Nicobella Lifestyle Blog

Kids Corner: Cucumber "Sushi" Rolls With Sweet Potatoes, SkinnyPop + Munch Posted on 26 Sep 16:53 , 0 comments

If you saw the Today Show this morning you may have caught the segment on school lunches and what your child is really eating. The reporter went through several lunch boxes packed by mom or dad that appeared healthy, but, in fact, some of them had up to 50 grams of sugar! As a reference, it's recommended that kids get no more than 25 grams of sugar per day. Yikes. So, which foods seem nutritious but are really jam-packed with sugar? Some granola bars, yogurt, fruit juice, nut butters and spreads may contain 15-30 grams of sugar per item. That's a lot!

Most kids love fruit. Instead of packing fruit-flavored snacks, pack the whole fruit that is packed with fiber, vitamins, water and other plant-based nutrients, plus a bit of natural sugar. When choosing granola bars look for 6 grams of sugar or less per 100 calories. Or, get the kids in the kitchen with you and have fun making your own granola bars! Here's one we love from Minimalist Baker

The Cucumber "Sushi" Roll lunch incorporates power-packed foods such as red peppers, avocados, cucumbers, carrots, and hummus followed by SkinnyPop Popcorn mixed with Maple Nut Munch for a fun after lunch treat.

Cucumber Sushi Rolls

You can use any vegetables to roll with the cucumbers! Mix it up week to week. We chose carrots (beta carotene for healthy eyes), peppers (vitamin C for a strong immune system), avocado (healthy fats for brain function), spinach (iron to prevent anemia) and hummus (protein for growth). Plus the cucumbers are packed with water to help kids stay hydrated. As a bonus, sesame seeds are sprinkled on top for a little calcium boost. 

Ingredients

  • 1 cucumber, peeled then cut into quarters
  • 3-4 Tbsp hummus of choice
  • 3-4 leaves of spinach
  • 1 small carrot, peeled
  • 1/4 red pepper, sliced
  • 1/4 avocado, sliced
  • sesame seeds to garnish

Peel the skin off the cucumber then slice the cucumber into quarters (about 2" in length). With a paring knife, thinly slice the cucumber around (see photo below). Lay the cucumbers flat on a plate. Spread hummus on top as the first layer. Add a spinach leaf to each cucumber. Roll the cucumber, hummus and spinach into a "sushi" roll, leaving space in the center to add sliced avocado, pepper and carrots. Place the rolls in the lunch container and add the sliced peppers, avocado and carrots. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top and add some extra hummus on the side for some fun sushi dipping!

 

Sweet potatoes, cubed, coated with olive oil, salt and pepper then baked at 375 degrees for approximately 20 minutes (turning after 10 minutes).

Sliced apples

SkinnyPop Popcorn mixed with Maple Nut Munch (super yum, sweet and salty!)

This lunch is packed with nutrients! Even the popcorn and munch snack provides fiber and protein, plus plant-powered nutrients from the chocolate that help with focus and concentration. 

What's your kids favorite healthy school lunch? We would love ideas that can be shared with others!

 

 


What Supplements Are You Taking? Posted on 29 Aug 00:00 , 0 comments

 

If you're considering or following a vegan diet, B12 and plant based omega 3's are good for reassurance. You can get B12 from fortified nutritional yeast but unless you are adding it daily it might be tough to get the amount you need to prevent deficiency. Also symptoms of B12 deficiency often don't present until months or years later. Omega 3's can certainly be obtained through walnuts, chia, hemp and flaxseeds, however conversion to essential DHA may be limited. Therefore a B12 and omega 3 supplement are great supplement options for vegans.

There's another that I personally like to incorporate a few times a week for optimal digestion and to keep things moving called Triphala. It's an Ayurvedic plant-based supplement that is made of three fruits: amalaki, bibhitaki and haritaki. Unfortunately, there hasn't been much research done on the effectiveness of Triphala but it's been used for years as an Ayurvedic remedy for digestion and immunity. You'll also get the added benefit of all of the antioxidants that come from the three fruits that make up Triphala. Don't see your supplement on the list? Here are some other great supplements suggested by fellow dietitians. 


Warm Kelp Noodles with Nutty Miso Dressing Posted on 26 Aug 11:20 , 0 comments

By now you've heard that eating sea vegetables can be good for your health. Asian cultures (where risk of heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis is the lowest) have consumed sea vegetables for thousands of years, but they are just now gaining western attention due to more research that is emerging about their nutrient content and potential benefits.

But first, what are they? Sea vegetables are classified as algae and include dulse, kelp, nori, hijike, wakame and kombu. Because they absorb nutrients from their surrounding marine environment they tend to be an abundant source of iodine and other trace minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium. They are also high in chlorophyll, fiber, and vitamin C, as well as sulfated polysaccharides, which are complex carbohydrates that have been shown to contain anti-viral and anti-clotting properties. 

What's great about sea veggies is that they can be consumed cold or hot and added to a variety of meals such as salads, stir fries or soups. 

Kelp, in particular, is a type of brown seaweed that is especially high in minerals, specifically iodine. Incorporating iodine in your diet assists with optimal thyroid function and metabolism. However, be cautious of too much iodine, as excessive amounts can be harmful. Basically, no need to take iodine supplements in addition to consuming high iodine foods. Incorporating foods with adequate sources of iodine provides sufficient amounts of iodine that your body requires. Another note about sea vegetables, since they absorb substances from their surrounding environment, they have the ability to absorb harmful metals such as arsenic, cadmium and lead. Make sure to purchase organic sea vegetables to avoid these toxic metals. 

The recipe below can be made cold or hot, cooked or raw. Let us know what you think and how you prepared it!

Ingredients

1 package of kelp noodles (personal fave is Sea Tangle)

Sauce

  • 1 Tbsp white miso
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp peanut butter (peanuts and salt)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp almond butter (almonds and salt)
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1-2 tsp chili paste (depending on the amount of spice you prefer)
  • 1 tsp Tamari
  • 3/4 cup water

Add all ingredients to a blender and mix well. You can also add 2-3 cloves of garlic and 1 Tbsp of ginger to the blender as a part of your sauce. I added garlic and ginger to the wok (below). Either option would work well. Also, you have the option of using only peanut butter or only almond butter. Personally, I like to use a blend to get the nutrient benefits from the legume and the tree nut.

Veggie Options

These can be cooked or raw and you can pretty much use any veggies. I lightly heated mine in a wok just because I tend to digest lightly cooked and heated veggies better than raw. Here's what I heated in a wok with about 1 Tbsp of coconut oil:

  • broccoli
  • asparagus
  • orange bell pepper
  • tomato
  • okra
  • 1/2 c green onion, chopped
  • 1/2 c chopped cilantro
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp minced ginger

Once the vegetables were cooked to my liking I tossed the sea kelp into the wok for less than a minute, just to slightly warm it. I added everything to a bowl, poured the dressing on top and mixed it well. Finally, add some extra cilantro and peanuts for an additional boost of flavor and crunch. 

 

Let us know what you think!

 


Smile, Breathe and Go Slowly...Thich Nhat Hanh Posted on 22 Aug 08:31 , 0 comments

Reflecting on an incredible yoga class tonight (it was all about yoga and gene expression) and continuing with the yoga inspiration from the past three days, today's wellness series post is about our breath. 


There are two types of breathing: involuntary and voluntary. We would not be alive without the involuntary breath, however what makes us truly alive and living truly is voluntary breathing. That is, taking moments throughout the day to Stop and Breath. Inhaling consciously and exhaling fully while clearing your mind, if only for that moment, creates space, focus and awareness. Over time these moments of breathing and awareness can improve gene expression, telomere length (the longer the better, less aging) and risk of age-related diseases. Conscious breathing has been scientifically shown to relieve stress, help with depression, decrease blood pressure, reduce risk of heart disease and enlarge the brain (!). Echoing tonight's incredible yoga teacher, Douglas Johnson of Maha Patha Yoga, breathing can actually change gene expression, creating positive physiological responses and reversing the effects of aging. 


Some useful apps that can remind us to breathe throughout the day:


•Mind Jogger
•Breathe Deep
•Universal Breathing
•Insight Timer 

Oh, and don't forget about sleeping! Deep, controlled, conscious breathing can you sleep very well, beautiful friends. 


Chipotle Chickpea Salad Wrapped in Collard Greens Posted on 17 Aug 12:22 , 0 comments

Not only is this power plant-based wrap bursting with flavor but it's super easy to prepare! It's also very versatile. You can add the chickpea salad to a green salad, make it as a sandwich and add sprouts, wrap it in tortilla or mix it into some healthy whole grains like brown rice or wheat berries. We tend to enjoy things spicy for the flavor and the nutritional benefits of spices, therefore we add lots. However, if you like less spice, start with 1/2 tsp of the smoked paprika, cumin and chili. Taste it, then add more if needed. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup slivered or sliced almonds (optional if you'd like more protein and crunch)
  • 4 Tbsp Chipotle Vegenaise (by Follow Your Heart) or other vegan mayo of choice
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup or coconut nectar
  • 1/2 c scallions
  • 1/2 c cilantro
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • squeeze of one lime
  • pepper to taste
  • 4-5 large washed collard green leaves

How to make

  1. Add chickpeas and the almonds to a mixing bowl and lightly mash with a fork so that about half of the chickpeas and almonds are mashed and half are still whole.
  2. To a separate small bowl add the mayo, maple syrup or coconut nectar, lime juice, smoked paprika, cumin, chili, and sea salt then mix with a spoon. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
  3. Pour the mayo mixture over top of the chickpeas and almonds, mix well so that all of the chickpeas and almonds are coated. 
  4. Add the scallions and cilantro and mix well, once again.
  5. Wash and open the collard green leaves, add a healthy portion of the chickpea salad and any other toppings you love. We added avocado, radish, tomato, and purple onion but you can also add sprouts, hemp seeds or pumpkin seeds for more texture and flavor.
  6. The chickpea salad will keep covered in the fridge for up to five days, making it great for a grab and go lunch or snack!

 

 

 


Eat More Seeds! Posted on 15 Aug 17:31 , 0 comments

We're not talking about the seeds you are seeing all over the media such as chia, flax and hemp seeds (although they are ALL incredibly powerful plant-based ingredients that can and should be consumed daily). 

We're talking about spicing up your meals with flavorful seeds that pack a nutrient punch. Some of our favorites include cumin, mustard, fennel, coriander and sesame seeds. Not only do they add oodles of flavor to your meals but they add a myriad of health benefits as well. Below is the run-down on each of these versatile ingredients.

Mustard

What’s Inside: folate, niacin, vitamin E, vitamin A, essential oils

Benefits: essential oils to reduce inflammation, prevent arthritis, diminish joint pain and antioxidants to prevent the common cold (as well as the legion of other disease-fighting characteristics antioxidants possess).

How to Use: Heat up coconut or olive oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds until they start to pop (this releases the essential oils and nutrients). Add veggies, tofu or rice to the seeds to make a delightful dish.

Sesame

What's inside: healthy fats (50% monounsaturated), fiber, B vitamins, calcium, manganese, zinc and powerful antioxidants sesamol and sesaminol 

Benefits: healthy fats as well as sesamol and sesaminol may help to fight heart disease, zinc to boost immunity, calcium and magnesium to build bones and prevent bone loss

How to Use: Sprinkle on top of a stir fry, veggie wraps, steamed vegetables, rice, baked breads or edamame. 

Cumin 

What’s Inside: cuminaldehyde, thymol, iron, magnesium

Benefits: cuminaldehyde and thymol may help to fight bacterial infection, relieve stomach ulcers, controls blood sugar and aid in digestion, iron to prevent anemia, magnesium for strong bones

How to Use: Toss ground cumin or cumin seeds with olive oil and vegetables. Roast the mixture in the oven for an enjoyable side dish.

Fennel

What's Inside: kaempferol and quercetin (powerful antioxidants), fiber, volatile essential oil compounds such as anethole, limonene, anisic aldehyde (and more!), iron, calcium, manganese, zinc and B vitamins

Benefits: digestion, digestion digestion! Fennel has traditionally been used as a medical remedy against indigestion, flatulence and nausea. 

How to Use: Add to baked goods, with veggie dishes, or pop a few seeds in your mouth after a meal as a digestive. 

Coriander (this is the dry seed of the cilantro plant)

What's Inside: fiber, vitamin K, calcium, vitamin C, beta carotene

Benefits: beta carotene to prevent certain eye diseases, fiber to prevent constipation, vitamin K and calcium for strong bones and vitamin C to boost immunity

How to Use: Add to soups, dressings and marinades for a flavorful kick. 

What are some of your favorite seeds to add flavor and nutrition to meals?


Smoked Paprika Black Bean + Walnut Burgers Posted on 05 Aug 18:41 , 0 comments

This unbelievably delicious and simple recipe was inspired by Minimalist Baker (love their blog!). Not only is it super nutritious but it's an awesome go-to recipe when you have limited time and ingredients. We typically keep beans and rice on hand as well as staple cooking veggies such as onion and garlic. Another ingredient that we like to keep on hand, since it can be used for many things, is almond flour. And then there are the spices-lots of spices! This burger is bursting with flavor and, you know that will all of those colorful spices, you are also getting big doses of antioxidants and healing benefits. These can all be used to make this satisfying burger as well as any other veggies you'd like to include. We include sliced tomato, avocado, cilantro, grilled onion and chipotle vegenaise

Try it for your next grill party or at home on the stovetop. Be forewarned, you will be addicted!

Serves: 5-7
Ingredients
  • 1 c cooked brown rice*
  • 1 c raw walnuts 
  • 1/2 Tbsp grape seed or avocado oil, plus more for cooking
  • 3/4 c white onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp each chili powder, cumin powder, and smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp each sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp coconut sugar 
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans*, well rinsed, drained and patted dry
  • 1/3 cup almond flour 
How to Make
  1. Cook brown rice as instructed on the package.
  2. Heat skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add raw walnuts and toast for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until fragrant and golden brown. Set aside and allow to cool.
  3. In the meantime, heat the same skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add 1/2 Tbsp oil and onion. Season with a bit of salt and pepper and sauté for 3-4 minutes, or until onion is fragrant, soft, and translucent. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Once walnuts are cooled, add to blender or food processor with chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, turmeric, salt, pepper and coconut sugar and blend to a fine meal. Set aside.
  5. Add drained, dried black beans to a large mixing bowl and mash well with a fork, leaving only a few whole beans.
  6. Next add cooked rice, spice-walnut mixture, sautéed onion, almond flour and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon for 1-2 minutes, or until a moldable dough forms. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
  7. Form 5-7 burger patties (depending on size you prefer) and set on a baking sheet or plate for grilling.
  8. If grilling, heat the grill and brush with oil to avoid sticking. Otherwise, heat the same skillet you used earlier to medium heat.
  9. Once skillet is warm, lightly coat the bottom of your skillet with oil then add your burgers with about 1/2 inch apart. If there is not enough space for all of them to grill evenly then grill half of the mixture at one time then the other half. 
  10. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until browned on one side, then flip (gently). Cook for 3-4 minutes on other side.
  11. Prepare any other toppings you'd like such as sliced tomato, avocado, sprouts, herbs or vegenaise
  12. Serve burgers as is, on toasted buns or as a lettuce wrap (pictured) with added toppings. 
  13. Enjoy!

 


Matcha Spotlight Posted on 01 Aug 12:25 , 0 comments

Culturally Aware
Matcha green tea has been part of Japanese tea ceremonies known aschanoyu (茶の湯) or chadō (茶道) for centuries.  Thoughtfully grown and harvested, the tea leaves used for matcha powder are rich in chlorophyl and antioxidants which give it its vibrant green color.  Japanese tea ceremonies range from every day traditions to formal rituals.  However, in each practice, the tea preparation is performed with intention and treated as a unique experience.  The teachings of Sen no Rikyū, one of the most influential figures on the Japanese “Way of Tea”, inspired practitioners to treasure every ceremony with harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility as if it could never be reproduced again.

How often do you take the time to enjoy the experience of tasting, sipping and honoring your meals or tea?  Being mindful of our consumption is an important part of honoring the foods and healing ingredients that we consume.  It reminds us to slow down, chew, savor, and enjoy.  It tells us more accurately when we’ve had enough.  Furthermore, it helps us to cherish the hard work and craftsmanship that went into the food or drink we are enjoying. 

Nutritionally Wise
Matcha green tea is known for its nutritional powerhouse qualities. Because it consists of whole ground tea leaves, it is higher in antioxidants and amino acids than a typical brewed cup of green tea. One cup of matcha tea is equivalent to the nutritional and antioxidant values of 10 cups of brewed green tea. Matcha has been found to contain high amounts of the catechin EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), a strong cancer-fighting antioxidant, not found in other foods, that helps to protect the body from free radical inducers like pollution, UV rays, radiation, and chemicals. 

Another rare component of matcha is the high concentration of the amino acid L-Theanine.  L-Theanine can induce alpha-waves in our brain - a similar response that occurs in our brains through meditation. This amino acid is what gave Japanese monks the calm sense of alertness during long meditation sessions.  And while L-Theanine is common in all tea, matcha may contain up to five times more of this amino acid than traditional black and green teas. Drinking a daily cup of matcha green tea can help you stay focused, energized and alert. 

Our Ginger Green Tea Truffles are enhanced with matcha powder for its earthy and energizing flavor as well as its antioxidant power.  Take a moment to savor nicobella ginger green tea truffles while sipping on your matcha green tea. 


Cooling Cucumber + Radish Salad Posted on 29 Jul 13:31 , 0 comments

Cucumber salads remind me of my childhood. My grandmom used to make them for me weekly because I could not get enough of her secret recipe. I know, it's cucumbers, right? How secret and special can it be? Well, the way the she created them made the cucumbers pretty much addictive. We would have sleep overs with all of the cousins where we each had our favorite dishes that grandmom made. Mine was cucumber and onion salad with oil and vinegar while my sister's was creamed cucumbers with sour cream (wasn't a fan then and not a fan now!). My grandmom would make a full bowl of both to prevent playing favorites. How awesome are grandmoms that they make special dishes for each grandkid?

One of her secrets to making them super delicious was salting the cucumbers before dressing them. Cucumbers, as you probably know, are 95% water. When you sprinkle salt over them it pulls out the water which prevents the dish from getting watered down and flavorless. By extracting the water first, you accentuate the flavor of the ingredients that are about to be added. 

The benefit of cucumbers goes way beyond water and hydration. They contain lots of polyphenols, which are powerful plant substances that fight cancer, heart disease, Alzheimers, and inflammation. They are abundant in vitamin C, carotenoids, lignans (may help to lower risk of certain cancers), quercetin (flavonoid that helps with endurance and the above mentioned diseases), and fiber. 

Adding radishes, red onion and cilantro to the salad bumps the antioxidant content and plant-based ingredient power enormously (the more color the better!). 

Also added are apple cider vinegar for digestion and sesame seeds for calcium. 

This simple salad is pretty amazing by itself but you can also use it on top of other salads (leafy greens or bean salad), on a black bean burger sandwich, with beans in veggie tacos, or on top of grilled mushroom steaks. Lots of options! Make lots and use throughout the week. You may have left over dressing which you can store in the fridge in a sealed container for two weeks. 

Ingredients

  • 2 large cucumbers, sliced (I used organic, 18")
  • 5-7 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 c chopped red onion
  • 1/2 c chopped cilantro

Dressing

  • 2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 Tbsp rice vinegar (unsweetened)
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp chili paste (could also use 1 tsp red pepper flakes in place of chili paste)
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt (plus more for salting the cucumbers)
  • 2 Tbsp sesame
  • black pepper to taste

How to Make

Place the sliced cucumbers in a colander and the colander in a bowl (the bowl is to collect the water). Sprinkle salt lightly over the cucumbers, but enough so that all cucumbers have salt on them. I typically just lightly sprinkle the salt and mix while sprinkling. Let them sit for about 20 minutes. They will lose the water pretty quickly. Before adding the cucumbers to a separate bowl, squeeze out additional water with your (clean) hands. 

Add the cucumbers, onion and radish to a large bowl. In a separate bowl, add all of the dressing ingredients, except the sesame seeds, and mix well with a spoon or whisk. Pour the dressing over the cucumber, onion and radish mixture and stir. Stir in the cilantro and sesame seeds. Add a sprinkle of black pepper. 

Enjoy the cucumber salad right away or let sit overnight for an incredible burst of flavors! Let us know what you think. 

 


Before You Ditch Those Strawberry Leaves... Posted on 25 Jul 13:40 , 0 comments

...consider the multitude of health benefits in the leaves (not to mention reducing waste🌱). Dried strawberry leaves have been used to make herbal tea that may help with poor digestion and nausea. Although research is limited, the leaves have also been used as a diuretic, alleviating painful swollen joints and symptoms associated with PMS.

What is known is that strawberry leaves contain 

🌱vitamin C

🌱iron and calcium

🌱cafeic acid (a natural diuretic)

🌱tannins (polyphenols that fight oxidative damage, i.e. antioxidant)

🌱ellagic acid (prevents cancer)

You can chew on the leaves (they taste super mild but are a little tough), toss the entire berry with the leaves into your smoothie, or steep as a tea (add ginger for extra digestive benefit🙌🏼). Don't forget to choose organic! (Part of the dirty dozen🍓 )