Tuesday, May 25, 2010

White Girl Makes Sushi

The other night after school I was starving, as usual, and had little to no patience to make dinner. I know that you have all been there. I ran into Whole Foods Market with sushi on the brain. I grabbed a tuna roll and started to head for the check out when, out of habit, I annoyingly decided to read the ingredients and was SHOCKED to find a long list of them, and we are not talking tuna, nori, and rice. I moaned in frustration and put the sushi back, vowing that when I had more time, I would make my own.

So folks here we are. I went to the Asian market today and picked up a bamboo sushi mat, some nori, cucumber, carrots, and avocado. I figured I would try a veggie roll the first time just to keep it simple. I wanted to a roll with brown rice to keep with my whole “health food nut” thing. Brown rice is unmilled, meaning that it keeps its bran and germ layers, which contain the majority of the B vitamins and antioxidants. I chose short grain rice because it contains more starch than longer grain rice; hence it sticks together more easily and is perfect for sushi making.

Once the rice was cooked I just went with the directions on the package of nori. Nori, by the way, is quite nutritious. Nori is a sea vegetable that is super high in minerals, contains iron, and is one of the only vegetarian sources of B12, so it is ideal for vegans.

Rolling sushi was very therapeutic, and I got better and better as I went on. My first roll was somewhat of a disaster. I put WAY too much rice and fillings in and was a little aggressive with my rolling. The nori ripped and it was a big mess! By my fourth roll I had it down. A nice thin layer of rice, not too many veggies and, viola! Sushi!

The best thing about this sushi is that I know what is in it. It has whole food ingredients and no preservatives or sugar. It was fun to make and it sure was delicious! With all the practicing that it took to achieve sushi perfection, I ended up with enough for dinner tonight, lunch tomorrow and happy neighbors! Have any of you made sushi before? What do you like in your rolls?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Does a Body Good?

Dairy can be hard to digest, especially with all the processing that goes on from the point in time when the milk comes out of the cow until the time that it hits the table. As a matter of fact, 30 to 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant, meaning they are missing the enzyme in their digestive tract that breaks down the sugars in milk products. Sometimes when milk products are cultured or fermented like yogurt, cheese, and kefir, they can be easier to digest. However, with so many people having a hard time with milk and milk products, it’s no wonder that there is a plethora of milk alternative products on the market today. Just like most overly processed foods, many of these products are high in sugar, expeller pressed oils, and other additives. We need to be careful reading labels when we choose alternative dairy products so we can choose the products that have clean ingredients and leave those with all the additives on the shelves.

Milks: I like Pacific Brand organic non-dairy beverages. They have a whole line of different nut and grain milks and each has its own unique taste. I really like the Organic Unsweetened Almond. Its ingredients are simple, and it is quite tasty. It does not taste like milk, but it does have a nice hint of almond flavor and is delicious on cereal or in your latté. Edensoy unsweetened organic soymilk is also a good option if you are okay with soy products. The only ingredients on the label are soybeans and water!

Personally I am not so into the dairy alternatives in the “ice cream” and fake cheese categories. These products are overly processed and most that start with soy as a base are missing all the beneficial properties of the soy and are loaded with sugar and other additives. One ice cream product that I do like is Coconut Bliss. It is made with delicious coconut milk and sweetened with agave nectar. As far as cheese products go, I haven’t found one with clean ingredients. Here is a recipe for a creamy sauce with cheese like consistency and flavor that is made with whole food ingredients! Try this tossed in pasta, over broccoli and potatoes, or on a pizza crust with tomato sauce for a delicious dairy free treat!

Nut Cheese

1 cup water

1 tsp onion powder

½ cup raw cashews

¼ cup nutritional yeast

1 ½ tsp sea salt

2 cloves of garlic

1 Tbsp of lemon juice

1 Tbsp sesame tahini

Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Add a little more water if necessary. Pour mixture into a saucepan and simmer over low heat, stirring until desired thickness. Sun dried tomatoes, olives, pimentos, or fresh herbs are some delicious ingredients that you could add for different flavor variations.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sunny Side Up

What is easier, more satisfying, or faster than breakfast for dinner? Eggs are awesome in my book. They are a great source of protein (7 grams per egg), iron and fat-soluble vitamins. They can also be rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which everyone has been hearing a lot about lately due to their anti-inflammatory health benefits. This brings me to my point that not all eggs are created equal and while preparing eggs is fast and easy, choosing which ones to buy in the grocery store is not. Here is a list of the usual suspects:

Option #1: the white Styrofoam container with no labeling (i.e. conventional) that will cost you around 99 cents a dozen.

Option #2: Cage Free

Option #3: Organic

Option #4: Omega-3

Option #5: Free Range

Option #6: Pastured

You may have seen these different labels in your local grocery store. What do all these words mean and which one should you choose? This quick tutorial on egg lingo will have you choosing your carton with confidence!

Conventional chickens are crammed into tight metal cages. Since chickens only lay eggs when it is daytime, the hens are kept in a large warehouse that has the lights on 24 hours a day to maximize production. A conveyor belt runs under the cages and picks up any eggs that the chickens lay. These chickens are given antibiotics as to not spread disease and hormones to assist in the production of more eggs. Their claws and beaks have been removed so they don’t peck each other to death, which you can’t really blame the poor little gals for wanting to do, having to live in those conditions.

Cage free: Pretty much the same as option #1, minus the tight metal cages. These hens are still crammed into a large warehouse and they still loose body parts.

Organic: The chickens are fed only organic feed (no pesticides or herbicides used to grow) and no antibiotics or hormones. Organic also insists that the animals must be treated humanely, which means they can keep their beaks and “have access” to outdoors. You will often times seen “vegetarian diet” on organic egg cartons as well. This means that the chicken feed has no chicken (or other animal byproducts) in it, which is a good thing, since chickens aren’t cannibals.

Omega-3: The chickens are fed flax seeds in their feed to increase the Omega-3 properties of their eggs. We don’t know anything about how they were treated.

Free range: This means that there has to be a door somewhere in the warehouse for the chickens to get out. It doesn’t guarantee that they actually do.

Pastured: Chickens can eat bugs and worms and get to run around and frolic in the grass. They nest and lay eggs when and where they want. The nutritional property of the egg is also increased due to the chicken eating what mother nature intended.

Personally I wish I had my own chickens so I didn’t have to sort all this out. The second best option to that is getting eggs at your local farmers market and talking to the farmer to see what the lives of their hens are like.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Yogurt Faceoff

Activia® yogurt challenges you to eat one a day for 14 days and magically you will regulate your digestive system. It worked for Jaime Lee Curtis, why can’t it work for you? What about Activia® makes it so damn special anyway? The claim to fame that Dannon is making is that bifidus regularis, a friendly bacteria, is helping out regulating your slow intestinal transit time. I’ll buy it. I’ll tell you what else I wouldn’t buy, Activia®. The fact of the matter is, all yogurts contain beneficial bacteria aka probiotics, and there has been plenty of studies that suggest that lactobacillus acidophilus, another strand of probiotic, is also very effective at relieving signs and symptoms of GI distress.

The human gut contains 2 to 5 pounds of living bacteria and a few thousand different species, so don’t be fooled into thinking that the only one that can save the day is bifidus regularis, I am pretty sure that is not the scientific name anyway. Despite their keen marketing tactics, Activia® has a bunch of other nonsense ingredients in it that aren’t doing much for your digestive health, or your health in general. Let’s take a look at the label on their strawberry yogurt:


Remember how to do this? The third ingredient by weight is fructose syrup, aka sugar. The fourth ingredient is sugar. The fifth ingredient? Fructose again! Add up all the sugar by weight and it probably exceeds the amount strawberry and possibly even the amount of milk. As a matter of fact, there is 17 grams per four ounces of yogurt. That is more sugar per ounce than a Coke!

Do you want to get some beneficial bacteria into your diet and improve your gut heath, without O-D-ing on the sugar? Try Straus Family Creamery Plain Yogurt. The only ingredients in this yummy yogurt are organic milk and living yogurt cultures. If you are craving a little sweetness in your yogurt try adding a little honey, fruit preserves, or maple syrup. This yogurt is so delicious and good for you and I would be willing to bet that it too would regulate your digestive system in a few short weeks, no sugar necessary!