Seasonal Strawberry Tart with Fresh Mint

I love hot weather. And with hot weather brings some of my favorite seasonal fruit, including strawberries. There is a big different between those large, half-white strawberries that you might get in February at the grocery store and those you get from the farmer’s market this time of year.  I swear you can taste the summer sun still in the strawberry meat, as I did when I picked up two baskets on Saturday. Strawberries are one of those foods you should definitely buy organic, if nothing else (check out the Dirty Dozen list here), since you are actually eating the flesh. And even though something has been certified organic, did you know that there are still pesticides that are used and deemed “safe”? It’s hard to keep a good bug down.

Seasonal Strawberry Tart with Fresh Mint

Needed: tart pan (9 inch)

Crust:

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 almond meal
  • 1/4 cup pistachios
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp honey or 6 dates, pitted
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Filling

  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (I recommend St. Benoit plain)
  • 1 tsp kudzu root (or another thickener) – find this at Whole Foods or natural food stores
  • 2 tbsp water (for the kudzu root)
  • the best strawberries you can find (the darker the better), sliced
  • fresh mint

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse all ingredients together in food processor until it all sticks together, and has been ground into a meal, but not a butter. Press into tart pan, bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool.

Mix kudzu root with water, heat at low and stir until thick. Or prepare whatever other thickener you have around (arrowroot, corn starch, etc.). Let cool. Mix in coconut milk and yogurt.

Fill crust with coconut-yogurt mixture, place strawberries atop and sprinkle with fresh mint. The sweet should come from the crust and strawberries, and a good sea salt will wake up the flavors of the crust. Enjoy!

I heart strawberries

I heart strawberries

 

Love the green flecks in the crust from the pistachios, and the mint really lifts the flavor

Love the green flecks in the crust from the pistachios, and the mint really lifts the flavor

 

Too pretty to eat?

Too pretty to eat?

 

Sugar & Salt: Pinch & Sprinkle

Take a bite of an apple. Drink a spoonful of soup. That apple might not be sweet enough, and the soup not salty enough. If we feel the need to douse everything with hot sauce, or add spoonfuls of sugar to already sweetened granola, chances are we might have some mineral or vitamin deficiencies. This is pretty common – I can fall of the sure-fruit-is-sweet-enough-band-wagon more often than I care to share. I find that when my tolerance for sweet tastes goes up, I need more…and more and more. Our tolerances for tastes can vary according to what our body is in need of nutritionally. Let’s take salt, for example:

First off: we need sodium! Electrolytes help to balance fluid levels in the body (upwards of 60% of the body is water – what do our blood cells swim in? What do we sweat out?), help our muscles function properly and support cell membrane integrity. Ever heard of people “drowning from the inside” when they drink too much water (perhaps during an endurance sports event)? It happens. Not enough salt replacement in the body as the body sweats and looses water and salt, but water is consumed out of balance with sodium equals trouble.

According to the Mayo Clinic, one teaspoon of salt contains just over 2,300 mg of sodium. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day — or even less (closer to 1,500) if you’re 51 or older, or if you have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease. On average (average, my friends), we consume close to 3,500 mg per day of sodium. This sodium can be hidden in any food, any food product and especially in foods that lack substantial, natural yummy flavors on their own.

That being said, we are all very different, and the way our bodies process anything is very individualized. Whenever I have had too much sodium (and it really depends on the quality of sodium) my hands, under the eyes and feet swell up like crazy. I guess I am a good absorber. There is a significant change in this affect, however, when I take a pinch of and sprinkle my food with high quality sea or Himalayan salt – and still get that savory punch I need. I have accumulated a little collection of pretty awesome salts; Australian Murray River pink salt, Hawaiian volcanic pink salt, celtic sea salt (Maldon), and often sprinkle foods with gomasio (a seaweed – nourishing and salty – and sesame seed mixture). Natural salts such as these, which haven’t been processed or stripped of nutrients only to be iodized (or fortified, kinda like cereals are fortified with iron or calcium) are essential to helping us retain and actually absorb the water we drink. Ask me about my “WATER!” handout – tips on how to actually get those 8-10 glasses of water per day without having to hit the bathroom every 15 minutes).

Only need a teense!

Only need a teense!

Anticipating that question on the cost of these “fancy salts”: this is the same discussion that I have about good quality food – what you are skimping on in quality now you might very well pay (10 fold) in health concerns tomorrow. If you can’t grow it in your backyard, make it in your kitchen or essentially harvest it from the sea, maybe it doesn’t know how to actually nourish your body? Additionally, I received these salts as gifts, never actually diving in to spend $10 on a small box of salt myself. However, I don’t use as much salt or condiments (unrefined salts are SUPER flavorful and potent) and I have become sort of obsessed with the different flavors each salt actually has, the colors and the textures and the amount of salt I actually don’t need for a whole pot of soup. Some of the crystals in their natural state are shaped into these incredibly symmetrical pyramid shapes and flakes. Super cool.

  • Ketchup: 160 mg of salt in one tablespoon (someone might have about 2 tbsp? And what if you are at a Giant’s game – those garlic fries are loaded with sodium)
  • Asiago cheese: 454 mg in one ounce (might have 2-3 slices)
  • Milk (non-fat): 127 mg in one cup (the more fat the milk has, the less sodium – drink 1-2%!)
  • Papa John’s “The Works” pizza with crust: 875 mg in one slice

The above totals 1,616 mg, upwards of 2,230 if having more than measured. This doesn’t account for any coffee drinks, juices or other beverages outside of water we might have throughout the day, snacks, another meal or anything sweet we might be craving at the end of the day, since we aren’t eating anything very nourishing. This day can spiral even more out of control if we are eating on the run, too late at night,  if we eat like this daily and if we are stressed, overworked and our immune system is suppressed. And since we aren’t making that pizza ourselves, we don’t have control over the added salt or flavorings, or quality of the meat or toppings that are being added.

This morning I wanted something sweet, but I wanted my favorite St. Benoit yogurt, as well (good fat and protein). I had some coconut sunflower seed granola (not overly sweetened, good source of protein) and it needed a kick. I pinched and sprinkled some coconut palm sugar/fleur de sel that I bought yesterday at Berkeley Bowl – perfect natural flavor enhancer, and all you need it a pinch.

Food for thought: maybe we aren’t as much an obese nation as we are a nutrient deficient nation. Perhaps now kale sounds more appealing…with a pinch and sprinkle of sea salt!   :)

References:

  • http://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/pizza-least-salt-sodium.php
  • http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sodium/NU00284
  • http://www.cdc.gov/salt/
I Kept My Heart in San Francisco

A lot happened in my life in San Francisco in my early twenties, so it would seem fitting that I wouldn’t stay completely outside of this gem of a City by the Bay. I am now keeping office hours in San Francisco twice a week, growing Embrace Health & Nutrition outside of the East Bay and outside of my private practice a bit. I not only have space on Mondays and Wednesdays to see my own clients under Embrace, but I will be an independent contractor for projects developed within Syntropy SF. In fact, as I sat in the office on Monday, my first day in this integrative health co-working space, and realized how I absolutely love it…already. I have co-workers again! Yes, working out of the home is nice, stuff that living the dream is made of. But there is a different kind of focus when you are in a professional work-space and have people in and out around you; it allows me to think of even MORE creative and fun ways to help my clients find health and happiness more effectively – always the ultimate goal. So if you know anyone who wants a pantry walk through, wants to learn how to cook, wants to learn to live a more healthful and sustainable lifestyle by working with a nutrition professional with a science and psychology-based approach, or just wants the story behind why eating less calories doesn’t exactly help us lose weight, and eating more nutrient dense food is how to work it (calorie counting is SO last decade), please send ‘em my way.

If you have a  moment, hop on over to Syntropy in South Park and see how we roll…integrative health-style.

South Park entrance

South Park entrance