All hail the mighty pecan nut

pecans

Aaaaah, pecans!

These soft, buttery and nutty little packages of healthy nutrients have become my top favorite nut. It’s hard to believe that three years ago, I would have made a face at any nut on the planet. That’s what finding out what’s healthy does for you – you try new things and find out they’re not so bad!

These lovely nuts are native to North America, specifically around the Mississippi Valley. Archaeologists have found fossil evidence that pecans made up a good part of the diets of the native peoples here, though, in the northern areas of Mexico and Texas, which is believed to be the true “birthplace” of this popular nut.

Like any nut, the bulk of its taste stems from its fat content (110 percent of your daily fat value in a cup of pecans). But don’t run away screaming just yet. Nuts and seeds are predominantly monounsaturated (heart-healthy!) fats. While it’s still good to keep an eye on your fat intake, you can rest easy that a pecan will only improve your LDL(bad, or “lousy”) blood lipid levels.

Although its high fat/calorie count can make one a little hesitant, a pecan nut encases a cornucopia of vitamins and minerals, too!

A quarter cup of pecans contains 2.6 grams of protein, 3.93 grams of carbs, and 2.72 grams of fiber. It is also jam-packed with sterols, known for lowering cholesterol.

Pecans also provide a fantastic supply of B vitamins. In one ounce (19 halves), you get:

  • 17 percent of your RDI for vitamin B1
  • 6 percent of your RDI for vitamin B3
  • 5 percent of your RDI for vitamin B6
  • 5 percent of your RDI for vitamin B5

And pecans are little mineral powerhouses. One ounce contains:

  • 71 percent RDI of manganese
  • 38 percent RDI of copper
  • 19 percent RDI of molybdenum
  • 16 percent RDI for zinc
  • 11 percent RDI of magnesium
  • 4 percent RDI for iron
  • 3 percent RDI for potassium and selenium
  • 2 percent RDI for calcium

And of course, no healthy food would be worth its salt without sufficient antioxidants (vitamin E, betacarotenes (vitamin A), lutein, and zeaxanthin, ellagic acid) to help stave off cancer cell growth and the reign of free radicals, as well as fights infection and other diseases.

Bet you’re really looking forward to your next handful of pecans! Need some ideas on how to include more pecans into your diet? Here are a boatload of pecan recipes for you to enjoy.

Happy Pecan Day!

Advertisements

Why your home is probably contaminated

skullAccording to healthychildren.org, did you know that every year over half of the 2.4 million people who either swallow or come into contact with poisons are under the age of six years of age?

And it’s no wonder. Look in your kitchen or bathroom cupboards. Really look. What do you see? If you’re like most Americans, you see a whole lot of skulls and crossbones.

Our homes, believe it or not, have a higher air contamination and poorer quality than some smoggy cities. And it’s all due to what we use inside of it. And the worst part is that because our homes are not open to the elements, that “stuff” just never goes away.

My partner and I have been slowly but surely shedding the toxic materials we come into contact with in daily our lives. We started with clean food and organic gardening. Next, we started to really pay attention to our environment. And this past weekend, we decided to “clean house.” Literally.

I’ve been cleaning bathrooms and kitchen counters with simple ingredients for over a year. It’s pretty simple – any surface just needs any one or more of the following: Vinegar, Castile soap, baking soda, and an essential oil. Personally, I use:

Bathrooms20140303_191329

  • White Vinegar
  • Baking Soda
  • Lemon or Tea Tree Essential Oil
  • Salt for the really encrusted areas

Kitchen surfaces

  • White Vinegar & Castile Soap in a spray bottle
  • Lemon or Tea Tree Essential Oil
  • Salt for the really encrusted surfaces or pots/pans

But there were still so many bottles of leftover cleaning chemicals that I just didn’t know what to do with since I’ve made the change. They stayed in cupboards and on shelves, collecting dust. When we picked up a book on natural cleaning recipes recently and discovered that we had all of the ingredients we needed to go cold turkey natural, we finally made a pact to thin out our supplies.

When we began rooting through under our sinks and in the cupboards, we were both pretty amazed.

“Look at all of these different cleaners!” my partner exclaimed. There was a separate product for each application: Floor washing, toilet cleaning, tub scrubbing, … you name it, we had a bottle for it. And then we looked at our new cleaning armory – we had five items. That’s it. Five universal cleaners. How on earth did we get to this point, we asked ourselves, that we felt that we needed such a ridiculous amount of toxic products in our homes?

Because which cleaning stash would you rather have your child accidentally get a mouthful of? One could kill your child – the other, “at worst, would give them a tummy ache for a day,” my partner joked.

_MG_3161

IMG_3154

But what contaminates your home may not always be what you expect, either.

For example up until a year ago, I had a slight obsession with scented candles and oils. They were everywhere. I always loved going to certain scented oilspeople’s houses, because the moment you walked in you were enveloped with gorgeous smells that said “You’ve come home.” I’ve tried and tried, but I didn’t burn enough candles to keep that amazing scent of apple pie or vanilla ice cream circulating my home.

But then I began to read what really was in those things – just terrible chemicals that smelled good, but were ultimately toxic. Anything that has an artificial scent like Glade air fresheners or plug-ins, or scented candles just contaminates your home with nasty chemical compounds that have been linked to asthma, allergies, and even cancer.

Needless to say, I don’t burn candles anymore. More natural alternatives I have adopted are:

  • Burning sage/”smudging”
  • Incense sticks or cones ( composed of an herb, a resin and a wood, but some have pros and cons)
  • Essential Oil Misting or Burning

I also have began filling my home with plants. Not only does it add life and color to your home, but they do a lot of air filtering for you!

Still feel like your home is your nice, clean castle that’s safe for you and your family?

Bacteria & Food: Is 5-second rule mankind’s undoing?

After reading this article, Scientists Study What to Do If You Drop a Cookie on the Floor, I began to think about mankind’s dilemma of “eat it or not eat it” after dropping prized, delectable morsels.

After reading this article, Scientists Study What to Do If You Drop a Cookie on the Floor, I began to think about mankind’s dilemma of “to eat or not to eat” after gravity takes hold of a prized, delectable morsel.

We’re surrounded by germs. It’s just a fact of life.

They live in our bed sheets. In our carpets. Our clothes. Our pets’ fur. Even on our skin (bet you can’t wait to go home and take a shower now, huh?). Anything warm and wet like a human body is a perfect breeding ground and Petrie dish for spreading germs and bacteria.

So why has the “five-second rule” been such a long-contested, shamed theory in eating habits? Animals eat off of the ground all of their lives, and they’re doing pretty good.

While yes, I admit that the many classes I’ve taken toting the dangers of bacterial growth in large scale cooking have dropped bananaa point, in my experience cooking for one or even two rarely results in food poisoning. In the end, I guess I have never been much of a germ-a-phobe when it came to cooking for myself, either.

Personally, I feel that the “five-second rule” is perfectly viable, and is primarily intuitive for three reasons:

  • We all know our environments. Are we more apt to pick up food that fell on our own floors than we would in a strange place such as a restaurant or out on a sidewalk? Most likely. Because we know how well or how often we clean floors, and what might actually come in contact with our own floors or other surfaces. We feel comfortable with that. Those other places, not so much. We’re most likely, then, to be at less risk in our own homes than anywhere else should we apply the five-second rule when no one’s looking. Unless you live in my house where you know that no matter how often you sweep or vacuum, hair off one of my three cats will be waiting in that exact spot and stick to fallen food better than breadcrumbs. It’s my cross to bear.
  • Bacteria needs water, warmth, and time to grow. If food has been sitting out for three or four hours on a summer day open to all sorts of elements, that’s just asking for trouble. But the amount that might possibly be on the floor I doubt is significant enough to worry about in the time frame it takes to go through our digestive system. I feel that’s true especially if we have a healthy immune system and gut to knock it out.
  • Which begs the question: How healthy or stressed is your gut and immune system? Is your body prepared to fight off even the smallest amount of bacteria? The risk in developing bacterial infections may be a little higher for children and the elderly for natural physical reasons. But for many adults, we should be plenty able to handle the germs in our environment. After all, evolution has created every possible line of defense to protect us against such things, from skin to our mucous membranes, to the hydrochloric acid in our stomachs. But modern American lifestyles may be compromising and suppressing many of our defenses. And that can put us at a bigger risk. So, how healthy do you feel? Willing to chance eating that fallen meatball?

To learn more information on gut health or stressed and suppressed immune function, and how to manage your lifestyle and dietary habits efficiently and effectively to maintain optimum wellness, contact me for a consultation. The “five-second rule” should not be one of the biggest contenders in disrupting your health.

Consultation Inquiry Form

When a recovering journalist/writer turned nutritionist goes book shopping

_MG_3147
“The Hungry Ear,” Poems of Food & Drink was my most recent book purchase. It’s probably my favorite book purchase ever.

Last week my partner and I had discovered a new used bookstore locally, and found ourselves in a toyland. We’re obsessed with anything that has pages sandwiched between two decorative flaps.

It’s the same every time: My partner immediately finds himself tugged toward the art or graphic novel section, and I toward the self-help, crafts or health areas. We’re pretty predictable, especially when we drop by the same Barnes & Noble each week. We know the layout of our world, and the countries (topics) to which we like to travel to, and wander off to our preferred fairylands to escape for a little while.

But expanding our horizon for the first time in a few months made us realize how sheltered we’d been, going to the same Barnes & Noble every few weeks, and just how limited their selection was (and how slowly they actually move their merchandise).

We weren’t sure where to start! And everything sounded interesting. For the first time in almost a year, I found stacks of books I wanted to bring home. I picked up sundry books and then put them down again that afternoon, trying to decide. My interests vary incredibly, and so did this store’s book collection. It was a match made in heaven. I approached some fiction, but I was drawn predominantly to reference, as usual. Crochet. Photography. Women in farming (yes, I even considered picking up that one).

But I then discovered the back of the store. I wandered over to a three-step staircase that led to a small dais area. It was a much larger poetry section than I’d seen in a long time. And, believe it or not, since I have on my vision board to “read more poetry,” I approached with intention rather than simply browsing.

A cursory glance through the rows of bindings like multicolored piano keys brought this title to my attention: “The Hungry Ear,” Poems of Food & Drink.

I read only one poem – and I was sold. I told my partner I could not be without it. I envisioned my book shelf at home, all jumbled, a tumble of topics and books thick and small: Nutrition and health book titles; textbooks; cookbooks; how-to healing books; gardening and seed saving; dictionaries (yes, that is plural); books on herbs and essential oils; grammar and editing; mythology; creative nonfiction, fiction, and screenwriting tutorials…

And then I imagined it with this one lone book of poetry about food.  I giggled with contentment. It was the perfect way to marry both of my worlds, past and future.

Reading other people’s passions about food made me want to start writing poetry again. And to re-experience cooking and eating from a different place. To analyze food sensations, and see what connections I make. Scientifically, they say that taste and smell are what we most associate with memories of places, people, moments in time. It’s not surprising, then, that so many people write about life in relation to food. It’s related to culture, family events, pleasure, and love. For me, food and expressing love for friends and family is nearly indistinguishable, as I had once blogged.

There may be plenty of muses and inspirational topics out there for art; but besides love and family, it seems like food tops the lot.

So, keep inspired everyone! And may your food taste like good poetry.

Going unplugged

On this day, National Day of Unplugging, the irony is not lost on me that I post this blog on a day that if you were truly observing this much-needed holiday, you would not be reading it.

So, shame on you. You disgrace yourself and this holiday with your device tethered to you like an electronic leash.

I heard that. Pot. Black.

Okay, I admit it.  I find it hard to unplug all the way, too. It’s a more difficult habit to break than most vices I’ve had in the past.

But believe it or not, I’ve been unplugged for a week (and counting!). I cut that cord – or at least one of them. It was last Sunday that I ditched a longtime plug-in. My addiction of choice (besides social media and email)?

Netflix.

For a girl living on her own, having TV and cable just seemed like an added expense one didn’t need when you have a very inexpensive service like Netflix online streaming. There, you have every movie and show at your fingertips at the precise moment you wanted it. Without commercials. Talk about instant gratification. And being a longtime movie connoisseur, it sounded like heaven.

But over the last year or so, I began to find that even after a long, hard day at work staring at a computer screen all portrait men in office isolated on white backgroundday, the first thing I did when I got home was grab some food and “zone out” in front of the computer. My eyes were tired from the positive ion shower I got from the computer screen and fluorescent office lights, and needed some down time. But sitting down in front of yet another computer only sapped me more. I found myself sitting there for a couple of hours each night, eating away (literally) valuable time I needed for other responsibilities, just because I wasn’t feeling as rested as I hoped to forge on. The more I tried to rest, the less rested I felt. It was a never-ending struggle.

I was addicted. And I knew it. Sad part was, I didn’t even enjoy it anymore. Every show I watched was so false and formulaic. Every story arc was fabricated and unrealistic. And there was an endless line of shows and movies where that came from. Still, that blue light held me mesmerized. I couldn’t look away.

After a couple of weeks of really beginning to hate my heaven, I knew something had to be done about it. But what? I’d tried to ignore netflix.com before, but somehow, I still made excuses and found myself right back there at night. And my meal portion sizes became just a little bigger, to help keep me occupied while the images raged on. Distracted eating is one of my pet peeves – and here I was object of my own concern. And if I decided to watch just one more episode of The Borgias or House Of Cards, I would actually get up to rustle up some more grub to carry me through the first 10 minutes.

It was ghastly.

And then my partner put it in the simplest terms, as he is so good at doing: “Why don’t you just cancel your Netflix service?”

“Well, I thi-” Wait, what?

And like that, I felt as if a curse had been lifted. Duh, why didn’t I think of that?? I actually couldn’t wait to log on and cancel the streaming. And it was meant to be, obviously, because my service was to end at the end of the payment period. And the date of my payment period was the very day I clicked “cancel.”

Ever since then, I feel like I’ve been let out of jail! I’ve gotten my nights back. I get things accomplished. I actually sleep better at night and wake up on time every morning. I have more energy when I go out to exercise after work. And I no longer feel like a ghost in my own home who before she knows it, it’s bedtime, and wonders where all of her time went.

If any of this sounds familiar – whether you are a career person who can’t let an email notification go without checking, or a young lady who spends the majority of her day on Facebook playing Candy Crush internet no sleep(even while driving!), or people think you live in Farmville – you need to unplug. Internet and device addiction is a very real thing, and many of us don’t give ourselves the downtime to rediscover what life is like outside the electronic bubble.

While not everyone can go cold turkey like I have, even small increments of downtime can make a difference. Try putting your drug of choice on hold during dinner, or off limits after 8 p.m. so that screen light doesn’t disrupt your sleeping pattern. Hey, here’s a challenge: Shut your computer or phone of for an entire weekend.

Imagine the possibilities.

Desert gardening: Miracles do happen!

_MG_3138

As I had mentioned in an earlier post, my partner and I have taken to gardening out here in Arizona. It took eight days and a night for these little beauties to emerge. *chokes back verklempt sigh of pride.*  They began reaching for the sky right after a substantial rainfall this past weekend, that is actually our first for 2014. So far, according to our garden map, we’ve got spinach, thyme, and rosemary racing out of the growing gate this spring.

I’m not surprised at their appearance, though; it’s just the keeping them alive and happy that has been a challenge in my experience.

Although the weather is beautiful and springlike in the desert, our concern lies in the hotter, summer scorching days to come. Currently, we are hand watering by hose (and rain!). But during the triple-digit temperature days, it is almost impossible to go without irrigation, which we’ve yet to set up. But what we have done to help combat the coming sunny onslaught is:

A) Set up the boxes where the sun only passes over it in the morning and early afternoon. Since that side of the yard is always so choked with weeds, we decided to listen to the plants. They tell us it’s a good place.

B) We have bought some thick sun screening that we can drape over the plants beds, which cut down the sun’s intensity by 30-40 percent, and a few degrees. It’s amazing what that little relief can do for any living thing out here.

C) We plan to water only at night. It’s basically useless to do it during the day, because it would evaporate too quickly for the dirt to get a good soak. Plus any watering when the sun is out could burn leaves, and hurt the plant.

And that’s our plan! Keep posted, as we learn together what works – and what doesn’t.

Impromptu hummus recipe

When you eat as much hummus as we do in our house, the concept of making our own began to look more and more attractive to me. We use hummus on our tortilla wraps, as a dip for veggies, and even whip it in with a little salad dressing for some added protein.

It was last week on our most recent food shopping excursion that I let my partner know that I was finally going to make some, “So go get the chickpeas.” He shrugged in mild acceptance, and wandered off to find out what on earth a chickpea was. But I knew he was happily anticipating the results of my newest culinary adventure. And I was greatly intrigued to see if my skills could create a concoction worthy of the name “hummus.”

We then searched the store high and low for our ingredients, including the very elusive tahini sauce. It was a hunt, but our efforts did not wither in vain. It found its way into our carriage and we happily skipped back home. While in my research I have not been able to ascertain why tahini is such a vital ingredient in hummus, I did discover that you can often substitute it with peanut butter. Not the processed stuff like Skippy, but the real stuff that is riddled with peanut oil, and therefore a tad bit soupy. The two, tahini and peanut butter, have much the same consistency.

_MG_2807

My first step was to soak the chickpeas overnight. The next morning, I washed them off and I threw them in the slow cooker on low for eight hours, covered in water, while I was at work. When I got home, they were the PERFECT texture for blending.

Then came the creative part. Rummaging through my fridge and spice cabinet, I came up with the remaining ingredients. Now those who know me, have heard me say over and over again – cooking is alchemy! Not a science. Science is very exacting, measured, tested and tested again. But me, I sprinkle spices and ingredients like a fairy sprinkles fairy dust – indiscriminately. And besides, we all have so many wide ranges of tastes, that one recipe may be great as written for some, but others like less garlic or more lemon juice…

So when I give you this recipe, it’s as close as I can estimate what originally went into the food processor – and the rest, I leave up to your judgment.

_MG_2814

1   Cup dried chickpeas/garbanzo beans

3   Cups water

3   Cloves of garlic (or season to taste)

1   Cup of fresh cilantro

1/4  Cup tahini

1/2 Teaspoon salt

1   Lemon, juiced

Olive oil (Drizzle)

Dried crushed chilies (season to taste)

1/2  Cup water

Take the ingredients above, put them all into a food processor along with a half a cup of water, and blend until smooth. Drizzle more olive oil, lemon and seasonings to taste, if you so choose.

And that’s my impromptu recipe. It came out nicely after refrigerating it overnight. I will certainly be trying it again.

Hummus is a very healthy. It is a fantastic source of protein for all of you vegetarians, and the healthy fats in the tahini and olive oil are great for regulating cholesterol in your blood. Garlic has always been known as an amazing food medicine, helping with immune system support and is an anti-fungal. Lemon juice is chuck full of great antioxidants and vitamins that help prevent cancer.

Overall, hummus provides iron, vitamin B6, manganese, copper, folic acid, and amino acids such as tryptophan, phenylalanine, and tyrosine that help with sleep cycles and mood elevation.

Add to that all those awesome fresh vegetables, and you are golden.

So dear reader, go forth, cook, and be vibrant!

Hummus