Thursday, August 4, 2016

South of the Border Bean Salad

I love bean salads. All kinds of beans actually, from fresh green beans to dry ones like pinto, black and canellini beans. And I especially like them in cold salads, which are perfect to eat during the summer.

I had given up all dry beans since developing stomach problems last fall. As most of us know, beans have a rather gassy reputation. Since I've been feeling better this last month and starting to experiment with adding foods back in, I decided to try beans and am glad that I seem to be doing okay with them.

You can use beans either from a can or cook them from dry yourself,  but either way, beans need to be soaked in order to make them easier to digest. Beans, as well as grains, contain phytic acid, an organic acid that blocks mineral absorption in the intestinal tract. This might not be a major problem for those of you with excellent digestion (provided you don't eat beans and grains that often) but for those of us with compromised digestion, we are already having trouble absorbing nutrients as it is, so we don't need any more problems. 

Phytic acid is neutralized in as little as 7 hours of soaking in water with small amounts of an acidic medium  such as lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Soaking neutralizes enzyme inhibitors and increases the amount of nutrients present, especially the B vitamins.

Soaking your beans overnight will do the trick. Just make sure to rinse them well and toss the water they were soaking in.

Even if you use canned beans, who knows if they were properly prepared before they were cooked. I would soak them for a few additonal hours just to be on the safe side.

If you think beans are boring, they don't have to be. The secret is incorporating ingredients that add flavor. Think of pungent, spicy or really bold flavors. I made a salad and tossed in all kinds of stuff from my fridge and pantry and came up with this:

Mexican Bean Salad

1 can pinto beans
1 can black beans
Frozen roasted corn
Red onion, sliced
Red bell pepper
Zucchini, chopped

For garnish:

Tomatillo salsa
Avocado oil
Red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Soak beans for a few hours. Drain.
Add to a large bowl.  Slice onions and saute in a little coconut oil until slightly carmelized. Add jalapeño, bell pepper and zucchini and cook until tender.  Add corn till just warmed up and thawed out.  Add to the bowl along with the chopped tomatoes.

Mix all the dressing ingredients in quantities to your liking. Add to the beans and vegetables. Stir. Add sliced avocado and chopped cilantro for on top.

Along side it I made a cheese-stuffed chili relleno without all that batter you usually get at a restaurant. Simply take an Anaheim chili, cut off the top and scrape out all the seeds with a spoon. Stuff it with Monterey Jack and a little tomatillo salsa, or just simply some Pepper Jack cheese. Bake 30-40 minutes at 350 or until your level of preferred doneness of the chili is achieved.  Soft with just the slightest bit of crunch is best.


Friday, July 22, 2016

Cauliflower Rice

A grain-free diet can help many of us with health issues. It’s been found to help those with not only digestive trouble, but also conditions like fatty liver, diabetes and autoimmune issues. When you decide to cut out things like wheat, oats, kamut, rye, spelt, rice, corn, and the like, you start becoming creative with substitutions. Something I’ve come to enjoy despite my initial reservations is “cauliflower rice”.

I won’t pretend and tell you it tastes like rice, because it certainly doesn’t. But it does look a little like rice, hence the name. Cauliflower rice makes a nice accompaniment to Asian dishes. I use it under stir-fried vegetables and chicken, for instance, to soak up the sauce.

What’s nice about this side dish is that it doesn’t fill you up with all that useless starch like rice does. I know a lot of people say they couldn’t give up rice, especially Asians. Likely introduced at birth and served with nearly every meal, rice has become comfort food to them - a  link to family, culture and tradition.  I get that.

But to say that rice is nutritious is inaccurate. There is very little nutrition in it and even the Whole Grains Council admits that rice is a processed food and highly refined. This is because the germ and bran have been stripped off it. Ok, brown rice is better, but it’s still pretty starchy. With white rice, all that's left is a shell of its former self, technically a grain but not even considered a whole one at that. It’s got a ton (45g) of carbohydrates per cup and very little to offer in the way of fiber and nutrients.

In contrast, cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cabbage, kale, mustard greens, bok choy and our friend cauliflower offer wonderful benefits to our health. Cauliflower, actually, is nearly a superfood; that’s because it:

1. Fights cancer with it’s sulphuric compound called sulforaphane.
2. Boosts heart health, again because of its sulforaphane.
3. Is anti-inflammatory because of its 13C, indole-3-carbinol, an anti-inflammatory compound
4. Is rich in vitamins and minerals: Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and B, potassium and manganese.
5. Boosts brain health because of its choline.
6. Offers detoxification support
7. Has digestive benefits
8. Contains antioxidants and phytonutrients.

Hopefully I’ve sold you on why rice is out and cauliflower is in. Now, on to the recipe.

Cauliflower “Rice"

1 whole head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup water

Feed the cauliflower florets into the feeding tube of your food processor which has been fitted with a grater disc and process until grated into a rice “grain". Heat oil in a large skillet or wok and add onion and garlic, sautéing for 5 minutes over medium heat. Add the cauliflower and cook 5-7 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add water, then cover and steam for 5 minutes until the veg is cooked and the water has been absorbed.

Alternatively you can make the following substitutions, especially if serving with something like mango salsa over fish (yum!):

Use coconut oil instead of EVOO;
use 1/4 cup coconut milk in lieu of the water;
use green onions instead of yellow;
omit the garlic and add 1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro, 1Tbsp. lime juice, 2 tsp honey and 3/4 tsp sea salt instead.

I hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Honey, not just for bears

Since adopting a sugar-free diet, I’ve become reacquainted with honey. I used to eat a lot of it as a kid. My dad would buy a big 10 pound tub of wildflower honey every so often from the health food store. It would go on toast, in smoothies, and over yogurt. Ten pounds of honey seems like a lot (and it is) but my dad and I did our best to get through it!

While technically still a sugar, with nearly as many calories (21 cal vs 16 cal) and grams of carbs (6g vs. 4.2g) as table sugar, honey is allowed by those of us on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) because of its chemical composition.

Honey is a monosaccharide, comprised of a single sugar molecule. Because of this, honey is easier to digest than sugar. Sugar is a disaccharide and starches are polysaccharides. These require additional splitting in order to be transported from the intestine into the bloodstream and can often create intestinal problems for those of us who are sensitive. Other monosaccharides are fruit, lactose free yogurt, and certain vegetables.

Even if you don’t have digestive concerns (unless you’re diabetic, battling a candida (yeast) problem, or on a low-carb diet to reduce your weight) I recommend eating more honey and less refined sugar for a number of reasons. (For sure we should all be eliminating artificial sweeteners, which are just simply poison.)

Honey is a natural product, offering enzymes and minerals that sugar cannot.  Sugar has gone through a refining process and is no longer natural, Honey is simply a more natural way to satisfy a sweet tooth.

Eating honey local to your area can benefit those with allergies. By eating honey produced by bees near where you live, you are building your immunity from local plants. A resource for finding local honey producers by state: Other good sites are, and

Certain types of honey, such as Manuka, have been shown to be more effective than antibiotics in the treatment of serious, hard-to-heal skin infections. The only types of honey you should ever attempt to use for wound care are Manuka honey or raw (unprocessed) honey. Conventional “Grade A” type honey found in most grocery stores may actually worsen infection and should never be applied to wounds. Clinical trials have found Manuka honey can effectively eradicate more than 250 clinical strains of bacteria.

Purchasing honey is also a great way to support beekeepers, who often struggle financially to make ends meet. While buying honey at your local market, Trader Joe’s or health food store is better than buying their sugar, go to your farmer’s market or neighborhood beekeeper directly and buy honey from them. They will be happy to let you taste the many varieties of honey they offer so you can decide which flavor you like best.

A few months ago I did just that. We were driving the back roads to a little mountain town northeast of San Diego called Julian for the weekend and came across a roadside shack selling local honey. They had some really interesting flavors: avocado, habanero, and cinnamon honey to name a few. I bought 2: desert sage, and cherry; cherry being particularly good over blueberries and whipped cream!

A few weekends ago we were in Ojai and our friends noticed a sign on the main street advertising a honey tasting nearby. Heavenly Honey offered samples of the 6-8 varieties they produce. I again bought the sage (it’s one of my favorites) and also this time a little darker honey variety than I usually get, Buckwheat, which was also really tasty. I tried it on my nutty pancakes I made last weekend and it was perfect.

But there are so many flavors to choose from. Another one I really love is orange blossom.

Embrace your inner bear and eat more honey, especially from beekeepers at your farmers market. You’ll be supporting our endangered bees and hard-working beekeepers by investing in Nature’s purest sweetener.

This recipe is particularly good at this time of year when peaches are in season and we’ve got the grill on half the time anyway.

Grilled Peaches with Cinnamon Honey and Whipped Cream

One ripe peach per person, cut in half, seed removed
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. honey
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream*

Turn on your grill to low.

Wash, dry and cut in half one ripe peach per person.

Melt some butter in a small saucepan, to which you’ll add a little honey and a sprinkling of cinnamon. Using a pastry brush, brush the entire surface of each peach half with a little coating of this mixture. Place the peach halves face down on the grill and cook for about 5 minutes until nice grill marks are achieved. Turn over, brush with a little more honey butter and cook another 5-8 minutes until the peaches are warm.

While the peaches are grilling, prepare some freshly whipped cream, sweetened, of course, with a little honey if you like.

Remove peaches from grill and serve alongside the whipped cream for a delicious, easy, summertime dessert.

* Alternatives to whipped cream or ice cream: ricotta cheese, mascarpone, chèvre, Greek yogurt, regular yogurt, or cream cheese. Any of those would be great with a little cinnamon, ginger,  and / or nutmeg, of course, sweetened with a little honey. 

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