Oven Roasted Okra

Have you ever had okra? It’s kind of an odd-ball in the vegetable world with it’s slimy/gelatinous inside. Growing up in Pennsylvania, I had never even seen, let alone tried okra before. Then, I moved the Memphis, and I find it everywhere! Typically, in the South, you would fry it up and serve it along with some fried chicken. That’s not really my style.. Since I had gotten into the habit of roasting a lot of my vegetables, I decided to try it with okra too. I loved it! It’s become my favorite way to eat it now. When roasted, it cuts down on a lot of the slime-factor, which can be a big turn off when boiling or sautéing okra.

If you work up the courage to give okra another chance, you should also know that okra is healthy for you too! It has only 33 calories a cup, 66% of the RDA for Vitamin K, 35% RDA for Vitamin C, and 50% RDA for manganese.

I am almost hesitant to share this recipe… it is so simple! The batch pictured below was a mixture of green and purple okra pods we found at the market this past weekend. (That’s why some look so dark in the picture!)

Okra Oven Roasted Okra

Ingredients:

  • 1 Quart Raw Okra Pods
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Smoked Paprika (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Rinse okra pods and trim any excess stem from the ends. Toss in olive oil (~1 tablespoon) until evenly coated.
  3. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with salt and paprika.
  4. Bake for 15-25 minutes until outside begins to brown and pods are soft.

7 Reasons Nuts are Nutrition Powerhouses

Nuts used to have a bad reputation for being high calorie and high fat, therefore avoided to prevent gaining weight. These days, however, nuts have returned to the spotlight for being the nutrition powerhouses. Numerous studies have indicated that nuts have many health benefits and do not contribute to weight gain. (Source) As a vegetarian, I love nuts because they are an easy way to add a little more protein to my diet. Plus, I am all about incorporating healthy fats and nuts are loaded with them! At breakfast, I may sprinkle some walnuts on my oats, snack on almonds in afternoon, or spread some peanut butter on an apple to include in my lunch. (Peanuts are technically a legume, but they have a very similar nutrient profile to nuts so I include them here.) Let’s take a quick look at just why nuts are so good for you…
Nut Pic1. High in fiber: A serving of almonds can have up to 3.5 grams of fiber. Fiber is important for gut health as well as lowering cholesterol.
2. High in protein: Just 1/4 cup of walnuts had 5 grams of protein and almonds 7 grams. The protein combined with fat contributes to nuts high satiety factor.
3. High in healthy fats: Nuts are chock full of fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (in almonds, peanuts) which help lower LDL-cholesterol or omega 3 fatty acids (in walnuts), known to help prevent inflammation.
4. Protect against heart disease: Numerous studies have linked an average of a 35% lower risk for heart disease in people who eat nuts at least once/week. This is likely due to the fact that nuts can have a positive influence on many CHD risk factors such as high blood pressure, LDL vs HDL cholesterol, and inflammation.(Source)
5. High in Antioxidants: These compounds (such as Vitamin E, folic acid, and phytochemicals) are responsible for fighting free radicals in the body, preventing the development of cancer. Recent studies have found links between nut consumption and a reduction in colorectal and endometrial cancer. (Source)
6. Potential to reduce risk of Type 2 Diabetes: Several large cohort studies with women have shown a lowered risk of Type 2 Diabetes. The PREDIMED trial which encouraged people to consume 30 grams of nuts (or ~20 almonds or 15 cashews) daily saw an 11% reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes. (Source + Source)
7. High in essential vitamins, minerals, and plant sterols : Pistachios, for example are high in potassium. All nuts (and peanuts) are usually full of magnesium, zinc, niacin, and more! Plant sterols are naturally found in small amounts in nuts. These sterols help prevent the absorption of cholesterol in the gut, improving your LDL/HDL cholesterol.

Allergic to nuts? No worries. You can still get some of the great health benefits provided by nuts from other great foods!

  • Beans/Legumes: Beans rival nuts in their nutrient content. They are also packed with protein, fiber, and vitamins. They are only lacking the healthy fats!
  • Quinoa: These little seeds are also packed with protein, fiber, magnesium, and iron.
  • Chia Seeds: These funny little seeds have a fat profile similar to walnuts. If you are looking for an easy way to incorporate more Omega 3s in your diet, add a few of these.
  • Flax Seeds: Also high in Omega 3s and fiber, sprinkle ground flax seeds on anything from cereal to salads.
  • High Fat Fish (Tuna, Salmon, Sardines): Not exactly something you can just snack on, but you should try to eat a high fat fish at least once weekly since they are full of Omega 3s.
What are your favorite ways to enjoy these nutrition powerhouses?

Spicy Zucchini Noodle Alfredo

What are some of your favorite ways to eat zucchini? Sometimes you have to get creative since this vegetable is so abundant over the summer! Last week, I baked up a batch of this healthy zucchini bread via Whole Foods. I think this recipe may be my new favorite version of this bread! We have also been enjoying this veggie as a no-carb noodle for spaghetti and this delicious cheesy alfredo-like dish. By subbing zucchini noodles for regular pasta, you lighten up the dish quite a bit. Plus, it adds a lot of fiber. I love being able to enjoy pasta dishes without feeling like I’ve gained 10 pounds from all those heavy noodles. The only tricky thing about using zucchini in place of pasta is a tendency to make the dish watery. We julienned ours (with this!) and spread them on a cookie sheet to throw in the oven a few minutes. This really helped remove some of that extra water!
Zucchini AlfredSpicy Zucchini Noodle Alfredo
(Serves 2)
Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (we used a spicy cheddar)
  • 3 zucchini squash
  • Salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Julienne zucchini into small, thin strips. Place in colander and sprinkle with salt. Let sit for about 10 minutes to draw out some of the moisture. Rinse zucchini and gently squeeze to remove some of the excess water.
  2. Spread zucchini noodles in a single layer onto oiled cookie sheets. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until some of the noodles begin to brown slightly. You could also taste one or two to see if they have reached the consistency you like. (We left ours a little bit chewy.)
  3. In a saucepan, melt butter. Add flour and stir continuously with a whisk. Once mixture starts to brown, slowly add milk. Continue to stir until it starts to thicken into a sauce.
  4. Add shredded cheese and continue to stir until all the cheese is melted and sauce is desired consistency.
  5. Toss zucchini noodles and sauce together. Serve!

5 Things I’m Loving Right Now

Hello! We survived another Monday! After such a beautiful weekend, it was hard to drag myself back to the office yesterday. Luckily, it will be a short week since I am planning on driving home to Pennsylvania on Friday – it has been way too long since I’ve been home! Anyways, instead of my usual Tuesday round of favorite blog links, I wanted to share a little about some of the things I have been loving of late.

1. After months of debating, I finally took the plunge and invested in a Canon Rebel DSLR. I have a lot to learn, but I am excited to start taking and sharing higher quality pictures!

rebel camera

(Image Source)

2. My new scarf from fashionABLE. After reading about the company on Jenna’s blog, Eat Live Run, I knew I wanted to purchase something to support them. Fashionable provides a viable small business opportunity for vulnerable women in Africa. Each scarf is handcrafted by one of them. Check out their website to learn more about this awesome company!

IMG_0062

3. Pumpking by Southern Tier just made an appearance! This is one of my favorite beers and it is only available during a few months in the Fall but even then, it is still hard to find. We happened to come across it on our weekly grocery trip to Whole Foods and had to pick some up, for a treat. 🙂

IMG_0081 4. The farmers market is exploding with awesome produce right now! Here’s a glimpse of some of the great things we picked up this week including: peaches, broccoli, eggplant, lettuce, corn, purple carrots, tomatoes and more!

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5. I can’t get enough overnight chia oats (<—recipe)! Sunday evening, I mixed up a batch and added some figs and walnuts when I got up in the morning. It was a great way to start my week off right!

IMG_0110 Have you found anything good at the farmers’ market lately? Did you do anything exciting this weekend?

Having Trouble Losing Weight? It May be More Than Just Your Diet

Last week, the New York Times posted an article about a recent research study on the complicated relationship between exercise and sleep quality. After reading it, I started thinking about how exercise, diet, and sleep all play an important role in maintaining a healthy weight. In fact, if you neglect sleep, all of the hard work you put in to exercising regularly and eating right may not achieve the results you expected. Sleep is one thing that I often neglect to ask about when talking with patients about their weight, but it could have the potential to make a significant impact on weight management.

Sleep and Weight: A Complicated Relationship
It wasn’t difficult to find studies that have looked at the relationship between sleep and weight. Most were based on subjective information about sleep via survey from the research participants, with a couple that directly measured sleep. Surprisingly, there was a stronger relationship there than I had thought. Here are some of the things I learned:

  • Sleep deprivation decreases the hormone leptin (tells you when you are full) and increases ghrelin (hunger hormone). Ghrelin doesn’t just make you hungry, it also tends to make you crave high calorie, unhealthy foods. Also, the more tired you are, the less will power you have to resist temptation. (Source)
  • The relationship between lack of sleep and a higher BMI was stronger in children than adults. (Source)
  • A U-shaped trend appears for adults. This means that 8-9 hours of sleep (at the bottom of the U) is associated with the lowest average BMI. Sleep hours under and over 8-9 hours will lead to increased BMI. (Source)
  • With fewer hours of sleep, you are often fatigued, which means you are more likely to forgo your normal exercise routine. (Source)
  • Chronic sleep deprivation may lead to a drop in core body temperature which can cause a decrease in energy expenditure. (Source)
  • Short sleep duration may also put you at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes. (Source)

So, if you are following a healthy diet and being physically active and have yet to see the scale budge, perhaps you may consider your sleep patterns as well. Here are a few tips for getting a better nights sleep via Harvard Health:

  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and other chemicals that interfere with sleep
  • Make sure your bedroom is an inviting sleep environment by keeping it cool, dark, and quiet. Don’t bring your work or electronics with you to bed.
  • Establish a pre-sleep routine.
  • Maintain a consistent sleep schedule.
  • Avoid naps.
  • Eat a lighter dinner meal.
  • Exercise earlier in the day or at least 3 hours before bed.

Do you have any tips for getting enough sleep? Have you ever struggled with cravings after a night of inadequate sleep?

A Full Body Workout from Just 3 Moves

So, this is kind of a funny story. A couple of weeks ago, I was still feeling pretty sore the day after my normal Monday night Body Pump class. I still wanted to do something active though, so I decided to go to a pilates class, thinking that it would be nice and easy. When I get there, I find out that the normal instructor is on vacation so a personal trainer named, George, would be subbing. Only, George did not plan on teaching pilates at all, but an intense body weight class! I felt too self conscious to leave, so I decided to suck it up and see what I could do. The class involved a lot of squats, burpees, push ups, sit ups, mountain climbers and more. I was entirely spent by the time the class ended! Plus, I ended up leaving with a few new tricks up my sleeve for things I could do on my own at home. Today, I wanted to share one of them! This is one of the short, 10 minute circuits George had us do towards the end of the class. Who knew you can get a super quick, full body workout in just 10 minutes. This circuit is great for those days when you are short on time. Plus, since there is no equipment required, this is a workout you can do just about anywhere!George’s Simple CircuitRepeat each set of three moves 10 times. You can do this workout at your own pace, or if you want to make it more challenging, try to complete each set of 3 moves in less than one minute. The faster you move, the more time you have to rest between sets! By the time you complete this simple 10-20 minute workout, you will have done 50 pushups, 100 sit-ups, and 150 squats!

Vegan Sweet and Sour Tempeh Kale Stir-Fry

Hello Friends! I have another recipe to share with you today (make sure you don’t miss out on yesterday’s either!). Will and I have whipped up this super simple and quick dish a couple of times now, but today I made sure to measure out the ingredients to share with you all. If you like spicy dishes, feel free to be a little more liberal on the spices to add a bit more heat. The spice amounts I provided will create a mildly spicy dish.

sweetnsour tempeh Vegan Sweet and Sour Tempeh Kale Stir-Fry
(Makes 2 servings)
Ingredients:

  • 1 large bunch of kale
  • 1/4 cup + 1/2 cup canola oil (divided)
  • 8 ounces tempeh, crumbled
  • 4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes (adjust to taste, increase to 1/2 teaspoon if not using the dried pepper)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (adjust to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 large dried guajillo chili pepper or other dried mild pepper, chopped (optional)
  • Salt (to taste)

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, heat 1/4 cup canola oil. Toss in kale and stir. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. Once the kale turns bright green, toss in the crumbled tempeh. Continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes or until tempeh is heated through.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 cup oil and spices. Heat over medium heat for 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in rice wine vinegar.
  3. Pour oil/spice mixture over the kale/tempeh. Toss to coat kale/tempeh. Cook for another 1-2 minutes. Serve!
What are some of your favorite ways to serve kale?