Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Health Benefits of Chia Seed

By:  Tara Fuller

Chia Seed History
You have probably heard a lot about Chia Seed lately as it has become the latest sexy food and is in all the medias, but it has been around for centuries and was a diet staple of the Aztecs and Mayans. Chia Seed originated around 1500 and 900 B.C. in Mexico but are now also cultivated in Central and South Americas. They are tiny seeds about the size of a gnat but are a powerhouse of nutrients. It is hailed as the be-all for its ability to cut cravings, balance blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, triglycerides, improve cardiovascular disease, blood pressure and promote weight loss. Historically, the seeds were used to provide energy during long hunts as well as medicinally. Reverend by the people, Chia Seed was often used in religious ceremonies leading to its ban by the Spanish during their conquest of the region.
Nutritional Benefits
Chia Seed are a valuable source of Omega-3 essential fatty acid which is important for supporting normal cardiovascular function. They are easily digestible and unlike Flax Seed, they do not need to be ground. Their mild, nutty flavor makes them versatile enough to toss into just about any dish from sweet to savory.

Chia Seeds hold between 9-12 times their weight in water and take on the flavor of whatever it is mixed with. They absorb quickly and once fully saturated the seeds have a slight resemblance to tapioca. These gel-like seeds have a tendency to keep a person feeling full for hours, which is great for the person trying to lose weight. Hunger is often the greatest culprit for overeating and sabotaging weight loss goals. However, it is important to note there are no studies to date showing that eating Chia Seed results in weight loss. There are no miracles in losing weight; hard work is required.

Because of the high consumption of processed foods today, diet related diseases such as the painful conditions of Diverticulitis and Diverticulosis are becoming more prevalent; and suffers of diverticulitis and diverticulosis have been instructed to eliminate nuts and seeds from their diet; however, studies now show this is not the case. In fact, the most successful and cost effective way to prevent these painful symptoms are to significantly increase fiber from foods in the diet. If celery isn't your cup of tea or you are having difficulties eating enough fiber to meet your recommended dietary allowances (RDA), consider a serving of Chia Seed daily. Each Chia Seed is coated with gel-like soluble fiber and is protected by an insoluble fiber exterior. The two together helps food glide through the digestive system for regularity and the soluble fiber keeps the colon hydrated and lubricated so food passes effortlessly. 

The unique makeup of Chia Seed with its perfectly complimentary soluble and insoluble fiber content slows the body's conversion of starches into sugars. This helps stabilize blood sugar keeping energy levels consistent throughout the day. Healthy blood sugar levels keep the body feeling energized instead of tired, often resulting in poor pick-me-up food choices. By keeping blood sugars balanced it reduces the risk for developing diabetes type II; and if eaten with food, it helps convert food into a constant release of energy. 

Chia Seed are a nutritional powerhouse for antioxidants as well as important minerals. A serving of Chia Seed is comparable to fresh blueberries at a fraction of the cost. Antioxidants ward off free radicals and play a crucial role in many bodily functions and are effective in preventing numerous age-related diseases. It is as good for the skin as it is for the body.

How to Incorporate
I use Chia Seed in my diet on nearly a daily bases. I sprinkle in soups, on meats, yogurt, baked goods, salads, cereal, drinks and smoothies to name a few. I love Chia Seed pudding which is very similar to Tapioca and my No Bake Oatmeal Cups.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Tunisian Chickpea Stew

By:  Tara Fuller

This soup is adapted from the Moosewood cookbook and has been a favorite in my household for some time now. Every person I have made this for or given the recipe to, say it is their favorite. Its ingredients provide a fantastic shot of nutrient dense foods for a holistic natural body cleansing. Eat a bowl of this and you will surely feel healthier come morning. 

My Kitchen to Yours

1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp minced or pressed garlic
1-2 diced Anaheim chilies or chili-pepper of choice
3 tsp ground cumin 
3 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp red pepper flakes or more to taste  (optional)
1 tsp caraway seeds (optional)
1/2 black pepper
2 cups cubed Butternut squash
2 cups cubed Red potatoes
1 cup water, vegetable or chicken broth
1 red bell pepper (other colors are fine)
1-15oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1-15oz can diced tomatoes
2 tbsp Tamari sauce (soy is okay)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro

In large Dutch oven or soup pan, warm oil over medium heat. Add onions and salt (I prefer Kosher), cover and cook 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.  

Add garlic, chilies, cumin, coriander, caraway, black and red peppers and cook for 2 minutes.  Add butternut squash, stir to coat with spices, add water/broth and stir well.  Cover, bring to a simmer and cook for 7 minutes.

Add bell pepper, cover and gently simmer for another 7 minutes. Add chickpeas, tomatoes, tamari sauce and cilantro and simmer until squash is tender.  Let the stew continue cooking a minimum of 20 minutes for the flavors to develop and mellow. 

*Serves 4-6 and picture above is before smashing squash.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

No Cook Refrigerator Oatmeal Cups

If you haven't heard, chia seed is probably the one food you should be eating that you're not. Don't let their size fool you because these tiny seeds are so nutritiously packed that they were reverend by the Aztecs and Mayans; because the seeds were believed to be magical for their ability to increase stamina and endurance over long periods of time. Read more about them here.

Oh my goodness is this good! It is so good it inspired me to end my blogging hiatus to tell you about it. These overnight oatmeal cups or so easy, so yummy and so very nutritious, it is seriously a slam dunk for busy people. All you need are a handful of ingredients, half-pint mason jars and you have a ready-to-go breakfast or anytime cup that is not just delicious but high in protein, rich in calcium, fiber and antioxidants. 

Ingredients: Serves 1

1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant, quick or steel-cut)
1/3 cup milk, almond or coconut milk
1/4 plain Greek yogurt
1-1/2 tsp Chia Seed
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp strawberry jam
1/4 chopped strawberries (enough to fill jar)

Add ingredients into mason jars in the order listed above except for fruit. Screw lid on and shake vigorously until it appears most ingredients are mixed. Screw off lid, layer fruit on top, put lid back on and put into the refrigerator until morning.

Nutritional information:  247 calories, 5g fat, 4g fiber, 9g protein, sugar 2g
To cut calories/ fat, reduce milk and use non-fat Greek yogurt instead. In my next batch I will choose to use less sweetener as it was a tad too sweet for my preference. I suggest only making enough for two or three days as I think separation may be a factor.

If you love nuts, wait until you are ready to enjoy before adding them.

The above recipe is my own but there are many to be found at The Yummy Life.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Stretching too small jeans

By:  Tara Fuller

Making way too tight jeans FIT

It is always best and far less messy to buy your jeans in the correct size right off but if you didn't, this will work.  I recently bought a pair of jeans in haste from a brand I hadn't worn before but were priced over a hundred dollars less online and were just what I had been looking for.  What I didn't take into consideration is what these jeans were made out of. Most jeans nowadays are made with a Cotton/Lycra blend and stretch considerable within a wear or two, so buying a size smaller than your frame is often the best way to buy.

The Raven Denim skinny jeans I bought are 80 cotton/30 polyester, not great for stretch but fantastic for hiding skin imperfections if they are in the correct size.  Keep in mind, I would have returned these if they were not non-returnable...however, I was successfully able to stretch my jean in the waste by at least one full inch. Just what I needed to feel good wearing them. 

Stretching Jeans
  1. Put dry jeans on
  2. Zip and button so you don't risk ripping 
  3. Fill a bathtub with warm water 
  4. Place an old dark towel on the floor outside of the tub and have at least two others towels on the ready for when you get out.  Jeans will have a lot of dye runoff
  5. Add 1/2 cup white vinegar to bath water (vinegar sets color into jeans)
  6. Get in and stay for 15 minute.  After a few minutes you will feel your jeans relaxing as the warm water breaks down the hard exterior coating of the fabric. Once this happens, start moving around in the tub lifting legs, sitting, ect. You will feel the jeans giving.
  7. Get out of tub making sure to stay on the towel you placed outside of the tub. Take spare towels to blot and squeeze water from the jeans that are still on your body. Do NOT take them off.
  8. When there is no risk of dye dripping, start lunging, squatting, pulling up and down jeans while still zipped and buttoned while wearing; and wear for as long as you can stand it
  9. Once jeans are removed from the body, place jeans on a towel and put a hanger that is slightly larger than the jean's waist when buttoned and zipped, wrapped ends of hanger with a washcloth if necessary to make the hanger wider or if you're concerned the fabric may rip; gently squeeze hanger between the waist...let jeans dry overnight.
Whatever you do, do NOT dry these jeans EVER or they will return to the size bought in or worse, SMALLER, as cotton typically shrinks. For me, the jeans stretched about an inch in the waist. I hope that with continued wear they will stretch another half or an inch or so. Then they will be perfect.  I have a tiny suspicion that when it comes time to wash, I may need to slip the wet jeans on my body a few minutes before letting them air dry.

WARNING:  Spray your tub immediately after getting out.  I nearly ruined my tub waiting until the next day to clean it.  Blue dye EVERYWHERE.  Thankfully, baking soda as proven once again to be an amazing household product!