Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Truth About Organic + A Baked Egg

To buy organic or to not buy organic? That is the question, and it is a hotly debated one.

A Stanford study that came out in September found that organic foods were no more "nutritious" than non-organic foods. The study suggested it was not necessary to purchase organic products.

Hold on-was that ever the point of buying organic? The answer to that is no, it's not the point. Organic fruits and vegetables aren't supposed to be "healthier" in the sense that they provide more vitamins and minerals. They're healthier because the fruits and vegetables don't have pesticides on them, the meats aren't filled with harmful antibiotics, the food isn't genetically modified.

We don't know the risks of pesticide exposure, so why take a chance? Studies have shown that pesticides can be carcinogenic. GMOs have also been found to be carcinogenic and unsafe to the environment. And there's a long list of reasons why antibiotics aren't safe, including increased antibiotic resistance, which leads to an emergence of bacteria that we can't fight off.

I've provided two great reads, by my two favorite food advocates, if you are interested in why it's important to buy organic, despite what the Stanford study says.

Mark BittmanThat Flawed Stanford Study

Marion Nestle: Are organics more nutritious? Again? Sigh.

So what are the foods that are really important to buy organic? Here are the rules of thumb:

Anything you eat the outside of: Apples, berries, leafy greens, potatoes, etc. Pretty much any fruit or vegetable that you ingest the entire thing, including the outside.

Animal Products: Organic meats don't have any antibiotics or added hormones. They are allowed to range freely, and if you've seen Food Inc. (and if you haven't, I highly suggest you do), you'll know how important it is that these animals aren't stepping all over each other and aren't living in their own manure.

Milk: Like organic meat, organic milk products have no added hormones.

It is not necessary to buy organic avocados, bananas and other fruits or vegetables with a peel or outer protection. The pesticides don't infiltrate these outer surfaces, so there's no need to spend the extra money on organic.

Baked Eggs
I love my eggs in the morning, and baked eggs are a great way to switch up the monotony of omelettes,  scrambles and sunny side-ups.

1 Egg 
Egg Whites (as needed)
4 grape Tomatoes
Kale and Arugula (or spinach)
1 Garlic clove
2 Mushrooms of choice
Trader Joes 3 cheese low fat blend (or cheese of choice)

Goat Cheese
Ground Flax Meal

1. Preheat your oven (or toaster oven) to 375 degrees Farenheit.

2. Crack your egg into an oven safe bowl. Add some egg whites to thicken, if desired. I sprinkle a little bit of cheese on top to layer. 

3. Chop your vegetables, then saute them in a pan. I use a handful of each, and like to put a lot of greens in mine.

4. Pour the vegetables on top of the egg, and pat down with your spatula.

5. Top with cheese. You can choose to bake here if you wish, but to add some nutrition, and taste, I like to add ground flax meal and rosemary on top as well. Sometimes I also like to add a bit of goat cheese, or I substitute the goat for cheddar blend. The ground flax tastes like breadcrumbs and provides you with omega-3s and extra fiber to keep you full.

6. Bake for ABOUT 20 minutes. Check up on your egg by using a fork and making sure the white part of the egg has cooked through and isn't runny. That's how you know it's ready.

Eat up! The egg doesn't look as pretty here since I went a little crazy with the flax and rosemary (and took a couple of bites :) ), but it sure is tasty, and if you don't want flax, don't put it!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Wonderful World of Savory Oatmeal

The Wonderful World of Savory Oatmeal

I'm sure you've all eaten oatmeal before, whether it be covered in strawberries or sprinkled with chocolate chips. But there's more to oatmeal that you probably don't tastes amazing prepared savory.

I know it sounds odd, but it's only because we are so used to preparing oatmeal sweet. Oats don't have a naturally sweet flavor, just like rice or any other grain, and they can be prepared the same way you would a rice dish, using predominantly salty flavors. Now that I've discovered this trick, I've been making savory oatmeal for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's a quick healthy meal!

Why using oats is a healthy choice:
  • Contains no arsenic like rice does
  • Lowers your cholesterol/helps prevent heart disease
  • High in fiber
  • Keeps you full, stabilizes your blood sugar levels, and controls your appetite hormones
  • Great for weight loss
Savory Oatmeal Recipes:

Mexican: Just substitute the oatmeal for rice. Use beans, cheese, tomatoes or salsa, avocado and hot sauce, and top with Greek Yogurt as a substitute for sour cream.

Gooey "Pasta": Sometimes I use oatmeal when I'm craving a big bowl of pasta. I'll put in the vegetables and greens I usually put into my pasta (spinach, arugula or kale) along with zucchini, mushrooms, and onions with some tomato sauce and parmesan cheese. I'll add some Greek Yogurt to this too, just as I do with my pasta, to add some protein filled creaminess.

"Canadian" Breakfast: Instead of Canadian bacon, I use chicken apple sausage, and I top the dish with cheddar cheese, and a (small) splash of maple syrup. If you are feeling adventurous, you can chop up some green onion and throw it in for a more savory flavor. This dish is a great mix of sweet and savory, inspired by a cool oatmeal bar in Greenwich Village called Oatmeals.

I've made these three in the past few weeks, but you can play around! Think of the flavors you like together, and mix them with oatmeal. Make a Caprese with tomatoes, homemade pesto and some mozzarella cheese and balsamic vinegar. Or substitute oatmeal for rice and make a garlic mushroom "risotto." The options are endless!

Garlic Lemon Italian Style Oatmeal "Risotto"
Chopped onions
Chopped garlic, 2 cloves (or to taste)
Chopped tomato
Chopped mushroom
Grated parmesan cheese
1/2 small lemon, to squeeze
(I used Old Fashioned oats, which was actually really good, but if you want more of a fine risotto texture, use steel cut, which take a bit longer to cook)

 1. Heat up your oatmeal first, whether it be in the microwave (quickest and easiest for old-fashioned) or in the pot (best for steel-cut. I bought the quick cook kind, which saves lots of time).

2. While your oatmeal is cooking, chop up your vegetables. Then sauté in a pan with some olive oil.

3. Once your vegetables are cooked, either pour them into your oatmeal and mix, or pour the oatmeal into the pan with the rest of the ingredients. Sometimes it's nice to add the oatmeal to the pan so that the vegetables mix more thoroughly and so that any flavor that is sitting in the pan gets absorbed by the oatmeal.

4. Grate your parmesan cheese. Squeeze the lemon into your oatmeal, and top/mix with parmesan cheese.

Hope you become a savory oatmeal convert, and let me know if you think of any creative combos!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Dangers of Arsenic in Rice + Sweet Potato Pasta with Crispy Kale

The Dangers of Arsenic in Rice + Sweet Potato Pasta with Crispy Kale Brown Rice and Arsenic:
Before I begin this wonderful recipe, I have to rant about rice. If you haven't heard, A recent study has shown that the rice produced in the United States has high levels of arsenic, a carcinogen. Great. And to make matters worse, brown rice has higher levels than white, since the grain is less refined.

It infuriates me to think that even when you eat the right foods, you could still be ingesting harmful carcinogens because of the way our food is grown. Our country needs to work on food policies ASAP.

Anyway, from here on out I'm going to limit my intake of brown rice and brown rice products (yes, that means brown rice pasta, which was shown to have pretty high levels of arsenic compared to some other rice products). I'm going to try to include more varied grains into my diet, like quinoa and barley. If you do continue to eat brown rice, rinse it thoroughly!

If you are ever wondering what to make with sweet potatoes, try putting it with pasta or in a salad. There are a ton of recipes out there with kale and pasta, so why not make it healthier by adding in some vitamin-rich sweet potatoes.I used brown rice pasta in the recipe below, but I think it would be wise to use whole wheat pasta instead.

This recipe requires some multitasking, just a warning!

Sweet Potato Pasta with Crispy Kale
Whole Wheat Fusilli
One Sweet Potato
A handful of kale
Chopped garlic
Chopped onions
Chopped tomatoes
Parmesan cheese, grated
Milk (optional, I didn't use it)

 Step 1: Boil the sweet potatoes until they are soft. This should take about 20 minutes.

Step 2: While potatoes are boiling, put kale in the oven to bake. I baked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25 minutes, and I put a little bit of oil on the baking pan first.

Step 3: Start boiling your water for the pasta, and add when ready.

Step 4: Start chopping your ingredients, then saute. Grate the cheese as well.Your potatoes should be ready to be drained at this point. You can mash them in a separate bowl with a fork, or just add them straight to your pan with the other sauteed ingredients and mash it with a spatula.

Step 5: At this point your kale should be done. Take it out, then mix your drained pasta with the sweet potato sauce. If you want the sauce a little creamier, add a splash of milk and heat for a minute or two.

Step 6: Sprinkle the kale on top of the pasta along with the cheese, and eat up!