Saturday, January 18, 2014

Parmesan Dumpling Minestrone Stew (Gluten Free)

Oh my word, this just might be the holy Grail of stews.  It is seriously that good!  So good that my husband who isn't a fan of most vegetables, loathes kale and is not gluten intolerant, went back for seconds.  This stew is loaded with nearly all the colors of the rainbow, and therefore, is loaded with more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than I care to list.  Just know you can't go wrong with a bowlful or two of what is now my favorite soup/stew followed by Tunisian Chickpea and Cauliflower

The dumplings are a nice touch and add a bit more depth for a bulkier meal; but it can easily be enjoyed without.  Another option is to subsitue the dumplings for your favorite noodle.  Just be cautious not to overcook.  In fact, it would be wise to undercook the noodles by a minute or two before adding to the stew so they don't get mushy by serving time.  

Finally, PLEASE don't let the ingredient list scare you.  Most are found in the produce section and the rest you probably have in your pantry, so it doesn't take long to gather the ingredients.  There is a lot of chopping, and although completely doable on your own, it's the perfect opportunity to get the family involved in the kitchen with you.

Dumpling Ingredients 
1 cup GF all purpose flour*
1 scant tsp xantham gum*
1 scant tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup milk, broth or water
2-4 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh chives, finely chopped
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan
1 egg

Soup Ingredients
1/2 cup olive oil
6-8 baby carrots, chopped (leave skins on if organic)
2-3 large celery ribs, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced and chopped
1 large red onion, chopped
15 garlic cloves, minced
Large handful fresh green beans, chopped
8-10 fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 zucchini, chopped (leave skins only if organic)
1 large bunch kale, vain removed and finely chopped (organic is always best)
1/2 cup Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon (wine with a bite)
28oz can chopped tomatoes
2 small cans tomato paste
1 can garbanzo beans, drained/rinsed
2 cans cannelini beans, drained/rinsed (white kidney beans)
3-4 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
3-4 tablespoons fresh chives, finely chopped
1 tablespoon sea salt, more/less to taste
2 tablespoons black pepper, more/less to taste
10 cups water
1-3 tablespoons Sarachia sauce (Optional)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (Optional)
Garlic salt (Optional)

Dumpling Directions
  1. Whisk flour, xantham, baking soda, salt and pepper together in a medium size bowl.
  2.  Create a small hole in the center of the flour mixture and set aside.  
  3. In a smaller bowl, blend garlic, egg, chives, parsley and parmesan.
  4. Heat butter and mix with liquid (I used milk).
  5. Add butter-liquid mixture to wets and mix until incorporated. 
  6. Pour liquids into the hole of the flour mixture and mix with a spatula or wooden spoon until lumps are gone.
  7. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until stew is ready for it. 
*If using regular flour, exclude xantham

Stew Directions
  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pot (I used a French Oven).
  2. Sauté onions, peppers, carrots and celery for 5 minutes or until onions are translucent.
  3. Add garlic, green beans, zucchini and mushrooms, stir and cook 3 minutes. 
  4. Add kale, stir and cook 1 minute.
  5. Add wine, turn heat to high and cook 2 minutes.
  6. Stir and add water, tomatoes with liquid, tomato paste, beans, chives, parsley, pepper and salt.
  7. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook 20 minutes or until veggies are tender. 
  8. Add additional salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic salt and/or Sarachia sauce to taste (we like a kick to ours).
  9. Drop small spoonfuls of the dumpling batter into simmering stew.
  10. Once all dumplings are dropped into the stew, gently press dumplings beneath stew to cover with broth.
  11. Simmer uncovered 5 minutes, gently turn dumplings over and simmer another 4-5 minutes until dumplings are just solidified in the middle. 

Ladle soup into a bowl and place one or two dumplings in the middle. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve hot.

Bon appetite! 

Recipe Note:  This is an adaption (much better I think) of a recipe found on No Face Plate, a fantastic vegan website.  You should check them out when you have a chance. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Liver Detoxifying Foods

Think of your liver as your body's personal filtering system as a Brita is for water. It traps the bad and spits out the good. Its main function is to keep a person healthy by removing harmful substances from the bloodstream while simultaneously assisting in food digestion. It is an incredible organ that receives 25 percent of the blood that the heart pumps with each beat.

How it Works
The liver converts nutrients from foods consumed into essential blood components which are necessary in maintaining hormone balances within the body.  It removes bacteria from the blood to make bile, which is essential for food digestion. The Gallbladder stores bile until this digestive juice is needed by the body to help fats be absorbed into the bloodstream.

It also helps breakdown carbohydrates and turns it into a substance called glucose; glucose is our cells main source of fuel. Glucose is basically a sugar that provides our body with a boost of energy.  Glucose stored in the liver is called glycogen; and when blood glucose (sugar) levels drop, the liver breaks down glycogen into glucose and releases it into the bloodstream providing fuel to body cells.

The liver also helps make cholesterol. And while it is true that too much cholesterol can be bad, the right amount of cholesterol is crucial for bodily functions. Cholesterol made provides a protective outer coating of cells, makes bile acids to help digest foods in the intestine and allows the body to make Vitamin D and hormones.

A couple additional components of the liver is it makes proteins that help with blood clotting. The function is called the liver's "synthetic function".  And finally, when you take medications, the liver breaks down the active ingredients so our body is able to utilize them. 

In a nutshell, the liver functions as a fat-burning organ; storing vitamins and minerals and producing proteins and enzymes crucial for bodily functions. For example, the immune system is vital for protecting the body from dangers that would compromise the health of the body, such as when you get sick because the immune system produces cells to fight off that sickness. It is constantly working to fight off bacterias and viruses that bombard the body, which is susceptible to becoming overloaded.  The liver helps to protect the immune system from being overloaded by filtering out a wide range of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites from the blood stream.

How to Care for Your Liver
We only have one liver so it is important to take care of it.  If it becomes overloaded and is no longer able to work as it should by filtering out these invasive toxins, the buildup can play havoc on our bodily functions, especially our immune system.  Having an overworked or undernourished liver is linked with chronic health problems.

Liver problems can be inherited or can occur in response to viruses and chemicals. Some liver problems are temporary and go away on their own while others can lead to serious complications (Mayo clinic). Tobacco, alcohol, coffee and white sugar in excess can have negative consequences for liver function; and exercise, drinking water and the consumption of fruits and vegetables will have positive benefits for healthy liver functions.

Many companies claim their products help cleanse the liver by ridding it from harmful toxins; and their representatives in good faith believe that only by buying and taking their products will a person be able to successfully  "cleanse" or "detox" the body. However, all current studies show everything needed to keep the body functioning and naturally detoxifying itself are readily available and easily attainable in whole foods.

The following are some foods shown to help keep the liver functioning at optimality. Consumption of these fruits and vegetables combined with an active lifestyle, the reduction and/or elimination of nutrient lacking foods such as simple carbohydrates, processed foods and/or fast foods, are necessary to keep the body healthy and functioning in optimal condition.

Garlic is a rich source of allicin and selenium, two natural compounds that promote liver function; and activate enzymes that flush out toxins. Garlic is also shown to help lower cholesterol levels and prevent cardiovascular disease.
Eating or drinking grapefruit juice can help flush the liver of carcinogens and toxins.
Beets and Carrots: 
Beets help cleanse the blood, stimulate liver cells and protect bile ducts. They are high in plant-flavonoids, which can improve overall functions of the liver.
Helps remove heavy metals from the body.
This versatile herb can be added to just about any dish, including salads or smoothies. This herb can help remove heavy metals from the body, something your liver could be struggling with right now. - See more at:
This versatile herb can be added to just about any dish, including salads or smoothies. This herb can help remove heavy metals from the body, something your liver could be struggling with right now. - See more at:
Leafy Greens:
Leafy greens like spinach and lettuce serve as a natural antibiotics and have the ability to neutralize metals, chemicals and pesticides that may be in our foods. In addition to acting as a blood cleaner, greens  help in reducing thinning blood and blood pressure.
Green Tea:
Clinical studies have shown men who drink more than 10 cups of green tea per day are less likely to develop liver problems. Green tea also seems to protect the liver from the damaging effects of toxic substances such as alcohol (Maryland Medical Center). It is full of plant antioxidants named catechins, which has been shown to improve liver functions.
Cabbage is 92 percent water and is a natural diuretic. It helps your body get rid of excess fluids. It is also rich in dietary fiber and vitamins C,K, E, A and folic acid. 
A Japanese Study found avocados contain compounds that may protect the liver from damage.
Crucferous Vegetables:
Cruciferous veggies like broccoli and Brussels sprouts  increase the amount of glucosinolate (organic compounds) in the body; and helps create enzyme production for digestion.
Lemons help to naturally cleanse toxic materials out of the body and aid the digestion process.
Not only great when used as a spice to help protect the liver from damage but also helps encourage the regeneration of liver cells. In layman terms, it acts as a natural detox for your liver as it helps the body digest fat and stimulate the production of bile.
Walnuts are rich in glutathione and omega-3 fatty acids, which are both shown to support liver detoxification.
Apples are high in pectin, it hold the chemical constituents necessary for the body to cleanse and release toxins from the digestive tract.  It makes it easier for the liver to handle the toxic load during the cleansing process.
Many experts say consuming plenty of water throughout the day may be our greatest defense for optimal liver health.  Water hydrates the body and helps flush harmful toxins from the kidneys and liver; and is necessary for all healthy bodily functions.

Additional Sources:
Riley Hospital for Children
Harvard Health Perspectives 
Global Healing Center