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Archive for the ‘Nutrition’ Category

Shaved Fennel & Zucchini Salad

In Nutrition, Recipe on April 17, 2016 at 8:50 pm

“Sometimes I can feel my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.”
~Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

shaved fennel salad

Shaved fennel & zucchini salad with pine nuts & feta

This list, NYT 100 Notable Books of 2014, makes me panic because I want nothing more than to spend my whole life reading every book of note. And I also want to take every yoga workshop continuing to see what my body can do. And I also want to be present for my children and inform and enrich their lives with my mothering. And I also want to cook wildly interesting food and host an endless stream of al fresco dinner parties where we discuss, into the wee hours of the night, ideas and books and yoga and parenting. And I want. And I want. And I want. How many lives can I stuff into this particular wild & precious one?

Surely, I am not the only one who has been overwhelmed with endless desires and continuous striving. When is enough enough? Contemplate that while you methodically piece together this simply delicious salad and let me know what you come up with…

1 medium-large zucchini, sliced into paper thin coins (a mandolin is helpful)
2 small fennel bulbs, trimmed and shaved paper-thin (again, a mandolin is key)

shaved fennel salad ingredients

Salad before adding dressing

2/3 cup loosely-chopped fresh dill
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
fine grain sea salt

1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
Feta cheese, crumbled

Combine the zucchini, fennel and dill in a bowl and toss with the lemon juice, olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside and marinate for 20 minutes, or up to an hour.

When you are ready to serve the salad, spoon zucchini-fennel mixture over arugula in a large bowl. Top with pine nuts and sprinkle with feta.

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Beat the Sugar Blues

In Nutrition, Recipe on January 7, 2016 at 4:35 am

sugar cookie

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” ~Marcel Proust

It’s the new year and everyone is suddenly “cleaning up” their act. The list of restrictions and no-no’s add up and SUGAR might be on 2016’s list of banned foods. Taking a hard look at your sugar consumption is always a good idea. Merely shining the light of awareness on an issue automatically changes the situation.

Eliminating sugar cold-turkey is quite difficult; however, making a real attempt at reduction is a worthy use of your intention and effort. If you are one of the few who still aren’t convinced that sugar is harmful, check out this and this and then get back to me when you’ve left the land of denial.

Here are some suggestions for scaling back your intake and reducing sugar cravings as well as a recipe to help you ease into healthier options that include a bit of sugar  along with a bunch of healthy other stuff like fiber and healthy fats to balance out your blood sugar.

Get honest about your relationship to sugar. Decide what level of importance you will give to this topic. Maybe it’s just not a priority for you. Maybe other issues in your life require more attention at this time. That’s OK, just demonstrate consistency with whatever approach and focus you choose.

hot chocolateMake sure you are getting enough carbohydrates as well as enough calories. Calorie deficits create cravings for fast energy sources (sugar!). It is very common to under-nourish yourself just enough to NOT lose significant weight but instead instigate late evening carb cravings due to lack of sufficient calories. Fueling yourself with plenty of HEALTHY carb calories from whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans will keep sugar cravings at bay.

Natural consequences. Maybe you are a bit of a masochist or need to be smacked upside the head before you make a change? If that sounds familiar, then allow yourself an opportunity to OD on sugar and suffer the consequences. Dehydration, headache, fatigue, need for more sugar – sound like an addict yet? The only permanent damage is the vivid memory of your choices.

Treat sugar as an actual “treat”. It’s become such a staple in our diets that we eat it daily instead of occasionally. Know which seemingly healthy foods have added sugars (yogurt, muffins, energy bars, cereal) and which are too high in natural sugars without the benefit of fiber (fruit juice, refined grains & flours). Combine protein and fat with all carbohydrates to curb the sugar spike & crash. Fiber helps with this issue as well.

If you feel unqualified to make decisions regarding this topic, The Nutrition Source by Harvard School of Public Health is great website with very accessible information for making healthy food choices based on science.

You can feel good about these muffins and so will your family. My kids declared these to be “delicious” and asked “when are you going to make these again?”

Winter Weather Muffinsmuffins - dry ingredients

1.5 cups white flour

3/4 cup ground flaxseed

3/4 oat bran

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon muffins - fruits and seeds

1 1/2 cups grated carrots

2 apples, peeled and diced

1/2 cup golden raisins

1 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup milk (cow, almond or soy)

2 eggs, beaten

1 tsp vanilla

Hemp or sunflower seeds (for muffin tops)

Combine dry ingredients. Combine milk, eggs, sugar and vanilla. Pour liquid into dry. Mix until moistened (don’t over-mix). Fold in carrots, fruits, and nuts.muffins - winter weather

Fill greased muffin tins to about 3/4 of the way then sprinkle with 1/2 tsp hemp or sunflower seeds. Bake at 350 for 12-15 mins. Smother with butter and enjoy! 

If nutrition is your thing then read this: good source of fiber, vitamin A, thiamin, manganese, and omega-3s.

1 muffin = 203 kcals, 9g fat, 8g sugar, 5g fiber, 6g protein.

Healthy Lunches for Kids

In Nutrition on October 21, 2015 at 4:20 am

“Time’s fun when you’re eating flies.” – Kermit the Frog

healthy lunches

Nobody likes packing school lunches. I used to put way too much pressure on myself to make it balanced even though my kids would rather run around during lunch time than eat (they consistently tell me they “don’t have enough time” to eat lunch). I am fine with this BUT kids do need nourishment to make it through the long school days that, honestly, seem pretty intense compared to what I experienced during my childhood. I wish they had more time for both playing AND dining. I find these two things to be most essential to life and wouldn’t it be nice if our schools could reinforce that? To that end, at my home, I’ve focused more on providing a solid, balanced breakfast than putting all my energy into lunch but that’s another post.

For some guidance in packing a healthy, balanced lunch that a kid might actually eat…see below:

  1. Three main elements to a healthy meal: protein, healthy (plant-based) fats, carbohydrates (mostly from fruit & vegetables). Proteins: tofu squares, hard-boiled eggs, lunch meat (nitrate-free), leftover meatballs, breakfast sausage, grilled chicken, hummus, edamame/other beans. Fats: olives, nuts, seeds, avocado, cheese, hummus. Carbs: whole fruits, raw or roasted veggies, whole wheat pasta spirals, mini whole wheat pitas, whole grain crackers, hummus, edamame/other beans.healthy snack
  2. Aim for fruits and vegetables making up 1/2 the meal.
  3. Evaluate the “healthy-ness” of the lunchbox, by noting the ratio of pre-packaged foods to whole foods that you have packaged yourself. Skip almost any food labeled “kids” or specially packaged for kids as they are usually loaded with sugar (think yogurt squeezers and fruit chews) and/or heavily manipulated to not resemble the whole food’s origin.
  4. Dip It! Besides ranch, try smashed avocado alone or mixed into mild salsa, nut butters with a drizzle of honey or mixed with fruit-sweetened jam, or hummus (do some taste-testing to find a hummus your kids will love!). Hummus covers all 3 healthy lunch elements so it’s worth finding a favorite brand.
  5. Easy on the candy bars masquerading as granola/energy bars. Good choices are salmonberry barLarabars, Kind Bars (without chocolate), and GoMacro Bars. These bars are both heavy on the nuts which provides plenty of protein and satisfying fats as well as fiber which is important for regulating blood sugar and energy. Kind and GoMacro have added sweeteners but sugar grams are reasonable and are balanced by the high fiber content.
  6. Facilitate the eating of less popular fruits & veggies by combining them with favorites that you know they will eat. Examples: pineapple & blackberries, carrots & apple slices, cucumber & orange slices, bell peppers & sliced grapes. The flavors mingle making veggies more palatable. Obviously, this strategy won’t work on the “separatist” children!
  7. WATER, WATER, WATER. A hydrated child is focused and calm within a healthy and cooperative body. There are no good reasons to give your child a juice box or even milk. If you must pack milk, give them whole, plain milk. Flavored, as well as low fat or 2%, milk, is piling on the carbs. Whole milk is more satiating and allows for a balanced metabolic response.
  8. Resist packing your child a dessert (at least not daily). Yes, sweet is one of the five flavors that, if included within a meal, will lead to palate satisfaction; however, this flavor can be addressed using fruit as opposed to a cookie. The habit of needing something sweet after every meal contributes to a life-long sweet addiction, potential future weight issues, or other health concerns such as an imbalance in the gut microbiome affecting mood, hormones, and nutrient uptake.

For accessible, evidence-based nutrition guidance that is current, check out The Nutrition Source by Harvard School of Public Health. Great resource website and they have a better version of the Healthy Plate (a graphic your kids may be familiar with…).

Ottolenghi’s Green Gazpacho

In Mindfulness, Nutrition, Recipe, Yoga on September 11, 2015 at 4:15 am
green gazpacho on grass

The greenest of green gazpachos

“Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith.” ~Margaret Shepard

Last night I took a yoga class from one of my very favorite teachers and she prefaced her class by acknowledging that life throws you many twists and blind turns which require faith and surrender in order to find the flow in the midst of uncertainty. She promised us that all the weirdness was leading up to something. Of course, she was referring to the vinyasa flow she was about to subject us to but, at the same time, she was asking us to acknowledge this parallel to life.

It’s been three months since I’ve posted. This is not due to writing drafts and failing to publish (although I still have an embarrassing backlog). Creativity was a luxury that I could not afford recently with my energy going to more practical matters. I’m finally pulling out of that period but not without a significant (and somewhat permanent) rearrangement of my daily life and routines. Well, to be fair, this hasn’t happened quite yet but I am already preparing for it. I’ll reveal more as a I fully wrap my brain around it and accept that I cannot see the future of this blind turn.

green gazpacho ingredients

All this green goodness goes straight into your processor or blender.

A heat wave is scorching San Diego right now and since the weather is usually so darn perfect year-round, many of us don’t have air conditioning. We aren’t used to the weather affecting our lifestyles let alone even being a discussion topic. Needless to say, there is a lot of whining going on and very little cooking. Gazpacho is a nice change from constant salad consumption – you get your greens but you don’t have to chew them!

This cold soup recipe is perfect for people who don’t usually like gazpacho. No tomatoes mean no acidity and no lingering urge to eat it with tortilla chips. There is something oddly addictive about this soup from Chef Ottolenghi’s cookbook – Plenty More. You can’t find the recipe online, only the ingredients, but, since it’s a gazpacho, the instructions are pretty intuitive: put everything in a blender and push the ‘on’ button. I didn’t follow the ingredients list exactly and will indicate where I deviated below:

Serves 6 (at least!)

2 celery stalks (including leaves)

2 small green peppers, seeded

6 mini cucumbers, peeled (I used Persian so I didn’t peel)

1 green chile (I chose a large jalapeno)

4 garlic cloves

1 tsp sugar (I used brown)

1.5 cups walnuts, lightly toasted

Parsley and Basil: Original recipe indicates 2 TBSP of parsley but I love its fresh, cleansing taste so I added a large handful of parsley while completely eliminating the basil (1 cup). I like basil but I guess I like parsley more – you decide. Maybe next time I will do a handful of each herb.

4 TBSP balsamic vinegar (original recipe calls for sherry vinegar but I prefer the caramelized sweetness of balsamic and perhaps this is the source of the addiction)

1 cup olive oil

3 TBSP greek yogurt (full-fat)

1 cup water (Ottolenghi uses 2 cups and 9 ice cubes. I like the taste with only 1 cup water so I stopped diluting)

salt & pepper

green gazpacho on the beach

Seagulls love this gazpacho too!

Croutons: toss cubes of sourdough baguette with olive oil and salt and bake at 375 for about 10 mins. Ottolenghi also added 3 slices of sourdough bread to his gazpacho but I left bread for the toppings only.

Directions:

1. Cram EVERYTHING GREEN (and garlic) into your processor first (leafy stuff on bottom, chunks on top)

2. Run it until its get really liquid-y, adding the one cup of water, if needed

3. After the veggies are fully processed, add balsamic, sugar, olive oil, and yogurt

4. Last, add the toasted walnuts and pulse until the texture suits you.

I like this soup best at room temp or only slightly chilled. The flavors aren’t as nuanced straight out of the fridge and, the fats, olive oil and walnuts, are best at room temperature as well.

Recommended consumption: on the beach with an icy Rose´

Stop Spooning Frosting Directly Into Your Mouth

In Nutrition on June 23, 2015 at 3:08 am

“Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” ~Michael Pollan

trans fats foods

Foods containing partially-hydrogenated oils.

Last week, the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) declared a ban on trans fats or partially-hydrogenated oil (PHOs) in foods and have given food manufacturers three years to phase out the ingredient. My first thought was “I thought trans fats were banned years ago!” and then “Who is still eating trans fats?” and next “Have I been inadvertently eating trans fats?”. It turns out that the answer is “Hell, no!” but my father, a microwave popcorn addict, has been unknowingly consuming 5 grams of trans fats almost nightly for years. Banning a food additive is pretty serious. There must be a mountain of evidence against PHOs.

Soon after these thoughts began batting around in my head, I received a call from a producer at Good Morning San Diego (see my clip here) asking if I could show up at 630am the next day to expertly address the issue of trans fats in our food supply and that I needed to bring props. At 10pm, I’m at my local Vons suspiciously filling my basket with containers of chocolate frosting, boxed donut holes, non-dairy french vanilla creamer, microwave popcorn, packaged cinnamon rolls, frozen pies, and ready-to-bake biscuits looking like I had a bad case of marijuana-induced munchies.

Until recently, trans fats had enjoyed GRAS, “generally recognized as safe”, status from the FDA. This status is given to substances that demonstrate a level of safety for which there is consensus and the substance is widely known. The FDA categorizes food additives – any substance intentionally added to food – based on their GRAS status. Most modern-day foods have been laced with some sort of food additive in order to preserve flavor, modify taste or appearance, and/or extend shelf-life. Some of the additives look scary but are really just the chemical compound name for vitamins and minerals. However, most other additives are chemicals that are basically innocent until proven guilty. Trans fats falls into this category.

In 2006, the FDA enacted new nutrition labeling laws requiring a line item designation of trans fats as a sub-header under Total Fat on the nutrition facts label. Major health advocates such as Harvard’s School of Public Health (HSPH) had been sounding the alarm of PHOs for years and the large body of research at HSPH has shown that high consumption of PHOs raises the risk of high blood lipid levels, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. After Tuesday’s ban declaration, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at HSPH said, “This represents an excellent example where evidence from nutritional research is translated into policies to improve public health.”

Bad press, along with the labeling move by the FDA and combined with New York City’s ban, later in 2006, on restaurants’ ability to use PHOs in deep fried foods, prompted most food manufacturers and restaurants to find alternatives rather than being identified and publicly shamed as using trans fats in their products. Therefore, this affordable fat that increases shelf-life and encourages stability of food products, had already been mostly phased out by the time the FDA announced the ban last week. Hence my confusion as to whether trans fats were still being consumed by myself or anyone else I spoke to on the topic.

me at KUSI

You Stay Classy, San Diego!

As my late night grocery store trip revealed, PHOs can still found in the following foods: anything battered & fried (in the freezer section), packaged baked goods (pastries, pies, cookies, biscuits, crackers), microwave popcorn, margarine and shortening (duh), non-dairy creamers, cake and pancake mixes, and plastic tubs of frosting. Adding to my confusion is the fact that manufacturers are not required to list trans fats on nutrition facts labels if it contains less than 1 gram of trans fat per serving. It is well-known that serving sizes stated on packaged foods are unrealistic (the FDA is currently revamping it’s nutrition facts label due to these concerns and others); therefore, these “small” amounts of PHOs add up and are now considered dangerous. A closer read of the ingredients lists of many packages with 0 grams of trans fats indicated that PHOs were indeed lurking in many products noted by the following words: partially hydrogenated, hydrogenated, or shortening.

Although I was relieved to see that I don’t purchase any of those food items on a regular basis, if at all, I was surprised by the response to my morning news segment. Many of my friends, family and neighbors (even the news anchor) regularly consume these food products and were relieved to be informed and encouraged to read ingredients lists.

I have a rule in my home that all desserts shall be homemade. This was an attempt to reduce the consumption of sweets with the idea that going through the effort of actually baking cookies or cinnamon rolls or whatever will discourage mindless eating of junk foods. The added, albeit unintentional, bonus of this rule is that we don’t consume PHOs in our home because we do all our own baking.

Trans fats are used in food manufacturing because of their high stability which increases the shelf life of the product and by restaurants as a less expensive oil option. Hydrogenated fats are produced in a laboratory and are difficult for the body to metabolize; therefore, they circulate in the blood longer becoming oxidized, causing cellular damage and increasing the risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). The hydrogenation process takes a liquid vegetable oil, most often those containing omega-6 fatty acids, and adds hydrogen which changes the chemical bonds of the liquid oil turning it into a solid.

Another related public health concern is the ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids in our blood. It is most likely due to the popularity of trans fats and their ubiquitousness, until relatively recently, in our food supply and the almost complete absence, again until recently, of grass-fed animal products in our food supply, that our blood lipid ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids are 10:1. Scientific research suggests that ratios of 4:1 and even 2:1 reduces the risk of CVD. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in salmon, sardines, walnuts, soybeans and flaxseed and are associated with decrease of inflammation. Trans fats are known to increase levels of inflammation as well as LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol”) while decreasing levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol. Higher levels of HDL are known to protect against risk of CVD and monounsaturated fat found in olives, nuts, seeds, avocados and peanuts increases HDL levels. Low levels of trans fats are found in dairy products and meat from ruminant animals (i.e. cows) perhaps supporting epidemiological study findings that diets rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains are associated with lower disease risk while the inverse is true for diets heavy in red meats.

cook the soup

Cook it yourself.

Eliminating trans fats is great step but the U.S. food supply is still far too high in refined starches, salt, sugar, and red meat and far too low in vegetables and whole grains. Americans rely far too heavily on purchasing our food whether it is from boxes on grocery store shelves or in paper bags from the drive-thru. The radical idea of actually preparing and cooking our own food would go a long way to improving the nation’s health as a whole. In a recent interview, Michael Pollan, celebrated food author of, among others, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, stated that cooking is “one of the most interesting things humans know how to do and have done for a very long time. And we get that, or we wouldn’t be watching so much cooking on TV. There is something fascinating about it. But it’s even more fascinating when you do it yourself.”

Food manufacturers have three years to devise a new way to add fat to their products and still maintain stability. As I stated in the news segment, I am curious to see what they come up with but you can bet that I still won’t be purchasing frosting that is able to sit on a grocery store shelf until next summer.

So bake a cake. From scratch. And make your own icing. It’s not that difficult and is much tastier than that boxed mix from Betty Crocker. But you had better eat it fast because it’s going to spoil quickly. And that’s not such a bad thing.

Super Green Silent Quinoa Salad

In Mindfulness, Nutrition, Recipe on June 7, 2015 at 3:04 pm
green quinoa salad

Green Quinoa Salad

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” ~W.B. Yeats

Silence is golden. And not just at the movie theater. I am speaking about intentional silence. Not silence because you live alone and didn’t leave the house all weekend. I tried being purposefully silent.

For 27 hours and 45 minutes, I went entirely without electronic and verbal communication.

In my own home, on an ordinary weekend, I spontaneously designed a mini, silence retreat. Since I had attended longer, silence retreats with groups at Zen Buddhist centers in the mountains outside LA and ashrams in India, I thought to myself – I’ve got this, it’s only one day – failing to take into account how supportive it is, both energetically and physically, to attend an organized retreat with others. Everything is set up for your success. The environment and everyone in it is dragging you along to finish line with their earnest intentions of spiritual salvation.

So why bother trying this on my own? Why would I or anyone want to do this? Aren’t there many more “fun” things one could be doing with their weekend? Well, cost and convenience, for one. But, also, because I really needed it. I was actually craving it. And I found it to be an accessible undertaking all on my own.

sound of silence

The sound of silence…

At organized silence retreats, journaling and reading are strongly discouraged. You are instructed not to give your mind anything to hold on to or work with. Without distractions your mind goes ballistic and roves wildly and aggressively from topic to topic. The resistance hits a fever pitch within the first 24 hours and right when you’ve decided to sneak out of your bunk in the middle of the night and haul ass home so you can at least talk – or something – everything goes quiet and you are flooded with joy as well as relief.

Since this at-home silence retreat was only approximately 24 hours, I allowed myself the luxury of cooking as a distraction. This recipe is perfect for focusing your attention at the task at hand rather than letting your mind wander into the future or fantasy (those might be the same thing!). The making of the herb paste is tedious (really tedious) but only if you are focused on finishing. If you merely focus on individually separating each leaf from each stem, one leaf at a time, it becomes very meditative and quite Zen. Cooking in a gentle and mindful manner while being conscious of your thoughts leads to super duper delicious food.

Ingredients:

2 cups quinoa

2 onions, peeled and very thinly sliced into rings
2 TBSP (I like more) olive oil
1/2 – 1 tsp ground cumin (or toast and grind your own seeds)

Herb paste
1/2 cup parsley
2 cups cilantro
1/2 cup dill
1/4 cup tarragon
1/4 cups mint, fresh
3 TBSP olive oil (try citrus-infused olive oils)

1 cup shelled pistachios (or sub tamari toasted pepitas)

3 cups baby arugula (1 box works great)

Cook quinoa in 2 cups of water in a rice cooker or on the stove-top until all water is absorbed. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes after cooking and then fluff with a fork.

herbs

Herbs for green paste: dill, cilantro, tarragon, mint, parsley

Use an immersion blender to process de-stemmed herbs and oil until very smooth. Can be made up to 2 days ahead of time. I recommend making a large batch and freezing for future use. You can stir this paste into almost anything to add tons of flavor. And, yes, the herb paste is very tedious to make. So (if you aren’t on a homegrown silence retreat) put on some music, get really zen, maybe have a glass of wine, and hyper-focus on separating tiny leaves from their stems.

It can be a good idea to do this part the night before. Store the de-stemmed herbs between damp paper towels in plastic baggies. Herb paste can be stirred into greek yogurt as a topping for grilled fish or whipped into hummus or spread on sandwiches.

Meanwhile, in a small frying pan, heat oil and add cumin. Add onions and sauté over medium heat until soft and golden brown.

Add the herb paste to the fluffed quinoa and use fork to thoroughly combine. Add the hot onions to the arugula and toss well. Then add green quinoa and mix well. Lastly, top with pepitas or pistachios. Serve immediately or chilled.

Spinach & Kale Soup with Tahini-Dressed Chickpeas

In Nutrition, Recipe on May 15, 2015 at 2:35 am

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”~Lao Tzu

frozen soup

Leafy green soup with tahini and chickpeas

Hey there! Not all “processed” food is bad.

Stocking your freezer with frozen fruits and vegetables is an easy, affordable way to get more servings of these plants into your diet. Frozen fruits and veggies can be just as, if not more, nutritious than fresh fruits and veggies. This is because nutrients are lost in the process of harvesting, packaging, storing, transporting, and then displaying fresh produce. Vitamins and minerals can be sensitive to heat, light, and oxygen or, in the case of vitamin C, all three!

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and is doing it’s neutralization job by reacting with the oxidants of heat, light, and oxygen. The easy loss of vitamin C is a case for cutting and peeling your fruit immediately prior to consumption to reduce nutrient loss as well as a case for shopping at your local farmer’s market where the time that lapses between harvest and purchase is as short as possible. Additionally, think about how much time your fruits and veggies spend in your refrigerator before consumption.

On the other hand, commercially-processed frozen foods are often flash-frozen very soon after harvest in a process which retains a maximum amount of nutrients and superior levels of antioxidants compared to fresh produce. Additionally, since these fruits and veggies are intended to be frozen soon after picking, they are left to naturally ripen longer than a fruit or veggie that needs to be transported and stored and, possibly, artificially-ripened. More time to naturally ripen equals, again, higher levels of nutrients and antioxidants.

You know what I’m talking about, you have about 36 hours to consume those strawberries that you bought at the farmer’s market before they go soft and smelly on you; however, the plastic box from Costco lasts at least 4 days in your fridge but never tastes quite as sweet and fragrantly delicious as the ones from your local farmer. Well, those frozen strawberries will have a taste closer to the farmer’s market strawberries along with the superior nutrient profile. Admittedly, you will lose out when it comes to texture. Which is why frozen fruits and veggies are perfect for soups, smoothies, and baked dishes where texture isn’t quite as important.

frozen veggies

Frozen veggies: affordable, storable, and super nutritious.

With all the being said, this soup is delicious as well as nutritious and features easy, affordable, long-storing, frozen vegetables!

The other main ingredients (chickpeas, veggie broth, and tahini) are all shelf-stable, potentially allowing you to stock your freezer and pantry with all the necessary ingredients (just pick up lemons and parsley) so you’ll be ready to make this soup at a moment’s notice.

2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp dried chili flakes
16 oz frozen spinach
16 oz frozen kale
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
4 cups vegetable broth
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preparing the soup: Heat oil in large saucepan. Add onion, garlic and chili, lower the heat and let stir for a couple of minutes or until softened. Stir occasionally. Stir in spinach, kale and nutmeg and gently cook for 1 minute. Then broth and cook for 20 more minutes. Blend it silky smooth with an immersion blender and season to taste.

3 TBSP tahini
3 3TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1 organic lemon, juiced
1 small handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
15 oz (1 can or 2 cups) chickpeas/garbanzo beans

Preparing the Chickpeas: Whisk tahini, oil and lemon juice together in a mixing bowl. Add parsley, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Add the chickpeas and mix it all up with your hands, make sure every single chickpea is coated. These just get yummier the longer they marinate so make ahead and enjoy for days. Another option for the tahini-dressed chickpeas: toss over hot soba noodles cooked with carrot peels.

Moroccan Carrot & Garbanzo Bean Salad

In Nutrition, Recipe on May 7, 2015 at 10:03 pm

“Life is a long preparation for something that never happens.” ~William Butler Yeats

peeled carrots

Carrots ready for the mandolin

Scientific inquiry has finally figured out why we consume sugar in response to stress. Apparently sugar reduces levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. For the general public, this big reveal was kind of a “so what?” or “duh!” moment. Any super stressed-out human being has known that they feel soothed after eating sugar. However, scientists and nutritionists are excited because perhaps understanding metabolic pathways sensitive to sugar will lead to answers for treating stress-related conditions.

moroccan salad

Carrots, mint, dried fruit.

It seems the human condition is forever chasing the solution to reducing stress levels because, well, stress will kill you (recommended reading: Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers). And, unfortunately, so will our most easily abused response to stress, sugar. When you are listening to Pink Floyd on a gloomy May Gray day (as I will admit to now), the inclination is to reach for something comforting. I recommend backing away from the dessert items (even if it is Chia Pudding) and embracing soothing sugars in the form of complex carbohydrates and fiber such as a salad of beans, root veggies, and dried fruit.

Yes, I am being serious. This approach is just as effective without the dreaded sugar hangover along with guilt. Luckily, this comfort food salad gets better with time so make a batch, store in the fridge and break it out for emergencies. All the sweet carbs – garbanzo beans, dried apricots & plums, and carrots – break down getting all mushy and marinated in the cumin, oil, lemon juice, and honey – yum!

Serve tossed with arugula and chopped almonds as a salad or layer it on a romaine leaf (a ala Salmonberry Spread) with avocado and more cayenne. Drink hot mint tea while consuming. Perfection. Here it is…

Dressing: 1 TBSP cumin seeds

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 TBSP fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

cumin and oil

Toasted and ground cumin seeds with olive oil.

Salad: 2 cups carrots, sliced whisper thin on a mandolin (shredded works too)

2 cups cooked garbanzo beans (or one 15- ounce can, drained and rinsed)

1/3 cup dried plums, chopped

1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped

1/3 cup fresh mint, torn or chopped

To make the dressing, first toast the cumin seeds in a dry skillet until fragrant and lightly browned, a minute or two. Let cool, and grind to a powder with a mortar and pestle. Yes, this is more work but totally worth it.

In a bowl or jar, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, honey, ground cumin, salt, and cayenne pepper. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the carrots, garbanzo beans, dried fruit, mint. Gently toss with dressing until everything is evenly coated and refrigerate. Store for up to 3 days in the fridge.

moroccan carrot salad

Serve on a romaine leaf topped with avocado and cayenne.

Green Soup

In Mindfulness, Nutrition, Recipe on April 8, 2015 at 3:48 am

“Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.” ~Mark Twain

green soup - cilantro in pot

Start with cilantro and a big pot

I’m so sick of waiting for the perfect time. To say what’s on my mind. To write what’s on my heart. To learn that new skill. To move into the perfect house. To take that trip. To be good enough. To feel safe. But then I realized that I’m not waiting. I am slowly moving in that direction with daily micro decisions and just mere thoughts of how badly I want to be there, feel that, know it. Slowly it (all that I want and desire) is coming to me and, when I take the time to realize this, the sheer gratitude takes my breath away. This grateful recognition would not be felt, if I had not deliberately slowed things down from all the wanting and striving and hoping and pushing and pulling and yearning. Consciously choosing throughout the day to do what feels aligned to me (and only me – no advice or input from anyone else) is the most direct way to stay on the path meant for me. The only path that feels right and that comes to me with grace and ease.

I have no idea what this has to do with making green soup but I just had to say it and I wasn’t going to wait.

Spring has sprung and so have the greens! Although the birds are chirping and there are more sunlight hours, it is still a bit chilly so this soup allows you to get your fresh greens and still feel warmed from the inside out.

1 bunch chard

1 bunch kale

green soup ingredients

Kale, chard, scallions, and cilantro

4 to 5 green onions, sliced, white and green parts

1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro

1 -3 tsp sea salt

1 medium potato (whatever type suits you)

1 medium yellow onion

1-3 TBSP olive oil

1 – 6 cloves garlic, smashed with the back of your knife

Some vegetable broth

Meyer lemons

Freshly ground black pepper

Cayenne

Wash the greens thoroughly, trim off their stems, and slice the leaves. Combine the chard, kale, green onions and cilantro in a large soup pot with 3 cups water and a teaspoon of salt. Peel the potato, cut it into small pieces, and add it to the pot. Bring the water a boil, cover and let the soup simmer for about half an hour.

green soup - caramelized onions

Caramelized onions

Meanwhile, chop the onion, swirl the olive oil in a cast-iron skillet, and cook the onion with a sprinkle of salt over medium flame until it is golden brown and soft. This will take up to half an hour. Don’t hurry; give it a stir once in a while, and let the slow cooking develop the onion’s sweetness. Don’t be afraid of oil and salt. As long as they don’t come in the form of a potato chip, they are not to be feared. Add the caramelized onion to the soup.

Using the same skillet, pile up the smashed cloves of garlic in the middle of the pan and pour some oil over them and generously salt. Let them sizzle and smell good, then add the garlic to the pot and simmer the soup for 10 minutes more.

Use an immersion blender to puree the soup but don’t over process, potatoes can turn gummy it you work them too much. Add only as much broth as you need to thin it to the consistency that works for you. I just added a splash or two of broth. Lastly, squeeze half a Meyer lemon and plenty of fresh ground black pepper into the pot and perhaps a pinch of cayenne.

green soup - final

Drizzle with fruity olive oil & fresh cracked pepper

 To serve garnish with a drizzle of fruity (blood orange?!) olive oil…delicious.

S&M Soup

In Nutrition, Recipe on February 9, 2015 at 2:04 am

“Life itself is the proper binge.” ~Julia Child

s&m soup

In honor of Valentine’s Day and the release of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie, I’ve masterminded a soup that is for the brave, wacky, and tad bit suicidal parts of all us (oh, come on, don’t play coy with me). I haven’t read the Fifty Shades of Grey book (heard the writing was terrible but that’s not the point, right?) and I’m not sure I’ll watch the movie since I’m not convinced the acting will be very good. But I do recommend watching Secretary with James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal for a bit of uncomfortable but fascinating entertainment in a sexy, disturbing way. Kind of like this soup.

Speaking of sexy. It didn’t used to be sexy to speak about your colon and it’s functions or contents. And while it’s still not exactly sexy, it does seem to be the hippest new topic out there. The registered dietitian’s mantra has always been “The road to health is paved with good intestines.” And now it seems that everyone else cares about their colon as well. Now it’s totally hip to eat – and make your own – fermented foods like kefir, kimchi, kraut, and kombucha (this blog post brought to you by the letter “K”). Kimchi has a powerful, sour-spicy kick and I love it with fried eggs so I thought this soup was worth a try.the joy of food

Since it consists mostly of kimchi and gochujang with some tofu and scallions thrown in, this soup is kind of dark and dangerous. If the Korean spices aren’t intense enough then wait until the end when you top your bowl with a raw egg yolk. I freaked out at the last minute and tried to soften the blow by adding avocado. This soup has an oddly addictive quality to it but I’m not sure that I actually enjoyed eating it. Hence the name of the soup.

All of the gut-friendly benefits of fermented kimchi are lost in this soup recipe but that shouldn’t stop you from taking pleasure from this spicy, broth-y, brooding soup. All encounters with food need not be transactional. You are allowed to eat for pure pleasure from time to time. Stand down from the vigilance around “being healthy”. Treat yourself with kindness. But, if you want more info about maintaining a healthy gut, read on or skip to the recipe below.

Traditional fermented foods like kimchi (and miso and kraut) contain live bacteria (if not super-heated) essential for a healthy gut which in turn positively affects your immune system, endocrine system, and nervous system. For a quick summary on your gut and mental health, read Happy Gut, Happy You and for a more in-depth look at how our gut affects our mind (with links to interesting research), read this article and podcast from NPR.

Fermented and Pickled are not the same thing. Pickling often involves vinegar and sometimes sugar. Fermentation only requires water and salt and the fermentation occurs spontaneously with naturally-occurring bacteria found on the vegetables – well, really, it’s airborne and found on many things, even the glassware used during fermentation. kimchi ingredientsAdditionally, pickled products are shelf-stable through high-heat pasteurization so, even if they did have some beneficial bacteria (which they don’t), it would be destroyed by this process.

To find authentic, fermented products they must be located in the REFRIGERATED section of your market and will most likely have the words “raw”, “live cultures”, or “probiotics” somewhere on the front of the label. Read the back of the label as well for the ingredients list. Avoid sugar, MSG, and preservatives.

S&M Soup Ingredients:

1lb. silken tofu, cubed

1 TBSP raw sesame oil

4 cups cabbage kimchi, gently squeezed and chopped, plus 1 cup liquid

2-4 TBSP gochujang (what can you handle?)

8 scallions, sliced thinly

2 TBSP tamari (I used reduced-sodium)

1 TBSP toasted sesame oil

6 large egg yolks (or 1 per bowl)

a shake or two of toasted sesame seeds

kimchi and gochujangHeat oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Pour liquid off jar of kimchi (reserve) and coarsely chop. Add kimchi to the heated oil (first!) and then add gochujang (or it will start popping and sizzling and splattering everywhere!). Cook, stirring often, until beginning to brown, 5–8 minutes. Add kimchi liquid and 8 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until kimchi is softened and translucent, 35–40 minutes.

Meanwhile bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Reduce heat, carefully add tofu cubes, and simmer about 4 minutes. The original recipe stated that the tofu will be slightly puffed and firmed up. I saw no such change in the tofu. I simply waited for them to rise to the top like ravioli. This might have been a tofu-cooking-failure but tofu doesn’t actually need to be “cooked from a food safety perspective. Using a slotted spoon, transfer tofu to a medium bowl.

Add scallions, soy sauce, and tofu to kimchi broth; simmer gently about 20–25 minutes. Add sesame oil. Ladle soup into bowls; top each with an egg yolk and sesame seeds. Attempt to enjoy.