Clean Foods, Clean Living
I’m a clean eater. What does that mean, exactly? Well, it’s about eating from nature’s bounty: fresh foods in their most natural state. Nothing with a label, nothing processed: purely nuts, seeds, fresh produce, healthy fats and lean proteins. Not sure what to make of this? How about whetting your appetite with kale cashew pesto with chia seed falafel; fresh spinach salad with roasted eggplant and avocado-basil dressing; and leek and tomato-apricot soup?
I learned at a very young age that I had an intolerance to dairy and sadly had to forgo the dixie cup ice cream at birthday parties. Then, along came college where gluten intolerance hit me full force. I wasn’t ready for this double whammy, especially eating such a restrictive diet under the confines of a mere dorm-room fridge. I struggled for many years in college and beyond, wondering what I could eat (what my body wouldn’t reject) and what I should eat (to replenish the nutrients I wasn’t getting from gluten and dairy). After 10 years of chronic stomach pain and other unpleasant side effects, visiting every doctor in Manhattan and even venturing out to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, I was written off as a medical mystery: “Nothing is wrong with you,” and “I can’t help you.”
So I decided to heal myself in a natural way, I started working with a medical doctor specializing in functional medicine and healed myself with food that keeps me content, feeling good about myself and smiling every day. I learned how to create a homemade salsa, dressing, marinade, guacamole, hummus and so much more by experimenting in my kitchen with fresh produce and herbs.
My attitude toward this lifestyle wasn’t always so positive though. There was a point in my life where I thought I would never find anything I could eat without getting sick, as our society breeds off over-processed, over-salted convenience foods. But, I put in a lot of time and research when I made the big decision to take charge of my health. I went back to school, learned a lot about how food heals and started a blog that’s all about gluten- and dairy-free living. My goal is to help people who have similar issues with and intolerances to foods or people who suffer from a medical illness where certain foods need to be restricted, to learn that it is easier than you think to adjust your lifestyle –and if you keep with it, you will succeed. I bring my own food to barbecues, on airplanes, along for car rides and sometimes even to weddings. Hey,a girl’s gotta eat. And eat, I do. I love food; it’s what healed me.
Food is what took me off pain killers and steroids when I was suffering from colitis, bacteria overgrowth, dysbiosis, parasites and pathogens. Food is what brought a smile to my face when I was in chronic pain. It took patience, time, research and learning how to listen to my body by starting each day with a fresh green juice.
It’s about eating fresh: fresh vegetables, fresh fruitf resh, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
It’s not about the gluten-free pizzas or the vegan cookies or the dairy-free ice creams. Yes, I’m sure they all taste great. But if these companies are taking out the gluten, dairy, fat or sodium, well … what exactly are they putting in? Kind of scary to think about, isn’t it? Just take a look at the ingredient list, and I’m sure you’ll be blown away (or unable to pronounce) what’s inside.
Let’s start by taking a step back and eating the basics: fresh produce, lean proteins and healthy fats. Challenge yourself to forego the food store for local farmers markets … I bet you’ll be surprised how creative you can get. And the best part? Your taste buds will transform, and you’ll soon realize you don’t need that fake sweetener or that sugary iced tea or those cookies.
Why? Well, when you use fresh, naturally sweetened foods such as beets, carrots, sweet potatoes and fresh herbs such as mint, cilantro and parsley, you will be fully satisfying your taste buds with all-natural tastes. Believe me, I never thought I’d say those words … never thought they’d come out of my mouth. But I assure you, fresh ingredients and herbs can make anything taste good. It takes patience and practice and a bit of learning, but that learning curve isn’t steep, and you can do it.
Here are a few fun recipes to try yourself.
Vegan Falafel Balls with Kale Cashew Pesto
Yield: 4 servings
-2 cups chickpeas, cooked
-1 large sweet onion, roughly chopped
-3 cloves garlic
-1/3 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
-1 tablespoon fresh lime zest
-2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
-1 ½ tablespoons cumin seeds, toasted
-3/4 teaspoon sea salt
-1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
-1/4 teaspoon chili powder
-1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
-1 tablespoon rice flour
-2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a small skillet over medium heat toast cumin seeds. Toast until golden brown, approximately 3 minutes.
In a food processor combine chickpeas, onion, garlic, parsley, lemon juice, cumin, sea salt, white pepper and chili powder; pulse process until coarsely chopped. Add olive oil, rice flour and ground flax seeds. Using your hands, mold into golf-sized balls.
Place falafel balls on a nonstick baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from oven and serve warm with Kale Cashew Pesto (below).
Kale Cashew Pesto
-2 cups kale, steamed and roughly chopped
-¼ cup scallions, chopped
-½ cup cashews, toasted
-2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
-1/4 cup rice milk
-2 cloves garlic, roasted
-½ teaspoon sea salt
-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
-1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
-1 teaspoon chili powder
Place kale and scallions in food processor and pulse until chopped.
Add cashews, nutritional yeast, rice milk and garlic; pulse again to combine.
Slowly add sea salt, lemon juice, oil and chili powder.
Continue pulsing until smooth.
Serve as a dipping sauce with Falafel.
Blood Orange Kale Chips with Caramelized Cherry Onions
Yield: 2 servings
-1 large Vidalia onion, sliced into thin rings
-1 cup water
-1/4 cup fresh red grapes
-1 medium blood orange
-2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
-1 teaspoon agave nectar
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-Sea salt and pepper, to taste
-Pinch of paprika
-4 cups fresh kale, roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place onion in a medium-size bowl and fill with water. Place in the microwave for 10 minutes.
In a separate bowl, combine juice from the blood orange, balsamic vinegar, agave nectar, olive oil, sea salt, pepper and paprika; whisk to combine.
Place kale, orange juice mixture and onions in a large bowl; using hands, gently toss to coat. Add fresh grapes.
Arrange kale and mixture in a single layer on prepared baking sheets. Bake until crispy, approximately 25-30 minutes.
Carrot Coriander Dip
Yield: 4 servings
-6 large carrots, shredded
-2 tablespoons raw cashews
-1/4 cup almond milk
-1/4 cup hemp milk
-1/2 teaspoon coriander
-1/4 cup fresh parsley
-1 teaspoon lime juice
-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
-1/4 teaspoon sea salt
-1/3 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
Place all ingredients in a blender; pulse until smooth.
Transfer to the stove top, cook on low heat for 4-5 minutes or until thickened.
Enjoy atop grilled vegetables and tofu or as a dressing on salads.
Amie Valpone, HHC, AADP, is a culinary marketing consultant, recipe developer and food writer specializing in gluten-free and dairy-free culinary nutrition. She is also the publisher of “Easy Eats”, a gluten-free, online magazine.
Photo credit: brew127