Don’t be a hater…not even to sugar and ESPECIALLY not to yourself….

Recently there has been talk of the devil.  The sugar-devil, that is.  First, Dr. Lustig out of San Francisco, created this video expounding all the evils of the white stuff (and even the not-so white stuff that is still sugar, like honey and agave).

It’s quite a long video, but worth a watch.  He’s a dynamic speaker and very passionate about his work. I’ve chatted with him at a meeting in SF once, and I have to say, I agree with a lot of what he advocates for.

In full rebuttle fashion, a recent article by Dr. David Katz, came out cautioning us to see sugar as public enemy #1.  I too agree with him.

But here’s the approachI don’ t see taken enough in the debate about food and diet: The personal experience and personal responsibility around eating.  I have worked with enough people (in addition to my own sugar journey) to know that demonizing a food, calling for taxes, policies, and political action, does not usually do a damn thing to stop individual behavior.  Think about it:  does knowing that sugar contains calories, can cause you to feel a drop in mood, can contribute to diabetes and heart disease and obesity really stop you from eating it when those strong, deep rooted cravings are activated?

I don’t think it does.  What I think stops you (if you abstain) is a  commitment to something greater and stronger than the call for the sweet stuff.  The power isn’t in the knowledge about sugar facts, it’s in your own experiential knowledge of what you want for yourself – how you want to feel, what you want to look like, what all the benefits of NOT eating sugar are.  And that power has the ability to help you navigate life in a far-greater way than just knowing a bunch of facts about foods and using black-and-white classifications of them.

And then there’s the self-esteem issue.  When we demonize a food, and then we consume it, what does that do to our sense of self? Nothing good, I can tell you that.  When I eat something that I think is ‘bad’, I feel bad.  Feeling bad does not inspire me to do good.  It motivates me to keep feeling shameful, eating in secrecy, living in denial or feeling a push-pull battle with the thing that I’m trying to resist.

This is NOT helpful.  No matter what taxes or bans we put on food, if people are compelled to eat them, they will – especially if they are in the middle- to upper-class income bracket and can afford the extra cost.  We still need to couple policy change with tools of self-awareness and self-esteem building.  We need to rally around the idea that each of us has the innate knowledge to know what is truly best for us, and to make food choices from that place.  This is NOT easy to teach, by any means.  It’s a slow process requiring patience and the undoing of a lot of really convoluted knots that come from mix-messages about food, family, culture, and self.

But, I’m up for the challenge…are you?

Can you take on the personal responsibility of your own food choices and advocating for policy that includes some attention to looking at the inner-drive to consume sugar-filled treats?  Can we promote programs that address behavior change instead of blaming sugar for being what it is?

IF you eat sugar, you are not evil.  Sugar itself is not evil.  It is only as powerful in our lives as we let it be.

Okay, off the soapbox for the day.

Meal memories in Iceland

By the way, this post has nothing to do with the holidays. Happy? Me too, I need a break. In fact, this post goes all the way back to March of this year when Matt and I hopped on a plane and traveled to beautiful, amazing Iceland.

Eating in foreign places (or just even new restaurants) is part of Matt and my ‘love language’ – you know, the way you show affection for one another. There is something magical about experience a new flavor or texture sensation with somebody you care about. For this reason we really enjoy staying in apartments where we can cook. Is that crazy? To want to cook on vacation? Maybe so, but it’s my favorite thing to do!

Take for instance, this lovely meal below. We perused the Sunday open air market in Reyjkavik to pick up fresh Icelandic Char (like Salmon), potatoes and green veggies. Look what we created! Icelandic food is naturally high in omega-3 fats (cold water fish), green veggies (kale, chard, collard type veggies grow really well), and their bread is dense and wheat-free. I LOVE IT!! Even their signature dessert, skyr with blueberries, is low fat, high protein and very low in sugar.

atlantic chard, kale, veggies and fingerling potatoes in Reykjavik

Cooking in another country makes me feel more connected with the culture. Sure, I like restaurants too, but I feel this bond with people when I can actually do what they do, eat what they eat, and know what is available on a day to day basis. This probably explains why I have so many pictures of grocery stores when I travel!

how nice, pictures for foreigners

PS: we passed on the horse meat, but did try plenty of other exotic foods, such as smoked whale meat. Yes, I did say whale. Sorry. They eat whale in Iceland, along with the bird Puffin like it’s chicken. I’m sure the makers of Puffin Cereal would be very disappointed, but I’m not making this up. See, here is a menu to prove it!

Something that I’ve learned about myself through the years is that the way I experience a meal has a tremendous impact on how I see the food on the plate, how it digests, and how I either support or sabotage my efforts to avoid emotional eating. I can have a smorgesbord in front of me and if I’m in a place of gratitude, love and appreciate for the opportunity to savor the food and the experience, I can eat in peace. If I’m in a bad mood, if I’m looking to eat as a way to cope with stress, or anything like that it won’t matter WHAT I eat, I will feel badly about it. Traveling and observing how I relate with food when I see it as a cultural experience was one of my first clues as to the fact that eating behavior can have very different meanings depending on what attitude I bring to the table, so to speak.

I’d love to hear from you about what you love to do when you travel and experience food and eating in different cultures. Do you also notice a difference in the way you see food (especially dessert for me!) when you travel versus when you are at home? Oh, please tell me I’m not alone in this 😉

I will leave you with a little enigma here. The flip side of food experiences in new cultures is the mystery food. For instance, what the heck is in the picture below? We never really did figure it out,but it was going like hotcakes at the Sunday market. Hmm…..some foods are better experienced through the camera than the taste buds 🙂

It's a lasagna? It's a shrimp cocktail? It's dessert...umm...what is it?

more excellent uses for kale (recipe)

Kale is just about the coolest veggie ever made. I sit here writing this post between spoonfuls of a delicious and easy to prepare soup I made that uses kale. Earlier today we threw some kale in the veggie scramble that fueled our bike ride and last night I struck up a conversation with a friend about kale and smoothies. What other veggie can offer so much diversity.

Below is the soup recipe. I’d love it if one of you bloggies would try it out, and let me know your thoughts or what you did to make it even better. It’s hearty, low fat, high fiber and even my husband loves it. A+ in my book

Butternut squash soup (with kale!)
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
1/2 large yellow onion (preferably one from your friend’s garden, such as the one I used)
6 cups of chicken stock (or whatever stock you have handy)
1 bunch of kale, chopped into 1″ pieces and de-stemmed (at least the bottom)
salt and pepper to taste
1 can of cannelloni beans (organic if possible)
1 3″ sprig of rosemary (like the one I gleaned from the rosemary bushes that grow along my running path this morining)
2 tsp dried Italian herbs
Olive oil (EVOO)

In a large stock pot add about 1-2 Tbsp EVOO and the onion. Sweat the onion for about 3 min on med. heat. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir for 1 more minute. Add the squash and mix. Let it cook for about 2 minutes and then add the stock (warm stock up to room temp before adding it). Add the herbs and bring to a “just boil” for about 15-20 minutes, until the squash is soft.

Now, if you want to make it thick and creamy, use an immersion blender to blend the stock with the squash/onion. Take out the rosemary sprig before you do this!. You can also put it in the blender but this is tedious. It will also taste good just as it is (chunks). After blending add the beans and cook another 5 minutes or so. Add the kale and another pinch of salt/pepper. Cook an additional 5-10 minutes, or drop it down to low-med and simmer it for about 15-20 minutes. Avoid over wilting the kale.

Serve in a ceramic bowl with a big ol’ soup spoon and all will be well on this chilly November evening. I bet a dollop of sour cream (or thick plain yogurt better yet!) would be tasty on this too.

Okay, back to my soup!

Mouth Watering Madness in the Mission

Last weekend Matt took me to SF for the day to celebrate by birthday (belated).  His gift to me was a walking and tasting tour of the Mission district of SF and then a stop at La Cocina for a Latin fusion cooking class with a group called “Parties that Cook”.

First stop: Mission Minis for some itty-bitty cupcakes.  This guy is known for the “$1 mini cupcakes).  A portion controlled treat to start the tour – love it!  I had the honey lavender and Matt had coconut

Magical cupcakes from Mission Minis

The next stop was my fav: Mr. Pollos. This place has been on TV! …but that’s not why I liked it.  It was because they cook from scratch daily with whatever inspires them at the daily farmer’s market AND they are growing their own peppers and spices to become an authentic Venezuelan restaurant.  It’s a tiny eat-in restaurant but I think you can do take-out and I hear that lunch isn’t as crazy busy as dinner.

the day's bounty at farmer's market

But really why I loved it is because of the cormeal empanadas. Flour-free and FANTSTIC!!

carnitas empanada with a garilc green sauce

Next Stop: Humphry Slocombe Ice cream
Why two desserts before the main lunch?  I have no idea but I was beginning to like the way this tourguide thought.  Yes!  It was a beautiful warm October day in the city, so why not have ice cream, right?

This is me dying and going to heaven with their salted licorice flavor:

me and my new love, Salted Licorice Ice Cream

One more stop at a really famous-but the name escapes me tortilla shop and we were off to cook.

The menu:  Fish tacos with chipolte crema, smoked chicken quesadilla with tomatillo salsa, and two other things I can’t recall the names of.  One was an appetizer: pork carnitas cups with lime and avocado  and the other was this magical corn cake lightly fried and topped with jalapeno jelly.   I was so sad that I wasn’t really hungry anymore by the time we made these dishes because I would have absolutely feasted they were so good.  But don’t worry, I got my fill.

warming tortillas for fish tacos

Our feast!


Thanks to my husband for a fantastic, delicious and memorable birthday present!

Enchilada pie, oh my

Let me paint a picture for you.  Last night I was working out with the UC Davis Judo club until 10:30pm.  This was after the day that would not end, except for a 1 hour reprieve with my friend D. at the bar of Bistro 33 before Judo (yes, I think a glass of wine helped me be very limber as some 20 yr old practice chokes on me!).

So you could say that when I woke this morning I was not in a mood to whip up something for lunch.  So I marched myself to the Nugget this morning to sweet what $3 could buy me.  I wasn’t expecting much.  A Lean Cuisine maybe?  An Amy’s Frozen Entree?  No way, too pricey!

And then I saw it:  it was like the perfect fusion of a lasagna and an enchilada.  It had real food ingredients and it didn’t look fried or slathered in some kind of weird sauce.  It was Enchilada Pie from Cedar Lane.

Enchilada Pie and a bottle of Aleve on the check out counter and I was ready to begin my crazy day.  I wasn’t expecting much because, let’s face it, frozen entree’s are usually all talk and no walk.

However, at 12pm when I waited patiently at the microwave for my little enchilada to perkolate, I was happily greeted with a warm, delicious scent that actually smelled like….real food!

3.5 minutes late I was taking my first bite with my Potato ware disposable fork (high brow, yes?) and a cup of hot tea.  Boy was I hungry!  And I have to say that this little dish really did the trick.  With 210 Kcal/ serving (2 servings), I did not feel the least bit guilty eating the whole 11 oz of this dish.  It also served me with 26g of protein, 7g of fiber, and 50% of my daily calcium needs.  Fantastic!  And it was gluten-free to boot!

For those local residents, these tasty little entree’s are on sale at Nugget right now for $2.99.  Well worth it.
TO see more of what Cedar Lane has to offer, go here.  I will definitely buy these again for those crazy busy days.

Caught eating too much sugar…and how to avoid it

Really, do we need to go over this again? Yes.  We do.  Added sugar is still sneaking in everywhere and it’s time to revisit (or visit for the first time) some of the sneaky places sugar hides out.  I’m just going to go with what I’ve noticed in my diet and my shopping adventures lately.

Recently I mindlessly grabbed the first applesauce I saw and thought it was the brand I usually use.  Well, it was but it’s wasn’t the “No added sugar” version.  The result: The version I bought had 100 calories/half cup serving (my normal one only has 50) and it had 19g of sugar per serving. YIKES!  You don’t need to add sugar to an already sweet fruit like apples.  I use applesauce to bake with, to top oatmeal and yogurt and in smoothies.  Since I hate throwing things away I’ve been using it sparingly to bake with or to replace any honey that I might add to oats/yogurt.

Frozen Entrees
Yes, I admit that from time to time I turn to frozen entrees to grab a bite.  Usually I’m satisfied by looking at the front label to get my nutrition needs met, thinking that I’m smart enough to know when I might see something high in sugar.  Nope.  Recently I purchased a Lean Cuisine that had 23GRAMS OF SUGAR!!!  I forget what it was, but I was so frustrated.  Why is there that much sugar in a savory chicken/veggie dish?  And no, it wasn’t sweet and sour chicken.  Yuck.

Organic Cereals, hot or cold
God bless “organic”, but unfortunately it is sometimes translated into “Free Pass” to assume it’s the superior choice.  ORGANIC SUGAR IS STILL SUGAR AND METABOLIZED AS SUCH!   The organic frosted-mini-wheat style cereal I saw the other day (cleverly packaged in it’s ‘low impact’ packaging) had 17g sugar per 3/4 cup serving.  I’ve seen some organic flavored oatmeals that follow the same vein.  Look on the back and be savvy!!

Flavored beverages, especially those that will ‘refuel or energize’ you
Expensive and gimmicky, these beverages (like Gluekoes (sp??)) are much higher in sugar than the average weekend warrior needs.  Just drink water.  Hansen’s natural soda is the same.  Sugar is natural, but not necessarily healthy.  There are tons of other drinks out there that I don’t even know about, but again – look at the container.  If it’s got more than 10g of sugar/serving that is A LOT.  By comparison water (also known as skinny water these days??) has ZERO GRAMS OF SUGAR!!

Trail Mix

Question: What is the difference bewteen a Reese’s PB cup and a chocolate  candy and peanut trail mix?  Answer – not much really.  So, don’t be fooled.  Look at the label and see how much sugar is in a tiny 1/4 cup serving (not to mention fat and overall calories).  Unless you’re backpacking the John Muir trail those mixes may not be a good idea unless you treat them like a dessert.


Okay, that is my two cents on the matter these days – I’d love to hear yours!

Vive la crepe

This post could also be entitled “I’d rather be eating Popsicles than standing over a hot stove”.  It’s 90+ degrees here in the good ol’ central valley of California and I get a wild hare to make gluten-free crepes. Go figure.  I did compromise and promise myself to cook the filling tomorrow as the sweat on my brow was telling me enough is enough.

Despite my heat-laden woes, I ended up with some pretty good savory crepes.  These aren’t going to for breakfast, but rather for dinner tomorrow, stuffed with sauteed greens, shallots and maybe sweet potato-we’ll see how much face time I want to have with the hot stove when tomorrow’s weather hits.

In the meantime I highly recommend this recipe.  When cooking these crepes you want to start by turning the burner on med-high to heat up the pan, and then turn down to medium for cooking.  Don’t coat the pan with oil between every crepe, maybe every 3 or so.  Also, flip them when the edges are turning up and there are little bubbles forming on top, but if you want too long you get sort of a crunchy crepe.  If you don’t want enough time you get a broken crepe (I had a lot of these tonight because I was impatient!).  Personally I like them a little crispy (golden brown and they crack when rolled) but they don’t fold up well.  It’s up to you.

1 cup gluten-free flour (I used a rice flour)
2 eggs
1 cup almond milk
3 tbsp extra virgin oilve oil (I used a Spanish oil with a robust flavor – yum!)
1/2 cup water
2 tsp vegetable seasoning (it’s an organic blend from Costco, but you can mix up any you like)
pinch of salt

Put all ingredients in the blender and blend for about 30 seconds.  Scrape down the sides and blend again.  Let the batter set for as long as overnight but at least 30 minutes.  I set mine in the fridge overnight.

You’ll have enough batter for about 10 8-9″ crepes.  I make mine a little thicker (maybe about 1/8th inch?) than most, so if you spread the batter thin you’ll get more crepes.  Fill them with whatever you like – sauteed veggies, a yogurt sauce, beans…sky is the limit!

PS: If you want to make these with me, come to the pancake cooking class at the Davis Food Coop on Wed, July 13th.  Hand’s on experience with crepes, pancakes and fun ways to top ’em!


and yet another good reason to eat dark cocoa

As if the taste, mouthfeel and pure joy of eating dark cocoa (and dark chocolate if it’s unadulterated) wasn’t enough….now we can eat cocoa because it is high in potassium.  In fact, it is the potassium content in cocoa powder that makes it bitter to the taste, so you may have to adapt your taste buds a bit to enjoy this.
American’s under consume potassium and over consume sodium, yet the balance of the two is really important for cardiovascular health.  So do your heart a favor and get some dark cocoa!  I bake with it all the time, as well as add it to oatmeal or make hot chocolate with almond milk.

This article has more info on foods which are high in potassium.

Hail to Kale


The beginnings of a spinach kale and veggie frittata

In preparation for my upcoming cooking class at the Davis Coop next Monday, I came upon this article about all the benefits of kale.

It got me thinking.  Why do we, as a culture, pay homage to junk like Gingerbread Latte’s, soda, overstuffed burritos and all that kind of food  when the payoff for eating things like kale and other greens is SO MUCH HIGHER!  Kale alone has been associated with reducing cancer risk (along with it’s cousin Brussel Sprouts), is high in beta-carotene, vitamin C, calcium and potassium and more.  Furthermore, and maybe most importantly for Off-White eaters, foods like kale with a bitter principle can help reduce carb cravings and promote optimal digestive movement.

If only the fruit and veggie industry had the marketing budget of McDonald’s or Dow chemical (who, but the way, also makes a lot of food products – hopefully not at the same place that make your scrubbing bubbles to clean your bathroom!).  If only our ‘optimal default’ behavior was to hanker for kale and not Krispy Kreme.  I realize that we are hard wired to want sweet/fat because at one point it acutally helped us survive to indulge when we came upon a crop of nuts or honey as we foraged.  But can you tell me about a SINGLE food from nature that is both HIGH CARB and HIGH FAT at the same time.  Even milk, which has carbs and fat, is relatively low in the carbs compared to a plate of nachos or bowl of pasta tossed with olive oil.

Part of the issue is that we don’t know how to prepare kale or other greens in a tasty way.  They don’t grown from the ground being super tasty, I’ll be honest.  But when you cook with them properly and add flavor to them they become delicious.  At some point I went from detesting such foods to actually putting raw kale in my salad.  Does the pleasure center of my brain light up the same as when I’m eating a piece of cheesecake, or even a banana…no.  It doesn’t.  But the wellness centers of my brain are on fire!  And that is what really counts.

Perhaps some of you can join me April 18th @ 6pm at the Davis Food Coop for the “I HEART KALE” class.  It’s only $25 for non-members and you’ll get a ton of food, learn a lot, and meet other like minded kale-consuming hopefuls.




Every now and again  it’s a good idea to take inventory.  You know, like how any good business pauses for a moment to take stock of what they have, but on a more personal level.  It never fails to baffle me how disconnected I (and others I know) can be from what we are really doing from what we think we are doing.  And no place is more susceptible  to this than the diet.
Let’s take me, for instance.  Before I went to Iceland I noticed Matt and I spending more and more money on groceries every week.  Why?  We did have a few special occasions, but even beyond that I was constantly running to the store.  It was little things, such as needing an extra 1/2 gallon of Almond milk mid-week or running out of bananas or needing to buy more Wasa bread by Thursday.  Mostly it was healthy food but still, it was MORE.

So I took a little inventory of what I was eating by way of a website called Spark People. It’s pretty cool and even better – it’s free.  You can record your food intake, your fitness but also set goals and even talk about what inspires you.  Being a busy person who is already on the internet far too often, I stuck with the basic tool of recording my exercise and food intake.

Good thing I did.  Here I thought my diet would be classifed as “high protein” and most days I wasn’t even getting the minimum 20% protein recommended.  So, that means the rest of the calories were divided up between fat and carbs, right?  Well, yes, but many days I was eating 35-40% fat!  Holy Smokes!  That is quite a bit, and what blew me away was how little I had to eat in order to tip that scale.  A spoonful of peanut butter in my oatmeal + 1/3 an avocado at lunch and a stir-fry made with Olive oil really adds up.  I’d say it was mostly healthy fat, but I would have guessed my diet to be 40% protein, 20% fat, and 40% carbs.  The recommendation for fat is about 30% of total calories.  Thus, if I took the other 5-10% and invested them in protein, I would have been more in balance.  Also, sometimes for me when I eat a food with fat, I’m also getting carbs (like oatmeal and peanut butter).  Protein is often last on my list of preferences, yet having lean protein makes my body food good.  Why did  I need a website to remind me of that??

I wish there was some little indicator I could buy that let’s me know when my proportions of food are out of whack…..oh wait, I do have those little indicators.  I had my excess grocery bill (which basically told me that we were just eating too much – and we were!).  I also had my energy levels and my digestion.  I was overeating too often and therefore feeling sluggish and I wasn’t so….err…..regular.

I suppose I’m sharing all of this with you because I thought I would be immune to the pitfalls of an imbalanced diet.  I mean, I am a “health professional” after all, spending my days studying the very topic that was slipping right under my nose. Ha!

Every lifestyle change program I’ve ever seen talks about the importance of documenting what you eat, drink and exercise.  It makes sense.  Even the keenest, best-intended person can be very off track and habitually being off track has consequences like weight gain, food cravings, and a thin wallet!

Now that we are back from Iceland we are back to our modest calorie intake ways.  Last week I only spent $65 on groceries and $6 of that was on toilet paper.  Granted, we did eat out a couple of times but we also had a house guest, so  I think it evened out.