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!