Sunday, January 16, 2011

5 Foods You'll Usually Find in My Kitchen

I will admit that I was not always a role model when it came to my profession.  Far from it.  My evolution as a good eater has been slow and steady, punctuated by headlong plummets into sugar land.   On the first day of school for nutrition, I remember walking into class with some Fig Newtons I'd gotten from a gas station down the street for breakfast.  I was starving and couldn't wait to eat those suckers.  In those days, if I ate breakfast it could always have passed for dessert - doughnuts, sugary instant oatmeal with sugar on top, sugary cereals with skim milk and sugar on top... Lunch would be an entire giant burrito from Qdoba or a 7-layer burrito from Taco Bell (both vegetarian and devoid of any protein, of course).  And dinner was pasta.  Just white noodles and some sort of preservative and pesticide-laden, zero protein marinara sauce.  Dessert?  Maybe an entire pint of rainbow sherbet or a bunch of cookies.  I never went long without a Mountain Dew, Twix bar or some sort of pastry, either.  Love those pastries.  The part that I have to remember sometimes is that when I walked in with those Fig Newtons for breakfast, I didn't think I'd done anything wrong.  And if someone at that point in my life had told me not to eat that for breakfast, I would have been pissed. off.  But here I am writing every week, probably pissing at least a few people off every time, because I wish someone HAD said something to me.  Anyway, by the end of my 4 year tenure in school my diet had changed a bit.  It still changes all the time as I figure out what works for me and as I continue to learn.

In school, I had the opportunity to be a nanny for the daughter of Esther Cohen, the director of my school.  Esther was really influential in my life as a teacher, a role model, and a mentor.  The great part about being her nanny was that I knew exactly what was in her refrigerator and cupboards at her house.  I knew what she, her kids, and her dogs ate, and that in itself was a large part of my education.  She's the first person I ever knew who had raw milk in her refrigerator, and I can definitely say that that had something to do with me trying raw milk last week.  Her dogs ate raw meat every day and one of her daughter's favorite treats was a small cup of raw milk with a drop of vanilla in it.  At this point, I feel like the contents of my refrigerator and my tastes in food are as strange and outlandish as Esther's family's.  At this pivotal moment in my life, I'm going to try to impart some new information to you by describing the contents of my own refrigerator. 

Let me just start by saying that there is a quarter of a gallon of raw milk and a quart of raw yogurt rotting in there.  Since my last post, Seth realized he can't eat raw dairy, either.  If anybody wants it...

The Big 5
Other than that, here are the top 5 things you'll find in my kitchen.  Why 5?  I don't know - it seems like bloggers like to use that number on their lists of very important things...
1. Meat
Every kind, every way.  I don't just mean red meat when I say "meat", by the way.  I'm referring to all animals, including fish, that once had faces.  Pork loin chops, turkey bacon, turkey breasts, lamb steaks, cow steaks, ground buffalo, shrimp, salmon, canned sardines, chicken thighs, pork bacon, lobster tails, crabs...  And I could go on.  Some is in the fridge already cooked so we can make meals quickly, and some is in the fridge waiting to be cooked.  A lot is in the freezer because we like to buy things on sale.  Organic meat is not cheap. 

The merits of properly raised meat are countless.  Among other things, it's a source of protein, essential fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), and balanced blood sugar.  Contrary to popular belief, in my opinion, you don't have to stay away from any kind of meat (i.e. "red"), unless it's factory farmed, it's against your religion, or you're sensitive to it.
2. Eggs
My boyfriend's mother is kind enough to stop by H&J Farms in East Longmont on her way to visit us weekly in Boulder.  She picks up enough eggs for our dog and us for the week (about 5 dozen).  Yes, our dog eats eggs. Raw.  Like Rocky.  H&J farms is a rather large plot of land where chickens run amok, eating bugs, grass, GMO-free chicken feed and local corn.  The eggs often contain 2 yolks, which are always golden yellow and difficult to break - not to mention delicious.  These are healthy eggs.  I eat them scrambled, hard-boiled and sometimes raw in my coconut milk ice cream.  And yes, I eat every yolk.

Eggs that come from pasture raised chickens are a really good source of protein, essential fatty acids, choline for your brain and liver, and lutein for your eyes.  They're also a great source of Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Thiamine (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B6, Folate (Vitamin B9), Vitamin B12, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorous, Zinc, Tryptophan, Iodine and Selenium.  Here's some news for you, the cholesterol in egg yolks doesn't cause heart disease - refined carbohydrates do (to make a vast blanket statement...).  The yolks are where you'll find the bulk of all of those nutrients listed above.  All of the protein in an egg doesn't even live in the white, FYI, for all of you who throw away the yolk because you just want the protein.  Here's an awesome video sequence from Chris Kresser at about how eating cholesterol and saturated fat actually reduces the risk of heart disease.  He provides some fantastic research to back up his claims.

I Have High Cholesterol, and I Don't Care (Part I) from The Healthy Skeptic on Vimeo.

I Have High Cholesterol, and I Don't Care (Part II) from The Healthy Skeptic on Vimeo.

3. Brassica Family Veggies (Kale, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, etc.)
I just noticed that most of the vegetables in my refrigerator are in the Brassica family, which includes  kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, rutabaga, and turnips.  Broccoli is on that list, too, but it's not in my fridge because of the, er, digestive issues it gives me.  These plants are very nutrient dense, especially kale.  They contain a lot of vitamin C, carotenoids (read: vitamin A), and many anti-cancer nutrients like indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane.  They're also full of fiber.  If you're going to eat one vegetable for the rest of your life, eat kale.  Chop it up, put some olive oil, salt and vinegar on it, massage it down,  and you have yourself some nutrients.  Yes, massage it.  Watch this video on how to make kale taste good.  I put these veggies in stir fries, egg scrambles and salads.
4. Jicama
To my surprise, I just found out that jicama is a legume (gasp!).  I don't eat legumes because of their phytate and lectin content.  Luckily, the phytates are generally in the germ of a plant, which is not the root, which is what a jicama is.  I can not even find jicama listed on any chart of phytate-containing foods, so I will keep it in my fridge for now.  If you've never tasted jicama before, you should try eating it raw, in a salad or lightly cooked in a stir fry.  Its flavor is perfectly described as a cross between a water chestnut and a pear.  Nutritionally, it contains a little vitamin C, but its best quality is its fiber content.  This food is especially high in the fiber known as inulin, which is a pre-biotic.  That means it helps to feed the good probiotics in your gut.  I eat it raw or with my eggs or meat lightly sautéed in some coconut oil.      

Japanese Sweet Potatoes

5. Sweet potatoes
I have a sweet tooth, and that's why sweet potatoes are almost always in my house.  If you bake sweet potatoes for long enough, they caramelize and become a nutrient-rich sweet treat.  I have been a huge fan of garnet yams, but recently I discovered Japanese sweet potatoes (see picture above), and I love them.  They have a smoother texture than garnets and a subtly different flavor that is still very sweet.  They have more purply skin and whiter flesh.  You'll have to try them out.  I usually bake them up wrapped in tin foil a few at a time at 400 degrees for about an hour.  (You can cut them up and put them in tin foil to make the bake time faster.)  Then I put them in the fridge and eat away at them throughout the next few days to a week.  I love them with coconut milk and cinnamon.  I've actually made ice cream out of coconut milk, sweet potatoes, cinnamon and honey before.  Yum.

Japanese sweet potatoes (and sweet potatoes, in general) are rich in beta carotene, which gets converted to vitamin A in your body.  They're also full of vitamins E and C and B6.  There are tons of other minerals in them, too - check it out at here.  They provide a good amount of fiber, too - about 6.6g per cup, even after they're baked.  

Don't get me wrong - I don't ONLY eat these 5 things, but they are staples for me.  Other foods you'll find in my kitchen are bananas, kiwis, pears, canned coconut milk, coconut oil, Daiya cheese (which, if you're dairy free and you need a good alternative, you should check out), and tapioca flour (tapioca is a tuber - not a grain FYI).

What About Your Kitchen? 
I encourage you to take stock of your own kitchen.  Are you happy with what is filling up your fridge and cupboards (or NOT filling them up...)?  Could you make any changes in order to include more whole, unadulterated foods?  Could you make your kitchen more accessible and convenient so that you'd WANT to do more food prep/cooking?  Part of my job is to go to people's houses and dissect their kitchens.  If that's something you're interested in having me do for you, please contact me.  If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to use the comment box.  I'd love to know about your kitchens, too! 

Until next time.            


  1. Neely...four words for you: I + LUV+ UR + BLOG. You are like the Chelsea Handler of the nutrition world making it as fun as informative to read your new posts!!

  2. Thank you! Someday maybe I can have a TV show like Chelsea's. Hmmm...

  3. Thanks for another entertaining blog! I'm psyched to try out jicamas too. Have you checked out my two latest favorite tubers: sunchokes and parsnips? If you have any info, good bad or otherwise, about them, I'd be thrilled to hear it.

  4. That was super interesting! Would absolutely LOVE to have you dissect my kitchen next time you're in town. How do you serve your dog eat raw eggs?

  5. KiraZoe,

    Unfortunately, parsnips give me a huge headache, but I do like them. We made them into mashers with cauliflower for Christmas. They both have a good amount of potassium, fiber and some B vitamins. Eat your heart out!

  6. Jessica!

    Our dog usually eats raw eggs over some kibble with some re-hydrated raw turkey and veggies. She LOVES eggs. LOVES them.

  7. So when are you coming to our house for a kitchen evaluation Neely? Great blog and we can vouch for the awesome eggs from H&J Farms out near Firestone. The chickens are great and the people are even better!

  8. i can't believe you didn't give me recognition for the japanese sweet potatoes!!!! :) great blog, again. but you left out coconut everything...

  9. Great post, Neely! :)

    My kitchen is much the same! I started eating meat last year after 14 years of vegetarianism and suffering the health problems that ensued. Now I eat at least a bit of meat with every meal and I feel so much better. It's still kind of a challenge navigating the deli and learning to cook with meat, but I am trying to broaden my knowledge as time goes by. My staples right now are ground bison, turkey bacon, turkey sausage, chicken breast, ground beef, ground turkey, and occasionally a steak.

    In the winter I keep a supply of winter squashes and sweet potatoes around, as well as kale, chard, carrots, onions, and apples. In the spring and summer my fridge is full of fresh CSA food which is so great at keeping me out of food ruts. No eggs due to sensitivity issues, what a bummer that one is. And of course, as mentioned above, coconut everything!

  10. Holy moly you weren't kidding about the two yolk eggs...this is weird.