Mexican Black Bean and Veggie Tortillas

Serves 4

black bean and veggie tortillaIngredients
2 cans black beans (drained and rinsed)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. black pepper
Whole wheat tortillas
Brown rice

Shredded Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese
Low-fat sour cream
Red onion, chopped fine
Red pepper, chopped
Arugula or fresh spinach leaves
Cucumber, peeled and diced
Carrots, chopped fine

Begin by preparing brown rice. As the rice cooks, combine black beans and diced tomatoes in a large skillet over medium heat. Add cumin, coriander and black pepper. Heat for 10-15 minutes. Heat tortillas until golden but not crispy.

Meanwhile chop vegetables putting them out, smorgasbord style, along with cheese, sour cream and salsa. Create your tortilla using a combination of your favorite ingredients. Vegans can leave out the dairy. If you’re limiting carbohydrates, omit the rice or even the tortilla.

This recipe is healthy, cheap, adaptable, and easy. It is such a staple in my house that we refer to it by the shorthand, “Mexican.” I always keep black beans and diced tomatoes on hand. (Buy BPA-free canned goods whenever possible.) Good tortillas can make or break this meal. A delicious uncooked option is available at Costco. Toppings can include whatever you have on hand. I pile my tortilla high like a salad and eat it with a fork and knife. My kids prefer theirs burrito style.

This is a great opportunity to make extra rice for meals throughout the week. Leftover chopped vegetables can be stored in glass containers and thrown into tomorrow night’s salad. Sometimes I add frozen corn or a cooked, diced sweet potato to the beans. Fresh cilantro is always a nice addition. The possibilities are endless.

Download a PDF of this recipe.

Glass vs Plastic

When it comes to food storage, if you haven’t made the switch from plastic to glass, here are 7 reasons to do so, and a few tips to make it easy. Simply put, glass makes sense whether saving leftovers in the fridge or storing beans, grains, pasta and snacks in the pantry.

Since tossing the Tupperware, I’ve experienced the following epiphanies:

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  1. Easy Inventory – I can see everything in my refrigerator. There’s no guessing as to what’s inside that murky plastic. I no longer have a jumble of plastic bags from the bulk food section in the cupboard. I can see what I have and what I need to buy.
  2. More Creativity in the Kitchen – Maybe it’s just me, but seeing a big jar of beautiful black beans inspires me to make something delicious and healthy.
  3. Fewer Dirty Dishes – Tempered glass containers can safely travel from fridge, to oven or microwave, to table, to dishwasher. Microwaving food in plastic is a big no-no due to harmful BPA many plastics still contain.
  4. Inspires Healthy Choices – You are more likely to reach for the pink juicy watermelon conveniently cut up in appetizing chunks if you can see it on the refrigerator shelf. Ditto for the homemade granola or dried apple rings in the pantry.
  5. Food Stays Fresh Longer – Glass is a non-porous surface that can withstand high heat in the dishwasher, and is safe in the freezer as well. Glass doesn’t absorb food odors, colors, and bacteria like plastic can. In the pantry, airtight glass containers keep things dry and fresh.
  6. Glass Lasts Forever – Glass containers are a bit of an initial investment, but the set will look and perform as good as new years from now.
  7. Contributing Less to Our Landfills – This one is a no brainer. Minimizing the plastic in your life will reduce the trash and recycling your family produces.

A Few Tips

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  • You don’t have to make the switch all at once. Gradually phase out plastic as you collect glass jars and containers. Reuse what you already have. Visit Goodwill for an eclectic assortment of glass in all shapes and sizes. If you’re after a certain look, the Container Store is a little slice of heaven.
  • Leave a scoop in  jars of rice and oats for easy dispensing. Old measuring cups work well.
  • Label the grains. At first quinoa, faro, bulgur all look alike. Break out your label maker or use a piece of masking tape and a Sharpie.
  • I didn’t exactly recycle all of my plastic. I keep several containers on hand for sending food to school or a social event. I love my glass containers, and don’t part with them easily!

The Low Down on Artificial Sweeteners

In the 70s and 80s, there was a lot of concern that artificial sweeteners cause cancer. Although research in the 90s led the FDA to approve five sweeteners* without a cancer warning, if you’re like me, you have lingering doubts about putting something known to be “artificial” in your body. Is there true cause for concern?

Like most things, artificial sweeteners are best consumed in moderation. These substances–created in a laboratory setting–are anywhere from 30 to 8,000 times sweeter than natural sugar, so a little goes a long way. Be aware that certain artificial sweeteners have been found to cause unpleasant side effects; namely headaches from aspartame, and diarrhea from sorbitol, Lactitol and mannitol (sugar alcohols).

Here’s what I found most surprising and concerning: If you are consuming artificial sweeteners in an effort to lose weight, research has found that doing so may be associated with weight gain and an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes. Scientists believe this is due to the stimulation of taste receptors in our esophagus and stomach. Just like sugar, artificial sweeteners trigger these sensors that in turn cause the pancreas to release insulin, the hormone that tells our cells to absorb sugar (glucose). But what if there’s no glucose to absorb?

Diet-SodasResearchers think that the body gets confused when it senses sweetness but there are no corresponding calories. For example, when you drink diet soda, two things may result:

    1. The soda triggers your taste receptors leading to a false insulin spike that may contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes.
    2. Your body is confused by the lack of calories, and you therefore feel hungrier and go on to eat more than you would had you not had the diet soda.

Susan Swithers, a behavioral neuroscientist at Purdue University co-authored a study that supports these findings, and says they “might explain in part why obesity has risen in parallel with the use of artificial sweeteners.”

A 4-year study on the consumption of diet and sugary sodas and incidence of type 2 diabetes involved 66,118 women and was published this year in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Their most frightening findings were:

  1. Diet sodas raised the risk of diabetes more than sugar-sweetened sodas.
  2. Women who drank one 12-ounce diet soda had a 33 percent increased risk of type 2 diabetes and women who drank one 20-ounce soda had a 66 percent increased risk.

Finally, since the artificial sweetener in soda and other products is so much sweeter than real sugar, your tolerance and taste for sugar is reset, requiring more sugar to satisfy your sweet tooth. So if you have a strong diet soda habit, think about cutting back. If “sugar” is the hook, try gradually reducing your intake of sweet foods and drink, and in a few weeks time you’ll feel satisfied with much less. If caffeine is what you need, switch to coffee or tea (not from a bottle) so that you can control the amount and type of sweetener your consuming. Increase your water consumption and crowd out the number of diet sodas you drink each day. However you tackle it, the most important step is to realize there is no benefit to diet soda – not even for your waistline.

* FDA approved sweeteners:

  • Acesulfame potassium (Sunett)
  • Aspartame (NutraSweet or Equal)
  • Sucralose (Splenda)
  • D-Tagatose (Sugaree)
  • Saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low)

SOURCES “The Truth on Artificial Sweeteners” “Artificial Sweeteners and Other Food Substitutes are Dangerous to your Health” “Artificial Sweeteners”
Jameson, Marni. “Artificial Sweeteners can Spark Not-So-Sweet Problems” Orlando Sentinel, August 29, 2012.
Intent Blog, “How Diet Soda Makes you Fat and Other Food and Diet Industry Secrets, Part 1.

Buddha says…

To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family,
to bring peace to all,
one must first discipline and control one’s own mind.
If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment,
and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.

Green-BuddhaI like this quote, but get a little stuck on what it means to “discipline and control one’s own mind.” At first the words sound a little harsh, a little too ascetic, even Draconian. And then it sounds like a lot of work. But digging a little deeper, I began thinking about it in terms of coaching, A coach’s main functions is to help the client raise his/her self awareness. Because, if you have a high level of self awareness, then you are in charge of your thoughts and emotions (your mind), instead of them controlling of you.

Someone who lacks self awareness may blame others for the negative things in their lives – the rude clerk, the insensitive boss, the demanding children. Or they may believe life is something that happens to them. You may feel you don’t control much, but if you don’t manage, cultivate and direct yourself, who does?

Your thoughts are not an inevitable reality. You control how you look at and relate to the world around you. Don’t like your thought patterns or self-defeating behaviors? Replace them with something more positive, compassionate, and productive. Begin by recognizing what isn’t working for you and start experimenting with an outlook that does. It begins with awareness. It’s the key to positive change.

Can You Fight off a Cold?

The plague is going around our house. It started with my daughter whose husky voice and juicy cough indicated a pretty nasty upper respiratory infection. Then it felled my husband – and I mean felled. He didn’t miss work, but he should have. He coughed and shivered and looked pretty miserable for two full days. This is someone who usually moves a hundred miles an hour, but every evening he was reduced to a blob on the couch covered with a sweatshirt and blankets. It was bad!

glass-of-ice-waterI was determined that this nasty virus would not get me and my other daughter, so I followed the usual precautions. I washed my hands even more religiously than usual, I disinfected the remote controls a few times, and I banned my husband from the kitchen.

Despite my best efforts, I started to feel the pestilence coming on. Those early symptoms of a scratchy throat and a heavy head grew more pronounced all day Saturday. What to do? I drank tons of water in an attempt to wash the virus right out of my system. This is my dad’s tried and true, and most of the time it works. I had a glass of ice-cold water by my side all day. As soon as I reached the bottom, I filled it up again. I’ve kept it up for the past 48+ hours, and I think I’m in the clear.

Lots of lots of fluids usually prevents me from coming down with a cold. If not completely, it seems to lessen the severity of it. I’d love to know what you do to fight one off. Please post your best methods in the comment section.