Saturday, January 8, 2011

Indian Spiced Green Beans and Cashews in Tomato Sauce Over Quinoa

Friday was another day with a down undertone for me. It is tough for me to think of other people struggling with cancer particularly when there isn’t much I can do to help. Cancer is a terrible disease and one I have grown to hate. I wish more doctors understood the value of a healthy diet and lifestyle on the health of a cancer patient and survivor. It is very frustrating that more health care professionals don’t preach of even understand the benefits of living a healthy life. If I could make one change in the world it would be for everyone to understand the impact diet, exercise, stress reduction and sleep have on health. Oh well, maybe one day more people will “get it”. For now I am trying to remain happy and upbeat that I can share healthy recipes that hopefully most of you also think taste good. Change is slow but if all we take one step at time we can get there together. ;-)

Dan had his favorite oatmeal for breakfast before heading to jury duty. His oatmeal contained cinnamon, powdered ginger, frozen wild blueberries, a little stevia, ground flaxseeds and chopped walnuts.

Once Dan left for downtown I worked out and then had breakfast. Today I decided to have something healthier than yesterday’s chocolate chips and walnuts. *rolls eyes* This morning for breakfast I had a salad with mesclun, farro, tomato sauce with lentils and porcinis, cucumbers, red bell pepper and raw pumpkin seeds.

For lunch I had a simple bowl of quinoa with black beans.

Since I had an early breakfast and a light lunch I was feeling a little snacky and had an orange with Brazil nuts (for selenium).

For some reason I was feeling hungry during the afternoon and had another snack of grapes with walnuts.

Dan worked late Friday evening since he went back to work after jury duty. Since dinner was delayed I needed yet another snack. This time it was red bell pepper strips and sun dried tomato and cashew dressing. Something tells me I was snacking to push down the cancer anxiety but that is only a guess.

Friday I couldn’t focus long enough to actually plan dinner. When I am in a funk I am basically useless. I decided to make something simple with items from the pantry. Since the last Indian meal had been a few days ago I opted to make an Indian spiced red sauce that can be used with many veggies. I will give you options for how to use this sauce in the comment section. Here is what I did:

Indian Spiced Green Beans and Cashews in Tomato Sauce Over Quinoa

Sauce Serves 4

Sauce Ingredients:

½ red onion, peeled and finely diced
5 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
16 ounces tomato sauce, no salt added
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
½ teaspoon black mustard seed
¼ teaspoon cumin seed
¼ teaspoon coriander seed
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cardamom powder

Variable Ingredients:

3 cups frozen green beans
¼ cup cashews, roughly chopped
Cooked quinoa for the base of the plate


I started the quinoa cooking before I made the sauce. Next chop the onions and garlic and set a timer for 10 minutes. Add the remaining sauce ingredients to the pot and cover. When 10 minutes have pasted turn the heat to low and simmer the sauce covered, stirring every few minutes. The onions should be cooked in about 10 minutes. You can add the veggies you want to use directly to the sauce to cook or microwave them to place on top the sauce which makes a prettier presentation. I plated the dish as quinoa, sauce, green beans and garnished with cashews.

Nutritional Information (only for the sauce):

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 42.4
Calories From Fat (9%) - 3.7

Total Fat - 0.44g
Saturated Fat - 0.05g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 596.63mg
Potassium - 405.52mg
Total Carbohydrates - 9.16g
Fiber - 2.28g
Sugar - 4.9g
Protein - 2.08g


This is the basic sauce I use when I want to slide some turmeric into our diet or and I haven’t planned a meal. You can change this by making it more like Italian red sauce by using diced tomatoes. Alternately you can add a splash of reduced fat coconut milk, reduced fat peanut butter or cashew crème to give the sauce a richer background. You can also simmer the veggies in the sauce for a homier dish.

Almost all veggies will work with this sauce and I have used the following: carrot, white potato, sweet potato, cauliflower, artichoke, green beans, zucchini, eggplant, cabbage, kale and mushrooms. I suggest you use your favorite veggie or whatever you have on hand. The only veggie I can think of that I wouldn’t use is beets but other than that I think most things would work.

Dietary Guidelines We Follow (part 2):

After rereading what I wrote yesterday I realize there is a lot more I could have written. I may need to update this section for a while and create a tag for it so you can find it later. Here are a few more things I try to keep in mind when cooking and preparing meals:

• As most of you know I always slice/mince my onions and garlic and allow them to stand 10 minutes before heating so the chemical reactions can take place making them more nutritious.

• Additionally I try to add onions and garlic into our food as often and as much as possible for the nutrition benefits.

• Regarding onions I usually buy red onions, then yellow and finally white if I have no other option. The reason I do this is that I read years ago that was the order of total antioxidant content. Thankfully being Italian I prefer the red onions.

• We minimize the amount of flour (yes even whole wheat) we eat by only having products made with flour (like my beloved pizza) when we are out.

• When I remember, which isn’t often I will admit, I try to have roasted soy nuts with my green tea because soy and green tea when consumed together allows the antioxidants to be more bioavailable. However this does not apply to putting soy milk in your tea which blocks the absorption. I assume this is the same chemical reaction that happens when you place dairy milk in your tea and the Flavonoids bind to the dairy protein although I am only guessing.

I could keep writing this section but I need to get a post up tonight. Expect to see this section as a recurring theme until I run out of factoids to include.

A Little Bit About Me:

It occurred to me today that there are many things about me that most of you don’t know. I thought knowing more about who I am would help you to put the things I write into perspective.

I have been a champion of the underdog for as long as I can remember. A million years ago when I was in high school I was the cheerleader. However I wasn’t the snobby type that didn’t talk to anyone. On the contrary I made friends with everyone and went to the prom with someone I liked as a person who was a bit of a social outcast. I was never much for the clichés that formed when we were kids. I suppose you could say I have always wanted everyone to be happy.

When I moved to Baltimore to go to college I “adopted” my next door neighbor who was a sweet little old lady probably in her 80’s that lived alone in a big house with her cat. She had been a friend of my grandmother for 30+ years. Every few days I would go to visit her, since she didn’t get much company. I would sit and talk to her for hours and take her food that she could warm up for dinner. Also I would always stop at her house before I would go grocery shopping and pick up what she needed too. I can’t stand to see people be lonely either.

I am also the type of person that will get out of her car in traffic to save puppies or cats in the road and have almost been hit by cars trying to do this. My husband tells me I am too nice for my own good and he may be right but it is just who I am.

I would describe myself as very sensitive and someone who cries easily. However unless you know me extremely well you will never see me cry. I have a tough veneer and typically prefer to keep my sensitive side to myself. I get my feelings hurt easily and also get very upset when others are in pain.

The reason I am telling you this is to put my mood into perspective regarding our friend. I would do anything if I could fix things but of course I realize that I can’t. I get very emotionally involved when I care for people. It will probably take me a week or so to process this latest cancer incident and emotionally accept that I can’t make the changes for my friend. If I could make a cancer diagnosis easier for anyone I would.

I wanted you all to know that this mood is just who and I am and it will pass.  It takes a while for my emotional brain to catch up with my rational brain. However I will be back to my "old self" in a week or so. At least I hope I will rebound that quickly. ;-)  I do realize that my fretting over this isn't good for me either.

Happy thoughts:

I have many things to be thankful for today and those are:

• First I want to thank everyone that commented or sent an email yesterday or today about our friend. I appreciate your kindness more than I can express. Thank you all for being so kind!

• I am so thankful that the most recent east coast snow storm that missed Baltimore. We were prepared for snow but the storm tracked further to the east so we only had a dusting of snow. It seems like this is our year to avoid snow which is wonderful after the back to back blizzards last year.

• Dan and I had a nice day at home and he didn’t spend any of it working. We had lots of time to chat and even watched a couple of movies. It was a wonderful relaxing day for us.

• My parents both liked the barley I made in the risotto style today for lunch. I am always pleased when I can get healthy food into them without much complaining. Yes I will be posting that recipe tomorrow. ;-)

• There a beautiful bright sliver of the moon in the sky tonight. It was so sharp and clear it was like you could reach out and grab it. Seeing that made me wonder what the night sky looks like from someplace without city pollution and lights. I imagine the moon tonight was gorgeous from the countryside.

• Finally I am thankful that Dan and I are both happy and reasonably healthy now. Once you have experienced cancer you learn to be thankful for every healthy day you have and never take things for granted. As much as I hate cancer it did teach me to appreciate every moment of my life.


Like usual I am late getting this posted. Where does the time go? It seems like I am going to be late for my own funeral. ;-) Well that is someplace I would like to be late for but you get the idea.

Tomorrow we need to run out and pick up kale and few odds and ends before I can get into the kitchen. I have no idea what I am going to cook for my parents. Cooking for my parents is always tough for me since their diet is so unhealthy and ours the opposite it is difficult to find things that we all enjoy. Gee I wonder why? LOL

I need to make Dan some strawberry banana soft serve and turn in. I hope you had a great Saturday. Talk to you again tomorrow.


  1. I could not agree with you more, people very much neglect the fact that they have enormous control over the outcome of their lives, and instead settle on blaming everything else around them when things go wrong. It is more tedious and time consuming to live a healthier lifestyle, but the time catches up to those who don't care with hospital bills and other unfortunate events. But we all try to make a difference, and I have seen that if we feel very passionate about a cause, it effects those around us in a positive way as well (even if you do not see results right away). Keep it up! Your recipes are wonderful :)

  2. Hey Ali : ) I think it's fine that you are in an emotional funk (not fine about your friend tho). One day I realized that I spend way to much time trying not to feel things that are natural and need to be felt to process the situation. Time passes, so do feelings. I hope your friend can keep the cancer at bay with a clean diet, etc etc. Thanks for the sauce...sounds long would you keep that in the fridge? -Steph

  3. "I would describe myself as very sensitive and someone who cries easily. However unless you know me extremely well you will never see me cry. I have a tough veneer and typically prefer to keep my sensitive side to myself. I get my feelings hurt easily and also get very upset when others are in pain."

    Oh gosh that is so me! Alicia, thank you for sharing this information about yourself. I feel that I understand you so much better and definitely understand why you are so determined to educate people about good nutrition: because you want everyone to be happy (and healthy).

    I haven't posted for a while because I have had a family bereavement so I understand how you are feeling at the moment. I hope you feel better soon and I send good wishes to your friend for a speedy and full recovery.

    Thanks for what you do. x

  4. I feel like I am always on repeat - but the quinoa dish looks fantastic. Definitely something I know I'd love.

    You and I are so similar. I think we've established that though ;-) Hugs to you my friend. I hope you start to cheer up.

  5. I'm sorry about your friend.

    Life is really really difficult sometimes and emotions and anxietites can be so overwhelming, especially when you are such a sensitive person.

    Loving people and animals so much is such a gift, but it makes the harder times maybe even harder when your heart is wide open.

  6. Ruby Jane,

    I couldn't agree with you more that there is so much we can do regarding health. It is frustrating to see the "give me a pill for that" mentality we have in America. *sigh*

    I hope you are right about the positive impact because that is what I am hoping will happen.

    Glad you enjoy my recipes, thanks for letting me know.

    Enjoy the rest of your weekend,

  7. Steph,

    I am feeling a little less "funky" this morning. I think getting early and running to Wegman's and Whole Foods improved my mood. The green smoothie probably didn't hurt either. ;-)

    I agree that is important to feel things. Like you I used to push negative things down and that is never good.

    Since tomatoes are acidic the sauce should be fine for at least 5 days in the frig. But you could always freeze it too.

    Enjoy your Sunday,

  8. Brandi,

    Good Morning. I hope you found your kale last night.


  9. Carol,

    I am glad that little blurb about me gave you insight into my head. Sometimes I assume every one knows what I am thinking but I realize most don't. You nailed me by way. ;-) I am very passionate about eating a healthy diet and living a healthy life and want eveyone else to experience the benefits we have had.

    I am so sorry to hear about the death in your family. I hope that soon you will remember the good things and not the end. Hugs to you!


  10. Heather,

    It is funny that you and I are so much a like. You would think we were raised together. ;-)

    I really like quinoa and could eat it every day. It is one of the few things I don't get bored with. In fact quinoa is started to grow on Dan now too which means you will be seeing it more often. ;-)

    I hope you are having a good Sunday,

  11. Mel,

    We were all a bit shocked to hear about more cancer. People in their 30s, 40s and 50s are too young to get getting it. With a little luck my friend will clean up his diet. *fingers crossed*

    I am definitely too sensitive for my own good but is just the way that I am. Today and I am feeling a little bit better. I think I am starting to process what has happened.

    thanks for your kind words,

  12. lol im planning on being late to my funeral, fashionably late:)

    i like Ruby Jones first sentence

    you would LOVE the sky here. its so...BIG its unreal. on a clear night you just turn into speck of dust when you look up.

  13. Michelle,

    Wouldn't we all like to be fashionably late to our funerals? LOL

    I liked Ruby June's first sentence too. She almost took the words right out of my mouth. ;-)

    The sky there sounds wonderfuly. I hope you take time to enjoy that often with Walter.


  14. Hi Ali...I don't have tomato "sauce" you think tomato paste + water will work? I just can't bear to adapt your recipes to the point of losing the overall "feel" of the dish (again). (for the record, i adapt based on what i have at home, i'm not adapting to make it better!)


  15. Hi Steph,

    Please feel free to adapt away. :-) Since I know you have a Vitamix I would suggest that you use canned diced tomatoes and a little tomato paste or a few sun dried tomatoes to get the richness of tomato sauce. Will that work based on what you have on hand?


  16. yes! thanks, i am just simmering some rice now to eat with the indian spiced sauce and veggies : ) i love knowing that there is science to tradition. According to many of my Indian friends, these indian spices all have their inherent nutritional and health values (as you mention the tumeric+black pepper) and there's a reason the tradition has lived on. i've heard little bits about everything, include fenugreek for joints and digestion, cumin for digestion, tumeric for fighting infections, etc etc.

  17. Ali,
    You are always a bright spot in the day :-)

  18. Ali, I know what you mean when you talk about cancer hitting the people we care about. My first husband died of cancer at age 35. What a horrific experience that was. I eat a pretty healthy diet (thought sorely lacking next to yours!). You provide great inspiration and education! My best wishes to your friend.


  19. Steph,

    I have heard the similar things from my Indian friends. Fortunately I like Indian food almost as much as I like Italian food. ;-)

    enjoy the rest of your weekend,

  20. Aimee,

    Thanks but I am not feeling too bright at the moment. Cancer gets me down everytime. I am getting tired of it impacting so many people I care about.

    enjoy the rest of your evening,

  21. Colleen,

    I am so sorry to hear about your first husband. He died so young. I have lost three friends in their 30's to cancer as well. It is so wrong to lose people that young.

    I am happy I can inspire and educate. When we started eating this way there was definitely a learning curve. However I can say it has gotten much easier the longer we have done it.

    Thank you for the well wishes for our friend.

    Enjoy the rest of your Sunday,


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