Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

Stay warm this Fall with my new favorite soup!

butternut-squash

Ingredients:

(Serves 4)

-1 butternut squash

-1 yellow onion, chopped

-1 small Granny Smith apple, chopped

-1 small Gala apple, chopped

-5 thyme sprigs

-2 tablespoons butter, melted

-1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

-1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

-1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

-1 teaspoon cayenne (optional)

-salt and pepper

-4 cups chicken broth

Instructions:

1.  Heat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  

2.  Place squash in the microwave for about 4-5 minutes so that it’s softened and easier/safer to cut.  Remove both ends of the squash, then cut in half lengthwise.  Peel the tough, outer skin and remove the “guts” from the inside of the squash.  Continue to cut the squash into smaller, bite-size pieces.

3.  Place the squash in a bowl with the melted butter and thyme leaves, then generously salt and pepper.  Place on the lined baking sheet and cook in the oven for 40 minutes, flipping halfway through.  The squash should be tender enough to pierce with a fork at the end of cooking.

4.  When the squash has cooked for 20 minutes, heat a large stockpot over medium-high heat, and add the olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add the onions and optional sugar (generally I wouldn’t recommend sugar, but since this is a lot of soup, it’s hardly any sugar per serving).  Add the apples, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Cook for about 20 minutes, or until soft and fragrant. 

5.  In batches, add the cooked squash and onion/apple mixture to the blender along with a cup of chicken broth with each batch.  Blend until smooth.  Continue to add the squash, onions, apples and broth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with thyme.  Enjoy!

Chinese Green Beans With Pork

San Francisco is a city rich in culture and diversity, which is one of the greatest reasons why I’m obsessed with this city. Because I grew up in a densely Asian-populated neighborhood, my comfort foods have always been any kind of Asian dishes. I love the flavors and smells and have luckily found that many Asian dishes are fairly simple to replicate at home.

My friend and I made a stir-fry dish the other night with green beans, minced pork, garlic, scallions, and mushrooms that we put over rice. It was incredibly easy to make and had the same flavors as the food I’d buy at one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in the neighborhood where I grew up. Although we ate this dish with rice, I think it would also go well in lettuce cups for a lighter version, or even with noodles. I found the recipe on Tasty (accompanied by a straightforward cooking demo video), but my friend and I switched the recipe up a bit to make it our own. Here is our version:

c9aaa16c-cf47-4392-a960-e259bc575268.jpgIngredients

-1 lb. ground pork

-1 lb. green beans

-4 cloves garlic, diced

-4 scallions, chopped

-4 oz. shiitake mushrooms, chopped

-1 tbsp chili sauce

-dried red chili flakes (optional)

-2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce

-1 tbsp rice vinegar

-1/4 cup sesame oil

 

Instructions

1- In a wok or large pan, heat the sesame oil over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the string beans and cook until blistered. Remove from the pan and set aside.

2- Add more sesame oil if necessary to the pan. Add the scallions and garlic about a minute, or until fragrant. Add the mushrooms and ground pork. Once the pork has browned, stir in the chili sauce and add the red chili flakes. Then add the green beans back to the wok or pan and stir all together.

3- Add the soy sauce or tamari, rice vinegar, and a dash of pepper. Serve over rice or with lettuce cups, or just on its own. Enjoy!

 

Three Healthy Meals and One Dessert To Impress Your Guests This Holiday

It’s important to eat with the seasons, and with the cold winter months rolling in, it’s time to start eating warmer, more grounding foods. Below are four simple holiday recipes (also budget-friendly!) that should keep meal prep and cook times to a minimum so that you can fully enjoy your holiday season with friends and family. These dishes could either be served together as one delicious four course meal, or perhaps separately before the big Thanksgiving or holiday meal. I would serve the salad first, then serve the soup and vegetable galette together. Obviously save the dessert for last… or don’t!

Winter Salad

Featured image

-1 bag fresh spinach

-1 container of pomegranate arils

-1-2 handfuls of dried cranberries

-chopped pecans

-1 pear, diced

-feta cheese

-balsamic

1. Wash the spinach, pat dry and put into large salad bowl.

2. Add the pomegranate arils, cranberries, chopped nuts, pear and feta cheese. I like to add the juice from the pomegranate container.

3. Personally I find that the salad doesn’t need much dressing if you add juice from the pomegranate arils, but balsamic would be a good choice too. Serve and enjoy!

original recipe: autumn chopped salad

Roasted Carrot Soup

-6 organic carrots
-1 potato
-1 yellow onion
-4 cloves garlic
-chicken stock (I used veggie stock or you can just use water. You can also add a bullion cube or Italian seasoning for flavor)
-extra virgin olive oil
-salt and pepper
   1. Heat oven to 425 F. Peel the carrots and cut them into bite-size chunks. Cut the potato and onion into smaller chunks. Place the carrots, potato, onion and garlic in a baking dish with olive oil, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and roast for 10-15 minutes, until it starts to smell delicious.
    2. Remove dish and place the roasted veggies in a pot. Fill the pot with the chicken stock until it just covers the vegetables. Throw in a bullion cube if desired. Bring to a boil then reduce temperature to a simmer and cover with a lid for an hour.
    3. Place contents of pot in a blender and blend until it’s a smooth soup. Enjoy!
Vegetable Galette
(serves 2, or serves 4 as appetizer)
IMG_6688 (1)
-1 puff pastry sheet, thawed
-2 small, yellow squash cut into thin circles
-3 tablespoons pesto
-1/3 cup ricotta cheese
-extra virgin olive oil
-salt and pepper
-flour or whole wheat flour (could also use a GF flour, like coconut flour)
   1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
   2. Sprinkle some flour on the counter or on a cutting board. Lay puff pastry sheet out on top of the flour. Use a rolling pin to spread the sheet out a bit.
   3. Spread ricotta over the puff pastry sheet. Then the pesto.
   4. Lay the thinly cut squash circles on top of the ricotta and pesto. Fold up the sides of the puff pastry.
   5. Drizzle with olive oil. Salt and pepper the squash.
   6. Put in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Serve and enjoy!
original recipe: The Forest Feast, by Erin Gleeson
And finally, for dessert…
Black Bean Brownies
(boyfriend approved!)
IMG_6691
-1 15oz. can beans, drained, rinsed well and patted dry
-2 large eggs
-3 tablespoons coconut oil
-3/4 cups cacao powder
-1/4 teaspoon sea salt
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1/2 cup raw sugar
-1 1/2 teaspoons baking power
-optional: chocolate chips or crushed nuts
   1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
   2. Lightly grease a baking dish (8×8 works)
   3. Add beans to a food processor and puree. Then add the remaining ingredients, except the optional chocolate chips and nuts.
   4. If the batter seems too thick, then add a little water and pulse again. The batter should not be too runny.
   5. Distribute the batter into the greased dish and add optional chocolate chips and nuts.
   6. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Your brownies are ready to serve!  I poured a little unsweetened almond milk over mine to give them a little moisture. Enjoy!
original recipe: black bean brownies

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!

Get Fat Now!

Fat has been a diet no-no for quite some time, but luckily the fat-free era is finally over.  Research shows that fat is essential for our bodies.  Saturated fat is no longer the problem, but is actually the solution for our bodies to repair cells and for proper hormone function. It’s time to enjoy our egg yolks, our whole fat yogurt, or our chicken breasts, skin on. Think about our ancestors, the hunter-gatherers.  Could they have survived harsh conditions and the time between meals if it wasn’t for fat consumption? Hell no!  Our bodies NEED fat, but fat from the right sources.

The body is made up of 97% saturated and monounsaturated fat, and the remaining 3%  is polyunsaturated fat. That 3% polyunsaturated fat is half omega-3 fats and half omega-6 fats.  It’s important for our bodies to have balanced levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fats, 1:1.  Without this equal balance, too much omega-6 causes inflammation, while omega-3 is neutral.  A diet high in omega-3 fat and low in omega-6 fat is ok thought, because the omega-3 fats will reduce inflammation.

Vegetable oils are a main source of omega-6 in the modern diet.  Some of these oils high in omega-6 include: safflower oil, corn oil, sunflower, soybean, cotton oil.

Fatty fish oil, quality extra-virgin olive oils, coconut oil, or quality butter are all examples of omega-3 fats (yay, butter!).  Omega-3 fats are also vital for the following health benefits:

  • Reducing the risk of heart disease and causes of death associated with heart disease
  • Reducing severity of symptoms associated with diabetes
  • Reducing pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis
  • Reducing risk of osteoporosis and bone loss
  • Improving health and reducing symptoms for those with autoimmune disease
  • Helping those with anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder
  • Reducing risk of various types of cancers
  • Improving cognitive function

(Sources: Wellness Mama)

My favorite ways to incorporate healthy fats into my diet:

1.  Eat fat for breakfast, especially before and after a workout.  Below is a favorite, quick breakfast of mine full of omega-3s.  2% Greek yogurt, berries and bananas, topped with protein-packed hemp seeds, and omega-3 sources, flax seeds and chia seeds.

unnamed

2. Invest in quality extra virgin olive oil (preferably pressed somewhere local to you), organic coconut oil, and grass-fed butter.  These products can be a little more expensive, but you’ll use them all the time and you won’t need to feel guilty about using the butter.  You can even save money by switching your beauty and home care products to olive oil and coconut oil.

4. If you’re a coffee drinker, add a tablespoon of organic coconut butter to your morning coffee or try Bulletproof coffee.

5. Some of my favorite sources of omega-3s: avocado, salmon, almond butter, eggs, grass-fed meats, extra virgin olive oil, butter, chia seeds, flax seeds, Brussel sprouts, and shrimp.

If you’re having trouble losing weight, suffering from exhaustion or stress, try adding more healthy fats to your diet.

Chicken Parmesan

chicken p 2I lived in New York for four years and never had chicken parmesan better than my own.  Chicken Parmesan is an Italian favorite, definitely one of my man’s favorites, and just seems to be a crowd pleaser.  This dish goes great with pasta, zoodles (zucchini noodles), vegetables, or a side salad.  I like to make extras and have it available to eat throughout the week, using the leftovers to make chicken parm sandwiches.

Personally, I prefer homemade breadcrumbs, but some people still prefer store bought seasoned or plain breadcrumbs.  If you decide to make your own breadcrumbs, it’s easy.  All you need is some day old bread or defrosted bread broken into bite-sized pieces.  Throw the pieces in a food processor or blender and blend until you have crumbs.  I season my breadcrumbs with some dried basil and dried oregano, but that’s also optional.  When using herbs, crush and rub the herbs between your hands, because this will release more flavor.chicken p 3

For the sauce, I admit, I buy this freshly made red sauce I love from the store because I’m a little particular about my sauce. Most bottled sauces, like Prego, are filled with sugar, so I recommend either buying fresh sauce or making it from scratch.

Ingredients:

6 boneless, skinless, organic chicken breasts

-1 1/2 cup breadcrumbs

-1/2 cup freshly grated Romano cheese + 3 tbsp for topping

-4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely diced

-Salt and pepper

-2 large eggs, well beaten

-1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra if needed

-8 ounces fresh mozzarella, 1/4 inch thick slices

-3-4 cups marinara sauce of choice

Steps:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Wash chicken and pat dry.  Place chicken breasts in large plastic ziplock bag or between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper.  Pound chicken with a mallet or hammer chicken with your fists (my own solution to not owning a mallet) on a flat surface until chicken breasts are about 1/2 inch thick.

3. On a dinner plate, add the bread crumbs, 1/2 the Romano cheese, garlic, salt, and pepper.  In a shallow bowl large enough to fit the chicken breasts, add eggs and 1 tbsp water, then beat with a fork.

4. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add oil.

5. Dip each chicken breast into the eggs and then into the breadcrumb mixture, coating each side. When the oil is hot, add the chicken to the pan and cook each side for about 3 minutes, or until lightly brown and not quite cooked.  Add any remaining breadcrumbs to the pan and fry, adding more olive oil as needed and keeping the bottom of the pan filled with 1/4 inch of oil.

6. In a 9 by 13-inch baking dish, cover the bottom of the dish with a 1 inch layer of red sauce.  Remove chicken and fried breadcrumbs from the skillet and arrange in the baking dish.  Pour another layer of sauce over the top of the chicken.  Cook chicken uncovered in the oven for 10 minutes.

chicken p 5

Layer red sauce on the bottom of a baking dish. Place cutlets and fried breadcrumbs in dish and layer more red sauce on top.

7. Remove chicken and top the chicken with the mozzarella and remaining Romano.  Place back in the oven uncovered for another 10-15 minutes, or until sauce bubbles and the mozzarella melts.

chicken p 1

Remove dish from oven after 10 minutes and cover with cheese. Bake for another 10-15 minutes.

chicken p 9

Nom nom, melted, cheesy goodness 🙂

Look to Your Farmacy

It’s true, the majority of my money goes toward food.  Delicious, organic, local food.  And you know what?  I’m totally ok with it. Understandably, not everyone wants to spend the money, because organic can be expensive.  Just remember, the more processed crap, toxins, and sugar we consume today, the more doctor visits and money spent on pharmaceutical drugs in the future.  That’s why I look at eating well as an long-term investment in my health, because food is medicine.Let your food be your medicine(1)

Currently, the average American eats too much and spends too little on food.  It can cost a lot to eat organic, but I have some tips on how to best spend your money when buying organic.  Organic food is more expensive because it’s a more time and labor-intensive form of farming. If you’re someone who doesn’t eat organic currently, start by switching at least one thing in your diet to organic, because baby steps are better that no steps. If you’re someone who currently doesn’t eat vegetables or fruits, then maybe starting with canned or frozen vegetables or fruit is the place for you to start.  You don’t need to eat organic all the time to reduce chemical exposure.  Starting a garden, if you have the space, is also a cost-effective way to eat right.

What does it mean to eat organic anyway?  Organic refers to the procedure in which foods are grown, raised, or produced based on government-defined standards.  Originally, all our food was “organic.”  There were no herbicides, pesticides, irradiation, or chemical fertilizers. Rather, all our food was naturally raised, unrefined, unprocessed, and whole. Processing food and chemical farming has only been around since World War II, and since then, our soil has been depleted of important minerals and nutrients that we need.
Because not all of us can or want to buy everything organic, I’ve supplied a list prioritizing which fruits and vegetables to buy organic.  Please refer to the list below for most and least contaminated foods, provided by The Environmental Working Group.image

12 Most Contaminated Fruits and Vegetables:

Apples

Celery

Cherry tomatoes

Cucumbers

Grapes

Hot peppers

Nectarines (Imported)

Peaches

Potatoes

Spinach

Strawberries

Sweet bell peppers

Kale / Collard Greens

Snap peas

15 Least Contaminated Fruits and Vegetables

Asparagus

Avocados

Cabbage

Cantaloupe

Sweet corn

Eggplant

Grapefruit

Kiwi

Mangos

Cauliflower

Onions

Papayas

Pineapples

Sweet peas (frozen)

Sweet potatoes

The two foods that I highly recommend buying organic are strawberries and chicken.  The U.S. uses 1.2 billion pounds of pesticides a year, and only .01% of those pesticides actually reach bugs.  Strawberries, even after washing, retain the most of amount of pesticides.  Pesticides cause issues like skin, eye, and lung irritation, hormone disruption, cancer, brain and nervous system toxicity, blood disorders, nerve disorders, birth defects, and reproduction effects.  If you have children, just remember that kids are four times more sensitive to cancer-causing pesticides in foods than adults (Source: US Environmental Protection Agency).

Vintage arsenic poison bottle on antique shelfThe reason I disapprove so strongly of commercial chicken is that commercial chickens contain arsenic, which is actually approved and regulated by the government.  Arsenic is known to cause cancer, as well as a number of other health issues.

Trust me, you’ll be able to tell the difference in color and taste between organic and commercially-grown produce. Washington State University actually proved through lab taste tests that organic tastes better.  There are more reasons to shop organic though.  By purchasing organic foods, you’re reducing your carbon footprint and helping out local farmers. Our health starts not with food but with our soil and water. Organic farming respects our ecosystem, while conventional farming leaks pesticides into our soil and our water, which in turn makes people sick. Additionally, organic farms are often smaller and independently owned and operated, so it’s great to help out the little guys.  Buying organic saves energy too, since more energy is used to produce synthetic fertilizers for commercially-grown crops.

organic_food

If you’re interested in going organic, but don’t know how or where to start, find your nearest Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) so your can get your food straight from your local farmer.  If you have questions, feel free to ask.  Drop me a line.

Lo·ca·vore

Locavore:  one who eats foods grown locally whenever possible.  (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

This new year I recommend trying to eat and buy foods grown locally.  Since my boyfriend and I dubbed ourselves locavores in 2014, it quickly became apparent that the quality of food was far superior to any commercial food products.  Not only is locally grown food more fresh, but there’s less fuel and chemicals involved in the transportation of the food.  Additionally, by supporting local businesses you’re giving less business to big corporations, which is a great thing because it stimulates jobs for local people and promotes whole foods and better eating.

The locavore movement was influenced by a Canadian couple, Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon, who spearheaded the 100-mile diet in 2005.  For a whole year the couple ate only foods produced within a 100-mile radius.  This may not be easy for everyone, so start off with just a single family meal made of all locally sourced products. Taste the difference and put some love in that cooking!

I admit living in San Francisco I’m totally spoiled by the food options and local farms surrounding my area.  Every week I either visit my neighborhood farmers market (Clement Street represent!) or have my food delivered directly to my door by Good Eggs, a company that brings farm foods and locally-sourced products straight to my door.  It’s the bomb.  There are also other companies out there that deliver fresh foods and not just in San Francisco.  My advice is to look into farms or CSAs (community supported agriculture) near your own area and see where the farmers sell their products or see if there’s someone who’d deliver the food fresh for you.  CSAs are a great way to get to know your local farmers!

Check out some of my favorite, must-have products in San Francisco:

I love the spatchcock chickens by Roli Roti.  The company gets their chickens in the Bay Area and I order mine fresh from Good Eggs.

I love the spatchcock chickens by Roli Roti. The company gets their chickens in the Bay Area and I order mine fresh from Good Eggs.

oo_white_larger3

Thank you to the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation in Capay Valley, CA for producing this incredible olive oil. This product has taught me the importance of cooking with quality olive oil.

22_1_salad_greens

Happy Boy Farms, near Watsonville, CA, keeps my belly very happy with their amazingly fresh and bright lettuces.

Omnivore_6oz_website_1024x1024

It’s a secret what’s inside Omnivore Salt, but the flavoring has never let me down! I use it on nearly everything I cook.

eggs

Given the amount of eggs I eat, I don’t mind paying a little extra for quality, pasteurized eggs. These multi-colored beauties come from Red Hill Farms in Marin County, CA.