Friday, February 11, 2011

The [Real] Kings' Speech

On Wednesday night, something great happened!

Michael Pollan, the journalist and author of such acclaimed books such as The Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food and Food Rules, along with Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) shared the stage, and I got to see it. FOR FREE!!!

I was so giddy walking onto the USC campus (University of Southern California), I felt like a kid again.

Alex was starving after a long work day so we stopped into a little coffee house/food shack near the quad.

Since embarking on our 21 day cleanse together, we've become no strangers to the difficult task of finding something quick and easy to eat on the run. But throw a college campus' selection into the mix and it turns out to be nearly impossible!

Walking into Trojan Grounds, I was slightly horrified by the lackluster array of edible goods offered to all the young, fresh, developing minds that fill the store every day. 

Not only did this canteen have every coffee drink and flavored syrup imaginable, they also had whole cakes for the taking displayed prominently in the case by the register. Finish a test you'd been studying for for a week? Why not reward yourself with a honkin' piece of chocolate cake for lunch? (hey, this really happened to me people)

When we moseyed on back into the "market" section of the establishment, more junk food awaited us. Candy bars galore; a larger selection of Pepperidge Farm cookies than I've seen at some grocery stores; beef jerky; ramen of every flavor; sodas of all shapes and sizes; sugary "water" beverages and personal sized cereal containers with cartoons gracing the colorful labels.

So far, Alex's snack options were looking pret-ty dismal.

With my eyes voraciously peeled, I finally noticed in the deep, dark far reaches of the snack section, a little area devoted to KIND bars. Sure, the boxes carrying the gluten free, sweet goodies had been knocked down and obscurred from view (looks like too many people were grabbing for the beef jerky), but they were there and I was happy.

He ended up leaving with a giant cup of (non-organic) sliced fruit and a coconut and almond KIND bar to snack on while we waited in the standby line.

As we rounded a well manicured corner, the theatre came into view and I was shocked at the number of people waiting out front. Students and all types of people from the community flooded the area around the front doors. How exciting to see so many people coming out in hopes of hearing these great thinkers and front-runners of the modern food movement speak!

Now the only problem was getting in.

Luckily, my dear friend Casey is a student and was able to procure one ticket for us. But the other- well, that would take some hustlin'.

To spare you the gory details, Alex employed the same skills I remember him using on one of our first dates when he so seamlessly got us past a line of 20 eager (and belligerently drunk) people at a popular live music venue by swindling our way in. Luckily, he was able to work his unique magic at the Pollan/Schlosser talk, bypassing an 800 person wait list to wind up with a precious ticket in hand.

Next thing you know, we're perched upon the best seats in the house.

The moderator of the discussion was one of my favorite local public radio personalities, Evan Kleiman. She hosts a show on LA's public radio affiliate KCRW called Good Food every Saturday morning.

They keep an archives of the show on their website and if you're in need of a quick pick-me-up at work or on the drive home, I highly recommend it:

Once the speakers hit the stage and introductions had been given, the conversation got underway and I was absolutely glued- eyes and ears- for all 2 hours of it.

Much of what they talked about I'd heard at least a murmur of before, but they also divulged a number of things that literally made me gasp out loud. Facts like...
  • 40% of all US grocery sales occur at Wal-Marts across the country. (Talk about a corporation having total control over our food)
  • A mere 12-14% of all food grown in this country is actually eaten by humans. 70% (what?!?) goes to livestock feed and the remainder is thrown out.
  • 27% of all military recruits are rejected due to obesity. It's becoming so bad that the Department of Defense has taken to lowering their physical standards. Great.
  • Legislation has just been passed to allow the unrestricted sale of genetically-modified alfalfa seeds in the US. Like Pollan pointed out, "Why does this matter to us? Who eats alfalfa on the regular?" Turns out, alfalfa is a grass eaten by much of the livestock raised for consumption in this country, which means any GMO present in their food will be passed onto us- either through the dairy products made from their milk or the flesh in our tacos. How politicians can still allow laws like this to fly is BEYOND me.
  • Spent hens- those poor female birds who've been doped up beyond recognition and made to lay eggs until they literally collapse- are in such bad shape that even fast food chains refuse to buy them. What a relief, right? Wrong. The companies who end up buying this abysmal cheap "meat" are the very ones feeding America's public school-going children in the cafeteria. Looks like there's never been a stronger argument for brown bagging it.
While the three touched on many depressing, unfortunate truths regarding food policy in the US and around the world, they also talked about hopeful aspects of the future.

For one, the food movement is starting to pick up speed- the packed audience and outrageous waitlist is a prime example. Pollan pointed out that the media seems to be picking up the story more rampantly than the people/voters- which is all fine and good, but, he warned, change will only happen beyond the flashbulbs and NY Times headlines.

As we made our way out of the theatre (herded much like cattle, funny enough), the entire audience was abuzz with what they'd heard and discovered in the previous two hours. Alex and I even struck up a conversation with a stranger about her eating habits and decision to stop eating meat after seeing Food, Inc (just like me!).

This whole experience showed me that if we as concerned citizens unite by boycotting the disgusting companies that are literally killing Americans by the thousands with their products and take the time to write our local government officials, we can make a difference. Like Eric Schlosser said, most politicians he's encountered aren't going to do anything until they see it will effect the number of votes they get come election day. Foodies unite. There is strength in numbers!

And the good news: I think we caught a fresh one the other night ;)

I'd like to hear from you! Do you remember your eating habits while in college? Or maybe you're in school right now and livin' it! How difficult was/is it to maintain a healthy lifestyle when faced with campus canteens overflowing with caffeine, sugar and junk?

I know I lived off coffee, pastries and questionable cafeteria food all four years myself...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Full Disclosure

As I sit here this morning, sipping away at my piping hot cleanse bev of water, cayenne pepper and lemon, I'm compelled to be completely and utterly honest with you all.

First off, I come to you with this update via Alex's computer since, le sigh, mine is staying a couple nights in that dreaded hospital known as the Apple Genius Bar once again. Which means I won't be able to bring you news of my run-in with Burmese cuisine or favorite new pastry place until my computer and the photos on it are returned safe and sound.

Secondly, I want to talk cleanse.

This Crazy, Sexy Diet Adventure Cleanse is admittedly my first foray into detox territory. While I've heard many a good friend, celebrity and random on the street talk about the "cleanse I'm on won't allow..." or "how great" their detox feels, I'd never officially tried one for myself.

Until 11 days ago when Alex agreed to step up to the plate and serve as a Clyde to my Bonnie in this hijacking of our bodily systems. (Ok, maybe hijacking's a little harsh ;)

I went into this thing straight off a high in life- our show had just opened, I was feeling great about all the things going on, I couldn't wait to get to blogging and make strides in my acting career. Hence, I went into the cleanse a little reluctantly, with countless other things occupying my mind. I just assumed the positive feelings about this period of deprivation would fall into place, especially having a dedicated partner by my side.


Here we are 11 days in and all I feel is deprived.

I keep asking myself, "How could this be?! Kris Carr essentially cured herself of cancer this way- why am I finding it so difficult to enjoy a heightened mood while living this lifestyle?"

A few possible answers include:
  1. Lack of gym going and exercise. Granted my schedule has not been the most flexible, but that is the worst excuse in the book. Since I'm more of a morning exerciser, this whole "liquids 'til noon" thing has been the culprit. I can barely muster the inspiration, let alone the appropriate caloric intake, to hop on a spin bike and get those endorphins flowin'
  2. Not residing in the proper head space. Lately my mind has been almost completely focused on getting my acting career off the ground. For this reason, I haven't devoted the time necessary to meditation, reflection and all the lovely feel good, spiritual components prescribed in this cleanse. My bad.
  3. Lack of variety. I'm the sort of person who gets bored pret-ty easily. If you remember before this cleanse, I'd be posting a recipe for carob-dipped pretzels one day and vegan alfredo the next. We've all heard variety's the spice of life... well, on this cleanse, the sparse options, along with my spotty schedule basically allow me gigante salads at lunch, smoothies in the morning and brown rice veggie bowls for dinner. There's only so much repeat a girl (and all you lovely readers out there) can take.
In a nutshell, this is not how I invisioned the cleanse going. I thought all my problems, low energy levels and less than favorable tummy growlings would fly straight out the window, leaving behind a perfectly energized vessel for my invigorated soul to thrive in.

Now I realize it's not just the food choices that cleanse your body, but also the mind. When I think about it, my normal diet is pretty damn healthy. It's the mindset one takes on during a detox that's key. This cleanse has shown me that you can munch on organic produce, beans and legumes all day long but if you're head's not in it, there's [almost] no point.

Don't get me wrong: things haven't been all bad.

Alex and I have had a great time figuring it all out together! My skin is looking great, I can't remember the last time I was bloated or uncomfortably full, I've learned tons about gluten free living and going without alcohol has been an eye-opening experience in every sense of the word.

Not to worry, I don't plan to abandon the cleanse altogether. Instead, I'll be making a slight adjustment by allowing myself small solid food breakfasts to get daily exercise back into my life.

I'll also be devoting more time to meal-planning in order to add more flavors to our palates and nutrients to our organs.

With that in mind, I'm off to whip up some cleanse-worthy breakfast... Ah, the possibilities!

Catcha later :)

Question: Have you ever done a cleanse and made adjustments after seeing it wasn't doing great things for your body/psyche? It's a tough tough thing if you don't know what you're in for!!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Light

If you're new to this blog, I should probably tell you now: I've got a huge crush on oats

Flavored oatmeal, oat-based cookies, oats in yogurt, anything and everything involving the grain, really.

Just about every morning since starting this foray into gluten-free living, I find myself fiending for a bowl of the heart healthy stuff. I end up begrudgingly resisting the urge, knowing full well that not all oats are technically gluten free.

But the other day, after seeing Ashley's recipe for Pumpkin Muffin Buckwheat Bake, I saw a potential light at the end of my oatless tunnel.

Turns out, buckwheat is gluten free! (despite the word wheat in the name)

The nutrition facts aren't too shabby either:

I got to work on the recipe...

Chia seeds are a requirement, as they keep the mixture from turning out too liquidy.

(Those little sprigs of green are more or less a permanent fixture on all my cutting boards and counter tops. I clean them up and they just keep. re.appearing.)

I brought my decrepit oven out of hibernation and, after the smoke alarm went off five times in 20 minutes (due to the old/ disgusting/ practically useless oven- not my cooking), the muffin was done.

Just in time to serve as dessert to my gigante luncheon salad of the day:

spinach, red bell pepper, cucumber, celery, black eyed peas and vinaigrette

After adding some blueberries and a touch of maple syrup to the lump of goodness, we were talkin'...

Pure delicious.

Be warned, this is not your standard oat-laden treat. If you like things on the sweeter side, I'd suggest adding a little stevia extract to the mix. Also, the final product is extremely dense and fiber-filled (fine by me). Just know you'll be full for a good couple of hours.

Pre-work dinner was a new creation from Crazy, Sexy Diet and something that I crave pretty regularly!

Pesto Pasta.

This gluten-free, vegan version is far too easy to make to be passed up.

All you have to do is gather your FIVE ingredients (olive oil and salt not pictured)


-2 garlic cloves
-2 cups of tightly packed basil (made me long for my former baby plant)
-1/2 cup of pine nuts
-1/2 cup olive oil
-1/2 t of sea salt

dump them into your blender

And within 2 minutes, you've got a [gluten-free] pasta dish fit for a fancy menu (minus the tupperware, of course).

I used quinoa rotelle pasta for its protein content, but any gluten-free option will do.

The taste was a thousand times better than any pre-prepared pesto you might find in store-bought jars or cans. It'd be great on pizza too!

As for that frozen gluten-free veggie patty competition I mentioned the other day, the results were mixed.

The contenders in question:

and a more popular brand we all know and love:


**** This ingredient list was taken from the website, as the side of 
the box was nearly impossible to read when photographed.

They look pretty similar pre-cooked:

Annie on the left, Sunshine on the right

I prepared them both on the stovetop (Annie's required an oiled pan and less time on each side, while Sunshine could go without oil and took about 7 minutes longer overall)

The final spread

(that's brown rice tortillas on the side, along with sweet potatoes, steamed broccoli and a little avocado for good measure)

We bit in, our palates ready to discern good flavor from great, and came up with two different conclusions.

I loved the Indian spice-like flare of the Sunshine breakfast patty, but Alex really dug Annie's bistro version.

Annie's texture was a little grainier and crunchy while Sunshine had a potato, almost samosa-like feel. Note: there are no potatoes in the mix.

You can't really go wrong with either, unless you're watching your soy intake or cash flow, in which case I'd say Sunshine is the way to go since a box of 3 goes for $4.69 and Annie's pack of 4 Bistro burgers is a whopping $7.29.

OR... If you want to try something completely out of the box (pahaha), you can always go the safest, healthiest and most satisfying route possible: homemade veggie burgers.


Alright, I'm getting hungry.

As for tomorrow's post: Christian and I finally caught up with the World Series of Food earlier today after a brief hiatus due to our hectic schedules.

On the menu? Burma!

Followed by a solo trip to my newest obsession in town.

Want a hint?

Stay tuned for full disclosure :)