Thai Chicken Salad

Guys no joke, this was a recipe that I’d never attempted before and I’m so sorry I waited this long. Sure I’ve eaten a Thai salad, I loooove Thai food, and I’ve Pinned tons of Thai recipes…but to be honest I cook very little Asian cuisine at home even though I love it. I went out on a limb just like I encourage all of my readers to do (I would never tell you to do something I would never do myself).

Sometimes people get freaked out when trying a new recipe or a new cuisine at home because they think they’ll need to spend a lot of money on specialty items. The only “specialty” ingredients that I had to buy were rice vinegar and sesame oil. To be honest sometimes I have rice vinegar hanging around because it’s delicious and sometimes it just adds that sweet and sour pop a recipe needs. Regardless, nothing super special except the TASTE!

I’ve talked about my daughter before…she can be a picky eater especially if she’s not
used to the food. Recently, she started cooking with me and this has helped her open up to the foods she has prepared. For this recipe she helped me shred veggies, pour and measure ingredients, and taste the final product. She loved the “brown peanut dressing” (that’s what she calls it). It got her stamp of approval!

This recipe is full of nourishment. From the vegetables to the edamame and the dressing, this salad will give your body so many nutrients from all of these plant foods. To be honest, you could keep out the chicken and it wouldn’t be missing a thing because these vegetables are so filling, crunchy, and satisfying! Can you tell how much I love this recipe?

Nutrition Side Note: Edamame are actually soy beans in their immature form. You can find these in the pods or already shelled either in the produce section or the frozen foods section. I usually get them frozen and just steam ’em up. Soy is beneficial for most people. It gets a bad rap but there is actually little scientific evidence to refute its benefit (given appropriate intake)…even for those with breast cancer and other estrogen related diseases. Take for instance the amazingly low breast and thyroid cancer rates in countries where girls begin eating soy at a very young age. The benefits of soy have been shown with edamame, roasted soy nuts, soy milk, tofu, miso, and tempeh. It is NOT beneficial to eat processed soy lecithin and other soy derived additives in food. Check out what MD Anderson (one of the countries top cancer hospitals) has to say about soy.

Lets dig in to this recipe just like you’ll be digging in to your salad!

Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Dressing

Ingredients:

Salad:

  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1/2 English cucumber without seeds sliced (seeding it is optional)
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup red pepper (julienned)
  • 1/4 cup shredded celery
  • 1/2 cup edamame
  • Rotisserie chicken
  • 2 Tablespoons green onion
  • 4 Tablespoons cilantro
  • 2 Tablespoons crushed peanuts

Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup creamy natural peanut butter (doesn’t have trans fats)
  • 4 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 Tablespoons lite soy sauce
  • 3 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3 Tablespoon cilantro
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric

Directions:

  1. Prep all of vegetables and split into 4 bowls. Place 3-4 ounces of chicken over veggies. Top with green onion, cilantro, and crushed peanuts.
  2. Combine all of the ingredients for the dressing into a food processor and blend together. If you don’t have a food processor a blender will work or simply whisk very well in a bowl.
  3. Drizzle desired amount of dressing over salad (you’ll have leftover).
  4. Enjoy!

NOTES:

  1. You will not need the entire rotisserie chicken so use it for a leftover meal!
  2. You’ll have extra peanut dressing…enjoy!
  3. Use more veggies! Radishes and purple cabbage would be a great addition.
  4. Shrimp would go great in this in place of chicken.
  5. If you are allergic to peanuts try substituting sunflower butter and coconut milk instead. Check out this recipe from the Academy of Culinary Nutrition.

Nutrition Side Note: Mom’s to be DO NOT be afraid to eat peanuts or peanut butter (if you are clearly not allergic). Parents of little ones: it is actually beneficial to start your kiddos eating peanuts/peanut butter at an early age to reduce the risk of a peanut allergy. Check out this article by the American Academy of Pediatrics for the new peanut guidelines. To be honest, I started all of my kiddos at 1 year but I also ate peanuts/peanut butter during pregnancy and ate a lot of peanut butter while breastfeeding. There may be no right or wrongs but it’s worth looking in to.

I branched out of my cooking comfort zone. Boy am I grateful I did. This recipe is a keeper and I’m pretty stoked about having it again in a few weeks! Try it…I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Week 4 Challenge: Eat more plants

Eating more plants really isn’t about going vegetarian or vegan. Eating more plants is about much more than weight management too. Sure, non-starchy veggies are super low in calories and fruits, legumes (beans, peas, lentils), grains, and nuts have so much fiber to keep you full they all help with weight management but it doesn’t stop there.

Here’s what research tells us about eating more plants:

  1. Reduce your risk of heart disease
  2. Reduce your risk of ALL TYPES of cancer
  3. Reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease
  4. Reduce your cholesterol
  5. Reduce your blood pressure
  6. Reduce your weight
  7. Reduce your blood sugars
  8. Improve your gut bacteria
  9. Help you to move your bowels

For the record, I’m talking about whole plant foods not processed plant-like substances.

Here’s a list of plant based foods that you could start incorporating into your diet:

  • Fruits
    • Fresh: go seasonal – right now that would be your tropical fruits: oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, clementines, mandarins, pineapple, mango, papaya, bananas
    • Frozen: shoot for ones without added sugar – these are great for smoothies, oatmeal, and yogurt parfaits
    • Dried: raisins are the best because they do not have any added sugars; cranberries do have added sugar (you wouldn’t eat them otherwise); watch out for the word “chips” which could mean they are deep fried
    • Canned: unsweetened applesauce and other canned fruits in light syrup (which means they are canned in the fruit juice without added sugar) are a good source of vitamins but not a lot of fiber. The words “no sugar added” usually means there is artificial sweeteners used.
  • Non-starchy vegetables
    • Fresh: go seasonal – right now where I’m at, this is tough because the only thing “in season” is what was harvested in the late fall and can stay fresh in a cool dry place. Other times during the year go for whats growing in your garden or at the local farmers market.
    • Frozen: this is best in the winter as these veggies were picked in season and then frozen keeping their nutrients in tact! Plus they tend to be less expensive in the winter than fresh.
    • Canned: although these have less fiber than fresh or frozen they are a less expensive alternative and still provides your body with nutrients. Get the ones without the added salt and season yourself.
  • Starchy vegetables
    • Potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, parsnips, pumpkin, and winter squashes are all considered starchy. These guys make a great source of carbohydrates for energy and are SO full of nutrients!
  • Beans
    • Black, pinto, lima, soy (edamame), kidney, cannellini, etc. These gems are packed with protein, fiber, and tons of nutrients! I love black beans on my salad for some carbohydrates (energy) too.
  • Peas
    • Snow peas, green peas, black eyed peas, chick peas (garbanzo beans – they are actually peas not beans). Similarly to beans, peas are packed with protein, fiber, and nutrients!
  • Lentils
    • The forgotten legume, lentils are easy to cook, go well in almost any soup, stew, or salad and pack a protein, fiber, nutrient punch to any dish they are in!
  • Nuts
    • In order of awesomeness: walnuts, pecans, the rest. All nuts are great but walnuts and pecans have more omega-3 fatty acids (the ones that are really good for your heart). I like to mix them up so that I can gain the benefits of as many as possible. I’m the one who buys the mixed nuts container at the grocery store.
  • Seeds
    • We tend to think of seeds as sunflower and pumpkin but there’s a whole array of seeds that are super beneficial as well. Chia, flax, hemp, and sesame seeds are great additions to your diet. All but the sesame seeds need refrigerated. FLAX SEEDS MUST BE GROUND IN ORDER TO GET THE BENEFIT. I add chia and flax to oatmeal and smoothies almost daily. Chia can be put into tea and drank as well.
  • Whole grains
    • Whole grains aren’t “bad for you”. Ugh when I hear that I want to cry tears of grains. Wheat isn’t bad for you either unless you have Celiac disease. Now that we have that out of the way whole grains are a wonderful addition to get in daily. Bleached, no fiber, processed grains are less than nutritionally dense but that doesn’t mean they are “bad” (again changing mindsets about food). Just don’t eat them often. I’m really talking about the true WHOLE grain.
    • My top 10 favorite whole grains to use/cook with are: oats, barley, wheat berries, brown rice, farro, quinoa, whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, black rice, and corn. If there are some in this list that are unfamiliar to you, check out your local grocery store to see if you can find them and give them a try! Keep checking the blog for more recipes that I’ll be featuring wheat berries, farro, and black rice. Curious about quinoa? Check out this recipe.

Plants are awesome. Plants are an important part of a healthy diet. Plants are a critical piece to the weight management journey. Eat more plants!

Anticancer Eating

For many years I practiced oncology nutrition (nutrition for people with cancer). To say that it was one of my most rewarding jobs would be an understatement. I loved meeting new people but more than that I loved meeting people who had the strength of titanium and hearts of gold.

I became interested in cancer prevention during that time. What could I do to help people prevent cancer from coming back and what could I do to help people never have to go through this terrible disease at all? As I began researching there were tons of research articles on diet and cancer prevention. After digging deeper, going to conferences, and reading evidence based books written by dietitians and medical doctors, I discovered that diet has a lot to do with cancer prevention…a whole lot!

In fact, a lot of lifestyle choices have to do with preventing cancer whether it is a recurrence or preventing it all together. What you eat, being active, lowering your stress, and having a healthy mindset are pillars to your well-being and help to reduce your cancer risk.

Here are the top 10 diet changes you can make to reduce your risk of cancer:

  1. Eat more plants: I mean, a lot more than you probably do right now. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends your diet should be at least 2/3 plants. Plant foods include: fruits, vegetables, whole grains (brown rice, wild rice, corn, whole wheat, barley), nuts, seeds, oils, herbs, and spices.
  2. Eat a lot less animal products: that includes meats, cheeses, butter, creams…anything that comes from an animal. I didn’t say avoid them because there are some benefits to eating a moderate amount of animal products (some of which include essential vitamins and minerals that you can’t get from plants). Our society just eats way too much!
  3. Focus on getting colors from your diet: and I don’t mean from m&m’s and skittles…for real. Eating a variety of colors from plant foods, gives your body a variety of antioxidants. Antioxidants can protect your cells from the nasty changes that form cancer cells.
    • Red – tomato, watermelon, red bell pepper, red apple, sweet potato
    • Orange – Oranges, pumpkin, cantaloupe, orange bell peppers
    • Yellow – lemons, summer squash, yellow bell pepper, yellow tomatoes
    • Green – broccoli, green beans, limes, green apples, lettuces
    • Blue/purple – blueberries, purple cabbage, egg plant, purple onion, grapes
    • White/tan – banana (you don’t eat the yellow skin), mushrooms, cabbage, potatoes, whole grains, nuts, seeds
  4. Do what you can to avoid processed animal meat. Processed meats have been preserved by smoking, salting, curing or adding different preservatives. Deli meats, bacon, ham, hot dogs, and smoked sausage are all examples of meats that have been processed.
  5. Drink less alcohol. Men that means 2 drinks daily and women that means one drink daily (12 oz beer, 1 oz shot, 5 oz wine). Alcohol increases the risk of many cancers including breast, colon, liver, and mouth. If you don’t drink, don’t start. The cancer risk far outweighs the heart healthy protection of red wine. There are other things you can do to keep your heart healthy.
  6. Lose weight the healthy way. Being obese increases your risk for cancer. This doesn’t mean to start losing weight in an unhealthy way. Reduce portion sizes, be smart about food choices, eat a balanced diet, and discuss your goals with a registered dietitian.
  7. Eat more fat. But not just any fat, omega-3 fats. These fantastic foods help to reduce inflammation in your body which can help decrease your risk for cancer. Fit in more walnuts, pecans, canola oil, flax seed, chia seed, salmon, and tuna to get those wonderful omega-3’s!
  8. Drink tea. Green and white tea have a phytonutrient called EGCG. This powerful antioxidant has shown to be a super cancer fighter. Using tea bags instead of buying it pre-made in the store is much more effective. A splash of lemon or lime in your tea will increase the effectiveness of EGCG!
  9. Fermented foods. Yep, you read that right! Fermented foods have amazing bacteria that our bodies need in order to keep a good balance in our gut which may help to protect our body from cancer cells. Sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables, kefer, sourdough bread (the real stuff), yogurt, kimchi, and tempeh are all great sources of those friendly bacteria.
  10. Incorporate herbs and spices. Especially ones like turmeric, rosemary, basil, parsley, cayenne pepper, and black pepper. These have been shown to protect cells against cancer. Try to incorporate them in your typical diet to flavor your food and added protection.

Cancer prevention is so important. Each one of you reading this have been impacted by this terrible disease. Maybe it was you who was diagnosed. Perhaps a parent or sibling. Maybe a grandparent or extended family or a close friend. Regardless, we are fighting a war against cancer. Diet change is the military that can help protect our body from an infiltration of enemy cancer cells.

I’m so deeply passionate about eating for an anticancer lifestyle because I’ve seen cancer at its worst. I have seen it take the strong and make them weak. I’ve watched as it stripped away peoples sense of self. I sat with an individual who used to love to eat and cook not be able to even look at or smell food. I’ve held the hand of people who cried because they never thought it would have been them. But you know what? I’ve seen people rise victorious from cancer. I talked with survivors who can now appreciate the small things in life. I have laughed with survivors who look forward to a brand new life with a brand new outlook. I have eaten with survivors who taste food with so much appreciation. I have been thanked by survivors who said my simple diet tips had made them look at diet as an expedition with others not a journey alone.

Let’s do this together. Let’s change our eating habits together to help fight this terrible disease. Who is with me?!?!

Stay tuned, later this month, for an anticancer eating plan and more tips on making your diet powerful in the fight against cancer!

For more information on anticancer eating check out the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Tomato Veggie Slow Cooker Pork Loin

When I was younger my grandmother made these incredible pork chops. They were breaded, pan fried, and then baked with tomatoes and onions. I still remember how they tasted. She hasn’t made them in a long time but my parents have taken this recipe and made it better for you. To get the recipe, I called my dad because he is the one who usually makes the dish and apparently this started the “pork chop recipe battle of 2016” between my parents as they fervently discussed who’s recipe it is. Honestly, whoever’s recipe it is, it is a keeper! This is a dish that my husband and I ask for quite often because it is so delicious!

When I’m cooking I like to take a recipe that I’ve found and put a spin on it so that’s exactly what I’ve done to this one. From my grandmothers original breaded pork chops to my parents unbreaded baked pork chops I took it one step further with a pork loin and I think you’ll really enjoy it…I know we did!

When you buy pork loins at the store they usually come in packs of 2 (about 2 pounds each loin). I used both in this recipe but you can certainly cut it in half and do pork barbecue or cut your own chops (pork chops come from the loin) from the other one. Look for the leanest one…the one without a huge fat layer and marbling. Pork loin is the leanest cut from the pork but it still can have a layer of fat and some marbling.

NUTRITION SIDE NOTE: Marbling is the white swirls in pork, beef, and lamb. This is fat…saturated fat. It carries a lot of cholesterol (it also carries a lot of flavor). Look for meat without a lot of marbling and add flavor through oils, herbs, and spices.

In every recipe I make there’s an ingredient that many people do not think of adding. I like to be creative yet practical and invent recipes that people would actually make at home but also push you out of your comfort zone a little. My secret weapon in this recipe are capers. If you’ve never used/eaten a caper before I promise you are missing out! The are relatively inexpensive (for a jar that will last me months it cost $1.50) and have a taste that will knock your socks off! They are salty and briny…but not strong like olives. D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S!

There’s another catch to this recipe. I add tons of vegetables because a diet that is 2/3 vegetable based has been shown to reduce your risk of many diseases like heart disease and cancer. THAT is why a healthy diet is important. Weight management is important but that is a side note…health, now that’s where it is at kids!

The steps are simple…

Chop:

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Season

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Layer

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Smother

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Cook it!

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OK the recipe you’ve all been waiting for!

Tomato Veggie Slow Cooker Pork Loin

Ingredients:

  • 5 stalks celery
  • 3 whole carrots
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 3 medium onions (2 large)
  • Pork loin (I used 2, 2 pound loins)
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (omit if watching your sodium intake)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1, 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1, 28 oz can diced tomatoes

Directions

  1. Chop celery, carrots, peppers, and half of the onions (larger pieces about 1 inch). Put them in the bottom of a large slow cooker.
  2. Place pork loins in a large bowl and rub capers, garlic, oregano, turmeric, salt, and pepper over the loin to get the flavors surrounding it. I cut small slits into the loin and stuffed them with the garlic and capers.
  3. Put the loins over the vegetables and pour the balsamic vinegar over the loin and veggies.
  4. Place the can of crushed tomatoes around the pork loin and layer the rest of the onions on top. Top it off with the can of diced tomatoes. I also put another teaspoon of capers on top of the diced tomatoes but this is optional…I really like capers!
  5. Cook on high 6 hours or low 8-10 hours.

I served the pork loin with parsley and lemon red skin potatoes and a side salad with homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

Parsley and Lemon Red Skin Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 6 small red skin potatoes cut in 1 inch cubes (skins on)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives
  • 1/3 lemon (about 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice)

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients into a glass dish. Using a steamer lid (or a glass plate on top) microwave on high for 10 minutes.
  2. Season with salt and pepper to taste (can also use more herbs and spices)

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Recipe Notes: this slow cooker recipe takes about 10 minutes to prepare. You can sear the tenderloin in a pan first but it is not necessary. The meat is fall apart tender without the sear. It is so quick, easy, and delicious.

Pork loin recipe cost: about $15 for  8 servings (4 oz of meat). That is $1.87 per serving!