5 Surprisingly Healthy Ingredients to keep in the Pantry

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GD Meg and I are always learning new ways to stay healthy through the food we eat and serve.  We are both foodies.  There are some ingredients that each of us keep in our respective kitchens (and the green diva test kitchen @ GDHQ) for those creative moments when we need to throw something nutritious together for ourselves or our families.  I’m very grateful for having access to some incredibly healthy ingredients to help boost my immune system and help my body fight the day-to-day toxins we all encounter. Here are a few of our must-have favorites with some recipes and ways we like to incorporated them into yummy meals:
Turmeric – I first started stocking turmeric in my cupboard to help with allergies. Living is Austin, TX can be allergy-challenging and it certainly is for me. But I’ve since learned that there are many other benefits. Check out this fabulous list of benefits of turmeric. This spice is a main ingredient in curry which we both like to use often and it’s what makes yellow mustard so very yellow. It can be added to many other things. I add it to my egg salad, my morning smoothies, soups and salad dressing. Oh and it makes a great natural dye for yellow Easter eggs.  This Care2.com article has great curry recipes that we recommend.

Dr. Andrew Weil offers this recipe for turmeric tea from his article praising the research and benefits of turmeric:

  • Bring four cups of water to a boil.
  • Add one teaspoon of ground turmeric – reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Strain the tea through a fine sieve into a cup, add honey and/or lemon to taste.

Feel free to experiment with the ingredients and flavorings until you find a combination that suits your taste. Some people like to add a teaspoon of ginger along with the turmeric. While ground versions are more convenient, it’s worthwhile to experiment with freshly grated turmeric for a more vibrant flavor. These distinctive, deep-orange roots are increasingly available in American grocery and natural food stores. Enjoy!

Coconut oil – This is not the first time we’ve waxed poetic about the virtues of coconut oil. Listen to our most popular Sleeping Naked is Green segment about coconut oil. Here is a very informative short video from Dr. Mercola, where he disabuses us of past misunderstandings about coconut oil and talks about it’s many benefits. I personally use it in my smoothies, spread it on toast instead of butter and sauté veggies with it. When cooking with coconut oil, be sure you are using the kind that is made for higher heats, check the label. Some coconut oils will go rancid when heated at certain temperatures. I also slather my skin with it after a shower and my rub it on my face before bed. My skin loves it.

Cayenne Pepper – GD Meg did a weekend study years ago on cayenne pepper at Center of the Light: Course for Healers, and has been a believer ever since – in the surprising healing qualities of cayenne pepper that it. It’s not a news flash that cayenne pepper has amazing healing properties. She learned that not only is cayenne pepper great to stop bleeding in cuts or lacerations, but that it is also a disinfectant. It can also be used as an anti-inflammatory, it stimulates the circulation, and there are so many ways to incorporate it into ones diet.  I start with a dash of it in my morning smoothie and add it to my soups, sauces and dressings whenever appropriate.  It’s also good in this homemade hummus with lemon juice recipe.

Chia Seeds - I have to credit my dear friend Jennifer in Seattle for turning me on to Chia seeds. And yes, I sang the jingle from the old Chia Pet commerical when she told me about them to confirm that they are the very same. Chia seeds are one of those super foods we keep hearing about. They are often associated with weight loss. They are loaded with protein, calcium, potassium, antioxidants, iron, good omega fatty acids and so much more. These also go into my morning smoothies, but I also put them on cereal, in yogurt, salads and baked goods. It’s a staple in the raw food eating world. Here is a nutritional breakdown of chia seeds. My first exposure was when Jennifer made a delicious pudding with them, of which I have experimented a lot, with a modicum of success and a few failures.

My favorite chia seed pudding (that worked) is mixing coconut and pineapple juices and adding the chia seeds, pouring them over sliced bananas and letting them set until they turn gelatinous.

  • 1 ¼ cup of pineapple juice
  • 1 ¼ cup of coconut juice
  • 2/3 cup of chia seeds
  • sliced banana

Wisk ingredients together vigorously then place them in a glass bowl with the sliced bananas at the bottom and store for 5 hours in the refrigerator, then serve. You can experiment with other liquids like almond milk, with ground ginger, or maple syrup and cocoa. Or mango juice and add sliced banana and shaved coconut. There are a million combinations that your guests will marvel at once you explain what it is and someone sings the jingle.

Quinoa - (pronounced KEEN – wah) – at the risk of bantering around the word superfood again, I believe that quinoa is deserving. The ancient Inca’s referred to it as the mother crop. This non-gluten grain is classified as a pseudo-grain from the goosefoot family along with beets, spinach and chard. It is the seed that we are becoming familiar with in our kitchen. I use quinoa in place of rice or couscous in any recipe. One of the great things about quinoa is that I can make it last minute on those nights when I get home late and am hungry. It doesn’t take as long to cook as rice and it is much more nutritious. It has a LOT more calcium, iron, folate, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, as well as being a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids and fiber.  I love the light textureIt has a perfect balance of protein to carbohydrate so you feel full without feeling heavy.

  • My favorite and most common use is to make a quick pilaf.  I don’t really use a recipe, I just finely chop up whatever veggies I have in the refrigerator, carrots, mushrooms, onions, garlic, celery, peppers etc; sauté them and combine it with cooked quinoa. If I have pine nuts I might add them as well. When I am feeling like a fancy pants, I will add a few drops of the truffle oil my son gave me for Christmas. 
  • Lucky for us,The Green Divas received two quinoa cook books to review. We can each take one home to experiment:
    • Quinoa Cuisine by Jessica Harlan and Kelley Sparwasser – I like the easy to follow recipe format and the recipes look yummy. Can’t wait to try them.
    • Cooking with Quinoa by Rena Patten – This book is full of lovely pictures that make me eager to partake.If you haven’t already tried any of these, but wondered about them, try one at a time and get to know it, then try the next. It’s all about good food and good health. Enjoy!

About the author / 

green diva lisa
lisa@thegreendivas.com'

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2 Comments

  1. mauri@willden.org'
    Mauri April 11, 2012 at 8:09 pm -  Reply

    I love coconut oil, tumeric and cayenne, but have never tried quinoa yet and and never even heard of eating chia seeds. Interesting. I will have to give them both a try soon. Thank you!

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