As soon as the weather cools, I grease my roasting pans and get to work.
Every Sunday I do a big food prep. I spend 2-3 hours chopping, marinading, washing, blending and roasting so we're set up with food for the week.
Roasted veggies are a staple in my house and something my family never really tires of. We switch out the veggies, spices and sauces to keep the flavors fresh and fun.
This recipe could easily turn into a formula - get creative!
Makes 4 servings.
The first time I cooked brisket was for a New Year's Eve party (I always test recipes when I'm having company over for dinner - probably not the best time to get adventurous in the kitchen!). It was delicious but dry and rubbery.
Then I met the Instant Pot and Melissa Clark.
Everything that I have cooked out of her Dinner in an Instant cookbook has been a hit. Flavorful, simple and perfectly suited for a pressure cooker. In her intro she says,
The key to successful pressure cooking is choosing recipes in which softness and succulence is the goal, and which traditionally take hours to get there. It (an Instant Pot) can't cook a whole chicken very well, and it doesn't do crisp or crunchy. So don't ask it to and you won't be disappointed.
In essence: just because you can cook something in a pressure cooker (ie. cake) doesn't mean you should.
Well this Korean Brisket recipe she has sure highlights the strengths of the Instant Pot. It was melt-in-your-mouth good.
Beef is one of those ingredients that my clients love and fear. For decades it's be touted as an artery clogger, sure to shorten the lifespan of anyone who indulges in it due to the saturated fat content. As it turns out, we haven't gotten the whole story.
For one thing, we know now that the sugar industry suppressed data about how sugar is the foodstuff most closely linked to heart disease, not fat.
Additionally, not all fats are created equal.
You know how proteins are made up of individual amino acids? Fats are made up of fatty acids. Whether it's a saturated fat or an unsaturated fat is determined by what kinds of fatty acids are found in the fat. Each of these fatty acids has unique characteristics, including whether it promotes or protects against heart disease.
What determines what kinds of fatty acids get laid down in the fat tissue of a cow? Just like humans, animals are what they eat. Diet and environment determine the health of the animal and the benefit - or harm - eating that animal might cause.
A Tale of Two Beefs
Animals raised in an industrial food system are fed grain and silage, fuel that makes them gain weight more quickly but is generally lacking in nutritional value. Additionally, ruminant animals (bison, cows, goats and sheep) cannot digest grains well. Their digestive systems were developed to harvest nutrients and energy from grass and other plants found in a pasture. We moved these animals off pasture and into confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs or feedlots) in the 1950s when we started engineering grains and got really good at it. We needed an outlet for this bounty and livestock was an easy diversion.
Now, cattle and other ruminates can't eat grain without antibiotics. Ruminates ferment their food to digest it. They chew their cud. When a ruminate animal eats corn it produces more acid, which can wear away at the protective mucosa in its digestive tract. Over time this can cause major problems for the animal. Antibiotics keep infections in a feedlot down. They also make the animals gain weight more quickly. The use of growth hormones in food production also promotes more rapid weight gain. Where we once raised cows for 4-5 years on pasture, we can now get them to market weight in 14 months or less in a CAFO.
The engineered feed grains we grow in this country don't have much nutritional value to offer. Grass-fed, pasture-raised cattle produce beef that's higher in omega-3 fats, vitamin D, carotenoids (forms of vitamin A) and lower in saturated fat overall. The saturated fats found in grass-fed beef are comprised of fatty acids that protect against heart disease: palmitic, stearic and oleic acids.
Cows fed corn - and inevitably raised in an unsanitary and stressful environment characteristic of a feedlot setting - produce beef that is higher in omega-6 fats. These aren't inherently harmful but become inflammatory when out of proportion to omega-3 fats. Since corn-fed beef - and a standard American diet - is deficient in omega-3 fats, this is easily attained. Corn-fed beef is also higher in saturated fats that promote heart disease: lauric and myristic fatty acids.
This is a long-winded way to say: when it comes to eating beef and other meat, the source matters. Buying grass-fed beef and pasture-raised meats, dairy and eggs delivers the most nutritious food to your table. You can find these products at your local food co-op. My favorite source is direct from the farmer. I buy a meat CSA from Sunshine Harvest Farm.
Back to the brisket.
Melissa combines Korean spices with the home-down goodness of a savory roast. If you make this recipe, be sure to serve it with the kimchi coleslaw she recommends. Get the complete recipe here.
Tag me in a post if you make this brisket - I want to know how much you love it!
I incorporate plant proteins into my weekly meal plan to ensure I'm meeting my nutrition needs with a variety of sources, while also making food choices that have a positive impact on the environment. I always have nuts around for snacking, seeds to top salads, and an assortment of beans and lentils to throw in a pot of soup or make into a veggie dip.
This recipe has become a staple and one that I double whenever I make it. The patties can be frozen on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet for a quick meal on the fly. These are also great to share with friends and family members who are facing hardship, illness or have welcomed a new babe to their household.
Lentil Walnut Burgers
Adapted from The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen
Makes 4 servings
In my early twenties, I was working for a gardener who took me to her CSA* farm for a volunteer shift. Instead of toiling in urban backyards, we got our hands dirty in rural Wisconsin for the day. I can't pretend to remember what we farm chores we did, but the experience had an deep impact on me. I became a member of that same farm the following season and have been one every since.
I had been introduced to local foods while working at the Birchwood Cafe. Farmers delivered fresh veggies, meat, milk, cheese and eggs for seasonal menu items at the restaurant, stopping by the counter for a coffee on their way back to their farms. I got to chit chat with them there, learning about their farms and philosophies. This sneak peek at the farm-to-fork experience changed how I thought about food. Honestly, it was a catalyst for repairing my relationship with food. After raging my internal food fight for more than a decade, I welcomed the paradigm shift with open arms.
Slowly, the role of food in my life became more than calories or nutrition. It became the invitation to relationships and community. I changed my buying habits, shifting my priorities in the grocery store from cheap to local. The investment was worth it to me - I knew that with every dollar I spent I was supporting people. I fed my body well with locally grown, seasonal produce, pasture-raised meats and eggs, and in so doing also financially invested in small, family farms in my community. I sat down to meals knowing where every ingredient came from.
I fell in love with food with a face.
I couldn't have made the transition from a I-can-have-anything-I-want-whenever-I-want-it diet to one based on local foods without From Asparagus to Zucchini. When I got my first CSA box, I didn't know what half of the contents were...much less how to store or prepare them! My dog-eared copy of From A to Z got me through the learning curve, and is still a cookbook I reference today.
This cookbook is a guide to seasonal produce, grown in the Midwest. Organized by vegetable in alphabetical order, the authors give tips for choosing the best product at the farmers market, storing for lasting quality, and several recipes centered around the ingredient.
Here's another reason why I love From A to Z: every recipe comes from a farm or CSA member, NOT a chef. That means that each recipe is totally doable to cooks of all skill levels.
If you signed up for a CSA for the first time, you need this cookbook.**
If you're committed to shopping farmers markets, you need this cookbook.
If you're trying to eat more vegetables, you need this cookbook.
If you're committed to supporting small, family farms like I am, you need this cookbook.
Buy this cookbook!**
*Community supported agriculture (CSA) is a business model that allows consumers ("members") to invest in a growing season of a farm. Members share the risk of farming with the farmer. This helps to ensure that they have the income they need to make the business sustainable for them. In exchange for the investment, farmers distribute "shares" of their product. There are all kinds of CSAs now: vegetables, meat, cheese, even pie and art! The most common CSA good is vegetables. Members receive weekly allotments of the produce grown on the farm throughout the growing season. It's a win-win!
**Another way to support small, family businesses is to buy books from your local bookstore, instead of Amazon. My Minneapolis favorites are Magers and Quinn and Moon Palace. Both stores have their inventory online making it easy to see if they have what you're looking for before making the trip. You can even order books online to have shipped to you, just like Amazon.
Collagen peptide supplements have become all the rage in recent years. With claims of eliminating joint pain and smoothing skin, hair and nails, who wouldn’t want to give this versatile protein powder a try?
Collagen is a protein found throughout the body. It’s a strong molecule, making up tendons and ligaments, the flexible matrix of bone and teeth, joint cartilage, connective tissue, arteries, skin and hair. Because it can be found in all these places in the body, collagen supplementation sounds like a panacea. Do the claims – and potential – actually live up to the hype?
Before jumping on the collagen cure-all bandwagon and recommending it to all my clients, I scoured the scientific literature for nuggets of truth in the claims. Here’s is my attempt at summarizing the answers I found to my questions in 500 words or less:
Regarding joint health:
Collagen supplements increase production of hyaluronic acid, a major component of the synovial fluid that lubricates our joints and other tissues, allowing them to slide across each other. In a small study with 97 participants, collagen supplements were shown to improve joint pain. Interestingly, the longer the subjects took the supplement, the less impact it had. This suggests that taking collagen supplements may help maintain joint health, and be helpful for people with joint pain or osteoarthritis but it likely won’t resolve the issue completely (1).
Another study explored the impact of collagen supplements on rheumatoid arthritis and found that it reduced joint swelling and tenderness (2).
Regarding hair skin and nails:
In the body, collagen stimulates cell proliferation (reproduction) and accelerated cell migration to the skin (3).
After 90 and 180 days of taking a collagen supplement, women with thinning hair had more growth, volume, scalp coverage, and shine. They also found greater moisture retention and smoothness to their skin (4). Skin dryness and breaking down of the collagen matrix in the skin are hallmark signs of aging. Oral collagen increases the density of collagen in the skin after 8 weeks of supplementation (5).
Collagen cannot confer benefits when used topically, however, so save your money on skin care products listing collagen as one of the ingredients. The molecule is just too large to be absorbed through skin cells.
Collagen supplements may be helpful with nails that break or peel, or simply don’t grow. Taking supplements for 24 weeks improved nail health in a study on brittle nail syndrome. These benefits persisted even a month after supplements were discontinued (6).
If you’re interested in adding collagen supplements to your health regimen, here are a few things to keep in mind:
One thing that appeals to me about this supplement is its versatility. You can add protein powder to smoothies or roll these delicious Lemon Turmeric Energy Bites, blend it up in your bullet coffee or stir it into a glass of water. It’s tasteless and very versatile.
Have you tried using collagen? What did you notice? What are your favorite collagen recipes?
1) Clark KL1, Sebastianelli W, Flechsenhar KR, Aukermann DF, Meza F, Millard RL, Deitch JR, Sherbondy PS, Albert A. 24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain. Current Medical Research and Opinion; 2008 May 24(5):1485-96.
2) Trentham DE, Dynesius-Trentham RA, Orav EJ, Combitchi D, Lorenzo C, Sewell KL, Hafler DA, Weiner HL. Effects of oral administration of type II collagen on rheumatoid arthritis. Science. 1993 Sep 24;261(5129):1727-30.
3) Lee SK, Posthauer ME, Dorner B, Redovian V, Maloney MJ. Pressure ulcer healing with a concentrated, fortified, collagen protein hydrolysate supplement: a randomized controlled trial. Advanced Skin Wound Care. 2006 Mar;19(2):92-6
4) Ablon, G. A Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Study Evaluating the Efficacy of an Oral Supplement in Women with Self-perceived Thinning Hair. Journal for Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. 2012 Nov; 5(11): 28–34.
5)Asserin J, Lati E, Shioya T, Prawitt J. The effect of oral collagen peptide supplementation on skin moisture and the dermal collagen network: evidence from an ex vivo model and randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 2015 Dec;14(4):291-301.
6) Hexsel D, Zague V, Schunck M, Siega C, Camozzato FO, Oesser S. Oral supplementation with specific bioactive collagen peptides improves nail growth and reduces symptoms of brittle nails. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology 2017 Dec;16(4):520-526.
I am a self-crowned queen of one-pot meals. They make my world go round.
Recently I've been jamming on a tofu and veggie noodle soup dish that has been hitting the spot for weeks.
Now, soy has gotten a bad rap over the years, that has largely been unresolved. Before you dig into the following rant about that, get you soup going - it will be ready by the time you finish reading this.
There are two big things about soy that come up in my work with clients and conversations with other wellness junkies:
1) Soy is an allergen. It is one of the 7 most common food allergens, and for that reason can be problematic for people. People who have an allergy to soy may experience difficulty breathing, hives, rapid heart rate, tightening in their throat or chest, and other not fun and potentially life threatening symptoms.
An intolerance to soy (or any other food) could be less straightforward. Food intolerances are sneaky, sneaky. Symptoms include digestive upset of all shapes and sizes, muscle and joint pain, headaches and migraines, brain fog, fatigue, eczema and much more fun. An Elimination Diet is the best way to identify food intolerances.
2) Compounds in soy have been named "phyto-estrogens" and implicated in various health concerns, including the obesity epidemic - especially a pattern of fat accumulation that had been identified as "feminine" (i.e. breasts, butt and thighs) - early puberty, breast and other cancers of the sex organs.
Years ago, I heard a retelling of a conversation with the biochemist who identified phytoestrogens in which he reported regret for the naming of the compound, because it raised some significant alarm and dissuaded individuals from eating soy. I mean, when hormones like estrogen are implicated in all kinds of diseases, who would want to eat it? (this is all hearsay so don't quote me on it)
Phytoestrogens were named such because they resemble the chemical structure of estradiol, an active form of estrogen. This molecular mimicry allows phytoestrogens to attach to estrogen receptors in the body and exert a similar effect. While they're able to bind to these receptors, they do so weakly thereby exerting a weaker effect than estradiol or other forms of estrogen. The consequence of this is that estradiol remains in circulation and is therefore shuttled to detoxification and elimination.
What does that mean for our health?
Well, it turns out that these compounds, a class of isoflavones, actually protect against those cancers we previously feared. If you want to read more about that, I recommend this article by Dr. Tina Kaczor who dug into the literature to better understand what the relationship between soy consumption and cancer actually was.
Bottom line: People who are allergic or have an intolerance to soy should not eat it. But if you're not allergic to soy, even if you have a family history of breast cancer, bon appetit.
One last note on soy foods before I give you this delicious recipe: not all soy foods are created equal.
Imagine a drive through the Minnesota countryside: on your left you see corn waving in the wind as far as your eye can see. And on your right, you see soy replenishing the corn-depleted soil from last years growing season. Combined, corn and soy make up 50% of all crops grown in the US. We are so good at growing corn and soy that food scientists had to figure out what to do with all of it, and now byproducts of each are in virtually every box, bag or can of food.
If you read Dr. Kaczor's article, she'll make a case for including soy no matter the source. I have a little more conservative approach. When advising clients about choosing the foods with the highest nutritional value, I recommend limiting soy consumption to the whole food and traditionally fermented products: edamame, fermented tofu, tempeh, tamari or soy sauce. If shopping for soy milk, choose a product with the fewest ingredients possible...which should be water, soybeans and maybe some salt.
You ready for that recipe now?
This soup is best eaten freshly prepared. The noodles do not hold over well and will get unappealingly mushy if cooked and stored. Store your prepped ingredients separately for an easy to assemble meal.
INGREDIENTS for 4 servings:
*I am not affiliated with these brands and do not make a commission on recommended their products to you.
Americans tend to gain 1-2 pounds a year throughout their adult lives. For the majority of us, those pounds get packed on between Thanksgiving and New Year...and we don't lose it with our resolutions. A couple pounds here and there really isn't going to have a significant effect your health, but 10 pounds every decade adds up by the time you're 60. This means that keeping your wellness focus through the holiday hustle and bustle is not only a worthy effort, but can help you prevent heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and other chronic health conditions associated with high body mass. Your future-self will thank you!
What is it about the holidays that can completely dismantle healthy habits?! For me, it's the limitless sweets, bottomless wine, and the packed social calendar that disrupts my exercise, meditation and sleep schedule. Putting your finger on what derails you is the first step in preventing the fall down the slippery slope.
Here are some strategies I'll be using this year to holiday-proof my wellness goals. I may not be in control of what food is offered to me, but I sure am in control of what I put on my plate.
Sometimes I feel like the most courageous woman in this world. I have no hesitations when I leave my house: I know exactly who I am and what I'm doing here. I have value. I add value.
And then other days, I feel like I'm role playing in my life. Just pretending to know my stuff and have it all together. On these days I suffer from full on Impostor Syndrome and would rather curl up in a ball than engage with someone looking to me for answers. Every question feels like an inquisition, every celebration of someone else's success, a reflection of my failure.
(I'm going to just take a pause right here to acknowledge that my experience is NOT unique and I would put money on it that most of the people who read this are going to nod their heads and say, "me too.")
There are so many parts of my life that I navigate effortlessly. I find it easy to connect with people and have an elephant memory for them all. I'm that creep that remembers everything about anyone I have ever had a conversation with. I'm besties with all the baristas at my local coffeeshop and can't go anywhere in my neighborhood - scratch that: anywhere in Mpls - without running into someone I know. I have a big heart and I love with abandon.
There are also parts of my life, parts of me that I really struggle with. You know the saying, "you are your own worst critic?" I major in self-criticism. I get an A++. If I ever actually overcame self-criticism, I would graduate with honors. I never know enough. I'm never smart enough. I'm never good enough.
The positive side of this characteristic is that I am always open to learning and constantly striving to do better. But I'm frozen in this space of "never enough" that (to use a concept from my newest shero, Brene Brown) gets between me and wholehearted living.
I'm trying to reframe. To actually live the message I want to leave on this world. One I want to model for the young people in my life...and for everyone else too. Because here's the sad truth: lacking self-confidence is the biggest creativity killer there is.
Consider all the greatness you've witnessed in your lifetime that would never have happened if the creator of it gave into self doubt. You can buy a ticket and fly anywhere in the world, for crying out loud. Imagine if the Wright brothers sat on their porch one day and talked themselves out of building an airplane because they hadn't gone to college or done it before. We would still be traveling by boat and railway.
Smaller acts of greatness need also be mentioned. I mean creating airplanes is pretty cool, but I can think of endless examples of day-to-day greatness that have impacted me much more personally and profoundly. The generosity of strangers (who frankly have other things to do), the patience of parents, the commitment of teachers who just will not give up on a student. What would we miss if our mentors and leaders were too afraid to share their little nuggets of magic with us?
And what would the world - be it the microcosm of your neighborhood or the world at large - miss out on if YOU didn't share your little nuggets of magic?
I've started thinking about my tombstone as of late, and what message it was I wanted to leave on the planet when I died. It's kinda morbid, I know, but it's really helped me get over some lingering body image junk I was getting tired of. When I felt down on my body, I would remind myself that I didn't want "she was thin" to be the memory I leave on this world. So why was I spending so much of my energy trying to be that?
What is actually important to me? Loving people up and helping them find ways of loving themselves too. Do I need to wear a size 0 to do that? Nope. I can love at any size.
So I'm re-writing some tombstones these days and in so doing letting go of some limiting beliefs about myself.
This whole being human thing is kinda hard, huh? Good thing we've got each other.
I feel very fortunate and privileged to have encountered a lot of serendipity in my lifetime:
I met my best friends after taking a job at a coffeeshop two blocks away from my freshman dorm.
When I was 19, I enrolled in massage school to learn a trade so that I could support myself as a musician. What I found changed my life and gave me the tools I needed to overcome my eating disorder.
Looking for someone to keep me company during one especially cold MN winter, I met my wife (that's the best one of all).
And just over two years ago, I had breakfast with my colleague, Sara Jean Barrett and Wellness Minneapolis was born. Today's reminder of such kismet sat with me over coffee and shared a little friendly advice (thanks, Jana).
I really do think there are hidden gems in every day that need our acknowledgement and celebration. It's really easy to loose sight of them through the haze of this presidential campaign + extraordinary global and local violence + rampant racism, sexism, homophobia...oh, and work and chores and I could go on.
Point being: there are so many things to worry about. There are so many things to drag us down into a depression, if we let them. There are so many things that require attention, energy and effort. But there are also thousands of acts of kindness and inherent beauty that we can see if we just look.
So look, ok?