Baked Quinoa and Swiss Chard Casserole

Baked Quinoa and Swiss Chard

I knew I was going to have a busy week last week and it would help if I cooked a meal that would last over a few days.  It needed to have both protein and vegetables, and could serve as a main or side dish.  Whole Foods had a special on all varieties of Swiss chard and I realized I hadn’t featured any recipes with this vegetable so far. The wheels started churning and back in the lab I created this baked quinoa and chard casserole.

Other than the Swiss chard, I had all the ingredients in my refrigerator and pantry.  Lately I’ve been keeping cooked quinoa handy for tossing in my salads which I highly recommend.  It’s easy to prepare and can have lots of flavor with just a few ingredients.  For this dish, the quinoa base was cooked in vegetable broth, a little sea salt, onion powder, garlic powder and fresh chives.  Swiss chard is simple to cook and has a unique flavor as all the greens do.  I sautéed it in a little olive oil with onions and peppers.  Combine it all with a few other herbs, spices and cheeses, and the casserole is ready for the oven.

Swiss chard is high in vitamins A, K, and C, which are your antioxidant and anti inflammatory vitamins. It is also rich in minerals, dietary fiber, and protein.  Quinoa is a super grain that I can’t do without, providing me with much needed protein and fiber.

Try this recipe and get a big spoonful of wellness!

Feed the wellness in you!

Baked Quinoa and Swiss Chard Casserole

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes

Serving Size: 6-8

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches of Swiss chard, washed and chopped
  • 2 cups Quinoa (about 6 cups cooked)
  • 4.5 cups of vegetable broth
  • 4 oz fresh chives, chopped
  • 4 sweet peppers, chopped
  • 1/2 c shitake mushrooms
  • 1/8 c red onions
  • 5 oz shredded parmesan/asiago/fontina cheese
  • 1 c egg whites
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbl garlic powder
  • 1 tbl parsley
  • 1 tbl sage
  • Cooking spray

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook the quinoa in 4 cups of vegetable broth, chopped fresh chives, 1 tsp of sea salt. This should take approximately 15 minutes.
  3. In another pan, sautee the Swiss chard with the mushrooms, sweet peppers and red onions for about 10 minutes on medium heat.
  4. Combine the quinoa and Swiss chard in a large bowl, mix in .5 c of vegetable broth, egg whites and 2.5 oz of cheese.
  5. Add the remaining herbs and spices.
  6. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray and spread the quinoa and Swiss chard mixture in the dish.
  7. Top with remaining 2.5 oz of cheese.
  8. Cook for 20 minutes and serve.
https://eatlikeavegetarian.com/baked-quinoa-and-swiss-chard-casserole/

Weekly Wellness Tip – Natural Allergy Remedies

Allergies

The weather was beautiful on the East Coast this weekend! In Washington, DC we experienced mid-80 degrees on Saturday and close to 70 degrees on Sunday. Once we get the sun and a hint of warmth the city comes alive. People are out walking, jogging, cycling, dining al fresco – all makes for a wonderful spring. However, what comes along with spring weather are seasonal allergies.  Mild for some, severe for others.  Some even move their outdoor exercise to the evening because many trees release their pollen at first light and that makes morning outdoor activity miserable.  In church yesterday, it seemed like everyone was in symphony with their sneezing, sniffling, coughing and blowing.  You really need to be in preventive mode starting in March so when the allergy season arrives you are ahead of the onset of symptoms.  Even if you have a severe case of allergies and are on prescribed medication, a natural approach to ease the symptoms can also be very helpful.  There are several suggested natural approaches but I will only speak about a few that I have used personally and practice.

  1. Eucalyptus Oil –  when my children were babies, my Caribbean mother, her posse of sisters and friends all had a natural suggestion for taking care of the children’s ailments.  They were in the form of a lotion, salve, oil, or tonic.  One such item was Olbas Oil that had to be delivered via plane, train, and automobile directly from the Caribbean.  Even if you could find it in the U.S. to them, it wasn’t legit unless it came from their ‘home’.  Olbas Oil  was used for any congestion or cough by rubbing on the children’s chest at bedtime.  One of the main ingredients is Eucalyptus Oil.  And yes it does work and we use it to this day.  The strong aroma helps open and clear nasal passages.
  2. Saline Spray – this helps remove the residual pollen and mucus from the nasal passages.  It takes some getting used to but even my children  admit they feel much better after using this as part of their regimen.
  3. Acupuncture –  not just for aches and pains, acupuncture is an effective way of reducing allergy symptoms.  My acupuncturist does a thorough review of your wellness for the week and during this time, allergies are discussed and if required, he will treat them with needles in certain pressure points.  Relief is always on its way right after treatment.
  4. HEPA Filters – Air purifiers with HEPA filters are great at trapping dust.  I’m amazed at the amount collected in just one day.  In addition to these the obvious thorough cleaning of clothing, carpet and high traffic areas on a daily basis helps tremendously at the height of allergy season.
  5. Local Honey – so far there is no scientific evidence that supports this but there has been preliminary research that indicates honey can help combat allergies.  The theory is that honey should make the body accustomed to the presence of pollen spores and decrease the chance an immune system response like the release of histamine will occur.  Local honey increases the chances that would provide the varieties of flowering plants and grasses giving the allergy sufferer trouble are the same kinds the bees are including in the honey they produce.  I’ve been on a daily regimen of a tablespoon a day for the past two weeks, overall feel great, no meds and it’s a great addition to my morning yogurt!

Would love to know what natural remedies work for you!

Feed the wellness in you!

Black Lentil and Barley Risotto with Asparagus

Black lentil and barley risotto

A few weeks ago a neighbor of mine sent me a link to a recipe for slow cooker Barley and Chickpea Risotto.  I sometimes use recipes as my inspiration to create a dish but more often than not, I think about what main ingredient I want to have in a dish and build from there.  What I liked about the barley and chickpea recipe is that it featured the barley acting as the risotto instead of Arborio rice.  I love subtle changes that make a big difference.  Barley is a wonderful whole grain with a chewy, nutty consistency; full of fiber and lots of heart healthy, cancer fighting minerals.  I had some barley in my pantry and thought about what other ingredients I had readily available to create a risotto.

I had some black lentils which I thought would be great to cook alongside the barley for many reasons.  I’ve posted about lentils before so I don’t want to be repetitive, but they are also a great fiber source as well as protein; all great for heart health, digestive health and lowering cholesterol.   Black lentils were also a good choice to pair with the barley because they can cook at the same pace and would be a great complement in flavor and texture.  Keep in mind my barley was sprouted which reduces the cooking time and retains the nutrients.  If the barley is not sprouted it can take between 60-90 minutes to prepare.

I needed some contrast to the dish for color and as I posted last week, asparagus is in season, and I am going to feature it as much as possible since I love it and it’s easy to prepare.  Along with some sweet peppers, shitake mushrooms, mild spices, all cooked in vegetable broth, this risotto is a fantastic, healthy side or main dish.  Basic risotto calls for butter and parmesan cheese; No butter needed when you use vegetable broth and I used a little parrano cheese instead of parmesan but this is optional (but SO good).  Prepare it and dig in!

Feed the wellness in you!

Black Lentil and Barley Risotto with Asparagus

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of Barley
  • 1/2 cup of Black Lentils
  • 6 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 2 tsp minced shallots
  • 5 sweet peppers
  • 1/2 cup of Shitake Mushrooms
  • 4 cups of vegetable broth
  • 2 tsp of sea salt
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup of parrano cheese, shredded
  • 2 tsp fresh dry thyme

Instructions

  1. Sautee the garlic and shallots for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the Barley, Black Lentils, 1 tsp sea salt and 3 cups of vegetable broth. Cook on medium heat for 10 minutes then turn to low heat for 20 minutes.
  3. In another pan, sautee the sweet peppers and shitake mushrooms for 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add the asparagus, lemon juice and thyme. Mix well and cook for another 5 minutes.
  5. Fold the asparagus mixture into the barley and black lentils with the remaining vegetable broth. Cook on low for 5 minutes then remove from heat.
  6. Mix in 1/2 cup of the parrano cheese and serve.
  7. Sprinkle the remaining parrano cheese on top.
https://eatlikeavegetarian.com/black-lentil-and-barley-risotto-with-asparagus/

In Season Wellness – Asparagus

Bunch of fresh green asparagus spears

Although asparagus is available all year long, March is its peak marking Spring is here! You’ll notice the foodie magazines will feature asparagus in a variety of recipes and featured heavily on restaurant menus. Can’t wait!

It’s a good thing I love asparagus because the word alone could trigger a traumatic memory for me. In 5th grade I won my school’s spelling bee (brag alert – AND again in 6th grade) and made it to the city championship.  I was VERY nervous and  lost because I misspelled ASPARAGUS.  Needless to say I will never forget how to spell it.

If you love asparagus you know it is crisp and sweet raw as well as delicious roasted and lightly sautéed.  It is also extremely good for you in numerous ways.

  1. It contains  many anti-inflammatory nutrients which help to combat arthritis, asthma, and autoimmune diseases.
  2. It is full of antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin A (beta-carotene), zinc, manganese and selenium;  With its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, asparagus is a robust fighter against bladder, breast, colon, lung, prostate, ovarian and other cancers.
  3. Fresh asparagus are rich sources of folates.  Folate, a B complex vitamin, is essential for a healthy cardiovascular system.
  4. Asparagus is also an excellent source of Vitamin K which is also good for your bones and has antioxidant properties which preliminary studies show may help slow the aging process.

To preserve nutrients and get the most out of its antioxidant power when cooking try to roast, grill or lightly stir fry asparagus.

I’ll be posting a recipe with this star vegetable soon!

Feed the wellness in you!

Smokey Beans with Sweet Plantain

Smokey Beans with Plantain 1

My love for cooking is derived from the variety and flavors of food that I grew up with in my household and from my extended family.  My paternal grandmother was an amazing cook as she traveled the world as an Ambassador’s wife and would explore those cultures in her cooking.  My maternal grandmother, my mother, aunts and cousins (and there are MANY across those last two categories) can all cook very well – no pressure.  They enjoy the planning, preparation, serving and delight in seeing their guests enjoy what they’ve created.  As I mentioned in other posts, I am a first generation American born to parents from the Caribbean.  My first love will always be ‘island’ spices and traditions from their preparation of cooking.

Plantain was a staple in meals during my childhood and treated as a side dish as you would have potatoes, yams or sweet potatoes.   Also known as plátanos, they are closely related to the fruit, banana.  Plantain can be prepared and cooked when green, and also when it is ripe which is signaled by it softening and turning yellow and black.

I  cook plantain once or twice a month – not too often as it is relatively high in calories.  The starch converts to sugar even more than a banana – but I do enjoy having it. Tremendously.  Plantain is nutritious and is a  great source of Vitamins A, C, B-6 and Potassium.   I fry plantain, boil it, boil and mash it, add to soups and stews; I use it numerous ways.  The addition of plantain to this dish I prepared is magic.

So let’s talk about my ‘oh so smokey beans’!  I use both kidney beans and black beans.  I find it interesting how various cultures use different beans in their dishes.  My father’s Haitian culture uses the kidney bean in rice as they do in Jamaica.  A Costa Rican family that lived on my block in Brooklyn used black beans in their dishes and that was my introduction to those beans as my mother never used them in her Vincentian upbringing.  I love both of these beans and they are used frequently in my vegetarian lifestyle.  Kidney beans are great for absorbing the flavors they are in.  As with all beans these are both very good sources of cholesterol-lowering fiber, iron and lots of protein.

My ingredients for this dish are simple but combined they provide several layers of flavor.  The garlic, liquid smoke and the paprika provide the great smokey flavor, yet the red peppers provide a nice sweet finish to the beans.  Paired with the unexpected soft, sweet plantain really makes this a side dish that is unique and appealing.

Feed the wellness in you!

Smokey Beans with Sweet Plantain

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Serving Size: 4-6

Ingredients

  • 2 cans of kidney beans
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 2 cups of vegetable broth
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 c onions
  • 5 sweet peppers, sliced and seeded
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1 Tbl tomato paste
  • Sea Salt
  • 1 Tbl smoked paprika
  • 2 ripe plantains
  • 2 - 4 Tbl olive oil

Instructions

  1. Sautee the garlic, onions, sweet peppers in 1-2 tbl of olive oil.
  2. Add the beans and vegetable broth and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the remainder of the ingredients except for the plantains. Add 1 tsp of sea salt.
  4. Cook on medium heat for 20 minutes stirring periodically then turn to low heat and leave covered with a slight crack so the dish does not create condensation/water.
  5. In another pan, heat 2 Tbl of olive oil and slice your plantain into discs as shown in the picture of the finished product.
  6. Place the discs in the pan and allow to get golden brown on both sides.
  7. Once done, place on paper towels to drain the oil.
  8. Add to the smokey beans. The beans should be a nice, smooth, consistency. Not too thick and not at all runny and loose.
  9. Remove from heat and serve.
https://eatlikeavegetarian.com/smokey-beans-with-sweet-plantain/

Weekly Wellness Tip – The Berry Wars

Berries against a white background

Goji or Acai?  Dried or Fresh?  Noni berry or Noni juice?  There seems to be a campaign promoting  a new miracle berry every month!  I eat raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries everyday; the blackberry is known for being the strongest antioxidant, and all three provide great sources of fiber, Vitamins C, manganese, and many other respective vitamins and minerals. I did not consider adding another berry in my repertoire until a dear friend of mine asked me if I knew anything about Goji berries.  In an effort to help us both, I did some research on these other exotic berries that are being marketed with health claims. Here is what I found –

  1. Goji Berry  – These small, red berries have been used by Chinese herbalists for millennia to help eyesight, boost immune function and promote longevity.  They are grown in Himalayan region of China and Tibet.  Goji berries are very rich in nutrients – iron, fiber, Vitamins A and C.  But all berries are good for you so does this stand out amongst the rest? So far, there have been few published clinical trials to validate its highly lauded benefits above other berries.  According to Cathy Wong ND, Alternative Medicine Expert, although goji berries have a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine, there is currently a lack of research on the safety or effectiveness of goji berries in supplement form.  So buy fresh goji berries if this is your choice.
  2. Açai berry  – This berry from the Amazon region has long been known to be a good source of antioxidants and nutritious.  A team of Texas AgriLife Research scientists showed that the antioxidants in açai berries are readily absorbed by the human body.  According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) no studies substantiate the claim that acai supplements alone promote rapid weight loss. However, laboratory studies have shown that acai berries demonstrate anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory activity.  No researched information states açai is any better than other antioxidant-packed fruits and vegetables.
  3. Noni berry – Noni is grown on an evergreen shrub throughout the tropical regions of the Pacific Ocean, from Southeast Asia to Australia. Noni has a history of use as a topical preparation for joint pain and skin conditions. Today, noni fruit juice has folk uses as a general health tonic and for cancer and chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.  In laboratory research at the National Institute of Health, noni has shown antioxidant, immune-stimulating, and tumor-fighting properties. These results suggest that noni may warrant further study for conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. However, noni has not been well studied in people for any health condition.

I am not convinced I need to add any additional berries to my fruit bowl.  No berries are performing miracles but I will stick to my blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and occasionally strawberries (if I can get to them before my kids); when pomegranates are in season those are added (see In Season Wellness – Pomegranates), as well as cherries.  I always buy organic as blueberries and strawberries rank the highest in pesticide residue.

Feed the wellness in you!

In Season Wellness – Guava

Guava with a half isolated on whiteThe Guava fruit brings back many childhood memories for me,  spending time on the lovely island of St. Vincent.  With rich volcanic soil, fruits and vegetables are grown in abundance on that small agricultural island.  Guava is everywhere, literally falling off the trees. It is made into several things –  jelly,  cheese,  stew, pudding, juice, ice cream.  Low in calories, high in vitamin C and potassium, they can also be eaten plain.  What a joy it was to just walk along the beach and see Guavas in the sand that dropped from Guava trees.  We would just pick them up, go to the sea, wash it off and eat it.  That is organic food at its best!  You can eat the entire Guava from the outer skin, to the flesh and the seeds.

Guava has a higher concentration of lycopene—an antioxidant that fights prostate cancer and prevents skin damage from UV rays —than any other plant food, including tomatoes and watermelon. It contains more potassium than other fruits like banana weight per weight. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Guava also contains vitamins like Vitamin E, K, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, Vitamin B6 and minerals like copper, manganese and magnesium which are important for blood formation. Also due to high content of Vitamin C, guava increases body’s capacity to absorb iron. Lastly, Guava may also be the ultimate high-fiber food: There’s almost 9 grams of fiber in every cup.

Find Guava near you and dive in.

Feed the wellness in you!

In Season Wellness – Kohlrabi

Purple kohlrabies

Have you ever had Kohlrabi? Have you ever even HEARD of Kohlrabi?  A few weeks ago I encountered this curious vegetable.  I was presented with a lunch menu that had an appetizer of winter root vegetables, and Kohlrabi was one of the vegetables. I ordered it and although I wasn’t blown away with the chosen preparation, it didn’t deter me from learning more about Kohlrabi.

After a quick search I realized that I had seen Kohlrabi many times before and thought it was a turnip. It is also known as knol-khol or German turnip with its origins in Germany.  In the German language Kohlrabi means ‘cabbage turnip’, aptly named since it is in the cabbage family of Brassica.  The brassica family also includes broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collard greens and brussels sprouts. Vegetables in this family are very high in Vitamin C, phytochemicals that help protect you from cancer, and many other vitamins and minerals.

Very much like cabbage, Kohlrabi has two varietals – white and purple. The bulb has a thick outer layer and looks like a cabbage, but once you cut into it, it is dense like a turnip.

Kohlrabi chopped

You can eat the leafy greens on the stem as you would the fleshy part.  It can be eaten raw, grilled, stir-fried, in soup; apparently very versatile.

I will return with a recipe soon now that I have Kohlrabi washed and chopped – I plan to give Kohlrabi validation in my kitchen.

Feed the wellness in you!

Weekly Wellness Tip – Need Sleep?

1760-your-future-depends-on-your-dreams-so-go-to-sleep

As much as we are anxious for Spring to come, many of us can not believe we have to set our clocks forward in a week.  Why?  We are going to lose an hour of sleep!  For those that don’t generally sleep that well losing that hour is going to be brutal until we adjust.

About 10 years ago I was having trouble sleeping and discovered I was iron deficient.  My doctor prescribed iron supplements and it was an incredible transformation. Now my iron rich diet has helped with relieving me of this issue permanently!  Studies also show that you can be deficient in calcium and magnesium causing you to have sleep issues.  We need our sleep to be at our optimal best so if falling asleep and staying asleep is a problem for you, find the root of the problem and determine a solution that fits your needs.

Diet can be a start.  Here is a list of food to incorporate in your lifestyle if you may be hitting a wall once we “spring forward”.  Start now and stay ahead of the sleep thief!

Feed the wellness in you!

  1. Almonds – A great source of magnesium.  If you are magnesium deficient, you have a harder time staying asleep.
  2. Walnuts – A good source of tryptophan, a sleep-enhancing amino acid that helps make serotonin and melatonin, the “body clock” hormone that sets your sleep-wake cycles.
  3. Cherry juice – Particularly tart cherries, naturally boost levels of melatonin.
  4. Yogurt – Dairy products like yogurt and milk have the calcium boost to help if you’re deficient.
  5. Whole grains – Get your Farro, Barley and Quinoa to boost your magnesium level.
  6. Leafy greens –  Kale, Collards, Mustard Greens, Spinach, Bok Choy, Watercress – all high in iron and calcium.
  7. Chickpeas – Chickpeas boast vitamin B6, which is needed to make melatonin (a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness).

Ackee and Bok Choy

Ackee and Bok Choy

It’s not scrambled eggs, tofu, nor potatoes – it is Ackee.

Although native to West Africa, Ackee is prominently known in Jamaican cuisine and is in their national dish, Ackee and Saltfish (Cod).  Prior to becoming a vegetarian I absolutely loved Ackee and Saltfish.  Whenever in Jamaica I made a point to have it for breakfast as much as I could and learned how to make it at home.  Despite my Caribbean heritage, this was not a dish made in my home growing up, but Codfish was and prepared several ways.  I grew up having it made into fritters simply known as Codfish fritters, as a hot dish known as Codfish Stew, and as a cold dish named Buljol.  All equally delicious to me.  I loved Codfish so much that when I became pregnant with my twins my first craving was for Codfish fritters and I had my mother make them and overnight them to me….regularly!

Now as a vegetarian and in my quest to prepare interesting dishes I have combined Ackee with vegetables.  Eating Ackee with vegetables is not foreign in Jamaica because Rastafarians eat ‘Ital’ which is organic, non-processed food from the earth.  This results in vegetarian and vegan meals, which includes Ackee as an ingredient.  “Ital is vital” summarizes the Rastafarian belief that pure food from the earth is the most physically and spiritually beneficial.

Ackee  is not easily available at standard grocery stores.  You may have to find a Caribbean store to purchase a can of it or if you live in a more diverse city you grocery store may have it or even Walmart .  Bok Choy is readily available and I love that this vegetable has some crunch to it when you add the stalk.  Both provide great nutritional benefits!  All the fat in Ackee is unsaturated fat which is a good  way to protect the health of your heart, according to MayoClinic.com  It also has fiber, Vitamin C, B, and Niacin.  Bok Choy is very low in calories and packed with Vitamins C, K, B, Fiber, Calcium and Iron.

Ackee and Bok Choy is delicious!  I had it with Rice and Beans, and plantain.

Ackee and Bok Choy1

You  can also have Ackee for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  How about that for versatility?

Feed the wellness in you!

Ackee and Bok Choy

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Serving Size: 4

Please find the nearest Caribbean market near you to find all of these items! Please note that if you're not familiar with the scotch bonnet pepper you may want to try half of one initially. It adds a good amount of heat but if you enjoy heat with slight sweetness, this pepper is for you.

Ingredients

  • 1 can of Ackee, drained
  • 2 bunches of Bok Choy
  • 1/2 cup green peppers, sliced
  • 1/2 cup red peppers, sliced
  • 1/4 cup scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 1 tbl minced garlic
  • 1 scotch bonnet pepper, chopped
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbl All purpose seasoning with Adobo (No MSG)
  • 3-4 stems fresh thyme
  • 1 cup of grape tomatoes, chopped

Instructions

  1. Wash the Bok Choy thoroughly, drain and chop.
  2. In a large pan, saute the green peppers, red peppers, scallions, onion, minced garlic, scotch bonnet pepper for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the bok choy and saute on low heat for 15 minutes.
  4. Add the scotch bonnet and onion powder and mix well.
  5. Add the Ackee, tomato paste, all purpose seasoning and fresh thyme.
  6. Cook on low heat for 10 minutes.
  7. Add your chopped tomatoes and turn off heat.
  8. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes then serve.
https://eatlikeavegetarian.com/ackee-and-bok-choy/