Wind River High Route

Better Late Than Never

It's October and I'm just now posting a brief recap of my hike on the Wind River High Route this past August. It's worth a review as this was some of the most stunning alpine trekking I've done.

We (mostly) followed the Alan Dixon route. It was roughly 80 miles and took us just over 5 days to complete.

The fun started the evening of July 30 when I picked up JR from DIA. I had seen JR briefly the previous October, but we hadn't hiked together since the miles we shared in Oregon and Washington on the PCT, finishing our thru hikes together at the Canadian border.

Most of July 31 was spent driving from my home in Colorado up to Pinedale, WY. We arrived at the Green River Lakes Trailhead and began hiking around 5pm. The 10ish miles we hiked that evening were a gentle climb on well-maintained trail up the stunning river valley. The horizon was filled with views of the mountains we'd be hiking through for the next week. A brief storm rolled in just after sunset, treating us to some fine alpenglow as we set up camp.

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Hemp Cocoa Cookies

Cookies For Breakfast

I’ve been expanding my healthy baking horizon lately and have been playing with creating a vegan cookie that is nutritious and delicious.

I prefer not to use gluten free baking mixes that utilize starches and gums. I enjoy creating my gluten free baked goods from ground nuts or seeds, which add a level of nutrition (with healthy fat and protein) and flavor that I don’t find in the pre-made mixes.

So, this cookie is made from ingredients you probably already have on hand, except maybe the hemp hearts.

It took a few iterations to get the consistency right, but the final result ended up super-chocolaty (as desired), not too sweet, slightly nutty, and a little crunchy with the hemp hearts on top.

hemp cocoa cookie

Hemp Cocoa Cookies

(10 cookies) Vegan, Gluten Free, Grain Free

Ingredients

1 cup almond flour

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup brown sugar

2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon white vinegar

2 tablespoons ground flaxseed

2 ounces 85% dark chocolate, chips or coarsely chopped

⅛ cup cocoa powder

2 ounces coconut oil, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup peanut butter

Directions

Mix vinegar and baking soda in small cup. Combine dries in the food processor bowl. Add vinegar and soda. Add coconut oil, vanilla, and PB. Blend until well mixed. Scoop into golf ball size mounds. Dip in whole hemp hearts.

Bake for 8 minutes at 375*F.

Enjoy.

Garden Fresh Basil Hummus

Fresh Basil Hummus

fresh basil hummus

Garden Goodness

July has flown by and it’s already mid-August! The garden bounty is at it’s peak and we have an abundance of vibrant, verdant, fragrant basil.

Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is pesto. I whipped up a big batch yesterday and froze most of it for the winter months when something green and homegrown will be a special treat.

I was craving hummus today and my preference is always to innovate with what’s on hand, so I decided to experiment with making a fresh basil hummus. The smell of the kitchen while making this recipe is fantastic and the greenish hue of the finished spread is awesome!

Summer is the Season for Fresh

Even if you don’t have a garden, fresh herbs are abundant at farmer’s markets in the summer. Pick some up and add them to your next dish. Beyond being loaded with flavor, fresh herbs are some of the most nutrient dense foods we can eat.

This basil hummus recipe is as quick and straightforward as it gets. Whip it up as detailed below or use this as a starting point and make up your own based on your preferences and what’s available near you!

garden basil

Fresh Basil Hummus

Ingredients

2 cups packed fresh basil leaves

2 cloves garlic

Juice of 1 lemon

15 oz canned chickpeas, drained (but save the juice for adjusting hummus to desired consistency)

1 tsp liquid aminos

¼ cup tahini

¼ walnuts (or pine nuts)

Salt, pinch

Pepper, pinch

Cumin, pinch

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until thoroughly combined. If the hummus is too thick to be processed or thicker than desired, add juice from the drained chickpeas a little bit at a time to reach the desired consistency. I like mine creamy, but still thick enough to stick to cut veggies, like celery and carrots. Adjust to taste. I often add an extra clove of garlic and a bit more lemon juice and cumin because that’s what I enjoy.

When you learn the basic method, you can ditch the recipes and create based on what YOU enjoy. Cooking, like art, is a creative and personalized process!

 

 

5 Tips on How to Choose the Most Nutritious Greens

Wouldn’t it be great to know you’re choosing the freshest, most nutritious greens possible at the market or grocery store?

As I mentioned in my last post, the same type of fruit or vegetable can vary widely in nutrition from one variety to the next. The ‘best’ choice is not always intuitive.

In this post, you’ll learn 5 tips on how to select, store, and prepare the varieties that are going to give you the most flavor and nutrition. I’ll also list specific varieties to look for. This information is sourced from the fantastic book Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson.

Food As Medicine

Most of the people reading this have access to almost any vegetable they want 12 months of the year. This separates us from the seasonal cycles of plants and also means we are consuming vegetables and fruits that have been picked unripe and shipped across the globe. This is not optimal for nutrition or for the planet.

Seasonality

After a long winter of eating preserved meats, roots, fruit, and herbs, traditional hunter-gathers were hungry for fresh food. The bright green plants that appear in spring are full of phytonutrients and were both food and medicine after a long winter.

Recent studies show that Lamb’s quarters (Chenopodium album) for example, fights viruses and bacteria, and blocks the growth of human breast cancer cells. Another common springtime treat, Dandelion leaves have eight times the antioxidants, two times more calcium, three times more vitamin A, and five times more vitamin K and vitamin E than spinach.

What about the Taste?

The flavor of wild plants is more complex and intense than anything you’ll find in the grocery store. This is attributable to bitter, sour, and astringent compounds, which give these plants their deep nutrition and medicinal qualities.

As mentioned in the original post of this series, much of the medicine has been bred out of these wild plants, and we’re left with incredibly mild varieties, such as our most popular variety, Iceberg lettuce. This equates to a loss in vitamins and minerals in our diet, as well as calcium.

Tips to select, store, and use the most nutritious greens

To reclaim some nutrition and flavor in our diets, and to take a step into eating on the wild side, including nutrient rich greens is a great way to begin.

  1. Choose the most intensely colored lettuces (preferably red, red-brown, purple or dark green) that have the loosest arrangement of leaves.  The most nutritious greens have a more intense flavor. To moderate this, mix greens with a milder variety or add a fat, such as avocado or unfiltered olive oil.
  2. If buying bagged varieties, inspect them carefully, and skip over bags with yellow, brown, or withered leaves. Check the “use-by” date. Look for mixes with red or dark green leaves and choose the freshest one you can.
  3. Preserve nutrients and flavor by separating a head of lettuce into individual leaves or open a bag of loose greens and soak them in very cold water for 10 minutes. Dry in salad spinner or with a towel. Store greens in a resealable plastic bag poked with 10-20 pin-sized holes. Press the air out. seal the bag, and store in the crisper drawer.
  4. For a nutrient-dense salad, add in non lettuce varieties, such as arugula, radicchio, endive, and spinach. Find a greater (and fresher) variety of options at the farmer’s market. Take 5 minutes to make your own salad dressing. Bottled varieties often contain trans-fats, preservatives, and added sugar that would be a shame to pour over your delicious greens. For a simple, tasty, and nutritious dressing, toss your greens in some good olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice, and a dash of salt and pepper. Or search the Internet for easy home-made salad dressing.
  5. Keep an eye out for the following lettuce varieties and salad vegetables at your supermarket:
      1. Arugula
      2. California salad (mixed greens)
      3. Frisee (curly endive)
      4. Looseleaf lettuce with red or dark green leaves
      5. Rosso di Chioggia (a variety of radicchio)
      6. Rosso di Trviso (also a radicchio)

    nutritious lettuce

And the following varieties at the farmer’s market or specialty stores: Blackjack (looseleaf lettuce), Cimarron (romaine), Cocade (Oak leaf), Concept (Batavian), Dazzle (romaine), Eruption (romaine), Fire Mountain (looseleaf), Flame (looseleaf), Galactic (looseleaf), Lollo Rosso (looseleaf), Merlot (looseleaf), Marvel of Four Seasons (butterhead), Outrageous (romaine), Prizehead (looseleaf), Red Icerberg (crisphead), Red Oak Leaf (looseleaf), Red Sails (looseleaf), Red Velvet (looseleaf), Revolution (looseleaf), Rouge d’Hiver (romaine), Ruby Red (looseleaf)

With a bit of attention to variety selection, storage, and preparation, your salads can be more flavorful and nutritious than ever before!

Keep an eye out for the next post in this series about alliums (onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, etc) and how to choose for optimal flavor and nutrition.

To tasty salads and good health!

How to Select the Freshest, Most Nutritious Food Possible

Fueling to Reach Your Potential

Have you ever asked yourself “What can I eat right now to give me sustained energy for everything I need to get done today?”

We’re all familiar with the advice to eat more fruits and vegetables. What we also need to know is which fruits and vegetables to eat to get the most benefits from our food.

This is the first post in a series on how to choose fruits and vegetables with the most nutrients, flavor and freshness.

Inspiration

A while back I picked up an excellent book titled Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson. Robinson details how to select, store, and prepare foods to reclaim the nutrients and flavor we’ve lost through decades of breeding fruits and veggies to be more palatable. Much of what I’ll share in this series is directly sourced from or inspired by her book. It’s a valuable resource which I highly recommend you purchase from your local bookstore.

Aren’t all fruits and vegetables basically the same?

As it turns out, no.

An apple is not an apple. A tomato is not a tomato.

One tomato on the supermarket table, for instance, can have ten times the amount of nutrients as the next. How can we know which to select to get the most nutrients and flavor? More on that to come.

 

There is also a common belief that heirloom varieties are superior in nutrition to modern fruits and veggies, but this is not always true.

For example, the Golden Delicious apple, a 100 year heirloom, has half the nutrients of the Liberty apple, which was released 75 years later. Heirloom crops have a variety of other advantages which I will not go into here, but choosing heirlooms is not always a guarantee of superior nutrition, which is our current focus.

What have we lost?

As our ancestors began to take cuttings of wild plants to grow in gardens, they selected varieties that were tender, low in bitterness and astringency, and high in sugar, starch, or oil. Plants that were tough, seedy, bitter, or in any other way unpleasant to eat were left behind in the wilderness.

This transformation of our native plants into our supermarket varieties has resulted in the loss of vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, and healthful fats. Some of the varieties in our supermarkets are so low in nutrients and high in sugar that they actually contribute to health issues rather than alleviate them.

The ancestor to the banana, for example, is a fruit which comes in many different shapes, colors, and sizes. It’s full of hard seeds, and has a peel which is so thick and firm that it must be peeled with a knife. Thousands of years of selecting for certain traits has yielded the Cavendish banana, the variety we see in our supermarkets, with sweet and soft flesh, nearly non-existent seeds, and a peel that comes off easily.

Most nutrition experts agree that a healthy diet is high in fiber and low in sugar. Keeping our blood sugar at optimum levels is linked to a reduced risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic inflammation, obesity, and diabetes-the primary ailments of modern civilization.

With the shift in our diet from wild foods to an industrialized food system, we’ve not only experienced a loss in nutrition, but also in flavor. Every aspect of farming has become mechanized and produce now spends days or weeks in transport and storage before it is eaten. This results in fewer nutritients, picking before ripeness, and higher acidity and bitterness.

Eating Wild

Phytonutrients are the substances plants produce to protect themselves from insects, disease, UV light, weather, and animals. These phytonutrients are antioxidants for our bodies. Among the many potential health benefits of consuming plants with high amounts of phytonutrients is the protection we get from free radicals, which can inflame our artery linings, turn normal cells cancerous, damage our eyesight, and intensify aging.

Wild plants contain the highest levels of phytonutrients, and therefore, nutrition and flavor. It’s not likely that most modern humans are going to hunt and forage for most of their food. What we can do though is learn how to select the freshest, most nutrient dense varieties that are available to us at markets.

In the Kitchen

How you store, prepare, and cook your produce will also impact nutrition and flavor. You can reduce, maintain, or enhance their flavor. Cooking techniques change the bioavailability (ability to be absorbed by our bodies) of certain nutrients.

Potatoes, for example, can be stored for months without impacting their nutrition, while broccoli begins to lose it’s cancer-fighting compounds within 24 hours of picking. Simmering tomatoes for hours, as in traditional Italian sauces, not only enhances flavor, but triples it’s lycopene content.

Let Food Be Thy Medicine…

As the title of Robinson’s books states, we can learn to eat on the wild side. We can learn which varieties to select for optimal nutrition, flavor and freshness. We can learn how to use them.

The part of my brain which enjoys trying to optimize everything loves to know that I’m getting the most nutritional bang for my buck. Knowing how to select for optimal freshness, flavor, and nutrition reassures me that I’m spending my hard-earned money on the best available option.

Each post in the remainder of this series will focus on a different group of vegetables or fruits. I will name specific varieties that Robinson discovered through researching thousands of studies in the US and abroad. I will detail simple storage and cooking techniques that enhance nutrition and flavor.

As in the famous Hippocrates saying, discover how food as medicine can truly become a daily practice.

Could this be undermining your health goals?

A Sweet Secret

You’ve likely heard by now that we modern humans consume far too much sugar and that it’s wreaking havoc on our health. From expanding waistlines to insulin resistance and diabetes, too much of the sweet stuff is not just making us fat, it’s also making us sick. On average, Americans consume 66 pounds of added sugar per year.

I recently read that there is added sugar in 74% of packaged foods in supermarkets (source). Aside from the fact that it’s best to shop to borders at the grocery store and eat real food, if you’re going to eat from a package, it’s wise to know what’s in there.

Hidden in Plain Sight

“But I read labels”, you say.

Unfortunately, just having an awareness that sugar may be keeping you from reaching your health goals is not enough. Reading food labels is fantastic and is an excellent first step in keeping unwanted added sources of sugar out of your diet. The fewer the ingredients in a food the better. Ingredients should all be things you can pronounce and are familiar with.

Spotting added sugar can sometimes be tricky. It’s in things we consider healthy, like granola or yogurt. It’s also in savory items, such as ketchup, crackers, and bread.

sugar

Product labels are required to list total sugar, but not to specify how much of that sugar is naturally occurring, such as in sugar and milk, and how much has been added. Keep an eye out for the following sources of added sugar while scanning ingredient lists.

The many names of sugar

  • Agave nectar
  • Barbados sugar
  • Barley malt
  • Barley malt syrup
  • Beet sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Buttered syrup
  • Cane juice
  • Cane juice crystals
  • Cane sugar
  • Caramel
  • Carob syrup
  • Castor sugar
  • Coconut palm sugar
  • Coconut sugar
  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup
  • Corn syrup solids
  • Date sugar
  • Dehydrated cane juice
  • Demerara sugar
  • Dextrin
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Free-flowing brown sugars
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Glucose
  • Glucose solids
  • Golden sugar
  • Golden syrup
  • Grape sugar
  • HFCS (High-Fructose Corn Syrup)
  • Honey
  • Icing sugar
  • Invert sugar
  • Malt syrup
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltol
  • Maltose
  • Mannose
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Muscovado
  • Palm sugar
  • Panocha
  • Powdered sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • Refiner’s syrup
  • Rice syrup
  • Saccharose
  • Sorghum Syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar (granulated)
  • Sweet Sorghum
  • Syrup
  • Treacle
  • Turbinado sugar
  • Yellow sugar

What instructions is your food giving your body?

Health and healing starts in the kitchen.

Food is the foundation.

In this post, you’ll learn 3 key strategies you can begin using today to improve your health from the inside out.

Food is the information that tells our bodies which genes to express and which genes to silence. More specifically, there are certain components in food that encourage our bodies to turn on or off inflammatory pathways. Inflammation is at the root of nearly all chronic conditions.

We must move beyond the idea eating by numbers. Eating optimally for our genes is about more than eating a specific percentage of macros (Carbs, Proteins, and Fat). It’s about more than counting calories. It’s about learning which ingredients boost our ability to combat oxidative stress and quench damaging free radicals.

Most importantly, it’s about learning how to get these ingredients onto our plates in a simple and nutritious way. I’ll go into the biochemistry of inflammation in another post, but for now, just know that food is talking to your body in very specific ways.

food is information

The first step towards health is to start including more foods that quiet the flames of inflammation.

Simple Strategies

Below are 3 key strategies you can implement today to lay a foundation for better health and performance in every aspect of your life.

  • Reduce the damage of oxidative stress on cells and tissue. Eat foods to help manage inflammation, oxidative stress, blood sugar, and fats. This includes grapes, blueberries, apples, watermelon, cabbage, kale, onion, leeks, radishes, capers, and turmeric.                                                                                                                            
  • Feed your gut. A healthy gut is important for a variety of reasons ranging from immunity to mental health to glowing skin. To properly absorb nutrients from your food, you need healthy gut bacteria. The following foods support your gut health: kombucha, asparagus, bananas, jicama, yogurt, miso, and tempeh.             
  • Support your detox processes. Include these foods to aid in the production of antioxidants and to help your body get rid of toxic substances produced under stress. Include the following: beets, spinach, mushrooms, avocado, oranges, eggs, sunflower seeds, and brazil nuts.

Sustainable Success

By working with ingredients that directly influence our genetic expression, we can create a toolbox of foods that improve our health at the biochemical level. When we reduce inflammation in the body, the body can begin to heal itself.

Getting these foods on your plate every day can help you begin to break free from restrictive meal plans and diet dogma, and set you up for success over the long haul.

Much of what I’ve discussed here about how specific components in food interact with our genes is from the work of Amanda Archibald

How Can Food Improve My Performance?

How would it feel to know that your food choices were helping you think more clearly and run faster and further? What if you could eat in a way that was easy, saved you money, and was healthy and delicious?

It’s possible and it’s easier than you think.

The Standard American Diet

American’s get 63% of their daily calories from packaged foods. US food consumption

Eating primarily packaged, refined, processed convenience foods results in a diet high in meat, dairy, fat, and sugar. Only 1 in 4 Americans eats one serving of fruit per day and only 1 in 10 eat the recommended minimum of veggies.

The Impact

fast food

From a personal health standpoint, it’s clear that our diets are killing us. America is the most overweight industrialized nation with about 35% of the population being obese, and 75% being overweight. Obesity increases the risk of illness and death due to diabetes, stroke, coronary artery disease and kidney and gallbladder disorders.

The Standard American Diet is associated with acne, Alzheimer’s, certain types of cancers, inflammation, greater risk of preterm delivery, bowel disorders, and greater risk of heart and kidney disease…and that’s just to name a few

factory farms

In terms of the environment, the intensive use of water, energy, pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones, and GMOs used in modern agriculture have resulted in increased topsoil loss, water pollution, animal waste, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Destroying our environment means not only destroying where our families live and play. It also means destroying the source of our food supply. Not caring for our land and water means there will inevitably come a day (in the not so distant future) when we can no longer grow enough food.

I’m just one person. What can I do?

We know this is happening, but it’s easy to believe that we’re powerless to stop it.

There are powerful industries with incentives to perpetuate this system. Convenience food is designed to be quick and addictive by the food industry. Advertisements have convinced us that we don’t have time to eat healthy or that it costs too much. Big Agriculture is a powerful business that influences government subsidization of large-scale unsustainable farming.

How do we get out of this mess?

It’s amazingly simple.

What we choose to eat powerfully impacts our own health and the health of the environment. Decreased demand for the packaged, processed foods means less destroyed land, less pollution produced, less packaging waste.

Steering clear of packaged junk foods also does wonders for our health. Eating real food (those that don’t come in packages or have a list of ingredients), grown sustainably, results in better cognition, decreased rates of disease and cancer, clearer skin, better digestion, and improved immune function. It means better performance in all areas of your life, from work to fitness to parenting.

What do you want to support? You can use your dollar and power of choice to improve your life and our collective future. Or you can use it to keep supporting the system.  How would it feel to break free from the mega-industries controlling our food and our health?

Each one of us has the power to be part of the solution.

Why this? Why now?

We have the power to make great changes in our lives and in the world.

It can be easy to feel powerless. We can believe that what’s happening in the world will continue to happen and there’s nothing we can do about it. But that thought doesn’t sit well with you because you’re an aware individual. You know that your choices matter. Whether we’re impacting one other life or many, each of our actions has ripple effects.

power to change the world

There’s a lot of scary stuff going on in the world, but we don’t have to passively sit back and watch our environment be destroyed and our health deteriorate. Those are not just inevitable parts of life. We have the power every day to improve our lives, our children’s lives, and the world at large.

Eat Real Food

In fact, we have the power to do that at least 3 times a day through our food choices. The goal of this site and my work is to empower you to make thoughtful choices that benefit you and benefit the planet.

And it’s really not so hard. It just takes a few small shifts in mindset and habits. It’s also not expensive or time-consuming. You’ll probably spend less money on your weekly groceries and less time making food decisions and preparing meals.

You’re also likely to drop extra weight, clear up brain fog, experience less anxiety and depression, have more radiant skin, and discover that many of those aches and pains you thought you’d have to live with forever, actually disappear after a few short weeks of consuming the right fuel.

You’ll feel proud of yourself knowing that your choices are building a more sustainable food system. You’ll feel good knowing that you’re part of the solution. You’ll feel satisfied knowing that your kids are learning healthy habits that will set them up for long, enjoyable lives. Your future self with thank you for making intentional choices.

The downsides? None, really.

Learn what’s possible.

In the following posts, I can’t wait to share the simple ideas, tools, and tactics that I’ve learned over the years that have helped me transform my own relationship with food, health and how I approach my life. I’ve seen profound changes in friends and family and I’m excited for you to join us.

In the comments below, say hi and let me know if there are any particular topics you’d like to hear more about as I continue to build out this site.