Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My Food Philosophy

It's probably pretty clear by now that I'm rather obsessed with food. Not just any food but healthy food. I was fortunate to grow up in a household that ate whole wheat long before it was a "thing." My Mom made things like beet soup or 3-bean chili and my Dad made homemade pizzas with spinach and roasted peppers on top. My friends made fun of my school snacks, which were usually sugar snap peas with humous and apple slices with lime juice. We rarely had dessert in the house and my Mom used to throw away most of our Halloween candy before we could scarf it all down.

Growing up, I took my healthy household for granted. I really didn't know just how important it was to EAT healthy and BE healthy until I went to college.

This is me the summer I graduated from high school. I was about to head off to Smith College for my freshman year and I had no idea what was in store for me. -->

Coming from a family who only had dessert on special occasions, I couldn't believe that dessert was served at lunch AND dinner every single day in College. It was difficult impossible to resist the platters of cookies and cakes strategically placed by the exit of the meal hall each day. (No wonder why people talk about gaining the Freshman 15!) The buffet-style meals overwhelmed me because I wanted to try everything. I was also acutely aware of the energy around me: all the hungry women around me swarming like bees to the buffet, hoping to grab every last morsel of food before it was gone.

Without my mom there to nag me, I wasn't taking my vitamins. I also wasn't sleeping a whole lot because I was spending so much time partying studying. Pretty soon, I had a cold that just kept getting worse. I wound up with a horrible case of mononucleosis that landed me in the hospital, undergoing surgery on New Year's Eve for abscesses that had formed in my throat as a result of an extremely compromised immune system. -->

After I woke up from surgery, the doctor told me my tonsils had pretty much fallen off as they has removed the abscesses. I was a mess, basically my whole system was out of whack. And it was time to get myself back on track.

Fortunately, with the help of my family, I turned my health around. I started taking vitamins everyday, and immune supplements. I started getting sleep and making better food choices.

When I returned to school for the spring semester, I had a new outlook. I began running regularly and making better food choices. I developed willpower (it's a muscle!) and resisted desserts at every meal. I forced myself to go to sleep early—even if it meant missing out on some super fun social time.

If I had to pick a moment—just ONE moment in my life when I started paying attention to food and making the connection between what I was putting into my body and how it was making me feel, this was probably it.

Since then—and since going gluten-free a few years later—I've developed my own personal food philosophy, based on the things that work for me and the lessons I've learned from health professionals. Of course, as I learn more about myself and about nutrition, my philosophies may change, but I thought it would be helpful to share this list as it stands so that you may better understand what guides my recipe choices.

Be well,

The Gluten-Free Yogi

My Food Philosophy

1.) Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.
Hippocrates was a genius. And it boggles my mind that our medical system doesn't live by this quote more. You CAN heal your body with food. I've seen it time and time again. 

When I'm run down, it is often because I have not been eating well. As soon as I get back on the right track, BAM! I'm back to homeostasis. When I had tummy troubles, I went gluten-free and yup, you guessed it, problem solved. There are countless other examples and studies of people who are chronically ill and heal themselves through eating well.

SO why don't doctors prescribe food as medicine? Because it's not a quick fix. Food as medicine takes time and effort and focus. It relies on the patient to do the work. But think about it... wouldn't you rather heal yourself? How cool and empowering is that?!

2.) Take vitamins.
The bottom line is—food alone isn't cutting it these days. Because of soil depletion, our foods aren't as rich in nutrients as they once were (see this article in Scientific American to find out why). So even when you're eating organic foods, it's not enough. That's why it's important to supplement your diet with vitamins and minerals (my health guru, Dr. Andrew Weil, agrees in defense of vitamins).

3.) Drink clean water. And lots of it. 
I try to start and end every day with a tall, filtered glass of water… then I carry a re-fillable water bottle around with me for the rest of the day. When I'm sick of drinking plain water, I add a squeeze of lemon, a sprig of mint, or I drink herbal teas. Water is an essential ingredient to a healthy body.

4.) Eat organic. Eat local.
Know your farmer, know your food. It's just that simple. If you don't believe me, believe this kid.

5.) Eat LOTS of vegetables. 
Whatever your daily "diet" is—paleo, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free—EAT YOUR VEGETABLES. And lots of 'em. That said, I like to keep in mind the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen

6.) Let yourself eat cake.
It's OK to have dessert from time to time. That said, dessert could be watermelon, or a bowl of berries with coconut cream, or almond flour cookies sweetened with honey, or dark chocolate. If you're addicted to refined sugars, try to make the switch to healthier options.

7.) Read labels.
The food industry is sneaky. There's an awful lot of fat, refined sugar, salt, and things I can't even pronounce added to just about everything in a package these days. So I encourage you to read absolutely every label you can. It means more time at the grocery store (or researching from home), but your body will thank you.

As Michael Pollan recommends in his own Food Rules (which I highly recommend), it's better to focus your food shopping on the peripheries of the markets, where all of the fresh produce is usually found. If you find yourself in the inner aisles, read those labels and don't buy something that has some form of sugar listed in the first 3 ingredients (and don't let "brown rice syrup" fool you).

8.) Taste the rainbow… (and I'm not talking Skittles).
When I was little, my Mom used to say "the more colorful a meal, the better." I try to keep this in mind now as I'm cooking my own meals. Also, variety IS the spice of life so I also try not to eat eat the same colorful vegetables every single day. Even too much kale isn't a good thing. I try to eat with the seasons and vary up the kinds of fruits and vegetables and proteins that I'm eating each day.

9.) Lay off the caffeine and booze.
I don't drink coffee, I rarely drink caffeinated tea, and I never drink soda. Caffeine makes me feel like I'm having a heart attack and menopause at the same time. It's not fun. But for those who do enjoy a jolt each day (like my husband!)—keep it to a minimum. Try getting yourself down to one cup of coffee or caffeinated tea a day.

As for booze, I try not to over-indulge. I might drink 1 or 2 drinks with dinner on the weekends. The perk? I'm a cheap date :)

10.) Limit eating out.
I try to limit eating out to once or twice a week. I eat breakfast before leaving the house, pack my lunch, and cook my week-night dinners. My husband and I dine out on the weekends and try to make healthy choices. If you have a job that requires lots of travel or working meals, make the healthiest choices you can. Choose things like salad with lots of vegetables and lean proteins. 

As someone who worked in the food industry for many years, I know that food is not always prepared the same way it is at home. Oils and salts and sugars are used liberally. It's also not always clear where restaurants source their foods. The salmon could be farm-raised. Or perhaps the steak is not grass-fed. Or maybe the salad is filled with non-organic vegetables and olive oil dressing that's been stretched with canola oil. Basically nothing beats a home-cooked meal, especially when you've taken the time to make it using the best ingredients :)

Below is a list of books and a few food industry documentaries that have helped guide my Food Philosophy:
  • Food Rules by Michael Pollan
  • The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
  • The Healthy Kitchen by Andrew Weil
  • True Food by Andrew Weil
  • Food, Inc. (Documentary) 
  • Food Matters (Documentary)
  • Hungry for Change (Documentary) 
  • Tapped (Documentary

Monday, March 31, 2014

A few of my favorite (gluten-free) condiments...

photo from 
I am often guilty of having an empty fridge with the exception of condiments, which I can't seem to get enough of. I love that you can spice up an omelet, throw together a funky sauce, enhance a sandwich, make the perfect dip, all with the help of a few trusty condiments!

Here is a list of a few of my favorite gluten-free condiments. I'll probably add a few more as they come to mind but these are (literally) what I have in my cabinets at this very moment:

Amy's Organic Salsa
Why I'm a fan:
They're organic and certified gluten-free. They taste fresh and go great with my baked sweet potato recipe!

Annie's Organic Dijon Mustard
Why I'm a fan:
This is the mustard I tend to use most for my favorite dressing. It's organic, zest, made with sea salt, and it's got that "zip" that a good Dijon mustard always has.

Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar
Why I'm a fan:
I use Bragg in my salad dressings, as a water-flavoring, a marinade, and so much more. It's a great apple cider vinegar. Plus, as it says on the website, it "contains the amazing Mother of Vinegar, which occurs naturally as strand-like enzymes of connected protein molecules."

Bone Suckin' BBQ Sauce
Why I'm a fan:
When I have time, I make my own homemade BBQ sauce (someday, I will share the recipe, it's to DIE for). But when I don't have time to make my own, this is my stand-by. It has a great sweet, smokey, BBQ flavor. I love it on burgers, with gluten-free chicken fingers, and—of course—with ribs.

California Olive Ranch Olive Oil
Why I'm a fan:
Did you know most olive oils don't have an expiration date? I think that's a little suspect, and the more I've researched, that more I've learned about how little this industry is regulated. That's why I like California Olive Ranch Olive Oil. It has an expiration date, plus it has great flavor.

Cucina Antico Organic Tomato Ketchup
Why I'm a fan:
It's organic, corn-syrup free (unlike most ketchups) and it's sweetened with organic sugar. I use this in my mom's chili recipe.

Why I'm a fan:
While I wish this product was organic. That's my only complaint. Other than that, it has great, traditional tamarind chutney flavor. It's also, according to the website and packaging, "Free from artificial flavorings, colorings, and preservatives." Try it next time you're making an Indian curry or sometimes I even use it in place of BBQ sauce.

Maranatha Organic Creamy Almond Butter
Why I'm a fan:
I like Maranatha Almond Butter because it's organic, creamy, and simple. It's also raw. I use it in smoothies and sandwiches. One of my favorite post-race meals is an almond butter sandwich.

San-J organic, reduced sodium tamari
Why I'm a fan:
Again, it's organic (seeing a pattern?) But it's lower in sodium than regular soy and tamari sauces. I use it for marinades and my homemade sushi.

Santa Cruz Organic Light Roasted Peanut Butter
Why I'm a fan:
I like this peanut butter because there aren't any additives and it's organic and lightly roasted. Try adding it to your next smoothie…yum.

Seggiano Basil Pesto
Why I'm a fan:
I recently included this pesto in my recipe for a quick kale salad and poached eggs dinner. I can't get enough of this pesto. I love it with scrambled eggs, spread in a sandwich, and tossed in a salad dressing.  It's great because it's gluten-free, raw, and dairy-free. Plus, this pesto contains cashews, which are the "cheesiest" nut, so you really don't miss the Parmesan. 

Spectrum Organic Mayonnaise
Why I'm a fan:
It's organic mayonnaise that is sweetened with honey. It has a nice flavor and enhances sandwiches and sauces. 

Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste
Why I'm a fan:
I use this red curry in a few of my recipes, including this simple curry dish. It has a nice flavor—I dig the lemongrass!

Himalayan Pink Sea Salt
Why I'm a fan:
I love this salt. As it says on their website, "our Super Premium Grade Himalayan Salt is produced in our own facility that is gluten-free, non-GMO, organic, Kosher, and Green-e Certified" and Himalayan Salt is considered to be "the most pure form of whole salt on the planet." If they don't sell this product at your local market, you can find it here

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Quick and Healthy Gluten-Free Dinner

The other night, my husband and I decided to spontaneously go to the movies. We don't usually do this on a Tuesday night but we thought, what the heck? Sometimes, you've got to live a little! So we went to see 12 Years a Slave and were not disappointed. It was an incredible film. I cried just about the entire time and had to close my eyes in a few violent scenes, but I'm grateful I saw it because it's a part of our country's history that we should never forget and never repeat.

Before we left for the flick, dinner had to be made and consumed in under an hour. I decided to make one of my favorite salads, my Kale Salad with Avocado Dressing. For a protein, I whipped up some poached eggs.  To give the eggs a little more flavor, I added one of my favorite new products—Seggiano Pesto. It's dairy-free, which is awesome, plus it has cashews in it, also awesome, plus it's raw. Triple awesome.

So here's the meal:

Kale Salad with Avocado Dressing, Poached Eggs and Pesto

Kale Salad
Poached eggs (to make the perfect poached egg, please refer to this funny but informative Huff Post article

That's it. It's that simple.



Wednesday, February 26, 2014

5 Delicious and Healthy Gluten-Free Soups

March is almost here. But March can be a cruel month in New England— it can have a few gloriously warm days right alongside bitterly cold and stormy ones. I know I'm not alone in dreaming of warmer weather and finally thawing out. But until then, I wanted to share 5 of my favorite soup recipes to continue to keep you all warm inside while it's still oh-so-cold cold outside!

I find that I usually make less soup in the warmer months so, if you're like me, this is the last chance to enjoy them! After all, soups and stews are one of the few culinary perks of winter for me.

Stay warm!

-The Gluten-Free Yogi

1. Gluten-Free Beef Bourguignon
There’s nothing like a good stew, especially on cold fall or winter days when our bodies crave something hearty. This is a gluten-free and dairy-free adapted version of the very classic French dish, Beef Bourguignon. Beef Bourguignon typically contains flour, which thickens the broth. Luckily, I have found that I don't miss this ingredient in the dish at all! If anything, the flour hinders the abundance of flavors found in the broth.

2. Kale and Sausage Soup 
Kale is amazingly good for you. In fact, according to Dr. Joel Fuhrman, it's THE BEST for you. Kale ranks at the very top of his nutritional density test, making it the super-est of super foods. This Sausage and Kale soup recipe is also nice for those cold fall or winter days. It can be made with any kind of kale, any kind of sausage, homemade or store-bought broth, and either beans or potatoes as a “starch.” It’s versatile (kind of like “stone soup”).

3. Moroccan Lamb Stew
I recently discovered gluten-free brown rice couscous and it inspired me to make a traditional Moroccan Lamb Stew. This meal is not only hearty but incredibly flavorful. The combination of the heat, spices, herbs and lemon result in a fresh, savory, delicious dish. It's a great option for a Sunday soup as it tastes just as great the second day.

4. Borscht
Beet and cabbage soup? Yes indeed! I used to call this dish "magenta soup" when I was a little girl. It took me a while to warm up to it back then but now I'm grateful to have the recipe so I can still enjoy it. Of course, we used to serve this soup with a dollop of yogurt on top or shredded parmesan cheese. However, it tastes just as good without these toppings. And it's naturally gluten-free. It's a great option for a healthy, COLORFUL soup.

5. Sweet Potato Soup with Cilantro Almond Pesto
This soup is super easy to make and super delicious and while the pesto isn't absolutely necessary, it definitely makes for a heavenly combination of flavors in your mouth. This recipe is also naturally gluten-free, vegan and paleo. A triple whammy! It is the perfect spicy soup for a freezing cold winter evening when you'd rather be snuggled up on the couch than slaving in the kitchen.