Monday, December 05, 2016

Bounce Away The Holiday Pounds
Your Lymphatic System Will Thank You

Bouncing burns calories and supports lymphatic circulation.

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Post Holiday Pounds
I had a great Thanksgiving as Doug, Linda and I ate and drank our way through the wonderful restaurant scene in Minneapolis. Don't believe me? Just look at my scale!

I can't blame all the added pounds on Thanksgiving. They've been inching up for a few months now. I got lazy with logging my calories on MyFitnessPal and I haven't been exercising as much as I usually do. (Turns out all that farming I did this summer didn't burn as many calories as I had hoped). I feel a need to take action now before the Christmas holiday does more damage!

The Lymphatic System
You might be asking why on earth this leads us to a discussion of the lymphatic system. Well, here's the story. 

I found a lump right above my collarbone a few months ago. Lumps are never a good thing so I ran straight to my naturopath who examined it and subsequently made me take a million tests. Turns out it was just a swollen lymph gland reacting to a sinus flareup and it subsided a few weeks later. But perhaps my lymph nodes weren't draining well enough because I haven't been active enough. It's just a theory, but if it motivates me to get off my butt, I'm sticking to it. 

The lymphatic system is a critical part of the body's immune system. In ways, it is similar to our circulatory system as it has vessels throughout our body and interfaces with various organs. But instead of having veins, arteries, and capillaries, it consists of lymphatic vessels. These vessels are connected to lymph nodes whose job is to filter the lymphatic fluids and rid them of toxins, cellular waste, bacteria, viruses, and other unwanted materials. At the same time, it delivers white blood cells throughout the body to fight infections. But unlike the circulatory system whose heart pumps blood throughout your body, whether you are laying on the couch or running a marathon, the lymphatic system depends on physical movement, the contraction of our muscles and gravity. 

Since there is twice as much lymph as blood, it's critical that we help it circulate throughout our bodies. A congested lymphatic system can lead to swollen lymph nodes, recurrent sore throats, a weakened immune system, muscle aches and pains, arthritis, and other disorders. 

Things that Help Lymphatic Congestion
The first thing my naturopath recommended was to start bouncing! Well that sounded like a lot of fun so I immediately ordered a mini trampoline. They come in various sizes. I picked a 38-inch Intone Plus Rebounder because it doesn't take up much space yet it's big enough that I feel safe. It also has two resistance tubes for upper body strength training. I actually use them to make sure I don't drift of the rebounder while bouncing and watching TV. This model also has a counter which tells you how long you work out and how many times you bounce.

Stamina 38-inch Intone Plus Rebounder

Depending on how vigorously you jump or jog in place, and how many pounds you weigh, you will burn anywhere from 120 to 170 calories in 30 minutes. Like any exercise, you will have to work yourself up to 30 minutes. But even bouncing for a mere 10 minutes a day can do a lot of good.

Other Things your Lymphatic System will Enjoy
Besides bouncing, here are some other things you can do:
* Stretching
* Any aerobic exercise
* Your lymphatic system will enjoy yoga, as its many twists and turns help facilitate drainage. 
Skin brushing will also stimulate your lymphatic system.
* Drink lots of water.
* A gentle massage, especially a lymph drainage massage, can get stagnant lymph back into circulation.

But hands down, bouncing is the most fun. And along with a healthy diet and journaling, I'm hoping I can drop my Thanksgiving pounds and more!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Healthy Instant Pot Thanksgiving Recipes

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Instant Pot - a Needed Helper for Holiday Cooking
If you're like most families, your oven and all the burners are busy when cooking for the holidays, especially on Thanksgiving. What better time to have an Instant Pot to lend a helping hand. I've got two!

Here are a few healthy, low-calorie Instant Pot recipes you might want to consider for your holiday meals. Except for the Farro recipe, they are also gluten free.

Start with Soup
I have two takes on soup. The first is one that's casual, served in a mug and handed to your guests in the kitchen while everyone is cooking. To do this, you need a brothy soup, like this Instant Pot Butternut Squash Soup that I blogged earlier this week.

At only 117 calories, this won't many calories to your meal.

Of course, the other take on soup is to serve it as a first course at the dinner table. One of my absolute favorite soups that I make in the Instant Pot is Vegan Split Pea Soup with Shredded Carrots. 

Popular Thanksgiving Side Dishes

For a healthier mashed potato recipe, try Mashed Vegan Yukon Gold Potatoes and Cauliflower. This dairy-free, Instant Pot version of mashed potatoes will be welcomed by your dairy sensitive guests and the cauliflower lightens up the calories. 

Only 135 calories and a whopping 5 grams of dietary fiber!

If you prefer sweet potatoes, make these Instant Pot Maple Whipped Sweet Potatoes.

150 calories and only 1 gram of fat
and a whopping 4 g of dietary fiber!

Brussels sprouts are a must at our Thanksgiving table. Clean them ahead of time and make Sweet and Orangey Brussels Sprouts in your Instant Pot in just a few minutes time.

Only 65 calories per serving

Another side dish that you can easily make in your Instant Pot is Farro with Peas. 

Greens always dress up a table. If you aren't making mashed potatoes, you can make this Instant Pot Kale and New Potato dish. Of course you can omit the potatoes and double the kale in the recipe if you already have potatoes on the menu.

Only 54 calories and 1 gram of fat

Well, that should give you a few ideas on how to use your Instant Pot for your holiday cooking. I haven't figured out how to make a pumpkin pie in there yet, but you should have plenty of room left to do that in your oven.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Instant Pot Butternut Squash Soup
Only 117 Calories Per Serving

This simple butternut squash soup is a
great first course for your holiday dinner.

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Quick and Easy Soup in the Instant Pot
With several dozen butternut squash from my harvest, I've been trying to create a really simple, delicious, and healthy recipe so that I can enjoy them over the next few months. This recipe, using my Instant Pot Pressure Cooker, makes a steamy, brothy soup that makes a wonderful beginning to any meal. I will be hauling a few of my squash to my daughter's house next week so that we can serve this soup on Thanksgiving day.

Butternut squash can sometimes be tough to cut and a bit intimidating, so check out my post, An Easy Way to Cut a Butternut Squash Without a Machete.

If you don't have an Instant Pot, follow the Stove Top recipe below.

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Instant Pot Butternut Squash Soup
Vegan, Dairy and Gluten Free
[makes 6 servings]

Instant Pot Pressure Cooker
Immersion Blender

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced celery
1 (2-pound) butternut squash, peeled, cleaned and diced
4 cups vegetable broth*
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce, room temperature
Pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped, divided
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste

* broth can be replaced by 4 cups water and a large Rapunzel vegan bouillon cube

Directions (Using an Instant Pot)
Heat the oil in the Instant Pot on the SAUTE function. Add the onions and celery and cook for three minutes, stirring frequently. Turn off the Instant Pot.

Add the diced butternut squash, broth, and salt and hit the MANUAL button on the Instant Pot and set for 6 minutes under high pressure. Make sure the quick release switch in the closed position. When done, hit the OFF button and let the pressure release naturally.

When complete, open the cover and tilt so that the steam comes out the back and away from your face. 

Add the applesauce, cayenne pepper, and 3/4 teaspoon of thyme and, using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. 

Stir in the lemon juice and adjust salt and cayenne to taste. It should still be warm enough but if not, use the SAUTE function and heat for several minutes. 

Pour into large cups or small soup bowls, top with the remaining fresh thyme and serve. 

Directions (On the Stove Top)
Heat the oil in a soup pot on medium heat. Add the onions and celery and cook for several minutes, stirring frequently. 

Add the diced butternut squash, broth, and salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, until the squash is soft, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Turn off the heat. Add the applesauce, cayenne pepper, and 3/4 teaspoon of thyme and, using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. 

Stir in the lemon juice and adjust salt and cayenne to taste.

Pour into large cups or small soup bowls, top with the remaining fresh thyme and serve.  

Per serving: 117 calories, 3 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 58 mg omega-3 and 263 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 2 g protein, 23 g carbohydrates, 4 g dietary fiber, and 551 mg sodium.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Make Your Holiday Baking Healthier - How To Convert Butter To Olive Oil In Recipes

Olive oil is a healthy substitute for butter in
holiday baking - Here's why!

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Holiday Baking
Before you start baking holiday goodies for your family, friends, and neighbors, consider substituting some or all of that butter with extra virgin olive oil. Here's why!

First of all, it takes less olive oil than butter.  Here's how it converts:

Butter              Oil
1 tsp       =      3/4 tsp
1 TB               2 1/4 tsp
2 TB               1 1/2 TB
1/4 C              3 TB
1/3 C             1/4 C
1/2 C              1/4 C + 2 TB
2/3 C              1/2 C
3/4 C              1/2 C + 1 TB
1 C                 3/4 C

For example, if your recipe calls for 1/2 cup of butter , you would only need 6 tablespoons of olive oil. Nutritionally, this means:
* you would save 100 calories, 
* the recipe would have 47 fewer grams of saturated fat,
* you would save 244 mg of cholesterol,
* the baked item with olive oil would have 260 mg more beneficial omega-3 and 4,811 mg more omega-6 fatty acids.

In addition, olive oil contains anti-inflammatory polyphenols which lower the body's overall inflammation.  So give it a try!

Can't Give it Up?
If you absolutely cannot give up that buttery flavor, try using some ghee. Ghee is traditionally used in Indian food and is made by cooking butter until all the moisture is removed and the milk solids are caramelized and filtered out. Ghee has many advantages over butter.

Although it's not vegan, people like myself who cannot eat dairy, can tolerate ghee because  it does not have lactose or the milk protein, casein. It also doesn't spoil and can last for several months without refrigeration, so it's nice and soft when you need it. 

Always buy organic ghee made from
grass-fed and pasture-raised cows

But despite the numerous health claims you may read about ghee, it is still a saturated fat so if you do eat it, do it sparingly. 

It's amazing how very little butter or ghee it takes to bring a buttery taste to your recipe. So if you don't want to replace all of your butter with olive oil, convert most of it and add just a little ghee.

Happy Baking!

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Whole Wheat Apple Blueberry Muffins With Walnuts - High In Omega 3

These warm, whole grain muffins make a healthy, fall breakfast.

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Warm Muffins - A Wholesome Addition to Breakfast
As the weather cools down, it's nice to start the day with a warm breakfast. These muffins, bursting with blueberries, apples and walnuts, are delicious with Kite Hill almond-based cream "cheese." Take the leftovers to work or school, as they make a wonderful mid-afternoon snack.

Blueberries are one of the highest antioxidant foods we can eat plus each low-calorie, high-fiber muffin is packed with over a 1/2 gram of omega-3 due to the addition of walnuts and flaxseeds!

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Whole Wheat Apple Blueberry Muffins
Vegan, Dairy Free
[makes 12 muffins]

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil plus more for greasing muffin pan
2 cups King Arthur white whole-wheat flour
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
1/4 cup organic can sugar
1 teaspoon powdered stevia
1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup non-dairy milk, such as almond or soy milk
2/3 cup applesauce
1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed
3/4 cup finely diced peeled apples
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease 12 muffin cups or line with paper liners. 

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, flax seeds, sugar, stevia, baking powder, and salt. 

In a large bowl, combine the milk, applesauce, and oil and beat well. 

Add the flour mixture to the large bowl and mix until well blended. Fold in the blueberries, apples and walnuts. 

Using an ice cream scoop or 1⁄3-cup measure, scoop batter into muffin tins. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of a muffin, 18 to 20 minutes. 

Remove from the oven, cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes, release the muffins from the pan, and serve warm. 

Warm muffins bursting with apples and blueberries.

Per muffin: 162 calories, 7 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 538 mg omega-3 and 1,600 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 3 g protein, 20 g carbohydrates, 3 g dietary fiber and 202 mg sodium.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Dehydrating Serrano (Hidalgo) Peppers

Dried Serrano peppers will spice up your winter recipes!

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End of Season Harvests
I'm just wrapping up the summer gardening season. The peppers and eggplant are done producing, the rains are coming, and in about a week, I'll finally be finished canning, freezing and dehydrating - hooray! 

I grew a single Serrano pepper plant and while it was growing, I only pulled a few green peppers from it to cook with. So by the time it was ready to harvest, it had almost two pounds of beautiful ripe, red peppers varying in size from one to two inches. 

This is probably a life-time's worth of Serrano peppers, but I will dehydrate all of them and give them to whomever wants to spice up their life a bit! Last year I used them to make a lot of hot sauce, some of which I still have. It lasts a very long time in the refrigerator! Here's a recipe for Hot Sauce using Jalapeños and Serrano Peppers

Serrano peppers, also known as Hidalgo peppers, are spicier than jalapeños but not as spicy as habaneros. To find out how hot your favorite pepper is, check out this Pepper Scale.

I have enjoyed my Excalibur Dehydrator. When I first bought it, I wondered if I'd ever use it, but I use it all the time. Besides drying fruit and vegetables, I use it to make crackers, fruit leather, and other things. There are many other brands on the market that vary in size and price so pick one that suits your needs.

Dehydrating Serrano Peppers
Place the peppers in a colander and wash them well. Wrap them in a kitchen towel and dry completely.

Wash in a colander

Wearing plastic gloves, cut the tops off of each pepper. I sliced the larger serranos in half and left the smaller ones whole but if I had to do it over, I would slice them all as it took two days to dry the whole ones. 

Place them on the woven dehydrator sheets without the non-stick solid teflon sheets so that the peppers get maximum air flow. Place the sliced peppers with the seeds facing up so they don't all fall out in your dehydrator.

Sliced peppers

Whole peppers

Put the dehydrator in a well ventilated room and open the window so the fumes don't get overwhelming. 

Place the sheets in the dehydrator and set the temperature to 125 to 135 degrees.  The sliced ones will be ready in about 10 hours but may take longer. The whole peppers may take a day or more. Make sure they are fully dried so they will not mold when storing.

Dried, sliced peppers

Put the dried peppers in glass jars and store in a cool, dry place.

To cook with the dried peppers, crumble them soups or stir fries. To make cayenne-like pepper, you can grind the dried peppers in a spice grinder and sprinkle on food. However you use these spicy little guys, they can boost your metabolism and help you burn more calories!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Instant Pot Farro With Peas

Farro, is an ancient strain of hard wheat.

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An Easy Side Dish
I was preparing an eggplant and tofu stir fry for friends and was just about to cook some rice to go with it when I decided to make something different. I looked in the pantry and found a nice bag of pearled Italian farro. Farro, also known as emmer wheat, is not gluten free, but it is high in fiber, a good source of protein, magnesium and B vitamins. It's similar to barley and has a nice bite and texture.

1/4 cup dry farro provides:
170 calories
1 g total fat - 0 saturated
3 g dietary fiber
32 g carbohydrates
7 g protein

Here's a simple farro recipe using your instant pot. Serve with a stir fry, ratatouille, steamed vegetables, or tomato sauce.

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Instant Pot Farro with Peas
Vegan, Dairy Free
[makes 8 servings]

Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced celery
1 1/2 cups pearled farro
2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed, room temperature
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Using the Sauté feature of the Instant Pot, heat the oil. Add the onion and celery and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

 Stir in the farro and then the broth, salt, and pepper.

Hit the Manual button and set for 7 minutes. When it is done, hit the Off button and let the pressure release naturally.

After the pressure comes down, carefully open the cover and stir in the room-temperature peas.

Close the cover and let sit for 5 minutes until the peas warm. If the mixture is still watery, just close the lid for a while longer until it absorbs.

Stir in the fresh parsley, adjust seasoning if needed, and serve immediately.

Per Serving (8): 177 calories, 3 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 7 g protein, 30 g carbohydrates, 4 g dietary fiber, and 448 mg sodium.