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Take Dinner to a New Level!

Yesterday I had the pleasure of cooking with my teenage daughter, Lexi.  She just came home from 2-months in Hawaii where she worked and lived on an organic farm.  Lexi had so much information to share and couldn’t wait to cook dinner for our family.  She cooked with some unique ingredients that I had not used before and made a delicious and healthy meal.  If you are like many cooks and feel like you could use some new recipes and tips – read on…

Our meal was stir-fry vegetables with sticky rice and tofu.  Yes, tofu!  Don’t let it scare you.  It was truly delicious.  Even my two young boys loved it (until I told them what it was)!  Of course, if you choose, you can skip the tofu or use chicken instead.  I have made stir-fry many times and it is often just ‘ho-hum’, but with some new healthy ingredients, we had a super tasty dish that was loaded with vitamins and minerals.

We started with coconut oil to sauté our vegetables.  I knew that this oil had a bad rap because of it high content of saturated fats, but I learned that the fats in coconut oil are Medium Chain Triglycerides, which are healthy fats.  Because of the way these fatty acids are metabolized in the body, they provide unique benefits such as increased energy expenditure, which has shown to increase weight loss.  In addition, it has been shown to improve cholesterol ratios, fight off yeast and fungus in our bodies and improve thyroid function.

We added the basics – carrots, broccoli, kale, mushrooms and red onions – but you could use any vegetables that you like.  These five ingredients together are full of vitamins such as Vitamins A, C, D and K, as well as calcium, copper, potassium and fiber and many others.

We flavored the dish with brown rice miso.  Many of us know miso from the soup that is served in Thai restaurants of which I have never been a fan.  But the small amount that we used added an amazing complex flavor to the dish, as well as more nutrition.  Brown rice miso is made from soybeans and brown rice.  It is high in fiber and complex proteins.  It also has a dense concentration of nutrients and antioxident properties. And, it is high in polyunsaturated fats, which are known to reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

Coconut milk. This ingredient is filled with benefits.  To name just a few:  High levels of manganese which helps to metabolize glucose, which in turn helps the body’s metabolism work at a better level. It also contains lauric acid, which has antiviral and antibacterial properties. It also contains high amounts of Vitamin C, E & B, as well as phosphorus which can help strengthen bones.

We added raw sunflower seeds, which I originally thought were just for a little crunch, but I discovered that these little seeds pack an amazing punch of nutrition.  One-quarter cup of these little seeds contains over half the daily recommended value of Vitamin E, as well as high amounts of Vitamin B1, manganese, copper, tryptophan, magnesium, selenium, Vitamin B6, phosphorus and folate.

Then we added lemongrass – it is a perennial plant grown is Hawaii and much of Asia. It is know to have anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, and antioxidant properties.  The list of its health benefits really makes me wonder why we don’t all eat it every morning. It has been shown to provide relief from all types of pain, aid in digestion, as well as have anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic abilities.  It adds a delicious lemon flavor to foods.  If you can’t find it fresh, you can get a jarred or dried version.

We also flavored the dish with fresh cilantro, which is rich in Vitamins A, C & K. It is a good source of folates and many minerals, such as potassium, calcium, manganese, iron and magnesium.

Lastly, tofu!  Its benefits are numerous and too long to list, but include: high in protein, lower risk of cancer, help lower bad cholesterol, alleviate symptoms of menopause and great source of calcium and Vitamin E.

The amounts below are approximates.  Taste as you go!

Vegetable Stir Fry

stir fry photo

Ingredients:

Coconut oil (1 – 2 tablespoons)

½ Red Onion finely chopped

1 large head of Broccoli chopped

3 – 4 large Carrots chopped

8oz package of Mushrooms (any kind)

½ bunch of Kale chopped

1 – 2 cups Coconut Milk (you can also use Lite Coconut milk )

1 Tbsp Brown Rice Miso

½ cup Sunflower Seeds

1 tsp jarred Lemongrass

1 Tblp fresh Cilantro diced

½ Tbsp Curry

Salt

To prepare:

Heat coconut oil in bottom of pan

Start adding vegetables – Onions first, then broccoli and carrots, then mushrooms, then kale.  Cook until veggies just begin to soften.

Combine Miso and coconut milk and then add to pan.

Add curry, sunflower seeds, lemongrass, cilantro and salt.

Cook for about 5 more minutes.

Sticky Rice:

Ingredients:

1 cup of coconut milk
1 tsp of honey

Sprinkle of curry powder

3 cups water

1 tsp Lemongrass

2 cups of sushi rice rinsed till water runs clear

To Prepare:

Add all ingredients except honey and bring to boil, then cover and simmer till water absorbs. Add honey, mix and serve.

Tofu:

1 package firm Tofu drained

So that tofu absorbs flavors better, do the following to force out the water:

Lay down dishtowel with paper towels on top of it, then place single layer of tofu

Cover tofu with more paper towels on top

Lay something heavy on top to aid in release of water. (cookbooks work well)

Let sit for 30 minutes at least

To Prepare: 

Combine and warm up in sauté pan:

1 Tbsp Coconut Oil

1 Tbsp Honey

½ Tbsp Miso

Sprinkle Curry

Sprinkle Lemongrass

Once heated, gently add tofu and stir until coated. Let tofu cook till brown on one side and then gently turn over.  Keep the heat on stovetop high so it browns nicely.  Remember you are not making scrambled eggs!! Be delicate.

Dig in and Enjoy!

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The Health Revolution

The Health Revolution

On a daily basis, the question I am most commonly asked is: “that is so cool…what is that on your wrist?” And it’s not the rainbow bracelet my daughter made me. It is more like those bracelets you wear when you are under house arrest.

nikefuel

My device du jour is the Nike+ FuelBand. And I have not taken it off my wrist, except for when I literally broke it for over-use, since I first received it as a gift from my husband (which he soon regretted). If I was a workout fanatic before, this definitely took me to a whole ‘notha level.

Wrists everywhere have been flashing these devices as the must-have accessory that tracks everything from the number of steps taken in a day to the hours slept.

Welcome to the latest “health revolution.” The large influence of technology in our daily lives will continue to progress, with a key component involving health and fitness.

According to a recent Forbes article:

  • By 2017, at least 30% of American consumers will regularly wear a device to track sleep, food, exercise, heart rate, blood pressure and even glucose;  the global market for wearables in health and fitness alone could reach 170 million devices.

The exciting part is these devices are your motivational conscience.  In a study by researchers at Indiana University, people who wore a pedometer daily walked 16% more than before wearing one.

Seeing actual data on your daily activity helps you set goals and compete against yourself. There is truth in this. On a daily basis, I commit to reaching my goal of 5,000 fuel points, and then, try to beat my history above and beyond that number. It is motivational, inspiring and has become my personal trainer. My app lights up like a bling rainbow when I succeed and rewards me with “trophies” when I excel. It’s amazing.  I recently tweeted Nike when I hit that much sought-after 1.5MM goal, and they actually replied to my tweet challenging me to hit 2MM. Silly, silly Nike. Clearly they do not know me. Highlight of my year (and my Klout score ;-)).

Quick review on the most popular devices out there:

Nike+ FuelBand: for score keepers – it’s motivational to keep you on track of hitting a daily goal (gives fuel points earned, tells time, reports calories burned and steps taken): https://secure-nikeplus.nike.com/plus/

Jawbone: for fitness fashion gurus (more subtle and streamlined, tracks how you sleep, eat and move): https://jawbone.com/up

FitBit: Original, non-bracelet, clip-on device connects to your clothing, jacket or shoe (tracks your steps, distance and calories burned) – most recent release is a bracelet option that also tracks your sleep: www.Fitbit.com

These are just a select few of the many available on the market. The above devices connect to apps on your smartphone to track your successes.

In additional to the individual motivational benefits, the thought is that before long, these devices will be able to send real-time data to doctors, nutritionists and trainers – backed by real personal health statistics.

The New Year is the perfect time to start tracking your daily performance and being accountable for your activity level. These apps and devices can also help build a social community by connecting to others using the same programs, creating a sense of competition, goal setting and accountability.

So if you are looking for something to replace all those Christmas returns, for a mere $100-150 you too can be in house arrest and start your new year on track.

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