Monday, May 21, 2012

Creamiest Green Smoothie... in Pink!

For those of you who tried the creamiest green smoothie but couldn't get over the color, I tried it the other day with raspberries and blueberries instead of mango and this is what it looked like: 

So here is what was in it:

a bunch of swiss chard
1/2 avocado
1 banana
3/4 cup frozen raspberries
3/4 cup frozen blueberries
2tbsp chia seeds, soaked

Sunday, May 20, 2012

An afternoon at the farm

Remember that post about fresh organic local produce from the farm that I wrote a couple of weeks ago? Well yesterday, I had the opportunity to go visit one of the farms that contributes to the box of fresh produce we get through farm fresh to you.
I was solo with my little one for the weekend, so I had to think of fun things to do with him. I brought a friend alone, and off with drove, for about an hour, up the 210, then the 5, down the 126, and into the orchards on the side of the 126. Thankfully, I had a GPS to guide me, or I would have never found the place. Nestled in the foothills of a beautiful valley filled with thousands of orange trees, this little orchard we went to felt like a stop in time, a little slice of heaven, an afternoon at my grandfather's farm in Switzerland, where all there is to do is chase butterflies, pick fruits from the tree and eat them.

The event was small, the weather was perfect, sunny with a light breeze, the oranges were juicy and delicious and the kids had a blast. We missed the farm talk because we got there too late, but a band was playing when we arrived (guitar, banjo and cello), giving it a country ambience, and upon paying the $5 entrance fee for adults (kids under 12 are free), we were given a big plastic bag and were told to go fill it up with as many oranges as we could fit it. A GREAT deal for a huge bag of organic oranges!

We brought our picnic and sat under the trees, then the kids made bubbles with giant wands and a big bucket or soapy water, and enjoyed making arts and crafts at the crafts table. They came home with their own bird feeder made out of an orange peel.

My friend bought some produce from the farm on our way out, and the kids said they had a great time.

Farm Fresh To You organizes such an event every three weeks, all the way through october. I strongly encourage you to check their website for the calendar of event, and to subscribe to their services and get delicious fresh produce from the farm.

If you use my promotional code and mention my name as your referral source, you get a $10 discount of your first box.

So go ahead, say it: referred by Alexine Thompson, promo code 6164.

See you at the farm this summer?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Creamiest green smoothie ever

Have you heard of green smoothies, tried them and found them disgusting or hard to get used to? Is it the color, the smell, or the texture that turns you off? Or is it in your mind? Perhaps you have decided it looks like swamp and is very unappetizing....

I have never had that problem, but my kids certainly have. So I've had to come up with little tricks to make those more appetizing. At first, it was the color. I figured that if I put frozen raspberries, cherries or strawberries, or a mixed berry blend in their smoothie, the color turned red, pink or burgundy, and that helped. I could "lie" and tell them it was a strawberry smoothie, when in fact I had also put a bunch of kale or collard greens in it. Little by little, they got used to it.

Then one day, I handed them a green looking smoothie that tasted really sweet. Because of the color, my oldest son refused to try it. I kept telling him it tasted really sweet, told him about all the fruits that were in it, but he was categorical: NO!
Then I had his little brother try it, and since he is more willing (at times), he took a big gulp, then another one, then another one... which was convincing enough for my oldest to try it. Much to his surprise, it WAS delicious, and he finished the whole thing in no time. 

Another strategy I have for them is that they have to take a "no thank you bite" of everything that is on their plate. Most of the time, they take that bite and say "no thank you", but on rare occasions, they are pleasantly surprised. This was one of them.

Ever since then, the color hasn't been so much an issue. However, the texture has. So I had to come up with other combinations of foods. Unless you have a Vitamix or a Blendtec, it can be difficult to turn kale into a very smooth drink. I noticed that kale and collard greens are harder than spinach or swiss chard.
Since we have a truckload of swiss chard growing in the backyard, I use it a lot in my smoothies. This recipe is the creamiest I have ever tasted, and the kids love it! So if you are sensitive to texture, try it out! Because of the ingredients, it will fill you up real quick too :) Good option for a healthy breakfast. 

If you are sensitive to color, add some berries in it, or substitute the mango for some berries.

Swiss chard avocado smoothie:

A bunch of swiss chard (as many as you can)
1/2 banana
1/2 avocado
1 cup of frozen or fresh mango
2 tbsp chia seeds, soaked in water (or thrown directly into the blender, but it gets creamier if they have been soaked)

Blend everything until you reach a smooth, creamy texture. You can add more greens, or put a whole banana in it for a richer smoothie, or a sprinkle of stevia for a sweeter taste, but I think the banana and mango make it plenty sweet.


En Francais:

une poignee de cotes de bettes
1/2 banane
1/2 avocat
1 tasse de mangue fraiche ou congelee
2 cs de graines de chia, gonflees dans l'eau pendant la nuit, ou mises direct dans le mixer, mais la texture sera moins cremeuse.
Si vous etes sensibles a la couleur, rajouter des baies, ou remplacer la mangue par des baies our des fraises.


Friday, May 11, 2012

super anti-oxidant salad with strawberry balsamic vinaigrette

I made this salad for an Easter lunch and it was a hit! It combines some of my favorite ingredients with a tangy sweet and sour kind of dressing that will pleasantly surprise you. Not to mention it just looks beautiful and colorful :)

It can also a meal in itself, as it contains all sorts of good nutrients. Spinach is rich in calcium, folic acid, iron, magnesium, different vitamins... 
Pomegranate, blueberries and strawberries are rich in antioxidants. Avocado contains healthy oils, as well as pistachios, which also contain protein. 

Without further due, here is the simple recipe. You can always add more of one ingredient, according to your taste:

2 bags of organic spinach
1 cup pomegranate seeds
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup non salted pistachios, shelled
1/2 purple onion
1 avocado

1 cup strawberries
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 orange, juice
10 mint leaves
2tbsp agave syrup
salt and pepper
Put everything in the blender and pour over the salad. Mix, serve and enjoy!

En Francais:
2 paquets d'epinards frais, ou deux ou trois bottes d'epinards frais
1 tasse de graines de grenadine
1 tasse de myrtilles
1/2 tasse de pistaches, non salees
1/2 oignon rouge
1 avocat

1 tasse de fraises
1/4 tasse de vinaigre balsamique
1/4 tasse d'huile d'olive
1 cs de moutarde de dijon
le jus d'une orange
10 feuilles de menthe
2cs de sirop d'agave 
sel et poivre selon gout
Reduire tous les ingredients en puree dans le mixer et repandre sur la salade. Melanger et servir. Bon Appetit!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Healthiest ways to cook your food

Last week, I listened to a bunch of podcasts on the food revolution symposium online. I learned some interesting things about nutrition, and found out throughout the week, that most of the speakers were speaking from a vegetarian or vegan perspective. Then I attended in person the Real Food Symposium in Pasadena on Sunday, and found myself in the midst of grass fed beef eaters and raw milk drinkers, and cultured veggie makers. Needless to say, that was quite disorienting and confusing.  There is sooooo much controversy, so many contradictions out there, about which foods are good for you and which are not.

I come away from this week with a lot of questions and only a few solid conclusions:
- Whatever you eat, make sure it is real, natural, unaltered, the way God and nature made it, preferably organic
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, raw and cooked, but make sure you do eat raw green vegetables
- Apparently, cultured vegetables (such as sauerkraut) contain a lot of good bacteria for your gut, so I think I am pretty convinced about that one and will start making my own (that's a later post).
- Eat nuts and seeds, preferably soaked to release the enzymes and ease the digestion of its nutrients
- If you eat grains and beans, soak them before cooking, for the same reason
- Limit or eliminate your consumption of sugar and caffeine
- Use good fats in your diet, always cold pressed unrefined oils, in dark bottles

The rest, whether meat, dairy, grains and legumes are good for you... I'm still trying to figure it out. Once I have sat on all that info for a while and done some more research, I plan on sharing more about all that I learned. Those posts are a lot more demanding than sharing recipes and I feel a sense of responsibility to share accurate info, so my promised posts on healthy oils, GMOs and other things brewing in my mind and in my drafts will be more sporadic and take more time to be birthed.

In the mean time, I am going to try and have a balanced diet with a little bit of everything, except for veggies and fruits, which I am going to have A LOT of. I feel 100 times better since I have been eating that way, and that is one thing that across diets, lifestyles and nutritional recommendations, is recognized as beneficial and healing. Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D., author of "Eat to Live", says that "as the amount of raw fruits and vegetables are increased in a person's diet, weight loss and blood pressure are lowered effortlessly". He explains that "raw foods contain enzymes, some of which can survive the digestive process in the stomach and pass into the small intestines", offering significant nutritional advantages to protect against disease. Unfortunately, most foods loose a significant amount of their nutritive value when cooked and/or processed.

Consequently, the way you cook your food not only has an impact on the food itself, but it also has an impact on your health. While eating a lot of raw fruits and vegetables is good for you, it is not always possible, or at least very hard, to eat everything raw.

Cooking food was an advantage for our ancestors when they discovered this option, as it destroys some of the toxins and bacterias that might have affected it. But the downside of cooking is that it modifies the internal structure of what you eat:
- at 120 degrees, enzymes are destroyed
- at 150 degrees, vitamin C disappears
- at 230 degrees, minerals collapse
- at 250 degrees, other vitamins are destroyed
- at 270 degrees, fats are modified, transformed, which leads to the formation of acrolein, a carcinogenic substance.

French fries anyone?

When you heat up a food that contains proteins and carbs, new molecules appear that are not present in the food at its natural state. These molecules have been proven toxic on animals. You can find them in fried or grilled potatoes for example, or very crusty bread, as well as grilled meat.

When you eat cooked foods, your body reacts by increasing its level of white blood cells, depending on the food ingested and the temperature at which it was cooked. This reaction can be limited by starting each meal with a raw food, such as a salad.

So what does that tell us about which foods are bad for us and how we should cook.

In light of this information, here are some of the worst foods for you:

- chips
- french fries or any fried foods
- roasted potatoes
- most things cooked in the oven, in oil, at high temperatures. And yes, that includes your homemade granola :( (but stay tuned for an amazing breakfast recipe using raw cereals)
- barbecued and grilled meat and fish

These are especially bad because of the carcinogenic substance that develops in them when you heat oil.

So what is the best way to cook food? Let's look at the different options you have, with its pros and cons:

1) Steam cooking: probably the best cooking method. It preserves minerals, and taste. the pesticides fall off the food, evaporating into the water below the steaming basket. Fat from meat melts off and falls into the water as well. Do not consume the water.

2) Pressure cooker: if you use it at a low temperature, it will destroy less nutrients. The fact that it is a fast method allows preservation of most vitamins.

3) Dehydrator: Ideal for baking, the highest temperature in a dehydrator is usually 140. I usually vacillate between 95 and 115, which allows the preservation of food properties. The downside is that instead of taking 20 minutes for cookies, it can take 6 to 8 hours. But knowing I am eating raw foods that are full of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients is worth it!

4) Cooking in paper allows you to not use oils. The food cooks in its own juices. However, if you cook this way, favor parchment paper over foil, which is harmful to the nervous system

5) Boiling: you will loose a lot of minerals and vitamins by cooking this way. It's important not to cook for a long time, and to drink the broth or use it for soups.

6) Stir-fry in a wok or frying pan: this preserves the vitamins and minerals, but you need oil, and that's the downside. Always use the bare minimum of oil, which you can spread with a brush, and then add water or cover with a lid. Keep it on a low flame, and keep it short. You may have also heard that teflon contains toxic substances, so it is always better to use a cast iron pan.

7) Crockpot or slow cooker: with such a lengthy cooking process, you will loose a lot of the minerals and vitamins. On the upside, you end up eating the broth of what you make in the crockpot, and I have to say it's a better option to throw a meal in it in the morning, and come home to a homemade dinner, rather than running to the fast food or cooking premade frozen meals, which are loaded in sodium and artificial ingredients.

8) Oven: mostly used for baking or casserole dishes as well as big pieces of meat or fish, it is usually at high temperatures, leading to a modification of the natural food properties, especially fatty foods. Try to limit it to baking, and/or try cooking meat and fish at lower temperatures, and without added fats. In order to prevent dehydration, you may place a cup of water inside your oven to bring humidity and keep the food moist.

9) Grilling and barbecuing: this method is basically carcinogenic. Use in moderation, and if you have a vertical grill (but who does, really?), it's better because the grease doesn't fall on the coals. By burning, it produces carcinogenic (again?) fumes.

10) Microwave: NO! Try not to cook with your microwave. Really. Not only does it transform the molecular structure of your food, but it can actually create new properties, which can be toxic, and which our bodies are not equipped to process. It also produces radiations that you shouldn't be around, let alone your children. I heard this week on the food revolution symposium, that you should be at least 50 yards away from your microwave when it is working, and that may not even be enough.

11) Deep frying: TERRIBLE! for obvious reasons. It's cooked in fat, which is heated, which becomes transfat, therefore toxic and carcinogenic. Avoid at all cost!

While there is a semi order to this list, going from best to worst cooking method, it is ok to use any of these methods once in a while. I certainly do, but I try to keep in mind that on most days, I want to eat food that has preserved its natural properties and that is free of carcinogenic agents.

In a nutshell:

- Eat a raw food before your meal, preferably a vegetable. It will prepare your digestive system for the hot meal and help you digest better
- Steam cook as much as you can
- Bake in your dehydrator or at lower temperatures
- Avoid using oil when you cook, as much as possible. It's better to drizzle your food with cold pressed oil after it is cooked, than cooking it in oil
- Keep a balanced diet and make sure you do eat raw as much as you can. Smoothies and juicing are great ways to do that, as well as eating lots of salads.