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!

4 Ways to Motivate Yourself When All You Want Is To Do Nothing At All

I was inspired to write this post based off how I currently feel on this cold, foggy day.  I’m working from home, and I want nothing more than to cuddle up with my dogs and hibernate.  However, that’s not an option as work has to be done. So, what do I do to motivate myself?  Here are some tips that work for me, so if you can relate to what I’m saying, please try these suggestions out!

 

1. Eat fat. 

Our brains are made up of about 60% fat and need fat to promote clear thinking and focus. Outdated research suggested people stay away from products containing fat, so for me growing up I typically ate fat-free products.  I can’t tell you how relieved I am to now know that healthy fats are actually an essential part of our diet.  Foods like avocado, salmon, coconut oil, organic grass-fed butter and egg yolks are all examples of healthy fats that most people should consume on a daily basis.  I personally don’t eat much dairy, but it makes me sad that I deprived myself of the delicious goodness that is whole milk and 2% Greek yogurt for so many years.  Fat-free products not only taste unsatisfying, but they are typically packed with preservatives and hidden sugars in attempt to improve flavor.  By eating more fat, especially earlier in the day, you can power your brain, enhance learning and memory, and protect yourself again future brain diseases.

To give you an idea of how I fit fats into my diet, here is an example of what I might eat in a day:

Early Morning Meal — My Daily Green Smoothie, which always includes chia seeds and hemp seeds

Breakfast — Two eggs fried in either ghee or coconut oil with vegetables sautéd in either coconut oil or olive oil over rice.

Lunch — Mixed green salad with avocado and a little olive oil with lemon and lime for dressing.

Snack — Apple with almond butter.

Dinner — Baked salmon with steamed broccoli over quinoa.

Fat sources for the day = chia seeds, hemp seeds, egg yolks, ghee, coconut oil, avocado, olive oil, almond butter and salmon.  If you focus on eating whole foods, it’s not so hard to get your daily fat!

 

2. Experiment with Essential Oils

Aromatherapy has been used for thousands of years to improve mood, aid with sleep, energize, fight disease, and so much more.  There’s pretty much an essential oil for just about anything you can think of.  For me, after years of taking pharmaceuticals to manage ADHD, essential oils, in addition to diet, have become my all-natural solution for staying focused.  There are different oils you can use, and there are also oils made of a combination of different scents.  My absolute favorite oil is by DoTerra and it’s called InTune.  It’s a combination of several oils, but it’s my go-to scent whenever it’s time to get working.  Other oils that work well, which are mostly found in InTune, are lavender, Roman chamomile, mandarin, ylang ylang (I love this scent!), frankincense (I love this one too!),  vetiver, and patchouli.

 

3. Use Cannabis

This recommendation might sound counterintuitive and also may not be a solution for everyone.  For me, I have found with certain strains of cannabis that I can manage my ADHD-tendencies.  I do live in California where just about anyone can get a medical marijuana card, so apologies to those of you who unfortunately don’t have access to legal medicine.  For those of you who do, certain strains can actually give you clarity, laser-sharp focus, and can get those creative juices flowing.  Of course, it’s always important to consult your doctor or bud tender first, since they will be able to recommend the best strains for your specific needs, but definitely ask if cannabis can be a good solution for you too.

 

4. Set Daily Goals 

There’s something about writing out your daily to-do list that makes it much easier to get work done during the day.  I think it’s because lists hold you accountable and help with time management.  I actually prefer to write my list the night before, so that I can know exactly what needs to be done when I wake up the following day.

The other part of goal setting, especially when you’re feeling unmotivated, is to set what I call “power hour” goals.  It doesn’t necessarily need to be an hour, but what I’ll do is set a timer for typically about 20-30 minutes and during this time I have to stay completely focused on one task, like writing a blog post.  When my timer goes off I then allow myself a five minute break to walk around and stretch. Sometimes on my break I even let myself check Facebook 🙂  The point is that this system forces my lazy brain to work hard with the promise of a reward.  Because I get to take breaks I don’t get burnt out this way, not to mention I get in a little exercise!

 

For more tips like these, please leave a comment or drop me a line on my website.  Let’s talk!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Is Gluten the New Fat?

For the past 40 years, Americans have been lead to believe that any form of fat and all types of cholesterol were bad for us.  New studies have proven that this idea is outdated, but today, the new “evil” is gluten.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are by now you’ve at least heard the word gluten.  There are entire sections at the grocery store devoted to gluten-free products and I don’t know about you all, but out of the blue everyone I know is suddenly gluten intolerant.

What is gluten?

Gluten, Latin for “glue,” is a name for proteins that act as an adhesive glue, keeping together foods like breads, pastas, flour, etc.  Gluten exists in wheat, barley, and rye and can be found in many products, whether it’s our food or personal care products, like toothpaste or shampoo.  The “sticky” nature of gluten makes it hard to breakdown and absorb nutrients.

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What are some symptoms of gluten sensitivity? 

Depression, inflammation, joint problems, gastrointestinal problems, or fatigue, ADHD, anxiety, hives/rashes, miscarriages, nausea/vomiting, sugar cravings, brain fog, malabsorption of food, dairy intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, or infertility.

Inflammation can also cause “leaky gut,”which makes us more susceptible to future food sensitivities and puts us at risk for developing autoimmune diseases or neurological disorders in the future.  Some of these diseases linked to inflammation include: Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Autism, and Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), diabetes, Hashimoto’s thyroidtis, arthritis, or schizophrenia. People with Celiacs disease share these same symptoms but on a more extreme level.  It’s also possible that some people just don’t show symptoms, but are fighting the attack elsewhere in their body, like in the nervous system.

But didn’t we always eat gluten? 

Our diet has changed drastically from what our ancestors ate. We used to thrive off of high-fat diet, low-carb diets, but now our diet consists of mainly carbs and significantly less fat.

Ancestors                                  Modern Diet

-Fat 75% of diet                            -Carbs 60% of diet

-Protein 20% of diet                     -Fat 20%

-Carbs 5% of diet                          -Protein 20%

evolution_of_man

We have far more disease today and different types of diseases than we ever did before.  The majority of our great-grandparents and generations older than them died from old age, but today many of us are plagued by cancer, heart disease, brain disease, obesity, or diabetes.  The answer to this conundrum exists not just in genes, but in our food.

As you can see from the numbers above, most of us eat an unbalanced diet.  Our percentage of carbohydrate intake are at unnaturally high levels, which takes a toll on our bodies. The first sign of celiacs, however, traces all the back to the first century AD, when a Greek doctor named Aretaeus of Cappadocia wrote about the symptoms and used the word “celiac” to name the illness in a medical textbook.  Gluten has always been a part of our diets since our ancestors learned to farm and mill wheat.  The gluten we eat today, though, hardly resembles the gluten in our diet ten thousand years ago.  Today our food is far more processed and bio-engineering has us growing structurally-modified grains containing gluten that’s less tolerable.

So is a gluten-free diet for me?

Although I know people have healed themselves of ailments by removing gluten from the diet and although I’ve read the research on the links between gluten and neurodegenerative conditions, I full-heartedly believe in the idea of everything in moderation. I personally have not given up my bread products yet, but I eat much less of it and not every day, because a little bread every now and then probably won’t kill you.  The problem is, carbs, like sugar, can be addicting, so some people have a much harder time removing gluten from the diet.

One way to cut back on carbs, processed foods, or sugar is to fill up on proteins, vegetables, and healthy fats.  By adding in these other foods, it’s easier to naturally crowd out carbohydrates, processed foods, and sugar.  I highly encourage everyone to do research for themselves, rather than hopping on the bandwagon without really knowing why.  There are probably way more products containing gluten than you know, some which may be surprising, and I’ve listed some of these products below.  I highly recommend the book Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, MD if you’re looking for more research and information.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Autism, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), or diabetes, or if it runs in your family, then I would think it best to stay away from gluten.  If you’re eating gluten and finding yourself suffering from headaches, abdominal pains, or any of the other symptoms previously mentioned, then try at least one week of cutting out gluten and see if you can notice any improvements.

Which grains are gluten-free?

Amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, corn, millet, potato, quinoa, rice, sorghum, soy, tapioca, and tee.

gluten-free-grains

Which gains contain gluten?

Barley, bulgur, couscous, farina, graham flour, kamut, matzo, rye, semolina, spelt, triticale, wheat, and wheat germ.

Random things that contain gluten:

Cosmetics, lipsticks/lip balm, medications, non-self-adhesive stamps and envelopes, play-doh, shampoos and conditioners, toothpaste, some vitamins and supplements.

There are lots of other foods and ingredients that contain gluten, so do some research if you’re planning on going gluten-free.

Sources:

Perlmutter, David, MD. Grain Brain. New York, NY.  Little, Brown and Company.

Good Fats vs Bad Fats

Not everyone realizes there’s a distinction between fats that are good for us and fats that are not.  In fact, some fats are essential to our diets and we can’t live without them.  The word “fat” has a negative connotation, especially when well marketed products influence us to buy “diet,” “non-fat,” “light”/”lite,” or “low fat” foods.  The truth is, these “diet” foods aren’t any better for us, and compensate with processed sugar to still taste okay.  Sugar and processed foods, not so much fat, is the real problem with our diets.

To break it down, there are four different types of fat.  Two of these types are “good fats” and the other “bad fats.”

Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are good for us. They benefit the heart, cholesterol, and overall health.

Saturated fats and trans fats are bad for us.  They increase the likelihood of disease and high cholesterol.

Beneficial fats are found in the following foods:

healthy-fatsMonounsaturated Fats:

-avocados

-nuts (almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, peanuts)

-olives

-oils (olive oil, canola, sunflower, peanut, sesame oil)

-Peanut Butter

Polyunsaturated fats:

-walnuts

-soymilk

-tofu

-flaxeed

-oils (soybean, corn, safflower)

-sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds

-fatty fishes (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, sardines, trout)

-flaxeed

Saturated Fat:

-chicken with the skin

-fatty cuts of meat (beef, lamb, pork)

-whole fat dairy products (cream, milk)

-butter

-lard

-cheese

-lard

*A note about saturated fat-  there has been controversy surrounding the argument that all saturated fat is bad for our health.  It’s true that substituting saturated fats for polyunsaturated fats is much healthier.  Use olive oil instead of butter, for example, but do not replace your saturated fats with processed food, like a muffin or bagel in the morning instead of bacon. Just don’t eat bacon all the time.

There are also newer studies that argue whole fat dairy products may actually keep us lean and decrease the chances of obesity.  One possibility is that whole fat dairy products keep us fuller longer, thus lessening the amount we consume.  That doesn’t mean go out and eat tons of whole fat dairy, especially for those of us who already have high cholesterol levels. (Source: NPR: The Full Fat Paradox)

fats 

Trans Fat:

-stick margarin

-packaged snack foods (crackers, microwave popcorn, chips, cookies)

-commercially baked pastries (doughnuts, cookies, cakes, pizza dough)

-vegetable shortening

-fried foods

-candy bars

(Source: HelpGuide.org)