Morning Buzz: Summer’s Perfect Cup

Many of us share the common morning ritual of sipping on a cup of coffee to help start our day…and what a great ritual it is! The benefits of coffee are ample—from increasing your rate of metabolism…to enhancing performance and focus, it is no wonder that coffee has become a staple in our society. I mean…there’s more than um…10,000 Starbucks, 6,000 Dunkin Donuts, just over 200 locations of Peet’s, and a countless number of wonderful independent mom and pop cafés!

Because this drink is so deeply ingrained in our culture, the process of brewing coffee is often considered a form of art. There are a variety of techniques and many methods to yield a great cup—traditional dripping, French pressing, stovetop pressurizing are only a few at the tip of the iceberg! With the rising temperatures this season, colder versions of coffee are becoming more popular; if you are trying to save a buck (or four) this summer, I recommend cold-brewing your coffee at home.

Cold brewing coffee is a slower process, where you mix cold water with ground coffee and let it steep in your fridge overnight. Here, I used Adagio’s ingenuiTEA for the process, but you can easily achieve the same results by making the mix in any glass jar and filtering with a regular coffee filter.

20120719-095707.jpg

20120719-095723.jpg

The taste is milder and smoother than a hot cup, and this is because less alkaloids are extracted. This also means that your end product will be less acidic and much easier on the stomach. Cold brewing is an especially good option for people who avoid coffee because of stomach cramps or excessive jitteriness…and if you like this method because of its milder effects, you can still have it hot when the weather cools down! Just use more grounds and less water in the steeping process; end product will be a thicker and stronger coffee syrup, which you can later dilute with hot water.

Wishing you all a fabulous and productive Thursday! Cheers!!!

Minimalist Living

This was recently on exhibit at MOMA in New York. It touched me because it reminded me of how components of a complex life could still be compartmentalized. I thought it was a beautiful piece.

20120718-120439.jpg

20120718-122557.jpg

Along the same vein, this egg house was designed by Daihai Fei in 2010. The Chinese designer actually lived in it for two months… and yeah… I don’t know where he showered. But the concept is awesome!

20120718-120521.jpg

Thinking within the box, here is a cat house I once designed out of cardboard. 🙂 The cat was happy, and I probably had too much fun doing it…

20120718-124325.jpg

20120718-124338.jpg

For the Love of Ice Cream!

Because flour is a great binding agent and an excellent food thickener, it is not uncommon to find gluten lurking in many unsuspected food products…even ice cream! So if you have a serious intolerance, it is always better to speak up and ask for the gluten free menu than to quietly suffer the consequences later.

20120717-101929.jpg

I am in love with Ben and Jerry’s gluten free menu because you can’t possibly feel shortchanged with the ample GF options. I also believe that most scoop shops will do half scoops of two different flavors for the decisionally challenged! Among my favorites are Chunky Monkey, Phish Food and Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz! What are yours?

A shout out to my friends in the northern aspects of the country: Free Greek Frozen Yogurt for y’all if you feel like tweeting (@benjerrystruck) and chasing the Ben and Jerry’s truck! For those who are geographically limited, check out my post on home-made frozen yogurt!

20120717-101746.jpg

GF Review: Mac Fail.

Please don’t judge…but before taking the gluten free vow, Kraft’s Easy Mac was one of my guilty pleasures. In attempt to find a substitute for the naughty comfort snack, I tried Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Rice Pasta and Cheddar. Although the end product looked similar, the taste was completely off. I also had to modify the recipe to get the right consistency in the sauce (i.e. allow the soupy mess to sit around and coagulate like a giant blood clot) and the texture of the pasta was expectedly distracting. Well, unless I find a better GF option, it’s hasta-la-vista to easy styled macaroni and cheese!

20120515-144500.jpg

Worth mention is the biggest joke on the back of the box.

20120515-144702.jpg

Mac Face #1= hilarious LIAR. Mac Face #2 = speaks the truth.

20120515-144644.jpg

Medical Prescription: Vitamin D

Vitamin D is one of the few vitamins that can be produced in the body, but it can also be absorbed via dietary measures. If your gut is in good condition, foods like salmon, egg yolks, and milk are some great ways to give yourself a dietary boost of this fat soluble vitamin. Alternatively, one of the easiest methods of staving deficiency is to simply kiss the sun….think: human photosynthesis! It works like this: UV rays convert a type of cholesterol that is found in skin into something called Vitamin D3. The D3 form then gets processed further by your liver, then kidneys, into an active form of vitamin D called calcitriol. The most popular role of this vitamin is linked to calcium levels and bone health maintenance. However, less know that vitamin D also plays an important role in taming the immune system, which has likely gone haywire in people who can’t tolerate gluten. For these people, sunlight plus supplements may be the solution.

20120515-141540.jpg

Coming from California, getting enough sun was never an issue…because back on the best coast…getting sun just happens. It wasn’t until I started paying attention to the quality of my skin that I realized: no sun + gluten intolerance = zilch Vitamin D. I had to do something about it.

As with all things in life, balance is key. Too much sun invites skin cancer, and although it is rare to have too much vitamin D supplementation, toxic levels can lead to damage of the kidneys. So how do you approach this balancing act of risks and benefits? Before slathering on goops of anti-UV, allow 10-15 minutes for the sun to do its thang so that you don’t have to pop these ginormous pills…but if you do decide to supplement, make sure you aren’t overdoing it, and as always, let your doc in on the plan so that vitamin D levels can be monitored properly!

20120515-145331.jpg

Study Break: Conversation Starters

When I’m not cramming biochem pathways or reading about mucor, I like to dive into the minds of great people. Tom Plate’s artful interviews make me feel as though I’ve participated in the rendez-vous, unraveling the deepest thoughts of the greatest leaders in the pacific. Understanding them helps me understand their country, the culture they serve and their personal passions. I absolutely loved being transported to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand for quick study breaks, and can’t wait to find myself at the next destination…

Until then…mechanisms of action!

20120522-142554.jpg

Recipes Worth Sharing: Homemade Pinkberry!

Super Easy Frozen Yogurt

Summer in DC has been brutal, but it can still be sweet. For a quick way to chill out this season, combine a cup of frozen berries and frozen mangos with a scoop of plain Greek yogurt. Pulse  in a food processor until you have the right consistency. Sweeten to taste by adding honey or sugar. Serve and enjoy!!!

20120522-143643.jpg

20120522-143650.jpg

20120706-163926.jpg

Recipes worth Sharing: Wiki Taziki

Juicing can cost a pretty penny. In attempt to make that penny stretch, I decided to take the remains of the cucumber juice (see previous post) and drive its potential toward a beautiful non-runny Taziki sauce.

Taziki is one of my very favorite things to have with most foods because it is so healthy and so delicious. It also instantly transports me back to 2005 when I was hopping from Greek island to Greek island, having this spread with chips, fries, chicken, beef, etc… I think I’m overdue for a return visit! Here’s how you do it:

20120517-113812.jpg

Recipe:
1/8 of an onion, chopped finely (you can add more or less)
1 ½ cup of Greek yogurt
1 cup of cucumber remains
2 teaspoons of sesame seeds
Salt-to-taste

1. Combine onion, yogurt, cucumber and sesame seeds in a tupper-ware type container for easy storage.
2. Add salt to taste.
3. Break a plate, and enjoy!

20120517-114027.jpg