Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Banana Blog

You may have noticed that my last two posts came without one of my oh so artistic photographs of food. This is for two reasons (1) after a recent school project I sort of burnt out on food photography (the above photo was included in that) and need a small break to recover my creative mojo and (2) because I haven't really been eating anything lately. Aside from the Indian meal I described in the previous posting (which I don't have a picture of because I never remember to bring my camera to restaurants and sometimes feel as though I will scare the kitchen staff into thinking I'm some sort of inspector if I start snapping photos of my dinner plate) I have eaten little of anything over the past 3 days. But there is one food that I never really have an aversion to even when my insides are rejecting every other edible product imaginable. And that food is the humble banana. Humble, yes, for the banana has many accolades to boast about. It's America's favorite fruit according to banana.com. Apparently American's consume more of the sunny yellow fruit than apples and oranges combined.

Turns out there's a lot about bananas I didn't know. Like the fact that the banana plant is not a tree at all..it's actually the world's largest herb! Crazy, right? And the American love affair with the banana actually began in my home state of Pennsylvania in 1876. Now, I haven't yet found the time to corraborate any of the facts I'm gleaning from the banana.com website but I will do a thorough fact check and edit as necessary, don't you worry.

Until then I'll leave you with my favorite banana bread recipe so that you might prepare for National Banana Bread Day, February 23rd. This recipe comes from VeganMania! (that exclamation point is part of the title not an indicator of how excited I am about the recipe though it's pretty darn tasty):

1/2 cup brown rice syrup

1/2 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 "eggs" ( I usually use an extra mashed banana or 1 tablespoon ground flax seed in 3
tablespoons of warm water)

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup oats

1/4 cup cornmeal

1/4 cup wheat germ

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup mashed banana

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine brown rice syrup, oil, and vanilla in large bowl. Beat "egg" with whisk and add to wet ingredients.

In separate bowl, mix together flour, oats, cornmeal, wheat germ, baking soda, and salt. Alternating with mashed banana, add dry ingredients to wet.

Oil and flour loaf pan and fill with batter.

Bake for 45-60 minutes until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean.

Let cool on wire baking rack before removing from pan and serving.

Go bananas!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Kentucky Fried Anything

Even when we aren't on any particular diet we do that to ourselves, don't we? We put different foods in little boxes labeled GOOD or BAD and as soon as we do we have to forcefully restrain ourselves from grabbing the BAD box and running off into the sunset with a load of Fried Chicken and Twinkies or maybe even a Fried Twinkie or a fried oreo or a fried Snickers bar..it's amazing what people are frying these days.

What is our obsession with fried foods?

I say "our" because I most certainly share this infatuation with things breaded and dipped in piping hot oil. Yesterday, I went out for Indian fare and ordered the vegetarian appetizer plate. Out came a glorious feast of fried flora. Rotund golden-brown samosas packed full of potato and peas and aromatic spices and then FRIED. Pakoras made of onions, potatoes and I believe some more peas, fragrant and delicious and FRIED. Finally something I hadn't had before and can't remember the name of, but I'm pretty sure it was mashed potato and peas formed into a pattie and then, you guessed it, FRIED. I'm surprised they didn't deep fry the bed of lettuce garnishing the plate. (Although to be truthful it probably would have made a prettier presentation as the iceberg greens were more than past their prime.) It was exactly what I wanted!

After the 1st pakora and about half of the samosa was gone I was beginning to feel the effects of my oil-soaked dinner as it began to reach my stomach. It was as if my digestive system had forgotten what to do with such foods as it sees them so rarely. Sure I could have stopped right then and probably not suffered anything worse than mild indigestion but the allure of the fried food item was too strong. I treated myself to another pakora, polished off the samosa and worked my way through the potato pattie. With fried food it's easy to use the excuse.."it won't keep in the fridge", as the reason you leave the restaurant sans doggie bag, but even if that veggie pakora came out of the chill tomorrow just as crispy as it came out of the kitchen it wouldn't make it through the car ride home.

What is it about fried foods? The answer lies in simple brain chemistry (is that an oxymoron?). Dr. David Kessler, former FDA chief, explains the phenomenon in his book "The End of Overeating". Here's a small taste...

"Highly palatable" foods -- those containing fat, sugar and salt -- stimulate the brain to release dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with the pleasure center, he found. In time, the brain gets wired so that dopamine pathways light up at the mere suggestion of the food, such as driving past a fast-food restaurant, and the urge to eat the food grows insistent. Once the food is eaten, the brain releases opioids, which bring emotional relief. Together, dopamine and opioids create a pathway that can activate every time a person is reminded about the particular food. This happens regardless of whether the person is hungry.

Good thing that paragraph wasn't fried or you might just want to read the whole book...

If you want a bit of a bigger taste here's an article about it: Crave Man


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Elimination or Deprivation?

It's been some time since I've written and this is mostly because I haven't eaten anything very memorable in awhile. You see I, like many a Bastyr nutrition student before me, embarked upon what is known as the Elimination Diet. This is not a diet in the traditional sense of restricting eating to promote weight loss but rather restricting eating to enable one to determine if there are particular foods causing unwanted physical symptoms like fatigue, GI distress, brain fog, headaches, etc. After eliminating all potential offenders for 2-3 weeks ideally the symptoms subside for a time and it is then that you systematically reintroduce the foods one at a time and observe for any adverse reactions. After 3 weeks without any wheat, soy, corn, peanuts, chocolate, or sugar I did learn one thing...one should not begin this type of diet without proper preparation. I mean making a comprehensive plan of meals and snacks with a corresponding trip to the grocery store to obtain the needed ingredients. Even the most die-hard kale and brown rice fan can get tired of these staple foods after 21 days of eating them for nearly every meal.

Despite my nearly 2 years following what many would consider a fairly "restrictive diet" in standard American diet terms...I still convince myself that I can easily find necessary edibles no matter where I am. I tell myself as I head to a restaurant, a friend's house, the school cafeteria, "SURELY, there'll be something I can eat." It wasn't until perhaps the 13th day of experiencing blurred vision, headaches, and no energy that I decided that I probably wasn't going about this particular dietary adventure in the healthiest way. So I stopped.

It's amazing what kind of cravings pop up the minute you deny yourself a particular food. And the cruelest part of it all is that the minute you don't allow yourself soy or bread or corn they start to show up EVERYWHERE. Suddenly everything their serving in the cafeteria is made up the exact ingredients you have sworn off. BBQ tempeh calzones, soy sausage and pepper sandwiches. .... I bet you if I told myself tomorrow that I could no longer eat liverwurst I would immediately crave it and tomorrow in the Bastyr lunch line what do you think you'd find?

With cravings,