I have found some interesting links lately that I wanted to share:
Monday Link Love
The Nitrate & Nitrite Myth: Another Reason not to Fear Bacon: This article “debunks” the idea that nitrates and nitrites can cause serious health problems (cancer, heart disease). Honestly – I want to believe it; I just don’t know if I can. Apparently nitrates and nitrites are found in much higher amounts in natural foods like celery and even in our own saliva than they are in hot dogs, bacon, and other processed meats. Even if they are – aren’t they different? Wouldn’t our bodies treat “natural” (whatever that means) nitrates/nitrites differently than artificial ones? I have no idea. I’m not a food scientist but I would really like to know the truth behind processed meats. (Because I love bacon. Who doesn’t?)
7 Ways You Might Be Inadvertently Sabotaging a Good Night’s Sleep: I may not always agree with him, but Mark Sisson just about always has an intelligent, well-thought-out response to just about every question or problem anyone could possibly have. In this case I do agree with him. The article is from November but particularly applicable now that I’m trying to sleep earlier. He makes good points – 1) are you getting natural light during the day? 2) are you eating too late? 6) do you have a nighttime ritual? and 7) are you simply staying up too late? –> These 4 all right true for me.
Vow to Get More Sleep in 2013: Another sleep article. Tips include 3) turn the heat down, 4) unplug (what I should be doing now!), 5) meditate, 6) do yoga (OK!), and 7) stop puttering! (That means no chores after 9pm, yes I am talking to you my fellow type A’s.)
And I also just wanted to share some other random things…
Monday List Love
Wanted to share this pic of dinner the other night. I was out of the city all day Saturday and when I got home, Bobby had prepared this beautiful meal! It’s a salad with hard boiled egg, bacon, onion, and homemade dressing. I had no idea he could cook – he totally outdid himself. He also made butternut squash ravioli (from TJ’s) with sauteed veggies and he cooked up a cheesy mushroom flatbread (also courtesy of TJ’s). The salad is served in a really beautiful dish from my mom.
Bobby used this salad recipe for the dinner salad and dressing. It was supposed to be spinach but I prefer romaine as a salad base.
That’s all I have… I’m off to do some reading and relax before I go to sleep (early). Hope your week is off to a good start.
i made this stir-fry for lunch yesterday (Tuesday, 1/24):
I decided to bring my lunch to work this week. We do have a cafeteria at the office, but it’s not that healthy. This stirfry is made up of:
broccoli + broccoli stalk (you don’t have to throw that part out – it’s great sauteed)
can of tuna
garlic + chili powder
cooked in bacon fat (I save this each time I make bacon)
I had a sesame bagel alongside the stirfry.
I also vowed to bring breakfast. I normally shy away from drinking my calories, but I have found several drinks to be quite delicious as of late, in particular:
This is Siggi’s probiotic drinkable non-fat yogurt in plain (it also comes in strawberry). I don’t like siggi’s greek yogurt (too thick) but I did find this drinkable yogurt to have a good consistency (not too thick, not too thin — just right!) and flavor. I added some cinnamon to mine before drinking up. Only 45 calories in this small bottle which leaves plenty of room for other breakfast goodies like no-sugar scones.
What do you put in stirfrys? Do you drink your calories or save them for chewing?
Ages ago, MDA did a post with almost the same title. ^^ (He did 10 foods.)
So, being the copycat that I am, here are my 8 foods! (They change all the time, but really, these ones are here to stay for good.)
1. Kabocha Squash (you knew that was coming)
Kabocha, also known as Japanese Pumpkin, has been a favorite of mine for several years now. I even turned orange at one point because I was eating so much of it. It’s high in beta carotene and vitamins C, B1, and B2. For more on kabocha, read my kabocha FAQ.
Bacon is the food that always keeps me from being a vegetarian. At the moment I am assuredly not a veg-head, but I’ve flirted with vegetarianism, veganism, and macrobiotics in the past. And then I remember bacon, and it’s all over. One important thing to note about bacon though, is that you have to eat the kind without nitrates and nitrites, and preferably organic/hormone-free/antibiotic-free. The nitrates and nitrites especially can contribute to stomach cancer later on in life (something I am genetically predisposed to).
I love cruciferous veggies! They’ve been linked to cancer and heart disease prevention and they’re filled with vitamins and nutrients. Plus, they taste really, really good. When Bobby and I first started dating I turned him onto Brussels sprouts. After hating them his whole life, it turns out that he just didn’t like the mushy kind. When I cook them now I steam or saute them so the inside is barely cooked – no mush.
4. Sunflower Seeds (and sunflower seed butter)
Ahh, sunflower seeds. Growing up I would eat these at my dad’s softball games so they always conjure up that image for me – sitting on the bleachers, reading, but staying alert enough to avoid stray foul balls. Sunflower seed butter is a more recent discovery of mine, but it ranks up there as well. (Aside: I would have put peanuts up here until a week ago, but after keeping a food log for a week – doctor’s orders – it looks like some of my stomach issues come from eating peanut butter alllll the time. Oops.)
My favorite fruit. Should have in moderation because I break out from eating too much fruit (or sugar in general). However, bad at moderation = lots of apples (wah, skin).
6. Dark, dark chocolate.
My favorite dessert. Also should have in moderation because I break out from eating too much chocolate (unless it’s 99% dark – which probably just means I break out from the sugar in it). Lots of antioxidants, lots of deliciousness. You know what’s really good? Bacon chocolate.
It’s been a while since I did one of these… But first an update: NYC is recovering from the hurricane (Irene) that passed through last night. To be honest, not much happened in Manhattan. I think the major damage occurred in the outer boroughs (poor Staten Island) and New Jersey (my mom is without power and water). Our power didn’t even flicker. On the plus side, I did have a mini Reese’s cup yesterday that I got at the hardware store. I love these things.
Our weekend went well. We mostly hung out with our neighbors (friends) and ate good food together. A few of us like to cook and all of us like to eat. This morning I went for a run (a little over 3 miles) after not having run for ages (at least 1.5 years?). It felt great. The subways are still not running so we can only get to places on foot (…or taxi). They probably won’t be running for the morning commute tomorrow so I plan on walking.
After my run this morning (err, afternoon) I did some yoga stretching and took a nice shower. Then we ate brunch together (6 of us) – bacon, eggs with homegrown jalapeno, homemade bread, and some various pastries. (If I didn’t mention it already, we moved into a building where our friends live – so we hang out a lot. Just like college, and it’s great.)
I took this salad to a potluck last weekend. While that particular event wasn’t a barbecue, this dish would be perfect for any kind of summer party – barbecues, pool parties, potlucks, Sunday brunches, maybe even the beach. The large bowl of salad I brought was gone in a jiffy. I was pleased because there was another couscous salad there as well, and I think mine tasted better.
The recipe is based off of a Whole Foods flyer recipe, but I also got inspiration from this fiesta salad that I linked to on Sunday.
Mexican Couscous and Bean Salad
1 cup whole wheat couscous (dry measurement)
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 avocado, diced
1 large tomato, chopped
1 can of corn, drained
1 can of black beans, drained
1/2 an apple, finely chopped
3/4 cup nuts (I used soy nuts and pepitas)
1 cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup lime juice (add more if this is not enough)
2 teaspoons chili powder (or to taste)
Cook the couscous by heating 1 cup of water to a boil and adding the butter and salt, then mixing in the couscous. Stir the couscous and remove from heat. Let sit, covered, for 5 minutes.
Prepare your veggies while the couscous cools. See below for how I chop my avocado.
Mix everything together. Add more lime juice, chili powder, and salt, to taste.
Enjoy outside in the shade.
How to Cut an Avocado
Cut the avocado in half around the pit from top to bottom. Twist it with your hands. One half will keep the pit. Whack the pit with a knife. Holding the avocado, twist the knife so the pit comes out on the blade.
While the meat is still in the skin, slice the avocado into a bunch of rectangles. Push the middle of the skin so like you’re turning the avocado inside out. Then just scrape the avocado cubes into the salad!
It’s so simple. Best way to cut an avocado that I have found.
If you are vegan, feel free to omit the butter and substitute olive oil instead. (For cooking the couscous.)
I almost used bacon fat instead of butter, but didn’t want to trick unsuspecting vegetarians. But bacon fat is one of my favorite fats to cook with. Try it – just reserve the fat each time you cook bacon. I keep mine in the fridge in a little bowl.
If you are feeling spunky, try adding some chopped bacon (nitrate and nitrite free of course). I may do that next time.
The most recent restaurant Cobb I had was at Yo In Yo Out. It’s a cute little French place on the upper upper east side (100th Street) that boasts an awesome menu and some truly delicious cappuccinos to boot. Their salad is Cobb Salad “A Ma Lacon” – it has a marinated chicken salad, bacon, eggs, blue cheese, tomatoes, and cucumber over organic mesclun with a balsamic vinaigrette drizzle. I had them hold the balsamic (I’m not a fan; shocker I know!) and sub out the blue cheese and add avocado instead. The dressing is their house dressing and it’s made with olive oil, red wine, raspberries, and some other stuff. It was light and fresh but still a little creamy.
UPDATE: Yo In Yo Out has since closed.
I also recently had a vegetarian Cobb salad at Curly’s Vegetarian Lunch. You know – I keep trying to enjoy this restaurant, but it’s just not that great. The salad tried but just didn’t cut it. The vegan ranch dressing was a small tragedy.
Here is how I make my own Cobb variation at home: cook up several slices of bacon, then fry some mushrooms and onions in the bacon fat with some garlic powder. To the salad (romaine lettuce base), add the bacon, sauteed veggies, half of an avocado, tomatoes, and top with some sesame seeds. For dressing I used Bolthouse Farms Classic Ranch (sent free for me to review).
For dessert I took the rest of the avocado and mashed it with peanut butter, NuNaturals Erythritol Crystals*, and topped it with some more sesame seeds. I call this “dessert guacamole”.
I watched 3 really interesting videos in the last 3 days. The first was a documentary on Hulu called Fat Head. Here’s the summary:
Have you seen the news stories about the obesity epidemic? Did you see Super Size Me? Then guess what? … You’ve been fed a load of bologna.
Comedian (and former health writer) Tom Naughton replies to the blame-McDonald’s crowd by losing weight on a fat-laden fast-food diet while demonstrating that nearly everything we’ve been told about obesity and healthy eating is wrong. Along with some delicious parody of Super Size Me, Naughton serves up plenty of no-bologna facts that will stun most viewers, such as: The obesity “epidemic” has been wildly exaggerated by the CDC. People the government classifies as “overweight” have longer lifespans than people classified as “normal weight.” Having low cholesterol is unhealthy. Lowfat diets can lead to depression and type II diabetes. Saturated fat doesn’t cause heart disease — but sugars, starches and processed vegetable oils do.
The last video I watched was called Sugar: The Bitter Truth. It became somewhat of an internet sensation back in 2009 but I guess I missed it. It’s a 1.5 hour lecture on why fructose is a toxin. (I’m sold.) The lecturer is a doctor by the name of Robert H. Lustig.
If you have some time (each video is over an hour) I highly recommend them. The gist of all of them is that the obesity epidemic is caused, not by fat/saturated fat/meat, but by too much sugar and too many carbohydrates. My take on them:
The first link (Fat Head) “proves” that a high-fat diet is good for you. Um, duh. Tom Naughton’s high-fat diet consists of a lot of meat; I am still kind of undecided on the meat issue. Two more of his points are that 1) grains are doing a lot of damage (he does go into detail but I don’t want to right now) and 2) processed vegetable oils (corn oil, soybean oil, etc… – and not just he partially hydrogenated trans fat ones) are also killing us. Humans are not used to eating either of those things.
Now – I like meat, and I would eat it, but I am morally opposed to the way meat is produced in our country, and I can’t bring myself to eat it anymore. If meat were truly ethically raised? I’m still unsure nowadays. I’m getting off topic, but my takeaway from this one – fat is good. Eat more of it. Eat veggies too, though. It may be possible to have a semi-healthful fast food diet, but it’s probably better to just be more primal.
Mmm… bacon and eggs and butter.
Personal side notes:
My “Bring on the Fat” post from last year (one year ago – to the day). Sadly I didn’t keep up with this as much as I’d have liked. Now that I’m a veggie I need to get my animal fat from butter, ghee, eggs (with yolk), and dairy (goat’s and sheep’s milk yogurts are my faves; regular ol’ organic whole cow’s milk for my coffee). Since I went veggie I have been eating too many carbs and not enough fats.
The Great Fat Animal Experiment. This was from a year and 3 days ago; it was an intro to my passion for animal fat. I still do love animal fat; again, I’m just going to try to get it from non-meat sources.
Way back in July 2009 (4 days before I got engaged… can’t believe I am married now!) was one of the first times I started trying to eat more fat. I didn’t really follow through, at least not to the extent that I should have. I have come a long way since then.
Big Fat Lies
The second link (Big Fat Lies) discusses the matter of why people are getting fat; is it simply that we eat too much and sit on our asses? Gary Taubes seems to think that it’s because we have too much insulin (I’m leaning towards agreeing with him, but I think the reason we have too much insulin is because we… eat too much). He basically says that we aren’t getting fat because we’re eating more; we’re eating more because we’re getting fat. He debunks Ancel Keys’ Lipid Hypothesis/Seven Countries Study which states that:
Saturated fat increases cholesterol. (If A then B.)
High cholesterol associated with heart disease. (B associated with C.)
Saturated fat must cause heart disease! (If A then C.)
What a load of bologna! Ugh, too much to say about this horrible study, will post about this later (if I don’t remind me). I tend to agree with Taubes’ conclusions, but I think that there are a lot of people out there who do simply “eat too much” for probably mental reasons. It’s not just hormones that are making us fat. We have issues that also make us eat too much which starts the vicious cycle of greedy fat cells –> eat more –> greedier fat cells –> eat even more –> also be lazy because we’re too fat.
Sugar: The Bitter Truth
The last link, Sugar: The Bitter Truth, Robert H. Lustig discusses how fructose is metabolized in the body. It turns out that fructose is very similar to ethanol, which is a toxin. He also debunks the Seven Countries Study (though for different reasons than Taubes does). He’s not a low-carb advocate (unlike the other two); he thinks we just have to eat the right carbs, which does not include sugar at all. His diet prescriptions for his patients (mostly kids) are (this is around the 1:10 mark):
Only beverages should be water and milk
Eat carbs with fiber (ex: fruit is fructose but has fiber built in)
Wait 20 minutes for second portions
If you’re gonna stare at a screen (tv/video games) you have to do equal amounts of activity (playing outside)
His prescriptions are probably easier and more reasonable to follow than what Taubes thinks we should do (low-carb, lots of meat); they’re also probably more sustainable (we can’t all live on steak due to overpopulation). I’m still on the fence about carbs though. I love ‘em, but they make me feel like shit. Maybe I’m just more sensitive than some people; my husband could probably live on just carbs and get along fine. (Though he did lose 10 pounds in the last month from being vegetarian – 10 pounds he did not need to lose and he is worried about. He’s practically as skinny as I am.)
What are your thoughts? On grains? On carbs? On sugar? On fructose? On saturated fats? On animal fats? On “healthy” fats? On a low-fat diet? On a low-carb diet? On Tom Naughton/Gary Taubes/Robert Lustig?
Or, if you wanna stop with the heavy topics…
What are you doing for Valentine’s Day?
Bobby got us reservations as a restaurant we haven’t been to yet but that I hear great things about.
I usually buy a large bag of kale each week at Wegmans. This week there was no humongous bag of kale, but there was a curious substitute… a humongous bag of collard greens! I’ve never had them, but I’d heard they’re a southern staple and decided to try something new. I looked up some recipes online and came up with this, a mix of many…
1.5 tablespoons vinegar (I like apple cider vinegar)
4 cups collard greens, chopped into 1.5 inch pieces
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (optional)
(fake) bacon bits, for topping
salt and pepper, to taste
Saute the onion in the olive oil until tender (about 2 minutes). Use a big pan that you can fit all the greens + the water in.
Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; add the chili powder, vinegar, and sugar; stir to let the sugar dissolve.
Add the greens and let is simmer, covered, for about 25 minutes.
Serve with chopped tomatoes, bacon bits, and salt and pepper to taste.
I hope you enjoy these healthy collard greens. It was so easy to take the traditional collards recipe and turn it into a vegetarian collard greens recipe. I’m not a vegetarian, but I really enjoy vegetarian food.