Me and Coffee: Is it really over??

Sometimes when I’m cold and lonely I still long for it…….

It’s been over 4 weeks with no coffee.

Instead I have been drinking a lot of herbal tea and warm lemon water in the mornings. The warm lemon water goes down first on an empty stomach to help clear out my lymphatic system. Then either a green smoothie and/or some tea. I’ve taken a fancy to Yerba Mate which is a natural energizer from South America and although it contains some caffeine, it is less acidic than coffee and does not leave me jittery or nervous.

So how do I feel? I feel amazing. My sleep is 99% better, no more waking up at night. My energy levels have evened out and feel more natural. My digestive system is calmer. My moods and attitude are calmer and more balanced. And this all from just giving up ONE cup of coffee.  But I am not anti-coffee for everyone.

Believe it or not, there are some positive things about coffee:

It creates alertness, an improved sense of concentration,  and reduces muscle pain as it may stimulate certain hormones. It also supplies antioxidants.

The downside: It’s hard on your blood pressure/cardiovascular system and digestive system. It can cause stress, emotional disturbances, both male and female problems , premature aging, nutritional deficiencies and adrenal exhaustion. And it’s addictive so it can be a HUGE pain when you run out unexpectedly.

I have nothing against coffee. I think everyone is different and if it treats you right stay with it. If you are having issues though you may want to consider cutting back.  The side-effects of stopping will subside in a matter of days.  The biggest lesson for me has been this:  It’s perfectly OK to feel slow and easy in the mornings, that is our natural state. Enjoy waking up and allowing the day to unfold rather than jolting your body into a false sense of high alert.

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Holiday Wild Rice

Growing up in Minnesota, wild rice was a treat at our house during the holidays. An expensive and “exotic” food purchased locally, it was only brought out during Thanksgiving and Christmas. I think my dad and I were the only ones who loved it and could eat it cold while standing in front of the fridge. It’s now available in every grocery store in many different brands.

Wild Rice is actually a grass that is grown in northern minnesota  and Canada and has been a longtime staple of the Native American diet and culture.  When I cook it now, it immediately brings back memories of my childhood, winter, snow and family.

My dad used to soak it overnight before cooking, but I just bring it to boil and let simmer while covered for about 40 minutes or until the rice opens to a soft grey color.

I add chopped celery, onions and garlic to a baking dish- or you could saute them in oil/butter first.

I stir in the rice  and add some grated sharp cheddar- not much,  just for flavor and chicken broth to moisten. I am a big fan of the nutty, earthy taste of the rice and I never want to mask it’s flavor with a lot of seasoning or, God forbid, a can of soup.

I sprinkled cashews on top and baked on low for about 30 minutes covered.  I admit I added a dash of tamari and it was a mistake- it turned the mushrooms almost black and added an extra unnecessary flavor. Keeping it simple and learning to enjoy the true taste of real foods is so much more rewarding than complicated recipes. 

Other add in ideas could be: dried fruit, cranberries, chopped apples and walnuts.  Just please no soup.

Bok Choy and Friends

Today was the last day of the neighborhood farmers market until next spring. I love walking there with my dog every week and picking out fresh local seasonal produce and cooking it that night. I will miss it all winter and so will she……

Today I bought Bok Choy, Kale and some broccoli florets. My friend Heather inspired me to try an asian flavored stir-fry with the bok choy and I was so excited with my other produce I kept adding more to the pan.

I started with red onion and garlic cooked on high heat in coconut oil. Coconut oil gives everything a subtle sweet flavor that really sticks to the food.

I chopped the bok choy all the way down the stem using the leaves and the white stalk.

I let this cook and made a sauce with apple juice, tamari, fresh lemon juice, agave, ginger and red pepper flakes.

I added the dark leafy kale and some broccoli and poured the sauce over the greens.

They all went really well with the sauce.

In another skillet I seared some tempeh in sesame oil and topped with tahini. Because I can’t say No to tahini if it’s around.

For one second I was disappointed I didn’t have brown rice ready but it turns out the greens medley topped with tempeh was enough.

Next time I will skip the tahini and just use my sweet asian sauce. There was enough left over that could be poured over the tempeh.  Until next spring I will drive to the larger farmers market downtown. Different vendors, but good stuff all winter.

Chili with Polenta

Chili is like the high school boyfriend that you see after 20 years. He might look different and wear expensive suits and be married and have a successful career, but deep inside is that endearingly awkward dufus who said he loved you in 10th grade. You can dress it up all you want, but chili should be red and taste like chili. Not white or green or sweet or chilled. Chili has taken on so many characteristics and variations that sometimes it barely resembles Chili.

I like to keep it fairly simple and healthy

I start with soaking and boiling red beans. I don’t like the texture or taste of canned beans. I use ground turkey but it can be made with beef or meatless. Which, by the way, if you are in texas and ask for meatless chili they will ask you to please the state. I know this because I lived there and tried it.

After browning the turkey meat, I simmer garlic and onion until soft. I add 1 large can of crushed tomatoes, 1 large can of tomato sauce and freshly chopped tomatoes.

I add in the red beans and liberal amounts of chili powder, cumin,  black pepper , red pepper flakes and a slight dash of cinnamon.

I tossed in a bag of frozen black beans and the remains of a jar of salsa from the fridge.

I let cook on low for about 3 hours.

I served over polenta and topped with plain greek yogurt

Simple, Hearty, Uncomplicated, and Satisfying. Why didn’t I marry that guy from 10th grade?

Easy Sauteed Kale

I used to be intimidated by kale and how to prepare it but now I realize it is the most cooperative vegetable ever! There is no rind, peel or shell. There are no strings, roots or eyes. There is virtually no maintenance other than stripping the big leaves off the sturdy stem. Kale is like the perfect relationship-uncomplicated and drama free. It simply wants to please you, make your life easy and provide you with more calcium than milk.

I bought this huge bunch of organic kale at my neighborhood farmers market. It literally couldn’t fit into a bag to carry it home and this excited me.

After rinsing well, I let it drip dry as it took over my kitchen counter.

I sauteed red onion in coconut oil until soft and then tore up the kale and put in pan, stirring to coat with the coconut oil.

Sprinkle with red pepper flakes, white wine vinegar and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Done!

The best advice for cooking fresh kale is keep it simple.  The leaves cook down tenderly and soak up the flavor of the vinegar and coconut flavor perfectly. The red pepper flakes and lemon juice highlight the texture of the leaves.

This recipe can also be used with chard, collards, or spinach. I also use kale in my smoothies and salads. I encourage you to try this amazing nutrient dense leafy green vegetable if you haven’t tried it yet.

Green Morning Juice

It’s been 3 weeks since I’ve quit my cup of morning coffee. I’ve found what I miss the most is the ritual of preparing the coffee. The smell of the grounds, the sound of the coffee pot brewing, setting out my cup, pouring almond milk into it, etc. All of these signaled my brain to begin the day and to Wake Up!

I’ve started a new ritual  now that keeps my hands and head focused while I am coming out of my sleep state and preparing for morning meditation by making a veggie/fruit smoothie.  I always drink the smoothie first thing to get nutrients into my system after many hours with no food. This kicks my metabolism into gear and gets my digestive up and ready for the day.  I used to throw hot acidic coffee into my empty stomach and not eat for an hour or two and I wondered why my stomach, nervous system and energy levels were so out of whack.

I start with unfiltered apple juice as the base for kale and spinach leaves. I’ll then throw in a sliced apple, some berries, a banana, a little honey and maybe some yogurt. It really depends what mood I’m in.

My “Pre-Breakfast” meal

Some mornings I want it simple and clear,

I use a blender to keep the fiber of the pulp that a juicer removes.

others I want it with a little frothiness and pulp.

Lots of blueberries in this one

I’ve found my entire body responds well to drinking my food first thing upon waking. I get an immediate burst of natural energy without the caffeine jitters. My stomach feels better too without the acidity of the coffee.

You will get used to the interesting green colors

Store bought juices have a high sugar content, I prefer to make my own and it’s also much fresher. I know exactly what is going into them too.

A glass of greens provides more calcium than a glass of milk

Read more about juicing in a blender here. How we begin our day sets the tone for the rest of it. If we start with healthy nourishment, both physically and mentally, then we can continue our day around those intentions.

What is your morning ritual?

Slow Cooked Black Beans

I like to keep cooked black beans in my freezer at all times. Not because I am preparing for armageddon, but because they are a cheap, easy, versatile source of protein. And they freeze really well. I cook them in big batches and then divide them up into single servings for convenience. I started with approximately $2.00 worth of dried black beans (aka turtle beans) and various ingredients from my cabinet.

Soak beans overnight in water

You can chop fresh garlic or use dried. I felt lazy that day.

I put beans in slowcooker and barely covered with water, garlic and a bit of chicken stock.

I love how purple they get

Add in cumin, chili powder, red pepper and salsa

upside down yellow heart?

I let this all cook for 8 hours on low

If you’d like the beans to become more of a soup, add more liquid and puree cooked beans in blender- easy black bean soup!

I served mine over short grain brown rice with fresh toppings.

That’s greek yogurt, not sour cream

I use individual plastic baggies to freeze them in for easy storage.

Ready for fast meals!

So I got about 6+ meals out of my $2.00 worth of beans and a small amount of seasonings. It is a protein bargain! I use black beans in: wraps, over rice, in soups, or with scrambled eggs.

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