As far as I know, fried okra is mostly a Southern thing. And since I do live in Texas, I happen to like it. Okra comes in season right about now, so cartons of local organic okra are on display at the grocery store. But I’m not big into frying my foods, which other than pickled is the only way I’ve eaten okra. I don’t even own a fryer, and I don’t pan fry much either. So I decide to give baking okra a try – and turns out it’s pretty darn good!!
Okra is a green pod of a vegetable with lots of little white seeds tucked inside. Also known as gumbo pods, okra is a very low calorie vegetable at 30 calories per serving and contains lots of fiber and vitamin A, actually the highest amount of the antioxidants beta-carotene, xanthin and lutein. Okra also provides vitamins B, C, and K and minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium, and manganese. Honestly, I was surprised to learn how healthy these little green pods are – I’d kind of written them off as a pretty empty food. I’m happy to report that is not the case.
The first step in baking okra is to get the pecan crust ready. I combined a cup of toasted pecans, a cup of coconut flour, salt, pepper, and a pinch of cayenne in the food processor and processed until a homogenous grainy mixture formed.
I transferred the pecan mixture to a large plate, and dredged each whole okra in the mixture, pressing down on each piece so as much coating as possible would stick. I then placed the coated pieces of okra in a greased baking pan.
I baked the okra for about 30 – 35 minutes, until they were good and crispy, and then let them cool before removing from the pan, so the pecan crust wouldn’t fall off immediately. These passed the taste test – in fact, I think they turned out delicious! I have to say I am surprised at how much I like them! Pecan crusted baked okra makes an easy, healthy, and tasty appetizer, snack, or side dish for the summer.
- 1 pound okra
- 1 cup toasted pecans
- 1 cup coconut flour
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- pinch of cayenne
- coconut oil
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Combine pecans, coconut flour, sea salt, pepper, and cayenne in a food processor, and process together until an even grainy mixture forms.
- Transfer pecan mixture to a plate, and roll each piece of okra in the mixture, pressing the mixture into each piece of okra to coat.
- Grease a baking pan with coconut oil, and place each coated piece of okra in the baking pan.
- Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until crispy.
- Cool slightly before removing from the pan and serving.
Hello! I’m back after a two-week hiatus from blogging, and I have to say I’ve missed it! Almost two weeks ago, I had an unexpected surgery to remove my infected appendix, so I’ve spent the last ten days focusing on recovery.
If you’ve been following my blog for long, you know that my passion is health, nutrition, and taking care of my body. Ever since I had a rough bout with my health about 10 years ago, it has been my quest to build my body up strong. I am a doer – I like to get stuff done. I also have countless interests to pursue, and my list of round-to-its keeps getting longer. So feeling good and healthy is a necessity for me! And one that has developed into a passion for healthy food, recipes, and practices that nourish my body.
Even though all of this sounds like a very positive thing – and I think it still is – I also realize now that it had led (without me being aware) to the feeling that I can control my life, my health, my body. When my body was sick years ago, I had no control, and it stunk. So the more effort I put into my diet and taking care of myself, the more control I felt I had.
Well, how wrong was I! On Tuesday, May 7th I did not feel good. I just lacked energy in general. When I think back, my energy level had been lagging for about 2 weeks. Those close to me remember me complaining about being tired. So what did I do? Assuming my seasonal allergies were causing inflammation, I focused on what I put into my body.
But by the evening of May 7th, I hurt. I had a constant pain in my right lower abdomen. Thinking it was a cyst on an ovary, which I’ve had before, I took an Advil and went to bed. I tossed and turned until about 12am. The pain was pretty terrible at this point, so after a couple of hours of gritting my teeth, I told Rob I needed to go to the ER. I had the feeling that something needed to come out of my body – a cyst, my appendix – who knows, but something.
After receiving pain and nausea medicines through an IV and having a CT scan of my entire abdomen and pelvis, I was sent home with the conclusion that I must have a terrible stomach virus coming on. I curled up in the fetal position on my couch until about 8:30 when the ER doctor called back. Apparently, when they double checked my CT scan, the second doctor found a little stone blocking the opening of my appendix. So back to the ER I went for more tests. By 4pm, the conclusion was I needed my appendix removed. I had a laproscopic operation (my first surgery ever!) to rid my body of my badly infected appendix.
Due to the nature of infection in an appendix, I was required to have IV antibiotics and follow up at home with 2000mg of two different strong antibiotics (8 pills a day!) for 10 days. Yuck. Have I mentioned how much I hate antibiotics? My body is allergic to 3 common groups of antibiotics – penicillin, sulfa, and quinolones – so it’s clear that I just don’t like them. I credit them (along with my gluten and sugar filled, nutritionally lacking diet) with sending my gut into a tailspin 10 years ago. I believe the gut is the foundation of good health, and I was currently completely wrecking mine and all the work I’d put into building it back up over the years.
Hospitals are a great place to pray. I prayed. The smart part of my brain knew just how life saving these antibiotics were to me. The controlling part of my brain was just plain ticked off. Why was my body sick again? I’m so good to my body!!
Back to my prayer. God, I know you have a plan in EVERYTHING. And I trust you. I sat next to a woman on a plane to Albuquerque for a girls getaway about a year ago. This was probably at the height of my “anti-medicine, I can control everything” moment. She struggled to have children because of a health condition, and she has to be on a strong medicine for the duration of all of her pregnancies. She was on her way to a conference where a holistic doctor was the featured speaker. At a previous event, she had the chance to personally talk to this holistic doctor, and she asked the one question she was troubled by – is it okay that I am taking this medicine while pregnant because I do not want to harm my baby. The doctor gave her this advice “Every day before you take that pill, hold it in your fingers and thank God for this medicine that has allowed you to live a healthy life and be the vessel that brings this new life into the world.”
I’ve never forgotten that story. So, I looked up at the two antibiotics dripping into my veins, and I thanked Him for those medicines.
As of yesterday, I am off the antibiotics and now I begin the quest to heal my gut. I actually began this project while taking the medicines. I took three maximum strength probiotics each day, two hours after each dose of antibiotics. I’m happy to say, by the grace of God (because I can’t control anything, remember?!), that I made it through without stomach upset, yeast infections, or diarrhea.
For my first recipe blog post back in the saddle, I chose to re-post. Creamy asparagus soup was the first thing I craved while recovering. My sweet mom (thank you Mom!) did what moms do – she got on a plane the day of my surgery – so she was here to help me, starting by making me this soup. I had so much fluid in my abdomen and all over (I felt like a football player!), so the asparagus helped take a little of that off. Plus, one of the antibiotics changed my taste buds and left me with a horrible taste in my mouth. The tangy taste of this soup was the only food that sounded good to me.
Good thing it is one of the simplest to make. Start by soaking raw cashews in a little almond or coconut milk in the large Vitamix container.
Second, zest a lemon and add the zest plus the juice to the Vitamix. Season with a little salt and pepper.
Next, cut the asparagus and the onion into one inch pieces, and peel two garlic cloves. Place the asparagus, onion, and garlic in a medium saucepan and add four cups of organic chicken broth (or vegetable broth for a vegan soup). Let it simmer for about an hour.
Last, add the broth with cooked veggies to the Vitamix, and blend on high for about a minute. Before turning on the Vitamix, cover the lid with a towel to avoid injury. Serve immediately or chill before serving for a cold option.
- ½ cup raw cashews
- ½ cup almond or coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- zest from 1 lemon
- juice from 1 lemon
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 small purple onion, cut into pieces
- 4 cups organic chicken broth (or vegetable broth for a vegan soup)
- 2 cloves garlic
- In the Vitamix or other blender, combine the cashews, almond or coconut milk, olive oil, zest and juice from a lemon, sea salt, and pepper. Do not blend, but instead let the cashews soak in the mixture.
- In a saucepan, combine the broth, asparagus, onion, and garlic cloves.
- Cover and simmer on low for 1 hour.
- Carefully pour the contents of the saucepan into the blender.
- After putting the top on the blender, place a towel over the top to avoid injury.
- Blend all the ingredients until creamy, at least 1 minute.
I love avocados and I love grapefruit, so when I saw a recipe for grapefruit guacamole in a recent Living Without magazine, I naturally decided to try my own version. Making guacamole is something my whole family does regularly because it is so darn easy. To shake things up, we are always looking for ways to experiment with our guacamole. This time, adding grapefruit segments was the new twist.
Every guacamole starts out the same way – with perfectly ripe avocados. I used two of them in this recipe. In a medium sized bowl, I mashed the avocados with the juice of a lime, sea salt, and a minced clove of garlic. Next I chopped white onion, cilantro, jalapeno, and pecans and added them to the bowl. A local restaurant by Rob’s work that is a favorite of our family includes chopped pecans in their guacamole, so for years we have too.
If ever there is a food I crave with intensity, it is grapefruit. When I was pregnant – watch out. I ate them nonstop every night. My son is now almost as big of a grapefruit fan as I am. To add the grapefruit segments to the guacamole, I started by cutting the grapefruit in half. I ran a small knife around each segment to loosen each one from the peel and membrane. I tried to remove as many seeds as possible while segmenting the grapefruit. Using a grapefruit spoon, I gently scooped out each segment and folded them into the guacamole. I squeezed a couple of spoonfuls of grapefruit juice out of the remaining grapefruit and added the juice to the guacamole as well.
Guacamole can be eaten in so many ways! Of course there is the typical chip and dip appetizer, or try slicing crisp veggies to use for dipping like radishes, cucumbers, or celery. My family likes to use guacamole as a condiment, and spread it on wraps, sandwiches, or burgers. One of my favorites is to top a couple of scrambled pasture raised eggs with a scoop of guac. Let me know your favorite way to eat guacamole!
- 2 avocados
- juice of 1 lime
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ cup chopped onion
- 1 small jalapeno, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 2 tablespoon chopped pecans
- 1 grapefruit
- In a medium bowl, mash together avocados, lime juice, garlic, and sea salt.
- Add onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and pecans.
- Cut the grapefruit in half.
- Using a small knife, remove segments from the grapefruit and gently fold in the guacamole.
- Squeeze two spoonfuls of juice from the remaining grapefruit and stir into the guacamole.
- Serve with your favorite chip or sliced veggies, or use as a condiment on a wrap, burger, or sandwich.
Hummus might be the perfect condiment. It’s flavorful, filling, and can be spread on just about anything. When I first changed my way of eating, I searched for these really delicious but really complicated recipes that would resemble my gluten containing favorite meals. I ended up spending a lot of time in the kitchen with a less than satisfactory meal as a result. In more recent years, I have grown to love a more simple way of eating, focusing on those naturally gluten free foods – fruits, veggies, and a healthy protein source. Condiments have become my best friend in the kitchen, as I can take a basic blend of vegetables and a piece of chicken or a couple of eggs, and make them taste great without a lot of fuss or time dealing with a long list of ingredients and instructions.
Hummus is one of my favorite condiments. It’s super easy to make your own – it takes less than 10 minutes to whip up a batch – and you can personalize the flavor by adding whatever spices fit your mood. Hummus is also really high in fiber, as it’s made with chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans. The insoluble fiber in beans is excellent for weight loss, as it fills you up and keeps your bowels moving along nicely. In fact, they actually promote the health of your colon cells, lowering your risk for colon cancer. Beans also take your body a while to break down, so the nutrients absorb slowly, which helps to stabilize your blood sugar. Chickpeas provide lots of good phytonutrients, manganese, iron, tryptophan, and B vitamins, and they help the good guys – those friendly bacteria – in your gut flourish.
Also because of the high fiber content in garbanzo beans, they work as an appetite regulator or even a suppressant. A study done in Australia showed that the participants were more satisfied when chickpeas were added to their diet, and they ended up eating less food throughout the day, especially cutting down on the processed foods in their diet. So garbanzo beans help you feel fuller longer, which means you eat less, which means you lose weight.
This lemon and garlic hemp hummus is not only made with these satisfying little chickpeas, but it’s also made with hemp hearts that add another boost of protein, omega 3 fats, and fiber. Hemp seeds are known to be one of those energizing superfoods. The tangy lemon and garlic together make it a tasty condiment to use on just about anything. Some ways to use this hummus:
- Use as a spread in place of mayonnaise in a sandwich or wrap
- Use in place of mayonnaise in a chicken, egg, or tuna salad
- Use in place of mayonnaise in deviled eggs
- Toss with gluten free pasta or spaghetti squash instead of tomato sauce
- Spread on your pizza instead of tomato sauce
- Spread on a piece of chicken or fish, top with herbs and spices, and then bake
- Use as a dip for vegetable kabobs
- Use as a base for homemade salad dressings
- Add to scrambled eggs or omelets before cooking
- Spread on an avocado or grilled portobella mushroom
- 1 can chickpeas or 2 cups cooked chickpeas
- ⅓ cup hemp hearts
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon tahini
- zest of a lemon
- juice of a lemon
- 2 cloves garlic
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and process until smooth.
- Add a little water if needed to reach desired consistency.
- Optional: garnish with additional hemp hearts and lemon zest.
Ok, these are just downright delicious. I admit it. I was skeptical when I was first introduced to them while on vacation this summer at the Turks and Caicos Islands. But, the sweet and smoky flavors of the banana and bacon create quite a savory snack or appetizer, and of course they provide some good nutrients for our bodies as well. They are super easy to make, and the protein and fat in the meat combined with the carbohydrate in the banana make them a well-balanced after school snack for kids. Plus, who can turn down bacon??
When choosing any packaged meat like bacon, be careful to choose the freshest, highest quality and consider the following:
- go organic or hormone-free
- pick one with the least number of ingredients
- look for nitrite/nitrate free
- best bet is to buy fresh if available
For this recipe, I chose a nitrate-free turkey bacon. Nitrates/nitrites are in pretty much all processed and packaged meats unless noted on the package and can be dangerous to your health, as they are believed to cause: hardening and narrowing of blood vessels leading to heart disease, difficulty regulating blood sugar so increasing the risk for diabetes, an increased risk of thyroid disease, and increased risk of cancer because they contain a precursor to known carcinogens.
- 2 bananas, each cut into 5 chunks
- 5 slices of bacon, cut in half
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon natural cajun seasoning
- 10 toothpicks
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- In a small dish, combine maple syrup and cajun seasoning.
- Roll each chunk of banana in the maple syrup mixture, and then wrap each chunk with a piece of bacon, securing with a toothpick.
- Place each wrapped banana in a baking dish, and brush a little of the maple syrup mixture on top.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, flip, and then brush a little of the maple syrup mixture on the other side.
- Bake for an additional 15 minutes or until bacon is completely cooked.
Who doesn’t crave a french fry every once in a while?! Try this healthy alternative made with sweet and savory butternut squash. I love to cook and bake with all types of squashes; however, the sweet and savory taste of butternut squash just might be my favorite. And, did you know it is technically a fruit because of it’s seeds? No wonder it’s my favorite! It’s nutritious as well as delicious, as it’s low in fat but packed with fiber, potassium, vitamin B6, folate, beta carotene, and lots of vitamin C. Eating 1 cup of this heart healthy, anti-inflammatory power food is only 82 calories.
- 1 medium butternut squash
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
- ½ – 1 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt, to taste
- 6 tablespoons raw or unrefined coconut oil
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, and place the butternut squash on a parchment lined baking sheet in the preheating oven for 5 minutes to soften and make peeling and cutting much easier.
- In a Magic Bullet, Vitamix, or other blender, grind the dried rosemary.
- In a medium bowl, combine garlic, ground rosemary, sea salt, and coconut oil.
- Cut the butternut squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Then, cut the peel off the squash, and cut the squash into thin strips.
- Add the strips of butternut squash to the medium bowl, and toss to coat with the garlic mixture.
- Spread strips out on a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake for 40-45 minutes, flipping halfway through the baking time.
- Serve with homemade ketchup.