Wednesday, December 11, 2013

My New "Dream" Job

Pinch Me! I'm a Food Editor!! :-) The last few months have been a bit of a blur, but I presented my strategy yesterday to senior management at my publishing company and I'll be commissioning content in some really exciting topics in 2014. I'll be the Acquisitions Editor for the following topics and couldn't be more excited:
  • Food Sustainability
  • Functional Food, Health, and Nutrition
  • Food Microbiology (beer, wine, cheese, bread, yogurt, and fermented foods)
  • Dairy (more cheese and yogurt) 
For the first time in my life, my job is fully aligned with my personal interests and passions outside of work. I feel like I can stop living a double life and embrace what I do with enthusiasm and confidence. I can't wait to publish outstanding content on everything from food waste to kefir to superfoods to organic cheese. Maybe I'll even find a scientist to write a book about kombucha! Or one about sourdough starters. Or one about grain-free baked goods! Or all of the above, because I've got to find a lot of new books to commission this year! 

So, how in the world did this happen? 

Like a lot of you, my career hasn't really followed a logical "path." I think we all have that ideal vision of a ladder or a progression of jobs that seem to build on one another, but it doesn't take long to figure out that's rarely the reality of careers these days. I've been fortunate to work for some great organizations and some caring and thoughtful managers, but I've also had my fair share of challenges... the kinds that have made me want to go all the way back to the beginning and start from scratch, except without the naivety. 

While nothing's ever perfect, things are starting to make sense. The last 13 years have taken me through a maze of knife sales to education management to test prep marketing to computer science book marketing to data management book editing. For the last few years, I just focused on working hard and moving up and to tell you the truth, I've felt stuck. Worse than stuck. Like I was sprinting my heart out on an unforgiving treadmill. I wouldn't let myself get off because I wasn't "there" yet. But I had no idea where "there" was.

Not knowing how else to drive the changes I wanted in my career and eager to learn again, I went back to school. It was a big decision, a huge investment of time and of money and I'm confident that the investment will, in time, return. It already has in a lot of ways. I've made wonderful friends and have built a network of really smart people who I admire and respect. I had fun along the way (especially in Brazil and in my Marketing Social Change class) and my eyes were opened to entirely new ways of thinking. I approach problems differently now and while I'll never consider myself an expert in statistics, economics, or corporate finance, at least I know about these things, why they're important, and where to go when I need to know more. And I can certainly hold my own in a conversation about any of them (I hope!). I get what the triple bottom line is and love that companies around the world are embracing corporate social responsibility as a matter of course. I gained some really valuable perspectives on life and work and when I gave my last presentation at Boston University's School of Management last night (on solving Cuba's economic problems, no small feat), it felt surreal. 

While I was finishing my MBA, I also enrolled and attended the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and became a Certified Holistic Health Coach. Earlier this month, I started working with my first official client. And, now that I'm done with school (well I have a one-week class in Silicon Valley in January left), I'm excited to apply what I've learned at both BU and at IIN more broadly. My new job will certainly benefit from what I've learned and I hope I can broaden my impact on the health and nutrition of more of you as well! 

We're all on journeys. Often more than one at a time. And I hope as we close out one year and look forward to the next, we're all able to reflect on the rewards inherent in the journey and know that with a balance of persistence, patience, and passion, we can all achieve something that makes us feel truly content. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Pistachio Parsley Pesto


Thanks to Annie for the awesome black sea salt!
I've had two annual Thanksgiving Potlucks so far this week and have another this coming Saturday. Over the weekend, I made my Vegan Butternut Squash Soup recipe and the Balsamic Parsnips and Maple Dijon Carrots inspired by Clean Food by Terry Walters for our Chi Omega Alumni Potluck and I'll probably make the soup again for Saturday. But today, I wanted to try something different, so I roasted a Spaghetti Squash and topped it with a delicious pesto made from parsley, pistachios, and garlic. I got a few requests for the recipe from coworkers, so here goes:

Ingredients:
1 spaghetti squash of about average size, rinsed
1 large bunch of parsley (roughly 1 1/2 c leaves)
6 TB extra virgin olive oil (2 for the squash + 4 for the pesto)
3 TB shelled pistachios
2 TB lemon juice
1 clove garlic
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400* F

Time-saver: Line a pan (9x13 pyrex should work well for this recipe, but you can use whatever you have that will fit both halves of the squash) with a sheet of parchment paper if you want to save time on dishes later!

Slice the squash in half lengthwise (a sharp butcher knife works well), and scoop out the seeds (Any metal spoon should work for this. You can keep the seeds if you want to roast them like pumpkin seeds, or simply discard/compost them).

With the squash skin-side down, drizzle the meat of the squash with some Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Season with some good sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Massage the oil, salt, and pepper in to the squash. Place the squash flesh down/skin up in a baking dish and roast at 400* for 45 minutes. 

Flesh down and into a 400* oven. 
You'll know it's done when you can stick a fork through the skin and it goes through the meat of the squash without resistance. The squash should also start to turn a golden brown. 

45 minutes later... perfection! 
I flipped the one on the left over first... the one on the right a few minutes later and it was still steaming. 
While the squash is cooking, I had plenty of time to get some work done, take a quick shower, AND make the pesto... but the sink is still full of dishes (shhhh... don't tell James.)

Parsley is super high in Vitamin C and was still
available at the Union Square Farmers Market on Sat!

The pesto was super easy. I threw 1 clove of garlic into the food processor and let it rip until she was all minced up. Then I scraped down the sides, added the pistachios, and pulsed on high until they were minced, too. Then I added the parsley and ran the processor on high while I drizzled in the EVOO, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. That's it.



Once the squash was cool enough to handle, I used a fork to scrape the squash down off the skin and combined the meat of both squash into the better looking skin. I also mixed it up a bit so the seasoning would be more evenly distributed (it's the little things).




Then I spooned the pesto atop the squash. I meant to throw some dried cranberries and whole shelled pistachios on top to make it even prettier, but this little guy distracted me!


This has me thinking of all the things I could cover in parsley pesto. Dried berries and some creative juices could turn a dish like this into a Christmas tree in no time! :-P


BESIDES basil, what's your favorite kind of pesto?




Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Global Food Supply and Demand (a research brief)

I'm the designated food expert in my Government, Society, and Sustainable development class this semester. Anytime the issue of food arises, I'm supposed to be able to speak knowledgeably about the topic and answer a wide array of questions from my professor and from my MBA classmates. I was pretty psyched to get to write a report on a topic that I care so deeply about, and as I compiled my research and wrote the brief, I thought about all of the ways I could share what I was learning. This is a concise brief on the current state of food supply and demand. While it's not a fun recipe or restaurant review, it's important stuff we should all be aware of and with that, I hope you enjoy learning about it as much as I did! If you do, remember knowledge is power, so spread the word!

BACKGROUND
Demand for all resources is increasing exponentially as the world’s population explodes. If current projections hold true, Earth’s population will grow from 7 billion today to 9 billion by 2040. The middle class will also increase by 3 billion over the next 20 years. By 2030, we will require 50% more food than we currently demand. This is especially problematic given environmental changes that are likely to limit supply. The current trajectory will place 3 billion people into poverty and efforts toward sustainable development are not significant enough to change that course. 1

SUPPLY AND DEMAND
As demand grows and production increases slow, prices for the largest food commodity crops are rising sharply. As more commodity crops are being used for biofuels and animal feed, less is available for human consumption. Adverse weather conditions in typically high-producing areas are negatively impacting overall supply. Rising energy and production costs as well as import/export policy changes are also contributing to increased costs. 2

CORPORATIONS
Huge agribusiness companies control much of the world’s food supply by controlling huge shares of global markets for grains, fertilizers, pesticides and seeds. Their involvement starts at the farm and ends at your fork.  Some of the biggest agribusiness corporations include:

Cargill
Multinational producer of “food, agricultural, financial, and industrial products and services”3
One of the largest privately held companies in the world4
Founded in 1865 and headquartered in Minnesota4
Employs 140,000 in 65 countries
Operating Income of $1.17 Billion in FY 20123 

Nestle
Largest food company in the world measured by revenues, which exceed $92 billion
Founded in 1866 and headquartered in Vevey, Switzerland
Employs 339,0006

Monsanto 
Multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation and producer of genetically engineered seeds and of the popular herbicide Roundup
Founded in 1901 and headquartered in Creve Coeur, Missouri
Revenues of nearly $12 billion
Employs 20,6007

ConAgra
Packaged foods company whose portfolio of brands include Slim Jim, Hebrew National, Egg Beaters, Orville Redenbacher, Hunt’s, Healthy Choice, and more
Founded in 1919 and headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska
Revenues exceed $13 Billion
Employs 26,1008

Archer Daniels Midland
Global food-processing and commodities-trading corporation
Founded in 1902 and headquartered in Decatur, Illinois
Revenues of $89 Billion
Employs 30,0009

Other Corporations:
Farm equipment manufacturers and food retailers also influence the food supply.  Hedge funds and investment firms help shape global markets. 

All of these companies and their interest groups shape government food policy.  They are often criticized for their negative impact on small farmers and promotion of energy-hungry industrial agricultural operations. For this reason, they are often blamed for helping to create an unsustainable system of production and distribution.10

DOMESTIC POLICY
In the United States, most of our agricultural policy is set forth in the Farm Bill, which is renewed every five years by the US Congress. The Farm Bill dictates the USDA’s priorities and has included funding provisions for everything from food stamps and subsidized school lunch to government subsidies and purchasing of surplus commodity crops. The Farm Bill also funds research, international food aid, crop insurance, and farmer loans. The 2008 Farm Bill is set to expire this month; congress has been unable to pass the 2013 Farm Bill due to ideological differences. 11

GLOBAL POLICY
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations strives to achieve food security for all. Their mandate is to improve nutrition, increase agricultural productivity, and raise the standard of living in rural populations while contributing to global economic growth. Headquartered in Rome, FAO is active in over 130 countries and employs nearly 4,000.12

The FAO Budget is $2.4 billion, 42% of which comes from assessed contributions paid by member countries, while 58% comes from voluntary contributions.13 According to the FAO, one in eight people are undernourished and 852 million of those 870 million people are in developing countries.14

The Committee on World Food Security (CFS) is another intergovernmental body which partners with FAO and that serves as a forum in the United Nations System for review and follow-up of policies concerning world food security including production and physical and economic access to food. 15

There are many other international NGOs focused on food access, agriculture, and sustainability. Many of them collaborate with the United Nations’ World Food Programme.16

Part of the challenge of meeting the growing global demand for food is lack of international agreement and the impact that large-scale agribusiness operations have on the global, not local, environment. Excessive use of pesticides, for example, has been linked to colony collapse disorder17 while runoff of herbicides has killed life in rivers, river deltas, and gulfs.18

Some countries are working hard to increase agricultural productivity without using genetically engineered seeds, which threaten self-sufficient farming operations. Meanwhile, in the US, corporations like Monsanto routinely file suit against farmers for patent infringement, which the farmers are unable to prevent against due to the nature of seed pollination. 19 Traditionally, farmers saved and cleaned seeds from prior years’ crops to replant them, a self-sustaining model that farmers have relied on since the beginning of agriculture. Today, because of seed patents, farmers are forced to buy new seeds every year and need to buy the pesticides and fertilizers that go with those seeds if they want to maximize their yield.

SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE
Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) defines sustainable agriculture as profit over long term; stewardship of land, air, and water; and quality of life for farmers, ranchers, & communities. SARE spotlights farms achieving higher yields & better overall land use with added benefit of long-term sustainability. 20 Critics of sustainable agriculture cite lower yields, higher land use, and question sustainable agriculture’s ability to feed exploding world population. 21

Methods used in sustainable agriculture include:
       Ecological pest & weed control
       Diversification of crops, livestock, & landscape
       Energy conservation & production
       Direct marketing/sales

The consequences of unsustainable (industrial-scale) agriculture include:
       Top soil erosion
       EWG found erosion to be 2x the rate deemed sustainable by the USDA in parts of Iowa 22
       Groundwater contamination
       groundwater supplies ¼ of US drinking water
       EPA identified carcinogens from fertilizers & pesticides in groundwater 23
       Concentrated farm ownership
       Results in higher prices and less choice (~38% increase in food costs 2002-12) 24
       2007: 4 companies controlled 83.5% of beef, 66% of hogs, 58.5% of chicken, 50% of seed markets 25
       Antibiotic resistance
       Overuse in livestock contributes to antibiotic-resistant infections
       1 such strain of bacteria linked to hog farms results in more US deaths/year than AIDS 26

CONCLUSION
There is no easy answer to the question of how we will meet the growing global demand for food as the population explodes and arable land erodes. On the one side, large agribusiness claims that GMOs and genetically engineered seeds plus pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer are the solution. On the other side, advocates for sustainable agriculture encourage the use of organic methods to reduce pollution. What cannot be disputed is the simple fact that as people move out of poverty, they consume more meat and that it can take up to 13 pounds of grain to produce just one pound of meat.



References:

1: World Food Demand to Outpace Supply in Coming Decades, UN Claims http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/30/world-food-demand-population-growth_n_1241435.html
First Posted: 01/30/2012 8:56 am Updated: 03/31/2012 5:12 am
2: Trostle, Ronald, Global Agricultural Supply and Demand: Factors Contributing to the Recent Increase in Food Commodity Prices. A Report from the Economic Research Service. Outlook No. (WRS-0801) 30 pp, July 2008.
3: Cargill, Inc. 2012 Annual Report: Essential work in a changing world. Minneapolis. 2012.
6: "Annual Results 2012" (PDF). NestlĂ©.
11: Neuman, Scott. Why The Farm Bill's Provisions Will Matter To You. June 13, 2012
17: Wines, Michael (28 March 2013). "Mystery Malady Kills More Bees, Heightening Worry on Farms"New York Times.
18: Helfrich, LA, Weigmann, DL, Hipkins, P, and Stinson, ER (June 1996), Pesticides and aquatic animals: A guide to reducing impacts on aquatic systems. Virginia Cooperative Extension.
19: Haitian Farmers Commit to Burning Monsanto Hybrid Seeds Posted: 05/17/10 12:44 PM ET
20: “What is Sustainable Agriculture?” from Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, http://www.sare.org/.
22: USDA webasite, http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/agnic/susag.shtml. 
23. Environmental Working Group website, http://www.ewg.org/losingground/report/executive-summary.html.
24: Environmental Protection Agency “Citizen’s Guide to Groundwater Protection,” http://water.epa.gov/infrastructure/drinkingwater/sourcewater/protection/upload/2007_11_29_sourcewater_pubs_citguid.pdf.
25: United States Department of Agriculture, http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/usdafoodcost-home.htm.

Other sources of information not directly used:
Agricultural Sustainability Institute at University of California – Davis, http://www.sarep.ucdavis.edu/about/def#animal-production-practices.

“Sustainable Agriculture: An Introduction” from the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, http://www.attra.ncat.org.

McNally, Jess. “Can Vegetarianism Save the World?”


Monday, September 9, 2013

Catching Up

Gosh it's been a LONG time since my last post. Truth is, I wrote an awesome one back in July and Blogger lost it. I got mad and discouraged and am finally past it. Phew. That post was about the Elimination Diet that James and I did earlier this summer. We eliminated corn, soy, dairy, wheat, eggs, alcohol, caffeine, citrus, nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, etc), and chocolate (the horror!) for 3 straight weeks and then reintroduced one eliminated food every 3 days for the next couple months. It's estimated that 70% of us have a food sensitivity and most of us live life everyday ignorant to what food(s) is making us feel like crap. While the purpose wasn't weight loss, we both shed a few pounds and felt more energized during the diet.

Background: Food sensitivities are different from allergies and intolerances. An allergic reaction is usually instant and serious, like when people can't breath after eating peanuts or shellfish. You've likely heard of these kinds of allergies as well as intolerances like lactose intolerance, which is pretty common, especially as we get older. But a sensitivity can be subtle and can take up to 72 hours (the amount of time it takes your body to fully digest) to feel. If you think about your daily diet, you probably expose yourself to most, if not all of the common food triggers within a 3-day period. Eliminating them all and then reintroducing one at a time is a great way to experiment with yourself and to learn more about your body. Sensitivities can cause everything from joint or muscle pain to headaches to fogginess and mood swings. They can cause skin conditions, upset stomach,

I learned that dairy, wheat, and nightshades all have adverse effects on my digestion. As soon as I reintroduced them, my heartburn returned and I just didn't feel as good as when I wasn't eating them. My skin also broke out shortly after reintroducing dairy. Will I eliminate them completely every day? No. But will I limit them and pick and choose carefully when I eat them? Yes. I think all processed grains (any kind of flour) and caffeine also negatively impacted my mental clarity. I'm really sensitive to caffeine, which I've known for a while but have often ignored, favoring a rich latte to an elevated heart rate, sleeplessness and headaches. I'd like to think I'm getting better at controlling my coffee impulse, but check back in a few weeks once I'm in the thick of the semester. ;-)

So, what have I been eating lately? Here's a peak at some of my favorite elimination diet friendly meals (excuse the photo quality):
We gained an appreciation for brown rice pasta! Here, served with sauteed morels, farm fresh asparagus, and fresh herbs
We grilled lots of veggies. 
We didn't eat the farmer, but his greens were delish!


Fish w braised fennel, sauteed baby bok choi (superfood).
Side of millet

Traveling was not easy.

We ate lots of fish (discovered arctic char) & sauteed veggies.
TONS of fresh herbs to season.

We served grilled swordfish and zucchini with a
side of quinoa to some friends who came over for dinner.
2 salads started the meal: Crab + Mango and Cucumber + String Bean
More grilled summer squash! 
Scallops might be the best part of living in New England.
Smoothie in a Bowl!

Lunch at Life Alive. Only meal out during Elimination.
Thank god for summer (squash)!

Vegan and Gluten Free Mac and Cheese with Spinach. It was to die for.

OYSTERS!  Ate em before I thought about taking a picture of them!
Brown Rice Pasta tossed with sauteed zucchinini, squash flowers, and cannelini beans. And lots of garlic. YUM!
More scallops. PS: I like searing them in equal parts olive and coconut oil. Great alternative to butter.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Dandelion Greens and Cannellini Beans Over Whole Wheat Pasta

The simple meals are often the best!
James has been doing most of the grocery shopping lately, which I love, but sometimes yields interesting results. Like last week, when we had spinach on the wunderlist (love that app!), but he came home with an unfamiliar green that I knew was not spinach. Leave it to Whole Foods and their lack of packaging (which I also love!) to confuse my fiance!

I thought the bunch of mystery greens was dandelion and a quick Google Images search confirmed that we indeed had to figure out what to do with that bitter dark green. Dandelion is insanely good for you. It helps cleanse and acts as a diuretic. If you're ever retaining water, skip the water pill and eat some dandelion greens instead! The thing is, I've eaten them before and I've never LOVED them because well, they can be really bitter if not done right.

I checked the indexes of my go-to cookbooks and found a few recipes, but none that wowed me, so I combined a few ideas and came up with this adaptation of many beans and greens recipes and is similar to my favorite escarole and beans. It's simple and reminds me of how my grandma prepares greens the traditional Italian way - simply sauteed
with garlic and olive oil.

Ingredients:
2 tb extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 bunch dandelion greens, rinsed and chopped into bite-sized bits (other bitter greens work great in this recipe, too)
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and strained (navy beans or chick peas work, too)
1 c whole grain pasta (I used sprouted whole wheat, but any whole grain pasta will work. If you don't eat pasta, you can substitute brown rice rice, quinoa, barley, etc!)
1 c low sodium veggie broth (optional - I love a little liquid in dishes like this, but leave it out if you prefer a more traditional approach to pasta. you could add even more broth and some onion, celery, etc and turn this dish into a soup!)
handfull of chopped parsley
sea salt and red pepper flakes to taste
Parmesan cheese to taste (optional)


Boil a pot of water with some sea salt. Blanch the greens by submerging them in the boiling water for no more than 2-3 minutes. Then fish them out with a slotted spoon and rinse under cold water. Cook the pasta in the same water (time saver!). While the pasta cooks, saute the garlic gently (if it starts to brown, you can remove the garlic from the oil with a slotted spoon and over medium heat. Add the greens, red pepper flakes, and beans and heat through. Add the parsley, fold in, and turn of the heat (if you cook the parsley for more than a minute, it will start to lose both flavor and nutritional value). Strain the pasta, reserving 2 cups of the liquid in case you want to moisten the dish up a bit (or for leftovers). If using cheese, add straight to the hot pasta. Then, combine all the ingredients and, as my grandma would say, MANGIA!



A note about wheat: Wheat doesn't agree with everyone. Whether you're celiac/gluten intolerant or not, pay attention to the way your body responds to refined grains. After reading the best-selling book Wheat Belly late last year, I avoided wheat for a while and noticed a marked improvement in my digestive functioning. I thought it was the wheat, but recently started reintroducing it in a variety of forms to see what worked and what didn't. I also got a food sensitivity test done by my integrative physician, which indicated that I was highly sensitive to yeast, but not at all to wheat or gluten. Since then, I've felt better about a little pasta here and there! But everyone's different! If pasta makes you feel like crap (or if you find it as addictive as crack), swap it out for a whole grain here like brown rice (or brown rice pasta). 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Soup by Many Names

My favorite soup is smiling at YOU!
I make a version of this pot of soup every couple of weeks and it always satisfies. Sometimes I call it Black Bean Soup (but it usually has pinto in it, too, so that seems biased toward the little guy). Other times, it's Chipotle or Southwest Soup. It could be called, "Not Really Chili" or you could just call it yummy. It's SO easy and delicious and the leftovers are perfect to pack for work lunches or school dinners and can be modified at home by adding all kinds of things to give a bowl a different taste or texture. Oh, and it's vegan (as long as you don't add the cheese), gluten free, and full of protein and fiber to keep you full.

Below you'll find the basic recipe and some options to dress it up if and when you are so inclined. Use this as a blueprint and get creative! Don't forget to leave a comment with your ideas for even more variations!

Ingredients
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tb canola oil (organic, non GMO)
1 can black or pinto beans, rinsed
1 can refried vegetarian black or pinto beans
1 can diced tomatoes (fire roasted, petite, or with green chilies or chipotle)
2 cans water or low sodium veggie broth
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
dash sea salt

Optional
1 sweet potato, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 small zucchini or summer squach, diced
1 cup greens, chopped very small
1 tsp cayenne powder
1 bay leaf
1 cup tofu, cubed
partially blend with stick blender

Possible Garnishes
serve over brown rice
serve over quinoa
serve over crushed tortilla chips
top with dollop of Greek yogurt
top with dollop of guacamole
top with sliced avocado
top with shredded cheddar or jack cheese
garnish with fresh cilantro, chives, or green onions

Directions
Saute onion in oil over medium heat until soft. Add carrot and sweet potato/bell pepper if using. Saute a couple minutes then add the garlic and dried herbs and spices. Add the can of diced tomatoes and 2 cans of water/broth, beans, and rest of ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook 10-30 minutes, until carrots/sweet potato are tender and soup is heated through. You can blend partially with a stick blender or make a creamy homogeneous soup by blending it until it's smooth. Serve immediately or refrigerate in pint-sized ball jars (fill them with warm soup and let them sit on the counter for 10 min before transferring to fridge and they will form an air-tight seal, extending shelf life) for up to a week.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sweet Potato for Breakfast

Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite foods of all time. My grandparents used to make them when they knew I was coming over for dinner. I have this distinct memory of forcing sweet potato through the tiny hole of my plastic care bear mask one year. I must have been around 5 and unwilling to compromise between removing my Halloween costume and eating sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are delicious baked, mashed, roasted, and fried and are great in juices, soups, stews, and even in baked goods. They also happen to be a perfect single-serving nutritional powerhouse pre-packaged by nature.

Their only downside? Sweet potatoes, like lots of healthy root veggies, take time to cook! For that reason alone, they're not always practical for dinner after a long day of work and school, so I started thinking of ways to bake them in advance of eating them to get more yummy sweet potato into my belly. Last week, I picked a couple up along with some beets and the other night, I poked some holes in them with a fork, wrapped them in foil, and popped them in a 400* oven for about an hour. I turned the oven off and left the potatoes in the oven for a bit longer. I removed them from the oven and let them cool on the counter before popping them in the fridge.
source: http://kblog.lunchboxbunch.com/2012/12/sweet-potato-soup-in-flash-avocado-on.html
I didn't remove the tin foil until the morning when I unwrapped and peeled (personal preference when not organic) the potato and microwaved it for 90 seconds when I got to work this morning. It was the PERFECT breakfast and such a welcomed change from my standard oatmeal. The natural sweetness was satisfying and the fiber was filling. It might be nice to top this meal with some nut butter, avocado, steamed greens, Greek yogurt, a poached egg, or some pastured butter, but it was delicious all by itself!

Sweet potatoes are a great way to make sure you're eating the colors of the rainbow. Their orange hue means they're high in Vitamin A and Beta-Carotene. A 1-cup serving provides over 700% the RDA of Vitamin A, 6.6 g of fiber, and is a great source of Vitamins C and B6 and minerals potassium and manganese (source linked below).  So eat up those yummy sweet potatoes!

Oh, if you're sitting there wondering about the protein, you'll be pleased to know that 1 cup of sweet potato contains 4 grams of quality protein that can be complemented nicely by mushrooms, corn, eggs, cheese, and yogurt. Americans tend to be overly-concerned with protein and are often surprised that vegetables like sweet potatoes contain any at all. Those of us who opt out of meat need to be mindful of where our protein comes from to make sure we get a good balance of the amino acids that help our body build, maintain, and repair muscle tissue, but even for omnivores, a couple 4-6 oz servings of animal flesh a week is more than enough for most.

Want more sweet potatoes?


Sweet Potato and Spinach Soup RecipeSweet and Sweaty Vegetarian Chili RecipeCorn Chowder (No Dairy or Wheat) Recipe


Sources:
http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2667/2

Friday, March 8, 2013

Vegan Cream of Mushroom Soup

Source: http://www.modernmush.com/varieties.html
Did you know that mushrooms have anti-cancer, anti-viral, and cholesterol-lowering properties? It's true and I've included a list of helpful resources to back up this claim at the end of this post in case you want to fact-check me. ;-)

I like mushrooms, but I don't eat them regularly and have been thinking of ways to "sneak" them into dishes since James isn't a fan of eating fungi. But sometimes, I just want to eat them, especially for the umami (savory) flavor I don't get to eat all that often since I don't eat meat. Lately, I've been experimenting with incorporating more varieties of mushrooms into dishes like omelettes and loving the tasty results.

Last week, I took things further and whipped up a batch of Cream of Mushroom Soup (sans dairy, flour, butter), but I didn't document every step. I made the soup again this week and changed up some of the ingredients and got an even better result. I've been enjoying leftovers all week and want to share what I did so you can try to replicate this delicious recipe, too!

Ingredients:
2 onions, sliced
2 tb olive or canola oil
2 packages mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1-2 potatoes, scrubbed and chopped (peel if not organic)
2 ribs celery, chopped (organic is important for celery)
1 qt veggie or mushroom broth
1/2 c cashew cream (optional)
1-2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp ground marjoram
1/2 tsp thyme
1/3 c dry white wine (or mirin)
sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste

Caramelize 2 sliced yellow onions in 2 tb oil. Because you want to brown them to really bring out the umami flavor, cast iron works great. If you're not sure what I mean by caramelize, salt the onions and saute over med-high heat for about 10 minutes. No, don't burn them, but a little crispy is good. Degalze the pan with a healthy splash of mirin or dry white wine. Add freshly ground black pepper, some red pepper flakes, celery, garlicmarjoram, and thyme, and 1-2 packages of mushrooms, sliced. The ratio of onions:mushrooms is what's important here. 1 large onion to 1 package of mushrooms works well. Brown the mushrooms, stirring every minute or so. Once they have a nice brown (about 10 minutes), deglaze the pan with the remaining wine and add the potatoes, bay leaves, and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook partially covered for about 20 minutes. Add the cashew cream, remove from heat, and blend with an immersion blender until you achieve your desired consistency. Serve with freshly ground black pepper and some croutons. Enjoy!

Sources:
http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/dietandnutrition/shiitake-mushroom
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umami
http://www.modernmush.com