hearty and healthy banana bread

What’s better on a cold winter day (or any day really) than a delicious, comforting piece of banana bread? Since it is one of my all time favorite treats and I have been craving it a lot this winter, I have been been making healthier versions by using whole wheat flour, a touch of maple syrup, adding ground flax seeds and walnuts for extra omega 3s. Feel free to add some dark chocolate or cacao nibs for extra flavor and health benefits such as antioxidants, lowering blood sugar and boosting moods.

Another great thing about this recipe is it’s fairly simple and quick to make and only requires one bowl, minimizing clean-up 🙂

banana2

Ingredients
3 very ripe bananas
1/2 cup melted coconut oil, butter or ghee
1/2 cup maple syrup, brown rice syrup, or coconut palm sugar
1 egg beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher or sea salt
1.5 cups 100% whole wheat flour
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
1/2 cup cacao nibs or chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions
Preheat oven to 350F and grease a loaf pan with coconut oil or butter or line with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas and add the melted coconut oil or butter.

Mix in the baking soda and salt. Stir in the maple syrup, beaten egg, cinnamon and vanilla. Mix in the ground flax seeds and flour. (Do not over mix)

Stir in any additional ingredients like chocolate chips and walnuts.

To make this recipe vegan, swap the egg for a flax egg (soak 1 TBS of ground flax in 3 TBS water for 15 mins) or your favorite egg replacer.

I have been making a lot of different variations off of the above recipe. Feel free to add any of your favorite dried fruits, nuts, seeds or even swap out the flour for gluten-free variety and add 1/4 tsp xanthan gum.

Enjoy!

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Tea : Powerful Health Benefits + Recipes for Energy, Stress-relief and Detox

Next to our number one hydration buddy, water, tea is the runner up on the most consumed beverage in the world. I love this statistic! Whether you like it for the taste, the endless health benefits, the comforting warmth or just the sophistication of having a cup of tea, there are plenty of health benefits as to why we should up our tea consumption. Eastern medicine has looked towards teas and herbs for centuries, and there are proven studies to show just how powerful these plants can be in health and longevity. The 5 most common teas are black, white, green, herbal and oolong. Each tea has its own special powers  – all benefitting our body in different and powerful ways.

Tea_in_different_grade_of_fermentation

Below we give a brief summary of the main benefits of the different popular types.

Looking and feeling younger is something that we all aspire  – white tea can give us a lift here. The properties of white tea can help inhibit the wrinkle process with its power of strengthening elastin and collagen. Goodbye crow’s feet and forehead wrinkles!

Black tea is shown to lower our blood pressure, decreasing out risk for a heart attack or stroke.

Green tea is our saving grace with its ability to increase the body’s ability to burn fat. Also, with weight loss, green tea is shown to increase our metabolisms, therefore making it easier to burn off calories faster. The antioxidants in green tea help our immune system put those free radicals to rest – fighting off cancer and other harmful disease. Green tea can also strengthen our bones.

Oolong tea is fragrant with a fruity hint that includes multiple benefits to our bodies. Oolong tea can help reduce heart disease, inflammatory issues and aids with high cholesterol levels. Many Eastern practices use this for weight loss as well.

Herbal teas have endless amounts of health properties and medicinal purposes.  Depending on what you need (stress relief, sleeping aid, energy booster) specific herbs blends in can be your cure-all in a cup. From detoxing, energy boosting, nausea reducing, skin healing, constipation, even helping mother with lactation and women with menstrual cycles, different herbal teas and blends can work wonders. Do some research on what you are looking for and go to your local loose leaf supplier for the cure  (instead of your pharmacy!) Make sure to contact your physician or an experienced herbalist when consuming large amounts or different herbals teas/blends (especially when pregnant).

Also, make sure you aren’t overdoing teas that contain caffeine (green, black, white and red). Caffeine is good in moderation but can also cause added anxiety, sleep disturbances and dehydration. Feel free to sip on most herbal teas all day though!

Now let’s get specific. What do we need? What does our body crave? Check out these 3 tea recipes: one for detox, energy and last but not least a stress reliever tea!

Ginger Turmeric Detox Tea Recipe
Ingredients:
• 2 inch knob of ginger
• 2-3 inch piece of turmeric root or substitute 2 tsp turmeric powder
• 1-2 dashes of cayenne (or you could juice 1/2 a habanero or jalapeño pepper)
o Circulatory stimulant: increases pulse of lymphatic and digestive rhythms
• 4 lemons (3 for juicing and 1 for slicing as a garnish)
• 3 droppers vanilla stevia
• 2 quarts waterginger_tea

1. In a juicer, juice your ginger root, turmeric, and 3 lemons
2. In a large pitcher add your juice to about 2 quarts of water, a couple droppers of vanilla stevia to taste, a couple dashes of cayenne and your thinly cut lemon slices.
3.  Mix well with a wooden spoon and adjust flavors to taste.
4. Let sit for about 10 mins before serving to let the flavors blend. Will last about 5 days in the fridge.

Heath Benefits

Ginger:
Colon Cancer Prevention
Reduces Pain and Inflammation
Cold and Flu Prevention Treatment
Turmeric:
Natural Antiseptic and Antibacterial agent
Natural liver detoxifier
Assists in healing of damaged skin
Cayenne
Anti-Cold and Flu Agent
Anti-fungal Properties
Digestive Aid

Give Me Energy Tea
Ingredients:
• A clean glass bottle or container
• 1 kaffir lime leaf
• Organic yerba mate – about 3 tablespoons per cup of water
• A few slices of fresh ginger
• Water

1)Combine all ingredients, stick’em in the bottle.
2)Let it sit overnight.
3) Bottle up and enjoy!
Yerba mate is full of antioxidants, aids digestion, and has a natural caffeherbal_lavender_flower_tea_1ine

Stress Relief Tea
Ingredients:
• 1 Tbsp St John’s Wort (suggestion)
• 1 Tbsp Oatstraw
• 1/3 c Chamomile
• 1 Tbsp Lavender
• 2 Tbsp Lemon Balm
• 2 tsp Catnip
• 1 Tbsp Orange or lemon rind.

1. Heat 2 quarts water until almost boiling.
2. Add the St. John’s wort and oatstraw and steep for 6 minutes.
3. Add the rest of the herbs and steep for an additional 3-4 minutes.
4. Strain herbs and sweeten with honey if desired.

I love purchasing loose tea in bulk- it cuts down on price and more importantly – wasteful packaging materials. If you do prefer buying packaged bags that are conveniently prepared, make sure the tea is organic. Many commercial tea bags can contain harmful toxins and chemicals that will end up counter acting the health benefits from the teas. My two favorite brands for herbal and medicinal teas are organic Alvita and Traditional Medicinals.

Summer’s Bounty

Did you know some of our staple summer produce holds some of the most nutritious vitamins? Here they are right in front of us, in bulk, at our grocery stores and farm stands! They are as fresh as can be and less expensive compared to the colder months. Now that we have all of these fresh and nutritious options at our finger tips lets gobble them in before it’s too late! Some things to keep in mind when buying produce is to consider organic. We can understand that buying 100% organic can be expensive. The “Dirty Dozen List” is a list of fruits and vegetables that are at the top 12 pesticide infested fruits and vegetables, and therefore should be priority when choosing which foods to purchase organic.  Going organic for these 12 are definitely worth your pretty penny!

The Dirty Dozen

Apples Strawberries Grapes Celery Peaches

Spinach

Sweet bell peppers Nectarines Cucumbers Potatoes Cherry tomatoes

Hot peppers

If there is produce available that is organic and locally grown, that’s a double whammy! Buying local doesn’t only benefit you, but the people around you. Your produce will taste better if it is locally grown because it doesn’t have to go through being picked before being ripe and shipping. Local food also promotes energy conservation by decreasing our carbon foot print by traveling miles to grocery stores. Buying local helps local farmers and builds the community as a whole.

One of my favorite summer fruits are BLUEBERRIES. I could go through a carton all by myself, no shame. Blueberries are low in fat with only 80 calories per serving. They are also full of dietary fiber, which helps keep your body regular during digestion, keeps our heart healthy and keeps our cholesterol in check. Blueberries are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that help with cardiovascular disease, cancer and other age related diseases. These small little blueberries carry a lot of Vitamin C on their shoulders; Vitamin C helps with collagen formation, maintains healthy gums and capillaries and boosts that immune system. Manganese can also be found in blueberries which aids with bone development and with converting proteins, carbs and fats into energy. Who would have thought blueberries came with such a punch?!

Nothing says summer like a juicy peach. Taking the first bite of a perfectly ripened peach is a force to be reckoned with. You are bound to get peach juice all over your cheeks and then it starts to drip down your hand and then it somehow ends up on your lap, but…it’s all worth it. When there is nothing but the pit left you could go in for another peach. Not only are they delicious this time of year, they benefit our bodies. Peaches contribute to our eye health because they have beta carotene in them which improves eye vision by increasing circulation of blood. Peaches can make our skin glow! They are packed with Vitamin C, which can help with dark circles and wrinkles. Hallelujah. Peaches are a rich source of antioxidants and fiber. Antioxidants help with the immune system and fiber keeping our digestion regular.

watermelonA slice of watermelon is always a special treat during the summer because we all know winter watermelon and summer watermelon don’t even compare. Watermelon helps with cardiovascular and bone health because it improves blood flow and  it’s also rich in potassium which holds onto calcium in the body, therefore promotes healthy strong bones. Watermelon is known to reduce body fat with its partner citrulline that reduces the accumulation of fat in our fat cells. Along with the other fruits, watermelon contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant support.

 These are just a few of summer’s special treats to us. Whenever you feel a sweet tooth craving come in, give in with fresh fruit! Looking for something a little more complex on your tastebuds? Check out some simple healthy recipes using our favorite summer treasures!

 

Blueberry Peach Cobbler 

Ingredients

  • 5 lb peaches, pitted and sliced
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup organic cane  sugar or coconut sugar, divided
  • 3/8 tsp salt, divided
  • 6 3/4 oz plus 2 tbsp 100% whole wheat flour, divided (or brown rice flour for GF + 1/4 tsp xantham gum)peach
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup organic butter or EarthBalance soy-free vegan butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup lowfat buttermilk (or dairy free with 1/2 tsp lemon juice)
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 2 tbsp turbinado sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. In a large bowl, toss peaches with lemon juice, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/8 tsp salt and 2 tbsp flour.  Arrange peaches in a 9×13-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and remaining 1/4 tsp salt.  Place the butter and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes on medium-high speed.  Add in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Mix in the vanilla extract.  Add the flour and buttermilk, alternating between the two, starting and ending with the flour.  Stir in the blueberries.  Pour the batter over the peaches and spread evenly.  Sprinkle the top with the turbinado sugar.
  4. Place pan on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 1 hour or until topping is golden and filling is bubbly.

 

Watermelon Blueberry- Mint Popsicle 

Ingredients

  • 6 heaping cups diced seedless watermelon (or remove the seeds)
  • 3 tablespoons agave or honey
  • ½ tablespoon lime juice
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon minced mint leaves
  • ½ cup fresh blueberries

Instructions

  1. In a blender, puree watermelon along with sugar, lime juice, and salt until smooth.
  2. Add mint and blend briefly to finely mince the mint and get it mixed in.
  3. Pour puree into popsicle molds. (You should be able to make at least 10, but it will depend on the size of your molds.)
  4. Freeze until hard.

 

 

food for game day! the healthy way.

Who doesn’t love a spread of delicious snacks to eat during game day… and in this case not just any game day – Super Bowl Sunday game day!?

I certainly do. I also love putting my own healthier spin on staple game day/party snacks and appetizers.

Although, sometimes I am hesitant to use the word “healthy” or “light” on game day in fear of giving the extremely hungry crowd of boyfriends, husbands, brothers and dads any pre-conceived notions. So I will refrain from using the term from here on out.  We know these guys are here to eat. A lot.  And not salads.  These below dishes will definitely be a hit with our toughest critics. We’ll inform them after that they are indeed…healthy.

As for us ladies of course we want tasty, but we usually are more cognizant of what we are throwing into these dips, casseroles and crockpots. Whether it’s sneaking in extra greens and veggies or replacing some of the hydronated, unhealthy fats, you won’t be able to tell with these delicious recipes! I have compiled a few of my favorite versions of tried and true appetizers we all know and love below. 


Creamy Artichoke and Spinach Dipspinach

Ingredients
2 cups chopped kale, finely chopped
2 cups fresh spinach, finely chopped
1 bag of frozen artichoke hearts thawed, finely chopped
1 large red pepper, very finely diced
1 large shallot, finely diced
1 garlic clove minced
¼ tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh black pepper
½ tsp onion powder
1 cup organic sour cream (or ½ cup sour cream and ½ greek yogurt)
3 tbsp organic mayo (healthy fats!)
3 tbs raw parmesan or manchego cheese, plus more for top
1 cup daya vegan cheddar cheese or mozzarella, or your choice of shredded cheese
coconut oil for greasing

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and place into a greased medium sized baking dish (8×8 or 9x 9)
Top with additional cheese if desired
Bake for approximately 30-45 mins covered
Remove from oven, and let sit for at least 5 mins before serving with whole wheat pita or tortilla chips,  or my favorite –  rice chips!

Sweet and Spicy Veggie Chili with Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients
1 medium red onion, chopped???????????????????????????????????????????????????
2 shallots, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
kosher salt and black pepper
1 28-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 15.5-ounce can black beans, rinsed
1 15.5-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed
1 medium sweet potato (about 8 ounces), peeled and cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces
Separate plate with sour cream, sliced scallions, sliced radishes, choice of cheese, avocado, and tortilla or pita chips, for serving

Directions
In a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine the onion, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, cocoa, cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Add the tomatoes (and their liquid), beans, sweet potato, and 1 cup water.

Cover and cook until the sweet potatoes are tender and the chili has thickened, on low for 7 to 8 hours  or on high for 4 to 5 hours (this will shorten total recipe time).
Open and add spinach. Stir until wilted and blended.
Taste and add more spice or seasoning as needed.
Serve the chili with the sour cream, scallions, radishes, avocado, daya cheddar cheese and tortilla chips.

Shrimp, Avocado and Mango Parfait with Creamy Cilantro Lime Dressing

Ingredients
1 lb shrimp (wild caught is best) cleaned and cooked
1 ½ cup mango salsa or 2 mangoes, small dice
4-5 avocados, medium dice
1 large red bell pepper, small dice (can leave out if it is in salsa)
2 cups shredded romaine
1 can (15 oz) organic black beans, cleaned and rinsed
1.5 cups tomatoes, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
juice of 1 lime
2 Tbs chopped cilantro
chipotle powder, to taste
sea salt
fresh pepper
1 cup finely shredded Mexican blend cheese, optional

Creamy Cilantro Lime Dressing

Ingredients
¾ cup Greek Yogurt
¼ cup light sour cream or organic mayonnaise
½ cup almond milk, unsweetened
½ cup chopped cilantro
juice of 2 limes
½ tsp chipotle powder
1 clove garlic, minced or ½ tsp garlic powder
1 scallion, chopped
¼ tsp cumin
½ tsp sea salt, more to taste
½ tsp fresh ground pepper

Place all ingredients in food processor or blended until well combined. Adjust flavors as needed.

Directions
Chop into large chunks. Toss shrimp with a little salt, chipotle chili pepper, and fresh lime juice.

Start by layering the romaine on bottom of a large parfait dish (or large glass bowl).
Divide all ingredients in half except the shrimp.
Layer each ingredient once and drizzle with dressing and fresh cilantro.
Repeat with remaining half and drizzle with dressing (save some for top)
Top with shrimp, remaining dressing, salt, pepper, cilantro and scallions (optional)

This recipe is loaded with protein, lots of vitamins and minerals from all the veggies, fiber, and healthy fats. It is also highly addictive! Enjoy.

This goes very well with Corona Light or an Agave Margarita 🙂  )  Tip for margaritas : kick up your favorite recipe by adding a little chipotle or spicy seasoning to the plate with salt. Mix the salt and spice and dip each rim glass before pouring.

Last but not least- what is a party with out a cocktail? This winter Rosemary Grapefruit Cocktail is light, refreshing and so beautiful.

                                                                         Rosemary- Grapefruit Refresher

GrapefruitandRosemaryCocktail1 cup organic cane sugar (or 1tsp stevia)
1 cup water
3-4 long sprigs of rosemary, plus extra for garnish
6 cups fresh squeezed grapefruit juice (can use store bought but watch out they are much sweeter, so lower the sugar in the simple syrup or dilute with water)
5-6 oz vodka
2 oz Triple Sec

 

In a small saucepan heat the sugar and water until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add the rosemary and simmer for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool (I put in the refrigerator to hurry the process, or make ahead)

In a pitcher, mix the rosemary syrup with the grapefruit juice, vodka and Triple Sec.

Serve over ice with a rosemary garnish.

Enjoy!

Who are you rooting for?!

Superfood Profile : Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are an amazing superfood, especially for athletes. As athletes, we strive to achieve optimal endurance and strength, proper hydration, and muscle building and repair.  Chia seeds can help you attain all of these.

The tiny black and white seeds come from an ancient plant used for its nutritional benefits and medicinal uses.  The seeds were used by the Incans, Mayans and Aztecs and were considered a magical seed, providing strength and stamina over long periods of times.  The running messengers relied heavily on them, carrying a small pouch around to provide sustainable energy on their long journeys. The word “Chia” is actually the Mayan word for strength.

As scientists and researchers are realizing the lack of certain key nutrients in the Standard American Diet (SAD), they are turning to history for natural solutions.  There has been much research over the past few years on the powerful nutritional benefits of the chia seed.

Chia seeds are rich in trace minerals, vitamins, fiber, omega fatty acids, calcium, antioxidants and much more. They have a rich concentration of essential fatty acids, with an almost perfect ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 for healthy tissue and muscle maintenance and repair. Chia seeds are considered to be hydrophilic, meaning they absorb large amounts of water quickly (10x their weight). Thus, they are great enhancers of hydration, as well as promoters of electrolyte balance-  key elements for peak  performance.  Chia seeds are a great pre-workout superfood for the obvious endurance and hydrating benefits.

In addition, they contain large amounts of calcium, potassium and iron. These are essential vitamins and minerals that are lost through sweat and muscle contraction, making chia seeds a great post- workout and restorative snack as well. They are easily absorbed and digested, resulting in quick transportation and utilization of the tissues and cells. Chia seeds also contain protein, also essential for post-workout recovery –  aiding in muscle building and repair.

I’ve touched most of the benefits this powerful little seed has to offer. You can see why these are a great addition to any diet – especially for athletes and those looking to improve stamina and performance.  Try for yourself first hand and start reaping the benefits of this mighty little seed!

How to incorporate chia seeds:

  • Put 1 tsp in glass of water and stir. Allow to sit for about ten minutes. Sip pre- or post- workout.
  • In a seal tight container, add ¼ cup chia seeds to 1 cup water. Refrigerate overnight. This will form chia ‘gel’ which is great for smoothies and yogurt parfaits.
  • Add to any of your favorite granola, granola bar, or overnight oats recipes.
  • Make chia seed pudding (recipe below).

magic-chia-seeds3

 Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding

2-3 cups almond milk (could also use coconut milk or soy milk)
¾ cup chia seeds
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp. maple syrup or agave

  • Combine all ingredients in a large bowl
  • Stir for about 1-2 minutes or until the mixture begins to thicken
  • Stir every 5-10 minutes over an hour
  • Can be stored in the fridge or eaten immediately
  • Serve plain or topped with fruit and whipped cream

Homemade Dairy & Soy Free Ice Cream

Craving something creamy and sweet like ice cream,  but don’t want those added sugars and saturated fats? Whip up this delicious and healthy frozen treat in just minutes!bananaIC13

I usually have a few frozen bananas in the freezer for smoothies… so when I was craving something sweet and decadent the other night, I decided to try and come up with something healthy to satisfy it. I ended up making such a delicious concoction!  It also happened to be dairy and soy free and packed with protein, potassium and fiber.
It was so good, I had to share. You have to try it.  I swear you might even like it better than anything store bought, I do!  You can experiment and add in your own favorite flavors too, the recipe is so versatile.  I added peanut butter, cinnamon, and walnuts and topped it with some diced apples. Tasted like apple pie!

Apple Pie “Ice Cream”

Base:
2 frozen bananas
1/4 cup unsweetened organic applesauce
Splash of almond or coconut milk
1 T organic chunky peanut butter (or any of your favorite nut butter)
1 Tsp ground flax seeds
Sprinkle of cinnamon, all spice and nutmeg (chai spices would be good too)
4-5 ice cubes

Stir-ins:
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Try any type of nut or super food powders like maca or cacao

Toppings:
I used diced honey crisp apple and a small drizzle of honey. Here are some other suggestions: Cocoa nibs, berries, honey, sea salt, dark chocolate pieces, chopped and toasted walnuts or pecans, coconut flakes, goji berries

Procedure:
In a vita mix, magic bullet or food processor add all of the base ingredients. Process/blend until ingredients are completed  blended together and smooth.
Transfer to a bowl and mix in any stir-in ingredients you would like.

Freeze for 30 minutes to an hour. Scoop into bowl with ice cream scooper and add toppings. Enjoy!