Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Hidden Beauty in Foods

You’ve heard the saying, “You are what you eat.”  Well, it’s true. 

Food is magical.  It not only nourishes your body, but it contains hidden beauty secrets.  If you choose wisely, the foods you eat can help you show off long and lustrous hair, soft and clear skin, bright eyes, a gleaming smile and strong nails.

Skeptical?  Let us prove it to you.

While there’s really no such thing as anti-aging lotions or potions—we’re all going to age through the years, whether we like it or not—you can age gracefully, and feel beautiful through those years.  And food can help.

Beauty-boosting foods are loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.  Antioxidants protect the body from damage from free radicals.  As we age, free radicals and sun exposure destroys the essential building blocks for the cells in your skin—collagen and elastin—weakening the structure of our skin and allowing wrinkles to form.  Anti-inflammatory foods help to fight chronic infections, a cause of accelerated aging.

Here are our top 10 foods with hidden beauty secrets.

Almonds, walnuts and other nuts are like the magical fountain of youth, helping you keep your smooth, youthful skin and thick, shiny hair.  Almonds are rich in Vitamin E—a free radical-fighting antioxidant—and catalase, an enzyme that may keep those gray hairs at bay by breaking down hydrogen peroxide build-up—the cause of gray.  Walnuts are the only nut rich in alpha linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids, which helps to keep skin moist and supple.  They are also a good source of zinc, which keeps your nails strong and helps prevent your hair from shedding, keeping your thick locks.  Keep nuts in your car for easy snacking, toss in salads and vegetable side dishes or grind into a pesto.    

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Kale, and other dark, leafy greens contain carotenoids, antioxidants that reduce skin’s inflammation from the sun and helps to prevent wrinkles.  The vitamins A and C in greens keep your hair shiny and healthy by helping your hair follicles produce sebum, the body’s natural hair conditioner.  Greens simply sautéed with garlic and olive oil make a delicious side dish!  You can also add to frittatas and soups, or bake them into chips.

Raspberries are actually a member of the rose family and contain many phytochemicals beneficial to your skin and hair.  Like strawberries, raspberries are rich in Vitamin C, but they also contain ellagic acid, an antioxidant which keeps your skin moist, helps fade dark spots and gives you a bright, glowing complexion.  Keep frozen raspberries in the freezer to blend into smoothies or to make easy sauces for dessert.  

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Strawberries are a rich source of Vitamin C, which is an essential building block of collagen.  One cup of strawberries gives you 100% of your daily dose of vitamin C, helping to reduce wrinkles and skin dryness.  And like raspberries, strawberries also contain ellagic acid, so add strawberries to your morning yogurt or oatmeal, toss in your salad, or dip in dark chocolate for a sweet treat! 

Apples skins contain quercetin, a flavenoid that is a potent antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties.  It has been shown to reduce skin damage, keeping skin plump and elastic and wrinkles at bay.  Don’t forget—the anti-wrinkle benefit is in the skin, so don’t peel those apples!  While raw apples are delicious, try sautéing, roasting or baking them for a sweet and savory addition to dinner.

Avocados contain antioxidants and essential fatty acids and are rich in vitamins A, D and E, all of which help maintain healthy skin.  Avocados will help keep your eyes clear and bright—they contain the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which helps keep your eyes healthy as we age.  Avocados are nature’s mayonnaise—mash and spread on your sandwich or combine with Greek yogurt for a delicious dip.    

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Tomatoes are nature’s sunscreen.  The lycopene in tomatoes—a potent antioxidant—may help prevent sunburn, reducing the aging skin damage from the sun.  In addition, antioxidant-rich tomatoes help your skin retain moisture, keeping your skin healthy during the long, dry days of winter and the sun-drenched days of summer.  Out of season, try oven roasting tomatoes at 250 degrees for a few hours, to concentrate their flavor and bring out that summer sweetness. 

Greek yogurt is high in both calcium and phosphorus, which helps to strengthen tooth enamel, giving you a strong, bright smile.  Greek yogurt is higher in protein than other yogurts, and protein is essential for collagen production, making your skin supple and youthful.  Use Greek yogurt as you would sour cream—as a topping for soup or potatoes and in dips and other recipes.

Salmon is a great source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which have also been shown to reduce the skin’s sensitivity to sun, thereby preventing wrinkles, and reduce inflammation in the skin, helping inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis.  Omega-3 fatty acids also support the health of your scalp, preventing dryness and keeping your hair shiny.  As an added benefit, salmon contains the antioxidant astaxanthin, a carotenoid that gives salmon its red color and can help improve vision and reduce wrinkles.  For a new twist on salmon, try making salmon cakes.  Combine chopped salmon with a little shallot, Dijon mustard, egg, breadcrumbs and your favorite herbs.  Sauté in a little olive oil until crispy and cooked through.  Makes a delicious appetizer!   

Red Wine contains polyphenols, including resveratrol, which provide powerful protection against free radicals, reducing the aging process.  Resveratrol, specifically, protects the skin against UV radiation from the sun, preventing wrinkles from forming.  You don’t get the same benefit from grape juice, because the skin and seeds are left in the fermenting process with wine.  People who regularly drink red wine have fewer precancerous skin lesions, lower risk of Alzheimer's disease, cancer, diabetes and other age-related diseases. Regular wine drinkers have an 80% lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.  We’ll toast to that!

And don’t forget to drink lots of water. Water is nature’s natural moisturizer, carrying nutrients and moisture to every cell in your body.

Lastly, when you look good, you feel good.  And inner beauty is really the goal, isn’t it?  When you radiate with confidence, everyone sees your clear eyes and bright smile for a reflection of what they really are—your beautiful soul.

This article appears in the July/August edition of Bellingham Alive

Grilled Sockeye Salmon with Lavender Butter

This recipe is perfect for celebrating the early months of summer, when wild salmon are plentiful and lavender can be found in the farmer's markets. Use just a little bit of the lavender butter to top the salmon. Store the rest in the freezer, cutting off pieces as you need it. It's also delicious on top of hot baby potatoes.

Serves 6

½ stick softened butter
Zest of one lemon
½ teaspoon culinary lavender, ground
½ teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
½ teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6, six ounce wild salmon filets
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make the lavender butter by combining the softened butter, lemon zest, lavender, thyme, rosemary and black pepper.  Place mixture on piece of plastic wrap and form into a log.  Roll the plastic wrap tightly around the lavender butter and refrigerate until ready to use, at least 1 hour.

Heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat.

Turn each salmon filet skin side up.  Take a sharp knife and run the knife down the scales, to remove moisture (this will help to make the salmon skin crispy).  Drizzle with olive oil.

Liberally season the flesh side of the salmon with sea salt and black pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

Place salmon on the grill, skin side down.  Close the grill cover and grill for 8 minutes for medium and 10 for medium-well.  There is no need to turn the salmon.  Remove from the grill.  To serve, top with a small pat of the lavender butter.

Enjoy, preferably with those you love! 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Products we Love

It’s no surprise that Lisa and I are advocates of eating real food – food you can imagine growing in nature; something our great-grandparents would recognize. But, we also understand that life sometimes throws you curve balls. Life cannot always be planned and sometimes, it’s more fun when things get little messy. Finding the time and resources to fuel your body and satisfy your taste buds with fresh food straight off the farm and eloquently prepared in your kitchen is not always a practical reality.

The trick is that when you have to improvise and make good choices on the go, we want you to feel really good with the choices you make to nourish your body.
Here’s a list of products that fully nourish us.

Synergy Kombucha: We’re not 100% sure if it’s the carbonation, the taste, or the fact that each drink is packed with healthy probiotics that has us completely hooked to Synergy Kombucha; but, whatever it is, we’re devote fans of this beverage. It’s refreshing and a nice break from good ol’ H20 without having any artificial ingredients or added sugars. Lisa’s favorite flavor is Gingerberry, mine is Cosmic Cranberry, and Trilogy is a mutual favorite.

LUNA Fiber Bars: We completely love LUNA. LUNA is on the mission to empower women everywhere by removing the guilt we often associate with snacking and to start embracing the benefits of nourishing our bodies throughout the day. Not to mention, LUNA bars simply taste amazing and are good for us, too.  When we take a break in our day to enjoy a food that nourishes our nutrient needs and also meets our cravings, we are doing so much good for our bodies. You heard us! Let’s embrace the Power of Positive Snacking together. Deal?
Our favorite flavor of LUNA Fiber Bars is Peanut Butter Strawberry. We especially love these bars because they supply a hefty dose of fiber, 7 grams to be exact. And fiber is that one superstar nutrient that maintains a good reputation in the nutrition world despite the ever-changing diet trends.

Justin’s Nut Butter: Oh Justin. It could be your haircut that initially got us interested in this product, but it’s the taste and the quality of the ingredients used that continually has us coming back for more. One of our favorite products to recommend to friends, family and clients are the nut butter packs because each pack contains a perfectly portioned serving size. They’re a wonderful addition to any snack bag when you’re spending the day on an airplane, in the car, or just on-the-go.

NatureBox: The people over at NatureBox are on a pursuit to promote healthy snacking, and we love it! They truly embrace the philosophy that snacks are best for your body when viewed as mini meals and when they are viewed as an excellent opportunity to add more nutrients to your day. Another great thing about NatureBox is that many of the snacks they offer are in fact real food. Their snacks are minimally processed and contain no artificial ingredients or trans fat. Don’t even get us started on the Peppery Pistachios or Dried Pears. They are oh-my, yum! 
Horizon Organics String Cheese: Cheese easily made it on to of our Top 5 Foods We Can’t Live Without list. Why? Because we love the taste of cheese. But, cheese is also an excellent source of protein and calcium. We especially feel good about eating Horizon Organics String Cheese because dairy products from organic sources are made without the use of hormones, antibiotics and other drugs. And why string cheese, you ask? It’s fun to eat! And since cheese is relatively high in calories and fat, we like that string cheese is pre-portioned so we don’t have to be concerned about accidentally having too much.

Greek Yogurt: You will always find Greek yogurt in both of our fridges. In fact, I even came close to having it on My Top 5 Foods I Can’t Live Without list. Lisa’s been known to add it as a topping to her homemade tortilla soup or to mix with avocado for a deliciously creamy dip or spread. I love Greek yogurt topped with berries and little bit of our homemade granola or stirred into my oatmeal for an extra protein boost in the morning.

When I came across Yasso Greek Frozen Yogurt, I couldn’t have been more excited. This Greek yogurt is individually wrapped into bars for convenience and portion control, and has the perfect hint of sweetness without using artificial sweeteners or high fructose corn syrup. These bars are also chocked full of probiotics, are an excellent source of calcium and protein, and do not contain any artificial hormones. An added bonus is that you can enjoy all of this without even using a spoon!

Dr. Krackers Crackers: Finding a good quality cracker – one that is both nutritious and tastes delicious (we need something way better than cardboard) – is not an easy feat. We have good news. Some of these cracker varieties are 100% whole wheat and make our taste buds very happy. The Pumpkin Seed Cheddar Crispbreads often make their way into our snack bag during days of travel. With a hearty 5 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, and the first ingredient being organic whole wheat flour, these crackers are a homerun.

We were not paid to endorse these products. We gladly promote products and companies that align with our food philosophy and that we believe in. While we’ve teamed up with LUNA at the Wanderlust Festivals this summer to promote the Power of Positive Snacking together, we were not paid to write this post or promote LUNA bars. We just like them! 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Magical Tulum

The turquoise waters and white Caribbean beaches of Tulum, in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, appears to be a magical place.  Not unlike Lake Wobegonin Tulum all the visitors fall in love, friendships are formed and time stands still.  And the freshest handcrafted food can be found everywhere, from the taco truck in Tulum’s central square to the tiny restaurants frequented by locals to the ‘eco-chic’ resorts lining the beach.   

A wedding took Elie and me to Tulum in May.  Scarlett and Diego met and fell in love while working at Amansalafamous for its bikini boot camp.  Now living in California, they returned with their gorgeous baby, Onyx, and dog, Sierra, to officially begin their life as a family in the place that brought them together.  On a sun-drenched afternoon, their closest family and friends, all dressed in white, gathered on the pier at La Laguna for the ceremony.

By this time, we all felt like family.  Since we all hailed from different phases of Scarlett and Diego’s lives, few of us knew each other when we arrived four days before the wedding.  Our bonding began the first morning, with Scarlett’s mandatory (*smile*) 7 a.m. beach walk.  Elie and I happily threw on bathing suits (and a little sunscreen for myself) and joined the group at the water’s edge. 

Over the next few days, we formed friendships as we explored the Mayan ruins at Coba...

Swam in the Gran Cenote and underground cenote…   

Relaxed on the beach…

And shared many meals together.  Great meals, I might add.  You can’t find bad food in Tulum, which is a testament to the power and beauty of incredibly fresh food.  Fresh food, lovingly prepared, tastes good.  And is good for you. 

Here are some of my favorite Tulum food finds. 

Mateo’s Mexican Grill calls their fish tacos the best in the world.  That might be a stretch, but they are good—grilled fish in a corn tortilla with a mango salsa.  Simple and very satisfying, especially if eaten sitting in the sun with a Negro Modelo (for me) or a fresh fruit smoothie (for Elie).

At La Zebra, Elie and I shared the chicken mole, fall-off-the-bone tender and tasting the way you imagine mole should—dark, rich and slightly spicy. 

We ate breakfast at Posada Margherita after a few of our beach walks, sitting in the sun on the low benches of the deck and enjoying an Americano or fresh juice with a Mexican scramble.  Dinner at Posada Margherita begins with a gift from the kitchen—a rustic wooden board layered with homemade foccacia and a bowl of warm pistachios.  The red snapper cooked in sea water is their specialty and is quite good.

On the main street in Tulum, you’ll find Flor de Michoacan, serving homemade paletas, or Mexican popsicles.  They have dozens of flavors to choose from, from the sweet and fruity to creamy or spicy.  The pistachio paleta was very good—creamy, crunchy and not-too-sweet, studded with whole pistachios.

The best corn tortillas of the week—and perhaps the most interesting tacos—were found at an un-named off-the-beaten path restaurant.  We stumbled upon the restaurant—which looked more like a picnic area with a cooking shed in the back—after an unsuccessful hunt for street tacos.  After taking our seats at tables lined with bright red plastic picnic cloths, we ordered fish and shrimp tacos.  For $4 US, we got three tacos.  The corn tortilla—thicker and more rustic than others we’d eaten that week, with a flavor of freshly ground corn meal—held freshly fried fish and shrimp, hot and crispy, topped with slices of avocado, tomato and pickled onions.  We topped them a drizzle of salsa piquant made from habanero peppers—a kind of hot pepper oil found in many of the restaurants in Tulum.  Really good. 

Our favorite restaurant of the week was El Tabano, a slow-food place with a charming jungle garden dining room where everything is made from scratch.  If you sit near the kitchen, you can watch women hand-roasting granola for breakfast, slow roasting pork or rolling and griddling corn tortillas. 

My favorite dish of the week was their egg casserole, a clay pot with two eggs baked in a spicy sauce of black beans and roasted poblano peppers.  When I scraped my spoon through the sauce, I pulled up a string of melted cheese hidden in the bottom.  Scooped into homemade corn tortillas, it was the most satisfying and nourishing dish.  Stay tuned, because I’ll definitely be recreating this dish at home, and I’ll share the recipe with you when I do. 

For lunch or dinner, El Tabano also has a great wine list, which is not necessarily easy to find in Mexico.  Lunch and dinner are just as delicious.  And I love the chalkboard menu. 

Unfortunately, Hartwood—which had been on my list of must-try restaurants in Tulum—closed for a brief vacation on the day we had intended upon eating there.  We’ll have to catch it next time around.

While in Tulum, every single day I continued to be delighted at the variety, availability and affordability of the homemade, fresh and healthy food.  Tropical fruits, avocados, black beans, spicy peppers and tomatoes are abundant at almost every meal.  At breakfast, the bright orange yolks of the eggs obviously came from free-roaming chickens eating a wild and varied diet.  And in every restaurant, including ‘fast food’ taco stands and roadside eateries, the ingredients are fresh and the food is handmade.  It’s a great model for good eating.

In Tulum, we certainly practiced our (non)diet advice.  We ate real food with people we love.  Thank you to Scarlett, Diego and Onyx for bringing us there.