Food for Fuel

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photo source: Internet

Why do you eat? Why do you eat what you eat? Do you have a thought process before eating certain foods? Do you feel like your relationship with food could improve?

Food is essential for life. Without food or some form of it, we would not be able to live. Yet in these modern times, food is the cause of so much illness, poor health, sometimes even death. Why is that? Why is it that something that is designed to keep us alive, kills so many?

I think the reason why is because too many have lost contact with food’s primary purpose: FUEL. Then, nutrition.

Food is fuel for our bodies. Just like we need to put gas in our cars regularly, we need to put food in our bodies regularly. The highest quality gas will allow your car to run optimally. The right amount of radiator fluid and good oil, have the same purpose: to help your car to function properly. Too much or too little of these things will make it that your car will either overflow and not know what to do with all the extra liquid, or won’t be able to get you to where you want to go because of insufficient energy. While our bodies are much more amazing and intricate and complicated than a car, the basics are very similar. We need the proper kind of fuel to move optimally. The wrong kind of gas will break your car just like the wrong foods can create illness and poor health. Treat your body as you would your car, fill the tank with the right kind of fuel when it is empty, stop filling when it is full, give it the right kind of oil and at the right time.

Isn’t that great news? I think it is, because it really is THAT simple.

Too many people have lost touch with the simplicity of feeding one’s body and that is where eating disorders, obesity, poor health, etc…. arises. I don’t believe many foods to be truly evil. As a matter of fact, other than being a strict vegetarian, there is nothing I absolutely won’t eat. (Don’t quote me on this I might change my mind later). What I do believe in though, is eating the right foods at the right time. How do you do that? Well just think about what you are trying to accomplish. If all you are interested in is the pleasure of awakening your senses with delicious foods, then by all means, go for it, because, let’s not be hypocrites here, eating food for pleasure can be quite delightful. (Have you seen some of the recipes on my blog??) Even then though, I would suggest to be mindful about this. Do you eat for pleasure every time you eat? If that’s the case, I would suggest you make sure that what you find pleasurable also has a double purpose of properly fueling your body with nutritious ingredients. If it doesn’t, then maybe it’s time to revisit your relationship with food. If you are interested in being healthy and having your body work properly, then I suggest you start thinking about your meals and what you are going to be eating according to what your activities following that meal are. Are you going to be exercising? Are you going to be sitting at your desk for several hours? Are you going out dancing? Are you going to the park to play with your kids? Are you sitting on the couch watching a movie? Depending on what you will be doing, your body will require different forms of fuel. The foods I choose before an afternoon at the park running around, often are different than the foods I choose once the kids are in bed and I am reading a book or watching a movie. With this mindset I rarely feel deprived. If I MUST have a cupcake or ice cream or pizza or croissant, or which ever other foods that are not optimal for my body’s wellbeing, then at least I can make sure to eat those things at a time where my body can use those foods as energy instead of storing them as fat.

Subsequently, choosing the proper nutrition for your fuel will have an even greater positive impact on your health. I mentioned pizza, cupcake and such, and while I believe it is fine to let myself eat those things at times, it is rarely what I will choose to FUEL or FEED my body with when I have health in mind. Using the proper fuel will ensure optimal body function. While eating pizza at lunch when I will be going for a run later is much better than pizza at dinner when I will just be sitting and watching a movie, no pizza is best. So do not let yourself get trapped in the “FUEL” mindset, meaning you are using the fact that you will be using what you just ate as fuel for exercise as a reason to feed your body junk regularly. Combining proper fuel with proper nutrition is where it’s at if you are looking for optimal health. While a cookie might be lower in calories than some dried fruit and nuts, the benefits you will get from the latter outweigh the benefits you would be getting from a cookie. Wether you are burning off the calories or not.

I believe that the quality of your calories are far more important than the quantity of those calories, I will also argue that at which time you choose to consume those calories are almost equally as important than the calories you are choosing to consume.

It might take some practice at first but eventually this will be second nature. Reaching for a cookie at bedtime, or going to the gym on an empty stomach won’t make any sense to you. Having a big carb loaded lunch will sound awful if you know you are returning to the office to sit at your desk for several hours. By thinking of food this way you are bringing back your intuition to what feels best. Because in the end, isn’t that what we all want? To feel good? And I can guarantee you that the momentary “good” feeling you get from eating a “treat” is nothing compared the long lasting bliss that comes with eating a clean, nutrient rich diet.

So next time you reach for something to eat, ask yourself, “What am I trying to accomplish for my body with this food?”

Blueberry Corn Oatmeal Bites

While snuggling in bed this morning, the kids were putting in their breakfast requests. My daughter said she wanted corn muffins. I responded I don’t have corn flour. She says: “But we have the frozen corn! My son:”I don’t want corn muffins Tika! I want oatmeal wif boobewies!” In order to make them  both happy, we came up with these as a solution. They were so easy to make, my daughter did most of the work. As they were baking i thought “Great, here’s school snack for the next few days!”.

Well as I’m typing this, there are barely a quarter of them left. I doubt there will be any left by the end of the morning. I guess the kids love them!!

You can get as creative as you want with the flavors here. Raisins? Cranberries? Shredded coconut? The possibilities are endless. And these are super quick to make I actually could make these before school one morning.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups small oats
  • 1 large ripe banana
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn

I would have added 2 TBS of honey but we are out. The kids don’t seem to mind but if you are used to having a sweetener breakfast, i would suggest you add a couple TBS of sweetener as these are just slightly sweet.

Steps:

  • preheat oven to 350*F
  • put all ingredients but frozen fruit in a bowl and have your kids mash it all together with their hands!
  • add the frozen fruit and continue mashing until well combined
  • grease mini muffin tins with coconut oil
  • fill them up pressing them down so they keep there shape
  • bake for 10 minutes
  • cool and enjoy!

Creamy Sesame Peanut Sauce

Thick and creamy this sauce can go well with most dishes and is so quick to make. I poured mine over zucchini noodles while the kids had theirs over somen noodles and veggies.

We eat pretty simply most of the time. Where I put most of my energy into is making delicious nutritious sweet treats and raw foods. But as far as meals go, I keep it pretty simple. That’s where sauces come in handy. The right sauce can enhance the simplest of vegetable medley and make it exciting.

My daughter really wanted noodles from the asian market by our house so I decided to spruce up the meal with this tasty simple sauce.

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Ingredients:

  • 14 oz organic soft tofu
  • 1/4 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 2 TBS soy sauce
  • 1 TBS grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup water or more for a thinner sauce

Steps:

  • Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth
  • taste and adjust flavors accordingly

If i weren’t sharing this with the kids I probably wold have added some chili flakes to add some spice to it

Home made Chocolate Chunks (or chips)

I like to use chocolate in a lot of things. And although I do buy dark chocolate chips, sometimes grain sweetened chocolate chips, for baking, I prefer to use my own if I have some. I try to keep some of my home made stuff handy for ice creams, raw desserts, granola bars, smoothies, etc… I like doing this, not only because it is cheaper, but also because it is refined sugar free and I can choose how dark or fruity or nutty, i want the chocolate to be. Here is a very simple recipe that I tweak every now and then depending on what I am going for. IMG_2383

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz or 85 gr of raw cacao butter
  • 2 1/2 oz or 70 gr of raw cacao powder
  • 2 1/2 TBS agave nectar

Steps:

  • In a double boiler melt the cacao butter
  • turn off the heat and add the cacao powder and agave and whisk well
  • pour in a shallow dish with some parchment paper and set in the freezer for about20-30 minutes
  • pull out and cut into desired pieces
  • store in a container in the fridge until ready to use
  • easy right?!

Pre-Party Smoothie

We had two birthday parties to go to yesterday. Which means there would be a lot of unwholesome eating in one day. I try not to be too strict with my kids with that stuff. I don’t want them to form a negative relationship with food because “mom never let us eat “junk””. At home I feed my family what I believe to be the highest quality foods and nutrient dense meals, and when we are out, while I still try and make sure they don’t spend the whole time gorging themselves with sweets, I let them eat what is offered.

I do put a limit on things such as “You either get a piece of cake OR a cupcake. You get the juice box OR the ice cream”. They are still just children and need a little bit of guidance, no? For the most part they are on board with this. And if I do catch my 6 year old daughter sneaking an extra piece of cake, or juice box or cookie (or anything else, because this happens, often) I try not to make her feel bad about it. I use this as an opportunity to check in with her and ask her how it makes her body feel, or if it makes her happy to eat sweets, or any other question that comes up that will allow me to have her be in touch with a deeper part of herself versus just the immediate palate satisfaction. While eating just for pleasure is fine sometimes, when it happens too often, it is not just for pleasure anymore. If it were up to my daughter, she would have it all, 3 times. My son can easily have his piece of cake and go right back to playing. The baby, well since he is only 15 months, has not really been exposed to sugar yet. Holding off as long as I can on this one. With two older siblings its just a matter of time.

So while I want my kids to be exposed to other peoples way of eating so they can make their opinions about food, their health is still very important to me. That is why I make them a Pre-Party Smoothie before we leave the house. The Pre-Party Smoothie allows me to make sure they get a good dose of healthy fats, fiber and protein in order for their little bodies to function properly not only to be able to play and have fun with their friends, but also so they can handle what ever foods they might eat that their bodies are not used to digesting often. And, if done right, they might not even be that hungry to have pizza AND cake AND ice cream. *wishful thinking* 

While I get my kids to drink their smoothies and juices regularly, they still sometimes put up a fuss. The Party Smoothie is easy because they know we are not leaving until their cup is empty. I make sure to remind them that this smoothie will give them lots of energy so they can play for along time.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 2 TBS hemp seeds
  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 2 cups fresh greens (this time it was spinach)
  • Optional: a handful of sprouts because I had some handy.

Steps:

  • Put everything in a blender and blend until smooth
  • this made enough for 3 small servings

For some of my thoughts on eating at parties, you can check out my post from a few months ago:

https://anaboreal.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/tips-to-avoid-over-eating-at-parties/

Sprouted Lentil Sundried Tomato Flatbread (raw)

This kind of bread is one that makes my insides dance. It is so flavorful, delicious, nutritious and filling, while remaining light and wholesome for the body. I make so much almond milk, I am often finding new ways to use the left over pulp. Making flatbreads has been my favorite way to use it lately. These breads are such a great alternative to conventional bread in my opinion, because they retain all the nutritional value of the ingredients without compromising my digestion, while still feeling like I am eating a slice of soft bread. I get to choose exactly what flavor it’s going to be while using left over ingredients from previous recipes in order to minimize waste. All around win if you ask me! IMG_2296

I have been eating this bread mostly as is because it is that flavorful and there is no need to spruce it up with anything other than the occasional avocado. But we went on a hike last weekend, and I made a sandwich with it, and it was one of the best sandwiches I’ve had a VERY long time. This sandwich had hummus, avocado, lettuce, tomato and sauerkraut. I am drooling just typing about it. I might have to revisit my no sandwich at home policy (that’s not a real policy, I just made that up, but I never eat sandwiches at home, feeling like they are a portable food made to be had when eating with utensils is not so convenient).

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups packed almond pulp (left over from a making almond milk)
  • 1/3 cup psyllium husk
  • 1 tsp real salt
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seeds (I bring them in my coffee grinder), soaked in 1/2 water for 10 minutes
  • 3/4 cups sun dried tomatoes (I used those soaked in olive oil, but any will do)
  • 1 TBS fresh oregano,chopped
  • 2TBS fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives, sliced
  • 1 cup sprouted lentils 

Steps:

  • put everything but olives and lentils in a food processor and blend together until week combined (I had to do this in batches because my processor is small)
  • add olives and lentils and blend some more or fold them in by hand
  • spread on a dehydrator sheet about 1/4 inch thick and score into desired pieces
  • dry for about 3-4 hours at 115*F
  • flip on to the mesh screen and dry another 3-4 hours or until desired consistency
  • I like mine still somewhat soft to resemble the texture of sliced bread
  • this will keep for about a week in the fridge
  • makes about 16-20 slices

Blueberry Vanilla Granola (raw)

This granola is so simple in flavors and so pretty to eat. Ive always preferred blueberries fresh and raw, having their skin burst under the gentle pressure of my teeth, releasing a nice sweet juice. But I am delighted that I have the option to use them frozen or even freeze dried when they are out of season.

After having my buckwheat sprout for a couple of days, I stared at it for some time before deciding what flavor these groats were going to take on. We’ve spent a good portion of the winter eating my orange cranberry granola since that is my husbands favorite, but I was ready to create a new recipe. While staring at the bland bowl of sprouts I got the idea to add some blueberries to it. I knew that my kids would be delighted with the colorful food in their bowls, so I went ahead and got to mixing ingredients to create this tasty breakfast (or snack).

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Ingredients:

  • 5 cups sprouted buckwheat
  • 1 cup raw almonds, soaked in water for at least 8 hours, then chopped
  • 1 cup small oats
  • 1 cup shredded coconut, (that I pulverized in my blender to make a fine powder–optional but I wanted less of a coconut dried coconut texture)
  • 1 TBS vanilla powder
  • 3/4 cups maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries that have been thawed

Steps:

  • mix everything in a large bowl except blueberries
  • stir well until well combined
  • add blueberries and mix a little more
  • put on a dehydrator sheet and dry at 105*F for about 12 hours or until nice and crispy
  • store in an airtight container for weeks

As usual, this makes a huge batch, as granola goes fast at my house. So half this recipe if you are worried about having too much. You can always vacuum seal some to keep it fresher longer.

Sneaky Blood Orange Cacao Muffins

Because blood orange cacao muffins wouldn’t be good enough as it is that I had to make them sneaky. How? By adding a large cup of fresh kale to the mix. Seriously, if you didn’t see me baking these, you would have no idea that there was a healthy serving of greens in there. The kids were with me, so they saw, but it didn’t stop them from chowing down once they were out of the oven!

A a kid I did not like fruit in my chocolate. It was a flavor/texture thing. And I did not like nuts in my chocolate either. It was a waste-of-space thing. A big almond in my chocolate bar meant less chocolate. Ummm no thanks. My how times have changed!! I love chocolate so much I will eat it with almost anything. That is why it is so fun for me to come up with all kids of creations. Wether or not I am original in my pairings, it is still a fun process :)

I think blood oranges have a natural raspberry flare to them. Somewhat sweet, somewhat tangy. So last minute, once the batter was all ready to go into the muffin tins, I decided to accentuate that flavor by adding whole raspberries to the mix. A total win.

I won’t even lie and tell you that when my son didn’t feel like eating his salad for dinner, I justified not asking him to by saying “He had 3 muffins today, that’s a decent amount of greens.” Ha! Ninja parenting makes my life easier!

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Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour ( I mixed garbanzo and buckwheat)
  • 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup cacao powder, depending on how chocolatey you like things
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seeds soaked in 1/2 cup water for 10-20 minutes
  • 1 cup blood orange juice
  • 1 TBS blood orange zest
  • 1/2 coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 TBS apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup chopped fresh kale
  • 1 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen then thawed

Steps:

  • Preheat oven to 325*F
  • grind flax seeds in coffee grinder if needed and soak in water
  • combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl
  • combine the rest of the ingredients minus the raspberries, in a blender
  • blend until the kale is well broken down
  • mix wet ingredients with dry ingredients
  • slowly fold in raspberries as to not have them break down too much
  • grease your muffin tins
  • bake for 10-12 minutes for mini muffins or probably around 18-20 minutes for regular size muffins

Coconut Vegetable Stew

One pot meals make my kitchen life so easy at times. If I can nail a recipe that I will enjoy making and eating many times, it’s even  better. This recipe is just that. I got inspired to make this after reading a post from this amazing blogger: Pumpkin and peanut butter. I wanted to make her recipe as is the first time I read it but had to modify because of what I had on hand. I have since made it twice and every time it becomes something slightly different. The version I am sharing with you today is one that my husband raves about. I decided it was time I wrote down exactly how I made it so I could make it again. I made this to bring to a big family trip to the mountains we just had last week. I made a huge batch so it could feed 12 of us. I am sharing that recipe here. You can either half the recipe to make a smaller batch, or better yet, make a huge batch and freeze some for use!!!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 inch cube of ginger, grated
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 TBS cumin
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower,chopped
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 2 talks of celery,chopped
  • 2 cups red lentils
  • 9 cups water or vegetable broth (I mixed both)
  • 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 19 oz can of coconut milk (smaller or bigger is fine)
  • salt to taste

Steps:

  • in a large pot heat the oil and add the onion
  • cook onion for a few minutes until it becomes transluscent
  • add the garlic and spices and cook another couple minutes until the fragrance comes out
  • add everything else and cook covered on low for about 30 minutes or until all vegetables are soft
  • serve as is or with a side of black forbidden rice and rosemary roasted potatoes like we did

Since making this dish ahead of time, all the flavors got to marinate really nicely together. This is a dish that gets better as it sits. Freezing some of it would not be bad idea!

Vegan Coconut Date Ice Cream

Home made ice cream is simply awesome. The kids feel like they are getting a treat (which they are, even if it’s “healthy”), I get to choose exactly what goes in it, and it is cheaper than the store bought kind. It’s an all around win! I really love the simplicity of coconut ice cream. Coconut flavored things is kind like the vanilla of the raw food world. Simple, elegant, non pretentious. I spruced it up by putting some date pieces in it to imitate chunks of caramel. It worked :) And then toasting some coconut pieces to really bring depth to the coconut cream. It was so delicious!! IMG_1578

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup soaked cashews
  • 1/4 cup almond milk or liquid of joice
  • 1 cup coconut cream (from the can, the cream on top)
  • 1/2 cup coconut nectar (Plus extra to drizzle on top)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla powder
  • 1/3 cup coconut shreds
  • 1/4 cup date pieces

Steps:

  • put everything but coconut shreds and date pieces in blender and blend on high until creamy
  • add the coconut shreds and date pieces and continue blending until well incorporated but not broken down.
  • if using an ice cream maker, follow those directions
  • if not, then place in a shallow dish and freeze overnight,
  • take it out about 10-15 minutes before eating and scoop it in to your bowls
  • top with what ever makes you happy!

For the toasted coconut I just threw a handful of coconut pieces in a skillet and heat it up until they started to turn lightly brown, maybe 5 minutes? Easy!!