Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saturday's Spotlight on Food- Quinoa

Every Saturday I am going to spotlight a food and discuss it's nutritional benefits, interesting facts about it and preparation and recipe ideas.  I hope to help everyone discover a new-found appreciation of pure, whole foods.  They are amazing!  Some weeks I will choose a food that most everyone is familiar with and other weeks I will spotlight a food that will be new to most readers.  I hope people will be inspired to add variety to their diet and try new foods.  

This week's spotlight is on quinoa.  I have just started eating quinoa and I love it!  

Quinoa is amazing!  The Incas held quinoa sacred and called it the "mother of all grains."  (Although, it is actually a seed, not a grain!)  Quinoa has a very high protein content (12-18%) and has the perfect balance of essential amino acids, making it a great source of plant protein!  Because quinoa is a complete protein, it makes a great base for a vegetarian dish.  Quinoa is also high in dietary fiber, magnesium and iron.  Quinoa is grown in South America, primarily in Peru and Bolivia.  

Quinoa is light and fluffy like couscous and tastes a little nutty.  It can take on a variety of flavors, depending on how you season it.  

Quinoa is SO easy to prepare.  It can be cooked in a rice cooker, which is the method I use since it is very easy, or cooked on the stovetop.  For either method, for every one cup of quinoa add two cups of water (or  broth for extra nutrition).  If cooking on the stove top, bring the quinoa and water to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for 14-18 minutes.  You will know it is done when the germ separates from the seed.  (The germ looks like a little curl.) You don't want to overcook it or it will turn to mush.  It should be al dente.  Try substituting quinoa for rice in some of your favorite recipes.  

I recommend buying quinoa from the bulk section at Whole Foods or from Costco.  At Costco you can get a 4 lb. bag, organic for $10, I think.  Not positive on the price, but I can tell you for sure if you want to know.  I definitely remember that it was a LOT cheaper than the price at a regular grocery store.  I also remember the price at Whole Foods being decent.   

Here is a simple, basic recipe for quinoa:  
(I have to guess on the quantities because I don't really measure my spices.  Adjust quantities to taste!)
2 cups quinoa
4 cups broth or water
2-4 cloves garlic, minced (depending on how much you like garlic)
1/4-1/2 onion, minced (depending on the size of the onion)
1 bay leaf
1/2  tbsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp basil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Combine all ingredients in a rice cooker and turn on.  In about 15 minutes your quinoa will be done!  If cooking on the stove, combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to low and simmer covered for about 15 minutes, or until the germ separates.   After it is cooked, you can add a little bit of olive oil, but use sparingly, as raw olive oil is really strong!  Raw olive oil is very good for you, so I suggest at least trying this to see if you like it.

If you are going to be using quinoa similar to the way that you use white rice in a recipe, I would not go crazy with the seasonings.

Here is a picture of what I made this afternoon with quinoa:

Note the germ (the little curls).
This turned out REALLY good until I ruined it!  After it was done and tasted fabulous, I left it in the rice cooker and the quinoa turned to mush, so my suggestion is that when it is at the perfect consistency, remove it from the heat!!!  The tomatoes and spinach were also a much better consistency before I overcooked this.  :(

I made this recipe up from what I had on hand.  One thing I have learned is that you don't have to follow recipes!  Follow your instincts and I am sure that you will be able to create some fabulous dishes.  

Winter Warmth Quinoa and Lentils:
1 cup quinoa
1 cup Lentils
4 cups water
1/2 tsp. garlic powder (use fresh garlic if on hand, I was out)
1/2 tsp. onion powder (again, use fresh if you have on hand, I was out)
1/4 tsp. celery salt
1 bay leaf
2 heaping tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. thyme
1 heaping tsp. basil
4 roma tomatoes, chopped
2 handfuls of spinach
Salt and pepper to taste (needs a decent amount of salt, but I didn't measure how much so I'm afraid to give a quantity and have it turn out too salty.  Be sure and add enough salt.  It really brings out the flavors.)

Combine the quinoa, water and seasonings.  Cook (following cooking directions above) for about 3-5 minutes and then add the tomatoes and spinach.  Cook for the remainder of the time.  Note:  The tomatoes should be the consistency of stewed tomatoes.  If you add them too early, they will disintegrate.  If added too late, they will be too raw.  You might have to play around to find out the best time to add them.  Either way they will taste good so don't stress it too much.

This is a VERY easy meal to prepare and cook, you will also have very little mess to clean up and best of all, it is SUPER nutritious!!!  The cumin adds a nice warmth so this is perfect for a cold, winter day!


Creativity Pays Off

Look at what my awesome friend Tess made for her son's breakfast:

It's an organic rice cake topped with peanutbutter, raisins for the eyes and nose and walnuts for the mouth.  After making this she also thought it would be a good idea to "gule" two pieces of spinach to the back with peanutbutter for ears.  Then I started thinking about what else you could do too.  You could turn this into a cat by making whiskers out of carrot or zucchini sticks.  

Usually her son will not eat a rice cake, but he was excited to eat this one!  A little creativity can help a lot!  Think of how nutritious this breakfast is in comparison to a typical dry cereal that parents feed their children.  Usually these cereals are filled with refined sugars, high fructose corn syrup, white flour, dyes, preservatives, and artificial flavors.  These cereals are so void of nutrition that they have to be fortified with vitamins.  How sad that this is the breakfast that most children in America start their day with!  Tess' breakfast choice for her son, on the other hand, is full of complex carbs, natural sugars, protein and vitamins.  

I think with children we often assume that they aren't going to want to eat certain healthy things so we don't even bother offering them.  I know with my children, I was pleasantly surprised at how many healthy foods they enjoyed once I started offering them.  They like things that I never would have thought they would.  Because of this, it really was no struggle to transition from processed foods to whole, healthy foods.   Of course, they are quite young.  I do realize that if you are making changes with older children that they may resist, but their health and mental wellbeing are at stake.  It is worth the struggle.  I believe that in no time they will start to love natural foods and crave them.  They will realize how much better they feel when eating clean.  Give it a shot.  And like Tess, use a little creativity.  If you're kids are old enough have them help make their food.  Let them choose the ingredients.  Get them excited about eating healthy!

Friday, January 21, 2011

My Usual Breakfast

I usually start my day with a Raw dish, such as a green smoothie.  I know that this does not look that appetizing, but they really are very good and full of nutrition.  The great thing about a smoothie is that when the fruits and vegetables in them are blended, the nutrients in the fruits and veggies are more readily available for your body to absorb.  Because of this you will have almost instant energy from it.  You will also have more energy because your body does not have to exert a lot of energy to digest it.  Did you know that your body actually uses quite a bit of energy to digest food?  So, a cooked dish is going to take a lot more of your energy to digest than a Raw dish, leaving less energy for you throughout the day.   The green smoothie is also a great way to get more greens into your diet.  Greens are SO nutritious and I need to dedicate an entire blog post just to them.  We need to eat more of them, for sure.  When blended with fruit, you can barely taste the greens.  This is a great way to get your kids to eat spinach.  Did you know that greens are actually a very good source of protein?  That's right, you don't have to rely on animal products for your protein.  The green smoothie is also an easy way to get a lot of fruits and veggies in your diet.  Who can really sit down and eat 2 apples, 1 banana and a bunch of greens?  I know it would be hard for me!  But it sure is fun to drink!

Here is the recipe for the smoothie that I made.  It's a very basic recipe.

Basic Green Smoothie:
2 apples, peeled and cored
1 banana (this is what makes it creamy like a smoothie made with dairy)
A couple of handfuls of greens (I used baby spinach)
Water to desired consistency

Blend together!

A green smoothie can be made with any fruits or veggies you have in the house.  Just use a ratio of 50% fruit and 50% greens.  It's fun to experiment.

I challenge everyone to drink a green smoothie a day for two weeks.  I am sure you will feel a difference!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Breakfast This Morning

I usually start my day with a Raw dish, but there is something so comforting about warm cereal!  I had two sick boys in the house (one is 38) so I made them a hearty and healthy breakfast.  This is homemade rice cereal (just like Cream of Wheat, but with rice since we can't have wheat in this house- so easy to make, recipe below) made with organic brown rice with a little bit of pure maple syrup and raw, organic milk.  To drink, I juiced one organic apple and about 3-4 organic carrots per person (so unbelieveably good!).  The juice was so fresh and delicious!  I love knowing where my food is coming from and exactly what is in it.  No hidden ingredients.  Nothing artificial.  Nothing but pure, wholesome goodness the way that nature intended!  

Carter loved it!

I had to modify Jackson's because right now, in addition to him not having gluten or casein,  we have had to also eliminate most sugars.  For him I stirred in some cashew butter (it was REALLY good) to give him some protein and he had coconut milk.  

Homemade Rice Cereal:
1/4 ground brown rice (I grind mine in a cheap coffee grinder.  If you have a real grinder you will want to use the coarse setting.)
1 cup water
Dash of salt

Bring water to a boil.  Slowly add in the ground rice while stirring to prevent lumps.  Turn to low heat and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  

You can also add vanilla, dried fruit, nuts, nutbutter, whatever sounds good to you!

I am sure that you could make this with any grain.  I am going to experiment with other grains so that we aren't always eating rice and will let you know how it turns out. I am thinking it would be a great way to rotate the wheat in your year supply.  The only thing I think might need to change with a different grain is the water to ground grain ratio, but I think the ratio I gave would work fine. 

I quadrupled the recipe so that we would have leftovers the next day.  If you want to make things easier in the future, you can pre-grind a large amount of rice (or whatever grain you are using), store it in the freezer and scoop out as needed.  It must be kept in the freezer (or refrigerator) because it will go rancid in the pantry.  

And for those of you who think you could not afford the ingredients in this to be organic, I purchased a bulk bag of organic brown rice at Costco for about $1/lb (I think), organic carrots at Costco for about $.50/lb and organic gala apples at Fresh and Easy for about $.60/lb.  Maple syrup, however, can get expensive and the best deal I've seen for it is at Costco, 32 oz. for about $12.  

Here are the poor, sick boys!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Why I Am Passionate About Living Healthy

I am extremely passionate about living my life as healthy and clean as possible because I have felt a tremendous change on many levels since cleaning up my diet, personal care products and cleaning products.  I never expected to experience such a dramatic change as I have and I want the world to know that the synthetic, harmful additives and substances we are exposed to through the food, personal care products and cleaning products that line the shelves of our stores are NOT safe, DO cause many problems and keep us from experiencing life to the fullest.  I know that all of this sounds a little radical and I would have thought so also before experiencing the change myself, but I feel as though I have awakened from a deep slumber and I want the world to know they too can experience better health in all aspects of their life.

You may be wondering what kind of changes I have experienced.

I have more energy than I ever remember having.  I used to walk around in a perpetual state of exhaustion, longing to crawl back in bed for a few more hours of sleep.  I also used to "crash" every afternoon, thinking the moment when I could crawl into bed could not get there soon enough.  Since I have cleaned things up I have abundant energy, even if I am tired!  This probably sounds confusing.  Let me explain:  Even if I am tired because I did not get enough sleep, I still have energy and feel good.  I also no longer crash in the afternoon.  I rarely even think about taking a nap and the times that I do it is more to relax than from exhaustion.  I love how much I can get accomplished with this new-found energy and how good I feel while I am doing things.

I used to walk around in a fog.  I had terrible short-term memory and it would take me longer than it should to complete tasks because I would have trouble concentrating.  I always felt "foggy."  Now, I feel alert.  I feel sharp.  The fog has gone away.

I have struggled with depression on and off my entire life, but I thought I had it pretty well under control; however, I did not realize just how depressed I was until I cleaned things up and the depression faded.  I used to feel terrible all the time!  Now, I feel positive.  I feel good.  I feel happy.  OK, I feel amazing!

This is an area that I never would have thought would be affected by eating healthier and eliminating harmful personal care products and cleaning products, but it certainly is!  I now feel so much closer to my Heavenly Father and have developed such a great appreciation for all of his creations.  I feel like a wedge between He and I that I didn't even know existed was lifted.  My thoughts turn to Him much more frequently than they used to.  As I learn to rely more on nature to provide me with what I need, I am more and more amazed at how awesome everything He created for us is.

I am now feeling emotions on a much deeper level than I used to and I am affected by things more than I used to be.  It's like before, my emotions were dulled or even numb.  Now, they are awake and I feel like I am experiencing life in a much more vivid way.

It saddens me deeply that most Americans consume or use large quantities of additives and chemicals in their food and other products that cause physical, emotional and mental damage.  I believe, however, that most people use these products because they do not know how harmful they are, hence the name of my blog:  Ignorance is Blissfully Fatal.  I do think though, that if educated, people would choose to cut back on their use or no longer use them.   I hope that I can share knowledge that will help others to take control of their health and wellbeing so that they can experience life unburdened with depression, fatigue and health problems.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Making Changes...

The goal of this blog is to educate and inspire others.  I hope to help others learn about what is harmful and what is helpful, what to avoid and what to be sure to include and how to make these changes permanent.

My first piece of advice is this:  Gain knowledge.  This is powerful!!  If you don't really know why you are doing something, you will likely not have the conviction to stick it through.  When I say gain knowledge, I mean really gain knowledge.  Don't just do something because you have heard it is healthy.  Find out why it is healthy.  How does it help you?  What benefits can you expect?  For example, everyone knows organic is better.  But, why?  How does conventional produce affect your health differently than organic produce?  What is the difference between the two?  After discovering how superior organic produce is to conventional and the health risks associated with conventional, it will be harder for you to buy conventional produce.  

Second piece of advice:  Don't bite off more than you can chew.  There is no way you can learn everything about everything at once!  Pick one thing you want to learn more about and focus on that.  Research it.  If you focus on one thing it really takes less time than you would think to begin acquiring a good foundation to begin living healthier.  With the amazing amount of information available within seconds via the internet, you can learn something new everyday!

Third piece of advice:  Be forgiving of yourself.  Nobody is perfect.  I am striving to no longer eat preservatives, dyes, artificial ingredients, canned food (store-bought), and refined sugars.  But I still slip up!  I am, however, learning and overall getting better and healthier.  I have 30 years of bad habits to undo and 30 years of conditioning by the food industry to undo.  That is no small task!

Living healthy in this society is an uphill battle and the absolute hardest part is getting started.  It is possible though!  Don't be afraid and intimidated.  Your first homework assignment:  Follow this blog!  I promise to give you good information that will help you begin to understand how to live a healthy lifestyle.  And when I post about something you want to know more about, research it!  I also welcome others to challenge the information I post.  It will help me to learn more too!