Monday, January 31, 2011

What Did You Eat This Weekend?

What did you eat this weekend? We had a couple of new dishes, so we ate well, the kids? Not so much. They don't cope well with change.

We got 19 inches of snow last Thursday. Our park is like a ski slope with the snow so packed that it still sinks when you land a hard heel in the ground, but the kids can't put a dent in it with their 30 pound weights. We went sledding in Ft Tryon park Saturday and both kids had a great time. Thing 1 actually trudged all the way up the hill by himself and sledded down by himself too! At three and a half! I had visions of being the parent on the sidelines as my kids get older. It was both thrilling and bittersweet. But he had an awesome time. Thing 2 was also hooked to the speed of sledding. When Thing 1 was his age, he was petrified of the sled. But this weekend, Thing 2 was a beast, laughing all the way down.

We also toured a cute school in Inwood that we might choose for Pre-K for Thing 1 in the fall. The entire weekend was devoted to activities that reminded me how our little life with babies would be changing soon.

But there was so much snow last week that we parked our car a week ago Sunday and kind of forgot about it. Alternate side parking has been canceled for days, and we never even bothered to dig out. Instead we cancelled all our plans (I wasn't feeling great anyway) and stayed in. I wish I had a picture of our car, because it is COMPLETELY covered, and quite funny. And I think we own the only car on the street that hasn't been dug out. But...why move it? There is more snow scheduled to come Tuesday. I am feeling particularly beleaguered.

Here are some food highlights from last week and the weekend....

* I worked like crazy last week. I was late a couple nights and missed two nights altogether. The kids definitely had Chinese food with dad while I was gone, and there was talk of McDonald's too one afternoon. I whipped out a couple of furious texts to Daddy-Dearest though, and he later said it was too snowy to go to McDonald's. Hmmmmm....I hate being a nag. But McDonald's is the line. They don't even like it, so why parade it as a treat? I decided that I am morally opposed to McDonald's. It will only upset their tummy.

* I made a couple of new meals this weekend, and the kids ate precisely nothing for dinner both Saturday and Sunday night. I didn't lose my cool though. Everyone drank their milk and one night had a little bread (which was being served with dinner) so I know they were okay. I will persevere and they will eat those yummy dinners soon. Those recipes to come this week!

*After sledding I made an excellent (if I do say so myself) hot chocolate. I took 4 cups of milk, a quarter cup of rapadura or whole cane sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla, a shake of cinnamon and a heaping tablespoon of cocoa powder and heated it in a saucepan. I also added a little bit of shaved chocolate because we have it in the house. It made for a very special treat. Thing 1 inhaled it. Thing 2 kind of bit the straw on the cup, and didn't even drink half. He didn't even cry when I took it away from him....who knew?

* The car was so buried that we didn't even go to the grocery store. We stayed home. Since I over bought last weekend and worked too much during the week, we have plenty of food. At least to piece together some dinners.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What Do I Do With This Millet?

You don't read this blog to hear all about my glorious kitchen successes, where my teeth shine and my hair blows and my children eat everything and say please and thank you. You read this blog to hear my real accounts of my kitchen near misses. My not so great kitchen disasters. And of course my stories of thrown food and kids screaming is enough to make any parent feel good about themselves. This is one such story. And if you are looking for an answer to the question of what to do with millet, I am not sure you will get one from this post. But I did recently buy millet and I did recently cook it, and we all did recently eat it. But what to do with it? Your guess is as good as mine at this point.

Millet is a small but mighty grain. It is completely gluten free. And it is believed that it was the staple grain in China before the cultivation of rice took hold. Even the package told me that. And I was kind of intrigued by the ancient grain thing. I like traditional foods. The site that I just linked to has some really cool info, like that millet is mentioned in the Bible. It is the sixth most important grain in the world serving as a staple grain in countries like China, India, Japan, Egypt and others. Millet is often used to make the very tasty Indian bread roti. It is a very cool site. And the article is not too long--give it a look-sy. Millet is also a good source of protein and iron, b-complex vitamins and it is easily digestible.

I bought whole millet last weekend because I had visions of making a porridge in the morning. I love the way Israeli cous cous is so big and globular and fluffy, but I have issues with it, because I am not sure there is such a thing as whole grain cous cous. Plus it is wheat. I imagined that when millet sucked up enough water that it would be soft and fluffy. So one morning I followed the package directions and sauteed a cup of millet in some butter and then added two cups of water. I was so excited! Here we embarked on our gluten free experiment!

But after 30 minutes, I knew I needed to add some rapadura, or whole cane sugar. So I did. And then I realized that I needed to add some more water. So I did.

The millet tasted a bit like underdone rice. But I was out of time. I had to pack up to get to work on time, put it into bowls for the kids and pack some for myself to eat in the office. I added some cream to mine.

DH said that Thing 1 ate one bite but didn't care for it and Thing 2 ate a few bites before it turned to glue. He said it was positively awful and the kids ended up eating toast with jelly (homemade) for breakfast. Once I got to work, I reheated my millet in the microwave. It was like a brick by the time I got to the office. I added more water and thinned it out. It was still a little underdone, nothing I would serve to guests. But it was kind of a good breakfast. It had some protein (a little, 6-8 grams) and it was very filling. The flavor was decent. But if I had it all to do over again I would take the one cup of millet and boil it in 4 or 5 cups of water. And I would boil it for 45 minutes or an hour.

The bag I bought was a pound of millet, so needless to say I have some extra in the house. The general consensus was that this was a miss. Not a near-miss and not a total disaster. I will make this again. But the next time I would make it correctly. Even the website that I linked to says millet cooks in a ratio of 1 to 3 of grain to water. So to make a porridge you'd need even more. So there you go. Once I get it right though, millet porridge will be a nice breakfast. It will diversify our diet nicely. Plus because it has the protein and no gluten it left me feeling good and solid, not like the blood sugar spike from wheat.

What do you know about millet? Have you ever cooked it? What else should I do with my millet?

The Post is shared with Friday F*#@ Ups and Triumphs

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cop-Out Wednesday: Independent Analysis Concludes Taco Bell Ground Beef Only 35% Beef

I had virtually no time yesterday, but in the 15 seconds that I was online yesterday I managed to come across an article that my girlfriend had shared on Facebook. The article was about an independent analysis of the ground beef at Taco Bell. Apparently it is 35% beef and 65% fillers like wheat oats (what is that even? The last time I checked wheat and oats were two totally different species!), maltodextrin a corn based sugar/ stabilizer and soy lecithin another thickener. Delicious right???

I am convinced that about a third of those that read this blog are my facebook friends. So, sorry about the duplication. But I felt that the article so shocking that I couldn't resist posting. Besides, I am seriously backed up with work, but better to post late than not at all!

The article is so shocking because Taco Bell has avoided disclosing the contents of it's food for years. I even mentioned a couple weeks ago in my post on meat grades that old rumor about Taco Bell served grade "Z" meat. That isn't true, but now we get some confirmation about where the rumors came from. Also, the government has comparatively low standards (in my opinion) of the legal definitions of "food", so the idea that a major player in the fast food industry is serving "meat" that doesn't meet the legal definition of "meat" is huge. And furthermore, beef is a gluten free food, so the addition if allergens like wheat and oats is enormous. Especially considering that the quantities have not been previously disclosed.

No one reading this post probably eats at Taco Bell today. But it's likely you used too. But still, take a look at the article below and feel free to share this post. This info should reach every pair of eyes in the country. Because I truly believe that the average American wants to eat real food, it's just that they don't know that they currently aren't.

And let this article serve as a warning to McDonald's, Wendy's, KFC, and all the other regional chains-if you are serving us ground up soy and corn or other grains that is marketed as beef, you better clean up your act. Because Americans don't like being deceived. And while we have only started our journey, the public is asking questions. And when the answers come out, we are sharing everything on social media. Bad news travels fast.

Taco Bell Sued Over Meat That's Just 35% Beef

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My Newest Favorite Smoothie

Ever since I snuck pumpkin into my kids' smoothies and they actually LIKED it, I have been slyly adding veggies in at every step. Part of me is conflicted about this. My children don't eat greens when they are presented with greens. But they will eat them pureed in a smoothie or some other such place. I am concerned that I will stop pushing them to eat greens and live contented knowing that they are consuming them in some way. But what happens when they get older? Will the magically come to a rational age where they will see me eating greens and they will try some and like them? Does that really happen? I am far more concerned that by not getting them to try some that they will grow up to hate greens, even though they may be the most important food to get into your diet. Perhaps I will simply table the issue. Next year after all, the Things will be 2 and 4. Our years of parenting are far from over. It is just that I don't know what is ahead, and I have a very intense sense of urgency on some parenting issues. This sense of urgency helps me at the office, but I am not sure how to turn it off when I get home.

Anyhow, I ran out of pumpkin puree last week and have not been feeling like staying up until 11pm to make more. So I came up with another combination!

PURPLE SMOOTHIE (makes two apx 6 oz kid sized smoothies)
1 Frozen Banana
Frozen Wild Blueberries (I never measure--I don't know, a quarter cup? A Third??)
One handful of Kale
Plain Whole Milk Yogurt (Again, it's a smoothie a half a cup??)
1 Tablespoon of honey
Vanilla to taste
Milk to thin it out if the mixture is too thick

I whirred everything together. It was the first time that I found a combination that tasted sweet without adding too much extra sugar. You could not taste the kale at all, which is a good thing. Also, the blueberries were purple enough to cover the color of the 'green puree' which I have been hiding with colored plastic glasses. It was nice to make something that I wasn't nervous about what the kids would do with it. They of course drank it. Be still my heart.

A note about the Blueberries:
Where I live in Manhattan, it is relatively easy to search out local honey, yogurt, milk and even kale if you are resourceful and can make it to one of the many farmer's markets. I do buy imported organic bananas. But the berries are trickier. There is a local farm that will sell frozen berries over the winter. But I know they are not organic, and they are $8 a pint!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That is alot of money. But I found a company a long time ago, Wyman's of Maine. They sell frozen wild blueberries. The berries are billed as wild, which is almost a tag word for organic if it is true, because it basically means uncultivated. And most stuff that grows wild grows organically unless I guess if it is growing too close to a highway (I'm kidding). But I am not sure that 'wild' is a USDA regulated term. But they might? Regardless, the berries comes from Maine, the land of blueberries. And that is closer to me than California. And they come from a smaller manufacturer as opposed to some major brand name. They are $4.99 for 15 ounces. So I am okay with this choice. It is nice to find that some of the foods I have been eating for years actually pass the new rules.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Weekend Eating Highlights

It has bee quite a 2011 so far. The snow has been swirling and piling up in big black heaps on the corners of intersections. The Jets lost after a strong comeback in the second half. Cars are crusted in place with ice and I fear there may never be street sweeping again. The kids have been trapped indoors, and probably have been watching too much television. I haven't really asked the babysitter. People who live in glass know.

It is definitely winter. The temperature in New York City this weekend topped out at a chilly 22 degrees. The snow has gotten out of control. 2 more feet are supposed to be coming Tuesday, and my brother called me a few weeks ago to laugh at me and tell me that New York has now gotten more snow than them in Chicago this winter! Blah. And while we did leave the house to go to a few places (Boat Show!!), we took it easy and stayed in most of the time. Here are a couple of highlights in food:

* I found hot dogs at the farmer's market!! At the beginning of my blogging I decided to stop buying Thing One's favorite meat, hot dogs. Even though I was buying a brand that was no nitrates, he wouldn't touch the organic variety, and we started getting heavy into the CSA grass fed meat. Conventional hot dogs just kind of got pushed off the plate. The CSA has a hot dog, but their seasonings taste more like bratwursts and we just didn't favor them. I was so thrilled when I saw that Hawthorne Valley had frankfurters. We bought them even though they were pricey, $12.75 for 8 dogs (I am guessing about a pound and a quarter). The kids loved them! And I am happy that the meat is local and grass fed and ethically raised.

* I have a good new smoothie recipe!! I will be sharing tomorrow!

* I made the Things sausage patties and cantaloupe for brekkie on Saturday morning, and to my surprise, neither really ate it. My kids usually go for meat at any meal, and I have been trying out dairy and grain free meals (it is proving harder than it sounds). But they wanted no part of this meat. I was actually kinda sad about this. Perhaps the cantaloupe was too much of a distraction. They did eat all the fruit.

* I bought whole millet. I am not sure why, but I am really really excited to try it out. A new whole grain could be a nice substitute for rice or even oatmeal. It is gluten free a decent source of iron too. I think at the very least, this will be good to vary our diet even more. I can't wait to report my findings!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Bee Pollen

I have been weighing a heavy question recently. Should I be taking supplements or not? I have come to a couple conclusions in trying to answer that question, but they don't really help me to get closer to an answer.

* Food sources really are the best source of vitamins. A proper nutrient dense diet is really your best defense against nutritional deficiencies. But the human body is designed with all kinds of coping mechanisms to withstand food shortages and changing food sources and nutrients. But, is that enough? The body can continue functioning properly during short term nutrient shortages, assuming that your food is supplying at least some nutrients as opposed to being completely nutritionally devoid. But if we know a better way, is it WRONG to supplement? And why would our bodies evolve to need more nutrients than we could possibly eat in a day? Isn't that counter intuitive?

* Synthetic vitamins create alot of expensive pee. Many experts suggest that your average cheap multi-vitamin is not worth the money you spend on them, because you do not absorb the vitamins but rather excrete them out. I used to take Centrum or the One A Day brand. And then I got pregnant. I switched to a prescription prenatal vitamin. But both the generic and the prescription prenatal had to be taken with food. Otherwise I got a really bad stomach ache. In the back of my mind I always felt like that was a problem, a signal that this wasn't working. Our nutrition should not be making us sick. Then when I got re-pregnant a friend suggested New Chapter prenatal vitamins that you can buy at Whole Foods. They also make a basic daily multi vitamin. The brand makes daily multi vitamins that are sourced from food sources. They are also largely organic. I could take them on an empty stomach without any upset. This was good.

* I feel good when I am taking a good multi vitamin. This is my biggest reason for not just chucking the bottle in the garbage. I do actually feel better when I am taking a daily multi. I have more energy. I sleep better. And that is HUGE! This is why the debate is still open in my mind.

* Vitamin deficiencies really do affect the body's function if they continue over the long term. I feel confident that I get enough Vitamin C because I eat so many fruits and veggies every day, but what about vitamin D or B12?? Vitamin D deficiency has been widely diagnosed recently, and people are taking huge supplements of it. Yet there are also those out there that feel Vitamin D can be toxic in large amounts. And more confusing still are the folks who say that most Americans are not Vitamin D deficient at all, that we have the RDAs wrong. Or we are not properly testing. How the heck are we supposed to wade through all the conflicting information?

I have determined that I think I need a supplement. But what should I be taking? I would like to take a supplement that is absorbed completely. So I look to food sources. When I was sick a couple weeks ago I was talking to my friend who manages the turkey stand at my farmer's market. He said 'Have you ever tried bee propolis? The honey man sells that'. The honey man was right across the aisle, so I went over to him and inquired. He said Bee Propolis or Bee Pollen was a whole food source. It was just like a multivitamin except because it is food it is better absorbed. I bought some. It was pretty cheap, $3.50 for a bottle that looks like maybe a month's supply. He said to start out with a pinch and work up to a teaspoon a day. He suggested that I take my pollen by spoon and chew it before swallowing.

Well, I started with my pinch of bee pollen and I chewed it. It tasted really really gross. By the second week I was gagging on it. So I started chewing it and then washing it down with water. But even that wasn't optimal. It is weird, the pollen doesn't really taste that BAD, it is a little like honey. But something about it is really gross. Then I read on a website to place your pollen in a small glass of water at night and let it sit for about 12 hours. Then when it is totally dissolved, drink the water. I let my pollen sit in water for around 5-10 minutes and it mostly dissolved. No grossness, no gagging and I swear I felt more of the effects of the pollen. I also think this might be the only way I can take a full teaspoon of the stuff and get it down. I am now dutifully letting my pollen soak for all 12 hours as I write this. It is totally dissolved and it has been 90 minutes. My gut says you don't need to let it stand all night for good dissolution. But I am going to make it through. One benefit is that you can just make it part of your bed time routine and then just drink the stuff in the morning. I could get used to that, rather than watching a yellow glass of liquid for 90 minutes.

So what the heck is bee pollen?
It is exactly what you think it is. It is the pollen that bees collect from flowers. Bees collect the flower with the intention of taking it back to the hive and eating it. Bee pollen is also used in the production of Royal Jelly the main food source of the long lived Queen bee. So it is a great food source for bees. Bees live very short lifespans, but they have very high energy needs while they are living because they work so much. So the pollen must be very nutritious in order to keep their engines running.
Bees collect the pollen, pack it into granules and add honey from special honey sacs, and then stick the granules to their legs. Lastly, the bees add a special enzyme that prevents the pollen from germinating. When they fly back to the nest a special 'door' at the opening to the hive captures the granules and shakes them off where they are collected. The only question I haven't answered, if beekeepers are collecting the pollen which serves as bee food, are the bees starving? Is it cruel to them? I found that some Vegans do not approve of the use of bee pollen while others do. That second website site notes a survey of beekeepers in Vermont showing no cancer deaths among the group, and virtually no degenerative diseases either. It is worth a read. But...I ain't vegan.
One very cool website explained bee pollen better than the others. They mentioned that plants have evolved to attract bees. Different plants compete with each other to attract bees attention and bees are attracted to plants whose pollen will be very high in nutrients. So plants have actually evolved to become more nutritious for bees needs. And so bee pollen is an ever changing food, always becoming more nutritious
So what is in bee pollen that makes it so great? Bee pollen is high in Vitamins C and E. It is also high in B Vitamins which are important for proper sleep and day time energy as well. Also, bee pollen contains bioflavonoids which you may know to be antioxidants. Antioxidants as you may recall help to neutralize free radicals within the body. Free radicals are those yucky unstable atoms that come from rancid foods, smoke and other toxins. Remember from 11th grade chemistry that an unstable atom will do anything to become stable, including stealing an outer electron from a neighboring atom? Well, okay, I am a nerd, I may be the only one not working in science that actually remembers that. But it is true. Free Radicals want to breakdown your atoms by taking their electrons. But that sets off a chain reaction of instability in your body that is the cause of a whole host of degenerative diseases and even aging. But the more antioxidents you eat in the form of veggies and fruits and bee pollen, the better! Antioxidants "fill up" those unstable free radicals before they have the chance to cause havoc in your system. Nice.
So in short. I am really loving bee pollen. Now that I am able to consume more than just a pinch I do notice a difference. And it may have solved the supplement question for me for now. In today's modern age of nutrient compromised foods, I think maybe we need a supplement or boost, even if our ancestors didn't. But, Centrum? I am not so sure about that one. For me, I will take real food over pills any day of the week.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ranch Dressing Anyone?

I am not sure that there is anything that smacks more of processed foods than Ranch Dressing. To me Ranch Dressing embodies everything that is common and maybe a little gross about American food. And yet, it always seems to be there, beckoning me. I have loved ranch dressing from waaaaaaaay back. And I have loved everything about Ranch, like Doritos and chips and all the other fake foods that are flavored with this most offensive of all flavors.

But while Ranch Flavored is usually a tag word for "non-food", it can be done properly. I have a little hint, equal parts granulated garlic, granulated onion and dried parsley with about half as much sea salt. Then mix the powder into some full fat yogurt and you have yourself a thick and delicious ranch dressing that you don't have to feel guilty about. Just be sure to get some high quality granulated spices that have no anti-caking agents added to them. I have used this dressing with raw veggies at parties, it is always a hit with the kids. I have used it on salads. And I have even used it to eat with the occasional contraband potato chips.
This yogurt dip is also very good mixed with some mashed up avocado. And if you are really craving a salty treat, mix in a little Frank's Red Hot, or homemade fermented hot pepper sauce. I happen to really like the taste of Frank's Red Hot, and it has no funky ingredients, no stabilizers and no preservatives. This is a go to sauce. And if you are a closet Ranch lover like me. There is no reason to be closeted any longer.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My Moldy Kombucha

I noticed a long time ago, I am usually pretty good at anything the first time I try it. The second time I try anything from baking to sports it usually goes pretty wrong. The third time I try something the outcome is usually better than the second time disaster, but still not as good as the first time. Maybe it's beginner's luck. Maybe it is attention to detail and the willingness to take things slowly. Whatever it is, there is often a lesson to be learned.

Now that I have brewed kombucha a couple of times, I have learned a couple of hard lessons.

FIRSTLY, home brewed kombucha ain't nothin' like store bought kombucha. I have read that a kombucha novice should work their way up in their consumption amount. They should start with a little and gradually increase their intake to the optimal 200ml per day (about a cup, or 8 ounces). That 8 oz should be drunk every day, preferably in the morning before any food has been consumed, for the maximum benefit. Unfortunately, I didn't read any of that until AFTER my first batch was already brewed. The first day it was ready I cracked open one of my six chilled bottles of kombucha and drank the whole thing. I figured that I have been drinking the stuff that I bought from the store for a while, so no biggie. And so I drank about a pint. It laid me out. I had to take a nap because I wasn't ready to handle 16 ounces of home brewed kombucha. Perhaps my 'booch was a little higher in natural alcohol content than the store bought varieties. You might remember that recent controversy over store bought kombucha. The brews in question had no alcohol when bottled but by the time it was consumed some bottles had developed enough alcohol to be considered an alcoholic beverage by the ATF. Yipes. Many kombucha companies began to reformulate rather than abide by the restrictions placed on alcoholic beverages, like only selling in liquor stores,etc. Kombucha is not an alcoholic beverage in the same way that beer or wine is. There are probiotics and amino acids galore. And the small amount of alcohol do not place the same strain on one's liver such as beer or wine do. And of course pasteurization defeats the purpose.

SECONDLY, clean out your vessel. Okay that sounds stupid. It actually was stupid, I can admit it. When I removed the first batch to bottle it, I was so concerned about removing the scoby and possibly destroying it that I just left it in there with a couple cups of already finished kombucha. Then I simply added fresh sweet tea. Within in a couple of days I had a nice new mushroom growing on top and a couple days after that that nice new mushroom had mold growing on it. Awesome. Batch number two went down the drain. I wanted to cry. It is a bit like finding that your whole garden has developed tomato blight or something equally destructive. I lost my crop. First I removed the mold and then strained out the tea. I didn't want the mold getting onto the scoby. I saved the scoby and a little of my undrunk tea from the first (unmoldy) batch and I have started a fresh batch. But who knows if I have enough healthy starter tea to brew an entire new batch? I suppose time will tell.

THIRDLY, you must use fruit juice to get your home brewed kombucha to carbonate. I have no idea how GT's does it with no flavoring, because I couldn't do it. I let those dang bottles sit for a couple days in the cabinet that you see above. Oh well, I have some flavorings ready to go once I have a usable batch ready....

*Sigh* In life there are always so many lessons. I am ready for a more positive experience now. Or a batch of properly brewed kombucha. Whichever comes first.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It Is About the Vegetables, Stupid

I said yesterday, I have spent too much time obsessing about raw milk cheese and whole grain flours. I have temporarily lost the cornerstone of healthy eating. Vegetables.

I said it early in the fall also. I have put such a focus on local eating, that when the weather turned cold I have had trouble keeping up. In the Northeast, all the winter vegetables are hard squash and tough greens. There are a few hot houses selling goods at the Union Square Farmer's Market. But many farms simply stop selling at the market in the wintertime. So I had the choice to eat meat and grains and a limited selection of veggies that were really hard to cook (that my kids didn't eat), or buy non-local veggies. For a couple months I did the former, and I gained some weight. Though I will say that I am not convinced that my weight gain had anything to do with meat or grains. But now after reading Meg Wolff's book I have decided that I need to support my largely local diet with some non-local vegetables. I am a modern eater, and I have a vast array of healthful organic veggies at my disposal. I can choose spinach and broccoli and other nutrient dense veggies that simply don't grow in the winter in my clime. I do not have to buy berries that have been flown in from Chile. Though I have bought some frozen wild berries, that grew a little closer to me. So I am now eating more veggies, and I feel okay about it.

The other issues that Wolff's book brought up to me are big ones. There are some very conflicting nutritional ideologies out there. It is true that Vegetarians live longer and experience fewer health problems overall. Yet it is also true that meat is a natural complete protein and the body digests it so well that little waste is left over after ingesting it. And our comparatively short digestive system is a clue that perhaps we have evolved to eat meat, rather than so much fibrous grass. How could both things be true? How could something that we have evolved to eat be a huge source of illness?

Then one must look deeper. Some vegetarians and many vegans have nutrient deficiency problems (B12) that can cause anemia and central nervous system problems. And then I read something very interesting in Nourishing Traditions, that some Jain Vegetarians in today's modern world have developed many of these same nutrient deficiencies because their ancestors were eating vegetarian foods, grains and veggies and the like, that had a moderate amount of insects mixed in because of the limited ability to clean the food. That little bit of animal protein was enough to ward off nutritional deficiencies, whereas today, the food system is much less adulterated by that type of infestation. And there are some Jain coming down with health problems. And yet there are folks like Meg Wolff who have cured themselves of cancer by following a nutrient dense diet of mostly vegetables and whole grains, supplemented only slightly by fish-and only fish.

How is it that so many contradictory things can all be true? Well, many believe that they are not. Many people will stubbornly say that grass fed meat is the answer to good health. That as long as you are eating grass fed meat, you are eating a healthy animal. And I believe that to be true. However what about all those folks that are vegetarians and ARE living in vibrant health? Well, actually think that everything I have just said is true. Sometimes when many things that seem to be contraditcory are actually all true, it leads us to a new understanding. I have thought alot about it, I think it is the vegetables.

Vegetables are high in many different kinds of nutrients, fiber which keeps things moving and they are low in calories. I do not feel as good on a day without vegetables as I do when I am eating tons of them. Vegetables supply nutrients that we can't get anywhere else. And I have expressed a dislike for ANDI scores, but after thinking it through, when choosing which vegetables to eat, ANDI scores probably give you a good guide of what veg is better for you. Though I still don't think you can compare olive oil and kale using the ANDI guide. Nevertheless, it is important to eat veggies, and it is just as important which veggies you eat. My ticket to health is in the dark leafy greens, cruciferious and yellow orange veggies. These guys pack a heavier nutrient punch than cukes and tomatoes.

If there is one thing that we can do as a nation to combat obesity, I think it is to eat veggies (you know, after ceasing to drink soda). The more veggies we eat, the more crap is pushed off the plate. And veggies have such a variety of nutrients. I think the nutrient rich vegetables are the link between a healthy vegetarian diet and one that embraces a little grass fed meat. I am also believing more and more in metabolic or nutrition typing. As there are people who thrive on a vegetarian diet, and yet people who don't. Maybe there isn't one answer for everyone. And even if you are a person who thrives on large amounts of protein. You still need veggies. They seem to be a constant in all the various diets.

Go Veg!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Meg Wolff, Cancer, Gratitude and Some Much Needed Clarity

Recently a friend recommended a new book to me.

Becoming Whole is the story of how one woman recovered from breast cancer by following her gut and ceasing the toxic medications she was taking and embraced Macrobiotic eating.

Meg Wolff's story is one of heroism, grace and sheer courage. She struggled with various strange health issues in her early life. But things turned wrong in her early thirties when Wolff was diagnosed with bone cancer. She subsequently lost most her leg to the disease, just a few months after giving birth to her second child. I firmly understand the stamina race that it is to have a toddler and a newborn, but the idea of doing it all with only one leg, unable to walk while carrying anything, is a tall order.

Then after all that she had gone through with bone cancer, Wolff was diagnosed with breast cancer not even 10 years later. After years of visiting doctor after doctor, complaining of symptoms and lumps and problems only to be waived away and told that nothing was serious, Wolff was finally diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. She was in her early forties.

Everyone reading knows that this is a death sentence. And Wolff's doctor knew the same, which was painfully obvious to her when they prescribed no treatments that were designed to cure her, rather than extend her life. She was placed on several highly toxic medications that left her weak and nauseous and unable to care for her herself, let alone her family. Someone finally recommended some alternative therapies, Vitamin C treatments and macrobiotics.

Wolff had never experienced Macrobiotic eating before. Macrobiotics (as described by a novice and an outsider-namely me) is an eastern style of eating in which all foods are assigned an energy, either yin or yang. Foods that contract are considered to be yang, like meat, and foods that are expansive are considered to be yin like alcohol or sugar. I am not well versed in the back story on macrobiotics, so I cannot explain the details. But if you are interested, these folks can help explain it. So every food has an energy assigned to it. And the goal is to eat foods that balance, some yin foods and some yang foods. But certain foods are too yin, and should be avoided, like sugar and alcohol. And likewise, certain foods are too yang and should be avoided, like red meat. The foods that the macrobiotic diet recommends are whole grains, particularly brown rice (said to be in perfect balance of yin and yang), vegetables and whole fruits, beans, certain fermented foods, seas vegetables and small amounts of fish. Sound familiar? Foods recommended by the Macrobiotic Diet are whole foods, completely unprocessed. The diet recommends that you stay away from dairy, large amounts of fat, red meat, sugar and processed foods. Macrobiotics also stresses organic ingredients. Most of the recipes as given by Wolff are very very simple, boiled vegetables and whole grains and beans.

Now you guys all know how I feel about non-processed diets. And while I have spent alot of my time talking about the merits of this or that raw cheese or worrying about who is raising my eggs, here is an altogether different experience from another person eating an unprocessed diet. Wolff began eating a macrobiotic diet when she was at the depth's of her illness, taking tamoxifen, a very toxic cancer drug that has been the topic of some criticism. Wolff has stuck with the diet. She has not strayed from the core recommendations even a little. Her very life depends upon it. And in a relatively short period of time she completely recovered. I repeat, her stage three breast cancer is in remission and she has been cancer free now for several years. Her book is really raw and beautiful, and I highly recommend picking up a copy. Since my readers are all over the country, I will say, it is not one that will be stocked in your local store. I don't think the print run was deep enough. But there are online copies out there. I provided a link to Amazon, but Barnes and Noble has them as well (they are my favorite-thanks free shipping!)

The diet, when planned properly is not void of protein, but it is very high in fiber and all the pyhtonutrients and very low in fat. The fat part is important for someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Give me a couple days and I will try to eloquently explain why in a follow up post. Wolff mentions the importance of having an instructor, such as she had for regular group cooking classes. And I can see that as being vastly important. Because without proper training, one could gravitate toward the dishes that one liked rather than really working all aspects of the sea vegetables, beans and fermented foods, all which have a huge impact on the overall nourishment derived from the diet. It would be easy to cut things out of one's diet and without proper planning one might end up just eating so much brown rice. Knowing what I know about a complete diet (which is pretty little compared with some professionals, but enough to know what I need to be eating), incorporating all aspects of this diets are crucial.

Reading the book was eye opening for me. For several reasons...First of all, Wolff was diagnosed with breast cancer right around the same time that my mother was diagnosed with brain cancer. My mother was slightly older than Wolff, by seven or eight years. I found myself reading the book and comparing the timeline with my mother's. I would think to myself 'if this happened in October of 1998, what were we doing then? What was Mom experiencing at that time'. I don't do it to compare the two women, but just because the experience is so similar. And mostly because Wolff describes her Western care as being so disconnected from her overall health. She also describes a medical community that at the time didn't know what certain drugs would do in their patients, or couldn't say with certainty that surgery was the best answer. My mother and I always felt love for our doctors, and felt that they were working hard to try and save her. We never felt that they had given up hope for my mother's case. Yet no one ever recommended a holistic approach, or any kind of diet modification. Or even that there could be a relationship between diet and my mother surviving! I am not sure that I even knew what organic food was in 1998. Of course I questioned 'what if my mother had known about the Macrobiotic diet'. Even since writing this blog I have wondered about her poor diet and why she got cancer. It doesn't do me any good to go back and try and decipher it. And I have no way of ever proving that her diet was or wasn't a contributing factor in her death. But I can change my eating habits, and those of my kids.

Also I found the book eye opening because Wolff's diet is so clean. It is clean on a completely different level than what I have been focusing on. It made me realize that I have spent alot of time focusing on my expensive milk and that it is some special pasteurization method, when milk is probably not all that healthy for me anyway. I also realized that while I have been reading alot about fat and grass fed meat and coconut oil, I forgot that one of the reasons why I lost weight in the first place all those years ago on my non-processed foods diets was because I ate vegetables. I still eat lots of vegetables. But in the last couple months since I have been exploring other foods, I have slacked off a bit. This book made me realize that I need to be eating lots and lots of veggies, not just enough. I am back to buying tons of veg, and trying to incorporate it into my diet. Hence the kale in the kids smoothies (which they have eaten 3 or 4 times now) and the collard green soup. We have to eat those veggies!

It is a daily struggle to keep up a good diet. All the healthful things and work I have done in the last few years to educate myself would not amount to a hill of beans if I woke up tomorrow and decided to eat french fries and industrial beef for the rest of my life. Every meal is like a battle against refined processed ingredients. My mouth wants them, my body does not. Sometimes I do well and choose the unprocessed foods, and sometimes I fail and eat tortilla chips. But I always get up and dust myself off and go back into battle armed with a fistful of kale and broccoli. I am ready to keep fighting this fight, even when it gets difficult and I have waking dreams of potato chips and white flour. I will not let one slip up get me down. Veggies come first, and before too long the kids will get there too.

If you know someone with cancer, buy them this book. They deserve to know about Macrobiotics. Even if the diet may not save every life that it enters, everyone will heal better eating a good healthy vegetable rich diet. And to the person that would rather die of cancer than eat kale everyday. I don't know. There are people like that out there. But if you read this book and you hear the pain in Wolff's voice about staring death in the face, maybe the introduction of this book at the right time in a sick person's life might be just enough to spur a change.

Wolff surely triumphed in saving her life through food. The experience left her with a deeper love for the world such as many people describe who have come close to the other side. She describes gratitude so beautifully. She even describes the gratitude that cancer came into her life and made her more open to different approaches and healing in new ways. And while I cannot say that I am grateful to cancer for anything in my life, my life and my belief in natural healing have changed as a result of my experience with cancer. I have been to that deep dark place in life where a loved one stares down death only to cross over into the next life. I have come back from there a changed woman. And I understand the gratitude that Wolff describes. I am grateful for every sunrise and gust of wind. I eat the way I do because I am changed. I understand that there is alot I can do to keep from getting cancer. Surely I have the genetic predisposition for cancer. But I will do whatever I need to do to limit my risk.

Friday, January 14, 2011

An All New Cop-Out Wednesday: New School Lunch Menus?

Well, who knew that Cop-Out Wednesday would come around again so soon!!! Actually, this isn't so much of a cop out. I found myself at home alone with the boys tonight while DH enjoyed an evening out. I wasn't even going to post because I am still resting. I finally feel like myself today, but I am still a bit on the tired side. This cold has taken a full week to work through me system. Though after I woke up early Wednesday morning covered in itchy hives I decided that this wasn't really a cold. That would be too kind and common. This was a virus, a parasitic virus, that when my body finally started to grasp the upper hand, this nasty vile thing made my whole body break out into hives as it was being expelled. I felt a little like the Exorsist. I will say it again: there ain't no germs like toddler germs.

I wasn't even going to attempt a Friday post. But then in perusing Facebook, I clicked the link posted by Food Inc tonight. It is from They have written a neat article about how schools are going to have clean up their lunch offering in order to meet new guidleines. Just about everyone in the school system that doesn't sell chocolate milk is thrilled to hear that. School lunches need a major upgrade. But when I noticed the complete lack of fat from the new proposed school lunch menus I thought I would give up my only free night and blog loudly. WE NEED TO EAT FAT!! FAT, EVEN SATURATED FAT IS IMPORTANT TO THE BRAIN DEVELOPMENT OF CHILDREN!! Yes, these school lunch menus are an enormous step forward in fresh fruits and vegetables. I actually like what I see overall. But my oldest child usually lands in the 40-50 percentile for height and weight for his age range. He does not need to be placed on a diet. These meals with their skim milk and their lowfat cheese are only approptiate for a child that needs to lose weight. And most kids don't need to lose weight-perhaps some need to go a year without gaining anymore weight. But these meals need some fat to help the kids stay hungry and focused.

I am all for changing school lunch. And I am NOT saying with this post that the changes are not good, or that these new lunches would be worse than the existing program. I am not sure anything could be worse than what we have right now. But let's not lose our minds here. We have a chance Mrs President to get some real food into our kids' tummies and to teach them to eat real food. So let's fill them up with veggies and real fat and whole grains so that they are too full to eat chips and soda and candy after that last bell rings. But your low fat cheese and carrot sticks might sadly do just that, leave these kids hungry and wanting more. Let's get rid of the french fries, the tater tots, the desserts and the chocolate milk. But please don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. What we know about fat has come a long way in even just the last 3-4 years, it would be wrong to update the whole school lunch program on the faulty low fat science we relied upon 15 years ago. Let's get those kids eating real food! Food that will carry them through their day and help them make the connections that they need to make to learn and grow and be the best that they can be!! So take these new menus and add back the fat to the cheese. Allow them to eat beef. Even keep the whole milk. Especially keep the whole milk.

Read the original article (Sorry, I can't do fancy embedded links on my phone. You are lucky to get a post at all!!):

And there it is! WHAT A COP-OUT!!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What do Meat Grades Mean?

Several months ago, for reasons I cannot now remember, I google searched about different meat grades. Perhaps because I wondered "what is really in a hot dog" or "what is 'institutional beef?'" I had alot of questions about why expensive restaurant meat tastes so good, and meat purchased in a supermarket tastes not quite as good, but good enough, and then meat in a hospital cafeteria or a school lunch is on the iffy side. But we all agree that all that meat is safe right? (By their standards, not ours, people) Do people stand a greater risk getting sick from a hamburger bought at a school lunch room than they do from their own kitchens? I don't believe so, industrially raised meat is industrially raised meat. But there is a huge difference in price. And why is that? What is the difference between different grades of meat? And are lower grades of meat still safe?

Another thing that I have cherished throughout my blog project has been finding government pamphlets or papers that show exactly what the USDA or the FDA has been thinking about. What questions have they had bopping in the back of their brains enough that they hired some researchers and writers to put together an official paper? I have found several of them. The USDA likes to know what we eat, where we eat things, what motivates us to buy certain items and to a lesser extent some of the nutrition behind what we eat. They are after all, the agricultural lobby. Let me repeat: The USDA is in essence an agricultural lobby, whose function is to promote the consumption of US Agricultural products both at home and abroad. We shouldn't fault them for that, it is not a bad thing. But to get the impression that they are a government agency whose function is to make food safe for all of us, that's not right. It is confusing though for sure because the USDA oversees the school lunch program, and the food nutrition guidelines, as well as RDA's (recommended daily allowances). Their power today is slightly larger than a simple lobby. But they really are a complicated lobby.

But in an interesting paper that the USDA put together entitled How to Buy Meat, The USDA reminds us of several important points. It is law that safe handling requirements are printed on all foods that are sold as 'not ready to eat'. Safe handling instructions include things like 'thaw in the refrigerator' and 'keep cold foods cold...' I always wondered about this, because they are (by law) printed on the minimal packaging on the meat that I buy from my CSA. Never mind that I thaw my meat on the counter top, flouting all USDA recommendations. But the recommendations are printed there because it is the law, not because my small purveyor of meat feels that I should be handling my meat that way.

The paper also reminds us that 5-7 ounces of meat count as 2-3 servings within the USDA guidelines. Someone should put that tidbit on the outside of a MacDonald's Third Pounder Burger box. I wonder if that would mean more to some people than simple calorie counts? "Attention: you are about to eat 2-3 servings of beef"

But back to the meat grades, because I know that is what you really want to know. Meat grades were created to tell you about the age of the animal and the amount of marbling within the flesh. Higher grades of meat have more marbling. The grades are strict, ensuring that a Choice piece of meat in Texas will be similar in character to a Choice piece of meat in New Hampshire. Not all meat is graded by the USDA, such as the meat I buy from my CSA. In those cases is it best to know your buyer.

There are 8 cuts of beef in all, Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter and Canner. Have you ever even heard of some of those grades? Well, I can pretty much guarantee that you have eaten all of them. Prime, Choice, Select and Standard meat all comes from cattle that are younger than three years. Commercial, Utility, Cutter and Canner all come from cattle that are between 3 and 7 years of age. And of the two groups, the higher the grade the more the marbling. The first issue I have with the grading process is that a grass fed cow may take up to three years to fully fatten, making the window very small to process the beef. I would hate to think that a high quality grass fed steer would be classified as Commercial Beef just because it was slaughtered at three and a half years.

Where do you find the different grades? Prime is purchased mostly by hotels and restaurants. Choice and Select are what you would find with their grades displayed in your grocery store. Standard and Commercial are often sold as 'ungraded meat' or 'brand name meat'. Utility, Cutter and Canner meats are rarely ever sold uncooked at retail markets, but are often sold at wholesale and made into meat products like hot dogs. I would bet that some of this lower grade, older and less tender meat is what is making it into government subsidized foods and food programs. However, I am not going to say that here because such speculation would be irresponsible. I will let you do that for me in the comments section.

I wanted to relay this info, because I have heard so many urban legends about the 'Grade Z' meat at Taco Bell. And likely they are not getting Prime cuts. But there is no such thing as 'Grade Z' meat. Nor is there meat that is graded as 'Not for Human Consumption'. All meat that is sold with USDA gradings along the full gamut is the same except for it's marbling and age. However, safety and nutrient quality...well, I don't know about that. You might have to look for words like 'certified humanely raised' or 'pastured' or 'grass-fed' to get that kind of assurance. If nothing else I found this paper interesting, and wanted you to be more educated about the matter.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

An All New Cop-Out Wednesday!!!

I have alot of things to say. Too many things to say. But as this blog has continued, I have fewer "snippets" and more "novels". But I don't always have the energy to make them come to life. Such as when I am still coming back from a terrible cold that laid me up for almost four days and an overflowing inbox at work.

So...Welcome to Cop-Out Wednesday! Cop-Out Wednesday is when I link up to an article that I have recently read and enjoyed simply because I am too lazy to write my own real blog post. I promise to make no attempts to convince you that this is a real blog post. And because we are paying homage to laziness, I make no promise that Cop-Out Wednesday will happen every Wednesday. Nor do I promise that Cop-Out Wednesday will always occur on a Wednesday. It might be on Thursday next week. I am lazy, that's what this is all about.


I recently discovered Dr Mercola. There's alot of things I like about Dr Mercola, he favors an unprocessed diet. He believes that health must be viewed as a whole picture. He is a fan of Nutritional Typing or Metabolic Typing (more on that when I overcome my laziness). He is also not a huge fan of drugs. I don't like drugs. I am not crazy about most medications, but certain medications that CURE an illness like eye drops for the pink eye we had last week, or antibiotics for a true infection are worth the risk of taking. Most Americans don't realize that the vast majority (if not all) of advertised perscriptions are created to treat the symptoms of a chronic disorder rather than cure anything. Pills today are designed to be taken every day so that once you start taking them you take them forever. That is really wrong to me. That is profits before health! Bad Bad Bad!

Dr Mercola's site has a nice recap of some harmful drugs. And you will recognize some of these names...

And there it is. WHAT A COP-OUT!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Welcome to Nauru! The Fattest Place on Earth

Kim is a treasured reader of mine. She is consistently reading my posts and often leaves some lengthy and really thought provoking comments. I love that. She, by the way, did not know that I was going to write this today. So sorry for busting up your spot. I don't actually know you so I couldn't contact you to ask you if this is okay. Let me know if you're pissed. I hope you aren't!!

Anyway, on New Years Day Kim left me a very well thought out comment on my recent post Food is a Socio-Economic Problem: Part Two. Only, now I am not sure that it ever got published, so sorry, Google can be a hassle. I made mention at the end of the article that if you are poor in America you have a greater risk of becoming a Diabetic. Kim pointed out that Diabetes is in fact genetic and that genetic predisposition for Diabetes is what makes you develop Diabetes, both Type One and Type Two. Kim went on to say that diet is a major contributing factor but that people with the genetic predisposition for diabetes would most likely develop the disease later in life regardless. The comment really made me think. The truth is, I didn't know alot about Diabetes. And I shouldn't make claims that are unresearched. It turns out, we are both right.

According to Kim is right, Diabetes is genetic in both it's forms. But it is also aggrivated by factors like diet. The site states "Type 2 diabetes has a stronger genetic basis than type 1, yet it also depends more on environmental factors. Sound confusing? What happens is that a family history of type 2 diabetes is one of the strongest risk factors for getting the disease but it only seems to matter in people living a Western lifestyle.
Americans and Europeans eat too much fat and too little carbohydrate and fiber, and they get too little exercise. Type 2 diabetes is common in people with these habits. The ethnic groups in the United States with the highest risk are African
Americans, Mexican Americans, and Pima Indians." So while eating a Western Diet, only some of us will develop Type Two Diabetes. Just as only some of us will develop Type One Diabetes. However, if we all adopted a non-processed or traditional diet, it is likely that we can all avoid the disease altogether. The site even continues to say: "In contrast, people who live in areas that have not become Westernized tend not to get type 2 diabetes, no matter how high their genetic risk." This last part is key, because is sets up the idea that the diet is the problem. People can eliminate their risk for the disease by eating unprocessed foods like vegetables, whole grains, legumes and pastured meats.

The site doesn't mention anything about Non-Western populations that adopt a Western Diet in a relatively short time period. Michael Pollan addresses it a little in In Defense of Food. And his assertion was that Non-Western Populations that adopt a Western Diet are more likely to get Diabetes because they have not evolved to eat all the processed foods. It turns out that it is a little more complicated than just that... I found an interesting academic paper about NIDDM, or Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus. But in short it states that certain populations naturally evolved to overeat and secrete insulin excessively in order to survive food shortages. These populations live in regions that might not get dependable food because they are on small islands, or they lived hunter gatherer lifestyles. Populations noted in the paper are the American Indians and the Polynesians. It is these populations that are seeing a greater occurance of Type Two Diabetes in their people now that more and more regions are eating a Western Diet. Fascinating, right?

Many people want to paint the United States as the Fattest Country on Earth. And it is kind of not true and kind of true at the same time. I will explain.

Recently Forbes put out it's 2010 list of the fattest countires on Earth. The United States was Number 9. Kuwait was Number 7 (that was surprising to me) and every other country in the top ten were in tiny islands in Polynesia. The tiny island of Nauru is the fattest place on Earth. In Nauru 95% of the adult population is overweight. And a third of the population has Type Two Diabetes.

Nauru is a super tiny island in the South Seas. Their closest neighbor is Kirbati, about 300km away. The island is about 8 square miles and has less than 10,000 inhabitents. The story of the island reads like a depressing novel. Phosphate deposits of fossilized marine life were discovered on the island early in the 20th century. After German colonization in the late 19th century, and some Japanese occupation during World War Two, and finally a UN trusteeship, the island declared independence in 1968. After independence, Nauru boasted the highest per capita income of any nation in the world, because of the mining. Phosphate mining continued until the 1980s when the phosphate reserves were exhausted. These once rich islanders are today returning to their poor state. But sadly, one thing that has stayed even when industry has left, is the Western Diet.

Ancient pictures show a trim population that survived on wild caught fish and other island delacasies like fruit and coconuts. But today there are more SPAM cans and bags of sugar than anything else. Food imported from New Zealand and Australia makes up the main diet of these islanders. And they are paying the price. Like I said, 95% of the population is overweight and a third have type two Diabetes. Like the paper I mentioned above, the people of Nauru have evolved to weather food shortages. And so it is likely that they have this "Thrify Person's Gene" that now makes them more likely to develop T2Diabetes. But while the government has been organizing aerobic workouts to encourage people to trim down, what they should really be targeting is the processed food diet!

I watched this video from ABC News last week and it made me so sad. Western Food has raped a once beautiful island paradise.

So you see, Type Two Diabetes is genetic. But crappy high fat, high sugar, high carb foods have exacerbated and even triggered the problem. And the cases have risen almost ten fold in the last 20 years. And ironically, Europeans and those of European decent have the least risk!! Our diet is sickening the rest of the world. I am deeply upset by this, because I am so proud of being a citizen of the United States. We are a good people. But this food has GOT to stop. Or, do you think we will ever evolve to eat these processed foods?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Winter CSA Share 3

This weekend snow kept at bay for the new York City area. Which was good because everyone has been acting like the last snow was the Apocalypse. During the storm of December 26th, the Sanitation Department launched an undercover strike to protest recent layoffs (allegedly...), the mayor was gone on vacation and alternate side of the street parking was suspended for 5 business days! Yipes! So now any mention of a couple of inches of snow and the whole city has been going into a panic. Snow in the forecast has made commuter traffic light and bread disappear from the grocery store shelves. In short we have been acting like a bunch of Southerners. No disrespect intended. But come on people. Put on your waterproof boots and let's get to work already!

The forecast almost kept our farmer from being able to drive into the city Saturday morning to deliver out loot for our January delivery. But the snow petered out and went much further north than intended. At least I think. I don't follow the weather report so closely. The light snow prompted many rounds of the HILARIOUS joke (note the sarcasm) of DH who told Thing One maybe ten times "WOW!! It's really coming down out there!" When in actuality, only one or two flakes were twirling around in the streetlamp light that is visible from our East facing windows. But our CSA shares arrived!

And in the box was a netted bag of potatoes, a shopping bag with beets (Anyone want? really, I am not kidding. Email me if you want these beets. I work in Chelsea-I'll deliver! I might even consider shipping.), one delicata squash, a brown paper bag with four ears of popcorn-still on the cob, a couple pounds of carrots sporting little yellow sprouty tops, two medium onions, a hefty bag of nice apples, a plastic bag filled with greens like red lettuce and tat soi, and one baby red cabbage that has already been sliced for sauer-ing. DH ate all my sauerkraut, which I love!

Some highlights from our weekend in food?

* I was sick over the weekend, very sick. I was running a fever and went to bed at 8pm both Friday and Saturday night. I made another pot of that Potato and Collard Green Soup and it was the perfect amount of both nutrition and carbs. All I wanted to eat was really bad for me things like ice cream and white flour bagels. I resisted, but a facebook fan said the reason for the non-nutritious cravings was that those foods would likely release serotonin...interesting. And worth an investigation!

* I have stooped to a new low. Now I am an out and out liar. I made the kids smoothies this weekend and I not only put in pumpkin puree, I threw in a handful of kale. Yup, really curly hearty raw kale. I couldn't help it, I had to try it. They drank it. The kids had no complaints. They only finished about two thirds of it, but I figured that the kale probably filled them up alot too. It wasn't exactly like my other smoothies. This time I mixed together yogurt, fresh not frozen pumpkin puree, a frozen banana, a frozen pear, some vanilla and some rapadura and the kale. But--wasn't the smoothie GREEN? It sure was! But you know what my trick was? My smoothie cups are colored plastic. We have a blue one and an orange one. I gave the blue one to the baby because it still looked a little green, and he is not going to care. But Thing One had the orange cup and you couldn't tell what the original color could have been. Go on, get out there and get deceitful!!

* I also lied about the coconut flour pancakes being easily made grain free. Yeah, I tried that this weekend and I was eating a soft mush of pumpkin coconut flour mash. The pancakes were too soft to flip. I quickly added the wheat flour back to the recipe and adjusted for consistency. I have removed that preposterous gluten free assertion from the original recipe. I have considerably more respect for gluten free cooks now.

* My kids won't eat pot roast. What kid won't eat a slow simmered (grass fed) chuck roast? This is not a complicated meal. Apparently MY kids. Man. Sometimes I think my food is falling like pearls before swine. I keep telling myself, they'll be different in ten years...

* The CSA popcorn was still attached to the cob. Plus I had four ears from last month. I decided to de-cob it all Sunday night. It was SO hard to get off the cob. It hurt so much and then after a while it stopped hurting. I did the work during a particularly rousing episode of the Wonder Pets, you know the one where they visit the Statue of Liberty and one of the characters has a really embarrassing New York accent? Nobody here really talks like that. I finally got all the kernels off, except for the last cob which was too difficult. I left the last quarter of it's kernels on and just chucked it. I now have a blister on my right thumb!! The blister doesn't hurt too much, thankfully.

Happy Eating Folks!!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Coconut Flour Pumpkin Pancakes

I am sooooo embarrassed that I have no pictures. I forgot to take pictures the morning I made the pancakes. Then the kids ate the leftovers. Now only one cold pancake sits half eaten with tiny teeth marks in it in my fridge. I could take a picture of it, but I didn't think it would do the recipe justice. So, You are all big kids. Use your imagination, just make sure your image includes steam and a pool of maple syrup on one side.

I usually wake up on Sunday mornings (my morning to sleep in) to a hot breakfast prepared by DH and the kids. It is awesome. But usually it is an explosion of wheat, like buttered toast or classic pancakes. Even though we use 100% whole wheat flour, I just kinda like breakfast to be wheat that too much to ask? But I don't have the heart to tell DH that I want him to make something else. I mean I am sleeping in only to wake up to a hot breakfast. I am not going to bitch.

But last Sunday Morning I let DH sleep in. And I set out to prove to him just how little wheat I could use in my pancakes. Let me also be completely proud and tell you that after I looked at a couple of recipes online, I made this one up completely. I felt kinda.....powerful!

Coconut Flour Pumpkin Pancakes (with some whole wheat flour)

The Dry Ingredients:
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Cinnamon and nutmeg and ground ginger to taste (I have no idea how much I added)

The Wet Ingredients:
3 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 cup of whole milk
1/4 cup of rapadura, whole cane sugar or any other sugar you have (funny how that qualifies as a wet ingredient, right?)

Get your griddle or pan started, I use that Cuisinart Griddler which is seriously worth every penny. I make paninis almost every weekend, they are ridiculous. Then in a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients together and in a separate bowl mix the wet ingredients together and beat the eggs. Yes, I know that sugar is not a wet ingredient, but beating with the eggs and milk will help it dissolve. Then add the wet ingredients to the dry bowl and bring it all together. The batter will be lumpy. Add some butter to the griddle and fry those suckers up.

They tasted a bit like pumpkin souffles, very tender and soft. The kids loved them. I felt like they were eating veggies for breakfast, and they were focused on the maple syrup. You know what? Their behavior was good all morning, no temper tantrums, no sugar crash. I am happy with this recipe because I know that my Things are getting what they need to be fully nourished. I also wanted to top the pancakes with pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds and chopped pecans. But I only had the sesame seeds, too bad.

Try these--they are really awesome!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Potato and Collard Green Soup

I like most soups, but not all. I particularly like creamy soups, doesn’t everyone? But I usually find the whole thing to be a pain in the ass. The recipes all make too much, and they have a ton of steps. Boo. I am so not into that.

I stopped buying potato chips a few months ago, as many of you know. I have tried to eliminate soybean and canola oils (except for that occasional fried something at a restaurant…I can’t help it!!! It is so hard!). I couldn’t find any chips fried consistently in healthy oils, so I just let them go. We will often have sandwiches on the weekends. But even though my kids do, I don’t like having carrot sticks with my paninis. So here is the new world’s greatest soup. It is stupid easy. It’s super quick, only about 20 minutes. And I added seasonal dark greens and didn’t lose my mind with the fat. The basic recipe can be altered 100 different ways. I made this whole thing just to include some heavy dark leafy greens in our day.

Potato and Collard Green Soup
4-5 cups of stock or plain ole’ water
1 ounce of bacon (no nitrates)
3 small/medium waxy potatoes, skins on (if you are using Idaho or Russetts, peel them)
I leek
1-2 cups of collard greens roughly chopped, or one HUGE leaf
¼ cup heavy cream
Don’t forget to sale and pepper to taste (you didn’t need me to tell you that)

In a pot, boil the bacon, potatoes, leek and greens in the stock or water. Boild until the potatoes are very soft, about 20 minutes. Blend the soup well. I used an immersion blender, so this is a one pot meal. When the soup is blended, add in the cream and blend it in. Serve it hot.

The variations are ENDLESS here. You could make the soup completely vegetarian by eliminating the bacon and stock. You could add more greens to make it ‘greenier’. You could substitute kale for collards. You could change out the leek for onions. You could eliminate the greens and make just a potato leek soup. Jeez, you could do anything here. It is awesome. And easy. And fast. And husband approved.
This post is part of Food Renegade's Fight Back Fridays

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Maybe I Should Clarify This High Fat Diet Thing...

Don't be fooled, I did all my back tracking on Monday. But I have been thinking alot about the 7 pounds I have gained, and about some books that I have been reading, which we'll talk about next week, and I decided that I needed to address the whole fat thing.

We are as a nation obsessed with fat. We are obsessed with fat on our plates, in our animals and in our own bodies. We have gotten to the point that fat is so frightening that our conception of female beauty is actually an underweight woman. And that is a travesty, both for my gender as well as the future of our culture. But there have been whole books written about that topic, and I don't have the strength to tackle it here. But Fat, I will deal with you now.

In the 80s, people became obsessed with fat. The first USDA food pyramid came out in the late 80s after a long time of categorizing food by the much more appropriate Basic 7 and later the more simplistic Basic 4. The first USDA food pyramid emphasized a low fat diet. Later that same decade then Surgeon General C. Everett Koop declared that Ice Cream should be considered as dangerous as cigarettes. He was sure that fatty diets were causing most of the country's heart disease. Here is a fascinating article from 2007 about dietary fat and nutrition. What is astounding to me is that obesity rates spiked drastically after about 1980, right around the time that fat became a demon and HFCS because a standard issue ingredient in processed foods.

In my November post about How I Beat the Sugar Monster, I talked about how I eat fat. I embrace fat. I am not afraid of fat. But I have taken special care to reduce the amount of overly processed fats I eat, like corn and soybean oil. And eating grass fed or pastured meat is important too, because those animals, overall, are healthier. So the animals fats I eat are cleaner too. I have even started to add fats to my daily diet, like coconut oil to my breakfast and more olive oil to my salads for lunch. Good right?

Absolutely. Except...I probably didn't need to add too much fat to my diet in the form of added fats. I drink whole milk, I eat whole yogurt, I have 2-3 avocados throughout the course of a week. I also eat a full array of meat and other animal products, like raw cheese. My diet is rich with healthy fats. But when I found out for sure that I had gained the weight, I started thinking about my energy levels. I have been feeling more sluggish recently. I have been favoring higher calorie foods recently. Maybe there is a connection.

As I pondered my 'situation' I thought about how I used to eat in the past. Even just a few years ago I saw fat as baaaaaaad for you. It was sure to make you fat. I never liked the low fat versions of anything because they were so processed and lousy tasting and full of chemicals that I didn't want to eat. My way of eating low fat was to eat foods that were naturally low in fat and to cook with relatively little added fat. And I did lose weight that way, because I was eating less. Recently since I have been eating more fat, I have noticed that my skin has looked better, plumper, brighter. I believe that is because my body is balanced overall. Healthy skin really does come from within.

But As the weather has cooled, I might have embraced fats too much. In the summer months raw veggies are all around us. The winter gives us harder veggies that must be peeled or boiled or roasted in order to be eaten. They are more time consuming. I have really wanted to remain true to the seasons. So I have eschewed imported tomatoes for pumpkins, trucked in green beans for turnips and high mileage corn for kale. But overall I have simply had more meals that didn't include fresh veggies. My breakfast of late would be just granola, no fruit. Whereas in the summer, berries would be so cheap and plentiful I would eat as much fruit as granola, making me fuller faster! The same thing has been happening at dinner. I have fewer seasonal veggie options that I can make quickly, so I am more apt to serve potatoes (or rice) with a meat, sans veg. Is anyone else going through this? There were even several weeks where my grocery store did not have organic broccoli and green beans, so I didn't even have a choice. All in all, the process has been more difficult, so I have been eating less fresh veggies. And all the while I have been pouring extra fat on my diet telling myself that it was important to my diet.

I have been pissed for a while by nutritionists that write articles on Yahoo or The Huffington Post and say that fat should be eaten in moderation because it can lead to the over consumption of calories. I mean, what kind of nonsense is that? Fat makes you full. I have never been so full as when I transitioned back to eating foods that had natural fat in them. But I am starting to understand the thinking. We should be eating foods that are rich in natural fats like whole milk and meat and avocados. And added fats will be added to cold salads and cooking. But...we don't need to lose our minds. Just as we cannot be afraid of fat itself, neither can we be afraid that we are not getting enough. I should not be adding more olive oil to my salad every day than I always did. Because I always added enough. Now that I know how important fat is, I don't really need MORE. My old diet was not fat deficient. I admit it. I was a bit like a kid that learned a new word and wanted to try it out in every sentence. I have gone a bit too far with fat. I gained 7 pounds (I am sure that Christmas office treats played a role in that too), so now I have a bit more respect for fat.

My whole 'thing' is about self discovery and pushing the limits. I am pleased that I did just that. I am pleased that I went too far and added too much fat to my diet because now I know the limit. I know that I will sensibly lose my 7 pounds and I won't have to buy a gym membership or hot pink leg warmers or some $600 laser-something at Bliss to work on my cellulite. I promise that in 2011 I will not lose my mind. I will add oils to my salads, but I won't drink from the bottle (I never actually did that). I will cook with coconut oil, but not spoon it like a supplement (I never actually did that either). I mean--I just don't need to, I know some people love doing just that. But I get enough through cooking. And when I am cooking, I will use enough butter or oil to make my food delicious, not overly greasy. Fat is good for you, but she is a bitch if you don't treat her right. Take it from me.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Putting This Out to the Universe

This year has just dawned, so let's start it out well.
I have mentioned that I have a couple side projects brewing. I am not really ready to announce them, but in the spirit of timing I am going to force them out into the world and see what y'all think.

The first project is this. I want to write and publish a book in 2011.

I have been toying with the idea and even written several pages within the last few months. The book that I wanted to write has changed dramatically from a cookbook to a 'how to' real foods book, all of which has been done before, probably better than I could do it. But in thinking about why it is that you folks, who don't know me, come back to my site every day to read what is essentially my diary, it struck me. I want to write a book about this, my blog. I have come a long way in the last 9 months, not just with what I eat and how I shop, but with who I am and how I define myself. The experience has been bigger than "eat grass fed meat". I have repaired my once dysfunctional relationship with food. And the road there has been interesting, at least I think so.

I have told myself a hundred times that no one wants to read a book about me. But between my Blogger followers, Facebook friends and RSS subscribers, I believe there are 150-200 people already reading my book. Sometimes we must remind ourselves what is on the other side of the mountain, rather than focusing on the mountain.

I took off last week from posting because I am working on a Book Proposal. But I got less done than I wanted to. Mostly because I spent most of the week working on this next project.

I have for a long time been appalled by the amount of additives that are in foods. But one can find additive free food if one is so motivated. I recently discovered how many additives are in skin care, lotions, shampoos, soaps, etc. But I have been hard pressed to find any products that even come close to representing my ideals. What I have found are alot of chemical detergents, petroleum byproducts, and a bunch of other stuff I can't even identify. So I have started to make my own body lotions and shampoos out of nothing more complicated than high quality oils and castile soap (which is also made from just oil and a little sodium or potassium hydroxide). The more I read about making soap at home, the more I realize that our commercial skin care products have been just as adulterated as our food system. And skin care is just the same as food, our body absorbs it and so it should be simple and nourishing. I am also convinced that some of the fillers used set up a lousy cycle. They dry skin just enough that you have to keep buying their products. I am also frustrated the the products in line with my ideals are so expensive that they are more "gift-y" than something you would buy for yourself or your family for every day use.

So my second big project for 2011, start a skin care company that focuses on botanical oils, essential oils and uses no preservatives. In my spare time. Because remember, I do have a full time job (that I really like--have I mentioned that before??)

I wasn't going to say anything for the first couple of weeks of 2011. I was going to keep thinking and rolling things over in my head. But then I got this email from the universe....and I decided that in order to be successful, I had to put it out there.

So I have a few questions for you. Do you think I am crazy? Would you be willing to try my products once I have more recipes? I have a couple good ones so far, but I need to work on creating a whole line of items. Does anyone think that there is or isn't a market for additive free skin care? Is there someone already doing this? Does anyone have suggestions for where to sell? I cannot sell in the Union Square Farmer's Market because they do not allow non-food or non-local items to be sold there (duh), but I am not sure about other NYC markets. Does anyone have any recommendations?

In terms of a book, would you read it? Does anyone know any publishers that might be interested in a food literature book? Does anyone have any suggestions? Have I lost my mind? Should I delete this post and get back to writing about my Things? Please tell me what you really think.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A New Year, And a Little Back Tracking

Happy New Year!!

I have been working on a few of projects, the first of which you see all around you-my new blogger layout! I am thrilled with the graphic design, courtesy of my dear friend Elizabeth Harris Berglund. If you are ever looking for a creative thoughtful person who knows their way around a website to do your graphic design, you gotta contact her! My other projects are still brewing (I am not talking about my Kombucha, which is incidentally still brewing), so you'll have to wait a tad longer.

So I have been busy in the last week even though I have not been posting. It has been nice to get a little ahead. Christmas and New Year's were lovely. There was a little too much chocolate, a little too much pink eye and not enough sleep. But we are through it now and into 2011! I have a feeling that this is going to be an exciting year. At least it better be because Susan Miller has been telling what a great year this will be for at least 6 months, and if it doesn't pan out, I might just stop reading her website.

And now for the back tracking part. As if by a cosmic (or Godly) wave of the hand, as soon as I said in my post It Takes Some People A Little Bit Longer... that I had not been sick this Fall, sure enough my whole clan came down with an awful bug. I am not sure where we picked it up, but it came complete with hacking coughs, sleepless nights and finally PINK EYE! How fun! Thing One actually woke up with a 104 degree fever during that awful blizzard that shut down every airport on the eastern seaboard for 48 hours. We also had just run out of children's ibuprofen and I seriously thought to myself "How would I get my kid to the Hospital right now, with a foot of snow on the ground and 40 mile an hour wind gusts." It was a scary moment. Actually, I didn't get sick like the kids did, but we had to cancel our annual New Year's Eve Party, which is the highlight of my Holiday Season every year (and I think some other folks' too). So that was a bummer. So there you go Fate-I am sorry. So sorry that I would tempt and tease you by saying how healthy we were from eating coconut oil. I had no right to speak so brashly. But it could have been worse. Thing One's fever cleared mostly by morning, the pharmacy reopened on time the next day, and even Thing Two's pink eye, while disgusting, was mostly a 48 hour ordeal.

I also want to back track on the post where I told the world that I just don't gain weight during the holidays. Again, like some evil b**** I announce to the world "I simply don't have average problems. I am blessed with an amazing metabolism, and am able to eat whatever I want!" Jeez, couldn't you just strangle me? Well guess what, it ain't true. I weighed myself for the first time in a long time and I have gained 7 pound sometime between my trip to Morocco and now. I have noticed that my pants have been a little tight recently, but I didn't pay it much mind. But now that I have had a couple days off I have come to the conclusion that I really can't eat everything I want, fresh vegetables are VERY important (not that I didn't already know that) and portion control is next to Godliness. First order of business in the New Year? Lose 7 pounds.

How do I plan on losing the weight you might ask? First off is portion control. I will be eating less overall. I will be eliminating snacks mostly. I think snacks have been my down fall. And I believe that while I am still firmly of the belief that fat doesn't make you fat, I do believe that I have been eating too much fat. So I am going to make sure that my total food consumption is in line with proper nutrition, lots of fresh veggies, the right amount of fats, etc, and not eating when I am already full. More on that later....


I have always noticed a shift in the light around this time of year. Perhaps it is the winter solstice? I see December as being lit with sepia tones, whereas January is a bright icy blue. January just seems lighter and brighter, even if colder. So perhaps my new awareness of my extra poundage is my body's way of telling me that it has gained these 7 pounds to get me through the cold winter, and I don't have to keep packing it on anymore.

When I first lost my baby weight after Thing 1 in 2008, I began my journey into food and nutrition in the month of January. By January 2009 I was pregnant again and I was not worrying about losing any Christmas weight. By January of last year, 2010, I was again embroiled in a structured weight loss program to lose my baby weight from Thing 2. This year, January 2011, is the first time I have weathered a full Holiday season under normal non-pregnant circumstances. Perhaps this will be a learning experience. Perhaps this weight gain is perfectly normal, and will come off naturally by March when the first crocuses peak their purple heads up out of the snow. Perhaps this is one more opportunity for me to become a more conscious, connected eater. Either way, this time I am NOT throwing out my skinny pants.