S is for Spinach!

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I know, I know.  Everyone is fully aware of how beneficial it is to have a daily serving of spinach.  But do you really know how big of a powerhouse this dark, green, leafy vegetable is?  Yes, it’s full of Vitamins K & A, fiber, calcium and protein.  Yes, it improves cardiovascular health, combats cancers and improves brain function.   But did you know spinach is a great source of essential amino acids? Or that it has a high mineral content?   For all these reasons, we all should be having a FULL serving of fresh spinach EVERY day.

Here are a few tips from my kitchen to yours: I make my fruit smoothies with organic baby spinach.  I throw in a huge handful of it when I make my blueberry juice.  It’s my staple in every salad I prepare.  I’ve been known to “line” my dinner plates with a fist-full and then add whatever it is I am serving.  If it’s something hot… I get a beautiful wilted spinach that soaks up the flavor.  If it’s something cold, I get the sweet crunch of the raw gem.  What you will ALWAYS find in my refrigerator…. organic baby spinach.  Whether I am sneaking it in my kids snacks, or basing a whole meal around this tender veggie – I typically don’t let a day go by without having a double-dose of this powerhouse!

Chop it, wilt it, do nothing to it…  just buy it and eat it everyday.  Here’s to boosting up your health!

R is for Raspberries!

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Who doesn’t love the sweet, tart, melt in your mouth raspberry?  The color is flawless pink, the size is delicate and ideal, the taste is summer-time perfection!

Raspberries are a 50% higher antioxidant than strawberries.  They may even have cancer protective properties and are filled with Vitamins C, K & E; potassium, fiber, manganese, folate, omega 3’s and copper.  Basically, they are a yummy, beneficial treat!

When I whip up a batch of oatmeal pancakes I make a quick raspberry puree that I also use in my “grown-up”  PB&J sand’s…. Almond Butter + Raspberry = Delish.   I know raspberries can be expensive at times; but I think they’re well worth the splurge! Don’t you?!

Q is for Quince

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These pretty little fruits are in the same families as the pear & apple … and eaten the same way.  Although I have yet to find them at my local grocery store, I see them at Whole Foods.  They’re a nice change from having the everyday apple; and they’re filled with Vitamins A, B’s & C, fiber, folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.  They have anti-oxidant and anti-viral properties.  I also found out they are good for gastric ulcers and aids in digestion!

Listen, no one can go wrong in upping their intake of fresh, raw veggies and fruits.  And the more I study what all these plant-based foods combat and heal – the more I am convinced at least 80% of our diets should consist of raw eating.  Think about it… it’s not that difficult.  Breakfast of fresh fruit every morning and raw groats.  Easy.  Lunch a decent size salad of leafy greens and herbs tossed with raw pea’s and drizzled with fresh lemon juice.  Done.   Snacks = fresh veggie juice or smoothie (no dairy!).   Quick & yummy.  And last but not least, Dinner…  a plate piled with chopped raw veggies, legumes, quinoa (or millet) and possibly a SMALL piece of meat.  Eating just one day a week that mirrors this… will give your body a boost!  Try it…. just even one day.  See how you feel…  see if you have more energy, feel healthier, cleaner.  Then the following week up it to 3 days.   Doing this will add benefits to your health… and who doesn’t want or need more benefits!?

P is for Pea’s… English Pea’s that is!

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When I see English Pea’s at the local farms & markets, I know its a beautiful spring!  These Pea’s are such a treat!  They are no where near the pea’s of our past – sodium-filled mush in a can – or even close to the pea’s we American’s are so used to in the frozen section that we try to force feed our infants & toddlers.  No.  These pea’s are the epitome of spring…  fresh, tender, sweet, pure.   (Can you tell I’m fond of these?)

English Pea’s are best eaten (in my opinion) raw… right out of the pods!  I try to add them to my salads but as I shuck the tender pea’s out – I pop them in my mouth.  They never really make it much further than that.  But I bet they’re great in any salad!   I’ve also heard you can make a simple spread for crostini or even a sandwich by processing the pea’s with garlic, cilantro and parmesan cheese…  When I have an over-abundance next time, I plan on trying that.  Maybe.  Oh, who am I kidding….I’ll never get that far.

And did you know these English Pea’s are filled with phytonutrients, which is a key antioxidant & anti-inflammatory?  Studies have shown that by consuming these spring treasures it can lower your risk of stomach cancers.  There are Omega’s 3 & 6, Vitamin E & beta-carotene in these little morsels as well.  Get this!  They have more protein than 1 TBS of Peanut Butter or 1 whole egg!  Who knew????  I was just happy with the pure taste of spring popping in my mouth!

Next time you’re at the farmers market, look for these gems!  Just remember:  the pods are inedible!

O is for Okra!

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As you know, I am going through the alphabet in writing about common and not so common veggies and their nutritional benefits.  “O” was a really tough one for me… as I would LOVE to write about Oreo’s.  Double-stuffed Oreo’s to be exact.  Try as I might, I could not for the life of me find nutritional benefits to any oreo – even the chocolate covered ones!  Can you believe it!?  And so I sit here – studying the facts about Okra.  (Thanks Jill I.!)  And as I read and study, I find myself planning a trip to my local Whole Foods Store so I can buy a bunch load of this amazing, healthy vegetable.  Wait til you read about the benefits!

I know for most of us, Okra has been just a small little accoutrement to gumbo or jambalaya – but I found a recipe for Roasted Okra that sounds so simple it must be delish!  Basically – it’s like roasting any other veg.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, line a cookie sheet with foil (although I prefer parchment paper) and drizzle with evoo and s & p.  Roast for about 10 -15 mins…. Voila! Done! Perfect side dish!!  (I can’t wait to try it this week!)

Okay, so here are the benefits.  Be prepared:  you will say to yourself “why did I not know about this before?”  and “I need to keep my eye out for this gem at the farmers market!”   These green tubular “shoots” are filled with Vitamins K, A & C.  They have fiber, protein, folate, magnesium, folic acid, calcium, iron & potassium.  They stabilize blood sugars & cholesterol levels, they heal ulcers and neutralize acids.  They treat lung inflammation, sore throats and IBS.  They curtail asthma symptoms, prevent diabetes, support the structure of capillaries and they are an anti-inflammatory.    Are you sold yet?  I am!!   And PS:  I am heading to Whole Foods rather than my everyday grocery store so as not to be tempted to buy the Double-Stuffed Oreo’s  – I SO want to eat things that will improve my health; not hinder it – and so I am off to a store that gives me ambition to do so!  (but just in case, keep me accountable, will ya?!)

N is for Nuts!

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Let’s go Nuts!!!

My favorite snack, salad topper, pie crust, breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert – pretty much my “go to” in every meal.  My family makes fun of me (for many reasons, but I’ll just share this one reason) because my lunch usually consists of fresh berries, a BUNCH of assorted raw nuts and a piece of cheese.  Yumm!   I truly could live off nuts! (Although I try not to go overboard…  my max. is 2 oz a day)  But really, any kind, anywhere – I go nuts for nuts!  I’m the girl at the party, the bar, the buffet table… filling up on nuts.  Just give ’em to me raw…a few years ago I learned the reason behind soaking them is it helps the enzymes become active and non-acid forming… ( good to know!) Also, once nuts are roasted the benefits are completely altered.  Not to mention the fact a ton of salt is usually added to them; which kills all the fun in having “salted, smoked almonds” ~ ugh.

Try adding nuts to one of your meals today… they are perfect for a quick protein & calcium boost – not to mention they are a source of amino acids (essential for our good health!).  For me I just love the crunch, the taste, the versatility, the diversity… ok, I’m rambling… but be careful!  Stay away from peanuts & cashews ~ they tend to have toxic molds; hence most allergens!

Reminder:  store raw nuts in the refrigerator…  and when soaking, be sure to soak in filtered water for a few hours ~I like to soak my almonds 12 hours or more – especially if I’m doing a juice-fast, but that’s a whole other topic!

Any way you like them…. chop them, crunch them, toss them, pop them into your mouth and let’s go nuts together!

M is for Mushrooms!

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Mushrooms,  aka healthy fungi!, are full of  high minerals, fiber, potassium, riboflavin, niacin & selenium.  Studies have found they reduce the risk of breast and prostate cancer.  The consumption of these treasures boost your immune system as well!  They have their own flavor but can also absorb any flavor you decide to cook them with.  (my personal fav:  add them to a quick saute with fresh garlic and parsley in a small amount of evoo … perfect side dish!)

A fun lunch:  Packed Portobellas!   Take large portobella mushrooms and fill them with your favorite things!  You can go Italian and have marinara, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, and sauteed (& crumbled) sausage.  Or go Vegetarian and fill ’em with roasted veggies topped with goat cheese.  Either way, fill them, stack them, pack them – place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet – bake at 350 for about 25 mins – voila! Perfect lunch or lite dinner!