Monday, July 11, 2016

Enlightened Skordalia

Ahhh summer oh how I love The….with the abundance of local produce, the blue bird skies and outdoor adventures, and the gentle warm breeze that dances through my wind chime….However, my love affair only lasts if the temperatures do not get too hot. Luckily we have not had much 80-90 degree weather yet here in the PNW, and I continue to keep my fingers crossed that the mid 70’s summer days are not too far and few between. Last summer, I nearly melted in my bedroom…and hid amongst the shadows and forested areas, because simply put, I just don't do well in anything higher than 80 degrees + humidity.

So in the heat, and with the lazy summer days, room temperature meals, or a few things heated on the grill, is all my body craves. Fresh. Zesty. Flavorful. Light and easy. And course as always DELICIOUS. The body knows what it wants, and what it needs….to some extent that is…as long as we really, truly……listen.

Right now, I crave potatoes. Which is somewhat odd considering most people crave potatoes in the winter. But right now….potatoes are coming up…fresh and local, tender and very flavorful. And guess what…they are pretty amazing! Do not doubt the simple potato any longer….especially for a summer evening meal.

Potato Goodness

So why the potato? Well, not only does it provide the most complimentary base to any unique combination of spices or herbs, but it also shines simply on its own. My grandma’s favorite meal (and she was an excellent home cook by the way), was simply steamed Yukon gold potatoes with a little pat of butter and a sprinkle of salt on each bite. Now that is basic my friends. Of course as a nutritionist, I would say where are all the other veggies?…but back in the day…you took what you could get.

Besides the fact that everyone loves potatoes (unless you have a nightshade intolerance I suppose), they are very nutrient dense! Yes, the simple potato, that has been shamed for all these years, can be an awesome part of a whole foods based diet. So here it goes.

Fiber & Resistant Starch

One medium boiled potato, with peel, has about 4 grams of fiber for every 35 grams of carbohydrates. That's pretty good! A simple rule I like to follow when choosing foods is to make sure that for every 10g of carbohydrates there is at least 1g of fiber. So the potato exceeds that benchmark. But more interestingly…if the potato is cooked and then cooled…its forms some resistant starch.

What is resistant starch? It is a type of starch that is not digested by humans! Therefore, it does not impact blood sugar levels or insulin after ingestion. Actually, the friendly bacteria in our colon, enjoy it much more than we do. In fact, they feed on it, and produce short chain fatty acids (especially butyrate) as by-products fueling the colon cells and supporting overall health. Studies have even found that resistant starch can aid in weight loss. However, if you heat the potatoes up again to over 130degrees Fahrenheit, the resistant starch starts to transform to “usable” starch again.

Vitamins & Minerals

Potatoes are a great source of potassium an electrolyte that along with sodium helps balance fluids within the body. When we sweat a lot in the summer, playing as we do, we lose some salt, and to a lesser extent potassium. If we don't have enough potassium or too much, we can stress our heart to the point of death. However, most people are getting plenty of sodium, but not enough potassium (found in veggies). One medium potato provides about 25% of what you need!

Potatoes are also rich in vitamin C (a powerful antioxidant that supports skin health) and vitamin B6 (supports brain health and reduces inflammation)….and a lot more.

The big take away…enjoy potatoes as a part of a whole foods diet…they are just as nutrient dense as any other vegetable that you have on your plate!

As inspiration I am sharing with you one of my favorite ways to prepare potatoes in the summer…. my take on SKORDALIA. Traditionally skordalia comes from Greece where they blend potatoes (and sometimes bread and almonds) with olive oil, garlic, and vinegar. Often it is served as a dip. However, my version is a blend of both potatoes and cauliflower with lemon juice in place of vinegar…for a lighter and more refreshing version that is perfect as a side. I especially love to serve skordalia with pan seared sockeye salmon or curried chicken drumsticks, but grilled shrimp skewers, sautéed tempeh strips, or even with a fried pastured eggs are a great addition. And as always served with a large salad on the side.

The trick for this recipe, to keep as many nutrients locked into the potato, is to peel the potato after it has been steamed. This way water-soluble nutrients will not all leach out into the water and stay in the potato!

Enlightened Skordalia
Serves 6

1 medium head of cauliflower, base and leaves removed**
4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes**
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
Finely ground fresh pepper to taste
Optional: finely minced fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, chives, etc)


Fill a large pot with about 1 inch of water. Place a steamer basket inside and top first with potatoes and then with the cauliflower. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Once boiling reduce heat to medium low and steam the cauliflower for about 12-15 minutes or until tender all the way through.  Remove the cauliflower and place onto a plate to cool, add an extra cup of water to the pot (too make sure the steam water doesn't get too low), and once again cover with the lid. Continue to steam the potatoes another 15-20 minutes until they are tender all the way through. Set the potatoes aside and allow to cool 5-10 minutes until they are cool enough to handle.

Peel the steamed potatoes, cut in quarters, and throw them into a large bowl along with the cauliflower, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and salt and pepper. Using an immersion blender or handheld mixer, puree the mixture until mostly smooth. You want to be careful not to blend it too much as the potatoes can become glue-like if pureed too much. See notes below. Season with additional sea salt, pepper, and lemon to taste. Garnish each serving with freshly minced herbs and a drizzle of olive oil if desired. You can serve this dish immediately or chill in the refrigerator and bring to room temp prior to serving.

**Note: I usually aim for about equal weights of each. Ex: 1½ lbs of both cauliflower and potatoes. It doesn’t need to be exact, but close enough. This helps prevent the skordalia from becoming gummy. Also make sure to use Yukon Gold potatoes as they contain less starch than russets.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

RefreshME! Sports Beverage

It’s getting hot out there folks! And with these glorious summer days naturally comes more outdoor exercise. The prettier the weather the more apt we are to go and play hard!

With all the fun and games of running, mountain biking, hiking, and other strenuous outdoor activities, we need to make sure we stay hydrated. And by hydrating I do not mean simply drinking a glass of water before and after your workout…or drinking a beer as a tasty hydrating reward after a long grueling ride or hike. There are more factors to address for optimal performance and for overall health and safety.

In the summer months we naturally have increased water losses as the temperatures soar and our bodies attempt to maintain a core temperature around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Sweating is one of the mechanisms that assists in maintaining this core temperature.

If we add additional strenuous exercise to hot summer days, we are going to sweat even more, losing anywhere between 300ml to over 2 liters of sweat per hour depending on the exercise intensity, duration, heat acclimatization, humidity, etc.

Why is this important?? Water losses greater than 2% of your body weight can impair cognition and performance, whereas severe water losses of 6-10% of body weight can impact heart function, sweat production, and blood flow to the skin and muscles.

Getting Sweaty!

Since sweat not only contains water, but also sodium (salt) and smaller amounts of other electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium, it is important rehydrate in times of high sweat losses with water that contains some salt….especially if you sweat a lot or tend to have very salty sweat. Although salt content is highly variable between one person to the next, it is estimated that on average about 1g of sodium is lost per liter of sweat. That is a lot!

This is important to note because it is often overlooked by recreational athletes who are aware of the importance of staying hydrated, drinking plenty of water before during and after their workout, but do not replenish their sodium.  This can lead to hyponatremia (low plasma sodium) causing symptoms of bloating, puffiness, weight gain, nausea, vomiting, headaches, confusion, and can possibly even cause death if untreated….yikes!

So who would benefit from consuming salt during exercise?
  • Those that sweat more than 1.2 liters per hour—see below for how to measure sweat losses.
  • Those that have very salty sweat—do you have salt crystals on your skin post workout?
  • And if you participate in strenuous exercise that is longer than 2 hours…which I know happens a lot in the mountain biking and hiking community here in Bellingham.

Euhydration: normal state of body water

How can you stay in euhydration?? Here are some great tips and tricks to keep your performance up and your health in check!

  • Consume 2-4ml of water per pound of body weight 2-4 hours before exercise to allow enough time to rid excess fluid and achieve pale yellow urine.
  • Add a little salt to your pre-workout meal or drink to help retain extra fluid prior to exercise.
  • Stay hydrated during exercise as able. Some may benefit from liquids with added sodium. See above for those who would benefit.
  • Athletes can also weigh themselves before and after a strenuous activity to determine sweat losses. For every pound lost rehydrate with 2.5 cups of water. Once again, if sodium losses are high, adding a little salt will be beneficial.
  • Drink cold beverages to help reduce core temperature and thus improve performance in the summer heat.
  • Do not restrict salt in post-exercise meals, especially when large sweat losses have occurred.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol during the recovery period because it has a diuretic effect (stimulates increased fluid loss via urine)…..afterwards you can meet up at the local brewery and celebrate the adventures of summer.
So drink up, stay hydrated, add a little pinch of salt, and play hard because summer has only just started!

RefreshME! Sports Beverage
Serves 1

The beverage recipe below is perfect for post-workout rehydration. Not only does it have a little salt (170mg) and a little potassium, but it also has 100% of your daily vitamin C (which helps reduce exercise induced oxidative stress). Plus it offers a little fruit sugar for energy, and a little protein for muscle repair. And it tastes simply refreshing, especially after a sweaty workout!

1 naval orange
1 lemon
1 lime
1 pinch sea salt
½ cup water
Optional: 1 tablespoon hydrolyzed collagen
4-6 ice cubes


Juice the orange, lemon, and lime with a citrus juicer and add the fresh juice to a glass (makes about ½ cup). Then add the salt, additional water, and optional collagen. Stir well to combine. Add ice cubes, a straw, and enjoy!

Note: The total fluid volume of this beverage is only ~ 12oz (if the ice cubes are melted). Therefore, you may need to hydrate with more fluid post-workout to make up total fluid losses.

Monday, May 23, 2016

MINERAL RICH MILK (The Best Nut Milk Makeover)

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Many years ago I wrote a blog post about making nut milk. So now I think it’s high time for a nut milk makeover…not only to boost your health but also to help keep your wallets full! Plus, I love to give a friendly reminder every now and then that nut milk should be made at home instead purchased at the store.

The only tools you need to make creamy, rich, and smooth nut milk is a high speed blender and a fine mesh nylon nut milk bag. Its soooo simple to make and the quality and cost far outweighs what you can buy at the store. I know I might be preaching to the choir, but there is no shame in repeating it---because we all get lazy. No more boxed almond milk that contains extra fillers, sugar, and is watery in flavor. And yes, you can buy a 12oz bottle of raw cashew nut milk for $8 at Whole Foods. But really, why spend so much on so little, when you can make an even BETTER nut milk at home for pennies on the dime?

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Where is your money going??

Boxed Nut Milk: These nut milks contain ~ 5-6 almonds per cup of nut milk. That is why they are low in calories, generally 30-40kcal per cup. However, they lack creaminess, richness, and nutritional density, making them a poor substitute for creamy whole fat milk. Plus they usually have added stabilizers, cane sugar, and generally do not use soaked and sprouted nuts.

   32 oz Non-Organic Pasteurized Nut Milk: $2-$3
   32oz Organic Pasteurized Nut Milk: $3-$4 dollars

Store Bought Raw Nut Milk: Although the ingredients and quality is far superior then boxed nut milks, and they taste creamy and rich, they generally cost an arm and a leg. I have only come across Raw Cashew Nut Milk at Whole Foods which costs ~ $8 for a 12 or 16oz bottle. Plus, it doesn't contain nearly the nutritional diversity as homemade MINERAL RICH nut milk.

Homemade Raw Nut Milk: Using ~1 cup of nuts to 4 cups of water, makes this beverage creamy, rich, and satisfying just like a glass of whole milk (if you like to drink whole milk by the glass that is). It also contains higher quality ingredients. You are 100% in control. You can choose to add a healthy sweetener (date, maple syrup, honey), add spice, or decide whether you want to purchase organic or conventional nuts and seeds. The price? For organic, raw, sprouted, and of course homemade MINERAL RICH nut milk, I spent about $2.50 for a 32oz serving. Now, who can beat the price and the quality of homemade nut milk?

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So my new version of nut milk, is not just any nut milk. Most recipes you see on the web are for almond milk, cashew milk, sunflower milk, etc. Yeah they are great, but why not mix it up a bit? Each nut and seed has unique nutritional benefits. Almonds are rich in vitamin E, Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, pumpkin seeds are rich in magnesium and zinc, sesame seeds are rich in calcium, and on and on it goes. Why stick with just the same old almond or cashew? Why not make a super rich and creamy nut milk that is full of a variety of nuts and seeds??

That is why I have created a very tasty and very MINERAL RICH nut milk. You wont find this anywhere, grocery stores will not even carry a boxed version of this.

So get out your blenders, purchase a nylon nut milk bag (it makes all the difference, trust me) and pick up some nut and seeds so you have a nutrient rich, plant based milk to add to your coffee, oatmeal, or green smoothie tomorrow morning! No more slacking, its time for a nut milk revolution!!

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Brazil Nuts
These nuts are pretty amazing because just one nut meets over 100% of your daily selenium needs. What is selenium? It is a trace mineral that along with iodine, and zinc plays a very important role in healthy thyroid function and helps reduce oxidative stress within the body. A diet low in selenium can thus have far reaching effects on metabolism, energy, and ability to combat free radicals. However, as with everything too much can be harmful to our bodies as well. Since Brazil nuts are the most concentrated source of selenium, limiting yourself to 1-2 per day is all you need.

Pumpkin Seeds
If you haven’t incorporated pumpkin seeds into your life, you should start now. These tasty seeds are super rich in minerals zinc and magnesium, both of which are very important for optimal health. Interestingly, many people tend to be deficient in magnesium, either due to poor intake of whole grains, nuts and seeds, or also because the soil is becoming more depleted of this mineral. Either way focusing on getting more magnesium into your diet can have far reaching positive effects. Magnesium can help reduce headaches, reduce cramping, increase overall energy, control blood sugar, and just generally help reduce inflammation.  What more do you want?

These common household nuts are a great source of vitamin E, a powerful fat soluble antioxidant. Naturally, ¼ cup of raw almonds contains 40% of your daily vitamin E. Food for thought. If boxed nut milks actually contained enough almonds per serving, the manufacturer would not have to fortify milk with added synthetic vitamin E.

Sesame Seeds
These tiny little seeds are an especially good source of plant based calcium and copper. They are also contain magnesium, although not nearly as much as pumpkin seeds. We all know that calcium is important for bone health. However, what about copper? Copper is needed to help our mitochondria produce energy (ATP) and to support healthy connective tissue formation, in the skin, heart, vessels, and bones.

nut milk, seed milk, dairy free, vegan, raw, paleo, brazil nuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, mineral rich, nuts, seeds, milk, mylk
nut milk, seed milk, dairy free, vegan, raw, paleo, brazil nuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, mineral rich, nuts, seeds, milk, mylk
nut milk, seed milk, dairy free, vegan, raw, paleo, brazil nuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, mineral rich, nuts, seeds, milk, mylk

Wow! Isn’t that a lot of goodness in one simple nut milk recipe?? Plus if you want to kick it up a notch…1/4 teaspoon of spirulina mixed with 1 cup of nut milk, is super tasty and gives you an extra nutritional boost. Read more about spirulina and its' benefits here, here, and here!

So, get creative, make your own blend of nut milk joy. Swap the almonds for cashews or hazlenuts, the sesame seeds for hemp or flaxseeds, or add some vanilla for extra flavor. Either way, mixing it up, is the best. Out with the old, in with the MINERAL RICH!

Mineral Rich Nut Milk
Makes 4 cups

1/3 cup raw almonds
1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds
3 tablespoons sesame seeds, hulled
4 Brazil nuts
Pinch sea salt
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey (optional)


Place the nuts and seeds into a bowl and cover with warm water. Allow the nuts to soak 4 hours or overnight. Strain and rinse the nuts and seeds and put them into the blender. Add 4 cups water, the pinch of salt, and the optional 1-2 tablespoons maple syrup. Blend on high for 45-60 seconds.

Line a bowl with the nut milk bag and pour the nut milk into the bag. Squeeze out the milk, leaving behind the nut pulp and fibers. Save this pulp to add to baked goods, to make crackers, or simply compost.

Store the strained nut milk in a glass container for a week in the refrigerator.

Note: If you want to make Mineral Rich SPIRULINA Nut Milk then add 1/4 teaspoon per cup of nut milk. 

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