CUT THE SUGAR (after halloween…)

Check out this article from The New York Times Health and Wellness blog….

Scientists swapped products with added sugar to calorically equivalent non-sugar added foods (like sugar-laden yogurt for a bagel…so not a HEALTHY swap. The purpose of the study was to try to see the effects of added sugars) and fed them to obese children. Would you believe that after just 10 days, the markers of health like cholesterol readings and high blood pressure went down!?!

Check those sugar labels people!

For Halloween, go crazy. After all, the study showed improvements within 10 days proving that any damage done during “cheat days” can’t be undone. But once Halloween is over, HIDE the candy from the kids and from yourself. It should be a special treat…not a daily treat.

 

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HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

 

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Bad Day for Bacon

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced their findings that there IS a link between processed meats (bacon, hot dogs, sausage, etc.) and cancer. Read all about it here.

WHO is not saying how much is too much, but does recommend a balanced plant-based diet and eating red meats (pork, veal, lamb, and beef) and processed meat in moderation.

So, in honor of fall, put down the bacon and pick up the PUMPKIN! To ease the blow of this new study, here are 12 delicious pumpkin recipes for fall from our fav Cookie and Kate!

From morning:

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Oat Pancakes
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INGREDIENTS
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • ¼ cup milk of choice
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (or butter), melted
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (about 1 small lemon, juiced)
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup (or honey)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup oat flour (see notes for how to make your own oat flour out of old-fashioned oats)
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the pumpkin puree, milk, coconut oil (or butter), lemon juice and maple syrup (or honey). Beat in the eggs. (If your coconut oil goes back to its solid state like mine did at this point, just warm the mixture for short 20 second bursts in the microwave, stirring between each, until it is melted again.)
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oat flour, baking soda, salt and spices.
  3. Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. With a big spoon, stir just until the dry ingredients are thoroughly moistened. Do not overmix! Let the batter sit for 10 minutes.
  4. Heat a heavy cast iron skillet/non-stick pan over medium-low heat, or heat an electric griddle to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil the surface of your pan with coconut oil, butter or cooking spray. If you’re using a non-stick electric griddle like mine, you might not need any oil at all.
  5. Once the surface of the pan is hot enough that a drop of water sizzles on it, pour ¼ cup of batter onto the pan. Let the pancake cook for about 3 minutes, until bubbles begin to form around the edges of the cake.
  6. Once the underside is lightly golden, flip it with a spatula and cook for another 90 seconds or so, until golden brown on both sides. You may need to adjust the heat up or down at this point.
  7. Serve the pancakes immediately or keep warm in a 200 degree Fahrenheit oven.
NOTES
Recipe adapted from my banana oat pancakes recipe.
GLUTEN-FREE OATS: Be sure to purchase certified gluten-free oat flour or certified gluten-free old-fashioned oats if you need these pancakes to be gluten free.
TO MAKE OAT FLOUR: Pour one cup of old-fashioned oats (do not use quick cooking oats!) into a food processor and process until it is ground well. One cup before and after grinding measures just about the same, believe it or not! That’s a fun little tip I picked up from the King Arthur cookbook.
PREPARATION TIPS: This whole grain batter is thicker than most, so it’s more difficult to gauge when the pancakes are ready to flip. I learned that it’s easier to go by the timer: set it for for 3 minutes for the first side, then flip and wait another 90 seconds for the other side to finish. The time will vary depending on your temperature setting, but that’s about the time it should take for pancakes that are fully cooked and golden on each side.
FREEZE IT: These pancakes freeze well. (I’ve never met a pancake that doesn’t.)

To evening:
PUMPKIN SOUP
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INGREDIENTS
  • ¼ cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 4-pound sugar pie pumpkin or kabocha squash*
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 large or 6 medium garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon cloves
  • Tiny dash/up to ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional, if you like spice)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups (32 ounces) vegetable broth
  • ½ cup full fat coconut milk or heavy cream, which is not vegan
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey, which is not vegan
  • ¼ cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper for easy cleanup. Carefully halve the squash and scoop out the seeds, reserving them for roasting if you’d like (see note—you won’t need the roasted pumpkin seeds for this recipe). Slice each pumpkin halve in half to make quarters. Brush or rub olive oil over the flesh of the pumpkin and place the quarters, cut sides down, onto the baking sheet. Roast for 35 minutes or longer, until the orange flesh is easily pierced through with a fork. Set squash aside to cool slightly.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add onion, garlic and salt to the skillet. Stir to combine.
  3. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes. In the meantime, peel the pumpkin skin off the pumpkins and discard. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cayenne pepper and a few twists of freshly ground black pepper to the pot, followed by the pumpkin flesh. Use your stirring spoon to break up the pumpkin a bit. Pour in the broth. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15, to give the flavors time to meld.
  4. While the soup is cooking, toast the pepitas in a medium skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant, golden and making little popping noises. You want them to be nice and toasty, but not burnt. Transfer pepitas to a bowl to cool.
  5. Once the squash mixture is done cooking, stir in the coconut milk and maple syrup. Remove the soup from heat and let it cool slightly. Working in batches, transfer the contents pan to a blender (do not fill your blender past the maximum fill line!). Securely fasten the blender’s lid and use a kitchen towel to protect your hand from steam escaping from the top of the blender as you purée the mixture until smooth. Transfer puréed soup to a serving bowl and repeat with remaining batches. Taste and adjust if necessary (I thought the soup was just right as is, but you might want to add more coconut milk, for extra creaminess/more mild flavor, or maple syrup, to make it a little sweeter.
  6. Ladle soup into individual bowls. Sprinkle pepitas over the soup and serve.
NOTES
Soup inspired by the pumpkin soup at The Picnic House in Portland and roughly adapted from my curried butternut soup.
IF YOU WANT TO USE CANNED PUMPKIN: I’m pretty sure you can substitute two 14-ounce cans of pumpkin purée. It won’t have the depth of flavor that roasted pumpkin would, but it should be delicious nonetheless. Just skip step one and add the pumpkin purée instead of the roasted pumpkin in step three. Let me know if you try this, please!
HOW TO ROAST PUMPKIN SEEDS: Pick off all the flesh bits from the seeds and discard them. I like to do this in a colander under running water. Pat the seeds dry with a tea towel or paper towels. Toss the seeds with a little olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and any other seasonings that sound good (I tossed my pumpkin seeds with 1 teaspoon brown sugar and ½ teaspoon curry powder). Toss to coat. Line a small, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the pumpkin seeds in a single layer. Roast for 13 to 16 minutes, until the seeds are fragrant and toasty.
Kate has got you covered…

 

Simply Happy

It seems appropriate that on our drive back to DC on Sunday from a 9 day vacation (something my husband and I haven’t done alone in a very long time), we would hear an entire hour of TED talks devoted to the subject of happiness. For those who don’t know, on the weekends, NPR airs something called The TED Radio Hour which pulls various TED talks together to form a show devoted to a single subject. As the dread of emails ignored and work/every day life stresses seeped in through the heat on in the car (WHY IS IT COLD ALREADY???), we listened intently.

Obviously things like going on vacation or quality time with friends/family/loved ones causes a feeling of “happiness”…but what else can you do when you are short on free time and your vacation is over? (You can listen for yourself here…)

Unfortunately, the TED talks they highlighted on this episode didn’t offer the enlightenment we are all seeking (as one speaker kept saying…no matter how many times he gives his speech or talks about his research into happiness there is almost always a pause and then the same question: “ok…but what is the SECRET to happiness?”). But there IS research that suggests things we do every day may detract from our overall happiness.

To name a few:

Daydreaming…plans for what you would do with a lottery win or some uncle you never knew you had leaving you a massive inheritance apparently don’t help to make you happy in the present. Neither does dwelling on what you would prefer to be doing (rather than being at work, for example) or things you are coveting. My husband strongly disagreed with this one: he argued that the reason he loves to hike or surf or run is to be alone with his thoughts and let his imagination run wild. Is this the same thing I wondered? I too can get very lost in my own head or make-believe world and have to admit I feel “happier” there then when I am running to an internal grocery list or thoughts of everything I should be doing instead of exercising. And that is how we decided what was meant in the TED talk – it isn’t just daydreaming, per se, but not being present to the action you are doing that is more the problem.

Thinking we need MORE to be happy. Turns out, money can buy you happiness in the form of a tiny house according to Graham Hill. When Graham Hill became successful he did what everyone with millions of dollars does: bought a big house, filled it with fancy things, and cars, etc. etc. etc. He realized the stress of having to fill this house, or have the latest gadget was not making him happy. So he decided to downsize and had some architects design him a 430 sq. foot incredibly functional oasis. And he is much happier. So things won’t make you happy…but you will still need the money to hire the architects to create this dream apartment. Once again, I have to say this one made sense to me in theory. While you don’t need a tiny house to accomplish what he is talking about, being content with what you have and how much you have goes a long way.

And speeding up won’t get you to your happy place faster. SLOW DOWN ALREADY. Figure out a way to stop racing through life. Breath. Take time for yourself. As someone who gets easily irritated with traffic (even when I am not technically late or in a rush) this one goes hand in hand with stress. If you can figure out a way to help manage your stress (hello meditation and being present instead of checking your phone while your loved one fills you in on their day), you may just find you have a lot to be happy about right in front of your face.

And….vacations don’t hurt. I mean just look at some of these beautiful pictures from our hikes near Mount Ranier and Portland!!

 

Mt. Rainier

 

Columbia River Gorge