Build a Better Breakfast

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The secret is out, right? Breakfast is the greatest meal of the day. And no wonder, it can help to improve concentration & performance in tasks throughout the day, gives you strength & endurance, and can help to lower cholesterol and maintain a healthy weight.

But not all breakfasts are created equal. If you’re grabbing a Starbucks & coffee cake, or putting a Pop-Tart in the toaster and running out the door, you aren’t doing your body any favors.

I have an easy, three-step formula that fulfills my body’s nutritional requirements, is completely customizable, and tastes fantastic. And you can do all the prep work on your weekend, and enjoy breakfast with little to no preparation throughout the rest of your busy week.

The first thing you need is a whole grain. I put together a handy chart on the wonders of whole grains, both those with and without gluten. This is your carbohydrate, your lasting energy. You can cook a huge batch on Sunday, and reheat it for porridge. You can toast up or dehydrate a batch with nuts & seeds (see below), and eat it as granola. Or you can go raw, soak up some grains, and eat it as muesli.

The second addition is various nuts and seeds. These are your proteins and healthy fats. I’d recommend soaking your seeds prior to consumption, but they’re still nutritional powerhouses even if you don’t find the time.

Seeds

The final step in the well-balanced breakfast is adding in some fruit. Some people claim fruit is high in sugar, and should be avoided. This is crazy. If you only eat coffee & a banana, your blood might not be too happy. But fruit in addition to complex carbohydrates, protein, fiber and healthy fats – that’s a wonderful thing. You can get so many vitamins and minerals to keep your body running at its optimal state.

Fruit

Here are just a few of my breakfast combinations…even I’m salivating a little bit remembering some of these…

Millet Porridge with Spiced Strawberry Preserves, Toasted Walnuts & Coconut

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Sprouted Buckwheat, Flax, Sunflower, & Sesame Seed Granola with Blackberry & Apple Jam DSC_0150

Raw Buckwheat & Chia Granola with Mulberries, Wineberries & Black Raspberries DSC_0129

Steel-Cut Oats with Almonds, Sunflower Seeds, Coconut & Wild BlackberriesDSC_0167

The photo at the very top of this post was Cacao Granola with Pumpkin Seed, Hazelnut, Currants & Gooseberries. 

If you’re not into cereal & milk (all almond milk for me), you can also do this in smoothie form, which I’ll admit, I’ve been doing the past few weeks. It’s been summer and the field calls my name earlier and earlier. I like to get a bit of work in and drink my smoothie to power me up.

Vegan Sushi: A Paradox?

Maybe, but who cares? Labels just create confusion, I think. Why can’t I just put together a plate of food, put it in front of someone, and have them eat it. Who needs to know what it’s called, or even what’s in it? There are vegetables in there, eat them! I suppose I could try and come up with new names, but that seems to create confusion as well. So, I’m sticking with sushi. Even though there is no rice, no fish and no seafood in these rolls. Ah well, they tasted delicious anyway.

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I wanted to showcase a delicious vegetable for the CSA this week: kohlrabi. I tried it out for my first time rolled up in 3 different ways in a piece of nori. See my recipe below for some nutrition facts, and different ways to use this crazy looking creation.

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Also, some quick information on sea vegetables. Here, I’m using nori, which is a dried, edible seaweed. Nori is about a third protein and a third dietary fiber, and contains high proportions of iodine, vitamins A, B, and K, and iron. As with anything, there are various levels of quality, so be sure to spend some time & money searching for the best nutritional bang for your buck.

Lastly, many CSA members seemed to think they had no time to prepare such an “extravagant” meal. This roll of sushi took me under 20 minutes to prepare!!! If you want to have rice , it’ll take a little longer, but seriously! It’s just chopping some vegetables and rolling ’em up!! It probably would take just as long to get in your car and drive to Chipotle. So give yourself a treat and make a quick roll, or throw a sushi party and have everyone bring their favorite vegetable!

A Cooling Combination

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There are hints of fall in the air. Crisp breeze, cool nights, and the alluring scent of ripe melons. After the hustle and bustle of a CSA morning, I was ready for a sweet, juicy meal. Some vine-ripened tomatoes, melons and cucumbers were calling to me, and I set out to combine these juicy fruits into a satisfying salad.

I grabbed a Sugar Baby melon, some Lemon cucumbers, a Green Zebra & a Striped German tomato. And here’s what I came up with:

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It may sound like a strange combination, but the flavors play off each other really well. The basil – or some herb – and lemon is definitely important to meld it all together. And texturally, it’s really nice. Crunchy cucumber, crisp melon, fleshy tomato. I’m sure this salad would taste pretty good with some feta cheese or something similar, if you’re into that kind of thing. Or give the salad some smokiness by grilling the watermelon first…! Yum.

This salad also happens to be packed with vitamins and minerals. Watermelon is full of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant phenolic compounds. It’s also rich in vitamin A and C. And the seeds have some iron and zinc, so don’t use ALL of them in a seed spitting competition. Cucumbers contain lignans that improve cardiovascular health, phytonutrients that help scavenge free radicals, and compounds that improve skin complexion. Tomatoes are rich in antioxidants as well, and also help to lower cholesterol. Even basil is a great nutritional addition – it’s a great source of vitamin K, iron, calcium and vitamin A. All of these fruits contain small amounts of protein…just like all vegetables…but if an all vegetable meal is still preposterous, toss in some toasted walnuts or pine nuts.

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Oh! And don’t just throw away your watermelon rind…especially if you’re getting delicious melons from your CSA or farmer’s market. If they aren’t sprayed with pesticides, they are delicious! Seriously! And they make great pickles, though what doesn’t….

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The Magical Fruit

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Beautiful beans abound!!! These pink glories are called Tongue of Fire beans. Originating in South America, they have a rich flavor and creamy texture, and like most legumes, are extremely nutrient dense. High in protein and dietary fiber, they are also an excellent source of iron, potassium, and B vitamins. The magical combination of protein and fiber provides major benefits for digestion, blood sugar regulation and cardiovascular health. In short – eat more beans!!!

To ensure the best bean for your buck, consider a few things when purchasing:
1) Choose organic beans to avoid pesticides and get a more nutrient dense product
2) Choose heirloom varieties when possible to promote genetic diversity, avoid GM foods, and for an exceptional taste

Once you’ve got your bean, it’s time to decide how to create your meal. Beans and rice? Bean soup? Bean salad? Bean dip? Inspired by a meal I’d had at 18 Bay, a local restaurant that occasionally features produce from Sylvester Manor, I went with slow cooked beans and kale with mashed potatoes.

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Before heading out to work, I put about 2 cups of shelled beans (Tongue of Fire beans are usually fresh shelling beans, so I didn’t have to soak them overnight) into a slow cooker with 15 cloves of garlic, and a tablespoon of olive oil. I also soaked 2/3 cup of cashews in 1 1/2 cups water.

Six hours later, my beans were soft, creamy, and the whole kitchen was smelling of roasted garlic. In went a few sprigs of thyme, and a pinch or two of salt.

Meanwhile, I diced up about 10 red potatoes, and popped them into the cast iron pan, covering them about halfway with some vegetable broth. They simmered away for about a half hour until they were tender, but not falling apart.

About 10 minutes before serving my meal, I added the finishing touches to both dishes. I chopped up two huge handful of kale, and threw that in with the beans and garlic. I blended the cashews and water to create a creamy milk, and mashed that in with the potatoes, along with some salt and rosemary. Simple, hearty, delicious. And one of the best nutritional values per penny.

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While I love the creams, browns and dark greens of this meal, it is summer, and it wouldn’t be complete without some of the bright colors of the garden. I cut up some heirloom tomatoes, tore some butter lettuce, and called it a salad.

And that is a farm to table meal.

 

Summer in a Wrapper

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Turns out summer is a pretty busy time on the farm. I can assure you I’ve been eating better – in terms of nutrition, flavor, responsible sourcing, and just conscientiousness – than I can remember. I just haven’t been sharing my recipes with the world! But I’ve got a few on the backlog, and hopefully as the weeds slow down a bit, I’ll post ’em.

Given all the craziness in the field, I’ve been looking for recipes that don’t require much time slaving over a stove. This one does require a bit of chopping, but that never feels like work to me. It also allows you to try out basically all the vegetables you can find in your CSA bag or at a farmer’s market. Roll ’em up in a convenient little package, and dip it into some nutty, gingery goodness.

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You can see from the pictures that I didn’t quite follow my recipe… I added some celery to my rolls. I used toasted sesame seeds instead of peanuts. I used Umeboshi Plum vinegar in my sauce. It’s really about whatever you’ve got around, and what flavors you’re looking to accentuate. You could hate sesame, and make a peanut dipping sauce. Or maybe you aren’t into nuts and seeds (what?!) and want to make a sweet & sour chili sauce. Don’t like rice paper? Use lettuce or cabbage or bok choy leaves! Just be sure to make a lot…they go quick.

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