I’m Still Here!

Gosh, I feel it’s been a long while since my last post. Time is flying by as I am wrapping up the end of my semester. After I handed a 20-something page research prospectus early this afternoon, I decided to stay outside and get some fresh air, nevermind that it is cold and rainy. Now that I can’t run (see below) for a little while – I need to stay a-walking! So I grabbed Jeanne’s pup and headed over to Schenely Park. Was a wonderfully wet & muddy afternoon!

Even though the parks here don’t look like this, I’m convinced some of the trees here are this vibrant:

So why can’t I run? Read on.

Thursday morning I woke up to a perfectly sunny and warm day. I decided to knock out an 11 mile run before working on research the rest of the day. Enjoyed every single minute of that run and thought “gosh, finally long runs with no knee pain!” I knew I’d be able to handle the half marathon in 2 weeks, no problem!…until…

… Thursday night happened & my glory came to screeching halt. As I was biking home from Katie’s after we left the library, a curb decided it wasn’t going to let me up on the sidewalk and promptly threw me off my bike with all its might, smack onto the very unforgiving concrete. OWWW! Busted up knees, shins, elbow and ribs – cracked ribs anyone? I don’t recommend it. Perfect timing as I have also developed a cold or sinus infection. The sneezing and runny nose isn’t pairing well with my ribs killing me each and every time I breathe and move. I can’t help but laugh (yes, this hurts too) at what a mess I became in matter of 24 hours. The only thing that bothers me is now I can’t run!! I hope that if I lay low for a few days I will miraculously heal before the end of the week… I am determined to finish that race, busted ribs or not.
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And now for some fun facts about estrogen! yay!

Recently I had blood work done to check up on my hormone levels in hopes of finding an explanation for my low estrogen. Still have no solid answers. Since I hope to have a little me running around someday… and I certainly don’t want early onset osteoporosis… I need to pay more attention to this issue.

As I have been riffling through some literature on foods and herbal supplements – I came across some interesting tidbits…

First, there is a list of estrogen-inhibiting foods (inhibit estrogen from absorption in gut and preventing it from entering bloodstream). Included in this list are: berries, citrus, corn, green bean, onion, broccoli, cabbage, grapes, pineapple, figs, squash… oh NO! Considering I’ve been downing broccoli, cabbage, grapes, and pineapple as if my life depends on it. Funny how I’m craving the foods I should be avoiding… I’m curious if it’s only broccoli and cabbage that inhibit or the entire brassica family. If its the brassica family , I’m screwed. I eat and drink brassicas every.single.day – all day. Think kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli – basically all my favorites. I don’t know how I feel about this.

Thankfully some foods I enjoy that contain naturally occurring estrogens include: beans/legumes (chickpeas, black, lentils), apples, cherries, papaya, dates, oats, brown rice, flax seed, pumpkin & sunflower seeds, garlic, beets, carrots, celery, cukes, eggplant, peppers, taters, yams, and tomatoes.

As suspected, it is also recommended not to be strict with raw foods – especially vegan raw – as I may be limiting rich sources of iron and zinc. I had my anti-vegan stint in late February but got over that as soon as it hit. Early March I had a small bite of raw, wild-caught Pacific salmon prepared by Kevin Sousa at Salt of the Earth (probably best chef in Pgh… so you know it was good) but willingly handed if off to Jeanne as I immediately felt nauseous. I feel I may need to eat some animal protein to rebalance my hormones but this may be easier said than done… Even though Katie and I accidentally ate cabbage that was cooked in bacon fat two weeks ago. Who does this anymore?! Why are people still cooking with lard?!? (Unfortunately it was the best cooked cabbage I’ve probably ever had and I guarantee that bacon fat was why we both had about four servings – prior to us knowing how it was prepared mind you). I laughed, she laughed, we got over it. We’re happy & healthy and that’s what counts.

Back to estrogen…

Before I get nuts and turn into a crazy carnivore (which will never happen, lets face it) I figure I’ll stick to my Maca powder regime and begin to look more seriously into Chinese herbs. I try to consume 1-2 tsp of maca each day as its been linked to regulating hormone levels in both men & women, without actually containing hormones or pseudo-estrogen. Even if this doesn’t help regulate – at least its chock full of nutrients!

Once all my class work is turned in I’m going to look into proper herbs and tinctures. Excited!
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Haven’t been doing much in the kitchen lately – lack of interest and time. My laziness has turned me back onto Mexican food (I think I’m up to three times in two weeks?) – but it seems to be the best way to enjoy spring temperatures, friends, and works wonders for stress. Chips & salsa, margaritas, and good company are always a winner in my book – healthy or not.

Anyways, the one thing I have made recently was for a potluck – Cinnamon Peanut Butter Chickpeas. A healthy, tasty, cheap and easy snack to make:

1 cup garbanzo beans
1 HEAPING tablespoon of peanut butter (can replace with any nut butter of choice)
1 tsp cinnamon
sprinkle of raw sugar *optional

Preheat oven to 375-400 degrees F. Toss drained beans on a baking sheet and sprinkle with cinnamon. Shake pan to coat all beans. Roast beans 15-25 minutes. Remove when beans are crunchy but not yet burnt! Keep a close eye on them…

Scoop peanut butter in a bowl and add hot beans. Keep stirring to make sure all chickpeas are coated with peanut butter, add more cinnamon & sugar if desired. Place in freezer or refrigerator to turn them into a cold, extra crunchy treat!

I’ll end with this picture as I completely agree. Now, go get outside your comfort zone and see what you discover!

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Warm Weather Inspiration

Warmer temperatures these past few days have helped me see some light at the end of the tunnel (although it still seems eons away). Sunday morning after nearly three hours of hot yoga – hellllo sweat – I walked outside to a 70 degree, very sunny day! Amazing. Showered, made some green juice, ate half a pineapple (totally normal…), and joined my friend Jeanne & Edison (pictured below) for an afternoon walk to the park. Spent a lovely hour or so soaking up the warm rays and getting a fair amount of pet therapy in the process… SO many cute puppies.

Edison

Onyx

Was too distracted with his cuteness to remember his name

Monday morning I woke up pre-sunrise to finish Pineapple Culture, a book I’ve been reading for my Food, Culture, & History class this week. With my tea I had fresh orange and pineapple juice (coincidence???). In the juicer went 5 small valencia oranges and about 1/4 of the remaining pineapple from Sunday. Simple, sweet, and a wonderful way to start my Monday. Unfortunately, I will now always associate pineapple with American imperialism in Hawaii… I double checked-my pineapple came from Costa Rica. Certainly no better. Can’t win.

Late Monday night I decided to make cashew butter and a face scrub. I’m not sure what made me decide to do this but come 10:30 I figured it was time to start a project in the kitchen. So unfortunately for my neighbor I ran my food processor, loudly, for a good 15 minutes.

It’s too bad my apartment has horrific lighting and pictures don’t do justice for anything made here. So I can’t share what these two look like. You’ll just have to trust my judgment and make them yourself because they are worth it.

Cashew Butter

Simple. Grab a bunch of raw cashews and throw them in the food processor. Turn it on and let it process. Every few minutes scrape the sides and mix up what is in there to make sure nothing gets glued to the sides. After about 10-15 minutes you’ll have a smooth & creamy butter. No need to add additional oils- there are plenty naturally in the cashews. Enjoy! Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Oatmeal Lavender Face Scrub

Exfoliating your face with this brings out a rich lavender smell… can’t beat it. And an excellent, chem-free way to refresh your skin after winter.

In a food processor combine:
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup dry lavender flowers, stripped off stalks (available at health food stores & Whole Foods herb bulk sections)

Pulse these a few times just enough to break up the oatmeal a bit. Transfer to a bowl and add ~1/4 cup of milk. Stir to combine. Massage into damp skin and rinse. Will store in a sealed container up to six months.

Last night I also made kale & lentil soup for a friend. While I didn’t taste it – I can guarantee, based off the smell of my apartment after it was cooking all night in the crockpot, it is bound to be tasty…. Marisa will have to confirm :)

Kale & Lentil Soup

1 tbsp olive oil
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 1/4 cup of green or brown lentils, picked & rinsed
6 cups of broth or water
4 kale leaves (Dino/lacinato works best)
1 tbsp tamari (optional)
salt & pepper to taste

1. Combine oil, onion, garlic, carrot and celery in crock-pot on low.
2. Rinse lentils, add to pot along with broth or water. Add tamari if desired.
3. Cook on low for 8 hours.
4. Cut kale into bite size strips and either a) steam in a double boiler for 5 minutes or b) add directly to crock at least 15 minutes prior to serving to soften.
5. Season with salt & pepper if desired.

Research Projects in Food Studies are the BEST….

Because I get to drink beer for research!! Okay, technically I didn’t have to drink the beer as it that is not the focus of my research. However, as part of my final project for my Food Systems class, I am doing a Commodity Chain Analysis comparing the sustainability of Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland, OH & East End Brewing Company in Pittsburgh, PA. Last Saturday a group of us drove out to Cleveland to take the tour of Great Lakes, sample brews, visit the farmers market, and I hooked up an exclusive tour of the Ohio City Garden-where up to half of the brewpup’s produce is sourced in the summer! As we were finishing up dinner one of the chefs came and chatted with us about the garden and how important sourcing local foods is to their restaurant. I love how when I asked the lady in the gift shop where to find the man taking me on the tour of the garden, he appeared from the kitchen. How fitting the “local foods liaison” (his official title) is also one of the chefs! This is the connection all restaurants need. The beet salad I had for dinner was delightful for a reason-the beets I learned were harvested the day before. You wouldn’t expect such fresh, local and organically grown food in a brewpub in the middle of Cleveland.

Anyways, back to the beer. If you are from the Midwest or East and haven’t ever tried the Christmas Ale… you MUST go out and buy some now! This beer is a consistent gold medal winner and only available seasonally (as if the name didn’t give that away). It sells out exceptionally quick! For good reason… it’s amazing. Spiced with cinnamon, ginger, and LOCAL honey, it’s a tongue and belly pleaser! Even if you are gluten free- the consequences may just be worth it. Chelsea and I were in love. Warning: sip slowly… it’s 7.5% ABV. We each had one and half and ended up giggling the whole way through the tour… not that laughing is a bad thing :)

Alyssa. Lauren. Chelsea. Eric.

After dinner we toured the garden… which was beautiful despite it overlooking the skyline of Cleveland (sorry Cleveland folks). It is on 6 acres and is farmed by local refugees employed through Cleveland’s Refugee Response. Refugees not only are able to make a living but are growing healthy food for the community and themselves. That’s a win-win!

i.was.freezing.

I learned much more on their sustainability practices yet will save this info to share until after I complete my research!

>My future home

>A couple weeks ago my Dad and I took a quick trip to Pittsburgh, PA-home to Chatham University-aka grad school. At the end of August I begin their MAFS program (Master of Arts in Food Studies). While I find there is something nostalgic about your typical classroom setting, this program steps outside these boundaries and encorporates their 388 acre Eden Hall Campus as our “classroom”. What better way to learn the methods of sustainable agriculture and gardening than hands-on out in a garden!? The program director calls the students that received their bachelors in nutrition “refugees”… I love this! So I will be learning from the best of both worlds…

My Dad & I in front of Eden Hall barn.

Bees!

Aside from Chatham having a gorgeous campus, the city itself pleasantly surprised me. The neighborhoods are full of independent boutiques, coffee shops, and cafes… loved that a Starbucks was NOT at every corner. I made it a point to visit both campuses and the East End Food Coop. I feel I will be spending lots of time (and money) at East End… with a great bulk section, vegetarian cafe, and juice bar… I’m hooked. I can’t wait to be a member!

In June my Mom and I will trek there for about a week to find an apartment, sign a lease, and hit up all the thrift stores along the way. How exciting! I can’t wait to show her everything and have her meet the program director as well as see PIttsburgh in the summer :)