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Garcinia Cambogia, The New Super food Wave Hitting Singapore?

Green Garcinia cambogia

This new found fruit has seen a rise in consumption in Singapore. It is mostly ingested in a pill form and is said to have many different benefits, including weight loss.

What is it?

Garcinia cambogia is a tropical fruit native to South and South-east Asia that is very commonly used in Asian recipes. It is green, rather small (the size of an apple), and is pumpkin shaped. It is well known for its sour taste. In the late 1960s, an acid (hydroxycitric acid) has been discovered in the fruit’s rind, which has been found to provide many benefits, such as appetite reduction, improved cholesterol and triglyceride levels, increased weight loss, and mood enhancement.

How does hydroxycitric acid work?

Hydroxycitric acid (HCA) was discovered over four decades ago, and since then studies have shown that it provides many benefits for humans. HCA seems to inhibit citrate lyase, an enzyme that is used by the body to produce fat out of carbohydrates. HCA blocks a portion of this enzyme, making it more difficult for the body to turn starches and sugars into fat. This means that rather than be accumulated as fat, carbohydrates are diverted into energy production.

What are the benefits of garcinia cambogia?

As discussed above, one of the benefits of garcinia cambogia is less energy being stored as fat, which means that it should (and does) aid weight loss. One recent study by Dr. Harry Preuss of Georgetown University Medical Center showed that participants HCAHCA lost significantly more weight than those using placebo. In another study, also by Dr. Preuss, those not supplementing HCA lost an average of 3.5 pounds, whereas those that did supplement HCA, lost an average of 10.5 pounds.

Weekend Reading, 5.24.15

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When I woke up this morning, just before 6, I immediately started to slide my feet out of bed. I was feeling more foggy than usual, thanks to my allergies, and I started to run through the day’s schedule and to-do list. What time were my clients scheduled for? How many meal plans were on the docket for that morning? Where was I with my freelance projects, and did I have any substantive writing to do this afternoon? A moment or so later, it dawned on me that it’s Sunday, and I don’t have any clients on the schedule, and I’ve made an effort to take tomorrow off so that I can quietly catch up on blogging, household stuff, and spend some time with Steven. It was the nicest feeling.

I hope that everyone else is enjoying the prospect of a long weekend, or at least taking a few hours today to rest and restore. Perhaps these links and recipes will serve as pleasant (and thought-provoking) distraction.

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For several weeks now, I’ve been ogling my friend Jackie’s artichoke “crab” cakes with sriracha tartare sauce. Steven and I had hearts of palm crab cakes at Great Sage last year on my birthday, and he has raved about them ever since. I think it’s time to give Jackie’s version a try.

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This Mexican brussels sprout slaw with quinoa from Sylvia of Feasting at Home is so creative and unusual–I’ve rarely seen brussels sprouts paired with these seasonings!

red-lentil-waffles-with-rosemary-pomegranate-syrup

I love savory waffles, and I love waffles made with unconventional batters (like mung bean or chickpea flour). I couldn’t help but be intrigued by Josie and Tanney’s red lentil waffles. Served with pomegranate syrup, they’re both savory and sweet–and probably quite rich in protein and fiber, thanks to the lentils!

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Summer is the season of on-the-go snacks. Rachael’s almond trail mix cookies (vegan and gluten free) look like a perfect addition to picnic lunches, hiking backpacks, travel carry ons, or the kitchen cookie jar :-)

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And while we’re on the topic of sweets, what can I say about my friend Ashley’s crispy peanut butter cups, featuring cooked quinoa and dark chocolate? Nothing. Just make them.

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1. I’m a big fan of Dan Buettner‘s books, and I enjoyed his recent article in the WSJ about Sardinia, an island which is home to 21 centenarians. (To give you some context, Sardinia has a total population of about 10,000; only about 4 Americans in every 10,000 reaches the age of 100.) Buettner talks about some of the Sardinians healthful habits, such as physical activities (gardening, walking) and a diet that is rich in complex carbohydrates, especially legumes. But it’s the culture of Sardinia that interests him the most. He writes,

What we found in Sardinia is similar in other blue zones. None of the spry centenarians I’ve met over the years said to themselves at age 50, “I’m going get on that longevity diet and live another 50 years!” None of them bought a treadmill, joined a gym or answered a late-night ad for a supplement.

Instead, they lived in cultures that made the right decisions for them. They lived in places where fresh vegetables were cheap and accessible. Their kitchens were set up so that making healthy food was quick and easy. Almost every trip to the store, a friend’s house, work or school occasioned a walk. Their houses didn’t have mechanized conveniences to do house work, kitchen work or yard work; they did it by hand.”

Buettner is also quick to note that diet and exercise are only one part of the longevity equation. Life in Sardinia is firmly wrapped around community, and it is clear that this helps to keep its inhabitants healthy. Buettner reports traveling to the hamlet of Moses, where

“…I met 94-year old Salvatore Pinna and three of his friends, whose ages ranged from 88 to 90. They wore woolen newsboy caps and the kind of rugged tweed jacket fashionable in both sheep pastures and the village square. They get together every morning for coffee, again in the afternoon to play dominoes and at night to drink homemade Cannonau wine. Two of them were living alone, but as one told me, ‘We’re never alone.’”

2. An interesting article on the evolution of bone health. Apparently, the human skeletal system is thinning, and the fact that we are far more inactive than our ancestors is largely to blame.

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3. A cool story, via Slate. Anthropologist Kate Clancy recently spent a Saturday morning listening to NPR with her daughter. She heard astrophysicist Shrinivas Kulkarni interviewed, and was struck when he described scientists as “boys with toys.” When the phrase was repeated and emphasized, she started to get angry–especially as she thought about how these sorts of stereotypes might influence her daughter.

My 7-year-old daughter knows more about whooping crane migration than most adults do, can sex a monarch butterfly, and has designed her own tools using a 3-D printer in her dad’s lab. But I know what is coming: Research shows that middle school, a major time for gender identity development, is when many girls begin to lose a sense of having science be part of their identities. By high school many drop science classes despite outperforming the boys who stay. In higher education, implicit biases will continue to plague her: Recent work presented by Daniel Z. Grunspan at the American Association of Physical Anthropologists meetings, for instance, demonstrated that in biology classrooms, male students are not only evaluated by their peers as more competent, but male students consistently underevaluate female students. In my own work, in a collaboration with Julienne Rutherford, Robin Nelson, and Katie Hinde, we have shown that female scientists in the field sciences, particularly trainees, face hostile work environments, including sexual harassment and assault.”

So, Clancy started the hashtag #girlswithtoys, and it’s gone viral on Twitter.

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Clancy, who studies the evolutionary origins of women’s physiology and cultural origins of gender inequality, is excited about it, and so am I.

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4. I really enjoyed Victoria Schlesinger’s recent article about evolution for Aeon. Schlesinger echoes other scientists who have recently alleged that the process of evolutional selection is actually happening far more rapidly — sometimes within a small number of generations — than we have previously assumed was possible.

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5. Finally, I’m sure that many of you saw this already, but two Dutch artists cut exactly 98 foods into identical cubes. Can you guess them all? I got almost all of the vegetables and fruits, but missed nearly all of the fish and meat. Go figure! Regardless of how many you can guess, the spread of foods is pretty mesmerizing and beautiful.

On that whimsical note, my friends, I’m off for the day. But I’ll return tomorrow night, and in the meantime, I wish you a great Sunday.

xo

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Smoky Sunchoke and Cauliflower Soup

Smoky Sunchoke and Cauliflower Soup

Sunchokes are the sort of ingredient that I extol frequently and purchase rarely. I don’t have a very good excuse for this, except for the fact that sunchokes–also known as Jerusalem artichokes–tend to dwell in farmers’ markets and grocery stores for only a short period of time each year, usually in the spring. If you don’t catch them while they’re in season, you may easily go a long time without them.

Sunchokes

The last time I spotted sunchokes at my farmers’ market, I pointed them out to a friend. “Oooh,” she sighed. “Sunchokes.” Food lovers tend to feel strongly about these knobby vegetables, which sort of resemble a stouter version of ginger root. Once you develop a taste for them, it’s not hard to see why they inspire such affection. When you roast them, they crisp up like potatoes, but with a more delicate, less starchy texture. When you puree them, they become silky smooth and creamy. They can be mashed, sauteed, or–as you’ll see in this recipe–sliced thin and turned into chips. They’re versatile, and they’re fun.

sunchoke chips

In addition to their culinary appeal, sunchokes have a number of noteworthy health properties. They’re very high in inulin, a type of carbohydrate that’s classified as a prebiotic. Prebiotics are impartially digested in the small intestine. When they pass on to the large intestine, they are partially fermented by gut microflora (1). Research suggests that, over time, they can encourage the growth of more beneficial bacterial species, like bifidobacterium (2, 3, 4). (Hope you don’t mind the references lately–I’m trying to get back into the habit!) In addition to this, sunchokes are high in thiamine, which is essential for energy production and nervous system support, and potassium, which aids in electrolyte balance.

Smoky Sunchoke and Cauliflower Soup

I finally got my hands on a pound of sunchokes this past week, and it took me some time to figure out what to do with them. I decided to make a sunchoke and cauliflower soup, and I’m so glad I did. I’ve pureed and mashed sunchokes in the past, but this was my first time pureeing them into a spring soup. I love the sweetness that the sunchokes added to the pot (inulin can be converted to fructose over time, so sunchokes have some natural sweetness), and they paired so easily and naturally with cauliflower.

Smoky Sunchoke and Cauliflower Soup

I kept the seasoning simple here: just a whole lot of paprika. The smoked paprika is what creates the most flavor, but sweet paprika definitely plays a role in the soup, too. Personally, I find that sunchokes have a slightly smoky flavor on their own, so this soup highlighted a lot of what I love in the individual ingredients. It’s nice when a recipe does that.

You certainly don’t have to make the sunchoke chips that the recipe calls for: really, they’re just for garnish. But once you have them, it’s hard not to appreciate how salty/sweet and tasty they are, or to nibble on them while you finish the soup off.

Smoky Sunchoke and Cauliflower Soup

 

Smoky Sunchoke and Cauliflower Soup

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon harissa powder
  • 1 pound sunchokes, peeled and quartered (reserve 2 sunchokes for the chip garnish, if you’re making it)
  • 1 medium head cauliflower, chopped into large florets (about 1- 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) raw cashews, soaked for a few hours and drained
  • 1 scant tablespoon lemon juice

Instructions

  1. If you’d like to make the sunchoke chip garnish, preheat your oven to 400. take your two reserved sunchokes and use a mandolin to slice them thinly (1/8 inch thick). Spread the chips on a parchment lined baking sheet and spray lightly with olive or coconut or grapeseed oil spray, if desired, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake the chips for 15 minutes, or until crispy. Set them aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion. Sauté the onion for 5 minutes, or until it’s clear and soft. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute, or until the garlic is fragrant. Add the salt, smoked paprika, sweet paprika, and harissa to the pot, and mix the spices into the onion/garlic mixture.
  3. Add the sunchokes and cauliflower to the pot, along with the vegetable broth and water. Raise the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. When it boils, lower it to a simmer and cover it. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until both the sunchokes and the cauliflower are tender.
  4. Transfer half of the soup to a blender and add half of the cashews. Blend the mixture till smooth, transfer it to another pot (or other container). Add the second half of the soup to the blender, along with the remaining cashews, and blend till smooth. Add this batch of soup to the first, and stir. Season the soup to taste.
  5. Transfer the soup to serving bowls. Top each with a small handful of sunchoke chips, and serve. Stored in an airtight container in the fridge, the soup will keep for up to five days.
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http://www.choosingraw.com/smoky-sunchoke-and-cauliflower-soup/

I love that this soup only needs to simmer for twenty minutes. I love the hint of heat that harissa gives it. I love the smoky, sweet flavors. In short, I love this soup.

Smoky Sunchoke and Cauliflower Soup

I hope you’ll all love it as much as I do. If you’re not accustomed to working with sunchokes, perhaps this is the push you’ll need! And if you don’t have sunchokes, know that you could use potato as a good substitute; you’ll just end up with a slightly thicker soup.

On that note, I’m wishing all of you a wonderful holiday weekend (or regular weekend). I’ll be back on Sunday with my weekend reading post, which I always look forward to assembling. And on Monday, a post about culture–specifically, the practice of breaking bread in families or in groups–and how it intersects with the choice to be vegan.

Till soon,

xo

1. Slavin, J. Fiber and prebiotics: mechanisms and health benefits. Nutrients. 2013 Apr; 5(4): 1417–1435.

2. Gibson G.R., Roberfroid M.B. Dietary modulation of the human colonic microbiota: Introducing the concept of prebiotics. J. Nutr. 1995;125:1401–1412

3. Brownawell A.M., Caers W., Gibson G.R., Kendall C.W.C., Lewis K.D., Ringel Y., Slavin J.L. Prebiotics and the health benefits of fiber: Current regulatory status, future research, and goals. J. Nutr2012; 142:1–13.

4. Saavedra J.M., Tschernia A. Human studies with probiotics and prebiotics: Clinical implications.Br. J. Nutr. 2002; 87: S241–S246.

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Purple Asparagus and Quinoa Salad with Peas and Pea Shoots

Purple Asparagus and Quinoa Salad with Peas and Pea Shoots

It might be an overstatement to call this quinoa and asparagus salad “the perfect spring meal.” But in my world, this dish is as close as it gets to seasonal perfection, and I can tell you that this is the sort of recipe that I will make again and again as summer progresses, varying the vegetables based on what’s freshest and most appealing. I never seam to get tired of quinoa salads; they make for such a quick and easy lunch, and they can be easily paired with soups or stews for a satisfying dinner.

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This week’s quinoa salad was inspired by a bunch of purple asparagus, kindly sent to me by the folks at Frieda’s. Frieda’s has been in the produce business since 1962, and the company’s founder, Frieda Caplan, was/is apparently the first woman to own a produce business. Frieda’s is known for stocking grocery stores with unusual fruits and vegetables, including purple potatoes, sunchokes, Elephant garlic, and Habanero Chiles. I’ve been lucky enough to sample some of Frieda’s seasonal produce, and it’s always a treat–especially since the company often features and shares fruits and vegetables that I might not think to find and use on my own.

Purple asparagus is a great example. I love regular asparagus, as does my boyfriend, so we buy it frequently all spring and summer long. But I’m rarely intrepid enough to pick up different colored asparagus at the farmer’s market, and it was nice to have an excuse to use the purple variety for a change. Purple asparagus is very similar in texture and taste to green asparagus, but it is slightly sweeter (it has about 20% more naturally occurring sugars). I love the tender, sweet bite it lent to this salad.

Purple Asparagus and Quinoa Salad with Peas and Pea Shoots

As you can see, some of the purple color fades as the asparagus cooks. But the nice thing about trying a new shade of a favorite vegetable is that one can reap the benefits of a different set of phytonutrients. Anthocyanins–the pigments that lend purple color to this variety of asparagus, as well as to plums, blueberries, strawberries, purple cabbage, eggplants, and cherries–are a type of flavonoids. Flavonoids are known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and anthocyanins boast a particularly impressive array of potential benefits (1). They seem to have a protective effect against cardiovascular disease (2, 3, 4), likely because they can help to relieve systolic blood pressure and arterial stiffness. They may also help to fight neuroinflammation, which may lead to increased cognitive function and memory (5, 6), and a few studies, both in vitro and in human test subjects, have shown that they may help to prevent proliferation of tumors associated with colon cancer (7, 8). Like other forms of asparagus, the purple stuff is also rich in Vitamins A and C.

But enough of the health benefits. Asparagus is delicious, and it is a perfect celebration of spring produce. Here, it meets tender, sweet green peas and a peppery lemon dressing. I love the addition of pea shoots on top of the salad: it adds texture, crunch, and a beautiful, bright dose of green color.

Purple Asparagus and Quinoa Salad with Peas and Pea Shoots

Purple Asparagus and Quinoa Salad with Peas and Pea Shoots (Gluten Free)

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

    For the quinoa salad:
  • 1 pound purple asparagus, washed, woody ends trimmed off, and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/4 cups quinoa, rinsed under cold water in a fine sieve until the water runs clear
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen green peas, thawed or steamed till bright green and tender (alternately, you can blanch fresh green peas for 3 minutes, or until tender)
  • 1 heaping cup pea shoots, chopped in half
  • For the dressing:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon white wine or champagne vinegar
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced finely or crushed (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I like lots of pepper in this recipe)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Toss the asparagus pieces in the olive oil. Place them onto a parchment or foil lined baking sheet and sprinkle them with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Roast for 15-20 minutes, or until they’re tender and a little crispy on the outside, stirring them halfway through. Set the roasted asparagus aside.
  2. While the asparagus roasts, bring the quinoa and water to boil in a medium sized pot. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cover the quinoa. Cook for 15 minutes, or until all of the water is absorbed. Fluff the quinoa gently with a fork and return the lid to the pot. Allow the quinoa to rest for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Transfer the quinoa and asparagus to a large mixing bowl and add the peas. Add the dressing and toss the salad gently, so that all of the dressing is incorporated. Check the salad for seasoning and add more salt, pepper, and lemon as desired.
  4. Divide the salad onto four plates. Top each with a quarter cup of chopped pea shoots, and serve.
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http://www.choosingraw.com/purple-asparagus-and-quinoa-salad-with-peas-and-pea-shoots/

My favorite kind of dish: nutritious, bright, and oh-so-pretty to look at. It’s hard not to love pea shoots on just about anything. If you don’t happen to have pea shoots, though, feel free to substitute other sprouts, or a handful of crispy arugula or dandelion greens instead. As for the asparagus, it certainly doesn’t have to be purple — regular asparagus will work perfectly, even without the anthocyanins.

Purple Asparagus and Quinoa Salad with Peas and Pea Shoots Purple Asparagus and Quinoa Salad with Peas and Pea Shoots

I hope you enjoy this seasonal recipe, everyone. As always, let me know if you like it. If you’re on the hunt for more spring recipe inspiration, I also wanted to share last week’s New Veganism recipe with you. It’s a vegan fried rice with baby bok choy and peas (because I just can’t get enough of them!). It’s quick, easy, and super flavorful–perfect for a mid-week meal.

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Speaking of that, I hope that your week is off to a good start. I’ll be back on Thursday with a new, springtime soup recipe!

xo

1. Webb, D. Anthocyanins. Today’s Dietitian. 2014; 16 (3).

2. Wallace TC. Anthocyanins in cardiovascular disease. Adv Nutr. 2011;2:1-7.

3. Mink PJ, Scrafford CG, Barraj LM, et al. Flavonoid intake and cardiovascular disease mortality: a prospective study in postmenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85(3):895-909.

4. Jennings A, Welch AA, Fairweather-Tait SJ, et al. Higher anthocyanin intake is associated with lower arterial stiffness and central blood pressure in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;96(4):781-788.

5. Spencer JP. The impact of fruit flavonoids on memory and cognition. Br J Nutr. 2010;104 Suppl 3:S40-S47.

6. Youdim KA, Shukitt-Hale B, Joseph JA. Flavonoids and the brain: interactions at the blood-brain barrier and their physiological effects on the central nervous system. Free Radic Biol Med. 2004;37(11):1683-1693.

7. Wang LS, Sardo C, Rocha CM, et al. Effect of freeze-dried black raspberries on human colorectal cancer lesions. Presented at: AACR Special Conference in Cancer Research: Advances in Colon Cancer Research; November 14-17, 2007; Cambridge, MA.

8. Thomasset S, Berry DP, Cai H, et al. Pilot study of oral anthocyanins for colorectal cancer chemoprevention. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2009;2(7):625–633.

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How eating better can make you happier

A lot of people think food is pretty straightforward when it comes to improving how you feel. Just pick your favorite meal, maybe grab a beer or glass of wine, and go to town! Unfortunately, it’s not so simple.

A favorite meal or snack will definitely perk you up for a bit, but the effect won’t be as long-lasting, consistent, or healthy as incorporating a variety of vitamins and minerals into your regular diet. There are even some foods that have natural stress-reducing effects, making them a great way to improve mood without resorting to comfort food.

Essential minerals

Zinc and Magnesium are both indirectly associated with improved mood. Studies show that people with depression tend to have lower magnesium levels than people without depression. Some antidepressants, like amitriptyline and sertraline, actually increase magnesium levels in red blood cells. There is animal evidence to suggest a lack of magnesium in the diet is associated with increased anxiety and symptoms of depression, but more research is needed to confirm this kind of direct relationship in people.

Bananas, dark leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, avocados, and dark chocolate are good sources of magnesium.

Zinc does not have an antidepressant effect by itself, but it increases the effectiveness of antidepressant effects from other food and supplements. Meat, eggs, legumes, and oysters are high in zinc.

To supplement zinc, take 25 – 30 mg a day, with a meal. Zinc supplementation does not improve mood when supplemented by people suffering from clinical depression.

Fighting stress, fatigue, and anxiety

Need help with your sleep? A great way to avoid feeling tired during the day is a good night’s rest, but for most of us, that might be easier said than done. Chamomile (Matricaria recutita or Chamomilla recutita) has traditionally been used for its relaxing and calming effect. It is often brewed into a tea. Two double-blinded studies have shown chamomile to be effective for people struggling with anxiety and troubled sleep, though more research is needed to determine the mechanism for this effect.

Another option for fighting fatigue is supplementing with Ornithine. Ornithine is an amino acid that can alleviate fatigue associated with elevated ammonia levels. Ammonia buildup can be the result of prolonged exercise or long work hours. Several liver disorders, like hepatic encephalopathy, are also associated with high levels of ammonia.

To supplement ornithine, take 2 – 6 grams a day. People with normal ammonia levels will not benefit from ornithine supplementation.

If stress seems to be the root of your problems, supplementing Rhodiola Rosea and Ashwagandha might help. Both these supplements are adaptogen compouds. Adaptogens desensitize the body to stress before it occurs and can alleviate depression, mood swings, and irritability. More specifically, rhodiola rosea has been specifically shown to prevent and relieve burnout caused by stress. Ashwagandha is well-tested and has been shown to be effective for athletes, as well as people suffering from social anxiety.

Daily doses of 50 mg of Rhodiola rosea have been shown to be effective at fighting daily fatigue. To supplement Rhodiola rosea in preparation for a specific stressful event, take 288 – 680 mg. Do not exceed 680 mg, as higher doses have been shown to be ineffective. To supplement ashwagandha, take 300 – 500 mg, with breakfast, in preparation for a stressful day.

Fighting depression

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are associated with a variety of health benefits, and preliminary evidence suggests treatment-resistant depression is associated with a low concentration of EPA in the brain.

Fish Oil, derived from fatty fish like salmon, sardines, tuna, mussels, and trout, is high in EPA and DHA. Fish oil supplementation has been shown to be effective at reducing symptoms of depression, specifically when taken by people suffering from major depression. People that eat a lot of fatty fish don’t need to supplement fish oil. Algae is the best alternative for vegetarians and vegans.

Tryptophan is an amino acid that the body uses to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for maintaining mood. Low levels of serotonin are one of the contributing factors to depression. Poultry, seafood, nuts, seeds, dairy, and legumes are all good sources of tryptophan.

Another option for improving serotonin levels is supplementing 5-HTP, the precursor to serotonin. However, eating food that contains tryptophan will enable slower, more prolonged production of serotonin, compared to the rapid production associated with 5-HTP supplementation. Supplementation of tryptophan is not as effective as 5-HTP supplementation.

To supplement 5-HTP, take 300 – 500 mg a day. Do not take 5-HTP if you are taking any neurological drug or antidepressant. High levels of serotonin are very dangerous and potentially lethal.

St. John’s Wort is a well-researched herbal antidepressant, comparable in strength to pharmaceutical alternatives like tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Do not supplement St. John’s Wort if you are taking antidepressants like SSRIs, SNRIs, or MAOIs. St. John’s Wort increases serotonin signaling in the brain and, like 5-HTP, can result in an overdose if taken alongside medication.

Agmatine is a neurotransmitter that works synergistically to increase the effects of other antidepressant compounds, including bupropion, SSRIs, adenosine, imipramine, and folic acid. Agmatine does possess some antidepressant effects, but they are weaker than comparable reference drugs, like imipramine.

Before supplementing a compound to alleviate symptoms of depression, talk to your doctor.

Bon appétit!

Comfort foods tend to be loaded with sodium and packed with calories, without a lot of nutrients to show for them.Don’t give in to the temporary pick-me-up, no matter how tempting it is. Instead, evaluate your weekly diet to determine if you could include some additional healthy foods that will also improve your day-to-day mood.

Change your diet one step at a time. Start by adding a dark, leafy salad to your lunch, or replace burger night with fish night. As you change your diet, take note of your mood. Taking the time to track results will help you stick to your goals.

Supplementation should be the last step in a dietary overhaul. Eating better food to become a happier person is cheaper, delicious, and more effective than supplementation.

Feeling a little under the weather? Click here to read more on supplementing for better mood.

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Weekend Reading, 5.17.15

Choosing-Raw-Weekend-Reading-

As I was drafting this post today, I looked at the date and realize that May is, amazingly, more than halfway over. This spring–this year, really–seems to be flying by. I had so many goals for my blog in 2015, and one of them was to put more of myself into each and every post, to invest my words with the kind of candor and intimacy that (I think) characterized my blog when I first started blogging. But it’s a sad fact that the busier I am, the more impersonal I think my posts become, no matter how hard I try to fill them with my voice. For me, it’s easier generally easier to write about food than it is to write about life. But I do so very much always want the things I say about food to tie into what’s happening in my life.

Anyway, no real reason for this little confessional, except to say that I’m sorry my posts have been a little…businesslike lately. Perhaps I can use the annual birthday post in June to share more of what’s new with me, and maybe that can be the start of a project to bring more of myself back into Choosing Raw.

For now, weekend reading.

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Crackers and dip to start. These wild rice sesame crackers with ginger miso dip from Phi of Princess Tofu couldn’t look more appealing. I love the umami-rich addition of shiitake mushrooms to the dip. And I love the quotation from Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” at the top of the post.

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A beautiful spring/summer entree: lemon millet with asparagus and blistered tomatoes, from Meg, who writes the humorously titled and spunky blog Noming Thru Life.

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I love, love, love kimchi, and I’m always on the lookout for different ways to use it in my food. I love the idea to stuff it into tacos, brought to my attention by Maikin and her Korean kimchi tortillas. The sweet potato/avocado/kimchi combo is one I also use my my nori rolls with sweet potato mash, kimchi, and massaged kale. And it’s awesome.

gnocchi

Another lovely idea for summer: spinach gnocchi with basil pesto from Kate Bradley of Kenko Kitchen. So simple, so flavorful.

Sweet Potato Date Brownies

Finally, sweet potato and date brownies?! I’m not sure if I can handle this meeting of so many of my favorite ingredients. But I’m certainly intrigued. This decadent and healthy dessert is thanks to Agata at Food Porn, Vegan Style, and it is top on my list of must-make sweets.

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1. A new study of 3,626 adult men and women who lead primarily sedentary lifestyles has shown some promising implications about activity level and mortality risk. The issue at hand in this study was that sedentary lifestyle has been linked to increased mortality. But standing desks and treadmill desks and other measures are impractical for many. What’s the solution?

In this study, it was found that those subjects who walked around after standing, replacing some of their sitting time with a light-intensity activity like strolling, “gained a substantial benefit in terms of mortality risk. In fact, if they replaced as little as two minutes of sitting each hour with gentle walking, they lowered their risk of premature death by about 33 percent, compared with people who sat almost nonstop.” This is pretty incredible and hopeful, as it implies that even a small and manageable amount of increased activity can have a profoundly protective impact on health. Read the study abstract here and New York Times coverage here.

2. As I’ve mentioned in posts past, David Katz is one of my health/wellness heroes. Unlike so many others writing about health and wellness today, he’s a stickler for evidence-based conclusions, for assessing the big picture rather than sensationalizing discreet findings or cherry picking, and for bringing a common sense approach to nutrition science. This week, he weighs in on all of the disagreement about saturated fats lately, and he does so with his characteristic wisdom and reason:

What we really do know about saturated fat and heart disease- based on the weight of evidence rather than any one study or any single, potentially silly question- has four fairly clear implications. 

First, a high intake of saturated fat over time is generally associated with a correspondingly higher risk of heart disease, and other chronic disease as well. 

Second, a relatively lower intake of saturated fat is not necessarily protective if the saturated fat is replaced with something just as harmful, such as added sugar. 

Third, not all saturated fat is created equal, and some varieties are clearly innocuous. 

And fourth, and most importantly, focusing on nutrients rather than foods tends to get us into trouble, not out of it!

Personally, I don’t think much about my “saturated fat” intake- but I do choose my foods carefully.  I know that the best foods for my health are vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.  I eat these plentifully, and relatively less of everything else.  The result is that my diet is low in saturated fat- not because I am focused on that, but because eating wholesome foods in sensible combinations reliably results in nutrients sorting themselves out.  In contrast, a focus on any particular nutrient may simply invent a new way to eat badly, or a new variety of junk food.  We’ve had quite enough of that.

So incredibly well said.

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3. New evidence to suggest that infant antiobiotic use is linked to a stronger likelihood of both disease and obesity, as well as dysbiosis, in later adult life. Not surprising, but more evidence on this topic is always interesting. Obviously, antibiotics are vitally important in many cases of acute illness. But overprescription is a real problem, and the risks of unnecessarily aggressive antibiotic use certainly seem to outweigh the benefits.

4. Another microbiome study — this one on a very small and personal scale! Tim Spector is a Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at Kings College, London, and Director of the Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology at St Thomas’ Hospital, London. He is also fascinated by the microbiome, and has recently conducted extensive research on dietary change and its impact on the microbiome as a part of his work. He was most recently curious about how the microbiome of a person eating a standard, Western diet would change under the influence of a fast food diet.

Spector couldn’t experiment on himself in this case because his own diet was considerably healthier than the average Western diet. But his son, a final year genetics student at the University of Aberystwyth, does eat a fairly standard Western diet, and he agreed to switch over to a fast-food diet for ten days, so that changes in his microbiome could be analyzed.

The results were very pronounced: his microbiome was “devastated.”

Tom’s gut had seen massive shifts in his common microbe groups for reasons that are still unclear. Firmicutes were replaced with Bacteroidetes as the dominant type, while friendly bifidobacteria that suppress inflammation halved. However the clearest marker of an unhealthy gut is losing species diversity and after just a few days Tom had lost an estimated 1,400 species – nearly 40% of his total. The changes persisted and even two weeks after the diet his microbes had not recovered. Loss of diversity is a universal signal of ill health in the guts of obese and diabetic people and triggers a range of immunity problems in lab mice.

What’s so fascinating in all of these microbiome studies is how quickly dietary change can have a massive impact. But the good news is that switching one’s diet to include primarily foods that good bacteria thrive off of–including fruits and vegetables, nuts, fermented foods, legumes, and root vegetables–can have an equally fast and beneficial impact.

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5. I’m sure that many of you have seen this article about Madison Holleran, a Penn freshman track runner who committed suicide last year. It is troubling to read, but I think that the author, Kate Fagan, did a good job of telling the story without too much speculation or metaphorizing. Still, she does reflect on how Madison’s social media presence did not seem to belie the pain that she was so clearly suffering through. It’s food for thought in this era of carefully crafted Instagram accounts–we never know the true story from reading photos and captions, even if we believe we do.

Sorry to end on a somber note, friends. But on a more uplifting note, catch Emma’s green recovery story, which was posted on Friday, if you haven’t yet.

I hope you have a nice Sunday and a wonderful week ahead. I’ll return soon with some new recipes!

xo

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The Thing That Makes You Happy: Emma’s Green Recovery Story

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Hi friends. Glad to see your interest in the Jovial Foods giveaway! If you missed it, I’m giving away a beautiful package of organic, gluten free vegan pasta, olive oil, and tomatoes–perfect for whipping up a plant-based pasta dinner. Check it out here.

Speaking of giveaways, last Friday I wrote a post about Zimt, an incredible, artisan chocolate brand that puts vegan ethics at front and center of their work and mission. As I discovered Zimt chocolate, I was lucky enough to get to know the company’s founder, Emma, and hear her story. As it turns out, she–like so many other men and women who find their way to a compassionate lifestyle–has struggled with disordered eating. I asked if she’d be willing to share her story here on Choosing Raw. She said yes, and today we can all read about the single choice that has helped her to emerge from the darkness of anorexia and its aftermath: veganism. I love how Emma connects her healing process to a deep and profound love of animals, and I hope you’ll all be as moved by her words as I am.


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Hey all CR Devotees, all curious, all struggling, all celebrating. Hi Everybody =)

Here’s what I have experienced- somewhat chronologically.

When I was just about to turn 16, I noticed a couple of things. 1. I seemed pretty much like I was in a cage, on an island, in the middle of the ocean- unnoticed and without a strong social network (not Facebook – that didn’t exist then! Man I am feeling old…). 2. I wasn’t special enough to be part of such a group. 3. This was because I didn’t look the part.

Don’t get me wrong- I know that all shapes and all sizes of people are social, hang out, enjoy life (as they should!)- but, it didn’t seem possible for me- not the way I was. So, to be a little bit more noticeable, a little bit more interesting, a little bit more “put together” (as in – I look good, I’m clearly able to be in control of that and who knows what else in life!), I dropped quite a few. This is how I was going to achieve a normal social life, and how I was going to feel comfortable about it.

Or, precisely the opposite.

My mom noticed that her already fairly slight daughter was losing weight. And that led to some outside help. After months of going to outpatient appointments, without any gains whatsoever (mentally or physically), I got checked in. It was actually a relief – the school I was attending was so incredibly demanding (academically), and the stress of going through the appointments, feeling horrible about what I was putting my mom through, and depression, were taking over. I wasn’t really able to focus on homework.

It wasn’t the worst experience. It was a bit of a break, as you can imagine. There was therapy (talking and art), outings with my new buddies, and eventually cooking classes (a somewhat traumatic first one, but just because of how poor the quality of food was – so bad! And I’m actually not that picky – really!). But most importantly, there was some peace of mind for my mom (who happens to be one of the absolute best people to ever exist. Ask anybody who knows her.). So, I could see the benefits and wanted to keep going.

Very few people know this about my plant based journey, but it was in hospital that veganism first really peaked my interest. It was another inpatient- a very eccentric boy- who introduced me to a lifestyle of compassion (and some other things, but the compassion is what stuck with me). I had gone vegetarian for ethical reasons- I don’t want to kill animals- but like most, I never realized how horrible the industries that centre around their secretions is. I was in a bubble- I was in Canada, and thought that all the cows and chickens in my fine country were as happy as could be. I though that fish didn’t have centralized nervous systems, and that they couldn’t feel pain, making it ok to kill and eat them. I was a long way from where I am now, and from where this boy, E, got me.

One of his many talents, other than absolutely incredible artwork, was…baking. Vegan baking, of course. The absolute most decadent, delicious, and above all- so very vegan desserts you can imagine. Gigantic peanut butter chocolate chunk cookies, cupcakes with frosting an inch thick, danishes. I was impressed, to say the least. It was a whole new world. And the most impressive part of all? How it resonated with me. How it just “clicked.” “Does it hurt animals? Yes. Will I participate in it? No.” was absolutely the greatest mantra I have ever created for myself. I loved it. I love it. It wasn’t about me- it was a greater purpose. It was for wonderful beings.

Less than a year later, I was fully out of the program. It was one of the most difficult things I had ever had to do. Complete rock in a hard place scenario. At first, I started by going back to my regular school for a few afternoons a week, which I knew was an incredibly uncomfortable, but necessary, evil.  This was a small school- everybody knew me. Thanks to an announcement made during classes, everybody knew where I was and what was wrong with me. And of course I was treated differently. By everyone. And it was very awkward.

I remember one night in particular, when I was just so drained and so overwhelmed by being back into life and dealing with everybody, that I just broke down. I cried myself to sleep because I wanted to go back to the hospital so badly- I just didn’t want to deal with people anymore. Fortunately, I did have some great people who wouldn’t let me not deal with them- some good friends, who, despite having zero idea what it was like to be dealing with this demon, were very supportive. Unfortunately, there were two other girls in my year who knew all too well what I was dealing with. We were all dealing with it.

And maybe they are still, too. I know I am. Sure- I’ve got a super fantastic vegan chocolate company that will hopefully take over for a very happy world, and sure, I look normal on the outside, and I live a fairly normal life (as normal as possible for an entrepreneur…). But it is still something I battle with. Every. Single. Day. I remember someone telling me that the average is seven years to “get over it”. I remember my 23rd birthday and thinking “Ok- maybe this is it! Maybe my brain will calm down and I can be a happy, content sort of person, please?” I’ll keep working at it. I’ll keep trying to find what works for me, because I know that bits and pieces of what has worked for others, in some sort of combination, will maybe work for me, too. There are a million different configurations of what helps, and what doesn’t help. We’re all so incredibly unique- you can forget about a one size fits all (no pun intended).

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But here is something that helps me. Maybe it will help you or a loved one who is struggling- it may be depression, anxiety, a straight up eating disorder. There is one thing that makes me really, really happy, and feel absolutely at peace. It is animals. It is having that connection with them, even though I don’t know them. It’s recognizing and appreciating how valuable and wonderful they as individuals are. It’s thinking about them- going about their day, or what should be their day- exactly how they want it. It’s just that connection. And living a lifestyle that does not harm some of the most beautiful forms of creation gives me peace. I could be having the worst day- anxious, depressed, feeling like a total failure, but I know I always have that one thing to go back to, and I think it is worth more than 20 years of therapy (Oh trust me- it is!).

I feel so thankful that I’ve found what makes me feel at peace, what makes me feel like life is really worth living, what gives me purpose and connection with beings that are so precious. Maybe that will be the case for you, too. I hope it does, because you absolutely deserve better than what you’re dealing with right now. It could be just the thing that makes you happy.

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Thank you, Emma, for sharing.

The last two Green Recoveries we’ve read–Emma’s today, Kathy’s a few weeks ago–have emphasized veganism in such beautiful ways. The longer I read these stories, the longer I talk about compassion for animals and its intersection with disordered eating, the more I ask vegans to talk about their histories with food, the more convinced I become that there is something truly powerful here–a real connection between ahimsa and healing. It’s really exciting.

I welcome you all to comment on Emma’s lovely, heartfelt post in the coming days. And in the meantime, I wish you a wonderful weekend!

xo

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Carbohydrates for marathoners

If you’re a marathoner (or training to be one), you may have noticed that many popular supplements intended to improve your physical performance, fall flat when used during endurance events. Pre-workout supplements and stimulants, for example, don’t work because a marathon typically lasts longer than the stimulant itself, leaving you crashing mid race. Even Creatine, a supplement used to improve physical performance, is counterproductive because it results in temporary water weight gain, which makes running harder.

Carbohydrate supplements however, are far more effective than traditional physical performance enhancers. Gel packs, or energy gels, are ideal for improving marathon performance because they are easy to ingest during a race.

Energy gel supplementation

So what makes gel packs so effective? Runners talk about eating a big bowl of pasta the night before a race because “carb-loading” is a good way to increase glycogen levels. A lot of glycogen is used in the first 10 minutes of exercise, and the rate of glycogen use falls until it is depleted altogether.

Have you ever ‘hit the wall’ during a marathon?

Glycogen depletion is responsible for that feeling. Eating a lot of carbohydrates the night before might delay the wall, but it won’t necessarily prevent it altogether. This is why energy gels are an ideal way to get mid-race carbohydrates. They are dense and viscous, which reduces the risk of intestinal upset, even during exercise. Plus, they’re light and portable, which means you can carry them with you or easily snag a few from an aid station. Just don’t forget to properly dispose of the wrapper!

The evidence

A recent study investigated whether energy gel supplementation in the middle of a race can help delay or prevent hitting the wall during a marathon. Researchers split non-elite marathon runners into two groups. One group was provided energy gels containing 20 grams of carbohydrates and 30 milligrams of caffeine (equivalent to one cup of tea), and were told to eat two before the race, one when they believed they had hit the wall, and another every 20 minutes afterward. The runners in the second group were left to fend for themselves. Researchers also monitored the water intake of both groups.

The results show that the energy gel group was able to maintain its speed throughout the marathon, while the control group began to drop off around the halfway point. Though both groups were running at about the same speed at the beginning of the marathon, researchers found significant differences at the last three checkpoints of the race, beginning at the 18 mile mark.

The runners supplementing energy gels averaged a completion time of 3:38.31 while the control group had an average completion time of 3:49.26. Energy gel supplementation was found to improve time by just over 10 minutes, or by about 5%.

Preparing for the race

Runners having trouble with energy levels or anxious about hitting ‘the wall’ for the first time can consider energy gel supplementation to improve their time and avoid getting hit by a ton of bricks.

Never try anything for the first time during a race. If energy gels sound right for you, try taking one or two during a long training run. You don’t want to find out gels disagree with you when you’re lining up at the starting line.

New to running? Click here to check out our guide to supplementing for joint health.

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Spaghetti and White Bean Balls, Plus a Jovial Foods Giveaway!

       Spaghetti and White Bean Balls

I love and adore whole grains. I’m hard pressed to think of a food group I’d crave more if I were stuck on a desert island (well, perhaps I’d choose veggies first—but it would be a tough call!). There are few whole grains I don’t like, and I try to use lots of them (especially ancient grains) in my cooking.

As someone who loves all things grainy, I was highly disappointed to realize that I really dislike whole wheat pasta. I love whole grain bread, considerably more than even the most perfect baguettes or sourdough slices or squares of focaccia. So why not whole wheat pasta? Why do I find it so tough, so flavorless, so totally antithetical to all of my ideas of what a great bowl of pasta should taste like?

Fortunately, I was introduced to rice pasta some years ago, and I have never looked back. Rice pasta has both whole grain goodness and a tender, authentic texture—the best of both worlds. It can be confidently served to vegans, gluten free eaters, and pasta lovers alike, which makes it a perfect dinner party or potluck food. It’s great, and I’m always on the lookout for standout new brands.

My latest find is brown rice pasta from Jovial Foods, and it’s a new favorite.

Jovial Foods

I’m so glad that I found this brand. Jovial Foods was founded by a husband and wife team, Carla and Rodolfo. The couple met when Carla was studying Italian abroad for a year, and Rodolfo was in Italy studying agriculture. They shared a passion for food, and they became more passionate about transparency and authenticity within the food industry when their young son showed sensitivities to certain kinds of wheat. Today, Jovial Foods is known for its commitment to gluten free and Einkorn-based grain products. The latter is self explanatory, while Einkorn is a form of wheat that predates dwarf wheat; some people who have trouble digesting conventional wheat products find this low-gluten form of wheat more tolerable.

In addition to its fantastic array of gluten free and Einkorn pastas, Jovial also sells chopped organic tomatoes and high quality, extra virgin olive oil. You can learn more about how the company produces its olive oil, which is made with three ancient varieties of olives grown in the Veneto region of Italy, here. The organic, diced tomatoes are grown on small, organic, family farms in Italy and packed within hours of harvesting (without any salt or additives). They’re packed in a special organic tomato purée that’s prepared in small batches, a similar process to home canning. Having grown accustomed to the salty, acidic taste of most conventional canned tomatoes, I was really surprised and delighted at the delicate taste of these.

Jovial foods

In addition to the gluten free pastas, tomatoes, and olive oil that I was lucky enough to sample, Jovial also makes Einkorn-based cookies, flour, and wheat berries, as well as gluten free cookies (sadly, the cookies contain eggs, but perhaps a vegan variety will emerge soon!). All jovial products are 100% organic and crafted in small batches.

When Jovial shared its lovely products with me, I was determined to create a dish that would showcase their taste and integrity. What better or more authentic choice than a vegan spaghetti and meatball dish?

Spaghetti and White Bean Balls

This recipe was such a pleasure to make and eat, and Steven enjoyed it as much as I did. The base is simple: cooked brown rice spaghetti and a simple, 15-minute marinara sauce. The white bean balls, which are made with cannellini beans, quinoa, and walnuts, are what make it a little special.

White Bean Balls White Bean Balls

There they are, before and after crisping in the oven. They are super tasty, not to mention nutritious. To save time and the recipe easy for busy nights, try prepping the marinara or the bean balls in advance. I love the fact that the balls require no sautéing–just whip them up in the food processor and get started. An additional shortcut for the dish is to use your favorite store-bought brand of marinara sauce, which will save you the time of preparing your own (even though this particular marinara is nice and quick).

Spaghetti and White Bean Balls

Spaghetti and White Bean Balls (Gluten Free)

Yield: 4 Servings

Ingredients

    For the Marinara Sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 28 ounces chopped, peeled, or crushed tomatoes (this is 1 1/2 jars Jovial Foods crushed tomatoes)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons organic sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • For the White Bean Balls:
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1 large clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 large sun-dried tomato halves (about 1/2 cup, packed), soaked in hot water for about 20-30 minutes and chopped
  • 1 cup cannellini, Great White Northern, or navy beans
  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 1 teaspoon dry oregano (or two teaspoons chopped fresh oregano)
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • For the Pasta Dish:
  • 12 ounces brown rice spaghetti
  • Chopped basil

Instructions

  1. To make the white bean balls, preheat the oven to 375F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the walnuts, garlic, and salt in a food processor fitted with the S blade. Process until the walnuts have been ground up.
  2. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, beans, 1/2 cup of the quinoa, oregano, black pepper, and vinegar to the food processor. Pulse until the mixture is uniform and well mixed, but the beans retain some texture. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and add the remaining 1/4 cup cooked quinoa. Mix everything together with your hands. Shape the mixture into sixteen 1-inch balls. Place the balls onto a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, or until the balls are golden brown and crispy, stirring once halfway through. Set the cooked balls aside.
  3. To make the marinara sauce, heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 4-5 minutes, or until the onion is soft and clear. Add the garlic and cook for one or two minutes, or until the garlic has become fragrant. Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, sugar, oregano, and thyme. Simmer the sauce for 10 minutes or until it has thickened slightly.
  4. To prepare the pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until tender. Divide the pasta into four bowls. Top each with about 1/2 cup of sauce, 4 bean balls, and a sprinkle of basil. Serve. Leftover bean balls (if you have any) will keep for up to four days in an airtight container in the fridge.
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http://www.choosingraw.com/spaghetti-and-white-bean-balls-plus-a-jovial-foods-giveaway/

What a wonderful, homey meal. And if you happen to prepare it for one or two people, you can use leftover bean balls in salads.

Spaghetti and White Bean Balls

In order to give CR readers a chance to sample Jovial foods directly, the Jovial company has generously offered one luck reader a package of Jovial products, including gluten free pasta, jarred tomatoes, and olive oil. The same foods that I’ve been lucky enough to try!

Jovial Foods

The giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents. Enter below to win this taste of Italy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Spaghetti and White Bean Balls

I hope you’ll all enjoy getting to know this family-owned company and their delightful products. Also, check out the Jovial Foods website for details on how you can win a free trip to Italy!

Spaghetti and White Bean Balls

That’s it for today, friends. I’ll be back tomorrow with a wonderful new green recovery story.

xo

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Sunflower Seed Romesco

Sunflower Seed Romesco

I have a friend, a friend who is also a food writer and a vegetable enthusiast and a yogi. The first time she and I met, we ended up having a fifteen-minute conversation about sauce. We got on this topic because we’d been on the topic of bowls and how great they are (yes, we are every bit the food nerds that this anecdote would suggest). This created a natural segueway to sauces, because let’s be real: without a good sauce, most bowls are worthless.

Sunflower seed romesco

Normally, when I wax poetic about sauce, I’m thinking of all things tahini and miso and sesame and curry. But there are a lot of herb- and vegetable-based sauces, I love, too: pesto, chimichurri, and sunflower-ranch, to name only a very few. Romesco is one of my all-time favorite sauces, and it deserves a place on this list, too.

Sunflower Seed Romesco

This is the first romesco sauce I’ve posted on this blog, and it is a keeper. Romesco sauce, which originated in Northeastern Spain, is traditionally prepared with roasted peppers, almonds, pine nuts, and/or hazelnuts, garlic, and oil. This version is nontraditional because I use sunflower seeds in place of tree nuts, and it’s so flavorful and rich that I don’t personally think it needs oil. It’s just the right compromise between something dense, like nut pate or hummus, and something loose, like dressing.

I love using sunflower seeds in recipes because they are inexpensive and nutrient dense: chock full of Vitamin E, an antioxidant that may help to reduce inflammation and reduce the symptoms of inflammation-mediated health conditions, like arthritis; phytosterols that can help to reduce cholesterol; and thiamine, which may help with energy, digestion, and immune function. Some folks don’t care for sunflower seeds, and if you are one of them, you are welcome to use pumpkin seeds (pepitas), almonds, pine nuts, hazelnuts, cashews or walnuts in this recipe instead (almost any nut or seed will work, really). As far as the pepper goes, I welcome you to roast your own at home – with a little oven time, it’s easy to do. But if you use roasted red peppers from the jar (which you can find in virtually any grocery store), this becomes an easy sauce to whip up at a moment’s notice from your pantry.

Sunflower Seed Romesco

Sunflower Seed Romesco

Yield: 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted red peppers (from the jar)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano (dried)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1/3-1/2 cup water

Instructions

  1. Place all ingredients except for the water into a food processor fitted with the S blade and pulse a few times to combine.
  2. Continue processing the mixture, drizzling the water in as you go along. You’re aiming for a texture that is coarse but uniform and easy to spoon onto dishes. The romesco sauce will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
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http://www.choosingraw.com/sunflower-seed-romesco/

One of the nicest features of this sauce is its versatility. Traditionally, it is served with fish, lamb, or spring onions, but I’ve always enjoyed it over whole grains, with grilled or baked tofu, or over roasted cauliflower. I also love dipping steamed green beans into romesco sauce for an afternoon snack that’s just a little fancier than regular ‘ole hummus+carrots. And speaking of carrots, it would be a wonderful dressing for roasted carrots, too.

And of course, one of the best uses for any sauce is over a filling, nutrient-dense bowl.

Sunflower Seed Romesco

This beautiful lunchtime creation featured roasted new potatoes and artichokes, cooked quinoa, steamed green beans, and a bed of greens. And romesco sauce, which brought everything together in the nicest of ways.

Sunflower seed romesco

Hopefully you guys will have a chance to try the sauce soon—or perhaps even the bowl. It’s a perfect recipe to keep handy for summer grilling season, and well into the months beyond.

Sunflower seed romesco

Enjoy. And I’ll be back on Wednesday for an awesome new giveaway and product review!

xo

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