Summertime Pesto with Basil, Artichoke and Peas

This simple pesto comes together in a snap, is low-fat, and celebrates the flavors of summer. It's a twist on a traditional basil pesto with the bright, unique flavors of artichoke hearts and spring peas - a surefire dish to wow your friends and family. As a bonus, this pesto works in both warm and room temperature dishes, which makes it great for potlucks and picnicks!

Pesto with Basil, Artichoke and Peas
Yield: 4 servings

1 cup basil leaves, packed
1 cup quartered artichoke hearts (I use frozen & defrosted)
3/4 cup peas (fresh & blanched or frozen)
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
2 Tbsp vegetable broth
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
pinch fresh ground black pepper
8 oz whole wheat rotini (or other shaped pasta with ridges)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds (walnuts and pine nuts would also be good!)

  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Reserve 1/4 cup pasta water when you drain the pasta. 
  2. Combine basil, artichoke hearts and peas in a food process and pulse until chunky.
  3. Add garlic, nutritional yeast, vegetable broth, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Puree until smooth.
  4. Toss pesto with prepared pasta and 2 Tbsp pasta water. Add more pasta water as needed until the pesto coats the pasta without being too dry. 
  5. Toss with sunflower seeds and serve warm, or chill for a cold pasta salad.

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Confusion Over Coffee – Is it Healthy or Not?


This is a guest post by Derek Henry who is as serious about coffee as a heart attack, but far more amusing.

Confusion Over Coffee – Is it Healthy or Not?
The research is conflicting, but our love for it is not. Eight out of ten people have one thought only when they first wake up or get to work – where’s my coffee? There’s been lots of research on the benefits of late, with other data also suggesting that we should ease up on the java addiction. So who’s right? Should we care? Grab your coffee and let's discuss this important topic.

Where is the Love?
Whether an avid coffee drinker likes to admit it or not, the love for this black elixir comes from its ability to stimulate our body and mind. We simply have become accustomed to coffee giving us the energy and mental faculties we require each day to deal with our jobs, families, in-laws, and other ancillary duties as assigned.

The taste component has now been pimped out with all kinds of different profiles to choose from, but without the above mentioned qualities, how many would actually still consume it?

What are the Benefits?
There has been a legion of evidence recently coming in on how coffee may benefit your health. It's loaded with antioxidants (or was, before it was roasted), lowers risk of stroke, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 diabetes, and dementia. It even improves socials skills and depressive symptoms!! Perhaps that has to do more with your workplace coffee break, which can even improve the social skills of the accounting department.

What are the Consequences?
Since 250 million North Americans (8 out of 10 people) are drinking on average 3-5 cups a day, you would think the aforementioned benefits would nary be seen in the consequences. However, according to the top 10 causes of death in the USA by the CDC, we found that cancer (#2), stroke (#3), Alzheimer’s (#6), and diabetes (#7) are all included on the list.

At 750 million cups consumed a day, with the benefits it claims, it should AT LEAST not have any disease it lowers in the top 10. Like, c’mon man. Let’s be logical here. Not only does it have 4 out of 10, it also has two of the top three!

One thing we know about the very nature of coffee is that it's acidic, and is a stimulant. An acidic body facilitates disease and coffee has been linked to increased risk of arthritis, obesity, diabetes, depression, and anxiety (note diabetes and depression are noted in both benefit and consequences). It is also very dehydrating and reduces oxygen levels in the blood.

The other factor coffee drinkers are all too aware of is the fact that the adrenalin rush they get from coffee is from the adrenal glands. It’s also our source of “fight-or-flight” response, which enabled out ancestors to escape from that angry wooly mammoth. Caffeine is then constantly putting your body in this state, which is fairly useless when you are sitting at a desk. Perhaps the fact you have to fight over who buys the next coffee counts, and it becomes a self serving circle.

At any rate, your body's constant state of alert "caffeinism," leads to fatigue, anxiety, mood swings, sleep disturbance, irritability and depression.

Who’s Most at Risk?
Since it is highly acidic and fatigues the adrenals, people who eat and conduct a lifestyle that is overly acidic and stressful are more susceptible to the dangers of coffee. A highly acidic diet consists of grains, animal protein, alcohol, and anything processed. A highly acidic lifestyle would include smoking and anything that induces stress.

Sound familiar?

If you eat a highly alkaline diet (60% or more - fruits and vegetables primarily), and suffer from very little stress, a cup of coffee isn’t likely going to affect you as adversely.

Trouble is, 90% of people fall into the first category. Whoops.

A New Coffee Experience
Fortunately, there are options for you to have your cake and eat it too. If you have been told to cut out the coffee, by either your body or your doctor, or simply do not want to risk the potential side effects, you can now enjoy a healthier coffee. It has all the benefits you enjoy from coffee, but helps eliminate the side effects as well.

The healthier coffee I refer to contains an herb called Ganoderma (Reishi), which is infused into the coffee and does not adversely affect the taste or smell. It has a wide range of positive implications, but most notably helps provide energy and stamina and reduces the jitters and crashes caused by the caffeine. The herb also helps provide balance to your body, detoxifies, helps with elimination, and aids in sleep improvement. Simply Google “Ganoderma” and the condition you want assistance with and see if it can help you.

In my world it's not about taking away your vices, it's about helping you make informed choices to transition to a lifestyle that will leave you feeling better every day. A 1-5 cup/ day habit that can be turned healthier is a great and simple way to transition to a healthier lifestyle that could potentially result in less pain and suffering.

After all, it's all about enjoying life. Don’t let your favorite habit take the wind out of your sails. Allow it to enrich your life, and create the benefits you deserve.


Derek Henry is the Owner of The Silver Lining and Canadian Master Distributor of SereniGy Healthier Coffee, Tea, Water, Supplements, and Performance products. His passion and dedication to health is exhibited through his blog and his Facebook page, Silver Lining.

Note: I wasn't paid or perked to post this article, but I have tried the Ganoderma-infused coffee that Derek wrote about and I can attest that it's just as tasty as your favorite brew. 


Apple Date Oat Muffins

This recipe may have a long list of ingredients and instructions but don't let that fool you. This are, in fact, one of the easiest and quickest muffin recipes in my notebook. The oats make them hearty and healthy. The apple and date pieces lend a gentle, natural sweetness. Applesauce works as a binder without the need for oil or margarine. The result is this terrific, balanced muffin that is perfect for breakfast or an anytime snack.

Apple Date Oat Muffins
Yield: 18 muffins

1 1/4 cup unsweetened plain almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
2 tsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
2 cups quick oats
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
3/4 cup chopped dates
1/3 cup applesauce
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 1/4 cup warm water
1 medium apple, seeded and chopped finely
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly oil 18 muffin cups and set aside.
  2. Mix almond milk and apple cider vinegar in a large bowl and set aside.
  3. Toss oats, sunflower seeds, dates and applesauce together in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly so that the date pieces are not clumped up.
  4. Add flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt to the oat-date mixture. Stir to combine.
  5. Add sugar and water to the almond milk mixture. Whisk to combine. 
  6. Add dry mixture to wet in three batches, stirring to incorporate. 
  7. Fold in chopped apple. 
  8. Fill each muffin cup with a scant 1/3 cup of muffin batter. 
  9. Bake 20-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  10. Allow to cool 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Cold cold soup for hot hot days

Ohio is freaking hot this June and it's not even officially summertime yet! I've turned off the stove and switched to cooler dishes, like sandwiches and dips, to help us stay chill on even the most scorchingest of days. I also like to limit my trips to the grocery store and rely more heavily on what's already on hand.

Gazpacho is an easy answer. This no-cook soup is cold but spicy, so it cools you down but keeps your tastebuds interested. You can whip up a batch in less than 5 minutes and, chances are, you already have the ingredients in your pantry.

Yield: 4 servings

28 oz can tomatoes (any style)
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
2 Tbsp lime juice (fresh is best but bottled is ok)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (optional)
  1. Combine all ingredients (except oil) in a blender and puree until smooth.
  2. If using, drizzle in oil while blender is on. 
  3. Transfer to an airtight container (like an old juice bottle) and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving with tortilla chips or popcorn garnish.
Note: If you don't have (or don't like) jalapeno, you can use 1 tsp crushed red pepper or chili sauce instead. If you use a hot sauce that contains vinegar, reduce the balsamic vinegar accordingly.

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    Greek to Me: DIY Seasoning & Hummus Dip

    As I sit down to write this post, the temperature inside my apartment is rising. Despite the open windows and multiple fans, it's getting hot up in here. If you know what I mean.

    When the temperature gauge begins skyrocketing, it's time to start thinking about how people in hot climates tend to eat. Simple foods, grilled outdoors or perhaps lightly sauteed, and tons of herbs and spices. When I can't (or don't want to) heat up my kitchen, I start thinking of new ways to impart robust flavor into my dishes. 

    I created this simple, Greek-inspired spice mix to use in a number of different applications. It's fantastic in quinoa salad, blended with silken tofu for a dip, mixed into tomato puree for cold soup, and sprinkled on grilled vegetables. It also makes an amazing addition to hummus, as in today's recipe.

    I don't have an herb garden at my back door, so I've used dried herbs for this blend and it works just fine. I do like to throw in a fresh herb or two to my finished dish for added freshness and flavor, but feel free to work with that you have.

    Greek Hummus Dip
    Yield: About 2 1/2 cups

    2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 15-oz can, rinsed and drained)
    1 Tbsp Greek Spice Mix (recipe below)
    1/4 cup tahini
    3-4 Tbsp water
    Salt and pepper to taste
    1. In a food processor, combine all ingredients except water and puree, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally.
    2. Add 2 Tbsp water and puree until smooth. Add additional water 1 Tbsp at a time until desired consistency is reached.
    3. Serve with veggies for dipping or use as a spread on sandwiches and wraps.

    Greek Spice Mix 
    Yield: About 1/2 cup

    2 tsp salt
    4 tsp oregano
    3 tsp onion powder
    3 tsp garlic powder
    2 tsp arrowroot or cornstarch
    2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
    2 tsp thyme
    1 tsp cinnamon
    1 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
    1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl or jar and stir to combine.
    2. Store in an airtight container up to 4 weeks.

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    Weird Things: Amino Acids

    There have been a number of times in my life when, in casual conversation, I mention amino acids and have been met with the following reply:

    "What's an amino?"

    And then I usually make this face:

    After I take a deep breath and reel in my wide-eyed amazement, I explain.

    Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. There are a bunch of amino acids but 8 of them are considered "essential" amino acids. That is, the human body requires them in order to function properly. And--oh yeah--our bodies can't actually produce those amino acids, so we have to get them from our diet.

    This is perhaps the crux of the biggest question that many meat-eaters ask vegetarians and vegans. "Where do you get your protein?" Everyone seems to understand that the body needs protein in order to survive, but a lot of people don't understand that it's those key essential amino acids that veg-heads really need to pay attention to. And it's not just about building muscle and all that. Amino acids also act as precursors to other enzymatic and hormonal functions of the body, such as serotonin which regulates mood, appetite and sleep patterns. So these little aminos are pretty darn important!

    So, what foods contain amino acids? Your average omnivore Joe will get his essential amino acids from milk, eggs, meat, poultry and fish. Since vegans don't consume any of those products, we're pretty much stuck with soy products as a primary source of essential amino acids, since it's the plant source most readily available that contains the essential acids.

    If you're interested in seeing some numbers, the Vegetarian Resource Group has great charts that show protein content in different plant-based foods, as well as a chart specifically focused on essential amino acids. I don't like to obsess over numbers. I prefer to just enjoy my food! So instead of worrying about whether I'm getting all my essential amino acids, I just keep a big ol' bottle of Bragg's Liquid Aminos in my pantry--and use it liberally.

    See? There it is. Right up front.

    Liquid Aminos has a flavor that is difficult to describe and utterly addictive. It's a bit salty but not like soy sauce, though it does impart a unique, earthy taste to your dishes. So, how should you use it?
    • With or in place of soy sauce in soups and sauces
    • In vegetable stir fry
    • Sprinkled over rich dishes, like polenta or creamy pasta
    • Spritzed on salads of dark greens and root veggies
    • As part of a marinade for tofu, tempeh or seitan
    • On oven-roasted potato wedges
    Can you think of another ways to add Liquid Aminos to your meals?

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