Pesto Green Beans with Shrimp [RECIPE VIDEO]

It’s hard to believe, but the beans in this dish started out purple. I’m calling it a green bean dish because it’s much easier to find green beans than purple ones, but I feel compelled to tell you that these beans started out purple! I’d seen online that purple beans do turn green when you cook them, but I think some part of me was in denial until I saw it for myself. 

pesto recipe green beans with shrimp

Gardening and Eating for Optimum Health

After reading Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health by Jo Robinson (affiliate link), I decided that this year’s garden would have as many purple, red, and blue items as possible in it. Red and purple plants possess a markedly high potency of anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant shown to promote ‘anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic activity, cardiovascular disease prevention, obesity control, and diabetes alleviation.’ This year in the garden, we have multiple types of red lettuce, purple pole beans, and red and purple carrots. We also have strawberries, beets, and blueberries, which fall into this category as well. We’ve already committed a bit of real estate to our globe artichoke plant and our green okra, but purple artichokes and okra might be on the list for future seasons if we can find a place to put them. The more the better!pesto recipe green beans with shrimp

Pesto-Making [VIDEO] 

A while back I promise that you’d be the first to know if I ever got around to making a how-to video for quick and easy pesto at home, and I finally did! I used the simple formula laid out in this video to make the pesto I included in the recipe below. I hope you enjoy it and try some creative combinations in your own kitchen to make truly unique and flavorful pesto of your own! This recipe included fresh basil and carrot tops (from purple carrots) straight from the garden, so it falls right in line with our goal of eating for optimum health.

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Pesto Green Beans with Shrimp
Serves 3
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Cook Time
20 min
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Cook Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 cups green beans
  2. 1 red onion
  3. 18 raw shrimp (deveined and peeled)
  4. 4 tbs pesto
  5. 1/2 tsp lemon pepper
  6. Salt to taste (this is the herb salt I use in the video)
  7. Optional: dash of red pepper flake
Instructions
  1. Blanch the beans in about 1 inch of water, save the water
  2. Add 1/2 the water to a shallow skillet and heat to a simmer
  3. Add 1 whole sliced red onion and cook until the water evaporates
  4. Once the onions are cooked through and the water has evaporated, add shrimp
  5. Cook shrimp until about 1/2 way done and add in the beans (you can toss the rest of the water
  6. Season with lemon pepper, good salt, and an optional touch of red pepper flake
  7. Turn off the heat when the shrimp are done
  8. Stir in 3 tbsp fresh pesto
  9. Serve hot with a side of sweet roasted potatoes or another whole food starch
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FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains an affiliate link (CWB Favorite Picks), 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.

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!

CYMERA_20141015_225520

Why I’m Not Getting The Flu Shot: Natural Flu Prevention

This could be a controversial post, considering I work at a hospital and they very strongly encourage all the employees to get a flu shot every year. In fact, we have to proactively opt-out of it and agree to wear a mask in patient care areas should we decline the shot. (I’m almost never in patient-care areas as a member of HR and am fine with wearing a mask if I need to.)

I have never received a flu vaccination and if I’ve ever had the flu, it hasn’t been in the last 6 years. In fact, in the last year or so, I’ve managed to avoid getting sick almost entirely, with the exception of two horrific bouts of  food poisoning and one head cold. One of those horrific bouts was this week, so this might be a short post because I just want to drink my bone broth and go back to sleep … 

flu shot

recipe linked! just click through

Disclaimer and Warning:

This is not a generalized anti-vaccine post. I do not in any way support the anti-vaccine movement that’s going on in certain parts of this country (especially one just north of where I live). There is no evidence that routine vaccinations cause autism. I do not consider the flu vaccine to be in the same category of necessity as any of the standard vaccines recommended for the safety of our collective society, including MMR, hepatitis, pertussis, etc. Feel free to disagree with me on that opinion, but I’m just stating right now, for the record I am not an anti-vaccine advocate. 

Ok, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s continue.

Why I don’t want to get the flu shot

The CDC recommends the flu shot for high risk groups, including the very young and very old, those with compromised immune systems, asthmatics, diabetics, and heart disease patients. I do not fall under any of those categories and I take very good care of myself. That being said, the reputable websites I’ve scoured (including Harvard Health and WebMD) in my quest to justify my desire not to get the vaccine still insist that even healthy adults should get the shot, and they claim that it’s a myth that healthy adults don’t need it.

Why? 

  • If you have young children in your home (especially infants too young to be vaccinated), you should get the shot. (not me)
  • If you have elderly folks in your home, you should get the shot. (not me)
  • If you regularly come into contact with either of those two categories of people or very sick people, you should get the shot. (not me)
  • The flu is miserable, and getting the shot will save you the trouble of potentially getting the virus. (…ok)

I agree that ensuring the safety of at-risk folks around you is a great reason to get the vaccine, and I’d get it if I worked directly with patients or interacted with them regularly. But I don’t. I also agree that actually getting the flu is horrible, and it’s a great idea to avoid it if possible.

I just don’t agree that getting the vaccine is the only way (or the most holistic and beneficial way) to avoid it. 

flu shot

imaged sourced from Creative Commons: Rueters 2012

Thimerosal in the Flu Shot

Most flu vaccines use thimerosal as a preservative, which contains mercury, a known and documented neurotoxin that bioaccumulates in our bodies over time and is difficult to clear from our systems. The FDA acknowledges the potential ill-effect of thimerosal in vaccines and has been working with vaccine manufactures to reduce or eliminate its use, but the work is not complete by any stretch. In order to get a flu vaccine free of thimerosal, you have to specifically request it, and there’s a limited supply made each year.

Question: Why not just make them all without it if the technology is there to do it successfully?

Answer: $$.

This bothers me a lot.

A Holistic Health Expert’s Take

Those of you who follow this blog regularly know that I love the work of Dr. Mark Hyman. He’s a functional medicine doctor who takes a systems-approach to human health and illness. Functional Medicine doesn’t just focus on the symptoms of illness, it treats the dysfunction in the body that’s allowing these symptoms to occur — a whole-body approach to healing.

“As a Functional Medicine physician, I approach the flu like all imbalances in the body, which is to say I don’t assume the human body is subject to illness when the proper diet and lifestyle precautions are taken.  When a patient is sick, some detective work is necessary to find out what missing pieces are interfering with the efficacy of their immune system.”

Check out this video for Dr. Hyman’s take on the flu shot and make your own decision. 

—-> More details on the safety and efficacy of the flu vaccine from a Functional Medicine perspective <—-

 

7 Ways to Prevent the Flu

Recommendations for preventing flu infection are predictably similar to recommendations for general good health. The bottom line: take good care of your health and your immune system will be ready to fight for you when invaders come your way.

  1. Stay hydrated. Typical recommendations for hydration are to shoot for half your body weight in ounces. So if you weigh 100 lbs, drink 50 oz of water throughout the day.
  2. Eat the rainbow: Proper diet includes a variety of fruits and vegetables every single day. Try to fill at least half your plate with both raw and cooked vegetables in order to ensure you’re getting enough micronutrients and fiber to feed that healthy bacteria in your gut. 
  3. Load up on herb and spices: Herbs and spices are the closest things to wild foods we have in our diets these days, which means they haven’t been stripped of their natural phytonutrients that help us fight off disease. Garlic, onions, ginger, turmeric, cilantro, oregano, and parsley are all great herbs and spices to add to your daily meals. Garlic and onions even have antimicrobial and anti-cancer properties! Check out this post on how to boost your intake of phytonutrients.
  4. Get some sun or take vitamin D: Vitamin D is a major component to a health immune system, so adequate amounts in the system are vital during flu season. Of course, in the winter months it’s hard to get enough sun for most people not living on the equator. I’m not big on making a broad recommendation for supplements, so I won’t say that every single person should supplement with vitamin D in the winter months, but it’s not a bad idea to find out your numbers to know for sure if you need a little boost. 
  5. SLEEP! I can’t express enough how vital sleep is to the health of your immune system. I’ve written two recent posts on the importance of sleep and how to get more of it here and here. Check them out to get your sleep routine under control.
  6. Steer clear of processed sugars and flours: White sugars and flours are pro-inflammatory foods that weaken the immune system by their very nature. They also wreak havoc on your gut (the next item on the list.) This can be problematic considering flu season and holiday season overlap considerably. Just be smart about your treats this time of year and try to balance them out with numbers 2 and 3 above!
  7. Take care of your gut: Sing it with me now! I will beat this dead horse into the ground and keep beating forever. Gut health is number one for your immune system. Heal your gut and the rest will follow. What goes into your mouth determines so much of how we interact with the world around us, including how often we get sick. Drink bone broth, take a probiotic, maybe even make your own kombucha!  

10 Easy Hacks to Eat More Phytonutrients

What’s a Phytonutrient?

Phytonutrients are the beneficial components in plants that help fight off disease and prevent the damaged caused by free radicals and toxins in our environment. They protect the plants themselves from potentially harmful factors such as UV light, pests, fungus, and parasites. The protective quality of phytonutrients extends to us when we eat these plants, which translates into the prevention of heart disease, diabetes, and other inflammatory diseases.

When plants are exposed to a threat, they fight back by producing these wonderful chemicals. It follows logically and has been scientifically studied and proven that the use of pesticides and herbicides allows plants to “let their guards down” and stop producing as much and as many of these beneficial substances. Conventional produce contains far fewer phytonutrients than organic produce.

Antioxidants are phytonutrients.

Carotenoids are phytonutrients.

Flavonoids are phytonutrients.

Today I’m going to share some easy, useful, and simple-to-implement shopping and cooking hacks to help you increase your intake of phytonutrients.

Bragging Rights

Before I do that though, I’d like to establish my authority on this matter by briefly bragging about my own recent antioxidant score using a biophotonic antioxidant scanner! (that number says 71,000; sorry, not a great picture) I pack as many meals a day as possible with fresh veggies, especially those from my gardens at home. I think those freshly picked veggies make a big difference, but that’s not the only way to get a reading this high.

Myantioxidantscore

I did my test with the Oakland Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine Clinic.

This test measures carotenoids on your skin, which is a good data point for the general level of antioxidants in your body. A high level of antioxidants translates into a high ability for the body to neutralize free radicals, fight disease, and protect the body from external toxins. Factors such as what you eat, the type of toxic load you’re exposed to, and the level of emotional and physical stress you’re under affect this reading. (Dr. Oz made this scanner famous when he brought it onto his show and tested the audience and himself.)

 

 

 

 

Maximizing Your Phytonutrient Intake

If you haven’t had a chance to check out Jo Robinson’s new book Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health (affiliate link), it’s high time you check it out. There are so many awesome little tidbits in this wonderful book explaining how our food isn’t quite what it used to be, and what we can do about it. It outlines the origins of domesticated plants and makes the argument that the “5 a day” recommendation of typical fruits and veggies simply won’t cut it anymore. Instead, you need to know which fruits and veggies to eat to really max out that phytonutrient count and reach optimal health.

There’s no way that I could “give away” the plethora of valuable information that you’ll find between the pages of this book, but I took it upon myself to extract some of my favorite goodies — tips and hacks you can put to use today to start upping your phytonutrient count and improving your health.

phytonutrient food swap

6 Shopping Hacks to Increase Your Phytonutrients:

  1. Choose granny smith. It has the highest phytonutrient content and the best sugar-to-fiber ratio. Great for the heart and the whole body too. The golden delicious apple has the fewest phytonutrients of any of the other varieties, and has so much sugar that it can increase your LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
  2. Replace salt with herbs and spices. Herbs and spices are as nutritious as the wild foods of our ancestors, packed full of a wide range of phytonutrients. They are a great substitute for extra salt and can provide wonderful, rich flavor to any dish.
  3. Opt for red lettuce and other leafy greens. Red lettuce is the king of lettuces, according to Robinson, as that red color indicates a very high antioxidant content. Additionally, the internal leaves of the head lettuce never see the sunlight, so they don’t generate phytonutrients to protect themselves from the UV rays. Leafy lettuces that flare out and are exposed to the sun have a greater supply of nutrition.
  4. Go green. Green onions have 100x more phytonutrients than bulb onions that grow underground. The green part is the richest portion, so chop it up and use it all!
  5. Berries over bananas. Like the golden delicious apple, the farmed banana is much higher in sugar than in phytonutrients and fiber. Berries have a better sugar-to-fiber ratio, and their deep color indicate a high level of phytonutrients. If you can find wild berries, you’ll get even more bang for your buck! Some grocery stores sell frozen wild blueberries, and if you live in the Bay Area, you’re about to start seeing wild blackberries all over the place. Eat up! Robinson recommends that we shoot for eating 1/2 a cup of berries a day.
  6. Opt for yams. White potatoes are very starchy without a lot of fiber to mitigate the glycemic load. The orange color of the yam indicates a high carotenoid count, and you’ll find more fiber there too.

4 Kitchen Hacks to Increase Your Phytonutrients:

  1. Don’t boil your veggies — you end up throwing out the nutrition with the water. All other types of cooking are superior to boiling most vegetables (artichokes are the exception, but even then steaming is better than boiling). Stir frying is a great way to go, because you don’t lose the water soluble nutrients the way you would if you boiled or steamed.
  2. Tear your greens a day in advance. The leaves are still alive in your fridge (in fact, asparagus can grow another inch or two in the grocery store or in your fridge), and if you tear them, it sends a signal for them to repair themselves. That means the torn plants are creating more antioxidants to protect what’s been torn.
  3. Let your chopped garlic sit for 10 minutes before you heat it. This is my favorite kitchen hack. We’ve all heard that garlic is great for cardiovascular health and cancer prevention, right? Well the chemical responsible for that protection in us is called allicin. As with the torn lettuce, the allicin count increases exponentially if you chop the garlic and let it sit. If you expose your chopped garlic to heat immediately, the allicin content is next to nothing. That 10 minutes makes all the difference.
  4. Thaw frozen berries in the microwave to prevent the loss of antioxidants that would take place in a counter- or fridge-thaw. This is the one and only time I recommend choosing the microwave to a more old-school method of heating or defrosting. For some reason, the quick thaw preserves the nutrition far better than a slow melt.

These hacks are so easy, I challenge you to try them out TONIGHT as you cook your dinner. Chop the garlic first and leave it out for 10 minutes before tossing it into the flames. Tear your salad greens tonight for tomorrow’s meals. Throw a few berries, fresh herbs, and chopped green onions in that salad too! Let me know how it goes!


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.

 

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