Sprouts taco dinner

I was in the mood for something quick after fighting 108º F weather and commuter traffic today in the blast furnace summertime of Dallas, so I went for something that looks great, tastes great, and is sure to boost my spirits to face another day just like this one tomorrow.

I harvested my lentil sprouts this morning, so they had been in the fridge all day, just chillin’.  Summertime is a great time for good-tasting tomatoes, when the taste hasn’t been compromised by refrigeration, and I can never turn away from a just-ripe avocado!

sprout tacosThere it was, simple, tasty, and inspiring with its color and fresh taste!

I had some organic corn tortillas that were very low in sodium and no oils, and I had some spicy tomato sauce left over from last week that was just enough to mix in with my sprouts.  I pulled three tortillas out of the storage bag, heated them for 20 seconds, covered with a paper plate, in the microwave oven.

To get my quota of cruciferous veggies for the day, I steamed some brussels sprouts and diced butternut squash I had prepared for steaming over the weekend.  This couldn’t have been any easier!  Faster than waiting in a drive-thru line at a greasy hamburger joint where I used to spend my money.

The result was a full stomach, nutritious perfection, and I was done with it all by 7 p.m.  Time to kick up my feet and watch some baseball!

Rich Tomato and Tofu Salad Dressing

This one is flavor-filled, slightly tangy, and has a beautiful color!

Rich Tomato and Tofu Salad DressingTurmeric and black pepper

With this dressing I bring back one of my favorite spices, turmeric, paired with black pepper to maximize the anti-inflammatory benefits of this deliciously pungent spice (see links below for more info on the nutritional value of turmeric and black pepper.).  Turmeric is also responsible for the orangey color!  Warning: If you’re a nail model, be careful using this spice without wearing gloves.  It could be a career-ender!  Also, be careful not to stain your countertop, your hands, and whatever else matters.  I guess it would be fine to let it touch carrots, huh?

Another tofu dressing

As the story goes, if you’ve read my other posts about salad dressings, I am on the Eat To Live nutritional program, and I am especially interested in the anti-inflammatory benefits of the plan due to my psoriasis and the psoriatic arthritis that had started to show its monstrous head a year or so after getting off-plan two years ago!  No doubt the plan helped me with this condition, and I should have known better than to leave it in the first place, especially since the food is all homemade and tastes so good.

Dr. Fuhrman’s mantra (Eat To Live) is “the salad is the main course!”  And, truthfully, without great salad dressings, many people are apt to give up on receiving the great health benefits available to them through Eat To Live, because the plan does not allow added oils or salts to the diet.  Further, ETL’ers have to search for salad dressings that do not have sodium or oils.  It’s so much easier, and far tastier, to make them at home.

Silken tofu is the perfect medium for creating creamy dressings similar in appearance and flavor to the ones I used to eat when I didn’t have a care in the world about my health.  In a blender, the tofu combines easily with other ingredients, and it can be kept for at least a week in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed jar, without losing any of its flavor.  (See my other tofu salad dressing recipes here.)

Other food uses

Like all of my homemade dressings, this one works great as a vegetable topping.  When I made this dressing, I was also roasting some plain slices of eggplant for use in another recipe, so when the eggplant was done, I nabbed a couple of slices off the roasting rack and put them in a saucer, covering them with the new dressing!  Finger-lickin’ good!

Of course, it’s great on a lettuce and tomato salad, just to stay with the salad dressing theme, right?

tomato3

Rich Tomato and Tofu Salad Dressing

Ingredients:

28 oz can of “no salt added” crushed tomatoes with basil
1 pkg silken tofu
1 level tbsp of turmeric powder (a little less would be fine, if you’re not sure you’ll enjoy it.  Turmeric is about as subtle as this guy!)
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 of roasted sweet bell pepper, sliced (I use yellow or orange ones to keep the color them going…and I like them better!)
1 small yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 medium lemon
1/2 cup of your favorite vinegar (I used raw coconut vinegar I bought at Sprouts.)

Combine all ingredients into a blender and blend until the dressing is creamy in appearance, like this:

tomato2

The dressing recipe takes about 15 minutes to put together, once you have roasted the sweet bell pepper, and that can be done anytime you are roasting anything, just to have it handy for later.  It makes about 32 oz, if I can keep from tasting it a dozen times while I’m making it.

There you have it!  A perfect, rich dressing for a “no salt added” and “no oil added” diet!

Further reading:

Dr. Weil’s take on turmeric
Why Pepper Boosts Turmeric Blood Levels, Dr. Michael Greger
Turmeric and Black Pepper Fight Cancer Stem Cells, Anticancer: A New Way of Life

Avocado seeds put to healthful use

Could it be true!

I usually eat at least one avocado a day. I add them to smoothies, take them in my lunch, packed with a sharp knife from home so I can keep them whole and fresh until I’m ready to cut into them, and sometimes, I just eat them in the skin, adding some black pepper or red pepper sauce when it’s handy.

Until a few weeks ago, I had always done what I had always done — I threw the enormous seeds into the nearest trash can, figuring they would be impossible to crack without a jackhammer, and I did not have one in my garage.  And, then, I started reading about avocado seeds and found out that about 70 percent of the avocado’s nutrient value is in the seed itself! Holy guacamole! (I just had to say that.)

Health benefits of avocado seeds

So, thanks to Google and the pioneers on the natural foods front, I found that avocados are indeed healthful for a variety of health conditions.  Ranging from old wive’s tale practices to modern studies, the reported benefits are that avocado seeds provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, extraordinary benefits to digestion (very high in soluble fiber), and excellent collagen support for healthy skin.

As one who suffers from the autoimmune disease, psoriasis, as well as mild psoriatic arthritis — as well as one who refuses to get started on prescription drugs, many of which have severe and life-threatening sideshows — I’ve been adding natural foods to my diet for several weeks to battle inflammation and joint damaging arthritic diseases.  A sidenote: after only seven days on a pure Eat To Live diet, following Dr. Fuhrman’s arthritis protocol, my joint pain went away and has not returned.  This was also true of my previous stint on Eat To Live when I was mostly focused on weight loss instead of building my immune system.  When my weight loss was accomplished, and my doctor’s less than enthusiastic response to my taking myself off my blood pressure and cholesterol meds, I went back to bad habits.  All the joint problems returned in full force within a matter of a few months, and, of course, in a matter of two years, I had regained 70 of the 85 pounds I had lost.

Avocado seed prep

So, back to the main topic!  Being curious, I started collecting the seeds by washing them thoroughly and placing them in a bowl in my window sill where they could get some sunshine and would dry within a few days.  After I had a few of them ready for grinding, I assembled my arsenal and went to work.

avoseed1
I have my cutting board, chef’s knife, my seed (coffee) grinder, three seeds, and my Snapware storage container. the seed shown here on the bottom still has the thin outer layer of skin loosely attached. The darkest of the three (top right) is the driest, and consequently, the hardest to crack.  The top left seed is ideal because it is still a little soft at the core and provides a notch where the knife blade can be anchored when making the first cut.  Aside: some people use a hammer with the seed placed in a plastic bag, which is not a bad idea, though I did not find it necessary.

After making the first halving cut, lengthwise, the rest of the cuts were easy, using the heel of the chef’s knife.  Just make sure all fingers and curious cats are clear of the possible collateral damage and shrapnel that may be involved if the attempt fails.  If it does fail, go get the hammer!  Here it is split eight ways:

avoseed3

By the way, this is the driest of the seeds that I showed you above on the top right. It worked fine by anchoring the knife blade in the yellow portion.

I continued to cut the seeds into smaller and smaller sizes as long as I had enough yellow to anchor my knife blade.  Then, when I was satisfied that the sizes would be small enough not to tear up my seed grinder, I put a few pieces at a time into the grinder and ground them until they were powdery with a few small chunks remaining.

avoseed2

I store the ground seed in my Snapware container and use 1 tbsp a day in my morning breakfast smoothie.  Some bloggers have complained that the seed has a bitter taste.  The seeds are loaded with tannins, hence the mild bitterness.  I didn’t find it offensive at all, but then, my favorite wines were always the very dry red cabs.  No drinky alcohol any more, but it explains my tolerance for tannins.

avoseed4

Sources (among many others who say pretty much the same thing):

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23448442
http://dramyneuzil.com/tag/eating-avocado-pit/
http://dailysuperfoodlove.com/4448/the-surprising-benefits-of-avocado-seeds/

Zucchini and Mixed Veggie Sauté

I wanted to start this Saturday right by eating a plate full of fresh vegetables, having in mind something spicy and sautéed.  I was also definitely in the mood for the tactile pleasure of chopping and slicing…anger issues?  Hope not!

The sun had started to throw its light into our bedroom window, but only barely. Surveying my taste buds, I knew it had to be something with garlic and chopped onions, so I started there.  We had a large zucchini, freshly grown locally, and I had been trying to work it into my plans for a few days.  The result of it all was this recipe, Zucchini and Mixed Veggie Sauté.  I would have inserted “Breakfast” between “Veggie” and “Sauté”, but then there would be a few smart alecks who would say something like, “Where’s the bacon?”  To which, I was preparing to say, “Still on the happy pig!”

Zucchini and Mixed Veggie Sauté

Ingredients

1 large zucchini
1 large whole carrot
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
4 brussels sprouts, sliced
1 whole lemon, for zest and finishing touches
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 pinches of turmeric powder
Black pepper to taste
1 tsp red pepper flakes

Directions

Shave zucchini and carrot and place in mixing bowl.  Add zest of one lemon, and toss mix until evenly distributed.  Quarter remaining lemon and set aside for later use.

zucchprep

Chop shaved zucchini and carrot and place in a separate mixing bowl.  Add sliced brussels sprouts.  Set aside.

zuchprepIn a large skillet, heated to medium-high, place onion and garlic, and stir frequently until the edges of the onion starts to brown and the onion is half translucent.  Then, add the zucchini and mixed vegetables to the pan.  Stir to mix well.  Sprinkle the turmeric, black pepper, and red pepper flakes on top of the mix.  Set temperature to medium-low and cover.  Check a couple of times to unstick veggies, if necessary.  You may also add a tablespoon of water at a time to assist with unsticking.

zuchsaut

After eight minutes or so, remove lid, and add the shaved veggies and lemon zest.  Stir into mix.  Cover.  Keep covered for about 3 minutes.  Remove lid and take skillet off of hot burner.

zuchtopRemove to serving plate, and add lemon, if desired.

zuchready

Makes 2 large servings as main dish, or 4 side servings.

Optional additions:

Red cabbage, for color, or if brussels sprouts are not wanted
Raw sunflower seeds as topping
Pressed extra firm tofu

Tangy Tofu Raspberry Apricot Dressing

I just finished last week’s batch of Sweet Tofu Salad Dressing and decided to jazz it up a little bit with some tangy berries and more vinegar.  This is sweet, but it has a little more “pucker” in it.

tangytofuTANGY TOFU RASPBERRY APRICOT DRESSING

Ingredients:

1 16 oz package of silken organic tofu
1 cup fresh organic raspberries
3 fresh apricots, sliced
1/2 cup fruit vinegar, (I used this dates vinegar from Durra.)
1/2 cup ground sunflower seeds

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients into a blender and puree. Keep refrigerated.  Makes about 28 oz.

Spicy black-eyed peas and barley bake

black-eyed peasThe black-eyed pea has been a favorite of my family for generations.  I remember the distinctive fragrance of the steam emanating from the boiling water as a child, and it brings back great memories of my mom’s home cooking.  With a piece of homemade cornbread, sliced tomatoes, and black-eyed peas, nothing else mattered much.

Incorporating this favorite legume into Eat To Live is naturally a part of the plan (See G-BOMBS.).

This recipe combines a healthful grain, barley, with my Fresh Tomato Sauce and the black-eyed pea.  The quantities below are for a large dish of multiple servings throughout the week as an entree, and you may want to adjust to fit your needs.

bepbarleySPICY BLACK-EYED PEAS AND BARLEY BAKE

Ingredients:

4 cups dried black-eyed peas
2 cups whole grain dry barley
24 oz Fresh Tomato Sauce (Very Spicy.  If you want something less so, you can use “no salt added” variety off the grocery shelf, adding your own favorite spices)

Instructions:

Unlike most dry bean preparations, for black-eyed peas, it is not necessary to soak them for several hours ahead of time.  In fact, by doing so, the peas are less suited for this recipe because they can lose their “whole” appearance and get too mushy.  Instead, wash the peas thoroughly and boil them for about ten minutes, or until the peas are chewable but still retain good firmness.

While peas are boiling, rinse the dry barley thoroughly with tap water, drain and pour into large mixing bowl.

Add Fresh Tomato Sauce to barley.

Remove peas from heat and dump them into a colander.  Run cool tap water over them to rinse off any remaining residue. When drained, add the peas to the other ingredients and combine by stirring lightly.  Empty into oven-safe dish, and just enough water, if necessary, to cover the peas (This step may not be necessary, though you want to make sure all the peas have access to direct moisture.).  Check every 30 minutes to make sure the peas are moist.  Add small amounts of water, if needed.

Heat in covered dish at 380 degrees for about 90 minutes.

Servings: 8-12

Broccoli mushroom sauté

Tonight, my wife, our daughter and daughter-in-LAW (yay!) went over to my mother’s home to have dinner and play some table games.  This has become a tradition, of late, to share in the responsibility of bringing home-cooked food, and enjoying an evening together, almost every weekend.

It has become a bit more challenging for the past six weeks, to make something that will strictly adhere to the Eat To Live plan that I follow, and at the same time, provide something that everyone can enjoy, without resorting to using oils, other fats, and added salt, three of the basic restrictions of the plan.  I was right there with them six weeks ago, and I know now how dependent I was on the flavors of fat and salt.  Once I broke through those cravings — which took about a week for me — it has been easy, and I delight in the flavors of new spices and natural tastes of vegetables and grains.

broccmush

Preparation complete

One of the dishes I took tonight was this broccoli and mushroom sauté that came to mind while I was planning my cooking for the day, still lying in bed early this morning.  It’s a very simple recipe; however, I have not practiced the sauté method, using only water.  My past attempts turned into a boil, rather than a sauté, and it did not work out very well.  It went much better tonight, and I will quickly become accustomed to the cooking method.

Here is the recipe

BROCCOLI MUSHROOM SAUTÉ

Ingredients:

3 cups fresh broccoli, cut into small bite-size florets
3 cups portobello mushrooms, washed thoroughly, and sliced
1 leek, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
black pepper to taste

Instructions:

In large skillet, pour just enough water to cover about half of the skillet.  Tilt skillet back and forth to spread the water until it barely coats the bottom.  Use a medium-high setting on the stove to bring water to sizzle or steam starts to rise.  When skillet is hot enough pour in the chopped leek and minced garlic, and stir almost continuously until the leek is almost translucent.  Introduce more water to the skillet if needed to keep contents from sticking.  When leek and garlic mixture is ready, put the broccoli and mushrooms into the skillet, and mix thoroughly with the leek and garlic.  Cover contents with the lid to the skillet, and reduce heat to medium-low.  Check after 10-15 minutes to be sure enough moisture is being generated by the vegetables to keep the contents from burning or sticking.  This is also a good time to add the walnuts if you are using them.  You might want to turn the contents every 10-15 minutes to cook evenly.  After 30-40 minutes, check the broccoli to see if it is cooked.  Some firmness is desirable to me, but use your own judgment.  Remove the skillet from the heat and add black pepper as desired.  Serve immediately.

Servings: 6-8