My Breakfast Bowl

This morning I woke up inspired. This is not a small thing for me. For weeks now, I’ve been having these dreams right before I wake up that we don’t need Freud to rise from the dead and analyze to know they are anxiety whirling around my brain like a smoothie in a blender with the top off. Messy as hell. Just as early morning light is on the horizon outside my bedroom window, I’m asleep, but running, out of breath, frantically trying to either find my lost child, remember my speech, plate my food, escape a murderer, find a classroom in a maze of high school corridors so I can sit for an algebra test that I have to pass, or my life will be RUINED FOREVER!!! Something like that is what I’ve been gasping for breath over and sitting bolt upright in my bed lately. In fairness, I’m taking on some big things in my business and in life these days, so while I may be nonchalant about it by day, my subconscious seems to be venting up a storm. So to wake up to an angels chorus of inspiration, instead of the abject fear ringing in my ears, is really a relief! I’m betting my inspiration could have  a lot to do with the red dress I wore last night.

Last night I attended The Ninth Annual Women’s Day Red Dress Awards at Lincoln Center that honors individuals who have show a commitment to raise awareness and work against women’s heart disease. I was invited to attend by Dr. Sharonne Hayes, from Mayo Clinic, who has been a Women’s Red Dress honoree and is not only one of the most prominent women’s cardiologists in the country, but has spearheaded the Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD) study at Mayo that I am participating in. Back in September, a month after the SCAD incident that rocked my world, I was at Mayo, seeing Dr. Hayes and the team assembled there for the study. I will always be grateful for the care and detailed attention to my case that I received there. This study will bring answers to the many question we SCAD women have about what happened to us and help prevent it for other young, healthy women in the future. I got to take a pic with Dr. Hayes…

…and…be still my heart…Richard Blaise…last year’s Top Chef winner, who was there to speak about his own heart healthy 72 lb weight loss, and his heart healthy recipes he has developed using Campbell’s Soups. (Note his shirt!)

I got to gush like a fan and ask him for his advice on trying out for Top Chef. I asked him if he thought Top Chef would take an old lady like me and he said, “that’s a trick question, because first I have to say you are not an old lady and second…yes…they’d be happy to have you!” Bless his gracious and perfectly polite heart! I was such a fan of his last season and rooted for him. He was hands-down the most talented of the pack and deserved to win.

So, why is the name of this post “my breakfast?” Well, I wrote to Dr. Hayes this morning and told her how much the event moved me. The stats about women and heart disease are staggering. And it’s been an uphill battle to get women’s heart care and research up to the standards that men enjoy, but it’s getting there through the work of some of last night’s honorees.  I wrote: “The event left me wanting to do more and be more of an advocate for heart health in my blog and in other ways too. I eat and live that way and have for most of my life and even though I don’t have a “lost tons of weight and turned my life around” story, and my heart attack story is not typical, I think I could be a great advocate and example of someone who walks the walk of heart healthy eating, and I think cooking plays a big part in that story.”

Hence….my breakfast. I was putting this together this morning while fretting over what recipe I would do for the blog this week. I thought..why not this?  My clients, students and almost everyone I meet eventually asks me the same question: “How can you stay slim and be a chef and cook all this great food?” I try to stay in the closet a little bit about this. Afterall, I’m supposed to be the chef…I’m supposed to revel in butter, cream, sugar, fat, bacon, chocolate and all the riches of the abundance culinary universe! But the truth is that most of time I eat very simple, fresh foods..the highest quality I can afford in meats, dairy and produce and I use my knowledge of culinary technique, balancing flavors, developing flavors to make the most of what I eat. I avoid most grains because I’m gluten-intolerant, but it’s turned out that realizing gluten was the cause of my digestive distress, gas, bloating, heartburn, reflux, fatique, joint inflammation and overall crankiness turned out to have a great impact on my waistline.  Just try eating no bread, pasta, bagels, pizza, cake, cookies, etc. and see how easy it is to maintain your weight…piece of cake! Well..not cake…but you know what I mean!

This breakfast is what I eat most mornings: a diced organic apple, a 1/4 to 1/2 up low fat organic or greek yogurt, dried and fruit juice sweetened cranberries and blueberries, shredded unsweetened coconut, sunflower seeds and a tablespoon of flax oil. I mix this all together (sometimes I sweeten with a little honey or stevia, but mostly not) and munch away, usually watching a DVR’d rerun of Chopped to start my day. This bowl of bounty is a great substitute for carb, sugar and grain heavy cereals that you might eat for breakfast, but packs a ton of crunch and fiber, (what you love about cereal), essential fatty acids, (the good fats), and has a nice balance of sweet, tart and creamy. You get the probiotics from the yogurt which also help with digestive health, and the long-lasting energy from fruit and protein from the yogurt that will take you through your morning without the crash you get from sugar and carb laden breakfasts.

So…there it is. My heart healthy breakfast. I’m not abandoning my passion for food and cooking. I’m not going all vegan and raw foods on you, either. You will see butter and cream and bacon and cheese and flour and sugar from me in the future too.  Today, I’m just doing what I usually do..sharing something delicious…from my heart to yours!

Rachel’s Breakfast Bowl

1/2 cup organic low-or–nonfat yogurt (for a thicker creamier yogurt use “greek” style.
1 tablespoon dried (fruit-juice sweetened) cranberries
1 tablespoon dried (fruit-juice sweetened) blueberries or raisins
1 -tablespoons flaked or shredded unsweetened coconut
1 tablespoon flax oil
1-2 teaspoons raw sunflower seeds or sliced raw almonds
Drizzle lightly with honey or stevia

Note: honey will add to calories and carb content of this treat, so use scantily. All stevia is not made equal. Some brands contain maltodextrin which is a form of glucose that will raise insulin levels and add carbs. So…read labels. To get fruit-juice sweetened dried fruit you may have to go to a healthy, natural grocery store like Whole Foods because most national brands of dried fruit contain lots of sugar. Or try finding online.