrolein. Acrolein is a major component of cigarette smoke and is a known carcinogen, so it’s important not to burn your oils while cooking.Cooking Temps

To be perfectly honest, when I see numbers in reference to anything other than cooking in an oven (where you actually set the number), my eyes glaze over. But I’m about to throw a few numbers at you, and I also have a chart with lots of numbers at the bottom of this post as your quick, easy reference guide. SO, I’ve borrowed this handy-dandy little list of typical temperatures across all methods of cooking from Tiffany at Don’t Waste the Crumbs. This way, you can have an idea of which methods go with which numbers down below.

 

Which Cooking Oils Are Best for High-Heat Cooking?

Coconut oil, palm oil, and ghee all have high smoke points and work well as your go-to sauteing, roasting, frying, baking, and even grilling oils. Not only are they stable and medium to high temperatures, they’re also rich in healthy saturated fats, fat soluble vitamins, antioxidants, and valuable compounds for weight loss (CLA in ghee and short- and medium-chain fatty acids in coconut and palm oils).

These oils are actively beneficial for your health in addition to being stable enough to heat at higher temperatures. (Refined coconut oil and palm oil have a smoke point of 450F. Ghee’s smoke point is 485F.) I love using palm oil if I don’t want to impart a coconut-y flavor to my food but still want all the health benefits of using a tropical oil. If you’re using palm oil, make sure you’re using a brand that sources the oil ethically and sustainably. Nutiva red palm oil is a great one to try. As with most things found in nature, the orange-y red color of this oil is an indicator that there are lots of healthy phytonutrients found within.

which cooking oil

Click the picture to learn how to make your own ghee at home!

Butter and unrefined coconut oil have a smoke point of about 350F, and both are generally safe to use on the stove top at lower temperatures; just keep the fire down and watch for smoke. It’s much easier to burn butter than it is to burn ghee, so unless there’s a specific reason to cook with the butter instead, opt for ghee. You’ll get the same (or at least extremely similar) flavor without the potentially harmful burn.

 
Avocado oil is a very stable oil to use for super high-heat cooking like searing, roasting, and frying with a smoke point of 520F. Not only is avocado oil delicious, it’s also able to maintain this high smoke point without refinement (unlike coconut oil). I love coating veggies with avocado oil and roasting them in the oven on 450F.
 
You don’t typically hear much about tea seed oil, but the oil that comes from camellia seeds (tea plant) is actually super stable and a great resource for stir-frying at high temperatures. Like avocado oil, tea seed oil can be extracted using cold pressing methods that don’t refine or damage the oil while still maintaining a super high smoke point.
 
Animal fats like lard and tallow are also great for high heat cooking if they’re sourced from animals living in their natural environment and treated humanely. Tallow from grass fed cows and lard from pigs eating a natural diet all while hanging out in the sunshine and synthesizing vitamin D are both excellent sources of healthy saturated fat. These fats have been shunned by mainstream nutritionists for decades due to the very shaky purported connection between saturated fat and high serum cholesterol levels, but the tides are slowly changing. Fear of saturated fat (and dietary cholesterol for that matter) is beginning to diminish as more studies are showing (and have shown for a very long time) that these foods aren’t the culprits for heart disease or our obesity epidemic. As long as these fats are sourced from happy, healthy animals (not from factory-farmed ones), and they’re included wisely and moderately, they can be valuable components of a healthy diet. (Check out this delicious quiche recipe that requires healthy lard to make the crust, just like in the old days before Crisco entered the scene.)
 
Nut oils like walnut, almond, and macadamia are great oils to incorporate into your diet, but because they have very strong “nut” flavor (and are a little pricey), it’s best to reserve them for salad dressings and as toppers to cooked foods. They do have suitable temperatures for medium to high-heat cooking however, so it’s up to you! Try them out if you’re curious to know what walnut zucchini tastes like!

Which Cooking Oils are Not Safe for Cooking?

which cooking oil

Olive oil is tricky and from all the sources I’ve seen online, the smoke points can vary wildly.
 
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) (according to the most sources) has a smoke point of only 320F, and should really be reserved for toppers, salad dressings, and dipping bread in order to best preserve all the wonderful health benefits it offers (contrary to many popular recipes).
 
The smoke point diminishes and the nutrients increase if you opt for an unfiltered EVOO, so please don’t cook with the unfiltered variety at all. You can tell when the oil is unfiltered because it is cloudy and translucent instead of clear. Some sources say the smoke point for unfiltered EVOO can be as low as 200F, but I can’t seem to find a clear answer on it anywhere.
 
There are other types of olive oil on the market — virgin and refined olive oil — that are more suitable for high-heat cooking (about 400F), however these oils are inferior in nutritive properties. If you do choose to use a lower quality olive oil, just make sure it’s either expeller or cold pressed. Our goal is to avoid anything that’s processed using chemicals (hexane is a common one).
 

Flax oil and Fish oil are both very beneficial yet very volatile oils that can be used either as supplements or as part of salad dressings orfoodtoppers. These oils have the lowest smoke point of any other oils and should never be exposed to heat or light. In fact, these oils should be stored in the refrigerator in opaque containers whenever possible to avoid damaging their sensitive compounds. Both of these oils are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, of which we are typically deficient in our Standard American Diet, and are beneficial to balancing out the inflammatory response in the body, thinning the blood, and potentially aiding in hormone regulation.

photo used with permission from Creative Commons

A Word on Seed Oils

Seed oils, which are often refined with chemicals, bleaches, and deodorizers, are generally used in high-heat commercial cooking due to higher smoke points and lower cost. Soybean, canola, corn, safflower, and vegetable oils are almost always sourced from GMO plants, and because they’re extracted from such tiny seeds, they’re often so refined using so many chemical extractions that they’re already rancid by the time they reach your shopping cart. (remember that rancid oil = cancer oil!)
 
Grapeseed oil has been touted as a healthy oil, but it’s actually just as refined as many of these other oils (grape seeds are tiny) using many of the same chemicals, even if it’s less likely to be sourced from GMO grapes.
 
Sesame and Sunflower oils CAN be part of a healthy diet if minimally processed. Unrefined sesame oil can be used as a topper on already cooked foods, and expeller pressed sesame and sunflower oils are great for high-heat cooking. Just make sure they’re not extracted using hexane or other harmful chemicals.
 
The problem with seed oils, ultra-refined or otherwise, is that they are a very rich source in polyunsaturated Omega 6 fatty acids. Don’t get me wrong – we NEED Omega 6 in our diets – but the Standard American Diet often contains WAAAAY too much of it. Using these at a minimum and relying mostly on healthy saturated fats and monounsaturated fats will help us take steps to restore the desired balance.

Your Ultimate Guide to Cooking Oil

Keep your healthy oils healthy by ensuring you don’t burn them as you cook. Get your very own CWB Ultimate Guide to Cooking Oil by clicking the image below. Have a reference in your pocket for any cooking occasion!


FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

Ghee: What is it and Why Should You Make it Yourself?

grassfed ghee

Making your own ghee is simple. All it takes is a little bit of time and attention, a mesh strainer, and a few paper towels to get it right.

Before we go there though, I’ll tell you what ghee is, why it’s a great ingredient to have in your kitchen, and why you should make it yourself. You’ve probably noticed that I use it in some of my recipes, but I haven’t actually taken the time to explain why I use it or how I make it until now. I think you’ll find this helpful.

What is ghee?

Traditionally used in Indian cooking, ghee is simply a type of clarified butter. It’s plain, unsalted butter that’s been heated until the sugar and protein separate from the fat and are skimmed off leaving only the fat behind. Basically, it’s the goodness of butter without the potential digestive or allergic reaction to the casein and lactose that are found in dairy products. (Butter is actually quite low in casein and lactose, but for those who are VERY sensitive, it’s great to get them out of there and still enjoy all the flavor and health benefits of butter!) For more in-depth information comparing butter vs ghee, check out this post by Michael Joseph from Nutrition Advance

Ghee also has a higher smoke point than butter, which means you can cook with it at higher temperatures without running the risk of burning it. We’ll talk more about smoke point on Friday when I share the Ultimate Guide to Cooking Oils. Get excited about that post, by the way!

Now that ghee is growing in popularity, you might see it in jars next to the butter in the refrigerated section, but it actually doesn’t need to be refrigerated if handled correctly. Correctly just means that you’re careful not to use dirty or wet utensils to scoop it out when you use it, otherwise it could get moldy.

Why Should I use Ghee?

If you haven’t already seen it, you should check out my post Fatty Doesn’t Equal Fattening, which explains why incorporating healthy fats into your diet is actually beneficial to your health, and even your waistline if done wisely.

Saturated fat gets a bad rap, but it’s an extremely important part off a healthy diet. Your cells need saturated fat to maintain their structural integrity. Your brain needs saturated fat to function properly. Our bodies need saturated fat, and unfortunately it’s been demonized for decades. You might have noticed the recent TIME Magazine cover featuring a curl of delicious looking butter entitled “Ending the War on Fat.” This article is a major leap forward in the mainstream thinking about saturated fat and fat in general. Check it out if you can, and if you would like some free information on this subject, Chris Kresser has a great article you can read as well.

Ghee is is also rich in fat soluble vitamins A, D, and K2, CLA, and Omega 3 fats. All of these nutrients are vital to our health but aren’t often included in the Standard American Diet in adequate quantities.

Why Should You make Your Own Ghee?

The catch to get all the awesome benefits I just mentioned is that the butter that you start with needs to come from a cow raised on pasture in the sun eating grass. Most of the awesome health components of both butter and ghee are stripped away if the cow is not doing what cows do. Just like humans, cows need to be in the sun to synthesize vitamin D. The milk they make only has vitamins A and K2, CLA, and Omega 3s if they’re eating grass. Cows that eat grains end up producing milk that has a higher concentration of Omega 6 than Omega 3, which is much more plentiful in the Standard American Diet, and not something we should be actively seeking out too often.

While I haven’t specifically noticed ghee in the grocery store that mentions being sourced from grass fed or pastured cows, I did find this one for a whopping $23 a jar on Amazon. I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to pay anything close to that for a 14oz jar of cooking oil unless it’s made of gold and magic. Most brands available in the grocery store range between $9 and $14, but do not guarantee that they’re from grass fed cows. My solution to this expensive conundrum is to simply make my own.

Kerrygold grass fed butter is available at most grocery stores and runs $3 each. I use two at a time to create a 13 oz jar of ghee. This saves me between $3 and $8 a jar, depending on which brand I’m comparing.

make your own ghee

How to make Ghee

  • Start with two 8oz sticks of unsweetened grass fed butter and a medium saucepan.
  • Heat butter on medium to high on the stove top until the butter completely melts, then turn it down to low (once you get the hang of this, you can make speed up the process by keeping the fire a bit higher, but burning it is a HUGE bummer, so start slow until you get the hang of it).
  • Set your kitchen timer for 5 minutes and go do something else.
  • Come back and check on it every 5 minutes, making sure it’s not burning. You know it’s going well when milk solids start to float to the top and/or sink to the bottom. I use a tiny mesh strainer that cost me $1 to skim the milk solids off the top as they accumulate. The paper towels* come in at this point, because when I rinse the strainer off between skims I don’t want to add any water back into the ghee. I dry the strainer very well between skims.
  • Once the liquid is a clear yellow without a bunch of white streaks or chunks floating in it (usually takes about 20 minutes but could take longer your first time if you keep the stove on low), turn the fire off, set your timer for 10 minutes, and go do something else until it goes off.
  • Carefully pour your pot of separated butter through the mesh strainer and into a jar that can hold at least 13 oz of liquid. Paper towels might also come in here because the solids could clog the strainer, which you’ll need to rinse out and dry thoroughly before proceeding (remember that mold I mentioned earlier).
  • Let the ghee sit open or lightly covered with a paper towel on the counter to cool before placing on the lid and storing in your cupboard.

*It might seem wasteful to use paper towels for this project instead of cloth, but this is butter we’re talking about. Unless you’re doing your laundry that same day, you’re going to have a greasy nasty mess on your towel (whether it’s in your hamper or in your kitchen) that could attract unwanted creepy crawly visitors). In general, I try to mind my paper towel usage, but in this instance, I use them without hesitation.

grassfed ghee

Vegetable Pasta: Ditch the Gluten-free Pasta Box

Pasta Love

If you know me at all, then you know that between the ages of 2 and 6, pasta was just about the only food that I would eat. It was first on a very short list of beige foods I would allow in my mouth during early childhood. You could forget about anything green, and as a Sicilian American, I was the black sheep of the family refusing all red pasta sauces and demanding that my pasta be rinsed if (god-forbid!) a spoon was used in both the plain pasta and the red tomato sauce. I would venture to guess that my subsequent gluten intolerance might have something to do with excessive wheat consumption as a developing child, but who knows really?

Gluten-free Pasta Love

Like most people starting out on a gluten-free diet, when I ventured into that territory a few years back, my first step was to replace all

the wheat products in my pantry with gluten-free ones. Pasta was first on the list of priorities – I might have dramatically expanded my diet by then, but pasta was still a big deal, and I wasn’t quite as creative in the kitchen as I am today. Not that my pasta dishes weren’t AWESOME!

“Whole Grain” Flour

Delicious as it may be, eating pasta all the time isn’t without its drawbacks. Even the highest quality gluten-free whole-grain pastas are loaded with quickly digestible carbohydrates that can lead to a spike in blood sugar and eventually weight gain. Remember, “whole grain” flour is still flour with a much higher glycemic load than it’s actual whole grain counterpart. Brown rice pasta will turn to sugar in your system more quickly than whole brown rice, for example. As such, I try to keep my processed carbohydrates to a minimum, treating starchy, flour-based foods like bread and pasta as “treats” instead of daily staples.

–> Learn more about Healthy and Delicious Gluten-free Eating <–

Through years of experimenting with variations upon low-carb eating (grain-free, legume-free, potato-free, dairy-free, and combinations thereof), my dependence on pasta has ebbed and flowed, and I’ve tried just about every “healthy” version of pasta in the marketplace. To be honest, some of the low-care varieties like shirataki noodles are great for Asian-style dishes, but they are downright gross as a substitute for Italian-style spaghetti and tomato sauce or pesto.

vegetable pasta

Have you been missing Dexter cameos? I have. Here she is!

Vegetable Pasta Love

I’m excited to share two excellently delicious and nutritious vehicles for your favorite pasta sauce! After bowls and bowls of gluten-free pasta made of every grain imaginable, I think it’s safe to say that these two vegetable pastas take the cake. They’re less expensive, low-glycemic, easy to prepare, tasty, and FAR more nutritious than anything you’ll find in a box in the grocery store. Drum roll please…

vegetable pasta

Shredded Collard Green “Fettuccine”vegetable pasta

Directions:

  1. Rinse your leaves well and find a really sharp straight-edged knife
  2. Taking care of your fingers, use one hand to stack up and flatten out two or three leaves on top of a cutting board
  3. Run the top 1/2 inch of your very sharp knife parallel to the rib in as thick or thin a slice as you’d like to eat, and repeat on both sides of the rib (I chose a “fettuccine” thickness)
  4. In a large saucepan, bring about 1.5 inches of water to boil with a pinch of salt
  5. Place the collard green “fettuccine” into the boiling water and stir for one minute, ensuring that all the “noodles” are slightly wilted
  6. Strain in a colander and either plate with sauce on top or toss in to mix – optional to add in extra veggies (stay tuned for a post with this winning tomato sauce recipe!)

vegetable pasta

Zucchini “Spaghetti”

 

Now’s the time for me to shamelessly plug an infomercial product (I’m not being paid to do so by the way!) that makes this beautiful veggie transformation possible.

The Veggetti.vegetable pasta

This little $14 kitchen gadget works better for this particular culinary task than the $50 mandolin I replaced it with.

Directions:

  1. Veggetti your zucchini – estimate about 2 per person (here’s a video to show you how)
  2. In a large saucepan, bring about 1.5 inches of water to boil with a pinch of salt
  3. Place the zucchini “spaghetti” in the water and boil on low for 3 to 5 minutes, making sure it doesn’t get too soft. You want it to be al dente, just like regular pasta – don’t let it get mushy
  4. Strain in a colander and toss in your sauce – optional to add in a meat and extra veggies (stay tuned for a post with my delicious pesto recipes!)

 


 

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Grow Green Onions in Your Kitchen

Do you buy scallions (green onions) at the store without a plan and then find them two weeks later all slimy and gross at the back of your crisper drawer having never found a use for them? That used to be me until I found this awesome little trick.

A while back I posted about keeping your fresh herbs fresh for longer by trimming the ends and setting them inside a jar with water like flowers. You can either keep them in the windowsill or in the fridge this way, but with scallions in the windowsill (no trimming required), they just keep on growing back! It’s fantastic. You can literally chop them down all the way to the white part, stick the dangling little white roots in water, and a week later, you’ll have nearly full-sized scallions again!

Now that I have green onions at my disposal (and in my line of sight!) at all times, I chop them up and throw them into every salad, every stir fry, every pot of broth, soup, or sauce I make, and I’m getting the awesome health benefits of this amazing super food. Green onions are among the more unassuming super foods, but they have far more phytonutrients than your regular bulb onion. Having them around will give any meal a tasty, nutritious boost. They’re also fantastic in scrambled eggs.

The first picture in the series below was taken on 5/26 and the last was taken on 6/4. In just 8 days, I had a whole new set of green onions, and since then I’ve cut them down at least 4 more times.

grow green onions in water on your windowsill in the kitchen

Grow green onions in water on your windowsill in the kitchen!

How to Grow Green Onions In Your Kitchen:

  1. Buy one bunch of organic green onions from your favorite grocer or farmers’ market
  2. Use them as you normally would, but leave a bit of the white part still attached to the roots
  3. Fill a jar halfway with water
  4. Stick the white ends into the water near a light source
  5. Wait for your new onions to grow like magic!

If these little puppies are on your counter front and center, you won’t forget to use them, and truthfully, they’re good in just about any dish you could come up with, fresh or sautéed.

After about 4 rounds of chopping back and re-growing — changing the water often (a very important detail!) — I noticed that the shoots growing out were starting to get a bit thin, so I stuck the roots right in the ground outside. No they’re happy as can be in my garden growing all over again drawing nutrients from the soil through those same dangling white roots that grew and tangled on my kitchen counter, ready for me to chop off the tops or pull up a whole one whenever I need more green onion.

Love it!

grow green onions

 

 

 

 

 

[VIDEO] Instant Homemade Coconut Mayonnaise

I’m so excited to share my first how-to video with you at the end of this post!

I have to admit that I’ve spent the vast majority of my life hating mayonnaise. It’s only been with the semi-recent trend of “aioli” on menus in nicer restaurants that I’ve learned to like it.

Aioli is just fancy mayonnaise after all.

I’ve started to occasionally use flavored mayonnaise (like lemon or wasabi) in certain salad dressings and sauces, and especially in dipping sauces for steamed crab and artichoke, but the plain-Jane mayo in the stores has always still repulsed me a bit, even if I only plan to mix it into something else. On my trips down the aisles of my local grocer, I’ve noticed that the mayonnaise on the shelves is chalk-full of industrial oils like canola and soy, and even those claiming to be superior for your health contained refined seed oils. There are a few brands out there that use olive oil, but even then, it’s refined olive oil and often accompanied by a less desirable oil in the blend.

Aside from the obvious problems with corn and soy, the issue I have with store-bought mayonnaise is not only with quality, but with its shelf life and potential rancidity of the oils. Store-bought mayo lasts forever unopened on the shelf and then almost as long in the fridge. I don’t really want to eat anything that lasts forever (except raw honey). The consumer also can’t control for the quality of eggs or the extraction process of the oil that’s used in store-bought mayonnaise. I happen to like to control as many variables as possible when it comes to my own kitchen and what I stock for my family, so…

I decided to make my own mayonnaise – one that would pass my own health and wellness test:

  1. Would I be able to cook with this mayo without destroying the healthy components or turning the oil rancid?
  2. Would this mayo contain healthy fats that haven’t been overly heated or deodorized using toxic chemicals?
  3. Would this mayo have a mild enough flavor that I could use it on just about anything?

The one oil that passed this test was coconut oil. I used extra virgin organic coconut oil, gently melted just enough for it to change from solid to liquid. It can’t be too hot, because it could accidentally cook some of the egg when you drop it in. We definitely don’t want that, so just warm it enough that it liquifies.

 

Tools:

You need exactly two tools to make this mayo (well, three if you count the knife to cut the lemon before squeezing). One of them is a wide-mouthed jar. Easy enough, but this is not negotiable. It doesn’t work in a bowl. Needs to be a jar or some sort of cylinder with a bottom and open top that’s wide enough to fit the head of the immersion blender inside.

And that’s the second thing: you MUST have an immersion blender. It’s a must. I tried making this in a regular blender and it was liquid disaster — even after a solid minute of blending. If you don’t have an immersion blender, I’m making an appeal to you to get yourself a good one. They’re great for blended soups, cauliflower mash, and electric mixing. They also work great for fatty coffee.

The one I have has held up for a long time. It’s a single-speed, and I’ve lost the attachment for whisking, so I’m ready for an upgrade. This is the one I plan on getting. I’m a big fan of KitchenAid products, and this one is sweet. If you’re in the market for a new, inexpensive kitchen gadget, consider getting an immersion blender.immersion blender coconut mayonnaise

 

There are definitely cheaper options (I’ve even seen some as low as $16 without the attachments), so if you want to go the cheaper route, give it a try. I spent about $40 on the one I use in this video, and it’s lasted for literally almost 10 years — and it still works just fine. For a few bucks more, you can get the 3-speeds and more attachments. 

Ok, on to the show … Watch the magic unfold in mere seconds with my first-ever how-to video!

Homemade Coconut Mayonnaise


FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

10 Easy Hacks to Eat More Phytonutrients

What’s a Phytonutrient?

Phytonutrients are the beneficial components in plants that help fight off disease and prevent the damaged caused by free radicals and toxins in our environment. They protect the plants themselves from potentially harmful factors such as UV light, pests, fungus, and parasites. The protective quality of phytonutrients extends to us when we eat these plants, which translates into the prevention of heart disease, diabetes, and other inflammatory diseases.

When plants are exposed to a threat, they fight back by producing these wonderful chemicals. It follows logically and has been scientifically studied and proven that the use of pesticides and herbicides allows plants to “let their guards down” and stop producing as much and as many of these beneficial substances. Conventional produce contains far fewer phytonutrients than organic produce.

Antioxidants are phytonutrients.

Carotenoids are phytonutrients.

Flavonoids are phytonutrients.

Today I’m going to share some easy, useful, and simple-to-implement shopping and cooking hacks to help you increase your intake of phytonutrients.

Bragging Rights

Before I do that though, I’d like to establish my authority on this matter by briefly bragging about my own recent antioxidant score using a biophotonic antioxidant scanner! (that number says 71,000; sorry, not a great picture) I pack as many meals a day as possible with fresh veggies, especially those from my gardens at home. I think those freshly picked veggies make a big difference, but that’s not the only way to get a reading this high.

Myantioxidantscore

I did my test with the Oakland Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine Clinic.

This test measures carotenoids on your skin, which is a good data point for the general level of antioxidants in your body. A high level of antioxidants translates into a high ability for the body to neutralize free radicals, fight disease, and protect the body from external toxins. Factors such as what you eat, the type of toxic load you’re exposed to, and the level of emotional and physical stress you’re under affect this reading. (Dr. Oz made this scanner famous when he brought it onto his show and tested the audience and himself.)

 

 

 

 

Maximizing Your Phytonutrient Intake

If you haven’t had a chance to check out Jo Robinson’s new book Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health (affiliate link), it’s high time you check it out. There are so many awesome little tidbits in this wonderful book explaining how our food isn’t quite what it used to be, and what we can do about it. It outlines the origins of domesticated plants and makes the argument that the “5 a day” recommendation of typical fruits and veggies simply won’t cut it anymore. Instead, you need to know which fruits and veggies to eat to really max out that phytonutrient count and reach optimal health.

There’s no way that I could “give away” the plethora of valuable information that you’ll find between the pages of this book, but I took it upon myself to extract some of my favorite goodies — tips and hacks you can put to use today to start upping your phytonutrient count and improving your health.

phytonutrient food swap

6 Shopping Hacks to Increase Your Phytonutrients:

  1. Choose granny smith. It has the highest phytonutrient content and the best sugar-to-fiber ratio. Great for the heart and the whole body too. The golden delicious apple has the fewest phytonutrients of any of the other varieties, and has so much sugar that it can increase your LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
  2. Replace salt with herbs and spices. Herbs and spices are as nutritious as the wild foods of our ancestors, packed full of a wide range of phytonutrients. They are a great substitute for extra salt and can provide wonderful, rich flavor to any dish.
  3. Opt for red lettuce and other leafy greens. Red lettuce is the king of lettuces, according to Robinson, as that red color indicates a very high antioxidant content. Additionally, the internal leaves of the head lettuce never see the sunlight, so they don’t generate phytonutrients to protect themselves from the UV rays. Leafy lettuces that flare out and are exposed to the sun have a greater supply of nutrition.
  4. Go green. Green onions have 100x more phytonutrients than bulb onions that grow underground. The green part is the richest portion, so chop it up and use it all!
  5. Berries over bananas. Like the golden delicious apple, the farmed banana is much higher in sugar than in phytonutrients and fiber. Berries have a better sugar-to-fiber ratio, and their deep color indicate a high level of phytonutrients. If you can find wild berries, you’ll get even more bang for your buck! Some grocery stores sell frozen wild blueberries, and if you live in the Bay Area, you’re about to start seeing wild blackberries all over the place. Eat up! Robinson recommends that we shoot for eating 1/2 a cup of berries a day.
  6. Opt for yams. White potatoes are very starchy without a lot of fiber to mitigate the glycemic load. The orange color of the yam indicates a high carotenoid count, and you’ll find more fiber there too.

4 Kitchen Hacks to Increase Your Phytonutrients:

  1. Don’t boil your veggies — you end up throwing out the nutrition with the water. All other types of cooking are superior to boiling most vegetables (artichokes are the exception, but even then steaming is better than boiling). Stir frying is a great way to go, because you don’t lose the water soluble nutrients the way you would if you boiled or steamed.
  2. Tear your greens a day in advance. The leaves are still alive in your fridge (in fact, asparagus can grow another inch or two in the grocery store or in your fridge), and if you tear them, it sends a signal for them to repair themselves. That means the torn plants are creating more antioxidants to protect what’s been torn.
  3. Let your chopped garlic sit for 10 minutes before you heat it. This is my favorite kitchen hack. We’ve all heard that garlic is great for cardiovascular health and cancer prevention, right? Well the chemical responsible for that protection in us is called allicin. As with the torn lettuce, the allicin count increases exponentially if you chop the garlic and let it sit. If you expose your chopped garlic to heat immediately, the allicin content is next to nothing. That 10 minutes makes all the difference.
  4. Thaw frozen berries in the microwave to prevent the loss of antioxidants that would take place in a counter- or fridge-thaw. This is the one and only time I recommend choosing the microwave to a more old-school method of heating or defrosting. For some reason, the quick thaw preserves the nutrition far better than a slow melt.

These hacks are so easy, I challenge you to try them out TONIGHT as you cook your dinner. Chop the garlic first and leave it out for 10 minutes before tossing it into the flames. Tear your salad greens tonight for tomorrow’s meals. Throw a few berries, fresh herbs, and chopped green onions in that salad too! Let me know how it goes!


FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I only link to products that I USE and LOVE. All opinions are my own.

 

Kitchen Alchemy: Cran-Strawberry Sorbet

I have to admit, I don’t like cranberry sauce. Every year at Thanksgiving, I try it, and every year I don’t like it. Whether it comes right out of the can or someone offers me a “family recipe” that’s been perfected over the years, it’s just not my favorite thing. But for some reason, when I was wandering through the produce section at Berkeley Bowl, I felt compelled to buy a box of fresh organic cranberries.

cran2

When I brought them home, my husband asked what I’d planned on doing with them. I said maybe I’d make a holiday smoothie, and he laughed, suggesting that I try a raw cranberry before making that commitment. SOUR!!!

I decided that if anyone could make a cranberry sauce that I’d like, it would be me. Even though I’ve never made one before. Even though I had no idea what I was doing.

Because I was doing 4 things at once, and because my heart wasn’t really in it, I threw the cranberries into a pot, filled it with water, turned on the stove, and proceeded with my other kitchen tasks (baking muffins, mixing homemade humus, and making chicken salad out of leftover chicken breasts). As a result of this unplanned process, the recipe will read more like a story. Hopefully it will inspire creativity when something doesn’t go quite right in your kitchen. This post is about a poorly thought out experiment, so the measurements will be very approximate. But my mess of an attempt at cranberry sauce transformed into something delicious! Creamy sorbet!

After about 30 minutes on the stove in a covered pot, my cranberry sauce was a red soup. I uncovered it and let it cook a bit longer and then I gave up and poured it into a glass bowl. I squeezed the juice of 1/2 a lemon in and tasted. SOUR!!! And really really soupy.

Crans1

I thought maybe I could add some gelatin and leave it in the fridge over night to see if I could turn it into a “healthy jello” type concoction. The gelatin I use comes from grass-fed cows on pasture and is designed to dissolve in cold water. I’ve only ever used it in smoothies, and only very recently, so I had no idea how much to add and no idea what it would do.  I would guess that I used about 3 or 4 tablespoons.

gelatin

I also added in roughly 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/2 a box of my favorite coconut milk (Arroy D).crans2

After dinner the following night, I pulled my bowl out of the fridge, and it was still soup, although it tasted pretty good. After a few soupy spoons a lightbulb went off. Freeze it! I poured what was left in a silicone ice tray and stuck it in the freezer for a while.
crans4

My impatience got the best of me, so I pulled out the ice tray and threw some frozen strawberries (maybe like 10) and about half of the not-quite frozen cubes into the food processor, and voilà!

Cran-Strawberry Sorbet was born!

crans5

I still have the other half of the cranberry coconut gelatin in the freezer. I think when I do this again, it will be a more solid sorbet because the cubes will be completely frozen, but this was definitely delicious, creamy, and refreshing. I’d say that my fresh cranberry purchase turned out to be a success after all!