Wednesdays Without Barcodes: Paleo Granola Bars

Granola bars are another one of those things that sound healthier than they usually are.  A quick label inspection usually shows way more soy and sugar than I’m comfortable feeding my little people on a regular basis.   And if you are sensitive to gluten, grains or dairy…forget about it!

Here is a kid tested “granola bar” recipe that is sure to please the most discerning palates!

You can do better than that!

INGREDIENTS:
2 C raw sunflower seeds
2 C raw pumpkin seeds
15 – 20 dates with pits removed
3/4 C raisins
3/4 C shredded coconut
1 TBS vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
maple syrup (optional)

PREPARATION:
Soak the seeds in filtered water with 1 TBS Celtic sea salt for about 8 hours or overnight.  In a separate container soak the dates in warm filtered water for about an hour.  In a food processor, puree the soaked dates along with the vanilla and cinnamon until they form a paste.  Drain the water from the seeds.  You’ll probably have about 6 cups of seeds now.  In a large bowl, mix the seeds with the date paste, raisins and coconut.  Taste test for sweetness.  If you feel it’s not sweet enough add a little bit of pure maple syrup.  Really a TBS should be plenty as dates are super sweet.  Now return everything to the food processor and pulse until it is granola consistency.  You may need to do it in a couple of batches.  Now spread out the mixture onto several non-stick dehydrator sheets or a parchment lined baking sheet.  If using the dehydrator, set it to 115° and let it run for about 24 hours until crispy.  If you don’t have a dehydrator put them in the oven on the convection setting at 150° for 12 hours or until crispy.  You will lose some of the enzymes with this method, but it will still be a yummy treat!

Eat Well, Be Well,
April

This post was shared on Real Food Wednesday with Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

Eating With Intention: Food and Mood

©iStockphoto.com/diawka

It’s no secret that food affects mood.  We’ve all experienced the pure joy that comes with the first bite of a sugar bomb type dessert!  But have you ever noticed a food that makes you angry or sad?  What you eat or don’t eat can trigger chemical and physiological changes within the brain that alter behavior and emotions.  However, because we are all biochemically unique, you can’t just assume that complex carbs will increase energy and fats will make you sluggish.  You can’t even follow a certain formula for how often to eat because we are all different and all thrive on different diets.  While there are no easy answers, here are some general “rules” that may help guide you as you figure out the perfect diet for you:

  • Dairy contains whey protein, which helps with stress, improves mood, and enhances memory. Opt for raw dairy to get the maximum benefit!
  • Green tea is a proven antioxidant containing theanine, an amino acid that helps combat stress and fight depression.
  • Complex carbs produce serotonin—a feel-good brain chemical that elevates mood, suppresses appetite, and has a calming effect.  Make sure that they are properly prepared to reduce anti-nutrients.
  • Omega-3s—found in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines—improve both memory and mood.
  • Sugar and other simple carbs, while providing an initial energy burst for some, have been linked to fatigue, irritability and depression (you know…that crash that follows).

Again, these are just generalities, so don’t get too hung up on the details, instead slow down and be mindful not only of the act of eating, but also of how food makes you feel.  Keeping a food journal is a great way to document this and see patterns over time.  Simply make a grid with columns for each day of the week and rows for meals and snacks.  Add additional rows labeled mood, energy, digestion and sleep and rate these on a scale of 1-10.  You could even plot the data on a graph if you are a visual person!  As you begin to change your diet see how the pattern changes for better or worse and use this data to guide your food choices in an intentional way!

Eat Well, Be Well,
April

Wednesdays Without Barcodes: Beef Jerky

Tastes better than it looks!

It’s hard to make beef jerky look good.  A friend of mine said that every time she see it she thinks of Cadaver Lab.  However, it’s hard to make it taste bad!  So play around with the spices in this recipe.  Don’t be afraid!  It’s a great snack for on-the-go this summer, full of protein and good to eat anytime of day. 

If you don’t have a dehydrator use the oven dehydrator method:

Set your oven to 155° or the lowest possible temperature and put it on the convection setting if you have that option.  You can also prop the oven door open a bit so that it stays cooler and air circulates. If your oven does not go below 200° you’ll need to find a different method of dehydrating.

GROUND BEEF JERKY:
For every pound of beef
mix in:
1 tsp Celtic sea salt
1 TBS naturally flavored Worcestershire sauce
1 TBS naturally flavored red pepper sauce
1/4 tsp dried minced onion

Mix all spices with the ground beef (meatloaf style) and roll out onto non-stick dehydrator sheets or parchment paper.  Aim for about 1/8″ thick.

Dry for about 6 hours at 155°F.  Take out the trays, invert the jerky and place on clean dehydrator sheets or fresh parchment paper.  Dry for another 6 hours or so until hard and leathery.  Cut it into strips and eat or store.

If you come up with any fun spice combos, please share with the class!

Eat Well, Be Well,
April

Eating With Intention: Stop and Smell the Meatloaf

©iStockphoto.com/monkeybusinessimages

Have you ever taken the last bite of a meal and you can’t really remember the first bite?  How much you really ate?  If you were even hungry in the first place?  Many of us go into autopilot when we sit down for a meal, if we even sit down at all.  Meals on the run. Meals in the car.  Meals standing at the kitchen sink. Even during family meals when we eat and talk and laugh, are we really paying attention to the act of eating?  We multitask every facet of our lives and meals are no exception.  We are all guilty of mindless eating.

So this post (and more to follow) will focus on small changes we can make in the way we prepare and eat our food so that it better serves us mind, body and soul.

Seven Steps to Mindful Eating (source):

1. Get Focused. To derive all the physical and emotional benefits available from a meal, you need to be free of distractions. Turn off the television or radio, put away the magazine, and clear the table of clutter. Create an environment that is calm, soothing, and conducive to paying attention.

2. Slowdown. “Make it your intention to be a slow eater,” says Marc David, author of The Slow Down Diet. Take an hour for lunch, two hours for dinner. What do you do with all that time? Simply pay attention.

3. Breathe Deep. Take five to 10 long, slow breaths at the start of each meal to center and focus, David advises. Deep breathing cuts stress, induces relaxation, and oxygenates and prepares the digestive system and the brain–a key digestive organ–for your meal.

4. Bless The moment. Say a prayer or blessing before you eat to gather your attention. Offering gratitude for your meal can also serve as a reminder of the network of people and natural forces that connects and sustains us.

5. Use All Your Senses. Notice the appearance, texture, and aroma of food before you even put it in your mouth. Then taste it, feeling it on your tongue and against your teeth as you chew, and pay attention to every nuance.

6. Notice Everything. “People often confine mindful eating to their tongue, but it’s really the sum of the entire experience,” David says. A mindful approach encourages you to notice things without judgment or criticism: How are you holding your fork? What music or conversation can you hear in the background? Is the food triggering any memories or emotions?

7. Expand Your Horizons. To refocus your attention, introduce something new to your mealtime routine. Try eating with chopsticks, testing new recipes or restaurants, or discovering exotic foods and spices at ethnic groceries, suggests Susan Albers, author of Eating Mindfully. 

Even when we eat healthy foods we can do so in an unhealthy way and the healing properties of the foods are often lost.  When we begin to pay attention to the before, during and after of each meal we can take the act of eating and the food itself to a new level of wellness.  I know it is unrealistic to think that every meal can be a totally spiritual experience…especially when you have little ones at the table.  Sometimes it’s just about getting everyone properly fueled for the day.  However if you can find a meal each day or even a meal each week and really be mindful of each bite imagine what a treat that would be!

Eat Well, Be Well,
April

Fringe Fitness Friday: Get On the Ball

©iStockphoto.com/schmetfad

Ever had a knot in your shoulder blade that you just couldn’t work out?  Of course you have! How about the little twinges of pain in the posterior that many of us refer to as sciatica.  You ask a loved one to work on it for you and he complains that his thumb hurts after a few minutes, but it’s still there.  You lean up against the door jam and try to work it out…but nothing!  Maybe you even stretch…good for you!  But no luck.   It’s 8:00 at night and you can’t possibly see how you are going to fit a massage or chiropractic appointment into your schedule the next day, what with Jimmy’s soccer game and Jenny’s ballet class and that project due at work…UGH!  What to do?  What to do?   Well, definitely make that appointment with your therapist of choice but in the mean time here are a few tricks of the trade to hold you over!

Tennis Balls 
Tennis balls can be one of your best friends when you have a pesky knot that just wont budge.  Simply take two tennis balls and put them into a long sock or nylon stocking and tie off the end.  Lie down on the floor and strategically place the balls where you feel the muscle adhesion and roll yourself around on them.  Yes, you will look completely ridiculous, but you will feel so much better!  You can also sit on the balls in a chair to help relieve tight glutes and hips, which may contribute to sciatica.  Keep a set in the car if you drive a lot and use them on long trips to keep your hips and shoulders happy.

 

Lacrosse Balls
If you are feeling particularly masochistic you could use lacrosse balls in place of tennis balls as described above.  Two lacrosse balls taped together with duct tape is a great way to work those sore muscles on either side of your spine and works great on the shoulders too!

Dryer Balls
Those spiny little guys that fluff your laundry can also provide deep muscle release and increased blood flow to affected areas of the body and thereby promote healing. Rolling one along the sole of your foot is a wonderful treatment for plantar fasciitis.  Squeezing one in your palms releases and energizes tired computer hands and fingers.

Be Well,
April

If you are not into DIY here are some products you can purchase.

Eating With the Season: So Many Greens, So Little Time!

If you are a seasonal eater, a Farmer’s Market shopper or a CSA member you know that this time of year it’s all about the greens.  Cabbage, Swiss chard, bok choy, collards, chicory…and then there’s the salad greens!  Not to mention the beet and carrot tops.  I’m pretty good at getting my family to eat their veggies, but that’s a lot of green.

Dark leafy greens are ridiculously good for you! They are high in vitamins and minerals like vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron, vitamin E, dietary fiber, calcium, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, protein, vitamin B1, zinc, folate, and niacin.  Now there’s definitely some debate in the real food community about the risks of oxalate toxicity from eating too many raw greens so that may be something you want to consider.  I personally don’t have any issues with eating raw greens in moderation, but as I discussed on Tuesday…one man’s food is another man’s poison.

So if you are bogged down with green right now here are a few suggestions for managing this seasons bounty!

Wash & Store:
Wash salad greens as soon as you bring them home by separating the leaves and soaking them in cold water.  The dirt will sink to the bottom while the leaves float at the top.  Tear the leaves to the desired size and spin them in a salad spinner to dry.  Store in a plastic bag or container.  This will make them readily available and easy to eat.  As a side note, preparing salad greens is a great job in which to involve small children!

Cook & Freeze:
Wash the greens and coarsely chop them.  Now put them into your steamer for 2 minutes, take them out and put them in bags or containers to freeze.  These will be great for soups, stews, smoothies and eggs whenever you need them.  Alternately, saute the greens in olive oil with garlic, salt and maybe a little onion, and any herbs you have on hand.  Again, store and freeze, then thaw for a quick and easy quiche or frittata filling.  You may want to add some meat or cheese to the recipe later.

Juice Them:
Like a dehydrator and Vita Mix, a good juicer is a great investment!  There reaches a point for me when I know I’m just not going to get to all these greens in time.  So, I pull out the juicer and problem solved.  You can add a bit of fruit to sweeten up the juice and then drink it on the spot or freeze it as popsicles.  Or you can freeze the juice by itself to use in recipes and smoothies down the road…waste not, want not!

Eat Well, Be Well,
April

This post was shared on Fight Back Friday with Food Renegade.

Wednesdays Without Barcodes: Fruit Leather

Banana Cocoa, Apple Cinnamon, Raspberry Pineapple

Looking for a fun and easy snack project now that the kids are finishing school.  This fruit leather is so easy to make that I made six different flavors with 18 preschoolers in 90 minutes!  Really, it’s that simple and it’s so much better than a fruit roll up or any store bought fruit snack.  Below are 6 different “recipes,” but really the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

Basically, for each tray puree a quart of coarsely chopped organic fruit.  Frozen and thawed fruit works great.  If you use bananas make sure they are plenty ripe.  If you need to add a little liquid while blending, water or organic pear juice (RW Knudsen makes a nice one with no sugar added) is a perfect choice.  Add as little as possible so that the blender still functions properly but the mix isn’t too liquidy.

Spread the mix evenly onto dehydrator trays lined with non-stick dehydrator sheets or onto baking trays lined with parchment paper.  It should be about 1/8 – 1/4 inch in thickness.  Now put it in the oven or dehydrator set to about 150°F.  If your oven doesn’t go that low, just put it as low as it will go and prop the door open a bit so it stays slightly cooler.  If your oven has a convection setting use that!  Leave it to do it’s thing for about 8 – 12 hours.  Check it periodically to see what the texture is like.  You want to stop the dehydrating before it gets crispy!  After the half way point you can peel the fruit leather and flip it over if you like, but you don’t have to do this.  When it is no longer sticky and has a smooth surface, remove it from the oven, peel, roll and enjoy!



Peachy Pear, Mixed Berry, Strawberry Banana

BANANA COCOA
4 ripe bananas
2 TBS raw cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla

APPLE CINNAMON
1 QT peeled, cored apples
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon

RASPBERRY PINEAPPLE
1/2 QT raspberries
1/2 QT pineapple chunks


Look at these ingredients….YUCK!

PEACHY PEAR
1/2 QT peeled, cored pear1/2 QT peeled, sliced peaches
1/2 tsp vanilla (optional)
a few shakes of cinnamon

MIXED BERRY
1/2 QT blueberries
1/2 QT blackberries

STRAWBERRY BANANA
2/3 QT strawberries
1.5 ripe bananas

Eat Well, Be Well,
April

This post was shared on Real Food Wednesdays
with Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

One Man’s Food is Another Man’s Poison

Dr. Weston Price was definitely onto something when he studied traditional diets and identified foods on which people thrived as well as foods that caused degenerative disease.  When looking at his research, one thing that has always stuck in my mind is how different these traditional diets were.  Some cultures ate primarily animal fats, while others others subsisted on mostly vegetables.  Some ate dairy, some did not.  One culture survived on grains while another ate none.  Yes, there were definitely some commonalities among the diets, but there were an awful lot of differences too.  This begs the question would any traditional diet suit any individual?  Are all traditional foods suitable for everyone? Or does it have more to do with where you live, or where your ancestors lived?  If yes, do you know where your ancestors lived?  Did they all come from the same place or are you a hybrid as most of us are?  If so, which genes are at work?  It’s a lot to think about, but it also explains a lot.  One person has no trouble with dairy while another is totally intolerant.  Some do fine with gluten and others are highly sensitive.  Fatty foods sit well with some of us but send others into major GI distress.  There are hundreds of diets and dietary theories out there with great research to support them, but with every person who has succeeded with one diet another has failed.  Could it be that we are genetically programed to eat certain foods?  Many people say “YES,” and I have to admit that I’m becoming a believer!  It seems to me that we are all metabolically unique, or have “biochemical individuality” and this affects us on almost every level of our existence.  However, it takes most of us a long time to figure this all out.  We eat the same foods over and over (sometimes healthy foods even!) knowing that they make us feel bad, but we deny it or rationalize it.  Sometimes we just get used to feeling bad and that becomes our norm.  Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to do some posts about intentional eating.  Some tips and suggestions to help you become more mindful of your eating habits and the effects of certain foods on your mind and body!  It’s possible that just a few little tweaks in your diet could make a pretty huge impact on your life…

Eat Well, Be Well,
April

For more information on Metabolic Typing

Fringe Fitness Friday: Create Some Space

©iStockphoto.com/Yuri_Arcurs

No matter who you are or what you do, the chances are pretty good that you’ve experienced low back pain at some point.  Most people that I meet, both as a massage therapist and as a yoga teacher, list it as their chief complaint.  Yoga and massage are great, and can definitely help ease the discomfort that comes from long hours sitting at a desk or carrying toddlers around the house, but more often than not a few days (or hours) after a treatment or adjustment we’re right back where we started.  This is where a little preventative maintenance can come in handy.  This simple exercise will help to relieve some of that low back congestion by literally creating space in the spine.  Just a few minutes each day and you’ll feel two inches taller!

You will need a yoga strap for this one.  They can be purchased almost anywhere these days for around $10 and it’s a great investment.  Look for one that is at least 10′ long.  Fasten the strap and hook it securely over a door knob or railing.  Make sure that it is fixed and can support your weight.  If you have a yoga mat you can lay it out so that it is parallel to the yoga strap.

Now step into the yoga strap and lower it down to your hips. Bend your knees as much as you need to, so that you can touch the ground.   

Slowly being to walk your hands and feet away from each other.  You should feel the strap at your hip crease and you will begin to feel some traction of the spine. 

Eventually you will come fully into a Downward-Facing Dog Pose.  There should be very little weight in the hands and you should feel a great stretch in the low back and shoulders.  Hold this pose for two or three minutes and breath deeply throughout.
Carefully step your hands and feet back together and roll up one vertebrae at a time.  If you feel lightheaded at any time, continue to hang over like a rag doll until it passes and then begin to roll up again.  Step out of the strap and enjoy the space.
Be Well,
April
NOTE:  If you have chronic low back pain or any disc issues, please consult with your health care provider before trying this exercise.