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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Chard Wraps

During the last four weeks I've started writing 3 different posts that I never got to finish, so I really hope I can click on the "publish" button for this one before my unshakable ADD attacks again. 
It's been a time full of important events, a bunch of interesting work projects, some wonderful celebrations, atypical nights out (a record total of four!), and the end of the school year. I've been composing entries for the blog in my head wanting to talk about all that, but there hasn't been real time for typing.Where's the app for that????

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to present at the Green Tea Expo, a health-focused fundraiser for a Manhattan private Jewish school. The keynote speaker at the event was Rabbi Aaron D. Mehlman, whom I became a big fan of while he was my kosher supervisor when I had the baking space in the Upper West Side. I might not do justice to his great speech, but I'll try to do my best in conveying one of the ideas that actually stuck in my Teflon mind. Just a quick note: no matter what religion you observe, or even if you don't observe one, this can apply to everyone. He mentioned the importance of taking care of our bodies (which is actually commanded in the Torah), and explained how without our bodies functioning well, we cannot obey any other commandments or perform good deeds, or do anything at all. However, he said, despite the obvious, it's hard to take care of ourselves. We need the strength of a whole additional spirit in order to actually do it. It's a big effort, and temptation is difficult to placate. I'm not talking about a temptation against sin in the Dante Alighieri kind of way, but we do need much discipline and will power to perform all those daily tasks that keep us healthy: flossing, working out, attending therapy, eating nutritious foods, scheduling medical checkups, applying sunblock, keeping a good posture, and the list goes on and on. So many endless tasks and so much temptation from the environment, and also from within ourselves to boycott them... I remember my high school psychology teacher explaining Freud's Eros (drive of life) and Thanatos (drive of death) concepts, and I think this is another interpretation of what the Rabbi was explaining, and I can't help picture an old Disney cartoon in which either Goofy or Donald (can't remember which one of the two) has two little versions of himself on each shoulder. One is dressed as an angel and the other one as a devil, and they are both whispering into his "real-size" self's ear trying to convince him to act in the right or evil way. Without going to extremes of calling it evil or drive of death, we face these internal discussions lots of times, and often, the boycotting part of us offers a freer, funer or tastier seeming option. It can be shaped as a cheap, greasy chocolate cream doughnut with rainbow sprinkles (that actually looks better than it tastes), a permit to ditch the gym for the week (or forever), a can (or 10) of soda, one too many alcoholic drinks, or even a pathological obsession to exercise 3 hours every single day with no rest. 
In the scope of healthy eating, the topic is a bit like faith itself: it's a long term investment that we hope works out as we believe it will. There's rarely an immediate reward with the food we put into our bodies (caffeine might be one of the few examples), but we have to be patient, work at it, and hopefully see the results later on. There's no magic: if you eat junk food, no thunder will strike you on the head, and if you dine on kale, you won't win the lottery or become a size 0. Just as with faith, there are numerous interpretations of what eating healthy means, and some times we have to resort to the experts for advice. No matter what, we need to use that "extra spirit" that will give us the strength of taking care of ourselves. At doing this, we don't only take care of our body, but we teach by example, especially if there are children around. And that example includes enjoying a piece of chocolate once in a while, with pleasure and no regret! 
Sometimes it's hard to know how to begin. There's so much information everywhere, and it's difficult make the right choices. I recently spoke to Shmuel Shields, PhD., who wrote the book L'Chaim: 18 Chapters to Live By. If you keep a kosher diet, this is the manual you should start with! With decades of experience in the nutrition field, Dr. Shields navigates the intricacies of Torah wisdom and the latest scientific research, producing an easy-to-use guide to health, strength and well-being.

And now, I leave you with this recipe that I love and will be eating all summer long. And the best is that I won't need to resort to my strong extra spirit to convince me on this one!

Swiss Chard Spring Rolls
I used to be the only single Mexican on Earth who didn't like avocado. Then, a couple of years ago, love flourished, and now I can't get enough of the rich, creamy, and vitamin E loaded fruit ( has a pit, therefore it's a fruit). My Mexican mango affair is no news, but its pairing with avocado has been this season's obsession in my kitchen. It's a match made in Heaven.
Not only in their marriage of texture and flavor, but even nutritionally, they make each other better than the sum of their parts.
Recent studies have shown that when fresh avocado (or avocado oil) are added to a salad, our absorption of lycopene and beta-carotene (powerful antioxidants) increases between 200 to 400%. So it happens, that mango, besides being rich in vitamins C and D, is very high in beta-carotene, which avocado only improves!
Due to a very particular fat content (not only in amount, but type as well), avocado has anti-inflammatory benefits, can help lower the risk of heart disease, and, by being rich in fiber, this fruit can help regulate blood sugar levels and prevent some types of cancer. 
To wrap things up, literally, I love using the large, dark green leaves of the Swiss chard plant. As most dark green edible leaves, the nutrition content of the chard is outstanding. Specifically, chard contains at least 13 different polyphenol antioxidants, including kaempferol, a heart-protecting substance also found in broccoli, kale and strawberries. Chard also contains syringic acid, a flavonoid with blood sugar regulating properties; and along with beets, chard is a unique source of other phytonutrients called betalains, which provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxifying qualities.

This recipe is vegan and free of: dairy, eggs, gluten and can be made nut free.

If anyone knows how to rotate pics once they are already uploaded in blogger, I'd appreciate your help, as it seems to have a mind of its own.....

8 Swiss Chard leaves
2 Mexican mangoes (Champagne, ataulfo, any other kind as long as they are from Mexico)
1 Hass avocado
1 lime
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1 spread recipe (see below)


60 g. (1/4 cup) unsweetened, unsalted nut or seed butter*
15 g. (1 tablespoon) white miso paste
10 g (11/2 teaspoons) raw honey (pure maple syrup or coconut nectar also work)
14 g. (1 tablespoon) brown rice vinegar
5 g. (1 teaspoon) tamari soy sauce, or to taste

*Almond, cashew, sunflower seed, peanut, tahini, all work


1. In a medium bowl, whisk all the spread ingredients together.

2. Trim the thick bottom stems of the Swiss chard, until you only have 1/2-inch left between the end of the stem and the beginning of the leaf. 

3. Peel and pit mangoes and avocados, and slice flesh into 1/4-inch thick strips. Squeeze fresh lime juice on avocados and set all fruit aside.

4. Place one chard leaf with the more textured side upwards on a cutting board and top it with another leaf in the same direction. Spread 1 tablespoon of the prepared spread long wise, leaving 2 inches all around the edges of the leaf with no spread. 

 5. Place a couple of slices of mango and avocado on the chard leaf with spread and add some mint and basil leaves. The fruit strips should be placed on the center of the leaf, facing along. 

6. Fold in the tips of the chard leaves from the section with no spread. Then fold in one of the thicker sides and then the last one, to make a roll containing the filling.

7. Repeat until all chard leaves are used. Slice each wrap in an angle and serve.

Makes 8 half-wraps