Beef & Broccoli + Why I Went Paleo

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It took me a long time to come around before jumping on the Paleo bandwagon. And then once I did, it took me a longer time still to say the words about myself: I’d gone Paleo. Even now, writing this post, it’s hard seeing them in black and white, not gonna lie. You see, I’ve never been much of a fad follower when it comes to lifestyle habits like eating. And I get really turned off by all the hype around a trendy new diet – which is all I used to see Paleo as being. There’s all the books, magazines, shows, events… Diets are a billion dollar business and most end up being just a flash in the pan – you may see results in the short-term but eventually you end up going going back to the old habits and routine and you’re right back where you were months ago. I’ve always believed in balance, moderation, an abundance of good-for-you foods and no deprivation. That’s what works. Not a fad diet. Never mind the fact that I’m a health coach for crying out loud… I don’t do “diets”! That’s what my brain said anyway. But something else inside told me to look further and eventually I came to see that certain components of eating Paleo could really help me.

beef

One day a little over a year ago, I was home working on the couch because I was too stiff with joint pain to make it into the office and I caught an episode of Dr. Oz. He was interviewing a young girl who had gone Paleo as part of a treatment protocol for Rheumatoid Arthritis. She’d removed all grains, beans and legumes among other common inflammatory foods such as dairy and sugar and after a few months eating mostly vegetables and high quality animal protein she was living without pain and medications. With a little research, I found several other stories of healing while following a Paleo lifestyle. So, I hopped on and decided to try it for myself. I had already cut out common allergenic and inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy, soy and corn, but up until then I regularly ate grains and beans and even though I wasn’t strictly vegetarian, I ate very little animal protein. So I traded my quinoa and chickpeas for grass-fed beef and bison, and of course continued to load up on a crazy amount of vegetables. Within weeks I noticed a difference in my stiffness and energy level. And as I’ve stayed on the diet, I’ve felt better and better.

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Against the Grain
If you’re saying to yourself now, “But I thought quinoa was healthy?!” You’re right it is. It’s not that these foods the Paleo diet eliminates are inherently unhealthy. When properly prepared and if you can tolerate them they can be extremely healthy for you. The problem is grains, beans and legumes can be particularly difficult to digest and rob the body of key nutrients like zinc. These foods have proteins called lectins and other anti-nutrients that help to preserve the plant and protect it from insects, molds, funguses out there in the wild. The lectins in the grain are like poison to whatever may threaten the life of the plant. To the plant though, we may as well be an insect. It’s poison affects us the same way, potentially depleting key nutrients we require for optimal health and immune function. This is one of the reasons why many with autoimmune and inflammatory conditions, myself included, have had such success removing these foods from the diet.

beef and broccoli pan

Paleo Pointers
The other thing to remember with Paleo, is the emphasis is really more on the vegetables than on the meat. I often see it the other way around so you want to make sure you’re filling your plate with high fiber vegetables like dark leafy greens and crucifers such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. The fiber helps keep things moving through the digestive tract (if you know what I mean) so you minimize the amount of time you have beef hanging out in your gut. High quality, organic, grass-fed animal protein is an efficient way to get key nutrients but the key is to keep it moving, you don’t want it sitting around for a few days in your intestine. That can just get downright unpleasant.

In hindsight, I don’t really know how I could have objected to a way of eating where you get to eat steak and all the vegetables you want. That’s not to say that I won’t go back to eating grains, beans and legumes one day. But when I do I’ll have this experience to help me be aware of how these foods affect my body.

Even though for a long time my mind rejected the idea of “Paleo,” a little voice inside me told me there might be something there worth pursuing. I suppose we all have to come around to taking the step that we know is best for us, but that for whatever reason our minds tell us is pointless or silly or not worth the effort.

Sometimes we just have to politely tell our mind to shut up so we can hear that tiny little voice inside that’s so easy to ignore. It’s usually much smarter than our brain and it seldom leads us wrong.

If you’re intrigued about Paleo or if you have any questions about the diet or how it can be used as part of a protocol for autoimmune or inflammatory conditions, I’d love to talk more about it with you. You can email me at megan@meganadamsbrown.com.

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Thinking About Making a Change?
A few posts ago I introduced my new No Pain, Everything to Gain: 90 Days to the Real You. Note: This is not a Paleo diet program. No Pain, Everything to Gain is designed to help you heal and recover from chronic issues such as joint pain, muscle aches, allergies, asthma, headaches, rashes, etc. Through the program you’ll make shifts in your diet and lifestyle to take control of your health so you can feel better and get back to living life on your terms.

I have three free 30 minute strategy sessions open this week. If you think trying something new might be just what you need, schedule your free 30 minute session here.

Beef & Broccoli Stir Fry

Ingredients

1 lb beef stew meat
1 tbsp arrowroot powder
salt & pepper
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 head broccoli, cut in florets
1 tbsp peeled fresh ginger, grated
1 bunch green onions, white and green parts separated, thinly sliced
2 tbsp lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions

Place stew meat in a bowl and sprinkle with arrowroot, salt and pepper and toss to coat. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Cook the beef until browned on one side, about 1-2 minutes and transfer to a plate. Add broccoli, white part of scallions, ginger, and 3/4 cup of water to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper and cook until broccoli turns bright green and begins to soften. Add beef back to the pan and cook until meat is cooked through, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in green part of scallions and lemon juice. Serve with a sprinkle of red pepper flakes if you like a kick.

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The Anti-Inflammatory Smoothie

anti-inflammatory smoothie

Last week I mentioned how I use food as medicine to help relieve pain and heal. When you approach food from this perspective, food is more than just calories or something to silence a growling tummy. It is information that tells our cells what to do and how to react. Imagine your body is like a computer and everything you put into it is a command on the keyboard. With the right combination of key strokes the computer will perform a given function. In a similar way our bodies’ output directly depends on the input.

Just like any other chemical substance you might put into your body – pharmaceuticals, over the counter drugs, other drugs, alcohol, etc. – the foods we eat create a chemical reaction just the same. And believe it or not, certain foods can have an effect that is just as strong, if not stronger, than one you can get from a bottle.

Take turmeric for example. I talk a lot about this root here because it has incredible healing properties. And several studies have shown it to be as effective as Ibuprofen at relieving pain. So I add it to a variety of foods and dishes when I cook to give myself a regular does of its healing benefits.

Super Power Spices 
Turmeric, along with ginger and cinnamon in this smoothie help to reduce inflammation and the pain associated with it. Here are a few more specific benefits of each:

Turmeric: One of the most powerful medicinal herbs that has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic (ancient Indian) medicine to treat a variety of ailments including arthritis, bruises and wounds. It also aids protein digestion, decongests the liver, acts as an antioxidant and can reduce menstrual pain.

Ginger: In addition to it’s anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, ginger is used to ease an upset stomach, reduce nausea, improve digestion, clear congestion and warm up the body.

Cinnamon: Cinnamon can reduce inflammation, have antioxidant effects and fight bacteria. It’s been shown to help regulate blood sugar, reduce LDL cholesterol, and help with hormonal balance that can improve fertility. It’s also high in calcium, iron and manganese.

pre-blend smoothie

Oh-Mega Dose
Another way to bring down inflammation is to make sure you’re getting plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids daily. Omega-3s reduce inflammation and work to balance the abundance of the pro-inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids we tend to get so much more of in our diet. When the ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 gets out of proportion and skews to the pro-inflammatory side, it lays the ground work for all sorts of problems from allergies to aches and pains to the more serious stuff. The key is to get plenty of Omega-3s from food and even supplements to maintain a proper balance. The hemp and flaxseed in this smoothie are two of the best plant-based sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. You can also get Omega-3s from salmon, walnuts and dark leafy greens.

So there you have it, five (count ‘em – five!) superfood inflammation fighters crammed into one glass. That’s a mega dose of anti-inflammatories to help kick your pain to the curb and boost your immunity.

The Anti-Inflammatory Smoothie

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
2 tbsp vanilla hemp protein powder
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
dash black pepper*
1/2 banana (preferably frozen)
handful ice cubes

Directions

In a blender combine all ingredients and blend until smooth.

 *black pepper is added to enhance the potency of turmeric and help it get into the bloodstream. A dash a black pepper enhances the benefits of turmeric 2,000 times. 

You Can Feel Better with Food
If the idea of using food as medicine intrigues you or if you’re curious about how you can start using food to feel better, I’d love to help.

Last week I introduced my new program, No Pain, Everything to Gain: 90 Days to the Real You. This program is about making shifts so you naturally crave and want to eat good-for-you foods. We’ll work together to identify problem foods and replace those with ones that make it easy to make the necessary changes for you to feel your absolute best. We’ll look at the complete picture to help you manage all the areas of your life that can affect your well being including stress, physical activity and emotional health to give you a sturdy foundation for long-term health and healing.

I’m offering five free 30 minute strategy sessions this week. If you’re interested in learning more about how small changes can make a big difference when it comes to dealing with chronic pain, schedule your free 30 minute session now.

 

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No Pain, Everything to Gain: How I Use Food as Medicine to Heal and How You Can Too

I usually try to stick to the food here, but today I want to share my story with you and explain how I ended up as a health coach and food blogger. You see, there comes a time for all of us when something hits and we realize if I keep eating, drinking, partying, stressing, worrying… fill in the blank (or all of the above) it’s not gonna be pretty. That time came for me at a much younger age than most – It started when I was 22 with severe joint pain and swelling. I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease where your immune system mistakenly attacks your joints. At the time, it had gotten so bad I couldn’t lift my arms to get dressed. I got on medication that helped control my symptoms and I went on with my 22-year-old post college life pretending everything was the same – late nights, drinking, fast food… I was burning the candle at both ends and I wasn’t getting any better. In fact I was getting worse. Finally though, that something hit me, and I realized things had to change.

My body had been trying to tell me this all along but I just kept turning up the noise and tuning it out. Until I couldn’t ignore it anymore.

So, I started to listen. And I began a journey of discovering exactly what it needed to heal and recover from the years of wear and tear that ended up creating a perfect storm for my immune system to go haywire. I read up on natural, holistic approaches and one of the first books I read was Dr. Andrew Weil’s Spontaneous Healing. In it he explains the body has an innate ability to heal itself when given what it needs.

That’s when it clicked. And I started making changes. It didn’t happen overnight. At this point my freezer was full of Lean Cuisines (I had a long way to go!). There were ups and downs, I resisted, I even threw in the towel a few times. But that voice would come back…

Eventually I learned how to tune into it and really listen. This was the key that changed everything.

For the first time in my life, I understood that what I ate directly affected how I felt.

It was food that got me back to 100% and feeling like myself again. I’m still on this journey – and always will be. I have days when I feel great and days that are not so great. But I’m in control; I have the power over my well being. And that is… well, everything!

In the middle of all of this I got my health coaching certification and started helping other people achieve their own health goals such as losing weight, having more energy, learning to cook, etc. I can’t tell you how incredible it is to be able to help others make their own health goals happen.

OK, so I’ve told you my story, now I want to hear yours…

If pain or discomfort is keeping you from doing the things you enjoy…

If you’ve ever thought, “If only I felt better, I would…”

If you think your body might be trying to tell you something too…

Le me help you tune in, find some relief and get back to feeling like the real you again.

I’m offering a new 90 day intensive program designed to help those struggling with chronic pain learn how to use food as medicine so you can feel like yourself again and live life to the fullest. It’s my No Pain, Everything to Gain Program: 90 Days to the Real You.

In this transformational program, you’ll look at food in an entirely new way. We go beyond diet and work on making shifts so you naturally crave good-for-you foods that make you feel vibrant and healthy. You’ll experiment with foods to figure out which ones support you and which ones may be causing you more harm than good. Additionally, you’ll learn strategies for balancing all the other elements in your life that can lead to pain and disease such as stress and emotional well being. Through this program, you can begin to heal from your pain and get back to feeling good in your body and living life on your terms.

The first step is a free 30 minute No Pain, Everything to Gain Strategy Session.

In this session we’ll talk about your health concerns, what it is you want to achieve and what might be standing in your way. And we’ll discuss how we can work together to get to where it is you want to be.

I have a limited number of strategy sessions available for this program and am offering three sessions this week. If you’re interested or curious, click here to book your free session.

I’ve learned a lot trying just about everything under the sun to feel better and help myself heal. It’s added up to a lot of time, money, ups, downs and runarounds but it’s all been worth it to know my body and to be able to give it what it needs to thrive.

My goal is for others to benefit from my trials, errors and successes so you can discover a simpler, more direct path to healing. I’m here to support you so you can follow through like you never have before and finally get your life back.

Are you ready to feel like the real you again?

Schedule your free No Pain, Everything to Gain Strategy Session now.

Curious about the other programs I offer? Click here for more programs.

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Herby Lamb Meatballs

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You know when you move to a new city and have to find all new…everything -  a new hair person, nail place, dry cleaners, car place, etc.? We’re right in the middle of all that right now. It’s like every day there’s a new reminder that we’re the new kids on the block. Don’t get me wrong, I love it; the change is fun and exciting. But wow, you don’t realize how comfortable you’ve been in a place until you have to start all over again. Like, what a luxury it is to be able to hop in the car and know exactly where Target is and how long it will take you to get there (without having to consult Siri). Or to be able to get in and out of the grocery store  super fast because you know exactly what they have and where to find it.

Grocery shopping can be one of the most routine things we do. I usually make my big trip for the week on Sunday and typically pick up the same staples – a whole organic chicken, a bag of lemons, greens, onions, etc. And after awhile of this it’s almost like you go into autopilot – you go in, walk the same aisles, grab the same things and get out. You’re so focused on your routine and completing it you probably don’t even see what else is on the shelf.

That’s when shaking it up can be a really really good thing. When your surroundings change it’s an opportunity to try new things and perhaps expand your palette… that is, if you choose to look at it that way. So, on my first grocery excursion in our new neighborhood in Austin I could have gotten all bent out of shape when I didn’t find my usual whole organic chicken. But, I held it together and got adventurous… and that’s how these delicious herby lamb meatballs came to be.

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make meatballs

The Natural Grocers by our house doesn’t have a full butcher section like our old grocery store, but they do have an excellent section of high quality, organic, pastured, grass-fed ground meats. So, we’ve been on a meatball kick lately, trying out different meats with a variety of herbs, spices and seasonings. My mom is probably getting quite a kick out of the idea of me – the one who once couldn’t even look at ground beef – making meatballs. For years she’s tried to pass down the job of hamburger patty-maker. I may have gotten over my fear but it’s still not happening, Mom. ;)

Anyway, ground may not be the sexiest of cuts, but it’s much less expensive. If you’re wanting to incorporate more organic, pastured and grass-fed meats, it’s a great option to help you save a little money. And these meatballs are damn good, if I do say so myself. If you’re not into lamb you can make them with any other ground meat, like beef or turkey. Serve the meatballs along with your favorite sides. This time we roasted carrots, parsnips and turnips and sautéed up some kale with onion. Ooh, everything was so delicious, colorful, satisfying, and above all, no one was missing the chicken…

Moral of the story, you never know what you might discover with a little change. So this is my challenge for you: Break your routine, try a new store, go without a list. See what you see when you’re out of your comfort zone and the blinders are forced to come off. Keep an open mind, explore, ask for help, learn, and try something new or maybe even something that that once scared you. Who knows, you just might find what you’ve been missing…

cook meatballs

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Herby Lamb Meatballs

Ingredients

1 lb ground lamb (or other meat: beef, turkey, chicken, etc.)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 of a small onion, diced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp virgin coconut oil
1/4 cup water

Directions

Combine ground lamb, garlic, onion, thyme, rosemary, basil, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well using your hands. Form into balls, about 1 inch thickness.

In a medium saute pan, heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add meatball and cook 1-2 minutes until seared, then flip each one to sear the other side. Cook another 1-2 minutes until lightly browned. Add water, cover pan and let simmer about 5 minutes until meatballs are cooked through.

Serve with your favorite roasted vegetables and sautéed greens.

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Creamy Cauliflower and Leek Soup

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I know this isn’t your typical Hello, Spring! recipe for the first week of the new season… but spring sure is taking it’s sweet time to get here…. at least in Texas that is. The weather here lately has been down right erratic. 80 degrees one day. 30 degrees the next. And rainy. My god, so much rain. It has literally rained every weekend since we got to Austin. Five weekends of rain, people… in a city that’s supposedly in a drought. Some say we brought it with us. So to that I say, you’re welcome.

So what better to go with our rainy damp days here than a bowl of creamy delicious soup that just so happens to be dairy-free too. When cooked throughly and blended, cauliflower takes on a creamy, smooth consistency. It’s great to use for a non-dairy cream-based soup or even a mash, as a substitute for mashed potatoes.

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable like broccoli, kale, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, etc. and like its cousins is full of antioxidants and nutrients like vitamin C, K, folate and manganese. It’s the leeks in this soup that make it say, “Hello, Spring!” A leek is a spring onion, which like the rest of its allium family (and crucifers too) is rich in sulfur – one of the most abundant minerals in the body and it’s required for hundreds of processes that keep us alive and kicking. Leeks are also one of nature’s antibiotics with strong anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. Eating alliums (onions and garlic) regularly can help to ward of infection and keep your immune system strong.

When preparing leeks, it’s the white part that you want to cook with. Cut off the green stems and remove the outer leaves. Cut off the end of the root and then slice again in half longways. Open up the leeks a bit to expose the inside pieces and rinse well under water. Cut again longways and then slice thinly. The thinner the strips, the faster they’ll cook.

Creamy Cauliflower and Leek Soup

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 leeks, chopped (just the white part)
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets and chopped
6 cups broth (vegetable or chicken)
salt
pepper

Directions

Place pot over medium heat and add olive oil. Saute the garlic and leeks about 3 minutes, until soft. Add cauliflower and saute for another minute. Add broth, then increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce back to medium and simmer, covered for about 20-30 minutes, until the cauliflower can be pierced easily with a fork.

Blend soup either using a blender or immersion blender until smooth and creamy, with no lumps. Return to pot and warm over low heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve garnished with chopped fresh parsley or chives.

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Three Detoxifiers for Your Post St. Paddy’s Day Hangover

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Top o’ the mornin’ to you! This little gem right here is from St. Paddy’s Day circa 2007… and that is me in the middle with my old roomies. And yes, I have a leprechaun hat on my head. I’d just like to point out this was pre Dallas Greenville parade and block party, so mind you I am sober. OK, maybe a little tipsy, I was 24 after all. Either way, as you can tell I really really love St. Paddy’s Day.

So, naturally, I wanted to post something here to mark the day, but notice that I am not posting green juice or some other healthy green thing you obviously will not be making or consuming later because, hello, it’s St. Patrick’s Day… and on St. Patrick’s Day you drink beer. I get it. It’s a day that’s about celebrating life, friendship and debauchery. And it’s amazing.

What I thought you maybe could use though are a few recipes and tips for tomorrow…. when the green keg is tapped and you wake up no where near the top of the morning. So I’ve put together three somewhat easy and quick ways to help you detox, clear your system and not look like a leprechaun on Tuesday. So before you head to the bar or pick up that six pack, read this. Or at least print it out so you’ll have it later. Because those green beer hangovers are the worst…

Three Cures for Your St. Paddy’s Day Hangover

lemon water

Sip warm water with lemon – Fast forward from my Greenville block party start-the-day-with-a-mimosa days and seven years later this is what I sip every morning – a cup of hot water with lemon.

Instead of going straight to the coffee pot when you get up in the morning, try this first. Squeeze a quarter of a lemon in a cup of warm or hot water and sip away. The water and lemon work to alkalize and (literally) flush toxins out that your body stirred up overnight.

While we sleep our bodies go into self-cleansing mode. So to help carry out the trash, so to speak, we need water to get things moving along. I like to imagine little maid cells with brooms and dust pans that come out when the lights go out and things get still…

Adding lemon also helps get your body’s pH back in balance. After a good night’s sleep we wake up on the more acidic end of the spectrum so to help get back in the middle you want to start the day with something alkalizing, like lemon. I know the taste is acidic, but its reaction in the body is alkalizing. And you know what else puts you on the more acidic side? Alcohol. So the more alkalizing foods like lemon, greens and other vegetables you can eat the better to get you back in balance. And more water too.

coconut oil

Swish some coconut oil – Oil pulling seems to be quite the hot topic on the Internet these days and I’ve been getting a lot of questions about it lately so let’s discuss… What is it? Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic (Indian medicine) practice where oil is used sort of like mouthwash to pull toxins and bacteria out of the tissues in your mouth. You want to use a high quality, unrefined oil like coconut, olive or sesame (I recommend coconut). Put about 1/2 a tablespoon in your mouth and swish, moving the oil around and through your teeth for 20 minutes.

20 minutes!? yes, I know it sounds like an eternity but you’ll be surprised how fast the time can pass. Do it while you’re in the shower, drying your hair, putting on make up, checking email, etc. When time’s up, spit the oil into the trash (not down the sink! it will clog the pipes.) then rinse with salt water. Also, do not swallow – the oil is full of toxins that you want out of your body. For best results, do it daily, right when you wake up.

Aside from hangovers, oil pulling has been known to relieve a incredibly wide-ranging list of ailments including allergies, chronic pain, skin issues, hormone imbalances, the list goes on… What’s more, it whitens teeth and can make them stronger and healthier too by getting rid of the bacteria that can lead to decay.

sweaty

Get your sweat on – Toxins leave the body through sweat so if you can start your morning by sweating out most of what you put in the day before, you’ll be feeling better a heck of a lot faster. It will probably be the hardest thing you do all day, but make yourself go for a run, bike ride or to a hot yoga class…whatever you can muster to get yourself sweaty for a bit. If that’s just not happening, then OK. Perhaps a sauna is more your speed.

I’ve recently discovered the far infrared sauna for detoxification. Infrared saunas use a different type of heat than the traditional saunas you typically see in spas. They work by heating your core gradually from in the inside out rather than from the outside in. The result is more toxins released from your tissues. When it comes to sweating out the alcohol though, any sauna will do the trick.

Now, go celebrate like green is going out of style. And tuck these tips away for the mornin’. Cheers! Happy St. Paddy’s!

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Oh-Mega Apple Muffins

oh-mega apple muffins

We finally got the rest of our kitchen unpacked this weekend (woo hoo!). And I realized something; it’s amazing what you find you don’t need after your things have been in boxes for three weeks. In that short time I managed to get bitten by the minimalist bug. Yes, me the same person who spent the better part of last year on One Kings Lane shopping for bookshelf accessories. Times change and we change with them I suppose…

Anyway, the thought of having to pack a kitchen twice in a year inspired us to edit our gear to the bare essentials. And we managed to keep six boxes packed up in the garage – stored away and ready to go to our next stop in a year. That was, until I got the itch to make muffins… In my ruthlessness the baking accessories didn’t make the cut. But now they were essential. It was raining. We were cozy. And we just needed muffins. So back to the garage we went (I say we but let’s be honest, it was all Ross – he saved the day again!).

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While he hunted pans I took to the pantry to see what I could possibly turn into a muffin worth eating. Our pantry staples are in need of replenishment but with a little creativity I was a able to scrounge up a pretty ingenious combo if I do say so myself.

Oh-Mega Dose of Omega-3s
Crammed into these muffins are the three top plant-based sources of Omega-3 essential fatty acids – flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts. What are Omega-3s you ask? They help regulate inflammation in the body and they’re called “essential” because we must get them from our diet – our bodies cannot make them on their own. The challenge with Omega-3s is that they’re sort of scarce in our food supply – you have to know where to look to find them and then make sure you’re eating those foods, like the ingredients mentioned here, plus salmon, sardines and dark leafy greens regularly.

To make matters even more complicated, Omega-3 has an essential fatty acid cousin, Omega-6. The two work together like two sides of a coin. While Omega-3 works to decrease inflammation, Omega 6 promotes it. In the body they perform a sort of balancing act to protect our cells; we need both in the right ratio. But the problem is most of us are getting loads more Omega-6 in our diet than Omega-3 (some 14-25x more) so we’re skewed toward the inflammatory side, which over the long term is not good. Omega-6s are abundant in things like nuts, seeds, grains, cooking oils and out of the box snacks.

You can keep your Omega-6 intake in check by cutting back on the processed foods and opting for olive oil over oils like soy, corn and vegetable. Grass fed meats are also less inflammatory because the animals are getting more Omega-3s from the grass rather than more Omega-6s from grains and seeds. And of course you can get your fill the vegetarian way with the flax, chia and walnuts in these muffins. Wild salmon is a sure bet source as well.

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The Sweetest Thing
You know what else causes inflammation? Sugar. So it would be silly to cancel out all the great inflammation fighting benefits we’ve got going on here by adding something that’s going to take away from that, am I right? Not to worry, the only thing sweetening the sauce here is fruit – no refined sugar, or unrefined for that matter either. Just apples. And you know what they say about apples….

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Oh-Mega Apple Muffins

Ingredients

3/4 cup coconut flour
3/4 cup flaxseed meal
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp sea salt
1 cup apple sauce (2 individual packs)
3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup dried coconut, shredded
1/2 cup chia seeds
1 small apple, diced

Directions

Preheat the oven to 315 degrees. In a large bowl, combine coconut flour, flaxseed meal, baking soda and salt and whisk until evenly distributed. Add applesauce, melted coconut oil and water and stir to mix. Stir in walnuts, coconut, chia seeds and apple. If batter seems dry or too flaky, add a bit more water and stir/mash until batter holds together.

Spoon batter into lined muffin pan and bake at 315 for 40-45 minutes. Cool before serving.

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The Best Beef Stew

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First, let me apologize to all the Catholics out there for sending you beef on the first Friday of Lent. I’m truly sorry. But I thought with another cold front on the horizon you might need this for the weekend…

Oh, the tease of spring… it continues. Instead of cursing the weather gods for keeping me one more weekend away from wearing flip flops, I’m choosing to embrace the chance to make something warming and delicious to curl up with one last time (oh, please). Because before we know it it’s going to be 90 degrees out there and we just won’t look at a hearty bowl of stew the same way…

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For all you Paleo peeps, this happens to be a Paleo beef stew I tweaked from this recipe. Instead of the traditional white potatoes in beef stew, I used two kinds of sweet potatoes – your standard orange flesh variety and Japanese sweet potatoes which have a darker, purplish skin and are actually white inside. Sweet potatoes have loads more nutritional value over their white potato cousins. They have tons of vitamin A, C and manganese and are also high in B vitamins, potassium and fiber. Japanese sweet potatoes have the same make up but their richly pigmented skins also make them considerably higher in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Scientists believe our digestive tracts benefit in particular because the compounds associated with these pigments may protect from heavy metals and free-radicals there. And that means a happier tummy.

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So, I know I probably don’t have to sell you on a slow cooker… it’s amazing isn’t it?! I’m a little embarrassed to admit that it took me almost two years after getting one to really use it. I have no idea what I was doing or thinking. There is nothing more brilliant than being able to put a bunch of whatever – meat, veggies, liquid, spice, you name it - in a pot, turn it on and say see ya later. You go about your day (a little less stressed I might add having dinner already taken care of) and when you come home it’s like opening the door to a fantasyland where a private chef has been cooking for you all day. Oh, it smells so delicious. And you just know whatever’s been cooking in that pot all day is going to be so rich, tender and comforting. Still talking about the stew here, ladies… :)

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The Best Beef Stew

Ingredients

1 1/2 lbs grass fed beef stew meat
2 cups stock
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 stalks celery
2 carrots
3 large sweet potatoes (I use a mix of orange and purple skinned potatoes)
2-3 cloves garlic
3 bay leaves
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1/8 cup arrowroot (used to thicken at the end) – optional

Directions

First, add the meat to the slow cooker, then add the liquid and all the vegetables, spices and seasonings. Set slow cooker to low and let cook for eight hours. About half way through, give it a stir to move the vegetables.

If you want a thicker stew, do this when the timer dings: Ladle out most of the liquid into a small saucepan. Bring liquid to a boil, then transfer a small amount to a small bowl and slowly whisk in arrowroot until it’s completely absorbed. Pour the mixture back into the boiling liquid in the pot and remove from heat while you whisk continuously. If you want it even thicker, add some water to your small bowl and sprinkle in more arrowroot powder, whisk well, then add that to your liquid. Once at desired consistency, pour the thickened liquid back into the slow cooker and stir to mix well.

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The Best Way to Go Through Change

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Years ago, I was flying back from a work assignment in Sydney, Australia, and I sat next to a woman on the plane who had just moved her whole family (husband and three kids) from Atlanta, Georgia, to Sydney, Australia. I asked her why – if it was for a job, if she had family there? – and she said no, it wasn’t anything. They just had a feeling there was something more for them out there.

I think I was 24 at the time. And I looked at this woman with half “are you insane?” and half “I want to be like you when I grow up.” Not necessarily the pick up and move a 14-hour plane ride away part, but the free spirited part about trusting your instincts and just going for it.

I’ve been thinking about this woman a lot lately. Just last week Ross and I made a move like this ourselves. No 14 hour cross-continental flight or anything, but three hours down I-35 classifies as a big move in my book. We moved from Dallas to Austin, Texas, which just so happens to be where we met (and fell in love) and where we dreamed we might land back one of these days. One of these days. But change came a knocking when we least expected it (as it likes to do!).

I know I said one of these days, but in all honesty, I thought we’d be in Dallas forever. We have family close by, great friends; we just (just!) finished remodeling the house we bought a short 18 months ago and it was feeling like home. We were happy in our jobs. Nothing to complain about. But as I’m sure you’ve experienced for yourself, it seems just when things are getting a little too comfortable, life throws you a curve ball.

And when it does we can either: A. curl up in the fetal position until it goes away, or B. grab onto it and go along for the ride. I eventually hopped on option B, but it took some time. When we made up our minds we were gonna do this thing though, we fully committed. And something amazing happened – things just started falling into place.

We found a house to rent in a perfect location, we sold our home in a matter of days (through bittersweet tears). Things were coming to us easily. Our family and friends were supportive and truly excited for us and this new little adventure of ours. It felt right.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all sunshine and sold signs. There were many uncertain moments. And for a planner, those don’t really sit well. I realize this whole experience has been an exercise in learning to be comfortable in the chaos. Letting go and trusting there’s more out there; that it’s all going to work out.

I wonder about the woman I met all those years ago on that overnight flight and I trust that because she fully committed and opened herself up to change, things just fell into place for her too.

They say that the unknown is where the magic happens – where new ideas, opportunities and paths are born. So if you can train yourself to chill out there, and just hang for a while, you can be transformed – like the caterpillar into a butterfly. So, here I am giving it a shot and seeing what might be born out of this change.

Here’s to chillin in the unknown. And big beautiful butterflies.

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The Trick to Making a Delicious Kale Salad

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How do you really feel about kale?

If you’re making a bitter face after reading that sentence, I understand. The No. 1 complaint I hear about kale is that it’s soooo bitter. And you’re right. Eaten completely raw the stuff is absolutely disgusting. There, I said it. But when kale is properly prepared, that bitterness mellows and can even (dare I say) turn slightly sweet, and that, my friends, is when kale becomes absolutely delicious!

If you take nothing else away from this post know this: Eating healthy does not mean force feeding yourself bitter green things. No one does that. Or at least no one does that for more than a day or two without coming back to reality. I’m here to tell you that there is so much more to kale beyond it’s bitter rap. The trick is just knowing how to prepare it.

Here’s a fun fact. Did you know chopping kale in a food processor sort of smells like freshly cut grass? It does… but if your salad tastes like your lawn there is a problem…

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Bitter is Better
The darker the green, the more bitter the taste. But don’t let that scare you. Dark leafy greens are chock-full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, chlorophyll and oxygen. They help detoxify, purify the blood, oxygenate your cells and can even lift your spirit. All these benefits and yet dark leafy greens have so many of us stumped. Once you know how to prepare them though, they’re easy to add to any meal.

Banish the Bitter
Now that we’ve appreciated bitterness for what it means nutritiously, let’s talk about how to get rid of it. Kale is a hearty plant with a tough exterior so that it can endure the harsh winter months. To enjoy it raw, you have to get it to soften, because behind that tough exterior is just a sweet vegetable. It’s all in the approach. And it starts with lemon. The acid in lemon counters the bitter flavor and helps to break down the leaves. Combine lemon juice and olive oil in a 1:1 ratio and season with salt and pepper to make a simple dressing. Pour dressing over the chopped greens and (this is the real trick) get in there with your hands and massage the kale. You read right… massage – deep-tissue style – both hands. in there. working it. This breaks down the cellulose structure of the plant so that it wilts and softens. Pay attention as you massage and notice the leaves turn a more brilliant green and shrink up a bit. And just like that the kale is transformed from lawn clippings to a delicious salad…. Magic!

dressing

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add nuts and fruit

Massaged Kale Salad

Ingredients

1 bunch kale
1-2 lemons
1/8 cup EVOO
salt & pepper
1 cup chopped nuts (pecans, almonds, walnuts, etc.)
1 cup dried fruit (currants, raisins, cranberries, etc.)

Directions

Wash kale well and tear leaves away from stem. Tear leaves into pieces and place in food processor or blender to chop. Pulse until  finely chopped (you’ll have to do this part in a few batches). Transfer to a large bowl.

Next, make the dressing. In a small bowl combine juice from lemons and EVOO. Season with salt and pepper and whisk well until combined. Pour over kale and massage the dressing into the greens using your hands.

Mix in choice of nuts, fruit or other salad toppings. If kale still tastes bitter, add more lemon and continue to massage until no longer bitter.

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