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For the Love of Food

by | Mar 20, 2015
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week white wine has more sulfites than red, fonts affect your healthy behavior, and Kraft buys the blessings of dietitians.

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app I just discovered to read at 300+ wpm. So neat!

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (Yes, I took that picture of the pepper heart myself.)

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How To Make Your Own Muesli – It’s Stupid Easy

by | Sep 26, 2012

I’ve explained before that muesli is my favorite alternative to traditional breakfast cereal. It’s minimally processed, has no added sugar and when made properly is quite tasty. The only problem is that these are features that food companies hate, because most people won’t buy it. This makes it difficult to find muesli, particularly a high-quality version at a reasonable price.

Luckily it’s stupid easy to make your own muesli. Doing it yourself is also a lot cheaper and lets you customize your mix to your preferences. All you need is some rolled grains (oats or a mixed cereal like I use here) and an assortment of nuts and dried fruits of your choosing—you don’t need a real recipe.

In the mix above I chose a 5 grain cereal that I found at my local market. I picked up a simple nut mix of roasted and lightly salted nuts, some extra hazelnuts (because I love them), some golden raisins and some dried currants. It turned out AWESOME, way better than the expensive stuff I normally buy.

I used to always eat my muesli mixed with a little plain yogurt, but these days I’ve preferred to just pour a little in a bowl, add some water and microwave it for 2 minutes. It comes out like the tastiest oatmeal you’ve ever had. I sprinkle a little cinnamon on top, and maybe add a splash of almond milk and it is amazing. If you’re still acclimating to the lack of sugar in muesli, you can try stirring in a spoonful of peanut butter, low sugar jam or a drizzle of honey.

Lastly, I love these POP containers by OXO. They come in a bunch of different sizes and shapes, and do a great job of keeping foods fresh. I use them to store all my beans, lentils, grains, dried chilies and other pantry items.

Thanks to Kevin Rose and Glenn McElhose for help with filming and editing.

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8 Reason Breakfast Makes Your Life Better

by | Jul 20, 2011

Yogurt, muesli and blueberries

I should admit right now that I’m a born again breakfast eater. In the past I always told myself that skipping breakfast meant one less meal adding calories to my day, and I was proud to have eliminated this annoyance from my life.

For the last several years, however, I have grown to love breakfast and am something of an evangelist. Breakfast may seem like an odd thing to try to covert people to, but once you see my reasons you may become a believer yourself.

8 Reasons Breakfast Makes Your Life Better

  • It’s easy. Breakfast doesn’t take much time or energy to prepare; I’m half asleep when I pour my cereal, rinse my fruit and boil my coffee every day. It also requires minimal planning. Just buy everything you need every week or two and you are good to go. What’s your excuse?
  • Health wins. We all must deal with the internal struggle between eating healthy and eating not-so-healthy. Throughout the day breakfast is by far the easiest battle in which health can triumph, since there is no outside social pressure and unhealthy options are harder to attain. I recommend taking winning odds whenever they are presented.
  • Hunger check. If you eat a satisfying breakfast before heading into work you are less likely to be tempted by the junk food that haunts most office environments. Likewise, you will have better self-control when it comes time to decide what to eat for lunch.
  • Whole grains. For my own healthstyle, intact whole grains are the most difficult to get in my diet. Unsweetened oats, plain brown rice and quinoa aren’t exactly staples on American restaurant menus. But without grains I feel constantly hungry and my workouts suffer. If I eat them at breakfast I am guaranteed at least that one serving during the day. (For tips to get more whole grains at dinner, check out my easy frozen brown rice balls).
  • Higher metabolism. Eating healthy food has a positive effect on your metabolism. Not only does what you eat for breakfast affect how your body reacts to different foods for the rest of the day, it also influences your metabolic rate in the long term. Be careful though, highly processed and easily digested foods have a negative effect.
  • Healthy habits. Healthy behavior begets more healthy behavior. According to some studies, this is especially true of breakfast eaters. Waking up and eating a healthy breakfast encourages you to pack a healthy lunch and plan your day around wholesome food. It feels really good to do healthy things, but we easily forget this when presented with free donuts on an empty stomach during a mid-morning meeting. Build your healthy habits when it is easy and help them stick around for the long haul.
  • Self-esteem. I think it is important to reiterate how good it feels to do healthy things for your body, and as a bonus it extends to how we feel about ourselves. Most of us feel proud and confident when we know we are doing the right thing. Why not start out each morning on the right foot?
  • Deliciousness. Of all the reasons I just listed, this one probably has the biggest sway with me personally. My breakfasts are absolutely delicious and I adore waking up and eating such yummy food. It is worth going out of your way to find healthy foods you enjoy eating, that way good food has as much pull on you as the less healthy junk. This will make your food decision making a whole lot easier.

Once you have convinced yourself that eating breakfast is important and worthwhile, it helps to know what constitutes a healthy one. I have written about breakfast before, focusing on the difference between fake “whole grains” as sold to us by processed food manufacturers and real intact whole grains.

Recently I have switched to a new favorite breakfast: plain yogurt, muesli and fruit.

I love this new combo for a few reasons

  1. I tried yogurt because I was having digestive issues for a few weeks and was hoping the probiotics in the yogurt (I eat even more probiotic foods now) might help. It totally did, and I’m sold on this method for improved digestion (despite my mild lactose intolerance).
  2. Coarse and chewy muesli is perfect on yogurt and I was able to completely cut out the fake whole grain flakes that bothered me about my old breakfast. Woohoo!
  3. The added protein and fat from the lowfat plain yogurt helps me feel satisfied longer in the day and adds a creamy luxury to my morning.

Be sure that when you are choosing your healthy breakfast you find foods with no added sugar. For example, fruit and vanilla yogurts are notorious for having obscene amounts of sugar (especially vanilla) putting it more on par with ice cream than health food. Likewise, most store bought granolas are loaded with sugar, molasses, honey, agave, concentrated fruit juice and other sweeteners. This is why I prefer muesli–completely unsweetened grains with bits of dried fruits, nuts and seeds.

When choosing plain yogurt I recommend lowfat instead of nonfat yogurt, because it is much more palatable and satisfying. Nonfat plain yogurt tends to be too tangy for me. Also, you need the fat to help with nutrient absorption and satiation.

My breakfast

  • 1 c. Plain lowfat yogurt
  • 1/4 c. Dorset muesli
  • 1/4 c. fresh fruit

What is your favorite healthy breakfast?

Originally published August 17, 2009

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Farmers Market Update: Best Cherries Ever

by | May 29, 2011
Mountain of Cherries

Mountain of Cherries

I’ve been doing this farmers market thing for awhile now, and I have to say that cherries are without a doubt some of the most difficult fruit to photograph. They’re so bright red that it washes out nearly every detail on the fruit, and drowns every other color in the frame.

Consequently I rarely feature my cherry images, and today would have been no different if I didn’t think leaving them out would be a crime. Because anyone who went to the San Francisco farmers market this weekend knows that the cherries were the star of the show.

Tasty Strawberries

Tasty Strawberries

And that’s no small feat this time of year. Today I tasted a strawberry so good I thought it had been injected with sugar, because it reminded me more of the sweetened agua fresca drinks from the taquerias in the Mission district than it did any natural fruit.

But still the cherries were better. Not only that, they’re better than they were last year and possibly the year before that. Honestly it was difficult to not buy some from every farm I stopped at, and I do regret not coming home with more. Don’t miss the cherries this year folks.

Brooks Cherries

Brooks Cherries

Of course there were other notable spring treats as well. Rhubarb is here, and before the season ends I’m determined to try to figure out how to use it. Most of the recipes I’ve seen for it are sweet, which I’m not so excited about. If you know of any good savory recipe, please let me know.

Rhubarb

Rhubarb

Generally all the spring vegetables are still amazing. I’m especially loving the sweet spring onions, though I’m normally not a huge onion person. This year I’m adding green onions to everything from eggs to salad. The leeks are excellent too.

Spring Vegetables

Spring Vegetables

Oddly even summer produce is starting to appear. I was stunned today to see watermelon and peppers this early in the season. The vendor told me it was from their farm in Southern California, which makes a bit more sense.

First Watermelon

First Watermelons

But as much as I love summer, I’m not ready to skip ahead just yet. I still haven’t tried any of these beautiful blueberries on my morning muesli.

Blueberries

Blueberries

Nor have I found anything to do with green almonds yet this season.

Green Almonds

Green Almonds

And the last of the citrus fruits shouldn’t be ignored either. This late in the season tangelos, navel oranges and kumquats are the best. Though we had some spectacular blood orange juice this weekend as well.

Kumquats

Kumquats

It’s truly an amazing time of year for the farmers market. Don’t miss it.

Big Tomatoes

Big Tomatoes

Today’s purchases:

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Weekday Breakfast: Cereal and Fruit

by | Nov 10, 2008
Healthy Breakfast

Healthy Breakfast

Monday mornings are rough, but skipping breakfast is not an option. Current wisdom recommends you drink a glass of water and eat breakfast within an hour of waking. The quickest, healthiest thing you can have in the morning is a bowl of cold whole grain cereal with fruit.

But buyer beware. Almost all breakfasts cereals these days claim to be “whole grain.” Yet as you can probably deduce on your own, Cocoa Puffs is not a nutritious breakfast. All that sugar negates any benefit of their “whole grain” health claims.

The Truth About Whole Grain Products

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has defined the requirements that must be met for a manufacturer to use the term “whole grain” on its label (along with the respective health claims):

“Cereal grains that consist of the intact, ground, cracked or flaked caryopsis, whose principal anatomical components – the starchy endosperm, germ and bran – are present in the same relative proportions as they exist in the intact caryopsis – should be considered a whole grain food.” (emphasis added by me)

Understand? To be considered “whole,” grains do not actually have to be intact. Armed with this, manufacturers set to work demolishing grains as normal, then adding back the required ratios of grain parts (germ and bran) to meet the standard. Presto! Magic health in Lucky Charms.

Would you then be surprised if I told you that intact grains are much, much better for you than demolished and reassembled grains?

If you really want the benefits associated with eating whole grains you should be able to see an intact grain in what you are eating; something like an oat, for example. If not, there has definitely been some processing involved, which reduces the whole grain benefits. That being said, processed whole grains are better than purely refined grains (without germ and bran). White sandwich bread is indistinguishable from sugar in my view.

So this is the problem with breakfast, and it is difficult to avoid in cold cereals. Real whole grains are tough and bland, so some demolition and sweetening are almost always necessary for most people to eat them regularly.

Oatmeal is a fantastic choice. Steel cut oats are even better, but they take 45 minutes to cook. When you just want to pour, eat and run you will need a quicker alternative.

My Solution

I first turned to granola. Those grains sure do look intact, right? But take a closer look and you will find granola often contains ungodly amounts of sugar. Though I enjoy granola and occasionally eat it during outdoor activities, I cannot bring myself to eat it every day for breakfast. It is just too sweet and dessert-like for me. You can make your own granola and add less sugar if you have the time. But still.

The good news is there are some products that are whole grain, palatable and not packed with sugar. But making a good breakfast out of them requires a touch of creativity. I have found one company that makes a kind of granola without sugar. Muesli is actually the appropriate term for this kind of cereal. It is regrettably difficult to find, but is available at Whole Foods in a variety of flavors. The company that makes it is called Dorset Cereals out of the UK. It is not cheap, but I only use about 1/4 cup per serving, so a box lasts me several weeks.

Another cereal product I like is the Ezekiel 4:9 brand made by Food for Life. Though these cereals are not exactly intact grains, they are made from many different kinds of sprouted whole grains and are free of flour and other bad stuff. To give you an idea of what they are like, think of Grape Nuts with more flavor.

I wish I could say that these products solved all my problems, but there is also the issue of taste and texture. Both these cereals are very dense, and eating them without any additional sweetness is a little brutal. For this reason I do not eat them alone, but instead mix them with my favorite flake cereal, Nature’s Path Flax Plus.

I also always add fruit. These days I am using pomegranate seeds (see pic), but almost anything will do. I even keep a bag of frozen organic wild blueberries for emergencies. Fruit is sweet, but also very good for you. Hooray, problem solved!!

What is your healthy breakfast?

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