Monthly Archives: March 2013

Quinoa Banana Chocolate Cake

Quinoa Banana Chocolate Cake – makes 16 servings

This is such a dense and delicious chocolate cake, which happens to be gluten-free!

Ingredients

1 over ripe banana
4 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1  1/2 cups sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
icing sugar for garnish

Method

In a blender or food processor (or by hand with a whisk) blend together the first 5 ingredients.
Add quinoa and whirl until smooth.
Meanwhile mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Add wet ingredients to dry, mix well and pour into two 8″ cake pans which have been greased and lined with parchment paper.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Turn out onto wire racks, cool, remove the parchment paper, dust with icing sugar and serve – with love, of course!

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Gather all your ingredients

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whirl eggs, banana, milk, butter and vanilla in a food processor or blender (or with a whisk)

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until smooth

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add quinoa

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meanwhile mix sugar, cocoa, baking powder, soda and salt

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prepare your pans by greasing them and lining with parchment paper

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pour quinoa mixture into dry ingredients

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until well blended

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pour into prepared cake pans

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and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until…

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a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean

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turn out onto wire racks, remove the parchment paper and allow to cool

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dust with icing sugar and serve with love, of course!

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A Powerful Yoga Pose!

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In yesterday’s yoga class our teacher, Liz Cloudt, led us in a child’s pose with the forehead resting on your stacked hands or fists. Although it is a truly simple pose it happens to be a very powerful one as well because it stimulates the vagus nerve which is responsible for the parasympathetic nervous system and controls the functioning of our heart, lungs, digestive system and many of our glands. You can also slightly roll your forehead from side to side a bit and this helps any sinus troubles you may be having. Well, this certainly happened to me. Immediately after doing this pose my nose started running and this continued for a few hours, bringing blessed relief for a headache I’d had for a few days. I had no idea there was sinus involvement because I didn’t feel any sinus pressure or anything like that.
It’s astonishing how so many yoga poses really affect different parts of your body. It’s SO much more than just stretching, but far too many people dismiss it as just that. If they only knew!
Researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine reported findings recently which theorize that stimulating the vagus nerve by doing yoga, including practicing 3-stage deep breathing, can help restore stress-related nervous system imbalances. This helps a variety of ailments including anxiety, high blood pressure and cardiac disease. Vagal nerve stimulation has also been used in the treatment of tinnitus and even epilepsy! There happen to be low levels of a neurotransmitter called GABA in conditions such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain and epilepsy. Their results show that yoga, compared with walking, for instance, substantially increases GABA levels and decreases pain. This is due to the vagal nerve stimulation produced by many yoga poses (or asanas), including the child’s pose pictured above, with your forehead resting on stacked hands or fists.
Healthy vagal tone is indicated by a slight increase of heart rate when you inhale, and a decrease of heart rate when you exhale. Deep diaphragmatic breathing – with a long, slow exhale – is key to stimulating the vagus nerve and slowing heart rate and blood pressure, especially in times of stress. A healthy vagal tone is linked to physical and psychological well-being. A low vagal tone is linked to inflammation, negative moods, feelings of loneliness, and heart attacks.
Sometimes, however, if you’re feeling really stressed-out your vagus nerve can temporarily disengage altogether, producing a racing heart, sweaty palms, upset stomach, dry mouth and feelings of shakiness or wobbly knees. Many people have these feelings if they have to speak in public or before an important exam.
Now you know what to do if this happens to you sometimes – straight into a child’s pose with your forehead resting directly on your hand or fist, and deep slow breathing, concentrating on the exhale. But perhaps you should do this before you take the stage…..

Shortcut Boeuf Bourguignon

Does Boeuf Bourguignon or Beef Stew of any kind have to take hours and hours? Well, it depends.
Normally a tough cut of beef such as stewing beef can take 3 hours of simmering to break down the connective tissue and become tender. However, accidentally I have found that Field Gate Organics (available at Goodness Me!) produces a stewing beef which is so very tender and has no connective tissue that all it takes is about an hour to produce a truly delicious dish. Obviously that doesn’t help my readers in South America or Europe, but one way of knowing if a cut of stewing beef (or steak) is going to be tender is squeezing it between finger and thumb. A tender cut of beef will feel tender and soft when it’s raw. A cut of beef which will require more cooking will feel rubbery, like a pencil eraser.

Shortcut Boeuf Bourguignon, serves 6 (or 4 generously)
Total time: 1 1/2 hours (15 minute prep, 1 hour simmering, 15 minute finishing)

Ingredients

2 lbs lean, tender stewing beef
1 Tablespoon Avocado oil or ghee (as browning the beef requires a high temperature)
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 lb. small mushrooms
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 beef bouillon cube
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup hearty red wine, such as Zinfandel
1 cup warm water
3 Tablespoons spelt flour
2 Tablespoons butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Chopped parsley, for garnish

Method

Pat the beef chunks dry with paper towels
Heat the Avocado oil over medium high heat in a large bottomed, shallow saute pan
Add 1/3 of the stewing beef chunks and allow to brown. Flip over onto the other side when it’s easy to do so. If the beef is sticking and won’t come away from the pan, it’s not ready to be flipped over so just wait a minute or two. After it’s browned on two sides, remove to a bowl.
Repeat by browning two more batches, removing each batch to the same bowl.
After all the beef is done, lower the heat to medium-low and add the onion and carrot right onto the browned bits in the pan. If your beef is very lean, you might need more oil. Sauté for about 10 minutes until the browned bits have released from the pan bottom.
Add the garlic and mushrooms and sauté for a few more minutes.
Add the browned beef back in as well as the bouillon cube, the thyme, bay leaf, tomato paste, wine and water.
Here is the important bit: cover the pan, reduce heat to a low simmer, but keep it bubbling and DO NOT remove the lid for one hour!! *Note: if using conventional heat, allow 2 hours simmering time.
In the meantime, mash the butter and flour together in a small bowl or measuring cup.
After an hour (or two, depending on your beef), add the butter and flour mixture, turn the heat to medium and cook until the gravy is thickened and shiny, about 15 minutes.
Garnish with fresh parsley and serve over mashed potatoes, with love, of course!

 

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You know the drill! Gather your ingredients

 

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Pat the beef chunks dry using a paper towel

 

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Saute batches in avocado oil over medium-high heat

 

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until nicely browned

 

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lower heat, remove meat to a bowl and add onions and carrots to the same pan

 

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continue cooking until all the browned bits on the bottom have loosened

 

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add garlic

 

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and mushrooms

 

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then add bouillon cube, tomato paste, thyme, bay leaf, wine and water

 

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cover with a lid, simmer on medium-low for one hour

 

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in the meantime, mash butter and flour together

 

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after the hour’s cooking time, stir in the butter and flour mixture. Simmer 15 more minutes.

 

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garnish with parsley

 

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and serve over mashed potatoes, with greens and love

 

Self-Awareness

20130319-224033.jpgI find that as I get older, I am becoming more self-aware. What does this mean to me? It means that I am becoming more aware of what I am doing and why I am doing it. Sounds oversimplistic, doesn’t it? Once again I am writing about my experience with the 21-day Perfect Health Meditation Challenge. What an impact it has made on my life and my health! I think the reason for that is that I have really never thought deeply about “what” I do, and “why” I do it, in terms of my health. The mind-body feedback loop, as Deepak calls it, affects everything that’s happening in your body. This is a survival mechanism and very good for us, generally. We feel a pain in our back and that causes us to take it easy for a few days until our back feels better. But for many of us, however, this can turn into a negative where we vilify ourselves for our bad habits, causing anxiety and even depression because we can’t seem to stop doing what we know is bad for us.
With mindful self-awareness, however, you say to yourself (for instance) ” I am currently enjoying my 5th delicious chocolate-chip cookie. I know that each one is 110 calories and that 550 calories is about 1/3 of my daily calorie consumption limit. I am consuming so many of them because they are delicious. If I keep eating them I will feel sick. I should stop eating the cookies but I don’t want to – Why? Because I am feeling anxious and eating the cookies makes me feel better”.
This is a feedback loop and we have them for just about everything we do or think. Not beating yourself up over not being able to control those cravings is the difference between just being “aware” and being “self-aware”. If you know what and why you’re doing something, then suddenly you find yourself in control and able to stop if you want to. Why has it taken me almost 55 years to realize this?

 

A Balancing Act

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Today’s centering thought in Deepak Chopra’s 21-day meditation challenge is: “Balance is my true nature”. Well, if balance is my true nature, why do I so quickly lose it? Sometimes I think my life is too rigmarole. I follow pretty much the same schedule, day after day. If you look at my daytimer I have a set weekday schedule that I follow quite religiously. It includes exercise, rest periods, work, and then there are the things I do for recreation or fun. Strangely enough, the daily preparation of food for dinner and the shopping for ingredients is something I do everyday, and schedule into my calendar. (Yes, I know this is kind of OCD). But it’s not a chore for me as I really look forward to using my skills to produce a delicious, nutritious dinner. When I can share the fruits of my labour with my family and know that I am nourishing their bodies, well that nourishes my soul. I also find the chopping, slicing, mixing etc. quite meditative. I use the time in the kitchen to relax and focus on what I’m doing – to live in the moment. My morning meditation does the same thing for me, but more intensely. I can very briefly get into the “zone” for a minute or so, which affects my whole day positively by making my mind more alert and awake.
However, if my set schedule changes significantly or if I have been missing either my morning meditation or my exercise, or haven’t been eating properly, usually because I have a deadline to work towards and feel rushed and hurried, suddenly my entire life is out of kilter. I feel off-balance. I don’t take the time for rest periods, I don’t take the time to drink enough water, I don’t have the time to stop and cook nutritious meals and suddenly my body is spiraling into dis-ease. I don’t mean illness, necessarily, well, not yet, anyway. My heart is beating faster than normal, I feel anxiety, I can’t get to sleep because thoughts are whirling around in my head, and then when I do get to sleep, I can’t stay asleep. So, without adequate rest, my body starts feeling like it’s falling apart.
It’s amazing to me how quickly this can happen – a couple of weeks is all it takes for me.
That’s why I’m so happy that I’ve started doing the Deepak Chopra meditation again. Just a couple of days and I already feel better and know what I need to do to get back on track. The best thing is that because I have increased alertness, I become more productive and life and work seem easier and less stressful. How good is that?

The Road to Perfect Health

On March 11, Deepak Chopra begins another free meditation session that I am inviting you to sign up for. This one is called Perfect Health and has the addition of daily words of wisdom from Oprah. I loved the last meditation session that he gave, and I am looking forward to this one as well. Thinking about it has made me think about perfect health. Just the words themselves make me feel somehow inadequate. Perfect Health. Not good health or optimal health, perfect health. Wow! How difficult is it to achieve that? What I’m hoping is that the series will focus more on the small things we can do every single day, that taken over a lifetime, can contribute greatly to our overall health. There are the obvious ones I have written about in previous posts – a whole foods diet, regular exercise, sufficient sleep, avoiding chemicals, nurturing relationships, connecting with your spiritual self and taking charge of your own health.
But I thought I would just mention a few that came to mind that most people either don’t think about doing regularly or just avoid.
The first is looking after your teeth. It’s such a simple thing to do – brush twice a day and floss once a day and getting regular professional cleanings, but many people just can’t be bothered. Good dental health isn’t just important for your looks or your breath, it can actually make a difference to your general health. Most people suffer from some gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the gum tissues around the teeth, especially in hard-to-reach areas of your mouth and between the teeth. Problems arise when the inflammation becomes chronic and then starts to involve the bone beneath your teeth. This produces irreversible damage, tooth loss and possibly even worse damage to your body, as chronic inflammation (of any kind) has been linked with digestive disorders, heart disease, skin and muscular conditions and degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
The second simple thing we can do is avoid the noon-day sun. Recent research has shown that slathering ourselves with sunscreen is not the healthiest thing for us as many of the active ingredients in sunscreen are harmful chemicals which can be absorbed into our bloodstream right through the skin. Trying to avoid being out in the noon-day sun, wearing a hat, sitting under an umbrella and scheduling your outdoor chores in the early morning or early evening can all help to avoid too much sun exposure. Having said that, it is very important to get some exposure. We need 20 minutes of sun to 40% of our bodies every single day in order to get the Vitamin D we need. If you do not get this amount of sun, or if you wear sunscreen, you must take Vitamin D supplements. Getting enough Vitamin D if you live in the northern hemisphere is the single most important thing you can do to prevent disease.
The third simple thing we can do is have a yearly physical exam by a medical doctor which includes having a blood work-up. Having an actual number of what your blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure is, can mean the difference between complacently going along thinking that everything is normal, and finding out that your levels are a little high, then doing something about it – such as losing weight to drop your blood pressure or eating more fibre to lower your blood cholesterol. The key is to be informed so you can make changes in your lifestyle to prevent a small problem turning into a big one.

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Due to the fact I don’t eat wheat, I have learned to make substitutions. One of the very easiest is to substitute white quinoa for bulgur wheat in a tabbouleh. If you have never tried making tabbouleh, which is a lebanese salad, you’re missing out on a terrific salad recipe. Great for pot-lucks, and even better the next day. In this recipe I am using a food processor but if you don’t have one you can certainly make it by chopping everything up very finely – it will just take longer.

Quinoa Tabbouleh – serves 6, 100 calories per serving

Ingredients

1/2 cup of white quinoa
1 cup of boiling water
1/4 a chicken bouillon cube, optional
1 stalk celery
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 cup grape tomatoes
1/2 bunch of green onions (I used 4)
1/2 bunch of fresh italian parsley
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste

Method

Rinse quinoa in a strainer under cold, running water. This is a very important step to rinse off the bitter film which sticks onto quinoa.
Place rinsed quinoa in an empty pot over medium high heat and let it dry off for a few minutes.
Add the water and bouillon cube, if using. Cover and allow to cook for 10 – 15 minutes, until the water is mostly absorbed. Remove the pot from the heat and allow to sit, still covered, for another 15 minutes to steam, or until the rest of the vegetables are prepared.
In the meantime, place the celery, pepper, green onions and grape tomatoes into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to chop roughly at this point.
Add in the parsley and continue to pulse chop until the mixture is quite fine.
Dump this mixture into a bowl, add the quinoa and the rest of the ingredients.
Mix well and serve with love, of course.

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gather all your ingredients

 

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put the quinoa in a sieve and rinse well under cold running water

 

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dry the quinoa in a pot

 

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then add the boiling water and bouillon cube, if using

 

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cover and allow to cook for 10-15 minutes on medium

 

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meanwhile, wash the parsley thoroughly

 

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and process the celery, green onions, red pepper and grape tomatoes until they are

 

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roughly chopped

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then add the washed and dried parsley

 

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and process everything together until finely chopped (or by hand)

 

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dump the mixture into a large bowl, then add all the other ingredients

 

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after steaming, your quinoa should look like this, with each grain having a little “tail”

 

 

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serve in a nice salad bowl