Summer Lentil Salad

Trader Joe’s does it again with their steamed, ready-to-eat lentils. This definitely isn’t a new product, I’m just late to the game and bummed I’ve been missing out on such deliciousness this whole time. This lentil salad is great as a meal, a side, a snack or on top of a salad. It has a summery feel to it because it’s a cold salad and because of the lime flavor, BUT thanks to climate change who can even keep track of what season we’re in?? The best part about this recipe….it takes about 5 minutes to make!

Cold Lentil Salad

Cold Lentil Salad

Easy Cold Lentil Salad

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Ingredients:

  • Trader Joe’s steamed lentils (1 box)

  • 1/2-1/3 cup chopped scallions (depending on how big of a scallion fan you are)

  • 1/3 cup diced tomatoes

  • 1/3 cup chopped cucumber

  • juice from 1 lime

  • salt / pepper / garlic to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well (unless you’re trying to go for aesthetics for blogs and or social media then mix everything but the cucumbers together and then carefully place chopped cuc’s in a pile in the middle).

  2. Serve cold.

Avocado Pesto

Who doesn't love a perfectly ripe avocado??? If you answered "I don't" then this probably isn't going to work out between us and maybe we should start seeing other people.......A soft avocado is one of life's greatest pleasures; as is pesto: another gift from God and favorite of mine.  So I decided to bring my true loves together and give pesto a MUFA / fiber-filled makeover. I give you, Avocado Pesto. Add some to a bowl of zoodles, spread some on top of grilled chicken or use as a salad dressing alternative. You could also just eat it with a spoon like I end up doing :) Enjoy!

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Avocado Pesto 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh basil

  • 2 large (or 4 small (I love the teeny tiny ones from Trader Joes)

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/3 cup pine nuts

  • 1/3 cup lemon juice

  • 6 cloves of garlic

  • 1 tsp pink Himalayan salt (regular sea salt is fine)

  • pepper 

Directions: 

  1.  Combine all ingredients in food processor until a creamy consistency is reached. Taste and season to your liking with salt and pepper (You can also combine the ingredients in a bowl and blend with an immersion blender if you don't have a food processor).

Tips For Easy Meal Prep

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If you have social media, especially Instagram, you've at least heard the term "meal prep" or "meal prepping." Basically it just means prepping your meals ahead of time. This can help you stay on track with your nutrition goals, and save time and money in the long run. Sounds simple enough right? The first time you try preparing a weeks worth of food you may find it wasn't as easy as you thought it might be. Or perhaps you didn't anticipate spending 8 hours cooking rice, chopping veggies, roasting a chicken and sauteing kale. Here are some tips to follow to make your meal prep fun and easy!

1) Identify Your Goal

Are you trying to save money? Increase your vegetable intake? Feel more energized through out the day? Go gluten free? Put on size? Before you can do anything else, you have to figure out your why. What are you trying to achieve here? From there you can figure out what your meal prep is going to look like. 

2) Pick A Day (s):

I like to prepare my meals on a Sunday so that they are fresh for the week. Everyone's schedules are different. Find what day works well for you. Decide whether you're going to do one large prep or break it up into 2-3 different days. People that have limited fridge/freezer space might need to break their meal prepping up into two days.  If you plan to do one large meal prep, you are going to need to freeze the later half of the week.

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3) Have A Game Plan/Make A Shopping List:

What is your plan for the week? Do you have certain recipes you know you want to try out? Do you plan on prepping one time on Sunday or twice a week? Do you know what ingredients you have vs. what ingredients you need? Make a list of what meals you plan to cook and write down a grocery list before you head to the store.

4) Be Prepared:

Did anyone else think of Scar and the Hyenas??? No? Just me? Okay cool….Most people will likely have your basic kitchen items; knives, pots/pans, cutting board etc. But if you're new to packing lunch or preparing multiple meals, you may need to pick up some things. Do you have all of the following?

                1) Enough Tupperware/containers, various sizes
                2) Ziplock baggies
                3) Measuring cups / food scale (if applicable)
                4) Aluminum foil
                5) Cooking spray
                6) Cutting boards
                7) Knives
                8) Pots, pans
                9) Can opener
               10) Vegetable peeler
               11) A cooler or lunch box

5) Multitask / Time Savers:

A big complaint I hear is that meal prepping takes too much time.  Yes it might take some time while your preparing, but during the week you'll be able to grab and go. The more often you meal prep, the better and faster you get. Multitask safely. For example you can hard boil eggs on the stove while you bake chicken or roast vegetables in the oven.  Try some of these tricks to save time. 
        Time-savers:
             1) Chopped onions
             2) Spiralized zucchini
             3) Pre-cut butternut squash / sweet potato
             4) Frozen cut veggies
             5) Individual pouches of nuts (Trader Joe's Just a Handful)
             6) Hard boiled eggs (although I much prefer cooking my own)
             7) Rotisserie chicken 

6) Clean As You Go:

If you have a tiny Manhattan kitchen, you don't have much of a choice but to clean as you go. Even if you have more than 2 ft of counter space, don't leave a massive mess for yourself. Load your dishwasher or clean different bowls/utensils as you finish using them. 

7) Have A System:

Labeling containers can be a great way to keep track of which containers are which. If you use similar ingredients in different meals, it can be hard to tell what's what.  If you prepared food for an entire week, I would highly recommend freezing half of your meals. If you don't, you'll likely be eating mush by Friday. Organize your fridge and freezer so you can easily see where everything is. 

8) Pack Your Meals:

Pack your meals in a lunch bag or cooler the night before. Pull what you plan to eat for breakfast to the front of the fridge. This is supposed to save you time in the long run. You don't want to be rummaging through the depths of your refrigerator at 6:15 in the morning now do you?

9) Pat Yourself On The Back:

Give yourself some credit. You took time out of your busy schedule to make time for your health and well being. 

The Healthiest (and Trendiest) New Oil

Whether you’re paying $2.00+ extra to add it to your Chipotle bowl, brunching with your besties over some smashed toast, or scrapping the sides of the bowl for that last scoop of guacamole, avocados are all the rage and I know you can’t get enough of them. Not only are they super trendy, but they’re super healthy as well. Move over coconut oil, there’s a new fat on the scene! I give you…..Avocado Oil.

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What is Avocado Oil and How Is It Made?

Avocado oil is exactly what it sounds like…oil from an avocado. It is made by pressing the pulp surrounding the avocados pit. The fancy word for this process is mechanical extraction (similar to olive oil extraction). For a more in depth and mildly corny explanation, check out this video.

What Makes Avocado Oil So Healthy?

The fat profile of this oil is one reason it is so healthy. Avocado oil is 76% monounsaturated fatty acids (very high in oleic acid) which is known to be anti-inflammatory. This oil is also high in antioxidants (a-tocopherol), chlorophylls and carotenoids. Studies have shown avocado oil may help to prevent the development of obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and high triglyceride levels (1).

What Makes Avocado Oil Better Than Other Oils?

Not only can you use avocado oil in uncooked foods such as dips or for salad dressings, but it is highly recommended for cooking because of it’s smoke point (the temperature at which the oil starts smoking). When the oil begins to smoke, not only does the flavor change, but the structure of the oil begins to break down and creates cancer-causing free radicals. If you see smoke while cooking with any type of oil, turn off the stove and throw away the food that has been in contact with the oil. Start the cooking process over again to avoid putting free radicals into your body.

Avocado oil’s high smoke point makes it a great option for most types of cooking, especially those at high temperatures. See how it compares to some other common fats used in cooking.

  • Avocado oil 520°F (12:1 ratio of omega-6 : omega-3, high in vitamin E)

  • Sunflower oil 440°F (inflammatory 32:1 ratio of omega-6 : omega-3)

  • Peanut oil 440°F (inflammatory 40:1 ratio of omega-6 : omega-3)

  • Refined corn oil 450°F (inflammatory 83:1 ratio of omega-6 : omega-3)

  • Extra virgin olive oil 320°F (73% monounsaturated, high in Omega 9)

  • Extra light olive oil 468°F (74% monounsaturated, high in Omega 9

  • Butter 350°F (in so many words-grass-fed butter healthy; conventional butter is trash)

  • Coconut oil 350°F (86% healthy saturated, lauric acid. Has antibacterial, antioxidant, antiviral properties and contains 66% medium chain triglycerides (MCTs).

  • Ghee (clarified butter) 485°F

How Can I Use Avocado Oil?

This oil can be used in place of other oils to do most things in the kitchen. It’s basically the “jack of all trades” of oils:

  1. Toss some veggies in the oil and roast

  2. Drizzle on top of hummus or guac to be super extra and fancy

  3. Use it to make avocado oil mayo

  4. Place some on a dish with some balsamic vinegar, red pepper flakes or sea salt as a dip for bread

  5. Drizzle it over fish before baking or roasting

  6. Add some to your smoothie for a MUFA kick in the face

  7. Use it to make homemade salad dressings

  8. Drizzle a swirl over some soup, hot or cold

Avocado oil is popping up everywhere so you shouldn’t have a hard time finding it in stores. I bought this bottle of Primal Kitchen Avocado Oil from Whole Foods for $10.99 (“on sale”). After the bottle has been opened, it will last for about 6 months (but it probably won’t make it that long because it’s delicious and wonderful and is the greatest thing since sliced bread).

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Fountain of Youth Protein Shake

Inflammation is at the root of all chronic diseases. By reducing our consumption of processed, artificial and inflammatory foods we can reduce our risk for developing numerous chronic diseases such heart disease, arthritis and Alzheimer’s. One way to reduce inflammation is by balancing out your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. We can do this buy:

  1. Switching from conventional meat and animal products, to grass-fed, grass-finished ones

  2. Choosing healthier fats like avocado, avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil instead of vegetable or peanut oils.

  3. Consuming wild caught fatty fish like salmon 2-3 times per week

  4. Incorporating flax, chia and hemp seeds into your diet

Now a food doesn’t have to have omega-3’s to be considered “anti-inflammatory”. Plenty of foods such as blueberries, broccoli, spinach and bone broth fight inflammation. Green tea, herbs and spices like garlic, turmeric and ginger can help as well.

I’m always looking for ways to reduce inflammation so I can live until I’m 105. I’m also always trying to do so in a way that is easy and delicious. This protein shake packs a punch with bone broth protein concentrate and Sunfoods Golden Milk Powder. This powder is made with:

  • Turmeric and black pepper to balance inflammation in the body.

  • Maca, which helps to balance hormones and provides natural energy

  • Goji berry which provides antioxidants that eliminate free radicals

  • Boswell is which helps support immune function

  • Cardamom and ginger to help with digestion

  • Cinnamon which helps stabilize blood sugar and makes it delicious

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Fountain of Youth Protein Shake

Ingredients:

  • 1 scoop Ancient Nutrition Vanilla Bone Broth Concentrate

  • 1 tsp Sunfoods Golden Milk powder

  • 1/3 small zucchini

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk beverage

  • 1/2 tsp chia seeds

  • 1 tsp Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil (optional)

  • 6-8 ice cubes

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on high for 30-60 seconds

  2. Pour into glass and sprinkle a dash of cinnamon on top

Apple Pie Protein Shake

This fall-inspired protein shake packs a nutritional punch delivering 2 servings of veggies, brain boosting octane oil and collagen protein. You can enjoy this for breakfast, lunch, post-workout or dinner. Enjoy the taste of apple pie without the blood sugar crash or stomach ache!

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Apple Pie Protein Shake

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup riced cauliflower

  • 1/4 zucchini

  • 75 g gala apple

  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

  • 1 tsp @bulletproof brain octane oil (optional)

  • 30 g vanilla collagen protein 

  • 10 small ice cubes (5-6 large)

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender (I use a Vitamix) and blend on low speed for 15-20 seconds.

  2. Slowly increase speed to high.

  3. Add more liquid if needed.

  4. Pour into glass and top with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Instant Pot Bone Broth

If you guys follow me on Instagram, you know I’m ALWAYS raving about bone broth. That’s because it’s one of the best things to consume to improve joint health, boost the immune system, treat leaky gut, overcome food intolerances / allergies and improve overall health. Bone broth is high in minerals such as magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, silicon and sulfur. It is also high in glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate which are associated with reducing inflammation and joint pain. Bone broth is high in collagen which can also help maintain healthy skin.

Okay so great! We know it’s good for you but how the heck do you make it?! I’ve receive a ton of questions via social media on how I make my bone broth so I figured I would blog about it AND make a video. So whether you are a visual learner or prefer to just read a recipe, here you go!

Instant Pot Bone Broth

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb beef, neck & knuckle bones (can also use chicken, pork or fish bones-USE HIGH QUALITY BONES, ideally GRASS-FED, GRASS-FINISHED. I got mine from Hudson & Charles)

  • 1 tub of chopped mirepoix from Trader Joe’s (or 1/3 C of each: celery, carrots, onions)

  • 4-5 garlic cloves, peeled

  • 2 T organic, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar (I like Braggs - check out more ways to use ACV)

  • 2 t pink himalayan salt

  • 1-2 t black pepper

  • 1 tsp crushed bay leaves (or 3-4 whole leaves)

  • 4-5 quarts filtered water (fill up to max fill line)

Directions:

  1. Plug in instant pot and click “soup” button. Using arrows, increase time to 230 minutes.

  2. Place bones into pot (it’s ok if the bones are frozen) and then add the mirepoix, apple cider vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper and bay leaves.

  3. Pour in filtered water until it reaches the max fill line. Stir.

  4. Secure the lid and let cook for 230 minutes.

  5. When the time is up, slowly and carefully shift the pressure value to the left or right to SLOWLY release some pressure. DO NOT look over the valve or put your hand over it as it could easily burn you. Be very careful and let the steam out slowly.

  6. When you no longer see or hear steam escaping, it is safe to open. Remove lid.

  7. Place a colander (with very fine holes) in large pot. Using a towel, dish rag or oven mits, pour the contents through the colander allowing all the liquid to pool in the pot.

  8. Discard the contents of the colander. (Thick beef bones can be saved to make a second batch of broth. Note: This second batch will be less flavorful and not contain nearly as many nutrients. It will likely not gel either as there will not be much collagen).

  9. Let cool for 30 minutes and divide into glass jars (You can also place a few ice cubes in the broth - it’s likely extremely concentrated so this little bit of ice shouldn’t do much to the flavor).

  10. Once the broth has cooled, transfer to fridge.

  11. Broth should keep 3-4 days in the fridge. To extend life, store in the freezer.

  12. Once cool, a layer of fat will form at the top of the jar. This fat is nutrient dense and great for cooking or baking. Skim the top and save for later use. (Fat can also be discarded).

  13. The broth will (hopefully) form a gel once it has cooled. This is a good thing! This means a lot of collagen was pulled from the bones! To consume, heat broth up on the stovetop and gel will turn into a liquid.

  14. I recommend having a cup a day! A cup a day keeps the doctor away!

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Buffalo Chicken & Sweet Potato Casserole

This dish is great for any solo cookers out there.  Being that I cook for one or two most of the time, I made a small amount of this recipe.  If you are cooking for a family, I would double the recipe.  This dish is fairly simple uses a lot of frozen ingredients (again, when you grocery shop for yourself, produce goes bad quickly).  The extra veggies (broccoli and peppers) are optional but I like my food to be colorful :)

For any lifters/gym go-ers/fitness enthusiasts, this recipe is a good post-work out meal.  It has a nice mix of high biological value** (or complete protein) protein from the chicken (for muscle repair and synthesis) and complex carbohydrates from the sweet potatoes.  You'll also get a good dose of vitamins and minerals, some of which (vitamins A, D, E, and K- fat soluble vitamins- to be exact) you will absorb better thanks to the healthy fats (monounsaturated) from the olive oil. 

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Buffalo Chicken & Sweet Potato Casserole

Serves 3

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breasts, diced (yes I even used frozen chicken from TJ, just defrost first)

  • 2 sweet potatoes, diced

  • 1/4 yellow onion, diced

  • 1 cup diced peppers

  • 1 cup broccoli florets

  • 3 T hot sauce

  • 3 T olive oil

  • 1 tsp paprika

  • 1 T garlic powder

  • salt/pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  2. Defrost frozen veggies in microwave, drain any water and set aside.

  3. Combine chicken, sweet potatoes and onions in a large bowl.

  4. In a small bowl, mix hot sauce, olive oil, garlic powder, paprika. Add salt and pepper to taste (be sure to taste before adding salt, most hot sauces already have a lot and you probably won't need much more).

  5. Pour mixture over chicken, sweet potatoes and onions and stir well until everything is completely coated. Spread into a casserole dish and place into preheated oven.

  6. Cook for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. With 10 minutes left (or after 30 minutes, if that helps you out) stir in defrosted veggies (these are already softer than they would be if they were fresh so they will cook fast). Cook for another 10 minutes.

  7. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

  8. Serve warm

Devour.  Thank me.  You're welcome.

 

Learning Lesson:

What is a high biological value protein?

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein.  There are 22 amino acids and they are categorized as either essential or nonessential.  Nonessential  proteins can be made by the body.  Essential proteins cannot be synthesized by the body and need to come from the diet.  There are 9 essential amino acids: tryptophan, valine, threonine, isoleucine, leucine, phenylalanine, methionine, and histidine.  When a food contains all 9 essential amino acids, it is said to be a complete or high biological value protein.

Proteins:

  • Repair tissue and build muscle

  • Make hormones

  • Help maintain electrolytes, fluid and acid-base balance

  • Provide some of the bodies energy

  • Make enzymes and antibodies

  • Promote fullness/satiety***

***Due to hormonal actions, high protein foods are more satiating (makes you feel fuller) than high carbohydrate foods (ever eat pancakes for breakfast and feel hungry an hour later?).  Ghrelin is a hormone secreted by the stomach that increases appetite.  Leptin is a satiety hormone secreted by fat cells that makes you feel full.  High protein foods cause an increase in leptin and a decrease in ghrelin....appetite down, satiety up.

Bottom line:  It's not all about calories.  Eat your protein people.