Thursday, November 3, 2011

Waking up to steel-cut oatmeal in the morning!

Now that the weather is chilly, well cold would be a better word, I love to enjoy a hot comforing breakfast in the morning.  Oatmeal is that morning comfort food for me and I used to frequently cook regular oats on a cold morning.  That is, until I tried steel-cut oats. 

A couple of winters ago, my friends Steve and Shari came for a visit and offered to cook breakfast.  The night before, we had gone to Huckleberries Natural Market, which is always a fun place to browse and shop.  They carefully selected the ingredients, which included steel-cut oats and organic raisins.  Watching Shari in the morning, I was a bit skeptical, but when I tasted the oats and felt the gooey yet crunchy texture, I was forever hooked. 

Since that day, I have cooked these oats only on occasion.  They take so long that usually my husband and I are not patient enough to wait for our breakfast.  So, after some digging, I stumbled upon a few different ideas to make breakfast a breeze in the morning.  My favorite was the thought of putting the steel-cut oats in the crock pot.  I have tweaked the recipe and created a yummy reason to hop out of bed on a cold morning.  Of course I have added some anti-inflammatory touches :)

Steel-cut Crock Pot Oats

1 cup steel-cut oats
4 cups water
1/2 cup non-fat milk
Flax meal
Pure Maple Syrup
Cran raisins or raisins

Mix the oats, water and milk in a slow cooker.  Set on low heat for 8 hours.  Start this before you go to bed and you will wake up to a healthy, warm, and comforting breakfast.  Add 1 teaspoon of flax meal and 1 tablespoon of pure maple syrup plus some raisins to complete the perfect bowl of oatmeal.  By the way, plain ole raisins are extremely high in anti-inflammatory properties and can help calm morning inflammation. 

*Many people love to add brown sugar and butter, but remember those both cause inflammation in the body.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Pumpkins and what I learned today!

While researching the health benefits of pumpkins today, I learned a fun little tidbit.  I already knew that they were a really great source of beta-carotene.  I also knew that they were great for an anti-inflammatory diet.  What I did not know was that pumpkin seeds are packed with the mineral zinc!  They are awesome for fighting cold and flu viruses.  I think that is wonderful news.  A delicious and nutritious way to stay healthy is always a plus.

I love to make Spicy Pumpkin Seeds in the fall.  The spices I use add to the anti-inflammatory benefit so all the way around, they are plain ole good for ya :)  Enjoy!

Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

2 cups pumpkin seeds, rinsed and patted dry
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon sea salt (or salt to taste)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a cookie sheet.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until evenly coated.  Spread single layer on the cookie sheet.  Bake for 25-35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

Cool and store in an airtight container. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fall...a perfect time for stuffed bell peppers

Whether I like it or not, fall is here.  The calendar says friends say so... and now the weather says so.  The one thing that really put me in the fall spirit was making these delicious stuffed peppers.  Nothing says fall like these yummy packets of goodness.

I stuffed sweet bell peppers.  My mom made them when I was a child, but she used green bell peppers.  I never did acquire a taste for the green bells because of their bitter taste.  The orange, yellow, and red bell peppers hit the spot for me.   I still use the same recipe as my mom did but with a little anti-inflammatory twist, and they are delicious. 

Stuffed Bell Peppers

4 Bell Peppers, (cut the tops off and wash the seeds out of the insides)
1 pound lean ground beef
1 small onion, diced
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup brown rice
1 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika

Brown the ground beef.  Add in the onion and saute until transparent.  Mix in the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down and cover and simmer until the rice is tender, approximately 30-40 minutes. 

Stuff the peppers with the cooked filling.  Stand upright in a 9X9 baking pan.  Add about 1 inch of water in the bottom of the pan.  Cover with tin foil and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. 

PS...Thank you Rachael for your encouragement in helping me get back to the business of writing :)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Morning coffee with anti-inflammatory goodness!

With the many diet changes I have made in the past four years, giving up coffee is not one of them.  I love sipping my hot cup of coffee in the quiet stillness of the morning before the business of the day begins.  It is a special time to collect my thoughts, plan my day, and most of all commune with God through prayer and reading the Bible.

 I enjoy a small amount of dark chocolate creamer in my coffee.  Instead of purchasing the super sweet milky chocolate creamers from the grocery store, I make my own.  That way I can control the amount of sugar, milk, and add dark cocoa that actually has anti-oxidants.  I also add a little cayenne pepper and cinnamon for anti-inflammatory benefits and to give it a bit of a bite and extra flavor.  It is simply delicious!

Mexican Chocolate Coffee Creamer

1/2 cup of organic sugar
1 1/2 cups of dried non-fat milk
1/4 cup dark chocolate powder
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne powder
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix all together and store in an airtight container.  Enjoy!

* You can experiment with the amount of ingredients by adding or taking away so that you adjust the recipe to your liking. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Turns out I can grow a garden after all!

I realized today that I have not added a gardening post since spring when my baby plants were stuck in the windowsill.  Since then, my husband has built me three magnificent raised beds and the produce has gone wild.

  • Radishes:  We have planted twice and eaten them up the moment they were ready.
  • Lettuce:  Had plenty the first time around.  They were supposed to be the cut and comeback variety, however, they did not come back so well.  Perhaps because of the heat.
  • Carrots:  Simply amazing
  • Onions:  Still growing, but we are using them already.
  • Peas:  They were awesome and we enjoyed them with homemade ranch dip.
  • Green Beans:  They are ready now and we cannot seem to pick and eat them fast enough.  May need the neighbors to help in eating them.
  • Squash:  So far we have harvested one and it was delicious.  Waiting for more.
  • Zucchini:  What can I say except WOW!  It is doing what zucchini does best....producing lots of zucchini.  May need more creative ideas for zucchini recipes.  
  • Tomatoes:  My poor poor maters.  I babied them and nurtured them along and all of the sudden when they went outside they got blight!  They are still producing tomatoes but the plants are pretty scary looking.  Need to figure out how to keep them in better shape next year. 
  • Strawberries:  We started out with 36 little strawberry plants and they have flourished and are spreading throughout the bed.  No berries this year, but should get a good crop next year.
I have loved everything about my garden.  The planning, planting, weeding, watering, and of course the harvesting.   The fact that it not only survived, but flourished makes me exceedingly happy. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Easy breezy lunch idea!

Once in a while I really get in a rut planning out meals, especially when trying to keep the meals in the anti-inflammatory range. A couple of days ago I was extremely tempted to go out to eat with my husband rather than coming up with a new idea.  As usual I opened the refrigerator door and stared at the contents.  I saw sweet peppers and two kinds of tortillas.  White flour tortillas for my husband and multi grain with flax tortillas for me.

Hmmmm.... the wheels began to turn.  I went out to my garden and picked a beautiful white onion and headed back into the kitchen. 

I chopped up the peppers and onion and placed them in a saucepan that was drizzled with some good ole anti-inflammatory olive oil.  Look how beautiful and fresh the colors are. 

After sauteing the peppers and onion I placed half of the mixture onto each tortilla.  Then I shredded a little bit of Dubliner cheese.  This is one of our favorite cheeses lately.  Well....honestly I just love cheese in general, but this one is what is in the refrigerator right now.  I lightly sprinkled a little cheese over the veggies and covered with another tortilla.  Then I pulled out one of my favorite kitchen tools......

....... and one at a time cooked the Veggie Quesadillas in there.  They turned out scrumptious!  

Veggie Quesadillas

1 onion, diced
4 sweet mini peppers, diced
1/4 cup shredded cheese (your favorite)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 small tortillas

Sautee the onion and peppers in a medium pan drizzled with olive oil over medium heat.  Stir occassionally and cook until tender.  Add the salt and mix together. 

Lay out two tortillas and place half of the mixture on each tortilla.  Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the veggies and cover with another tortilla.

Cook one quesadilla at a time by placing on a pannini maker that has been lightly coated with cooking spray.  Close the top down over the quesadilla and cook for about 2 minutes or until golden griddle marks appear on the quesadilla and the cheese is melted.

Serve with salsa, sour cream or my Sundried Tomato Hummus.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Chicken Corden Bleu--The anti-inflammatory way!

Chicken is pretty much a staple around our house.  I can do grilled chicken on the outdoor grill more ways than you can imagine.  Thankfully, chicken is not horrible on the inflammation scale.  It has a very low rating and therefore I can enjoy it on a regular basis.  When you add to it the proper anti-inflammatory spices you instantly have a chicken breast that will help calm inflammation in your body.

The other day my husband asked me if I knew how to make Chicken Corden Bleu, which I do.  However, I wanted to make it anti-inflammatory.  I made a couple of adjustments to the typical way of making this dish and I am pleased to say that it was a success!  Since garlic and paprika are very anti-inflammatory I made a rub out of them and rubbed it into my chicken breast, both sides, after pounding out the meat.  I used canola oil to fry it in since that is an anti-inflammatory oil.  I also made sure to use a very low-fat cheese and to use it sparingly.  I served the chicken with sauteed zucchini fresh from our garden.  No need to miss out on delicious food while eating the anti-inflammatory way!  Give this a's delicious :)

Chicken Corden Bleu

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 slices of lean deli ham
2 slices of low-fat Swiss cheese
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup of Italian seasoned bread crumbs
2 egg whites

Place the chicken breasts on a large wooden cutting board and cover with saran wrap.  Use a meat mallet (or rolling pin) and pound the chicken until flattened to about 1/4 inch thickness.  Throw away the saran wrap. 

Mix together paprika, garlic powder, and salt.  Sprinkle over chicken breast and rub into both sides.   

Place one slice of ham and one slice of cheese on the rough side of the chicken breast.  Roll the breast up while keeping the ham and cheese in the middle.  Fasten by sticking a couple of toothpicks down through the chicken to hold together. 

Put the egg whites into a bowl and whisk with a fork until frothy.  Put the bread crumbs in another bowl.  Dip one chicken roll at a time into the egg whites first and then rolling in the bread crumbs, coating all sides. 

Place the rolled and coated chicken into a frying pan with hot canola oil over medium heat.  Fry for about 10 minutes per side, watching closely to keep from burning.  Turn down the heat a little if it is cooking too fast.  Test for doneness before serving. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Taking grief into the kitchen

The last couple of weeks have been rough!  I have been grieving for two families who have each lost a son within the last year.  The most recent loss was just last week.  There are moments when I feel the air is actually being sucked from my lungs because I hurt so bad for them.  It has hit me really hard and my prayers are with them constantly.

I have been living with such a heavy heart, so in an attempt to just function, a few days ago I went out to my garden that I love so much and thinned out the rhubarb plant.  I cleaned the rhubarb and placed it on the kitchen counter where it stayed for 2 days.  (I never let anything sit on my counter for more than an hour). 

Yesterday I walked by and noticed the rhubarb in the kitchen.  It was beginning to get limp at the ends so I figured I better take action whether I felt like it or not.  I cleaned up the rhubarb again and set about making my husband the Rhubarb Sauce he loves so much. 

For me cooking is so therapeutic.  I was at peace in the kitchen and my breathing seemed to come a little easier.  I was even humming by the end of the project. 

Life is full of unexpected moments, both joyful and tragic.  Finding a way to be strong and keep moving forward is key.  I draw my strength from God, first and foremost.  He is always wise, always knowing, always there.  I am thankful that He has given me the ability to find peace and joy with something so simple as working in my beautiful kitchen :)

Friday, July 22, 2011

A scrumptious day the anti-inflammatory way!

Eating an anti-inflammatory diet is a fun challenge for me in the kitchen.  I enjoy changing recipes and experimenting with spices and ingredients that take a dish to the anti-inflammatory side.  Sometimes its a win and sometimes....well not so much.

Here is a day full of "wins."

For breakfast I started out with Natures Path Organic Pumpkin Flax Plus Granola cereal with a heaping tablespoon of vanilla yogurt.  This is a bowl full of inflammation fighting goodness.

For lunch I whipped up the Inflammation Fighting Tuna Salad.  Delicious! 

Dinner actually made me giddy.  I haven't been this excited about a meal in a while.  This is Moroccan Inspired Chicken Thighs.  It is absolutely amazing over basmati rice.  The cinnamon, ginger, and cumin are all super inflammation fighters and the flavors complimented this dish perfectly.

Eating an anti-inflammatory diet is obviously filled with delicious meals throughout each and every day.  No need to be sad about eating this way when you can enjoy scrumptious days like this one!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Anniversary getaway in Leavenworth, WA and anti-inflammatory rebound

My husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary this past weekend.  A favorite destination point of ours is Leavenworth, WA.  It is a Bavarian town tucked away in the mountains.  It is beautiful and the German food is delicious.  So we packed up our pop up trailer and our Schnoodle Sparky,

and headed to Leavenworth.  We had a beautiful camping spot right on the Icicle River. 

Look at our view from the trailer window.  The river at night was so gorgeous that I couldn't sleep.  I just kept looking at it in awe.  

We hiked and golfed and ate, ate, and oh ya....we ate some more.  I knew ahead of time that I would not be eating very anti-inflammatory and would probably suffer just a little bit.  Once a year, for great German schnitzel and spaetzle with mushroom gravy, it's worth it!.  Since I eat pretty good most of the time I don't have a lot of pain when I stray from my anti-inflammatory diet, but I did have some by the time we returned home.   So, naturally I hopped right back into eating great.  I started with some amazing cherries that we purchased on our way home at a fruit stand.  They are so very anti-inflammatory and do a great job at calming down inflammation.

Then I whipped up some salmon croquettes and quinoa salad.


The salmon, of course, is full of omega 3's which calm inflammation, plus I add flax seed.  The quinoa salad has a lemon vinaigrette made with olive oil and kalamata olives.  Both of those are very anti-inflammatory.  I was asked about the inflammation factor of quinoa and I honestly do not know.  Quinoa is packed with iron and protein and is so good for you that I have included it in my diet.  The olive oil, olives and salmon definitely add so much anti-inflammatory action in this meal that you do not need to worry about Quinoa.  Just enjoy the meal and the benefits. 

Here is the recipe for my Mediterranean Quinoa Salad:

1 cup Quinoa
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup kalamata olive, pitted and sliced

Add the Quinoa and salt to the water.  Bring to a boil.  Cover and turn down to a simmer and let cook for 15 minutes.  Take off of the the heat and let set for 5 minutes.  Fluff with a fork.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix.  Refrigerate. 

This is actually good hot or cold .  I like it better cold and it keeps well for a few days in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Girls night in!

Tonight I am having the girls over for a relaxing evening of food, fun and of course a whole lot of visiting!  I am keeping a light menu with shrimp and cocktail sauce, ham and asparagus roll ups, grapes and Sunny Citrus Squares.

I went to the kitchen to bake, rolled up my sleeves (well actually I had on a tank top) and got to work.  Of course, since I didn't plan ahead, I soon realized I was out of powdered sugar.  So, I grabbed my food processor, put in a cup of organic sugar and in no time at all I had organic powdered sugar.  I really don't think I will spend money on powdered sugar again when this was so easy.  It took a little longer than I thought, maybe 5 minutes or so, but I let it process while I mixed the other ingredients.  It worked out very well. A quick tip that I learned really really fast was to tape a Ziploc bag over the top of the feed tube on the food processor.  If not, the powdery sugar flies all over. 

These bars are light and perfect for summer gatherings.  They are very much like the classic lemon bars that we know and love.  I prefer these because there is not much white flour but whole spelt flour instead and there is less butter. 

Sunny Citrus Squares

1 1/2 cups whole spelt flour
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons orange juice

4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon or lime juice or a combination
1/4 cup unbleached flour
2 tablespoons grated citrus zest (the rinds of 1 large lemon and 2 medium limes)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Confectioners' sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9-inch square pan.

To prepare the crust:  Mix flour, sugar and salt in a medium bowl.  Cut the butter into pats and work it into the dry ingredients until the mixture is evenly crumbly.  Add the orange juice and mix until large clumps form.  Press the mixture into the pan, covering the bottom completely.

Bake the crust until it's beginning to brown, 15-20 minutes.  Remove it from the oven.

To prepare the filling:  Beat the eggs, sugar and juice in a medium bowl.  Stir in flour, zest and salt.  Pour the filling over the baked crust.

Return the bars to the oven and bake until they look set all over, 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.  Cover and refrigerate overnight. 

Remove from the refrigerator one hour before serving and dust with confectioners' sugar.  Cut into squares and serve immediately. 

*Recipe is from Whole Grain Baking

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Guilt-free fudgy brownies

Chocolate and I have always had a love/hate relationship.  I adore chocolate!  The problem is I don't know when to stop eating chocolate.  Well that is a raunchy excuse because I do know WHEN to stop I just choose NOT to stop when I should.  Since it is important to enjoy a treat from time to time, discipline with portion control is one of those things I am working on.  Making sure that I am indulging in treats that are made with quality ingredients allows me to enjoy without feeling too guilty.  I found a wonderful brownie recipe some time back and have adapted it to better suit an anti-inflammatory eating plan.  I have changed the amount of butter by cutting it in half and substitute olive oil for the other half.  I have replaced the semi-sweet chocolate chips and cocoa for dark chocolate chips and cocoa.  There is no white sugar in this recipe so that is a healthy plus.  Just a bit of a side note, I tried to add only half the chocolate chips once and the brownies did not turn out very well.  I recommend using the entire 2 cups of chocolate chips. 

These brownies are so delicious, moist, and super easy to whip up in no time at all.  If you are a fan of box brownie mix, I do believe this recipe will cure you of that.  These are pure dark chocolate indulgence and worth every bite.  Enjoy!

Fudgy Brownies

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups organic brown sugar
3/4 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup All Whites liquid egg whites
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups dark chocolate chips

Melt the butter and add the olive oil.  Stir in the brown sugar.  Stir in the cocoa, baking powder, salt, espresso powder and vanilla.  Add the egg whites and beat until smooth.  Add the flour and stir until smooth.  Stir in the dark chocolate chips. 

Spoon the batter into a 9 X 13 greased pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until done.  Check to see if the brownies are done by poking a toothpick in the center.  It should be a bit gooey but not raw.  Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A tribute to dads: Happy Fathers Day!

I am reflecting this evening on Fathers Day and the men in my life who are great dads.  It all began for me growing up in a loving home with a great dad.  My dad is a hard worker and provided for his family no matter the cost.  He was a Navy man and had to be gone from home for long stretches of time, but he did it for his family.  As hard as it was on us having him gone, it must have been much harder on him being away from his entire family.  My siblings and I were so blessed to have a loving, strong, honorable, Godly man to call dad. 

My Dad

Now, I am married to a man who is also an amazing dad. He has always provided well for his family, and like my dad, he is a retired military man having served in the Air Force.  He is such a loving, selfless, giving, trusting, compassionate, hard working, amazing person.  All who know him are blessed.  He is not the father of my children, however he is always there for them as well as his own.  He puts others' needs ahead of his own needs always.  He is such an awesome example of how to be a dad, but also how to be a man. 

My Husband

I want to say thank you to both of these wonderful men that are in my life.  So thank you Dad and thank you Ed.  I love you both dearly.  Happy Fathers Day!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Feeding the gloomy weather blues

I am sad to report that the weather here in the Spokane/North Idaho area is still quite gloomy.  So, once again we are craving good ole comfort food.  Since I am also trying to use what I have on hand instead of running to the grocery store every day I went through my pantry and refrigerator to see what I could find.  I came up with the ingredients to make what turned out to be an extremely delicious White Bean Chili.  I took some extra time and even wrote down the ingredients and each step I took in the cooking process.  I encourage you to try this out and, as always, it is made with plenty of anti-inflammatory ingredients to calm down the inflammation attacking our bodies. 

White Bean Chili

1 skinless, boneless chicken breast
1 15 oz can of white kidney beans
1/2 onion, diced
4 small red, yellow, or orange sweet peppers, diced
2 cups chicken broth
1 ripe tomato, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Cut the chicken breast into small pieces.  Drizzle a little olive oil in a pot, add the chicken and saute until browned.  Next, add the onion and peppers and saute, stirring occasionally until tender. Add the remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to a simmer, cover and let cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the chili has thickened up a little bit.  Serve hot and enjoy! 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Berry crumble on a dreary day

We celebrated my husbands 50th birthday over the weekend.  I invited about 30 people over and we celebrated in style.  We ate, visited, laughed, and ate some more.  The weather even held out and we had some sunshine.  It was a perfect day with family and friends.  Since it was nice for this important event, I guess I can't really complain too much about the dreary weather today ... right?  There is something about dreary days though, that cause me to crave comfort food.  I have this great recipe for a cobbler that I have added flax meal and whole wheat flour to in order to keep it anti-inflammatory.  I have also switched out the butter for light olive oil.  It is really delicous and perfect for cloudy, rainy, dreary days. is pretty good on sunny days as well :)

Berry Crumble

5 cups of a mixture of blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon of flax meal
1 teaspoon of cinnamon

Crumb Topping

1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of quick cooking oats
1/2 cup of whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
4 tablespoons of light olive oil

Combine the berries with the brown sugar, flour, flax meal and cinnamon.  Toss to coat and place the mixture in a 9X13 baking dish.  (Place in an 8X8 baking dish if you prefer a thicker dessert)

To make the crumb topping, combine the brown sugar, oats, flour and cinnamon in a bowl.  Add the olive oil and stir until crumbly. 

Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the top of the fruit mixture.  Bake at 400 degrees F for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbly and the topping is golden brown. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Anti-inflammatory eating is my way of life!

I have had some questions recently about my diet.  It is wonderful and delicious and the only thing I really feel deprived of is Ho Ho's.  Really!  I love those horrible little things.  So I thought I would explain my way of eating a little more in depth. 

When I talk about eating an anti-inflammatory diet, I mean every meal and every snack every day.  If I am not faithful to this way of eating, in time I begin to experience pain and inflammation.  Each meal is filled with foods that calm inflammation in my body.  Not every ingredient I use is anti-inflammatory but I do make sure that the majority are and that the each meal has a strong anti-inflammation factor.  What that means is that all foods have IF (Inflammatory Factor)  Ratings:

Some food is way off the charts and totally inflammatory.  I avoid those foods.
(Ex.  pretzels, safflower oil, coconut oil, sweetened condensed milk, sugar, white pasta)

Some food is way off the charts the other direction and totally anti-inflammatory.  I eat those foods. 
(Ex.  salmon, olive oil, coconut oil, olives, garlic, chili powder, avocado, dry roasted almonds)

When foods are slightly inflammatory, I pair them with spices and other foods that bring the meal over to the anti-inflammatory side so that it has a calming effect on the inflammation in my body.  Since RA is known to cause an abundance of inflammation I attack it right back with these wonderful foods and that keeps my body running normal. 

The Inflammation Free Diet Plan is written by Monica Reinagel, and an excellent resource for finding out the IF Rating on food.  It is packed full of recipes and great information to help in maintaining an anti-inflammatory diet. I refer to it constantly. 

Since there are so many wonderful food choices that lower inflammation, I still eat absolutely delicious meals.  Thankfully I love to cook and experiment in the kitchen which helps me in maintaining my diet.  I will keep looking for and posting great recipes that meet the anti-inflammatory criteria.  If you have any great recipes that fit....please share!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day....enjoy a yummy and healthy bbq!

Happy Memorial Day!  It has been a great weekend and we even had a little bit of sunshine.  We took advantage of that and worked out in the yard.  My husband made me another raised garden....for a total of three now.  As you can see my seedlings are still alive and well :)

And....our apple trees are blossoming out!

More importantly though...I am still on track with my anti-inflammatory eating.  I want to share with you a perfect and easy breakfast cereal that I had this morning. It is Organic Flax Plus cereal and I highly recommend it since it has anti-inflammatory Omega 3's and lots of fiber.   

For dinner I will be making Summer Salmon Barbecue.  It is super easy and full of Omega 3's and inflammation fighting ingredients.  So enjoy your Memorial Day without giving up on delicious food!  

Monday, May 23, 2011

Inflammation fighting tuna salad

I hired a personal trainer last week to finally kick start my motivation.  So far it is working very well.  I love having my own personal "Jillian" to keep me on track!  One of the things that personal trainers do is assess your diet and also your caloric intake.  I eat high calorie Omega 3 foods to keep my body free from excess inflammation and I cannot waiver on that.  Having said that, I will admit that I eat alot of food and should back off some on my portion sizes.  I decided to give up some carbs today at lunch time and have a tuna salad instead of a tuna sandwich.  It was delicious and filling and I honestly didn't even miss the bread.  The olives, tuna, avocado and olive oil are all fantastic inflammation fighters. So enjoy this meal knowing that you are doing your body a world of good!

Omega 3 Salad

4 Kalamata olives
4 large green olives
1/2 of a small avocado cut into bite sized pieces
1 1/2 cups of organic spring lettuce mix
1/2 can of Tuna or Salmon
1 baby dill pickle, diced
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar

Place the lettuce on a plate
Mix the Tuna or Salmon with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and the diced baby dill then place on top of the lettuce in a mound
Add the olives and avocado around the sides of the lettuce
Drizzle the Balsamic vinegar and olive oil over the top to season as desired.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Eating for strength and healing

Q'emlin Park

A few weeks ago,  my town celebrated Arbor Day by teaching area fifth graders about Forest Ecology.  I volunteered to help and went on a couple of hour long hikes to chaperone the kids and get some exercise.  The hike was awesome, up and down very rocky terrain, hills, and trails.  The next morning I woke up marveling at the fact that last fall I could not have done that.  My body was in too much pain from RA.  I am so thankful to a God that gives us the ability to help our bodies heal and feel strong through the nourishment he has provided. 

I have been asked many times about my diet and what exactly I eat that makes such a difference in my health so I am going to share that with you over the next several days in great detail. I began this blog to share with others what proper nutrition can do to improve your quality of life. Part of that means that I need to be open and honest with you not only about my success but my failures as well. So here it goes!  Recently I have been eating alot of sugar.  When I say alot of sugar what I really mean is ALOT of sugar.  Along with those sugary foods come alot of bad fats as well.  I was beginning to feel the inflammation and slight pain in my ankles, hips, and especially feet. Thankfully, I am very aware of my body and the warning signs and changed my ways by eating healthy again and the pain and inflammation are gone. 

Whether you suffer from an auto-immune disorder, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure (the list goes on and on) an anti-inflammatory diet can make a difference in your life.  I am not promising that you will be able to get off of your medications as I did, but you will notice a great difference in how you feel.  It takes time, commitment and patience.  When I first changed my diet it took at least two months before I noticed a dramatic difference.  So be patient and enjoy the delicious food that you can eat while getting healthy and hopefully pain free.  As a reminder, the recipes on this blog are enjoy!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tomatoes....stuck in the window

I began my gardening adventure excited and ready to completely throw myself into the project....and I did.   My tomatoes took off like nothing I have ever grown before.  Now though, we seem to be stuck in a rain...snow...wind...rain...snow pattern here in the NW.  My tomatoes are still in the quart mason jars and are about a foot high in my kitchen window sills.  Still the best looking thing I have ever been able to grow with this brown thumb of mine.  So all of this is bringing me to my point...or question I guess.  What do I do now with these tomatoes?  I cannot put them outside in this weather and I don't want to lose the one and only thriving crop that I have ever had.  My husband worked so hard building my raised bed that I have to save these tomatoes to put into the awesome garden.  For now I am leaving them in the window.  Please feel free to give me your input on this matter if you have an opinion or advice.  Help me save my tomatoes!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Baked Falafel with Lemon Tahini Sauce

Photo by:  Andrea Mitchell

Since I love great food and search for recipes that meet the anti-inflammatory guidelines I have for my diet, checking out cooking blogs is a fabulous way to find new dishes.  I ran across this Falafel recipe and it is a perfect example of the delicious life I live while eating right.  

Garlic is the anti-inflammatory star of this recipe followed by the chili powder.  Almost every ingredient in this recipe is anti-inflammatory which makes it a must in my menu.  Tomatoes are a nightshade veggie so if you find that they cause you inflammation, leave them out.  The recipe will still be amazing!  I used whole wheat pitas in this recipe for the extra fiber, but there is very little difference in the inflammation factor between white pitas or wheat pitas so enjoy which ever one you prefer. 

(Serves 2)
Recipe from Can You Stay for Dinner?

15oz can chickpeas
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Lemon Tahini Sauce

2 tablespoons tahini paste
Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Remaining Ingredients:

½ cup crumbled feta cheese
2 pita breads (5” diameter)
½ cup thinly sliced red onion
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup chopped green leaf lettuce

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Combine all falafel ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well blended. Scoop the bean mixture into a bowl and shape into 8 equal sized patties. Place on a greased baking sheet, brush each with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes.

Whisk the tahini, lemon juice, and zest in a small bowl.

Divide the hot falafel among the two warmed pita breads and top with chopped lettuce, tomato, thinly sliced red onion, crumbled feta, and the lemon-tahini sauce.

Nutrition info for 1 serving (1/2 of entire recipe):

Calories: 538, Fat: 18.7g, Cholesterol: 33.4mg, Carb: 73.1g, Fiber: 10.4g, Sugars: 0.1g, Protein: 21.2g

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Gardening is exercise

The past few days were sunny and gorgeous.  The temperature got up to around 50 plus degrees so I headed outside and stayed there for most of Friday and Saturday.  My husband is talented and has been busy making me a 4' X 10' raised garden so that I can plant my veggies (they are still alive and doing well in the windowsill).  This is the first of three.

He finished the project yesterday so I went to the local nursery and purchased garden soil. I shoveled two pickup loads of soil. Out of that I was able to fill the raised garden and also make a pea patch.   I have some space behind my lilac bushes up against the south wall of our house that will be perfect this year to grow peas. They are so pretty as they grow and partnered with the lilac bushes, I am hoping it will be beautiful.   I used a couple of cherry landscaping beams to border off the pea patch and separate the peas from the lilacs.

After pulling weeds, raking bark out of the way, shoveling two loads of soil from the pickup bed into the garden and pea patch, planting the peas, and watering them I am worn out. Now maybe I am stretching it a bit, but I feel that I got an awesome workout and enjoyed every second of it.  Plus we have made something beautiful and useful in our yard.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Oats to start the day

An easy quick breakfast that does not create excess inflammation in your body is simple oatmeal.  I add a good amount of cinnamon into my bowl of oatmeal to give it that anti-inflammatory boost.  I also drizzle a little pure maple syrup over the top to sweeten it. Use maple syrup sparingly because too much can contribute to inflammation.  It is a far better choice than sugar though.  For an added boost of nutrition and fiber add raisins or cran raisins. 
I use regular oats that take 5 minutes to cook on the stove top.  Just follow the directions on the box and enjoy.

My baby tomatoes are growing

My tomato plants have been in my kitchen windowsill for a couple of weeks now. They are looking so good and healthy. I have both Roma and Beefsteak tomatoes planted.  Read more...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day 2: Cloudy day walk

I am quite proud of myself today.  I had every great excuse available to stay inside and not go out for a walk.  However, I am pleased to report that Sparky the Schnoodle and I went out and walked.  The weather is dreary and rainy off and on with super high winds expected, which of course was my reason for not wanting to go out.  Read more....

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Huckleberries in Spring for pancakes

This morning our neighbor surprised us with some frozen huckleberries.  Since we woke up to a dusting of snow that was such a fun treat.  I looked through my Whole Grain Baking cookbook and found a recipe for Simple Spelt Pancakes.    These pancakes were delicious.  The spelt flour is naturally a little sweet so it was perfect in this recipe.  The huckleberries added just the right amount of tartness.  They were light and fluffy and perfect on this chilly spring morning.  I topped them with Mrs. Macs butter spread and pure maple syrup. 

Simple Spelt Pancakes

2 cups whole spelt flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (I used Mrs. Macs butter spread)
2 teaspoons vanilla

Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.  Combine the milk, melted butter, and vanilla.  Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the dry.  Stir the batter just until the dry ingredients are thoroughly moistened:  it will seem wet, but will thicken as it sits.  Let the batter sit for 15 minutes.  * I added 1/2 cup of huckleberries right before cooking.

Heat a nonstick griddle and spray with a light coating of olive oil spray.  When the surface of your pan is hot enough that a drop of water sputters across it, spoon the batter onto the hot surface, 1/4-cupful at a time.  Let the pancakes cook on the first side until bubbles begin to form around the edges of the cakes, 2 to 3 minutes. 

You may need to adjust your heat up or down to get the pancakes to cook through without scorching the surface or being too pale.  When the cakes are just beginning to set, flip them and let them finish cooking on the second side, until they are golden brown on both sides, about a minute more.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring fever salad

My husband and I went over to the Seattle area this past weekend.  When we left home on Saturday morning it was snowing at our house... AGAIN!   When we arrived in Kirkland later that afternoon we noticed the green grass, blue sky, and beautiful pink Cherry Blossom trees in bloom.  It was so nice out that we took our little Schnoodle, Sparky, for a walk around Lake Washington. Spring is in full bloom on the West side of the state.   I have to admit it was a bit tough to come back home to the snow on Sunday night leaving behind the first taste of spring.  However, instead of sulking about the weather, we spent some quality time together in the kitchen and we made a Mango Chicken Salad that kept us feeling springy. 

Mango Chicken Salad

3 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
2 limes
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/2 cup flaked unsweetened coconut
2 mangoes, seeded, peeled, and chopped
Lettuce leaves, optional

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut chicken into bite-size chunks.  Squeeze juice from 1 lime (2 tablespoons); cut remaining lime into wedges.
2.  In a large saucepan combine the coconut milk, lime juice, soy sauce, and crushed red pepper.  Add chicken and bring to a boil; reduce heat and cook, covered, for 12 to 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through, stirring occasionally.
3.  Meanwhile, spread coconut in a shallow pan.  Bake, uncovered, for 4 to 5 minutes or until golden, stirring once. 
4.  Remove chicken and cooking liquid to a bowl.  Add mangoes; toss to coat.  Sprinkle with toasted coconut.  Spoon onto lettuce leaves to serve.  Pass lime wedges. 

*Recipe from Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sun Dried Tomato Hummus for Dad

As my friends and family know, I love...absolutely adore...having company.  With company, comes special time together for visiting and catching up on news, eating wonderful food, and often times a glass or two of wine is included.  So, last weekend my mom went to the coast with her friends and I was able to talk my dad into heading the opposite direction and coming to stay with me for the weekend.  It was wonderful to have that time together.  Since I get my love of food from him I was excited to prepare some delicious and healthy dishes for us to enjoy together.  The appetizer, Sun Dried Tomato Hummus, was fantastic and super easy to make.   I served it with sliced red peppers, pickled asparagus, kalamata olives and crackers.  Delicious!  Oh and the Pinot Noir wasn't so bad either :)

1 15.5 oz can of chick peas, drained and rinsed
2 garlic cloves, crushed
6 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, diced
6 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons Greek plain yogurt
Salt/pepper to taste

This is so simple.  Just put all of the ingredients except the yogurt in a food processor and blend until fairly smooth.  Then add the yogurt and process for a few seconds until well blended.  Serve with red pepper strips, pita wedges, crackers, olives, or anything that sounds good for dipping.  This can be stored for up to a week in an airtight container.  Enjoy!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Drop cookies...what are they really?

The other night, my husband and I were having a conversation about chocolate chip cookies.  He wanted me to make drop cookies for him.  Well, to me, drop cookies are dropped onto the cookie sheet from a teaspoon versus rolling the dough into balls and placing them on the cookie sheet prior to baking.  He absolutely swears that dropped cookies happen after you take the baked cookies out of the oven and then drop the cookie sheet onto the counter so that they flatten out.  So, a couple of nights later I went to my neighbors house for dinner.  They were discussing the cookies that had just been made and how they forgot to drop the cookie sheet.  I'll be darned!  Second time in a week I have heard that so guess what?  I had to give it a shot.  Or should I say I had to give it a drop!  I am now a fan of dropping the cookies. 

1 1/2 c. butter (or Mrs. Macs Butter Spread)
1 1/4 c. organic sugar
1 1/4 c. brown sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla
2 organic eggs
4 c. whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 bag or 4 c. dark chocolate chips (I used 60% cocoa chips)

Mix butter, sugars, vanilla & eggs in large bowl. Stir in flour, baking soda & salt. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. Place a towel on the counter and drop the cookie sheet pan onto it (seriously).  Cool slightly & remove from pan.

*This recipe is from neighbors Nate and Savannah.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Black Bean really!

I have been receiving quite a few emails in the past month from wonderful people giving me article ideas.  One particular email for Black Bean Brownies intrigued me.  The recipe was created by Amanda Freitag, celebrity chef and recurring judge on Food Network’s competition show Chopped, along with registered nutritionist Julie Barto for the MS Active Wellness Nutrition Program.” 

Since I am always looking for healthier ways to still get my chocolate fix I tried this recipe out immediately.  As with all of my experiments, I hid the ingredients from my unsuspecting and very good natured husband.  I made sure that he was in the garage working loudly as I dumped the black beans into the food processor and set it to whir, which is never a quiet moment.  While it was whirring, I frantically rinsed out the black bean can to put into recycling so that the evidence would be hidden.  I am pleased to say that he remained in the garage until he smelled the brownies and came in for a taste.  Hee Hee!  Wellllll...HE LOVED THEM!  Yes he did.  When I told him about the black beans, he did not believe me.  Sooooo....I fished the can out of recycling :)  Try these out and let me know what you think.

1 15-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained very well
3 eggs
3 Tbsp canola oil
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup brown sugar,
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided

Preheat oven to 350. Spray an 8” x 8” baking pan with cooking spray.
In food processor, process black beans until smooth. Add the eggs, oil, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, vanilla extract, and sugar, and process until smooth. Add ½ of the chocolate chips, and pulse a few times or stir, so that the chips are mixed in. Transfer the batter to the baking pan, and sprinkle the remaining chips on top of the brownies.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

No Bake Compromise

I do my best to eat right and cook healthy meals that are quite tasty as well.  However, I am not above a little compromise to please my husband by trying to preserve the food he loves.  One of his all time favorite cookies is the always simple to make No Bake Cookie.  Chocolate, peanut butter and oatmeal deliciousness.  As a side note, they are one of my favorites too.  I experimented today and came up with a delicious version with a few healthier alternatives. Big bonus....the smile on my husbands face.  P.S.  He doesn't know about the "healthy touches".  At least not until he reads this blog in the morning :)

Chocolate No Bake Cookies

2 cups organic sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup organic almond butter
3 cups oats

Mix the sugar, cocoa powder, butter, olive oil and milk in a saucepan stirring often until it comes to a boil.  Let boil for1 minute.  Then add the remaining ingredients and quickly stir thoroughly as it thickens fast.  Drop by tablespoons onto wax paper.  Let cool.  They will harden as they cool.  Enjoy!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Meyer Lemon

A couple of days ago I went to Costco (as I do quite often) and in the produce section noticed they had Meyer Lemons.  I recognized the name and remembered hearing something amazing about them.  I still have no clue as to what that amazing thing was, but knew I must try them.  So into the basket they went.

When I got home and looked at the lemons, the first thing I noticed was their gorgeous color, deep yellow with a hint of orange.  The second thing I noticed was how full and plump they were.   I pulled out my cutting board and knife and sliced into one.  The skin was nice and thick. The inside was bright, juicy, and fragrant.  I reached into the cupboard for a glass and filled it with ice.  After removing the seeds from the lemon halves, I squeezed each half into the glass.  I then opened a bottle of Perrier Sparkling Mineral Water and poured the liquid into the glass over the lemon juice.  After a quick stir, I took my first drink.  Cold, crisp, fizzy, lemony, and tart.  Delightful!!

Whatever it was that I heard about these wonderful lemons in the past does not matter because now I have my own "amazing" thought of Meyer Lemons.