Ugh. It’s allergy season, and it seems like everywhere I go people are sick. Sneezing, coughing, miserable. As a life long sufferer of seasonal allergies, I know that spring and fall are the worst times of year – when pollen counts are the highest. Spring is notorious for tree pollen and in the fall, it’s ragweed. Seasonal allergies leave you with chronically inflamed sinus cavities, itchy eyes, drainage, and a nagging cough.
Since cleaning up my diet, I’ve experienced relief from my allergies I never thought I could. They aren’t completely remedied – certain times of year I can tell my body wants to rev up and fight for no reason – but there is no comparison in how I used to feel to how I feel now.
If you’ve read anything about me on my blog, you know that I truly believe food has the power to heal and drastically improve how you feel. Food is information that actually communicates with your genes and influences your gene expression. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet gives your body nutrients that provide information so your body can accomplish necessary processes that reduce overall inflammation. For example, omega 6 fatty acids tell your body to ignite an inflammatory response, necessary to initiate healing when you are injured or sick, and omega 3 fatty acids tell your body to calm down and decrease inflammation.
Those of us that suffer from seasonal allergies have an immune system that recognizes various pollens in the air as foreign and potentially harmful, stimulating the processes necessary to take care of these threatening particles. Basically, our bodies immediately call all the troops into battle to fight and protect the body. During peak allergy season, our bodies are constantly in contact with these pollens, so our bodies are in a constant state of inflammation – in full attack mode all the time. When our bodies are perpetually inflamed, we feel sluggish, foggy-headed, and just plain yucky. Plus, inflammation puts us in a weak and vulnerable state, susceptible to other opportunistic viruses, bacteria, and fungus.
So how can we use food as information to tell our bodies to stop the inflammatory process? Eat those foods that provide nutrients that communicate to our bodies to calm down. An anti-inflammatory diet is really very simple looks like this: eat all of those natural foods that are not processed or packaged like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, pasture-raised eggs, wild fish, and naturally raised meats.
One example of an anti-inflammatory meal is this curry salmon salad. It’s quick and easy to make, and I can double the recipe to feed our family more than one meal.
I started with two 6 ounce salmon fillets – seasoned them with salt and pepper and then baked them at 325 degrees for 17-19 minutes. Do not over bake or the salmon becomes dry. I chose wild salmon from Alaska, which is rich in anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids in the most easily used form for our bodies – DHA and EPA. After the salmon fillets cooled, I used a fork to break up the fish.
Next I made an easy homemade mayonnaise with eggs from chickens fed an omega-3 rich diet. Packaged condiments are notorious for containing hidden sugar and gluten (which both promote inflammation), so I find it healthiest and freshest to just make my own most of the time. My favorite homemade mayonnaise recipe is from Mark’s Daily Apple: Homemade Ghee Mayo.
I chopped some purple onion, celery, and purple grapes to go in the salad. All three of these have anti-inflammatory nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin A, quercetin, and sulfur.
Spices with a kick are a potent decongestant, so whenever my allergies or a cold is flaring up, I liberally add them to my meals. Anyone who likes spicy foods knows they stimulate those mucous linings to break up and release, relieving congestion. Curry is a spice blend that originated in southeast Asia and usually contains mustard seeds, coriander, cumin, red chili powder, and turmeric (which is famous for its anit-inflammatory effect) and sometimes ginger, cinnamon, cloves, garlic, cardamom, and fennel too.
I combined the salmon, onions, celery, grapes, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, curry powder, slivered almonds, and a little sea salt in a medium sized bowl. After stirring the ingredients together, I served the curry salmon salad over a bed of spinach.
- 2 6 ounce wild salmon fillets
- ⅓ cup homemade mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- ¼ cup chopped purple onion
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 cup halved purple grapes
- ½ cup slivered almonds
- salt to taste
- Season salmon fillets with salt and pepper, and bake at 325 degrees for 17 – 19 minutes.
- Let salmon cool, transfer to a bowl, and break up fish with a fork.
- Combine salmon and the remaining ingredients in a medium sized bowl, and stir together.
- Serve over a bed of greens or wrapped in a lettuce leaf.
“Mom, this is the best salad you have ever made…” says my 11 year old. This summer, while spending his days on the golf course followed by swimming at the pool at our nearby country club, Ben developed a love for Caesar salads. Traditional chicken Caesar salad usurped his usual order of chicken strips with honey mustard and fries – he made a step in the right direction in my book by adding in some greens.
But chicken Caesar salad is not gluten free, so to make his new favorite at home, I decided to come up with my own gluten, grain, and dairy free version. Ben gives this recipe two thumbs up (he and his two friends walked into the kitchen right after I made this salad, and the three of them quickly polished it off), and so do I because not only is it made with healthy whole food ingredients, but it was super easy to make when in a pinch for time.
And most evenings, I am just that – pinched for time. To make life a little easier, I picked up a rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods to use for the salad. Their chickens are pasture fed and gluten free and $2 cheaper on Wednesdays.
The most tedious part of making this salad is removing the chicken meat from the chicken carcass. Kayley and I have gotten quite speedy at this process after volunteering at the Ronald McDonald house where our main job was to remove the meat from 5 birds and chop it for sliders. Our first chicken was a mess…we were s-l-o-w and wasted a good deal of the chicken. But then we got in a rhythm and discovered the best way to do it was just to dig in with our fingers and pull off anything that resembled meat and set it aside to chop later.
I have a big stockpot that I put any part that is not meat – the skin, bones, ligaments, tendons, etc., so I can make a large batch of bone broth to use in making a soup for dinner the next day. Real bone broth is soooooooo much better than the boxed or canned version. And it’s one of the most healing foods for your body, as it’s chocked full of gelatin, collagen, hyaluronic acid, chondroitin sulfate, glucosamino glycans, and lots of minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Homemade bone broth is good for healing your gut lining and building strong bones and joints, and it’s beautifying too – nourishing your skin, hair, and nails. After pulling off all the meat, I placed the entire carcass in the pot with the rest of the shrapnel I’d already pulled off, filled the pot with purified water and a splash of apple cider vinegar (helps to leach out the minerals and goodness from the bones), and let it simmer on the stove for the next day.
Now for the romaine lettuce…the morning before serving the salad, I cut off the end of the head of romaine and thoroughly washed the leaves. I like to lay the washed leaves out on a stream of paper towels and then roll up the paper towels with the leaves inside. I lay the rolled up leaves in the refrigerator to crisp throughout the day. Romaine lettuce is definitely my kids’ favorite green because it’s crisp and refreshing without the bitter taste of some of the other greens. And it’s one of my favorites to use because they will actually eat it, getting in a serving of those nutrient dense leafy greens which are the most lacking in most of our diets.
When ready to make the salad, I chopped the romaine and placed it in a medium sized salad bowl.
Next…on to the dressing. I used my Vitamix to make the Caesar dressing with olive oil, water, 2 egg yolks, 2 cloves of minced garlic, juice of 1 lemon, salt, pepper, and some pine nuts as a substitution for Parmesan. The dressing initially tastes pretty salty but once on the salad it’s delicious.
The only thing left to do is to layer the romaine lettuce, chopped chicken, another sprinkle of pine nuts, and fresh cracked pepper in a salad bowl. I drizzled on about half of the dressing and tossed the salad. After tasting, I drizzled on a little more dressing and tossed the salad again. Perfect. I saved the remaining dressing in the fridge where it will be good for about 3 -5 days.
- 1-2 heads romaine lettuce, depending on the size of the head
- 1 rotisserie chicken, meat removed and chopped
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- fresh cracked pepper, to taste
- 2 cloves garlic
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 2 egg yolks
- ½ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup water
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Tear off leaves of romaine lettuce, and wash. Lay flat on a stream of paper towels, and roll up leaves inside paper towels. Let crisp in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
- Remove meat from a rotisserie chicken and chop. Set aside.
- Remove lettuce from the refrigerator, and chop.
- In a medium sized salad bowl, layer chopped romaine lettuce, chopped chicken, ¼ cup pine nuts, and fresh cracked pepper to taste.
- In a Vitamix or other blender, blend together garlic, ¼ cup pine nuts, egg yolks, olive oil, water, lemon juice, sea salt, and black pepper.
- Drizzle half of the dressing over the salad and toss. Taste and add more dressing if desired.
- Serve immediately or chill in the refrigerator.
- Save the remaining dressing in the refrigerator for 3 – 5 days for another use.
Memorial Day is our opportunity to set aside time to honor and thank all of those who died protecting and serving our country. What a sacrifice! I am truly grateful and honor you today.
In addition to remembering our military personnel that gave their lives, Memorial Day marks the beginning of SUMMER! No school…sunshine…swimming…barbeque! We’re officially opening our grill for the season, and we’ll be having this sweet potato salad, a paleo alternative to traditional potato salad, with our meal tonight.
Sweet potatoes are a super nutritious, starchy carbohydrate that are a welcome part of my diet. I’m pretty active, and since I don’t really eat any grains, I need another good source of carbs, and my preference is to get them through a variety of veggies. The great thing about sweet potatoes is that they satisfy your sweet tooth, but the natural sugars they contain are wrapped up in a nice fibrous package, so the sugars are slowly released into your blood stream rather than quickly spiking your blood sugar like sweeteners and grains do. Sweet potatoes can be added to so many things – I like to throw a cooked sweet potato in when making bread. Most sweet potatoes are a rich orange color, which is your clue that they contain a good source of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that is the precursor to vitamin A. Sweet potatoes also offer plenty of B and C vitamins and lots of minerals like iron, magnesium, and potassium.
The first step in making sweet potato salad is to peel and cube the sweet potatoes and then boil the cubes until they are tender when pricked with a fork. I let them drain and cool on a paper towel lined plate before adding them to a medium sized bowl.
In addition to sweet potatoes, I added some soaked raisins, diced celery, and diced purple onion to this salad.
I’m big into using nuts as a dairy free and vegan way to achieve a creamy texture for soups, sauces, and dressings. To get the creamy texture without the mayonnaise used in traditional potato salad, I combined Marcona almonds, honey, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar in the food processor and processed them with spices until creamy. I went for a Moroccan flavor in the dressing for this sweet potato salad by choosing the spices ginger, turmeric, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper.
My mouth is watering looking at this sweet potato salad! I am even happier than expected with this recipe! So flavorful and different and delicious! I’ve got a few salmon fillets marinating to throw on the grill later on, and the sweet potato salad is chilling in the fridge to go with. Now to figure out something green to round out the meal. And then of course there’s dessert…hmmm…
- 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- ½ purple onion, diced
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- ½ cup raisins, soaked in warm water and soaking water discarded
- 2 tablespoons Marcona almonds
- ½ tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon coriander
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- Boil cubes of sweet potato until tender when pricked with a fork.
- Drain on a paper towel until cool.
- Combine sweet potato, onion, celery, and raisins in a medium bowl.
- In a food processor, combine almonds, honey, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, water, and spices, and process until smooth and creamy.
- Pour dressing over sweet potato mixture and gently fold into the salad until the ingredients are coated with the dressing.
- Refrigerate before serving.
This weekend, my daughter has a 3-day volleyball tournament. It will be a busy weekend, but one I am looking forward to. It’s been a fun season getting to know all of the parents, watching the girls come together as a team, and being initiated into the club volleyball scene. The only thing I really don’t like about these weekends is the lack of access to descent food or any food with even a sliver of nutritional value. Before the weekend, I decided to make up a few easily transportable salads to sneak in my tote of a purse each day. This Brussels sprout Bok Choy slaw is one of those salads.
Since all the leafy greens are in season and look so fresh, I try to pick up several different varieties each week when I’m at Whole Foods. Bitter greens are a great alkalinizing food. Our bodies are constantly striving to maintain homeostasis, and part of that is keeping our bodies in a slightly alkaline state, so we can function like the well-oiled machine we were intended to. The Standard American Diet can be quiet acid forming and therefore make it quite a chore to keep a body pH of slightly above 7. To achieve an alkaline state when acid forming foods are repeatedly eaten, our bodies pull calcium from the best resource we have – our bones. Leafy greens, especially in the raw form, are an alkaline promoting food, so eating them assists our bodies in achieving that necessary slightly alkaline pH. Leafy greens are also great bone builders, as they have more vitamin K than any other food, which is crucial for the bone building proteins to function properly.
Today, I decided to make a slaw. Slaws keep and travel well, they’re raw, and they’re speedy to prepare. Any leafy green can be made into a slaw, but I chose Brussels sprouts and Bok choy both because I have them on hand and because they’re two shades of green, so I thought the result would look pretty and appetizing.
Making any leafy green into a slaw is as simple as pressing the “on” button on your food processor. I just tossed the Brussels sprouts in the food processor bowl, and pulsed until they were thoroughly shredded. Then I repeated with the Bok choy.
To make the walnut fig vinaigrette, I combined all of the ingredients in the Magic Bullet and blended them together. I chose Lucini fig balsamic vinegar, which I love. Over time, I’ve built up a variety of infused vinegars and oils as well as other interesting condiments in my pantry. Every time I go to the grocery store, I try to throw a new one in my cart. I think it’s the easiest way to prepare and cook different tastes with little effort.
I also added some walnuts (I slightly toasted mine for extra flavor) and dried figs to the Magic Bullet, which ended up contributing a lot of taste and a creamy texture. The figs with the help of a little maple syrup are also the perfect amount of sweet to combat the bitter taste of the leafy greens.
After whipping up the vinaigrette, I just tossed and refrigerated the slaw, so the flavors could marinate a little. Slaws are a sweet and crunchy way to eat your leafy greens. You can easily store or transport them for busy lifestyles. Even though I used Bok Choy to go with the Brussels sprouts, any dark leafy green would work – try kale or collard greens too.
- 1 bag or 1 pound Brussels sprouts
- 1 head Bok choy, stalks removed
- ⅓ cup fig balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2-3 dried figs, chopped
- ¼ cup walnuts, slightly toasted
- 1 tablespoon thyme
- salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
- Wash Brussels sprouts, and transfer to food processor bowl. Process until finely shredded.
- Wash Bok Choy, remove stalks, and transfer to food processor bowl. Process until finely shredded.
- In a magic bullet, combine vinegar, olive oil, maple syrup, figs, walnuts, thyme, and salt and pepper. Puree until smooth and creamy. Add a little water if you need to thin out the dressing.
- Pour dressing over greens and toss to coat.
Kale is definitely one of those foods that is new to me since making my healthy switch. I don’t think I’d ever heard of kale growing up, had you? Kale – the cruciferous fibrous leafy green veggie – has seen a huge jump in popularity recently, and I am on that bandwagon. Kale has anti-cancer compounds and packs in so many other detoxifying, healing, and energizing nutrients that I am always trying to find new ways to sneak it into my diet. Kale, with its bitter and tough reputation, may seem intimidating at first, or at least reserved for more hearty, winter recipes like soups, stews, and stir frys. But kale can crossover into the spring and summer months and even be eaten raw by juicing it or blending it into green smoothies.
Although a salad is the first thing that comes to mind when I think about eating greens, I’ve never really thought of kale as being appetizing in a salad. It’s just so darn chewy! I’m still trying to like the idea of putting all that fiber and bitterness into my smoothies (alas, I prefer spinach and romaine over kale in a blended drink), so the thought of eating a raw kale salad really doesn’t sound appealing. But then I tried a massaged kale salad.
The name sounds a bit weird, I know. Massaging your food makes it sound even less appetizing than raw kale. But, hang in there with me because I promise you will be pleasantly surprised too.
Kale can be transformed into the most delicious of salads with just a little tender-loving-care. A gentle massage turns the thick and hearty leaves into flexible (read chewable) soft pieces. The tough, fibrous wall of cellulose breaks down, actually wilting the leaves, so they are easier to chew and digest. Just drizzle a little olive oil over the salad bowl full of torn kale leaves (ribs removed), and start rubbing. Give each leaf a bit of attention. After 3 – 5 minutes, you will notice the leaves have started to soften and darken, and they might even shrink (or wilt) a little bit as the texture changes from rough and tough to smooth and silky. If the thought of massaging your food turns you away, you can bypass that step by tossing your torn kale leaves in olive oil and then letting them sit and soften in the fridge overnight.
For this massaged kale salad, I went for an Asian flavor and tossed in orange segments and avocado. For a little crunch, I sprinkled sesame seeds and green onions in the bowl too. I whisked together a little olive oil, honey, white wine vinegar, and tamari (gluten free soy sauce) for the dressing.
- 1 head kale
- 2 clementine oranges, peeled and segmented
- 1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
- 1 avocado, diced
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon tamari
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Tear kale leaves into pieces, discarding the ribs, and place in a salad bowl.
- Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the kale leaves, and using your hands, gently massage oil into the leaves for 3 – 5 minutes.
- Add the orange segments, green onions, avocado, and sesame seeds to the massaged kale.
- To make the dressing, whisk together 2 tablespoons olive oil, vinegar, tamari, and honey.
- Drizzle the dressing over the kale salad, and toss to coat the salad in the dressing.
My mom was in town visiting last week. We are blessed that Grandma and Grandpa chose to have their second vacation home right here in Big D. Mom is particularly fond of a Moroccan vegetable stew at one of our favorite Santa Fe restaurants, Harry’s Roadhouse, so I knew she would really like this couscous.
I was also hoping Rob would be a fan because since I cut gluten out of my diet, I never make couscous anymore. In my pre-gluten free days, we loved couscous, and I would make it as a side dish probably once a week. Our favorite recipe was this tasty Moroccan inspired one that is served cold, more like a salad.
I’ve been wanting to try using riced cauliflower in place of traditional couscous. Cauliflower is one of those stealth foods that I can sneak into recipes, and it mimics (or at least I think it does…Rob doesn’t always agree) the ingredient I am trying to replace, usually grains. It was surprisingly easy to turn into “couscous” – I just hoped it would taste good too.
Rob was so excited when he saw what we were having for dinner – what he thought was an old favorite. He took a bite, then another bite…I held my breath. He proceeded in conversation like normal, and before I knew it, he had a second helping on his plate. It wasn’t until after dinner, and he was partaking in his standard ritual of entering his calories into MyFitnessPal, that the truth came out. This is the part of the evening when I have to come clean about all of the ingredients I’ve used because he needs to break down the meals to enter his foods (He’s an Ironman triathlete who is meticulous about his diet.). Shocked is an understatement (in fact he said he felt tricked) when he learned he had eaten and even liked cauliflower for dinner. So, if this “couscous” recipe can pass his test – and he definitely gives it a thumbs up – you should give it a try.
One quick health note about my friend cauliflower…It is extremely low in calories at only about 30 calories per cup, making it an excellent substitution for high glycemic, high calorie grains as a side dish or salad. Choosing foods that don’t spike your blood sugar help stabilize your energy level, mood, and mental focus, and they also help ward off weight gain and the growing threat of diabetes. Replace high glycemic grains with vegetables and you gain all of their vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients as well.
- 1 head cauliflower
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup shredded carrots
- ½ cup diced red bell pepper
- ½ cup diced onion
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- ¼ cup raisins
- 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon curry
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cut cauliflower into florets and place in a food processor.
- Pulse until cauliflower is “riced”.
- Place riced cauliflower in a cooking pan, and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
- Saute over medium heat for 5 minutes.
- Transfer cauliflower to a medium bowl, and add carrots, red bell pepper, onion, pine nuts, and raisins, stirring to combine.
- In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, honey, curry, and salt and pepper.
- Drizzle the dressing over the cauliflower mixture and toss to coat.
- Refrigerate before serving.