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.
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.
Finding healthy alternatives to favourite foods is always fun. This straightforward lemon and lime dressing is refreshing and will enhance the flavours of most any salad. It can easily be bottled up and stored in the refrigerator for an extended period of time. If your taste buds favour something less sour, try adding a wee bit of honey or maple syrup.
- 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 lemons
- 1 lime
- salt & pepper
- In a jar combine the olive oil, fresh lemon and lime juice.
- Add a dash of salt and quite a bit of freshly ground black pepper.
- Shake well and use on a fresh salad.
- *If this is too sour for your taste try adding 1 tbsp of honey or maple syrup.
- The salad pictured here is a mix of red leaf lettuce, Belgian endive, radicchio and pine nuts.
In comparison to leading store bought salad dressings, this concoction has fewer calories, no cholesterol and a lesser amount of fat and sugar. Lemons and limes are exceptionally healthy and really warrant our praises. These beautifully coloured fruits contain an abundance of essential minerals and vitamins A, B, C and E (USDA, 2012). Aside from being a much healthier salad dressing option, these citrus fruits also have antibacterial, antioxidant and anticancer properties (Santos, et al., 2011). The high levels of vitamin C found in these fruits combat inflammation by neutralizing free radicals, while also contributing to a healthy and strong immune system (Pham-Huy, et al., 2005). As well, this water soluble vitamin improves heart health by decreasing the chances of a stroke (Cassidy, et al., 2012), and averting the development and advancement of atherosclerosis (Hu, et al., 2002). Researchers have discovered an interesting and possibly important compound found in citrus fruits called limonoids. These phytochemicals are highly absorbed by the body and are under investigation for their potential to prevent proliferation of cancer cells (Roy and Saraf, 2006). Interestingly, studies have also shown that lemon and lime juices stimulate digestion and assists with the prevention of kidney stones (Kumar, 2007). If this myriad of health benefits weren’t enough, keep in mind that lemons can be an excellent alternative to using harsh chemical cleaners. Before throwing those squeezed lemons into the compost consider using them to clean your sink! Please take a look at the upcoming post which shows you how to inexpensively and naturally clean your sink using baking soda and lemons.