Ways to add interest to your meals

Do you sometimes get bored of eating the same recipes? So here are some ways that we can add interest to our meals to keep them exciting:

Use Favorite Ingredients
I find that foods I really enjoy, I can use them over and over in many recipes and never tire of them. Using these foods makes whatever recipe I eat enjoyable. For instance, I like fresh sweet corn and I use it often in many recipes even though it’s not included in the ingredients list.  Other "favorite" possibilities are nuts, dried fruit, herbs, spices, lemon/lime juice...

Another Favorite - Dressings/Sauces
This is a must! Everyone needs a favorite, and perhaps a few favorites, in the category of dressings or sauces. Find your favorite dressing and add it to any meal and make it more enjoyable. 

Have a Favorite Food of a Specific Origin?
My favorite is Mexican food. (We call it Tex-Mex here where I'm from.) I can never get bored with my Tex-Mex recipes. Here is an example my Tex-Mex favorite. But perhaps yours is Italian, Indian,Greek, Vietnamese, Greek? If you like them all you can choose a specific one of these as a theme for each day of the week.

More Theme Ideas
You could choose a preparation style as a theme for each day of the week also. For instance, if not already, go "meatless" on Mondays which is so popular that I'm sure you can easily find recipes online for encouragement. Other ideas are: Soups, Sandwiches, Pasta, Baked Meals, Crockpot Meals, InstantPot Meals, Stir-Fries, Sautées, Steamed Meals, and what about the latest?...Budha Bowls?

Search Online
One common place online that I visit for inspiration is www.ForksOverKnives.com. This website lists nothing but whole food that's plant-based. By choosing many of these recipes, you can increase your plant-based food intake in huge proportions. And try some of my recipes too. Over the last year...they are mostly plant-based because my goal is to encourage you to eat more fruits ad vegetables!

Are you, like me, tired of "New Year's Resolutions"?

I'm not sure why, but I don't really like the term "New Year's Resolution". I'm not sure if I'm bored with hearing it or it just feels like another something to do - but that we feel compelled to do because it's the thing to do. It's just irritating to me! Perhaps I have the wrong attitude? Highly true.
Yet, to be honest with myself, I do have a list of things I want to change and goals I hope to accomplish.
Making changes can be challenging.

Making changes create differences that affect:
  • our routine
  • the way we think
  • our relationships

So, after more honest reflection, I realize that I can choose to resist change or embrace it. If I resist it, I get no where and end up with the same old things of the past. Now, some of the past is good. So, perhaps that is why we want to keep holding on...because we don't want to lose the parts that are good. After all, that's what keeps us going, right? Well, true.

But, I have to consider what is behind my drive for making changes and creating goals? The answer: good things. These goals are in hopes for good things. Many of us know what we should be doing and we just aren't doing it. So we have these things that we put on our "New Year's Resolution" list year after year. For example, we can all benefit from consistent exercise. Perhaps this is the irritating part about making these "New Year's Resolutions". I keep adding the same "old" things on the list year after year. How about you? How many times have you said that you wanted to exercise more? Why don't we just implement an exercise routine, reap the benefits and move on?

Let's consider how exercise might affect the different areas of our lives.

It's likely that we will have to wake up earlier or even spend less time surfing the internet in order to add an exercise routine. But, might I inspire you with these thoughts? We can chose to think differently about exercise. There is no need for exercise to take up too much time of your day. Simply walking or jumping on a mini trampoline for 15 - 20 minutes for just 3 days a week can benefit most people. It can be fun and enjoyable too. You can listen to your favorite music or chose dancing as exercise. Yes,  really, sounds fun doesn't it? How about enhancing relationships? Find an exercise partner so that each of you can encourage one another. True, there might be someone that you wish would exercise with you, but please don't allow that you hold you back. Remember, embracing changes require flexibility in our routines, our thoughts and our relationships - but this can result in positive outcomes.

So, yeah, I guess this was really an article about exercising. It's important because it's so good for you and it will support your healthy living style of choosing  to eat healthy food. 

Hey, if you really do implement exercising this year...perhaps the idea of making "New Year's Resolutions" next year will be much easier. (smile)

Being Real - Dealing with My Food Reality

I'm not sure why this post never made it to be published. But I decided to post it today because I meant to a long time ago. I believe it's been almost two years!

It's first thing in the morning (kind of). I often feel inspired at this time of the day with new thoughts about why it's so important to eat "real" food and take a "real" natural approach to just living life. So I will be blogging about this and see how it goes.

We live just on the outskirts of Houston, TX and life feels so rushed most times. I think it's mostly due to the fact that all of our family and friends live 30 minutes to an hour away...so it takes planning to meet up together and planning means "work" especially for someone like me with digestive and health issues...someone like me who needs to eat the way I do.

So I often wonder that if my need wasn't so urgent, would I stray from my diet? and by how much? and how often? For instance, occasionally I try to eat a potato/tortilla chip and I pay for it almost immediately. Usually with a stomach pain, neck stiffness, joint pain, mucous overload in my throat, wheezing, exhaustion...it just depends on the food item. (My discovery is that I can eat grains dry without added oils. It's the oils that the chips are fried in and the oils I would add to my potato that was causing the problems. I can eat a dry baked potato without any worries...although, I no longer add oils...I do pair with fresh vegetable juice or freshly steamed vegetables or a light salad - with an oil-free dressing.)

These immediate effects are what keep me in line and these immediate effects are a constant reminder to me about the importance of what we choose to put into our bodies. Many times I find myself thinking about how I wish I could be "normal". I want to go out to a restaurant and be able to order anything from the menu. Sometimes I feel so frustrated and angry that there aren't many restaurants where I can simply be a "normal" customer. But the fact is that even when I order a salad, I have to ask them to leave something off...not because I'm "picky", but because I just cannot eat the salad as it would normally be served.

So, why is this my reality? What am I supposed to do with this? I could wallow in self-pity everyday (because eating is a necessity that cannot be avoided, I face this daily and at least three times per day) but I have to choose not to do so. I have to make the choice as much as I possibly can, to turn my reality into something good. Something good not just for myself, but for those who are willing, ready and needing to look at the foods they are putting on their plates.

I know of so many who are experiencing health issues. Some can directly relate to me because they are having noticeable digestive issues. Yet, some are just not feeling "right" or have other health problems. Well, I don't just wanna say "I know your problems are related to what you are eating because if given the right foods, vitamins, supplements and removing the harmful things - your body can begin to heal itself!" Even though that's what I feel in my heart and deep down within my soul, I know it's more complicated than that. Good food does and can do a lot of good for your physical body. But, there is more that has to be dealt with for the most of us (I'm definitely including myself here).

Well, even though I'm continuing to write, I will share more with you next time. I don't want to lose your interests by overwhelming you with too much information. Next time, I will be sharing my insight on how I'm dealing with my reality. I sort of take a scientific approach, because this is what makes the most sense for my type of "mathematical" mind. But I think you too will find it interesting. My simple equation is

Next time, I will begin to identify more specific details for each of the 'good' and 'bad' categories.

Nutrition Tip: Adding Fruit

Hello Everyone! Practicing ways to implement more REAL FOODS into the diet of my family is an on-going challenge...even more so for their teenage years. So, with hopes that I don't have to actually place the fruit in front of them and ask that they eat it I decided today to cut the fruit and take it one step further...create serving size baggies!

This actually makes it easy to grab fruit as a snack for everyone in the family. Fruit is full of vitamins, minerals and fiber making it a very healthy snack option.

If not regularly eating fruit daily, try just adding one serving each day and eventually it will become a habit.

Soaking Grains Will Help Your Digestive System

There are many good reasons and benefits for soaking grains, prior to cooking them. Grain foods require soaking and fermentation processes so that our bodies can easily digest the sugars and starches found within them.  Cultures all over the world have used these processes for thousands of years, but many no longer follow this practice especially here in the U.S. where we want our food fast and we want it now.

Most of us are familiar with soaking beans prior to cooking...and just like beans are actually seeds, grains are also seeds. All seeds contain enzyme inhibitors. These enzyme inhibitors are what prevent seeds from sprouting when in a dry environment. Just like seeds require watering when you plant them before they can sprout, grains should also be "watered" to allow the seed to open up (sprout a bit) before cooking. Grains can also be sprouted which takes the preparation a bit further, but at a minimum, we want to soak the grains in water to remove some of the enzyme inhibitors.

Ideally corn grains should be soaked in lime water which can be created using pickling lime (also know as hydrated lime, usually found in the canning section of grocery stores) which is a food-grade calcium hydroxide solution. This process of preparing corn is know as nixtamalization. As explained in Wikipedia, "Nixtamalized [corn] has several benefits over unprocessed grain: it is more easily ground; its nutritional value is increased; flavor and aroma are improved; and mycotoxins (toxic compounds) are reduced." You can see the difference in the second photo below. You can taste the difference (if you try this yourself). The food recipes that I create after properly soaking the corn have a really good flavor without any bitterness. I personally find that the corn tastes just the opposite - even sweeter. It also bakes higher and fluffier.

The grains should be soaked in lime water for at least 7 hours, then you can rinse it prior to a second soaking with water or other liquid of your choice that will be used to bake or cook the corn, plus about 1 - 2 TBS of an acidic solution such as apple cider vinegar, kombucha, or lemon juice.  Here is a good recipe for cornbread which follows this traditional cooking method.

Properly soaked corn grains (left) vs. non-soaked corn grains

Quinoa Grains
Other popular grains such as rices, quinoa and oats don't require as much work. Simple soak the grains overnight (or about 7-8 hours) in filtered water with 1 - 2 TBS of an acidic solution (lemon juice or apple cider vinegar) prior to cooking. If a recipe calls for two cups of water, then soak the grains in two cups of water. Just before cooking, pour off the water into a measuring cup and then replace the amount poured off with fresh filtered water. Then cook according to directions.
Millet Gluten Free Sourdough Starter
And another form of soaking grains is to ferment the grains thus, creating sourdough. I've been fermenting grains for about a year now. On this journey I immediately began fermenting vegetables without hesitation, but I was afraid to try fermenting grains. Silly me for waiting so long because it is also an easy process. Here is a very useful article that contains good information about how to begin creating sourdough either by using a sourdough starter that you purchase or begin your own sourdough starter from scratch and as to why sourdough will benefit you (more nutritious, naturally preserves the baked loaf and it breaks down gluten proteins).

Sourdough Millet Waffles
I hope I have inspired you to take another step toward preparing nutritious food for your health and healing journey. If you over consume whole grains that are not properly prepared, these foods can work against your nutrition goals.

There are a few foods that you can purchase that are already fermented or sprouted. Look for "Sprouted Grain" and "Sourdough" breads that have been prepared using the natural processes described above. I have found these in the fresh bakery section of HEB and in the frozen food sections of most grocery stores. I am also seeing more sprouted grains available in the grocery stores. Packaged grains in their natural state that haven't been pre-boiled or have added oils, preservatives, etc are good choices for your food pantry. Masa corn flour has already been pre-treated with lime and so has many corn tortillas and corn tortilla chips.