Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Eating For Your Health

For those of us dealing with chronic inflammation, it’s important to recognize and understand that what we put in our bodies has everything to do with how we feel. Eliminating processed foods along with consuming more whole foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, along with foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, allows the body to become more balanced. The "anti-inflammatory diet" uses the right combination of these fats, carbohydrates and proteins to keep inflammation in check.

I recently came across Dr. Weil’s Anti Inflammatory Food Pyramid. (Notice that at the top of this pyramid is dark chocolate and red wine...I knew I liked Dr. Weil, but I also have to remind myself that just because it's at the top, does not mean it should be consumed in that order.) According to this pyramid, you should eat approximately 40 to 50 percent of your calories from carbohydrates, 30 percent of your calories from fats, and 20-30 percent from protein. He encourages you to eat brightly colored foods (kale, watermelon, blueberries, summer squash etc…) that are rich in phytonutrients, which are nutrients found only in plant based foods and have been shown to reduce inflammation.

Here are some examples of healthy, inflammation reducing carbohydrates, fats, and proteins…

Carbohydrates: Basmati rice, wild rice, quinoa, whole grain pasta, brown rice pasta, lentils, beans, along with raw vegetables and fresh fruits

Fats: olive oil, canola oil, nut oils (such as walnut oil), nuts such as walnuts and almonds, avocados, hemp seeds and flax seeds and flax seed oil that can be added as a supplement to a salad, or smoothie…

Proteins: Edamame, soy foods such as tofu, tempeh, soy nuts, salmon, mackarel, sardines, quinoa is also rich in carbohydrates and protein. There are also hemp, pea, rice, or soy protein powders available to add to your morning smoothie. One I use almost every morning is Vega’s Whole Food Smoothie Infusion.

Remember: This is not simply a “diet”…This is a lifestyle change. Making the time to plan your meals and eating healthy as well as mindfully is a necessary step to guarantee your success!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Juicing and a little Raw Foods 101.

Being that I have previously shared my obsession with kick-ass kitchen appliances, I am sure you will both understand and forgive my brief absence here at The Healing Plate due to the addition of my new toy.

A few weeks ago I purchased the Breville Compact Juice Extractor. (Don’t let the name fool you…Although it’s smaller than their larger juicers, I don’t know if I’d classify it as “compact.”) Since I brought it home, I’ve been a juicing fool and have even recruited Josh into my addiction, who now instead of his morning coffee has switched to juice to rev up his engines.

Let’s take a moment to explore the benefits of juicing.

Why make your own juice instead of just buying it from the store? First of all, drinking fresh juice is better than drinking store bought juice because many valuable enzymes and nutrients are lost during the pasteurization process. Pasteurization is a process that heats the product to a temperature high enough to kill certain bacteria and enzymes that unfortunately, can also affect the nutritional content of the juice itself.

Also, when you drink fresh juice, you can be certain that there are no additives or preservatives, therefore, what you are getting is 100% pure, natural juice.

This is one of my favorites, Apple, Carrot, Ginger, Kale, Beet juice...The ginger adds a kick, the beet makes it earthy and the apple and carrots make it sweet. YUM!

Earlier I had mentioned enzymes and nutrients that are in the fruits and vegetables. It is important to recognize that when you cook your food many of these nutrients and enzymes are either lost or broken down during the cooking process, making it more difficult for your body to digest the food in it’s altered state. Juicing your fruits and vegetables is a great way to ensure you are incorporating these valuable nutrients and enzymes into your diet.

Look at the beautiful color of the pulp...Which by the way, is excellent for your compost!

You may have heard of the Raw Foods movement; a lifestyle where people consume the majority of their foods in their natural, raw, and unprocessed state. On a trip to Manhattan, I came across a raw foods restaurant called Pure Food and Wine. Josh and I stopped at the Juice and takeaway bar for lunch one day and were thrilled with the intense flavors and unique presentation of their menu. During that trip, I bought their book, Raw Food Real World and read it from beginning to end in one night. I was intrigued and excited to try the recipes. After tinkering around, Josh bought me the Vita-mix blender, and later an Excalibur food dehydrator. Needless, to say, I was hooked, and a few years later was thrilled to preorder Sarma’s new book Living Raw Food

Although I don’t eat exclusively raw, I do eat a large portion of my foods in the raw state, and whenever I have cooked food, I try to incorporate something raw like a salad, or fresh fruit into the meal. The intensity of the flavors and brightness of the colors are so brilliant, it keeps you coming back for more!

I'm soaking the nuts and seeds to make a batch of "Grawnola", and Macadamia cheese...Both recipes in Raw Food Real World.

Okay...Back to juicing. The good thing about juicing is you can pretty much juice anything and it’s going to taste good. Try mixing in greens such as kale and spinach with apples, oranges, carrots, pears and ginger to not only get a healthy serving of fruit, but also your greens and veggies! Make sure if you’re going to juice the peel, like with apples, pears, carrots, cucumbers etc…That you are buying organic, otherwise you may want to peel your food before running it through the juicer to avoid ingesting pesticides or other harmful chemicals.

Here is one of my favorite juice recipes, and a great way to get your day started out the right way!

Serves 2

1 apple
1 orange
2 medium carrots
½ cucumber
1 handful fresh kale
1 one-inch piece ginger

Wash all ingredients, peel the orange (leave some of the pith on, it’s a great source of fiber!) and run through a juicer.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Polenta Lasagna

Being that I spent the majority of my last post raving about Daiya Vegan Cheese, I thought it would be appropriate to post a recipe using the product.

In my neighborhood we have this little Italian restaurant named Fat Lorenzo's that is known primarily for their fantastic pizzas and fresh Italian foods. Every so often I'll drive by and catch a whiff of whatever goodness is baking in their oven and fantasize about the days when I used to be able to eat lasagna...*sigh*...And then I am swiftly brought back to reality by the horn of an oncoming vehicle. (Day dreaming while driving is not one of my talents.)

So you can imagine my delight when I stumbled across this recipe. The rosemary polenta is an excellent stand-in for the traditional lasagna noodles, while the roasted eggplant gives depth, and the mushrooms, roasted bell peppers, and fresh herbs paired with the marinara sauce leaves any lasagna lover's palate satisfied.

The Daiya cheese is perfect in this dish and will remain creamy and melty even when reheated the next day...Did I mention how much I love this stuff?

When I make this dish again (and you can bet your sweet ass I'll be making this again), I'll make sure to thin out my polenta a little more and add a tad bit more marinara to each layer, but other than that, this was absolutely perfect.


Polenta Lasagna
Serves 6
Recipe from Vegetarian Time

3 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 cups polenta or cornmeal
1/4 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Vegetable Filling
1 large eggplant
1 large red bell pepper
2 cups diced mushrooms
1 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. minced fresh basil
2 Tbs. minced fresh oregano
1/2 cup cooked beans
4 oz. Daiya mozzarella style cheese plus more for the top
3 cups nonfat marinara sauce

1. To make polenta, in large saucepan, bring water to a boil over medium-high heat. Gradually whisk in polenta. Stir with whisk, and cook until polenta is thick, about 10 minutes. Season with rosemary and salt and pepper to taste.

2. Pour polenta into two 8x8-inch baking pans until 3/4-inch thick. (You will need two layers of polenta.) Alternatively, pour polenta into 1 large pan and, when cool, cut polenta into two layers to fit size of 8x12-inch lasagna pan. Smooth and level surface with spoon. Let cool, and refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm.

3. Preheat oven to 400°F.

4. To roast eggplant, using a knife tip or fork, punch several holes in eggplant, and roast for 45 minutes, or until flesh is soft and skin is charred. Alternatively, grill or broil eggplant. Cut in half and, with spoon, scrape soft flesh from skin and chop coarsely. Increase temperature to 450°F.

5. To roast pepper, either roast it on your gas range until the outside is charred and place in sealed paper bag until cool and safe to handle or place on baking sheet, and cook, turning, until skin chars and flesh softens. Remove from heat, peel, seed and cut into strips. Set aside.

6. Unmold polenta, taking care not to break. If using two 8x8-inch pans, cut the pieces so they fit in 8x12-inch lasagna pan. Reserve single piece of polenta for top layer.

7. Reduce heat to 350°F.

8. To make vegetable filling, in saucepan, combine mushrooms, onions, garlic and 1/4 cup water, and cook over medium heat, covered, until onions are soft. Uncover, and cook until liquid evaporates.

9. Transfer to large bowl, and stir in eggplant, pepper, basil, oregano, beans and Dayia mozzarella-style cheese. Spread 1 cup marinara sauce in bottom of lasagna pan. Top with layer of polenta, add layer of filling, spreading it evenly, then another layer of polenta. Add remaining marinara sauce. Top with Parmesan-style cheese. Cover baking dish, or make double layer of parchment paper under aluminum foil to cover dish.

10. Bake for 30 minutes, or until thoroughly heated through. Remove from oven, and let stand 10 minutes before slicing.