Asian Chicken Meatballs with Vegetables

Recently I’ve been watching videos of this chef organizing her food into bento boxes and have been finding the videos very calming to watch.  I’m kind of like those people who enjoy watching Youtube videos of Koreans eating, though that part I’m not into.  One thing I’ve noticed about the bento boxes it that they always contain majority vegetables, something acidic, a very small portion of protein (about the size of the palm of your hand), some gluten-free grains, and something probiotic.  I was inspired by the bento boxes when I came up with this recipe: Asian chicken meatballs with broccolini, maitake mushrooms, brown rice, and microgreens with lime.  I bought a premade dressing for the microgreens consisting of a variety of probiotics (pickle brine, sauerkraut brine, etc), but you could also add pickled vegetables or kimchi to the meal to include your probiotic component.  Though this meal takes about 45 minutes to cook,  it is a fairly easy recipe even for beginner cooks, and most of these ingredients should be staples in your pantry.

Ingredients

For the Sauce:

-1/2 cup Teriyaki sauce or hoisin

-1/2 cup tamari or soy sauce

-1 tsp. or more of sriracha depending on how hot you like it

-1 tbsp. honey

 

For the Meatballs:

-1lb. organic ground chicken

-1 egg

-1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs

-3 scallions, sliced thinly and white bottoms separated from green tops

-1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger or ginger powder

-3 minced garlic cloves or 2 tbsp. garlic powder

-salt and pepper

 

For the Rice:

-1 cup brown rice

-2 cups water

-2 pinches salt

-1 tbsp. ghee, or preferred fat (oil, butter)

-1 lime + zest

-sesame seeds

 

For the Salad:

-Microgreens

 

Instructions

Note- Allow the rice to soak overnight or for some time before cooking (I soaked my rice this time for 40 minutes).  This will reduce cook time, release nutritional enzymes, and make the rice more digestible.

  1.   Fill a medium-sized pot with water, rice, fat, and salt.  Bring the water to boil then cover and reduce heat to simmer for 45 minutes. Remove from heat leaving the lid on. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.  Add lime zest and fluff rice with a fork.
  2. Wash and prep your vegetables while the rice cooks.  In a small bowl, make the sauce.  Zest the lime in a small bowl using a microplane then quarter the lime and set aside. In a large skillet, heat oil and add the white bottoms of the scallions, ginger and garlic and cook about 1 minute or until aromatic.  Transfer to a large bowl and wipe out the pan.
  3. Add the ground chicken, egg, breadcrumbs, half of the sauce, and the salt and pepper to the bowl containing the onion, ginger and garlic. Mix the ingredients and allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes so it’ll be easier to form the meatballs.
  4. Reheat the pan to medium-hot and add enough oil to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Add the broccolini and mushrooms and toast in the oil.  Let cook without touching while you form the meatballs.
  5.  Flip the broccolini and mushrooms and brown the other sides.  Get two large bowls ready so you can divide the vegetables between the bowls when they’ve finished browning.  Wipe out the pan.
  6. Reheat the pan over medium-high heat and add enough oil to form a thin layer on the bottom of the pan.  Add the meatballs, cooking 4-6 minutes per side.  You’ll know when the meatball is ready to turn when it’s no longer sticking to the pan.  Once cooked, add 1/4 cup water and the remaining sauce to the pan.  Toss the meatballs in the sauce to evenly coat and scrape up any remaining fond in the pan. When the sauce has reduced, remove from the heat.
  7. In the bowls containing the vegetables, add brown rice, the salad, lime, and the meatballs. Dress the salad with the lime, garnish with the green tops of the scallions, and sprinkle sesame seeds.  Enjoy!

All Hail Kale

kale-heartProbably five years ago or so, I don’t believe I had ever heard of kale.  It seems like the green, leafy vegetable blew up to celebrity status overnight, suddenly becoming the most talked about superfood.  This vegetable has become one of my personal favorites and with any vegetable, if you know how to prepare it right, it can be delicious.

Buying vegetables, whether it’s kale or other green vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, spinach, etc, is cost effective and leaves less of a carbon footprint.  While animal agriculture has many implications like land degradation and reduction of biodiversity, vegetables have a very low environmental impact and be grown in most climates.

Kale, because of it’s high nutrient value, is a good option to replace our society’s high meat consumption.  I’m not saying cut meat out entirely, but I think people can certainly add in more vegetables to crowd out large portions of meat.  Everybody’s body is different, but vegetables are an important part of our diet, and lots of us don’t get the correct amount of vegetable servings in our diet.  Here are some reasons kale is one of my favorite vegetables:skinny-bitch3

Anti- Inflammatory

Dark leafy greens are an important source in reducing inflammation in the body.  Vitamin A, selenium, and beta-cryptoxanthin are some of the few anti-inflammatory agents found in vegetables.

Fiber

Our ancestors had way more fiber in their diets than we do today.  Fruits and vegetables are a fantastic source of fiber, especially kale, broccoli, carrots, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and avocado.  Fiber maintains bowel regularity and prevents the risk of health problems.

Iron 

Some people believe that it’s difficult to get healthy amounts of iron in our diet if a person doesn’t eat meat.  This simply isn’t true.  In actuality, some vegetables contain higher levels of iron than animals foods, especially vegetables like Swiss chard, soybeans, lentils, spinach, and turnip greens.

Calcium

Milk is believed by many to be the greatest source of calcium, however, vegetables have high calcium amounts that’ll keep our bodies strong.  That being said, don’t rely solely on vegetables as a source of calcium, because it’s harder for our bodies to absorb calcium from vegetables.  Kale, collards, cabbage, arugula, and bok choy are some examples of vegetables containing lots of calcium.

Healthy Fats

As I’ve written about before, getting healthy fats in our diet is very important, and there is a distinction between good and bad fat.  Omega fatty acids are necessary to our diet.  Lots of people take fish oil capsules, but kale actually contains both omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.

Is Gluten the New Fat?

For the past 40 years, Americans have been lead to believe that any form of fat and all types of cholesterol were bad for us.  New studies have proven that this idea is outdated, but today, the new “evil” is gluten.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are by now you’ve at least heard the word gluten.  There are entire sections at the grocery store devoted to gluten-free products and I don’t know about you all, but out of the blue everyone I know is suddenly gluten intolerant.

What is gluten?

Gluten, Latin for “glue,” is a name for proteins that act as an adhesive glue, keeping together foods like breads, pastas, flour, etc.  Gluten exists in wheat, barley, and rye and can be found in many products, whether it’s our food or personal care products, like toothpaste or shampoo.  The “sticky” nature of gluten makes it hard to breakdown and absorb nutrients.

t1larg.gluten.foods.gi

What are some symptoms of gluten sensitivity? 

Depression, inflammation, joint problems, gastrointestinal problems, or fatigue, ADHD, anxiety, hives/rashes, miscarriages, nausea/vomiting, sugar cravings, brain fog, malabsorption of food, dairy intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, or infertility.

Inflammation can also cause “leaky gut,”which makes us more susceptible to future food sensitivities and puts us at risk for developing autoimmune diseases or neurological disorders in the future.  Some of these diseases linked to inflammation include: Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Autism, and Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), diabetes, Hashimoto’s thyroidtis, arthritis, or schizophrenia. People with Celiacs disease share these same symptoms but on a more extreme level.  It’s also possible that some people just don’t show symptoms, but are fighting the attack elsewhere in their body, like in the nervous system.

But didn’t we always eat gluten? 

Our diet has changed drastically from what our ancestors ate. We used to thrive off of high-fat diet, low-carb diets, but now our diet consists of mainly carbs and significantly less fat.

Ancestors                                  Modern Diet

-Fat 75% of diet                            -Carbs 60% of diet

-Protein 20% of diet                     -Fat 20%

-Carbs 5% of diet                          -Protein 20%

evolution_of_man

We have far more disease today and different types of diseases than we ever did before.  The majority of our great-grandparents and generations older than them died from old age, but today many of us are plagued by cancer, heart disease, brain disease, obesity, or diabetes.  The answer to this conundrum exists not just in genes, but in our food.

As you can see from the numbers above, most of us eat an unbalanced diet.  Our percentage of carbohydrate intake are at unnaturally high levels, which takes a toll on our bodies. The first sign of celiacs, however, traces all the back to the first century AD, when a Greek doctor named Aretaeus of Cappadocia wrote about the symptoms and used the word “celiac” to name the illness in a medical textbook.  Gluten has always been a part of our diets since our ancestors learned to farm and mill wheat.  The gluten we eat today, though, hardly resembles the gluten in our diet ten thousand years ago.  Today our food is far more processed and bio-engineering has us growing structurally-modified grains containing gluten that’s less tolerable.

So is a gluten-free diet for me?

Although I know people have healed themselves of ailments by removing gluten from the diet and although I’ve read the research on the links between gluten and neurodegenerative conditions, I full-heartedly believe in the idea of everything in moderation. I personally have not given up my bread products yet, but I eat much less of it and not every day, because a little bread every now and then probably won’t kill you.  The problem is, carbs, like sugar, can be addicting, so some people have a much harder time removing gluten from the diet.

One way to cut back on carbs, processed foods, or sugar is to fill up on proteins, vegetables, and healthy fats.  By adding in these other foods, it’s easier to naturally crowd out carbohydrates, processed foods, and sugar.  I highly encourage everyone to do research for themselves, rather than hopping on the bandwagon without really knowing why.  There are probably way more products containing gluten than you know, some which may be surprising, and I’ve listed some of these products below.  I highly recommend the book Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, MD if you’re looking for more research and information.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Autism, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), or diabetes, or if it runs in your family, then I would think it best to stay away from gluten.  If you’re eating gluten and finding yourself suffering from headaches, abdominal pains, or any of the other symptoms previously mentioned, then try at least one week of cutting out gluten and see if you can notice any improvements.

Which grains are gluten-free?

Amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, corn, millet, potato, quinoa, rice, sorghum, soy, tapioca, and tee.

gluten-free-grains

Which gains contain gluten?

Barley, bulgur, couscous, farina, graham flour, kamut, matzo, rye, semolina, spelt, triticale, wheat, and wheat germ.

Random things that contain gluten:

Cosmetics, lipsticks/lip balm, medications, non-self-adhesive stamps and envelopes, play-doh, shampoos and conditioners, toothpaste, some vitamins and supplements.

There are lots of other foods and ingredients that contain gluten, so do some research if you’re planning on going gluten-free.

Sources:

Perlmutter, David, MD. Grain Brain. New York, NY.  Little, Brown and Company.

Probiotics for Beginners

You may have been wondering what the kombucha hype is all about, and seriously, what the heck is tempeh anyway? Maybe you’ve heard of or seen probiotics before, but you don’t know why they’re important.  It’s also possible you’ve consumed probiotics, maybe most of your life, and didn’t realize.

Bandit wondering, what is this kombucha?

Bandit thinking, what is this kombucha stuff mom drinks?

TN_Lede_Probiotics_0911Our bodies contain around 100 trillion microbes, most of them bacteria, and some beneficial bacteria.  Probiotics are the good bacteria.  These living organisms reside in our colons and small intestine.  They keep our guts clean, aid in digestion and add bulk to solid wastes.  Probiotics also fight disease-causing microbes, and can help with health problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), infectious diarrhea, and antibiotic-related diarrhea (webmd). Probiotics are important to take while on antibiotics, since antibiotics cause a loss of healthy bacteria. home-care-options-abound-for-people-suffering-from-depression-in-home-care-support-services

Stress or poor diet might reduce the numbers of healthy bacteria in the small intestine as well, and vice versa, a lack of healthy bacteria has shown to trigger feelings of depression and anxiety when there’s an imbalance within the gut (beginwithnutrition).

There are different types of probiotics and various ways to consume them, either through supplements or through various foods.  Skip the supplements and experiment with eating some of the following foods:

Yogurt- Yogurt is made from fermented milk using certain bacteria, but only types labeled as containing live bacteria (“active cultures”) are actually probiotic.

Kefir- Similar to yogurt and contains sometimes up to ten diverse strains of good bacteria.  It’s fermented using a combination of bacteria and yeast with milk proteins and complex sugars.  Made from cow’s milk, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, coconut milk, soy milk, or rice milk.  Kefir is a good choice if you’re lactose intolerant, because the lactose it once contained is broken down through fermentation.

Buttermilk– Made with strains of lactic acid-making bacteria added to regular pasteurized milk.

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Raw Milk- Maybe only five states in the U.S. actually allow the sale of raw milk and there are debated health risks, but raw milk drinkers swear by the stuff because of all the good bacteria.

Soy Milk- Must say “contains active cultures” on the label.

darkchocolateDark Chocolate- Certain types of high-quality chocolate contain probiotics.  Dark chocolate is also a source of antioxidants!

Miso- A staple of Japanese cuisine, miso is made with fermented soy, barley, wheat, or rice with a fungus that produces a red, white, or dark brown salty paste.  When cooking with miso, add it to hot foods at the end of cooking to preserve the probiotic cultures as much as possible.

Tempeh- High in proteins and minerals, tempeh also promotes intestinal health.  Tempeh originates in Indonesia and is made with cooked soybeans and an added fungus culture. It’s then fermented into a thick, meaty block.

natto-kinoko-8-of-8

Natto- typical Japanese breakfast dish


N
atto- Made from fermented soybeans with a distinctive flavor, smell, and sticky texture.  Also a stap

le of the Japanese diet.

Kimchi- A pickled Chinese dish of cabbage, eggplant, or other vegetables fermented with red chili and other spices for at least a month.  Kimchi is full of fiber, vitamins, iron, and various types of probiotic bacteria.

Sauerkraut- German for “sour cabbage,” sauerkraut is made from fermented, finely shredded, salty cabbage and contains a variety of heathy bacteria.  Buy fresh sauerkraut that contains lives cultures, versus some commercial brands of sauerkraut.

Pickles- These crunchy treats contain lots of probiotics.

brew_dr_kombucha_smKombucha Tea- This Asian drink restores energy and aids digestion.

Olives- Olives in brine are probiotics, because the brine allows probiotics to survive and thrive.