Archive for June, 2009

Confessions of a Sugarholic

sugarHello, my name is Amanda. And I am an addict. 

A sugar addict, that is.

Yes, it’s true—I’m one of the millions of Americans who finds themselves hopelessly in love with the taste of sweet, sweet food. I’m a chocolate sneaker (8 dark Hershey kisses in one sitting while nobody’s looking—no problem!). I’ve gotten extra icing to go alongside my Buttercup Bakery carrot cake. And I can never understand why some people say, “Wow, that cake is too rich, I can only have one bite.” Not me—the sweeter the better. I think my blog name says it all—I’m not all about the carrots. Oh no. I’m also very about the cake. A little too much about the cake.

 I’ve been posting for about three weeks, and based on my nutritious findings that I share, you probably have the idea that I am a beacon of health, a perfect eater with a halo made of kale over my head. To give myself credit, I am a very healthy eater. And I’ve become much better, cutting out most processed foods from my life. But I still can’t nix the sweet treats. I melt like butter (oooh, or melted chocolate fondue!) in their presence.

 I’ve always known I’ve had an “issue” with sugar because if I don’t eat it, I don’t crave it. Simple as that. But when I finally DO have some, it’s a very slippery slope and then I end up eating sugar every day, until I try to break the cycle again.  When I eat sugar, I’m bloated, irritable, and have poor digestion and elimination. Above all else, I hate that something has control over me.

 So, on Sunday night, after downing two servings of Coconut Milk Ice Cream (which is friggin’ incredible, especially for lactose-intolerant peeps), I decided that “enough is enough,” “stop the insanity,” and all that stuff. I’m weaning myself off sugar. It’s time. So, you will be accompanying me on my journey to a sugar free (or, let’s get real—a sugar limited!)  life. I am cutting out, at least for NOW, all sugar, natural and processed (ie. Chocolate, alcohol, desserts, and even my precious special ordered raw clear agave nectar *sniff sniff*)  I will be eating fruit, only in the morning and on its own.

 Please join me as I cut the crap out of my diet! Along the way, I’ll be enlightening you about what sugar actually IS, its many forms, how to detect this sneaky culprit, and some tips for getting the sugar out. You might even be so bold as to join me on this adventure and look to where you can limit, or cut out, the sugar in your life. Wish me luck!

As an update, I’m on day 2 today. Yesterday wasn’t so bad, and I didn’t feel any withdrawl symptoms. I’m ramping up my protein intake a bit, since I learned that too little (or, too much) protein can lead to cravings. I’m experimenting what works with me.  When I wanted a little sweetness at 4pm, I had some carrots with a tablespoon of PB. It worked, and kept me satisfied until dinner.  After dinner is when the cravings strike hard, but I was a good girl  and had some teeccino (an herbal, grain coffee) with unsweetened almond milk. I skipped the Baileys this time, and watched with seething jealously as Matt poured himself a glass on the rocks.

Day 2: I am feeling a little edgy already. Hmmmm, I didn’t think I’d see symptoms of withdrawl so quickly. But here I am. I just had an apple  with a little smear of almond butter. I am going out with some school friends after class and it will take all the willpower I can muster not to have a glass of vino with them. But drinking wine, for me, tends to lead to overconsumption of food, and sweets, so I’m steering clear. More updates later.

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June 30, 2009 at 2:45 pm Leave a comment

Coconut Hangover Cure

coconut-water**Please note that Matt wrote this on Sunday morning, NOT Monday morning. He did NOT have a bender on a Sunday night!**

Every time I have a long night out my mom always asks me if I’ve drank a “Prarier Oyster” to help relieve the pain. It’s more or less a bloody Mary, (Worcestershire Sauce, tomato juice, vinegar, egg yolk, vinegar and pepper) and it’s her supposed cure for a hangover. Well she doesn’t drink, but if she did that would be her cure.

 So of course that got me thinking about what people tend to do after a night out on the town, and it made me think about how common wisdom for most people is to indulge in a big bowl of bacon grease with eggs and cheese.

 Recently, I’ve found something better. Coconut Water.

 Seriously.

 Imagine drinking Gatorade without all the sugar. Without all the preservatives, and ingredients not occurring in nature (Seriously what the hell is red 40, and blue 1? And why is that the best name they could come up with for it? And how many reds are there?)

 Over the past month or so I’ve become an “ingredient whore” Before I eat anything, I check the label. As best I can, if I don’t recognize the ingredient or I can’t pronounce it, I don’t put it into my body. That’s why I was surprised to find something with so many health benefits that doesn’t have anything added to it all

 Pick up a container of Coconut Water (VitaCoco, Zico or O.N.E. are the most popular), and you’ll see that the only ingredient is coconut water. No added Sugars or preservatives. Nada. (They do sell some versions with flavors, which means more sugar, but I try and avoid those). It’s low calorie (60 per servings), and is choc full of potassium, something we all need. In fact it has more potassium than a banana. It also contains naturally occurring electrolytes, which your body always needs (like before and after workouts and especially when your body is dehydrated like after a night out of drinking).

 A quick Google search of coconut water listed these health benefits:

 *Potassium which helps regulate blood pressure, heart function and enhances the hydration process

 *Properties which promote smoother more hydrated skin

 *Raise your metabolism and promote health loss.

 *Boost your immune system.

 *Detoxify and fight viruses

 *Balance your PH and reduce risk of Cancer

 *Treat kidney and urethral stones.

 Ok, let’s not get so crazy to say it is a miracle drink, but I will say that it works wonders. And like most things that end up being a blessing, I resisted trying it first.

 When Amanda first brought home Coco Water I thought it tasted funny. I thought it was another one of her “health craze” things that no normal person would want to try. I was almost scared of it until one morning I woke up on a bleary-eyed Sunday, head bounding and cursing myself for those 1:30am Tequila shots (if it’s not Patron, it’s not worth it). Amanda tried getting me to drink water, but as anyone with a hangover knows, water is sometimes the last thing you want when your stomach’s queasy, and your whole body doesn’t really like you. Normally I would ask for Gatorade, but neither of us was in any shape to go outside and face the blind light of day. Amanda poured me a glass of coco water, told me to stop bitching, and made me drink it.

 And it wasn’t that bad. And the funny thing is…well it made me feel better. The electrolytes and the natural taste went down pretty well, in the same way drinking Gatorade does when you’re feeling dehydrated. Sure, it wasn’t a cure-all, but it did make me start to feel a lot better than I would’ve, and helped jump-start the process of getting my back to normal, which I think anyone with a hangover can attest, is the main goal.

 If you’re wondering why I’m spending so much time talking about a hangover, the truth is that I’m writing this behind the veil of an epic morning after. My brother and I started at 2pm for happy hour and finished about 8 hours later. I barely drink as it is, so let’s just say that a power night such as this is one my body doesn’t appreciate.

 It’s good to know that I know I have some remedies at my disposal for those times I go too far. Of course, one might say that the best way to avoid a hangover is not to drink yourself to excess, but I live in the real world and I know that we all need to go cut loose once in a while.

 In closing, here’s an article I found about various ways and old wives’ tales on how to cure a bad morning after.

June 29, 2009 at 12:05 pm 5 comments

The Organic Debate

organicHappy, Happy Friday! Many thanks to Upper Meadows Farm for adding me to their blogroll. Thank you!

I am going to have SO much good stuff to share with you after my weekend at Integrative Nutrition, so get ready for next week’s Cake & Carrot offerings.  I’ll also be introducing my integrative/holistic expert who will frequently weigh in on topics I cover.

Today I present an  article (click that link) I am cross posting from  the Sustainable Table blog. You can read an interview with Marion Nestle (who totally rocks, works at NYU, and wrote What to Eat — a MUST read) , where she explains some of the mystery surrounding the term “organic.”  I’m sure you’re confused, as I know I am.

Happy exploring…and have a great weekend!

June 26, 2009 at 5:59 pm Leave a comment

Milk vs Lemon in Tea

teaThe weather is starting to heat up, or at least, it’s stopped raining for 10 minutes, and that means I can start my iced tea obsession.  Preferably iced green tea–crisp, clean, and yummy. By now you’ve heard all about the health benefits of tea and the high amounts of antioxidants it offers.  But you might not know that WHAT you put in your tea will affect the antioxidant level.

 But before we get to that, do you know what an antioxidant IS? Or what it DOES? It’s one of the latest buzzwords thrown around in the media and on packaged goods, and everything from chewing gum to protein bars touts antioxidant power (It’s mostly BS).

Quite simply (and according to the National Cancer Institute),  antixodiants are substances that inhibit oxidation and protect cells from free radicals, which may lead to cancer.  Free radicals occur naturally in the body, as they are the by products of  the body’s normal cell processes. However, these free radicals can attack cells, causing tumors and cancer. Current research has been focusing on how antioxidants can quench these free radicals and prevent cancers from starting.  Phytochemicals, chemicals found in plants and fruits, are known to protect your body by acting as antioxidants, preserving nutrients, and preventing carcinogens (cancer causting agents) from forming.   So eat your fruits and veggies!!!  Tons of these good-guys are also found in tea, which has one of the highest concentration of phytochemicals.

The buzz about the importance of what you put in your tea came about when German researchers noticed that there are fewer cardiac cases in Asia than in Europe, and both countries drink a lot of tea. So, what’s the difference?  Why do Asians have a lower incidences of heart disease? The British aren’t all that bad! The conclusion of their study was that MILK (and boy, do those Brits love their tea with a spot of milk) blocks the antioxidant properties that the tea offers, rendering the antixodants powerless.

The proteins in milk, called caseins, interact with the tea’s phytochemicals, completely blocking their biological benefits.  Did you know the same thing happens in milk chocolate–the milk is said to inhibit all the antioxidant properties of the cocoa. That’s why dark chocolate (anything above 60%, but I love 85%) is better for you than the lighter varieties.   

But back to tea…You just learned NOT to put milk or cream into tea. Then what should you put?  Recent studies have shown that adding LEMON actually BOOSTS the phytochemical properties of tea, so add a squeeze to your hot mug or pitcher of cold iced tea.

The debate of whether green or black tea is better for you is still going on. The more important issue is to incorporate tea as part of your diet. I drink nettle tea or genmaicha green tea in the morning, and this cool green tea powder from Rishi with lunch. Herbal teas do not offer the same anitoxidant benefits as green or black tea, however, but there’s nothing as pleasing as a soothing cup of chamomile or lavender tea in the evening. And if I get the night time munchies, which happens a lot, I find that sometimes drinking some herbal tea, instead of eating, can fill me up.

The moral of the story: Skip the milk/cream, add lemon, and more importantly, make sure you are eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day.

June 25, 2009 at 2:14 pm 2 comments

“Skinny Bastard” review–and welcome featured blogger!

skinnyIt gives me great pleasure to introduce a new featured blogger who will be making regular appearances here at Cake & Carrots. This very special person will be sharing his nutrition experiences from the male perspective. So much information out there is geared towards women , but I’ve found that more often it’s the guys that need the most help (right, ladies?).  Their resources include Men’s Health, and eating what their wives/girlfriends/buddies eat. Not such good options.  After all, men have just as much bioindividuality as women, so it’s important that they learn what works for them, too.  So, Matt will be illuminating us  on his experiences on the road of health and wellness.

So, without further ado, please welcome my fabulous husband (Happy 2 year anniversary!). A writer by trade and hobby, he’s a natural blogger and has a way with words that I will never have.  For the gentlemen that read this blog, please feel free to ask Matt questions. As my personal guinea pig, he’s been subjected to almost every diet, every crazy trend out there, or at the very least has watched me on my adventures, so please pick his brain! 

Skinny Bastard: A review.

How I learned to stop eating meat and still be able to look myself in the mirror.”

Yes, there is a book called Skinny Bastard. No, I don’t want to be a skinny bastard.  A fit one maybe, but not skinny.
If you’re like me, the next few sentences you read will have you saying that I have lost my freaking mind and what I’m about to tell you sounds great in theory, but really are more practical for anyone else but you. That was my thought too as I started reading this book that Amanda gave me. Lately I’ve felt like a human guinea pig, subject to whatever learnings Amanda had picked up from her current week’s lesson at either NYU or IIN. To keep marital bliss, I’ve remained open to “trying” new food and even gone to the occasional vegan/vegetarian restaurant, knowing that in my “alone time” or time out with the boys I can indulge in my buffalo wings, cheese steaks, chicken burritos and god knows what else.

So when Amanda handed me this book, she warned me to take it with a grain of salt. She told me that the book would preach the benefits of a mostly vegan diet, something that I shrugged off as though she was crazy. Vegan? Are you out of your (expletive) mind? Still, i gave it a read.

A few weeks back Amanda and I saw Food Inc…, which she has praised gloriously and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand just what the hell is going on with our food system. I found it enlightening not because I believe that eating meat is wrong, but it’s enlightening to see just how bad the American food system is, how treating animals (and even our agriculture, crops, and soil) poorly creates a chain reaction that makes our food supply toxic, dangerous, and in the end makes us more sick. I say this merely to set the stage for my frame of mind walking into the book.

Skinny Bastard spends the better part of the first half grossing you out. Literally. They explain to you how our food supply is toxic, and how animals mistreatment ultimately affects you by passing on their sickness and chemicals onto you. You learn incredible things like how the poor conditions for the animals actually harms the food you buy at the supermarket (did you know that milk contains trace amounts of rocket fuel? Apparently that’s ok, the government thinks it’s cool to have some in your diet, in case you need that extra zoom). So even if you don’t care about the cruelty-free aspect of it, you’ll care a lot when you realize that what you don’t know you are putting into your body is likely going to make you very sick one day. (The chemicals and preservatives and hormones in most meat are known to cause cancer and other diseases).

As I was reading the chapters on how our food supply is toxic, how the FDA and USDA is a joke, I found myself becoming VERY VERY ANGRY. Angry at both the authors of the book and also my wife. I was pissed because I realized how much of a life of blissful ignorance i’ve been living, and how i’ve spent the better part of my life thinking that things like milk, chicken, and even eggs were super healthy for me. I never really thought about how polluted beef that isn’t grass fed is, and how the government applies literally no standards to make sure you don’t get sick from what you’re eating (and has voluntary systems in place in the event of a needed recall. Read: If any food is tainted or dangerous, it’s only voluntary that a company has to recall the product in). I was amazed to find out that most of the people who run the FDA or USDA are people who were lobbyists at some other point in their careers. Lots of conflicts of interest, and a realization that it’s no surprise nothing gets done by these organizations to make things better. As I was saying, I became very upset to learn that our food is considered so polluted that other countries won’t import our any of our meat. No high demand for botulism laced t-bone from Iowa.

But more so, I became angry that I now know I could no longer live the life I did before, just eating any food from any place because I knew the truth. Part of me feels as though I have been indoctrinated. Like the authors intent is to freak you out so much that you have to change your ways. And maybe that’s where Skinny Bastard succeeds. Even if it grosses you out, and shows you what’s really going on behind the scenes, it does so for the better good. And I honestly think that it, like Food Inc.., has some lessons that can help save your life. (The two authors by the way, are pretty hot, and they talk like dudes, so it’s kind of funny to read a book written by women with a chapter entitled, “Don’t be a pussy.”)

So what’s my take-away from this book? Well, I haven’t eaten chicken in a month. I can safely say that i’ve eaten some form of tempeh, tofu or other soy based product every day, and increased my veggie intake by about 75%. Reading this book has taught me that you can actually live (and live pretty darn well) on a diet of food that isn’t fried or processed, and not feel deprived in the slightest. That you can up your veggie intake in a way that still is satisfying and cook food that tastes good, and (surprisingly) makes you feel pretty darn good too. There are a gazillion recipes you can make that make this food taste good. Never in my life did I think I would be able to get away with making sweet potato fries 3-4 nights a week in THIS house. (Turns out Yams are like a super food…one of the healthiest on the planet)

In the past month, cutting out meat and upping my veggie intake, i’ve lost about 4 pounds. That was a bi-product as the truth is I’m just feeling a hell of a lot better these days. I don’t have the cravings and hunger crashes, and my body seems to be getting along well with me better than ever.
Trust me, it may sound like i’ve gone hippie. But I hate pachouli, and I won’t wear Birkenstocks. I like leather belts, and i still enjoy beer. (OK, bailey’s too). I don’t see myself completely adopting every piece of advice in this book, but I found it to be a great resource for any guy who wants to know how to get themselves healthier, and stop lying to themselves and pull back the curtain. You’ll probably go through the 7 stages of grief (7? HOw many are there?) to eventually see the light, but in the end I think it is worth opening your eyes to. Your body will thank you, you’ll probably live longer, and for those single guys, you’ll probably get more girls too.

June 23, 2009 at 2:53 pm 6 comments

Lambs Quarters, Amaranth, and Sorrel, oh my!

urlHello friends, and happy, happy Monday! I know you all did your homework and saw Food, Inc, right? I know one very special reader did–you know who you are!

If you live on the East coast you had a rain-filled weekend. Again. I spent a totally relaxing weekend in the Berkshires. There’s nothing better than taking a nap in a screened in porch, listening to the sound of rain outside . And the smell of humid summer rain. The best!

I’m working on a few topics/posts right now, as well as a guest blogger who is going to make a splashy debut here at Cake & Carrots. I haven’t had too much time to put something together, as I was finished up my Food Management Theory (vomit) class, which is cause for celebration! Next week I start Food Microbiology, but thankfully I am school free this week until Integrative Nutrition this weekend.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we received our first CSA delivery from Upper Meadows Farm yesterday.  In case you don’t know what a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is, here is an explanation taken from the Upper Meadows Farm website:

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It is a simple idea: A community supports a farm and in return, the farm supports that community. It is a creative response to growing problems in this country and around the world, involving agriculture and our food supply, where we are increasingly separated from the source of our food. CSA connects local farmers with local eaters in a partnership of mutual commitment and provides a direct link between the production, preparation and consumption of food. It is about “putting the farmer’s face on food” and putting the “culture” back into agriculture. Becoming a member of a CSA creates a responsible relationship between people and the food we eat, also the land on which it is grown, and with those who grow it. Members know the farmer, who, with the security of this committed market, is given the opportunity to care for the land in the best way possible, and to cultivate and grow food on it to nourish people he has come to know.

 Cool, right? I tell you, local DOES taste better. This week’s delivery  included amaranth leaves, lamb’s quarters (leafy green), sorrel (yet another leafy green), parsely, fresh oregano, red spring onions, and red kale. I was in leafy green heaven, yes, but I also didn’t know what the heck to do with so much green! I took a bunch of everything, sauteed it, and then made a fritatta…totally kick ass (except for the fact that Matt brutally burned himself, the recipe was a success).  I’ll be having some of the red kale tonite with Matt’s marinated tempeh.  The coolest green was sorrel, which I had never heard of before. It tastes lemon-y, tangy, and peppery, it’s unlike anything I’ve tried before. I put some into the Lemon Broccoli & Avocado dish (I wrote about last week) and it rocked. 

Not much else to report. Tommorrow Matt and I are celebrating our 2 year wedding anniversary at Chef Dan Barber’s Blue Hill New York, where the Obamas ate dinner a few weeks ago. It’s one of the best known, and fancy shmanshy, local-sustainable restaurants (Ok, that description really does not do it justice but check out the website). They source everything from their family owned farm, Blue Hill Farm, in the Berkshires, as well as other small farms in the Hudson Valley Region. Matt and I can finally eat meat after weeks of living on vegetables, tempeh and tofu. Hooray! Full review after dinner tmw nite!

June 22, 2009 at 5:31 pm 2 comments

Veggie News

Happy Friday! It’s been one of those weeks that seemed to last forever…don’t you hate when that happens? I’m so excited that I’ll be going to my house in the Berkshires this weekend where I plan to sleep, do some yoga, sleep, and go outlet shopping.  Heaven on earth.

I know that since I posted on kitchen gadgets, you’ve all been getting busy in the kitchen (cooking, i mean!) I have to give a shout out to my hubby who has cooked an impressive 4 days this week, including mastering  his marinated tempeh recipe.  Even more, he has been following a vegetarian diet for the past 2 weeks and has lost 4 pounds already. What’s even more exciting than the 4 pounds is that he claims to have more energy and just feel all-around better. Go Goldy!

Here’s something interesting that I read in the Weill Cornell Medical College Food &  Fitness Advisor:  According to the Journal of Food Science, April 2009, researchers who cooked vegetables using six different methods found that some methods affected the antioxidant levels in the veggies more than others.  For instance, “griddling” (cooking on a flat metal surface, no oil) and microwaving preserved the antioxidant content of most vegetables better than boiling, pressure cooking, baking, or frying. 

Vegetables lost the most nutrients when they were cooked in water.  This makes sense, as B-complex vitamins and vitamin C are water soluble, which means they are easily destroyed or washed out during food preparation and storage.  This also means that they are not stored in the body, and must be replenished every day (On the reverse side,  fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K  do not get destroyed during cooking, are stored in the body and in the liver, and need replenishment every 3 days. But these vitamins need fat to be absorbed, so try to put a little fat–like olive oil, nut, seeds, avocado–on your veggies)

To continue, a few vegetables like green beans (after boiling), celery, and carrots, had increased antioxidant levels after cooking.  Beets and garlic retained their antioxidant levels during most cooking methods. Antioxidants in artichokes, however, withstood all types of cooking.

I try and follow these rules and cook veggies for as little time,  and with less liquid, as possible.  I steam basically everything, and roast sweet potatoes and root vegetables.  I tend to saute leafy greens like kale, chard, and spinach with a little olive oil and garlic. However, if I’m lazy and not in the mood to cook, I just heat up one of those microwavable bags of raw vegetables and 3 minutes later you have, well, soggy vegetables. But when you’re in a pinch, it does the trick.

To celebrate the weekend, here is a favorite, VERY easy broccoli recipe (courtesy of IIN website):

Lemon Broccoli with Avocado

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Yields: 8 servings
Ingredients: 2 bunches broccoli
1 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 avocado
Directions:
  1. Chop broccoli into bite-size pieces, keeping stems separate from crowns.
  2. Fill a pot with 1 inch of water, place a steamer basket inside, cover and heat to boiling. Add stem pieces and steam for 2 minutes. Then add crown pieces, cover and steam for 5 minutes while you prepare other ingredients.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine the juice of the lemon, the olive oil and salt.
  4. Chop the avocado into chunks and add to the bowl.
  5. Add the warm broccoli to the bowl, mix gently and serve.

June 19, 2009 at 2:09 pm Leave a comment

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