Friday, November 13, 2015

Spiced Garnet Yam Soup with Chickpea Croutons

cashews, red garnet yams, onions, garlic, bone broth, chickpeas, cumin, coriander

It has been way too long since Dane and I have been on a true vacation together—where I have no homework, tests, or anything else looming over me. This vacation has been pure rejuvenation for my body, mind, and soul—going to bed at 9:30pm and waking at 7am with no alarm and no feelings of guilt that “I should be doing X right now”.  Currently, we are in Tofino, BC, a little surf town on Vancouver Island. It is the perfect quick get away from Bellingham, WA. The stormy weather has arrived full throttle, with high winds and downpours—and we love it! Geared up and ready  to play in the stormy weather, with our rain boots, Dane’s surfboard, and all. This is our kind of vacation—off season, quiet and laid back, and full of nature’s best.

After a long rainy run, waiting for Dane to return from another epic 3 hour surfing experience, I now have time to write another blog post…and this one is based off of my class on Brain Food.

The brain is highly metabolic, utilizing many nutrients in order to function properly. There are neurons and neurotransmitters that all require a nutrient dense diet in order to work optimally. However, the Western diet is full of foods that cause inflammation to the brain and generally are nutrient poor. Consequentially many metabolic imbalances occur including decreased cognition, increased risks of Alzheimer’s, dementia, depression, and anxiety. Eating a diet that supports brain health, as well as leading an active lifestyle, can help increase overall wellbeing and cognitive function.

Ditch Refined Vegetables Oils

Refined vegetable oils such as corn, soy, safflower, sunflower, and grapeseed are high in omega-6 fatty acids. Although omega-6 fatty acids are essential we are getting too many in our diets today. Why is this of a concern? Omega-6 fatty acids release chemicals that promote inflammation in our bodies. Although we need to have some of these chemicals to help fight off an infection or a fever, if we have too many all the time, chronic inflammation can cause us harm, especially in the brain. The brain is made of 60% fat. And if we eat too many omega-6 fatty acids, more of these fatty acids will be utilized, promoting more inflammation.

Tip: Purchase quality cooking oils such as unrefined extra virgin olive oil, unrefined avocado oil, unrefined coconut oil, organic ghee, and unrefined flax/hemp oil.

cashews, red garnet yams, onions, garlic, bone broth, chickpeas, cumin, coriander

Eat More Omega-3 Rich Foods

Did you know that a deficiency in omega-3 has been associated with an increased risk for ADHD, dementia, depression, and anxiety?

Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. In order to ensure good fatty acid balance in the brain we need to make sure to eat enough omega-3 rich foods. By reducing omega-6 intake and increasing omega-3 intake we can hopefully balance the ratio between the two. Remember they are both ESSENTIAL fatty acids. However, the Western diet is often 15-20x higher in omega-6 than in omega-3. 

Tip: To help ensure good EPA and DHA status, eat deep water fatty fish such as wild caught salmon, sardines, and black cod 2x per week.

Ensure Adequate Choline Intake

Did you know that 50% of Americans may be deficient in choline?

Choline is a phospholipid found in every cell membrane and is found in large amounts in liver (418mg) and eggs (125mg) and lesser amounts in soy (57mg) and wheat germ (25mg).  Vegans and vegetarians must make sure to get adequate amounts in their diet to avoid deficiencies. It plays an important role in neurotransmitter production, detoxification, and helps reduce high levels of homocysteine along with many B vitamins. Choline is especially important during pregnancy for the developing brain of the fetus.

Tip: Enjoy pasture-raised eggs for breakfast multiple times per week. Or if you are feeling adventurous try this liver pate as an appetizer.

cashews, red garnet yams, onions, garlic, bone broth, chickpeas, cumin, coriander

Eat Plenty of Foods Rich in B Vitamins & Magnesium

Did you know that 50% of depressed individuals are deficient in folate? And that low levels of B12 are linked to a 5x increase in Alzheimer’s Disease? And that B6 deficiency may contribute to the onset of depression?

Getting adequate B vitamins through your diet is just as important for optimal brain functions as is getting enough omega-3 fatty acids. In fact researchers have found that B vitamins helped improve cognitive function more than just omega-3 on its own. Folate and vitamins B6 and B12 play very important roles in a cycle called methylation. If this cycle is not working properly many side effects are seen due to high levels of homocysteine impacting brain health and function as well as many other body systems. However, not only is the Western Diet poor in B vitamins, but also the elderly, women taking contraceptives, and those that abuse drugs and alcohol have an increased need for these vitamins. Vegans need to supplement with B12 as it is only found in animal products.

  • Foods rich in folate include: lentils, chickpeas, asparagus, and more.
  • Foods rich in Vitamin B6: chickpeas, salmon, tuna, beef liver, sweet potatoes, bananas, and more.
  • Foods rich in Vitamin B12: clams, liver, fish, dairy products, and eggs.

Many Americans are not getting enough magnesium via their diet because it is found mostly in beans, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds. However it is an essential mineral and is need in over 350 enzymatic actions throughout the body. Specifically for brain health, magnesium is needed to help make neurotransmitters. 

Tip: Eat at least 1 serving of each whole grains and beans or legumes every day!

kale, apple, pecans, harvest, feta

Eat Plenty of Antioxidant Rich Food

Did you know that individuals that consumed dark cocoa, tea, and red wine have enhanced cognitive performance?

All plants are rich in phytonutrients. Each color indicates a different variety with its own unique benefits. However, the plants darkest in color such as berries and dark leafy greens, red yams, carrots, etc contain the most. Herbs and spices are also very rich in phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are potent antioxidants, preventing damage to cell membranes and reducing inflammation. Those most studied for brain health include blueberries, grapes, dark cocoa, tea, and red wine (1/2 glass per day).

Tip: To ensure adequate intake of antioxidant rich foods try to make half your plate fruits and veggies and cook with fresh herbs and spices daily.

Get Your Food-Based Probiotics Daily

Did you know that your gut is considered your second brain, also known as the enteric nervous system?

Having a gut feeling is more than just a saying! There is a nerve called the vagus nerve that connects the brain to the entire gastrointestinal tract. It aids in the release of digestive enzymes and helps in food absorption. Also it seems that the brain can alter the gut bacteria along our GI tract and that our gut bacteria can lead to behavioral changes. It is a two-way communication! For example, leaky gut can lead to many cognitive and mental changes including depression, fatigue, confusion, and poor memory.  Also stress impacts our mental state by changing our gut bacteria. For example, prior to a presentation or large exam often times people experience diarrhea from anxiety. This is just a simple indication of how our guts and our minds are intrinsically connected.

Also, did you know that 80-90% of serotonin is produced in the GI tract? This feel good neurotransmitter predominantly plays a role in reducing the speed at which food is emptied from the stomach as well as acid secretion. Without adequate amounts of serotonin we can experience insomnia and have depressive feelings.

Therefore, having a healthy gut is very important to having a healthy mind. Not only is a compromised gut going to have a reduced ability to absorb the vitamins and nutrients we need. But also, the gut, our bacteria, and our minds are all able to communicate via the vagus nerve.

Studies have found that supplementing with probiotics can alter the way humans, as well as rats, react to certain life stressors. Probiotics have shown to reduce anxiety like behavior and improve feelings of depression and anger.

Tip: Get your food-based probiotics daily via naturally fermented yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, miso, etc, to encourage a healthy gut flora.

cashews, red garnet yams, onions, garlic, bone broth, chickpeas, cumin, coriander

Move Your Body Outside

Exercise is very important for brain health. Researchers have found that exercise alone helps increase Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), a fertilizer for the brain. High levels of BDNF have been associated with increased cognitive function and decreased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. Even more interestingly, researchers found that daily exercise and adequate omega-3 status, increased BDNF more so than either alone. So get your exercise and eat your fatty fish!

Tip: Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days per week. Do what you enjoy! Dance, swim, walk, hike, run, etc.

Another benefit of being active outdoors is that you can soak up the sun rays and produce vitamin D naturally via the UVB rays hitting your skin. Vitamin D plays many roles throughout the body, including reducing inflammation in the brain, supporting neuronal growth, and protects against excitotoxicity. However, if you are located in the Pacific Northwest or anywhere above the 42nd parallel, during the months of October thru March there is inadequate UVB production to synthesize vitamin D from the sun. Therefore, supplementing with vitamin D during the fall and winter months can be very helpful. Speak with your practitioner regarding what a safe amount would be for you. Food sources rich in vitamin D include mushrooms, fatty fish, fish liver, eggs, and fortified dairy/nut milks, and juices.

Reduce Stress

Stress alone suppresses BDNF—that powerful brain fertilizer. It also negatively impacts the good bacteria in your gut. Finding ways to manage your daily stress can help decrease inflammation and enhance cognitive function. Deep breathing exercises can help reduce stress and stimulate the “REST & DIGEST” nervous system.

Tip: Close your eyes and take 5 deep breaths prior to each meal and during times of stress to activate your parasympathetic nervous system.

Stay Hydrated!

When you are dehydrated often times your mental function is impaired. You process information much more slowly and have difficulty concentrating. Often times people mistake signals of dehydration as hunger. Most importantly, start your day with a fresh glass of water before you reach for the coffee. During night your body naturally releases a lot of water through your breath and perspiration. Ensuring adequate hydration can be a simple fix to your brain fog and can help with weight maintenance.

Tip: Drink half your weight in fluid oz (opt for filtered water whenever possible).

kale, apples, pecans, harvest, salad

Below you will find a delicious recipe, perfect for the fall weather, that will nourish your body, mind, and soul. It is rich in antioxidants (especially vitamin A), vitamins (especially B6), minerals (especially zinc and magnesium), fiber and plant based protein. This soup is made with Garnet Yams. They are often called both a yam or a sweet potato. At your grocer just look for the potato with dark red skin and orange flesh. Although I use bone broth to increase the protein, this soup can easily be made vegan or vegetarian by swapping out the bone broth for a vegetable broth. I prefer Imagine “No Chicken” Vegetable broth for best flavor. See note at the bottom of the recipe for further information. Serve this soup with a side salad, like this massaged kale salad, or this Emerald City salad. OR simply serve with a piece of whole grain toast topped avocado, a sprinkle sea salt, and sprouts.  

Spiced Garnet Yam Soup with Chickpea Croutons
Serves 6

For the Chickpea Croutons
2-15 oz canned garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons avocado oil
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
½ teaspoon sea salt

For the Soup:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 small shallot, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ teaspoons coriander seeds, ground in a clean coffee grinder
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
3 medium-sized red garnet yams, peeled and cubed
1 cup cashews, soaked for 4 hours in warm water
4 cups Pacific Chicken Bone Broth (can also use Imagine “No Chicken” Vegetable Broth)**
2 cups fresh water
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Generous pinch cayenne
¼ cup freshly chopped cilantro


To make the croutons: Preheat the oven to 400° F.  Mix the avocado oil, and spices in a small bowl. After rinsing and draining the chickpeas, place them onto a clean kitchen towel and rub dry. Pick out the chickpeas, leaving behind any of the skins that have come off and transfer them into the bowl with the spices. Mix well with a spoon until they are evenly coated. Spread the chickpeas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (optional) and bake for ~50 minutes, until crispy and crunchy. Shake the baking sheet half way through to ensure even cooking. Take them out of the oven and set aside to cool.

To make the soup: Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the onion and shallot. Saute over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic, ground coriander (use coffee grinder to grind whole seeds), salt and pepper, and mix until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the sweet potatoes and sauté another 2 to 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, strain the soaked cashews and place into a high speed blender. Add 2 cups of broth, and blend on high until completely smooth. This is your extra smooth savory cashew cream. Pour the mixture into the soup stock, add the remaining broth, and fresh water. Stir and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat to low and let it simmer for 20 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are soft.

Remove from the heat and purée the soup with an immersion blender. Add the honey, lemon juice, cayenne, and additional salt and pepper to taste. Return to heat and warm. When ready to serve, garnish the soup with a handful of chickpea croutons, fresh cilantro, and a drizzle of olive or avocado oil.

Note: The cashews can be substituted for an even amount of coconut milk if desired. Also, reheating the chickpea croutons at 425 degrees for 5-10 minutes can add extra crunch if they absorbed moisture after the first roasting.

**When substituting the broth with vegetable stock use ½ teaspoon less of sea salt as the vegetable broth generally contains more sodium. Use additional sea salt to taste at the end.

--Recipe inspired from by Aysegul Sanford Jan 2015--
1. Fernando Gómez-Pinilla. Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2008;9(7): 568–578.
2. Jerneren F, Elshorbagy AK, Oulhaj A, et al. Brain atrophy in cognitively impaired elderly: the importance of long-chain v-3 fatty acids and B vitamin status in a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015;102:215
3. Zeisel SH. Nutritional Importance of Choline for Brain Development. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2004;23(6):621S–626S.
4. Steven H. Zeisel, M.D., Ph.D and Kerry-Ann da Costa, Ph.D. Choline: An Essential Nutrient for Public Health. Nutr Rev. 2009 November ; 67(11): 615–623.
5. Nurk E, Refsum H, Drevon CA, et al. Intake of Flavonoid-Rich Wine, Tea, and Chocolate by Elderly Men and Women Is Associated with Better Cognitive Test Performance. Journal of Nutrition. 2009;139: 120–127.
6. Bercik P, Park AJ, Sinclair D. et al. The anxiolytic effect of Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 involves vagal pathways for gut-brain communication. Neurogastroeneterol Motil. 2011;23(12): 1132-1139.
7. Messaoudi M, Lalonde R, Violle N, et al. Assessment of psychotropic-like properties of a probiotic formulation (Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175) in rats and human subjects. British J Nut. 2011;105(5): 755-764
8. Ramsay D, Muskin PR. Vitamin deficiencies and mental health: How are they linked? Current Psychiatry. 2013;12(1): 37-43.
9. Lourida L, Soni M, Thompson-Coon J, et al. Mediterranean Diet, Cognitive Function, and Dementia-A Systematic Review. Epidemiology. 2013;24(4). 479-489.
10. Thalheimer JC. Food for Through: The MIND Diet—Fighting Dementia With Food. Today’s Dietitian. 2015;17(9):28.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Anti-Inflammatory Cocoa Truffles

I am sure you have all heard about inflammation…but what exactly is inflammation and is it as bad as it is made out to be??

Note: For those of you in the Bellingham, Whatcom County Area, I will be teaching a 2-hour class on the Anti-Inflammatory Diet (including cooking demonstrations) on October 27th at the Downtown Food Co-op. Can’t wait to see you there!

Imagine accidentally poking your finger with a safety pin, or even getting a paper cut. What happens?? The site of injury usually turns red and tender, right? This is due to the response from the immune system—the immune system was alerted to the foreign invader (the safety pin/paper and bacteria found on it) and began releasing chemical mediators to help cleanse the area, kill off the bacteria that is not supposed to be there, and facilitate the healing process. If you leave the injury site alone, the swelling will gradually decrease, the site will no longer be tender, and the cut will eventually heal. This acute setting of inflammation is designed to help the body, acting as a defense system, and fostering healing. In this scenario inflammation is a GOOD thing.

However, what happens if we have chronic inflammation? When the immune system is constantly activated? For instance what if you cut yourself in the same spot every day? The spot will never heal and may even get worse over time.

Luckily we have our immune system in place to help with acute injuries or infections. BUT when the immune system is constantly activated by our diet, lifestyle, sleep patterns, or even autoimmune disease it can be the fundamental denominator to chronic disease and illness. Although this may seem daunting, you CAN play a huge role in how much fuel you add to the fire.

What are some of the biggest contributors to chronic low-grade inflammation?

  • Obesity: Fat cells release inflammatory chemicals and hormones that stimulate the immune system and increase insulin resistance (1).
  • Food Allergies or Intolerances: These food proteins cause irritation to the gut lining, further fueling inflammation while reducing absorption of vital nutrients.
  • Bacterial Dysbiosis: Unfavorable ratio of good vs. bad bacteria and their toxic byproducts can cause inflammation in the gut.
  • High Stress Lifestyle: Being “stressed” causes the body to go into “fight of fight mode” releasing stress hormones (cortisol, norepinephrine, and epinephrine) and pro-inflammatory mediators. Both stress hormones and pro-inflammatory mediators can promote insulin resistance.
  • Sleep deprivation: Aiming for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night can help quench inflammation.
  • Toxin Overload: Daily exposure to toxins/chemicals/molds via your work or living environment can burden your innate detox capacity causing chronic inflammation.
  • Aging: Studies have found increased levels of pro-inflammatory chemicals in healthy subjects aged 55-75 vs those between 26-54 years of age, which are associated with the development of age-related conditions such as cognitive decline (1).
  • Excessive Exercising: Research has found that moderate exercise is very helpful in reducing inflammatory mediators and stress hormones (1). However excessive physical activity, without well-planned rest days and a good diet, can increase inflammation. Research studies have found that high intensity sessions longer than 20-30 minutes or low intensity sessions longer than 75 minutes can flood the body with increased stress hormones and pro-inflammatory mediators (2,3). Doing these inflammatory exercises a couple times a weeks is okay, but doing them constantly will become a source of chronic inflammation.
  • Poor Dietary Choices: more information below...
  • And more…

The Role of Diet & Inflammation: A Simple Overview

Over-Nutrition: In the Western world we have the luxury to have food available at every corner. However, often it is calorically dense and poor in overall quality nutrition. Eating more calories than required will eventually leady to weight gain and more fat tissue cells which release inflammatory hormones and chemicals.

Refined Grains & Sugars: Since refined grains and sugars are void of fiber, minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals it is no surprise that they increase inflammation. Research has found that simply replacing refined wheat flour with a whole grain alternative reduces pro-inflammatory mediators in both diabetic and non-diabetic individuals (1).

 Low Fruit & Vegetable Intake: Studies have found that a diet high in fruits and vegetables significantly decreases pro-inflammatory markers (1). Researchers believe it is due to the synergistic effect of all the components found in the whole plant food. For example, if you eat a whole orange in place of drinking orange juice you will get all the beneficial goodies that have been removed during the processing of the orange, including the white pith which is rich in soluble fiber and phytochemicals.

Refined Vegetable Oils: Vegetable and seed oils are naturally very high in omega-6 an essential fatty acid responsible for the production of pro-inflammatory mediators. On the other hand omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in cold water fatty fish, some nuts and seeds such as walnuts and flaxseeds, and algae, produce anti-inflammatory mediators. Interestingly these fatty acids compete for the same enzymes. Therefore, if you have a diet high in omega-6 fatty acids, the enzymes will naturally produce much more pro-inflammatory mediators than anti-inflammatory mediators due to favorable omega-6 ratio. Research has found that a ratio of 3-4:1 of omega 6 to omega-3 is optimal. However, the Western Diet is often reflective of a 15-20:1 ratio! Simply reducing your intake of foods high in omega-6 and increasing your intake of omega-3 rich foods, will help increase the anti-inflammatory action of these enzymes.

Note: Trans-fats (often found in baked goods, also known as partially hydrogenated oils) should be avoided at all costs as these have been found to significantly increase inflammatory markers at a rate much higher than other oils (1).

Diet Sodas & “Sugar-Free" Beverages: Researchers have found that the regular consumption of non-caloric sweeteners including saccharine, sucralose, and aspartame influenced unfavorable changes in the bacterial communities in both mice and humans. These microbial changes increased glucose intolerance and may possibly promote weight gain (4). Researchers state, “Artificial sweeteners may have no calories, but mounting evidence indicates that they do have metabolic consequences and may not be the solution for having a sweet taste without the calories”(5).

Food Allergies & Intolerances: Addressing food allergies and intolerances is a very important in reducing systemic inflammation. For example, if you are intolerant to gluten or dairy and continue to eat foods containing these proteins, you will continue to aggravate your gut lining. This is similar to constantly getting a sliver in the same spot in your finger. If you do not remove the food allergen, the gut cannot heal, and chronic inflammation will continue to cause unfavorable systemic consequences. 

There are many foods that have been highlighted as anti-inflammatory superstars including flaxseeds, walnuts, and cocoa! (If you are coming to my class on October 27th you will learn all about these and many more!) Therefore, I have created a whole foods chocolate truffle treat that is gluten-free, dairy-free, and uses only whole grains, natural sweeteners, and is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Each truffle contains 0.6g of plant based omega-3 fatty acids, meeting 38-55% of the Recommended Dietary Intakes of 1.1-1.6g of ALA (omega-3) per day!

Although these treats are delicious and tasty alternatives to baked goods rich in seed oils, refined grains and sugars, please don’t rely solely on these treats for your omega-3 (ALA) daily intake. Aim to add more omega-3 rich foods into your diet via cold-water fish, flaxseeds/flaxseed oil and/or walnuts while simultaneously reducing foods rich in omega-3 (LA) such as refined vegetable and seed oils and grain-fed animal meats.

Anti-Inflammatory Cocoa Truffles
Makes 14

1 cup walnut halves (divided)
1 cup gluten-free rolled oats
2 tablespoons flaxseeds
2 tablespoons melted extra virgin coconut oil
4 tablespoons raw honey or maple syrup
2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Generous pinch sea salt
Toppings: coconut flakes, cocoa powder, hemp seeds, etc.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. On a baking sheet pour the oats on one side and the walnuts on the other side. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Chop about half of the roasted walnuts, to make 1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts. Save the other half to sprinkle on your morning oatmeal or to toss into salads.

Place the cooled toasted rolled oats and the flaxseeds into a high-speed blender. Blend until the oats turn into flour.

Meanwhile in a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil, the raw honey, the dark cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and sea salt until smooth. Stir in the oat flour mixture and the roasted walnuts.

Using your hands form a large “dough” ball. Then make your own individual nut truffle balls. I usually make about 14 from one batch. Roll each ball in your choice of topping (I like dried coconut flakes the best). Store in a container in the refrigerator.

P.S. If you want to get extra fancy melt your favorite dark chocolate in a double boiler, dunk each truffle into the chocolate, and then roll in your favorite topping! It adds one more step but an extra layer of chocolate increases the decadence factor by 10!

Note: The flavor gets better once the truffles are completely chilled. I usually make them in the evening and then have my first truffle the next day. 
1. Calder PC, Ahluwalia N, Brouns F, et al. Dietary factors and low-grade inflammation in relation to overweight and obesity. British Journal of Nutrition. 2011;106(S3).
2. Borer, K.T. 2003. Exercise Endocrinology. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
3. Tiidus, P.M. 2008. Skeletal Muscle Damage and Repair. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
4. J. Suez et al. Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature. 2014;514:181-186. 
5. Azvolinsky A. Sugar Substitutes, Gut Bacteria, and Glucose Intolerance. Accessed October 8, 2015.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Ever Changing Taco Bowl

taco bowl with turmeric spiced chickpeas and cumin spiced veggies

On busy workday evenings, or on a sunny beautiful weekend, spending a lot of time in the kitchen may not sound appealing. But if you are like me, you still crave a fresh healthy meal that can be whipped up together in no time. Welcome the TACO BOWL!

Living a gluten-free lifestyle, I usually always have corn tortillas hand. Either I bake them in the oven if I am feeding multiple people, I heat them up in a skillet with a little olive oil, or I toast them in the toaster for quick tostadas. In a way, they are my substitute for bread. And they are the only item that you must have in order to make your own TACO BOWL.

taco bowl with turmeric spiced chickpeas and cumin spiced veggies
taco bowl with turmeric spiced chickpeas and cumin spiced veggies

So the basic recipe is 2 organic corn tortillas plus….


Using this idea you can just take what you have in the fridge or cupboard and make yourself or your family a quick, easy, and healthy balanced meal. Who doesn’t love filling up tacos with tasty goodies and toppings? The trick is you don't have to stick with Mexican flavors. Thinking out of the box and using the corn tortillas a vehicle to deliver delicious goods, is your only goal. You just can’t go wrong when building a taco bowl! Below are two instagram photos of only some of my random TACO BOWL creations. 

How to Assemble Your Taco Bowl

1. In a small skillet drizzle a little olive oil, sprinkle a little sea salt and place two organic corn tortillas per person on top. Heat over medium low. Cover with a lid and flip the tortillas occasionally. OR just warm tortillas in a microwave—they won’t taste as good, but it is easier and faster. 

2. Fill your favorite deep bowl with the taco fillings of your choice. 

3. Serve with two rolled corn tortillas and a side of sauces and toppings. Some of my favorites include salsa, chipotle aioli (½ veganaise + ½ sriracha), fermented sauerkraut, pickled jalapenos, goat cheese, feta, crème fraiche, and diced avocado.

taco bowl with turmeric spiced chickpeas and cumin spiced veggies

Some Tasty Taco Bowl Ideas:

Baked salmon left overs + Lentil salad + broccoli sprouts + avocado

Chicken sausage (chopped) + left over roasted sweet potatoes + sautéed kale + feta

Sautéed tempeh or tofu + turmeric chickpeas + sautéed bell peppers + chipotle aioli (½ sriracha & ½ veganaise)

Scrambled garlic eggs + paprika spiced black beans + diced tomato + pickled jalapeños

Shredded chicken + great northern beans + garlic sautéed spinach + roasted bell pepper hummus

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TACO BOWL COMBINATION?? Tag @poppiesandpapayas to share your creation!

turmeric spiced chickpeas with garlic and fresh parsley

Below you will find the recipes for what I happened to have in the fridge today. I made some tasty turmeric sautéed chickpeas (which I had previously soaked and cooked) and cumin spiced sautéed veggies…using the last few leftover vegetables from last weekend’s farmer’s market trip. To this you could add a sautéed chicken or vegan sausage or left over dinner protein. Easy peasy!

Turmeric Sautéed Chickpeas
Serves four

1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
½ teaspoons Real sea salt
¾ teaspoon turmeric powder
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Handful finely chopped parsley
~3 cups cooked chickpeas (soaked & sprouted) or 2 cans Eden chickpeas, rinsed and drained


Heat a sauté pan over medium, once hot reduce heat to medium low and add the olive oil, the onions, and the garlic. Allow the onions to cook until tender and glassy. Stir in the salt, turmeric powder, and fresh ground pepper and sauté a minute or two. Add the chickpeas and stir well to combine. Cook another couple minutes until heated.

Cumin Spiced Veggies
Serves four

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage
1 medium zucchini diced
4 leaves purple kale, deveined, and coarsely chopped
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Optional: red chili flakes


Heat a sauté pan over medium, once hot reduce heat to medium low and add the olive oil and cumin seeds—sauté until fragrant. Then add the cabbage and zucchini—sauté until tender. Add the kale and cook until wilted. Season with salt, pepper and optional red chili flakes for some added kick. 

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