Wednesday, February 29, 2012

leap day giveaway

Whoo hoo!  We love free stuff.  And there's a great gift on the way to one lucky winner.

The nice folks over at PurelyGreat are offering up a F-R-E-E 50 gram container of Women's Citrus Deodorant.  Made with only four natural ingredients this deodorant contains no aluminum and is vegan friendly.

According to the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) Skin Deep Database many deodorants have chemicals which are known to be bad for our health.  The EWG lists these chemicals as potentially causing cancer, as endocrine disruptors, neurotoxins, highly allergenic, and or causing organ system toxicity.

If you've been looking for a great smelling product that doesn't have any of these chemicals in it, this may just be the answer for you.  After all, the object is to help you smell better, not to add more chemicals to your daily load.

Here comes the legalese:

1.  This giveaway is limited to the USA and Canada (sorry folks who don't live in either of those countries)
2.  Grains&More makes no guarantees regarding prize delivery and is not responsible for any possible taxes or fees
3.  Grains&More has received no compensation for this announcement
4.  The contest is open for one week from 2/29/12 to 3/06/12
5.  The winner will be chosen at random and all results are final

Good luck!

Monday, February 27, 2012

on my mind monday 2.27.12

newspaper | photo: mconnors
It's never the same two weeks in a row.  My snapshot of what I find interesting.  Information and news about health, nutrition and/or holistic living.  Here's what's on my mind.

Three weight loss drugs make second bid for FDA approval - I'm not a huge fan of weight loss drugs (no surprise there). Unfortunately many of them are stimulants and easily abused. The other problem is that even though they often come with some sort of documentation about meal plans they do not, in my opinion, adequately address educating people about understanding nutrition and specifically understanding their eating habits and how they contribute to their overweight. We are surrounded with generalized statements but often nothing to support lifelong habit and thought changes. This is why people yo-yo, they haven't learned how to meet their own needs when it comes to their diet. I do hope these products will continue to be refused approval.

A connection between superbugs and antibiotic use in livestock - it frustrates and infuriates me that over 70% of our antibiotics are used in livestock feed and yet the industry refuses to see a connection between that usage and the rampant increase of superbugs. Well, now we have PigMRSA to prove the point. How to avoid antibiotics in your food? Unfortunately there is no labeling requirement that shows how much antibiotic the animal on your plate has eaten. The only way to avoid it is to choose meat marked "natural" and labeled with the statement that it does not contain hormones, antibiotics or preservatives. This label however is not regulated. A better option, if the budget will allow, is to choose organic meat, dairy, and eggs. This is a regulated label and the animal is not allowed by law to have antibiotics, GMO feed, hormones, or preservatives.

In a Squeaky-Clean World, a Worm Might Help Fight Disease - in a nutshell this article talks about the possibility of pig whipworms being helpful in stimulating the immune system.  Here we have yet another scientist looking at the Hygiene Hypothesis which I wrote about here and here.  This is a different take on adding organisms to the body to support health.  Another one that has gained some attention recently is fecal bacteriotherapy which appears to be helpful in remitting C. Difficile infections and a variety of Irritable Bowel Diseases.  While I'm not certain that in our modern culture many people would be open to the idea of either of these therapies, they certainly seem to point to a need to stop being so hyper-clean.  The antibacterial everything in our environment may actually make us more sick in the long run.  Consider a return to good old-fashioned soap and water.

Antibiotics don't work for most sinus infections - Unfortunately we have become accustomed to taking antibiotics for everything.  As a result many of us are walking around with weakened, overwhelmed, inflamed guts that do not have adequate probiotic colonies to support good health.  If you have to take an antibiotic, seriously consider if it is necessary before just popping those pills.  And don't forget to take a good probiotic with your antibiotics to replenish the good bacteria which are being wiped out right along with the bad.  I often suggest that people take probiotic supplements for 60 days after their last dose of antibiotic.

Someone asked for a suggestion for probiotics:  One probiotic that I like a lot is Innate Response's Flora 20-14 Ultra Strength.  With 20 billion CFUs in 14 different clinically proven strains, this is a supportive supplement to recolonize your gut.  It can be purchased at a discount through my Virtual Dispensary please contact me for your access code.

This commercial was seen during the Superbowl.  I think it's sweet but also carries a powerful message.  I just found out that all proceeds of the song, The Scientist, available on iTunes, go to the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, an organization dedicated toward helping to create more sustainable food and support farmers.  That's a mission that I can believe in.

Why we must occuppy our food supply - Willie Nelson and Anna Lappe tell it like it is

I like Mark Bittman and watch his youtube channel a lot. I also happen to love both clementines (which are still easily available here in TX) and clafoutis. So this looks like a great combination for a simple dessert that makes use of seasonal ingredients.

What I'm reading:

The Magnesium Miracle - This book highlights how important this essential nutrient is to our health.  Magnesium is important for heart health, weight management, diabetes, mental health and more.  As a matter of fact the book lists over twenty-five conditions that are related to magnesium deficiency.  It also talks about magnesium in synergy with other minerals and ways to get more magnesium into our system.  I've known for a long time that many people are walking around deficient in magnesium.  I'm enjoying this book and learning already.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

eating in the woods

Merriweather | photo: miradessy
My husband and I were fortunate enough to be able to take a Wild Edibles Foraging Tour with Merriweather today.   He's always interesting and engaging, offering an amazing depth and breadth of information about edible, non-edible, and medicinal plants.

The ground was very wet and muddy at the Spring Creek Greenway Nature Center due to all of the rain we've had lately.  And trust me, all of that rain is a good thing after the drought we've had for the last two years.  However the muddy terrain didn't hold back our eagerness to follow Merriweather over log and trail in pursuit of the knowledge he had to share.

There are rules to wildcrafting or edible foraging:

1.  Respect the law - in Texas it is a crime, carrying fines of up to $500, to rustle.  That includes plants.  So if you're going to harvest you need to ask permission first.

2.  Respect the land - just like I learned in Girl Scouts all those years ago, leave it cleaner than you found it and if you packed it in, pack it out.

3.  Respect the plant - make clean cuts so the plant can stay healthy and do not over-harvest.

4. Respect yourself - know, definitively, what you are picking and planning to eat.  Don't assume because you could be risking your health.

It was a fascinating class and I think everyone was struck by the vast number of edible plants in our environment that we are not aware of.  There was a mind-boggling amount of information.  Although there are other books out there, I'm waiting for Merriweather to write one of his own because I'm sure it will be good.  He has a unique point of view when it comes to sharing this information.

luna moth | photo: miradessy
There were lots of neat things to see during the class, not just plants.  One was this beautiful luna moth which patiently clung to the branch, allowing us to turn it over so everyone could photograph "the pretty side."

In spite of the chilly weather, overcast conditions, and muddy terrain everyone appeared to enjoy the expedition tremendously.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

"natural" doesn't mean appetizing

dictionary | photo: Alex756
And the word of the day?


What's castoreum?  I'm so glad you asked.  It's a food additive that appears in many of our favorite foods but especially in ice cream.  It is used particularly in the following flavors: vanilla, strawberry and raspberry.

Sounds yummy right?  I mean who doesn't like vanilla.  Or strawberries.  Or raspberries for that matter.  Well, unfortunately for us castoreum is not really made from vanilla, strawberries or raspberries.  And because it's made from a "natural" ingredient it doesn't have to be listed as castoreum on the label either.  It's listed as a "natural flavor."  I'm not exactly sure why this is...after all, vanilla is vanilla.  Why use something else and label it "natural flavor?"  I'm sure I don't have the answer but I do know that according to a number of different sources, and the Code of Federal Regulations, castoreum is an ingredient which is allowed in our food.

What is it made from?  I promise you, you will never look at things the same way again.

What to do about this unappetizing state of affairs?

Personally I'm planning on hauling out my ice cream maker to make my own this season.  I'm pretty sure I can't buy castoreum at the grocery store, and even if I could I wouldn't.  Nope, just real old fashioned vanilla and fresh fruits for us.

You will need an ice cream maker to make your own.  I have an old-fashioned hand crank machine.  The kids are no longer young enough to be tricked Tom Sawyer style into cranking it.  That's okay I could use the upper arm exercise.  I do however confess to occasionally dreaming about this Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Maker Attachment.   But honestly I'm trying to cut down on the embarrassing number of appliances I have in my kitchen.  If you don't have a Kitchen Aid, and don't mind cranking a little, this is a nice Donvier 1 quart which works well (we used to have one but it got lost in a move).

I love this recipe from David Lebovitz.  Which reminds me, I need to run to Penzey's one of these days to get some vanilla beans.  Here's another recipe for vanilla ice cream which is a little simpler if you don't want a custard style.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

how much caffeine do you need?

coffee | photo: seriousfun
Yet another caffeinated product has made it's way onto the shelves.  Mostly found in coffee, caffeine can also be sourced from tea and cocoa.  It is often consumed as a beverage.  There is a new caffeinated product which is available as an inhalant.

Seriously?  I've said it before but I'll say it again.  How much caffeine do people really think they need?  And if they think they need that much they should be looking at what's going on in their lives to re-evaluate.

Sure caffeine can be enjoyable in moderation.  But for many people it causes a whole host of issues.  According to Trudy Scott, CNC, in her book, The Antianxiety Food Solution caffeine can cause not only physical symptoms such as an increased heart rate, tremors, and an inability to sleep, but is also linked to anxiety and panic disorders.

And yet manufacturers keep looking for new ways to deliver caffeine.  We are being pressured to feel that we need to live life at a faster pace and to push ourselves beyond the limits of health.  Caffeine is touted as the way to accomplish that need for more energy.  Through marshmallows, gum and mints, popcorn, lollipops, beef jerky, lip balm, soap, stockings, hypercaffeinated shots and beverages (thankfully the caffeinated alcoholic over the counter drinks were banned),* and more it's everywhere.

I was stunned recently to read in a Good Housekeeping magazine the suggestion that instead of drinking a grande coffee one should simply have several espresso shots throughout the day to keep you pumped up.  This is not a good idea.  The potential to become seriously ill from all of this overconsumption of caffeine is a strong possibility.  I am baffled to understand why we are being pushed so hard to consume a substance which, for many, is so bad for you.  Again I want to state that for those who can consume coffee without ill effect it can be okay in moderation.  However, moderate users are, I believe, far fewer than those who over-consume.   And many do not do well with caffeine at all.

One young many that I am working with gave up his three Monster a day habit.  Reluctantly.  Eventually he began to notice that he felt much better, both physically and emotionally.  His anxiety was reduced, his thoughts weren't racing as much, and physically he was beginning to feel better than he had in a long while.  All very positive things.  One day he was out with friends and they were all drinking Monsters, so he had one too.  Within a very short period of time he felt his heart racing, his mood changing and, in his words, "I felt like crap."  He was stunned at his body's reaction and wondered how he had ever managed to handle three monsters a day.  The answer is he wasn't handling it, he just thought he was.

Be wary of these products, avoid them.  The "energy" you think you gain comes at a price.

*I have not linked to these products as I do not wish to promote them.  As of this writing however, they are all real products which are, sadly, easily available.

Monday, February 20, 2012

on my mind monday 2.20.12

newspaper | photo:  mconnors
It's never the same two weeks in a row.  My snapshot of what I find interesting.  Information and news about health, nutrition and/or holistic living.  Here's what's on my mind.

Walmart 'Great For You' Healthy Labels - While I think we need to have appropriate labeling for food I'm not so sure who is the best organization to create it.  As proven by the Smart Choice label fiasco manufacturers are certainly not a good choice.  But are retailers any better?  Considering that they have a vested interest in selling product and that their shelf space and advertising efforts can be bought, I'm not so sure this is a winning scenario for the consumer.

What's In Your Food: Weight Watcher's Blueberry Muffins - the usual suspects of bad food, artificial ingredients, chemical additives, and far too much sugar.  Read the label, not just the front of the box.  Unfortunately many people assume that the front of the box tells the whole story when it comes to health and nutrition information.  Not true, that's the marketorial space that producers use to try to convince you that you want to buy their product.

Bright Farms - this is an organization that is bringing hydroponic greenhouse farms to grocery stores.  I think this could potentially be a great idea.  One issue is getting grocery stores to consider buying in to the concept of truly local sourcing.  Another is the strategy of growing what/enough for consumer preferences.  But it could potentially be a fabulous idea, especially in urban areas.

Wow!  The Discover High School Farm.  This is another twist on the education/food concept.  This effort is really spreading in a variety of wonderful and creative ways across the country.  Starting with Alice Waters' Edible Schoolyard to the Real School Gardens and more, kids are learning about their food, where it comes from, and making great choices because it's easily available.  Now we have this high school connecting their kids to food in a meaningful and productive way.

Raw Milk Debates - As I've written about here and here,  raw milk is in the news.  There are many people who prefer raw milk.  And both the Raw Milk Institute and the Weston A. Price Foundations Campaign for Real Milk support those consumers who want raw milk and those farmers who want to provide it.  Here is a great blog post by someone who drinks raw milk.  This issue seems to be getting more and more attention in the news and in legislative issues.  On a personal level, in case you are wondering, yes, there is a raw milk dairy about 45 minutes from my house.  Yes I do occasionally drink raw milk, but only when it is convenient for me to go that way and get it.  I'll also share that my husband and teen daughter are not willing to drink it, so I don't force them.  But I find it to be delicious and if it were more easily available I would consume more of it.

Arsenic found in infant formula - I am once again very upset to find such serious problems in the food supply.  The arsenic is found in rice which is a very efficient at uptaking it from the soil.  Apparently even if the field is now organic (a process which takes three years to achieve) if there is significant arsenic in the soil it will still find it's way into the rice.  Where did the arsenic come from?  It's being used as a pesticide.  We need to stop dumping toxins on our food and to stop poisoning our soil.

Friday, February 17, 2012

candy bars

snickers candy bar | photo: FightinG FalcoN
It's in the news.  Mars has announced that it will stop selling king or super-sized candy bars.  They are now only going to sell candy bars with 250 or less calories in them.   Quite honestly I'm annoyed about this announcement.  My initial response is that they are pandering to the public.  In their press announcement the company states, "Mars has a broad-based commitment to health and nutrition."

I'm not convinced they do.  Let's remember, their job is to sell candy.  And they're going to try to convince you that their candy is a healthier choice than that of another brand.  But whatever they say, and whatever they do, the bottom line is that they need you to buy their candy.

These super-sized candy bars are a problem.  A king-sized snickers bar is supposedly three servings, each one containing 170 calories, 8 grams of fat and 18 grams of sugar.  Eat the whole thing and you are getting a whopping 510 calories, 24 grams of fat and 54 grams of sugar.  Not a good thing.

It's pretty much a given that we are programmed to finish our food.  I'm guessing that the vast majority of people who open a king-size candy bar wind up finishing the whole thing.  In that regard downsizing could be a good thing.  If Mars limits their candy bars to be no more than 250 calories (regardless of how many servings) that's less than half of what king-size candy bar consumers are currently getting.

Before we get all excited about that, however, we have to look at the ingredient list of a snickers bar:
    Milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, lactose, skim milk, milkfat, soy lecithin, artificial flavor), peanuts, corn syrup, sugar, skim milk, butter, milkfat, vegetable oil (partially hydrogenated soybean and/or hydrogenated palm kernel oil), lactose, salt, egg whites, artificial flavor
It contains trans fats (remember anything partially-hydrogenated is a trans fat) and that's a problem.  Mars claims that they will eventually be removing these from their products but for now they are still in there.  And they're using what I call tricky math.  The label claims that if you eat one serving of a king-size snickers you get 0g trans fats.  That's because the government allows .49 g and less per serving to be considered zero.  Eat three servings and you could potentially be eating almost 1.5 g of trans fats.  That added up quickly for a product that supposedly had no trans fats at all.

Next we look at the soy lecithin, soybean oil, and corn syrup.  These are, in all likelihood, from genetically modified crops.  Those of you who have been reading the blog for a while know that I am vigorously opposed to the use of GMO's in our food.  Unfortunately the government does not believe that consumers have the right to know what's in their food and does not require manufacturers to label the source.  Better to avoid them to the best of your ability.

Then there's the artificial flavor.  We don't need that, it's not good for us, and we shouldn't be eating it.

So while Mars claims to have a "broad based commitment to health and nutrition" the answer is, not really.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

cauliflower in the garden

I'm very fortunate to live in an area where we have an extended growing season.  While I miss certain crops that need cold weather to grow well (like currants) I'm loving the veggies that come out of my garden.

This lovely picture is the purple cauliflower that is currently growing in the garden.  It's delicious and tastes just like the white cauliflower that we are all used to.  The purple color comes from anthocyanins, a highly active antioxidant.

As a cruciferous vegetable cauliflower is, of course, high in fiber.  It also provides excellent levels of vitamin C, K, and folate.  It's delicious steamed, baked, roasted, and can even be eaten raw.

The tastiness doesn't stop with the florets.  Those lovely leaves are also edible.  I often use them as a green vegetable in stir fry or sauteed with onions and garlic.  A friend of mine recently told me that he used his in place of kale to make cauliflower chips and they were delicious.  I love kale chips and so I'm going to have to try that with this batch of greens.

Monday, February 13, 2012

on my mind monday - 2.13.12

in the news | photo: mconnors
It's a new week and this is what's on my mind:

Cocoa can be the new cranberry - according to this article there are some studies that have promising results for it's antioxidant flavanols.  While I do believe that there is quite probably some health benefits this emerging claim needs to be approached with caution.  Firstly the studies are all being done by major chocolate companies, especially Callebaut, one of the world's largest confectionery producers (formerly Belgian, now Swiss-owned).  Any study done by a company that has a vested interest in it's end results needs to be examined more stringently in order to avoid any potential bias.  Secondly, even if cocoa does have major health benefits that is for cocoa.  The raw product.  This does not cover chocolate products that are made from a cocoa base.  Unfortunately I have visions of Cocoa Rice Krispies trumpeting major health claims on the front of the box if these studies are proven scientifically valid.  So while I will be watching and reading further about this I am advocating that this news be taken cautiously and not as an excuse to add processed cocoa to the diet with abandon.

Potatoes may offer blood pressure benefit - the caveat here is that this refers to purple potatoes.  My personal bias against this article is that it refers to potatoes simply as a vegetable.  In my practice I have gotten into the habit of labeling types of vegetables so that people understand that not all vegetables are equal.  Potatoes are a starchy vegetable, there are also crunchy vegetables and leafy vegetables, etc.  Limiting starchy vegetables in our diet makes sense, if only to encourage people to eat a wider variety of vegetables.  A little research reveals that purple laver (a type of seaweed) also has anti-hypertensive qualities, as did purple carrot juice.  This all seems to suggest that anthocyanins, the substance responsible for that purplish-red pigment, may be responsible.  Should the news media start to promote this and someone begins to manufacture anthocyanin-only pills I'd like to the be the first one to tell you to get your anthocyanins through your food.

Can fermented foods make you healthier - in a word, yes.  We don't eat enough of these in our modern diet.  We've gotten away from traditionally lacto-fermented foods.  We think the saurkraut and pickles that we buy in the grocery store are good for us.  Unfortunately they are not the types of foods that we need to be eating.  Pickles especially are often laden with artificial colors ( the label).  And these foods are made using commercial vinegar, not a culture or a whey to ferment naturally.  I agree that we need to eat more fermented foods in our diet; I would include kefir, kombucha, and kvass in this mixture for those who like those foods.  Want to make your own fermented food at home?  It's very's a great lacto-fermented saurkraut recipe with pictures.

Thirteen (plus) years of asparagus - I love asparagus.  I planted some in my garden.  This will only be it's second year so we need to harvest with caution (it takes three years for an asparagus garden to be fully functional - or so they tell me).  But I continue to read asparagus recipes and drool for the day that I can plunder with abandon and eat our fill of the tasty stalks.  Of course that's if there is any left.  The little heads have started poking above ground and I've discovered that I made a vital error.  When we have asparagus in our house we cut off the ends.  Most of them go into the compost heap.  A few we feed to the dogs, giggling as we watch them leap into the air to get these tasty-to-them tidbits and chomp down.  Guess what?  Turns out with their highly sensitive noses they've discovered that the tasty treats also grow in the backyard.  Not only that, they're *much* yummier as young tender tops.  ::sigh:: Now to figure out how to protect the asparagus garden from the dogs so that we have some to eat for ourselves.

Chocolate orange macaroons - I love macaroons, they're one of my favorite treats.  I often don't take the time to make them though.  But this recipe from Bauman College is enough to make me change my mind.  The combination of orange and chocolate is one of my favorites.  Add in that it's in the form of a macaroon cookie?  I'm in.

What I'm reading?   Digestive Wellness: Strengthen the Immune System and Prevent Disease Through Healthy Digestion, Fourth Edition I greatly admire Liz Lipski and this, her latest edition of this book, is a great book when it comes to understanding digestive health and it's relationship to overall well-being.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

walking the walk

walking | photo: jzlomek
Some of the people I work with want to lose weight.  So we talk not only about what they are eating (and how and why), but about the other aspects of their life.  Are they engaged in some sort of mindfulness practice, do they have good social interactions, are they exercising?

When it comes to exercise often not moving enough is a big problem.  If you don't like exercise, if you don't feel well, if you're very tired it can be difficult to get started.  Then there is the self-created shame factor.  I have many people who tell me they don't like to go to exercise classes because they feel uncomfortable in a class where everyone knows the moves and/or is thinner/fitter than they are.  While I feel everyone has to start somewhere I certainly understand the uncertainty and hesitation that comes along with starting to change your routine.

In order to encourage people to begin to make small mindful changes we look at the Metabolic Equivalents for how much activity they are getting now.  Then we look for ways to bump it up.  Small, steady changes can have a huge effect.

Just a couple of days ago I was working with someone and made a few of my favorite suggestions to her for getting more activity into your routine.  Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park further away at the grocery store/mall, and if you are watching television walk up and down the stairs (or use a stepper if you don't have stairs) during the commercials.  This not only gets you moving more, it gets you in the habit of thinking about being more active.

She looked at me and accusingly asked if I did any of those things.  Whoops.  I do choose stairs over elevators as often as possible.  If I have to park further away at the store I don't mind, but I certainly don't choose to do it, and often don't have to.  And I don't walk up and down stairs when watching television (although I also don't watch much).

So I have decided to walk the walk.  For the next 30 days I will deliberately choose to park as close to the furthest end of the row as possible when I am going somewhere (bonus:  should be lots of parking, most people don't choose to do that).  I will also commit to walking up and down stairs if I am watching television and there are commercials.  And I will continue to choose stairs over elevators.  I don't have a pedometer so I won't be able to tell you how many extra steps this adds to my daily/weekly routine, but I know that it will be a good thing  And the next time I suggest this to someone if they ask that same question I'll be able to answer a supportive and affirmative yes.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

meatball soup

meatball soup
I'm not one of those people who cooks the same recipe every time.  I prefer to tinker with my food.  Sometimes it's successful, sometimes it's not so great.  This delicious recipe came out of a combination of ingredients on hand in the fridge:  chicken soup made from the bones of the roasted chicken two days ago, the outer leaves set aside from making fermented cabbage, the tops of celery, an onion, and the leftover bits of sweet bell pepper.  Needing to come up with something for dinner I decided that soup was the order of the day and a meatball soup seemed like a perfect dinner recipe to me.   It was a hit and, at least for a while, this will be making a regular appearance at our table.

It came out well, very tasty, easy to make and certainly a great way to use up leftovers.  I often joke that instead of the kitchen shows where the chef-contestants have access to a kitchen with every ingredient imaginable, there needs to be a cooking show where you have a refrigerator full of leftovers and a traditionally stocked pantry.    I'm not sure what anyone else would have made with my ingredients on hand; this is what I came up with.

Meatball Soup

1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup of celery (mostly greens), diced
8 large cabbage leaves, shredded
1/2 sweet bell pepper, diced
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
meatballs (see recipe below)
1 cup cooked rice
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot
Saute onion until just starting to wilt
Add garlic and saute one more minute
Add celery and cabbage greens and saute two minutes
Add bell pepper and saute one minute
Add broth and water
Bring to just under boiling then reduce to a simmer
Gently spoon meatballs into soup
Cook 20 minutes or until meatballs are done
Add rice, salt and pepper and serve


These are my basic meatballs.  I use this recipe for all of my meatball dishes, Swedish, Hawaiian, crockpot, spaghetti, grinders, this is my go to recipe.  There are no breadcrumbs in this recipe and we really don't miss them.  The mixture comes out a little gloppy at first but the meatballs are tender and juicy which is just the way we like them.

1 pound organic ground meat
1 egg
1 tablespoon dried onion
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix ingredients together and form into meatballs
Bake in 350F oven for 20 minutes or until cooked through

Monday, February 6, 2012

on my mind monday 2.6.12

newspaper | photo: mconnors
Here we are, a new week, more news.  This is what I'm reading and thinking about.

You'll buy less junk food if you pay cash - Obviously I am not a fan of junk food.  Anything that helps folks learn to kick the habit is a good thing as far as I am concerned.  Learning to put away your credit card turns out to not only help you save money, but eat healthier.

Taco Bell Enters Breakfast Arena - Definitely not a good thing.  I'm not surprised at this move because I know they want to expand their market and make more profits.  But the healthiest thing you can do for yourself is to stay home for breakfast.  Eat something healthy, nourishing, with solid protein and a good fat, not over-processed, chemically-laden fast food.  I'm guessing most of you reading this are here because you wouldn't go there for breakfast in the first place.  Unfortunately, the ones who need to hear this message aren't reading it.

Update:  One of my readers felt this meant that you should never eat out for breakfast and this is something that she enjoys.  I did not mean you could never eat out for breakfast so I'd like to add the following food for breakfast is not a good choice  Breakfast at a restaurant where the food is freshly prepared and there are healthy choices is not unreasonable.  However, most of the people who would be willing to consider fast food for breakfast on a regular basis would do better to eat at home because the choices available at fast food restaurants are not really healthy ones.

Frying with healthy oil not linked to heart disease - It's important to note that this report only looked at two oils, olive and sunflower.  And these oils were not reused (which is an important distinction) and were certainly not hydrogenated or modified in any way.  Some questions were raised about the concept of which foods were consumed as all the participants in the study followed a Mediterranean Diet during the 11 year study, however it certainly indicates that the use of clean healthy oils can be part of a healthy diet.

I'm bummed because my Jerusalem artichokes did not appear to grow last year.  I've left the ground alone in the hopes that they are giggling amongst themselves and happily multiplying so that in a couple of months I will start to see their little heads poking above ground.  These are a delicious way to add prebiotics to your diet (prebiotics are essentially what the probiotics in your gut need to survive).  High in fiber, potassium, and iron, they also provide some niacin, thiamin, and copper (supports iron for the health of red blood cells and zinc for wound healing and immune system health).  My friend Merriweather has some great pictures and more information about Jerusalem artichokes on his blog.

Found in my latest edition of Winter 2011 Wise Traditions:  "Polyglycerol polyricinoleate (PGPR) is a "yellowish, viscous liquid comprised of polyglyerol esters of polycondensed fatty acids from castor oil or soybean oil.  The anti-freeze-like slime has largely replaced cocoa butter inHershey's candy bars.  Meanwhile Hershey's is buying up small high-end chocolate producers, like Scharffenberger and Joseph Schmidt chocolates, and and changing these formulations by adding corn syrup."  To which I say read the label.  This is just one more reason not to buy Hershey's products.  These products include but may not be limited to:  Breath Savers, Ice Breakers, Bubble Yum, Jolly Ranchers, Koolerz, Pay Day, Zagnut, Zero, Care-free, Good & Plenty, Reeses, Take Five, York, Kit Kat, Almond Joy, Mounds, Twizzlers, Dagoba, Cadbury, Mauna Loa, Milk Duds, Mr. Goodbar, Rolo, Skor, Whoppers, and Whatchamacallit. Very sad that the small, high-end producers cannot withstand companies like Hershey's and their product suffers greatly for it.

Currently Reading:

I bought Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection at a conference a couple of years ago.  Every now and then I come back to it again, not just for the recipes, but for the wonderful information that the author provides about our food, our connection to our food, to the earth, and to the cycles of life.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

mediterranean rice salad

Recently I went to a party and I needed to bring a dish to share.  The food theme of the evening was Mediterranean.  Wanting to make something fresh and different (and more than just the typical hummus and pita or a Greek salad) I rummaged around in my pantry and put together this amazingly delicious rice salad.  One of the great things about this dish is that it makes use of fresh vegetables and fresh herbs.  I love salads like this, often preferring them the next day after the flavors have had a chance to meld and blend.

It was a big hit at the party and my family was rather disappointed that I didn't bring home more leftovers. I got two thumbs up from the kids (my personal taste testers) and they told me that I should definitely make it again.

Mediterranean Rice Salad

1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 red sweet bell pepper seeded and diced
4 spring onions, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
1 cup assorted olives, diced
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes in oil, drained and diced
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 bunch parsley, de-stemmed* and minced
1tablespoon minced basil leaves
4 cups cooked basmati rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together, toss well, let sit 2-3 hours for flavors to develop.


*When I de-stem herbs like parsley or cilantro I've learned a little trick that makes it very easy:

Leave the herbs bound together, wash well to clean and shake dry
Holding the stems use a chef's knife and chop at the leaves in a short brisk fashion moving down the stems
Rotate the stems and repeat on another side until all sides have been shaved
Remove band holding the stems together
Throw the stems in your compost bin
Pile chopped leaves together and mince

It probably took longer to write that than it takes to do it.  Once you do this you'll wonder why you ever de-stemmed leafy herbs any other way.