Tuesday, March 26, 2013

How Caffeine Works

Straight up. Caffeine is fabulous.
I used to say to myself it was only meant for early mornings and late nights. Now it's an undeniable joy whenever it's offered for free at work (which is all the time btw...further perpetuating the problem).
      Regardless of your feelings about caffeine. It's good to know what it's actually doing inside of your body.

This is adenosine, a neurotransmitter. 
This little guy likes to bind to receptors in your body and slows down nerve impulses-making you feel drowsy.

What can you do to perk yourself up? Add caffeine to the mix.
Since caffeine is similar to adenosine it fits into the receptors as well. Leaving adenosine out and making YOU less tired. Caffeine also increases dopamine levels making you feel good.


  Thank you coffee.

  • The darker the roast the LESS caffeine there is. Espresso has less caffeine than a cup of coffee.
  • It takes about 10-15 minutes after ingestion to feel the effects of caffeine. Blood levels peak after 30 minutes. Most traces disappear after 6 hours.
  • Caffeine may speed the loss of calcium from bones! Eeek
  • It's not recommended to take more than 200-300mg a day...or about 2-3 cups of coffee.

Future goal for blog: Erase pencil lines.

Joachim D, Schloss A. The Science of Good Food. Toronto Canada: Robert Rose Inc; 2008.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Frozen Dragon Fruit

A few days ago I went to Wegmans. As usual I was spending too much time in the produce section where I found dragon fruits (irradiated from Vietnam!) and thought to myself "Screw it, let's do this."

Upon returning home I realized most recipes using dragon fruit were savory or using it as a sauce.  I was NOT about to go down that road. DRAGON fruit takes a backseat to no one. So the only dessert not completely outlandish was sorbet. After skimming several recipes and checking out the ingredients (ignoring the measurements) I assumed I could just wing it and make it work.

This is the result:

   I'm pretty legit

The ensuing ensuing experiment (at the beginning I thought FAIL) was due to my shrugging off the the fact every recipe asked for a food processor and ice cream maker. Puhleez did the old Vietnamese have those things? NO.

1. Cut a dragon fruit in half to show off what it looks like.
2. Scoop out dragon fruit
3. Try at least 4 different kitchen utensils to mash the dragon fruit since you're too stubborn to find the food processor.

4. Add remaining ingredients

5. Strain the dragon fruit through a strainer...give up and resort to mashing dragon fruit against strainer sides for desired texture. Combined liquid and mash.
6. Put in freezer and wait....


As you can see it had quite a few crystals. Which I imagine would have something to do with not having an ice cream maker. I'm not sure I've never used one before.

Still a success. Dragon fruit tastes a bit like a kiwi but more flowery? Try it yourself.

Tips for next time: Buy a kitchen that is all cute for blogging and stop being so grumpy.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Greek Yogurt Tarts

                                                                                                                "Green Lantern" Themed Tart!

These are  the easiest and tastiest tarts I have made. Granted these are the only tarts I've made. I went to the store wanting to make something new and tarts are adorable. Then I thought "What is even in a tart Rachel?"

Frankly I still have no idea how to make a "real" tart. Nor do I want to.

The goal was to make something that tasted good with limited fat. So instead of cream cheese it made sense to grab Greek yogurt which is high in protein and has zero fat. It has the right thickness and adds the tartness desired. Next to sweeten it up I grabbed a tub of cool whip (why not?). Finally mascarpone cheese. A sweet french cheese often found in desserts. The cheese if you opted for fat free cool whip is the only part of the filling adding fat.

All you need to do is combine the filling in a bowl. Don't even bother thawing the cool whip. Use HALF the container of cheese. To fill the tart shells add the filling to a ziploc bag, cut off the corner and squeeze away. This amount filled 18 shells for me.

After that add fruit. Which between cutting and given my tendency to obsess over detail took the longest time. This whole recipe is easy and fun.

Based off of the 18 servings per recipe each tart is around 120 calories (NOT counting fruit as it will vary. The kiwi for example added 20 calories). Most of the fat coming from the cheese and the tart.

The beloved grocery store chain in my area sells tarts which are 210 calories. 120 from fat.

Take that pre-made super expensive tarts! Plus mine were super hero themed...which is so much cooler than those fancy tarts you have to offer. HAHA

Tip to try: Add some vanilla to make them even better.

(Note the calories for my recipes are estimated based off of the containers and may vary slightly)

Monday, March 11, 2013

In case you missed it...

Food Shirt Friday Throwback!
This past fall was my last semester in college. It was my chance to show off my obsession with food apparel. Every Friday for 17 beautiful and awkward weeks.

                                                   Not food related. But nutrition IS a science!

Don't worry there are a still quite a few food related apparel items that still need to be revealed, in time.

Moment of vainness OVER.

Strawberry Citrus Pulp Cookies

The unfortunate part of juicing is that you waste a lot of fiber by creating pulp. Since juicing is so in and people love posting crap on the internet there is now a ton of recipes for pulp. Here is 1 more!

Strawberry Citrus Sugar Cookies

From a cookie making stand point any sugar cookie recipe will do. If you don't make cookies often the general procedure is as follows...

1. Cream the sugar and fat (butter or oil) together. This involves a mixer. This helps incorporate the sugar which will melt and the fat together
2. Add the other wet ingredients
3. Add the rest of the dry ingredients

Tip: try not to over mix.

Now it's pulp time
It may not look pretty but it sure makes things tasty! Don't have a juicer? I'd recommend finely chopping some strawberry and oranges or mashing them up with a fork.

Just gently fold it into the batter. Then you have cute confetti looking dough with real chunks of fruit.

 I baked mine for about 10 minutes, but again depending on the sugar cookie recipe YOU chose it may be different. In the end I made twice as many cookies as the recipe said it would yield.

                                                                    Delicious cookies!

The tiny bit of fruit made the cookies taste like fruity pebbles. I am not kidding. Who knew a little bit of fruit would make such a flavor difference. I added red food coloring to some which caused them to be a little too soft from the added liquid. The ones on the farthest right are just plain.

Future goals for my baking: try and make a batch of cookies that actually looks like one batch of cookies.

*just because these cookies have fruit in them does not mean they're good for you. Try not to eat them all!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Fasting Finished

Well folks. The goal of one week turned into 3 days. But I still think it turned out to be a successful experience. I lost 5 pounds, an extreme amount given the amount of time. Plus I still feel much better even after a few days of eating regularly again.

I certainly wouldn't recommend juicing for weight loss. Based on the first juice I made and assuming I drank it 3 times a day I'd have a deficit of around 800 calories daily. If this continued for 5 days I'd lose 1 pound from the calorie deficit. The majority of weight I lost in those three days is most likely water weight and (hopefully not too much) muscle from a lack of protein.

I did feel more energized outside of being hungry throughout most of the day. Plus I find myself more motivated to stick to eating mostly fruits and veggies given I've gone through something more taxing than eating salad.

Just be wary of feeling light headed. The zoom of sugar from fruitier juices on an empty stomach can effect you quickly. My brain felt a little "buzzed" about 15-30 minutes after drinking.

I think taking the time to at least try and challenge makes you more motivated for everything in your life. This is yet another example of how I leave my challenges unfinished though!

Juicing is growing in popularity because like many things in our current culture we want things fast, condensed, and simple. It may take a lot of time to prep the vegetables but drinking a glass of juice takes a lot less time to eat a whole bunch. That being said I think juicing would be a great supplement to a regular diet. It no doubt add nutrients to a diet and can be a better energy boost than coffee in the morning. 

All in all...success!

                    Juicing tip: Grapefruit with a combo of vegetables does NOT make a good flavor

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

First Attempt

Around Noon I got around to making my first batch. I spoke with a friend who has tried juicing and she suggested easing into it in the days prior. Being wise beyond my years last night I went to a friends where we shared about 2 bottles of wine and some Taco Bell (Yea that's right nutrition degrees don't make you a diet angel). All I can say is if YOU are considering a juice cleanse don't do what I did. I don't feel terrible today but it's not that smartest thing I've done.

I grabbed a bunch of the random plant items around the kitchen. In total I had 1 peeled cucumber, 1/2 bag of spinach, 1 orange, 2 apples, 1 kiwi, 1 carrot, and celery stalk.

I must say a juicer is probably one of the coolest items in a kitchen. If you have kids...get them one. They will love you and then you can make them drink their veggies. You basically get to add in stuff and push it down with a plunger where you see it explode and splatter against the sides. How awesome is that? At least I think that's cool to witness. The next thing you know...juice.

There was a considerable amount of pulp created. This time we just discarded it but I have read you can easily incorporate it into soups or baked goods. This is something I'm down to experiment with.

In the end I had a tasty drink! I added ice just because the thicker consistency was not so pleasant at room temp.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Jumping into Juicing!

Lately I have been hearing a lot about/ having a lot of people ask me about juicing. I figured the only way to really have an informed opinion is to try it!

For me I want to know more about it...does it live up to the hype? From a health stand point I see it's value but it also poses some concerns. I'm excited mainly for the concept of "rebooting" my system as well as seeing how I feel from it.

If you haven't heard about juicing the following is what you need to know:

Fresh fruits and vegetables are put into a juicer (go figure) where you separate the liquid from everything else.  This is supposed to concentrate the nutrients of a whole bunch of product into an intense and tasty drink. The downside is that you don't get a majority of the fiber as it's cast aside. In addition those who do a juice cleanse strictly drink only juice. Nothing else. You're getting everything you need from the fruit and veggie drink. Documentaries like "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead" highlight how beneficial juicing is to your health. In the movie 2 men juiced for 60 days and for both of them their lives were transformed. Both lost considerable weight, had normal blood values by the end, and cut down their medication use considerably.

It makes sense fruits and vegetables are awesome and packed with the good stuff we all need to stay healthy. They're nutrient dense...so why not concentrate it further? Well there are a couple of reasons I'm a bit concerned about even if my cleanse is only 7 days compared to their 60.

My Concerns

Problem: Protein
Even if I got every gram of protein (I highly doubt) from the vegetables I juiced I'd still only be getting about 7grams per juice. If I juice 3 times a day that's 21g. Based on my body weight I need about 67g a day. I'll be meeting less than 1/3 of my requirement daily.
Solution: There doesn't seem to be a satisfying answer. I'm considering protein from non-fat organic Greek yogurt. My issue is that eating an animal product when I should be strictly relying on plants leaves me feeling like I'm copping out. I could swap for a handful of nuts...but they're not a complete protein and I'd have to pair it with something else...again leaving me conflicted. This isn't just about health for me, I want to develop the mental resolve to know I can stick to something extreme for a week. Is a week without protein ok?

Problem: Food cravings
Let's face it, I picked nutrition for the love and appreciation of food. There is still food in the house. I have to work multiple double shifts between 2 jobs during this week period...when I'm I going to have time to just juice?
Solution: Again not an easy one. We'll just have to have faith in my will power.

Problem: Workouts
A liquid diet is a drastic change for me. Is it safe to workout at the same intensity? Individuals that do a juice fast type of cleanse report feeling light headed and sometimes sick. Heading off to run a few miles or lift weights before I know how my body will be reacting might not be smart.
Solution: Listening to my body and taking it from there. I thankfully had some satisfying workouts this weekend so I don't feel too guilty about a light week. I plan on transitioning into less intense activities like yoga and swimming. In a sense both of these may help me feel renewed as well.

Problem: Caffeine
I've recently had to admit to myself that I have a reliance on caffeine in the morning. Working most days of the week prior to 6:30 am will do that to you. I do NOT want to be drinking coffee during this week because it is a stimulant and I want to make this process as "clean" as possible. Plus I can't accurately gauge the change in my energy level if I'm still drinking something that makes me alert.
Solution: Pray.
Kidding. I plan on switching to 1 cup of tea on mornings I work up before 5:30 am. Otherwise juice and water only.

Fortunately those are my main concerns outside of cost. I'm just thankful my Dad is joining in on the experiment and went halvsies on the juicer.

Well that's about it. Time to get started!