Practicing self-care is one of my cornerstones for healthier eating & living, so I am constantly on the lookout for the things that make me feel good about myself. In my part of the world the snow is gradually melting and spring is creeping in. As I look forward to shorts and sandal weather, it is a reminder to myself that my largest organ deserves some self-care and pampering.
What am I talking about? I am talking about our skin.
Your skin is your body’s largest and fastest-growing organ. Neato, eh? Consider your skin like your body’s coat. It protects you and helps you stay warm when it’s cold, and cool when it’s hot. It keeps you internals such as organs, blood, muscle and bones inside and other things outside such as germs and water.
Nourishing and nurturing our skin is just as important as our bodies, our minds, and our emotions.
At a very simplistic level if we do not prevent our skin from cracking or getting damaged, we risk injury from germs, risk of infection which, in the direst of scenarios, can lead to death.
A bit extreme and theatrical you may think, so let’s look at another scenario. When I nourish my skin and keep it moisturized I tend to burn less easily in the hot sun of summer, and during the cold temperatures of our harsh winters the skin on my hands is less likely to chap and crack.
Gone are the days where people would cover themselves in suntan oil (baby oil even!) and lay on the beach for hours. Now people are slathering on SPF 50 Sunblock for fear of sun damage and skin cancer — so perhaps the scenarios above are more real than fiction.
On that final note: “How often do you nourish your largest organ?”
Butternut squash is a hero in the healthier eating arena. High in fiber and potassium, this is definitely a heart-healthy choice.
I found it educational to learn that it is often recommended by dieticians in controlling cholesterol and in weight-reduction programs. I can attest to it having a filling feel to it and with its subtle sweetness is sure please the pickiest of palates.
It is laden down with a multitude of vitamins; rich in B-complex group of vitamins such as folates, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin, and pantothenic acid. It also boasts a complex mineral profile, containing respectable levels of iron, potassium, zinc, copper, calcium, and phosphorus.
It is a great go-to vegetable when I want something that has very little advance preparation time. Just 5 minutes of prep, pop it in the oven and forget it for an hour, then “Ta da!” I have included the recipe I use for a simple way to prepare butternut squash.
Whether I need something to go along with fish (such as Cajun Spiced Salmon), turkey, or even super-spicy Indian food, roasted butternut squash is able to work very well as a complimentary dish.
Want to spice it up? Try cinnamon, cumin, or simply black pepper. Try sprinkling with fresh herbs just before serving.
Serves: 2 servings
1 butternut squash (approx. 450 g or 1 lb)
5 ml (1 tsp) extra virgin olive oil
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
With a large sharp knife cut the squash in half lengthwise.
With a spoon scoop out the seeds and discard.
Coat the inside and exposed edges with the oil.
Place face-down on a large cookie sheet.
Pierce the skin of the squash a few times with a sharp knife.
Roast for 50-60 minutes or until it can easily be pierced and the flesh is soft.
Vitamin A : 9 % Vitamin C : 87 % Calcium : 1 % Iron : 39 %
• Low in saturated fat • No cholesterol • Very low in sodium • Very high in dietary fiber • Very high in iron • High in manganese • High in magnesium • High in potassium (582 mg) • High in thiamin • Very high in vitamin B6 • Very high in vitamin C • Very high in vitamin E
Serving size: 210 g Calories: 102 Fat: 2.6 g Saturated fat: 0.3 g Carbohydrates: 21.5 g Sugar: 4.0 g Sodium: 8 mg Fiber: 6.6 g Protein: 1.8 g Cholesterol: 0 mg
When the weather gets colder one of the more satisfying meals is a hearty beef stew. A favorite recipe I use is a variation inspired from The Canadian Living Cookbook. Initially I used to make the recipe as stated in the book yet over time I have added my own preparation methods and changed the ingredients to create a healthier version — yet it still has that same rich and flavorful taste as the original.
Guess what? No one noticed when I made these swaps and I get constant praise when I serve it.
Servings got a 9.5% smaller because of the reduction in butter. However, the rewards of over 100 calories less(22% reduction)as well as the significant drop in fat (42%), which include 56% less saturated fat, are definitely worth it.
Combine the beef stock, red wine vinegar, and tomato paste in a large pot. Sift the chickpea flour into the pot to eliminate any lumps. Put the pot on high heat and bring the contents to a boil, whisking constantly. Then reduce heat to a low simmer.
Add in the thyme, bay leaf, garlic, salt, and black pepper.
Years ago I was introduced to dried apricots as a compact food to pack for canoe trips. Anyone who has experienced portaging understands the need for compact packing. Years later I continue to have dried apricots in the house as a tasty snack food.
With my research into healthier eating these gems came under scrutiny and I was delighted with my findings.
I was ecstatic to see that dried apricots typically do not contain added sweeteners (sometimes disguises as concentrated fruit juice). Yay!
I have so often been disheartened when reading the ingredient lists of packaged dried fruits that often contain sugar or fruit juice (which is somewhat like sugar in disguise). Dried cherries, blueberries, cranberries — to name a few. Remember to read the label.
One serving of dried apricots is about 1/4 cup or 62 ml (43 grams). A good source of Fibre (2.1 g) and Protein (1.1 g), these little golden beauties are also high in Potassium, Vitamin C, Iron, and also contain Vitamin A and Calcium. Getting back to fibre for a moment, apricots are especially high in soluble fibre which is known to promote and help maintain healthy blood glucose and cholesterol levels.
Be aware that sulphites are often used in dried apricots to preserve their colour so choose organic varieties if you are sensitive or have concerns.
I prefer to drink water when I am munching on dried fruit to help to avoid over-indulgence.
And the most important Craving Life criteria — they are mighty tasty; neither too zesty nor too sweet according to my taste buds.