Food & Recipes

For the Love of Dark Chocolate

When we first met, Ash told me how much he loved dark chocolate.

Me: Dark Chocolate? Really?
Ash: Yeah. It’s great. It’s delicious.
M: It’s gross. Ugh. So bitter. How can you like the stuff?
A: Well, I don’t like all dark chocolate. I like specifically 82% dark chocolate. My friend from college – his dad was a Swiss chocolatier and introduced me to that percentage. It’s not too bitter, not too sweet, but it’s the perfect balance of the two for me.

I tried it and rejected it for my milk chocolate love because it was too bitter to get around the flavor. Yet, when I quit sugar it meant I had to quit chocolate. This was devastating because chocolate is delicious and I am addicted to that endorphin release.

I was able to last a month without chocolate at first and focused on fruits as a means to satisfy my sweet tooth. But soon I started craving chocolate again. I looked around and found that there are several options available for those trying to get a chocolate fix without added cane sugar. (These are not sponsored links, but I do recommend them)

Ash saw me unwrapping a candy bar one day and wanted to know what I was eating:

A:What’s that?
Me: Chocolate. Why?
A: Can I see the wrapper?
M: Yes… (I hand him the wrapper)
A: You know this is dark chocolate right? You always said you hated the stuff.
M: (My mouth full)…so?
A: I TOLD you it was delicious.

He caught me. I found that by dropping sugar I was more receptive (desperate?) to dark chocolate. It was a good thing doing so because I was starting to get the actual health benefits from eating dark chocolate that’s on the news.

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Information Huddle

Benefits of an Anti-Inflammatory or Mediterranean Diet

One of the things that I have found most beneficial for my MS is to maintain an anti-inflammatory diet. This is because I am lowering my intake of foods that might cause flare-ups such as wheat, dairy, or sugar. It isn’t easy to drop these delicious foods, but it’s doable because there are plenty of delicious recipes available all over the internet and passable alternatives for specific cravings.

Unfortunately, some of the recipes take time and prep and if you are low on energy, that can be discouraging. Making food ahead or finding shortcuts can help minimize food prep-stress.

In the news recently, there’s been a lot of talk about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Looking at the two food pyramids for each diet there’s a lot of similarities between the two. So if you were ever considering doing the Mediterranean, or already on the Mediterranean, then you are maintaining an anti-inflammatory diet.

Food Pyramids

*I am linking to them to respect each site’s copyright.

Comparing the two, Dr. Weil breaks down the Mediterranean Diet in further detail, but each food category is in the same area of the pyramid; there are certain foods types you eat more of and others you eat less of and they overlap. While it may not be 100% the same, the overlaps are significant and the health benefits equitable.

The advantage to recognizing the similarity between the two is it can open up the doors for more recipe options with modifications. When starting new diets, it’s easy to get discouraged by recipe limitations. Having more options available can make the diet shift process smoother and more pleasant.

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Food & Recipes

“Leftover” Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Quinoa is a power-protein seed and a favorite in our household.  But with any sort of “grain,” you can make too much of it by accident for a recipe or find that you have boring leftovers that need sprucing up.

I am a person that can’t have the same thing too many nights in a row, so when I have extra quinoa in the refrigerator, something needs to be done with it to make it interesting again.

With that in mind, below is a delicious vegan recipe I came up with to handle extra cooked quinoa. It’s also a fantastic make on its own – no need to wait for leftover quinoa.

Leave a comment with your thoughts and modifications to the recipe below.


“Leftover” Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

MM-Closeup-Stuffed-Red-Bell-Peppers-with-Spinach

Serving Size: 6

Ingredients
3 large red peppers, sliced lengthwise and de-seeded
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt (omit if you are making low sodium)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 (14.5 ounces) can diced tomatoes, drained and juice reserved
1 Cup vegetable broth
1/2 Cup cooked quinoa
1 (16 ounces) can vegetarian refried beans
Large handful from 1 (5 ounces) package fresh spinach
1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Using 1 Tablespoon of olive oil, coat the bottom of a 9 x 13-in glass baking dish and arrange the peppers with the skin down.
  2. Roast peppers in the preheated oven until tender for about 30 minutes. Dab the excess liquid that collects in the peppers with a paper towel. Leave the oven on.
  3. While the peppers are roasting, use the remaining olive oil, heat skillet over medium heat and cook the onion until translucent and softened. Add garlic, cumin, salt, black pepper, and chili powder to the onion; cook and stir until fragrant (about 1 minute).
  4. Mix in tomatoes, vegetable broth, and cooked quinoa to the onion mixture; stirring occasionally. Cook until everything is heated through (about 6 minutes) and some of the liquid has cooked off.
  5. Stir in refried beans and cook until the beans incorporated into the mixture (about 3 minutes). You want this to have a thick consistency (not too soupy), but you also don’t want it to be too dry, so allow to simmer for a few minutes or add in reserved tomato juice to get the desired consistency.
  6. Add in spinach, stir until it just wilts. Remove from heat.
  7. Spoon the mixture into the roasted red peppers, top with nutritional yeast.
  8. Bake in the oven until the pepper gets crispy around the cut portions, about 20 minutes.

 

Notes

  • To reduce the spice level, use only 1/4 teaspoon of chili powder.
  • To increase the spice level, add a chopped, deseeded jalapeno to Step 4.
  • Add in 1 Cup of frozen sweet corn to step 5 with the refried beans to get a sweet contrast.
  • To make non-vegan version: substitute chicken broth and a shredded Mexican cheese blend for the vegetable broth and nutritional yeast respectively. Add any chopped leftover chicken as well.
  • Leftover white or brown rice will work as a nice substitute for the quinoa.

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1 pepper half
1 Serving: 170 Calories; Fat: 6 g; Sat. Fat: 1 g; Protein: 7 g; Fiber: 7 g

Bonus Recipe – Vegan Nachos

This recipe will leave you extra filling for 3 more peppers. If you don’t want to make another batch:

Ingredients
Leftover quinoa stuffing
1 (4.5 ounces) chopped green chilies, drained
Tortilla Chips
Vegan cheese good for melting (or shredded Mexican cheese blend)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper and top with a layer of tortilla chips.
  2. Mix in green chilies to the quinoa mixture.  Just before putting into the oven, sprinkle a layer of the stuffing and top with your favorite vegan cheese.
  3. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Serve with your favorite salsa.

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Food & Recipes

Chocolate Power Protein N’ice Cream

Whether you have a picky eater or an under-eater, it is sometimes important for your child to pack on some weight. That’s when we, as parents, turn to supplemental nutritional drinks and foods that are high in calories that will help them gain weight faster.

Jai recently had a nasty cold which suppressed his appetite and caused him to lose about one pound. At his age, this weight loss was less concerning, but he was already on the low end for his age range, thus causing him to be underweight. During the cold, he was only consuming liquids like breastmilk and water, so I wasn’t worried about him being dehydrated, but I wanted to make sure he was getting all the important nutrients he needed and his daily caloric requirements. I also wanted to help him quickly add that pound back on and maybe an extra one for good measure.

I went out and bought a name-brand nutritional drink for toddlers. I looked at the label and was not happy with how much sugar the product contained. He hadn’t had that much sugar up to this point in his life, but I was concerned about his needing to gain weight so I bought the stuff.

He seemed to like it at first, but after a few sips he rejected drinking more. I suspect it was too sweet for him. I couldn’t try it myself, but even Ash was unimpressed with the flavor.

We put him to bed several hours later. I had thought the drink had left his system, but  the sugar and chemicals caused him to be a light sleeper and he woke up around 1am and screamed uncontrollably for about an hour (we tried to console him as much as we could). The only thing different about his eating habits that day was this drink.

We vowed never to do that again.

That didn’t solve my concern regarding his weight and need for nutrients and calories. I decided to experiment with what I had in the house.

I came up with a dense ice “cream” that uses fruit and maple syrup to sweeten it, but has avocados and peanut butter as a means to heft up the calories and protein.

Because it doesn’t contain any dairy, this will be okay for your little one while they have a cold, the frozen nature of the treat will soothe throats but not increase mucus production. It is also a tasty snack, so it shouldn’t be hard to get them to eat it if you have a picky eater. You can find the recipe after the cut.

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Food & Recipes

Delicious Foods for an Eating Reset

Eating simply sounds easy by the terms used, but it’s hardly ever simple to do. There tend to be a lot of steps, ingredients, preparation time, and a short shelf-life. If you are being particularly strict about it, it can be budget breaking.

All of these reasons are why when I’ve attempted to do cleanses and detoxes in the past, I’ve failed miserably. I needed to approach this reset differently from before; I decided to make some adjustments, making the preparation quicker and easier so it would be less stressful and take some simple shortcuts that wouldn’t compromise the integrity of the reset.

Below are two recipes to make the necessary foods for this particular diet reset, with one modified for the Instant Pot. I am new to the IP community, so the recipe is probably rough compared to what you might be used to seeing. I wanted to share how easy it was to make these two items for others who are looking for a less stressful way to do a diet reset.

Simple Oatmeal

Original recipe here. Below are my modifications.

Ingredients
1/2 Cup rolled oats
1 1/2 Cups water
1/2 Cup diced, dried apricot
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 Cup raw, sliced almonds (whole are fine, I like the texture of the sliced)

Directions

  1. Combine the apricot, 1 Cup of water, and cinnamon in a saucepan and bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Reduce and simmer for 15 minutes or until the apricot is rehydrated and tender.
  2. Add in the oats, 1/2 Cup of water, stir, raise the temperature to bring to boil. Once boiling, remove from heat, cover and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Oats should be soft and water fully absorbed.
  3. Cool, top with almond slices, and serve.

Notes
Double the recipe so you don’t have to make this every morning of your reset. It shouldn’t sit in the fridge more than one day at a time because you do want to keep it fresh.

If you have a pumpkin pie spice mix, substitute that in by increasing to 1/2 teaspoon. The mix contains all acceptable spices during this reset (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger) and might be a delicious way to get that pumpkin spice craving if you are doing this reset in the fall.

Instant Pot Kitchari

Original recipe here if you don’t own an Instant Pot. Below are my modifications.

Ingredients
1 Cup basmati rice
1/2 Cup Yellow dal/lentils
2 Tablespoons of ghee (coconut oil for vegans)
1/4 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
2 Cups water
Easy to digest frozen vegetables (reheated)

Directions

  1. Combine the dal with the rice and rinse the mixture until the water runs clear. Put into the Instant Pot.
  2. Add the ghee, black mustard, cumin, turmeric, coriander, and fresh ginger to the rice/dal mixture in the Instant Pot. Stir. Add 2 Cups of water (make sure none of the rice or dal mixture sticks to the sides before closing it up).
  3. Seal and using “Manual” setting, set for 12 minutes. Once complete, allow for 12-minute natural release and then open the value to release the rest of the pressure. Switch over to warm.
  4. Stir in the re-heated veggies and serve.

Notes
Boil some potatoes or sweet potatoes (diced) while the kitchari cooks in the Instant Pot. Stir those in in addition to the veggies.

If you know how, you can saute the spices with the ghee ahead of putting the rice/dal mixture into the Instant Pot. I’ve never done this before, so I didn’t want to put this step in but leave it as a suggestion.

Bonus: Steamed Vegetables

I will let you in on a little secret for this one: I cheat and buy frozen vegetables that have been pre-steamed and just need to be thawed in the microwave. Make sure to select a type that contains nothing but the vegetables in it: no added butter, no added salt, just pure, frozen vegetables.

I am already spending time to make these other dishes that this is a simple shortcut that maintains the integrity of the reset.