Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Gettin' Over the Hump

October is breast cancer awareness month and I wanted to share some information about the connection between nutrition and breast cancer. Certain types of foods, that we eat in abundance no less, are increasing our risks for breast cancer and we don't even know it. Based on nutritional studies, we have the power to prevent this scary cancer by choosing what we put on our plate. I have a friend who has battled breast cancer twice in her life and I can't begin to imagine how frightening that must have been for her. So this is for her, for you and for me.

Menarche is the beginning of a girl's reproduction cycle and early puberty means increased risk for breast and ovarian cancers.

Young girls who are overweight and eat a diet rich in animal proteins and processed foods are at risk for early puberty. Excess body fat and high protein foods like cold-cuts, scrambled eggs, milk and cheese elevate growth hormones, which causes girls to develop faster.

Eating high-fat dairy products may raise the risk of death years later for breast cancer survivors.

Eating a diet rich in colorful fruits and veggies prevents cancer and here's how. 

And by the way this is not just a woman's issue, men can get breast cancer too.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Meet George

Hub and I are getting a baby pug and his name is George. We've been wanting a dog for years, but we've never lived in a pet-friendly apartment until now and it's our lovely landlady who is giving us our first dog.

We went to see the litter of pups yesterday afternoon and decided to go with the runt of the litter who is a boy. They were all absolutely adorable and almost identical.

Love how the babies sleep with their tongue peeking out.

George was born last Thursday and is currently the size of an iPhone 4.

Mama Pug

Hub and I decided to use some of the money gifted at our wedding to buy George. So a big thank you to all our friends and family, this is the best wedding gift ever!


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Gettin' over the Hump

I have some good news, my blood sugar levels are down! I took an HbA1c test, which measures sugar levels over the past three months, and I'm now borderline pre-diabetic/normal. Hub and I have adopted a much healthier lifestyle in Rio, but the biggest change I've made personally is eating a low-fat, but high-carb diet. Crazy right? Around May I started eating more fruits, brown rice, pasta, potatoes and beans and less nuts, cheese, yogurt and seafood. It worked and the proof is in the HbA1c pudding. 

I was inspired by Dr. Neal Barnard and Freelee the Banana Girl's abs, but I had to overcome my fear of carbs. My doc told me to watch my carb intake and the Internet says carbs makes you fat! Especially of late, there's all these new studies about how high fatty foods like steak and cheese are good for you and we should cut down on carbs. This is a problem because we're afraid to eat carbs, even the healthy kind! Sometimes I feel so confused, but I've found these links to be helpful in separating the truth from the noise. 

Dr. Neal Barnard highlights flaws in a recent study that claims low-carb is better than low-fat.  

Did you know that the rapid initial weight loss on a low-carbohydrate diet is mostly water, not body fat?

Love Kris Carr's breakdown on sugar and her best, better and worst sugar chart

Freelee talks Type 2 Diabetes

(Picture from our first trip to Sardinia. I was eating low-carb before our trip and don't I look skeptical of my own home cooked pasta?)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Veggie Ceviche Norteño

I love Peruvian food - I love the flavors, the colors, the vegetables. We've discovered a few wonderful restaurants here owned by Peruvians who work hard to create authentic tasting dishes from the motherland. And let me tell you this is a rarity, most international restaurants in Brasil serve food that caters to the Brasilian palette rather than celebrating authenticity. It's kind of depressing. 

Ever since our lovely meal in São Paulo, we've been planning a Peruvian night at home. Our favorite dish is ceviche and we agreed it had to be on the menu; however the only challenge is I'm not eating fish. I know you all think I'm crazy, but I'm feeling really good about it. I had a beautiful purple cauliflower head in my fridge and I thought the color and texture would be a great substitute for fish. I modified a recipe that I found in this great Latin cookbook, which my sister gave to me.

My veggie ceviche Norteño turned out amazing! It had lots of flavor and a lovely balance between tart and spicy, just like traditional Peruvian ceviche. Serves 2 hungry people or 4 as a light appetizer

1 head of purple cauliflower, chopped into florets
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
2 red chilies minced
1 cup of lime juice, about 4 limes
1 small sweet potato
1/2 cup canned sweet yellow corn
*optional, serve with large banana chips or tortillas chips

Leche de Tigre sauce
200ml coconut milk
200ml water
1 1/2 vegetable bouillon cubes
3 whole garlic gloves
4 sprigs of cilantro
1/4 dried ancho chili with seeds or 1 chili pepper of choice
salt to taste

Leche de tigre is a milky marinade that is used in some Peruvian ceviches and it's made from fish bones. I always thought it was made with coconut milk and reminded me a little of Thai coconut soup, so I substituted fish bones with coconut milk and it worked. First prepare a small pot of boiling water and cook your sweet potato until tender. Remove the sweet potato, carefully peel and chop it into small cubes and set aside. Meanwhile in a separate sauce pan, throw in all the leche de tigre ingredients and bring to a boil. Then reduce it to a simmer and let it cook for approximately 15 minutes or until the dried chili has soften. I used a dried ancho chili that I had in my fridge which is mild and sweet, but any chili would work. I think it depends on the flavor and heat you prefer, so play around!

Remove your leche from the heat and transfer into a blender and blitz until smooth. Let it cool down completely then place in the fridge.

Now we want to prepare the cauliflower for the ceviche. Purple cauliflower adds wonderful hues to this dish, but you can easily use white cauliflower. Fill a large pot with about 1/3 of water and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile prepare an ice-water bath. As you can tell from the picture, I actually failed to do this and boiled away some of the beautiful purple color. So don't boil, steam the cauliflower florets in a basket insert set over the simmering water until tender about 7-15 minutes. Keep a close eye on the florets because you don't want them to overcook and turn mushy. Remove and immediately place the cauliflower into the ice-water bath. This stops the cooking process and helps retain its color.

In a large bowl or serving bowl (less dishes) mix the red onions, chilies, cilantro and lime juice. When the cauliflower florets have completely cooled, remove and drain them from the ice-water bath and add them to the mix. Evenly coat the florets in the lime juice and then pop into the fridge for at least 30 minutes. I loved how the colors popped after mixing, the red chilies gave the purple cauliflower a hot pink tint.

When you are ready to serve, pour 3/4 of the leche de tigre sauce over the cauliflower. Decorate the edges with the sweet corn and cubes of sweet potato. Serve with large banana or tortilla chips and voila!

I can't begin to tell you how good this was! I'm so proud of myself because I wasn't sure how this was going to turn out and it turned out superb. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Gettin' over the Hump

Sorry for the delay on this folks, but we went for a very long hike yesterday and came back late.

Currently I'm reading The Omnivore's Dilemma and learning a lot about how most cows are raised and fed on factory farms. When I used to eat red meat, I didn't care where my meat came from or the difference between grass-fed and grain-fed. I can honestly say that I chose to eat in ignorance, as Michael Pollan would say, because it was more convenient. Also I'm a frugal bird and price always seemed more important than quality. More and more I'm learning just how important it is to know exactly what goes into our food. The shit show that goes on in most farms is appalling and although I don't eat meat, my Hub, friends and family do. Here are a few links on what factory farmed meat is really all about.

Factory farms feed cows chicken scrap, leftover chicken gunk that doesn't make into your Tyson breast cutlets. Putting aside the ethical conundrum of feeding a vegetarian animal another animal, this is the origin of mad-cow disease.

Factory farms feed cows antibiotics to promote growth and to control disease, which is partly due to the terrible conditions in which these animals live. The result is antibiotic resistant bacteria - bacteria that spreads quickly, stays in the meat and kills people.

Also the antibiotics that are in the meat we buy damages our gut flora, healthy micro-organisms that are responsible for digestive health.

I know this is a heavy post, but this stuffs crazy right? So if you're interested in knowing how to avoid factory farmed meat, here's a guide by Huffington Post.

P.S. This post isn't about advocating eating meat, but I do respect the fact that people love their burgers and steaks like my darling Hub. Although I will admit I'm slowly coaxing him into vegetarianism. He's not biting at the moment, but he enjoys my vegan dinners.

(Picture above of me wolfing down Carnitas Snack Shack steak sandwich on jalapeno cheese bread in San Diego)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Bemvindo a São Paulo

Last week Hub and I went to São Paulo for his work and we had such a great time. I'd been dying to check out Sampa for a long time. I'd heard it was a sprawling metropolis with modern culture, a great grub scene and cool city parks and I really miss that here in Rio. São Paulo did not disappoint. I loved it. 

We rented a flat on Avenida Paulista near the MASP museum which was fantastic. It was central, there were great restaurants nearby and it was very safe. In Rio I always feel like I have to be on guard, but I felt more relaxed in our neighborhood. 

view from our flat

When Hub wasn't working, we were exploring all the good food that SP had to offer. In Rio we are deprived of restaurant culture; the city lacks variety and the level of service and quality is often disappointing. So on this trip we were on a mission to eat and eat well.

SP has a diverse mix of lanchonetes, simple eateries where you can get quick, yummy food for a cheap price. We were staying near Rua Augusta which has loads and tried massive falafal sandwiches at Maoz Vegetarian, tacos from Taqueria La Sabrosa and coconut curries at Made in Thai. Everything was delicious and I was amazed at how every single place had vegetarian and vegan options. I even found vegan salgadinhos!

We didn't get a chance to check out any of the great museums in SP, but we did take a few strolls through their parks. I loved Parque Ibirapuera, which was massive and felt like Central Park.

And there was also Parque Trianon, which was like walking through a rainforest.

One evening we went to this Peruvian restaurant called El Huaco and the food took me back to Lima.

happy girl

São Paulo has the largest Japanese population outside of Japan so naturally we had to squeeze in some sushi. We went to this fantastic place called Mori Sushi and indulged in a rodizio of vegetarian and seafood sushi. Amaze.

On our final day we had lunch in Liberdade, which is where the majority of the Japanese community is based. Since we already had Japanese we decided to try Chi Fu, a Chinese restaurant that got rave reviews. As we walked around it dawned on me that there are no expatriate enclaves in Rio whatsoever - no Chinatown or Little Tokyo or Little Buenos Aires. It's surprising because Rio is a huge city and how much I miss that.


I loved Chi Fu. The food was very simple and light on flavor, but everything felt authentic from the Chinese staff who spoke little Portuguese and no English to the family style service.

 I heart you Sampa. Until next time!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Gettin' Over the Hump

We're almost there but not quite and yet already there.

Lately I've been exploring veganism, but I find it hard to talk about my new found passion outside of Hub. Becoming vegan never crossed my mind until I came across vegetarian advocates like Dr. Neal Barnard and Dr. Dean Ornish who have shown that a low fat vegan diet can reverse and prevent diabetes. It really struck a cord with me and the nutritional science made sense.

But I love seafood. I feel conflicted about the whole thing. Is it hypocritical to not feel comfortable with eating mammals, but be totally down with lobster? If I did go vegan, what would my family and friends think? What if I tried it out like the Blonde Vegan and then changed my mind?

Here are some hump links on the subject that got me all fired up and confused. Hopefully they'll confuse you too and you can forget about work.

The rise of the non-veggie vegetarian

Do lobsters and other seafood feel pain?

An interesting post explaining why some "vegetarians" are okay with eating fish

If I do want to eat fish, which is better wild fish or farmed fish?

(Pictured above are Blue Crab & Rock Shrimp Fritters from Coastal Flats in Fairfax, VA)
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