My favorite cookbooks and a few recipes.

Given that many of us are spending more time at home these days, I thought I would share my favorite cookbooks and a few recipes. I think home cooking is good for the soul. It is also good financially, and generally much healthier. I know it comes easier to some than others, but as you are forced to cook at home, it’s a great opportunity to learn and experiment.

I rarely cook from a recipe, but when I do, I learn new techniques that I can incorporate when I am working off the cuff, and it helps me get out of my ruts.

Here are some recipes I created for clients. Let me know if you try them and what you think.

Awesome Salads

Smoothie Recipe

Pork Tenderloin with roasted vegetables

My favorite cookbooks:

  1. All of the cookbooks by the Junior League of Denver, such as the Colorado Collage. These cookbooks are a family tradition. We inherited my grandmother in-law’s copy of Colorado Collage, with all of her cooking notes and my husband and I working through our own copy to make every recipe with our own notes. Clearly these have sentimental value to us, but I think they are good solid cookbooks and I do not hesitate recommending them to you.
  2. Run Fast, Eat Slow by Sharlene Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky & The Feed Zone Cookbook by Thomas Biju and Lim Allen. I am lumping these in together because they are both marketed to athletes. However, don’t be intimidated if you do not consider yourself an ‘athlete’. First, that’s just a mental construct. Second, both cookbooks offer tasty recipes made with mostly nutritious ingredients. I think they are both really good at teaching people new techniques to make meals with real, whole-food ingredients. (And if you are already a fan of Run Fast, Eat Slow, the authors came out with a new version called Run Fast, Cook Fast, Eat Slow. I haven’t tried it yet).
  3. Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat. I first fell in love with Samin Nosrat on this podcast. She is just a hoot! I have only used her cookbook twice – both times to braise meat. The first time I read a general section to create my own stew with her guidance. The second time I followed a recipe. Both turned out excellent. I am excited to try more, but feel confident in recommending this even though it is fairly new to me. She knows what she is talking about, and I like how she educates readers on technique along with providing tasty recipes. She also has a Netflix series by the same name as the book. I have not watched it, but have heard great things.
  4. How to Grill by Steven Raichlen. This was gifted by my father-in-law and it’s excellent. To be transparent, my husband does all the grilling in our household. He has made a number of recipes from this book and they have been amazing. My favorites are Garlic Halibut on page 298 and Bourbon-Brined Pork Chops on page 129.
  5. Flourless by Nicole Spiridakis. There are some great recipes in this cookbook for gluten-free sweet treats that will delight the gluten-free eaters along with gluten lovers. I bake with low to no sugar, but some recipes (such as Banana-Coconut Cookies on page 95) do not have any added-sugar. Others are easily modified by removing or reducing the sugar that recipes call for.

I hope this will inspire some new ideas. Let me know if you try these and what you think, and what your favorite cookbooks and recipes are!

What’s on your grocery list?

The future is uncertain. You spend your days at a makeshift home office, and possibly a makeshift school as you shift between employee and teacher. You only get out once a week to the grocery store…what should you buy?

Chips and soda?

Frozen pizza?

Ice cream?

It could be tempting in this time of stress, when you are not sure whether you will get to take that summer vacation or participate in that half marathon you want to do in the fall, to forget about eating well. Why bother when you don’t know what’s ahead? You may feel like it’s time to throw the long-term strategies out for the time being…to wait until things are back to normal.

I know I have bought more ice cream in the last few weeks than I have in a long time.

But if you have access to it, eating high quality, nutritious food, is as or even more important now than ever. Here are some reasons why:

  1. You will feel better in the short-run if you fuel your body with the nutritious food it recognizes. We have enough to worry about, why not support your body to feel as great as it can?
  2. Packing your diet with nutrients will boost your immune system, increasing your chances of getting through sickness quickly and at home if you do get COVID-19.
  3. Eating a nutritious diet optimizes brain function to keep you sharp.
  4. Nutritious homecooked meals can take longer to prepare than eating processed food. What better time than now to learn some new skills in the kitchen and enjoy some nice family meals? Find a couple of new recipes each week before your trip to the grocery store.

So, what should be on your grocery list? Here are some ideas. Work with what’s available, as that could be limited at your grocery store.

  1. A variety of vegetables with as much color variety as you can. Get greens to eat raw in salads, tacos, rice bowls, etc. Get veggies to cook: roast them, stir fry them, steam them, etc. Eat vegetables with every meal in large quantities and as often as possible.
    • Get frozen vegetables to keep you stocked between grocery store runs
    • If you cannot eat the veggies you purchased before they go bad, most can be frozen or cooked and then frozen. The following can be frozen on their own: greens such as spinach and kale, broccoli, chopped zucchini, garlic, chopped onions. I’m sure others as well. For veggies that do not freeze well, such as carrots – consider cooking them into something and then freezing the dish, or just cooking them and freezing them. They might not all taste quite the same after freezing, but most nutritional value will remain. You don’t always have to love your veggies, sometimes you can just eat them and feel good that you did.
  2. Fruit is good too.
  3. Healthy fats: olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, avocados, nuts and seeds
  4. Protein: eggs, meat, poultry, sardines, beans – whatever you prefer
  5. Spices and herbs
  6. Grains if you do well with them: rice, oats, quinoa, sprouted grain bread, whole grain pasta
  7. Probiotics: yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut or kimchee found in the refrigerator section with live cultures

The gist: eat mostly foods that are single-ingredient items to create a meal or a snack. Think of your meals as nutritious support to the rest of your life. Food is your fuel, so let’s make sure it’s clean fuel.

Some other foods are fine too, on occasion, but keep the processed food to a minimum. As I said, I have been bringing ice cream into the house more than usual. Every week or two I have found myself so spent and exhausted, and I turn to pizza and ice cream dinners. I make a big salad as well, and enjoy the meal. Then I keep on with more nutritious meals most of the time.

You will have your own indulgence foods. However, if it’s something that you will eat in a couple of sittings, don’t bring it into the house. That might be chips, cookies, any sugar at all, etc. If you eat so much that you regret it, let it stay in the store for now.

Keep your body powerful, healthy, energetic, and strong to withstand the stress and the virus if you get it!

Nature’s Daily Vitamin: Choosing, preparing, and enjoying vegetables.

Check out my radio moment talking about my lunch & learn workshop on vegetables:

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In this post, I share some tips about how to add vegetables into your diet. But why should you bother, where should you begin, and how much should you be eating?

In this podcast episode, Dr. Deanna Minich shares why eating a variety of types of vegetables is important. We get different nutrients from different plants. While the concentration and makeup differs substantially, colors can signify that the vegetable (or fruit) can be particularly beneficial for a certain function. I think this is valuable information not so that you can choose what is most important and choose just that color, but rather to demonstrate why we should strive to eat a broad variety every day.

Red: Reduces inflammation, helps with autoimmune function, high in vitamin C (red onion, tomato, watermelon, red apples (w/ skin on), beets).

Orange: Reproductive health and fertility. (oranges, apricots, cantaloupe, kumquats, persimmons, nectarines, sweet potato, yams).

Yellow: Digestion (banana, ginger, lemon, pineapple, yellow onion).

Green: Heart health (kiwi, kale, leafy greens, celery, artichoke, green apple, cucumber, broccoli, green beans, and so much more).

Blue/Purple: Brain health and function including mood, learning, memory, attention, and focus (blueberries, blackberries, grapes, red cabbage, eggplant, plums).

I have worked with many people who eat the same 3-4 vegetables on a regular basis, but rarely branch away from that amount. It is easy to get into a habit, shop at the same places, and repeat without much thought. If this sounds like you, how about finding just one new vegetable each week. If necessary, find a recipe for it, and explore whether you like it. If you consciously do this each week, you will learn different cooking methods, and explore different tastes. Soon, you are likely to start incorporating more of those items you try and enjoy.

There is nothing wrong with staples, particularly those especially nutrient-dense foods such as spinach and other dark leafy green vegetables. But if your set of staples is quite narrow, start broadening your repertoire.

Let me know what new vegetables you try and what you think about them! Share pictures with me using @lizsmithcoach on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

 

Inflammation.

What is inflammation?

You get a bug bite. It swells, turns red, and is tender for awhile. Then, all these reactions start to go down and soon your body has healed from the invasion and your skin looks like it did before the bite.

You tweak your knee. It painfully swells. You get an xray, but there is nothing invasive that the doctor can do. Instead, your body heals itself and the swelling reduces over time.

These are examples of your body’s acute inflammation responses. The immune system kicks in and does what is needed to repair the damaged area. It is an awesome response that I am continually amazed by when I break skin and watch my body in action, repairing the damage with no conscious effort from me.

However, your body may be undergoing similar responses that you cannot see. Some lifestyle choices and environmental factors lead to internal inflammation. For example, if you are exposed to harmful environmental toxins, your amazing body will undergo an attack response to remove the invader. This is a good thing. However, if your immune system is unable to clear the barrage of invaders, it can lead to chronic inflammation lasting months or years. This can lead to cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurodegenerative disease, and more.

For better descriptions of inflammation, see this excerpt from a Harvard article, and this article in The Cut.

Causes of chronic inflammation include the following:

  • Genetics
  • Environmental toxin exposure, including pollution and second hand smoke
  • Excess stress
  • Diet, including the following
    • Consuming foods that your body does not process well (food sensitivities vary person to person)
    • Too many Omega 6 fats
    • Trans fats
    • Sugar

What can you do about it?

You cannot change your genes, and you may not be able to change your environment (ie move away from a polluted city), but there are some foods that appear to help your body repair itself from inflammation. Dr. Andrew Weil has devoted much of his career to educating himself and others about inflammation. He believes that most of us are in a pro-inflammatory state all of the time because of the foods we are eating. In other words, even though we cannot change some factors leading to chronic inflammation, changing our diets may go a long way in protecting us from many chronic diseases prevalent today.

Dr. Weil has put together a food pyramid representing what he believes to be the optimal way of eating to reduce inflammation. Explore the links above for more detailed information, but here are some of the highlights to keep in mind:

  • Eat a lot, and a variety of fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat dark, leafy greens.
  • Eat a diet high in Omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Coffee and green tea are beneficial.
  • Get sufficient amounts of sleep (7-9 hours).
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Minimize or avoid foods that you are sensitive to; symptoms may include: gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, puffy skin, brain fog, and fatigue.
  • Minimize or avoid highly processed foods.

Conclusion

While more research is needed to understand the role that lifestyle plays a role in age-related diseases, there is a clear connection between chronic inflammation and age-related diseases. Yet, while information is helpful and may be motivating in the short-term, it can be difficult to follow because we do not experience immediate harm or benefit. It is difficult, for example, to stop eating fast food because there is some possibility that it will mean you will not have cancer in 40 years. The result is unknown and very distant.

Fortunately, making changes towards an anti-inflammatory diet will probably make you feel better and have more energy in the short term.

If that doesn’t help you make changes, it is worth taking time to explore what will. Accountability from another person or set up on your own? Consequences – either self-imposed or outer, such as a bet with a friend or a promise to donate to a charity you despise if you don’t follow through? Working with a health coach? We are all unique in what motivates us.

What should I eat? Simple truths.

Eat an abundance of items on the trunk. Eat foods in the branches if they work for your particular body. (Personal experiments are the best way to determine whether they do). Keep “anything else” to a minimum. Avoid diets and labels. (Items written in black in the middle are supposed to be crossed out). Enjoy your food. Enjoy life.