Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Latest

The Latest

It’s May 21st and the weather feels like it’s August 21st.  There’s one month more until it’s officially  summer but here in Miami we are already feeling the effects of the heat and humidity.  I’m not complaining, I’m just stating the facts.  I live in a tropical paradise.  Key word, tropical.  Tropical weather allows for a variety of fruits to grow here.  We’re gearing up for mango season – with over 400 varieties – it’s hard to pick a favorite. 

Besides mangos, we have lychees, longans, carambola, mamey, passion fruit – and that’s just to name a few.  So, yes, we are lucky to have tropical fruit.  The not so lucky part?  Dealing with all the heat, humidity, and bugs.  Watch out for the cockroaches and mosquitoes.  It’s just a part of the environment unfortunately.  The heat is a definite factor when it comes to my running.  During the week I run early enough the sun isn’t out.  And even though the sun isn’t out, it’s been beyond humid – the sweat factor is ON.  It’s pretty bad when I can’t stand my own smell.  Which leads me to why I’m even talking about the weather – hydration.  I’ve had previous blogs on hydration – here and here – so read up and drink up.  Water that is.  Drink water to hydrate.  If you are doing extensive exercise or if you’re out in the hot sun, it’s possible you’ll need an energy replacement drink.  But the truth of the matter is most people just simply need water.  We are not all athletes.  Be mindful of your liquid calories and stay hydrated this spring/summer.

To say I’ve been recently cookbook obsessed is an understatement.  All I want to do is bake and cook.  My latest find, Bread Illustrated.  I’ve been successful with a few other bread recipes as of recent just through searches on the internet.  But I knew if anyone could help me to have more success it’d be America’s Test Kitchen.  They’ve tested the recipes so I don’t have to.  Am I right?? And in theory most should come out successful – unless there’s a user error, which is most commonly the case!  I am a very visual person when it comes to directions and was thrilled that this book was called Bread Illustrated – a picture for almost every instruction?!  Sign me up.  I knew this might be the answer to all my bread failures.  I’ve still been trying to make everything homemade this year and bread has/is my nemesis.  I just made chocolate babka this weekend:

I should’ve read the introduction pages to the cookbook because they clearly state that the easier recipes are in the beginning of the book and the harder recipes are towards the back.  Clearly chocolate babka was in the back.  Leave it to me to pick what sounded the best, when in reality I should’ve started with a few more successful recipes before tackling the hard ones.  I’ve decided to begin to work my way through the book.  Not only is it something that I’ve wanted to attempt for a while now – in my all things homemade quest – but also as of recent baking has been a form of stress relief for me.  Some people may not understand or see how that is, but it’s been working for me.  I’m able to channel all my energy into making bread and not have a care in the world when I am as focused as I have to be while baking the bread.  Not to mention the smell of my house?  I mean, come on? 

It’s been a common theme in my nutrition counseling sessions with patients over the last month – find a form of stress relief that doesn’t involve food.  Each person has to find their outlet for stress, whatever that may be.  It will be different for everyone.  In so many patients that struggle with weight loss, their outlet is food.  I teach patients to find an alternative outlet – honoring your hunger cues – but definitively finding something else to channel their stress.  I meditate for 10 minutes every day and that truly helps me to focus solely on my breath.  I find additional moments, 1 minute at a time during the day, to help me reconnect with my breath.  The simple act of focusing on my breathing clears my mind of extractions which then enables me to better connect with those around me and my spirit within.  Everyone has stress.  How do you handle it?  For me, it’s meditation and baking – now if only I could bake all day…

 In my quest for making everything homemade, I’ve come to the realization that not everyone can make everything homemade.   I get it – remember you have to begin where you are at.  And I’m not asking you to do everything homemade – remember, that’s MY goal.  You do YOU! People will always try and say that I eat way too healthy and they can never be like me – that’s not the idea behind healthy eating.  The key is to begin with one key change and keep adding on ways to improve.  The idea is to continue to form healthy habits AND stay consistent with the ones you’ve established.  I definitely make my own homemade salad dressing, but if you’re struggling to find one that tastes good and isn’t going to take the salad from healthy to unhealthy, enter Bolthouse.  I am not sponsored by them (which is another story for another day), I just know that they taste good, will add flavor to your salad and won’t turn your salad into something unhealthy.  They also make a yogurt version of their dressings, but I selected these to share as they have less ingredients and are virtually homemade.  You’re welcome.

I have been making this over the last month on repeat.  I can’t get enough.  A quick pickle of sorts – pickle referring to the technique, but not actually a cucumber if you will.  I take a Mason jar and thinly slice a mix of vegetables – typically red onion, carrot, and radish – and pack it into the jar.  Bring ¼ cup of white wine vinegar, ¾ cup water, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon of sugar to a boil.   I pour the brine over the vegetables and cover.  Let it chill for at least half an hour.  Keep it in the fridge.  My go to?  Adding these vegetables to my Taco Tuesday!  They’re also great on salads and sandwiches. 

Last but not least, my inner creativity.  I mentioned earlier how I meditate and bake for stress relief.  Stress can really wreak havoc on a person’s body, in more ways than one.  Truth be told, stress has been limiting my creativity abilities as of recent – hence why my blogs sometimes go every three weeks instead of two.  I recently did a presentation for a group and while I was stressed getting it to come altogether, the truth is the end result turned out just fine.  Ideas don’t just come naturally to me, they take time – it’s all a part of the process (for me anyways).  Each night I would come home and try to brainstorm what my topic would be.  I think it was five nights straight and not one idea came to fruition.  Enter the strawberry rose tart –

How did this help my presentation you ask?  I started to watch a youtube video –How To Make A Strawberry Rose.  A distraction if you will.  From there I started to practice on a few strawberries.  In the video they continue to fan the layers all the way to the top.  I decided that it looked more natural if you cut an actual hole at the top instead of fanning one last layer.  Five to 10 strawberries later an idea for my presentation came to mind.  I immediately jotted down a rough draft, slide by slide, as quickly as I could.  The minute I began to feel less stressed my creative ideas started flowing.  I didn’t know if they would ultimately lead to a presentation, but minimally I had more ideas coming.  Cut more strawberries and get more ideas?  Or now begin to channel some of these ideas into a presentation?  The truth is as much stress as I was putting on myself the less creative I was.  Each night as I came home to work on my presentation I did something in the kitchen – whether it was simply creating an amazing salad to have for dinner that night, baking bread, or simply throwing a few ingredients for dinner together – the key was disconnecting from the stress in order to have my creative ideas flow.  It worked.  My presentation came together and was a success.  Some people might call it procrastination, I prefer to call it channeling my inner creative ideas.  Stress surfaces for everyone in different ways.  For me the stress has been stifling my inner creativity.  Every day isn’t perfect and some days are better than others.  I’m working on better controlling my stress levels with whatever comes my way through cooking and baking.  Enter my finished product – a strawberry rose tart, with a rosé simple syrup drizzled on top, otherwise known as my way of letting go of what I can’t control and knowing that what will be will be.   Stress, let go. Creativity flowed.  Mission accomplished.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Currently Trending

It's hard to keep up with my blog.  I do it on my own personal time and recently there hasn't been much personal time.  With work I've been working crazy long hours (not by choice) but it is what it is.  And when I do have free time I'm cooking or baking - a girl has to eat!  And my bread making skills?  Well, they're getting better - just look at that cinnamon bread!

The truth is that I haven't had too much creativity flowing to even think of a topic to write about - stress will do that to you.  Working on the home/work balance has been a struggle with my last job (too long a commute) and now with my current job there's just too much work plain and simple.  It's a struggle and something I continually am working on but have yet to say that I have found the balance.  To be continued, right?  The baking has been a way to channel my stress.  Strange maybe, but it's been helping.

Over these last few weeks I'll write a topic down but really don't have enough content to make a whole blog about it.  I thought I'd just write a few things for ya that's either been of interest to me or recently in the news.

May is Mental Health Month.  I'm not sure why but there's always seems to be a stigma attached to having mental health issues.  The stats say that 1 in 5 people live with a mental illness - so either yourself or a friend or family member currently are dealing with this.  I saw this hope and grace initiative the other day from Love Philosophy and I can't say enough good things about it.  All it takes is one small act of grace - asking someone how they REALLY are is that first step in starting a whole new conversation.   It's about breaking the stigma around mental health and showing grace - being true to yourself and encouraging others to do the same.  

I recently purchased 'A New Way to Bake' by Martha Stewart.  In her opening cover her editors describe this as a cookbook "that definitively ushers the baking pantry beyond white flour and sugar to include natural sweeteners, whole-grain flours, and other better-for-you-and delicious-ingredients."  So here are some of the discussions - butter versus oil, honey versus agave, whole-wheat flour versus gluten-free flours - all being debated across the country as we speak.  Don't worry, I'm not really going to debate these topics with you.  Like I said, they're currently being debated ENOUGH as we speak.  Nutrition is a science and it's always evolving and we're always learning new things.  I try to go to the science behind these debates and #followscience NOT trends, but the truth is that trends sell.  The influx of gluten-free products currently on the market is beyond belief - and the truth is how many people actually have Celiac's disease and would benefit from these products?  Gluten doesn't make you fat and gluten can be tolerated by the average American.  Would I say that we have ultra-processed foods here in America and some gluten products might not be as tolerated as others?  Absolutely, but that doesn't mean you need to eat everything gluten-free.  And by the way, let me just clear something up - oats are gluten-free naturally.  Yep, that's right.  Companies are now labeling that they are certified gluten-free as some oat products are manufactured in facilities where other products could create cross-contamination - but again that's only an issue in someone with an actual gluten intolerance.  I thought I said I wasn't going to get into a debate? 

What I wanted to say is that what I've taken away from this book is that dessert is dessert.  That's right.  A bold statement, right?  And it's not as if I didn't know that already.  But I was curious to see what Martha and her team had put together.  Desserts are meant for special occasions and should be thoroughly enjoyed.  Is everyday a holiday?  Should you be eating desserts everyday?  If you have any doubt as to my answer, that's a no.  I am a dietitian, but I'm a #dietitianthateatsdesserts #inmoderation - yes, I started those hashtags.

I made a brownie recipe so far from this book and Martha used spelt flour - spelt flour is a hardy variety of wheat - sorry it's not gluten-free - but it is a whole grain.  So kudos to Martha for baking brownies with spelt flour.  But don't be fooled, Martha used a TON of sugar in these brownies.  Oh, that's right, this is a DESSERT, albeit a dessert made with a whole-grain.  I wouldn't even say the picture does them justice.  The spelt flour gave them a maple-type flavor and for someone that doesn't even like brownies, I found myself going back for more.  Even though it's made with spelt flour, it doesn't automatically make it healthy.  Now, if we can use less sugar would the product still turn out the same?  I also purchased, Naturally Sweet, by America's Test Kitchen.  They've done the science behind all their recipes - I wouldn't say they're all without fat - because within baking if you take one thing out you end up adding another.  So we're back to our original debate - fat versus sugar?  Moderation.  Portion Control.  And frequency - desserts are meant for special occasions, not to be had every day - so whatever your dessert is made of, enjoy it.

I've written about this before, but if I had the "weight loss solution" I'd have bottled it up and become a millionaire by now.  Losing weight is always so much more than just what people are eating - do I think that people need to change the way they're eating?  Most times, absolutely!  But I get many a patient in that will say, "I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong," or "I really don't eat that much to be this big."  So they come to me, the said nutrition expert, to figure it out for them.  In a one-hour session, I can't figure it out - sorry, but I'm being truthful.  If I was able to follow people around and help them make better decisions in the moment, maybe.  And no, contrary to popular belief I am not the food police.  But the truth is I'm there to teach these concepts so that when you're in the moment you can make the healthier choice.  The only problem?  Food is so much more than just nutrition and nourishment to people - it's what they use when they're stressed, it's what they do when they're bored, and it's definitely used in social celebrations - Mother's Day is next weekend, with Memorial Day right around the corner, and let's not forget Father's Day is coming right up.  So where does that leave us in regards to weight loss?  I'm not really sure.  That's right, the dietitian just said I don't have the answer.  I wish it were simple and I knew what to tell people - but I don't.  I think each person has to reflect and find where their issues lie and begin to work on establishing healthy habits, one step at a time.  I can give you various tools and tips - I've written about it many times before, here, here, and even here!  I really do believe we put too much weight on weight (pun intended) where we should be focusing on becoming healthier beings, mind-body-and soul.  It will help your whole being to begin with one small change, whatever that might be.
People always ask me what I eat in a day - Breakfast is Oatmeal (most days); Lunch with a salad (not pictured), afternoon snack of yogurt if I have an extended day where dinner is late; Dinner is this fish served over a whole grain and salad to the side.  Also not pictured, a piece of dark chocolate or a small piece of something sweet - I do better by having something small every day versus then having the whole cake in one sitting - and yes, I know that I just said earlier that desserts aren't meant to be eaten every day, but it truly is a portion control, and remember this is what I've found works for me.

Breaking 2 - 3 years in the planning, Nike selected three elite runners to run a marathon (using their shoes of course) to break a sub-2-hour marathon.  Kipchonge finished in 2:00:25 - so while he didn't break the record, he did run his personal best.  They tried to select the best time of day and the best weather, but he still fell short, 25 seconds, but albeit short.  You can read about it here.  So while on our long run yesterday, my running partner and I were talking about him - I mean every runner was talking about him.  He had an average pace of 4:35.7 per mile - I mean I only dream about running that fast!  But in all seriousness it got us to thinking about our previous marathon.  If we had had better weather conditions, could we have run a faster marathon? And so the talk began about possibly training all over again - yes, I said I'd never run one again, but I was probably feeling a little runner's high yesterday when the talk began.  Ha!  What would probably be more of a challenge as I'm reflecting today would be to train for a duathlon or a triathlon - talk about really testing the strength of your body by having to do more than just run.  It might just be the mental stress relief I need.  Maybe, just maybe.  To be continued...

And that's a wrap for now.  A little bit of this and a little bit of that.  I think that's what blogging is supposed to be.  Am I right? Have a great week ya'll.  Leaving you with more scenes of my amazingly healthy yet delicious food!
Pickling Red Onions for my Bean Burgers this week!
Sweet Potatoes with Spinach, Pesto, and Pine Nuts