This couscous salad includes some unique ingredients that complement each other incredibly well! The original recipe is from 30 Minute Meals: A Commonsense Guide and I have tweaked it with a few healthy adjustments. Although there are many components to this salad, the preparation is fairly straightforward. My fiancé has mastered this recipe and it is delicious both warm and cold.
- 2 cups apple juice
- 2 cups couscous
- 1/2 red onion
- 1/3 cup toasted pistachio nuts
- 8 dried apricots or figs
- 1/3 cup green olives
- fresh mint
- fresh parsley
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp ras el hanout (to create this spice blend yourself please find recipe here)
- 2 chicken or turkey breasts
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 2 tbsp mint
- 2 tsp ras el hanout
- 1 tsp honey
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and brush a thin layer of olive oil on it.
- Preheat the oven to 350°, and put the baking sheet in the oven while it heats up.
- Cut the chicken or turkey breast into strips and coat with the ras el hanout.
- Once the oven has reached 350° place the strips on the baking sheet.
- Cook for 12-15 minutes, flip and cook for another 5 minutes.
- While the chicken is cooking heat the apple juice in a pot until hot.
- Put the couscous in a heat-resistant and pour the apple juice overtop. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes.
- During this time thinly slice the red onion, apricots (or figs) and green olives.
- Fluff couscous with a fork and add the onion, pistachios, apricots and green olives.
- Roughly chop a handful of mint and parsley to add mix in the salad.
- The final step is to make the yogurt dressing. Combine the yogurt, chopped mint, ras el hanout and honey in a bowl.
- To serve, fill a bowl with a generous amount of the couscous salad, lay some strips of chicken or turkey on top, then add a spoonful of the yogurt dressing.
Mint comes in many varieties that are available year round (Spirling and Daniels, 2011). The two most common mints used for cooking are peppermint and spearmint (often simply labelled mint). These aromatic herbs are well known for aiding with intestinal ailments and symptoms such as nausea, abdominal pain, indigestion and bloating. Research has shown that mint’s soothing qualities are due to its ability to lessen smooth muscle contractions in the intestines by blocking calcium channels while also decreasing the passage of calcium into cells (Baliga and Rao, 2010). Interestingly, a double blinded placebo-controlled study found that ingesting peppermint oil capsules prior to a colonoscopy lessened procedure time, colonic spasms and pain (Shavakhi, et al., 2012). A great deal of research has also shown positive results surrounding the topic of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). A study by Cappello, et al., (2007) completed a double-blinded study with participants ailed by IBS. They were given either peppermint oil capsules or a placebo for a series of weeks and results showed an evident decrease in IBS symptoms among 75% of the group taking the peppermint oil capsules. These results have been mirrored in other studies and are very promising for individuals who unfortunately suffer IBS and other gastric disorders. Mint has also been shown to improve cognitive functioning. A noteworthy study demonstrated that peppermint aroma increased both alertness and memory among 144 participants who were randomized to various aromas (Moss, et al., 2008). In addition to improving cognitive performance, peppermint has an abundance of healthy minerals and vitamins such as fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A, B and C (USDA, 2012). Taken as a whole, this breath freshening (Zirwas and Otto, 2010) herbal plant is not only healthy to consume but can be fantastically versatile in fresh fruit salads, mains and soothing tea.
Hummus is a delicious snack that is sufficiently satisfying and nutritious. There are many, many variations of hummus and this particular combination is my favourite…for now. I have added roasted garlic and sun-dried tomatoes which are certainly not traditional ingredients but taste delicious nonetheless. It’s easy to prepare and lasts for a few days in the refrigerator.
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- 1 19oz liq can chickpeas
- 3 tbsp tahini
- 2 sun-dried tomatoes
- 1 lemon
- 7 green olives
- salt & pepper
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1 1/2-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 400°.
- To roast the garlic first cut the tips off of the garlic ends. Wrap in aluminum foil with a little olive oil and place in the oven for approximately 40 minutes. Remove the skins after roasting.
- In a blender, combine roasted garlic, rinsed and drained chickpeas, tahini, juice of one lemon, sun-dried tomatoes, green olives, salt, pepper and paprika.
- While blending, slowly add the olive oil until your desired consistency.
- Add a handful of washed parsley and blend for another minute.
Tahini is a main ingredient in all hummus recipes and adds a nutty taste and smooth texture. This paste is made from ground sesame seeds and is considered to be one of the oldest condiments (Anilakumar, 2010). The first recorded documentation of this seed dates back 4000 years to Assyrian texts which describe preparation of sesame seed wines for their gods (Parry, 1955). In the early days of sesame seed cultivation, the oil from the seeds was highly prized because of its year round availability and strong resistance to becoming rancid (Moazzami, 2006). This wonderful preservation quality is due to the unique number of lignans such as sesamolin and sesamol that are found within the sesame seed (Obiajunwa, et al., 2005). These antioxidants have been studied for their positive effects on lowering cholesterol levels (Matsumura, 2004) and blood pressure (Noguchi, et al., 2001). Interestingly, these same antioxidants have a practical use in vegetable oil products such as margarine because they can dramatically increase shelf life (Brar, 1982). Sesame seeds also contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases (Harris, et al., 2009) and aid with proper brain development and function (Innis, 2012). Although these seeds are very tiny they have an abundance of minerals such as calcium, copper, magnesium, iron, phosphorus and zinc (USDA, 2012). These minerals are essential for normal body processes such as reducing inflammation, building bones and the prevention of osteoporosis. As well, these nutrients are vital for supporting a healthy vascular system by improving blood vessel strength and elasticity (Hyun, et al., 2004). In summary, this small seed contains heart healthy fats and many essential minerals necessary for a healthy body. The classic ‘open sesame’ phrase from Arabian Nights may have opened the door to a wealth of riches but what Ali Baba didn’t know was that it also lead to a wealth of health!
It’s that time of year where you may find yourself dreaming of tropical destinations or perhaps consuming too many sweet treats. Rather than baking the same cookie recipes full of processed sugars, try this recipe. If you like coconut you will love these little delicacies!!
- 2 egg whites
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 3 tbsp white sugar
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 1/4 cup of unsweetened coconut
- Preheat the oven to 325°.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a mixing bowl, combine egg whites and vanilla. Beat the liquids on high speed using an electric mixer until soft peaks form.
- Whiles still mixing, slowly add the sugar and honey 1 tbsp at a time. Beat until stiffer peaks form.
- Add the shredded coconut and fold into mix.
- Drop little rounds of the mix onto the baking sheet and cook for 18-20 minutes.
- Cool immediately on a wire rack.
The coconut palm inhabits subtropical and tropical climate regions around the globe. This tree produces a seed, or drupe, that contains the ‘meat’ which is the edible endosperm of the seed (Lever, 1969). Although fresh coconut tastes different than dried coconut, both contain similar amounts of fiber and macro nutrients (Raghavendra, et al., 2004). Shredded coconut has notable amounts of essential minerals such as iron, magnesium and zinc. Iron aids with the transportation of oxygen around the body (Porter and Fitzsimons, 2008) while magnesium and zinc help with proper muscle and nerve function (Lukaski, 2000). A low concentration of these minerals can lead to fatigue and weakness and are thus important to incorporate into your regular diet. Coconut is often studied because it contains a unique amount of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) such as lauric and caprylic acid (Ghosh and Bhattacharyya, 1997). These lipids can pass directly through the digestive system without requiring any modifications and are immediately oxidized. A study by Turner et al. (2000), demonstrated that MCFAs improve fat oxidation and have the potential to aid in weight loss and management. These properties coupled with the high fiber content available in the coconut make it a great alternative to other sugary treats. Fiber is well noted for its ability to improve regular digestion but also has the capacity to reduce the risk of certain cancers (Anderson et al., 2009). Other research has shown that these molecules are able to decrease total cholesterol, LDL and triglyceride levels more effectively than monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (Functional Medicine Research Centre, 2008). Crucially, cholesterol reduction is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis and stroke (Amarenco and Labreuche, 2009). However, it is important to keep in mind that although coconut has been shown to have many positive health benefits, it still should only be consumed in moderation due to its high fat content. Coconut is tasty in many dishes and can add dimension to both savoury and sweet delights. Interestingly populations who heavily rely on this seed have developed uses for all parts; the husks and leaves can be used for furnishings while the oil is an excellent moisturizer for the body. If you have yet to try coconut oil as a moisturizer, please believe me when I say it’s amazing! It is completely natural, non-drying and will make you smell delicious, just like these macaroons.
Quinoa is incredibly popular for many reasons; it’s tasty, versatile and delivers a wide range of beneficial nutrients. The original recipe can be found here and is absolutely delicious! It also freezes very well, if you don’t gobble it up right away.
- 1/4 cup quinoa
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 white onion
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 package of lean ground turkey
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp Tabasco sauce
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tsp water
- Preheat the oven to 350°.
- Bring the quinoa and water to a boil, cover and simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes.
- Heat olive oil in a pan and add chopped onion. Sauté for 3-5 minutes, or until tender.
- Add the garlic to the onions and cook for another minute.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the ground turkey, cooled quinoa, onions, tomato paste, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, egg, salt and pepper.
- Place on greased baking sheet and form into a loaf shape.
- In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and water together.
- Cover the loaf with this paste.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes and then let cook for 10 minutes before serving.
Quinoa is often referred to as a super grain because of its enormous nutritional value, but in truth it is not a grain at all. It is actually the edible seed from the fruit of a flowering plant (Mastebroek, et al., 2000). Consumption of quinoa has become increasingly popular in recent days, however, many are unaware that it has been a staple food for thousands of years. The Inca of the Andes cultivated quinoa and it was said to give their warriors power and stamina (Repo-Carrasco et al., 2003). This pseudocereal comes in multiple varieties which was an important trait to these ancient peoples because it allowed them to grow a highly nutritious plant in vastly different climates, altitudes and soil types (Jancurova, et al., 2009). One cup of cooked quinoa contains 8.14 g of protein, 5.2 g of dietary fibre contributable amounts of healthy fatty acids and zero cholesterol. These nutritional traits in combination with a high complex carbohydrate content cause quinoa to have a low glycemic index value (Jenkins, et al., 2008). The relatively high volume of fibre and protein has also been shown to aid with cholesterol reduction and improved blood sugar regulation (Repo-Carrasco et al., 2003). Furthermore, within that one cup of quinoa there are notable amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and vitamins A, B and E (USDA, 2012). Notably, quinoa’s calcium concentration is double that of most other grains and its high protein concentration further improves the absorption of this vital bone mineral (Polsi, 2011). In addition to quinoa supporting your skeletal system, its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties have noted cardiovascular and digestive benefits (Pasko, et al., 2009). Overall, this seed contains a winning blend of nutrients and essential amino acids that most typical grains cannot compete with (Jancurova, et al., 2009). Interestingly, the upcoming year has been officially proclaimed “The international year of the quinoa” by The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO, 2012). So get ready for 2013 by enjoying more quinoa in your diet.