Quick Easy Meals: Carbs

The most controversial element of a modern meal: The carbohydrate. In the last decade or so, the dreaded “carb” has become a macronutrient of dispute. (Previously, the most demonized macronutrient was fat.) The Paleo folks love to tell me how our caveman ancestors just ate meat and vegetables, and that carbs and grains are the cause of all modern ailments.

I hate the pull the “credential” card, but I do have a degree in Anthropology. I’ve read books upon books of pollen samples, indigenous garbage heap study, and bone/tissue testing. I’ve also stayed with tribal people, and read countless reports from field anthropologists. And you know what all of these studies have in common? That the food of tribal life was centered around a main carbohydrate source. (The only exception being the Inuits of Alaska/Cananda, since they spent much of the year in winter. But this is such a tiny tiny percentage of all tribal people, they are the exception and not the rule. They also showed signs of aging faster than almost all other tribes.)

Healthy CarbohydratesCarbs are a great energy source; our body uses them more efficiently than protein or fat. (Our body uses fat more efficiently than protein, protein is the least efficient source of energy, and our body has the most difficult time converting it to energy. That does not mean that we shouldn’t eat protein, but that shouldn’t be our prime energy source.)

But I digress, because the point of the video below is not to argue why you should eat carbohydrates, but how you can cook them quickly and easily. When tasks are simple and time-efficient, it’s more likely that you will follow through and eat home-cooked meals more often. If something is too difficult, most people will choose an easier option (like the drive-through or eating out.)

This video will give you some ideas, and I will follow up with quick meal ideas for protein and vegetables.

In summary:

Cook a large amount of a healthy carb on an afternoon off. Choose a designated day and time each week, and block off your schedule for your cooking prep day. I choose a different carb each week, so that I’m eating a variety of food. (Choosing seasonal food has bonus advantages.)
I’ll boil a bag of colored potatoes, a big pot of brown rice, or a large amount of gluten-free pasta. (Remember, for carbs, show-release carbohydrates that contain fiber will be healthier than quick burning white starch. So brown rice is better than white flour.) I refrigerate (or even freeze) the weekly carb, then come up with different dishes I can make with that.
For example: for brown-rice pasta, I can make:
*A oven-roasted vegetable pasta dish
*Eggs/cheese/mushroom pasta scrample
*Asian-style sesame pasta with tempeh and enoki mushrooms.

So the possibilities are endless….you can do the same thing with some organic, colored fingerling potatoes:
*Shepard’s pie
*Breakfast scrample with roasted turnips and cauliflower
*Olive oil, rosemary, and veggie oven roasted potatoes.
And since the potatoes/rice/pasta is already cooked, you just have to heat it up with the veggies! My meals take me an average of 15 minutes, since I have everything prepped ahead of time. A couple hours on a Sunday can save you tons of time and money the rest of the week!

Pistachio Flour Cookies with Coconut Lemon Frosting (Gluten Free and Vegan)

Gluten-Free Vegan Pistachio Cookies with Coconut Lemon Frosting
I was at the farmer’s market, and I saw that the pistachio stand started carrying bags of pistachio flour. Since most of my gluten-free baked goods use some kind of nut flour, the idea of using such a flavorful ingredient got my mind racing. I spent many hours on google, and could not find any cookies that used pistachio flour, so I had to do some experimenting. This recipe is the result of my pistachio-filled dreams.
Vegan Paleo Pistachio Cookies
A little bit about pistachios:

Pistachios contain many important nutrients and vitamins. They are shown to be beneficial in heart health and weight management according to several double-blind studies.
They are an excellent source of copper, thiamine, phosphorus and magnesium. They contain many B vitamins; one serving contains 20% of your daily dose of Vitamin B6, about 15% DV of thiamine, and have lesser amounts of folate, biotin, riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid.  They also contain l-arginine, which can make the lining of your arteries more flexible.

“Pistachios supply vitamins A and E, both critical in keeping inflammatory pathways in balance. Inflammation is the first stage of healing, but when the body contains too few antioxidants, the inflammatory process can damage tissues rather than heal them.”

One study quoted that “After only three weeks of consuming pistachios as 20% of the calories in their diet, the volunteers in a double-blind study saw their LDL (or bad cholesterol) drop by about 14%; HDL (or good cholesterol) rose by 26%, with a 12% decrease in total cholesterol.”

So get your daily dose of pistachios in the form of a delicious cookie.

Gluten Free Pistachio Cookies Cookies:

  • 1 cup pistachio flour*
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking sodaPaleo Pistachio Flour Cookies
  • ¼ cup coconut oil or vegan shortening
  • 2 tablespoons honey/agave nectar/or maple syrup**
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
*To make pistachio flour, simply put pistachios in a blender or food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. If you blend it for too long, it will start to make pistachio butter.
**If trying to reduce sugar, replace 1 tbsp of honey with 1 tbsp Yacon Syrup. If you don’t have Yacon Syrup, try replacing 1 TBSP of honey with 1 tbsp of coconut oil, then add 6-10 packets of xylitol or stevia.
  1. Combine almond flour, pistachio flour, salt, baking soda, and spices in a bowl or food processor.
  2. If using a food processor, pulse in shortening/oil, honey and vanilla until dough forms. If you don’t have a food processor, simply use a whisk to combine ingredients until they form a dough.
  3. Scoop dough one level tablespoon at a time onto a parchment lined baking sheet
  4. Press balls of dough down gently
  5. Bake at 350 for 6-8 minutes
  6. Place in the refrigerator to cool before frosting. (Do not handle prior or cookies will break)

Pistachio vegan cookies

Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup coconut butter***
  • 1 Tbs. coconut oil
  • 3 Tbs. maple syrup (or another liquid sweetener)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom (optional)
***If you do not have access to coconut butter, blend dried coconut and 1 tsp coconut oil in a blender or food processor. Blend until flakes have turned into a creamy butter, about 5-7 minutes.
Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth and creamy.
  2. Use immediately to frost each cookie, and serve.
  3. If you have remain frosting, store in an airtight container in the fridge. HOWEVER, frosting will become hard and will be unable to be spread until it reaches room temperature.

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Cinnamon Roasted Butternut Squash

Cinnamon Roasted Butternut Squash

As you may have noticed, I never tire of squash, so autumn has been full of great meals. This recipe is incredibly simple, but satisfying and tasty. Squash is a good, dense vegetable, so it can take the place of a less healthy dish while filling your body with important micro-nutrients. Cinnamon is a “warming” herb, so it’s perfect to make you feel more cozy during the cooler months. (And as a bonus, cinnamon even assists in blood-sugar regulation. This gives me an excuse to add more of it.) Add a side of sauteed kale and cranberries, and you’ve got a balanced fall meal. Cinnamon Sticks

Ingredients:

  • 1 small or medium butternut squash, cut in half.
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Butter or Earth Balance (optional)

Directions: Roasted Butternut Squash

Preheat the oven to 400F. Oil the cookie sheet or baking pan, and pour 1/2 cup of water in the pan. Cut the butternut squash in half. Scoop out the seeds and discard, then place each piece face down on the pan.

Cook for about 30-45 minutes; it is cooked when you can pierce it with a fork. Take the squash out of the oven, and using a tongs, flip each side over. Once the squash is face-up, drizzle honey over each piece.  Sprinkle cinnamon over the honey, be as generous as you want. If you want to use butter (or butter substitute) place a couple pats of it on top of each piece. Place it back in the oven, and cook an additional 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Remove the squash from the oven, and wait for it to cool a little. Cut each half into 3 pieces, and serve warm. You can always add more cinnamon in the end!

Roasted Acorn Squash with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds and Balsamic

Although I love summer, fall is my second favorite season. I love the smells, the colors, and the cooler nights. But really, my favorite part is the squash. I love almost all kinds of squash…spaghetti squash, acorn, pumpkin, butternut…I love them all. They’re full of nutrients and fiber, and they’re more filling than many other vegetables.

I made this particular recipe with a friend. She had bought some acorn squash and wanted to experiment. Our favorite part was the pan-toasted pumpkin seeds. Once I discovered pan-toasting, I toast almost every nut and seed this way. It’s quick and easy, and is less damaging to the sensitive oils. And best of all, it’s so tasty! So please enjoy, and let me know if you have any suggestions to make it even more delicious.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

2 medium acorn squash

4 tablespoons olive oilPumpkin Seeds

salt and pepper, to taste

¼ cup shelled pumpkin seeds (aka pepitas)

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

***Optional: ¼ cup fresh parsley, sage, or mint leaves, torn.

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425°.

2. Cut squash in half, and spoon out seeds (and the stringy stuff) and discard. Cut squash into 1½”-thick slices. Coat slices with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Lay slices on a baking sheet.

3. Place in then oven and roast for about 30 minutes, turning slices over halfway through. They should be golden brown on both sides, and soft enough to eat.

4. Heat some olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add pumpkin seeds, turning them often so they don’t burn. They should brown slightly, but still be a little green. Once they’re down, place them on a paper towel to soak up excess oil.  Season with salt. Roasted Acorn Squash with Pan Toasted Pumpkin Seeds 5. Place squash on serving plates, and sprinkle toasted pumpkin seeds on each piece. Drizzle on balsamic vinegar. (Don’t over-do it, vinegar goes a long way!) If you are using any fresh herbs, lightly sprinkle those on as well.

6. Serve warm and enjoy!