Sunday, February 28, 2010

Eating With the Seasons

You hear a lot of talk about eating in season these days, and I had to ask the question "but why"? I understand that this is when fruits and veggies have the most amount of nutrients and are the freshest, but I wanted to understand if there were other reasons. There are of course, several other reasons.

Eating seasonally is a relatively new concept. Refrigeration and transportation revolutionized our ability to eat foods from far and distant lands, and our ability to store and eat foods that were grown two seasons ago. There is an amazing synchronicity between the foods that grow in the ground and the animals that eat them. What is even more amazing, is that these seasonal foods produce compounds that help us get through seasonal challenges, such as colds, allergies, etc... Eating seasonally (and therefore locally), supports farmers in your area and greatly reduces your carbon footprint by purchasing less items that were trucked, flown, and boated over for you to consume.

How do I find out what is in season where I live? Local Harvest is a fantastic resource for all things local. Discover nearby Farmer's Markets, farms, restaurants that serve organic food, and wealth of other information on how to rein in the radius of your families footprint.

If you want to get more deeply involved, check out Sustainable Table, which also contains incredible information about eating (and thinking) more sustainably, and has a very helpful tool to determine exactly what is in season in your area - by the month! If you feel passionate about this issue and want to spread the word in your community, consider giving a presentation to your neighbors or friends. You can even get your kids involved in this one.

And, if you don't already take your family to the Farmer's Market, please consider it. Our two year old absolutely loves tasting all the different samples of seasonal fruits and veggies, and he loves to help. He likes to help carry the bag, or the kale, or the delicious cottage cheese from Cowgirl Creamery. He also loves the live music, the bouncy castle, and the other random performers and artists that show up. We also stock up on our Oaklandish gear, but you may have other independent artists to support in your area.

Does this topic interest you? I recommend reading Simple Food for Busy Families by Jeannette Bessinger and Tracee Yablon-Brenner.

And now, for the recipe du jur. Spinach is now in season (and often is in our area), and this amazing versitile recipe is slightly sweet, good for the whole family, and great for kids! I made
this spread for my Nutrition Educator class at Bauman College and received rave reviews. Use it as a dip for crackers or veggies, spread it on a sandwich for your kids, spread it on an apple, or eat it by the spoonful! It is a very nice way to get your family to get all the benefits from spinach, a little extra vitamin C for the season, and the healthy fats from cashews. As it turns out, cashews have a lower fat content and higher protein than most other nuts. However, they do contain oxalates, so don't overdue it if you are sensitive, and you may want to avoid them all together if you have digestive issues. Read more about the nutritional profile of cashews (and oxalates) here.

Raw Spinach Dip


1-1/2 cups cashews

1 lemon, juiced

1/3 cup water

2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced

sea salt or pink himalayan salt, to taste

pepper, to taste

mustard powder, to taste

2 to 3 cups spinach (this is approximate, I use two or 3 good handfuls)


1. Place cashews into food processor, crank up to high and grind into a fine, almost flour like consistency.

***The faster the speed the better when adding your liquids***

2. Add in your lemon juice and slowly add in your water until it is a little runnier than you would like as it will thicken once you let it stand.

3. Add minced garlic, sea salt, pepper, mustard powder (and any additional spices you think will meld well).

4. Once this is processed into an ultra smooth paste (or thinner) consistency, add in your spinach and pulse on medium if you like the traditional chunky spinach dip texture or on high for an ultra smooth dip!! Enjoy with raw crackers or pita.

Original recipe can be found at:

Monday, February 8, 2010

Breakfasts of Champions!

I have this problem of understanding what to eat for breakfast. Apparently, a bowl of cereal is not really what you're looking for in a breakfast. Even those healthier breakfast cereals don't give you all of what you need to sustain you until lunch. They may give you a serving or two of whole-grains and some fiber, but you don't get the proteins or fats. In Michael Pollen's awesome little book: Food Rules, he says: "Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper." I tested this lesson with my instructor who agreed. You want to get as much of your nutrition as you can for breakfast, especially protein, and decrease that amount over the course of the day. Have yourself a light dinner that contains some good complex carbohydrates to help you sleep. Dr. Sears has a great article explaining what foods are "sleepers" and "wakers". Basically, protein is hard to digest and you don't want to eat it before bed. You want foods that contain tryptophan, the amino acid that makes serotonin, which helps you sleep.

You want a balanced breakfast that is nutrient dense, contains a good amount of protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, some healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, peanut butter, almonds, flax seed oil, salmon), and as many vitamins and minerals as you can squeeze in. I have been trying to get more complete breakfasts that contain more protein into my day. It's hard when you are a busy, working mom in school. Here is my list of breakfasts that I rotate throughout the week:

  • Parfait + hard-boiled egg: 1/2 cup of vanilla goat milk yogurt, 1/4 c. homemade granola, 1/4 of a banana or apple slices on top, I hard-boil an egg while I am in the shower and bring all of this to work and eat it when I get there
  • Smoothie: I have a high metabolism, so I make my smoothies with "the works" to get me through: 1 banana, 1/4 cup yogurt, scoop of whey protein powder (18 g of protein), 1 scoop of Green Vibrance, 1/4 cup of frozen wild blueberries, a splash of unsweetened Trader Joe's Whole Grain Drink (or your favorite milk beverage)
  • Breakfast wrap: quick! scramble an egg, toss in a little goat cheese, handful of spinach, and a splash of hot sauce. Throw on any veggies that might be left over from last-nights dinner (steamed broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus). Wrap it in a whole-grain tortilla and you are out the door! No time? Grab the egg and other ingredients, throw into a tupperware, and microwave that egg at the office. Not ideal, but at least it's better than a danish!
  • The Salmon: I have fallen in love with this breakfast. The Grindstone Bakery in Santa Rosa makes KILLER gluten-free breads. I like the sprouted seed spelt loaf. Toast a slice, spread on a little layer of chevere, load it up with some wild pacific smoked salmon and capers. Add a piece of seasonal fruit and you are stoked!
  • Oatmeal with "the works": I love me a big delicious bowl of oatmeal! I like to use Bob's Redmill Quick Cooking Oatmeal because it acts like instant. You can really just add the hot water and let it sit and it will cook. I load mine up with toppings like: shredded coconut, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, cranberries or raisins, a little maca powder, and even add a scoop of whey protein powder! You get plenty of good fats, whole grains, protein, and vitamins, that you may not need a snack after this one!
  • Snacks: I have a high metabolism and I typically have to have a snack so I don't find myself starving (storing fat mode) by lunch time. If you are eating well, snacks are important in maintaining healthy weight. If you don't consume enough good fats, or eat frequently enough, your body starts storing fat because it doesn't know when food might be coming again. Snack on slices of whole grain toast with raw almond butter, or an apple and handful of almonds, or raw vegetables and tahini dip.
One key ingredient to the healthy breakfast rotation is homemade granola. This is a great topper for yogurt, great way to grab a snack, and my 2-year old can't get enough of it! He munches on it plain, will eat it with yogurt, in milk, or however he can get it. You can keep this stored in an air-tight container for weeks.


  • 5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut chips, (see Ingredient Note) or flakes
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup raisins


  1. Preheat oven to 275°F.
  2. Combine oats, coconut, almonds, pecans, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds in a large bowl. Combine syrup, water and oil in a medium bowl or large measuring cup and pour over the oat mixture; stir until well combined. Spread the mixture into a large (12-by-15-inch) roasting pan or large rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir, and continue baking until golden brown and beginning to crisp, about 45 minutes more. Stir in cranberries and raisins. Let cool completely before storing.

Note: the original recipe was from Eating Well Magazine, November/December 2008. I modified the recipe to omit the brown sugar, and replaced the canola oil with coconut oil. The maple syrup is sweet enough for my family, and you can add some extra agave or stevia if you need a little extra sweetness.

Want to keep all of these breakfast items stocked in your refrigerator? Here is the shopping list:
  • One dozen eggs (preferably pastured, grass fed)
  • Large container of favorite yogurt (mine is Redwood Hill Farms Vanilla goat yogurt)
  • Seasonal fruit (click here for list)
  • 1 package of frozen organic wild blueberries
  • Whey protein powder (I use the Berkeley Bowl brand)
  • Green powder (optional)
  • Unsweetened coconut (shredded or chips)
  • Trader Joe's Whole Grain Drink (or milk, almond milk, rice milk, or soy milk)
  • Loaf of whole-grain bread
  • Whole-grain tortillas (I use Santa Fe, but there are a lot of whole-grain wraps out there)
  • Spreadable cheese (I like Redwood Hill Farms chevre. I use goat because it's easier to digest and I love goats)
  • Spinach
  • Wild smoked salmon
  • Quick-cook oatmeal (I love Bob's Redmill)
  • Nuts: sunflower, walnuts, almonds (keep these on hand for snacks, granola, and oatmeal)
  • Seeds: chia (very high in Omega 3's and good fats), sunflower, pumpkin (keep on hand)
  • Dried fruits: cranberries, raisins, dates (keep on hand)
  • Maple syrup
  • Regular rolled oats (buy in bulk, you will need 5 cups for the granola)
  • Coconut oil (please read post on fats as to why you should use coconut oil)
Try and keep all the items above stocked. Whenever you need a nutritious quick breakfast, you are guaranteed to have something good to eat! I usually make a batch of granola once every 2-3 weeks.

One last note. If you find yourself running late and completely out of time, you can settle for the Protein Plate from Starbucks. You will get the protein you need, whole grains, and fats. However, nothing is organic, the peanut butter has a little sugar, and the bagel probably does too. But, as a last resort this is a totally reasonable option.