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Gluten-Free Vegan Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin, ’tis the season…Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Cake, Pumpkin Muffins, Pumpkin Cupcakes…and Pumpkin Bread. Yes, it’s finally pumpkin season, and the reasons to celebrate are many.

Ingredient Spotlight: Pumpkin
Pumpkin is an often overlooked source of fiber, but with 7 grams per one-cup serving and only 49 calories, it can keep you feeling full for longer on fewer calories. Also, a cup of cooked pumpkin has more potassium (564 mg) than a banana (422mg).

IMG_2178.JPGGluten-Free Vegan Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients
2 tablespoons flax meal
6 tablespoons water
2 cups King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Baking Mix
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper.

2. Whisk together flax meal and water. Let stand for 10 minutes to thicken.

3. Sift together baking mix, salt, and pumpkin pie spice in small bowl.

4. In a larger bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients and thickened flax meal. Stir in dry ingredients.

5. Bake 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in pan 10 minutes before removing to a rack to cool the rest of the way. If making mini loaves, bake for 25-30 minutes. Enjoy!

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Friday Fitness Tips: Best Ab Exercises

Are you still doing dozens of crunches in the hopes of getting flat, washboard abs?

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Traditional crunches are old news, so let’s take your ab routine to the next level with the following 5 Best Ab Exercises.

The most effective ab exercises strengthen your core as a whole –which helps prevent dreaded back pain, increases your agility and, of course, makes you look good.

In your new ab routine the focus is on quality over quantity. A few concentrated movements are always more effective than dozen and dozens of old fashion crunches.

1. Plank: When performed correctly, a simple plank is one of the most effective ways to tighten your entire core. Proper form is key. Keep your back flat and your belly button pulled in toward your spine.

IMG_2157.JPG Lie face down on mat resting on your forearms, palms flat on the floor. Push off the floor, raising up onto your toes and resting on your elbows. Keep your back flat, in a straight line from head to heels. Tilt your pelvis and contract your abdominals to prevent your rear end from sticking up in the air or sagging in the middle.

2. Mountain Climbers: This vigorous variation of a standard plank kicks the core tightening up a notch. Angling your knees toward the opposite shoulder is a wonderful way increase the intensity even more.

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3. Russian Twists: Nothing quite brings the burn like a properly done set of Russian Twists. By holding a medicine ball or dumbbell in your hands, the exercise becomes even more effective.

IMG_2164.JPG Sit on the floor with knees bent like in a “sit-up” position. The feet should be kept together and slightly off the floor. Keep your torso straight and your back off the ground at a 45 degree angle. Hold a medicine ball or dumbbell with both hands. Next, the arms should be swung from one side to another in a twisting motion, with each swing to a side counting as one repetition. Move slowly for a more challenging workout.

4. Knee Tucks: Some people neglect their lower abs in favor of quicker, easier exercises. The fact is that our lower abs typically need the most work, so give them the attention that they need with these Knee Tucks.

IMG_2159.JPG Start on your back, bend your knees with your feet on the floor and knees touching. Extend both arms overhead on either side of your ears, palms facing up. Exhale and bring your knees up towards your chest. Slowly lower your hips back down to start position.

5. Side Bridges: This exercise is another variation of the plank, side bridges are much more challenging that they appear at first glance. While the focus is mainly on your waist, due to the stabilizing nature of this exercise, you’re also working your entire core as a whole.

IMG_2165.JPG This vigorous variation of a standard plank kicks the core tightening up a notch. Angling your knees toward the opposite shoulder is a wonderful way increase the intensity even more.

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Headache Relief: Foods that Heal

IMG_2131.JPG If you’re like most people, then you’ve experienced a tension headache. And in today’s world filled with stress, deadlines, 24/7 exposure to technology, and more, it’s difficult to avoid headaches. In fact, tension headaches are so common that the World Health Organization (WHO) says that tension headaches are encountered by 80 percent of adults. Moreover, approximately 45 million Americans suffering from chronic ones. Now that’s a lot of headaches!

With that being said, headaches are one of the most common patient complaints I encounter on a daily basis. But when pain strikes, you’re not always able to pop a pill or turn down the lights. Fortunately, there are some foods that can help fight against headaches naturally.

For starters, you’ll want to buy and eat organic foods—so that you avoid pesticides, herbicides, GMOs and other toxins, which can only add to headache problems.

Now that we’ve established the “organic” rule, here are some kinds of foods that can help those headaches:

Magnesium-rich foods: Magnesium acts to soothe headaches because it can relax blood vessels. So, try these magnesium-rich foods before headaches strike: almonds; bananas; avocados; legumes and seeds; and spinach and brown rice, to name a few.IMG_2133.JPG
Calcium-packed foods: Interestingly, if you’re lacking in sufficient calcium, then you could encounter more headaches. The brain relies on calcium to function properly, so be sure you include some of the following foods regularly in your diet: spinach, kale, collard greens, sesame seeds, and almonds.

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Foods filled with omega-3s: Omega-3s can help quell headaches due to their ability to support healthy inflammation levels—even when the blood vessels in your head are inflamed and constrict, which adds to headache pain. Some omega-3 rich foods to enjoy include: walnuts, flaxseeds, and flaxseed oil.

Vitamin E-rich foods: Vitamin E helps to promote healthy circulation and normal blood flow, both of which are essential when it comes to relieving headaches. Include these vitamin E-rich foods in your diet: broccoli, almonds, papayas, kiwis and red bell peppers.

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Hydrating foods: Headaches often result from the body being dehydrated, so including water-packed or hydrating foods can be helpful. Some to choose from are watermelon; honeydew; cantaloupes; cucumbers; berries; coconut water; and others.

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Foods with ginger: While we’re at it, you can spice up your foods and help fight headaches by adding ginger to your fare. Considered one of the most effective forces against headaches, ginger can powerfully support healthy inflammation. Ginger tea is also a potent headache soother.

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Don’t let headaches get the best of you. Fight back with these foods!

Learn more at: mayoclinic.org

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Meatless Monday: Chickpea Tacos

These chickpea tacos are tasty and super easy to prepare! A chickpea-avocado mash is used as a filling and it is prepared and served at room temperature. (It makes a great sandwich spread as well.) Because the fat content of taco shells can vary, look for brands that contain approximately 6 grams or fewer per shell.

Ingredients:

1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced (1 teaspoon)
8 corn taco shells
2 cups baby salad greens
1 cup prepared salsa (medium or hot)
1/2 cup nondairy sour cream

Instructions:

1. Place avocado in small bowl, and mash with fork. Stir in chickpeas, cilantro, lime juice, and garlic; season with salt and pepper.

2. Set taco shells in napkin-lined basket. Place salad greens, salsa, and sour cream in separate bowls, and set out alongside chickpea-avocado mash.

3. To serve, let each person build their own taco by filling each shell with ¼ cup chickpea-avocado mash, some greens, salsa, and sour cream.

Turns out, tacos don’t have to be hot to be delicious!

Recipe from Vegetarian Times

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Meatless Monday: Biscuit Vegetable Pot Pies

Here’s an easy way to make vegetarian pot pies. Using ramekins also helps with portion control! This recipe is meatless, creamy, comforting, and sure to please.

IMG_2095.JPGBiscuit Vegetable Pot Pies
Serves: 5

Ingredients:

1/4 cup chopped yellow onion (~ 1/2 medium onion)
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 cups of low sodium vegetable broth )
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (corn, peas, carrots)
1/4 cup unsweetened plain almond milk
1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour (or sub other thickener of choice)
2 bay leaves
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
1 batch of biscuits (or substitute with pie crust, or puff pastry)

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Add 2 Tbsp olive oil to a large saucepan over medium heat, then add onion and garlic and a pinch of salt – stir. Cook until soft (about 5-7 minutes)

3. Add the flour and stir with a whisk, then slowly whisk in the broth.

4. Add almond milk, bay leaves and stir. Simmer until the mixture is thickened (about 10 minutes). If it still appears too thin, scoop out 1/2 cup of the broth and add 1-2 Tbsp more flour and whisk. Add back into the pot to thicken. Wait a few minutes, then repeat if necessary.

5. While the sauce is thickening, prepare biscuits. Cut out, leave unbaked, and set aside.

6. Once the sauce is thickened, add the frozen vegetables and cook for 4-5 more minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if needed.

7. Discard the bay leaves and divide the mixture evenly between 5-6 lightly greased ramekins. Top with biscuits and brush the tops of the biscuits with melted vegan butter. Set your ramekins on a baking sheet to catch overflow and bake until the biscuits are golden brown and the filling is bubbly (about 14-17 minutes). Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

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Recipe adapted from The Minimalist Baker

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Waist Circumference: Why is it So Important?

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The distribution of body fat plays a major roll in terms of your metabolic health. Although BMI is helpful, your Body Mass Index (BMI) says nothing about the distribution of fat in your body. It is your waist circumference which provides valuable information with regards to abdominal obesity.

A high waist circumference is associated with an increased risk for heart disease. It also increases your risk for adult onset diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure too. Waist circumference is a more accurate assessment of an individual’s risk than a body mass index (BMI).

Changes in waist circumference over time can indicate an increase or decrease in abdominal fat. Increased abdominal fat increases one’s risk for heart disease and many other ailments. It affects almost every organ system.

How do you measure your waist circumference?

Measure directly against your skin.
Breathe out normally.
Make sure the tape is snug, without compressing the skin.
Measure halfway between your lowest rib and the top of your hipbone, roughly in line with your belly button.

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What should my waist circumference be?

Your waist circumference to be half your height in inches. For example, if you are 5 feet, 10 inches tall, you are 70 inches. Your waist circumference should be 35 inches or less for optimal health. (1/2 your height in inches).

How do I decrease my waist circumference?

You can decrease your waist circumference by eating healthy, participating in aerobic exercise, and losing weight.

The first step to healthy eating is to avoid the processed foods, simple carbohydrates and simple sugars.

The best exercise to reduce waist circumference is a good aerobic workout. Examples include: fast walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, hiking, aerobic class such as kickboxing, jazzercise, etc.

Remember, your BMI should only be one of many tools in your box of health assessments. Your waist circumference is another valuable tool with regards to your overall health and wellness.

What does your waist size say about your health?

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Meatless Monday: Quinoa-Zucchini Lasagna

Substituting quinoa for meat is a great way to keep the protein, and this quinoa lasagna with zucchini “pasta” has all the same flavors of the classic casserole. It’s also easy to assemble. Give it a try!
Ingredient Spotlight: Quinoa

IMG_2022.JPGQuinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is now recognized as the world’s most nutritious grain. It has about twice the protein of other grains, fewer carbohydrates, and more healthy fats. Quinoa is also a complete protein: like meat, eggs, and dairy products, it contains all eight essential amino acids. This supergrain is gluten-free and rich in iron, calcium, potassium, and fiber.

I’m a big fan of quinoa. Quinoa’s versatility, convenience, and healthy qualities make it the perfect ingredient for a tasty vegetarian meal. Swap this protein-packed grain for others to get a balanced meat-free meal and heart-healthy antioxidants. For a great meatless dish, try this healthy and delicious Quinoa Zucchini Lasagna.

Quinoa-Zucchini Lasagna
Vegan, gluten-free
Servings: 6

Ingredients:
2 large zucchini, cut lengthwise into 12 ¼-inch-thick slices
1 tsp. salt
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
½ cup tomato sauce
¼ cup finely chopped onion
1 tsp. dried oregano
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
¼ cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
2 Tbs. non-dairy cream cheese (optional)
1 25-oz. jar marinara sauce
½ cup shredded non-dairy cheese, such as Daiya Mozzarella (optional)

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Place zucchini slices on bed of paper towels. Sprinkle with salt, cover with paper towels, and let stand to release moisture while preparing quinoa.

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2. Bring broth, quinoa, tomato sauce, onion, and oregano to a boil in saucepan. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 25 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, and stir in basil, parsley, and cream cheese, if using.

3. Spoon 1/3 cup marinara sauce over bottom of 8-inch square baking dish. Blot remaining moisture and salt from zucchini slices, and lay 4 zucchini slices over marinara sauce in pan. Spoon half of quinoa over zucchini, and cover with 1/3 cup marinara. Repeat with 4 more zucchini slices, remaining quinoa, and 1/3 cup marinara. Top with remaining 4 zucchini slices, remaining marinara, and shredded cheese, if using.

4. Bake lasagna 30 minutes, or until zucchini is tender and top is bubbly.

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Recipe from Vegetarian Times