EWG: Healthy Thanksgiving Tips 

The Environmental Working Group has five amazing tips for you to keep in mind when preparing for a healthy Thanksgiving feast. 

  • Stuffing is always a holiday favorite, but did you know that store-bought stuffing mixes often have 30 or more ingredients, including preservatives from EWG’s Dirty Dozen list of food additives? More than half of the stuffing rated on Food Scores are likely to contain ingredients of high or moderate concern, so we recommend making your own or using EWG’s Food Scores to pick one of the top-scoring products.
  • Turkeys are often fed antibiotics and growth promoters in their feed to encourage development of lean muscle instead of fat. (No wonder they look the way they do!) Consider going organic and antibiotic-free this year and check out our guide to decoding turkey labels to help you choose a better bird this Thanksgiving.

However and whatever you choose to buy or eat, the most important thing to remember, is to be happy and Thankful. 
Resource: Environmental Working Group (EWG)

Just Me!

  

Just me enjoying a chocolate chip cookie from my favorite New York City café, The City Bakery.  Owner Maury Rubin, creator of Birdbath opened the bakery in 1997.  Their cookies are amazingly delicious!  My ultimate favorite are the melted chocolate chip cookies. That cookie sells out the fastest.  It’s so decadent, it’s like eating a brownie but a flat round version of one. Each bite is filled with a thick chunck of melted chocolate. It’s to die for, literally!    

City Bakery is also famous for their pretzel croissants.  It was once featured in the New York Times article titled, From Croissant to Cronut as the “New Frankenpastry”.  They pump out over 500 a day.  This cronut is like no other. It is the perfect mixture! They’re also known for their annual Hot Chocolate Festival.  This festival is spectacular!  It’s always held in February (go figure), and on each day the bakery creates wonderful hot chocolate recipes with exotic ingredients. Like for instance, Chili Pepper Hot Chocolate, Bourbon Hot Chocolate, “Love Potion” Hot Chocolate, Peruvian Hot Chocolate, Beer, Caramel, Tropical and so much more. And don’t forget to top it with a chunck of their own in-house marshmallow.  It’s a chocolate haven for chocolate lovers like myself.    

City Bakery is a unique bakery in and of itself. The foods amazing, the service is on point, and décor is friendly and inviting.  

Enjoy! 

An Epic Event: TEDxManhattan “Changing The Way We Eat” 2015

I had an amazing experience at this years TEDxManhattan “Changing The Way We Eat” conference.  I was humbly inspired and motivated by each and every speaker.  It was an epic event filled with like-minded people who are true ‘Food Warriors’ and ‘Food Heroes’. Conferences like TEDxManhattan create a platform for people to share their ideas and passions.  Diane Hatz, is the main organizer and host of TEDxManhattan.  She is also the Founder and Executive Director of Change Food.   This year was her forth conference, and it was definitely well attended globally.  She reported this year’s conference had 370 in-person attendees, 173 viewing parties with an estimated 8,500 people in 37 states and 14 countries, and 17,482 computers tuned into the event.  What a wonderful accomplishment.  Well, as an attendee I had a wonderful experience.  Here are some of my highlights. 

   Me and Tom Colicchio 
I got the opportunity to meet Tom Colicchio.  He was extremely pleasant, friendly, and funny.  I am a long time fan of Top Chef which Tom is an Executive Producer and a head judge on the Bravo reality TV show.  We obviously have a lot in common so we spoke briefly about the conference and my connections within the ‘Food Movement’.  I had a wonderful time chatting with him.  He’s truly a ‘Food Hero’.

Michele Merkel 
Michele Merkel is the co-director of the Food & Water Justice Program at Food & Water Watch, inspires me to never give up.  As a former attorney for the Environmental Protection Agency, Michele knew in her core the unethical practices the EPA stoodby wasn’t fair. She quit her job with the EPA and now Michele represents small traditional organic family farmers, and uses her legal knowledge to sue the EPA.  I thought, what a Bad Ass!  Although our judicial system is a tough one, Michele believes everyone could help support the fight by voting for candidates who are committed to change, send letters to your representatives, rally, sign petitions and demand for a better sustainable food system.  Michele also recommends researching these websites for more ways to help.  Food Policy Action, Food & Water Watch, and Socialy Responsible Agricultural Project.

 

Stephen Ritz
 
Stephen Ritz talked about the struggles his students face while living in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the South Bronx.  He founded Green Bronx Machine which teaches student K-12 the importance of eating healthy through growing organic fruits and vegetables in the classroom.  Get this, they grow more than 30,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables.  We need a Stephen Ritz in every Public School.  His hard work and dedication to his students at PS 55 is quite impressive and evident.  He is feeding the community and teaching his students simultaneously, which is brilliant.  Stephen inspires me to continue to educate my family and community.

Nikiko Masumoto reciting her poem “My Field of Dreams”
Nikko Masumoto works on her family’s Certified Organic Farm (Masumoto Family Farm) where they grow peaches, nectarines, and grapes.  Nikiko’s talk made me see the realization of how timing is extremely important when harvesting.  She was captivating!  Her poem, “My Fields of Dreams” fascinated me because we share the same dream — a sustainable future for everyone.  In honor of National Poetry Month April 2015, I celebrate Nikko’s poem.  In 2013 she published her first book The Perfect Peach (Ten Speed Press), co-authored with Marcy & David Mas Masumoto.  Family farming preserves traditional food products while safeguarding the world’s agro-biodiversity.  Nikiko is proudly learning the tools of the trade on her fathers farm.  
Danielle Nierenberg
 Danielle Nierenberg is the President of Food Tank and one of my idles. She has a long history in fighting to alleviate hunger and property, while protecting the environment.  Danielle’s talk about the forgotten farmers, which are women because it’s women who make up 43% of the global agricultural work force.  They are often denied education, refused by banking and financial institutions, and faced with discrimination.  Danielle opened up my mind to see that there are other women struggling to earn, farm and feed their families all over the world. I’m inspired to learn more about Food Tank, and to help continue to spread the word about women in agricultural work force.   

DJ Cavem & Alkemia Earth
Ietef “DJ Cavem Moetavation” Vita is an O.G. (Organic Gardner), vegan chef, educator, midwife, emcee, producer, b-boy, DJ, founder of Going Green Living Bling, founder of Eco-HipHop and award-winning activist.  His performance and message was awesome. He got everyone up and moving to the sounds and beats of, the “Kale Life”.  Ietef raps, performs and educates young children and communities through his music.  His  performance along with his wife Alkemia Earth was epic.  Check out how they use hip hop to educate others about healthy food TEDxManhattan talk and performance. 

 Conferences like TEDxManhattan create a platform for people to share their ideas and passions.  This was my first time attending one of TEDxManhattan conferences, and I was impressed by the whole experience.  

 Every aspect of that day was centered around the theme, “Changing the Way We Eat”.  From the speakers topics, the ambiance of the event, the healthy delicious foods they catered, fun interactive activities, the vendors, guest, prizes and even the wonderful gift bags I took home — the whole experience was amazing. 

 I’ve made some great connections and learned a tremendous amount of information about our food system.  It was a life changing event for me, and I am forever grateful for the opportunity.  I am already looking forward next year’s event.  I am and forever will be a TEDxSter!  To hear the TEDxManhattan 2015 talks click here.

 

 

 

 

 

  

Tips For Planning Healthy Meals 

If you’re like me, you probably don’t have much time during the week to cook. Working full-time, juggling three children, a husband, house work, blogging and social life; cooking have to be quick and easy for me. By the time I reach home, I’m exhausted.  What works for me is planning ahead.  On the weekends, I buy all of my fresh produce for the week, and having healthy staples in the pantry is helpful.  These items will keep you sustained! 

My staples: Peanut or almond butter, lentils, chickpeas, breads, pasta, canned crushed tomatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, almond or coconut milk, cauliflower, sun dried tomatoes, and fresh herbs.  

I enjoy going grocery shopping. Not many people do but I look forward to it.  My go-to stores are Whole Foods, Trader Joes and of course, the farmers market. You might be wondering, why I go to so many stores?  First, I enjoy it. Secondly, we all have different needs and wants.  Lastly, the farmers market is a must for fresh seasonal produce, organic pastured raised eggs, organic apples, and wild caught fish. We go through apples like grapes in my household. 



I’ve found that a small amount of time invested in menu planning saves me time and energy.  The key meals to plan are the evening meals.  Breakfast is easy (oats, French toast, cold cereals, etc.) and lunch, my husband prepares every morning for the children. Dinner is my specialty. 

It is extremely important to consume a variety of plants to make sure we are getting all the nutrients we need.  The produce I buy gets chopped up and mixed into so many different dishes for the week.  When I make my organic brown rice pilaf, there’s about 5-6 different vegetables chopped up in it.  It’s amazingly delicious. My vegan lasagna is also fast and furious.  



The no-boil lasagna cuts my time in half.

Plus, there’s always a green salad with our dinner.  The point here is to plan ahead, cook enough, and incorporate plenty of fresh plants in your meal.  Many people tend to buy frozen produce, remember fresh is always best. 

Tips to consider:

  1. Set aside time to plan a menu for the week. 
  2. Make a list of all the ingredients you’ll need for these recipes. 
  3. Select three or four main dishes, and plan to prepare enough for each person.  
  4. Add some fresh vegetables for salads and side dishes. 
  5. Save your menus and shopping list for future uses. 

Enjoy!

Vegan Banana Bread

This vegan banana bread recipe is eggless and dairy free. I used mostly organic products, with the exception to the baking soda and powder. You’ll enjoy this banana bread even more because it’s filled with healthy ingredients, and it’s also delicious.

IMG_4081-0

Prep time: 20 minutes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a loaf pan. I used coconut oil for greasing.

Ingredients:
• 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
• 1 tsp cinnamon
• 1/2 tsp nutmeg
• 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
• 1/4 tsp baking soda
• Pinch of salt
• 1 cup Turbinado sugar
• 1/2 cup coconut oil (or any other)
• 3 ripe bananas
• 1/2 cup of apple sauce
• 1 tsp vanilla
Optional additions
• 1/3 cup wheat germ
• 1 cup raw crushed walnuts
• 1/2 cup raisins
• 1/3 Chia seeds

Instructions
In a large mixing bowl sift together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and baking powder. Then, in a separate bowl smash the bananas until the big lumps are out. Mix in the oil, vanilla, applesauce, sugar and salt.

IMG_4090
Now, gently fold in the dry ingredients into the wet making sure everything is mixed in well. At this point you could add any of the optional ingredients. In this recipe I added wheat germ, walnuts and raisins. Pour finished batter in the prepared loaf pan.

Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Banana bread is done when a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool before slicing.

Serving: 8 Slices

Enjoy!

My Exotic Green Juice Experiment

I’ve been juicing for quite some time now, and quite frankly, after using the same ingredients day in and day out, my green juices started to bore me. My usual ingredients were kale, beets, spinach, apples, ginger and a citrus fruit. These were my staple ingredients. It’s almost like eating the same bland vegetables all the time, after a while, you’re not going to want to eat them anymore. Well, in this case, drinking the same fresh juices all the time, is basically the same…boring! It’s definitely time for a change!

I thought about trying to juice a cantaloupe or a honeydew but, I had tried them before, so they weren’t enticing enough. Then it came to me, I will experiment juicing a dragon fruit. I had never tasted one before, and it’s totally different from anything I had ever juiced.

IMG_1316.JPG
Dragon fruits (Hylocereus Undatus) are amazingly beautiful. It is a tropical fruit popular in Southeast Asia, and it belongs to the climbing cacti (Cactaceae) family.

IMG_1312.JPG
This fruit is also native to Central America. Depending on where you’re located, you can find dragon fruits at your local farmers market, Asian market, or at a Whole Foods Market.

I had to do some research, because honestly, I didn’t know how to cut a dragon fruit. I immediately searched YouTube. Just watching one How to Cut Open a Dragon Fruit video, I became an instant expert. All it took was one slice down the center. It was extremely easy. The inside was white like paper, just like the image above. After tasting a small piece, I knew this was the right choice. It was so sweet, similar to the taste of a kiwi or a passion fruit.

To begin this experiment, the first thing I did was juiced the dragon fruit. I used my Juice Fountain Elite Juicer by Breville. I prefer the centrifugal juicers over the slow masticating juicers. The centrifugal juicers juice very faster. I especially like the Breville brands because, for a mother of three who is always on-the-go, they’re extremely easy to clean.

When I placed the dragon fruit into the juicer, barely any juice came down the nozzle. It was a total mess! The dragon fruit was mushy. I love my juicer but, in this situation, I ended up with a glob of mush. The juicer wasn’t the right choice to use.

On my second attempt, I juiced the other ingredients first (see below for the recipe). Then, I brought out my Vitamix. This did the trick. It pulverized the dragon fruit so well that once I added the green juice to it, and gave it another go, everything was completely and evenly blended together.

IMG_1321.JPG
My children enjoyed it, and I was very pleased with my wild and crazy new ingredient. At the end, my green juice was a hit. The dragon fruit added just what my green juice needed, an added exotic sweetness. Although, it took me longer than usual, it was all worth it. This post is apart of Williams-Sonoma’s Juice Week. They have amazing offers and a huge selection of all types of juicers.

IMG_1319.JPG
My new and improve Exotic Green Juice:
1 Dragon fruit
8 Kale leaves
5 Romaine lettuce
1 Cucumber
2 Granny Smith apples
1/2 lime (peeled)
Ginger (1 inch)

Resources:
Best Place to Purchase a Juicer – WILLIAMS-SONOMA Juicers
Dragon Fruit | Pitaya
Dragon Fruit Photo: by Shutterstock
Dragon Fruit Plant Photo: by City Pass Guide

Bee Pollen in My Steel-Cut Oats

20140715-112927-41367023.jpg

Steel-cut oats by itself is a healthy breakfast option. However, eating it plain can also taste a little bland after a while. I enjoy adding different healthy toppings to my oats. I also just started to add bee pollen. Yes, I said, “bee pollen!”

Did you know that bee pollen is richer in proteins than any other animal source? Oat contains protein as well. Dr. Mercola says, “bee pollen has more amino acids than beef, eggs, and cheese of equal weight.” He also adds, “it is particularly concentrated in all elements necessary for human life.” I also add bee pollen in my smoothies, and my children’s own as well.

What is Bee Pollen?
According to researchers at the Institute of Apiculture, Taranov, Russia:

“Honeybee pollen is the richest source of vitamins found in Nature in a single food. Even if bee pollen had none of its other vital ingredients, its content of rutin alone would justify taking at least a teaspoon daily, if for no other reason than strengthening the capillaries. Pollen is extremely rich in rutin and may have the highest content of any source, plus it provides a high content of the nucleics RNA [ribonucleic acid] and DNA [deoxyribonucleic acid].”

Pollen is the male seed of flowers. It is the food of the young bee, and it is approximately 40% protein. I started taking bee pollen early this year because I read an interesting article that said,

“Pollen reduces the presence of histamine, ameliorating many allergies.”

During allergy peak time my allergies were unbearable. Once I started taking bee pollen, my symptoms subsided. I bought a jar from my local farmers market and started it right away. I took a half of teaspoon in the beginning then, I upped the amount to one teaspoon a day. I kid you not, I felt great. I did have a few attacks of the sneezing, but it wasn’t frequent and I didn’t have to take my usual over-the-counter antihistamine. The bee pollen worked for me.

Many nutritionist revere bee pollen as a superfood. 

For someone who had not taken bee pollen before, taking even a small amount like s teaspoon can cause problems for someone who is sensitive to pollens. I would suggest doing a tyollerance test.  

Tolerance Test (from Bee Pollen Buzz)

Follow these guidelines to determine your sensitivity to the pollens. Although bee pollen is not a drug, it is possible you could be sensitive to it so it’s best that you’re cautious the first time you take it.

1) Place one raw bee pollen kernel under your tongue.

2) Let it dissolve completely. It is absorbing rapidly through what is called your mucous membrane directly into your blood stream.

3) If you experience no reaction, place two granules under your tongue.

4) Continue increasing the number of granules under your tongue until you feel confident that you will not experience an allergic reaction.

Signs & Sensitive to Bee Pollen

  • An itchy throat 
  • Runny nose 
  • Headache 
  • Sweating 
  • Tearing eyes
  • Respiratory issues 
  • Stomach/bowel distress

If you experience any of these, stop taking it and if it’s a severe reaction, you should see your doctor.

According to Real Raw Food, bee pollen also:

Increases energy and stamina.
Increase muscle growth and definition
Builds immune system
Has antioxidant activity
Enhances sexuality
Smoothes wrinkles (favorite)

Bee pollen also contains a cocktail of vitamins, minerals, basically containing nearly all nutrients required by humans. It is extraordinarily a rich nourishing food.

Please check out their website because they have more information about taking bee pollen, and also warnings for people who might have allergic reactions to it. As you can see from my picture above, I’m still taking it, and it’s summertime. I truly believe the bee pollen is keeping me energized throughout the day, and my immune is stronger than ever.

 

Helpful links:
Real Raw Food
10 Amazing Health Benefits of Bee Pollen
The Use of Bee Pollen as a Superfood

Papaya: My New Obsession

20140228-090800.jpg
Papaya’s are my new obsession at the moment. I go through these fazes with fruits and vegetables all the time. Right now it’s papaya. It is extremely healthy for you. Just one whole papaya has 168.08 mg of vitamin C, and a whopping 2622.00 International Units of vitamin A.

According to whfoods website, papayas may prevent a number of health conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, aging and cancer. To read more about these health benefits click here.

Papaya alone will not prevent those diseases. It’s the other foods along with papayas that will determine your faith. I’m all about eating foods that will nourish my body. Especially, the ones that has anti-aging benefits…lol! I want to age gracefully and healthy. Who doesn’t? Those kinds of foods are whole foods and plant-based.

I quote from the book Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition by, T. Colin Campbell, PhD:

“The foods you consume can heal you faster and more profoundly than the most expensive prescription drugs, and more dramatically than the most extreme surgical interventions, with only positive side effects.”

This book is phenomenal. The only diet now that can promise you and me that, is a whole food plant-based diet. I highly recommend reading it, and Healthy Eating Healthy World by, J. Morris Hicks, and The China Study by, Dr. Campbell again.

These three books will transform your outlook on food, nutrition and your life forever. There is much to be gained from reading these books. They are clearly written and powerfully true with scientific researches to support each claim. You will be able to comprehend and implement the changes into your life, and benefit from them.

20140306-141918.jpg
Some photos of how I incorporate papayas in my diet. It’s all plant-based foods.

5 Good Reasons to go Organic

20131011-114050.jpg
Organic products meet stringent standards
Organic certification is the public’s assurance that products have been grown and handled according to strict procedures without persistent toxic chemical inputs.

Organic farmers work in harmony with nature
Organic agricultural respects the balance demanded of a healthy ecosystem: wildlife is encouraged by including forage crops in rotation and by retaining fence rows, wetlands, and other natural areas.

Organic food tastes great!
It’s common sense – well-balanced soils produce strong, healthy plants that become nourishing food for people and animals.

Organic production reduces health risks
Many EPA-approved pesticides were registered long before extensive research linked these chemicals to cancer and other diseases. Organic agriculture is one way to prevent any more of these chemicals from getting into the air, earth and water that sustain us.

Organic farms respect our water resources
The elimination of polluting chemicals and nitrogen leaching, done in combination with soil building, protects and conserves water resources.

Courtesy of Organic Trade Association

Want more reasons? See all 10!

Image taken from greencorfu

Vegan Salad: No lettuce Required

20130823-163130.jpg

Who says, you need lettuce to make a salad? I know, but I won’t mention who for the sake of his reputation. A salad doesn’t need lettuce in order for it to be considered a salad. A salad can be a combination of any fruit, vegetable, or grain.

This particular salad I’m showcasing doesn’t have any. It’s just a simple organic salad I put together at work. It has tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, peaches, apples, and a baked sweet potato. Most of these items, came from my local farmers market. It’s important that everyone go out and support their local farmers market.

It’s really an awesome feeling meeting and buying foods from the actual growers. Plus, the freshness and flavors of the fruits and vegetables are amazing. There’s also dairy farms, turkey farms, organic bakery’s, honey farms, fresh eggs, wine, wild fish and so much more.

Grocery store foods are highly processed and grown using pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and genetic modification. Buying from local family owned farms the food is generally grown organically while using methods that minimizes the impact on the earth, and the food is fresher and healthier. Please go out and support your local farms.

20130823-165413.jpg
Here’s a picture of everything before it was cut up. There was no reasoning behind selecting these items. They were randomly selected with only one goal in mind, “I’m not paying for another city lunch!” Buying lunch in Manhattan can be very costly, so I try to bring in my lunch as much as I can. Plus, its healthier preparing and cooking your own meals.

Find out below where you can locate your local farmers market. Go out and support them!

Other Reads:
Farmers Market in NYC: Grownyc.org
My Farmers Market
Find Your Local Farmers Market Here