Winter Fruit ~ Cranberries & Pomegranates!

Cranberry Pomegranate Relish

Here is an extremely easy recipe that can be adjusted to suit your tastes. Feel fry to add or switch the fruit including other berries like blackberries, blueberries, or strawberries. This dish was so good, it didn’t need any spices but cinnamon, vanilla, or a dash of nutmeg would be tasty as well!

With their deep, dark red color, pomegranates and cranberries are excellent sources of polyphenols, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals essential for the body, which all help to reduce inflammation. Research has been studied regarding polyphenols and heart disease with promising results. For instance, heart function was improved when patients drank pomegranate juice daily for three months according to a published article from the American Journal of Cardiology. In addition, they both provide plenty of vitamin C that will help keep the immune system strong this time to year to ward off colds and the flu.

1 ½ cups pomegranate seeds
1 1/3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

In a Vitamix or high powered blender, combine ingredients. Serve in bowls and enjoy!

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Green Split Pea Soup

I happened to be browsing around the Whole Foods website the other day to become inspired for some new recipes to cook. My fridge was getting empty, and I needed to go grocery shopping, which I actually love to do. I just needed some new inspiration for what to cook. Well, it turns out that January is National Soup Month! Who knew…I sure didn’t. I was super excited though; soup is one of my favorite things to enjoy all year long.

On these cold, wet, rainy, or snowy days of January, I love heating up a thick, warm, velvety soup for dinner. I’m not sure if I could even pick a favorite. Creamy, thick soups are definitely on the top of my list, but I also love a hearty vegetable soup or a spicy chili to warm me up from the outside chills.

I was inspired to make a few different ones…creamy squash, gingery carrot, and split pea.  I decided to make a green split pea soup since I had them on hand. However, I didn’t write down a recipe but just threw the ingredients together. Here’s what I did, I hope it comes out just as great for you as it did for me.

Green Split Pea Soup

  • 3 ½ cups water
  • 1 cup green split peas (they were soaked over night in a bowl of water)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 small carrots, sliced
  • 1 strip of kombu
  • 1 to 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 4 large kale leaves, chopped
  • Small handful of dulse

In a large stockpot, add all the ingredients except the dulse. Heat over medium heat until the soup boils. Once it boils, reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer 45 minutes or until peas are done.

Once the soup is done, break apart the dulse and add it to the soup. Cover and allow the soup to sit a few minutes. Taste and adjust for seasonings as necessary. Enjoy!

If you would like, you could garnish the soup with fresh, chopped parsley and a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice!

Nutrient Rich Sea Salt

What do alfalfa seeds, milk thistle seeds and nori all have in common? For starters, they are extremely nutrient dense, providing many vitamins and minerals essential to the body.

Milk thistle and alfalfa seeds can be purchased in bulk at your local co-op or health food store. Alfalfa seeds provide an array of vitamins and minerals including B, C, D, E, K, calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium! With their abundance of health properties, they are excellent for reducing inflammation and help with hormone balance, as they are phytoestrogens, where studies have shown they help to reduce cholesterol due to the presence of fiber and saponins. In addition, with its high vitamin and mineral content, these little seeds are a great addition to your diet to help protect against osteoporosis, anemia, colds and the flu!

Milk thistle seeds contain the active constituent, silymarin, which is excellent for cleansing, supporting, and detoxifying the liver. Various studies have shown silymarin to have positive effects in many liver diseases including inflammation, cirrhosis, and chronic hepatitis via its antioxidant action in the body.

Nori is a seaweed that is extremely rich in minerals including iodine, which is essential for proper functioning of the thyroid gland. It also contains other vitamins, protein, and fiber and is very easy to digest compared to other seaweeds. Nori is most commonly used for sushi, although it can be crumbled and added to soups, stews, casseroles, or spreads.

Alfalfa seeds can be sprouted; however, I have been grinding them up along with milk thistle seeds and strips of nori and combining the mixture with sea salt to create a nutrient dense, vitamin and mineral rich sea salt. You can add sea salt to your liking, and it’s delicious sprinkled on top of salads, soups, vegetables, or your choice of protein (chicken, fish, tofu, beans, or tempeh).

Mineral Rich Sea Salt Blend

1/2 cup milk thistle seeds
1/4 cup alfalfa seeds
2 strips of nori
2 tablespoons Celtic sea salt

In a spice grinder, add the milk thistle seeds and grind. Add to a medium size bowl. Next, add the alfalfa seeds with the strips of nori (you can tear the nori into pieces to have it fit) and grind. Add this mixture to the bowl and stir. Add the sea salt and stir to combine. Store in a glass jar in your cupboard. Enjoy!

The Benefits of Fermenting

Lately, I have really been enjoying sauerkraut (from the refrigerated section) on top of a mix of dark, leafy salad greens, diced scallions, cucumber, shredded carrots and cabbage. With its salty taste, it’s perfect enough for a dressing.

Fermenting is nothing new, as it has been used for centuries as a way to preserve food. From what I have learned via my educational classes, fermentation converts the carbohydrates in food to carbon dioxide and alcohols or organic acids via bacteria and yeasts under anaerobic conditions. Buttermilk and kefir are fermented dairy products, where the lactose is converted into lactic acid, making it easier to digest. Perhaps this is why some individuals can tolerate dairy in this form compared to milk. Other fermented foods include miso, tempeh, yogurt with live active cultures, cheese, kimchi, natto, cultured vegetables, vinegar, wines, and many other foods and beverages.

Fermented foods are excellent for the body; they act as a digestive aid, provide beneficial enzymes and good bacteria, (lactobacilli, bifidus, plantarum), and immune support, along with increasing the nutrient profile of the food. For instance, when foods go under fermentation, b-vitamins increase (riboflavin, biotin, niacin, thiamin, folic acid), essential fatty acids, chromium, glutathione, phospholipids, as well as digestive enzymes. Grains, nuts, and seeds can be difficult to digest due to the presence of phytic acid, which blocks the absorption of key minerals including zinc, iron, magnesium, and calcium. However; as these foods undergo fermentation, the phytic acid is neutralized freeing up the minerals for digestion and absorption rendering them more nutritious.

I’m sure many of you have heard of probiotics and may even take them on a daily basis. Fermented foods provide natural bacteria, which are extremely important for colonizing the digestive system, as well as helping to keep bad bacteria under control. Not only do they help with digestion, but they also decrease the overgrowth of yeast, manufacture B and K vitamins, assist the liver for healthy function, decrease parasites, and help to decrease inflammation in the intestines.

Unfortunately, antibiotics found in dairy and meat products, prescription drugs, stress, refined foods, and others can disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria in the digestive system. However, increasing your consumption of fermented foods, as well as prebiotics (to support the growth of probiotics) including onions, garlic, sunchokes, barley, oats, bananas, asparagus, burdock root, and dandelion greens into your diet will help to keep your digestive tract healthy.

If you would like to learn more about fermenting, a wonderful resource is a book called, Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz.

Here is a recipe I made recently from another great book, Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford.

DOSA (pancakes from India)

1 ½ cups brown rice (I used quinoa)
2/3 cup mung beans
3 cups water
½ -1 teaspoon sea salt
*I also added a sprinkle of fenugreek seeds to each jar while they were soaking

Wash and soak brown rice and mung beans separately 12 hours or overnight. Soak rice in 2 cups water and beans in 1 cup water.
Drain the mung beans but reserve the liquid. Grind the mung beans finely using the reserved liquid, if necessary with a blender or processor. Add to a glass bowl. Drain the rice and reserve the liquid. Grind the rice finely using the reserved liquid, if necessary using a blender or processor. Add to the glass bowl and stir together.
Combine with salt. Allow to sit overnight or 8 hours in a warm place so yeasts can turn the mixture into a light, fluffy batter.
Pour batter, which should be thin, into hot skillet.
Cook like pancakes (cover pan so you don’t have to turn them).

Serves 4