why you should be cooking with avocado oil

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One of the most common questions I get asked at cooking classes is about oils. Participants are interested in which oils are best for which cooking techniques, which have the most health benefits, and also which to avoid.

It’s a pretty complicated subject, and I try to break it down to be as simple as possible. The wrong types of fats can cause inflammation, hormonal imbalance, obesity, metabolism issues, depression…. The list goes on and on. Our body reacts differently to different types of fat. We’re wanting to choose oils (and fats) that are minimally processed (non-GMO), are easily digested, and most importantly – stable.

This stability issue is really important when it comes to cooking. Just like oils react differently when consumed in our bodies, they also react differently when heat is applied. We know some oils like flax and cod-liver are extremely beneficial when consumed raw – but are simply not suitable to heat applications. All of the healthy benefits are destroyed when these oils are heated, and they can actually become rancid and unhealthy.

This is where knowing the smoke point of your oil becomes crucial. The smoke point is the temperature at which the oil begins to smoke. If you’re like me, you’ve made the mistake of heating a pan with oil for too long and had your kitchen fill up with black, dense smoke. This is the point at which the oil becomes unhealthy.

Avocado oil is so great because it has a high smoke point. It’s about 520 F, compared to olive oil which is about 470 F. In addition to holding up to high temperatures, just like avocados, it’s rich in beneficial fatty acids, antioxidants, and is anti-inflammatory.

Avocado oil has become my staple oil for high temperature cooking. There are other oils with high smoke points are canola, corn, and sunflower – but I avoid these as (besides being commonly GMO) they are inflammatory causing fats (high in Omega-6, low in Omega-3 fatty acids). I also really dislike their taste.

Unrefined avocado oil (which is the healthiest) can have a strong, grassy + nutty flavor, but I don’t find it to be offensive. It also can be green in color. The more refined the oil, the lighter the flavor and color becomes.

As an aside, the other oils I keep in my pantry are coconut oil (for cooking, baking), olive oil (for raw, cooking at low temperatures), and ghee (for cooking).

make your mornings better — with this simple paleo granola recipe

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Most people I know, love granola. When it’s done right, it’s crunchy, savory, sweet, and satisfying. The problem with most granolas is that they are usually pretty carbohydrate and sugar heavy. As more people are adopting elements of a paleo diet (gluten and grain-free), so I set out to create a granola recipe to compliment the lifestyle.

The problem that I’ve found with many of the store bought paleo granolas is that they are too clustery – great for snacking, but not really as a topping. They’re often pretty dried out and tough to chew. I used my beloved best ever granola recipe as a guide, but swapped out the grains with nuts, seeds, and coconut. The result may be even better than the original — and easier to make (no popping amaranth).

I love using sunflower seeds in this recipe, because their shape naturally mimics that of an oat. By cooking them low and slow, they get golden, crunchy and delicious. I also pulse the nuts in the food processor so they have a smaller, more uniform shape. I like using almonds and pecans (I think it was what I had on hand), but feel free to swap in any of your favorites. Hazelnuts or cashews would both be good options.

I shared this recipe with my ‘Paleo 101’ cooking class last month and it was a clear winner. Hope you enjoy it the same.

Cinnamon Spiced Almond-Coconut Granola
 
Ingredients:
 
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup coconut oil (liquefied)
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1/4 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup sunflower seeds
½ cup almonds
½ cup pecans
1 cup large coconut flakes
 
Procedure:
 
Preheat oven to 275 and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. 
 
Mix maple syrup, coconut oil, chia seeds, salt and cinnamon.  Set aside. 
 
Add sunflower seeds to a large bowl.  Add almonds and pecans to a food processor.  Pulse to rough chop.  Add coconut flakes and pulse again until broken down.  Add to sunflower seeds.
 
Pour chia seed mixture over seeds and nuts, mix well to coat.  Spread in an even layer on prepared baking sheet. 
 
Bake for 20 minutes.  Use a wooden spoon to stir on baking sheet.  Bake an additional 10-15 minutes.  Let cool for at least 20 minutes, as the granola will get crispy as it sits.

my daily routine — the supplements + superfoods i take on the regular

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One of the eight questions on my intake form for new health coaching clients is, “Are you taking any supplements?” I’ve seen this tiny section filled out all different ways — from leaving it blank, to having every centimeter of space scrawled with names of vitamins, pills, potions, and powders.

There’s not really a right or wrong answer to the question. Taking 100 pills everyday won’t necessarily make you any healthier — in fact, you can be in absolute perfect health and take nothing at all. Ideally, we are getting satisfactory nourishment from our diet — but our nutritionally depleted food supply and stressful modern lifestyle can make that difficult. That’s where ‘supplements’ and ‘superfoods’ come in. I consider them to be herbal medicines that do exactly what their name states — ‘supplement’ our diets and fill any gaps you may have that prevent us from achieving optimal health.

I usually always make it clear that I’m not a pill pusher — in fact, if you aren’t going to stay committed to regularly taking supplements (or superfoods) for the long haul – I don’t think they’re necessarily all that beneficial. More holistic, herbal remedies can be very potent and powerful, but they work in a slow, steady fashion. Taken regularly over a long period of time, and you can see amazing results. But if you’re looking for a quick-fix, magic bullet situation – save you’re money.

If you’re like me, are one time or another you’ve stocked your pantry or medicine cabinet with tincture vials and pill bottles, taking them once or twice (and feeling very virtuous), and then have them collect dust until their expiration date. I’ve gotten much better at minimizing my wellness routine, and only purchase something if I will commit to (at least) taking it until the bottle is gone.

I wanted to share the 6 supplements/superfoods that I take (practically) everyday. By no means do I think that these foods are appropriate for you. I have specific, in some cases, personal, reasons for taking all of them – which I’ll share. I encourage you to choose your herbal ‘medicines’ with care, picking high quality products that will help you to combat some of your health challenges and boost your overall health.

And most importantly, find products that you either ENJOY taking, or that you know you can commit to consuming on a daily basis. And beyond that – after check in with yourself after before repurchasing another bottle of your supplements: Do you notice any changes? Do you feel better?

After all, that’s the whole point.

*Please consult your doctor prior to starting any new supplements or medicines

Aloe Vera Juice – Lily of the Desert

I take 2-3 ounces of Aloe Vera juice most mornings, as I discovered a few years ago I’m prone to silent acid reflux. I don’t have traditional symptoms – rather I’ll get a bad sore throat that won’t go away. I’ve tried all sorts of other holistic remedies for the reflux – without much success. I take this in the morning on an empty stomach to prevent flare ups, and will also take it if I have any symptoms.

Aloe vera has also been studied to benefit bowel regularity, digestion, skin health and blood sugar management.

Tocos (Rice Bran Solubles) – Sun Potion

I add this to my tea every evening — primarily because I really enjoy the flavor. It adds a creamy, vanilla, flavor – and I’ve become slightly addicted. It’s been noted to be be an ‘ultimate skin food’, a detoxification aid, as well as being a bio-available source of vitamins D & E. I also think it would be great in coffee or smoothies.

Liquid Chlorophyl – ChlorOxygenn

This is a supplement I mostly take in the winter. When it’s gray and there isn’t a lot of green outside, we can miss the oxygenating effects of their chlorophyl. I add a dropper full of this to my first glass of water in the morning to energize, detox, and oxygenate the blood. It can also aid in boosting immunity and preventing body odor. The chlorophyll tastes good – it comes in a mint flavor if you’d like – and it adds a nice body to the water. I find it refreshing and crave it in the morning.

Reishi – Sun Potion

Called the ‘Queen Healer’, Reishi (a rare type of mushroom) is a potent adaptogen noted for it’s balancing, calming effects. It’s also an incredible antioxidant source. I add this to my evening tea (along with the Tocos) and enjoy the calm, soothing effects before bedtime.

Collagen Peptides – Vital Proteins

Collagen is sourced from the bones of cows. Definitely seems like an odd thing to put into your morning coffee – but hear me out: This powder is flavorless and odorless, and has similar benefits of bone broth – which is the health food ‘du jour’. It’s studied to benefit joint health, hair/skin/nails, and is also a great protein source. I like having a dose of protein first thing in the morning to help boost metabolism. Vital proteins is a reputable brand that sources from pasture-raised, grass-fed cows. While it’s definitely not vegetarian, they do make a marine version that comes from fish.

Evening Primrose Oil – Barlean’s

This is the only pill I take — and I do so for it’s assistance in balancing hormones. For me, this benefits severe PMS symptoms like breast cysts, tenderness, cramps, and skin conditions. I like that Barlean’s is a high quality organic oil.

a salad you’ll crave — this winter italian chopped chickpea salad

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Not all salads are created equal. Most are designated to be a side dish or appetizer – but it takes a special salad to be a MEAL. Enter this hearty, Italian chopped chickpea salad.

I love that this salad can be customized to your tastes – or even just on what you have on hand in the fridge and pantry. I call this a ‘winter’ salad as it features endive and raddichio – which are more bitter, cold-weather lettuces. While ‘bitter’ may not sound appetizing — it is a really important flavor element that’s missing from a lot of people’s diets. Most people only get bitter flavor from chocolate and/or coffee — so if you’re looking to reduce or eliminate cravings from either of those foods – adding more bitter greens may be your solution.

You can options for how to customize this salad – but I LOVE adding marinated tomatoes. You can get them at a lot of olive bars, or look for for them jarred near the olives and roasted peppers. These tomatoes have become a staple for me – especially in the winter – as they are sweet and perefctly seasoned with garlic and mediterranean flavors. If you can’t find them – used chopped roasted bell peppers instead.

The version pictured contains: carrots, cucumber, black olives, marinated tomatoes, quinoa, and asiago cheese.

Skip the cheese to keep it plant based.

You can also add chicken, turkey and/or salami for a boost of animal protein.

Use the salad dressing recipe included – or any one of your favorites.

Italian Chopped Chickpea Salad

Ingredients:

1 head romaine, washed, dried, and thinly chopped
1/2 head raddichio, washed, dried, and thinly chopped
2 heads endive, washed dried and thinly chopped
2 cups chopped ingredients (marinated tomatoes, olives, roasted peppers, cucumber, carrots, quinoa, turkey, salami, chicken, cheese, etc.)
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and seasoned to taste with salt + pepper

dressing:

¼ cup red wine vinegar (or balsamic)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
salt + pepper
½ cup olive oil

Procedure:

Add all salad ingredients – except chickpeas – to a bowl. Meanwhile, add chickpeas to food processor and pulse unil they have a ‘rough chopped’ consistency. Be careful not to over process or you’ll have hummus. Add chickpeas to salad bowl.

Next, add vinegar, oregano, mustard, honey, salt + pepper to a small mason jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake. Add olive oil, shake to combine.

Pour just enough dressing to coat salad. Toss and serve.

indulge — with 5-ingredient chocolate peanut butter fudge cups

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Looking for the perfect valentine’s sweet treat? This oh-so-simple, no bake fudge is vegan, paleo, gluten-free, naturally-sweet fudge will accommodate everyone’s dietary preferences — and still satisfy the biggest chocolate lovers.

I was inspired by this post on The Kitchn , and just slightly adapted it by adding cocoa, toppings, and serving in mini cups.

You can whip this cups up in all of 5 minutes. And while they may seem too good to be true — the only catch is that these need to be served straight from the fridge or freezer and not sit at room temp too long as they’ll become a little melty.

Chocolate peanut butter fudge cups

Ingredients:

1 cup unsweetened peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut oil (liquified)
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
optional toppings: freeze-dried fruit, cacao nibs, coconut, etc.

Procedure:

Line a mini muffin tins with paper lines.

Whisk together peanut butter, coconut oil, maple syrup, cocoa powder, and vanilla.

Evenly fill each muffin cup with fudge. Sprinkle desired toppings. Place in refrigerator (or freezer if you’re impatient) and let set. This takes about 15-30 minutes in fridge or 8-10 in freezer.

Serve from refrigerator or freezer, and keep there to store. Fudge cups will begin to get melty if at room temperature for too long.

Variations:
*omit cocoa and reduce maple syrup to 1/4 cup for plain peanut butter
*add 1-2 extra tablespoons for a richer chocolate flavor
*substitute almond, cashew, or sunflower seed butter for peanut (choose creamy varieties)
*substitute honey for maple syrup, or use a few (5-6) drop of stevia or 1/4 cup monk fruit sweetener

Yield: 24 mini cups

eat more vegetables — like simple pan-steamed greens with leeks

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When it comes to health goals, I would say that on the top of most people’s list is to ‘eat more vegetables.’ We all know they are rich in nutrients and anti-oxidants, can boost immunity, and aid in other goals like losing weight and increasing energy. That being said, they’re not always the most convenient food group to grab when we’re on the go, and can seem difficult to prepare.

That’s why I love this simple recipe for pan-steamed greens. It’s a really easy way to cook up a mess of leafy vegetables that requires minimal time, effort (and dish washing). The greens cook up in one big pot with a cover, and are ready to eat in about 10 minutes from when you begin.

I like to serve them as a side dish, or with quinoa and chickpeas. I use leftovers stuffed inside a wrap or thrown into a soup or salad.

You can use all one type of green, but I like to mix and match. Sweeter greens, like chard or spinach, help offset pungent greens like mustard or dandelion. My favorite blend is red kale, rainbow chard, and dandelion greens.

Pan-steamed greens with leeks

Ingredients:

2-3 leeks, chopped and washed well
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 bunches of greens (kale, collards, chard, mustard greens, spinach, etc)
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup cooked quinoa
1-2 lemons

Procedure:

Chop greens into bite size pieces. Place in a large bowl, fill with water, and use hands to move greens around in water to clean them. Drain water.

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add oil and saute leeks, stirring occasionally – about 3-5 minutes. Add greens – that are still slightly wet – to pot. Cover for to 2-3 minutes. Remove lid and stir until greens turn bright green and slightly wilt. Season to taste with lemon, additional olive oil, salt and pepper. Remove from pot and serve.

warm up in the new year — with moroccan braised chickpeas with chard

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Thing are finally quieting down and a new year is unfolding. If you’re like me, you’re wanting to ground down a little and get back on track with eating wholesome meals and cooking at home. This simple, warming, vegetarian recipe is a great way to ‘restart’ your healthy habits. It’s a perfect heart lunch, side dish, or light supper.

Ras-el-haout is a Moroccan spice blend that hits sweet, spicy, and savory notes. Translated, it means ‘head of the shop’ – meaning it’s the best blend in the store. On my recent trip to Morocco, the men in the shop told me it’s like Moroccan curry powder – and favorited by bad cooks as all the work is done for you. You can make your own — I like this recipe — or pick it up available at most grocery stores. In Chicago, I like getting it at the Middle East Bakery in Andersonville.

Moroccan braised chickpeas with chard

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon ras-el-hanout
1 bunch chard (or kale or collards) stems removed and chopped, leaves torn into bite size pieces
¼ cup dried apricot, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cups cooked chickpeas
1 cup water or stock
¼ cup fresh mint or cilantro

Procedure:

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion, garlic and ginger and sauté until soft and fragrant – about 3-5 minutes. Add ras-el-hanout and turmeric; sauté an additional 1-2 minutes. Add stems from chard and dried apricots; stir. Add tomato paste; stir and let cook for 1-2 miunutes. Add chickpeas, season generously with salt and pepper; stir to combine. Add stock, stir and let simmer until sauce thickens – about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in leaves of chard until wilted. Garnish with mint and/or cilantro.

spread cheer — with dark chocolate + peppermint truffles

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If pumpkin spice is the flavor of the fall, chocolate peppermint is at the top of the list for winter. This decadent truffle recipe will satisfy your holiday treat cravings, while still being dairy-free and (mostly) refined sugar free.

If mint isn’t your thing, add a little vanilla extract – which is also a way to carry this recipe through the rest of the year.

They’re perfect to share or gift this season — or just as a treat to yourself.

Other festive holiday treats:

Best ever granola
Jam dot cookies
Triple seed brittle

Dark chocolate peppermint truffles

Ingredients:

1 cup medjool dates, pitted
¼ cup creamy almond butter
¼ cup cocoa powder (+ extra for rolling)
¼ cup chopped dark chocolate (can use cacao nibs if avoiding sugar)
½ teaspoon peppermint extract
½ teaspoon sea salt

Procedure:

Add dates, almond butter, cocoa, chocolate, peppermint, and salt to food processor. Process until ingredients stick together and form a ball – about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, and place in refrigerator. Let chill for at least 30 minutes.

Spread some cocoa powder on a plate (or bowl) – about ¼ cup. Use a mini scoop to portion truffles. Roll into balls, and then in cocoa powder. Continue until all truffles are finished.

I recommend letting the truffles set and firm in the fridge for a few hours before serving.

add this simple dish to your holiday table — maple mustard brussels sprout hash

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Whether hosting or guesting this holiday season, this dish will be the perfect compliment to your spread. The best part? It takes less than 20 minutes, and would be fine served warm or at room temperature if you’re short on room in the oven.

Using the slicing attachment on the food processor seems complicated, but it really couldn’t be easier. I also think sliced sprouts are available at some grocery stores.

Roasting thin slices of brussels sprouts dramatically speeds up the cooking time; the edges get crispy and caramelized, and there isn’t the fibrous, bitter bites that brussels can sometimes have.

This recipe yields 4 small servings – but you can easily double or triple. Just be sure to use a separate large sheet pan for each pound of brussels sprouts to prevent overcrowding.

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving and holiday season ahead!

Maple mustard brussels sprout hash

Ingredients:

1 pound Brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped

Procedure:

Preheat oven to 425. Line a large baking sheet with
parchment paper.

Use slicing attachment on food processor to slice brussels sprouts. Place in a large bowl.

Mix together maple syrup, olive oil, and mustard.

Add salt to Brussels sprouts, and then maple mixture. Stir to evenly coat. Arrange in an even layer on baking sheet.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until edges of Brussels sprouts begin to brown and crisp. Season with pepper (and additional salt if needed). Add parsley, toss, and serve.

Yield: 4 servings

(pumpkin) spice up your breakfast — with this chia + hemp bowl

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We’re already well into October, so if you haven’t started to incorporate pumpkin into all of your meals (and beverages and desserts), you have no excuses! If you you’ve simply been lacking inspiration — I’m here to help.

This pumpkin spiced breakfast bowl was a hit at my most recent ‘Beauty Food’ cooking class, and I couldn’t wait to share it with you here. It’s sure to add just the right touch of fall flavor to give your day the perfect start.

This recipe can be made in under 15 minutes, but it’s exceptionally great as a make ahead breakfast to grab and go on busy mornings (or more relaxed ones). I like doubling (or tripling) the recipe to have several days covered at once.

Add pumpkin puree – along with almond milk, dates, cashews, and pumpkin pie spice to blender and pour the sweet spiced ‘custard-like’ liquid over a mix of chia and hemp seeds. Chia seeds are an amazing source of healthy fat and fiber – and the hemp seeds add an extra boost of protein. This mix makes for a balanced breakfast that will keep you full all morning long.

Pumpkin Spice Chia Breakfast Bowl

Ingredients:

¼ cup pumpkin puree
¾ cup almond milk
3 dates, pitted
1 tablespoons cashews
¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 tablespoon hemp seeds
optional: sliced apple, bee pollen

Procedure:

Add pumpkin, almond milk, dates, cashews, and pumpkin pie spice to blender; Blend until smooth.

Add chia and hemp seeds to a bowl (or jar if making ahead). Pour pumpkin mix over, stir, and let sit for at least 10 minutes – or overnight! Will keep in the fridge for 4 days, though you may need to add a little more almond milk if it dries out.

Option to top with sliced apples and bee pollen.