Conscious Eating

Taste the Rainbow

Colorful-Veggies-17b12f86BY: JUDITH FERTIG

Expand Your Palate with New Colorful Veggies

Americans’ vegetable habits are in a rut. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly 50 percent of the vegetables and legumes available in this country in 2013 were either tomatoes or potatoes. Lettuce came in third, according to new data released in 2015, advises Tracie McMillan, author of The American Way of Eating.

Further, 87 percent of U.S. adults did not meet basic vegetable serving recommendations from 2007 through 2010, a fact cited in the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey. Yet, urban supermarkets overflow with a wealth of common and exotic vegetables, often displayed side-by-side: broccoli and broccolini, green bell and Japanese shishito peppers, and iceberg lettuce and leafy mâche, or lamb’s lettuce.

BrocolliniTrying one new vegetable dish a week is a great way to increase our vegetable literacy, says functional medicine expert Terri Evans, a doctor of Oriental medicine in Naples, Florida. “Our diet should be 60 percent produce—40 percent vegetables and 20 percent fruit,” she says. “To keep this sustainable for the long term, we should eat what tastes good, not what we think is good for us. Some days, we crave the sweetness of carrots; other days, the bitterness of artichokes or the heat of hot peppers. Our bodies can tell us what we need.”

Keep Expanding Choices

Going Green. Dark green and slightly peppery arugula is good with a little olive oil and lemon juice. Finely shredded Brussels sprouts bulk up a mixed salad, while adding the benefits of a cancer-fighting cruciferous vegetable. Instead of mineral-rich baby spinach, try baby Swiss chard, suggests Matthew Kadey, a registered dietician in Waterloo, Ontario. He also suggests microgreens, the tiny shoots of radishes, cabbage, broccoli and kale, all rich in vitamins C and E.

Squash It. Varieties of summer and winter squash add color, body and flavor to one-dish meals, with the added benefits of B vitamins, magnesium and fiber. LeAnne Campbell, Ph.D., author of The China Study Cookbook, simmers a mix of fresh chopped vegetables including yellow summer squash or zucchini, and flavors with coconut and curry powder. Vegan Chef Douglas McNish, of Toronto, makes an okra and squash gumbo in the slow cooker.

Sneak in a Smoothie. Change up a smoothie routine by swapping out the usual baby spinach for a blend of cucumber, apple and fresh mint, or else sweet potato and carrot, suggests Sidney Fry, a registered dietitian and Cooking Light editor, in Birmingham, Alabama. READ MORE


Ancient Grains for Modern Palates

Amaranth-Ancient-Grains-16d74b70Gluten-Free and Eco-Friendly Grains Gain Favor



Photo by: Stephen Blancett

New Twists on Old Favorites Heal, Nourish and Soothe


Winter season soups on chilly days can warm us, both body and soul. Whatever our food preferences or time constraints, some new twists on traditional favorites will satisfy everyone’s taste buds—with an accent on healthy pleasure. Here’s where to start.

Reinventing the past. From her Colorado mountain home, Jenny McGruther, author of The Nourished Kitchen, celebrates the wisdom of traditional foodways, making nutrient-dense, healing soup broth from bones, water, vegetables and seasonings. McGruther’s twist is to make it in a six-quart slow cooker.

Once her family has dined on organic roast or rotisserie chicken, she simmers the bones with purified water, a bay leaf or two, a few whole peppercorns and a few chopped organic vegetables like onion, carrot and celery on the low setting for 24 hours. Then she ladles the broth through a coffee strainer into another container, refreshes the slow cooker with more water and simmers the bones and seasonings for another 24 hours. Eventually, the broth will have less flavor and color, and that’s when McGruther starts all over again.

“I call this perpetual soup,” she says. She blogs at

Slowing it down. With homemade broth on hand, it’s easy to make the Italian winter staple of Tuscan Vegetable Bean Soup. Cookbook authors and slow cooker experts Kathy Moore and Roxanne Wyss, from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, love to make this when they’re working on a cookbook deadline. They simply use what they have in the refrigerator, freezer or pantry.

“With a soup like this you can always substitute one vegetable for another, adjusting the recipe to what you enjoy and have on hand,” advises Moore. The pair blogs at

Speeding it up. Sometimes, we need a single serving of homemade soup fast. Award-winning recipe developer and cookbook author Camilla Saulsbury, of Nacogdoches, Texas, whips up a Pumpkin Sage Soup that can simmer in a saucepan within minutes, ready to be enjoyed in a mug. READ MORE

Sweetly Vegan

No-Bake Holiday Treats Worth Celebrating

Sharing Our Bounty

Food Drives Need Healthy Donations

The Zen of Slow Cooking

Savor Your Autumn Harvest in One-Pot Dishes

by Judith Fertig

Slowcooker-Vegetarian-Vegan-Recipes-db20c6c1Autumn’s shorter days remind us how precious time is, especially when we can spend the hours with good friends and loved ones. That’s why Chicago mothers and bloggers Meg Barnhart and Jane McKay decided to try slow cooking with a Zen approach in creating family meals. With the time they save in food preparation—especially when one recipe can yield an extra lunch or dinner—they free up moments for both family interaction and their own spiritual practices.

“Slow cooking with the sacred intention of slowing down creates a sense of peace and calm after a full day of work and school,” says Barnhart. Once she transitioned to this kind of meal planning and preparation on a regular basis, she realized that it allows her to be more attentive to her family’s needs while a healthy, tasty dinner basically cooks itself. With extra time for meditation and yoga in her daily life, she realizes increased clarity and focus for other interests and demands.

McKay enjoys the creative challenge of making family-pleasing, whole food recipes and converting conventionally cooked recipes for use with a slow cooker. “I especially love the bounty of the autumn harvest, which includes seasonal picks from our family’s urban garden,” she says. She’s found that root vegetables, squash, pumpkin, leeks, mushrooms, leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, apples, pears and nuts all translate well to lower temperature cooking for a longer period.

Whether it’s a quick preparation that allows for other activities or a more contemplative, mindful endeavor that can be relaxing in itself, the recipes on the pair’s website,, are highly suited for busy people.

Slow Cooking 101

Slow cookers have come a long way since they were first introduced in the 1970s. Today, they come in all shapes and sizes, with inserts, timers and a wide range of settings. Barnhart and McKay recommend the five-to-six-quart size with a removable insert as the most practical. Food cooks in the insert, which can be washed and dried separately, so there’s no need to put the entire slow cooker in the sink to clean up afterwards.

October is Vegetarian Awareness Month

Because the slow cooker’s low temperature is about 200° F and the heat is indirect, the appliance uses less liquid than conventional cooking. Many of Barnhart and McKay’s easier recipes simply require putting the ingredients in the slow cooker, selecting the temperature, replacing the lid and turning the appliance on.

Fresh garnishes, such as the roasted pumpkin seeds or fried sage leaves for the Butternut Squash Soup, make a crisper contrast to the softer texture of slow-cooked foods, notes McKay.

Dishes like Sweet and Spicy Apples can be made the day before; leftovers taste delicious for breakfast with a dollop of yogurt. Barnhart and McKay make their own Sweet & Spicy Ground Spice Blend, available on their website, with proceeds funding cooking classes for adults with developmental disabilities.
Judith Fertig blogs at from Overland Park, KS.


Mindful Fall Recipes

photos by Stephen Blancett

photos by Stephen Blancett

Butternut Squash Soup

Yields: 6 servings
Prep Time: 5-10 minutes

5-6 cups butternut squash, diced
½ cup or 1 carrot, chopped
1 cup or 1 small bunch scallions or spring onions, chopped
8 whole sage leaves, fresh (or 1 Tbsp dried)
1 Tbsp rosemary, fresh (or ½ Tbsp dried)
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup organic dairy or non-dairy milk

Suggested toppings:
Slices of freshly toasted bread, drizzled with olive oil and cubed
1/3 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
8 additional fresh sage leaves, fried
4 slices of lean bacon or tempeh, crispy and crumbled

Place the squash, carrot, scallions, sage leaves, rosemary, chicken broth and milk into the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high setting for 3 hours or low for 6 hours. Then, blend using an immersion blender until smooth and leave covered until ready to serve. Make the toppings available to sprinkle and stir.

Root Vegetable Gratin with Mushrooms and Blue Cheese

Yields: 6 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes

Slow Cooker Vegetable Gratin Recipe1 cup or 2 medium parsnips, diced to ½ inch
2 cups or 3 medium carrots, diced to ½ inch
1 cup or 2 medium turnips, diced to ½ inch
6 oz Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
½ cup vegetable or chicken broth
4 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup organic olive oil
1 Tbsp dried oregano
8 oz sliced Portabella mushrooms
1 large onion, sliced into half moons
6 oz blue cheese, crumbled, or vegan cheese
4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/3-inch slices
Black pepper to taste

Put the vegetables into the slow cooker with the garlic and stir in the olive oil and oregano. Layer the mushrooms on top of the vegetable mixture, followed by a layer of onions. Next, sprinkle the blue cheese crumbles on top.

Pour the broth over the vegetables and cheese mixture, and lay the sliced potatoes on top. Season the potatoes with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours or on low for 6 hours.

Millet and Miso Stuffed Acorn Squash with Sriracha Dressing

Yields: 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes

Coconut or organic olive oil
2 acorn squash, halved and deseeded
1 cup millet or quinoa
½ can garbanzo beans
½ cup raisins
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp black pepper
3 Tbsp fresh chives, snipped
¼ cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp white miso paste Olive oil
4 Tbsp pine nuts, toasted

Slow Cooker Vegan Stuffed Squash RecipeDressing:
2 tsp Sriracha sauce
1 Tbsp lime juice
¼ cup plain or coconut milk yogurt

Oil the insert of the slow cooker with coconut or olive oil. On a chopping board, halve the acorn squash and scoop out the seeds.

In a separate bowl, add the millet, garbanzo beans, raisins, garlic powder, black pepper and 2 tablespoons of the chives. Mix the lemon juice, miso and 2/3 cup water in a cup and pour over the millet mixture. Stir well. Spoon the millet filling into the acorn squash. Cover and cook on low setting for 6 hours or high for 3 hours. Mix the ingredients for the Sriracha dressing in a small bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Once cooked, remove from the slow cooker and sprinkle with the remaining snipped chives and toasted pine nuts. Serve with the Sriracha dressing alongside.

Sweet and Spicy Baked Apples

Yields: 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Baked Apples RecipeCoconut oil
5 medium or 4 large apples
2 tsp lemon juice
¼ cup soft brown, maple or date sugar
½ cup walnuts
1 Tbsp Sweet & Spicy Ground Spice Blend or apple pie spice blend
Ice cream topper to serve

Oil the inside of the slow cooker insert with coconut oil. Halve and core the apples and sit them in the bottom of the slow cooker insert. Pour the lemon juice over the apples. In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, walnuts and spice blend and press onto and into the apples. Cover and cook on low setting for 4 hours or on high for 2 hours.
All recipes adapted from by Meg Barnhart and Jane McKay.

Eating the Ayurvedic Way

by: Peggy Breeze

Big food still-life

Ayurveda, a 5,000-year-old healing system from India, offers a unique approach for determining a correct diet based upon individual constitution. Different from the current Western definition of a balanced diet, which is based on eating from different food groups, ayurveda views a person’s own makeup as the key component.

In ayurveda, all matter, including the human body, is made up of five elements: ether, air, fire, water and earth. Ayurveda groups the five elements into three basic types of energy, or functional principles, that are present in everybody and everything. Each element brings with it certain attributes or qualities: ether or space— clear, light, subtle, soft, immeasurable; air—mobile, dry, light, cold, rough; fire— hot, sharp, dry; water—cool, liquid, dull, soft, oily, slimy; and earth—heavy, dull, static, dense, hard, gross.

There are no single words in English to describe these principles, so we use the original Sanskrit words vata, pitta and kapha. Vata is the combination of ether and air, pitta is fire and water and kapha is earth and water. According to ayurvedic tradition, for humans, it is at conception that a combination of these elements come together to determine the unique makeup or dosha of the individual. As long as the doshas are normal in quality and quantity, the body will remain balanced. However, if the original distribution is out of whack, then imbalance sets in and the body will begin to experience pain and suffering in the form of illness.

One way to keep the doshas in balance is through the foods we eat. That is why in ayurveda, food is thought of as medicine. To understand how this works, consider another ayurvedic theory— like energies attract like energies. So for those with a vata constitution, eating foods that are light, dry, cold and rough, (the attributes of ether and air) will increase the elements of air an ether in the body and thus may cause a vata imbalance. Vata imbalances can range from constipation, dry skin and eyes to osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, as well as fear.

The same goes for those with a pitta constitution that eat hot, sharp, oily and dry foods; the increase in the fire and water elements may cause pitta imbalances. Rashes and acne, ulcers and acid reflux, rheumatoid arthritis, bleeding gums, red eyes and migraine headaches, as well as anger, envy, hate and over-competitiveness are examples
of pitta imbalances. Kapha constitutions that eat cool, liquid, oily, heavy, dense and hard foods, which could increase the water and earth elements in their bodies, could experience the imbalances of weight gain, congestion and depression.

Keeping with the theory that like energies increases like energies, then opposite energies balance. An example of this might be if someone is of a pitta constitution (fire and water), and their pitta dosha has become imbalanced due to eating peppers, onions or hot soup (hot and wet properties), they might try eating cooling cucumbers or a salad (cool and dry properties). The same might go for a vata constitution that has become vata imbalanced. The imbalance may have come from eating cold and dry foods (smoothie, salad) and could be balanced by eating oatmeal and soup (warm and liquid properties).

In addition to food, other things like the seasons, the time of day, the time of life, lifestyle, habits, environment and even exercise styles, including types of yoga classes, can balance or imbalance a person. An ayurvedic consultant can help determine a specific constitution, and then guide the patient through those areas that are causing imbalance. With this knowledge in hand, everyday decisions can help us stay healthy throughout the year and even our entire lifetime.

CRG-BalancedYogi-PeggyBreeze-adjPeggy Breeze is a kripalu ayurveda diet and lifestyle consultant, Himalayan Institute ayurveda yoga specialist, certified ACE and AFAA personal trainer and owner of The Balanced Yogi. For more information, call 972-658-1600 or visit




In less than a generation, childhood obesity has risen substantially, most notably in the United States, according to the article “Child and Adolescent Obesity: Part of a Bigger Picture,” in a recent issue of The Lancet. The authors attest that modern culture’s promotion of junk food encourages weight gain and can exacerbate risk factors for chronic disease in our kids.

When concerned parents have a picky child bent on eating only French fries, they could enroll them in healthy cooking classes that offer tastings and related hands-on experiences for youths from preschoolers through teens. Here, children are encouraged to try more foods, eat healthier and learn about meal preparation, plus sharpen some math, geography and social skills.

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Leah Smith, the mother of two elementary school children, founded Kids Kitchen and Chefs Club, in Austin, Texas, in 2011. She offers classes for chefs (ages 3 to 6), junior chefs (5 to 11) and senior chefs (11 to 14). Kids learn how to make dishes such as yogurt parfait popsicles with healthy grains clusters or roasted tomato soup with homemade croutons. “I’m a firm believer that teaching kids about which foods are good for us, and why, will positively influence their lifelong eating habits,” says Smith. “Start right, stay right.”

Elena Marre, also the mother of two elementary school children, faced the challenge of a picky eater in her family. In 2007, she started The Kids’ Table, in Chicago, and solved her own problem along the way. Says Marre, “It’s amazing how often I hear a child complain about not liking red peppers, dark leafy greens or onions at the beginning of a class. It’s so rewarding when that same child is devouring a dish made with those three ingredients at the end.”

Healthy kids cooking classes provide a fresh way to combat poverty, according to the Children’s Aid Society, in New York City. The group started Go!Chefs in 2006 at community schools and centers throughout the city and knows how to make it fun with Iron Chef-style competitions.

Kids like simple, elemental tastes and embrace the magic of the three-ingredient approach to cooking.
~Rozanne Gold, Eat Fresh Food: Awesome Recipes for Teen Chefs

“When offered a choice between an apple and a candy on two consecutive occasions and with most having chosen the candy the first time, 57 percent of students in the Go!Kids health and fitness program chose the apple the second time, compared to 33 percent in the control group,” says Stefania Patinella, director of the society’s food and nutrition programs.

In Minnesota’s Twin Cities region, “We do a lot of outreach with Head Start, community schools and organizations like scout troops,” says Chef Ani Loizzo, Whole Foods Market’s culinary instructor at the Whole Kids Club Kitchen Camp, in Lake Calhoun. “We have many kids that know about organic and biodynamic farming and we talk about that in class. We might focus on a healthy ingredient like tomatoes in a one-hour class or explore the culture of Greece or Mexico through food in a longer session.”

Loizzo loves the natural curiosity that kids bring to cooking classes. “Sparking an interest in exploring ingredients and flavors can also lead to learning how to grow a garden and interest in the environment,” she says.

For children in areas where such cooking classes aren’t yet offered, there are still fun ways to involve them in healthy meal preparation. Maggie LaBarbera of San Mateo, California, started her Web-based in 2005 after witnessing the harmful effects of teenage obesity when she was an intensive care nurse. It offers educational articles for parents and free downloadable activities that engage children with healthy foods.

“Every positive change, no matter how small, is a step to creating a healthier child,” says LaBarbera. “Together, we can give children the knowledge, facts and skills to develop healthy habits for a lifetime.”

Judith Fertig blogs at from Overland Park, KS.

Starter Recipes for Kids

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Here’s a sampling of healthy snack food recipes that kids love to make—and eat—in class and at home.


Yogurt Parfait Ice Pops with Healthy Grains Clusters

Yields: 4 servings

4 ice pop molds
1 cup granola (use non-GMO, gluten-free Kind bars) in small pieces
1 cup organic fresh fruit such as raspberries, kiwi, mango and strawberries cut into small pieces
2 (6-oz) cartons organic dairy or non-dairy yogurt

Layer ingredients in each ice pop mold like a parfait. Put a sprinkle of granola in first, and then layer yogurt and fresh cut fruit. Add another spoonful of granola to top it all off and freeze the pops for at least 4 to 6 hours.

Adapted from a recipe by Leah Smith for Kids Kitchen and Chefs Club, in Austin, Texas

Raw Banana Ice Cream

Yields: about 1 quart

photo by Stephen Blancett

photo by Stephen Blancett

20 pitted dates, roughly chopped

2 Tbsp raw honey
2 Tbsp extra-virgin coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
4 cups sliced very ripe organic bananas
½ cup raw peanuts, coarsely chopped, optional
2 Tbsp cacao nibs

Put dates into a medium bowl, cover with lukewarm purified water and set aside to soak for 10 minutes. Drain dates and reserve soaking liquid. In a food processor, purée dates with 3 to 4 tablespoons of the soaking liquid, honey, oil, vanilla and cinnamon until smooth. (Discard the remaining liquid.) Add bananas and purée again until almost smooth.

Transfer to a stainless steel bowl and stir in peanuts and cacao nibs. Cover and freeze, stirring occasionally, until almost solid—4 to 6 hours. Let ice cream soften a bit at room temperature before serving.

Adapted from a recipe from Whole Foods Market, Lake Calhoun, Minnesota

photo by Stephen Blancett

photo by Stephen Blancett

Nut Butter Granola Bars

Yields: 8 bars

2¼ cups rolled oats
¼ cup shredded coconut (without added sugar)
½ cup applesauce
1/3 cup nut butter (almond or peanut)
¼ tsp baking soda
½ cup raw honey or maple syrup
1 Tbsp milk or almond milk
3 Tbsp chocolate chip

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Mix all dry ingredients in one bowl. Mix wet ingredients into a separate bowl; it may help to heat the nut butter a little first. Combine the wet and dry contents. Line a 9-by-13-inch pan with parchment paper. Bake for about 25 minutes. Let them cool completely before cutting. Store in a plastic container separated by parchment paper. They should keep for about two weeks and may be refrigerated.

Adapted from a recipe by Kensey Goebel for Kids Kitchen and Chefs Club, in Austin, Texas

Cheesy Lasagna Rolls

Yields: 4 to 6 servings

Sea salt
½ lb (8 to 10) uncooked lasagna noodles
Organic olive or coconut oil
1 cup ricotta cheese
1½ cups prepared marinara sauce
1½ cups packed baby spinach
½ cup shredded mozzarella


photo by Stephen Blancett

photo by Stephen Blancett

Preheat oven to 400° F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add noodles and cook until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain well and gently transfer to a clean surface.

Oil the inside of a small roasting pan or casserole dish and set it aside. Working with one noodle at a time, spread with about 2 tablespoons each of the ricotta and marinara, then top with spinach. Starting at one end, roll up the noodle snugly, and then arrange it in the pan either seam-side down or with the rolls close enough to hold each other closed. Pour the remaining marinara over assembled rolls, sprinkle with mozzarella and bake until golden and bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes.

Adapted from a recipe from Whole Foods Market

The Food Artisans Next Door Homemade Delicacies, Direct from Our Neighbors

The Food Artisans Next Door Homemade Delicacies, Direct from Our Neighbors - Natural Awakenings North Texas - Dallas - Fort Worth Metroplex NorthNeighbors in most states can now legally buy fresh breads, cookies and preserves from local food artisans. Continue Reading

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