How to Address Stubborn Weight Loss: Guest Post

My friend and respected colleague, Health Coach (and Business Coach/CPA extraordinaire) Jessica Mishra, of Beaming with Health, has some important things to say, particularly around a topic that her and I are both very passionate about: answering that omnipresent question of, “why can’t I lose weight? I am doing everything right…right?” I am honored to have her as a guest writer on this weeks’ post:

Jessica

Do you feel like you are doing almost everything right when it comes to your health habits? You are eating well for the most part and exercising regularly. For some reason, though, you can’t seem to reach the optimal weight you feel your body should be at. I have been through this myself, and I hear about this from clients. Let’s look at a few areas that are important to address when it comes to weight loss that do not directly relate to food or exercise.

Toxicity

Did you know that your body does this nifty little thing to protect you when you have excess toxicity in your body? It “does you a solid” by storing toxins in your fat cells. This is actually a helpful function that the body is performing, but it doesn’t seem so helpful when all you see is excess weight on your body. What can be done?

Well, basically anything that assists the body with the natural detoxification process. Saunas (especially far infrared saunas), clean eating programs, Epsom salt baths, and castor oil packs are just a few things that can be done to support the liver and the detoxification process. Teas like milk thistle or dandelion root also provide excellent support for the liver. Consistent exercise or movement will make sure your lymph system continues to move so that toxins can be removed on a regular basis.  Even if you can’t get to the gym, at least have some kind of movement every day (even a nice walk).

Pay attention to your body and see if you have some of the common signs of toxicity. If you have constipation, bad body odor or breath, fatigue, a coated white tongue, acne or other skin conditions, or headaches these can all be signs of excess toxicity. In the case that these symptoms persist, it would be good to work with a holistic practitioner such as a Naturopathic doctor, health coach, or integrative MD. Prolonged excess toxicity can lead to chronic conditions such as cancer down the line, so it is important to address it early on.

Stress and Adrenal Fatigue

Oh precious adrenal glands (small glands which sit on top of the kidneys) you have such a job to do. Especially when we are stressed! The adrenal glands produce cortisol. Cortisol is often known as the stress hormone. When we are stressed out or our bodies are undergoing a form of stress that perhaps we are not aware of, excess cortisol is produced. Do you know what excess cortisol in the body means? It means fat storage around the midsection. No thank you, we will pass on that please!

The adrenal glands can become fatigued over time when exposed to too much stress. This can come from regular stress (working too hard, worrying, anxiety), but it can also come from lack of sleep, poor diet, food allergies, and skipping meals. When adrenal fatigue has set in, it is almost impossible to lose excess weight no matter what we do.

So what can be done? The number one thing to heal adrenals is to remove the provoking agent. Easier said than done, but take your best stab at it. Try to incorporate stress management practices like yoga or meditation. Leave work early when you can. Address food allergies and clean up your diet where possible. Reduce alcohol, sugar, and caffeine because these items do not get along well with your adrenals. Eat regular meals. When you skip meals, your body produces more cortisol to get your blood sugar back up.

There are several key nutrients, which support the adrenals, but in the interest of not writing the world’s longest blog post—eat a variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables and high-quality meats, amongst other nutrient-dense whole foods. Finally, the best thing you can do to heal the adrenal glands, is to get more rest. That’s right! Sleep is so important. If you can get to bed around the same time every night and get 7-8 hours of sleep that will really help. Sleep in a bit, too, on the weekends when you can.

Emotional Considerations

The mind is a very powerful thing. It can even influence the way your body functions. Sometimes excess weight can be present as a form of protection or cushion from something you are afraid of. It can also stick around when something in your life feels stuck. Perhaps you are in a job that you hate, or maybe you need to leave a toxic relationship. It is amazing what can happen with your body when you push forward through a difficult decision that you have been resisting.

I also want to say that there are many things in life that nourish us besides food. Often when one of those areas is absent or we feel empty, food steps in to comfort us. Again this is easier said than done, but if you feel an absence in one of these core areas (i.e. spirituality, relationships, a social network, or a fulfilling career) take steps where you can to make this part of your life whole again. Call on others for support when necessary. You are the creator of your own life, and the first step is setting the intention to get what you want.

Sleep

I touched on sleep earlier, but I want to say a bit more about it here. Let’s tie some of the above concepts together. When you are asleep, this is when your body detoxifies. If you do not get enough sleep, your body does not have ample time to remove toxins from your body. Hello fat storage (as discussed above).

In addition, when you don’t get enough sleep, your body looks to quick sources of energy in the form of caffeine and sugar. Thus, cravings feel much stronger when your body is tired, and it becomes more challenging to make smart food decisions. Further, when you are on what I call the “blood sugar roller coaster”, your metabolism takes a hit. You know what I mean, right? Coffee in the morning followed by mid-morning crash. Insert sugar or delicious baked good. Another crash mid-afternoon, more coffee or sugar, and then you feel depleted by the end of the day. When our blood sugar is constantly doing this rise and fall dance, our body goes into panic mode. Once again we get excess production of cortisol and fat storage.  The best thing to keep blood sugar balanced is to lessen things that spike and drop it like refined sugar, refined carbohydrates, caffeine, and alcohol.  It is also very important to eat regular meals. That means no skipping breakfast or lunch no matter how busy you are.

Thank you to Amy Griffith for allowing me to do a guest blog post. I would love to hear from you! Are there areas discussed above that you feel like you could use support with? Connect with Jessica.

Home Cooked Date Night on Oahu

We have been taking time away from work with my husbands’ family on the North Shore of Oahu. Needless to say, we feel so lucky to have had the chance to get away from work and our regular routine for a while. Our plates have been filled with a lot of fresh fruit and some wonderful fresh fish, not to mention locally made pickled green papaya with sweet plums – amazing.

photo 1

Last night my sweetie and I opted for a date night in and visited Celestial Natural Foods about 15 minutes up the road for some hand-picked goods. With the help of my homemade almond-lime-garlic dipping sauce, our plates of baked brown rice, sauteed broccolini, squash and zucchini with lots of garlic and onion, sprouted beans, peas and lentils and fresh sunflower sprouts made for the perfect vegetarian spread. With our chairs on the beach and feet in the sand, we enjoyed ocean-side dining at its finest, ending with a fierce game of dominoes and some Coconut Bliss Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge.

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Today, I made a creamy congee with leftovers. The house that we have had the pleasure of staying in has a plethora of amazing books: Paul Pitchford’s Healing with Whole Foods and Essential Ayurveda, to name just a couple. Herewith is the recipe for my experimental congee, portioned out to feed about 8 people with hefty leftovers:

  • one heaping handful of brown rice, cooked
  • 5-6 cups heaping cups of water
  • vegetables and flavor agents of choice (we had broccolini, yellow crook neck squash, zucchini, onion, garlic)
  • sprouted peas, lentils and peas (about 2 cups works)
  • soy or tamari sauce
  • fennel seeds
  • ground mustard
  • dried marjoram
  • sea salt
  • ground black pepper
  • sprouts to garnish

congee

There are many ways to flavor or enhance congee. I simply diced and chopped the veggies, onion and garlic, threw in large dashes of the soy sauce, herbs and spices, and mixed everything together in a large pot, brought to boil and set down to simmer for about 3 hours. We ended up with a wonderful savory porridge, perfect for a light lunch before Opal Thai for dinner. Aloha!

 

Skill Exchange Mixer a Success

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to participate in a workshop at the Makeshift Society. Little did I know just how much fun it was going to be, and how much I would be learning myself. Kate Koeppel, creator of Skill Exchange (and my website), brings folks together to teach, share and learn from one another, promoting self-reliance skill building.

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Mixing up the local, seasonal, medicinal onion dip. Yum

Quite the crowd

Quite the crowd

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Supportive friends from the health and wellness world, Jessica Mishra and Michaele Kruger

That being said, the first mixer of a series open to the public was a party; we learned how to stitch a tie from This Humble Abode, properly store produce and why we should buy local from Mission Community Market, pickle green strawberries from Fermenters Club (for all you in need for a kick to your digestive system!), and how to make date sweetened almond milk from Project Juice . All in all, the night was a sweet success.

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A super happy me getting ready to perform

For additional press and information about this event, visit the DIY Network’s Made+Remade blog. Hope to see you at the next Skill Exchange! Photo credit: Kara Brodgesell.

Yours, Mine, Ours…THE Local Butcher Shop

The husband and I call ourselves “meat minimalists.” That is why, when I walked into The Local Butcher Shop, I was so pumped when I was issued the perfect remark by Aaron, one of the co-owners of this gastro-gem. When I told him I was a nutritionist (always looking for local and small food businesses to point clients and friends towards), he replied with something along the lines of wanting people to eat good quality meat, just not as often. This was a cow moo and chicken cluck to my ears, ladies and germs. I had seen The Local Butcher Shop when in the neighborhood a few weeks before, and was sold by the name. I love it when a business knows their clientele and the neighborhood so well and are confident in the concept of selling potential customers less on a gimmick or clever marketing and more on quality. This place has a small, neighborly business attitude and modest, hard-working-folk aesthetic…which will keep me coming back again and again. And that’s not even the best part about it. The meat is.

The interior of the store is simple, very clean and, of course, drew me in with the use of green colors in shades of fresh cut grass, white and black. I am a sucker for color and ambiance…even in my local food shops, and this was no exception. Plus, when you are dealing with cutting up meat all day long, the space better be clean. They say that classically trained chef’s are judged and regarded not only by their food prep and culinary creativity, but also by the clean kitchen and workspace that they keep. From reading about the backgrounds of those that grace us with their helpful hints and recommendations at The Local Butcher Shop, I know these guys and gals are pros, taking time away from late nights in the restaurant to smelling the roses (or clean, fresh cut grass) and serving up some of the best quality meat in the Bay Area, which arrives fresh from within 150 miles of Berkeley…and they use the whole animal. Again…music to my ears.

So much to choose from…

Might have to try their pate’s someday…could any of them possibly be better than Laura Knoff’s recipe (one of my nutrition teacher’s at Bauman)!?

You learn something new everyday! Great addition to the space at The Local Butcher Shop.

Now, I am very intimidated by meat…cooking it, that is. But when I asked for lamb (which they were getting later that afternoon) and was told I should try goat (I planned on making a little roast that night for dinner), I was pumped. As you might recall, I posted a few weeks back about my obsession with goat butter, needless to say goat cheese, so I was game to give goat meat a try. I asked about prepping in my cast iron pot with veggies and herbs, and was told to give it about an hour, after searing the outside of the roast. I got about 1 1/2 pounds of goat, and it worked out perfectly for dinner that night and leftovers for lunch and dinner the next day. My once a month meat craving was perfectly satisfied and happy with this purchase. Here is the “recipe” for roast goat, after being given tips by the butcher. Make it as you read it, and feel free to fudge a few things:

Chop 5 small carrots, 1 purple onion, 1-2 leeks, some oregano, thyme, a bay leaf (cut in half), and prep the roast by rubbing it liberally with pink salt, fresh ground pepper and olive oil. Best part? I cut up about 5 garlic cloves, put half of them in the pot, and then cut little slits into the roast and stuffed the rest of the garlic halves in. I heart garlic, though.  ; ) Dump everything in your pot (I have a larger, signature oval “french oven” Le Creuset…gotta have at least one from their set. This is kind of a fun color) and nestle the roast in the middle of the veggies. The roast can be seared on the stove top or not…I forgot to sear it, but it still turned out great. Searing helps to bring out the natural juices and flavor to prep it before major heating happens, I think.

Let the goating begin

Let the goating begin

Prepared, seasoned and ready for the heat.

Add 1 1/2 cup chicken stock and 1/2 cup red wine to your pot, and cook at 375 degrees in the oven for about an hour (depending on how you like it cooked. I would check on it after an hour).

The whole house smelled so deeelish. Goat is super flavorful. I am sorry for the cute little guy/gal who made it to our table, but we paid very close attention to thanking him/her for gracing our palates with such amazing meat (with chard and brown rice on the side)

Ah, yes. I KNEW you would ask about the pricing at this oh so worth it spot. Here is where I get on my short but sturdy soapbox and say it is pricey…but (and that’s a big rump roast of a butt. Sorry, had to) keep in mind you aren’t paying .$99 cents for, say, a 1 1/2 pound of goat like you would for a Burger King purchase (especially when you are getting the added benefits of the pink slime in that burger. Mmmm hmmm). Michael Pollan once said, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” When your body craves something (something that is ultimately good for you, like greens or an apple or beets) that usually means that your body needs the vitamins, minerals, macro-and micro-nutrients that that particular food has to offer. I crave meat because I can tell my body needs a bit of a vitamin B12 and iron boost once a month or so. When you crave processed foods, like salty or sweet cookies, crackers, cake, etc. that usually is just a sign of an addiction, even if it is just a short lived one. For real! It’s all about balance.

So go to the The Local Butcher Shop. Talk to the butchers about their biz, buy an amazing cut of meat, some liver for your homemade pate, bones for your bone broth, stock for a soup or one of their ridonkulous looking chocolate chip cookies (90-10 rule, my friends. 90-10), and thank me later. My ONLY complaint about this joint would be that they are farther away from me than I would like…but I suppose it keeps any cravings I might have to eat meat when I don’t REALLY need it at bay. EMBRACE YOUR INNER MEAT MINIMALIST!

Want to love any subject you loathed in school? Check this out…

Sorry…no food this week. But I encourage you to read on, and get a refresher on the Kreb’s Cycle in Biology or the Baroque period in Art History. Let me explain.

The Khan Academy is no con (had to say it…just had to). It is, however, a brilliant way of using YouTube and the internet as your own private tutor. The key to this now developed company is Sal Khan, an obviously brilliant but seemingly down to earth guy, whose “About” paragraph on his website says, “Before quitting his job as manager of a hedge fund to run the Khan Academy full time, Sal also found time to get three degrees from MIT and an MBA from Harvard.” Enough said about his intellect. And he actually makes things very easy to understand, utilizing the some of the best aspects of online video play (pause, play, rewind, etc.) to…teach anyone about anything, for lack of a better description. I am sure many people have heard of the Khan Academy (more here from a great 60 Minutes report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta (a secret celebrity crush of mine)) but this report shows how it is impacting education in the classroom and student comprehension. It does not, however, belittle the need for teachers in the classroom (as a teacher friend of mine explained). It does, however, allow teachers to give students more one on one attention, even in classrooms where there is a 30:1 student to teacher ratio. The 60 Minutes report outlines this concept well.

The way it works is Sal Khan, or some of the other Khan Academy “teachers”, record their verbal and written or drawn explanations of the chosen topic and post this as a video up on their website (YouTube, as well). You can then listen and visualize along with your online lecturer, pausing and continuing along at your speed and understanding. And don’t worry if you find yourself rewinding at certain points for some topics. And rewinding, and rewinding, and rewinding. Story of my life. But with Khan Academy, I still get to the point of understanding that I need. And there aren’t those elementary feelings of frustration I used to get after algebra or during time with my tutor. This is really comprehensive.

Sal Khan recording a lesson

Sal Khan recording a lesson

For me, and for nutrition, the Khan Academy is great way to go back to the basics of what cancer is, for example, or how diabetes develops. Sometimes it’s hard for me to articulate the basics when the “curse of knowledge” sets in (knowing all of the micro-details, and losing sight of how to explain the big picture). So, when you or your kid has a math, science, history…or any test that they, or you, are dreading to study for, check out Khan Academy. I am hoping that by the time I have kids (and if they inherit my lack of math skills), that Khan Academy will be a well-integrated format used in the school system in the Bay Area…at least. From a health and nutrition point of view, one of the topics I am looking forward to watching a video for is Intelligent Design and Evolution. This is a GREAT one to help us all realize how complex the human body is, and beyond, and how important it is to do what we can to help it function at its best (ok, there is my “health and wellness” plug).

If the Khan Academy can explain Valuation and Investing to me, they can explain it to ANYONE. Enjoy and EMBRACE YOUR KNOWLEDGE!

I Heart Temescal

The husband and I have one night a week that we designate as our eating out night – gotta stay true to our food budget without compromising nutrition or quality. And we go big on this night; if we have a Google Deals coupon at our favorite Indian street food spot in Berkeley (Vik’s Chaat Corner, baby)? Then that’s where you’ll find us. As those of us thinking we are well-versed in the ever-evolving culinary scene of the Bay Area know, their are plenty of spots to hit up to get amazing food on the cheap. And then there are the splurges…

Doña Tomás is not just a Mexican restaurant. It is one of the establishments guilty of starting the Temescal District revolution… creating something very, very special in an otherwise forgotten and downtrodden area of Oakland. The husband had never been, and I have always loved it. The atmosphere is perfect, and having just been to Oaxaca over the holidays, it felt even more authentic than I thought it always was. The clean, white stucco walls with what look like vintage Frida Kaho tunics sparsely adorning the walls make their way through the hallway separating the bar area and main dining area. The bar feels like members of the Buena Vista Social Club will be setting up soon to play in the corner. It has deep, deep red walls, making you feel really comfortable and ready to settle in. Their thick and crispy chips with cotija cheese crumbled atop and thinner, smokey salsa is a perfect starter. We also ordered the following to share:

Quesadillas con Betabeles:  house-made tortillas filled with goat cheese, beets, fennel and thyme, topped with tomatillo-guajillo salsa
and kumquats

The kumquats added an perfect sweet to the savory

Sopes con Platanos: crispy masa cakes topped with fried plantains, black beans, crema and epazote

I heart plantains. Check out Sol Food in San Rafael for more plantain goodness…

Chile Verde: a stew of Niman Ranch lamb with potatoes, poblanos and avocado leaves, topped with crema and cheddar,
served with green rice

The food was, as always, amazing. I usually always go for the carnitas, but decided to venture out. With no room for dessert, we were satisfied. Until. Wait, wait. As we know, this side of the street has a great line-up of places to rival any Mission or Meat Packing type district have gone up around Dona Tomas, as well:

Bakesale Betty – BEST apple and pecan pie I have ever had, and when you are standing in the 20+person line on a sunny afternoon, they’ll bring out fresh baked cookies while you wait, on the house.

Article Pract – I just want to pile their yarns in beautiful hues and textures and dream away – and I gotta get back into knitting and purling myself.

Pizziaolo - I believe a few veterans from the Chez Panisse kitchen started this up, so it was sure to be good from the get go. I have never actually been, but it’s one of those place that has been on my short list WAY too long. I will for sure forgo my gluten issue for a slice of this pie.

Scream Sorbet – we aren’t talking your Dreyer’s rainbow weirdness here. With flavors like Almond Pink Peppercorn (the nut makes the cream base – there’s not dairy!) and Hazelnut Chocolate (better than I would imagine frozen Nutella to be – AND CREAMIER) this place rocks my world. Hard on the budget, but a MUST for the senses.

You get my point. This particular block is the place to be. And down the street we’ve got one of the East Bay versions of Burma Superstar and Lanesplitter’s Pizza. How can you go wrong? On the contrary. You can’t go wrong, but you can find a welcoming surprise inside…the street. Sitting pretty behind the lineup is a modest alley way that I believe was first opened to the public via the Temescal Alley Barbershop. The shop welcomes you to peer in to see the notably attractive barbers in hipster jeans and checkered shirts (my husband is the most attractive man I know, but this is like Blaine from Glee attractive). And as you head past a few of the sandwich boards, alluring one’s curiosity, you must also notice a unique finds vintage furnishings shop, a jewelry and home goods shop and much more to be perused. See the lineup here and make your way down there on a warm summer evening after dinner for music and open doors to the shops. Oakland Art Beat posts such happenings on their calendar online. Many neighbors were also sharing the fruits of their labor along the alley (pictured below).

So sweet. The women who grew these whispered to me about her mispellings, but I just assumed it was mistaken because of her excitement to share!

I took this picture earlier in the week when I was in the neighborhood for lunch. Another way to think about “urban gardening,” or even a moveable garden installation. If it had had a chicken coop? Heaven.

This was such a perfect end to the evening. There were homemade doughnuts being served outside as a small band played what sounded like a mix between Fever Ray, The Postal Service and Air. And as our friend Tim would say in response to being told about a meal or scenario that satisfies his…?                                                       “Perfect.”

Looking into Temescal Alley towards the band.

An Unexpected Combo

We all know that one of the greatest sweet and savory combo’s is that perfect salty smokey flavor and smell of bacon with the sweet, significant, but subtle maple syrup. There are bacon maple cupcakes, ice cream, chocolate bars (now THAT’s a sweet tooth) and so many other creations.

I was craving a warming, sweet and savory something, a dip to be exact, to bring to a friends’ house for a potluck. My friend Tara was bringing  Zachary’s pizza (even though I can’t eat the crust anymore, that stomach ache from all that cheese is DEFINITELY worth it for Zachary’s deep dish), Meg was bringing salad (and she’s a pro at the salad) and Molls, chips and guac (ALWAYS a good choice). I had some garnet yams in the produce bowl at home. What to do, what to do…

I have been obsessed with goat cheese lately (and goat milk butter – but that’s a whole other blog posting). I looked up some recipes for a sweet potato goat cheese spread or dip. I found some good contenders, but decided to make up my own concoction. The portions in this recipe don’t really matter – it’s as indulgent and cheesy or sweet as you want to make it.

What to throw in:

  • Two large garnet yams
  • One large log of goat cheese from Whole Foods (just their generic brand, I think it was around $3; we are trying to really watch the budget these days)
  • Pepitas (the pumpkin seedlings that are a light greenish color)
  • 1 tbsp + 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp maple honey
  • Pink Himalayan salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Puttin’ it together:

Preheat over to 325 degrees. To start, cut up yams into 1 inch cubes (skins left ON) and toss in 1 tbsp of the olive oil, honey, salt and pepper. Next, roast yam cubes on a non-stick cookie sheet for about 15 minute or until soft enough to mash.  Next toss pepitas in remaining olive oil, salt and pepper for just under 5 minutes. Take out of over and let cool. Set aside.

Take out the yams, put into a bowl or blender, whichever is easier for you to mash them with, and mash until very smooth, like mashed potatoes. Spread into a casserole or dip dish (this will be your first layer of the dip).

Next take the cheese and, with a fork, start to crumble as much goat cheese as you wish over the mashed yams. I covered the yams, but could still see a bit of the orange peaking through. It depends on your taste.

Ready to chow

Depending on where you are going or if you are serving this at home, it should be warmed up RIGHT before serving, so plan on having an oven available. Warm up in a low temp oven (300 degrees) for 5-10 minutes, checking to see if it’s warm enough for your taste. Take out, sprinkle with pepitas. I served it up with Totopos, maca quinoa corn chips, from Casa Sanchez – my favorite chips in the entire universe.

The greatest chip of all time

Clearly no one liked it…

Now for a few tid-bits on why this is a fun alternative to your store bought dips and spreads:

Garnet yams, with skins on (the best part, where all the nutrients from the soil have been leftover and the garnet’s themselves are a great sweet without being refined and a great source of beta-carotene, found in our orange produce; squashes, carrots, etc.

Goat milk products are great alternatives for cow milk cheese and butter if you can’t do the dairy, like me. They have shorter chain fat molecules which are easier for humans, in general, to digest. Many people don’t realize they are not ALLERGIC to milk, but are intolerance of its properties. And it’s hard to give up for anyone.  ; )  There are so many fun herbal flavors, such as those from Cypress Grove in Arcata, CA. I have also heard that this place is legit, just up from the Bay Area in Bodega Bay: http://www.bodegaartisancheese.com/index.html. Worth the visit!

I have to admit I am not a huge fan of pepitas and the way they taste raw, although they are really good for you (and good when roasted). In addition to their anti-imflammatory benefits found for arthritis patients, they are a great source of magnesium, manganese, phosphorous and are a solid source of iron, copper, protein and zinc. Throw a quarter of a cup into a salad, or roast them lightly like I did for this recipe). To read about even more fascinating health benefits from pepitas, visit: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=82.

EMBRACE GOAT CHEESE YAM DIP!

Hawking GREAT Fare…

The husband and I were invited to a party for a friend at Pican in downtown Oakland on a Saturday evening. We had never been to Pican (California inspired Southern comfort food in downtown Oakland). All who have been there sing its’ praises, and I soon found out these praises were legit. We were there for light bites and drinks, which was probably better in the long run for my – at times – over-stimulated digestive system. Some family members and friends say I am super healthy and very disciplined, but when things don’t work well with the digestive system to the degree that I have experienced, you learn to just bypass those foods and find WONDERFUL tastes in and an appreciation for super natural foods. However, it can at times be hard for me to remember my dietary downfalls when tempted by a scrumptious corn meal and maple battered fried chicken breast in front of me. So, before getting sucked in to a couple days worth of stomach issues, (which probably would have been TOTALLY worth it) we said our good bye’s to our hostess and were on our way to grab dinner. We headed back towards the car, remembering the place we had parked outside of: Hawker Fare. The menu looked Thai, or what we could relate to as street Thai food, having had some experience with what has become a food truck nation in San Francisco. We were both excited to venture on in.

Upon entering Hawker Fare, the atmosphere made us comfortable and not as square as we think we are getting. We don’t drink very much (in fact my husband has cut down on even enjoying a beer or two per week or lattes because of some stomach issues) and we eat as healthfully as we can, when we can control it. This is due also to budget; we don’t eat out very much. SO…when we do, we want to take advantage of the amazing food that the Bay Area has to offer, while accommodating a shoe string budget that we allow ourselves for eating out. There was some really interesting electronica/hip hop/trance/dance music in the background, but it wasn’t playing so loud as to make the restaurant seem too hip for its own good. And the staff were super kind, were obviously really pumped about the menu themselves and happy to serve us, even thought we came in about 15 minutes before closing. Colorful and bold street art and random music and vintage movie posters spanned the walls. My favorite was what looked like a vintage flyer that read off, for each day of the week, an animal body part that was going to be served for that given day. Ethically uncomfortable? Or a sign of using the whole animal and respecting the food chain in all its glory? I think so. I am not a vegetarian, but I eat very little meat, and the  meat I do eat usually comes in small amounts and, these days, in the form of organ meats (pates). I also love vegan and raw cuisine. But, when in Rome…and when the waitress mentioned that their beef “larb” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larb) also had tender tripe mixed in? I was willing to give it  second shot, despite having had tough and unmasked textured tripe in Morocco. THAT was an experience.

Our order: we got the green papaya salad, the beef larb and the “Kao Mun Gai”: poached chicken served with a salted mung bean sauce, fresh cucumber and cilantro leaves. The papaya salad and beef larb were really refreshing and had very complex flavors from some of my favorite ingredients mixed together: red onion, mint and cilantro. The Kao Mun Gai also came with a fried egg on top, so the side sauce made for a great accompaniment to the cracked and oozing yoke. It was delicious. Plus, it being 9:30pm, it’s always hard to properly digest heavier foods that close to hitting the sack.

The beef larb – cooling, savory and complex flavors to make a great starting dish to dinner

Crisp Green Papaya salad with fresh ground peanuts for a crunch

Some interesting facts about cilantro, mint and the infamous mung bean, which can all be found in South East Asian cuisine:

Cilantro: from the carrot family, cilantro supports the spleen, stomach, bladder, and lungs and help as a diuretic. It supports perspiration and can treat a fever, as it is subtly spicy, but doesn’t usually provide as much discomfort as certain peppers can. It aids digestion, relieves intestinal distention and can help with nausea, soothes inflammation and quenches thirst. It is also believed that cilantro can be used to remove toxins, including heavy metals, from the nervous system and body tissues. The fresher it is the better!

Mint: this is a very cooling herb that I often forget about putting with savory dishes. it supports the lungs, liver and helps to disperse pathogens, i.e. viruses, and promotes the circulation of energy, blood and the lymph system. The essential oil of mint is also very useful and helpful: inflammation, nausea, indigestion, fever, flatulence and headaches may subside with its use. Mint tea with lemon and honey? Yes please.

Mung Beans: of sproutable seeds, mung bean ranks at the top with alfalfa seeds as easy to sprout, tasty and easy to use for many things: making into noodles or used for dal, in Indian cuisine. They are great legumes to eat in hot weather as they disperse body heat. Try a mung bean mash stew with coconut curry. SO tasty.

A DEELISH mung bean stew. Spinach, coconut curry, beans…

Next time you are in OAKLANDISH territory, pay a visit to Hawker Fare. It will take you into a really interesting part of Oakland where there is a heavy insurgence in its rich culture, expanses of empty corporate space, and where super creative people are setting up shop and making Oakland into an amazing place to venture into.

More on Hawker Fare:

http://www.yelp.com/biz/hawker-fare-oakland

http://sf.eater.com/archives/2011/07/12/the_early_word_on_hawker_fare_in_oakland.php

http://blogs.kqed.org/bayareabites/2011/06/04/hawker-fare/

REFERENCES:

Wood, Rebecca. (2010). The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY. Penguin Books.