summer peach oatmeal

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At times over the years, I’ve considered making this a blog of oatmeal recipes. It’s pretty much my favorite food, I’ll eat it just about any time of day and it’s been my breakfast of choice for the strong majority of my life.

What I’ve added to the oats has definitely changed over the years however. From the brown sugar, milk, and stink bugs (aka raisins) of my youth, to the 10 carefully counted blueberries and half a banana of the days when I ate religiously too rigid during my eating disorder, to now when the toppings are varied and more numerous, oatmeal has been my tried and true.

 

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For many years the one ‘error’ I made in my morning bowl was that I was afraid of adding any healthy fats to it. I notice this with others too. Either seasonal fruits or berries or dried fruit are a popular topping but the thing about eating nutrient rich foods like fresh berries or anti-oxidant filled fruits (and vegetables), is that without a carrier fat in the meal they’re eaten with, those fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K can’t actually be absorbed. We need healthy fats to make them effective. After years of being afraid of fat, I’m now a big fan of eating it in moderate amounts since fats are important for both cellular and hormonal health. Fats surround all cells and organelles in what is called the phospholipid bilayer and they are essential for proper cellular development, as well as carrying messages throughout the body in the hormones.

It’s important for us to eat a variety of fat types from foods rich in saturated fat to the unsaturated mono and polyunsaturated omega 6 and 3 fatty acids. Our modern diets tend to be less diverse and mainly have an abundance of saturated and omega-6 polyunsaturated fats. The omega 6 fats are found in soy, corn, safflower, sunflower and peanut oils, as well as sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds, and most nuts. In whole food form, they are incredibly healthy and essential, but need to be balanced with omega-3 fats such as freshly ground flax, chia, walnuts and wild caught cold-water fish such as salmon, halibut, anchovies, cod, and sardines. The ratio of omega 6 to omega 3’s should be under 5:1 to be considered anti-inflammatory and for most individuals, this ratio is at least 20:1 or more.  For anyone with health concerns that are inflammation-related such as any of the common ‘lifestyle diseases’ like diabetes, high cholesterol or blood pressure, autoimmune conditions, arthritis of any type, and/or you are an otherwise healthy athlete looking to improve recovery between workouts, consuming those delicious nutrient-filled fruits and vegetables along with a healthy fat source and eating an optimal balance of omega 3s and 6s can be incredibly helpful. (My personal example is as an athlete trying to improve recovery and with an underlying chronic autoimmune/arthritic-like condition.)

One other thing to note is that all fat digestion first takes place in the mouth from chewing and saliva beginning to break down food–so chewing is important–and intestinal digestion requires bile salts and pancreatic lipase, an enzyme that specifically helps to break down and absorb fat molecules. If you find you don’t digest fats well, consider sending me a note. There are lots of natural ways to assist the digestive process!

 

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Now for my favorite oatmeal bowl lately. It’s got a super-seasonal local peach chopped and added in the last few minutes to old-fashioned oats, a pinch of salt, a teaspoon or so of tahini, and a good tablespoon of ground flax seed. In the summer, I tend to always add a sprinkle of fennel seeds, which also support digestion, and then top it all off with a bit of cinnamon.

 

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Creamy Summer Peach Oatmeal, makes 1 large or 2 small bowls

1 1/2 cups water
1/2-3/4 cups old-fashioned oats, gf certified as necessary
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 large peach, chopped
1 tsp. tahini
1 Tbs. ground flax
cinnamon, to sprinkle

  • Bring the water to a boil, add the oats, and turn down to medium-low. Cook until nearly all the water is absorbed and then stir in the remaining ingredients except the cinnamon. Cook until it is creamy and all the water is absorbed.
  • Turn out into a bowl and then top with cinnamon.
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cacao super syrup + a simple cacao tea

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This one is for y’all that really like chocolate. Especially if you crave chocolate, particularly during stressful times.

Cacao Tea Co. recently launched a really delicious (herbal) tea that’s essentially the husks of roasted cacao beans. Brewed into a traditional cup with freshly boiled water, it’s delicious as an afternoon pick-me-up sipper without the caffeine, sugar rush, or cravings for more more more that comes with the otherwise delightful combination of sugar and chocolate.

 

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But after a few days of sipping, I got all sorts of inspired and took it to another level by making a superpower cacao, maca, and eleuthero syrup. I’ll get to those ingredients in a moment but this herbal syrup idea is essentially a tasty traditional way to take in herbs when one might otherwise not. It’s exactly the same method by which elderberry syrup (for cold and flu prevention) is made. Like other herbal syrups, it can be used in whatever way one desires, but I’ve been adding a spoonful or so to my mid-afternoon smoothie snacks lately.

 

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Now, about these ingredients: 
Cacao, 
Theobroma cacao // When we eat chocolate, it’s coming from cacao beans. As we can see, the plant name is derived from two words theos and broma, which are ancient Greek and translate to ‘the food of the gods’. Additionally, cacao is rich in a compound called theobromine, an antioxidant that has a mild stimulant effect, similar to caffeine. Studies show that the husks of cacao are rich in these antioxidants, just like the inside portion.

Maca, Lepidium meyenii // Maca is an herbal root that is often considered an adaptogen, meaning it will restore stress levels back to a balanced state, and it’s particularly helpful for adrenal stress (i.e. the fight or flight side of our nervous systems have been on high alert for too long). It increases energy (making it dually great for athletes) and has many antioxidant properties, as well as much research on its ability to regulate reproductive hormones (1). It is also rich in iron, calcium, potassium, and zinc–nutrients that many particularly female athletes are low in.

Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng), Eleutherococcus senticosus // Eleuthero has an exceptionally long history of use in traditional medicine. It is also known as an adaptogen, a tonic herb, a nervine (to help the nervous system) and is anti-inflammatory. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, eleuthero is used for treating people with wind (spasmodic) conditions, and is also helpful for weak tendons and ligaments, strengthening the qi, and Chinese spleen and kidneys; i.e. it can help extract nutrients from food and is an herb that is really good for “stressed out Type A people” (2). Eleuthero has long been in use in Korean and Russian folk medicine for increasing stamina and promoting overall health (3). Additionally, scientific studies show that it alters the levels of several neurotransmitters and hormones involved in the stress response, chiefly at the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis (1). Further, eleuthero significantly suppresses nitric oxide production, which is a characteristic of inflammation, and has shown strong free-radical scavenging activity. In overworked individuals, it has been shown to reduce their response to stress, and in some studies with both trained and recreational endurance athletes, it has improved work capacity, increased endurance time, and elevated cardiovascular function (1). Overall, I like to think of it as a superpower herb for those that tend to have a lot of stress and fatigue that has accumulated over a long period of time, who wake tired and can’t really get their energy up throughout the day, and whose internal temperature tends to run cool or cold.

I chose to add maca and eleuthero to this cacao syrup specifically because many individuals I’ve worked with clinically present with similar situations in that they are highly driven, are often on the go mentally and physically, tend towards cravings for sweets and chocolate, and experience ongoing fatigue. Without discounting that this presentation can mean there are some truly relevant nutritional deficiencies to be addressed, adding an herbal support that happens to taste excellent can be a great way to return the body to balance a bit more quickly. That’s why I call it super syrup.

 

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Cacao Super Syrup, makes about 3 cups
I often source my powdered herbs such as maca and eleuthero from Mountain Rose Herbs since they are a trusted supplier. Additionally, I highly recommend starting with local, raw honey since it supports your local beekeeper, and contains beneficial enzymes no longer available in processed supermarket honey. If you’d like a ‘purer’ tasting herbal syrup, you can also use sugar in place of the honey.

6 Tbs. cacao tea
3 Tbs. maca root powder
3 Tbs. eleuthero (Siberian ginseng) powder
4 cups filtered water
1 cup honey

  • Combine the cacao tea and herbal powders with the water in a pot. Bring to a simmer and partially cover the pot with a lid. Let simmer until the liquid is reduced by half.
  • Remove from the heat  and strain out the herbs – you have now created a strong decoction for your syrup base. I strained mine a little ‘coarsely,’ so there were more herbs in the syrup, but a finer strain using a cheesecloth and/or a fine mesh strainer can also be done.
  • Return the liquid to the pan and add the honey. To retain the beneficial, naturally occurring enzymes in raw honey, gently heat it just until the honey dissolves, being careful not to boil the syrup.
  • Finish by pouring the syrup into clean, sterile bottles, and store in the fridge for up to 3 months.
  • A standard dosage of herbal syrup depends on the herbs used, the situation being addressed, as well as the age of the recipient. A general dosage is a ½ teaspoon to 1 tablespoon taken 1 to 3 times a day. Since we are using adaptogenic herbs that are better used long-term to re-balance, 1/2 to 1 Tbs. per day is a nice starting amount.

 

 
Cacao Tea, serves 1
freshly boiled water
2-3 tsp. cacao tea

  • To prepare a simple cacao infusion, add 2-3 tsp. of cacao tea to a tea ball or infusing basket and then pour freshly boiled water over the top. Cover and allow to infuse for 5-10 minutes before drinking.

 

References:
1. Braun, L. and Cohen, M. (2015). Herbs & Natural Supplements: An evidence-based guide, vol. 2 (4th ed.). Chatswood, NSW, Australia: Elsevier.
2. Winston, D. and Maimes, S. (2007). Adaptogens: Herbs for strength, stamina, and stress relief. Rochester, VA: Healing Arts Press
3. Mountain Rose Herbs. (n.d.). Eleuthero Root Powder

Tempeh Chorizo Tacos + a Green Crema

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We have a taco restaurant in town that has the most amazing tempeh chorizo tacos. We don’t go often but when we do, I always always get them. When it comes to tacos, we make them frequently at home and I tend to be quite non-traditional in my approach. But after a few experiences with Tacovore’s tempeh chorizo, I knew I had to start experimenting with a version for home.

Admittedly, it took a few tries because I wanted to reach that complexity of flavor that those restaurant tacos have. My version is slightly different, but also so good. I’ve been sitting on this recipe for well over a year now, so lots of tacos have happened since then. That means this recipe is well tested for you all. :)

 

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Tempeh, if you’ve never had it, is traditionally made from fermenting soy beans. It comes in a big block and unlike tofu, you can see the individual beans pressed together. Consuming soy is often a contentious issue in the health community, with some people avoiding it entirely, and others eating it in everything (namely, the ‘processed-food’ vegan crowd and those that buy lots of mainstream packaged foods). Soy gets its polarity because many people have been told to avoid it for breast cancer prevention and some other estrogen disorders. While I’m not suggesting anyone defy their oncologist’s advice, traditionally prepared whole soy in foods such as tofu and especially tempeh actually has a lot of data that suggests positive health outcomes related to breast and other hormonal-linked cancers, and even more so if it’s been consumed in traditional foods since an early age. This is because soy and other legumes contain what are called phytoestrogens or plant-estrogens and they selectively bind to estrogen receptors in the body, thus potentially blocking the action of endogenous estrogen in adverse health circumstances.

The reason I particularly like tempeh, beyond its taste, is that compared to other plant-based protein sources, it is richer in protein and its fermentation process means it helps with digestive system health. For athletes that tend to avoid meat, adding tempeh to meal rotations is an excellent way to help with muscle repair, endocrine and immune health, and to keep the body functionally optimally, since protein is used throughout the body in enzymes to make metabolic reactions occur.

If one is avoiding soy for any reason, there are now non-soy tempehs available using other legumes and sometimes grains. I’ve just discovered a company locally that sells these products and I’m also aware of a great one based out of Portland, Oregon which has expanded its distribution to at least the Seattle/western Washington area. If you’re curious about tempeh but avoid soy, I encourage you to keep your eyes open to new non-soy versions in your area.

Lastly, when consuming soy in whole-food products such as tempeh, tofu, or edamame, look for non-GMO, organically grown products since there are many negative health outcomes linked to GMO soy.

 

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For this recipe, I made the tempeh chorizo, dry-roasted a little broccoli (my favorite way to delicious broccoli), and then topped them both with cabbage, cilantro, and a green cashew crema. All together–delicious! Beyond the tacos, the chorizo is also great in a big taco salad with whatever fixings you prefer, and minus the chili powder and red pepper flakes in the seasoning, it will also make a great weekend savory breakfast protein.

 

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Tempeh Chorizo, makes enough for approximately 12 small tacos
12 oz. tempeh
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ tsp. chili powder
1 ½ tsp. smoked paprika
1 ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
¾ tsp. fennel seeds
½ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. ground coriander
¾ tsp. ground cumin
dash or two of ground cloves
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbs. white miso
1 Tbs. reduced sodium tamari
¼-1/2 cup water

  1. Steam tempeh for 5-10 minutes, cool slightly, and then chop into really fine pieces.
  2. Meanwhile, saute the onions and garlic in a small amount of coconut oil. Then add spices and cook an additional minute.
  3. Add tempeh and cook until beginning to brown.
  4. In a small cup, mash the miso in the tamari and then add ¼ cup water. Cook until nice and sizzling and the right consistency, adding more water if necessary.

 

Green Cashew Crema, makes about 1 cup
1/2 cup cashews, soaked for 4-8 hours or overnight
¼ tsp. salt
1 Tbs. nutritional yeast
1-2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
½ clove garlic
a big handful of spinach
a pinch of ground turmeric and dash pepper
ground cayenne, to taste
½ cup water or more

  1. Drain and rinse the cashews.
  2. Put all ingredients, except the water, in a high-speed blender or food processor and blend, adding water a little water at a time until the desired consistency is reached.

 

A Note:
If you’re interested in learning more about phytoestrogens and breast cancer, I encourage you to read the summary of research available on the Breast Cancer Prevention Partners website, and possibly discuss with your physician.

 

The material on this website is not to be used by any commercial or personal entity without expressed written consent of the blog author. The statements on this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always consult your personal physician or reach out to me for specific, individualized nutritional advice.