upcoming: a week of super breakfasts!

Though I fully believe that there is no ONE right way to eat, no single diet that solves all health problems, no one-size-fits-all answer to eating for wellness, there are some things that ring true for almost everyone.  Eat more vegetables. Drink more water. Sleep.  And eat a good breakfast!  I understand that some people just CAN’T eat in the morning; their bodies don’t want to.  But more often I hear about people who don’t have the time, don’t make the time, or, if they have the time, don’t know what food to make! As someone who wakes up starving, creating healthy breakfasts has been a hugely important part of my food journey.  So, I want to share some of my favorites with you! This coming week (starting Monday, 8/20), I’ll be posting once a day with a new nutrient-dense, sustaining, easily-assembled Super Breakfast! My goal is to pass on as many ideas as I can to help you quickly and easily pack your morning with delicious nutrition. So stay tuned!

dairy in the raw

YOUGUYS, it’s summer! I decided it was finally time to take the cover off the ol’ Bianchi, fill up her tires, and take a ride through the afternoon sunshine in Santa Monica.  My sore butt muscles told me that the hills between me and the beach were not a good idea, so I took the flat path north to the Co-Op natural foods store on Broadway.

How have I lived in Santa Monica for over a year and never been to this place?! It’s basically a cheaper, cooler, non-corporate Whole Foods.  Plus, they had a lot of stuff that Whole Foods doesn’t carry, including one particular item I’ve been hunting lately: raw dairy.

Dairy is a subject that I won’t claim to have figured out; whether or not I feel it’s ethical to produce, if my body digests it well, if I should recommend that other people eat it, etc.  I’m not surprised that many people are puzzled about the role dairy should play in their diet.  Movies like Forks Over Knives warned me about the links between animal proteins and our country’s epidemic of lifestyle diseases like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.  I’ve been told (and can vouch, as you probably can) that it is mucous-forming; this can be harmful to our digestion and nutrient absorption.  But we also hear about our need for calcium and fat-soluble vitamins like A and D and how dairy is the best source. It’s confusing! Part of me says, “Emily, no other species on the planet drinks another species’ milk, or any milk at all after infancy. Isn’t it strange that humans do?” But another part of me says, “Gee, I sure do like brie.” What’s a girl to do?

The Weston Price Foundation will have you know that dairy is not only an acceptable, but important part of a healthy diet.  Weston Price was a dentist who became fascinated by links he saw between dental health, and nutrition and physical health.  In the 1930’s, he studied a number of non-industrialized cultures across the globe with their traditional diets still intact.  His idea was to figure out what common factors existed in these diets and how they contributed to the stellar health of the people eating them.  I love this approach, because clearly industry, technology, and the lack of traditional eating practices in the United States is part of how we got to the unhealthy place we are today.  If what we’re doing now isn’t working, it only makes sense to observe the diets of people who survived, thrived, even, without pharmaceuticals, dietary supplements, or least of all, Cheetos.

So what did Price find? Lots of really interesting stuff, but I’m going to focus on his findings that related to dairy before this turns into my post-bacc thesis.  First of all, of the 10 “primitive” diets that he studied, all of them contained animal products.  Secondly, all of these diets contained TEN TIMES the amount of vitamins A and D that the typical modern American diet does.  Remember, these are cultures with no access to any modern methods of cultivating or processing food whose people boasted exceptional, robust health. To make what could be a really long story short, Price figured that A and D must be super important for developing healthy humans, and his subsequent research proved this to be true.  And it turns out that A and D aren’t really vitamins that we can get easily from plant foods.  This guy is making a great case against vegans, eh?!

Before you go guzzling a gallon of Alta Dena 1%, there are two crucial differences between the way these cultures ate their dairy and the way Americans do today:

1) THEY DIDN’T TAKE OUT ANY FAT. Before the onset of Fatphobia, and before there was a way to remove fat from dairy, people drank (gasp!) whole milk.  Straight from the cow or goat or sheep.  Remember how A and D are fat-soluble vitamins? That means our bodies need fat to absorb them.  So go ahead, take the fat out of your milk…but you won’t be getting the benefits of those incredibly important vitamins, which is probably the reason you think you’re supposed to be drinking the milk in the first place.  We also need fat in order to use calcium properly; consuming calcium-rich milk sans fat is going to send that calcium to all the wrong places (i.e., not your bones, where you want it, but your arteries where it hardens and becomes atherosclerosis.)

2) THEY DIDN’T PASTEURIZE IT. Of course they didn’t, because they drank it straight out of the animal! Pasteurization is a process of sterilization invented by Louis Pasteur in the 1860’s to prolong the shelf-life of milk by killing microorganisms and pathogens.  It also comes in handy today because most of the cows we use for milk live in their own filth and are very sick due to grain diets that are unnatural to their systems; it only makes sense that we should want to sterilize THAT milk.  But the milk of these primitive cultures came from grass-fed cows that were well taken care of and healthy, so there was no need to pasteurize anything.  That’s not all– as it turns out, pasteurization does all kinds of crazy things to milk! I can already sense you falling asleep at your computer, so I’ll summarize: Pasteurization involves heating up the milk to kill all of this stuff so it will last longer and be sterile.  But the heat also kills or warps the stuff in milk that’s GOOD for us, ultimately making the milk harder for us to digest and devoid of nutrients that we need.  Proteins become misshapen and our body mounts an immune defense against them.  Also, because enzymes present in raw milk have been killed, the body must supply its own enzymes to digest the milk, requiring more energy.

Moral of Price’s story? Consume dairy the way the primitive cultures did; full-fat and raw.  But good luck finding raw dairy products– it took a visit to the Co-Op for me to find it.  It’s still highly “controversial” (and illegal to transport across state lines!), probably because of the dairy industry’s influence in Washington; of course Big Dairy corporations want you to buy their mass-produced, pasteurized dairy, which should be pasteurized because it comes from filthy, sick cows.  But find yourself a nice family farm with grass-fed cows, and eating their raw dairy should not cause you any worry.

I should reiterate that this is just one perspective on dairy.  I’d say the jury’s still out, and may never truly reach a verdict on dairy consumption.  It’s different for everyone and there are a million different ways of looking at it!  I’m fascinated by this raw vs. pasteurized comparison and am willing to give raw dairy a shot.

Wow, all of that was to tell you… I ate a grilled cheese for lunch today.  A delicious, raw-cheddar grilled cheese with heirloom tomatoes and avocado on sprouted wheat bread.  It looked like this:

Happy summer, everyone! Hope this provided you with some light beach reading.

For a plethora of information on raw dairy and Weston Price’s research, please visit http://www.westonaprice.org/.

don’t call it a doughnut

Sometimes we must ponder life’s big questions.  Today I find myself asking, what makes a doughnut a doughnut?  Is it the white flour used to make the dough? Is it the refined sugar, melted into a sweet glaze that coats the outside? Perhaps the partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in which we fry the doughnut is its very essence.  Naively failing to consider such philosophical queries, I made these yesterday, brought them to a party, and called them “doughnuts.”

They look like doughnuts, right? They’re round, they have a hole in the middle and a chocolatey sheen with fun rainbow sprinkles.  You just might think I had Googled “doughnut” and followed a Paula Deen recipe.  Much to the dismay of my partygoing peers, this was not the case.  I had made dough using spelt and almond flours, baked it, and dipped the result in dark chocolate and coconut oil, creating in my own delusional health-nut mind something that could be passed off as a doughnut.  Here’s the real kicker, though: it wasn’t any of the above doughnut criteria that made my creation unacceptable, or at least unaccepted in the doughnut category.  In fact, I don’t think I revealed any ingredients before my plate of treats was given wrinkle-nosed glances.  The only words I uttered were, “These are vegan.”

That’s all it took.  Just that one label was enough for my goodies to be blacklisted (!).  I totally get that sometimes, people just want to eat junk; I want that, too.  But it wasn’t the lack of white flour or refined sugar or trans fat that turned people away- it was the lack of animal products.  What a strange requirement of a doughnut, I thought to myself!  Of all the things that make a doughnut a doughnut, I would not have guessed that eggs from a chicken and butter made from cow’s milk would be on the list.

To be fair, 5 of the 6 doughnuts did get eaten (one by me… and then the 6th also by me this morning).  I think the main contention held by my friends was that I chose to call them doughnuts, when clearly they didn’t size up to the prototype of doughnutship that they expected. But I was surprised at the stigma that came with the term “vegan.”  A few people mentioned doubts about texture; fine, maybe eggless baked goods are denser.  Does the mere possibility of that make them so much less appealing that you don’t dare even try it? Ultimately, I think it was my doughnuts’ unconventionality that garnered skepticism.  I don’t have to convince you that humans tend to reject things, ideas, people just because they’re different. It appears we’re the same way with food.

This stinks, especially with mounting evidence that animal products (along with processed, refined, and packaged crap) play a huge role in the development of the lifestyle diseases that plague our country.  I am not vegan, nor do I think everyone should be.  But I do think everyone should be taking a good look at what they put into their bodies, and more importantly, keeping an open mind about new ways of eating that could be change for the better.

In the meantime… more “doughnuts” for me!

the joy of overnight oats

Baking is becoming a part of my weekend routine.  It’s not that there’s some cause I’m trying to support with a bake sale, or that I’m preparing for a life of domesticity where I keep my husband happy with cookies, or even that I’m disguising some unhealthy relationship with food by making tons of it and pawning it off on my coworkers (tell me you know these people, too!).  The real reason is that I love eating cookies, cake, granola bars, muffins, you name it- but I disagree with how most people, especially food manufacturers, make them. My biggest gripes are the over-representation of refined sugar, refined carbohydrates, preservatives, and crap I can’t pronounce, and the lack of whole grains and healthy fats that can be easily integrated into treats.  So instead of depriving myself the immense joy that can be obtained by eating baked goods, I make them myself.  I do a little research, I spend a little (lot of?) money at Whole Foods, and I give myself some weekend time in the kitchen to insure that my week’s snacking is taken care of.  A lot of the time, I don’t even consider this stuff share-worthy, because I know that most people would take one bite of what I’m calling a “cookie” and be very confused.  Not that it doesn’t taste good, but most of us (myself included) are very accustomed to the nutritionless versions of these things.  My plan is to wean myself slowly, so that one day eating conventional sweets will just be a junk-overload on my system and consuming them will be impossible.  I’ll let you know how that turns out…

Today, I made Karen Morgan’s gluten-free cherry oat bars. They’re a lot like my chewy cherry oat bars, but way easier and with less ingredients.  Mine are sweeter and something I would maybe even peddle as dessert; these are really just a granola bar.  But, at least for me, they satisfy that sweet/carby craving I get after a meal.  Also, I am in love with these videos- I can only find 5 of them but they’re humorously edited and the theme song is damn catchy.

Another trend in my life (because that’s why you read this, to know about trends in my life?) is OVERNIGHT OATMEAL! Caps lock very necessary.  Basically, I can’t currently think of a better breakfast option than oatmeal in terms of ease, simplicity (I always have rolled oats and water, usually nutmilk, and they’re so easy to fancy up with whatever else you have on hand!) and, most importantly, nutrition; basic whole grain, very amenable to the other nutrient-rich stuff you throw in it (fruit, nuts, nut butter, flax!).  I know they can be microwaved, and that even on the stovetop they don’t take very long, but I’ve stumbled upon a way to eat them that I like even better and takes even LESS time.  Allow yourself to consider eating cold oatmeal for a second.  Not cooked oatmeal that’s been sitting out for god-knows-how-long-but-you-eat-it-anyway, but delicious, RAW oats that have been soaking in nutritious nut milk all night, topped with other delicious goodies.  And, the best part is, you do all the work at night, and literally just have to grab the tupperware out of the fridge on the way to work! I think that’s my favorite part and the root of the obsession- the 15 minutes I’ve shaved off my morning routine.

Here’s a basic how-to:

  1. Start with 1/4 cup rolled oats.
  2. Add 1/2 cup soy, almond, or hemp milk (or regular milk, I suppose- haven’t tried it).
  3. Stir in 1 tablespoon ground flax OR chia seeds.
  4. Put it all in a sealed tupperware overnight, give it a quick stir in the morning, and enjoy!

Flavor/texture ideas:

  • Vanilla or almond extract
  • Unsweetened applesauce
  • Organic canned pumpkin
  • Honey
  • Nut butter (you can add this in the morning or at night)
  • Fruit! Bananas especially! (add this in the morning)
  • Cinammon, nutmeg, cardamom- add these with some pumpkin and you’ve got yourself pumpkin pie for breakfast!

The oats will absorb the liquid and acquire a texture not unlike cooked oats, but a little better in my opinion- less mushy, I guess.  Do NOT omit the flax or chia seeds.  These both absorb liquid, too (chia seeds especially- 10 times their weight!) and help “cook” the oats.  They are also both omega fatty acid superstars, so you should eat them, anyway! Chia seeds turn into gelatinous little blobs, which sounds gross, but isn’t. It’s pretty cool, actually. I promise.

I don’t consider my bowl of oats complete unless it has something a bit sweet (so if I don’t add a banana, I’ll use honey in the mix at night) and some kind of nut butter.  Almond is a great neutral flavor that I found works great with the pumpkin pie flavors, or with applesauce and cinnamon.  Peanut butter is a stronger flavor but I know I don’t have to remind you how awesome it goes with bananas.

Give these a try before it gets too cold and you want hot oatmeal all winter! And maybe carve yourself (pumpkin joke) some time next weekend to do some healthy baking? Here are some of my favorite recipes if you need inspiration:

Trailmix Cookies from 101 Cookbooks
Doughballs from Peas and Thank You
Breakfast Bake from Edible Perspective <–(I turn these into muffins)

the winner

Every once in awhile, I throw a hodge podge of stuff into a pot and hope for the best. It’s never terrible, usually enjoyable to consume, and sometimes, it’s flipping delicious. This one wins. I don’t even know what else to call it besides “the winner.”

The Winner

  • 3/4 cup quinoa (cooked with vegetable broth for extra flavor if you want)
  • 3 small carrots (they were real small), chopped
  • 1/2 large zucchini, chopped
  • 3/4 cup green beans, chopped
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1 cup chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • cranberries
  • cilantro
  1. Cook the quinoa.
  2. Sautee the veggies (carrots first, then add the zucchini, and green beans last) and add the curry powder as you cook.
  3. Throw everything together- don’t forget the cranberries and lots of cilantro! You won’t regret it.

Winning.

some thoughts on quinoa

Floating island of Uros on Lake Titicaca

Last summer, I spent 11 weeks traveling throughout South America.  Wouldn’t it be awesome if I had been majorly influenced by the traditional cuisine of the countries I visited, and came home with new, exotic eating habits?  For sure.  But it didn’t really happen.  Despite living with locals and trying my best to glean gastronomical knowledge, I have to say that South American fare left me relatively unimpressed.  Some observations: Argentinians eat boatloads of red meat at late hours of the night.  Chileans like their meat, too, and lots of refined carbohydrates (one big bonus: avocado at nearly every meal). Prevalence of stomach bugs in Bolivia drove me to eat a strict diet of Clif bars while I was there.  The one gift Peruvians gave me is quinoa; since it’s a bit of a health food fad in the states, I was already pretty well-versed in the grain.  However, Peruvians eat quinoa in a whole new dimension than Americans do.  I present to you my one South American gastro-takeaway: Quinoa for breakfast.

When you think about it, there’s no good reason that the only whole grain that’s been mainstreamed as an American breakfast food is oatmeal (I guess you could count grits, but corn isn’t exactly a grain).  Oats aren’t inherently any more breakfasty than rice, barley, millet, and least of all, quinoa.  We’ve just arbitrarily assigned them to be our hot cereal breakfast staple when there’s a variety of other whole-grain options to choose from.  And I recommend quinoa.  First of all, it’s so flipping good for you that NASA feeds it to astronauts on space missions.  It’s a complete protein, meaning it contains a balanced set of amino acids; this is super rare for plants, especially grains.  Speaking of protein, a cup of cooked quinoa gives you almost 10 grams.  Tell that to the genius who thinks you need animal products at breakfast.

There’s a caveat.  Like many foodnomena of the past, Americans have found a way to take an amazing discovery, exploit it, and produce it in a way that’s terrible for the world.  People of the Andean region (Peru, northern Chile, and Bolivia mainly) have been enjoying the nutritional benefits of quinoa sustainably for literally thousands of years. “Quinoa” is a Quechua word. Quechua, as in, the language of the Incas, who fed quinoa to their soldiers.  We’re talking old-school here. Now that every yoga-pant wearing Whole Foods shopper is hot for the stuff, the demand for quinoa in the Andes has sky-rocketed.  That’s great if you’re an Andean farmer, because, cool, more people want your quinoa.  But it sucks majorly if you’re a poor, rural-dwelling citizen that now can’t afford to eat the nutritious staple of your ancestors.  It’s fine, though, because the corporate food products of the U.S. are so pervasive that you can probably find highly processed, mass-produced crap for very cheap.  We’ll be over here in America, eating your quinoa.

Sad, ironic, true… and probably confusing.  Like, should I eat quinoa, or what?! Yes, you should, but not by the truckfull.  And more importantly, stop buying processed food products made by big U.S. corporations.  When you do this, you’re voting with your dollar to support the companies that are making our country, and the rest of the world, malnourished.  You have the luxury of making informed decisions about what you eat, but not everyone can be that fortunate.  Little Bolivian children are growing up on white bread and Coke that were produced here.  Part of the reason that I found South American food so underwhelming is that much of the traditional, culture-rich diet has been replaced with our depressing Western one.  Any given day of my travels, I could have more easily eaten McDonald’s than anything culturally or nutritionally significant; this is sadly becoming the way of our world.

Wow, I think I started this post to tell you a new delicious breakfast idea, and have ended it with a miserable rant about the state of our global food system.  Wahmp, wahmp. Sorry ’bout it.  In short, be informed about where your food comes from and what was sacrificed for its production.  Specifically, buy as locally and as in-season as you can.  Don’t support large, multinational food processing giants by buying their products.  Educate yourself! Buy this so you don’t have to guess.  And try this for breakfast:

Breakfast Quinoa
I won’t pretend like this is a “recipe” with “ingredients”… Just cook quinoa like you would normally but sub milk (skim, soy, almond, whatever- I use unsweetened almond) for the liquid. Anything you use to spruce up your oatmeal can be used here, too- I love a little bit of agave for sweetness, some vanilla, and cinnamon.  Fruit, nuts, peanut butter, etc. can add some substance. My Peruvian host family would keep sweetened quinoa in the fridge, then throw it in a blender with milk.  Kind of like Horchata!

The End.

three kale ideas

hipster kale

I’ve been pretty pumped about raw kale recently, and I realized that it’s ALL in the dressing. Here are three super simple ways to dress your kale and make it something you want to eat, instead of something you think you should eat:

Avocado: Combine 1/2 avocado with a bit of olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic salt to taste. Toss with kale (duh).

Crunchy parm: Dress kale with olive oil and lemon juice, then add parmesan cheese and bread crumbs.

Honey lemon: Drizzle honey, olive oil, and some lemon juice on kale and toss.

Then…and this is truly the secret of all three of these ideas…add SUNFLOWER SEEDS. They will not disappoint you.

Enjoy!