Saturday, June 30, 2012

make do bullet blender

Recently I was wasting time researching ideas for food preparations on Pinterest and came across a posting that mentioned using regular mouth canning jars as a personal bullet blender device.  According to the pin/link that mentioned it the mouth of a regular pint jar happens to fit the blender blade base which then fits into the blender and can be used to make personal smoothies.

I already own a blender and am not interested in buying another appliance for my kitchen.  But there are times when it would be great to be able to make individual smoothies without having to clean the blender in between each recipe.

This morning, after mulling it over for a bit, I decided to give it a try.  I figured the worst thing that would happen is that it wouldn't work and I would have to dump it all into the blender and start from scratch.

To make this morning's smoothie I put the following ingredients into a regular mouth pint canning jar:  Greek style yogurt, organic strawberries, washed and quartered, fresh ground flax seed, greens powder, coconut oil, and a splash of almond milk to make sure there was enough liquid.  I put the blade base on the jar and it fit very well, placed the whole thing on the blender and hit the button.

I didn't measure very well as I wasn't sure how it would work but it seemed to have come out okay.   The hardest part was trying to carefully undo the jar and blade base from the without undoing the jar and spilling the contents all over the blender.

It turns out this works very well and I anticipate more personal smoothies in our future.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

hydrating foods

fruit salad | photo: Marisa DeMeglio
The seasons have changed and those hot, summer days can cause you to sweat.  A lot.  Through sweating you wind up losing valuable hydration.  While it's important to make sure that you drink enough to stay well hydrated don't forget to look at what you're eating.  Many of the foods that are in season have a high water content and can help keep you hydrated.

Dehydration can cause a wide range of negative health effects from low blood pressure, increased heart rate, headache, or weakness to dizziness, and possibly even unconsciousness.   It is important not only to stay well hydrated but to consider the source of your hydration.  Avoid rehydrating through overconsumption of high sugar (such as soda or sports drinks), caffeinated, or alcoholic beverages.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


These are companies that I want to share with you because I use their products and/or they have a product that I believe is a good one.  I do want to be clear, these are affiliate links.  If you choose to buy something through them I do receive a small commission which helps support my blogging habit. Thank you.

Drink water 300x250Aquasana offers a variety of water filter systems including whole house filtration.  After all, it's not just what you drink.  Our skin is our largest body organ and what goes on it gets into us.

 If you want to get rid of the chlorines, chloramines, and other contaminants frequently found in residential water check out what they have to offer.

Blendtec makes amazing blenders, grain mills, and mixers.  They are reliable, heavy duty and yet not as expensive as some of the other brands out there.  I love mine and use it regularly.

I use a lot of herbs, in cooking, for teas, and to add to baths.  I have always found their herbs to be great quality.  The amount of information available at Bulk Herb Store is wonderful and I really like their videos, books, and other products too.

Body Ecology is an amazing program created by Donna Gates.  Offering straightforward information and products on how to rebalance your inner ecosystem and help you get back to health.

Cultures for Health is your one-stop shop for all things related to cultured food.  Yogurts and other cultured foods, cheese making, fermented foods and more can be found here.

 Offering high quality, pharmaceutical grade supplements Emerson Ecologics is also a great resource for aromatherapy, acupuncture, personal care, and veterinary supplies.  All products are available through this link at 10% off retail.  Because I am not allowed to publish the access code, please contact me to gain access to the site.

10% Off Only Natural Pet Brand Products Use Coupon Code EZ10! Exp 6/30/12 If you are looking for good quality natural and holistic pet care Natural Pet Brand is a good place to get grooming supplies, vitamins, treats, flea and tick treatments and more.

  Nourishing Hope is the website of Julie Matthews, a highly regarded expert on the topic of feeding and healing diets for those with Autism and ADHD.  Her information is not diet specific but rather encompasses all of the dietary strategies and she helps families choose the one that works best for them.

I like these products from Slimware because they are an attractive way to help teach people about portion control.  The offer plates and bowls that discreetly help you measure what you're eating.

When working with clients who have trouble with constipation or other bowel disorders I suggest to them that there's a better way to poop.  It sounds strange but it's true, if your colon is properly aligned things are easier (if you know what I mean).  The Squatty Potty is a great way to help support good colon health.

Vital Choice is an amazing resource for the most amazing wild fish, shellfish, canned seafood, and more.  Every time I have ordered from  them I have been extremely happy with the quality of their product.

For those who are looking for a great workout consider the X-iser.  Designed to deliver maximum interval training benefits it's small, compact, and a great way to keep in shape.

affiliate accounts

just pennies | photo:  cohdra
Support for the blog.

As regular readers know I am passionate about food and health.  It's what I do for a living, it's how I help others, it's what I read and study in my spare time.

I don't have an assistant or a support staff, it's just me.  Writing when I can, trying to keep things interesting, informative and, above all, understandable.

I have never written a post like this before and do not plan to make it a regular happening.  I'm not asking you to make a cash donation nor am I creating a subscriber only blog.  But I have decided to come right out and talk about how you can support me if you choose.  There are a few companies who have products that I really like.  I either use them myself or they meet my personal standards for the things I think are important (such as high quality foodstuffs or a reliable kitchen appliance).  When the topic comes up I do sprinkle them into my blog posts but that's because I believe in them and want people to know that these items are available.

I've decided to gather all of these links together into one post and to make it available on the blog under the tab Resources.  If you use the links below thank you; I do get a few pennies and it doesn't cost you anything extra.  My promise to you is that I will continue to be honest about it.  If someone sends me something to review, I'll tell you.  If they give me something to give away, I'll tell you that too.  And I will only put links on this page that I feel I would support or purchase.  That has always been my policy and it won't changed.

While I would like to make some money to help support the time I put in to this blog, my primary goal is to reach out to you, the reader; to make things less confusing, to help you understand how to navigate the confusion and noise that corporate marketers put out there.  To be a resource you can trust.

Thanks for your support.

Monday, June 25, 2012

on my mind monday 6.25.12

news | photo: mconnors
It's never the same two weeks in a row.  This is a collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition and holistic health.  Read what's on my mind.

Jumping Jacks Aren't Enough - In this excellent article by Michele Simon, author of Appetite For Profit: How the food industry undermines our health and how to fight back, she points out that the Let's Move campaign created by Mrs. Obama isn't all of the story.  Yes, moving and jumping and being more physical is important for kids (and adults too).  However diet plays a huge part. Getting proper nutrition (and nutrition education) is key to helping children to understand the connection between what they eat and their health.  Sadly the purveyor's of the worst offenders for our diet don't want consumers, especially children who could become life-long consumers, to be well educated about their choices.  Read the article, read the book and then look again at what's in your grocery cart.

All About Breasts - I've talked about breasts before, mostly in talking about breast feeding here and here, also in talking about a recently published book on nutrition and breast cancer.  Now there's another new book that's going to have to go on my reading list; Breasts: a natural and unnatural history by Florence Williams.  Breasts serve an important function when it comes to nourishing our babies and as a part of our hormonal health.  However because they are made largely of fatty tissue which tends to accumulate toxins, they can also be the repositories for our exposure to a toxic world.  Should be an interesting read.

Greener soda bottles? - no, not really.  Plastic is a problem, a big problem.  As I mentioned in an on my mind monday post a couple of weeks ago just because manufacturers stop using BPA doesn't mean they aren't using other bisphenols.  And there are all sorts of other nasties out there when it comes to plastic.  Not to mention how bad it is for the environment.  I've written quite a few posts about plastic, the stuff is everywhere.  It's hard to get rid of; I'm still working on my one-step-at-a-time effort to get rid of it.  Mostly by following Beth over at My Plastic Free Life who has a new book, Plastic Free.  I'm doing better than I was a year ago but this reminds me I need to step it up again and look for more ways to remove more plastic from my life.

Kale isn't Chikin - I am a huge fan of Bo Muller Moore and his Eat More Kale t-shirts. I asked my kids what they thought...was there any confusion between kale and chicken in their minds.  After they finally stopped laughing I explained this lawsuit to them and they were highly incredulous.  I love the fact that Bo is making the film, A Defiant Dude and am rooting for him.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

bubble gum flavored apples anyone?

fake apples | photo:  LeemanS
One of my readers, sent in this picture and comment/question about these apples.

"We came across these apples at Stop & Shop here in town. We could not believe our eyes when we saw flavored apples!! I told my husband to take a pic to send to you because I wasn't sure you would believe me when I tell you that they had bubblegum flavored apples. I believe there were four flavors total to choose from. 

I'm curious what your thoughts are. I walked away all kinds of confused. Was this an attempt to help kids with poor eating habits cross over the healthy eating or the other way around? How exactly did they alter this apple to make it flavored? And of course the obvious...yet another example of FAKE food.
grapples | photo: Qrd2006

Oh and as you can see it's was placed right next to the apples and the packaging says ready to eat snack.  What's so difficult about preparing an apple for eating?  hmmm you wash it?!?!"

Good eye, and good thinking.  This is very similar to something I just saw in my local grocery store called grapples.  Research indicates that the flavoring comes from "natural" (read possible MSG ingredients) and artificial flavoring. It seems that the apples are marinated for several days in an undoubtedly chemical concoction which allows the apple to soak up the flavor.  This process has apparently been approved by the FDA.

The Grapple company website assures the consumer that the product has not been genetically modified and there are no added sugars or calories.  Unfortunately there is a huge chemical load, not just from the flavorings, but one assumes these are not organic apples and therefore potentially high in pesticide residue.

The Crazy Apple company website says they can't tell you how they do it but I assume it's the same sort of process.  They do however assure you that their apples are gluten free (duh!), dairy free (again, duh!), and contain no soy or nuts.

I believe this is seen as a way to market apples to kids but I'm not really sure why this sort of adulteration is seen as a positive.  Since apples by themselves are sweet, crunchy, and tasty I'm not sure what the appeal is here.  Unfortunately I see this as a big step backwards as items like these further dull the taste buds to what food should taste like.

Update:  It turns out these apples are being spotted all over the place and most of you are not happy about it.  My friend Adrienne says, "If you want a grape flavored apple take a slice of apple and some grapes.  Eat them together.  It's a party in your mouth!"  Good advice.

Monday, June 18, 2012

on my mind monday 6.18.12

news | photo: mconnors
It's never the same two weeks in a row.  This is what I find interesting in food, nutrition and holistic living.  Read what's on my mind.

In El Salvador, Tooth Decay Epidemic Blamed on Junk Food - This link is to a video that shows a dismaying epidemic of ill health strongly linked to the cheap easy access of sugar and cheap junk food.  In watching the video I was horrified to learn that some families, if they have no milk, will put soda or coffee into a baby bottle to feed their baby.  Nutrition education is so important.  We have gotten too far away from understanding our food and it's relationship to our health.

Disney Sets Limits on Food Advertising -  While this is a small step in the right direction it unfortunately also comes as a huge nutri-washing opportunity.  Disney will use this as a major publicity push and possibly as a bargaining chip for deals with vendors and marketing affiliations.  But it's limited in it's scope, will not be fully implemented until 2015, and still does not really address the issue of educating the consumer.  As always caveat emptor (buyer beware).

Food Producers Want Your Nose - Scent is an amazing and powerful tool.  Many people find memories triggered by smells; we often respond to certain smells on an unconscious level, especially those related to food.  This new technology is horrifying; manufacturers are seeking to take advantage of our unconscious response to smells in order to sell more product.  However it fails to take into account the rising numbers of people are affected by Multiple Chemical Sensitivities.  I for one try to avoid the mall as I can't walk past a large number of stores which blast perfume into the space in front of their location, leaving me with a blinding headache if I stay too long.  And people who wear too much perfume or cologne in public places are also problematic for me.  I'm fairly certain that these fake smells are going to linger in the grocery store after people have handled products coated with this technology over and over again.  And touched the cart, leaving residue all over the handles.  The producer claims to only be using "FDA approved flavors" however I'm not convinced that this is anything that should be approved in the first place.

Rachel Carson, Green Revolutionary - Hard to believe it's been 50 years since Silent Spring was published.  A wake-up call regarding the use of pesticides and other environmental chemicals that has been largely ignored.  Although some strides have been made toward banning the use of certain organophosphates and organochlorines it's not enough.  Sadly these chemicals tend to accumulate in body fat and the effects can be cumulative along the food chain.  I also believe these effects to be cumulative through generations.  I plan to take my copy off the shelf and re-read it, I'm encouraging others to read it as well.  The book may be 50 years old but it's cautionary message still holds true.

Father's Day was yesterday and hopefully all those great Dads out there received props for how wonderful and important they are in their families.  Do more for Dad - watch this video to learn some great Heart Health Tips for Men.  There's also a great heart healthy recipe that Dad is sure to love.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

understanding gluten free

gluten free rice flour | photo: Andrea Nguyen
I've realized that I need to put together this post on gluten free.  I've been writing about the topic for a while but mostly in smaller posts either on Facebook or Twitter.  But there still seems to be some confusion out there about gluten so I'm answering a number of questions and putting it all in one place.

Let's start with what is gluten?  Gluten is a composite of gliadin and glutenin and is the active protein which makes flours sticky enough to rise when baked into  bread products.  The more gluten there is in a grain the more stretchy the flour made from that grain will be, and the more it can rise.

What's the big deal about gluten?  For those who have autoimmune disorders such as Celiac Disease or an IgA deficiency eating gluten can provoke an inflammatory body response and is very damaging to the intestinal system. It can cause a wide range of digestive difficulties including diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas, pain, and damage to the intestinal tissues.  Additionally many people who suffer from Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (such as Crohn's or Ulcerative Colitis) find that they do not do well when they eat gluten.

Trudy Scott, author of The Antianxiety Food Solution notes in her book that there are a number of clinical studies showing that gluten can also provoke anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.  Trudy provides easy to understand instructions for a gluten elimination challenge on her blog.

Which grains have gluten?  Fewer grains are glutinous than non-glutinous; they are easy to remember using the mnemonic BROWS. That stands for Barley, Rye, Oats, Wheat, and Spelt. While oats do not contain gluten they are often grown near, stored with or transported with grains that do contain gluten so there is a concern regarding cross contamination.  Therefore many people who need to avoid gluten choose to buy certified gluten free oats.  All of the other grains do not have gluten; these include quinoa, teff, amaranth, corn, rice, buckwheat, and millet.

Gluten free does not mean low carb - I have heard that there are some people who think that if a product is gluten free that also means it is low carb.  Grains by their nature are higher in carbohydrates; so gluten free grains (any grains really) do not qualify as low carb.  It is important to note that some grains are lower in carbohydrates than others.

Gluten free does not mean whole grain - Sadly many people in the search for gluten free don't stop to consider that the healthiest way to eat grains is in their whole form.  A whole grain contains the outer bran, the endosperm, and the innermost germ where the beneficial oils are.  Unfortunately many gluten free products available on the market are not made with whole grains.  They are made primarily with the starchy endosperm.  Whole grains are important as the fiber and the germ help to slow down how quickly your body can absorb the simple carbohydrate of the endosperm and also helps to balance blood sugar levels.  The fiber is also important for digestive and bowel health.  Eating a diet high in simple carbohydrates can cause weight gain, intestinal problems, and other health problems.

Gluten free is NOT a weight loss plan - I am not certain how this concept got it's start.  The only supposition I have (and this is my personal thought, not substantiated as yet by any studies) is that people who went gluten free and lost weight did so either because they lost the "false fat" from inflammation, or because they changed their entire nutritional plan.  By being mindful of the gluten in their food they were also mindful of other aspects of their eating which in turn lead to weight loss.

Gluten free for athletes - This appears to be true.  While there are currently no definitive studies regarding this issue it seems many athletes are going gluten free and finding that they feel better and anectdotally report better performance.  Articles about gluten free athletic performance have appeared in magazines such as Men's Health.  And according to the website The Gluten-Free Athlete a number of professional athletes are following this diet.  If you are interested in trying this you can either stop eating gluten and see how you do, or consider taking using Trudy's gluten elimination challenge.

How pervasive is gluten - People who need to avoid gluten because of health issues need to be aware of the fact that gluten not only appears in food but also in many personal care products.  Our skin is our largest body organ and anything we put on it gets into our system.  Gluten can be found in lipstick, lotions, moisturizers, and shampoo products.  It is important that you read the ingredients on these labels as well as on your food if you need to avoid gluten.

Monday, June 11, 2012

on my mind monday 6.11.12

news | photo: mconnors
It's never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, and holistic living.  Read what's on my mind.

Bloomberg's soda ban: Mayor Bloomberg in NYC has decided that one way to fight obesity is to institute a ban on sugary drinks over 16 ounces.  There are admittedly a number of problems with the legislation, such as the fact that people can still get endless refills, however the concept is sound.  Drink less sugar and your weight most likely will decrease.  The beverage industry in an effort to push back against this legislation is now claiming that science says that soda is not a contributor to obesity.  I'm not exactly sure where they are getting their facts from.  The first hit I find when doing an abstract search on "soda + obesity" brings up a study from 2001 which examined 548 ethnically diverse schoolchildren aged 11-17 and studied them for 19 months.  The study specifically found, "Consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks is associated with obesity in children."  Whether or not you agree with the idea of a ban, a tax, or self-regulation when it comes to consumption of sugary drinks there is no doubt that increased consumption does contribute to obesity.

HFCS will not be called corn sugar:  After a hue and cry from consumers and an overall decrease in the purchase of products which contain HFCS the Corn Refiners Association made a bid to try to change the name to corn sugar.  It was widely believed that this was in an effort to hide the negative health effects of the product by having it classified under a more innocuous name.  The FDA has decided not to allow the change, noting that there is a distinct difference between the concept of sugar and HFCS.

BPA-free products may still contain Bisphenols - In another case of staying one step ahead of consumer knowledge, it appears that bisphenols may not have disappeared to the extent claimed by manufacturers.  In an excellent article brought to my attention by Debra Lynn Dadd, author of Toxic Free: How to Protect Your Health and Home From The Chemicals That Are Making You Sick, we learn that there are a wide number of bisphenols, each with a different alphabetic key, Bisphenol A, Bisphenol AB, Bisphenol C, Bisphenol D, and more.  Because of the hue and cry about BPA manufacturers appear to have possibly simply switched to another Bisphenol product, most specifically Bisphenol S.  Like BPA, BPS appears to be an obesogenic product and carcinogenic and should therefore be avoided. Quite simply, plastics and food (including plastic linings in cans) just don't mix well with healthful eating.

Ch-ch-ch-chia - nope, not to be used as pets, that is slathered on clay forms so that it grows to look like hair or fur, but as an edible seed. Chia is gaining ground in the health food forums.  A nutrition powerhouse, one ounce of chia seeds provides 4 grams of protein and 11 grams of fiber, plus very healthy doses of magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium.  These tiny seeds also provide a great vegetable source of omega-3 fatty acids.  Chia seeds swell tremendously when placed into liquid, many people add them to smoothies for a quick energy burst.  Other use them for chia pudding (note-instead of the agave nectar called for in this link use honey or maple syrup).  They're easily found in many full service grocery stores or they can be purchased online.  While not inexpensive, they pack a healthy nutrition punch and are worth paying extra for.

Sleep is a major issue in our lives.  Lack of sleep is a growing problem.  Most people don't realize how much we need darkness for sleep and how our world is becoming more and more polluted with light from electric sources.  This movie, The City Dark: a search for night on a planet that never sleeps, looks at darkness, the stars, and why this relationship is, should be, so important to us.

One important reason to get enough sleep?  Turns out that junk food is more appealing when you're sleepy.  The areas of your brain that process are impacted, negatively, when you are sleep deprived.  Something to think about when you're tempted to skip a few hours of sleep.

What I'm Reading:

Food Bites: The Science of The Foods We Eat - While I do spend a rather large part of my reading time reading books that relate to food, cooking, nutrition, and holistic health, I do this because I truly enjoy it.  Some of them are weightier than others.  Some, like this one, are cute, lighthearted looks at food.  This is a series of columns written by the author Richard W. Hartel.  Based in science but explaining such puzzling issues as why chocolate forms a bloom, these easy to read short chapters are fun and informative.

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

real food - part two

homemade granola bars | photo: franksteiner
This is a second guest post (part one located here) by Alex Clark who ran the blog A Moderate Life. She's given permission to share this story with you. 

This morning, my daughter told me that there were only two granola bars left in the fridge.  This is a huge change from years ago when I would find empty cardboard boxes with bright colors in my pantry and have to run out to the store at night, ruining my evening with bright fluorescent store light.  I think its because my daughter REALLY loves my granola bars.

I say mine because I make them from scratch. But making them from scratch means you can’t just magically have them ready.  They take time, as does everything related to Real Food, and that pisses some people off and turns them away from this healthful way of life. When, along the way, did we all begin to really believe that FAST and QUICK was better than NICE and SLOW?  When did we start to think that convenience was much more important in our lives than GOOD?

I actually know people who would rather take a frozen dinner and stick it in the microwave for their kids than take a pot out of the cupboard and heat up a can of soup because it takes less effort and it is ready more quickly. I am not talking to those people. They would never be able to GET what Real Food is about, and they only see food preparation as a chore that must be done in order to fuel their charges.

I am here to talk to the folks who have made a choice to eat healthy and are willing to make an investment in terms of money to buy healthy ingredients. I am here to ask them now to make a bit more of an investment in order to increase their returns tremendously. It is an investment in time. Real Food takes time. It takes preparation; that’s why some folks call it the Slow Food Movement.

I know some folks who only have Real food on holidays. At that point, they understand, and accept that it takes time to cook a turkey, or roast a leg of lamb, and they are willing to wait because the dinner is gonna be so stinkin' delicious that it is worth it. I am sad for those people who will wait patiently for a meal two or three times a year, because why not wait patiently EVERYDAY to get delicious, nutritious and AMAZING foods?

I won’t compromise…I simply won’t! I am at the point where I have enough “hours logged” in this lifestyle that it is no longer overwhelming, and I am here to share with you a few tips on how to make the transition easier in your life.  It’s also important to note that as a moderate life enthusiast, I have sifted through the information on traditional cooking and found the things that appeal and are most important to me, and those are the areas I focus on.  Taking on too much is a recipe for disaster, because All or Nothing usually ends up being nothing at all. First–BE PATIENT!!!Your investment of time is in small increments.  It does not take two days to bake a loaf of 100% Sourdough bread , it takes about 30 minutes of actual work and two days of waiting and then 55 minutes of baking, a few minutes to cool and slice and bag and you have bread for a few days…bake two loaves and freeze them and you have bread for a few more days! Its all about figuring out how to maximize your return on invested time! This is so key because you have to be able to plan ahead for things.  Your chicken stock simply isn’t going to appear unless you make it, and it isn’t going to be ready in fifteen minutes, it takes 10 hours, but you only worked about 15 minutes to throw everything in that crock pot.

You should get a calendar exclusively for food prep chores.  I make kombucha, sauerkraut and other pickled vegetables, whey, cream cheese, bread, whey soda, sprouts, sprouted wheat flour, crispy nuts, healthy cookies, granola bars, soaked oatmeal and bone stock on a regular basis. I put into my calendar when something needs to be started, how long it takes to complete and when I need to start to make more. This makes it easy and helps me to shop for supplies each week, because I always know what I am making, and I always then have things stocked to throw together wonderful food.  I am adding a milk club to my calendar so I can get fresh real milk, and that will also take time to pick up, store in my nifty glass containers like in the old days and process if I want to make yogurt or kefir.  When you see things written down and you see the dates, you won’t get overwhelmed with the process of it, and you won’t take on more than you can chew because it’s all laid out for you. [note: why didn't I think of this? So much easier than all my stickie notes tacked onto my jars reminding me of the days. I have a mom's calendar and now that not all the kids live at home there's a blank column. Perfect for this task.]

Understand, this is the way our grandmothers lived, before the advent of technology and mechanization of many household chores, so it’s in our genetic memory. I remember her explaining to me how she would wash on Monday, dry on Tuesday, fold and iron on Wednesday! How she would can vegetables, and make jam during the growing season to stock up for winter.  Now, we can do things much more quickly and we have many more options, so that should leave you plenty of time to do your Real Food Chores. No excuses! Once you begin the process, it’s easy as those oatmeal raisin cookies that I will bake tomorrow because the oats are soaking over night!  Enjoy your food, slow down, take your time and create something worth relishing!


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

real food - part one

porridge (not Captain Crunch) | photo: VirtualSteve
This is a guest post by Alex Clark who ran the blog A Moderate Life. She's decided, after blogging since March 2010, to stop writing about real food. Mostly because she so busy living her real life. She's given permission to share this wonderful story. I fully sympathize with her childhood outlook having dreamed of canned spaghetti and ding dongs when I was a kid. Although the posts are from April 2010, the information is still timely and relevant. 

What a lovely Saturday it is! Not because its beautiful out, but because we are home relaxing after a busy work week–and that sounds good to me! I was at the grocery store the other day looking for things that I wasn’t finding and getting very frustrated that I was even trying as I knew this stuff wasn’t going to be there. No raw dairy, no full fat organic yogurt, no fertile eggs, no grassfed butter, no organ meats, no artisan bread, no Scottish porridge oats…I know..complain, complain, complain…and then, I saw some liverwurst and I got happy for a moment–ah, offal!!

As I smiled, a wave of guilt came over me so strongly that I almost cried, and I had this HUGE AHA moment! For years I had been complaining to people that my mother had fed us terribly when I was a child. Not that she was a bad cook, but she was just different than all the other American Moms out there.  That’s pretty obvious because my mother is from England and grew up in the Yorkshire and Leicestershire countryside.  As a young woman, she was a midwife, going from home to home delivering babies and caring for the mothers and babies in the home. She came to America and met my dad, a Greek surgeon, who came from (oh god, thats another huge long story–let’s save it for another time shall we?) China at a party in Brooklyn.  Thus our family was born and moved into the American landscape as a couple raising first generation American children in the mid 60′s.

So, when other kids were eating Captain Crunch for breakfast, we were having porridge with treackle, or crepes rolled up with lemon and sugar, instead of flap jacks.  When other kids were eating Oscar Meyer and Wonderbread, we were eating liverwurst and lettuce with butter sandwiches or cream cheese and lettuce on brown bread. As kids, we envied our peers their white bread, their big glasses of pasteurized and homogenized milk at every meal (we had water only or a taste of wine, or a shandy, beer and ginger mixed–remember my folks were from Europe!), oh and the thought of Hellmann’s Mayo on a sandwich instead of that GAWD AWFUL butter on everything!!!

Dinner, occasionally, was a child’s worst nightmare. While our friends were eating Kraft Macaroni and Cheese with Ball Park Franks, we were having Beef and Kidney Stew, long cooked with potatoes. Or we would watch our dad crack open a lamb shank that my mother had braised for hours and drink out the marrow with a satisfied slurp.  Snails crossed our plates, tripe, the crackling off a fresh leg of pork, eggs and bacon with bread fried in the grease, Brussels sprouts, turnips, rutabagas…all made an appearance, and while we ate them, simply cooked in my mother’s kitchen, with my granny sitting by her side preparing the veggies, we longed for the dinners our friends were eating.

We did this because we thought it would be better to fit in…to assimilate…to eat what they were eating meant we were one of them.  I remember sitting in terror and dread the first time my mom let me have a birthday sleep over and she served spaghetti and meat sauce…everyone loved it! I was so concerned because it wasn’t Ragu!!!

As the years have gone by, and I have explored many eating traditions and nutritional directives, I sometimes used my mother’s cooking as a “poor me” to fit in and explain myself better and why I was still searching.  People gasped at my stories of my mother buying beef hearts and having them ground by the local butcher or my grandmother buying cows gristles and ligaments and slow cooking them to release all the gelatin and collagen.  It was unheard of, it was unknown and it was unwanted. Surely McDonald’s was better.

Now, sitting in my kitchen, with a pantry stocked full of home made, organic foods based almost entirely on Real Whole Foods recommended by Sally Fallon and the Weston A. Price Foundation, I realize that my mother was RIGHT–she fed us good, wholesome, nourishing, frugal, building, traditional foods! She set the building blocks for future health in every bite of liver and every piece of rye bread we ate!

I am lucky because my kids already know that what my friends grew up on is not good for them, and they love to eat the way we eat (though, they have yet to have a piece of tripe or a lamb shank!). Over the years, my mother stopped cooking traditional foods and became an excellent cook with a European flair.  She and my dad are in their golden years and are healthy and happy and travel extensively. They are concerned with health and wellbeing, but I do think I need to sit down with them and explain why kidneys need to be back on the menu!

Here’s to my Mom, and the wonderful food she made me eat as a kid–I am now glad she made me, ’cause I know how deep down good it was for me.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

antifreeze in your ice cream

ice cream | photo: fruhstuckbeistaphanie
Ah, those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.  Hot, humid, sweltering temperatures just beg for you to stop and enjoy a cold frozen confection.  Just the thing to cool you off.  Or not.

If you are looking for a cool summer treat you may want to consider making your own frozen confections.  It turns out that there is a little known ingredient called propylene glycol hiding out in your ice cream.  Considered a "non-toxic" antifreeze (as opposed to ethylene glycol which is highly toxic) many manufacturers use it in a wide variety of foods, especially ice cream.  While it prevents your car from freezing it also keeps your ice cream smooth and prevents ice crystals from forming.  Homemade ice cream turns fairly hard once frozen completely but this doesn't seem to happen with a lot of commercial ice creams.  Now you know why.

Looking for it on the label provides an even bigger shock.  Propylene glycol is not listed.  Why?  It turns out there is a, previously unknown to me (and presumably all of you), USDA regulation which covers incidental food additive labeling.  This labeling allows the manufacturers to not include this ingredient on the label.  My research so far seems to indicate that propylene glycol is covered under this regulation.

Unfortunately it does not take into effect the "ick" factor (after all who really wants to eat anti-freeze, even if it is the "non-toxic" variety?).  Nor does it take into effect the fact that there are people who are highly sensitive to the substance.  While I don't know how much propylene glycol is in ice cream I'm assuming it's not a huge amount.  However if you eat a lot of ice cream, or frosting, or other foods that contain it you could be getting a significant exposure.

Apparently people who suffer from vulvodynia and interstitial cystitis can be particularly sensitive.  It's known to cause skin problems when it appears in lotions, asthma or other allergies in children exposed through airborne sources, and large doses administered orally have been been shown to have a depressive effect on the central nervous system in animals.  The challenge with the large dose testing is that because it's not labeled we do not know how much we may potentially be exposed to through ingestion or through osmotic skin absorption.

What can you do to avoid it?  That's not so easy since it's not labeled.  Still want those creamy, cool summer treats?  Consider making your own.  Here are a couple of recipes that really hit the spot when the temperatures are climbing outside.

Strawberry or raspberry water ice, recipe from Good Things by Jane Grigson

1 lb. strawberries or raspberries
1 cup sugar
1-2 cups water
juice of 1 lemon
juice of 1 orange
5 tablespoons orange liqueur, or kirsch
2 egg whites (optional)

Put the fruit through a blender.
Make a syrup of the sugar and 1/2 cup water.
When it is cool add the puree and strain.
Flavor to taste with lemon juice.
Dilute with the extra water if required.
Pour into a container, stirring the frozen sides of the mixture into the more liquid middle part every so often.  With shallow trays this needs to be done every half hour; deep boxes can be left longer.
In 2-3 hours, the time depends on the depth of the mixture, you will have a thick mush of iced granules, called a granita.
IN 3-4 hours you will have a firm but not impenetrable block of water ice ready to be turned into sorbet.
Beat the egg whites in a large bowl until they're stiff.
Add spoonfuls of ice gradually, if properly done the mixture blow up to a mass of white foam.
Refreeze in a larger container until the sorbet has the consistency of firm snow.
Add the liqueur gradually at the end during the last stirring; with the sorbet add when ice and beaten egg white are mixed together.

Vanilla Ice Cream, recipe from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallons
makes 1 quart

3 egg yolks
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon arrowroot
3 cups heavy cream, preferably raw, not ultra-pasteurized

Beat egg yolks and blend in remaining ingredients.
Pour into an ice cream maker and process according to instructions.
For ease of serving, transfer ice cream to a shallow container, cover and store in the freezer.

I have found that adding 1-2 cups of fresh fruit makes a wonderful addition to this recipe

And in a side note: as an outcome of my research I did manage to find an online source for propylene glycol free flavoring.


Monday, June 4, 2012

on my mind monday 6.4.12

news | photo: mconnors
It's never the same two weeks in a row.  This is what I find interesting in the fields of health, nutrition, and holistic living.  Read what's on my mind.

Like curry? - turmeric, one of the commonly used spices in curry, contains curcurmin.  Evidence appears to indicate that curcurmin can be supportive for conditions such as arthritis, cancer, and diabetes. Now it turns out that curcurmin may actually boost the immune system.  In addition to curries, turmeric can be used in making pickles, relishes, added to egg salad, use to flavor rice dishes, and more.  I always laugh when I go to visit a friend of mine who is from India.  Her kitchen contains a quart jar of turmeric and she goes through it at a fairly quick pace.  I have a two ounce jar and it takes me a long time to use it all.  Perhaps we all need to be considering other ways to add it to our diet.

RI to vote on banning veal crates - I'm happy to see this in the news and hope that Rhode Island will join Arizona, Colorado, California, Maine, and Michigan in outlawing this inhumane practice.  Veal is, essentially, the waste product of the dairy industry.  Not able to use male calves the farmers can instead turn them into meat.  However part of the reason veal is so pale and tender is because the calves are kept hobbled or caged and cannot walk or use their muscles.  It is also believed that many of these calves are given illegal hormones to make them grow faster, thereby making them more profitable for the farmer. Many people, when they find out how veal is raised, are horrified and choose to no longer eat it.  That is the clearest message that can be sent to the farmers.

Fast Food Mania TV show - I'm truly stunned by this t.v. concept (and not in a good way).  I wonder how hard the fast food producers had to work and how much they had to pay to get this concept on the air.  As if we don't have enough of a challenge with obesity and fast food consumption in this country.   I get the impression that this show will not only glorify this unhealthy food, but also offer tips on how to maximize your dining experience.  Not a good idea.

Right now in my garden outside I have a fair amount of greens growing including kale, swiss chard, and Malabar spinach (Basella alba).  While malabar is different than traditional spinach due to it's habit of climbing and the rounded thicker leaves, it's still a spinach and so it get's cooked like spinach.  This video from George Mateljan shows a great way to cook it.  His healthy take away tips are 1. don't drink the water that you cook the spinach in as it is high in oxalic acid, and 2. use lemon juice on the spinach, this will help to increase the iron absorption.

George has a great book The World's Healthiest Foods which is a wonderful reference for learning about the healthy properties of a tremendous range of foods.  It also comes packed with hundreds of delicious recipes.  This is one of those books which I believe belongs on everyone's shelf.  Sign up for his YouTube channel and stay on top of his healthy, tasty, recipes as well


Friday, June 1, 2012

mindful eating

In a recent on my mind monday blogpost I mentioned the book Savor: Mindful Eating Mindful Life by Thich Nhat Han.  I've been learning a lot from it and have started to implement some of these practices in my own life.  As one of my nutrition heros, Dr. Liz Lipski, author of Digestive Wellness, points out, we often eat the way we fuel our cars.  Stop.  Gas.  Go.  This is not a healthy choice and needs to be corrected.

One of the things that I have started to do is to begin by taking a moment for gratitude before each meal. I stop and reflect on those who planted, tended, grew, harvested, transported, and created the meal in front of me. I also give thanks for the provision of that meal, reflecting on how fortunate I am to be able to eat what I want, when I want, without a need to consider the cost of that meal as an obstacle to my nourishment. I then thank God, the food, and the universe for the blessings that sustain me. I've noticed that I feel much more satisfied with less food when I take that brief moment rather than digging in and rushing through my meal.

Biologically this makes sense; when you eat more slowly your body is better able to respond to the hormonal signals indicating satiety.  Emotionally it also makes sense; if you have a deeper connection with your food you are able to satisfy more than just your appetite.  All of this leads to more nourishment and more fulfillment.

My Aunt Haya wrote to me  after she read the post and shared her thoughts which she has graciously allowed me to share here with you.

Even with the blinds drawn, I tend to wake soon after the sun rises which at this time of year is closer to 5 AM than 6. It is predicted to become very hot so I'm glad to be awake while it is still cool. I had looked forward to eating breakfast out on my large balcony, sitting in/on one of the director's chairs now that I've brought home and attached their new fabric seats and back strips (of white/undyed) heavy cotton duck cloth. My computer indicates that "undyed" is misspelled, but when I right clicked to check this out it offers me "underfed" instead. 

This leads me to your mention of  Savor - the online reviews as well as your comments lead me to want to read it as well.  In relation to mindfulness - I have been rereading Everyday Sacred by Sue Beder who's Plain andSimple about her experiences among the Amish was an earlier favorite.  Now this one which I'd initially not liked as much when I purchased it decades ago, is proving just what I currently want and need.  I recommend it to you.  I had been most impressed with Plain and Simple and reread it every few years, but considered Everyday Sacred of less import to me and read it only once. Opening it again I find it just what I want/need/appreciate now. It relates to what you've written about food, but in every area of one's life. 

The air is full of desert sand dust and the skies overcast.  I'll forgo, eating on the balcony, just looking at it through the wall of glass doors and windows while enjoying my fresh fruit salad. topped with muesli and yogurt.  As "Savor" cautions though, on mornings at home, I thought I'd been enjoying glancing through the newly delivered newspaper during breakfast each morning, starting to puzzle out the crossword answers, I'd become unaware of flavors, textures and the process of chewing, so I am returning to focusing on eating rather than multi tasking, even while engaged in/with pleasurable activities.

In closing we have a video of Dr. Lillian Cheung, the co-author of Savor talking about mindful eating.