Paleo Breakfast Tacos [RECIPE]

My recent visit to Austin reminded me just how much I appreciate a good breakfast taco. Here in California, it’s all about the breakfast burrito, and honestly, burritos aren’t my thing. I’ve never seen a giant gluten-free tortilla that didn’t break (or one that tasted great), so I couldn’t eat them even if I liked them, but really they’re just a mess, with or without the gluten. Most burritos become a pile of homogenous Mexican-flavored mush after the first few bites. There are too many ingredients, too many fillers, and if all of that food is going into my mouth, I’d rather eat it on a plate separately than in a mess of mixed mush. (How’s that for alliteration?!)paleo breakfast tacos

The Breakfast Taco Saves the Day!

Oh but the breakfast taco! It’s a beautiful thing. It’s compact; far less food than a burrito with the option of having a second one if you’re still hungry instead of having to commit to a breakfast burrito the size and weight of an infant. Why the breakfast taco hasn’t caught on here in California is beyond me, but I made my own delicious, paleo variety right here in the CWB kitchen with almond flour tortillas made fresh from Must B Nutty. I bought them at my new favorite Austin-born paleo establishment, Picnik Austin. If you follow me on social media, you probably saw me standing in front of their shipping container establishment enjoying one of their signature butter coffees last week, and if you didn’t, here it is again. (And don’t worry, I’ll dedicate a whole post to Picnik sometime in the near future. Love them!)

paleo breakfast tacos

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Must B Nutty

I’ve seen some recipes to make your own paleo tortillas online, but I haven’t tried to do it yet. Mostly because I’m lazy, but my other big excuse is that I don’t have a tortilla press. Maybe I’ll get around to trying that one day, but in the meantime, Must B Nutty tortillas are awesome — so awesome that Loren and I went through a pack of 10 in less than a week. (Actually, I think Loren only had 2.5 tortillas; maybe “we” was a little generous…) Having gone gluten-free, I haven’t enjoyed a really great flour tortilla in years, so it’s possible I got a little excited. These almond flour ones are just about as close as it gets — and to be honest, a breakfast taco with a corn tortilla really isn’t the same.

Although I didn’t get a chance to talk to the folks who make them, I hope I will sometime soon! Maybe we’ll be able to do some sort of awesome tortilla giveaway on CWB down the line! A girl can dream, right? You can order them online in the meantime. I know I’ll be doing that this week.

paleo breakfast tacos

The Fixin’s

What you put in your breakfast taco is entirely up to you, although most of the ones you’ll see in the Lone Star State will include scrambled eggs, either bacon or sausage, cheese, and sometimes fried potatoes. Salsa is usually part of the equation too. I wanted mine to err on the side of healthy so I skipped the potatoes, threw some of my homegrown sprouts into the scramble (you can grow your own too! ENTER TO WIN! a winner will be announced on Thursday 5/14), added some sliced avocado, and used raw pastured white cheddar cheese. (I know that some paleo folks don’t eat dairy, even when it’s raw and from pastured animals — if you’re one of those, just skip the cheese.) I also didn’t have any sausage or bacon on hand, but adding one of those in would have made these babies even better, so feel free to add them into your version at home!

paleo breakfast tacos

Have you ever made your own breakfast tacos?

What do you put inside? I’d love to hear it! Reply with a comments below! And don’t forget to Pin this Recipe to your Pinterest page! Oh, and follow me there too

Balsamic Banana Berry Skillet [RECIPE]

If there’s one thing that can send me down the path of too-much-of-a-good-thing, it’s sweets. Cookies, ice cream, chocolate covered things — nuts, coffee beans, fruit, you name it — I love it. I work on reserving sugary treats for special occasions, but I’ll admit I’ve been known to overindulge from time to time. This weekend we had family in town, and ice cream, cookies, budin, and cake were had by all. It was a deliciously fun weekend, but admittedly I went a little overboard, so today I wanted to share a dessert that fits into a healthy lifestyle while still feeling decadent and delicious. 

Balsamic

No Sugar Added Dessert 

“No Sugar Added” doesn’t mean there’s no sugar at all. Fruits contain naturally occurring sugar, as do starches  and even some vegetables (like carrots and peas). The idea behind creating a “No Sugar Added” dessert without the addition of artificial sweeteners is to avoid refined sugars and additives while allowing the natural sweetness of the whole food (fruit, sweet potato, etc) to shine through. 

Maple Balsamicno sugar added dessert

There’s an adorable little shop on the main drag in Murphys, CA called Marisolio that sells artisan olive oil and balsamic vinegar. You can go in and taste as many flavors as you’d like, either in a tiny plastic cup or on a bite of bread. They recommend amazing combinations that can be used far beyond your average salad dressing — on popcorn, as marinade, on pancakes, on ice cream.

One of the ones I adored was the maple balsamic vinegar. They paired it with a buttery olive oil for me to try, and I felt like I had a bite of pancakes in my mouth! I used this special vinegar to add just a touch of maple flavor to this recipe, but it’s just as delicious to add the standard balsamic if you aren’t privy to this artisan flavor (you might consider ordering some though! It’s delicious!) or leave out the vinegar entirely.

Balsamic Vinegar and Health

Balsamic vinegar does have a slight amount of residual sugar from grapes in it after fermentation, however it actively stabilizes blood sugar, so the effects of the residual (naturally occurring) sugar are mitigated. (Read more about how balsamic vinegar can positively affect cholesterol and blood pressure.)

I chose to use balsamic vinegar in this recipe instead of maple syrup to keep the glycemic load down but still add some flavor. Admittedly, we’re still talking about a dessert — bananas do contain sugar. But the glycemic load (GL) of a banana is still considered low, and the GL of blueberries is lower still. 

A side note about maple syrup. It’s my absolute favorite way to sweeten things, and while it IS a natural sweetener, it’s still sugar and calorie-dense. I’m not generally one to count calories or worry too much about a little maple syrup here and there, but this recipe is specifically a “no sugar added” dessert, so I’ve chosen to use this vinegar instead and feature the sweetness of the fruit rather than the sweetness of the syrup.

no sugar added dessert

 

The “Single Guy Recipe”

I referenced this style of dessert-making before when I shared another small batch recipe for persimmon pudding.  The Single Guy Recipe is an homage to comedian Bill Burr, who lamented on his podcast the fact that cookbooks always give you recipes that make too much of everything, especially desserts, for the single guy. I love the idea of the Single Guy Recipe, because in my house, if dessert is just lying around, it can be a problem. I like to make desserts on the stove top so that I can just make exactly what we’re going to eat right then and there with zero leftovers. It helps to have some fresh fruit at home to cook up, but frozen works well too. The one I’m sharing with you today has both. 

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Balsamic Banana Berry Skillet
This "Single Guy Recipe" is the perfect no sugar added dessert for when you want something sweet, but want to stick to a whole foods diet.
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Ingredients
  1. 2 banana
  2. 1/2 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen - I had frozen at home)
  3. 12 pecan halves, chopped
  4. 1 tbs coconut oil
  5. 2 tsp maple balsamic vinegar
  6. 2 tbs coconut milk
Instructions
  1. Melt coconut oil on a warm skillet
  2. Add frozen blueberries and cook until thawed before adding sliced banana
  3. Once the fruit has softened, stir in pecans, coconut milk and balsamic
  4. Stir to incorporate all ingredients and coat the fruit with the sauce
  5. Allow to reduce slightly (another minute or so)
  6. Turn off heat and serve warm in two ramekins
Notes
  1. Adding whipped cream would be phenomenal. It would add a bit of sugar (I use maple syrup in my whipped cream).
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/

Mexican Stuffed Acorn Squash [RECIPE]

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a beautiful kitchen hack for preparing winter squash. For those of you who missed my post on this ground-breaking topic, the secret is … wait for it! … putting the whole thing in the oven uncut, unpeeled, un-punctured, and roasting it on 375-400 for 30 to 45 minutes. It’s super simple, super delicious, and it works for all winter squash, including pumpkin. I recently did it with butternut squash for a party (roasted 4 of them on the same cookie sheet for about 45 minutes total) and spaghetti squash for lunch with a friend (roasted 1 big one for about 30 minutes), and they all turned out great.

When I shared this kitchen hack, I also shared a delicious ground lamb and purple cabbage recipe to go along with it — to stuff in the halved, roasted squash. Today I’m sharing another awesome “squash stuffing.” This one is all about Mexican spices, and I love it even more than my first stuffed acorn squash recipe. 

stuffed acorn squash recipe

Seasoning and Timing

When seasoning with delicate herbs and spices, I’ve found that timing is everything. Adding cilantro too soon can mean wasting it because the flavor will be cooked out before you serve the dish, but there IS a flavor difference between cooked and raw cilantro. This recipe uses both, because I love both, and I feel like they both need to be there to get the right balance of flavor. I never ever use dry cilantro (or parsley or basil) because it’s just a waste — they basically taste like nothing once they’re dried. If you can’t find them fresh, start searching for some other way to flavor your food.

Same goes for lime juice: timing is everything. Squeezing a lime into a marinade is a great way to flavor a piece of meat or veggies, but squeezing it into a hot pan too soon when there hasn’t been any time for it to sink into the other ingredients is a waste. If you want lime or the acidic effect of lime, marinate or add close to the end. Otherwise it’s a waste. 

A Word on Preparing Beans

If you’ve read my post on maximizing phytonutrients, you may have checked out the book I reference by Jo Robinson, Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health (affiliate link). If not, I’ll share another food hack with you from that book. Canned beans have more antioxidant value than dried ones. Somehow the heating process increases the nutrient value, bringing more phytonutrients to your plate. Fascinating, right?

The only problem is that canned beans aren’t soaked before they’re cooked, leaving all the phytic acid and other antinutrients present. These components make it difficult for us to digest beans and properly utilize all the protein they offer us. They can also make calcium difficult to absorb, which can be a problem for those with brittle bones or osteoporosis. Soaking beans before cooking with water and a touch of acid (like raw vinegar, lemon juice, or kombucha) will diminish the phytate content and make beans a much healthier food to consume.

But canned beans are already cooked. Guess what? You can still soak them! Compared to soaking and then cooking dried beans, this won’t seem like a chore at all, trust me.

Simply rinse your beans in the morning and place them in bowl filled with lukewarm water. Drop about 2 tsp of raw apple cider vinegar into the water, and swish it around. Cover the bowl with a plate or towel on the counter, and head off to work. (Don’t refrigerate.) When you come home 6 to 8 hours later, drain the liquid and rinse the beans one more time before adding them to your recipe. 

 

  • http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/2015-03-30-20.04.42-150x150.jpg)">
    Mexican Stuffed Acorn Squash
    Serves 4
    Servings for this recipe are tricky. The stuffing will feed 3 to 4, but how many the squash will feed will depend on the squash. I always like to find the smaller squash and make more so that 1/2 a squash is about 1 serving. If you end up with a huge squash and only two people eating, consider scooping out half of each one for lunch the next day with the remaining stuffing.
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    Prep Time
    10 min
    Cook Time
    40 min
    http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/2015-03-30-20.04.42-150x150.jpg)">
    Prep Time
    10 min
    Cook Time
    40 min
    Ingredients
    1. 2 small acorn squash
    2. 16 medium to large shrimp, peeled and deveined
    3. 2 cups cooked black beans*
    4. 1/4 small red onion, diced
    5. 1 small red bell pepper, finely diced
    6. 1/4 jalapeno (you decide the heat -- I don't use the seeds)
    7. 2 cloves garlic, minced (let sit at least 10 minutes before adding to fire)
    8. 2 tbs avocado oil
    9. 20 sprigs of fresh cilantro, leaves only, chopped
    10. 1 tsp dried savory
    11. 1 tsp dried marjoram
    12. 1 tsp cumin powder
    13. 1/4-1/2 tsp REAL salt (to taste)
    Instructions
    1. Heat the oven to 400 (no need to preheat)
    2. Place two small acorn squash on a cookie sheet and roast for 35 to 40 minutes while preparing everything else
    3. In a warm skillet, add 2 tbs avocado oil, onions, and peppers
    4. Allow onions to "sweat," stirring on low heat for about 3 minutes before adding in half the chopped cilantro leaves
    5. Stir in cooked, strained black beans
    6. Stir in minced garlic and simmer for another 3 to 5 minutes before adding shrimp
    7. Clear some space on the skillet so that the shrimp hit it directly to cook
    8. Give each side about 30 seconds and flip, then incorporate into the beans
    9. Stir in salt
    10. Once the shrimp are completely cooked through (but not overcooked), add the other half of the cilantro leaves and the juice of 1 lime and turn off the heat
    11. Slice the roasted acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds
    12. Stuff the halved squash with the Mexican shrimp stuffing and consider the optional toppings below
    Notes
    1. OPTIONAL: top with sour cream or greek yogurt, cilantro pesto, guacamole, sunflower seeds, or some combination of these
    2. * see note about preparing beans
    Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/

FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I only link to products that I USE and LOVE. All opinions are my own.

Celery Root Soup with Fried Sage [RECIPE]

I’ve been sick twice in the last month (including right this moment), and I’m super bummed about it. After starting my bone broth regimen in January of last year, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been sick, and two of them just happened this month (the other two were horrific food poisoning). As a result, I’m sitting at home surrounded by balled up tissue, binge watching Nurse Jackie while I drink my bone broth and kombucha

We were out of town this weekend and didn’t get in until yesterday (yes, sick on vacation), so I’ve lost track of what day it is and almost forgot to post this recipe today! I’m sure you would have forgiven me, but I’ve been really excited to share this celery root soup recipe with you — I made it for an impromptu dinner party last week, and it got rave reviews. I started with a huge celery root, so it ended up being quite a bit of soup. It freezes well, but if you don’t want to make as big of a batch for yourself, just use smaller root veggies and less broth.

celery root soup with fried sage

I took this picture when I made my buttery sage celery root recipe, but I just had to use it again for this post. She’s too cute for words. (Click the picture to check out that recipe)

Kitchen Tools 

I learned with my blended beet borscht recipe that sometimes an immersion blender just doesn’t cut it to get the consistency you want in a pureed soup. I learned this again with the recipe I’m about to share — once I dumped my cooked soup into my (BRAND NEW!!) NutriBullet Rx, this soup went from good to great.

If you don’t have some form of Nutribullet in your life, I really suggest you consider it. Their top of the line model is half the price of a Vitamix (the gold standard for blenders), and I can personally vouch that it works just as well. And while the link I just shared is an affiliate link, no one asked me to say that. (Not that I wouldn’t be thrilled if they paid me to share my love of their products, but for the record, they didn’t. Maybe some day they will…)

Celery Root Soup 

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Celery Root Soup with Fried Sage
Serves 10
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
30 min
http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/2015-03-12-18.48.47-150x150.jpg)">
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 whole large celery root, peeled and cubed
  2. 1 whole parsnip, chopped
  3. 1/2 large fennel bulb or 1 small one, chopped
  4. 1 large leek, sliced (the white part only)
  5. 2 tbs chopped fresh sage + more whole leaves for frying
  6. 1 tbs REAL salt (CWB Favorite Pick)
  7. 1/2 tsp cracked red pepper (use 1/4 if you prefer a milder heat. I was shocked at how much impact this amount had on the final product)
  8. 2500 mL chicken or vegetable broth (I used homemade bone broth -- if you have it on hand, go for it, but it's not necessary to use homemade for this to be delicious)
  9. 2 tbs full fat coconut milk (CWB Favorite Pick)
  10. 3 tbs extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
Instructions
  1. In a large, deep pot, place celery root, parsnip, fennel, leek, and chicken broth
  2. Bring to a gentle boil and cook until a fork runs through the root veggies easily (about 10 minutes)
  3. Lower the fire to a simmer and add salt, sage, cracked red pepper, and coconut milk
  4. Let simmer another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring to incorporate
  5. Turn off the fire and allow to cool under oven vent for about 10 minutes
  6. Stir in 1 tbs EVOO
  7. Blend ingredients in a high speed blender (like the Nutribullet Rx) until completely smooth -- it will need to be done in batches
  8. When you're ready to serve your soup, heat a skillet and add remaining two tbs of EVOO
  9. place whole sage leaves into hot oil and fry on each side for 20 to 30 seconds until crisp, taking care not to burn them
  10. Serve soup warm topped with three fried sage leaves and an extra drizzle of EVOO
Notes
  1. The soup doesn't have to cool to room temperature to be placed in the blender, it just needs to not be piping hot to avoid damaging the blender.
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/

Lamb-stuffed Whole Roasted Acorn Squash [Recipe] [Kitchen Hack]

As you might know from previous posts, I love a good winter squash recipe. My best friend in high school had a gourmet chef for a mother, and she would make butternut squash soup with sage and heavy cream — I’d sneak seconds out of the fridge when I’d go over there for dinner. And my first memory of biting into a winter squash was life changing — roasted acorn squash topped with a sesame soy glaze at a locally sourced restaurant in Austin, TX sometime in the early 2000’s. I was hooked.

While I loved these starchy veggies, I found them unwieldy and downright frightening to prepare myself. I’ll admit to buying the pre-cut, pre-peeled butternut squash at Whole Foods in the produce section and paying an arm and a leg to have someone else risk their fingertips to cut that thing apart for me. They roll all over the place!lamb-stuffed whole roasted acorn squash recipe

Life-Changing Kitchen Hack: Roasting a Whole Squash

A few weeks back, I learned an amazing trick to save time AND my fingers, and guarantee excellence each and every time I make winter squash. And that trick is to do NOTHING to it before sticking it in the oven. Nothing. Turn on the oven, stick it in whole, let it roast from the inside; and then slice it open, scoop the seeds, and do as you please. It’s amazing! And today’s recipe will feature an acorn squash roasted like this. It’s literally the easiest way to cook winter squash while avoiding the emergency room! 

Time-Saving Tip

Roasting this way is also a great way to multi-task in the kitchen — or even prepare extra for the rest of the week. Depending on how many squashes you’re cooking (yes, that’s a plural form of squash, I just looked it up), the time in the oven will shift slightly, but this is a set-it-and-forget-it way of preparing a base for your dinner. Tossing a squash in the oven gives you time to focus on the rest of your meal. And if you’re preparing for the whole week, why not mix it up? Throw a spaghetti squash in there too and get the base for this recipe started for later in the week.

For this dish, I started some ground lamb and cabbage going on a skillet while my squash did it’s thing in the oven. If you’re shooting for a vegetarian dinner, you could work up some quinoa and veggies, or make it super easy by pulling out a BPA-free can of veggie chili (affiliate link) for the easiest healthy dinner on earth. Or you could stick with my recipe below. lamb-stuffed whole roasted acorn squash recipe

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Lamb-Stuffed Roasted Acorn Squash
Serves 4
Makes 4 very generous servings -- unless you're really hungry, prepare for some leftovers for lunch tomorrow!
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Ingredients
  1. 2 whole acorn squash (small to medium in size)
  2. 1.5 lbs ground lamb
  3. 1/2 a red cabbage, chopped
  4. 1 red bell pepper, diced
  5. 1 cloves fresh garlic, chopped or pressed
  6. 4 tbs fresh rosemary
  7. 1 tbs fresh sage
  8. 2 tsp REAL salt + more (CWB Favorite Pick)
  9. Black pepper
Instructions
  1. Roast 2 whole acorn squash on 400 for 40 minutes, let sit for at least 10 minutes before slicing to avoid a steam burn
  2. While the squash is in the oven, start browning ground lamb on a hot skillet
  3. When the meat's about halfway cooked, sprinkle in 2 tsp salt and add chopped red cabbage and bell pepper
  4. When the meat's about 3/4 of the way browned with 1/4 still red and uncooked, stir in garlic, sage and 1/2 the rosemary.
  5. There should be lots of juices sizzling and bubbling at this point, and the cabbage should be pretty close to done.
  6. Once it's all cooked, add 2 more tbs fresh rosemary and cook for another 5-7 minutes
  7. Slice the top off the acorn squash and cut them in half
  8. Scoop out the innards and seeds, saving the seeds for toasting later
  9. Sprinkle all 4 halves with salt and black pepper
  10. Plate the squash and fill each center with the ground lamb cabbage mixture
Optional but Awesome Toppings
  1. cashew cream
  2. OR
  3. Greek yogurt
  4. OR
  5. sour cream
  6. AND
  7. fresh sprouts
  8. AND
  9. raw sunflower seeds
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/

 


FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I only link to products that I USE and LOVE. All opinions are my own.

Smokey Cauliflower Dip – Paleo Hummus [Recipe]

cauliflower hummus paleo hummus

I’ve been waiting for months to share this recipe with you! It’s been percolating in my mind ever since I created my Cauli-freddo sauce recipe, but until I saw a beautiful photo of a WHOLE roasted cauliflower, I wasn’t quite sure how I’d make my paleo hummus distinct from other blended cauliflower recipes. 

If you follow me on social media, you saw my hint at today’s recipe. It was a whole roasted cauliflower right out of the oven. 

cauliflower hummus paleo hummus

It might look burnt, but it’s not — it’s covered in smoked paprika! Using a Misto sprayer (affiliate link), I sprayed a touch of avocado oil all over the surface of the cauliflower, then sprinkled smoked paprika. It smelled so amazing I took a bite of it just like this — this simple dish could be a side all its own! It was awesome. But that’s not all I’m sharing with you today.

Why Paleo Hummus: Legumes and Digestion

Since I’ve been on a gut health kick lately, I wanted to share a belly-friendly hummus recipe for folks who sometimes have trouble digesting beans. (There’s a reason Bean-o is a best-selling product!) While research shows that legume consumption is correlated to increased longevity across the globe, for some people they just don’t work — and I’d go as far as to say that especially chickpeas don’t work. I’ve known Ayurvedic and TCM practitioners to specifically advise their patients against eating chickpeas, but allow them to eat more digestible beans like mung beans. Unfortunately for those patients, nearly all store-bought hummus is made with chickpeas.

Legumes (and seeds and grains) are designed to stay dormant until it’s time to sprout, and as such, they contain protective chemicals to prevent sprouting until ideal conditions are met. Proper moisture, temperature, and sunlight are necessary for beans, seeds, and grains to sprout in nature, so when they sit in the bulk bin at the grocery store, they aren’t quite fit for consumption. This is why we soak our grains and beans before we cook and eat them (ideally with a little apple cider vinegar to help break down those chemicals I was talking about before — namely phytic acid). But for some of us, that soaking process isn’t enough to help our gut digest them properly. And still others of us are looking for low-carb alternatives to beans and grains in general, digestive challenge aside. That’s where this recipe comes in. It’s a paleo-friendly version of a traditional Mediterranean dish, and it’s absolutely delicious! In fact, I’m bringing what’s left of my batch to a party tonight!

cauliflower hummus paleo hummus

Yum!

This beautiful hummus is a full turn away from beans and into the arms of the glorious cauliflower! Roasted to perfection, locking in all the nutrients and flavor of the veggie and adding in the spicy goodness of smoked paprika, you won’t be able to put it down. 

http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/caulidip4-e1424460818965-150x150.jpg)">
Paleo Cauliflower Hummus
Totally bean-free, vegan, and paleo, this hummus dip is great for almost any special diet! It makes 2.5 cups of finished product.
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Prep Time
1 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
35 min
http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/caulidip4-e1424460818965-150x150.jpg)">
Prep Time
1 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
35 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 cauliflower
  2. 4 tsp smoked paprika
  3. dash of avocado oil (CWB Favorite Pick)
  4. 4 tbs tahini (CWB Favorite Pick)
  5. juice from 2 large lemons
  6. 1/4 cup EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
  7. 1 clove fresh garlic
  8. 1/4 cup water
  9. 1/2 tsp salt
  10. 1/4 tsp chili powder
  11. 1/4 tsp ground ginger
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325
  2. Place 1 whole head of cauliflower in the center of a baking dish
  3. Sprinkle smoked paprika on all sides
  4. Roast for 30 minutes
  5. In a high speed blender like a NutriBullet, blend the cauliflower and all other ingredients until completely smooth
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/

 

 FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I only link to products that I USE and LOVE. All opinions are my own.

Pickles Gone Wild: Wild Fermentation and the Good Bugs

wild picklesI’m excited to share this super simple wild pickles recipe with you! And I’ll say up front that although my recipe calls for green tomatoes, this formula works with cucumbers, peppers, cauliflower, and just about anything else you might be curious to try pickling. The fermentation time will vary based on what you’re pickling and whether or not you cut it up or pickle it whole, but start with this framework and you’ll have yourself some effervescently sour pickled veggies in no time. Eat a few bites at every meal to encourage healthy digestion.

What are Wild Pickles?

wild picklesWhat we’re making here is not the homemade version of what you can find in the grocery store aisles. These pickles are usually sterilized and, for lack of a better word, dead. While the internet is teeming with “refrigerator” pickle recipes that include vinegar as part of the pickling liquid, these are not true pickles in the purest sense of the word. True pickles are done with a wild ferment. They are a live food packed with living bacteria that do the souring instead of all that vinegar. And they’re awesome for your digestion and your wellbeing.

How do the bacteria get into the jar?

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Bacteria are in the empty jar in your cabinet right now. And they’re on the cucumbers growing in your garden. and they’re on the dill weed, the jalapeno, in your spice  rack … you get the point. Give the bacteria that live among us the proper environment to turn something good into something great, and they’ll be up for the task. All you need is some salt water, something to pickle, and some spices to make them delicious, and let the wild bacteria do the rest!

What’s the Difference? Why Wild?

On Tuesday in part 1 of my Why Gut Health Matters series, we talked about your gut as your body’s Gate Keeper. We covered quite a bit in that post, but one of the things we touched on was the important role gut bacteria play in the integrity of the gut lining, and therefore our health in general. Ensuring that we have a healthy ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria in the gut is an integral step toward having a healthy gut lining and preventing leaky gut.  

Before we go further though, a little vocabulary speed round is in order.

All of these words refer to the microscopic bugs that live in your intestinal tract, primarily in the colon. I’ll use them interchangeably for the most part:

  • gut bacteria
  • microbiota
  • probiotic (refers to the good ones only)
  • microbiome (refers to the whole ecosystem)

So what else do probiotics do?

  1. Probiotics play a vital role in strengthening our immune system. In fact, anywhere from 65 to 90% of our immune system lives in our gut in the form of epithelial cells (villi), which are fed by … drumroll please … probiotics. These bugs keep us well!
  2. Probiotics protect us from harmful bacteria. They take up space in our bowel that might otherwise be filled with harmful bacteria, which cause disease, create gas and bloating, promote inflammation, make us crave sugar and junk food, and can even negatively affect our mood, resilience, and cognition. They also release substances (including lactic acid) that inhibit the growth of the bad guys, preventing them from taking over and wreaking havoc on our health. 
  3. Probiotics produce bioavailable vitamins from the foods we eat. Without beneficial bacteria in our gut, we would have no access to the B Complex (biotin, thiamine, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, folic acid, and B12). We would also be deficient in vitamin K, because the bugs down there actually synthesize it from our food.
  4. Probiotics reduce cortisol, (a stress hormone) and increase GABA (a relaxing chemical), therefore positively affecting mood disorders like anxiety and depression, and reducing stress. Reducing cortisol also improves insulin sensitivity, which is beneficial for folks at risk of developing type 2 diabetes or other metabolic disorders.

Let’s get to the Pickles

wild picklesThe instructions included in this recipe are for the green cherry tomatoes I pulled from my garden when the weather was cooling down but the vines were still full. They were very fresh when they were pickled. 

I recognize that green cherry tomatoes might not be the easiest thing to find on a whim, so if you make your pickles using larger tomatoes or cucumbers and you plan to slice them up, make sure they’re SUPER FRESH, and start checking them after 24 hours. One tip I’ve read but haven’t tried is to give your cucumbers an ice water bath before starting the process. Leave them in ice water for an hour or so before getting them into the jars to freshen them up and ensure crisp and crunch in the final product. (Adding grape or blackberry leaves will do that too, but why not do both just to make sure? Who wants a mushy pickle? No one.)

If you plan to keep your cucumbers, green tomatoes, or peppers whole, wait to check them until day 6 or 7. It takes the whole veggies a while longer to pickle all the way through than the slices. I’ve seen some recipes recommend that you leave whole pickles to ferment for up to two weeks; but again — check them. No one wants a mushy pickle.  In the meantime, check out this cool video on how to chop a bunch of cherry tomatoes super quickly!

 

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Wild Pickled Green Tomatoes
This recipe works with all sorts of veggies, so be creative!
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Ingredients
  1. One 1500 mL (6 cup) jar
  2. 2 lbs green cherry tomatoes, chopped in half
  3. 2 tbs sea salt
  4. 4 cups water
  5. 1 jalapeno (I used 1/2 the seeds, but how spicy is up to you)
  6. 10 sprigs fresh dill
  7. 5 cloves garlic sliced in half
  8. 1 tbs black pepper corns
  9. 1/2 tbs whole coriander seeds
  10. 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  11. 1 tbs mustard seeds
  12. OPTIONAL: grape leaves or blackberry leaves (this ingredient is as source of tannins, which is intended to promote crispness -- more useful when pickling cucumbers)
Instructions
  1. Slice the green tomatoes in half (for full-sized tomatoes, quarter them instead of halving them)
  2. Pack the jar tightly with all the tomatoes leaving at least two inches of space at the top of the jar
  3. Add all other ingredients on top of tomatoes
  4. Dissolve salt in 2 cups warm water in a separate container
  5. Pour salt water over all ingredients into the jar
  6. Fill the jar with the remaining 4 cups of water leaving no less than 1 inch at the top for gas and ensuring that the veggies are completely submerged in the liquid -- this is important. If you need to put something heavy on top to weigh down the veggies waiting to be pickled, do it.
  7. Seal tightly and leave on the counter at room temperature for 3 to 5 days (check at 24 hours for sliced cucumbers)
  8. You want the tomatoes to be firm but pickled all the way through (not mushy). When they are to your liking, refrigerate them and they will keep indefinitely
Notes
  1. BE CAREFUL when you open the jar for the first time. Gas can build up and create some effervescence as the bacteria do their thing.
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/

CWB-Style Blended Beet Borscht [Recipe]

My first Borscht

The first time I ever ate (or even heard of) borscht was back in Baltimore when I visited my good friend, Chef Jack Starr at his restaurant about 8 years ago. Maybe more like 9. My how time flies! Way back then, I had not yet acquired a taste for beets, so I was more than slightly hesitant when he put a steaming bowl of blood red liquid in front of me. He’d pureed all the ingredients and turned what’s usually a red brothy soup with chunks of beet, potato, and cabbage into a smooth, creamy masterpiece. He was excited for me to try his take on this traditional eastern European soup, and I absolutely loved it.

I’ve since seen tons of regional variations of this soup. Some include beef or pork; some use savoy or green cabbage instead of purple. Some use tomatoes and very few beets, while others leave out the beets all together. I’ve seen recipes that include potatoes and recipes that don’t. There’s cold borscht and hot borscht, the two prepared totally differently. The spices vary, the consistency varies, and surprisingly, the color varies too. I learned recently that there’s actually a green borscht that features spinach instead of cabbage. Who knew?! 

blended beet borscht

CWB-Style Blended Beet Borscht

Before we left for our 5-day visit to Texas at the beginning of the year, I realized that we had quite a bit of produce in the fridge that we weren’t going to be able to eat before our departure. Included were beets and cabbage, so I asked my buddy Jack what else I needed to make his amazing red pureed borscht. I didn’t want my anthocyanin-rich red and purple ingredients to go to waste. In typical chef fashion, he rattled off the ingredients with no proportions or measurements, so I figured all that out myself. I also used one yellow beet instead of two red ones to tone down some of the earthiness that can sometimes be a bit too much (for me) with red beets. Then I added a few extra ingredients of my own to boost the nutrition and make a CWB-style Blended Beet Borscht
blended beet borscht

Kitchen Tools

One thing I learned in this process is that, as much as I absolutely love my immersion blender, sometimes it’s just not enough to get the fine consistency I want. When I was using it for this recipe, I was disappointed to see that the fibrous ingredients weren’t breaking down the way pumpkin and sweet potatoes do in some of my other soup recipes. I ended up pouring everything into my NutriBullet Pro 900 Series (affiliate link), and was relieved to find that it made all the difference in the world. Use your judgement with your own appliances — you might have a better immersion blender than I do. Just keep in mind that this soup is meant to have nothing “chewable” in it — it’s an entirely smooth, silky consistency, and my little gizmo just couldn’t hack it.

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CWB-Style Blended Beet Borscht
Serves 12
A new take on a hearty traditional Eastern European dish, totally vegetarian and vegan if you use vegetarian broth and skip the sour cream topper.
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Ingredients
  1. 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  2. 1 red onion, chopped
  3. 4 ribs celery, chopped
  4. 4 medium carrots (use any color you want)
  5. 1 large red beet, diced
  6. 1 large yellow beet, diced
  7. 1/2 head red cabbage, sliced and chopped
  8. 3 tbs fresh grated horseradish
  9. 1/3 cup chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
  10. 3 tsp real or sea salt
  11. 10 cups chicken or veggie broth
  12. 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  13. Topping: 1 dollop of sour cream per bowl
Instructions
  1. Heat a stock pot on medium and add the olive oil
  2. Cook the next 6 ingredients for 10 minutes before adding the horseradish, dill, and salt
  3. Cook another 5 minutes, then add broth and vinegar
  4. Reduce heat and allow flavors to meld for another 10 to 15 minutes
  5. Transfer to a high-speed blender and blend until completely smooth and creamy
  6. Serve hot with a dollop of organic sour cream on top
Notes
  1. If you have a very high-quality immersion blender, you might be able to save yourself from dirtying up the blender. I found that my immersion blender wasn't strong enough to get the job done.
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/

Sweet Potato Pound Cake [Gluten-free]

sweet potato pound cake

The first version of this recipe I tried was in the form of a pumpkin pound cake (rather than sweet potato). It was part of a group potluck, and I loved it so much I took the leftovers home to Loren to share it with him. I’ve since made my own version using my homemade roasted sweet potato puree, and it was every bit as delicious as the original pumpkin one. Both versions are absolutely fabulous, so interchange the ingredients as you wish. I brought what was left of our sweet potato loaf home to Texas a few weeks back, and my mom loved it so much she asked me to make another one before I left. She even made sure to copy down the recipe before the trip was over (and she’s not generally a baker).

What makes this recipe shine is that it’s so SIMPLE. With only a handful of whole-food ingredients, none of which requires any special baking chemistry, it’s almost impossible to get this one wrong. And the final product is nothing short of decadent.

 

Delicious AND Nutritious

Not only would you never know that this pound cake is gluten-free, you’d never know that it’s actively good for you, filled with nutrient-dense ingredients that will nourish your body and make your taste buds sing. I’ll just give you a quick nutrition rundown so you can feel awesome about eating this pound cake for breakfast, a snack, or even dessert — add a dollop of coconut whipped cream to this creation and you have yourself a guilt-free, paleo dessert.

  1. It uses only whole food ingredients
  2. It is entirely gluten-, grain-, and dairy-free
  3. It uses only healthy fats from coconut oil, pastured eggs, and almonds – CLICK HERE for your free 15 oz jar of coconut oil
  4. It’s rich in beta carotene and other healthy phytonutrients (this is true whether you use sweet potatoes or pumpkin)
  5. It’s high in fiber and low in glycemic load (even lower GL with pumpkin but true for both)
  6. It includes warming spices, including cinnamon (which helps regulate blood sugar) and ginger (which aids in digestion)
  7. It uses a small amount of natural, unrefined maple syrup (1/4 cup for 8-10 servings), a natural sweetener rich in minerals and minimally processed

sweet potato pound cake

I have to give credit to my friend and colleague, holistic Chef Christine Cully for sharing her amazing recipe with me and allowing me to post it on CWB for you all to enjoy. Lucky for me (and for you as you’ll soon find out once you try this), Christine’s generous attitude is to share the wealth of her great recipes and get people eating better — just get the information out there, no credit requested! Well I’m giving her credit anyway. So here it is, my amazing sweet potato pound cake, adapted from a recipe by Chef Christine Cully. 

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Sweet Potato Pound Cake
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Ingredients
  1. 3/4 cup roasted sweet potato puree (recipe linked at the top of the post)
  2. 1/4 cup maple syrup
  3. 1/4 cup coconut oil
  4. 4 eggs
  5. 1 cup almond flour
  6. 1/4 cup coconut flour
  7. 1/4 tsp sea salt
  8. 1/2 tsp baking soda
  9. 1 tsp cinnamon
  10. 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325
  2. Melt coconut oil
  3. Combine wet ingredients in a large mixing bowl
  4. Combine dry ingredients in a small mixing bowl
  5. Add dry ingredients to wet, and mix until smooth
  6. Bake in a greased loaf pan for 35-40 minutes
Notes
  1. Let sit for about 10 minutes before removing from loaf pan or cutting to serve.
  2. This recipe works great for muffins as well, and yields about 10 muffins
Adapted from Holistic Chef Christine Cully
Adapted from Holistic Chef Christine Cully
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/

Roasted Sweet Potato Soup

As promised, today is the day that I share my sweet potato soup recipe using the fresh sweet potato puree I made for Tuesday’s post. This soup is so sweet and rich, you won’t believe there’s literally ZERO added sugar, including natural sweeteners. All the sweetness comes straight from the potatoes, and with all the wonderfully flavorful and warming spices included in this decadent recipe, you’ll be going back for seconds, thirds even! 

Trial and Error – Stick with it!

My first attempt at sweet potato soup a few months back yielded a lumpy baby food-like mess. It wasn’t a mash and it wasn’t a soup. It was this weird soupy mash, and for some reason, it was mealy too. Maybe it was the sweet potato, maybe it was me, I don’t know, but it took a lot of finagling to get it right, at which point I’d lost all track of how I might share it with you, so I decided to wait til this time, when I nailed it.

The lesson I learned was that it’s actually safer to err on the side of (what you might think is) too much liquid for a super starchy soup like this one (or some of the pumpkin soups or celery root soups I’ve made in the past). The reason for this is that you can correct too much liquid by continuing to simmer, stir, and reduce, thereby enhancing the flavor, whereas if you take a too-thick soup off the fire and then try to correct with liquid later, you won’t get the flavor meld you might have gotten with a slow simmer. In any case, I got it right this time, which is why I’m sharing it with you now. Loren called this one “restaurant quality” too! I’ll take the complement and brag it right along to you so you’ll try it at home!

Kitchen Gadgets

I used an immersion blender for this recipe (I swear thing is my best friend), but if you don’t have one, you can use your regular blender (the only downside to that is more clean up — go get an immersion blender). I’ll be sharing my blended beet borscht recipe in the coming weeks, for which my beloved immersion blender just couldn’t do the job. I ended up moving my soup to the Nutribullet for a much MUCH finer blend, which you’ll hear more about when I get that post up. I’ll go as far as to say that it was a move that saved my borscht. So stay tuned for that. 🙂 In the meantime, feast your taste buds on this glorious delight!

roasted sweet potato soup recipe

 

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Roasted Sweet Potato Soup
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 3 cups roasted sweet potato puree
  2. 1/2 sweet yellow onion, diced
  3. 1 large carrot, chopped
  4. 1 large clove garlic (mince or press 10 minutes before adding to heat for maximum health benefits)
  5. 3 cups coconut milk
  6. 2 cups almond milk
  7. 1 cup water
  8. 2 tsp fresh grated ginger
  9. 1 tbs coconut oil
  10. 1 tbs apple cider vinegar
  11. 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  12. 1 tsp pumpkin spice
  13. 1 tsp REAL salt or sea salt
Instructions
  1. Melt 1 tbs coconut oil in a large, deep pot on medium heat
  2. Add diced onion and carrots and cook until onions are translucent (about 5 minutes)
  3. Add pressed garlic and grated ginger, stirring to marry the flavors
  4. Stir in roasted sweet potato puree
  5. Add water, almond milk, and apple cider vinegar, stirring to ensure nothing is sticking to the bottom
  6. Add cinnamon, pumpkin spice, and salt
  7. Continue cooking until all ingredients are fully incorporated, then add coconut milk and reduce heat to low
  8. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until it becomes one consistency (a regular blender works too -- even better if you have a great blender like a Nutribullet or a Vitamix)
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/

Dairy-Free Persimmon Pudding [Recipe]

-Editor’s note added 1/18/15

This simple persimmon pudding recipe is the result of a desire not to waste one totally overripe persimmon a friend gave me from her tree. I’m not a huge fan of persimmons, but Loren loves them, so I took a few home for him. He ate a couple and then left one lonely fruit sitting on the counter until the skin became dark orange and translucent and the fruit was soft to the touch.

(As a side note, this could be fodder for some other blog post one day: How to get your husband or housemate to stop leaving small amounts of food in the fridge to be forgotten forever. I think I’ve successfully shamed Loren out of leaving 3 green beans in the bag and cooking the rest, but we both have a problem with eating fruit before it goes. It can sometimes make for interesting science experiments in the fridge …)

ANYWAY, there was this one persimmon. I had used a mushy persimmon before in a couple of other sweet syrupy recipes, but they weren’t good enough to share with you. This time however, I think I might have outdone myself. This is by far my very favorite way to consume a persimmon, and my persimmon-loving husband agreed — he said he liked it even better than the pumpkin custard recipe in my latest eBook.

Both recipes use coconut milk instead of regular cow’s milk, which some might think would pose a thickening problem. It doesn’t. It thickens right up; you just need a little time and patience (barely even any patience in the case of this small batch!). And at the end of the day, you have a dessert that doesn’t bother a lactose-intolerant belly and is full of the healthy fats from the coconut milk and the pastured egg yolks. What more could you ask of a dessert that already includes a bright orange fruit full of carotenoids? 

The “Single Guy Recipe”

I considered sharing a larger version of this recipe — perhaps one that serves 4 to 6 people — but after listening to an old episode of Bill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast where he laments the absence of “single guy” recipes in cookbooks after making 24 cupcakes and only wanting to eat 1, I decided to leave this recipe exactly as it was on my first try. This recipe serves two, and honestly, with just the two of us at home, it’s nice to be able to make a dessert that doesn’t linger in the fridge calling my name every night until it’s devoured.

Two is good.

As with other pudding/custard recipes, the more you make, the longer it takes to thicken, so anticipate some time adjustments if you decide to make a double or triple batch* of this scrumptious silky persimmon pudding.

*Editor’s note: I’ve since made a larger batch of this and didn’t simply double everything — which would have possibly yielded more but taken FOREVER. To make six 4-ounce servings like the ones pictured below, I used 4 persimmons, 6 egg yolks, 1/2 cup of maple syrup, and 3 cups coconut milk. The directions remain the same.

dairy-free persimmon pudding

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Dairy-free Persimmon Pudding
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Ingredients
  1. 1 overly ripe, pulpy fuyu persimmon, skin removed (scrape the pulp off with a spoon if necessary)
  2. 2 egg yolks
  3. 1/4 cup maple syrup
  4. 1 cup coconut milk
Instructions
  1. In a double boiler, heat coconut milk and maple syrup until you achieve a low simmer
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks and persimmon pulp
  3. Very slowly pour the warm coconut mixture to the persimmon and egg yolks, whisking thoroughly until completely incorporated
  4. Pour everything back into the double boiler and simmer until it thickens, about 15 minutes
  5. Whisk throughout to ensure it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan or clump up
  6. Pour into 2 ramekins and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving
Notes
  1. See editor's note above in this post for how to triple this recipe.
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/

Chicken Salad-Stuffed Cucumber Cups

chicken salad recipe

I have to admit, this cute little finger food idea is something I came across almost two years ago, but somehow I completely forgot about it until the other day when I was reformulating my chicken salad recipe. I love it because it brings a healthy element to the holiday snacking spread of cookies, candies, eggnog, and pie. It can be tempting to load up on sugary, starchy, nostalgic comfort foods this time of year, but if you present something healthy and delicious in your holiday spread, you might be surprised at how many people will appreciate the reprieve from the (delicious) junk. 

Quick unrelated confession: I had to pull myself away from buying a canister of a chocolate and caramel drizzled popcorn and almond concoction the other day. I seriously canNOT resist when that stuff is around. Thanks to an encouraging text message from a friend, I successfully left the store without the purchase, but it was a close call! This time of year is hard for everyone, even health and wellness bloggers!

Intuitive Cooking

A chicken salad recipe is one of those recipes that has room to breathe; it’s more a formula really. It can change every time you make it based on what you have in your kitchen. It can be more or less healthy, and it can be adapted to a wide variety of flavor profiles. As you know, I’m big on intuitive cooking — a little bit of this and a little bit of that — and only since launching this blog did I start really paying attention to measurements so that I could share them with you in some coherent manner. This recipe has some good ingredient estimates, but for the record, I believe in you. If you want to add more of this or that, do it. I’m sure it will be great. 🙂

 chicken salad recipe

3 Secrets for Healthy Delicious Chicken Salad

There are three main secrets in concocting a healthy, delicious, and (dare I say) perfect chicken salad.

Secret #1: Use organic chicken (pastured if you can find it and afford it). I often make chicken salad when I’ve bought an organic rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods and have eaten the dark meat for dinner. That’s a great way to go, but you can also cook the chicken yourself too if you find a pastured one. Using organic will mean that your chicken ate non-GMO feed, but eating pastured means that it was walking around enjoying the sunlight and grubs it was digging up in the dirt. Both are preferable to conventional chicken. Find out more about pastured  chicken and eggs in this post.

Secret #2: Pack in as many green things as possible, especially herbs. This recipe includes a lot of celery, chopped green onions, and fresh parsley. Fresh herbs provide a wild and highly nutrient-dense element to your food, and adding them into everything you eat as often as possible is the best way to ensure that you’re getting a good array of phytonutrients. The mayo I used also had some fresh herbs in it, which brings me to secret #3.

Secret #3: Make your own mayo if you can. It might seem like a lot of work or creating extra steps, but I promise you, it takes 2 minutes or less to make your own mayo (just watch the video. It’s like magic).

Advantages of Homemade Mayo:

  1. You can control quality – if you have the highest quality pastured eggs and organic oils in your kitchen, then you are already leaps and bounds ahead of what you can buy at the store. 
  2. You can control the flavor – a small batch of mayo can be whipped up in mere seconds, so you can make it to match whatever suits your fancy. Want a cilantro mayo for this recipe and a smoked paprika mayo for that one? Great! Customize to your heart’s content. This also means controlling for how much salt is added if you’re concerned about sodium intake (not that I’m saying you should be, but if you think you should be, you can control that element here too).
  3. You can control what type of oil you use – the type of oil you use dramatically affects how nourishing (or harmful) the mayo will be to your body. Most people regard mayo as an ‘unhealthy’ food. Store-bought mayo with conventional eggs and processed soybean an canola oil is unhealthy. What you make at home with the right ingredients won’t be. 

chicken salad recipe

Holiday Cucumber Bites

You don’t typically think of chicken salad as finger food. It’s wet and messy, but if you package it in adorable little bite-sized nibble, it’s the perfect, high-protein finger food. These little cucumber cups are adorable and also another way to add a veggie into the mix instead of using a cracker or mini toast. It’s also friendly to those working on reducing processed carbohydrates or avoiding gluten. 

  1. Chicken Salad-Stuffed Cucumber Cups
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    Ingredients
    1. 2 chicken breasts, cooked
    2. 4 stalks celery, chopped
    3. 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
    4. 1/2 cup chopped pecans
    5. 2 tbs chopped fresh parsley
    6. 4 green onions, chopped
    7. 3-4 tbs dijon mustard
    8. 2-3 tbs mayo*
    9. Juice from 1 lemon (separate in half)
    Instructions
    1. Mix all chicken salad ingredients (using only 1/2 the lemon juice) with two forks in a large mixing bowl until well-combined
    2. Slice cucumbers into about 1 inch slices
    3. Scoop out centers of each piece to create a tiny cucumber cup
    4. Squeeze a little lemon juice into each “cup”
    5. Using a spoon, place a bite sized portion of chicken salad into each “cup”
    6. OPTIONAL: Sprinkle a bit of paprika over the top for color
    Notes
    1. *If you have time, I recommend making your own mayo. For this recipe, I made mine using the instructions linked in that video, but I used olive oil instead of coconut oil and added some fresh herbs into the mix. Both work great for this chicken salad recipe. If you're using store-bought mayo, try to find an organic one with high-quality oils and eggs.
    Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/

 

Spaghetti Squash and Cauli-Freddo Sauce

Today’s post is a celebration of creativity in the kitchen. I love finding new ways to enjoy familiar foods and add more vegetables and healthy fats into my diet, all while creating something delicious in the process. When I make something new, I like to get Loren to guess the ingredients after he’s taken his first bite. He couldn’t figure this one out, especially after I told him it was completely vegan and nut-free. 

A good long while ago I was listening to the Fat-Burning Man podcast, and the guest was talking about her experience in healing with real foods. She had suffered from multiple chronic conditions, was in constant pain, was overweight, and overall miserable. She healed herself by completely changing her diet, eliminating trigger foods and making vegetables her primary source of calories. One of the ways that she’s maintained all the positive changes she’s seen in her life is to make sure that the food she’s eating doesn’t feel restrictive and limited, and to do that, creativity is a must. I wish I remembered her name — I looked through the list of guests and just can’t find the episode I listened to — but one creative idea that stuck out in my mind from that interview was as cauliflower-based cream sauce. I finally decided to try it last week, and inspired by a version of one that I found on OhSheGlows, I came up with my own version of Cauli-Freddo Sauce! It’s delicious and a perfect topper for regular pasta as well as veggie options like spaghetti squash and zucchini “veggetti.”  

I love this recipe because it looks, feels, and tastes dairy-based but is completely vegan and made primarily with cauliflower. It feels decadent, but not only is it ‘not bad’ for you, it’s actively good for you, as cruciferous veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts offer a host of phytonutrients that protect us from cancer and other degenerative and chronic diseases. I served this dish with cajun catfish and roasted asparagus. It was a hit!
cauliflower cream sauce

Cauli-Freddo Sauce (Cauliflower Cream Sauce)

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • juice from 1/2 lemon or 1 lime
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • Sea salt to taste 
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked cayenne pepper
  • Fresh parsley, for garnish

Directions

  1. Chop cauliflower into pieces and rinse
  2. Place steaming basket inside a large pot and add about 2 inches of water 
  3. Place chopped cauliflower in steaming basket, sprinkle with salt, and cover
  4. Steam cauliflower until a fork will easily go through
  5. Remove steaming basket and cauliflower and dump remaining water
  6. Place pot back over fire and add olive oil and chopped garlic
  7. Let gently sauté without burning and turn off fire
  8. Add cauliflower, sautéed garlic, another 1/2 teaspoon salt, and all remaining ingredients (except parsley) to a high-speed blender
  9. Blend until completely smooth
  10. Plate your “pasta” with sauce on top and sprinkle with chopped parsley 

cauliflower cream sauce

For the Spaghetti Squash

Ingredients

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • avocado oil or olive oil
  • salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F
  2. Cut squash in half and grease each half with oil 
  3. Sprinkle lightly with salt
  4. Place face-down in 1/2 inch of water 
  5. Roast on 400 for 30 minutes
  6. Using a fork, scrape out the flesh into a bowl

cauliflower cream sauce

Sicola-Style Roasted Tomato Puttanesca Recipe

I don’t mean to mislead you into thinking this is a “Sicola family recipe” — it’s not. In fact, it’s my take on a recipe a friend shared with Loren over Facebook a few weeks back. I loved the idea of roasting tomatoes in the oven instead of making a stove top sauce like I usually do, so I took the nuts and bolts of that recipe and tweaked it to fit my fancy. I’ve never been great at following recipes to a T anyway; in the end, it always becomes my own concoction. This roasted tomato sauce is no exception.

What makes it Sicola-Style?

1) It’s easy; 2) it’s basically measuring-cup-free; 3) it’s flexible (if you don’t like something in it, just trade it for something that suits you!); 4) it’s nutrient-dense (anchovies=omega 3, tomato peels= extra lycopene); 5) it’s chalk-full of rich, sweet flavor — just like this blog — and last but not least, 6) you don’t have to peel the tomatoes! Sweet relief + extra phytonutrients! What could go wrong? I’m starting the tradition right now, and for years to come generations of Sicolas will make this sauce and sing its praises! I know you will too when you try it at home. Tonight we enjoyed it with zucchini noodles, Sicilian sausage, and fresh basil. A healthy twist on my pasta-loving Sicilian family roots! 

roasted tomato sauce puttanesca

What Kind of Tomatoes to Use?

I used giant red heirlooms and cherry tomatoes from my backyard tomato jungle, but I’ve seen similar recipes using Romas or San Marzanos. At the end of the day, if you start with a good tomato, your sauce will be good. Don’t use gross pink flavorless conventional beefsteaks and you won’t get gross watery flavorless sauce. It’s that simple. In my book, you start with good organic ingredients and you’ll get good results. Don’t skimp on quality and your taste buds and body will thank you. If you need help picking your tomatoes, here are a few tips:

  • The deeper the red color (both inside and out), the better. If you’re having doubts, get a produce employee to cut one open for you before you buy. 
  • You want only a little give when you gently squeeze the fruit, but some give is important. If a tomato is too firm, it’s probably not quite ripe, which means it was super green when it was picked and probably tastes like nothing (another reason to ask to peek inside one!)
  • You want a tomato you like — try a few varieties if you’re not sure what you like best. Certainly the flavor will change and be enhanced as you cook and add seasonings, but if you don’t like the raw materials, you’re less likely to like the finished product.
  • If you can get your tomatoes from a local farmers’ market, you’re almost guaranteeing that they were sun-ripened and recently picked, which means rich, deep flavor. Opt for the farmers’ market if you can!

Kitchen Hack: Tomatoes lose their flavor and nutritional value rapidly when refrigerated. Buy your tomatoes the same week you plan to use them and store them on your counter, not in the fridge. You’ll get more flavor and more lycopene, an antioxidant important for eye health and prevalent in tomatoes. In fact, the lycopene increases when you cook and is more bioavailable when fat is added, so this sauce does the trick — cooked in olive oil to guarantee a healthy dose of lycopene in every serving!

Let’s Get Started!

1

Your Shopping list*:

  • 3 lbs fresh organic tomatoes
  • Organic olive oil
  • 1 can black olives, coarsely chopped (a Sicola family favorite!)
  • 1 small jar capers
  • 1 small jar anchovies fillets in olive oil
  • fresh oregano (or your favorite fresh herbs — other options are rosemary, marjoram, thyme, or some combo)
  • cracked red pepper
  • REAL salt

*I’m giving you a shopping list instead of an ingredients list because you will not use the whole can of olives or jars of capers and sardines. My leftover olives are long gone (in my belly) but the capers and sardines will store in the fridge for a very long time.

Supplies:

  • 2 large cookie sheets
  • Blender
  • Jars for freezing/storing (leave about 1.5 inches at the top of each jar you plan to freeze to avoid sadness and broken glass disaster in your freezer)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 while you prep your cookie sheets and ‘maters
  2. Coat the cookie sheets with a thin layer of olive oil
  3. Cut the tomatoes in half if small, into quarters if large, and line the cookie sheets
  4. Generously drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt over tomatoes
  5. Roast at 400F for about 25 minutes, then reduce the heat to 225F and cook for another hour
  6. Remove from the oven and evenly distribute about 1/2 the can of olives, a couple spoonfuls of capers, and about 10 chopped anchovies over the two sheets of tomatoes
  7. Add about 5 sprigs of fresh oregano — simply strip the leaves from the stems, no need to chop
  8. Sprinkle cracked red pepper to your desired spice level (start small, you can always add more at the end!)
  9. Replace sheets in the oven and cook another hour or so
  10. Remove from the oven and add all contents to blender
  11. Add about 5 more sprigs of oregano
  12. Pulse lightly for a thick, chunky sauce or puree for a smoother texture
  13. Store in jars in the refrigerator for up to one week. Freeze what you don’t eat to save for a rainy day!

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