Friday, July 25, 2014

Coming Home

I've got good news...we finally got our permanent visas! We had to fly to Buenos Aires to collect them from the Brasilian consulate because you can't withdraw visas from within country. It's been a rather stressful process for Hub and I, but now we can finally relax and I can resume my job hunting in Rio. 

We are having a wonderful time in Buenos Aires and I can't wait to share with you all the cool new places we've checked out since our last trip. I love this city, but I feel ready to come home. It's a strange new feeling because Rio is starting to feel like home to us now and we have so much to look forward to upon our return like a new home, a long trip and a wedding.

Exciting times.

P.S. Apologies for not writing as much, but Hub and I have been sharing a laptop for a few weeks now while the other is getting repaired. It's a logistical nightmare for a writer, but hopefully soon MAC balance will be restored in the Jordan-Hewitt household. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Is Agave Nectar Good for Diabetics?

A friend of mine just moved back to the US and she gifted me all kinds of goodies from her pantry including a large bottle of agave nectar. I was pretty excited to have this low glycemic sweetener and then I remembered reading an article about how agave nectar is touted as this great natural sugar sub for diabetics, but it's actually a highly refined sugar and not so healthy. So I decided to read up about it again and share what I found.

Is agave nectar highly processed?

Yes it is. According to this website, juice is pressed from the core of the agave plant and is then filtered to create a syrup. This syrup is run through a fine filtration to remove any solids and is then heated which breaks down the carbohydrates into sugars. The result is a filtered juice that is then concentrated to a syrup-like liquid, which is the amber honey-like substance we see in stores. 
Sounds complicated right? The process of creating agave nectar is far more complex than say the process of making coconut sugar. Coconut sugar is made from the sap of the coconut palm tree. The sap is boiled until the water has evaporated and you are left with coconut sugar. The most healthful foods are the ones that are minimally processed and the closer you eat a food in it's natural state the better. As you process foods it loses its nutrients and essentially damages it, which is why the filtration, the heating and the concentrating of agave nectar is not great.
What kind of sugar is agave nectar?
On the molecular level there are three kinds of sugar: fructose, glucose and sucrose (combo of fructose + glucose). This is important to understand because our body processes each kind of sugar differently and this has an affect on our health. Agave nectar is anywhere between 55-90% fructose and the balance glucose. Fructose is the kind of sugar found in fruits and vegetables and it's agave's high fructose content that gives it a low glycemic load. The glycemic index ranges from 0-100 and agave's glycemic index is 30 compared to white sugar, which is 65. This is agave's main selling point that it's low GI and therefore it's good for diabetics and those wanting a healthy alternative to sugar.
So what does this mean and why should I care?
Glucose can be digested and absorbed into any cell in the body, but fructose can only be digested by the liver. Fructose in fruits and veggies is good because you also have fiber, vitamins and minerals in the mix. However concentrated fructose on its own (like agave) can be damaging to the liver and too much can contribute to increase abdominal fat (pot belly & muffin top), increased fat in your liver (fatty liver disease), fat in the blood stream (leads to heart disease), insulin resistance (prediabetes) and all kinds of crazy stuff that's too complicated to go into but really interesting

Agave nectar is really high in fructose, as much as 90% and as a reference high-fructose corn syrup (HCFS) is only 45-55% fructose. Remember the war against HCFS? The stuff is dangerous because of the amount of fructose, the damage it has on our insides, the fact that it's highly refined and it's in everything. Do you see the connection between HCFS and agave nectar? 
What do I think?
It ain't good. Agave nectar may technically be low GI, but it's not a healthful food nor a healthy sweetener. And I don't mean to be dramatic, a little agave every now and again is not going to kill you. But would you really want to put that stuff in your gob now, knowing what you know?   
Healthful reads for this post:
The truth about agave

Have you heard about the book Fat Chance? The author Dr. Robert Lustig is an expert on how sugar is linked to obesity and diabetes in children. Watch his presentation on the Sugar: The Bitter Truth.

I told you how agave nectar is made, here's how HFCS is made.

Agave syrup is basically high-fructose corn syrup masquerading as a health food.

Agave nectar, the danger food.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Veggie Noodle Stir Fry with Peanut Sauce

Lately I've been craving noodle stir fries like pad thai and yakisoba. So the other night I thought I'd whip something up with lots of veggies and lots of peanut butter. I loved this dish because it was easy to put together and it was sooo good, I made it again the following night. Serves 4 or 2 very hungry Gringoes.

250 grams of rice noodles
1/2 large carrot, peeled into strips
1/2 large red or yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 1/2 cups of broccoli florets and leaves
1/2 large onion, cut into thin half moons
2 large garlic gloves, minced
1 red chili, minced
1 inch of fresh ginger, minced
fresh cilantro to garnish

Peanut Sauce
2 tbs unsalted natural peanut butter
4 tbs dark soy sauce
squeeze of half lime
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tbs toasted sesame oil
1 tbs nut or vegetable oil (not olive oil though)
1 large garlic glove, minced

Prepare your veggies first and get a big pot of water boiling for the noodles. Once the water starts boiling, add in your noodles. I found this lovely broccoli at the supermarket and it has lots of leaves. I loved them and enjoyed them in this recipe, however simple broccoli florets works well too. 

Start warming up a large wok (or something similar) with a few tablespoons of water. Since the peanut sauce has a generous amount of healthy fats from peanuts and vegetable oils, I didn't want to add anymore to the stir frying process. Once the water starts boiling, add in your onions, garlic and chilies and cook until soft. 

Then add in your broccoli and cook for about 5 minutes, then add the bell peppers and carrots. Vegetables lose their vitamins and minerals the longer you cook them, so you don't want to overcook them to the point of complete softness. I cooked them for about 5-10 minutes max. They should retain their color, vitality and crunch!

Meanwhile check your noodles and see if they are close to being done. Different types of noodles have different cooking times, so keep a close eye on them. Once they are overcooked, it's all over. When they are about 5 minutes from being done, start on the peanut sauce. Put all the ingredients together in a little sauce pan and start heating it up over a low heat. 

Continuously whisk until you get a creamy, sticky sauce like so. Taste it! It should be sweet, very very salty and yummy. Notice I didn't add salt to the stir fry? That's because regular dark soy sauce is very salty and I felt it had the right amount of salt for my noodles and veggies. If you like things salty, season with salt throughout the stir fry. If you are watching your sodium intake, use reduced sodium soy sauce.

Add your noodles to the veggies and then the sauce. Mix and voila!

Hub and I enjoyed this so much, we ate the whole thing. Both times. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Rio2014: World Cup in Photos Part 2

It's been a very busy and exciting week, so sorry I've been MIA. We've been rubbing elbows with football legends, exploring a new city, meeting HRH Prince Harry, catching some live games and showing my folks around.

It's pretty bananas how famous footballers are just wandering around in Rio and how easy it is to cross their paths. Such was Hub's luck a couple of weeks ago when he met Patrick Vieira and Fabio Cannavaro at the Caesar Park Hotel. They loved the idea behind the Street Child World Cup and wanted to help. So Hub organized a friendly game between these guys and the kids from SCWC's partner Favela Street. It was fantastic because Patrick Vieira and Fabio Cannavaro sat down with the kids and listened to what they had to say. Then they played a hilarious match in the sand, teasing the kids, tripping them up and having a good laugh.

still got it

We tried our best to show my mom and step-dad around Rio while also catching every single World Cup match. We took them to favela Vidigal and on our way down we discovered a quirky lounge called Bar & Brexo Quebra Galho. The owner Helena was a character and she basically converted her home into this vintage shop and lounge. I loved that she put it together herself and that it was different to any other bar I've seen in Rio. 

We also took my folks to a famous buteco bar in Santa Teresa called Bar do Mineiro to watch Algeria vs Bosnia Herzegovina. The food was tasty and the people very drunk. 

eye candy

Last Monday we flew to Belo Horizonte to meet Prince Harry and watch England's final game against Costa Rica. I loved Belo. It felt bigger, modern and more cosmopolitan than Rio.

HRH was doing a "This is Great Britain" press junket and we were invited by the British Consulate. I was pretty excited and Prince Harry cracked a few jokes with Hub and those around us. We were told not to take photos and so I didn't, but everyone in the room was. So once HRH left us, I took a few shots.

We then dashed off to catch our game.

At times I'm baffled by what fans wear sometimes. It was so hot...I mean why?

After the game finished England came over to where the majority of their fans were sitting, thanked them and then bowed out. The fans were chanting with enthusiasm, but it was sad.

I flew back to Rio the following day and went to France vs. Ecuador at the MaracanĂ£ with my friend Julie. The energy on our way to the stadium was amazing, such a contrast to England vs. Costa Rica which essentially was an insignificant game.

lots of French fans
again, why?
Le Bleu!
Ecuadorians singing their anthem out ;)

It was awesome even if there were no goals. The end.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Rio2014: World Cup in Photos

It's been one week since the World Cup kicked off and it's been fantastic! The atmos is up-lifting and the energy from the international mix of tourists is infectious. I love it. My parents are here and we've been making the rounds between the Fan Fest and my go-to buteco bars and restaurants for the matches. Wanted to share with you our first week in pics. 

For the opening ceremony we went to a massive screen set-up outside the Fan Fest and we set-up a picnic on Copacabana beach.

face painting...always a crowd pleaser

Unfortunately we missed the opening ceremony and the crowd thought the screen was broken. Eventually we found out that the screen was not allowed to show it, something to do with advertisers. So when the screens finally turned on for the first match, we all went crazy. Phew!

That night we had the most amazing moon.

Hub told me to try and capture the magic on video of a Brazil goal. Boom! 


Celebrating Brazil's win with fire crackers, as you do.

And inside the FIFA Fan Fest on Copacabana beach...

Argentinos...they're everywhere.

Met this cute English guy at the Fan Fest. I saw sparks.

And there you have it folks. It's been great and wish you were here.
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