Friday’s Flavors: Indian Style Spinach Curry

Hey, Foodies! Happy Friday!

I’m always looking for ways to add healthy ingredients and delicious flavors into my diet, and I love trying new things! I also love Indian food, but I’m a spice wimp, so I often have to make it myself.

This curry spinach recipe is super healthy and is made with ingredients that pack a nutritional punch, from the fresh ginger to the cilantro to everything in between.

To make it VEGAN, simply replace the butter with more olive oil and substitute vegetable broth in lieu of the bone broth.

Tip 1: You don’t have to use fresh grated turmeric, it doesn’t add to the flavor, but it has some awesome health benefits. If you do use it, though, wear gloves to keep your hands from being stained, and don’t let it touch any surface you don’t want turned yellow!

Tip 2: When peeling roots such as ginger or turmeric, you can use the back of a spoon – no knife or peeler needed – the outside will easily flake off like a husk or tree bark.

Tip 3: SPICE: The amount of garam marsala you use will determine how spicy this dish is. I use 1 tsp, which creates a dish as spicy as I can handle, but again, when it comes to spicy, I’m a wimp!

Tip 4: This recipe works best with tomato paste, but if you don’t want to open a can just for this, tomato/spaghetti/marinara sauce can work in a pinch, just adjust the amount of broth you use based on the consistency of your tomato product so the dish doesn’t become runny.

Prep time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 10 minutes Serves: 4

Ingredients:

8+ ounces spinach

1/2 cup cilantro

1/2 cup bone broth OR vegetable broth for vegetarian and vegan (See Tip 3 above)

4 cloves garlic

2 tbsp tomato paste or sauce (See Tip 4 above)

1 tbsp fresh grated ginger (See Tip 2 above)

2 tsp fresh grated turmeric (optional) (See Tip 1 & 2 above)

1 tbsp butter (replace with equal amount olive oil for vegan)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 tbsp yellow curry

1 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp salt

garam marsala: to taste (See Tip 3 above)

Preparation:

Melt 1 tbsp butter with 2 tbsp olive oil in a sauté pan over high heat. Add onions and cook until almost translucent. Add crushed garlic, mix until fragrant, then add fresh ginger and turmeric. Mix well.

*REMEMBER If you choose to use fresh turmeric, wear gloves to avoid staining your hands and don’t let it touch other stainable surfaces!

Turn heat down to medium. Add tomato paste or sauce. Add spices and bone broth, mixing well.

Add cilantro and spinach, stirring and mixing well until spinach is cooked.

And that’s it! If you try it, please let me know if you like it!

Check back next Friday for another Foodie Flavor!

Friday’s Flavors: 6 Of My Favorite Things For A Happy (And Healthy) Foodie New Year

Hey, Foodies! Happy Friday!

I feel like it’s safe to say that most of us are on the same page about being ready to welcome in a new year. Symbolically, it’s become a time of change, fresh starts and new beginnings, and while I personally don’t use it as a catalyst to make resolutions (they can and should be made at any time of the year), I thought I’d share some of my favorite health conscious foodie things.

1) These are absolutely awesome. One of the hardest things for me about having a food sensitivity is how much it can complicate mealtimes – especially lunch. I can’t just throw a quick sandwich together. But these Crepini egg thins – again, awesome. They also make them plain, without cauliflower, but I prefer the taste of these. And only 8 calories a thin? Take that, bread! I sprinkle a little shredded cheese on one, add some lunch meat, a little more cheese, and a second thin, thenpop it in the microwave for 12 seconds (because I like that number) and you have yourself a sandwich-like meal. Or, add some avocado and roll it up like a burrito. So many possibilities!

And did you see? No net carbs, keto friendly, paleo friendly, gluten free and dairy free? They really are awesome!

I find these by the ‘premium’ lunchmeats in the refrigerated section near the deli at Publix.

2) Most of us know that olive oil is good for us, but did you know that some is better for us than others? Things to look for in a high quality olive oil are:

  1. Is it First Cold-Pressed? Because that’s what you want.
  2. It’s Country of Origin. Olive oils with multiple countries of origin listed are making their oil with whatever olives they can get. Not ideal. So first, find an olive oil with one country of origin.
  3. The type of olive used. A quality olive oil should tell you what type of olive they’re making the oil from, and only one type should be listed.
  4. The highest quality olive oils source their olives from a specific farm or location, and will tell you this information on the label.
  5. Ideally, you also want your oil to be organic.

The good news is that you don’t have to pay ridiculous prices to check most of these boxes. Flora brand olive oil is first cold pressed, lists the country (Italy for organic, Greece for not, tells you the type of olive used, and the area it comes from. I buy the organic shown for less than $10. It has a strong, fruity taste and is great when I want to drizzle some oil on an avocado for a snack. The larger bottle, while not organic and with a someone milder flavor, is less than $12 and works great for sautéing, roasting, etc.

3) There are SO many good pasta alternatives these days! I’m only showing one brand, which also makes pasta (spaghetti and other styles) using black beans and edamame, but there are also pastas made from cauliflower, lentils, chickpeas, and many more healthy, tasty alternatives!

As an added bonus, these pastas are often high in plant based protein. They do tend to be around the same count calorie wise as traditional wheat and flour based pastas, but they metabolize much better!

Do some experimenting to find ones that suit your texture, shape, and flavor needs. The pasta shown tastes and feel just like traditional pasta. And if you have an Aldi’s in your area, you can’t beat the price!

4) Birch Benders makes THE BEST mix for Paleo friendly pancakes and waffles! They also have a Keto friendly variety. Just add some water for pancakes, some water and a dash of oil for waffles, and you have a guilty pleasure that’s not so guilty!

The recipe uses cassava starch, almonds and coconut instead of flour, and they’re also dairy free. I find the batter tends to thicken between batches, so I keep some extra water on hand and mix more to consistency than the proportions listed on the package, but the taste and texture is very close to the real thing.

I’ve seen this at multiple stores, but found the best price at Walmart. It’s in the baking aisle.

5) I’ve tried a lot of cheese crisps over the last few years, and all pale in comparison to these. I’m not going to lie – I’ve eaten an entire bag of these Whisps brand Parmesan Cheese Crisps in a sitting more than once. (My dog helps.)

They do make other flavors, but, unfortunately, the other flavors tend to throw more into the mix than just good old cheese. Some even add my arch nemesis, yeast, which I don’t understand, but whatever. I have these. These are enough.

I’ve found these at many stores with varying prices, but both Publix and Winn Dixie occasionally run them Buy One, Get One – stock up then for the best deal!

6) I feel like Bone Broth was one of the trendier health fads to hit in recent years, but it seemed to have quickly died off – perhaps because of the prices. I’ve seen this stuff sold for up to $15 for the 2 pound carton. If I had to pay those prices, I wouldn’t be buying it either.

But the health benefits! Bone broth is good for so many things, including gut health, which is so important because your health in general starts in your gut. So make it happy!

I use in place of chicken broth or stock. Sometimes I’ll cook my veggie pasta in it, like when I do my One Pan Pasta (recipe here). The noodles absorb the broth. If you’re able, add some milk and/or wine to make a thick, delicious sauce!

I buy mine at Aldi’s for about $3 a piece.

There are so many more favorites I want to share with you, but I’ll save those for another post! Hopefully this is enough to get you off to a healthy start, whether you’re making a New Year’s Resolution for better health, or simply maintaining – either way I wish you all the best! Happy New Year!

Check back next Friday for another Foodie Flavors recipe!

Friday’s Flavors: Stuffed Green Lipped Mussels

Hey, Foodies! Happy Friday!

I love seafood, and New Zealand Green Lipped Mussels are no exception – the only thing is that they’re quite big, and they usually come frozen, so:

1) They need to have good flavor so you don’t wind up with an entire mouth full of ick (and let’s face it, fishy ick is the worst kind).

and

2) You can’t just cook them any old way you’d cook a fresh mussel.

Luckily, stuffing and baking is a flavorful option that checks both the above items off the list! This recipe works great as either an appetizer or an entrée.

(This night I was going for a healthy, light meal so I left the bacon out, but I’m first to admit that everything’s better with bacon!)

Takes: 10 minutes prep, 15-20 minutes cooking time

Ingredients:

2 lbs. (about 2 dozen) New Zealand Green Lipped Mussels (usually sold frozen and on the half shell)

1 cup chopped fresh spinach

1 large shallot

3 – 5 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese

(and if you wanted to add some bacon . . . bacon)

Preparation:

Place mussels in the refrigerator overnight to defrost. (Pro tip – make sure they’re in a bag in case they leak AND check to make sure they’re fully defrosted before you begin cooking.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove stems from spinach and chop. Cut shallots and peel garlic. In a small pan melt 2 tablespoons butter. (If you’re using bacon, you can substitute a little bacon fat for one of the tablespoons of butter). Add shallots. Sautee until translucent, add pressed garlic, stir until fragrant, and remove from heat.

Add chopped spinach and stir until cooked but not wilted. Add 1/4 cup of cheese (and bacon if your using it) and mix.

Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and lay your mussels out. (Give each one a press to remove any excess liquid.)

Place about 1/2 spoonful of your cooked mixture onto each mussel. You don’t want to overstuff them because when you go to eat them, the toppings will fall off instead of sticking to the mussel.

Using the rest of the cheese, add a pinch to the top of each mussel.

Place in oven and bake 15-20 minutes (depending on size) until the mussels are cooked thoroughly and the cheese on top is melted.

It’s that easy!

If you try it, please let me know if you like it!

Check back next Friday for another foodie flavor!

When Your Health Steals Your Words

Several years ago, my writing was going strong. I had a schedule. I wrote most days. I had a couple of completed novels, and was querying agents. I had a dozen requests for  full manuscripts. I was so close to fulfilling my dream as a traditionally published author that I could taste it.

Then, I lost my momentum. I lost my energy. I lost my words. Literally.

I put on almost forty pounds with no explanation. No amount of diet or exercise managed to make the scale budge. I couldn’t keep my train of thought, and oftentimes, in conversation, I simply drew blanks. I couldn’t think of the words I was looking for. Not a great feeling for someone who wants to be a wordsmith.

I’m no stranger to health issues. I was hit by a drunk driver almost twenty years ago, and have a laundry lists of ailments that cause chronic pain. But this time was different. You can force your body to work to some degree. You can’t force your mind.

My acid reflux got so bad that I barely needed to chew my food – it practically dissolved in my mouth my saliva was so acidic. Obviously I was somehow related to that dinosaur in the first Jurassic Park – the one with a frilled collar that spit on the guy from Seinfeld, blinding him with his acid spit. As much as I love dinosaurs, I don’t really want to be one! 🦖🦖🦖

I’m going to take a very long story and make it short.

I was on twice the maximum daily dose of Prevacid. They thought it was Celiac, and although I initially got better on a gluten free diet, the relief was short lived. Multiple invasive, expensive tests revealed no answers.

Then my mom discovered a food sensitivity test you could order online from EverlyWell. I took the test. And while it turns out I do have a mild sensitivity to gluten, I have an extreme sensitivity to yeast – both bakers and brewers – which is still in many gluten free products.

Going yeast free meant saying no to almost all breads. No wine, beer, or alcohol other than vodka, which supposedly uses all the yeast added during the fermentation process. No fruit other than berries. No vinegar, nothing pickled, no fun.

I immediately avoided all foods and drinks with yeast, while still eating some of the ‘by-products’. (Even ranch dressing and mustard have vinegar.) And I dropped over 30 pounds in six weeks. My energy started coming back. My confidence. And then, finally, my words.

It’s been about four months now. I still slip sometimes. Mainly unintentionally, when I eat out. My stomach will blow out to about seven months pregnant, but it goes back down in a day or two. I get foggy, but it clears. I forget the word I’m looking for,  but it comes eventually. When I sit down to write, the page no longer remains blank.

I’ve gone back and forth about writing this post, but sharing is caring, and I hope this helps someone else. Not to mention that I’m so grateful that I’m able to write it – look, words!!! And I wrote them! I feel so much better, and I truly hope this reaches at least one person who benefits from this post.

(I’m not getting any kickbacks for sharing the name of the company that quite literally changed my life. There’s usually coupon codes online if you do a Google search for them.)

(If you or someone you know has a yeast sensitivity, make sure to check vitamins and supplements for the nasty little addition – it’s everywhere!)

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