Green Lentil Salad

Who doesn’t like an easy, mindless recipe?  That’s what this lentil salad recipe basically is, plus, it makes great leftovers, is super healthy and tastes delicious!  I think it’s perfect for this season when the weather is warmer since our bodies are looking to be nourished with more cooling foods.

It’s best to prepare your lentils within a couple months of buying them as it’ll make cooking them simpler.  Know that it is best not to add salt or any acidic ingredients to the lentils until the last 10-15 minutes of cooking, as this will result in crunchy lentils even though they’re cooked.  Also, there are different types of lentils, therefore, different cooking methods required, so this recipe specifically calls for green lentils.

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Ingredients

-1 cup green lentils

-2 cups chicken broth (or water)

-1/2 yellow onion, chopped

-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

-1 bay leaf

-1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

-1 avocado, cubed

-2 cups romaine lettuce, chopped

-1 tablespoon pesto

-1/2 lemon

-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil + 1 tablespoon

-Splash of red wine vinegar

-salt and pepper

 

Instructions

  1. Rinse lentils in a mesh strainer making sure to check for pebbles (remove pebbles if you find them).  Heat a medium pot over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pot.  Once hot, add the onion, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Cook for 30 seconds or until softened and aromatic.
  2. Add the lentils and bay leaf to the pot with broth or water.  Turn heat up to medium-high.  Once at a gentle boil, turn heat down and simmer for 45 minutes. Add salt to the pot the last 10 minutes of cooking.  Remove from the heat and keep covered for at least 10 minutes so lentils can soak up the rest of the water.
  3. While the lentils finish cooking, make the dressing by mixing together olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a small cup or bowl.
  4. To a large bowl, add the chopped lettuce, lentils, feta, avocado, pesto, and the dressing.  Option to serve with a side of toasted pita bread.  Enjoy!

5 Cooking Tips For the Novice Chef

I am a self-proclaimed, self-taught chef. Six years ago there were about three things I could do in the kitchen: pour myself cereal, cook instant mac and cheese, and make a salad. It really wasn’t until I started dating my boyfriend back in college that I decided I needed to add some dishes to my repertoire. It all started one summer, the summer I fell in love, that I started whipping up pesto pasta with spicy sausages. Literally I made this about 10 times in just a couple weeks, eagerly trying to perfect this relatively simple dish. When Ed and I look back at that summer we refer to it as the summer of pesto pasta. I overdid it, but I wanted to teach myself to cook and to cook well.

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Now I can cook other stuff!

For the novice, or possibly even the more experienced chef, I’d like to share some tips I picked up along the last six years that have advanced my cooking and overall attitude towards being in the kitchen. Just remember, cooking takes time and lots of patience, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I’ve certainly messed up my fair share of dishes, but those mistakes were valuable in helping me improve.

1- Know when to salt. Depending on what you’re preparing there is a proper time to salt. For pasta, rice, and meat, salt before cooking to boost flavor. Aka, for the pasta and rice, toss in salt before bringing the water to a boil. Mushrooms and beans should take salt at the end of the cooking process. For onions, it is a matter of preference. If you enjoy your onions browned and caramelized, add salt at the end of cooking. Conversely, if you like your onions soft and translucent, add salt earlier on (Source: Organic Authority).

2- Use the healthiest pans out there. I grew up using teflon pans because they were so easy to clean, however, I’ve since learned that teflon is some of the worst cookware out there. It releases toxic chemicals into the food and air when you cook, especially if you scratch it, so why not avoid that and use better pots and pans?  Avoid teflon, aluminum and copper, and use cast iron, stainless steel, or enamel. I am a huge advocate of cast iron. Not only does it add iron to your diet when you cook with it and heat food faster, but I also personally think it makes food taste exceptionally good. Especially fried eggs (I love eggs!). The best fried eggs can be made in cast iron by frying it with a little oil, then steaming it by adding a tiny bit of water and covering it with a lid for a couple minutes. You’re welcome.

13.25 Inch Cast Iron Skillet

I like cast iron cookware by Lodge

3- Use a variety of cooking methods. Steam, sauté, sear, boil, roast, bake, raw… there are so many ways to enjoy your food. Switch up the way you prepare your meals, because cooking tends to reduce the vitamin content of the food, since some vitamins are sensitive to heat, water and air.Try eating your vegetables raw, especially in the hot, summer months.

4- Use your microwave minimally. Of course using a microwave is convenient, but using a microwave isn’t the healthiest. Not only does the radiation from microwaving change the molecules in our food and substantially reduce the nutrients, it can also release toxins if using plastic to reheat your food. It’s actually been found that cooking vegetables in a microwave reduces the number of nutrients by 97% (source: Natural News). I know, I can be lazy too, but try reheating your meals at a low temperature in the oven or on the stove top, or at least use glass containers or microwave-safe dishes if you need to microwave.

jennifer lawrence fire american hustle microwave

5- Prep all your food when you get home from grocery shopping. This sounds like a pain, but it actually will save you time and effort during the week. I like to salt and pepper my meat before I put it away in the fridge or freezer, wash and chop all my fruits and veggies, and maybe make a pot of whole grains to last me a few days. This way I can reach in the fridge and grab pre-made or pre-prepped items without having to always pull out the cutting board. This also saves on clean up time!lemons

 

Have additional tips for the novice chef?  I’d love to hear them! Want more tips and health info? Subscribe to my newsletters!

8 Tips to Help Yourself Eat Better During the Week

We are busy people and not enough of us make the time to take care of our health. Eating well is much easier when we plan ahead, and even easier when we get other people involved.  When we designate one day for food prep, we allow ourselves more time during the week to rest, relax, and enjoy our pre-prepped food.  I recommend Sunday as the day for cooking and preparation.  This way, when our lives our full of stress and things to do, we have pre-prepped meals to look forward to.

Top tips for eating better during the week:

1. Make a batch of your favorite whole grains 

Whole grains can be very versatile.  I love to cook a big thing of rice or quinoa that’ll last me through the week. For breakfast I personally love putting eggs over rice with avocado and hot sauce, and then for other meals top the rice with vegetables or other forms of protein.  Fried rice is an easy enough recipe that’s always a favorite.  For more information and a list of all whole grains, click here.

2. Designate one day for prepping

As mentioned above, one of the most useful tips I have is to prep ahead of time. On your designated prep day, slice all your veggies, cook your whole grains, and soak your beans.  This saves time and makes eating healthy more realistic.

3.  Cook once, eat twice (or more!)

Prepare enough food while cooking to have leftovers.  Take advantage of the time you have to cook, because it can be hard to guarantee you’ll have time or even want to cook the rest of the week.

4. Keep a food journal

It’s easy to forget the meals we eat.  If your goal is to lose weight or discover what foods work best for your body, I always advise my clients to keep a food journal. Keeping a food journal not only helps us track what we eat eat and our portion sizes, but we can note things we are feeling emotionally or physically when we eat or after we eat. Identifying our emotions or even things we are feeling physically from eating helps us pinpoint food intolerances or allergies, and can even answer questions about other physical ailments.

From my own experience, it wasn’t until I started noting how I felt physically and emotionally after I ate processed foods and sugar that I was able to solve feelings of anxiety and depression. I realized those foods made me physically sick to my stomach, and I was also experiencing high levels of serotonin while eating the food, and suffering from low dopamine levels after the sugar high wore off.  Most of us probably aren’t conscious of these things as we’re eating and going about our lives, but once we stop and think about it, we may discover things we didn’t realize about our bodies.

6. Cook at home

I love going out to eat.  It’s convenient, there are lots of options, and the food tastes pretty good, but why not save some money and calories by cooking yourself?  When we eat out, there’s no way of controlling what exactly goes into our food.  I enjoy cooking because I know exactly where my food comes from, I have control over what I put in my food, and I get to pick what I want to eat.  Aim to eat at least two homemade meals a day, then work toward three meals at home a day.

7. Plan your meals

It’s much easier to eat well during the week if we take some time to plan meals ahead of time.  Make a grocery list and write out what you plan to eat every day. There’s no need to get fancy.  If you like having oatmeal for breakfast every morning and vegetable stir fry for dinner, then go for it!

8. Add in vegetables, nuts, legumes, fruit, and whole grains

By adding in more vegetables, nuts, legumes, fruit, and whole grains to our diet, we can naturally crowd out unhealthier foods and prevent unhealthy food cravings.  When we fill up on foods that nourish our body, we become more satisfied quicker, so we’re less likely to go for the desserts or snacks after we eat.

Looking for more tips?  Subscribe to my newsletter!

Pay me a visit at www.jkhealthcoach.com to learn more about how working with a health coach can benefit you and the ones you love!

Why Routines Are the Ticket to Success

Humans are creatures of habit.  Most of us have a daily routine of some sort, whether we are conscious of it or not. Life can definitely be hard and full of stress.  The more out of control we feel, the more a routine will benefit us. There aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done, so keeping a routine helps greatly with time management, efficiency, energy, and motivation. Through personal experience and through my health coaching practice, I have realized that maintaining a routine is repeatedly one of the best ways for achieving success and happiness.

Everyone has their own morning ritual, but the day should begin with some type of routine.  My morning routine begins with my puppy’s cold nose on my arm every morning around 6:45am.  I get up, let him out and Wake-up-to-a-new-day1feed him, drink a warm glass of lemon water and have a small bite to eat while I journal for a little, brush my teeth, get dressed for the gym, work out, and then eat my post-workout meal.  This doesn’t need to be everyone’s routine, but for me, I anticipate my morning going as mentioned.  When these things don’t happen, my entire day is thrown off. Work gets put off, my energy is low, I get crabby often because I’m stressed from my routine being altered, I procrastinate more, forget to do certain things, crave foods I shouldn’t be eating, and just feel out of balance.

Think about the times you’ve traveled or had a reason to change your normal schedule.  Did you notice any differences in your day?  Perhaps differences in your eating, sleeping, emotions, motivation, or stress levels?

Sleep- Going to bed and waking up at the same time is crucial for healthy sleep patterns and deep sleep. Sticking to a schedule also gives our minds a sense of a starting and stopping point with work during the day.  For example, if you work a 9-5 job, our minds know that those hours are working hours.  But if you work a job with inconsistent hours, you’ve probably experienced your mind and body getting out of whack, and that it becomes more challenging to get in the mindset of work mode.

Meals- Try to eat at the same times daily.  This keeps our blood sugar levels steady throughout the day and gives us a sense of consistency.  Even eating the same foods (or similar foods) every day gives us one less thing to think about.

Morning Routine- In my opinion, having a morning routine is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Wake up at the same time, brush your teeth and wash your face, have a glass of water, and get dressed, even if you work from home.  This pattern helps get our mind prepare for the day and for work.  I also find I stay more organized and have more energy during the day if I stick to my morning routine.

Exercise- Even if it’s just stretching or getting off the subway a few blocks early so you can walk the rest of the way to work, a morning routine will help your success.  Exercise is a great way to escape stress and 31d21c8c1ae2bdde84b3483a75531396it gives us a sense of accomplishment.  This initial success in our day prepares us to take on the rest of the day and the obstacles it may throw at us.

Friends and Family- Spending time with the people that make us happy is important for maintaining balance in our lives.  Even with a busy schedule, find a little time during the week to catch up with the people that matter most.

Personal Time- “Me time” is so important!  Our lives are so busy that we often forget to make time for ourselves.  This alone time is time to decompress, reflect, relax, and to do the things that make us happy. Don’t use this time to respond to emails or phone calls… that does not count as personal time.

Interested in health coaching?  Check out my website jkhealthcoach.com for more information or contact me at jessicakhealth@gmail.com.

Sources: Motivate Thyself, Man Cave Zen

Health Benefits of Honey

To some, honey may seem like a “naughty” sugary treat, grouped in with white sugar or sweeteners.  Really though, honey is a fantastic superfood to incorporate into your diet, as long as you know the right honey to buy.

honeyDue to diet, our environment, and stressful, crazy lives, lots of us rely on coffee or caffeine to get through the day. Sometimes, often around 3PM, I know I find myself nibbling on chocolate for the energy boost, but some hot tea with honey or toast with honey are much better ways to get that energy I’m hoping for.  In the mornings I like to add honey to my breakfast smoothies before or after a workout, because honey boosts performance and endurance and reduces muscle fatigue.

Honey is a powerful immune system booster.  It’s antioxidant properties help the digestive system and aid in cancer prevention. I like to put some honey in my tea or hot water with lemon, especially if I’m sick or have a sore throat. So soothing.  For centuries people have used honey to repair cuts and burns also.  Other health issues honey can help with are allergies, arthritis, yeast infections, athlete foot, and trouble sleeping.  Honey reportedly helps hangovers too!

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My morning smoothie. Organic strawberries, banana, a couple handfuls of spinach, 2% Greek yogurt, almond milk, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds, and organic, locally-harvested bee pollen.

In India, Ayurvedic medicine has used honey for thousands of years for healing and balancing the body.  Ayurvedic medicine reports that honey improves eyesight, weight loss, cures impotence and premature ejaculation, urinary tract disorders, bronchial asthma, diarrhea, and nausea (Source: care2.com).

unnamed-2There’s some debate about the practices used to harvest bee pollen.  Bee pollen is loved by health enthusiasts for its superfood qualities and high levels of protein.  My photo above is actually of my bee pollen, but I bought it straight from the bee keeper at my local farmers market and was aware of his practices.  I have read that collecting the pollen can involve the death of large numbers of bees, but that’s something I need to research more.

So now that I have you convinced as to why you should eat honey, it’s important to know what honey to buy.  Go organic or locally-made and treat it as a medicine.  Stay clear of commercially-made honey.

Don’t:

-Don’t buy honey made outside of the U.S. Honey made in places like China is often mixed with other syrups.

-Don’t buy the commercialized, pasteurized honey.

-Don’t use honey as a sugar substitute.

Do:

-Buy locally grown honey.

-Buy organic or wild, non-pasteurized honey.

-Use honey in small amounts as a superfood.

-Use as a medicine topically for cuts and burns.

(Source: Renegade)

Boyfriend-Approved Creamy Cauliflower Sauce

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My new favorite sauce right here.  Creamy, flavorful, and healthy.  Also, a great alternative for Alfredo sauce.  Even cauliflower-haters love it.  All you need is a blender or food processor, a pan, pot, and a slotted spoon. When cooking, make extra so meals are one less thing to worry about during the week. It cuts stress and … Continue reading

Eat Seasonally

I can’t believe it’s fall already.  Personally, I love the fall, the change in weather, the holidays, the layered clothes… I also enjoy of fall’s foods.  Time to finish up the last of the cold, refreshing fruits and veggies, like watermelon and corn, and to stock up on the produce seasonal to fall.

Eating with the seasons is important for our bodies.  Those fruits and vegetables that keep us cool during the hot summer months are not what we need during the fall and winter.  Historically, our ancestors ate with the seasons, consuming warm, meaty meals to keep their body temperatures up during the colder months.  Modern food processing makes us forget that we were never meant to eat certain foods in each season, although sometimes we do start to loose our cravings for particular foods as the seasons change.Fall produce

Fall is meant for warming, grounding foods, like sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, and garlic.  Also focus on warming spices, like ginger, peppercorns, and mustard seeds (Source: WhFoods).  Not only will foods taste better, but by eating what’s fresh and in season, we also get the most nutrients from our food.  There are less pesticides needed to produce in-season foods, and the prices are reduced for the produce that’s in abundance.

Here is a full list of foods that are in season during the fall months:

-Artichoke

-Beets

-Beet Greens

-Bell Peppers

-Butternut Squash

-Carrots

-Cauliflower

-Chard

-Corn

-Eggplant

-Garlic

-Potatoes

-Radishes

-Spinach

-Sweet Potatoes

-Wild Mushrooms

-Almonds

-Apples

-Chestnuts

-Cranberries

-Limes

-Pears

-Plums

-Pomegranate

-Rasberries

-Tomatoes

Meats in season:

-Duck

-Lamb

-Lobster

(Source: EattheSeasons)

Here are a few recipes to enjoy in the next few months:

Chicken Pot Pie

Curried Carrot, Sweet Potato, and Ginger Soup

Easy Artichoke Recipe

How to Take Control of Your Sugar Cravings

Here’s my dirty secret…

I love chocolate. For a period of my life I ate dessert after nearly every dinner.  Sometimes I also binge on sweets late night.

I know I’m not the only one, right?

From a young age most of us are exposed to sugar, and man, that stuff is addictive!  I mean, literally.  I remember I grew up drinking Coca-Cola and eating sweets a lot (my dad wasn’t the best influence with this).  I’m not sure how I managed to ween myself off of soda by the time I got to high school, but it was a huge shocker for me when I got to college and learned that not everyone ate dessert every night after dinner.  I was used to having ice cream, brownies, cookies or candy all the time, and visiting my grandma was always a treat because she had about four drawers in her kitchen dedicated to chocolate. Her trick was that she trained her brain to realize that the chocolate would always be there and available, so she never needed to binge, and could just eat a little bit at a time.  This wouldn’t work for everyone and I know my will power isn’t that good. Recently, however, I’ve learned a tip for suppressing sugar cravings.  It has been remarkably helpful, so let me share.

Add naturally sweet vegetables to your diet to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Instead of depending on processed sugar, look to sweet vegetables to aid with sugar cravings.  Sweet vegetables soothe the body’s internal organs and energize the mind.  Root vegetables, which are often sweet, are also grounding, rather than creating that sugar high that inevitably ends in a crash.

Here are a list of sweet vegetables to try:

Sweet Vegetables: corn, carrots, onions, beets, winter squashes, sweet potatoes, and yams

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes; The Neelysgfg_root-veggies-cropped-300x241

Semi-Sweet Vegetables: turnips, parsnips, and rutabagas 

Other: Red radishes, daikon, green cabbage, and burdock (This list of veggies aren’t sweet, but have the same effect on the body by maintaining blood sugar levels, reducing sweet cravings, and breaking down animal foods in the body).

Eating fruits can also satisfy sugar craving, but try out some of the sweet vegetable options from above while also reducing the number of times you consume sweets.  Just remember, adding in sweet vegetables assists in crowding out less healthy foods in the diet.

I also find that sometimes when I think I’m hungry even though I shouldn’t be, late at night or after a big meal, for example, all I really need to do is drink some water.  Try having some water and waiting at least 15 minutes to see if your cravings pass.

If you still need your chocolate/sugar fix, there are also healthier recipes or snacks to buy, and just try to portion control by measuring out how much you want to allow yourself to eat.  If you’re snacking on M&Ms for example, pour some out of the bag into a small bowl, rather than eating the whole bag.

Here are a couple healthier sweet recipes to try out:

Frozen Banana Quinoa Bites

Pecan Pie Larabars

                                     Frozen banana quinoa bites   pecan-bars-FG

In case you hadn’t heard, here are some of the risks of eating too much sugar over time:

-obesity

-diabetes

-heart disease

-cancer

-weight gain

-non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

-teeth problems

Source: http://authoritynutrition.com/