Vegan & Grain-Free Paella Recipe

Posted by Amina AlTai on

Fun fact—I once lived in Madrid for six months and it was one of the happiest times in my life.  The culture, the amazing people and the incredible food were just a few ways I fell in love with that city!  And ever since I left, it's felt like a part of me.  I try to keep the culture alive in my music choices and also in my recipes.  

However, eating a grain-free diet and having a vegan husband, does mean I've had to modify the mostly-meat, heavy grain fair that Spain is known for.  So, when I was craving paella this week, I had to get creative.  Here's how to make grain-free, vegan paella without losing any of the fun, flavor or deliciousness.  

  • 1 package of extra-firm tofu chopped into cubes
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 red beller pepper cut into chunks
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced 
  • 1/2 cup of dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • Himalayan salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon of real saffron
  • 1 1/2 cups of cooked green peas
  • 15 black olives slices into rings
  • about 10 sun dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 can of artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1 1/2-2 cups of grated cauliflower rice
  • 3 cups of vegetable broth
  • Red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1 lemon cut into wedges to serve
  • 3 piquillo peppers
  • 1 tbs of extra virgin olive oil 
  • A handful of parsley for garnish
In a 13" paella pan or a large sauce pan, add the extra virgin olive oil and heat on medium. Toss in the piquillo peppers, onions, bell peppers and tofu and cook for 10 minutes.  Then add in the garlic, paprika, saffron, zucchini, olives, peas, artichokes and tomatoes and simmer for another 10 minutes. 
Stir in the cauliflower rice and stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for another 10-15 minutes or until most of the stock has disappeared. Add the salt, pepper and pepper flakes to taste.  
Remove from the heat, cover with aluminum foil, and bake in the oven at 350 for another 10 minutes.  When ready to serve, add the lemon and parsley. 
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What's the Deal with Raw Milk?

Posted by Julia McVeigh on

Wellness trends come and go – some of them are ephemeral, while others are more lasting. One consistent, ubiquitous and largely underground trend, however, is actually thousands of years old: Consuming raw milk.



For those uninitiated, raw milk is, simply put, milk that comes straight from the cow’s udder. Years ago, it wasn’t considered to be a conscious wellness decision to drink it; it was just the way things were done.



Given that most of us don’t own a cow, let alone have regular access to a farm, we get our milk from a grocery store. This milk is pasteurized – meaning it has undergone a sterilization process to kill off potentially harmful bacteria, viruses and microorganisms, such as e.coli. Pasteurization also helps to extend the shelf life of milk, enabling us to safely keep a gallon on hand for several weeks. Given that pasteurization creates a safer product, the FDA has declared the interstate sale of raw milk illegal, but state-by-state regulations vary. As of April 2016, the sale of raw milk in retail stores was legal in 13 states, while 20 states prohibit the sale of raw milk altogether.



Well, it turns out that the same microorganisms and bacteria that we kill off when we pasteurize milk may actually have some health benefits. Many claim that drinking raw milk can help do things like heal allergies, improve digestion and boost the immune system. In short, the concept of consuming “good” bacteria – now a firmly recognized wellness tenet – is at the core of the argument for raw milk. Some people are so insistent on the benefits of raw milk that they'll cross state lines in order to procure it. Very controversial stuff. 



Generally speaking, most medical practitioners – and the Center of Disease Control and Prevention – agree that drinking pasteurized milk is a much safer choice. They also think that the bacterial benefits of raw milk are largely overstated and the risks are far too great to outweigh any potential upside. While we here at BusyHappyHealthy can’t say definitively, we do think that pasteurization was invented for a reason (to prevent the spread of diseases like tuberculosis!) and aren’t really keen to rock the boat when it comes to this issue. We recommend sticking to organic, pasteurized milk, ideally purchased from a smaller producer and getting your healthy bacteria fix from probiotics or fermented foods. Or, forego the cow altogether and stick to homemade nut milks – our personal favorites!

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Grain-free High Protein Veggie Burger Recipe

Posted by Amina AlTai on

If you've followed this blog for a bit, you might have noted that I'm pretty sweet on protein—and for good reason!  Several studies have linked high protein diets with greater satiety and a more balanced blood sugar.  And a more balanced blood sugar generally means more balanced moods, energy and performance.  

So, when my husband chose to transition to a vegetarian diet last fall, my first concern was him getting enough protein.  A vital macronutrient, protein is considered a long chain amino acid, which are the most important molecules we derive from food. The highest protein content is usually found in animal products such as meat, eggs and dairy. However, plants such as legumes and seeds also contain protein.  

Protein is responsible for supporting muscle development and recovery, building and repairing tissue and we use protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals.  When we don't have enough diverse protein sources in our diets, it can lead to deficiencies in certain kinds of amino acids.  The result is usually lower energy, difficulty increasing muscles mass, poor concentration and memory, and even unstable moods and blood sugar.  It's fundamental to a healthy body.

When switching to a vegetarian diet, it's important to ensure you're getting complete protein.  Animal proteins are considered complete proteins as they contain the essential amino acids, but plant proteins are often incomplete on their own.  As such, you need to mix plant protein sources to achieve a complete essential amino acid profile.  See the chart below for ways to combine protein sources to achieve a complete protein.  

So, when I think about meal plans and a balanced plate for my husband, it's always with an eye towards complete proteins and that's where these veggie burgers come in.


2 cups of chopped portobello mushrooms

1 cup of fresh broccoli,  chopped

 1 15 ounce can of black beans

3 eggs, beaten

1 cup of almond meal

1/2 an onion, chopped

1 tbs of minced garlic

2 tbs of coconut secret teriyaki sauce

1/2 a tsp of pink Himalayan salt

Olive oil for frying


1. Chop the portobello mushrooms into small chunks and set aside

2. Drain the beans and spread them out onto paper towel.  This step is important.  Use the paper towel to press any extra moisture out of the beans.  Once dry, transfer to a bowl and mash. It's okay to have chunks, but try and mash well. 

3. Chop the broccoli quite fine and mix with the mushrooms.

4. Add the beans, garlic, almond flour, onions, eggs and seasonings to the bowl of mushrooms and broccoli.  Mix well.  

5. Heat the olive oil in a pan on medium-high heat and place palm-sized heaping of the mixture into the pan.  Allow to cook for several minutes, then flip.  

6. Remove from the pan and place on a paper towel to absorb any extra oil.  

7. Serve on a lettuce wrap or bun or your choice.

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Four Work Habits That May Be Derailing Your Health

Posted by Julia McVeigh on

We’ve discussed the importance of a healthy workplace at length on this blog, and rightfully so. After all, the average American spends 8.8 hours of his or her day in the office. To contextualize this, that’s more time than we spend doing any other activity, including sleeping. Given the outsize importance of work in our lives, fostering a healthy workplace is absolutely critical. That’s why we’re sharing the four sneakily (or not-so-sneakily) wellness-derailing work habits. Read on!


That Friday happy hour.

Let’s be clear about one thing: We’re all for team bonding and, for that matter, for a good old-fashioned happy hour. But post-work drinks can turn from casual to crushing quickly, which is why it’s important to be conscious of several things when punching out on Friday. For one, given that most of us roll right into happy hour straight from the office – usually on an empty stomach, at the end of a long week – drinking alcohol can impact us very, very quickly. Limit your drinks to one or two, maximum, and space them out, sipping on water on seltzer to ensure you stay hydrated. Moreover, if you know that a happy hour is looming, eat a protein-heavy snack before you head out the door, such as a serving of nuts, a hard-boiled egg or a low-sugar protein bar. Doing so will slow down the absorption of alcohol, plus you won’t be tempted to (slightly) drunkenly order that plate of chicken fingers.


That drive-by office candy bowl snag.

It may not seem like anything, but grabbing a scoop of M&Ms here or a couple of mini Twix bars there from the beloved office candy bowl can really add up throughout the day. In fact, you may be unwittingly and unconsciously downing hundreds of calories if you’re a regular candy bowl devotee. I say “unwittingly,” because when food isn’t technically “yours” – say, you’re picking off of your husband’s plate – it’s easy to disassociate from it. (In other words, you start to think those calories “don’t count.”) But your body doesn’t distinguish from your candy versus your office’s candy, so wise up.


Those days of marathon meetings.

Ever look at the clock and realize you’ve been sitting in a conference room for three hours? It’s a sobering (and bizarre) feeling. While your meeting might be productive work-wise, those long stretches of being sedentary really take a toll on your body. In fact, researchers and medical professionals alike are now sounding the alarms, noting that “sitting is the new smoking. We’re not saying abandon your meetings, but make a point to get up, stand and stretch your legs every 20 minutes or so, ideally for about five minutes. Don’t worry if your colleagues are giving you strange looks. Simply tell them, “I have some back issues and my doctor told me I need to get up and move regularly.” No one will say a peep.


That afternoon coffee break.

When I first started working, my younger colleagues and I made a habit out of getting out of the office around 4 o’clock to take a break, gossip and gulp down a latte. Many times I remember not even wanting coffee – and feeling jittery after consuming it – but I simply enjoyed the ritual. That’s understandable: I’m all for taking an afternoon break with work buds, especially if you're putting in long hours – which I did at the time. But relying on the quick fix of caffeine, particularly at that time of day, can really do a number on your bod: For one, it can tax your adrenals, leaving you feeling more rundown than you were pre-java. Furthermore, the additional of sweeteners and other sugary additives can cause your blood sugar to spike and then crash, again leaving you lethargic. Lastly, it can disrupt your sleep pattern, keeping you wide awake at night and  you guessed it  rendering you exhausted in the morning. So, by all means, head out for “a coffee” with your coworker, but opt for a sparkling water, low-sugar green juice or a caffeine-free herbal tea.

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Mercury and Seafood: What You Need to Know

Posted by Julia McVeigh on

Are you an avid podcast listener? Then perhaps you’ve tuned into S-Town, the white-hot podcast about John B. McLemore and the small town of Woodstock, Alabama. At the risk of totally digressing off-topic, the subject of mercury poisoning is touched upon repeatedly throughout the series and cited as a possible cause of some of McLemore’s more erratic behavior. While he repeatedly exposed himself to mercury through more technical methods – and the levels of exposure were much higher – it had me thinking: What role does mercury exposure play in our day-to-day lives?


This question is particularly pertinent for me; I am currently pregnant and ongoing, regular mercury exposure to a growing fetus can be quite harmful – producing neurological and development defects. The source of most of our mercury exposure? The foods we eat, particularly seafood. Given I’m a big fish fan, this was scary news. Are you concerned, too? Here’s what you need to know about mercury and seafood:


It’s an environmental issue. Sadly, our exposure to mercury is growing because of environmental pollution. In short, burning waste and coal causes this metal to be released into the air; every action has an equal and opposite reaction, so mercury then falls back into the earth, often settling in our oceans, lakes and streams. And this isn’t a concentrated issue: All 50 states have issued mercury advisories and as of 2010, 18 million lake acres and approximately 1.4 million river miles were covered by some type of consumption advisory.


Predatory fish are those highest in mercury. Given that mercury is found in our waterways, it’s no surprise that fish are adversely affected. In particular, predatory fish – such as shark, swordfish, ahi tuna, mackerel, marlin, tilefish and orange roughy – contain the highest levels of mercury, as their exposure amplifies as they consume other fish.


Pregnant women need to be the most cautious. While we all need to watch our mercury intake from the aforementioned fish (read: don’t have swordfish for dinner every single night), pregnant women are particularly at risk. Not only should you avoid eating these fish during pregnancy, if you’re considering getting pregnant you should ease up on the consumption of such food, as methylmercury can accumulate in your bloodstream over time.


Don’t freak out. I read all of these things about mercury after I had some mindless bites of my husband’s ahi tuna recently and basically lost my mind. But, really, I rarely did (and don’t) eat that varietal of tuna, and predatory fish are not and were not a regular part of my diet. The adverse risks significantly grow with steady, regular exposure, so simply be mindful of your consumption – and reduce it altogether when expecting. Plus, remember that other cultures – particularly the Japanese – eat a diet loaded in raw fish, including mackerel and ahi tuna  and continue to do so regardless of being pregnant. Furthermore, many fish – such as salmon and tilapia – are great sources of omega-3s, which are amazing for your growing baby and for you, regardless if you're pregnant. So, when it comes to mercury: be smart, be cautious but also be realistic. Which is pretty good life advice anyway, right? 

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