The Cutest Little Tapenade Stuffed Mushroom Recipe

I’m a big fan of bite -sized food.  Not only are you preventing a mess from forming around the corners of your mouth, but you’re also tasting every delicious flavor of a recipe- all in one bite!  It’s quick, clean, and satisfying.  And who doesn’t love a good miniature?! Like these baby bella mushrooms, for example:

baby bella mushrooms becauseitsgoodforyou

On that note, I’ll share with you a bite-sized recipe that I whipped up recently for a friends barbecue.  The host had already prepared an array of amazing food options, but I wanted to contribute by adding a snack that would appease omnivores and herbivores alike.  I immediately thought of mini stuffed mushrooms, and after some perusing around on the internet, I found this olive tapenade recipe that I thought would be a perfect filling!

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED:

• 3 cups baby bella mushrooms, stems removed and chopped in half
• 1-2 square sheets parchment paper
• 1 1/2 cups Kalamata olives, pitted
• 1 1/2 cups green olives, pitted
• 5 cloves of garlic
• 2 tbsp capers
• 1 red bell pepper, roasted and cut into 1″ sections
• 1/2 oz parsley
• 3 tsp lemon juice
• 1/2 oz basil
• 5 tbsp olive oil

olive tapenade becauseitsgoodforyou

PREPARATION:

1.  Place olives, pepper, capers, garlic, and about half of the mushrooms stems into a food processor.  Push the “pulse” button about 15 times at 1 second intervals.
*Although a  food processor is the easiest method, it’s not the only one.  You may choose to chop the ingredients up by hand, but it could take you a while.

2.  Add the basil, parsley, olive oil, and juice from the lemon.  Pulse again for about 15 times at 1 second intervals, or until everything looks well chopped. Remove from processor and set aside.

 

olive tapenade becauseitsgoodforyou

olive tapenade becauseitsgoodforyou

3.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

4.  Place the baby bella mushrooms, stems removed, on to a plate or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
* If you think you can spoon the tapenade on to the mushroom without making a big mess, a baking sheet may be the better option here, so you don’t have to transfer them to one later.  I learned this the hard way. 

5.  Spoon a small bit of tapenade in to the mushroom where the stem used to be.

olive stuffed mushrooms becauseitsgoodforyou

6.  If you haven’t done so already, place mushrooms on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place in oven.  Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until the mushrooms begin to “sweat” and are soft to the touch.

7.  You’ll probably need to do two rounds of baking unless you have an extra-large baking sheet. If not, wait a few minutes for the mushrooms to cool and enjoy your beautiful (and delicious) bite-sized creation!

olive tapenade stuffed mushrooms becauseitsgoodforyou

olive tapenade stuffed mushrooms becauseitsgoodforyou

WHY IT’S GOOD FOR YOU:

Mushrooms are often used in weight loss programs because they are very low in calories, sodium, and fat, while adding fiber to your body with every bite.  Mushrooms are also a great source of potassium (1 large Portobello mushroom contains more potassium than a banana),  a mineral that has been known to lower blood pressure and reduce the chance of stroke.  Riboflavin, niacin, and selenium are also a part of  the health benefits of mushrooms and aid in the prevention of prostate cancer.1

Although olives have a high fat content (about 15-30 percent), they still offer several health benefits.  For example, olives are abundant in vitamin E as well as polyphenols and flavonoids.  They are also an anti-inflammatory and can prevent against certain cancers and heart disease.2  Olives originated in the Mediterranean, an area that still frequently consumes large amounts of olives and olive products/fats (such as olive oil).  Research shows that people in this region show fewer instances of diabetes, arthritis, asthma, and colon cancer compared to the United States, whose residents typically consume a diet high in animal fats.3

RESOURCES
1. http://www.vegetarian-nutrition.info/updates/mighty-mushrooms.php
2. http://www.livestrong.com/article/43114-nutrition-information-olives/
3. http://www.everynutrient.com/healthbenefitsofolives.html
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When Can You Break The ‘Organic’ Rule?

We have all heard that eating organic is the way to go if we want to prevent ourselves from ingesting potentially harmful chemicals hidden in our fruits and vegetables.  But how many times have you gone to the grocery store on a budget and noticed that organic avocados are almost a dollar more than non-organic avocados?  Being a recent college graduate, I know what it feels like to worry about those extra dollars adding up.  I sometimes have wondered if one word could really make that big of a difference.  Unless you consistently shop at Sprouts, Whole Foods, or have an amazing farmer’s market in your town, buying organic can be difficult, costly, and make shopping twice as long and frustrating.

Although purchasing (and eating) solely organically grown food is still the best option, there are some non-organic foods that you could slip into your mouth without feeling a tremendous amount of guilt or anxiety that you just ingested 80 different kinds of pesticides.  Psychology Today was kind enough to list them out in a recent issue and I felt like it was also worth mentioning here.  So, here you go:

NON-ORGANIC FOODS YOU CAN EAT SAFELY AND (MOSTLY) GUILT-FREE

1. Onions – 1 Pesticide
Dicloran is a fungicide and the only pesticide that onions carry – and was found present in only .03 percent of samples tested.  However,  dicloran is banned in most European countries, and probably for good reason.

2. Sweet Corn – 1 Pesticide
The neurotoxin dimethoate is the only toxin in sweet corn and was only found on 2.3 percent of samples tested.

3. Pineapples – 6 Pesticides
Triadimefon is the most common pesticide found in pineapples, but was still only present in 4.5 percent of samples. Carbaryl is a neurotoxin found in trace amounts in pineapples and is also banned in most European countries (I think they’re on to something).

4. Avocado – exact number unstated
Abamectin is the major pesticide in avocados and has been known to lead to tremors and loss of coordination in high doses.  However, all avocados are good sources of fiber, folate, and phytosterols (aka – good fat).

5. Asparagus – 9 Pesticides
The pesticides found were only present in about 3.3 percent of samples tested.  These included methomyl and chlorpyrifos, both neurotoxins.

6. Sweet Peas – 12 Chemicals
Dimethoate was found present in over 10 percent of samples tested.  The other chemicals were found in anywhere between 0.1 – 12.1 percent of samples.

7. Mangoes – 2 Major Pesticides + small traces of others
Imidacloprid and glyphosate are the 2 major pesticides in mangoes;  Although glyphosate is relatively non-toxic to humans.

8. Eggplant – 17+ Chemicals
17 looks like a lot of chemicals, but the amounts found in the samples were only small traces.  It’s main ‘star’ is the hormone disruptor endosulfan, which was found in 16 percent of samples.

9. Cantaloupe – 27 Pesticides
Endosulfan is also the most common pesticide found in cantaloupe.  The other pesticides were found in percentages ranging from 0.2-28.8 of samples.

10. Cabbage – 2 Major Pesticides + small traces of others
Chlorpyrifos is a pesticide and nerve disruptor found in cabbage.  Chlorothalonil is a potential carcinogen and can damage eyes and skin in high doses.

11. Kiwi – 2 Major Pesticides + small traces of others
Glyphosate and paraquat were found in 57 and 35 percent of samples. Glyphosate is harmless, although paraquat has been linked to Parkinson’s disease.

12. Watermelon – 28 Pesticides
28 different pesticides were found in 0.2-5.1 percent of watermelon samples. The most common are imidacloprid and thiamethoxam, both neurotoxins, and methamidophos, a far more toxic nerve disruptor.

FOODS YOU SHOULD ONLY EAT IF GROWN ORGANICALLY (AKA “THE DIRTY DOZEN”)

1. Apples – 40 + Pesticides
Workers who apply pesticides to apples, particularly diphenylamine or DPA (which is linked to bladder tumors), are required to wear long sleeves and gloves to prevent exposure to these fungicides and carcinogens.

2. Celery – 64 Pesticides
Pesticides discovered were found on every celery tested, most of which are used to kill moths, beetles, and other bugs by stimulating their muscles to contract.

3. Strawberries – exact number unstated
One of every two non-organic strawberries grown contain the fungicide captan, a possible carcinogen.  Pyraclostrobin is also very present in strawberries and has been known to cause skin and eye irritations.

4. Peaches – 62 Pesticides
Most peaches tested contained pesticides that may cause damage to the liver, kidneys, nervous system functioning, and reproductive systems.

5. Spinach – 48 Pesticides
Permethrin and imidacloprid are found in almost every other leaf of spinach sampled, and can disrupt nerve signals.

6. Nectarines – 33 Pesticides
Formetanate is a neurotoxin that was found in half of the sample of nectarines tested.

7. Grapes – 34 Pesticides
Cyprodinil was found in 3/10 Chilean grapes and can cause eye, nose, and skin irritation.

8. Bell Peppers – 49 Pesticides
26 of the 49 different pesticides found in bell peppers are hormone disruptors, while 13 of them are neurotoxins. Imidacloprid is also present in more than 80 percent of samples tested.

9. Potatoes – 37 Pesticides
Imidacloprid is found again in high doses in potatoes, along with chloropropham which can irritate the skin and eyes in high doses.

10. Lettuce – 51 Pesticides
Imidacloprid strikes yet again in 73 percent of lettuce samples tested. Lettuce also has DCPA, a herbicide, and dimethomorph, a fungicide that can damage lungs if inhaled.

11. Blueberries – 52 Pesticides
Approximately 30 percent of blueberries contain the fungicide boscalid, which is toxic to the liver and thyroid, as well as pyraclostrobin, a skin irritant.

12. Kale – 55 Pesticides
Similar to lettuce, kale contains DCPA and imidacloprid, found in 30 and 50 percent of samples.

TAKE NOTE: This is not a list stating what NOT to eat. All of these produce items still have nutritional benefits and are very good for you! Just remember that when in doubt – choose organic. Then you will never have to worry about eating anything foreign or in addition to the tons of vitamins and minerals that are naturally present in these food items.

If you would like more information or  are looking for a way to eat organic without spending a ton of money, Psychology Today wrote another beautiful online article to help. You can find it here.

How to Take A Detox Bath

I never appreciated taking baths until I moved out on my own several years ago and realized that finding a place with a good (and clean) bathtub in the city is quite difficult to find.  Fortunately, my current apartment has a decent sized tub which I use to relax after a long or stressful day (literally, the Craigslist rental ad only had a picture of the tub and that was enough to win me over).  Recently, I stumbled across a recipe for what’s called a detox bath, which helps you not only relax, but can also rid toxins from your body.  I compared my findings with a few other sites, just to make sure it was legitimate, and all of them pretty much offered the same instructions.  Then I decided to try it out myself, and I was definitely pleased with the results!

Here’s what I used:

• 2 cups of Epsom salts (unscented or scented)

• 1.5 cups baking soda

• 1-2 tablespoons ground ginger or 2 bags of ginger tea

• 20 drops of an aromatherapy/essential oil, or a handful of fresh herbs if the Epsom salts are unscented (I used unscented salts and tea trea oil to aid in the detoxification process)

• Purified drinking water to stay hydrated

Make sure the water in the bath is warm and not hot.  Add all of the ingredients and sit in the water for 40 minutes.  This site reported that the first 20 minutes are meant for detoxification and the second 20 minutes are for the body to absorb the minerals.  You’ll begin to feel your body become heated and a lot of sweating is common.  After only about 8 minutes I began to feel like I had been thrown in a boiling pot of water and was being cooked for dinner, even though my water was only lukewarm.  Ginger apparently causes many people to heat up and may even cause the skin to flush, so if that happens, don’t be alarmed.*  To help the time go by faster you may want to grab a book to read or put on some calming music and light candles to increase relaxation.  When the 40 minutes is over and you’re ready to stand up, do so slowly; A feeling of lightheadedness may occur.  Also, if you wrap up tightly in a blanket after the bath you may continue to perspire.  I did this the second time around because I was trying to get rid of a cold and it actually helped a lot.  Afterward you should feel refreshed, relaxed, and clean – inside and out.  Just remember to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water during and after the bath.

WHY IT’S GOOD FOR YOU:

Aromatherapy has been used for centuries to treat anything from minor skin rashes to serious illness.1  Some common essential oils are chamomile (stress reliever), lavender (muscle pain, skin ailments), patchouli (anti-inflammatory for skin), tea tree (antifungal, antiviral), and ylan ylan (relaxant, stabilize mood swings).*

Baking soda is useful by removing toxins from water and helping keep the body alkalized.  It also softens the skin and may clear up blemishes.2

Ginger is an anti-oxident and anti-inflammatory.  Although there is no scientific evidence to support it, it is believed to help with signs of aging and is used in some cellulite-reducing treatments.3

Epsom salts are made of magnesium and sulfate and help regulate the activity of 300+ enzymes in the body.  Many athletes take epsom salt baths to decrease joint and muscle pain.4

The next time you feel a cold coming on or just feel in need of a nice, relaxing, body detox, try this out – Then let me know how it went! Feel free to comment with your questions, thoughts, or experiences!

* A little pink flush is normal but red and burning is not. If you get too hot or your skin becomes too red, exit the bath immediately or rinse off with cool water.
*Essential oils are highly concentrated and should not be used directly on the skin.  Some essential oils are not recommended for women who are pregnant or individuals with asthma or epilepsy.  If you are unsure whether or not you can safely use essential oils, check with a holistic practitioner, naturopath, or a reputable aromatherapy expert before using. 
REFERENCES
1 Mindell, E. & Mundis, H (2004). The Vitamin Bible. Grand Central Publishing: NY, NY.
2 http://www.naturalnews.com/021618_baking_soda_home_remedies.html
3 http://www.ehow.com/facts_5107899_benefits-ginger-skin.html
4 http://www.epsomsaltcouncil.org/health/

Feeling S.A.D.?

Do you ever wonder why the rain makes you want to lay in bed all day?  Or why you crave comfort foods and sweets during the chilly winter months?  Do you ever randomly begin to feel tired or blue following the hustle and bustle of the holidays, but can’t quite figure out why?  Well, you’re not alone.

These somewhat odd tendencies fall under the umbrella known as seasonal depression or SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and are actually more common than some may realize.   SAD, according to Mental Health America (2002)1, is a “mood disorder associated with depression that occurs with different variations of light,” and “affects about half a million people every winter between September and April, peaking in December, January, and February.”  MHA goes on to describe some other symptoms of SAD which include lethargy, irritability, overeating, tension or anxiety, difficulties sleeping, and a lack of desire to make social contact.

But why am I talking about depression in winter when we’re in the dead of summer and it’s 100+ degrees outside?  Well, it might always be sunny in California, but it’s not always sunny in other states.  And although the symptoms may not be persistent enough to qualify for SAD, we can still begin to feel blue if the sun decides to take a vacation behind the clouds for a few days.  Why does this happen, you ask? Let me tell you.

During sundown, our bodies begin to emit the hormone melatonin, causing increased drowsiness in the evening hours and a strong desire to sleep.  As the night progresses, we emit less and less melatonin, allowing our bodies to wake again after the sun comes up.  When it’s dark for longer periods of time than normal, such as during a storm or in winter, our biological clocks begin to become off balance and extra melatonin is produced, which increases our desire to sleep and may result in other depressive-like symptoms.  This internal process may also explain the cause of jet lag or the feeling of disorientation if you’ve been working in a dark room all day.  Another example of this was shown in a study conducted by Gonzales and Aston-Jones (2008)2 who kept rats in complete darkness for 6 weeks and noticed they began to show anatomical and behavioral patterns similar to people with depression, such as increased immobility during a swim test and neural damage in the brain.

The good news is that there are quite a few natural remedies to keep you from feeling blue.  The first (and best) way is exercise! Exercise is the best antidepressant out there and can even help re-regulate your circadian rhythm and help you sleep better at night.  Light boxes or light therapy may also available for individuals who have been experiencing symptoms of SAD for many years.  You can find out more information here  or here.  Another easy remedy is getting rid of all that leftover pie from Christmas or the cupcakes you left the party with after your friend’s birthday. Refined sugars deplete the body of B vitamins and can contribute toward feelings of depression.  And although those simple carbohydrates can boost serotonin levels, it’s better to focus on eating complex carbohydrates such as rice, green beans, and whole grains because they offer a more enduring mood lift without all the calories and sugar.3  Maintaining a regular sleep schedule is also important.  Try to go to bed and wake up around the same time every day, and don’t take naps longer than 30 minutes.  Adding these modifications to your daily living should help you feel better in general, but of course if you’re still feeling down, it’s always best to talk to a licensed professional!

REFERENCES
1 http://www.nmha.org/go/sad,
2 Gonzalez, M. C., & Aston-Jones, G. G. (2008). Light deprivation damages monoamine neurons and produces a depressive behavioral phenotype in rats. PNAS Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences Of The United States Of America, 105(12), 4898-4903. doi:10.1073/pnas.0703615105
3 Mindell, E. & Mundis, H (2004). The Vitamin Bible. Grand Central Publishing: NY, NY.
photos courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu/

Baked Salmon with Tomato and Basil

The idea of eating healthy has become somewhat of a fad in recent years. Even fast food chains have caught on and are offering lower-calorie or healthy alternatives to their menu. The upsetting part of this fad is that most of these “healthier” options aren’t really all that healthy for us. Calories are hidden in salad dressings and many nutrients are stripped in food through processing, preserving, and even during cooking. In an effort to learn how to make some real, homemade, healthy meals, I’ll be occasionally posting recipes on the site that I’ve tested out myself and deemed eat-worthy. This one I found on www.eatingwell.com and adjusted a bit by cutting down the serving size and baking the salmon rather than grilling it.

Here’s what you need:

2 tomatoes, sliced (I picked some fresh off the vine in front of my apartment)

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 fillets salmon (I used Alaskan Wild Salmon fillets from Trader Joe’s)

1/2 cup fresh, sliced basil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

pepper to taste

2 sheets of regular foil or 1 sheet of heavy duty foil large enough to fit your salmon fillets

PREPARATION:

• Preheat oven to 350°

• Mash the minced garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt together with a spoon until it becomes similar to a paste in   consistency.

• Pour oil into a small bowl and add the garlic + salt mixture. Stir together.

• Place the salmon fillets in the center of the pieces of foil (skin side down) and use a small cooking brush to cover the fillets with the oil/garlic/salt mixture evenly.

• Sprinkle the basil over both pieces of salmon, but leave a little extra for the end as a garnish.

• Top with tomato slices and sprinkle with a pinch or two of salt and pepper.

• Connect ends of foil and fold over, then fold up sides of foil to make a type of cooking-bag for the salmon. Place salmon on a flat baking sheet and place in oven for approximately 45 minutes.

• Remove salmon and open foil bag (be careful because it will be hot and steamy!). Top with remaining basil and drizzle any juices from the foil back on to the salmon fillets.

• Transfer to a plate and enjoy!

WHY IT’S GOOD FOR YOU:

Salmon is high in potassium and contains sodium which work together to regulate the body’s water balance and normalizes heart rhythms. Low levels of potassium can cause caffeine cravings and make you feel like you have a “sweet tooth.”

Tomatoes also contain potassium and have cholesterol lowering properties. Cooking tomatoes boosts their level of lycopene, a beneficial component in the vegetable, and may help lower the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer.

Basil contains other nutrients also related to cardiovascular health such as vitamin A and magnesium.

More good news – it’s only 248 calories and provides 35 grams of protein per serving! So eat up- because its good for you!

REFERENCES
Mindell, E. & Mundis, H (2004). The Vitamin Bible. Grand Central Publishing: NY, NY.
www.eatingwell.com 
http://www.livestrong.com/article/534279-the-nutrition-in-basil/

You are what you eat

Dr. Victor Hugo Landlahr, a nutritionist, radio show host, and pioneer in nutritional awareness, popularized the phrase “You Are What You Eat” in his book with the same title, published in 1942.1  Years later, we are finally beginning to understand what this phrase really means.

Everything we put into our body has the potential to effect us.  Whether it’s food, water, soda, medication, breathing in the city smog or even fumes from household cleaning products– all have the capability of altering our overall health and well-being.  Of course some of these things, like healthy foods, clean air, and vitamins are good for you, but most of the other things we unknowingly consume on a daily basis, are not so good.

But what we don’t know can’t hurt us, right?  Wrong.  Does it make enough of a difference in our bodies to really matter?  Yes, definitely.

Here is some proof.

In an article titled, “The Role of Nutrition in Mental Health,” Tieraona Low Dog, MD, discusses various diets and micronutrients that have been associated with decreased levels of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.2  One study found that a diet rich in whole foods (fruits, vegetables, fish) gave middle-aged, British individuals protection against the onset of depressive symptoms.   On the other hand, another group of individuals who consumed a diet consisting mainly of processed meats, sweet desserts, fried foods, and high-fat dairy products had increased vulnerability for depressive symptoms.3

Need more?

Another double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that adding an omega-3 fatty acid supplement (such as fish oil) to the diets of 30 individuals with bipolar disorder actually alleviated many of their symptoms.3  Also, eating foods high in protein has been known to increase alertness.4  Switching to a gluten-free diet helped one patient with celiac disease and schizophrenia by offering a complete resolution of both diseases (as shown on a brain scan).5

Still a skeptic?  Even walking through the self-help section of your local bookstore will show more than a handful of inspiring success stories similar to the ones presented.  The truth is, individuals all over the world have experienced dramatic, positive changes in their health just by altering what they eat.  Many have also seen major changes in their health by adjusting the ways that they think.  The human body and spirit are incredibly resilient, but if you treat it well, it will flourish. I’m not saying that you can’t enjoy that scoop of double fudge brownie ice cream after you break up with your significant other.  Or that you can’t test out the pork belly sliders at that trendy new restaurant everyone is raving about.  But if you treat your body right, it will treat you the same in return.  And the next time you feel like something is a little off, pay attention and listen to what your body is trying to tell you. It may be saying more than you think!

1 Dog, L.T. (2010). The role of nutrition in mental health. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. doi: 16(2):42-46.
2 Akbaraly T.N., Brunner E.J., Ferrie J.E., Marmot M.G., Kivimaki M., Singh-Manoux A. (2009). Dietary pattern and depressive symptoms in middle age. British Journal of Psychiatry. doi: 195(5):408-413
3 Stoll, A.L., Severus, W.E., Freeman, M.P., Rueter, S., Zboyan, H.A., Diamond, E., Cress, K.K., Marangell, L.B. (1999). Omega 3 fatty acids in bipolar disorder: a preliminary double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Archive of General Psychiatry. doi: 56:407-412
4 Rogers, P.J. (2001). A healthy body, a healthy mind: long-term impact of diet on mood and cognitive function. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. doi: 60:135-143.
5 DeSantis, A., Addolorato, G., Romito, A., Caputo, S., Giordano, A., Gambassi, G., Taranto, C., Manna, R., Gasbarrini, G. (1997). Schizophrenic symptoms and SPECT abnormalities in a coeliac patient: regression after a gluten-free diet. Journal of Internal Medicine. doi: 242: 421-423.