Matcha 101

Matcha is a powerful form of green tea. The entire tea leaf is stone-ground into a fine powder and consumed whole, rather than the traditional preparation of steeping the tea leaf in hot liquid. Matcha is thought by many experts to provide even greater benefits than traditional green tea, due to the consumption of the whole plant.

It boasts many benefits

It helps keep your weight in check. It helps increase the activity of brown fat cells, which helps prevent obesity. People who drink 1-3 servings of matcha per day weigh an average of 8 pounds less than non-tea drinkers.

It keeps you calm, happy, and focused. Due to the concentration of the amino acid l-theanine, it may decrease feelings of stress, prevent anxiety, and increase focus. (Maru, 2015)

It gives a better kind of energy. The high concentration of l-theanine (about four times what’s found in regular green tea) slows the release of caffeine into the bloodstream. You’ll notice a much steadier increase of energy, and a much slower drop of energy compared to other caffeine sources like soda or coffee.

Say goodbye to inflammation. A high concentration of polyphenols helps lower inflammation in the body. It's recommended to consume polyphenol-rich foods several times a day.                     

Say hello to deeper detoxification. It supports the detoxification processes in our body, specifically the detoxification of toxic mineral accumulation.

It's antioxidant rich. Specifically, flavonoids. Flavonoids help increase the activity of antioxidant enzymes in the small intestine, prevent damage to cholesterol molecules, and provide protection against many chronic diseases including cancer and heart disease.

Creating a tea ritual

Purchase proper tools and high quality tea. My personal favorites are Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco (if you live in SF go have the matcha shake) or Pana Tea (www.panateamatcha.com). For drinking, it is best to buy ceremonial grade tea.

 Preparation is important for maintaining Matcha’s flavor:

1. Place ½-1 teaspoon Matcha tea in cup.

2. Use your whisk to first break up powder, before adding liquid.

3. Add 10 ounces of water, heated to 180 degrees.

4. Quickly move whisk in an “S” shape around mug until the powder is fully dissolved.

You can make matcha into a creamy drink using nut milk and honey. My personal favorite drink is 1 teaspoon of matcha, 1/4 cup raw cashews, 12 ounces hot water, a pinch of sea salt, 1 tablespoon raw honey, and cinnamon. Put all ingredients into a blender for 30 seconds and drink immediately! Add bulletproof collagen for a boost of protein and nutrients in the morning. 

Seasonal Bites: April

Spring has officially sprung and produce has shifted into detoxifying bites, like the April picks below. 

Strawberries: I am so excited to see these back at the farmer's market. Nothing is better than a juicy, sweet strawberry, and this is the time of year to get them. Eat them solo, or cut them up and top with a little cashew cream (blend raw cashews, dates, vanilla bean, and water) for a creamy, clean treat.

Mint: We often forget the power of herbs in the presence of leafy greens like kale and spinach. Mint packs a powerful dose of anti-inflammatory nutrients and is a well-known detoxifier. It helps the body digest food and prevents bloat. Just smelling mint can be an energizing practice - try it right before a workout. I have been putting mint on everything - whole leaves are making it into every salad and I'm soaking them in my hot lemon water I have each morning. As soon as this Whole30 experiment is over I am putting a bunch into my first drink.

Meyer Lemon: These are a sweeter variety of lemon that are peaking right now. They have a slightly darker color, like an orange and a lemon had a baby. Most of the nutrients  in lemons actually live in the skin, so make zesting a regular practice for brightening a dish's flavor and adding a dose of antioxidants. 

P.S. The three of these produce picks, with spinach, olive oil, and sea salt make a delicious salad! And now that I think about it, a delicious cocktail as well...six days and counting.

Breakfast for the week

I'm 18 days into Whole 30.  I'll do a deep dive into the experience once I'm finished, but I am a big fan, to say the least. One of the main reasons is that I am actually sleeping. I've suffered from insomnia for most of my life, and while my frustration with the issue has never subsided, I had sort of accepted it. So, while not waking up at 3:00 AM every day is doing wonders for my energy, it doesn't leave me quite as much time for breakfast prep each morning (really, not complaining here). Hence, these egg muffins for the perfect grab-and-go breakfast:

Spray a muffin tin with nonstick, or coat with ghee (ghee will give better flavor). Fill the cups with any veggies you like (I like to make each muffin a little different so I don't get bored). I used sautéed asparagus, mushrooms, raw zucchini, tomatoes, spinach, and onions. Beat 12 eggs with salt, pepper, and cayenne, and pour over the veggies. Only fill the tins 3/4 full as the eggs do rise. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. Store in a closed container for up to a week. 

Stair workout

Being a barre devotee keeps me happy and challenged, but I do occasionally crave some variety (particularly the outdoor kind). I live a straight one mile shot to the Lyon Street steps, and it tends to be my go-to spot - especially with the sunshine hitting San Francisco. With eight flights and seriously gorgeous views, its a cardio lover's heaven (and if you're like me and didn't get the cardio-loving genes, the views will distract you).

Here's a great 30 minute stair workout - and no, you don't have to live in San Francisco to take advantage - just find a set near you!

1. Sprint up steps as fast as you can, jog down
2. Walk up steps at a fast pace, two stairs at a time, jog down
3. Moderate jog up stairs, one stair at a time, jog down

Once you've gone up the stairs 3x complete the following:
25 turned out squats (feet slightly wider than hips, toes to 11 and 1 o'clock, sink seat to knee height and hinge your torso forward, then return to standing)
20 alternating lunges (step right foot back into lunge so front knee is over front ankle and back knee is under hip, then step back foot forward to standing position and repeat on other side - this counts as one)
Plank with knee pull - 1 minute (the middle of your wrists should be lined up with the outside of your shoulders, pull your right knee to your chest, set it back and then repeat on left; try to keep your hips still, if movement is uncomfortable just hold a still plank)
20 pushups (hands wider than shoulders, you can do this up against a wall or on the ground)

Repeat everything (stair runs through bodyweight exercises 3x).

Don't forget to stretch!

Food Prep

Yesterday I started Whole 30. Deeply fearing a dry 30 days, I guzzled down a month's worth of red wine the night before starting. Smart. Fortunately, I chopped, spiralized, and roasted my little heart out on Sunday, meaning hungover and tired me was able to make it through the day effortlessly.

Meal prep is something I do every week. It makes five minute meals realistic, and significantly lowers the temptation to speed dial your favorite takeout. 

Some prep suggestions:

  • Spiralizer: zucchini, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and many more can all be made into noodles and stored until you're ready to cook.
  • Food processor: If you don't already have one, buy one now. My favorite thing to make is cauliflower rice. Just pulse whole cauliflower until it makes rice-size pieces. Store in a covered container for up to a week. 
  • Smoothie bags: place the ingredients for your favorite smoothies (greens, fruits, powders, nuts) into single serving bags and freeze until you're ready to use. You can make a month's worth at a time if you want! Your morning will involve the simple task of adding liquid and pressing start.
  • Broth: Chicken and veggie broths are super simple, much healthier than than the store bought kind, and you can freeze for months. 
  • Chopping: chop broccoli, squash, lettuce, garlic, onions, brussel sprouts, asparagus, etc. into ready to cook sizes so your chopping board can stay away all week.
  • Roasting: to take the chopping one step further you can do all of your roasting at the start of the week as well. I recommend slightly under cooking, you can pop them in the oven for just a few minutes when you're ready to eat.
  • Hardboiled eggs: you can grab them as snacks, breakfast, or salad toppers throughout your week for easy, instant protein.
  • Slow cooker packs: just like smoothie packs, stick all of your ingredients for a slow cooker meal into a zip lock, pour it in the morning of, and you'll arrive home with nothing to do. One of my favorite slow cooker packs is putting together steel cut oats, nut milk, and your favorite sweetener into mason jars and popping them into a water filled slow cooker the night before.
  • Grains: cook grains at the beginning of the week (like rice, steel-cut oats, and quinoa) so they're ready to go. You can make huge batches and freeze in individual servings to have a month's worth done.
  • Marinades, sauces, and dressings: Mix together a few meat marinades or salad dressings. You can marinade meat the morning of or freeze meat and marinade together for use later on. Divide the dressing into baby mason jars for ready-to-use servings. Store homemade pasta sauces in the fridge, or freeze into ice cube trays for single-servings (I love doing this with pesto, which you can add to everything from pasta to eggs to meat).

Happy prepping!

 

Seasonal Bites: March

Spring is (almost) here! I blinked and winter was gone, but I'm not the least bit mad. Spring is my jam - the feeling of renewal, the produce, and the spring cleaning. (Yes, cleaning made my list). I do a big clean once a year, where every belonging is scrutinized for necessity. Sunday I had a giant burst of motivation to get it done before spring officially starts and eight overstuffed garbage bags later, I am entering March feeling organized and light. This got me thinking about other areas that need renewal, and I'm definitely craving the same shift in my health. 

I'm truly in awe at how in sync our bodies' needs and seasonal produce are. We want comforting warm foods and winter provides hearty root vegetables. With summer heat we need hydration and nature gives us watermelon, pineapple, and tomatoes. As we enter spring and crave a cleanse from winter's heaviness, predictably nature provides it. Each month I'll give you these Seasonal Bites to talk a little bit about what you should be buying right now. 

March Bites:

Asparagus: This veggie could make the list for every month through summer, which is wonderful since asparagus is incredibly cleansing and so versatile. Storage tip: snap the ends off (they should snap easily if the asparagus is good quality). Stick the asparagus in a jar with the ends submerged in water and store in the fridge. This will keep your asparagus fresh and crisp.

Avocado: California avocados just hit their stride. Haas are the ones to go for now and they are as creamy as ever. If you've been buying California avocados all winter long, they have probably taken a bit longer to ripen. These will become soft fast so store in the fridge if you want to slow the process down (or just eat them all day one like me). Grab a spoon and throw some seasoning on them or make my favorite breakfast.

Spring (or Green) Garlic: This might be a vegetable you aren't familiar with, but please change that immediately. It combines the incredible flavor of garlic we all love, with the mildness and versatility of a sturdy lettuce. You can put it right on your sandwiches/salads raw or sauté it in ghee and olive oil, season with sea salt + pepper and toss with fresh pasta. Spring garlic will boost your immunity, is incredibly rich in iron, and like traditional garlic, it helps us keep healthy cholesterol levels. 

Poached Pears

We live two blocks from my favorite ice cream shop, Loving Cup. I used to stop by every other week or so, but then that turned weekly, and lately too often to admit on a health blog. So, I've been trying to come up with healthier desserts to satisfy my sweet tooth with slightly less sugar, hence this poached pear recipe.

On the topic of sugar, the amount in this recipe seems high, but know that the pears are only poaching, and you're not actually consuming all of this sugar!

2-4 pears, skinned, halved, cored

3 cups water

1 cup coconut palm sugar

1 vanilla bean

1 cinnamon stick

pinch of sea salt

Heat all of the ingredients except the pears in a medium saucepan over medium heat, until sugar is dissolved (about 5 minutes). Add pears and simmer for 15-20 minutes. The pears should be easily pierced with a fork but still firm. 

Serve the pears with mascarpone, honey, a drizzle of dark chocolate, or solo. They are also great with a reduction of the poaching liquid. I was shocked that something so simple turned out this incredible. It had the warm, nutty flavor we all love about pie and the mascarpone was the perfect creamy, rich partner. YUM!

Superfood Power: You've probably been told to eat an apple a day, but you'd be just as well off to replace that with a pear. They are high in fiber and contain boron, which helps the body absorb calcium, helping to prevent diseases like osteoporosis. 

 

 

A good Egg

Free-range, pasture-raised, cage free, organic, brown, white...umm what?! With so many diet philosophies out there, figuring out the right foods to eat feels complicated enough before thinking about how it got to your plate. Complicated, yes, but if you care about animal welfare it's important to understand what these different terms mean. And in case being humane is not at the top of your list, these terms also influence how nutritious eggs are, so read on. 

First...the labels

Cage Free: Unfortunately cage-free does not mean hens basking in the sun in free flowing space. It simply means chickens aren't in cages (but are still often indoors, with about a square foot of space each, never seeing a ray of sunlight).

Free-range: Ugh, not much better here. Hens must have "access" to outdoors, but the actual regulations on how often are loose at best so it's not necessarily different than cage free. 

Pasture-raised: Okay, we are getting somewhere! This actually means what you think it means. Hens have real access to grass and their natural diet of bugs (yep, that's a good thing). With that said, unless it's also labelled "certified organic" they aren't inspected. Bringing us to the next label...

Certified Organic: Hens have a diet free of antibiotics and hormones - which means you don't eat that crap.

To clarify...

Okay, I'm more confused now - what am I supposed to buy? Pasture-raised, certified organic eggs. Ideally from a local farm where you can trust the living environment. If possible, head to a farmer's market and talk to the sellers.

I don't care about the hen's living environment, can I just buy organic? Actually no, you should still buy pasture raised. First of all, just crack a regular egg next to one of these jewels and you will see the difference, in color, size, taste. They also have significantly higher amounts of vitamins (A, D, E, B-12, calcium, omega fatty acids, and the list goes on) - we are talking 2-3 times the amount. 

Conclusion: Keep buying eggs. Each time you purchase from these smaller, responsible sellers, you are casting a vote for quality food. Nutritionally, eggs are an absolute superfood, if you buy right! 

 

Homemade broth

 

You would think a career in health would mean fewer colds but teaching (and touching) so many students has me constantly fighting something. Last week I came down with a serious coldflu that had me in bed unable to do anything but text Alex requests for food and sick emojis #mancold style. I have a serious issue sitting still, so by day three when I was energetic enough to move around but too down to go outside, I had to find projects around the house. I have been wanting to make my own broth forever, but never got around to it. I had a frozen whole chicken, and enough vegetable scraps for this broth, which turned out delicious. Given my lack of a recipe, my assumption is that you can throw in just about any ingredients you like the taste of and end up with a tasty broth. 

1 whole chicken, cleaned

1 onion, halved

3-5 large carrots

3-5 stocks celery

2 bay leaves

5 cloves garlic

Place all ingredients into a slow cooker and add 10-12 cups of boiling water (depending on the size of your slow cooker). Cook on low for 10 hours. Strain the liquid into a large container and refrigerate until the fat comes to the top (this just makes it easier to remove). Skim the fat off the top, and store in the fridge for up to a week or the freezer for later use - just be sure to leave room for expansion if freezing. 

Conclusion: Homemade or store bought? I'm making my own from now on. The good, organic, local kind is ridiculously pricey and the cheap kind is watery and chemical filled compared with this stuff. For the price and the ease there's no question homemade is the way to go.

Superfood Power: Homemade broth (keyword, homemade) boasts many benefits like improving digestion, providing minerals like calcium, and boosting the immune system. 

 

Welcome!

Welcome to Pinch of Kate! I am so excited to finally have my blog up and running. As some of you know I've been posting recipes on Instagram for a while now. I'll continue that here - expect a lot of kitchen experiments and yummy recipes, made up of whole foods. This will be a place for all of the health tidbits I come across - workouts, superfood finds, nutritional science geek-outs, and probably a few strong opinions. 

With so many diet philosophies and contradicting information out in the world, health is something I've chosen to play detective on. In a nutshell, I believe in whole foods, adding movement in a way that feels joyful, and having a lifestyle that supports both of those things. I also believe in balance, so if you reach for the "wrong" foods or skip your workout it's not the end of the world (no, I am not a robot). I'm hoping this will be a place where you can learn the balancing act of health with me, and hopefully be inspired as we navigate the sometimes confusing information out there.

Steal a few recipes, try out a new workout, and laugh a bit at my inevitable frustration with mainstream information. If you like what you see please shoot me a message, make a comment, or subscribe!