Warming up to Healthy Eating- Lentil Soup

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Was last night the sixth holiday party we just attended? Yes, it surely was. Or perhaps it was the thirteen. I’ve lost count. While I relished every last friend, holiday/new year wish, hors d’oeuvre, cookie & cocktail with gusto, I am now carried away to a more sensible space. Here in Florida it’s a sometimes cold place we call January.

If you are like us and many others, who have spent the last month stuffed with stuffing and tipsy with holiday cheer, January brings with it a promising opportunity for replenishment, balance, and the only way to do that is by giving your body everything it needs to thrive. Lots of healthy foods and vegetables.

But to go right from cookies to carrots in 0 to 60 seconds seems crazy, we believe the body must be eased back into it’s normal patterns gently and reasonably. No fad diets, or pill will have you looking and feeling your best.

At Intelligent Gourmet, we know it’s not about losing weight – it’s about living your best life. That said, for many of us, part of becoming healthier, happier people involves undoing some of the less-great decisions of the last several weeks and, yes, losing weight. Unfortunately, changing your lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight (though one diet claims otherwise)

What matters is keeping your nutrition high, your calories controlled, and your exercise up!

Try working your way back into some better eating habits with a healthy soup packed with protein and vegetables. Here we share with you a recipe for a very versatile lentil soup that you can easily adapt to your families personal preferences and pantry inventory:

Ingredients

  • 1 # package of dried lentils (You can use any kind you like, red, green, brown and black beluga)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, (small diced)
  • 1 large carrots, (small diced)
  • 2 ribs of celery (small diced)
  • 2 cloves of garlic smashed
  • 1 12 oz package of winter squash cubes (available at most grocers)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon yellow curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
  • cayenne pepper
  • 4-6 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 hand full of your favorite greens chopped, (kale, spinach, mustard, or chard)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • flat leaf parsley (for garnish)
  • olive oil

Directions

  1. Start my heating some olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot over moderate heat, (you do not want the olive oil smoking) Add the chopped, carrot, celery and onion and allow these vegetable to sauté slowly about 8 – 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Once the vegetables are soft and the onion is translucent add in your chopped garlic, salt and spices, stir and cook another 2 minutes until fragrant.
  2. Add in your winter squash cubes of choice and toss to combine.
  3. Add 4 cups of your stock ( chicken or vegetable depending on if you are making this vegan or not), and bring to a boil.
  4. Add in your raw lentils ( Lentils do not need to be soaked like other beans but do rinse, Check the cooking time on the package, which can vary from one type to the next. Red lentils cook in as little as 15 minutes while the black ones can take as long as 45 minutes.)
  5. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered until lentils are just tender but not mushy, and your squash is soft. (Add additional stock if you want a thinner soup adjust to your liking)
  6. When the lentils are just tender, add the chopped greens. (They’ll only take a minute or two to wilt remove the pot from the burner as soon as the greens are wilted and bright green.)
  7. Finish with freshly squeezed lemon juice, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil, and a generous amount of chopped parsley. Adjust salt if necessary.

CHEF NOTE:

Change up your meal in any one of these 4 ways.

  1. You can trade 1/2 the stock with coconut cream for a creamy flavor.
  2. Season with smoked paprika, a touch of liquid smoke, and a ham bone.
  3. Add in a 14 ounce can of diced tomato for another variation.
  4. Serve with a tablespoon of greek yogurt on top.
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Re-Vamp Your Breakfast Recipes, try a Quinoa Bowl

Why try a quinoa bowl for breakfast? Quinoa is a complete protein, meaning it has all 10 essential amino acids, and a high fiber content. One cup of cooked quinoa contains 5 grams of satiating fiber, having it for breakfast will help to arm your body with the tools it needs to get through the day and stay fuller longer. As an added bonus, quinoa is packed with health boosters like zinc, calcium, iron, riboflavin, heart healthy fats and antioxidants that have been found to reduce inflammation.quinoa bowl

Recipe: Quinoa Breakfast Bowl
Prep Time: 5
Cook Time: 15
Yield: 2 bowls

Ingredients:
1/2 cup dry quinoa, rinsed
3/4 cup canned lite coconut mylk + more for drizzling
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon + more for sprinkling
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of dried unsweetened dark cherries
1 tablespoon of toasted pecans
1 tablespoon of toasted pumpkin seeds

Preparation:
Combine quinoa, coconut milk, cinnamon and vanilla in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook for 15 minutes until quinoa can be fluffed with a fork.
Divide quinoa into two bowls then cover with dried fruits, pecans, + pumpkin seeds and a few extra drizzles of coconut milk.

Chef Notes:  You can use a shelf stable organic Coconut mylk available at Aldi’s Markets. Or you can make your own Almond mylk but that’s for another blog.  Option to add  sweetener of choice,  we find it sweet enough with the coconut milk and fruit.

#Kidfriendly #addtoppingsofyourchoice #mixandmatchfruitsnutsandseeds #yearroundmeal

Nutrition: 302 calories, 10.3 g fat (4.9 g saturated fat), 99 mg sodium, 34.6 g carbs, 5.3 g fiber, 7.9 g sugar, 8.2 g protein

Reduce Inflammation & Improve Your Digestion with Easy To Make Bone Broth


Remember how soothing chicken soup is whenever you have a cold? Well it turns out that broth, and especially bone broth (made from simmering bones and cartilage) really do have medicinal properties. I’m always on the lookout for foods that both nourish and heal your body, and while studying at the Institute of Integrative Health and Nutrition I was turned on to bone broth as a way of improving digestive symptoms such as bloating and pain.

Bone broth is experiencing a revolution right now, and for good reason. It can reduce joint pain and inflammation through chondroitin sulphates, glucosamine, proline, arginine, and glycine which all have anti-inflammatory effects. It promotes strong, healthy bones through high amounts of calcium, magnesium, and additional nutrients that play an important role in healthy bone formation, and promotes healthy hair and nail growth thanks to the gelatin in the broth. It may even help you sleep better due to the calming effects of glycine. Wow. No wonder superstar Kobe Bryant is drinking it daily and it’s even gained a cult following in NYC!

Another important component of both broths are that they are rich in Humic + Fulvic minerals! What are those you ask and why should I want them?
Research is just beginning to show us the important role that fulvic minerals play and the information is amazing! These minerals like others support the body in a variety of ways including cellular health, brain health and digestion by helping the body absorb nutrients from food.
In a perfect world, our food would naturally contain high levels of minerals from the soil, but this is not usually the case with our modern food supply.

Ready to try this out? You can make bone broth at home (recipe below!) by simmering chicken, beef, or pretty much any type of bones in water for 6+ hours. At Intelligent Gourmet we use this recipe as a base in most of our stocks and it’s just plain delicious! No single theory of health is right for everyone, but we’ve seen bone broth work well for some people and not cause adverse symptoms for anyone, therefore we feel it’s safe to approve as a food that promotes digestive health.
Intelligent Gourmet’s Bone Broth Recipe

Ingredients

4-5.5 lbs. of Beef or Chicken bones (including joints, knuckles, necks etc.)
2 gallons Cold Water or enough to cover your bones (Why cold water? On a chemical level, it actually promotes the extraction of protein, helping to up the nutrient quotient of the stock.)
1 large Onion, coarsely chopped
2 Carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 stalks of Celery, coarsely chopped
4 cloves of Garlic, peeled
2 Bay Leaves
2 Tbsp of Vinegar* (such as Bragg’s Raw Apple Cider Vinegar)
1 bunch of fresh Parsley
Optional: Thyme + Rosemary (I like to add thyme, bay leaf, and whole peppercorns, with maybe a sprig or two of rosemary. If you’re adding herbs and veggies to the broth, be sure to add them toward the end of cooking, especially if you’re doing a marathon stock making session.)

*A Note on Vinegar: This is not an optional ingredient. Not only is it ideal to combine fats with acids like vinegar, when it comes to making broth the goal is to extract as many minerals as possible out of the bones into the broth water and vinegar really helps to leech all those valuable minerals out of the bones. Bragg’s raw apple cider vinegar is a good choice as it’s unfiltered and unpasteurized.

Preparation

In a large stockpot, combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to-low and simmer for 6 to 24 hours (the longer you simmer it, the more intense the flavor). Add water as needed to keep ingredients submerged. Strain stock into a clean pot or heatproof plastic container and discard solid ingredients. Let cool and refrigerate overnight. Leave the solidified fat on the top while storing as the fat acts as a protective layer and delays the formation of bacteria. Immediately prior to use, bring the bone broth to a gentle boil. Makes about 12 cups.

You can use this broth as a base for soups like we do at Intelligent Gourmet, or you can drink it straight as a restorative concoction.

Interested in learning more about foods that promote healthy digestion? Here are a few I can recommend:

Bananas
While all fruits and vegetables are generally good for digestion, bananas in particular are great because they don’t irritate the stomach. That’s why they’re part of the “BRAT Diet” (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, dry Toast), which has been suggested for folks suffering from vomiting or diarrhea.

Water
Water (which most people do not drink enough of) is excellent for the digestive process as it helps move things through the intestines. Drink an extra glass of water in the morning and evening, or carry a refillable water bottle that you can sip from throughout the day.

Ginger, Turmeric, Peppermint
Spices and herbs like ginger, turmeric and peppermint are great for settling an upset stomach. Try drinking ginger or peppermint tea, or sucking on a peppermint lozenge.

Yogurt, Kefir, Sauerkraut, Kimchi
Probiotic-containing foods like yogurt are good for the digestive system because they contain good bacteria that crowds out any bad bacteria that you may have in your gut. You want to look specifically for foods that contain live bacteria, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi.

Asparagus, Oats, Onions, Lentils, Whole Grains
Prebiotic foods like asparagus contain a type of fiber that probiotics feed off of to multiply, so it’s good food for your good bacteria. Prebiotics are found in foods such as asparagus, onions, lentils and whole grains.

Soup

Is Your Healthy Food More Hype than Health?

You order a sandwich on whole wheat bread with turkey, Applewood-smoked bacon, tomatoes and avocado. It looks delicious. It tastes delicious. And you savor every crumb, confident that you’ve just done something good for your body.

After all, you didn’t pick up this sandwich at any old fast food restaurant.

This restaurant’s website has an entire tab explaining their beliefs, which include a commitment to “Clean Ingredients.”

So why does your sandwich include sorbitan monostearate, microcrystalline cellulose, sodium phosphates, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite, potassium sorbate and calcium disodium, and the mysterious moniker “natural flavor”?

Chances are, if you don’t know what an ingredient is, you wouldn’t recognize it as real food if it was served on a plate.

  • Sorbitan monostearate is an emulsifier that keeps water and oils mixed, and is also referred to as synthetic wax. Not so yummy.
  • Microcrystalline cellulose is wood pulp. It’s used as a texturizer and anti-caking agent, fat substitute and emulsifier. It’s also probably in your vitamin supplements.
  • Sodium phosphates act as preservatives, change texture of foods, keep processed meats moist, and are common food additives in processed foods. Food companies aren’t even required to list phosphate levels on “Nutrition Facts” labels, even though they have been linked to increased risk for kidney disease and heart disease. They’re also thought to accelerate the aging process, and they interfere with how your body processes and activates vitamin D.
  • Sodium erythorbate sounds terrible, but it’s actually taken from vitamin C and is used to keep foods fresh by inhibiting the oxidation of food. However, eating too much sodium erythorbate has been linked to causing kidney stones.
  • Sodium nitrite is used to cure meats like ham, bacon and hot dogs, and has been linked to cancer.
  • Potassium sorbate is another preservative that is used so frequently, in nearly every processed and canned food, that it’s shockingly easy to be overexposed which can lead to long-term health risks. It’s not only in processed foods – it’s also in cosmetic products and wine.
  • Calcium disodium prevents air from spoiling food and cosmetics. It’s also used to treat lead poisoning and mercury poisoning. Doesn’t sound so bad, right? What you may not know is that it robs your body of nutrients by making it more difficult for your body to use vitamin C, magnesium, iron, calcium, zinc and potassium.
  • Natural flavor is taken from an original ingredient found in nature that has been purified, extracted, and added back into the food. For example, “natural flavor” in a blueberry muffin actually means a chemical derived from blueberries that was enhanced in a lab.

In a Life by Daily Burn article, a scientist at the Environmental Working Group articulates why “natural flavor” is the fourth most common ingredient listed on labels: “The goal is to make a short intense flavor that quickly dissipates so you come back for more.”

What, exactly, is “clean” about this sandwich?

And, it’s not just the restaurant chains
This is what terrifies me about the hype we’ve created around health food. Companies can so easily take advantage of terms like “clean ingredients” without delivering on those promises. They fool our eyes and our tongues, but they can’t fool our bodies – these will ultimately pay the price.
I also see this in pre-packaged juices and “juice cleanses” where there may not be nitrites and phosphates, but in which so much sugar has been added that any nutritional benefit is offset.
The healthiest-seeming foods are often the worst culprits. An acai bowl, for example, uses frozen pureed acai (freezing kills acai’s superfood nutrients), and then adds berries, bananas, yogurt, granola with coconut on top. The result is a 600+ calorie, dairy inflammatory sugar bomb with more sugar in it than a slice of chocolate cake.
What you can do? 
Every dollar you spend is a vote for health and against hype. I know we can’t all cook whole foods for ourselves every day, but if we take the time to look closely at what we eat and only buy from trustworthy sources, perhaps the larger food corporations will add substance to their claims.
I look forward to a world in which a sandwich is just a sandwich, don’t you?
Until then, there’s Intelligent Gourmet.

Sandwich for blog