Gift Ideas for a Healthy Lifestyle

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Unbelievably, we’ve officially entered the holiday shopping season, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday quickly approaching. This year, why not encourage someone on their healing journey, or gift yourself with items that support a healthy lifestyle.

The poet Virgil wrote,

“The greatest wealth is health.”

I’ve come to appreciate the deep truth in those words. Who among your family or your circle of friends could most benefit from a change in health?

Check out these gift ideas for a healthy lifestyle. And simply click on the photos for more info or to order.

Gift Ideas for a Healthy Lifestyle title meme

Gift Ideas for a Healthy Lifestyle – Kitchen

Juicer

A juicer starts the day off perfectly, with fresh celery juice or fresh apple juice. And it quickly turns vegetables and fruits into health boosting juices.

Gift Ideas for a Healthy Lifestyle - Juicer

Blender

I use one every day. For breakfast I create fruit smoothies. Sauces and banana nice dream blend in this helpful machine. And celery juice and other juices can even be prepared in a blender, if you don’t have a juicer. I love my Ninja Blender!

Gift Ideas for a Healthy Lifestyle - Blender

Food Processor

This powerful kitchen appliance is great for creating your own almond milk, nut butters and gluten free flours. Or quickly chop up veggies for a colorful salad. I’ll be using mine in a few days to make fresh cranberry relish.

Food Processor

Spiralizer

This fun gadget creates mounds of fresh “noodles” from zucchini, cucumbers, carrots and other veggies. It’s a great way to use that garden produce in the summer!

Spiralizer

Electric Tea Kettle

I discovered the joys of using an electric tea kettle in Edinburgh, Scotland this year. Hot water is ready in a couple of minutes, for a pot or a cup of tea. I use mine every day.

Gift Ideas for a Healthy Lifestyle - Electric Tea Kettle

Herbal Teas

A favorite health booster for me…herbal teas. There are so many to choose from. Here are a few options.


Gift Ideas for a Healthy Lifestyle – Books

Cookbooks

I enjoy trying new, healthy recipes weekly. Try one of these to discover that healthy eating does not mean bland food.


Medical Medium Books

These are the books that completely changed my health…and my life. I can’t think of a better gift for someone who is sick and tired, of feeling sick and tired.

 


 

Medical Medium Celery Juice Book

 

Gift Ideas for a Healthy Lifestyle – Fitness

Metal Water Bottle

I carry one everywhere, even on international trips. In my quest to stay hydrated and eliminate plastic use, metal water bottles help me do both.


Yoga Mat

I confess that I do yoga on my bed,  mostly, or standing next to my bed! Perhaps I need to gift myself with a mat.

Gift Ideas for a Healthy Lifestyle - Yoga Mat

Gym Bag

Great for carrying a change of clothes to the gym or toting gear to the park or for a weekend getaway.

Gym Bag

Hand Weights

Weights help with toning, flexibility, strengthening and building muscle.

Gift Ideas for a Healthy Lifestyle

Gift Ideas for a Healthy Lifestyle – Clothes

What would we do without leggings? I practically live in them, especially when I’m working at home, which is almost every day!


Get a Head Start on 2020

This isn’t a complete list of gift ideas for a healthy lifestyle, however, I hope it gets you started on the path of wellness.

For yourself, for a loved one, for a friend, give the gift of health this holiday season. And get a head start on 2020. May next year be the year that health becomes a priority!

Give the Gift of Health

Check out these posts, for additional health related gift ideas:

Good Idea Sparkling Mealtime Beverages

HempFusion

CBD Living Water

 

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Easy Vegetable Noodle Soup

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

As we enter cold and flu season, I love having an arsenal of health boosting soups that I can prepare quickly and easily. Nothing soothes a scratchy throat or comforts an achy body quite like a bowl of steaming hot soup. That old standby, chicken noodle soup, is no longer a suitable choice for me. However, I wondered if I could find a plant based option.

I did.

This easy vegetable noodle soup is nourishing and soothing. And, using an instant pot, it’s ready in under 30 minutes.

Easy Vegetable Noodle Soup Title Meme

Plant Based and Gluten Free

This recipe is adapted from one in Vegan Pressure Cooking. I changed the seasonings and used gluten free Pad Thai noodles made from brown rice. You can use sobo noodles or regular Pad Thai noodles, if you are not gluten sensitive.

This hearty soup is full of veggies and made using my DIY vegetable broth, which I absolutely love. You can substitute store bought vegetable broth if desired.

Easy Vegetable Noodle Soup

This hearty soup is packed with veggies and gluten free noodles for a healthy alternative to chicken and noodle soup.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time8 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: American
Keyword: vegetable noodle soup, vegetable soup
Servings: 6 servings

Equipment

  • Pressure Cooker

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups green beans, fresh or frozen, cut into pieces may substitute organic canned green beans
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp Herbs de Provence
  • 1/2 tsp dried sage
  • 1 cup dried brown or green lentils
  • 4 ounces noodles, pad Thai or sobo
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cups water

Instructions

  • In uncovered pressure cooker, saute onions, garlic, carrots, green beans and celery for 3 minutes. Add seasonings and stir and cook for 2 more minutes.
  • Add lentils, noodles, vegetable broth and water to pressure cooker. Lock on lid. Cook for 8 minutes. Use a quick release. Remove lid.
  • Test noodles and lentils. If not quite done, simmer in uncovered pressure cooker until done, adding more water if necessary. If using canned green beans, add at this time. Remove bay leaf and serve. Makes 6 servings.

Easy Vegetable Noodle Soup

This wonderfully fragrant soup cooked in minutes. And the added brown rice pad Thai noodles created a meal that’s perfect for a chilly evening or comforting when combating the sniffles.

If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can prepare the easy vegetable noodle soup on the stove top. Saute veggies then combine all the ingredients in a large pot. Bring soup to a boil, then lower heat. Simmer until vegetables are tender. Add the noodles during the last five minutes of cooking time.

This soup inspires me to see if gluten free ramen noodles exist. If so, watch for an easy and healthy ramen soup you can make yourself.

It’s soup season! I’m so glad.

Do you have a favorite soup?

Easy Vegetable Noodle Soup Ready to Eat
Easy Vegetable Noodle Soup, ready to eat.

 

Try these nourishing plant based soups as well:

Easy Soups for Cold Days

This pressure cooker is available on Amazon:

And I used these Pad Thai noodles. Amazon sells them in packages of six.


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DIY Creamy Cashew Butter

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I grew up eating peanut butter sandwiches. And honestly, I still love the stuff. Oh, I don’t eat bread now, so no more sandwiches. However, one of my favorite healthy snacks is a dollop of organic peanut butter and a cut up apple. Paired with a cup of hot herbal tea, this snack is perfect once or twice a week.

I’ve also enjoyed almond butter and cashew butter. Those jars of nut butters can get pricey though. And it’s important to read the labels, to make sure the ingredients are nuts and sea salt and nothing more.

Recently I’ve wanted to try making my own nut butters. It turns out, the process couldn’t be easier. Check out my first attempt…DIY creamy cashew butter.

DIY Creamy Cashew Butter Title Meme

Advantages of Making DIY Cashew Butter

The primary advantage to making your own nut butter is knowing exactly what’s in it. I purchased raw, organic, non GMO cashews from Natural Grocers. Although I intended to create almond butter first, the cashews appealed to me! I left the store with a 16 ounce package of cashews.

The nut butter is easily customized with healthy additions such as honey, vanilla beans, cocoa or sea salt. Finally, making your own nut butter saves money, especially when nuts are bought in bulk. And you can make a small amount or a larger amount, depending on your needs.

DIY Creamy Cashew Butter Organic Nuts
Raw organic nuts for DIY Creamy Cashew Cream

Creating DIY Creamy Cashew Cream

Cashews have a creamy texture, making them perfect for creating nut butter. They are an excellent source of protein, fiber, vitamin E, calcium, iron, phosphorous, potassium and magnesium. Cashews also provide antioxidant properties. Check out the five healthiest nuts in this post.

I felt like the soft texture of the cashews would easily transform into creamy nut butter. And I was right. Using the food processor creates heat, which helps to quickly break the nuts down into a smooth butter.

The process is so simple.

Step 1

Add two cups of cashews, or nuts of choice, to a food processor. That’s it. For DIY creamy cashew butter there is one ingredient…cashews. I chose raw, unsalted cashews, however experiment with salted and roasted and see which suits you best.

Process on high. The nuts immediately become coarsely chopped and then become a fine powder. Stop the food processor occasionally, to scrape down sides.

DIY Creamy Cashew Butter Step 1
Step 1 – Coarsely ground

Step 2

Continuing processing cashews. As they heat up the nuts release oils. The coarse pieces begin to stick together, forming a paste. Pause again to scrape down sides.

DIY Creamy Cashew Butter Step 2
Step 2 – Paste forms

Step 3

Let cashew paste continue to process, until a smooth butter forms. The entire process took about seven minutes for me, stopping twice to scrape down sides…and take photos. Almonds might take a little longer to process.

Stop processor and scrape cashew butter into a glass container. Seal and store in the refrigerator. DIY creamy cashew butter, or any other homemade nut butters, will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator. I don’t think mine will last that long!

DIY Creamy Cashew Butter Step 3
Step 3 – Creamy butter

Enjoying My Healthy Snack

The DIY creamy cashew butter was so easy to make. I don’t know why I haven’t tried this before. Warm from the processor, I enjoyed a spoonful of cashew butter with a cut up gala apple. Perfection! I didn’t add honey, yet the taste was slightly sweet and the butter so creamy. Cashew butter is excellent with sliced apples or pears, on gluten free crackers or bread and used in baking.

I’m excited to make almond butter and perhaps something more exotic, like pistachio butter. I’ll let you know how that turns out!

Creamy Cashew Butter and Apples
Creamy Cashew Butter and Apple Slices

Use these links to purchase raw organic cashews and almonds.

This is the food processor I use. Click on photo for more info or to order.


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Foods That Ease Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

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As the days grow shorter and the nights longer, some people find that their moods darken as well. It’s not uncommon, during fall and winter, to feel sluggish, however those winter blues can become a depression that lasts for months.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a form of depression that begins in fall and peaks mid winter. By spring, when longer days bring more sunshine, the symptoms ease.

Up to 20% of the population experience varying degrees of SAD. However, help is available…in the kitchen. Check out the following foods that ease seasonal affective disorder, naturally.

Foods That Ease Seasonal Affective Disorder SAD

What Causes SAD?

Doctors believe that the long dark nights of winter disrupt brain chemicals, such as melatonin and serotonin, that affect mood. Days and days of overcast skies that limit sunlight contribute as well to feeling glum. So there appears to be a connection between lack of sunlight and seasonal affective disorder. Some experts also believe reduced sunlight lowers vitamin D levels in the body, which in turn can cause depression.

Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include weariness, anxiety, depression, craving carbohydrates, irritability, weight gain and avoidance of social situations.

Ten minutes of sunlight a day helps to ease SAD, by boosting vitamin D in the body. To improve symptoms even more, and for those days and days of gray skies, try adding the following foods to your diet.

Foods that Ease Seasonal Affective Disorder
Long winter nights are great for coziness. However they can disrupt chemicals in the brain.

Foods That Ease Seasonal Affective Disorder

Include these foods during fall and winter to combat SAD.

Mangoes 

Mangoes support emotional health, uplift mood, alleviate depression and ease seasonal affective disorder. They also promote a good night’s sleep. Eat mangoes on their own, or add to smoothies and fruit salads.

Atlantic Sea Vegetables 

These gifts from the sea remove heavy metals from the body. They are rich with nutrients that balance the body, ease stress and ground the emotions. Add dried Atlantic sea vegetables to salads and soups or blend them up in smoothies.

Oranges and Tangerines

Oranges and tangerines are called liquid sunshine! High in vitamin C, oranges and tangerines brighten mood when we are feeling sun deprived. Enjoy freshly prepared orange juice or add the citrus fruit to salads and hot ciders. Strive to eat a couple of oranges or tangerines a day, to receive all the goodness that they offer.

Foods That Ease Seasonal Affective Disorder
Oranges, pictured here in Spiced Hot Cider, are a great way to ease SAD.
Foods That Ease Seasonal Affective Disorder Bananas
Foods that ease seasonal affective disorder – bananas

Bananas

Bananas contain tryptophan, which calms the body. Their natural sugars and high potassium levels fuel the brain, while magnesium improves sleep and reduces anxiety. Add bananas to fruit smoothies, healthy breads and muffins, or eat them as a snack. For a special treat, blend frozen bananas into nice dream and top with berries.

Leafy Greens

Dark leafy greens, high in folic acid, boost mood by creating serotonin. During the cold winter months, enjoy a big salad daily for lunch, with leafy greens as the foundation. Or add greens to smoothies and juices.

Berries

Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are all powerful anti-inflammatories that help to prevent the release of the stress hormone, cortisol. Lowering stress eases the symptoms of SAD. Berries are wonderful added to smoothies, salads and herbal teas or piled on top of gluten free oatmeal.

Foods That Ease Seasonal Affective Disorder Berries
Foods that ease seasonal affective disorder – berries
Foods that Ease SAD Turmeric
The spice turmeric is an effective way to ease SAD.

Turmeric

This powerful anti-inflammatory increases blood circulation and boosts the brain and mood. Use turmeric in curry recipes or add a spoonful to warm coconut milk, to create a soothing nighttime drink. Or take a daily supplement in capsule form.

Walnuts and Flaxseeds

High in Omega-3s, walnuts and flaxseeds provide essential nutrients that help to boost mood and lessen depression. Add flaxseeds to smoothies or baking recipes. Eat a small amount of walnuts daily or add to gluten free banana bread and salads.

Avoid This Food

In the list of foods that ease seasonal affective disorder, there is one food to avoid. Refined sugar negatively impacts the brain and slows it down. Limit sugar during the winter months, or avoid it entirely. Your body and your mood will benefit.

Frequently including the foods listed above, and ten minutes of sun bathing on bright sunny days, can greatly reduce or eliminate seasonal affective disorder. I know. I’m one who feels a bit blue when the sun disappears for days behind a mass of gray clouds. To feel my best, and avoid going into hibernation mode, I need sunlight and these natural mood boosters.

Are you SAD during winter? Talk to me about it, in the comments below.

Getting vitamin D
Soaking up the sunshine.

 


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Quick Bean Chili

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I love soups, stews and chilis any time of year. However, during fall, as the nights grow longer and the temperatures cooler, I could live on them. Soups are not only comforting, they are full of flavor and healthy nutrients.

This quick bean chili comes together in minutes. It’s perfect for those evenings when the day has been full and busy. Having recipes available that can provide a hot meal in a few minutes lessens the likelihood of grabbing fast food on the way home.

Quick Bean Chili title meme

Quick Bean Chili Recipe

This recipe comes together quickly due to using canned goods, instead of dried beans. I chose to use great northern beans, however any canned beans works. This is a moderately spicy chili. Adjust the heat level by adding or reducing the cayenne pepper. Use a small vegetable chopper to make quick work of prepping veggies.

This recipe was adapted from one in Vegan Pressure Cooking.

And here is the recipe for making your own vegetable broth, from scraps! I use this wonderful broth in so many recipes. And it is so easy to make.

Quick Bean Chili
Print Recipe
5 from 7 votes

Quick Bean Chili

This fast and easy to prepare chili relies on canned beans and fresh veggies.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time8 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Bean Chili, Quick
Servings: 6 servings

Equipment

  • Pressure Cooker

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup carrots, diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 2 large green bell peppers, diced
  • 1 small can green chilies, mild or medium
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (add more or less, as desired)
  • 2 14 oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 can non GMO corn
  • 2 cans great northern beans (or beans of choice)
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Instructions

  • In uncovered pressure cooker, heat coconut oil on medium heat. I use the meat setting. Add onion, garlic, carrots and celery. Saute for 3 minutes, until veggies soften.
  • Add bell peppers. Cook for another minute.
  • Add green chilies, spices, canned tomatoes, canned beans, canned corn, tomato paste, broth and water.
  • Cover and lock on lid. Bring to pressure and cook for 8 minutes. Allow natural release.
  • Remove lid, stir and add sea salt. Makes 6 - 8 servings.

Meal in Minutes

I love using the pressure cooker for healthy meals. In minutes this quick bean chili was ready. And it was oh…so…good! The blend of beans, fresh veggies and seasonings was perfect.

The chili offered even more flavor the next day. And it thickened up to more of a chunky chili consistency.

I’m always looking for a great soup, stew or chili recipe, plant based of course! If you have a favorite recipe, please provide a link in the comments below. I’ll be doing a plant based soup, stew and chili roundup in the near future. I’d love to include yours.

Quick Bean Chili
Quick Bean Chili, ready in under 20 minutes.

Check out these helpful products from Amazon:

 


 

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Vegan and Gluten Free Pumpkin Recipes

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

With fall well underway and the holiday season imminent, I’m excited to offer a roundup of Vegan and Gluten Free Pumpkin Recipes. These delicious goodies come from several contributors in the health and/or blogging community and I’m pleased to share their recipes as well as a couple of my own.

Pumpkin is THE signature flavor of fall. In addition to adding amazing richness to baked goods, it provides healing benefits that support the body. Check out this post about the impressive ways that pumpkin improves health and wellness.

And then grab a pumpkin or a can of organic pumpkin puree and head into the kitchen to try one of these 12 recipes.

Vegan and Gluten Free Pumpkin Recipes title meme

Vegan and Gluten Free Pumpkin Recipes

These recipes are plant based and gluten free. If gluten sensitivity isn’t an issue for you, as it is for me, then feel free to use your favorite flour. However, I can guarantee that these goodies are delicious, just as they are. Even if you’ve never tried a vegan or gluten free recipe, this might be a great time to experience the difference plant based can make, in lessening inflammation in the body without sacrificing flavor.

Please visit each link provided to find the recipe. And check out the contributor’s blog site while you are there!

Pumpkin Recipes Thumbprint Cookies
Pumpkin Cookies with Apple Butter Thumbprint by A Meal In Mind

Pumpkin Cookies with Apple Butter Thumbprint

by Beth with www.amealinmind.com

Pumpkin Recipes Spice Bars
Pumpkin Pie Spice Bars by A Meal in Mind

Pumpkin Pie Spice Bars

by Beth with www.amealinmind.com

Pumpkin Recipes Pie
Vegan and Gluten Free Pumpkin Recipes: Pumpkin Pie by Medical Medium

Pumpkin Pie

by Anthony with www.medicalmedium.com

Vegan and Gluten Free Pumpkin Recipes Seeds
Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds by Medical Medium

Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

by Anthony with www.medicalmedium.com

Pumpkin Pancakes
Vegan and Gluten Free Pumpkin Recipes: Pumpkin Pie Pancakes by Medical Medium

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes

by Anthony with www.medicalmedium.com

Vegan and Gluten Free Pumpkin Recipes Bread
Pumpkin Zucchini Bread by Strength & Sunshine

Pumpkin Zucchini Bread

by Rebecca with www.strengthandsunshine.com

Vegan and Gluten Free Pumpkin Recipes Chocolate Chip Cookies
Soft Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies by Bakerita

Soft Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies

by Rachel with www.bakerita.com

Vegan and Gluten Free Pumpkin Recipes Donuts
Vegan and Gluten Free Pumpkin Recipes: Easy Baked Pumpkin Donuts by A Dash of Megnut

Easy Baked Pumpkin Donuts

by Megan with www.adashofmegnut.com

Vegan and Gluten Free Pumpkin Recipes Muffins
Pumpkin Muffins by Just What We Eat

Pumpkin Muffins

by Morgan with www.justwhatweeat.com

Vegan and Gluten Free Pumpkin Recipes Pumpkin Scones
Vegan and Gluten Free Pumpkin Recipes: Pumpkin Scones by Just What We Eat

Pumpkin Scones

by Morgan with www.justwhatweeat.com

Vegan and Gluten Free Pumpkin Recipe Pumpkin Bars
Easy Pumpkin Bars by Journey With Healthy Me

Easy Pumpkin Bars

by Cindy with www.journeywithhealthyme.com

Vegan and Gluten Free Pumpkin Recipes One Bowl Pumpkin Bread
One Bowl Pumpkin Bread by Journey With Healthy Me

One Bowl Pumpkin Bread

by Cindy with www.journeywithhealthyme.com

Enjoy Pumpkin Season

I hope you find a recipe or two or three to try, to fully enjoy this comforting time of year. And if you have a favorite pumpkin recipe, please share a link to the recipe in the comments below. As a favor to my readers, please indicate whether the recipe is vegan and gluten free.

Happy fall and happy baking!

Pumpkin's Health Benefits Winter Squash

 

Check out these helpful Amazon finds:


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5 Healthiest Nuts to Eat

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On a plant based diet, or any healthy diet, nuts are a great snack option. Most nuts are higher in fats, so a small handful a couple of times a week is optimal. And nuts are an ideal source of fiber and protein.

Nuts contain other important and beneficial nutrients. Read on for the 5 healthiest nuts to eat, to receive the most from your snack.

5 Healthiest Nuts to Eat Title Meme

Nutritional Nuts

Overall, nuts are a good source of healthy monounsaturated fats along with omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fats. They also deliver vitamins and minerals.

In spite of their higher fat content, nuts have many health benefits. Studies have shown that nuts help to prevent diseases and may even prolong life by reducing the risks of some types of cancers.

Here are the 5 healthiest nuts to eat.

1. Walnuts

Walnuts are an excellent source of the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). They are also a significant contributor of protein, fiber, vitamin E, melatonin and magnesium. Walnuts also contain a plant compound called polyphenols that reduce inflammation throughout the body, which in turn lowers the risk of many diseases, including cancer.

Walnuts also reduce bad LDL cholesterol while boosting good HDL cholesterol. They also contribute to better heart health, regulated blood pressure and increased blood flow through the circulatory system.

Additionally, walnuts are considered brain food. Eating walnuts increases cognitive function and reasoning abilities.

Healthy Walnuts
5 healthiest nuts to eat: walnuts

2. Almonds

Almonds provide a significant amount of protein, fiber, vitamin E and magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, calcium and iron.

This tree nut improves cholesterol levels and supports heart health. Its high fiber content aids in weight loss and lowers blood pressure. And consuming a few almonds during a meal helps to regulate blood sugar levels that can rise after eating, in people with diabetes. For those with type 2 diabetes, almonds can lower inflammation.

Almonds also improve gut health by supporting the growth of beneficial bacteria.

5 Healthiest Nuts to Eat Almonds
Almonds, one of the 5 healthiest nuts to eat.

3. Pistachios

This popular green nut, typically packaged still in its shell, is high in fiber and protein and provides vitamin E and magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron and phosphorous.

As with walnuts and almonds, pistachios improve cholesterol levels. Eating just a couple of ounces of pistachios a day also increases good HDL cholesterol. Additionally, pistachios decreases the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, and help maintain a healthy weight. Their antioxidant properties prevent oxidative damage to cells.

And pistachios help to keep blood sugar levels down after a meal.

Healthy Pistachios
Health boosting pistachios.

4. Cashews

Cashews have a creamy texture, making them perfect for baking and vegan sauce making. They are also an excellent source of protein, fiber, vitamin E and calcium, iron, phosphorous, potassium and magnesium. Cashews also provide antioxidant properties.

This tree nut reduces blood pressure, improves blood lipid levels and increases good HDL cholesterol.

5 Healthiest Nuts to Eat Cashews
Fiber and protein rich cashews.

5. Hazelnuts

Nutritious hazelnuts have a distinctive flavor. They are also an excellent source of fiber, protein, vitamin E and calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium.

They lower the risk of heart disease and reduce bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Hazelnuts ease inflammation throughout the body and improve overall blood vessel health. Additionally, they increase the amount of vitamin E in the blood.

Healthy Hazelnuts
The last of the 5 healthiest nuts to eat, hazelnuts.

Ways to Benefit from Nuts

Try including nuts in your diet, in these ways:

  • combine them with unsweetened raisins, dried cranberries, unsweetened dried coconut and seeds to make a homemade trail mix
  • drink nut milks such as cashew milk, almond milk or hazelnut milk
  • use sugar free nut butters that only contain nuts and a small amount of sea salt
  • add raw nuts to salads
  • use in baking recipes
  • make vegan sauces from cashews
  • eat plain, as a snack
  • make your own vegan cheeses and milks, from nuts

Remember to enjoy nuts in moderation, due to their fat content. Eat a small handful at a time or include in recipes on days scattered throughout the week. And check out some of my favorite recipes below, that include healthy nuts.

5 healthiest Nuts to Eat Tabbouleh
Parsley Tabbouleh with almonds.

 

Favorite Recipes Using Nuts

Dairy Free Potato Soup with Cashew Sauce

Broccoli and Macaroni Bake

Raw Blueberry Pie with Cashew Crust

Vegan Banana Blueberry Bread with Walnuts

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Parsley Tabbouleh

Amazon finds:

 


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6 Gluten Free Pastas to Try

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A question I’m frequently asked is, “What about pasta? Don’t you miss it?”

The answer is, I do enjoy pasta. Since switching to a plant based lifestyle, I still eat pasta. It’s vegan and gluten free pasta.

Pasta came back into my diet shortly after going plant based. I discovered a wide selection of gluten free and vegan pasta available. Although I’ve settled in on brown rice pasta as my favorite, there are other varieties made from plants and wheat free grains.

Here is a line up of gluten free pastas to try so you can decide which is your favorite!

6 Gluten Free Pastas title meme

Why Avoid Gluten?

Gluten is a chewy protein found in some grains including wheat, spelt and rye. For people with celiac disease, avoiding gluten is a must as the protein attacks the small intestines and causes damage. Another form of celiac disease attacks the skin rather than the small intestines, causing a painful rash.

Additionally, people with autoimmune disorders and gluten sensitivities should avoid gluten as well. I fall in the latter category. People with a gluten sensitivity don’t process the protein well. Symptoms of sensitivity range from digestive disorders to irritable bowel syndrome to skin rashes to headaches and joint pain. Gluten, along with other allergens and proteins found in grains, can create inflammation and weaken the immune system, which is our first line of defense against illness.

For more information about gluten sensitivity, see this post: 8 Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance.

Gluten Free Rotini

6 Gluten Free Pastas

Fortunately, for those with gluten intolerance or sensitivities there are options.

Brown Rice Pasta

This gluten free pasta is one of the most popular. Brown rice, with its mild flavor, adds chewiness and texture to the pasta, in the same way that wheat does. It is an excellent one-on-one substitution for wheat pasta, holding its shape well during cooking. In addition, brown rice is a rich source of fiber and nutrients including selenium and magnesium. Brown rice also supplies the body with antioxidants that fight against oxidative damage to cells.

Try these brown rice pastas by clicking on the photos:

Brown Rice Pastas
One of my favorite gluten free pastas, brown rice.

 

Brown rice and quinoa blend pasta.
The Great Value brand, which is a blend of brown rice and quinoa, is excellent as well and available in the gluten free section at Walmart.

Quinoa Pasta

This pasta is not only entirely plant based, it supplies all nine of the essential amino acids that the body requires. Quinoa is also a great source of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Pasta made from this grain boasts a mild, nutty flavor with a grain-like texture. It is often combined with other gluten free grains or legumes to create a pasta that holds together well.

Try the brown rice/quinoa pasta pictured above, or this one from Trader Joe’s:

 

Quinoa and brown rice pasta
Quinoa and brown rice pasta from Trader Joe’s.

Chickpea Pasta

This recent addition to gluten free pastas is gaining in popularity. The flavor is slightly stronger than the brown rice varieties while the texture is very similar to wheat pasta. Chickpea pasta is high protein and high fiber, making it a very filling choice for pasta recipes.

Banza and Barilla both produce an excellent chickpea pasta:

 

Banza chickpea penne
Try one of the gluten free pastas from Banza. This is penne.

Barilla Chickpea Rotini
Barilla chickpea rotini

Soba Noodles

Soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour. The noodles have a slightly nutty flavor and a chewy texture. They are available in a variety of shapes, not just noodles. Soba noodles are a good source of protein and fiber and they are lower in calories than most other pastas. They also provide manganese and thiamine.

Get soba noodles here:

Organic Soba Noodles
Soba noodles are another gluten free pasta option.

Green Lentil Pasta

This is another legume pasta, similar to chickpea. It is typically combined with quinoa and has a mild flavor and a good chewy texture. Green lentil pasta is an excellent source of fiber and protein.

Try this brand:

Green Lentil Pasta
Pow green lentil pasta.

Multigrain Pasta

Some gluten free pastas combine a blend of grains including rice, quinoa, buckwheat, corn, millet and amaranth.

The taste and texture of multigrain pasta is very similar to wheat pasta. However, the nutritional value varies greatly with these pastas, depending on the combination of grains. Read the labels carefully so that you know what you are getting. I only use non GMO corn, so I typically avoid multigrain pastas unless I know corn is not included.

Barilla Gluten Free Penne
Barilla is a reliable brand for multigrain pasta.

Preparing Gluten Free Pastas

To cook gluten free pastas, use these tips:

  •  use a large container with plenty of water
  • bring water to a roiling boil and keep it there while pasta cooks, stirring frequently
  • begin testing pasta several minutes before end of specified cook time
  • remove from heat when pasta is al dente for best texture – overcooking results in mushy pasta
  • drain pasta and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking process
  • toss with a small amount of olive oil, if desired, to prevent pasta from sticking together
  • add cooked pasta to sauce to finish cooking, if necessary, or serve with sauce immediately
Gluten Free Macaroni Bake
Gluten Free Broccoli & Macaroni Bake

Enjoy Gluten Free Pastas

I’ve discovered many ways to enjoy gluten free pastas. The easiest is to pair gluten free spaghetti, penne or rotini with simple marinara sauce. I keep a package of pasta on hand and for convenience, a jar of organic, sugar free pasta sauce.

Pasta isn’t served daily in my house, however it is nice to know that when I want a quick and nutritious meal, I can have it. I make sure it is a gluten free pasta that supports my healthy lifestyle, rather than one that creates a negative reaction in my body.

Gluten Free Pastas with Pesto
Another idea for gluten free pastas, freshly prepared pesto. I enjoyed this delightful meal in Italy.

Try One of These Gluten Free Pasta Recipes

Goulash

Broccoli & Macaroni Bake

Oil Free Basil Pesto for your gluten free spaghetti

 

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Mushroom, Bean and Barley Soup

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When I learned that October 15 is National Mushroom Day, I felt inspired to try a new recipe that features mushrooms. My Vegan Under Pressure cookbook provided a dozen opportunities to create such a recipe. I slightly adapted one of the recipes in that book.

This Mushroom, Bean and Barley Soup is perfect to celebrate the special day. And it is a wholesome, hearty soup for a chilly fall evening. Using the pressure cooker means this soup is ready in minutes.

 

Mushroom Bean and Barley Soup title meme

Mushroom Day

This unique holiday celebrates all mushrooms…Portobello, shiitake, button and truffle. Mushrooms, which are members of the fungi family, are highly nutritious. They are a staple in a plant based diet, due to their high protein and fiber content. Mushrooms also contain B vitamins and a potent antioxidant called selenium, which supports the immune system and prevents damage to cells and tissues. Button mushrooms are an excellent source of vitamin D as well.

Today’s soup includes baby Portobello Mushrooms, along with other vegetables and dried herbs.

Mushrooms and Green Beans
Fresh Portobello Mushrooms and green beans, two of the ingredients in Mushroom, Bean and Barley Soup.

Mushroom, Bean and Barley Soup

Look for baby Portobello Mushrooms. If those are not available, substitute button or cremini mushrooms. Similarly, you can swap out the navy beans for pinto, black or white beans.

Mushroom Bean and Barley Soup

This hearty plant based soup features mushrooms and other vegetables.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Mushroom Bean and Barley, Soup
Servings: 6

Equipment

  • Pressure Cooker

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1/2 cup portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, in juice
  • 1 cup green beans, chopped may substitute canned green beans
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp herbs de provence
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup dried navy beans
  • 3/4 cup dried pearl barley may substitute instant barley
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Instructions

  • In an uncovered pressure cooker, heat coconut oil on medium-high heat. Add onion and celery and saute for 3 minutes.
  • Add mushrooms, green beans, tomatoes, bay leaf, spices (except for cardamom), vegetable broth, water, navy beans and barley.
  • Lock on lid and bring to pressure. Cook for 22 - 25 minutes. Allow natural release.
  • Remove lid and stir in lemon juice, cardamom and sea salt. Test beans for doneness. If the beans are not quite done, simmer, uncovered, until cooked through. Remove bay leaf before serving. Makes 6 servings.
Ingredients for Mushroom Bean and Barley Soup
Ingredients for Mushroom, Bean and Barley Soup.
Cooking veggies.
The beginning of a wonderful soup.

Enjoying Mushrooms on Mushroom Day

I enjoyed preparing this nutritious soup. As my DIY Vegetable Broth cooked in the pressure pot, I chopped veggies for the soup. As soon as the broth finished, I strained it to use in the recipe.

After washing the pot I popped it back into the cooker, readying it for the ingredients for the Mushroom, Bean and Barley Soup.

I purchased the herbs de provence today, a seasoning I’ve heard of but have never used. It is a combination of basil, fennel, marjoram, parsley and rosemary. You can substitute with a blend of 1/4 teaspoon each of basil, fennel seeds, marjoram and rosemary.

The aroma of the soup filled my home and whetted my appetite.

I was not disappointed! Mushroom, Bean and Barley Soup is a perfect fall or winter dish that warms the body while boosting health. The soup is rich and full of flavor. I appreciated the combination of vegetables and herbs.

I have fresh mushrooms and green beans left over. Another pot of Mushroom, Bean and Barley Soup is in my near future!

Mushroom Bean and Barley Soup

Pick up these pressure cooking items by clicking on links below.

 

 


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Pumpkin’s Health Benefits

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Photos of scrumptious pumpkin treats are filling my Instagram, a sure sign of the season. Some pumpkin flavored goodies, such as lattes and donuts, are full of sugar and not the healthiest of options. However, pumpkin’s health benefits are many. From soups to breads to muffins, enjoy one of the signature flavors of fall and appreciate the boost to health that pumpkin provides.

Pumpkins Health Benefits Title Meme

More Than a Jack O’Lantern

Pumpkins are an orange winter squash, native to the US and extremely popular in the fall. As summer draws to a close, bins of pumpkins replace bins of watermelons. From fall décor to jack o’lanterns to Thanksgiving pies, pumpkins are an integral part of the season.

Pumpkins are a fruit, with edible seeds. Nutritionally, however, these squashes are more similar to vegetables.

Pumpkins are not only fun to carve, they are delicious. In addition, they provide impressive benefits. Here are seven ways pumpkins improve health.

Pumpkin's Health Benefits Winter Squash
This fruit is technically a winter squash.

Pumpkin’s Health Benefits

High in Vitamins and Minerals

This brightly colored squash is high in vitamins A, B2, C and E. Additionally, pumpkins are a significant source for potassium, copper, manganese, iron, folate and beta-carotene, a carotenoid that the body converts into vitamin A.

Pumpkins are nutritionally dense, low calorie and high in water content. They are also a good source of fiber, making them excellent for managing weight.

Antioxidant Properties

Free radicals are produced naturally as part of the body’s metabolic process. We need some free radicals. They destroy harmful bacteria. However too many free radicals in the body create oxidative stress, which is linked to cell death, rapid aging, and chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Pumpkins contain powerful antioxidants that neutralize free radicals and prevent them from damaging healthy cells. Antioxidants also protect the skin from sun damage.

Roasted pumpkin slices
Pumpkin’s health benefits can be delivered in tasty ways, such as roasted pumpkin slices.

Supports the Immune System

Pumpkin’s nutrients provide a helpful boost to the immune system. Beta-carotene, that the body converts into vitamin A, strengthens the immune system and helps to fight off infections.

Pumpkin is also high in vitamin C. This potent vitamin increases white blood cell production, which boosts the immune system further and helps the body to heal faster. Finally, pumpkin’s vitamin E, folate and iron content all support the immune system as well.

Protects Eyesight and Promotes Healthy Skin

Pumpkin helps to protect eyesight. Vitamin A deficiency can cause blindness. Pumpkins are rich in vitamin A, beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin that combine to support eye health and lower the risk of age related macular degeneration and cataracts. And the antioxidants in pumpkin prevent free radicals from destroying eye cells.

The nutrients in pumpkins also promote healthy skin. Carotenoids are a natural sunblock, protecting the skin from harmful UV rays. Vitamin C is essential for healthy, youthful skin. It boosts the production of collagen, a protein that keeps skin strong and supple.

Lowers the Risk for Cancer

Cancer occurs when cells grow abnormally. These cells produce an abundance of free radicals, which help them to multiply more quickly. Pumpkin’s carotenoids function as antioxidants. They neutralize the free radicals, which helps to protect the body from certain types of cancers, including stomach, pancreas, throat and breast cancers.

Pumpkins Health Benefits Soup
Luscious pumpkin soup, another way to enjoy pumpkin’s health benefits.

Improves Heart Health

The potassium, vitamin C and fiber found in pumpkins are linked to improved heart health.

Potassium lowers blood pressure, a leading cause of strokes. High blood pressure and strokes increase the risk for heart disease. Pumpkin’s antioxidants also prevent bad cholesterol from oxidizing and clumping on the walls of blood vessels. This helps to lower the risk of heart disease as well.

Pumpkin Seeds

The edible seeds in pumpkins are full of health boosting properties too. They are a great source of magnesium, zinc, potassium and iron. Additionally, they are full of powerful antioxidants.

Pumpkins seeds support prostate and heart health, balance blood sugar, ease post menopausal symptoms in women, promote healthy cholesterol levels and lower the risk for cancer.

Roast your own pumpkin seeds, see link for instructions below, or purchase organic non GMO seeds at your favorite health conscious store.

Pumpkins Health Benefits Seeds
Pumpkin Seeds are excellent health boosters.

Enjoying Pumpkin’s Health Benefits

Pumpkins are so versatile for baking and cooking. Add pumpkin puree to cookies, breads, muffins, pancakes and pies. Or roast chunks of pumpkin and add to vegetables, soups and sauces.

Cut through the hard outer skin. Remove seeds (save those for roasting) and the stringy part. Slice remaining pumpkin into wedges or chunks. Coat with sea salt and pepper and a small amount of coconut oil, if desired. Roast in the oven until tender. After cooling puree to use in baking or soups. Or enjoy the roasted pumpkin as is. Check out this awesome site for full instructions on roasting a pumpkin. And this one for roasting pumpkin seeds.

Pumpkin is also available canned, which is convenient for baking. Read labels carefully and only purchase 100% pureed pumpkin, without added sugar.

During this season of warmth and family fun, enjoy this fall favorite in all its versatility and reap pumpkin’s health benefits as well.

Watch next week for my roundup of plant based and gluten free pumpkin recipes. Here’s one to get you started!

Vegan & Gluten Free Pumpkin Bars

Health Boosting Pumpkins

Organic Pumpkin Seeds from Amazon:

 

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