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Pumpkin, Sweet Potato, and Ginger Soup

January 9, 2011

Every year since we moved to England (2005), we have had a garden. I know its strange to be mentioning this as it is the middle of winter and, here in Minnesota, the temperature is something like -100 f without the windchill (for those of you who may not know what windchill is, it is the way the temperature feels as you lose circulation in your face). Or maybe it just feels like this. But I bring this up for good reason. As the garden catalogs start to roll in touting new varieties of seeds and claiming that their heirloom tomatoes are the best, or how I can get super fast results from my peas, I become giddy with zeal because this is the most exciting time of the year for me.

The excitement comes from the anticipation of starting to grow. It builds for the next 5 months and then, before we know it, it has passed. I don’t say this to be a bummer, I say it because every year I try so hard to make the season memorable. How do I do this? I plant everything that I can pronounce. Sure that typically leaves me with tons of kholrabi, rows or kale, mounds of zucchini, and what seems like acres of cucumbers, but it is a joy to watch grow.

And every year, right about this time, I sit down and talk endlessly to my wife about how this year will be different; how this year we will only plant what we actually like AND can eat. Each year I truly believe that I will, in fact, follow through with my plan. And each year I somehow manage to forget I ever had this conversation and plant all that I can put my hands on. In spite of this, however, there are a few things I grow that I don’t ever seem to get enough of. One of those things is Pumpkin.

I love pumpkin and so does my family. It is one of my favorite foods. I have yet to eat it in a way that I didn’t like. Whipped, baked, steamed, or baked with butter and brown sugar, they are all to die for. They are sweet, creamy, and laden with vitamins and minerals – the kind that fight free radicals. But the best part of the pumpkin is watching the kids’ eye’s light up as they keep checking how big the pumpkins are growing. Big or small, they are wonderful and easy to grow.

Now it’s time to get back to the catalogs and dreaming.

Pumpkin, Sweet Potato, and Ginger Soup

This recipe, as adapted from Wholefood, by Jude Blereau is just so luscious, creamy, sweet and spicy, and warm on a frost-bit Minnesota day. It has ginger, to give it spice, that mixes perfectly with the pumpkin and sweet potato. Add in some tamari and pepper and you’re set. Try adding some thick-sliced home-made bread for an added comfort.

olive oil, for frying

1 – 2 leeks, well rinsed and finely sliced

2 shallots, sliced

1 1/2 piece ginger, finely chopped

2 – 3 garlic gloves, minced

1 bunch coriander (cilantro), stems only and chopped (keep the leafs for later)

3 pound pumpkin (winter squash (jap, Kent, or butternut)), peeled and roughly chopped

1 medium sweet potato, roughly chopped

5 cups vegetable stock

tamari, to taste

finely ground black pepper, to taste

1. Heat olive oil in large pan (large enough for 5 cups of stock). Add leeks, shallots, ginger, garlic, and coriander stems. Saute gently over low heat for 10 minutes.

2. Add pumpkin, sweet potato, and stock. Cover with a lid and cook over a gentle heat for 30 minutes (until pumpkin and sweet potato are soft and easily pricked with a fork).

3. cook the soup slightly, then transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Add coriander leafs and blend until smooth. Check for taste, adding tamari and pepper if necessary. Return to a clean pan and gently reheat the soup and serve sprinkled with coriander leaves, or drizzled with a little coconut milk.

Real Food: Deconstructing the PB&J

January 6, 2011

The holidays have come and gone and all that’s left are memories and bits of wrapping paper in the corner. If your house is anything like mine, the children are still reeling from all the excitement. For two weeks we were fortunate enough to have had the entire family home together, enjoying long lazy days of cooking and playing. Monday morning, however, was a huge wakeup call for all of us. Now, instead of being able to sleep in to the late, late hour of 6:00 a.m., we are up at 5:00 with one of the blessed cherubs and 5:30 with the other. Once again our mornings are back to juggling breakfast and packing lunches, getting kids dressed, breaking up fights, reminding them to brush their teeth and hair, and getting everyone to their respective school/daycare/workplace on time.

As may be the case for you, I often find myself turning to the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich as a lunch option for my kids. So today, as I was making lunch for the one with the peanut butter fancy, my mind drifted and I thought about all the different peanut butters on the market. Of course before I could give too much thought to it, my attention was quickly brought back to reality when my youngest started to hammer on my leg with his new toy ‘boom boom’ (that’s hammer in toddlerese).

But now that I can return to thinking about this without the threat of losing a leg, I have decided to dedicate this post to the deconstruction of the average PB&J sandwich. Advertising tells us that the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a quick and healthy kid (and adult) favorite. But is it really as healthy as we think? For decades mothers have been told that for a quick, easy, and healthy meal they should smear some peanut butter and jelly on bread and off to school their children can go. And on the face of it, this is indeed a good option. But there is more to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich than meets the eye.

While peanut butter is a good, healthy choice for a food, not all peanut butter is created equal. Take for instance the ingredient list of Skippy Creamy Peanut Butter: peanut butter, sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oils (cottonseed, soybean and rapeseed (which is canola oil)) to prevent separation, salt. Or how about what choosy moms choose, Jif: roasted peanuts and sugar, contains 2% or less of: molasses, fully hydrogenated vegetable oils (rapeseed and soybean), mono and diglycerides, salt.

And now compare that to fresh ground peanut butter at your local food co-op: peanuts. Or my personal favorite, 365 Everyday Value Creamy: peanuts and salt. Either way you look at it, there are fewer ingredients, and that is important because those extra ingredients have been proven to be harmful to both our physical well-being AND our emotional well-being.

Of course, peanut butter is but one of a triad in the PB&J. What about jelly? A comparison of ingredients will show that most jellies and jams are really just a lot of sugar mixed with some fruit. Take Smucker’s for instance. Their ingredient list for grape jelly contains not one, but two added sugars and no actual fruit: concord grape juice, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, fruit pectin, citric acid. In addition to the sugar in the fruit, you are also getting a lot of added corn syrup. In fact 1 tablespoon has almost half of what is thought to be the acceptable daily limit for adult women. Again there other alternatives available; ones with no added sugar. My personal favorite is Bionature Organic Fruit Spread which has no added sugar.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the bread. Most bread sold in supermarkets, regardless of color, is made from white processed flour. And because it’s processed, nutrients have been added back in (actually it’s a federal requirement that this happens) in order to make it more closely resemble the wheat from which it came. The bottom line is that refined carbs, like white processed flour, enter our blood stream in the same way that sugar does and will likely result in a sugar crash not too long after.

So what does that mean for the standard peanut butter and jelly sandwich? It means that if we choose the traditional PB&J we are consuming 21 grams of sugar in one sandwich. The National Heart Association states that adult women should not get more than 25 grams of sugar a day. With 21 grams coming from one “healthy” peanut butter and jelly sandwich, that doesn’t leave much room for the rest of the day!

My final point is this, food choices matter and it’s not always clear what the best choice is. But if you’re going to think about food in relation to both physical and mental health, try to read the ingredient list first. Think about how many different ingredients you want to be putting into your body and how they might affect your health. Ask yourself if there is an alternative that might be less processed. You can still enjoy your peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but by changing the quality of the ingredients in the sandwich you can end up with something that doesn’t compromise your physical and mental health.

I’m going to go now and attend to the bruise that was left after I was boom-boomed.

Star Food: The Amazing Sunflower Seed

January 3, 2011

Sometimes the simplest foods are the most amazing. But before I get to that, let me first talk about a new segment to the blog: Star Foods. This segment will be devoted to foods that go above and beyond in their ability to not only generate good physical health, but also good emotional health. These foods are nutritional powerhouses and able to lift our emotional well-being with nothing more than a quick crunch or slurp. So, without further ado, I present to you the . . . Sunflower Seed.

The sunflower seed, or Helianthus Annuu, which dates back at least 4,000 years, has its roots in Russia. According to the National Sunflower Grower’s Association, the history of the sunflower is one of migration. While it has its roots in Russia, it was the Native Americans who cultivated and domesticated it. So what make the sunflower seed so wonderful? Here is a list of the top 5 things that make the sunflower seed wonderful for both your physical and mental health.

1. It is high in Folate. As it turns out, sunflower seeds are a great source for this essential nutrient. For just a handful, a mere 1 oz., you get 16% of your daily intake of folate. Why is this important? Research has shown that those who suffer from depression and cognitive impairments generally suffer from a folate deficiency. One function that folate does so well is help produce and maintain new cells. According to the National Institute of Medicine, folate is an important part of staving off anemia which can lead to a decrease of oxygen to tissue.  This can have a direct effect on one’s brain functioning and the ability to fight depression.

2. Sunflower seeds are high in thiamine. Thiamine is a required vitamin that is essential for metabolizing glucose in the body. And why is this important? Because glucose is the brain’s energy source. And without energy, the brain doesn’t work as well and we can start to feel despondent and lethargic. One serving gives you a whopping 28% of your daily needs.

3. Sunflower seeds are high in selenium. Why is this important? Maybe you’re saying I’ve actually never heard of selenium. Is it a planet? Selenium is actually a trace mineral that works with protein. This is important because selenium, when combined with protein, is turned into an antioxidant which, as you will see below, helps fight the war on free radicals. One serving of sunflower seeds has a good amount of selenium, 21% of your daily intake. Not bad for such a little seed.

4. Sunflower seeds are a good source of protein. For just a handful, you get 12% of your daily protein in return. Not too bad an investment. Protein is one of the nutrients that help us keep alert and able to concentrate. And when we feel more alert, we feel more able to face challenges and stress in our daily life.

5. When it comes to antioxidants sunflower seeds carry big payoffs. A single serving of sunflower seeds has almost half of your daily value of Vitamin E. Why is this important? Because antioxidants fight free radicals. In all our bodies there exist free radicals. These are molecules with crazy ideas; ideas that eventually can lead to cancer and cognitive impairments, amongst other things. But we know how to stop them. We send in the defenders of health, antioxidants, to fight them off. The reason it’s important to fight off free radicals is that they also affect our brain function, which of course affects our emotions and thoughts. More antioxidants equal better health and mood.

So, there you go. Five reasons to eat sunflower seeds as part of your regular diet. There are many ways to get these into your diet. They are great on salads, thrown onto a casserole, or just eaten plan. Most stores sell them either raw or roasted. The choice is yours. Enjoy!

What’s a Dad to do?

December 30, 2010

Children will be children. And by definition they are picky and finicky. They like what they like and hate everything else. Take this for an example: “Mia (my daughter), would you like to have a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner?” I ask. “No, I don’t like grilled cheese anymore,” she says. “Oh really, but you just had it for lunch yesterday,” I say. “Yeah, I know, Daaad.  But that was then and this is now,” she says.

What’s a dad to do?

I struggle with this constant change of heart. One moment she likes pasta and red sauce, the next she refuses to have sauce if the word pasta is anywhere on the jar (and don’t even get me going on home-made sauce). One moment she likes almonds, the next she won’t eat any nuts unless they’re the kind in shells and are called pistachios; and even then they have to be from the right store, on the right day, in the right package.  I know better; nevertheless, I can’t help but find this struggle completely infuriating, and it sometimes causes me to act in completely illogical ways.

I’ve done all the things parents have done for aeons prior to me. I’ve tried to bribe her into eating her peas by offering the biggest, tastiest, chocolatiest dessert. I’ve offered to buy her a pony if she just tries one spoonful of vegetable (which actually worked until yesterday when she figured out that she wasn’t really going to get a pony out of the deal). I’ve tried to convince her that if she doesn’t eat her food she won’t grow big and strong. I know, according to the experts, that I’m really not supposed to be resorting to threats and bribery, but here’s the thing–I’m fairly convinced she will die of malnutrition if left to her own devices. Okay, that’s probably not true, but my logic is not always sound–especially when it comes to my kids.

Of course I know in truth that these tactics don’t work with kids. In fact, these are things I tell my clients NOT to do. These things never have worked and they never will. I know that most children change their minds about what food they like more often than they change their underwear. I know that what I need to do is be patient and let her guide her own food choices. I know I have a choice. I can either continue to fight this battle and ultimately lose, or I can compromise and create a calmer me and a more enjoyable food experience for her . . . and hopefully avoid feeling like I want to run screaming and yelling that the sky is falling because she has eaten nothing but peanut butter sandwiches for the past week.

So, what do I do? I acknowledge that each kid is different and trying to find some magic answer is impossible. It doesn’t exist. What does work, however, is listening to my daughter; hearing what she wants, having conversations with her about food choices and nutrition, and trying to present tasty, nutritious foods to her that she will enjoy.

And if that doesn’t work I can always offer her a trip to Disneyland.

Spinach Pancakes

We actually have one recipe that she likes even though she is aware that there are vegetables in it. I can’t tell you how many nights we eat these. When we first served these pancakes we told Mia that they were leprechaun pancakes. She asked if we had to kill many leprechauns to make the pancakes green. I assure you, and her, that no leprechauns were hurt in the making of these pancakes. The great thing about these pancakes is that they don’t taste at all like spinach–they’re light, and tasty.

2 eggs

1 1/4 cups unsweetened soy milk (or any milk)

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoons coconut oil

1/2 cup – flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

3/4 tbsp salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 – 3 cups fresh baby spinach

1. Blend eggs, milk, vanilla, and spinach in a blender or food processor until light and airy (about 3 minutes).

2 . Mix dry ingredients together (flour, salt, baking powder,sugar) in a large bowl.

3. Gently fold egg mixture into dry ingredients and stir until completely mixed.

4. Let the batter rest while the griddle is heating (batter will thicken upon standing). Heat coconut oil until hot, but not smoking, and pour 1/4 cupfuls of batter on the griddle.

5. Cook on one side until bubbles begin to form. Then turn the pancakes and cook on the other side until brown.

Serve with your choice of topping such as strawberries, yogurt, or maple syrup.

The Morning After…

December 28, 2010

Well, the winter holidays have finally passed, and with them I have learned yet another lesson about food and the choices I make around food. Well, not really a new lesson, but pretty much the same lesson I learn every year at this time. You see, I have a dirty little secret… I love refined carbohydrates. “What!”, you gasp in disbelief.  “Is this the same man that just three days ago preached to us the great sin of white flour and sugar?” Indeed. But I am only human, and how many people do you know that don’t swoon at the smell of fresh baked cookies, go weak in the knees for a homemade apple pie, or gaze longingly at a chocolate croissants in a bakery window. I am no different. In fact, I may even have it worse than the average Joe, because one of my favorite hobbies in the entire world is baking. And in our family, the holidays are completely built around food. Perhaps that is the case in your family as well.

Last night we hosted a big holiday family dinner at our house. Well, I can’t really say that it was that big–we just had my sister-in law and her husband, and my mother and father-in law over for dinner. But you must understand, this is not typical for us. We have a TINY house and fitting just the four of us and our two dogs into the dinning room can be a challenge, so having guests of any kind is pretty rare. But this year we offered to host our annual “Hanumas” dinner. Coming from a family that is half Jewish and half Christian, we blend the two holidays into one festive celebration that incorporates traditions from both holidays, as well as traditions unique to our family alone. This year we decided to have a Jewish themed meal, and I was more than excited for the opportunity to cook for someone other than my kids, who typically turn their noses up at anything that isn’t smothered with peanut butter.

I planned the menu for weeks. I poured over Jewish cookbooks and spent hours scrolling through my favorite food blogs. Finally I decided on sweet potato pancakes, cheese blintzes with fresh strawberry sauce, roasted brussel sprouts with carmalized  onions and mushrooms, roasted chestnut cookies, and pumpkin pie. My mother-in-law was bringing homemade matzo ball soup and a pecan pie, and my sister-in-law was bringing lox and bastilla almond cigar cookies. It would be a feast of feasts! And it was. I actually ate quite well during diner. I enjoyed a small amount of each dish, focusing primarily on the vegetables and soup. Not bad. But then it was time for dessert. Four large desserts for six adults and two small children. Definite dessert overkill. Even so, I maintained my sanity in the face of all that sugar, and managed to only have a small portion of each dessert. And yes, they were all divine! Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. And just like the mountain of dishes that awaited my wife and I at the end of the evening, so too did a raging case of heartburn, several hours of indigestion, and a pounding headache that started up right about the time I was ready to collapse into bed. I might have been able to sleep through the headache except for the fact that my wife was tossing and turning the entire night (she refuses to admit it, but she absolutely cannot sleep after eating sugar). And, of course, I was greeted this morning by that wonderful morning-after sugar hangover that I have come to know so well.

So, was it all worth it? Perhaps. It was Hanumas after all, and Hanumas comes but once a year. But what about next week when we go out to dinner with our friends? Or on Valentines Day? What about all of the leftover jelly beans and chocolate bunnies that will be sitting in the office break room on the Monday morning after Easter? What about my birthday, my wife and kids’ birthdays, the dog’s birthday? You name it–there are countless special occasions to celebrate and usually a plethora of unhealthy foods with which to do it. We all need to decide for ourselves where we draw the line when it comes to healthy eating, but it is important to remember that we are the sum of our actions and eating this way regularly has very real consequences–both for our physical and mental health. If everyday becomes that “special occasion” that warrants an extra cookie or a side of fries, soon that becomes our regular way of eating, our regular way of living, and consequently, our regular way of feeling. And that is when this way of eating really becomes dangerous–when it becomes regular and when the way it makes you feel starts to feel normal. So I am glad I had my Hanumas dinner, and I am glad it made me feel so terrible. It is not normal for me to eat that way and the reminder of how it makes me feel is a good one. It was that reminder that made it easy for me to choose NOT to eat leftover pumpkin pie for breakfast, but instead have my Morning After Smoothie. What are your favorite morning after remedies?

Morning After Smoothie

1 peeled orange

1 peeled lime

1 banana

Soy milk (or any milk)

Ground flax seed

Put all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. You can also add a couple of ice cubes for a more frozen treat.

Ho Ho Whole Wheat Bread

December 25, 2010

As we wake up, we look under the tree to see what was left through the night. Have you been naughty or nice? What did you leave for Santa? I would love to hear your comments.

During this time of festivity, food is often a centerpiece of the holiday. It is used to bring families together, to share in old traditions and make new ones, and is consumed with wicked abandoned. How many of us can’t help but reach for the butter cookies with icing? I know in my house, especially with my daughter, they are a favorite. Or perhaps those Russian Tea Cakes are your weak spot. Oh, yes! And sure when we reach for those things, none of us are pretending that they are in any way good for us – physically or mentally. But don’t they taste good?

The reality of the situation is that any foods, even the most fat, salt, and sugar laden, are fine to consume in moderation at special times like Christmas, Hanukah, Birthdays, or Tuesdays (just kidding). But what about those other things that we eat? Things like pasta, rice, or bread. How much thought do we give those foods? Pasta is served in almost every restaurant between here and Italy. It’s a staple of every kids menu (mac and cheese, spaghetti with red sauce). Or how about bread? Can you imagine a meal without some sort of bread product? According to my 7 year old, this would be akin to treason.

But here’s the thing, these products have very similar effects on our mental health as those foods that we know are perhaps not the best for us. The reason for this is that the pasta and bread  you eat for dinner, and that iced sugar cookie you want to grab on Christmas morning all contain carbohyrates. These carbohydrates can either be simple or complex, but in the end they are all processed in the body  the same way — they are broken down into sugar.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, “The digestive system handles all carbohydrates in much the same way—it breaks them down (or tries to break them down [as fiber can’t be broken down]) into single sugar molecules, since only these are small enough to cross into the bloodstream. It also converts most digestible carbohydrates into glucose (also known as blood sugar), because cells are designed to use this as a universal energy source.”

However, there is a major difference between simple and complex carbs.

It takes the body longer to process unrefined complex carbs, such as whole wheat, then it does to process refined simple carbs, such as white rice, because with complex carbs the bran and germ are still intact. Because the outer layers of simple carbs have been removed, they are almost all starch. As a result, the refined product is almost immediately broken down once it enters the body and is turned into sugar. The result is that the sugar more quickly passes into the blood stream. To compensate for this spike in blood sugar the body responds by quickly increasing insulin production. Unfortunately your body typically overreacts and there is generally more insulin produced than is needed, which leaves the body with too little sugar. The result is that you feel tired, irritable, and down (not to mention the increased risk for diabetes that that can result from the repeated spikes in insulin).

The big difference with eating whole, complex carbohydrates is that the insulin is produced slower over time and the body will not feel the spikes of insulin that result from eating simplex carbohydrates.

So you may have been wondering what the connection is to mental health, and here it is. As was the case with breakfast and sugar, so is the case with refined carbs and any meal: these foods cause us to feel “up” and energized for a short time, but leave us feeling “down” for the rest of the day. And here’s the thing with this constant up and down: it leaves our bodies and minds unable to find a baseline and therefore unable to cope with the ups and downs of life. In general, consuming refined simple carbohydrates is a very ineffective way to deal with feeling down. Like those who turn to drugs to cope with depression or anxiety, turning to carbohydrates to feel better affects our body and mind in much the same way. The person who seeks carbs often time is seeking a fix; a fix from feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, and exhausted.

So what is a better approach to carbohydrates? Eat whole grain products like whole wheat flour, brown rice, or fruit, so your body doesn’t experience the constant shifts. When looking for a bread, try whole wheat rather then white. And don’t be fooled by the many mainstream breads sold in super markets that call themselves whole wheat. Look at the list of ingredients and make sure that whole wheat or whole wheat flour is the first ingredient listed. Or, better yet, make your own homemade bread, like the one below.

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

This recipe was adapted from St. Martin’s Table in Minneapolis. Like the Granola recipe prior, this is a family favorite that is easy to make, tasty, and good for sandwiches, dipping, or just eating in hunks. In fact, my wife has declared this to be the best bread she has ever eaten! Because the recipe is for two 2-pound loaves, it can be halved if need be.

3 1/3 cups lukewarm water

3/4 cup olive oil

3/4 cup honey

2 tbsp dry yeast

2 tbsp salt

2 cups unbleached white flour

8 – 10 cups whole wheat flour

1. Combine lukewarm (110 degrees) water, honey, olive oil, and yeast. Let stand 4 -5 minutes unitl yeast is dissolved and mixture is frothy.

2. When yeast mixutre is frothy, add salt and white flour. Mix together until flour is incorporated well. Let stand for 2 minutes.

3. Add the additional whole wheat flour by the cupful (the final dough will be slightly sticky).

4. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes), and form into a ball. Place in a large, greased bowl. Cover and leave in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size. Punch down. Form into two loaves, place in greased pans and again leave covered in a warm place until doubled in size.

5. Bake in 350 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a rap on the bottom of the bread (not the pan) gives a hollow sound.

Starting the day right

December 23, 2010

Mornings are hectic in my house. Two children, two dogs, a wife, and myself. Everyone has needs and places to go. Every one is in a hurry, except perhaps my children who are most likely fully unaware of the time and content playing the messiest morning game they can think of. But what ever the case ends up being, the thing that is most likely to get missed is breakfast.

I imagine we’ve all been there. We say to ourselves that I can eat on the way to work, or I will just grab something quick, or I’m not really hungry anyway. And if this happens, you are not alone. The problem with missing breakfast, though, is that it is the most important meal of the day.

I know what you’re thinking. Right now you’re probably thinking if I wanted advice from my mother I would just call her. But here’s the thing — she was right. In a study done at the Centre for Occupational and Health Psychology, School of Psychology, Cardiff University, in October 2010, the researchers found that “those who consumed breakfast cereal were perceived as having better well-being (fewer mental health problems, a more positive mood, higher alertness and fewer bowel problems) than those who did not consume breakfast.”

Okay, that’s great, you say, but I’ll just eat something on the run. So, here’s the other thing about breakfast. The foods that we choose to eat matter as much as actually eating them. Many foods that are convenient (that is prepackaged, highly processed), will make you feel good for the short time they stay in your body, but in fact they will actually lead to you feeling more tired, more depressed, and less focused. In fact, research shows that foods high in simple sugars and refined carbohydrates (you know, white processed flour and sugar) actually lead to negative outcomes.

In a study published in American Journal of Psychiatry, in March 2010, the researchers concluded that “a “traditional” dietary pattern characterized by vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, and whole grains was associated with lower odds for major depression or dysthymia and for anxiety disorders. A “western” diet of processed or fried foods, refined grains, sugary products, and beer was associated with a higher GHQ-12 score.” A GHQ-12 score is a measure, amongst other things, of depression.

So, what can I eat and still get all my chores done, love my family, get to work, and have the energy to clean up after the kids? The goal is to focus on foods that supply whole grains, low levels of sugar, and are void of additives. Foods like eggs, whole-grain cereals, smoothies, or low-sugar granola (recipe below).

Cranberry Granola with walnuts

This granola has become our family favorite. It is low in sugar, high in complete proteins, and a kid favorite. It was originally published in the NY Times, but we adapted it to cut some of the sugar out. We also change the nuts, dried fruit, and seeds that we use to keep it more interesting. Experiment for yourself. It is sure to be a hit.

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 1/2 cups toasted walnuts

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, hulled

1 cup coconut chips

3/4 cup pure maple syrup

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

3/4 cup chopped dried cranberries

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well.

3. Spread mixture on a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden brown and well toasted.

4. Serve with plain yogurt (with live active cultures) and fruit, if desired.

Yield: About 9 cups.

Welcome

December 19, 2010

The sun was rising as it normally does, shinning through my window and with it the sweet sounds of my children yelling for daddy. Okay, so the sweet sounds weren’t heard at first as I was still soundly sleeping thinking about something related to food. With a slight nudge from my wife and then a forceful ‘are you getting up,’ I find my slippers, search for my pants, and make my way down the stairs by the light of my cell phone.

Most mornings start like this. And every time I find my way into the kitchen looking for something, anything, to fill our bellies. The more I thought about it, the more I realized just how important the kitchen is to my life. I spend more time in it then in any other room in my house. Okay, maybe not more then my bedroom, but it seems like it as I get up to settle early risers.

Over the years I have developed an interest, nay, an obsession, with nutrition. But not just with nutrition by itself, but with how it affects our brains, moods, and emotions. The reason this is of such interest to me is that I am also a therapist.

To that end I have decided to meld two of my passions into one blog: nutrition and mental health. In the coming days, weeks, months, and aeons, I will talk about, contemplate, and disseminate how food plays a part in mental health. In so doing, I will also share recipes (both those that worked and those that didn’t), pictures, and stories about my experiences in the kitchen.

So, welcome. Pull up a chair and tell me how are you?

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