Spinach Shakshouka

So you are probably wondering what on earth you are looking at. At least that was my reaction when I first saw a picture of shakshouka. The dish of poached eggs in a spicy tomato sauce is often served for breakfast with crusty bread and has North African and Middle Eastern roots, but I can't claim to know how it is traditionally prepared. This is just a riff off of this beautiful smitten kitten recipe I found a while back and can't stop making.
 I wanted a more hearty version of it, since I find myself eating shakshouka for dinner as well as breakfast. To bulk up the meal, I added sweet peppers, some spinach and more onion, and I kicked it up a notch with some extra spice! This one-pan meal is filled with warming, earthy flavors like cumin and cayenne pepper that are perfect for these cold months ahead. And since the dish is almost entirely veggies, it is relatively easy on the wallet  something I always appreciate moving into December.

 There are also a few other things to love about this meal:
  • Boosts immune system: Tomatoes, spinach and peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C. 
  • Promotes healthy skin/cells: Tomatoes, spinach and peppers are also rich in vitamin A, which is needed for cell repair and regeneration.
  • Promotes strong bones: Cooked spinach is high in vitamin K and calcium. Vitamin K makes sure minerals are deposited into the bones where they are needed.
  • Contributes to healthy body and brain function: Spinach is rich in iron that our body needs to transport oxygen.
  • Reduces risk of cancer: Cooked tomatoes are rich in the phytochemical lycopene, which is associated with the significant reduction of prostate cancer in men especially when consumed with fat (egg yolk) to aid the absorption of lycopene. Other studies strongly suggest lycopene may protect against stomach, lung, oral, breast and cervical cancers as well.
  • Promotes eye health: Eggs and spinach contain the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that that promote eye health by preventing macular degeneration. The fat from the egg yolk also helps absorb them.
  • Provides great source of protein: Eggs contain all nine essential amino acids that our body needs but cannot synthesize. 
  • Contains choline (in the eggs), an essential part of the phospholipid phosphatidylcholine, which helps our bodies ensure that fat and cholestrol do not accumulate in the liver.

There are certainly more benefits, but I'll leave my list at that for now. If you want to read more about the benefits of certain foods, I highly recommend The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth by Dr. Jonny Bowden (C.N.S).


Cinnamon Spice Baked Apples with Cranberries, Maple Syrup & Walnuts

Now that we've turned back the clocks and the evenings are getting darker and colder, I'm shifting into hiberation mode. By that I mean live-in-a-bathrobe-and-avoid-leaving-the-house-at-all-costs-mode. Since I plan on spending all this time at home, I wanted something to make my place feel a little more... well homey. While scented candles are great, nothing quite does the job like the smell of real spiced apples baking in the oven.

This version of baked apples combines some of my favorite fall flavors: cinnamon, nutmeg, cranberries and maple syrup. The crunchy streusel topping and chewy cranberries add some texture to the soft, warm apple. As the recipe does not contain any processed sugar or gluten, this is one comfort food you can feel good about eating. Best of all, this healthy treat will only cost you about 15 minutes in the kitchen. After that, you can curl back up on the couch with a blanket and cup of tea while your oven does all the work.
Between the apple, oats and nuts, these make a  phenomenal breakfast treat or special snack, but they can also easily pass as a dessert with or without a little dollop of whipped cream. Even with the butter, these suckers are a relatively low-calorie as the apple itself is only about 90 calories. Unlike most processed, store-bought sweets, they are made with whole foods and contain some potassium, fiber, protein and omega-3s. 


Spiced Pumpkin Granola Bars

It's that time of year again. Pumpkin-lovers, rejoice! Fall is just around the corner and pumpkin-flavored everything is here to usher in the season. Pumpkin beer, soup, bread, pie. You can try to fight it, pretend summer isn't over, but really, why not just embrace the spiced, delicious goodness and all that it stands for? After all, fall ain't so bad. Think boots, crunchy piles of leaves and cozy sweaters. Plus who needs all that humidity anyway? Not me! 
Just the smell of these bars baking in the oven triggers about a million memories: back-to-school shopping, memorizing a new school schedule, calling up friends to figure out who else has fourth period with Mrs. So-and-So and the glorious first week of class when all we did was goof off while teachers tried their best to hold our attention as they went over their syllabus. New beginnings and so much eager anticipation have always always been wrapped up in this time of year and these smells.

All this nostalgia is just part of what makes me love these granola bars, though. They're also just straight up delicious and healthy to boot. Between the nuts, seeds, oat bran, flaxseed meal and oats, these bars are packed with protein and fiber that will keep your tummy full and curb sugar cravings. The pumpkin and honey add a touch of sweetness that will satisfy your sweet tooth AND they have heart- and brain-healthy omega-3s. I like to make a batch Sundays and them keep them in the fridge for a grab-n-go breakfast or snack to take to work.


Coconut Curry Chicken Salad Wrap


Creamy chicken salad jazzed up with curry powder, carrots, a splash of lime juice, toasted coconut flakes and cashews. If you’re in the mood to try something new without totally venturing out of your food comfort zone, then this is for you! No need to go to a specialty food store for exotic ingredients. Your regular grocer should have everything you'll need. I’m also loving that this is one of those meals that you can prep ahead of time and keep in the fridge for fast lunches and dinners.

This recipe happens to be another that’s inspired by one of my favorite lunch spots in Frankfurt called Kleine Anna. Their unique sandwich combinations leave me thinking about my order lonnnng after I leave their doors. My first attempt at bringing their delicious ideas home had me whipping up these roasted eggplant sandwiches with goat cheese and caramelized onions. I thought it was time to take a swing at my other regular order: a sandwich topped with a creamy curry-carrot spread, sliced turkey and arugula.

To make the meal a little healthier, I cut the carbs and decided to go with a wrap instead of bread, but you can also just eat it on top of a bed of greens with a little lime juice, olive oil and s&p.  I also added chicken breast for lots of low-fat protein that will keep me full. Instead of relying on full-fat cream cheese for flavor, I used non-fat Greek yogurt and added in healthier fats with the coconut and cashews. The result is an absolutely delicious, hearty chicken salad you can feel good about eating! 

So what are you doing for your body with this tasty meal?
  • Keeping yourself full and energized while fighting sugar cravings: All the protein from the chicken and nuts plus the fiber from the carrots and celery slow digestion and keep blood sugar levels from spiking. This means you won't be hungry again for a while and won't have to fight annoying sugar crashes or cravings.
  • Improving blood pressure + lowering stress levels: Celery contains the phytochemical called phthalide, which has shown in clinical traisl to relax muscle tissue in artery walls and thereby increase blood flow. 
  • Stimulating your immune system : Carrots are a great source of alpha- and beta-carotene that the body converts to vitamin A.
  • Helping your vision/eye health: Carrots contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids, that help protect your eyes from macular degeneration and cataracts. The vitamin A from the alpha- and beta-carotene also boost your body's production of rhodopsin, which you need to see in dim light.
  • Preventing cancer: High carotenoid intake (the stuff that gives carrots its bright pigment) is associated with a decrease of up to 50% in bladder, cervical, prostate, colon and esophageal cancer. The carotenoids acts as strong antioxidants that protect cells from the damage done to DNA by aging and free radials. Read more here
  • Alleviating inflammation and arthritis: Curry powder is a mix of different spices and one of them is tumeric. In the spice world, tumeric is an allstar with strong antioxidant power. It's actually part of the ginger family and its ability to reduce inflammation is attributed to curcuminoids (the compounds that give tumeric that fantastic yellow color that stains everything). One curcuminoid in particular, curcumin, has been the focus of most anti-inflammatory research. Tumeric also improves cholestrol and its anti-tumor properties are showing promising results in animal studies. I'll stop here, but the list goes on. Read more from one of my favorite M.D.s Dr. Andrew Weil here.
  • Boosting heart health: Cashews get a bad reputation because of their carb content, but they actually contain a high-level of heart hearthy monosaturated fat that is shown to be associated with lower levels of heart disease. Not to mention the nuts are filled with important minerals like magnesium, calcium, potassium, and selenium.


Citrus Berry Breakfast Crêpes

During the week, I stick to the same thing for breakfast pretty much every day, some kind of green smoothie. I pour it in my thermos and I'm out the door. But on weekends, it is a different story. I like to keep my pjs on as long as possible, have a relaxing breakfast and indulge my sweet tooth a little. These fit the bill and don't take much time to whip up either. Maybe best of all, you can easily scale the recipe up or down to even just one person.
I call these crepes, but a better description is probably sweet, paper-thin omelets. The pancake part is just made of egg, milk, vanilla extract and honey  no flour, or gluten for that matter. I fill them with quark or Greek yogurt pepped up with a little lemon and sprinkle in some fresh berries or fruit for natural sweetness. Between the egg pancake and quark filling, these little guys have a fair amount of protein and the berries are filled with lots of antioxidants that help fight cell aging. Blueberries specifically also help improve memory. This is thanks to a compound called polyphenol in the berries that helps neurons talk to each other and promotes the growth of new neurons.


Mediterranean Pasta Salad

Where I come from in North Carolina, this is the time of year when your yard starts to look like the jungle in Jurassic Park. By the time you finish mowing the lawn, the grass is already back up past your ankles, and every plant in the garden is supersized thanks to the blazing days and almost daily afternoon thunderstorms. I am not exactly short, but it's safe to say there are tomato plants in my mom's veggie patch right now that are taller than me. In the humid heat of July, everyone and their mother starts to wonder if they planted too many "tamaters." The kitchen counter is covered with them and you have to think fast or toss all that precious goodness into the compost pile. Canned homemade spaghetti sauce is always a go-to option, but this salad is a great way to enjoy them while they are still fresh.

Juicy cherry tomatoes, salty feta, spicy baby arugula and savory sun-dried tomatoes with a few handfuls of pasta. This summer salad is quickly becoming a favorite at our house, because its fresh, filling and fast! Unlike most pasta salads that are heavy on the pasta, mayo and Miracle Whip, this one is packed with veggies that won't leave you feeling bloated or sluggish. It's a great option for those who want to go easy on the carbs without cutting them out all together. I like to think of it as happy middle ground that can please the pasta-lovers and the carb- or gluten-conscious alike.

To make this a gluten-free meal, just use a gluten-free penne. The Food Babe has a list of the healthiest gluten-free pasta options here. If you are feeling adventurous, replace the pasta with two spiralized zucchini. It makes for a totally different texture, but is still delicious! If arugula seems a bit too spicy for you, just reach for baby spinach instead. Make sure to wait until you are ready to eat before dressing the salad with lemon juice, since spinach does not seem to hold up as well against the acid.

Besides having fewer calories than your traditional pasta salads, this dish has a few other exciting things to offer:
  • Arugula: Eating this leafy green is great way to strengthen your bones. One cup contains almost half your daily recommend value of vitamin K and it has just as much calcium as spinach. You can also absorb this calcium better than in spinach thanks to lower levels of oxalates, a substance which inhibits calcium absorption. Few people realize that arugula is also a cruciferous vegetable right alongside broccoli, cauliflower, kale and your other nutritional powerhouses. Just like all of them, arugula contains glucosinolates that mix with the enzyme myrosinase to produce isothiocyanates. This compound neutralize carcinogens in the body and has anticancer properties. Oh yeah, 1 cup = 5 calories. Unreal.
  • Tomatoes: Vine-ripened tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C, vitamin A and B complex vitamins (boosts immune system, cell repair and metabolism). They contain the carotenoid lutein, which supports healthy vision and may help against macular generation. They contain three antioxidants, zero-carotene, phytoene and phytofluene, that help fight disease and prevent cell aging. The phenolic acid in tomatoes also helps fight lung cancer. When cooked (like in speghetti sauce :), tomoatoes are a rich soure of cancer-fighting lycopene.
  • Red pepper: In terms of nutritional value, red peppers have a lot in common with tomatoes. They are also low in calories, a good source of vitamin A and C, and contain the cancer-fighting compound lycopene. They also contain the carotenoid beta-cryptoxanthin, which is believed to lower risk of developing lung cancer. Try to buy organic bell peppers when you can though, because this vegetable is considered one of the most pesticide-contaminated foods.


Caprese Tuna Salad

I've been trying to keep food simple lately. Work has been a little hectic lately. The kind of days where your to-do list runs off onto two pages. This has left me with little energy and time for cooking. That is why this recipe does not involve any pots, pans or heat. Just grab a bowl and a cutting board and dinner will be ready in 10. In fact, you don't even really need to measure things. Go ahead and eyeball it! Salad is salald.

This recipe just sings summer to me. Juicy ripe tomatoes, creamy mozzarella, aromatic basil and crisp cucumbers with a little baby spinach, tuna and balsamic vinegar. How can something so easy be so gooodd?? And actually good for you?

Tuna: Ridiculously high in protein and low in calories. One can has up to 42 grams of the stuff that helps you build and maintain your muscles, all for about 200 calories. A single can of water-packed tuna also contains around 200 percent of your daily recommended value for selenium. While you don't hear much about it, the trace mineral has antioxidant properties, prevents cell damage and protects against cancer.

Spinach: Aside from kale, this is probably one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can find! It is anti-inflammartory thanks to the compound quercetin. This may not sound like much, but inflammation is the cause of virtually all major diseases from heart disease and cancer to arthritis. It also packed with flavonoids that give spinach its antioxidants and anticancer properties. It contains carotenoids that protect against macular degeneration and promote eye health. It's one of the best sources of Vitamin K (strong bones), which activates a compound called osteocalcin that helps your bones hold onto calcium! It loaded with calcium, magnesium, vitamin A, C and D, folic acid and iron. I could say more, but I'll leave the list at that for now.

Tomatoes: Vegetable or fruit? Whatever you want to call them, they are a rich source of the carotenoid lycopene, which protects against cancer. Most notably, it has shown to protect against prostate cancer, but research also suggests it may protect against lung, stomach, pancreatic, colorectal, esophageal, oral, breast and cervical cancers.

Cucumber: Super hydrating which is just what you need when it's hot! They are very low in calories too and a surprisingly good source of vitamin K (strong bones).


Peaches & Chia Seeds

Sometimes simplicity is best. Sun-ripened fruit and berries, oats, milk and chia seeds. Nothing ground breaking, but it's just so delicious I had to share it! 

With the weather starting to warm up, the price of fruit and berries is starting to come down and I'm all about gettin' in when the gettin' is good. For the absolute best deals, I hit up the farmers market right before they close to scoop up all the goods they are looking to get off their hands. Today, I shelled out 7 euro and marched home feeling rich as could be with my bag full of raspberries, peaches, mangos and cherries. Bonus: Not only do fruits and veggies that are in season taste better, they are more nutritious for you! Cheaper, tastier and more nutritional bang? What are you waiting for, go treat yourself to some!

I know peaches 'n chia seeds is not quite as catchy as peaches 'n cream, but I promise it's pretty gosh-darn delicious and will keep you full for considerably longer. I went on a bit about the wonders of chia seeds in a post on chia seed pudding a while back. If you have not tried this superfood yet, do it now, now, now! I am so in love with them that I just ordered my second 2 lb. bag of them online. They are the perfect fast, filling snack. For a quick recap of their nutritional stats, they are a good source of protein and calcium and full of brain- and heart-healthy omega-3s and blood sugar-regulating fiber

But what I really want to talk about here is fruit! Pretty much all berries are full of antioxidants that help fight cell aging and damage from free radicals. To give you a better picture of what that means, just imagine what happens to a slice of apple that's left out. That browning is due to oxidation and the same thing happens to cells in our body! Yikes! Blueberries happen to have the highest oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) value of any food in the world. But this breakfast has more to offer than that:

Blueberries: Everyone talk about salmon being brain food, but blueberries are perhaps even more impressive in this department. They are memory food! They contain a compound called polyphenol that helps your neurons talk to each other and even promote the growth of new neurons! They also help fight inflammation, which is involved in pretty much every major illness from alzheimer's and heart disease to arthritis and diabetes. Extracts of the phytochemicals in blueberries are also shown to significantly decrease growth of cervical and breast cancer.

Strawberries: Much like blueberries, strawberries are full of phytochemicals like phenols and anthocyanins that help inhibit cancer. Strawberries are also specifically shown to significantly inhibit growth of liver cancer cells. Extracts from strawberries may also help improve short-term memory!

Peaches: While nothing steels the show in terms of health benefits like berries, this stone fruit is not too shabby either. They are a good source of fiber, have a low glycemic load (won't spike blood sugar), contain carotenoids that promote eye health and prevent macular degeneration and contains calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin A, C and K. All this at less than 40 calories a fruit! 


Sesame Korean Beef Bowl

So after recovering from the blogathon that was the Sugar-Detox Challenge, I am finally back again with new recipes! This rainbow of a meal is light and fresh, but filling. My favorite part has got to be the caramelized beef. It's sweet and savory thanks to tons of fresh ginger, pressed garlic, a splash of soy sauce and a touch of coconut sugar (more on that below). I spoon this meat mixture into a bowl of crisp lettuce along with a little rice, crunchy red cabbage, sweet carrots and yellow bell pepper. Just top it all off with some sesame seeds and Sriracha and you have yourself a pretty kick-ass salad.  
The health rundown:
  • Protein: Beef is very high in protein (building muscles) and good source of iron (transporting oxygen to brain and body). Regrettably, beef is high in fat and cholesterol so eat it in moderation, like in this salad, and opt for the lean version (90-95% fat free) when you can.
  • High in fiber: The lettuce, carrots, cabbage and bell pepper are all high in fiber, which keeps you full longer, regulates blood sugar and is important for your digestive and heart health. The fiber ensures you have more time to digest and absorb nutrients and helps you eliminate toxins and waste from your digestive system more effectively!
  • Great source of Vitamin A & C: The veggies are chock-FULL of this stuff. Think beautiful skin (cell repair), a strong immune system and eye health.
  • Carotenoids: Your parents were actually right. The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin found in carrots promote eye health.
  • Phytochemicals: Thanks to the indoles, dithiolethiones, isothiocynates and sulforaphane found in cabbage, this meal also helps protect you from cancer! They help fight damage from free radicals and carcinogens.
I also want to take a minute to talk about coconut sugar. Seeing as how I just finished my Sugar Detox, using "sugar" in my very first recipe post following it may seem a little...well hypocritical. But now that I've kicked my intense sugar cravings in the butt, I do like to include natural, unrefined sweetners in my diet. To read more about what natural sweeteners are great options, read this post by the Food Babe (so proud that she is from my hometown!). Coconut palm sugar is obtained from drying the sap from the coconut palm. Because it is not bleached it is full of vitamins and minerals that would otherwise be stripped away in processing. Food Babe explains: "It is naturally high in amino acids – has 10,000 times more potassium, 20 times more magnesium and 20 times more iron than conventional sugar." While they are not the most nutritious calories you will ever consume they are certainly not empty and the best part is you can use them in the same ratio in baking and cooking as regular sugar! Because it’s glycemic index is half of that of regular sugar, switching to coconut sugar lowers your risk of developing diabetes and makes sugar cravings less likely.


Sugar-Detox Meal Plan: Week #7

It's the last leg of the Sugar-Detox Challenge folks!! Woot! Or as Ryan Lochte would say, JEAH! Let's kick it into high gear and finish this thing off on a high note! We don't even have a full seven days left, just a measly four. You got this.

I have another handful of healthful recipe ideas to inspire you in the kitchen. I've picked ones that are especially packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals to get your body working like a finely tuned machine before this is over. If you havn't tried a green smoothie yet, do it this week. You will notice a drastic improvement in your daily digestion when you start out your day with hydration, fiber and a huge dose of nutrients. I've included both a green starter smoothie for newbies and my standard tropical green smoothie that I LOVE and go back to time and time again.

I'll be having my lemon-ginger detox drink first thing in the morning and absolutely recommend you try it out too! Having it right after you wake will get your metabolism and digestive system up and going. If you don't have time to fuss around in the morning, keep it simple and just squeeze the juice of half a lemon into a glass of water. It works wonders! Hope you all have a great week and are feeling fantastic! Make sure to check out my last post here if you are wondering how to handle coming off the sugar detox.


Dill and Asparagus Potato Salad with Grilled Veggies or Meat
Recipes from other bloggers
(Rabbit Food for My Bunny Teeth)

Romaine Fajita Boats
(Running on Real Food)



So... What Now?

We are in the homestretch of the Sugar-Detox Challenge! There's less than a week to go! I for one am so proud of myself and everyone who decided to give this challenge try. Before it ends and we all dive into our Easter baskets, I want to take a moment to step back with you and reflect on the experience. And perhaps offer some guidance as to how to proceed from here, because last year when I got to this point I found myself both full of excitement and anticipation, but, if I'm honest, a little anxiety too. I didn't want to undo all the good I had done, but I wasn't ready to make the diet my lifestyle just yet.

First off, take a private moment to appreciate what an amazing thing you have done for yourself. Our health is truly everything we have. Without it we have nothing. This became crystal clear to me this year when I came down with viral meningitis (see blogpost on it here). Making smart decisions now before it's too late is the greatest gift you can give yourself. 

That said, it takes so much willpower to change your eating habits, not just because they are habits, but because they are reinforced by our culture, the food industry and immediate gratification. If it's not friends and family giving you a hard time for no longer eating like they do, it's a commercial telling you to treat yourself to ice cream on a hot day. To make matters worse, we are just wired to crave that white stuff. Sugar stimulates the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which activates the reward (think addiction) pathways in our brain. While sugar isn't nearly as addictive or dangerous of drugs like cocaine, it's still incredibly hard for us to turn down and damaging to our health. 

In short, giving up sugar is not easy and you should be proud. I cannot say this enough. Even if you fell off the bandwagon for a meal or two or even a few days, take a moment to realize what you have accomplished. I'm sure you have consciously and consistently made so many better nutritional decisions over the last 40 days and your body is thanking you.

Last year, I got to this point and after my pride and excitement settled down, I found myself wondering "So...what now?" I didn't want to throw all my hard work out the window, because I knew simply going back to my old ways would undo all the positive changes I had experienced. However, I was not ready to never have another piece of chocolate again (because let's face it, who is?). I also knew that if I did want to make a permanent positive change in my diet, there was never going to be a better time than now. I had put in all the hard work, overcome cravings and figured out how to adjust my lifestyle to accommodate this new diet. All this left me rather conflicted. It took me a little bit of self reflection to decide what I wanted to do. The following 10 questions are there to help you do the same. You can read more about what permanent changes I decided to make and why here.  

1. Why did you decide to do the Sugar-Detox Challenge? 

2. What positive changes have you noticed in yourself since the start of the Sugar-Detox Challenge? Physically, mentally, emotionally?

3. What was the easiest thing to give up? Why?

4. What was the hardest thing to give up? Why?

5. What healthy recipes have you really enjoyed over the last 40 days and would consider cooking again?

6. What small changes could you easily make to decrease the amount of sugar you consume?

7. What did you learn about yourself along the way?

8. What surprised you most over the course of this challenge?

9. What sugary foods are the least rewarding/important to you? Would you be willing to cut these out or reduce how often you consume them?

10. What sugary foods are the most rewarding/important to you? Why?

For me, the answers to these questions helped me realize what I wanted, why I wanted and what I was willing to change to achieve it. They also helped me identify what changes were realistic for me and what was still holding me back.

I hope that from the vantage point of improved health all of you feel inspired to make at least some small permanent change in your diet. This could be as simple as no longer buying sugary cereal or flavored, sweetened yogurt or as significant as no longer using processed products with added sugar when cooking at home. Anything and everything makes a difference! I would love to hear your thoughts on the entire experience, any of your answers to the questions above and what permanent changes you would like to make!


Mint & Chinese Cabbage Chicken Salad

When it starts to get warm outside I want something light and fresh to eat, but it also needs to fill me up. This low-carb, Asian-inspired cold chicken salad absolutely fits the bill. It's packed with protein and fiber that will keep you going for hours and the lime and mint brighten up everything. Oh yeah... and the dressing is to die for. It's the perfect balance of sweet, spicy, tangy and salty and the peanut butter gives it some real body.
The cabbage itself is also mildly sweet with a fresh crunch. Many people don't realize that this delicious green (and purple) vegetable is part of the same family as nutritional superstars like kale, broccoli, brussel sprouts and chard. And for good reason:

  • It contains the phytochemical indoles, which help reduce the risk of cancer due to the way they alter estrogen metabolism and protect our bodies against the carcinogenic effect of pesticides
  • Cabbage is also full of antioxidant plant compounds, such as carotenes, thiocyanates, indole-3-carbinol, lutein, zea-xanthin, sulforaphane and isothiocyanates, that protect the body against carcinogens and free radicals that promote aging. 
  • Abundant source of soluble and insoluble dietary fiber, which helps reduce levels of bad cholesterol, improve digestion and boost nutrition absorption
  • Good source of vitamin C and folates and contains calcium, magnesium, potassium as well as electrolytes.  


Asparagus and Dill Potato Salad

The weather in here is finally warming up (hopefully for good) and this means two things: it's asparagus season and the grill is being dusted off. This potato salad is a delicious way to celebrate both! It makes use of this incredibly healthy seasonal vegetable and goes great with a freshly grilled meat or veggies. The dish comes together fast, is easy to make ahead and keeps in the fridge if you're planning on inviting people over to grill.
In case you haven’t heard, asparagus is a powerhouse! Click here for its nutrition data and read on for the lowdown on the nutritional and health benefits this veggie offers:
  • Ridiculously low in calories, cholesterol and fat: One cup of cooked asparagus is only 40 calories and contains no cholesterol or fat.
  • Fights bloating and puffy eyes: The ratio of potassium (high) to soidum (low) creates the perfect electrolyte balance in your body so it lets go of excess water.
  • Contains cancer-fighting, antiflammatory flavonoid quercetin. Inflammatory is considered the cause of pretty much every serious disease. Keep it low for good health!
  • Helps protect blood vessels thanks to compound called rutin.
  • Great source of fiber, which improves digestion, boosts nutrition absorption and lowers cholesterol. Thanks to a special kind of fiber called inulin, asparagus also feeds the good bacteria in your gut.
  • Surprisingly high protein: Just 1 cup is packed with 4 grams of protein at a mere 40 calories!
  • High in vitamins A&C: These antioxidants support eye health, boost the immune system and promote cell growth repair.
  • Great for heart and circulatory system: Contains Vitamins E (treating and preventing diseases of the heart and blood vessels) and K (essential for healthy blood clotting and strong bones) as well as folate, iron (helps blood transports oxygen to body and brain) and potassium (heart health, helps prevent cramps and consumption linked with lower cholesterol).
  • It is also a good source of Vitamin B6 (promotes metabolism, boosts immune system, lowers harmful levels of homocystine in blood), Calcium (strengthens bones), Magnesium (prevents cramping) and Zinc (great for skin/cell repair).


Sugar-Detox Meal Plan: Week #6

We are in the home stretch here! It's been over a month since I decided to cut out processed sugar and carbs along with alcohol and caffeine and invited you all to join me. I'm feeling great and hope you are too! Minus the allergies that have hit me like a brick wall. Thanks spring! But I'm kind of so excited about this warm weather and the fact that I don't have to wear boots all the time that I don't even mind.

This week there are a few repeat recipes, but a handful of new ones as well. My personal favorites are the lime-honey grilled chicken on strawberry spinach salad and the carrot cake. Something about Easter makes me crave that dessert! My version with maple-syrup sweetened cream cheese frosting is free of processed sugar and gluten. Plus it does not have any added butter or oil so it doubles as a great breakfast option as well! Hope you enjoy!


Lime-Honey Grilled Chicken over Strawberry Spinach Salad

Sesame Carrot-Cabbage Pancakes

*Replace rice noodles with shredded chinese cabbage. For the dressing, omit fish sauce, brown sugar and Sriracha and add 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper or chili oil and 1 T. honey.
Carrot Cake Oatmeal Bake*

Raspberry Oatmeal with Sauteed Bananas

*Turn it into a delicious dessert with maple syrup-sweetened cream cheese or whipped cream
Recipes from other bloggers
Avocado-Hummus Dip with Veggies
(The Lovely Cupboard)

Curried Chicken and Wheat Berry Salad (omit sugar)
(The Endless Meal)

Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Since I started my Sugar Detox, I've been trying to cut out processed sugars and processed carbs. I've also been on a mission to reinvent some of my favorite desserts so that they are no longer filled with empty calories that don't serve me. This moist carrot cake is one of my proud creations! It's made without gluten, processed sugars or butter/oil. 100% natural sweetness.
So what exactly is so much better about this recipe than your standard carrot cake? Besides cutting out all the empty calories from the 2 cups of granulated sugar and 11/2 cups of oil, the oats offer plenty of fiber that help regulate your blood sugar and prevent insulin release (fat storage). The carrots, mashed banana, dates and a little maple syrup not only add all the natural sweetness you need, they give you eye-healthy carontenoids, vitamin C, magnesium, calcium and iron. The walnuts are full of brain-healthy omega-3s fats. So enjoy!
I use milk in the recipe and cream cheese for the frosting, but you can easily subsitute them for  almond milk and coconut cream/cashew cream. Sometimes I leave off the frosting and just serve it with whipped cream, have it warm with a splash of milk for breakfast or eat it like a bar. It's delicious and so easy to throw together!


Honey-Lime Grilled Chicken on Strawberry Spinach Salad

 Grill season has started and I could not be more excited. While steaks, hamburgers and hot dogs have their place in my heart, sometimes I just want something healthier to throw on the grill. This honey-lime chicken marinade is one of my favorite go-to recipes for summer barbeques. It's sweet, tangy and a pinch of cayenne pepper adds a little spice!

The salad is also low in fat, high in protein, fiber, immune-system boosting vitamin C and a great source of tons of other vitamins and minerals. You get brain- and heart-healthy omega-3s from the avocado. The carrots are packed with carotenoids that are great for eye health. Strawberries have exceptional antioxidant properties as well as phytochemicals that are believed to help significantly inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells


Sugar-Detox Meal Plan: Week #5

Better late than never! I had wanted to get this meal plan up Friday, but sometimes life gets in the way. Friday night I found myself on a train to Switzerland to visit my father who was only there for a few days on business. It was a whirlwind trip filled with everything that is Switzerland to me: extended family, mountain hikes, quiet villages, the Alps, happy animals grazing on green pastures and, of course, cheese, rösti and chocolate. Don't worry, I didn't eat any chocolate (yet). I did bring home a huge milk chocolate bunny for later, though.

Speaking of chocolate, though, I also knew the weekend would presented some challenges in terms of staying on track with regard to the sugar detox. As a guest in someone else's home, I couldn't control my diet 100%. And I'm sure some if not all of you have found yourself in similar situations over the last few weeks or expect to be in one soon. Company events, family gatherings or special milestone celebrations. Life happens and I'm a firm believer that you shouldn't let your diet get in the way. You don't want pursuing healthy dietary choices to turn into an obsession that causes you more anxiety and guilt than good, because those can wreak havoc on your overall health as well. Nobody is perfect and you can't always control everything.

That said, you don't have to throw your diet completely into the wind when this happens. Make smart choices when you can, come prepared with healthy snacks and indulge on stuff that really matters to you and then get back to business when it's over. In short: be intentional and thoughtful in your choices. Over the weekend, I decided to try to adhere to the points below.

  • Come prepared: I brought along nuts and various fruits so I had emergency food on hand.
  • Take initiative: Since I was visiting family, I offered to cook one of the nights so that at least one of my main meals would be detox friendly... and of course, because I just love cooking. The next morning, I went out and brought the stuff for the dinner along with a few breakfast items that were detox-approved (oats and yogurt).
  • Make smart decisions: At a resturant, I ordered a delicious rösti (massive hash brown pancake) with raclette cheese and veggies. I didn't have to miss out on anything and it was so, so delicious.
  • Indulge on stuff that matters to you: I passed on a store-bought Black Forest Cake and made myself a bowl of strawberries and greek yogurt. If it had been homemade, I would have had to reconsider that decision.
  • Be gracious and realize when to go with the flow: When my grandmother cooked up chicken pasta for lunch, I was not about to pick around the individual noodles. Just dig in, smile and enjoy the food in those situations.
In the end, five of my six meals were sugar-free and filled with healthy fruits and veggies. I feel guilt-free and had a great time, no feelings were hurt, and the world continues to turn. Hopefully the points above will help you decide how to handle similar situations and the recipes below will provide more inspiration for healthy meals.



Green Starter Smoothie*

*For those who arn't convinced spinach belongs in smoothies just yet, but are open to the idea.
Recipes from other bloggers