Nana’s Banana Bread Recipe Gets a Makeover

My grandmother, AKA Nana, used to make me my favorite banana bread every time I came to visit.  She would even freeze it and bring it with her when she came to visit my family.  When I started making it myself when I was a teenager, I noticed it was absolutely loaded with sugar…. a full cup per loaf.  Cutting the sugar by half and adding whole wheat pastry flour to her original recipe not only makes it a bit healthier, but also tastes better in my opinion!  No offense Nana, I’ll always remember your banana bread fondly from my childhood, just enjoy it now with a bit of a revamp 😉

 

Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt (or use salted butter)

1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)

1/4 cup olive oil

3 very ripe bananas

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup granulated sugar OR sugar in the raw

2 eggs

1/2 cup toasted walnuts (optional)

2 tsp vanilla extract

 

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Soften butter.  Spray a loaf pan with olive oil, then sprinkle a bit of flour over it, so the bread doesn’t stick coming out.  Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt with a whisk in a medium size mixing bowl.  In a another mixing bowl, smash the bananas with a fork until there are no big chunks left.  In a large mixing bowl, mix the butter, olive oil, sugar, and maple syrup together until uniform.  Add the flour mixture to the large mixing bowl with the butter mixture and combine well.  Then add the bananas and combine well.  Lastly, add the vanilla extract, and… you got it… combine well.

Pour into the loaf pan and bake for an hour and ten minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Enjoy!

 


Quick and Easy Chickpea and Quinoa Salad

Today I’m giving a presentation on making healthy food fast.  I’ve been testing some new recipes in my kitchen to make sure they make the cut.  They have to be prepped and ready in 30 minutes or less with minimal clean up effort (i.e., they don’t use multiple pots and pans, just one in most cases).  Here is one of the recipes I’ve tested this week leading up to my presentation.  It is really good, and my lab rats AKA my family all gobbled it up.  Hope you like it too!

Quick and Easy Chickpea and Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:

2 TBSP EVOO

1 onion, finely diced

1 14 ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed thoroughly

10-15 large Swiss chard leaves (usually 1 bunch from the store)

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

2 cups unsalted vegetable stock

1 cup uncooked quinoa

 

Method:

Heat EVOO in a Dutch oven or large saucepan.  Add the onion and cook for a few minutes until translucent.

Add the chickpeas, Swiss chard, and spices and cook about 3-5 minutes or until the chard is cooked down.

Stir in the vegetable stock and quinoa.  Continue to cook for 10-15 minutes or until the quinoa is tender.  Taste and add a bit more pepper or garlic powder as needed.

Enjoy!  This serves 4 as an entree or 8 as a side.


Overnight Magic: Slow Cooker Steel Cut Apple Cinnamon Oats

Mornings can be hectic… trying to get out the door for work, school, or whatever else you’ve got going on.  So many people label themselves as “not a morning person.”  I’d definitely fall into that category, so anything to simplify the morning I vehemently support.  If you find yourself with some spare time in the evening to go ahead and prep breakfast to make your morning go smoothly, I highly recommend throwing this into the crock pot.

I first made this recipe when I was staying with a friend for several people.  It was a huge hit!  I’ve made it in my house a few times since for my family at home.  Check it out!

 

Ingredients:

2 large or 3 small apples, peeled and diced

2 cups steel cut oats

5 cups almond milk, or other milk of your choice

2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup brown sugar

 

Method:

Place all ingredients into the crock pot.  Stir until well combined.  Set crock pot to low and cook for 8 hours.  Stir and serve.


This Rosemary Orange Smoothie Goes Great with a Chill Weekend Breakfast!

 

I’m a huge smoothie lover.  They’re a quick, easy, and fun way for me to get fruits and veggies in my kids (and myself), and many of my digestive health clients need to be on a liquid diet as a part of the management of their condition.  Finding a smoothie that packs in some green veggies without sacrificing flavor is an added bonus.

We first tried this smoothie when we happened to have all the ingredients on hand as a little “experiment” – looking at all the ingredients I wasn’t quite sure how it would taste.  It was a HUGE hit with everyone so we’ve made it many more times since then.  Foodies will especially appreciate how nicely the flavors meld together.  Enjoy!

This recipe is by Julie Morris, L.A. based natural foods chef.  I greatly admire her creativity – I have a few of her books and always love everything I make from them!  Earlier this week I reached out to her to see if she’d mind if I published this recipe on my blog.  She wrote back yesterday and graciously agreed!  I recommend Julie’s book, Superfood Smoothies, to friends and clients a lot and am happy to recommend it here too.  Check out her book and her site if you like this recipe!

 

Rosemary Orange Smoothie

Makes 2 16 ounce servings

1/4 cup dried white mulberries

1/4 cup raw cashews

3 cups baby spinach

2 TBSP mashed avocado

1 tsp orange zest

1 1/2 tsp minced fresh rosemary

1 1/2 cups orange juice

2 cups ice

Blend together all the ingredients, except the ice, until smooth.  Add the ice and blend once more until frosty.  Taste, and sweeten if desired.

 

 


Delicious and Healthy Homemade Farro Risotto

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I got to go on a lovely date with John, my husband, last week while my kids were staying with their grandparents for a couple of days.  For dinner we went to a neighborhood staple here in Decatur, Leon’s Full Service.  I ordered a dainty dietitian-lady dish – the farro risotto with roasted chicken, which John teased me about as he ordered his usual manly brisket.

… AND THEN HE PROCEEDED TO TRY TO EAT MY ENTIRE DINNER.

Okay.  Not really.  He was polite about it, but he definitely preferred my meal, stole more than just a few bites, and eyed it jealously the entire meal.  I had to try to recreate a healthy homemade version of this.  It was so good I may even be able to get my kids to eat whole grains and vegetables for dinner.  After some trial and error, the following is what I’ve come up with.  It’s a very similar taste to the Leon’s version, minus the heavy cream that I suspect was very involved in the original dish.  I didn’t include the chicken recipe here, but it could be topped with a grilled or roasted chicken or pork of your choosing.  Bonus: the kids ate it up and no alternate food/bedtime snacking was required…!

Healthy Homemade Farro Risotto

Ingredients:

3 cups unsalted chicken stock

3 TBSP olive oil

1 medium onion, finely diced

4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press

8 oz baby bella mushrooms, diced

1 cup pearled farro

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/4 tsp salt

5 ounces cooking greens (I used baby spinach and swiss chard, but you could use any combo of these or kale/baby kale)

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Method:

(1) Add chicken stock to a small sauce pan and heat over low heat.  You’ll slowly add the warmed stock to the farro later on.

(2) Grab your Dutch oven or large sauce pan and heat on medium heat.  Add 3 TBSP olive oil, coating pan.  Add diced onion and cook 4-6 minutes or until the onion is tender and starting to turn translucent.  Then add the garlic and cook an additional minute.

(3) Add the diced baby bella ‘shrooms  and the farro to the pan.  Cook on medium-high heat for approximately 3 minutes, then deglaze with 1/2 cup white wine, scraping any yummy browned mushroom bits off the pan.

(4) Add 1 cup of the warmed chicken stock plus the 1/4 tsp salt to the farro/mushroom mixture and cook (still over medium-high heat) approximately 10 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed.  Add 1/2 cup chicken stock and continue to cook until this is absorbed.  Repeat this until the stock has all been incorporated, which should take about 30 – 40 minutes total.  Stir in greens and cook 3-5 additional minutes.  Stir in parmesan cheese, or add it at the table, whichever you prefer.

Recipe makes approximately 6 adult sized servings.  Enjoy y’all!


How Can Diet Help Cultivate a Robust Gut Microbiome?

thwartedagain

 

Our gut microbiome – the name given to the sum total of all the bacteria living in our digestive tracts – is now considered by the scientists who study it to function as it’s own “organ,” acting in many surprising ways in the body. There are some seriously interesting links between the gut microbiome, inflammation, the so called “gut-brain axis” (i.e., anxiety that often couples with digestive health symptoms).

 

Poor microbial diversity, low levels of beneficial bacterial strains, and/or high levels of harmful bacterial strains have been shown to play a role in irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis), metabolic syndrome, diabetes, obesity, and even depression and anxiety.

 

There are a ton of interesting articles to read up on more of this background information, but my goal here is to outline some dietary habits that both cultivate optimal bacterial diversity and function to promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria (in with the good, out with the bad!). The good news is that this advice is pretty consistent to what we already know about diet and overall health! Here’s the scoop:

 

  • Eat a diet with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables! Isn’t this the diet advice we hear most often? A diet high in fruits, vegetables, and beans is also a diet rich in fiber, antioxidants, and polyphenols. An incredibly interesting study from 2014 compared individuals fed an entirely animal based diet versus people fed an entirely plant based (vegan) diet over the course of 10 days. They found the vegan group displayed an increase in bacterial diversity, while the all-animal diet group displayed an increase in some detrimental species. This included Bilophilia strains, which have been associated with increased incidence of inflammatory bowel disease and heart disease. Whoa!
  • Include fermented foods in your diet. Fermented foods include yogurt, kefir, kimchi, tempeh, sauerkraut, and raw vinegar.
  • Limit highly processed foods. Fresh, plant-based foods are best for your gut microbiome. So what is the absolute opposite of that? Foods out of bags and boxes with tons of additives you can hardly pronounce. Consumption of a highly processed diet has been linked with low bacterial diversity and high levels of harmful bacteria.
  • Garlic – not just for warding off vampires – also wards off harmful colonic bacteria. Consuming garlic and other fresh herbs frequently also help support a healthy balance of gut bacteria.
  • Probiotic supplements may help, particularly if you’re on or recently have been on antibiotics. Look for a brand with several different strains. Examples of beneficial strains include: Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, L. acidophilus, B. Bifidum, L. reuteri, B. longum, and Streptococcus thermophilus.

 

Another important take away here is this: your gut microbiome, like every aspect of the human body, is quite resilient. There seems to be this idea among a lot of patients I talk to that if you take antibiotics, you’re dooming yourself to months of poor health due to the effects on the microbiome. This is simply not true. Now many studies have shown that bacterial diversity and balance improve quickly after completing a course of antibiotics and are pretty much back to normal within a few months. You can help this process by doing the above-mentioned things, so don’t fret too much (at least about this aspect) if you come down with a nasty bug and need antibiotics!

 

Photo credit: thwartedagain on Flickr


Homemade Basil Pesto Recipe, With Easy Low FODMAP Modification

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Pesto has become one of those things that I just can’t bring myself to buy in a jar.  The fresh version is pretty easy to prepare, with just a few ingredients.  To maximize my efforts I usually make a huge recipe, at least enough for two full meals with leftovers.  It freezes well and will keep in a regular freezer up to 3 months without affecting quality.  It can easily be converted to a low FODMAP version as well, see below the original recipe for the super easy modification.  Here it is, trust me it’s delicious!

 

Ingredients:

4 cups basil, rinsed and squeezed dry, then packed

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

3 large cloves of garlic

1 cup toasted pine nuts

1 cup olive oil

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

 

Method:

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend well.  I usually blend it for about a minute and a half to make sure the pesto has a consistent pureed texture.

 

To prepare a low FODMAP version of this pesto sauce, simply omit the garlic, or infuse olive oil with garlic then strain solids using this method:

 

Simmer 6 finely sliced garlic cloves in 1 cup olive oil for 5 minutes on low heat, then strain solids from the oil using a fine sieve or strainer.  This adds flavor to your oil/pesto without increasing the FODMAP content!

 

Typically hard cheeses like parmesan are well tolerated by IBS sufferers and those with lactose intolerance because the lactose level is quite low.  However, diet and digestion is highly individual and there are some folks who can’t tolerate dairy at all.  If dairy intolerance or allergy is an issue, nutritional yeast (available here or in most grocery stores for a bit cheaper) can be used as a substitute for parmesan cheese without affecting the flavor!  If you’re unfamiliar with nutritional yeast, it definitely has a unique appearance which throws some people but I promise it’s delicious!