Kimchi Breakfast Tacos

Kimchi Breakfast Tacos

Make these easy kimchi breakfast tacos! They're loaded with avocado, fried egg, roasted Japanese sweet potatoes and spicy kimchi! The kimchi gives you a dose of gut friendly probiotics. You could enjoy these tacos for breakfast or dinner. If you roast the potatoes in advance, these quick and easy tacos take just minutes to throw together in the morning. 

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Good Mood Food: Kimchi Noodle Salad

Kimchi noodle salad is a delicious way to sneak in mood boosting probiotics, and it takes less than 30 minutes to make. Vegan and gluten free too! 

Happy Friday! I'm excited to share the first post of my new series, Good Mood Food. As you know, I'm a firm believer that food can and should contribute to a healthy and happy life. In this series, I'll be highlighting foods that have a specific impact on brain health, and mood and using it in a tasty new recipe.

For my first post, I want to look in depth at a group of foods essential to mental health - fermented foods. Fermented foods have been preserved or produced by the action of microorganisms like bacteria and yeasts, which digest sugars, turning it into gasses, acids or alcohol...I know, I'm not really selling it. But trust me, fermented foods are much tastier than it sounds, and they've been an essential part of the human diet for thousands of years. And guess what? If you've had yogurt, sourdough bread, sour cream or soy sauce, you've already swallowed a nice little mouthful of bacteria.

Fermented food is important for health because it introduces and replenishes the supply of probiotic bacteria to our gut. Did you know we have more bacteria in our gut than cells in our body? In fact, our gut bacteria outnumbers our cells 10 to 1. So, I guess we kind of are what we eat!

Having a healthy intestinal flora is important for more than digestion. Studies have shown how changes to our intestinal bacteria can effect weight and have an impact on cardiovascular health and bone health. But what I find most notable and fascinating is how fermented foods improve mood.

You probably think of your brain as this intricate and complex organ and your gut as, well, a poop shoot. But you could argue that our gut has almost as much influence over our thoughts and mood as the brain. The gut is home to the enteric nervous system (ENS), the second greatest concentration of nervous system cells outside the brain. Many scientists refer to the gut as "the second brain." While the gut can't think, per se, it does influence thoughts and mood in other ways and one of those ways is through our gut bacteria.

Gut bacteria produces neurotransmitters, including 95% of the bodies serotonin and about half the bodies dopamine. Serotonin is often called the good mood hormone and dopamine is part of the reward system. Gut bacteria also protects against an endotoxin called lipopolysaccharide, which even small increases of can provoke depressive symptoms (and increase blood sugar). Fermented foods also decrease inflammation in the gut. Mild inflammation in the gut has been shown to increase anxiety and and lower levels of brain derived neurotropic factor, a neuropeptide that's known to be low in depression. If you'd like to read more about the science behind it, here's a fascinating journal article that looks into the science of mental health and fermented foods.

Kimchi might be my favorite fermented food. I'm slightly addicted. If you ever catch me hanging out in front of the refrigerator with the door wide open, it's probably because I'm eating kimchi out of the jar (or peanut butter, but that's another post). Kimchi, made by fermenting cabbage in chili paste, is essential to Korean cuisine. It's used to flavor soups, stews and in fried rice or is eaten as a side dish. I know fermented cabbage might not get you excited, but trust me, it's incredible! Think of it as spicy saurkraut!

This dish is a great way to enjoy kimchi in all of it's raw, probiotic filled glory. To make a full meal, add some type of protein. We tossed in pieces of grilled local chicken breast seasoned with 5-spice powder. Or for a vegan version, use edamame, cubes of baked tofu, or sprinkle it with extra peanuts or hemp hearts.

Kimchi Noodle Salad

Serves:

Serves 4

Toss in edamame, cooked chicken or baked tofu for additional protein.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces whole grain noodles (I used black bean noodles) 
  • 1 cucumber, halved lengthwise and chopped into thin half moons
  • 1 cup kimchi, drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons sriracha or gochujang 
  • 1/2 cup toasted peanuts, roughly chopped

Instructions

  1. Cook noodles in a large pot of salted water according to package instructions. Drain. Drizzle in 1 tablespoon of sesame oil to prevent it from clumping. Set aside to cool.
  2. When noodles are room temperature, place cucumber, kimchi, scallions and cilantro in a large bowl. Add noodles and toss to combine. Drizzle remaining sesame oil and sriracha/gochujang over the top. Toss again to combine. Top with toasted peanuts.

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Kimchi Fried Rice

Learn about the benefits of fermented food and get the recipe for this kimchi fried brown rice with bacon. 

Kimchi and Bacon Fried Brown Rice

I have a pretty rad stepmom. I credit her with introducing me to some life changing stuff - clothes that aren't oversized horse t-shirts, Meg Ryan movies, and pierced ears. Perhaps most importantly though, she introduced me to authentic Korean food and the amazingness that is kimchi.

If you're new to kimchi, I should probably warn you it's one of those love/hate kinda things. Kimchi is the Korean national dish. It is made by fermenting salted cabbage in a spicy sauce of Korean chili powder, fish sauce, garlic, ginger and other spices. During the fermentation process, bacteria break down sugar and starch, converting it to lactic acid. The process can range from a couple of days to months. If I remember the episode of No Reservations correctly (and given my love of Anthony Bourdain, I probably do), in Korea, kimchi is fermented in clay pots buried underground for up to a year. The result is spicy and sour, with some crisp pieces and others wilty.  I love the extra wilted bits, which my stepmom and I call old kimchi.

If you've never tried kimchi, my description probably isn't selling you on it.

Healthy kimchi fried rice

Would it help if I told you fermentation is, like, really hot right now? Fermented foods were on just about every list of top food trends for 2014. The popularity of the paleo diet has prompted a resurgence of this ancient method of preservation. Once relegated to health food stores, foods like kefir, kombucha and tempeh are now be found in most grocery stores.

I kind of love this trend, not just because kimchi doesn't require a special trip to an Asian market, but because fermented food has some amazing health benefits that more people are getting to experience. Fermented foods are a rich source of probiotics. The bacteria in fermented foods produces vitamin K2, a form of the vitamin that seems to be particularly beneficial for bone health, cardiovascular health and prostate cancer prevention. The fermentation process also increases the concentration of omega 3 fatty acids and B vitamins in foods.

Korean Kimchi Fried Brown Rice with Bacon

Other fermented foods to include:

And of course, kimchi! I often eat it by itself as a snack, but it's even better worked into traditional Korean dishes, like kimchi jigae (kimchi stew), kimchijeon (kimchi pancake), mandu (kimchi dumplings), or in this kimchi fried rice.

Kimchi Fried Rice

Serves 4

You can find kimchi at most grocery stores now. I buy mine at Earth Fare or Trader Joes. If you're having a hard time finding it, check an Asian food market. Also, make sure you cook the rice the day before so you can stir fry it cold, otherwise the warm rice will get mushy as it cooks. Adapted from Orangette.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 slices bacon, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 head of napa cabbage, shredded
  • 2 cups kimchi, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 4 eggs
  • Toasted sesame seeds, for serving
  • Chopped green onions, for serving
  • Sriracha, for serving

Instructions

  1. Place brown rice and 1 1/2 cups of water in a small pot. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 40-50 minutes until water is absorbed. Let sit 5 minutes, then remove lid and fluff. Let cool slightly and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Place the bacon in a large skillet and set to medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is cooked, but not crisp, and fat is rendered. Add the cabbage and cook 4-5 minutes, until lightly browned and wilted, then add kimchi and cook 2 minutes to warm through. Add brown rice and cook, stirring every so often, until crispy, about 5-7 minutes total.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the sesame oil in a medium skillet. Add the egg and fry until the whites are set and the yolk is runny, flipping for a minute before serving.
  4. Divide the rice between four plates. Top with a fried egg, sesame seeds, green onions and sriracha