Wednesday, April 27, 2011

it's Danskin time!

As some of you may remember, last year I completed my first triathlon. Well, I loved it so much I've decided to do it again! I just signed up for this year's Danskin women's triathlon on Sunday, August 14th. Let the training begin!

everything but the kitchen sink stir fry

When I was growing up, my parents were firm believers in the clean your plate club. Essentially, I had to stay at the table until I cleaned my plate. One time my mom made stir fry and I mistakenly saturated it with Worcestershire sauce instead of soy sauce (hey, I was little and the bottles looked pretty stinking similar). I had to eat the. Entire. Thing. It was nasty. The thought of the cold, salty veggies still makes me a little queasy. Needless to say, I wasn't a major fan of stir fry for a while. It wasn't until college when I was short on cash and even shorter on time that I learned to love the stir fry.

I'm a big fan of one pot meals, and not just because I detest doing dishes. They are a quick and simple way to serve up some awesome food, and can be relatively economical if you're living on the cheap. Stir fries are an easy one pot meal and an excellent way to use up all your extra veggies. For example, you can make typical Asian stir fry with broccoli, carrots, snow peas, water chestnuts, bean sprouts, edamame, and even a handful of peanuts. Or, you can make Mexican stir fry with peppers, onions, black beans, corn, cabbage, and top with avocado. You can even make Italian stir fry, like my Italian sausage stir fry. You can serve stir fry as is, or atop rice, noodles, or quinoa. The possibilities are endless!

One stir fry I made recently that was super easy contained literally all of the veggies I had laying around. It was made of everything but the kitchen sink, baby, and boy was it tasty!

I threw the following in a large skillet with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil:
-1 cup chopped asparagus
-1/2 cup diced bell peppers
-1/2 cup diced onion
-1/2 cup frozen cubed butternut squash
-1/2 cup frozen sweet potatoes (I used sweet potato fries and cut them into smaller chunks, about 1" long)

-3 gloves of garlic, minced
-1/3 cup frozen edamame
-1 cup fresh spinach

If you're using a combination of fresh and frozen ingredients, start with the frozen ones first so that they have time to thaw. Also, always add greens like spinach last, because they wilt rather quickly.

I topped the stir fry with a bit of sliced avocado and some coarse sea salt. It was so good it didn't even need any sauce. Also, my meal was entirely plant based (vegan) and I didn't feel the slightest bit deprived. I think one key to embracing a more plant based diet is to combine really flavorful foods with a variety of textures, so that your senses stay intrigued. It felt like there was a party in my mouth.

Enjoy, and don't be afraid to get creative!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

the best effing tuna salad EVER!

Happy Spring everyone! I'm so happy the sun is finally starting to make an appearance in Seattle. We've finally had 3 days above 60 (and I realize that sounds incredibly pathetic, but hey, I'm embracing the positive!) and I even was able to wear a t shirt and flip flops to the beach and not freeze! Speaking of beaches, as swimsuit season is nearing, I'm finding myself uber motivated to cook foods from scratch and steer clear of overly processed items.

At the insistence and nudging of some of my friends who are more fledgling cooks, I'll be posting some more basic recipes on here. One thing I make really well is tuna salad. Not to toot my own horn too much, but I recently made this for one of my best friends for lunch and he said it was pretty much the most amazing tuna salad he's ever tasted. So rest assured, folks, you're in good hands! (And a note to my gentlemen readers: even though there's some random ingredients in this thing, it has been dude approved.)

Amazing Tuna Salad:
Combine the following in a large bowl:
-1 can solid white albacore tuna, flaked with a fork. This is key folks. That chunk light crap looks and tastes like cat food. Solid white albacore is the key to amazing tuna salad!
-1/2 chopped crispy apple, such as a honeycrisp or pink lady
-2 diced celery ribs
-1 large or several small diced crispy dill pickles. If you can find garlic and/or spicy pickles, they taste even better!
-1/4 cup unsweetened dried cranberries (or regular craisins - I'm still avoiding sugar a bit)
-1.5-2 TB regular lemonnaise - the key to good tuna salad is not too much mayo. Just add enough to moisten and adhere all of the ingredients together. We don't want a goopy sloppy mess!
-2 TB minced fresh dill
-Cracked black pepper, to taste

The tuna salad works great either as is, served atop spinach or mixed spring greens, or served warm and gooey with havarti cheese as a tuna melt. (Note on gluten free breads: I made this as a tuna melt with Rudi's multigrain gluten free bread and it was pretty awesome. Even my friend Ryan said it was good.) It pairs well with sour cream and onion kettle chips, which incidentally, are also gluten free. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

starch and candida and inflammation, oh my!

As most of you know, I'm a dietitian. I spent the past three days at the Washington State Dietetic Association annual conference, and my head is swimming with new knowledge about vitamins, plant based diets, and dietary interventions to combat inflammation, amongst other things. Though several of the topics didn't exactly apply directly to someone suffering from say, A.S., it did set my mind a reeling.

You see, following the very low starch diet has been kind of mentally taxing for me over the past few months. Aside from the moral implications of eating so much animal product (though I try when I can afford it to buy meats that are locally and sustainably raised and humanely slaughtered - more on that to come), I've been wondering how all of this animal product is effecting my insides. As a dietitian we've read the studies about links between high levels of saturated fats in the diet and their correlations with elevated cholesterol and cardiovascular events. We've also recommended plant based diets for their health benefits, such as decreasing cholesterol, increasing insulin sensitivity, and decreasing body weight.

Therefore, I'm in a bit of a pickle following a diet where I can't even eat most fruits. It's fruit for Pete's sake! However, I did lose weight while on the low starch diet. But I also ate less packaged foods and possibly was consuming fewer calories overall. What a conundrum.

I was missing carbs something fierce, so I gradually started adding back in some starches over the past few months. I was missing legumes so much that I was literally dreaming about hummus. I've also had some delicious sweet potatoes, pineapple, watermelon, and split pea soup. It all tasted a-mazing!

I started this starch free quest to combat candida (i.e. yeast) and the thing is, the candida is still lingering, even with very low starch consumption. And some of my R.D. friends who struggle with candida say that while yeast does need sugar to thrive outside of the body, internally our bodies regulate our blood sugars so closely that decreasing sugar and starch intake may not be an effective way of combating candida overgrowth. Oy! Turns out it might be more related to stress and inadequate sleep!

I don't claim to have the answers here, but I think for now I'm sticking to eating fewer carbohydrates, and choosing gluten free starches when I do choose to eat carbs. I think it's also a good idea for me to steer away from packaged foods most of the time and try to either cook foods myself or order more whole foods when dining out. I also have heard research that supports adding Omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants for decreasing inflammation, and with this autoimmune disease I'm living in a state of inflammation. (Another thing I learned at the convention: women with inflammatory diseases can have a more difficult time conceiving. I'm not ready for babies yet but sheesh! Time to get this stuff figured out.) Therefore I'm going to make an effort to eat more fish (Omega 3's) and brightly colored fruits and veggies (antioxidants).

One thing that is clear is that one should always try to get nutrients from foods rather than supplements, although some supplementation with probiotics, vitamin D, and even fish oil can be helpful. If you are taking a multivitamin, only take one kind and try one that only has 100% of the nutrients, in order to avoid toxicity.

I'm also going to make a solid effort to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night and work on managing my stress levels. Plus one of my girlfriends who has battled candida issues has a supplement that has worked for her that she's going to email me about. I'll post on that once I've tried it out.

I guess the message here is that each person's individual situation is different from everyone else's, so what works for one person may be more or less effective in others. The body is truly a fascinating and mysterious thing. Therefore, I guess we have to be informed, hope for the best and tweak accordingly.

Best of luck, friends!