Thursday, April 18, 2013

Chickpeas Florentine

I was having an intense craving for this chickpeas florentine all week.  I really do like pasta dishes.   Maybe I'm 1/1000 Italian or something.  I'm kinda obsessed with starch.   Now, I've found the most amazing way to plantify chicken recipes.  Chickpeas are actually a super awesome substitute for chicken.  I prefer it over the imitation meat because it's as close to untainted as I can get.  Visually, chickpeas look like the head of a baby chick.  The little tip that pokes out resembles the little beaky beak and the rest, the head and the chest.  Amazing huh?

The more amazing thing is that chickpeas, to be very honest with you, actually have a chicken-like taste/smell.  Scout's honor.  I've noticed this many of times either while I doing the following: cooking them, eating them, cooking them or eating them some more.   Take curried chickpeas, for example, a recipe I will feature in the future.  It never fails to surprise me how much the taste is similar to what I grew up eating, which was curry chicken.  So for all the chicken recipes that have posed a problem, I have found the answer!  

This chicken florentine is a big dish.  This serving is like a family-sized serving.  I used it as lunch for the week.  Let's do this.

1/2 box of cooked whole grain pasta
3 garlic cloves
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 sprig of rosemary
3 - 4 sprigs of thyme
2 plum tomatoes
3/4 - 1 yellow onion
1 cup of cashews
2 cups of water
1 cup of cooked chickpeas (cooked with 1/4 onion and no salt)
a liberal handful of spinach
juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp of salt (cheese-containing recipes usually use 1 tsp in addition to parmesan or some high-salt cheese)

Side note: When cooking beans, I always soak them overnight.  When I am ready to cook with them, I throw away the soak water and rinse them really well.  Then I cook them for about 35-45 mins with some onion and garlic.  Sometimes I add a tsp of salt.  It all depends.

You got your main plants

....your little plants

...and your big plants

You can have a couple things going on at the same time if you want to keep cooking time to the minimum.  If not, just go one by one.  
1.  Dice up the garlic, onions and tomatoes. 
2.  Blend cashews with water, lemon juice, salt, thyme and rosemary.  (Remember to blend the cashews dry before adding the water)
3.  Cook your pasta (I use whole-wheat, whole-grain or multi-grain)

Pour the cashew blend in a large skillet and add the diced veggies. 

Add the cooked chickpeas and garlic powder.  Let simmer for 20 mins.

Turn off the stove.  Throw in the pasta.  Incorporate the pasta and the fresh spinach. 




Sheesh, that was easy! :)

Straight out of Gourmet


Thank you for reading!  My people, I appreciate you all so much.  Be happy and healthy.  Ciao!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Well........It's looking like it's a wrap for Red Meat

Lookie here, my people.   I done told ya'll this excessive meat mess is not a good look.  As my man Macka B says, "No deadas, no feathers".   Empress nuh deal wid Babylon flesh 'round here.

Don't be's purely for aesthetics.
I'll let the data below speak for itself.

Photo Credit: UHM

A new study finally suggests a plausible link between red meat and cardiovascular disease.  These are some milestones we are making here!  This is something folks have been wondering about for the loooooooongest while.  We say, "Yes, consumption of red meat increases cardiovascular risk." but how?  The thing is the amount of cholesterol and saturated fat you get from diet was never enough to fully make that something else was going on.  This new study presents a nice explanation for the something else.   It is FASCINATING, utterly FASCINATING.  I won't get too into my science obsession here so I will just give you the goods as objectively and as briefly as possible.  I know my motor mouth too well.  :)

ALSO -------->Here is a Science Daily link to a brief summary of the study if you feel so inclined to check it out for yourself.........which I absolutely encourage.  I promise it's not that long.

Let's see what the study had to say.

The study had three approaches so it was nicely varied.  Someone's putting some thought in their studies.  I appreciate that.  Sometimes these studies are doing the most!  Biased design, skewed data, biased interpretation and the like. Mess.


One: They basically determined how much carnitine was inside omnivores, vegans and vegetarians.
Two: They examined clinical data from a bunch of patients (2,595) who were receiving what they call elective cardiac evaluations, which are basically tests to understand what is going on with your heart.
Three:  They experimented on Mickey Mouse comparing the effects of a regular rat chow diet and a carnitine diet.  I did feel bad for the little mice because the ones on the carnitine diet didn't fair so well.  You'll see what I mean.

So the study reveals that there is a lovely little bacteria growing in your gut that has a special ability.  Let's call him Carni Bac.  I like nicknames.  He can turn a compound known as carnitine into TMAO, trimethylamine-N-oxide.  To keep to my promise of not getting into details I will leave the chemical description of TMAO at that.

So what's important about TMAO?......well, I'm glad you asked.  TMAO is a metabolite that is specifically linked to the promotion of atherosclerosis: yucky fat clogging up your arteries.  Nasty and not pretty.   This is what it looks like:

Photo Credit:

So where is red meat in this whole picture?   I gotchu.  The study showed that a diet high in carnitine increased the risk for cardiovascular disease because it not only provides the carnitine that will be turned into TMAO by Carni Bac but also promotes growth of Carni Bac.  The thing is carnitine is actually essential for some cell functions BUT at super HIGH levels is where we have a problem because you gets lots of TMAO. Here is an excerpt from the paper:

"Although dietary ingestion is a major source of L-carnitine in omnivores, it is also endogenously produced in mammals from lysine and serves an essential function in transporting fatty acids into the mitochondrial compartment"

AKA, major sources of carnitine are diets rich in red meat such as beef, lamb, duck, and mutton.

The results showed significant dose-dependent associations between carnitine concentrations and risk for atherosclerosis-related diseases such as CAD (coronary artery disease), PAD (peripheral artery disease), and overall CVD (cardiovascular disease).  If you look at the graphs and the images presented in the results, it provides you with pretty solid evidence that TMAO promotes atherosclerosis.

Check out this image so you know I'm not making things up.  You can see the difference in the effect on blood vessels of a regular rat chow diet (Left) vs a carnitine diet (Right).  You see how the blood vessels on the right look EXTRA BUSTED.   I mean they're looking hurt.
Photo Credit: Nature Medicine

Now, here's the kicker.
They found that vegetarians and vegans had significantly lower levels of the Carni Bac, baseline TMAO and TMAO production.  Bangin bird food eaters don't eat a diet high in carnitine so Carni Bac is told to  SIT DOWN on a regular and thus it's much less active.  Here's a nice little excerpt from Stanley Hazen who headed up the research:

"The bacteria living in our digestive tracts are dictated by our long-term dietary patterns.  A diet high in carnitine actually shifts our gut microbe composition to those that like carnitine, making meat eaters even more susceptible to forming TMAO and its artery-clogging effects. Meanwhile, vegans and vegetarians have a significantly reduced capacity to synthesize TMAO from carnitine, which may explain the cardiovascular health benefits of these diets."

So, to wrap things up, red meat consumption increases the creation of TMAO, a compound that promotes atherosclerosis and also increases the ability of a bacteria in your gut to make TMAO to add more fuel to the atherosclerotic fire. 

Conclusion: It's looking like a wrap for red meat. Get plant strong and you'll be aiiight.

Side Note: Whenever I read anything, I need three things to come with that information.
1.  Source
2.  Data 
3.  Logic
For me it has to, Number One, come from a reputable journal.  Number Two, it needs to present good data.  Number Three, it has to make some daggone sense.  I operate off of logic so that is why everything I do must make sense and that's usually why everything I actually does make sense.  To me and Dios at least. :) But I'm also an artist at heart so there's wiggle room there.

So did this study fulfill those three requirements?

1. Source - Nature Medicine, the premier journal for biomedical research that is highly respected internationally.
2.  Data - Yep, I'm pretty sure.
3.  Logic - The concept isn't far-fetched.  We know diets high in saturated fat lead to atherosclerosis and heart disease.  In terms of the data, it follows logical thinking as you can see significant effects on blood vessels and increases in disease risk.  The approach was varied and included a CVD population assessment, experimentation, human subjects and mice models.  This is a great step in bettering our understanding of our bodies and what not to put in them.

See, I'm chilling.  Why?..............because there's no atherosclerosis over here. 

Thank you for reading!  Leave any thoughts you may have in your bangin' brain below in the comment section.  My people, I appreciate you all so much.  Be happy and healthy.  Ciao!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

"Natural" makes everything healthy, right?

This is advertising at its best.  It's Simply Natural Cheetos.  Natural White Cheddar Puffs.  That makes sense, right?

"It's natural, so of course it's healthy", says Cheetos advertising.    But really though, Cheetos, really?  This is disrespectful.

Here's my straight face.  Well, posing/playing with photoshop/straight face but a straight face nonetheless.  Just work with me.  I thought my hair looked really cute that day.  :) 

MGD Straight Face

I literally burst out laughing in the supermarket when I saw this bag.  Folk were probably concerned about my mental health status but I couldn't help myself.  I was just wondering away to myself how oxymoronic "Natural Cheetos" was.  It's kind of like:

Organic E.coli Infection
Natural Crisco
Organic High Fructose Corn Syrup
Natural Rat Poison

See, in all these situations, simply tagging on the name "organic" or "natural" doesn't change the fact that you will end up with bloody diarrhea, a heart attack, diabetes and die from intense muscle spasms.  A little graphic huh?  I school training.

Then I thought of the audacity to have this plastered on the front of this bag of factory-made food.  Advertising works and Cheetos knows that.  So I just have a few questions.

1.  When did White Cheddar Puffs become natural?   

2. Is there a White Cheddar Puff tree that my nerdy brain has not had the pleasure of becoming familiar with?  

3.  Is the styrofoam-like texture of the puff specifically adapted to maximize sunlight exposure and thus optimize photosynthesis?  

These are crucial questions that need answers and I want those answers now, Cheetos. 

But, really, the most important question is:

 Did you knowingly place the messages, "No High Fructose Corn Syrup", "Sea Salt, "No Artificial Colors, Flavors or Preservatives" and "Gluten Free" to attract the health-conscious minds who read these very labels as a tool to make healthful decisions?

I unfortunately think I know the answer to this question already

This is exactly what trips folk up.  It's the words, the labeling, the presentation.  All of that creates a certain perception and as my mother has always taught me, "Perception is everything".  I just wanted to highlight this in particular because I think this is where you can find yourself in a situation where you think you are making the healthiest choices but the truth is you may be totally blind-sided and a bit off track.  The word "natural" or "organic" is automatically processed in your brain to mean something is good for you, something healthy.  Every natural, whole, unrefined food should be healthy.  Your body knows this.  Your body, however, senses this when the healthy food is literally healthy and not simply labeled in a way as to seem healthy.  Your intestines don't read food labels.  They can't be tricked.  That's why I love my body.  It's the realest of the real. 

So your body doesn't read food labels but the great thing is that you do.  You have the most amazing glob of jelly sitting in your cranium.  I say that with every ounce of respect for the human body as physician will be the name of my game pretty soon.  You know that even if Lays decided to come out with a line of "organic" or "natural" potato chips, the most important thing to focus on is the fact that they are still chips and fried in a boatload of oil.  

Stick to the basics, my people:

Whole foods, Plant-based, lots of colors, especially green, lots of variety, and water.  

You are a beautiful and brilliant individual that can think.  Think about whether the labeling actually makes sense.  Use that glob of jelly to the best of your ability and it will serve you very well.

Thank you for reading!  Leave any thoughts you may have in your bangin' brain below in the comment section.  My people, I appreciate you all so much.  Be happy and healthy.  Ciao!