Thursday, April 10, 2014

Smoothie Collaboration <> With Purity Organic Coconut Water

Smoothie below contains: Chocolate Coconut Water, Banana, Mango, Spinach, Raw Unsalted Almond Butter, Soaked Raw Almonds, Dried Apricots, Chia Seed Gel, Ground Flax Seeds // Topped with Unsweetened Coconut 

2 Layer Smoothie contains: Organic Mango Coconut Water, kale, strawberry, banana, mango, blueberry, avocado, flax seed // Green layer:  mango coconut water, coconut cream, pineapple, kale, banana // Topped with bee pollen, chia seed, coconut & cayenne pepper

  I was recently asked by Purity Organic to create some smoothie recipes using their Organic Coconut Water as an ingredient. I received a nice load of various flavors and they are delicious and come from organic coconuts sourced in the Philippines - where my mom's from.  I have loved coconut water since I first went to the Philippines 12 years ago.  I drank so much of it straight out of the fresh, young coconuts, called macapuno, then scraped out the soft flesh to eat.  I still vividly recall my trip there when I was 19, with my mom, sister, aunts, uncles and cousins. There we met many more family members and visited the house my mom grew up in and where my grandmother still lived.  It was right by the ocean- the water lapped the side of the house.  It was so great to see all of the old family photos on the walls, and to walk around her village and through the tropical forest, to see bananas and coconuts growing everywhere.  There's nothing like picking fresh fruit and eating it on the spot. We'd watch these men climb the tall trees and throw coconuts down, then hack them in half with big knives- delicious water splashing everywhere.  Yum.

  Now my daughter and husband love drinking coconut water as well, and I make smoothies with it and with coconut milk.  Coconuts contain so many health benefits, whether you use their water, oil, milk or flesh.  I use it in some form every day.  Here are a few reasons:

1.  Their saturated fat- lauric acid- helps increase good, heart-healthy HDL cholesterol.
2.  Helps fight viruses, bacteria, fungal infection, candida, yeast
3.  Can effect hormones positively for thyroid & blood-sugar control- helps insulin levels
4.  Speed Metabolism- helps if these good fats (Medium Chain Triglycerides) are in the liver
5.  Strong antioxidant- To fight off illness // Oxidation is considered a major contributor to cardiovascular problems & skin aging.
6. Their oil is great for hair and skin moisture & hydration.
7.  Their water contains electrolytes for re-hydrating & replacing the mineral-rich fluids lost when ill or exercising-- potassium, magnesium, sodium, phosphorus, calcium & natural sugars, instead of processed sugars found in sports drinks.
8. Fiber in the water helps with digestion and acid reflux.
9.  Coconut water is used in some countries intravenously in emergencies to replace blood, as it is isotonic to human plasma. 

Enjoy the incredible benefits & naturally delicious taste of coconuts! 

Friday, April 4, 2014

New Recipe <> Wheat-free Vegan Banana Avocado Walnut Rye & Millet Waffles

I just made this up the other day and was so excited that they came out so well, first try- lucky day!

Makes about 6 small waffles

1/4 cup rye flour
1/4 cup millet flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 dashes salt
2/3 of a banana
2 tablespoons avocado
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon coconut oil
Add nuts, dashes of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves & turmeric- depending on your flavor tastes

I also add chia or ground flax seeds at times for extra protein & omegas.

First mash banana and avocado in bowl, then mix everything else together and pour in waffle maker!


(NOTE: Rye contains Gluten so this is not a recipe for gluten-free celiacs)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Finding Balance : Tips for Cleaner Eating

Organic food we grew last year
A farm we like to visit in Massachusetts

A meal from food we grew

A 2.5 acre rooftop farm by our home in Brooklyn, New York. - "Brooklyn Grange"

 Farmhouse my mother-in-law was raised in
 My in-laws' old family barn and farmland
 My grandmother-in-law's old horse stables 
My daughter picking our Brooklyn-grown window tomatoes

 Our first family garden last year at my husband's childhood home
Our friends DH & Caylin's garden in Athens, Georgia last summer

  Our family goal in eating cleaner is health, energy, vitality, and prevention of illness or inflammation, as well as curbing our environmental impact and carbon emissions, while connecting more deeply with the planet.  As mentioned in my previous post, I've never been on a "diet," and I have a few guidelines for the way I eat and feed my family.  My goal has never been weight loss, yet it has been a nice side effect of eating cleaner.  As about 75% of the human immune system lies in the gut (digestive tract) we aim to keep these organs clean and flowing smoothly.  Human food choices also effect the environmental health of the planet immensely and we try to remember this as we decide what to eat and where to get it.  Understanding the origins of what we consume helps us to make informed decisions.   I am by no means a nutrition expert, I just try to be conscious of what I ingest and how it may effect my health.  On my family's side there is a history of diabetes, cancer, anemia, heart problems, and ALS; while my husband's side has stroke and heart problems, so we aim to understand these diseases and learn preventative measures against them.

  While we eat a mainly plant-based diet + fish and eggs, we don't exclusively put ourselves in any specific category like vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, paleo, raw foodist, or gluten-free, but I pull and create recipes from each of these paths as I find benefits in all of them.  Keeping an open mind to the plethora of changing diets and scientific research, helps us to grow in knowledge and understanding of human health and how food effects us.  I hold a holistic view that everything I put into and on-to my body effects my cells and the environment in some way, although the impacts may not be noticed for many years.

  We have found these guidelines to be helpful for our family health and so far (5 years) they have kept us out of hospitals and off of antibiotics: 

1.  Eat lots of natural color ~ Count colors not calories
The more varied colors of vegetables and fruits eaten, the more different nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants and benefits you receive. Avoid food coloring, as it contains chemicals and can worsen allergies and behavioral issues.

2.  We don't order anything from children's menus. 
Offering kids more whole food and fresher options from a young age may help them to start off on a healthier foot or at least to understand what is going into their bodies so that they can make educated decisions later. Our 5 year old daughter has always eaten whatever we eat, we don't cook or buy special "kid food" for her. She eats our menu and eats out with adults often.  This has helped her to have a broad palate since she began eating solid foods, and a desire for varied foods from many cultures, as her tastebuds adapt to and explore the variety of flavors in the world of food.  Her favorites are sushi (she only likes raw fish now), Indian, and Thai. Most kids' menus at restaurants contain the same things. I know that many kids like these foods and that they are easy and convenient, but they have very little nutrient value and contain lots of refined, bleached white flour / sugar, chemical preservatives, food coloring, meat bi-products, and are often fried at high temperatures which can cause inflammation and high cholesterol. Kids can only eat what adults keep in stock, which gives me motivation to stock our home with healthy food for all of us. 

3.  Raw fruits, veggies, herbs & spices heal.
They work as well, if not better, than medicine. I've seen that strong, raw juice can help knock out the onset of an illness which just goes to show how much healing & preventative power is in raw food.  Prevent illness and increase energy with the foods you eat and avoid eating. Food can heal or hurt our immune systems.

4. Take probiotics and drink lots of water.
Probiotics (in pill form or in yogurt/kefir) help to maintain the natural balance of organisms- microflora- in the intestines that make digestion go smoothly.  Basically they are "good bacteria" that help to rid the intestines of "bad bacteria" which can come from too much sugar.  Drink water all day to cleanse toxins and keep the digestive tract hydrated for easy elimination of waste.  Staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your body, inside and out- your skin will thank you too! 

5.  I don't cut anything out completely (except soda- which I did in 2000)
because I've found that deprivation can lead to binge eating and cause cravings to spike if trying to cut things out cold turkey.  My only exception is if we are sick- we totally cut out white, refined sugars, wheat flour (gluten), dairy and fried food as they can cause inflammation and weaken the immune system.  I try to keep our daily intake of these items rather low and monitor this by balancing with plenty of whole, nutrient-rich foods.

6.  Replace white, bleached, processed, refined sugar & wheat flour with whole grain or wheat-free  flour like coconut flour, barley, amaranth, quinoa, brown rice flour, buckwheat flour, teff, oat meal, almond meal, non-gmo corn meal, or millet flour.  These flours or cereals were once staples in our ancestors' diets and held much more nutrients, vitamins, minerals, proteins and fiber than modern processed wheat, soy or corn which is often genetically modified and used as filler in so many packaged products. We are not gluten-intolerant / celiac but we find that our guts bloat less when we decrease our gluten intake.  Also having at least one meal a day containing no grains at all is a good way to balance the immune system. I replace refined sugar with raw honey, pure maple syrup & dates, as they have some nutritional benefits, while sugar actually depletes the body's nutrients.  Most sugar used to be derived from sugar cane plants, but is now mostly processed from sugar beets which are very often genetically modified. 

7.  Variety and balance are key. 
Eating a wide variety of foods from various cultures with many spices and herbs helps keep metabolism rates up by switching it up and not allowing the body to get too used to one type of food.  Not getting stuck in a food rut and trying new things, keeps the digestive tract running smoothly and tastebuds excited! 

8. When buying packaged, processed foods ALWAYS READ LABELS
We try to keep these to a minimum as they often contain far too many chemicals, preservatives, pesticides, coloring, and hidden fillers or man-made ingredients that just aren't natural and have not been proven safe for long-term health.  If we do buy packaged foods, we make sure that they have the least amount of ingredients possible and that we know the origin and can pronounce each word on the labels.

9. Avoid genetically modified / genetically engineered food (GMO, GM, GE) if possible. 
Look for NON-GMO labelled products, if you eat packaged foods at all. Genetically Modified Organisms are products that have been engineered in a lab by scientists by changing natural DNA and injecting chemicals, herbicides and pesticides to make food last longer, grow faster, fight weeds, and breed new varieties.  This hasn't been proven completely safe for long-term health and may be harming biodiversity, animals, plants and the environment as well as farmers' livelihoods.  There are bans against it in many countries and some US states, as more people are now fighting to have laws passed to end it and for mandatory GMO labeling on products. Many still debate GMO safety, but I'd just rather decrease their levels in my body. To learn more:

10. Eat Local
As much as possible, within budget, we try to support local, organic farms, shops and eateries that use locally sourced, in-season products.  This makes a difference in our local and global economy and environment, and helps support the hard-working farmers who make a living by providing us with fresh, sustainable, whole, real food.  Food is fresher when grown nearby, or by you!  I worked on an organic, hydroponic farm in Florida for a bit and my husband worked on an apple orchard in Massachusetts years ago, which is where we had our wedding. We make a point of visiting farms and gardens often and grow our own food as well. My husband comes from a family line of farmers and Native Americans, so connection to the native land in Northeast USA is important to us and we hope to pass this appreciation along to our daughter.
Rooftop garden at Rosemary's restaurant in New York City
(Thank you stranger for photographing us:)

(All photos taken by me. Please do not use without permission. ~Tina Picz-Devoe)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Journey to Cleaner Eating

So it begins...

  I've recently had several friends encourage me to blog about my food journey and ask questions about how I got into it. Although I've only recently begun photographing my food and realizing my passion for cooking highly nutritious, often locally-based meals, the story begins way back in my childhood... (But first, feast your eyes on some of my creations from the past several months.)

Gluten-Free Buckwheat Pancakes with walnuts, pomegranate, organic apple, coconut, turmeric, bee pollen & organic fried egg
Skillet Eggs with Tomato, Organic Baby Kale, Ricotta, Carrot, Avocado & Mushroom // Side of Gluten-free Buckwheat/Sorghum Hot Cereal with cinnamon, Turmeric & Nutmeg
Cleansing Golden-Milk ~ Turmeric, Almond Milk, Honey, Coconut Oil & Nutmeg 
Irish Steel-cut Overnight Oats with Chia, Grated Ginger, Cayenne, Flax, Blueberries, Almonds, Cinnamon, Turmeric, Coconut Oil, Cloves // Sides of Banana, Pineapple, Mango & Grapefruit // Coconut Water
Gluten free Rice Flour Pancakes with Chia, Bee Pollen, Fresh Grated Ginger & coconut  
Egg Baked in Sweet Potato over Spinach Mesclun Salad // Roasted Turnips & Sweet Potato "Fries" 
Kale Wraps filled with Black Beans, Sauerkraut, Wild Long Grain Rice, Coconut & Turmeric

 Smorgasbord of Snackies 

 Skillet Egg with Kale, Roasted Butternut Squash, Home-grown tomato & Sauerkraut // Side of Kimchi & Pickled Beets
 Organic Baked Egg En Cocotte with Goat Cheese & Home-Grown Tomato // Organic Apple, Pickled Beet, Butternut Squash Salad with Goat Cheese, Pecans & Homemade Citrus Vinaigrette 

 Gluten-free Organic Rye Flour / Coconut Flour / Dark Cocoa / Flax Waffles with Plain Greek yogurt & Coconut 
 Goat Cheese & Apple-Filled Gluten-free Organic Buckwheat Crepe with Raw Buckwheat Honey
 Gluten-free Rice Noodles with Curry Fried Tofu, Purple Mustard Greens, Radish & Bee Pollen
Purple Mustard Greens with fried egg, watermelon radish, home-pickled beets, sauerkraut & Rosemary roasted Butternut Squash
 Gluten-free Flax Waffles with Sprinkled Bee Pollen, Coconut, Almond Butter & Raw Honey topping
 4 Layer Smoothie

Green Smoothie ~ kale, kiwi, lime, apple, banana, almond milk 

 Beet Red Gluten-Free Pancakes with Raw Berry Sauce, Bee Pollen, Chia Seeds & Pecans

Alkalizing Green Juice ~ lemon, kale, apple, carrot, ginger, garlic, jalepeno, lemon zest & bee pollen 
Gluten-Free Buckwheat Hot Cereal with Turmeric, Chia Seeds, Flax Seeds, Coconut Oil, Cinnamon, Cloves, Nutmeg, Raw Honey & Organic Apples 
 Poached Egg over Black Wild Rice, Arugula Orange Goat Cheese Salad with Lemon Juice, Sauteed Mushrooms, Avocado with Cayenne & Dried Figs
Apple & Almond Butter Layered Gluten free pancakes with coconut, bee pollen & Almonds

Gluten-free Organic Pumpkin Flax Seed Waffles with Walnuts, Coconut, Chia, Pear & Turmeric

 Non-GMO Organic Corn Bread with Blueberries 

Smoothie Bowl~ blueberry, kale, grapefruit, apple, banana, mango, topped with bee pollen, chia, flax & coconut 
Coconut Crepes with goat cheese, smoked wild salmon & spinach 
 Gluten-free Quinoa Buckwheat Pancakes topped with bee pollen & chia seeds

  When I was young, my mom always made sure we ate family meals each night, all four of us seated at the dinner table, until we all finished. She also placed emphasis on creating a colorful plate and being resourceful with whatever happened to be around... because the more natural colors you eat, the more varied nutrients your body receives, and being able to quickly throw healthy meals together helps in a pinch!  I often watched her cook and we baked together a lot- such fond memories. She never used written recipes, unless I begged for something specific I saw in a book.  She just sort of knew intuitively, by trial and error, what would work. Her meals were scrumptious, from her native Filipino cuisine to Italian to Thai to American, it all tasted so good. It was always well balanced with protein, veggies and ingredients that comprised complete, nutrient-rich meals with lots of vitamins and antioxidants. I've carried on this tradition by ensuring that my family cooks and eats healthy food together daily.

  I recall, in my youth, my dad making a meal for me when mom was away, and me saying "Everything's the same color- orangey brown." He asked why that mattered and I said, "Mom's plates always have lots of colors." Seeing lots of color makes you want to eat food... As I now have a 5 year old daughter, I still stand by that principle- real food is naturally delicious and appealing to all five senses- by enhancing the flavor simply and naturally, we find that its' inherent qualities blossom and even finicky children (gasp) will enjoy it. But there is a difference between whole, real food and all of the over-processed, packaged, chemically preserved, scientifically modified and enhanced so-called "foods" which have taken over market shelves in the last 50 years.

  Vividly seeing this difference is what has driven me further on my journey to understand how food effects us physically, mentally and emotionally, and what food can become in our lives. --- Not just "filler" to fuel the tank, but highly nutritious, enjoyable, beautiful, medicinal and relationship-strengthening sustenance.  I have never dieted in my life, and I have just a few guidelines for the food that my family cooks and eats.

  Living in Santa Cruz, California for two years (I left 2 years ago), was a huge transitional phase for my family and our eating habits.  We'd bike to outdoor farmers markets twice a week and find new ingredients to test out. There, on the Central/Northern Coast with its' year-round mild temperatures- where organic farms (& KALE) thrived all around us and "SLOW FOOD" was highly encouraged and made readily available, I learned how farm-fresh, local, affordable, organic food made a big difference in our lives and health. The small, seaside community of Santa Cruz places a lot of emphasis on supporting local business and agriculture as well as on holistic, natural and homeopathic healing and lifestyle. Aside from a huge surf culture & gorgeous coastline, there were spas, massage clinics, health-food stores, or yoga studios on almost every corner.  Looking back now, at times I felt it was like living in a health bubble where I could get every alternative, natural remedy with ease, and began to take for granted how nutritious and fresh the food was.  Then we moved to Brooklyn, New York.

  NEW YORK CITY!!!  HUGE CULTURE SHOCK and WOW, what a cultural mecca, filled with smells, sights, tastes and sounds from every corner of the world, at your fingertips, night and day, non-stop!  Every week, a new restaurant, shop or deli is opening. There is always something new to try, experience or explore, no matter how long you live there.  I quickly caught the New York bug and fell in love with the city and its' plethora of food and various types of cuisine available. We tried new foods weekly and dined all over the city- never just staying in our borough or neighborhood.

  I tried Filipino in Queens, Italian in Little Italy, French in Carroll Gardens and Soho, Indian in Bed-stuy,  Polish in Greenpoint, German, Middle Eastern and Venezuelan in Williamsburg, Japanese, Spanish, Ethiopian, Thai, Vietnamese in Park Slope, Israeli, Chinese in Chinatown, Greek, Turkish, Armenian, Mexican CRICKET tacos in Soho and the list goes on. Point being- it was a PARTY IN THE MOUTH - as my husband would say.  And again, NYC's strong emphasis placed on supporting local business & entrepreneurship was tremendously inspiring for me. We also started a garden last summer at my in-laws in Massachusetts, as they live on fertile, old farmland that once grew corn for dairy cows.  We were driving 3.5 hours almost every other week all summer to tend our garden and also grew tomatoes and herbs on our Brooklyn window sill.  Then we moved to Boston, Massachusetts 2 months ago.

  Now that we're in a quieter place, I have more space & less external stimuli (distraction), and have been cooking a lot through the LONG winter. We are now growing organic seedlings indoors from heirloom seeds for our new garden which we will tend daily in our yard. Cheers to upcoming Springtime picnics by the Charles River and more green smoothies from fresh-picked, home-grown food!