Thursday, April 26, 2012

Whole Grains & Brown Rice

I thought it might be fun to spend some time talking about whole grains today.  Have you ever wondered why eating whole grains is important?  Or what the difference is between whole grains and refined grains? Or how to make brown rice without it tasting bland?  Then keep reading!

Whole grains are different from refined grains or enriched grains, both of which are far more common in the United States.  Whole grains mean that the grain is still completely in-tact and has not had the bran or germ removed through the milling process.  This is important because whole grains still contain the essential enzymes, fiber, and b vitamins.  Some of my favorite whole grains include brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, and millet.

Refined grains are grains that have been milled, stripping them of their bran and germ, which results in a loss of nutrients.  Refined grains have a softer texture and extended shelf life, which is why they are used in packaged and processed foods.  Sometimes manufacturers will add some of the b vitamins lost during processing back into the grain, resulting in enriched grains. Some enriched grains are also fortified with nutrients that are not naturally present in that food, such as folic acid or iron.  However, there is no way to replace the fiber that is lost during processing.

Why is all of this important?  It's important to choose whole grains as much as possible because of the impact that refined or enriched grains have on the body.  Refined grains are quickly digested into simple sugars and absorbed into the bloodstream much faster than whole grains.  This causes your blood sugar to spike and then crash, which results in feeling moody and drained of energy.  When you eat whole grains, the fiber prevents your blood sugar from spiking which will keep your energy level up.  And since fiber is what helps us to feel full, eating whole grains will help you to feel more satisfied and you won't find yourself overeating.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Kale Caesar Salad

I think my apartment is haunted. Some of my things have been showing up in really weird places lately and last night my bathroom light turned on by itself.  I'm not kidding.  I know that you will try and talk me into thinking that I just left the light on accidentally or that maybe my cat somehow learned to flip the switch.  No way Jose.  I'm not convinced.

In my ghost-paranoid sleep I got exactly 2.3 hours of sleep.  It was a bit of a rough night.  In order to keep myself from completely freaking out I decided to stay up the rest of the night and hide out in my kitchen.  Naturally, this led to me trying to figure out what to do with a loaf of day-old bread from the local bakery that was too amazing to toss out. What else can you do with day-old bread at 4 am than make warm, toasty croutons fresh from the oven?  These disappeared a little too quickly for my comfort, but luckily that was my fault and nothing paranormal.

So, my apartment is haunted.  And I learned to make croutons.  What is new in your world?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A little bit of life...

I thought it might be fun to take a break from the kitchen and show you a little bit of life right now.  It's busy.  It's thriving.  It's awesome. 

Before I was a blogger or ever felt compelled to take a photograph of my dinner, I used to create art.  I used to paint, make jewlery, scrapbook, and decorate my house.  Over time I lost touch with these things. Writing and photography has been such an amazing creative outlet for me that other creative projects have fallen by the wayside these past couple of years. 

I think that my brain is so immersed in food and writing projects at the moment that it can't handle much more.  So it's time my hands stepped up.  Over the past month I have become obsessed with making jewelry again.  I used to do a lot of intricate bead work and would make large, flashy, colorful pieces of jewelry.  This is not my style anymore so now everything is simple and delicate. 

A blog friend at Hobby and More recently asked me about donating an item for a fundraiser she is doing for the Visakha Society for Protection and Care of Animals in India.  I was really impressed with this organization and the work they are doing.  It also seemed like the perfect excuse to hit the bead store and spend some time crafting something new.  If you are interested in participating, you can donate items until April 21st (my item is pictured above). The fundraiser will go live on April 22nd and then you will be able to purchase raffle tickets for $10 for items that you are interested in.  For more details, visit her fundraising page.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Energizing Green Smoothie

Hey dude that works the gym front desk every morning at 5 am.  I know I look like a crazy person.  I know that you see me stroll in here, half asleep, most likely still in my pj's.  I know that you notice me sometimes glaring at you from my one-awake-eye, wondering how you can be so perky at this time of the morning.  Don't get me wrong;  I'm not a grumpy person.  In fact, I'm pretty nice.  But until I've had my morning smoothie, don't mess with me... k?

The scary thing is that the dude that works the front desk every morning at 5 am knows what I really look like. The me without the shower, without my makeup, and without my kale.  It's horrifying, believe me. Green smoothie to the rescue!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sesame Coconut Bok Choy

When life gets really hectic, there are always a few tell-tale signs that I can count on to remind me that I need to slow down and create some more breathing room.  This morning I misplaced my keys, started crying in my panicked search, and then stepped my bare foot right into my cat's wet food bowl.  Losing things, crying randomly, and making messes has been the theme of my week.  I am going to take this as a clear sign that I need to shift some priorities in my life right now.  

I know that I am one of those people who strive to "do it all," but my plate has been feeling exceptionally full lately with working full time, getting my health coaching certification, blogging, and starting my own coaching business. Things really start feeling out of balance when I tack on other responsibilities like caring for my sick cat, trying to be a supportive and patient partner, and taking care of myself by working out every day.  

Sometimes when life starts feeling a little too crazy I have to retreat to my kitchen.  Life in my kitchen always manages to feel a little saner, kinder, and more rewarding.  I mean, can you think of any place else that you can create this lovely concoction of sesame coconut deliciousness?

I could eat bok choy stir fry every day for the rest of my life and feel completely satisfied.  But throw some sesame oil and coconut flakes into the mix?  Wow.  I think this bok choy just got upgraded from delicious to a downright guilty pleasure.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Farmers Market Beans (and social change)

Last month I had the opportunity to attend two amazing conferences:  one on farm-to-school education and another on hunger and obsesity.  I don't know about you, but the amount of scary statistics out there overwhelms me.  52% of fourth graders in the United States now qualify for subsidized lunch?!  1 in 3 children in the United States is obese?!  In United States over the last 30 years, the prices for vegetables and fruit have increased 120% while soda has only increased 20 - 40%?!  The U.S. is now raising the first generation expected to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents due to diet-related diseases?!  All I can say is Holy. Crap.

If this bums you out as much as it does me, I think it's time to make a change.  There are a lot of messages out there about how to fix our food system and I think it's natural for us to feel overwhelmed.  But, the reality is that change starts with us.  I was inspired by one of the speakers at the conference, Ellen Gustafson, founder of The 30 Project and Change Dinner. I appreciated her message that we can make an impact each and every day and the place to start is our dinner table.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Tahini Broccoli Salad with Cashews

Do you have a special video gamer in your life?  I do.  And because of this relationship, I am always the first one to know about new video games, new video game accessories, and what's happening with Angry Birds. This kind of information isn't my cup of tea.  I couldn't tell you the difference between a PlayStation or an Xbox to save my life.  (And please, whatever you do, don't explain it to me... again.)

I recently learned that they are now making iPhone games with zombies chasing you to encourage people to run.  The funny thing is that they are hoping it will specifically encourage video gamers to be more active. Wouldn't it be easier just to go for a jog... without the app?  Don't get me wrong, I'm all for helping anyone to be more active and have a healthier lifestyle.  I just have to shake my head at the fact that zombies are the new fitness motivation.  I mean, if we have to make an app, wouldn't it be scarier for you to have to outrun Richard Simmons?  That guy is fast.

To be completely honest, I'm a little scared of what they will think of next.  I have a feeling it will be a game where you have to eat your broccoli before the zombies eat you.  But, don't worry.  I've got you covered.  Just make this salad, offer them a bite, and the undead will realize that between you and the broccoli, they'd rather take the broccoli.  (I hope.)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Creamy Mushroom Soup

I think I'm having an identity crisis. Instead of dreaming about kale I've been thinking about cupcakes.  Instead of listening to Sara Bareilles or Jack Johnson I've been rocking out to Katy Perry. And instead of sporting my usual casual jeans and a plaid shirt I find myself wearing... skinny jeans and a blazer? Something is definitely wrong with this picture.

My recent Pinterest obsession has made a me a much more stylish and fashionable person.  And surprisingly, I'm enjoying it.  Yesterday I found myself wondering why I don't always dress this way.  And then I quickly discovered the reason as I tried to harvest compost from my worm bin this morning in skinny jeans and a blazer... In case you haven't already learned this lesson, that is a truly, truly bad idea.  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Thank goodness for spell check.  If it wasn't for spell check, I would never be able to spell words like recommendation, license, disastrous, judgment, and fluorescent.  And don't even get me started on vinaigrette.  You would think that for someone who has to use this word almost daily in their work that I would have learned how to spell it by now.  But no.  Vinegrettte?  Vineagrette??  Vinagarette?!  

How about I just wow you with some pretty pictures instead.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Simple Lentil Dal

Are you one of those people who has inspirational post-its taped to your computer monitor?  Do you write weird random messages to yourself?  I ask because I am one of those people.  

My co-workers are already used to many of my weird habits:  my giant green smoothies for breakfast,  how I have to talk out loud as I write my emails, my growing forest of office plants... I could go on, but I will spare myself the embarrassment.  

My most recent addition to my post-it monitor collection is a rather simple, strange message:  Eat more dal.  You're worth it.  Very true.