Mark’s Grok Walk Workout looks awesome. Definitely fits into my current exercise routine.
Week 5 of Biz’s 101 Days of Summer Challenge is over. Check out the comments on her post to see how we all did.
Salad Girl Updates
Today… I rewrote this post on Reducing Sugar. It was originally just “10 healthy tips” for cooking and baking, but upon reading it I discovered that I used to demonize butter and fats and think that we should all be eating carby, fat-free diets. So I rewrote it. Do check it out if you get a chance.
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 made this salad ages ago (early January) and almost forgot to post, but it was so good that I just had to. It’s a Whole Foods-inspired recipe and it’s quite good. Back in January I was in a kale phase so I made this several times and each time it did not disappoint.
Butternut Kale Salad (Whole Foods Inspired Recipe)
1 bunch of kale
1/4 cup water + 1/2 veggie boullion cube (or vegetable broth)
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
10 ounces chopped butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt + pepper
chopped romaine lettuce (optional)
Preheat oven to 400F. Toss the chopped squash with the olive oil and a little salt. Roast for 30 minutes, or until it’s done to your liking.
Rip up the kale into pieces, removing the stems.
Heat the water in a sauce pan over medium-high heat; add the veggie cube, honey, and vinegar. Mix until dissolved.
Add the kale pieces to the broth and cook briefly, while stirring (30 seconds to a minute) until the kale begins to wilt. Remove from heat immediately.
Mix together the roasted squash and the kale; add salt and pepper as desired.
Optionally, serve over chopped romaine lettuce – a salad on a salad!
I served this with my Indian brown rice, which you can see in the picture. Recently, my squash consumption has mostly been kabocha squash, but I see some kale/butternut creations in my future.
What’s your favorite way to eat kale? To eat squash?
My favorite way to eat kale is in a massaged kale salad. My favorite squash/way to eat it is – chop a very ripe kabocha and steam it for about 5 minutes. Freeze it for 5 minutes so it cools to room temp. Enjoy plain 🙂
P.S. I’m definitely going to write a followup to Sunday’s post – got some great comments and did some more research.
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 wanted to learn a new language (didn’t do this), go to Hawaii (yes!), I cultivated patience, I ate more fried rice, ate less meat, I didn’t drink more Kombucha, I did drink less diet soda (overall), and I ended the year on a yoga streak (though I’m not sure I did much yoga throughout the whole year).
This was for stress and hormone stuff. Unfortunately at the time I wasn’t ready to commit to everything that I needed to do for acupuncture to work properly, so I quit after two sessions. I may give this another shot sometime though.
This post was written as a response to anyone who doubts that vegetarians (or even vegans) can get enough protein on an animal-free diet. I don’t know the answer to this – I know that I need animal protein, but maybe not everyone does. My opinion on protein has changed (for the better) since I wrote the post. I’m now more into a high-fat, moderate-protein, and low-carb lifestyle.
I came up with a plan for my IBS – my IBS Management Plan. I didn’t stick to it as much as I would have liked. This year one of my resolutions is to get it under control as much as possible! Recent changes in my eating (eating more fats, fewer grains, more protein) have helped a lot.
And here are some useful sites that are not new to this past week, but I want to share anyway:
Khan Academy. A former hedge fund analyst started making videos on various science and math-y topics to tutor his cousins remotely. Turns out that he’s quite good at taking complicated subjects and explaining them via YouTube. He has videos on everything from Harmonic Motion (physics) to Organic Chemistry to basic Math and more.
Cal Newport’s Blog, Study Hacks. He’s the author of 3 books, How to Be a High School Superstar, How to Become a Straight-A Student, and How to Win at College. He has great tips for non-students, too.
I want to preface this by saying my skin is not perfect, but it is getting there! I’ve struggled with skin issues since I was about 18. Oddly enough, I had great skin in high school:
(Do you know who you are, people with cropped arms? I know at least one of you is reading…)
But in college it began to deteriorate. I don’t have a single picture that illustrates how bad my skin was at its worst because I deleted them all! I just couldn’t make skin glow. You can see a bit of acne here, even after a round of photoshopping, wedding day makeup, and strict use of the AcneFree skincare line leading up to the big day (this is from July of this year at my wedding):
I could never figure it out, and all the medications from my dermatologist did not work. I have tried a bunch of different ones – the only one I didn’t try was Accutane (my mom wouldn’t let me, thank goodness). I have also gotten facials (I’ve done them monthly, semi-monthly, or as little as once or twice a year) but they haven’t had any lasting results.
How to Get Glowing Skin
BUT – This is my skin now (not the best picture, but the lighting shows that my skin really is clear; photo courtesy of Coco) – definitely making progress towards glowing:
Finally, about 2 weeks ago (the day of the eat like a kid post) I got a facial from this lady. (More of my recommendations from that week here.) She actually explained to me how my skin works! Which was fantastic. For me to listen to someone and do what they say, I have to understand completely what is going on. (This is why I hate when doctors don’t explain anything!) I will break what she said down into one major issue: blackheads v. whiteheads (there are also enflamed red things, but those are just more advanced black- or white-heads).
Blackheads: these are clogged (open) pores. They’re also called open comedones. They’re filled with sebum and dead skin, and the reason they are black is because they’re exposed to the air and they have oxidized.
Whiteheads: these are not pores! They are (closed) follicles. They’re also called closed comedones. They’re filled with sebum and dead skin, but they are completely under the skin. So no oxidizing, which is why they stay white.
You can extract blackheads yourself, but don’t try to extract the whiteheads. Some people might say you can get them out with a hypodermic needle, but I wouldn’t trust anyone but a facialist to do that for me! Unfortunately, until 2 weeks ago, I thought that whiteheads *did* have an opening and that it was possible to get them out by squeezing. Bad idea! Don’t do it! Leave them alone. You should probably leave the blackheads alone too, because in general, my new rule of thumb is:
Don’t Touch Your Skin
Just don’t touch it. If you try to “help” speed up the process of getting rid of pimples (blackheads, whiteheads, or those mean and nasty red guys), you will undoubtedly spread germs and bacteria from your hands and from the pimples all over your face. Just don’t touch them. Please. They will heal on their own and you just have to trust that your skin knows how to fix itself. I know it’s hard to trust your skin, because it seems like it doesn’t know what it’s doing, but I’m going to hazard a guess and say that you probably touch your skin often (even if you don’t realize it) – which is not helping matters.
Don’t Dry Out Your Skin
Even if you have oily skin you should not try to dry it out! If you try to dry out oily skin, it will just make more oil which will make lots more of those fun whiteheads I talked about. This was another major problem I was having. I tried to dry my oily skin, which made it get whiteheads, and then I would try to get them out because I thought they had an opening. Instead, use an oil-free moisturizer 2-3 times a day. Your skin will learn that it doesn’t have to make so much oil and it will eventually start to chill out. (This may take a week or so because it was so used to over-producing.)
Things that should not go anywhere near your skin in any situation include (but are not limited to):
If you dry out your skin you’re going to piss it off – and maybe it will be clear for a little while, but it will definitely not be clear forever. Drying out your skin is not getting to the root of the problem.
Have a Skincare Routine
My skincare routine now is:
Morning: rub my face with a lemon slice then rinse with water, moisturize with oil-free moisturizer, makeup, and go
Mid-day and / or After work: splash face with water if I’m feeling icky and pat with a paper towel
Night: rinse with water; if I’m wearing makeup I will wash it with a plain old face soap that doesn’t have any sorts of weird chemicals
(The only reason I have 2 moisturizers is because I thought I lost one, but then I found it. I like both of them; the Garnier feels less oily even though both are oil-free. I will buy more Garnier when I run out but probably won’t buy Mario Badescu again.)
Agnes asks, “I would love to hear your opinion on breaking-out on a very clean vegan diet. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!”
My response: This could be a variety of things. First, make sure you’re doing the things I talked about above for how to get glowing skin. Next, make sure that:
You are getting enough fat (I say 40% of calories should come from fat, but this can be different for different people). I notice my skin is bad when I don’t eat enough butter/nut butter/avocado. (Since you’re vegan I guess you can’t have butter though.) I honestly do have better skin when I’m eating meat and animal fat, which could be because the animal protein is easily converted into the protein that our body uses to repair itself, or it could be because my body likes animal fat. That is just me though.
You are not too stressed. This is another huge factor. Stress can also lead to touching your face which leads to breaking out. If you know you’re going to be stressed, drink extra water and try doing something every single day that relaxes you (like yoga or listening to your favorite music).
You might have a food allergy. This is iffy. 15% of the population thinks they have a food allergy when in reality only 5% actually do. I might experiment with a gluten-free week to see if that helps things.
Mimi asks, “I used to have perfect skin. Now, I have mild acne. A facialist said it was probably my birth control. However, this one works better for me in all other areas than previous ones I’ve been on. And skin recommendations, or should I just switch?”
My response: Hm. I have been on and off the pill and I eventually opted to go off of it for a number of reasons. It probably is your birth control, but try all the things I talked about above if you really like the one you’re on! Another option for birth control is the hormone-free IUD, which I have heard great reviews of. And since it doesn’t have hormones it shouldn’t affect your skin.
Coco asks, “How to deal with stress-caused acne? I’ve been breaking out a lot lately because of work stress.”
My response: There isn’t much you can do about this aside from making sure you drink water and making sure that you do something every single day to relax. You have to take care of yourself. Stress shows up in your skin, but it’s also damaging to your health in ways that aren’t quite so visible. Drink water, don’t touch your face, moisturize, and do something like yoga or meditation daily.
Pearl asks, “I have oily skin so i can’t get away with [not washing my face often]… what did the facialist say about the scrubs?”
My response: Be wary of scrubs. Read the labels. If they have the ingredients I listed above, don’t use them. You should probably only exfoliate 1-2 times a week. If your skin is oily, try just rinsing it by rubbing your face (gently) with a slice of lemon and rinsing. You can use a plain old regular (not an acne product) soap if you really want to. If you don’t try to dry your oily skin, it’ll definitely start to realize that it doesn’t have to be so oily!
Stop Picking on Me! (picking / touching your face is more than just a habit – it can be due to stress or anxiety or other underlying issues, and it’s majorly hard to stop. This also goes into much more detail about how your skin is structured and what happens when you try to pop things, and how your skin works.)
I have had a really amazing 6 day streak of happiness. Ever since Wednesday night I’ve been over the moon. Since I’m in such a good mood I wanted to give an update about the thing that makes me the happiest girl in the world: getting married to Bobby, the most amazing man I have ever met! (The engagement post is here.) I am also excited about a product review that I’m going to do for a company that sells bar stools – stay tuned 🙂 Maybe I will get some bar stools for my wedding, hehe.
We have picked a place for the ceremony – the meetinghouse I grew up going to in Yardley, PA. Here is a nice picture (this is in the winter):
They are so sweet – when my dad told them I was getting married they blocked off every weekend in July for us (we still haven’t picked the exact date).
Now for the reception! We have a few options. We may be able to have it at the meetinghouse, if we can get them to let us have wine and beer (Quakers typically do not drink, myself included). If that doesn’t work out, we will likely have it at my parents’ house in New Jersey. My really sweet Auntie Jo and Uncle Morris (remember our gingerbread houses?) offered their house (in Flushing) for the reception as well – they have a great backyard. I think we will have a party there this summer anyway even if we don’t hold the reception there.
Speaking of Auntie Jo, we took a really awesome cooking class last week… I must update about that. Soon, I promise. It was called “Eat Local, Drink Global” and the focus was fish. The very talented Peter Berley was the teacher. I think Bobby is jealous of my celebrity crush on him.
Onto the food! Here are some yummy things I have eaten recently: frozen yogurt from Berrywild – The Art of Yogurt.
Berrywild has two kinds of yogurt – “berry smooth” and “kinda icy”. Bobby and I both got “kinda icy”. So good! I will definitely go back. Bobby always gets toppings but I am too cheap for them.
I like to switch up my morning breakfast grains (when I go for grains). This is grits with lots of cinnamon (that’s why it’s kind of brown and looks like oat bran). I topped it with agave nectar and coconut oil.
I don’t understand what the difference is between coconut oil and coconut butter. The oil is solid at room temperature, so it’s kind of buttery. The butter melts really easily just like the oil. Are they the same?
I went through a phase once where I did not eat much oil or any fats in general, and I was miserable. I couldn’t get full not matter how much I ate, I was cold, my skin was dry, and I was cranky as hell. Healthy fats can be revitalizing for your skin, hair, hormones, etc… Fats are so necessary in a healthy diet! I would even go so far as to say that eating more fat will help you lose weight, provided that you don’t overdo it. When I eat more carbs and less fats, I gain weight; when I do the opposite, I lose (or maintain, if I want to).
What’s your favorite healthy fat? I think mine is coconut oil or butter. Love them both.