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Rosemary for the win
When it comes to fall and winter cooking, rosemary is one of my favorite go-to’s. Its warming flavors capture the cozy weather vibes so well. I feel like kale and butternut squash with a generous sprinkle of rosemary is an ideal combo when it comes to fall cuisine.
And for the holiday table, dried cranberries and pecans are the perfect compliments to add a little nuttiness and tart sweetness to the mix. Pumpkin seeds add an extra crunch and extra fall vibes.
It’s a tried-and-true combination, so when I was coming up with my holiday menu, it was a no-brainer to add this salad to the mix.
Rosemary to the rescue
But I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go with the dressing. I thought about going tart, I thought about going sweet. I even considered doing a creamy almond dressing. But none of them really hit home.
As I hinted at above, I do love roasting my squash with rosemary, however. And then it hit me: rosemary dressing. Duh! I’ve never been one to go fancy with my salad dressings – I used to hate salad dressing – so I wasn’t entirely sure what direction to go.
But then rosemary vinaigrette came into being and pulled the dish together so well. And of course, it’s pretty simple!
Health Benefits of Rosemary
I absolutely adore rosemary. This member of the herb family has flavor profile that is hard to pin down. It’s closely related to mint but with a very different flavor: it has a warming, slightly bitter, almost pine-like taste. Sometimes when I bite into it I swear I can taste butter. But that might just be my taste buds wanting it taste butter…! 😉
And rosemary just looks so cute, kinda like the needles on a pine tree! It’s pretty much the most festive edible addition to your dishes, and delivers all the dish-elevating flavor you could hope for.
And good thing it tastes so good, because although the small quantities typical of a single dish won’t deliver a significant nutritional boost, the regular addition of rosemary to your dishes will allow the benefits to accumulate.
Here are some of the ways rosemary benefits your health:
- Mood and stress balancer. It improves mood, clears the mind, and relieves stress in those with stress hormone imbalances. More, please!
- Boosts Immunity. Rosemary contains active compounds that are anti-carcinogenic, antioxidant, and perhaps most importantly, anti-inflammatory. Win-win-win. These anti-inflammatory benefits are the most notable: the antioxidants carnosol and carnosic have been associated with reducing inflammation of muscle tissue, blood vessels, and joints.
- Improves Digestion. Rosemary also soothes digestive upset, including constipation, bloating, diarrhea, and upset stomachs.
- Memory Booster. Research into the benefits of rosemary on memory is ongoing, but it has historically been used as a cognitive stimulant and has more recently been linked to cognitive stimulation in elderly patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
- Detoxifier. Rosemary is a mild diuretic, meaning it can aid in flushing out toxins during urination. In addition to helping eliminate toxins, pathogens, salts, and even excess fat when consumed regularly, it has been linked to improved liver health. Rosemary consumption is linked with faster healing time of the liver, which is one of the slowest organs to heal, as well as lower levels of cirrhosis.
- Skin health. Rosemary, particularly in its essential oil form, contains anti-aging benefits and helps to heal blemishes and maintain clear, hydrated skin.
Rosemary also stimulates blood flow, acts as an analgesic (pain reliever), and works as a breath freshener. Basically, what doesn’t it do…!?
How to Use Rosemary
- To Maximize flavor, cook with it. Add it to your dishes: bake with it, garnish, sautée, sprinkle it into soups and stews, and rub it into meat dishes. Basically, use it in every way you can think of.
- To maximize nutritional value: don’t cook with it. Ok ok, that’s totally contradictory. But cooking does reduce the benefits, so add it toward the end of cooking, or do both: cook with it and garnish with fresh rosemary once you are ready to serve!
- People even use rosemary essential oils to deliver a concentrated dose of the goodness.
Warm Kale Squash Fall Salad with Rosemary Vinaigrette
Back to the salad. It does require a little oven and mortar and pestle action, so it’s not the quickest recipe I’ve ever done, but it’s still quite simple.
First I roast the chopped butternut squash, with – you guess it – rosemary. As the squash is roasting, I make the dressing and the rest of the salad. As it’s a warm salad, I heat the dressing in a pan then add the kale. At the end I toss in the cranberries*, pecans, and pumpkin seeds.
*A note on the dried cranberries. Frankly, I don’t eat much dried fruit these days because it contains a lot of sugar (natural sugar is still sugar). This salad works perfectly fine without it, but for the holiday table I add it in cuz it’s festive. Skip to keep it paleo-happy.
I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m pretty sure fresh pomegranate seeds would work really nicely too, and add a generous antioxidant boost to the feast!
Warm Kale Squash Salad with Rosemary Vinaigrette
A simple yet hearty and delicious warming salad with rosemary vinaigrette. Vegan, paleo, dairy-free, gluten-free recipe
Kale Squash Salad
- 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- 1 bunch kale, washed and cut into smaller pieces I use curly kale
- 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 cup chopped pecans
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries *optional. may replace with pomegranate seeds
- 1/2+1/2 tbsp fresh or dried rosemary
- 1 sprig rosemary optional
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat the over to 400F. Places the chopped butternut squash on a pan and toss with the olive oil, 1/2 tbsp rosemary, salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, checked and tossing halfway through.
While the squash is roasting, make the vinaigrette. Place the rosemary, salt, and garlic in the mortar bowl. Use the pestle to crush the garlic and rosemary and mash them together.
Slowly add the lemon juice and olive oil and continue to mash.
Transfer the dressing to a large pan and heat over medium. Add the kale, rosemary, salt and pepper and sauté a few minutes, until the kale is bright green and soft.
Turn off the heat and add the pecans, pumpkin seeds, and dried cranberries if using. Toss the ingredients together while the pan is still warm. The squash should be just about ready, so add that to the pan and toss all the ingredients together.
Transfer to plates and serve.
If using fresh pomegranate seeds, top with these at the end. I also sometimes add some sliced avocado at the end if I'm eating this as my meal.
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Healthy Paleo Pumpkin Pie Dip
With the holidays coming up I wanted to make a healthy version of some kind of pumpkin-pie inspired dessert. I wondered what pumpkin pie filling would be like as a dip – like pumpkin pie without the crust – and sure enough pumpkin pie dip is a thing.
But it’s mostly not a healthy thing. The versions I found were filled with cool whip, heavy cream, powdered sugar, and altogether processed, chemically-laden, sugar-filled and dairy-heavy ingredients.
So I figured I’d create a clean vegan, paleo, sugar-free fix. And sure enough, it worked out quite simply and here we have it: a paleo, vegan, sugar-free pumpkin pie dip.
And yup, it’s super easy! It’s possible to make this in five minutes with just five simple ingredients if you have pumpkin pie spice on hand. But with variations in brands and whatnot, I have also included a version that addresses consistency and ingredient availability. We can call it the ‘gourmet’ version, if you will, still just five minutes to make.
I serve it with fresh apple slices, but this morning I was really craving something warm yet healthy. I decided to throw some apple slices in the oven and bam, naked baked apple slices were born. Brilliant on their own, but a perfect match for this pumpkin pie dip. I threw a portion of the dip in the oven for a few minutes, and it was like fall pie heaven for breakfast…
Imagine pumpkin pie meets apple pie, and it’s ALL healthy and clean. Boom. Win. I’m 100% sure the dip would also taste amazing with some paleo, gluten-free gingersnaps, so I’m gonna work on that…!
While this is *not* a low-calorie treat, it is full of nutrition, healthy fats, and all-natural ingredients. Plus it skips the added sugars so it won’t send you on a sugar-cravings roller-coaster. Healthy fats and fiber keep you satisfied, so you’re less likely to go into over-eating mode.
Health Benefits of Pumpkin
Pumpkin puree (not the pre-sweetened pumpkin pie filling) is high in fiber, loaded with vitamin A, and is a solid source of iron, vitamin C, and calcium. It is also jam-packed with beta-carotene.
Due to it’s nutritional profile, pumpkin contains many health promoting benefits, including anti-cancer properties from the beta-carotene, improved immunity, and sharper vision.
Health Benefits of Coconut
Coconut, while high in fat, is actually full of health-protective benefits. First off, there are misconceptions regarding the fat in coconut milk. Full-fat coconut milk is actually composed of medium-chain saturated fatty acids which are metabolized faster by the liver. Studies suggest that coconut consumption has no deleterious impact on cardiovascular health.
Additionally, the lauric acid is known to be a powerful antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial that destroys a wide variety of disease-causing organisms. So, coconut products may actually protect the body from infections and diseases.
Health Benefits of Arrowroot Powder
Arrowroot powder (also known as arrowroot flour or starch), which I used to thicken the dip, is a stellar addition to the paleo pantry. Not only does it work beautifully as a substitute for processed, GMO-laden cornstarch, it actually contains a number of health benefits. It contains a good amount of potassium, iron, and B vitamins which benefit metabolism, circulation, and heart health.
Furthermore, studies have shown that arrowroot powder may stimulate the immune system. As a potentially potent prebiotic, evidence suggests it is excellent for gut health (which is key to all health) and is therefore implicated in gut-associated immunity. Arrowroot powder is also bland, which makes it suitable for people on neutral diets or with digestive upset.
Health Benefits of Warming Spices
Finally, the warming spices in pumpkin pie are packed with too many health benefits to list them all. But to name a few, cinnamon, ginger, and the pumpkin-pie spice blend itself possess anti-inflammatory powers, antioxdidants, anti-microbial properties, and disease-fighting powers.
Paleo Pumpkin Pie Dip: A Health-Promoting Dessert
Due to it’s ingredients, this pumpkin pie dip is not only a healthier version of dessert, but without the sugar and dairy, it may actually be a health-promoting treat. These ingredients help us fight off invading pathogens, so with cold and flu season upon us, eat up! It’s no wonder we crave these flavors this time of year: our bodies know what we need!
Just go for organic, high-quality ingredients, and serve with healthy dippers like fresh apple slices or naked baked apple slices.
Paleo Pumpkin Pie Dip: Sugar-Free, Vegan, Paleo Recipe
This sugar-free, paleo, vegan dessert dip tastes just as decadent as other versions, but swaps in health-promoting ingredients and skips the sugar.
- 1 can organic pumpkin purée about 2 cups
- 1 cup organic full fat coconut milk may increase, if using a thick milk and skipping the flour
- 1/4 cup arrowroot flour
- 1/4 cup coconut cream may skip if using extra thick coconut milk
- 1 tsp all natural organic vanilla extract
- 1/2-1 tsp monk fruit sweetener adjust sweetness to taste
- 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon *may sub pumpkin pie spice blend for all spices below
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1/4 tsp cloves
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp allspice
Add all ingredients to your food processor (a good blender can work too).
Blend on high until thoroughly mixed.
Refrigerate until serving. *The arrowroot actually thickens further overnight, so this is even better made a day or two ahead, which is a win-win for your holiday menu planning!
The simple version just requires the pumpkin purée, full fat coconut milk, 2-3 tsp pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, and sweetener of choice (all natural monk fruit or stevia ideally, maple syrup to keep it paleo). Bear in mind coconut milk consistency varies by brand. If it's too runny, you will likely need to add a thickening agent like arrowroot powder and/ or extra coconut cream.
Adjust spices to taste.
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Watermelon is good, and good for you
Seriously, what’s more refreshing than watermelon on a hot summer day? In life, I rarely think, I want some watermelon. But then summer rolls around and I take my first bite and I’m like oh yeah, this stuff is amazing! So I get a giant watermelon and find all sorts of ways to eat it.
And because I’m oh-so-curious about the health benefits of everything I consume, I did a little background research, and it turns out it really is a whole lot more than water!
It also just so happens that watermelon is very detox-friendly, which is great for my current cleanse efforts. There’s even a few versions of a watermelon detox diet that calls for eating or drinking pretty much just watermelon for a couple days. It’s great for cleansing because watermelon is low calorie and since it’s made up of 92% water, it’s extremely hydrating.
While I’ve never gone full-on watermelon, I have been incorporating watermelon into my summer cleanse recipes as much as possible, and here’s why.
Top health benefits of watermelon
Kidney Health. Beyond being simply hydrating, one of the primary benefits of watermelons is that it improves kidney function. It acts as a mild diuretic and due to this kidney-cleansing property, it has a history of being used to treat kidney stones and urinary tract infections.
Watermelon contains high amounts of calcium and potassium, which aid the kidneys in flushing out toxins and reducing the concentration of uric acid.
Heart and Bone Health. Watermelon also has the highest percentage of lycopene than any other fruit or vegetable – it contains 18mg in two cups compared to just 4mg in a medium tomato. High lycopene consumption is associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and improved bone health. The deeper the red, the higher the lycopene concentration, so, the riper the better!
Cancer Treatment and Prevention. Bonus – lycopene has been directly linked to cancer prevention and treatment. Research indicates that lycopene can induce apoptosis of cancer cells, interrupt cancer cell growth, and regulate carcinogen metabolism. Lycopene also reduces insulin growth, which is a key component of fighting cancer
Blood cleanser. Watermelons also contain high amounts of citrulline, an amino acid that is converted into arginine by the kidneys and other organs. This conversion is thought to improve blood flow, which is beneficial for cardiovascular health as well as filtration of the blood, which by definition ‘cleanses’ the blood.
Insulin regulation and Weight Loss. And interestingly, evidence from health studies indicate that the more this citrulline-arginine conversion happens, the better your body is able to prevent the excess accumulation of fat cells. So for anyone watching their weight, eat up!
Furthermore, a study on obese, diabetic patients found that L-arginine had a significantly beneficial effect on glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity.
Inflammation-fighter. Furthermore, these two amino acids have been found in research studies to reduce inflammation, which is an underlying factor in many diseases, including cancer. Evidence indicates that watermelon itself can improve inflammation.
Antioxidants. Watermelon contains a good amount of antioxidants, which are crucial for combatting oxidative stress. This is extremely important for our overall health because oxidative stress is associated with damage to DNA, biological membranes, and proteins in humans. Consuming sufficient antioxidant-rich foods can help combat this oxidative stress by mitigating the harmful effects of free radicals.
Digestion aid. Watermelon’s high water and fiber content also aid in digestion. It eases constipation and promotes regularity.
…I could go on, as watermelon and its health-boosting properties have been associated with easing muscle soreness, lowering blood pressure, improving skin, and more. Phew!
Watermelon every day, every way
So, perhaps needless to say, I’ve been making extra efforts to get more of this pretty melon in my system. Watermelon is delicious in its own right, but I’ve done juices, smoothies, cold soups, and even salads.
I love putting watermelon in my salads, especially with cucumber. Now, I have always been a fan of combination watermelon – feta combo. It strikes the perfect balance between sweet and savory: it’s juicy and tangy, light and rich, crisp and chewy.
I put it on a bed of arugula because I love the contrast of the bitterness arugula provides in this recipe, but other greens like spinach or chard work well! Cucumber adds another refreshing touch, and I top it with avocado, seeds to add a little crunch, mint if I have it on hand, a drizzle of lemon and olive oil and a little seasoning. Delish!
So here’s my simple version of vegan watermelon feta salad!
Vegan Watermelon Feta Salad Recipe
- handful of arugula (or greens of choice)
- 1/2 cup watermelon
- 1/2 chopped cucumber
- 1/4 – 1/2 avocado
- 1-2 tbsp vegan feta
- pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
- drizzle of olive oil
- squeeze of lemon juice
- mint, fresh or dried (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
How to make:
- Assemble your salad (put all the ingredients in a bowl).
- Eat up!
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