In the quest for a healthy diet, breakfast is one the most important meals of the day. It can also be the most challenging. It is ideal to start your day with something that is high in protein, low in sugar and easy to digest. Unfortunately that description doesn’t fit most of the the common American breakfast foods. Even foods we think of as healthy, like oatmeal or whole grain toast, lack protein and are loaded with carbohydrates. Without adequate protein the carbohydrates in a meal are quickly digested and energy drops. A breakfast of unbalanced carbohydrates will leave a person hungry, and tired within a few hours. No wonder so many people reach for a pastry and a latte mid-morning.

 

Fortunately, there are plenty of breakfast options that are tasty, filling and energizing. For people on the go, a shake or smoothie is a great option. These drinks combine nutrient dense fruits with protein powder and super foods (see the “immune smoothie” recipe in the 10-30-11 blog post) . They are easily prepared, portable and can be sipped through the morning.

Egg or tofu “scrambles” are good choices if there are no allergies to eggs or soy. Any number of vegetables can be added for a nutritional boost. Scrambles are easy to make in large batches and can feed a a group of people at breakfast or brunch.

Leftovers from lunch or dinner are fine breakfast foods. Often these food are more balanced in protein and carbohydrates than the standard morning fare. Soups and stew are especially good because they are warm, nourishing and easy to digest.

If you are still wondering what to make, don’t despair.   Read next weeks blog for some healthy breakfast recipes.

Jade Potstickers

These steamed meat dumplings were inspired by Chinese potstickers. Instead of wonton skins they are wrapped in chard leaves. Don’t worry if the chard seems loose when you first wrap it. The leaves will collapse around the meat filling as they steam.

  • 1 lb. of ground turkey, chicken or pork

  • 1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil

  • 1 teaspoon of minced ginger

  • 1 teaspoon of crushed garlic

  • ¾ teaspoon salt

  • ½ cup of finely minced vegetables (try carrots, cabbage, broccoli, or celery)

  • ¼ cup of rice flour or ¼ cup of millet ground fine in a coffee grinder

  • 12 large chard leaves

Wash the chard leaves well and remove the bottom end of the stems. Be sure that you leave the top of the leaf attached. Mix together the meat, seasonings, vegetables and flour. Divide the meat mixture into 12 equal portions. Place each portion into the top, center of a chard leaf and roll the leaf around it tucking in the edges as necessary (like making a burrito). Repeat this with the other rolls. Place them in a steamer basket and steam them over medium-high heat for ~ 15 minutes (be sure to watch the steamer so that it doesn’t run out of water). You may need to rotate the rolls half way through cooking to make sure they cook evenly. Cut a roll in ½ and test it to make sure they are fully cooked. Serve the rolls hot with rice or noodles and dipping sauces*. This recipe serves 3-4 people. If you are serving more you can double it but you may have to cook them in 2 batches.

 *Dipping sauces can be very simple. Try tamari and rice vinegar with chopped fresh basil or cilantro.


Creamy Quinoa Pudding

This recipe works best if you soak the quinoa overnight before cooking it . If you don’t have time to soak it be sure to rinse it very well, because quinoa has a bitter coating that needs to be washed off prior to cooking.

  • 1 cup of quinoa soaked overnight and rinsed well. After rinsing, the quinoa may be stored int eh refrigerator for up to 2 days prior to cooking.

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • 1 can of organic coconut milk (Native Forrest brand does not use BPA)

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla or a 2 inch section of vanilla pod, split

  • ¼ teaspooon ground nutmeg (or ½ teaspoon cinnamon)

  • 2-4 tablespoons of maple syrup or honey

Place the quinoa in a pot with 2 cups of water and the salt. Bring the mixture to a boil. Then reduce the heat, cover the pot and simmer the mixture for ~20 minutes, until all of the water is absorbed. Blend in the coconut milk, vanilla, nutmeg and 2 tablespoons sweetener. Bring the mixture back to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer it covered, stirring ~ every 5 minutes for ½ hour. You may add a little water if it seems to be running out of liquid. Taste the mixture and add more sweetener if desired. Allow the pudding to cool to room temperature and serve it topped with chopped nuts or fruit. You may also chill it in the refrigerator before serving it.

Variation: Instead of coconut milk use homemade nut milk. Combine ½ cup of nuts (hazelnuts, cashews, almonds, etc.) with 1 cup of water in a blender. Make sure the lid is on tight and process the mixture until it is very smooth. Then slowly add 1 cup more water to the mixture while blending. Use this in place of the coconut milk.

The new year provides us with an opportunity for reflection. What are we proud of; what needs to be different? A New Year’s resolution is a wonderful way to affirm the changes we want to make. Too often though, resolutions are focused on punishment and deprivation. It is healthier for the body and the mind to focus on what will enrich our lives. Instead of taking something away, try adding something in. Unhealthy habits or patterns will naturally lessen when our time and energy is focused on something enjoyable. Below are four suggestions for a healthier, happier new year.


  1. Drink Water. Without proper hydration your body can’t shed toxins and metabolism slows. Pure filtered water is one of the most important medicines. Light herbal teas, soups and juicy fruits and vegetables are also good sources of water.

  2. Eat your vegetables. Vegetables are a nutritional powerhouse, packed with vitamins, minerals, bioflavinoids and fiber. Darkly colored vegetables are usually highest in beneficial phytochemicals. Each day try to eat at least 1 ½ cups each of green and red/orange vegetables.

  3. Move. Whether it is structured exercise or or an active lifestyle, people need to move their bodies to be healthy. Don’t have time for a gym or exercise class? Try biking or walking instead of driving. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Get up from your desk and stretch every few hours. Humans were not meant to sit still all day.

  4. Spend more time with the people you love. It is easy to get distracted and overwhelmed by responsibilities. Sometime it seems like there is no room for friends and family. But it is important to take time out each day to focus on the people who are dear to you. It will nourish you and your relationships.

During this time of year we come together to celebrate with friends and family.  With so many gatherings it is easy to over indulge in foods that make us feel sick and tired.  Buy adapting classic recipes with wholesome ingredients you can maintain your health and enjoy the party.

Gluten-free Latkes

 These crispy fried potato pancakes are served on Hanukkah, but they can happily be enjoyed year round.  Traditionally they are served with sour cream and applesauce, but any dip or spread may be used.  There are a multitude of different adaptations and recipes.  This is my current favorite and it is gluten free.

–       3 large potatoes (a starchy variety like russets work best)

–       ½ of a medium sized onion

–       2 eggs

–       ¾ teaspoon sea salt

–       3 tablespoons of rice or millet flour

–       ¼ cup each butter and olive oil – you may use any heat stable oil, but I like this combination.  Refined, non-hydrogentated palm oil (sold as “organic shortening”) also works well.

 In a large mixing bowl beat together the eggs, salt and flour.  Peel the potatoes and the onion.  Grate the vegetables in a food processor or by hand.  Place the vegetables in cheese cloth over a bowl and press out as much liquid as you can (if you don’t have cheese cloth use a mesh strainer).  The potato starch will settle at the bottom of the bowl.  Pour off the liquid on top and add the starch and grated potatoes and onions to the egg mixture.  Stir everything together until it is well blended.

Heat 1 tablespoon each of butter and olive oil in a sturdy skillet.  I like using a well-seasoned cast iron pan for this. The oil should be hot but not smoking.  To test the temperature drop a small amount of batter into the oil; if it browns within a minute the pan is ready.  Spoon the batter into the oil ½ cup at a time and flatten each pancake with the back of your spatula.  Cook the latkes for 4-5 minutes, until the edges are very brown and then flip them over and cook them on the other side for 4-5 minutes.  Remove them from the pan onto a plate lined with a paper towel.  Cook the rest of the pancakes adding oil as needed to keep a thick layer to the bottom of the pan.  These are best served hot, but they can be kept warm in the oven for a few hours.  Leftovers can also be reheated in the toaster oven.

Variations:

1)    If you are using a food processor you can add ½ of the grated potato and onion mixture back into the processor and coarsely chop it with the chopping blade.  Then mix the chopped potatoes with the grated potatoes and press out the liquid as directed above.  This makes a finer batter that holds together well.

2)    You can replace 1 cup of the potato mixture with 1 cup of any grated vegetable such as carrots, zucchini, or yam.

3)    For vegan latkes replace the eggs with 2 tablespoons of finely ground flax blended with 2 tablespoons of water.  Omit the flour.  Be sure to fry these crispy.  The flax can be gummy if they are undercooked.

Ginger Bread Creatures

 Rich molasses with sweet, spicy ginger, the smell alone brings back holiday memories.  This recipe is low in sugar and gluten-free, but it doesn’t compromise on flavor.  Remember that whole grain flours need to be sifted before use or your final product will be heavy.

–       1 ½ cups of gluten free oat flour

–       ½ cup of rice or millet flour

–       2 tablespoons of arrowroot starch

–       ½ teaspoon of baking soda

–       ¼ cup of organic, salted butter or coconut oil

–       ½ cup of organic, unsulfured molasses (you may use light or dark depending on your taste.  If you are using black strap molasses you may want to add 1-2 tablespoons of honey or 10 drops of white stevia extract to bring up the sweetness)

–       ½ teaspoon of cinnamon

–       ½ – 1 teaspoon of dried ginger (depending on how much you like ginger!)

–       ¼ teaspoon of cloves

–       1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

–       ¼ teaspoon salt (if using coconut oil or unsalted butter increase the salt to ½ teaspoon)

–       ½ cup of rice flour (reserved)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Sift together the oat flour, ½ cup of rice flour, arrowroot starch and baking soda.  In a separate bowl cream together the butter, molasses, spices and salt.  Pour the flour mixture in to the butter mixture and blend them well.  The dough should be smooth and soft.  Chill the dough for at least 1 hour before rolling it out; you may store it overnight.  Divide the dough into two pieces and flatten one into a disk.  Place it on a floured piece of parchment paper.  Then dust the top with flour and place another piece of parchment paper on top.  Roll the dough out ~ ¼ inch thick.  Remove the top paper and cut out the dough with cookie cutters.  If the dough seems too sticky your can work a little extra rice flour into it.   You can make classic gingerbread men or any other shapes that you desire.  Place the cookies onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake them for ~ 8-10 minutes depending on the size of the cookies.  Cool the cookies completely before decorating them with dried fruit, nuts and jam.  These cookies keep over week in a sealed container if undecorated.

 

 

 

As day length decreases in the winter months, people may find themselves suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD).  This syndrome shares many of the same characteristics of clinical depression but is only present during the fall and winter (note: some people have a type of seasonal depression that is only associated with the spring and summer.)  This disorder is more common in the northern latitudes because the day length is shorter.  It is thought that the reduced sun exposure decreases serotonin production in sensitive people.  Common symptoms are lethargy, increased appetite, depression, excess sleep and antisocial feelings.  It is likely that people with jobs that keep them indoors during the day have greater risk.  Cloudy or rainy days that decrease sunlight exposure may also increase the frequency of this disorder.

If you think you are suffering from SAD you should consult you doctor for treatment. There are lots of things you can do to prevent and treat this disorder.  Increasing your exposure to available light by getting outside during the day is very helpful (be sure to wear sunscreen).  Using broad-spectrum lights that mimic the sun’s light may also provide benefit.  Exercise, especially aerobic exercise improves the mood for hours or days afterward.  It is also very important to eat enough protein so that your body has the building blocks to make enough serotonin.  Foods high in tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin, are especially helpful.

If these simple tips aren’t enough be sure to seek medical attention.  Untreated depression causes needless suffering for many people.  A trained naturopathic doctor can use herbs, vitamins, amino acids, homeopathy or medications to help bring you back into balance.

Turkey and Rice Stew

warming winter soups for comfort and health, recipes by Dara Thompson N.D.

Are you wondering what to do with that leftover turkey?  This nourishing one pot meal will warm your belly and heart.  The trick to a tasty home made stew is to include the skin and bones when making the stock; they contain all of the flavor.  If you are on a low carbohydrate diet, just leave out the rice.

–       8 cups of water or soup stock

–       4-5 lb. of leftover turkey; include any skin, bones and ripping you have leftover 

–       1 bay leaf

–       2 strips of wakame seaweed

–       1 t. sea salt (you may need to decrease this amount if you are using a salted stock)

–       2 cups of diced carrots into bite sized pieces

–       2 cups of diced celery into bite sized pieces

–       1 cup of  finely chopped onions

–       ½ cup of brown rice, soaked overnight and rinsed well (or try millet or quinoa)

–       1 t. dried sage, thyme or rosemary (these may be used singly or in combination)

Place the turkey, water, bay leaf and seaweed and salt into a large heavy bottomed pot or crock-pot.  If you are using a large turkey carcass it may not be fully covered by the water.  That is fine; it will cook in the steam as long as your lid is tight. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.  Covered the pot and cook the meat over low heat for ~ 3 hours on the stove or overnight  in the crock-pot. Remove the turkey from the stock with a slotted spoon and allow it to cool to room temperature. Discard the bay leaf. The seaweed should be dissolved into the stock by now but if any pieces remain, dice them and return them to the stock. When the turkey has cooled, remove the meat from the skin and bones.  Dice the meat and add it back to the stock.  Bring the stock and meat back to a boil and add the rice, onions and celery and dried herbs. Reduce the stew to a simmer and cook it for 30 minutes. Add the carrots and cook for ~20 minutes more.  If too much of the water remains you may want to boil the stew uncovered for the last 20 minutes.  The carrots and rice will be soft when it is done.  Salt and pepper to taste and serve. This stew freezes well.

Note: Feel free to add more vegetables such as chard, peas or zuchinni

Millet Mash with Sage

cruciferous cauliflower masquerades as mashed potatoes - recipes by Dara Thompson N.D.

This is a great mashed potato substitute for people who are sensitive to nightshades.  Cauliflower and millet are bland so they take on the flavor of anything that they are cooked with.  Try this mash with gravy, an herbal pesto or just melted butter.

–       1 medium sized head of cauliflower

–       2 sprigs of fresh sage (other fresh herbs such as rosemary may be used if desired.)

–       1 cup of millet soaked 8 hours, rinsed and drained

–       ½ t. sea salt

–       2 T. olive oil, or butter

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a large pot.  Break the cauliflower into small florets and chop the stem.  Add cauliflower sage and salt to the boiling water and allow it to return to a boil.  Add the millet.  Reduce the heat and allow the mixture to simmer covered for 30 -40 minutes. The dish is done when the millet is soft and the cauliflower breaks apart easily with a fork.  Remove the sage sprigs and add the butter.  Mash the mixture with a potato masher or hand mixer until creamy, adding more water or milk if neccesary.  Be sure to serve the mash while it is warm because it becomes very firm as it cools.

For the best flavor in your holiday recipes it pays to use a little fat.  Oils improve the flavor and texture of foods.  They also improve satiety, the feeling of satisfaction and fullness.  This prevents us from overeating and makes high quality, organic oils a healthy addition to the holiday table.

Dairy free ice cream recipe by Dara Thompson, Naturopathic Doctor

Ginger-Vanilla Ice Cream

Coconut milk is an excellent substitute for cow’s milk in ice cream and other frozen desserts.  Coconut is high in saturated fat, but over 60% of it is medium chain triglycerides.  This easy to digest oil has long been used to correct malnutrition.  Because coconut has a naturally sweet flavor, very little additional sweetener is required.

–       2 cans (~3 cups) of organic, unsweetened coconut milk (not lite!)*

–       2 tablespoons of raw, organic honey**

–       2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

–       ¼ teaspoon of sea salt

–       ½ cup of candied ginger, minced (This is for ginger lovers!  Feel free to use less.)

–       ½  cup of chopped, toasted macadamia nuts or other unsalted nuts (optional)

Place the coconut milk, honey, vanilla, and salt in a blender and process for ~ 30 seconds until the mixture is well blended.  Place the liquid in an ice cream maker and process it until it is starting to freeze but is still soft.  Add the nuts and ginger and continue to process until done.  If you do not own an ice cream maker you can freeze the coconut milk mixture in popsicle molds.

*  I like Native Forest brand because their cans are BPA free.

** Do not serve raw honey to children under the one year of age.

Green Beans with Hazelnuts and Thyme a recipe by Dara Thompson, Naturopathic Doctor

Green Beans with Hazelnuts and Thyme

This is a variation on the classic recipe “Green Beans Almondine”.  The preparation also works well with brussel sprouts or broccoli.  If you don’t eat butter you may substitute olive oil and a pinch of salt.

–       2 cups of green beans cut into 2 inch pieces

–       ½ cup of hazelnuts chopped

–       1 teaspoons of fresh or ½ teaspoon of dried thyme.

–       2 tablespoons of organic butter

–       Add salt and pepper to taste

Steam the green beans for~ 10 minutes, until they are tender.  While the green beans are cooking melt the butter in a medium sized sauté pan.  Add the hazelnuts and sauté them over medium heat until they are golden brown ~ 3-5 minutes.  Stir in the thyme and remove the butter mixture from the heat.  Add the green beans and mix well.  Serve this dish warm.

The winter holidays bring a multitude of social events and time with friends and family.  Unfortunately they can also be stressful and physically taxing.  Use the simple tips listed below to keep yourself healthy while still enjoying this time of celebration.

1)   Get enough sleep.  With all of the parties, extra food preparation and shopping, sleep can end up on the back burner.  Don’t compromise; the restorative properties of sleep cannot be replaced.  It is fine to stay up late for a special occasion, but get to bed as early as possible on the other days.

2)   Minimize your sugar consumption.  During the holidays candy and other sweets can become a permanent fixture.  It O.K. to indulge, but eating candy constantly will lead to weight gain and lowered immunity.  Instead try a conscious splurge.  Pick you favorite holiday treat and eat it with abandon, savoring every bite.  Just don’t do it too often!

3)   Stay hydrated.  As we rush from event to event it is easy to forget to drink water.  This is even more important when drinking alcohol and coffee.  Since these beverages can be dehydrating you need to drink more water compensate.

4)   Choose high quality ingredients.  By making your holiday dishes with organic, wholesome ingredients you can enjoy a delicious meal and feel great the next day.  Over the next 3 weeks the Solutions Naturopathic Care blog will be focusing on healthy holiday recipes.  There is no need to be deprived.  Learn how to make your favorite dishes without any wheat, dairy or refined sugar.

 Shitake mushrooms support the immune system says Dara Thompson A naturopathic Doctor in Hilo, Hawaii

Shitake Mushroom Gravy

Savory shitake mushrooms are rich in immune stimulating polysaccharides.  Maitake mushrooms may also be used.  Components in these mushrooms have been shown to stimulate white blood cell activity.  Be sure to use the soaking liquid. It contains most of the medicine and the flavor.

–       ¼ c. dried shitake mushrooms soaked for at least two hours in ½ c. hot water

–       ½ c. each minced onions and celery

–       4 fresh sage leaves or 1 t. dried sage

–       1 sprig of thyme leaves or ½ t. dried thyme

–       1 T. coconut oil, olive oil, or ghee

–       1-2 t. Bragg Liquid Aminos (if you are very sensitive to soy, use ¼ – ½ t. salt instead)

–       2 c. “milk”; you may use any unsweetened milk or milk substitute.  I think that homemade cashew milk and store bought unsweetened oat milk have the best texture

–       1 T. arrowroot starch dissolved in 2 T. water

Remove the shitakes from their soaking liquid and reserve it.  Remove the coarse stems from the shitakes and slice the mushroom caps.  If you are using fresh sage and thyme remove the coarse stems and mince the herbs. Add the oil to a heavy bottomed pan and add the mushrooms, herbs and vegetables.  Sauté the mixture over medium heat for ~ 10 minutes, until everything is lightly browned.  Add the soaking liquid, 1 T. Aminos and simmer it covered for 5 min. Add the milk and warm but do not boil the mixture. Taste it and add more Braggs if you prefer a stronger, saltier flavor. Bring the gravy to a boil and quickly add the arrowroot rue, stirring constantly. As soon as the mixture thickens, remove it from the heat and serve it with grain, mashed potatoes, meat or poultry.  This recipe makes 3 cups.

Power packed immune smoothie by Dara Thompson a naturopathic doctor in Hilo, Hawaii

Immune Smoothie

This smoothie is designed to enhance and protect the immune system. The berries supply concentrated flavonoids. The pineapple, kiwi and papaya are rich in proteolytic enzymes to reduce inflammation. The nuts and seeds supply essential omega 6 fatty acids and protein. The flax or fish oil supply omega 3 fatty acids. The ginger and mint stimulate digestive function. It is meant to be gently cleansing, nourishing and easy to digest.  All of the ingredients should be organic if at all possible.  This recipe makes two servings. If you are only serving one or your blender is two small, just reduce the quantities by half.

–       2 cups of dark berries such as blueberries, raspberries, dark cherries, etc. (these may be purchased frozen)

–       1 cup of cubed pineapple, kiwi, papaya or other low sugar fruit in season

–       2 cups of rice milk, soy milk, kefir or coconut milk*

–       1/4 cup of raw nuts or seeds such as hemp seeds or almonds, or 2 tablespoons of nut butter

–       1 T. cold pressed flax oil, or 1 teaspoons of cod liver oil

–       2 slices of fresh ginger or a few sprigs of fresh mint

–       2 T. of high quality protein powder such as organic rice protein or hormone free whey protein

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and puree, starting at low speed and increasing to high. This recipe is fairly thick. If you prefer a thinner smoothie, just add more liquid.  Leftovers may be stored in the refrigerator, but should be consumed the same day.

  • Rice milk is a low fat, hypoallergenic milk substitute.
  • Soy milk is a thick high protein milk substitute, but many people are sensitive to soy
  • Kefir is a cultured dairy product with very little lactose and lots of beneficial bacteria. It is suitable for lactose intolerant individuals, but not those with an allergy to milk protein.
  • Coconut milk is especially good for weight gain and increasing nutrition through its high quality, easily digested fats, medium chain triglycerides.

Cold season is upon us.  With the arrival of fall comes the predictable increase in coughs and sneezes.  It is impossible avoid all colds, but by following these four steps many can be prevented.

hand washing prevents the spread of colds says Dara Thompson, a naturopathic doctor in Hilo Hawaii

1)   Wash your hands.  Many different viruses cause the symptoms of the common cold, but they are all transmitted the same way.  These viruses pass from person to person by two major routes.  They can travel on respiratory droplets when one person coughs or sneezes close to another person.  Respiratory secretions can also contaminate hands or objects.  We then collect “germs” on our hands, and infect ourselves by touching our eyes, nose or mouth.  This is why frequent hand washing is so effective at preventing the spread of colds.

2)   Nasal lavage.  In this process a salt-water solution is used to wash out the nasal passages.  This removes allergens, bacteria and viral particles.  It also keeps the nasal passages moist.  Many viruses can only attach to mucous membranes when they are dry.  There are many types of neti pots for nasal lavage/irrigation, and most come with detailed instructions for use.  Saline nasal spray is also helpful, especially in a dry environment like an airplane or an air-conditioned room.

3)   Boost your immune system.  When viruses get past our outer defenses, a strong immune system is our best protection.  To provide the building blocks for our immune cells we need to eat a diet rich in omega 3 oils, high quality protein and darkly colored vegetables and fruits.  Certain vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, zinc, vitamin D, selenium and vitamin A can also be used to boost immunity.  However, these should be used under the guidance of a health care professional, because many of them can be toxic at high levels.  Above all, we need to reduce stress.  Cortisol, the hormone that is produced in response to mental or physical stress is a potent immunosuppressant.

Excess sugar suppresses immunity says Dara Thompson, a naturopathic doctor practicing in Hilo Hawaii

4)   Skip the sugar.  Sugar inhibits the absorption of vitamin C.  This decreases the activity of white blood cells and suppresses immunity.  Around the holidays sweets can be hard to avoid, but practicing moderation is your best defense.

Don’t miss next week’s immune boosting recipes!